Are you comfortably numb?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

First night out with everyone back from uni!

From top to bottom:
1) "I'm so excited, I just can't hide it"
2) Bec decides to rearrange Adam's (one of my housemates next yr) hair... because he's worth it!
3) The look on my face whenever The Proclaimers - 500 Miles comes on. You don't want to hear the noise that comes out of my mouth...
4) Me and Ad - aww. Note: one of my eyes looks stoned, but I assure you I wasn't...

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Musical Fascism... not all it's cracked up to be.

My brother’s university radio show is called ‘Musical Fascism’, a trend which is now common, particularly amongst students. We’ve all met the musical fascists; and if you hate all things Blunt, Gray and Melua and obsess over ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and Sigur Ros then you probably are one.

Okay, they’ve got a point. There’s a lot of crap music around. And there are a lot of people who don’t give a crap how crap it is. People who claim to ‘like everything’, with a qualifier: ‘except for garage/house/techno’. There’s no passion for music anymore. You can’t imagine people having a life-changing experience to ‘Call on Me’ now, can you? Unless it involved conceiving or developing the need to have your stomach pumped, I suppose.

That’s what the musical fascists have got right. They love music. They’re obsessed with it. It matters to them; it’s not just there to entertain, to be a background noise; it’s there to be savoured. And there’s nothing wrong with that; music is one of the best parts of life. Music can reach parts of your soul that nothing and no one else can.

Yet the love of well-crafted music has been exchanged for a love of little-known music. Nowadays, a band is only credible amongst some people if less than fifty people have heard of it and their name involves at least one word that you don’t know how to pronounce. Obscurity is the name of the game.

But this means that fascism turns to fickledom. One minute these people like a band because you can only download their music from; the next they’re saying ‘Urgh, they’re soo mainstream’ as soon as the band becomes successful.

Do bands suddenly become of poor quality because they are liked by more people? Bands that are good will be liked by lots of people. Musical fascists seem to forget that many of the artists they hold dear were extremely popular and, dare I say it, mainstream in their day. The Beatles, Hendrix, Otis Redding, David Bowie, Joy Division, T-Rex, The Who: the reason we know them as the greats today is precisely because they were so widely-liked.

Music is not bad just because a lot of people like it or because it can be described as ‘catchy’. Nor is it good just because you’re the only one who’s heard of it, the artist wrote it themself or because it involves the use of a kitchen implement as a musical instrument.

Despite any flaws musical fascists may have, they’re right about many things as well. The love of good music, and particularly the love of poignant words blended with beautiful, suitable melodies, is a fading past-time. I’d have Paul Simon over Sean Paul and the 10,000 Maniacs over 50 Cent any day. I’ll finish with a Nick Hornby quote from A Long Way Down:

“I thought I couldn’t go wrong with Nick Drake, especially in a room full of people who’ve got the blues. If you haven’t heard him… Man, it’s like he boiled down all the melancholy in the world, all the bruises and all the fucked-up dreams you’ve let go, and poured the essence into a tiny little bottle and corked it up. And when he starts to play and sing, he takes the cork out, and you can smell it. You’re pinned into your seat, as if it’s a wall of noise, but it’s not – it’s still, and quiet, and you don’t want to breathe in case you frighten it away.

‘People don’t want to hear it, do they? This is how I feel, every day, and people don’t want to know that. They want to know that I’m feeling what Tom Jones makes you feel. Or that Australian girl who used to be in Neighbours. But I feel like this, and they won’t play what I feel on the radio, because people that are sad don’t fit in.’”

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ode to Tupperware

Oh, the fruits borne by (of?) MSN...

jack says:
you know whats weird
jack says:
i dont know if you ve ever noticed this
jack says:
but no one has written a song about tupperware
Fleetwood Mac - the only Mac that's good for you says:
Fleetwood Mac - the only Mac that's good for you says:
write one
Fleetwood Mac - the only Mac that's good for you says:
actually lets write one together
jack says:
yeah you and me
Fleetwood Mac - the only Mac that's good for you says:
you write a line then i'll write the next one
jack says:
ok ok ok ok ok

Verse 1
sitting in this kitchen collecting bacteria
food'll rot cos its less cold than siberia
need something to pack me up...
maybe put myself in a plastic cup
otherwise i'll be a mouldy snack
ready to go in a rubbish sack
that’s why i need, someone to care
to protect me from the dangerous air
to hold me inside
and keep me fresh
so i dont turn into a big ugly mess!!!

im talkin bout tupperware, keeps out the air, tupperware, OH YEAH

2nd verse
so now im happy in this fridge
free from attacks from a fly or a midge
nicely stacked against a cucumber and chocolate cake
plastic walls keep out the smell of fishy hake
so im nice and crisp when its dinner time
ready to be part of the next stupid rhyme
and of the next family roast
so mum can about me proudly boast
that its all thanks to something that keeps out the air...

im talkin bout tupperware, keeps out the air, tupperware, OH YEAH

Tupperware's the answer, its the latest hit
if you dont want to get salmonella you better use it
forget all your baking foil and sandwich bags
somethings here for the young and the old hags

im talkin bout tupperware, keeps out the air, tupperware, OH YEAH

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ethical shopping

A contentious issue, I know, and one that many tend to pour scorn on via the argument that you can never shop completely ethically, so why bother? And then you have those that are now trying to argue that schemes such as FairTrade aren't actually fair after all, and that even these people are evil businessmen trying to squeeze as much money out of both producer and consumer.

