At My Dinner Party, I Got To Keep The Prize…

October 28, 2011

Now I have some guilty pleasures. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine at home, even if I’m on my own. I can spend hours playing football games on my laptop and feel that I have in no way wasted my time. And I absolutely love Come Dine With Me and Coach Trip.


Its official, these two TV shows are now a phenomenon. We cannot stop watching 5 people going to each other’s houses and bitching that they haven’t given you a desert spoon but just a regular table spoon to eat the food the host has slaved over for hours on end. Neither can we stop watching random people paired up gallivanting around Europe while Brendan gives out yellow cards more than Howard Webb in the cup final. There’s something utterly fascinating about social power-play, and both these shows abuse it thoroughly, until it almost seems to encourage us to leave any dinner party we go to bitching about any modicum of issue that we might have had a problem with had we not have secretly enjoyed it.


But this isn’t the issue I wish to raise. No, what I would like to discuss is the ‘celebrity’ spin offs of both these shows and many others besides. I use apostrophise around celebrity because we can all agree the majority of the people involved on these shows cannot possibly be considered celebrity: I swear I’ve been on television more times than they have, and I’ve never been on television. Suddenly these shows  become a parable of egomania as almost everyone involved on the shows, from the people themselves to the voiceover man lambasting the participants, proverbially bow down to these deities like they stand atop Mount Olympus. Of course, it’s not all worship, as any prize money that might have been offered to ‘regular’ people will be donated to charity, because of course these super-rich individuals couldn’t possibly need any more money. I mean, their on television, so they must be rich. Right?


Erm, well no. Sure, some of them may have quite a lot of money from previous television endeavours, of a now fledgling music career or whatever the production team can justify they did once that makes them famous. But most of these celebrity-types are probably in the red; they’ve been out of work for a long while (hence degrading themselves further by involving themselves on these shows) and many won’t be any better off than some of the normal participants would be.


I’m not saying here that they should win the money; the fact that a charity can benefit from these television shows can only be a good thing (the fact many other charities miss out on this potentially vital money is apparently ignorable). But put simply, our society seems to be ever more creating a ‘celebrity class’, in which ‘normal’ people idolise certain individuals who we see on television and believe we must emulate them and achieve their astounding success and riches. They’ve done so many wonderful things for society, and we muggles must bow down to them, desire to step in their shoes and work as hard as we can to achieve similar status.


OK so now I’m just being cynical. Within this celebrity class do come some people who have done great work for society and achieved much in their lives (despite what you may think you cannot deny people like Sir Bob Geldof and Bono have used their position to do some positive things). But let’s be honest, how many young girls will tell you they want to be Katy Perry or Katie Price when they’re older? Is it not a statement on our society that not many would ever say their local doctor or the teachers that work tirelessly every day at their school?


It would be a bit of a stretch too far to possibly suggest children are watching celebrity Coach Trip and wanting to be like the man on it who did the thing once and is now falling over his ski’s in the French Alps. But it just seems sad that in our modern technological society we are all under some sort of trance that the people on the other side of the television are somehow better people than us who all live in the celebrity mansion and have parties on their celebrity boats and drink from their solid gold celebrity chalices. Because for the most part, they’re not. In fact they’re just as ‘normal’ as you or me. Except we’re allowed to keep the prize money.


Why Game Shows Prove We’re All Pigeons.

September 30, 2011

A Saturday night in. Sitting on the sofa after dinner with the partner, a glass of wine and whatever happens to be on tele. In this case we find a new game show, conceived by Simon Cowell, the man responsible for such brilliance as Leon Jackson and Joe Mceldrey (no, I don’t know either), and commented as ‘the most expensive game show ever!’. As you may or may not have guessed, it’s ‘Red or Black?’, with the premise as childishly simple as the title insinuates. Many people pick between a choice of two in seemingly more and more ludicrous events, and those who choose right go on to the next round. Eventually this is whittled down to one person who was more talented than the others at choosing red or black, who then has to choose once more to win a million pounds, or go away empty handed and render the last 3 hours totally irrelevant.


Of course, you’d expect this to include the celebrity plugging their latest noise bucket, and yes, here comes Leona Lewis, who’s so totally idolised that even picking a briefcase must be worshipped like some sort of tribal sacrifice. But this isn’t my problem with the show. In fact I don’t really have a problem with the show at all. The production is the usual blend of bright lights and loud noises, and the use of ‘human interest stories’ leaves people sobbing on their sofas. Apparently. To understand what disappoints me, we have to look back to a game show conceived not ten years ago, which has become the stalwart of debate among the twitter people and the suspicious alike.


