From the album ‘Holiday Destination’ (2017)
From the album ‘Holiday Destination’ (2017)
We live in an age where most celebrity is manufactured and unmerited, and as a result it is now abundant. If you’ll pardon the double entendre, there are tiers of fame. Which category the consensus prescribes them is widely understood to be a universal concern, so universal in fact, that in an effort to preserve the salience of their exceptionalism, all celebrities ultimately become faced with the question – is just being famous now enough?
This existential conundrum is faced by three sage celebrity wankers, who, in the most glorious of ironies, reside on a judging panel for a trite talent show which churns out disposable celebrities that are diluting the status. Wanker one is a B-lister, the second wanker is a generic ubiquitously available media personality, while the third is a celebrity for his acerbic criticism of more sophisticated entertainment, whose fame has increased exponentially since he ‘sold out’.
You see, and it’s crucial to understand this, our three wankers believe they had earned their fame. They’d routinely woken up at 4:30 am to self-publicise on drab breakfast shows, taken low paying parts in bad movies and television shows, worked eighty hour weeks as a newspaper editor, spent many a grey Thursday afternoon promoting at local community centres and all else in-between. Everyone has to start somewhere, and our three wankers had started at the bottom doing things that they loathed. This too, in an era where the route to fame was often not instant, nor was it cultivated entirely in the media glare, their rises predating social media and even the internet.
So, it’s understandable that the wanker’s views of these wannabees are jaundiced at best, but often latently resentful. By comparison these wannabee wankers have it easy. The only hardship for them is some ritual (and often willingly self-inflicted) humiliation and the absolute invasion of privacy during the proliferation of their fame. These auditions, the pre-sifting through hours of detritus to find something or someone with any discernible talent, often tested the wanker’s well-paid motivation to be forgiving or polite.
If we’re being cynical, and, as you’ve surely gleaned by now, we are, it’s clear the producers filmed the audition stage to induce scorn, and for additional profit. The auditions supplied the audience’s demand for gratification by reaffirming that normalcy is still the prevailing sociological construct. There was nothing more normal or satisfying than drinking a warm cup of schadenfreude at seeing the equally unexceptional fail on a cold day. That’s why, in part, the wankers were paid so handsomely, when faced with someone or something so dire, it was their responsibility to make a spectacle of vanquishing hope for a baying horde of losers.
As a formula it is despicably simple, when cuntishness and awfulness meets the scope for infamy is considerable. The ultimate aim was the same for the wankers and the show’s producers – to create an incident so exotic, idiotic or inexplicable that it embeds itself in the public’s hive memory, as the public reaction to, and media coverage of, the death of Princess Diana, the disappearance of Madelaine McCann or the 11th of September attacks have. That, in the twenty-first century, is the zenith of fame. The wankers failed to appreciate that they were perpetually on the precipice of such immortality, and no wonder, they were six hours in to their fourth day in a row of wading through wannabee wankers, and then Conrad appeared.
‘Oh fuck, this one looks comatose’ muttered wanker one to his colleagues.
‘Do you prefer them verbose?’
‘I prefer them to be something, to do something.’
‘Take your time pet.’
‘Ok, ok, ok.’
‘Right, what’s your name?’
‘Tell us more.’
‘I live in Reading, but I’m from Grimsby.’
‘No jobs back home…but I do miss my mum and dad.’
‘Grimsby’s not that far.’
‘What do you do’, wanker two conscientiously changing the subject upon resumption.
‘Work in KFC’ he offered sheepishly, visibly hesitating before continuing, ‘The great thing about missing home is it makes you realise who you are even more.’
Wankers one and two maintained physical diplomacy but their stomachs recoiled or they felt the urge to vomit at such rehearsed, disingenuous sentimentality. Wanker three reacted differently, his guffaw was reminiscent of someone evacuating in the toilet stall next to you – a reverberation followed by hushed exhalation. Wanker three’s tone was misanthropic, revealing absolute disgust that he was guilty by association of inculcating such scripted sentimentality. Everyone, including Conrad, was taken aback by wanker number three’s candour. It didn’t fit in with his phlegmatic droll, the instantaneousness of his response also betrayed his proclivity for dramatic pauses, which doubled as an overarching attempt at being enigmatic, so much so it had become a cultural meme.
