Archive for the ‘In The News’ Category

Why I probably won’t bother watching the royal wedding

April 28, 2011

I’ve been trying to remain ambivalent to The Royal Wedding, rather than allowing myself to descend into seething rage about it. After all isn’t it maybe a little juvenile to object to the royal family? It’d be like getting angry because politicians lie. Or feeling genuinely sad that children starve to death in african countries from which we import out-of-season fruit. You know, a bit passé…

But then I can’t help but think about the privilege bestowed on a man whose ancestors murdered their way to power hundreds of years ago – at a time when things are bad, and only going to get worse, for the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

This man will one day technically rule over me and you (by pricking holes in bits of goats skin once a year), because our country is too wuffle-nut-mouthed with tradition and deference to actually draft a proper constitution which makes us citizens rather than subjects. His whose sole qualification to hold this position is that half of his genetic material originated in the testicles of our current ruler’s eldest son.

His father, in turn, being a man whose greatest achievements in his 60-odd years on this earth are:
1) establishing a biscuit company
2) promoting batshit medicines
3) using his name to influence architectural contracts

Let’s get this cleared up. The Royal Family do not ‘work hard’ by any reasonable definition of the term. Are they masters of their own destiny? No – but then neither is a child born in the UK’s poorest council estates, into a community where there aren’t any jobs and haven’t been for generations. Can they stay in bed for a lie-in on Sunday and have a three-album wankathon instead of putting on their nice hat to open the latest proletarian wibblemart? No. Is Prince William probably a perfectly nice human being when you get to know him? Yes, I imagine he probably is.

The point is the Royal Family infantilise the whole country, they teach us that power flows from an arbitray source, and that some people are just born better than others. No one who supports them can come up with anything more pragmatic than ‘they’re good for tourism’ – so is a Sea Life Centre. Anything else boils down to ‘it’s tradition’ which is no kind of argument for anything.

The only reason I’d stop short of calling for them to be demolished (or whatever the word is) is that I know how complex it would be to basically have to re-write our country’s laws from scratch. That would barely be worth the effort, and there are worse problems to fix. Plus on some level I enjoy the absurdity of one old lady having 100% of the say in everything that happens, but having to exercise that will by doing ludicrous things to bits of dead goat.

The timing of the wedding is, at the very least, inconsiderate. The country has still not quite sunk to its lowest ebb economically – thanks to callous cuts imposed by a blinkered government whose members mostly come from the same tradition of hereditary power as the House of Windsor. Two weeks before a much needed opportunity to reform our parliament and at least ensure that right governments are likely to always be tempered by a more moderate, compassionate partner, we suddenly have the distraction of this nonsense.

The coverage has overshadowed any chance of actually ensuring people understand what’s happening on May 5th. Thus allowing the only arguments which get coverage, between CGI mockups of Kate’s dress, to be the attention grabbing ones – i.e. the stupid, simplistic ones. ‘AV will mean the BNP get more votes’, ‘AV will mean everyone has to pay £50 to vote’, ‘AV will mean anyone who votes Liberal Democrat will be allowed to vote as many times as they want’ etc etc. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy (I’m really not), but it does kind of suck.

You have to stoop pretty low to make a system as straightforward as AV seem complex, shady, and inaccessible. But that’s what its opponents have done with staggering intellectual dishonesty – apart from Baroness Warsi, of course, who’s so thick she probably believes everything she says. Yet once again the media has chosen glitter and trivia over providing information which might actually empower people. They have filled this week with blather about an event which I today saw laughably referred to as ‘a private wedding’, rather than make sure people are able to make an informed decision about something which will affect their lives in the long term.

Ah well, there goes my ambivalence.

In fairness this not really WillNKate’s fault. I’m sure they’re in larve and I hope they have a very nice time tomorrow. The dress will doubtless be very pretty. If you’re comfortable knowing that their first child will one day rule over your children and your children’s children, regardless of whether he/she is a lovely human being, or a witless, corrupt despot, then by all means tune in.

Music Writer Discovers ‘New Band’ in London

August 3, 2010

“They were just playing live at a venue I happened to be in,” explains journo.

Noted music critic and self-proclaimed ‘urbanista’ Ralph (pronounced ‘Raif’) Pilkington-Jones of music website SoundyTown has reportedly discovered a new band, previously unknown to music fans.

