Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Cry-laughing: An Epidemic

People are crying laughing everywhere I go. They are crying real tears when a man falls into the road - an angry man, who deserves ridicule. They dissolve into weeping hysterics in the safe knowledge that they are right and understood, thanks to statements pasted alongside an illustration of Edwardian ladies or the Minion Scourge; something that would have once been dismissed as Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: content bullshit.

People cry laughing when other people are having fun. People cry laughing when other people are not having fun. People cry laughing when animals do the funniest things. People cry laughing when children are still feeling the effects of anesthesia. People cry laughing when fabricated, one sided arguments are posted under the guise of screenshotted WhatsApp conversations. (They don't even need to be photoshopped anymore, just write the words you never said on a word document, take a photo and share them on Tumblr.) People cry laughing when famous people's nobs fall out of their pants. People cry laughing at badly made cakes, at TV programmes, at bad fashion decisions, at terrible haircuts. People cry laughing at politicians, at journalists and at the royal family. People cry laughing at fake Twitter accounts purporting to be God, or Jesus, or Werner Herzog.

People cry laughing at mocked-up stunts, believing them to be real, believing themselves to be better than the person they are laughing at. People cry laughing at adverts, misunderstanding the original source material, believing themselves to be superior.

Cry laughing is the laugh of people who will never tell you what's so funny. It's the sound of the braying arsehole, loudly deriding your sorry existence by honking and pointing.

Except nobody is cry laughing anymore. Not really. Nobody has cried laughing at something on the internet in a long time.

We're just silently clicking, tapping, sniffing, shuffling into the darkness of total enveloping irrelevance. When hyperbole reaches critical mass, where do we go?

Into the dark, my dears. Into the comforting dark. Cry laughing into the dark.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

4 simple things you can do today to make yourself happier

I'm a glutton for punishment. Whenever I see an article that might be about improving my well-being, self-esteem or happiness quota, I click. I generally pride myself on my ability to swerve clickbait but these articles always hook me. There's something about genuine, simple happiness and contentment that seems just ever so slightly out of reach for those who are terminally cynical or who find it hard to forget that the world is perilously close to total shiteness at any given moment.

This morning my vice was i100, the Independent's hateful expanded Twitter feed of headlines and provocative sign offs designed with the intention of getting people (like me) to contemplate life and war on Facebook.

The article was a listicle (of course it was), detailing 9 simple things I could do, right now, in order to be happier. I hated myself for clicking, but click I did.


Apparently if you go for a nice walk, list all the things you're grateful for and "invite someone to tea" (I'm not even fucking joking about this), you'll feel like your heart has begun to glow beatifically.

Total nonsense I think you'll agree, so here is my offering to the world on the same subject.

Find at least three hobbies and obsess over them in your down-time

Remember when you were a teenager and playing the guitar was the one and only thing you cared about in the whole world? Was there a year or two of your life that you spent building dirt ramps for your bike or sawing up bits of wood to make a go kart or playing Final Fantasy 7 or Goldeneye or Abe's Odyssey or learning how to do an Ollie without your pants falling down? Did you hide crates of Fosters and bottles of Hooch in the woods near the park, wait until it got dark and then drink on the swings with your mosher mates sharing headphones and Richmond Superkings?

Weren't you happier then?

Of course, when you look back on your teenage years, there's every chance you believe that you were very unhappy. Being a teenager is really shit. However, the one saving grace of every adolescence is the amount of time available to devote to any given hobby. Hobbies are fantastic. They are often the only outlet you have where your actual passions can reveal themselves.

I have a lot of hobbies. I'm a pretty morbid person when I'm left in my own company, so keeping busy doing things I enjoy is a necessity. If you're the same way as me, give something new a go. I picked up crocheting last year and I can't get enough of it. I also relentlessly scroll through Instagram for tattoo artists' accounts and I recently started going to guitar lessons again after a 10 year hiatus. Do your brain a favour and think about something else other than your own mortality for a change.