‘You look a bit sad, c’mon lad.’
‘Well, you look like Rolf Harris, dad.’
The producer winced in the control room and demanded the wankers divert the conversation away from famous paedophiles. Meanwhile our third wanker visibly froze. Still trying to kerb their laughter at Conrad’s quip, but failing to do so, wanker one muttered to number two that three ‘looks more like the KFC Colonel than Rolf Harris’ but conceded that they did look somewhat similar. It should be noted that number one’s critiquing of others appearance was astonishingly hypocritical. Thanks to an addiction to diuretics, a bulimia regimen and a DIY corset created by a high waist line and a canny stylist, one managed to retain a slightly overweight physique that the Glossy Mags agreed remained just on the acceptable side of slovenly.
‘You fat bulbous…fat, fucking fat twat, fucking fat cunt, the state of…fat bastard, Oprah, lard arsehole, globular…fuck, fucking, fuck, fuck, fat chip shop cunt, you, Mr Blobby…shit, fucker, fatty, fatso, you waste of flabby skin, you fucking cottage cheese cunt! Take your tits and fuck off, back to whatever fucking northern backwater you…fucking…how fucking dare you say that to me! Who the fuck are ya!’
At the halfway point of this meltdown the studio cameras were switched off at the behest of the production team, pointlessly. Smartphones had been produced en-masse by runners, sound technicians and other assorted onlookers to record the rant. You might expect they’d upload it to YouTube for posterity. Wrong. They had no altruistic motive to disseminate it. The person with the best copy would receive a significant sum of money from a Redtop for its rights, who then would. After an interval of forty minutes, where apologies were made and smartphones recharged, the auditions continued with Conrad being given a mulligan as a placatory measure.
The pathos of the wankers is a symptom of the vacant banality of fame, which, when exposed to persistent displays of unwarranted adulation, warps any affinity with commonality. The wankers are expected to be aloof, perhaps coldly distant, as the expectations of celebrity practice, maintaining a distance, to preserve their privacy, has supplemented their self-indulgence in elitist behaviours. These include shows of bourgeois or narcissistic processes related to wealth and vanity; preposterously white veneers, or having a larger entourage than necessary. Such uniform conformity from the ‘out of touch’ is disingenuously lamented, but its existence allows reversion to a vainglorious analysis, that placed in their position we would behave differently.
This egotistical myopia, itself a cultural phenomenon, also explains another – why the victims of infamy are seldom remembered. It’s always the perpetrator, be it serial killers, child killers or spree killers. For behaving so differently, they become celebrities after the fact, but there’s another echelon which confounds us all – a celebrity who becomes homicidal. That is being different, and abusing your celebrity status. Its effect is shockingly emphatic because homicidal acts by those who stand to lose a lifestyle, status and affluence so many covet is unexpected, and to them inexplicable. It reveals an uncomfortable truth most seek to avoid, that wealth, status and fame are not synonymous with contentment. Take OJ Simpson, you remember him, you remember his wife, but what about her name? Does it roll off the end of your tongue? Or that other fella she was fucking? Exactly, who cares? You remember OJ because he did something exotic, something extreme, something obscene, and he didn’t apologise for any of it. OJ (probably, but this doesn’t matter either) wiped both of them out in oversized gloves then drove around in a white jeep harbouring suicidal thoughts for hours, in full knowledge that most of this was being televised. That’s panache. That’s memorable. But just how to eclipse it?
As Conrad retook the stage wanker one found the answer with an epiphany – he’d try and kill wanker number three. Whether he succeeded or failed would be neither here nor there. Disfigurement of some kind would suffice. With video evidence of the contestant’s fat shaming sure to be committed to mass media, the foundations of a road to absolution followed by redemption and then ultimate immortality were laid. All he needed was wanker three to relapse spectacularly, offering an incitement to violence.
‘What’s your name?’
‘So, what are you going to perform for us today.’
Wanker two’s face began to sink.
‘It’s called General Gayboy, about an ordinary Gayboy who just happens to be a general.’
A disbelieving silence descended, a tense eagerness began to build as the soft whirling of the air conditioning was punctuated by impatient indeterminate shuffling, sniffling, coughing and scratching. Everyone was waiting for a cue, and thanks to a mixture of boredom and disgust, wanker three happily obliged.