The discovery was made at London’s trendy ‘Venn-New’ in London. The hip new bar combines live music with Venn diagrams, and is described on its website as ‘Where bands play sets’.

RP-J (as he insists on being known) describes the moment he realised he was listening to a band previously unknown to musical science:

“Tamara (Blogworth – noted blogger) and I were enjoying vimto mojitos and discussing the latest [wibble], when I noticed that the four immaculately coiffed young men I’d seen setting up their instruments had begun playing a composition which was unfamiliar to me. I immediately shazammed the song on my BlackBerry and… nada!”

“That’s French for nothing, by the way…” he adds.

The first picture of the 'new' band

Jones promptly made a recording on his phone and took it into the lab run by Professor Horace Sandwich of iTunes University.

“I ran every test, cross checked it against the archives, and hacked into the mainframe,” explains the Prof “There was no trace of this song.”

Details are being kept under wraps, but we understand that the composition in question has a 4/4 beat, is in the ‘alternative rock’ genre and uses at least two guitars and a microkorg synthesiser. The lyrics reportedly describe feelings of sadness at a lack of female attention, and use the sea as a metaphor.

Plans are underway to find the band again and take proper scientific measurements. Pilkington-Jones has applied to the Peter Gabriel Foundation for Untainted Genius for funding for an expedition to a venue in Kilburn where he believes the band may be found.

Kilburn

“This is an exciting discovery but we’ve got to do it right,” explains Sandwich.

“It’s important that this band is allowed to thrive in their natural habitat. We may be about to experience music which is as yet untouched by conventional influences such as the Libertines, Green Day, and Oasis.”

False positives of ‘new’ bands are not uncommon. People regularly mistake one off collaborations, jazz fusion side projects, steel drum ensembles, live mashups, and line dancing for entirely new bands.

“However, by far the most common error,” says Prof. Sandwich “is that people send in sightings of what they think is a new band and it turns out to just be the Fall.”

The days of unenlightened outsiders destroying a ‘new’ band in their enthusiasm – known as the ‘Terris Effect’ – are also over, he explains:

“We don’t just tranq [use tranquilisers on] them, drag them off to the lab and chop them up for tests these days. First we must confirm that this is actually a new band, and not just a band playing particularly inept cover versions of existing material…

Then we chop them up.”

Pilkington-Jones, however, is optimistic and has already come up with a name for the band.

“I want to call them Homo Sapiens Musicolo Pilkingtonus. After myself.”

He also plans to write about them on his website, and may even ‘review’ the band’s music – attempting to provide a written assessment of its artistic worth. SoundyTown’s outspoken messageboard community is festering with excitement for the as yet unheard songs.

“It’s been so long since there was a new band,” says user ‘person_peach’ “I neeeeeeed something new to listen to. Not new as in ‘old but I haven’t heard it’ new as in ‘recently composed, irrespective of merit’.”

The ‘Your Freedom’ website

July 2, 2010

a.k.a. Nick Clegg’s gimmicky attempt to process the brain-jism of every drooling opinion-spunker with an internet connection into a coherent set of laws.

I think they call it crowd-sourcing. It’s the same way that Derren Brown claimed to have predicted the lottery numbers. As if the chaos and cacophony of every voice in the world will inevitably reach a point where it somehow coalesces from noise into signal. Or that’s the idea.

Here are my predictions for what laws we will have at the end of this gloriously 2.0 approach to legislating:

1. The Immigrunts Go Hmoe Act (2010)
Anyone who sounds or looks a bit foreign to be sent back where they came from. If they didn’t ‘come from’ anywhere then they will be randomly allocated to a country where brown people live and sent there.

2. The Children Scare Me Act (2010)
All children below the age of 30 to have Mosquito devices attached to their heads, plunging them into a state of perpetual ear shredding pain until they are old and jaded enough to make a functional, embittered contribution to society. Children should be seen and unable to hear.

