We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful


The current One Direction “spliff saga” has had a similar impact on my life as the changing of Jif to Cif, the coming out of H from Steps, and the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre. Neither the band, nor the knowledge that 20 year old boys may be prone to smoking a joint, are at the forefront of my mind (that space is reserved for inane blog ideas, Swede Mason’s Masterchef Synesthesia, and confusion as to why nutmeg is not used in every recipe). The incident is, however, a wonderfully horrific microcosm of one of society’s most fascinating subjects – celebrity.


That is not to say celebrities themselves are interesting, rather the absurdity that surrounds them. A world where two 20 year old boys potentially smoking a joint is headline news is always going to be one that infuriates, baffles, and amuses. One Direction are a band containing a member who, when he and his girlfriend bought a puppy, found his new dog subject to death threats (yes, really) from jealous fans. They inhabit a world of obsessive, adoring and, quite frankly, mental, followers. While the millions of pounds and screaming girls may have its perks (no shit), it leaves them as occupiers of a life where they are commodities, churned through a reality TV show, jumbled together as a Frankenstein’s monster of youthful looks, wide-eyed naivety, and hair gel, and thrown headfirst into a Truman Show construct of reality. They, like Justin Bieber, have reached an unimaginable level of fame and fortune before they have even discovered Grand Theft Auto, Jagerbombs, and regret. In the case of Justin Bieber, we can all easily acknowledge that he is something of a prat, but if we were showered with fame and fortune in our early teens, can we say that we would have been much different? How can an inflated ego be avoided when, from childhood, that ego has been perpetually pumped up?


The “spliff saga” could well damage the careers of One Direction, as the destruction of their squeaky clean image sends thousands of girls into hysterical convulsions, the equivalent to finding out that the Clangers were the front for a space-based mafia, Fred Flinstone beat Wilma and set a rabid Dino on her, and Jimmy Savile…wait…


It could give the band a new found maturity and allow them to escape a state of perpetual adolescence, a transition that has proven so smooth and uncontroversial for Miley Cyrus, but there is a horrible pattern throughout the world of fame of building people up to knock them down. What is so often overlooked is that these are not just marketing tools or brands; they are people. A simultaneous deification and condemnation is a common trait in the British public, and the same line of reasoning is trotted out; “they are rich and famous, this is just part of the territory”. Well yes, possibly, but why must it be? “These people have a duty as role models”. Frankly, if you’re looking to Justin Bieber and One Direction as role models, that is your first mistake.


They must be allowed to live as normal a life as possible, to explore the things available to a normal youth. Regardless of their artistic merits, which are effectively at zero, they are young people that have done exceptionally well for themselves. Can we not be celebrate this, rather than seek to destroy it? We do not know these people; we will never know these people. We judge them based on a media construct, without any true knowledge of them. It is impossible to ever fully understand the mind of another (it could be argued that it is impossible to ever fully understand one’s own mind), let alone that of someone you have never had any contact with, save that one time you were at their gig and they “looked straight at you and smiled” (that didn’t happen, stop kidding yourself). There will be a new generation of teen idols, in primary school now, who, in a few years, will be preened and pampered into divas and egomaniacs by their adoring public, only to be shot down and chastised the next day.


As we speak, Jimmy Osmond is sat somewhere, perched on the end of a bed, lights dimmed, curtains shut. In one hand is a bottle of tequila, the other a vinyl copy of ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’. He found it last night, buried in the skip in which he was sleeping. He spent today wandering the streets, asking people to remember, just remember, who he was. He was Jimmy Osmond, The Jimmy Osmond. They averted their eyes, shielded their children, threw coffee on him. Jimmy Osmond lay on the ground, licking the coffee from the floor, diluted with his tears. He was someone once. He was Jimmy Osmond, left to rot, once his lack of looks and talent beyond nepotism was realised. He could have been someone; he could have made it, if only anyone cared. They didn’t; he was tossed away like yesterday’s newspaper, just to be recycled in a slightly altered, rehashed format the next day (yes that is a metaphor – deal with it). He could not take it. Here one day, gone the next. It is on your conscience. Jimmy Osmond is on your conscience.

