Friday, 24 February 2017

The Lost Art Of Letter-Writing Vol. XXL

From: Blizzard 1 <bliz@xxxxx.xxx>
Sent: 03 December 2016 10:53
To: Virgin Media
Subject: Alas and Alack!

Dear Virgin Media*,

*(I trust you will forgive the impersonal moniker; as is the way of these things, we do not know what person will be reading this.  Nevertheless, I will be delighted to make your (virtual) acquaintance)
I received, with thanks, your delivery – on Monday 28.11.16.  I am now enjoying the digital TV package.  Lovely stuff.  I ordered it on the phone, from Keith.  He was very helpful.This felicitous circumstance is not, however, the reason for my correspondence.  The issue at hand, I am afraid, is one of vexation.To whit: the aforementioned delivery was due to arrive on Saturday 26.11.16.  As Keith told on the phone.  As was confirmed by a text sent on Wednesday 23.11.16, which gave me a convenient ten-hour window of 8am-6pm for delivery on Saturday 26.11.16.  A subsequent text on Friday 25.11.16 helpfully reminded me that the delivery would be made on Saturday 26.11.16.
I spent the hours of 8am-6pm on Saturday 26.11.16 in eager anticipation.  I got up, earlier than usual for a Saturday, and attached a note to my gate to ask the courier to call me on arrival so that I could greet them at the gate.  The information contained in this note had already been kindly added by Keith when I ordered, but he explained that this did not mean that the message would be heeded, or even necessarily conveyed.  (Obviously, a company contracting a courier service has no way to guarantee a message going to the courier.)
By 3.30pm on Saturday 26.11.16, I was wondering if there was a way to find out if and when the delivery would arrive, so I called you, Virgin Media.  The helpful chap I spoke with (whose name escapes me) gave me a website address and a tracking number to enter to find out for myself.  Excellent customer service (Obviously, a company contracting a courier service has no way to contact the courier for information, and no inclination to try on a customer’s behalf). 
I must admit to a growing frustration at the courier: did they not realise the sacred trust that Virgin Media had placed in them, in securing their services to convey their property to me, a valued customer? 
Having checked the courier’s website, it seemed that the package had not been delivered to them. 
Of course, had the courier arrived at 5.59pm on Saturday 26.11.16, all would have been well, and I would have chuckled to myself, asking rhetorically “Isn’t it always the way?”
Alas, and Alack!  They did not.  At this point, my impatience turned towards you, Virgin Media.
I received no further communication from the courier or from you, Virgin Media, on the day in question (Saturday 26.11.16), having waited all day in my residence, with the feeling of a child on Christmas Eve – and the aspect of a hermit.
Imagine my surprise, then, on receiving a text on Monday 30.11.16, telling me that my delivery would arrive by 9pm on that day.  I am sure you will appreciate my confusion.  I had, for some regrettably unclear reason, believed the delivery would be completed on Saturday, 26.11.16. 
The next message I received informed me that the package had indeed been delivered – Hurrah!  However, having waited for 10 hours on the appointed day (Saturday 26.11.16), I admit to a little scepticism.  On arriving home on the evening of Monday 30.11.16, I found no delivery and no note referring to an alternative location (as is the usual way of these things).
Calling Virgin Media once again on Monday 30.11.16, not being in possession of the delivery, I explained to the person who answered (I regret that my growing frustration negated my usual regard for politeness, and I again failed to note the person’s name, for which I apologise), the issue was two-fold: Firstly, I wished to locate the delivery, and this I understood was my responsibility, which I accepted (obviously, a company contracting a courier service has no way to contact the courier for information, and no inclination to try on a customer’s behalf).
Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently to this mail, I was grasping for information on the phantom delivery from Saturday 26.11.16.  I sought closure, having endured since Saturday 26.11.16 a gnawing feeling of irresolution, an indistinct lack…I am not pre-disposed to a longing for resolution (life does not offer much in the way of resolution, does it, Virgin Media?  And entertainments that do have always seemed cheap and uninspiring to me), but it did seem important in this matter.
Your representative on the phone informed me, having checked with a supervisor, that there was simply no mechanism to deal with this, and that I would need to call the courier myself to re-arrange delivery, which I accepted (obviously, a company contracting a courier service has no way to contact said courier, or investigate any issues arising from mistakes).  The call handler confessed surprise at my request that Virgin Media answer for the delivery not taking place on the appointed day (Saturday 26.11.16, if memory serves).  I was at pains to make plain my central point: that delivery had been promised, but had not taken place, and the only available information pointed to either a mistake on your part (rather than the courier’s), or a breakdown in communication between yourself and your chosen courier.  This had inconvenienced me, your valued customer, through no fault of mine, and I believe this to be your problem to solve.
The first – and, admittedly, the more urgent – issue described above (the whereabouts of the package) was happily settled: the delivery had been received by a neighbour, who had kindly kept it for me.  All is well with this: a resolution, of sorts!
However, on the second issue……well, I do so hate to be a bother, but I own it did cause some considerable bother to me.  I do hope we can settle this to everyone’s satisfaction, and I look forward to your response. 
Yours, with breath (once again) duly baited,
Mr. Clayton Blizzard (Account # xxxxxxx)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Virgin Media,
I include my previous message to you, for which I am yet to receive a reply;
why don’t you reply to me? 
Correspondence is not a one-way street. 
And it shouldn’t be a dead-end, either. 
Or a cul-de-sac. 
Anyway, never mind, that’s not the reason I write.
 
