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.

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.