Skip to content

Going Forward To Synergy, In A Very Real Sense…

February 4, 2009


Anyone puzzling over the reasons for the decline of writing standards at the exciting new-look Grauniad has not far to seek. The following story, which appeared in Private Eye a few weeks ago, helps to explain why a once great paper now happily publishes the deranged half-witted vapourings of Bidisha and the egregious piffle of career toady and slime-ball biographer of Paris Hilton, Chad Newkey-Burden:

Grauniad hacks arriving at their new Kings Place HQ last week were presented with an introductory handbook designed at enormous expense by Gilles and Cecillie, purveyors of twee artwork to other cutting–edge media organisations such as,er, Harvey Nichols, Credit Suisse and Cartier.

Useful information, such as the location of the loos and restaurant, is tricky to find among the 68 pages of self-regarding bollocks about “sustainability” and “creativity”. Even the maps are confusing, unless you happen to know what a “think pod” or a “culture hub” is.

Elsewhere the handbook, “ironically” designed to look like a child’s picture book, is scattered with random slogans, as might be found on a ten–year–old’s sticker–plastered lunch box: “working together”, “first thing in the morning”, “going new ways”, “sharing hands”, “because we want to”, “I love nature”, “pass the sickbag”. [Spot the one we made up.–Ed.]

Staff arriving last week, meanwhile, were taken aback to discover, in a “culture hub” window facing a local council estate, what looked very much like a bullet hole.

So what is a “culture hub”, anyway?

According to the Grauniad‘s PR supremo Julie Taylor, it is an “integrated pool of talent for all those working in creative fields”. What used to be called an “arts section”, then.

And a “think pod”? That, according to Ms Taylor, is “a space where it is possible to go and work in a quiet environment, with a door”. What in the fuddy–duddy old days was called “a room”.

Private Eye, no.1226

Under the ₤680,000 p.a. aegis of oleaginous ex–gossip columnist and piano bore Alan Rusbridger, the Grauniad’s slide into the maelstrom of illiterate gibberish can be expected to continue apace.

  1. parallax permalink
    February 4, 2009 3:42 AM

    effects of think-podding

  2. seanmurray permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:12 AM

    “first thing in the morning”, “going new ways”, “sharing hands”, “because we want to”, “I love nature”

    Too, too cruel, mishari.

    But don’t we need some nice slogans too? Today I’m coming over all ‘homeopathic dolphin sunrise’, ‘Valium flowchart shimmers’ and ‘At rainbow’s end — David Cameron’.

  3. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 10:57 AM

    David Cameron? What happened to the pot of gold? Fucking credit crunch…

    Although I must say “homeopathic dolphin sunrise’ and “valium flowchart shimmers’ are too good to waste and should be copyrighted pronto…

  4. freepoland permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:13 AM

    Lower your writing standards, increase footfall to your hub. No fulfilment point needs to be thugged with intimidatory wordage, nor cluttered with thinkage. Open wide your entry facilities; friendful non-hierarchical acceptance strategies bring enhanced marketshare plausability.
    You know it makes sense.

  5. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 11:25 AM

    You’ve been rumbled, freep. You’re actually Alan Rusbridger.

  6. February 4, 2009 11:31 AM

    A frown is just a smile upside down is always a treat. Especially as the opposite is also true. Everyone’s a winner!

  7. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 11:40 AM

    I’m only surprised that the favourite of dullards the world over, “You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Work Here But It Helps”, didn’t make the cut…

  8. seanmurray permalink
    February 4, 2009 12:00 PM

    As a security guard I have patrolled past thousands upon thousands of ‘motivational’ posters in the wee hours. Often sends me spiralling into despair and dread. Still, ‘sharing hands’ always pull me out.

