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Inspirational quotes and Kerouac…damn you kerouac…

21 Oct

I don’t like inspirational quotes. I just don’t. As much as they’re a great point to jump off from in a search for personal excellence and improvement; they’re more often used as an end- a point to say “gee shucks I’ve read it so I know it”- and this disappoints me greatly…

“Oh!: ‘ be the change you want to see in the world’? OMG THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE YOU’RE RIGHT!!1!!! lmao roflcopter hurhurhurhur…”

As simple as it sounds, “being the change you want to see in the world” is anything but. First you have to think about and realise what that change is, then begin the long hard journey of embodying it. You want the world to be a more kind, caring and openhearted place? cool; don’t be a dick next time someone takes their time in front of you at the cash register. No, this doesn’t mean “be quiet about your dickness”, it means take a long hard look at the situation and ask yourself why you’re getting so worked up over someone else taking their time, then be cool about it all. BE COOL.

You want the world to be a fairer, more well rounded place? cool, a noble idea…here’s how you can put that into action; don’t be a self-centred/-pitying/-justifying whingebag  next time someone starts grinding on that love interest you’ve been quiet about all those years. It’s just the way things are; you had your chance and didn’t take it because you were so busy watching dawsons creek re-runs in an effort to find the perfect words to say, so step back and let someone else get on with their lives.

It takes effort. A hell of a lot of effort. It is worth it though, when all the effort turns into something you can be proud of, but let’s be honest here; it’s a hell of a lot easier to just copy and paste a quote then think absolutely nothing else of it. That’s the way things are.

I don’t doubt there are a lot of people out there who put sufficient thought into inspirational quotes and actively work on incorporating their meanings into their lives, but the reason above is why I’m very careful about going anywhere near them. I could plaster this page with quotes all over the place and get a fair few more hits every day, but that’d be letting us all off the hook.

So anyway; Kerouac, you sonofa bitch.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'”

….*sigh* here we go…

I’m gonna presume that you read the book and put this quote into context, knowing full well that the book is ultimately about disillusionment with that whole beat generation movement and that by the end of the book Kerouac is well enough pissed off with everything he thought he wanted/ saw in the movement that he pretty much does a 180 on the quote above.

Unfortunately, that’s all implied. There’s no counter quote which runs something like “I’m sick of going to parties and ending up talking to that flighty broad in the corner all night just so I can get laid thinking it’s a life changing event. It’s not. It’s two sad, sweaty, lifeless bodies rustling against each other while already mentally compiling the amazing story about it they’re gonna tell their friends the next day in an effort to seem “mad to live; now, then, here, everywhere”. It’s listening to some girl drone on about her friends and what they did while she repeatedly lights cigarettes from the wrong end and cries ‘this never normally happens to me!! wow this conversation must be sooooooo deep’. It’s not thinking she’s the absolutel right woman for me because she’s ‘kooky’, or ‘unusual’ in the way she doesn’t care for things other people do, it’s just ignoring the fact that she’s incredibly boring and empty because I simply want to get laid…no… no the only ones for me are the sane ones; they’re a lot freakier in bed cos they’re not trying so hard to be wild…”

Hipsters, by the way. Kerouac’s quote applies to hipsters. Yes. Unfortunately, where at least the beat generation had Ginsberg and jazz, the modern equivalent has nothing more challenging than Alexa Chung’s musings on fashion and dubstep…

But, for me, that doesn’t go far enough. Hipsters don’t go far enough. Why simply go to a few parties a week? why not make everyday a party? That’s the real way to be “mad to live”. Start your day off with a fine wine. Knock back a few shorts before leaving the house. Why limit yourself to being “mad to talk” when your only with your friends, and only talking about things you already know? Talk to a stranger; tell them about the universe and how mindbogglingly big it is. Yell out something in the street, don’t hold back in public; you gotta be mad.

