If it weren’t for one game, i’d be a fatter person than I am today.

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“Badly dressed child not included.”

Those of us with sufficient long term memories and a dollop of rose-tinted nostalgia for our video game obsessed childhoods will know that physically healthy video games were not established at the advent of the Wii. We are also aware that dance-based games were not invented with the launch of the “Just Dance” line. For around the turn of the century, Playstation were desperate to secure a winning franchise that involved you having to buy a plethora of additional equipment just to play with it… Buzz!, Eyetoy, and all manner of other nonsense too. Arguably the most fondly remembered of these games is the subject of this post.

Still prevalent in many an arcade to this day, Dancing Stage (or Dance Dance Revolution, as it was known in the Americas and Asia) became exceptionally popular amongst my peer group in the early noughties. Utilising the dance mat required to play the game, players had to move their feet in often insanely complicated sequences along to a combination of chart hits and a larger selection of bizarre original tracks composed specifically for the game. And this is where I get to the real purpose of the blog. I imagine up until this point you may have been wondering why I had been rambling about gaming on a site designed for the discussion of pop and politics. Well, I will enlighten you. Last year I decided to investigate the music of the “Dancing Stage” games for the purpose of a nostalgia trip and was pleasantly surprised that many of the tracks are very oddly listenable in their own right. Being around a minute and a half in length, I find some of them are like perfectly condensed versions of the crowd-pleasing dance and mindless drum and bass tracks that I enjoy otherwise. It is overwhelmingly likely that many of you will disagree, as the type of music i’m about to feature does cater to somewhat niche tastes. I will however, push ahead with an exceptionally exciting countdown of what the maniacal game announcer would undoubtedly call “cool Konami sounds!” Special mentions go out to Scotty D’s “Drop The Bomb” and Factor X’s “Wild Rush” for their narrow failure to be included my compilation of the very best. Nonetheless…

HERE WE GO!

5. NAOKI – Brilliant 2U

The first entry in this countdown could have been one of many by composing mastermind NAOKI. “Brilliant 2U” is only one of several tracks that he produced for the game, others of which include “Dynamite Rave” and “B4U.” His prolific nature on the games make him one of the most fondly remembered artists featured on the games, and I will admit that his compositions were certainly the most appealing to myself as a child. I believe this is primarily because pieces like “Brilliant 2U” owe much more to pop music that many of the others on the games. I chose this song specifically because it was the first I ever played on the game at my childminder’s house, and it fills my mind with fond memories of watching her 40-something frame utterly failing to keep in time.

4. DE-SIRE – SP-Trip Machine (Jungle Mix)

Just the very fact that the title of this track mentions it’s jungle music credentials cannot help but remind me of the brilliant Adam and Joe’s hilarious guide to making your own “edgy Brit film” many moons ago. But there is clearly nothing hip about this game original, it sure is enjoyable for a bit of fast-paced walking. The punchy majority of the song is complimented by beautifully pointless bursts of vocal and small interjections of what can only be described as “muzak.” Worth a listen if only to placate your curiosity about what on Earth the above description might actually sound like.

3. DWI – Afronova

Whilst doing the minimal research required for this piece, I discovered that this track is unsurprisingly one of the hot favourites amongst the Dance Dance Revolution enthusiasts. I will admit that it did present a real challenge for this slightly chubby 11 year old when it came to gameplay. However, it’s appeal is entirely understandable. In my later years, I have been seduced by the stupefying BPM and the strange psuedo-ethnic allure of Afronova. The attached video for this entry is a viral video of a young Asian boy I saw a while ago, completing Afronova with the skill and precision that literally no-one reading this will ever manage in their time.

2. NO. 9 – End Of The Century

Now, here is a piece of music that would likely never have existed were it not for this game. The charm of “End Of The Century” lies in it’s sheer absurdity. This panic attack of a song combines drum and bass, modern dance stylings and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It was amongst my favourites for gameplay, and I certainly spent many an afternoon exhausting myself trying to conquer it, even if only on intermediate level! It is not a piece recommended for those of a nervous disposition, but is nonetheless relentlessly fun and represents everything that made the Dancing Stage games weirdly brilliant.

1. NAOKI – Burnin’ The Floor

And finally, we reach the nadir. I was genuinely torn as to whether this merited the top spot, but in the end was won over by it’s relentless enthusiasm and energy. I would suggest that, ludicrous middle eight aside, this is easily the entry on the chart that sounds most like an actual song. Despite the composition duties falling once again to Japanese whizz kid NAOKI, the vocal pattern and lyricism remind me hugely of the golden era of Eurodance in the early nineties. Because of this, this track is most certainly the easiest to listen to outwith the context of the gameplay itself. I strongly urge you make it a feature on your iPod in the near future!

Have you ever been a player of Dance Dance Revolution or Dancing Stage? If so, please comment with your most keenly remembered selections!

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BBC Radio One (Note)

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“One for Edith Bowman, and the other for Zane Lowe.”

Following the long-expected resignation of Chris Moyles from Radio 1’s breakfast show, I thought I would discuss the place in the media landscape that the station appears to occupy today. Much emphasis has been placed on this announcement, it being a more obvious indication of Radio 1’s altered priorities and direction. More acute observers (yes, perhaps such as myself!) have noticed change ebbing in through a variety of mediums. I would suggest now that Radio 1 perhaps represent something very different to what it did ten years ago.

