Tuesday, 26 February 2013

This blog Ain't Dead: Prinzhorn Dance School

So, I haven't written in this blog for fucking ages. But I still enjoy reading it from time to time, and venting my spleen still holds the same appeal it always has. So I figured it was about time I did something with it again.

 Right now, it's pretty late, so I'm not going to write anything new, just yet. But here's a post that a friend of mine reminded me about earlier. I originally wrote this on Myspace (remember that?) in 2008, but having just discovered this band still exists, I felt compelled to share it again.

 Prinzhorn Dance School

"I referenced this band in an earlier posting. A rant about shit "quirky" music, and I feel I owe it to you to elaborate further. And I feel like I owe it to you to introduce you to possibly the shittest band this side of the Arctic Monkeys. Because I'm a bastard. And I want you to suffer like I suffer.

 Allow me to be rather self indulgent for a moment and quote myself:

"Firstly, write a totally shit song that no-one actually likes or thinks is good, including yourself. If possibly try to make the lyrics a bit quirky. Writing about something specific and mundane that absolutely no-one else can, or would want to, relate to is usually a good way of doing this. For example, you could write about the rusty hinges on your back gate. Or you could write about a yoghurt you once ate.

 Next, record your song with a couple of your dickhead friends that can't actually play their instruments. Preferably, rope someone in who has never even played an instrument before, then teach them literally just enough to get to the end of the song. It doesn't matter if it's not great sounding, it's quirky. Alternatively, you can take on the role of "band" yourself, and record all your backing on the shittiest sounding 8 track recorder you can get your hands on. This makes you look especially quirky, because no-one uses 8 tracks anymore. Except people trying to be quirky.

Next call yourself, or your band, something that makes you sound like a gang of pretentious wankers. Again, you could reference so utterly mundane and self-specific that to anyone else it sounds like a catchy name thought up off the top of your head. Something like "Prinzhorn Dance School" ought to do it..."

Having done a little further research it turns out that Prinzhorn Dance School are apparently named after a Doctor Prinzhorn, famous for studies into mental health. Whilst not exactly self specific, I would like to point out that this study is obscure enough for it to sound like they thought of it off the tops of their heads, and as for mundanity, well it doesn't get much better than medical reports from the early 1900's does it? And as for sounding like a group of pretentious wankers? Well...

 The mundane element is especially prevalent in this bands music. Allow me to quote further, from an allmusic review: "Repetition is another Prinzhorn Dance School obsession, and the one that makes the band polarizing. While "Crash, Crash, Crash" and "I Do Not Like Change" (which could be another PDS manifesto) come close to monotony, for most of the album the band's purposely limited sounds don't get in the way of them telling a story in their own fragmentary style"

I'm sorry, in what way can monotony be considered good? And this is from a review that sings the praises of the band. I must have missed the announcement that told us that it's actually OK for music to be relentlessly boring and repetitive, I mean, it's different right? Well, yeah, it is. But it's still monotonous and repetitive. Different doesn't mean good. It means "different". Something can be different and shit at the same time. And Prinzhorn Dance School are both. I'm sorry to have to resort to such basic, unintelligent commentary on the matter, but truly the most accurately descriptive phrase that could be applied to them are "they are shit". If a dog turd was musical, it would sound like Prinzhorn Dance School. If excrement could play the bass, it'd play the bass like Prinzhorn Dance School. If crap could sing, it'd sing like the guy from Prinzhorn Dance School. You get the idea...

 It makes me wonder just how much of the bands sound really is "purposely limited", and how much of it just comes down to a lack of musical ability. Their website claims "we just take the sounds in our heads and record them on a cheap recording machine in an old building..." (which, incidentally, ties in rather nicely with what I said earlier about all so called quirky music being recorded on shitty recording equipment in order to sound 'Quirky'...). I mean, fuck, if the sounds in your head equates to a poorly played bass, poorly played guitar, and some of the most woeful vocals I've ever had the misfortune to hear, then I'm guessing musical vision isn't exactly your forte.

Saying their sound is "purposely limited" is like saying my knowledge of 12th century Greek architecture is "purposely limited". I know it exists, but could I tell you any more about it? No, could I fuck. Could Prinzhorn Dance School do anything with more scope than 2 dickheads twatting about with musical instruments which, quite frankly, should be taken off them? Again, no. A resounding no. 

The band has a chance to redeem itself however, via lyrical content. Punk was never the most technically challenging or accomplished music, but it made up for it in sheer attitude and, for a while at least, having something to say. So does Prinzhorn Dance School save itself from that pit of absolute sub-par musical worthlessness by having some sort of hidden agenda?

 Well, would I still be fucking writing if it did?

The truth is, their lyrics are, if anything, less imaginative than the music. At least the music requires some brain activity, if only to stimulate the limbs. It would seem that their vocal articulation is limited to simply saying things that exist. Or, in one truly tragic example, counting. Not that Mr Hip Indie Music Critic writing the allmusic review would agree with that. Oh no. He ends one particularly misguided passage with: "...and "Worker's" social commentary ("Mental health/Pills on a shelf")."

 I'm sorry, what? Care to elaborate on that at all? Not only is that bad journalism, it's bullshit to boot. In what form can that be considered social commentary? Did I fucking miss something at university?

Roland Barthes wrote social commentary. Theodor Adorno wrote social commentary. Jean Baudrillard wrote social commentary. This...This is simply two sentences that rhyme. And not even complete sentences at that. Actually, you're just saying two things that exist.

In some sort of wider context I could perhaps appreciate the understated meaning of the line. But, as with all of these pompous, elitist fuckwits that write this sort of drivel, he's reading in his own meanings that, whether there or not, can't actually be proven because of a distinct lack of context. But maybe that's the point. By keeping things vague, or "purposely limited", you allow yourself to simply agree with whatever meanings the important people throw at you. Hell, if Mr Hip Indie Music Critic wants to read that meaning into it, why not let him? He'll probably only cream himself more for your next album when he gets the opportunity to review it, and once again prove to his readership how he has his skinny little indie fingers on the pulse of the scene, thus perpetuating an endless cycle of shit and self congratulatory indulgence.

 And here's something else that pisses me right off. Why, on a website about your band, under the link "Pictures Of The Horn", would you include shitty fucking "arty" pictures you have taken at various pointless fucking locations around the world? If I'm clicking a link that purports to show me pictures of the band, sorry, "The Horn", why would I then want to look at pictures of a fucking teapot, or some shitty fucking collage you did? The answer: I don't. These subtle little inclusions don't make me go "wow, these guys are really arty" or "hahaha, these guys are so wacky and 'out there' ", although I suspect for a lot of people they do, they simply make me go "Wow. You utter gang of pricks."

Am I supposed to be somehow impressed because you made a teapot? You obviously consider it of such worth that you include it on your fucking website. And here's another choice quote written by the band themselves: "people have written a lot about us and our music recently. we don't read much of it - reading about yourself is not good. it will send you insane. but this is what some people have said about the music we have released so far..."

