Some things in life serve only to induce rage. No matter how small these annoyances may be, they are never insignificant. 'Rant List' is the chronicle of one self-loathing narcissist's seemingly unending pettiness.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

110. The London Underground and everyone on it

 
^ The Fifth Circle, about six months before the London Underground was completed. The lone boat was just not enough to accomodate the growing number of sinners.


At some point in the 1860s, Hell was brought kicking and screaming in to relative modernity. Down on the Fifth Circle, colloquially known as Anger, the river Styx had become backed up. With the only mode of transport being Phlegyas taking people across the Stygian marsh in his run-down skiff, congestion was at an all-time high. As fortune would have it however, a decade prior, the Metropolitan Railway had been granted permission to build a new underground network after the streets of London had become mired in human excrement and disease thanks to The Great Stink. After a few meetings between Hell CEO Lucifer H. Satan and the Met Railway, it was decided that it would be in the best interests of both Hell and the capital city to establish the London Underground. 

It was there in the Circle of Anger where the Tube (so named after being likened to a catheter for London’s waste) was first opened and remains to this day. Indeed, in the 21st century, Londoners still find that their current emotions subside to sheer, indelible rage as they enter the sub-terrain railway.  At rush-hour, the sweltering masses funeral march their way in to the metallic hate-carriages that line the network, granting the desperate commuters a daily vision of their future damnation. Crammed in together like satanic sardines smoked by the permeating heat rising from the lower circles, personal space remains the refuge of those brave enough to steer the demonic trains. 

And yet, there are passengers who try to engineer as much room for themselves as possible – not in some noble plight to ensure that they can breathe better or help someone else out. No, no. These damned-to-be cretins need enough space to read their free copy of Eternal Retribution Daily (commonly referred to as “Metro”) or to watch the latest instalment of Scripted Reality TV Show on their tablet. It’s almost as if they’re oblivious to the fact that everyone else is already standing cheek to cheek in every uncomfortable sense of the word. But maybe things wouldn’t be quite so bad if there wasn’t some heretic leaning up against the handrail in the centre of the carriage, therefore preventing anyone else from clinging on for dear life as they hurtle through Styx at an unreliable speed. Or if that vast expanse between all the seats had been filled by the wrathful who staunchly refuse to move down the carriage. No, that would all be far too reasonable for the Fifth Circle and its visitors. 

Indeed, the London Underground is the price we must all pay for our constant daily trespasses. It serves as a reminder of the sins we have committed in our wicked city lives, preparing us with a glimpse of our eternal fate. It shuffles us from the outer-regions of the Big Smoke right in to the central toilet bowl remnants of the Great Stink so that we can continue to waste our fleeting remaining years on middle-of-the-road toil and stress, all the while preparing us for our ultimate fate.

What is that fate you ask? Damned to spend eternity below the surface, surrounded by nothing but other commuters. 

Truly, Hell is other people.

109. The social media accounts of big brands



 
^ When I defend social media managers,  I don't include this turnip. Still a hilariously tasteless classic.

Whatever happened to the good old days when brands were just big faceless corporations that you could demonise without worry of any kind of repercussion? Nowadays, every big brand is armed to the teeth in social media managers, all of them lovely and friendly enough to help take the edge off the largely soulless company they represent. Post a disgruntled tweet (not necessarily tagging the company, mind) about a brand and you’ll be hunted down by a social media manager, with pleasantries already cocked and loaded.

Now, I immediately want to stress, I have nothing against the social media managers themselves. They’re doing a job that essentially amounts to acting as a thankless hate-sponge for all the consumer-spewed loathing out there. Their role is to play nicey-nicey so as to make those companies feel a bit less dystopian to Johnny and Johnina Public. But these virtual smile-mongers aren’t granted any power to actually do anything, in most cases. They’re part of the customer service chain, there to offer their condolences and pass a couple of tweets on to someone back at Big Brand HQ. As such, their well-meaning words are empty and impotent in terms of action. And yet, they can be oddly affecting.

All I really wanted to do was complain about how incredibly unreliable my ISP is (naming no names, but it’s helmed by a sentient goatee, begins with a ‘V’ and ends in ‘irgin Media’), before some incredibly efficient web-jockey told me that they were “sorry to hear that”, that they “hope” my issue was resolved soon and to “keep [them] posted”.  Obviously I didn’t keep them posted, as I immediately felt a pang of guilt for being petty enough to throw a ranty little comment in to the meaningless void that is Twitter, like a disgruntled 13 year old who was short-changed on Yu-Gi-Oh! cards (that’s what the kids are in to these days, right?). Someone else’s politeness was a quick reminder of just how pointless it is to get annoyed enough by something to post about it on the internet.
 
Oh well, it could be worse. I could have spent several years writing an online blog about all the small and meaningless first world problems I feel personally offended by despite them having little to no bearing on my quality of life.