3. The Judge Dredd Act (2010)
The police now able to arrest whomsoever they please and immediately imprison them for crimes including, but not limited to:
– swearing: for example ‘fuck’ or ‘boobs’
– being outside my house
– riding a bicycle near my car
– sitting near a playground
– using a mobile phone to talk to their friends when I am so lonely

4. The I Personally Should Be Able To Do Whatever I Want Act (2010)
Police no longer to have the power to:
– stop me driving a car fast enough to seriously injure someone if I hit them (because I just won’t ever have an accident will I? I’ve never had an accident before – therefore I never will, QPR. I’m a safe driver – and so is everyone who ever has or ever will drive near me. Apart from all the women obv)
– stop me blowing carcinogenic smoke into the lungs of friends and strangers alike
– stop me using a stepladder to look through my neighbours’ windows
– use discretion when dealing with young people to ensure they aren’t further criminalised by locking them in a building for months or even years with hundreds of other people with whom the only thing they have in common is the fact that they have broken the law.
After all prison isn’t supposed to stop people committing crimes, it’s supposed to give me a massive justice-boner. Once a criminal, always a criminal – I can’t decide if that’s a moronic truism I’ve just pulled fresh from my anus or a policy….

5. The No More Benefits Act (2010)
No one to receive any benefits of any kind. Whether disabled, too old, or simply living in a once proud community decimated by globalism and greed to the point where no one can actually remember what a job is. They are all SCROUNGERS.

If I was 88 years old, had one arm and no legs, and lived fifty miles from the nearest shit smeared toilet seat in need of a minimum wage wipe, I would gladly crawl across broken glass for the chance to render it spotless with my poor cripple’s tongue.

In fact that wouldn’t be a whole lot worse than my life as it stands now. So barren and futile is the daily grind… So hollow the baubles on which I fritter my financial reward… So faded now the dreams of my youth….

Anyway I heard this bloke say down the pub once that single mothers get given a mansion for every child they have. And I haven’t even had sex since Thatcher!

6. The Health And Safety Gone Mad Act (2010)
No more measures should be put in place to stop people being injured or killed, such accidents should be sorted out through the proper channels – i.e. ‘No Win, No Fee’ solicitors. By preventing accidents you rob people of the opportunity to receive large cash sums.

Also stop banning christmas because of muslims.

7. The I’m Such A Kerayzee Guy Act (2010)
The law requires people to…. *snigger* wear trousers filled with… *ohmygodthisisgonnabesofunny* Custard!

Can you imagine? People having to wear trousers filled with custard? ROFLMAOCOPTERGASM!!!!11!!!1!1!!1

Not only would it be wildly impractical, but it would result in vast amounts of custard spillage all over the pavements of major cities! Custard everywhere! LOL!
This would add a pleasant yellow hue instead of the bleak grey that characterises most towns. ROFL!
Also our entire agricultural model would have to change to ensure there were adequate levels of custard available at all times for all citizens to fill their trousers. ARF!
It would create jobs for ‘custard inspectors’ who would perform random stop and searches on people’s pants to ensure that they were full of custard and not, for example, pus. RSPCA!

God, I’m almost excruciatingly hilarious aren’t I? No one else would have the savvy and irreverent wit to use a government consultation website for wacky satire! Custard! It’s so zany and random! Have I explained it enough yet!?

Can you imagine if the government actually did this, though? Oh wait, my idea got ten million ‘recomend’ clicks from similarly lol-deprived crudulands and now it’s actually the law? Oh fuck.

David Cameron inseminates human female

March 23, 2010

The being known as David Cameron confirmed today that he has successfully implanted a partial genetic copy of himself into the uterus of his human mating partner. The spawn of the being known as David Cameron will gestate in the woman’s womb, consuming a percentage of her food for its own nutrition until such time as it is strong enough to break free and live autonomously.

Sources suggest that the implantation took place as a result of the being known as David Cameron ejaculating into the birth canal during a routine bout of coitus. The seed contained within the mucus deposit then aggressively pursued the female’s most recently unleashed ovum and successfully bonded, forming a eukaryotic cell which will carry the genetic material of the being known as David Cameron on into another generation.

"I want your soul, I will eat your soul" - David Cameron's sex face

The being known as David Cameron addressed a press conference this morning saying “I am experiencing the emotion you call happiness”.

“It is traditional in human society to engage in intercourse with a member of the opposite sex for recreational purposes,” explained the being known as David Cameron, his glassy eyed stare reminiscent of how a prowling velociraptor might curiously assess its prey – knowing it can and will destroy it, but just idly contemplating the concept of another being’s self-awareness for a fleeting moment before ripping out its throat, “I have now done so on two hundred and four occasions. By calendar date”.