Never has opening boxes been such an incredible thing as it has been in Deal or No Deal. Before its time the idea of shouting numbers at people while a man with a peculiar beard talks of spirituality and game playing strategy was laughable even by the standards of the Americans. But no more, for now it’s the most important thing in ordinary people’s lives, and it’s changed the way human consciousness can be popularly perceived. For now, apparently, we have the power to influence what money we find lodged in the lid of red boxes simply through will power, faith and belief. The banking devil will try to steal my money from me, but my belief in the boxes will show me the light, with a little help from the Messiah Edmonds. Yes, I may have slightly overdone the links to religious beliefs, but that’s not my point nor prerogative. It is the fact that we as people seem to think our own behaviours can influence what is an ultimately random decision. We can pick those boxes in such a way as to find the top prize. We can decide to choose either red or black in such a way as to influence the random event that’s occurring.


This is what game shows are apparently telling us. But as you more astute readers may realise, this doesn’t seemingly have much to do with pigeons. Unless you’re a fan of B. F. Skinner, in which case please try not to brag. And don’t come to my house.


In [year?] Mr Skinner conducted an experiment in which he placed several pigeons in cages with feeding tubes attached enabling delivery of food at random intervals. The pigeons food would be simply dropped at random times. That’s it. Doesn’t exactly sound like a detailed experiment does it? But the food delivery was not the thing being monitored. It was the reaction of those pigeons. And the results were startling. As food was dropped at random times, the pigeons believed that their actions were making the food appear. The pigeons thought that an action they did, movement they made or sound they created made the food appear. They would continue to repeat that action, convinced that they were affecting the result. Starting to sound familiar yet? People play Red of Black and Deal or No Deal like the pigeons played the game with the food; with the inherent natural conviction that we somehow affect the outcome.


It might be slightly depressing to think that we are all the same as pigeons. Most people walk with disdain through Trafalgar Square of an afternoon at the vermin that defecate on our cars and steal our discarded lunch. But the truth is rather self-evident, and ultimately a bit depressing. We all believe we can affect the outcomes of random events through our actions. It’s almost impossible for people to accept that they have no control over whatever situation they face; somehow I must be able to influence how my team will do at home this weekend?!? Well I’m sorry, but you and I and everyone else cannot do anything to control this outcome. Or when the pigeons will be fed. Or whether the roulette wheel will end up on red or black.




Al Qaeda: In The Eye of The Media Storm

October 3, 2010

The continued loss of lives in Afghanistan is a sad situation, one of which many families have to go through every day in this country and elsewhere. Of course we must remember why they are out there; fighting for the freedom of our country and Western civilisation against a very real and very dangerous threat from a group of ideologically motivated Islamic extremists.

Except it doesn’t work like that.

Terrorism is the most discussed form of modern warfare we know of today. You can’t pick up a paper without hearing of the latest car bomb explosion in Baghdad or another Palestinian attempt to take Israel back off the map. The basic tactic of terrorism follows three steps:

1)      A group of people who share a common enemy plan and execute an attack against this individual or group.

2)      The act of violence causes a stir in the media.

3)      The group to outline their message to the widest possible audience through this media coverage.

The British and American Governments believe the best form to counter this terrorist threat is to take them out at Step 1, using military intervention to remove the group, hopefully at its core in the form of leaders and important group members. This is the British way in any military intervention, including the invasion of Iraq (although we are all aware of the real reasons for that) or the war in the Gulf. But this is not how terrorist groups operate.

Terrorists as we know them today work using a concept called ‘phantom cell networking’, where the supposed ‘leader’ of the group is not an actual person, but instead the ideology and belief system that unites the group in the first place. Through the use of the internet and modern technologies, they can communicate their ideas with each other and co-operate to defeat the infidel. Without a leader, it becomes almost impossible to militarily destroy them at the core.

Now Britain has always been a country proud of its military heritage. From the colonial movements of a developing empire to Mrs Thatcher’s chasing off of the Argentines in the Falklands, we have always been willing and able to overcome the enemy and defend our freedoms. But terrorism doesn’t work like other forms of insurgency. For one thing it isn’t a case of your army verses mine on the battlefield. A terrorist’s battlefield is anywhere and everywhere the enemy resides. For another these aren’t battles over land or resources; it’s ideologically motivated, designed to get a message or idea across to a mass audience.  They are so difficult to defeat because they can exist anywhere at any time, and have the power to strike instantly with malice aforethought. It’s like hiring a fire squad to catch a group of fleas; the fleas benefits from there agility and size to escape a supposedly vastly superior enemy before slowly draining them of moral and resources.

