Wild Things Run Fast

If you’ve ever spent more than 15 minutes in my company, you’ll know I am a hugely obsessive Joni Mitchell fan. I am really into her 1982 album Wild Things Run Fast. Although – like the majority of Joni’s releases – the album did terribly on the album charts (spending 8 weeks in the US charts, peaking at number 32), it was an important release in terms of artistic development: a move towards 80s mainstream rock and a precursor for her later standards collections.

To contextualise, Joni had been all but excluded from mainstream radio airplay due to her mid-to-late 70s albums – which progressed from 1974’s commercial high Court and Spark through the experimental fusion-jazz influences of The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), Hejira (1976) and Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977) through to the minimalist elegy to Charlie Mingus, Mingus (1978). Mingus was a career highlight for Mitchell, but absolutely ruined her reputation in folk circles and turned off a lot of early fans. Having explored her jazz pretentions, it was time for a change of tack. During a trip to the Carribean in 1981, Mitchell heard the radio-friendly, rhythmic music of The Police (who had been duly influenced by the World Music experiments on Joni’s Hissing album), Steely Dan and Talking Heads, and took on the influences of these new bands for the new project. The album also makes direct, explicit references to Mitchell’s own formative influences in 50s rock and roll.

Equally important was the relationship she was beginning with her new bassist and producer Larry Klein, who helped develop her new, popular style for Wild Things. Joni fell massively in love with Klein – marrying him in 1982 – which had a direct influence on the theme of the new album: a dissertation on love. The album was widely slated for its theme – the word “love” itself is used no less than fifty-seven times on the record – during a time when music was, generally, turning towards nihilistic materialism: the 80s we have been reflecting on culturally since the late 2000s.

On a personal note, when I was first getting interested in Joni’s back catalogue – during the early days of this 80s nostalgia period – I was only interested in her work up until this point: her harsh post-jazz 80s work couldn’t hold a candle to her early 70s folk. Hell, even Big Yellow Taxi – in all its simplicity – was preferable to the buzzing Casios and cigarette-and-age slaughtered vocals of Wild Things, Dog Eat Dog (1985) and Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988). Like Joni sang on the culturally critical title track to Dog Eat Dog, “Nothing is savoured long enough to really understand”. Given time, the message of these 80s albums properly sank in. I now see them as far more mature and considered than her earlier forays into the true nature of meaning and love (especially 1971’s Blue) – perhaps due to allowing these earlier albums to sink into my psyche during the seminal years of my emotional development and slowly easing myself into Mitchell’s depth.

Less chronologically sound than her later love-thesis Both Sides Now (2000), which goes through the process of the joy of finding love to the drawn-out pain of losing it to philosophic acceptance, Wild Things jumps from snapshot to snapshot of different vignettes, pieces of advice and aspects of the nature of love generally.

  1. “Chinese Café/Unchained Melody” – 5:17 (Mitchell, Alex North, Hy Zaret)
  2. “Wild Things Run Fast” – 2:12
  3. “Ladies’ Man” – 2:37
  4. “Moon at the Window” – 3:42
  5. “Solid Love” – 2:57
  6. “Be Cool” – 4:12
  7. “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” – 2:36 (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)
  8. “You Dream Flat Tires” – 2:50
  9. “Man to Man” – 3:42
  10. “Underneath the Streetlight” – 2:14
  11. “Love” – 3:46

The opening track brings in both Mitchell’s acceptance of her maturity (“we’re middle class, we’re middle aged”) and the first strong example of the social issues (of “uranium money booming in the old home town”) which dominated her follow-up album Dog Eat Dog and appeared sporadically on later albums, particularly Shine (2007). It also establishes the 50s rock and roll element, with snippets of Unchained Melody and Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Joni Mitchell sang backing vocals on Carole King’s original version of this song). Unchained Melody is used to describe Joni’s growing need to find the daughter she gave up for adoption in the 60s – especially poignant on the line “are you still mine?” This is one of the finest examples of Mitchell’s postmodern technique of quoting a song out of context to shine a light on something unrelated (comparible to Harry’s House/Centrepiece on Hissing and the Canadian and American national anthems on A Case Of You (Blue) and the title track of Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, respectively).

The title track is the first little vignette of an unbalanced relationship with a man who, regardless of his lover’s attempts to temper his need for freedom (sound familiar, Court and Spark fans?), leaves only a trail of footsteps in the snow while the protagonist dreams of their long, solid future together. This song has a quick quote from The Troggs’ classic Wild Thing in the outro.

Ladies Man is a slow-burning, edgy number about a different unbalanced scenario, where the man is posed with the question: “why do you keep on trying to make a man of me – couldn’t you just love me like you love cocaine?” while our protagonist tries a different technique, offering almost entire freedom to her flaky lover on the basis of trying to fulfil the “straight ahead feeling” she has for him, “nothing slick”.

Moon at the Window is an ambitious jazz track based on a Chinese proverb, lamenting the tasting and tossing of love by people who just don’t know how to love – but at the same time thankful users like those described in the previous two songs can’t take away everything, even when it feels like their rejection has.

Solid Love is the first song which seems to describe her relationship with Klein and the sheer shock of meeting someone capable of carrying out a relationship without wrecking the dream: “we got a break – unbelievable!” The music is based on those Carribean rhythms, combining her new Klein-influenced sound with two-tone island reggae. A lesser artist would sound kitschy smiling “hotdog, darlin’!” into the microphone, but Mitchell makes it work – along with a catchy chorus that really deserved more radio attention than it received on release.

Be Cool is a lounge jazz track that tries to give advice to anyone whose “heart is on the floor ’cause you just seen your lover comin’ through the door with a new fool,” along with the lines of the old adage – there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Mitchell included a pretty straightforward rock and roll standard, You’re So Square – best known in versions by Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly – which works very well alongside her heavier original compositions, keeping in step with the 50s theme.

You Dream Flat Tires is one of the album’s rocky highlights, with a great bassline by Larry Klein – and Lionel Ritchie duetting the chorus. It is the story of a love that started out full of hopes and dreams but quickly settled into uninspired languidity. The song poses the interesting question: “I know that you love me, but what are you going to let love be – just a vague flirtation or extra-special company,” alongside the album’s all important message: “love is precious!”

Man to Man features James Taylor on cheesy backing vocals, but is one of the most important songs on the album: the transition from transient short term loves and one night stands to, essentially, monogamy with Klein; questioning the value of all those lovers who wouldn’t stick around  and the apprehensive hopes that both she and Klein are able to “care and share – woman to man”.

Underneath the Streetlight is an original rock and roll composition which, essentially, charts the day to day life of someone feeling the full-force-fire of love: swearing their dedication to love on every object from a lamppost to a passing lorry; unable to even consider the route of the vehicle without relating it to their lover.

The album ends on a purely serious note – bringing out the Bible and adapting lyrics from First Corinthians 13. Love describes, like the opening track, the changing face of love as one advances into maturity and the necessity of love in one’s life: “if I didn’t have love, I’d be nothing”.

Several songs from Wild Things were also included on the orchestral remakes album Travelogue (2002) – an album in which Mitchell broadly tries to piece together an existential world view, with love as one of the centrepieces of the human condition. Chinese Café/Unchained Melody, You Dream Flat Tires, Be Cool and Love are among the best tracks on Travelogue, perhaps by virtue of translating better stylistically to a big band jazz arrangement than songs from other albums.

Essentially I recommend this album to anyone with a heart and urge you to let it sink in, past the slightly dated arrangements; and hopefully you’ll agree Wild Things, as a dissertation, is worth at least an honorary doctorate for Ms. Mitchell-Klein.

PUBLIC NOTICE: Here we go again on our own(s?)

Hi. Remember the last time I changed blogs? Remember I made that big furore all about how this was going to be the blog I stuck with, through thick and thin like a shitty marriage? Turns out the marriage was a sham. I decided to move to Canada this week (yup!), so to celebrate – and keep my parents eyes away from my scatological, periodbloodical posts of old – my new blog can be found at (bookmarks at the ready, ladies!) http://haphazardimmigration.wordpress.com. This will begin as a travelogue, but will undoubtedly descend into the disgusting pictures of dogshit alongside deep, depressing and illiterate existentialism you know and love in no time. Trust me.

The decidedly least controversial post on this page

You know those times when you absoutely hate your life? You know, when it’s going nowhere and neither are you? You feel like life has kicked you right in the guts and seriously winded you. You can’t work. You can’t even construct a sentence, never mind take pictures of your sister’s rotting period blood in order to post the gruesome evidence on the net. At Easy Realism, we certainly do, and that’s partly why our offices were veritably shut down for a good four months.

I don’t have anything really juicy or salacious to write at all. In fact, this blog post was prompted lastnight when I read over a year’s worth of diary entries. I forgot just how much I have done in the past year – not just graduating, but actually writing the dissertation. That feels like so long ago now – and I’ll be damned if I can remember anything I wrote about.

Anyway, I had a day off work today – for a change – and spent it reading a few books on the couch. I bought about six months’ worth of reading material from the Borders closing down sale. (Which, incidently, is too painful to talk about)

One of these is Clare Carlisle’s “Kierkegaard: A Guide for the Perplexed”, in which I found the following passage:

As anyone who keeps a diary knows, a journal is a patchy and often disproportionately gloomy representation of life: when one feels happy, or is simply too busy, pages are left blank, whereas suffering and conflict may be described at great length.

In all honesty, I thought I was alone in keeping a seriously depressing read under my bed. Keeping a diary is obviously different to keeping a blog which is, in the case of Easy Realism, disproportionately attention-seeking.

As a sidenote, I had this weird fantasy earlier – on the couch – of writing a PhD comparing Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms to David Bowie: Johannes Climacus and Anti-Climacus as Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust; Victor Eremita closing his hotel blinds as he waits for the gift of Sound and Vision, etc.

Anyway, I kicked life back, right in the nuts. I have started my visa application for Canada and… that’s pretty much the entire plan. Now, we shall end on a song. Everyone! “Oh, Canada, your streets are paved with gold! Our patriot games, are played in the snow…”

And it makes all the pain hurt

Anti-Catholic guilt

Cheers, Spotify. Not only have you given me access to all the Joni Mitchell albums I already own; but now every time I sleep with someone, I hear your stupid pro-condom advert play in my head. I was brought up Catholic and as soon as I manage to repress all the repressed baggage that comes with escaping the church, I get hit with “Yeah, man, lastnight I slept with Kelly, yeah?” and I get this horrible image of a black man impregnating Kelly Osborne and pretty much all hell breaking loose.

The only upside to this is that I am becoming increasingly impotent – a direct result of that Amy MACDONALT advert playing more than once.

