Thursday, 9 September 2010

Despatches from the breakout meeting (ugh)

Morning. Thursday already, and the new term loom above us like a massive clunking fist - an entirely new curriculum rushed in without consultation or planning time. Students don't know what courses to take and we don't yet know what to teach. Management gaze down on us from Olympus, stepping in with the occasional smiting but otherwise engaging in less-than-benign neglect.

Phrases I'd like to ban:
'breakout room' - being forced to discuss things in smaller groups doesn't engender creative thinking. It just doesn't. Giving it a stupid name doesn't make it more spontaneous.

'going forward'. What's wrong with 'in the future' or 'next time'? It's just an attempt to fake empowerment.

'old school'. Bearable when referring to distinct artistic movements of the past. Unacceptable when used for revivals of only-just-gone musical styles. Even the bloody London Review of Books used 'old skool' (unforgiveably) in the middle of a very abstruse essay this week.

In person he cuts a strange figure, cuddly-English on the outside – born 1969 in London; Dulwich College and Oxford; nice shirts and tweedy jackets – but on the inside a roiling maelstrom of the darkest avant-gardism, both of the old-skool European variety (the Futurists are often mentioned, and Robbe-Grillet, and Bataille, and Blanchot), and more recent, less canonical movements: Neue Slowenische Kunst, the Association of Autonomous Astronauts, the many activities and avatars of Stewart Home.

It's not cool. It reeks of desperation and insecurity. I wanted to get on the train, find the editor's office, break in and paint the phrase all over his/her office walls in faeces then make him lick them off, pausing only to apologise profusely. I resisted this urge.

Still - staff training day today, so perhaps we'll be enlightened. Or perhaps we won't. I bought NME today, for the second time in ten years. It's… well, just as poor as when I stopped reading it. Interestingly though, it's still talking about the bands it went on about then: Pixies, Smiths, Charlatans, Oasis etc. sprinkled with self-promotion, boastful interviews with newer bands, and very little in the way of critique. Strikingly, the house style hasn't changed at all. When I read it, there was a distinct effort being made to be light and breezy to distinguish it from the furrowed-brow music-journalism-as-revolutionary-intellectualism mode of the previous regime. Ten years later, the same glib confection rules, but it's tired now, and not overly convincing. I don't expect NME to be Cahiers du Cinéma, but nostalgia and press releases do not a magazine make. Or perhaps they do.

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