Friday, August 24, 2012

Layer 543 . . . Reflections in the Rain

What a pleasure and a privilege it is to be back in Bungalowland. It's a privilege to have a private place to come to where it's possible to properly touch base with oneself; to  be quiet, reflective . . . meditative even. It's a proper retreat from day to day routines, and whatever passes for normality.

It's a pleasure to be somewhere where there's a calm, quiet, civilised atmosphere, big skies, stunning landscapes, and no emergency vehicles constantly blaring sirens.

I'm supposed to be mowing lawns, pruning shrubs & trees and pulling up weeds, but the relentless rain has put a stop to that. I recall mum saying, as she did so many times over the years she lived here, "What a pity the weather's always so bad when you come down here". She was exaggerating slightly, but it's true that the weather was rarely calm, settled, dry, sunny and hot, here on the west coast, on the so-called English Riviera. It's also fair to say it was rarely freezing cold here in the winter, thanks to the Gulf Stream - not until these past couple of years since mum passed away - but that was fairly small compensation.

Looking out over the valley today it's impossible to see the furthest houses, let alone the hills and trees beyond them. The greyness starts down in the valley, amongst the mist-shrouded buildings and trees, then goes right overhead and just keeps on going.

I bought a pack of CoOp 99 tea today, in memory of mum. One of my earliest childhood memories is of going to the Cooperative shop on the estate we lived on, and buying tea and biscuits. Back then the word 'supermarket' hadn't even been invented. Most people bought their groceries from the CoOp. It was - and still is - a great concept. It's a retailer and/or a wholesaler that nobody owns, and doesn't even have shareholders. As a member of the CoOp you had your identification number, which you gave to the shop assistant when you paid for your purchases, and from time to time you received a 'dividend' from whatever profits the shop managed to make.

The Cooperative supermarket in Paignton is a sad sort of place. Even on a wet Friday lunchtime on a Bank Holiday weekend there are hardly any customers - just a few dejected-looking people shuffling around, seemingly oblivious of the awful pop music that annoys the living daylights out of me. I wonder whether people are actually put off using the CoOp by its irritating advertising campaign that has a Scottish voice-over that says a simple, a very simple, slogan: "The CoOp . . . . Gud with Fud". I wonder which genius thought that one up.

Breakfast in Wetherspoons was fairly horrible. I was feeling quite relaxed, anticipating a decent cooked breakfast with free wifi and my newspaper . . . as I stood at the bar for the best part of 10 minutes watching the barmaid take orders from whoever happened to be standing closest to her whenever she looked up from the till. Finally she said, looking directly at a couple who had just arrived at the bar, "Who's next?" It was my opportunity to say, very calmly and quietly, "I am. And I've been "next" for the past 5 minutes at least, whilst you've just been serving the first people you see when you close the till. Surely, if you haven't a clue who's coming and going from the bar, which you obviously haven't, you need to ask "who's next?" every time you are available to take an order? Isn't that the way it's supposed to be done - so  that people who wait patiently don't then get exasperated and infuriated? Haven't you ever been trained to do that? Or do you just expect customers to shout at you when you ignore them and serve people out of turn? Did you even see me standing here? Have I been invisible?" I know old people are supposed to be invisible, but it can get very wearing.

The pub filled up with wet-looking holidaymakers and their offspring. Sitting in front of me and behind me were families who had no concept of asking their kids not to shout/scream/run about and generally make life annoying for other people. To the left of me was a guy with a glass of beer who muttered incessantly like someone who has no idea what he's thinking unless he can hear himself speaking. After a while he said something about "bloody kids", got up, and left. Meanwhile, to the right of me, the rain was pouring on to the pavements and running down the windows.

Thinking about it today, I suppose I feel fairly annoyed that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to either of my parents - since both of them died suddenly and unexpectedly. There was no chance to mentally and emotionally prepare for life without them. There was no sign that I ought to increase the frequency of my visits to them in order to make the most of them before they signed off. Dad seemed like the same, quiet, unassuming guy he always was, and at 67 he hardly looked decrepit or like he was about to keel over. He still made things in his 'workshop', still drove his car, still went shopping with mum.

After turning 80 mum no longer went out shopping, and didn't care to go out at all unless she was really pressurised to do so. Had she gone out for that evening meal with her two grandsons and their partners when they asked her, then maybe they wouldn't have returned to find her dying. Maybe she'd have had a seizure whilst she was out with them, and maybe she'd have been rushed to hospital, and been taken care of, and recovered. Maybe.

Not that she really cared for life any more. Not that she enjoyed being alive any more.

What's to like about being housebound, lonely, bored, arthritic and dependent on carers for pills, food, cleaning and washing?

Which is why we all need to celebrate life and good health - for as long as we can, and as often as we can.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Layer 542 . . . Being Ray Davies

Ray Davies is the most famous Ray Davies on the planet. If you google his name, then THE Ray Davies is the only Ray Davies to appear in the first few pages of search results.

There's a kind of global warmness and fondness for Ray Davies that has built up over the years. He's become some sort of national treasure.

Maybe it was unkind of Oxzen to mention in a recent post how bad Ray's singing was during the Olympics closing ceremony. The guy's getting on for 70, so what can we expect? Personally I expect plenty. Cohen, Dylan, Jagger, and the old blues guys, especially BB King, still sing incredibly well. This sing it like they mean it. They're still brilliant because they're authentic, soulful, natural singers. Ray Davies isn't, and he never was. He's an OK songwriter, and that's about it.

He seems like a very pleasant man. He was on Radio 4's Saturday Live this morning, talking about his upbringing in Muswell Hill, and the fact that he's lived in that part of London for the whole of his life. "I write songs about people, and I happen to feel that the suburbanite kind of person who's not much noticed is quite interesting." Hmmmm. Quite interesting.

It's pretty obvious that Ray Davies is no poet, he has very little in the way of artistic insight into the human condition, and never sets out to raise levels of human awareness or consciousness. A song like "Tired of Waiting for You" has a pleasant enough tune, but it's hardly going to be on anyone's list of desert island discs.

In this Youtube video Ray explains his early enthusiasm for music: "When I was a little boy/ I was just 13 years old / I wanted to be a blues singer / Like John Lee Hooker . . ."

It didn't take very long for Ray to discover he was no John Lee. Pleasant as Ray may be, I'm sticking to what I said about his music losing its appeal (for me) soon after "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night". I've now discovered that his brother Dave was responsible for the great guitar riffs that lifted those songs out of the ordinary, and gave them their power and their appeal - which was clearly nothing to do with Ray's very basic lyrics.

