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Ups and Downs

Having a low day today. Spent the weekend with some friends who I might not see again for a long time. I will miss them and their company but I know I will see them again and they have a lot going on in their lives at the moment.

We mostly watched films and chatted about stuff we like and friends we share. We caught up on things people have been up to and although I didn't say anything snarky about anyone, afterwards I felt gossipy. That's something I aspire not to be any more and I feel like I let myself down in some way. I try to surround myself with positive people and good things and not let myself be influenced by things that will bring me down or give in to the negative. I shouldn't have even started down that path but y'know...wine happened.

Obviously it must have played in the back of my mind because I went to bed last night and had horrible dreams in which some secret thing about me had been revealed (but I don't know what) and I was surrounded by people I knew but everyone hated me. I woke up in a very low and fragile mood. I know dreams are only dreams and you shouldn't let them get to you but when I have dreams that give credence to the negative things I think about myself, it affects my mood for the whole day.

It's easier said that done but it is much better not to dwell on people you don't get along with instead of giving in and letting them dominate your thoughts. It's much nicer to say nothing at all than to think about them or tell them what you think of them. You're not going to make them change and what do you gain about making them feel bad about themselves? Even if they don't care what you think, no one likes being told that someone find you dislikable. Try to forget about them and focus on something more positive instead even if it's silly internet cat videos or Bob Ross painting some happy trees. Dwelling on the negative things that your subconscious cooks up just bums you out for the whole day.

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Fresh Start

So as of yesterday I am officially a student again.

It was my first day of a new direction for me as I started a Foundations of Counselling course at the local college. It's a big step for me because it means learning totally brand new to me and as someone who had disastrous prior encounters with higher education to the point that I still have regular bad dreams about it, it was a scary obstacle to overcome.

I felt a little socially anxious when the inevitable group icebreaker session started. I mean, who the heck would actually choose to speak to me? Luckily I got through it and as with all experiences that you tend to overthink, it wasn't as bad as I thought. Someone actually recognised me from the work club where I volunteer on Thursdays (note - must remember to try and recognise her tomorrow so I can say hello) and the lady who sat next to me was a volunteer at the local C.A.B - something I've been meaning to try for ages. You said it was great and the people there were all really nice. Maybe after a few more conversations over the coming weeks, I can build myself up to seriously considering offering my help. I've had the form filled in for ages and had it sat on my desk ready to go.

As we went around the room and gave reasons for why we were on the course, I felt like there was lots of common ground there and a number of people I could have spoken to and shared experience. However, as a guy who looks like the typical sad loser loner for whom female contact is a rare thing, I really don't want my attempts to talk to the ladies on the course to be taken as crude attempts to chat them up. It's something I always worry about when talking to girls for the first time. Girls must be so used to hearing the various bullshit approaches that men use to try and get inside their pants and I don't want my genuine attempts to be nice to be misconstrued as anything else. If I can make a few new friends from the course then I'm happy. I don't want anything more than that. I just want to show everyone that I am a nice person. As one of only 2 guys in a class of 15, I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable around me. It's a major issue I have. I mean, I know what I look like and which stereotype I must seem like but it's important to me that people see me as just being friendly instead of some lonely loser out to put some girl on a pedestal and mumble some bollocks about friendzones.

Disgression aside, it was a good day and an auspicious start. I think I'll be able to handle the course, talk opening with people and above all learn to listen in the correct way. I really hope this leads to a fresh start for me.

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Realisation.

It's easy to notice when your mood is low just as it's easy to hear 10 things said about you and only remember the one bad thing and not the nine good things. When you're in a good mood it's all to easy to overlook it and forget about it as a good thing.

Sundays are usually a bad day for me as they are for lots of people. Even though I don't have the worries of work on Monday, I still find myself feeling very low, at odds with the worlds and generally depressed. It's a shame because I enjoy having Sunday dinner with my folks and I'm becoming middle-aged enough to enjoy settling down with Countryfile and a nice cup of tea. However sometimes that isn't enough to keep the head demons at bay. I've cut out reading the Sunday papers because they heighten my frustration with the world which seems to help.

