The Crazies Are Coming

Merry Wednesday.

Our Gregorian calendar, which we decided to split into 52 periods of 7 days, dictates by some long evolved social convention that I repeat something I did around 7 days ago, and repeat it I shall. But not exactly, that would just be silly, I mean what kind of complete asinine moron would do the exact same things every single week of their life? It’s preposterous. There’s no good reason for it, bar some thin veil of comfort to shelter you from the encroaching fear that you’re getting closer to 30 and all your friends are talking about moving in with their boyfriends at brunch while you tuck into avocado smeared on some kind of probiotic sourdough and softly cry into your lap while swiping right on every balding nobody who pops up on your tinder wondering if that guy you banged after Fab on the third year of your Classics degree was actually the one.

But that aside, on to the good stuff.

Have you ever gazed across the horizon from the top of a hill or a cliff, awed into silence by the beauty, your eyes drinking in the splendour of nature while your mind wonders “If the world is round then why is everything I see flat?” No? Good. Some of you may have read over the weekend that perennial nobody and one time mildly successful “rap” artist B.o.B. (I don’t get it either, what’s wrong with just Bob?) has made some rather bold claims suggesting that we’ve all been lied to and the world is actually flat. You know, centuries of empirical scientific evidence and astronauts actually up in space be damned.
I don’t know much about Bob, who he is, where he’s from, I don’t know his story, what he’s been through to get here, mmmmhmmm, but I can safely assume that he never sat through a basic science lesson, or even just googled the words “Earth from space.”
(Though mild props to any man so steadfast in his belief that he’ll go toe to toe on Twitter with Neil Motherfuckin’ DeGrasse Tyson about science).

When I found out a couple of years ago that people like this exist I was gobsmacked, astounded that people in the 21st century could still genuinely believe that the Earth is flat, and of course allege that all science is just one giant conspiracy and they’re hiding something at Area 51 and also vaccines give you autism and, wait, no, I dipped into another crazy pond. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Flat Earthers have been experiencing a bit of a Renaissance recently, not a real one, because that would make them (by definition) smarter and therefore less likely to be Flat Earthers, especially in America. Big surprise. A quick jaunt to youtube will reveal dozens of videos purporting to debunk science and NASA data with that particular kind of person thrusting maps at shitty webcams of how the world really looks. You know the type, the kind where you look at them and can just imagine what they smell like, stale wotsits and BO and the shame of their parents. According to many of them, Antarctica is just a ring of ice surrounding the flat world or something, it’s all a bit Discworld/Middle Earth/Westeros/any other fantasy world.
The even funnier thing is that the Flat Earthers can’t even agree on which theory they support, there are fragments within the movement, can you imagine that? It’s fucking hilarious. People are genuinely disagreeing on how they’re going to be wrong, it’s mind-blowing, but it also stops being funny once you realise that they’re being serious. They’re serious, guys, c’mon. Stop laughing. Okay no, a bit more laughter.

Okay now stop. Damn it I can’t.

Of course what this all ties into, and the broader topic of this post, is the notion of conspiracies in this day and age. In the age of information, the age of tinder and snapchat and facebook and grindr and other such mobile hook up applications, it’s easier than ever to make a few taps and swipes on a screen and find out anything you want to know.
But at the same time when information is so readily available it’s not always easy to trust in its veracity. As I myself have written in the past, people shouldn’t necessarily believe everything they read and see online, particularly when it’s written in one of those telltale impassionate tones that belies a total lack of logical grounding and comes across like the ramblings of a man who hasn’t gotten laid in 7 months. Heh.
So what do you get when you’re a person who finds things hard to believe yet also will believe in things that most other people would find incredibly hard to believe? My friends, you’ve got yourself a conspiracy theorist.
The come in many forms. There’s the “Illuminati and New World Order control the world and they’re actually lizard people” ones, the “9/11 was an inside job” ones, the “Chemtrail” ones, the “Vaccines give you autism on purpose” ones, the “Genetically modified foods are the spawn of satan” ones, and then the slightly more light hearted “Elvis/Tupac is still alive” type ones, who you kind of just want to pinch on the cheek and give them a little pat on the head while the men in white coats fetch the straitjackets.