Thanks, Spotify. Thanks for ruining life’s pleasures for me.

Remember MySpace?

I do – or at least I remembered I have a neglected-since-2007 MySpace page when I saw this t-shirt:

woodstock

Never mind the fact that Woodstock is in the public consciousness, in comemmoration of its 40th anniversary – nor that the Woodstock-Woodstock connection is very easily made – this is an obvious breach of copyright. Copyright belonging to none other than me. Sure, you can’t copyright an idea, and I never made the connection on a t-shirt; but I did express it on my goddamn forgotten, public MySpace!

myspace

ASOS I’m onto you. You’re going down like Rowntrees.

Crazy correspondence

This website rules! For example, I could imagine Kathy ditching the family with a note like this one; and this made me actually die. Actually.

I love websites like this. Crazy People is this weeks Texts From Lastnight; and is infinitely funnier than the Fail Blog. And in any case, if my Rowntrees campaign goes down the toilet, at least I know where to send the shameful evidence.

Geez a shot ae yer bike.

You know what, Natasha? You’re right. You’re fucking right. Rowntrees Randoms are a blight on the vernacular of youth. The minute big businesses or Madonna get a hold on something cutting edge, you may as well forget it like another notch on the Oxford English Dictionary’s lexical bedpost.

Not that using the word “random” was ever cutting edge – unless you define cutting edge as using the same word as an annoying substitute for a real adjective as every other thicko. And if you do, you’re too young to be reading this page. Go back to mourning Pokemon or “ironically” watching repeats of Power Rangers on whatever fucking exploitative channel owns the rights to the dead horse.

Exploitative, that’s the word I was looking for. Rowntrees should have known better. They pay research people not to be dicks. They have a cultural hegemony over our children (i.e. other people’s – I remain childless), and therefore have a responsibility not to perpetuate the misuse of what is, in fact, a damn fine word.

random (adj) lacking any definite plan or order or purpose; governed by or depending on chance “a random choice”; “bombs fell at random”; “random movements”.

Right. Rowntrees, was there no plan in your release of Rowntrees Randoms? It reeks of boardroom to me. The fact the word random has been used as not only the name, but pretty much dominates the entire ad campaign for this detestable product, suggests not a whole lot of thought went into milking this cash cow. You just got in there with bare hands and ripped those bovine nipples apart. Was the selection of the “random” shapes you’ll find in each packet actually random? Did ice cream cones and  car tyre morphs come out of the Rowntrees production line? No, that’s ridiculous. A lot of effort went into the creation of each mould – to make a limited number of glorified Fruit Pastilles in crappy shapes.

The biggest issue I have with Randoms – the biggest indicator of boardroom – is that the shapes have so obviously been through a long selection process to make them all pointlessly PC and child friendly.

Had Randoms been truly random, Rowntrees would have used all the suggested shapes from the brainstorming session – not just the “safe” ones. Don’t even lie, Rowntrees, the original ideas were dirty. You can only come up with so many “pineapple”s or “palm tree”s before you suggest something dirty like “fanny”, “swastika” or “chocolate spider”. I bet they had some killer ideas.

Had they used the dictionary definition, Henry James stream-of-consciousness Rowntrees Randoms; I wouldn’t complain. Noone would. I bet they’d sell. Natasha, I know you’re into this as much as I am. How about we start a petition to get some new, proper random Random moulds made at the Rowntrees factory?

To get you in the mood – here’s a transcript of what the Rowntrees Rrrrrrandoms(!) advert will be like once we overturn the retrograde capitalist boardroom decisions of this once-loved sweetie company:

Rowntrees Randoms television commercial.

(Some pure bint in a weirdly manufacturer-free motor pulls up to a young Alex Salmond walking down a road. Any road. Anywhere within, say, 40 miles of central London.)

Thon Wumman (in her best telephone voice): “Esscuse me?” (she holds out a piece of paper she is RRRANDOMLY holding) “Do you know where Dover Street is, please?”

Thon Man (in a noticably more working-class accent than Thon Wumman): “No problem, fishnet stockings; your best bet is to follow your roadkill cat, go right past the rubber dildo, and then you need *noise* let meh think…”

Thon Wumman (looks RRRRANDOMLY uncomfortable)

Thon Man (popping a dolled-up jelly tot for inspiration): “Yeah! Follow your anal miscarriage until you get to the used tampon and then Bob’s your needle scarred prozzie. All right, uncomfortable stiffy?”

Thon Voiceover: “Billions of random combinations in every bag. Let your random side out with new Rowntrees Tourettes.”

To Renege

I genuinely meant to write a few blogs on my holiday in Croatia, but I don’t think I’m really up to it.

The holiday itself was really great, but I had a few melancholic days because of a number of things going on in my brain. Easy Realism doesn’t usually shirk from confessionalism, but I don’t see the point in writing down all the banalities of what was going on – especially now that they have, for the most-part, resolved.

Anyway, I have decided I want to work in Canada for a year, so I am trying to save at least £2000 by the end of this year. It isn’t going well.

I graduate in November and am seeing Fleetwood Mac in October, but other than that, I plan to work endlessly. I felt like, previously, I was “living for nothing” like that line in the Leonard Cohen song; but now I have something to work towards. It is a little healthier than working towards nothing; but the melancholy remains in the fact that this 200 word blog is the most I’ve been able to produce lately.

A less convincing bleach job than Kathy’s hair.

I would like you to consider this blog a preamble to the upcoming Croatia issues, to be posted over the coming week (or month, or sporadically, or not at all – you know how patternless my updates are).

To contextualise, I was in Croatia last week and will write a series of blogs on what I did there, contrary musings and outright lies. This was my first proper holiday abroad in about six years; so I wasn’t used to holiday clothes, tanning, beaches, foreign people, currency that isn’t Sterling, or flip flops.

My ineptitude as a globe-trotter resulted in this purchase – a pair of £12 shoes. For the beach. Or whatever.

IMG_1993

Yeah, that’s right. Following a long line of ridiculous fashion purchases, those are bright orange canvas shoes. Orange canvas is, of course, only really acceptable in Rousseau. After considering the place of these shoes behind the silver jeans and endless “smock-like shirts”, I thought the best course of action was some hardcore bleaching.

White is always acceptable. Unless you consider white jeans – especially when attending a formal award ceremony (though they do go largely unquestioned in a strip club).

The shoes underwent a triple bleaching with Domestos, Cif, and – for good measure – a different bottle of Domestos.

IMG_2009You can see the bleach not really affecting the outside of the shoes, but affecting the inside. This produced a really cool – but totally pointless – effect:

IMG_2012And also some pretty sucky effects:

IMG_2001And on the outside, the only white was a patina from the cocktail of bleach products.

IMG_2015By this point, the smell was getting to me. And the rest of the house. I was thinking about weird Victorian abortions and – since my crappy shoes could survive being drenched in bleach – whether or not I would survive if I drank straight from the Domestos bottle. I decided it was time to end this obvious failure of an experiment.

IMG_2029Surely jamming the shoes carelessly into the washing machine will do the job? All that bleach and washing powder will get rid of the embarassing colour – it must!

IMG_2099…Or just turn them pink…

IMG_2102

…And rip the soles off them

Epic shoe fail? I think so. I can’t decide whether the biggest insult to this fashion injury is that:

a) I spent over a tenner on shoes, just to ruin them with my incompetence

b) They were effectively replaced by a £3 white pair from Primark

c) The stupid orange shoes were next to a white pair in H&M

d) I overspent on holiday (see aforementioned incompetence) and could really do with that £12 right about now…

Behind Enemy Lines

I am currently quite upset with the magazine I work for. I wrote a very negative review about a film I felt very negatively about – in other words, I told the truth. However, the magazine did not print the piece I put a lot of time and effort into writing – seriously, the film was painful to watch. My job as a journalist was to tell the truth. The magazine’s job should have been to print my pretentious, biased viewpoint in its full 400 word glory, but my crusade was cut short by the iron claw of Marxism. Here are some episotolary emails:

Editor:

I have just received 5 copies of Behind Enemy Lines to give away!!!

Whoopsie a review slating it then wow do you want to win a copy! Lol

You have left me with a nightmare here btw

Me:

I can’t lie – it sucked… though maybe there are readers with a morbid curiosity!

But evidently, I was wrong. Readers would prefer to win a crappy DVD and not know they’re going to hate it. The only reason I even chose to review Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia was because I thought it was that documentary Ross Kemp made about Afghanistan. I was wrong, and I’m sure many of the competition winners will make the same mistake I made. Maybe some of them will think they’re getting Ghostbusters or Mommy Dearest; I don’t know. But for those people, here is the questionable review in full:

Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia

* [one star]

I think it is always good for a reviewer to admit their bias against whatever is being reviewed. I am first and foremost not a movie person. I don’t watch films often, but when I do, I like to be either thoroughly educated or thoroughly entertained.

Sadly, Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia managed neither.

The Tim Matheson (Animal House) directed film is co-produced by WWE Studios. In the starring role is WWE Superstar Mr. Kennedy. Obviously there is some special treatment among the ranks, as Mr. Kennedy was allowed to keep his trademark peroxide blonde hair.

Although the direct-to-DVD third film in the Behind Enemy Lines franchise – available as of April 27 – is based on Colombia’s real life FARC communist terrorism group and – as the special features section reveals – all military equipment used is authentic, all attempts at realism end there.

I did try to give this film the benefit of the doubt, but as every factual account of FARC’s actions – reported through dialogue or news bulletins throughout the film – is punctuated by another character advising the group to “stay frosty”, that the terrorists were “preppin’ for a rumble in the jungle” or a succinct “dude”, the educational possibilities of this film turn farcical.

Character development is built up relatively well throughout the movie, as long as you don’t question the existence of a group of Nietzschean supermen prowling around the Colombian Amazon.

Surely being a Navy SEAL isn’t all high-fives and offers of “beers on me” after every clean head-shot.

In fact, from the first revelation that the SEALs “love America” to the final shot of two dead American soldiers being saluted by their regiment while a voiceover quotes the Navy SEALs oath, I would go as far as saying this film is nothing more than not-so-subtle propaganda for the US military.

Viewers are supposed to think “how cool would it be to be one of these soldiers” – but it wouldn’t be cool. Two of them died. If I was there, I would die. I do not want to die, and for that reason above all, I did not like this film.

For a film with the single raison d’être of explosions and gore, there wasn’t very much of either. Special effects were laughably unconvincing and the violence – remember people die in this film – was unrealistic and reminiscent of a cartoon.

For a more realistic exploration of Colombia’s ongoing problems with FARC terrorists, I suggest you look it up on Wikipedia then go paintballing in Colombian army fatigues.