Better yet; do something Wild and far-out! make a sign; something that implies a deep and meaningful thought while being vague enough to leave the reader thinking. Stand on the street somewhere, hold that sign up high! be proud! You’re mad to live and mad to talk! You blaze a trail across all lives you come in contact with, people coo “awwww” when they see you proudly go where no man, woman, child or animal has gone before!

NOooooo no nononononono….Hipsters -and anyone who lives by this quote thinking it describes them- don’t take it far enough. What; you go out to some fashionable club twice a week and all of a sudden you’re “mad to live, mad to talk” ?! fuck no, you’re nothing of the sort. You gotta take that to the limit…

I hope by now you’ve realised the ridiculousness of all of this. Take those things to the extreme and you’ll be a homeless drunk with a nasty drug habit who routinely yells at people in the street while holding a sign that read “LEMONS!! life! Art! SHOES!!1!”…

Nope, the only ones for me are the ones that know what they’re doing. The ones who say commonplace things in the knowledge how uncommon things can be. The ones who are mad to live by all definitions and not just the “wild, far-out, weird thinking party animal” kind. The ones who burn long, soft but just as brightly as a firework. Fireworks are gone quickly and leave barely a memory behind. No; the only ones for me are the ones who are not mad to talk but mad to listen…there’s a lot more to be learned from listening.

Israeli/Palestinian prisoner swap

13 Oct

Okay soooo….yeah this is a touchy subject. Gotta be careful…

In writing this, I’m not trying to take the perspective of one side or the other; I’m simply trying to highlight something. Make of it what you will. Regardless of your views, I want you to genuinely ask yourself what you think of the question I’m gonna bring up. I don’t want you to immediately fall back on ‘your sides’ arguments or justifications…I just want you to engage with the question and hopefully challenge your view on the situation. Nothing more, nothing less.

I do have an opinion on it all though, don’t get me wrong. Even though this question I’m gonna raise might make it seem like I’m favouring one side, It’s not. It’s just a question. You could change the parametres of the question a million ways to encompass a million different political viewpoints…but it would still end up being the same question.

Besides, when you take a far enough step back away from it all, it’s a bit like watching two drunks fighting over their shared loss of dignity. Both contributed to the circumstances, both agree it’s happened, but neither is willing to be the big man.

So anyway, in the news recently is the story of Gilad Shilat, an Israeli soldier who will be released after years in captivity. In exchange for his release, one thousand and twenty seven Palestinians will be released in your classic prisoner swap.

And there’s the question; hidden among the jubilation on both sides that their respective peoples are being returned home. I’m not gonna write anything about the conflict, the barrier, the two countries tearing each other apart from inside out…there’s no need for all that when a question this simple presents itself.

1 person in exchange for 1,027 people. 1 Israeli for 1,027 Palestinians.

Figured the question out yet? I don’t blame you…it hasn’t cropped up at all in the news coverage and let’s be honest here: it’s not something that would immediately spring to mind but…

When is 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others? And, more importantly, why is that 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others?

Both sides are happy with the agreement, so it seems that the Palestinians are alright with being deemed worthless enough that over one thousand of their people are the equivalent of 1 Israeli, but still…it’s a horrible question.

As I said above,; this question has nothing to do with politics, it’s about humanity. If you comment, please leave all politics at the door. We could change the parametres to “Catholics vs Protestants” in the North of Ireland, “blacks vs Whites” in 1950’s America, or even “Terrorists vs Patriots” somewhere else in the world but it still boils down the same simple question:

When is one life worth a thousand others, and why?

 

Something you didn’t know about the moon landing…

17 Sep

The moon landing was an iconic moment for the whole world. The first time man dared to touch the realm of the gods, and everyone; each man, woman and child sitting goggle eyed at the television set holding their breath, took part.

