Monday, October 29, 2007

An Alternative Drugs Experience

Drugs are bad. Apparently. This is the never ending, incessant view of drugs shoved down our throats at every available moment by all those shady individuals who make up 'they', as in 'they' told me so. In the first place I'm uncertain about assigning moral values to an inanimate object, it is after all those who can't control their habits and vices that are bad and even then 'sick' is a more appropriate term, but more importantly these people seem to be missing another key point. Drugs are fun.

Drugs have been fun for a long time. One of the few constants through the evolution of human civilisation has been the people getting wasted on some kind of chemical substance. It is the unfortunate case about every aspect of human life that things which are bad for you will inevitably be more fun than things which are good for you. There are a million and one things that are potentially lethal to human life and serve no purpose apart from recreation that are perfectly legal, and yet most drugs are illegal and anyone who takes them is damned. A little unfair I feel.

Taken to my idealistic extremes I will quite happily argue for the legalisation of drugs based on personal responsibility, safety and tax revenue. But more importantly than that, and before we get close to coming up with a solution to the drug problem, we first of all need to take a much more mature and intelligent look at drugs than the bipolar 'these things are bad because we say so' argument that has so utterly failed so far.

The worst kind of hypocrites when it comes to drugs are those who will condemn any kind of drug use and yet quite happily sit there and sip their wine. It is an obvious point to make but it’s one that some people clearly can’t get their heads around: alcohol is a drug. An extremely dangerous drug. It’s highly addictive, causes major damage to your body and kills tens of thousands of people in the UK every year. And yet so many people drink it because it’s a highly enjoyable habit to have. Those people who say, ‘You don’t need to drink to have a good time’ are just bare-faced liars.

Alcohol is a drug that has class A written all over it, but I’m not concerned with the alcoholics who die from alcohol abuse. Nor am I concerned with the 48 people who died from ecstasy in 2006, or the 54 people who died from cocaine in 2004. Drugs are not perfectly safe, anyone who claims they are is a moron. If you develop an addiction to a substance, for whatever reason, then it’s more than likely that it’s not going to end well for you. That’s obvious and doesn’t interest me.

What interests me is the millions of people who drink alcohol who are not alcoholics. Those who have responsibility and mental stability, who know their limits and when it is acceptable to drink. You can see them everywhere, people whose lives are not ruined by drinking, who go out for a drink and still manage to be a normal, functioning part of society. It’s not that big a leap to realise that there are people who use other drugs in a similarly mature and measured manner. Just because the story of the person who took some cocaine to celebrate a promotion, partied all night, had a great time and woke up the next day and got on with his life doesn’t make the front pages doesn’t mean it never happens.

It’s patronising and insulting to the rationality and personal freedom of human beings to be told that you’re allowed to choose to take mind altering and damaging chemical substances in the form of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol for your own personal enjoyment but none of the other drugs because… well, because… er… ‘they’ say so? If as a rational thinking adult I am free to make the decision to have a few pints for my own personal enjoyment I should be allowed to say that I want to have an ecstasy tablet because it makes clubbing more enjoyable, or a joint because I want to relax with some friends and giggle inanely at youtube videos. It’s my body, my responsibility, I’ll do what I like with it. We allow pregnant mothers to commit infanticide based on the argument that it’s their bodies and their right. Can I please have the right to lie on the grass, take some shrooms and feel happy and content with the world?

A lot of the problem lies in the intensely personal nature of the affects of drugs. Most people know what it is like to be drunk, and how they behave after a few drinks. Some people become more aggressive, some become more confident, some think it’s the best time to burst into song and tell everyone just how lovely they are. Alcohol affects everyone differently because people are many and varied in their personalities. And other drugs are the same. They bring out different aspects of people’s personalities. While the physical process in the brain may be the same the mental effects will vary from person to person.

Despite this there is a perception that illegal drugs have a homogenous effect on everyone that takes them. It’s a ridiculous thought that just goes to show how little these people, who have a knee-jerk ‘All drugs are Satan’s sperm’ reaction to drugs, respect the individuality of humans. Taking an ecstasy tablet doesn’t transform you into some pre-defined ecstasy robot whose functions are dictated by the drug. The pill will temporarily affect parts of your brain, but how these affects manifest themselves depends entirely upon the personality of the individual. That’s why some people enjoy some drugs, some people enjoy others, and some find the whole experience too weird and off-putting. That’s their choice to make, the state can’t say how drugs will affect everyone and therefore how illegal they should be in the same way it can’t say that football is a better sport than rugby.