My reason to write concerns subjects that have long been on my mind:
Political rhetoric, freedom of speech and the power of words.
(“A word after a word after a word is power.”  Margaret Atwood)
I like you, Virgin Media.
Your adverts with Usain Bolt were amusing,
And it’s interesting to me how your brand was built
Pretty much out of nothing, and then sold to you for lots of money.
It’s a classic post-modern story.
 
I don’t know if you are familiar, Virgin Media,
With the genocide in Rwanda in 1994….?
If you are not, I would strongly recommend that you read up on the matter,
There is plenty of material available – I have read God Sleeps In Rwanda,
Which is a good start that might break your heart,
But is also honest and insightful – and uplifting, in a way.
Anyway, in case you don’t already know, Rwandan state radio did plenty to incite violence
By demonising the minority ethnic group in the country – They are the Tutsi,
Who had previously been the elite,
(Favoured by colonialists, which is significant).
So, those radio broadcasts, and other extremist media outlets
Referred to Tutsi as “cockroaches”, among other inflammatory language.
This was to dehumanise Tutsi people,
To render them inherently less valuable than others.
It worked. 
And around 800000 people were killed –
In a very short period –
Most with machetes and small arms –
Many by people who knew their victims personally –
They were killed with small weapons, not words
But words had an effect on those who did the killing. 
 
An article in The Sun a couple of years ago
Referred to “migrants” as “cockroaches”, in startlingly similar terms
To that genocidal propaganda.
And the author, and the editor, must have known
That at least some of the people they dismissed as less than human
Were fleeing war and persecution,
(And were therefore not even really “migrants”, let alone “cockroaches”),
Perhaps even fleeing a war supported in the most bloodthirsty terms
By the very same paper.
It might be unreasonable to suggest divestment based on one article,
From two years ago,
However offensive it may have been to humans everywhere.
But that article follows a pattern of demonization and dehumanisation
That people have responded to – as you will know, Virgin Media,
From demographic research, delivered by your marketing department,
Discourse is affected by all sorts of opinions,
Across a broad spectrum.
When a national newspaper with a massive readership
Prints this type of shit…and therefore endorses the implied values that go with it…
To use language I know you will understand:
Are those values you want associated with your brand?
Like, denouncing the judiciary for saying something they disagree with,
Using “gay” as a term of abuse, and all their many, varied, nefarious crimes against language;
Well, if it’s just to annoy writing types like me…
That can be done quite easily
Without resorting to the language of genocide.
 
