Rage Monologue #4 – News

The Rage Monologues was devised as a spoken-word project built around an in-progress and expanding collection of pieces that would evolve over time, developed and adapted to suit different audiences and settings and, where necessary or appropriate, tweaked to be up-to-the-minute current. It was never about producing a fixed body of published work. However, sometimes events overtake plans, and this piece I began performing a few months ago is probably more relevant now than it ever will be again, so I’ve decided to share  it with the world as it’s currently written.

 

News

 

It still seems to be a fact little acknowledged outside certain domains – media studies, sociology and the world of Charlie Brooker, for example – that the news media is biased. It seems to be even less understood how the mainstream media – the big providers, like the BBC and Sky – is highly selective as to what it covers. The post-election ‘Fuck The Tories’ protests, like Occupy’s pro-democracy protests over in Parliament Square before them, were largely ignored in favour of, well, everything. The revolution clearly won’t be televised. It will be suppressed, ignored out of history until it ceases to exist. How do you fight back against the international media?

If the mainstream news media were to be believed, things are once again quiet in Gaza, and the Ukraine situation is altogether more settled. There is peace. There is calm, but we can’t get too comfortable because the terror threat is as high as it’s been since 9/11. It’s all a strategy. Keep the people on edge. Keep them compliant.

All of the new legislation is for our safety, about preventing terrorism. It’s not about control. Oh no. Only a conspiracy theorist would suggest that. Keep the public’s focus on the things that keep them scared. Keep them indignant. And keep them distracted with entertainment. Give them the news they want. But wait.

Sports news is not news. It’s news about sport.

Celebrity gossip is not news. It’s gossip about celebrities.

So you’re wondering what’s happening in Syria while shitting yourself silly over ebola. The next time you’re reading OK! Magazine, Heat Magazine, People magazine, Grazia, The Mail, The Sun, The Mirror, Metro or any other wretched tabloid arsewipe, take a moment to think and consider this:

X-Factor is not news.

Strictly is not news.

The Voice is not news.

The Beckhams are not news.

Harry Potter is not news.

Big Brother is not news.

Celebrity Big Brother is not news. Most of the contestants aren’t even celebrities.

Dr Who is not news.

The weather is not news.

I’m a former D-List Celebrity, Get me Out of Here! is not news.

Britain’s Got Talent is not news. And if anything, this programme proves the precise opposite of what the title states.

Simon Cowell is not news.

Rhianna’s pierced nipples are not news.

Katie Price is not news.

Made in Chelsea is not news.

The Only Way is Essex is not news.

Joey Essex is not news. He’s just an idiot who can’t tell the time.

The love life of some slapper off The Only Way is Essex or some cretin off Made in Chelsea is not news.

Footballers’ wives – the TV show or actual footballers’ wives – do not constitute news.

Suzannah Reid’s short skirt is not news.

Diet fads are not news.

A nip-slip or so-called wardrobe malfunction is not news.

Frankie Boyle saying something offensively un-PC is not news.

Bruce Jenner’s sex change is not news: give the guy some peace.

Justin Bieber is not news.

Miley Cyrus is not news.

Myleene Klass is not news.

Robert Pattinson is not news.

Daniel Radcliffe is not news.

Kristen Stewart is not news, affair or no affair.

Emma Watson’s hair is not news.

Somebody parking badly is not news.

How some comedian deals with a heckler or someone whose phone goes off during their performance is not news.

Eastenders / Emmerdale / Hollyoaks actors and actresses scrapping outside restaurants is not news.

Naomi Campbell being a bitch is not news.

Kate Moss sunbathing topless / on coke / being a bitch is not news.

Katy Perry and Russell Brand are not news. Never were.

Bickering celebrities regardless of their status is not news.

Pete Doherty on / off / on / off / on drugs is not news.

That little tosser with the bouffant hair from One Direction: whoever he’s dating / shagged is not news. Nothing he does is news.

Kim Kardashian’s oiled buttocks are not news.

Kate Middleton’s disappointing breasts are not news.

The opinions of the masses are not news.

Facebook comments are not news.

Katie Hopkins is not news.

