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Posts Tagged ‘Popular Culture’

Against all the Odds: The World of the Small Scottish Football Team

Gerry Hassan

February 11th 2010

It is week three and sadly the final week of Jonathan Meades strange, fascinating and somewhat magical series on Scotland, ‘Off Kilter’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00mwqvq/Jonathan_Meades_Off_Kilter_Episode_3/ This week his theme is the inviting subject of ‘The Football Pool Towns’, addressing small towns, hopes and Scotland through the world of football.

This short series has illustrated how it is possible to tell stories of Scotland, and address supposedly familiar subjects in new, imaginative ways. In so doing it has exposed the chasm of aspiration at the heart of much of the mainstream media in Scotland, where budgets seem to be in inverse proportion to originality and boldness. There are so many parts of Scottish life and society crying out for exploration left unexamined at a point when our nation and democracy is at a huge crossroads in how it sees itself.

Anyway back to this episode which begins with Meades reminiscing about the days of the Mini and Hillman Imp, before citing Jackie Stewart, supposed Scottish icon, ‘ambassador’ for the Royal Bank of Scotland and resident of Switzerland, who once said the immortal words, ‘A car is like a woman and cornering is like bringing a woman to climax’. Oh, er, missus, what a lad that Jackie! Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Good to have Gil Back!

Gerry Hassan

February 8th 2010

I come from a broken home
She had more then the five senses
She knew more then books could teach
And raised everyone she touched just a little bit higher
And all around her there was a natural sense

Gil Scott-Heron, ‘On Coming From a Broken Home (Part One)’

Today sees the release of Gil Scott Heron’s new album, ‘I’m New Here’, his first release in sixteen years, and only his second collection in twenty-eight years (1). And boy does it feel that Gil is back, with the album picking up reviews all over the place, and Gil, being interviewed at length in the papers, including a thoughtful piece in ‘The Observer’ by Sean O’Hagan (2).

‘I’m New Here’ is on one level a radical departure in sound and composition for Gil, invoking a contemporary sound which takes from trip-hop and dance loops and mixes them within a soundscape which has a bluesy-Tom Waits feel. And yet, it feels very like Gil, the sort of Gil that would have slowly evolved if he had not departed from the stage for so long haunted by his troubles. Read the rest of this entry »

Football Creep and the Dumbing Down of Media

Gerry Hassan

February 6th 2010

It has been an historic day across a range of huge political issues: the resolution of the Northern Ireland impasse between Sinn Fein and the DUP, the public shame of criminal charges against MPs and a peer, BAE Systems paying back millions after the kickbacks it paid for contracts, and of course, John Terry standing down as England captain.

On a day I spent the afternoon interviewing fellow blogger Tom Harris, Labour MP for Cathcart, in the Queen’s Park FC boardroom, I know that football matters. The boardroom in question, set in a collection of permanent portacabins opposite Hampden, is filled with history and triumphs from another era. Queen’s Park won a spectacular ten Scottish Cups – all in the 19th century – before professionalism kicked in and established the dominance of ‘the Old Firm’.

The room was filled with silverware large and small, and staring at a large impressive cup, hoping it to be the Scottish Cup, I was a little disappointed to find it was some local trophy. In a place of such emotions and memories, including a framed Rod Stewart Queen’s Park strip, I could tangibly feel the power and pull of football, yet the conformity and vice-like grip of the game on our imagination grows alarmingly by the day. Read the rest of this entry »

The Glorious World of Scottish Football Commentary

Gerry Hassan

February 1st 2010

I am still recovering from the amazing experience of being at Rugby Park and the crazy world of last Saturday’s Kilmarnock v. Dundee United match. A gorgeous Scots winter day for a start; it has taken me thirty years of football-watching to see a 4-4 draw and honestly it could have been much higher. United were 3-1 up after 35 minutes and looked like they would score a barrowload, and then when Killie fought back, aided by United kamikaze defending, and went 4-3 ahead in the second half it looked briefly like they were going to storm ahead.

My recent posting on the future of Scottish football has been picked up and prompted even more thoughtful musings from James Hamilton http://mtmg.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/the-scottish-and-scottish-football/ – whose original thoughts inspired my piece and Rob Marrs –http://leftbackinthechangingroom.blogspot.com/2010/01/we-need-to-talk-about-scotland.html

It is refreshing to see the quality of writing that Hamilton and Marrs display about the Scottish game which is a world apart from the narrow mainstream media diet in the BBC, STV and most of the print press (Graham Spiers honourably exempted). Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland as a Magical, Foreign Land:

Jonathan Meades Off-Kilter Guide to Scotland

Gerry Hassan

January 28th 2010

I have just watched the first part of Jonathan Meades three part series on Scotland on BBC Two, late Wednesday night, 11.20-12.20 available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00ml5wx/Jonathan_Meades_Off_Kilter_Episode_1/, and was astounded by the sheer brilliance and aplomb of it on every level.

Here was an hour-long programme about Aberdeen and its architecture. An hour-long programme about Aberdeen which was compelling, challenging, deeply serious and yet with a rich undertow of humour. An hour about Aberdeen with no Aberdonians, no talking heads, no stupid vox pops in Union Street, no stupid local celebs with their inanities, and not one compromise in the direction of the cultural destruction of much of our TV programming in the last decade (step forward Simon Cowell, Peter Bazelgette and Mark Thompson to name but three).

This is a four part series about Scotland and it exposes the sheer vacuousness, limpness, laziness and lack of any effort or imagination in most of what passes for our TV programming in Scotland. Most of what comes on our screens about Scotland seems to be part of some sophisticated, deeply thought out plan to encourage in the Scots psyche a belief that they don’t amount to very much and could not possible change things or govern themselves: a mix of cultural cringe and inferiority complex. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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