But the columnist who wrote that piece seems to thrive on the publicity,
And attention,
That deadline-driven hatred generates.
And a newspaper owned by a billionaire, which is not only unresponsive to criticisms like mine,
But also seek to make some political and commercial gains* from the controversy
(*Would that there were a line between the two, Virgin Media….)
Which also generates further column-inched comment and drives clickbait toward it.
This is how people make a living in media these days, isn’t it, Virgin Media?
And money always makes people pay attention.
So, my point is:
Given that you advertise in a paper responsible for printing hate speech
Of the kind that would be actionable in some places, which if
It were directed against a specific racial, ethnic or religious group would definitely be,
Given that you pay, indirectly, for that publication, and that
You have a choice where to advertise, who to do business with, and
To whom to give your money…
 
It’s not fair of me, is it, Virgin Media,
To expect you to deal with this?
(Why you and not any/every other company who does the same thing?)
It’s not fair for me
To say –
Unless, of course, you want to be part of society,
Since that’s where your money is made.
And since advertising is a large part of the business of a company like yours,
Maybe you could think about that. 
Maybe we can decide, collectively, that we’re against inciting hatred,
As a sort of minimum standard for mass communication.
Without denying anyone’s freedom of speech, we
Decide that perhaps we have some responsibility
To use our freedom of speech wisely
As an opportunity to criticise, and disagree
Without hate speech,
Without echoing genocidal propaganda,
Without the need for the kind of wind-up shit
That most of us grew out of in our teens…
 
Or maybe I can decide to switch to a media company that will respond to my concerns.
Because I also have a choice where to advertise, who to do business with, and
To whom to give my money.
God, this is so preachy, so self-satisfied, so didactic, isn’t it, Virgin Media?!
But I know you care what your customers think,
Because you’re always asking.
So I’m telling.
In the spirit of commercial friendship:
What do you intend to do about it?
 
Who even are you, Virgin Media?
 
Your Customer (for now),
 
Clayton Blizzard
 

Friday, 17 February 2017

All-American Entertainment Part 52: Insane Clown President, Matt Taibbi

“There was a lot of accepted racism when the war started….“I’m American, man, I’m American, fuck all these foreigners, I’m American”.  And that was cool.  And then it was “I’m American, man, I’m American, fuck the French!  And that was cool. Then it was “I’m American, man, I’m American, fuck all these Arabs!  And that was cool.  Then they went to “I’m American, man, I’m American, fuck all these illegal aliens!  And then I started listening – cos I know “Niggers” and “Jews” is next. 
Any day now – that train’s never late!"

Chris Rock
“America is ceasing to be a nation, and turning into a giant television show.”
Matt Taibbi, Insane Clown President


Post-truth.  Alternative facts.  A torrent of absolute bullshit.
A pendulum swinging.  A basket of deplorables.  A roll-back of human rights.
Isolationsim.  Unpredicatability.  A more likely nuclear war.
This isn’t as funny as his other books…
What can we even say about the new President that hasn’t already been said? 
That he’s an emotionally stable feminist adult, scrupulously fair and honest in his business dealings, humble, modest – even diffident.  A thoughtful public speaker with a strong sense of priorities.  An articulate exponent of human rights, a messenger of peace with a selfless attitude and a keen understanding of the complexity and nuance of international relations.  A good-looking, erudite grown-up with no need to garner the attention of strangers, and no worries about the size of his penis.  And convincing hair.
There is not much funny about this President, or his rise to political prominence.  It was bad enough when he was just another blowhard TV character; I’ve always found him utterly repellent and been glad to live a long way away from him.  The fact that Nigel Farridge is the British version of him says a lot about the differences between these two awful political cultures.  The British version is just a bit less showy, but no less disgusting for it.  In a sane world, the two would be stuffed into a time capsule and fired into space, instead of on TV, grinning like twats in a gold lift.  They are proof that the cream does not rise to the top, but that a layer of scum can form if the thing is not covered with cling film.
It’s cool for white, trendy people to hate this guy; but, as ever, marginalised people will feel the full force of the madness.  And it is madness: as this book carefully documents, the President rode a wave of extreme resentment in a way no politician could have.
The irony, of course, is that when America finally wrested control of the political process from the backroom oligarchs, the very first place where we spent our newfound freedom and power was on the campaign of the world’s most unapologetic asshole.  It may not seem funny now, because it’s happening to us, but centuries from this moment, people will laugh in wonder.  (p. 36)
Having spent decades trying to make sure no effective change could be rendered through the ballot box, including some hilariously pious and deliberately ignorant navel-gazing about low turnout at general elections, the political class in the US are reaping the results of the bipartisan neoliberal consensus they have so carefully sown.  It couldn’t happen to a nicer set of people, but there is no celebration to be had here; the result is something even worse than what preceded it.  Like JFK once said, whoever makes peaceful revolution impossible makes violent revolution inevitable.
Voter concerns rapidly take a back seat to the daily grind of the job.  The ideal piece of legislation in almost every case is a Frankensteinian policy concoction that allows the sponsoring pol[itician] to keep as many big-money donors in the fold as possible without offending actual human voters to the point of a ballot revolt.
This dynamic is rarely explained to the public, but voters on both sides of the aisle have lately begun guessing at the truth…Democratic voters tried to express these frustrations through the Sanders campaign, but the party leaders have been and probably will continue to be too dense to listen….(p. 196)
The challenge of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination is dissected expertly by Taibbi: the Democrats and Republicans faced an insurgency, a result of the contempt and anger the electorate felt toward both parties.  In an ironic twist on the “Left can’t organise anything” cliché, the Organised (Official) “Left” had its shit together (heading off the insurgent Socialist), while the Right didn’t.
Politicians are so used to viewing the electorate as a giant thing to be manipulated that no matter what happens at the ballot, they usually can only focus on the Washington-based characters they perceive to be pulling the strings.  Through this lens, the uprising among Democratic voters this year wasn’t an organic expression of disgust, but wholly the fault of Bernie Sanders…
Nobody saw his campaign as an honest effort to restore power to voters, because nobody in the capital even knows what that is…and the narrative will be that with him out of the picture, this crisis is over.  No person, no problem. 
This inability to grasp that the problem is bigger than Bernie Sanders is a huge red flag…
But they’re not worried.  Behind the palace walls, nobody ever is.  (p. 196)
The field of Republican candidates, meanwhile, was so hilariously inept, so pathologically unwilling to see, or care about, the way their traditional support was thinking, conspired to allow the insurgent loon to win a surprise victory.  The Republican field was a seemingly endless succession of neoliberal nonentities.  This was following a standard pattern, but the result was not standard.  Nothing about this election was standard, except the fact that it was a bloated, unedifying spectacle designed to keep the rabble out of the real business of politics.
