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, 26 December 2010

43. Shaving off your eyebrows and drawing them back on

^ Amanda Palmer is the one exception to this diatribe because she's talented and lovely.

Eyebrows are inherently kind of odd and, as far as I’m aware, only serve purpose in articulating and exaggerating facial expressions. They’re a key facet of comical faces that are, in any other context, ever so slightly distracting. But, just like ears, everyone has them so they don’t look weird (come on, ears are pretty bizarre – if we didn’t all have them, we’d be pretty frightened by those fleshy craters). Occasionally, they’re a bit bushy or inter-connected but that can be remedied quite easily. My Indian hair-itage (see what I did there?) has given me amusingly blunt eyebrows and I’ve learnt to live with them, but I can understand why people might occasionally get a tad self-conscious about their own. However, shaving them off and drawing them back on is not an appropriate reaction to brow-based dissatisfaction.

No matter how quirky your eyebrows are, they will always look like eyebrows. Drawn-on (or worse yet, tattooed) eyebrows do not look like eyebrows. They don’t leave much to the imagination – it’s blindingly clear that you shaved off your eyebrows, grabbed the nearest marker and drew a thin black line, even if your hair isn’t black. I don’t understand how anyone would expect a pen-line to be an effective surrogate for real eyebrows – there’s no hair, it’s completely flat and the fake-brow simply doesn’t move with the eyes the way a normal eyebrow would. Also, you either end up with a freakishly smooth elliptical curve or violently triangular Thomas the Tank Engine eyebrows. You lose all the expression that comes with normal brows and create a hideous caricature of your own face. On your face.

If you’re going to shave off your eyebrows, why stop there? I say you should just start shaving your head and drawing on new hairstyles. It has the same aesthetic value after all. I’m pretty sick of the maintenance that comes with having a light beard, so I’m going to shave it and draw stubbly dots with a biro. Might draw in a jaw line whilst I’m at it. Oh, I’m definitely adding a badass scar over my left eye. After all, apparently ink is an effective way to deal with facial flaws.

Except it isn’t. Shape your eyebrows all you want, but don’t shave them unless you want to look like Pete Burns. I would wager at this point, even Pete Burns doesn’t want to look like Pete Burns. Also, what if your pen runs out? Would you just spend the day wondering around with no eyebrows? I imagine girls in this situation probably have some kind of contingency plan for such emergencies, but I’m secretly hoping they just panic, grab a red pen and hope for the best.

Friday, 24 December 2010

42. Axl Rose

^ I know I'm pretty unfashionable, but this really takes the biscuit.

Axl Rose, former singer for seminal rock band Guns N’ Roses, current front-man for tribute act Axl N' The Roses (who occasionally tour under the GN’R moniker), is no stranger to causing trouble. Guns’ most recent tour – a tour in support of an album that came out two yearsago and took fifteen years to make – was plagued with Rose’s standard shenanigans; turning up late, stopping shows in the middle of songs, hilariously over the top tour riders, shouting at people and just generally being a bit of a nuisance.

The latest in a long line of on-going and pathetic controversies sees the bandana-bearing blunder suing Activision for including ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ and Slash in Guitar Hero III. Apparently the issue here is that Activision allegedly lied about making links between the Guns N’ Roses name and Slash himself, the guitarist being probably the only member of Guns N’ Roses who hasn’t reconciled with Axl in any capacity. Axl wants Slash and anything related to him to be treated completely separately from the Guns N’ Roses body, which is essentially saying he wants to rewrite the band’s history. A history that is integral to Axl Rose being able to make any money nowadays – Slash has writing credits on the bulk of the band’s discography. I don’t mind Axl continuing the band but to ride so highly on the heels of its legacy whilst simultaneously refusing to acknowledge some of the key reasons it worked so well seems like Axl cutting off his nose to spite his botoxed face.

One thing I don’t understand, after being in the music business for so long, how does Axl Rose not understand that the only people who lose out in all these shenanigans are the fans? You show up late to your own gig after being repeatedly warned of the promoters’ legal obligation to pull the plug on you after a certain time and you have the audacity to blame the shortened set on the Reading festival organisers. That’s not fair. You could have just showed up on time. One of Axl’s penned lyrics from GN’R’s hey-day sees Rose lambasting the music media for “rippin’ off the fuckin’ kids while they be payin’ their hard earned money” to read about and be involved with their favourite bands. I fail to see how Rose is doing much better when he continues to act like a spoilt adolescent at every opportunity, robbing the dwindling modern day Guns fan-base out of their cash too.

