Sunday, 5 September 2010

Weekend Without Makeup

Just a quick one to draw everyone's attention to some fine & worthy words from the Liverpool Echo editor Alistair Machray when he relaunched & rebranded the fine, august publication...coming up for two years ago this was.

And...This was welcomed almost unanimously across Merseyside because... even its loyalists would have had to admit through gritted teeth it had a got a bit tabloidy & OTT at times.
There was of course all that stuff about Frank Bruno playing knock-a-dash in Walton.
That story was hyped & reported in quite a coarse manner.... I think he alarmed Pete Price at one point during his anti-social spree, Bruno in his distress at coming to his senses and realising - horror of horrors - he was in Walton, and he knocked over some bins in the entry. Pete then hit back in a ferocious & characteristically catty column, rejoining "I don’t mind being disturbed in the dead of night by a ferocious bashing in the back-passage....but this was unacceptable...I used to know Elvis. We did Widow Twankey together in Bournemouth in the 80s...”
Quite lurid and indicative of the 'old Echo' style at that time. So, the statement was very reassuring, including as it did words like this...

"(A) new emphasis on being positive and telling readers the truth". Just what the doctor ordered.

Even more so the next bit, because people from Liverpool can be pilloried by the wider world (wools), teased and stereotyped by outsiders (wools) very easily - we can all imagine the type of sneering mock-up of a local Liverpool newspaper would be like :
a headline about some superstition-based new dreadful threat to the area...then something about Liverpool FC...preferably some mawkish angle about how great they used to be...absolute must would be a Beatles link - the spuriouser the better...and then some more about LFC and how great they're going to again any minute now.

So it was heartening to know that people weren’t going to be treated like sops for who any of the above would be good enough. In the article Mr Machray says how much he respects the readers and that the “truth project” would ensure that the writers & editors "don’t push it and betray the trust of our readers. They regard accuracy as being ahead of sensationalism.”

He also has a blog, which is prefaced by another commendable & praiseworthy statement , where he raises the stakes in an effective 'call-out' to any other media moguls who may think they're doing a good job;

"I'm Alastair Machray, editor of the Liverpool Echo. I believe, I truly believe, it's Britain's best paper in Britain's best city."

Britain's Best Paper. Quite a claim. Britain’s Best City. Again, no mincing of words. You sense that he was driving at giving as he sees it the best citizens in the country a level of journalism befitting that status;

They’d been condescended and considered ignorant for two long - now they were going to be treated as adults.

In another soothing and sound comment he explained that he knew that maybe the previous regime had dumbed-down unacceptably at times (I think they even allowed some really dubious, and basic-level 'gay' 'bum' type attempts at humour - and it was just insulting to people's intelligence. Readers deserve better than that.) It was time to grow up and engage the readership on a more intelligent level;

“Readers look to the Echo to tell them the truth about what’s happening when the rest of the world is throwing information at them from all quarters.”
And this was really crystallised yesterday I think. All the fine, noble words above were realised and the long, brave drive to a higher ground was finally concluded with this front page;

There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.” Oscar Wilde

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Guest Spot ~ Niall Scott goes to Detroit

When people speak of Liverpool in the 1980's, they often make reference to the massive unemployment of the era, and in Alan Bleasdale's (for better or for worse) famous portrayal of struggling in 'The Boys From The Blackstuff', the city gained an image that, if slightly exaggerated, was fitting for the times. In the series, in fact, one of the most poignant & resonant lines is when Liverpool is referred to as dead... "it's dead now, isn't it, just dead".

That and when Graeme Souness was in it, obviously.

Having been traveling round various parts of the States, it's been hard to detect where exactly the financial meltdown of recent years has been hitting for the most part. Seen somewhat superficially through a tourists eyes, New York seems it's usual black hole of consumerism, Boston is a thoroughly well off port and Chicago seemed as in fine shape as you could find a modern city. However, in Detroit, once the USA's 3rd largest city up until the 1950s, the image of business as usual fades alarmingly.

Upon arriving in the bus station in downtown area, I was immediately greeted with 'I can tell you're from out of state, why would you want to come to a DEAD town like this' by a man. This was followed by the even more ominous quote of 'Boy, that bus don't exist no more, and if it did you don't want to get on it'.

Moments later, still completely disoriented, I was approached by a crackhead ( no more generous a description can I afford the man) who was morbidly confused as to why I should come to Detroit voluntarily. He was friendly enough but I was happy to be rescued from his ever- increasing animation and urine soaked garments ("no, that's cokey- cola, honest" ) by a white middle class couple who could see I was out of my comfort zone and took me to a safe haven of a rather swanky hotel and bought me a beer.

I talked to Alan, the man of the couple (obviously) and he told me that, walking downtown where he worked, he no longer sees the bustling street of a metropolis morning - but the slow, weary trudge to work of those fortunate enough to still have it.

According to him, unemployment in inner city Detroit is an almost unbelievable 25%; Think of our current 8% and then you get some perspective on the predicament Motown finds itself in.And like Liverpool in the 70s-80s, it's problems stem from the over-reliance of it's economy on one particular area. In Liverpool's case, the decline of the shipping industry effectively killed the city's lifeblood of the docks and ports upon which it was built.

