Romney: rich, heartless bastard

The Prefects, an 80s indie band from the Midlands with a name so twee you can immediately picture a gang of long-fringed people wearing over-large t-shirts in pastel colours, famously opened their first ever set in Brum with a tune titled ‘Birmingham’s A Shithole’. They were bottled off stage. America is beginning to realise that Mitt Romney, the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency, shares the same knack for knowing a crowd.

In a leaked video from a private fundraising event last week, Romney claimed the 47% of Americans receiving government help were “victims” of dependency and it wasn’t his job to chase after their votes. I will return to smutty knob gags and random stream-of-consciousness bollocks very shortly but forgive me if I actually attempt to make a serious political point.

Unemployment figures for the U.S. are running at 8%, which means that according to Romney, 39% of Americans are working but still “dependent”. He used to run a company called Bain, which specialised in gutting businesses of all expenses (code for sacking lots of people, making them reapply for less money and outsourcing their jobs overseas) before selling them on. Therefore, of those 39%, at least a few will be reliant on government support because of Romney’s antics, whereby they don’t earn a decent enough wage to live independently. Then he has the cheek to effectively call these people scroungers, even when they are often the most under-paid, over-worked people in every company.

Plus, the man is a liability in almost every sense. It takes something to make George W. Bush appear likeable but if you place both men side-by-side, you’d sooner go for a pint and pretzels with Bush (making extra sure he doesn’t choke on the pretzel). Romney cannot relate to ordinary people due to his $250 million fortune and he is an extremely robotic public speaker. When I watched his speech at the Republican convention, I remember thinking the last time I saw something so stiff was after watching a video by The Pussycat Dolls. See, it only took me a paragraph to shoe-horn a knob gag in.

Romney’s foot is permanently in his mouth. He slagged off London during the build up to the Olympics and questioned whether we were ready for such an event. If anything is going to make us scream our support and welcome the capital’s extra visitors with open arms, it’s some jumped-up Yank with ideas above his station. He also accused the Palestinians of being entirely responsible for the cluster-fuck that is the Middle East and has suggested he would be first in line to bomb Iran, which I’m sure will be viewed as harmless horseplay by the well-known (and by all accounts, rather well-armed) comedian President Ahmadinejad.

He then accused President Obama of being part of a privileged elite (cough cough, $250 million fortune) because he has probably spent “too much time at Harvard”. Mitt Romney has two Harvard degrees. He is also a dab hand at describing the American dream. You know the one, that old saw that any man or woman (unless they happen to be in the 47% of people who are dependent on government) can become middle class and rise up the ladder, perhaps reaching high enough to be in a position where they can sack lower-paid workers and shift jobs overseas? Well, here we go. “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love”. At least ‘vague’ can’t be added to his list of faults.

Perhaps the most frightening thing of all, above the threat of immediate nuclear war should Romney come to power, worse than the decimation of federal support for the poor, more worrying even, than the fact he regards nearly half of all Americans as Obama’s scum, is that Mitt Romney was the Republicans sane choice. The party has moved so far to the right, they are barely plottable on a political GPS map. The rest of the mob who lined up to defeat him on the Republican ticket did so with attacks from the right, making Romney the bleeding heart liberal of the contenders.

Newt Gingrich, front-runner for a short while, was asked what should be done after a homeless man was shot near the White House. “Give the park police more ammo” was his cuddly response. Rick Perry described the BP oil spill as “an act of God”. So it’s nothing to do with official incompetence or lack of regulation or maybe genuine human error? No. The bearded white guy in the sky doth make birds die in floaty black stuff. Michelle Bachmann, Tea Party favourite (ie batshit mentalist), equated the swine flu outbreak with Obama’s presidency, saying it was an “interesting coincidence” that the previous outbreak of the disease was also under a Democrat president, Jimmy Carter.

When you consider the time, money and effort Romney had to put in to come on top against these nutters, you do start to wonder why there is still only four points or so between him and Obama.