Of course, the resignation of Moyles is a very big indicator in the new style of presentation that the station is aiming for. It was a trend that perhaps began with the banishment of hook-nose stalwart Jo Whiley to Radio 2 and continued with the pushing back of Scott Mills’ slot into the early afternoon. We can gauge the stations priorities mainly by analysing the personalities (though that description is a bit of a stretch for one of the people i’m about to detail) they have chosen as replacements. Firstly, Jo Whiley was replaced by eternal hate figure Fearne Cotton. Her limited vocabulary and unabashed enthusiasm demonstrate her (supposed) direct appeal to youth. Similar is the appointment of Greg James into drive-time. Now whilst there was no love lost between myself and Whiley/Moyles, I didn’t realise quite how much I appreciated the fun and variety that Mills offered the station until he was shunted back in favour of this younger model. He is also one of the last bastions of the station with a genuine passion for pop music. His replacement James feels like someone engineered clone of about five of the laddiest of laddy lads, all of whom count banter amongst one of their top three most used terms. He does have a hint of awkwardness about him that stops a transition into “full blown wanker” and that is something I can appreciate, but he otherwise is simply a somewhat mediocre young guy now being pushed forward as one of the station’s top talents in a way that is perhaps unmerited. As some readers may know, James was one of the names thrown around in the media when it was revealed the station would be replacing Moyles but eventually wasn’t chosen, the powers that be instead opting for a camp haircut of a man known as Nick Grimshaw. For myself, this only cemented what I perceive to be the T4-isation of the station.

This is a process that is exemplified also by the current state of the playlist. Whilst it was always been the remit of Radio 1 to try and capture the attention of young people with the music they play, the orchestration behind today’s playlisting is altogether more knowing than in the past. Incidents in which Radio 1 fail to playlist something that has high commercial appeal are now ever more common. I believed up until this week, that Radio 1 had decided against adding the launch single of 2011 X Factor winners Little Mix to their roster. Their track “Wings” has obvious potential to be a gargantuan hit, even when we acknowledge the undeniable corniness of it’s message and the undoubted saccharine pop appeal. However, the continued absence of the track on the Radio 1 airwaves made me feel that it’s lack of perceived “edge” had let it down. For this “edge” is what the Gods of the Radio 1 playlist at least appear to favour above all else at this point. A quick comparison of the iTunes top 20 and the playlist seem to indicate that the station’s attempts to appeal to their designated demographic are out-of-step with what this demographic are choosing to purchase. Particular stand-out omissions include Nicki Minaj’s new release “Pound The Alarm”, currently sitting at number ten on the iTunes chart and “Brokenhearted” by Karmin which lies at number two. Additionally, directly following the Eurovision Song Contest, Radio 1 refused to playlist the winning song, Loreen’s “Euphoria”, despite campaigning from Scott Mills and it’s position at the top of the iTunes charts.  This is not to say that everything of this ilk is shunned, but there are an overwhelming number of spaces on the playlist occupied by music that might be perceived as more underground and hip, but that the vast majority of people are just not buying aside from a few crossover hits, such as Rudimental’s “Feel The Love.”

I definitely see some of this as a desperate and cynical attempt to be seen as on the cutting edge and in line with what is apparently cool to be listening to, there is certainly an element of that in the stations choice of DJ’s and music. However, it could simply be that the station is truly adapting in an attempt to respond to the criticism it has received in recent times for it’s role as a public service broadcaster. When the axe faced BBC 6 Music, many of it’s fans and supporters were irked by claims that it encroached on the territory of the commercial sector. They were quick to fire back with the same criticisms about Radio 1, far more relevant in that context they were to. Since this time, it seems as though a substantial proportion of Radio 1’s motivation for change has been less resemblance to Capital FM, not just to appear contemporary and trendsetting, but also to fulfill it’s obligations as a public service broadcaster by giving a platform to music that needn’t necessary receive the attention it deserves on commercial stations.

This is not something i’m averse to. I love BBC Four! But I think it’s clear that Radio 1 need to stop being quite so harsh on themselves. I am aware that the days that they would playlist Jessica Simpson are well and truly over, but they need to cease the highly convoluted cynicism that has become synonymous with their playlisting. They also need to banish the notion that those aged 16-35 are incapable of relating to a DJ outwith that age group, and they need to realise this before they decide to fire Sara Cox for that very reason. Let your hair down, Radio 1! After all, this bizarre stringency is not what being young is about.

The favourite chart topper in a nation of apparently exceptionally dull people.

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Even the logo is a visual punch in the face.

I apologise for the blog absence over these last couple of weeks. Preoccupation has been the name of the game. However, I hath returned feeling the need to comment upon one of ITV’s summertime offerings! Now I realise that that is a sentence likely to provoke horror within the very core of anyone with taste. All year round, the channel’s schedule reads like a something that may be broadcast inside specially designed torture chambers for anyone with an IQ over 94. But I urge you to persevere, for I am shunning any discussion of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus search” reality show bungle in favour of pretending it doesn’t exist.

No, instead I shall endeavour to pass judgement on ITV’s recent music-based programme “The Nation’s Favourite Number One Single”, (July 8th, 14th, 15th.) As the hideously simplistic title suggests, the broadcast aimed to discover the nation’s favourite number one following 60 years of the official UK singles chart. Being a confirmed pop music fan and a borderline obsessive chart fiend, it might be imagined that this entails an evening’s ideal viewing for someone such as myself. Unfortunately, the end result left a lot to be desired for those tuning in for the minuscule chance that they might just end up with something worth watching.

