Dumb Britain: The Decline and Fall of Reading

The more we become addicted to screens, the fewer books are being bought, and more importantly, actually read from cover to cover.

In fact, both adults and young people are shunning the reading habit, losing the joy, the immersive pleasure of reading an interesting book. The decline in reading is accelerating and my guess is that by 2030, only older people – especially older 45-75 year old women – will actually read more than one book a year.

Yes, I did say one book per year. I’ll put money on that sad prediction and here’s the evidence that prompted me to come to that sad conclusion.

Academic Studies Find Young Generation Are Dumbing Down

hungrycaterpillar-book

A 2011 study by Dundee University of over 150,000 children found that the most popular book for girls aged 14-16 was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This is a picture book, with very few words on the pages, aimed at 6-8 year olds. Sad isn’t it?

Here’s a link which drills down into the study results in more detail if you have the time.

The same team at Dundee analysed reading habits in 2016, sampling over 800,000 students. Things are getting worse. The top two books for teenage girls were the ghostwritten dross Girl Online and Girl Online – On Tour, by You Tube moron Zoella. Although she didn’t actually write the books of course.

zoella-girl-book

Another popular series is The Enemy, a zombie rehash of Lord of The Flies/ 28 Days Later, where only kids aged 14 and under are left alive to battle the zombie adults. Naturally all the London kids are cool and most of the adults are stupid. Much of the dialogue is in the `Yeah…no, but yeah. Cool’ vein and the sentences are short, clipped and easy to digest for those with the attention span of a house fly.

More info on the 2016 reading survey here.

The thing that strikes you about these popular `Young Adult’ genre books is that they’re essentially trailers for the associated merchandising and marketing machines. They are simply brands, franchises, like James Bond, The Simpsons or Marvel Comics. What’s happened is that reading has been debased by the likes of billionaire Rowling and her imitators, great stories are reduced to being mere bait, to reel in more cash from movies, games, T-shirts, sandwich boxes, fancy dress costumes or action figures.

harry-potter-merchandise

Rowling is arguably the person most responsible for turning young readers into young – and not so young – consumers. Her genius lies not in her writing, but instead the shrewd, ruthless ability to extract as much cash from her characters as humanly possible. Rowling is the first 21st century modern writer; an impressario of her own brand, and the Wonka-esque creator of an infinite universe of spin-offs, movies, merchandise and theme parks.

Tsundoku And The Art of Looking Bookish

The Japanese word Tsundoku means `pile of unread books.’ This is something that UK adults have been keen on since the success of the utterly unreadable pile of shite that was Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, back in the 1970s. I bought it, couldn’t read it because it was drivel, and ended up parking it in my bookcase, thinking it might impress girls. It didn’t.

At 2016’s Hay Festival – Glasto for middle class literary wankers – Foyles bookshop director Sion Hamilton noted that people were buying books to decorate their homes with physical artefacts, which defined their personality. They liked books on `mindfulness,’ noted Hamilton, and this is because books about pondering your own tedious existence; goals, fears, addictions, diet, fitness level blah-blah, obviously makes you much more sexually attractive to lots of people with money.

Here are some more disturbing stats about adult reading habits.

In 2015 Kobo revealed that 60 percent of ALL e-books downloaded in the USA were NEVER opened. Not a page was read.

Pew Research reported in 2014 that a quarter of US adults hadn’t read a book all year. The number of non-readers, that is people who NEVER read any books, has tripled since 1978.

A 2016 survey of 5000 UK adults found that just 26 percent tried reading a book at night to help them get to sleep – most preferred to drink alcohol. Four years previously a healthy 46 percent of adults said they tried reading until they felt sleepy, so it is a sharp decline.

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The Rise of The Kidult

The final nail in the coffin for adult literacy is the pitiful social trend known as being a `Kidult’ until the age of 40. You can see this in the booming sales of adult colouring books, where your brain can be switched off whilst you doodle. Or the tedious one joke Ladybird For Adults series, where real life is reduced to a series of 1960s style, Enid Blyton parody cartoons.

It is depressing that a generation of 25-40 year old women have bought the dreary, appallingly written Fifty Shades series, and immerse themselves in a story which is essentially Cinderella with whips, chains and butt plugs. The woman in Fifty Shades is the chattel, the possession, of the billionaire weirdo Christian Grey. This is the ultimate kidult fantasy – all your bills taken care of, new clothes and shoes bought & holidays paid for – whilst you are literally butt-fucked for pleasure. Nil responsibility, no thinking required. Just submission to your shallow fate.