Drugs are a nightmare topic and there really is no easy answer. The idea of legalisation seems too ridiculous for many people to even begin to comprehend and there would be some serious consequences to such an act, not all of them good. But there is no doubt in my mind that our current attitude to drugs, from treating users as criminals to presenting only one side of the drug culture in the media, is fundamentally flawed and until there’s a more open-minded and even-handed debate on the subject the problem will never get close to a resolution.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Irrefutable Proof of God's Existence

I’ve always been a hardcore atheist. I’m not exactly sure what a softcore atheist is, but whatever it is I’ve never considered myself one of them. To me the world of religion was a world of fantasy, an ancient method of explaining the unexplainable that was no longer relevant or necessary in these modern times of rationality.

If there is a God, I thought, why has he abandoned us? Where are the miracles, the signs of his existence which seemed to be so common a mere two thousand years ago? Now my life has changed. I have witnessed a miracle. A sign. Proof from God that he is there watching us and cares for us.

I refer of course to this Countdown video.

On the surface it is nothing short of hilarious. Through apparent random chance and happenstance, Carol Vorderman has spelt out the word CUNTFLAPS on the board. There is nothing about this that isn’t comedy gold. However, if we scratch the surface of this comedy nugget we come to realise something of much greater importance on a spiritual level. God has sent us a message.

The two contestants playing the game are vicars. Or priests. Or some kind of religious morons anyway. They are the ones who are constantly telling us to search for God, to look for his actions. Well now I have. My eyes are truly open. Allow me to explain.

The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament contains this story about the feast of King Belshazzar of Babylon. In this story Belshazzar is an arrogant, power hungry king who believes himself to be invincible. Then at one drunken party, a hand appears and writes on the wall,
God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Clearly God’s vocabulary is different but his method is the same. God has sent us a message, using a most classical device. The clergy are a bunch of cuntflaps who have angered God and seek for nothing but to act like a bunch of twats and lower the universal consciousness of this planet. God be not pleased. That is what he is trying to show these priests. That they must mend their ways or lose themselves forever.

We must take strength from this miracle. It proves that God is not ignorant or blind to mankind’s suffering at the hands of the clergy. He is all too aware of how they have raped his good word and done all they can to hold back humans from advancing into the unknown possibilities of the Universe. Through Countdown, he has given us a sign that change is on the horizon. Not only that, but clearly God has a cracking sense of humour to boot.

All I can pray for now is that the clergy will heed this message from our great saviour and change their ways. For surely they will not be so arrogant as to claim that this event is mere coincidence. That is the way of the heretic atheist. When God sends a message as clear as this you’ve got to be a pretty big cuntflap not to realise its true meaning…

Stop The Madness

Again this is another article from a few months ago, I'm still transferring them all across slowly but surely. The message is, I'm sure, still relevant though...

So Manhunt 2, the new computer game from Rockstar, has been banned for sale in the UK by the BBFC. If your first reaction to that sentence is, “Oh it’s a video game, I don’t care about that kind of mindless entertainment” then reconsider for a moment. This isn’t just an issue over video games, this is an issue of censorship and as soon as that word appears everyone should take notice.

The reason given by the BBFC for the ban was the high level of “casual sadism” in the game, apparently the fact that you spend the entire game going round committing unspeakable acts of violence means that it’s not suitable for you, me, or anyone to play. I’m so sick of hearing this whole ‘violent computer games create a violent society’ argument that I now instinctively reach for a blunt instrument to bludgeon myself with every time it’s mentioned*.

The first thing to make clear is that computer games have been violent since their inception. In Space Invaders you weren’t playing the role of Ambassador of Peace to the first extra terrestrials to make contact with Earth. Instead you were the Ambassador of Dread, launching endless missiles at E.T. and the rest of his goofy buddies who had dared to stray on to your turf. And the trend has continued. Nearly every computer game involves fighting, destroying, capturing or blowing up some kind of enemy. For fuck’s sake, even Mario enjoys setting fire to any innocent turtle that strolls his way*.

The reason for this is that computer games rely on action. The reason they’re called computer games is because, wait for it, they’re fucking games*! Games of all types are based around competition and action. There needs to be something to compete against, to beat, to overcome. It’s hardly surprising then that when playing as a computer game character you have to attack or defeat something else that’s in your path. It’s possible to have non-violent games and concepts, the likes of the Sims and most point-and-click adventures, but they’re some pretty narrow genres.