Ultimately, if anyone is unceremoniously urinating over the Guns N’ Roses legacy, it’s Axl. Not Activision, not Slash, not Axl’s merry band of hired guns and hell, not even Steven Adler and his unrelenting need to cling to the past (I don’t think that reunion is happening any time soon, Steven). Just chill out, stop taking yourself so seriously, cease suing everybody and show up on time.

P.S. Also, first the multicolour braids and hockey jerseys. Then the pony-tail braids / goatee combo. And now a fu-manchu. Dude. No.

P.P.S. I realise this is a post that could be summed up as "The Ramblings of a Slash Fanboy", but this is my corner of the internet and I'll be as pompous and self-indulgent as I want. Pout.

Disclaimer: I did see Axl N' The Roses on their most recent tour and it was actually pretty fantastic, despite the lateness. Even Rose himself sounded on top form. I was shocked. They covered Rose Tattoo's 'Nice Boys'. Duff McKagan came on stage. It was magical. Also, please don't sue me, Axl.

41. Deal or No Deal

^ This is the only known example of a Deal or No Deal contestant admitting that "it's just a box". Notice the complete emotional melodrama of the entire situation.

I have no idea how it has taken me so long to commit the goatee with a body and his mysterious boxes on to The List. In the words of Kenan & Kel - awwwww, here it goes!

Deal or No Deal is a terrible game-show. It's tantamount to taking the blue-print of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and removing any element of skill or knowledge required in an attempt to give the thickest of the thickies a fighting chance in the world of free money. Basically, the contestants are usually about as sharp as a sack of wet mice*. Rest assured, these people would be rejected from The Weakest Link before they even fill out the application form. They will spend the entire game waxing lyrical about some profound strategy they have developed as part of their game plan, bragging that the mystical link between some poxy lucky numbers and their ability to point at people standing behind red boxes will guarantee them a win. What they fail to realise is the entire game is resistant to a strategy - you're just pointing at boxes in a random order, hoping for one of them to reward your Neanderthal antics with a cash pay out.
Worst of all, this entire process is punctuated by constant bouts of emotionally-charged encouragement from Beardy Noel and the contestants behind the boxes. Frequently, Edmonds and his cohort of lobotomised drones throw out phrases like "you've played a clever game" and "you're very brave" amongst other such lies. There is nothing intelligent or bold about pointing at boxes and waiting for someone to open them. There are no questions to answer, there are no challenges to complete. You're literally flailing your arm and shouting. It's not much of a change of pace to your daily life at the zoo, is it (my implication here being that these people are monkeys or something, except with less excrement flinging... hopefully)?

I don't understand how people get caught up in the "atmosphere". There's nothing tense about the situation, the entire game is a glorified version of eeny-meeny-miney-moe, except EMMM actually serves a purpose. It's like Russian Roulette without any of the consequences. I think perhaps the most telling thing about the contestants' mental capacity is nearly none of them realise a good offer when it is thrown in their face. They're all greedy scrotes who turn down the banker's potential gift of free money because they think they can extort more than that. Thankfully, usually they're cut down to size and have to deal with the crushing humiliation of winning a £1. So that's something.

Also, Noel. I am sick of your idiotic monologues with the banker. You're not charming, funny, charismatic, affable, witty, amusing, beguiling or amiable. You're a creepy sleaze who hits on the contestants and you act like a suspicious uncle who has been ostracised from the main core of the family. What are you hiding behind that dyed goatee, anyway?

*Have I used that phrase on The List before? Answers on a postcard to;

123 I Really Don't Give A Damn Crescent
Originality Is Not My Strong Point Lane

40. Nick Clegg

^ Close enough.

Bit late on the bandwagon with this one, but then I've never been one for punctuality. Rather than use the same old tired jokes that every real comedian has used over and over (I'm pretty sure Mock The Week's resident unfunny man, Andy Parsons, and his unreal accent have commented that we're under a government that none of us voted for at least nine full years now), I'm just going to run with a nonsensical and nerdy analogy: Nick Clegg is Harvey Dent.

Harvey Dent had principles. Harvey Dent was loved by all. The Clegginator, as he was affectionately known ( me), had principles too and was loved by many, especially students because of his education related promises. Hell, I hear even Nick Griffin had a little soft spot for the Clegg, but then that's probably just because he's not an ethnic minority. We all knew what to expect with David Cameron - unrelenting misery - but when Cleggy-Cleggy-Gumdrops (I'm running out of silly names) was revealed to be part of the coalition, there was a tiny hope that this government wouldn't be the dreary melancholy we previously thought. But then it happened. Someone threw acid in Clegg's face (or he burnt half of it off in a series of events following his capture by the Joker if you're going by the Dark Knight) and he's gone off the rails. Shedding himself of all the qualities and ideologies that previously made him good, Harvey Clegg is now Two-Face - a super-villain with two faces. Well, two half faces but that's not the point. He has sacrificed all that he once believed to gain power and exact revenge. No longer is he the beacon of positivity he once stood for, instead he is a broken man who has fallen from grace. His face is also hideously scarred and he looks a little unhinged because of it.

