Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I'm as guilty of oversharing as the kids of today I purport to hate so much. I tweet, Foursquare, Instagram, Facebook.... I even GetGlue. If it's not basic narcissism, then I don't know what the psychology behind it is, for me or the current generation of check-inners. Or, checkers-in.

Here's a thought, though. I'm a lost cause, but the current generation; let's call them Gen Text - what if all the sharing and checking in is a *good* thing? As a parent, I rather like the idea that, when my kids are old enough to be out and about on their own and with friends, all I have to do is check my own smartphone or their Twitter feeds to be able to see where they are and who they are with. In real time with GPS, potentially. What if the things they share as kids; pictures, videos, songs, playlists.... what if, when Gen Text is my age (or younger), this desire to share translates into sharing other things for free? Wealth, knowledge, experience. The kids of today are extremely technically proficient, a field which is growing, not shrinking. A field where there is the potential to make a lot of money.

"Billy has checked in to Joe's Cafe" and he posts a picture of him feeding three homeless guys.

Gen Text is often criticised for being narcissistic and shallow, and that may always be the case, but if Billy wants a retweet for something like that, and if it means his parents know he's safe, I'll deal with a little mirror-gazing.

Something to think about.

Monday, August 26, 2013

F: Art?

A few years ago, late film critic extraordinaire Roger Ebert picked an online fight with the entire internet by claiming that video games cannot be considered art.

I think the flaw in Ebert's argument (and, indeed, the original argument he was rebutting) was that the terms are too broad. "Video Games Can Never Be Art" was his statement. Well... Ok, sure. How about "Paint On Something Can Never Be Art". That could be just as true when one dismisses specifics. Just as something painted on something can easily be considered art (The Mona Lisa, Der Sterrenacht) or not art ("oops, I dripped Eggshell matte Dulux on the floor") - and vice versa - can individual video games not be considered art on a case by case basis? I think so. Despite its cultural interest, the Atari 2600's "Custer's Revenge" may have no redeeming artistic merit, but by the lord Harry "Myst" certainly does.  The issue brings to mind the classic unanswerable question, "what actually is art?"

There is a theory that, literally, anything can be considered art, in the right circumstances. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. I remember being invited to a party in the wilderness one night and as I stumbled out of the venue at god-knows-what o'clock, I saw in the distance some sort of factory. It was lit by floodlights and comprised of pipes and tubes and drums and vats... obviously some sort of chemical or treatment plant. Maybe it was the lighting. Maybe it was the unforgiving Brutalist curves of heavy industry. Maybe it was because I was tired and slightly drunk. Either way, it was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. In a different part of the day, and in the harsh face of sobriety, it was probably the sort of place I'd be chaining myself to whilst holding a "Stop Raping The Countryside" sign, but as it was, a shining beacon of functionality in the pitch darkness of nowhere, it was beautiful. Was that art? You bet it was.

Art is defined as "the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture, and paintings" which plays very much into the argument for objectivity, but there is still the theory that something designed purely to be functional cannot, at the same time, be beautiful. I cry bollocks. Not only was that factory beautiful, I present to you what may be the most important piece of unintentional art that Britain has produced: Test Card F.

Designed in 1967 by BBC engineers to calibrate TV sets and test the strength of transmission signals, Test Card F has been, and continues to be, broadcast worldwide by PAL-format TV stations. Is it art, or is it not art? Here's why I think it is, and why I believe function can be beauty:

The sheer number of vases and pottery on display in museums proves that function can be artistic - In fact, very single inch of TCF has a specific function by design, from the lines to the dots and numbers... even down to the X on the board and the colour of the clown's costume.

It's as iconic as the Mona Lisa - almost every single person of my generation (and past generations) can tell you what it is thanks to its continued presence on TV from 1967 to the late 1990s.TCF continues to have a cultural impact into the 21st century - amongst other uses, the award winning drama "Life On Mars" used the girl as a narrative device and the BBC website's 404 error features the clown. His name is "Bubbles", by the way.

Bold lines and bright colours are beautiful - Piet Mondrian's minimalist "Lozenge" and "Composition" paintings hang in the Tate, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's modernist designs continue to be replicated worldwide. The girl - Carole Hersee - is immortalised as an intentional portrait. "A portrait is... an artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the painter or photographer, in order to most successfully engage the subject with the viewer."  Again, a classic technical definition of what art is that falls squarely into TCF.

