Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Return of the Big Beasts: plumbers too

Bagehot in last weeks' Economist ran a piece about the return of the big beasts. Here's what Bagehot means:

Now, almost as a herd, these resting big beasts, the formidable and the chimerical, seem to be moving back to the front-line of politics. It is a telling migration.

The most exotic specimen to be unleashed is, of course, Lord Mandelson, resurrected as business secretary in October. Gordon Brown also brought Margaret Beckett and Nick Brown, two other veteran ministers, back into government. Less conspicuously, he has been taking advice from Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s hatchet-man. Rumours that Alan Milburn, a former health secretary, is set for a role in policy formulation may be unfounded. But David Blunkett—who, like Lord Mandelson, twice resigned from the cabinet—may re-surface. Peter Hain—forced out by a funding scandal in January, but now partially rehabilitated—retains Mr Brown’s esteem. On the Tory side, there is persistent talk of using Ken Clarke, a former chancellor, home secretary, health secretary (and so on) for more than the odd policy commission. Mr Cameron has already offered him a job once, and the two are on good terms. Michael Howard, Mr Cameron’s predecessor as leader, is increasingly conspicuous on television.

Meanwhile Jack Shafer, pimping his Slate death watch on newspapers (Shafer plays Pythia to Jeff Jarvis's Apollo these days), comes up with a list of jobs lost because of the digital:

• Bank tellers
• Typewriters
• Typesetting
• Carburetors
• Vacuum tubes
• Slide rules
• Disc jockeys
• Stockbrokers
• Telephone operators
• Yellow pages
• Repair guys
• Bookbinders
• Pimps (displaced by the cell phone and the Web)
• Cassette and reel-to-reel recorders
• VCRs
• Turntables
• Video stores
• Record stores
• Bookstores
• Recording industry
• Courier/messenger services
• Travel agencies
• Print and cinematic porn
• Porn actors
• Stenographers
• Wired telcos
• Drummers
• Toll collectors (slayed by the E-ZPass)
• Book publishing (especially reference works)
• Conventional-watch makers
• "Browse" shopping
• U.S. Postal Service
• Printing-press makers
• Film cameras
• Kodak (and other film-stock makers)

Reading the list I'm wondering whether any of these Big Beasts will make a come-back in 2009. I think some will. Call it the new arts and craft movement: a reverence for well made books, hand made limited editions, film rather than pixels; vinyl has already made its case, and drummers won't ever go away, not in the AC/DC mode, anyway. Print porn seems to still be Belle de Jouring, and book & record stores need only the V&A "nice cafe" moment to become nodal meeting points (they can become flaneur HQs, of course: social networks with great coffee). And "repair guys"? Surely they are the most likely Big Beast revivals: currently a television repair man call out is £150 minimum. (Well, that's how far my online research took me.) What other kinds of battle hardened, experienced, Beasts are due a revival? Keynes? (See below). Local news (see whichever Big Beast makes the jump to own more than EC1)?

Trust...well, there's the big thing.

Who would, after all, have predicted "Light Entertainment" as the Big Beast cultural capital of the virtual decade? John Seargeant, anyone?

No comments: