Ten things I never want to read online again

Just a short list of things that annoy me beyond all reason:

1) “The Liberal Democrats need to get off the fence and say what their actual policies are”
Yep, because it’s not as if we’ve got tons of policy papers out there, or a simple pocket guide to our policies, is it?

2) “Ringo Starr was a terrible drummer”
Ringo got a reputation as a bad drummer because he didn’t lock in with the bass, as was the fashion in British recordings in the early 60s. That isn’t actually bad drumming, and anyone listening to him can tell that he was one of the most imaginative players of his time period. Just listen to Rain, Tomorrow Never Knows or Happiness Is A Warm Gun.

3) “Pet Sounds is the only good Beach Boys album, and other than that they only did crappy surf songs”
Anyone who says this gets their opinions from the music press and hasn’t bothered listening to any of their other albums. Whether you like them or not, for example, you can’t describe Carl & The Passions or Holland (spotify link) as ‘crappy surf songs’.

4) “New Doctor Who is much more sophisticated than the original series”
The original series was trying to do something rather different than the new series – it was working from a British set of TV conventions that are theatrical in origin, rather than an American, cinematic, set of conventions. This can make it difficult for those attuned to the modern style to watch. But that does *not* make it less sophisticated. In fact, on every level on which one can make a reasonable comparison (except effects – and with a few exceptions the old series was nowhere near as bad as its reputation suggests), the old series was vastly superior. Fewer plot holes (note I don’t say ‘no plot holes’), better performances from the leads, better characterisation, more memorable individual lines, and a more coherent worldview. The new series may be shiny, but it’s for the most part a soulless pastiche of the old series made by people who don’t understand it (or who do but fear their viewers wouldn’t – and I don’t know which would be worse).

5) “The free market would run healthcare more efficiently than the NHS”
I don’t believe this for a second, but assume it’s true for a second – as someone who’s seen my (American) wife collapse in the middle of the night, be delirious and unaware of her surroundings, but try to prevent me from ‘phoning an ambulance because her first thought was “We can’t afford it!”, and who’s seen friends in the US believe they have cancer but be unable to afford to have a checkup to find out, I’ll take a little bit of inefficiency over that any day.

6) “I’m buying [Comic X] to support the character, even though I’ve hated the last dozen issues”
The character doesn’t need your support – it’s a fictional character (see also people saying “Dick Grayson deserves a turn at being Batman”). All that you’re doing is encouraging bad comics to be produced.

7) “Grant Morrison’s comics are just weird for weirdness’ sake”
See the comments to this post for several people’s take on this view…

8) “Where are all the female political bloggers?”
here and here and here and here and here. And that’s just the ones on my blogroll.

9) “ZaNuLieBore”
Grow up. As far as I can tell, no critic of New Labour has ever used this ‘word’ – certainly I’ve never seen it. On the other hand, plenty of apologists for them use it as a way of dismissing the arguments of those they disagree with – “Yeah yeh, teh ZaNuLieBore is teh ev1l! We get it, go away.” Not only is this fatuous, but something about the ‘word’, the very look of it, makes me faintly queasy.

10) Any explicit search terms involving Nicola Bryant
Honestly, this really *isn’t* a fetish site for one-time Doctor Who companions.

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21 Responses to Ten things I never want to read online again

  1. s. barrios ("tdaschel") says:

    with you absolutely w.r.t. Ringo. would they (“they”?) prefer Neil fecking Peart?

    “Ringo got a reputation as a bad drummer because he didn’t lock in with the bass”

    indeed — also the case with Bill Bruford (who lost interest in YES fairly early on and wound up on the seminal “math rock” document King Crimson’s RED) and, sheesh, i should also put in a good word for Anthony Koutsos, formerly of Red House Painters and – who knows? – may be drumming for Meester Kozelek still…

  2. hilker says:

    We got plenty of 1) in last year’s US presidential campaign. It was an article of faith among pundits that the comprehensive policy documents on Barack Obama’s website didn’t exist, that his agenda was vague and impossible to pin down, etc. And naturally on the occasions when he did get specific about policy in his speeches, the complaints shifted to “it’s so boring, it put me to sleep, my eyes glazed over,” and so forth.

  3. monstermike says:

    I like it even more when people try to convince you that Ringo was “just lucky.” He was lucky, though – lucky to be blessed with that much talent, creativity, and swing, and lucky to have found material worthy of that talent. I think that more than any musical concerns, Ringo’s reputation has to do with his public persona and the fact that he wasn’t one of the songwriters. John Lennon wanted world peace; Ringo Starr wanted to open a chain of hairdressers.