“All hail the being known as David Cameron!” said a senior Conservative Party spokesman. “It is all happening as the prophecy foretold!”.

Shadow Minister George Osborne, who was present during the conception in order to hold the ceremonial candle and dagger, said he was “Delighted at the completion of phase two of our plan.” He described the vigorous thrusting motions by which the being known as David Cameron successfully delivered the ‘payload’ safely into the reproductive hub as “what this country should be looking for in a Prime Minister”. He dismissed similar efforts by reptilian Labour leader Gordon Brown as ‘clunky’ and ‘lacklustre’ then muttered something about jobs.

David Cameron prepares to eat a puppy

As leader of the Conservative Party the being known as David Cameron recently unveiled plans to decisively fuck up the entire UK in order to further his own comprehensively discredited ideological agenda. Plans he claims were given to him in a dream by Jade Goody’s ghost.

However not everyone is so pleased at the news “The being known as David Cameron will destroy us all” claims generic campaigner David Bellamy “He is not of this world, I believe he comes from the planet Malmatron where they eat pound coins and shit misery.” Bellamy was unable for further comment this afternoon, having been mysteriously decapitated by a sheet of double glazing.

The BNP

June 9, 2009

So the BNP won. 120,000 misguided souls took crayon in hand and doodled something which looked sufficiently like an X to elect a pair of intellectually and morally bereft, knuckle dragging, borderline nazi scumbags into political office. Their ‘we’re not racist but…’ mantra has proven effective. Maybe because of it a few too many people who feel they have legitimate grievances about immigration voted BNP as a ‘protest vote’ against the government’s perceived ‘soft’ line on migrants. This would be the same ‘soft’ line which sees families snatched from their homes at 5am and driven in dark vans to borderline prison facilities whilst their children physically piss their pants with fear, presumably?

There’s been much wringing of liberal hands over this victory, there’s also been some idiots throwing eggs at Nick Griffin MEP. This helps nothing. I can understand the desire to throw various things at the horrible little shit but it just makes his opponents look bad, whilst he continues to attempt to portray himself as a legitimate politician.

The point I’d make about the BNP is that there are too many people who subscribe to this ‘give them enough rope’ idea. They kid themselves that most people in Britain are thoughtful souls who will recognise the true motives of the BNP and, when it comes down to it, will do the right thing and take their vote elsewhere.

Sadly not.

People like simplistic arguments. Every single political party recognises this. It’s why Gordon Brown is currently flailing like a trout in a wind tunnel trying to get people to like him. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about the economy to make an informed decision about his policies. Nor are most people who vote. Neither are you, unless I have fans in places I hadn’t anticipated. Lots of economists say what he’s trying to do will work, is working already – there are even suggestions that the economy may already be growing this quarter.

Point is if Brown tries to explain any of this, even if he’s given fair hearing, even if he’s not drowned out by the hang-jowelled bellering of the tories, or whinged into submission by the knee-jerk distrust of the hard left (the kind of people who would rather eat their own shit than entertain for a second the idea that their government might be getting something right), even if he overcomes these things people won’t understand what he’s talking about. And even those who do don’t know for sure if he’s right.

In the face of this a simple argument wins. And there’s no simpler argument than a bogeyman. This is why the BNP are popular. It’s a well recognised fact of evolutionary science that animals are biased towards their in-group, and wired up to be cautious, distrustful, and even fearful of something different and novel. Thus are our primitive brains pre-programmed to note that X group of people have one skin colour (same as me) and Y group have another (not the same as me). Group Y are distrusted without rational analysis. The moment people see someone from group Y behaving in a certain way they can instantly attribute one individual’s behaviour to that of the whole group. This is why people love news programs with black criminals on them. It reinforces the simple paradigm that black = criminal. Or black = sponger. Or black = threatening the racial purity (more on this in a minute) of the United Kingdom.

Of course most people can overcome these fears, at least to the point where any self-described liberal who might be willing to admit to an occasional bout of nerves when passing a group of young black men on a dark night can accept that such reactions are wrong and not base their entire world view on them. Some people can’t move on. The same way some people will refuse help overcoming a fear of spiders, others would rather cling to their animal fears than attempt to grapple with nuances. After all, if not all black people are dangerous criminals then how can you feel safe by simply getting rid of all the black people?