‘Right, this lad’s a fucking a plant?’
‘Oh, c’mon now!’
‘Fuck off. There’s shit, then there’s this.’
‘This is taking the fucking piss, I’m not doing it, not this.’
‘Sit down and control yourself.’
‘Fuck off Aaron, back in your fucking box.’
‘Take your headset and ram it up your fucking ringpiece, or are they attached?
‘Calm down, you’re embarrassing.’
‘Fuck off. He’s a fucking vegetable, a total fucking loser, fucking get rid of him.’
‘Who are you talking about now?’
The ostentatiously delicate architecture of wanker number two’s bouffant allowed it twitch before her body could flinch. One sound followed another; the back of a chair slapping the hard laminated floor, soles screaming on that same surface, typical male grunting and gnawing. Close your eyes and it could be anything; snuff porn, a basketball game, or a Michelin starred chef working frantically. There were enough people in attendance to form an enthusiastic hiss of bewilderment at what they were now witnessing, that it failed to subside doubled the anticipation as to what would follow.
The second wanker’s shame at being associated with a vulgar form of self-loathing machismo was fleeting, it quickly turned to envy whilst watching the first wanker attempt to garrotte the third. It was going to be pervasive; the producers would construct the footage into a narrative that would demonise and demolish wanker three over several media cycles. She envisioned how the audience of acolytes and wannabees would reach a unified state of delirium at watching and re-watching this over generations. Wanker one was going to gain millions of followers on Twitter, perhaps even enjoy a Howard Beale-esque reinvention. In the short term, her profile would gain traction, but it would not last, as her role in the scene was insignificant. She just happened to be there, like Conrad, who cut a solemn figure in the spotlight.
From the album ‘Aja’ (1977)
From the album ‘Danger In Paradise’ (1984)
So yeah, another season. Time flies, doesn’t it?
And during transfer season so does the money. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss where it’s going and to who.
I’d imagine many of you were left aghast by last summer’s grotesque, excessive, vacuous, often profligate, and quintessentially Tory spending in the transfer market. Well, this summer’s spending, and the associated media hype that this level of unregulated consumerism masquerading as competition (laughably, this is Financial Fair Play according to UEFA) is enviably aspirational, will probably heighten your exasperation still more.
We all understand the mechanisms of inflation – an entity’s value is driven by its perception, supply and demand. It’s the rate of inflation in football that’s becoming a nebulous concept. The mistaken scepticism many fans on median incomes hold of football’s current economic sustainability occurs when attempting to relate the industry’s rate of inflation with normalcy.
To compensate for this growing disparity we forlornly and piously point to other examples of shock market corrections – the housing market, or banks trading hollow Derivatives, to enrich the delusion that a one will soon descend on football and ground its avarice. But when clubs such as Everton, who play at the antiquated Goodison Park (the most polite euphemism possible – it’s a dilapidated shithole), have paid £30m for Jordan Pickford (who has thirty odd Premier League games in his career) and is being encouraged by Swansea City to bid £50m for Glyfi Sigurdsson, you’ll wonder if it’ll ever come. And if it does, so what? There’s currently another housing bubble on the go, and banks and bankers are still paying themselves exorbitant bonuses for ‘creating wealth’.
The recent transfer of Neymar to Paris St. Germain offers us a point of reference for the new normal. Many are bemoaning it as excessive and damaging, but think about this – if Kyle Walker is worth £50m, then surely Neymar, a significantly better player who plays a far more influential position, is worth at least four times that? Two wrongs don’t make a right, but juxtaposing both deals appropriately contextualises the current market, and makes the fee paid for Neymar seem logical.
Not to go all Adam Smith, because I, as with most others, find economics boring, but the Premier League and those who occupy the highest echelon of the Champions League food chain definitely belong to a partial equilibrium. Just as we all need and want better houses, and mortgages and credit cards to be reliable consumers, and because of their popularity, demand and necessity, and proclivity for raking in huge revenues, like football, they are made immune from absolute collapse. Sure, they can be hijacked by greed to the point where it threatens to veer out of control, but ultimately we’ll forgive, forget and (maybe) tweak the laws and regulations after a government inquiry, because these are things we can’t live without.
