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The Bandwagon Bandwagon

Happy days! There’s a new craze sweeping the internet and it involves celebrities (and the occasional normal person) pouring buckets of ice water over their heads in an (occasional) effort to raise awareness for ALS. If you’re not aware of ALS, and by now you really should be, it’s a degenerative illness also known as Motor Neurone Disease or, in the USA, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and it affects limbs, and brain function, meaning that sufferers will usually first lose use of arms or legs and it will progress to impair breathing, speaking and movement of any kind. The most famous sufferer of ALS is undoubtedly Stephen Hawking.

Now, back to the ice water challenge. As with everything ever, it’s split opinions. And there are plenty of people around who are oh so happy to air those views. One group is just the people who leapt at the chance to jump on the cold, wet bandwagon and ‘help’ people without actually having to do much or know anything about those they’re ‘helping’. However plenty of people have taken issue with one aspect or another of the challenge, including some celebrities.

One argument against it is that it’s a waste of water to just throw bucketloads of the stuff over oneself. Each one wastes almost as much as a shower! And I don’t know about you, but I have showers every day, I must be killing the environment, or something. Maybe the answer is for everyone to stop showering. And flushing the toilet uses water, stop that too. Just go in the street, it’ll be like a hyper-realistic renaissance fair, and if we’re lucky cholera will pop back up and take out a few people in the formerly developed world, making more water available for the rest of us.

Others have argued that this challenge is nothing more than a social exercise and in fact it does virtually nothing to support, or contribute towards treatment for, ALS sufferers. A portion of the videos will be accompanied by a link to the ALS donation website (http://www.alsa.org/donate/) and the person undertaking the challenge will have themselves donated. This is a good scenario. Others doing the challenge have made no reference to the disease while in some cases the ice challenge was done in lieu of donating, with the catch that if one didn’t complete the challenge they would have to donate, as a punishment or forfeit. I feel this might be giving the wrong impression. Although it may have led to money being raised, which is great, it suggests that donation is something to be avoided, something that is only done when one has done wrong. Donating to charity isn’t a chore, and this view may prove to be counter-productive. One famous face who’s picked up on and responded to the lack of donation is the ol’ winner, Charlie Sheen. He decided that instead of ice water he’d throw the $10,000 dollars he planned to donate over his head. Again, the money is great and will go a long way, but the method used, while yielding a strong message, suggested that people needed to be guilted into donating, again, a negative connotation attached to the act of giving money to charity.

Further gifts that this craze has bestowed upon us is for article fodder. Celebrities, who are often perceived as good-looking, being involved has allowed sites such as Buzzfeed to churn out piece after piece calling for the craze to be stopped because [Celebrity A] has won or telling of how seeing [Celebrity B] in a wet t shirt is the best thing ever and that as a direct result they can’t.

The ALS Ice Water Bucket challenge has brought about many a bandwagon, whether it was the original or a bandwagon that complained about, mocked, or celebrated the challenge and its many facets. Within the traffic however, it has raised awareness of a horrible disease and has raised lots of money through various means of both sound and questionable motives. So if you decide to donate to ALS research that’s great, if you just help to make people aware of it, that’s great too, you never know where it might lead, and if you just want to be part of the craze and don’t want to or can’t afford to donate, that’s ok too. To those complaining of the water wastage, stop trying to find fault in every popular social phenomenon, pack some stuff and go and help install a water pump in a small village in Sierra Leone.

It’s Been A Slow News Year

A year ago today Britain was blessed by the birth of George. The prince, not any of the other Georges that have been born in the last year, of course they don’t matter. But however ridiculous last year’s nationwide coverage of the few days leading up and after his birth was, we’re continuing to top it. Birth is quite a big thing, I suppose. It’s the very beginning, a brand new circumstance opened up. But the fact that the boy prince is now doing the sort of things you’d expect a one year old to do should be widely ignored. If he grew a beard, I’d be impressed. If he cracked cold fusion he’d definitely be categorised as unusual. If he writes, directs, choreographs and stars in a hit one-man West End musical about a middle-aged Chinese man’s adventures when attempting to knit the world’s greatest scarf I’ll nod to his right to make news. If he crawls a bit and mumbles some sounds, I won’t be calling for people to read all about it.

Right now there are roughly 7 billion people milling around the planet. My guess is that the vast majority of them were once one and most likely crawled, ate and slept before their first birthday. And a fair few were probably photographed. I’d also venture that not many are celebrated for being small humans and aren’t praised by various news outlets for being tiny little fashion icons. I’ve even seen other children enjoy butterflies, as the future monarch is seen doing here in a photo described as ‘incredibly cute’ by Buzzfeed that was released to commemorate his surviving a whole 365 days.

Prince George Butterfly

Isn’t it incredible, an infant showing apparent curiosity. No other child could possibly do that and look cute at the same time! It’s a balancing act only a child born into royalty could ever hope to achieve.

The House of Mirrors

All jobs require very different skills. For example, to work in retail you need to be able to smile on cue and finish every sentence with an upwards inflection. To work on a bar you have to have the cheery outlook of a cat living on a catnip farm and to work in politics you have to be able to look slightly less ridiculous than your opponents while trying to complete normal people activities like eating a bacon sandwich, riding on a zipwire and articulating an original thought.

Recently I’ve been driven to madness thinking about politics a lot by a brief and mostly indirect encounter with a particular British politician. I won’t mention his or her (what am I saying? When would a woman get into a position of power in the British government?) identity but let’s just say he’s often pictured as being as happy as Nick Griffin in a Mosque and has the power and influence of Brazil without Neymar. For the purpose of this post we’ll refer to him as Mick. Now, Mick taught me so many things about the workings of politics in this once by nature, but now only by name, Great Britain. He taught me that politics is not, as it once was, about changing things, not for the better, not for the worse. What politics is about is convincing people that they are valued and agreed with by the people in positions of (relative) power. People want to know not only that their representatives share their views but also that they’re down-to-earth, that they’re really no different from anyone else. But the sorry truth seems to be that they see themselves as above everything, and they have to work ever so hard to repress this feeling when they’re slumming it by listening to their ignorant supporters ranting about this and that while they nod their head mumbling ‘mmm’ ‘yes’ or ‘you’re right’.

They wouldn’t dare disagree with vital support, and as a result they end up being little more than reflective surfaces when they’re actually with the underlings of the party, the proles. No progress is made, no ideas are challenged, and thanks to the monstrous ego of the politician, no possibility of their own ideas being altered is entertained, even in the realms of imagination. There’s a theory that there’s a infinite number of parallel universes yet I still can’t fathom one where politicians’ ideas could be impacted by the words of their loyal party grunts. This rejection of taking to heart the concerns of the ordinary people highlights the shift in politics that’s occurred in recent times. Politics isn’t something one gets into in order to change the nation to help the majority but rather a career path where games are played and people are manipulated almost as much as statistics in order to gain votes. Whoever gets the most votes, whether they’ve been completely above board or not, wins the game. It’s chess, with an election clock and plenty of disposable pawns.

Mick tried to come across as caring and understanding when faced with his potential votes but had a remarkable sense of entitlement. I was frankly a little taken aback at that. For someone to have such a blatantly inflated opinion of his own importance after years of being the media’s whipping boy was admirable. Satire has failed us. I shudder to imagine the level of self-worth needed for people to rise to the top of the political toilet.

Britain’s Long-Awaited Saviours (Apparently)

In recent times, a new political movement has popped up in the UK. No, I’m not talking about Ukip, not this time anyway, but rather the Facebook-based group ‘Britain First’. Now, if you’re reading this from outside the UK, you probably won’t have been subjected to their ramblings, although if you do live on the island, I’d say there’s a fair chance at least one of their photos has been redirected to your poor little timeline. Britain First professes to be some sort of saviour of Britain, saving it from the millions of imaginary benefit-frauding Muslim extremists who are shoving halal food in everyone’s faces as they think about having a bacon sandwich. I’d suggest that maybe their estimations of how many Muslim people live in the UK are a little off. One supporter’s claim that there are “28 million male Muslims… going to cost the taxpayer a fortune” seems slightly fabricated. 28 million men suggests a further 28 million or so women, resulting in a Muslim population of 56 million. As the total population of Britain is around 63 million, it seems unlikely. As for the idea that they’re going to “cost the taxpayer a fortune”, well, I’m not sure this person’s done their research. I’ve managed to draw out of a trusted source that not every person who identifies as a Muslim is unemployed. A shocking suggestion I know, but one that seems to stand to reason, regardless of how obviously impossible it is for that to be the case.

