Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Vicar Shits on Baby's Face - You'll Never Guess What Happened Next?

Just testing a theory...

***

A couple of times recently I've been reminded about my age and my lack of technological know how. Several people have informed me that everyone (I know and don't know) is now streaming everything and no one has record collections any more, they all keep it in the 'cloud' and play it anywhere they want, whenever they want with a thing called a 'playlist'.

Honestly, I'm over 50. I don't want, need or desire that shit.

I have a cupboard of vinyl I'm never likely to play ever again, but I'll be buggered if I'm getting rid of them (especially as record prices are pathetic compared to say that of collectable comic books) and one day, you never know, I might treat myself to a turntable.

I also have shelves and shelves and shelves of CDs; about 1000 to hazard a guess and this became a kind of point of jovial derision from a pal just before Christmas, because he couldn't understand why I just didn't upload everything onto my computer and claw back the valuable space being taken up by all those discs (he was suggesting I do this with just downloads, not pre-recorded CDs) and he argued that if anything happened to the hard drive, if I didn't have a decent back up I could just as easily re-download the stuff, or just never bother and listen to it via the net.

My stock answer is and always has been, I like to have something physical. It's probably why I was so resistant to making Borderline Press books digital, because in my world a book or a comic is this physical thing you hold in your hands, you can smell, you enjoy the entire feel and experience. It is why I have about 200 extra CDs containing MP3 libraries of things I probably won't ever listen to (again) but feel the need to own. It's there because if I ever get an urge to listen to some obscure Norwegian band or say a discography of early John Martyn, I know where to look (even if it takes longer to find now than downloading an album illegally).

Now, I have toyed with the idea of transferring it all to a portable hard drive that I can plug into other technology and have access to it (that way I can still keep the original CDs but tucked away in the loft or some place until I need to access them again, if ever), but because home habits have changed since the birth of the CD, I find that [our] listening habits have changed the most. Once, the stereo was the focal point of my living room, in many ways it took precedent over the TV - music was far more important than soaps or sport - but as computer technology developed and the internet appeared and then Napster, Apple, Spotify and those other slightly evil companies, who all became synonymous with music. It is a rare thing that the stereo in the living room is ever used now; if we want to listen to the radio we do it through the TV and the idea of putting a CD on and just sitting there doing other things seems to have become something from a bygone age, like watching Top of the Pops.

Then an interesting wrinkle appeared last week, something which I might have explained away as cheap technology. I mentioned that a band I liked released a new album in 2015 and I only discovered it existed the weekend before Christmas (and to add insult to injury it was so un-patronised I couldn't find a single illegal download of it anywhere on the net). My mate lent me the album. It's about as common as me playing CDs in the lounge that I actually put a proper - shop bought - album into my PC and within a track or two something odd happened...

Not only was I taken with the album, I was impressed with the sound quality. Now CDs are anathema to vinyl heads, a little like the way I can't get my head around the way that young people listen to music in 2017 - tinny little phones playing even tinnier music - yet here I was sat here listening to an album that sounded richer and full of depth. I ripped a copy and a little later played it back, and then played the CD again - using the same PC music playing app. The difference was quite audible and made me realise that I was in a strangely unique situation in that I had the foresight to compare the CD version to the 320kps version I'd ripped; if I download music I don't have that point of comparison.

Now, take one of my favourite albums of 2016. I received authorised WAV and mp3 versions, downloaded from the album's creator (for review), but unlike this guy's debut album I didn't have it as a physical CD and because I still haven't bought the new album I'm not totally sure that my wife's description of one track sounding like 'clowns having a fight' is going to sound at all like that played through my ghetto blaster, CD drive or car stereo.

Is it any surprise that vinyl is now selling more than it has for 25 years? Not only is the ANALOGUE sound much more aesthetically pleasing to the ear, there's a surprising amount of depth that digital can't copy, the same way. Yet, here I am suggesting that the humble (and soon to be obsolete) CD is as much of an improvement on MP3 files as vinyl is to the CD. I'm sure if your granny knew how and why to suck eggs she wouldn't need a manual...

I have always prided myself in the fact that while I illegally download 90% of my music, anything I really like I then go and purchase. There are bands who would never have got my money had I never got one of their albums from a torrent. Ironically, I would never have got into Steven Wilson and his band the Porcupine Tree without an illegal torrent, so he would never have got any of the money I spent on him had I been as tight-arsed about illegal downloads as he is.

A lot of my illegal downloads are digital versions of albums I own. I bought the things in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, I'm not paying for them again.

The point I'm dancing around is for a little while my mate's suggestion that I could have every bit of music I own in a little portable box sounded not an unreasonable idea (just so long as I could be happy that I had sufficient back ups), especially if the idea is to wire (or wireless) up the house so that I can access stuff through other technology. It would probably resurrect the old pastime of listening to music together in the lounge, especially when we don't want to watch TV and I commit to spending less time on the internet.

Oh and there's something else... I don't have very good tech. My speakers are cheap, my sound card is only slightly above adequate and I use a fairly standard and generic music player with basic settings. I pretty much always resisted the idea of going the full-on electronic route purely because of my shit gear. It then dawned on me that the album I borrowed from a friend was played on said shit gear and it didn't sound shit... I don't play CDs through my PC because I have a perfectly adequate Sony portable CD/Radio/Cassette thing less than 18 inches from my left hand. In my office I have the albums of one of my fave bands, on this PC I have these albums which I downloaded presumably to prove the point that it's easier to download something than turn round and rummage through 1000 CDs to find one thing in particular.

I played both versions. The CDs - bought in the mid 1990s - sounded considerably better than the FLAC (apparently CD quality files) downloads, even with my monkey-metal speakers... Apart from the fact that I was thinking I could eventually buy all Cardiacs material and hear it all like the first time, it also made me realise that having everything on computer file - whatever claims are made about which is better than the other - is a little like having photocopies of an artist's works. It has everything you need, but is maybe lacking in specific detail. If you squint hard enough you can hear the sampling...

Now, I'm also aware that anyone reading this is probably wondering if stating the bleeding obvious is going to be my blog theme for 2017, because if you're old enough you'll know much of what I've said already. I just wonder if for the sake of convenience we've allowed our standards to drop and with barely a whimper?

Waaay back when the century was young, I was on a forum with some like-minded chums, one of which was extolling the brilliance of TV at the time; how it was so much better than it has ever been before and I sat there thinking not only was the guy a plonker, he had also allowed himself to be swept up by the hype. I accused him of having allowed his standards to drop in the face of too much inferior product and the need to categorise. I was, not for the first or last time, called a miserable curmudgeonly old cunt who needed to lighten up...

Then recently the wife and I watched Edge of Darkness again, considered by many to be one of the top 3 TV dramas of the 1980s. It wasn't at all how I remembered it and it has dated terribly, like a Howard Jones single or the Boy George look. It was littered with absolutely awful (testosterone driven) dialogue; some really contrived situations and seemed to ooze '80s smugness. In short, had it arrived on screens in 2017 the way it did in the early 1980s, it would have been dismissed faster than Mrs Brown's Boys.

Measuring quality in a subjective setting is a personal choice; and time and memories change, distorting views and altering our perception; the same applies to growing accustomed to listening to lo-quality. However, if you can actually, physically, determine something is better by the quality on offer that is a different and objective thing and I think today's yoof (and a few of yesterday's) have slightly devalued music quality to the point where it has seeped into all of our lives. Elevator music quality is now the sound of the world and while many of us enjoyed pirate copies of blockbuster films back in the good old VHS days, it was so much better seeing it on TV or better still at the cinema. I discovered we still still have that kind of divide today.

