The Biggest Weakness

Have you ever been so nervous that your stomach hurts? They call it ‘butterflies’ for some reason, but it’s actually just a reduction in blood flow to your stomach, as a result of the fight or flight reaction. I’m going to be quite gross and say when I’m nervous I get the urge to deffocate or even feel feverish or sick. No matter how much I prepare, or try to build my confidence; I always get nervous before a job interview.

Job interviews are confusing because the questioning is always based on distrust. They will never say “Can I trust you to undertake this task?” They will say “Give me an example of when you demonstrated X” but are hoping you will indirectly reveal your abilities of Y. The person holding the interview is never objective either. I look into the face of everyone who interviews me and there is always a catch in the eye as if they are judging me and getting a certain pleasure from it. No single employee will be under as much scrutiny in a job interview, as they would be in any other meeting, unless they were being disciplined. The notes are quickly jotted down as you answer their questions and you wonder whether their writing will do your answer justice when they review it again 24 hours later.

I once had an internal interview and learnt the hard way that you cannot have a laugh with the interviewer. Even if they know you very well, they will always read joviality as being too casual or unprofessional. You are much better off sticking to the robotic soul-less persona you normally hold when at work.

I have hosted interviews and it makes you feel powerful knowing someone’s life choice is now in your hands. You take pleasure in catching people out and I can’t imagine the amount of ridicule I have received after I leave an interview. I still have doubts about one interview when someone took out a banana mid question and proceeded to eat it in front of me. I managed to avoid asking questions through mouthfuls when I was the interviewer.

I normally prepare for my interviews by looking up example questions online and have a think about how I would answer them. I always see questions like “Why should we hire you?” and “What is your biggest weakness” but there is one question I have never been asked, but wish I had been: “If you could be any animal what would you be and why”. I have dreamt of this question and always had the following answer ready in my mind:

If I could be any animal I would be an Eagle. I would be able to soar majestically with a complete control of everything on the plain below me. I would be able to reach new heights and fly above the rain”.

My competing candidate would say “I dunno a bunny rabbit I guess tee hee” and they would get the fucking job, because poetry and intelligence is not important when you are applying for a non-managerial role.

The atmosphere found in most interviews is that of a clinical nature, and there is certainly no space for personality or even a soul. The responsiveness of those sat opposite you is as tepid as the complimentary glass of tap water they provided you with.

For it is only a handful of the worst human characteristics that help you thrive in an interview. Narcissism, Arrogance, big headedness, two faced ness and worst of all Greed. Let’s not deny Greed, because afterall why are you going for the position? to earn more money! To buy more useless material crap that will eventually break and then you’ll buy more crap. If people weren’t greedy you would have CEO’S on the national minimum wage.

If you are excellent at your job, you have superb levels of experience and perhaps even a few qualifications, but are useless at interviews you are fucked. Is the interviewer always right in their decision? have they always given the person the best chance to demonstrate their knowledge, or is that all clouded by trick questioning and unfair scrutiny. There must be thousands of people that will work very hard for a company if they could only be given a chance.

I have come to the conclusion that success in an interview is nothing to do with your knowledge or experience it is simply whether you can impress the person hosting it. When you leave the room after the interview has concluded, you stand a higher chance of getting the job if there are people fighting your corner. Never be afraid to show your true smile and don’t too be harsh on the interviewers if they don’t give you the job, every interviewer makes mistakes too.

The pain of haircuts

As I write this I am sat in a hairdressers which is completely rammed full of customers. It seems no matter how early I arrive it’s busy. There is something unsettling about having my hair cut. Sometimes you find that hairdresser that I don’t mind talking with, and they can strike up mildly interesting conversation. More often than not I have either met the silent type that just appear dead inside. They have an expression that tells me their punishment has been being reincarnated as a hairdresser to work in this shitty Barbers. Or I get the arrogant loud mouth who tells you their whole fucking story and stop the whole procedure to give you specific details.

When you go to a Barbers run by women they try to style mens hair to what they think men want. You look up at the walls which are littered with examples of styles that a straight man wouldn’t dream of. Magazines are on the table that are insultingly stereotypical. Fishing magazine, classic cars, GQ! Yeah? cause that’s all men summed up isn’t it! We all love fishing. Even if we did like GQ I don’t know how much I would gleam from a 2007 edition with Shea La boeuf on the front cover!

