30 Apr 2009

Life Is Better

I've got loads of old electrical bits and pieces, whether its cables for obsolete connections, broken headphones, video players without plugs attached, or even a powered VGA to SCART connector (I thought this would enable me to convert a VGA signal to SCART, and thus use a regular TV as a computer monitor - and then I found out it was more complicated than that).

On my last spring clean, I finally decided to despatch my bulky cathode ray TV to the cellar, because its screen size to bulk ratio was ridiculous. At the same time, I realised this action also makes my digital TV box rather pointless as well, so that has been crammed into a corner somewhere. It was only a 20 quid one that my Dad bought me from Aldi - the best German retailer in the country. Part of the reason for the lack of use is that our external aeriel is either knackered, fallen down or all of the above.

In the living room, we can receive (in analogue glory) around 3 terrestrial channels depending on climatic conditions, and occasionally get a burst of channel 5. Essentially, you have to be dedicated in order to tolerate it.

This is no bad thing.

I'm part of a box-set, selfish generation that likes entertainment on demand. I hear about a show, I download it, I watch it in its entirety, sans advertising (whether commercial advertising or 'look whats coming up next' BBC advertising). The effect this has had on me over the last few years is that my tolerance for regular broadcast television has diminished to a new low. I can just about cope with committing to a half hour BBC show, but commercial TV sends me into a rage, and I'll switch off almost immediately.

This is no bad thing.

I thought about getting the aeriel sorted so that we can get a strong enough signal for digital TV, but now I think that I've made a leap forwards (albeit without the best computer and equipment) and I don't have the desire to return to the days of wading through the shit that makes up most broadcast television. News? Always better from the radio - my images in my mind are more visceral, and the descriptions better (the internet provides the cross-referencing and 'media content' that the radio lacks).

When I'm dedicating myself to watching a 23 part drama (or comedy most likely), or otherwise engaged with internet activities, I now read more than I used to, so my conclusion is that the great leap forward in technology has actually been edifying for my soul. Because books are kick ass, and ITV and their ilk are like the collectivised shriek of a million morons.

29 Apr 2009

Let's All Talk About Feminism

Well, considering that recently I've had multiple conversations and read about Feminism and what it means, I suppose I could write something about what it means to me.

As far as I'm concerned, describing yourself as an 'ist' suggests closing your mind around one view of the world. Saying that, I believe myself to be quite feminist in my outlook, in that I view feminism (and other 'ism's) as lenses in which to view the world. Some would argue about the period we live in being a 'post-feminist' age. Rubbish. Look at the pay differential between men and women, look how pornography has become mainstream (I'll return to that later because I know there's quite a bit to write on it), and look at the support offered to victims of rape and domestic abuse.

One of the worst aspects of the 'post-feminist' age is people trying to convince you that misogyny and sexism are somehow empowering. At the risk of ridicule, I thus bring to you the case of the Spice Girls.

In many ways, the Spice Girls had more of an impact on their generation than feminist writers of earlier ones. Now I say 'impact' rather than suggesting that they espoused a coherent philosophy. Their sophisticated and less-than-sophisticated marketing centered on women (specifically tweens and early teens) feeling in control of their lives, and to a certain extent, nurturing some female solidarity. This 'solidarity' being remarkably profitable as well (cf. Selling Dreams, Disney Corporation, 1923-Present). As much as I would like to write them off as a commercial operation designed to empty the purses of little girls, when there's such a mass uptake of something in popular culture, it can't really be ignored.

Any hope of a great feminist moment from the Spice Girls was immediately dashed when they opened their mouths to give an opinion. I quote the Independent from 1996:

"Huddled around the columnist in their "desolate" changing-room, the women, Geri, Victoria and Emma on the right of the political spectrum, and Mel B and Mel C left of centre, the task proved refreshingly easy.

On Lady Thatcher: "Thatcher had ideals all right," said Geri, to a chorus of approval and chants of "We love Maggie!"

"Even if her policies were hard-hearted, socialism is bad - you work for your living and you deserve to keep what you've earned, Thatcher believed. But her legacy was a mixture: dealing with the unions good; destroying the GLC bad."

Hmm. Anyway - on to porn!

From what I understand, Andrea Dworkin was the big anti-porn writer. Initially, I was too simplistic in my disagreement with her, as it seemed that she was extremely stubborn about it always being absolutely terrible. I now understand a lot more of her points, the majority being valid in my view, and I think my initial dislike was down to an instinctual distrust of people 'on a crusade'.
Without wanting to write bucketloads... surely the problem with pornography is not its intrinsic explicitness, but the fact that its pretty much all made by men, and the fact that there exists an industry in it, commercialises something that by most accounts, is pretty cool. Pornography is essentially quite honest in that it does not pretend to give you an overview of the conflict of the human condition, it gives you close-ups of filthy rutting. Saying that though, its generally about as erotic as seeing stripped down Barbie dolls being pushed on each other, and yes, its choc-full of exploitation (see 'its run by men' above).

