Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The noble art of hoarding

I decided to clean my room yesterday. As in properly, to a ridiculous degree. As in organising every single one of my shelves and alphabetising my DVDs. Yes that's right, I suddenly found myself getting a little bit OCD. At the end of it all, I looked around and realised that despite my organising and tidying, my room was still filled with shit I really don't need, and don't think I ever will need. Why do I keep all this useless stuff? Because I'm a self-proclaimed hoarder, that's why.

5 useless things I still can't bring myself to throw away

5.The box that my aftershave came in
So this would be fair enough (kind of) if I actually kept the aftershave in the box when I wasn't using it. But I don't. I keep this box on my shelf for no other reason than that someday in the distant future I may be called upon for some ridiculous reason and of course it'll be imperitive that I kept it. 
Why the fuck has it not been thrown out?
I think I'm a bit like a magpie in the fact that I am drawn to nice looking things, no matter how useless they might be. The box is really nothing special (it's, errm, just a box) but there's just something about it that I really like. Maybe it's the outer sleeve that is removed to reveal the inner box whose design perfectly replicates that of the aftershave bottle? Fuck knows. But it's obvious that I'm not gonna get anything at all from keeping it. Especially since all the writing is in French. Oh but I did learn that 125ml is the equivalent of 4.2 fluid ounces. Which, you never know, may come in handy. 

4. Broken Pens
Thousands upon thousands of broken pens lie untouched in my desk draw right now. And I know for a fact they are broken; I tested each and every one of them when I was cleaning my room. I put the working ones in the little pen holder on my desk, and the broken ones went straight back into my fucking draw.
Why the fuck has it not been thrown out?
Apparently part of me believes that these pens have some juice left in them and one day when all my other pens have been lost (it happens surprisingly often) I will be routing around in my draw and find a broken one which suddenly, as if by magic, will start working again. This is of course assuming that I actually remember that they were broken in the first place. Honestly I'll put pens somewhere and keep going back to them forgetting that literally minutes before I discovered they were broken. I guess I'm just a little bit too much of an optimist for my own good. Like a child who thinks their goldfish is just sleeping.
That or when the zombie apocolypse happens at least I'll have a few pointy objects to ward them off with.

3. Pieces of paper with nothing other than scribblings or pointless doodles
I almost (it's not quite full. Yet) have an entire draw dedicated to this. There's something about old doodles and spolied lecture notes that is quite nostalgic, but the reality of it is that I'm never going to need this paper ever again.
Why the fuck has it not been thrown out?
 I can only imagine that oneday I'll be laughing and joking with old friends about fun times back at uni, and then someone will say 'Oh hey, remember that amazing picture I drew of the lecturer with the fucking massive mole?' and I'll jump and exclaim 'I STILL HAVE IT SOMEWHERE' with some sense of pride.
Then I'll go rummaging around in my special draw while my friends look on in embarrased astonishment and then it'll turn out that the doodle in question really isn't that great, and probably better of preserved in our memories.

2. Plastic bags
Again, I pretty much have a draw completely dedicated to a whole range of plastic and paper bags. Muji, Primark, Zara, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Ikea - you name it and it's sitting there in bag form in my draw collecting dust and will probably never see the light of day.
Why the fuck has it not been thrown out?
I think originally I was planning on going green and saving the planet by keeping all these bags for when I go shopping. Then I realised that whenever I go shopping I walk, and walking down to tescos with a handful of plastic bags just looks a little odd to be honest. Also it's not just the flimsy little ones I keep, but the big sturdy ones which actually do come in handy every now and then for taking washing down in or some other arbitrary requirement. What really stumps me is why I keep paper bags. There's one from Abercrombie and Fitch in my room at home which i got when I went to california like 4 years ago. I guess I kept that one for American souvenir nostalgia, but that really doesn't explain the 5 or 6 primark paper bags folded neatly in this little draw of mine.

1. Almost every single free thing I got at Freshers Fair
Freshers  fair was great; the amount of free stuff I got was insane. Things like inflatable football, frisbees, pens (which are sitting broken in my draw) and mountains of paper. This was about 5 months ago now, and I still have nearly all of it dotted around my room.
Why the fuck hasn't it been thrown out?
Ok you know tose frisbees I mentioned early? I have 3 of them. Two are exactly the same advertising some housing company or other, and the third is a shitty little fabric one that folds up into a little case. Keeping one would be perfectly understandable - frisbeeing is great fun in the summer - but come on, three? That's just mental, yet I still cannot bring myself to throw at least one of them out.
I mean at the very least I could give them to someone else. But no. Three frisbees for me.
Oh I also have schedules of activities that went on in freshers week and therefore are completely redundant and stupid. And yup, they too are sitting in my draw.

