Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Last night, viewers in the Anglia region were treated to a programme called Bygones, in which presenter Eddie Anderson met a man who collected ceramic railway telegraph insulators. The chap was allowed to explain his obsession in some detail, while Anderson appeared genuinely interested in what he had to say.

Although ceramic railway telegraph insulators aren't my bag, it was refreshing and heart-warming to see an out-and-proud anorak presented on TV without masses of ironic detachment and 'ha, look at this sad wanker'-type sneering. The modern media has a 'too cool for school' wariness when it comes to enthusiasts, but all too often relies on them to do its research for free. In a recent survey, it was discovered that 98.7% of all modern TV documentary makers regard Wikipedia (which, apart from the libellous bits about Bryan McFadden, is the province of altruistic anoraks) as a primary source. Meanwhile, I've lost count of the number of times that friends in the archive TV collecting world have been contacted by 'we're so good at telly' pisspots who expect them to reveal all they know in exchange for a pat on the head, a complete and utter lack of understanding of any material thus supplied and a credit that's going to be squeezed to oblivion and talked over anyway.

It's not just the media. In general, modern Britain seems to have a bias against knowledge. Anyone who actually knows anything is instantly categorised as Rain Man. All too often, when someone asks an arcane question about cultural ephemera in my presence, I find myself feigning vagueness and replying with another question: "Wasn't it Freddie 'Parrot Face' Davies? He's coming to mind for some reason". The reason being that I know it's the right bleeding answer, but to come out with it in an authoritative and unequivocal manner would make me look unacceptably smug and twatty.

Well, bollocks to it all. I know about a lot of esoteric things and I like knowing about a lot of esoteric things. Anyone who thinks I'm a bit of a spanner for doing so can work it up their arse. Better something useful like a spanner than a dildo made of blancmange. It's hip to be square. So there.


Phil Norman said...

This is all bang on of course, but I don't think it's a British disease. It seems to have come from America, where their truly demented school system seems to ensure 90% of students grow up into permanently insecure, needy personality vaccuums who want to retain that charming 'thick and snooty 15-year-old nit' persona for as long as possible. Over here you have to pay extortionate fees for that sort of thing, so God knows how it's taken root in this country. Perhaps it came over on the boat with the blueprint for Heat!! magazine.

Thing is, it doesn't suit us. We're descended from Victorian antiquarians pootling about the British Museum on a twenty year quest for evidence of Robin Goodfellow's jockstrap or similar, not Henry Chuffing Winkler. Like Brits applauding themselves on game shows or saying 'can I get..?' in shops, it's a clumsy affectation. Even the words used are foreign and half-understood - 'nerd', 'geek', 'yarbles', 'totally spazmoiderama' etc. What happened to 'wally'?

Shaun said...

"You're not from round here are ya, booy?"

Bygones is an East Angulan institution. It was always presented in the studio by Dick Joice - who was at Anglia from the start of the franchise. Eddie Anderson was his young comer sent out to do the filming of traditional rural crafts - the last cordwanglers and bogle clenchers and whatnot.

The station was always keen on nostalgia. John Huntley of the East Anglian Film Archive was a fixture of my childhood. A man I last saw defending 'the past' on 'The People V. Jerry Sadowitz'.

Come to think of it, your defense of expertise would have made a good bit on that show.

FX: Buzzer

JERRY: Bollocks! Spanners are shit. Fuck off!

LF Barfe said...

Absolutely Phil. Gentleman amateurs coming back from the grand tour with cartloads of souvenirs (some living), which they then use in their lantern-slide lectures. We're a nation of trufflers. We should celebrate it.

Ah Shaun, one side of my family is Norfolk through and through and we spent many summer holidays in Great Yarmouth, so I'm well aware of the history of 'Bygones' and Dick Joice (Remember the days when coming back from holiday with a Radio Times and TV Times from a different region was impossibly exotic?). For example, I can volunteer the information that Joice was one of Anglia's board of directors, too, so was, to all intents and purposes, to Anglia the same as Jack Hargreaves was to Southern. Maybe it would have been in the spirit of the posting to supply a potted history of the prog.

On the subject of East Anglian meeja, this gave me a chuckle or two. Stephen Bumfrey's a very funny chap.


Clair said...

I feel serious is the new rock and roll. Seriously. I can't tell you what a kick I got from a model acquaintaince of mine passing titbits of information on to her writer boyfriend with the words 'Clair says....'. I felt I was educating her, and I loved it.

But knowledge is no longer power. Being a great shag and talking about it is the greatest power you can have nowadays.

Shaun said...

"Maybe it would have been in the spirit of the posting to supply a potted history of the prog."

Or at least put up a picture of a mystery object. And promise us the answer later in the show.


Matthew Rudd said...

My anorak has a furry hood, and it makes me big and clever.

Five-Centres said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm sick of being mocked. I fear for the future.

Clair said...

We read out a few Trivial Pursuit questions in the office today, and I knew most of them (not sports and leisure, obviously), and some people thought I was a genius. I just don't understand why everyone doesn't know what I do.

LF Barfe said...

I would have thought that being a great shag and having other people talk about it on your behalf would be an even bigger power trip. The future's fucked, five-centres. The ones who give a shit just need to huddle together for warmth and support.

Apres la Guerre said...

"Hip To Be Square" - Huey Lewis and The News, Chrysalis Records, catalogue number HUEY6 (7" single), 12HUEY6 (12" single). Also issued on the long-playing record "Fore!", Chrysalis Records CDL1534, and extensively featured in the motion picture "Back To The Future".

Song produced by Huey Lewis and The News, and recorded on three-track in Abbey Road Studio 2 by Ray Prickett and Wally Ridley. The three-track tapes were subsequently sent to Dot Records in Hollywood where Bob Clearmountain remixed them with plenty of cowbell onto DAT. Not the way I'd go...