Wednesday, 9 November 2016

don’t panic! life and what to do with it now that orange is the new black - a sermon from the good reverend

such a title will hopefully bring in at least three more people than who read my last blog…thus doubling my readership in one foul swoop - up your bum and suck my wang, clickbait! (genuinely, i have no idea who reads this stuff, it’s just a necessary brain fart that’s better out than in).

so here we are, then. didn’t see this coming? really? no, neither did i. but after this and brexit it’s becoming increasingly clear that no-one knows a fuuuuuckin’ thing. we’re in the upside-down, if you want a crap and trite-but-topical analogy. it’s easy to say now in hindsight, and there were enough warnings at the time, but someone like bernie sanders probably could have given trump a much closer run, or perhaps even trumped the fucker. the elites have been misbehaving for way too long, and in trying to serve themselves, again, by putting forward such a lame and flawed duck as clinton, they were gambling in a very big way. people are pissed off with a system that has done nothing but consistently and deliberately increase hideous levels of inequality, and with people so angry, unbelievably misinformed, and their frustration heartbreakingly channeled in the wrong direction(s), we now find ourselves ‘racing toward the precipice’ just a little bit faster.

(keep going, there’s an easily-digestible list coming up)

the excellent, intelligent and very reasonable sam harris has spoken many times at length and better than most at just how bad trump is, but this argument has fallen on deaf and angry ears. noam chomsky has warned since last year that trump’s success in the election would be a ‘death knell for the human species’. strong words, and here’s why. despite the deeply worrying trend towards nativism, an inability to be able to openly discuss the need for reform of a certain religion without fear of reprisals (ranging from immediately being labelled a bigot or racist to receiving death threats if you’re prominent enough), and a ton of other issues like nuclear weapons, isis etc (wow, ‘isis etc’) to click on and read about scroll through quickly, we are now about to welcome to the stage a man who not only denies that climate change exists (“it’s a bullshit hoax”), but openly says that he is going to do nothing about it, and worse promises to cut all federal spending on the issue (that’s worth reading twice, good people). in fact, the republican party (and all of its presidential candidates) share that view, vetoing deal after international deal to reduce carbon emissions and keep the temperature below end-of-species levels. so you’d think, wouldn’t you, that this issue would have been top of the pops in the election, but mind-blowingly it hardly got raised. and now the republicans have a majority in the senate and the house (i just did a bit of sick).

but hang on. now that the all-consuming and frankly ludicrous spectacle of an election ‘rollercoaster’ has finally come to an end (and gone off the rails completely, that’s no hyperbole or exaggeration), we find ourselves with a nice chance to take a much-needed giant step back from it all before he’s confirmed to office and we see what he really means and does, instead of continuing to scream in our own wee echo chambers to no avail.

here is your handy guide to the next few weeks and months before he takes the reins.

  1. stay strong. be present. look out of your window - nothing has changed yet
  2. write a list of your favourite 20 things you like doing, and the last time you did them
  3. (big one) turn off social media and stop reading news for one week. there is nothing you will miss that won’t get through to you anyway if it’s important enough
  4. use the free time to do something from your list
  5. still be friendly to everyone. really. it’s the only way. even the prick on the bus who smells
  6. watch eddie izzard shows from back in the 90’s when he was funny
  7. (deep breath now) all those people who voted brexit and trump? let it go. the world is divided into people who think they are right, and strength of conviction doesn’t make a difference. on a very basic level, most people want the same things….
  8. watch hypernormalisation by adam curtis, and point your (metaphorical) guns in the right direction 
  9. stop being angry. as annoyingly platitudinous as all of this is no doubt sounding, i mean it sincerely and deeply. i spent way too long being angry at things, without understanding where it all came from each time
  10. look into the wim hof method, of which i will soon be an instructor (ahem), it’s a game-changer for health, strength and happiness
  11. tell me to go fuck myself with this patronising list of bullshit, and then realise that that’s an angry reaction made of poo and from a bad place, and that my intentions are pure and good (the opposite of poo)

finally: don’t mistake any of this as a plea for apathy. organise, vote, discuss and listen! just try and get offline and take a step back from it all more and know that it’s just a ride, to paraphrase bill hicks, one that you can step off at any time. the most valuable things in life are physical and mental health, creativity, and friendships/family. thankfully they’re pretty strong in most that i know, last time i checked. so, #getofftheride, if you will.