As more British troops leave Afghanistan, we become more aware of how fruitless their intervention has been. Al Qaeda is still at large, and continues to be a tour de force in geopolitical conflict. Britain has lost hundreds of lives totally needlessly, and every single one of them is another victory in the Jihad against the West.

So we need a re-think. If we can’t take them out at step 1, what about the other 2 steps? Well we cannot control step 3, since once the Terrorists get themselves in the media they control what message they give to the audience. So what about step 2? Could taking them out of the media spotlight really destroy their campaigns?

You are more likely to be killed by your own trousers than you are by a terrorist attack (no, I’m not making that up!). The deaths as a result of terrorist attacks in the UK tend towards 0 compared to road accidents, deaths in the home and drug-related fatalities. So why is it that a significant proportion of people still won’t fly because they fear a repeat of 9/11 on their holiday to Benidorm? It’s totally mad, and there’s only one explanation: the media. Newspapers always tend toward popular sensationalist stories because, quite simply, they sell. So if people are still curious about the idea of terrorists, they will keep buying papers selling stories on the subject, even if it is a null story with no significance on anyone’s lives. And this is the nectar these Terrorists feed on, and so far since 2001, they’ve capitalised on it.

But if we took it away from them, suffocated them of this exposure oxygen and placed media restrictions on these stories, they would have no mass outlet in which to expose their message of intifada. They wouldn’t be able to spread their ideology to those who don’t understand. They would have no reason to continue these violent insurgencies.

I don’t think it could ever realistically happen; we live in a free country and these sorts of restrictions would only be introduced by someone who has his people refer to him as ‘The Great and Glorious Kim Jon Il’. And since we can have an opinion and are able to express it without the fear of execution, we will let the Terrorists continue to hold the spotlight. When something new comes along to replace it as the popular fear of the masses, we won’t need to have our troops stationed in Helmand Province, and we won’t have this stupid and sad loss of life fighting a battle we cannot possibly hope to win.


The Ugly Portrayal of a Great Man…

November 8, 2009

So I read today that on Friday (6th November 2009), the renound con artist Derek Acorah is going to attempt a ‘séance’ in which he will speak to the recently deceased legend of pop Michael Jackson.


Now I’m a man who knows just how stupid the idea of the psychic is. Of course people cannot read minds. Of course people don’t get ‘energies’ from objects. And forgod sake, don’t tell me you can move a table simply by touching it?

But I’m not going to go into that rant (I suspect I’ll leave that for another time!) Instead, I just wished to express my disgust for this totally disrespectful act.

Michael Jackson was a superb showman, who sung some of the best pop records of all time. He will be remembered for being a superbly talented individual, who had his problems (not to mention the law suits.) However, no matter what the result was, that’s not what he’ll be remembered for.

So what’s the best thing to do in this situation? Of course the corporate machine was going to get hold of this, hence the release of the new film “This is it”. Now personally I haven’t seen it, so I won’t comment as to the potential level of tastelessness this may show. But to give a primetime hour slot on one of the best TV channels in the UK to a man who will pretend to be possessed by the spirit of Michael is quite frankly repulsive.

How can you possibly justify allowing this to be broadcast? If I’m being honest I don’t believe psychic ability should encouraged on TV at all, as all it seems to do is justify falsehood. But to do it with a man with which millions of people are still mourning and paying their respects to, who showed the world just how to put on a stage show, who wrote songs as timeless as time itself, is beyond me.

I won’t be watching it (I don’t actually have a television in my room if I’m being honest), but if you want to I would do it with a real understanding of its ugly portrayal of a great man. How anyone can bring themselves to do it is beyond me.


What exactly is wrong with Derren Brown?

September 17, 2009

The world has always had controversial figures. They’re the people we like to look at and take sides with. Much like the unoriginal marmite routine, you either love them or hate them.

At the moment, it seems the biggest controversy surrounds a great hero of mine, Derren Brown. Just recently, he ‘predicted’ the lottery numbers live on television. If you missed it, we’ll, I’ll assume your cave on mars is too homely to leave. For the rest of us, it was a great event.

And then the theories started flooding in. From trick balls with the numbers written on the in LED’s, to just pure sorcery and wizards conjuring, we pretty much got them all.

