Monday, 26 March 2012

The Ultimate Insult

A normal insult does not befit you. You deserve only the most inventive insults for a person with repulsiveness of your calibre. That sounds like a positive thing at first, but it's not.

You are the scum of the earth. Not even the Earth – you are the scum of the universe.
If you were to travel in your scum-spaceship to distant nebulae, where particles of the elements and building blocks of our reality intertwine, atoms and ageless gas clouds would circulate around you and would suddenly develop the sentience to think to themselves, “Ew. That person is scum.”

You're like some weird Japanese product that normal people would have no use for.
Or obscure Taxes.
Or the iPad.

You are the coffee stain on my pristine white tablecloth.
You are the malaria-spreading mosquito that buzzes around my ears when I'm trying to sleep.
You are that one little bit of yoghurt that spills on to my new shirt.
I can't enjoy yoghurt because of you.

You are a joke.
Wait, no.
You are not just a joke.
You are a bad joke.
If the world's best comedians got up on stage at a comedy festival and did as little as say your name, they would be booed off the stage, have rotten fruit thrown at them, be chased by a lynch mob, and then be sent back in time to Medieval Britain to be hung, drawn and quartered alongside William freakin' Wallace.

And oh my goodness, your mere presence can make waves.
Quite literally.
Don't go to the beach, because if you waded into the water, the water would be so revolted by you standing in it that it would simply EXPLODE OUTWARDS FROM YOU. FORCIBLY. Rendering many people dead, or with severe concussion or blindness.
And don't think that this can make you walk on water.
No way would the water let you do a Jesus. It would part, and let you fall hundreds of metres down to the sea floor.
The only reason that the sand and earth's crust wouldn't part is because the planet tolerates you.

But humans are special creatures, and thus have the power to NOT tolerate you.

Your personality is so vile in every single way, that I have reason to believe it could be used for birth control.
Scientists could clone you, and then genetically engineer the clones so that they grew to only a few centimetres in height, LITERALLY make miniature copies of you, put them in boxes, and sell them to horny couples.
So that whenever they felt like getting it on, they could just get the mini-you out, look at it, and instantly be rendered PERMANENTLY INFERTILE.

I might write a song about you. It'll have the same title as this blog post, and the same words as this blog post. The exact same words. It'll just be set to a repetitive guitar melody, played on a guitar that is out of tune, designed specifically to annoy the living FISHCAKES out of you.
And it shall be oh so sweetly cathartic.

And now, I have run out of inventive things to say about you, so I will simply resort to shouting at you through text.


Monday, 30 January 2012

Bloodthirsty, Dumb, or Both?

For the large majority of motorsport fans, masculinity is a defining factor. This (regrettably) male-dominated sport is riddled with references to the good old days, “when men were men” and what have you. Older motor racing fans more often than not lambast modern drivers as Prima Donnas, and call them weak because of their apparent “cushioning”; modern safety standards combined with the impeccable construction of today's racing cars means that Motor racing, while still harbouring an element of danger, is a much safer environment than as recent as 20 years ago. This therefore over-protects drivers and causes them to become weak-minded PR machines as opposed to “real men”, right?

Now, don't get me wrong. I think that today's racing world is dominated by over-sanitisation, politics and inter-driver spats. But the notion that real men raced back in the day because the cars were petrol tanks on wheels and death was around the corner every step of the way is plain stupid.

You've got to realise that modern drivers have it just as hard as they did 50 years ago – just in different areas. We often think that modern racing cars are easy to drive, PlayStation-controlled machines, but this is not the case at all. The standard of competition is much, much higher, and one has to be on the limit for every corner of every lap. There is much less of a margin for error, but when you do get it wrong, the greatest penalty you can expect is a bruised ego, and a broken car. Before at least the 1970s, the limit was not reached anywhere near as much, but once a driver went over it, they were often as good as dead.

It's the simple fact that driver deaths don't happen as much anymore that is the defining factor. It enrages me to think that there are people out there who put down modern drivers simply because of the fact that they are more cocooned. By doing this, people are undermining recent leaps and bounds in safety, and the work many highly talented individuals have done to achieve this. Worse still, with the recent deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli – two very highly regarded competitors in their respective fields – the notion that Safety Makes People Pussies® has been brought up once again. Consider this comment from a YouTube video about Valentino Rossi's helmet tribute to Marco. By the way, this is unedited:

Anyone that wants to show there repects by putting a banner out, Sticker on the bikes or the helmet Rossi has is fair enough. No more talk of parade laps n that tho. All this attention is just gonna attract the health and safety nutters. Lets keep this one of the few remaining sports that have an element of danger. Look at the freaks in F1. That stopped being a man's sport a long time ago.