 I'm sorry, come again? Here you seem to be basically saying "We don't read about ourselves, but have a look at what we've read about ourselves." This isn't just remarkably contradictory, it also points to that atypical Indie "humbler-than-thou" attitude that is absolutely neccessary in order to keep the wool pulled down firmly over the eyes of their fanbase. It just simply isn't cool to say "hey, people like us", you have to sort of divert that into some sort of personal statement about how in no way, shape or form is it about being famous, and it's all about the music. The shitty, badly recorded, badly played and badly written music. It's the same contradictory attitude that pisses me off about bands in any genre. If you're not interested in being popular, or famous as it's more commonly known, WHY SIGN A FUCKING RECORD DEAL??? Why have videos on MTV? Why play gigs? If the band is just about recording the sounds in your heads, why have I heard of you? You can at least have the modesty to admit that actually, you would quite like to be liked. Why not say "to record the sounds in our heads, and play them to people?" Why not even "to play a few gigs"?

 Nooooooooooo, that would undermine the artistic integrity of the band. The artistic integrity of the band that somehow manages to manifest itself in very poorly written music and generic Indie weirdness (and that's an oxymoron). Well, here's an artistic idea for you; take your shitty band, your shitty website, your shitty ideas, and your shitty fucking teapot, and just fuck off back to a time when I'd never heard of you, or your fucking appalling "music". Or better yet, why don't you have some sort of horrific fatal accident? And you, Mr Hip Indie Music Critic, you can fucking join them too. I hope you all get fucking killed."

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Originality is a Thing of the Past.

I have noticed a worrying trend in recent years, and it has led me to the conclusion that inspiration is a dying thing.

Just think back, when was the last time you saw/heard/read something completely original? I actually can't remember the last time I saw something actually new. I mean, totally new. As in, never been done before.

Let's look at cinema as an example shall we?

One of the biggest films of this year, which is set to clean up at the Oscars, is "The Artist".

Now, I haven't seen it so my opinions on whether it's any good or not are totally non-existant. I'm assured it's excellent, and I have no doubt that it is. But, a big part of the hype surrounding it comes from the fact that it is a silent film, which in turn is driving it's "novelty" factor through the roof. But unless you've been living under a rock your entire life, you'll probably be aware that silent films have been around since...Well, silent films started cinema.

In other words, the idea of doing a silent film is most certainly not a new one.

Doing a silent film in the 21st century? Whilst no-one else has done it (not in true "silent film" style anyway) I'm loathed to call it a new idea. It's no more novel than painting a buffalo on the wall of cave and calling that "cutting edge"(and yes, I know that no-one is calling The Artist "cutting edge"...)

If you want to measure just how bereft of inspiration the film world seems to be, look no further than the sheer number of unwanted, unneeded and unoriginal sequels, prequels and reboots that are being released.

Star Wars episodes 1, 2 and 3. Alien Resurrection. Alien Versus Predator. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Terminator Salvation. Star Trek. Spiderman. Superman. Transformers. X Men. Everything ever released by Marvel ever...

Not all of these are terrible films, but every single film I just listed is part of an existing franchise. It really seems to me like Hollywood is running out of ideas rapidly, and is just squeezing every penny out of anything with a pre-existing fanbase in some sort of huge diversionary tactic.

Either that, or this sort of "Nostalgia Culture" that is so prevalent now (mainly thanks to people who weren't born in the 80's pining for the 80's...)has spread to the vital organs of society and is now fighting a very one sided battle against anything that might be deemed original.

I mean seriously, think about it: How many films can you think of that include some sort of little "knowing wink" to the fanbase? here's a hint - All of the films I listed above.

Let's take a closer look.

Guns N' Roses being featured in Terminator Salvation. - Top comment by the kind of idiot who laps it up: "i remember everyone in the theater cheered when this tune played. great little reference to T2"

Red shirt guy in Star Trek. - Top comment by the kind of idiot who laps it up: "Haha! This is why JJ Abrams and his writers did such a great job! Very nice comment, thanks a lot."

The warehouse in Indiana Jones 4 - This one particularly bothers me, as it totally undermines the final shot of "Raiders". The whole point of that was that it was meant to allude to an enormous, mysterious warehouse full of God knows what. To return to that as a location in the fourth film totally detracts from the impact of that final shot.

This stuff isn't clever. It's just shit. I imagine a cinema full of blithering idiots going "I LIKE THIS FILM NOW BECAUSE IT HAD A BIT IN IT FROM ANOTHER FILM THAT I ALSO LIKE". Just because you have a nod to your film's predecessors does not validate it as being a relevant part of the franchise.

Nor does it make it good. Terminator 3 is the worst example of this. Not only does it totally fuck up the (frankly perfect) ending of Terminator 2 by simply existing, but it tries to do the whole "knowing wink" thing, but make it funny in the process.

Having Arnold Schwarzenegger arrive, and leave the club wearing the stupid star shaped sunglasses is just ridiculous. I know it's played for laughs, but again, it totally undermines the entire tone of everything that has passed already. The Terminator films are not comedies. The first one was meant to be a horror film for Christ's sake.

I have posted a quote before by one of my favourite film-makers, Jim Jarmusch, which basically says originality comes from being able to manage your influences well. By all means borrow from whats gone before, but never copy it. It's obvious when something is being copied wholesale, even if you're "putting your own slant on it". That does not equate to originality. And that goes for these little nods back to the originals. It's no fucking substitution for actually doing something that ADDS to the canon, as opposed to celebrating it.

It's for this reason that I'm looking forward to Ridley Scott's "Prometheus". when asked if it was going to be another "Alien" move, he said (paraphrased) "No. It takes place in the same universe, and goes some way to explaining bits of the alien movies, but it isn't an alien movie". We need more of this. You just know he's not going to fill his film with little "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" bits. If theres any reference to aliens in there at all, it will be to expand the canon.

If we look past film, into music, the exact same thing is happening there too. When was the last time a genuinely new genre of music came along? Something that wasn't just some sub-genre of something else, or two genres being forced together in the same way an idiot child bangs two saucepans together and gets on everybodies tits. Seriously, when?

I've always had this idea that mainstream culture and art were at war with each other. Or more graphically, that art is like the body and mainstream culture like the cancer. The way I see it now, the cancer is winning.

There is this fucking horrible emphasis on pop culture references in film, music and television at the moment. It manifests itself in this...abortion... known as "crunk-core" which, as far as I can tell, is made by paedophiles and aimed at teenage girls.

With that in mind, watch this clip of aformentioned paedophile and try not to cringe.

It basically consists of literally anything an American teenage girl might consider cool (Nintendo, electro, emo clothing, vampires...) colliding together in what can only be described as the musical equivalent of Vanilla Ice eating an entire bag of sugar then trying to have sex with Netflix.

I'll leave you with this.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I am not the 99%

So, there's been an awful lot of noise recently about the "Occupy" protests, and their slogan "I am the 99%", as students, hippies and the unemployed all over the world gather together to protest against the distribution of wealth in western nations.

The level of hypocrisy on display at some of these demonstrations is actually staggering.

Down with evil corporations!

Aside from the examples shown above I have seen, with my own eyes, a group of tramps camping outside my place of employment as part of the demonstration, going on about why they shouldn't pay taxes.

Tramps.

Paying taxes.

ACTUAL tramps.