What Really Grinds My Gears…

Facebook, Internet, Linkedin, Scams, Social Media, Uncategorized

The irony of writing this post on a blog and, inevitably, spamming people with it on Facebook, does not elude me. Do not point it out – you will only embarrass yourselves.


There are many gripes to be had with social media. The Orwellian nature of it all, the relentless wave of inanity, the problem of people thinking that everyone cares about everything they have to say (I know, I know), the stream of baby pictures (nobody else thinks your baby is as cute as you do), the endless, specious “inspirational” quotes. Marilyn Monroe was not Ludwig Wittgenstein. If people “can’t handle you at your worst”, you are probably a bell end. Then there are the photos of other people, clearly having a great time on a night out, or on holiday, or with friends, while you sit at home, eating cereal at 1am, watching re-runs of Come Dine With Me, just wondering whether this eternal pit of pain and despair will ever…


Sorry. Where was I?


Oh yes, social media. The main grievance that I have is none of the above, but the pictures dripping with saccharin-sweetness  that try to tug on your heartstrings, not so much with subtlety, but with a hammer bashing you over the head repeatedly, screaming “GIVE THIS POST A LIKE OR YOU WILL BURN IN HELL!!!!” It falls under a similar category to reality show sob stories; the awful, mawkish ‘tragedy razzmatazz’, an inability to appreciate anyone’s talent unless they have lost a friend, family member, elderly neighbour, or goldfish. The public has a penchant for mass hysteria, brought to full view with every celebrity death, and users of social networks know it.


Yes, posts that implore us to give 1 million likes for soldiers or cancer patients are irritating purely on a superficial level (your ‘likes’ are not helping if you click the mouse and go straight back to an eight hour Candy Crush marathon). Nobody likes cancer – we are already aware of this. “If I click like, people will know I hate cancer – yaaaay”. It is the sentimental equivalent to loving “films, music, and breathing” on a dating site. It also causes another of my biggest hates, as people comment to say that the power of God has saved this person, and will get them through life. That would be the same power of God that gave an 8 year old cancer in the first place, of course. This is intertwined with those who use injured soldiers as disturbing propaganda, showing it as a display of spirit and “the British/American hero”, as opposed to a horrifying indictment of warfare. However, there is more to it than my pure cold-heartedness.


These pictures are the face of internet scams. “This is my sister Mallory. She has Down’s syndrome – tell her she’s beautiful”. That person is not Mallory. Their photo has been stolen, their name changed, to be used for private gain. These pages are set up, and as their likes increase, so does the value of the newfound “business”, and advertising revenue. They are then sold to a willing buyer, who changes a few details, and is left with a readymade, successful fan page.


Any scam is infuriating, but one that plays on the emotions – the real emotions – of people’s family and friends, is particularly bitter. The recently deceased Stephen Sutton, someone who used social networking to all its wonderful potential, has shown what can be done. His was a genuinely heart breaking, yet incredibly uplifting, story. Yes, the maudlin nature of the public can be annoying, but Stephen actually affected people, and made a huge, huge difference. The “no make-up selfie”, despite having its own small band of “I’ll post a selfie but not actually donate” people, had a truly massive, positive impact.


These scams, and their high publicity through likes, affect people. Imagine trawling through posts demanding likes for a cancer patient whose name you don’t recognise, attached to a photo of your son, daughter, friend, or grandchild. These people’s names are changed, but they are real individuals. They have real people who care about them. The real people are cast aside; do we know what really happened to them? There is a horrible cynicism to a world where signs are superimposed onto children with illnesses. “Can I get 1 million likes? I beat cancer!” These people are, quite probably, still suffering with the illness, or indeed may have passed away. They are manufactured as nothing more than an advertising ploy. It is a trend that has spilled over into business networking site Linkedin, and seems to permeate every social area of the internet.