But, and this is a really big but, all these people that keep pointing the blame at computer games for causing violence are grabbing the end of the stick that’s unfortunately been dipped in bullshit. Society isn’t violent because of computer games; computer games are violent because of us. Violence and death are two of the most intriguing and compelling things to humans. They are what intrigues and entertains us.

Just look at every form of entertainment if you’re unsure. Art, music, theatre, television, film. All of it involves violence or death in it somewhere. People live their lives constantly thinking about their mortality and the unanswerable question of death. Who has never walked over a bridge and felt a strange compulsion to throw themselves off, just to see what it’s like?

A combined desire to compete and a fascination with death and mortality are pretty much the two most powerful forces in nature*. It’s not surprising we’re so easily engrossed by these things and we enjoy them to the extent we do. It’s why when people play Tomb Raider they sometimes enjoy making Lara Croft hurl herself off a 100ft cliff to a messy, explosive end on the craggy floor below for no apparent reason. You do it not only out of curiosity but also because you know that a short loading screen later Lara’s going to be safely back on the top of that cliff ready to go for another 9.0 score from the judges for her triple somersault swan dive into solid ground. No consequences, no repercussions, nothing.

It’s why when playing Grand Theft Auto it’s hilariously good fun to smash over pedestrians with your car for no good reason. Why blowing a zombie’s head off with a shotgun in Resident Evil is enough to keep you chuckling for years. And why I’m sure sawing a hooker’s arm off with a hacksaw in Manhunt 2 would have been so enjoyable. Because it doesn’t matter. Never once have I paused and questioned my moral actions in a computer game. Not once have I felt genuine guilt for levelling a village of innocent people and slaughtering them and their livestock.

The fact that these violent decisions are so easy to make is what proves how little effect they have on people. The very idea of actually battering a stranger to death * with a metal pole is morally reprehensible and unquestionable. I wouldn’t hurl myself off a cliff Lara style*; I certainly wouldn’t actually run my car into pedestrians on a whim. This is the real world.

Just writing that sentence makes me feel like a fucktard for pointing out the obvious. We all know the difference. Honestly, we do. And when I say ‘we’ I’m talking about all 6,603,487,066 of us. Everyone can tell the real world from a fucking computer game. There isn’t anyone who can’t. Not even the most off-the-wall psychotic braindead Texan* could confuse a video game with the real world. If we couldn’t then surely we’d show a little more emotional connection when the body count hits the thousands as it does in some games.

But when the first Manhunt was released that kid got stabbed and the 14 year-old who stabbed him was obsessed with playing Manhunt, therefore Manhunt made him do it!

A convincing logical argument for the period it takes for the optical nerve to transmit the image from your eyes to your brain. What these special people are saying is that a kid who was violent and mentally unhinged enjoyed playing a computer game where you can be violent and mentally unhinged. So far so groundbreaking. But wait! their deductive powers don’t just stop there; using this evidence they firmly conclude that video games are what made him violent in the first place.

Now since I’ve been alive there have also been computer games, so I don’t know for sure what the world was like before then. I’m starting to worry that I missed out on some golden age that lasted from the dawn of mankind until 1971 where there was no violence. People suppressed their more aggressive instincts and didn’t lash out at anyone. Then game computer games were invented and Pandora’s Box spewed forth hate and violence into the world. Why Pong? WHY!?!

But then I stop worrying because I’m not a complete muppet. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. We were violent before computer games, we cause the violence in computer games because it’s entertaining to us simple humans, and it’s ok because we all know the difference between the magical Xbox world and this world we can actually touch. When young people go on killing sprees it’s tragic. So tragic that everyone feels guilty because everyone knows deep down that the responsibility lies with the rest of society to identify those people who are out of sync with the rest of us and treat them. It’s shockingly apparent that parents have a huge responsibility to look after their children and provide them with a stable upbringing. When these things don’t happen, sad things are often the result. But just because you feel guilty about your inaction and want something easy to blame, don’t try to ruin my innocent entertainment you pathetic cunt.

And part of being a parent is keeping your children away from overly violent imagery that may affect them. That’s why we have the BBFC and the whole rating system. These are adult games. For adults. If you don’t think your children should be playing these games then don’t let them. And campaign harder to make sure retailers are more stringent at checking IDs. Do whatever you want to fill the empty void in your lives where your sense of fun once was, but don’t let it get to the stage where we’re being told what, as rational and free-thinking, sane, balanced adult individuals we can and can not do for our own personal enjoyment in what is fast becoming the most exciting and revolutionary form of entertainment. If we start censoring now, it’s only going to get worse.