One final point: I also don't think the sound quality applies to people trying to make money in music. Even The Guardian has latched onto brands rather than artists or genres. It's almost like the music is secondary to the brand appeal, so very little of the real music that is produced in the 21st century actually gets any air time... Unless of course there's a brand to go along with it. It's no longer music but cynical marketing with something rarely innovative at the end apart from people telling you how innovative it is.

***

Now, here's the weird one. When I wrote the opening paragraph of this, it was my intention to actually talk about radio and why, like the old-style music industry, it appears to be entering something of a swansong.

Listening figures continue to fall, less people listen to music radio because they have their own customised playlists or for variety they'll listen to a friend's (almost identical) playlist, or some artist... or brand's playlist. I can't help think that young people are as interested in radio as they are in serialised weekly television.

For example; I've grow increasingly disappointed by 6Music's output, because I believe it barely scratches the surface of alternate music (based on the station's supposed demographic) and spends far too much time promoting genres that Radio 1Xtra was created for and also seems, especially during the day, to want to be more like 1970s Radio 1 or 1990s Radio 2 but still playing too much populist 21st century shite. I really don't give a fuck how so-and-so is doing new things in hip hop or RnB; that should be 1Xtra's brief, not the god awful Lauren fucking Laverne, who is marginally more exciting than Mary Ann Hobbs, who simply just makes me wonder how these people ever got on the radio... I know Tom Ravenscroft is John Peel's son, but other famous people's children have been removed from the TV or radio for being much better and more charismatic...

So, this morning, in a vain attempt to reconnect with modernity I thought I'd try and find an internet/digital radio station that ticked 75% of my boxes (because expecting radio to tick anything greater is like expecting Middlesex Cricket Club to win football's World Cup - impossible for many reasons...).

My first port of call was Last.FM, which I once used regularly and is to 'blame' for a number of bands I now like based on their similarities to other bands I already liked. Obviously I can't remember the last time I went to Last.FM but I was sure I had it bookmarked, but couldn't find it. When I found the site via a search engine I didn't understand it. I had no bloody idea at all what a scrobble is/was/does and I couldn't find how to play a radio station or anything and when I finally managed to get it to play something it opened a link to a small You Tube video... In the immortal words of every young person ever - WTF? Look, I know I'm 54 and a self-confessed Luddite, but, come on... Websites shouldn't read like Albanian farming manuals!

Five minutes of trying other Bing suggestions, such as Jango and two others with instantly forgettable names and I decided to look at the free channels available on my (cheap and free) VLC media player. I (later) found out that almost 300 stations available at any given time will have as little as 0 listeners, on a daily basis, and that of the literally thousands of stations available many are duplicated, huge swathes are run by companies that flood adverts all over the stream (several you have to listen to at least 30 seconds of advert before you even find out if you want to continue listening - and if you hit refresh or back or even pause, the ad has to be played again).

Literally an hour of the 21st century equivalent of channel hopping yielded a monstrous fuck all. I found nothing that grabbed me by the balls or made me get all priapic - musically speaking, of course. Plus a number of 'specific' genre channels were playing music that I would not have put into that genre. For someone as bloody anal-retentive as me this was just a load of shit.

I couldn't find anything that seemed remotely up my street or that looked like it might introduce me to something different - because that was the main reason for wanting to do it in the first place. To listen to something new that I might not even be remotely tempted by. To find a new North Atlantic Oscillation, Blow Up Hollywood, Porcupine Tree, Ulrich Schnauss, Manual, Nordic Giants or whoever.

I am totally amazed some of these musicians continue ploughing their furrows in a world that ignores their genius. I know, why do I continue to write despite the fact I'm never likely to be paid to do it again? I do it because I enjoy it and by whatever Gods might exist if I could play musical instruments I'd be just as dedicated and creative even if no one wanted to share my own brilliance.

***

One last thing about creativity and ting...

Umpteen months after saying she'd read my book, a window of opportunity appeared where the wife could read and edit my book. Then she chickened out and came up with an excuse (that sounded very Hall-like in its 'logic'). I joked that it might be a multi-million selling book in waiting and her reaction to this felt more like a 'Yeah, but what if it isn't?'

I swear to whatever gods there might once have been if I end up pegging it and then she reads it and thinks it's brilliant, how is that going to be of any benefit to me? Huh?

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Futility of Existence

The New Year is just over a week old and I already want to slash my wrists - length ways - and put my face into an industrial blender...

If someone had said to me as recently as last year that 'you can't educate against ignorance,' I would have glared at them with added incredulity. I can't say I feel the same way now. I don't know if I've just been unlucky, but I seem to have witnessed a degree of fuckwittery this week that has all but shattered my faith in humanity surviving until the 22nd century.

Honestly, I'm not going to waste your time with some of the unbelievable examples I've witnessed, for a number of reasons, but my sanity is the top one and your spare time is another; let's just say that the prospect of moving to Scotland and semi-isolation was facing a crisis of faith, but yesterday I was seeing if there were any affordable islands and ruing the fact we haven't colonised other planets...

Actually, I will give you one example, basically because it perfectly illustrates the surreal nature of the world today: I was watching the FA Cup and on one of those MBM things I sometimes follow it was suggested that the game we were watching was 'as dull as brown wallpaper' - a fair surmise. Someone took this personally and accused the MBM of being negative and was going to boycott it from that point. Someone asked what was negative about a factually accurate report that was echoed by the TV pundits. The person who took it personally then accused people of insulting him and that because he was a season ticket holder he had more right than others to have an opinion. The truth appears to be that he expected others to agree with him and when they didn't he accused them of insulting him - because no one agreed with him. Is that just plain ignorance or some kind of underlying psychopathy?

I suppose current affairs has something to do with it - fake news, outrageous opinions, intolerance - but it's really getting to the point where my underlying feeling is if I don't disconnect from this mad fucking world I am going to buy a Kalashnikov and off a few dozen twats before I get taken out... The Age of Reason has been replaced by the Age of Opinion (and we all know opinions are like arseholes, it's just some are stinkier than others).

As 2016 descended into some black comedic satire of existence, lives lived and governed by thoughts and feelings took over; pragmatism, facts and rationale all ignored in favour of things 'which felt right' - like Brexit, Trump and the demonisation of the disenfranchised, and the fact the year clicked up one more hasn't changed the world, it's still the same and getting worse.

Then I discovered that even those of us who feel we're skirting under the Manipulation Radar are anything but; because even if we're not playing the new Game of Life, it [the Game] knows everything about us that it will ever need. Big Brother exists just as Orwell predicted, the thing is Big Brother is a capitalist business model rather than a government.

Faced with ignorance on a grand scale; intolerance at levels not seen for 80 years and prospects on the horizon that make taking an acid bath sound fun, it leads me to ask: what is the point? I made a couple of odd resolutions on December 31st. The first was I was going to try and refrain from clicking 'Like' on anything Facebook related and aside from music, I was going to post nothing that promoted anything other than my own brand (ie: my blogs). After getting involved in a number of futile exchanges at the end of the year, I reinforced my decision NOT to get involved and to stay civil and I've even chatted with a friend about how to survive without social media.