as usual, some nice quotes to finish and ponder on…

“the opposite of consuming is connecting” - eve ensler

“irony and cynicism are the killers of possibility” that bloke from swans 

“we always do the best we can by the light we have to see by” - unknown (appeared on another blog post, but really worth saying again in the current climate)

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Me and EU

Like a few other (million) people across Europe, I woke up last Friday morning and went straight online to find out which way the vote had gone. When I saw the result and the reality kicked in, to my own shock I realised my eyes were welling up a bit. It's not helpful to get emotional and then project it online, is it, so I watched and waited as a spectator to see how things played out over the day, both online and in my own head.

It takes time to process and understand things, but the body is a good indicator and never lies. I now realise that I wasn't angry or disappointed with those who voted to leave, with their feckless sap Union Jack outfits and flag-waving idiotic pomp (ok, slightly angry), just super sad at their reasons for it.

We always do the best we can by the light we have to see by. To wit: just what information were people being fed with on that septic isle, to make such a shocking and atrocious decision?! And what does it matter, when the mass propaganda plastered proudly on the side of buses (EU funding will instead go to the NHS), was immediately backtracked on the morning after, to no surprise whatsoever. Naomi Klein wrote a while back of the shock doctrine, whereby politicians pass controversial laws and make backtracking comments at the precise moment people are in such shock from an (albeit normally) unrelated event (e.g. 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War), so as to almost go unnoticed and, crucially, unreported on. In reneging on these promises so quickly and so openly, Duncan Smith and that smug belligerent fuckwit Farage took things to a new low. Or am I blind in my faux-outrage, and it's utterly systemic?

Apparently plenty of British families have fallen out across the age divide over which way to go. To her credit, my own mother made a genuine and concerted effort to read up on as many neutral texts as she could find, in order to help make what was for her a very difficult decision ("I've never been so undecided in my life"). In this uncertainty it's fair to say she represents a chunk of people over 40 (tho nobody knows how she eventually voted, she won't say), and yet how was it really so tough for people to decide, given the overwhelming academic evidence that forecast serious instability? Kate Hoey, a pro-leave (twat) MP, when asked on The Daily Politics if she could name one reputable study that showed that Britain would be, if not worse off, then at least the same as it is now after leaving, was left looking very foolish as she stumbled around her own mouth, her brain visibly overheating as she floundered and tried to change the topic. As (mostly young) eyes rolled on social media, I was left to think what dark den of iniquity the shoddy arguments to leave were drafted in. (On a side note, Boris Johnson's farm looks ramshackle as fuck…)

But back to the light (we have to see by). Judging by the spike in google searches you've all read about, asking about the possible effects of the ludicrously-termed ‘Brexit’ after voting closed, you could say that the light wasn't even switched on. Apathy? Laziness? The beginning of an argument that the general public shouldn't be allowed to make these decisions? Redundant. Neoliberalism and capitalism-gone-wrong had long since played their part, and how. Hats off. Profit and consumerism as ideals of success and happiness, and a fear-mongering corporate media peddling these ideologies for decades mean we've become so indoctrinated with....hang on! Come back! Ok, ok...let's not go there...

Well, alright then, quickly if you insist. A big hip-hip-hooray for all those abject racists that now finally have the courage to step out of the shadows (and daub abuse at night), as if the vote to leave now somehow justifies their position- well done to you! But then again you're not special, you're everywhere aren't you? A couple of years ago I cocked my ear in defiance at Noam Chomsky's claim that Europe was 'extremely racist and always has been', nowadays I wonder at my own naïveté with yet another public shrug.

