Everything that was wrong about 2016 on a plate… or not

There’s a broad consensus, that 2016 has not been a great year. Perhaps it’s not been so bad for those who consider themselves ‘winners’ having voted for the UK to leave the EU or for Donald Trump to be Barack Obama’s successor, but the seemingly endless roll-call of celebrity deaths – many far short of average life expectancy – has put a bit of a dampener on things.

While social media has been awash with outpourings of public grief, many have been calling for some perspective, and for more consideration to be given to the refuges of Syria. It’ hard to argue that such a bewilderingly vast humanitarian crisis warrants more compassion than a few dead pop stars and whatnot, but I also understand the way losing a childhood hero or figure one deeply admires and whose work has had a significant cultural impact and has touched the lives of many has a sad resonance. It’s easier to feel something for someone with whom you’ve connected in some way through their music or moves than for large numbers of people of whom you know nothing. I’m not defending it. But by the same token, mourning the loss of an icon does not necessarily mean one feels nothing for the plight of those whose lives have been devastated by war. It’s not a binary question.

But while everyone has their own perspective on what’s made 2016 stand out as one of the (supposedly) worst years in living memory, what the equations of dead celebrities vs the suffering of millions of real people, leave vs remain, Trump vs Clinton (all of which tipped to the wrong side) reveal is a social division which is binary in the absolute.

Things have been heading this way for a fair while now: a vast mainstream culture is countered by an equally vast buy infinitely fragmented array of non-mainstream cultures. Big business is now the dominant force in politics: the role of ‘the people’ and the value placed on them by government has diminished to the point of being negligible. The idea that Brexit was in some way a ‘people-powered’ two-fingered salute to the establishment elite was a myth perpetuated by a bunch of establishment elite looking to con the malcontent in order to achieve their own ends. And while the numbers dependent on food banks continues to soar, so ‘the other half’ are comfortable with iPads for all the family and trips to Disneyland at half term.

Amidst all the shit, daily life goes on, and it’s also shit on a microcosmic scale. My experience today seemed to somehow encapsulate all that was wrong about 2016. Having been to Durham to visit the in-laws, we decided to treat ourselves with a detour toward Whitby to catch the sunset by the coast. The smoke rising from a fire on the moors partially obscured the setting sun, and so we stopped at a pub for food. It was 3:45pm. The doors were open, the lights on but in fact they were closed: the barman, sitting by the bar, was simply waiting for some of the residents to arrive. That’s rural pubs on a bank holiday in 2016, though. They simply can’t sustain opening all hours in the face of rising costs and big-business competition in more ‘key’ locations.

And so we found ourselves at Cross Butts Stables Restaurant. It looked homely enough, boasting locally-sourced produce and ‘proper’ food, cooked to order. It is, as I would later learn from their website, the place ‘Where town really does meet country’. Agh, shit.

We took our seats – well, a seat and a bench with an array of well-stuffed cushions, with squirrels, pheasants, a larger-than-life fox and various other wildlife carved into the towering uprights at the back – at the table hewn from an entire oak tree, not far from the roaring wood-burner and watched twilight’s last gleamings through the windows of the barn-sized conservatory building. Being vegetarian, I wasn’t too concerned by the lack of steak pies, but it might have helped if they’d mentioned that they’d run out before Mrs N ordered one rather than five minutes later.

The Great Yorkshire Brewing Company Lager I ordered had to be substituted too, as it ‘wasn’t pouring properly’. I went for a GYBC Cider instead: on arrival, it was the most lagery cider I’ve ever tasted, to the extent I was suspicious the contents of my glass corresponded with the Coors Light glass it arrived in. To be fair, my brie wellington was great, but the fact the meals were served on chopping boards was not. But 2016 in a single sentence: a portion of chips served in a plant-pot on top of a chopping board.

The game is over. The wheel has been reinvented. And a burger andchips on a rough-hewn chopping board with 3” terracotta pot on top costs £14.

Why does this infuriate me so? Because it’s pointless. It’s beyond frivolous. It’s hyping and pimping stuff and charging over the odds in the name of – what, exactly? It says ‘we’re doing this because we’re so cool’. It’s like Pulp’s ‘Common People’ has been put in the blender and rendered a compote by hipsters who think that charging double for the experience of being poor is the apogee of entrepreneurialism. It’s the celebration of the idea of quality produce, the dignity of labour, saving the planet by cutting air-miles, recreating the spirit of a golden age of simpler times in the cuntiest way imaginable.

2017 will see Trump step into his new role and, in all likelihood, the Tories will invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and lead the UK out of the EU. 2016 was not Armageddon, but merely the beginning of the end. Might as well enjoy the artisanal, thrice-cooked chips now before things get really bad….

