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.

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.