The programme wasn’t without it’s highlights. Observing how the goofiest bugger (of all the goofy buggers) from seventies glam rock outfit Mud composed Kylie’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” was a simple delight. As was the entire input of Phil Oakey and the lasses from The Human League… who surprised me with their amusing anecdotes and bouncy wit. However, the flaws were decidedly not few and far between. So in true ITV style, I am going to do a shiny countdown to explain the reasons that I found this programme lacking. I was unfortunately unable to obtain Noel from Hear’Say for his exciting observations so you, dear reader, will have to make do with me. Let’s begin with number…

5. The fact it was on ITV.

Now, this may seem like a snobbish cheap shot but it has long been my opinion that ITV have the unique ability to take a subject that I am notably enthused by and produce something entirely unwatchable about it. This sentiment was shared on Twitter by BBC 6 Music’s Shaun Keaveny, who also believed that ITV are quite remarkable in their idea-ruining skills. To provide an example in addition to the one i’m documenting more substantially in this post, one only has to look to the recent “Britain’s Secret Treasures” (16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 22nd of July, 9pm). This effort is another that possessed the potential to be immensely interesting but was scuppered by the tacky, loud background music, the usage of random celebrity guest presenters and the very fact that the only way the channel was willing to engage with history was by placing artifacts in a countdown. As most British readers will know, ITV’s output tends to be uniform in it’s glossy magazine aesthetic and cheap fast food-esque quality. So similarly, consuming it can leave one with a glazed expression and accompanying migraine. The channel never fails to inject it’s programmes with a substantial dose of it’s trademark populist brashness, regardless of how inappropriate this tone sits within the context of the subject matter. Watching this left me feeling that the atmosphere would be been far more favourable were it on the BBC or even Channel 4 and as though the opportunity was somewhat wasted on TV’s uber-commercial stalwart.

4. The presentation.

I understand that it is often difficult to determine the appropriate host for these kind of programmes, but this is yet another thing that ITV approached lazily and therefore produced a misfire. Quite unbelievably, I am not going to use this entry solely to goad Fearne Cotton! However, I will say that her small linking segments between the VTs proved to be so insincere and bland that she could have been replaced by a mannequin wearing a wig omitting a consistent dull humming noise and only a few of the most observant viewers would have noticed. Acknowledging this, it is unsurprising that ITV enlisted the services of DJ, TOTP2 voiceover bot and all-round good egg Mark Radcliffe for the rest of the presentation duties. However, I couldn’t help but find these lacklustre also. I feel as though Radcliffe has become the default contact for anything mediocre and music-based that is requiring some blabbing over the top of it. Radcliffe was obviously on droning Northern autopilot and it’s almost sad that he was yet another thing I found hard to abide. Though considering my increasing impatience with his and Maconie’s rambling radio stylings, this may not be so surprising.

3. Even more pointless ‘talking head’ action than usual.

The talking head has always been a source of televisual anguish for many simply seeking out an evening of palatable viewing. The contributions are so rarely insightful that it leaves one consistently wishing they’d just recorded the abomination on their PVR and rewarded themselves the ability to electronically wade through the guff. Although this documentary was thankfully lacking in my primary hate (that hate being unknown, unfunny comedians failing to engage with the provided video clips of things that usually happened before they were born), there was inane commentaries aplenty from the likes of Atomic Kitten hitmaker Liz McClarnon and surprise Clash fan Beverley Knight. I guess I should have realised before now that the anarchic offerings of Strummer were the clear inspiration behind “Shoulda Woulda Coulda.”

2. The fact that Adele was at number three.

Never have I been so acutely reminded of the fish-esque short term memories of the British public! The tendency to overly laud the current has always been synonymous with countdowns such as this, but the absurdly high positioning of Adele’s “Someone Like You” still left me annoyed. I cannot claim to dislike Adele… I even enjoy the aforementioned song. But Adele claiming the number three spot of this countdown to me strikes of people simply over-inflating the importance of the present. In a similar vein, I suggested to friends and family that Daniel fucking Bedingfield might have glimpsed the upper echelons of the countdown had the poll been taken 10 years ago. The same could apply to Terrence Trent fucking D’Arby in the late eighties. I’m not suggesting that Adele will have quite the flash-in-the-pan success that these artists had, but merely that “Someone Like You” will almost certainly not be considered the 3rd best number one ever even a few years from now. I suppose I should be grateful that it wasn’t Ed Sheeran, as we should always be grateful when something isn’t Ed Sheeran.