I’m off, if you want me I’ll be decapitating something helpless and innocent.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kill Id

Superheroes are rubbish because their powers are so utterly unattainable. No matter how much you screw up your eyes and wish for it, you're never going to become invisible. Nor will you ever be able to fly, not least because the main technique adopted by most superheroes when it comes to flying is to stick two fingers up at every law of physics and gravity. Where's Superman's thrust, eh? Where the fuck is it*?

One superpower that at first glance appears really cool and is always presented thus is the ability to read people's minds. It's a power that is always shown in the same way too. Take Parkman* from the TV show Heroes for example. He seems to have some mental radio in his head that he can tune in at will to hear anyone else's thoughts. Mel Gibson in What Women Want was able to hear the thoughts of women in what was possibly the most sexist film released in the latter half of the 20th century*. There are at least 12 examples of mind readers in popular culture* and the thoughts they hear are always the same: a simple and clear snippet of speech that the other person is saying to themselves.

Now take a brief moment to sit back and think about what you're thinking. Yeah, that sounds a little bit confusing but you know what I mean. Think about all the thoughts, images, sounds, words, ideas, emotions and images of your mother naked* that pass through your head in any one instance. It's an immensely confusing cacophony of noise which you're constantly struggling with for control. Now imagine that you could hear everyone else's confusing babble of mental bollocks. If you had that ability your brain would be out of your nose and into a small bubbling puddle of mess on the floor within 17 seconds.

Of course even if you could work out a way to filter out all the crap and get some clear image of what the other person was thinking in their head it still would be a distinctly unpleasant experience. The reason being that people think bad, embarrassing, personal thoughts all the time. In any one conversation with someone a million inappropriate, ridiculous, offensive and puerile images pass through your head. People constantly think about horrible stuff and if that information were available to everyone else all the time humans would be solitary animals living in caves, each one trying to work out whether they're more disgusted at themselves for imagining their neighbour dressed up in a baby costume and suckling at their nipples just for fun, or at their neighbour for thinking the same thing*.

This is why humans have developed inhibitions, filters to keep the dark thoughts locked up. But the brain, specifically the subconscious, is an absolute bastard and refuses to take censorship lying down. I don't know what I did to annoy my brain, maybe I wronged it in a past life or something, but now it's filled with a thirst for vengeance. A thirst it quenches by humiliating and embarrassing me at every turn and generally eroding my life*.

I know that I'm not alone in this. Anyone who has ever of a night partaken in the consumption of a couple of drinks tinted with ethanol will know how the brain will leap on any opportunity for it to blurt out the most cringeworthy statement it can come up with. It's not your fault, you didn't mean to say that you think your friend is a hefty whining trollop who should get over herself and sort her life out*, but she wouldn't shut the fuck up and*, your inhibitions dimmed by the booze, your subconscious leapt in there and spunked out what you were thinking. Why? Because your brain is a bastard and hates you.

Even when you're sober you're not safe though. The subconscious adopts more covert, guerilla tactics to make your life a living misery. It mostly achieves this through guilt and love, the two main weapons in the subconscious' 'Gonna Fuck You Up' arsenal*.

Guilt takes on many forms but it all essentially boils down to the same thing: when you make the wrong decision based on what the voices in your head told you to do. When your alarm goes off at 7.30am on a cold winter morning and you're tucked up in a snug warm bed, every instinct you have is telling you to just stay there you are and let work deal with itself. Similarly, when confronted by something that you really want to buy even when strapped for cash, the mind invents a million different reasons why this purchase will revolutionise your life and make you a better person*.

It's only after the bloodshed and the tears that the guilt sets in, always caused by that one wish that you could go back and listen to the sole rational voice that had clearly thought things through. This voice is your conscious, the sensible planning area of your brain that is locked in a constant battle against the overwhelming, savage, barbarian hordes that make up the subconscious. It's hardly surprising the poor blghter loses so often. Some people might suggest that you should take some kind of personal responsibility, but these people are forgetting that the subconscious is a bastard that wants to hurt you.

As powerful a weapon as guilt is, it's nothing compared to the power of love*. If the subconscious is trying to confuse, disorientate and disturb us, which it is, then it has no better weapon than love. In the early stages the subconscious uses our inhibitions against us. It does, in fact, amp them up. So you become nervous in front of the person you fancy, tongue-tied, awkward, unable to express how you truly feel for them, until you're left as a gibbering wreck wondering why all those wonderful things you'd planned to say suddenly vanished from your mind the instant you saw the object of your desire. Meanwhile your subconscious is guffawing away at your misfortune.

Then it builds on this groundwork. It starts flooding your mind with images and thoughts of the person. You don't want it to, you're trying to move on and focus on other things, but the subconscious is a persistent bugger and it just won't let up. So your every waking hour is filled with thinking about the one you 'love'. You wonder what they're doing, what they're thinking, if they like you, if you should throw caution to the wind, seize them and make wild passionate love to them right there on the dancefloor*, never realising that there is no rational reason for what you're doing, it's just because your brain hates you.

If you're lucky the other person will be having the same screwed up thoughts about you and then bam! you're in a relationship. Now you don't only have to deal with one subconscious that's out to get you, you have to deal with two. Anger, jealousy and confusion. The three elements, so sadly forgtten by Hollywood, that make up the other half of love. The only parts of a relationship that are continously content and happy are the two subconciouses involved that have formed a mutual bond of affection together over working so hard to mislead and bring general hurt and pain to those who are ultimately just trying to fulfil a biological imperative. Sex is easy for animals because they don't have a little demon in their head which is trying to destroy their sanity.

Guilt and love are the two main examples, but the harmful effects of the subconscious can be seen in every aspect of life. Irrational mood swings, decisions, thoughts, everything is caused by a part of the brain that doesn't take too kindly to being restricted. It was partly for this reason that for a while I took part in an intensive marjiuana relief programme*. For whatever reason, I found that marijuana had an effect on my subconscious not unlike that of an elephant tranquiliser on a small yappy Yorkshire terrier. Marijuana makes everything about you content and happy, with no pesky emotions or conflicting feelings to get in the way of living.

Unfortunately the flipside of such extensive use of cannabis is an utter lack of motivation and the feeling that you're slowly fading away as a person. So now that I've stopped smoking every hour that God sends, my subconscious has woken up. And it's pissed off. What I really want is a superpower that enables me to wage a stronger war against the subconscious, that will tell it to 'fuck off' every now and then. But superpowers are another invention of the subconscious to make us feel inferior about ourselves. If I survive the year with my sanity intact I'll consider it a personal victory.

Monday, October 22, 2007

P.A.L.E.S.T.I.N.E. - E.N.I.T.S.E.L.A.P.

palestine is a country in the middle of the east that regularly appears in the news, but there were probably some facts about the country you didn't know about. until now...

first some history. before palestine was created it was actually going to be used as a nepal site. the country of nepal was going to occupy the territory and the two countries were close to going to war over the dispute until saint peel stepped in and decreed otherwise. this is why there is still a high level of distrust between the nepalese and palestinians.

the people of palestine are enthusiastic lovers of exotic animals; many families have at least one saline pet. the high salt count in the animals caused by their regular dipping in the dead sea. this is also why eel paints are so commonly used to mark the country's borders. these paints are made by squeezing the eels, the liver juices of which can then be used to paint the pâté lines. this technique was used when constructing the now infamous spite lane, a long strip where prisoners were paraded through to the jeers, taunts and rotten tomatoes of onlookers.

palestine also plays a key role in the entertainment industry. many of the very first tape lines were recorded in jerusalem on the now hard to come-by salient ep by the band steep nail. there is also an entire alpine set which has been used to film such hollywood blockbusters as 'on her majesty's secret service' and 'cool runnings'. the sequel to spinal tap, spinal tee, a mockumentary about the world of golf, goes into production there this autumn.

palestine was also the setting for the arabian nights story, penis tale. a raunchy erotic love story about a penis struggling to find love in the gaza strip. penis tale was removed from subsequent editions of the arabian nights for reasons of decency.

whilst many site america as been the ufo centre, it's actually palestine that has the most flying saucer encounters. it's become such a problem that hamas has now set up the alien pest bureau. this bureau is designed to tackle the problem of alien invaders, and a highly disciplined army has arisen as a result. the recruitment scheme works as follows: anyone entering the bureau is told, "silent ape!" the shocked and stunned recruit is then told to, "enlist ape!” which he subsequently does, after which his only orders are to, "listen ape!".

this military force has recently suffered from a bout of the snipe late disease, where the snipers have a two second delay between their brain and trigger finger, which caused the disastrous crash of a passenger plane when a sniper shot late, thinking it was a ufo, the bullet caught the tail of the plane sending it into a tail speen and crashing it. ironically enough, it landed on the plane site. a site dedicated to planes and their uses.