Wait. 

Bollocks.

Monday, 5 October 2015

108. The chaos caused by charging 5p for shopping bags in supermarkets


^ This morning's paper. Undoubtedly, no further copies exist as terrified people scramble for whatever resources they can amidst this new found chaos.
Dear Reader,

I am writing this on 1/1/1 PFPA (Post Free Plastic-bag Age), 2.30pm. Those of you who are privileged enough to be reading this from the safety of your apocalypse bunkers, I hope you are surviving as best you can on the meagre rations that seem to be left in this terrifying new world. I’m making the assumption that those with bunkers are now the only ones able to read this blog, as everyone else is either amidst the soul-shaking chaos of the outside world or has tragically and chaotically lost their life.

As we all know, our lives unexpectedly and irrevocably changed forever this morning, as we were subjected to a new and chaotic world order that sees us charged for plastic bags at the supermarket. The (self-checkout) machines had been trying to warn us of the change for the last few weeks, but we didn’t listen to them. 

No, worse. We didn’t trust them. We didn’t trust the machines. After all, after the chaos of unexpected items in bagging areas, we didn’t know they - of all sentient beings - would be the ones to try and help us.

And now look where we are. It is pure chaos out there.

Already today, I’ve seen things I can’t ever hope to possibly un-see. 5p coins, brazenly strewn across wallets and the streets, their dimpled edges sharp enough to cause minor metallic paper-cuts to the most unsuspecting of victims. People bringing their own plastic bags to the supermarket, presumably extracted from a larger plastic bag they keep under the sink at home along with other balled up plastic bags. Or, worst yet, those without either bag or coin unable to do anything with their purchased shopping. Crushed by the realisation that he simply couldn't deal with this chaotic society anymore, I saw one man attempt to steal a plastic bag with which to suffocate himself. Alas, to no avail, as some sick bystander offered him a spare canvas bag.

Obviously, we are ensnared by chaos. It’s as if the Earth itself has bucked back at its lowly inhabitants for trying to make it a better place. After spending decades being plagued with disposable sacks branded Sainsbury’s or Tesco, it had become accustomed to its own suffering; as accustomed as a 40-a-day smoker is to their delicious respiratory destruction. Who are we to try and make the Earth quit plastic bags cold turkey by offering very slight methods of deterrence?

We all saw what happened to Wales a few years ago. Why, oh why, did we not learn from the mistakes that have left our cherished neighbours to the west in a barren wasteland? Now we are hurtling towards a previously unknown tenth circle of Dante’s Inferno! A circle of pure chaos as chaos chaotically envelops more chaos. 

It is true chaos, beyond chaos we’ve ever known. Chaos beyond unemployment and homelessness. Chaos beyond refugee crises. Chaos beyond the privatisation of the NHS. Chaos beyond necro-pig-fellation.

My friends. Truly, these are the end times. Of chaos.


P.S. Grow the hell up, you caustic barrel-scraping, fear-mongering tabloid rags.

Monday, 20 April 2015

107. Nigel Farage's jowly neck

DISCLAIMER: If you are repulsed by the sight of Nigel Farage like most humans, you may want to pass on this one. Right, on with it then.

"HEEEEERE'S NIGEY!!"

      Yes folks, it’s nearly election time and what kind of commentary pundit would I be if I didn’t hastily mash together my own opinions about politics for public dissemination? I’ll tell you dear reader, I’d be a worthless one! Because everybody knows you can only succeed in the world of op-ed content by having inflammatory views about the political landscape!

However, I think all those riled up news outlets are really missing a trick in identifying what really makes this year’s election so different to all previous ones. Yes, of course it’s the presence of British everyman-who-likes-a-pint-and-hates-immigrants, Nigel Farage. Or ol’ Nigey to his mates, the UK populous (as long as they’re British born and bred though haha, am I right? Get me a pint of Spitfire, stat*).

"Lookit, I'm doing politics!!"

However, when journos talk about Nigey, they always harp on about his anti-human policies, his never-ending hypocrisy around foreigners stealing our jobs whilst employing his ostensibly non-British wife, his utter ignorance around HIV, the fact he always seems to be holding a pint or his affably matey guffaw. Frankly, I hadn’t actually noticed any of these things until someone told me about them at work last week. Why? Because every time I see something relating to Nigey, the only thing I can focus on is the bloated skin-fest that is his neck; the jowly abundance that nestles the precipice of hate that is his pint-and-fag reeking mouth; the chin swallowing abyss that only has enough structural integrity to support the out-of-date head atop it thanks to an incredibly tightly done up tie and top-button combo; the abundance of gnarly foreskin around a true dickhead.