There is not sufficient rope for the BNP to hang themselves with. Some people are just racist. Not necessarily very racist, but racist enough to be grateful for an opportunity to express that view at the ballot box. Racist enough to happily accept the idea that all the money the government should be spending on them is somehow going into the pockets of immigrants. As opposed to shoddy Private Finance Initiatives, corporate tax breaks/loopholes, bailing out doomed industries for purely vote-saving reasons, civil service bureaucracy, an NHS overburdened by people’s unhealthy lifestyles, police forces wasting time arresting drunken friday night revellers when they could be investigating drug gangs, burglaries, and tax fraud, and etc etc.

The BNP’s arguments are appealing because people want to believe them. This is the ugly truth. This is what the left can’t accept, the media can’t admit, and the politicians hypocritically try and feed on when they need to appear more right wing. The idea of some idyllic past when everyone who lives in England was English and we all went into each other’s houses to eat scones and sing Vera Lynn songs, and everyone had a job and the only black faces were those of cheerful mining folk emerging from the pit is as appealing to some as it is transparently fictitious to anyone with a passing knowledge of… well, anything.

The outrage expressed at a recent TV documentary describing humankind’s shared ancestry on the plains of the african savannah says it all. I read one quote referring to the skull of an early human ancestor which said something like ‘european man could never have come from something like THAT’. This fingers-in-ears style of delusion characterises both the BNP’s policies and the level of engagement of their followers.

The claim ‘I’m not racist I just want racial purity in my country’ is paper thin, but goes effectively unchallenged in the media. People are comfortable saying the BNP is a racist party, but when faced with their claims that they aren’t they rarely fully engage. Often on the well-intentioned basis that to debate with them is to give them a platform. People rely on affirmations that the BNP is racist, or ad hominems (fairly robust ones I admit) about individual BNP members’ pasts, rather than tackling the substance (such as it is) of what they say.

This can’t work. By confining the BNP to the back rooms of the nation’s pubs, you allow them to project their simplistic drivel unchallenged to a receptive audience on their own terms. ‘We’re people like you, we’re not racist, we’re just worried about our country’. We need to hold their arguments to genuine scrutiny, just as we would any other party. Being dismissive feeds their conspiracy-theorist side and their underdog status. So let’s give this next bit its own line…

A policy of so-called ‘voluntary’ deportation of people born in one country to another based on their racial background alone IS A RACIST POLICY.

It has no basis in recorded history, biological science, or economic reality. It has no basis in ethics. It has no basis in pragmatism in one’s attitude to the modern world. It has no basis in the ebb and flow of the free market. It has no basis in anything other than mouth-breathing, nose picking, shit-for-fucking-brains racism.

You don’t have to be stupid to be a racist, but that doesn’t mean all racism isn’t stupid. You don’t have to consider yourself a racist to entertain racist thoughts. The fact that you don’t vomit uncontrollably when you buy a bottle of milk off an indian shopkeeper doesn’t mean you aren’t racist for wanting to send him back to what you, not he, consider his home.

All eight of my great grandparents were Irish. I am therefore 100% genetically irish. Shall I ‘go home’ to Ireland? I’ve never been there in my life. It’s preposterous. But I’m safe cos I’m not marked as different by virtue of my lighter hue.

We’ve been soft on the BNP. They need to be shown for the incompetent, embittered bigots they are. And their ‘policies’ exposed as shallow, ignorant dogma. It has to start now. There’s a real danger a general election could be called at any time, let’s not see more of these idiots voted into power.

Hazel Blears throws toys from pram

February 10, 2009

So George Monbiot has upset Hazel Blears, and she responds with some self-serving claptrap about her own bravery.

“Gutless? Being called a coward by someone who has never dared test his or her opinions, values and personal attributes at the ballot box is always something I find amusing. You don’t get very far in politics without guts, and certainly not as far as the cabinet table.” – Hazel Blears

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Here’s what’s funny… The ballot box is no measure of a human being’s ability to wipe their own arse, never mind their bravery. The worst that can happen to you in this country if you stand for election is that you lose your deposit. Or, if you’re already in government, your free dinners. We’re not talking Morgan fucking Tsvangirai here…

Most people who vote would not be able to tell you the difference between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, or between parliament and the government. They don’t understand how laws are made. They don’t read government reports. They barely even read newspapers. Most people who voted Labour at the last election probably couldn’t pick Hazel Blears out of a lineup.

