Tuesday 7 March 2017

  • This is a kind of blog. I kind of had enough venom at the piece of mediocrity that just got into my eyes. But it wasn’t real anger. It didn’t last long enough to be bothered enough to kind of shape it and pull it together properly. 


NB Throughout references to Brent are referring to Brent:Life on The Road, or whatever it is fucking called.
There are times watching Brent when I wonder if the muscle memory of self-awareness remains in the work of Ricky Gervais. But I just think it’s the shadow of past glory rather than any dormant comic talent. Or even more likely, something that looks like self-awareness but it just pretty mediocre comedy.

The problem with David Brent as a character is that he was perfect for a sitcom: if he learns he is a prick, he stops being funny. Him recognising it in the last episode was kind of fine by that rationale as there was no re-set required. But for the film – ignoring the odd Comic Relief sketch – he needs to be deluded.

One of the problems with this film is we are asked to ignore the fact that Brent is a horrible person without any cause. It’s mainly because we’re 75 minutes into a 90-minute film and that’s about when the bit the main character requires catharsis and resolution. So it arrives despite no point of realisation of his inadequacies and ugliness, indeed there’s is more of a repositioning ‘no this cuntish behaviour and invidious human is alright’. There is no fuck off to Chris Finch moment. Even shit comedy narratives have become post-truth and post-reason.

We are simultaneously asked to believe that Brent deserves redemption (he doesn’t, hasn’t earned it), that some people don’t find him annoying (I can live with that, people are fucking morons) and that both can be resolved simultaneously.

There is an undeserved sentimentality to Gervais’ latter work that is inauthentic. But because the message in that moment is something like “being mean to people isn’t OK” it is seemingly above being questioned. Towards the end of the film a two-dimensional office hard guy calls Brent out on being annoying (note: Brent is annoying, in his universe where he is real he is very annoying, while accepting this world is fictional Gervais is very much commenting on the real world), he does it with a quite aggressive tone but he remain sat at a desk, there’s only so aggressive anyone can be sat at a desk. He then gets on the phone and a receptionist interrupts him in a conversation to call him out (admittedly people talking to people who are clearly on the phone is one of my least favourite things) for being mean.

To camera she explains later that she likes Brent and thinks he is funny. Which, apart from anything else, makes her someone Gervais the creator judges? Right? He has always stood by the humanity of Brent (because he plays him, no doubt) but he and Merchant were clear from the outset that Brent was the kind of character who existed in everyone’s office. And he was a dick.

How many times can they use the trope of self-awareness with Brent? He tries to hard, he just needs to relax and be himself…and then he is annoying and lacking the perspective of his epiphany. See: the “fuck off” to Finchy and inertia future glimpses of Brent has shown – and the one he has at the end of this film followed by a return to his office to display he didn’t actually learn anything from the band only spending time with him when he dropped the act. BUT THIS DOESN’T RESONATE WITH THE IMPLICATION THAT THIS ISN’T AN ACT, HE REVERTS TO TYPE/NATURAL BEHAVIOUR.

The narrative is very stretched by plausibility. The band who all despise Brent just start liking him out of nowhere. They all charge him for their time to have one drink with him after a gig, sit mainly in silence for this time, show no signs of recognising this isn’t OK – or, indeed, that there is a glimpse of any notion of camaraderie or that they like Brent. Then the next bit is them all admitting to camera that they’ve grown to like him/think there’s something funny about him.

There is also some kind of meta-thing going on. One of the funnier bits of the film is showing Brent explain the narratives of his supposedly layered lyrical metaphors, when in fact the songs are ridiculously clear in their figurative language. This is kind of unnecessarily supplemented by the band explaining that Brent goes to unnecessary lengths on stage to explain the narrative of each song’s supposed . Yet the film does this with its to-camera pieces. Perhaps a by-product of pandering to people who find Derek funny?

In The Office this element of faux-documentary was used to add depth to anguish of characters (Tim and Dawn) / display lack of hidden depth (Brent and Gareth). In Brent its used so the band can explain jokes the viewer has already seen and, towards the end, to explain that,despite everything we’ve seen, Brent is an OK guy.

Clearly Brent is not the worst person in the world. But the character was (WAS) an amazing representation of the kind of person people in offices can grow to hate more than they’d hate perpetrators of genocide.

