Updates / Attractions
'CrossKultur' festival, Berlin
Reading + Talk,
Monday December 10
Urania Centre, Berlin
New in 'Articles': 'John Terry' and A date with Tom Wolfe (classic from the archives)
New pics in 'Gallery'
Nigerian Olympic Showcase,
Theatre Royal, Stratford, London
July 26 and July 30
Readings/ discussion with Diran and writers Nnorum Azonye Rotimi Babatunde, Helon Habila, Ade Solanke, and Zainabu Jallo.
Some links. First, to a link to a 'Channel 4 News' debate on the UK Queen's Jubilee that I took part in:
Chelsea player John Terry after the court verdict. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
Also, to a discussion on BBC's 'Today' programme, about the use of the insult 'Choc Ice' in the John Terry- football and race-court case saga...BBC link
The article I wrote for 'The Observer' newspaper on wider aspects of the matter is posted in 'Articles'. There's also a Sky news interview I did after part 2 of the saga, when former England captain Terry was found guilty by a FA disciplinary panel, but can't find a decent length clip of it online as yet. Shall post if I do.
My man Nick Barlay is out with a fine, typically off-centre new novel, 'La Femme d'un Homme Qui'. It's currently in French only, but here's a link to a great review....link
A poet writes!
So - this is slightly strange. The esteemed poet Tomaz Salamun, whom I met at a writers' retreat in Italy a while back (see gallery) has published a collection set during that period in which yours truly features some. Haven't got a copy yet, so I couldn't tell you what's in ' "I don't like Proust. He didn't have Enough Sex", Diran Says', and some others, but here's one. I'm very touched. Not everyday one is made the subject, especially by a poet of serious stature. Not totally across what he means here ('Meaning' not necessarily the point of poetry, of course) but it sure sounds scandalousJ
Click here to read...
I’ve always thought Camus’s
‘there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn’
a goodie, as far as one’s serenity levels go. You imagine
someone armed with a healthy degree of scepticism already
who has the wherewithal to crank it up some gears when spurned
by a boy or girl or club or employer or institution…Yeah,
solid. Not true in all cases, obviously – you can’t
scorn hunger, but truer, I think, than old Freddy Nietzche’s
much quoted, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you
stronger.’ In my observation, what doesn’t kill
you - that ‘almost-killed/ killing-you-stuff he’s
talking about - is as likely to make you weaker, certainly
enough for his view to be no more than half-true. I had a
lot of time for Freddy when I read him – a really dynamic,
fluent style, translated into English, and hey, you can’t
say that of Dostoyevsky, but he was a bit of a show-off. Liked
Another one I’m fond of (and I forget who wrote it now)
is: ‘In life one must choose between boredom and suffering.’
This seems to me to accurately get to the starkness of the
choice, that Rubicon river moment, that many at some point
face: on the one side, steady job, some status, security and
the acceptance of a certain kind of responsibility. On the
other, dreams and difficulty and another (voluntary) responsibility.
Ah, but only one way lies glory…
My own one-line guide to the fair, serene life might be: ‘Don’t
hurt anybody. Pay unto Caesar (as quick as you can) then follow
Or, similar, these reflections from the musician David Mancuso
on his early days (courtesy of the literary blog, ‘Savannahs
of the Mind’)
"I just want to live and be happy. I was happy to be
able to pay my rent, to have my independence. This was like
the best thing in the world for me. I had no real ambitions
at this point... Just make friends, enjoy myself, and be responsible...
Basically, I didn't get into any trouble. My independence
was very important to me."
‘Iconic’: word of the year (again!)
People, Napoleon astutely observed, do not want to be free.
They think they do, but no, they want to be led, and nowhere
do we see the truth of this more clearly than in the way in
which certain words and expressions are taken up and achieve
near ubiquitous currency. Long-time readers of mine will know
that the trajectory of words - particularly slang words -
interests me: who is it who first uses a particular word in
a slang way? How does that word gain critical mass?...But
there is no mystery around how a word achieves world domination
once it has reached critical mass, That's courtesy of a whole
heap of sheep clambering on board.
Three years ago the word, the phrase in UK business and corporate
circles was ‘Going forward...’ You suddenly couldn't
move in this country for guys and girls in suits saying, 'Dah,
dah-dah-, going forward, dah dah, dah...’ They weren’t
using it, of course, to enhance clarity or to improve their
spoken English – most of the time the phrase was used
redundantly. No, they were using it to ‘sound the part’,
to solidify their business-player credentials. Presumably,
some financial hotshot used the phrase originally, and then
all business types, or arts company leaders keen to show that
they were now properly business-minded, adopted it ad nauseam.