Aside from the scam, the fact that issues as grave as cancer and war can be reduced to “like” form is indicative of a society that has become unable to express anything true or meaningful.  Facebook recently announced news that they are developing a “sympathise” button. It is the distillation of emotions.  The death of a loved one, or a harrowing personal incident, requires your true friends to be there in person, to be supportive, to offer advice, to interact, to show that they actually care. Can it really all be condensed to the click of a button? No doubt the “sympathise” button will mainly be used for “in a relationship” statuses anyway. Top bantz.

It’s Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away

Music, Past, Reunion, Uncategorized

Ever since the early influence* of my Dad on the infant, but no more exuberant, version of myself, I have been a person known to somewhat belie my age with my musical tastes. One of my earliest memories of school comes from my Year 1 class, when we were all asked various “favourite” questions (favourite colour, favourite book, favourite totalitarian dictator – you know how they go). One of the topics on the arbitrary list was “favourite singer”. The class all opted for Robbie Williams and Spice Girls. They didn’t differentiate between the singular “singer” and the multiple entities that make up the Spice Girls. Of course they didn’t – they were five years old. They all chose popular, hit making acts of the time. Of course they did – they were five years old. The teacher tried to haul herself from the mental stupor induced by listening to 30 inane responses from five year olds who, as Louis CK says, have never said anything important in their entire lives. Once she built the willpower, she came to my desk and glanced at my answers. I had not written Robbie Williams or Spice Girls. I had plumped for Scott Walker who, at that time, had completed his intense, avant-garde record Tilt, and was embarking on an 11 year hiatus.




I had absolutely no idea that this was unusual. I was stunned when my teacher asked who Scott Walker was, thinking that he, Jacques Brel, and Kraftwerk, were staples of the average five year old’s diet. I have since realised that my Dad had managed to somehow turn me into what would now be deemed a hipster, before I was able to tell the time or tie my shoelaces.


These formative experiences have left me with something of a yearning for an era that precedes my own existence. It has often been punctuated by disappointment, being unable to experience many of my favourite artists in the flesh (a problem exacerbated by a love for artists with an apparent proclivity for suicide). However, the last decade or so has seen a shift towards the “reunion acts”. Over the next few weeks, I get the chance to see Neutral Milk Hotel, The Libertines, and Pixies, the latter for the second time in 7 months. Neutral Milk Hotel created one of the greatest albums of all time with In the Aeroplane over the Sea, The Libertines defined a subset of a generation, and Pixies have a strong claim to being the most significant band this side of 1970. The question is, will this trio of gigs be the incredible experience that it would have been in years gone by?


As far as Pixies go, they were phenomenal in Manchester at the backend of 2013. However, the worry is that they are the exception rather than the rule. I have seen Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, Blondie and Television in the last 7 years. At each gig, you could not overcome the feeling that it was 30 years too late. The songs largely held up, the technical ability had not diminished significantly, but it was difficult to shake off the “classics by numbers” feelings. In the case of Sex Pistols, the cry to arms of Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen were devoid of the punk spirit (or at least what we define as the punk spirit 35 years after the event). Instead, it was a band looking for one last payday, fronted by a man who, since he screamed “I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist”, has appeared on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here, and a butter advert. Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?


This is in contrast to the success of Lydon’s other, oft criminally overlooked, band – Public Image Ltd’s – reunion. I saw them at Glastonbury 2013, and they were fantastic, bristling with energy, swagger and, most importantly, songs that sound original 30+ years after their release. It raises a question: are bands products of their time? Should they be consigned to history, bowing out gracefully, or crashing out spectacularly, at the peak of their powers, never to return again? Can the spirit and, when necessary, vitriol, of youth be regained after a hiatus? For every Public Image Ltd, there is a Sex Pistols; for every Blur, there is a Television. Is it a case of memory making the past shine brighter? Perhaps, as Neil Young and subsequently Kurt Cobain said, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”.