“He’s not racist” one of the band says, explaining what I think no-one had assumed (I think it is fair to say I might be over-estimating the audience as I have heard lots of reviews that were complimentary about the film). And I don’t think anyone has assumed Gervais of being racist. But he does rather labour the whole ‘laughing at racism by getting laughs out of material about race’. Like maybe a middle-aged comedian who has put a younger black comedian in his film so that he could make lots of jokes about race and feel OK about it. Oh.

While we’re talking about returning to well-ploughed Gervais furrows: how about we retire jokes about overweight women? Again lets suppose how Gervais thinks societal and cultural views of body and self-image require mockery…by making jokes about fat women.

So, the reboot to his original lack of awareness is fine for the film, aka cash-in, angle but it when he has his re-redemption it doesn’t even sustain doesn’t even sustain to the credits. And it’s almost entirely not funny. 

 

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Friday 03 June 2016

There is little point in pretending I have looked into the specifics of the pros and cons of staying/leaving the European Union. I haven’t. I will be voting to remain in. That is the short version.

There has been quite a lead up to this vote. And it is a very important vote that surely deserves this period of contemplation and debate. But, much like the build up to a general election, I do wonder if it makes much difference. If the vote had been two months ago would it be that much different to when it takes place on 23 June?

It’s mainly about improving the CV and public perception of the leading campaigners. Whether it be about Cameron’s legacy, Johnson’s march to leading the Conservative Party, or indifference to whatever the leader of the Liberal Democrats thinks about anything.

So, why don’t I listen to what everyone has to say and make a balanced opinion and use that to inform where I write a cross with a pencil on a small piece of paper?

Well I am not sure anyone could say anything to make me vote to leave. That’s a pretty pig-headed place to be but it’s inefficient to pretend otherwise. There are lots and lots of intricacies to the whole debate. However, I fundamentally don’t like the idea of borders and anything that separates people. As such leaving the European Union does not appeal to me.

Have I completely ignored everything then? No. I have listened to people talk from both sides because I am not very proactive when it comes to changing the channel on my television or radio. From absorbing the cacophony of electioneering I can confidently say that both sides have either lots or no evidence that staying or leaving is a good thing for the economy.

With those campaigning to leave I can at least listen to the ideas on how the economy will improve. I don’t believe them but at least it has some sense of reason. However, their argument seeming to lack any real conviction means that they rely on (a) the thing that is garnering all the support (b) the thing that repulses me: the issue of immigration.

I am not small-minded enough to suggest everyone who wants to leave the EU is racist. Because I think that there are probably hundreds of them who aren’t. And I am sure there are plenty of racists who will vote to stay in the EU, that’s the thing with racists: you can’t pigeonhole them as thick, ignorant horrible bastards.

There is a lot of scaremongering about immigration. Which is understandable because it’s what the right-wing generally does to engender support when they can’t get it just by getting people to think about their wallet or some other selfish trait.

What confuses me is the way it’s done as though we aren’t in the EU currently. If we don’t vote to leave then some Turkish people will live in your kitchen and there will be nothing you can do stop them. So why aren’t there 14 million Turks in my shed now? Are the immigrants waiting until the country has said it’s definitely OK by everyone?

I know some people think there are already too many immigrants (like I said, racists) but there aren’t. We aren’t voting to double how much we are in the Union and to insist more immigrants (escape places they are persecuted/tortured/murdered/bombed) come to contribute to our society/destroy our society* delete as applicable.

There are clearly a lot of people who will vote to leave because of their fears of immigration. The sad thing is that if any of them win the lottery they will move to Spain leaving me behind with all the annoyed aging racists frustrated that they haven’t won the lottery and moved to a hot country.

Let’s add something here about the jibes about people wanting out being racist. “Oh yeah, then how am I black then?”; “Oh yeah well I’m half-Indian so how can I be racist?” Well an easy answer is that people are fucking stupid. Of course you can be racist and also be of a race/nationality/religion that isn’t ‘White British’. Especially if you’re fucking stupid. And even though you might not think you are racist, because you don’t goose step or have a skinhead, if you talk and act like a racist when you talk about immigration then you might be a racist, yeah?

I still haven’t heard an argument about the problems of Britain that aren’t just problems that could be solved regardless of the amount of immigrants in the country. Apart from the number of immigrants in the country, admittedly that is directly linked to immigration. But if someone thinks that is a problem then I feel more comfortable with labelling them as a racist.

I am from Stalybridge, I am Mancunian, I am English, I am British, I am European – I am from Earth. I am a human being. I am happy with all these labels but I don’t think any of them should involve barriers. That’s where I am.

