Author: Music To My Jeers

Take A Neil… Andrew Has Just Signed Us All Up To Fight

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Source video:

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/783357/Andrew-Neil-London-Westminster-attack-monologue-BBC-terror-Churchillian

Andrew McNeil’s short speech on the BBC’s ‘This Week’ show, which included such eloquent phrases as “Poundland terrorist”, “jumped up jihadi” and “jihadi Johnnies”, is a trident to the heart of reason, and only aides in further conflating patriotism with hypocritical ignorance.

Before going any further, the obligatory disclaimer must be recognised. I believe acts of terrorism to be truly barbaric, inhuman and ultimately futile. Those who carry out such attacks, whether they be mentally unhinged, radicalised and/or just extremely violent and hateful, should be considered an absolute danger to all societies. Furthermore, I believe that acts of terrorism can and are carried out by many nations around the world, including our own. Lastly, I do not believe that an act of terrorism on one nation justifies an equally violent retaliation but that I am aware and accepting of causality within a vastly complex geopolitical landscape, i.e. things are never “one sided”.

So how is patriotism being conflated with hypocritical ignorance in Andrew McNeil’s speech?

Patriotism is the support of one’s country but that support cannot just rear its head because the people are in need of a warm fuzzy feeling after a tragic event. That support should be constantly practised and in much more constructive ways. I do not see Andrew McNeil so fervently opposing the privatisation of the NHS or for that matter the Express (who have been promoting McNeil’s “Churchillian” esque speech) in a TV broadcast to the masses. Ironically, the NHS was not at the top of Churchill’s post war to-do list either. If the British people are to be patriotic about anything our ancestor’s achieved, surely the NHS should be at the heart of our patriotic rhetoric, for it is probably one of the greatest institutions in the modern world and it was forged in the fires of democracy. The tax avoidance by multi-billion pound companies, freezing pay rises, increased unemployment, increased child poverty, food banks, billionaires making money from British infrastructure and syphoning their money out of our system and into off-shore accounts are all immensely unpatriotic acts and yet they receive no such emotive attention. If patriotism is to count for anything it has to be about what is best for our Nation and its people, all of the time.

One of the most damn right condescending and insincere lines within McNeil’s speech was:

“The most important people in this country are not the rich, the powerful, the famous, but those that run to confront the enemies of our civilisation.”

I am sure there were many people sat at home listening who thought, “Me! He’s talking about me! I am one of the most important people.” I like to think that there were still some with the analytical ability to think, “You patronising ****”.

So let us get this right. We are not the most important people when it comes to the acquisition of wealth, power or influence but when then is mortal danger to be had we are the ones to call yeah? Not only do we get the shitty end of the financial/social stick but we can be put in harm’s way to protect the ones at the gold plated end. But it’s ok because secretly we know that we are the most important ones.

He goes on:

“…for every braindead, brainwashed Islamist you send to do us harm, we have thousands upon thousands of Keith Palmers.”

The tone of this language is one of defiance which is all well and good if it were not for the actual content. It is tantamount to saying, “keep it coming because we have loads more cannon fodder for you, brave cannon fodder, but cannon fodder nonetheless”. This is yet again false patriotism in all its unashamed, sacrificial glory. Not to mention that Keith Palmer was a police officer and if he and by extension the police service, are to be used as an example, does that mean that cuts to policing by our government should be stopped. Or is it ok to financially decimate the institutions that are used as examples of patriotic protection?

ISIS and its brand of terrorism did not just spring into existence. It has evolved through a very complex chain of events that involves, not exclusively, Western powers, including our own. Anti-Western animosity has been exacerbated through countless operations carried out in the Middle East, a number of which did not have the support of a great many British Nationals and yet still went ahead. And now danger has found its way to our doorstep we are being offered up like domestic soldiers who are even more ill equipped than the professional ones who were sent into Afghanistan by our “patriotic” government without suitable equipment or concise battle plans/goals which resulted in many unnecessary deaths.

British patriotism has become a parody. It is made up of out-dated and misplaced pride from the days of the Empire and chauvinistic ignorance that is more concerned with foreign threat than the much more dangerous, morally unjust and societally eroding rot which has taken hold at our very core. This is not to say that terrorism is not a problem, whether it be a bombing campaign in Syria, a beheading on the streets of London, a plane hi-jacking in America, civilian deaths in war or pretty much everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth. But Andrew McNeil’s speech with its tabloid rhetoric and antagonistic jibes was both disingenuous and wildly ignorant in equal measure.

Through the pursuit of wealth and power, Western governments and businesses, for their part, have helped to create a monster that cannot be destroyed through conventional warfare. Moreover, they have unpatriotically employed these same pursuits on their own people but in a much more stealthy fashion (austerity), as dropping bombs and installing dictators in your own country would not pay off economically.

My bone of contention is not with the message that he is trying to convey, which is that we will not be bullied into submission and that we will go on living our lives. I wholeheartedly agree with defiance in the face of terrorism, and that the unity and strength of the people is our greatest asset. But the ideology is falsely sacrosanct when we allow our own government to destroy our welfare state from within, when we as a Nation part-take in the bombing of other countries where children’s limbs are blown off, or when retaliation, all be it verbally, becomes antagonistic.

Maybe we should start to muster more patriotic defiance towards the Andrew McNeils of the world who encourage us to look down the barrel of a gun…literally!