It’s like he’s had a giant earthworm surgically grafted atop his shoulders, the rings surrounding its body giving him an overspill of chin over his collar and tie every time he cackles maniacally about how immigrants are to blame for the economic crisis and the ban on fox hunting. At a certain point, it seems like ol’ Nigey is more jelly-neck than man, which is ironic considering what a spineless scrote he is.


But damn, doesn’t he photograph well?




*For those of you interested in the writing process, when I originally drafted this entry, I initially wrote “Get me a pint of [insert racist drink here]”. A little peep in to the craft of ranting for you. Not everything comes to me instantaneously, hours of research went in to my drink choice. Did I succeed? Why not tweet me @rantlist and I’ll be sure to block and report you for harassment.

106. Megadeth having the cheek to crowdfund their latest album

^ I shamelessly took this off Tumblr, but it's such an accurate picture of Megadave that I couldn't resist. Credit to whoever made it, you're a genius,

       Look guys, we all know that deep down inside, I’m a spotty 15 year old kid who thinks that Rust In Peace by Megadeth is probably the absolute zenith of music. It’s got so much going on – densely technical riffs, absolutely monstrous drumming, guitar solos so shredded they’ll tear your face right off and vocals that sound like an alley-cat giving with a hernia. It’s so metal.

For many years of my teenage life, Megadeth were *the* band. A band that basically spent a large part of its career dedicated to complaining about things to the backdrop of needlessly complicated riffs is always going to have some emotional resonance for me. However, the last few years have seen some of that undying love waver a bit for a variety of reasons.

At first it was the slightly lacklustre live performances where frontman, Dave “The Strawberry Blonde Mop” Mustaine, couldn’t quite get his feline screeching right anymore. Then it was the never-ending interviews with Mopstaine where he just kept turning everything in to a conversation about how he doesn’t believe Obama is American or how he thinks evolution is a lie. As an Anthropology grad, I really struggled with that. But then I always thought to myself, “Look, they may be idiots, but you’ll always have that music; that music that made you feel like somebody got you when you were a nerdy teen, sitting alone in your room, cranking 'Addicted to Chaos' (you know, despite the fact they were generally singing about prolonged suicide through drug abuse and your plight was more about how you couldn’t beat Gill in Street Fighter III – same difference).” Then that Super Collider album happened in 2013 and it was genuinely atrocious.

And so it’s against this ever tattered backdrop that Megadeth have announced the campaign for their as yet untitled follow-up album. But being the progressive young things they are, they’ve decided to crowdfund their album.

Of course, my issue is in no way with crowdfunding and Pledge Music. On the contrary, I think Pledge Music is a wonderful platform and has given artists who would probably really struggle to put out the albums worthy of their creative vision to their baying fanboys and girls a chance to thrive – whether it’s your Devin “I’m going to write a metal opera about an alien" Townsends or your Ginger “I like pop choruses and extreme metal” Wildhearts, plenty of great records have only been possible thanks to crowdfunding. But these guys are relatively small meat in the world of global music, having had genuine ups and downs in their careers that have put them on the edge of obscurity at one point or the other.

Megadeth on the other hand are undoubtedly one of the most moneyed bands in the world of heavy metal. Second only to Metallica in the early ‘90s, the band still play huge, sell-out global tours. Even without label support, I’m sure they could afford to record an album out of their own deep, deep pockets. But no, they’re crowdfunding the album and, what’s worse, they’re bleeding their crowd completely dry. 

Yes folks, you too can pay £22 for a CD from a band who’s discography since 2007 has been patchy at best. But what about the wider fan experiences? Well, for a measly £2042, you can have a guitar lesson with the one and only MegaDave himself (travel obviously not included). Learn how to play the riffs to ‘Holy Wars’ whilst Dave tries to convince you that 9/11 was an inside job!

I’m all for bands trying to creatively turn their art in to a business model. But when you’re one of the few bands out there privileged enough to have made an incredibly well-funded living off your music, you can’t just rob your loyal fans like this. Especially when your hey-day was nearly thirty years ago.

Megadeth sells, but who’s buying? For the first time ever, I really hope no one.

105. The increasing difficulty in seeing anything through to completion

    ^Me, Q3-Q4 2014

       I've whined a lot on this little blog and, whilst it all reads like a rogue’s gallery of first world problems, I have no intention of stopping any time soon. However, intention means nothing when you can’t really get it together.

You may have noticed Rant List has been quiet for about a year. Why? I actually don’t really know. I've certainly not become any less petty and mature in the last year. If anything, the period of June – December 2014 probably encapsulates one of the most rage-filled periods of my life as I struggled to enjoy my general existence against the unrelenting suplexes of working life. And there have been plenty of times in that time-frame and since where I've cracked open Word and started fervently mashing my keys against the keyboard, fingers reduced to calloused stumps as the self-entitled indignance flowed from their tips. But every List entry started is usually abandoned after about 15 minutes.

