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“Why so serious?” “That joke isn’t funny anymore.”

When I started this blog, I kind of wanted to be a bit funny. Like Charlie Brooker’s later ones. The ones that weren’t about crap tv (though those arguably were the funniest).  I sat down and started to write and thought “Christ, this is hard”, and promptly gave up funniness, instead covertly inserting it into my articles (posts?) like racism in the telegraph.  If at some point you found these attempts at humour and choked on their facetiousness, I apologise. I know I find it irritating when someone comes up with something that’s REALLY FUNNY ALRIGHT.

Thing is, comedy’s a freaking minefield. Not a serious one, understand. The worst consequence is looking like a dick, but for me, sheltered as I am, that’s pretty horrific. To be a “funnyman” (for want of a better word), you need to be an incredible egotist. The sort of person that never shuts up when everyone should be listening to your hilarious story. To quote the ever insightful Bo Burnham:

Have you ever been to a birthday party for children
And one of the children won’t stop screaming
Cuz he’s just a little attention attractor
When he grows up to be a comic or actor

Of course, he also said lots of things. Mainly puns, mainly offensive. But often funny.  The comedian’s assumption is that someone will pay to hear them talk, or read their book.  Actually, it’s simpler than that. They assume someone wants to spend precious time to watch their youtube video, or read their blog. Why? God knows. Maybe their parents didn’t give them any attention. Maybe they gave them too much attention? Dunno. Think about it though. They’re dicks.

Then there’s what to be funny about. Many people do the whole Michael McIntyre thing, observational humour, anecdotes, the like. Apart from simply how many people are doing this now there is the issue I’ve stated above. You are just witnessing someone prattle. “My Dad said the other day…” I don’t know your Dad! You can witness your friends prattle, but about people you actually know. It is far funnier hearing about your mate up the corridor who got his head stuck in the cupboard than a more ornate story about Josh Widdicombe’s friend with a fish in a cupboard. Plus, is it true? What is their input? Or false? Then they lied! Bastards. Like with improv. Improv is rarely as funny as stand up, but it gets away with more because it’s genuine. I am disappointed when Whose Line Is It Anyway looks rehearsed.  So should you.

Then, offensive humour. I walk a fine (entirely personal, and thus probably hideously arbitrary) line on this topic. First, nothing should be out of bounds for humour. Second, you should not be offensive.  This might sound contradictory. You are probably right. I think the intention behind the joke is important, and you can tell this from the joke itself. It’s the difference between a joke on race and a racist joke; a joke about the differences between men and women and a sexist joke; a joke on a serious incident and a joke that trivialises it. Though often, trivialising a serious event is a coping method for people.  I think wait for them to say something first though. Don’t tell your amputee friend you’re taking him out to “get legless”, unless he said something about “rolling out”. Still, from the amount of times comedy has been misunderstood, even when something is clearly a joke, airing on the side of caution is often a good idea. (And I’m not talking about Top Gear, for fuck’s sake. That’s either genuinely offensive or nastily cynically offensive. The “jokes” are simply choosing a subject and laughing at it. They’re not even witty. If you laugh at them, then you become like them. Unpleasant. I rather meant Stewart Lee, who often gives comic disclaimers at the end of his rants. He’s a comedian who takes comedy very seriously.)

I haven’t auditioned for my University’s comedy club yet. Partially for the reasons above. Mainly because I’m not very funny. And quite lazy. But mainly the unfunniness.

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A Taxing Approach To Breaking The Laws

The constant clashes between tax avoiding millionaires, benefit cheats, and the sanctimonious and often corrupt politicians that condemn them could well go on for centuries, if by then we haven’t come up with a better way of paying for our roads and health service. There has always been a gross disparity between the consequences for those involved, and those with the least, and stealing the least, being dealt with most harshly.