I can’t lie – it sucked… though maybe there are readers with a morbid curiosity!

A quick catch up

I have been in a lull for at least the last month – which is why I haven’t posted anything. Sorry for the absence. Although there has been a lot going on over the past month, I haven’t had the motivation to keep the blog up to date. Even writing pieces for the magazine were difficult for the same reasons.

Wikipedia says: “A recent meta-analysis found that, contrary to the stereotype of the suffering artist, creativity is enhanced most by positive moods. Negative, deactivating moods with an approach motivation (e.g. sadness) were not associated with creativity, but negative, activating moods with avoidance motivation (e.g. fear, anxiety) were associated with lower levels of creativity.”

Thanks.

Goodbye education

I finished uni and am currently waiting on results. If my dreams are accurate (which they will not be, of course), I have managed 81% for my dissertation and somewhere around 30% on both exams. I’ll keep you posted on that one. Maybe.

Hello foreigners

I’m off to Croatia in three weeks, on what I have tried to convince myself is a photography holiday; but which I know is more likely to boil down to extensive drinking, stressful travelling and being raped on beaches and public transport. I can’t wait! We are flying out from Brighton (?) on the 29th and have a hostel in Dubrovnik booked for the first night. After that, we have a week of unplanned mess to make.

Return of the Mac

After that, I have no plans for the rest of my life minus one thing: on October 22nd, Fleetwood Mac (the Rumours line-up minus Christine McVie, my favourite member) are playing Glasgow. Regrettably, they are playing the SECC, but it doesn’t matter! I managed to get two tickets before they sold out. They may have been overpriced, but £140 for a two and a half hour show by one of the best geriatric bands in the world isn’t too bad! I have been looking at the set list (they play the same show every night) and I have calculated I will cry at least nine times before the show ends.

I had no idea the band was going to bring the show to Scotland, so when I saw the story on the front page (!) of The Herald on Wednesday, I was in shock. Beautiful, beautiful shock. They even made the political cartoon!

IMG_1973

An excuse for more photos

RR Angela gave me a sharpie the other day, which I have started using in some sketches. I’ve been trying out a new style which has been described variously as: a departure from the usual “Gauguin-style self portrait that I’m used to”; and prison art. I realise I need to pay a little more attention to the preliminary sketches, but these examples were each completed within ten minutes, just to test the new style and see how it worked out.

This one is standard fare, making up this blog’s mandantory Joni Mitchell mention:

IMG_1976

This was inspired by the Fleetwood Mac ticket scam affair:

IMG_1974

And this one just makes me laugh:

IMG_1977

Toilet Humour

I feel incredibly guilty when I receive blog traffic from Total Politics. These users are  looking for the proposed SNP-friendly political blogger advertised on their site under this address. I feel this guilt especially when I post blogs like the monstrosity below. Part of me – my inner conservative – genuinely wants to make this a proper, professional, journalistic blog. Sadly, this professional aspect is easily suppressed, which – since I often forget this blog is available through Google – may one day prevent me from entering the news industry. The remaining part of me would like to welcome you back to the journalistic hovel that is Easy Realism and hopes you enjoy your stay – even if you were looking for serious analysis of Sturgeon.

The new DSLR camera is great, thanks for asking! We’ve gotten on very well from the beginning – even though I was, and still am, unprecedentedly broke after buying it. Plus I still don’t really know what I’m doing with the thing. That is beside the point. Results so far have been visceral: I made someone throw up yesterday just by describing the results of my latest artistic project. Personally, I think it is a pretty interesting idea: I’m taking pictures of all the things that really piss me off about my family. I’m turning the negatives of family life into productive positives. Here are some of the early collections of images from this ongoing project, all based on my sister’s stomach-turning habits and ignorance of basic hygiene or decency:

1. These are some pretty bog-standard things to get pissed off about. I mean everyone forgets to flush now and again. That can be forgiven. It may even be an attempt to save water:

piss

Though for the sake of cleanliness, please for God’s sake, don’t let a pot get all orange and weird with mould. Because the internet is a totally inadequate medium for MY ART, I am unable to convey the smell that came off this thing. The mould had a smell:

pot

Our shower is broken. The “on” button is messed up. I improvised with some tape to get the thing working again, on the promise that it would be properly fixed within a few weeks. That was eight months ago. There is now some black thing presumably LIVING underneath the tape and the whole set up is frankly disgusting. I use the shower to clean, not to be contaminated by some tape-dwelling rank as fuck creature. The shower head itself also needs to be fixed as it keeps falling down mid shower and soaking the floor. I want to fucking kick the thing in every time it breaks while I am trying to wash and focus my anger on that fucking makeshift tape “on” button bullshit thing!

broken

Again, this must be some attempt to save the fucking planet by not using so much water: my sister has this fucking habit of spitting out her toothpaste and not washing it away. I THINK IT IS ACTUALLY RANK. Sometimes I have to wipe the toothpaste-spit away by hand before shaving. The thought of her spit inadvertantly touching my face makes me boke. I want to strangle her every time I see STUFF in the sink that should have been washed away. I want to fucking choke her. Here is an example of her having spit on the tap itself:

spit1

2. I spoke a few blogs back about having problems with food and in an attempt to reverse this food-aversion, I started buying more fruit. In particular, I started buying melons and grapes. Melon was the saviour of my stomach – until my fucking sister started taking my fruit for herself.

food11

I said she “takes” my melon for herself, not “eats”. As this picture clearly shows, she doesn’t fucking bother eating my food, she just fucking pokes at it, ruins it with her fucking teeth, and fucking leaves it behind. Not only does this mean she has to go and clean her fucking teeth and leave spit all over the tap like a fucking savage, but leaves her not-eaten dinner in the living room to fester and not be eaten and grow stinky mould all over it until I clean it up like the fucking butler. More melon, James??!?

food2

3. “Right, some cunt keeps leaving her fucking pants in my toilet!”

pants1

“I just came in here for a shite and look what I need to deal with!”

pants2

4. Not visceral enough for you? Here’s what she did when she took off her underwear:

yuckypissblood1WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!?!? Yes, that’s right. It’s a half-congealed globule of period blood. On the rim of my toilet. Just left there to stare at me until I CLEANED IT OFF WITH A BIT OF TOILET ROLL. Here’s a close up for you:

yuckypissblood2That opaque shadow makes me want to fucking throw up.

5. So then, I came downstairs, and I saw this on the wall. I thought the toilet was following me – ghosts of periods past dripping their way down my kitchen cupboard like a menstruating Slimer.

wallpissBut no, it was actually worse. Some absolute manky twat had broken a glass and chucked it into the basin – already filled with crockery and water. Great, broken glass actually in the sink WHERE I HAVE TO PUT MY HANDS.

ksink3You absolute bitch!! Fucking clean up your own fucking mess! I am not your fucking butler!! I cut my foot on the floor because there were shards on it. My sister thinks everyone around her is a fucking tool. She came home and I asked her about this incident. She was the only one in the kitchen when it happened and it was pretty obviously her fault. She tried to pretend she had no idea what happened. ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT. There is no way this could have happened without her noticing. The official line that came out of her disgusting, Colgate mouth was “I had my work uniform… over there… it must have knocked it”. Call the fucking ghostbusters, Slimer has taken over her clothes as well.

ksink1And the worst bit? Kathy takes her fucking side; believes the ridiculous lie and is taken in by the farcical acting! I got the blame for the broken glass and stained sink – even though I was bleeding from the foot! Walking wounded!!

I have been considering options for what to do with these photographs. I’m thinking I should take photographs of every globule of menstrual blood for a year without telling my sister and turn it into a lovely calender, with a different period for every month. She’d like that. Or maybe I’ll just take a fucking shit under her pillow and resign as fucking chambermaid.

It just sickens you.

The internet is rife with corruption, disrespect and dirty, dirty porn. This will come as news to noone. However, I’ve been finding more and more evidence of this web-age paradigm corrupting mainstream media and our children!!

I found this disturbing and wrong programme schedule on my beloved http://www.tvguide.co.uk/. CBeebies is obviously under the control of some massive internet paedophile ring headed by an ageing Jabba the Hutt, out to brainwash your children’s minds into thinking it is the norm for older gentlemen to act in such a way:

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And even the Dutch are not immune to the internet’s hegemonic deconstruction of values. Case in point, this interview (and part two) with Easy Realism Regular Reader Joni Mitchell (she must be. I mean, come on, everyone Googles themself at least once a day). The Dutch translation clearly reads: “She is a slut and a slag. Because of the internet. And there is nothing we can do to stop it”.

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Look at the pain on Joni’s face. There IS nothing we can do to stop it. Won’t someone please alert the Daily Mail?!

star-wars-jabba-the-hutt_lALL YOUR CBEEBIES ARE BELONG TO US!!!

I should not be allowed an internet.

1. I got my fancy cigarettes yesterday. I haven’t tried the Black Russian Sobranies yet, but I did give the much lusted after Natural American Spirits a try. I had built these up in my head as something special. Turns out I was wrong. Biggest vice let down ever.

2. To make up for this upset (I spent like £8 on those cigarettes!!), I went looking for the much lusted after DSLR camera on the net. I found an auction site which was selling a Nikon D90 for £4. I got excited. I was ecstatic. I went a bit overboard with the bidding. Turned out the website was a scam – THAT’S RIGHT, SWOOPO, I KNOW YOUR GAME – and I made the rookie mistake of spending £10 worth of bids on fuck all. That’s right. I lost a tenner to scam merchants.
3. I went into uni at 17:05 to do dissertation work. By 17:15, I had blown £300 on a Canon EOS 400D on eBay. DSLR lust took over and I was thinking from the groin. God, what a fool. I have £60 to last me the next three or four weeks. Even then, pay day isn’t going to bring me any joy. The worst part is, I don’t even know how to use a decent camera.

I can’t even write anything beyond this, I am in such disbelief. Please, someone, reassure me that I have not made a dire mistake!

Low Density Depression

This may or may not surprise you, but here at Easy Realism Towers, we are prone to bouts of depression.

I have been trying to come up with a rationale for this most heinous of downers (yes, I am trying to cheer myself up with Wayne’s-World-esque turns of phrase) for the past couple of weeks.

Am I doing too many shifts at my shitty job? No. I am doing maybe two shifts at the weekend. Hardcore shifts, one may argue: six or ten hours of “serving” the undeserving rich for less than minimum wage; building up serious pressure headaches from having to stare at these people through the disdain.

Am I making enough money from this otherwise needless weekend stress? No, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I make around £250 a month at present. I don’t have to stop myself from going out whenever I want as long as I don’t ruin my earnings on food* clothes or the much-lusted-after DSLR camera.