A Tale of Two Cities


When you live in one city for 22 years, it will become home. When those 22 years comprise your entire life, it will become part of you. It will imbue itself on your being, to the point where you forget there is a life away from it. It permeates through every pore, you see everywhere else as a foreign entity, unable to comprehend the idea that there are other lives, other people without the same surroundings, the same accent, the same upbringing, the same pubs and bars and clubs and towns. You have never lived anywhere else, and the unknown becomes almost unimaginable. It is an intangible concept, one that your logic says is normal, but that your mind cannot fully realise. Yes, you will visit other cities, holiday in other countries, but always in the knowledge that you will return. There will always be ‘home’, the place that you feel comfortable. It has been 8 months now since I moved away from that one city. Liverpool and London: under 180 miles, yet worlds, apart.


Superficially, the difference would not appear that great. Both are bustling, English cities, both filled with culture and heritage, sharing similar humour, tastes, fashion, music, and all other notions used to determine an area’s character. It is not a move from Liverpool to Thailand, Japan, Papua New Guinea, or Runcorn. The difference in lifestyle is not a chasm (I have heard rumours of sightings of Runcorn – talk of a bridge, even whisperings of a living species in the vicinity, but one cannot begin to imagine what actually exists there). I have chosen one of the easiest transitions available, a move that J.D. Salinger and Howard Hughes would have undertaken without a second thought.


And yet, the insignificance of the differences belies their magnitude. I do not have a southern accent. That is far from uncommon in London, one of the most multicultural, diverse cities on the planet. French, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Australian, New Zealander, Italian all mix as one homogenous entity, their differences appreciated and respected, much as they should be. I, however, speak in a tongue seemingly incomprehensible to all. I appear to have developed a rare ability to create a language barrier with people of the same nationality. My words are garbled, my tone deep to the point of inaudible, my lexicon alien. I am subject to a stream of awful Scouse accents, none resembling my voice in any way; a constant high pitched whine from all angles. A suffocating, incessant flow of impersonations. “Calm down, calm down”, “eee fuckk off”, “chickkkennn”. In the workplace I try to adopt a ‘phone voice’, conversing with the City’s professionals in my best attempt at the Queen’s English. I leave a voicemail: undetectable, no trace of an accent. It was perfect. The office receives a call: “I just got a voicemail. I don’t know the guy’s name, he’s from Liverpool”. I take the call. My sentences each receive the same response. “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that”, “can you repeat that?”, “sorry, it’s quite a bad line”. It is not a bad line. I am Northern. I know it. You know it. Do not humour me.


I go on a night out. No one needs to hear me when I’m out; the music will drown out my voice. My tone will sound like part of the bass. I take out £50. That was enough in Liverpool, that would get me through from 9/10pm to 5am. I enter the first bar. I am new, I will make the effort and buy the first round (that’s how they do it down here; bloody people with money). There are 5 or 6 of us. One round; my money is all gone. It didn’t used to be this way. It didn’t used to be this way at all. 3 shillings and a smile for a yard of ale – that’s what it was up North. I return from the cash point after a long absence, having walked around the unfamiliar streets. Faculty, La’go, Bumper – that was always the way. Now I am surrounded by other places, other buildings. None of the churches have irreparable bomb damage. The night is getting started; I am settling in, getting to know people, feeling more at ease. “Right, we’re heading home now”. I check the time; it is barely touching midnight. How can this be? What do they mean? Of course. Tubes. The fucking tubes. I calculate the cost of a taxi. No one lives anywhere near me, I would be alone. The taxi costs more than I have in the bank. I stride on to the tube station, going underground. It is quieter; a relief compared to the usual rush hour journeys, where individuals are packed in like sardines; iPad fixated sardines.  This time, I even get a seat.


