Compare and Contrast: Wire Vs Ministry

It’s been a while since my last ‘compare and contrast’ post. Years, in fact. And for no reason other than that I got sidetracked, waylayed… yes, stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before.

It was while turning to ‘Mr Suit’ by Wire that I remembered my amazement on first hearing the track. I’d been listening to Ministry for a fair while before I got into Wire, and was immediately struck on listening to Pink Flag that several of the songs sounded familiar. One of these was ‘Mr Suit’, on which one of the hooks sounded almost identical to a line from ‘Thieves’. Now, ‘Thieves’ is a great song in its own right as far as I’m concerned, but such cross-referencing has always been an interest of mine. If you’re going to appropriate, why not lift from something great?

I’m not making any kind of point here, this is simply a case of ‘listen, and observe the similarities’.

Wire: Mr Suit

Ministry: ‘Thieves’

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Writing about Writing (Again): A Slap of Reality in a World of Fiction

On TV and in films, and even in many novels, writers are often – if not almost always – portrayed as high-profile media types, living the high-life, traversing here and there in sharp suits and fancy dresses, to interviews, readings, launches and high-profile media events. they’re inevitably best-sellers, and vaguely eccentric, and live in nice, even vaguely grand homes or apartments (if they’re American): they get stopped in the street (and, if you’re Castle, at crime scenes) by fans who simply love your books, live and breathe your characters and want to marry you., or at least have an affair.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the literary circles I move in are toward the lower end of the industry. By which, of course, I actually mean they exist outside of ‘the industry’. They work regular jobs, have families and chisel out their works in stolen hours late at night and early in the morning. They do it out of compulsion, a need to purge and splurge, rather than for the money. It almost goes without saying I count myself amongst these. Writing isn’t some hobby or light-relief pastime.

The writers I know and associate with are, believe it or not, more representative of writers than the popular portrayals of writers. With a few notable exceptions – Stephen King, JK Rowling, for example – writers tend to be fairly anonymous. Unlike actors, writers don’t get their faces splashed over huge billboards. Writers aren’t usually the most photogenic of people, which is often why they’re writers and not actors. Do you know what E.L. James looks like? Dan Brown? John Grisham? Jodi Picoult? Donna Tartt? Toby Litt? And these are ‘bestseller’ list authors, not the majority of people who constitute the world of publishing in all its guises.

It’s ironic that actors get paid megabucks for playing out the scenes laid out in the pages of books penned by anonymous writers, and earn significantly more for doing so, given that without the writers, the actors would have no scenes to perform. it’s all about having a face and an image that sells. ‘Game of Thrones’ author George R.R. Martin didn’t get rich posting selfies and posing for Vogue.

Fiction is often escapist: it doesn’t have to be fantasy or sci-fi to take the reader beyond the confines of their hum-drum daily existence. And so it may be that even writers who earn royalties of pence and cents may portray high-living celebrity writers in their works. I have no gripe about that, per se, other than the observation that it flies very much in the face of the first principle of writing, which is ‘write what you know.’ This doesn’t mean fantasy and science fiction are out by any stretch, so much as that it pays to at least research scenarios that exist beyond your knowledge, because a savvy reader can spot a bluffer. Research plus imagination is, of course, another matter entirely and can be the very essence of creative genius.

As such, I resist the urge to yell at the TV when ‘celebrity’ writers are portrayed. Of course, my initial thought is ‘when do these people get to do any writing, given the time they spend travelling around to premieres and being famous?’, but the answer is obvious – namely, the rest of the time. Because unlike the writers I know, they don’t work the 9-5, and their maids and the like take care of the kids while they swan round in the name of ‘research’.

Recent research suggests that the prospects of a writing career are pretty dismal if you’re looking to get rich, even if you do achieve a degree of fame: Prospects.ac.uk report that ‘The median earnings for professional writers (those who dedicate more than 50% of their time to writing) was only £11,000 in 2013, and only 11.5% of professional writers earned their incomes solely from writing.’ The Guardian reports that ‘The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000.’