But enough of that dreary world-weary stuff. I bore myself as I write sometimes. To today's developments then. Politics is fun, isn't it?! Watching a Tory party split and vie for power is a bit like watching a load of fat pigeons fight to sit on the edge of a rooftop already covered in their own shit, so let's turn our attention instead to how the Labour Party are dealing with things….oh.
Poor Jeremy Corbyn, and his supporters (hey, that’s me). A long-plotted coup and vote of no confidence isn’t quite where I saw this going.

Watching Britain implode from a safe distance is no less comforting, not from a sense of national pride you understand - those who know me as a self-titled European could have worked out I had been supporting Iceland well before last night's hilariously predictable outcome - but what it means for the future as well as the burning question of the week: do I really have to shell out €255 for a German passport?

On the subject, I was recently interviewed for a New York Times article about dual citizenship and changing nationality, and because my name's in such esteemed print, I must know what I'm talking about. You may now also refer to me as Mr Ayling, thank you very much (scratches belly and belches). What I said there I'll paraphrase: I don't care if on paper I'm British, German, Portuguese, Icelandic, Balinese (I could go on), the terms of my national identity must allow me to travel, live and work as I please, and in fact currently do (I pay my taxes where and when appropriate), and any infringement on that makes said passport worth less than toilet paper (the material would be quite tough I imagine), and can any of you really take issue with that? (me being happy, not wiping my bum with my own face). I hope not.

Moving quickly on….the finish line approaches.

No one knows a thing at the moment about how things will turn out, you can safely ignore anyone who says they do. Clearly: since the NYT article was written on Sunday I've received new information about having both British and German passports: I was hoping to keep both but now there is no guarantee that I can have dual citizenship (registering before the vote had absolutely no impact sadly, as it will always depend on the law six months from your registering date...get your melon round that concept if you can) and it could well be that one day I have to choose between being British or German. Hmmm. Tough one. 

But what's the rush? Let’s see what the circus has to offer tomorrow, and the day after, before making any silly financial commitments I would then like to go back on. At the very least, it all makes for compelling viewing, doesn’t it, and offers welcome distraction from the other, equally undignified European exit of late.

To borrow from John Oliver, “The United Kingdom, whose very name after this week’s events is beginning to sound a bit sarcastic”.

Britain, I slow-clap you.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

on DonaldJTrump


I'm moved to write again, and perhaps not for the last time this year (my cup of Corbyn love overfloweth).

Most of the topical stuff I read online I don't normally react to. It's like, why bother, I'd be preaching to the converted here (none of you guys are fascists, right?!).
But as I sit, open-mouthed at Donald Trump's latest tirade, I feel compelled...enough's enough!


What the actual fuck is happening? Does anyone else have their head in their hands when they listen to and then see the support for this lunatic fuckweasel?
Online graphical comparisons to Hitler (a factual burn? no doubt, no doubt) of any style seem more and more reasonable by the day.
I'd be more buoyed by the uproar from within his own party, if it weren't for the fact that the other Republican candidates are actually not so different when you look closer, it's fucking terrifying.
And then there's this.

But even as I write, and read other (better thought out) posts and blogs, I can't help but feel I am still screaming (from the comfort of a café) into a void, and that ultimately speaking out here is a bit like cooking a nice meal for one (insert imagination here).
But I'm gonna do it anyway, I think it's important.
Plus I like (digital) fist bumps......even if I'm left hanging.

Let's finish, as is the trend, with some inappropriate hashtags.
#and #this #is #really #missing #the #point

No, wait - let's do that 'end with a quote' thing again. I just found this on fb and I doff my cap to Fabanwo Ibiyemi, who according to his fb profile is 'Executive Director at Google',

"Donald Trump is a toilet paper that needs to be flushed"

Indeed, sir.

