Things I hate #31

‘”Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know…’

So wrote John Keats (‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, 1819). So, bearing that in mind, what the fuck are bolster pillows and bed runners all about? Bed runners, for those who don’t know, are those thinnish strips of material (usually a contrasting colour to the rest of the bedding) that lunatics decorate beds with for no apparent practical purpose. Whoever got any warmth out of a bed runner? And as for bolster pillows (often circular, narrow and long – a bit like a sausage), I can live with these – except when they have decorative sequins/buttons/beads etc sewn onto their covers, or their covers are made out of some rough patterned material that’s like placing your face next to a wall covered in Anaglypta/flock wallpaper. Because all that shit it going to make them really comfortable, isn’t it? FFS!!! Get them off the fucking bed!

Neither serve any useful (truth) purpose, and as such cannot be held (by Keats’ standard) to be beautiful – so they don’t even have any real aesthetic claim. Get rid.

Hotels and B&Bs are bloody obsessed with them. My advice: Never ever ever sleep with either anywhere near you, because I can guarantee you this – they’ve spent most of their time on the floor on the manky carpets. And, believe me, a £40 a night Premier Inn and the like – you don’t want to run any UV lights over anything that can’t be put in a washing machine.

Avoid both like the syphilitic spores that are most likely encrusted into them.

Every Valley by Public Service Broadcasting

Released 7th July 2017.

The vinyl edition came beautifully packaged in a gate-fold sleeve. I opted for the clear vinyl version, bought from Rough Trade. As usual I haven’t played the record, but have valued it for its artefact appeal. Something to be handled, to admire and inspire. Ponce.

This is Public Service Broadcasting’s third album (following Inform-Educate-Entertain (2010), then Race for Space (2015)). I bought Race for Space (RFS), but not their debut. Yet.

 Their unique selling point seems to be their use of sound bites from various archives (primarily working alongside the British Film Institute for RFS). RFS generated quite a bit of media interest – I seem to recall an appearance on BBC Breakfast, but it was early and I may have imagined that. Every Valley feels to have been released with less mainstream fanfare, its appearance spreading by word of mouth (i.e. social media). It still managed to reach #4 in the hit parade, though I’m not sure that’s any kind of achievement these days.

The group is made up of members who profess to be semi-fictional characters – think a sort of Sgt Pepper’s (sic) Band with 1970s Open University lecturers. I say semi-fictional as, in the interviews I’ve read, the members come across as nerdy and invested with the ‘technique’ approach that Tony Wilson so despised (think Benedict Cumberbache with a Moog). Personally, I quite like the conceit.

In RFS authentic sounds from the technology related to space exploration – such as quasars and radio squawk – created a textural context for the music and the story. They complimented the beats and the music, and were part of the world that the sampled voices emanated from (some of which had me staring at my dashboard anxiously when I listened to the album in the car). They haven’t managed this with EV, with the samples pretty much being limited to the human voice, and the musical sounds emanating wholly from the band.

This adds to my overall feeling that the band is an outsider looking in on this particular narrative, nodding sympathetically and or angrily as the story about the decline of the mining industry, and with it the community that it supported, unfolds.

PSB were obviously using spoken samples to tell a story in RFS, but the narrative was less personal to the people telling it. The narrators – JFK, Gagarin etc – were describing an aspiration or an achievement. This time the voices are relating a story that is not only a social history, but also part of people’s lives within living memory.

I felt that the music attempted to compliment the spoken samples – through poignancy, defiance etc – without being part of what they were saying (for me, ‘The Pit’ comes closest to melding with the stories being related). The music is an observer that reacts. For this reason, I felt it was impossible to keep out a slightly patronising tone.

The album starts off strong, thanks to the thunder that rumbles through Richard Burton’s voice, but then I was left with the sense that the miners and their community were treated as children living in some sort of happy valley, and that the issues that affected the mining community have been made to seem parochial. With the artist unwittingly sympathising for a loss that they haven’t quite grasped is their own.

Because the issue of what happened to the mining industry, and more importantly to the mining communities, is one the of the fundamental propositions for mankind as we move into the age of the machine.

Thirty years in human development is nothing. It is only our perception of our own immortality viewed through the specious omnipotence of our own experience that creates a false cultural separation between then and now. History will not make that distinction.

The premise is simple. A small number of people (the establishment) assume control the mechanics of society (law making, law enforcement, spending of tax payer’s money, controlling natural resources such as oil, coal etc) for their own profit. They legitimise their control by making themselves appear special – crowns, wigs, uniforms. Historically these patricians have needed the plebs to source, enact and implement these resources on their behalf.  But a time is coming – through Artificial Intelligence and robotics – when the plebs will not be needed, certainly not in the numbers that they were in the past. And not in the numbers they exist in at the moment.

What happened to the mining industry is likely to happen to a huge swathe of jobs. Even some of those presently held by quite affluent people. Because why would you pay a human – who gets sick, gets pregnant, retires with a pension, wants days off, wants a paid holiday, makes mistakes, has an opinion – to do what a robot will do more efficiently and (after the initial outlay and some servicing) for nothing but some WD40 and a rub with chamois? It doesn’t make sense. Not if your objective is to make money.