Oh and even after I've posted this, I'm still not gonna do anything about it. That just doesn't happen with me.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The noble art of music hoarding

So over literally the past like, 2 days I've downloaded and been recommended so much music by various people. And because of it I'm feeling pretty fantastic right now. I felt myself getting into a little rut in terms of music a little while back. But now the magic is back and I'm loving music more than ever. At the risk of boring everyone out of their skulls, I'll just give you an idea of what I've downloaded recently. Let me know if you need download links.

Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Kiss Kiss - The Optimist vs. Reality
Bibio - The Apple and the Tooth
The Drums - The Drums EP
The xx - xx
Cut Copy - Bright like Neon Love

And I very much enjoy every single one of them. Despite the fact that the genres and styles range ridiculous amounts.

Oh did I also mention that I've been having a lot of fun recently finding dubstep mixes of loads of amazing tracks. This dubstep mix of Bat for Lashe's song Daniel, for instance makes me feel like going raving.

The noble art of overhaul

Ok so I've noticed that this blog is really going nowhere fast. In the spirit of trying desperately not to let this turn into my previous failed attempts, I'm having a bit of a paradigm shift.
Expect far more random and crazy shit, with the occassional oppurtunity to laugh at someone on youtube. You all know you want this.


 Oh and one more thing, I apologise right now for any nonsense that may appear. It's just my general mood, tbh.

Monday, 1 February 2010

The noble art of psychological insanity

Most people, when hearing talk of psyhology, immediatly think of people lying on couches expressing their deepest darkest emotions and a psychiatrist sitting next to them spewing nonsense about them either hating their fathers, or wishing to have sex with him. Such stereotypes are all thanks to Freud, the man who suggested that every single thought or action is ultimately about sex. 
As crazy as this may seem, Freud is not the only complete mentalist in the psychology world, and there are various studies out there to prove it.

4 Ridiculous and unethical psycological studies (that make Freud look normal)

4. Dennis R. Middlemist hides in a toilet 
What was the point?
It is a commonly known fact among men that, when sandwiched between two other guys at a urinal, it becomes suddenly impossible to actually perform. No one really knows why. Some put it down to that self concious thought that every man in the room want to stare at your penis, but mostly it's just dismissed as 'shy bladder' syndrome. Well one man took it upon himself to study the effects of close proximity of fellow urinal users, and performance in said act. He believed that the closer one is to another man while using a urinal, the longer one will spend at the urinal due to physiological arousal tightening muscles and making it more difficult to piss.
Where it all went wrong
There really is no easy, plausible, even sane way to test this, but Middlemist decided that rather than even attempt something far more simple, he would hide in a toilet cubicle and watch men at the urinals using a periscope and time how long it took them to piss. Now of course this is pretty fucked up, but it gets worse when we find out that he actually hired confederates to occupy the urinals to either side of the man being studied, pretty much forcing this physiological arounsal that wouldn't allow him to take a piss. Now some could argue that because each man being study didn't know he was being studied, then there's really no harm done. But really, when you're watching a man pissing at a urinal through a fucking periscope, that's bordering on illegal, right?

3. Philip G. Zimbardo lets all hell break loose in a prison
What was the point?
When you were younger did you ever dress up as a super hero and think from then on that you really could fight crime like Batman, or fly like superman? Well it's not just kids that feel this miraculous transformation when they put on a costume. What Zimbardo set out to study was to what extent people would consider their own power and authority when put in a uniform? By putting on a uniform, he theorised that people would immediatly feel as though they had the authority that the uniform implied. While seemingly cute and obvious that a kid feels like a superhero when dressed like Batman, discovering that a man dressed as a policeman genuinely believes he can do whatever the fuck he wants is pretty incredible.
Where it all went wrong
Zimbardo reasoned that the best way to study these theories was to dress a load of people up like prison guards and inmates and just let them get on with it. He guessed that the guards would feel absolute power over the inmates because of the uniform they were wearing and the fact that they were told nothing they did would get them in trouble. And he was right: The guards - even those who may have been introverts or shy before the experiment - were extremely forceful towards the inmates and took thorough advantage of the power granted to them by the uniform. What Zimbardo didn't guess was that things got pretty nasty pretty quickly. Physical beatings were common, as well as the 'guards' totally abusing their power in the cruel and abusive way they were treating the inmates. The study was cancelled after just 6 days purely because researchers were seriously worried someone was about to get killed.
I mean really, you sign up for a psychological study and before you know it you've got a black eye and sleeping in your own piss in a crowded jail cell. It's a wonder this thing even lasted 6 days.

