Sunday 01 November 2015

I have a relationship with the song Killing Me Softly. It’s something I can confidently say is ironic.

The words, you see, are about seeing someone sing a song and the song is like your life is being sang about. This has no resonance with me. I don’t feel that this song – or any other song – feels like someone singing my life. Mainly because that song would probably be immensely dull. “I heard you were quite a fat man, embittered by everything, but you have nothing to be angry about so maybe just get some perspective, laaa-la-la-laaaaaaaaaaaaa-lah.

The song that is about a song meaning something very personal and intimate means something to me just because of the song itself. It holds no resonance on any other level. I told you I was confident about it being ironic.

Is it particularly beautiful? I clearly think so but I couldn’t say it was an amazing piece of music if I remove how the melody grabs me. As far as songwriting goes it has a fair bit of whooooooaaaaahh-whooooooaaaaa ahhhhhhhhh-ooohhhhhhhhhh laaaa-laaaaaa-aaaaahhhh.

Where does it fit in my life? Well I am not immensely cool so it was The Fugees that introduced it to me. Meaning that despite the beautiful melody and poetic lyrics there is a part of me that feels the song is incomplete without Wycleaf Jean saying “one time” throughout.

The same year there was a BBC drama about an abused woman that was called Killing Me Softly that used the Roberta Flack version as the title music. This immediately superseded the Fu-Gees version in my affections (like the Black Eyed Peas would replace the Fu-Gees in the hearts of people who like pop-music, hip-hop and soul music combined with a well dressed fella saying things intermittently).

Until about 19 minutes ago I would have said “the Roberta Flack original” when I talked about Flack’s Killing Me Softly. But it isn’t, it ruddy isn’t the original version. Fortunately an exhaustive few days at a series of international research libraries led me to find out the truth behind (my own) preconception and find out it all based on folk-singer Lori Lieberman’s feelings at seeing Don McLean perform*.

Even more fortunately for all concerned the Flack version is definitely still the best now I’ve heard the original. Phew.

It must be annoying to write a song that is good but just not quite there and then someone tinkle with something and make it there. Sure, you get pretty rich off the back off the whole endeavour but that song, which could be incredible meaningful – of course it could be something you wrote with a formula and used words that fit a melody, is forever associated with that other person. To have your creation as the inverted commas in someone else’s name must hurt a bit.

There is also a non-sequitur: the song appears in the film About A Boy. Perhaps it is the only song Hugh Grant has sang on screen. It is one of my favourite books and I really like the film. The use of the song adds nothing nor detracts anything to/from my affections for the song. Recently I happened upon the film flicking through Sky and I couldn’t help but feel the serious depression and suicide of one of the female leads is merely a story device to enable the real story of the film, affluent man who is drifting through life has meaning thrust upon him, to bear fruit. Made me like the film less. Not dislike it. Just like a bit less.

*which probably did include American Pie, if the timelines workout as I think they do, but let’s not sully the moment.

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Tuesday 27 October 2015

I know no-one is losing any sleep about the dearth of content. But I miss writing so, like, whatever.

Can’t think of a better thing to write than a half-thought-out, half-started, half-finished stream of word-think about something quite sensitive and emotive.

We are all obsessed with being right. This means other people are wrong. Identities and groups now seem increasingly linear.

So now someone who is pointedly a feminist has some views on gender reassignment, which in turn means she cannot speak as a feminist about feminist issues because she isn’t aligned to a view on gender reassignment consistent with a view that someone transitioning from male to female is a woman in the same sense that someone born as a female (anatomically?) is a woman.

(If we’re going to to the outposts of humanity) a comment on a Huffington Post identified an absence of patriarchy in the Greer debate (as though that were a bad thing), referring to two groups of women fighting over the right to be the biggest victim. In the midst of a moronic comment I did think: at least he is recognising the trans community as women. When you’re looking into the semantics of a misogynist’s comments for some sign of a pyrrhic victory for my eyes – having made them read this shit.

This is maybe not a good example. I can’t say that I agree with her views, but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t understand her frustration at some people telling her she wasn’t a feminist because of her ideas about one thing. Indeed it’s a pretty odd thing when Germaine Greer is referred to as a misogynist. I’d also be lying if I said I knew a lot about the evidence for her views, having just googled it to have more context than having read two articles about the latest farrago.

It seemed like it might be a good recent bit of news to illustrate my point but now I fear I am empathising with an transphobic agenda. A friend often argued against the -phobic suffix being applied to anti-thing agendas. “They aren’t scared of <<thing>>,” he would say. And while fear isn’t the defining characteristic of hatred, I’d not argue against it being a root cause. Along with ignorance and stupidity.

