Articles Archive

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IT’S JUST A HOBBY

This is for all the gifted hobbyists out there who choose to keep it behind closed doors.

This little piece is dedicated to anybody regarded by their family or friends as ‘talented’ or ‘naturally gifted’, and are encouraged, nagged, or just plain forced into making something out of that talent despite possessing no desire to use that gift for financial or professional gains. This is for those who’s gifts are ‘just a hobby’.

There are some people who feel that anybody with an ounce of talent should peruse that talent to the highest accolade. That capable actors should work towards treading the boards on Broadway or appearing in prime time TV show on the goggle-box. Singers should work their arses off to get noticed by Warner Music; fast runners should aim to proudly represent their flag every four years. The same types of people often say things like, “Be all that you can be”, and “If he was any good, he wouldn’t be performing at weddings”, “She can’t be that much of a journalist, she’s been writing for the Valleys Weekly for the last twelve years”.

The lingering opinion among these opinionists that if someone does not use their talents to aim for the top, then all the classes, training, lessons and micro-managing were all a waste of time and money – it was all for nothing. They call it ‘wasted talent’. I call it ‘bullshit’. There is no such thing as a ‘wasted talent’, a ‘waste of time’, or a ‘waste of money’, because some people convert their ‘wasted talents’ into things called hobbies; a strange little concept that involves people doing things they are exceptionally talented at to please only themselves.

You see, friends, no talent is wasted if the participant finds something rewarding out of the application of that talent, regardless of how small or insignificant it is. Rewards are subjective and depend on the individual. To a particular individual, performing in front of a crowd of one or delivering a wedding speech can be just as rewarding or horrifying as performing to a packed Stadium. Even alone, you can easily lose yourself in the moment when singing sweet lullabies to a shampoo bottle – you can still get something rewarding out of it. It’s all about the personal journey; not everybody wants to be heard or seen – not everyone wants to be the cream.

Not everybody gives a fuck about status or career, either. Not everybody wants their talents to be bastardised, criticized, scrutinised or compromised by ungrateful, opinionated fucktards. In my life I have known gifted individuals with superb singing voices, acting skills, gripping short stories, eclectic guitar styles, crazy dance moves and lightening kicks like Bruce Lee; individuals who are happy doing their thing in private. I’m totally down with that attitude.

Somewhere there is a Marketing Executive with a flare for poetry, a Surgeon who is handy with a piano, a Babysitter who paints magisterial Valley landscapes on an effervescent canvas, a retired Steelworker who makes good use of the carpentry set he was given as a leaving present from his fellow wage-slaves. A poem for a lover’s eyes only – words as moving as anything in the history of paper or parchment.

I like the idea that all around this blue pearl drop there are everyday people that do extraordinary things for no one but themselves. A planetary-wide abundance of creative awesomeness all around us; few people will never see how awesome some of it is. I also love the idea that the same creative potential of these individuals is in every single one of us. We all have the power to do something magnificent. And there the humbling riches lay.

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WHAT DOUGLAS DID FOR ME

My tribute to a wholly remarkable man, and the remarkably remarkable works he left behind.

When Douglas Adams’ The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy was broadcast on the radio it was 1978. At 2PM on Thursday, January 4th 1979 I arrived in the world, disrupting a rather nice family meal in the process (I could never get the hang of Thursdays). From very early on in my youth The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy always seemed to attract my attention in some form or another.

I remember the early 1980’s: a betamax recording of the BBC TV series that my Grandparents had taped, I would watch it almost every day. My father had recorded the radio plays on cassette tapes and played them often. I also remember playing the interactive game on the Amstrad computer.

Most of the narrative content of the radio series was too much for a young boy to understand, but I remember being captivated by the characters voices: the rotund and consultative tenor of The Book, the frustrated and hapless Arthur Dent, and the forlorn and dejected tones of the pessimistically depressed android, Marvin; – “Life, don’t talk to me about life”.

Into my teens and the 1990’s – Sarcasm and irony became my close companions. During reading sessions in English classes I would stick to the four Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy novels along with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and sequel novel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. The more I read them, the more I grew to understand Douglas Adams’ social commentaries on the world.