*drops mic walks off*


The above was written about a week ago, not sure why I waited so long with it unpublished. Happily enough my laziness has led to an encounter which fits in with this whole waffle, perhaps making this whole blog less interesting than it already is (not interesting).

Last night, 3rd June 2016, I was having a few beers with a friend in Didsbury. I’d played football after work and rushed by tea after putting my son to bed and the Fosters wasn’t going down as well as it normally does – but that’s irrelevant.

While my companion is taking a piss a man who is clearly obnoxious (Irish) says something in a broad accent. Being able to make out one in three words and having a vague sense of his body language I am 82% certain that he’s making a joke about me being sat alone on a table. Over the following 20 minutes I will become crushingly aware of the irony of this, as he’s a man who should spend eternity sat on his own at a table of empty chairs.

He will introduce himself as from Northern Ireland. His ‘friend’ (my quotation marks) is from Bochum in Germany, this is relevant to what follows so if you’ve skimmed over it but are reading this then go back and read it.

Seemingly unaware that we were quite happy in our one-one-one conversation the man continues to make conversation. He seems quite aggressive, says “fuck you” after everything I say, but unthreatening (as unthreatening as a man of my age can find anyone with an Irish accent), as he laughs after doing it. His German friend remains quite quiet, I soon realise this is because he is contemplating what he has done wrong to be on a night out with this guy.

After asking where we are from and other questions leading to me saying something mildly offensive (nothing too bad – I suggest he looks a lot older than the 40 years he says has on him, I suggest he didn’t like London because people would have been uncomfortable about him, worrying he might blow them up with a holdall – that kind of thing) and him saying “fuck you” and then laughing.

He brings up the EU vote. He is British and thinks Britain is for the British and thinks we should vote out. I suggest there could be advantages to this if Ireland is united before this happens and he is then not really British and we eject him…”fuck you hahahahaha”.

My friend and I tell him we are quite openly very pro-EU. He talks about money and how the Euro isn’t good. We point out remaining in the EU doesn’t mean we will lose the pound. My friend suggests everyone should just vote the way they want to and not try to convince others.

As I suggested earlier I don’t think people are going to change their minds from their instinct. However, in this situation – like any situation to be fair – I find it impossible to ignore the opposite view. More accurately I find it impossible to ignore the flaws in the argument of someone who is kind of an immigrant, on a night out with a definite immigrant (coincidentally enough I am writing this listening to a German Labour MP) electioneering for the Leave campaign…well I never), shouting the virtues of closing our borders.

Fortunately at this stage he spills a pint over himself, blames my friend (who gets him a pint) and we make our goodbyes. We shake hands and I say bye to the German, who is stood outside smoking. I wonder if this is a habit he has started to excuse himself from his enthusiastic and vocal friend. I also wonder whether their wives are very good friends. Or if the German has murdered someone and the Irish man knows about it and holds it over him.

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Wednesday 25 May 2016

I am on the pitch of two times Premier League champions Manchester City. Alas, I am not playing in England’s elite football league – I am at a Bruce Springsteen concert (and the pitch is well covered by what I assume is a top class events team).

I am stood near two men.I immediately dislike them. Like many working class friendship couples one is a skinny cunt with shit hair who refuses to age. He looks like Mark E Smith. It’s only OK to look like Mark E Smith if you are Mark E Smith. Otherwise looking like Mark E Smith means you look like a fucking ugly prick who thinks he is superior to everything despite being blatantly inferior to everything. And the other is small and fat (“the phil”).

Now being a righteous ex-smoker isn’t something I ever wanted to become, and still occasionally smoking certainly means I have become one.  But I can’t be doing with these people smoking in a non-smoking environment as though they’re striking a blow in some kind of moral war. Mate, smoking some Berkleys near some children is not a blow against the man.

The Security at these events normally don’t want anything to do with policing smokers. It’s a no-win, all-ballache element of an otherwise glory-laden night spent earning minimum wage in a bright yellow coat. But one of the stewards basically walks straight into them – probably returning from asking someone not to do something they can’t really stop them from doing. One of them (the phil as it goes) puts up the mandatory resistance one must to such a request before eventually putting the cigarette out. The other one, though, as had his cigarette proudly tucked in the back of his hand and when the steward chap walks on celebrates like he has just got six numbers on the lottery, the high fives are out.

It’s time to move. A few feet. We have a similar view but no cheap smoke being blown in our faces and there is a small amount of space immediately in front of us.

Three people in the space immediately in front of us. It’s textbook gig-space-occupancy: there is enough space for them to occupy but they’re ruining my space a bit. Like your neighbour having a thing that annoys you but doesn’t break any laws (probably come back to this and think of something even remotely witty to use instead of this vague simile).