Anyway, lets stick with this now. So, rather than look at each other’s points and debate the conflict the solution is to not talk about it, i.e. ban Greer. Aside: this doesn’t mean Greer is in “the right”, both remain in “the real world”.

Groups need to engage their detractors. We all like it when people share our view, it’s easy. This is, I assume, why people feel the need to share things on social media with statements such as “like this if you hate genocide”.

The way to change the world involves engaging those who view things differently. If you are definitely right it should be easy, no? If, perhaps, there are legitimate very different views in something (helps if you’re prepared to admit this is the case A LOT) then perhaps listening to each other will enable a mutual position to emerge. Or at least more mutually acceptable.

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Monday 03 August 2015

Woody has mainly been impressed with moving two stools around the floor of the…the thing we’re in. I’m not sure what it is, I think it’s a caravan. But it’s not a caravan like I think of a caravan. Can I even go on talking about the stereotype of what a caravan looks like without being racist? I suppose it depends if the word gypsy is racist. And I think it probably is. Note: there was a little girl called Gypsy on the beach on Saturday afternoon. Was she? I don’t know. No-one was dressing her in a £40,000 wedding dress or punching her in a bare-knuckle fight in a barn…definitely gone a bit racist. Or have I? At least part of this is based on the Channel 4 series. Nothing on Channel 4 has ever been small-minded or racist.

But it’s not a caravan like the one I picture attached to the back of a car. But it’s also not a proper building. And it’s on a caravan site. The word luxury was used to describe it when we booked. And luxurious it is – compared to the caravans I took holidays in as a child (up until about eight or nine – you probably think that at this stage we probably started holidaying abroad and staying in hotels and such. No we just stopped holidaying completely.)

The thing was that I kind of wanted to be in that kind of caravan, the kind I was in as a child. However, I have been disappointed by the realities of nostalgia enough in my life to realise that nostalgia is little more than a very good salesperson, massaging my sentimentality to get me to do things that seemed idyllic. But were in fact, shit. Time is many things: a great healer, for one. It is also a great prism for distorting one’s judgement. So, the mature decision was to just leave my memories of the childhood caravans in the past and accept that I wanted somewhere Woody could move about when it inevitably rained.

And it did. And he has. And one of the things he has done with more room is push some stools about.

The past isn’t the only thing I idealise. I certainly idealise some elements of my own future with respect to having fun. I definitely idealised my capacity to have fun on a British holiday camp in the summer holidays. Moreover, i idealised my ability not to get annoyed by the people around me, not to judge the people around me…but it’s very hard. People…they’re, well they’re fucking wankers aren’t they? And while I am sure there are fucking wankers everywhere, while I am around them in other countries my tiny mind can’t understand what they’re saying. It can hear what they’re saying around this campsite. And some of it makes me worry about the children being raised.

Venturing out of the site helps me lose these horrible prejudices – judging people on snippets of conversations (“And you wonder why we fucking argue..look at him he doesn’t give a fuck about his own daughter”). Because on our trip to the local steam railway there are some Welsh people there and I can’t tell what they are saying. Sadly, for anyone hoping this paragraph ends in anything other than me being a horrible figure of malice, I judge them on their clothes, hangdog expressions and the actions of the small boy in the party who seems to want to taunt Woody with his toy helicopter. Actually reader: I fooled you! This paragraph ends with me NOT striking this four-year-old and handing his helicopter to Woody, I just ignore him. So, i end the paragraph a kind of noble hero after all.

i would say i was somewhat of a Cilla Black fan. If the context was people who presented TV shows I enjoyed watching with my tea in my adolescence [I am not going to write about the time they uncovered the journalist on Blind Date, I did that already in a blog a while ago.]. I was less a fan of her Sunday night emotion-release Surprise Surprise. That was more the domain of my mum, who would be disappointed if she hadn’t sobbed by the time the credits rolled.

How many people left the Surprise Surprise studio disappointed? If someone had suggested going to see SS back in the day I think alarm bells would have been ringing. And, if not, then how naive? Like the groups of four 17-year-olds who were still thinking that they were a part of some new TV show that wasn’t the one where the parents watched them vomit into some high-heels from a nearby restaurant balcony. There must have been some really disappointed people leaving the studios some weekends, people who’d not seen their brother/sister/aunt/uncle for 14 years and convinced it was going to happen.