Madonna posing topless again in her 50s or falling off a step is not news. Madonna is yesterday’s news. Let’s be honest. More like yesterday’s news 20 years ago.

My Big Fat cunting Gypsy Wedding is not news.

Whatever bigoted bollocks spills from the mouth of Jeremy Clarkson is not fucking news.

‘Celebrities’ bickering on Twitter is not news.

What people have said on Twitter in response something somebody people follow on Twitter said is not news.

Miley fucking Cyrus, I repeat, is not news.

Sleazy, corrupt MPs are not news. Apart from when they’re murderous paedophiles, in which case you won’t hear about it, so it’s still not news.

 

Fuckthetories

This is not news. Nothing to see here, people. Move along, now, and fast, or you’ll feel the strong arm of the law hefting a baton at you. Pic: Mail Online.

 

Essex

Now this, this is news. Look at his lovely white teeth and tended eyebrows. What a wholesome, sincere lad. No, it’ doesn’t matter that he’s a fuckwit, he’s the salt of the earth. He’s got a new haircut, too. Don’t you feel much calmer and happier knowing about that rather than worrying about those ultra-left brutes who are trying to bring anarchy to the city’s street with their offensive placards and dungarees?

 

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

Kate Middleton’s Breasts

In the wake of the Olympics and the Paralympics, it was inevitable the news agencies would be looking for items to easily fill the gaping chasm in their columns and programming. It would have been all too easy to have returned to the previous staple of war, global economic meltdown and devious political manoeuvring exposed, but to have pursued that direction would have called a rapid halt to the jubilant mood that still hangs in the air as Olympic fervour dissipates.

Boom! Kate Middleton – or Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge as she’s formally known – with her jugs out! Of course, no British publication would run the pap snaps, and in many ways, that only added to the essential cocktail of ingredients that rendered this the perfect story for the time. The British public love a good scandal and an excuse to puff up with righteous indignation (as evidenced by the Daily Mail reading masses) and have a thing about topless birds, especially celebrities (as the Sun ‘reading’ masses prove) and as the popularity of publications like Heat etc., show, celebrity gossip is what everyone who doesn’t want to deal with the horrors of everyday existence wants.

As this non-story and the frothing furore and debate surrounding it unfolds, I’m reminded – as I often am, in truth – of J G Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition. In particular, the geometry of the media landscape Ballard portrays so vividly, marked out by enormous blow-ups of disembodied parts of celebrities’ anatomies. I’m also reminded of the titles in the appendix sections, ‘Mae West’s Reduction Mammoplasty’ and ‘Princess Margaret’s Face Lift.’ The vapid culture built around a prurient obsession with celebrity Ballard depicted may have been the emerging landscape of the time it was written, but it’s unquestionably more relevant now, in an era when fervent adulation of Pippa Middleton’s posterior has filtered through into even the broadsheet press. And so it comes as no surprise that there’s a veritable media spasm over Kate Middleton’s breasts.

Because I’ve already written extensively on media overload on countless occasions already, and no doubt will again in the future, there seems little point in doing so again here. Similarly, the ethical questions concerning privacy and the press that are proving to be the central focus of this so-called ‘scandal’ have received so much attention, there’s absolutely no point in rehashing it, and even if I felt able to bring something new to the table, it would be lost in the endless currents of hot air already circulating. If I’m going to expend energy pissing in the wind, it’s going to be on a subject I at least feel truly passionate about.

The real question, as I see it, isn’t about whether or not a royal should be able to sunbathe topless without being snapped, but what’s the fuss about? Just as the nation went nuts when Prince William began courting ‘Kate’, as much because she was a ‘commoner’ as anything, so it seems that the idea of ‘young people’ in the monarchy seems to have changed the tide of opinion and enabled the monarchy to shed its stuffy imperialist image, and the only real explanation for this is because people are stupid and gullible – and of course, celebrity fixated.

But celebrity is always about mystique, and all the more so when the celebrity in question is largely inaccessible. The intrigue of what’s under her (high street fashion / designer) clothes therefore becomes heightened proportionally against the likelihood of ever finding out.