  4. Debi Linton says:

    6) Guilty!

    Well, sort of. In a way.

    Look, it’s the whole thing with the movies, OK? “Catwoman, Electra that Uma Thurman crap &c were flops because no one wants to see a female superhero.”

    If people don’t buy comics with female protagonists, then the PtB will blame the characters, not Winick/Kreisburg/McDuffie, because they always do.

    Although I don’t buy the truly awful comics, I buy the mediocre titles with my favourite characters to support me, because a poorly written Black Canary is preferable (to me) than yet another white guy with phenomenal cosmic powers, no matter how well he’s written.

    Also, it’s like watching a crap soap opera. I have to know what’s happening.

    • See, that’s not the same thing. You prefer reading a mediocre Black Canary comic to, say, G0dland, but you actually get something out of reading that comic, even if just on the level of ‘I have to know what’s happening’. And I’ve never seen you complain about the writing on any of those titles. There’s nothing wrong with buying a title that’s just mediocre if you’re getting some entertainment out of it.

      It’s the people who say “I want to see the writer of GenericMan sacked, because the last 70 issues have been utterly shit and have raped my childhood” that are the problem. If you think a comic is bad enough that you have to complain about it vociferously, and in some cases call for the writer to lose his/her livelihood, it’s probably best just to not read the comic.

      (To be fair to McDuffie, the current state of JLA is not his fault, but that of editorial).

      I presume, BTW, that you’re reading Wonder Woman at the moment? Simone’s finally making that a readable title. And Detectve Comics should be good when it’s Rucka and WIlliams doing Batwoman in a couple of months…

      • Debi Linton says:

        Huh. Comment notifications didn’t work.

        Actually, I do have problems with the writing on a few of the comics I’m paying money for atm – GA/BC is one of them (I’m not paying for JLA, and I’ll accept that it’s been editorical). I really should write up why exactly.

        But I’m sticking with GA/BC to see what happens when they get seperate titles again and because Kreisburg is still better than Winick (who I didn’t pay for and whose writing I couldn’t stand.)

        I have set up a subscription for Detective Comics as of the very next issue, for obvious reasons but keeping it on because I love Kate and Renee (see, character loyality) especially when written by Rucka.

        Wonder Woman is one of those ‘not yet’ titles. I buy Secret Six because Simone and Scott are a superlative team, but I haven’t worked up loyalty for Woner Woman yet. I should probably get to that.

  5. Hexar says:

    Ringo Starr was a terrible drummer.

    /sorry, had to…

  6. Tilt Araiza says:

    Also alongside 3 is “The Beach Boys are overrated, I listened to Pet Sounds and it did nothing for me”.

    Tied in with 4 is “TV audiences now are more sophisticated than in the (insert era here)”. Audiences are more aware of many plot, dialogue and technical tropes, but they’ll uncritically accept as much bull as any viewer from times past. Just try talking to someone who really believes that this week’s Gordon Ramsay is higher stakes than last time and not actually exactly like every other episode.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Oh God yes, those are two of the most annoying phrases in history. Especially the ‘more sophisticated’ bit. If anything, audiences are *less* sophisticated. ‘Sophisticated’ usually turns out to mean ‘impatient”, so you get audiences who can’t cope with the slow pace of older TV but will accept any drivel so long as it”s fast-moving and shiny. The audience’s understanding of standard tropes just means programme-makers can use them (or, increasingly, shorthand references to them) as a replacement for actual characterisation.

      Modern TV has become as formalised as the Commedia dell’arte, and about as likely to surprise anyone. That this is viewed as ‘sophistication’ is evidence more of the utter ignorance of media commentators than of any improvement either in modern viewers or TV programme makers.

      • Ranald says:

        I think television has become more and less sophisticated simultaneously, because it’s diversified massively with the explosion of number of channels and other delivery mechanisms, especially DVD box sets. The worst contemporary TV is quite possibly the worst TV ever produced, but conversely a show like ‘The Wire’ wouldn’t have had a chance of being made even fifteen years ago, relying as it does on a niche American TV channel and DVD sales.

        (That’s not to say there aren’t great old TV shows, but there were constrained in ways that not all current TV shows are because they needed to have broad appeal to be, well, *broad*cast.)