But I’m at a concert, I have to live with it or move. It’s a free country. Ironically, I imagine these are the kind of people who will be removing a significant amount of the freedom from the country, in the supposed service of some kind of human rights declaration, “hey, part of freedom is saying no to mythical armies of foreign benefit thieves” etc.

So, there’s three of them. They’re about 50. Maybe a plus ten year error bar. But not a minus one. And one of them, a male has a big stain on the back of his upper leg. It’s a large stain. It looks like food. Like someone has thrown a ball of curry and it’s glanced off his thigh leaving a significant stain.

I am trying not to be annoyed by these space-migrants but they are taking my lovely space up. But I am being very brave about it. And I definitely won’t insist we move in a minute or two. But after a song one of the other three in his group mentions this stain.

Now he has this stain on the back of his leg, specifically on his jeans. And two clean hands, one of which is holding a pint in a plastic pint pot – as is the style at outdoor events. The stain is not so far up that he can’t see it. If you stop reading and look at the back of your leg , you know twisting the leg slightly and easily seeing the back of your knee? Well it’s just above that. The guy can easily see the stain, that is the point.

What he does next is he wipes the smear with his clean hand. Fair enough this does get rid of some detritus content, that I’m not denying. But now it’s on his hand. He doesn’t like rub his hands together or something to dissipate this <whatever -it-fucking-is> he just carries on, using the now smeared hand to hold his pint and…well carries on.

The thing that really bugs me about this is that if I got some curry/brown sauce/chutney/horse shit/whatever-it-fucking-is on my hand and had nothing to wipe it with the first place I would use about my person would be the back of my leg. He’s doing the opposite of good sense. He’s making an effort to go from the current scenario to a worse one. And he doesn’t seem to mind one fucking bit.

Fortunately the beers (£5 for plastic bottles of Heineken) need refreshing so it’s time to move anyway. Further back and to the side a bit – I will find the small amount of space I desire.

I do find happiness of sorts. We will spend the remainder of the gig standing near a couple for whom my initial animosity slowly warps into a mild dislike bordering on just being a bit miffed. They are aged somewhere between 45 and 57. One or both may have paid the other to be there. They will will both at times dance with NO concern for the beat or tempo of the song Mr Springsteen and The E-Street Band are knocking out. The man in particular will dance as though he is dancing on inflatable shoes while showing his ensuring his wrists are the foremost part of his body – and at face height. They will repeatedly tease kissing each other despite (a) being too old for that shit and (b) having kissed repeatedly which surely removes most of the tension from waiting just before the point of kiss and doing that kind of daft ‘sexy laugh’ only the truly unsexy can laugh.

Footnote: Bruce Springsteen played for over three hours, performing 32 songs. It is an amazing backdrop to the main show of being irritated by people.

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Saturday 14 May 2016

At what point do you trust someone’s opinion? With a film critic, for example, you read the reviews and see if they compare with your own view of the film – and to a lesser extent if the review entertains you regardless of the shared artistic view.

Similar the opinions of friends and colleagues. You take a sample of their views on things, weigh them up against the evidence and learn to trust opinions or don’t.

But what about bias? You might not trust a friend’s ‘review’ of their daughter’s sporting prowess or their son’s art.

So far so fucking dull, Philip. What is the point of this? Well the person whose opinion I can’t rely on is MINE.

How good is the new Stone Roses song All For One? I am not sure I can trust my opinion as I so desperately want it to be good.

After their first hiatus, which felt like an eternity (six fucking years – that felt like forever) I loved Love Spreads from the moment it kicked on the first lesson. I still love Love Spreads, as I love The Second Coming – which some don’t rate. All For Love feels somewhere between The Stone Roses and The Second Coming with the simplicities and vocal of the former and the axe of the latter.

I have previous with this (inaccurately predicting how good something is based on how good I hope it will be – not weak paragraphs about songs). Every Oasis album released after Be Here Now, which I still stand by as a great album, was always something I thought was brilliant. And then slowly realised was just OK. Or – in the case of Standing on The Shoulder of Giants – fucking shit.

Ditto I can’t really trust many other people’s opinions on All For One, because I think they are either as inherently blind to possible mediocrity as I am or similarly disabled to hearing what could be a good song.