Something about life has tired me and it has made the process of expressing myself in any tenuously creative manner harder than it ever used to be – even if that “creative” self-expression normally takes the form of a low-budget Charlie Brooker impersonator who makes references to obscure metal bands (what a lucrative niche!!). As a result, over the last year I've ironically amassed lists of ideas, but simply had none of the gumption to see them through. Of course, that lack of having not actually seen any of those ideas through in the last year was a petty frustration in and of itself. Turns out it was just enough of a spoilt brat-esque, first world problem of a frustration to spur me on to finish writing something.

And then, BAM. META BLOG POST AND RENEWED ENERGY.

Monday, 30 June 2014

104. Clickbait

^ I bet you I will believe it, you absolute turd-burglars.

A man wrote on his blog and you won’t believe what happened next...  

Nothing. Absolutely nothing, because every clickbait article is either ineffectual, a misleading lie or both. Here’s a novel idea, purveyors of poorly thought out online journalism: how about instead of luring people in to clicking your article under false pretence, why not actually write something that somebody might want to read? I mean, if people read this tripe, there’s an audience for anything.

Oh, I know, you need those clicks to survive in this cold and cruel digital environment. They provide ad-based revenue streams and help optimise your position in search engines yada yada yada no one cares etc. But if people visit your website after a misleading clickbait title, only to immediately click off your site after realising what you’ve just done, they’re probably unlikely to come back and read your stuff again. Your short-term gain of one click sacrifices a long-term potential of ongoing loyalty clicks from users who return frequently because they think you might actually have something to offer them.

Outside of the worlds of Marketing™, Search™, Advertising™ and Communications™, no one gives a solitary toss about clicks. Why? Because they’re cocking meaningless. It’s a fundamental mistake of webmasters* that this is how the success of their domain should be measured. How have we got to a stage in digital world where the number of hits a site gets is more important than whether or not anyone ever actually reads it? It’s not even like most outlets are making articles that are particularly hard to read anymore – everything on the internet basically takes the easily digestible Buzzfeed model, splitting things to consumable numbered morsels so that users can cheerily snack on content during those three minute mental sparks where their attention span still exists (as touched on in No. 103).

Nothing shows how little value you have for your own written words if you have to use clickbait to get people to read your work. You may as well pack up and go home already, you gitlord.

*do people even use the term ‘webmaster’ anymore, or is it one of those remnants of the late ‘90s internet lexicon that are no longer in vogue like ‘cyber cafĂ©’ and 'Keanu Reeves' career'?

103. The overabundance of content on the internet and how it has destroyed my attention span.

^ I really wish I didn't relate to this as strongly as I do.

       Right now, I am currently trying to focus and write a blog post. It's not going well. I write Rant List purely out of choice, as some misguided attempt at having a hobby. It is of my own volition and it is something I very actively want to do and, indeed, do more of (something about assembling a body of evidence for the case of me being a whiny git is oddly compelling). And yet, in the space it has taken to write these first couple of lines, all I can think about is opening up new tabs on my browser and seeing what else is happening online. I have already checked social media notifications on my phone. I am using my laptop in my living room, watching Metallica’s Glastonbury set on iPlayer as I type away (as a result, don’t be surprised if I occasionally add in a Hetfieldism – yeah-yeaaaaah). I run out of steam and lose the ability to concentrate about every 30 seconds, either tweeting inane thoughts in to the digital ether or seeing if anything interesting has popped up on Reddit (it hasn’t, obviously – just some angry American teens ranting about how they were discriminated against for being privileged white males who don’t believe in God). I am sporadically coming back to this post. 

On the one hand, this could be considered an example of how modern people are so wonderfully predisposed to multitasking that it’s essentially a second nature to us now. But that would be wrong. Multi-tasking has become a crutch, an excuse for inattention. I am no longer to solely focus my effort on one thing at a time and really give it the due care and craft that it really deserves. Instead, I half-arse everything, reluctantly forcing productivity out of my strained brain in 30 second chunks in-between Youtube videos and segments of Cracked articles. The other day, I struggled to read a comic book without doing something else every few pages. A comic book. It was about 20 pages long and most of it was pretty pictures, for crying out loud. 

