History

Paint By Numbers

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I did paint-by-numbers work when I was younger. It’s a wonderful way to train yourself without getting bogged down in the details that would otherwise thwart you from doing something with art.

Dan Robbins, the inventor of the paint-by-numbers kits, has died aged 93. 

His kits inspired generations of budding artists to pick up a paintbrush and create multi-coloured wonders. Here, BBC News website readers share their artwork and stories about how the method helped them.

I would have guessed that these things were much, much older and dated from the Victorian era. But, no. Robbins invented them in the 1950s.

Here’s why I mention this:

Painting-by-numbers literally saved my life when I had a breakdown last year. 

I could barely function and my anxiety was through the roof. I was crying all the time and everything felt like an overload. 

Painting-by-numbers helped me to heal and gave me a break from the pain I was in. The act of painting each shape with a colour and being able to shut my brain off except for painting within the lines made such a difference to my recovery time, and I credit it with getting me to where I am today. 

I chose the image because I like animals and the colours were attractive to me. There is also a slight sadness in the deer's eyes which spoke to me. 

I believe this image took me about three weeks to complete, doing about one or two hours a day. 

It was my first adult paint-by-numbers kit. I used to do them as a child. I do a little bit of drawing and I like the idea of being able to paint but don't feel confident enough to start a picture myself from scratch. I like the fact that all the hard work is already done with a paint-by-numbers kit, and at the end you know the image will be beautiful.

Please click over to the BBC and read the rest. You’ll see things like this:

Nancy Pope

Nancy Pope

Wonderful.

Thanks again, Mr. Robbins.

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The Cheap, Tawdry Trump Era

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This is the emblem of the Trump Era, writ large and laid out on a fine table in the White House.

Cheap, disposable piles of garbage food, set out in the midst of American History.

Imagine, if you will, the White House during the Kennedy years, presented in this fashion. Oh, I’m sure they had hamburgers in the White House, but not like this (but, really, did they? I have no idea). This is such an abomination.

I would imagine there have been many formal meals served here, and some informal ones. I can imagine what this room was decorated like during the Coolidge years or during the presidency of William McKinley. Would it have been adorned with such slop? Probably not.

Think of all the history that this particular room has seen over many, many decades. This is where Eisenhower, both Roosevelts, Lincoln himself (you see him on the wall, and you can imagine the laughter), and a whole host of founding fathers, lived their lives and conducted themselves. You can see the ghosts in the corners, just staring at the debacle of the Trump era. Even Andrew Jackson would have been appalled by how flinty and demeaning this food would look to visitors. He threw open the doors and let the common people stomp through the whole house, of course, but would he have served something so demeaning? Ah, no.

Nothing is more Trump than a priceless wooden table covered in pyramids of cold fast food containers, rotting at room temperature. Nothing is symbolizes the Age of Trump better than a squishy, tartar sauce drowned fish patty in a stale bun.

Trump is the president who thought that the best he could do was serve his fellow Americans a shit sandwich. What a fiasco.

Albert Finney 1936-2019

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The great Albert Finney has died, and it had to happen on a Friday when the bad news just keeps rolling in. His achievements are too numerous to mention and his range and capability as an actor are just beyond comprehension. Here was a man who, for all of his life, took what he was given and made it his own.

His criminally ignored and under-appreciated turn as Leo O’Bannon in Miller’s Crossing (the greatest of all the gangster movies, of course) brought him no awards and no special recognition. It was yet another Coen brothers movies that gets talked about again and again but I don’t think people appreciate how Finney had to play the role. He is understated and calm and, while that usually looks like indifference on the screen, his every look and emotion in that film add up to absolute magic. There are no bad scenes. The pace of the film is astonishing and perfect. The whole thing falls apart if Finney plays him like all the other gangster bosses that came before. It doesn’t work if he hams it up or lashes out like a psychopath. Everything hinges on how he purrs through the dialogue, a man caught between hanging on to what he’s built and a woman who doesn’t love him.

For the great actor, it was just another role in a vast career. He did it, and it mattered, and he just went on to the next thing and kept working. He should have won three Oscars, but they snubbed him, just like they snubbed the late Alan Rickman.

Finney did so much to advance the art of acting. He is already missed.