The rest of them? Well you seriously have to wonder what kind of employer would let you take 4 weeks off to go and camp in the peace gardens in Manchester. Not that one should really judge a person by their appearance alone. But if I was one such person, I would have to say that the majority of people staying in that camp certainly didn't look like they had jobs to go to.

By extension, it's not a huge leap of imagination to imagine that the people who actually DO pay taxes were in part funding them to be there in the first place. I say "in part". The rest of the money they got from selling pot. Which I actually saw them doing on more than one occasion. Good to know our civil liberties are being fought for by such upstanding members of the community.

I, for one, was in awe of such a display of strength. Honestly, I was. Do you know how much organisation it takes to get 20 people to go camping for a few weeks? They had tents and everything.

Just kidding. I actually thought they were a bunch of unorganised tossers. Had you going there, though.

The problem is one of conviction. And conviction is something which, ironically, about 99% of the people protesting are lacking.

Theres a video going round at the moment which illustrates this point perfectly:

Click me.

The thing is, in any given situation like the one above, the person who resorts to violence is going to win ultimately. You can have all the moral fibre in the world, but it won't stop a bullet from a gun.

It's not a nice thing, but it is a true thing. Note in the above video how the sit down protest is broken up. Some of the people who were pepper sprayed crawled away, the rest were dragged. If they'd really wanted to, they could have pepper sprayed the entire crowd. Or just shot them.

And here is the problem with protesting in the Western world: our lives aren't so bad that we'd be willing to lose them for a greater cause. So ultimately, no amount of protesting will change a thing.

Look at Libya, where people were routinely tortured, murdered and otherwise terrorised by the powers that be. It got to breaking point, and soon enough came violent bloody uprising. The people in the streets armed themselves and went and changed things.

In richer countries like America, the worst that will happen to you is that you get pepper sprayed. You still get to go home that night and tell everyone you just got pepper sprayed on twitter. Not forgetting to add the hastag #Occupy, or, #justgotpeppersprayedintheface, or better yet, #Icompletelymisstheironyofusingtwittertotellpeopleabouttheevilsofcapitalism.

In Libya, people who spoke out against the government went home at night to find their families murdered.

Count yourselves fucking lucky.

And so there, on a dinnerplate, is my view on the Occupy protests. Nothing will change because the people protesting have too much to lose, like the luxuries that capitalism has afforded them in the first place. I am not the 99%, if only for the reason that I hate the idea of me and you having anything in common whatsoever.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The State of Play Part II

So,

I promised all my millions of loyal readers that I'd update this as soon as I had something worth saying.

Well, here it is:

"The more I get involved in film-making in the wider community, the colder it leaves me."

Please don't get me wrong, I love the work I do, and count myself amongst the lucky minority that gets paid to do something I genuinely have a passion for. And better this than being this douche. But I can't help it. I feel like I'm far too cynical and far too outspoken to ever be successful as a film-maker. I feel like I talk my way out of a lot of opportunities. Or rather, "not talked my way into them". I don't play the networking game, because I fucking hate it. I hate the schmoozing, the acting like "we're all in this together" when really you'd put a knife in the first person you saw in the street if it meant you got noticed by the "people who matter". For which you can read "people with money".

I went to a "film premiere" recently. Not saying which, but the whole event left me feeling very unsettled, dissatisfied and jaded. It left me asking myself some pretty big questions about exactly what I want to do with my life. Basically, the entire evening seemed to be an opportunity to play "dress up Hollywood" and slap ourselves on the back for a job well done. And I just don't see the point when the only people that are ever going to watch it are the people who fucking MADE it, and the handful of poor bastards that will fork out money to see it at the cinema because there is literally nothing better for them to do with themselves on a friday night.

I hate the talk of "business models" and "social media" and "distribution deals" and so on. It bores me to death. It bores me to the point where I would consider setting the building on fire just as an excuse to end the conversation. And yet it's a seemingly necessary evil. It's a self facilitating necessary evil. "You have to do it this way, you have to talk to this person, that person, you have to be on this website, you have to have an account with this social network, blah, blah, blah"... Why? Because that's how the clique operates. And film-making is really just an exercise in clique-building. Like Theatre but on a slightly larger scale. And I think that's why it leaves me feeling so cold. I've never been "of the clique" so to speak.

That, and I just fucking hate people. I mean it. The thought of leaving the house fills me with a kind of dread that I cannot describe. The idea of actually talking to people makes me feel queasy right up until the point where I actually have to do it, then it seems to be ok. But I could happily go the rest of my life without having another conversation with anybody. I'm not trying to be colourful, that's the reality of it. It's a phobia I suppose. A complete feeling of distrust towards anyone I haven't known for several months. Whenever I get on the bus, and I'm speaking completely openly here, it's a good five minutes before I stop thinking someone behind me is going to plunge a breadknife into the back of my neck. Why a breadknife specifically I have no idea.

Unlike some of the things I write on here, this isn't meant to be an amusing turn of phrase. This is a completely genuine thing that happens to me on a daily basis. I go through the day constantly prepared to physically fight someone, just in case I might need to. Because there have been times when I have. I'm physically tense all day, every day, probably as a direct result of this. The mental tension this creates is distracting and exhausting. This is probably why I need to be constantly distracted or mentally engaged in some other area. It's like a natural sedative.

And so I find myself trying to carve out a career in an industry that requires you first and foremost to be a friendly approachable person, working in a position that requires you to be able to work for long, long hours in total isolation from the outside world, often in a darkened room. Take a guess which of those two factors I found the most appealing...

If you gave me 10 million pounds tomorrow, I would do nothing for the rest of my life but ensure that my every waking moment was to my liking. Probably on a secluded island somewhere, or in a remote part of the country, in a fucking big house with a nice garden and an M60 on the front lawn so I could shoot at passers by. I'd get a reputation with the local populace as "that bloke that shoots at you if you go within half a mile of his house" and I don't think I could ever be happier than that. I'd arrange my shopping to be airdropped by a helicopter onto the roof, and I would work out some kind of conveyor belt system for the postman, and you'd never see me ever again.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Normal Service.

Normal service shall be resumed as soon as something pisses me off so much I feel the need to spend about 3 hours writing a blog post about it. Things haven't been a constant stream of misery and shit recently, so I don't feel too bad. And the last thing you'd want from me is a positive blog post.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Banality Of Evil

I can't quite remember how we got onto the topic, but a friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article about Unit 731 and it once again set me to thinking about how completely fucked up we are as a species.

To very briefly summarise, Unit 731 was a secret research facility in Japan during the second world war, which specialised in chemical and biological warfare.

What set them apart from similar research facilities was that all their testing was done on living human beings. And we're not just limiting ourselves to healthy military volunteers here. In fact there weren't any healthy military volunteers. We are talking about experimentation done on living men, women children and babies against their will.

In terms of war atrocities, Unit 731 vastly outweighs anything the Nazis did (with the possible exception of Josef Mengele) in terms of individual acts of brutality.

Noted experiments included live dissections without anaesthetic, staking prisoners of war to the ground in circular patterns, then detonating bombs in the middle to find out who died the quickest, amputations (again without anaesthetic) followed by deliberately reattaching the limbs to the wrong parts of the body, tracheotomies, where the esophagus was attached directly to the intestines, full blood transfusions with horses blood, injecting horse urine directly into the kidneys, and the deliberate freezing of limbs to study untreated gangrene and necrosis and more.

