x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Loose canon

An irreverent look at global culture.

One part David Blaine to ten Spinal Tap, Criss Angel Mindfreak (MBC Action) is perhaps the greatest TV show ever made. The opening credit sequence - Angel "flying", mirrors bursting from the desert, Angel "spontaneously combusting", a dictionary definition of the word "mindfreak" (definition no4: "Criss Angel"), Angel "singing" his death-metal theme tune, buxom women, dwarves - is the 21st century's Mona Lisa.

America's drawn-out Democratic primary nightmare is finally over. This was all but certain before Tuesday's contests, but now even the analysis-averse US news media gets it. Someone will have to sit down with Hillary to explain what she already knows (even if she can't admit it to herself): that none of her increasingly desperate and cheap tricks worked. Perhaps, in her mind, the ends would have justified the means. But how does it feel when the means are truly mean - and get you nowhere at all?

Bon Jovi! Elton John! Madonna! Just a crazy notion: rather than paying a billion dollars to some jaded has-been, why not offer a tenth of the cash (still a generous fee) to someone new? Klaxons? Vampire Weekend? Justice? Who knows, perhaps we might even get a reputation for supporting up-and-coming talent, rather than offering golden handshakes to pensionable rockers whose next stop is a gig in their retirement home?

This week Time magazine unveiled its inane "100 Most Influential" list, which is clearly being pitched as a companion to that other great Time gimmick, the "Man of the Year" (whose past winners include Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Putin and You). It should be obvious by now that the world has little need for another list of Most Powerful, Biggest, Hottest, etc. The human impulse to catalogue superlatives may be an understandable one, but the great crime of Time's list is the sanctimony with which they approach the topic. They don't deign to rank the titans, presumably because that would be crass - whereas compiling lists of the most important people in the world doesn't have the slightest taint of crassness.

Can we give the bellyaching about Hollywood's spate of Gulf-guilt films a rest? Yes, they tanked at the box office. Yes, they're liberal Hollywood very publicly wringing its hands. And yes, they don't have as many drug-related gags as Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantánamo. But if it's a choice between Pearl Harbor or In the Valley of Elah we'll take Tommy Lee any day. Just because the average moviegoing American is insular and stupid doesn't mean that all American movies should be the same.

What's with the UAE's automotive chromophobia? It's like Henry Ford on a particularly conciliatory day: "You can have any colour, so long as it's black. Or white." What happened to cars being devilish red or racing green? Would a little bit of colour be such a bad thing? Enough with the research "proving" that buying shoes gives the same endorphin rush as tub of chocolate ice-cream. What about studies that show something interesting? Like that being nice makes your hair thicker, or that sad songs really do say so much, or that reading endless pointless surveys has the same effect on your IQ as repeatedly jabbing a pen in your ear.