Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Because I'm enough of a shit that the Rage thing isn't subversive enough for me ...

Right then, time to dig my teeth into the story of the month, Rage taking the #1 spot in the charts. We all now know that Epic and BMG are both subsidiaries of Sony, so, yes, the money all goes to the same people, so let's not get too excited about a revelation that anybody who actually bought CD's would already be aware of.

What's really bugging me is that this is apparently some kind of act of subversion - that somehow getting one act to the top of the charts over another is rebellious. Let's set out our stall first, shall we? Everyone realises that, in the short term, micro terms (i.e. the 2010 December period in regard to music singles sales) Rage and 'Joe from the X Factor' (apparently representative of Simon Cowell) are competitors. However, I think people are rather missing the point that getting the Rage song to the top of the charts is not an act of subversion: Cowell is not the 'establishment', he's a private individual, and there is no vested interested in the BBC to promote Cowell's interests. The charts are, if no-one's yet noticed, a sales index, and sadly, numbers don't lie.

Even moreso, I don't understand is just how shocked the public, Rage- or Joe-buyer are at the matter. I'm afraid to say that no-one stole the #1 spot from Joe, Simon Cowell or the X Factor, they were simply outsold. Why don't we hear millions of stories of grievance every day about musicians being outsold by other musicians? If it wasn't for thirty-four other acts, The Priests (I'm not sure, either) would be #1 in the album chart.   The chap from the X Factor is apparently disgusted by the whole Rage thing, but he seems unable to realise that it wasn't RatM (switching it up) who got themselves to the top of the chart, it was the people who chose to buy their song en masse, which is exactly what the Radio1 chart is designed to count. Likewise, does he not realise that, by entering and winning the X Factor, he's effectively 'stolen' somebody else's X Factor victory, according to his criteria. Regardless of which song it is, all you have to do is buy a song. Regardless of whether you convince others to also buy it, all you're doing is advertising a song. And, I shall add, a song which was advertised by a company, whose corporate power put the band onto the international media scene by agreeing to buy their product and advertise it. Monkey see ...

I'm also confused by the Morter's decision to do this. From what I've read, they were tired of hearing the same old pop toss on the radio every year, and plumped for a song that was "screechingly militant and full of swearing". However, I think this shows one of the awful sides of blind consumerism: we all too readily forget that one of the choices in consumer-choice is that you don't have to consume. I suppose the point I'm trying to make is the they could have just not turned the fucking radio on.

In summary, all that we've really got is a bunch of people who like one song, and a bunch who like another, who have tried to get their song of choice to the top of a chart based purely on sales figures by buying them. There was no guarantee that Cowell's X Factor winner would get to the top: it comes down to advertising, which in this case is mostly the show, and the publics' willingness to buy. What's actually interesting is that Rage were chosen as the competition: why not choose an unsigned band, or make a recording of a bus braking (for example) and sell it for a penny on iTunes. The reason is it's not an act of subversion against the chart system itself, which is apparently not a target for hatred, and an important enough activity to be actively involved in, but a conflict of consumer options within an established framework.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

If you say literature really quickly you sound like someone from the West Country saying Little Richard...

Well, hello and hi! I've actually thought of something to say, which is pretty good seeing as I thought I'd probably only manage one post. Before we begin, I'll apologise for some spelling errors in the last post Joe assures me are there. It shall not happen again, and in true New Labour-style I hereby declare the war upon poor spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Anywhom, this shall be a rather short post, but one which will tie into a wider series of posts on my favourite issue toward which bigotry directs it's bulging, rage-filled glare: immigration. In this short post, I'll try and deconstruct what it is about 'us' (the British common volk) that must be defended from the predations of the scruffy immigrant. Please note that I only refer to Britain as I live there. I'm sure that other countries have their own share of shits with their own misconceived perceptions.