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Straight from the Shorty’s Mouth

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I came to terms with the fact that most heterosexual women are attracted to taller men quite a while ago. It is genetically programmed into their psyches just as much as a love of womanly curves is embedded into mine, and to resent them or myself for it, would be unjust, immature and ultimately futile. Furthermore, I am, on the whole, content with the rest of my physical appearance. By no means do I consider myself to be “good looking” but nor do I consider myself to be ugly. And even more importantly, I am content with my frame of mind and how I relate to other people and the world in general. I would much rather think my way out of hole, or discuss my thoughts and feelings than start a fight. Therefore, as much as I may moan and criticise, I am neither angry nor violent and if the “Napoleon Complex” exists, I would like to think it does not apply to me. However, what I cannot come to terms with is the culturally accepted verbosity from many women regarding a man’s height as a prerequisite for attraction. As a fully functioning heterosexual man, I am hyper-aware of the aesthetic lures from the opposite sex but it would not be considered politically correct to state my perfect woman as, “big breasted, dark and beautiful”, yet how often do women cite, “tall, dark and handsome” as their perfect man?

At a compact 5’7”, I have been told in various ways by a number of women over the years, some of whom were very affable, others not as much so, that my dimensions do not “stand up” to their vertical requirements. In a matter of fact way, this is absolutely fine; it is life, it is primeval natural selection in all its uncompromising fashion and furthermore I probably felt the same about some of their physical attributes. The difference being, however, that I did not highlight their physical shortcomings (excuse the pun), and it would be considered wrong, if not derogatory, to do so. What a horrible, shallow bastard of a man I would be if I told a woman, “I’m really sorry, but your thighs are just too chunky” or “you seem really nice but I like my women with bigger boobs”. This tactless verbal expression of an observation best kept to oneself shows a complete disregard for the recipient’s feelings but even then it is still not a true reversal of the situation. One’s weight, for the vast majority of us, is within our control and even breasts can be altered with surgery (not that I am suggesting they should be). Height on the other hand is pretty much set in stone, one has no control over it and yet it is acceptable to be verbally discriminatory against it. Just to reiterate; finding taller men more physically attractive is completely normal and acceptable, but a complete disregard for short mens’ feelings should not be, any more so than that of a plus size or small breasted woman. Men tend to be less out spoken emotionally and culturally regarded as thicker-skinned, but as a short man I can say that the handling of the truth can be offensive and hurtful. I am the first to poke fun at my own height and I welcome it from those that are close to me; having a sense of humour about oneself is paramount in finding peace of mind. However, when culturally applied by the opposite sex as a stigma, it can be a bitter pill to swallow without grimacing at the hypocrisy of the situation. So if you are the kind of woman that has no qualms about telling a man that you prefer taller men than him, you have no right to be insulted if he then tells you that he prefers slimmer or prettier women than you.

Taking A Pop… At Pop

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The Intro

For those of us who know the difference between good and bad music and are not perturbed by the dubious rebuttal that all Art is subjective when making such assertions, the world of contemporary popular music is a ceaseless, soulless, poisonous assault on our auditory system. Its flawlessly disinfected, divisively assembled output is the antithesis of creative passion, musical excellence and narrative substance; worst of all it’s not even fun anymore. On the contrary it takes itself far too seriously.

From a technical aspect the process of making pop songs has shifted significantly, partly due to new technology which has enabled non-musicians to create music and partly due to the increasing primacy of profit and fame within society. The years spent practising an instrument involving one of, if not all of the following; technique, keys, modes, chords, tone, dynamics, melody, tempo, rhythm, syncopation, orchestration, phrasing, harmony, hooks, study of different genres, style, feel, live performance, playing with other musicians, writing music, writing lyrics, song structures, solos, stage presence, instrument set-up and associated equipment set-up will not have been learnt, appreciated nor cultivated. Moreover, the growing and unquenchable thirst for wealth and celebrity status has been a catalyst for both lowered standards within the performers/material and lowered expectations within the audience. Reality culture which has caused standards to drop across the board for entertainment, has not only made it the norm but it has helped lower expectations by promising the attainability of fortune and fame for all. Lowered expectations are more accepting of lowered standards and lowered standards are more appealing for getting your foot in the door and so a downward spiral ensues.

The Unusual Suspects

It is not only the lack of musical experience, knowledge and social integrity which are leading us further into the abyss of a singularly dimensional soundscape, but the process and politics of constructing and marketing big hits. I use the term “constructing” because there needs to be a description that implies something less organic than “writing”. A very common process is that a producer(s) will make a number of backing tracks from samples, synths and drum sequencers without any interaction from live musicians and/or instruments (a detriment I will allude to later). They will then invite a Top Liner to their studio. Top Liners are vocalists who are hired by producers to add vocals to a backing track in order to create a song. Some Top Liners specialise in sounding like particular artists, which can be handy if the producers have a particular artist in mind when making the song. Top Liners can differ in their approach to ad-libbing, but some will take magazines into the vocal booth and select random lines from it whilst varying phrasing, rhythms and melody until the producers hear something they like. Some will literally make noises, ticks and sing gobbledegook, making up words and sounds, anything that comes to mind. This process will be repeated until the producers have enough segments they deem usable, to manipulate and paste together for a finished piece. Some tracks maybe discarded by a Top Liner, or returned to at a later time, and the process can potentially be very fragmented. The emphasis for the vocal line is on the amount of usable hooks; as the average time a person will now spend listening to a song on the radio (whilst searching) before changing stations is just 7 seconds. Therefore, pop songs need to be laden with hooks to keep the importunately, child-like attention spans of the pop connoisseur appeased. Moreover, they are excruciatingly formulaic both in structure and sonically. Such emphasis is put on the vocal/singer, partly due to X Factor culture, that the backing tracks lack any variable details, which to the trained ear, is dumbing down the music and essentially making it uninteresting, even laborious to endure.