        Whether things are getting worse or better on average is virtually impossible to judge, but basically irrelevant unless your TV viewing revolves around randomly sampling what’s on rather than choosing what you’d like to watch.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          I actually no longer watch “TV” at all, because the number of things I was finding worth watching was so low I couldn’t justify the license fee (I was very poor at the time). I gave up when in a six-month period the only thing that was on that I thought worth watching was a documentary on Vivian Stanshall, and that simply wasn’t worth the hundred and whatever quid the licence cost. Instead I watch DVDs.

          But having tried most of the ‘must-see TV’ that people write about, especially American dramas (which seem to be to this decade what American sitcoms were to the last one – the thing that everyone goes on about as being much better than the native product even though they’re not actually any good) I find almost all of it insipid, and simply can’t bring myself to care about it. Admittedly, I’ve not yet tried The Wire or Battlestar Galactica, which seem to be the two programmes most spoken-about in the last couple of years, or Charlie Brooker or Stewart Lee’s current shows, both of which sound very much my kind of thing, but I find it harder and harder to care about anything made for TV any more…

        • Tilt Araiza says:

          >a show like ‘The Wire’ wouldn’t have had a chance of being made even fifteen years ago<

          In the US it wouldn’t. In the UK, shows of a similar sort wouldn’t have been a big surprise from the mid-60s onward. They would have been more stagey, have lower production values but that whole sophisticated “novel for television” feel was fairly common for a long time in the UK as I’ve been discovering since a big DVD binge a while ago. I was going for a nostalgic glow by buying a lot of old British TV and instead I got my mind blown. It’s not that the idea of sophisticated drama is out of the question on British TV, but now there’s a hype machine that will say “now we’re making stuff like all that wonderful US TV” that’s rather off-putting.

          • Ranald says:

            Can you recommend any old UK TV drama series that are at that level? I’d love to track them down, but most of the genuine UK classics I’ve seen are comedy.

            • Tilt Araiza says:

              Of course, the risk is I’ll recommend something and you’ll think I’m talking rubbish. A good place to start would be ‘Law & Order’ (say, that’s a pretty catchy title for a drama) a BBC production from 1978. It’s four two-hour plays and it follows a crime through investigation, arrest and the legal process behind the scenes. The thing is, the police and lawyers are shown in as being little different from the criminals.

              In the world of lower production values, a show that really excited me was ‘Spindoe’, a 6 part serial from 1968. It follows a fallen mob boss clawing his way back up after release from prison. It’s very much Richard III in gangland and it’s a bit stagey. I can’t help thinking of it when people discuss ‘The Godfather’. Not because there’s really any parallel in themes, but I’m interested how in ‘The Godfather’ there’s a stoic, manly and (hypocritical) quality of honour about the Corleones, in ‘Spindoe’ the crime lords are slimey, vain, weak and nasty and there’s no pretence at honour. Its semi-sequel ‘Big Breadwinner Hog’ is more famous (due to complaints at its violence) but I prefer ‘Spindoe’.

              Mr. Hickey will no doubt be able to make a case for The Beiderbecke Trilogy.

              As an example of high-quality BBC drama, ‘I, Claudius’ is obvious to the point of cliche, but it really is worth a look. If you get off on that, there’d been a similarly uncompromising look at Roman nastiness in ‘The Caesars’ from 1968.

              Alan Bleasdale’s work is also trotted out ad nauseum as an example of how amazing British TV drama can be, but there is a reason for this.

      • pillock says:

        Of course, as I was just mentioning to Holly…”sophisticated” has another meaning besides “savvy”, and I think THAT meaning makes the assertion quite true. If also pretty damn ironic.

  7. Tilt Araiza says:

    And back to No. 4, I know it’s from 14 years ago, but here’s something to make you spit blood. From http://nzdwfc.tetrap.com/archive/tsv43/onediscussion.html

    Moffat says:

    “When I look back at Doctor Who now I laugh at it, fondly. As a television professional, I think how did these guys get a paycheck every week? Dear god, it’s bad! Nothing I’ve seen of the black and white stuff – with the exception of the pilot, the first episode – should have got out of the building. They should have been clubbing those guys to death! You’ve got an old guy in the lead who can’t remember his lines; you’ve got Patrick Troughton, who was a good actor, but his companions – how did they get their Equity card? Explain that! They’re unimaginably bad. Once you get to the colour stuff some of it’s watchable, but it’s laughable.”