With that evidence, it would be hard, surely, to dismiss the notion that Test Card F is art.  Whether once likes it or not, it could be - and should be - considered a work of functional art. But the fact is, no one person can define art for others - such is the beauty of it. Whether it's a factory, a statue with no arms, a faint smile on a mysterious lady, or Test Card F, we all see beauty in different things. After all, one person's unmade bed is another person's Turner Prize.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Too Grumpy Critics Say: Happy Holidays! Here's A Rotten Old Repeat From A Year Ago.

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Picture it: Christmas!  2010!  From the bowels of the Taskerlands Radiophonic Workshop comes a rarity: a radio special that's so special, it can bring the world together.  It unites warring nations via the gift of laughter.  It ends hunger, cures various cancers and colonises Mars.  Global warming immediately depletes, polar ice caps re-freeze and the hole in the ozone layer - if that still exists, even - closes up.  For 80 glorious minutes of mirth, the world unites and listens to what is arguably the greatest christmas special that sounds like an old radio broadcast from the 40s that has ever been produced by two blokes called Paul and Spike.  In West Virginia.  In the fall of 2010.

As you can imagine, competition was stiff for that particular award.  Ahem.

OK, so this isn't just a lazy repeat of last year's critically lauded special.  I mean, that would be too easy.  No, this is a newly edited version; running at a svelte 60 minutes (or one metric hour), the special now zips along at a steady pace, with all the unnecessary padding stripped out.  All this means that even though there might be less world uniting, hunger-ending, environment preserving, ozone layer-repairing going on, it *does* give you more time to get the rest of your shopping done.

Happy holidays.  See you in oh-twelve.

Posted via email from Paul&Spike: Too Grumpy Critics

Friday, December 16, 2011

Too Grumpy Critics Rotten Old Repeated Christmas Special (part 1)




It's the most wonderful time of the year!  What makes it wonderful?  Taking time off work, of course!  But don't worry, there's still a festive smell in the air with this, the special director's cut of the 2008 Christmas Special.  Why is it the director's cut?  Well, there is approximately five whole podcast-exclusive minutes of new material crowbarred in instead of including the costly music that used to be there, it's in living stereo, and also because.... 














Um, anywayses.  Next week, you can enjoy the specially edited director's cut of last year's Christmas special, "Paul&Spike: The Gay Batchelors"; now edited down to a managable hour, with almost all of the painfully unfunny filler garbage cut out.


Posted via email from Paul&Spike: Too Grumpy Critics

Friday, December 09, 2011

podcast #505 - WARNING! FILM BORES ONLY.




WARNING!  This episode is for film bores only, as Old Spike takes his place in the rotating Paul Chair.  On the agenda is OS's Week In Stuff, some chat about the classics, the time he and his mother's trip across Glasgow was interrupted by the real Laurel and Hardy, and we'll find out who WC Fields referred to as "a goddamn ballerina".

Owing to some construction at Taskerlands, the recording home of Too Grumpy Critics, next week will be a special presentation of a previous years' Christmas special, so there's plenty of time to get your answers in for Old Spike's question: what film quotes have you incorporated into your daily life? Do you know someone who doesn't like the special sauce, Rick?  Have you ever made someone an offer they couldn't refuse, or told them to try the veal?  Let us know at the usual address, which IS...?

theusualaddress at gmail.com

@spikester on Twitter

and, for Google Plus fans, it's plus.paulandspike.com

Posted via email from Paul&Spike: Too Grumpy Critics

Friday, December 02, 2011

podcast #504 - John Collins Talks Radio / Sit-Com Movies

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At last! An expert! Radio programming King Midas John Collins plonks himself down in the rotating Paul Chair to talk radio. Spike faces off against his broadcasting mentor; John is endlessly enthusiastic about the future of radio as a medium; Spike.... not so much. Can someone who still believes in the magic convince him otherwise?

Also on the agenda: a dissection of Scottish politics,why certain formats work in some countries but not others, and what "ben the press" means.  Apologies for the dip in quality in the first half hour - blame Spike's wilderness internet.

Keep in touch!

email: theusualaddress [at] gmail.com
twitter: @spikester
G+: plus.paulandspike.com

Posted via email from Paul&Spike: Too Grumpy Critics

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This Week's Too Grumpy Critics Question...

I'm recording the show early this week - tomorrow, in fact - with radio genius John Collins. Two questions:

1] Matt Owen's question from last week was on the subject of sit-coms. What sit-com - past or present - would you like to see being given the big screen treatment? 

2] Traditional radio; do you still listen to it? Is it still valuable to your life?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts - and do feel free to share the post with your smart friends! ;D

Log in with your existing Facebook or Twitter accounts at paulandspike.com and comment, or email: theusualaddress {at} gmail.com, @spikester, or plus.paulandspike.com

Posted via email from Paul&Spike: Too Grumpy Critics