The issue is modern consumer technology is entirely founded on distraction. In some ways, this has always been the case. Or, at least, it was for me - about a decade ago, I could think of few things more fun than whittling away a couple of hours trawling the internet for in-depth information on music or video games and patiently reading every last word. But the difference then was that I could focus; I didn’t click away mid-paragraph, I read what I wanted to read. It was a distraction, but it wasn’t marred by a sea of other, more bite-sized distractions constantly baying for my attention to me like sick e-sirens. Distraction wasn’t deeply ingrained in to the way we consume media - there was no Buzzfeed, there were no listicles, there were no smartphones with Sonic CD on them, there wasn’t Vine or Instagram, there weren’t any other easily digestible pieces of content proliferating every fabric of my being and it was relatively easy to separate the digital world from my own sense of physicality. Now, however, it’s as if the once liberating feeling of all the information in the world basically being at our fingertips has shifted in to a crushing oppression of too much data for one person to ever skim through, let alone understand. Even something like opening up Netflix and deciding what I want to watch is now an utter chore, with the result being that I collapse in to a quivering wreck, lying on the living room floor in a foetal position, unable to decide between binge-watching Archer or re-watching Black Books. 

The internet has destroyed me. Modern technology has destroyed me. And I’d wager it’s destroyed a lot of you. Why else would you be here, reading this in between scanning your Facebook timeline? You, like me, now simply exist to kill time; to find distraction so you don’t have to focus on anything real or meaningful for more than three minutes at a time. Because that’s all we can handle, as the internet gradually melts our brains in to soft, squidgy brain putty. 

But dude, check out this video I found about dogs and socks. 

Tl;dr – I haven’t read a book since 2003. 
Tl;dr2 – internet.

Monday, 19 May 2014

102. Resurrecting musicians as holograms for live performances

^ In light of his Billboard performance, Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' video seems oddly prophetic.

       Look, I get it. There are so many musicians out there who I admire and love and would have fought tooth and nail for the opportunity to see live. From the likes of George Harrison to Peter Steele, it pains me a little that I’ll never get to see those charismatic musicians do their thing in the flesh. But I’ve made my peace with it, as have countless other music fans. Music at its best is the expression of an individual or a group and it seems a little wrong for that creativity to be reproduced without them. Unfortunately, death is part of the process of life. 

Disturbingly, a trend over the last few years has seen the dead perform live; not necromanced from their graves with rotted flesh and evil intent a la a Stephen King novel (I still have nightmares about reading 'Pet Sematary'), but rather poorly formed as digital zombies where the only element of decay is that of musical integrity. It started with Tupac, who grotesquely appeared like a rejected character model from a low budget video game, and it’s now happened with Michael Jackson, looking more artificially shiny than ever.

Of course, it’s most likely a ploy to tie in with the deceased King of Pop’s upcoming Xscape. But posthumous releases are one thing – I can understand releasing and even completing unfinished recordings, so that a musician lives on in some recorded form (even if it is sometimes done with all the grace and tact of a hippo attempting ballet). Bringing people back as holograms for a live show though? Do you know what that says to me? That says people are expendable and replaceable; that their creative contributions to the world, their performances, their personality and any sense of personal autonomy and agency are secondary to the whims of the entertainment industry and making a cheap buck; that once you die, your image, your very being and your persona can be whittled down to a video projection and rolled out on stage like some kind of twisted parlour performance; that you’ll live on as nothing more than an artificial visual, with the memory of you shaped by nothing but the decisions of faceless businesses.

Where does this kind of thing stop though? Alice Cooper, probably one of the all-time greatest rock acts in my eyes (...ears?), tours the world frequently and, at the ripe old age of 65, is showing no signs of stopping. His shows are amongst the most entertaining things I’ve ever experienced. Yes, of course I pine to have seen the original AC band in their ‘70s prime, but it’s still amazing to witness the man who came through it all and is still absolutely smashing it. And yet, a few years ago, a hologram performance of the original Alice Cooper group was put on at Battersea Power Station. Of course, original guitarist Glen Buxton has long passed away, but every other person in that group was still alive. Sure, a reunion wasn’t really on the cards, but there was something utterly macabre about the virtually created spectres of their youth putting on a live performance. Crucially, half the point of the classic Alice Cooper show was the unruly atmosphere and animosity of performance; the scathing interaction between the villainous band and the audience. That would be utterly lost by having the show delivered by glorified projections. Replicating anyone’s performance, dead or alive, completely destroys the live element. Nothing is down to chance, everything is predetermined and fixed. And without that, what’s the point?

It's beyond simply dwelling on the past – it’s fetishising it for profit and, moreover in the case of the deceased, it’s theft of identities once held by corporeal beings. You can’t simply make a hologram of someone and call that 'live' - the performance always lies in the individual, it varies depending on external factors on the night and, more than anything, it’s a representation of that human being at that very moment. It’s not video footage and CG trickery slapped together for an awards show.

Death is not something I'm too frightened by. But one thing that does grip me with terror is the idea of someone misrepresenting me or speaking on my behalf when I'm unable to do so myself. And if I, someone who runs relatively little risk of anyone misrepresenting them in the public eye following their death, am irked by that, I can't imagine how dead musicians would feel if they knew that one day their corpses will be reanimated by a collective of digital-savvy Frankensteins, all in the interest of trying to find a way to fill the gaps between ad breaks.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

101. People only experiencing things through the lens of a camera on their phone

^ This is legitimately a picture I took and put on Instagram yesterday. It took more than one attempt to get the shot I wanted. Don't worry, I hate myself too.
       