Another hobby - going for walks and looking at interesting geological features. Look, a nice bit of conglomerate!

Make peace with people who pissed you off more than three years ago

The best thing about this advice is that there are no obligations to be made, it's just a way to make yourself feel better, no strings attached.

The trick here is to think about the people who you try not to think about, just for a moment. Why don't you speak anymore? Were they a dick? Were you a dick? Can you even remember? 

Now you have three options: Resolve the issues internally, write out a letter or send them a message on Facebook.

Resolving internally is the easiest to cheat at but the hardest to actually do. It involves thinking about why you still hate this person and coming to the genuine conclusion that this is not necessary, useful or healthy. Forgive them as much as you can and promise yourself that you're going to move on. Then move on.

Writing out a letter is my favourite way of exorcising demons. Write a long, heartfelt letter to the person in question. Include everything that you're upset about, include your own misgivings, capitalise it if it makes you feel better. Then, when you're done, read it. Then read it again. Then tear it up and bin it. You have no idea how good it feels to finally get all of these things out of your system. Bonus: The offending party will never know.

A message on Facebook is the ballsiest way to be a coward and I've only done this a couple of times. Basically, do the same as you would do when writing a letter, but with the intention of sending it to the person who upset you. Then read it. Then send it. Bonus: Frank and honest messages on Facebook are terrifying and you will almost never receive a response.

Stop being such a miserable bastard all the time

I know the last thing you ever want to hear when you're feeling low is that you need to pull yourself together. I know as well as anybody that depression is not something you can just sort out by putting on your busywork hat and getting on with life.


After dealing with depression for most of my life, I've learned that when I'm feeling good I can put some of that good feeling in storage for later. What I'm trying to say is this; When you're feeling good, don't waste it. On days where the sun seems a bit brighter and interaction seems a bit easier, lean into it. There's nothing wrong with being happy. If driving to work in the sunshine blasting Haim with the sunroof open makes you grin like a Staffordshire Terrier (and of course it does because it's one of the greatest feelings in the world) then let yourself grin.

It makes it easier to believe that good times do return.

A happy staffie. Look how happy! Just because of a ball!

Find a way to enjoy living more healthily


There's no way around this and believe me, I've tried. The absolute truth is, being more healthy impacts your wellbeing more than anythinge else you can do.

I don't believe that exercise alone can beat depression, however the goals and achievements you set and reach while doing it can make you feel a lot better about yourself. I'm not on about self-improvement because I have no right to tell anybody that they aren't already the best person they can be. What I do believe though, is that trying to be even a little bit more healthy helps you to recover from illness, helps you to be able to walk further and run faster and it helps you to improve your state of mind.

I run when I can and eat more veg than I used to and as a result I'm getting to vent out any aggression, think through my problems (there's not much else to do when you're running), take more care when it comes to deciding what to eat and I get a whole lot of superficial bonuses too.

Going to the doctors when you're sick counts too. Stop suffering from recurring colds and flu, weird pains or undiagnosed allergies and sort it out. You are worth looking after.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

RIP Crystal Castles

Just because we don't feel flesh, doesn't mean we don't fear death...

Crystal Castles have announced they are splitting. Here are my favourite personal memories of listening to one of my favourite bands.

Crystal Castles I
A barrage of screams and screeches, I'd never heard anything like it (and I haven't heard anything as raw since, either. I haven't.) I loved every second. Most people when they are describing hearing one of their favourite albums say how it somehow emulates them, or understands them or the way they were feeling at a particular time.

This album basically came along at a time when I was feeling very, very shit and taught me how to say: "Fuck it, just go mental".

In 2009 I worked in House of Fraser for a posh clothing company to supplement my meagre student loan. The hours were long and the customers were terrifically rude and I hated every second of it. Crystal Castles came to play in Leeds (at the Favisham, of all places) so I booked it off.

I have never been more drunk or had more fun or been in more recovery positions.