palestine's main industry is in snail peet. this peet is created by placing layer upon layer of snails on top of each other until the weight creates this kind of gooey snail paste, a rare delicacy in arabian kitchens and a good source of non-carbon fuel. however, the process has meant that palestine has had to adopt an antipsleep policy, to prevent the snails running off when no one is looking. penalties can be severe, if one is found asleep on the job a stale pine may be inserted into any orifice the justice system deems appropriate.

palestine: the state of wonder. go there and experience something you've never experienced before. for more information, visit silent pea, the palestinian tourist board website.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Opera Vulgaris

Here’s some things I’ve never done before: hunted dolphins, stuck myself to the wall with blu-tac, assassinated the sovereign leader of a country, jumped into a lion pit at the zoo*, and, perhaps most shockingly of all, before last night, I’d never been to the opera.

At school it had been easy avoiding social exclusion by pretending that I knew my Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria from my Die Entführung aus dem Serail, but at university the embarrassment and humiliation from being one of the few not to have experienced opera was just too much. So when the opera was suggested for an evening of entertainment I jumped at the chance to rid myself of my embarrassing social leprosy.

The first thing that confused me on arriving at the Festival Theatre was the general age of the audience. Most of them had been present in at least three different centuries. They all kept glancing nervously at the steep gradient of the theatre steps, wondering how best to attack them without popping another hip socket. Where were all the hip young dudes? The crazy cats ready to have their emotions frayed and torn apart by the spirit of opera? There were a few young kids; the higher up you got in the theatre, the younger the opera lover tended to be so the top bar was practically empty, but we were severely outnumbered should it have turned nasty over a particularly saucy aria di bravura.

After all the usual non-stop hilarity of finding out seats and settling down I prepared myself mentally for what was about to happen. The only things I knew about opera were the bits I’d picked up from reading Maskerade time and time again*. I couldn’t help but be reminded of that whore from Pretty Woman who’s never been to an opera before, what with being a crackwhore and living on the street and all, and of course she loves it because Hollywood loves bullshit. Would the dulcet words of Richard Gere come true for me too*?

The whole thing got going in expected fashion, the orchestra started playing, people started walking about on stage. But then came the first snag of the evening, which really I should’ve seen coming. None of them were singing in English. This was going to make it a bugger to follow, no doubt about it.

Then I noticed what the large television screens in the boxes either side of the stage were for. Subtitles for opera. Genius! They would be my guide to the action on stage. Unfortunately it soon became clear that a lot of the emotional impact was lost this way. When characters are singing long, emotional, drawn out lines on stage and the screens simply state, “Edgardo. I hate him.” it somehow detracts from that all important emotional knee to the groin.

The plot kicks off like this: Enrico is trying to marry his sister Lucia to Arturo for financial reasons but Lucia is in love with Edgardo, Enrico’s sworn enemy. When Enrico finds out that Lucia and Edgardo are at the hanky and the panky he gets a little bit angry and comes out with a plot that reads like one of those modern day honour killings.

At least that’s what the screens would have me believe. However, my suspicions were first aroused when, at the emotional peak of the scene, when Edgardo is apparently saying that he’s going to slaughter his sister and her lover, the orchestra is playing a happy little ditty and everyone on staging is singing in an upbeat manner reminiscent of puppies on a warm spring morning. I began to suspect a disgruntled slide employee of tampering with the slides to change the story. Perhaps what everyone was actually singing was, “We’re very happy with our long sticks.”

Oh yes, the chorus. The poor bastards. All the male members were dressed up in black trilbies and long black cloaks and for some inexplicable reason carried sticks around with them that were twice their height. It was bizarre. I was hoping one would flip and cry out, “You. Can not. Pass!” but I was sadly disappointed. The female members were all dressed up in black with the same wigs, creating a weird homogenous blob effect. They spent most of their time just standing on stage listening. Some characters only job was to stand still on stage, listening to the action, and occasionally move. That was it. No singing, and no explanation for their presence. It looked like the most boring job in the world…

As Act I Scene I ended with revenge being sworn, the tragic heroine of the story, Lucia, entered for Act I Scene II. She was a buxom lady in ways that I am assured are in keeping with the finest traditions of the great female divas throughout the ages. I’m not entirely sure why larger ladies have such powerful voices. A quick Google turned up some stuff about fatty tissue around the vocal chords and larger diaphragms, but I reckon it’s something to do with the personality and good sense of humour these people are apparently blessed with. Whatever the reason, she had a voice on her that would make a dead man come*.