*Freudian slip: I just wrote “ruin my earnings on food”. Since this post is, for me, some surrogate psychology session; I may as well let you know that I have – at least partially – admitted to having a problem with food, after a thousand empty arguments with Kathy. Not a disorder. Not a serious problem. Just a minor problem. I have started buying more fruit to counter this minor problem. It is easier to imagine finishing a few slices of melon than some massive pasta, then the stomach demands more without feeling overwhelmed by a full on meal.

Speaking of arguments with Kathy, we had a huge fight – a battle – about smoking in the house. She said she was fine with me smoking outside, just not in the room in case of deaths (even though that is totally not going to happen). She reassured me lastnight that she was not “getting on” at me, then slowly built up a barrage of nip nip nip nip nips about how there are no benefits to smoking; how I am damaging myself; how she treats long term smokers on a weekly basis, and so on. Right now, I find “long term” an absurd concept. I have no long term.

Speaking of long term damage, I managed to find a supplier of these fancy cigarettes I have always wanted to try: Native American Spirit. I think this may be an invented memory since I cannot find a source of this information anywhere, but I am sure I read that these are the type Joni Mitchell smokes. I also bought these fancy bastards because I was incredibly tired when I found this site and thought I had money to burn. How foolish of me.

I am trying to get some work done with a function band just now but am not giving myself enough practice time and therefore holding everyone back. I don’t have time for this commitment right now.

I am experiencing dissertation panic as the whole thing is due in maybe two weeks. I wanted to go to Spain to see my dad before he moved back to Scotland, but because of the work load and making less money than I would like to, I can’t afford to go.

As blog catharsis goes, this has been rather good. A permanently recorded snapshot of low density depression. Surrogate psychology works better than the real thing. Thanks, doc; just don’t let anyone read my file.

Skins: The antithesis of cultural snobbery.

I just watched Skins.

I was really sceptical – like a lot of people – when I heard they were changing the entire cast for season three; and I didn’t like the first few episodes because I was so ingrained in the deep psychological flaws of the original cast. Cassie will probably always be one of my top-ten TV characters.

However, after the last (literal) couple of episodes, I was Twittering endlessly about how – given time to properly develop the characters – the third series was fast becoming as good as, dare I say it, season two.

Tonight’s episode seven was fantastic. From an objective point of view, probably the best yet. Episode six was incredibly powerful, but – like I did with a lot of season two – I was applying the situations to my own life and memories. Nothing beats a bit of televisual catharsis.

The reason tonight was so good was because although I couldn’t connect to it as deeply as other episodes, I was completely enthralled by the storyline, the new interactions between – finally – developed characters (JJ and Emily were obvious, but also between Emily and Cook and Freddie and Katie (honestly, never saw that one coming)).

Might I also point out that my favourite character is Naomi – one of the few characters I did not write off during episode one.

I even like Cook now – the outfits he wears are supposedly a mash up of violent youth culture over the past 50 years, which I think is a fantastic allusion – particularly since it is so malleable a medium.

I complained about the unrealistic feel I got from series three at the beginning: everything was over-the-top, special effects – and there still is an element of that – but the Bristol underworld does not play so big a part anymore. More to the point, it has been given its own place in the background: an integral part of the class system* building up around the characters in a way far more obvious than the previous series. Effy Stonem lives in the same house, yet now, the fact that she comes from a middle class part of the city is far more important. Bring on the bourgouise disillusionment.

*I am arguing that class is becoming less and less important with someone over MSN right now – what a charlatan I am.

One thing I was able to apply to this realisation of how important the class system is in Skins was that I was born to middle class parents, and am of the generation of the characters, regardless of being older than the original cast. Boo hoo.

But from my objective viewpoint, the series revealed itself to be – intentionally or otherwise – modelled on Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot”. I only realised tonight, with the revelation of JJ’s autism, that he could be argued as taking the role of Prince Myshkin. Perhaps this was all too obvious since he was episode seven’s protagonist.

However, on a grander scale, Effy Stonem must be modelled on the damaged and damaging Nastasya Fillipovna: knowing that everyone loves her on sight, but does not really care; treating those around her as objects and experiments.

Perhaps thankfully, her character seems to be opening like a matroshka doll and allowing her true self to come out from within a beautiful shell.

My only concern is that when the main character in Skins – or any programme, since they are all so homogenous anyway – opens up like this, the series is surely drawing to a close. Please don’t leave me, Skins! I need you.

Final point: the music was, yet again, incredibly important. Thank you, Alex Hancock, for giving us an episode littered with Debussy – and thank you, anonymous gatekeepers of the rolling credits, who gatecrashed the screen before the actors names were given and rightfully spelled out the words “Music by Claude Debussy”. I knew we were listening to Clair De Lune on the first two chords, but suppose other people didn’t? Why deprive them from enjoyment out of some ridiculous snobbery?

On that point, there is far less snobbery in culture. I won’t go any deeper, but it is something to think about: maybe that is where the class system is breaking down. I will probably blog on this at a later date since I have decided to launch a journalistic campaign in favour of free downloads and against the restrictions on YouTube from the music industry generally which are hampering my enjoyment of life – no hyperbole.

Anyway, yes, Skins, yes, thumbs well and truly up.

Good Friends, You And Me.

My entire head space has been really messed up for about two weeks. I feel like I’ve done nothing and I’ve done everything. I was/still am sick from some sort of virus and I think the crazy has got into my brain.

I was in Stirling two weeks ago to drop off a painting I had finished for RR Angela. As soon as I got it completed, I thought I would be done with painting for a while; but I have wanted to start another one from the final stroke. I realised lastnight that I had finished using all the canvases I bought a year ago on the day I met one of my close friends Adam.

I met him lastnight for a drink and we were talking about how both of us is messed up in the head. It was strange that we were both in the same messed up headspace and we were trying to figure out if we were crazy, or if it was just everyone else around us who was. People throw that phrase around often without really thinking about what it means, but I think in this instance, for both Adam and me, it was used completely truthfully. It’s quite a powerful statement.

We were also talking about how we see other people. I don’t think I could actually be with someone again in a relationship. I don’t think I’m suited for it and there is noone who really means that much to me to make any sort of sacrifice for. I don’t know what I’d be looking for and I only feel very marginal internal pressure to be with someone. I think there is an expectation for me to care more about these things and that’s the problem: internal pressure caused by external expectations from pointless, unrealistic social constructs. I think it has been made worse because of the crazy brain virus that has made me less able to connect to people and things, but has made me much more aware of being lonely at the same time. Maxwell calls it stir-craziness – I think I need to look into this.

Also, in trying to find some sort of solution to my craziness, I shaved pretty much all my head. Just thought you should know.

I quite like the painting finished – I hated it for a long time, since it was simplistic and the colours were very plain. I changed it from a realistic style into a more abstract realistic style; with more vivid, meaningful colours, as well as changing elements of the composition. The most obvious addition I think is the addition of the design of my tattoo along the entire left side. The two figures are my two best friends, so there is now a visual representation of myself along with them too.

Good Friends

Good Friends, You And Me.

This is the completed painting itself, based on this picture below.

New Years Eve, 2007.

New Years Eve, 2007.

LOL WE IS IN RONG VIDEO!

Since, like, a week before everyone else had heard of her and the UK charts fell at Lady GaGa’s knees, Easy Realism has been a total believer in her cause.

Sure, she hasn’t a clue how to create an original rhyming couplet, but her first two singles – Just Dance and Poker Face – were slick slices of genius pop which totally hit the mark; with excellent videos and tabloid PR kicking them right up the charts.

Third single Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say), on the other hand, is as awkwardly written as its title suggests; and sounds like she has lifted the backing track to some hideous j-pop and applied her own insipid lyrics.

After that whole episode about Aguilera stealing GaGa’s image – to EPIC FAIL proportions – Easy Realism would expect GaGa to go all out in cashing in on her own visuals – like she did with her two single release videos plus numerous other promos.

However, the video features a Christina-Aguilera/Gwen-Stefani-pastiche GaGa paying needless homage to her Italian ancestry; as opposed to the haute couture underwear and not a lot else style that fans love and boils the Daily Mail‘s blood. There is not a drop of originality in either the song or the video – I am very disappointed.

Christina GaGuilera

Obviously incenced by Aguilera’s recent blocky-fringe theft, GaGa has opted to hit her back two-fold. Not only has she created a ridiculous pastiche of Aguilera’s ridiculous pastiche of the entire 1930s from when she released that album of unconvincing blues tunes…

aint-no-other-man

…but she has also made an allusion to Aguilera’s Dirrrrrty period – presumably by turning up to this day’s shooting without shampooing her hair extensions.

sassystefani

Gwen Stefani Germanotta

Not content on hijacking the career and image of Aguilera alone, GaGa has taken on the persona and Eastern slave trading ways of Gwen Stefani.

career1

Did someone say Harajuku girls?

harajukulol2

harajukulol

However, even with the crap music and uninspired video; there is still potential for this guff to be a hit. Not only are there a hundred million worse songs that have not only done well in the charts but been contenders for the top spot, this video includes allusions to hardcore porn and those creepy dogs that showed up in her Poker Face video like diabolical signatures; which will surely seal this release as a mainstream hit.

softcore1

loldog

Looks like she’s finally made a bad – but nowhere near devestating – move. Though a duet with Paris could spell career suicide. Watch this space.

Songs Are Like Tattoos: a retrospective of what I did five days ago.

Easy Realism would like to report that after getting a tattoo last Wednesday, Easy Realism is finding it incredibly difficult not to pick at the itchy scabs. It is healing very nicely though, and Easy Realism staff love it.

I think I am one of those people you see who has spent thousands of pounds on modifying their body, just because they like the feel of it. After one tattoo, sure, I am still about 98% original skin tone; but I seriously enjoyed being tattooed and think there is potential for this new-found hobby to become a massive drain on resources.

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I pride myself on being a journalist, writer, blogger and all round wordsmith, yet struggle to put into words how it felt being tattooed.

I went Infinite Ink in Hamilton on time – really, really early on Wednesday morning, for some reason – and the design they had drawn up from my incredibly dodgy sketches was better than I could have imagined; or indeed could have drawn. I was actually really nervous for the whole month the tattoo had been booked, incase they drew it up badly; my feverishly conservative conscience telling me not to do it, to just not turn up on the day.

The design itself was based on the soundhole design from 1970s Eko 12-string models, like my mum’s guitar. She got it at 16 and learned to play on it; then taught me to play on it when I was 16. It is, essentially, a pejorative-gay tribute to Big Kathy.

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The tattoo artist – deserving of his title, might I add – knew it was my first tattoo, so he was prepared for me going into shock; talking me through every step of the process.