This is nowhere near a luxurious salary. It’s not even minimum wage. It’s certainly well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. It means that writers don’t live in palatial mansion-type homes, resplendent with antique furniture (unless they’ve inherited it) or plush penthouse apartments. They may have heaps of books on their shelves (the majority likely either purchased second hand or sent to them for review or in trade) but the chances are most writers don’t rise around brunchtime and slip on a silk bathrobe before a serving of eggs Benedict and then chip out a page or so while sipping sherry or 50-year old single malt in their resplendent superbly plush leather-upholstered chair at a Louis XIV desk in the prime spot in a mahogany-panelled library. No, writing is work: hard work, even for ‘successful’ authors. And given that in the region of 99% of all books published sell fewer than 100 copies, what hope is there fore the rest of us to break through to the major league?

The rest of us – the writers who can’t even qualify as ‘professional writers’ and who are obliged to work for a living and write on the side, in their spare time… well, what about us? We may be by and large fringe producers of culture, but collectively account for much of the vital undercurrent that breaks new ground and ultimately inspires the commercial mainstream. We’re the lifeblood. We stay up late, typing with our eye bags instead of our well-manicured fingers, using stolen moments to render those ideas that poke and prod and gnaw at us during the ours of the 9-5 into words that will ultimately purge us of the torment of drudgery.

Some, perhaps maybe many, harbour ambitions of the palatial mansion-type homes or plush penthouse apartment with a capacious library suite and luxurious office. Maybe they’ve bought the fictional representation of the author, like the office temp I worked with once – a guy in his early twenties who was convinced he could pen a novel that would become lauded as a literary masterpiece, after which he would never have to work again. I didn’t delight in shattering his illusions, and equally, I don’t delight in the author’s plight, because it’s my plight as much as the next minor-league author’s. This isn’t about highlighting that plight, either. It’s not a grumble and grouse about how artists don’t reap the rewards they deserve, but a meditation on the vast disparity between the fact and the fiction. And what beggars belief is that the fiction, as presented in the media, of the wealthy, famous and esteemed author, is propagated by authors at all levels. After all, ‘big’ films, TV dramas, series and the like are as likely to be penned by breakthrough authors, who are accustomed to the real world rather than the privileged world of the top flight. Where do they get these ideas from?

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see… Originality is dead. Legend and myth isn’t the life of the author. You’re not Stephen King, you’re not Castle. This is not ‘Murder, She Wrote’. This is life. Now write it.

 

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Cramped, cluttered and anything but the image of a palatial literary person’s writing space…. the ‘office’ of part-time literary nonentity Christopher Nosnibor, today.

 

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.

They were cunts in school and are still cunts now….

Job-hopping was, historically, considered to be a bad thing. A job was for life, and anyone who had a CV that consisted of an endless catalogue of short-term contracts was perceived as either being unable to stick at anything, or incapable of obtaining anything more than seasonal or temporary work – usually menial, low-grade employment that was undemanding and required minimal intellect or, worse still, the kind of person who made a habit of getting themselves sacked. Times have changed. Some people actually choose to flit between jobs and call it ‘freelancing’. Others have short-term work forced upon them, and it’s no longer simply the blue-collar types. Offices and ‘contact centres’ (call centres to those who live outside of the corporate environment) are bursting at the seams with temporary staff and staff on fixed-term contracts – to the extent that many large companies actually employ very few staff directly. While the hourly rate for a temp may be higher on paper, subtracting the cost of benefits such as staff pension and sick pay and it’s easy to see why companies do it, although the benefits are immeasurably in their favour over those of the employee. Many of these temporary staff are educated to degree level, yet are still unable to secure permanent contracts. Even in positions that require higher qualifications and levels of experience, the situation is the same: universities are employing teaching fellows on a basis of a semester at a time, for one or two hours of teaching a week.