Looking like a berk can get you far

The men’s fashion pages in newspapers never fail to get my blood boiling. While I appreciate that I am not the best person to pontificate on what looks cool or doesn’t (I jumped on the checked shirts bandwagon so long after it left town that they are probably cool again), the outfits look completely ridiculous. This is because most blokes care little for their appearance, so wouldn’t be seen dead in something worn on a Milan catwalk. An outfit is cobbled together on three counts – what’s been washed, what hasn’t got a massive spaghetti stain across it and comfort. Whether the eventual choices are in vogue is of minor importance.

Of course, as well as journalists and editors, the models who wear this cack need to be apprehended with something sharp and pointy that preferably ends in hospitalisation. They don’t look anything like human beings. Take a look at their airbrushed, humanoid faces, chiselled and waxed to the extreme. They are what an alien might guess a human looks like after passing the intelligence on to thousands of other aliens in an intergalactic form of Chinese Whispers. They are prissy twat bandits, capable of nothing more worthwhile than looking like a conglomerate of pricks, staring moodily at a baying mob of photographers. They wear expressions of such intensity you’d think they were declaring war on Australia or something.

They must be horrible bastards to be around too. Basically, an advertising executive has stepped out from the shadows and said “We want you to be the face of our new summer range because the rest of the human race doesn’t compare to your handsome features, your ever-so-carefree hair and your bum-having-an-embolism walk”. These profound morons have been hauled from justified obscurity to walk on catwalks wearing the latest ironically posh tweed jacket – I blame Mumford & Sons – and they are made to feel better than us for it. If someone told me they made a living from modelling (with a face like mine, I don’t travel in esteemed enough company, so this has yet to happen) I would smile politely and wonder whether a yoghurt pot might have a more charismatic presence.

I’m not suggesting the pendulum should swing the other way and London Fashion Week should be taken over by Sports Soccer. “Walking up the catwalk now is Kenny, wearing a custom-made pair of grey jogging bottoms, embroidered in downtown Beijing by famed designer A. Didas, offset by a pair of knock-off boxer shorts which, as is the trend, peaks out of his midriff. The can of Grolsch in his right hand was a purely artistic decision made by the model, getting in to character”.

In The Guardian a few weeks ago, there was an item discussing the ten essential menswear items this summer, including a jumper which costs over £800 and still looks like a knitted Granny top with a few barcodes on it. Apparently it’s a “trophy jumper”, although the only trophy should go to the sellers who can make nearly a grand from a fucking cardigan.

While we are on the subject of clothes, won’t somebody please tell those berks who play ‘pub golf’ that they look like full-on, hardcore dickheads? I have been enjoying a quiet drink in many a pub, until the door opens and a gang of wankers wearing flat-caps and green chinos spoil the fun. If there’s anything worse than posh people, it’s ordinary people pretending to be posh people. At least if someone was genuinely posh, you could forgive their endless talk of garden decking and the cost of running a people carrier on the basis that they don’t know better. But by dressing up like high society, it’s giving those at the top of the social hierarchy a street cred they scarcely deserve.

Somebody somewhere must make fashion choices. At some point between caveman times and this morning, a late twentysomething with designer stubble must have sat at a meeting with fellow GQ fashionista hacks and devised a plan for making brolleys the latest must have accessory. Next thing, Paris catwalks are littered with uber-tasteful Armani umbrellas, all yours for a cool three thousand pounds.

In most industries, the people’s choice matters. When radio station controllers compile their weekly playlists, they don’t choose Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster album tracks, even if it might meet the approval of chin-stroking Mojo subscribers. You do not find Marmite and prawn sandwiches in Tesco because they would end up in landfill. Your mate Jimmy from your five-a-side football league won’t turn out for Liverpool next week because 30,000 season ticket holders will walk out in disgust (although judging by Brendan Rodgers’ transfer dealings, you could do a lot worse than Jimmy).

However, when it comes to fashion, there appears to be no connection between what the people want or will pay for, and what the more ‘arty’ designer labels churn out at big events, reprinted by newspapers and magazines. Indeed, to this admittedly untrained eye, men’s fashion seems like a holiday from reality.