Even if I profess to not spend much time on Facebook, it is open on my browser whenever my browser is open, therefore I'm always just a heartbeat away from it. I can't say the same for other social media - I still struggle to even understand the significance of Twitter even though I'm on it; I mean, its very nature means that unless you spend forever following it you only ever get a snapshot of its world.

But the major problem I have is a refusal to sync my phone with my computer and therefore my social media world. Back in the 1990s, when I worked for that man and spent a lot of time on the telephone, we often used to joke about the mobile phone adverts telling us that we can now speak to people while we're on the beach and we'd look at each other and say 'why the hell would we want to do anything like that when we're on the beach?' ... Well, that's how I feel about my mobile device being a mini version of my PC. My mobile is for phone calls, text messages and bad photographs. I occasionally use the browser on it to check football scores or news, but that is it. I can go out without my mobile and never realise it and I like that; I think that liberates me a little.

Now, I have a desire to have my entire (new) house wired up and wireless. I want PCs and laptops to be linked to TVs and stereos and even mobile devices, but not so I can always know what So-and-So thinks about Wassname at the touch of a button; it's so I can watch or listen to things without having to transfer them onto some solid form of conveyance. I am also aware that it is my age that dictates this despite knowing many people older than me who are far more tech-minded than I've any desire to be (Just look at Miriam Margoyles, who at 76 knows more about the workings of computers than I know about my own crotch).

I also have always chosen to ignore adverts on the TV or radio, so I tend to have ad blockers on browsers and any other thing I can find that will limit my exposure to shit I don't want to see to a minimum. I have always believed that if I want something I'll go and buy it; I don't want or need something telling me what I need or should want; if anything adverts turn me off of things rather than peak my interest. That's also my age and as I get older the last thing I want is to take up my valuable minutes with some shit that an 18-year-old doesn't batter an eyelid at. I appreciate that everyone is selling something, but if I could have a shit filter on my net life it would the busiest thing in my real life.

Depending on what mood I'm in, we're either headed towards war, economic oblivion or social disorder and that's just me being optimistic. Couple that with some of the frankly surreal nonsense I'm seeing friends getting engrossed in, the growing number of old friends showing slightly far right wing opinions, and everyone's futile arguments with people who DON'T WANT THE TRUTH because they don't like it; they'd rather believe in unicorns that shit rainbows and spunk cash in the mouth of whoever is prepared to felate it.

I actually quite like life, it's probably one of the main reasons I never offed myself during the worst months of my depression, and I can't help thinking that if I can just come up with ways to entertain myself that do not involve any form of interaction on the 'social' side of the internet (but not stop using it because it does have its benefits) then I think I'll put a couple of years on my life. It does mean I will have to rely on old fashioned means of communication such as emails, telephones and in person, but I figure the less time I spend looking at memes the better my life will be. If I get what I want this year then I'm going to have to spend time doing stuff, deliberate social media withdrawal might be the best practice.

But therein lies the problem. An old acquaintance of mine, a guy called Chris*, did his PhD on Technology Dependence and the addictive nature of social media and he concluded (in 2009) that once you've become enveloped in social media it is akin to drug withdrawal to try and kick the habit. I can see this because as much as I fucking hate it at the moment, I'm a bit scared/worried about not being on it and this has nothing to do with FOMO (Fear Of Missing out) and more to do with filling a void that I would fill if I had something to fill it with...

The bottom line is just how much of it I can do without. If I went out everyday and various people came up to me and annoyed me in obstinate and childish mental ways, I'd avoid them, wouldn't I? All I need is a plan of withdrawal and interesting (and possibly new) stuff to keep me occupied. I do have a working plan of action, but even that involves remaining connected and just that simple fact makes technology addiction as real as drug addiction. Years after stopping smoking, I still sometimes find myself (usually) imagining a contrived circumstance where I can smoke again and that usually ends up with a week or two falling off the wagon, if I don't push the urge back where it belongs. The idea of not having that Facebook crutch has a similar effect on me and that is probably more worrying than anything else.

It doesn't help that it is January and a time of the year when we're all (except my mate Roger) desperately scrambling around to try and find something to occupy our time that doesn't involve watching shit TV and eating the rest of what was left over from the festive season. With the prospect of cold, snow, still gloomy days ahead of us, what could be better than sitting in your warm [insert somewhere here] gloating over how bad the world is, or being all sympathetic to someone whose life is being played out for everyone to see. Don't get me wrong, I'm just as guilty of it and I wonder if others feel, months down the line, as bloody stupid about it as I do now? Using social media as an intervention tool or a method of discussion regarding mental or economic health is a bit vulgar, even if I've done it on numerous occasions.

Social media is at best facile and at worst psychopathic and it's all just a tiny snapshot of everything because, especially with Facebook, you'll never know for sure about everything that is happening because it is algorithmically censored. I discovered this recently when a) I discovered a band I'm 'subscribed' to released an album in August 2015 and b) when I clicked on the Timeline of a friend and saw the legend 'Stories you might not have seen' and there were countless posts that had never made it to my own page, despite me 'following' this person. Facebook pretty much decides what you can and can't see, but because the average person has a specific number of friends unless you have all the time in the world it is difficult to keep track. Now, my infamous alter-ego has very few 'friends' because it is a shell account (originally created to play myself at Scrabble), yet even the real people on it are limited in their exposure. I see, at most, 50% of my own posts on my dummy ID page, and part of me thinks a snapshot is a good thing (because you don't really want to know everything about someone because that gets a bit ... stalker-y), but another part of me thinks that because of it there is a subtle manipulation going on that we're not aware of because it never dawns on us.

In an odd way, the internet once represented anarchy in its purest form; now it is just like everything else, designed to cull as much information from us to work out how the rich can screw more money out of you (I have no money, so they're getting fuck all from me apart from my time and my reprogrammed mind and ...).

*I lost touch with Chris because he isn't on any social media, (he also, rather heroically, doesn't play games on either his PC or a games machine), answers emails about 12 times a year and admits that despite teaching computer science, having a PhD in computing and the ability to dismantle and reassemble a PC with his eyes glued shut, he spends almost no time at all on any of his computers, or phone, preferring to do things that wouldn't have seemed out of place in 1975.


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Art of Disassociation

To suggest I have a habit of falling out with people is a wee bit of an understatement. I have both destroyed good friendships and been on the receiving end of destroyer's of good friendships. It's pretty much human nature and not something I've let bother me over the last few years. Once upon a time (and in one specific case even today) I would obsess about 'what the hell happened?' or 'how did it get here?' and then, gradually, as I got older I started to realise that it was all part of the human process and that if you can fall out with someone and never make up then there couldn't have been much there in the first place (or usually that is the case, when it comes to family the boundaries get blurred and riven with expectations and disappointments).

I'm not reformed. I still get involved in situations that could end up with people not talking, but, last year, on January 1st or thereabouts, I decided to try and not be confrontational with people, whether they were strangers or old friends. And, by and large, I succeeded and 2016 ended up being a year where I 'fell out' with very few people. This was down to me and the training of my knee-jerk reactions to sit in the corner and bite its metaphoric tongue. The reason was simple, I was wasting far too much time, energy and health on trying to convince people who didn't want convincing of the errors of their ways. A bit conceited, I know, but sometimes when you know you are right, you want others to be as fair and even as you.