What went wrong? When did we let the publishing industry decide that books should no longer inspire us to change the world, or truly open the minds of the young, with complex ideas and unfamiliar words? Where is today’s version of Satanic Verses, a book that enrages Imams with uncomfortable truths about the founding mythology of theocracy?

You cannot imagine Anthony Burgess finding a publisher today for A Clockwork Orange, as the language would be deemed `too difficult’ for the semi-literate dipsticks who struggle with Zoella. Also, there are no zombies in it. Which is crap, obvs. How could any major publisher produce Kafka’s Metamorphosis today? Except as a colouring book with a caterpillar in it of course…

Video killed the radio star, as the Buggles noted in the 80s, but Kidults have killed the great novel, and relegated brilliant science, history or political books to an academic ghetto, where a handful of smug students and hipster tutors argue over what is, or is not, tolerated by their PC sensibilities.

All we have left are screen dreams and social media soundbites – books are dying.

 

A Short History of Electronica

Electronic music was a niche interest for decades during the 20th century, but it took a couple of crucial tunes in the 60s to really bring it to wider public attention.

TELSTAR BLAZES A TRAIL IN THE SKY

Arguably the first electronic pop hit was Telstar by The Tornados, way back in 1962. This eerie, soaring piece of home studio tech-trickery was the brainchild of Joe Meek, an eccentric genius who produced unique sounds, wrote songs and saw himself as a record label boss too.

Take a listen here; Telstar. 

Telstar remains a brilliant homage to the 1960s space age, and a ground-breaking piece of electro pop. There’s simply nothing else like it from early 60s British or American chart music. It’s truly experimental – check the opening and ending satellite noises, the weird feedback from the future.

joe-meek

Yet Telstar has a powerful, almost conventional melody, plus wonderful flourishes and counterpoints bouncing off the central theme of the song. Meek never really hit this kind of electronic gold again, and died by his own hand in 1967, as an argument over copyright infringement rumbled on. It was settled in his favour, after his suicide by the way.

DR WHO BRINGS ELECTRONICA TO EVERY LIVING ROOM

In 1963, a year after Telstar, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – yes, there was such a thing – produced the theme for the new Dr Who sci-fi children’s series. It is one of the most enduring, and catchy pop tunes ever composed and inspired a legion of experimenters throughout pop music for the next decade or so.

Composed by Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire, the Dr Who theme is an elegant, soaring and epic tune. Like Telstar it has lots of little touches which add interest as the theme develops and it’s a typical BBC crime that Delia Derbyshire received NO royalties at all for her studio work in producing the theme song.

Listen to the various Dr Who themes, including the original here.

1960s PROG ROCK AND THE GERMAN INFLUENCE

It took the invention of the mini-Moog to bring electro into various bands during the 60s, although studio producers were also pushing on with adding various effects and futuristic edginess to some pop and rock songs.

The psychedelic summer of `67 brought studio manipulation to the fore, not just with art-house bands like Pink Floyd, but the Beatles and Stones had bold electronic effects and tweaks on tracks like 2000 Light Years From Home, or  A Day in The Life.

But studio overdubbing, double/vari-speeding vocal tracks or adding a splash of Mellotron wasn’t quite electronic rock, or pop. Bands and studio engineers were using electro to add an extra layer to conventional rock or pop music.

Bands like Tangerine Dream and Can were trying to fuse some of the classical 50s and 60s elements of electronic or synth music with psychedelic rock in the late 60s and early 70s. In the UK Emerson Lake and Palmer brought instruments like the Moog on stage.The early incarnation of Roxy Music saw Brian Eno add a kind of prototype ambient sound to songs like The Bogus Man and Ladytron.

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But all this was fiddling at the edges and it took a German band to snap the chains and break free from the past. Enter Kraftwerk. No guitars, no drums, no bass guitars. Just metal machine music from 1974 onwards.

It’s hard to overstate the impact of the Autobahn album from 1973 now, because Kraftwerk inspired a legion of bands and musicians, all keen to dump traditional instruments and utilise synths, moogs, keyboards, studio effects to create an entirely new sound. The title track from Autobahn was a global hit and it captures the 70s road culture, the 24/7 movement of people and goods, perfectly. There’s an almost Dr Who undertone of alienation, and fear, in Autobahn too, it isn’t just a raw celebration of motorway speed and multi-track futurism.

Listen to the `74 single version here. 