In Kate, they were always looking for a new Diana, and in this episode, they’ve got it, and a whole lot more. Woman of the people, hounded by the press… check. But in Kate we have a rather different scenario based on paradox: Kate Middleton is a celebrity, and one who is less accessible than most because she’s royalty. At the same time, because Kate’s a ‘commoner’, she’s more accessible, which gives people a (false) sense of hope. If she gets ousted by her future monarch husband after siring the next generation, then perhaps someone of her own class might be in with a shout… of course it’s all an illusion, the ‘commoner’ image simply a tag that’s been fostered to broaden her appeal. Anyone who thinks they’re going to stumble into Kate Middleton (even if she does eventually find herself out of monarchical favour and free to date dynastic billionaire film producers) in their local Asda is clearly deluded.

But here’s the clincher paradox: Kate Middleton may be the ‘princess of the people’ and more accessible than any of her predecessors, while also being royalty and a celebrity on an almost untouchable level, but the bottom line is that she’s really pretty average. By which I mean that if she wasn’t royalty and a celebrity on an almost untouchable level, she might still be a rich girl, but no-one would pay her any attention whatsoever. What is there that truly distinguishes her from the crowd? She doesn’t even appear to be ageing especially well, with her features often appearing drawn and haggard beyond her 30 years in photographs on-line and in the press. The cult of Kate is purely a reaction to her social status and celebrity. Consequently the intrigue of what’s under her (high street fashion / designer) clothes becomes heightened proportionally against the likelihood of ever finding out. But, against the odds, we now know. The pictures are blurry, the quality disappointing, and the same is true of Kate’s boobs, which are average and unremarkable in every way.

And there you have it. You’ve seen the goods, they’re not much to write home about, and besides, you haven’t got a hope. Now please, move on, get a life and find something / someone else to wank over.

 

 

kate-middleton-profile

Kate Middleton: Ordinary?

 

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

Concern Grows as Christopher Nosnibor’s Blog Falls Quiet

While the world was in a frenzy over the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic games last night, and many breathed a sigh of relief over the postponement of global wars and financial crises, as well as a temporary suspension of all criminal activity, in particular rape, murder, child molestation and car crime, a small number of observers began to grow agitated by the lack of spouting on Christopher Nosnibor’s blog.

Nosnibor, a music reviewer, novelist and self-appointed commentator with a tendency to fire salvoes of bile into the blogosphere in response to events and phenomena linked to popular culture, has been suspiciously quiet in recent weeks, and following a succession of posts promoting his latest ‘novel’, the mass-market friendly This Book is Fucking Stupid, and a series of outbursts over E. L. James’ bonkbusting mummy porn 50 Shades trilogy and the Olympic torch relay, his blog, hosted by WordPress has lain dormant.

Speculation began to build concerning Nosnibor’s activity before one fellow blogger decided to email him to get the lowdown.

‘Fuck off,’ was the terse reply. ‘I’m working’.

Nosnibor did, however, follow this up with a statement confirming that he was suspending blogging activity for the duration of the Olympics, on the premise that his lack of comment was comment in itself.

‘It’s my equivalent of a boycott’, he explained. ‘Plus, I need to crack on with some reviews and a piece of fiction I’m currently working on. Going to ground while everyone else is immersed in the games seems like a a sound strategy to me.’

Although some observers suggested that this was in itself a form of negative self-promotion and typical of Nosnibor’s recent antics connected with This Book is Fucking Stupid, most simply ignored the whole non-event in much the same way as usual.

How Was It For You? Jubilee Reflections or, a Public Party Postmortem

As I begin writing this piece, it’s raining heavily outside. The corner of the living room is damp, and even above the whirr of the dehumidifier and the fan of my laptop, I can hear the rain lashing against the windows, dripping and bouncing off objects in my back yard. It’s the second weekend in June. It’s supposed to be summer. It was pretty much the same last week, too. Not that people were going to let a bit of rain deter them from celebrating, and so in true British spirit, they took to the streets in their thousands, millions, even, to join in the four day long nation-wide party to commemorate the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