Friday, 25 April 2014

a return of sorts

to social media, then…
it’s 2012, and after 7 long years of fun and frolics (and several overly-cynical and sneering posts), i finally decided to quit facebook. it’s become such a huge part of modern online culture (no shit mate) that even as i write the ‘f’ word itself on my wee mac, auto-correct chips in and kindly offers to correct me and give the thing a capital ‘F’. like the idealistic chimp i am (tho it wanes with age, good lord…), i reject this sort of thing, a bit like how good ol’ christopher hitchens refused to spell ‘god’ with a capital ‘G’. except he had a principle, and i’m just poking my tongue out at a machine.

i even wrote some nonsense-musings on these very pages (as opposed to the intelligent, informative stuff also littered here, ahem), and although they still somehow make sense, i’ve come to think of myself during ‘the wilderness years’ since then as very much a lost little boy on a rather craply-made raft, less ‘spitting and pissing pointlessly into the wind’, more sitting there with vacant stare on the edge of my lonely vessel, water lapping at my childish brogues and seagulls taking it in turns to try and land a shit directly on my bonce. i slowly look up and shake my fist, but they’ve already fucked off. i’ll stop the metaphor there before convincing all and sundry that i’m completely insane, suffice to say that for the last one and a half years, it’s been kinda quiet.

and whilst there was no apparent hole to be filled by leaving fb, i found myself slowly becoming more open to other online tools-for-tools, and have since registered with twitter, instagram and spotify. the former is a wonderful thing, and despite the odd bit of shit that just won’t flush down the toilet despite several furious attempts (poor ellen page complaining after receiving constant pictures of avid fans’ dogs to rename after doing it once, and then helpfully tweeting each and every fucking one of them), it’s for the most part really interesting once you’re following the right people. and if they become tedious….get going on that flush!
very simple.
same with instagram. if people start posting too often what they’re having for breakfast, or their foot on yet-another-non-descript beach… off you toddle to look for the next big shiny thing.

and so if i embrace all this, why not fb? (you must be screaming…). 
how many times over the last eighteen months i’ve wondered how friends from far and wide are doing, and now with no way of finding out/gawping at their page.
and just last week, after booking a trip to my hometown back in blighty to catch up with long-lost compadres from my college days, it occurred to me while having some whimsical reminiscence to way-back-when, that i've lost touch with way too many folks from outside my little city. 
my idealistic approach of having more authentic contact in small doses (i.e. emails), and doing without the stasi-esque observation of others online has (somewhat unsurprisingly considering my pompous use of a thing much more serious) proven a tad fallible and, pseudo-intelligent language aside for a moment…… is complete bollocks.
this isn’t how things work these days, i almost hear you cry.
so, i was wrong.
very simple.

NB. i’m allowed to change my mind and edit this blog at any stage if i feel like it, just as i hear is the trend (seriously. tales of a girl who takes down new pics of herself unless they get more than twenty ‘likes’ reach me with a whiff of self-bummery even my most narcissistic friends would balk at). 
and especially if i receive a barrage of selfies to my wall / newsfeed (whatever it’s called these days..). selfies: NO. STOP.

and so now begins the humble process of trying to re-friend everyone, and then tweeting that i’ve done it with a #refriend at the end for good measure.

so, fb, you win….and my experiment failed. i embrace you (but gently, a bit like you were a homeless person).

Saturday, 22 June 2013

a sermon on social networking (2011)

as the rain pelts down on a rare saturday afternoon that i had actually made plans for, the somewhat understandable urge to further vent my spleen on a subject that’s been continually bothering me for a while now slowly transposes itself into print. immediately it occurs to me however, that writing this very post, sat alone at my computer perhaps undermines the point i will try and make, but fuck it - no one reads this shit anyway...

as the novelty of the iphone has long since worn off i now tend to keep my neck at an upright angle whilst moving around town, only to see much of the rest of the world staring back down at their little mini interactive TVs instead, much as i had previously. 
granted, a lot of us on public transport not spasmodically tapping screens still often sit there with lost, vacant expressions of abject boredom anyway, but back to the point...

at the risk of sounding faintly whimsical, there’s truly something to be said for ‘unplugging’ every so often and simply observing/interacting with the world around you, without a soundtrack, and also without the need to share every thought, every fucking knee-jerk reaction that comes into your head with the rest of your social network(s) either. 

the automatic response to share has, for this miffed chimp at least, clearly become a sickness of rather epidemic proportions. 