When the needle actually touched my arm – this is where it gets hard to describe – I was totally fine. I was lying down, so I realised there was no chance I could faint like a complete dandy; but the actual feeling on my arm was hardly noticable. It’s not that I couldn’t feel anything, because there was definitely a sensation; just not one that was wholly unpleasant. It was strange to have something which I was conscious of causing permanent change to an area of skin, but not feeling anything dramatic or akin to religious experience. I just lay there chatting and making crap jokes through the two hour session.

The whole thing was even more enjoyable since I had guilt-tripped RR Angela into coming. That would be a three hour trip from Stirling, at 7.00 in the morning. She deserved it.

She has a tendency to talk, loudly and at an impressively rapid pace. As soon as she left the room, the tattoo artist looked up at me and said: “How does she do that…? It’s a gift… I felt like I was breathing for her!”. There was fear in his eyes.

Of particular excellence was when Angie asked to see the tattoo an hour after its completion – still under cling film wrap. I cannot express my delight as she held back the vomit, brought on by my haemorrhaging arm. I never even knew she was freaked out by blood! Beautiful.

The point is: I enjoyed it too much, and will probably end up covered in tattoos; akin to Cat Man. In fact I am still enjoying it. The weird feeling of it on my upper forearm during the healing process has made me feel somehow more alive. I knew there was something of the self abuser about me.

Easy Realism went out on Wednesday night and got piso mojado, even though Easy Realism knew better; what with the brand new, unhealed tattoo.

Somewhere amid the anthropological mission that was going to a club full of idiots with some messed-up-on-love-and-substances friends in the city centre, I lost all the people I was originally with. Or maybe they lost themselves. I ended up at a party full of people I didn’t know. And cats. Lots and lots of cats.

Last thing I remember was holding a tumbler of straight vodka to my lips before being transported to another room and standing in front of the unfamiliar bathroom mirror; looking at myself and a hundred swirling lights. I found, next to – presumably – the toothpaste, a chain exactly like mine; with beautiful, disembodied bird wings.

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I picked it up for closer inspection, and considered nicking it, for the lulz. However, against the will of my inner kleptomaniac – who only wakes up when I drink far too much – I managed to hold back; my conscience stepping in like a Tory Godmother to say: “No! It’s not right! Leave that chain for its rightful owners: those who paid for it (plus you are totally wearing one and don’t need two of them, duh).”

[Scene missing]

The next morning, I went to meet one of the friends who had disappeared the previous night for a pizza and beer breakfast. During mutual psychoanalysis, the trading of big words in convoluted sentence constructions and the frightful discovery of the letters “ROFL” written on my left hand – which I totally thought was a clandestine, second tattoo I had picked up at the party – I realised my chain was missing. I realised then that my conscience was totally wrong to suggest I don’t steal from strangers. I realised then that I would not even have been stealing, since the supposed theft would have in actual fact just been me lifting my own chain from a stranger’s bathroom. The same damn conscience which told me not to get a tattoo in the first place!

It’s just like abortion: I’ve always been a pro-choice liberal. I realise now that my whole life is a struggle between the endless internal dialogue of my conservative super-ego conscience and my free-love-friendly ego. I am never going to listen to the sober voice again! Viva La Piso Mojado!!

My friend and I parted ways on the beautiful, oft repeated line of:

“I do love you, Davie”

“Cheers, you too; can I have a double?”

And then, the contradiction in the conclusion…

Ok, so, then on the early hours of Sunday morning, I was coming home from another party, piso’d and mojado’d. I was rooting around in my rather fetching manbag for change to pay the rudest taxi driver ever, when I found the chain I thought I had lost.

Surely this detail SHOULD be some sort of moral victory for my conservative and sober side. It was correct: I had my chain at all times, and I managed not to hurt anyone by stealing their possessions; but I have decided not to let this information permeate my brain just yet. I’ll be living it up, carefree and without barriers; if only until this information manages to work its way through my grey matter as doublethink.

Stealing Maxwell’s USP

A truly wonderful thing happened tonight in the world of television: the return of Skins for a third series.

I am not a big TV-watcher. In fact, the only thing I devote any time to on TV beyond the news and Panorama (mainly to look wistfully into the trustworthy eyes of Jon Snow in terms of the former; and to angry up my inner Conservative by noisily disagreeing with the overtly left-wing bias of the latter) is Hollyoaks. I have been addicted for years now.

Hollyoaks, though tackling some of the most serious issues is not always grounded in reality – who would actually sleep with their own sister, never mind marry her?? The characters are dull and unable to swear/commit sexual acts/do anything even nearly racy onscreen. Everything is done through implication.

Skins, on the other hand, was the antithesis of Hollyoaks – far more reality based, with drug taking, smoking and strong language seemingly encouraged. Skins was always a bad influence, precedent and excuse rolled into one hour long joint.

The first two series revolved around a tight cast of disparate individual characters, each one built up over a single episode. The third series, in a strange about-turn has found a whole new cast, referring only to series one and two characters in jokes and seemingly tongue-in-cheek references.

I was not impressed with the first episode of Skins series 3. Not the first 15 minute segment anyway. The main character was introduced to us skating down a street like Bart Simpson, narrowly missing a bus in First livery; the image suggesting the bus which knocked down the protagonist of series 1 and 2 in most dramatic fashion. This scene came like a slap in the face.

I can see the executive meeting right now: “Tony Stonem was hit by a bus, right? How about we take  this NEW protagonist *still anonymous to me – give it about four episodes* and throw him in front of one too – to show how AMAZING he is! UNTOUCHABLE! INVINCIBLE! BETTER!!!”

No.

I also hated his two pals who don’t deserve any attention beyond this paragraph.

Other main characters, introduced later – and exclusively female – were far more interesting.

There was the KateNash-a-like. She seemed interesting – though not psychologically damaged enough to escape a really dodgy storyline created solely to give her some edge.

Then there was CyndiLauper-a-like. She seemed interesting too – there was a scene with her crying in the shower, and anyone who has ever seen Carrie knows that always leads somewhere good.

I also like EasyRealism-a-like Effy Stonem; mainly as a result of having passed over from the previous two series and having done more drugs than any other character in the first episode.

There was also a (sadly) minor character who seemed to me a reflection of real life. When a hungover/still drunk lecturer played by Father Ted’s Ardal O’Hanlon (Blast! I told myself I wouldn’t give any actors’ names in this piece!) stood up and announced “My name is Keiran and I hate being a fuckin’ teacher”, I saw legendary journalism lecturer Ken Pratt in his eyes. Either that or I was seeing Father Ted’s Frank Kelly reprising his role as Father Jack. I’m never sure.

As with most things – TV shows, films, albums, people – I didn’t like it at first, but after that first quarter, things really picked up. By the end of the first episode of Skins series 3, I know I am already hooked.

Thankfully I never have anything interesting to do on a Thursday night. Fills a gap, don’t it?

And then there were 359

It is pure crap being a blogging professional.

Here at the Easy Realism offices, we have always been honest about our identity, brushing off any offers of anonymity – or even pseudonymity.

This blog, even in its early stages on MySpace was written exclusively and faithfully by myself, under no pretences or false names. The blog has always been linked to a profile of its author, and Easy Realism has always prided itself on just that – being grounded in reality. Most of the time, anyway.

This does pose its own limitations: I am accountable for any glaring errors of accuracy and defamatory statements I produce here, which is never good for a fledgling journalist; and any pisomojadoic bile I wish to bring up from my visceral depths must be swallowed back down, regardless of how acidic.

I am not allowed the catharsis of the anonymous prostitute blog, where every sucked cock is laid bare online; and on a more savoury note, I never write about my tumultuous love life*.

*actually, not that interesting at all, but it would be nice to let it all spill out.

Therefore, I propose to start writing an anonymous dirty blog. Really, really dirty. Really.

And I’m not going to link to it, because that defeats the purpose.

It is just a shame that blogs allow one facet of a person’s life to be explored (or exposed) in an online setting; but for so many other areas to be left out of the picture.

I am currently writing my dissertation on blogs written by MPs (research for which has left me no time to blog – a strange paradox indeed) which has brought out this idea of online exposure and the details which must be left out for personal security and privacy reasons.

We live at a time when we expect every detail to come out in the media, including a person’s blog – maybe even moreso than in the papers – so I think that because so much must be left out of blogs, even the most personal of diaries will give a skewed picture of what is really going on inside a person’s head and in their life. 

Just a thought!

Ouch! My Power Hole!

I am in Pure. Actual. Stress. mode right now.

I decided belatedly – about 40 hours ago, to be prescise – that my PROPER New Years resoultion must be, and always should have been: to get more organised.

I have made an entire lifestyle out of not organising. I have built my entire life around not making any plans and just seeing where the wind takes me. I have spent days on end acting like I was feeling around a dark room, deprived of all senses except touch.

And why not? This loosely strung plan has got me on some semblance of a career path; decreasingly strung out psychologically; and goddamn eloquent to boot.

However, the other day, when Regular Reader (RR) Angela and I were wandering around with Potential RR Bannister; none of us could come up with a plan of where to eat, which led to much blind wandering: the kind of blind wandering Easy Realism readers will be familiar with.

In our collective defence, all of us were hungover (on account of getting collectively, accidentally piso mojado the previous night); and Bannister being unfamiliar with the city gives her a pretty solid excuse.

Angela managed to take direction and guide us to a greasy spoon oasis, but it left me feeling like the proverbial fanny.

Then, the same Angela managed to compound my fears expressed elsewhere in this blog (possibly the last post, I’m too disorganised to check) about not knowing where I am going to be in six months time by calling me up lastnight, all emotions and abstractions, because she was accepted into a postgrad for next year. (Well done!)

This more than provided the stimulus for change.

I decided to take head-on action. My immediate problem is my dissertation and the fact that it is not doing itself.

Yesterday, I made some serious headway in it. Lots of writing, lots of scanning around blogs, lots of laptop work.

Until the laptop stopped working.

I had to phone Probably Occasional, Objectionable Reader (POOR) Rab for technical support. He’s not actually any better than I am at this stuff, though he thinks he is. I just needed his technical definitions of the things I KNOW are the cause of the problem. Turns out I was having problems with my “AC socket” as opposed to what I thought it was called.

I still don’t know why he kept laughing when I referred to it as a “power hole”.

Anyway, I need to take the laptop into the shop or whatever to fix its power hole, and until then, I am flitting between other peoples computers which do not appear to understand Windows Vista and/or Microsoft Office. How am I supposed to commit to my New Years resolution under these circumstances!?

I just want to shoot myself in the eye.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I wrote and published this via my mum’s inferior laptop – mainly for cathartic purposes since it was refusing to save anything to my USB pen because “the media is write protected”. What media!? What is write protection!? Why won’t you die!?!?