The Fall of Gondolin

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Christopher Tolkien has published what appears to be the final book written by his father, J.R.R. Tolkien. No one expected to see The Fall of Gondolin, so it is quite a surprise:

While this story may be the last Tolkien book to be published, it is actually an early tale and foundational to the author’s entire concept of Middle-earth. It was first written in 1917 while Tolkien was recuperating in a hospital from trench fever after the Battle of the Somme. “It’s a quest story with a reluctant hero who turns into a genuine hero—it’s a template for everything Tolkien wrote afterwards,” John Garth, author of a book about Tolkien’s experience in World War I tells Alison Flood at The Guardian. “It has a dark lord, our first encounter with orcs and balrogs—it’s really Tolkien limbering up for what he would be doing later.”

Christian Holub at Entertainment Weekly explains that the new book tells the tale of Tuor, a man living in an age where the world is dominated by the dark lord Melko—known in other Tolkien books as Morgoth. Only one place, the hidden Elvish city of Gondolin has resisted his reign, and Tuor is sent to find the place. He does, but so do the dark forces of Melko. In the grandest Tolkien battle scene outside of The Lord of the Rings, the author describes a mechanized army, similar to the newly introduced mechanized warfare he’d witnessed during the Great War, falling on the city.

I am not a fan of the Hobbit movies; Tolkien gave us battles, but not of the size and scope that were depicted. I do not believe Peter Jackson was ever the right filmmaker for The Lord of the Rings, either; his movies are beautifully framed junk and everything is a near-miss and, hey, what if we spin the camera around this way and that way? Everyone seemed stiff at times, but you really have to credit what Elijah Wood and Sean Astin did to make it all seem like an actual epic quest. It wasn't all bad, of course.

The best description for Jackson's approach would be to call it expensive fan fiction. Beyond that, everything I actually liked about the books disappeared. If they can make a movie about Han Solo, why the hell can't they make a movie about Elrond?

The Fall of Gondolin explores the history of Middle Earth, and gives you a sense of Tolkien's decision to build the languages, the different inhabitants, their entire, well-imagined back stories, and their place in the story. It's not enough to talk about the tribes of Elves or Men or Dwarves--their foundational epics and their sense of who they were had to be built, painstakingly, one generation at a time.

Aside from George R. R. Martin, who does this anymore? Plenty of writers make the attempt, but Tolkien, being an academic, had the knowledge to create the framework that his son has spent decades trying to organize and preserve for proper release. His achievement as a curator is no less of an accomplishment than his father's as the creator.

If someone else decides to make films of these stories, I'm fine with that. I really don't need to see any more of Jackson's vision. To me, it was always about the history and the relationships, and not so much the sword play and the massed formations of troops. Having seen the horrors of war, I don't think Tolkien wanted it to be fetishized in the manner in which it was, I really don't. There was always a purpose to the violence, and that's where all of the effort went.

What the Hell is Going On?

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SPOILERS AHEAD (OBVIOUSLY...)


 

The culture has passed me by:

Avengers: Infinity War” can check off yet another record: The second-highest second weekend of all time.

Disney and Marvel’s latest collaboration earned $112.5 million from 4,474 locations in its second frame. The 56% decline was just enough to top the record previously held by fellow Marvel title “Black Panther,” which made $111.6 million in its second weekend. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” holds the prize for biggest second weekend, with a mighty $149 million in 2015. Only five films have ever hit the $100 million-mark in their second weekends.

In just North America, the superhero mashup has made $450.8 million. Among “Infinity War’s” numerous accomplishments is being the fastest film to gross $1 billion, in just 11 days. And the film has yet to open in China.

I enjoy living in the future. I don't advocate a return to the bad old days. I have a smart phone and I love it when people put out new music. But I couldn't be further out of the cultural zeitgeist if I was walking around dressed like it was the 1890s and talking through the severed end of a flugelhorn. 

What do I have here at the end of watching all 18 of these terrible, terrible Marvel movies? Nothing. I have no idea what has happened. I mean, I don't want to pull the sleeve right off your best jacket, but what the hell was all that about? Some people and some magic stones have fought each other and now the universe is in balance? There is no balance in nature. It's just wild and free and shit goes one way, then another. Is Jesus supposed to show up now? I think that was a joke in Infinity War, which I saw a day ago and can't remember anything about.

Why aren't the Jesus freaks angrier about this movie? It's supposed to be the end-all, be-all of everything and all it needed was for Southpark's version of Jesus to show up, put his hand on the shoulder of Thanos, and say, "who hurt you, my son?" That would have ended the whole movie. No need for any more Avengers because Jesus can shoot a lightning bolt through your eyes if you try to make special weapons or steal magic stones.

I'll tell you how the movie will end next year. Something, joke, something, everybody's trapped in the soul stone! fight, joke, joke, fight, and then another fight and then the little girl makes the bad guy put everything back the way it was and someone hides those magic stones and we get to do it all over again in the reboot.

The whole movie runs through the relationship between the young version of Gamora and the big bad evil daddy figure. Conquering figure adopts helpless child, wah wah, okay, what did we learn? Did we learn more about emotional manipulation and allow a figure who has killed untold trillions of children in the universe to have a soft spot for a little kiddy? Genocide never had a better premise in a film. Let's just breeze past the horror--he's got a heart of gold hidden in there, but he's been hurt and Jesus never came around to save him.

Culturally, this is all just junk. It's light, it's fluffy, people eat it up, and then it dissipates. It amuses and distracts, but it doesn't really do anything beyond that. The only thing it really accomplishes is that, for far too many underpaid Americans, a massive amount of discretionary spending has been ripped out of the middle of the economy, causing people to put off buying tangible things while edging out all of the other crap they don't need. Video game makers have tried to cash in by making Avengers games, but it's just not the same. They need a new franchise, obviously, and it's something about killing. 

Is there any point to any of the Marvel crap? It's just another version of Star Wars for people who still spend a lot of money on other stuff. Someone somewhere is busy thinking up another version of all of this, but edgier, man. Everything has to be the same but just a little darker and meaner and cooler. Dude.

Think of the art that didn't get made because all of this talent, money and energy was tied up making 18 Marvel films. There are actors and actresses here who have real talents. I'm not out of line for suggesting that there are far too few female characters and way too many men who are playing characters that are younger than they are in real life. Mark Ruffalo can actually make real movies for adults. Is this a wise use of his time? And do we need slightly less stupid Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation to be the guy who screws up everything? Talk about playing to a cliche. I'll bet when Paul Bettany was doing Richard III, all he could think about was putting a jewel on his forehead and floating about in a robot body while living in Scotland with his girlfriend. Really? You don't think they would have preferred Brighton? Come on. No one lives in Scotland on purpose.

You could have told it all in 3 films that cost a lot less, but no one thinks small like that anymore. It has to be massive! On a scale never before seen! Why sell them three pictures when we can pad this out and make billions off of six different trilogies! Cram it into every nook and cranny! Put it on every product known to man. Well, that's what they did, and that's what they've plopped down in front of everyone. But there are more movies on the way! Here they come! 

Do you know what still has more relevance in the culture? The Beatles, high as kites and out of it, singing Love is All You Need to a world that didn't believe it for a minute. Oh well, this is what you get when you grow old.

Samantha Fox Remembers David Cassidy

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People hate to be told this, but so-and-so was a huge star at one point.

Well, here's the deal. Samantha Fox was a huge, huge star at one point. Here, she remembers what it was like to deal with perennial loser David Cassidy, who recently died of several different things:

Speaking to the Daily Star, Fox has alleged that Cassidy groped her in a restaurant bathroom in 1985 during a video shoot for his single ‘Romance’.

Fox said that she was washing her hands when Cassidy allegedly “came storming in” and “pushed me up against the wall”.

Former glamour model-turned-pop star Fox added: “His hands were all over me. I shouted: ‘Get off me, David!’ in an attempt to stop him. But instead, he just stuck his tongue into my mouth and shoved a hand under my skirt, while the other kept a firm grip on one of my breasts.”

“I reacted quickly and instinctively by bringing my knee upwards, striking him right in the balls… then I elbowed him in the face.”

Fox also claimed that Cassidy “had an erection” as she posed semi-nude for a photoshoot. “Whenever he pressed himself against me, I could clearly feel his dick,” she said.

In other words, Fox was the Britney Spears of her era, only with talent and the ability to defend herself against horrible, horrible men.

Apropos of nothing, here she is with Freddie Mercury because why not?

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This Minnesota Boy Hated Garrison Keillor Forever

Garrison Keillor is the most overrated writer in the history of overrated writers. He was a blight upon literature and a stain upon everything that was good about Minnesota.

Minnesota is the scream of Paul Westerberg, the howl of moral outrage from Sinclair Lewis, the brutal honesty of Tim O'Brien, the cultural criticism of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the soul of Bob Dylan and the journalism of David Carr. Against them, Keillor was a twee, wet-nosed pretender full of sexual repression and Reader's Digest anecdotes.

Fuck Garrison Keillor. Right in the earhole. Fuck him forever.

Salt will cover the ground when he is gone. I have already forgotten him. My victory is complete.

