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Bits and pieces: Culture (including the true meaning of Science Fiction according to the FBI) September 8, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Sport, The Left.

I know I’m going on and on about this in comments elsewhere, but The Damned United is a film that has stuck with me subsequently. It’s not simply Sheen and Meaney’s central performances where they seem to effectively channel Clough and Revie, but the underlying story itself is fascinating, As is this piece of footage of their famous television appearance (with an incredibly youthful Austin Mitchell of all people as the interviewer) subsequent to Clough’s disastrous forty odd day tenure at Leeds.

Here’s the first part of that interview.

I’d not realised how left wing Clough was as well. Interesting person.

One small thing about the film. The Deep Purple song “Flight of the Rat” was used for the first meeting (or non-meeting) of Clough and Revie at a match between Derby and Leeds. But that took place in 67 or 68 and the song wasn’t released until 1970 and with Ian Gillan on vocals whereas previously it had been… who fronted the group. It’s not a mistake exactly, after all it could have been used purely for the lyrical conceit but it was slightly anachronistic – though not at all so when used briefly later in the film.

Actually, while talking about Deep Purple it’s interesting how they, unlike Black Sabbath (and of course Led Zeppelin) have never quite managed to be critically rehabilitated after the years of Zonk. Lars Von Trier used Child in Time for Breaking the Waves in the late 1990s and … is such a fan that they played for him some years back at his birthday. I wonder what it is about Purple – a band who I still rate. The lyrics? The music itself? Too heavy?

Talking about music, check this out, Adweeks overview of the 10 ads that killed Dubstep. Dubstep has its moments but as Adweek notes for a genre the better part of a decade old it’s interesting to see how long it took for the advertising agencies to get in on the act (and it also notes the sheer weirdness of some of the juxtapositions on view here, not least as it says with no small irony “Nothing says “two great-tasting Louisiana classic [whiskey]” quite like the musical stylings of south London”). But the problem is, as with all other genres, advertising agencies do sooner or later get in on the act.

Best one? The parody which is number 5 or 6.

Still the piece raises an interesting question as to how much advertising destroys popular music. The excerpts from genuine classics, and soon to be classics, seem to somehow excise the good out of songs and instrumentals.

Meanwhile, the Guardian politics podcast which seems to appear every week or so is well worth a listen, not least for Michael White’s interventions. White strikes me as being slightly at odds with the overall leftish tone of the Guardian.

Talking of podcasts, the NPR Science Podcast had an excellent short piece on how the Voyager probes, launched 35 years ago, are now a substantial part of a light day away from Earth and are drawing close to the boundaries of the Solar System. The instrumentation and electronics on board is also 35 years old, and includes an 8 track tape. Here is a remarkable photograph taken by Voyager of the ‘pale blue dot’ which is Earth as seen from it in the 1990s when it took a shot of what was behind it.

As Carl Sagan noted at the time, all human history took place within that pixel (bar the moon landings).

And moving from science to science fiction while author Ray Bradbury was no man of the left… one has to applaud some of his positions when one reads the information unearthed from his FBI file. It appears that:

A named source in the file, Martin A Berkeley, told the agents investigating Bradbury that the author “was probably sympathetic with certain pro-communist elements”, and that during a discussion about whether Communist party members should be allowed to join the Screen Writers Guild, Bradbury “rose to his feet and shouted ‘Cowards and McCarthyites’ when the resolution was discussed”.


Another informant agreed about the dangerous effects of science fiction, advising “that individuals such as Ray Bradbury are in a position to spread poison concerning political institutions in general and American institutions in particular”, and that “Communists have found fertile opportunities for development; for spreading distrust and lack of confidence in America [sic] institutions in the area of science fiction writing”. Even worse, “the general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War which the American people would seriously believe could not be won since their morals had been seriously destroyed”.

Wow! So that’s what SF is about. Good to know…

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1. doctorfive - September 8, 2012

Would hate to assume shallowness in the marketing business but thinking music going mainstream = dead probably says all we need to know.

WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2012

That’s true actually.

2. Starkadder - September 8, 2012

I think I mentioned the “Bradbury being under FBI suspicion”
incident a week ago. Scary stuff.

WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2012

Apologies, I missed that. It’s mad, particularly given how conservative he actually appears to have been. Though I tend to think he was in that sort of conservative/Heinlein sort of camp.

3. Brian Hanley - September 8, 2012

Clough ended up a fairly sad character, in part due to the alcoholism I suppose. His comments about the Hillsborough disaster were eagerly grasped by The Sun etc…there’s a reasonable book called ‘as long as you don’t kiss me’ about Clough’s time at Forest.
Johnny Giles is less than impressed with the Damned United!

WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2012

Yeah, Giles sued Peace IIRC but only minor amendments were made to the text of the book The Damned United.

I’ve yet to read the biogs of Clough, but you’re right he seems to have been a total mess by the end of it all. Fairly tragic.

EamonnCork - September 8, 2012

Remember him this way,

Huyton baddie - September 9, 2012

Remember him refusing to address the crowds to ease panic at hillsborough , remember him blaming Liverpool fans for the deaths, fucking alco

eamonncork - September 9, 2012

WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2012

There’s no question in my mind that that was Clough’s lowest point and he’s rightly to be criticised severely for it. But… fair to point out that by then the man was as best as can be judged suffering from a condition which profoundly warped his judgement.

I don’t know what your direct experience of alcoholism is but I’ve seen it at first hand in my family and I’ve no illusions as to what sustained heavy drinking does to peoples personality. That’s not to give him a free pass. His comments and actions in a raft of areas were reprehensible.

4. EamonnCork - September 8, 2012

Very interesting article in the Guardian books section today by Sukhdev Sandhu, an excellent writer who wrote a very good book about London after dark entitled Night Haunts. It’s on the 40th anniversary of John Berger’s legendary series on art Ways of Seeing, the whole of which is available on the fantastic Ubuweb site.
He also writes about the director of the series Mike Dibb who also made documentaries on CLR James, Raymond Williams, John Ruskin, Octavio Paz and Studs Terkel in the seventies and eighties. In recent years he’s directed an Emmy award winning biography of Miles Davis and one where Edward Said gives his last public interview. You can get those latter on DVD.
Sandhu points out that in the seventies it was customary for the ideas of the likes of Berger, James and Williams to be brought in front of a mass audience and that it’s a pity that this is almost a forgotten era of television. As Dibb himself says in the piece there was all this intellectual ferment going on in broadcasting but whenever they do something about the seventies all you get is old episodes of TOTP. Anyway, I found it an interesting piece.
Good to see that BBC4 are repeating Robert Hughes’ Shock of the New at the moment too.

EamonnCork - September 8, 2012
ejh - September 8, 2012

This may be because Hughes died recently.

EamonnCork - September 8, 2012

I’m sure it is. I hope they follow it up with American Visions. They don’t make programmes like those anymore.

EamonnCork - September 8, 2012
WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2012

An amazing programme.

Taking your point about the partial readings of the 1970 (and increasingly the 1980s) we seem to get in the mass media I think about how Hobsbawm was a presence on TV in the 80s in political terms as well as historical ones. I remember him debating monetarism with a Tory. That sense of the seriousness of it all is I’d agree diluted by the concentration on pop culture. And the same was definitely true of Berger and Williams. Indeed I’d argue very hesitantly that they would have had a higher and broader profile then than anyone comparable today (Zizek is anomalous). of course it was a more limited media, but the change to today’s situation isn’t necessarily a good thing. I also wonder how or if they’re as read as widely now as they were twenty or thirty years ago. I’d doubt it.

On a slight tangent I’ve been rereading a fair bit of Kingsley Amis in the last while and whatever about his rightwards inclinations across his career it’s interesting to consider his engagement with SF and areas like that in the 1960s where in some ways he brought an analytical rigour that was helpful precisely because he was positioned outside of it. Later he got pooterish as is the way but I guess that too was an aspect of the seriousness that seems to be lacking in contemporary retrospectives.

WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2012

BTW, the one day I didn’t buy the paper version of the Guardian on a Saturday and there’s an article like that. For those in the same boat as me here’s the link…


Huyton baddie - September 9, 2012

Yeah, how about justice for the 96?

ec - September 9, 2012

Watched an episode or two of ‘The Shock of the New’ on youtube lately. The arrogant voice of God with a cigar in his hand. No thanks.

dmfod - September 9, 2012

“The Shock of the New” was of interest primarily because it was a relatively early attempt to popularise and explain Modernist visual art on television. But in many ways, it still had much more in common with the likes of Kenneth Clark’s “Civilization” than it did with “Ways of Seeing”.

eamonncork - September 9, 2012

Good point. I agree with you but I’m fond of both approaches. The mandarin approach is a bit more forgivable these days when it turns out that the alternative to it wasn’t the radicalism of someone like Berger but dumbed down lowest common denominator stuff presented by a slumming newsreader or gardener.
Personally I don’t mind Hughes’ air of self regard because his scripts are so brilliant.

WorldbyStorm - September 9, 2012

Very interesting point about modernism on TV, here’s a piece from the NYT which expands on that in the US context.