If this isn’t bear baiting, I don’t know what is…

Reader, I mugged him!

I was on the train on Tuesday night and a girl who looked just like Grace Slick got on my carriage somewhere around Anderston. I mean she REALLY looked like Grace Slick. I could hear White Rabbit starting to play in my head. The weirdest thing was, though, was when I saw what she was reading: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I wonder how conscious she was of this consonance.

Life is getting back on track after the nice honeymoon period that followed new year. Honeymoon period referring to, specifically, the fact that instead of sleeping or working, I drank. It was my birthday on January 2nd, I worked the 3rd and 4th, passed out for almost the entirety of the 5th and visited the Irn Bru Carnival on the 6th.

My birthday was a huge success. I decided against planning it, because I hate planning. The only thing I had loosely suggested was that we go to Curious Curious at Stereo – the idea being that it would piss off Martin and Rab, who had pissed me off by spending their respective birthdays in Bennets and the Cathouse. Stereo was, of course, shut; the single planned part of my evening a complete failure. Instead, we went to Buff Club, which ended up better than I could have asked for.

Turning up with my party were the usual suspects – along with Rab and Martin, there were regular readers Angela and Chris; from high school, Drew, Dani-Su and Nichola Gallacher – the latter two total wildcards. Sandy the teuchter turned up as well – as ever, minus ID; but thankfully it wasn’t a hindrance. Scott and Ross left early, but I am still laughing at their card. I quote: “One year older, one year closer to drag”.

I love Buff Club, and I was Piso Mojado – pretty evident when I met some of the guys I used to be in the band with. I didn’t know they were going to be out, so it was a nice surprise. I jumped on former Midnight Wildcat Andy twice – once over a couch, the second time, landing on his hand. I may have broken him, I have not heard anything back from him. Maybe he’s unable to text.

A couple of the guys I know from work turned up as well, so there were representatives from all different areas of my life. The most noticable unrepresented area – thankfully – was that of people I have been in love with at some stage; even those I have loved pejoratively.

The alcoholism was through the roof. At some point in the night, I stole a very attractive scarf from a stranger; and Dani-Su got in some sort of fight, breaking her elbow. I didn’t even know you could break your elbow! Live and learn.

Drew drove everyone home, with four of us crammed in the back of the car – me minus a seat, of course. At that point in my life I genuinely thought I knew what it meant to fear for my life.

The Irn Bru Carnival made me realise this was just a superficial notion. Drew can drive better than anyone I know, and I trust him with my drunken life. However, whoever created the Stargaze ride at this carnival gains neither respect nor trust; only fear. While the other rides were entertaining at best, the Stargaze left me feeling like I understood 9/11 first hand. I could not stop thinking about how people had the choice of either jumping from hundreds of feet in the air or burning to death. I was unable to breathe because my lungs were under so much pressure. It was horrible. When we came off, Angela eloquently noted that she was “out of service,” because her “vagina feels like it has collapsed in on itself”.

Collectively, we spent about £8 on those rigged claw machines where you have to grab prizes, then watch in horror as your stuffed animal or whatever falls from the weak grip of the tampered claw. I did manage to win Angela a rainbow pony called Princess. She made that weird noise she makes when I did.

That weird noise, by the way, is all over the unpublishable videos I made on New Years Eve and the morning after. My favourite part is where Angie says:

“I look like a tranny!”

In her party-ruined outfit and yesterday’s make-up, I couldn’t disagree. Robert then asserts:

“I smell like a tranny!”

Then I join in:

“I smelt a tranny and I liked it!”

Katy Perry, eat your heart out.

The Desire For Spare Change

One really great thing about getting piso mojado at a party or wherever – beyond banterously passing out in a hall and screaming “AH TELT YE! NAE ANGLES!!” at everyone who passes, a vain attempt to line up every one of my friends in efficient, linear patterns – is the sense of freedom from being boxed in.

I feel boxed in, specifically, by paranoia explored in the last blog I posted. I feel a need to change major things in my life, turning this blog into some retro Me-Decade soapbox; but getting piso mojado offers a solution. That’s right – this is yet another epiphany-hangover blog.

I was at Px’s place lastnight for New Years, with a massive bottle of gin, two semi-frozen bottles of tonic water and a bottle of cheap cava (which apparently tasted like cat pee, but half a litre of gin has left me only with the memory of opening the bottle), and left this afternoon with Drew, Robert and Angela. I woke up in bed between the latter two of my taxi accompaniers, with no memory of actually getting there. Wonderful.

When we got back to Angela’s and split off home, I went to sit at the bus stop to smoke. Obviously no buses today and I wasn’t going anywhere, I just didn’t want to go home yet.

As a coda to yesterday’s paranoia blog, the piso mojado epiphany-hangover solution presented itself in my MP3 player’s random song function. I decided the first song I heard would set the tone for 2009, while sitting at the bus stop with my Marlboros staring at looming “TWENTY’S PLENTY” road signs. Pretty ominous considering this is the last day I will spend at the age of twenty.

But twenty is not plenty, goddamnit! The songs that played, to set the tone for 2009 said so!

1. Take It Easy by The Eagles.

This song really sets up the whole ideal world I proposed in the previous blog – I need to stop analysing everything until it becomes meaningless and painful, otherwise I will not get anywhere at all and probably lead myself into a completely pointless mental breakdown.

2. Something In The Way She Moves by James Taylor.

I never really explored this in the previous blog, but 2008 was blighted for me by a couple of rounds in the ring with unrequited love. It would be nice to find someone this year like James has in this song, to focus my thoughts on in a more tangiable and less damaging way than I did in 2008 – otherwise, again, I’ll be heading for a pointless nervous breakdown.

3. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane.

This was another point not really mentioned in the previous blog – but touched upon in The Desire For Change: getting really trashed. This whole blog is based on the facilitating use of alcohol and whatever, and to get through this year’s proposed ups and downs, I am pretty sure I will need one pill to make me larger and one pill to make me small – at the very least.

These were followed by another couple of ominous songs – Going To California by Led Zeppelin and Close Your Eyes by James Taylor (again! What is with that random function Taylor bias!?). Taylor’s song was written for Joni Mitchell, and Zeppelin’s was written about her. I think it is pretty safe to say that 2009 playlists – when not on the random function – will be dominated yet again by Joni. I honestly believe that her music has made me a deeper person, for good or for bad; and one song of hers – which did not play at the bus stop today – contains some lines I will have to take to heart even more seriously than I have done in the past: Refuge of the Roads. The whole poem is an incredible, lengthy and encompassing piece of advice, but I will just highlight the verses relevant to me right now.

“Heart and humor and humility”
He said “Will lighten up your heavy load”

There was spring along the ditches
There were good times in the cities
Oh, radiant happiness
It was all so light and easy
Till I started analyzing
And I brought on my old ways

A thunderhead of judgment was
Gathering in my gaze

In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn’t see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn’t see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads

The whole point of this poem is that all people are insignificant – but painfully intelligent – beings who make something out of nothing. The thing that damages us most, psychologically, is overanalysis of every little detail and being unable to focus on properly living life to the full. Mitchell’s entire Hejira album is about depression through loneliness and overanalysis. This song gives a true – if impractical – cure to depression: true, because this solution would work, but impractical as it is so hard to override the program of overanalysis drilled into our brains.

If nothing else comes from 2009, I endeavour to push out the overanalysis and just get on with getting on. In the Refuge of the Roads, I will find freedom from being boxed in by my own fruitless analysis.

Party Manifesto

The year 2008 ends about 16 hours from now. I hate this time of year. The end of the year makes me take stock of everything that has been done in the past 12 months and makes me apprehensive about the upcoming 12. Everyone feels the same at this time of year, I am sure, but I deserve at least twice volume of sympathy as everyone else since my birthday is on January 2nd. As I discussed in my The Desire For Change essay around this time two years ago, I take this double-whammy of socially constructed stock-taking very seriously.

It is so strange to find that I wrote that certain blog almost two years ago – the time has gone by so quickly. Yet when I was searching through old blog entries to find the linked piece, I read a few older entries from around that time which gave me some unexpected food for thought: the blogs I was writing in 2007 and beyond refer to a “Golden Age” of my blog – in other words, at that time I thought my blog was going to come to an end; was on the decline. Yet even now, it is still going – albeit via a different site and written in a different – I would go as far as improved – style.

So, is the desire for change I experience every New Year a catalyst for improvement? I think so – it gives me time to reflect, even though getting to that stage means I have to go through an emotional trough. I do think that I have SAD, which affects me every winter. I usually get to my lowest around February; but there is a marked low at the end of every December.

I think maybe this lull is to do with the effects of weather on one’s social life more than anything else. I get out far less when it is freezing outside than I do when shorts are practical. There is a real distinction between winter and summer in that respect – I associate summer with fun and parties, as well as a serious break from uni work. This year, summer was not all that up to scratch. There was nothing remarkable about it; no holidays and I felt quite separated from friends throughout the hotter months.

Next summer adds a new element – it is prospectively the last summer that I will have during education. I need to get a job – hopefully in journalism, but something full-time, regardless – whenever uni finishes in May. Until then, I need to have as many dirty student parties as possible.

This is especially important because I’ve been thinking about my experience as a student, and it makes me think that I have not taken to the role as strongly as others. My course is very practical, with only 20 students in a year group at one time. Very few lectures actually took place with students in numbers beyond 50, so it felt at times like I was somehow missing out on the experience of my peers. I also meet people who just seem to be into the student experience more than I am – actually giving a shit about the union and “student life” in general – and I just feel like I can’t compete with these “hegemonic students”*.

*I have taken to labelling pretty much everything and everyone I value as Better Than Me with this term, regardless of how completely incorrect it is in these contexts.

I told Regular Reader Angela about this problem, and she told me the opposite – compared to her own student experience, where she had been in lectures like those I felt I had missed out on; on a less practical course, she felt that I had made much deeper friendships with people on my course.

Reading my old blogs from when I was in the seminal years of my undergraduate studies (and was still able to write as if I didn’t have a plum stuck in my proverbial throat), I realise that in fact, I did have a great time as a student and took part as much as anyone else. Things just get distorted in my mind, both at the time and in memory. I seem to worry about every aspect of my life, my image, and especially how I compare to other people. I think how I see myself is especially distorted because I can’t actually judge myself beyond how other people act around me or what they say; so any information garnered is second- or third-hand ideas – with a liberal amount of bias thrown in, one way or another – which is difficult to judge by. In my memories, I am still as flakey and undecided about a given time in my past. Reading over blogs written at a certain time, I am taken back to that time and I see myself as much more well rounded and far less fragmented, so by extension I realise I must be more well rounded than I see myself right now.

