Date: Saturday, June 30, 2007
Dateline: London, England
I'm not fond of nationalism, it brings out too many patriotic idiocies and deprives us of viewing the world as one. But it is not unusual, as the Welch coal-miner sings, when you consider that football has always threatened to be the opium of the people.
The London Sunday Times used to be a pretty good newspaper until Rupert Murdoch took over but he successfully turned it to profits with writing talent behind the tabloid like commercialization. He didn't fire erudite columnist Godfrey Smith and an excellent art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, joined the team. Compared to most newspapers the Sunday Times is better than average. I know I hate it but I keep reading it and I know there is a better newspaper in Alaska than the Times of London but on Sunday the New York Times is still heavier. Murdoch has always rubbed me the wrong way and I can't forgive him ruining sports viewing on television for low income people with his pay-for-view programing. He needs a lot of bodyguards.
His chain of newspapers have often reflected his right wing views but it is more about making a buck. That's why he immigrated from Australia to the U.S. and became a citizen. The Sunday Times is more balanced now than previously. Smith has retired but Januszczak is still there along with on the edge humor columnist and sports writer Rob Liddle and just as scathing, editorial writer, Simon Jenkins. On the international front there is Christina Lamb, Marie Colvin, and Jon Swain. Their reporting from the field is gripping stuff. The newest international correspondent, Uzi Mahnaimi, is an Israeli sympathizer and hard to believe but he writes well on the war front.
There have been more than a few writers for the Sunday Times who annoy me but two will do as the restaurant and TV critic writer is not as provocative as Andrew Sullivan and Jeremy Clarkson.
Sullivan is a well educated English Catholic homosexual who has worked as a right wing journalist in the U.S. for many years. In 1992 he was appointed editor of The New Republic, a sad day for American journalism. During the Clinton administration he flipped out over Bill and Hillary and his column was subsequently banned from the New York Times. He continued to work for right wing periodicals and after becoming a columnist for the Sunday Times had further success as a blogger. Meanwhile it took him four years of Yankee flag waving for the Bush administration to regain some of his sanity. Now he is in limbo, he can't support Bush but as long as the next president is a republican I suppose he would be pleased. So what about these Hollywood starlets that send him e-mails? Did he make that up? I'll bet Milly Jackson never sent him one. I used to send letters to the editor of the Sunday Times about Sullivan and until I referred to him as fascist faggot they acknowledged receipt of my e-mails. Now nothing. Family newspaper, give your readers a break.
I'll be the first to admit that Sullivan's new found scorn for the Bush administration since 2004 is on target but he still has flippy do-da lapses when he thinks of democrats and Hillary. So in In his June 3rd column in the Sunday Times he takes a potshot at Al Gore but only Andrew knows what he is on about. His writing becomes psycho babble about rationality and 'some collective, irrational unhinging' and he tries to tie that up with Hollywood celebrities and the collective conscience of American voters and claims that Gore 'misunderstands the genius of constitutional democracy.' It's all bull shit. What he hasn't got the balls to say is that Americans voted for Nixon, Reagan, and Bush to eight year terms because they are stupid. There. I hope Sullivan suffocates on something he puts in his mouth.
Jeremy Clarkson has been a long time correspondent for the Sunday Times and reminds me of why I distrust Englishmen, they aspire to be conservative. He doesn't sound posh but he fits the model of a social climber with a hollow laugh. Clarkson achieved notoriety when he became a TV presenter on the automotive show Top Gear. His taste in music was always close to the elevator but as a Top Gear motor head he just had to visit Motor City and there befriended Bob Seger, the singer in the Silver bullet Band. He probably chatted with Mitch Ryder of the Detroit Wheels too as Jeremy was suddenly a fan of roots rock with a touch of blue color. But he never mentioned heavy metal guitarist Ted Nugent Why? Because Ted said he could shoot the balls of a rhino at three hundred feet with a bow and arrow. Iggy Pop? No way. Not posh, not family entertainment. Think like Rupert.
On returning to London Jeremy soon presented a documentary series on BBC about transportation and speed. For that exercise he rode in various vehicles including a tank, a formula I, and a jet that made him heave his cookies. That documentary was followed up by another mini-series featuring his hero Isambard Kington Brunel. This was fairly serious stuff for Clarkson because the civil engineer Brunel was a designer and builder of railways, bridges, and steamships. Much of his humor was gone and humor is what the English audience was looking for on the tube.
Yes, Clarkson has a keen since of humor. One of his colleagues on the Sunday times, India Knight, once wrote that only conservatives have a sense of humor. Of course she has her shit on backwards but Clarkson is capable of a very funny turn of phrase. He occasionally made me laugh out loud and that's my highest praise for a writer. I'm not a weepy, let the good times roll. However, when Jeremy became a motor head his bright guy views changed and everything green became a communist plot for him. His contempt for the Green Revolution is on record and he has to recant or be swallowed up by the truth. Playing dice with the planet, ignoring the warnings, is political and religious ignorance.
Jeremy's not seen the way. He was born to be an Englishman, 'to hunt down game and blast away, to shoot what ere' you can' just like the American, Yosemite Sam. As student he was probably too afraid to explore his mind with an hallucinogen, to experience an overview of the planet we live and breath on. And that brings me to his June 10th column in the Sunday Times entitled 'Stuff the tiger- long live extinction.'
He's trying to be provocative. No one believes he means what he is saying because he's such a bright guy, even smarter than Andrew Sullivan. And he's trashing endangered species because like tigers they are 'as irrelevant as the death of a faraway star.' Did he consider that tigers are apart of human history. In India during the course of the 18th and 19th Centuries tigers are claimed to have killed 100,000 people. Then the English came with their shotguns and slaughtered them. I've seen a photo of these Victorian hunters standing and beaming over a pile of tiger carcases and thinking how pleased the wife and mistress will be with a skin and head on the carpet. This photo (circa 1890s) was in the Sunday Times, maybe it accompanied a hunting article by former columnist Godfrey Smith. If it did Mr. Smith must have mentioned the only Englishman, probably the only man in the world who cared about the plight of the tiger, Jim Corbett. He was a professional hunter and bagged around twelve before turning his attention to tiger protection in India. If he hadn't acted the tiger would have been extinct in the 1800s. He also played apart in establishing India's first national park in 1934. In 2007 there were no more than 3,500 tigers left in the wild. They are still being poached and their body parts are shipped to China for medicinal remedies of questionable value. Not the trade, the remedies.
Another 19th Century photo accompanying an article by Godfrey Smith showed Victorian English conservatives at their best on home ground slaughtering ducks, pheasants, grouse, what ever, probably a brace of coots out of camera range, by the hundreds, a thousand or more birds on a Sunday safari, anything that moved in the bush, too bad Dick Cheney wasn't there. Now here's a rub, Cheney probably bosses the U.S. Interior Department and while that government agency is in charge of overseeing the Endangered species Act, it issues exemptions for super- rich hunters to bag a dying species. So if you want to shoot a big horned Argali ram in the Mongolia neighborhood and beyond, contact Safari Club International and they'll get the necessary paper work done for you courtesy of the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service. Meanwhile you can stuff Jeremy Clarkson.
And remember, you're not over the hill if you can keep a grip on your dentures. P.G.