I can’t live without a good game of football or my writing, so this annual tradition, the only tradition this blog has, continues. It’s true that nobody wants to read any article of over a thousand words anymore. So, unlike past editions, in an effort to conform, I’m going to focus on my projected top six. They’re basically the six clubs who ‘matter’. And yes, they’re the richest clubs. They spend the most, have the best players, the best managers, and receive the most attention. They also have the most clickbaity drooling on a bar stool takes written by hacks and frauds on the utterly cynical and dreadful ESPN about them.
But before that, here’s how the have nots will finish – because if you’re in the business of making terrible predictions, you should be thorough about it:
19. Swansea City
18. Brighton & Hove Albion
16. Newcastle United
13. West Bromwich Albion
12. Crystal Palace
10. Stoke City
9. Leicester City
8. West Ham United
Now, to the teams that actually have a shot at winning the league
Right now things don’t look too bad. They could easily be much worse. Sanchez and Ozil are still in situ. Lacazette has been signed and should be an upgrade over the Welbeck/Giroud/Walcott morass. In most circumstances this might be cause for optimism, but this is Arsenal. The fans are fed up of the club’s frugalness. Sanchez, Ozil and Oxlade-Chamberlain are in the final year of their contracts, and all could be sold before the end of August for the right price. The central midfield options, Ramsey aside, look thoroughly mediocre. Jack Wilshere’s all but finished at this point and the squad’s key defensive players, namely Cech and Koscielny, are past their meridian now with no reliable alternatives currently available in the squad. Talk of further signings has petered out and, for the first time in eons, there’s no Champions League football, which has acted as life-raft to maintain a tiresome narrative of financial stability igniting future ambitiousness.
Bottom line, there’s far more scope for calamity than success. I’m a huge Arsene Wenger admirer (and not only because he’s a reformed child-snatcher), but quite why he’s subjecting himself to this scornful scrutiny, partly due to operating in a reserved manner during a climate of extreme market inflation, is, from the outside, unclear. He must love his job and the game, or he’s just determined to prove a point to the bitter end.
And it will be bitter.
Speaking of proving a point, Jürgen Klopp’s at it too. But ultimately what good will it do him and Liverpool?
Despite being a staunch advocate of player development as a road to improvement rather than just blithely signing players, at the end of last season Klopp stated he wanted (needed?) five or six signings. So far he has three, and the two he wanted most, Virgil Van Dijk and Naby Keita, haven’t been signed and don’t look as though they will be.
And that’s an issue, for a number of reasons. Liverpool fans crave league title success every season, despite the club consistently not spending enough or keeping its best talent to expect it.
They, FSG – Liverpool’s owners – know that Jürgen’s patient, and not a whinger. Therefore Klopp presents a nasty predicament – he’s the best manager Liverpool have had since Rafael Benitez. However, his diplomacy and ethos allows FSG to fleece the club and extort the fans. The pretence of their narrative has been established: that it is Klopp’s choice, not FSG, or the ineptitude of the footballing apparatus they’ve provided to ‘assist’ him, that’s responsible for their perpetual transfer inertia. One wonders what Klopp will think privately if there are no more signings before the end of the window. If not, Klopp’s affable public persona may evaporate quickly.
Thankfully Liverpool will be exciting to watch again. But, in terms of title contention, the club has the look of a pretender, a second-rater. The squad’s still weak and their defence will continue to be mediocre, a problem that all but one of my projected top four doesn’t have.
4. Tottenham Hotspur
Speaking of inactivity…but this lot are the winners of the summer. Why should Spurs be immune from stagnation, when Arsenal and Liverpool and Manchester United, through post-Ferguson ineptitude, have shown what its result tends to be? But that’s the narrative they’re being afforded by many. My theory – continuity becomes an envious virtue when Englishness is in its vanguard and it provides a vehicle for Brexiter xenophobia to be projected. You wonder what Spurs could achieve, and might have, if they found at least one player who was as productive as Alli and Kane, but from a wide position. They’ve certainly tried over the last few years to find such a player since they sold Gareth Bale, with limited success.
Mind you priorities, and that, innit? Spurs have to fund that new stadium of theirs. Then they can charge their fans more, and more of them, every home game, allowing that awful grasping twatcunt ‘Sir’ Philip Green to make even more money. What a shame.