I began to encounter things in life that could have easily been knitted into the ridiculously overblown and random scenarios from his works: local authorities, money, politics, salesmen, science, bureaucracy, evolution, relationships, religion and creation. There were, are, things in life that should be logical and straight forward but have been tainted and confused by some rule, regulation, or procedure.

Douglas Adams’ ability to scale-down the big issues was paralleled by his ability to take insignificant objects and give them greater meaning than the sum of their parts: Towels, bypasses, bulldozers, fish, tea and a bowl of petunias; some of a few things given a higher design. The unique context in which these things are placed has taught me that there is nothing wrong with not having a sense of proportion; given the right context a cup of morning coffee can be far more significant than the history of creation.

In addition to radio and writing novels, Adams worked as a script editor during Tom Baker’s stint as Doctor Who. His unique and bizarre sense of observation was the perfect match for Baker’s cosmic clown. I was a fan of the Tom Baker era long before I discovered that Adams was it’s script editor.

Douglas Adams also collaborated with John Lloyd on The Meaning of Liff: a dictionary of meanings that there aren’t any words for yet. After realising how arbitrary the real English Dictionary is – it misses huge wodges of human experience – Adams and Lloyd set upon writing a dictionary of experiences people recognised, but there wasn’t a word for.

The Salmon of Doubt – published in 2002 – is a posthumous and eclectic collection of writings, drafts, articles, observations, unfinished novels and other mish-mashes extracted from Adams’ computer (Over 2000 documents existed in total). This book has the biggest influence on me; it inspired me to start writing and this blog.

In The Salmon of Doubt Douglas Adams makes light of his towering height, his big nose that does not admit air and how he broke it with his own knee while playing rugby, stood up. He teaches the Americans a thing or two about tea, and offers the Traffic Police an insight into road safety in relation the fundamental laws of the universe.

To me The Salmon of Doubt is a firm testament to the fact that Adams was more than a novelist. He was an observer; capturing moments that would have passed most of us by. I have no doubt that Douglas Adams could have made eating Corn Flakes an interesting read. His expertly-placed words transcend each page as if he is speaking to you over a roaring log fire and an ice-cold bourbon; informal and deceivingly simplistic.

It wasn’t until Douglas Adams death that I began finding out more about him as. I discovered that we shared a few things in common: our parents divorced when we were young, we often came across as ‘strange’ to our families, our teachers at school couldn’t work out if there was something mentally wrong with us, we spent most of our school days getting out of games, we enjoyed acting and writing, and we are are both atheists.

In 2000…ish I purchased a book about evolution written by Richard Dawkins calledThe Blind Watchmaker. It shed a lot of light and logic into my life, and crystal-clear-clarity about my place in the grand scheme of things. I was surprised to discover while reading The Salmon of Doubt that Douglas Adams chose The Blind Watchmaker as the book that changed him. Dawkins dedicated his book The God Delusion to Douglas Adams after his death.

Another sort of six-degrees-of-separation-thingy was that Adams, like me, was a Pink Floyd fan; he named their 1994 album The Division Bell and performed with the band on his 42nd birthday (the same age that his daughter was born). Adams’ official biography shares its name with the Pink Floyd song Wish You Were Here. David Gilmour performed the song at Adams’ funeral.

When socialising, I like to slip in a clever Douglas Adams quote, like a secret handshake – acknowledgement suggesting that we are like-minded people. I always follow “drink up” with “the worlds about to end”, I cannot enter an elevator without wondering if it fears for the future, and I wonder what would have become of me if the lemon soaked napkin had not arrived at my table in time.

Like Douglas Adams, I also like the ‘whooshing’ sound that deadlines make as they shoot past. I view tea, towels, baths, poetry, Rickmansworth, Thursday, mice, Fenchurch Station, mattresses – and much, much, more – in a very unique and special way; a Douglas Adams way.

Douglas Noel Adams prematurely died in 2001, but his star continues to burn bright in all those who celebrate the life and times of this wholly remarkable man, and the remarkably remarkable works that he left behind.

So long Douglas Noel Adams, and thanks…

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ROCK IS DEAD! LONG LIVE ROCK!