Jerry Lewis 1926-2017

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Jerry Lewis was one of the most famous men of the 20th Century, and history has never been kind to his legacy as an entertainer or public figure:

Love or hate Jerry Lewis, you knew he was in the room.

Lewis, who died Sunday at age of 91, turned himself into an American entertainment institution, first as a maniacal slapstick comedian and then as the 45-year host of tear-jerking annual TV telethons that raised a staggering $2.6 billion for muscular dystrophy research.

His death was confirmed in a statement tweeted by a reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

"Legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis passed away peacefully today of natural causes at 91 at his home w/ family by his side,” the statement read.

Inside the comedy world, Lewis was revered as a genius. The 2011 Lewis documentary "Method to the Madness" featured comedians from Billy Crystal to Eddie Murphy to Chevy Chase praising his singular style of comic lunacy and pathos.

"I get paid," Lewis once said, "for what most kids get punished for."

Is there anyone who raised more money for charity? Is there anyone who was up and down so many times? 

The York Gospels

This is beyond neat:

The York Gospels were assembled more than a thousand years ago. Bound in leather, illustrated, and illuminated, the book contains the four gospels of the Bible as well as land records and oaths taken by clergymen who read, rubbed, and kissed its pages over centuries. The Archbishops of York still swear their oaths on this book.

The York Gospels are also, quite literally, a bunch of old cow and sheep skins. Skin has DNA, and DNA has its own story to tell.

A group of archaeologists and geneticists in the United Kingdom have now analyzed the remarkably rich DNA reservoir of the York Gospels. They found DNA from humans who swore oaths on its pages and from bacteria likely originating on the hands and mouths of those humans. Best of all though, they found 1,000-year-old DNA from the cows and sheep whose skin became the parchment on which the book is written.

Remarkably, the authors say they extracted all this DNA without destroying even a tiny piece of parchment. All they needed were the crumbs from rubbing the book with erasers, which conservationists routinely use to clean manuscripts. The authors report their findings in a preprint that has not yet been peer-reviewed, though they plan to submit it to a scientific journal.

Sir Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Sir Roger Moore was the James Bond that I grew up with; his take on the character was oft-derided but it was perfect for the times.

To say that Bond should have been cunning, ruthless, and humorless in the 1970s was to ignore the overwhelming importance of male bravado and self-awareness of the times. This was the decade that made stars out of complex characters (DeNiro, Pacino, Hoffman) and less than complex fellows (Eastwood, Reynolds, Bronson). You could not have made Bond like any similar character from American cinema, nor could he have had the detached, monosyllabic approach of international films. Bond had to be a global star, able to bridge all of the different genres of film. He had to be able to do dry humor, heart-stopping action, clever romance, and political intrigue. He had to be able to save people, kill people, and mock people, often in the course of a single action sequence. 

That meant finding a British actor with serious theater chops, which is what people still do when they need someone who can truly inhabit a character. Michael Fassbender is the Roger Moore of our time, but, really, he's just another version of Moore churned out by the wonderful schools that teach acting in Britain. You can definitely see Fassbender becoming one of the greats and surpassing quite a few great actors, but he's following the template that Moore helped create.

In his day, no one was better than Roger Moore at being everyman and superman at the same time. He had to portray a character that was marketed and sold to the vast world audience of the time. He had to be the actor who could open a film in London, Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo and few people have ever been able to do that. The universality of his portrayal does not dim with age. You can laugh at how camp it was, but the whole goddamned 1970s was a campy affair on purpose. At no point were you ever not able to believe he could do what he did. That was what made him great.

The Bond that Roger Moore gave us was sharp, sly, quick and capable. He was very much of his time, and we do his performance a disservice by thinking he had to act like the action figures of the last thirty years or so.

Mary Tyler Moore 1936-2017

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It would appear that 2017 is going to be just as much of an asshole as 2016:

Mary Tyler Moore, the Oscar-nominated actress best known for her roles in the television sitcoms "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," has died. She was 80.
"Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine," her publicist, Mara Buxbaum, told ABC News. "A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile."
Moore's portrayal of the single career woman Mary Richards in her eponymous 1970s show arrived alongside the Women's Movement, making her a role model for generations of women, even though Moore didn't consider herself a feminist. The show, which centered on Richards' work as a producer in a fictional Minneapolis newsroom and her life as a single woman, earned 29 Emmy Awards, the most for any scripted series until "Frasier" won its 30th Emmy.

I grew up in Minnesota, and the iconic image of Moore throwing her beret into the air on the Nicollet Mall is a timeless piece of television history. 

