All posts by harrybackhouse

“Ain’t she a beautiful sight?”

Caulorlime watches out for smokies with a can on his back. Come on!

Duck. Keegan. Lorries.
Duck. Keegan. Lorries.

“I don’t know where to start with this” is a terrible cliché. It’s used by lazy writers to suggest bewilderment at the oddness of a concept that usually turns out, after a little unpacking, to be utterly mundane. It’s apt here, though, because trying to write about Convoy, the 1978 Sam Peckinpah movie about lorry drivers that was based on a novelty song, left me with, literally, too many choices about where to start.

I’m a smart-arse. That should really go without saying. Being a smart-arse is sort of my thing*.  It didn’t serve me well here. Every time I started writing about this film I ended up ridiculing a different aspect of the weirdness, and that didn’t work. You can’t just pick this thing apart and mock its constituent pieces. You need to try and mock it as a whole. Convoy isn’t really a product of the paranoid seventies**, or a product of right-wing America***, or of an occasionally great director phoning it in****. It isn’t even a cautionary tale about attempting to construct a coherent narrative out of a three minute pop song sung/rapped in a baffling slang*****. I mean, it’s all of those things, but it’s also much, much less.  Continue reading “Ain’t she a beautiful sight?”

Adventures in Nollywood

By CaulorLime

Demon in Law
Patience, I think.

So, it’s been a while. How’s it going? All good? Excellent. Yeah, no change here. Except I had a baby, quit my job and moved my family to sub-Saharan Africa. No, for real. It’s all here if you’re really interested, and by “all” I mean “almost nothing.” I’m Harry, by the way, the pseudonym thing seems a bit unnecessary now that I’m beyond the reach of your petty laws.

Malawi, where I now live, is the third (or eleventh, depending on who you ask, never in between though) poorest nation on earth. I’m not sure where’s poorer, but there must be a whole country living in a cardboard box somewhere, because this place is pretty damned poor. The life expectancy is shockingly low. The country has the one of highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world. There are near constant power cuts and water shortages. You live in constant danger of malaria, bilharzia, meeting Madonna or plague. The real problem with Malawi, though, is that there is no way to watch the Junior Apprentice, nor whatever witless crap Jamie Oliver is currently foisting, with wet-lipped enthusiasm, on the peoples of the rest of the world. In short, this place is a cultural desert. My having no access to bad television, and therefore nothing to say on these pages, was an unintended consequence of our move to the Dark Continent, but it seemed to be an unavoidable one. At least, I thought so, until I stumbled across Demon-in-Law.

Continue reading Adventures in Nollywood

Ol’ Marrsters

by CaulorLime

The art content for this blog is usually written by Ann Jones. Ann is an artist and art teacher with a passionate and wide-ranging knowledge of her subject. I, as will quickly become clear, am not Ann Jones. I don’t know much about art, and I don’t even know what I like. I usually write about reality TV.  You do the sums.

Apparently, it is as part of the Jubilee* celebrations that ten drawings by Leonardo da Vinci have made their way from under the Queen’s bed** to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.  I’ve been meaning to go for a while and yesterday, on a beautiful afternoon, I wandered up the hill with my wife and baby son. When Banksy took over Bristol museum, with his flippant and soulless nonsense, there were two-hour long queues, all day, every day for three months. People came from all over the world. One woman reportedly came twice, from Canada, to see a fibreglass angel with a bucket on its head. Yesterday, I waltzed straight in to see a collection of drawings by, arguably, the most important cultural and scientific figure of the Renaissance, and was one of about ten people in the room. Seriously, humanity, you try my patience.

Continue reading Ol’ Marrsters

The Front Line

by Caulorlime

The Korean War is an historical obscenity so absurd that it feels like it was created for propaganda purposes. We are, in the west, well used to the hideous idea of people dying in the First World War right up to 11 o-clock on the eleventh of November, and the utter pointlessness of those deaths. In the Korean war (or as the Koreans call it, the war)* the same thing occurred, only the truce talks went on for two years after the fundamental desire for ceasefire was agreed, with the added piquancy that the fighting that occurred in the last few months and weeks was actually the most vicious, the most deadly of the entire conflict. Areas devoid of mineral richness or any natural strategic importance, hills too steep for farming and too bleak for settlement, became the focus of horrific and sustained fighting. Some small and pointless territories changed hands over 30 times in 18 months at the cost of countless Korean lives, as well as a significant number of Chinese, American and other troops. The perceived importance of these areas was due to their proximity to the 38th parallel, an entirely arbitrary line drawn at the end of WWII partitioning the country into North and South Korea, and sparking the inevitable war. In 1953, as the interminable armistice talks dragged on, these hills became a flash point merely because the owners of a hill could move the arbitrary border to the other side, gaining about three kilometers of extra territory. Thousands of people were killed and maimed fighting over them. The damn things are in the demilitarised zone now, and no one owns them.