Rock music is dead, apparently.  Here are my views on the subject...

Rock is apparently dead according to a recent declaration by the so-called “professor of pop”, Paul Gambaccini, because it no longer features in the mainstream, watered-down Top 40 music chart. According to a recent article in the Guardian: “The problem lay, in part, with short-sighted record labels investing less in the talent of the future and more in instantly profitable acts such as former X Factor stars.”  Fair point, Gamby-boy, but what about album sales? Nobody talks about the next Muse, or Radiohead single, but everybody buys their albums.

Iron Maiden’s ‘The Final Frontier’ album reached #1 in over 30 countries last year. Metallica and AC/DC currently have the highest grossing album sales and Bon Jovi is the highest grossing live act of 2010.  Good music is not about quick-buck singles, it is about well crafted albums and stellar live performances. Anyway, what connoisseur of music would deem the Top 40 charts to be an accurate representation of people’s musical tastes? Let me put it another way: Mr Blobby has had a UK #1 single, Bob Dylan hasn’t. ‘Nuff said.

It may be that rock no longer has a place in the mainstream, but it is not a reason to declare it ‘dead’. If anything that eludes the zeitgeist is considered dead then Jazz is dead, classical music is dead; ambient, punk, indie, folk and country are also dead – I died in 1996! During my teens I made a point of sidestepping chart music that everyone was listening to (even if it meant not listening to the Stereophonics); I was a John Peel listener, and he only played what wasn’t getting played. Rock albums have always been what chart music isn’t: They are arcane, bold, energetic and political; they dare to be different. Most importantly, they are inaccessible to those who don’t possess the desire to unlock them.

Here are a dozen guitar-driven tracks taken from albums released in 2010. Dead, my fracking arse!

Manic Street Preachers – A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
The Dead Weather – The Difference Between Us
The Black Keys – Black Mud
Blood Red Shoes – Don’t Ask
The Futureheads – Heartbeat Song
Those Dancing Days – Fuckarias
Grinderman – Worm Tamer
The Joy Formidable – I Don’t Want To See You Like This
The Greenhornes – It’s Not Real
Skunk Anansie – My Ugly Boy
The Indelicates – Your Money
Hole – Skinny Little Bitch

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THE ABERGAVENNY FOOD FESTIVAL

My review of the 2010 Abergavenny Food Festival for Buzz Magazine:

I’d hardly call Abergavenny a buzzing metropolis when compared to Cardiff and the London soaks I’ve been dipping in and out of during the last 20 years. But next to the saturated valleys town I reluctantly inhabit, Abergavenny is a breath of fresh air. On a particular crisp Saturday morning, as the lamented summer leaves began to adopt autumnal shades and the early morning sun etched shadows across the glittering dew, thousands of peckish weekend travellers from far and wide advanced towards the idyllic panorama of the Welsh countryside for the Abergavenny Food Festival.

The border town of Abergavenny has become a taste bud Mecca for ascending food fanciers and seasoned veterans alike – gathering together some of the most reputable names in the food fraternity, from Wales and beyond, to celebrate all things culinary and calorific.

I arrived at Abergavenny bright and early for my first food fest – clumsily brushing off the evidential trails of a Gregg’s pasty I’d found in the fridge. I had just finished a night shift and was still in a daze as I headed into the town. The bright white Angel Hotel stood warm and welcoming in the distance; the staff were serving coffees, teas and scones – how quintessentially British.

The Angel Hotel Ballroom and the Market Hall were among several town venues that played host to a diverse range of master classes and demonstrations during the festival weekend; among them was the sweet and the sour fragrance of Ottoman food prepared by Bulgarian born Silvena Rowe, the best of traditional Indian street food presented by Mint & Mustard chef Anand George, and the great Welsh food menu with James Sommerin and Richard Davies.

Scattered along the main streets were stalls including Cokina cookware, Hudnalls, and Caboos Gluten Free products. I strolled along, caressing the double espresso I had bought from the Angel Hotel before knocking it back like my favourite chaser – the type that makes me see double and act single. Being a diabetic on insulin I was starting to feel like a recovering alcoholic let loose in the Penderyn Distillery – so much tempting food to yank me off the wagon. Almost immediately I felt the smack of temptation as the smoky aroma of sausages caught me like a lasso. Buck-tied and hopeless to resist I found myself tucking in to a traditional Italian herb sausage that I could have rented a room for, and visited on the side.