There is something about Alice Glass that makes me feel like losing control of yourself is somehow glamorous. I'm sure that's an unhealthy outlook, but occasionally, it's necessary to let loose. I drank straight vodka all night, ruined my brand new monochrome Kurt Geiger brogues, held Alice up as she crowd-surfed and then as far as the photos tell me I spent the remainder of the night laid out on the grass, occasionally being pinched to make sure I was still breathing.

This was followed by the second worst hangover I've ever had.

Haircuts & T-Shirts
I'm not often swayed by famous people into buying into a certain look. however as much as I admired Alice Glass (and still do, to an extent), it didn't occur to me until much later that I somehow acquired her haircut, eyeliner, Terminator t-shirts and stretchy skirt-opaque tights sense of style. It happened organically. I (think) I like that stuff anyway. I guess I just *became* her. She must be my spirit animal.

More T-Shirts
The "Bruised Madonna" t-shirt was my favourite shirt for along time and after I managed to buy one (special limited edition re-print from their MySpace page) and it finally arrived from Canada, I cut the neckline out and I wore it non-stop.

That is until one night myself and a nameless accomplice discovered Savannah cider and danced until 4am.

I awoke the next morning to discover to my dismay that I no longer owned my prized Madonna t-shirt.

Nobody knows where that t-shirt went. Certainly not I, nor my friend who had spent the rest of the night throwing up into my bin. Perhaps the staff of Hi-Fi have it in a frame somewhere behind the bar. I hope so.

Crystal Castles might sound like a bad influence on me, but the truth is, I had needed that outlet. They just gave it to me. It was a harder-edged version of the gospel of Andrew WK and it appealed simply because there was less "being awesome" and more "getting fucked up".

Bruises meant a good night out, hangovers were compulsory, vodka was straight, always straight. In a weird way, I miss those days. They were fantastic, blurred, whirlwind days that can and never will never be replicated.

Goodbye. I hope Alice's solo projects don't embarrass us all by trying to be honest or earnest or anything similarly ridiculous.

Friday, 19 September 2014

You ended up with a No? Think how we feel!

Scotland, we knew the #indyref wasn't personal. You were sick of our government, not of us. We get it. Most of us feel the exact same way.

For the most part the referendum was an exciting display of how democracy can work in the 21st century. Citizens of a free country were revelling in the street over the important decisions they were about to become party to - doesn't it make the world seem like a marginally more livable place?

There's a part of me that feels upset about the whole thing though. Scotland have their own parliament, their own voice and their own strong identity which itself is a link to an ancient past filled with warriors, settlers and lore. I want that.

Being English is generally considered an insult to anyone not concerned with how many English flags are displayed from the front-facing windows of their house at any one time. Displaying Englishness is not only fraught with difficulties - how does one act English? - but identifying as an English person in 2014 brings with it so much baggage we tend not to bother.

I'm not just English though, I'm a Northerner, and being Northern in England is tough. For a country so small it has a Napoleonic complex, England has a vast variety of cultures within it, and barely any of these are fairly represented.

For once I'm not talking about multiculturalism because there are hundreds of people who can write about this important issue far more articulately and knowledgeably than I can. What I'm referring to is the total lack of respect for the North of England. Yeah?

When I look at Scotland now in a post referendum haze, I see something I'm jealous of. I felt the same way when I visited Wales over the summer. These countries are part of the UK but they have separate identities, separate voices, unique cultures and ancient languages. Their populations are made up of people proud to share that individuality, who have a reason to be proud. That's the difference isn't it?

I'm not proud to be English. My country does a lot of things I find despicable and even if it didn't, I wouldn't feel any less unresponsive to the worn-out cliches it calls culture.

The world views England as a country split between posh-speaking moneyed stuttering suits and pissed-up sunburned union-jack swimming shorts. I view it as a North-South divide and despite a near constant reminder that such a thing doesn't exist anymore I can't help myself. It just appears to be getting starker.