3. Manchester United
The sociopathic eye gouging and shitcoat wearing amalgamation of Alan Pardew and Patrick Bateman is as insufferably cuntish, myopic and hypocritical as ever with his batshit proto-fascistic shtick. United fans will put up with his prickly diva nature and regimented brand of football because he’s seamlessly woven both aspects together, one necessitates the other you see, and it tends to produce trophies.
But I suspect most United fans – and perhaps most of their players too – secretly loathe him. If and when the success stops the resentment that they’ve had to begrudgingly conceal for all that time will become public.
Is Romelu Lukaku worth £75m? He’s nowhere near as gifted on the ball as Ibrahimovic. While Ibrahimovic may have scored seventeen league goals, you wonder if United might be better served by Lukaku’s mobility and willingness to use it in space over Ibrahimovic’s gravitational instincts to the ball during build-up play. While he would’ve cost a good deal more, Harry Kane would’ve been a better choice I reckon. Cash is one thing United are not short of.
Some criticised the signing of Matic as another example of Mourinho’s desire to prioritise the short term for his own benefit (which explains, partially, the motivation for virtually every managerial decision ever taken), but with Matic you know what you’re getting. Plus, anything that reduces Fellaini’s involvement on a football pitch is welcome, for them and us.
For what’s it worth, I think it’ll be a close fight between all four of the clubs I have placed between sixth and third, and they could finish in any order. I’ve put United third because I feel very confident that Antony Martial will rebound, resuscitating his reputation as one of the most promising younger players around. And being a Mourinho side, they’ll have either the best or second best defence again (they had the best last season), and that tends to get you a top four spot.
However, I don’t see United or any of the other three sustaining a challenge for the league. It’ll be fought between…
Who concisely sum up the new transfer market reality – I’m not convinced they’ve actually improved their first eleven despite spending roughly £150m on three new players. They’ve yet to sign a replacement or competition for Victor Moses at right wing back. The suspicion here is he’ll regress, because, well, until last season he hadn’t been decent never mind good for years.
It’s unlikely they’ll go on a similar run of victories as they enjoyed last season, but like last season I fully expect them to excel defensively, conceding few goals (they had the third best defence last season), a formula that keeps you in games. I just don’t see them scoring eighty-five goals again. Alvaro Morata has never been a prolific goal scorer, and while Chelsea fans might deride Diego Costa’s treachery today, I think they’ll soon bemoan the affect the absence of his intensity will have on the team’s attacking play, as well as its boost to their opponent’s comfort and morale at not having to face the nasty swine.
1. Manchester City
Now this is a team that will score a shitload of goals, and it’ll need to if they’re to win the title, therefore protecting Pep Guardiola’s anointed genius status intact. Just what good is Bernardo Silva to you when you already have David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and LeRoy Sane? I don’t know, but I’m sure Guardiola will find some use for him, and with all that creative talent he’s under no pressure to adapt immediately.
Signing Kyle Walker didn’t make sense. He’s a £50m imbecile, who, if there was any justice in the universe, would have Stephen Hawking’s body. The fee is, as for most English payers, the result of the FA’s reductive home grown quota rules. Thankfully Guardiola manages Manchester City, who has more money than sense, and he was sensible enough to sign another right back. Bernard Mendy is a significant upgrade over the Kolarov and Clichy shit show on the other flank.
Despite all of this spending, the team and squad still appear to have inadequacies. The current midfield pairing is likely to be a combination of Yaya Toure, who can’t or simply isn’t willing to cover the yards in midfield, a past his prime Fernandinho, or Ilkay Gundogan, who is coming off another significant injury. We should expect another signing here.
Central defence is the biggest concern, we know John Stones can’t defend, we have ample evidence now. This won’t be a problem if Vincent Kompany can stay fit, but he hasn’t for the last two years. Perhaps City will gazump Chelsea and Liverpool for Virgil Van Dijk? I think they should, just to be safe.
Nonetheless, these are first world problems, which is appropriate, given Manchester City are backed by a sovereign wealth fund who have invested the GDP of a third world African country on transfer fees, player and staff wages and agent fees. At some point such sustained insanity must produce a sane result.