When I came home yesterday and was lying in bed, I realised i was in a good mood. Sunday hadn't taken its usual toll on me. I thought it was important to remember that and take it as a positive step on the road to improved mental health. Today I even went to Asda to do a little shopping. This is something that often triggers my anxiety, not just because of the decision-making that shopping entails but the narrow aisles and large amount of people who get in my way. Today I managed it and didn't even think about it - something I would never have been able to do a few months ago. Again this is something I need to remember as a good thing and something I can draw upon next time I think 'you can do this'.

Plus as a bonus, I bought Avengers: Age of Ultron on blu-ray.

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Futsie

Future Shock

From Wikipedia:

Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970. In the book, Toffler defines the term "future shock" as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies. His shortest definition for the term is a personal perception of "too much change in too short a period of time".

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The 2000AD comic has published a series of short stories called "Future Shocks" for a number of years. In the Judge Dredd strip, victims of Future Shock were referred to as "Futsies". A futsie was a term to refer to a resident of the 21st and 22nd century who suffered from Future Shock: violent insanity brought on by the stress of mega-city life. Any random factor could trigger it. The term always amused me whenever the business news came on the TV and they talked about the FTSE index. I imagined it referred to the amount of people suffering from future shock.

I'm sure that when 2000ad brought the term into popular comic culture they probably thought that future shock would be something to do with robots and flying cars and while that future hasn't come about (yet), I do think that future shock is a real thing and I think it is partly to blame for my mental health.

There can be no doubt that the internet, computers and smart phones have changed the way and speed with which we can access data. Whenever a sustained period of waiting must be endured in modern life, we no longer have to stare into space and lost in thought when we can check on social media, send a text or play a quick mobile app game. The amount of distractions available to us have increased as much as the time we spend exercising our imaginations has diminished. Instead of losing contact with friends, we can now monitor their every thought and meal through various social media platforms. We might not actually interact with them or say hi but we can 'like' the heck out of their posts.

When I was in school, I had a major crush on a girl in another class. So much so that when he picture appeared in the local paper, I cut it out and kept it as it was the only way I could get a picture of her. Nowadays you friend a girl on Facebook and see all sorts of pictures. i don't mean that in a salacious way but growing up without computers meant that as soon as the school finished, you had no idea what the rest of your classmates got up to or how the opposite sex spent their time with their friends. Now it's easy to see them on shopping trips, playing games or pulling duckfaces on sleepovers. People are more accessible than ever. So is porn. As more and more young - mainly boys- access porn, there is more of an expectation that porn is the way to conduct your affairs with girls (I'm keeping this simple BTW which is why I'm not exploring the LGBT angle). When I was a kid, you'd be lucky to get to second base under the jumper. Now it seems that teenage boys expect to cum over a girl's face because that's how most porn concludes. Maybe this is an exaggeration but I do believe the expectation is there and I feel sorry for the girls who feel obliged to er, receive if that's what it takes to keep a boyfriend (or so the guy has told her).

The way modern life conducts itself is the thing that gives me future shock. Everything from the destruction of the music industry by TV talent shows who dominate the Christmas No.1 slot with instantly forgettable pop ballads instead of fun Christmas songs to the ruthless pursuit of fame by people who think that by simply wanting it hard enough will make up for their lack of any discernable talent. The over-sensitivity of people on social media, the sharing of links designed to outrage those who casually click on them. The eroding of the petition of useful political tool to something used for drunken laughs to get enough people to say they want Pancake Day to be a national holiday with free pancakes for all or something. Everything is becoming more trivial and shallower. TV is full of programs telling us how cool it was in the 80s or 90s because nothing exciting has happened since the 21st Century began. The use of modern standards of morality to judge the actions of societies from the past. How far do you want to take that? Do we want to get the monarchy to apologise for condoning child exploitation during the industrial revolution? How do we know that the things we do now won't be judged harshly by the society of the future when moral codes have changed yet again?

I look around at the world I live in and it frustrates me so much that I want to scream. It makes me want to check out. It makes me think the world is on a downward spiral and soon we won't be able to say or do anything. I don't mean that in a 'loony left' or 'big brother' kind of way. It's just that for every person who believes passionately in something there is someone who passionately believes the opposite and what happens when those people stumble over each other's social media post and mobilise their friends and followers into a flame war? if you have a point of view you should be expected to be able to defend it but what get's me is the amount of people who declare they are outraged and offended instead of engaging in reasoned debate. Oh and let's not forget all the daytime TV adverts encouraging us to sue someone for accidents or claim PPI that we are entitled to, mostly so we can donate £3 a month to provide clean water to help save snow donkeys. Entitlement - that's the by-word for the cause of a lot of problems these days.

So far this millennium it's not the robots or the zombies or the technology that's causing future shock but the changes in society certainly exacerbate mine. I feel like I can't live in this world any more.

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Schmunday

Sundays are bastards aren't they? They are the buzzkill of the weekend. They are the post-con blues you get following a great Saturday. Whatever your mood is or has been, you can guarantee that waking up on a Sunday will considerably lower your mood. Sunday is the day that all the negative thoughts come out to play. Today I am beset by hatred, disappointment, inadequacy, isolation and the feeling that no one wants anything to do with me.

As a kid, Sunday was always homework day for me. Sure, I should have done it all on Friday as soon as I came home from school and have a whole free weekend ahead of me but nooo I saved it all up until Sunday, thus making the whole day suck. If I was visiting my grandparents, it meant having to get up early and attend a dull church service in dress up clothes. In grownup times the misery of homework has been replaced by work-work and even though I don't really have that any more it doesn't detract from the fact that Sundays suck and today makes me feel miserable.

I think of the foibles of modern life and all the things that annoy me about modern culture and the feeling that the world has got shallower as it's got smaller. The amount of slacktivism and online outrage at the smallest perceived flaw in the things people say or do is just so tiring. It's impossible to like anything. If you say you've seen a film or heard a song then you're more likely to get comments from people who didn't like than those who did. Your joy in things is eroded by these simple things and it's hard to find enthusiasm, let alone share it with anyone. It feels like it's not worth caring anymore.

Morrissey didn't like Sundays either. He wrote quite a depressing song about it. However despite the lyrical content, damn if that boy doesn't know how to write a catchy song.

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Humour

In a list of hypothetical remedies that includes chicken soup and hugs, they say that laughter is the best medicine. Certainly when I am in the grip of depression, I can't watch anything serious that could be triggering and prefer to reach for some comedy. Saying that, there are very few comedy shows that I actually watch on TV.

Most of the big name comedy shows that get praise heaped upon them do nothing for me. I don't bother with any US family based sitcom or anything that seems to revolve around dating or relationships (Modern Family, The Middle, Rules of Engagement, How I Met Your Mother) and I loathe The Big Bang Theory. It claims to make geek culture more mainstream but I find it patronising and it's still essentially a comedy about dating like all the others but just one wearing fake nerd glasses. I also dislike any comedy that relies on a 'breakout character' to get laughs. Sheldon in TBBT, Jack in Will & Grace and all the way back to Latka in Taxi. When the writers have nothing better to progress the scene, they just get the breakout character to come in and do something unexpected and wacky and the audience will soon be a-whoopin' and a-hollerin.

The most annoying US comedy trope for me however is the inherent racism. It's something I can't imagine getting away with in this country. Whilst I do have an issue with judging society of the past with the morality of today, I can't deny that some of the things you seen in Channel 4's It Was Alright in the 70s are downright unacceptable. Yet you still see large amounts of race-based humour in American shows. I've been watching a lot of Impractical Jokers recently and whilst I find a lot of it amusing in the Jackass tradition, there is still too much racial stuff for me to be comfortable with. The show involves going up to random people and saying something prompted by the other guys talking to their friend via an earpiece. They seem to find funny things to say when going up to anyone CIS but as soon as it's an African-American then the only thing they can find to say is something race-based. Even in something like Inside Amy Schumer you find a lot of references to people of non-white races. Sure there are references to the foibles of Caucasian people too and I don't want to single her out but I do find that far too many American comedians and comedy shows have an over reliance on racial humour and it's not something I could imagine any white UK comedian getting away with on TV over here.

I don't want to get into a huge debate about race or who is allowed to make fun of who because that's just diving down a rabbit hole you'll never get out of, but using skin colour as a source of humour does absolutely nothing for me That along with breakout characters and the foibles of dating do nothing to tickle my funny bone. I think that's why I've enjoyed Parks and Recreation so much. It's funny but it's also nice. It's not bitchy, racist and for a sitcom based in a work environment, it doesn't trigger my loathing for bureaucracy, corporate culture or the tedium of office life. I wish more shows were like that but I guess you can't make a diamond in the rough without there first being a whole lot of rough.