      I have an awful memory. It is so appalling that I will often find myself walking in to rooms fuelled by nothing but my own sense of purpose, only to immediately forget exactly why I had gone in to that room immediately upon entrance (spoiler: it was usually for biscuits). Dates, events, conversations and the location of my keys frequently disappear from the poorly filed annals of my derelict mind, leaving only the confused husk of a man in their wake. And so, it is because of this massive mental failing that I totally understand the need to document many of the events of your life with mementos and reminders - in my case, this comes in the form of a never ending barrage of post-it notes everywhere around my desk with slightly vague warnings like "THE OVEN IS ON" or "THIS SATURDAY: SORT LIFE OUT" scrawled on them in faded biro. However, lots of well-adjusted people are more privy to taking photos. Now, admittedly, I'm not a big photographer myself, but I’m not really against people taking a couple of photos to document their life. That’s fine.

Of course, what would this blog be if I didn’t have something to talk about that I was against. Increasingly (and this is something I partially put down to the advent of mobile phones with too many extra trinkets), there is a very defined attitude that the only way people can justify everything they do in life is if they ensure they experience it down the lens of some kind of camera. Be it social events, gigs, clubs, museums or whatever, they go far beyond taking photos as a keepsake – they are not content to experience things for what they are, they have to meticulously detail every aspect of them so that they have something to show for that time spent experiencing. Forget being able to tell other people what they did, they want to bore you with a wealth of poorly shot photos to prove exactly what they were up to. Moreover, they usually do it for Likes and retweets.

Gigs are particularly bad for this, as every concert becomes awash with a crowd of slack-jowled nimrods holding up rectangles of artificial light, attempting to document the band on stage; often, to the detriment of other people in the crowd who can’t see for all the tacky amateur photographers attempting to get their perfect shot. Seriously: it’s a gig, the lighting is inconsistent at best and everyone is thrashing around, do you really think you’re going to get that winning picture of the band on your ill-equipped mobile? But perhaps it’s not people to blame. Rather, it’s this weird mind-set that we have all become deeply entrenched in over the last decade, which is exacerbated by the increasingly fleeting way we communicate with each other on social media - the idea that if you can’t show the photo of an event to people who you probably don’t talk to online, you weren’t there.

Of course, I can’t pretend to be above this. I recently signed up to Instagram because I needed some other way for people to lavish me with internet attention to help circumvent my overwhelming sense of crippling loneliness. But what I found pretty quickly was that I was looking at and experiencing nice things, only to think “that’d make a great Instagram post” – I’d stop actually enjoying the moment I was experiencing in an attempt to document it for virtual validation later on. What was worst was when I found myself thinking “Oh, I should find something to photograph for Instagram!”, as if taking a photo and sharing it online was some kind of deep-seated desire I needed to fulfill. It was in that moment, dear reader, that I realised I have become everything I hated.

I guess I’m just trying to say that it’d be good if we could find a way to stop taking photos as an over the top attempt at creating documents for social media approval. It’d be even better if we could all just find a way to experience the moment first hand, because as soon as you whip out that camera phone, you’re just pulling yourself away from that moment – you’re not the experiencer, you're just an observer. Good things are pretty rare, so why have a camera-phone act as a barrier between them and you? 

100. The arbitrary celebration of numbers

        
^ Actually, if someone wanted to give me a fancy pin badge for writing this silly blog, I'd begrudgingly accept it.  

         This is the 100th post on Rant List. Most people would see that as some kind of landmark because, deep down, we’re slaves to the celebrating the metric system in an attempt to feel some sense of achievement and self-worth (e.g. "I ate 400 burritos, I must be some kind of champion"). So, in an attempt to circumvent making a big deal out of an utterly pointless amount of utterly pointless entries to an utterly pointless blog, what follows is a dispassionate list of things that have happened to me over the List’s life span.

I have written these inane diatribes over a period of 4 years. In that time, I have bought approximately 187 albums, devoured around 4380 meals, lost 100s of hairs, gained 1000s more hairs in the wrong places, gone through 6 pairs of shoes, drank 8,456,203 cups of coffee, aged 10 years, mercilessly destroyed 15 pairs of socks with wanton abandon, gained 1 degree, attained 1 subsequent job, sent 7 gazillion emails at said job, shrunk 3 jumpers in the wash, had the washing machine rip apart and murder 2 pieces of favourite clothing, lived with 12 different flatmates, had 2 relationships, eaten 9 corn dogs, regretted all 5,492,193 decisions I’ve made, played through 3 Final Fantasy games, had 3 phones die on me, drank 1000s of beers, wasted 4 years of my life, seen The Wildhearts live 6 times, genuinely enjoyed my life 13 times, and, of course, written 100 articles on a blog narcissistically dedicated to my own petty dissatisfaction. Oh god.