The back catalogues of those few pop acts that have managed to sustain a career in recent years are mostly due to the following offenders:

STARGATE – not the charming cinematographic soiree into an Egyptian-esque world somewhere across the cosmos but two Norwegians producers named Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen. These two are advocates of the Top Liner process and produce more contemporary pop hits (including many of Katy Perry’s and Rihanna’s) than nearly everyone else put together. A rather depressing, yet evident fact is that Coldplay used them to produce ‘A Head Full of Dreams’.

MARATONE – a music production company (that sounds like the budget version love-child of Parlophone and Tom Hank’s Playtone) consisting of the two Swedes Max Martin, Shell Back. Unfortunately they are a stark contrast to the creative talents of Swedish national treasures Björn & Benny and they look like greasier versions of mid-life crisis man David Guetta.

Producers Benny Blanco, Dr Luke and RedOne should also get a “shout out” and “big up” for their part in this money making, sub-mediocre farce of a travesty.

Collectively, either as producers or songwriters, these seven have had their laptops fart out nearly all of the hits for:

Rihanna
Katy Perry
Ke$ha
Ne-Yo
Ariana Grande
Taylor Swift
Nicki Minaj
Pitball
5th Harmony
Ellie Goulding
Britney Spears
Flo Rida
Pink
Cher Lloyd
Lady Gaga
Mohombi
Nicole Scherzinger

Too Many Cooks (Win You A Grammy)

It is no longer like the days of old where an artist would work closely with one producer, in one studio over a long period of time to not only develop an artist’s sound and material but to forge strong artist(s)/producer relationships where the producer themselves, at least for a time, would become “one of the family”. The jet-setting lifestyles and demanding schedules of these popstars means that recording is done (in the words of Tim Mitchell, Ron Smith and Gloria Estefan who wrote the song for Shakira) “Whenever, Wherever” it can. The end result is that albums are written, produced and recorded by many different people at many different locations.

‘Unapologetic’ – Rihanna = 51 writers and 27 producers (Rihanna received a Grammy)
‘Get Weird’ – Little Mix = 33 writers and 11 producers
‘Delirium’ – Ellie Goulding = 29 writers and 19 producers
‘Up All Night’ – One Direction = 29 writers and 14 producers
‘I Am… Sasha Fierce’ – Beyoncé = 22 writers and 15 producers (Beyoncé received a Grammy)
‘Prism’ – Katy Perry = 19 writers and 9 producers
‘Because Of You’ – Ne-Yo = 17 writers and 9 producers (Ne-Yo received a Grammy)

This scenario does two things; firstly, it does not enable an album to have any continuity or character. There was a time when live rooms in studios were famous for their acoustic characteristics and where certain microphones and mixing consoles added their own subtle qualities to the mix. When this was paired with the vision of one dedicated producer, the result was an album that had its own distinct character and sound, it took the listener on a sonic journey and each individual song was recognisable as belonging to that album. There are an interminable number of examples from ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ to ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ to ‘Return Of The Space Cowboy’ to ‘Led Zeppelin II’ to ‘Bad’ to ‘Philadelphonic’ to ‘Simple Things’ to ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ to ‘Sabotage’ to ‘Tracy Chapman’ to ‘London Calling’ etc.

Secondly, it brings into question the level of creative input that that particular act is contributing, and consequently their real, not perceived or insisted, level of talent and due merit. Many of these act have their names in the writing and production credits because legally they are entitled to, just by changing a phrase or a word. With so many other writers and producers involved in the writing process it only requires some simple deduction to realise that the contribution of the acts themselves, cannot be a great deal. Bob Dylan has recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature, now whether or not he deserves it on literary merit can be debated, but what cannot be debated is that 50 other people helped him write those lyrics. So do Rihanna, Beyoncé or Ne-Yo deserve a Grammy and the preceding worldwide acclaim that ensues? Furthermore, auto-tune (once a dirty word) is capable of making many acts sound much better than they really are, so even their vocal talents can be called into question. When all of this is stripped away, what is it about these individuals that is really being celebrated; a fictional ideal, a sexy body, an attractive face, a glorified lap-dancer or maybe just a glorified karaoke singer?

Sloppy Seconds

Thousands of songs can get pitched to the more successful acts and many will never make it past their respective management teams. It’s like the Dragon’s Den of songs, where they are passed around looking for the best deal. When songs are rebuffed by the first choice of act, they often find their way to other acts. For some, such as Rihanna and Britney Spears, these “sloppy seconds” were to launch their careers.