1. The overwhelming predictability of it all.

The over-admiration of Adele is surprisingly not the biggest bugbear I had with the musical preferences of those polled. Infact, I was more perturbed that the list was packed to it’s very rafters with songs that I have long considered overplayed toot. It’s not that I dislike the majority of entries, it’s simply that I can probably list the entries on the list that I still enjoy listening to on one hand. I liked most of the songs at one point but can no longer tolerate them. I also find myself in a position bemused that so few people appear to feel the same way. I have the same issue in nightclubs, where DJs are seemingly insistent in only ever playing the single most memorable hit of a chart act whilst ignoring the rest of their material. Watching this countdown felt like a night sitting unhappily in that club. To give the British public one iota of credit, it probably should be mentioned that the shortlist of songs was actually compiled by a list of supposed industry experts, but they can still only take a fraction of the blame. My problem with this list can be summarised by it’s victor. It became ever more inevitable as time passed that Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was almost definitely going to be crowned the winner. And yet when the moment came, my family still released a collective groan of fatigue. I was convinced at this point that Bo Rhap was the universally accepted overplayed song to end all overplayed songs. So upon hearing it’s certification in the top spot, I traveled over to Twitter to gaze over the reactions displayed on the show’s designated hashtag, “#nationsfaveno1.” Imagine my unmitigated horror and confusion when hundreds appeared to be lining up to confirm their approval of the winning song! Scores of people that certainly didn’t appear as though they required at least a three-year amnesty from the song before even considering the possibility of liking it again… and to think, it isn’t even my most-hated overplayed Queen track! That bizarre honour belongs to the ever-present irritant that is “Don’t Stop Me Now.” As someone already struggling having only been required to cope with the proliferation of “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the short 22 years of my life, it is essentially unthinkable that someone that has dealt with it since the original release in 1975 could still harbour feelings of warmth. Who knows, I may still appreciate it and the other overexposed ditties on this countdown once again, but it seems likely that I may require a long spell in a darkened soundproofed room for this to happen.

So basically my message can be explained simply in my final sentiment. We are not all crowd-pleasing DJs and there are other songs available. How about we all have a look beyond? Perhaps we’ll realise the brilliance of an artist’s second most popular hit?

Vote or die!

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Insert highly imaginative image for post about democracy here.

I realise that I haven’t blogged for a good week now. A combination of factors are responsible. Without going into too much detail, I will say that involves my shock at all the attention my last blog received combined with a complete unwillingness to discuss the entirely shocking brand new information that the people running our financial institutions are morally bankrupt in any depth. It’s not that i’m ignorant about the latter subject, but rather, as my tone may imply, that it’s something I cannot believe people still have the energy to get angry about, nor understand how anyone can be surprised by news of this ilk at this stage in the game. I’m personally considering replacing the popular phrases involving bears defecating in wooded areas and or Papal figures being of the Catholic religion to something involving the overall reprehensibility of Rupert Murdoch and/or bankers. So instead, I have decided to write another companion piece to a Guardian article I read yesterday. This article tackles the idea that democracy is dying in Britain more generally. I thought I should expand on this and deliver my own thoughts on the matter, with particular emphasis on the young, and the deep significance this narrative holds for them.

Firstly, to those that haven’t read the article by John Burn-Murdoch, I highly recommend that you do. It is a well-informed and articulately delivered piece on the great many problems still facing British democracy in 2012, including the lack of reflection of modern demographical trends, the continuing problem of social class in a supposedly classless Britain, and even engaging with ideas such as the decline of political discussion. I am going to focus on the sad state of electoral turnout, and how improving upon this is really the beginning of tackling our overall grievances with politics.

Now, those that know me will recognise me as a person that becomes hugely frustrated with people not using their vote. Unlike some, this is not because of the argument that people fought and died for our suffrage as we know it today, but because across time I have become increasingly convinced that voting in our numbers is the only way anything will ever really change. Particularly depressing is the overwhelming apathy of the young, only 44% of whom voted in the 2010 General Election. However, whilst I lament this fact, I can wholly understand why it is the case. Party political representation at Westminster at the moment is seriously in the doldrums, and before the Labourites prepare to tie me to the stake, allow me to explain myself. I am personally of the opinion that Labour are very probably the best of a now-terrible bunch… but this does not mean that I am enthusiastic or even confident about what they offer in opposition to the other two main parties. Speaking once again from the youthful point of view, there is a definite uncertainty as to whether the Shadow Cabinet represent a government that would be significantly more favourable to our demographic. I am fairly confident that this feeling is shared by many others, who therefore find it extremely difficult to choose who vote for when they are proactive in exercising their democratic rights. That is why they often fail to bother at all.

It may have come to people’s attention recently that young people have become somewhat of a target for the very worst of the government’s ammunition. A buttmonkey, if you will. Writers such as The Guardian’s Shiv Malik have written extensively about how young people are being targeted disproportionately by this government’s cuts. This is not to say that we have ever exactly topped the priority list… we have continually suffered our unfair share of scapegoating as well as a being generally sidelined for a while now. Of course, I must note that some of the reasons for this are out of our control. We cannot help that we have become a smaller demographic in comparison to the swelling percentages hitting middle age, for example. But what irritates me is our seemingly inherent inability to make the connection between our absence at the ballot box and our lack of favourable treatment from those in power.

If we are to list the things that politicians genuinely care about, the thing that will always undoubtedly come out of top regardless of political colour, is electoral success. It’s something that is easy to forget whilst politicians bombard us with rhetoric that tries to convince us otherwise. With this in mind, it is quite simple to see that they can do the basic mathematics and come to the conclusion that young people are not the primary group of people that they need to secure the support of if this is going to happen. As it currently stands, we simply do not pack enough electoral punch for parties to bother trying to appeal to us in any meaningful way. This in turn, is also the reason that we have evolved into what is seen as a safe group to hammer with those supposedly “difficult decisions”, as it is extremely unlikely that those performing the actions will suffer the electoral retribution they deserve. As a contrast, we need not look far to observe an example of how high levels of voting can get a group recognised. At 76%, voter turnout in 2010 amongst those aged 65+ is over 30% higher than the 44% figure I provided earlier for their younger counterparts. I fully believe that statistics such as this are the foremost reason why negative government decisions are not currently aimed at older people to the same degree as they are towards the young. Politicians will actively court the grey vote because they can truly hold the card that determines their status as power and opposition. They will listen to their protests because they know that one bad decision directly involving pensioners could cost them their job, whereas even constant negativity towards the young goes not unnoticed but certainly unpunished. And therein lies the main disparity between us and them.