Ten years ago, I fell out with one of my best friends. I can't tell you why because for ten years I have had no idea. None of our mutual friends know why; even the guy's ex-wife was puzzled as to why it happened. It was almost a 'cut-my-nose-off-to-spite-my-face' move because, essentially, he alienated himself from a chunk of the rest of his friends because of his sudden (or maybe slow burning) dislike of me. Hey, I've always been Mr Marmite so this isn't something that has ever bothered me greatly. People don't like me. I got over it, it's just never happened with someone I've known for 30 odd years.

Another friend (in 2015) fell out with me on social media; I called the daughter of a friend of his 'a stupid little girl', because without any knowledge of her age or her life I took umbrage to her apparent support of Nigel Farage based on the fact she found him amusing. I got pilloried for insulting a 16 year old. My argument was she shouldn't have attempted to trivialise a serious discussion with a stupid, naive and, without context, an inflammatory statement. My friend demanded I apologise to the kid. I thought that was way over the top, especially considering I had no idea who she was or what her family were to my friend. I refused; he got arsey; I got arse-ier; end of 15 years of friendship.

Social media might be many things but it is essentially the gateway to hate and anger. In May, a friend who many of my other friends have also known for over 30 years, 'unfriended' me (and several others) on Facebook. Not really a falling out as she fully intended to attend my 30th anniversary party, but I found out through a third party it was because she was going to vote Leave and was fed up with all my pro-Remain 'propaganda'. She has since reconnected with the other ostracised Remainers, but I wouldn't accept her friend request. I just hope her children and grandchildren don't suffer too much from her wilful ignorance.

With the exception of that first example (because there hasn't been closure on it), I'd not allowed the circumstances to bother me, so when 2016 came around I made a conscious decision to not be confrontational and to try and be rational and fair when commenting on controversial social media topics. This included definitely not getting into slanging matches with right wing wankers and walking away from threads and conversations where someone I know are, IMHO, embarrassing themselves. I did remarkably well and I could easily challenge anyone to come up with an example of where I didn't follow this 'resolution' (family rows are exempt here, because I'm quick to argue with my family because of the amount of Conservatives and UKippers there are amongst them).

I made a big deal to my fellow Remain voters that it was essential they kept clear heads when discussing the EU; that getting into rows tended to polarise people's opinions rather than change them and that using facts was the best way forward (how naive of me not to realise that 'facts' would become a burden). Obviously that approach didn't work out well for me or any of my rational friends and as a result of the referendum the levels of anger and intolerance on social media, comments sections and discussion threads were ratcheted up and it appeared that anyone was a fair target, especially if they were classed as 'hand-wringing liberals'.

We've seen and heard lots of discussion about 'bubbles' and how we tend to surround ourselves with similar-minded people, because it makes us feel better knowing we're not alone in the way we think or feel. We tend not to see bubbles where people are diametrically opposite what we believe in - why should we, unless it's to 'Know Thine Enemy'. During November and December I witnessed hate being cranked up to new and even more vile levels and I believed it was a right wing ignorance thing. I then started to see right wing arseholes justifying their shameful behaviour by suggesting that there were just as many vile and hateful left wingers out there and, you know, I thought this was just more right wing propaganda aimed at deluding the ignorant into believing that there was a certain 'honesty' about being a fascist. Freedom of speech was thrown around like a vacant sun bed in Malaga and the more I witnessed the more I started to believe that even social media was now being manipulated by fakes, frauds and people paid by a political party to just be trolls. My conspiracy theories were verging on the paranoid and delusional all because any rational explanation for the surreal direction the world had taken was way out of my reach.

Don't get me wrong, I also believe that the left wing are as covertly active on social media as the right wing; but because I tend to agree with these people I can't see them in the same light as someone demanding 'a hard Brexit' so we can 'take back control' and 'kick out the EU scum who steal our jobs, claim our dole and have forced the NHS to breaking point.' But they are in many way just as bad and just as nasty and hateful - and it really pains me to admit that.

The success of my year of trying not to get wound up by wankers was almost complete. I had not fallen out with anyone (apart from one of my nieces and her dad, my brother); I'd had no big arguments and I'd tried to be as fair and non-inflammatory as I could. That was until Christmas...

By the beginning of November I'd gotten to the stage where I was so disillusioned with the internet, I didn't even feel inclined to try and tell a twat he was a twat. If I could see it, then cleverer people than me would too.

Everything I used to get angry and frustrated about with social media had begun to disappear; 2016 had been such a fucked up year that getting angry at a wanker seemed futile. But just as I believed I'd got through the year, it all welled together again to form a cloud of anger that my good sense did not stop.

I watched a raft of reasonable people try, in vain, to make someone see that what they had posted was homophobic, bitter, twisted and predominantly done to attract attention. Some guy (I could tell you his name or link you to his page or website, but he doesn't deserve any more attention, at all) basically suggested within 12 hours of the death of George Michael, that the singer was a collection of heinous things: a fraud, a predatory homosexual, a danger to children and a drunk driver; he even went as far as to post the lyrics of 'Wake Me Up' to prove just what a useless fraud and con artist the singer/songwriter was (despite GM having been about 18 when he wrote this multi-million selling song).

Now the man who did this needs quantifying; he claims to be gay; he claims to be either a psychologist or a psychotherapist, working for the NHS and he runs a poetry publishing house. It would also appear that he is something of a left wing attack dog, claiming to be many things that really should have endeared him to me rather than alienate. I stumbled across this offensive man because another of my Facebook friends had made a comment, a fair and even-handed comment trying to pull the man up on his rather extreme [Read: intolerant and homophobic] views. She was just one of about 40 people trying to make this man realise that not only was he generalising a situation, he was not prepared to listen to other's points of view and was doing what he accused so many of doing, not actually reading the things that were being written to him. He was insulting them and then blocking them, indiscriminately. Childlike and priggish.

I sat for almost an hour watching this attention-seeking and self-important waste of space get more irrational and offensive to people who disagreed with him; not just that, he managed to twist everything that was said to him, in a very right wing way, to fit his agenda, which appeared to be, 'I don't like George Michael so anyone that disagrees with me is either a fake, a fraud or an idiot' and he pursued this with a tenacity that would worry wolverines. In a really unexpected twist, he started accusing anyone who didn't have their entire life history mapped out on their Facebook page of being either an MI6 or CIA spy, despite the fact that many people pointed out to him that there is this 'privacy control' setting in Facebook that allows you to determine who or what sees your personal information. Our delusional friend seemed to think that if you can't have your entire life history on show for everyone to see then you are a fraud or a fake or you must have something heinous to hide.

He went one step further; accusing people of having pornography on their pages; of being right wing infiltrators, of being employed by the government to target him, personally. And all the while, the cornerstone of his argument had stopped being about how crap George Michael was and was now focused on denigrating, besmirching and insulting anyone who either didn't agree with him, or didn't have enough of their personal information in their 'About' section and around and around it went.

I'd pretty much realised before I decided to throw my two cents worth in that it was a futile attempt and the person we were all dealing with was more likely to be a mental health outpatient than a mental health worker, but I thought (wrongly) as I had run a publishing company, that I had a Wiki entry (which he doesn't) and was reasonably well known in that field, he might take my opinion with a little more gravitas than the people he was accusing of being aliens or Tory trolls. Of course, I never thought that because I have no information 'About Me' on my Facebook page that I would ever be accused of being a fake or a fraud; I mean I have a couple of dummy Facebook accounts, but I've made no secret of the fact; and I have over 400 friends and my Facebook is pretty much full of blogs and music and politics - so to be blocked and accused of being a government plant kind of incensed me - which, of course, was exactly what this attention-seeking waste of life was trying to do. He was in charge of his page, his opinions and he could say and do anything he liked, because he was IN CONTROL.

