TOTP vs Popworld

So Top of the Pops has been shelved. Should we be sad? Probably not. TOTP was only really worth watching for those moments when defiantly underground music somehow gatecrashed the charts.

Seeing this show, with its eternal Smashey and Nicey-ness, try and accommodate things like acid house was always fun. TOTP had to try to appeal to both 'the kids,' and their Daily Mail-reading parents, a gloriously impossible task that gave rise to the odd moments of TV gold, such as Altern8 donning chemical suits and bring 'ardkore to the nation's living rooms or Nirvana's very obviously mimed performance of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' a masterpiece in the art of piss-taking. But recently, with the charts buried in the living death of neo-AOR and X-Factor sludge, those moments where TOTP could be a clash of very different worlds have become few and far between. And so, the programme lost its point, settling down very comfortably to men on stools singing ballads.

While I don't mourn the passing of TOTP, I do hate what its passing says about TV and pop culture in general. See, it's all about context: in particular, the rise of channel 4's Popworld, its every success mirrored by TOTP further sliding into oblivion. TOTP was, at least, genuinely enthusiastic about pop music, gamely trying (and dismally failing) to understand all this new-fangled stuff where you couldn't even hear the words. Popworld, by comparison, doesn't - can't - show enthusiasm for anything, except its own cleverness.

For Popworld, everything is to be smirked at: pop music exists as the object of a snide putdown and nothing more. Everything is wrapped around invisible, ironic quotation marks. Actually, scratch the 'invisible': presenter Miquita Oliver's hands routinely flail into the air, out of her control, and you can tell that, deep down, she wants to do those little inverted commas, over and over again, but she stops herself at the last second, aware that such a gesture just wouldn't be cool.

The problem is, I think, about distance. Popworld is unable to enjoy anything, or show any passion, because its always at a distance from life: it exists behind a post-modern barrier of sarcasm and affected superiority. That's sad, hateful and pathetic, of course. But, perhaps more importantly, it's also just very boring. The presenters' self consciously display their boredom towards those around them, but, really, there's little more tedious than a smirking, passionless smartarse sneering in an impeccably arch manner. TOTP might have been shit, but its cheerfully enthusiastic heart was in the right place. Popworld, by contrast, doesn't have a heart at all.

[Simon Hampson]
Found in FACT magazine

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Safe Distance

Because in general we approach the arts and entertainment from outside, because we go to art, we regard it as external to the main part of our life. We go to the theatre, to the cinema, the opera, the ballet; to museums; to sports fields (for a part of all great games is as much art as theatre or ballet).

Even our reading is outside the main occupations of our day; and even the art that is piped into our homes we feel comes from outside.

If we consign art to the leisure outprovinces of our lives, and even there experience it mostly in some indirect form, it becomes a mere aspect of good living - that is, a matter of facts, not feeling; of placing, of showing off cultural knowledge; of identifying and collecting.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos ('The Importance of Art'), p.199, 200

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When the chief fields for intellectual expression and the main channels for the stating of personal views of life were theology and philosophy, the artist was able to remain in closer contact with a public.

But now that art has become the chief mode of stating self, now that the theologian-philosopher is metamorphosed into the artist, an enormous gap has sprung.

The only person who might have stopped this schism between the artist and the non-artist are the critics. But the more obscure and the more ambiguous a work of art the more need there is for interpreters. There are thus excellent professional reasons for critics to encourage the schism.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos ('The Importance of Art'), p.198

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Assumptions

We feel we are stating a natural sequence of events when we say: this house was burned down because the lightning struck it. Primitive man senses an equally natural sequence when he says: a sorcerer has used the lightning to set fire to this particular house.

In explaining things in this way he is just like ourselves: he does not question his assumptions.

[C.G. Jung]
Modern Man In Search Of A Soul ('Archaic Man'), p.130

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A Way In

[...] I attribute a positive value to all religions. In their symbolism I recognize those figures which I have met with in the dreams and fantasies of my patients.

In their moral teaching I see efforts that are the same as or similar to those made by my patients, when, guided by their own insight or inspiration, they seek the right way of dealing with the forces of the inner life.

Ceremonial, ritual, initiation rites and ascetic practices, in all their forms and variations, interest me profoundly as so many techniques for bringing about a proper relation to these [inner] forces.

[C.G. Jung]
Modern Man In Search Of A Soul ('Freud and Jung'), p.121, 122

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