06 June 2007

This Is England?

I'm sure it's just a sign of encroaching age, but I'll have to align myself with the tens of thousands of appalled Brits who are in an uproar over the new logo for the 2012 Olympics as seen at left, for which the taxpayers forked over a not insubstantial £400,000 ($800,000) and which has shown itself capable of driving epileptics (and, I suspect, some non-epileptics as well) into fits.

Cue the usual outrage to the effect of "My eight year old kid could draw something better than that," but in this case, it's very possibly true. Well, not my eight year old kid, as I don't have one, but certainly almost any of the numerous graphic designers I number among my friends could have come up with something better. I've found that as a general rule, the quality of logos is inversely proportional to the amount spent on them, and it will probably be a long time, if ever, before I come to understand how someone can throw a few squiggles on a piece of paper and then say with a straight face, "Here's your professionally prepared graphic design, that'll be 20 squillion bucks, please."

On second thought, I can understand that bit, as there is a never-ending supply of chutzpah in this world, especially in the "artistic" sector thereof, but I'm not so clear on how there can be so many people in possession of so much money and so little sense that such demands of cash for trash actually get paid. Oh, but wait: we're not talking about real money here, we're talking about taxpayers' money, which of course is very real to the people who had to earn and pay it, but completely unreal and unaccountable to those charged with spending it.

Which reminds me of one of the reasons I was glad to get out of England when I did: the enormous boondoggle that is the 2012 Olympics is going to end up costing London taxpayers thousands, probably many thousands of pounds over the next 10 or 20 years, and the bulk of that will be due to the quango and consultant-ridden style of management that maximizes costs, minimizes productivity, evades all forms of responsibility, and which has become inexorably entrenched in this country over the last couple decades.

A similar process can be seen in Tony Blair's much-vaunted "reform" of the NHS: billions spent on talking shops, "blue-sky thinking," and NASA-scaled computer programs that so far haven't even been shown to work. And in much else that is done or attempted in post-modern Britain: the new Wembley Stadium, that came in two years late and £200 million ($400 million) over budget, the Millennium Dome, £750 million ($1.5 billion) worth of nothing that the government couldn't even give away when it reached almost instant obsolescence and ultimately had to pay someone to take it off its hands.

Then there's the national rail network: the country that invented the railroad and installed excellent, still-functioning systems in many of its colonies, can't manage to keep its own trains on the tracks without charging the highest fares in the world for a service that frequently compares unfavorably with the 19th century, and the similar ongoing fiasco of the London Underground. In every one of these cases, the same pattern can be seen: enormous, obscenely wasteful outlays of public money with virtually no accountability, a barrage of bureaucratic bafflegab from the officials meant to oversee these projects, and a blithely British "mustn't grumble" on the part of the long-suffering public.

Nowhere were this nation's diminishing-to-the-point-of-nonexistence expectations more clearly visible than in watching tonight's Euro 2008 qualifier against lowly Estonia. If England failed to win this match (as it has failed to win nearly every other qualifier thus far), it would be out of the competition, going down what onetime manager Graham Taylor called "the same road as Scotland and becoming a second division team in world football." And this the country that invented the game.

The pubs were packed tonight, so much so that I couldn't even get inside and had to watch from out on the pavement, and to see so many Englishmen absolutely desperate for victory in a match that should have been the equivalent of Man United playing a local pub team - and fearful that they might not get it - really put into sharp relief just how substandard a performance people have come to expect - and accept. When a goal finally went in just before halftime, the cheering and celebrating practically blew the windows out into Shaftesbury Avenue, when you'd think fans would have been indignant that it took almost 45 minutes for a several hundred million pounds worth of soccer talent to break down a side ranked #110 in the world.

But never mind, England survived comfortably in the end, and may even struggle though to the quarterfinals again before being handed its semi-annual humiliation, and you know what? For all my griping, and that of the great, grumbling British public, this is still a great and amazing country. The fact that it still thrives and prospers under such incompetent and bumbling leadership should be evidence enough of that; ten years of New Labour doublethink following hard upon 16 years of Tory vindictiveness and malfeasance may have helped turn Britain into one of the drunkest and most violent countries in the developed world, but it's barely dented the basic decency and optimism of what is ultimately and still a green and very pleasant land. I'll be glad to get back to New York next week, not least because I'll be able to wear summer clothes again instead of lugging around several layers of outerwear to be applied and removed at various times of the day, but just as in the old poem, there remains in my heart a corner that will be forever England.

P.S. For those of you who inferred from the header that this post would have something to do with the newish film This Is England, I fully intend to see it and will report back as soon as I do.

1 comment:

James said...

To be quite frank, I highly doubt that your "graphic designer" friends could come up wth better. Perhaps the logo is disposable, but it is exciting- far better than most of the logos of most acts on your former label's whole catalog, to be frabk. It embodies a fascination with early 80s UK/Japanese graphic design that a lot of designers have missed in the meantime. It isn't "wholesome/timeless" enough for most, but in my opinion, that's what really good raw graphic design or anal sex is for- to fill up those heartfelt gaps. This logo is like getting fucked in the best way. A way that excites and distracts. I miss that, but then I look at works by Bananas Studio Yokohama or this, and it gets me all hot and bothered again. I wish that graphic design pushed my buttons like this more often.