Wednesday, 3 March 2010

This country's possible war crimes and where to find the best bowl of chips in London…

My interview with musical retro-dreamers Mike Champion and Michael Yates is now actually published along with my less trendy comment piece on IoW council cuts. Yayy.

Saturday's Masterclass in investigative reporting was great fun.

The first principle:

"If you encounter somebody who says 'I'm an investigative journalist' you're almost certainly dealing with someone who has quite a significant personality problem. All reporting is investigative."

As expected there were some manly stories - doorstepping pedophile ringleaders, tracking down Russian spies, fighting legal battles, which was all very inspiring. The pair were swamped at the bar by a crowd of admirers.

All in all the free bar provided the most intense social experience I've had in a while… Walking home, I was slightly adrift in it all - I'll break some of it down for you:

A Russian newspaper editor, originally from the UK, told me Britain is going to the dogs.

The wrong-doings of a cult were passionately laid out by a lady researching a book on the subject.

A financial journalist left me thinking that money is modernity's religion of choice (the financial system rests so heavily on faith).

The most unsettling story came from a man who left the R.A.F. following air strikes in Iraq. I paraphrase here so be aware it's unreliable. He was ver' drunk and I'm going from memory.

"They'll say 'oh those are bomb shelters, just go for the target, they'll be alright', but some of these American missiles, they're so huge and just" - he made an exploding gesture. "Then they say oh fuck, it's all gone. How many d'you reckon that was? 1000? 1500 people? All those poor buggers wiped out. They just don't care. They don't."

He muttered something about cover-ups, made his excuses and left, saying he would come back later. He didn't.

It was a sad encounter, particularly as he'd been beaming at me a few minutes before, when I was making an overblown statement about a sixties renaissance.

My question is this: is nostalgia always directed fifty years into the past? Why aren't we cool anymore?

Perhaps we're just practical… Back in the 1950s, less than a third of young people thought being rich was an important life goal. Now, more than 70% say so.

Well since so many of us are unemployed and skint at the moment, will we reject that model of success completely? Is this a new dawn for genius-losers? I still find a lot of young men thrilled to discover Kerouac's On the Road. Wow, let's just go and work the land, live in a trailer with migrant workers and hammer away at a typewriter! Suddenly, poverty seems like a lifestyle choice.

This neglects to mention the perviness of the novel. Underage prostitution? Oh that's fine because we're in Mexico! Well, no, actually. So I err on the side of 'loser' when it comes to Kerouac. Has nobody emerged since?

Thinking this through, I trumpeted optimistic slogans to a new friend I'd found wearing a trilby: 'Money's shit!' I said, 'there's no poetry in an easy life.'
"I said, there's NO POETRY in an EASY LIFE!"

At which he nodded, his eyes beer-lit, as if I'd said something profound.

Incidentally think the myth of retro-happiness is embodied in this performance, though I've no idea where it comes from. If we were all like this man, how frightening the world would be…
(Please ignore the title and web ad. attached to this YouTube video. I do not want to promote porn on my blog.)

So, that was an interesting evening. A couple of nice things have happened since then, as cheaply as possible.

First of all, I've witnessed Marina Diamantis cavorting in front of a fan. You won't forget it.

In terms of actual human interaction… on Sunday a friend treated my sister and I to lunch in Canary Wharf. The wind was howling round the skyscrapers, so we went back to his apartment for tea. I ogled his amazing collection of puppets, old books, big screens, steampunk jewellery and outfits, and he directed me to this article on the future of journalism.

Last night was good too. I went with sisters to The Lavender in Vauxhall and found the best bowl of chips for £2, perfectly crispy on the outside, perfectly fresh on the inside, honestly, they're a work of art. I got a friend to try one and her face transformed brilliantly.

"Mmm… You know - food. Sometimes, I just can't get over it."

In a fit of giggles I nearly spilled tomato juice everywhere. It was mostly Worcester sauce. Erk. What was the barman thinking? Perhaps it builds character.

We felt particularly celebratory because my unemployed sister is employed again! It only took… five months or something. My turn now. Hmm.

What was I saying? Oh yes! She's having a lovely time at the Natural History Museum, and has already had the wits scared out of her by human remains in the basement…

But that's her story to tell. I must get on. :)

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