Tax avoidance isn’t illegal, though costing the states billions in potential income. The excuse given to leaving the loopholes open are usually along the lines of “there are too many” and the impending fear of losing all the potential tax from all the rich that would leave as a result. The former can be dismissed with a stern “just deal with it. It’s your job.”, but the latter does provide an interesting idea. Companies in the UK make lots of profit, as we are a country of ravenous consumers. Would they really leave simply because they had to pay some more tax? If instead, the alternative was to operate from a different country (such as…Luxembourg), then that just means we’d have to make regulations regarding that (this also seems like a useful job for the EU). The situation does not appear to be that insurmountable. If instead, it’s conniving individuals who want to leave the country if they have to pay a fair amount of tax, then I don’t think it’s too harsh to say that we’re probably better off without them. However, it’s not just avoidance that is granted amnesty by the government, but also illegal evasion, if you’re rich enough. In 2010, Vodafone was let off £6bn in tax (even after it was declared they had broken laws by not paying it).  It’s true, Cameron did criticise Jimmy Carr for avoiding tax, but he employed Phillip Green, tax avoider extraordinaire, as a Government advisor.  This is largely illustrative of the current government’s attitude towards paying tax.

Moving on to figures of government, where there does seem to be a “protect yer own” attitude prevailing, notably with the issue of David Laws, which has been circulating social networks recently:

It’s true, looking deeper into the situation makes him look a bit less like greedy scum, as there is the personal matter of him wanting to keep his sexuality private, and as soon as discovered he started to pay the over-claimed amount back.  The subsequent loss of outrage isn’t helped by the group complaining about him being so homophobic (It’s not that he’s gay, but…) However, it doesn’t change the fact that his actions were no less deliberately misleading than that of Carol Irving, and he has had very little consequences for his actions. Even feeling all sympathetic and liberal (as I am often prone to do), this sort of comparison does not look favourable at all, and that fact that he is returning to government is quite ridiculous.  Surely, for society to run smoothly, we need consistent punishments for crimes?

What this country, and indeed the whole world, needs more equality. Not only in the level of income people receive (which is my usual harping point), but in their punishments, criticism and consequences.
Bit more to read on this subject:

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-1704527/Taxman-let-Vodafone-off-6bn-bill.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/expenses-cheat-david-laws-to-return-to-government-8081390.html?origin=internalSearch?afid=af

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/7780642/MPs-Expenses-Treasury-chief-David-Laws-his-secret-lover-and-a-40000-claim.html

http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Plymouth-single-mother-jailed-pound-44k-benefit/story-16385837-detail/story.html

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Just Wittering On

So, relatively recently I’ve tried to work out Twitter. I’m sure that makes me sound like an old man (“Ahh, someone’s just ‘tweeted’ on ‘the twitter’! What does that say…er…goodness, I can’t understand a word…”), but as a social medium it is nothing short of unfathomable.  It lacks the personal-ness that facebook can claim with its myriad privacy settings, chat options and questionnaires (everyone loves questionnaires) on your favourite books, films, sandwiches etc…  Twitter isn’t easy or practical to use for personal communication (or it shouldn’t be…you shouldn’t tell the whole world about what you’re doing tomorrow). It is telling that with Twitter you have followers, not friends, as that is basically what you do. You say shit. And sometimes somebody listens.  Sometimes somebody even says the same shit as you, and everyone feels all warm about it.

However, due to how short each tweet is (though lord knows, it’s a horrific word), it’s hard to say anything worthwhile.  It’s not like a blog, in which you can expand your ideas and justify them and to a degree make them valuable in their own right: It’s microblogging, so you have to cut out all the bits which make your point interesting. They’re left as just that, a point in the endless void of the internet.

And so! Everybody loves it.

So anyway, I’ve got twitter, guys.  @Igottheconch.

Follow me…(as the lion said to the naive lamb)

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Child playing with a remote. And that remote is the nature of morality.

I had an interesting discussion with some friends recently on the subject of morality. At the core of it was the question: could morality be described as objective?

There are of course arguments in the affirmative, provided by religion.  If God creates a moral code, then what is right and wrong is forever arbitrated by that code, regardless of the apparent societal norms of the people.  Without the existence of a God, would people just run around stabbing each other? Frankly though, for someone who doesn’t believe in such a thing, it’s kind of a non-argument. One way to develop this idea, for a secular perspective, is to look at whether or not the morality of a culture is determined by its religion.  They are of course fundamentally linked, but seeing how members of all religions reinterpret their respective teachings then it is tempting to say that a religion’s moral code, in respect to the things that matter, mirrors that of the culture it is in.  For example, most Catholics I know are ok with gays and contraception.  Regardless, this does not address the nature of morality itself.

