Thursday, 25 November 2010

Yet I still don't #understand these #weirdsymbols @all

Seeing as I'm now an undergraduate student at university, rather than a hermit, I have to study the great poets of the Romantic era, six-hundred page literary epics and the true masters of classical literature. Needless to say this requires quite a lot of reading; yet when I sit down and open a particularly gripping textbook about literature theory and criticism, never has the junk on my desk, the walls, curtains, trees outside my window, crushed receipts, the skin on my face, and the contents of my bin seemed so interesting. And even if I manage to ignore all these remarkable distractions, I've then got a Blackberry, iPod, Xbox 360, the wonders of the internet and the plague of Faceboook to contend with. It seems to me that technology isn't helping to move us forward in the world; it's holding us back.

It was so much easier to be an established writer, scientist or philosopher back in the day; by that I'm thinking more like the sixteenth century, not 'West Philadelphia born and raised.' What with there being fewer distractions, there was nothing else to do but sit down and write a novel or two. No wonder Shakespeare found the time to pen so many timeless classics; apart from an abundance of alcohol the only thing distracting him from sitting down and writing a sonnet were diseased hookers - and he got over that hurdle by liking men.

Had Albert Einstein had access to the internet it wouldn't have helped him to develop the theory of relativity, he'd have just spent his time browsing science pornography and being duped into thinking that he'll win an iPad by shooting five of them in a flash advert at the top of a web page. He'd have got as far as 'E=', seen that his friend Gunter had changed his status to 'in a relationship,' and that would be the end of his afternoon of deep, scientific cogitation. Or if Isaac Newton had been sitting under that tree browsing for apps on his iPhone when the famous apple fell upon his head; his first thought wouldn't have been to been to ponder the laws of physics, he'd have updated his fans, sharing his misfortune within the constraints of one-hundred-and-forty characters, on Twitter. And I'm certain that Galileo would have found that the combination of Red Bull and Gears of War is a much more entertaining way of spending a Friday night than looking into the sky.

It seems that nobody takes the time to ponder their thoughts and work them into a coherent form any more. We have the ability to inspire others, to make our voices heard, and to reach millions of people at the touch of a button; but we just end up defecating the scattered, pulp-like contents of our brains onto the internet without any further thought. The idea that technology is helping us to move forward is a façade; we spend more time telling other people that we're supposed to be working than actually doing it. If I'm going to reach the level of greatness that going to university has convinced me I can indeed reach, then I should probably neglect technology all together and, ironically, go back to being a hermit, embracing an Amish-like existence. But first I should update my status to 'dislikes buttons and feels like churning some butter.'

Friday, 13 August 2010

Has anybody actually tasted The Rock's cooking?

Sky television has recently given me a trail of their additional sports channels, and it's immediately obvious that they haven't got enough sport to warrant four dedicated channels. Sure they show a lot of football, rugby and cricket, but they eventually begin to run out of respectable sports. When you're watching teams that have names that wouldn't sound out of place in a Quidditch league you know they're scraping the bottom of the barrel. However due to a pleasant mixture of unemployment and a poor selection of daytime television I've persevered with the likes of ultimate frisbee, caber tossing and golf, and have found a sport I remember from my youth; wrestling.

Years ago my best friend and I were completely crazy about wrestling; we played the overly-complicated video games and watched pre-watershed edits of the shows. I can even remember the Golden Age of wrestling, before the pandas kicked up a fuss and the World Wrestling Federation were forced to change their name. And by coming back to wrestling a whole decade later, I can now see it for what it really is; an epilepsy inducing, pyrotechnic overloading, Nickelback-themed, wonderfully entertaining drama.

I find it strange that the first criticism that springs to mind whenever somebody mentions wrestling is that all the fighting is simulated. Really? You're telling me that muscle toting, spandex wearing, egocentric men don't come together on a weekly basis to dish out polite trash talk and do fisticuffs? If I wanted to watch thugs knock each others teeth out in front of an audience who are all wearing baseball caps and tracksuits then I'd watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I know this will sound like a lame porn excuse, but I don't watch wrestling for the action, I watch it for the storylines.