The media reporting in the run-up had been immense, and the previews that had initially been trickle earlier in the year had increased in their intensity to reach the level of blanket coverage several days before the monarch began her tour of the streets to nod, wave and smile at her loyal and loving subjects. I almost felt a tingle of anticipation, a warmth spreading in my heart: this was going to be a once in a lifetime event, a truly historical occasion. It was a time to reflect and to celebrate not only our monarch, but what it means to be a part of the great British nation. There would be events in every village, town and city across the British Isles and every other corner of the Commonwealth, with street parties and countless other activities organised to show our appreciation and community spirit. The momentum was impossible to sustain, of course, and even had I been the most ardent royalist, I expect I’d have found myself experiencing Jubilee jubilation burnout before the first of four long days of national celebrations. Not being an ardent royalist, I grew weary of the hype a full week and a half before the 4-day bank holiday weekend.

In the event, I stayed in for four days straight and avoided the television and radio as much as possible. And the Internet, for that matter. Ordinarily, I’d have taken to the various social networking channels and unleashed my bile, but, well, frankly, I discovered I had neither the energy nor the motivation. What’s more, I couldn’t see the point.

The media hype had already beaten me, and what’s more, it had already beaten many others – into submission. Over the course of the extended weekend, the news channels devoted considerable airtime to voxpops from talking heads who proclaimed themselves ‘republicans’ but found themselves forced to concede that all the pomp and the orderly conduct of the spectators beamed around the globe did indeed make for a good advertisement for Britain. People who would only have described themselves as monarchists in the same way most people who hold no religious beliefs and who only frequent churches for weddings, funerals and christenings would declare themselves ‘CofE’ were jumping on board and heading to wherever they thought they might find the most thriving, vibrant, flag-waving action, or otherwise participating in events that most strongly reflected their notions of what it means to be British.

When I did go on-line, I found the voices of dissent were strangely quiet, and while a few – notably Charlie Brooker – managed to sustain an acerbic commentary throughout, most of the jubilee detractors simply sounded embittered or as though they were struggling for an angle. And yet there was no shortage of material: the boat flotilla might have been fleetingly interesting (pun intended) if you were present, but a slow-moving procession of floating vessels, however ancient sand spectacularly historical, drifting at a crawl down a murky sewage-saturated river in a prolonged downpour is not good television and unlikely to instil a sense of joyous pride on the small screen. In case people hadn’t noticed, we’re no longer in the 1950s: we’re not rebuilding our lives and our country in the wake of the war and no longer clamour round the one 4” black and white television in the street.

Rowing boats begin to gather on the River Thames, London, during the Diamond Jubilee river pageant

Boats. Lots of boats. Whoopee.

Sixty years is a long time. Consider this: postmodernism hadn’t even been conceived at the coronation. Popular culture, youth culture, capitalism as we know it didn’t exist. The Beatles didn’t form until 1960. Elvis Presley didn’t release his first single until 1954. The coronation took place in a different world. So too did the silver jubilee in 1977. The breaking of punk in the UK was not – contrary to so much recent retrospective coverage – I repeat, not, precipitated by the jubilee. Opportunistic pub rockers with manufactured sneers, operating under Malcolm McLaren’s guidance, were nothing more than puppets who happened to make a swell-timed appearance. If punk captured the zeitgeist of the mid-late 70s, and the monarchy found themselves the targets of so much vitriol, it was still only a part of a more widespread dissatisfaction with what we now hear referred to as a ‘broken society’. Times change, but some things don’t change. The question is, if there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction that expressed itself in the blank nihilism of ‘no future’ back in 77, why was there so little sense of uprising or protest 35 years on? Is everybody really happy nowadays? Yeah right. And yet the thousands who had turned out remained rooted to the banks of the Thames, waving their flags like they’d never known fun like it.

Andrew_Collins__Avoid_the_Jubilee___sit_in_a_darkened_room

Thousands of no-life crets, waving flags like they were really excited just because everyone else was doing it

I blame social networking, the media. I particularly blame Facebook. It seems to me that much Facebook activity is devoted to showing your ‘friends’ how much fun you have: how often you get out, how active and vibrant your social life is, how incredibly popular, vivacious and happy you are, how fucking brilliant your life is. If you’re not in this photo, you weren’t there, and if you weren’t there, you missed out on the event of the century that people will be talking about for years to come.