There are many flaws with this analogy. Is Cameron the Joker? Does this mean London is Gotham City? Where is the rich vigilante with a utility belt to save the day? Whatever the answer to these questions, one thing still stands: Clegg totally clegged out on us, the two-faced clegg-head.

I might go watch The Dark Knight now.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

39. Relentless

^ I've never seen a drink desperately try to pander to young people as much as Relentless. Except for Becks. Becks is a shameless tramp.

We all get run down from time to time and need a little boost to continue on with our daily stresses. But no matter how dire your exhaustion may be, never drink Relentless. Never. Once you get past the foul taste of raw jelly and suffering, it's only a short matter of time before you feel the poison's deadly effects. Make no bones about it, you have just drunk pure thunder. Your insides will be shaking with uncomfortable amounts of energy, with the over-jittery sensations slowly rearranging your internal organs and making sure there is no blood left in your caffeine stream. This is unbridled catastrophe in a can - people simply aren't built to consume a pint of sugar mixed with crack (I can only assume one of the ingredients is crack).

Also, the less said about the effects on your bowels, the better. Let's just say you won't enjoy your next trip to the loo. Or the one after. Possibly the one after that too.

38. Twitter

^ Hi, we're Twitter. We're so trendy that our logo lacks formal capitalisation. Modern or what?!
In an attempt to get this inane blog some more attention and to just generally whore myself out, I recently joined the dysfunctional e-family that is Twitter. However, shortly after advertising my own non-achievements I just started following a bunch of celebrities and what not that I was interested in. For a while, it was bliss. I was relishing in the constant updates of the lifestyle of Ginger from the Wildhearts and finding out what financial ventures Gene Simmons was moving in to (turns out, it was all of them - Gene has his finger in every pie, both figuratively and literally). It turns out some of my friends had Twitter, so I had yet another channel in which I could spew pointless and uncalled commentary about their lives at them. Then, as my university developed one of the strongest student protest occupations, I watched a talented group of tweeters use Twitter and its social networking prowess to develop and nurture an entire cultural movement from their finger-tips. It was fascinating.

Yesterday, the honeymoon period ended. I was reading the tweets of one of my favourite directors and funny-men, Mr. Kevin Smith (of Clerks, Chasing Amy & Dogma fame), expecting to get some kind of witty insight in to the world of comic-book-movie-nerdery. Instead, I learnt an awful lot about the man's masturbation habits. Apparently, he makes frequent withdrawals from the Barclays bank account on a daily basis. Apparently, he uses a "Fleshlight". Apparently, he can't wait for his wife sometimes so the "Fleshlight" does the trick. Apparently, that's just his preference. Apparently, all his fans needed to know this. Apparently, this isn't going to enter my mind every time I watch Clerks from now on.

Twitter is good and all but it really does bring the fan far too close to the talent. Artists, musicians, comedians, directors etc. all lose some of their mystique when you follow them on Twitter. Especially when they talk about churning the foreskin butter. Grim.

37. People who buy band shirts for their babies

^ I bet you this baby knows nothing of Metallica's early material. He wasn't around in 1983, he'll never 'get' thrash.

I understand parents have full control as to what their babies or young children wear. That's fair enough, they're kids - they have no mental conception as to how to put clothes on, let alone make decisions about what kind of clothes would suit them. The standard result of this is a bunch of aesthetically challenged children - for formal occasions at some point during the deepest, darkest depths of the early '90s, my mother used to dress me and my older brother in matchingly over-the-top green, black and gold waist-coats and ridiculously smart trousers. I think we also boasted some dashing suspenders. Needless to say, we looked ridonkulous. Not that we don't nowadays, but at least we now look silly by our volition.

Fashion crimes aside, I think we can all agree this is standard practice. But one thing I will never understand is babies in band t-shirts. Most people start wearing band t-shirts when they're a thirteen year old twollox who thinks their opinion in music is important and has to be expressed at every given opportunity, especially so via the medium of clothes. Some of us never outgrow this phase (at this point, I should point out I'm wearing a Dr. Feelgood era Mötley Crüe t-shirt - it's quite fetching) and that's okay, as our status of 'man-child' will seamlessly lead in to our autumn years of 'awkward dad'. But what about the babies who can't properly formulate opinions on what music they might like? Should you really be damning them to an existence filled with ridicule and shame so early on in life? It's going to be hard enough being your offspring as it is, without you gussying them up in an assortment of black tops.

It's like those religious fundamentalists who indoctrinate their children with molten hatred, except this time with socially unacceptable bands*. Wear all the Megadeth t-shirts you want, but until your child learns the difference between KISS and Lordi, don't use them as yet another vehicle to express your misguided love for rock. If you're not careful, when they grow up a bit and start rebelling, you'll have to put up with a lot of free-form jazz. And don't pretend you're open-minded and like free-from jazz. You're not. You've just been parading the fruit of your loins around in a Mot
örhead shirt in the vain attempt to reaffirm your maligned status as "rock fan".

*This is a major exaggeration. It's pretty bad, but probably not that bad.

**If I ever have children, they're blatantly going to listen to mainstream noughties R&B exclusively as a form of rebellion. I will disown them the moment I hear Kanye West.

Monday, 6 December 2010

36. Communal showers

^ I thought using the Socially Awkward Penguin would be less horrifying that slamming "communal showers" in to Google Image Search

Today, I learnt that there is nothing more intensely awkward than running in to someone you know in a communal shower. Enough said.

Monday, 29 November 2010

35. Mondays

^ I feel like I live somewhere in-between Office Space and Clerks

It's Sunday morning. You wake up, realising you don't have any job / education commitments for the day and lazily lay your head back down before it truly hits you. It's Sunday. This is your last day of weekend-based freedom before the weekday slog kicks in and begins the gradual process of chipping away what few fragments remain of your disillusioned soul. So, really, you better make the best of it.

It's Sunday afternoon. You're awake again. You have wasted your entire morning in bed and achieved none of the things you intended to by this point. And that's okay, because it's Sunday. You lazily make a fry-up to eat the pain away. Delicious. It dawns on you again though, that tomorrow is Monday. Better make the best of your free time.

It's 5pm. You've spent the day thus far playing Robot Unicorn Attack and re-watching episodes of the unrelenting mediocrity that is How I Met Your Mother. You think about dinner and pittle away your time by tapping away on the internet. Ooh, 2 notifications, how grand!

Somehow, it's Monday morning. You're up at the crack of dawn, you've had about five broken hours of sleep and the slog begins. You feel your jaw crack as you hear that unceremoniously violent alarm shatter your ears. You remember you spent last night illegally watching Piranha 3D (in 2D) and drinking. The morning is brutal. It's dark outside. Your eyes are crusted over with sleep and your vision doesn't want to kick in. Your legs are useless. You fall over your bag and spill that glass of water you keep by the bed. Ooh, crumbs. After making a coffee, you decide to turn on your laptop. Leslie Nielsen's dead. A significant part of your childhood dies with him.

You eventually muster the courage to leave the house. It is as cold as Hell would be if O.J. Simpson was actually innocent. You're wearing at least four layers and yet your nipples could cut glass - double-glazed glass, at that. Your nipples are too powerful for this time of morning.

You're at the bus stop. You notice there's an awful lot of people waiting for the bus. Oh, it's a Tube strike. Of course. You have to wait for a couple of buses. When you finally get on a bus, you are sandwiched between two unsavoury characters with an odour so offensive, it's like the smell took your nostrils outside and beat them up with a lead pipe stolen from a sewage plant.

You realise this is all before you have even reached your institution of choice for the day. You have an entire day of this tripe to put up with.

No other day assaults every one of your senses so aggressively in the space of the first hour of being awake. You become fully aware of the entire gravitas of the situation. You have a terrible case of the Mondays.

You write on your to-do list "buy wine and cookies before heading home".

You wait as five buses pass. You lose the ability to write coherent sentences. Banana hammock. You start writing entries for your inane blog.

34. The emptiness of crisp packets

^ "MAX deep ridge"!? That's what she said. I think. I don't know, I don't do innuendo very well...

You know that feeling you get, when you crave a bit of a potato-based snack and only something crispy will suffice? It's a strong one, so you take a detour in to the nearest newsagent and there it is; a big packet of Doritos. Lovely. The bag's pretty generously sized; there's a lot of spicy, corn-laden pseudo-nachos in there. You could save some for later. I mean, a bag of that voolume is really intended for several people. You could divvy a few out amongst your friends and still have some left over. So, you drop the newsagent one of your precious pound sterlings and leave the shop, excited about the snackery that is about to unfold.

And then you open the bag. A waft of tasty smelling air escapes and you excitedly examine the contents of your purchase. Four sullen tortilla chips and a lot of silver foil. If you're lucky, maybe a small pile of conglomerate flavourings at the bottom.