“Don’t Cha” – Pussycat Dolls (offered to Paris Hilton)
“Toxic” – Britney Spears (offered to Kylie Minogue)
“…Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears (offered to TLC)
“Umbrella” – Rihanna (offered to Britney Spears)
“Disturbia” – Rihanna (offered to Chris Brown)
“We Found Love” – Rihanna (offered to Nicole Scherzinger)
“Telephone” – Lady Gaga (offered to Britney Spears)
“Gold Digger” – Kayne West (offered to Shawnna)
“Since You Been Gone” – Kelly Clarkson (offered to Pink)
“Rock Your Body” – Justin Timberlake (offered to Michael Jackson)
“Irreplaceable” – Beyoncé (offered to Shania Twain and then Faith Hill)

“Halo” – Beyoncé (offered to Leona Lewis)

This fairly indiscriminate passing around of material from one act to the next is indicative of an industry that regards these “individuals” as nothing more than all singing, all dancing dollar signs. Furthermore, with teams of people worrying about every aspect of their musical direction, musical content, appearance, wardrobe, public persona, diet and choreography, there is no requirement for individuality between these individuals, beyond what their genetics have gifted them aesthetically. You only have to witness the behaviour and language of will.i.am, Nicole Scherzinger, Justin Bieber or Cheryl “Do The Fandango” Tweedy-Cole-Versini to realise that they lack any significant intelligence, charm or wit and are in fact very insipid and uninspiring characters which is so ironic and frustrating considering the social platform that they are afforded.

The process of wholly creating one’s own music (for the best part); naturally developing one’s persona through life experience on and off stage; plumbing the depths of social commentary, vivid imagery, poetic metaphors and subtle wit; inspiring or embracing movements and starting your career as a naïve and sincere journey without any preconceptions (which X Factor culture has destroyed) has been scrapped for a line-up of malleable, clone-like vessels. When this undiscerning, interchangeability of characterless music between equally banal individuals is paired with the aforementioned lack of creative input/talent from said individuals, it is clear to see that the idolising and worshipping or these people as “talents” or “artists” is the symptom of a façade behind which there is no interest in the integrity, creativity, originality or quality of the creative musical process or its output.

So remember next time you hear, “Little Mix are busy writing their next album…” or “Nicole Scherzinger has been working on some new material all about her recent breakup…”, they probably changed a word in a line of a song that 9 other people wrote. Even acts like Taylor Swift or Ellie Goulding who are marketed as having much more control over their material have gradually shifted towards having more and more people contribute towards the creative process in order to sell records and make money. Both women have appeared in television adverts selling consumer products. Whenever Ellie Goulding’s digitally manipulated face appears on that Pantene Pro-V advert telling women, “Strong is beautiful!” I cannot help but utter the same riposte at the television every time, “No, strong would be having some professional integrity!” Imagine Joni Mitchell being the face of Allied Carpets in 1971 “Shag-pile is beautiful!”

The Message

In my opening statement I very boldly asserted that there is good and bad music and that the subjectivity of music can be called into question. So far my focus has been on the credibility of the acts themselves and the process by which pop songs are constructed. I shall now allude to the content of the music in more detail.

Rihanna’s performance of “Work” feat. Drake at the 2016 Brit Awards is a perfect example of bad music; musically, lyrically and from a performance perspective. Musically the backing track is saturated with sequenced hi-hats, an electronic clap sample, a lifeless “boxy” bass drum sample that quietly pops away in the background during the chorus and some staccato synth which is fairly indiscernible and subdued. To the trained ear, it is easily recognised that this “soundscape” has been used to death. It is minimalist, unchanging and resembles something that my toy Casio keyboard used to play when I selected ‘No.85 – Latin Fusion’. The song lacks any melodic or rhythmical progression of any kind, and so leaves the more sophisticated listener feeling as if someone has just relentlessly hummed the same note in their ear for 3:50. As I referred to previously, the emphasis is all on the vocal; the backing track itself is neglected and displays an absence of any melodic, harmonic or rhythmical complexity or diversity. Put plainly, it is lazily constructed and musically incompetent. The absolute reliance on programmable synths, sequencers and plug-ins to create pop music is quickly putting the session musician out of business. This is disturbing for two reasons. Firstly, it leaves us with countless backing tracks that all use the same hi-hat/clap formula such as ‘Hello Bitches’ – CL ,‘If I Were A Boy’ – Beyoncé ,‘Cry Me A River’ – Justin Timberlake, ‘On My Mind’ – Ellie Goulding to name but a few of literally hundreds and hundreds. The tonally monotonous and rhythmically mechanical sounds of the minimalist drum loop do not compared to the plethora of sounds that a drum kit can provide or the infinite rhythmical and stylistic nuances that a live drummer can add. When this is complimented by the beautiful, interweaving language of live musicians playing together to create a rich tapestry of melody, harmony, call-and-response, fills, chops, breakdowns, solos, techniques and human imperfections (which actually gives the song groove), then you end up with something that is greater than the sum of its parts. The Motown pioneers The Funk Brothers are the perfect example of this in action. Even an instrument as overlooked as the tambourine took a leading role in Motown music because musicianship was celebrated and an integral part of the music. Electronic music can be great and definitely has a role to play. However, when it is used as a cheaper alternative to hiring session musicians and/or by someone who is lacking the musical experience and knowledge that was outlined at the beginning of this article, then it is nothing more than a lesser version of much greater music.

The message that a song conveys through its lyrics, and just as importantly in pop music, through its accompanying video or live stage performance, can have a large impact culturally and by extension morally. The lyrics to “Work” which are grammatically awful and difficult to interpret (possibly because they are grammatically awful) are the combined efforts of, wait for it… 8 lyricists, yes 8! In all its inelegantly, ambiguously, nonsensical glory it is a good example of songwriting by committee, where phrases and lines are cobbled together and the chance for some deeper meaning or theme is obviously clumsily suggested as an afterthought.

The following examples display the stark contrast between good and bad lyrical content and if you fail to see this or simply do not care then you are blinkered by ignorance and probably a lost cause on the subject.