To entertain a notion on reddit or 4chan is one thing, to get into that high frame of mind and consider whether there really is a group of shady men who control politics or not is another. I mean there is, it’s obvious, what do you think happens in Davos every year when all the politicians and rich folk get together? The truth is obvious, they’re planning how to control us through brainwaves and MK Ultra and there’s drugs in our food to make us conform and OPEN YOUR GODDAMN EYES YOU SHEEPLE.
See? It’s easy to get caught up in it all. The more far fetched the idea the more readily people seem to buy into it, something fantastical to take away from the drab, grey, monotony of actual life.
There are interests who want to shape global policy, but they’re not shadowy lizard men, they’re politicans and business folk and supranational bodies like the UN who have a vested interest in the betterment of the world as a whole. If someone is a profit chasing dickhead, it’s because they’re a profit chasing dickhead, not because their strings are being pulled by a chameleon off stage somewhere.

I enjoy a good conspiracy read, it amuses me just how creatively people wil piece together real world elements to construct theories, but it also worries me. It worries me when these fears bleed out from their online forums and into real life, when people start blurring the line between seeing something as a theory and instead see everyone else as propaganda agents out to get them, suppressing the truth that only they and a select few have been clever enough to see. Everyone wants to belong, to feel special, but that’s a pretty dangerous way to go about it.
When people listen to nutters like Vani Hari and her ilk on youtube and take her garbled rants about various chemicals to heart instead of listening to actual scientists and doctors (who are all in cahoots by the way obv. 😂😂😂💯) and stop feeding their kids certain things or worse, choose not to vaccinate them and endanger their lives as well as the lives of those around them.

A quick aside, if you’ll indulge me.

There’s a special spot in my hate list for anti-vaxxers, they embody the opposite of everything that I hold dear. They embody a distrust of science and knowledge, the willingness to blindly believe in social media nonsense, the prioritising of personal opinion over empirical fact, and worst of all they push their hare brained bullshit onto innocent children who were unfortunate enough to be born into their care. They can all go fuck themselves.

But back to the matter at hand. It’s this toxic combination of distrust and a lack of belonging that seems to feed these people. They don’t fit into society, so they question it, but not the things that need questioning. They don’t question entrenched racism, sexism, ageism, nepotism, they go after easy targets that nobody ever bothered to defend because they never thought they’d need defending. Who ever thought that Galileo and Copernicus and Newton would come under fire from some shite rapper for apparently being part of some secretive Freemason science cabal? Or that scientists and doctors who swore oaths to protect lives would actively harm their children? They’re soft targets, ones that haven’t been questioned because they’re just so damned self explanatory.
But this lack of questioning simply drives the distrust further, makes them wonder why nobody has asked these things, and who it may be that’s keeping us all under control. People bandy about the phrase “Big brother is watching” these days as if it’s some truism rather than a quote from a (rather brilliant) 60 year old novel about the dangers of fascism, and it’s easy to see why in an era of the NSA and GCHQ tapping our messages, but it’s also very easy to get a bit carried away.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t question the status quo, why things are the way they are. Science too has been proven wrong in the past (by other scientists, not youtube commenters), so it’s not too far fetched to doubt some things that modern scientists would accept as fact. But science isn’t afraid to learn, to evolve, to accept change as and when it happens. Science yields to evidence, not mere conjecture, and as someone who considers himself a bit of an amateur science (and sci fi) buff I gladly wait for the day when someone sets forth some solid proof for their theories.
But until then, no. I refuse. I refuse to listen to people whose view of the world and the people in it is so warped as to suggest that we’re all a bunch of braindead drones and there’s only a select few who can see the light. It’s the same reason why I don’t entirely buy into religion either, the notion that there’s a select few who are worthy, it’s petty tribalism, straight out of the Dawn of Man sequence in 2001.