Continue reading The Front Line

Educating the Daily Mail

Caulorlime watches a real British hero in action and is dismayed by the press response

Everyone in this photo, see me after.

Regular readers (hi, Dave) will be aware that I don’t really like much. My longer pieces for this blog tend to consist of me ranting about one of the many things that have annoyed me. I write pseudonymously because the school that employs me, the students I teach and the parents that entrust me with their offspring will all sleep better in their beds if they don’t know what a bile-fuelled, potty-mouthed misanthrope I am. Who would benefit from the knowledge that I am so irritated by advertising and reality TV that I regularly find myself shouting, in another room, after a rage induced black-out? What does it profit a man to discover that I truly believe my greatest achievement in life is that I have never used the word “Cunt” in a classroom*? No-one and nothing, that’s who and what. Information like that will only lead to funny looks in the staff room (and I get enough of those) and ultimately to my losing my job. And I like my job. As I said, I don’t really like much, but my job’s alright.

Obviously, it isn’t perfect. Every good job has its downsides. I believe that soap actors object to people calling them by their character’s names, for example, and fashion photographers often describe a sense of ennui at being fellated, once again, by a selection of the world’s most beautiful women. For teachers the downside is being universally derided. The teaching profession is one of the British media’s favourite whipping boys. If the right-wing press is to believed there is barely an educator in Britain that isn’t tedious, incompetent, sleazy or lazy, or all of the above. Teachers are portrayed as politically-correct, sex-obsessed, illiterate, cowardly, doctrinaire, over-paid, under-worked individuals whose pensions are a personal insult to every hard-working family of middle England. We are what is wrong with this country.
Continue reading Educating the Daily Mail

Friends Like These . . .

In the second of an occasional series of what is basically an angry man baying at the moon, Caulorlime, the foul-mouthed English teacher, turns his attention to television advertising.

My wife once bought me a Fawcett Society “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt. It doesn’t fit any more, which is good as I have reached, and passed, the age where writing across your flabby man tits is not acceptable, no matter how ideologically sound the message. However, I stand by the sentiment. It is partly in this guise as PC Brigadier and partly as an old man that shouts at the television that I have come to a new, and depressing, realisation.

Adverts hate us all. We know this. They hate all races, socio-economic classes, ages, sexualities and genders. They hate Londoners. They hate the Welsh. They probably hate kittens. There isn’t a single stratum of society that the advertising industry doesn’t vomit contempt over. But they really hate women.

This might seem an odd proposition in 2011, after all, adverts really hate men, don’t they? Men are the ones portrayed as selfish, child-like appurtenances who, on their best day, serve only to irritate and hinder their female masters, right? It’s men who are shown misunderstanding vitamin supplements; men who are weak and hypochondriac; men who, even when the advert wishes to appeal to them, are portrayed as cock-led sex pests. The advert a year or so ago (for some shit, I can’t remember what) that had the tagline “So simple even a man could use it” would never have been screened had the gender been reversed.* Right? Right, but file all this under “Adverts Hate Us All.” Yes, men are portrayed as arseholes, but if you want to see really sinister stuff have a look at the way women are portrayed in ads. Continue reading Friends Like These . . .

Jamie’s Dream School

by CaulorLime

Jamie Oliver has been making crusade-docs for a while now. They always follow the same formula –

1) Jamie, with remarkable humbleness, sets himself the task of righting an enormous and complex wrong. Childhood obesity, say, or teenage unemployment. He demonstrates, fairly quickly, an understanding of the issue that might embarrass a bright eleven year old, but still reckons that he’ll have a crack at fixing it. Usually, but not always, with the application of olive oil.

2) Jamie, with (olive) oily mateyness, assures a selected group of poor/ignorant/fat/unemployed people that he, the multimillionaire who is getting paid to have this conversation, knows their pain and shares their predicament.

3) Jamie calls someone ‘brother’. This is non-negotiable. It’s written into the contract. Someone has to get called ‘brother’.

4) Jamie is faced with objections to his ideas that, even after they’ve been sympathetically edited for TV, usually appear pretty reasonable, and he does that face where he looks upset. Or, if the show is being sold to the Americans, he cries. This is everyone’s favourite bit.

5) The voiceover wonders whether Jamie can ‘turn it around’.

6) Jamie invents an utterly arbitrary benchmark by which he can decide whether his current quest has succeeded. So, if a thousand people cook a stir-fry, then American obesity is no more.

7) A thousand people cook a fucking stir fry. “One Day Like This” by Elbow plays. Jamie does that big, slightly Downsy, grin of his, and all’s right with the world.

In case I haven’t made this clear, I love Jamie Oliver’s shows. Continue reading Jamie’s Dream School