Putting to one side the questionable statistics professed by some of the group’s members, we must consider the evil they’re protecting us from. Erm, anyone got any suggestions? No? Ah. Well after perusing their page (while struggling to refrain from ripping my eyes from their sockets) I’ve ascertained that they’re protecting us from two things: Halal meat, and Muslims, who are subtly brought in to many a debate. To support this, I quote Britain First’s caption of a picture of a sign that states “Rape: The only crime where the victim becomes the accused”: “Very true, we’ve seen it in all the Muslim grooming cases”. Subtlety and genuine concern in abundance there.

We should of course not accuse them of hating immigrants, as they’ve clearly stated that Poles, “Our comrades in the battle… are very welcome”. Polish people aren’t dangerous, they’ve come to work hard not slap children with halal lamp chops. At least they’re not just pulling ideas out of thin air though, there are world leaders they look up to, people whose good work serves as inspiration, and they salute and admire Vladimir Putin, “true defender of HIS people”.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a nice, moderate choice that Britain First’s supporters offer Muslims. “if muslins and other ppl wnt to stay in my country then u work work hard and contribut to our economie otherwise go bk to were u came frm uneducated lowlife scums” [sic]. You can almost see it written on the back of a dove.

 

 

Arrogance, Ignorance and Petulance – The Career of Justin Bieber

The squirming pop weasel that is Justin Bieber now has a video of his deposition as part of the case surrounding his arrest for drag racing under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Normally when I write about something there’ll be one thing I take issue with and I’ll focus on this. In this instance, I am having real trouble deciding where to start.

Bieber’s popularity has skyrocketed since he was discovered in 2008 by Scooter Braun and subsequently signed to his and Usher’s joint label. Now, to have been picked up like this Bieber must have had some singing ability, that’s fine, but his attitude, antics and fans since then have mutated into something truly disgusting. His behaviours have included storming off stage, once because someone threw a bottle at him. I don’t condone the throwing of a bottle at anyone, but it seems Bieber views himself in a similar mould as the rockstars of old, the Osbournes, the Alice Coopers, the Bowies, the Daltrys, the Morrisons. Would any one of those petulantly storm off in that situation? There’s more chance of Joey Essex cracking Cold Fusion. He attempted to own a pet monkey, that’s almost rock worthy, if not original, but gave up when asked for paperwork. I’d love to see him try to keep up with Alice Cooper on a night out in his heyday. He’s also been filmed urinating in a bucket shouting “F*** Bill Clinton”. Oh, the boy knows politics too! We should get him on question time, ‘bout time there was someone in the public eye who really knew what they’re on about. Not only has he done these types of things, but who can forget his longing for one more ‘belieber’ in the form of Anne Frank. Even when confronted with her plight his only thought was himself, impressive focus. And now his actions have caught up with him, time to see some sense right? Nope.

In his deposition Bieber proceeds to one-up everyone who’s ever critiqued him. His arrogance is astounding, his petulance is stunning, his attempts at sarcasm wit and logic are as logical as his fans and his grasp of the English language is mystifying. And he seems to view himself as a mix of The Fonz, adjusting his jacket halfway through and Don Corleone, imitating Marlon Brando’s distinctive voice with the enquiry “Before you came here, you’d asked me?”. In the deposition he fields a variety of questions, responding with non-sequiturs he clearly would deem pithy, including when asked whether he had disciplined Mr Hesney [his bodyguard]? Bieber’s response was to ask ‘what kind of question is that?’ and proceed to enquire ‘Is he my son?’. Either a sarcastic response, or maybe a genuine concern considering he had no recollection of whether he’d been to Australia and resorted to asking his lawyer whether he had. I think his arrogance is typified by his smirking, raising his arms and exclaiming ‘Guess what? I don’t recall’. During the course of the deposition he proceeded to raise his eyebrows and fain sleep to further his classy impression. He even winked at the camera, proving categorically his ignorance, stupidity and over-inflated sense of self-worth. When asked about his former flame, Selena Gomez, he waggled his finger and with increasing irritation told the interviewer not to ask him about her again. And when asked whether Usher had been instrumental in launching his career, Bieber replied “I’m detrimental to my own career” before being staunchly misquoted by his lawyer who immediately claimed he said instrumental. Maybe not what he meant to say, but a whole lot more accurate.