sure, while the new-found ability to connect and share what you’re doing/thinking with the rest of the world has it’s positives (entertaining videos, news, events), more and more it feels that every time you log on to a network these days you’re confronted with a stream of pure, unadulterated, fucking noise, as if people have opened taps from their consciousness, cameras, or lonely youtube meanderings and plugged the stream straight into their computer.  

and now for an equation officially known as the guff factor: people’s ability to process and produce more and more data in turn increases the amount of spam in a network, until it becomes almost pointless searching for something interesting. and what is interesting to me, maybe isn’t interesting to you (end sentence with public shrug).

so, how to filter such noise, whilst waiting for a ‘guff on/off’ option, and without deleting your social network account(s) in disgust and/or apathy?
although ‘discipline’ manages to sound pompous immediately, i’d love a pop-up on the odd occasion asking, “wait! are you sure anyone else gives a shit?” just before you post.
hiding people from our feeds is one option on some networks, but fails to address the problem on a larger scale - twitter being a case in point. this also assumes that all posts from the offender are banal, turd-on-paper offerings, which is maybe unfair....

if there is no real way to filter information, perhaps people will eventually react to the overload of data with antipathy, but ti reckon this is a long way off.

until then, think of me as a disinterested, passive observer...adrift at sea spitting and pissing pointlessly into the wind.

it’s always nice to end with a quote, my english teacher might have said once, so here’s a peach from Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter....

"Everybody is becoming like ... a Stasi agent, constantly observing himself or his friends."

breakfast (2010)

times have changed. back when i was a lad, the morning after a big one would consist of a stumble down albert rd (oh pompey, much as i slag you off daily, you still hold a place in my heart) to cheryl’s caff for a good-old greasy fry-up. (you can have fun here and insert any working-class name in cheryl’s place, as i just made it up, haha. the name that is - the place, god’s below, really existed, and maybe still does). 

first up - the cup of tea. anyone who had ordered a coffee would be eyed with suspicion (brows firmly furrowed) for a good five seconds, before the interest waned and was quickly picked up again by a free copy of The Sun left by some sated fellow on his way out. ten minutes were allowed to pass before the standard chin-in-the-air, eyes-expectant gesture was directed at the kitchen. when the plate was finally slapped down on the table and cheryl/cath/dave/barry trundled off to find some more ketchup, what little conversation there was quickly petered out and the troughing began. what to eat first, good man - sausages? and what of the bacon? had they ruined it by saturating the salty goodness in bean juice? 
no, thankfully not. we’re ok. 

talking was kept to a minimum during the feed, albeit until the energy (from the egg, i’m willing to bet...) kicked in and sparked off a healthy tirade of abuse (yes!) against some foolish prig we remembered all dressed up from the night before, trying to get into 5th avenue with his silly hat. “what a slag!”, and other such inventive banter. 
there was always one who couldn’t finish his food, the belly-buster proving too much on top of the kebab from the night before. the cold, sad remnants left were a subtle reminder of what we just did to ourselves, and consigned to the bin or some grateful pooch somewhere below stairs. 

good times, as far as breakfasts go. or not. i find myself not wistfully gazing back but instead thinking, how disgusting. only yesterday i was trying to arrange a breakfast meet whereby i’d prepare and present, in all their glory, waffles for a couple of hungry french fancies, employing even a kitchen mixer in my efforts to please. how continental, my mum might say (actually, that’s bollocks - she’d first ask if it was a ‘lady’s influence’, in a mock-sophisticated tone). as it went, the waffles didn’t happen this time. a french work emergency (how easy it is to put the word ‘french’ before anything to change the tone), and i was out on my tod, in the cold. the sting! with my fair lady away, i had little option but to mooch on down to a nice local cafe alone, but thankfully the fucking football was on. 
a small aside here - i like football. the fuckstick however, who’s responsible for the vuvuzela’s entrance into the world of soccer.... 

so, breakfast in germany. a few years back i shuddered at the thought, the idea, the concept of eating cheese in the morning. these days, that moment of decision before the purchase in the supermarket plays far too great a role in the day for my liking. i am heartened tho, that i still get just as big a kick from staring at other shoppers’ vacant, glassy-eyed expressions as they mill round, really thinking about whether to buy limited edition, ‘african-style’ world cup pasta. 
fuck me... 