People who aren't Northern view us two ways: Patronisingly and with reproach. Northerners are on the whole treated as though there isn't much that goes on in the UK that concerns us, from local concerns like shale gas extraction to global issues like whether or not we go to war with Russia. As part of England it's generally assumed that whatever the government say, we're alright with. We voted them in after all.

Except that we're Labourites for the most part, hell bent on ruining the world with our Unions demanding safer, fairer working conditions and care for the vulnerable. Working 12 hour days for 150 years to fuel the Empire was what we were good for - now as the leaders in British manufacturing we're still seen as unskilled rabble-rousers, good for nothing except a bit of a laugh. Aren't our accents funny?

Viewed as perpetually having a chip on our shoulder, Northern views on Northern issues are generally treated as though we haven't got a bloody clue. The thing is, openly admitting that you think an entire population of 14.5 million people's opinions are null (and that they probably just want to steal your tyres or eat chips and pies anyway) is just a bit xenophobic and we're all pretty sick of it now, if we're completely honest.

I want to live somewhere I feel proud to be a part of. In the North, I do have that, it's just not officially represented. Scotland, you've given me ideas above my station. I want a separate Northern government. You can join if you like. You can teach us all how to be proud of a country for the right reasons again.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

On being 26.

Being just past my mid-twenties has hit me hard and I'm not sure why.

Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I'm edging ever-closer to the doomsday figure of "30". Perhaps it's because I still don't really know what I want my life to be yet. Perhaps it's because I'm suspended between my incredibly immature self and my ready-to-retire self. Perhaps it might even be because I'm older than a lot of my friends. No matter what it is, something is up with me, and it's becoming irritating.

I have two types of friends.

Type 1 says of my continued and increasingly tiresome life crisis: "You're only 26 Katie. You're still very young. You're like Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic - you've got a whole world ahead of you. The iceberg is your forties, it's still a way off yet."

Type 2 says: "You're 26? I thought you were our age? Or maybe younger? Wow. You just don't offense, you just seem a lot younger."

I'm not sure which is worse, to be quite honest. On the one hand I could be happy that I'm not yet old enough to consider my age to be a real problem (therefore negating my concerns as needless anxiety and silly worrying), on the other I could be concerned that people in their early twenties recognise me as a somewhat immature member of their club - young enough to get away with finding fart jokes funny and having no idea what to do with my life.

The past couple of years have seen be do a lot of different things in the name of finding out "who I am"; I'm only just realising that this isn't what I've been doing at all. I've been trying to feel like an adult and have tried nearly everything in order to do so.

Turning 26 was unreasonably traumatic for me. I have no idea why. It's not a milestone age - not culturally or personally. It's not a particularly old age to be, nor is it that frustratingly young (I remember being frustrated at how being young never gave me any credibility). It's just an age. It just feels bad.

On my birthday somebody jokingly wrote "Happy 30th!" on my card and I didn't expect my reaction to be so explosive. I imagined that I had skipped forward four years and it freaked me out. This wasn't what my 30th year was supposed to be sitting on top of! I was supposed to be live via satellite somewhere on another continent for the 6 O'Clock News. Imagining sitting at my desk living another day of emails was almost too much to cope with.

It was just a joke though. So let's move on.

Currently going through another unexpected life change, I've realised that the reason my career hasn't gone the way I planned is because my life hasn't been like other peoples. Rather than taking time to mature and flourish, my career has always been a series of brightly interesting explosions, patches in the sky, and as soon as they arrive they vanish, leaving me trying to find something else to inspire and amuse me. I'm always at a crossroads, turning left and right, going to interesting places, but never in a straight line for long.

I've run my own business, I've been a writer, I've worked in social media (a dying career - get out while you can), I've sold medical software technology to NHS trusts (which was my golden ticket to hell, if any of you see me there in a few years and wonder why); I've been a barmaid, a waitress, a baker's assistant, a pot washer and a cook. I've worked in a record shop, a cinema, two different snooty-ass department stores and for a local 'entrepreneur'. I've worked in twelve different cities and been to uni one and a half times.