There is, of course, another major consideration. While the news media and social networking sites may have portrayed so much rejoining and unity and a nation united under a flag, the simple truth is that most of the activity took place in key areas in central London and was attended by the kind of bozos who’s turn up for the opening of an envelope if they thought they might be missing out. The world at large may not know this, but London does not represent Britain, or even England, and a few thousand people do not represent the entire population. As such, the streets of London may have been as packed as they were precipitous, but that doesn’t mean ‘the nation’ was celebrating. And why they hell would they be? Is anyone under 75 really going to believe Grace Jones and Jessie J represent the best of British music from the last 60 years? What’s more, the waxwork Macca’s decision to perform ‘Obla-di-bla-da’ was little short of senile. I’m no fan of The Beatles by any stretch, but do strongly appreciate their importance in terms of music history, their enormous influence, and their undeniable status as the biggest band of all time. So with this, the enormity of their catalogue and the wealth of definitive, ‘iconic’ pop gems it contains in mind… why?

Diamond-Jubilee-Concert-Gary-Barlow-Cheryl-Cole-duet

Gary Barlow and Cheryl Cole: who gives a fuck?

Obviously, having Kylie represent the Commonwealth is all well and good, but were the Australians out in the same kind of force waving flags with the same kind of zeal? Of course not,and the point is, neither were most people in Britain. And there’s the problem: Britain – by which I really mean England – is so London-centric that it’s broadly perceived that London actually represent the country as a whole. So, when events in London are beamed out around the globe as representing ‘Britain’, it’s generally taken as fact. Riots in London equate to the country ablaze and falling to anarchy. The Olympics in London translates as excitement the length and breadth of the country (and why not, when the Olympic torch is on a preliminary lap of honour?). A bunch of people waving flags in London equals a nation united in their support for their long-serving Queen. Take it from me, it doesn’t. Some people in one place in one city does not represent the nation as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s good PR on the international stage, then fair play, but for overseas viewers / readers, please understand that this is not a true picture of life in Britain.

Indeed, so much of the coverage I did see (and I missed Fearne Cotton’s controversial ‘sick bag’ segment. The contention that this was ‘inane’ and ‘disrespectful seems to have missed the point that the ‘sick bags’ were big news – about 3 months before the jubilee, and if the BBC is to adhere to its remit of ‘unbiased’ reporting, then it should present something other than pro-monarchy propaganda, and besides, watching people in the rain waving flags is fucking boring and anything that provided a distraction was a good thing) seemed to focus on how the celebrations brought the nation closer.

Queens-diamond-jubilee-fe-008

Fearne Cotton and Paloma Faith discuss what the jubilee means to people who aren’t royalist sycophants

There might have been a lot of positive noise to this effect, but I very much doubt this corresponds with the experience of the average citizen. There was no party in my street, or any of the streets in my vicinity, to the best of my knowledge. The Polish couple across the road had a blazing row in the street on the bank holiday Monday. Some curtains twitched. People went about their business, or otherwise used the extra days off work to go and visit family. Had it not been slinging it down, and had it not been northern England, a tumbleweed would have probably passed down the street. It was like four Sundays in succession, and I would have dug out Morrissey’s ‘Every day is Like Sunday’ if hadn’t been in such an all-consuming torpor. So, come Wednesday, I got on my usual bus to work at the usual time, surrounded by the usual faces I never make any kind of contact with, buried my face in my book while they immersed themselves in their books, Kindles, editions of the Metro or whatever shit they’ve got going on their Smart Phones and in short, nothing had changed.

I’m not ungrateful for the extra time off work, of course, but ultimately, the whole jubilee seems to have been a huge non-event for the majority. It’s extremely difficult to muster any enthusiasm, or ire for that matter, for something that doesn’t touch my own life in any way, and while the jubilee celebrations were frivolous, exclusive – despite supposedly being all-inclusive- the monarchy simply don’t impinge on my day-to-day existence nearly as much as, well, so many other things. The power they wield is limited in real terms, and while I may be paying for them through my taxes, it’s infinitesimal in comparison to the sums being sapped from my income by the politicians, bankers and the Eurozone. Besides, I’ve bills to pay, I have to sustain myself and my family by putting food on the table. This is the reality for the everyman. Keeping things going in the everyday is as much as anyone has the energy for. Railing against something a world away and for the most part irrelevant simply doesn’t justify the squanderance of vital time, of vital energy, or essential breath. So fuck the jubilee and the petty bickering between the few who haven’t anything better to do. And fuck the Olympics, Euro 2012 and frankly, fuck it all. Back to life, back to work, back to the things that matter and back to merely surviving.