P.S. Yes, I did decide to rename the blog ‘Rant List’. Yes, it does make more sense and I probably should have done it years ago. Yes, yes, yes.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

99. People not letting songs reach their natural conclusion

^ All my personal possessions have faces and speak to me, don't yours?

          Picture the scene: it’s a social event (ugh, I know, but just go with it). It’s based indoors, you’re surrounded by people who probably aren’t awful, the drinks are flowing and there’s music cranking in the background. By all accounts, the recipe for a tolerable evening. To top it off, the music is free game – it’s just someone’s iPod hooked up to speakers, so you can all choose whatever you want to listen to (although, apparently this doesn’t mean Carcass as apparently that’s not socially acceptable pfffft). And then a cardinal sin is committed. Someone changes the song midway through another song. And it happens again. And again. And again. Not a single song is heard in full for the next two hours.

I’m probably an unfairly judgemental man when it comes to music – if it hasn’t got at least an extended guitar or saxophone solo, I’m out (here’s a number with both!). But you know the one thing more annoying than listening to songs you’re not hugely fond of? Listening to the first thirty seconds of a song you’re not fond of, only for it to be unceremoniously interrupted by another thirty second snippet of a song you’re not fond of it. It’s like a smorgasbord of audial torture – every time you get acclimatised to whatever you’re being subjected to, you are immediately affronted with something new and equally painful. You let your guard down a tiny bit after a few moments of Rihanna’s vapid, autotuned mess of a voice before you are assaulted with the fresh new hell of Kanye West*. I’m all for democratising the music choices at a party, but at least let songs come to their natural conclusion. It’s not like you have long to wait – they’re usually only about three minutes long (unless some sneaky legend has popped on ‘Supper’s Ready’ by Genesis, but I find that very unlikely). At the very least, have the common courtesy to at least attempt an awful fade out so we're eased in to the next dose of suffering.

If I wanted to exclusively listen to the first half-minute of a bunch of terrible songs, I’d just click the preview samples on Amazon’s webpage for ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 4 MILLION’. The next time I go to a party where this happens, I’m just going to play the beginning of ‘The Final Countdown’ repeatedly until everyone gradually goes insane. I’ll start with Europe’s recorded version, then all the live versions I can find, before finally going through every cover I know (and trust me, I know some weird cover versions). People will rue the day they changed a song midway. Or they'll at least rue the day they met me, which they potentially already do.

Well, alright, ‘regret’ if not outright ‘rue’. Oh.

I’m so alone.


*On a serious note, everyone. ‘Bound 2’? Really? This is music now? A spoilt brat with an incomprehensible ego complex badly splicing together completely different songs, punctuating them with a woman saying “uh-huh, honey” and then talking over the top? It sounds like a toddler got in to the editing room and pressed random tracks from Kanye’s spoken autobiography (because, let us not forget, this is a man who doesn't believe in books), some soul music and a porn soundtrack for four minutes, hoping for the best. Then again, if it was Kanye creating it, that’s basically what happened.

98. The fact that Sega’s ‘Shenmue’ series will probably never receive a proper conclusion

^ This was a lot funnier in my head, I promise. But then most things are.

Hi kids. Consider this line a public service announcement. If you have absolutely no interest in gaming, this rant is going to be about as enjoyable as spending New Year’s Eve with Piers Morgan.

          ‘Shenmue’ and its sequel (the enigmatically titled ‘Shenmue II’) are two genre defining action / role-playing games that arguably have yet to be matched in terms of their scope and ambition. Forget GTA III – Shenmue invented the open sandbox feature for gaming and did it to such a ridiculously high standard that it only now just feels that other developers seem to be catching up to it.

Starting like an ill-thought out kung-fu flick, the games chronicled the story of a young man, Ryo Hazuki, witnessing the death of his father at the hands of a swankily dressed villain named Lan Di. For a game released in 1999, the level of realism in your adventure was unparalleled and the game’s incredibly non-linear progression was liberating. You were presented with a litany of bizarre, but oddly deep characters fleshing out the plot (which made up for the relative one-dimensional nature of Ryo himself, a quiet chap who just said "I see” a lot whilst searching for sailors). It was one of the most engrossing game experiences of all time.