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Spoiler

Sky Movies are showing all the Star Wars films this weekend. Even the shit ones. I guess with a new Star Wars film being released at the end of the year, the publicity machine is on a slow warm-up. No doubt millions will be spent on publicity which is a waste of money in a way because whatever your current view of the Star Wars universe is, if you're a fan you're still going to go and see the film no matter what you think. Like Doctor Who fans who criticise everything about the new incarnation of the show, they can't leave it alone like poking a sore tooth.

For big sci-fi or Marvel films I never bother with the trailers or the trailer teasers or the teasers for the teaser. I know I'm pretty much going to go and see that film. To be honest the main thing that diminishes my interest in a franchise is personal interference. Sure I'm a Star Wars fan but I never owned any of the films. I'd seen them all so many times over the years that they'd become over familiar so when I felt like watching a film in the evening, the Star Wars ones would never be the ones I'd reach for out of choice. I only ended up buying copies because someone who's a big Star Wars fan insisted I did so after finding out I didn't own them and at the time I had the money to do so.

Sadly that same person is now way up there on my shitlist so whenever I think of Star Wars I think of that person. I have enjoyed the Clone Wars series but haven't bothered with Star Wars Rebels because basically fuck that guy. I needed some background TV the other day and tried to put Empire Strikes Back which was on a Sky Movies channel but gave up after a few minutes because of bad thoughts rising. It's the same case with the Dredd film. I am beginning to actively dislike it because its' fanbase still cling to the delusion that some day a sequel will still get made. Newsflash: it won't.

Have you ever had a franchise you like eroded from your interests because someone who was a bigger fan than you has fucked you over in some way? It's a bit of a bastard really. It's one less special effects big screen extravaganza that you can't enjoy without invoking unhappy memories. I really hope the same thing doesn't happen with the Marvel films or else I'll be really screwed!

NME R.I.P

So I found out yesterday and completely by chance that the NME have published their last issue after 63 years.

I was wandering past the magazine rack in Tesco and glanced upon a special commemorative issue of the NME that featured a look back over some of their best covers, interviews etc. As I had nothing better to do I picked it up and saw it was a retrospective over the last 63 years of publication. I thought that was a funny number to celebrate as it's not significant in any way so that would suggest it was coming to and end. Out of curiousity I flicked through it and bought it - the first time I've bought a music paper in at least a decade. It had pictures of past NME covers, a lot of which I remembered so it was worth £3.50 of my moneys.

When i got home, I looked up the NME's website and discovered that yes, it was to stop publishing in its' current paid format and would be relaunching itself as a free paper towards the end of September. It made it sound like it was going to be a live music guide so I wonder if the new format would be like Time Out or the Metro but I'm guessing that there would be less content with the majority of the music news possibly appearing on their website instead. With the internet moving much faster than the printed word these days as well as falling reader numbers for magazines in general, I guess ending the paid version is a bold move. I see a lot of magazines forging ahead with the digital format of their publication that's designed to be read on tablets but I've not seen anyone attempt to make their publication gratis. It'll be interesting to see how it pans out for them.

The thing that surprised me is that I only found out because I was bored in Tesco. The NME is an institution that's brought us many great moments in the history of music as well as the formation of some memorable bands who got together through the classified ads section. When something like the Beano or Dandy comics ceased publishing, I stumbled across internet articles about it. When TV shows come to an end you see people sharing links to online petitions or crowd-funding sites to keep them going. The end of the NME hadn't cropped on my radar at all. Is it relevant any more? Does anyone read it? Does anyone care? It seems not.