I would like to think there were people that spiteful out there that at least one person played on this over the years and dropped hints that there was going to be some kind of reconciliation and took them to the recording of the show knowing full well it wasn’t going to happen. Surely it did…

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Monday 08 June 2015


This whole thing strikes me as something I have been annoyed about in the past, or should have been IF I WASN’T BORING THE FUCK OUT OF EVERYONE LOVING MY CHILD. So, if I already wrote about this and forgot about then I’m real sorry. And also if lots of other people did, or Michael fucking McIntyre said about it on his £24 million pound tour then I’m fucking sorry, OK?

So, LOL. Laugh out loud. Where do I start? I have definitely written about how people use this phrase when they definitely haven’t laughed (out loud) – yes, I’m coming to this. I am sure there are some people laughing (out loud) – yes, I’m coming to this – when they write a banal statement on Facebook. But in the main, it’s just the new exclamation mark for people who’ve never really grasped that a sentence finishes with a full stop when it’s just a regular old statement. (The one time these people do finish a fucking sentence with a full stop it’s generally a question. But who cares.)

Out loud. What other kind of laughter is there? What are we doing to the English language? Why do we have to aggressively assault the meaning of so many words? I mean I am literally over the moon about how nearly unique this is.

If we think about the development of the meaning of words/phrases then we have missed the entire bit where ‘laugh’ meant to silently think something is furious, to be on the verge of physical manifestations but not actually going there. The internal smile as laughter.

I suppose one might say ‘they make me laugh’ about a comedy performer who they don’t ever laugh at. In this sense there is a sense of ‘laugh’ which doesn’t mean laugh. See how semantics is no laughing matter?

But that is being generous to the warped language vomit that is LOL. This conversation doesn’t happen:

-did you think the tv show was funny?
-well what is your barometer for funny?
-did you laugh when you watched it?
-well yeah, but not out loud
-ok, that’s fine. I understand that you non-laughed at the tv show. I did laugh, I actually laughed at it
-oh, you mean like out loud? You laughed out loud – rather than laughing, which is silent?

But the development of language would suggest that the word laugh was no longer enough to connote the act of laughing. So, we arrive at LOL/laugh out loud.

Only this is a phrase rarely used in connection with real laughter. As said earlier, it’s the new punctuation for people who can’t just write a sentence and rely upon the meaning of the constituent words to fully convey tone. And, you know, they don’t do smileys because they’re above it. Not that most people using LOL are above it. I’m no stranger to the “LOL xxxx :)” end to a Facebook status.

So in a nutshell: LOL, the phrase usage has created to expand the meaning of the word laugh to almost completely mean the opposite of both the original word and the new phrase itself.

Well done.

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Monday 25 May 2015

I am at the point where a new book by a children’s author definitely makes me get momentarily excited, then annoyed when I find out it is not out until autumn. I can’t wait to read Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. Oh No, George! is a great book, currently one of Woodrow’s favourites – you can tell because he (a) lets you read it all to him, and (b) occasionally wants to go again right away.

Oh No, George! is great on many levels, beautifully illustrated and compelling. It’s about a dog called George whose owner, Harris, leaves him in the flat only for George to cause all kinds of mischief. Mischief George he is sure he can avoid committing. I won’t spoil it for you by saying what he gets up to. My favourite thing about the book is the ending. It’s up in the air. Non-conclusive. And not to leave room for a sequel. Just because. I love it.

Other books I have got into via young Woodrow are more open to the linear narrative. Predictably I love The Gruffalo, and to a lesser extent The Gruffalo’s child. But there are plenty of other great books by Julia Donaldson, who wrote The Gruffalo. I particularly like the one’s she does with The Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler (though this is no guarantee of quality – I can’t get into The Snail and The Whale despite wanting to), Stick Man and Tabby McTat being my two standouts.

Donaldson’s work with Lydia Monks really flick my switches though. I can heartily recommend What The Ladybird Heard and Sugarlump and The Unicorn, and recently purchased The Singing Mermaid is growing on me with each read.

I don’t know if I am too old for some of the ‘classics’ – or I just plain don’t remember them but lots of these stories are new to me. And I have a brother is 11 years younger than me and a niece who came along a few years later, so it’s not like I wasn’t around children in between being one and making one.

Some of them are just hat-stand, though. The Tiger Who Came to Tea isn’t a misleading title. It is about a tiger who comes to tea. But it’s not told in some abstract way. It’s about a non-fantastical household where a tiger knocks on the door and sets about eating everything in a suburban house. And drinking everything.

This ‘drinking everything’ bit is where the story doesn’t work for me. The tiger supposedly drinks all the water from the house so they have none left. What? Come on. If they’d made it a caravan then at least this would have been a bit palatable. The tiger drank all the water in the water system? What is it? A tiger the size of Greater London? Have a word.

The family in the book take it all in their stride. The mother and child wait for the father to get home from work and then go out for tea at a cafe. The following day the mother and daughter go shopping and get some tiger food just in case the tiger, or supposedly any other tiger, comes to tea. Clearly it was written before the days of Twitter and Facebook but even still I feel there would have been a bit more to it than this. “Do you think we should tell the press or authorities about this tiger, darling?”

“What ON EARTH would we do that for? The Police are busy solving murders and the gentlemen of the press are busy investigating political corruption. I suppose the crossword makers will have some spare time of an afternoon but they’re going to use that doing someone else’s crosswords, they’re interested in crosswords – it’s not just a job to them. DO YOU WANT A CROSSWORD COMPILER POKING AROUND THE HOUSE ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT TIGERS?

Woody also likes 10 Little Pirates. And why would he not? It’s a rollercoaster of a ride. Not quite sure why they’re all boys; or why there is a mermaid who is one of the things that picks off the pirates. What kind of message is this book sending to my boy? You could say I am reading too much into it but there is another book by the same people that’s 10 Little Princesses. I am sure it’s possible to overthink these things. It’s certainly possible for me to overthink anything.

Other noteworthy reads: Dig Ivan Dig!, Penguin in Peril and Six Dinner Sid, which I am quite sure is an allegory about polygamy.

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Saturday 23 May 2015

Ignoring things is a lot easier than getting annoyed by them, especially when you can’t do anything about them.

People aren’t going to stop watching the Eurovision Song Contest because I don’t like it. They aren’t going to stop having fancy dress parties watching it because I get annoyed by such things.

So, how could I remove it from my life once a year? All the answers to this question seem to involve a lot of effort.

For example, I could become a ridiculously media baron and cancel it. But really, am I going to do that? I am generally too busy/tired/fat to watch a TV series to the end on Netflix. Being powerful enough to own enough media to cancel the Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t seem like something I am going to be able to do easily. And even then would I want to deny so many people the pleasure they get from it?

The other obvious route seems  to be to create something interesting and more attractive – TO EVERYONE – than the Eurovision Song Contest. And there would be enough to occupy everyone every day all year around, so there was no room for the Eurovision Song Contest. I understand why people shorten it to Eurovision now, it’s boring writing it all every time. Eurovision Song Contest and Chilli Con Carne, full phrases haunting the nation as spectre’s of a time when people had the respect in something to say its full name.

This latter option, creating 9000 hours worth of entertainment a year that would fulfill everyone more than the Eurovision Song Contest (I am not giving up on its full name) seems just as hard work as becoming the most important media baron in the world. I would suggest it’s probably a harder task, as between all the media barons in the world they aren’t producing 9000 hours of entertainment better than the Eurovision Song Contest now.

That 9000 hours is just based on each hour having something more interesting than the Eurovision Song Contest. Annoyingly people have different tastes, admittedly not that different, so you might have to do even more. When you start to look at it you understand why everything is so crushingly rubbish.

As well as my earlier realisation that my annoyance won’t stop other people liking something, perhaps I should have more understanding of why utter pigshit like Gogglebox manages to remain ‘TV gold’ for those watching normal people watch TV is something to get excited about. Oh but a middle-aged person from Birmingham saying the clearly annoying thing about a popular TV show amuses me because I find it annoying also. Good for you.

Anyway, I can’t think of another way to stop this all invading my timelines for a few days a year so I am just going to try and avoid it a bit. Worked OK this year. Just not looking at things proves easier than being a ridiculously powerful media bastard or an endlessly creative entertainment make. Who knew?

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Monday 04 May 2015

There has been a context within which all my rhetoric around not voting Labour at this May’s General Election. The context is that I was always going to vote for Labour.

I don’t mean that I have been trying to convince anyone of anything that is untrue. I am aware my political insights are as likely to influence someone’s vote as Nick Clegg’s are…POLITICAL HUMOUR. I think I believed myself. It is savvy advice to never trust me, though.

There is also another bit of what frustrates me about Labour that I am as guilty of as I accuse them of being (and it’s not appallingly constructed syntax). It really pisses me off that it seems it is more about the tories being shit and not having them than it does Labour being good. But the tories not being in is pretty fucking important to what I want for the country.

