a strange invitation

this is how we roll
April 9, 2008, 6:04 pm
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So, I bought a hipster bike and am enjoying London more than ever. With the money I save by not having to use public transport, I can buy more hipster shoes and order clothes from American Apparel on my Imac, while writing rambling screeds in my Moleskine.

But I’m definitely not a hipster. Nooo.

In other news, I wrote an article about skateboarding for Comment is Free, for which I was paid the princely sum of £75. If you like, you can read it here. Feel free to savage me in the comments if you like. The best part about the whole deal is that I now have a profile on the Guardian website, just like a real journalist.

I’m trying to start blogging again. I really am.

houston, we have a problem
February 21, 2008, 7:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
I’m currently editing the layout of my weblog.
Normal service will resume shortly
Update: Nearly Finished…See you on the other side. 

you looked better on micepace
February 17, 2008, 10:30 pm
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When it transpired that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were not planning to buy Africa (or at least the chunk of the Archipelago of World Islands shaped like it), I couldn’t help feeling slightly cheated. If the Hollywood star system insists on paying these people vast sums of money for doing absolutely nothing at all, then they could at least have the decency to allow us to mould them into the bloated mutants we expect them to be*.
The story seemed to a perfect addition to the mythology of the stars involved. Angelina Jolie for example, appears in the media as either a vampyric baby stealer, or a vicious harpy stalking the ruins of New Orleans, depending on who you read. From this perspective, the fact that the World Islands story broke at all was more a reflection of the needs and desires of the story’s audience than an insight into the lives of the Hollywood stars. Hollywood gossip tends to spin so far from it’s nucleus that the truth seldom gets in the way of a good story, largely because although interest in celebrity is widespread, it is generally superficial. Certainly, I’d much rather believe that Marylin Manson cut his teeth on the way to goth super-stardom by playing that geeky Jew from The Wonder Years and let’s face it, Beck Hanson was far more interesting once he’d made the transition from slacker icon to murdering Scientologist: it meant that all his talk about robots and giant dildos crushing the sun were not simply the ironic ramblings of a whimsical mind, but the product of a bizarre religious conviction .

Although OK! or Hello! Magazine exist primarily to comfort the reader by revealing the human traits of celebrities, the sight of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s bingo wings or Clooney’s beer belly only serve to maintain the conspiracy, allowing the reader to position these megastars within the realms of aspiration. Sure, you might not have the money, or the power, but just like them, you have the imperfect skin, or the minor alcohol problem. The fact that we are surprised that they possess these traits is the greatest conspiracy of all. If celebrities have must continue to dominate the media, I’d rather read that Britney Spears ate her own baby than wore the same dress as Halle Berry to a film premiere. That way, the next time I see Andy McDowell modeling incontinence pants on TV, I can at least entertain the idea that she’s spending the money on raising a cyborg army, rather than botox and liposuction.

*This is something that Tom Cruise’s PR Team have long understood, although it could be argued that Michael Jackson has been overly zealous in his efforts to maintain our interest, to the point where dangling an infant from the third floor of his hotel room was probably one of the least remarkable things he’s ever done.

memorandum from the sex change hospital.
January 25, 2008, 12:47 pm
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‘Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.’ Ernest Hemingway.

Apparently Hemingway, the literary emobodiment of the red-blooded male insisted on writing while standing up. I’m no Hemingway, that’s for sure. In fact, I write like a girl according to gendergenie, and Hemingway would surely agree, despite that fact that his writing methods seem less motivated by his desire to produce forceful and efficient prose, than by the desire for ‘buns of steel. You’re not so tough Hemingway

Update: According to gender genie, Hemingway does in fact write like a girl. When he remarked that when passing another man on the street he often experienced ‘the conflict between their souls’ this was less an assertion of masculinity than the secret shame he must have felt being a woman trapped in a man’s body.

Bukowski, Charles
Exerpt: Ham on Rye
Male Score: 959
Female Score: 966
Clancy, Tom
Exerpt: Rainbow 6
Male Score: 639
Female Score: 443
Hemingway, Ernest
Exerpt: True at First Light
Male Score: 572
Female Score: 769
Atwood, Margaret
Exerpt: Oryx and Crake
Male Score: 455
Female Score: 130
Plath, Sylvia
Excerpt: The Bell Jar
Male Score: 1377
Female Score: 1844
Woolf, Virginia
Excerpt: The Voyage Out
Male Score: 681
Female Score: 931

D3553RT 135LAND D15K5
February 23, 2007, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Whatever. I can see why you prefer Solomon [Burke] to Art [Garfunkel]. I understand, really I do. And if I was asked to say which of the two was better, I’d go for Solomon every time. He’s authentic, and black, and legendary, and all that sort of thing. But I like ‘Bright Eyes.’ I think it’s got a pretty tune, and beyond that, I don’t really care. There are so many other things to worry about. I know I sound like your mum, but they’re only pop records, and if one’s better than the other, well, who cares, really, apart from you and Barry and Dick? To me, it’s like arguing the difference between McDonald’s and Burger King. I’m sure there must be one, but who can be bothered to find out what it is?”