  9. February 4, 2009 12:07 PM

    Sean Don’t forget that “Security patrol means patrolled security”

  10. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 12:14 PM

    …and Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Met, although I suspect this might not apply to burglars…

  11. freepoland permalink
    February 4, 2009 12:19 PM

    £680,000 a year and he peddles this trash about being nice to each other? I am not Alan Rusbridger, mishari; it is a foolish name and I doubt his pedigree. If you get this kind of money you should be thoroughly nasty to everyone.
    I have been looking into the histories of the Queensberry and Buccleuch families, as a result of seeing this

    wonderful tomb in a Queen Anne church in deep Dumfriesshire. And I find that the Queensberry line is magnificent. The 3rd Marquis was a cannibal, who at the age of ten captured a scullion, and roasted and ate him; his dad arranged the Act of Union of England and Scotland. And further down the line (the 9th Marquess) invented the Queensberry Rules (dear to your heart, mishari) in which:
    11. No shoes or boots with springs are allowed (fair play is needed, but he might have mentioned stilts as well),
    5. A man hanging on the ropes in a helpless state, with his toes off the ground, shall be considered down. (But you can still whack him with aplomb and a studded belt)
    This when Q. was not being sued by Oscar Wilde for accusing him of ‘ posing as a sodomite’ when the said wit had seduced his son.
    I expect our leaders to lead vivid lives and come from a family with a bit of clout. Otherwise, don’t pretend to lead. The big trouble with the Guardian is Lifestyle. Besides the lists and award-obsession, its readers are assumed to need to be told how to Live Ethically. This is godswallop. I just need the occasional reminder from my newspaper that cannibalism is unwise.

  12. February 4, 2009 12:34 PM

    Similarly the person who coined the expression “It’s the journey that counts not the getting there” had clearly never flown to Australia in economy class.

  13. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 12:37 PM

    Don’t be too censorious, freep. There is a time and place for cannibalism. For example, if respecters of language were to eat the Grauniad’s entire editorial staff…although I suspect they’d taste unspeakable…

  14. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 12:45 PM

    Hahahahahahah…McCrumbly just said, re: the laureateship, “…Following Andrew Motion’s impressive interpretation of his role…”…stop, you wag, you…my sides hurt.

    Let me guess…they were at Oxbridge together..bah.

  15. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 12:50 PM

    freep’s response is worth re-posting, (without his permission, I might add. Sue me):

    A Poet Laureate needs to feel at home in an aristocratic world if he or she is not to let down the poetic side. Playing the game proper will add to the value of poetry. I would have a laureate who:

    1. doesn’t drink liqueurs with a spoon
    2. is adept at croquet, polo and Real Tennis
    3. doesn’t use bad language
    4. understands the Rules of Precedence, and
    5. knows her Garter from her Thistle

    I am afraid standards have slipped ever since a previous holder, Cecil Day-Lewis, let the side down at a 1969 Clarence House reception. Sidling up to a bespangled eastern potentate, he was heard to ask, rather loudly, ‘Scuse me guv, what country did you say you was King of?’ I have to say I blushed for my country and my Queen.

  16. freepoland permalink
    February 4, 2009 1:04 PM

    You will be hearing from Messrs Rook, Magpie and Vulture, Writers to the Signet, mishari. Permission to reproduce my literary lies is only granted where the reproducer is of Good Family; my attorneys will be seeking refereed assurances that ‘Politely Homicidal’ is respectable, and that association with its readers and contributors is not likely to bring contumely on the head of said freep.

  17. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 1:18 PM

    Rest assured, a representative of the College of Heralds will be around shortly to inform you that your reputation is now shot to hell.

    See that large, gilded object receding into the distance? That’s your peerage, that is…

  18. February 4, 2009 4:12 PM

    see McCrum’s response to my comment on his latest blog about the laureate. The man is a weasel. Hangs Zadie Smith out to dry then suggests we let history judge Motion’s work.

    This from a critic? I thought they were there to pass comment on the contemporary as well as the past.

  19. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 8:55 PM

    “…I’d prefer to leave it to posterity to judge the poems he wrote during his term…”

    Breathtaking cheek. So, McCrumblebum, is perfectly happy to judge Smith one of the greatest novelists of the last century or whatever it was but abdicates any responsibility to judge Bowel Motion to History.

    Gee, I wonder if he and Motionless ever find themselves around the same dinner table?