Recently the shows commentators have been emphasising that World Wrestling Entertainment is the longest running, weekly-episodic entertainment programme ever made. So really, wrestling should be compared to television soaps, rather than other sports. And personally, watching a spandex-clad giant kicking somebody in the face is far more enjoyable than watching old farmers in flat caps sitting in a poky rural pub complaining about technology and the introduction of decimal currency. No other programme has such outrageous action, hilarious rivalries and over the top storylines that intensify for weeks, before finally exploding into colossal battles at massively hyped pay-per-view spectacles.

My only criticism of the wrestling now is that I remember it being far more extreme when I was younger. Though I suspect the reason for this is a combination of naivety, and that nowadays less violence is permitted on screen. There also seems to be a bigger emphasis on storyline now, though when I was ten years old I probably ignored all that nonsense and focused on the people hitting each other metal chairs. I most likely thought I was being rebellious by watching wrestling, but if I had children I'd be more than happy for them watch it now. It's an enthralling drama where the respectful, honourable heroes always triumph over the cheating, deceitful villains; imagine Postman Pat elbow dropping a Teletubby and you're pretty much there.

Monday, 9 August 2010

When sci-fi becomes sci-fact

Despite the fact that ex-conmen get employed to sell popcorn and pick 'n' mix, I love taking a trip to the cinema. Now usually I'm not too keen on sitting in a darkened room full of sweaty strangers, but I take comfort in the fact that inane chatter, annoying mobile phone ringtones and touching each other is banned; or at the very least, frowned upon. A quick look over my previous posts suggests that taking a trip to the cinema is about the only thing that actually inspires me to write blogs. And if you know anything about the latest cinema releases you'll know there's only one film worth mentioning at the moment; Inception.

There are plenty of entertaining films about, but every now and then entertainment becomes something more - an escape from reality. A good film will entertain you, but a great film will engross you. No matter how unrealistic and mind-bending the plot might be, so long as the story is told in that magical way, you'll be completely submerged in another world. And even though you're sat with a bunch of strangers, on a chair that's rapidly degrading in comfort and you've just cannonballed a giant slushie, you're drawn into an environment that, at the time, you're entirely convinced is real; like a dream.

Technology doesn't necessarily make it easier for a film to make the small, yet significant, step from entertainment to escapism. I willing to suspend my disbelief and become completely engrossed in the original 1970's Star Wars films, despite the fact that Chewbacca is clearly just a man wearing a rug. 3D films might be the future of entertainment, but they're not the future of escapism. This can only be achieved when the way in which we watch films changes; not 3D, but virtual reality. Beaming images directly into our heads might seem improbable, but nerds have been dreaming about it for years; so if there's any chance that it's actually possible, we'll know it's being pursued by the world's greatest, yet geekiest minds.

All this brings me back to Inception; if in the future we go to the cinema for a virtual escape from reality and we descend into an alternate universe, it's only a matter of time before we begin to question which is real. This might sound absurd, but thousands of people already live in alternate worlds in online multiplayer games. Goblins, warlocks and elves might not sound like your perfect world, but imagine being able to create one that is. Imagine living in a world entirely suited around you, being able to do anything, and be anyone you desire - the ability to escape an imperfect world into a parallel universe.

It's a misconception that believing in an alternate reality is a sign of ignorance; it takes true intelligence - or an advanced understanding of the Matrix - to expand your mind to the point of questioning everything we previously believed to be absolutely true. Though currently, what with virtual reality looking about as likely as a tanned Star Trek fan, and cinema insisting on producing lacklustre, gimmicky films for the masses, it's a little too early to start questioning our place in the universe. Besides, we've got far more pressing issues to be dealing with, like figuring out how to harness the immense brainpower of writer-director Christopher Nolan before he takes over the world by convincing us we're all chickens.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Where's Wesley Snipes when you need him?