That last part is a vital point that I must expand upon. Despite the decreasing presence of political discussion that Burn-Murdoch highlights, I do not find that people of my age are uninterested in politics. Infact, I find quite the opposite. As a generation, we have every right to be angry and have demonstrated this feeling on select occasions. One high profile instance of this being the widespread protests against government reform on tuition fees in late 2010. However, I view the tuition fee situation as a note-perfect example of how the government fail to care about what young people think. They knew precisely how we felt because it was made astoundingly difficult to ignore, and yet they still didn’t care enough for this discontent to alter their decision. Why didn’t they care? Largely because issue-by-issue, antagonising young people is arguably far less calamitous in relation to the next election than perhaps, riling pensioners with a policy directed at them. During the first semester of my third year of university, I conducted a group research project investigating engagement with politics and political reaction to how young people were using their voice. The overarching observation that we came away with was that the youth were trying to get involved with politics but were out of turn with how governmental processes actually worked. Speaking to both a civil servant and to a senior elected figure in the Scottish Government, they told us that the most critical thing was that the youth actually got out and voted. Their engagement is observed by decision makers as highly fluctuating and that their objections often came far too late in the game to make any real difference. Young people needed to be on the pulse and most importantly, they needed to be at the ballot box in their droves.

So my intended message is this: vote. This participation means so much more than most of us can possibly imagine. Electoral engagement in numbers could certainly earn us the positive attention we deserve, which in turn will allow for the real discussion that we crave to begin. We have the knowledge and the will for change, and we also have the power. We just need to realise that it begins with the most basic of principles.

Everything has gone to shit? Thanks, I hadn’t noticed.

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Bonus Paul Mason fact: Paul Mason shares his name with the World’s fattest man.

I sweep onto the blog once again to discuss a phenomenon I find deeply troubling. The phenomenon is the evolution of the broadsheet journalist into the makeshift dystopian author.

I cannot help but notice that broadsheet journalists seem to exceptionally enjoy talking about plight that they are personally unaffected by. I understand that news must always be delivered with a realism that is often gritty but I cannot help but become somewhat angry with the fraught and astoundingly pointless columns that even student fave lefty stalwarts such as “The Independent” and “The Guardian” are coming out with in our ever-so-bleak times.

As i’m leaving university in a year, I am growing increasingly fatigued with the overwhelming number of arse-clenchingly depressing articles in the media about the future of graduates. I am not here to scapegoat, but I will say that this particular post was prompted by my frustration with an article in today’s Guardian entitled “The graduates of 2012 will survive only in the cracks of our economy” by 52 year old (you’ll understand the importance of this later) Newsnight Economics editor, Paul Mason. He emotively details a large host of facts that basically every single current student and graduate is already painfully aware of and re-iterates it for yet another time so we can all be reminded of how absolutely ghastly everything is, whilst being assured that everything is okay, because we have the deepest sympathies of well-meaning oldies.

Whilst I understand that these journalists feel the need to toil with the often disheartening situation that my generation find themselves in, I do not appreciate being bombarded by these stories, especially as the authors are almost always baby boomers in a cushy job. It’s especially irritating in that truly nothing is achieved by publishing them. The audience are already clued-up and in full resigned agreement. This is why the media are constantly falling into the “opposition party trap”, in which they consistently complain and make the world seem as head-wreckingly bleak as they possibly can whilst proposing precisely no alternatives, nor using their comfortable positions of power to do anything about it.

Now, I do not advocate living in ignorance of what is going on but I feel as though frequent regurgitation of the problems we all know we face is helping nobody. I see many young graduates and students in the Twittersphere, linking to articles such as this and heaping praise upon the authors. I personally cannot relate to whatever perverse enjoyment these people feel upon reading these things. I find them to be unhelpful and soul-destroying. Perhaps those young people enthralled by them have become very disillusioned, something that is entirely understandable. And yet it’s something I find threatening to encapsulate me every time I lay my eyes upon another one of these pieces. I can only imagine it only entrenches those that are firmly in it’s stranglehold. What do we to gain from dwelling in it and why do we laud those assuring us we are doomed?

However, i’m not here to lay into those that find themselves in difficulty but rather those feeling the need to constantly drone on about it in the media. I want to know what older journalists gain from mercilessly stamping across the few shreds of optimism that my generation have left. I am unsure if they know what it feels like to be told that your future is hopeless before you even have a chance to start. The sympathetic tones in which the broadsheets do it almost irritate me even more because their bleeding-heart rhetoric is accompanied by so little action.

Now, readers may call this blog pathetic in it’s idealism but I encourage you to let me explain. People reading this that know me personally will be aware that I can frequently found dousing myself with buckets of my own pessimism. I am not an ignorant person, nor am I a dazed optimist. My message is simply thus: I am sorely aware of the realities of being a graduate at the moment. So is every single person collecting that scroll and throwing up that mortarboard. We’d all really appreciate it if you older, privileged journo types would calm it down with the constant reminders, yeah?