One of the immediate reactions I read was from a friend who described it as sub-Beady Eye. I’d heard it once at the time. Now, several listens on, I think that’s a bit harsh (I mean it sounds like a harsh description of even a weak Beady Eye song). Said friend certainly didn’t want it to be a bad song…however, he does have a track (no pun intended) record of being disappointed by the work of most bands post-debut output (which of course if a fair point for a fucking lot of mediocre indie bands).

My own immediate view of the song was more framed about what I wasn’t feeling. I wasn’t feeling blown away. I didn’t immediately feel amazed. On the other hand I wasn’t disappointed that it was shockingly bad.

I liked the vocal. I thought the lyrics were a bit simple, which can be a very good thing – often resting on top of an amazing backing track (which this wasn’t/isn’t). Essentially, I could live with it and hoped that second, third, fourth etc listens would embed it in my ear.

And a few listens on I did like it more. More importantly *grasping at straws klaxon* I thought how good it would feel  listening to this live (twice – yeah, I know told you there was a bias here) this summer. Still, when I exchanged opinions with others there was generally a sentiment of hope that there would be more new songs (i.e. an album) and they wouldn’t have come back with the best tunes.

And a YouTube comment alerted me to the riff having a touch of The Fall’s Squid Lord about it. Not that I give a fuck about originality if something is good.

I still don’t know how I genuinely feel, how long does one give it? Will I really know in 2 months?  A year?


Note: I occasionally mis-remember title of the Bryan Adams/Sting/Rod Stewart song All for Love (how good is the banter in the first minute of the video? Rod calling Sting ‘String’!!! awesome) as All for One. True story.

 

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Sunday 01 May 2016

Prince dying was clearly bad news. Can’t say I was ever a massive fan – certainly never disliked him/his music.  Prince was one of THE pop stars when I was growing up. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Shakin’ Stevens. They were just the big stars of music. You get older and you become aware of talent being a thing rather than just that they’re pop stars. 

Prince was unquestionably talented, his guitarring is beyond compare. He had a run of success with amazing songs. Purple Rain, 1999, Diamonds and Pearls, Sexy MF….I could go on. Not for long and I’d be talking about things like Batdance. 

Then he stopped being the pop star and was kind of the odd former pop star. TAFKAP and the a symbol. He was a slave, considered himself emancipated by record labels (he wasn’t the only one), of course he was Prince so he made his point with words and images and people got confused. 

The story of him not being called Prince anymore replaced the story of him being part pop music’s elite.

Then there didn’t seem to be a story for a while.

Then he was the amazing-but-infrequent live performer but there didn’t appear to be hits anymore. There would be the odd rumour about odd things in his personal life. He was a bit like the adult Michael Jackson¹,  a bit hidden away (which, of course, proves any rumours) and not really doing popular music anymore. 

In the background of pop culture little things would happen like he’d become religious or seem like he was a bit down on women (not sure why I’ve used ‘or’ there as this was very much an ‘and’ moment, the ‘women as inferior to men’ phase seems to be an example of a bad things one hears regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Then he gave an album away with The Daily Mail. Which is a bit like **find simile for something you’re not really that interested in being given away by something you really dislike**.

And then he died. And that’s my rushed biography of Prince. You can see why the papers and media outlets go with other people to write obituaries.

It had been a while since I’d listened to any version of Purple Rain. That’s a fucking good song isn’t it? What I never had any idea about was that the version released was basically a live track from the first time it was performed publically. He took a chorus/verse out and added some instrumentation but not much. I’ve embedded the video below, might not last long because I think it gets taken down. You HAVE to not be impatient about the intro: STAY WITH IT. (The commentary is interesting)

RIP Prince Rogers Nelson

¹Sex with adults, deep voice (different) often looked quite white, pop megastar, weird (same).

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Taking Libertines

What even is going to live music? I am now of an age where I was disappointed to learn that Netflix and chill didn’t mean watching Netflix and relaxing. That is too old to be listening to gramophone records and jiving.


 

Interlude: this blog is something I started writing the day after the gig, what is wrong with my ability to complete a simple blog entry? The gig was like..when?..1988 or something so it’s taken me the best part of THIRTY YEARS to complete this. It doesn’t seem worth it if I’m being honest…ah well, back to it..


 

Even though I am getting better at remembering how annoying/boring gigs are when I see an advert occasionally one still gets drawn in – hashtag: partner’s birthday present.

Aligning with this ageing process are the reformed heroin addicts on stage. Pete Do’s tours used to consist of playing someone’s kitchen for a bag and now it’s a UK arena tour. Getting over addiction to heroin has to be seen as a good thing, unless you’re a heroin dealer. Getting over heroin and producing one of the best comeback albums a reformed band has ever put out is somewhat of an achievement.