I have experienced an endless search for the perfect hairdressers. I once made the mistake of going to a hairdressers which doubled as an academy. Most of the students looked so bored. My hair was a pain to them. They were just counting down the hours before they got to go out drinking and dance the night away to Calvin bloody Harris or whoever is popular at the moment I don’t care. When the student saw me she insisted on washing my hair and it felt like she burnt my scalp with hot water as she chatted away about gossip to her colleagues. “Mark hasnt called me back yet” she said. Yes, its because youre a fat stupid bitch who cant even manage to wash someones hair properly. I never understood their weird basin sinks that bend your spine out of proportion. I should have been stationed by a stretcher and an Iron Maiden! They give you a towel but there is always water that pisses down my neck and soaks the shit out of my shirt. When I was eventually allowed to have my hair cut which is what I had been waiting for the girl seemed to have less of an idea than I did and was constantly catching my neck with her sharp scissors. Later investigation revealed I had bled from the encounter. I noticed something strange. Normally when your fringe is being cut the barber would use their hand to shield your forehead and eyes from being smothered in hair. This girl instead just scissored away in a scattered fashion. The hair began to coate my eyes and I felt the urge to release my arm from the confines of the straight jacket they put me in and wipe the hair off. I looked at the girl and said politely. “I’m sorry but you were getting hair in my eyes” to which the girl replied “Yer, that happens when you get a hair cut!” I never went there again!

I went to a Turkish Barbers and it was like Scarface. They all told me when I get my hair cut my girlfriend will screw me really well and she’ll love it. He asked me if I would be watching the game tonight and I replied “I would rather take a shit in a hat and wear it for the rest of my life” The sarcasm was lost on him and he looked confused. The haircut at least was completed much quicker following my comment. I did like being shaved with a razor in the Barbers though, felt like I had travelled back in time.

I hate having to stare at my stupid dumb face whilst I have my hair cut. The moment you sit down you are expected to give a list of requirements. Some customers start giving measurements, grades and language that is lost in me. I normally just say “Little bit shorter and need a tidy up” this gets mixed results. I’m always afraid when I say shorter that they’re going to buzz the lot off and I’ll leave looking like Grant Mitchell. Not Ross Kemp the actor that plays Grant Mitchell. The character, when he first appeared in East enders before he became buff.

Right now I am sat next to unwatched children in the Barbers and they’re fucking around restless. They keep hitting me and it’s so annoying. I looked the child in the eye and said “I wish you’d been aborted you little shit”.

Obviously I didn’t really!

Taking the long way home (a 20yr old guide)

It was the 20th May 2017 and after checking in to our hotel in Paddington after a long trip from the South West we had a freshen up and it was time to see Roger. This would have been the second year in a row seeing him, only this time we would be 6 rows from the front of the stage at the Royal Albert Hall!

We took a walk through Hyde Park on the way to the venue and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The sky was blue and there was enough sunshine to see the glory of the Albert memorial opposite. A sign outside with Roger on it confirmed tonight was the night!

Many people crowded at the entrance but then we realised we weren’t entering from Arena F, we needed to walk round to Arena A! The entrance was eerily quiet but we managed to go straight in, oh my gosh this was exciting.

We bought a quick drink and navigated to our seats. The stage was set. A large drum kit at the back accompanied by synths and in the middle a beautiful Yamaha Grand Piano. Rogers acoustic guitars all stood proudly in front of them alongside his keyboard. To the right side of the stage there was a table of numerous brass instruments and gadgets and gizmos. The stage was lit in a calming blue and green shrubbery had been brought in especially as if to create a relaxed feeling.

The Royal Albert Hall seated over 5000 people that night, and the atmosphere was wonderful. The excitement built until they all graced the stage kicking off with “Take the long way home”

All of my friends have no idea who Roger Hodgson is and I have to explain he is the mastermind behind the popular group ‘Supertramp’. Normally a few songs being played from the album ‘Breakfast in America’ confirms to them that they know the group! As much as people should know who Roger is we like the fact that we get it and others don’t. Being in our 20s makes the music more special and sentimental to us.

The night was full of staggering music and a quick glance round the room showed me that the audience was buzzing and having just as much fun as the group on stage. I believe that the group who play with Roger are just as incredible as the man himself and all deserve great admiration for their musical abilities. We found much amusement to learn that some of his Canadian colleagues tried hard to practice some of the lyrics which are required to be sung in a British accent.

I am 29 years old and my girlfriend who is 22 both love Roger and have adored all of his music (yes all! Every album back to back). We don’t just love him because of his music alone. When you see him live he confirms to you what a good hearted man he is. I don’t believe it is possible to create such heartfelt lyrics as Roger does without knowing how to connect with people and he does that with ease.

Roger played some great tracks from In the Eye of the Storm, Breakfast in America, Crime of the Century and an exquisite performance of Fools Overture from ‘Even in the Quietest Moments’ on Grand Piano. There were countless other tracks but he picked some lovely lesser known tracks, well, at least lesser known to most people.

By the moment ‘Dreamer’ kicked in we both immediately stood up from our seats and started clapping and dancing for Roger. The people around us weren’t as quick and for a moment Roger was in direct eye contact. Roger looked directly at us and delivered that wonderful smile and a wink. Having that briefest of connections with Roger was a wonderful moment.

The room was now anything but still. Everyone in the audience felt commanded to stand up and have a dance. Song after song it got better. The happiness was in the air around us and you could feel it right through your soul. Roger made us both intensely happy that night and he deserves great thanks.

A well deserved encore brought more fun including most of the audience taking out their umbrellas and dancing to “Its raining again”. I didn’t want it to end. The bittersweet thing about seeing Roger perform is that it feels very fleeting because he takes you on such a journey through his own life with his wonderful music.

I have learnt that Roger does take requests so if we are lucky enough to see him perform again next year I will request my favourite song “Poor Boy” from the album ‘Crisis what Crisis’. I can imagine his accompanying vocalist doing a superb job of those crazy sounds at the beginning.

The show was now over and we loved every second of it. We stepped outside of the Royal Albert Hall confirmed that Hyde Park was locked for the night. Being unable to find a taxi we decided to “take the long way home” which seemed fitting.

Thanks for the giving us young folks a wonderful night Roger, you move us with your music and for that we are all eternally grateful.

The Plus & Minus system

What is it that makes your best friends; your best friends? Is it their sense of humour? Possibly! Is it what you have in common? To an extent! What makes someone your best friend is down to nothing at all except for our belief in the concept of having best friends at all. You may have lots of friends that you meet over the years but only a few will make it into the special “best friends league”. Many people from my observations will either give no thought to this and will just have 500+ friends that they go partying with or they will have a select few individuals that met the passing criteria.

It is my belief that this criteria for finding true friends can fall down to a system I call “The Plus and Minus system”.

How it works – this system might sound a bit Marxist but it is useful to explore as a thought experiment. The concept is that every time you engage with someone they get a score which is hidden, you decide the score and every time they engage further with you the score changes.

If you meet someone for the first time they start at a neutral zero. Every time they do something positive they award points and anything negative you take away points. How you reward or take away points is up to you. Below is a typical system of awarding:

You receive a message on your Facebook wall to say happy birthday  (+1)

You receive a card with a preprinted message (+5)

You receive a hand written letter with a message tailored to you (+10)

The scoring system will go on in your own head, and you will remember some of the scores you gave. Alison at work when she always talks nonstop about grandchildren may be firmly in the negatives for a young teen but in the positive for a new mum as they can exchange notes.

If someone is deep in the negatives you must really hate them, but on the flip slide they would probably vote you as negative too so it’s equal scoring both ways. It is not to say that you or they are wrong for being in the negative it is just the way this subjective system works.

Scoring bias – We all know that person who scores someone way up in the dizzy heights for no reason. I have seen people in their 20s talk about their grandparents as “the best people in the world” and flood their Facebook with such claims. You meet them and you don’t understand all the fuss. Sometimes you will score high because you’re looking through rose tinted glasses. This shows that you can score in a warped way that could be later disproved to yourself. When you’re two and your gran bakes you cookies she is 300+ when you taste them again at 30 you realise how dry they are but you still love her for it and it becomes a 25+ instead.

Typical low scorers – If you apply this system you can learn what you value in people the most. If music is your passion; when someone cannot keep up with your conversation (because they don’t know who Paul Simon is) you sigh and mentally mark them down. After a few more attempts you realise that you have sufficiently kept them at their low score, and after possibly hundreds of attempts allowing them to redeem themselves; you realise this person is never going to be close to you. If you apply this system you will notice trends of particular things that award low scores such as people who use the word “Literally” in ever single sentence. You won’t always be right but sometimes just as much as overhearing a phrase will convince you this person is a low scorer before you’ve even spoken to them properly.

Why this system is bad for us – as demonstrated in the last section the scores will change as we change. There may be the intention to keep people deep in negatives for no good reason. Children at school make rash scoring choices, and unfortunately some children will be marked into deep negatives just because they have cheap school shoes.

As adults we are still making unfair sweeping judgements on people. What is important to you is what guides your score but we have to learn how to score in the correct way. Is the person decent? Yer okay you don’t watch gossip girl and your favourite band isn’t Girls Aloud, but does she listen to you and make an effort with other people? Does this girl act in an altruistic and virtuous way?

We must learn to be responsible for our scoring and take more notice of how we cast our votes. Remember that people are trying to be affable with the best qualities they have, even if they aren’t to your taste. We cannot expect people to be instinctively trying to impress us. If you listen to people and try hard to see who they really are you will always find goodness in others and then it won’t be so difficult to give good scores!