 

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

Sales Fever! Looking Back on Christmases Past

I spent a large chunk of my day today at an out-of-town retail park, where I parted with a small fortune. It was hell on earth, but needs just: I’d been planning to sort myself a new laptop, printer and external hard-drive (I’ve learned – and re-learned – the hard way the importance of backing up all of my work) for months and had been stalling (and saving) for the sales because, being on a budget wanted to make my money go further. And so it was I returned home with an ASUS X53U, an HP Photosmart 6510 and a Samsung hard-drive that measures roughly the size of my wallet and has a whole Terabyte capacity, plus various other non-computing related items for the house.

Needless to say, it was a relief to get home again, and having reserved most of my items on-line in advance, the excursion kept the trudging and legwork and general pain to a minimum. But while out I was acutely aware of just how many people are out there raiding the sales just because goods are discounted, a point reinforced by endless footage n television. Haven’t people got anything better to do, and why do they feel the need to spend money just because? The justification that a £200 jacket had 50% off doesn’t wash – or dry-clean – when considering the flipside of the equation, namely that there’s still 50% on. The last I heard, we were in the middle of a financial crisis. Are people really still dim enough to max out their credit cards just because they can’t resist a ‘bargain’? It would appear they are.

So once again I was reminded that people are idiots, and of the adage that a fool and his money are soon parted. I was also reminded of a blog I posted back in the MySpace days, which I found on my old (and now full to capacity) 300G hard-drive. It may have been posted on this day in 2007, but most of the points still stand, and it’s somehow comforting to observe how little I’ve changed my position. I like to be consistent (although I have taken time off work this year)….

 

Sales Fever! (2007)

 

The fact I haven’t been present on-line for the last couple of days shouldn’t be misinterpreted that I was busy wholeheartedly embracing the traditional Christmas rituals. I don’t absolutely hate everything about Christmas, and for me, it’s a good opportunity to spend a couple of days not straining my eyes in front of the PC and to actually have something approximating a rest.
 
Still, because I don’t consider Christmas to be quite as big a deal as many, and don’t consider it a reason to go on a month-long bender with everyone I’ve ever met, and don’t feel the need to eat my own body weight in poultry and pork, I didn’t feel the need to book the days between Christmas and New Year off work. Being at the office – a place I abhor with a passion – is always more bearable when there’s no work, no phone calls and no other staff in to drive me to distraction with their inane waffle.
 

Business as usual it isn’t. and while I’ve been able to potter around without distraction and amuse myself by switching the contents of people’s drawers and so on, I’ve also given a thought to those thousands of people who work in the retail sector. As I’m writing this on January 27th, I’m quite relieved to be hiding out in an office: I learned from Breakfast on BBC1 that today was expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year. And the footage I saw of the queues and the rucks on Boxing day were disturbing enough. It raised a few issues, not least of all the question ‘why?’ I mean, after a month of intensive shopping, why would anyone want to go shopping through choice? It’s insane. We’re a nation in financial crisis, in case no-one had noticed. But then, it’s this inherent greed and an inability to say ‘no’ – or to be seen to be unable to keep up with the pack – that’s got us here in the first place.
 

But irrespective of whether or not we (collectively) can afford to splurge, one would think that the last thing anyone would want to do after a period of intensive shopping in the run-up to Christmas is go shopping. I mean, it’s hell. It’s not so much a jungle out there as it is total war. There was an item on Breakfast in which some ‘fashion guru’ was giving tips on how to succeed in the sales, revealing a handbag full of energy-giving drinks and snacks (‘bananas are great for energy…’) and advising that in order to grab that must-have bargain, if you need to kick or punch, then so be it. To condone or promote such behaviour is beyond me. It’s not a loaf of bread in the middle of a famine, it’s a fucking handbag. Let’s get things in perspective here.