There are images of some of these experiments available if you search Google images, but I seriously wouldn't do that unless you have a strong stomach and consider yourself to be quite unshockable. I'm serious. Don't say I didn't warn.

Seriously, now.

Reading about that led me onto reading about the Nanking Massacre, again during world war 2, which is yet another widely unpublicised and completely disgusting chapter in human history. And this happened not even one hundred years ago.

By this point you are probably wondering why I don't just read articles about rainbows and kittens. Well this blog, whilst masquerading under the guise of a blog about film, is more about misanthropy. And that's not just my perceived misanthropic tendencies. I like to think of this as my way of documenting the things fundamentally wrong with humans that not an awful lot of people pick up on.

The Nanking Massacre and Unit 731 are both examples of how the power of suggestion can be used to horrific effect.

The behaviour of the people involved in both cases stems from a law that was passed in Japan by Emperor Hirohito that decreed that Chinese prisoners of war were officially not human beings. In the case of Unit 731, prisoners were referred to as "Maruto" meaning logs, or wood. This was partially a joke, down to the fact that the official cover story for Unit 731 was that it was lumber mill but it also tells of the attitudes of the doctors towards the patients. These were not even human beings being tortured, but inanimate objects.

After reading about these two subjects and wondering how people could actually do these things, I ended up reading about Stanley Milgram's famous social psychology experiment and also came across an interesting phrase, "The Banality Of Evil".

What this phrase expresses is the idea that ordinary people like you and me can unwittingly become agents of a terrible evil, simply through changes in culture, language, morality etc...

The truly horrific part is that the doctors involved in Unit 731 and the soldiers involved in the Nanking Massacre can cope with what they have done, because they were programmed to believe what they were doing was OK. It doesn't take evil people to commit evil.

Unit 731 was run by ShirĊ Ishi, who was undoubtably what you would call evil, but is the same true of the people he was in charge of?

This is what led me on to reading about the Milgram Experiment. That link goes to the third part of his experiment which is definitely the most interesting. I strongly recommend you watch the full 15 minutes of it.

The Milgram experiment was set up in the 50's to look into the social circumstances which led to Nazi Germany. Stanley Milgram had a theory that not every single person living within Germany was "evil". It's statistically impossible. His experiment was set up to determine how far ordinary people would go when being guided by a perceived authority.

The experiment was simple: whilst posing as a scientist investigating how memory develops, two people were brought into a room to undergo the experiment. One of them was the genuine subject, the other an actor. The subject did not know the other man was an actor.

They were assigned roles "Teacher" and "Learner" by lottery, but the lottery was rigged so that the subject was always the "Teacher". The "Learner" was then strapped into a chair and hooked up to an electric shock machine, whilst the "Teacher" then read out word pairs which the other person had to remember. For each word pair he got wrong, the "Learner" would receive an electric shock. This started out mildly, but the voltage was increased with every wrong answer, until it reached 450 volts.

All the while, the actor, in another room, was playing tape recordings as the voltage went up, saying he had a heart problem and that he wanted to be let out of the chair. After a point, the tape recordings stopped altogether and no further answers were given.

Many people who took the experiment expressed concerns about the other person, but continued on with the experiment after being prompted by the scientist. Once a prewritten set of prompts had been exhausted, the test was concluded, or similarly, it was concluded once the subject had administered three 450 volt electric shocks in a row.

Bear in mind an electric shock of above roughly 130 volts on an AC current can be fatal.

Before the test, Milgram asked several psychologists to predict the outcome of the results. Many said roughly 1% of people who took the experiment would make it through to the end.

In actuality a staggering 65% of people who took the test completed. That is almost two thirds or people, and this test has been conducted again and again and the results have been almost completely unwavering.

It's worth pointing out that the results differed depending on the circumstances of the test, generally showing an increase in people who completed it as the "Learner" was further removed from the "Teacher", either by placing them further away or in an enclosed room. The result went down when the "Learner" was sat near the "Teacher" and went down further still in one instance of the test when the "Teacher" was asked to hold the "Learners" arm down onto a plate which supposedly gave them the electric shock.

In the original set of circumstances though, Milgram proved quite conclusively that people are willing to electrocute a person to death simply because they are being told to by someone they view as an authority figure.

The reason for this comes down to a few crucial factors. Because of people's ignorance about things like electricity. Most people, myself included, do not know how many volts it takes to kill a person.

But perhaps most interesting reason is that the subject holds the assumption that the scientist knows exactly what he is doing as he is the authority in the room, and so the responsibility lies with him, even though the subject is the one that physically administers the shock. The scientist tells the subject that it is fine, and he should carry on the experiment, and so he does, despite clearly having reservations.

The power authority holds over us is unbelievable. Human beings are animals in the literal sense of the word, and animals respond to hierarchies. The experiment works by forcibly placing the subject in the middle of a hierarchy.

Another interesting example of this is the Asch conformity experiments. This experiment illustrates the way human beings, when presented with an uncertainty, will look to the social behaviours of the group in order to determine their own response. In the Asch experiments, a group of people who were "in on it" were given two cards, one with a single line on it and one with three lines, one of which was the same length as the line on the other card, as well as the cards being given to a subject.

The stooges deliberately gave the same wrong answer and invariably, when asked last, the subject would give the same wrong answer. This illustrates just how easily people can abandon what they assume is correct in favour of what the majority is telling them is correct. The same principle forms the basis of George Orwell's "1984", specifically the "2+2=5" theme.

It is not difficult, therefore, to imagine the damage an authority as wide and all-encompassing as a government can do to people's assumption of right and wrong when these phenomena are scaled up. Looking at these basic functions of human behaviour, it's easy to see how a situation like the one in Nazi Germany arose when the wrong people get into power and are aware of how easily peoples morality and opinions can be altered.

The same goes for Japan. Hirohito made it official that the Chinese were not human beings, and so the Japanese soldiers that sacked Nanking were almost free of any sense of responsibility.

This is what makes me so terrified of the effects that mass media can have on people. The majority of people's opinions are formed through what they see and read on television and in newspapers. And now Rupert Murdoch is seeking to buy out all the British news outlets, it's only going to get worse.

Which brings me round to the title of this blog: The Banality Of Evil.

I'm going to lift this closing paragraph straight from Wikipedia, as I think it sums it up nicely. Read this, and then think about the implications of the sentence, from Unit 731, to Nanking, through Nazi Germany and to what it means in the world today:

"Explaining this phenomenon, Edward S. Herman has emphasized the importance of "normalizing the unthinkable." According to him, "doing terrible things in an organized and systematic way rests on 'normalisation.' This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as 'the way things are done.'"

It is truly terrifying what human beings are capable of, yet we describe it as being "inhuman". Strange, then, then inhumanity is an entirely human creation...

And the next time you walk down the road, remember, two thirds of the people around you would electrocute you to death if someone told them to.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Torches of Freedom (and the genius of Bill Hicks)

As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I am not what you would call "pro-advertising". In fact I don't think Bill hicks was too far off the mark when he declared that anyone who worked in marketing and advertising was responsible for all the evils in the world and should immediately go and kill themselves.