As ever, both parties remained committed to the neoliberal agenda, unwilling to cede any ground on economic policy – or even seriously discuss it – and saw all this as purely an image problem.
[Hillary Clinton] has been playing the inside game for so long, she seems to have become lost    in it.  She behaves like a person who often doesn’t know what the truth is, but instead merely reaches for whatever is the best answer in that moment, not realizing the   difference……Democrats like Hillary have been saying, “The Republicans are worse!” for so long that they’ve begun to believe it excuses everything.  (p. 168)
All of which meant that the Presidential election was between bellicose, anti-politician rhetoric and a careerist politician promising more of the same.  Instead of a choice between right and left populism, it became, for some, a referendum on whether to tear the whole thing up and start again, whatever the cost.  Thus the Democrat party managed to screw the electorate in an even more shocking fashion than the Republicans.  And the Republicans reaped the bitter harvest of racist innuendo they have used for so long. 
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And The Rabble had its day.
One of the appeals of the eventual winner of this shitshow was that he “tells it like it is”.  The fact that he is actually a congenital liar is not really at issue here – he was discarding the traditional nuanced way of signalling racist appeals by a series of nods and winks, instead just saying plainly racist things out loud, in public, enhancing his image as a straight-talker, in opposition to all the political types too scared to say what they really mean, because of “political correctness”.  Again, in this context, the fact that neither the candidate who talked about it, nor really anyone else, knows what “political correctness” is, remained (sadly) irrelevant.
Matt Taibbi is, once again, way ahead of most of his contemporaries in identifying the problem: it’s hard not to share his disgust at the US electoral system – and particularly the media circus that surrounds it.  There is such a quantity of coverage, with so little quality:
It’s our fault.  We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that’s basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games.
What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism.  The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist…
When you make the news into this kind of consumer business, pretty soon audiences lose the ability to distinguish between what they think they’re doing, informing themselves, and what they’re actually doing, shopping.  (p. 101)
The same could be said about the two political parties: the media culture reflects the political culture in a circular fashion, so that both get worse over time; the devastating result is now, of course, dominating the 24-hour news cycle.  That things are This Bad is causing some soul-searching, but much of it just as shallow and fatuous as the nonsense that preceded it.  The assault on the senses, on rational thinking, on decency and intelligence coming from the White House is taking its toll on everyone.  But, as ever, it does not affect us equally.  It can’t possibly, in such a racially and economically stratified society as the USA.  Or Earth.
Taibbi’s 2004 book, Spanking the Donkey, about that year’s presidential race, dealt with all of this very well.  As with that account, this is a campaign trail diary of reports for Rolling Stone, in chronological order.  So the thinking develops as time continues, and he does get some things wrong: “Trump is going to lose this election, then live on as the reason for an emboldened, even less-responsive oligarchy.”  (p. 203)
Ouch.
Overall, though, he’s on point as ever:  “In an age when Donald Trump is a presidential nominee, what does “serious” even mean?”  (p. 173)
Honestly, though, if you are sick of all this shit, maybe just read some James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, or some other American classics.  Like most countries, the majority of “forgotten”, “ordinary” people are nice enough, but the artists, looking at society from the margins, have the most interesting things to say about that society.
This book does a pretty good job of describing how the USA got to this.  Two-hundred-and-something years of US history have culminated in this catastrophe: an insufferable gobshite, a hypersensitive bully with a persecution complex and extreme verbal diarrhea; all the very worst human tendencies toward selfishness, ignorance, greed and prejudice, personified in an outrageously (and yet entirely appropriately) ugly individual, whose parents presumably found as unbearable as almost everyone else does; an apposite embodiment of a crumbling empire – a whining, spoilt little child who stamps his feet when he doesn’t get his way; this brat, this unwanted and unloved child now has the world’s undivided attention.  And a huge nuclear arsenal.  And the biggest military machine ever.  And an opportunity to shape policy for decades to come. 
If only we could ignore him – without constant attention, he would wither and die like fruit left to rot, ravaged by the elements.  But, alas, it is far too late for that.  And the US political game now has a level of hubris that would make Caligula blush.