Conspiracy theories are just that, theories, but I think even that word is giving them more credit than they’re due. Theory suggests that all they’re lacking is a practical application, when what they’re lacking in reality is any semblance of credibility whatsoever. They’re conspiracy tales, stories cooked up by throwing whatever dregs of “information” have been found in the gutters of the internet and left to stew until some watery thin solidity appears.
Belief is a contentious issue, and a deeply personal one, but beliefs should be held to question. Take away the ability to question them and you’re left with blind faith, the human trait that has led to such wonders as the Crusades and ISIS to name but two. Thus far only the anti-vaxx crew are in a position to genuinely harm life through their beliefs, but it’s the beliefs themselves that are the source. Much like a weed, certain things have to be killed at the root before they can disappear for good, but when a root is so deeply buried what can we – oh god they’re here, helppgana’ebebae//././

THIS IS THE ILLUMINATE. WE DO NOT FORGIVE. WE DO NOT SOW.
EXPECTO PATRONUM.

 

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xoxo, The High Supreme Grand Wizard of the 13th Chamber of Amenhotep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insert Token To Continue

diversity

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the following post may not be universally popular or accepted, the author acknowledges this and assures you that he does not give a singular fuck.

There’s been a lot of hoo-ha recently, well actually over the past few years there’s been an almost permanent state of hoo-ha over something or other, but the most recent hoo-ha is to do with that most venerated of awards, the Oscars.
On the surface, where most people dwell, it’s a pretty simple gripe. Where are all the black Oscar nominees? Where are the nominations for Idris Elba and Michael B Jordan and all the other actors and actresses of colour who turned in great performances in the past year? All the hashtaggers want is for the Academy to be me more open and inclusive, which in 2016 should just be happening without saying, and that’s not so much to ask, right?
Well, there’s a bit more to it than that in the eyes of this old grouch, and it’s a result of some rather recent and rather grating phenomena that this post is even being written.

I write this post as a person of colour, a colour, not necessarily the one most people are concerned about. I write it as someone who likes to think of himself as a creative, be that in terms of writing, musically, or however else. I write this is as a lifelong, diehard fan of film and television, a rapacious consumer of all things visual. So it is not lightly that I write the following words.

Representation is not the same as equality.

Let me explain. There comes a time when it comes to racial equality where something stops being mere diversity and turns into tokenism. There is a certain point where people stop being, for example, employed based on their merit, and are rather chosen to fulfil some arbitrary diversity quota.
What does this mean for the employee? Sure, they’ve now gotten into a good job, where they can no doubt work hard and do well and therefore earn lots of money. But are they not disappointed that they got in by virtue of their race rather than their degree or experience? Are they not a bit miffed that they were chosen purely for being from a deprived background or because they speak with a  certain accent? I don’t know about you, but when someone is assessing me I want it to be purely on the basis of my achievements, without the undue influence of the colour of my skin. In fact, I think it’s almost insulting.

It’s borderline patronising to go to a person of colour and award them something that you know they haven’t deserved, but are getting simply because everyone else is. There are no doubt actors who deserve to win awards, and they are the ones who are nominated by the academy. David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor stood shoulder to shoulder with their fellow nominees based on the strength of their performances alone, and though they didn’t win, they were undoubtedly still proud of being considered as having given one of the five best performances of the year. Oh, and Denzel fucking killed it in Training Day, but that’s another story.
But what people seem to want is the grown up equivalent of a participation sticker in primary school, an “everyone’s a winner” pat on the back at the end of a football match in which you were trounced 20-0 by the opposition and fluffed a penalty. Now imagine being in that scenario when you’re an artist, when you’re a musician or an actor. Imagine somebody coming up to you and essentially saying “You’re getting awarded this simply because you tried, not because you were objectively the best, not because nobody else was good enough, but because you had a go and you’re a bit special.”