But as accurate and scathing and righteous as Bill Hicks was, he was always an idealist at heart. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course. I feel that it was his idealism which drove him to be as angry and as passionate as he was. It tortured him that the world we live in is so shitty, and he dealt with it via humour. Which in turn made him horribly depressed. He stood on stage night after night, desperately pleading with people to wake the fuck up, and all they did was laugh at him. You can see in his later shows, he clearly displays a very tangible contempt for his audience, for this exact reason.

People think he was a comedian, but that would imply that his business was comedy. It wasn't. Michael MacIntyre is a comedian, and an unfunny one at that. Bill Hicks was a fucking beacon for humanity.

I remember someone introducing me to him when I was about 20, and I experienced what I imagine many born again Christians feel upon finding Jesus. Right through my life until that moment, I genuinely felt like I was the only person on Earth who saw things the way I do. The first time I saw a Bill Hicks gig on DVD, I felt like someone was stood on stage, reading the contents of my mind out to me. It was a genuinely life-changing moment. Truly, I have never identified with someone so closely as I do with Bill Hicks.

Which brings me back round to advertising.

Whilst I adore Hicks, he was ultimately an idealist. He would have loved nothing more than to live long enough to see a world in which all his perceived evils were eradicated, and people were free to live how they truly wanted to. A very admirable sentiment.

The problem is, advertising, marketing and mass media in general are so deeply ingrained into our society that a world without these things is completely inconceivable.

I would like to know what a world in which people are left to make their own decisions would be like. I'm hazarding a guess that it would be complete chaos.

Can you imagine what a billion free wills all co-existing would be like? Everybody on Earth doing exactly what they wanted at all times of the day? Nightmarish.

People are so used to being told what to do, that if you were to take that away from them, the entire fabric of Western civilisation would begin to come apart. And it is for that reason that advertising is one of the main causes for all the problems with the world, just after religion and tabloid journalism.

It all started with a chap called Edward Bernays (like the sauce, but not) and his "Torches of Freedom".

To briefly summarise a fairly lengthy topic, in 1929 Bearnays paid some women to publicly smoke cigarettes during the Easter Sunday Parade in new york. Latching onto the emerging feminist movement and the general feeling that smoking was an inappropriate act for women, he called them "Torches of Freedom". The result was immediate and massive. The percentage of women who bought cigarettes started to climb exponentially, and didn't fall until after 1977. Right around the time the people were discovering that smoking gives you cancer.

What were his reasons for doing this? Was he a pro-feminist? Was he a staunch advocate of equal rights?

No. He had been hired by George Washington Hill - the president of the American Tobacco Company - to think of a way of expanding their market and profits.

And of course, people fell for it hook line and sinker and the "Torches of Freedom" campaign spread around the world.

Naturally, this was just the starting point. From there, there was the famous "You've come a long way" ad campaign, which managed to somehow tie the Suffragette movement in with buying cigarettes, as though giving large amounts of your income to huge company somehow equated to freedom.

You see, Bernays was one of a handful of people around that time that was beginning to realise that human beings en masse are easily led, gullible and there to be exploited.

Up until that point, advertising had been a straightforward and sterile affair. Companies sold their products based on the idea that what they were selling was superior to their competitors, such as this advert from Daimler, which implies other cars are badly sprung, badly upholstered and noisy.

That's not to say modern advertising doesn't do the same, but it also does so much more. It's hard to imagine many people buying cars in the 20's if they were sold on the premise that they were made entirely out of cake or that you might want to have sex with them.

You see, it is no longer enough to simply want to buy a quality product. It has to somehow fit in with your lifestyle. Every mobile phone company ON EARTH markets their products in this way. Right down to whether you want to be a dolphin (???) or a panther (??????).

It's not a t-shirt, it's an expression of who I am as an individual (because of course, you're the only person in the world who owns that t-shirt...). It's not a car, it's a meaningful part of my life's adventure. It's not hair gel, it's a medium through which I express my creativity (mainly because I have no talents or imagination to speak of).

This all started when Bernays, who I should add at this point was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, realised that instead of appealing to peoples needs you could get a lot further by appealing to their desires. This is because people are inherently fucking greedy, disgusting, self-serving parasites.

It is no surprise to learn that a certain Josef Goebbels (another big advocate of swaying public opinion...) was a great admirer of Bernays.

The biggest problem is that people are so greedy, that the technique of appealing to our desires works so well that people can sell us the most fucking mundane of items and we'll snap it up. Like a toilet brush. Or a cleaning product. Make it look cool and sexy and we want it. Just look at any Gillette advert ever to see what I'm getting at.

On psychological terms, it's like saying to a toddler, "do you want the ball?" [makes sad face] or do you want "THE RUSTY NAILS!!!???" [makes excited face].

But the worst, absolutely the worst technique that advertising agencies employ is to hijack a social issue that a lot of people feel strongly about and use it for monetary gain, starting with the fucking "Torches of Freedom".

I've seen a few examples of this before, but none so completely sickening and blatant as Benetton's "aids" adverts.

If you don't already know, Benetton produced a series of adverts depicting real-life aids activist David Kirby on his deathbed, surrounded by his weeping family. The advert is here if you want to see it for yourself. I won't blame you if you don't.

Now, regardless of whatever moral standpoint Benetton chose to take after the fact to defend themselves, the simple truth is that this image was picked first and foremost because of it's shock factor. It wasn't because Benetton felt so strongly about aids, but because it is an attention grabbing image that you will immediately recognise forever when you have seen it once. They ever-so-discreetly strap a logo to the bottom right corner of it, so that whilst the image of a man dying of a terrible disease is busy burning itself into your long-term memory, the words "United Colours of Benetton" are also worming their way in there via a process of association.

If a company really gave that much of a fuck about the aids epidemic, and if their motives were truly to educate people as to the severity of the disease, why bother putting a fucking logo on it at all? The image is enough. More than enough.

Simple. The purpose of this campaign was to further the brand of Benetton, thus increasing their profits, as is the purpose of every advertising campaign. And as we all know, making money is the ultimate goal of these people. Making money at the expense of a man dying of aids. Delicious.

I don't know why they even bothered to put a tiny discreet logo on there. It doesn't make a difference, it's still fucking disgusting. I would be no more disgusted if they just wrote "THIS DYING MAN PROUDLY BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE UNITED COLOURS OF BENETTON" in white letters across the bottom of the advert. In comic sans.

At the end of the day, you make fucking sweaters. There is no amount of faux social concern you can hide behind that will change the fact that you're all corporate pigfuckers who would pull their own eyes out of their fucking sockets if they thought their share index would go up. That you can sleep at night is beyond a mystery to me. Why not just say, "to hell with it" and start wrapping aborted foetuses in Benetton scarves? How about digging up the victims of 9/11 and putting them all in fetching hats? You're about as qualified to speak out against aids as I'm qualified to make fucking sweaters, and you should be liquidated. And I'm not talking about the fucking company assets.

It only seems right to let Bill Hicks have the last word on this, so here he is:

"You are the ruiner of all things good. Seriously. This is not a joke. You're going 'there's going to be a joke coming'. There's no fucking joke coming. You are Satan's spawn, filling the world with bile and garbage. you are fucked and you are fucking us. Kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fucking soul. Kill yourself."

