Friday, 11 May 2012


I find it interesting how a lot of self-improvement metaphors seem to take on a sporting bent - "he knocked that out of the park", "they moved the goalposts", "shoot for the stars", "she aced that one". I imagine that there may be a correlation between positive mental attitude and sporting prowess, which is easily borne out in my personal years of experience as a pessimist realist. To have a goal, for example, is to aim directly at a target for which you desire to hit and do everything in your power to reach that stage and embrace the (imagined) delights and apparent answer to all your problems in that particular desired outcome.

But what do you do if you have no goal? No target to aim for? If you have no target, you are shooting at thin air and you are less effective than Don Quixote, tilting at windmills (at least, that is my understanding of the point of the story). Does this mean the Nihilists are right? I mean, as Walter said, at least its an ethos. Its not an alluring thought, and doesn't inspire much hope for future plans, but is it not similar to the believer who, knowing with certainty that an unearthly paradise awaits him after death is content with the mire of day to day life, compared to the atheist whom, without evidence stating otherwise, experiences the apparent random, chaotic universe which does not care for him as an individual.

The question that I struggle with is to what extent this line of thinking is depressive and pessimistic, compared to a realist view. George Bernard Shaw once said that the secret of misery was to have the leisure to ponder about whether you are happy or not, and if thats true, then the happiest members of society are those that are ingrained in mindless busywork. Again, it has been said that if you find something you love doing you will never work a day in your life, but how true can this be for those on the lowest rung? I'd imagine it would be easy to find a writer, or a teacher or model, who loves their job and lives for day to day work, but by necessity these people are in the minority. So why do people work? To provide for their families and future seems to be the optimum response, but are we slaves to biology in such a way that all we can hope for is a passing on of the genes? I feel like I'm quoting too much, but Oscar Wilde's famous maxim; "we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars"; implies that it must be metaphorically possible for people to roll over and point their faces skyward. How to implement this change? Perhaps thats a question for a stronger, more optimistic mind than mine.

By focusing on the barriers to employment happiness, I see no way out of the cave of shitty jobs, without even the torch of knowledge to guide me to the exit. The worst part of it is, even if I find the exit, what awaits me there may not be what I desire. In other words, if you can see no goal, what can prompt the drive?

Friday, 18 November 2011

If an essay about pretentiousness is itself prentious, you could call it irony.

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time considering what it is I should be, or avoiding things I don't want to be. This isn't career related, I don't mean like "I wish I was an ice cream man, so I'll avoid being a bin man", but more to do with general outlook of things.

Pretentiousness*, for example. I try to avoid that like the plague, but its difficult because how do you define what exactly it consists of? If I were to quote Sartre, that would definitely be pretentious (especially seeing as I have never read any Sartre) but if I were to discuss existentialism after reading The Outsider, with someone that is also familiar with Camus, would that be pretentious? I can't help but think yes, probably it is. I feel pretentious even writing the name "Camus", as if I were to be judged by a non-existent reader for bringing it up. But that is strange to think that, is it not? Surely it wouldn't be pretentious if you were to take the same conversation, but replace existentialism with, I don't know, football or something. If that were the case, you could certainly call the conversation boring (I know I would), but it is as incorrect to call it pretentious as it is to call it farcical.

In that case, does pretentiousness stem from elitism? That seems to be an assumption that sufficiently explains the nature of the beast, since for every example of pretentiousness there is an item being discussed that is, by its definition, something that not every person will know about it. It would be impossible to have a prentious discussion of water without branching off into discussions of chemical composition, causes of drought, or any manner of side-issues that are not directly about water itself. I think this is because everyone knows and is familiar with water as a concept, so it would seem that in order to be pretentious, you must first have knowledge that others may not have.

It may be this posession of superior knowledge that defines pretentiousness as a negative aspect. We have all had the experience of someone showing off their superior knowledge as an attempt to belittle us, and I would say that chances are high that everyone has also done this to someone else, if we're honest with ourselves. But I think there are degrees to this too. Saying "I like band/book/play A because of these reasons, and you may like it too" is reasonably pretentious, but its also inviting and encompassing. It doesn't exclude. However, saying "Band/book/play B is alright, I suppose, if you are into that sort of thing" is definitely exclusive. To the point of rudeness. Why do people do this? Is it a tribal thing? Is it because the status of an Alpha male in today's society is less defined by physical strength or courage (although that is clearly still a factor) and more defined by wealth, wit and power? If so, it stands to reason that this status would want to be protected by those who hold it, and since we've moved on from beating others away with a rough club, we now need to use language to defend our own little realms. Is pretentiousness itself nothing more than a caveman's club or a bronze age spear, and if so, will there ever be a time when we move on from this nasty aspect of human nature?

Probably not, since I'm using it myself, right now, in the act of writing these words. Classism, racism, sexism, ageism and most other -isms that there are can really be summed up under the tyrannical reign of the King Ism - Elitism. But its not invincible. If enough people care, we can dethrone it, but it seems less likely that this will ever happen. Even these words are elitist simply by virtue of the fact that not everybody knows English, and also that hardly anyone will read this anyway. So, in lieu of a proper conclusion, I will instead just say this: if you must be pretentious, don't be elitist with it.

*I am unsure whether to use "pretentiousness" or "pretension", but the former flows nicer in my head. So we'll go with that.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


Its too fucking warm for October.

This is the time of year when things usually start to start going wrong. (They tend to pick up slightly around Christmas time with festivity and jollity and "we-should-totally-see-each-other-more-lets-not-leave-it-twelve-months-again-this-year-ity,"), before becoming entirely awful in January and this should be accompanied by relevant weather. Things like arctic wind, drizzling rain, frost and ice on my car in the mornings when I'm late to work. I should be wearing my black coat (incidentally, the most expensive piece of clothing I own at a reduced price of £140) and dark navy scarf, and trudging along the deserted sea front promenade, watching seagulls fight over discarded kebab boxes and chip wrappers while acting like the brooding artiste figure I am not in reality. Who I think I'm impressing, I don't know.

I've made this Pavlovian connection in my head due to a number of past interactions and relationships taking a nosedive around this time of year, usually after a too-quick Summer of relaxation, socialising and broken plans and promises. This has never been quite the biggest of deals, as I had tended to view life as a raft I had no control over and took things as they came. This laziness, in part, was due to (I now realise) not truly caring about the person I was with. This year is different. This year, I am with the first girl I can honestly, truly say that I love. A person that I cannot imagine ever not being close to, but conversely this makes this seasonal fugue (depression?) so much harder to cope with. Whereas previously I could switch off and seek solace in staying in and avoiding the world with the assistance of computer games and takeaway food, now I cannot will not. The last thing I want to do is bring this person down with me, but I also can't face not being with her and not making her smile or laugh or feel safe. But I'm afraid I will do this.

Most of all though, I hate having these feelings for no damn reason. I'm not some tortured fucking artist that uses these emotions to fill notebooks or sketchbooks or even desktop folders with polemic political rants or photoshop fuckery. I just sit here, chain smoking cigarettes and listening to the overly loud washing machine forcibly vibrate out of its cubby hole and half-heartedly worrying about various elements of life.

A list of things I don't like:
  •  I don't like how when my fridge broke down, it was replaced with one with no freezer compartment. The previous freezer compartment one was only as large as a family size box of cornflakes, but it least it was present. 
  • I don't like how the old, broken fridge was left in my tiny, undersized "garden" by the landlord's handyman. 
  • I don't like my landlord's handyman's family, who happen to live above me and slam my front door and shout and stomp around. 
  • I don't like how my next door neighbours (a Chinese takeaway place) cannot conduct a conversation in Mandarin without screaming at the top of their lungs. 
  • I don't like the animal that lives in the dead space between my bedroom ceiling and the roof and how it is active and scratching and restless between 11pm and 3am each night. 
  • I don't like how I want to move out but cannot afford the deposit on a new place, so am stuck over-paying rent to a landlord who doesn't return my calls. 
  • I don't like being close to 30 and still working a shitty data entry job for a pittance because I haven't found a new job. 
  • I don't like not finding a new job because I haven't put the effort in to do so, and therefore all my whining on the subject should be mute. 
  • I don't like that I kept from my girlfriend things about the girl I was seeing previous to her, when I didn't know I would feel like this about her (my girlfriend). 
  • I don't like inadvertently making my girlfriend jealous or upset as a result of my own stupidity and lack of forethought. 
  • I don't like feeling posthumously jealous of boys my girlfriend has been with way before I even knew her. 
  • I don't like reading her blogs from three or four years back, detailing her struggles in getting over a boy she had massive amounts of feelings for. 
  • I don't like feeling that despite what she tells me, I don't cause this level of longing in her. 
  • I don't like the hypocritical unfairness I display when I ask questions about a guy she used to sleep with and get upset and indignant when I receive the answers. 
  • I don't like me a whole lot. 
  • I don't like writing this, as it is an embarrassing pity party. 
Whine whine whine.

What happened to the me that liked cracking jokes and making up rhymes and stories? What happened to the thousand project ideas I had but never wrote down because "I'll remember them"? What happened to the semi-serious plans of writing stand-up sets or raps or maybe both?

I fervently wish that I could hibernate from November to February (maybe wake up from 23rd-27th December) and be done with this goddamned pitiful sense that life isn't as full as it used to be. Fuck it, man up. End. 

Monday, 3 October 2011


I feel like I let game characters down a lot of the time. In nearly every game I play, the character's motivations are not aligned with mine, which makes for a fair amount of cognitive dissonance within the game itself. This is all, of course, an over-complicated and wordy way of saying that I make game characters into total dicks. Here are some of the ways I have made characters act like dicks.

Example #1: Red Dead Redemption. Cutscene: John Marston steps off the train and saunters into a dusty Old West town, a grim look on his face. Gameplay: John Marston runs around chucking bottles at people, lassoing them to cactuses and shooting all the bottles behind the bar.

Example#2: Half Life 2. Gordon Freeman, survivor of Black Mesa and humanity's last hope mostly chooses to spend his time flinging old drinks cans at passers-by and playing on the swings.

Example #3: Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Adam Jensen is the gruff, no-nonsense, cybernetically enhanced head of security for futuristic human enhancement corporation Sarif Industries. After being augmented with devices he never asked for, he lets off steam by chucking vending machines at tramp's heads, squatting in air vents shooting guard's kneecaps and positioning knocked out guards in compromising positions in public bathrooms.

Of course, the worst offender for this kind of cognitive dissonance has to be GTA IV. Theres a mission about three quarters through the game in which Niko Bellic chases down an old friend he knew from the war in Eastern Europe, culminating in a Tough Moral Choice(TM). Should you let revenge take over and kill this gentleman, or will you walk away and let him live? The problem is, I had run over about eighty people on my way to this mission and also shotgunned another five while walking around the area - I don't really think Niko would have had any problem popping a cap in this fool too. Games need to realise that their unique position of offering player choice means that they cannot work as well with traditional narratives or characters. The only game where this has worked, in my opinion, was Saints Row 2, seeing as your (fully customisable) character was an unremitting psychopath anyway, so it feels right to run down the street naked, wildly swing a chainsaw!

Maybe some day, games will realise their unique position as interactive narrative devices and allow for player actions to influence a story in any direction, but until that day I will carry on playing these dudes as absolute douchebags. Because it is empirically funny.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

I was a teenage juggalo

I have a confession to make.

This is a secret I have kept from most of my adult aquaintances, friends and colleagues, and only a select few close friends have ever known this. But, in the interests of full disclosure and to set me on a true path of recovery, I have decided to come clean.

I was a fan of the Insane Clown Posse, or I.C.P., otherwise known as a juggalo. To the uninitiated, a juggalo is the term for a fan of this band, and possibly some surrounding acts such as Twiztid, Marz or Rob Van Winkle (the artist formerly known as "Vanilla Ice").

I.C.P., as their name suggests are a white rap duo from Detroit, who started off relatively normally as "Inner City Posse" in the early 90s. At some point, I guess they decided that simply being a couple of white dudes wasn't quite gimmicky enough, so they changed their name to Insane Clown Posse and painted their faces up to look like spooky clowns. To this day, I remember the style of facepaint on both Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. Oh, and I remember their names as well.

Their albums, at least as far as when I used to listen to them, were based on a dream or a "vision", or a "made up thing to sell records to idiot teenagers" that the fat one (Violent J) had at some point. In this vision, he apparently saw the Dark Carnival, this being a carnival (obviously) with a few different circus archetypes imagined in a horror-esque way. For example, there was the fortune teller The Great Milenko, a RiddleBox, a pair of jugglers known as The Amazing Jeckel Brothers, etc. These characters then became the theme for a set of albums known as the Joker's Cards, and it was around the release of The Great Milenko when I first started getting in to the band. But hey, you're on the Internet, you can look this shit up if you didn't know already.

I think my retarded infatuation with this band first started when someone made me a mix tape. At the time, I was pretty much exclusively listening to The Offspring, with maybe a bit of Lit if I was in an exotic mood. So when I was skateboarding around, hearing some hip-hop (however awful they are, ICP are still technically hip-hop) was like experiencing an entirely new genre to me. I'm sure things would have been very different if the first hip-hop I had heard was Run-DMC or Grandmaster Flash, but the way fate dictated it, it was I.C.P. And you know what - I liked it. I wasn't ashamed at that time. My first email address was even "juggalojack", and I bought T-shirts proudly bearing their logo, all in ignorance of any quality hip-hop.

And this was an arrogant ignorance too - I only listened to artists on the same band-run record label as I.C.P. (Psychopathic Records) and learnt to draw the little hatchet man label logo freehand and covered my school exercise books with that shit. I hated Eminem, for no good reason other than the fact he had a feud with I.C.P. at some point, little realising the futility of this. I mean, it wasn't like Eminem was going to get all upset because some middle class kind in suburban England doesn't like him. For Halloween 2001, I went to a local rock nightclub dressed in baggy cargo shorts, an oversize I.C.P. ice-hockey top and full face make-up in the style of Violent J. Amazingly, I didn't get laid that night.

Around the summer of 2003, like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in They Live, I woke up. I had no super-powered sunglasses, but I did have a copy of the latest (and last in the "joker" series) I.C.P. album, entitled "The Wraith -Shangri-La". The last song on this album was called The Unveiling, and promised to clear up any mysteries surrounding the preceding six albums, all dealing with this deeply interesting (to a teenage me) Dark Carnival mythos. This song, this last song, had a lyric which in just a few short seconds changed my perception of I.C.P. forever. This lyric was: "When we speak of Shangri-La, what you think we mean? Truth is we follow GOD, we`ve always been behind him, The Dark Carnival is GOD and may all Juggalos find him!"

Fuck that.

After all this time, after all the carefully built-up mystery and cult-like encouraging of fans, after all the cool demonic imagery, it was all just a bloody evangelical project? In 30 seconds, all the fanboyism I had built up was shattered and replaced by a cynical mindset. That same day, I had also bought the infinitely better Beastie Boys album "Ill Communication", and I haven't listened to I.C.P. since then.

I do regret the time I spent as a juggalo, and I have never experienced those levels of fandom in anything, which may be interpreted as kind of sad. However, I'm happy just enjoying different types of music now without also being infatuated with the people that make it. I am through the darkness and can now appreciate good things, which don't have quite the same embarassment levels.

My name is Jackson, and I used to be a juggalo. But I'm alright now.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

It would be nice if the film Inner Space became true. Just having the ability to employ a little man to fly around your insides and figure out what the hell is going on with yourself would be fantastically useful, I'm sure.

Although, for me, I guess I would employ a shrunken psychologist who can work out what bits of memories or chunks of brain matter are causing me to act in certain ways or say the wrong thing in different contexts. Or, to use a different metaphor, at least a team of Numskulls who you could question to find out how your brain is running, and what problem areas need to be sorted out.

Y'know, not just like tumors, but things like confirming what you're feeling about certain matters, or even just figuring out what the fuck I do feel about some things. I need a tiny Jack Bauer synapse beating the shit out of an especially reticent memory bank to find out what it knows, and then decide what to do about it. It would be even better if you could somehow transport that mini-Bauer in to other people's heads, just to see if their mind and their mouths match up to what's being said.

Instead, were all left to fend for ourselves, and for those of us who don't know what their own brain is trying to tell them, how the fuck are you supposed to know how to help anyone else? The system just doesn't seem fair.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

I sure don't make life easy for myself

I have never been that patient with technology. I can use it to an intermediate degree, and I do consider myself a bit of a geek, but I just do not have the time for it if it starts playing up. A computer has less than five seconds to boot up correctly before I start impotently raging at it and swearing in futility. I even hurt my hand once smacking a monitor around (I told people it was a football accident). I mention this in order to try and explain how I have gotten myself in to this situation.

Basically, after years of putting it off for no other reason than I couldn't really be bothered , I recently set up online banking (although I would almost certainly have saved time overall by setting it up earlier, as pointed out to me by many friends and family) (but then again, they should know that the best way to stop me doing something is to tell me that I have to do it). Regardless, I eventually joined the 21st Century and went to my bank's website to enable this time- and stress-saving solution. Or I tried to.

My memory of this is a tad hazy, but I do strongly remember becoming very frustrated with the security questions section. If I recall correctly, I think it required you to write a question, wait for the page to load, check the question, wait for the page to load, spell check the question, wait for the page to load, answer the question, wait get the idea. And then my browser crashed. Twice. At some point I must have struggled through this process and got a security question set up, so I could finally get in and look at how little money I had. Things were sorted, the browser remembered my password, I had a special locked .txt file with some reminder details just in case, everything was golden.

For about four months. Up until yesterday, in fact.

Yesterday, I tried to access my online banking, but I had apparently deleted all cookies for some reason, and I couldn't remember which password I used when setting that up. Not a problem though, right? They have a system set up to deal with this kind of thing. All I have to do is answer my place of birth, my mother's maiden name and of course, the answer to the secret question that I, myself, wrote. Fantastic. The only problem is that I seem to have phrased my secret question with some profane elements. Specifically, my secret question is "Fuck you, you piece of shit computer".

You may notice that, in fact, that is not even a question. More a statement of intent. I tried a lot of different swear words while guessing the answer, but to date I have not been able to get through. At all. This leaves me with the horrible realisation that I will now have to call Halifax directly and have a conversation about specifically why I cannot get access to my online banking. And I will feel like a naughty schoolboy explaining to his form tutor why he wrote "bums" on the front of his science notebook. That actually happened.

Not every story or anecdote has to have a moral, but I suppose if there had to be a particular message people should take from this, it is not to get overly worked up about technology. And the very second that you try to prove that you are better than the computer, that is when it will burn you as much as possible. I bet this wont even post properly now, the stupid motherf