To me, vegetables are merely plate decorations, and I fail to get excited over herb plants. Arun Kapil and Gerard Baker’s Spices & Spice Blends session, on the other hand, stirred fond memories of South American life, and the exotic aromas that danced in the air of the spice markets. As a special treat, Chocolatier Paul A Young and teatress Henrietta Lovell joined forces to demonstrate how the art of mixing fine tea with good chocolate goes far beyond dunking Kit-Kats in a mug of Quickbrew. I was never big on sweets and chocolate, but since my pancreas decided to stop working properly I have started to crave what I cannot have in large amounts. Defiant, I refused to meet the gaze of the many truffles, toffees and other items of sweet, sweet gluttony I stumbled upon – okay, I stared at them longingly and may have dribbled.

The wide range of meat and cheese, however, were fair game – cheese in particular is my Achilles heel and I was beginning to wish I’d brought the car.  For wineos, bread-heads and cheese fanatics there was a chance to receive tutored tastings from some of the top experts in the field, among them was a selection of Wales’ finest micro-beers, a cheese matured in Welsh ale and Jamie Montgomery’s showcase of his artisan cheddar cheeses.  The Cheese and Wine Show included cheeses from Britain, France, Italy and Iberia, with tutored tastings provided by Eric Charriaux and Amnon Paldi’s company, Premier Cheese.

The entertainment during the festival was just as diverse as the food: Bands, buskers and the obligatory Big Issue seller lined the crowded streets – among them was an Uncle Albert lookalike squeezing pop culture classics through a wheezing accordion.  The Wales World Trade Fare and Diabetes UK Cymru entertained for their cause; hosting food demonstrations, workshops and various forms of entertainment. Abergavenny Castle provided the backdrop for a number of musical treats during the course of the weekend; a smidgen of Normandy blues played by Skiffle Rendez-Vous, a sprinkling of Gypsy Jazz by guitarist Remi Harris and a teasing of Loon from Northumberland for extra flavor.

I will definitely be venturing to the Abergavenny Food Festival next year. With over a hundred events and happenings taking place over the action-packed weekend, showcasing some of the best food and drink that Wales, and the rest of the world has to offer, it was simply impossible to cover everything this time around – and there was not enough insulin in the world with which to try. Then there was the question of where to put the army of cheese, meat and beer I had enlisted.  Unlike my local Wetherspoons – where a good steak is rare and often well done – I knew exactly how long my next evening meal was going to be: a little over six inches; I was having Italian herb sausages.

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FIRING A WARNER SHOT

My views on Warner Music's planned withdrawal from free music streaming services.

Warner Music has recently announced plans to withdraw its music catalogue from free streaming music sites like Last.fm and Spotify, “Free streaming services are clearly not net positive for the industry and as far as Warner Music is concerned will not be licensed. The ‘get all your music you want for free, and then maybe with a few bells and whistles we can move you to a premium price’ strategy is not the kind of approach to business that we will be supporting in the future.” stated Warner Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr.

What isn’t stated is the quantity of money that free users are leeching from the music industry. This is because they are not leeching a pretty penny. Free service royalties are subsidised through advertising – but that’s not good enough in the greenback eyes of Edgar Bronfman ! What we have in Edgar is a dinosaur with a  primeval bee in his bonnet over cosseted freeloaders getting something for nothing – I wonder how many hippies he beat up on in the 60’s. This petulant gripe is backed up by the fact that Warner is only withdrawing from ‘free services’ – suggesting that Spotify Premium and other subscription services will be granted some sort exclusivity.

If Warner is planning to slam it’s door in the faces of royalty funded, and legal, music services it should do so at its peril. Internet speeds are getting faster and illegal file sharers are arduously difficult enough to entrap as it is. Spasmodic Streaming services like Spotify & Last.fm offer legal and convenient solutions for combating file sharing and piracy. The vast majority of  free users would sooner turn to file sharing than lob money to fat-cats like Edgar Bronfman. They’d be paying for subscriptions already if it were otherwise.