Despite my general disregard for many of the traditional aspects of Christmas, this eagerness to hit the shops on Boxing day or the day after is concerning. One issue is the fact that people seem to expect shops to be open all the time, and we do appear to be very slowly heading the American way, toward a 24-day society. The demand is for convenience, and that demand is coming to be supplied. And why not? Well, it’s all very well to demand, and to receive supply, but what of those who are required to deliver that supply? I’m talking primarily about those in retail here, of course, because 24-hour shopping requires 24-hour staffing of shops, but there’s inevitably a knock-on effect. We already have 24-hour / overnight couriers and so on… and where’s it going to end? And 24-hour is one thing, but what about 365-day-a-year?

Time was when everything closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Now, banks are about the only things closed on Bank Holidays (well, the clue’s in the name). A friend of mine said “they’ll have us working on Christmas day soon, mark my words.” Now, he’s a cynical old goat, but I think he may have a point. And similarly, the synchronicity of Christmas and the exchange of gifts may actually become a thing of the past the way things are going.

Consider the facts: the January sales now start on Boxing day. December 27th is the biggest shopping day of the year. Many take unwanted gifts back and exchange them for things they ‘really’ want in the sale, and I’ve heard a number of people say they’re waiting till the sales for their presents. So it’s not that much of a stretch to see, 10 years hence, people going shopping on Christmas day when the sales start, perhaps having a slap-up meal in the evening, and exchanging gifts on New Year’s eve, with New Year’s day remaining the only day the shops are closed because half of the population’s too hungover to go shopping. Of course, the reaction to this may eventually be to put the sales back to January again, and dog knows what kind of mayhem or rioting may ensue as a consequence.

The trouble is, the people who are at the head of the queues, who will punch and kick and trample to get their bargains and are demanding most vocally to be supplied appear to the, somewhat ironically, the same people who most rigidly adhere to the notion of a ‘traditional’ Christmas – extended family round for dry turkey and Aunt Bessie’s roast potatoes, followed by falling asleep in a cloud of flatulence in front of Eastenders, before re-enacting Eastenders with a major drunken barney of their own over something petty but that will prevent the different factions within the family from speaking to one another until the same time next year.

I’m not defending Christmas as a religious holiday of course, but given that I’m of the opinion that people should hibernate during the winter months, do think that in terms of maintaining a work/life balance, the demand for everything on tap at all times there should be some time off.

So I’m keeping out of it (I’ve quite enough handbags already, thank you). But alas, I may not be able to avoid the sales entirely. Whereas I usually receive more calendars than I have rooms in the house, this year I didn’t receive a single calendar. Ok, so I’ll buy my own. I just hope I’m not too late and won’t have to end up with a Russell Brand picture calendar.

 

 

 

 

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Dead Pop Stars: Amy Winehouse and Why the Media Loves a Fuck-Up

For a moment, I felt the same incredulity and momentary slip of the sprockets of reality as when I turned on the news to discover that Princess Diana had died, and, some years later, Michael Jackson. Amy Winehouse, dead? Surely not? The way these three stories reached me was different for each: Di was a Sunday morning, I turned on the television to find nothing but blanket coverage on every station… I was at a gig when Jackson met his end, and someone in the audience had received a text and shouted out to the band between songs. From then on, we got updates from the stage via texts to audience members. It was through Facebook and Twitter than news of Amy Winehouse’s death circulated like wildfire, although I still turned to the television for confirmation… just in case. And sure enough, it was the breaking news on all of the channels.

Well, why wouldn’t it have been? Winehouse was a celebrity, famous and notorious in equal measure…actually, that’s not quite true. With only two albums to her credit (which collectively spawned just one top-ten UK single, her biggest hit being a cover on which she featured as guest vocalist) – and with many casual music fans unaware of her her debut, which achieved only moderate success – she might have been a reasonably successful singer, but it wasn’t until she careered off the rails and got fucked up that the media really got interested. Like Courtney Love – who is very much still alive – she only went stellar when things went wrong. The whole media circus didn’t only eclipse the short-lived musical career but also became self-perpetuating. There’s no more powerful blocker of creativity than intense scrutiny 24/7, a bunch of paps in your face every time you leave the house and endless speculation and commentary over a person’s varying degrees of wastedness. And if you have a propensity for drink and drugs, how are you going to escape it all? With more of the same, of course. And thus it becomes a vicious cycle.