The natural way to turn then, is that as morality has no meaning outside of human interaction, then it must be a completely human construct.  Completely subjective, and completely a result of society.  However this ignores two key points: where the morals came from in the first place; and why there is an apparent consistency in the moral codes around the world (that is, most cultures look after the weak and are against theft, and I would defy you to find one that thinks of murder as a good thing).

The view I took here was that morality was a useful product of evolution, a mechanism that allows society to live and work together.  This makes it no less real, and makes good acts no less good for preserving the society that they take place in, rather they act as an explanation for why moral acts can be almost instinctual.  Whether or not this makes them objective is a matter of semantics. They do depend on the mind of the individual, but they are a product of biological effects on the mind that are as fundamental as our need to reproduce. However, this would only be true for some fundamental moral points, and as the only way to observe what these were would be to see consistency across cultures.  In this sense, rather than objectivity, we would be looking for consistency, which might operate similarly in this context, but is a fundamentally different philosophical concept.  Orwell famously said “sanity is not a statistic” and that should be observed here.  Just because the majority believe something does not make it correct, and certainly does not help define the full nature of morality.

It should be noted here that I consider morality a real, tangible thing that affects my everyday actions.  In viewing morality as subjective in nature, if not in practice, I do not devalue it. Rather, I am inexpertly attempting to explore what it is, and how it works.  I am a child pulling apart a remote control to see what makes it do what it does.

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Splurge of thoughts…

Indeed it has been a long time since I last wrote anything on these hallowed pages…the reason being the glory that is the summer exam period!  It left me with little of any real interest to say, unless you are fanatically excited about inexpert views on calculus or chemical equilibria.  I suppose I could have said something about exam stress…but I doubt it would have got far further than “oh my god, I’m so stressed about my exams!”

Testing doth not a poet make.

Rather I’ll talk briefly about the things I’ve been getting excited about:
Prometheus: inferior prequel to Alien…though still visually remarkably and deeply engaging.  I does have an irritating subtext that you should ignore evidence if you think otherwise, pretty much all actors are pretending to come from somewhere else for no apparent reason, it gives the original xenomorph the most ridiculously convoluted life-cycle ever, and takes the original rape imagery a step too far. But it still manages to give the origin to the alien everyone wanted and has great 3D, so that’s alright.

Bear in Heaven: icy electronic majesty… Sinful Nature is not unlike what  having sex with a dream in space is like. Or something. Lovesick Teenagers is  full of joy and apprehension, which is kind of what it feels like being a lovesick teenager.

Amazing Spiderman: Better than the Sam Raimi films by several orders of 10.  It captures the angst, the awkwardness, the humour and the weirdness that I feel epitomises the character…as well as some pretty badass action and convincing soppiness.  It’s directed by Marc Webb (HA!) of (500) Days of Summer fame, and you can see the similarity. No, really! I wish he had more input in the mainly very conventional orchestral soundtrack though…

Howler: Cool, is the best word for this band.  They just are. I can’t ever meet them. I’d embarrass myself. Like a Joy Division meets Beach Boys meets Blink 182…er…but like, a billion times cooler.  Er… Listen to This One’s Different.

And some older stuff: inFamous (I loved it far more than I feel I should have); 99 problems by Jay-Z; Crank (have you seen it? No?! THEN DO SO)

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Not Bullshit: The Cribs, In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull quasi-review

Okay…It may have come out  a couple of weeks ago now, but I wanted to comment on the (now only relatively) new release by The Cribs: In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull.

I’m a big fan of the band of brothers, I’ve seen them live, got shirts, discussed them at length with my (cooler than me) Dad. However, this posed a problem with this album didn’t quite live up to the inevitably large expectations I had placed upon them.  Here, they return to the scratchier, fuzzier sounds of their youth, but with a notable absence of the catchiness present in their previous 2 (excellent, I should say) efforts.  There are no riffs like Men’s Needs, and no choruses like We Were Aborted….