It is then that you question is that establishment benign, ambivalent or hostile to your needs and wants? This is the Armageddon foreseen by the Luddites. And this was the fate of the mining communities in the 1980s and 90s. And then come a whole series of other questions – such as what is society for? Should we value progress above all things? Who has the right to make these decisions?

On the whole the album did what I hoped it would do – it got me thinking and feeling  – but this was perhaps because I don’t think they quite nailed it.

And, from a purely musical standpoint, I felt there was a missed opportunity at the end with the Male Voice Choir (as moving as that was). Why not write something new?

Things I hate #30

People who in everyday life are known by their middle names, but then insist on being listed on email directories under their real first name. A first name that no fucker ever uses and more often than not doesn’t even know they had. A first name that they obviously don’t like or they wouldn’t fucking hide it from the world and call themselves by their middle names. Or by some nickname that more often than not they gave to themselves, and introduce themselves to you by.

There’s a word for these people, it begins with ‘C’. And it’s contemptible.

To The Girls Of The Malt Cross, Nottingham

The Malt Cross is a former Music Hall on St James Street, Nottingham. It opened in 1877. Many of the top stars of Music Hall, such as Marie Lloyd, played there. It ceased to be a licensed premises in 1914 after problems with prostitution. It is now a bar and mixed arts venue.

Whatever happened to the whores of old?
The girls in the shadows of the text,
Hinted at in the facts and figures by Mayhew,
Or mentions – nameless, or as good as…
Polly, Molly or Meg – in some narrative
Of a more celebrated personage
Who entertained himself with their sex?
Pox riddled, clapped out, too old, too drunk,
Beaten, cheated, grasping through a life
That dealt them a hand that would never play out,
Or elevated to unwanted fame by murder…
Maybe glimpsed in an old photograph,
Or a workhouse record, a Magistrates report
In some discontinued rag,
Before the quiet rest of the grave.

Waiting for what? Redemption and resurrection?
Judgement passed on the men who used them?
This their one last throw of trust?

God, Time is a bastard to us all
But more so to the sparrows that fall
Nameless into the dust.


Bees versus Wasps


Over the 2017 April Fool’s weekend, Reddit carried out an experiment. It created a blank canvas and allowed its users access to create a community artwork. Each user had a pixel and a palette of sixteen colours. They could place this pixel anywhere on the canvas. They then had to wait something like ten minutes before they could add another pixel. The experiment lasted seventy-two hours. Millions of people all around the world took part.

This is what the internet is for. That and porn, obviously. And Wikipedia. And watching people fall off roofs, down holes etc. on YouTube.

Many people think that bees and wasps are the same. They both live in hives, they buzz about getting pollen, they’ve got black and yellow stripes, they’re insects… But they’re not the same. Bees are community driven, chirpy little souls who want to work together to make a better world, not just for themselves but those that they share that world with. Wasps, on the other hand, are cunts. Wasps use the hive for their own ends, will eat the eggs of their neighbours, steal their food and squat in their nests. They are selfish, grabbing little bastards. Bees are socialists. I’ll let you decide the most appropriate socio-political/economic label for the wasps.

When people swarm they come together as either bees or wasps.

You see the wasps everywhere. The road is a good place to observe them. Wasps are the ones who don’t indicate (which I find especially cunty behaviour at roundabouts), park on double yellows when there’s ample free parking around the corner, speed everywhere, and so on. Wasps are all about me, me, me. Bees are the ones who let you out at a busy junction.

However, Reddit’s experiment created results more complex than a simple battle between bees and wasps. There was also a sophisticated series of conflicts between factions that existed inside each camp. For instance, you get German bees and German wasps, British bees and British wasps, etc., so that loyalties are divided between what people think is fundamentally right or wrong and what people are told they should believe in (for centuries British and German bees have been killing each other on the say so of British and German wasps). And so different collectives were created, with organised projects and objectives – some artistic, others (like the sea of blue that aimed to paint out everyone else’s work) destructive and aggressive. Feuds were started, peace deals negotiated through online forums, agreements made to get jobs done. And repeat. It was reassuring to see the swastika that emerged above the German flag was blotted out – the bees fighting back. But I found the other flags disappointing, though not unexpected – some level of national predilection is still seen as natural and relatively harmless; which is one of the reasons, post-Brexit, in the era of Trump and America First, with the Bond villain in control of North Korea, the malicious distortion of Islam, and so on (add your own example of human idiocy) that the world is such a worrying place at the moment. People can be made to believe in the most stupid ideas.

The page I’ve linked gives a more comprehensive break down on how the experiment played out, and what it tells us about human behaviour. But what it boils down to for me is that the world would be a better place if we were more like the bees. Start by letting someone out at a junction. And indicate the next time you approach a roundabout.

PS It’s nice to see a traditional cock and balls amongst the artwork. And the Australian effort is reassuringly down to earth.