At the same time as looking at my old blogs, I was listening to Mystified by Fleetwood Mac, which is a song that takes me back about a year and a half to summer 2007 when Angela, Robert and I would look after the houses of people we knew who were on holiday; like a skewed Babysitters Club. Essentially, this is what I look forward to when summer comes back around – something quirky and fun to make up for the lost summer of 2008.

Overall, my state of being right now is fragmented, due to the suspected SAD and nostalgia trip. My future is very uncertain and I have a lot of work to do, so not only am I trying to take stock of the past, but also of everything I need to do in the the upcoming year.

At some point I need to go back to uni with at least some of my dissertation done. It should come as no surprise that I have hardly done any work over the Christmas break, but I am trying to build up my reading. I go back to uni at the end of January, I believe, and am prepared to get back to hard work. I am also joining a band as piano player, for which I have a lot of pieces to learn. They have also been shelved due to the winter despondancy.

I have four months of uni to go until it is officially over and I have to look for a grown-up job. Thus, I have five months of my life planned. I have a five month plan! Five months! That means I should have started thinking about this AT LEAST a month ago. This is panic stations, people. I am panicking about my future. And yet I am so fragmented. So how can I even come up with a solution!?

I can’t. That’s the solution, I can’t. That has always been the solution. I have always just gone head-first into my life, with uni and with everything else. After five months, I just don’t have the safety net of studenthood to catch me. I am to jump off the educational cliff like a degree-wielding lemming.

Angela and I have spoken about getting a flat together. The problem is that I can’t say yes or no – I do plan to move out as soon as I get a job (my current joe-job makes moving out economically invalid and I like it too much to find something else), but where and when I actually get a job makes things much more difficult.

So, whereas The Desire For Change set out to change my personality or whatever at New Year 2007, the 2009 edition is more to do with changing my mindset, from actually giving a shit about my future to otherwise. There is really nothing I can do right now beyond set my mind to doing as well as possible with my dissertation and trying to find a job in an increasingly tight-budgeted industry when the time comes.

That’s what it comes down to – a Kurt Vonnegut style humanist slogan: worry about it when the time comes.

I am my own Dr. Phil.

Pritt Stick

This blog has been known to include elements of amateur philosophical discussion. Today, I present to you the most amateurish philosophical notion thus far.

Lastnight, I dreamt of Bertrand Russell. That’s right, Russell of the teapot worshipping crowd.

I am not Russell’s biggest fan. Being a philosophical phillistine, I don’t need to be.

Lastnight my ignorance manifest itself in a dream of Russell, brought back to life in the body of what can only be described as decomposing Bette Davis.

Imagine – haunted by my own subconscious.

Even in my dream, I knew there was something wrong; some tacit gender issues afoot. Women aren’t called Bertrand! Thus I am now adding both Russell and Davis to my list of Dreamed About Celebrities.

Surely everyone has one of these? Please let me know – especially if your celebrities inhabit the bodies of other celebrities.

So far, mine include:

David Bowie – twice. Once in a press conference, where he was playing tracks from a new album to a selection of journalists on a black grand piano – pretty much like his appearance in Extras; except that he sang The Jean Genie (at my request) instead of Fat Little Journalist. In my second Bowie dream, I was in the front row of a festival he was headlining. He totally looked at me.

Similarly, I met Alanis Morissette at a rock concert. Thankfully she wasn’t playing, just in the audience. She told me to shut up because I was trying to grab her attention. She just wanted to rock out.

I have never dreamt of Joni Mitchell. Sometimes her music plays in my head while I’m asleep, so she gets a special mention on this list. IMDB include soundtrack contributors, so why shouldn’t I?

I dreamt also of Annabel Goldie, months before even considering interviewing her. I was on a train, and she sat next to me. I had started interviewing – on the sly – when she turned her attention to another guy with Downs Syndrome, and I lost my interview. Obviously speaking to the disabled would look far better for this otherworldly politician than some second rate Fat Little Journalist to any REAL media players who may have been watching.

Since then, I really did interview Annabel; and haven’t been able to look a downie in the face. God I hate them.

You Think This Is Easy Realism?

Here in the Easy Realism office, we are scared because our daddy is coming to visit tomorrow.

That’s right, I’m hiding in bed with the covers over my head; feverishly hunting for any good, Bart Simpson-style pre-emptive excuses to use in the event of questioning.

The best I can come up with is the old “I didn’t do it. No one saw me do it. You can’t prove anything!” – and hopefully it will keep any blow-ups at bay over the next two weeks.

Although my dad will be in the country, I won’t see him often as he is staying with his parents and there is a tacit agreement not to turn up uninvited; but he is a bit of a loose cannon – and a liar – so there is a constant threat of him turning up somewhere without prior consent. 

With most disciplinarian-father/sexual deviant son relationships, there is far less of a distinct period between doing something shocking and being lectured for it. However, because Big Davie and I make eye contact once a year, on average; there is a lag time, and discipline builds up.

If he tries it over the phone, it just fails. I have hung up on him so many times I have lost count.

My favourite attempt at phone chastisment was when I used the word “hell” in conversation, and he told me off for using a dirty word. I was 19.

Even at that, I have managed to build up distance between us, so he knows nearly nothing about what I am doing with my life unless I tell him. Conversations have become increasingly stage managed.

Every time my dad and I see each other, I have just drastically changed something about myself which I am not used to, and through gritted teeth, he is forced to accept it. Otherwise, I will just cut him out of my life – and he knows it.

This time, the offending change is image-related: I can’t see my dad being overjoyed about my peroxide-ginger haircut. I don’t think he’s too into spikes either.

I’m not even sure if he knows what skinny jeans are, never mind having encountered them before. The poor man will think he has stepped off a plane into some deviant’s commune.

I also worry about having to show off for him – he wasn’t pleased when he found out I won the Isobel Conner journalism award and didn’t bother to tell him, so I am guessing I will have to stand in front of my trophy while he takes pictures and waxes sententiously about what he imagines my career will be like.

I am not looking forward to the emotionally fraught ramblings of a man I hardly know, who hardly knows me, on part of my life that he has had no hand in whatsoever.

I am actually unable to form whole thoughts on this issue right now – just little abstract ones. Seeing dad will either go well, and he will leave without either of us having made much of an impact on each other, or we will have had a big, damaging fight about one of the many, many contentious issues which have led to us not being able to live in the same country for more than a fortnight at a time.

I will probably see him for three hours at most over his duration in Scotland, and it has become increasingly easy for me to see him with every passing visit. It could be that we will just go for a drink and talk about the Blues; but the build up to meeting him, every time, is the most nerve racking part of my entire year.

IT’S BRITNEY, BETSY!

This video is unintentionally hilarious when you consider the dramatic irony of Britney’s entire post-2003 existence.

Sure, her videos back then were somewhat cutesy – the faux-camaraderie with Nickelodeon-friendly Melissa Joan Hart of “(You Drive Me) Crazy” an innocent precedent to her involvement with the Hilton/Lohan set, and the visuals of  a schoolgirl doing high kicks in minimal underwear in hindsight look as sexually repressed as Wednesday Addams; but “From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart” just too obviously appeals to Bible-belt America.

The disturbing imagery of that big pre-second-wave-feminism billboard and that cutesy haircut is all too much for the Easy Realism staff: we see right through your faked virginity.

Even the mother and younger sister are inaccurate – surely the Spears family are too busy blowing their way to success to wave off one of their own; even when she is escaping her (I assume) womanising, 30-year-old “first boyfriend”.

Also, notice that she has no dad in the video. He was probably killed by his own daughter after years of sexual abuse trauma was manifested in a shot to the head. Not even fictional families are perfect.

Rejecting Capitalism

I really want to watch a certain music video. I want to watch Joni Mitchell’s 1985 video for her single Good Friends, which had existed for a number of months on YouTube but has been taken down due to a copyright issue.

I want to watch Joni wandering through her kitchen, surrounded by cats and cacti, smoking a cigarette. Then sitting in a café with Larry Klein, smoking another cigarette. Then in Larry’s car smoking yet another cigarette during a nonchalant argument. Then watch weird, abstract objects like cars and love hearts,  constructed out of what looks like papier mache, fall from the sky in unconvincing motion. I want to watch middle-aged Mitchell’s rather good, artsy, and relevant – if neither slick nor glossy – attempt to capture the minds and papier mache hearts of the MTV generation.

I could easily dig out my Dog Eat Dog vinyl, which features the song; or even stick to the medium of YouTube and listen to the song with a picture of the album cover as the only visual counterpart to the song. However, I specifically want to watch the video: even though I was born three years after this single was released – and don’t really recall a lot of music vividly from before I was about 12 years old – this song and its accompanying video somehow remind me of my life when I was too young to properly engage with life.

I am not downloading illegally – and am not discussing illegal downloading. I am talking about watching a video which has been uploaded to the internet without the consent of the artist’s record company’s consent – not actually illegal; just frowned upon because no money is being made. 

My problem is that I cannot understand why it is frowned upon. Even taking a capitalist point of view, sure, money is not being made by having these video available online; but by having YouTube take an offending video offline, no money is being made either. The specific video I am talking about – Good Friends – is not available on any DVD and is so old and niche that MTV would never play it now anyway; so by taking it off the internet, it is out of public view.

Even more perplexing is that it could be argued that taking these videos offline is actually damaging to the music industry’s capitalist system. Having music videos available online is like PR for the artists – the record companies will spend money on having a video created specifically for television; so having the same videos available online – posted by an independent uploader, acting as a PR agent without requiring a fee – gets the artist out to new markets. Sorry, new viewers. I think record companies are scared of these free PR agents, acting altruistically* for the company’s cause, because altruism is a concept which goes against the capitalist ideals of big business conglomerates. It could be argued that it takes the creative control away from the owners of the video (even though the videos are not manipulated in any way and are uploaded as they are seen on – and have been approved by the record company – for television), but more likely, they are just upset about not being able to control the advertising that surrounds the video when it is watched over an independent YouTube user’s page.

*I experienced severe onomatomania when trying to recall this word.

Just to illustrate how YouTube and now-illegal downloading of music can actually serve record companies in a positive way, I got into Joni Mitchell through a combination of both media. I would not fork out £10+ on an album I did not know I would enjoy – I do not have money to burn – and I am not interested in spending a small fortune buying 99 plays of every new song I come across from iTunes or wherever. I have only a few Joni Mitchell albums on CD – but own most of her back catalogue on second-hand vinyl. I am not sure how much of the money I paid for my second hand albums went to the record companies – hopefully none. The only reason I would hope for money to go to them would be for them to see that Mitchell’s music is still alive and relevant with a new generation, regardless of how the mainstream has ignored her for years. However, since they could hardly be said to be forthcoming with goodies such as Joni’s classy 80s videos, I am more than happy for my money to circulate straight into the pockets of those nice guys at Missing.