“Happy: Why more or less everything is absolutely fine” by Derren Brown

I love reading books on philosophy because you are able to read them alongside other books. Unlike fiction where you have to keep a breast of where you are this book you can dip into.

Derren Brown is clearly not only an illusionist and performer he is also a great thinker.

My favourite philosopher is Alain De Botton and it is clear from this book that Derren loves him too from the frequent mentions throughout. If you are familiar with Derren he is down to earth and has the perfect balance of not being too stuffy but also not over simplifying.

The objective of the book seems to try and debunk self help books and to show you that a lot can be learned from reading ancient philosophy instead. He shows us the value of stoicism and useful emotional tips for when we are at our weakest. Derren Brown is incredibly charming in his prose and talks to you like I imagine he would his friends.

With regular nods to Schopenhauer another of my favourites he also shows us how we cannot trust ourselves to always be right about things.

Pick yourself up a copy and tell me what you thought!

The world’s favourite poison

There is strong evidence that Alcohol contributes to a large number of illnesses such as Cancer, Heart disease, Obesity, Strokes, dementia (the list goes on). Back in the 80s there was limited evidence for this but in 2016 they discovered how damaging Alcohol is and changed Alcohol guidelines completely.

How it’s killing you

Now the Alcohol guidelines state that if you must drink alcohol then this would mean 14 units for men and women over the course of 3 days or more, this is the equivalent of a bottle and a half of wine over the course of a week. The guidelines state that this guidance is in place only if you must drink alcohol, it is truly recommended that you consume no alcohol to completely make yourself risk free.

Many drinkers will cling to the belief that Alcohol (specifically red wine) is good for you, but this is largely a myth. In red wine, there are ‘flavanoids’ which are found in grapes that in chemistry are known to target pathogens and free radicals in the blood stream helping with disease and possible cancer prevention. The issue is that the amounts of this chemical in alcohol is so minimal that the effect is therefore minimal. You can find flavanoids in many other plant based foods that have no risks of consumption at all. It feels like this is a poor excuse for drinkers to skirt around this issues alcohol contributes to.

Confidence booster

Many can see alcohol as a confidence tonic that they drink because it lowers inhibitions. I was one of the crowd that would partake in drinking games and going out partying and it always felt like the drunkenness was just a temporary feeling before nausea and light headedness kicked in. People will drink so much making themselves ill and tell themselves they need to do this to have a good time? I am of the belief that your company makes you have a good time or the places you visit contribute to a good time but alcohol is peripheral. My partner is significantly younger than me and we were socialising with her friends and she kept being asked “Have you drank enough yet, cause you don’t seem drunk enough?”. The friend then accusingly pointed at a glass of lemonade my partner was drinking and said “What is that?” My partner had to lie and told her it was a vodka and lemonade and then the friend settled down. This bizarre conversation shows how many people associate alcohol with a good time.

Friend of the Alcoholic
Taking the physically destructive nature of alcohol out of this for a moment, alcohol can damage people socially. There are countless examples of people turning into monsters when they’re drunk and lashing out at people. When they are in the dizzy heights of their alcoholic binge they are usually so drunk that they can’t remember what they said or did. If I pissed in the street and got taken away by the police whilst it was all being recorded by a local news team and aired on television I would be mortified. Many people would laugh at this behaviour and even applaud it. How many times have you heard someone say in a proud way “I got so pissed last night” and the person being told laughs. They instinctively laugh even before a story has been told? This only seems to work with intoxicating yourself, no one would ever say “Oh mate, I got so stuffed last night, I ate a whole tray of lasagne”.

People laugh but the moment you regularly drink for pleasure at what point do you stop being a regular party goer and start being labelled as an Alcoholic. You might find this view extreme, but every Alcoholic has to have gone through the same journey. I have read that one of the main drives for alcoholism is to try and find the perfect party again, usually the party found in ones youth. Unfortunately for the drinker they are waiting for this party but it never comes, and although they will tell themselves they are having fun they are destroying their lives.

Pain over Pleasure

I guess for many they will overlook the pain brought on by alcohol and decide that it is worth all of it, because it has convinced them that Alcohol is responsible for their good time. I am willing to accept that people enjoy alcohol and would never insist someone wouldn’t drink it. But in the same breath I would never insist they DO drink either! Just because you have delusions that your opiate are the keys to finding happiness doesn’t mean you get to dictate to me whether I want to inject myself with the same poisons.