“The terrible thing is, of course, that I already know the difference, that I have complicated and informed views on the subject. But if I start going on about BK Broilers versus Quarter Pounders with Cheese, we will both feel that I have somehow proved her point, so I don’t bother.” – High Fidelity

The tendency to make lists is often defined as a typically male characteristic. And if we allow ourselves to inhabit the world of stereotypes for a moment, I would have to agree. During a lunch hour latte, if you were to hand me a pen and a piece of paper, I would most likely begin to compose such a screed which, on completion, I would believe to be an infallible and definitive categorization which was brought into being, through the adherence to the finest principles of logic and cold reasoning. You would think that an ability such as this would be a great gift to humanity, one which would be beneficial to all.

You would be wrong.

Should you be momentarily distracted from the copy of Heat or Marie Claire that occupied your attention, you would soon discover the reason why. I am far more likely to be composing a list of my top 10 dinosaurs (with a detailed analysis on the fighting styles of each), than ushering in the next stage of enlightenment. Even an apparently sensible ‘aspirational’ list becomes preposterous when subjected to this feverish aspect of the male mind. For example:

My top 10 ‘dream jobs’ of all time include the following.

A Motorcycle Stuntman
(I can’t ride a motorcycle)

A Ninja (Something of a no-brainer: every boy wants to be a ninja. The sad fact is that secretly, we all believe that given the opportunity we could easily master the skills required. We also believe that it is also entirely possible that we have already completed the required training, only a clandestine government agency has erased our mind in order to cover a conspiracy which, if discovered, would topple the government)

Author of the Great American Novel (I am neither American, nor a novelist)

An Archeologist
(Obviously not the real kind who spend their lives digging through mountains of soil with a toothbrush: the kind that fights Nazis and carries a bullwhip)

A particularly well-trodden realm for this type of thinking is the ‘Desert island disc’. You know the scenario: You are stranded on a desert island with nothing but a limitless supply of tequila and a beautiful (wo)man and a record player (let’s not forget, that this is a fantasy -nobody wants to starve to death, yet alone do so while listening to Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ forever, it ruins the fun). You are allowed to choose only one, five, 10 record/s with which to sustain you for the rest of your life. What do you choose?

Perhaps I am a product of 21st century listening habits, but when it comes to Desert Island Discs, I find it difficult to suggest any album that I would be happy to accept as a soundtrack to the many years of my sand-blown and sunburnt existence. Lets not forget the fact that, if we’re honest, the staple records that people usually suggest in this scenario are often ill-thought out to begin with: Radiohead’s ‘Ok Computer’ wasn’t really very good, and in the 21st Century, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are used as an instrument of torture. I don’t even know who Marvin Gaye is. From this perspective, when the potential choices are essentially limitless, the choices made from such a vast selection are most often meaningless.

Yet, while the desert island disk scenario allows the fantasist to imagine the confines that can be produced from infinity. It’s real-world equivalent says something far more revealing about the human condition. I present the following anecdotes to illustrate my point.

1. While visiting Barcelona for the Sonar festival, my friend and I rented an apartment in Barcelonetta. We were pleasantly surprised to find an old stereo system in the apartment, yet mildly perturbed that we had neglected to bring any music to play on it. There was however a C90 mix tape of Dire Straits’ greatest hits practically welded into the cassette deck, which over the duration of our stay became the soundtrack to the consumption of numerous bottles of ‘Vat-69’ whisky, a flooded apartment and a bizarre confrontation with a Spanish drug dealer as well as many other adventures that are simply too strange, and too twisted to accurately recount here. What is remarkable however, that despite the fact that we listened to that same tape for at least four or five hours a day, not a complaint was uttered about an artist that neither of us had a particular affinity for.

2. I was once forced to make a shotgun dash from the South of France to the UK without a penny to my name. As I had somehow lost all of the music that I had brought with, my girlfriend at the time gave me a copy of Sheryl Crow’s ‘Eponymous’ album’ which I would listen to, on repeat for almost 52 starving hours. Now, I don’t think I’m exaggerating my belief that Sheryl Crow is the spawn of the devil himself. However, I am certain that Sheryl Crow saved my life, and without “Every day is a Winding Road” I would now be buried in a small church by Chorley wood.

Now don’t get me wrong: when the conversation turns to desert island discs, my mind still races to sift through the hundreds of records which have shaped and framed my existence. But essentially it doesn’t matter. And when I find myself standing in front of the delapidated jukebox of an old country pub, I am surprised to find that I am always able to find the song which brings a broad grin to my face, as I turn back to the pool table and continue the game.

Thanks to Matt for inspiration for this post.