Bad Lyrics “Been working extra service to give it to ya, Didn’t mean to make you nervous you motherfucker.” ~ M.I.L.F $ – Fergie

Good Lyrics “I dig my toes into the sand, the ocean looks like a thousand diamonds strewn across a blue blanket, I lean against the wind, pretend that I am weightless and in this moment I am happy.” ~ Wish You Were Here – Incubus

Bad Lyrics “I’m the one “for a good time call,” Phone’s blowin’ up, ringin’ my doorbell, I feel the love, feel the love.” ~ Chandelier – Sia

Good Lyrics “She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes, She can ruin your faith with her casual lies, And she only reveals what she wants you to see, She hides like a child but she’s always a woman to me.” ~ Always A Woman – Billy Joel

Bad Lyrics “And you got me singin’ oooooh, Oh your body makes me go oooooh, I throw up my hands, say thank you to the man, ‘Cause just a touch, you is a blessin’ and I’m glad I can.” ~ Religious – Ne-Yo

Good Lyrics “Golden slumbers fill your eyes, Smiles awake you when you rise, Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry, And I will sing a lullaby.” ~ Golden Slumbers – The Beatles

Bad Lyrics “Smack that all on the floor, Smack that give me some more, Smack that ’till you get sore, Smack that oh-oh!” ~ Smack That – Akon

Good Lyrics “You whisper “Come on over”‘ cause you’re two drinks in, But in the morning I will say good-bye again, Think we’ll never fall into the jealous game, The streets will flood with blood of those who felt the same” ~ Friends, Lovers Or Nothing – John Mayer

And then there is the performance itself where Rihanna can be seen simulating standing sex, bent over whilst provocatively grinding her behind into Drake’s crouch. Remove the ‘singing’ and she is a glorified backing dancer at best and a pole dancer at worst. If she is selling herself, or more aptly, if her PR team are selling her as a music artist, then why the need for such an overtly sexual display? The answer is simple, because sex sells and that is particularly important when your music is terrible and the lyrical message forgettable and meaningless. And here is the crux of why I would deem this music to be bad, objectively. It simultaneously appeases and sustains the continuously degenerative, libido fuelled, intellectually inimical and commercially imposed penchant of the infamous ‘general public’. Which furthermore acts as an opiate and distraction from the reality of just how unmusical it is. Rihanna is not an isolated case by any stretch of the imagination, just watch the video for M.I.L.F $ by Fergie, it is verging on soft porn. As a heterosexual man I would be the first to admit I find it incredibly pleasing to the eye but even after the sudden rush of blood leaving my head, I am still not too blind to see that it has nothing to do with musicality (which is meant to be her chosen profession) and everything to do with tapping into our primitive sexual urges to make money. More disturbing still, children are increasingly subject to such provocative material which is instilling these degenerative values before they even have the chance to know better. Whereas women in pop can be seen using their bodies to sell “their” music, it is commonplace for the men to convey chauvinistic messages and actions. This is evident in the live performance as Drake cockily gyrates his pelvis into Rihanna’s booty’s airspace or in the endless videos of rappers surrounded by bikini clad girls like the archetypal bull surrounded by his harem.

The Outro

A great many people will say they love or at least like music; it is woven into the very fabric of human existence, for our bodies themselves are instruments. Melody, harmony, tone, timbre, rhythm, tempo, pitch, dynamics, orchestration; they all have a physiological effect on our bodies whether it be dancing, crying, smiling, goose bumps, tapping feet, an elevated heart rate or a release of dopamine in the striatum creating a moment of blissful, euphoric ascension. Lyrics can evoke, inspire, reflect, suggest and create ideas, imagery and meaning for any situation, thought, feeling, place or time. Moreover, it is capable of creating equally antonymous feelings of upset, despair, boredom or annoyance. Therefore, I must concede that on this level music can only remain subjective. However, it is apparent that there is a lot that is objectively bad about pop music and so even though people may get enjoyment out of it we must remember that people enjoy all sorts of things that are shit for them, from smoking through to scatophilia. Some people just prefer to have the shit in their ears!

The Extraordinary Spoof

god_believe_in_yourself_525255

Tell me what’s wrong with the country today?
 There aren’t enough Christians to hope and pray.
 
 Tell me what you think praying will do?
 Well God hears your call and answers you.
 
 What does he tell to the children with cancer?
 Your God has a plan, that’s my final answer.
 
 How best does he use his omniscience?
 He creates good, that turns evil, kills his son, then laments.
 
 What does he say about all suffering foreseen?
 Heaven awaits and what’s been has been.

How best does he use his omnipotence?
 He creates other religions that misrepresent.
 
 What does faith enable people to do?
 Bomb, rape, skin alive, but there’s also good too.
 
 Why would God create any suffering?
 I don’t know but Heaven sounds rather comforting.
 
 Why did Jesus arrive in the Iron Age?
 The first few billion years were warming up back stage.
 
 Why do the miracles physically not withstand?
 Are you implying it’s a fiction that got out of hand?
 
 Answering questions with questions, when all we need are the facts,
 In the hay day of religion, facts would have led to the axe!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 Without God how do you explain all that you see?
 I can’t explain EVERYTHING and that’s OK with me.
 
 But then how do you find beauty in all that can be? 
 The beauty is in learning and the quest for discovery.
 
 Are you scared when you die there won’t be something?
 I wasn’t scared before birth and that was just nothing.
 