Who? What? Hou-(sing benefit)?

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You wouldn’t believe how few interesting visuals there are for the search term “Housing Benefit.”

Anyone reading this that also follows me on Twitter will have had a delicious appetizer of what is about to come. You see, it is not my intention that I personally take issue with every “issue of the week” that dominates our media… it just so happens that these past couple of weeks have dealt out fuckery at the same rate that the US healthcare system dishes out prescription meds to “problem children.” Essentially, the more I thought about and discussed this issue with others, the more this post became something of an inevitability. My opinion on this proposed legislation could perhaps be observed as both one-note and multi-faceted. So I hope you, my dear reader, will sit back as I explain precisely why I think the Conservative government’s supposed new housing benefit strategy is wrong, and the multi-numeral reasons why. I hope that this post will be described by future commentators as “deliciously ranty.”

And so it begins.

All of those unfamiliar with the detail of Cameron’s plan, I can spell it out to you extremely quickly and simply. For this is not just policy, it is an idea so absurdly basic and uncomplicated that it seems almost designed to appeal to those entirely unable (or unwilling) to get their head’s around anything more highly convoluted. As a student of Policy, someone who is educationally committed to analysis and understanding of government frameworks and decisions (amongst other things), it is almost entirely unfathomable that the country’s leading politician could be consider one of the most basic bitch, black-and-white ideas I have ever come across to be either groundbreaking or potentially flagship. The government policy documents read as this: “People under the age of 25 are disallowed from claiming of Housing Benefit.” Now if at university one of my lecturers required me to explore and discuss this by means of assessment, I can only imagine my 14 word essay would read as follows…

“This policy has clearly been pulled directly out of David Cameron’s clueless, privileged arse.”

I have honestly never heard of a piece of potential legislation that has sounded so much as though it has been thought up in less time than it takes to cook a frozen pizza. Not that Dave’s ever eaten one of those. In my mind’s eye, the meeting in which this idea was imagined shows a sweaty-palmed Cameron with some dilapidated intern, concerned that he has to make some form of benefits-bashing announcement later that day with no fucking idea what he’s going to say. Said intern cautiously produces a spinny device not unlike that used whilst playing popular limb-locking party game “Twister”, that i’m going to call the “wheel of welfare.” Cameron, noticing that “Winter Fuel Allowance” has been scored out and flustered by his lack of alternatives, agrees and spins. The arrow lands of the section entitled “housing benefit.” “Right, that’s ok!”, thinks Cameron. He can work with that. But what can he do with it? “But what can I DO WITH IT?!”, he yelps at his intern. Mousey intern, in their bewilderment, suggests some possible “age restriction? Yes, age restriction!” before getting back to what they’re not being paid to do. Dave struggles to define a specific age himself, eventually settling for allowing his 2 year old daughter to pick up a solitary random piece of Duplo that he has personally vandalised with the numbers 16 to 40. And so a policy is BORN!

As many of you will have seen, this was then announced using a myriad of cliches and hypothetical constituents, the majority of whom have ceased and failed to exist in 21st century Britain. You have the young engaged couple who live with their respective parents, toiling away, saving up to get married and move out. I’m going to call this couple Sally and Johnny, and choose to believe that Dave met them in brief hallucinogenic episode in which he found himself transported back to 1952. He also mentions a young girl, just out of college. She wants to move out but apparently the ridiculously under-regulated private rental market is pricing her out! Her job as a receptionist just doesn’t pay enough… hey, I wonder if she’s entitled to some of the several billion pounds worth of benefits that go unclaimed every year?

Now, when Cameron’s plans revealed themselves to me over the airwaves, I couldn’t help but think that he had woefully misjudged the public mood. Following the storm regarding tax avoidance last week, myself and many others assumed that people would remain het up about the disgusting amounts of money that wealthy individuals and businesses manage to not pay into the Treasury as should be required. I figured that any governmental attempt to redirect the vitriol away from their wealthy pals and back towards the poorer in society would be met warily at best by those on the receiving end.

Well, if recent YouGov polling is to be believed, apparently not! Either this populace has a somewhat unsavoury appetite for demonisation or i’ve truly underestimated how blinkered and easily manipulated people can be. A majority 55% of people polled agreed with this idea. Even 42% of those aged 18-24 enjoy shooting themselves in the foot by agreeing.

Now, this is what I think of that. Whilst it is extremely nice that 42% of those in my age group feel comfortable enough to feel as though they will never find themselves in desperate need of a safety net in relation to financing their accommodation, I cannot tell whether their assertions are born of optimism or hardened vindictiveness. Maybe 42% of 18-24 year olds are just positively gleaming at the prospect of being chained to the parental abode whilst trying to set themselves up in life, regardless of the economic prosperity or suitability of job roles in the area? I don’t know. One observation I will make though, is that I imagine at least a couple of percent included are probably entitled to some form of housing benefit that they’re entirely unaware they could claim. Because that’s exactly how much they actually know about the UK welfare system.

Because if they actually knew any more about the UK welfare system, they would realise that over 200,000 (of roughly 385,000 claimants in total) of those claiming housing benefit under the age of 25 are already parents of children themselves. They would also know that a substantial proportion of housing benefit claimants are not the “filthy dole scum scoungers” (I say in my best Daily Mail mock-outraged tone) you might expect but actually, the good hardworking people that David Cameron spends far too much of his time trying to verbally fellate. The people that work their hardest and still do not earn enough to cover their rent, primarily because their pay is far too low and their rent is TOO DAMN HIGH!

