Decoder Ring: Podcast Review.

What do Cabbage Patch dolls, Metrosexuality, Unicorn poo, Jennifer Aniston’s depression, the Jane Fonda Workout, The Mullet and The Karen have in common?

They’re all the subject of episodes of Decoder Ring, the great monthly podcast by Willa Paskin from Slate.

As eclectic as they are REAL, each episode pretty thoroughly researches a cultural phenomenon tracing it back to its origins and explaining the impact it has had on society and culture as its influence grew.

Sure Unicorn Poo may be less life changing than having a mullet, but trust me: these are THINGS.

These are things that matter.

And, with her tongue firmly embedded in her cheek Haskin treats each with reverence and respect.

She could be exploring the rise of Marxism in Tsarist Russia (if that’s even a thing). But she’s not, she’s wondering why a doll with eyes too closely set created monsters out of suburban housewives.

It’s that good.

Honestly, it’s like a little dollop of nectar has been spat into your ear by a hummingbird each time a new episode drops.

Go get gooey eared.

And thank me.

The Fault Line: Bush, Blair and Iraq: Podcast Review.

The Fault Line: Bush, Blair and Iraq | Podcast on Spotify

This is gold dust.

David Dimbleby, let free of his BBC shackles finally has the chance to say what he really thinks. He doesn’t of course, but it’s what he implies, nods, winks that tells you he is deeply cynical of the liar Tony Blair and the fool George W Bush who fell in man-love over the opportunity to blow the fucking shite out of somewhere. That somewhere was Iraq.

The pretence was to rid the nation finally of the evil autocrat Sadaam Hussein, but the two lovers got all tangled up in revenge for 9/11 and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, a sworn enemy of the Iraqi state.

We all know we were lied to, but this truly great podcast uncovers not just how and why but also quite how flimsy and pathetic the so called evidence was. Some of it was gleaned from cab drivers, but Blair’s chief proof point was the evidence from an exiled Iraqi biochemist, living in safety in Germany, and codenamed Curveball. (A man who had never been in a weapons factory in his puff and who got all of his ‘evidence’ from the internet).

I mean, it’s comedic.

Dimbers puts Tony Blair through his paces in one to two episodes, exposing him for the c*** we all know he is. It’s a cringe fest as we listen to him weasel his way around the story. But it’s great listening.

Dimbers is brilliant. Just amazing. He is effortlessly statesmanlike and so compelling to listen to.

The most horrifying part of the whole thing is the denouement. The rebuilding of Iraq post Hussain. The complete destruction of its moral order and the breeding ground for ISIS more like. Governed by more fools who didn’t give a flying fuck about the country, it has left Iraq in a worse state than it was under Hussain.

What would you prefer? A life of terror under an evil autocrat that is singleminded in his madness. Or a hotbed of turmoil, inter-tribal, religious civil war with some of the most heartless terrorists in history?

You choose.

Truly great work from Something’ Else Productions.

Must listen stuff.

Are you my basic bitch?

I was intrigued to hear of the term, ‘basic bitching’ on Adam Buxton’s podcast this week. It was not one I was previously aware of, and was described by Joe Lysett as ‘lovers of Eastenders and Loose Women’ (although he described LW lovers as basic fascists.)

It’s a brilliant putdown.

It got me thinking of what I would categorise as basic bitch stuff. I would add that, in my list, the offending articles are by no means gender specific.

So first off gold and, to a marginally lesser extent, silver relief typography on paperback book covers. Brain fodder.

The Pretender's Gold Scott Mariani - Tesco Groceries

80’s music festivals. And 80’s radio stations/compilations. The 80’s was jam packed with great music, none of which makes it to any of these filthy fora.

Watching West Brom v Burnley matches on Sky. Why? ( A subset of this includes Sheffield Utd, Brighton and Livingston/St Johnstone.)

Any TV show with actors that whisper when sotto voce is absolutely not necessary. For this reason Iain Glen’s entire filmography is pure basic bitch.

The 40 million Republicans that actually believe that the American Election was rigged. I mean basic is stretching it here. Dangerous is a better word. Get a fucking life, you dorks.

Beige. Just beige.

Baylis and Harding soaps. I’m no fashion icon but B and H makes beige look crimson.

Wearing excessive perfume, or worse, deodorant. The throat-catch level that makes you wanna honk your guts up in the street. Funnily enough too make eau de cologne is generally just about tolerable.

People who won’t watch TV programmes or movies because “they’ve got subtitles.” They, in fact, have subtitles on their foreheads that read: ” I’m a basic bitch.”

Zoe Ball. And her fake, like, everything.

“Red Wall” Labour voters who voted leave and Conservative at the last election with no rational reason. (“Real” Tories escape my criticism because at least they believe in their ideology – if they have one.)

Piers Morgan.

The Daily Mail.

Schwartzkopf crystal.

Those “100 Best…” TV programmes where all the interviewees remember, say, a Bero Flour ad from 1968 in perfect detail.