I. What? Gaaaaaaaaaah.

Words cannot express my disappointment when this happens. To this day, I naively expect big bags of crisps to contain lots of crisps - at least an amount in line with how big the bag is - but all I find within is Kate Moss' daily calorific intake (I'm making the somewhat crass assumption that a single Twiglet is too much for the Moss to take). I am a man, not a fashionable stick of a woman, and I demand my crisp packets be filled with "food" that will permanently damage my body. I am sick of bags of foil that gleam with disappointment, their shiny innards reflecting my crushed culinary hopes. My inner child needs nourishment.

(N.B. I was a fat child).

33. Tube strikes

^ I have spent over three quarters of my life living in London and I have yet to see this.

So, the London Underground (or "The Tube" as those of us within the accurately titled "Big Smoke" call it) was out of bounds today due to yet another strike. Now, I don't tend to take the Tube very often to travel around, so it certainly didn't affect me on that level of inconvenience. But, whilst I feel that the strikes are inconsiderate at best (I refuse to debate whether or not I think they're justified), my beef isn't with the train drivers (I say drivers, but those things drive themselves - I'm not really sure why there are people employed to witness that). My initial sirloin* lies with the appalling organisation of TFL, who don't see it fit to run more buses to deal with the huge amount of extra bus travellers that occur during a Tube strike. But the ever-so-slightly-unhinged sets of Londoners don't half make it worse.

*23p to who sees what I did there.

Every time there is a Tube strike, London seems to collapse in to some adolescent fury where would-be grown ups throw temper tantrums because of the, admittedly frustrating, process of getting home. Waiting for several buses before one with enough room for you to awkwardly squeeze yourself in turns up is, unfortunately, part and parcel of the striking process. It's annoying, it's aggravating and ultimately, disappointing when you eventually end up on a bus filled to the brim with sour-faced people and screaming babies (such as the trusty 134 I took back today). But never before had I seen a bus driver flip the bird at someone. He was more than entitled to though, seeing as a 30+ woman repeatedly tried to smash the door of the bus down when he was physically unable to let more people on to it. Don't take it personally lady, there's a lot of people trying to get home - God forbid, you have to wait for another bus like everybody else has for the last hour. She's not the only one, mind. I saw a man on Tottenham Court Road repeatedly hit a taxi with some kind of pipe because the driver wasn't letting him in. Well, putting a few major dents in his cab was certainly going to warm you to your charms, wasn't it? I bet you're a riot at parties. Literally.

I understand the annoyance of trying to get home in a timely manner. Really, I do. I had a horrific time on the bus today. Truly terrible. But, despite my relative youth in comparison to the wealth of people I saw throwing their proverbial toys out of the pram this evening, I accepted that it was a bad situation and I would have to deal with it. As did many other fellow travellers who, although clearly pissed off, managed to channel their energies in to not exacerbating the already stressful situation. If there's one thing I've learnt living in London, it's that someone always wants to make the experience worse for everyone else because they're too mentally unable to comprehend that everything won't always go their way. These people should have their Oyster cards revoked.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

32. Life

^I have moved beyond static images. Watch / listen to this whilst reading for that extra degree of interaction.

An awfully broad and nihilistic addition to the List, I know but bear with me. Your life is spent ultimately doing a bunch of things you don’t want to do for a small segment of people who somehow maintain authority over you, who in turn are doing the exact same thing for their superiors and so on and so forth. From the age of 4 until you hit 18, you are a child of the school system and the property of your parents – that’s fine and all but you always entertain the feeling, especially once you hit adolescence, that when you leave school, you can strike out on your own and make something of your life.

You eventually make it to university, which ultimately becomes an exercise in bitter social politics, badly organised departments and degrees essentially worthless in anything but name. If you actually aim to succeed, you spend a huge amount of time slogging through badly written books, writing essays that do little more than rehash and re-articulate the safe, tried and tested ideas of prior academics in order to fit the variety of arbitrary deadlines that control your life and watch as everyone else around you has all the fun. If you attempt to have some of this aforementioned fun however, you fail spectacularly and end up cementing a career in staying home and watching Jeremy Kyle without a TV licence. So, hopefully, after university, you’ll get a job and you can finally start living life on your own terms.

Wrong. Job satisfaction is a fictional concept. Instead, you will whittle away the rest of your life ticking boxes and earning enough pittance to sustain your meagre existence. Throughout these experiences, there may be small smatterings of enjoyment but these will almost always be crushed like a paper cup by the monstrous hand of reality; its Kung-fu grip perforating and crumbling the very foundations of life satisfaction.

The only time you are somewhat liberated from the shackles of education and career is retirement. But by the time you hit retirement, you’ve had to work yourself to the bone and are left unhealthy and incontinent, unable to truly enjoy your emancipation. You can barely eat the gruel you are now fed and your body continually taunts you as your mind remains perfectly intact, a prisoner of the tool it once used to make its mark on a world.