 Without the holy Bible how can you know what is right?
 Filicide, rape and sodomy don’t set my heartstrings alight.
 
 There’s no harm believing in this for ourselves!
 Unless a fundamentalist, no more than pixies or elves.
 
 Do you want your child to grow to be loving and kind?
 Not from a fear of hell seared in their mind.
 
 You put your faith in science, your position is the same,
 It doesn’t declare all the answers, it’s not the same claim.
 
 I don’t trust Science, how many souls has it saved?
 Science is the only reason you’re not naked in a cave. 
 
 Ghosts are the proof after death there is life?
 Only for ladies in black and ladies in white.
 
 Your position is insufferable you’re a complete know-it-all,
 Yet it is you who claims knowledge that’s infallible.
 
 Your probing offends me you treat my beliefs like a spoof,
 Because your extraordinary claims lack extraordinary proof.

A Culture Diseased

iphone-cigarette

Selfies of loved ones in hospital beds,
 They may well survive but their dignity's dead.
 Their digital footprint knows not decency,
 Just as long as those comments increase frequently.

Walking through crowds with their eyes on their phone,
 No need to make way when the world is their own.
 As they put the word "Like" between every word that they tweet.
 "It's lk gt outa my wa, I'm lk walkn dwn d st!"

Aspire to be famous however they can,
 Talent's overrated and normality a sham.
 Idolising those whose ignorance wins acclaim,
 As they confound the essence of infamy and fame.

Taught to believe they can be anything one day,
 Instead about personal limits which are normal and OK.
 Regurgitating memes of a culture diseased,
 Begging for fame whilst down on their knees.

Express your uniqueness by getting a tattoo,
 Stand out from the crowd as you stand in the queue.
 Get a spray tan and whiten your teeth,
 Because it's much more work to embellish what's beneath.

You use terms like "banter" when you mean masquerade,
 On the eternal, all important, quest to get laid.
 You say you speak your mind when you mean you are rude,
 On your self-deluded pedestal of social ineptitude.

Posing for photos shows the real you,
 PR's all important if the world's to love you.
 And love's so important you save most for yourself,
 Just like you do with empathy and wealth.

Hating Israel – The Moral Imbalance

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I am not insinuating in any way that other ills occurring across the planet should negate concern or silence demonstration against the Israeli government’s actions but it does beg the question, why choose the Israel/Palestine conflict in particular?

I know that the gravity of a conflict cannot just be measured purely upon the number of civilian casualties, but I do believe it to be a good starting point.

1000’s Muslims killed by ISIS.
6,500 Palestinians killed by IDF (in the past twenty years)
6,500 Yemenis killed by Saudi Arabia/US
10,000 Iraqi civilians killed by coalition forces (during occupation)
10,000s Muslims killed by the Taliban
15,000 Nigerians killed by Boko Haram
26,000 Afghans killed by coalition forces
61,000 Pakistanis killed from domestic terrorist violence (since 2003)
100,000 Black Muslims by Arab Muslims in Sudan
180,000 Syrians killed by Assad (in 2 years)
100,000s North Koreans killed in labour camps (over past few decades)

*These are all approximate figures but still provide a scale.

Now maybe I am just not looking hard enough, although the fact I do not have to is probably evidence in itself, but the anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli rhetoric receives much more pro-active and high-profile attention than any of the other current conflicts or atrocities listed above in the form of celebrity outrage, organised rallies, protests, Facebook groups, websites and volunteers travelling to the occupied territories. There is an official boycott Israel website but I am yet to find a boycott Saudi Arabia or boycott America one. I cannot recall seeing a protest on British streets about the 19,000 rockets and mortars fired into Israel by Hamas over the course of the past 16 years. Why? There are only three reasons I can think of:

1) Very few Israelis were injured or killed (apparently aggression is all right as long as no one gets hurt).
2) The media do not report on it a great deal.
3) Anti-Semitic animosity sees it as their comeuppance.

None of these seem rational, fair or acceptable.

Of course not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic but much of it is; the telling sign is the hateful and aggressive language that can be seen on the internet or witnessed first-hand at public demonstrations. Terms like “genocide” are often used.

“Genocide – the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” – www.dictionary.com

The hi-jacking of the term genocide by anti-Israel groups only serves to fuel its own outrage. The main objective of genocide is to eradicate a whole people from existence and the Palestinian population, in all territories including Gaza continues to grow steadily. So either Israel are particularly inefficient at genocide or the term is being wildly bastardised to self-satisfy the anti-Israel rhetoric. Not only does such an overtly abusive use of language desensitise us to the actual meaning of the term but also does a huge disservice to the victims of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, Chinese Occupation of Tibet, the Cambodian Genocide and the Rwandan Genocide but to name a few. There does not seem to be any voice within the anti-Israeli faction that attempts to moderate such hyperbolic language and attitudes.

Then there are those who themselves engage in more moderate behaviour. However, it can be hard to separate such conflated lines of reasoning, of which, both draw the same conclusion. That task will be orders of magnitude harder for the Israeli government when literally surrounded by countries that deny its right to exist and have had a history of opposing the Jews right to settle there at every turn. The incessant animosity towards the Jews long before they had an army or even a country was rife. Those sentiments are still rife and Israel has been gradually brutalised. This may not be an excuse for its actions in occupied Palestine but it is a step towards dealing with the problem in a more even-handed manner. An understanding of the modern history of the conflict should be paramount in developing an informed opinion.