I could write so much more about the problems with his entire demeanour and answers in that deposition, but I’d like to move onto the reaction of his fans. They’ve taken to Twitter in their droves, as they always do, to make light of his deposition, to adopt screenshots of him as answers to every fictitious question they can dream up and to praise his apparent wit and sass. A few examples of the sorts of tweets that have popped up:

Bieber 2

This one is using a picture from his deposition after being arrested for drink driving, and use of drugs while driving. Many would say that makes him a bad role model, very logical.

Bieber 3

The main issue I have with his fans is that they’ll blissfully defend him of any action without any knowledge of the issue, they’re blind to his abundant faults and they worship him. This level of obsession is damaging to them, and it fuels Bieber’s egotistical and narcissistic fire, leading him to believe he’s invincible and incapable of wrongdoing. And if you don’t believe that his fans can be as irrational as I’ve suggested, check out this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nTKWYvWW2U.

A Catalog of Reiterated Thoughts

Before I begin, I’m aware that this post may appear to be a direct attack on my victim, sorry, subject, but rather I intend it to be a questioning remark of an article, picking up on themes, topics, and things that are, to me, grievances. I am not trying to discredit Thought Catalog in any way (not that there’d be much point, they’re enormously bigger than me) and I don’t have the slightest thing against them. So please remember this disclaimer when I appear to be doing little more than venting unwarranted anger at a well-meaning site.

I’ll start with a brief outline of what Thought Catalog is, in case you’ve not heard of it. It’s a sort of online blogging magazine/directory. They have a few employed writers that contribute regularly, as well as posting pieces submitted by the general public. As a result of the magnitude of posts published, obviously there is a vast range of topics covered, but I’m going to look at the posts that make up the blogging desire paths through the meadow of catalogued thoughts.

Now, Thought Catalog is, as I say, quite a good website. To an extent. The first issue I want to raise is not entirely a problem with Thought Catalog itself, but more of an issue with its pandering to what society wants. The majority of the posts that are publicised more heavily, and written by the more frequent contributors, tend to focus on a small range of topics. Having said that, within their boxed thinking, the posts definitely run across a spectrum of themes rather than being categorised distinctly and unambiguously. There are posts about sex/dating (lots and lots of these), apparently uplifting posts about your own personal strength, what you shouldn’t be ashamed of etc etc (see my post Generic Inspiration? No Thanks. for more of my thoughts on these types), Social situations and how to deal with them with heavy undertones of ‘psst, you should be an introvert, faux social anxiety is cool these days’, what to do/not to do in your teens/twenties, including the general things like travelling, reading classic literature, ‘finding yourself’, you know, all the stuff that applies to everyone ever, the posts that are meant to be funny (but rarely are) and those posts that tap into the secrets of psychics and horoscopes, broad relativity. Oh, and the occasional dabble in celeb culture, mainly with the celeb in question being the Internet’s darling, Jennifer Lawrence.

Dating/Relationships/Sex

Sex sells, we get it. Stop posting articles about ‘the best sex I’ve had’, ‘the best positions’ and ‘how to…” great, I’m happy for you, but I don’t quite see how this endless, generally pretty self-absorbed bragging and ‘advice’ qualifies as journalistic – a characteristic claimed to be necessary for the publication of writing on the site. As for the relationships posts, they have probably by now covered just about every angle for them, do one thing, but don’t dare do that same thing, that’s apparently both the absolute worst thing to do, and the very best, but all girls love it, and all guys hate this but do that because every guy loves it. These 10 bullet points are precisely what you want. Oh, they don’t perfectly describe your desires? You’re clearly wrong, except you’re never wrong because individuality is what makes you special, just like every other person’s individuality makes them special. If you’ve lost track, that’s everyone and no one who’s special.