-Bill Hicks
1961 - 1994

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Freelance Isn't Free...

Freelance Isn't Free.

I know a lot has been written about this, but I saw someone earlier who reminded me of a bad experience I had whilst trying to set myself up as a freelance editor.

Picture the scene: I was young(er) and naive, itching to get my teeth into some editing projects to fill out my portfolio, and excited at the prospect of going out into the wide world and making contact with people who I could potentially have long working relationships with.

It's only natural when in that position to leap on the very first thing that comes your way, and leap I did. I spent the first year of my trying to work freelance literally not turning any projects down.

In retrospect this was definitely a mistake, and I'll tell you exactly why in a short while.


But first I thought I would go into a bit of detail about the kind of jobs and people you are likely to come across as an editor/vfx artist starting off as a freelancer.

There are two main types of people you need to avoid like the plague.

1) - "The Big Ideas Man"

In my experience, I have run into at least 4 of these types of people and the story is always the same. I shamefully have to admit that it took me getting suckered in 4 times before I realised that these people are actually the cancer on the industry and the absolute worst type of arsehole. They come to you saying that if you "just do this one project for free, then I can use it for my [INSERT AMAZING BUSINESS IDEA THAT WOULDN'T EVEN GET PAST THE COMEDY AUDITIONS SECTION ON DRAGON'S DEN] and there'll be loads of paid work for both of us".

Well, there's a problem there straight away.

You're automatically assuming I give enough of a fuck about your shitty life and your shitty business concept to warrant me spending a single second of my free time working on something that you're too fucking inept to conceptualise yourself. And I don't. Frankly, I wouldn't even pull you out of a burning car.

You assume that because your hideously misplaced self confidence is enough to convince you that you have what it takes to be a successful businessman, and you're not just pissing your time away on a project that no-one gives a fuck about, that other people should hold you in the same high regard as you hold yourself.

Well we don't.

As a freelancer, when faced with any job you need to ask yourself four questions, in this order, the order of importance:

-Am I getting paid?
-Is what I'm getting paid worth the amount of work I'll end up doing?
-Is this likely to be an experience that will teach me new skills, look good on a CV, or give me a chance to try something out that I've wanted to do for a while?
-Why the fuck am I still talking to this clown?

If the answer to any of the first three questions is "Yes", congratulations, you are now one tiny step closer to where you ultimately want to be.

If you find yourself getting to question number four, then it's time to look elsewhere. Even if it seems like it's wrong to be turning down experience, trust me this is the right thing to do. These people do not have your interests in mind in any way. They want to leech off you because you're young and you have the talent and they have nothing.

Put simply, if their idea was so amazing or such a surefire way of making money, they wouldn't think twice about paying out cash to an experienced editor or VFX artist with 20 years experience to do a professional job.

CANCEROUS ARSEHOLE RATING - 10 Clefts out of 10.


2) - "The Benevolent Producer/Director"

These kinds of people will word job advertisements in a way that makes it sound like you'd be absolutely stupid not to work on their film because they're really going places, and you should see it as a privilege to work with them (For "With", read "Way Beneath").

This kind of arsehole is almost as bad as The Big Ideas Man. Specifically look for the telltale phrase, "It will be good experience for you".

This sounds innocuous but it's really not. And it's all down to the wording.

I will decide whether a job has been good experience. Not you. I'm the one that does the work, and I'm the only one out of the two of us that knows what will help further me down the path I have chosen for myself. Unless you're fucking Yoda.

Again, this person is probably borne of an inflated sense of self-worth, sitting high up on their director's chair, megaphone in hand, dishing out the "Good Experience" to us clamouring peasants below.

10 times out of 10, if a job says "this will be good experience" what they actually should have written is, "This job will require a ridiculous amount of work that, were we to actually PAY someone to do it, would no doubt bankrupt us. We think it will be good experience for you, because we assume you know precisely fuck all about what you're doing."

On the few occasions I have asked people to do free work for me, I have always, ALWAYS worded my adverts thusly: "We are a very small up-and-coming company, and so have no budget with which to pay people for their time on this project. However, at the very least we hope the shoot will be fun and all involved will receive a copy of the project when it is eventually finished".

Similarly be very wary of anyone who writes, and then draws specific attention to, the word "Hollywood" in their adverts. This does not mean that their film is going to end up in Hollywood. It certainly doesn't mean that it's going to end up being turned into a big screen blockbuster. Like The Big Ideas Man, all this means is that whoever has written the advert has the inklings of an imagination.

Not to be trusted.

CANCEROUS AREHOLE RATING - 8 Clefts out of 10.


These two types of people ruin everything for all of us that want to try and carve a career out in what is already a fucking difficult industry to get into.

I said at the top of this article that my accepting any job that was offered to me was a mistake, and here's why - Aside from having to deal with people like I described above, and aside from having to commit many hours of my own free time in order to complete projects that I didn't care about, and aside from giving an awful lot more than I was taking 90% of the time, by accepting jobs that were not paid I was undervaluing myself, the industry and other freelancers who do only work for a fee. And that isn't fair.

It's not right that it is the norm to be taken for a ride in this industry. Not only is it the norm, but it's a fucking requirement most of the time. Without a word of a lie, you are expected to work for free for about a year before anyone will take you seriously.

Is there another industry on Earth where you have to basically be a slave before anyone will be willing to employ you?

The flip side of the coin is that "Lo/No" jobs do give up-and-comers the chance to hone their skills, and similarly, provide a willing workforce for young developing production companies.

But you should never let people take the piss.

You have spent many hours of your life training in the field you want to work in. I would guess that you want to become an freelancer because you love what it is you do, and in that you have earned the right to expect something back for work you do.

I'm going to close this article with a section copied from a letter I ended up sending to someone who owed me a lot of money (which I still haven't been paid) for work I did for him. He was a Big Ideas Man, and like the rest he was a complete and utter failure who wasn't even responsible enough to pay the money he owed to people who had done several honest days work for him. I think it sums up my opinions rather well.

This is the last in a series of about 10 emails that went back and forth between us, in each of which he tried to wriggle out of paying us as he had promised to do. In the end, he tried to make me feel sympathetic with him because he had lost his investment on his [INSERT AMAZING BUSINESS IDEA THAT WOULD CAUSE ALAN SUGAR TO LITERALLY FART IN YOUR FACE WERE YOU TO RUN IT BY HIM], when the consequences for me were that I couldn't pay my bills that month:

"I'm simply sick and tired of people like you taking people like me for a ride.

You are the reason we have to charge £250 per day in the first place, because people like you have big ideas and simply don't have the means to back them up, which invariably ends up in us not getting paid. As of writing this, you are now the THIRD person I have had to threaten with court action in order to just simply get a response from. You are a blight on this so-called industry (although for it to be an industry people have to actually get PAID).

I couldn't care less how confident you were in your idea, you obviously didn't have the experience or knowledge to back it up otherwise this email and the countless others wouldn't have needed to have been written, and everyone involved would have been paid what they were owed and we'd all be happy. Your confidence and self belief is not a currency my bank accepts. We do not, nor have we ever had any sort of personal interest in your idea and it's success. I do freelance work for one reason and one reason only, and that is to get paid. Don't think for a minute that your sob story about losing your savings is going to somehow assuage me. I couldn't care less if you lose your house that's entirely your fault, not mine. And you're fucking absolutely right your apologies are not enough. Not only had I not been paid, but I lost out doing another job which would have paid promptly and on time in order to pursue this ridiculous fantasy of yours that you had the ability to run a company. To me I'm around £500 out of pocket, which is about £100 less than I earn in an entire month.

Do not expect me to be in any way, shape or form sympathetic with you.

So, yes, lets call this matter closed. I'll chalk it up to experience, never trust anyone like you again, and get on with the business of earning money, something which you seem to be incapable of.

All the best,

Tom Bohan"

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Scott Pilgrim Vs. Tom Bohan

I recently watched Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World after hearing many, many good things about it (too many good things if you ask me, hence my skeptical attitude towards viewing it for the first time...)

Well, firstly, I enjoyed it. So that was a good start. It took me quite a while to get into it but I got there in the end.

Anyway, that's enough positivity for this blog. Too much of that and I'll be posting pictures of rainbows and crying about how beautiful everything is in no time.

Onto more familiar territory, and I'm going to tell you what I thought was wrong with it:

Firstly - and this is no fault of the film - the mere mention of it's title is enough to make anyone within earshot start deliriously lavishing praise upon it. This automatically makes me dubious and fills me with suspicion. As a great man once said, "Don't Believe The Hype".

Unfortunately, the vast majority of cinemagoers, and people in general, are complete fucking morons. And when a moron is telling me how great something is, it takes me appoximately 0.0004 seconds to switch off and start daydreaming about hand grenades.

Secondly, I didn't think it was particularly well written. I am aware that it was originally a serialised comic book series. I am also aware that work on the film started before the books were even finished.

Unfortunately, it also feels like this was the case. I lost count of how many times I felt like the story was wandering off it's projected story arc. And similarly, there seemed to be several moments when events seemed inconsequential or worse, a little bit Deus Ex Machina...

Example:

*SPOILER AL- You know what? Fuck it. This isn't IMDb...

The scene at the end, after he's defeated the seventh Evil Ex and just before he finally gets together with Ramona, really grated against me as a writer.

His previous girlfriend, "Knives Chau" - who not five minutes previous to this scene was trying to kill Ramona for stealing her boyfriend - Suddenly has a change of heart and decides she'll be fine if Scott goes off with her. Completely out of the blue.

Maybe, having not read the books, I'm missing something about her character. but in that case, then it's a failing on behalf of the screenplay writer. There was nothing about her character that implied she'd have a sudden change of heart, nor was there any particular event that would cause her to. In summation, I think it's just bad writing. Which is a surprise, coming from Edgar Wright.

And similarly, I found it very hard to sympathise with any of the characters because I felt their personalities were all so completely one dimensional.

The sarcastic one. The gay one. The angry one. That was it, the whole way through.

And even Scott himself, the main character, was very hard to root for. He fucks his current girlfriend off to chase this girl he's never even spoken to, and you're meant to be on his side. Similarly he comes across as being kind of ignorant to everything the whole way through. I didn't find much to like about him at all.

And also, why the hell can he fight? I've read subsequently that the idea was "guy plays streetfighter his whole life, and finds out he can fight like that", but that really doesn't come across at all in practice.

You only see him playing games twice in the whole film, and both times it looks like he's playing Dance Dance Revolution with ninjas, not Street Fighter. The idea that he might have accidentally learnt how to fight is never alluded to once. Then when he encounters the first Evil Ex, he can suddenly beat the crap out of the guy. Because he's played Dance Dance Revolution?

Thirdly, what the hell is with all the lens flares? It looks like a fucking Linkin Park video. Once or twice in a film is cool. Every ten seconds is distracting.

I watched "Dobermann" again today, and there is one shot with a lens flare in it. And when I saw it I thought "wow, that's really cool. That shot really jumps out at me". BECAUSE THERE WAS ONLY ONE SHOT OF IT IN THE WHOLE FILM. If you do it a lot you totally defeat the purpose of doing it at all.

Finally ,and most importantly, the visual effects.

Ahh yes, the much-hyped, much-touted visual effects.

They're technically superb. No question. The VFX department did a stunning job on them, but I have a few major gripes:

I get that they're meant to give the impression that we're watching a real life comic book. But a lot of the time I find they're distracting and unnecessary. Scott Pilgrim is no more a comic book film than Spiderman is, but they didn't bother with any of that for Spiderman.

Why? Because it's distracting and unnecessary.

In a comic book, using onomatoepeia and "movement lines" is a way of bringing the images to life in lieu of it being a kinetic medium. You don't have to do that with film because A) you can see characters moving so you don't need to exaggerate it, and B) because you have sound.

You can hear the sound someone's head makes when he hits it against a lamp-post for example. You don't also need to see the word "thud" every time he does it.

Another problem I have is that they don't add anything to the film as a piece of entertainment.

Allow me to elaborate.

I am all for stylistics in film. I love seeing new and interesting ways of presenting a story, but the most important thing to remember is that they should help present the story.

So much of the visual effects in Scott Pilgrim are unnecessary, and don't serve the film. They create a stylistic look to the film, granted, but there's a well known saying that I feel applies here, and it's "style over substance".

On the polar opposite of that statement is the film Zombieland, which is the best use of stylistic VFX I've seen in a long while. The opening credits alone are worth the price of admission.

You are allowed to "forget" about the VFX in Zombieland, and consequently the impact of seeing them when they do something which adheres to one of Columbus' rules is much greater. They serve the story very well in this regard because they don't clutter up the screen, aren't distracing as they have their own little part of the movie set aside for them, and work within the way the story is presented (the film's opening revolves around the protagonist discussing the rules you need to adhere to in orer to survive in Zombieland, a running theme throughout. As each rule is explained, there is an example shown on screen, along with a graphic explaining the rule that "sits" in the shot and reacts to being shot, hit by a car, smashed etc...)

Similarly, it's funny when you see the rules suddenly pop into the shot, because you'd completely forgotten about them as a storytelling device, because they blend so well into the film. There is an independent entertainment value to them that adds to the enjoyment of the film overall.

The point I'm trying to make is that post production, in all it's forms, has long been referred to as "the invisible art". If you notice it, you're doing something wrong.

Whilst there is obviously some leeway in this regard when talking about highly stylistic films, if any aspect of Post Production detracts from the film itself you can probably go ahead and call that a failure. If a film is purely there to provide a backbone to impressive visuals, you might as well just watch someones showreel.

My final, and arguably most major gripe with this film is the impact it has had on film and television regarding it's visual style.

I work in a college, and I can think of at least 5 seperate incidents since this film came out where I have heard people reference the visual style of Scott Pilgrim, and how it is something they want to emulate for their own work.

Exactly the same thing happened with the Matrix when that came out. And like the Matrix, it's just as obvious when someone is copying from it because it's so immediately identifiable.

It's just a matter of time until BBC3 commissions a programme that uses this exact visual style in an attempt to seem cool and down with the kids. And for that, I hate it.