I think it is fair to say Doherty has a reasonable response if he’s ever interviewed for a job and asked about a time he has turned a situation around.

Let alone getting over heroin – he has got over Kate Moss. The venn diagram of ‘English rock front men’ and ‘Heroin addicts Kate Moss has been romantically linked with’ is practically a single circle and yet Peter doesn’t seem to have struggled. If anyone would Miss Havisham someone it’s Kate Moss, I picture a series of not-bad-but-not-great musicians in morning suits in lofts around Camden pining for Kate M.

That said it’s Pete Doherty’s next girlfriends I feel really for, lots of people have inferiority complexes about not being as attractive as their current beau’s ex but that is the one where her friends wouldn’t be able to realistically assure her. Kate Moss: living proof that there isn’t always someone better looking no matter who you are.

Anyway, here are some of the subsections of people who go to an indie gig at one of Manchester’s arena sized shows:

The people who get very giddy early on, annoyed that others aren’t, asleep or leave early. Ok you’ve got the babysitter in and smashed down a bottle of wine of wine with your meal and now got very excited. Only it’s 8:30 and this is the state you used to be in about one in the morning. This means two things (1) Just like in your glory days and one in the morning you’re nearly ready for home and disappointing-lasts-too-long sex and (2) you’re annoying other people around you; they aren’t wasted because it’s half-past eight, they don’t want to sing and dance to this song like it’s the most meaningful song ever (they will be doing that in four or five hours, when they won’t be annoying people because everyone around them will be like-minded).

People who get annoyed that you’re not as into it as they are (they also get bored and are more obsessed with others not doing what they do). These are often the same as the previous group. If you’re not screaming the lyrics into the air as some kind of shamen call-to-arm then you’re NOT DOING IT RIGHT. No, what is life for? Enjoying? No – thank you, not for me. I will stand motionless and listen to the band play the songs, maybe occasionally doing a cheer or something. These people always get bored of this being the most important night of their lives and start talking with their mates – generally when the songs everyone wants to hear are on.

People filming large proportions of the gig on their phone. YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO WATCH THESE BACK. And there’s better videos of whatever band it is live on Youtube. Of course this doesn’t apply if the person is right at the front with a nice piece of kit – because they are the ones putting the good videos on Youtube. I am talking about the people filming it on an iPhone 3 from the back of the arena while loudly singing the long lyrics over the sound of the band. NB this doesn’t include video-selfies of people hugging and singing along, they are OK.

People letting on to people in an area of the arena that isn’t the seat next to them. We’ve all done it so let’s not get all high and mighty about this but…some people get very, very excited about this. The moment when the person they’ve been waving at for nine minutes waves back…that is priceless. Admittedly the joy in watching this has become has become somewhat lessened by the mobile phone helping people zone in on each other, but what hasn’t been made worse by the mobile phone? (Telefonica profits, The will of gambling addicts etc)

People approaching their friends as though they’re the frontman of a band. Arms tend to be outstretched here. People who aren’t from Manchester, you know the stereotype about cocky arrogant bastards? TRY BEING FROM HERE! People expect adoration from inanimate objects. At an indie gig you basically factor up to about 98% of the people there who think they’re the coolest people there.  We don’t even have to take cocaine for this mentality in Manchester. But we still do, you can imagine how arrogance spirals to species ending levels.

What? The Libertines? Yeah, they were alright. Pretty good.

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A long time ago…..*

Ohhhh I don’t know why I wrote this. It just started out as some notes about The Force Awakens because I’d seen it on the morning it was released and had some thoughts about it but, other than a conversation following seeing it, had no protracted conversation about the film with anyone.

Warning: There is little structure or content- this is called managing expectations. Oh and it’s not meant to be negative – everyone already said loads of good things about how amazing it is; I naturally/annoyingly take an oppositional stance to most things and everyone was saying how it was the most amazing film ever and I was just a bit ‘it’s good but it’s not that good’.

Oh yeah: SPOILER ALARM!

The prequel: Me and Star Wars

I’ve seen all the Star Wars films. I’ve seen them all lots of times. I wasn’t ever obsessed with them. I don’t know the names of all the minor characters; I haven’t read any of the novels in the ‘extended universe’. I’d say my most significant negativity towards Star Wars is that I don’t buy into the Boba Fett thing. Shit bounty hunter who doesn’t do anything good, everyone loves him. Oh and despite some of the heavy-handed remarks about the prequel trilogy in what follows: I don’t hate the prequel trilogy, some parts of it are quite good.