I associate the urge to get pissed with youthful mentality. For many people hey cling to this youthful behaviour and confuse drunkenness with raw happiness that would have been achieved even without having the Alcohol in their system! I know people who are outraged by my remarks on alcohol. To them alcohol is their safety blanket their tonic that allows them to be silly, and have something to blame when their levels of self esteem return to their normal crushing lows. If you try hard enough you can build confidence and be the life of the party without touching a drop of alcohol.

Social props

I drink alcohol but only when I have to. I never drink at home and rarely drink when I go out. The only time I ask for alcohol is when I feel in the company of people who would judge me if I wasn’t drinking booze. I can sometimes lie and say the coke is actually a JD and Coke but this is my issue. Holding a glass of beer is a social prop that in this mad world is strangely accepted more than holding a glass of water.

A cliché expression is that a healthy body suggests a healthy mind. As we know health of someone cannot just be judged on appearance alone. Eat lots of fruit and veg, regular exercise, plenty of fresh air, and lots of kind and generous deeds to others. Altruistic behaviour doesn’t just have to be demonstrated through a round of drinks.

Am I the only one that likes Björk?

Björk is an acquired taste, and her music is very concept driven. I think that Björk has a perfect balance on how music is typically sold to us and how Art is presented to us. When you look at her album covers for example (which are a footnote compared to her overall achievements) every cover tells a story. Björk wanted her ‘debut album’ to personify her as a vulnerable girl coming into the dangerous industry of music, ‘Post’ was supposed to represent her break into fame with this girl being lost in the sea of fame where it is almost nauseating. Then you look at covers like ‘Homogenic’ where Björk no longer represents a person anymore but more a work of art herself almost as if to hint that her work and that fame she once craved is as John Updike once wrote “Like a mask that eats into the face”.

I was always aware of Björk when I was growing up but she was never a main focus for me because I was too young to be able to explore her art. Out of curiosity I bought her ‘Greatest hits’ which of course is actually more of a fan driven selection of must hear tracks. I was blown away by how much differing emotion there was! It was like an adventure not just of emotions, but the fun of trying to understand and deconstruct what Björk is trying to teach us. This album instantly inspired me to seek out the seperate albums which in their own right have so much to offer.

Björk is like no musician I have ever heard before, she has a style about her that has been widely borrowed from but has never been matched. You could make the assumption that Lady Gaga was inspired by Björk simply based on how she dresses up provocatively but musically the styles are very different. I also find Björk very unsettling and I think she played on this ideal at some points. 

Björk is not afraid to be sexual in her performances, she pokes fun at the concept in some works and lovingly uplifts it in others. Björk herself has a very childlike persona, Thom Yorke of radiohead loves Björk and when describimg her he said “her voice is very sexual but at the same time childish, she has a lot of power in her voice but you’re not afraid that it will do damage” her screeches are very much like a misbehaved child but she sometimes gets to points where she is just making noises and using her voice like an instrument, the sound she produces is beautiful.

Björk seems to be in control of her creative freedoms which is refreshing too. A notable point is that “Oh so quiet” has been one of her largest hits but this is a cover of a 50s song and the music video directed by Spike Jonze was a homage to old musicals. This song does stand out like a sore thumb on the album, but to me this feels like Björk showing us she can add something to any genre no matter how detached it is from her regular stomping grounds. Björk isn’t after fame, she is after creating something worthwhile, which is why this track felt more like an attention grabber!
Björk seems to breathe life into genres that she touches. Take the Sugarcubes for example, which were the band that she originally started in as a young adult, (if you don’t count when she was a child star producing traditional asian songs). The Sugarcubes were full of angst and punk style ‘fuck you’ lyrics. The band are very tongue in cheek and are great fun to explore but one song on that album “Birthday” became a gigantic hit in the UK when John Peel brought it to the radios as an imported track. Bjork shows off her incredibly vocal dynamics in this song and has impeccable accuracy when it comes to hitting ranges. Dance, electronica, hip hop, house, jazz, jungle, trip hop, they have all been inspired by her and she has dipped her toe into a variety of genres. Björk seems to forge new genres and blurs the lines between them, this is possibly down to the avant garte underground music in which she takes root. Björk is clearly not afraid to experiment, and this is what makes her music exciting.

Björk carries with her a great sense of humour and I particular love her appreciation of animator John K and particular 90s cartoon Ren and Stimpy. Björk had John K animate one of her music videos ‘I miss you’ which is very strange but great fun.

One of the rather sad things about Björk is that to date I have never met anyone who has listened to her music! I have tried to show her to people but they never have the urge to explore her music like I do. As much as it’s a shame it is a pleasure that I have had the chance to experience the beauty she brings to her work.
If you have any interesting points or would like to share favourite songs and what they mean to you please let me know.