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FROM MUSIC SCENES TO ECLECTIC STREAMS

A brief account of my musical journeys, and discoveries.

I am currently sat at my desk in work eating a mid-morning snack and listening to music. By ‘mid-morning’ I mean 3:00am. Thank goodness for netbooks, mobile broadband, and a stereo that turns all the way up to eleven! I like my job – even the night shifts – but it’s hardly the line of work that stimulates all of the senses, so I try to be as musically eclectic as I can over the course of my night shifts.

One morning, while serenading a strong coffee that wasn’t in the mood to be sung to, I decided to check out the new ‘Massive Attack’ album. I strolled over to my netbook, fired up Spotify – cutting Siouxsie and her Banshees off in mid-wail – and gave it a listen. It was that simple! Many moons ago I would to have to have ventured deep into the bowels of Cardiff, to an endangered animal called Spillers Records, exchanging small green pieces of paper in return for a magical shiny disk. This morning I was able to surf the rhythmic ripples of online diversity at my leisure.

It is through music streaming services like Last.fm and Spotify that I continue to discover new beats. Before the internet it was difficult to track down music outside of the social zeitgeist – with only a Woolworths to buy CDs from. My short term music fixes were satisfied by tuning in to night time radio shows, like John Peel – the Messiah of new and eclectic. But hearing music on the radio was one thing; tracking it down was like parting an ocean.

I was part rose in South America during the mid 80’s and became accustomed to the Bhangra, Shanto, and Reggae sounds that sang from the Guyanese shacks and shanties.  The surrounding Caribbean islands of Barbados and Venezuela captivated me with spine-tingling steel drums and tribal grooves that drifted from the crystal sands and across the vast Andes mountains. Our Western tape supplies were few; mostly consisting of the New-Wave sound that was around at the time, and artists of my parent’s generation like David Bowie, Billy Joel and Pink Floyd. Abba was huge among the Dutch community we would coexist with during our later years there.  When we returned to Wales there were two cultural divides, neither of which I was keen to embrace at the time: In the blue corner was Rock – crap until the nineties when punk-soaked Grunge gave it a good kick up the arse. In the red corner was Rap – crap until a controversial white boy gave it a good kick up the arse (no, not Vanilla Ice). I was listening to Pop, New-Wave, and Progressive soundscapes; the more electrical, technical, and challenging the better.

London was the biggest influence on my musical education. My musical explorations took place at a London flat during half terms and summer holidays;  filled with the pages of NME, Q, Mojo, and Kerrang! magazines.  Just off Tottenham Court Road was a used record shop called Vinyl Experience that sold limited additions and rarities of all kinds. I would save up, or persuade my father to buy them for himself and tape to them while he was at work, returning home to Wales with an armory of eclectic delights on TDK cassette tapes. In London, I was free from the sonic sameness of an adolescent society that drifted along with the acceptance flow without ever stopping to ask, ‘why?’.

During my rebellious teens I became influenced by the Post-Punk/Grunge movement. In my new Comprehensive School I found myself among a group of rebels without a dress code; spending our time buried away in derelict school cellars. Therapy?, Pantera, Nirvana, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols tore obscenities through exhaled smoke rings of herbal pursuits; spitting dysfunctional ripples in angst-patented potions – bubbling blends of K Cider, Tennants Super, and blackcurrant cordial: the angry snake that bit back. It was in my teens that I started going to gigs  and music festivals, soaking up the raw energy of live music as it thumped my chest.

My social soundtrack changed during the mid nineties when I started college where a whole new sub-culture of individualism had evolved to greet me. Rock and Pop wannabes would sit huddled the far corner of the main hall with a CD player that sang The Doors, David Bowie, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. My social circles outside of college were encumbered in the repetitive beats of Dance and Trance music – most of it played on a hissy copy-of-a-copy cassette tape; coughing and spluttering through cheap Halfords speakers fixed to a wooden plank on the parcel shelf of someone’s Vauxhall Nova – chugging and spluttering to its own repetitive groove.