Opinions are divided as to whether the Twilight saga is a modern, artistic outlet for the muffled voice of the complicated and misunderstood teenage generation, or, just complete garbage. However I see past the debate and recognise a much greater and far more pressing issue. When the vampires inevitably attack, will we pull Sarah Michelle Gellar out of retirement and pick up the nearest pitch-fork, or will we swoon and present our willing necks because we consider their attack to be a desperate, romantic plea to be understood and accepted?

The only reason we know so much about vampires, aliens and monsters is because we see so much of them in films; though recently there's been an unhealthy obsession with vampires, like they're trying to prepare us for something. Thankfully, films teach us how to deal with these creatures; for example, there are three acceptable methods of surviving a zombie attack; buying a shotgun, being Will Smith, or going to the pub and waiting for the whole thing to blow over. However when a dangerous species is looking to integrate into human society, films teach us we should be tolerant, yet suspicious - like America, but without confusing tolerance with racism.

Now it's not that Twilight is poorly written, has unconvincing supporting characters, and tells teenagers that it's acceptable to get freaky with animals; sorry, it's not just that Twilight is awful, flimsy and promotes bestiality, but it's also deceiving our youth. With the seemingly irresistible mixture of sparkly skin, moussed hair and vacant stares, Twilight is slowly lulling teenagers into a false, romantic acceptance of the vampire species. It seems that too few teenagers today know how to maintain and operate a pump-action shotgun, or how to perform an exorcism.

In some cases it's not only teenagers, but adults that are being affected by the blatant vampire propaganda. So called 'Twi-mums' seem to be equally as mislead as their ignoramus teenage daughters - that's right, paedophilia can be added to the list of disgusting things that Twilight promotes, along with bestiality, necrophilia and hematophilia.

Despite all this I'm not too worried about a vampire attack, because if films teach us anything it's that the humans always survive. Sure, we're usually the cause of the epidemic, or we provoke the horde of dangerous monsters into attacking by poking them with a long stick, but we pull through nonetheless. You might think that the chances of an attack by vampires is quite slim; personally I think it's about as unlikely as Volvo using Twilight to promote their cars to an audience that aren't even old enough to drive.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Summer lovin' happened so fast

It's that wonderful time of year again; the long, lazy afternoons are bathed in a soothing amber glow, gentle birdsong curls effortlessly through the air like a liberated eddy of smoke from the scorched tip of a cigar, and the warm, gentle touch of sunlight allows your inhibitions to dilute like a single droplet of sweet nectar in a chilled glass of crisp, clean water. Sorry, my mistake, this is the British summertime; a time of year when the nation's most repugnant people have the right to wear fewer clothes. And believe me, there are some fugly people about.

As a nation we're not able to cope with summer. Our lives are built around cold weather, so as soon as the rays leak through our cracked, murky skies we have to start making changes; we have to open all the windows because we don't have air conditioning; we can't step outside without applying lotions and wearing floppy hats because our pasty skin will burn; and we end up getting so hot it feels like our brains have melted, causing us to grind to a halt and just roast in our own back gardens. Summer is a season that causes nothing but disruption and change to our regular routine, yet we're wildly in love with it.

We do rain so well; you'd have thought that, by now, we'd have made it look a bit more glamorous. Besides, it's not like we're the only country to have cold weather for most of the year. I'm willing to bet that the daily weather reports in Alaska don't consist entirely of the phrase, 'for fuck's sake, it's snowing again'. If we took a more optimistic perspective towards our good, old fashioned, cold weather it might help improve our optimism in general. I'm aware that asking people to take enjoyment in wet weather might be asking too much, but if we associated it with cleansing and a new beginning, rather than misery and depression it might at least make those wet Monday mornings bearable.