That’s how it is.  There’s no way to look at it that doesn’t hurt.  Still, the book is good, if a bit difficult to take.
If I take heart from this book, it will be from the fact that although millions voted for the person described above, it wasn’t actually a majority.  This is worth remembering, partly because it obviously bothers him so much and partly to keep perspective on how many US voters seem to have taken a giant shit in the pool of American public life.
But, ultimately, it will be from the central idea I tried to keep in my head while reading it, the thing that gives me succour (and, on occasion, a simultaneous apprehension), in this, or any other, dangerous moment:
There is nothing inevitable about any of this;
What happens next is up to all of us. 
 
 
[Gulp.]
 
 
 
 

Friday, 10 February 2017

All-American Entertainment Part 51


I’m ready for the Big Game: I’ve got heavily-salted snack treats, heavily-sugared snack treats and some “Boston Lager”.  Which is definitely not lager.
I’ve also got some Mexican Lager (take THAT, Mr President), which is lager.  (And is nicer than the Boston “lager” (take that, Boston.)
I’m wearing my Chicago Bears shirt.  The Bears are no closer to the Superbowl than I am. 
Yes, it’s that time of year again: The Biggest Show On Earth™, called so with US TV showing its usual concern for subtlety and humility.  This is a big annual event for the USA, and Superbowl LI (that’s 51, to you) takes place in a country not so much a country utterly changed, as a country utterly the same, but louder and even more bitterly divided than in recent times.  The game is watched by 148 trillion people.  I’m not sure how anyone could know that, although these days, you can just assert any fact (about, say, the size of a crowd at or watching an event), and if you’re brazen enough to tough it out, everyone will probably have forgotten by the time you say the next crazy thing.
I’m watching on the BBC, so there are no adverts.  Except the ones that can’t be excised from the programme, like the advert for the USA, before the game starts.  The technical term is “National Anthem”, and this one its sung by Luke Bryan – who is, apparently, a “country music star”.  I have no idea what that is, but the song is performed in customary subtle style, accompanied by fighter jets.
National Anthems are necessarily chauvinistic affairs; most are about how revolutionary nationalist heroes kicked out the foreign oppressors and made an independent nation.  The British National Anthem (which is really the English National Anthem) is a notable exception.  It is also by far the worst song ever written.  Utterly disgusting.  Still, nationalism and good ol’ fashioned ignorant chauvinism is all the rage these days, isn’t it?  Because a lot of people like (or don’t remember) all the bad things about it. 
US TV is better at this than everyone else, because they have no memeory and no sense of shame.  British people (especially sportspeople) might say they are proud patriots, but in Dick Cheney’s America their level of patriotism would have them castigated as commie pinko traitors.  To put it with typical Briddish mildness: Diffidence is not so popular in the USA as it is in the good ol’ UK, folks.
George H.W. and Barbara Bush are wheeled out!  Onto the pitch!  Everyone applauds them, for some reason, including all the players and coaches.  George looks bewildered.  A bit like when he was president, but with less violence.  He tosses the coin and I think about the time he vomited on the Japanese Prime Minister.  And then bombed Iraq.  (Bush, not the Japanese Prime Minister.) 
I can’t imagine John Major being shown such respect at the FA Cup Final.  Deference for/to the President is an absolute must in US (public – you know, TV) culture.  To put it with typical Briddish mildness: that feeling is not so widespread here.  Although, given the current political climate of the US, a lot of USians are currently struggling with it.  Or just saying “fuck that guy, I’m not deferring to him.”
The game begins, and the first two possessions pass without much incident, and both end in punts.  On New England’s second, Quarterback Tom Brady throws a classic play action fake, before being sacked twice.  (#notmyfirsttime)
So, I am watching this game without adverts, even though it was designed to be suitable for frequent advertising breaks.  I wonder what US audiences would make of it.  (A 30-second advert on US TV during half time of the Superbowl costs $5million.)  Channel 4 showed this the last time I watched it two years ago, but on the BBC, there are, of course, no ads at all.  Which saves me quite a lot of stress and despair.  In the regular breaks, we are treated to analysis from the fella who used to present football on the BBC and a couple of former players. 
Rio Ferdinand is among the special guests in the studio, reminding us that (despite the stereotypes), British sportspeople tend to be less articulate and educated than their US counterparts.  I never watch the “analysis” on football, even though I like football a lot, and watch it on TV.  In American football, I do listen to the chatterers, because they tell me things I don’t already know, rather than clichés, platitudes and witless banter.  (One of the “announcers” (that’s commentators, to you) is called Osi Umenyiora, who played for the Atlanta Falcons, and won the Superbowl with the New York Giants.  His personality and knowledge of his sport would automatically disqualify him from a media job in “Soccer” (that’s English football to you) for the BBC.  (One or the other might be acceptable; both at the same time would be a liability.)
It seems like the New England Patriots winning this game would be a portent too terrifying to contemplate.  The combination of Head Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady are appearing in their seventh Superbowl, and they’ve only lost one (to Umenyiora’s Giants in 2007).  They are the Real Madrid of American Football.  Everyone is waiting to see how they react when they finally lose again, and get their comeuppance...a bit like a famous person whose name escapes me. 
Also, the Falcons have the best offence in the NFL this year.  So, GOOOOO FALCONS!
The Falcons score the first points with a five-yard touchdown run from Running Back Freeman, following a 71-yard drive.  And the second, when Matt Ryan throws a touchdown pass on a 3rd and 9.   And the third, when Brady is picked off and turned over by Robert Alford, from bracket coverage.   New England kick a field goal late in the second quarter, so Atlanta lead 21-3 at the half.  #notmyfirsttime
The United States of America has brought the world some real horrors, but It is also the country that produced Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Fanny Lou Hamer, Harriet Tubman, Fred Hampton, Marvin Gaye, Grandmaster Flash, Mos Def, Chuck D, Common, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Martin Scorsese, all the films you like, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Native Son, Hip Hop, the Blues, Jazz, comic books….