Given his well-known antipathy and feud with his brother Dave, it's perhaps not surprising that Ray shifted the Kinks' musical style away from hard-driving R & B, which was Dave's forte, and towards nostalgia, whimsy and easy-listening music hall, which is Ray's real territory.

According to Dave Davies, "Ray's an arsehole".
"Ray sucks me dry of ideas, emotions and creativity. It’s toxic for me to be with him. He’s a control freak".
‘We must be careful. We might be feeding Ray’s illness by making him think he’s more interesting than he is.’
What illness? ‘He’s a narcissist,’ says Dave. ‘I walked into a bookshop a month ago and picked up Tony Blair’s autobiography. I looked at the picture and felt sick. I thought: ‘‘Hello, he’s got the same thing [as Ray]. It’s some sort of ­grandiose disorder.’’ ’
Dave, you see, claims to be something of an expert on vanity and self-delusion. He has spent ‘a good part of my adult life studying metaphysics and psychology’.
Since when exactly? ‘When I first started to realise what an arsehole Ray was. I thought, I’m going to investigate this.’

Read more:

According to Wikipedia, Ray Davies has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

Ironically, having complained about NBC's decision not to broadcast certain sections of the Olympics ceremonies, it turns out that Ray Davies and Muse were two of the performances that were cut. Good call!

The wit and wisdom of Ray Davies. Not.

Easy to love, and impossible to live with:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Layer 541 . . . Simply a Banana

One of the more interesting comments I've come across in defence of the 2012 Olympics' closing ceremony is, "A banana is just a banana". In other words, we shouldn't expect such a thing to be anything more than a facile, shallow entertainment, or some kind of gaudy circus with sound and lights.

I disagree. In fact I strongly disagree.

This is like saying that movies and television programmes can only be shallow entertainments that aim for the lowest common denominator, by which we mean a level of entertainment or stimulation that is little more than visual stimulation which grabs and holds the attention of a mass audience. I find this thought deeply depressing, not least because it's driven by business and commerce, first and foremost.

What those of us watching a three hour programme on the BBC tend to forget is that in most countries the Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies will have been watched by people tuned in to commercial TV channels, whose main concern is to sell products and make money for themselves and for the big corporations that can afford to advertise on them.

The assumption of the commercial TV stations is that anything that's too 'challenging' for their audience is likely to cause them to switch off or to change channels, with potentially serious consequences for the revenues of the TV stations. Their ability to charge very high rates to advertisers is directly linked to the size of audiences.

Hence the decision by NBC television in the USA to not show certain segments of the 2012 Olympics' opening ceremony, on the grounds that those passages would cause their audience to switch off or switch over. Instead they showed some talking heads in their studio discussing what had just been shown! In other words, they attract an audience by saying they're going to show the opening ceremony, but they censor what they consider the dull bits because they patronisingly decide that the majority of their audience won't like those particular bits. I guess this is standard practice on commercial TV. In fact it's their entire ethos and their modus operandi - which of course has led to the general awfulness of television right around the world.

Seen from this perspective it's a miracle that we in Britain still have the BBC and a broadcasting system that's funded by subscription first and foremost, and driven by a desire for quality plus a mission to 'educate, inform and entertain'.

Danny Boyles' opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics, and both the Beijing ceremonies, were informative, educational and entertaining. The London 2012 closing ceremony was none of these things.

It was just a banana.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Layer 540 . . . Yet More on the Olympics Closing Ceremony!

Either the Olympics closing ceremony was a ceremony or it wasn't. What I'm saying, of course, is that it wasn't. In which case it shouldn't have been advertised as one. What it was, was an outrageous waste of time and money, which its organisers were finally reduced to calling "a big party". So we gave these people - these idiots - several million pounds to organise a fitting ceremony for an important and many would say very wonderful gathering of the world's finest athletes and they blew the money on a trashy "party". Who's going to take responsibility for that?

The dictionary defines a ceremony as
1. A formal occasion, typically one celebrating a particular event.
2. An act, or series of acts, performed according to a particular form.
3. The formal activities conducted on some solemn or important public or state occasion.

So what actually took place? Clearly the producers of this horrible event thought they should say something about London and about British society. Fair enough. And what did they do? They built  small-scale and rather pathetic versions of well-known London landmarks and set them up in the stadium - the London Eye, Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, the 'Gherkin', etc. A totally unimaginative, unneccessary, lazy and clunking way of saying "This is London". It reminded me of the hilarious incident in the film This Is Spinal Tap! when the majesty of Stonehenge was represented on stage by a ludicrously small model of three stone blocks forming a  Stonehenge-type arch. There was nothing the heavy-metal band could do about it once it had been lowered on to the stage - they played on regardless, no matter how ridiculous the whole thing looked.

So what else happened in the Olympic stadium?
London traffic, which needs no depiction at all since it's something we put up with rather than celebrate, was represented by newspaper-covered cars, vans and lorries trundling around the arena. Round and round they drove, to no purpose whatsoever.

Somebody sang a song on the back of a lorry.

A band played on the back of a lorry.

Another band played on the back of a lorry.

A Robin Reliant car blew up and out staggered two people dressed as Batman and Robin. Apparently this was supposed to bring back hilarious memories of an episode in an ancient 'comedy' series about South London lowlife losers which most of us never ever watched anyway on account of it being very silly and completely unwatchable. Since the car blowing up was meaningless to most Brits watching, it would have been completely baffling to the rest of the world.

The top of Big Ben then opened up and an actor appeared declaiming a few lines of Shakespeare, which could barely be heard. Presumably this was the formal and solemn part of the ceremony.

Am I making too much of this fiasco - or does it actually matter what occured last Sunday?

I think it matters. Here's part of a letter that was sent to a newspaper in the USA this week:

Olympic Games closing ceremonies embarrassing
Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 5:58 am
The closing ceremonies of the Games in London were an embarrassment to Western Civilization and showed how morally bankrupt the British have become.
In Beijing, China’s message in their closing ceremony was clearly the virtues of statism. They proudly showcased the merging of corporatism and communism. Flying, identically dressed humans creating a Tower of Babel represented the “cog in a machine” values of their culture and was done so artfully that most people never recognized the symbolism.  
The British showed they have no philosophy, no values except rock and roll, big-breasted chicks, rap stars riding in Rolls Royces, and no real clue that their expression of morally bankrupt worship of materialism is repugnant and why the rest of the world thinks Western colonialism needs to be overthrown, violently. Most Olympic hosts make some effort to show their cultural values in a positive light.
The British seemed completely unaware that their cavalcade of campy, garish and pompous frivolity made Beijing’s Kafkaesque showcasing of Big Brother look moral by comparison.
Very bad message. The games were great, they did a good job. But if that closing spectacle did not offend you and make you afraid for Western Civilization, you aren’t thinking clearly. Obviously the Brits weren’t.
Sonny Craig
Apache Junction
[See also Oxzen's comment on the website.]

Since it was Lord Seb Coe who claimed the credit for the good parts of the Olympics then presumably he's the man who appointed the men who were responsible for the closing ceremony. More on this anon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Layer 539 . . . The Closing Ceremony - More Reviews

I'm still feeling baffled and unhappy about the Olympics closing ceremony, and how badly it reflected on Britain and on what had been a near-perfect two weeks of Olympic Games.

Michael Billington in the Guardian completely failed to get to grips with it in his review, and it may be that Michael is now past his sell-by date as a reviewer. Here's part of what he said:
How do you review an Olympics closing ceremony? I'm not sure you can, especially when it is a mix of pageant, pop-concert, street-party and presentation ceremony. Unlike Danny Boyle's opening ceremony, Kim Gavin's closing one had no hidden narrative but simply amounted to a kaleidoscopic spectacle based on what Gavin himself termed "a mashed-up symphony of British music".

I leave it others to judge whether the big musical section was a fair summary of British pop over the past 50 years. But it certainly produced some eye-catching moments including a reconstituted version of John Lennon singing Imagine, Kaiser Chiefs backed by an assembly of leather-clad bikers, Annie Lennox standing at the prow of a skeletal ship with Gothic attendants and the Spice Girls emerging from a fleet of London cabs. We even got a tribute to British fashion with Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and other supermodels clad in symbolic gold.
I'd almost forgotten that horrible interlude of British so-called supermodels strutting around the stadium after arriving on the backs of trucks. This was another pinnacle of flash and trash and celebrity-obsession.

Mr Billington might have been at a loss as to what to make of the whole debacle, but he was at least honest in saying he needed to leave it to others as he hadn't a clue himself about musical merit. Fortunately there were many Guardian commenters who were more than able to offer pithy comments 'below the line':

Three words: it was shit.

[Response to citizenx3]
Not sure it was that good to be honest.
I came away from the Olympics with the view that to be a modern Britain you have to either ride a bike really really fast or be in a pop band.

leather clad bikers??? mods on scooters, surely - couldn't have got it more wrong.

Of course you can review it - it was shit. From the revelation of equality and achievement we sank back into sexism, mediocrity, and money. The first image of a passive woman concocted for the sole pleasure of men was a shock after the beautiful androgyny of strength. Instead - an image of a beautiful woman you can only long for, while into the stadium rolls a luxury car you can only envy. The values of the Olympic games fell away, and never have the values of capitalism looked so thin and tawdry and obvious.

How do you review a show like this, asks the Guardian's tired old theater critic. How about you get someone who knows about pop and dance, as this was only ever going to be theater in the pejorative sense. It was appallingly bad and returned the image of "GB" to that of sad old camp "theater" living off of fading memories. Even what was supposed to be current and "happening" looked more tired that the truly old . . . And why, if you can't persuade nearly-dead defenders of their brand to risk tarnishing it with an appearance, or to get the dead to dance, embarrass us all with virtual or tribute contributions? Bowie by virtue of a corporate fashion show and The Who's Pinball Wizard via the Kaiser Chiefs doing a west end show version of that scene from Quadrophenia....pointless...and the whole thing. Lennon, disinterred for the evening, was possibly the only poignant lyrical contribution of the night, "Imagine there's no country," after an inter-national contest between fiercely patriotic gladiators for the last 2 weeks...that was fun, but then ending it with him as a Stalinesque face or giant cream cake, that was high camp . . . but if you ask the guy who is famous for working with Take That to choreograph a farewell from London you can't expect much else really, can you?

It was everything we feared the opening ceremony was going to be: Naff music, excruciating faux 'celebrity' appearances, terrible lip-syncing (and some seriously off-key performances by the people not lip syncing). And the sound! Whoever was in charge of the mix for broadcast will hopefully never work in the industry again.

Britain's justification for shite always seems to be 'weird and wonderful'. I have to say that I thought it was one of the biggest pieces of indulgent jingoism I've ever seen. A tacky pop concert with the occasional Shakespeare quote scrawled on the floor and performers riding scooters concealed in union jacks . . . The Olympics is something that belongs to the world and I just felt like Britain missed that and treated the entire thing as though it belonged to them. They hosted it, they didn't own it.

A tepid, embarrassing, sobering celebration of everything shit about our country, and a total anticlimax to a blinding two weeks.

1 plus though - no Macca!! No Cliff!!

One Direction are like dementors given musical form. In 3 excruciating minutes they almost managed to sap my olympic spirit, together with my soul.

The closing ceremony reduced popular culture to its lowest common denominator - a shiny soulless vamp with neither context nor meaning - the athletes corralled into place as the compliant appendices of an exercise in corporate-sponsored gurning.

The Rio presentation was the best thing about the whole evening !

George Michael. Why did he get to sing his latest shit single????

What a disappointment after the wonderful opening ceremony and the uplifting games. It wasn't fun, it wasn't clever. Those who had talent were overwhelmed by noise and confusion - and the choir matching actions to John Lennon's Imagine! Who thought that was a good idea?? Too many celebs and lightweights - this surely cannot represent the best of Britain's music past and present. Where are the Rolling Stones when you need them?

Eric Idle had come up with a new verse that actually added some context to Always Look on the Bright Side and it was great to see that he was still allowed to go with "Life's a piece of shit" - I was a bit worried that that might have been cut.

Why reprise the opening acts whilst the athletes came in? It was like listening to musak in the supermarket - missed opportunity to employ a bit more of what is after all, probably the best back catalogue of any country in the world.

After two weeks of exceptional athleticism and hard work from the female competitors, rewarding physical skill over looks, was it really appropriate to feature supermodels ?

- Is an Olympic closing ceremony really the best place to allow George Michael to plug his new single ?

- Yes, we all like the Pet Shop Boys but after they've done their bit do we need to have to listen to a recording of it again ? I thought the producers were upset they had to leave out so much British music, so why repeat bits ?

Half these acts weren't fit to appear on the same stage as the athletes, let alone lord it over them for the evening. A really awkward meeting of Sport and Entertainment.

Presumably someone at the Guardian was aware of the general reaction to this mess - if not Michael Billington himself - so why publish this ludicrously rose-tinted review-that's-not-a-review?

I think people are disappointed because Danny Boyle showed with the opening ceremony that Britain could be creative, fresh, entertaining and modern. The closing ceremony seemed like such a wasted opportunity. A symphony of British music? Fine if that is your plan - go for it, but at least do it properly. You have tens of millions of pounds and you hire ed sheeran to sing pink floyd and the kaiser chiefs to sing the who. How good would the ceremony have been had the director actually got pink floyd and got other British greats like led zep, the rolling stones, radiohead and the smiths? Instead we had some smash hit poll winners party style event which was mostly rubbish.

The closing ceremony reclaimed the last two weeks for the dead-eyed corporate lackeys who aim to make a killing on the back on sporting achievement and spectacle. It put everyone back in their place. Some say the athletes were having a ball. They didn't even have toilets.

Boris' stage managed 'spontaneous and wacky' dancing was pitiful, especially given the fact he warned us that might 'do something crazy' a few days ago, just in case we needed a reminder that he intended to go on the PR offensive again. Even more pitiful is the BBC obliging this man's egocentric whims and allowing this shite to appear on our TV screens. Depressing stuff.

Opening ceremony: genius
Closing ceremony: shite

So, so disappointing.
Flat, uninspiring, and as someone else said, like an extended Brit Awards.

Pity, as the past two weeks have been amazing.

I got pissed so thought it was great

It was dreadful. Everything I thought the opening ceremony would be (and wasn't). Corporate, celebrity-driven, tacky, ITV Saturday night, legacy trodding rubbish.

It was the CD collection of a certain type of man in his mid 40s. Why were Kaiser Chiefs there covering the Who? Where were the Stones? Why did George Michael plug his new single? That disgusted me - the man tried to sell his new song to us ugh. Jessie J endlessly hollering, and Annie Lennox braying.
In Hyde Park they had Blur, the Specials, New Order - why weren't they at the closing ceremony? And no it's not a matter of taste it's a matter of playing Great British Artists, of which Jessie J and Ed Sheeran and Taio Cruz are not.

When Freddie Mercury showed up on video it sent shivers down the spine, he would have torn the roof off that place. Instead we got a barely coherent guitar solo that went on too long and then Jessie J doing an awful Queen cover.

And did anyone else think that a lot of the artists were singing very flat?

Yes, I know it was a tribute to the British fashion industry (and why highlight fashion, we do have other industries), but the Olympics surely should be an inspiration for young girls to want to be Jessica Ennis and not Kate Moss.

One moment we are watching the montage of Jess's years of dedicated training reach its climax in the 800m and see her crying with her gold medal, and then, boom, it's right back to normal with our stupid celebrity culture that hugely rewards the likes of Kate Moss for merely looking good and making smoking and a poor diet look cool.

If they'd just put the athletes in the stadium and had a bit of a Brazilian disco that would have been totally fine. Instead we were treated to a recycled (they played loads of the tracks twice!) necrotic display of British pop history that then extinguished the brilliant feeling of the last weeks and all the hard work of athletes worldwide by letting coke sniffers like Brand, Moss and bless him George Michael take centre stage.
At least Cameron's image was permanently damaged by being caught dancing to the Spice Girls.

I didn't watch it all as it met my expectations of having to listen to ghastly pop music sung off key with appalling sound. Embarrassing to watch with some truly awful performances (yes George Michael I'm talking about you) that seemed to go on for ever. Absolute tripe for kids. I had no idea who Ed Sheeran was/is but he had me hiding behind the sofa in shame.

I also hate the way people are making others feel obliged to praise it so as not to run the risk of sounding cynical. Let’s be honest, if what we all witnessed last night was completely unconnected to our 'national pride' and just a show on after Eastenders, we'd all call it shite.

I saw it as our chance to get revenge for all those years of Eurovision humiliation. You think you can do pop pap? THIS is how it's done!

...oh, and meanwhile the ATHLETES themselves are relegated to standing room only, suddenly irrelevant, with only their medals to bite to remind them of their moment

Embarrassing, aimless crap. Brillant, eccentric opening ceremony, wonderful fortnight of sport, world-leading broadcasting with long-to-linger images...and then this! Like a giant provincial dad-dancing wedding reception presided over by superannuated DJ. I am no spring chicken, and I have lived through many decades of exceptional British music: none of which was showcased last night.To inflict that turgid, zombified, down-beat medley on all those young athletes, full of life and up for a party (as were most of the audience) was little short of criminal. And to end with Eric Idle singing "Bright Side of Life" surrounded by Roman Legionnaires: I've heard edgier stuff at the sing-songs at my 93 year old mother's care home! If Danny Boyle deserves a knighthood for the opening ceremony, then whoever put this mess together derserves to have his head spiked up on Traitors' Gate!

Four stars? Are you mad?
Opening ceremony was breathtaking. Closing ceremony made me pine for the glories of the Jubilee concert.
I have loved every minute of the Olympics. The Athletes, Volunteers and even LOCOG deserve every plaudit. But last night has left me feeling depressed. It was like a reorientation programme deliberately engineered to help us get back mundane reality. "Like, ah, I forgot we are shite after all!"

George Michael was shocking. Why did they think it a good idea for him to shamelessly plug his new single? What right gives him that? A man who hasn't done anything good for twenty years? No other act got that opportunity.
Annie Lennox = awful.

As previously mentioned, the organisers completely underestimated the time it took to get the athletes in, hence 'replaying' the soundtrack to the first part. Crap.
Ed Sheeran's cover was terrible. Why cover Wish You Were Here with no lead guitarist? Mike Rutherford? Purleeese!
What was telling was that truly iconic acts (bar The Who) were absent - and only used via muzak and dance sections (or from beyond the grave).

If they'd actually got Bowie or Bush to do something that would have been a coup. As it was, we were left with the tired (and overdone) Queen remnant - who have been marketing Freddie's legacy for 20 years.

Gold. Silver. Bronze. Lead.
It should have had Vera Lynn, Lulu, Sandie Shaw, and Cilla Black.

I thought Children in Need was in November, not August.
For the most part, it was uninspiring, messy, and lacked class. The opposite of everything that had preceded it.
Still, hopefully we built up enough credit over the last couple of weeks that we'll be forgiven.

Someone above summed it up brilliantly. It was everything I feared the opening ceremony was going to be like.
Bits were good. Eric Idle, The Who and the PSB. But most was poor to dire and didn't make any sense (why was everything wrapped in newspaper?????). Fitting that the three biggest stars of the night (Lennon, Bowie & Freddie) are either dead or retired.

If we're lucky, that closing ceremony won't have undone everything that has been good about the last two weeks.
If Boyle gave us a vision of Britain that we should aspire to, the closing ceremony was a sharp reality check.
If I was made to guess, I would've named Simon Cowell as the bright spark responsible for last night.
Turgid, self-aggrandising toss.

I was sat with my brazilian girlfriend and she came away from it completely baffled and not a little bored - surely it's not about appropriating the Olympics into whatever country is hosting it, but including the rest of the world too. We already had an utter shite Jubilee concert with the usual offenders, why do another one?

Democratic? Was it bollocks. It was carefully choreographed. Sure the athletes came in feeling cheerful and ready to party. They were then herded into pens and remained invisible for almost the entire remainder of the following celebrity fest (oops, sorry, "ceremony"). What should have been a celebration of the athletes was instead handed over to a set fo largely naff celebrities.
Eric Idle did his best but should have been visibly surrounded by athletes.

Hopefully thats killed off George Michaels career for good now. Used to be a fan too.
Why did they build a white pyramid in the middle and then just take it down again?? Why??
The fashion bit. WTF? Who on earth thought that actually fitted in with anything? It was almost as if they'd thought they would get Bowie until the very last minute and had to fill in.
COMPLETELY cocking up the timing estimates on the athletes entrance. By about 40mins. Shocking - especially as the only contingency plan was to repeat the first 40mins soundtrack.

On a positive note the set design and lighting were superb. Whoever thought up the seatback pixel LED things is a genius.

I wanted to vomit when Take That were playing as the Olympic flame was being lowered. It felt like the symbolic rape of everything that the flame stood for. Does anyone really think their music has anything resembling the required poignancy, dignity and class for such a moment? Kinda like trying to trim a bonsai tree with a gaudy lawnmower.
I am deeply embarrassed that this is how we signed off to the world after the sheer wonderment of the past two weeks and opening ceremony.

It turned into the usual cult of celebrity which seems to take over everything these days.
It would have been lovely to have some kind of story or theme written through this or at least seen the athletes that have given us so much enjoyment celebrated more. Instead we were assailed with that rubbish.

Disappointing. It just felt like they'd got the leftovers from the Queen's Jubilee concert out of the freezer and bunged them in the microwave. Soulless, corporate, predictable, bland, safe. None of the jaw-dropping "This can't be really happening" moments or genuine emotion of the opening ceremony. When they did try to create emotions, e.g. by projected footage of dead people (btw, they do know Bowie is still alive, don't they? Only they gave him the same treatment as Lennon and Mercury), it just felt manipulative and manufactured. Where Boyle gave us a jug of lovingly crafted, homemade organic lemonade, they gave us a bottle of Coke.
I thought Take That was an unbelievably crass choice for just after the extinguishing of the torch. Really, they might as well have got Mr Blobby or Black Lace, as it couldn't have murdered the dignity of the moment any more than it did. And I say that not because I dislike Take That - I do, but I would have found any cheesy manufactured pop acts that I really love equally inappropriate at that particular moment.

Things not so good: Emeli bloody Sande starting things with a whimper, montage of people crying (very sad), Stomp on twice (much clanging), Jessie J singing four - yes four - times in tacky look-at-me bodysuit, Taio bleeding Cruz, John Lennon's face boxes, repetition of the music whilst athletes arriving, Emeli Sande again, flag companions dressed as hookers. It was very Brit Awards but I suspect the great acts like Bowie and Rolling Stones wouldn't have gone near it, the latter mostly as they'd not be paid.

Olympic ceremonies are always naff. Are people really reviewing it as if they expected to see some sort of cutting edge music festival? It was shit but then it's not really aimed at people who like Billy Bragg.

[Wrong about Olympic ceremonies always being naff. Zhang Yimou and Zhang Jigang showed us how to do them four years ago in Beijing, as did our own Danny Boyle a couple of weeks ago. - Oxzen]

Closing ceremonies aren't generally remembered.. but this one just might be....
..for the shameless commercial promotion of British fashion, for the embarrasing use of Rolls Royces now produced by a German company, for presenting to the world how we seem to want to dwell in the past, how our culture can be whittled down to pop which we gave to the world back in the 1960s (and not much of merit ever since), how we insist on plastering the Union Jack over everything as if that alone gives it some kind of kudos, how somehow we see relevance in a plastic inflatable octopus with an aging DJ as its "brain".

The Olympic Games were organised very well. We got everything ready on time, but end up showing how Britain is slowly going down the plughole with really nothing new to say. The opening ceremony showed we were once the workshop of the world, the closing ceremony showed we don't know where on earth we are going any more.
Quite sad really.

I personally thought it was was deeply disappointed climax to a thoroughly inspiring two weeks. There was no central concept or over-riding vision.
The fashion segment was unforgivable (Victoria Beckham included in the same list as Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith? Really?). George Michael outstayed his welcome, the whole box-building thing seemed pointless. And if you insist on pursuing the questionable idea of turning a closing ceremony into a pop concert the very least you can do is sort out the sound and make sure most of your acts can actually sing.

And those acts should be paying tribute to the wonderful participants of the last fortnight, not stroking their own egos from on high. The self-satisfied sneer on Liam Gallagher's face was sickening.

I've no doubt the likes of Kate Bush and David Bowie were approached but quickly bailed when they discovered what a mess it was going to be. Well done them.

Prince Harry seemed a rather junior choice to represent the Queen at such a high-profile international event. Firstly, why couldn't she have turned up herself or, failing that, sent Charles? They've had seven years to clear a space in their diary. And really, would it have been impossible for William to get one night off work?

The entire country was on display to the world and the two senior royals buggered off on holiday. Their absence looked highly disrespectful. And it makes you wonder what we pay them for. If it had been a fucking horse show you can bet they'd have been knifing each other to get the best seats.

"I leave it others to judge whether the big musical section was a fair summary of British pop over the past 50 years."

OK, then. It was shit. Top to bottom and all the way around, shit. I will happily forget the Closing Ceremony ever happened and cherish all the other memories I have of the London 2012 games, from the torch procession through the magnificent Opening Ceremony through to the incredible athletes and the fantastic BBC coverage.
The Closing was a shower of shite and has no business being associated with all that preceded it.

Last night was just bland and vacuous, with the spectre of money rather than medals - as personified by the unworthy appearances of Kate Moss and George Michael - providing a terminal click to the artistry and effort seen over the past fortnight.

Originally I was very cynical about the corporate Olympics. But I was softened by Danny Boyle's inspired opening ceremony that dreamed an inclusive vision of modern Britain. Then I was seduced, firstly by the achievements of Jessica Ennis, and became progressively excited, awed and moved by the brilliance of so many great Olympians pushing the boundaries of human possibility. It felt like, for once, all the dross and crap of the world had been pushed aside to allow genuine magic a chance to rule our imaginations. I was truly inspired. Then last night's closing ceremony, an OK magazine view of Britain, reminded me what living here is really like, and I came back to earth with a jarring bump...

Well, I guess after the amazing last two weeks we needed something to gently lower the tone and ease us back into the lameness that is day to day life in Cameron's Britain.

The key word here is 'gently'; Kim Gavin and David Arnold slammed both feet on the brakes and sent everything achieved in the past fortnight hurtling through the windscreen.............

well done chaps!

You get served up a diet of slick, airbrushed, perfect professional culture every day. What Boyle did was give us something different - flawed, utterly genuine and human. The gulf between rich celebrity and ordinary person on the street was bridged for once.

I understand that not everyone will have liked it, but the amateurism was not an embarrassing, unintended mistake - it was an artistic choice which carried a totally intended message (we are not like Beijing - we wouldn't airbursh an unphotogenic six-year-old out of the ceremony for not looking slick enough).
Because Boyle put his own emotions into the show, it moved me. I just felt there was no emotion in the closing ceremony - it was entirely cynical, corporate construction.

I am sure the Queen very wisely stayed well away! Why on earth would she have wanted to witness this witless cringe making crap?

Four stars? ...Seriously?
It almost single-handedly undid all the optimism and euphoria of the previous two weeks.

Was really looking forward to this but it was lacklustre and ill conceived for such a big occasion.
To have the entire library of British music available to pick from and build an epic finale too, I dont think its unfair to have expected more than two songs from Emelie Sande (some agent she has) and then One Direction, Pet Shop Boys and Our House by Madness played on repeat for the first 90 minutes.
It then began to resemble a shambolic X Factor final style cheesy mess.
I enjoyed the elderly Norman Cook in an octopus but after all the fireworks, bells and whistles I couldn't help thinking what a wasted opportunity.

In case no-one has posted this already - an acerbic take on the closing ceremony that clearly articulates why I hated the closing ceremony more than I could ever have imagined possible.

It was like all the awfulness that was extracted from the opening ceremony - the fact that no X-Factor, manufactured rubbish was allowed to taint its artistry - was concentrated into 3 hours of Oxford Circus, souvenir-shop rubbish. Check the link here:

I think that most of us here are just trying to deal with how incredibly shit the closing ceremony was, so that we never have to think about it ever again. Even though I tried in vain to get at ticket to any event possible and failed, I thought the opening ceremony was brilliant, and the games superb. It's the (c)losing ceremony that needs to be banished as quickly and as absolutely from our memories, so we can remember how bloody good the rest was.

Someone asked why George Michael got to sing his latest single - and it's an important question. The choice of acts and the worldwide exposure was worth millions. The money involved would be worth looking at - especially the links between the record companies and sponsors. Blur get an off-camera gig in Hyde Park, while Beady Eye get a prime location. And how come Ed Sheeran always gets to play at these things?
On a more serious note - Leonard Cohen would have been brilliant. Hallelujah as the final song.

That closing ceremony was what I was afraid the opening ceremony was going to be like. Thankfully, Danny Boyle came up trumps.

The worst part about the whole thing last night was that it teased us into remembering the great great musicians we’ve produced, only to then dump on us with something completely different. Case in point – the big intro showcasing David Bowie…only to give a soundtrack highlighting british fashion (models) – including a plug for Victoria Beckham :(
There were quite a few individual lowpoints –
George Michael seriously outstayed his welcome. Freedom I could take, but that naff second song took the life out of the stadium and dragged and dragged and dragged…

"I still despise the smug smooth-jowled politicians cashing in on "feel good factors", and recoil from the horrible adman slogan, "Team GB". And I still hate the nationalistic jingoism of the modern Olympics, compared to the original games of classical times, which focused on individuals not nations." This is what Richard Dawkin's said and I agree - these elements are what I have hated about the 2012 Olympics. I've adored the sport - particularly seeing Andy take victory over Federer. The British seem to lose sight of the human sport and turn it into romanticised rhetoric of royal glee and lasting legacy. The amount of commentators I've seen interview medal winners and thrust a romantic vista upon them - 'What must you think when you cross the finish? I'd imagine you consider all the points leading up to it..being coached by your uncle as a child, losing at sport's day, getting beaten by school bullies', to which their response is an unpretentious and brilliantly honest 'Sorry to disappoint you but, no, I'm just thinking about where the f*cking line is.'

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Layer 538 . . . The Closing Ceremony

First of all we need to know who was responsible for doing precisely what to a Closing Ceremony which was meant to be a proper tribute to an amazing two weeks of sporting endeavor. Or did someone decide beforehand that Team GB was bound to end up with 'null points' a la Eurovision, or something similar, so we might just as well produce a Eurovision-style crass "spectacular" which would be tantamount to a tongue in cheek statement of how 'awful' we really are, a la Kenneth Williams or Dick Emery? Come to think of it, this song was surely worthy of inclusion in the horrible mash-up we were presented with in the Olympic Stadium:

Was it Stephen Daldry, "head of the Olympics ceremonies" who bears ultimate responsibility for hiring the people who came up with the "vision" and the "concept" for this ceremony? Did he lay down the guidelines and the parameters himself? Was his personal taste in any way imposed on the whole thing?

It’s a proper show. It’s got all the bizarre, surreal, funny, camp and moving elements you could want from a really good piece of Sunday night entertainment,” Daldry is quoted as saying.

According to Wikipedia, the ceremony's Music Director David Arnold said: “It’s going to be beautiful, cheeky, cheesy, camp, silly and thrilling".

Beautiful, funny, moving and thrilling we like. Who the hell asked for bizarre, camp, cheesy or silly? Cos that's exactly what we got. Which hardly does justice to either the games themselves or to Great Britain. [Alright - you can argue that the majority of Britain's contemporary culture is indeed bizarre, camp, cheesy and silly - but that's not something we should feel proud of or wish to advertise throughout the world.This is pretty much what we have, it's true, thanks to the likes of David Arnold, Simon Cowell and Kim Gavin.] Can you guess which one of the characters in the satirical TV spoof "2012" would have come up with this particular recipe for a camp, bizarre and cheesy closing ceremony? That's right - all of them. Especially Shiobhain and her folks at Perfect Curve.

According to my online dictionary "cheesy" means "cheap, unpleasant, or blantantly inauthentic". Sounds about right, except in the financial sense: rubbish as lavish and overblown as this doesn't come cheap. It's what they aimed for, and it's what they gave us.

Something like this was bound to happen when you hand the overall production of a Closing Ceremony to a marketing 'creative' like Kim Gavin ("who usually produces shows for the likes of Take That")  -  a slick, trashy, overblown attempt to advertise and 'sell' the 'best of British' to the rest of the world, and possibly to ourselves. It was inevitable, and it's what we've dreaded since the incomparible opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2008. Oh well - maybe it actually said something as truthful about Britain in its way as Danny Boyle's opening ceremony said in his own way.

Here's the crux of the matter. Kim Gavin has the business sensibility of someone who's content to spend his days marketing the likes of "Take That" - a fucking awful and forgettable musical confection with no artistic merit whatsoever - to a gullible public who prefer pretty boys and girls singing simple-minded pop ditties to anything that's real or interesting or important.

Danny Boyle, although not one of the world's best artists or directors, uses artistic insight to tell us things we didn't know or had maybe forgotten about ourselves. That's what proper art and decent entertainment is supposed to do. That's what you spend £80million on - not some useless flashy garbage that has absolutely no artistic merit.

None at all? No. None. But weren't the dazzling lighting & sound effects and the fireworks wonderful? Well - put it this way. We have some brilliant people who can do amazing things with light and sound and pyrotechnics. But what's the point if they're in the service of something that's so leaden yet so vacuous, overblown yet trivial, flashy yet dull, sentimental, cheesy and silly - just as the man proudly described it?

Weren't there any good bits AT ALL? Well of course there were. In any scatter-gun approach to entertaining the masses for three hours (as opposed to creating a worthy closing ceremony) there are bound to be some valid elements.

Eric Idle is a true Brit. "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" is a work of genius. Anyone who can stand up in front of millions wearing a silly costume and sing "Life's a piece of shit - when you think of it" - is worthy of inclusion in a celebration of genius and Britishness. We Brits are known for our earthy sense of humour. [Though we could have done without "a skit featuring nuns on roller-skates, Morris dancers, Roman soldiers and a comedic entrance of Punjabi bhangra players and dancers before a human cannonball crossed the stage". - Wikipedia]

What else?

A film of John Lennon singing "Imagine" - no countries, and no religion too. Excellent. [And let's just be thankful there was no appearance at any time in these proceedings by McCartney, which many of us were dreading.]

A version of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" performed by Nick Mason, Ed Sheeran, and pals. Definitely a Desert Island Disc. Pity there was nothing from Dark Side of the Moon, though there was a track from it in the opening ceremony.

A track by Kate Bush played on the PA system – "Running Up That Hill". Superb.

Russell Brand singing "I Am The Walrus" from the top of a bus. Not great, but quite funny. I think Lennon would have approved - in the way Lennon would approve of most of our Russell's challenges to bourgeois sensibilities.

Anything else? Not really. No? Surely The Who?

Mmmm - no. Two of the three songs they performed were from Tommy - a thoroughly bad album with rubbish songs. Even Pete Townshend must know that by now. Had they just come on and cranked out a dynamic version of My Generation they'd have been OK. As things stood, it felt like they'd just sold out to the likes of Stephen Daldry, David Arnold and Kim Gavin - who presumably think The Who's "Pinball Wizard" is a great song, since they got the Kaiser Chiefs (more sell-outs) to perform it here. They probably think the concept of a deaf, dumb and blind boy being a world champion pinball player is like really cool. Maybe they'll reprise it for the paralympics.

And speaking of reprises - did we really need to hear crappy songs like Parklife, West End Girls and What Makes You Beautiful not just once but TWICE? What was that all about? Prior to Sunday evening I'd never even heard of the boy band called 'One Direction', and I don't ever want to hear them again. It seems they were manufactured for a programme called The X Factor, and they didn't even come first in that ridiculous talent contest. Third place was all they could manage, for very good reasons, obviously, yet there they go into the closing ceremony! On the back of a bloody lorry! What's THAT all about?! It's not the boys' fault of course - what the hell do they know? As for their name, they should change it to One Dimension, to indicate their complete lack of breadth and depth.

Ray Davies was another disappointment, which quite frankly he has been since the Kinks rocked us with You Really Got Me and All Day and All of the Night. I don't really go for whimsy and sentimentality. Back in the beginning the Kinks were one of the most powerful blues-based bands around, and it was annoying that they couldn't maintain that basic simplicity and build on it, like the Stones did. And let's face it - Ray can no longer even hold a tune.

George Michael? Perleeeease! Mr Sleaze certainly dressed for the occasion.

Freddie bloody Mercury? Let him go! ["We will not let him go!"] Brian May - half man, half sheep, totally crap guitar licks. Wake up people! Queen were only ever camp, cocky, pomp-rock, cheesy, sleazy, silly pop nonsense. And if you want to argue, then try explaining what the hell Bohemian Rhapsody was all about.

A David Bowie collage of photographs with snatches of his tunes. Why? Even Bowie admits that he's not done anything original or anything of value since Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust - before he got into the drugs and the whole fame thing took him away from the real world. Still - that's all he ever really wanted - to be famous. Someone else who started out brilliant and ended up stuck up his own arse. Such a pity. He had something good happening there for a while. No point in him dressing up in platforms and makeup and trying to make a 'comeback'. [Though he did make one decent guest appearance a few years ago to sing 'Arnold Lane' with David Gilmour and the Floyd. "Oh Arnold Lane, it's not the same . . ." The voice wasn't great but it was a nice novelty turn.]

Beady Eye? Liam Gallagher??!! Wonderwall? Another piece of complete pop piffle. Noel's better off without him, that's for sure.

Take That? FFS. More manufactured pop nonsense.

Annie Lennox? Good voice. Not very interesting. Silly presentation.

And so we come to the Spice Girls. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. How delightfully symbolic to see them all standing atop individual black cabs covered with flashing lights, the mundane together with the showbiz flashy trash - so very together and yet so very separate. And long may they remain so. RIP.

Emeli Sande? No real opinion as yet. Deeply unmemorable, even though her song was also reprised.

Jessie J? Great legs. Sorry - but they are. She can sing OK too. I notice her website proudly displays lots of photos of her as featured in the Sun, the People, the Star, OK magazine, etc.

Muse? Completely horrible. Who the fuck are these people?

Madness? Great when they were young and whacky. Going off them rapidly. Our House was fine at Buck House for the Jubilee, but I've had enough of it already. Never a great song.