Not just that, but by focusing on black actors and directors as being under-represented, what does that say about every other ethnic minority? That they’re not good enough? They weren’t historically oppressed enough? They’re too much of a minority to be taken seriously? There are Indian and Chinese and Middle Eastern and Eastern European and Latin American, among many others, people working in the film industry out there who don’t have nominations yet also don’t have any social media support arguing for more representation. As Armond White put it, it’s a case of “the Least Favourite Token,” isn’t focusing on one race exactly the kind of behaviour that liberals like us should be discouraging? In fact, isn’t singling out anyone based on their ethnic background a basic act of racial division?

If the above all sounds a bit too Breitbart for this blog then you’ll have to excuse me, as though I am without question a liberal, I also believe that in the 21st century liberalism has a tendency to stray into tumblr hysteria in the face of increasingly weak provocations. There are issues which are pressing, issues regarding climate change, race, gender, socio-economics, the problems with entrenched elites, power structures and tax dodging corporations, many causes that require genuine attention.
But at the same time the online world has a tendency to latch onto the newest hashtag and viral video, turning any issue into an echo chamber of unqualified hyper-left wing soundbites and mean spirited jibes directed at detractors and conservatives presented without a shred of irony. Yeah they’re on the other side to you, does that mean their opinions are completely invalid?
Before you cry bloody irony I confess openly that I have been guilty of the above in the past, sharing posts from AAV and The Guardian that suit my views, my agenda on a given matter, while decrying any arguments that may be made by the other side. But I’ve changed, I promise*.

There are certain matters on which there is a clear right and wrong, Britain First will always be a joke, the Tories will always be a gang of animated Etonian plastic puppets led by a man who face fucked a pig, Katie Hopkins will continue to be the result of a laboratory experiment combining a melted candle with Satan’s soul gone wrong, but 99% of issues have valid arguments that can be made for both sides.
It would be a denial of the power of human thought, as well as a clear rejection of the informed electorate any democracy requires, to sit so staunchly on any one side of any one issue, that goes for the left and the right. Any normal, well rounded person will have things that they take different stances on.
You may be a Christian who supports social welfare yet opposes gay marriage, or a rich man who opposes higher taxes yet also lobbies for action on climate change, and like me you may yet be finding your proverbial political feet.

So back to the issue at hand. I’ve been reading a lot of posts from across the web, from the Guardian to the National Review, from all points of the spectrum, all the while trying to avoid the hyperbolic and overly simplified dross from the likes of Complex and HuffPo that will no doubt have armies of teenagers up in arms in their bedrooms.
The Oscars are a venerable institution, the first ever entertainment awards, running uninterrupted for over 80 years. In cinematic terms they’ve seen everything from the introduction of colour to modern day CGI, from actors like Clark Gable and Marlene Dietrich to George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, from epics like Ben Hur to modern day box office behemoths like The Dark Knight. For some jumped up Facebook users and paid by the word newspaper columnists to suddenly pipe up and accuse the Oscars of being outmoded is like a four year old insisting he can teach a university physics course better than the professor, it’s laughable. It shows a complete lack of knowledge of the subject as well as disrespect to those who actually do, the critics and scholars, people who study both film as well as those who have studied society and race. These are the people who can comment on this issue with any real authority, the ones who have the experience and knowledge necessary to have opinions with any weight to them.