I’m always struck by how commercial imagery/design/advertising softened up the public in respect to that. And not just ads. Cartoons in particular were chock a block with modernist inspired imagery.

J96 - September 10, 2012

Clough film doesn’t interest me
by Alan Green

I HAVEN’T seen “The Damned United”. I have no intention of seeing the movie or of reading the book that provoked it. I distrust the mixture of ‘fact’ and fiction or, as its called, ‘faction’. Johnny Giles’ disparagement was quite enough for me.

Yet, you can hardly move without some plug slamming you in the face. The Clough family were forewarned enough to support an ITV ‘counter-product’ the other night.

I’m biased. I admit that. I was at Old Trafford the night that Brian Clough died. BBC 5 Live was awash with eulogies and I was asked if I wished to say anything. I responded by saying that I would but ‘they’d’ have to appreciate my remarks were unlikely to be ‘politically correct’. It was their choice.

I said that I saw Clough as one of the greatest managers in British football history, worthy of ranking alongside, in no particular order, Jock Stein, Bill Nicholson, Matt Busby, Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Don Revie: yes, ironically, Revie.

But I also said I thought that he was deeply flawed and that he would never be forgiven, for example, for what he said around the time of the Hillsborough tragedy whose 20th anniversary is almost upon us.

I may as well have lit a fuse. The BBC was inundated with complaints that I’d had the nerve to speak ill of the dead. I regret those complaints but not what I said. Imagine yourself trying to write an obituary about someone that you didn’t like.

My personal experience of Clough was limited. I didn’t know him at Leeds nor, previously, at Derby County. When I visited the City Ground in Nottingham, he appeared that untouchable figure along the corridor. I didn’t approach. I wasn’t remotely as confident or as experienced as I am now.

No, my defining memory of Clough was at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground on April 15th 1989.

I was commentating when the referee decided, seven minutes into the FA Cup semi final, to call a halt to the proceedings. I’d been aware of a crush at the Leppings Lane end but not what it signified.

It wasn’t long before I realised that the game wouldn’t resume and I moved from the commentary area in the main stand downstairs to a position outside the dressing rooms. I wasn’t working for BBC Sport anymore, I’d reverted to the BBC news reporter I’d once been.

I’ve no wish to have to defend myself in court, whatever the strength of my views. So I must be reserved in expanding on what I witnessed with regard to how Clough reacted that day.

I can tell you though I was shocked at how he refused an invitation to join the then Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish in going to the public address box to speak to the fans of both clubs. You can imagine how appalled I later was reading his newspaper accusation that Liverpool fans themselves had been drunk contributing to the disaster: blatantly untrue in terms of any meaningful relevance to what happened on that awful day.

So, whatever his undoubted greatness as a manager, don’t expect me to join in any nostalgia about his film portrayal. I don’t feel nostalgic about Clough.

WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2012

As regards nostalgia, Clough was a distant enough name in my memory – given I’ve no great interest in soccer, and only vague stuff like Hillsborough and something of the Nottingham Forest stuff clicked with me.

Indeed I’d for some reason thought he was right wing after all that – particularly Hillsborough and also what he said to Justin Fashanu which was totally out of order. So there you go.

But none of that takes away from the story itself in the book and film which on any level is fascinating and by the way doesn’t reflect well on him at all for much of it. And as a flawed character Clough fascinates me, he seems to have stepped out of a different world given the nature of the 1970s, a more confessional, almost 1990s/2000s place. That’s not necessarily admirable, but it’s interesting.

EamonnCork - September 10, 2012

I always think of Clough as the Mark E Smith of football. An undoubted genius but the longer it went on the less fun it became.

5. Sam Medina - September 9, 2012

Funny thing is, this article is probably now on one of their lists.

WorldbyStorm - September 9, 2012


6. Blissett - September 9, 2012

Only loosely related to the topic, but jesus, weren’t we treated by Galway and Kilkenny today. Greatest game on earth

WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2012

Fantastic stuff and a real cliff hanger. One of those occasions one’s glad they’re coming back again soon.

7. anarchaeologist - September 10, 2012

There’s an entertaining and biased live commentary from the Pat’s vrs Shels game on now if you like your LoI. Still 0-0 at half time. http://www.ustream.tv/channel/st-pats-live-commentary?ref=stream

8. Bits and Pieces « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 6, 2012

[...] Recently mentioned the Pale Blue Dot photograph in this slot, but here’s a chronological view of photographs of Earth and then the Earth/Moon system from space – ironically with no Blue Dot photo. Fantastic stuff. [...]

9. Bits and pieces… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - December 15, 2012

[...] already referenced the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ here, and I’m not sure whether I’m pleased or appalled that there’s something of a [...]

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