...Words fail me.

Okay, this was about MotoGP, which in my opinion is nigh-on impossible to be made any safer than it is. And I would agree that Motorcycle racing is one of the only sports left in which there is an ever-present threat of death. But using Marco's tragic death as a booster for your argument about danger equalling manliness? I am disgusted.

The problem with the human mind – moreover, the human male mind – is that (more often than not) facing danger is equated to bravery. I acknowlege that this attitude was the one more suited to motor racing pre-1980s – the threat of death on track was considered a part of the deal, and there was no escaping it. You would have to have had nerves of steel to drive the old Grand Prix cars at speed in any condition. But even more inescapable is the fact that there is a sensitivity required to grasp what was actually happening – that competitors, many great ones, were dying needlessly when measures could easily be put in place to make sure they lived to fight another day. A well-covered example of this is three-time F1 World Champion Jackie Stewart, who initiated the first real safety measures in F1 after watching his friends get killed on track one by one and nearly dying himself.

And herein lies my main point. What we are dealing with here is clouded judgment. We are dealing with human beings. Human beings who love and are loved by their families, friends and fans. We need to get rid of the rose tinted spectacles and make sure that today's racing drivers continue to do what they do best without their remarkable lives being cut short.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Magazines: You Aggravate Me, Please Go Away

My family has a neighbour who is quite possibly one of the nicest old ladies on the planet. Always coming over for a cup of tea and (in between my long-suffering Mother helping her out with her washing machine) always with something to talk about.

Just today she came over with a bundle of old Woman's Day magazines to give to my mum. A nice gesture, of course... for my mum at least. But unfortunately for me I was bored as hell today and, after our good neighbour left, I decided to poke around in one of them out of desperation.

“I've got nothing to do... I think I'll see if there's anything interesting in this mishmash of photoshopped pictures and ludicrous sensationalist headlines!” Big mistake.

Flipping through the glossy pages and skimming over the less-than-flattering photographs of the British Royal Family, I could quite literally feel my IQ level dropping. I started feeling increasingly more and more stupid every time I turned a page, and less than five pages in, I could take it no more.

I was instantly reminded of memories that I may or may not have repressed: visiting boring people my parents knew, and being forced to read Take 5 and That's Life! out of pure boredom. Saccharine feel-good stories and Cheap Recipes for Families On the Go®, usually accompanied by a picture of the cook, a fake white smile plastered on her face. “Win a Car!” the stock competition proclaimed, with a picture of a pile of money sitting next to a generic Korean hatchback that no-one would buy anyway.
Oh, and there was the matter of the anonymous young woman on the cover. In a nice dress, robotically posed and with another fake smile. But here's what really got me: she had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the magazine's content. There was nothing relating to her, nothing even acknowledging her existence. She was just... there. For no reason at all. And looking like an android to boot. That pissed me off.

I have since come to the conclusion that I hate women's magazines, quite possibly to a greater extent than modern pop music. And modern mainstream pop music is to me what Luca di Montezemolo is to F1 fans. It makes me breathe fire and grow long claws.

I'm thinking the target audience for these magazines is 30-something stay-at-home housewives who take their children to soccer games, tennis training or piano lessons. Why? Because only these hapless souls may be bored enough, or jaded enough, to find any of the crap in these pages interesting. These women devote all their time to other people, not least their children – which is by all means a noble pursuit – but it also means that they don't have any hobbies. You know, interesting things to do.

I have hobbies. They include, but are not limited to: Playing video games, reading good novels, writing these columns, drawing/painting, and buttering my cheese ignore that last one. As a result of this, I have more pressing things to worry about than whether a socialite couple are engaged or not, or whether a new dress some barbie-doll actress is wearing is in fact disguising a baby bump. I just couldn't give a rat's tail if I tried, which I'm not too keen on doing.

Maybe the market for these magazines stems from the unfortunate fact that some people have an almost perverse interest in the lives of famous people they don't know. It may somehow remind them that the beautiful people they see on TV and on those inane celebrity gossip websites are, in a somewhat twisted way, just like them. They are normal. They are human beings. They possess the ability to have kids and care for them as any responsible adult would. They, shock horror, have to BUY FOOD AND FEED THEMSELVES.