I have more of a problem with 'lifestyle' magazines.

If any magazines were worthy of censorship (I don't abide censorship by the way) then I would suggest lifestyle ones. Both wimmin's and mens' magazine are based around a fake set of assumptions on what each sex is supposed to enjoy. The post-feminist era that spawned the Spice Girls' modern 'take' on feminism also created the lad's mag culture, where "HAHAHAHA isn't it funny to return to misogyny" was the order of the day, objectifying women is fine again ("Just a bit of fun, love") contributing to body fascism we still experience in popular culture. What irks me most is how these publications have such a narrow world view. I wouldn't give a shit if so many people didn't buy them. Gah. Still, perhaps I would be a bit happier if I switched my brain off, and allowed myself to be told how to dress, how to act, what my favourite music, films are etc.

This is where my unorthodox modern male feminism comes in. Brothers, Sisters, lets have mutual respect for each other, recognise that inequalities exists, and stop allowing broadcasters, magazines and our day to day interactions to reinforce the stereotypes that are both self-perpetuating, and ultimately profitable for a minority of twats.

I've missed so much out that I meant to put in, but its nearly lunchtime.

23 Apr 2009

Remember AIPAC?

They're one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.

Rep. Jane Harman is a Democrat, and (formerly) a member of the intelligence committee that allowed the Bush administration almost limitless wiretapping of... anyone.

Petard. Hoisted. Her. By. Own.

The National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapped her talking to the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) promising to take action against the Justice Department's efforts to prosecute 2 AIPAC lobbyists accused of spying.

"In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win."

As a rather unusual subplot, Harman is now asking for the recordings to made public (possibly a gamble in the hope that the Attorney General refuses, thus nipping the issue in the bud) and in a public statement yesterday she declared that she was "very disappointed my country could've permitted a gross abuse of power." Yeah sure - you backed this abuse of power you fool.

Doesn't seem to have made the news here yet, but I'll be looking out for this.

22 Apr 2009

Dear Cancer Research UK...

There I was, eating my twice weekly helping of Lloyd Grossman sauces (tonight was Bhuna), when an almighty thump hits the front door upstairs. Not expecting visitors, I await the sound of my fellow residents rushing to greet whoever it is they have invited.

No such noise. And if its one thing I can do in my house, its recognise the many sounds it makes, like a living creaking, draughty organism. I eventually down food tools, and head upstairs and open the front door. No one. Ho hum. I glance up and down the street, but all I could see were a couple of gangly yout's making their way up the road, so I start to close the door when:

"Hey. Hey!"

A youngish bloke wearing a plastic Cancer Research jacket with an indecipherable bit of 'ID' strung round his neck.

"Did you just get a knock on your door?"

I answer. He's straight on the script like a pro. Blah representing Cancer Research blah looking for donations blah. Time for my usual opener:

"Do you have a leaflet that I can have?"

Well of course not. These chaps are so conscientious that carrying disposable bits of paper would prejudice Mother Earth. My eyes narrow. Really?

A deep breath. A lot of words come out of my mouth, some fuelled by reason, but almost as much by instinct. How many other industries go and ask for money by knocking on people's doors? I explain that I find it quite objectionable that anyone should be expected to sign up for anything let alone a direct debit based upon a 5 minute chat on the doorstep.

I worry I sound like a bastard. Time for some milk.

"I sympathise with what you're doing because it must be a pretty shit job"

He looks away. Perhaps he's recounting the module of his training for dealing with people like me.

"We don't earn any commission" he says "the money goes to the charity".

"You don't earn any commission? How does your collection company turn a profit?" I venture. What I discover is that he (apparently) doesn't earn any commission, and is paid minimum wage, and the charity front a bulk sum with the promise of having a reliable regular income from the vulnerable and the stupid. I'm still offended by the company's gall, but I have some sympathy for their minions.

"Look, I can understand what you do is a difficult job, but put yourself in my position. Surely I am not the only one that finds a collection agency begging on the doorsteps of people's houses slightly nauseating?" I say.

He went on to explain that its a remarkably successful way for charities to increase their revenue (at this point I was waiting for the cliche in these difficult economic times... errggg VOMIT). I was planning on moving to my next point, which was, if this method works so fantastically well, where do charities draw the line at selling their souls and reputation? Why don't they team up and get sponsorship from arms companies or other dodgy sources (hell, Shelter did something similar with Nestle, but that was fine because the poison baby milk formula was promoted to mothers both with and without homes - Nestle care for you, darlings).