 

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Image from TripAdvisor

Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Working as a Music Reviewer – Part Two

We live in a visually-orientated culture. Pictures are more immediate than words. And yet I still don’t get the idea of reviewing a gig in pictures alone. The images convey so little of the experience, and besides, after a while, people with guitars or standing behind synths all start to very much resemble one another.

Similarly, I don’t get the whole deal with people posting photos of their food on social media sites, but did recently suggest that my refusal to subscribe to this trend was proving an obstacle to my achieving mainstream popularity.

So I figured I should document my day – yesterday – in images. Of food. It seems vaguely apposite, as I was assigned to review Black Bananas at the Brudenell in Leeds last night.

I got up a bit before 7am having squeezed in about 6 hours sleep, dressed, guzzled down a mug of tea and was out the door around 7:40. I breakfasted at my desk while wading through emails.

 

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Breakfast

I managed to nip out to grab a bite for lunch, again consumed at my desk.

 

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Lunch

After work, I legged it home, dropped my bag and changed my boots before heading straight back out for a train to Leeds. I had my evening meal in Foley’s on The Headrow before trekking out to the Brudenell.

 

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Dinner

 

I needn’t have rushed as the first act wasn’t on till around 8:30, but the beer was cheap and good and I always carry a paperback in my jacket pocket in case I find myself killing time.

The show was ultimately enjoyable, but I was aware of the train times and, being knackered, decided to slip out during the last song for the 11:16 train. This meant I had to run all the way from The Brudenell near Burley Park to the train station. Consequently, I was even more knackered but I arrived back in York in good time and arrived home around midnight.

Today, having woken up with heartburn and a head full of things I needed to do at work around 5am, I managed a full half hour lunch break, during which I managed to find a quiet pub and knock out the first 409 words of my review. I can’t very well call myself a writing machine if I don’t get on and write now, can I?

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Picture this…. and this… and this… and this…

As someone who has a keen interest in visuals, I often feel frustrated by the limitations of my abilities as a photographer, and of my camera. As a music reviewer, I often like to take pictures of the bands I see, and while my images are often of a reasonable standard, I will confess to feeling somewhat embarrassed when standing in the front row with my £49 Fuji Finepix JZ100. The whole car / camera lens / penis extension analogy is entirely applicable, and the sneers at my diminutive kit aren’t purely paranoia.

Not everyone’s toting a £2,000 digital SLR with a telephoto they can rest between the monitors while lounging by the sound desk, of course. The vast majority of people snap away on their smartphones, which often pack cameras with insane specs. The Sony Xperia Z1 comes with a 27.1MP camera, and the Nokia Lumia 1020 not only has 41MP is advertised as a camera first and a smartphone second. And with a Xenon flash and Zeiss optics, we’re talking pro photography standard gear here. And again, these posers look down on my paltry 14MP cam with its mere 8x optical zoom and wonder why the fuck I’m not using flash. Granted, I do end up with more dark blurry shots than they do, but when I time a shot right, I do succeed in capturing the lighting as it is on stage, rather than a washed-out shot that illuminates the blank wall at the back of the stage. And I do think I have a reasonable eye for composition, something that the best camera in the world and all the Instagramming under the sun won’t give you.

But there’s something more than this that renders the current obsession with expensive, high-spec photography equipment utterly pointless, and that’s how we (that’s ‘we’ as in the techno-savvy mainstream populace) view pictures. There’s no question that we live in a visual age. As the Internet has evolved (back in the mid 90s content was essentially text-based) so the importance of visuals has come to the fore. We expect and demand good graphics, and lots of them – to the extent now that many gig reviews consist only of images, with no text whatsoever, and every fractional corner of our lives are documented in images. Millions of images. Over and over. A hundred pictures of every night out, several dozen snaps of ever day trip or walk in the park, every meal and drink meticulously recorded for posterity as evidence of the full and fulfilling lives everyone leads. People are obsessed with providing proof that their life is being not only lived to the full and jam-packed with fun and amazing experiences, but a reminder that they have the best device on which to capture all of these fantastic experiences in a quality that’s even more intensely real than reality itself.

Arguably, people are no longer really living ‘in the moment’ because they’re observing every moment through a display screen. Looking back at the images and video clips doesn’t recreate the moment, or facilitate a re-run of a pre-lived experience: it becomes the experience in itself, a second-hand version, a document that represents the moment never truly lived first-hand. Everyone’s a viewer, a recorder, a spectator. Where are the actual participants?

Above all, though, despite the fact screens on smart phones are larger than ever before and have higher resolution than at any time in the past, the fact remain that the bulk of images are posted to social networking sites or photo sharing sites, and viewed on smart phones or tablets. Real-life, shot in ultra-high-resolution, viewed on a screen 3” or 4” wide. What a waste.

 

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Fuck yeah! $32,000 well spent… check this awesome pic of my breakfast! That fried bread is so real-looking you could eat it off the screen!

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk.