Monthly Archives: January 2012

So, This is England

I got a distinctly Shane Meadows vibe as I walked home today. Coming into the Avenue estate I passed by a rotund boy in a shell-suit who sheepishly pulled a chocolate-ship cookie from his pocket and aimed it mouthwards. Just then I heard a shout from the drive-way to my left. A huge, thick-necked man in a tracksuit shoved violently against  another balding man.

“What the FAHK did you just say to me?!”

Two large ladies ran into the scene to break it up with much flailing and wobbling. I turned my eyes from the scene, not wishing to draw attention. The heavens opened in an act of cliched pathetic fallacy and the estate was tinted with a Kitchen Sink grey. The young boy then hobbled at top speed past me, short of breath and wimpered a little as he ran. His cookie dropped to the ground in front of me as he turn desperately into the next house, shattering into a pile of crumbs. Seriously symbolic and that. Then two decidedly larger ladies and another tracksuited roundy kid ran breathlessly pass me toward the action. Then another two sizeable maidens. Then an old, leather-skinned man in a denim suits, handlebar moustache and a ponytail. I had a serious case of FOMO, lads.

And speaking of Shane Meadows I’ve been inhaling the follow-up series This is England ’86/88 ON 4OD and quite loving it. I do, however have a few niggles and quibbles with it. Like how they just forgot Banjo and Meggs were violent racists. Full review later on but for now I’ll leave you with this startling revelation:

Kelly from Misfits, Harvey from This is England

They’re only bloody brother and sister!

Enough, off to bed, big day ahead. Many gorgeous people to see. The first person to guess where I’m going gets a prize! Here’s a clue:

Yes, you're right! It's Hull!

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More Observations to evoke Awe and Lol

Observation 1: I have never seen an Oriental Asian woman smoke. And a quick google for a suitable image here turned up way too much porn.

Observation 2: Preparing for a Musical Society fundraising night in the Pavilion Tavern, known colloquially as the Chav Pav Tav, my Tipperary friend and I were playing a choice selection of CHOONS from my tinny speakers as we hastily downed our cans. It was 90s night but our tastes steered chronologically toward the millennium and we rediscovered this gem:

And we decided that it just doesn’t sound right not being blared from a mobile phone.

As we eventually wandered into town, tummies fizzy with lager, we were approached by an older gentleman asking for a light. His skin was tanned, accent vaguely Eastern European and he was smartly turned out, replete with a fedora and broad moustache. He kindly offered us a pre-rolled cigarette for the use of my friend’s lighter and, smiling, he wandered off on his way. It wasn’t until he turned that I noticed the amber light reflecting off the tears on his cheeks.

90s night was an occasion of awful fashion, warm glasses and absolutely fantastic music. I’ll take Haddaway over your Rhianna everytime, society. And what with hipster trendy dress sense starting ironically adopt hideous 90s dress sense I wasn’t quite sure who’d come for the party or who was just a bell-end.

what I don't even..?!

I ended up losing my mate, finding myself on the beach by the pier having a sing-song with some kind of band(?) and being plied with beers, fags, group hugs and heartfelt promises to meet up for coffee the next day. Richard if you’re reading this then you’ll already know I missed our date. There were also Frenchmen. So, yay, FRIENDS.

Just a picture wot I took in Brighton

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Observations and Overheard Conversations

Growing up in Ireland as an English kid with chip firmly attached to shoulder I always expected moving back to Blighty would in some form feel like coming home. After shouldering the guilt of 700 years of oppression, rape and imperialism I spent my misinformed teenage youth using Morrissey lyrics to express my complex dual heritage, and pretty much, any other state of being I was feeling (intensely) at the time. I think I even once told a girl that she was the one for me, “fatty” (she had rather chunky calves).

Truly a fitting spokesperson for my mind

Upon arriving in this strange land, replete with its chunky, randomly sized currency, its busy, buzzy pace and politely curt attitude I realised for the first time that I wasn’t of this isle either. London is still magic, just less magical once the tube becomes just the way to get home rather than the rollercoaster of your memory. It feels as though I’ve being playing Life on Easy Mode, living in Galway. Easy Mode is fun but your achievements always seem worth more when the difficulty settings are raised a dash.

Relocating to the city of Brighton, on the south-most tip of the UK has been illuminating. Hipsters. Many hipsters. I immediately felt underdressed for catching the bus to uni and was just gobsmacked by what seemed like a parade of Urban Outfitters models. One difference I’ve picked up here is the value placed on buying tons of shit. There’s a real focus on high-street clothes and a fixation on brands I’ve not encountered before. I always thought this whole “materialist, valueless generation” thing was invented by the media to have something to complain about but these kids would really nick trainers in a riot. Also, no one needs glasses that big. I’m just jealous, really.

Not all it appiers to be

I’ve come across some odd little things in my short time here. The strangest of which I put down to having consumed the last four episodes of BBC’s brilliant Sherlock on the gorgeous iPlayer (Nationalist independence cost us this valuable asset, for shame). Anyway, I was wandering down St.James street with my girlfriend toward the Old Stein when we spotted a seemingly homeless man begging outside of Sainsbury’s; our intended destination. Hands in pockets I puffed up my upper lip and pulled a sheepish gurn, planning to avoid eye-contact: the universal gesture for “Really sorry mate I am a really socially conscious liberal guy who feels your plight and others like you and would love to help you in anyway but I’m really skint right now and the money in my pocket is purely for the Coke can I desperately need, really sorry I’m not evil don’t judge me”. Coming against us was a rather smartly dressed man, suit/tie and expensive jacket and when he passed the beggar he pulled from his inside pocket a small, black object (a mobile, mp3, something electronic and glossy) and tosses it to the weary vagabond. The homeless man, unperturbed swiftly dematerialised the object within his own tatty jacket and continued to beg visibly. The two never shared eye-contact or acknowledged eachother in any way. So I’m all…

The homeless man is young, mid to late twenties, piercing on the left nostril, well kept, his hair is short, and though his clothes are tatty and worn there appears to be a considered colour palette of browns, oranges and faded yellows that would fit our expectations of a beggar and my sandy-haired virtual Watson of a girlfriend points out that he looks very clean. That’s what I need, you see, a “normal” perspective and my unparalleled mind misses all the sappy human elements! The “spy” is similarly aged, dressed businessman like…and…er…he…um…SPY….that’s all the Sherlocking I can do. And it leads me nowhere. But I can tell you one thing. They were crap spies.

The Royal Pavilion was a strange place indeed. Go there for the opulence, the grandeur, the tearooms, but most of all go there for Dragon.

Other points of interests include the three mass evictions I’ve witnessed from buses through town, along derelict buildings on the Old Stein. Loads of bailiffs and specialist coppers running into squats and dwells taking on their elemental nemeses, hippies. I imagine it must be like a Star Fleet officer finally getting to fire  phasers at Klingons for these baton-happy bobbies. Why do these damn hippies hate freedom so much? Why can’t they be happy with the myriad choices and freedoms they already have? And if they can’t afford it they should chose a loan! Dirty commie, hippies. The best part was the running commentary from the two wiggers in the back of the bus.

“Look at dem cops, look at dem run, bruv,”

“Rah, bruv! Rah!”

I ended up following their conversation the entire way home, trying in vain to decode its complex, hybridised lexicon.

“I was on my onesie, yeah, and I spotted a berserker and I said ‘yeah sexy momma, get on this coal train!'”

“No way, did you say that, bruv”

“I did!”

“Is it like one on one?”

“Yeah, twenty ones. One on one on one on one.”

All I conclude was that they must have been part of the same network as the Homeless Spy and knew I was onto them. Their back and forth was a mixture of secret MI6 speak and genuine interest in sexy mommas.

Some more of Brighton's Best

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Web 2.0: Social Empowerment or Post-Fordist Hegemonic Capitalism?

Globalization and the perpetuation of free-market neo-liberal economic values goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of global commercial mass-media systems and as these outlets become concentrated into the control of less than a handful of commercial giants we stand to lose the voices of those untouched by vested interests and preoccupied with the acquisition of wealth and the maintenance of the political status quo. Web 2.0, that is to say, interactive, participant-based online media (Cohen, 6) offers consumers another voice; user-generated content on websites such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as the in-numerous blogs and indie-media are free from corporate bias and censorship and hold the potential to revolutionise the current media systems and thus, democratise them, creating a free flow of ideas and culture. But, capitalism, as we shall see, has a knack for innovative forms of exploitation and Web 2.0 may be the cleverest yet.

In his paper “Policing the Thinkable” the academic and socialist activist Robert W .McChesney discusses the essential lie at the heart of free-market competitive  media industries (and indeed all free-market industries) that, by a combination of veritable price-fixing, political corruption and consolidation of ownership there can be no such thing as true “competition” in the neo-liberal sense. AOL Time Warner, Disney, Bertelsmann, Vivendi Universal, Sony, Viacom and News Corp virtually own every major film studio, satellite and cable television networks, music companies, book publishers and more making it impossible for upstart newcomers to challenge their vice-grip like power and rendering the notion of meritocratic competition moot. It is not enough, anymore, to own the means of production in order to consolidate power, but in the information age, one must own the means of communication.

The Illusion of Choice

Conversely, these companies continually perpetuate the message of choice and their news outlets consistently boast about the authority and objective clarity of their reporting. Take Fox News’ laughable tagline “Fair and Balanced” which is so blatantly in opposition to everything the network embodies that you imagine it must be some kind of distasteful joke. McChesney maintains that professionalism in journalism has been weeded out by big business (102) who have directed a limited focus and imposed their ideology upon the reporting and in the media output in general. “The great strength of the commercial system is its ability to generate commercially marinated light entertainment, which suits perfectly the sort of depoliticised and inegalitarian society as exists in neoliberalism’s spawning ground, the United States.”

A deplorable situation

Only the internet can provide salvation in this corrupt and unbalanced playing field. It has the potential to undermine and subvert the current media giants: a single YouTube video can go viral, social networking tools such as Twitter can aid a revolution and we can even be privy to the secrets of the C.I.A. The truth, as they say, is out there. Or, at least, different accounts of the truth. Web 2.0’s emphasis on user-generated content opens the flow of content and away from preordained market interest, democratising the platform. Users on sites such as YouTube, or its adult mirror, XTube can even make money from their content and the websites offer to facilitate monetary transactions, making their own capital as intermediaries (Mowlabocus, 70) and this serves to further blur the line between consumers and producers (resulting in the amusing portmanteau, prosumer). However, the webs awesome, potentially revolutionary power has not gone unnoticed and unchecked by market forces. “The reason the internet will not set us free is the thoroughly corrupt nature of communication policy making in the United States, and…worldwide.” (McChesney, 103)

Web 2.0 does not and can not operate without considerable market investment and the investors typically stem from the financial elite, the media conglomerates who must are struggling to find new, post-Fordist models of capitalism to reign in the consumerist pandora’s box the free internet has unleashed. Nicole S.Cohen notes how FaceBook is far from the “free” networking tool of leisure it appears to be. Like all new technologies web 2.0 reorganises the production/distribution model rather than revolutionising it in order to extend its control over the workforce and increase capital gains (Cohen, 6) and to this end FaceBook has reorganised the consumers into unpaid producers, marketing their own content back to themselves, selling their personal information to advertisers in the process. This immaterial labour has material worth, and FaceBook has managed to captialise upon social interrelation so that knowledge produced collectively can become private property and profit is made.

Hooper "likes" this

No matter how free the internet is, to innovative neo-liberal capitalism, that freedom is exploitable. As in every other mode of cultural hegemony imposed upon what’s fashionably termed the “99%”, (or  the proletariat *cough* solidarity comrades *cough*) big business has managed to manufacture consent from the masses, making them complicit in their own cultural domination by clicking “I agree” to terms and conditions they never read.

An altogether too obvious example of big business’ vested interests and its corrupt relationship with government policy can be clearly seen in the recent S.O.P.A debacle. The Stop Online Piracy Act which was championed by media conglomerates and the motion-picture and music industry was, by all accounts, poorly thought-out and unwieldy and would have been a dark step toward internet censorship and greater corporate control. Millions of users and organisations came out in protest with some 7000 websites “blacking out” on the 18th of January, 2012 which has resulted in the bill being delayed, at least for now. Online opponents of the bill showed their outrage in a number of novel ways but I think the literary economy and the universality of the meme exemplifies the communal and collective nature of the internet, the same virtues the bill was determined to undermine.

The above “Ancient Aliens” meme plays with our expectations and familiarity with the form. Its subversion of the form, whilst being hilarious, is also brilliantly critical of the bill. The following meme is a rather more obvious affair, again demonstrating the internet’s shared cultural lexicon, its penchant for copywrite infringement and also its general stance on S.O.P.A.

Subtle, it ain't

The bill’s proposal clearly demonstrates the insidious link between media conglomerates and law-makers and their attempts to once again curb and censor the free flow of information but the protests decisive impact and the communal effort that arose from the situation demonstrates the web’s unrestricted and empowering functionality. Perhaps all is not lost.

Bibliography:

McChesney, R.W. (2006) ‘Poilicing The Thinkable’ Hassan, R & Thomas,  J (eds.) The New Media Theory Reader

Cohen, Nicole S. “The Valorization of Surveillance: Towards a Political Economy of Facebook.” Democratic Communiqué 22, No. 1, Spring 2008 1.22 (2008): 5-22.

Mowlabocus, Sharif. “Porn 2.0: Technology, Social Practice and the New Online Porn Industry.” Ed. Feona Attwood. Porn.com: Making Sense of Online Pornography. New York: Peter Lang, 2010. Print.

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