    The man’s a shifty putz…

  20. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 9:47 PM

    …then again, perhaps I’m being unfair to McCrumblebum. Maybe epochal works like Motionless’ Rap On The Occasion Of Harry’s Gingerfication can only be properly judged with hindsight.

    Motionless proved, I think, that he is conversant with the lively idiom of today’s young people with his poem in the style of today’s exciting musical groups.

    Vibrant performers like Mr. Gerald and The Peacekeepers, Mr. Dave Clark and Five Other Young Men With Musical Instruments and The Mr. James Hendrix Expedience have informed Motionless’ style.

    A poem that future hep cats will, I’m certain, regard as fab, gear and poptastic.

  21. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:42 PM

    Motion does come across as quite colourless, and the work of his I’ve read has a similar style. He should never have been considered as PL, if there has to be one. A loud publicist would be preferable. A friend of mine was tutored by him at Hull and rated him highly. Perhaps that’s his true metier.
    The Shield arrived today-thanks again. I finished The Foreign Correspondent, another good read. It would be nice to hear more about S Kolb, the SIS agent, who also appeared in Dark Voyage. He deserves a book to himself. I’ve watched a couple of Generation Kills. I’m a little disappointed with the characterisation so far-too many stock war-film types, the laconic hero, the insanely ambitious commander, the incompetent ditto, the psycho. Still time to flesh them out. I was surprised to see the soldiers complaining about their kit. One of the main beefs of UK squaddies was that stuff the Americans used once and chucked away was expected to last them an entire tour.
    My Xmas cold has made a comeback. It’s a festival of phlegm.

  22. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 10:57 PM

    Yes, Kolb was an interesting character. Like you, I wanted to hear more about him, his backstory. Am I right in thinking it’s Kolb who escapes from Prague in a taxi full of drunken tarts?

    You’re not wrong about Generation Kill. However, it’s the dialogue that won me over, much of it hard to catch, coming from off-camera, or being behind the main dialogue or people talking over one another…but there are some wonderfully funny lines.

    Glad The Shield arrived. Let me know what you think. I won’t quote any of it, but there’s some absolutely terrific writing in it.

    Re: the US lack of kit. I remember Rumsfeld being put on the spot by grunts in Kuwait about how they had to scavenge armour for HumVees from HumVees that had already been blown up, shortages of body armour, ec. etc.

    Of course, many of the contracts to supply the US Army in Iraq and Kuwait went to Halliburton, Darth Cheney’s former company. Apparently they were charging the taxpayer $12 for every hamburger supplied. Plus ca change, eh?

  23. February 4, 2009 11:01 PM

    McCrum doesn’t even really judge Zadie Smith. When challenged he says she was an after thought and only really an example of a certain kind of media frenzy. Not exactly a huge thumbs up about her writing. Weasel I say.

    But perhaps as you say he is wise to hold off – Andrew Motion’s “Prince Harry, Prince of tact” may well be the poem the country is praying for.

    Festival of phlegm ? I think I worked there about 5 years ago.

  24. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2009 11:12 PM

    Oh, sorry, MM. Kolb also appears in Dark Star wherein the tart/taxi escape occurs, I think. I believe I’m right in saying you’ve not got around to Dark Star yet. You’re in for a treat. Quite a few characters you’ll recognize from other Furst books…

    That festival’s in Belgium, isn’t Al? In the Phlegmish heartland, in fact…(boom boom)

  25. parallax permalink
    February 5, 2009 5:32 AM

    McCrum’s furrowed brow expression on his GU profile mugshot – quizzical or constipated?

  26. February 5, 2009 10:08 AM

    compromised I’d say

  27. seanmurray permalink
    February 5, 2009 10:54 AM

    Dark Star is the best Furst I’ve read so far. It’s the most epic, but still compressed into a near perfect thriller. A bewildering cross-Europe odyssey near the start of ww2. William Vollmann’s Europe Central is a more obviously literary treatment: the entire C20th history of Germany and Russia, centred around the life and loves of Shostakovich.