That YouTube cannot display certain videos is just a microcosm of the larger, more important problem of illegal downloading on the internet. Again, the same arguments apply: illegal downloading in fact helps sales, regardless of what we are told by record execs via the media. This brilliant – and now infamous – article by Janis Ian, one of Joni Mitchell’s contemporaries who questions the capitalist system of the music industry as much as Joni herself, explains the indiscrepancies of the current illegal downloading situation in explicit detail; written by someone far closer to the heart of this industry than I would ever want to be.

The cyber-pessimists at the head of record companies should be taking note of what Janis Ian and so many others are saying. Music and videos should be free and unpoliced on the internet. The internet is the last medium where music is at least partially free and unconnected to the capitalist hegemony of the music industry. This availability should be allowed to remain as it is – minus the draconian laws surrounding free downloads; and not be ruined by the blinded-by-money heads of business.

Besides, music should be for pleasure, not for capital.

Engaging With Capitalism #2

I am ill right now, so please excuse any typographical errors. Hopefully I won’t have to use the word “somersaults” at any point.

I hate December. I hate Christmas. I hate illness. I hate the fact that everyone gets the cold at this point of the year. I hate sneezing. I hate when my lungs are all fluidy. I hate having to blow my nose. I hate the entire concept of nose blowing. I hate the oversaturation of my nasal mucous membranes. I hate having to steal my mum’s prescription medication because I don’t have any of my own. I hate having to ask if I had dinner or not because I don’t have any recollection either way. I hate not having a sense of taste. I hate idiot people having Christmas nights out that I have to serve. I hate my Joe-job. I hate Christmas songs ringing around my head like tinnitus for four weeks straight*. I hate having to do so much work at uni and get no return because I can’t get anything published. I hate snow. I hate frost. I hate cars. I hate wine. I hate the entire concept of food. I hate Santa Clause. I am the holiday nazi.

*Except for that Slade one. That song rocks on its own merits. And the John and Yoko song. That one’s good too. And Wizzard to an extent. And Joni’s River, because, well, any excuse for Joni. But the rest of them are just fucking ANNOYING.

My dad is coming to Scotland for whatever reason in a week’s time (I can’t remember the exact date because my brain is covered in mucous and general malaise), and I am not looking forward to seeing him. I still have this ridiculous peroxide ginger hair dye that he will not be happy about. It’s probably the peroxide’s fault that I am ill. I should have paid attention when the colouring instructions said: “do not snort powder”.

Anyway, engaging with capitalism. In real life, I play the role of the Christmas cynic seen in the vast majority of American television programmes, used as a foil to all the other still-enchanted and unquestioning characters: the clichéd Lisa Simpson holiday-pessimist to xmas-optimists Bart, Homer and Marge.

I think there is a real pressure to be individual. This overused character is made to look like an outsider to the rest of the group; yet because there is an onslaught of characters playing this cookie-cutter role in so many different series, it becomes in itself a cliché. The more I think of it, I have been playing the role of a stroppy teenage girl: beyond Lisa, the obvious examples are Darlene from Roseanne and Daria.

I make my feelings known to everyone who will and will not listen: Christmas is all about spending money and disgusting advertising. About buying crap to show face, to keep up with the Joneses, without actually caring about what you’re buying as long as it costs enough. To engage in the most awkward minefield of social graces that has carried over from the last century.

Not that I disagree with the modern, capitalist ideals of Christmas completely: I do like buying presents for friends, and put a lot of effort – if not a lot of money – into finding things they will really like. I am genuinely looking forward to giving presents to my friends from work and disparate other areas of life via two separate Secret Santa draws.

I think the USP of my version of Christmas-pessimism compared to that of my fictional counterparts is that I do not follow the hardline Nancy Hayton from Hollyoaks model. There are benefits to buying presents for people, of course, but I think there is too much unnecessary pressure to buy the right thing, from the right place, at the right price, at the right time. I am traditionally a December 24th buyer, but I do it well. I don’t panic. I don’t let pressure get to me. And I never spend more than a fiver.

I won’t even proselytise because my entire opinion has been given before in more eloquent/ humourous/ aggravating/ insipid /insightful /childlike /realistic* terms by the many, many televised Christmas-pessimists who have gone before, from Hey Arnold to Zebedee. Probably.

*Delete as appropriate

This idea of Christmas cynicism and the aversion to capitalist ideals has got me thinking more clearly about why students are likely to have left-wing tendancies than those further up the hegemonic food chain. Students – like myself – are likely to have part time jobs – like myself – while being bombarded by the education system with theories and models of capitalist society. Being used to do “dirty work” for someone with money is far more transparent as a student in a Joe-job; whereas higher up, a worker will feel less expendable since they are doing something meaningful, instead of mixing pre-mixed drinks.

There is also the distinction between doing this mindless part-time job which requires no mental or creative input for very small return; and writing pieces of work which are far more relevant to one’s future but getting no return on them whatsoever.

I see a lot of millionaires at work – the capitalist dream in action – who spend a lot of money to be served by nonchalant waiters and barmen such as myself, yet they are deeply unhappy at this peak of society. Surely there must be something more to find real contentment. Let’s add “I hate money” to that list above.

I realise as well that as soon as I get somewhere with my career, I will perhaps buy into this capitalist ideal, succumb to greed and number crunching; but hopefully have been able to achieve some semblance of satisfaction with my life. I always think life will be easier when I have a decent job, but I am beginning to question how much of this is true, and how much is simply an uphill struggle towards an invisible, impossible ideal.

Engaging With Capitalism #1

I spent Monday in France with Regular Readers Max and Chris and their respective other halves, Kate and Emma. I am sure I have mentioned this in a previous blog, because there is no way I would pass up the opportunity to  gloat about £2 return flights to another country.

Sure, the flights were with Ryanair – which meant getting a taxi to  Prestwick from Glasgow (£45, shared between three of us), a return bus to Paris from Beauvais airport (€26 – which, with the terrible exchange rate, essentially cost £26), then a taxi back to my house from Prestwick (£60, again shared between three of us) – but I think getting to Paris for under £70 is really good value! 

I also had to buy a passport for this trip – since I don’t usually go anywhere and had let my port-passing privileges slip – but that was not a big problem, and it arrived sharpish. Chris, on the other hand, had left his passport with a friend in Edinburgh and recieved it three hours before we left. He had also checked himself in under the name Chris – as opposed to Christopher on his passport – which confused the French boarding-pass-and-whatever-collecting lady.

“This is not possible!”

“Aye it is.”

We all slept on the bus to Paris, considering none of us had had more than three hours’ sleep before our 5.30am flights. I woke up just as we were entering the city, listening to Herbie Hancock and reading all the graffiti which covers every tunnel and bridge. I had visited Paris a few years previously and that was one thing I remember from driving into the city, so it was a nice familiar welcome. The whole city itself felt oddly familiar, from the sites I had seem before either in my previous trip to the city or from pictures – at times I couldn’t decide which recollection was true – as well as the language, which I was becoming fluent in by about 4th year of high school, but stopped caring about soon after when I was going through a low period and grades were no longer important to me. I really regret only knowing how to ask for a gin and tonic and to demand someone else to light my cigarette.

Those phrases should have got us through the whole day – the original plan was to get very drunk and smoke A LOT. That never really panned out. Instead we spent most of the day wandering the city, ogling shops and tourist sites.

When we arrived in Paris, we decided to use the Metro system – which I had never used before, and was very impressed compared to Glasgow’s Clockwork Orange. We visited the Champs Elysee first – again, not sure of whether I had seen it with my own two eyes, or if pictures of Hitler’s troops marching the length of the road had affected my memory.

The Place Charles de Gaulle featured more than the Arc d’Triomphe – there, we witnessed the most laid back car crash I have ever seen. A van plowed into a car – not surprising considering the four-lane road has no markings, and French drivers appear to have a huge, collective death wish – and both drivers got out and chatted away as if it was nothing. Every second car had, on its bumper or hood, a dent that would send any English speaking driver into a mad frenzy. Maybe that’s another side-effect of the French Paradox.

Next we went to the Eiffel Tower. The lack of sleep and views of graffiti’d bridges on entering the city must have got to me, because – by my hand – written in ballpoint pen on the second floor of the tower, facing the Sacre Coeur, reads:

Hayley Cook fucked the Eiffel Tower and it didn’t touch the sides

Needless to say, she wasn’t impressed when she found out.

The last tourist site we visited was the Notre Dame Cathedral which is intensely beautiful, yet corrupted by capitalism. Something seems wrong to me about having so much money generated in a holy place – didn’t Jesus say something against that very notion? I won’t get into religious discussion, since I had to ask whether the cathedral was Roman Catholic or otherwise. Apparently, Protestants don’t do cathedrals. It was interesting to note that the cathedral was once dedicated to the Cult of Rationalism at one point in its history. I donated a couple of euros and lit a candle for various issues – an umbrella prayer, essentially.

The streets of Paris were just beautiful and we visited a couple of patisseries to buy tiny, tiny, beautiful cakes; as well as bastardise the French language, expressing thoughts and orders though a series of points, grunts and abstract English phrases. Higher language qualifications evidently mean nothing.  

We managed to scramble our way into getting a table in a nice restaurant. The waiter was subjected to the five second rule after we had a look at the extortionate wine list – keep in mind the exchange rate – so we ran out, unannounced, into the restaurant across the road. While everyone else ate beautifully bloodied steak, I had a milanese chicken. One does not expect much from chicken dishes, but I had obviously forgotten that the French virtually invented the idea of having standards when it comes to food. I swear to God, it was the best chicken I have ever witnessed.

Our exit from the restaurant was akin to Top Gear – we had 40 minutes to get to the bus before it left us stranded. That would essentially mean paying £140 for a taxi to the airport. Again, consider the exchange rate!!

Max had inexplicably memorised the entire Paris Metro system after staring at the map for all of three minutes – including, even more inexplicably, which tunnels we had to run through to change trains. That last detail was not even included on the map. The running scene which ensued must looked like an episode of Scooby Doo to the Parisiennes – or, at the very least, a group of fucking idiot tourists.

The only downside to the whole trip was the taxi back through Glasgow, which is an intensely ugly city by comparison. By extension, this makes me an ugly person with an ugly soul. Hopefully that candle I lit in Notre Dame will bring me the cosmetic surgery and gastric band I prayed for so deeply. Or, at the very least, more of that chicken.