The whole album indeed seems quite old fashioned, from the 90s guitars (which are quite cool now, with Yuck and the like), to the startlingly unexpected ‘oohs’ in Anna, and an old trick of using a chorus for a solo in Chi-town.  This must be a result of Ryan Jarman’s recent taste in burying himself in old cassettes. And Retarded Fish (who, checking out, are pretty good).

I may be dressing this up wrong though, In The Belly of the Brazen Bull is still very good.  There are great songs on it, notably Pure O, Jaded Youth and the single Chi-Town.  Also, it hangs together exceptionally well…it works as a coherent progression of ideas, and is paced to merit listening to it in a whole sitting.  It even finds time for not one, but two distortion filled opuses! Back To The Bolthole, however, is the superior, having a dreamlike quality to it.

Overall, the band has matured musically, moving beyond the indie anthems of their past, and forging interesting and exciting guitar music, filled with witticisms and dirty guitars. But I like anthems! A couple more wouldn’t go amiss…

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Marvel At It All (& Avengers quasi-review)

Oh Joy of all Joys! The moment the geek brethren have been waiting for for upwards of 4 years is here! The Avengers film, or Marvel: Avengers Assemble here in the UK, is finally in cinemas.  By Lee’s beard.  It doesn’t really have a right to be quite as good as it is.  In fact, the whole series was far better than anyone expected.

Iron Man was  an absolute triumph, and in my eyes is up there for one of the greatest comic adaptations of all time.  Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark was nuanced and note perfect, the script natural sounding and funny. And it was cool, very very cool.  There also was some genuine character development, which rare for a superhero film. Sure, the almost bitterly disappointing sequel does away with any of that, making you wonder how much of the first they retconned out when they made it, but whatever.  He goes from an almost evilly self-centered arms dealer and git to a vulnerable hero. Then back to git. He’s less git in Avengers, and they needed someone to make jokes, which he dutifully fills.  Still, the involvement in the Avengers (and 2) does reduce the value of the first as a film in itself, which is annoying.

Thor and Captain America, which both came out last year, were also surprisingly good. Thor did seem too small, despite its galactic backdrop. The risks seemed relatively small-scale, and the action limited in size and length (except for a brilliant opening scene with Frost Giants).  However, this was made up for by some excellent, very human, acting by the whole cast. It must have the only convincing superhero romance I’ve seen on film, and Loki (who returns as Avengers’ big bad) is eminently watchable. You do wonder on Odin’s parenting skills though.  Cap provided good solid adventure, and genuine warmth. It was relatively pedestrian, sticking to a well worn formula, but did it exceptionally well.  Like with Iron Man, the connection to the Avengers, though exciting at the time, seems to cheapen the experience in hindsight.

However, Joss Whedon’s final product is a thing to behold.  It brings together all these massive figures, and they balance out exceptionally well, even if it takes about 3 hours. The characters don’t get much developed, but hey! That’s what the previous films were for! It’s funnier than those that came before, it’s cooler too.  And the Hulk is finally realised in a way that seems right. I enjoyed Ang Lee’s Hulk (I think the psychobabble undertones made me think it was deep when I was 12), but even Ed Norton and Tim Roth couldn’t save the Incredible Hulk.  Mark Ruffalo, however, does him perfectly, and the epic final battle seems designed simply to apologise for all the previous films. At one point, Cap instructs Hulk to “Smash”. Oh yayeah.

You do need an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel Lore to get what’s going on half the time, but if you’ve got that, it’s a huge thrill.  And already it’s gearing to an (inevitably disappointing) sequel. But hell! You see the bad guy in the post credits sequence! And he is an exciting prospect.

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As In Poetry: an overview of the interpretations of quantum theory

I have been working on a report, which I have just finished.

As In Poetry: An Overview of the Interpretations of Quantum Theory

Bibliography

Thought I might share it with the world.

And if you try to plagiarise it, I think the Smiths quotes might get in the way.