1919- The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement proposed an agenda for both Jews and Palestinian Arabs to live on what was former Ottoman Empire territories.

1921- A hard-line Palestinian movement lead by Amin al-Husseini decided that Jewish immigration into Palestine was the main obstacle towards establishing a national homeland for Palestinian-Arabs. Consequently, extensive riots were carried out against the Jews in Jerusalem and Jaffa and many were massacred.

(This spawned the formation of the Haganah, a Jewish defence force which was to eventually become the Israeli army.)

1922 – The Arabs were offered eight places out of twelve on an official council set-up by the British, with two Jews and two Christians making up the remainder. The officials would be voted for by the population and presided over by a High Commissioner. However, the Arabs boycotted the election as the subject of Jewish immigration to the region was not open for discussion. When offered a second time in 1923 they refused again.

1929 – Arab leadership rioted again against the Jews which resulted in large numbers of Jewish casualties and their subsequent evacuation from Gaza and Hebron.

1935 – Leading Palestinian protagonists, al-Qassam, was killed by British troops. This lead to the 1936-39 Arab Revolt in which the British defeated the majority of resistance and many Arab leaders were forcefully expelled.

1937 – The Peel Commission was setup in order to create a partitioning of Palestine into two separate states for both races to live separately and put an end to the violence. The two main Jewish leaders, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion accepted the proposals, the Arab leaders rejected them.

Post WW2 – In order to avoid further bloodshed and set up a home for all the Jewish refugees and Palestinians alike, the United Nations in 1947 announced a plan to partition Palestine in to a Jewish state, Palestinian state and the City of Jerusalem (to be shared). The very next day, four months of constant fighting broke out with the Palestinian forces on the attack with the Jewish forces on the defensive.

1948 – The Jews were winning and had gained a lot of territory causing a Palestinian refugee problem. Other Arab nations were roused by their Palestinian comrades’ efforts and carried out sporadic violence against Jewish settlements throughout North Africa and the Middle East causing a paralleled Jewish refugee problem.

Palestinian resentment towards the Jews was present long before the Jews had taken any action against them. Scapegoating Jewish immigration, instigating riots and subsequent violence, spreading pro-Nazi propaganda (during WW2) and showing nothing but hostility towards a decimated and scared people fleeing horrific genocide. Furthermore, disregarding pre-war proposals for partition and then reacting violently and aggressively towards the post-war United Nations proposals, by physically going on the offensive to eventually become over powered and forced to retreat, creating a refugee problem of their own making. Not to mention uninvolved Jewish settlements being attacked elsewhere in the Arab world and causing a new Jewish refugee problem. The same problem that had caused Palestinian animosity to rise again after the Second World War. At this point in history the Jews were the underdogs and there is no denying that they had been down-trodden from the holocaust and that the Arab world outnumbered them greatly. In 1947 Palestinian-Arabs outnumbered Jews approximately two-to-one.

The bombardment continued with the Arab-Israeli war and Six Day war, the latter of which saw Israel take control of the Golan Heights, West Bank, Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. Not only did they gain ground but their economy flourished and an influx of Jewish migrants entered the country. Had they been left alone those things may not have occurred. History appears to show a pattern, whereby the Arab world would be better off if they stopped playing the aggressors.

2005 – Israel’s Unilateral Disengagement saw Israel pull out of Gaza.

2006 – Hamas assume power and refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist or renounce violence, so Israel cut direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.

2007- Hamas and Fatah start fighting one another in Gaza, killing 600 Palestinians within a year.

2008- Over 3,000 rockets were fired into Israel. As a response The Gaza War broke out and saw 1,400 Palestinians killed.

Israel left Gaza in 2005 but physically aggressive provocation towards its citizens led them to return.

A former chief of staff for the IDF once said, “Until the wolf shall lay with lamb, we’d better be the wolves.” For me this sums up their attitude completely. Israel has become hardened by the character of its enemy and so it responds with more force than it is shown (they should not be shown any in the first place) in the hope that eventually they will be left alone. Peace from strength. However, this is not the case and the lesson is never learnt. It is like poking a smaller boy with a stick until he hits you and then everyone turns around and shouts at the smaller boy. Nay, in the case of Hamas, it is like poking a smaller boy with a stick until he turns around and hits you but before you are hit you place one of your brothers in the way and then everyone turns around and shouts even louder at the smaller boy and demands he be brought to justice. Moreover, that smaller boy is surrounded on all sides by the bigger boy’s friends all wielding sticks in a threatening manner. I refer to Israel as the smaller boy as their population and armed forces are much smaller in comparison than those of their immediate Arab neighbours, who collectively have attacked Israel in recent times.

Israel is constantly criticised for its actions by celebrities, social commentators and the media alike, but criticism of its antagonists pale in comparison. If peace and the well-being of ALL peoples in that region are truly what matters, then there needs to be a rivalled critic of Hamas, Fatah etc., without it there is a moral imbalance and no workable resolution. Doctrinal hate and perpetual antagonism against Israel must also be addressed:

“The Day of Judgement will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslim, O servant of God, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’” – Extract of Hamas’s Charter (taken from The Hadith)

A fair discussion would require a neutrality that can see things from both points of view and I believe that the Israeli point of view is massively under-represented, in the media and constantly lambasted by anti-Zionist rhetoric. The history is often totally disregarded at worst and at best seen as a sob story about how down-trodden the Jews used to be. Little credence is given to the hostility shown towards them through historically documented events whereby they have never been afforded the chance of a peaceful coexistence. In order to have a balanced debate about a populous that is under discrimination and oppression (Palestinians in occupied territories) it must be recognised that Israel suffers both those things as well. Discrimination in that all the aforementioned counts for very little and oppression in that 19,000 rockets and mortars have been fired upon them.