And who can, in all fairness, blame people? It’s hard work just getting through a day without collapsing into a weeping heap on the floor. Never mind having to pay attention to the indiscretions of a bunch of self-serving kool aid drinkers who are basically just supposed to deal with life’s admin.

You don’t get elected in Britain by being a progressive, intelligent, courageous, inspiring leader. You just need to be a member of whichever party is the least unpopular when a general election is called. Then you become a cabinet minister by sucking up. There are ‘rebels’ in the cabinet in the same way as there are exciting new bands in this month’s Q magazine.

Thanks to the idea that the public supposedly can’t handle complexity, political discourse gets boiled down to ‘We Good, Them Bad’ spin doctoring, and poo flinging fights. Or ‘Parliamentary Questions’ as they’re known.

So not only are the public denied a genuine debate they’re also prevented from understanding ‘issues’ in the first place. Some courage. It’s like hiding a rubber ball from a dog. If you don’t squeak it, it won’t find it.

And it’s insulting. People are capable of understanding nuance, robust argument, complexity and all the other things you need to genuinely run a country on the basis of consensus. Instead, under the tutelage of PR companies, Labour opted for shiny shiny coin coin/distract the proles obfuscation. And so have the Tories, because it works!

Any politician with real courage would make sure the public were sufficiently well informed to hold them to account. Doing things which were unpopular if necessary and explaining why. Rather than flogging sock-puppet consultations and astro-turf ‘engagement’ measures like the Sustainable Communities Act. Which is a bureaucratic nightmare Monbiot shouldn’t be so keen to praise.

So Hazel Blears is a muppet, literally. Monbiot’s respsonse to her response is good too.

As for whether Georgie Boy has the ‘courage’ that Hazel has, he could have pointed out that he inspired ‘Our New Hospital Sucks’ by yours truly. A song considered by some to be the finest indietronica song about Private Finance Initiatives ever written by someone from Bolton. Which doesn’t really constitute bravery but is certainly impressive.

Vitamin D found in sunshine

January 23, 2009

Any news article which starts “Vitamin D, found in sunshine and fish…” is just begging to be laughed at. That it then continues “But older people’s skin is less able to absorb vitamin D from sunlight” makes it even more priceless.

This article is on the BBC News website. You expect this kind of stupid shit from the red tops and people who believe in ‘fairy healing’ and such crap but the BBC? Frankly I’m disappointed.

Read the whole stupid thing here.

————-
EDIT: The BBC have now corrected the start of the article. But believe me that’s what it said at around 11.30 today. However it still contains the line about older people’s skin not ‘absorbing’ vitamin D from sunlight.

The real question is who the fuck wrote it in the first place? Who checked it and how the hell neither of them spotted it? Don’t the BBC have any science correspondents?

Songsmith will Change Your Life

January 19, 2009

There’s a good article on NewMusicStrategies this week:

“the idea of a resurgence in parlour music really appeals to me. The idea that kids will find it a normal part of play and not necessarily a career decision to play music seems like a good thing”

http://newmusicstrategies.com/2009/01/11/amateur-nonsense/

Basically Microsoft have released some new music-making software called Songsmith where you just sing into a microphone and it automatically creates a backing track. It sounds kind of fun but I can’t try it (because I use Macs), and I haven’t seen the apparently excruciating advert for it.

[edit: I just watched it after I found the link. I can’t believe I turned Stereolab off for that.]

It’s the discussion in the article and comments that interest me.

Rich & Famous

From the moment you express an interest in owning a guitar people start saying things like ‘so you want to be a rock star, eh?’ – i.e. rich and famous. There’s a deeply entrenched narrative of; ‘buy guitar’ -> ‘form band’ -> ‘attempt to become famous’. Part two goes like this; ‘spend years working shit jobs’ -> ‘become laughing stock’ -> ‘die alone covered in own piss’.

I’ve seen articles saying the thing most people wish they could do is play an instrument. Perhaps it’s fear of part two that stops so many people trying to learn?