I left him him to it - no one deserves more than 5 minutes of me arguing with them. I even annoy myself sometimes, and start feeling a bit like Rik...

Ooh A Free Paper To Read In My Meetings At Work

18 Apr 2009

I Went To See Propagandhi And All I Got Was A Technical Failure And Lots Of Police

Yay! Propagandhi turned up!

Then we were all booted out due to the Academy's shit electronics. A few cops turned up to sooth us.

Not being particularly soothed, maybe some more police?

Nice Jackets...

Among the chants that I started that gained a bit of ground and then tailed off:

"Tomlinson! Tomlinson!"
"Abdominal Haemorrage!" (this one got a laugh but wasn't catchy enough)

In the video below, you can just hear the end of a group rendition of YMCA:

I'm always with camera, as these cheeky scamps pointed out...

17 Apr 2009

Propagandhi Tonight

Which will triumph? My love of the band, or my hatred for O2 Academy Sheffield. We'll see.


14 Apr 2009

A New Service

Welcome to Google Meatview - a service where you can check out the insides of abbatoirs at 25 cities and towns around the UK.

Welcome to Coventry. I wonder what's going on in Leicester?

13 Apr 2009

Obits - I Blame You

I have eagerly awaited this album for some time. Obits is the latest band of a dude I massively respect - Rick Froberg. The list of bands that Froberg can put his name to is impressive: Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From The Crypt and Hot Snakes. I was never really a fan of RFTC - I think you perhaps needed to be around when they were on the ascendant in order to be a fan. They had some great songs, but Speedo's (aka John Reis's) vocals really grated on me.

Drive Like Jehu were an impressive, if at times sprawling math rock/grungy band. Songs such as Human Interest and Do You Compute being examples I would recommend.

Hot Snakes. HOT SNAKES MAN!! Possibly one of my most favourite bands ever. This also had Reis from RTFM in it, but the sound was reminiscent of the 70's dirty garage rock sound (kinda Stooges-ish). Despite Froberg's vocals being limited in scope (he tends to sing a minor third up from the root most of the time) the interweaving of interesting guitar parts, along with a fast punkish pace makes it seem as if the band was created for me personally.

After Hot Snakes, the first band to come out of the split was John Reis's The Nightmarchers. I bought their debut album and found it to be almost embarrassing in parts - there's some quite cheesy lyrics and very standard structures to the songs, and I said before, I always preferred Froberg's vocals to Reis's. Thumbs down.

I heard about Obits, and also found out that Froberg would be on vocals ("Yes! I'm gonna get a new band I can love as much as Hot Snakes!"). Obviously, a fair few other people were excited, as soon Subpop snapped em up for a 7" release, which I duly ordered, although I preferred the B-Side Put It In Writing. "Very straightforward rock n roll from the 'bergmeister, but... I think I like it."

I Blame You arrived and I gave it 2 full listens in a row, and then came back a little later for a third listen. I had read on the Subpop website:

“We’re not into innovation as a band,” says Froberg, who’s already done his fair share of innovating with Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes. “I think innovation is an overestimated quality. Anything that’s going to be original is going to happen without your control. Things that make your band sound like you are things you wouldn’t be able to change anyway. We just go ahead and play the stuff we like, and we don’t worry about originality per se, because that should take care of itself.”

Hmm - I've never considered lack of innovation a particularly great thing for a band to boast about. I Blame You certainly does not stray far beyond rather thin-sounding bluesy rock, with a punkish singer. I really want to like this album but I having trouble. I'm suspicious of falling in love with an album too quickly because the love fades, and the things you liked on the first listen can become cliched or contrived on subsequent listens. Some of my all time favourite albums I've disliked on the early listens and learnt to love.

I hope I Blame You will turn into one of these, but I'm certainly not feeling it at the moment. Maybe I may update when the love happens.... If.

8 Apr 2009

I've Been Getting Drunk Every Night Since Last Friday

To which the question arises: Is there any point really getting off the waggon considering the Bank Holiday is coming up?

On Friday I went to this wedding, went out the following night, Sunday I ended up on an accidental pub crawl with Cape looking for a pub that sold scrumpy cider (and for some reason, we had a pint in every pub that didn't have it), Monday involved seeing the really frickin' marvellous Chickenhawk, and last night I went drinking with a Doctor of English Literature, and a Doctor of Philosophy. It ended up in my house, to which the debate raged "Is The Simpsons a postmodern satirical discourse, or a cartoon with yellow people"* - it got pretty deep and analytical. Most enjoyable.

*We concluded nothing, as we ran out of wine.

7 Apr 2009