This man was quick to point out how many thousand followers he has and a trawl through his page suggested that he is extremely opinionated and in a spiteful way (something a dear and rational gay friend of mine said is often an unpleasant trait in some - not all - gay men and, oddly enough, transsexuals), so his opinions obviously flick switches with intolerant left wingers - a statement I would have argued against 12 months ago, I mean, left wingers who are intolerant? Geddouttahere.

The amount of friends and followers appeared to make him believe that he has the right to say anything he wants - a kind of power from the people attitude that often backfires - and his refusal to engage with 'genuine' people, with full histories on display, suggested to me that he'd say anything controversial to continue getting the attention he was getting. With this kind of legitimate troll, you can only imagine it must be the sexual gratification they get from being the centre of so many peoples attention.

Mutual friends of mine and the woman who's initial response drew me to it tried in vain to make this disgusting man acknowledge the valid points made; my own attempt was to ask him if he didn't support the rehabilitation of offenders, or if he had forgiveness or could accept that someone has paid their dues and deserves another chance. He wasn't having that, especially from an obvious MI6 plant... I got blocked and for a while sat in anger bordering on apoplexy. Watching far more rational people than me try with growing futility to make this opinionated and hateful human give an inch made me realise that we were all being played for suckers. We'd been swept up by a very skillful and talented left wing troll; someone just as vile, hateful and nasty as his right wing counterparts, but hiding behind some strangely constructed moral high ground riddled with flaws...

The reason I still get bouts of puzzled melancholia regarding my old friend's sudden change towards me, that is because for 20 years there had barely been a raised word between us and his change was sudden and unexpected. It might have been my fault for that change, but even my biggest critics don't think so. While I struggle at times, even today, to accept that my life no longer has this great person in it, I have had to, because there is nothing I can do or say that will make the situation better and confronting him would make it exponentially worse.

The people whose friendships have been lost through social media is something entirely different. Social media isn't about real friendship, it's about connections. The people I see and socialise with in real life, I also have social media connections with, but the majority of our interaction is away from the computer or phone. I think there's an unwritten law between me and one of my other best friends that we'll just be surreal on line with each other, because we both know how even the most innocuous sentence can be misconstrued, by the bestest of friends.

Many people stop being personal friends and become Facebook friends; people you used to see regularly are now just an ever-changing profile picture, that you interact with when they are deemed worthy by Mark Zuckerberg of appearing in your timeline. Therefore should you really waste your time with things that will probably end up giving you a tension headache than resolving someone's issues? You might have a deep sentimental 'love' for many old friends, but if the only contact you now have is through the computer, or at the few and far between actual social events that are held, then is their absence from your life that important?

I say that my old best friend's absence from my life bugs me; but the truth is it only bugs me when I'm struck by melancholia or I write something that reminds me of the absurd evening when our friendship ended. I've managed to get on with life, without him, the same way I've managed to get on with life by no longer being a party animal, or no longer smoking, or no longer doing the things that people 30 years my junior still do. That is the art of disassociation - the ability to let the things that once affected you no longer have any effect.

When was the last time you bumped into so-and-so? It's been over a year!? We must get together soon. Yes, life has a way of getting involved. Doesn't time fly? Even people you want to socialise with don't get seen as much as you might once have; and its nothing to do with kids or dogs, or jobs or anything; it's because we learn to subconsciously disassociate ourselves from the lives we used to live; which is why we can slip back into that mode when we're reunited with friends and act like you were all together yesterday rather than the last barbecue.

Think about this: we can subconsciously disassociate ourselves from the things we love; so how come we find it so hard for things we hate or don't even know? Is it because it disturbs some dark passion inside some of us? What I did to try and not get wound up by wankers began with writing a response and then deleting it - a lot tougher for me than you can imagine - then formulating a response in my head and then just metaphorically waving an arm at the screen and moving on. Like any addict, temptation sometimes got the better of me, but I kept 'be civil' as my mantra (and even the falling out with my niece was not because I got emotional and insulting). With the psychotic poet, I allowed my emotions to get the better of me, ironically over - George Michael - someone I was pretty much as ambivalent about as you can possibly be and I broke the first rule of Voltaire's secretary's law by not defending the right of a wanker to say something I didn't agree with. He won. I, along with many others, got conned and it was all because clever bastards like this guy know that there are enough idiots out there who will take his bait.

Whether you are an insidious troll under an assumed name or a overt troll with no fear of recriminations, you are still a troll and the best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them and the most likely outcome is for people to do exactly the opposite. Whether it's because they can't see what is happening or they think they can change the person saying it.

We do not live in a world where trolls are ignored and once you understand that you can ignore it more easily. I don't keep scores, but I'd say that in 2015 I probably had 50 on-line 'exchanges' that ended up with words like 'fascist', 'Nazi' and 'Tory Twat' being used, with abundance. In 2016, I had ONE exchange where I lost my cool (and that was with someone who purports to be more left wing than me...). What I've learned is, apart from the very odd slip up, I have more self-control than I thought and maybe I can go through 2017 with even less involvement with social media and therefore be happier and less stressed, regardless of what other shit life throws at me.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The 2017 Preview

[Mild applause]

Thank you, thank you. That was 2016. How will we ever forget? Do let the door hit you on the arse/ass on the way out, will you.

Phew. Still alive? Good. It's important to remember that January 1st to December 31st is only a year in the way that 1760 yards is a mile, it really doesn't matter where you place it, it's just a measurement of distance, if you look at time as a journey.

So... What can we expect from 2017 bearing in mind the odds for forecasting every single event in 2016 would have won you more money at the bookies than has ever existed or will exist until 2457. Had you been insane enough to have guessed just 200 of the celebrity deaths in a Yankee with Brexit, Donald Trump, Treeza May and Bruce Forsyth still being alive you could have bought earth and have the moon thrown in for good measure. You'd own everything, everyone, even wombats.

Applying a wee bit of logic, considerable amounts of drugs (mainly historical), and a kind of Salvador Dali procreates with Nigel Farage surrealism, here's 20 things that could happen in 2017:

1. 'Taking a Shitie' - The question on everyone's lips by the end of the summer will be 'What's your shit face like?' Take your picture while having a dump and then Instagram it. Crapper Snappers will be on the prowl and the name John-Henry will become the most popular name by December.

2. Staying on the anal theme; Kanye West's ego is lost down a rest room basin just outside Las Vegas. The 'rapper' blamed a taco he'd eaten earlier and would under no circumstances blame himself for eating it. President Trump has vowed to deploy many Mexicans to retrieve it from the shit mines of Iowa.

3. A photograph of Jamie Vardy will emerge at the end of May, shortly after Premier League Champions Leicester City are relegated, of the striker pissing on a photograph of the Arsenal team taken shortly after turning down the opportunity (in July) to play for a consistently average team rather than a bunch of one-season wonders. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, being French, just shrugged.

4. Kirk Douglas announces his wedding to Olivia de Havilland and the honeymoon will be two weeks at an S&M club in Deptford.

5. The government announces on the same day that ### ##### dies that due to a lack of money the NHS is being relabelled Virgin Health Service and it will only cost you £25 to see your GP.

6. A petition to have Jimmy Savile's remain dug up, desecrated and then thrown down a disused mine in Siberia is signed by over 10,000,000 people.