And last and VERY least (cos I can't be bothered to go through the whole lot of them) . . . . ELBOW!!!!!!!!!!!  Somebody is having a laugh! What a fucking awful band!!!!  According to Wikipedia, which I needed to consult in order to learn something about these tossers, "Elbow have cited a number of influences on their music, including Genesis (in particular the progressive rock years featuring Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett), Talk Talk and Radiohead." Which just about tells us all we need to know about these "progressive rock" exponents. Such dire bilge I have never heard in my life, and never wish to do so again. Not ever.

So there we have it. What a complete bloody failure. What a very sad ending to what had been a very memorable and enjoyable two weeks. Damn!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Layer 537 . . . A Summer of Sport, and a New Beginning

After four years of regular blogging Oxzen has needed a sabbatical and some time off to refresh, reflect and take stock. It's been an interesting few months. 2012 has been an interesting year.

So what's been occurring?

As far as Oxzen is concerned, since the beginning of April - a great deal of watching television. March was glorious, warm and sunny, but the rain began at the start of April. It rained almost daily throughout April, May, June and July. The wettest spring and summer on record in Britain.

Not that I'm complaining. I'd had some vague idea that the summer of 2012 was going to be glorious and I'd spend day after day sitting and walking in endless sunshine. However, in many ways it was fortunate there was little possibility of spending a lot of time outside. It's been an amazing television summer.

From the beginning of April, and even before that, it was necessary to watch the many hours of live televised coverage of the Leveson Enquiry.

"The first part will examine the culture, practices and ethics of the media. In particular, Lord Justice Leveson will examine the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians."

This enquiry turned out to be a fascinating carnival of scumbags and professional liars, all rehearsed to the nth degree by their highly paid advisors and spin doctors to find every possible way of avoiding giving truthful answers to the Enquiry's questions, and if all else failed, to simply say, "I can't remember" and "I don't recall".

Leveson was supposed to examine the culture and the ethics of our media, but the use of  words like "culture" and "ethics" in relation to the majority of our predominantly nasty, supine and obsequious media is quite amusing. For "culture" read "the habitual practice of distorting the truth and whenever possible distracting the nation from anything that really matters in our national life". For "ethics" read "willingness to lie, distort, trivialise and smear; tendency to spread alarm, confusion, mystification and fear".

Throughout this spring and summer the government of Great Britain has stuck doggedly to Plan A, with all the obvious and predictable consequences. The 'rolling back' of the State and the trashing of public services has made an appalling and unnecessary economic depression even worse than it already was. The Labour party is not wrong to say that the Tories have been cutting "too far and too fast", but they are very wrong and very guilty in their collusion with the very notion that our public services should have been cut AT ALL.

Any economist with half a brain (ie those who resisted the nonsense of the neo-conservatives and the Friedmanite Chicago School) understands that in a time of recession and a failure of the private sector to invest in the British economy you need to spend MORE on public services and not LESS if you wish to avoid deflating the economy and prevent a recession from turning into a depression. For fuck's sake - we learned that lesson back in the 1930s, thanks to Keynes and Roosevelt.

For some months now we've even had the International Monetary Fund - never a hotbed of progressive liberalism - gently nudging Cameron, Osborne and Clegg towards a Plan B, and the engagement of some common sense in their economic policies. For 'common sense' read 'lack of willful stupidity and ignorance'. Even the IMF, which runs the whole globalised economy hand in glove with the World Bank, recognises that the last thing the world needs is for one its important engines of finance and potential economic growth (ie GB PLC) to crash even further into depression at a time when the worldwide economy needs reflation and growth.

What the IMF may not recognise, however, is that Cameron and Osborne, and their little chum Clegg, are acting out of an ideological conviction that cares little for world stability and economic growth. The limits of their ambitions are to ensure the prosperity of the City of London's financial institutions, and therefore of themselves and all their fat cat chums -  protected, supported and even further enriched in the face of the shitstorm that's already happening.

Contrast this with the more sensible and honest conservative leaders of Europe and the USA (i.e. Merkel and Obama) who have a real concern with the proper long-term functioning of the international capitalist system. For fuck's sake - these European conservatives are even implementing a Tobin Tax on financial transactions. Obviously our Tories will have nothing to do with this tax since it's something their pals in the City have told them they must never do.

Meanwhile the banking scandals have continued, with Barclays being busted for their criminal manipulation of Libor, RBS busted for helping drugs cartels to launder money, and now Standard Chartered busted for their well-paid assistance to Iran to avoid financial restrictions and sanctions. Ethics? In Britain? In Westminster and the City of London? Don't make us laugh.


Now where was I? Oh yes - the summer of television.

Euro 2012 took place between June 8th and July 1st. England, as expected, were pathetic, and were knocked out as soon as they came up against a decent team. Spain, as expected, were the winners, beating Italy 4-0 in the final.

Wimbledon took place between 25th June and July 8th, and ended with Roger Federer's record-breaking win over Andy Murray. Roger's a phenomenon, and almost an honorary Brit. We love his decency, self-control, thoughtfulness, modesty, and of course his brilliance.

The Tour de France took place between June 30th and July 22nd. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Frome rode brilliantly, and finished in first and second places. Mark Cavendish, the other star member of the first British team to win the Tour, was also phenomenal - even though his team's support for sprint finishes was necessarily minimal, since winning the General Classification was the stated aim of the team. However, Cavendish was strong enough and fit anough by the end of the tour to win a sprint finish immediately before the final Time Trial (won by Wiggins by a mile) and also able to win for a record 4 times in a row on the final sprint-finish stage on the Champs Elysees.

And finally - the Olympics. The games took place between 27th July and 12th August. Having been drawn into compulsive watching of the Olympics four years ago by the Beijing opening ceremony, it was anticipated that these 2012 Games in London would also be addictive and compulsive. And so it turned out.

Bearing in mind that Oxzen is not a sports fanatic, usually watching very little in the way of live football, cricket, athletics, etc, and doesn't subscribe to any premium sports TV channels - it's been a very odd and very enjoyable summer. And there's still 10 days of the paralympics to come. In short, it's been distracting, fascinating, refreshing, relaxing, often exciting, and a lot of fun.

I was about to write something about last night's abysmal and embarrassing Olympics closing ceremony, but on reflection I won't. No point in ending this particular piece on a negative and sour note.



Random tracks of the day, thanks to Media Player:

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag - James Brown
Turn, Turn, Turn - The Byrds
Happiness is a Warm Gun - John Lennon/Beatles
Blues to Elvin -  John Coltrane
Work  -  Bob Marley