Perhaps it's counselling for the fact that famous people are famous in the first place. By bringing them down to our level, magazine readers console themselves with the deluded notion that their lives might not be that different to those of celebrities.

Because... let's face it, it's in our nature – who wouldn't take being well-known over an anonymous, humdrum suburban existence?

Sunday, 18 December 2011

5 Things About YouTube Culture That Anger Me

  1. Copy and paste comments. “If you do not c&p this to x amount of videos within y hours/minutes/genericunitoftime, some COSMIC HORROR will end your life in a humiliating and probably distasteful way!!! SAVE YOURSELF YOU GULLIBLE YOUTUBE USER!!” What annoys me, no, depresses me about this is that people are gullible enough to copy/paste this crap in the first place. Still, I guess kids (or stupid adults) need to learn about idle threats sooner or later. I have gone years without a single Timmy showing up at my bedside with a bloody knife, and I'm still waiting for that vengeful ghost to waft into my room and smash me against my keyboaWrehy tedsjkdytsry ds7e6mre.,7 tuc kyfufgvuitl 7u jked8;ptpjsyr nbduy

  2. Bob. You remember him right? That little ASCII stick figure accompanied with something along the lines of “This is Bob! Copy and paste him to as many videos as you can to help him take over YouTube!” This pisses me off, not just for that frickin' cheerful stickman in the first place, but the war that ensued after it became big. First it was other users bemoaning the spread of the pitiful meme, THEN there was the even more cringe-inducing counter-attack. “This is Bunny! Copy and paste him to as many videos as you can to defend YouTube against Bob! (Oh, a saviour. Hoo-BLOODY-ray.)” As YouTube is (mostly) past its “immature” stage now, we no longer have to worry about this. Still, fear lingers in the back of my mind that it may return one day.

  3. Badly-executed tutorials. Tutorials exist on YouTube for almost everything you can imagine, and some have helped me immensely (especially when it came to video editing and harvesting corn from my vegie garden). However, to get to the good tutorials I had to wade through a whole lot of poor ones. The “90% of everything is crap” rule is demonstrated nowhere better than here. Bad frame rates from using freeware screen capture programs? Check. Poor-quality mics? Check. Using (God forbid) real time typing in Notepad and Word to communicate to viewers, usually beginning with a cringe-worthy “Hi YouTube”? Check. Using the pop song of the week as horribly jarring background music? Checkmate. Some tutorials even exist for things that don't really need tutorials, things that a monkey could figure out how to do. Whenever you turn to the internet for help, hope and pray that the end result is worth sitting through all the well-meaning but unwatchable “guides” out there.

  4. Slideshows. Whether it be about a person's favourite fictional character(s), a band, a sports star or stock images of “beautiful scenery” that everyone has already seen before (AAARGH), slideshows are everywhere on YouTube. Using pan, zoom, spin, colour cycling, whatever cheap video effects/transitions are at their disposal, and so painfully obviously made with Windows Movie Maker, these are the scum of the Earth, and numerous to boot. Maybe someone should start up a new website called SlideTube or some crap, where people can exclusively upload their awkward slideshows. Why? Because YouTube is a video-sharing website. And slideshows are NOT videos.

  5. 009 Sound System – Dreamscape. OH GOD, DREAMSCAPE. I hope I never have to hear that piece of music ever again. Oh, and that other song by 009 Sound System. Uh... you know the one? The title escapes me. Anyway. I guess Dreamscape isn't the worst song ever when you look at it objectively and don't take context into account, but when you think about the fact that video after video AFTER FREAKIN' VIDEO about almost anything (from that which is described above in points 3 and 4 to game footage) uses this song, you may begin to understand why I tense up whenever that first vocal note starts. “Aaaaah-aaaaah-aaaaah. Aaaaah-aaaaah-AAAH-aaaaah.” GET OUT OF MY HEAD. NOW.

Hmmm. I have just realised that “SlideTube” could very well be taken the wrong way. But no matter. Tally-ho ladies and gents, thank you for not knocking me off my soapbox. You're all beautiful. I'm out.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Toddler Woes

I amble into the supermarket, Mother Dearest and her shopping trolley by my side. My mind is swarming with the possibilities of what culinary delights we may happen upon in this temple of provision and sustenance. I am looking forward to choosing ingredients for the tasty Calzone I will be preparing for the family in two nights' time.

We enter via the bakery, and things are looking up. I am itching to race over to the open refrigerated shelves where the cheeses and sausage meats are stacked, so that I may select only the finest for my debut as a prime Italian chef. However, I elect to stay with the woman who brought me into the world, and “help” her with the bread, fruit and vegetable selection.