7. The Daily Express forecasts a ice age/heat wave this winter/summer with a likely apocalypse to follow if the immigrants and asylum seekers don't get you first.

8. Tim Peake is savagely attacked on Twitter and by media outlets for having a nice quiet two-week holiday with his family in the Algarve when he should have been appearing on television or radio at least once a week making a dick of himself.

9. Dolly Mixtures get a new name as not to offend people called Dolly or the odd sheep. The news is greeted by riots, social media outrage and the PM making a statement in the House. When the Daily Mail reports that the children's confectionery has been made with beef lard for the last 30 years the story dies overnight.

10. Rich people admit the 'trickle down effect' doesn't work because they only accrue money and never spend it. One multi-billionaire admitted to only eating $100 bills, sometimes with some egg mayonnaise.

11. Someone's arse explodes because of implants. Bits of gluteus maximus land in a woman's soy latte.

12. With a third of the world's best musicians dead, the other two-thirds refuse to leave their homes to record new music for fear of dying in some freak fan-related incident meaning for best part of the year nothing in the pop charts means anything to anyone over 30. New musical trends include DubChicken and Slime n Bass.

13. Slovenia elects a Toilet Duck as president.

14. The BBC offers to sell people the dates when Nigel Farage will not be appearing on their channels.

15. Donald Trump suggests that White American men should be allowed to have several wives and a small number of slaves to keep their plantations profitable and because most Americans are responsible people he disbands the police departments and allows the people of the USA to police themselves.

16. To be allowed to comment on or write letters to the Daily Mail you will first have to provide evidence that you are a vile scumbag - perhaps a photo of you beating a black dog or urinating in the doorway of a Polish deli or shitting on the face of a homeless person.

17. There will be more 'drama' in the USA as people begin to admit they only buy certain types of music because their 'homies' do and that 94.7% of Americans think most of the music they hear is shit. In the UK over 90% of people under the age of 18 go into a state of shock and delete all their dubstep mp3s.

18. After facing a third leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn wins both Strictly and I'm a Celebrity (his eating of an alligator penis pickled in Cameron jizz clinching it for him in the Bush Fucker Trial) and still the UK media think he's an old useless tool with a wonky handle. With Labour on 4% in the polls, Tom Watson makes a move to have Katie Hopkins elected as leader.

19. The Sun backs a campaign to make it legal to beat people of Eastern European origin if you think they stole someone's job.

20. The internet gets switched off.

Monday, December 19, 2016

BAZOOM! 2016 Can Go F**k Itself, Yes?

By the middle of December 2016, the press had become so obsessed with celebrity death they reported the demise of Dave Smith, a 67-year-old plasterer from Plaistow because he had more than 100 friends on Facebook...

As a reader of the Guardian, it amuses me no end that this supposed cornerstone of ethical journalism in the UK has no idea, whatsoever, about who is buying the paper it produces. Is it any wonder the paper has lost a ¼ of its readership; people my age don't want Frank Ocean or DJ Phlegm forced down our throats; many of us Over 50s have avoided rap, hip-hop and modern RnB with great tenacity and we don't need people in their 40s trying to tell us that shit is cool. You just sound like grandads dancing. Oh and yes, Fleabag was excellent, but I also expect most people Over 50 probably found it a trifle unsettling at times and people under 20 avoided it like they avoid most things.

Reviews of the year are pointlessly subjective. Based really on what people think will make them look cool in the shadow of their peers. Radio 6's top 10 albums of the year sounded like Radio 1's without some of the more ludicrous MOBO music out there; but then again I think Radio 6 is about as alternative as having Cerys fucking Matthews as a DJ. If this music station actually filled its brief we'd have a lot less Radios 1 & 2 and a lot more proper alternative stuff. But, to be honest, when has conventional media delivery systems - the ones many of us have grown up with - meant anything anymore. If we've seen a revolution in telly over the last couple of years, we're probably also seeing the end of conventional radio as we know it. I struggle to find music stations that can hold my attention for a song let alone for an entire day.

For me 2016 will go down in memory as the Year of Death; as far too many people were taken from the stage. It has kind of blighted everything else. Have you heard the new #### album? No, I haven't, I've been far too worried that someone might die! What did you think of that new TV series ####? I haven't seen it because I was trawling the internet to see if someone else famous had died! Hasn't the weather been dull? I dunno, I've been busy posting my support of every dead person ever on my social media so that people don't think I'm a cunt.

A friend of mine lost her mother on the same day as Princess Di went. She said it was even more surreal than she could have imagined. This year as well as a list of famous people dying as long as Ron Jeremy's cock, a lot of my friends (and my wife) have experienced their own losses - family, friends, pets, livelihoods - so spare a thought for them.

We lump Lemmy into the 2016 deaths, but it was really last year and that is often the case with music and films; we still have holdovers from the previous year for the first few months of a New Year. We don't stop listening to something on December 31st because of some barrier preventing us taking music into a new rotation of the earth and as a result I often look at what I've played the most and see stuff from previous years littered throughout. This year saw a very meagre return in terms of new music - for me. The notable exceptions were: 4½ by Steven Wilson (not even an album, just a collection of bits and pieces to keep fans happy while he works on his 5th album). A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead, which is a bit like the SW 'album' in that very little on it is actually new, but this might have been a good thing as it actually sounded like a Radiohead album rather than a nightmare in a Gordon Ramsey kitchen.

Ordinarily, the Radiohead album would have won it hands down for me. As a lapsed fan this was the kind of epiphany I needed, but 2016 was to hold two largely unexpected musical treats. First was a new Sand album (Sand is the solo spin-off project of North Atlantic Oscillation's lead man Sam Healey), which didn't live up to expectations, but was never likely to as I regard the first Sand album to be the best album of the 21st Century (Imho). It was still an awesome, powerful and beautiful album and wins my album of the year award.

However... In 2015 I became addicted to something called Tim Smith and in 2016 the first 'new' Tim Smith material for 8 or 9 years surfaced. It wasn't actually 'new' new, it was like the Radiohead and Steven Wilson albums; it was stuff recorded ages ago that had been finally produced, but it was also co-produced by Tim Smith, which meant that the man who suffered a catastrophic double heart attack and stroke in 2008 was now well enough to go into a studio and supervise the finish of a long waited for album. The Sea Nymphs - On the Dry Land isn't the best album of the year, but like David's Blackstar it can't really be categorised and therefore sits outside of what is allowably review-able.

German shoegaze-EDM pioneer Ulrich Schnauss released a new album which ended up largely forgettable. Only one track really stood out (and not even all of that), but it did at least have all the euphoric splendour of headbutting Bez in the mouth - that was the title track... No better... That's how much of an impact it had, I'd need to go and check the name of the album to make sure I don't humiliate myself. I think you want new music to have a little more of a meteor-like impact...

Musically, that's it. I can't really find anything from 2016 that really floated my boat. I heard stuff I really liked, but whether a single track will develop into a band/brand like, I can't say. I'd like to see how Moderate Rebels develop, but equally one decent single might not amount to anything. I've got lots of music that can't even be called One Hit Wonders because they never were hits. Whereas my friend Roger (who admittedly runs a music review site) has played about 2000 new albums this year and has far too many (about 700) he regards as good, I have listened to lots of new stuff and found it wanting, which is why I seem to have spent most of 2016 listening to the past.