Despite being baffled by our nation's strange obsession with summer there's very little I can, or want, to do about it. Okay, so fewer half-naked fatties would be nice, and less blatant negativity towards winter wouldn't go amiss, but I could live without these changes. I guess my disdain for summer is more selfish; I just want to be able to wear a t-shirt for more than an hour without black hole sized pit-stains appearing, or to get into my car without thinking that the air inside is poison gas. Do you hear that, France? You can keep your hot weather because I enjoy rain. And you can keep your moulding cheese whilst you're at it.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Making the world a safer place, to the soundtrack of AC/DC

A visit to the local cinema to experience Marvel's new testosterone-fuelled blockbuster Iron Man 2 has taught me a few things; that playing 'cinema seat roulette' is truly the most stressful thing you can do sitting down, and that I cannot wait until I'm able to buy a computer that I can have witty conversations with and can control by flailing my hands around in mid-air. But perhaps the most important thing I learnt is that we could do with some dependable and unyielding super-heroes in reality to casually sort out the world's scum.

If we had the technology to create a symbiotic suit of armour capable of pounding the world's terrorist ne'er-do-wells into submission, then I'm sure the petty street criminals would fall in line - with Bruce Wayne going around battering the ones that don't. I'm not talking about super-heroes with stretchy limbs, telekinesis and the ability to shoot lasers out of their eyes, that would be absurd; we just need a few billionaire playboys with a righteous conscience and some major cash to burn.

However, the more I think about the film, the more I change my mind about real-life super-heroes. In comic book films, the only reason there are bad guys is because there are caped crusaders to stop them. It's a strange concept, I know, but villains wouldn't be villains if nobody exposed their evil plans and tried to prevent them. We can only perceive opposites if we can see both sides; you can't have hot without cold, rich without poor, or super-hero without super-villain. If we remove one side of the coin, does the other side cease to exist? And on that assumption, does it work both ways: by introducing super-heroes, are we also introducing super-villains?

I should probably concentrate more on the colossal explosions, idyllic women dressed in skin-tight body suits, and being jealous of Robert Downey Jr, rather than trying to find ethical messages within a Hollywood blockbuster. And besides, trying to remove all perception of 'good and bad' is like trying to deprive people of their opinions and emotions - and that's exactly the sort of crazy plan a comic book villain would try to bring to fruition. Overall we're probably better off planning for peace by preparing for war.

Though I can't quite decide what the film is trying to tell us about super-heroes, it certainly teaches us one thing: if we do develop the technology to create a super-suit capable of either protecting or enslaving the world, as long as we give it to an egotistic, recovering alcoholic who displays signs of obsessive and compulsive behaviour and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, then it's definitely in safe hands.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

I should just download illegally, like everybody else

There are so many ways of listening to free music online; from streaming the latest music videos, creating playlists and dodging adverts on Spotify, to listening to live radio and podcast sessions. But despite all the possibilities, I still choose to purchase and download songs directly onto my computer. Like many people I buy music through iTunes - not because of the overwhelmingly large library of diverse content, but because I was drawn towards a shiny iPod like a crow, and I'm now stuck with their music store.

The trouble with using iTunes is that I don't own a Mac computer; I didn't quite fancy paying double the price for a laptop on the basis that it's spotlessly white and it helps me blend in at Starbucks. Whenever I use iTunes it never really works; it takes forever to load up, it hoards me with unnecessary updates, and it frequently deletes my entire music library, leaving me with nothing but smarmy messages telling me how to add songs to my empty library. I'm fairly certain that Apple purposely sabotages iTunes if it's not installed on a Mac.

I know that getting iTunes to work properly isn't the most pressing issue we face today, but it just seems that the world would run more smoothly if we stopped making life difficult for each other. In an ideal world we would clear away our own rubbish at fast food restaurants, we'd give up our place in the queue to an elderly gentleman, and we'd cross the street to hold a door open for a woman struggling with her shopping - but we don't.

I'm aware that spontaneous consideration and the occasional smile isn't the solution to all the worlds problems; politicians will still squabble, wars will still be fought, and the French will still be French. It seems that we're all too pessimistic to believe that our small acts of kindness will have any influence on the bigger, more important issues. Trying to preach that world peace can be found in forgiveness and sanctity is like pissing into the wind, the hippies found that out for themselves; metaphorically of course, though I wouldn't rule out the literal.