Lucia was going on to her friend (I think) about this vision she’d had at the fountain of a girl and the water running red with blood. It sounded like Lourdes if the Virgin Mother had been on her period. Then came on Edgardo*. The screens of lies said something about the two loving each other despite the danger, bobloblaw, but my attention was distracted when Lucia knelt down.

She was wearing a red dress that had a train so long that when she knelt down it looked like she was melting into the floor in the style of the T-1000*. I got caught up in this entirely different storyline in my head where she had melted into the floor up to her thighs and keeps begging him not to leave, and he keeps making to go before the guilt brings him back to this weird cripple that he can’t help but love. Then she stood up, shattering the illusion, he gave her a quick peck on the lips, fucked off stage and the curtain came down for the interval leaving me completely dazed and confused.

So instead of trying to catch up, I decided at the beginning of Act II to ignore the screens, which obviously had no idea what was actually going on, and instead focus all my attention on the stage. This made things instantly clearer. For example, time and time again at the beginning of a scene, female members of the chorus would walk across the stage carrying candles while people sang, to no explanation from the screens. Suddenly an entire sub-plot involving a cult and ritualistic sacrifices became apparent, the material obviously being too violent and explicit to translate into English given the high chance of heart attacks in the arcane audience.

Probably not, but I didn’t care. I discovered that the most fun to be had at an opera was to sit there and just imagine how you think the scene should be going based on the music and what’s happening on stage. I was starting to create my own ridiculous plot involving mafia weddings and plans to poke the King with long sticks, when all of a sudden Lucia burst on stage, covered in blood. I found this a bit hard to work into what I thought was going on, so decided to go back to the screens and find out what I’d missed.

It turned out that Lucia had gone totally batshit. Having being convinced of Edgardo’s infidelity, she married Arturo, then killed him, and proceeded to lose every one of her marbles. She wandered about on stage in a blood-stained wedding dress hallucinating about Edgardo and getting gradually more barmy until literally crazying herself to death after about 35 minutes.

Now this bit was sung beautifully and was well done, but I kept wondering why no one was stepping to stop her. Here’s the bridesmaid at her wedding, covered in blood and going round the twist. I was hoping someone would put a blanket around her, calm her down a bit and wait for the police to arrive and put her in a mental hospital. Not just stand there staring blankly on. Then Edgardo hears that she’s dead and decides that’s as good a reason as any to plunge a dagger into his stomach and again draw out his death beyond necessary lengths. “All a bit over the top” I initially thought.

But that kind of thinking takes all the fun out of opera. It’s all about the tragedy, the melodrama, the ridiculousness of it all. That’s what makes it all so appealing. At least that’s what I deduced from one trip to the opera. It’s a Red Wine type problem. I know what red wine tastes like, if I have one type of wine immediately after another I can identify the differences in the taste. But I have no idea what makes up a good red wine, how to tell one red wine from another, or any of that kind of thing. Same with classical music. I enjoy listening to it, but I’m buggered if I have a clue what’s actually going on. And cricket as well. No idea what the finer details of cricket are. These are the kinds of things loved more by older people. Maybe it’s something you learn to appreciate with age. Personally I enjoyed making up a story* and listening to voices that were so incredible it’s humbling.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Uninformed Murderers And Liars, The Lot Of You

People go on about human evolution, but human society hasn’t changed one iota since the first group of people built a wall around themselves and told everyone else to go fuck themselves. Oh sure there have been some cosmetic changes, but us cogs in the machine still have the same kind of hopes, dreams, pains, general bodily functions, as we did c.50 million years ago.

There are those who speak in disgust at the idea of gladiators in Ancient Times hacking meat off each other for the general amusement of the public, but death and violence are still what dominate our entertainment industry. Then there are the ol’ Victorian freakshows which everyone pretends to be horrified about before pouring themselves into the brand new super-deluxe freakshow for the 21st Century that is the celebrity industry.

If there’s one thing that represents a serious downward curve in the human evolutionary path towards a higher purpose, it’s the celebrity industry. Everytime a copy of heat, or any other kind of vacuous glossy shitmag is bought and someone earnestly sits down and takes an interest in all the pretty pictures, made-up stories, unimportant news, flimsy reviews, common-sense personal advice and plain hypocrisy, the human species as a whole takes a giant leap back towards the trees.