Mackay &Co.

Small Island by Andrea Levy: Review

Small Island eBook: Levy, Andrea: Kindle Store

I was late getting to this and only took it on as part of my work’s diversity group, book club. But I’m very glad that I did. It’s a terrific read that deserves the awards that it won.

The book tells the story of the arrival of the Windrush Generation of Jamaicans (the small island of the title, but in truth the small minded island they emigrate to) to London in 1948 (although much of the story is also set ‘before’ in the war years, where two of the male protagonists have served Air Force duty for Britain, one Jamaican, one English.

It’s plotted around the POV of a central cast of Hortense and Gilbert (a sort of Jamaican marriage of convenience that allows Hortense to move to London where Gilbert has found himself after his war duties – one of the many thousands of Jamaican airmen) and Queenie and Bernard (a loveless English couple and owners of the boarding house Gilbert and Hortense find themselves in). Several other characters are beautifully described as supporting characters, most notably WWI veteran and father of Bernard (Arthur).

This device is not uncommon and she underpins it with vernacular shifts between each section which I initially found difficult to get into, perhaps because I was reading it whilst tired. But as the story progresses it becomes increasingly compelling and sympathetic.

The novel could be a celebration of the contribution this wonderful generation of expatriate Jamaicans brought to our country, and our war winning efforts. But, instead, it captures reality, and what we have become accustomed to over the following half century and more, as the gestation of racial hatred sets in, partly fomented by the Jim Crow era supporting American GIs, stationed in Britain, who have no love for their own black compatriots or Britain’s imported reinforcements that find themselves stationed here. It’s not certain that they are the reason for Britain’s explosion of racism, but it can’t have helped. A central scene in a cinema, where segregation has been imposed, certainly supports this hypothesis.

Levy is not afraid to pepper her dialogue with the words that remained common in my playground of the the 60’s and 70’s and, incredibly, were tolerated, even celebrated, on our TV screens right up until the 80’s (wog, sambo, darkie and coon being four that feature heavily in the novel).

Whilst there are truly hilarious moments in the book (Levy refuses to wallow in persecution) and moments off great poignancy and love between the Jamaican incomers and the post-war English society-builders, it’s drowned out by the despicable intolerance of a fledgling community of people that put their lives on the line in defence of the realm only to be stigmatised and prejudiced to the point that many (including Gilbert) are so cowed and confused by the experience that they inevitably subjugate themselves under the overwhelming pressure they face.

Levy crafts a potboiler of a tale that pulls together the confusion of a nation (many of whom have been traumatised by war) with an inability to see that this new, more cosmopolitan, community that has sprung up is anything other than a threat.

Small Island indeed.

The quiet kid that overcame the school bully.

When I was a schoolboy, a high school kid, I was fairly mercilessly bullied. Not physically. Mentally.

It was a Catholic comprehensive, so drew in kids from all over the city and that meant some future prison candidates that I wasn’t equipped to cope with.

I was specky (“Hoi Specky!” “Joe 90”) suffered from acne (“Plookie faced twat”) chubby (“Fat bastard”. My mum said it was puppy fat and I’d grow out of it) intelligent (“professor”) and a weakling (at least compared to my tormentors who were tough, coming from really rough neighbourhoods in Edinburgh).

So I developed an aptitude for evasion. I got street smart, learned how to talk my way out of situations and gained a sixth sense for anticipating aggro and finding escape routes.

But it got to me. I was anxious and uptight. I found respite in studying hard, and did reasonably well.

But I had a dream. An escape valve. That I would become a dentist and exact my revenge on these horrible kids later in life when I was extracting their rotten molars.

It wasn’t to be, (I didn’t study that hard) but I made my own progress in my own way.

It was challenging.

So, I’ve felt for Joe Biden, “Sleepy Joe”, who’s been mercilessly ridiculed by the professional bully that’s Donald Trump: “I’ve achieved more in 47 months than he’s achieved in 47 years.” “Your son’s a junkie.” “You’re the mayor of Antifa.” “You’re the puppet of the commies.” “You’re a criminal, and so are your family.”

Like me, Joe had to put up with a lot of crap and take a ton of verbal blows. But he has quietly gone about his duties, believing that in the long run his core character would see him through this merciless tirade of abuse.

Joe had one thing to cling on too. Decency.

Joe knew he was right and the bully was wrong.

Joe knew that most folks would eventually see through this awful behaviour and side with the guy who was only trying to do his best, believing that integrity, truth and a consistent message that was founded on democratic principles was surely more acceptable to the majority than ego, narcissism, autocracy and, yup, bullying.

And yesterday Sleepy Joe got his tormentor where perhaps he metaphorically wanted.

In the dentist’s chair.

Drill whirring.

Anaesthetic run out, used up in his patient’s earlier self-administered self-centred medication.

He could go for the root canal and cause untold pain to his tormentor.

But he’ll spare his victim. Because Joe’s a good guy.

Well done Joe.