Our own foreign policy is far less justified in its actions than Israel is, who find conflict on their doorstep and have done for decades. They respond to actual domestic physical threat and we respond to bank balances, oil and geopolitical influence. Hence our own behaviour should take precedence. When I see British students holding flags saying, “Everything About Israel Is Illegal” or “Boycott Israel” I do wonder what their motivation is, why they chose Israel as their personal crusade, where they get their information from and why their “charitable” concern does not start at home?

I will absolutely concede that the Palestinian civilians living in the occupied territories are being treated very badly and that it cannot go on, Israel’s actions towards them are unethical and needs to stop. Hamas’s action are also unethical, ironically against their own people as well. Israel seized Gaza after a war that they did not start. They left Gaza until attacks upon them, which they did not initiate, caused them to return. It seems to me that unless Israel were to remain either completely passive or do everything exactly by the book (which absolutely no country in the world does during conflict, the Western countries included) then the intense scrutiny of the world will never be appeased. If Israel were to drop its defences that protect many of its citizens and the Israeli death toll were to sky rocket (excuse the pun) would that leverage more sympathy I wonder.

To summarise:

1) There is a huge amount of exaggerated language and attitudes which appears to abandon reason and pedal terms such as “genocide” which is indicative of either someone who is ill informed or someone who harbours an irrational hatred, both of which have no place in critical debate. Moreover, there is no effort made by the moderate anti-Israeli protesters to temper this behaviour.

2) Anti-Semitism, although not a prerequisite of having an anti-Israel stance, does nevertheless exist within these groups and so serves to attract more numbers; increasing the perceived validity of the position, lacing it with emotive rhetoric and ultimately tipping the scales away from an impartial and clear understanding of the whole situation in favour of a goody and baddy scenario.

3) One can still be misinformed, biased and open to anti-Semitic rhetoric without being anti-Semitic.

4) The history of the situation should not be disregarded or seen as purely a sob story. It displays an intolerance for the settling of Jews by Palestinians since that land was liberated from the Ottoman Empire. An intolerance spawned from deep seated religious ideologies that do not wish for a peaceful co-existence. If only we could all do away with religion, I’m sure it would remedy a lot of Global issues, after wealth that is!

There appears to be a great many people who rely on emotive imagery and indiscriminately exaggerated information, a little bit like those Daily Mail readers!

Uniform(school)gate

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I absolutely agree with the headmaster Matthew Tate.

After witnessing Holly Willoughby on ‘This Morning’ (which was on in the background…honest) ask Matthew Tate in a live interview whether the way in which he has conducted the affair is appropriate, considering all the media attention it has drawn; he very aptly replied that yes he does, although he would rather be doing his job than appearing in their interview. The media jumps on the story and then presents a loaded question about the harmful implications of their own chosen interaction in said story. Declining an interview would no doubt have given him a more sinister reputation in the public eye but by appearing, his professional integrity involving the privacy or his pupils is called into question. It’s a lose-lose situation for teachers. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Here are a couple of Daily Mail headlines in all their characteristically understated fashion:

“Police are called to school gates as parents protest after ‘Gestapo’ headmaster sends home SIXTY children for not wearing the right uniform – on his FIRST day in the job”

And

“Parents’ fury as children are KETTLED by teachers as new headmaster steps up his ‘Gestapo-style’ crackdown on uniform rules sending home another 20 children”

To be compared with earlier headlines:

“Think school pupils are rude and unruly? You should meet the parents”

Or

“Could unruly children be tamed with a vitamin pill? Pupils taking the supplement were ‘better behaved at school'”

It’s OK everybody, the Daily Mail has it all in hand. Teachers please don’t intervene in enforcing school rules or children’s behaviour.. you human herding NAZIS! All the kids need is to pop some vitamin pills… obviously! And we should consider the aggrieved  parents’ fury as justified even though they are more rude and unruly than the pupils.

So:

Contradictory – CHECK
Ambivalent – CHECK
Indiscriminately Vicious – CHECK

*DISCLAIMER – If after reading Daily Mail headlines you feel nausea, head aches or dizziness it is probably because you have just read pure poison. 

My memories of school were that is was nearly always the kids that wore the wrong items of uniform, or just wore them incorrectly, that were the bullying, gobby, nasty little sh*t bags. A great many parents of our generation, and the next, waiver all responsibility and dump it into the laps of teachers (as if they didn’t have enough to deal with). Yet when the teachers take control of something that the parents should be policing, they come under fire from those parents and some of the media.

Dear parents, do you want your children to learn respect for rules and discipline in order to help them gain important life skills that will enable them to function successfully and happily in society, professionally and personally?

If yes, then dress them correctly; clothes shopping and fitting over a period of six weeks is relatively straightforward. If your child dresses themselves incorrectly then discipline them appropriately. For if a parent’s attitude is laissez-faire about school rules then how can anyone expect the child to be anything else? Teachers and parents should form a united front and children should be taught to respect that.

Parents are the first teachers in any child’s life and always the most influential.

Support our teachers. Support our doctors. Support our nurses. Support all those that try to build and maintain a progressive, safe, healthy, creative and caring society.