I really fucking hate Cameron. I don’t really feel this needs explanation – he stands for lots of what I dislike about the human race.

I just feel sorry for Clegg. He has the air of someone whose partner has cheated on them but, despite being the wronged party, has begged the adulterer to stay with them and then puts on a mask of happiness. Not sure about this imagery reading it back.

I abhor Farage. I am not a racist – so I am not going to agree with his one policy. I am fed up to the back teeth of seeing him in fucking pubs. We all know he’s not going to be Prime Minister. But his party are going to get a decent slice of the country’s vote. And all he fucking does is stand in pubs, pulling pints. With a media circus lapping it up. The media can fuck themselves on Farage, yeah me and the media nearly fell out for good on this one.

Being disappointed by Miliband doesn’t seem that bad in comparison. I have pretty high standards. And he’s stopped disappointing me so much. That said: I think he has been a pretty weak leader in opposition against a coalition offering him lots of ammunition.

So, what do I believe? I believe the Labour party is standing for something important to me. I believe that Labour in power will look to help make the country a better place for people to live.

I believe that the Labour party will do something about the disparity and unfairness that exists between the rich and the poor. Do I think they will end it? Do I think the system will be reversed overnight? No. The thing about rich people who own everything and have all the money is: they’re pretty powerful.

I believe that Labour’s vision for the NHS is not rhetoric; it’s not soundbites masking plans to privatise and rip apart the most magnificent and beautiful thing a government ever gave its people.

I believe Labour is not going to fuck over the weak and the needy in society. This is pretty important to yours truly. Ending things that have been introduced that impact on those who need help – not punishment – is vital to a society. I’m talking your bedroom taxes, cuts to welfare for disabled people: the kind of shit some bastards hold up as part of austerity while letting the vulgarly-rich sponge the life out of the country.

My issues with party politics have been around a growing disillusion that there wasn’t enough of a difference between the parties. And, while not contradictory – but somewhat at odds, that the difference between the parties and the electoral system means a government isn’t a reflection of the people.

Well I do think Labour is different enough from the tories. And I do fucking hate them guys. And they hate Labour – which means Labour is doing something right, right? And Rupert Murdoch and The Daily Mail (and that vile woman), they all hate Milliband and Labour. That’s got to be a good sign.

And, yes, while it’s focussing on a negative, which I think is mainly a poor thing, NOT Conservative is pretty important. In fact vital for the country.

Is this greater need dragging me back to something, Labour, rather than voting for something else? Well I have thought about voting Green. Not quite so recently and not quite so passionately as I have ever thought about voting Labour.

Do I see the futility in constantly voting within the confines of the main party system – while wondering if there is a better answer? Well, no. Do I yearn for something a bit more socialist than the modern Labour party? Yes. But I accept the world is a different place. And it needs modifying to be fairer and better.

And I want to see what Miliband will do to make this country fairer and better. And I don’t want to see it disintegrated by someone lining the pockets of the rich with the pocket lining created by the suffering of the poor. Metaphors on social imbalance aren’t my strong point.

So. Vote Labour. That’s my suggestion.

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Friday 01 May 2015

An app that puts a random bet on for you when you want to put a bet on but don’t have time to think about it or do it. This would save me a lot of time on Saturdays, studying league tables and form guides before putting an accumulator on four of five teams to win. The random bet creating app could not be worse than the results I achieve – which is currently as fruitful as tearing my money into pieces and pissing on it from a small scaffold constructed from my own frozen arm hair.

An app that tells you how frequently you use the apps on your phone. Is this meta or what? I think so. I would like to make my engagement with my phone more efficient – you know, so I could spend more time refreshing my Twitter feed to see people make the same joke about The Great British Clarinet Waltz final.

An app that breaks up a long bit of text into tweets for you – tweets that would appear together. There might be an app that can do this, but it’s not very well publicised and I don’t know about it. Does something exist if I don’t know about it? Oooh..well the answer is: yes, it exists if I don’t know about it AND IT EXISTS.

An App that tells a group of people where they are going to eat when they are all stood around saying none of them are that bothered about where they eat because they are “not fussy” but making a limp objection to every possible outcome anyone suggests.

An App that stops your phone connecting to Wifi networks for which you need a password to use properly.

An App that automatically likes people’s statuses on Facebook that are questions but makes no attempt to answer the question – to save people the time who do this. It’s so other people see it…THERE IS A FUCKING SHARE OPTION.

An App that automatically sends both people a text saying sorry when they are being dicks and arguing for no reason other than being a dick. NB. This could a make a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice difficult to tell realistically.

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