  28. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 12:20 PM

    Have you read Night Soldiers, Sean? Of all Furst’s work, I think it’s the closest to Dark Star in the size of the canvas. It’s also a cracking story.

    Re: McCrum’s boiled-fist visage, he had a massive stroke a few years ago that took a long time to recover from. I guess I’ll cut him some slack…

  29. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 12:23 PM

    I had to google Vollman, Sean. He sounds interesting. I’ll have to get Europe Central. I’d also like to read his Afghanistan book. Thanks for the tip…

  30. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 5, 2009 12:24 PM

    I haven’t read Dark Star yet, but in Night Soldiers Khristo is smuggled from Prague to Bratislava by four sex workers in a car. Sexual encounters do appear quite regularly in the four Fursts I’ve read. I suppose they’re fairly tastefully done: I haven’t laughed at any of them so far, though I did have my doubts about some of the stuff in the Foreign Correspondent. Carlo’s post-coital remark vis a vis Christa’s red knees seemed mysterious until I recalled hearing or reading that Italian chaps prefer their intercourse a posteriori, as it were. A quite unnecessary detail, really.
    To be fair, it was made clear in Generation Kill that a Marine recon unit wouldn’t be as well-equipped as an Army line regiment. Apparently they are expected to improvise. The kit thing is just relative, I think: I heard a story about the UK soldiers getting out their image-intensifying equipment (chipped green paint, enormous, weighs half a ton) while on guard at Bastion and the US troops pissing themselves laughing.

  31. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 12:32 PM

    I think you’re right, MM. Furst usually treats the sex scenes with discretion. I prefer, “they went into the bedroom and closed the door behind them.”

    I really don’t need the details, unless they’re somehow relative to the narrative. After all, I think we all have sufficient experience, memory and imagination to fill in the blanks for ourselves, and very few sex scenes are well written.

    In fact, most are laughably bad. It’s generally just superfluous, like describing character’s toilet trips.

    In fact, the only well written toilet scenes in fiction that I can think of were in the Enderby books, primarily because that was where Enderby wrote his best poetry.

  32. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 12:34 PM

    Apparently, the British Army’s mangonels and fire-ships amused US troops as well…

  33. parallax permalink
    February 5, 2009 12:43 PM

    Ah mish – thanks for that sign post – I didn’t know – but then what does he know about any of us?

    here’s some guff on the best-seller about his condition:

    On July 28, 1995, Robert McCrum suffered a severe stroke at the age of 42. His thoughtful memoir chronicles the long, arduous process of recovery. Drawing on his own diaries and those of his wife, McCrum presents a detailed portrait of the physical and psychological effects of a stroke. As the hard-driving, hard-living editor of publishing house Faber & Faber, McCrum had defined himself for 20 years by what he did–now he was forced to ask himself who he was. He ruefully admits that his upbringing in the privileged British upper-middle class, traditionally suspicious of introspection, had ill prepared him for such a struggle … Famous friends like Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje make appearances at McCrum’s London hospital bedside

  34. parallax permalink
    February 5, 2009 12:51 PM

    You know – and believe me I’m a compassionate person – but there’s something about this (and I think this shows the remove of the person from the persona) that makes me want to barf

  35. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 1:02 PM

    It doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? Setting aside the fact that a visit from Salman Rushdie is a dubious service to an ill man, I do think that a massive stroke is a major trauma, no matter how mawkishly he writes about the experience.

    It’s a huge insult to the brain and perhaps a complete recovery is a chimera. So what’s Julie Bindel’s excuse?

  36. parallax permalink
    February 5, 2009 1:15 PM

    JB? well what it boils down to is no balls – but a determination to hack-em off those that have them – which paradoxically takes balls.

  37. February 5, 2009 2:12 PM

    My Dad an army man now 91 years old did a reminiscence DVD for his regiment. The cock ups about lack of equipment and stuff going to the wrong place were happening back then as well. Cock ups with fatal consequences too. Probably lucky for them that they didn’t have bloggers and YouTube in those days to spread the bad news.

    He finds it all a bit rich that the army is continuing to complain about this as they could have learnt lessons decades ago. But back then they used to piss themselves laughing at the US’s lack of organisation.