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It’s Christmas-time, again.

Yes, it comes every year. I know. The day that celebrates the birth of someone who probably was not born on that day, but who would eventually grow up to be someone who may or may not be the messiah of a people in Israel.  Christmas. Yay.

I have a black Santa hat with Bah Humbug written on it.

Christmas seems to be a time where normal taste is abandoned.  Why would you eat Turkey? It’s like chicken. But worse. And bigger. And worse. And you want to eat it with jam? Decorations, too. Let’s simply forget taste, decency, and good sense, and just cover everything with something sparkly. Including the radiators. You cannot have dull radiators.

Ok, I’m being negative for effect. I love Christmas. I love spending time with my lovely (cough) family, I love the smell of the decorations, of cinnamon and orange, of mincemeat.  I even love the pappy decorations. Yay! But I reserve the right to get Scroogish whenever the mood takes me. Fuck tinsel.

There is one area which holds strange wonder for me though. The Christmas song.  There is of course the rubbish you simply have to listen to every year, without exception. Wham, Slade, Wizzard…As well as “classics”, like “Santa Baby” and just about anything by Bing Crosby ever.  As far as I can tell, nobody likes them, but we still inflict them upon ourselves year after year, in some sort of masochistic Sisyphean cycle. In addition there are the new songs. These come broadly into 3 categories. The anti-Christmas song, which tries to be rebellious through utter grinding misery but so many people have done it already it has become part of the tradition anyway. Like ironic hats.  The really, jolly, damn-I’m-going-to-be-merry ones, with bells and swelling strings and lyrics about “Christmas cheer” and awful, awful videos. And then there are the ones which are just songs. Boring, normal songs that happen to be about Christmas. No!

Two stand out Christmas songs for me though, are the Maccabees’ version of “Walking in the air”, and Blink 182’s “Happy Holidays, you bastard”. The Maccabees’ version is haunting, beautiful, and fills you with a sense of awe usually reserved for classical music and Arcade Fire. Blink’s is notable simply for how unchristmassy it is: “Christmas eve and I’ve only bought 2 fucking presents…I hate, hate, hate your guts, and I’ll never talk to you again unless your dad will suck me off…ejaculate into a sock”

Charming, guys. They don’t even try to justify it. They just leave it there right in the middle of Take Off Your Pants And Jacket.  Classic.

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English, Mother Ucka, do you speak it? Might well contain some proper swears

In college, on the street, on the television. Golly, even in that last bastion of good-clean-fun, the video game, there is swearing. Lots and lots of incredibly obscene swearing.

Fucking hell, it’s all a bit much isn’t it?

I swear an exceptional amount. It’s kind of crept up on me. I have been told I swear “like a sailor”, which is quite loveably quaint, but it does concern me that I swear a lot compared to other youths. Jesus Christ.  Generally, if avoid it in front of old people and little kids, it’s alright, I think. But still…

Swearing definitely has an important part in the English language, beyond punctuating my sentences like pauses in a piece of Shatner dialogue. People need insulting. Pain or disappointment must be communicated somehow. And there are few better ways of getting shock value humour than a well placed curse out of context.

Though that is just it. We’re getting densensitised. It’s odd, but the Inbetweeners is genuinely how my friends and I speak (well, Will and Simon. As of yet, I have never referred to women as “gash” in any other than an explicitly ironic situation.) In KickAss, when little Chloe asks the gangsters to show her what they can do, it almost slips your notice she called them cunts.

I did try for a while to just use fictional swear words, the best being Frak (from BSG), Drokk (Judge Dredd), Smeg (Red Dwarf), Zark (H2G2) and Tunk (Kick-Ass, the comic), but I stopped as I annoyed everyone. They were more offended to hear fake expletives than actual ones! Oh dear…

I can’t help but wonder which words will inevitably come to fill the gaps left by the hard hitters of today… “Hell’s teeth” is no longer a decent expletive today, any more than “retard” a medical term. I hope it’s something funny, like “cheese”, or something topical, like “Gideon”.  I’d call someone a Gideon. It might be a bit harsh though.

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