And then it happened. January 31st 2001 – the day the Dreamcast / my childhood died. Sega announced they were pulling out of the hardware game and their latest console would be discontinued in the coming months. Shenmue II was in development at this time and, initially, only got European and Japanese releases. But the Shenmue saga had always been envisioned as a long, sprawling tale that would span several large and extensive chapters. The original game had only been the first of these chapters, and II began by skipping an arguably unimportant chapter and cutting down a couple of the subsequent ones to advance the plot in the series’ increasingly unclear future. Despite the edits, Shenmue II was as grand as its predecessor - the entirety of the time spent in Kowloon in the game being one of the greatest sections of modern media I’ve experienced. The perfect swansong for a criminally misunderstood console, the game ended on a note of intrigue, almost as if to ensure Sega still had a real epic of a series on its hands as it moved in to software-only development.

But since then, it’s been tough for Shenmue fans. Sega have fluctuated wildly as both a business and a quality creative company. Times are dark. Sonic the Hedgehog has to sell his property rights out to any title he can, latching on to the success of others so that Sega execs are still able to put dinner on the table (I’m looking at you, 'Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games'). Shenmue fans all own Xboxes or Playstations now, hell maybe even Wii Us. But, over the years, there have been small bouts of activity post-Shenmue II. A couple of projects were even announced, the most infamous of these being Shenmue Online – an MMORPG that died before it even got started. There was even talk of releasing the remaining story as a graphic novel. Still, nothing's actually happened. At this point, it’s obvious we’ll never get a fully-fledged sequel, thanks to the abject failure of the console that bore Shenmue also rending it a financial disaster.

But I need to know. Does Ryo ever catch up to Lan Di after he escapes on the helicopter? Does he ever avenge his father’s death? What was all that weird stuff about the cherry blossom tree when you reach that remote village in China at the end of Shenmue II? It keeps me awake at night. I’ve never felt such contempt for a game villain like I do Lan Di. And, although as wooden an actor as a 2x4, I’ve never felt such empathy for a protagonist like Ryo (you can take your Cloud Strife and naff off). This is a man who watched his father get murdered in their own dojo for reasons that have yet to be made clear. His first reaction is to unwaveringly travel across Asia to uncover the mystery behind Lan Di and his murderous motives. Ryo still needs answers and god damn it people, so do I.

97. Career politicians

^ Making the above low-budget image took far longer than it should have. Essentially, the joke is that the only thing George Osborne is qualified in is being a nasty piece of work. Deep, I know.

          There is something fundamentally skewed about employing people to run a country when they have no real, tangible experience of what it’s like to be a contributing member of society. It’s no wonder there is such a huge disconnect between the powers-that-be and the average person. Politicians nowadays have had relatively little experience of the real world, let alone enough to justify them decreeing how those living the reality should deal with it. Politicians in Britain tend to be awful products of a rather sheltered upbringing that is only self-perpetuated as they reach adulthood.

Sure, many of them come from a private education background, but that’s not the real issue (although it is of course often a significant contributor). Where things really become an issue is in higher education, where politicians-to-be get involved in the farcical world of student politics; an area brimming with people who either seek popularity, crave power or hold some idealistic view that they can bring a real difference to the student body through the use of nothing but their own inflated ego. When the only genuinely politically minded members of a student-led political body are a small handful of people who uphold idealised and dated views of the extreme left or right, all you are left with is far more casual people decrying apathy and voting only for friends or drunken acquaintances. This is sort of forgivable in the student world – it’s essentially a bubble that attempts to prepare you for real life after you leave, so it makes sense that its attempts at politics are a bit ludicrous. The expectation is that after you leave education, you’ll finally be forced to deal with the hardships and concerns of the real world, as opposed to the skewed and sheltered pseudo-realities you’ve dealt with up until that point.

This is where the trouble begins though. What if after leaving university and taking part in student politics, you immediately embark on a career in politics? You don’t attempt anything different and rather go straight from being some kind of highly paid sabbatical officer in to some kind of plight for governmental power. You miss out on that all important “life experience” that could help give you some perspective of the kind of things most people go through in their everyday life.

Instead, you damn yourself to a future of making baseless assertions about what the general public experience, solely on the basis that your position of working in politics means you know what’s best for them. How does that work? How can you expect to have anything valid to say about a lifestyle that you have barely had to acknowledge, let alone live through? The only thing you’ve ever been concerned with is making a name for yourself in politics. You don’t care about society, people and their concerns or the country – you care about making a name for yourself. And because you’ve cared so much about making a name for yourself, you’ve somehow been allowed to push through to the top of the political ladder, never having had to step outside of your strange “political” bubble. And before you know it, you’re a prime minister who makes assumptions about what will be for the betterment of the UK without ever having contributed anything to better the UK yourself. You’ve probably never been genuinely affected by unemployment, low paying jobs, benefits, food allowances, council housing, racial or sexual discrimination, the internet or a plethora of other social issues that you now have supreme power over. Like hell you’ll have anyone’s best interest at heart other than your own career-driven selfishness – if you did, you wouldn’t dive head first in to politics. You’d actually try to do something worthwhile with your life first.