THE BRITISH SYNTH EXPLOSION

Kraftwerk were pioneers, and other German bands like Tangerine Dream had an impact within Prog Rock circles, but as regards mainstream pop and rock, the big movement of the mid-70s was punk, which was a return to the chaotic roots of rock `n’ roll, the idea that any bunch of crazy kids could throw together a band and just do it.

Punk was OK for guitar heroes, anarchists and riotous, slightly unstable shouty people, but in the background more studious types were investing in strange little boxes, twiddling with tape loops and trying to fuse moody German arthouse grandeur with a uniquely British take on catchy pop songwriting. The big strep forward was creating synth music you could actually dance to – something the Germans couldn’t really grasp, because – well, just watch some German people trying to dance. You’ll understand.

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Pioneers like the Human League, Gary Numan and Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark made the breakthrough in the late 70s and early 1980s. From 1981 onwards, it was electronica all the way, and this new sound; an upbeat, danceable solution to the problem of blending electronics with pop music, suddenly caught on, and went mainstream for the first time.

There was still an arthouse mezzanine level, where New Order, Cabaret Voltaire, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Jean-Michel Jarre liked to shield themselves from TOTP and the Hoi Polloi to an extent. They also made some great music. But electronica found its moniker in the 80s, and it’s never looked back.

F*** art – let’s dance!

Here are some of the greatest hits of electronica;

Blue Monday – New Order. Factory Records reportedly lost money on every 12 inch version. Thank God for Tony Wilson and his Granada Reports pay packet 😉

Love Action – The Human League. Phil and the girls at their peak, lip-synthing and hip-swaying on BBC TV circa 1981. Wonderful stuff.

Fade To Grey – Visage. The late, great Steve Strange defined the whole New Romantic movement of the early 80s. If you listen closely, you can hear the echoes of Telstar in this swirling production.

Enola Gay – OMD. Depressing lyrics set atop a perfect pop symphony. It’s a little known fact that UKIP member Paul Nuttall played a Hammond organ on this track.

Enjoy The Silence – Depeche Mode. Even in the ’90s Depeche Mode could still come up a killer track

 

 

Comparing Trump to Hitler is An Insult to 48 Million War Dead

There’s been a tedious howl of left-wing anguish since the election of Donald Trump, and in its wake several mainstream media outlets have repeated views that Trump is creating a new `Nazi Germany,’ or drawn parallels with the 1930s. Even Prince Charles, the Archbishop of Canterbury and historian Simon Schama have joined in.

Here’s a few links, highlighting the direct comparison between 1930s Fascist Germany and Trump’s regime in the USA:

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/730325/Simon-Schama-Donald-Trump-Hitler-Germany

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/britains-prince-charles-warns-of-populist-fascist-horrors/news-story/0613a735e300cea461e1e47ada5768b0

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/22/observer-view-donald-trump-inauguration

But are there really ANY useful comparisons to be drawn between 1930s Nazi Germany and America in 2017? Of course not, and for those aged under 30, who probably haven’t actually read a history book from beginning to end, plus the slow of understanding who garner their opinions from Tweets or rants on Facebook, I’m going to explain using things called facts. You know, stuff that actually happened.

art-of-the-deal-trump

HITLER’S RISE VS TRUMP’S RISE

Hitler was jailed in the 1920s after trying to set up his own little fascist state in Bavaria. Whilst in prison, he started to write a book called Mein Kampf, completed in 1926 after leaving jail. In this book Hitler clearly lays out what he is going to do if he obtains power. Killing and enslaving Slavs, eradicating Jews, killing the sick and disabled, annexing territory for a bigger Germany, regaining a German empire through force and kicking the shit out of France.

Once Hitler gained power after a close general election in January 1933, he waited just TWO months – yes eight weeks – before having opposition leaders arrested, setting up a Ministry of Propaganda, put uniformed henchmen (SA) into Parliament to `observe’ proceedings, made the Communist Party of Germany illegal, opened Dachau concentration camp and dissolved the state of Bavaria. By summer 1933 Jews from Eastern Europe were having their citizenship revoked and public book burnings were well underway. Pretty busy eh?

Let’s look at Trump’s rise.

Attempted seizure of State using local goon squad? Erm…no.

Uniformed henchmen? No.

Evil book with masterplan? Well, no.

There was a book called The Art of The Deal. To my knowledge, there’s no chapter on genocide, attacking France, hating Jews or purifying the American race. In fact, Trump didn’t even write a book, ever – he used a ghostwriter.

But now Trump is President, he’s passing laws rounding up/banning foreigners isn’t he?