People like simple binaries like success and failure. But you can’t ‘fail’ at playing music. Sure you can fail at having a music career, but the best way to become rich and famous is to fuck a footballer and write a book about it. If that’s all you’re interested in don’t bother forming a band.

Talent?

Songsmith is probably not very good. I expect that every song anyone makes on it will sound the same. But all musicians are limited by what they have. I started out with an acoustic guitar and a portable cassette recorder. So I couldn’t have drums, orchestras, bagpipes, or eskimo choirs (I don’t know enough eskimos) but I could record a song. This is just the latest version of that.

The old ‘talent’ question rears its ugly head. A lot of kids will have loads of fun making some really awful music. Some people are offended by this. But lots of kids have fun making bad music with ‘proper’ instruments. Lots of boring old men enjoy themselves playing dull-as-shit blues covers too. At least Songsmith will be quicker.

There is no direct correlation between instrumental virtuosity and what you make being any good. Sometimes it helps but not always.

“Change Your Life”

There is a downside in that some kids will look at Songsmith and think ‘because I am so inherently awesome I will use this to make a song, upload it onto myspace and become famous’. Then they’ll drop out of school and end up knifing an old lady for crack.

I blame Simon Cowell. Those poor doe-eyed fucks who queue up in the rain to prostrate themselves before the celebrity panel on X-factor are clutching at a dream which has very little to do with music. They all want to Change Their Lives.

What’s wrong with people’s lives? Is everyone really so miserable? We’re surrounded by adverts telling us to start anew, get away, breed alpacas, quit your job, throw your kids down a mineshaft… Hang on, we need these jobs to pay for all the other crap you try and sell us! Make your minds up.

How about some TV shows which point out to people how nice their lives are already? Like ‘I love going to the pub for a quiet drink and a chat with friends’, ‘The 50 greatest places to have a nice walk’, or ‘Person who knows interesting facts about the history of your local area Idol’.

The Pop Delusion

I saw the final of X-factor this time (by accident), with Alexandra’s film where she went back to her old school and sang, signed autographs, and got treated like a ‘star’. I detected a look in her eyes that seemed to say “I deserve this”.

Alexandra didn’t enter because she had a ‘beautiful’ voice – personally I think she’s got a voice like cold sick on lino. She didn’t have any music in her waiting to get out. It was because she thought herself a suitably excellent human being for the world to hand her universal adulation on a plate. She probably thought it was her destiny or something.

People think Pop Stars are deities who glow from within like they eat nothing but Ready-Brek. Just plain better than normal people in some magical way. X-factor is a fantasy for people who have Lives they want to Change. Everyone who enters ‘knows’ they’re special and will definitely win – even the awful comedy ones they show early on.

‘Fun’

So rather than focus on music as an enjoyable activity in itself, the whole creative enterprise is degraded to a scrabble for the golden ticket. Any kid who views music as anything other than an attempt to reach the standard of laminated Leona Lewis is doomed to be mocked by their peers.

Instead kids start to play music for the same reasons their parents play the lottery. Until you can no longer call it ‘play’. Music ceases to be a sandbox and becomes a construction yard. Making big shiny buildings full of flatpack furniture and despair.

But on balance we should be optimistic about things like this.

Think of all the kids who’ll fiddle around with Songsmith and get the bug. In a few years you’ll be reading interviews with the hot new act of the day and they’ll be telling you about how they first got into making music using cheap and nasty software.

And somewhere out there is a kid who’ll use Microsoft Songsmith to come up with something genuinely inspired. I guarantee it.

Meanwhile huffy old men who did everything properly and ‘paid their dues’ (yawn) will still be moaning down the pub and on the internet about how it’s not fair that less talented people are getting recognition (and rich & famous) when they ‘failed’ and are now trying to Change Their Lives.

————–
“You met the girl from Sleater-Kinney
You said you couldn’t understand
Why it was that she continued to play
when she was only earning ten grand p.a.”

Brakes – ‘ Heard about your band’
————–

POSTSCRIPT:

Apparently Microsoft have done some clever viral shit by deliberately using a Mac in the video so that everyone all over teh internetz can lol their cats off at their ‘mistake’, thereby also watching the advert. Marketing really is sickeningly clever…

Prince Harry fucks up

January 11, 2009

This is tedious. Prince Harry in the news once again for some slip of decorum in referring to an army colleague as ‘our little Paki friend’ giving hundreds of people across the country the chance to be offended about something for another week.

