Thursday, March 08, 2012

Keeping it Surreal

Do you want to know what's totally grinding my gears right now? What's totally rippin' ma knittin'? It's the overuse and misuse of the word "surreal".  From having specific art-historical connotations, its meaning has been debased until it's now a synonym of "slightly unusual".

I know this is hardly a new thing. But the latest generation of media airheads seems to use "surreal" with depressing regularity, each time moving it further from its initial context and into the realm of banality. I just heard it being said on the radio (6Music, Lauren Laverne, of whom I expect better). And I heard it with depressing frequency at and around this year's Oscars.  Examples?  Shailene Woodley calling the Oscar rumour-mill "surreal". The Oscar ballot counter calling his job "surreal".  And Trent Reznor calling his Oscar nomination.... well you get the idea.

Worse, each red carpet guest on the night itself was asked by reporters "What's your most surreal moment of the night so far?"  With so many art collectors in La-La Land (and with its history of supporting filmmakers with genuine surrealist credentials, such as Bunuel and Hitchcock), you really hoped that some wise guy outside the Kodak Theater [sic] might point up the misuse of the term by answering "Well, I just saw Guillaume Apollinaire and Rene Magritte talking to Lindsay Lohan."  But no one did. So it goes.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Rawkus Assembly

Congratulations, too, to The Sun newspaper for providing an early contender for the Irk the Purists' Headline of the Year award last Friday.  Accompanying an article about the arrest of Falkirk MP Eric Joyce for allegedly assaulting a fellow member, the headline read "Commons Have A Go If You Think You're Hard Enough".

Now as a Guardian-reading, brown-rice eating, bed-wetting relativist liberal, you'd possibly expect me to denounce all the works of Rupert Murdoch and his progeny. And yes, I'll concede that their business and journalistic methods leave something to be desired. But when he's not bring national institutions to their knees, James Murdoch (son of Rupert and until today the chairman of News International) is cold getting busy with the flavor.  He's chilly most. He knows what's def. What's wack. What's jam. What's straight-up booty.

For strange as it may seem, Murdoch fils, before he became better known for his cameo appearances at  the Levenson Enquiry, was one of the co-founders of the seminal hip hop label Rawkus, which helped to launch the careers of Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monche, Hi-Tek, Common and, notably, Mos Def. The label, in fact, was bought by News International in 1998, some two years after the label's launch, before being sold on to MCA.  It's salutary, isn't it, to think of James Murdoch in a disreputable industry, having to deal every day with thugs, reprobates, unsavoury managers and hangers-on. If only he'd stuck to hip hop instead of going into journalism (b'dum tsh).

To recall the days when James Murdoch was almost as hip as James Lavelle, rather than the blinking, evasive character we see on our TV screens today, here's a little something by Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek from 1999 or so.

Download Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek The Express (mp3)