Yet, if you think I'm being a wee bit scathing about music, how about movies? I've wasted so many hours of my life this year watching shite. Have people forgotten how to make films? Do they know what a script is? Are decent plots a thing of the past?

I have a friend who has a top 50 films of the year. I honestly am struggling to think of ONE decent, thoroughly enjoyable movie I've seen this year. Possibly Deadpool and even that's slightly grudgingly and I'm not even convinced myself - I just remember it because a friend of mine created the character.

...

...

I've sat here for ten minutes and I really can't come up with a favourite film of the year. Not even a 'maybe'. I have nothing. Nada. Diddly squat*. I can give you a list of the worst films I've seen, but that's just shooting fish in a barrel, innit?

*I would like to point out that there are a few films I haven't seen that I probably should, but something like I, Daniel Blake is likely to have a negative effect on my health, so I avoided it.

Moving on...

TV has been okay. I can't say that what the critics say are the best shows of the year are mine and they all seem to have forgotten about No Offence (on last January), which took some beating by anything. Between the wife and I we watched most of the 'award-winning' stuff and yet still managed to miss 50% of it. For me the aforementioned No Offence, the bonkers Lucifer and ... well, there has been quite a lot of good TV and some of it has been not even good but because it seems that all of the love and affection that used to go into films is now being lavished on TV it makes it watchable if nowt else. Take Luke Cage for example - it was like the superhero equivalent of Homes Under the Hammer - 20 minutes of TV crammed into an hour. Marvel's latest superhero TV show could probably have been done as a 2 hour film and still felt slightly padded out and unconsciously racist. But, hey, it looked great.

There is a degree of spoilt for choice and this has meant that some things haven't been watched yet, adding to that holdover effect that music has. However, I'm not stupid and I can see a style over substance load of vacuous nonsense when I see it and the makers of Stranger Things certainly managed to pull off something with a TV series that under close scrutiny was an absolute load of shit. I thoroughly enjoyed it until I started to think about it and how it used its 1980s feel to gloss over things like a plot or a direction. It ended up feeling like a massive prologue to another series; a bit like season 2 of Daredevil and every other series of The Walking Dead.

Speaking of zombies lurching into the unknown, surrounded by redneck nasty bastards - how was 2016's politics for you? Tasty, was it? Getting everything you wanted? Control back in the right hands now is it?

Let me make this as nice as possible. 2016 wasn't a bad year. Some people actually had a good year and simply can't understand all your negativity. Yet, there will be people reading this who will be begging for 2016 all over again by the time Christmas 2017 rolls around because 2018 looks even scarier. How can I possibly know this? 2018 is when we leave the EU. I might not be the healthiest person alive, but I know how to forage and I also know what is edible and what is poisonous; that makes me more valuable in the future than someone who knows how to network his electronic gadgets.

And remember, it's Christmas... But it doesn't really matter when it is because we're all going to die. :-)

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Self-indulgent TV bollocks (part 62)

My least popular blogs are when I talk about my US TV watching habits. I find this quite ironic because they tend to be the ones I really enjoy writing. Whereas my music reviews tend to be the most patronised - the last Sand album review has been looked at by over 1000 people, the last TV round-up by less than 50. I would like to think my music is far more eclectic than my TV, but...

Anyhow, here's a quick charge through what's being watched (in whatever spare time I might have).

The Strain: at the start of Season 3 I was ready to call it a day. It reminds me of a 21st century reworking of the 1980s series V but with 'vampires' rather than alien lizards. By the end of the second series there were few redeeming qualities and just about every character in the show was instantly dislikable. The wife seems quite keen so we persevered and by the midway point of this, apparently penultimate, season it was still badly acted with dodgy horrid characters, flawed people and many other criticisms, yet something had become slightly unhinged about it. The special FX are what makes this 'work' because, plot wise, it has more holes in it than the entire premise of The Walking Dead, which it seems to be mimicking slightly. With half the cast dead, a small tactical nuke been set off under NYC and one at the Statue of Liberty - creating night during day - a conclusion is almost within reach. I kind of hope the six-part final season will be the end of it. I won't really miss it, but like a car crash it is hard to look away.

People of Earth: it's a dramedy about alien abductees or 'experiencers'. We watched the pilot and were impressed enough to carry on watching when #2 arrived. It's a bit like Third Rock From the Sun meets the X Files and it has an 'indie' feel about it even if the talking deer is obviously a prosthetic. It also reminds me a little of Brain Dead, the 13-part stand alone series about alien ants taking over Washington, DC. Much promise, worth watching.

Son of Zorn: Did you like Thundercats? Are you now over 40? This is about a real life 2D animated character who leaves his world to visit his son in the 3D world. There's something slightly amateurish about it and most definitely cheap, but I laughed so much at the pilot episode - especially the end - that I'm committed to at least half a dozen more. You just have to imagine an episode of He-Man set in LA with added absurdity and comedy misogyny.

Channel Zero: is from SyFy, but, really, don't let that put you off. It has been likened to Stranger Things, but trust me, Channel Zero is much more creepy and a damned sight weirder even if it's let down by patchy acting from some of the characters. It's centred around a TV show that only kids can see called Candle Cove and seems to feature a monster that collects children's teeth. It suffers from the usual SyFy quirks - low budget, Canadian sets, more ambition than ability - but it's also probably the second weirdest thing on TV at the moment.

The weirdest thing on TV at the moment appears to be the stylish, sexy and mesmeric Falling Water. It's about the prophetic interconnected dreams of a talented muse, a corporate fixer and a NY detective. What is dream and what is real tends to blur and, honestly, three episodes in and I couldn't tell you what it's about apart from the fact some people are dying, some aren't who they claim to be, some are hiding alternate realities in their head and some of them might not even be real. I expect it will be cancelled because not enough (American) people will 'get it' but when Twin Peaks comes back next year it is going to have to be very very very weird to out-weird this.

[Incidentally both Channel Zero and Falling Water feature actors who both played plot fodder in The Strain.]

We're well behind on the new series of Shameless (which many know is my fave TV show of the last decade), but I reckon we'll watch it, along with Mr Robot season 2 and the new Walking Dead in box-set like chunks, when the winter and Christmas breaks come along. The same will apply to something called The Expanse, which was another SyFy series but has been picked up by Netflix and has had some of the best ratings for those purveyors of shit 'sci fi' in years. Someone I know who has watched it says it feels a little like Babylon 5 (which might be damning it with faint praise) and is surprisingly well written and acted. We shall see.

We're also watching other stuff: Agents of SHIELD which is a mixture of odd and strange at the moment with its new look and embracing of the 'supernatural'. I've never been completely emotionally involved in this series despite thinking Clark Gregg's Phil Coulson is a fine lead character and the new harder edge still seems to be missing a beating heart. Ghost Rider is quite cool but I really don't see why he's even in it.

The Luke Cage mini-series ended up being a bit poor, tbh. Unlike Jessica Jones, which often left you wondering how it was going to make it to 13 episodes, Luke Cage felt like three episodes stretched out into 13. It ended up being less fulfilling than the second season of Daredevil, which just felt like a series of intros for other shows and a finale setting up the next season - this Marvel/ABC/Netflix collaboration seems to have embraced Stan Lee's 'illusion of change' ethos too well.

Which brings us to the most enjoyable 41 minutes on telly at the moment (not the best, just the most enjoyable) ...