How to ignore ‘Ghost in the Shell’ super fans!

I recently went to the cinema to see the live action reboot of Ghost in the Shell. Take it from me, you need to see this reboot. I know there are a lot of them lately but this one is fantastic.

Despite what many critics say this film doesn’t hurt the original animated feature one bit, in fact I would say it is a fitting tribute. It is also important to say that this reboot isn’t just a rehashing of the original it is a stand up film in its own right.
The project which is the main focus of the reboot is called Project 2571 which is just to remind us that the film is not portraying 2501 with the puppet master as shown in the original. I must say there was quite a lot borrowed from the originally but visually it was incredible.  Scarlet Johannson was the best person for the role of kusanagi in my opinion and she perfectly nails the downbeat nature of the character.

The world that they created for the film was exciting, colourful and enticing. The world the film was set in almost looked like something that could have been dreamed up by Ridley Scott.
The direction and timing of the films narrative is enjoyably paced without skipping past some of the sentimental and thought provoking moments in the film. The action is well choreographed and despite being a 12A, (which did make me and my girlfriend curious) it didn’t feel like it was lacking suitable amounts of violence.

As most film buffs know The Matrix was influenced by Ghost in the Shell and you can tell that this film has adopted the same sense of style. There is plenty of philosophical dialogue that has the whiff of Renee Descartes meditations which examines the duality between the body and the soul.

I must be honest I have a slight soft spot for Scarlet because I love her acting and also fancy her a little bit so she can’t really ever do wrong in my eyes. I do think though that she will always get a hard time because these dick head fans will always want to crap all over any movie that tries to recreate something we enjoy. Don’t listen to the fans, give the film a try, you’ll realise it has a lot to offer and you’ll be pleasantly surprised

Let music be your time machine

We are incredibly lucky to have at our disposal decades of music to explore. There are rocky cliff faces, gentle streams, hot desert sands and even frozen lakes of music. We can travel back in time hundreds of years before we were born, or go through history tuning into the music of many different generations. To say that older music isn’t important is just as stupid as saying that Classical literature isn’t important. Older music inspired new music, yes, it even inspired you lady gaga! I know you think you’re one of a kind but you were inspired too.

Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with liking new music, after all artists like Ed Sheeran and Calvin Harris for example have contributed a lot and many people love their music. But I would say it is healthy to put those on ice for a little bit and look back at some great lyricists from the past. When I was 16 my parents moved me out to the country and I was basically alone until I started college. I didn’t realise what I was doing at the time but I was self medicating through music. I started listening to artists I liked and then looking at who inspired them, and then who inspired them and kept going back. By doing this I have branched out and my CD collection is very large.

Music has a great way of tapping into your moods. You could listen to something upbeat such as “Build me up buttercup” by The Foundations when you’re upbeat, or listen to “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails when you’re feeling down. You could listen to “Hallowed Point” by Slayer when you’re feeling angry or listen to “Don’t be shy” by Cat Stevens when you’re feeling delicate. Whether you are willing to adapt to different genres is up to you. Music shouldn’t be written to impress you personally. The moment music has no artistic merit it stops being art and judt becomes a product to simply be bought. Don’t be tempted to make a snap judgements about a particular genre just based on one song either! You could listen to The Sex Pistols and say based on that band alone you don’t like punk. I totally get that I hate the Sex Pistols they seemed to be too much about angst and we’re incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Instead listen to later punk (90s Punk) such as The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX, Descendents, Blink 182. You might find an artist in the same genre you like but is much different.

You can enjoy music on many levels but for me I always feel as if I am hunting for that special lyric which resonates with me. A popular song to quote but in Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” one of the lyrics is the greatest thing about having nothing, is that you have nothing to lose. I always find this uplifting. Paul Simon wonderfully wrote the lyric my life seems unreal, my crime an illusion, a scene badly written in which I must play. Music of this kind blurs the lines between pop songs and poetry.
Not all music has to be focused on lyrics in fact most classical music has no lyrics. You are at the mercy of a musical ensemble. Much like the varying genes of popular contemporary music, classical has variety. I suggest if you are interested in Classical music you should read my other blog on the subject.

Every genre has something to offer you! Hip hop, Country, Acid, Folk, Rock, R&B. Why aren’t you exploring these? There might be a single track that helps answer  worry you’ve been struggling with for some time!

Some people make the mistake of only sticking to the past for music and make statements like “Music was so much better in the 60’s” well that’s not true! There was a lot of shit music in the 60’s too but we just don’t hear about it now because it wasn’t popular. Don’t stick to a certain era of music just because you have fallen in love with it. You owe it to yourself to branch out and try new things, you can always come back to the 60’s!