This is the sort of thing I was talking about when I wrote the line about asian kids joining in with racist jokes. This is the culture in public schools of the sort I unwittingly attended. Which I imagine is a similar environment to the one he went to school in. It’s a context where calling someone a paki is treated as no worse than calling someone ‘ginger pubes’.

Prince Harry is an idiot. He went to a school for idiots with money and graduated with flying idiot colours. As idiots go he appears to be no worse than many other idiots across the land. The only reason we’re reading about this is some people still believe the royal family actually matter, and should all therefore shit sunbeams and piss flowers.

People will say much worse things in the pubs of ‘England-Not-UK’ tonight over a pint of GB lager (does that still exist?). I’ve yet to see an article saying ‘his mother Saint Diana, Princess of Hearts must surely be looking down from commemorative candle heaven and weeping over the soul of a landmine baby at her ungrateful son’s latest antics’, but there will be one. I bet you a tenner.

There are real problems with racism in this country and a bunch of soldiers macho-ing up and calling each other ‘paki’ and ‘the ginger bullet magnet’ are not high on the list. Lest we forget we live in a country where people actually vote BNP in growing numbers.

When you see a story like this don’t ask ‘Do I accept Prince Harry’s apology?‘. Calling someone a paki is racist and it demonstrates your ignorance. If you need a newspaper to tell you that then you’re in trouble.

What you should be doing is looking at the Big News Machine and asking real questions.

Who ran this ‘story’ in the first place?

Well a quick look at Google News reveals it was broken by the News of the World, a paper synonymous with quality investigative reporting.

Why?

Why has a two year old video become a news item now? Whose purpose is served by this? Well the boring answer in this instance appears to be that the News of the World are getting a few shock-pounds from some piece of trash news. Some prick from his platoon probably sold it to them. Nothing actively sinister.

Is this coverage obscuring anything?

If we look at the BBC’s coverage we read this:

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: “Neither the Army nor the Armed Forces tolerates inappropriate behaviour in any shape or form.

“The Army takes all allegations of inappropriate behaviour very seriously and all substantive allegations are investigated.

“We are not aware of any complaint having been made by the individual. Bullying and racism are not endemic in the Armed Forces.”

Oh well that’s a relief. A thorough piece of reporting there BBC. It just happens that the only person in the armed forces who makes off-the-cuff racist comments in a not particularly malicious way also happens to be a Prince. Bad luck there.

Of course it wasn’t tolerated ‘in any shape or form’ – that’s why they were able to give a full account of how his fellow soldiers immediately dobbed him in and he was subjected to appropriate disciplinary action? No? Oh well…

Why just uncritically publish a defensive line from the government department who should be the real focus of this story? Why not refer to other stories where racism has been reported by non-royal soldiers? Or refer back to abuses of foreign prisoners of war? Place the story in the context it belongs. Rather than ‘Prince Harry also once dressed as Nazi at a halloween party… something no other British person would EVER DO‘.

Why not ask to see evidence of the MoD’s non-tolerance policies in action? What about those incidents where army trainees and cadets have been bullied to the point of suicide? Is there perhaps a link between the tolerance of casual racism and incidents like that?

BONUS:

Harry’s Granny’s Government now has at least a week, at my guess, to release any bad news which its been stockpiling. We can forget the economy now that Harrygate II will be the only headline worth running.

The issue isn’t establishing how racist he was out of ten, or how many naked laps of Trafalgar Square he should do – with bacon glued to his bony arse, being pursued by ravenous beagles – as punishment. This is Shilpa Poppadum all over again. Why aren’t we asking ourselves why we live in a country where people grow up too ignorant to realise this isn’t okay? One where Chris Tarrant can do ‘ching chong chinaman’ voices on saturday morning radio.

At the end of the day he’s just some kid in the army. Taking the piss out of himself and others for whatever surface level differences exist between them like young men do. His main failing is lacking the common sense to watch his tongue knowing that  the media will do anything to throw some tidbits of bullshit to the drooling masses.

And our main failing is whooping with the delight at the chance to be offended at something ultimately trivial. Where’s the real story?


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