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it still make a sound? well, yes…but it doesn’t have as much significance. The moon landing would have still been significant if nobody had known of it by sheer virtue of being an incredible event, but it’s major significance came from the perfect-timing collision of the mass media becoming available to all with the rise of television, the heightened tension of the East/West divide creating an terrifyingle uneasy “deep breath before the plunge” (as Gandalf would say) and the leftover spirit from the summer of love, desperately hanging on the the idea that we might be alright after all*.

*The summer of love, although well documented and celebrated, was depressingly short. 4 months in 1967, to be exact. After that, things went back to business as usual and any large/widespread notion of humanity getting along together and pushing for the betterment of mankind gently receded. One of the major achievements of the moon landing was that it gave one last shot across the bow for peace and cooperation: one mighty reminder that we can actually achieve something remarkably inspirational, rather than something destructive

These things conspired to inspire anyone and everyone who saw the landing at the time and anyone who learns of it anew to this day. Point to the moon and tell a young child that we sent a tin bucket with less processing power than their calculator up there on a whim and a prayer, and watch the sense of wonder spread across their face. We have a tendency to get a bit blassĂ© about these things being godly adults who have been there and done that, but don’t forget the first time you looked at the moon and though “wow…someone went up THERE?!”.

But anyway, here’s something you (probably) didn’t know about the moon landing:

When the BBC (British broadcasting company, the united kingdom’s state television company) broadcast the moon landing live, they got a relatively little known (well, not as well known as they would become..even though they were only a few years going they had a good start) band called ‘Pink Floyd’ to arrange and perform backing music to the footage.

And they did. They performed a rambling instrumental to the footage, adding an extra layer of gravitas to the proceedings with their blend of space rock and far out experimenting.

The amazing thing, to me, is that back in the day the powers that be didn’t feel the need to seperate the sciences and arts from each other. They didn’t think that people with those interests were to be kept away from each other at all costs (as is the case all too often nowadays) and they didn’t automatically assume that something as momentous as the landing had to be given an air of stuffy scientific dullness*, they just thought it would be pretty damn cool to have pink floyd do backing for the moon landing…

well now, that’s just incredible.

*I do appreciate the quiet tension of the original, non musical, coverage though, don’t get me wrong.

Here’s some of the footage anyway, enjoy

(there was a pink floyd night on BBC4 last night, it was great.)

Words to live by: IF.

13 Aug

I hope noone in the authors estate is gonna get antsy with me for putting this up here. All due respect to them and the man himself.

If you’re not into reading it, jump to the bottom.

IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling.

(he forgets an important -to me- line in the first stanza; “If you can wait and not be tired by waiting”, but still it’s a pretty good performance. Seems it’s an important piece to him aswell, seeing as he’s been reciting it off by heart since the seventies)

 

London Riots: Big society gives itself a big pat on the back…

10 Aug

(*for the benefit of those across the seas, the ‘Big society’ initiative was announced a good while ago by David Cameron and the conservative party as a remedy to all of Britain’s woes. It was designed to create a more harmonious society by encouraging people to take an active part in their community…

…It was quickly laughed out of the country when it became depressingly clear that it was nothing more than a nice sounding metaphor for drastic budget cuts and general political fuckery…George Orwell working in conjunction with Douglas Adams and a crate or two of Jameson couldn’t have thought of something more ludicrously twisted.)

Don’t panic…that’s just a ‘community participation liaison’ coming round to check you’ve done your share of the nations’ tax returns…

Some of the more heartwarming reports to come out of the london riots are those of people gathering together to protect and serve their own community. Yesterday, large groups of people organised themselves on twitter and facebook to clean up the scenes of the riots, showing that even though people were angry enough to destroy, people were also angry enough to rebuild. Heartwarming stuff.

“Gentlemen: TO BROOMS!”

It has only been mentioned in passing, but there have been rumours of people arming themselves and standing guard by their local businesses, ready to chase away anyone that might have an eye for trouble. This is particularly motivating because along with the large chain shops that have been looted, rioters have also targeted small family run cornershops and businesses in what is nothing more than senseless destruction. Tesco? yeah fair enough I can maybe understand that; they’ve got a nationwide organisation to back them up…Mr Singh the friendly man who runs the local chipshop? He’s got nothing more than yesterdays earnings to see him through.

