24 Hour Party People / Low Fi Britpop Flashback AM Radio Memories

Keeping with the 18th Century English cultural history theme, I was very surprised to see that Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy had been made into a movie... A lengthy book about nothing. Reading a review, it was mentioned how the lead had starred in a film called 24 Hour Party People, which was somewhat a more lively film than Tristram (which, I gather, is a post modern comedy, a film about making a film...). So I rented "24 Hour Party People" over the weekend.

The film covers the rise of the Manchester UK music scene in the late 70's / early 80's, starting with a 1976 performance of the Sex Pistols, attended by 42 people in some empty auditorium, and following the all too usual rise and fall of rock artists and assorted hangers-on. Bands like Joy Division and Happy Mondays feature prominently in the story. I should note that I was never a huge fan of this music, it was ok, but I was more into the old reggae inflected Clash, Police or punkish Elvis Costello than the bands featured in the film.

What made the movie quite overwhelming, however, was that in 1979-80 I was freshman in High School, and had just moved to a small village outside of Stuttgart Germany, never having been abroad before, not speaking the language, a whole new experience. German media at the time was not too lively (though it looks like things have loosened up a bit now) and I distinctly remember playing with a little radio at night, spinning through the static and babel of different languages... and started listening to Radio Luxemburg's am band English service: It was staticy, reception faded in and out, but it was some of the same music featured in the film, and music at the time that I had never heard before in my life, and the DJs talked about goings on in London and referred to things altogether new and strange.

I'm forty now and but watching this movie I was a dysfunctional neurotic HS freshman again (unfortunately, not much has changed over time), in my basement room (really!) in a German townhouse, back in the early 80s: "RTL 208 Meters on the Medium Wave". I even remember one of the DJ's names: Rob Jones, pronounced ROB JOnes... listening to bands like Souxsie and the Banshees (Turning Japanese!) through the snaps and crackles of a tiny AM radio in the middle of the night. Evelyn Waugh wrote: "My theme is memory, that winged host that soared around me one gray morning in wartime..." and while watching "24 Hour Party People" -- really, a rather slight movie -- was not a truly sublime experience, it did have the pronounced effect of transporting me back to a particular place and time in my life.

The movie featured "Love will tear us apart" by Joy Division, quite prominently, the video is on You Tube...

When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low
And resentment rides high, but emotions won't grow
And we're changing our ways, taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again --

Why is the bedroom so cold? You've turned away on your side
Is my timing that flawed - our respect run so dry?
Yet there's still this appeal that we've kept through our lives
Love, love will tear us apart again --

You cry out in your sleep - all my failings expose
There's a taste in my mouth, as desperation takes hold
Just that something so good just can't function no more
When love, love will tear us apart again --


Memorial Day 2006 / 10th Mtn Div Highway

It's Memorial Day and the evening news was full of carnage and killing as usual. But here in Vermont it was the first summer-like weekend and Church Street was crowded with people enjoying being outside and going on with day to day living. Very odd times we live in. People are making terrible sacrifices every day -- for very little apparent greater good in Iraq -- and yet life at home hasn't changed much other than flying is now more of hassle (and probably not a whole lot safer than before 9-11). Journalism is largely temporary and disposable but I remember a single sentence that appeared in the Washington Post after 9-11: "People want to do something and the government tells them to go shopping." Nowadays it's not even apparent that people want to do something, but I am digressing.

The BFP had an article on how Vermont is going to rename Rt 108 through Smugglers Notch for the 10th Mtn Division, which made me think of my maternal grandfather, who fought in the 10th in WW2. My grandfather was a true outdoorsman in the days before goretex, fancy skis and SUVs and all the trashy 'gear porn' one sees in outdoor magazines today. We are talking old-school New England skiing, before it became such an upscale sport aimed at well-to-do suburbanites. My grandfather spent his life in a small very working-class mill town in Maine and in the 1930s they built a municipal ski jump (can't imagine such a thing today, too many lawyers) and his obituary mentioned that he was the first person in town to go off the jump... I remember thinking at his funeral that was about the coolest thing one could have in an obituary, ever.

My grandfather died slowly from Parkinson's disease and was disabled for a very long time but I did stop in to visit occasionally when I was racing my bike in Maine and so got to spend some time with him. So here's a tip of the hat to Ben Bernard's -- and his comrades in arms -- memory and try and remember the fallen and the grievously wounded from conflicts today because from my perspective it seems like 'out of sight, out of mind', which is not how it should be.

About the title of this blog

I attended the recent Goya exhibit at UVM's Fleming Museum which I enjoyed and some of the exhibit materials addressed the influence of the English engraver William Hogarth on Goya. As I studied 18th century English literature at college and was already familiar with some of Hogarth's work, this motivated me to go to the local library and flip through a bound collection of prints... and I thought that "Midnight Modern Conversation" (the above print) would make an excellent title for a blog.

There is a certain amount of irony in this choice because Hogarth's print depicts a drunken bacchanal but at least it is a social gathering: Whereas I see blogging as an atomizing solitary endeavor done alone, at night, in lieu of real human contact and relationships. More on that later.

To learn more about Hogarth, Wikipedia is a good place to start. With prints titled "The Harlot's Progress", "The Rake's Progress" and "Gin Lane" the subject matter is not dull.