This is before we even consider the age group, the one being demonised yet again, that are the targets of this reform. This demographic are desperately trying to get a start in life that will allow them to prosper and succeed. Now, as I have mentioned, at the heart of these Tory reforms lies an assumption that young people can stay in the parental home until the age of 25 without qualms from either party. My issues with this particular cornerstone are plentiful, but I will try and keep my protests succinct. This idea is absurdly old-fashioned, entirely unaspirational and so evidently devised through rose-tinted upper middle class lenses. Simply the complete ignorance of the 21st century familial landscape and the tyranny of individual situations is both laughable and reprehensible. Everything Cameron utters regarding the realities of life for “normal people” completely flummoxes me in it’s obvious limited existence, primarily inside of his own head. And how entirely unsurprising of the Tories to counteract their own rhetoric about being mobile whilst seeking work! What does Cameron seek to gain by the infantilisation of a young generation that are supposed to be enterprising and sufficient enough not to collapse under the weight of considerable demographic pressure in the form of both retiring and non-retiring baby-boomers? The only lucky people in this scenario are those whose parents happen to live in the cities where the real careers lie. And even they aren’t getting the chance to begin the proper adult life that they deserve. It’s an idea that you might have realistically floated back in an era with scarcely any social mobility and far less concentration of employment. Back when Princess Elizabeth was ascending to the throne, perhaps.

We just celebrated a Diamond Jubilee. Oops.

The big tax avoidance conundrum: a battle of villains.

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This picture is not a visual metaphor for the political standpoints of those featured.

Although the online chattersphere now appears to have moved on somewhat, I am still considering the questions raised by the dialogue surrounding last week’s storm. The one at the centre apparently being who involved truly possesses the moral highground. I’ve seen three primary entities being acknowledged in the debacle, so theoretically I could simply take it upon myself to conclude who is the most favourable. However, after some swift deliberation it certainly doesn’t take one long to notice that attempting such basically feels like deciding which member of the Phelps family you’d most like to have round for dinner.

Let’s have a quick gander over those involved, shall we?

1. Large tax-dodging corporations

Vitriol for these entities and their tax records has been increasingly flying around the national media (though undoubtedly absolute faves of The Guardian in particular) for quite a while now. They have been the focus of much of the media storm prior to now and rightly so, accounting for a phenomenal amount of lost revenues for government. Now, don’t get me wrong… there is no doubt in my mind that these businesses present a huge issue for our government to tackle and are definitely the bigger fishes in the tax avoidance pond. But the fact that Jimmy Carr accounts for less lost tax than these companies does not make what he did acceptable or any less morally reprehensible. Individual AND corporate tax evasion are both things that the government needs to act on.

2. Jimmy Carr

Jimmy Carr could possibly be described as the most defendable entity… many a celebrity (and indeed, also many a bog-standard “normal person”) have leapt to his defence, mainly to remind everybody that Carr is personally NOT the main factor in the UK’s tax collection issues, as highlighted in the entry above. Whilst I agree that Carr has been the much-publicised scapegoat of this affair, used rather mercilessly and perhaps inappropriately as a figure of evil in the media. And yes, he is a popular funster and regular feature on our tellyscreens, as well as very possibly an extremely nice man in real life. However, I do think that Carr is being used to represent what has been revealed to us in the last week to be a rather more intrinsic problem. Prior to now, whilst thinking about individual tax avoidance, we may have limited ourselves to oft-mentioned business-orientated Mr. Nasty types such as Sir Philip Green. The revelations about Carr have opened the public eyes to a problem that is far wider than we had ever considered before. If people like Jimmy Carr can avoid tax, who else is doing it? More famous people? Others of notable wealth? Opinions on tax are extremely varied, but for someone like myself there are undoubtedly some moral qualms involved in avoiding tax payments whilst earning substantial amounts of money in this country. Aside from this, I am going to be vaguely prudish and maybe suggest that calling David Cameron a “cunt”, in relation to the Prime Minister’s comments, is a foolish and inappropriate comeback for Carr. It may be true, even in my own eyes, but I cannot support Carr as he gives into immaturity, especially following what appeared to be a modest and sportsmanlike reaction displayed on “8 Out of 10 Cats” last week. Carr is not as evil as the media portrayed him to be, if evil at all! However, I believe his actions were wrong and his subsequent defence is worse.

3. The Government (as represented in this saga by a particularly clammy David Cameron)

In this instance, it has been very difficult for me personally to separate my own personal reservations about the Conservative government (incorporating our rapidly perspiring Prime Minister) from their official line on the case. But it is rather imperative that I at least begin to try. I think that it was important that the Government, as representatives of the British population and those chosen to manage the public finances, assert some kind of opposition to such schemes. Where David Cameron has gone wrong is on 2 counts. Firstly, it is exceptionally hard to David Cameron personally to condemn those involved in the scheme when his own family and indeed many close acquaintances are known to have dalliances in not entirely unlinked practices. Secondly, and this critique may veer into the vaguely more personal, but choosing to pick solely on Jimmy Carr when another high profile celebrity (in the form of Gary Barlow, who even without these revelations is undoubtedly one of my least favourite people in the public arena for numerous reasons) had been pointed out as another participant in the scheme the following day came across only as petty and selective. It was clear that the government had to say something, but there is no doubt in my mind that Cameron has gone about it in entirely the wrong way. I shan’t even get started on his most recent misjudgement of the public mood regarding housing benefit. My observations on that particular doozy certainly merit their own post!