And the literal and economic car crash of the American motor industry has had a similar, if not graver, effect on Detroit.

This would perhaps not be as poignant if both cities did not also share the fact that their economic low-point came shortly after their cultural and fashion booms.

The rise of Motown and Beatlemania went almost hand in hand, but whilst the clubs and bars and streets of both towns were filled with excitement, their economies were being undermined by the fact that they only really had one sector to fall back on. In other words, both places were victims of their own success, and once the main supports had gone, the rest collapsed in itself.

Liverpool has for now escaped the harshest effects of the global depression this time around, mainly because it was fortunate enough to be heavily invested in right before the major meltdown, but if you really want to see the real victims of this, Detroit is one of the places where you will find them.

And if I ever doubted the effects of economic dereliction andhow deep-seated they may or may not actually be, as I have sometimes done (believing there to be more than a hint of truth in Stewart Lee’s summation “ Liverpool, where cloying nostalgia passes for entertainment” and being bemused by my city’s obsession with wallowing in ‘fondly remembered’ “shittier times”), then this really opened my eyes.Oh and the couple, they were nice and all, but the man said the city now has 'too many Indians' . I did overlook this casual racism in the spirit of their generosity in taking me in..............
.........................................................but they did also exude a swinger-ish vibe.

One drink.


Fun Rock Radio interview with Niall Scott

That was 2Pac featuringScarface with ‘Smile For Me Now’...shit never gets old. So, we got a great – a real treat today...we’re gonna catch up with Niall Scott who’s you’ll know he’s Stateside at the moment..but we’re gonna catch up with him...a few Q&As with him...then a kinda, sort of report he’s done about Detroit. It’s quite straight-up, serious shit there, so we’ll go over to him for the ‘how you beens?’to soften up for that - after this from Satyricon...

Great to hear from you! Where....where are you speaking to us from?
“I’m on my bunk, wearing a Yankees hoody and shorts...with a mango”

Ha! Crazy shit. So, hey,’ve been on tour in the US for the past couple of months now – this is the first time you been over right? And you started off in –where else? - Enn Why was that?

“Mix of awe & excitement...tinged with doubt...struggling & yomping along the streets”

Cool. The stand-out moment of your time in the big apple?
“Walking through Harlem and being offered drugs”

Sweet! So you’ve committed to the rock n roll dream then?
“I just ate bacon and drank three straight cups of tea.”

So, sticking to the British diet – or indulging in the local stuff...?
“Hershey’s is not as bad as it’s made out. A jam & peanut butter bagel I had in NY been incredibly delicious. Macaroni for tea was a highlight...”

Quality. Anything you, ah, you weren’t so hot & heavy for food wise?
“The alleged Garlic Bread at camp Wah Nee was inedible....the vilest humus ever made..Tasted of sweat”

Class. Hows the..the weather been over there...cos y’know here aint been a great summer any mea-
“Very warm. Stifling & sticky. It’s no wonder the summers in the city are meant to be maddening because at the top of the Empire State Building there is no wind at all. Just heat”

So, you left New York and went we don’t get this kind of thing so went to a kind of Summer Camp yeah..?
“A mainly Jewish kid’s summer camp – America’s fifth best – they raise the flag & bring it down everyday, have pancakes for breakfast.....”

Woah, is that quite hard to deal with?
“...I’m just going with it”

Right. And you work there, right? - As a kind of ‘spiritual guide’ & ‘life mentor’ to the kids?
“Support staff. I’ve surprised myself how easily I’ve gotten used to it”

Ace. And where is this....this camp is in Connecticut I’m being told...where exca-
“Torrington. Small Town. 2 Malls, nice library, pretty town square..trees, a fountain , a statue, the stars and stripes....and a big fuck off gun...”

Wow! “FIRE!” haha, no, but seriously, man, give us some idea the kind of social life at wah Nee...
“Some nights they take us to a country club where you can get cheap beer...very American...sports-based lads playing beer-pong and girls playing truth or dare. We went, as a camp to the local baseball team – New Britain Red fell a little flat with the kid-friendly angle...”

You gotta hate that! So the’ve got on with the youths yeah?
“There was a big game of manhunt...I hid in a suffocating heat for eight minutes before I was kicked by a six year old”

“I think I’ve made a good impression so far all round”

Cool. So, listen, man ....we got...we gotta wrap this up in like two minutes so just a couple of quick final thoughts – I know you got loads more stuff planned , you’re going through Boston, Chicago, Washington...and we got your Detroit review to follow on, so general vibes..?
“.....walking...scenery.... scrabble....border-line legal ...Rude Boi in the gym...nauseating but strangely hypnotic talent shows....good fun.....gyrating, prancing, lip-syncing, cross-dressing.....not to perv! ...I genuinely was just being friendly...”

Whoa, whoa, okay...we get you man, problem! So this is still a music station, you got a request before we link into you Detroit report?
“Party In The USA. Still a tune!!”

Amen. Keep safe man! This is Miley.....