A New Factory in Manchester

It's not any old factory, either:

Manchester’s proposed £110m arts centre, the Factory, has moved a step closer to being built after city councillors gave planning permission for the Rem Koolhaas-designed building.

The Factory will be erected on the site of the former Granada Studios and is seen by the city council as a game changer, one which the authority’s leader, Sir Richard Leese, has said would “make Manchester and the wider region a genuine cultural counterbalance to London”.

It is a central part of the northern powerhouse project, championed by the former chancellor George Osborne, who pledged £78m of government money in 2014, a sum which was confirmed this week following a Treasury review of the full business case.

The enormous and striking glass cube construction will be the first major public building in the UK by Dutch architect Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) practice.

I still can't figure out how they got through this whole article without paying homage to Tony Wilson's Factory music label, which essentially defined the music scene in Manchester.

 

 

Creation Stories

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Creation Stories is a book I enjoyed reading, but it did leave me wanting more.

I should state, up front, this review of the book is not a normal one. The book came out two years ago, and I just got around to it recently. I do recommend this for fans of the British music genre known as "Britpop" because you'll get a fair amount of background information from the book. You'll want to view it as a historical look at British independent music from the early Eighties until the end of the Nineties. It is not comprehensive, but there are a fair amount of good anecdotes to give you a superficial understanding of where Creation Records and Alan McGee fit into everything.

McGee downplays himself throughout the book. He could rightly call himself a genius at several things, but specifically he was enormously gifted when it came to spotting talent. This is a combination of knowing how to size up people, evaluate their skills, hear what they could do on stage, and make a business judgment about them relative to the music industry. Many people have done this and done quite well; McGee found the biggest band since U2 and a dozen other bands that were both commercially and artistically successful. He found Oasis, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream, and a slew of other bands. He made millions for himself and for the artists that he worked with. He had his finger on the pulse and built a successful company.

Now, the fact that he did all of that while out of his mind on drugs is neither here nor there. The book details his prowess finding artists and it reveals the failures he had both professionally and personally. This is an honest book, through and through.

McGee could have been more specific and he could have researched dates and times and really looked at how Creation Records moved and shaped the culture. He could have done one book separately on Oasis and one on the company; it all blends together after a while. He is probably on the hook for another telling of these stories, and that's all right--there's so much more happening that you miss out on. I would have liked more focus on the business side of things, just to get more of a feel for how he ran things. What I came away with was an understanding that this wasn't a madcap laugh or a lucky break. Building Creation Records wasn't just what he did while on drug holiday or while sleeping on trains. He bridged the music scenes from Manchester, Glasgow, and London and made local acts global stars. He put music in the hands of people who never would have discovered it. He spent millions on records that otherwise would have never been heard. 

I do think it was a good read. I do wish there were specific year by year breakdowns and summaries of how big the company got, how big was the roster, why bands would come and go, and how it all compared to other labels in the same business. He breezes through some of these details and you don't really get the whole story of what happened when Oasis dwarfed the rest of their roster of bands and why some acts broke out and why some faded away. I don't know if he's trying to be even-handed or spare feelings, but he's relentlessly hard on himself and honest about his failings. In and of itself, McGee's harrowing descriptions of life at home and his health scares makes this a worthy read.

If McGee gets around to writing about more of the things I've outlined above, then all the better.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde returns to England:

A portrait of the writer Oscar Wilde, which had to be sold off after he was accused of gross indecency, is to return from America for the first time in nearly a century. It will be displayed at Tate Britain, in an exhibition called Queer British Art 1861-1967, which opens in April.

Robert Harper Pennington, an American artist who painted the full-length portrait (1881), gave it to Wilde and his wife Constance as a wedding present in 1884. It was the couple’s most prized possession, hung above the fireplace in their London home. But in 1895 Wilde was arrested and later sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for his homosexual relationship with Alfred Douglas. 

Wilde’s legal expenses led to him being declared bankrupt, and the Pennington portrait had to be sold. Later, in the 1920s, it was bought by a US collector and the portrait was subsequently acquired by the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Are we any more enlightened now than we were in Wilde's time? You can be broken by the law and rendered destitute for less than loving someone nowadays. I think what has changed is that it can happen before Piers Morgan has a chance to open up his puke funnel and comment.

Protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Here's to the people trying to stop the wholesale poisoning of an American treasure:

MINNESOTA’S Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of America’s most popular wild destinations. Water is its lifeblood. Over 1,200 miles of streams wend their way through 1.1 million acres thick with fir, pine and spruce and stippled by lakes left behind by glaciers. Moose, bears, wolves, loons, ospreys, eagles and northern pike make their home there and in the surrounding Superior National Forest.

All of this is now threatened by a proposal for a huge mine to extract copper, nickel and other metals from sulfide ores. The mine would lie within the national forest along the South Kawishiwi River, which flows directly into the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The prospect of any major industrial activity in the watershed of such a place would be deeply troubling. But this kind of heavy-metal mining is in a destructive class all its own. Enormous amounts of unusable waste rock containing sulfides are left behind on the surface. A byproduct of this kind of mining is sulfuric acid, which often finds its way into nearby waterways. Similar mines around the country have already poisoned lakes and thousands of miles of streams.

To me, the area is synonymous with the life's work of Sigurd Olson, one of the great unsung characters of the 20th Century. He nagged and lobbied and wrote endlessly about the area we now know as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Can you imagine what that place would look like if the mines and the businessmen had been able to get there first?

Olson has been dead for 34 years, but there are still people who carry on in his memory. If you were going to make a movie or write a book, you could do a lot worse than choosing to tell the story of the man who saved over a million acres of pristine wilderness from the kind of people who would poison a river and walk away rich.

The Machine Stops

As a relatively young man in 1909, E. M. Forster imagined pretty much how humans would live in the 21st Century.

The futuristic world portrayed in The Machine Stops is an eerily familiar one - people mostly communicate with each other via screens, the rarity of face-to-face interaction has rendered it awkward, and knowledge and ideas are only shared by a system that links every home.

Yet that world was imagined not by a contemporary writer but by the Edwardian author Edward Morgan Forster.

Best known for his novels about class and hypocrisy - Howards End, A Room With A View and A Passage To India - The Machine Stops was Forster's only foray into science fiction.

Published in 1909, it tells the story of a mother and son - Vashti and Kuno - who live in a post-apocalyptic world where people live individually in underground pods, described as being "like the cell of a bee", and have their needs provided for by the all-encompassing Machine.

It is a world where travel is rare, inhabitants communicate via video screens, and people have become so reliant on the Machine that they have begun to worship it as a living entity.

Now, aside from the fact that we haven't had an apocalypse and that we don't live in underground pods, Forster got a lot of things right. We are replacing our various Gods on a regular basis. We are emerging from centuries of class warfare and strife. And we are talking to one another through screens instead of face to face. Sounds pretty accurate to me.

MTV Never Had a Clue About Anything Important

The idea that MTV had an understanding of American musical culture or the arts in general is laughable. You only had to live through the 1980s to know this:

With the benefit of hindsight, 1991 was a watershed year for rock music. That was the year of Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind. A documentary released in 1992 even referred to it as The Year Punk Broke. The alternative revolution was just entering its golden age, as evidenced by the popularity of the inaugural Lollapalooza. But MTV’s Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren did not have the benefit of hindsight when they made a recap special called The Year In Rock: 1991, a long-forgotten program that has resurfaced, thanks to Reddit. What did Loder and Soren see when they looked back over the previous 12 months? “A pretty bad year” of slumping album sales and half-empty concert tours. Pearl Jam is not mentioned in the special, and Nirvana is relegated to a spotlight on new artists, alongside Color Me Badd and Marky Mark. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is briefly used to accompany a segment about the Persian Gulf War.

Because MTV was situated in the Northeast of the United States, everything that it did was based on pressure from record companies. American music has always had a regional flavor, and that was ignored by the cultural elites based in New York City. If a certain label wanted an artist to break, they would put heavy pressure on MTV to play their video and on New York based publications to provide positive coverage. This could also mean gaining favorable coverage through what was loosely termed "MTV News" by making the artist available for exclusive material. If you deliver content, you can demand that it gets airtime. And if you were in the business of keeping these people happy, why wouldn't you look up the sales information and run with that? There was no alternative back then--you took what the labels handed you and you dealt with it. Now, you can tell them to fuck off. 

Remember when Pidlar made a video with Nick Offerman? That's a video you would never have seen on MTV in the 1990s. Good God, they were so prudish it was a wonder anything made it onto the air.

I am so glad I ignored MTV for all of those years. It's always a shock for me to go and find the "official" video for songs from the 1980s and 1990s that I liked; I never had a chance to see any of that stuff because I couldn't be bothered to engage "music television" at all. And, yes, MTV's 120 Minutes was a joke then and it's a joke now.