I have written up the below taster menu for you to try, but please comment your favourite songs and tell me what they mean to you!

  • Late in the evening – Paul Simon
  • Waiting on a friend – The Rolling Stones
  • Inside of me – Little Steven And The Disciples of soul
  • Calling it quits – Aimee Mann
  • Human Behaviour – Bjork
  • Totally nude – Talking Heads
  • Living on a thin line – The Kinks
  • Air Giant – Transglobal Underground
  • Miles from nowhere – Cat Stevens
  • 8 ball (Remix) – N.W.A
  • Juicy – Notorious BIG
  • Pity the dead – Bad Religion
  • Love letter – Nick Cave & The Bad seeds
  • High hopes – Pink Floyd

My search for “The lasting effect”

I have lots of personal goals in my life, but a lot of them follow the average textbook path of achievement… get a job I like, buy a house, settle down etc. Most of my goals however are important to me but will not have a lasting effect on the world. Let me explain what I mean by this:
As I grow older I realise that our lives are precious, and we will never be certain of how much time we have left to live. Impressing other people (no matter who they are) is not important, unless it truly matters to you.

When I was at primary school I was required for drama to go up on stage and to perform a play. This play was with my class in front of the whole school during assembley. I can remember being quite excited about it and I was so young I didn’t understand why I should have been nervous by something like this. I knew exactly what I had to do when I was on stage and couldn’t factor in the risks of what could happen. Part of my scene was that I was a king and I had to walk in to my Kingdom, say a few lines, all of the other servants would bow to me and then I would sit at my throne. I managed to hit all of the lines perfectly but when I went to sit at my throne which was a simple chair it had not been set up correctly and one of the chair legs was positioned off the back of the stage. The moment I sat down the chair swung back flying me off the stage and I hit the ground. The whole school burst into laughter. One of my best friends at the time ran down to me to make sure I was alright. I was so embarrassed, I remember being bright red having to go back and sit on the stage for the rest of the scene which felt like an eternity. A girl I had previously fancied in primary school came up to me after the play whilst I was still shaken up by the whole thing and laughingly said “Well done you idiot you ruined our play”. I was more than hurt my this event I was ruined. The love of my life had just stabbed me firmly in the heart at my most weakest.

This event in my life was upsetting but I have noticed how now it doesn’t effect me. How many years did it take for me to get over it? The beauty is that nobody at school remembered it and after a short time it became old news and society forgave me. Even something like that which effected me personally doesn’t have a lasting effect on the world.

This might be slightly nihilistic, but used appropriately this is a great coping mechanism. Every time someone hurts you personally you have to say to yourself in 100 years time we will all be dead and nobody will remember this moment, so is it worth worrying about? You also have to say, am I responsible for what happened? Is it my fault I fell off the stage, or was it the prop hands fault for not securing the chair on the set? The lesson at the time in my childish brain was that I’m useless and unloveable. The true lesson is that getting upset over something trivial is only useful if you can learn from that moment to improve yourself.

As a young man trying to understand the world I apply this logic to everything that I come across but it begs the question, what is worth doing? If I was to do something positive like give to charity, this act will also be forgotten in 100 years and I will just fall into a general population of charitable individuals. If I worked for a company and did a fantastic job, after 100 years that company might be out of business or even if they werent, they still wouldn’t have to hold my file on their records.

The only way to be truly immortal is to create a legacy and leave something behind. When people realise this they follow the easist way to leave a legacy which is to have a baby. I have nothing against having children, but I dont see this as achieving my personal dreams, and I dont want to have a child and use it as an excuse as to why I didn’t enjoy my life. If a father told people “well I couldn’t achieve my dreams because I chose to be a father and that is the most noble thing to do, I gave up my life so someone else could have a life”. This parent would privately resent their child if that was true. The desire for that child to succeed is then heightened and the weight of needing to do something with their life is put on the childs shoulders instead of their own. Of course there are many parents who responsibly achieve their dreams before having children and love their children very much, but psychologists will tell you that the latter does still exist.

Who then does have a lasting effect? Galileo is remembered hundreds of years after his death but we can’t all just go to the supermarket for a marvellous discovery. Elvis Presley is remembered for years after his death but he was fortunate to have been involved with some talented writers and for being painted up as the heart throb that he was! Dont confuse the lasting effect with being famous, as that doesn’t make you necessarily worth remembering. Charles Manson is a famous murderer but we dont see him as a contributor to the goodness of the world.

I believe we all need to pursue our dreams and search for a way to leave something memorable behind. Dont be afraid of failure because those who fail are actually better than those who never try. If you are doing the best you possibly can internally then all of the external stuff you can’t control doesnt matter. You have to say to yourself, am I doing the best I can? As long as you are, stop worrying. One of my dreams is to write and publish a book, becase this is leaving something behind. Shakespere is always going to be on a book shelf and by contributing positive thoughts through the medium of literature, I personally see this as one of the most exciting forms of lasting effect there is. Art in any form is eternal, the problem people have is that not anyone can do art.

Modern Art: and why people hate it

Modern Art has always been a point of contention for many people. In the past Art was often dedicated to try and represent reality and painters would produced very detailed art that didn’t necessary hold any particular subtext. For example in 1400 during the Renaissance period in Italy the people requesting art were incredibly wealthy and normally of a Christian persuasion, which is why we have such a wealth of pieces depicting religious accounts such as the crucifixion or the Virgin birth. It wasn’t until 1814 when Joseph Niepce invented the first working camera that changed the landscape of Art forever. As soon as cameras became commonplace a photograph could capture real life easily and this would be a lot cheaper than hiring an artist. As history went on artists could no longer just create literal interpretations of nature or history, instead they had to try and create art which expressed feelings that couldn’t always be expressed through a simple picture.

The period of modern art is supposed to have begun during the middle of the 19th century when artists approached art in a different way. It is not to say that they stopped depicting real life, but they experimented in holding a message behind their work, something which lends itself to the viewer as a message that also came with that moment in history. No longer were artists restricted by the conventional ways of working and instead they were able to experiment. If you take work such as Vincent Van Gogh, this isn’t necessarily set out to perplex the viewer but instead presents reality in a different way using different brush stroke techniques and styles. In my view this period of Art history is one of the most exciting and shows a rebellion to the fusty old ways of producing art.

Kandinsky 1910 (above)

By the end of the 19th century Abstract art came along and artists were using this medium to express art which wouldn’t always hold any particular meaning. Art no longer needed a strict meaning but could be open to interpretation by different people. As history went on even further the subjects became intensely complex and often no explanation would be given to the work at all. Sometimes when it was explained the viewer would be left with the complications of working out how an artist can associate such a simple image with such a large moment in history.

Why Modern Art upsets people

I have heard many people say that they dislike modern art but often think of the word ‘Modern’ to mean this very moment or within the last ten years. Modern art of course is actually quite old now and so I imagine they probably dislike certain types of modern art such as Cubism, Abstract, Surrealism etc. Certain types of people like their life to be simple in ever single way. Complex Modern art doesn’t lend tself to that type of person.

I was at a party and I overheard a group of individuals saying they were shocked that Tracy Emin’s work titled “My bed” was sold in auction for 2.5 million. The work of art is such a commonly given example of something that upsets people. Emin herself has always tested the boundaries through taboo in her work. The party continued by saying “How is a ‘bed’ art?, anyone could have done that” the person then pointed at a table and chairs at the party and said “I might as well call that art” I then said in return “Okay then, explain to me what that represents?” The person was flummoxed, unable to think of what to say. That moment proved a point that art isn’t just about what we see but is instead about what we feel. If something is created to provide a reaction then that is art.

Another conversation I had was with someone getting furious about a musical composition titled “4’33 – John Cage 1952” where the whole length of the work is heard in complete silence. There is an orhestra that all sit down together as if to perform but all the sheet music shows is a rest for the entire performance. Part of me wonders if this was inspired by Samuel Barbers 1936 piece adagio for strings which contains a haunting silence in parts of the sheet music. The issue again is not with the piece itself but with how we Interpret the piece. My friend was not wrong in disliking this piece, but how you react to art describes the lense at which you view your own experiences.

Unfortunately for my friend, artists know that this bothers people and some work is intended at making people furious. A great example is Artists Shit – Piero Manzoni 1961 where an artist supposedly canned 90 containers said to be containing 30g of the artists own feces. Each container was sold by the artist. The tins each were labelled saying that the feces belonged to the artist and that the intention of the work was for his feces to eventually be worth more than the price of gold. Historically this feat was achieved. In 2016 a single tin sold for €275,000. This of course outraged some people, but we will never know whether the artist actually did as he told us. To engage in this thought process is to capture the nature of questioning that comes with modern art.
I don’t enjoy all modern art, but then I do find some of the work challenging, and this is not a bad thing. To get furious that you do not understand the intentions of the artist is hilarious to me. We mustn’t fall into the trap of saying that if art is complex and we do not understand it, then it must be rubbish. I believe that not wanting to have to invest in something to understand it is reflective of a persons philosophy of the world. Often life doesn’t make sense and we have to try and make sense of it to ourselves.