Further notes on the cultural hegemony of television

I have blogged before  on television’s rise, rather than fall, in recent years, to become (seemingly) the dominant cultural force. I am always struck, when logging onto twitter, to see that the trending topics are dominated by television (#latelateshow, #ptinvestigates, #cblive) or sport (which is on television) So much for the decentralising, do-it-yourself culture that the internet was supposed to bring to us.

I was struck while reading this somewhat ho-hum Daily Telegraph story by this:

The issue will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday and Mr Purnell says peers must back a an amendment to force television service providers to give top billing to the corporation.

“If we don’t update the rules, we’re at serious risk of losing something very special about our British culture,” Mr Purnell argues.

“This isn’t about forcing people to watch public service programmes, or stopping anyone watching American shows we all love. It is about making sure you can find them easily”

 

The line “American shows we all love” is perhaps not one I should overinterpret, but I am going to do so anyway – surely it is indicative of a kind of flattening of cultural interests. I have never really seen the appeal of a certain kind of glossy, slick US TV show which flaunts a kind of superficial realism and knowingness, a kind of self-congratulatory “good writing”, a kind of moral superiority… and is expertly packaged to manufacture a kind of cult-like enthusiasm. The endless one-liners, the monocultural worldview (with a superficial emphasis on “diversity”), the remorseless sense of a corporate agenda wrapped up in superficially rebellious dress.

I know I have used the word “superficial” quite a lot there.

And I have given no actual specific examples.

To hell with it – let’s just say that if you talk about “American shows we all love”, include me out.

Bird feeding in Mid March – Greenfinches

Continuing my occasional bird feeding notes – but this time with original pictures!

The wonderfully-shot Wild Ireland documentary inspired me to reconsider my childhood dream job – wildlife photographer/cameraman. Why did this ever fall off my radar? Partly the common adolescent/late teenage/early adulthood loss of interest in wildlife, partly a certain lack of confidence in my artistic ability in general.

Recently, of course, most of us carry a digital camera every where we go via our smartphones. I have tried taking photos of animals, but what in real life is a magnificent, clearly visible creature is a small dot in most photos I have taken.

This has changed somewhat with the advent of a bird feeder that sticks to the window. After some time birds seem fairly OK with feeding while I am there. One rather well-fed looking greenfinch in particular seems to be quite happy with my (relative) proximity:

Murphy Devitt Studios Stained Glass in Chapel of St Anthony, Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel

This installment of the occasional images of stained glass I post, mainly (but not exclusively) from Tipperary, has a little more detail than usual. The last Tipperary post I made was on the unexpected delight of discovering the stained class in the Church of the Visitation in Cloneen. Today I made another delightfully unexpected discovery. I took some shots of the stained glass in the Chapel of St Anthony in the Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel. In the corner of the one of the panels was the following:

 

This allowed me to find out the glass was made by Murphy Devitt studios. From that page:

In the early 1950s at Harry Clarke Studios, Dublin, John (Johnny) Murphy and John (Des) Devitt first met. By 1958 Johnny and Des along with Johnny’s wife Róisín Dowd Murphy decided to strike out alone and immediately started to create some of the most stunning stained glass ever seen in Ireland and beyond. It was a relationship that lasted almost fifty years, most notably in the form of Murphy/DevittStudios Limited from 1969-1990. In 2006, shortly after the passing of Des Devitt, Johnny was quoted as saying “we only ever wanted to create the best work we possibly could and we were happy that we did”. Within 2006 Des, Johnny and Róisín all passed away but their legacy of literally hundreds, quite possibly thousands, of the most avant-garde, radical and truly beautiful stained glass windows live on in the churches, public buildings and homes of Ireland and beyond.

 And so to the present day. Reiltín Murphy and Anthony Devitt are delighted to bring you this website dedicated to the work of these wonderful characters and talents. As we build the site we look forward to crediting every person who worked with the Murphy/Devitt partnership over the years. We welcome all contact from anyone with any information or stories you would like to share with us. Please click on the Contact tab above to get in touch.

The ultimate aim of our project is to provide a comprehensive catalogue and history of this incredible, life-long, partnership which continues to this day between the Murphy and Devitt families. Reiltín is immersed in hundreds of original cartoons and drawings and chasing down locations while Anthony is sifting through documentation, slides and photographs. If you have any information please DO contact us and don’t assume we know as we are finding out new things every day.

There is also a wonderful gallery of some Murphy Devitt work on the homepage of John Murphy’s daughter, Reiltín.

So, even more so than usual, it is with some embarrassment that I post my not very well taken photos of the beautiful work made by the Murphy Devitt studio. These wonderful pieces were created by artists whose techniques and approaches I know very little about. And my smartphone camera skills are probably adequate for family shots, but not to do this work justice. But here goes…:


Yeats on Kipling: “I dislike his works so much that I feel sure it must have something to teach me”

A letter to the TLS:

Sir, – Jan Montefiore’s review of Alexander Bubb’s book on Kipling and Yeats (February 24) deserves a footnote. The Irish journalist Lionel Fleming, while on the staff of the Irish Times, met Yeats several times. On one occasion Yeats remarked: “It might surprise you to know what I am reading. It is Kipling. I dislike his works so much that I feel sure it must have something to teach me” (see Fleming’s Head or Harp, 1965).

KLAUS PETER JOCHUM
University of Bamberg, 96045 Bamberg.

There’s also an interesting letter from Martin Scorsese responding to a review of “Silence” (at the same link)

“People who are not expecting to cry will cry.”

“People who are not expecting to cry will cry.”

I would not necessarily expected to have found an article on what will happen when Queen Elizabeth II dies as gripping as I did, but Sam Knight’s piece in the Guardian is a fascinating, and in ways disturbing read.

annigoni

While Knight reveals some of the hitherto secret details – such as “London Bridge is down” as the code phrase to mark Elizabeth’s death – and discusses the immediate issues of Charles’ succession – the real interest of the piece is the psychological impact that the Queen’s death will have:

More overwhelming than any of this, though, there will be an almighty psychological reckoning for the kingdom that she leaves behind. The Queen is Britain’s last living link with our former greatness – the nation’s id, its problematic self-regard – which is still defined by our victory in the second world war. One leading historian, who like most people I interviewed for this article declined to be named, stressed that the farewell for this country’s longest-serving monarch will be magnificent. “Oh, she will get everything,” he said. “We were all told that the funeral of Churchill was the requiem for Britain as a great power. But actually it will really be over when she goes.”

Knight links this to Brexit, to the possibility (again) of Scottish independence. Elizabeth’s coronation, in ways, marked the beginning of television age in Britain, and her death and burial will no doubt be over-interpreted in ways, but Knight’s piece is compelling in its evocation of an inevitable event that will mark a more than symbolic watershed.

queen coinwarhol_2348861k

The most arresting line is at the end of this paragraph (though I do wonder how Brian Masters could possibly have come up with his estimate):

People will be touchy either way. After the death of George VI, in a society much more Christian and deferential than this one, a Mass Observation survey showed that people objected to the endless maudlin music, the forelock-tugging coverage. “Don’t they think of old folk, sick people, invalids?” one 60-year old woman asked. “It’s been terrible for them, all this gloom.” In a bar in Notting Hill, one drinker said, “He’s only shit and soil now like anyone else,” which started a fight. Social media will be a tinderbox. In 1972, the writer Brian Masters estimated that around a third of us have dreamed about the Queen – she stands for authority and our mothers. People who are not expecting to cry will cry.

No matter what one thinks of monarchy – or The Monarchy – this is one of those instances where I can only urge Read The Whole Thing. Knight writes that the life expectancy for a 91 year old is four and half years – but of course Elizabeth has very good maternal genes for longevity, and London Bridge is likely to have some years yet before falling.