Pete Doherty’s band may have been NME darlings, but being a pretty mediocre, shambling, jangling shit indie band, they were never going to become a household name (something also true of Hole, only they were a half-decent alternative rock band, at least until Courtney lost it after Kurt’s suicide and the mess and mud-slinging that ensued, which was at least partly media created). It was only the drug-related carnage and dalliance with Kate Moss that propelled him into the headlines. It’s hard to tell how much of it is driven by the media and how much it’s driven by a genuine thirst for scandal, but however you look at it, fucking up in public is the way to hit the stratosphere in terms of coverage. The media love it, of course: pick your target and shadow it, with the guarantee that there’ll be something outrageous to report most nights of the week and you’ve got an easy way of filling time or column inches. Are the public genuinely interested, are they really that thirsty for salacious gossip about the not-so private lives of celebrities? Maybe the they weren’t but tell them often enough and they’ll become convinced that they are interested.

 

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The BBC had a reporter stationed at the cordon on the street where Winehouse lived. The reporter commented on the sixty-five or so fans who had gathered and remarked on her dedicated following. There’s no questioning the size of her fan-base: Back to Black has sold in excess of 10 million copies. But mainstream artists rarely have truly dedicated fans: were these dedicated fans the same ones who booed her off the stage not so long ago when she rocked up, wasted, stumbling over her feet and the lyrics and generally in no fit state to perform? Sixty-five people is hardly a crowd, and besides, how many of those loitering – when there’s nothing to see, so why not move along, now? – were actually fans? How many were police, and how many were media reporters and photographers? That’s a rhetorical question.

Most saliently, the number hanging around that street in Camden was significantly lower than the body count in Norway. Yet in the rush to give live, up-to-the-minute, as-it-happens coverage of another dead pop star, that story had plummeted off the radar. The hacking scandal was all but forgotten and I can only assume that the fact Greece – not to mention America, but that’s being kept strangely quite – is on the brink of financial ruin and there are wars raging across the globe are only of minimal significance in comparison. I’m reminded of Derrick Bird’s killing spree in Cumbria last year, which saw 12 people shot dead and 11 more injured before he turned the gun on himself. It was major news for a short while, until Raol Moat went on the rampage and the story was all but forgotten about. Despite a much lower body count, a siege was ready-made for live streaming news and much more likely to capture the nation’s imagination than something that was over before the cameras could be on the scene.

I’ll admit, I was never a fan of Winehouse’s work, and don’t think she was an ‘incredible talent’, and the monumental outpourings of grief on-line seem wholly disproportionate. In the same way that everyone loathed Jade Goody for being a fat racist ignoramus until she was diagnosed with cancer, when she was immediately presented with a halo and became a national treasure, it seems that dying young alters the mass perception to such an extent that all is forgotten. Seemingly, dying young it a tragedy no matter what, and makes one a better person, a hero, an instant deity. Thus, while I have no wish to disrespect the dead, I’m not going to suddenly change the opinion I held of her while she was living – a rough, skanky no-mark who got lucky.

But this isn’t about my opinions of Amy Winehouse or her music. I’m more concerned about taking an objective look at the media response – by which I also mean on-line media, interactive media. Sure, a lot of people did like her music, but did she and her work really touch the lives of so many, so profoundly, as to require the Twittersphere to become clogged and Facebook to become a no-go zone for those who want to read anything other than ‘RIP Amy Winehouse’ and what a tragedy it is that the world’s lost one of its greatest talents? Or is it simply an example of people being seen to do and say what’s expected of them, the herd mentality of not wanting to be left out? ‘Yes, me too, I never got any of her albums, but I really loved her music, so amazing, blah blah blah’.

It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s about time people started to think for themselves.

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