The importance of being pretentious

Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur have had the publishing success of Christmas with their encyclopedia of modern life 'Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?'. Slightly disturbingly, huge portions of the book are about the media ... ouch


Funny how you never hear novelists or painters say they work in the "creative industries", but only squalid little advertising people. How could this be?

J Walter Thompson, the world's oldest ad agency - founded in 1864, they currently handle Ford and Unilever - tell us on their website: "We believe: in influencing the world to think more creatively." Provided, presumably, only if that thought is "must-buy-more-stuff".


Words to go with pictures of people wearing clothes written by boarding-school girls with misspelt first names (so many Zs) and double-barrelled second ones.


"Hang on, what's the flaming hurry?" "Erm ... well. Nothing, really. Just, you know ... it makes things more tense. And we won't be able to shout things like Wow, I can't believe you painted those seven walls and converted that canal into a home for the blind, all in seven minutes - the drinks are on me!" 'Oh."


The four Intel Inside chimes (da-da da-ding!) are played somewhere in the world on average every five minutes.

Intel (da-da da-ding!) commissioned Austrian musician Walter Werzowa (the evil genius behind 1988 yodel-house hit "Edelweiss") in 1994 to compose a three-second jingle that "evoked innovation, troubleshooting skills and the inside of a computer, while also sounding corporate and inviting".

More than a jingle, this is a "sonic logo" that coincides with every mention of "Intel" (da-da da-ding!). Which leads to some terrifying sonic pile-ups like a recent PC World advert in which the initial glowsticks-aloft trance jolted into the Intel logo (da-da da-ding!) before cutting back to the trance and ending with the traditional: "Where in the world? PC World!" Wait till Intel gets outside. Then we'll be really fucked.


Seeing as the TV channels either get the licence fee or bombard us with a never-ending kaleidoscope of mind-numbing advertisements, and thus can by no means be considered skint, why aren't they paying professionals to make their programmes rather than asking me to fill in all the time? They are FOREVER canvassing my opinion on this, or getting me to speak about that. E-mail us, they say, press the red button now, text, call in.

Why me? All I'm trying to do is watch the television, an activity I associate mostly with watching and listening and occasionally shouting and swearing and throwing crisps about, not sharing my opinions with an underwhelmed nation.

This is the very acme of modern democracy, though: don't bother going on a demonstration or writing to your MP, just text what's bothering you to The Wright Stuff. Same difference.

The programmes, by lazily reflecting back to us what we already know, can fill up time without having to go to the terrible trouble of getting people in who might, say, know what they're fucking talking about. Middle East road-map irrevocably stalled? Just have a text poll; much easier than finding someone who could identify Israel on a map. Don't worry about informing the viewers, they only want to see Z-list celebs wanking each other off anyway.

So, red buttons. Actually, no, while I think of it "shock-jock controversial radio phone-ins" - like Jon Gaunt on BBC London. That's public sector broadcasting, is it - an ill-informed fat bloke shouting at you?

And it doesn't matter how many times you and your mates press the red button during Best Films Ever, even if you run up a bill of £9,000: they will fiddle it and Sex Lives of the Potato Men will NEVER win.


Occasionally I have real fears about Vernon Kay taking over the world. I find myself haunted by the thought of him presenting all current affairs television programmes, breaking off from news stories, to ask the viewers questions like: "So, the McCartney sisters: seriously, which one would you go for? Sisters, eh? Eh? Wicked..."

I have visions of a future war with army recruitment films being shown constantly on giant screens in every home and workplace and in public spaces across the town, featuring Vernon Kay in a thumbs up pose intoning: "Right, guys! This is serious, yeah?! Are you gonna do the right thing for your country or WHAT?"

These fears might seem misplaced, even slightly mad. But they are mine.


After three years studying "the media", I must be a real expert in "the media". Can I have a job in "the media" now, please? Vacuous tossers.


Here is a slice of classic Parky:

Parkinson: You really are rather good, aren't you?

Asinine celebrity: Yes, that right! Ha ha!

Parkinson: Marvellous. So, when did you realise you were so great?

Asinine celebrity: Not really sure. Probably around the time of a tedious childhood anecdote.

Parkinson: Marvellous. Would you like to come round my house and have some drinks?

Asinine celebrity: Yes please. By the way, I just want to say that you're looking so good, Parky. It's Parky everyone, look! Doesn't he look great? I can't believe I'm here! With Parky! On Parky!

Parkinson: Marvellous. I'm from Yorkshire, you know.


"I do like many blokeish things - football, women, kung fu - but that doesn't stop me from being a loving dad, a sensitive partner, a considerate lover."

Or a chemically pure example of a cockmonkey. What a guy!


In his play Night and Day, Tom Stoppard wrote: "A foreign correspondent is someone who flies around from hotel to hotel and thinks that the most interesting thing about any story is the fact that he has arrived to cover it."

Imagine being the same, only writing about coffee tables.


Sub-editors are the people employed to make journalists' copy clear and concise before it goes to print. They use words like "blitzing", "scorching", "stunning", and "searing". You work it out.

They also like "mouth-watering" and "tantastic" - which is great because it rhymes with "fantastic" but also includes the word "tan".

Copyright ©2005 by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur, extracted from Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?, published by Time Warner books, price £9.99