Is he. Where are these laws? When is Congress due to pass them? The selective extra vetting for seven countries is still bogged down in the US courts. Hitler would have pulled a gun by now, opened a concentration camp in Wyoming and had the Clintons arrested, then tried for treason.

Instead, Trump has to go through a legal system. That is a crucial difference between 2017 and 1933; the rule of law is being followed in the USA, a violent, racist autocracy has not been established in a matter of weeks. Nor is it likely to be set up, so stop whining on about Simon Schama.

BANNING FREE SPEECH, SMASHING UP SHOPS – NOT JUST NAZIS DOING IT

The Nazis loved smashing up Jewish businesses in the 1930s. There was a thing called Kristallnacht in 1938, where thousands of Jewish shops had their windows smashed. The following day arrests of Jews were accelerated and the process of killing Jews via concentration camps was also speeded up as war loomed.

By the late 1930s the Nazis had effectively shut down all opposition media, taken control of film, radio, book distribution, censored libraries and driven many free-thinking writers abroad, or had them arrested/killed.

Does anyone really think that Trump plans to have TV stations closed down, editors arrested and killed or control ALL of Hollywood’s movie output? Calling out CNN or the BBC for their obvious left wing bias is something many politicians have done in private for years. Trump is just saying it out loud because he lacks the guile, cunning and well practised lying that professional politicians have developed from their University days.

antifa-goons-ready-for-fight

The only people smashing up shops in the USA today are Antifa; a sinister black-clad, rag-bag army, who dub themselves `The Resistance’ and are willing to physically attack anyone who voices an opposing view to their mob rule. That, in fact, is closer to the fascism of Hitler’s SA, than anything on the Republican side.

Trump is not banning free speech in the US. In fact, the only restrictions on speech come from the left, who shut down Milo and other so-called `Nazis,’ or no-platform anyone they disagree with. These are the exact same tactics used by the fledgling Nazi Party in Germany; don’t debate, but fight and burn instead.

SOME SALIENT FACTS

Germany lost WW1 and had to pay millions in reparations to Britain, the USA and France. These payments of 132 billion Marks bankrupted Germany, partially helping the rise of Hitler and the Nazis by instilling a deep grievance within German society.

By contrast the USA has NOT lost a major war in the last 15 years. It is NOT paying huge amounts to the victors in that imaginary war.

German territory in the Saar was handed over to the League of Nations, and a de-militarized zone in the Rhineland agreed, to placate the French, who knew that the Germans would be back one day for another bitter fight.

I cannot see a section of the USA which is under United Nations control, nor is there a de-militarized zone near the border with Mexico, or Canada.

I could go on, but hopefully anyone with an open mind can see that Europe in the 1930s bears no serious comparison to modern day America, or modern Europe for that matter. The Great Powers, like France and Britain are now bankrupt pygmy nations, with pitifully small armies barely able to cope with pot-smoking terrorists, never mind a well trained, heavily armed, invading force.

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The left like to waffle on about the rise of `populism’ as if new versions of the Nazi Party are springing up across America and Europe. They are not. There is no mass movement, only splinter groups, comprising of bored, unhinged men with learning difficulties and a collection of SS daggers.

The real populist parties today are the SNP, or Plaid Cymru, who want nationhood, freedom, and true power enshrined within their own regional Parliaments. But they aren’t wearing jackboots and calling for mass killings. They want to reclaim democracy, and defy globalism, or rule via a `foreign’ power, to an extent – although they’re willing to take the money from the EU/UK governments of course..

To try and twist history, simply to whip up irrational hatred against those who feel the EU, or the Washington political machine, has TOO much power, and needs serious reform, is to misunderstand the lessons from the 1930s. To attack those of us who say that global corporations are treating people like portable medieval serfs, bereft of employment rights and saddled with paying the tax that the rich so effortlessly avoid, by calling us fascists, is an insult. Both to the war dead, and to those who work hard to make a decent life in modern democracies and demand accountable politicians, not self-serving elitists like the Obamas, Clintons, Blairs, Bransons, or similar ilk.

For all his faults, Trump is shaking the tree. Calling out the bullshit which has infected US politics, and the cosy lobbying system which undermines democracy by giving too much power to those with the biggest chequebook. I don’t think he will make America great again, because most people in the USA haven’t the guts to take the fight to ISIS, the REAL fascists, the true inheritors of the Nazi legacy.

And it will come to a terrible fight. Fascists are like that, they cannot be reasoned with and in the end, you must wipe them from the face of the earth. History keeps teaching us that very salient lesson.