2. Stanley Milgram made people electrecute strangers
What was the point?
Obedience to authority is extremely common pretty much everywhere you look. Teachers, parents, even just people older than you, demand some form of respect and obedience, and generally we comply for fear of being punished. There are a great number of psychological studies that suggest we will do what ever it takes not to be punished. On the flip side, however, it's also been shown that when responsibility of an act is completely taken away, people are willing to do some pretty horrific stuff. Soldiers are the perfect example: Armed with the knowledge that they won't be thrown in jail for murder, they will have no problem killing as many people as they can. Milgram set out to study the exten people will go to obey authority when responsibility is removed.
Where it all went wrong
The man made people sit in a room and deliver electric shocks to people they didn't know and couldn't even see for getting questions wrong. This is crazy enough to begin with, but when we think that a) the strongest shock was 400 volts - enough to kill a human, and b) about 60% of participants had no problem going all the way up there, purely because the researcher told them that they weren't to blame for anything that happened.  Ok so fair enough these people weren't actually shocking randomers, but they genuinely believed that they were. Imagine you were sat in a chair and tol you couldn't leave until you had practically electrecuted a complete stranger. 'Oh but it's okay' you might say, 'even if i kill this person i won't get in trouble! Let's fry this bitch'
Really makes you feel good about humanity, huh?

1. Psychologists cure homosexuality with pain
What was the point?
In the 60s, homosexuality in America was pretty badly frowned upon. In fact, until the 1980s is was listed as a mental disorder. Good going America. But because it was a mental disorder, and not any of the sensible explanations that we have today, psychologists believed they could cure it. So thinking about this logically, how could you go about teaching people that thinking about people of the same sex in a sexual way was evil? That's easy, torture those blasphemous feelings out of them!
Where it all went wrong
These people thought it'd be a good idea to use a common theory learning by association to scare people into forgetting all those homosexual tendencies that dwelled like a cancer inside them. And how did they do this? Showing people pornographic images of homosexuals whilst similtaneously injecting them with drugs that make them violently ill of electrecuting them, in an attempt to force them to associate homosexual images with pain and revulsion. Needless to say these 'treatments' worked nothing like they were supposed to. Learning by association is pretty much only applicable to children or people with serious phobias or mental disorders. And since it became pretty clear about 20 years later that homosexuality is, in fact, not a mental illness, all this really did to them was fuck them up. Many people came out of this experience left with some form of post traumatic stress disorder and in one case, someone actually died after basically vomiting their lungs out. Again, well done America.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The noble art of childish fun

Being a kid in the 90s was amazing. Between Pokemon cards and Dangermouse, there was so many amazing playful distractions that your parents threw at you by the bucketload to get you off their back for half an hour. In the spirit of restrospection and reminiscence, We're taking a look at the things that really made childhood special, and unbelievably fun, without getting bogged down by orgasmic love for lego that has become a cliche in the toy world since, well, forever.

6 Amazing children's toys (that aren't Lego)

6. Stickle Bricks
These things were similar to Lego in that you stuck them together and built things with them. The only problem was that they were frustratingly unlike lego in that they didn't stick very well, and when they did, the finished constructed product usually looked unbelievably terrible.

That said these things were really fun to play with, and treading on them in the middle of the night wasn't nearly as painful as lego. Jesus christ that stuff was nasty.

5. Pogs 
Becasue seriously, when you're 7 years old, is there anything more fun than throwing things at other things in a bid to steal said things from your defeated, weeping opponent? The answer is a resounding no. The best thing about Pogs was that as well as a really badass game, these things made great collectables. With countless limited editions, and special shinies to collect, this was more of a way of life than a children's game, and encouraged competitive behaviour like you wouldn't believe.