  38. seanmurray permalink
    February 5, 2009 2:21 PM

    Vollmann’s other cracker is treatise on violence called Rising Up and Rising Down, 3000 pages long but there’s a one-volume condensation that’s worth a look.

    The only really great sex scenes I’ve read are in Ancient Evenings by famous self-declared woman-hater Norman Mailer.

    First there’s the face-off between the Egyptian gods (and uncle and nephew) Set and Horus to see who can bugger the other, the climax of which involves one of them self-pleasuring onto a lettuce — is this kind of talk allowed on Politely Homicidal?; I assuming it is — and the resultant semen literally announcing itself to the entire Egyptian pantheon as it clings to the loser’s anus.

    The other scenes involve Queen Nefertiri doing outrageous and indescribable stuff to the Egyptian language as she’s being [insert your own verb here]ed. These scenes are excerpted in the Mailer reader The Time of Our Time.

  39. seanmurray permalink
    February 5, 2009 2:22 PM

    Bon appetit to anyone currently on their lunchbreak!

  40. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 3:30 PM

    Actually, Mailer was just sticking to the sources. Egyptian mythology, as far as I remember my E. Wallis Budge et al, is rife with what would now be considered beyond the pale in a family newspaper. That old time religion was a bit more robust than our current version, best exempified by the likes of Cliff Richard and the SS Pope…people for whom “earthy” is a foreign and disgusting concept.

    Jesus the virgin, Mary the virgin, Il Papa the virgin…do they expect the human species to continue through parthenogenesis? Bollox spouted by idiots and believed by the frightened.,..

  41. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 3:37 PM

    Although to be fair to Jesus, all this celibacy crap is the work of Paul, a dangerous demagogue and a twisted nut job…

  42. parallax permalink
    February 5, 2009 4:09 PM

    Dorothy Porter‘s verse novel Akhenaten – incestuous and spare – for lovers of poetry and egyptology – check it out:)

  43. February 5, 2009 4:24 PM

    One can only imagine what the Egyptian motivational posters were like back in those days.

    “Mummification is for life not just Christmas”

    “You don’t have to be embalmed to work in the afterlife but it helps”.

    “Scarabs are just beetles you haven’t met”

  44. February 5, 2009 4:36 PM

    “Build that pyramid you bunch of insignificant insects or we’ll flay you alive. If you do a good job we’ll bury you alive with your dead master”

  45. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 4:37 PM

    …apparently, lots of ancient Egyptians were taken in by a Madoff-like pyramid investment swindle. Still, it did give us the Stargate…

  46. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 5, 2009 11:02 PM

    Your father must be a contemporary of Denis Healey, Alarming (unless he is DH), who I think is 91 and was on the beach at Anzio. One thing that has changed is that there are far more civilians involved in admin. I’ve heard it said that where Army clerks didn’t give a fuck, civilian clerks don’t give a fuck squared.
    The print on Power of the Dog is tiny. I’ll have to get some 3x glasses from Tesco. What to think about Whitechapel? Pretty standard situation I thought, but some good acting. I always like that chap who plays the DS. Rupert was a lot better than he was in the truly atrocious 39 Steps. The alleyways look remarkably clean-I suppose the council taxpayers round there, whoever they are, insist on regular pickups of eviscerated corpses. We have to wait for the organic waste collection.

  47. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 11:13 PM

    …around here, eviscerated corpses might put people off dining in Brick Lane’s many Indian eateries, hence their rapid removal.

    Yeah, TPOTD is printed small, I’m afraid. Persevere, MM. I think you’ll find it a satisfying book…

  48. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2009 11:56 PM

    I did find Whitechapel a bit disappointing though, despite the picayune pleasure of picking out familiar streets, alleys etc.

    I agree with you about the actor who plays the DS. He’s always fun to watch and Rupert was ok as a too–tightly–wound ambitious neurotic.

    We’ll have to see how it progresses, although I caught faint echos of Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat and Peter Akroyd’s Hawksmoor…

Comments are closed.