Freedom certainly isn’t free. It’s just a shame the cost is your life. But without that ‘life’, you’re unable to enjoy the freedom. It’s like paying for a toaster with the only loaf of bread you’ll ever have (or some other metaphor that is equally pretentious and poorly thought out). Or to quote Twisted Sister, “It’s a life we gotta choose and the price is our own life until it’s done”. Deep, Dee Snider. Deep.

31. Facebook relationship statuses

^ And the prize for creepiest status comment goes to Long Black Bar.

Facebook is a blessing and a curse in that it can be used to maintain contact with people you like and it can also remind you that there is absolutely no hope for humanity. One particular aspect of Facebook profiles that bothers me is that of the 'relationship status'. I don’t have a major problem with people being listed as ‘single’ or ‘in a relationship’. That's fine, if a little bit pointless / encouraging of further e-stalking. What does bother me is that those aren't the only options.

Firstly, we have 'in an open relationship' - no one cares if you and your partner are oh, so modern and confident in each other that your relationship is open to the addition of third parties or casual bits-on-the-side - the fact that you have to exert your dubious relationship arrangements on a large forum of people you (hopefully) know in the real world is creepy at best. Are you attempting to find your extras on Facebook? Even worse however is the the e-cry for attention that is 'it's complicated'. If your relationship status can only be described as ‘complicated’, why even bother putting up a status? Saying you’re ‘in a relation but it’s complicated’ is equivalent to walking up to a group of people and immediately interrupting with “OMG GUYS LAVISH ME WITH ATTENTION MY BOYFRIEND SOOOO DOESN'T GET ME”. I do not wish to lavish you with attention. Instead I wish for you to take a long walk off a very short pier. Whilst wearing concrete shoes.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

30. The overuse and non-existent profundity of the phrase 'I am'

^ This picture is effectively self-definition for skid-marks on humanity.

I am my parents. I am my brother. I am the teacher who failed me. I am your best friend in primary school. I am the scar on my forehead. I am the collection of CDs adorning my shelf. I am your fellow man. I am your disgruntled post-man. I am everyone. I am sticking with you. I am what I am. I am everywhere. I am a camera. I am Iron Man. I am the winter of your discontent. I am the most important thing about parliament. I am Bootsy Collins. I am proud of my Parliament joke. I am appalling advertising campaigns. I am a man, not a disco ball. I'm the man. I am a robot sent from the future. I am incontinent. I am the internet. I am in your base, shooting your dudes. I am this blog. I am half human, half robot and half kangaroo. I am setting us up the bomb. I am the law. I am watching you whilst you sleep. I am Grover. I am so omniscient that if there were to be two omnisciences, I would be both of them. I am shipping up to Boston. I am a rock. I am because we are. I am eighteen. I am not okay (I promise). I am a vagabond. I am (I'm me). I am broken. I am the Hitcher. I am the hell outta here. I am the warlock. I am legend - out for blood.

I am wholly unable to define myself and realise who I am as a human being without a variety of soulless marketing campaigns nonsensically trying to define me through a mix of "touching" moments and terrible music. I am enraged by the lack of creativity in modern day advertising. I am hitting the keys on my keyboard really hard right now. I am going to need a new keyboard.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

29. People who are more socially awkward than me

^ I just looked at around twenty of these 'Socially Awkward Penguin' things and was able to relate to at least 19.3. Oh dear.
Like any nerd exposed to the outside world, I spend a lot of my time fumbling through conversations with people I have no real desire to talk to but am forced to thanks to the constraints of social etiquette. That's fine though. Whilst I rarely initiate the conversation, I've managed to get this 'small talk' thing down to an art - a greeting, ask how they are in a the manner of an 80s sitcom character ("What's shakin'?" and "How's it hanging, brosef?" are two such colloquialisms that help me fit in) and exchange general banal pleasantries before finally making polite excuses and scurrying away from further interaction. Because most people are far more adept than me at communicating with one another, any degree of awkwardness in the conversation is made up for by the other person's understanding of the communicative process. It's not a great conversation, but it's functional. However, I've met people who are worse at these inane exchanges than me and let me tell you, what ensues is not pleasant. (You will be able to tell who I am in this example through my use of bodacious vernacular).

"Hey man, what's shakin'?"
"Not a lot."
"This is the point where you reciprocate the question, you potato."

If you don't have the rudimentary skills to even return the question "How are you?", you should not be allowed to converse with other people. You should stay in your room, watching television shows online and vicariously living through the cast of How I Met Your Mother until you learn how to be around real people.