I used to think that the blame lay entirely with the celebrities. These shallow, money-grabbing, arrogant, talentless nobodies who can’t go without attention for longer than half a nanosecond before volunteering to humiliate themselves again in yet another degrading reality TV show. And it does, to a certain extent. But the real troublemakers, the ones determined to get us the ‘Worst Century for Human Evolution Ever’ title currently held by the 14th Century, are the stupid bastards who actually care about these nothingfolk.

Recently I’ve caught whiffs of the whole Britney Spears fiasco wafting past me like farts in the wind. Let’s make this absolutely clear from the start: the only important thing about Britney Spears is her singing. In the same way that the only important thing about Brad Pitt is his acting. That’s what their jobs are, who they are as people and what they do in their private life is entirely immaterial. They could mainline heroine into their eyeballs and enjoy regular bouts of pig fucking for all I care, as long as they can do their job what codgesnuffling difference does it make?

All the difference in the world apparently to some emotionally stunted shit-for-brain inepts. These individuals who feed and suck on celebrity gossip like bloated pubescent larva. Any story about the likes of Amy Winehouse smashing her head through a pint glass or Pete Doherty purchasing a new shoe stirs a feeling deep within these people not unlike the kind that perverts get when watching a snuff film. Sometimes they’ll make the arbitrary decision to ‘like’ the celebrity. They’ll get the idea that this celebrity is a nice person and should be sympathised with. Or they’ll go the opposite way and mock the celebrity to the point of ridicule.

How dare they? Genuinely how dare they? These celebrities are total strangers, all the information we get about them is horseshit churned out by PR machines and bare-faced tabloid liars. These voyeuristic bastards want to invade the lives of celebrities and uncover every facet of them for their own personal amusement. And they do so with no sense of irony or guilt. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that if you hound someone and put immense pressure on them they’re more than likely to mess their lives up with drugs and alcohol. If you really care about them, leave them alone. Let their private lives be private.

Look at it this way: imagine Facebook acted like the tabloid press. Every action you performed, every person you met, every drink you had, every word you uttered, was repeated and shared with the rest of Facebook. Not only that, but it would make up lies about what you had and hadn’t done. It would share embarrassing photos and everyone else would comment and laugh at you. If this were the case Facebook would be a cold, desolate wasteland on the internetwork highway, its space littered with broken hearts and suicide.

When taken to its extremes, this celebrity obsession does have some serious and hilarious (in a depressingly cynical way) implications. First off the bat is the death of Diana. Ten years on and I still don’t get this. Her life was pretty much ruined by the unwarranted public interest in her day-to-day actions. And in the end, the paparazzi pressure killed her. Then, in a stroke of genius, the tabloids managed to make it seem like they loved her all this time, the public went with it because they didn’t want to face up to the fact that they might have just slightly been responsible for murdering her, and so began the most pathetic period of mourning and people pretending they cared this country has ever seen.

But it didn’t stop there. Now we have this whole Madeleine McCann saga. Everyone has their own opinion about what happened to Madeleine. Some blame the parents, some blame the Portugese police and some believe she was kidnapped by Elvis. Unfortunately they all seem to be missing the key point that they don’t know jackshit and should all shut the fuck up immediately. Who are you to judge whether someone is guilty or not based on what you read in the papers? Do you think you have some keen insight into the case because you’ve read some sensationalist headlines? The job of the press and the public is not to act as judge, jury and executioner. Although the latter role has been pretty well adopted given that there’s nothing more likely to make a kidnapper slit a young girl’s throat and hide the body than making his victim the most famous girl in the world. But that’s just my opinion.

The fact that this cult of celebrity is creeping into the world of abducted children is weird enough, but the problem started long ago when it became acceptable to take average people and idolise them for no particular reason. There is a national thirst for fame and to have your 5 seconds of fame, but why? As far as I can tell having strangers pretend that they know you and judge you is one of the most hellish things in the world.

It’s all very simple: if someone is good at their job then they should be praised for their talents. If you want to get to know a stranger with a drug problem who can’t look after their kids then just turn left out your door and walk ten metres up the road. And please, I implore you, stop caring about fake bullshit personalities so that we can focus on the important stuff like advancing the human race and colonising Mars or something.

Friday, October 05, 2007

temporary blockage

i don't know if anyone will see this/notice/care but it's been bugging me that i haven't written or posted anything in over 2 weeks. however, i will do soon. i've just started on a new piece and everything. you can blame going to lectures, doing shows, new heroes, new house, new south park, new charlie brooker's screenwipe and halo 3 for my procrastination. or you can blame me.