Again, there is an immense disparity between the idea of job-hopping as a lifestyle choice and the common reality for those who find themselves forced into a life of what Ivor Southwood refers to in his book Non-Stop Inertia as ‘job precarity’. It isn’t fun. And yet recruitment agencies and those who enjoy the ‘freelancing’ lifestyle (usually the kind of people who get head-hunted and land a short-term contract of a year or two in highly-paid executive roles) all emphasise the empowering nature of the ‘freedom’ this approach to employment affords the individual. For those who lack the comfort of a financial buffer and the capacity to earn large sums in short periods of time, the uncertainty and lack of stability that arises from short-term employment contracts is is anything but liberating, and every bit as depressing as being stuck in the same dead-end job for a decade or more.

The endless quest for a new contract and the endless stream of rejections the endless applications elicit is just as soul-crushing as knowing that your life is slowly slipping by while you sit in the same office churning out the same meaningless shit each dull day. At least that unfulfilling rut pays the bills, ensures the rent gets paid and affords the kind of security that comes will a pension, sick pay and all the rest. As a job-hopping freelancer, you are not your own boss: you’re a slave to the quest for the next thing and the search for a new boss to fuck you and discard you along with all the short-term contract trash not worthy of a permanent contract.

Still, surely no employment can be as depressing as Friends Reunited, arguably the first social networking site – if re-establishing contact with people you already know qualifies as ‘networking’. More often than not, people lose contact for a reason: the friends who are worth keeping, you make the effort to maintain contact with, and the effort is mutual. If you want to feel old, look up your old schoolmates. Check out their photos and see how their youthful looks have faded as they’ve grown fat,old, bald and saggy. Read their profiles and see how happy they are with their pathetic lots as they plough through life unquestioningly, aspiring to nothing more than a fortnight in Spain to provide a change of scenery from the 9-5 which, though monotonous, is the pinnacle of their capabilities, and as they like their colleagues and are able to leave their 2.4 children with their parents or grandparents while they go for a few drinks down the pub on a Friday night, it’s no cause for complaint. The ‘successful’ ones are no better really: leaving behind their small-town roots and making for the big smoke after graduation, they’re rich, jet-setting and love their Autumn skiing trips, mini-breaks to Paris and Rome and will have seen the world long before they retire at 50, but none of this changes the fact that they were cunts in school and are still cunts now.

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Friends Reunited: keeping track of a bunch of cunts you never liked in the first place

The desire to rebuild bridges with people you were never friends with in the first place is simply a manifestation of the anxiety of ageing, the fear of losing one’s youth and all ties with it. Never mind that you hated school and were bullied mercilessly: you were young and had your whole life ahead of you. Rather than face the fact that you’re halfway through your time on the planet, it’s infinitely preferable to delude yourself that on reflection, school wasn’t that bad, in fact it was good fun. But however hard you work on kidding yourself, however much you force yourself and everyone to swallow the lie that you were cool in school, the bullying was just banter and that you didn’t spend those years lonely, depressed and yearning for something, anything, that would take you out of that hateful environment, every once in a while something will trigger a rush of recollection and it will all come screaming back at you. Sometimes, you can’t help but yield to those pangs of curiosity, when something random makes you remember a name, a face, an occasion and it drags you back like an undertow and you wonder what that person, those people are doing now. And before you know it, you’re trawling Friends Reunited or Facebook. You can’t help yourself, it’s a morbid fascination that makes you recoil in horror at that ageing face, that flabby beer gut, those sagging tits you lusted over when they were pert and teenage and hadn’t been ravaged by three screaming brats by three different fathers, none of whom is the current husband, hanging off them but you still go on through those family snaps, the pictures of the works nights out, the hen night for that slapper who laughed at you when you said ‘crotches’ when you meant ‘groynes’ in geography class. You can still hear that honking sound that ended with a snort and your blood boils with repressed anger even though it was almost a full fifteen years ago now. And that’s why you try not to think about it, because when the recollections resurface, the old wounds open up and you find yourself staring into the gaping gash straight into your fear-filled soul that’s been shrivelled by a decade of corporate dehumanisation. You need to snap out of it, now.

 

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