But then, the inevitable, but no less dreaded, happens.

It begins as a distant whine, like a Klaxon siren – but then, as it nears me, it gains a more primal, human quality. My eyes widen in horror as all other noises of the hustle and bustle of the shopping mall melt away, and there is only the anguished, stroppy screams of a scorned toddler.

I slowly turn around to behold the hellish phenomenon creeping ever closer. There, weaving through the fruit stands, is a trolley housing a child that would barely be two years old. Pushed around by a young woman who is looking a bit frazzled and worse for wear (and who can blame the poor thing?) the little girl is the very picture of ungrateful dissatisfaction with her circumstances. Maybe she didn't get that toy or chocolate bar she wants so very much. Maybe she had been reprimanded for snatching something off a shelf. Or maybe she is just tired and wants to go home, electing to take it out on her long-suffering Mother. Whichever option came to pass, her mouth is wide open, her eyes are red-rimmed and wet, and her cheeks could pass for Niagara Falls with the amount of tears running down them.

I stand there, frozen by the annoyingness of this unfortunate event. I try not to stare – as aggravating as the child's yells are, I do not want to make the Mother feel worse than she already does. But I cannot help but be slightly vexed by the fact that the kid is even here in the first place.

I mean, come on. I know that a shopping centre is a public place. I know that people go there for a reason (mainly TO KEEP THEMSELVES ALIVE). But if it's a public place, then surely there should be some consideration for the needs of others – when I'm walking around and trying to think or trying to speak to someone, I shouldn't have to be thrown off or interrupted by a 2-year-old attempting to shred their vocal cords.

So what can be done about this? The kids don't like the situation, I don't like the situation, so really the best option is to ban all children under the age of 7 from shopping centres... or, at the very least, from the supermarkets. Yes, there are those that won't like it, but wouldn't you agree that the benefit outweighs the cost? The young Mums won't get embarrassed, the kids won't get agitated and their vocal cords will live to fight another day, and I get to walk around the shops in zen mode forever more.

You know it works.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Am I betraying myself?

If you are a personal friend of mine, you will know that I am very passionate, and openly picky about my music.

Any of the music that my lady friends listen to I absolutely despise. Stuff like Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and Ke$ha, or any of the other manufactured crap the pop music industry is churning out to please the masses – though thankfully, bless their dear hearts, they don't listen to Justin Bieber. Other stuff that a few of my mates listen to, like hardcore techno, screamo and metal, I can tolerate (To this I will add as a side that Symphonic Metal is something that I actually quite enjoy), but you wouldn't be able to get me listening to it regularly.

The music I have on my iPod is a little more... classic. Stuff like Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Dire Straits, ELO, Tears for Fears, Van Halen, Queen, AC/DC, even the Bee Gees. Anything before 1995, I'm okay with, because back then, not all songs on commercial stations were about partying and gettin' down on da floor. They didn't have highly annoying, sickly sweet electro-pop soundtracks. After about 1996, pop music started going down the drain.

Oh, don't get me wrong, there's still good stuff out there coming out today. José Gonzalez, The Living End, Arcade Fire, Forever Never, deadmau5 and others are all quite good. It's just quite a shame that they often aren't as popular as they should be, despite a high critical opinion.

So you can see that I am pretty much dead set in musical taste. However, something has happened that has knocked me a-kilter and made me question myself and whether I am really that sane in my own right.

That thing is Dubstep.

I fully expect internetty rotten tomatoes to be thrown at me for this. Yes, I have made fun of Dubstep in the past, as have many people. Initially, it appears to be nothing more than a mishmash of weird sounds and minimalist vocals laid over an over-produced stomping beat. It also seems at first that the “artist” had nothing better to do than mess around with the bass and make it sound like a robot a few times, releasing it as is for giggles.

But that, for me at least, is beginning to change.

It began with me browsing Minecraft videos on YouTube. (Fantastic game, by the way.) I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but most of the Minecraft videos I've seen, more showcasing creations than Machinimas, have dubstep music as a backing soundtrack. Either loads of Minecraft players like Dubstep, or loads of people who listen to Dubstep play Minecraft. Either way, most of the time it was the normal, crappy stuff which I had come to expect from music of this genre: no tune or melody in sight, and vocals manipulated so extensively they no longer sounded like anything at all. Then I hit upon a video using the track “Blue” by Dubba Jonny. Something in that song sparked my curiosity; What follows is what I went through after searching out the song so that I'd be able to listen to it by itself.

It could be compared to watching a nuclear explosion devastate some old, beautiful countryside – the explosion being the fury which I had just unleashed in “Blue”, and the countryside being my familiar pop-rock landscape. This song, this... thing, was destroying everything I thought I knew and loved, in a blaze of energy and delirious destruction. And yet, I could not help but be in awe at its magificence, the power it carried with its bass and fat drums. The bass and the way it is manipulated could be likened to Tsar Bomba, the biggest Nuclear bomb ever detonated, or a KFC Double Down. One part of you recoils in shock and thinks “How COULD you?!”, while the other part sits there, wide-eyed, like a small child, thinking “Holy crap, that's awesome”.

So, what does this mean for me? I guess it means that, after years of hardline stance on music, I am finally beginning to broaden my horizons. Either that, or I'm going crazy.

I honestly don't know.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Noise Restriction Nonsense

This is a post I published early last year on RaceDepartment, a motorsport and racing game community site. It is reposted here, edited slightly because of my less cloudy and more discerning mind nowadays, for your enjoyment. Despite its age, the issue it talks about is still very much one that needs to be discussed.

Britain – a country with a rich and diverse motor racing history, with many F1 world champions, some awesome tracks and some of the most avid fans – not to mention the home of car and engine manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Jaguar, Cosworth and others.
And yet, it seems that some members of the public are intent on stifling this favourite sport of mine. Apparently, they don't like the noise that the race cars produce, and have lobbied for noise nuisance orders to be issued so that they can sit and read their newspapers in peace. Sadly, most of their attempts have been successful. Two famous british racetracks – Castle Combe and Snetterton – have had to limit the number of days/weekends of racing per year due to noise nuisance orders being issued by their local councils at the request of residents. And in 2009, that greatest of circuits, Spa-Francorchamps, was threatened by local residents... complaining about the noise.
In Castle Combe's case, this was particularly crippling; the British Touring Car, British Formula 3 and British GT Championships have not been allowed to return to the circuit since 2005 - the cars, apparently, were too loud. And for Snetterton, its owners had to reach a compromise with the local council: limiting the number of unsilenced cars on the track at any one time, and limiting the amount of time the vehicles are allowed to run.

This annoys me to the highest level. I cannot even begin to comprehend the sheer nonsense of this situation. Yes, some people find the sound of an unsilenced car annoying – though it is an aural symphony to fans like me, I can understand their point of view. What I don't understand is why these people insist on spoiling the enjoyment of millions for the "peace" of a mere few.

If the residents in question are that serious about eliminating the sound of race cars, they should probably go somewhere where there aren't any cars racing. Simply moving away is the most bleeding obvious solution, but nevertheless there are a few deeper questions that need to be asked of these ignorant residents.

Just how many of the complainers have lived in the area for a long time, ie. more than a few years, and are therefore accustomed to the sound of cars coming from afar? Not many, I can assume.
Continuing on from the first point, how old are these annoyed residents? Castle Combe and Snetterton opened for racing in the 1940s and 1950s respectively, and Spa has been holding races since 1921. I don't think many of the residents would have been born before these tracks were opened; therefore, the track in question has been around and making noise longer than they have!
How many of the angry residents did their research before buying their house? How many took a look at their area's local attractions and thought “Oh, there's a racetrack near this house I'm going to buy... maybe I should think about getting a house somewhere else,”? Honestly...

Furthermore, these people seem to be conveniently ignoring the fact that race tracks are a major tourist and traveller's attraction. Motor racing costs money, but it also brings money in as well. The BTCC and related championships have always been popular, and are a major drawcard to a local area. Are these residents not noticing that Snetterton and Castle Combe bring a lot of visitors in, with quite a few quid in their pockets? A circuit is quite a useful tool for boosting the economy of a town or city, and the select few intent on destroying what means so much to so many people are either ignoring it or unwilling to acknowledge it... or maybe they're too brainless to realise it.

Anyway, it's getting late as I type and my brain's starting to get a little sluggish, but I feel slightly at ease now that I have vented my frustrations about these ingoramuses who populate little English villages near famous race circuits. The men and women whining about the buzzing and rumbling of motorsports can have their quiet afternoons, reading their Sunday paper. But in the process, they are killing jobs, and the entertainment, monetary and historic value of a place close to the hearts of many, many fans.

And they have no-one to blame but themselves.