February 21, 2007, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Kellogg’s Pop Tarts (oh! the irony)

I’ve been looking for these for the last couple of weeks and finally tracked them down in Waitrose near Barbican. I’m not sure why I bothered: What can only be described as molten lava sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard has been rendered even more mundane by a series of lawsuits brought against Kellogg’s in the US by people who have been BURNED TO DEATH by this delicious pastry snack. These people are also responsible for why McDonald’s coffee is always cold. It’s truly frightening that a nation that cannot be trusted with hot beverages or breakfast foods are permitted to purchase firearms.

British Telephone Customer Services

When you want something done, nothing beats having to having to listen to Vivaldi for one and a half hours and paying £1.50 a minute for the privilege. If you miraculously manage to get through to a human being, it will be someone who was just happened to wander into the call centre from the street, and was just holding the receiver for a friend. There is a special circle of hell reserved for those who work in call centers.

“If anyone here [works in a call center] kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I’m doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalization for what you do, you are Satan’s little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the [call center] people: ‘There’s gonna be a joke comin’ up.’ There’s no fuckin’ joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself…borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something…rid the world of your evil fuckin’ presence.”
-Bill Hicks

thank god it’s Marlboro Friday
February 20, 2007, 10:41 pm
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It must have been around 1993 when Bill Hicks described those working in advertising as ‘Satan’s little helpers’ and I suppose that had I been concerned with rallying against advertisers as a form of activism, rather doing so as a form of brand identity in itself, I would have been inclined to agree with him.

There were however other forces that threatened to destabilize branded products around this period, which stemmed not from the emerging small pockets of premeditated resistance (which would eventually be absorbed, repackaged and sold back to us with such success that for a moment, we forgot that the ideas were our own and wished that we had thought of them) but as some freakishly twisted inverted yield curve that saw some of the major players in advertising at the time declare the age of brand identity dead, or at least sunning himself somewhere in some long-forgotten tax haven.

The early 1990’s saw a particularly virulent case of ‘brand blindness’ which hit the consumable goods market with some force. Scores of baby boomers who were still recovering from the recession which hit the US in the late 1990’s had began to turn away from the ‘prestige’ brands backed by high-profile advertising campaigns, towards the private label brands which lined the super market aisles. . The culmination of this trend was arguably seen in what has become known as Marlboro Friday, when on the 23rd of April 1993, Phillip Morris announced that it would cut the price of its ‘premium brand cigarettes in order to compete with the generic bargain brand competitors. Naomi Klein writes:

‘The reasoning was that if a “prestige” brand like Marlboro, whose image had been carefully groomed, preened and enhanced with more than a billion advertising dollars, was desperate enough to compete with no-names, then clearly the whole concept of branding had lost its currency.’ (Klein: 2000, 83)

Yet as I sit before the exquisite clean lines of my Macintosh computer sipping a cool, crisp, San Miguel premium beer, I am forced to consider the fact that Bill Hicks -who I unfortunately wasn’t really aware of when he was alive, might have been wrong on this one. We should be thankful to the advertising agencies, who strive and toil in order to enrich our vapid, unremarkable little lives. For without them, we would at best be forced to decide for ourselves which brand of toothpaste or sugared and carbonated water best describes our personalities. At worst we would be forced to navigate our own lives and doomed to drift for eternity with neither the guidance of the (Converse All) stars nor the rise and fall of the (pentopep)tides.

It was with some bemusement that I read of the planned introduction of Postmodern Pete as a possible brand mascot for Kellogg’s breakfast cereal. While it used to be enough to simply throw a pair of sunglasses and a snowboard on a brand character to ensure that millions would flock towards the flavourless and nutritionally valueless crap that passes as a breakfast food, today’s target demographic demands a morning-time icon that embodies…’rootlessness, alienation and psychological distance’ (Appadurai: 2000, 323).

Yet looking a little deeper, Postmodern Pete doesn’t seem so crazy at all. I can only imagine what Bill Hicks and John Harvey Kellogg would have to say each other should they cross paths in the after-life. All things being equal, you have to wonder about the brand logic of of Kellogg’s – purveyor of the ‘Sunshine Breakfast: John Harvey Kellogg was a man who was both a staunch anti-masturbation campaigner and yoghurt enema fetishist. However, if the fact that Mr. Kellogg comes across as a twisted pervert isn’t enough to make you choke on your breakfast cereal, Mr. Kellogg was also the founder of the Race Betterment Foundation, a major centre of the Eugenics movement in the US.

If a talking tiger coaching asthmatic children in American sports was slightly ridiculous (and let’s face it, those kids were more likely to suffering from chronic malnutrition, if they had followed Kellogg’s preposterous ‘Drop a Jean Size’ diet plan) , I can only imagine the bastard offspring of Kellogg’s next coke-fuelled creative meeting. Loyalty tokens to claim a free set of Roy Demeo steak knives, perhaps?