(Much of the world of Suits is, of course, a scam. Management
consultants, PR people, psychologists, etc. You wear a suit,
have a decent accent, use phrases like ‘Going Forward...’
and, on the strength of those, charge somebody £500
And then, two to three years ago, the word became ‘Iconic’.
I haven’t been able to turn on the radio or the telly
or open a newspaper without someone using that word since.
It’s just been crazy. Rarely in my lifetime have I seen
a word so overused.
Me and ‘Iconic’, or, more precisely, ‘Iconoclast’
go back a long way. It was one of three funky new
words I once plucked from a book - a cricket book, I
think it was. ‘Iconoclast’, ‘prodigious’,
I forget the third... I added them to my little ‘Words’
notebook and thought, ‘Yeah, Diran, you’re moving
to the major leagues, vocab-wise...’ I admit I
did hammer ‘iconoclast’ for a while: every school
assignment - it could be Science homework, I didn’t
care, I would try to get ‘iconoclast’ in there.
But I was eight, and there was a kind of honesty to it: me showing
my excitement, developing a prose personality ...
The media (the chief culprits here), have no such excuse.
For them, in their typically lazy, truth-shy and sensationalising
way, ‘Iconic’ has become this shorthand to add
a usually spurious lustre or grandeur or sense of importance
to a matter. If you’re doing a report about some event
or an actor or a football match or a festival, call it ‘Iconic’.
When Michael Jackson passed a couple of years ago, my first
thought, as I posted on old Facebook ar the time, was, ‘Oh
no, now we’re gonna hear ‘Iconic’ more than
ever...’ And we did and, for once, to be fair, it was
fair enough for the media to rinse that word. But what was
definitely disturbing, to me, was how much your average semi-literate
Brit intoned the word ‘Iconic’ in all the Vox
Pops that followed. I mean, if somebody asked you how you
felt about some artist or statesman who’s just died,
you don’t say first of all, ‘he/she was iconic’.
You think about a performance he gave or a speech he made,
and your response is anchored, is tinged with that remembrance.
‘Iconic’ is an historian’s, an analyst’s
word. And, believe me, most of these people did not look like
they would have known what ‘Iconic’ was if Iconic
had hit them on the head a year or so earlier. You could see
that, rather than the balls or the honesty to actually think
about what they felt, they were reaching for the acceptable
word to use, based on what they had heard in the media that
day and the previous months of ‘Iconic’ battery.
It reminded me of the whole ‘Role model’ bollox.
Now, if a child fails at school or a man sleeps with someone
other than his ever-loving wife, rather than being prompted
into a bout of self-examination, they talk about the lack
or poor quality of Role Models, because it’s allowed
- it’s all over the public discourse. They’ll
say it, and everybody will nod.
I notice advertisers are increasingly jumping on the ‘Iconic’
bandwagon, As I’ve been writing this, I’ve
heard, from the TV behind me, ‘Iconic’ being used
in three ads – for some new Jeep and for the new Paul
Simon and Paul McCartney albums. And when I switched the TV
channel - ‘cos I don’t care for ads even
at their better, uniconic times - to my default station, the
BBC World Service, I was greeted by reporter Matt Frei using
the word four times in eight minutes, on the show ‘Americana’.
Four times! I met Matt in DC a few years back – seemed
a nice, bright guy with an interestingly large number of Nigerian
friends, but Matt, my man, that was poor. Don’t they
have editors at the World Service anymore?
The advertisers-media interface around this shouldn’t
surprise, I guess. The latter seems increasingly about
selling too. Even the BBC is not ad-free anymore (thick, these
days, with ads about itself).
A decade or so ago, for my own slightly mad reasons, I began
keeping a list of every time I heard or read ‘Africa’
being referred to as if it was one country, or even a city,
rather than a continent, in the media ‘The
terrorist attacks in Kabul, Mumbai and Africa,’ etc
etc etc. No wonder Sarah Palin was confused). I stopped when
I got to about a thousand instances. (Still got the list.
Maybe I should embroider all the text on a massive sheet and
become a celebrated YBA). Anyway, I’ve been doing the
same with ‘Iconic’. The entries for 2009 and 2010
might exhaust even the internet’s bandwidth.
But let me give you, without further ado, a little flavour
of Iconic 2011...