Shockingly, this can be made worse. There is a specific breed of the socially awkward that are blind to their own conduct and appear, as if from nowhere, at the most inopportune moments. They are poised for inaction, ready to harass you with statements that stop conversations dead in their tracks. These Surprise-Awks (look, I'm not good at naming things) will join you in a group situation, interrupt what you're saying and then proceed to talk only to you, ignoring the other members of the conversation. They pull you away from your friends and force you to interact with them whilst everyone else continues the discussion you were once part of. Eventually, your forced private exchange will die out and you will return to the larger discussion at whole - only for you to say something and the Surprise-Awk to drop another comment meant exclusively for your ears, thus destroying any fluidity of group debate. It's pretty simple; if you can't engage with more than one person at once, don't attempt to. Stop ruining one of my few moments of sociality with your ridiculously unhelpful comments about nothing.

28. People who say 'arks' instead of 'ask'

^ These are arks. Are you a particularly big fan of them or something?

Honestly, I don't even know what to say about this one. Whatever semblance of logic behind saying 'arks' instead of 'ask' eludes me. And yet, it only ever occurs with the word 'ask' - I've never heard someone say 'tarks' instead of 'task'. You can't just rearrange and add more letters to a word, that destroys the function of language. Rest assured, if you say 'arks', you're responsible for lowering the country's collective IQ. I hope you're proud of yourself, you arks.*

*The joke here is that 'arks' sounds a little bit like 'arse'. I'm trying to provide you with humour that you'd be able to understand.

Monday, 20 September 2010

27. Living alone

^ Look at how lonely this bear is. This is you living alone.

Shared accommodation can be a struggle at times. Even if you’re friends with all your flat-mates, living with them is always a very different process. It’s not like you come to dislike them as a person, but often the best of friends merely have rather incompatible living styles. It’s one of those intangible, wishy-washy “facts” of life. You simply learn unexpected things about them, the kind of things that only occur in a living environment. Banal things, like they're always using the telly when you want to watch Eastenders or their right foot clicks when they walk, creating audible discomfort akin to Chinese water torture. Having dealt with situations like that, you’d assume that you’d relish living alone. The independence, the freedom, the not having to deal with petty squabbles, the ability to wash dishes and tidy up on your own terms. It truly sounds glorious.

But no. No, it isn’t. There is nothing worse than being in a flat or house by yourself for an extended period of time. After the honeymoon period of a day or two, you are unceremoniously forced to deal with the reality that you’re just not that self-sufficient a person. You can’t entertain and look after yourself without any kind of outside stimulation. You are boring. Without other people in your house, you are nothing. You are a shell of inactivity, no longer motivated to exist due to a complete lack of human interaction. Dishes pile up as no one makes you feel shame for being such a slob. You start talking to yourself to make up for the lack of impromptu conversations you were used to before. Ultimately, for every little fight over late bills and dirty laundry you no longer have to suffer, you also lose every enjoyable aspect of cohabitation. No one to talk about your pointless day with, no one to have a couple of drinks with... hell, you can’t even actively ignore your flat-mates anymore because they’re not there.

Living alone for any period more than a few days will make you acutely aware that you are tedious, unsociable hermit who is afraid to leave the house for fear of needing to shave and having the dappling sun scorn your unhealthily pasty skin.

26. Cold reading

^ Hi, my name is Derek Acorah and I make appalling television shows like 'Michael Jackson Séance'. I also look like a greasy owl.

Cold reading is a despicable practice as far as I’m concerned. Often used to falsely convince people that they are communicating with their loved ones who have passed on, it is the epitome of emotional exploitation. If you’re not familiar with it, I suggest you watch this for a very good explanation (it's lengthy, but if you're reading this you clearly have nothing better to do with your life). The people who claim they have this supernatural power to talk to the dead are, of course, pathetically obvious charlatans; their only real skill being that they know how to manipulate an audience of people through the use of deliberately vague language and adapting it quickly should things not go their way. Now, most people in a rational state of mind should, I hope, be able to see right through their crooked game but that’s perhaps the most sinister thing about cold reading. You’re not attempting to manipulate the rational, the ones who’d be able to pick up on your inadequate fumblings in the dark. You’re picking on those who are emotionally drained from mourning and aren’t in the right frame of mind to dismiss your antics. Your shadows and mirrors merely provide horribly false hope that makes your victim's ultimate realisation of closure even more painful.

There’s no shame in trying to provide hope to the empty hearted in need of it. There is however much shame in lying to the vulnerable to line your own empty pockets.

25. People who don't get urinal etiquette

^ If I ever run a pub (very unlikely), this will adorn the male loos. Picture shamelessly stolen from somewhere on Google Image Search.