The hype

Why do they pay for all the adverts? It really didn’t feel like it needed some of the sponsored Twitter adverts and such. People knew about the film. It was ubiquitous: it was so ubiquitous that people who were very funny were making the jokes like “is there a new Star Wars film out?”.

The personification of the hype machine seemed to be John Boyega. I did worry that there would be a backlash (not that one, I am not interested in that backlash) because he was everywhere and, you know, people don’t like that sometimes. There was a little while when I was a little bit fed up with his Instagram feed (didn’t unfollow obviously) but then you just had to think…he’s one of the leads in a new Star Wars film, have the fucking time of your life mate.

Why it’s not a 10 out of 10

I have to suppress being too excited when I experience something I EXPECT to like, certainly in the context of giving a reliable review of said experience to others. I have the ability to convince myself things are very, very good which are, in fact, shit. Cites: Oasis albums following Be Here Now and STILL thinking the prequel trilogy is ‘OK’ – when it is an offence against cinema.

I leave the cinema and discuss with my friend Tom. I confirm that I have enjoyed the film and loved lots of the performances. I shy away from confirming his “definite 8 out of 10”. Erring on the side of “potential eight but safely a strong seven”. MY rationale is if I was scoring on a 5-star system it would be definitely 4-star.  (That’s the end of using other scales to help a 1-10 rating system [Though never being a massive console/gaming fan I did go through a period of liking some stuff and buying some magazines, they would score games out of 100! Absurd. What’s the difference between an 83 and an 84? What is noticeably shitter about a 22 than a 23? Games weirdos.]

It’s definitely not a 6/10 but I wouldn’t say it was 5-star so we’re not looking at a ten, or even a nine. Why? Are we scoring it as a Star Wars film or a film? The fact that it’s plot is fairly familiar to anyone who has seen A New Hope means it can’t score highly on originality. And ANOTHER FUCKING DEATH STAR?

I have to question the project management at The First Order. “I hear your objections: this is very, very similar to something our predecessor evil organisation tried twice. And it is. I will also not shy away from General Spim’s point – we have designed the Starkiller with a weakness which when identified will allow the complete destruction of the weapon. Let’s not live in the past. We’re only going to let everyone know this weakness, even new Stormtroopers who haven’t evidence their belief in our doctrine of evil for evil’s sake. We believe this is the way to guarantee the success for this venture.”

It’s an 8/10 slash ✪✪✪✪ film.

Acting

The acting is good. Not something one has noticed in a Star Wars film. OK, maybe Harrison Ford. And it’s not that other people are bad. OK, maybe the prequel trilogy was such a phenomenally poor arc that you did have time to notice that actors are vocal conduits to get pretty appalling dialogue from George Lucas to millions of people. Watching The Force Awakens and you’re like “she’s brilliant” or “he nailed it.” Maybe not so much if you’re reviewing the performance of Carrie Fisher: it’s not that she’s bad it’s just that she sounds nothing like Leia of episodes IV-VI, namely the cod-English accent had gone and Leia was American. And I think there may have been some changes to her face. Ford got old, but he looks like an old Han Solo – not like someone else.

R2D2 & C3PO

Hmmm. I am big R2’ fan. Bit annoying that he wakes up conveniently in the film after a while. Why doesn’t he just wake up at the first point BB8 appears with the rest of the map? Someone already got to point out that it was a literal deus ex machina going down. In a film with plenty of funny lines, actual funny lines  – not attempts at jokey dialogue – C3PO’s opening line when he sees an old friend is perhaps the funniest of them all.

Kylo Ren

Tough to call what one feels about Kylo Ren. Definitely the portrayal of torturous split between good and evil which was missing from the prequels, well Episodes II and III anyway (You can’t blame Jake Lloyd for everything – look at his sad old face on the police photograph, give him a break). But is he the best bad guy, as some are already claiming? He might be a great character after one film – and superbly acted – but he is no Vader or Emperor in terms of evil-ing.

Is what he did towards the end meant to put him up there? Well it’s certainly not endearing him to anyone but he took no pleasure in it. Come on Team Evil, try harder.

You know what I couldn’t help wanting to know/see? The backstory. Young Ben Solo’s journey to becoming Kylo Ren. Did I learn nothing from the prequels? To be fair you can imagine how the Anakin/Ren storylines could be amazing with the right writer/director.  This is what everyone thought about Darth Vader’s backstory! I set with the right writer/director, boom.