4. Scalextric
As well as loving to smash things up as children, we also thoroughly enjoyed racing cars at incredibly high speeds around a relatively boring circular track. When Scalextric came around it did something that far surpassed Matchbox and their mini cars that were pretty terrible in comparison, and combined racing things with smashing things. I know for a fact that this thing changed my life for the better and memories of finally managing to navigate that goddamn loop with the car falling to a disastrous death make me all warm and fuzzy inside. Also if there was ever a childrens toy that got your Dad just as excited as you, then this is it.

3. Marble Run
I'm not entirely sure that any of you will remember this, or if you do, why this piece of plastic crap is featuring on a list of amazing chldren's toys. And the reason for this is that it kind of fulfilled every single criteria for mental and educational stimulation for kids. And it was really good fun. Using only a few pieces of plastic and some marbles, this toy managed to teach kids about construction and physics, adding quite a challenging puzzle element for kids of that 5 years old target audience. You had to think pretty carefully about where to position each piece so that the marble wouldn't become stuck and a pretty good knowledge of the way gravity works to actually get the marble to reach the bottom. Eduational, fun, and retina-smoulderingly colourful. What more could you ask for.

2. Transformers
Before Transformers was made popular again by the recent movies and animated cartoons, the franchise consisted solely of a lonely little comic and series of action figures. The reason that kids love magic is because a lit of it essentially involves one thing turning into another, and the creaters of the Transformers did a wonderful job in exploiting that love of magic in children with their robots that turned into all sorts of cars, trucks, and sometimes even robotic animals. I still have an old version of Optimus Prime that turned into a truck and I do still play with it every now and then because I still love to think that my little green Peugot 106 may one day turn into a crime fighting robot. Although if it did, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't work very well, and be very slightly retarded.

 1. Mighty Max
I'm pretty sure this was my favourite toy of all time as a child. Kind of like a little boy's version of Polly Pocket, but with more Indiana Jones style awesomness and terrifying creatures. Nobody really knew what to do with these toys other than pretty much rip them apart. I remember I has one with some weird little fish things whos heads, arms and tails you could rip off, for reasons that weren't immediatly apparent to my 9 year old brain. The fact that you could buy little Max in hundreds of different poses and expressions meant that you could also have a lot of fun just pretending the reason he wss stuck in the fire mountain was because some evil being had cloned him 700 times and then proceed to pull each one of their heads off. 

How the hell did they make an animated series about this thing?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The noble art of musical review

Music has always been a massive thing in my life. Like, seriously big. Recently I've been all over the place with my musical tastes and purchases but I've realised that that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I take pride in my range of music tastes and collection of random shit. Recently I've actually been buying a lot of music rather than just downloading it illegally (mostly because the uni network doesn't allow access to file sharing sites) so I thought I'd give a little insight into my current world of music.

7 recent CD purchases (and why I enjoy them)

7. Fyfe Dangerfield - Fly Yellow Moon
Despite having the single greatest name of all time (except maybe Happy Adjustable Spanners) this is the lead singer from the band The Guillemots, who I absolutely love. Their first album Through the Window Pane took me so long to get into, and for months I kind of hated it. Then one day I took another listen and suddenly something clicked and ever since they've been one of my favourite bands. So naturally when I heard that their lead singer was starting a solo career, I got really excited.
To be honest, I haven't given this album too many listens yet, but what I've got from it so far is good. It's very similar in style to The Guillemots music, but with a hint of something a little odd. In a way it sounds very amateur - a little unpracticed at parts, with melodies and rythms not quite seeming up to scratch - but then you realise actually this is what this guy is about. Extremely off beat and sometimes very weird, this is an experimental first album that really does show personality and an individual style that I actually really like.

6. Passion Pit - Chunk of Change
I fucking love Passion Pit. I found them originally through my old blog 'Something of an End' and I'm so happy that I did. Their debut album Manners is an eclectic, bright, happy, fun and just downright enjoyable record from start to finish. Honeslty there is not one song in the entire album that will not make you want to get up and celebrate life. 
Chunk of Change is an EP consisting of only 6 songs that lie somewhere between recording and the final production. All of these songs sound unpolished and unfinished, but actually that's not a bad thing. The lead singer of the band originally wrote these songs for his girlfriend at the time, and knowing that, I'm kind of glad these songs aren't completely perfect. There's something about a love songs that requires that raw feeling and emotion and doesn't need to rely on perfect production to be appreciated. That said a couple of these tracks aren't all that great, I'm not gonna lie. In fact if I had bought this EP before their full album, I'd probably hate them. But knowing they're an amazing band, then listening to a kind of stripped down version of their music is actually really nice.