It’s yet another example of social media taking divergent issues, mashing them together into a nice and provocative catchphrase, and suckering in legions of would be activists who will then do the customary liking and sharing of innumerable hastily typed out fluff pieces by Vice interns looking to get some tasty clicks. It’s the world we live in, where people can’t actually see that their faux outrage is nothing more than another trend being set by a growing army of people who seem to do nothing other than get offended by literally everything ever. I want to care, I really do, but I’ll be damned if the little Libertarian in me doesn’t want to just sit back with a cup of tea and laugh at the people falling over themselves to make the next offence train before it leaves the station.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to just say really right wing things and watch people struggle as they realise that it came out of the mouth of a bearded 21 year old Indian boy, someone who occasionally gets pulled aside for a “random” search at the airport, someone who by all supposed norms should be a dyed in the blood liberal waving peace flags and holding vigils for Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. I’m not saying I don’t care about people being shot, or about refugees, or about race relations and gender equality and everything else, just that I refuse to join people who like to simplify things to a basic right/wrong binary.

We live in a complicated world of, as I said so eloquently (if I do say so myself, if I do say so myself) in my New Years post, “Opinions as fact, Bullshit as opinions” and “Insanity as bullshit.” But by the oft repeated liberal ideal of free speech, everyone is entitled to spout whatever opinion or bullshit or insanity they want (within legal reason of course). I’m allowed to spout this long winded and poorly structured rant onto the internet and there’s nothing you can do about it, likewise you could share a post from The Mary Sue that I seriously disagree with and you can happily not give a fuck.
It’s both a blessing and a curse, and one that must be treated as such. Jesus himself said that we should do unto others as we would have done unto ourselves, and as an occasional Hindu who sometimes believes in Karma it all basically boils down to the age old adage of “what goes around comes around.” Spread bullshit, receive bullshit. Jump to hyperbole, be prepared to face it from the other side. Spout an opinion without any facts or research to back it up? You’d better believe there’s someone raring to do the same to you from behind their keyboard.

Much like the world in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, or just every single fucking exhausting day, it comes down to the same ol’ thing. People just need to think for themselves. They need to stop just like something because everyone else is, or sharing something they haven’t read/watched and thought about, or jump on a bandwagon simply because it’s the done thing. This post may have started out about the Oscars, but that was honestly just a springboard for the rest (it wasn’t really, I just ran out of shit to say), and as always it’s the issue surrounding the issue that is by far the more interesting thing to write about and hopefully to read about too.

xoxo, The Angry “Not quite brown enough for an Oscar outrage” Guy.

 

 

*promises meaningless and unlikely to be held/fulfilled

Loving The Alien

It’s a sad day.

As you may have been able to tell by my sporadic social media offerings and instagram and snapchats, I’m not good at condensing my thoughts into snippets of 140 characters. I’m a long form kind of guy when it comes to things that deserve it, and who could be more deserving than a man, musician, and artist as prolific as David Bowie.
Where can you even start, do you talk about his music? About his plethora of personas? His influence on fashion? His acting? The legacy of his songs and their lyrics? People better qualified than me to talk about those things shall talk about them, so instead I’m going to go personal on this personal blog and talk about what Bowie meant to me.

I couldn’t tell you when I first heard David Bowie, at least not a song that I knew was by him. Whereas most of my other musical tastes (The Beatles, Led Zep, Pink Floyd etc.) came from my dad, he was never really into his Bowie, so I grew up for a long time knowing little about him outside of Let’s Dance and Changes.
Come my teenage years however, and all of that changed. Some of you may remember the series Life on Mars and later on Ashes to Ashes, 70s and 80s set cop series dripping in period detail, and that went for the music as well. Every band you could think of were on there, Wings, ELO, T Rex, Roxy Music, but the stand out for me was the title track. Life on Mars. I had to search for it straight away, what was this alien ballad? What is up with those lyrics, “Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow”? It was weird, but it was fascinating. Drawn in by the lush instrumentation, the stuttering drum beat, and the reedy yet rich voice of this odd man.