I don't know if the 5th episode of the 2nd season of Lucifer will be as much of a game changer as it is made out to be, but what was already the most enjoyable piece of crap TV seems to have developed a 'soul' and suddenly this very daft crime procedural has taken on a very sinister and serious direction. The 5th episode was seemingly the most important in terms of plot than anything that has gone before, with Tom Ellis ripping through the set with his best performance so far and moving the heaven and hell story way beyond what was teased about. It's beginning to remind me of the best horror shows of the 90s and 00s, especially the way the plot takes second place to the crap 'main' story. I struggle to see how this show can continue in the vein it currently has now that the bar has been set so high and the set is littered with fallen or dead angels, a humanised Mother Nature, and a demon developing a sense of honour and love. God is sure to turn up at some point and from the way he is talked about, he'll probably be played by Larry David. I'm sure they won't change the format too much, but it's going to take some believable writing to just carry on the way it was, which might end up being a curse.

Time constraints mean that I don't get half the chance to watch as much as I once would have liked to have watched and I do like to read, listen to music and go out into the cruel and xenophobic world.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Psychic Vampire

About 20 years ago, my wife coined a phrase that may or may not have been used prior but has been used since. The wife referred to her own mother as 'some kind of psychic vampire' - a person who sucks the positives out of everything, to be able to paint the darkest and least optimistic picture. She was a 'every silver cloud has a black lining' kind of person, who would see the worst in everything and would probably find something wrong with winning the lottery. Over the years she mellowed, then she was struck down with dementia and so her youngest daughter (the wife's younger sister) inherited the mantle - something that has seemingly fit like a glove rather than be a burden on her shoulders.

There have been psychic vampires throughout history; we once called them pessimists, but in reality they're far worse than someone just expecting the worst thing to happen. Psychic vampires don't just play the worst case scenario game, they do it in such a way as to exasperate and deflate the person they're talking to. The worst case scenario pretty much always has aftershocks, which are aimed at deflating people even more and once, before the internet arrived, I used to sit and despair listening to half of my in-laws being stubbornly negative and selectively ignorant to allow their negative attitudes no wiggle room.

Going out Sunday? It won't just rain, it'll be a fucking monsoon. Job interview - you'll screw it up! Don't get nervous... WHATEVER YOU DO DON'T GET NERVOUS OR EVERYONE WILL DIE!!! Had a good day? These people will think of 50 ways to make you feel like your entire family has been wiped out by rabid frogs or even absurd Krauts. We all know a psychic vampire, whether it's the miserably frustrated wo/man at work, the neighbour or a member of our own family who we like but can't understand how they came to be so bitter and twisted and lacking in the joys of life.

That is Britain today.

Brexiteers are actually some of the most optimistic people out there at the moment. They view all the doom and gloom going on as sour grapes and now seem to have taken on a weird carpe diem attitude while simultaneously ignoring any talk of the future. The people who voted Remain are now called the Remoaners, because they're painting the Worst Case Scenarios and are being called for being so... pessimistic.

The irony is (and I have nothing scientific to back this up so the Vote Leave camp should accept this as 101% fact because no experts were involved in its decision) the people who now have a bright outlook are the people who used to be the psychic vampires and now they stand on their moral high ground, pointing at pessimists and accusing them of all the things they were guilty of. These are the same people that frowned at single mothers, at the disenfranchised, the addicts and most of all the foreigners, coming over here and stealing all the jobs that our feckless youth weren't interested in doing.

Once, I tuned into the Victoria Derbyshire show expecting some intelligent debate to act as a foil and a counterbalance to the Jeremy Kyle atrocity on the other side, but now it's a horror film to be watched through your fingers. I appreciate the BBC has to be seen to be unbiased and giving even and fair coverage to something, but I'd rather it was the news and not something that brings the worst out in humanity. Am I right in thinking that once the BBC would never have reprinted tweets or social media messages that show the worst kind of thinking in people? Or if they did it would be one example out of 10 rather than 60% of 10 which seems to be the policy now. Post Brexit vote people seem to think it's okay to be cunts, and publicly if necessary. We didn't vote to come out of the EU, we voted to make racism and xenophobia legal and being a twat socially acceptable.

I've been struggling for weeks now to understand what the ultimate gain is going to be. This agenda is obviously being driven by sections of the media - what do they want? A war? Civil unrest? How will a country whose people hate each other as much as they hate foreigners (or any other minority once the ball is rolling) be of any benefit to the media barons and politicians? How is inciting hatred a better thing in the long run than advocating peace and love?

The problem with the psychic vampire is they feed off of negativity; someone else's misery or worry feeds them - like trolls on the internet, of which I'm sure a lot of psychic vampires are. It must take a special kind of person to walk away from a heated insult-session on Facebook happily thinking they had successfully ruined a person's day. Misery loves company and I suppose it's easier to sit around and bitch than it is to be seen viewing the positives in anything. Smiling takes less facial muscles than frowning, but the country has a permanent scowl on at the moment - a frown's big brother...

Someone I know - who voted Leave - spent the six months leading up to the referendum pointing out parts of 'Project Fear' and how the vote was rigged. Now the vote has been cast, they are posting the equivalent of Remain memes because, presumably, Leave won and they didn't know how to be happy about it.

That's the thing with Psychic Vampires, seeing them genuinely happy for long periods of times is as unlikely as seeing the aurora borealis in Ethiopia. They are so set on draining the life out of any good thing, they do it to themselves and that's probably why they have become such unhappy and wilfully nasty people. A self-fulfilling prophecy started, I would guess, by and with the media's fascination with the worst 0.01% of the population.

We've always had a Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells and it was always more likely to receive a letter of complaint about something than it ever is to receive praise and even then the real Disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells were miniscule in comparison - maybe not even existing in a vehement enough form to write a letter. What DoTW did was allow the media/press to express disdain and give moral judgement without attributing it to anyone.

Another example would be when someone posts something on social media like, "Here's a picture of my dog on the moon!" To which the Psychic Vampire will list all of the reasons why you're being cruel or how it's been photoshopped. This is not the same as someone normal pointing out that some hateful piece of racist garbage has been photoshopped or manipulated with the express intention of inciting anger. Another example of this is when we're manipulated in a different way: "Here's a photo of a cancer victim, can we get an 'amen'". What it actually is is an old photo of Miley Cyrus having her head shaved for charidee and someone has either knowingly made this a me me me meme or is having a cruel laugh in a world where there are so many people devoid of a sense of humour that jokes are pointless. Is negative attention seeking something humans crave now, like dogs?

The Internet and then social media allowed anyone who wanted to be Disgusted of Wherever and this gradually metamorphosed creating a subsection of net users whose sole purpose is to demean, find fault or be as viciously nasty as they can for no reason whatsoever because they get a kick - a massive erection maybe - they also feel its okay to hide behind a firewall and hurl insults. It's what a troll is. Trolls probably splash their keyboards with jizzum because that's where they get their jollies, whereas I can't recall ever leaving a heated discussion on the net all priapic and thinking I'd changed someone's mind; nor did I ever think I was trolling, because I simply get no pleasure whatsoever in fighting vile hateful attitudes with whatever mood I'm in when I face it. People want to be nasty and want others to let them do it. They want freedom of speech but not freedom of criticism.

We have a world full of psychic vampires, Disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells and trolls and yet it's the people who want to be positive that are attacked; the people who are showing signs of being humanitarian who are vilified and the press is behind it all and I still don't know why and what they think they'll achieve at the end of it... One thing is sure, it'll probably get much worse before we reach a nadir.