Sometimes it's better to remind yourself that sometimes it's impossible to set yourself against normal expectations. How would I have had the time in 26 years to do all of that and build a solid career in global journalism at the same time?

I wouldn't. So crack on. On to the next adventure. Let's get it done.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Is being mean about a TV personality on Twitter really 'bitching'?

Probably a bit harsh, but in my defense she had just said her completely perfect picnic pie was rubbish even though it clearly wasn't.

I'm not a particularly highbrow person. Of an evening if I'm not down the pub or up a hill or eating there's nothing I enjoy more than watching my favourite awful TV programme and talking about it, and often enough I'm not impressed.

TV distorts the truth. No matter how much a show touts itself as being anchored in reality, the truth is, it's more entertaining and therefore more worthwhile for producers to pick and choose shots and sequences that portray contestants as exaggerated caricatures of themselves. But you all knew that, didn't you? We've all seen Screenwipe? So let's move on.

These caricatures are what we grow to love or hate. They are manufactured to encourage our pity, enthusiasm or disdain. We pick villains and heroes because it gives meaning to the show. We don't dislike the people, we dislike the character. Perhaps it's hard for people to separate the two, but that's TV for you. Easy to watch, easy to make opinions about, easy to forget, unless you're the person inside the box getting all the shit thrown at you. I'd be tempted at this point to say "well you chose to be on the screen though, didn't you?".

Maybe that isn't fair. Maybe that's cruel. Maybe I don't care. The thing is, people have Tweeted along with the telly for as long as Twitter has existed and TV execs got wise to it years ago. Viewers are actively encouraged to join in the discussion, with companies and programmes employing interns and social media assistants (like myself) to bolster along the conversation and buoy up a little bit of provocation. We say things like "Ooh, how mean was that comment?" or "Oh dear, that didn't look very good did it?" or even "How annoying is that Joey Essex, eh?" to get people talking. We get drawn into other conversations. We just do. That's what gossiping is like.

So, when a bit of mean-natured joshing turns into a national discussion about how we all need to stop judging people, I get a little bit annoyed. I have been known to exaggerate a bit. Hyperbolic hatred can be hilarious. Don't tell me you've never made fun of somebody to get a laugh. You have. The difference is, tossing off a comment online isn't the same as purposefully constructing a deeply resonant insult built to destroy another human being and then saying it to their face. I'd like to think none of us would do that. We're mean idiots but we're not fucking evil.

We aren't. Well, most of us aren't. There are a lot of people out there who are genuinely nasty, who send rape threats to celebrities for the sake of poor banter and who make up jokes about babies in blenders and send them to people who notoriously get upset about that sort of thing. Your mates might find it funny (god knows why), but these people clearly don't. Context, people. As I've mentioned many-a time before, saying horrible things does not a Charlie Brooker make.

Lat night I said some harsh things about Ruby Tandoh on Twitter because she makes my eyelids twitch with irritation. In the cold, post-Bake Off finale light of day I should really say that the distilled essence of a Ruby Tandoh character whom I saw on TV for an hour every week for the past month or so makes my eyelids twitch with irritation. Here's the thing though - she's probably quite nice really, so I didn't send any of what I said actually to her. I have nothing against her personally.

Does this make me a bitch? Should I print it all out and send it to her house so she can hear what I had to say? Some people think yes. Some people think that everything you say should be heard by those who it criticizes.

In light of this, I should probably transcribe the rant I had about Morrissey last weekend after five double vodkas and send him a copy. I should probably call up Julia Bradbury and tell her I think she's a joke. I should also email Kevin McCloud while I'm at it and tell him on a number of occasions over the past year I have called him an increasingly insufferable pretension cloud hovering over prime time TV like a smug fart. (If you laughed at that, you're just as guilty as I am.)

