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Tuesday, July 24, 2007 

From despair to where.

i want to thank this cultural production for the sounds that it brings
it makes us amplify our manifestos, and it enables me to sing
i want to thank you, my little nemesis, for everything
for making my head explode and my ears ring
The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Will it Ever be Quiet?


In Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk's pungent satire on reality television and the sensationalism of the modern media, the array of characters that gather together in an abandoned theatre, locked away from the outside world for months in order to write their fictional masterpieces, conspire against their host and his helper by sabotaging the food supply, the water, the heating and even the toilets. Their modus operandi is that only genuine suffering, accompanied by physical, rather than mental scars, guarantees exposure in our modern times. Like a version of Alive! in a pitch black warehouse with similarly dark humour, our protagonists, named after the short, personal stories they tell each other, cut off their own body parts and partake in cannibalism, all with the goal of having their tragic, distorted tale of being locked up by an evil tyrant host who tortures them turned into the last word on hostage taking, with all the benefits that come with being famous for all the wrong reasons.

Being both satire and fiction, Palahniuk characteristically takes both the desire to be infamous and for financial reward to as near to the mark as he can. Back here on Planet Earth, all you really need to be infamous, loved, admired and hated in equal measure is to have big tits and a tiny brain. We've seen so many incarnations of this down the years that you would have thought that by now it would have become passe, predictable and tawdry. After 85 million years of evolution, however, all you still need to get the average man on his knees, tongue lolling out of his mouth, worshipping at the feet of a goddess is for her to have a large pair of mammaries and that knowing, sultry, cheeky smile.

In a world in which the weekly "lads'" mags compete to get as many nipples into their soon to be splattered pages, it's perhaps not a surprise that creatures such as Katie Price and her mongoloid husband Peter Andre exist, but it is that they still demand mass attention, lust and envy. Their relationship with the public is amongst the most cynical that the celebrity world has managed to concoct, and by far one of the most exploitative. Their missives to the world are not merely reported or given out in PR statements; they are written up in the elegiac, fawning, sycophantic prose that inhabits magazines such as OK! and Hello!, even when their personal views are so rudimentary and base that it's impossible to somehow make them more dignified.

It's through this modern day version of Moses receiving the 10 commandments from God that we learn of the choice of name that Price and Andre have chosen for their recently arrived baby girl. According to BBC News:

Glamour model Jordan and pop star Peter Andre have named their baby daughter Princess Tiaamii.

You have to feel for the poor child. While she may be brought up in opulence beyond the dreams of nearly every single one of us, not only does she have to suffer having two of the least charming individuals on the planet for her parents, she also has to endure a moniker that not even the most pretentious Grauniad/Telegraph reader would dare to announce in the pages of either august organ. Jordan and Andre subsequently explain how their synapses somehow managed to fuse together such a unlikely combination:

Jordan, who was born Katie Price, said the first name was chosen was because the girl was "our princess".

And Andre came up with the middle name by combining his mother's name, Thea, with that of Jordan's mother, Amy.

No, I'm not sure how Thea somehow fits into Tiaamii either. But wait! There's yet more:

"We've put an accent over the first A to make it more exotic and two Is at the end just to make it look a bit different," Jordan told OK! magazine.

Somehow, you get the feeling that this most learned of couples doesn't really understand why accents are usually used. Surely they could have decided on both a more exotic and different name by following the example of the mother's nom de guerre; how about Princess Syria, Iraq or Egypt? Or how about moving regions to Africa and instead having Princess Zimbabwe, Chad or Darfur? They could have shown their political awareness while also indulging their other desires!

Celebrities giving their children stupid, bizarre, laughable names isn't a new thing. The reigning Queen up until her death was undoubtedly Paula Yates, whose last attempt, naming her daughter with Michael Hutchence Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily set the bar for all to follow. It's not as if the trend isn't just with those who can be compared in the intelligence stakes with Pooh bear: Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow named their daughter Apple, probably to be joined later in life by her sisters Kumquat, Lychees and Pomegranate. Things still could have been far worse for Princess Tiaamii, as Jordan explains:

Jordan also revealed that she had considered calling the girl Tinkerbell, but rejected the idea because too many celebrities had chosen it for their dogs.

One has to wonder then what the problem was.

As much as some of us loathe these grotesque, disgusting, most grasping and desperate of personalities, there are plenty of others that adore them, and follow their every movement as if they were a deity. In addition to this, their control of the popular mind is such that the most popular children's names list in 2002 recorded 51 newborn girls being called Chardonnay, while an additional 14 spelt it Chardonay. A lifetime of mockery awaits them. Like when the emergence of Kylie sparked a surge in girls' being called after the Australian then soap star, the same list also recorded 221 children named "Shakira", while 448 plumped for "Aaliyah".

More than anything, it's difficult to comprehend just how a woman whose biggest claim to fame is getting her plastic norks out is somehow one of the richest women living in Britain today. A sneering Daily Mail article, on "celebrity chavs", claimed that she has a fortune in the region of £30 million. It's equally astonishing that her autobiography is supposedly the 4th biggest selling of all time in this country. It can't be a coincidence that others with no story to tell, with massively warped senses of their own importance almost verging on psychosis, like Charley, currently in the Big Brother house, claim to be writing their own life stories. It's not as if there isn't a pedigree to follow: other non-entities such as Chantelle and Pete have had their lives snapped up and quickly ghosted into book form, most probably by a once aspiring novelist reduced to whoring themselves out to make ends meet.

According to Cosmo Landesman, to claim that such individuals are famous only because they are famous is a "cliched tautology", as they represent the very heart of modern capitalism. Landesman is correct, but not in the way he thinks he is. They represent the very heart of modern cynical capitalism, manufactured, promoted and prepared for almost any eventuality, except murder or paedophilia, the only two remaining deadly sins in the celebrity world. Those such as Jordan aren't able to rise to the top of their own initiative: they're plucked from their relative obscurity and moulded into the ultimate marketable image, entering into a Faustian pact where their "owner" makes pots of money while the star makes a reasonable amount, with the deal eventually ending when the brand becomes too old or out of date to appeal. A new generation of young people see this happening and think that they too can be victorious in this battle: being a braying, ignorant idiot can be incredibly profitable, as can the body you received. That only a few will ever make it doesn't matter: it's a sort of crude, backwards American dream, where the individuality and naivety involved in the belief in that nightmare become even more overwhelming.

The only real surprise is that there hasn't be any organised youth opposition to this development both in capitalism and society: the closest we might well have come so far is in the obnoxious Silver Ring Thing and other similar religious based movements, which have their own crude ideology and agendas behind them. In an age of supposed individualism, most actually seek both to belong and to adhere to a set of values of a certain grouping, whether it be trendy, gothish, gang-based or otherwise. It's perhaps a hangover from the days of the End of History that it seems both old-fashioned and dorky to dare to resist outside these already preconceived, marketed groups, as well as the sum of peer pressure to conform that no such grouping has emerged. If individualism is ever really going to establish itself, then the age of mass trends will need to itself become a source of ridicule, and while its still so profitable, that is far off. With it, the troglodytes and trollops of the celebrity world will continue to prosper.

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