I used to pour over all the music papers - NME, Melody Maker and Sounds. My student bedroom was festooned by cut-out photos, adverts and posters. The free compilation tapes housed great discoveries - even the lo-fi c86 musical scene was prompted by a free NME tape. I'd buy the papers every week and in one old job, I could make them last for a week's worth of lunch hours until the next issue came out. As the Britpop scene of the 90s faded away so did my interest in the paper. Music was changing, watering down and artists seemed less interesting. The acts they championed seemed piss weak. I often wondered what music journalists did when there wasn't any good music to champion. Did they have to work up false enthusiasm for shit bands? Did they try to build a scene around whoever was up and coming at the time? Did they look on the walls of the office at previous headlines and bands and wonder why there hasn't been a particularly notable music scene or huge band to emerge any time in the last 20 years? Muse are probably one of the biggest UK rock bands at the moment and even they have been around for a bit. How come no young bands have broken big? Is it the change in the way people consume music, the domination of TV talent shows or is it just that most modern bands are shit? If you've come of age in the past 15 years or so the chances are you were brought up listening to X-Factor acts and not bands rocking with their junk out and saying anything meaningful. How do you start a hip young gun-slinging band when your influences are dull?

So the NME as it was has died with a whimper and not a bang. A free gig guide seems so disposable and their website is another online news site whose unique voice is drowned out by the sound of many competing websites all breaking the same news at the same time. Seems a bit sad really.

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Thoughts

I have reoccurring nightmares about college or university and have done for years. If they're not random bad dreams that take place in a nightmare version of my old university then it's something to do with timetables or not knowing where I'm going or where I'm supposed to be and everyone else does.

I thoroughly messed up my degree and I think my sense of failure and letting people down is a lot to do with that. I always felt uncomfortable about training courses at work or having to learn something in which I did not have a personal interest because that essentially sums up my student career. I had no interest in the subject really and in hindsight I should have done film studies or something like that but hindsight makes prophets of us all as they say and back then I really didn't have a clue what I wanted to do nor the gaul to suggest it and there was much less course diversity in the world of academia than there is for students today.

I think signing up for this counselling course is bringing a lot of these feelings to the forefront again. It's new knowledge, it's out of my area of expertise, I worry that I won't be able to learn it or take it on and I will end up failing again. Thanks to my CBT, I know these negative thoughts are just that, but they're still hard to deal with and my mood has sunk lately and my brain is spinning off evil hypotheticals again, seeing the bad in things which probably aren't there and catastrophising. I know I shouldn't listen and I try not to but it's hard when they try to reinforce all the things I think about myself.

I really would like to do well on this course and have it open new doors for me but it's really scary to think about it.

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Samples

The music industry can often act like a headless chicken when a sea change occurs in the ways in which music is made or consumed.

Currently the big bone of contention is performance rights generated by the new ways in which people get their music. Downloads, streaming and online videos are becoming the norm for how we get our music these days but the royalties given to the artists are minuscule. Just as the DVD same the demise of VHS players, kids these days are unlikely to own a simple radio. I would hazard a guess that even the mp3 is on its way to becoming obsolete technology as a smart phone does its job easily and with more functionality. Progress has no mercy.

Technology had previously changed music when sampling became easier to incorporate into tracks. All of a sudden snippets of songs were cropping up and becoming the foundation for new songs. As with all new toys some played with this new thing excessively. Early pioneers like Bomb The Bass excelled in making tracks composed almost entirely of samples. On the b-side of Yazz and the Plastic Population's Doctorin' the House you got all the samples used on the a-side with nice audible gaps inbetween so you could use them yourself. Of course the originators of these samples were quite dischuffed at this and began to demand recognition and compensation. On albums such as KLF's The White Room and Faith No More Live At The Brixton Academy the sleeve notes included what samples had been used and their length. This could be a real problem for any singer on a live album who decides to improvise 7 seconds of the Right Stuff by New Kids On The Block (or New Skids On The Jocks as I knew them) during the chorus of a song.

For the most part the sampling furore died down but did occasionally raise its head. The Prodigy caused much controversy (as they often did) with their overuse of the 'smack my bitch up' sample by Ultramagnetic MCs. Similarly Welsh band Super Furry Animals ran afoul of Donald Fagen by looping a line from a Steely Dan song Show Biz Kids that went "You know they don't give a fuck about anybody else". The line was looped over 50 times and was often used by SFA to end their gigs with the track sometimes going on for over 10 minutes. The track almost didn't happen as Fagan refused to clear the sample and only relented when the Super Furries agreed to his condition that he receive 95% of the royalties from the song. Obviously that man give quite a considerable amount of fucks...or should I say sold 50 uses of the word fuck in one song to a popular Welsh beat combo who used it to make a much better protest song than Steely Dan did. I'm sure there is a lot of irony at work here.

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