‘Now, on Channel 4, the iconic British film, Get Carter…’
'Alex Zane interrogates Kieffer Sutherland about his iconic
role on '24' “they attacked some of our most iconic
places,” (London deputy mayor Kit Malthouse,)
‘Franklin Graham, son of iconic Christian evangelist
Billy Graham...’ ‘Paul Daniel's wig, an iconic
piece of TV history,’ ‘The 'iconic' Hove and Portsmouth
seat won by Blair in 2005..’ ‘the iconic English
brand Cadbury,’ ‘Mrs Thatcher’s Iconic handbag,’
‘The Savoy's iconic 'American' bar...’ ‘the
iconic Skylon,’ ‘the regeneration area between
Westway and Paddington is one of London's iconic projects.’
‘iconic locations such as Lindisfarne castle in
Northumberland... ‘the iconic parliament building,’
‘the iconic site on which Britain's oldest house has
just been found’
‘Harlem: the BBC traces the iconic neighbourhood's changing
fortunes.’ ‘BBC Radio 6 is a station that brings
together the cutting edge of today and the iconic and groundbreaking
music of the past 40 years."
‘Rod Stewart performs some of his iconic hits that made
him a music legend...'‘A new song collection from one
of the most iconic artists of all time, (Paul Simon)’,
‘The iconic solo albums Macartney and Macartney
2’ ‘the iconic Arnold Schwarzenenegger’,
‘the iconic Marvin Gaye 's What's Going On'.
A few press releases: ‘Don’t miss! This
is the sensational live show of the iconic 70s movie that
exploded legend Jimmy Cliff and Reggae onto the world stage’
‘Find our work inside and outside three iconic
buildings, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and The
Hayward...’ ‘Angela featured in the iconic 1981
film Burning an Illusion’ ‘This wild, hot and
about to happen new trio mixes iconic vocalist/bassist Binise’s
Congolese roots with Miriam Makeba covers...’
More BBC: ' the iconic Aushcwitz gates'. ‘the death
of the iconic Bill Mclaren -'The President picks up an iconic
award.' ‘And now, behind the scenes of an iconic hotel,’
‘To mark 25 years of Black Adder, the iconic cast
of Black Adder...’ ‘Did you jump at the
chance to be in this iconic film (Brighton Rock)? ' ‘Now,
playing us out with one of her most iconic songs,’ (Kirsty
. 'I think it is iconic and highly significant' UK Defence
Secretary Liam Fox on Bin Laden's death. (said four times
in three minutes in a BBC Radio interview)
Animals: ‘The return of the iconic' wildlife series
on ITV...’ ’let’s talk about one of the
most iconic animals – the panda’ (World Service).
‘After years of living with nature's most iconic
predator, a man with a tiger...’
Some sport: ‘It was an iconic, football-changing moment'
(journalist Alyson Rudd talking about Paul Gascoigne’s
tears at Italia ’90), ‘Manny Pacquia is the icon
of the poor’ (World Service’) ‘The Iconic
number 10 shirt of Wales, (Presenter Gabby Logan, then repeated
by her guest),. 'When I got there I saw this iconic stadium'
(West Ham owner David Gold) 'There was none of the iconic
blue and red white smoke at last weekend's Superclasico between
Boca and River Plate..’
‘Here are the iconic images of this tour’ ( Sky
Sports) ’Don't miss your chance to see the most iconic
team in the world. Brazil vs Scotland...’ (‘Talk
Sport.) ‘One of Brazil's new iconic players,’
‘You can buy the iconic Ford Transit,’ (Talk Sport,
plugging their sponsors), ‘As Zidane walked
past the iconic trophy (‘World Cup Most Shocking Moments’
show) ‘The premiership is an iconic league.’ ‘Bobby
Charlton, football icon’ 'The Icons of English
football' (a series in ‘The Mirror’)
And ‘Princess Di’s iconic dresses’, the
‘iconic beauty and luxury in a compact size’ of
some new Jeep or other, ‘and here in Australia’s
most iconic city’, ‘the iconic DCI Jack Meadows
of 'The Bill' ' ‘The Bill - this iconic TV classic ',
‘the iconic sexual frustrations' of Mildred, (of ‘George
and Mildred', a long-forgotten British TV comedy), some BBC
TV trailer for their comedy season, that ended with an actress
I didn't recognize saying 'iconic' to camera. (she was
possibly being ironic - let's hope so) and, finally, one of
those ‘clips and c**ts’ TV shows, 'Pop's greatest
dance crazes', which used the word oh, about, 30 times in
Enough, I think you will agree, already.
Boy! When Mandela dies, it’s gonna be ugly.