5. Mew - No More Stories Are Told Today, I'm Sorry They Washed Away, No More Stories the World is Grey, I'm Tired Let's Wash Away
Despite the really fucking long title and creepy album art, this is a great album. I have no idea how I first heard of this band - they just suddenly turned up on my computer, but I'm glad they did. The album I had was called Frengers and was a really nice mix of rock/pop/electronica and all kinds of styles. They have a real knack for slow dreamy melodies in some tracks, then lively upbeat rythms with really memorable melodies. I absolutely adore that album so I thought I'd give their 2009 release a try. 
The nice thing about this album is that they're trying out new styles without changing too radically and keeping a lot of what made them so great in previous albums. This album is definately more quick paced than Frengers - there are only a couple of songs on this album that have that nice, slow feel - but that is definately not a bad thing. It's good to pick up the pace a bit from time to time.

 4. Owl City - Ocean Eyes
A while ago the video for their debut single Fireflies was circulating the internet like god knows what, so of course I gave it a listen and fell in love. There's a certain childlike innocence to that track that is so refreshing in music these days. It's kind of the musical equivalent a toddler. Bad metaphor but there you go. With lines like 'I'd get a thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs' what do you expect.
The album continues this childish fun and is filled with cute little synth melodies and sing songy lyrics that, while maybe not the best in the world, are certainly pretty fun: 'Alcohol and golf don't mix, that's why I don't drink and drive' Occassionally they can be annoying with this, but mostly you just have to take this album as fun and lively, with that innocence that is pretty much unheard of on music these days.

3. Daniel Merriweather - Love and War
Ok so I actually bought this a while ago now, but since it's sitting right here in front of me with all these other CDs, I might as well give this a go. I first heard of Daniel Merriweather when he did that cover of 'Don't Stop Me' with Mark Ronson, which I really really liked but pretty much forgot about him because as far as I knew he didn't have any other music out. Then a few months later I heard the debut single from this album 'Red' and again, I loved it. So I thought what the hell and bought the album. It's quite a nice mix of various elements of r+b, pop, rock and jazz and it fits together really well. A couple of tracks are pretty self righteous and sometimes he annoys me with lyrics, but mostly this is a pretty solid album. His voice and style suit both the slow, more soulful tracks and the upbeat ones pretty equally, which is always nice to know and means that most tracks sound polished and natural, because in my experience artists often force themselves to sound deep and soulful and it really doesn't work

2. Muse - The Resistance
There has been very many varying opinions on this album. Some people consider it Muse's next masterpiece and are praising every fibre of its being. Other think actually this is a poor release from an otherwise fantastic band. I'm kind of sitting on the fence with this one. I was very late to the Muse party, and got into them far later than everyone else so I've spent the last couple of years catching up. And I do love this band. Now in my opinion this album is split into two halves. The first 6 songs are pure, unadulterated Muse gold. Afterward though things start to get a little weird. While I appreciate that three part symphony at the end of the album really fantastic musically, it just doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the album. If they had released an entire album of that kind of material, I think it would have been incredibly well recieved, since it's not unusual for Muse to go all artsy and instrumental. However the beginning tracks set the album up as a solid rock piece and the transition from that to  symphony is a little too abrupt for me. Still I generally do really like this album. And Undisclosed Desires will always be an amazing song.

1. Noisettes - Wild Young Hearts
I was seriously shocked when I bought the Noisettes debut album a few months ago. Because jesus christ that album is incredible. I kind of dismissed them as another generic indie band when people first started noticing them but what really makes them stand out from the croud is their lead singer. Because man, can she sing. With an incredible voice like that it's no wonder they garnered so much attention. I therefore leapt straight for the second album when it was released, and despite quite a change from the debut, I really like it.
What I didn't realise was that the title song Wild Young Hearts was used in that yoghurt advert a while ago. I always like the song but had no idea who it was by until buying this album and that made me happy. The next single Don't Upset the Rythm is again incredible and a really good song to get you in the mood for partying. The rest of the album again is really strong, but they seem to have deviated from the hard hitting, totally upbeat style of the first album. Not a bad thing but sometimes I wish there were more songs like Don't Upset the Rythm on there.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The noble art of shameless plugging

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