Saturday, 27 August 2011

Night Rage

I love standing in a crowd of people staring at a regular looking bloke under some flashing lights while he plays some of his favourite tunes in a stylish, satisfying way. I love jumping up and down when one of those favourite tunes is also one of mine, and I love dancing until my shins feel like they're falling off and my clothes are covered in beer. I never really took to gigs, and I always wondered if the reason for this had anything to do with 'Live Music' being forever touted as the be-all and end-all of any music at all. I can count the amount of gigs I've been to and enjoyed on one hand. There's too much protocol - too many people, too  much standing around looking unimpressed, too many flying plastic pints of beer (you hope), and too few opportunities to actually hear the music as you pick yourself up off the sticky floor for the fifth time after a large gentleman knocks you flying while trying to generate some sort of mosh pit momentum. You're either really cool at a gig, or you're really, really sweaty and know every word, and I'm never either.

I suppose what I love most about seeing DJs play, (apart from, you know, getting to see them play) is that there really isn't any of that standing at the back looking aloof stuff. There isn't any space or point - it's too dark and sweaty for you to look good anyway, and if you're doing it properly, you should be either dancing or exhausted from dancing. Or so I thought.

There is a particular venue in Leeds I don't usually frequent. The place itself is fine, but something to do with it's dimensions, or location, or even just it's fucking stupid clientele mean that I often succumb to Wire Rage while I'm there. I've been told this isn't a totally unique phenomena, but I haven't really experienced it anywhere else. Let me paint you a picture.

You're happily jumping up and down because your 138593759th favourite song has tantalisingly peeped through the almost equally as good track currently playing. It's 2am, you're drunk, and it's very, very warm. Suddenly and without warning, an overly and somewhat ostentatiously-snappily dressed man shoves you out of the way, spilling your Red Stripe on your second favourite T-shirt. Okay, fine, you can cope with that. He's probably just drunk as well as a total wanker. You return to happily doing an impression of an energetic jellyfish, but you're shoved again by Mr Tweed Blazer's immaculately turned-out girlfriend. Fine, carry on. Oh wait, what's this? They can't be...they aren't trying to request a song, are they? They can't be. Why is he talking to the MC? This is too embarrassing and awful. Avert your eyes. Of course you can't though, because this is pure car-crash arrogance happening in front of your eyes. It's fascinating.

But wait, what's he doing now? Oh, he's tapping the professional photographer rather violently on the shoulder. Of course he is. Take a picture of you and your bird? Of course! I'm assuming that's what they hired him for! He makes him show him the picture. No, that one isn't any good. He doesn't look nearly drum and bassy-enough in that one. Take another. Go on camera monkey, do it.

Then, just as suddenly as they arrived, they have gone, leaving a circle of bemused faces around the prime front-line spot they recently occupied. Stunning. The music plays on, the gap is filled, you drink your beer and continue with the night. In the corner of your eye you rather happily notice the photographer deleting his previous two pictures. A triumph for bass justice.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Nice Girls Finish A+

Pretty people are more photogenic. Were you aware of that? I certainly was this morning, when hundreds of blonde girls bounced with joy over their satisfactory A-level results. However, I also got pretty fed up of people noticing that thousands of blonde girls were bouncing with joy over their satisfactory A-level results. So what? Surely the prettier people aren't averse to having their picture taken, while the rest of us normals shy away from any unwanted attention. Netball captains and debtate club leaders probably want to represent their school in the paper anyway - regular shuffling nerdoids tend to dislike school as they are treated with little more than contempt, and so would not like their picture taken for the Local Bugle, ta very much. I hid in the common room until they left.

The lovely @philthD has kindly agreed to write a guest poem on this phenomenon of pretty clever birds and annoyed people watching the news. Enjoy.

don’t focus on the fact the sample’s self-selecting
“celebrating students” features are infecting
the coverage of every media outlet
so naturally we need to rage and rant about it
pretty girls have no problems so they’re fine for targeting
laugh at how they’re being used and sneer at sleazy marketing
each excruciatingly staged jump for joy is sickening
(just ask this average boy who’s so upset the papps aren’t picking him)
persecute the pretty, damn the dainty, curse the cute – if all
the bloggers bellow bile enough we’ll banish all the beautiful
cos there’s just one type of student that the papers and tv
and the schools think that the public want to see
and it’s all their fault
all their fault
yes it’s all their fault for looking good

the trouble is

any population’s built of individual brains
(at least when i was at school – and i’m sure it’s still the same)
the kids are much less uniform than schools like to maintain
and there’s a certain sort of student who is always to the fore
who’s popular with students and who all the staff adore
because they know how to play the game and what it takes to score
who loves to be involved and who thrives upon attention
always the first to volunteer, always the first one mentioned
when a model student’s needed and therefore by extension
their faces are the public faces of the institution
(which is not to deride others’ less visible contribution)
they’ve faced too little chronology to suffer involution
(that’s a fancy was of saying they’re too young to lose their looks)
there’s enough correlation to imply it’s not a fluke
there’s a link between their prettiness and the confidence that took
them to the place they hold within school community
they take pride that the school would offer them this opportunity
whereas someone like me would see it as an importunity
whereas someone like me has always shied away from photos
whereas someone like me is not the kind of guy you’d go to
whereas someone like me is not the king of thing you’d show to
demonstrate the happiness your schooling can provide
when mine never left anything but emptiness inside
and there were countless reasons why I would sooner hide

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Empathising with rioters, despite my better judgement

Here is a very-much-too-long, potentially horribly misjudged post on why although I hate what the looters have been doing to my country, I empathise greatly with those under the poverty line who had simply had enough of all the shit and began to riot in the first place. The confusion as to why the riots started perhaps prove it truly was a riot - there aren't any hard and fast rules to a community's rage.

There seems to be a lot of judgement flying around, judgements that are supposedly justified due to people’s own backgrounds. I am not trying to say that people haven’t suffered and survived living under the poverty line – of course they have – I just can’t see why this should be used as one-upmanship. You don’t come out of the other side of poverty so you can look down your nose at people for not doing the same thing. Remember the people who wondered how on earth you could be so poor? The people who told you it was somehow your fault? When you couldn’t afford to top up the gas meter that week (yes, gas meters still exist) you were asked why you topped up your phone, as if you had to justify yourself? Why are you being one of those people?

I don’t want to turn this into a sob story about parts of my own life, I just want to explain what every day is like for those lucky enough to have forgotten, or who may even have never experienced poverty as a young person.

Guilt is ever-present. School takes up your time, and you know you need to go in order to break the cycle, but you also know that you’d be doing much more to help your family if you quit and got a low-paying job. Plenty of my friends did, my mother wouldn’t let me, and I have to be thankful for that – however she’s still well below the managing-the-debt line, and I still can’t afford to help her six years on. So there’s that.

Alongside your crappy house that’s never warm, always damp, not enough rooms for all of you, there’s the judgements put upon your parents (in my case, my single parent Mum). Why have those kids if you can’t afford them? Why did you let your family get in such a situation? She painted the house we were given by the council to stop us from being homeless with my new baby sister around, and instead of getting a fridge we got carpets. Working class pride priorities. We had a cool enough shed, and not that much food anyway.

We had phones though. Oh yes. We also had a computer, and books, I had a guitar, a violin, a salvaged piano and a second-hand Playstation. The TV in the front room had two channels and had to be switched off by taking the plug out, and my mother didn’t have a bed (or a bedroom), but my sisters and I barely wanted for anything. I paid for my phone credit with my part-time jobs, but most of my flashy belongings were Christmas presents I asked my mum not to buy me with the awful credit card that lived in the second drawer down; or  they were remnants of our life before we left my dad. If you only visited my room, you’d have thought we were normal.

The thing is; I was never angry. I don’t blame others in the same situation for being so however and perhaps if I wasn’t so absorbed with leaving the place I grew up in, I’d have been furious too. I think that because I had an escape route, I didn’t feel like lashing out. Most people aren’t so lucky, and that’s why I can understand their actions. They can’t escape the daily grind of surviving on basic rations, of having to explain themselves to their neighbours, their families, the government - of waking up and having the panic of debts and needs and un-payable bills fizz and pop in their stomachs. So don’t tell me that having a new pair of shoes means you’re well off. My 
mum wouldn’t let us leave the house in anything less.
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