So there you have it. The evidence is not irrefutable, but I do hope that those reading this may stop trying to decide who is the true hate figure and come to the realisation that everyone highlighted here has behaved wrongly in their own special way! Isn’t that nice?

10 things I have learned from watching repeats of 1970’s TOTP on BBC Four.

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I have decided to christen my blog with a post that can only be described as “fluff.” Except for the baker’s dozen of middle-aged men for whom TOTP 1977 is serious biznutz. Hello Dad.

See, although I am somewhat of a chart nerd myself, watching these back has enlightened me to a myriad of realisations about this era that would astound those that may suggest that it was “golden.”

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The Bay City Rollers: Sexy and Scottish before David Tennant was even in primary school.

And now for the main event! Here is what I have been taught.

1. Teenagers in the 1970s all looked a bit sickly and unwell.

Some might suggest that a lack of nubile young bodies is a roly-poly 21st century phenomenon. But no! It is overwhelmingly apparent that the 1970’s suffered the same issue, albeit from the opposing angle. The only appropriate word is “gaunt.” I have to admit that this is not something noticed solely on TOTP, as this was first spotted on a 1972 T-Rex concert as aired on Sky Arts. One can only assume that Ewan McGregor took some influence whilst preparing for “Trainspotting.”

2. These runtish young waifs have really bad hair and clothes.

This is not meant to blatantly insult as much as it is to challenge the belief that the 1980s was the era that taste forgot. Tell me, how can that be when Topshop now so often resembles a mid-90s charity shop with an abundance of Neneh Cherry’s shiny ten-year-old cast-offs? And yet I think we’re all yet to see a modern lass sporting a “Farrah Fawcett” and dark orange flares. And no, hipsters DON’T count.

2b. I still much prefer this look to the overwrought coiffuring of today.

It was so much easier to be pretty in the 1970s! As evidenced by Agnetha and Anni-Frid, there WERE only 2 colours of eyeshadow.

3.Teenagers apparently ambled over one another to visit the nation’s biggest pop show and then proceed to observe the show in an ambience of nonplussed wonderment.

Now, I often cannot blame these kids when Dave Lee Travis is announcing yet another forgotten disco quartet but their supposed desperation to be there remains perplexing. Maybe they came for Noel Edmonds? Speaking of which…

4. Some girls appeared to have actually fancied Noel Edmonds back then.

I use the past tense BECAUSE. But yes, I have observed the fawning with my own eyes. He WAS more of a looker than Saville, I guess.

5. Songs about domestic abuse and puppetry and not necessarily mediums that must be separated.

Thanks, Joy Sarney.

6. Contrary to increasingly popular belief, Gary Glitter DID exist and was a huge star. Maybe because the populace lacked the newfangled technology that would allow them to know that he would be convicted as a paedophile 20 years later.

NEVAAAAAR.

7. “Sunny” by Boney M is definitely their best single.

Yes, better than Rasputin. “Sunny” is an irresistible little Summer number that is almost impossible not to listen to when the weather is warm. Though owing to our current climate, I imagine that only equates to about 4 plays that my iPod could muster.

8. “Lonely Boy” by Andrew Gold is a fantastic song.

This bouncy ode to a solitary upbringing is a surprising stand-out for me. Younger readers may not know much about Andrew Gold, I know a sparse amount myself… but what I can tell you is that this is a fantastic song. Further bonus facts on Andrew Gold include: 1. He wrote “Thank You For Being A Friend”, the quite brilliant theme tune to “The Golden Girls” and 2. His mother Marni Nixon is a famous Hollywood “playback singer”, meaning her vocals have substituted for many a starlet, including Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.”

8b. The only thing eclipsing “Lonely Boy” is it’s trademark Legs and Co interpretive dance.

Seriously. Just Watch.

9. ABBA were, of course, brilliant… but were they just the exceptional amongst the unexceptional?

Abba’s ubiquity at the upper echelons of the chart does not escape of the notice and comments of fans nor the presenters on the show. But what strikes me is just quite how forgettable so many of the other songs are. This has led me to believe that Abba were perhaps lucky to find themselves making music in a time period where their effortless anthems stand out ever so slightly more amongst some distinctly unremarkable peers. Which leads me onto my final point…

10. Yes Dad, the charts ARE shit now. But by gosh, they were shit then too!

These observations have led to be further affirm in my mind what I believe should probably be a universally accepted truth by now. This truth is that we are all selective about what we retain in our minds. With chart music, we remember the best and forget the rest. I am often vocal about how dispirited I am with the current state of the charts (whilst keenly willing off another spate of “landfill indie“) but I am similarly the first to acknowledge the amazingness of a stand-out track such as Rita Ora’s “R.I.P.” or other selected golden nuggets. As with now and every other period in popular music, the mid-late 1970s was seriously hit-and-miss.

However, I am keen to stress that my last comment is not designed to deter people from watching TOTP 1977. If anything, I think everyone reading this blog should embrace it wholeheartedly. Obviously it’s paradise for slovenly almanacs, but also offers something up for those with a slightly unhealthy appetite for sociological and modern-historical intrigue. It’s no coincidence that all of these brackets apply to me. May it run and run and run and run… until Fearne Cotton shows up.