Now that I seem to have got back into my stride writing this blog after a rather embarrassed few weeks when I gave it a rest until a felt able to write something which was not about the euro, the EU, the eurozone and related matters, I thought I might tell you all about my fascination with kitsch.
As I first came across the word, and concept, when I was growing up and living in Germany, I still think of it first as a German word and concept. But, like many other German words and concepts, it has been enthusiastically hi-jacked by the Brits and the Anglo-Saxon world so that I’m sure most people think it is an English word. Other German words and concepts similarly hi-jacked by the bloody Anglo-Saxons are Weltanshauung, Angst and Schadenfreude. They are invariably used by rather trendy types, and when they are used in English. I can never quite rid myself of the suspicion that that user is, consciously or not, showing off a little, rather as they will use a French or Italian word and attempt to pronounce it as the French and Italians do. In fact, using a French phrase which is now solidly part of the English language presents a problem: making it sound too French merely shows that you are a pretentious. Giving it a completely English sound merely proves that your a thick twat. The secret is to give it a slightly French pronunciation, but not too much. Tricky that one.
When this happens, the speaker always - always - sinks a little in my estimation, thereby achieving the opposite of what he or she hoped to achieve. The practice has reached rock-bottom in my view with such speakers sticking the German prefix über before words. Such usage always makes me want to puke though I am
well-brought up enough never to do so immediately but to wait until the speaker is no longer present. Unsuprisingly, the Germans (as far as I know) don’t use it in that way at all, which is not, however, to say that they don’t also have a fair proportion of pretentious fuckwits. But back to kitsch.
I think we all know what kitsch is - Kitsch in German - though one man’s kitsch is often nothing of the kind to someone else. I thought of kitsch watching the news on TV a little earlier on when there was speculation about what Danny Boyle would produce to mark the opening ceremony of London 2012. The item previewed what we already knew and commented what might take place by showing footage of similar opening ceremony events at previous Olympic Games. And that’s when I realised that as far as I was concerned every last example shown was kitsch in its purest form. Olympic Games opening ceremony kitsch is, if you like a kind of überkitsch. There, I’ve now done it, too.
I am at a disadvantage here in as far as, apart from the Rome Olympics in 1960 when I was ten and attending a German school in Berlin which meant I was back home every afternoon by 2pm, I have not taken any interest at all in the Games and have not made a point of sitting down in front of the TV with a crate of beer and tray of sandwiches to watch ‘the opening ceremony’. It simply doesn’t grab me, and I still don’t know whether I shall bother watching tonight’s ‘Games event’, due to start in exactly one hour and 35 minutes. (UPDATE: I didn’t.)
But kitsch does fascinate me, and I have often promised myself that if I am ever rich enough to afford a big house with several more rooms than I might actually need, I should like to furnish
one of those rooms in pure kitsch: leopard skin-patterned furniture, pink lights, puky neon-coloured pictures of the Madonna and Child and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, utterly horrible wallpaper, lava lamps, ducks flying along the wall, more pink, mauve and lime green than you might find in a tranny’s wardrobe, that kind of thing. It would be quite challenge - a rather enjoyable challenge - to try to ensure that absolutely nothing was in good taste. It would also be a challenge to try to ensure that everything was bought as cheaply as possible.
After seeing the 5pm TV news and its round-up of previousOlympic kitsch, I listened to the 6pm Radio 4 news in which Danny Boyle spoke - or someone - spoke about what would be intended by the London 2012 opening spectacular and I was a little heartened. He - or the speaker - said that it would
be futile to try to compete on a scale of grandeur and spectacle and that the idea was to give to the world a sense of what Britain was today, and furthermore that it ranged far wider than the usual cliches of the Tower of London and the Queen. Modern Britain was also all about the Sex Pistol and Mr Blobby (he added, thereby showing he is most definitely over 40. So perhaps it won’t be all bad.
Perhaps I should psyche myself up to watch it. We are told that it involves 1,000 participants and - bizarrely - 80 sheep. But I cannot but ask whether as a true reflection of ‘modern Britain’ it will also include scenes of inner-city drunken binge-drinking, looting and riots, widespread public fornication by under-age girls and litter. On balance, I probably think Boyle will have resisted the temptation to give too accurate a portrayal,
. . .
We all have our concept of ‘corruption’, which can range from anything from police and state employs accepting bribes to the devaluation of moral standards (though here I must confess that I have long been convinced that moral standards are as relative as everything else and what is acceptable and unacceptable today is not necessarily acceptable or unacceptable tomorrow. For example, the news that in a year’s time people of the same sex can marry in church would have struck many less than 60 years ago as the stuff of vicious satire.
Then there is the news I have just spotted on the Telegraph website that ‘brain-dead patients might be kept alive so that their parts can be used’. Or then there is the creeping acceptability of official euthansia which, I suspect, will in time - though not for a long time yet - lead to policy of culling our old folk to help manage our care bills.
But let me suggest another instance of corruption.
It is not an obvious one, but it demonstrates and attitude which is very widespread: the computer firm Apple, which last year alone sold more than 25 million of its bloody iPhones has seen its share price fall by, under the circumstances, are rather large 6pc. Why? The firm has made record profits but the rise in profits was lower than what was forecast. Oh dear.
. . .
Despite my repeated promise to keep away from all things euro and EU, I have just come across a report in the respected Der Spiegel magazine about the latest wheeze the European Central Bank has come up with to try to ensure the tide doesn’t come in. (Astute readers will note an oblique reference there to our very own King Canute, who didn’t, as if all-too-often assumed, think he was powerful enough to command the tide not to come in, but who wanted to put in their place fawning courtiers who suggested as much. To show them what dumb wastrels they were he commanded that his throne be positioned on the beach while the tide was out and sat in it as the tide came ever closer and finally closed in around his throne. His point: no one can conquer the tide (which might also, if I could be arsed, which I can’t, serve as a useful link to a discussion of the Tao).
The Spiegel points out that German savers will be hard hit by the latest clever-dick financial manipulations of the ECB, which leads me to wonder just how long the patience of the average German will last. Not quite as long as their idiot political leaders hope, I suspect. And when they do finally lose patience - which will be before September 2013 at the latest, for that is when their idiot political leaders will present themselves for re-election - they will have all my sympathy.
Pensioners who will see their savings shrink alarmingly and savers who will realise there is no point in saving will want to know why exactly they are being asked to agree to a course of action which more and more people think is doomed. And they will increasingly realise that no one, but no one can command the tide not to come in.
. . .
One last thing. I’ve just watched a BBC Four documentary on Thin Lizzy. I had - obviously - Whiskey In The Jar and The Boys Are Back In Town but for some very odd reason I’ve never realised quite how big they were. It was a fascinating documentary, but it has to be said that surely, apart from the great guitarists in the band at different times, of whom Scott Gorham seems to be the standout, if only because he was the longest lasting member (and by all accounts fundamentally a very down-to-earth guy - this is something of an outrageously simplistic account, but the way he says it, he overcame a very debilitating heroin addiction by taking up golf) Phil Lynott’s voice and lyrical talent were the key to their great work. I decided to buy an album and finally opted for Nightlife after hearing part of the song I’m Still In Love With You.