Sunday, 31 May 2009

Did you threaten to overrule him?

Jeremy Paxman is one of Britain's most recognisable public figures. Political analyst, journalist, and host of Newsnight, "Paxo" (Gee Note: Who may or may not enjoy being called Paxo) has carved out a reputation in recent times as being both a hard nosed, no nonsense reporter and a self appointed expert on the arts. Paxman's interview techniques have made him something to be feared amongst British politicians, mainly because of stuff like this

Bare in mind that the person being interviewed is none other than Swansea's own Michael "Vampire" Howard (Gee Note: Who may or may not enjoy being called a vampire) a former Home Secretary and leader of the Conservative Party. Now say what you want about the guy, but he does have an awful lot of experience when it comes to dealing with the media. So for him to be bullied in to submission by Mr. Paxman is, quite frankly, remarkable.

The thing about Paxman is despite his heroic brow beating of our nation's parasites politicians it's actually quite hard to like the man. No really he comes across as, you know, kinda arrogant. For example, as well as his Newsnight duties he's also the current host of University Challenge, a quiz show for university students who are both terrifyingly intelligent and terrifyingly ugly in equal measure. University Challenge is, despite a brief hiatus of seven years in the early 90's, one of the longest running programmes on British television. It's the kind of show that harkens back to a more pleasant time, a time where television sought to inform it's audience rather than using a woman's cleavage to sell a car. The programme itself is a bit like a pub quiz for the MENSA crowd, with difficult questions about subjects people like me pretend to know a lot about but in reality don't. For example.

Question: Which Austrian-born composer's last words were reported to be "Harmony! Harmony!", although his work is particularly noted from his free use of dissonance and his development, from the early 1920s, of the twelve-tone scale?

Gee's Answer: Say what?

Actual Answer: Arnold Schoenberg

I don't know why but there's something quite soothing watching pimply faced boffins display a remarkable aptitude for trivia. Well there was when Bamber Gascoine was hosting it anyway. Bamber was (Gee Note: The young prince of the forest who befriends a sexually ambiguous skunk and a rabbit with attention deficit disorder) the quizmaster on UC until 1987 when the show was cancelled. In 1994 the series was reintroduced with Paxman at the helm. Problem is Paxman has brought with him his unique brand of questioning which includes, amongst other things, barking "Come on!" at a team that takes too long to answer a question. And woe betide the silly sausage that gets a question wrong that Paxo himself knows the answer to, as he's most likely to respond with "No. You're stupid and here's the reason why…" or words to that effect. Watching University Challenge is sometimes akin to watching A.C. Slater bench press some nerds.

Paxman can also be rather unprofessional should the mood take him. At some point during 2005 the editor of Newsnight decided that rather than rounding off the show with the usual financial reports they would instead show a brief forecast for tomorrow's weather. Paxman was unhappy with this, possibly under the impression that reading out the weather was beneath him. This lead to statements live on air such as "So finally and controversially - tomorrow's weather forecast. It's a veritable smorgasbord. Sun. Rain. Thunder. Hail. Snow. Cold. Wind. Not worth going to work really." the equally impressive "And so to tomorrow's weather forecast. Take an umbrella", or my absolute favourite "And for tomorrow's weather. It's April. What do you expect?". The weather forecasts lasted all of two weeks before the market news was brought back.

Anyway this weekend Paxman has made headlines by calling the British public “Barbarians”. Jeremy was at the Hay Festival of Literature giving a talk on Victorian Art before conducting a Q&A session with his audience. During this he was asked the question of whether pictures in galleries should be explained to members of the public in greater detail.

Well apparently Paxo thinks we as a nation don’t appreciate art enough. In fact without even the slightest hint of irony Paxman stated "Watching TV is the most popular leisure activity in Britain. I find that very depressing." (Gee Note: Ummm, what is it you do for a living exactly?).

Now don’t get me wrong. Art has it’s place in society. But just what the hell is wrong with television? Great TV is one of the most wonderful things in the world. Seriously I’d put a good television show right up there any work of art from Michelangelo or Da Vinci. Hell, The Wire alone knocks spots off anything Picasso doodled. And “barbarians” isn’t really a fair term to describe the British public. I mean sure, some us might not be the most intellectual of folks, but really it’s not as if we’re a bunch of slack jawed yokels who see the face of Jesus Christ on, oh I don’t know, the lid of a marmite jar and act like it’s the second coming.

Oh wait…

Meet the Allen family of Ystrad Rhondda, Wales. The Allens made headlines worldwide nationally locally on Friday when it was reported that they had, er, seen the face of Jesus on a Marmite lid and were convinced it was the second coming of Christ.

Now before we begin it strikes me that some of our overseas readers might have no idea what the hell “Marmite” is. Allow me to explain. Marmite is a food spread made from yeast extract. It is a brown, sticky paste with a very strong flavour. So strong in fact that Marmite’s marketing campaign is “You’ll either love it or hate it” (Gee Note: Which was deemed a better slogan than “Marmite: It tastes like ass” by the ad folks). Inexplicably some people actually eat the stuff, despite the fact that it’s made from rotten microscopic fungus.

So one day Mrs Claire Allen (Gee Note: Who at the age of 36 really should know better) was spreading this appalling substance on her son’s toast when all of sudden she saw the face of Christianity. No not Chuck Norris. The other guy. She then ran to tell her husband Gareth who had this to say, “When I first looked at it I wasn't sure, but when I moved it away from me it started coming out. I thought yeah, she's right - that's the image of Jesus.”

Here’s the above mentioned image of Jesus.

Claire was quoted as saying “Straight away Jamie said 'that looks like God', and my other boys even said they could see a face. People might think I'm nuts,” (Gee Note: No? Really?) “But I like to think it's Jesus looking out for us.”

See, it’s tough commenting on this story. Simply because it’s so bat shit crazy to begin with that, you know, where can you go with it? I mean forget for a moment that Jesus Christ would plant his face on a lid of a Marmite jar for, er, no apparent reason what so ever. Forget for a moment that an unassuming family home in Ystrad, a town with a population of around 6000, would be the place the Son of God would choose for his grand return (Gee Note: Seriously if that is the case then JC should hire a publicist or something. You know, to book some interviews with the media and raise his public profile a bit. I mean not ALL publicists can be sinners dammed to spend eternity in Hell right? Right?). Instead think on this.

It doesn’t really look all that much like Jesus.

In fact if I’m honest it looks an awful lot like, well, this guy.

Now I’m not sure what the face of Sgt. Floyd Pepper magically appearing on a food spread container would actually mean in a metaphysical sense. However I’m guessing it has less to with divine intervention and more to do with pareidolia, a term psychologists use to explain the phenomenon where people see facial features in everyday objects. According to Carl Sagan this is due to a survival technique where we have been “hard wired” from birth to recognise a human face, even in poor visibility conditions.

The scary thing is though that if people genuinely feel that they’re seeing the face of Jesus anywhere outside of religious texts and church then maybe Paxman is right.

Maybe we should watch less television and learn more about our surroundings by visiting art galleries, museums, and libraries. Oh and looking up witty and informative websites of course. I hear there’s a good one about Elvis hanging out in some woodland or something. You should really check that out.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go. Animals Do The Funniest Things is about to start.

1 comment:

Rob said...

*looks up from his rotten microscopic fungus sandwich and gazes disdainfully at Gee's ice-cold pint of microscopic fungus faeces*