Rey

To all intents and purposes the lead character in the film. I wouldn’t say I knew nothing about her but I didn’t feel I got to know all that much. What is it with me and not getting that backstory leads to boredom [I know this isn’t true, I know the problem with the prequels wasn’t backstory – it was relentlessly dull political narratives and piss-shit acting].

We never got a sniff of Han’s backstory and that never bothered anyone (besides the Disney Corporation and their desire to make good on the $4 billion they paid Darth Lucas for his Empire**)…so is Rey’s lack of history important? Not really and I am pretty sure we are going to find out quite a lot about her in Episode VIII (which I confidently predict will be called The Order Restores Order).

I have no issue with any beat of Daisy Ridley’s performance and I really like Keira Knightley. Daisy Ridley’s mouth makes me think about Keira Knightley. That is all

Finn

John Boyega is the breakout star of The Force Awakens. I’d write that with conviction if I was American and writing a piece about him. Sure, he pretty much is I just wouldn’t use the phrase ‘breakout star’ with the conviction of a TMZ presenter. As with Rey I am looking to find out more about his character as the new films unfold, where did his conscience come from? Is there no performance management in The First Order’s staff management that would have alerted someone to his wavering?

Poe Dameron

Do we realise how close his name is to the character Nicholas Cage portrayed in Con Air? And, while Poe Dameron is pretty fuckng cool, if Cameron Poe (in Con Air) is the benchmark then I am not sure he makes the cut. Appropriately it doesn’t feel like some of Poe’s scenes/storyline did make the cut. It’s all like woah look at this amazing guy being all cool and…..where did he go? Oh he died and no-one seems that bothered..oh no he’s not dead and he’s still ace but we didn’t bother seeing how he got out of being left for dead and getting back.  Again: hope to find out more about this guy. No, I just hope to see him do more (of what I’ve seen him do, fly spacecraft and make quips, not like see him cooking or dry walling).

*About two weeks ago but it seems like longer than that, like three-and-a-half weeks.
**Mix StarWarstaphors much?

Homie we’re chewed.

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Thursday 12 November 2015

Is it OK to have places where children are not allowed? It feels like it is OK to have that as a thing, as long as there are places where children are allowed.

Having been blessed with the social stigmata of a child for over a year now I can confirm that almost everywhere is OK with children. Indeed some of them are falling over themselves to charge me for small portions of food designed specifically with my son’s smaller-than-adult gut in mind, God bless ’em.

Only this week I was denied seeing James Bond’s latest outing because it was a ‘Cinebaby’ showing at my local art centre (Cineworld). While my first reaction was to launch an online petition to the head of Sony International, Daniel Craig and official James Bond lager-beer sponsor Heineken in the end I relented – returning home to watch the pre-finale of Downton Abbey.

I am wholly disheartened to learn of the prejudice for the externalised foetus one mother suffered – she could have her in-utero child in the tea shop but not the post-birth model – but I would also be disheartened to feel we have a society that insists upon the inconvenience of some people who would prefer not to have their £6.90 chai-tea latté discombobulated by some untethered humans running amok with tabletop paraphernalia.

Would this mother of three be OK with housing the proprietor when the business fails due to the costs of remantling salt and pepper shaker? Of course not. At this stage it will all be Jeremy Corbyn’s fault for not having enough women on his pretend cabinet.

The Evening Standard quotes that Billy Westley said: “We have two kids, seven and three years old. Shall we just leave them all in the car? Would that be your advice?”. No Billy, I think the advice is that you don’t come to the fucking shop and that you fuck off somewhere else. Or leave your children with an adult who can care for them somewhere else – and not have the only possible outcome being that they starve to death in a car while you have a green tea and a slice of peppermint brie.

As for the defence that not all children are rude, mannerless brats…well clearly not. But quite a lot of them are. I wasn’t but a lot of the similarly aged people (then) to me were. I wouldn’t say my son was rude but he often uses the wrong spoon to eat his starter and on more than once occasion he hasn’t used his desert fork appropriately. But then again he is one. I don’t think he is eschewing manners, rather than developing them.

Apart from anything else, if there are to be no child-free tea rooms then where are the parents who are told “get some you time” or “treat yourself” supposed to go to escape the constant monotony of their child-rearing? It’s not all first steps and saying “I love you Daddy” you know. Sometimes it is 4907th step and just “Hiya Daddy I like you a lot” and who doesn’t need a wind down in an environment where the under-25s are absent?

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