Social situations

It’s lovely how Thought Catalog tells you exactly what society expects you to do, and what it will condemn you for. Unfortunately, these two are far from mutually exclusive. One post, consisting of a number of bullet points about what society expects you to do, could be reposted with the title ‘what society says you must never do’ and be as relevant as useful as it was the first time round. They inform you of the necessary chivalry, and the inherent misogynism of your attempted chivalry. Fortunately, these can always be re-posted a year later and specified as being the rules for that particular year.

What to do/not to do in your teens/twenties 

Basically, when whittled down, these types of posts consist of ‘you know that stuff you really want to do? You’d probably enjoy it, go do it’. Or ‘these are all ridiculous things for adults to do, don’t be a moron’.

Relatable posts

I blame these posts on those people that are still impressed by them. Let me spell it out for you: Humans have a lot in common, throughout the centuries of diverse sophisticated society trends have emerged about what people of certain groups enjoy. Just regurgitating these popular pastimes, embellished with some faux-philosophical-ramblings does not make the writer an amazing insight into your own personality. Get over it, boycott this rubbish and maybe it’ll stop popping up.

Alternatively you could ignore originality altogether and just compile a list of amusing posts from Reddit.

Oh for a theme

Blogging is not an easy endeavour. It takes up time, demands attention, and makes you hate the sight of a barren word document. And there’s no pressure on you to write anything at all, so why bother? Because you started it, and you pledged that you’d keep it up. Man, that was stupid.

Thousands, if not millions, of people around the world have blogs, and although many will end up on the Internet’s scrapheap many are updated regularly and in keeping with that blog’s theme. And there it is. A theme. The thread that runs through all the posts, keeping it together, driving the blog, acting as a directory, showing potential readers to the corners of the interweb where pieces of writing have been directed at them. People who are interested in Doctor Who will read blogs that are about Doctor Who. People whose lives revolve around football, and a specific club, may look for blogs about that club. It all makes sense when you think about it. But why follow logic and reasoning when creating a blog? That would be utterly ridiculous. Ha, Logic.

People tend to have themes for their blogs in order to help gain a base of readers who have similar interests. They may base them on what they know a lot about, a blog will not often stray far from what that person would choose as their specialist subject on Mastermind. One of my friends writes largely about Halo or Doctor Who, having written reviews, case studies, and analyses of both. He can do this well because he knows both subjects pretty much inside out. If I were to follow a similar tack, you’d be reading an in depth study of the different themes and characters of Scrubs. Likely to have less of a pull I wager.

Another reason for a theme in a blog is to direct the posts. If you have a theme, you know what you’re writing about. If this was a blog full of reviews of television shows, then I’d watch a new programme, and then proceed to pick holes in the plot, or the casting, or the direction, costume and lighting before ending the post by abhorring the show and pleading with my readers not to watch it, unless of course it is so bad it’s actually quite entertaining. That’s how most objective reviews of things seem to go, people love being critical, and it gives others something to moan about, everybody wins. Maybe if I had a political blog I’d scour The Times to find the latest parliamentary debate and then articulate everything that’s wrong with our government, topping my article with a thick layer of doom and just a sprinkling of gloom. Unless of course it was the Jam Debate that had been hotly contested in recent days, then I could just copy John Finnemore’s satirical overview of it from The Now Show, changing it slightly and aiming it at a different demographic in the hope I’d be able to revel in the praise truly due to Mr. Finnemore. In that case maybe I’d add a little political cartoon, to separate my blog from the hoi polloi of political-ish blogs. What is a political blog without a shred of whimsy?

Rather than meticulously planning my blog theme, or even stumbling upon a theme as I wrote, I’ve ended up with a stuttering, confused blog that spans Instagram, through history, to politics and even a fanciful imagination of archaeology in the future. Even though when my friend and I were discussing this issue prior to starting blogs I had an idea that it would consist of ill-defined ‘rants’ about the social or political issues of the day, that lack of a concrete base has led to the coma my blog has descended into in recent weeks. Anyway, hopefully now it’s woken up for a while, probably should’ve used that time to conceive a theme. Oh well.  

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