This is a problem that has plagued me for years and one I don’t think gets addressed properly in our repressed society. A male toilet typically consists of several urinals in which you can empty your bladder. Simple enough. If there are three urinals, you use either one on the furthest side. That way, should someone else enter, they will take the opposite side and there will be a polite one-urinal buffer zone between you two. Should someone else come in, they’ll take the empty spot and you’ll have to make do. That’s fine, that’s life. You deal.

But sometimes someone takes the centre spot when the sides haven’t been filled. You have a situation where there is no polite buffer zone and instead an uncomfortably close pissing session made worse by the mockingly empty urinal on the far side. I was once in an empty six urinal toilet (fancy, I know) and chose an innocuous spot on one side to drain the lizard. Someone else comes in and stands directly next to me, despite there being five more empty toilets. Right next to me. That’s just antagonistic. It’s like he wanted to challenge me to a urination contest. I don’t even know what that would entail but it sounds inappropriate. Needless to say, I got stage fright and had to pretend I was peeing until he left. Awkward.

And yes, I am this neurotic.

24. The repetitiveness of sketch shows

^ Every once in a while, I just sit in my room shouting random numbers, waiting for someone to tell me that it's Numberwang. It's a very lonely game.

I used to really love sketch shows but after a while, you realise they’re all the same thing. They find one or two sketches that are moderately funny and repeat them for an entire series, barely editing the premise of the joke in order to establish some continuity of a catchphrase and character. This occasionally works well (That Mitchell & Webb Look’s ‘Numberwang’) and more often than not, becomes tired and annoying (That Mitchell & Webb Look’s ‘Numberwang’). Sketch shows are increasingly devoid of original sketches, depending on a small set of scenarios that they hope to repeat ad infinitum until you reach the point where you watch an entire series only to notice that every episode of it was indistinguishable from the last. It’s not even like the series are long – what, about six episodes per series? And you’re telling me you couldn’t come up with six episodes worth of original material? Then you shouldn’t be making a sketch show. Come back when you’ve got enough material for a series and until then, stop taking the easy way out.

Oh, and whilst we’re on the topic, yes Catherine Tate, I am bothered. I am bothered by the putrid visual display you call ‘The Catherine Tate Show’. You’re about as funny as a hernia*.

*Joey having a hernia in Friends is the exception to the rule 'hernias aren't funny'.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

23. The relentless arrogance of Richard Dawkins

^ Dawkins is the kind of guy who is proud of his own gas expulsions due to the source of origin being himself.

I am a staunch atheist. I don't believe there is God and I find it a sobering thought that when I'm dead, my inner-self will not continue to live. My body will become part of the Earth's matter* and the only sense of eternal life I will be privy to will be through being remembered as a rambling idiot by the dwindling few who tolerated my presence. My views on this are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future and I honestly find it difficult to understand how people can have such a strongly held faith in a God or an afterlife. But unlike Richard Dawkins, I'm willing to accept that difference of opinion.

Richard Dawkins is an extremely intelligent man, that I can't deny. Whilst perhaps not the most original thinker, he has an almost unrivalled ability to synthesise the ideas of his contemporaries in a well articulated and comprehensible manner - something best exemplified by his book, "The Selfish Gene". An extensive study of the theories behind genetics, Dawkins provided one of the most important texts of the late 20th century which explained the science with such expertise and clarity that it can provide an interesting read for those not great with biology (such as yours truly). But even reading "The Selfish Gene", one thing is abundantly clear over everything else; Dawkins is a cocky funt. Every concept is lathered in layers of unrelenting, self-congratulatory arrogance and the often intelligent morsels that don't conform to Dawkins' ideal are regarded as little more than the intellectual drool of the mentally deficient.

It comes as no surprise then that, when discussing religion, Dawkins is just as much of an egotistical sod about the entire affair as he is with genetics. Whilst I fundamentally agree with most, if not all, of Dawkins' views, having someone as arrogant and dismissive as one of the poster-boys for atheism leads me to understand why non-believers are often portrayed as overwhelmingly intolerant and culturally insensitive. I almost want to disagree with his writings just because he's such a dick about everything. I respect Dawkins' conviction in his views, but I'm far from respecting him. Until he realises that other people are as entitled to their own opinions as he is, I'd really rather not have to suffer his conceited diatribes.

And yes, I am aware of the crippling sense of irony surrounding me criticising someone for being arrogant in the way they write. My only defence is I'm not a hugely successful writer who gets a lot of television time; I'm a long haired nerd who sits in his bedroom watching a lot of TV, drinking Pepsi Max and avoiding day light.

*Well, not straight away. First, I fully intend for my body to be taxidermed into a surfing pose so that at my open casket funeral, when the coffin is carried down the church aisle, it'll look like I'm riding a sick wave (the pallbearers will be dressed in blue). Also, everyone will get a photo with my surfer dude corpse.