I sit down and realise why it was free. The man next to me is shouting about Jesus. He is claiming that Jesus stole his socks. I am sceptical. He is wearing socks; they have just partially disintegrated. He is screaming at passengers, informing them that they are not his real mum. One is a 15 year old boy; I think he was already aware of this news. The man reaches into a plastic bag and pulls out a can of Special Brew. My face lights up, I can feel the tears welling in my eyes. The nostalgia is overwhelming, my heart wants to explode. Memories flood back. Memories of the bombed out church, of Hardman Street, of Bold Street, of the PRM. Yes, that was home. Yes, maybe I can belong here. An alcoholic with a can of Special Brew. London and Liverpool are not too dissimilar after all.

Brent mused…


It is difficult to know where to start with writing a blog. The opening article should surely be one to capture the audience, one that broaches a topic dear to the author’s heart, one that makes people want to return. I do not want to make this a glorified diary – I am not quite arrogant enough to believe that people care about my day to day activities – yet there must be a personal element. The old mantra of “write about what you know” is a place to start for any novice like myself.

Bearing that in mind, I am starting my blog by discussing the city that I have recently left, but which will always be my hometown. Specifically, it is the football season that has brought Liverpool back to the foreground of the sport world. Being a bloody bloke, and a top scouser, this is surely the best place to start.

Both Liverpool and Everton have, by general consensus, overachieved this year, playing a brand of attacking, flowing, ‘liquid football’ that has excited both the partisan and neutral fans. Both had respective, lofty ambitions just a week or so ago – Everton’s was to finish in the top 4 for the first time since 2004/05, a return to the heady days of Pistone, Beattie, and Kevin Kilbane. Liverpool’s was the ultimate – a Premier League title; an aim that, up until the events of the last 11 or so days, was firmly in their hands. Prior to their capitulation against Crystal Palace, cruelly reminiscent of Liverpool’s greatest night in reverse (a ‘Crystanbul’, if you will), Everton faced Manchester City, with the possibility of an Everton victory going a long way to handing the title to their neighbours.

Unsurprisingly, this turn of events elicited the question, “would Everton fans rather lose than help Liverpool win the league?” I was not surprised, although a little saddened, to hear a portion say that yes, as Everton had little to play for, they would rather sabotage the campaign of their rivals.

I myself am an Everton fan, and there is no doubt in my mind who I want to win the league. Liverpool. Yes, local rivalries are all good fun when kept light-hearted, and I can’t deny a certain schadenfreude when Liverpool lose, but I have never understood this blind tribalism.

My family is split almost exactly 50-50 between the two clubs. My Dad is an Evertonian, as is one of his brothers – his other 2 siblings are Liverpool fans. If my Dad had chosen Liverpool, there is a high chance that I would have done the same. I love Everton, but they are only “in my blood” as much as Liverpool are. I just happened to side with my Dad when I was growing up, went to Goodison when I was 5/6 years old, and that was that.

If Liverpool win the league, yes the stick would be a nightmare, but to actually see my family and friends overjoyed having waited so long for a league victory would far outweigh any tribalism. I am too young to have been alive for Hillsborough, but its legacy resounds around the city. My Uncle, who died 18 months ago, was a season ticket holder at Anfield for longer than I have been alive. I watched the Liverpool vs Manchester City game in a pub in Hampstead. Even on the other side of the country, the pub erupted when Coutinho bent in the winner. My heart raced; I knew what would be going through the minds of my family. I knew what was going through my own mind, I knew why the hairs on my neck had stood up in the minute’s silence, I knew why my shoulders had slumped when City netted an equaliser. I know how much the title would mean to people I know and love. I have moved away, but the desire for Merseyside to succeed, for the wave of triumph and collective joy to sweep across its streets, is stronger than ever. The Hillsborough tributes have shown how the city can stand as one; we are families and friend groups split between red and blue.

That Gerrard slip was fucking hilarious though.