At the end of the day, people like me direct our feeble moanings at the telly because it makes us feel better about our lives and nobody really needs to hear that stuff. That's the way the shows are formulated, and that's the trap we fall into. If you genuinely are still @ messaging Ruby Tandoh to tell her you hate her though, perhaps you need to take a look at where your life is at this moment.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Are falling birth and marriage rates really a surprise?

Mendokusai is a word I learned today. Loosely translated from Japanese to English it sort-of means "siiiighhhh, hassle" (the terms the Guardian used was 'it's too troublesome' but I felt a bit more of that heavy shoulder-shrugging gloom about it) and in the context of relationships in which it was used, it made me feel pretty sad.

According to the article I was reading, 45% of females aged between 16 and 25 aren't interested in relationships in the slightest. "So what?" I thought. Reading on, it turned out the issue is far more endemic than simply young women finding independence for themselves. 

A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships)[ - perhaps a good example in itself of Japan's staunchly conservative cultural norms. - KT] Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan – a country mostly free of religious morals – sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 "were not interested in or despised sexual contact". More than a quarter of men felt the same way.(taken from The Guardian)

For a country with more extreme cultural values to our own, it's easy to dismiss these figures as the natural progression of a society primarily interested in 'salaryman' careers and the increase in the number of young people more willing to forgo the traditional trends of marriage and family life. Taking a closer look though could possibly reveal more about Western society as a whole than is entirely comfortable.

Throughout the article, women and men of varying ages between their early twenties and fourties were interviewed to speak about their opinions on relationships and to talk about exactly why they were choosing to remain single - a phenomenon in Japan which the media have dubbed "sekkusu shinai shokogun": literally, 'celibacy syndrome'.

The differences between the interviewees' attitudes to single life and that of a more familiar story taken from our own media was that their single lives weren't seen as temporary or finite. For the most part each person described their desires for sex and marriage as non-existent, stating that they doubted they ever would be interested in anything more meaningful than a platonic relationship. Some said their careers were their main priority, some said they simply were not interested in sex. "Mendokusai" they said. It's too much hassle.

For me, there's nothing surprising about this attitude. Of course relationships aren't necessary parts of human life for a lot people, nor should the traditional ideals of marriage and child-spawning be thrust upon people as the only healthy way to live. I'm not going to talk through the implications these new attidudes are having on the wider population of Japan as I'm sure the figures speak for themselves (you can find them all here) but rather the way they are affecting the sociology of the country. 

Society there has been changing dramatically over the past 150 years. As a culture traditionally set on male-breadwinner, woman-childminder values (much like our own), it has apparently been harder for both men and women to turn these stigmas around due to ingrained ideals combined with conservative Japanese attitudes. Calling unmarried sexually-active people "unsuitable members of society" and assuming that being married automatically requires the partners involved to reproduce isn't exactly doing wonders for young people's faith in the societal norm. 

Now that long-term single life is becoming more commonplace in Japan, the Government and media have attempted to backtrack on what they see as a national crisis, but it might be too late. I read this article and wondered why more countries were not involved in the study, and why it came as a surprise that people are no longer seeking stability in a relationship. In 2013, a long-term relationship couldn't be less desirable to independent people struggling to pave a way financially and socially. Given the state of the world, why should young people feel the need to bring children into it? Why should they be expected to rely on another human when they can provide everything they need for themselves?

I haven't seen a more depressing view of the future. That people would give up the chance to be in any sort of relationship because it's just too much of a distraction makes me sadder than any other news story I've read in recent months. In my opinion, and I know nobody asked me for it but I'm gonna storm in there and give it anyway, years of oppressive stereotypes and pressure to have it all have stopped this generation from seeking the traditional ideals of their parents. Add to this a string of economic and ecological disasters and you've got perhaps the least likely place you'd want to start a happy family.

This isn't about people being unlucky in love. This is about thousands of young adults opting out of relationships altogether in favour of playing reality sims, working 20 hour days and having easier, non-sexual friendships, and it isn't going to just stay within the boundaries of Japan's coastline.

Is that an ideal or is it a nightmare?
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