Seeing as though world peace isn't on the horizon we might as well go back to randomly pulling out at roundabouts, assuming that somebody else will offer their seat to the pregnant lady, and totally ignoring the elderly. Blame not a broken society or insolent youth, but the slimy, pit-stained software programmers at Apple that won't fix my iTunes because I refused to buy a seven hundred pound laptop.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Palpatine gets my vote

What with the parliamentary election coming up I feel as though I should make an effort to get involved. As a 'first-time-voter' I've been encouraged to show an interest in the election in order to make an informed and well-reasoned vote based on what I believe to be the best for the nation. I have no idea which political party to vote for, so I figured that the best approach would be to work out who I don't want to vote for, and then chose whoever is left.

I've gone out of my way when searching for information on each of the political parties; pausing to watch news television channels before switching over to E4, listening to the radio when they broadcast amusing political bloopers, and browsing tabloid newspaper articles located next to the comic strips. I certainly feel as though I've covered all the angles.

But despite my relentless search for information I managed to learn only two things; that the public is given too much say in proceedings, and that politicians are easily distracted. Reading the public's opinions on the election campaign is like sitting next to your father whilst he contradicts every choice made by the teams playing in the FA Cup final. Why is it that the ill-informed general public has say over the experts who's job it is to run the nation? Fundamentally, our country uses the same election process as Strictly Come Dancing - I'm surprised that we can't vote using the Red Button.

Now I'm all for democracy, but it seems that the sort of political party I'd like to vote for is The Dark Side. The Emperor doesn't waste time squabbling with other politicians or searching for public appraisal. And he's not afraid to step on - or electrocute - a few Jedi toes to complete his political promises. Sure, he might blow most of the defence-budget on fancy Space Stations capable of destroying planets, but he makes up for it by cutting back on things like moisturiser, public relations, and target practice for Stormtroopers.

Perhaps I just want to see a politician willing to forego the customary search for mass commendation and replace it with dedicated, consequential work that actually makes a worthwhile difference in our society. Because the way I see it, if we stop asking the politicians to incessantly seek our approval, it might actually give them enough time to get on with their jobs. Then again, they might just spend their time endlessly chasing 'Rebel scum' across the galaxy - it's swings and roundabouts really.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

A gay first post

I've been known to enjoy the occasional episode of Sex and the City on Comedy Central in the early hours of the morning. Not only does it provide me with a gateway into the mind of the modern woman, it's sometimes funny, somewhat stylish and you occasionally get to see a bit of boob. However despite my obvious affection for the show, I wouldn't admit to watching it if asked. If I reveal my true feelings towards Sex and the City, will people think I'm 'gay'?

The problem is that the word 'gay' has lost all meaning. I, on a daily basis, can describe washing machines, lamp posts, dogs and wireless internet settings as 'gay'; and I hate myself for it. Not because it's a blatant misuse of the word, or even because it's offensive towards homosexuals, but because I'm unable to find an appropriate substitute when I wish to express my dislike for a particular object or person. Basically, I own an impeccably poor vocabulary.

Despite my attempts to improve my range of vocabulary, I can't foresee the phrase 'gay' being replaced any time soon. It's because the word 'gay' perfectly encompasses everything you want to say. It's just easier than describing the scoop of ice cream that has fallen off your cone and onto the floor as 'frowned upon, shunned from modern society and disliked by the elderly'. Essentially we've hijacked the word from the homosexuals because we're too lazy to express ourselves coherently.

I feel a degree of sympathy towards the homosexual community for the misuse of their word. Only when homosexuality is truly acceptable within society will the phrase become obsolete and fade away; though a much more likely conclusion is that homosexuality is officially banned, and the law is enforced by a Power Rangers-like multi-machine consisting of Republicans, the BNP, Australia and Christianity, wielding an ironic penis-shaped sword of prejudice and intolerance.

However this still doesn't solve my original dilemma regarding my love of the sassy New York singletones and their sexy, sushi-fuelled lives. If I admit to liking the show will people call me 'gay'? They probably will - but it'll be because they can't think of an appropriate insult like 'homo' or 'raving bender boy'.