A seamless transition to the new Dallas

Will the harking back never end? Will we be stuck in some paradox, where we merely relive certain periods of time, only ever giving them a modern twist and never creating something genuinely new and exciting? Has the creative bubble burst and will nothing innovative ever be made again? I only ask because Dallas is back.

Mum was extremely excited. She said Dallas always involved a water-cooler moment which would be discussed the following day at great length. What scrapes had JR encountered this week and how was he going to make it up to Sue-Ellen, his long-suffering other half? Why is Bobby so angry and will the brothers be able to patch things up?

Channel 5 has a strange schedule. Most of the time, it occupies itself with home-grown crap like Cowboy Builders or Big Brother, made with the spare change from Richard Desmond’s (channel owner and pornographer extraordinaire) morning coffee. Then every so often, it picks up the rights for a classy US drama. A few minutes before the remake of Dallas begun airing, there was a long advert for Celebrity Big Brother: which one of these people you have never heard of will get the chop? While you’re thinking, here’s a swanky piece of revivalist drama featuring lots of good-looking rich men and stunning, fabulously wealthy women, giving each other fearsome looks before storming off in the opposite direction.

I would love to have been on the casting couch for Dallas. It doesn’t matter if you can’t act or remember your lines. The really important question, the one which will make or break your chances of landing the role, is “Can you look sulky and smouldering before turning away in disgust?”

What perhaps stands this series apart from others is that it doesn’t feel the characters are convoluted. Of course, the storylines are so far-fetched they could have been written on Neptune but the series is unafraid to retrace its steps, right down to the outdated theme tune. The title remains ‘Dallas’. Not ‘Dallas 2.0’, ‘Dallas: Next Generation’ or ‘Dallas: Let’s Make Some Money Before the Guy Who Plays JR Kicks the Bucket’. They haven’t swapped any characters for a different actor due to death. Despite the two decade gap, it’s a seamless transition.

The principle leads from the 80s version, JR and Bobby, are still in place. Obviously, they are getting on – one has clinical depression, the other cancer – and there is a palpable sense of the script rushing towards handing the sticky, oily baton to their children, John-Ross and Christopher, but that sense of continuity makes this feel a little bit plausible.

Take a film like American Pie. They have made eight films of the teen boob-baring franchise, despite the original characters only featuring in the first two and the reunion. As time wore on, they needed a new set of youngsters to get themselves into nudity-based mishaps, so they introduced random characters that had a tangential link to the original film so they could slap ‘American Pie’ on the film poster and guarantee some box-office takings. But us, the viewing public, only care for Stiffler and his careworn misogyny, not his younger brother or the second reserve on his lacrosse team. There wasn’t even an attempt to link the old crew with a fresh-faced batch of new fraternity buddies, looking to get drunk and laid. It was simply a case of accepting the new reality unquestioningly – a Hollywood version of a cult.

As I say, this new Dallas at least sidesteps those issues by bringing old characters back, including a turn from Sue-Ellen, who seems to have spent the intervening years holed up in a botox clinic, threatening to shoot someone if she doesn’t receive 24/7 injections. To reflect the 21st century dynamics, the main argument between John-Ross (JR’s son) and Christopher (Bobby’s son) is over alternative energy against oil.

John-Ross discovers oil on Southfork, the ranch owned by the family. Again, in terms of storyline, this requires a suspension of disbelief – all his crew seem to do is stick a Black & Decker a few metres in the ground and bingo, filthy black lucre! Stick that up your exhaust pipe, Exxon! Meanwhile, in shiny white futuristic laboratories, Christopher is trying to save the planet with methane (the science is more complicated, I think, but let’s just leave it there).

By the end of the first episode, we discover that this methane thing Christopher has been working on all his life has been blamed for causing an earthquake in China. You gotta love America. In the world of light entertainment, alternative energy sources cause giant deathly earthquakes while a plume of oil spilling from the depths of Southfork causes a bunch of burly workmen to dance in the black rain. Subtle stuff. I’m guessing this wasn’t made by Greenpeace.

There are also love triangles (the plural is deliberate), a wedding, a punch up and even two twists towards the end of the first hour-long episode. Who needs new ideas when they old ones are this good?