In time, the ashes of social flourish sailed away on the winds of my departed student bliss and I found myself in more cultured company. Weathered and worn by the personal changes that had occurred in my life, I had put away childish things and started exploring wider musical fields like Jazz, Blues and Classical music – a job at the local theatre provided the perfect place in which to indulge my cultural interests. It was a new century and I had become acquainted with the internet. Napster captained the pirate sea; scattering its musical booty to the masses. Online music services like Last.fm quickly soon rose to the fore – desktop conduits for musical endeavors.

In 2010, internet streaming services like Last.fm, Grooveshark, and Spotify offer a vast database of information: biographies, discographies, and similar artists; stations and playlists can be tailored by genre, even gender. Software is readily available to download and use on mobile phones – music on the move. Twitter gives up-to-the-minute news on the latest music and events; cassette bootlegs with photocopied artwork no longer have  to be hunted down like wild game across the vast planes of yesterdays frantic Camden. Over the last nine years I have indulged in music that – once upon at time – there would have been more chance of seeing me smile cheerfully through the steam at a locomotive convention than listen to. The saloon doors of choice have been blown wide open.  The sonic ocean has never been more enticing.

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MP3 AND BEYOND

If given a payoff between quality and convenience, most people will choose convenience – remember cassette tapes, ‘hisssssss’. Where early […]
If given a payoff between quality and convenience, most people will choose convenience – remember cassette tapes, ‘hisssssss’. Where early cassettes were concerned, the sacrifice of quality over convenience was obvious: tapes were hissy – even with the magic ‘Dobly’ button – but they could record between 60 and 90 minutes of music. ‘Sharing’ is what mp3 has made its name for. The biggest distinction between file sharing today and the cassette swapping of yesteryear – aside from Dave Lee Travis speaking over the songs – is the immense scale at which music can be copied and distributed.

In an attempt to combat file sharing, and make music more accessible to the online generation, the music industry started to sell its music in downland form. Such was its success that it spurred a reinvention of the UK singles and albums chart to accommodate mp3 download sales. What of the poor CD? CDs are still far superior to anything else out there, but quality alone isn’t enough for the mp3 generation. The decline in CD sales is mostly down to the fact that thousands of mp3 files can now be uploaded on to something no bigger than a cassette tape. It could be suggested that the music industry is earning most of its bread and butter through selling music at a substandard quality, these days.

Despite its questionable dynamic quality in the ears of seasoned audiophiles, compression formats like mp3 have had a positive effect on both the music industry and the consumer in the form of music streaming services. The small size and versatility of compression formats allows terabytes of music to be stored and streamed  to millions of clients. Services like Napster and Spotify have  instigate one the biggest changes within the online music industry: Not only can subscribers stream complete albums on their computers or mobile phones, but they can also download and play music offline. Some record companies are still reluctant to accept that online music services are the future of music, and have  not made their albums available. They can, however, be obtained from most reputable torrent sites at a very reasonable and competitive price of nothing at all.

Lossless compression formats like ‘aac’, and ‘flac’ are becoming the new choice of audio format for the audiophile. Although much larger than even the highest quality mp3, they are indistinguishable from the original CD source in terms of quality. Also, IPods, with whopping 160 gigabyte hard drives, can more that accommodate these larger files. The internet is getting much faster too, so is mobile internet. At this rate, it won’t be long before we’re accessing the worlds entire collection of sweet sounds from the most remote mountaintops; reminiscing of the days when fat cats made it financially impossible, or highly illegal, to share and appreciate good music.

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TATE IT OR LEAVE IT

I went to the Tate Modern Gallery today to see just how bad things can get. So, what do you […]

I went to the Tate Modern Gallery today to see just how bad things can get. So, what do you get when you mix the words ‘modern’ and ‘art’ together? I’ll tell you what: Tripe. Modern art is the process where, through the dark art of physics, matter is manipulated into assuming the many shapes that induce the human gagging reflex –much like Vogon Poetry.