The rest after that, as they say, is history. I fell into a Bowie black hole. I spent hours and hours on wikipedia and youtube looking up his old albums and finding the songs, searching the lyrics, seeing what meaning lay hidden in their seeming nonsense. Bowie was a treasure trove, and for someone like me who likes to listen to a bit of everything, his amalgamation and adaptation of various styles was just mind blowing. There was just straight up old school rock like The Jean Genie, there was art pop, there was jazz, there were grimy fast tracks like Scary Monsters and sweeping ballads like Drive-In Saturday, and between them all Bowie’s voice flitted like a chameleon between husky and deep, operatic and a nasal drawl.
He took staid genres and injected them with a new lease of life, with experimental song structures and instrumentation, squalls of saxophone, and credit must go to his key collaborators like Mick Ronson, Robert Fripp, and Brian Eno (among many others) who helped fuel his vision.

Bowie took everything I loved about 70s and 80s music and took it to the next level, with his songs revealing new details and layers of meaning on every subsequent listen. From then on he became a solid part of my music collection, whereas other bands have come and gone along with my phases, Bowie is a fixture. His music is something I can go to time and again, in times of joy, in times of sorrow, in times of frustration, on those lazy, rainy Sundays when you just want to put on Absolute Beginners and sit in a comfy chair with a good book.
He’s soundtracked my life through my angsty teen years, where I loved the rockier aspects of Ziggy Stardust and Rebel Rebel, through to pre-drinks at university where I’d, perhaps unwisely, turn off the bland radio pop people preferred and replace it with Let’s Dance, and more recently when I started listening to some more out there music like Sunn O))) and Swans I found myself drawn to his legendary Berlin trilogy of albums, the most famous of which (Heroes) I bought on vinyl one rainy afternoon in Kreuzberg.

In Berlin his music took on a whole new dimension. Anyone who has heard the album, or even the song, Heroes will know about its relation to the tumultuous recent history of the German capital. Bowie encapsulated the mood of cautious optimism perfectly, delivering experimental rock, a fist in the air anthem in the form of the title track, and then switching gears entirely for the second side with some truly haunting instrumental pieces like Moss Garden and Neukolln.
In 2014 Berlin celebrated 25 years since the fall of the Berlin wall, and I swear I heard somebody playing Heroes on just about every street I walked down. Those now immortal lines, “We can be heroes, just for one day,” ringing out in 2014 as they did in 1977, a maxim for all of those longing for a life of freedom.

But it’s the attitude that Bowie inspired that stuck with me the most. The idea that anything is possible, the idea that popular music can be free to break out of constraints of genre and convention, the idea that you can reinvent yourself no matter your age, the idea that pop can and should be a conduit for so much more, for observations of the self along with observations of the world, that high art and mainstream media could exist side by side, without pretensions and without derision from either side.
Bowie personified an ageless rebellion, angst, ennui, putting into words and music the sense of detachment that we’ve all felt from time to time, yet also an unbridled sense of joy, of freedom, love, friendship, brotherhood, decadence and hedonism. He was an alien and an everyman, straddling the line between distant observer and lifelong friend with unparalleled ease.

As he leaves us with his parting gift of Blackstar, an album of haunting beauty and incredible reinvention given the age of its maker, Bowie once again reveals layers to himself and his music. The lyrics throughout deal with death, immortality, with Bowie deftly weaving in references to everything from modern geopolitics to Elizabethan theatre.
After putting it off last night, I watched the video for his new single Lazarus this morning with the news weighing heavy on his mind, and I unapologetically cried. Bowie writhes in a bed, singing “Look up here, I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen,” devastating lines in light of the revelation that he had been battling cancer for 18 months.
But instead of lying down and taking it, David Bowie gave the world a new album and gave it his all. At the end of the video he clambers into a closet in an outfit reminiscent of his 70s days, shutting the door behind him, and that’s how he leaves us in real life.

A true artist to the end, a traveller from the stars like the Starman he sang of, coming down to live among us like The Man Who Fell to Earth, transporting us to horizons unknown with his music, before returning to a cosmic abode.

Rest in peace David Bowie, you will never be forgotten.

xoxo