here in the german cafe, the waitresses’ withering expression - a mixture of “yes, i understand your german despite your overly-slow expression” and “you were boring before you opened your mouth” - is like a punch to the abdomen. my eyes turn to the tv screen, turn away again as the drone of several thousand (autistic?) idiots blowing relentlessly into their native plastic trumpets washes over me like a wave of dog piss.  yet...breakfast arrives, and is beautiful. latte, bagel, fruit salad and quark. 

life is good: everything’s ok once boots are filled.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

support your country, lad!

well well, just as i thought i had Germans pegged as chilled-if-a-bit-excitable during football matches, blow me if they didn’t completely scupper that notion recently.

i made the ill-advised decision to go to a public screening of the germany-spain match, and had quite the fright don’t you know.
i rocked up at kick-off, sensibly avoiding the warm-up and instead filling up on pork-pies  and the like as you do, but shamefully forgetting my spastic-trumpet and mini german flag!
how i wish i could have joined in with the rest of the tribe and waved said flag with a self-mocking-but actually-fairly-gormless expression on my face.
as it was i had to sit through a sadly tedious game surrounded by a mixture of both the lazy and apathetic, and dominant, downward-fists-motion, mid-mating-season gorillas (the latter types were, terrifyingly, mostly women).
those who were clearly bored and weren’t really sure What People Do When A Game Of Football Is Boring absently and silently lolled about, slowly blinking or picking their nose in that disturbing way where the finger seems to stay poked awkwardly in the crevice until they are caught in the act by a disgusted or incredulous onlooker (me).
but it was the ones with voices that concerned me. the aggressive, once-every-two-years-when-my-country-plays-in-a-tournament, i’ll-suddenly-start-giving-a-shit types.
and here i think of england. “cam on saafgate, kick his fackin’ legs in” she cries.
“facking ‘AVE him” roars another.
“COME OOOOOOON” some dick brays from behind me.
“i’m gonna lose it in a minute” he mutters as i turn quickly back around - eyes red, knuckles white on long-empty pint glass.
i’m not sure why, but during these moments i rarely feel like mentioning that i couldn’t give a Flying Fuck whether england win or lose, and that i’m just here to hopefully see a good game (“sod off to the family section then, you raving poof”, one could argue would be the perhaps-justified response).
and back over here it's much the same....
“was soll das denn?” 
“scheiss auf deutschland...” 
our heroes battle valiantly for their €500,000 world cup winning bonus, but it’s all to no avail, and very slowly the grim realization that ‘it ain’t gonna ‘appen’ sets in, forming some hilariously vacant stares where once passionate, meaningful daggers had been.
as the final whistle goes, and people toodle off in small groups and the collective sense of togetherness that was a few seconds before so strong falls limply away, a previously silent member of the crowd suddenly starts whooping and leaping in the air, brandishing a colossal spanish flag while doing so.
i laughed, perhaps a little too loudly.

i still get a lot of stick from people back home for not giving a shit about how england fare in sport - people just don't get it.
it stems back, i guess, to my dad going - for want of a better expression - fucking berserk whenever ‘we’ scored a goal, to the point where as a young and fairly sensitive lad i would actually weep in fear of this sudden display of loud and terrifying epilepsy.
“calm down, you’re scaring the kids”, my mum once said.
as passive as the old man actually is, fast forward fifteen years to the world cup in 2002, and the sight of apes throwing rubbish bins through windows (that old classic!) when france beat england can’t help but evoke somewhat negative kind of emotions in me. YES, my parents fucked on one very special night (er...) on this same, wholesome piece of land as yours, but that is really all we have in common here. 
i’ll stop paraphrasing bill hicks, you get the point.
“you cynic! you sneer! you snide cunt.”, i hear you cry.
fair call. i guess there is something I’m missing, but praise the lord my lady feels exactly the same (where were you when i needed you, surrounded by a sea of loud, bellowing oafs), so although backed into a corner i still stand tall.
chest puffed.