    • Yeah, I’d seen that before. I particularly ‘like’ the bit where Moffat talks about how Bob Holmes was an incompetent hack and should never have put the rat in in Talons Of Weng-Chiang because he should have known that the BBC couldn’t do the effect.

      Because obviously in something like Doctor Who it’s far better to go for the safe option that you know can be done than to try for something difficult and occasionally fail. The man’s a cretin.

      Moffat irritates me more than the rest of them actually, because he actually has some talent. When I watched the third series of nuWho in one sitting (people lied to me and said it had got better – it hadn’t. I’ve not watched the fourth or the Xmas episodes and have no intention of watching any more) most of it was unutterably awful. But Blink – Moffat’s one – was a genuinely gripping piece of television (it helped that it barely had the Doctor in at all). However, much of the plot centred around mocking nerdy nerdy nerds – especially one called Lawrence, which seemed to me to be a wholly unnecessary dig at Lawrence Miles, and just seemed nasty.

      • Prankster says:

        I’ve seen almost nothing of the original Who and only the first season of NuWho, which I did indeed find to be painful, but you’ve touched on a personal issue of mine. Namely, my dislike of the current trend, especially in genre shows, to avoid anything too wildly imaginative and weird because it either couldn’t be pulled off or would “ruin the tone”. I’m not saying these aren’t legitimate considerations, and yes, sometimes restraint is the better option. But SF and fantastical worlds have been getting more and more repetitive and unimaginative in TV and the movies, precisely (it seems to me) because no one wants to attempt to do something too “far out” that might end up looking campy, or be too nerdy, or too removed from our everyday experience, even though these are pretty much exactly the reason you make Science Fiction in the first place. BSG, mentioned above, was frequently a great show (and sometimes an awful one, especially that past season) but its insistence on making everything as close as possible to our world wasn’t just annoying, it actively hurt the show.

        Here’s another bete noir of mine: aliens. When was the last time you saw aliens used in a SF movie or TV show, except as simplistic, slimy boogeymen? (Um, I guess that would be the new Who. But over here in North America the options are even more limited.) Hollywood has obviously decided that aliens are generally too hard to pull off believably in today’s modern, “sophsticated” entertainment. And I can see why they’d think that, but looking back at the SF of the past, they often achieved wonders with puppets and makeup, and even when they didn’t, they often managed to sell it just by committing to the premise. Even today, few people find Spock to be inherently silly–he’s too iconic. He’s crossed the hurdle of disbelief. And I still can’t imagine people having a problem with Yoda (classic model) or Chewbacca. The human imagination can do some of the work.

        The reason this is a sore point with me is that I think the lack of aliens in entertainment has unintended consequences. If entertainment reflects and affects the zeitgeist, this seems like a surefire sign that we’ve stopped trying to relate to “the other”, to put ourselves in the shoes of another culture or even another person. There’s no better way to examine the follies and preconceptions of our own society than to reflect them back through another, different one. It seems like mainstream culture isn’t making that effort anymore.

        This is a lot of weight to put on the shoulders of the occasional bad puppet, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch…

        • Tilt Araiza says:

          NuWho was brought about by a producer who announced the Doctor wouldn’t visit alien worlds because, in his words, “no-one cares about Planet Zog”.

        • I agree with pretty much all of that. And from what you’re saying, you’d probably like the very early Doctor Who – when William Hartnell was the Doctor. Back then, the show hadn’t fallen into any kind of formula, and they still thought they could do *anything*. It sometimes failed, but you’d always give them marks for trying. And Doctor Who has always been about trying to relate to ‘the other’ – if you could find one unifying theme of the original 26-year series that would be it. It often fell into formulae (the Troughton eras were almost all base-under-seige stories, while Pertwee’s first few years were all alien invasion stories, pretty much) , but at its best it’s one of the most imaginative TV shows ever.

  8. anattendantlord says:

    (delurking, or whatever the appropriate term from Twitter is)

    Interesting list, not sure I’m convinced by all the details but #7 cheered me up. Anyway, it’s #9 I’m responding to: I take your point, but I’m sure I have seen some variant of ZaNuLabour or ZaNuLieBore among other unsavoury incoherence at Comment is Free (whose subtitle seems increasingly to be forgotten).

    See also
    http://www.matthewturner.co.uk/Blog/2009/04/loonneedstogetagrippquikkly.html
    for a hopefully atypical, but perhaps mildly amusing, variation.

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