But in the end, Mr Brown (the one who seems to get everything right as supposed to the other Mr Brown running the country) revealed he did it through a technique called ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’.

Now I won’t go into the finer details of this (I may leave that to another blog), but basically he suggested that using lots of peoples guesses based upon past numbers and tapping into their subconscious would produce the results. Which it did. Apparently.

And then the outcries started. Some people called him a crook and a liar. Others claimed him as a fake. Others sat in their mars caves happier than the rest of us.

Now, I understand that people can become very passionate about the things they love. Anyone has the cheek to tell me heavy metal isn’t music and they will end up starting at their own skull as I turn them inside out. But why do we need to get so het up about what is basically a TV show?

No matter what anyone else says, Derren Brown is, without doubt, a fantastic showman and brilliant entertainer. His ability to get people talking and keep your interest, coupled with his genius in understanding the human psyche, make him a fantastic person to just watch and enjoy.

So instead of shouting and complaining all the time about whether or not what he says is true, why can’t we all just sit back and enjoy the ride. I for one am fascinated to see what the bloody TV advert was all about, just as I’m sure you all are.

Well apart from you Mars people. I hope your enjoying those caves. A postcard would be nice every so often.


Eating is a positive experience, no matter what they say…

September 7, 2009

As stupid a way as it is to start a blog, I really love to eat.

There’s nothing better than sitting in front of the television with a beer and your favourite food. Whether that’s a fattening pie or a slightly off-putting bowl of salad dressed with the water broken by a pregnant woman, what we eat is what we love.

So why do we listen do people who tell us what to eat all the time? On the TV we constantly see people looking at all the food we apparently eat with the face of someone who’d just seen their child run over the neighbour’s dog. And then they have the cheek to stare at out shit, and tell us it smells bad, which apparently proves how unhealthy we are. No Mrs Arse Face, shit is MEANT to smell bad…

If you were told running the London marathon would be good for you by a doctor, would you apply today? No, you’d rather sit on your couch and watch it on television. Or not in most cases, we’d rather stay in bed, because the coverage does start stupidly early…

I’m fed up with people telling us what to eat all the time. If I want a cake, I’ll have a cake. If I want a burger, I’ll have a goddamn burger. And if I want to eat a human, well, actually please stop me there quite honestly, I may have gone too far…

But my point is, surely we would rather live happily enjoying what we enjoy and dying happy then suffering on wheatgrass and dried bamboo and dying a miserable sod? If I had the choice, I’d die on my next point than live to 100 on rice cakes and rabbit food. And I bet you are exactly the same.

Life isn’t for drawing out. It’s for living. I may have talked for too long now about food. But this proves just how hungry I am now.

And what am I going to do? Have some chips. Because I want to. And to those who want me to be a boring sod, then that’s fine. But those cucumbers you bought me are going in the bin…


Music is an entirely subjective medium…

August 30, 2009

Can someone explain to me exactly why we all have such an opinion on music?

I mean, if we think about it, we all realise that music is one of those things that we all have our own personal tastes with, like with food or, well, that’s the only analogy I can make to be honest. But you get the idea. Music is something we all have our own preferences on.

So why is it that we all argue and disagree incessantly on the subject? It’s something that clearly confuses me.

Now I’m a metal head. I love nothing more than sitting back with a beer listening to a bit of Metallica, Megadeth or System of a Down. But I wouldn’t say I listen to metal only, because I’m huge fan of Pendulum, The Prodigy and other non-metal bands. But that’s just how I feel about music. It’s not going to be shared by many others, but that doesn’t bother me.

So why does it bother everyone else? Just because I don’t like 60s music like the Rolling Stones and The Beatles, or I don’t like the one pop music song that repeats itself all over Radio 1, doesn’t mean to say I should be put in the stock and have eggs hurled at me by 16th century chavs.

Music is just something we all have our own opinion on. Certain types of music and certain songs just give us that feeling that makes us feel so much better. When we have a bad day, we turn to our music to cheer us up. When you want to amuse yourself on a boring Wednesday morning, you put your music on to give yourself half a chance not to top yourself.

So I won’t complain if you prefer the Sugababes to Mötorhead, I’m not going to attack you for your love of Wagner, and I don’t really care if N-Dubz speaks to you in ways I can’t understand. Iron Maiden make me feel like living a fantastic life. And when I’m down, I’ll listen to Machine Head and be ready to face another day. And if you think that’s a stupid thing, then it’s you who clearly has the problem. Because we are all different, and music is the ultimate demonstrator of this.