Every time a visually interesting film or programme comes out, every industry twat without an imagination or an original idea tries to copy it wholesale. It happened to the Matrix, it happened to 24, it happened to A Scanner Darkly (still feeling the effects of that one), it happened to 300 (and that one) and now it's happening to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World...

Ultimately though, and with all perceived flaws aside, it is genuinely funny in places and I would say it's worth watching. If only to know exactly what NOT to do with your visuals for the next 12 months...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Mindless Rantings About Nothing.

So, it's rapidly approaching that time of year again. In fact it may already be upon us.

What time of year?

Why the time of year when I become horribly depressed, lethargic and generally rater unpleasant to everyone of course.

I read recently, with some interest, the case of Jared Loughner and whilst no-one could reasonably condone his actions, I just felt hugely sorry for the guy.

Yes, he appears to be a complete and utter fruitloop with a slim grasp on reality, but you have to wonder how he got like that in the first place.

The news is saying he is a paranoid Schizophrenic because he became obssessed by the idea that the government was controlling everyone and everything around him, and it obviously drove him to mental illness. But when I look around, I can't help but feel he may have had a point.

Not actually of course, the guy was fucking nuts, but try walking through Manchester city centre sometime, and try not looking at the adverts. The idea that everyone is being controlled isn't such a far fetched one. Not in the paranoid sense that it is one evil party that is deliberately trying to manipulate what people do, but in terms of how businesses compete for your custom.

It's well known that some large food chains pump the smell of their food into the street to make people want to buy it. Is that mind control in the sense of it being tinfoil hat time? No. Is it the power of suggestion? Yes, very much so, and I can understand why someone would be upset by that.

We spend our entire adult lives being bombarded by people telling us how much we need X,Y and Z. It gets fucking tiresome after a while. I'm fucking tired of it now. But what makes me really sad are the people that go "Yes, I need X,Y and Z".

There is a phenomena known as "Premium Pricing" that basically means that if someone were presented with two items, identical in function but one with a recognised brand that charges more, they would pay more for the recognised brand. There are different reasons for this. Understandably, you would pay more money for a product you believed to be of a higher quality. But another reason suggests that people pay more money unneccessarily for products as a symbol of self-worth. "I am worth spending this amount of money on".

It is the principle on which all "luxury" goods are priced. Rolex watches being a good example. There is no part of a Rolex that is any more a watch than a well built equivalent that costs £30. Yet there are Rolexs that costs half a million pounds.

Why? Because we live in a society that places wealth, beauty and celebrity on a higher pedestal than intelligence, creativity and true individuality. And why do we do that? Because we're told constantly, every single fucking day, that these things have value.

Why is there a mass desire for people to look slim and muscular? Because these are the images we are presented with on a daily basis. These are the ideals we are held up to, every single day.

Why do so many people audition for the X Factor? Because we are led to believe that celebrities are somehow more valuable than the bloke who lives 6 doors down from you, purely because they're on the television, and people so desperately want to be considered more important than the rest of the peasants.

Whilst Jared Loughner is a paranoid schizophrenic, I wonder which came first? Was he a paranoid schizophrenic who then became obssessed by notions of control, or did he become obssessed and then turn into a schizophrenic?

Lord knows I often feel like I'm the only one that can see just how completely pervasive the media is in every aspect of Western life, and it drives me to complete distraction at best, absolute depression at worst.

I sympathise with Jared Loughner because I, like he, feel like there is no place for me in society because of this. I genuinely feel like I wouldn't last in probably 95% of jobs. Not out of laziness, not out of stupidity, but because I just can't function in an evironment where I'm not being intellectually stimulated. Nor can I function in an environment which requires me to pretend to be something I'm not. Which, in this country, accounts for most places of employment.

I honestly reckon I'd get fired from McDonalds.

I don't get how most people can progress in their careers. I genuinely don't. I can't wrap my head around the concept that someone could do a job, like retail management for example, for 20 years. If you're genuinely passionate about it, then fair enough. But how many retail managers are genuinely passionate about retail management?

How can you do something you don't really give a shit about for 20 years of your life? Because of the money perhaps? I have a sneaking suspicion that that is the case for the majority of people. In which case, fuck you all for valuing your bank balance higher than your own personal and spiritual happiness.

I can see how someone would get bogged down doing a shit job if they had kids to feed, but if your situation is so bad that you have to do something you hate to provide for them, then maybe you should have picked your time to have kids a little more carefully.

Jared Loughner is a tragic case. He had no network of support behind him that allowed him to get the treatment he needed for his mental illnesses. His parents seemed to not really give a fuck as to what he got up to when he wasn't under their roof, similarly, upon showing the first signs of a deteriorating mental condition, his school had him excluded rather than stepping in to do something about it.

It's tragic, but unsurprising.

We live in a society that, when confronted with anyone or anything that doesn't adhere to a rigid set of rules and standards, actively shuns them or it. I feel like I've experienced this first hand on several occasions. I'm not by any means insane, unlike Jared Loughner, and yet like him I've lost count of the number of times I've felt hard done by simply because I'm not "like" everyone else. In him it resulted in him shooting a load of people to death. In me, it results in a ranty blog post.

To each his own, I guess.

I was pulled up several times in my last job for "looking pissed off". I can tell you catagorically, every time this was said to me I was genuinely, GENUINELY taken aback as on not one single occasion did I feel even slightly annoyed, let alone pissed off, yet this is something I've dealt with since I was about 11. I can't help the way other people fucking perceive me, but that is somehow my fault. I apparently look intimidating to people because I have dark features (because my family is fucking Irish) and because I'm 6'0 and 17 stone. How the fuck is it my problem if I intimidate people with my physical appearance? Do I go round threatening people? No. Do I go round randomly attacking passers by? No. Do I actively do anything that would make people feel the need to be wary of me? No.

Whilst I'm not the bubbliest person to be around, I don't (contrary to popular belief) spend all of my days wandering around in a huff because that gets fucking old fucking quickly. There are many things I enjoy doing, and they keep me sane. I learnt a few years ago to prioritise my general mental well being over everything else, because it's a slippy slope into depression, which is an even slippier slope into real-world troubles like not paying bills and so on. My body tells me when I'm not happy, and I listen. But because I wasn't going around fucking constantly with an ear to ear grin on my face, this was deemed as not being fucking good enough. Which in turn DOES piss me off, thus exacerbating the situation further.

Can someone tell me why the fuck I am expected to just fucking accept how completely shit a given situation is? Am I supposed to be happy about the way I'm treated by people?

Am I not allowed to just be my-fucking-self? Even if I am sometime unpleasant to be around, even if I am moody and incommunicative sometimes, what fucking business is that of anybodies but mine? Why is it such a fucking terrible thing? Do I stop other people from getting on with their lives? No, I fucking don't.

Am I meant to say, "You know what? You're ALL right. I'll just change everything about my personality, because you don't fucking like it. I'll wear the clothes you want me to wear. I'll cut my hair in a way that doesn't offend you. I'll listen to the music you want me to fucking listen to. I'll do a shit job that I hate until I die. Just like all of you. I'll be just like all of you."

I wasn't born like this. I was a very good natured and happy child. I have been made into what I am by the people that would change it all given the chance.

Well, fuck you all. Fuck you all. I leave you alone, so you leave me the fuck alone and we'll get on just fine.