Anyway, all that can be cheerfully forgotten, as it’s time for the main event (for non-football fans): The Half Time Show.

Last year’s iteration of this USian festival of camp actually looked pretty good, until Coldplay turned up to ruin it for everybody (or, as TV executives call it, appealing to a more mainstream audience.  They mean a white, bewildered audience threatened by change, for whom Coldplay’s music is perfectly calibrated).  The thing was controversial because the star performer, Beyonce, reminded everyone that she is black, and visually referenced The Black Panthers, a political group started in the 60s and destroyed by FBI infiltration and assassinations.  Obviously, this was too much for some; the reference, not the murder of US citizens by their government and the surveillance of a small political group.  God, the last president was cool, wasn’t he?  (That’s except for viewers in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan.)
So, this year, to re-dress the balance (you know, make it all white again) – in keeping with the current regard for truth in US media – the star performer is Lady Gaga. 
“God Bless America”, she sings.  (The US will need that blessing more than ever in the next few years, I’ll venture.)
There is total darkness in the stadium (literal, not metaphorical).  Gaga is on the roof for this bit, then jumps off.  (She’s on wires, not committing a spectacular protest-suicide like the Buddhist monks in Vietnam who set themselves on fire in the 60s.  (That sort of thing doesn’t play well on Main Street.))
There’s a medley of hits, including Poker Face, which sounds like the Barbie song by Aqua.  Then there’s a song that sounds so much like one of Madonna’s, I assume it’s a cover, until I hear the chorus and realise it’s actually one of Gaga’s biggest hits.  It’s all as manic and crazy as these things always are, and at one point, Gaga plays keytar, for some reason. 
“Just dance, it’ll be ok….”
Would that it were so, Lady G.
“Texas, how you doin’ tonight?
“America – world, how you doin’ tonight?”  This reminds me of the Morrissey song America Is Not The World.  That was on an album which came out in 2004.  America/The world is largely the same as in 2004 but even worse.
If the half time show was a full musical, it would be called Flash Gordon and The Last Days of Rome.  It lasts about ten minutes, but feels like it could have been ten seconds or ten hours.  It takes longer to set it all up on the field than it lasts.  It leaves me breathless, yet simultaneously bored.
Then I think about In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.  Perhaps I should put it on, instead of listening to the commentary…

In the third quarter, Atlanta add another TD through Coleman.  Then NE finally get a TD, and eventually another.  In the 4th quarter, I’m starting to get very tired.  It is 2.30 am. 
Sack – fumble!  NE get the ball back with 8:24 on the clock, on the Atlanta 25 yard line….the Brady gets sacked on the first down.  It is most likely not the Pats day. 
Or IS IT?! Another Touchdown!  2-point conversion!  28-20, just under 6 mins on clock. Game.  ON.
Still 28-20 with 3:30 on the clock, NE starting at their own 9….
Edelman makes an amazing catch.  Maybe it is New England’s day…Oh, God, I hope this isn’t symbolic of what’s to come: Patriots who already dominate asserting their dominance, just when it looked like a team representing a majority black, southern city might win their first victory.
TD!  2-point conv….IN – just!
The momentum is now all with the Patriots, and they dominate their opponents as their opponents had them in the first half.
28-28!
This is really really close.  Twenty minutes ago, it seemed impossible, but they might really win this thing.
With 52 secs left, the Falcons are at their own 10…
With 11 secs left, the Falcons are punting….and….and…
Over Time! The first ever at a Superbowl!  This is exciting.
Until New England win with a touchdown on their first drive.

So, to sum up; the Patriots win, and it changes nothing.  It was just a game of football.

It is 3.30

I’m going to bed, where I hope to dream of anything other than how the world actually looks/is at the moment.




And when we meet on a cloud,
I’ll be laughing out loud.
I’ll be laughing at everyone I see
Can’t believe
How strange it is to be
Anything at all.
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea