A very UN-glossy look at popular culture... and whatever else takes my fancy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Well, Reading was fun. Unfortunately, the combining factors of my having to work, too many messy nights leading into dragged-out mornings, and general laziness and disorganisation meant that I didn’t get to see as many bands as I wanted, so not too much to report on that front.

It was strange going back there and realising that I’m probably getting a little old for that festival now. The place itself hasn’t changed a bit, it’s still a bunch of anarchic kids away from home for the first time, running around and acting ‘rock’. It was just me who’s changed, who’s grown up a lot in a relatively short time. On the first night I was thoroughly depressed by this revelation and walked around the campsite with a thundercloud over my head growling at all the kids running about who were annoying the hell out of me, when really I was just annoyed at myself and the fact that I couldn’t throw myself into the middle of them like I used to. But as the weekend went on I grew fond of it. Despite their attempts at rebellion there’s a strange innocence to it all, watching them all do what they want away from any kind of adult control and just going completely crazy. None of them are bothered about pretending to look or act cool, they’re not scared to act completely random and do what they want. It’s refreshing and, dare I say it, liberating. And by the last night I was even joining them in their little games, dance-offs and bouts of madness (although I drew the line at arson and rioting).

But apart from that, Reading is surely the most commercial, whored-out and pimped up event I’ve ever had the mispleasure of attending. At every turn is an overly-loud, multi-coloured message screaming at you to buy more Carling. Or a Nokia phone. Or whatever other brands were on board – I had seen so much brazen advertising over the first two days I think my mind started to block them out in order to stop itself frying and exploding from the pressure of too much commercial brainwashing. On my return home I was informed by The Guardian that Carling’s sales went from 3m to 5.7m barrels annually after they started sponsoring live music. The hilarious things is that Carling tastes fucking disgusting. It’s like drinking murky piss. I’ve never met a single person who prefers the taste of Caring to other beers, and it doesn’t even have a high alcohol content so you can throw that possible reason for its sales out the window. But people still drink it. They drink it purely because of its relentless advertising, branding and marketing, re-wiring their brains into actually thinking that it's a good drink.

One act that I did spend a good deal of time watching, however, was the burlesque cabaret. I’m sure you’re all aware that this has been very in vogue in recent years, and many of its performers have dressed the whole thing up in gender politics and trotted it out re-packaged as the new face of feminism, the latest makeover of the great sexual liberation movement, or something similar. Now maybe I was missing something, but I didn’t really see much of that going on in the performances I saw. Don’t get me wrong, they were good fun, with their quirky outfits, routines and music, but that was it. They were fun and entertaining. They didn’t make me rethink gender or sexuality or the human form, they just made me laugh occasionally. I don’t have a problem with burlesque, I love theatre and performing arts and watching people on stage, but why can’t it just be accepted for what it is without having to make up some kind of pseudo-intellectual ‘feminist’ babble to justify it? Feminism has real battles to fight, lives to save and sufferings to end; it shouldn’t be used to try and dress up trendy stage shows. I am all for some kind of performance that genuinely does play with gender and sexuality, that challenges and subverts our expectations of it, but this wasn’t it. Maybe I was just watching the wrong performance – if anyone knows of any artists doing something more profound, then please let me know. I’m genuinely interested in what’s out there.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Off to Reading now. I shall return shortly. Much love xx

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I just checked the TV guide for tonight, and am pretty gutted to be reminded that Big Brother is no more.... or at least, not until next summer. I don't actually watch television much, in fact I despise most of it, but I am ashamed to say that every year I get hopelessly addicted to BB. I can easily see the problems that many have with it - for one, I thought it was absolutely shameful that the producers put Shebaz in the house, a man who was clearly unwell, and let the situation descend into the mess that it did. I am also thoroughly disturbed at the vitriol dished out to some contestants, especially when their flaws seem to only amount to immaturity and lack of self-awareness. And who hasn't been guilty of those at some point in their lives? But the thing that turns my stomach the most violently is the sick glorification of celebrity for celebrity's sake that the show permeates. All the contestants are there to become famous just for the sake of being famous - they don't care how they get there. Whatever happened to celebrating people with real goals and ambitions, people who have really achieved things?

But despite all its gross aspects, BB does have some redeeming features. For starters, it tends to be the people who are genuinely nice that win, not the ones that acted the most extreme or flashed the most flesh. This gives me at least a little faith in the public. It has also been noted by many that the programme may be making us more accepting as a nation - a transexual has previously won it, and there has always been a homosexual contestant in the final. I think that the best example of how BB can challenge people's perceptions from this year's show isn't Pete, the winner, who suffers from tourettes, but the 'ghetto princess' Aisleyne. When she first went in the house the usual sexist and snobby remarks were made and she was expected to be out within a few weeks. But Aisleyne showed sensitivity, intelligence and depth, hopefully forcing viwers who'd judged her to realise something about themselves and the way they view others. She may not have won but she came third, which is pretty good going considering some of the strong characters she was up against.

But who am I kidding? The reason I love Big Brother is probably because it DOES provide me with mindless, brain-numbing entertainment that feeds my base instincts. It has great moments in it, but overall is complete trash. It's a nasty, exploitative human zoo. But every year I still fall for it, and despite my attempts at some analysis, I know I'm really no better than the heat-reading masses.
Hello there. Well, I decided to get myself a blog, with the intention of getting my thoughts, musings and rants out there, and of course practicing my writing. I shall return shortly, but right now I'm off to grab myself a bagel with peanut butter. mmmmmm mmmm.