I read a clip in the paper this morning about looters being confronted by a teary eyed woman when they emerged from a local fashion boutique, because the boutique was built and run by one woman who hand made all of the clothes herself. When confronted with this, a lady-looter stood there with a freshly stolen wedding dress draped across her arm looking very sheepish (but, importantly, she didn’t do anything about putting the dress back as far as I know). Heartbreaking stuff.

But wait! People gathered themselves of their own free will with those good old english brooms to clean up the mess! jolly good show, as Boris johnson would say.

Ah…Boris Johnson. Again, for the benefit of those across the seas: The hithchiker’s guide to the galaxy defines Boris Johnson as ‘ a floppy haired being, known to appreciate a glass or two of cucumber sandwiches soaked in Gin, who is so out of touch with his constituency, and the Earth as a whole, that he has been regularly sighted talking to a tree along the A127 dual carriageway, having stopped there for a rest on his way to pick up a mess of cricket bats from Basildon for use in his regular bi-weekly tap-dancing class. It is not known how the cricket bats felt about this, although the tree is said to be surprisingly despondent.

So he turns up to shouts of “Where’s your broom!” from the crowd being carefully kept far enough away from him that they won’t actually notice he’s probably goggle-eyed, and yknow what? he actually gets one and marches down to the crowd. Fair play to him I must say. He gives a speech about how he appreciates their work and effort and how they won’t let these hooligans represent London proper, and that they will all persevere in their efforts to show the world that London can not and should not be defined by that awfully obvious/lazy headline: ‘London’s burning‘.

But, unfortunately, this is where I have to put a dampener on it. I don’t want to, not really, especially with the solid example the people of London are showing in the face of mindless violence and destruction, but I have to say it.

The groups of people who protected local businesses could be described as taking part in the big society….but then again that’s what the police are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of london pay taxes so that the police can be trained, insured and paid to do that sort of work.

The groups of people who cleaned up the mess could very well be held up as a prime example of the big society, as I have a feeling they might when the smoke clears…but then again, things like cleaning up the streets are what streetcleaners are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of London pay taxes so that they can be trained, insured and paid to do that work.

…like in…some sort of…-oh gosh I’ve forgotten the word-…so..soci…God I’ve completely forgotten it. You know what I’m talking about: Where a nation, through thousands of years of hard work and perseverance, gathers itself together enough to say “Hey! why don’t we all pool our money, so that we can create neat things like a police force, who we can train for that job alone, then we can pay people to clean the streets, cos we don’t want our Janet from number 12 doing it anymore- she’s got a very bad back nowadays especially since the operation and she can’t miss anymore work- and then we can maintain it properly and find a place for everyone and look out for each other so that when people need protecting the police will be there in full force; well trained, insured and paid, and the cleaners too! when there’s a right big mess to clean up they’ll be there: well trained, insured and paid…

A SOCIETY! I knew it…it was there right at the tip of my tongue.

To drastically cut funding to schools, services and society as a whole is taking political fuckery to a completely new level. To then gather round for a press opportunity with the very people you’re fucking over and telling them they’re contribution is valued, is bullshit you could smell from the far end of Baltimore. They make a contribution. Every fucking week. It’s called ‘Taxes’, and you are crippling them with it. Don’t repay them by cutting essential services. Don’t repay them with a jolly good show. Repay them with the services they pay for: Well and fully trained, insured and paid.

(I am not in any way trying to imply that the people who did the good things that they did shouldn’t have. I am inspired by the things they are doing for their city.I am trying to imply- no sorry; I’m saying– that if the governments had actually focused on actively making society better, rather than just throwing everything in the air and hoping for the best, maybe they would have been in a better position to deal with the reasons and ramifications of the riots)