'Britishness' is difficult to define, as it is a nearly universal psychological noumenon, but is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. I shall use as my example here the notion (which we've all heard) of 'good old British food'. If you asked a person (who, for argument's sake, has just uttered the phrase) to explain what it is that they actually meant when they described their dinner in such a way, I'd wager that they'd be unable to do so in anything even approaching a comprehensive manner. Essentially, it's a composite description which adds up to sum greater than that of it's total parts. Let's break it down. We'll ignore the word 'good' as I can't be bothered to go into the gravitas that tradition has knocking around it. Let's assume that the weight of tradition hangs heavy over the phrase.

Firstly, the food is 'good'. What is good about it? Do you simply like the taste (smell, texture, appearance etc.)? So what is it that makes food which tastes nicer than other food somehow morally superior to other food. Why is it significant that, for argument's sake, the French just don't get 'good old British cooking'? Perhaps, to 'them', it tastes a bit sickly and is too stodgy. Or do you like the food simply because of it's familiarity? Are you simply admitting a psychological kick you get from a subconscious realisation that your Mam gave you this food when you were growing up?

Secondly, the food is 'British'. In itself the word (adjective?) carries a weighty connotation. "ah, good old Blighty". Why does it conjure up such a stirring warmth from the depth of the soul, even if you really think the country is a bit shit? In the contest of the phrase, what the speaker is really saying is that the food was either grown and/or invented and/or cooked in Britain. So what is it that makes eating food that by necessity was grown in Britain thanks to factors such as climate which would impede the growth of crops (for example - I understand why crops have trouble flourishing thanks to environmental considerations than animals) somehow an implication of patriotism and superiority to that grown elsewhere. In truth, in a world that existed before the era of mass communication and transport, cooking from any given area was dictated by what was available. Traditional recipes are simply a consequence of what was to hand (although artfully put together, I add hastily).

So, hopefully that little delve into the world of emotive suggestions has got us on track for some more in-depth analysis of why we dislike immigration so much. I will say that I've no problem with 'traditional' British cuisine, I do, in fact, love it. On that note, I'll leave you with the chap (thanks to who, quite correctly, states that the government have an "an absolutely splendid idea. Cut the number of illegal immigrants by allowing them to come over legally." He's entirely correct, but I think he's rather missed the point that legalised illegal immigration is, in fact, immigration. Which happens to be legal.

So, in the style of the How? presenters, "that's chow, for now!"

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The scales won't balance because they're broken ...

Right, I'll start this blog off by making a statement: the Conservatives are going to win the election in 2010. The only way that they could lose is if every candidate buggered a nursery class. labour isn't doing itself any favours at all, and I'm inclined to agree with the many claims that it became all a bit too cosy for the Labour leadership, and now they're paying the price.

But what I really want to talk about is Conservative policy, namely in the area of jobs and education. This morning George Osborne announced that to save jobs in the public sector, the Conservatives would freeze public sector pay - in other words, not allow for rises in earnings - except to those earning under £18,000, which is not an unfair proposal. Desperate times, desperate measures, and it seems that over the summer the rhetoric of 'social mobility' has been dropped by the major parties. Coupled with this is the plan to raise the retirement age to 66 years old, which saves the state a bit of cash in the long run.

An interesting counter-point to these proposals, however, is the announcement yesterday of the "Conservative plans for an extra 10,000 new university places next year to help tackle youth unemployment", including "ntroducing an early repayment bonus for existing graduates repaying their debts to the taxpayer ahead of schedule." This seems to jar somewhat with proposals to raise the retirement age and stopping pay increases.

If staff are unable to leave work i.e. retire, positions in the public sector will not be available for these graduates to take up work, leaving a significant proportion unable to find employment. I will point out here that people retire either when they reach retirement age and their pensions become available, or when they have saved enough to retire early (again, supplemented when their pensions become available). In order to retire early, earnings need to increase to allow greater savings. I hope you follow the kind of loop I'm suggesting.

So, in essence, I'm suggesting that these plans are not only not complimentary, but counter-intuitive to the other. Without employees moving out of their positions, new employees cannot move in to fill them. That's not to mention that the luxury goods (those that depend upon expendable income from consumers) will also not grow and take on new employees if expendable cash-flow isn't increased, either through pay rises or new consumers (i.e. newly employed individuals) joining the consumer market.