I don't buy any of that. Just because we can't immediately transform our shopping lists into spotless examples of ethical consumerism does not mean we shouldn't make a start. And in response to the second point, there is obviously plenty of evidence that MORE ethical companies are a vast improvement on those which patently flout any kind of social concern - these critics seem to be taking cynicism to a new extreme.

So what to do? This is a debate that has raged for years now, especially in the advent of lightning-fast global communication that allows us to see even in real time the devastation caused by Western consumerism throughout the world. Events such as the WTO at Seattle in the 1990s which was shut down by thousands of anti-capitalist protesters have shown us that protest is possible and practical.

It's important to remember that by changing the odd item on our shopping lists we can not single-handedly wipe out unethical trade. For example, Tesco has at times displayed a monumental disregard for workers' rights. Yet 1 pound in every 8 spent in Britain is spent in Tesco. The key, according to organisations such as No Sweat, is to try and support workers' unions wherever possible. They work with unions in places such as Bangladesh in order to strengthen them and help them stand up to the corporate giants which love to crush them.

However, although it's important to remember that we need to do more than just buy Fairtrade coffee in order to assuage our ever-present guilt, we should not do less than this either. According to the 'Rough Guide to Ethical Shopping', a small book which I recommend, a vast number of high street names are extremely unethical, whether it comes to union-busting, not paying even the minimum wage, subjecting workers to horrific working conditions or testing products on animals.

The question is, just how much do we care? You're standing in a high street shop holding a top which is ridiculously cheap and looks great on you. Yet you know it was probably made by the bloodied fingers of 3-year-olds. What do you do? Could you actually put that top down? Or do you justify it to yourself by arguing that you can never be completely ethical so there's no point in trying?

I don't know all the answers. According to No Sweat, maybe it is okay to buy from such companies, as long as we do all we can to change things - preferably both by lobbying Western governments to impose greater regulations on MNCs and TNCs, and by supporting Trade Unions in these exploited countries.

My personal take on things is that we have no excuse to do less than we can. What that is, is to some extent a personal choice. I have made the decision that I'm going to try and buy as many clothes as possible (haven't quite decided what to do about underwear) from either charity shops or ethical clothing companies. So far it's going pretty well, and it saves you a packet. I know that for some, especially those with children, this may be unrealistic. But I urge you to think about what you can do. And spread the word. Too many people either don't know or don't care about these issues. It's up to us to change that.

As Christians, I know the subject of stewardship often comes up when discussing this topic. There is a certain tension there - often it costs more to shop ethically. But I would say to you that protecting the rights of your fellow human beings and refusing to be part of their unjust exploitation is FAR more important than the money in your wallet. Furthermore, if you're a Western Christian, you probably have more than enough money to buy ethically - not that shopping in charity shops costs more. Bite the bullet and face up to your responsibilities. The God of the Bible speaks out many times against injustice and maltreatment of the poor. Do you really think he would want you to carry on buying Nescafe merely because it's cheaper?

Finally, if your church refuses to buy Fairtrade tea and coffee, I would encourage you to try and change that - although so far both churches I'm from haven't taken the step. Loads of people argue that 'it tastes worse'. Well, I hope you realise that the taste of Nescafe carries with it the bitter taste of oppression, exploitation and injustice. My auntie told me a story of one lady who swapped the coffees over without telling anyone, and no one complained about the taste. Gotta love Middle England! Besides, Fairtrade DOES taste better - Nescafe is disgusting.

Anyway, that's the end of my rant for today. I know I often fail in this area, but I am making a concerted effort to be more of an activist than a slacktivist. Also, this is only the first draft of this, so it's probably really badly written. But I was in the mood for writing. So nerr. I'll try and compile a list of ethical companies/websites you can visit in order to be more informed at a later date. If you have any you know of, please post them in the comments!

Redbrick Elections

In response to Simon's comment, for anyone who wants to vote in Redbrick elections - anyone can, as long as you're a University of Birmingham student, I think, they are on:

4th May
Mandela Room

Cheers m'dears!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

If you go your own way... you can call it another lonely day

Hello my pretties!

I have had a desperate desire to blog the past few days, as I haven't been able to. And now I can, well, I'm not sure the words are going to flow. I have as they say been living the life of Reilly recently (what does that even mean? Was Reilly a particularly sociable person? I assume so. Do you even spell it like that? Maybe it's Riley. Ah well). I have seen a large number of people which has been highly enjoyable, and included many a cup of tea/coffee/pint of Kronenburg Blanc (oh the sweet sweet nectar - eat your heart out Fosters).

As some of you know, the sentence on Jaswinder Singh, the man who apparently didn't kill Abigail Craen in a hit-and-run was passed last week. He was given 18 months. However, he only has to serve 9 and because he's already been in jail for 5 it ends up as 4. I can't find any explanation on the news as to why this is. Apparently he wasn't charged for death by dangerous driving but I don't really understand that as he pleaded guilty and handed himself in...

I'm hoping it'll be on the front page of Redbrick next term so I'll post my article on here when it's written.

In other news, I'm running for Editor of Redbrick, so if you're a student at the university, please come along and vote for me at the elections next term!

Don't have time to write more now, but will write a proper post soon.