The gallery consisted of some of the most inane ‘pieces’ that I have ever had the urge to dial my insulin pen all the way to 11, and directly inject into my eye balls until they explode over. One frivolous piece was a plain, simple mirror! Ah, but by glancing into the mirror you are viewing the most exquisite work of art: the human face, you might say. Have you seen me naked? I stare at the reflection of one of the universes most well-crafted goatees every day. Why would I want to travel hundreds of miles to London to see it?

Either the janitor had nowhere to park his Volkswagen camper van, or someone needs to be destroyed until they are broken. Somebody also needs to stop hanging their best silver out to dry as well because that room could be used for something far more pretentious. Projected on the wall of one room was the worse porn film to ever come out of Chiswick – or the glove box of the janitor’s camper van: a naked couple passing around a large, white, inflatable ball. Later that evening I bought copies of FHM, Loaded, and Woman’s Weekly, rolled them up, and beat myself in the testacies with them.

No wonder the Russians don’t have a sense of humor. As a sick joke, someone decided to put on a display of Russian propaganda posters. Russian art, next to the rest of the modern tripe here, is striking, bold, and belongs in a building of its own. It’s not even modern any more; and it’s actually quite good. Next door to the propaganda art was a room with coloured canvases that had words painted on them. Why ‘O why? Also on display was a sick looking palm tree, a canvas that had been slashed, some clay, a heap of students washing, and something drawn – or sneezed – by an elephant.

Later in the evening I would drink away the disturbing images among company with a more discerning idea of what art and culture is about. When I arrived home after a few days and checked the post I found a solicitor’s letter representing some guy named Damien Hirst. Apparently, the male urinal that I had relieved myself in had contained three artistically placed pubic hairs worth £500,000, that – in swishing about saying, ‘don’t cross the streams, Egon’ – I had washed away. I had also taken a five minute rest on a bench and in doing so ruined his best work by improving on it. I have since kidnapped his cat and threatened to mail it back to him in two halves.

That’s all I have to say about the Tate Modern. Microsoft Word has suddenly developed conciseness and is refusing to offer any more verbal ammunition.

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TOGETHER WE BUY

Just a bit of a moan about product placement, really.

Some time ago while performing a rendition of Queen’s I Want to Break Free with a Dyson, I was distracted by an MTV documentary about an ego-driven Irish band (no, not U2) and the making of their new music video. As with most of the mainstream music videos that are ‘manufactured’ these days, product placement is skilfully knitted into every frame.

‘…The Nokia N96 rests seductively in his palm; the winter sunlight gleaming off the slick ,black contours of the smooth, defined finish. He caresses the slide-down keys, invitingly stroking the soft, hugging lapels of his Alexander McQueen coat. This is no ordinary music video… this is a corporate S&M video…’

The Script and their little green marketing gurus have taken one giant marketing leap by using the power of the Internet in a new and radical way: ‘click-and-buy’. Click-and-buy is not a new thing, but the little green marketing gurus have cleverly approached it from a different angle.

The Scripts new music video can be streamed on their website where fans are able to point and click-purchase over two hundred items as they appear in the video. Products range from a lamp, shoes, jeans, hair products, tickets to Ireland – and probably an acre on the moon.

Since the internet ‘began’, artists have been selling band related merchandise like t-shirts, programs, box sets, books and DVD’s, which have always been fair-game ways of raking in some extra cash. But a fucking Mercedes? That’s right: through watching the Script’s music video you can click-purchase a Merc.

Maybe it’s a Script branded Merc with song lyrics engraved in the leather interior; hand-stitched by Dublin virgins (all two of them). Autographed airbags, perhaps; or the mp3 stereo pre-loaded with their one and, hopefully, only album.

When watching music channels these days you don’t have to wait for the commercials to view a commercial. Music videos are being skilfully crafted into fast moving, almost subliminal sales catalogs; playing on the minds of the young and trendy generation with ‘must-have’ needs.

Music videos are supposed to augment and complement the music not entice an online shopping experience. Is the reputable ‘arty’ video director discarding his creative integrity to aid the advancing market forces? Is product killing the video star?

At the relentless pace that technology is advancing it won’t be long before music channel viewers are able to purchase anything at all by simply ‘pressing red’ on their Sky remotes.