Thursday, 31 December 2009

And All Was Quiet (Fiction)

Hey all. I posted this story on my Livejournal and on facebook for close friends at Christmas, and now I thought I'd share it with everyone. I hope you all had a great Christmas, and certainly one that got off to a better start than young Timmy's...

And All Was Quiet by Andrew Hawnt

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rage Against The Machine Are This Year's Christmas Number One: Up yours, X-Factor

Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name' is officially this year's Christmas number one. I've stopped laughing and cheering long enough to write this. Yes, Rage are on a subsidiary of Sony, yes, Cowell and his troupe of garishly makeup-encrusted mannequins will no doubt benefit from the whole furore, but I can't say I care. What I care about is that a stack of cash has been made for the charity Shelter, the heads of countless brainwashed masses of X-factor addicts are exploding up and down the country, and I have an excuse to love a great song all over again. It's a fantastic wake up call for people bogged down with apathy that people can actually make a difference to the way things turn out, and that is something people would do well to apply to things other than pop music.

It's been a brilliant rallying cry to make ourselves heard and our opinions felt, and now hopefully people will be more into the idea of doing something to make a real difference. The money raised by this campaign is going to help a heck of a lot of people, and that's a perfect sentiment for a Christmas number one, no matter what it is.

The icing on the cake is that Rage Against the Machine reportedly outsold the preening, Disney-fuelled X-factor track by nigh on 50 thousand copies. Cowell was going on about the campaign ruining the boy's Christmas number one chances. How about the rest of the country that are SICK TO DEATH OF THE WHOLE DAMNED THING?

If a slew of people are going to be able to eat something and sleep somewhere, then quite frankly the X-factor fans and their demonic overlords can, to quote my online brethren, STFU. To everyone else that supported the campaign, bought mp3s and added to the money going to charity, then I'd like to say thanks for a great Christmas present, and a Christmas number 1 that is sure to be remembered for a long time to come.

Mind you, I can't imagine it will turn up on too many 'Christmas favourites' albums in years to come. Although, that would be marvellous. Right between the Mr Blobby song and the Spice Girls. So I will join in with a huge chunk of the rest of the country and sing along the glorious Christmas refrain: Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me. Merry Christmas!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Rage Against The Machine For Christmas Number 1 - Why I'm backing the Campaign

No, I won't do what you tell me. Whether Rage Against The Machine's legendary 'Killing in the name' hits the number 1 spot for Christmas or not isn't the main thing with this notorious campaign for me. The reason I'm backing it is twofold- first up, the campaign is raising money for charity, and second, it's a glorious two fingers raised to the brainwashed masses who mistake televised karaoke for entertainment.

A lot of people are bringing up the fact that Rage are on Sony, which is thus lining Simon Cowell's enormous pockets still further, but I don't care about that. What I care about is the endless stream of watered down slush masquerading as music that is being force fed to us. Also what I care about is the rest of us, us X-Factor hating, chart-despising people having a chance to make ourselves heard for once. The X-factor is an overblown monstrosity that has sapped what little life was left in pop music and turned expression into a bloody game show.

It's depressing that there's A KARAOKE COVER OF A MILEY CYRUS SONG being touted to us as something good. it isn't. It's trash, pure and simple, and while yes, there is something of a herd mentality to the campaign to get rage Against the Machine to number one, it's because there's a herd of us that are sick to the back teeth with having this crap rammed down our throats across every possible media outlet.

Even if the sea of people supporting the campaign lose out to the offensively idiotic sugar-coated X-Factor entry, we've still made a point. Not all of us can be fooled into thinking that soulless, inane, heavy handed attempts to tell us what to like. Not all of us spend our lives screaming over Jedward and their ilk. Not all of us want to have this crap splattered all over our screens, newspapers, radios and internet feeds 24/7. What we want is for you to accept that the public still has a voice beyond the mindless drones that the X-factor has amassed, probably through subliminal advertising like in 'They Live'. A good number of us would rather listen to a 17 year old song about genuine issues. Yeah, 17 years old and the song is still way ahead of anything the X-factor has offered us.

Everyone- get the mp3, and let's have a Christmas to remember. Whether it hits #1 or not, you've still won. Plus, it would frankly be hilarious.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

In defence of liking Lady GaGa

I shouldn't really have to justify liking anything, but now and again I feel I must do so. I've never been one to follow trends, ever, and when Lady GaGa first came onto the international scene I despised her. I found her tunes repetitive and bland, and her image forced and vulgar. Then it all clicked into place for me and suddenly I found myself addicted to what she does. Now, I'm a metal fan and a rock mag journalist, so I'm not supposed to like stuff like this, but I can't help it.

There's something gloriously anarchic to Lady GaGa that has sorely been missing from pop music for far too long. I think it was her attitude more than anything that turned me from hating her to liking her. That defiance and steadfast determination she exhudes is very appealing, and yes, the music is made completely of earworms, impossible to get out of your head once you've heard it. Need proof? Go and listen to 'Bad Romance' and see how long it takes you to start humming it after it's ended.

While there are still real characters in the rock and indie scenes, pop music has become incredibly predictable, safe and dull. This is why Lady GaGa is such a breath of fresh air. I would liken the current stage of her career to that of Madonna circa 'True Blue', that era where an artist has become established and is laying the groundwork for a long career ahead.

With her outlandish outfits, risque lyrics and infectious tunes, Lady GaGa is every bit the defining pop icon out there right now. Where many female artists are flaunting flesh galore in order to stay on the front covers, GaGa has stayed there by sheer force of will, her hugely entertaining performances and her futuristic sense of style.

Yes, she is often wearing rather less than can be healthy at this time of year, but it's never flaunted in the same semi-pornographic way that many other singers are portrayed right now. She dresses in a sexy manner, but you never get the impression she's uncomfortable. In a media world obsessed with perfection, beauty and overt sexuality, Lady GaGa stands apart as the most original and interesting pop star out there right now, and if even us metalheads have our guilty pleasures, I'm not so guilty about liking her.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

On Enjoying Alan Bennett

It's easy for writers to get carried away with what they themselves are capable of. I know I'm no Neil Gaiman, but I think I'm okay at what I do. Then there are those times when you're reminded just how far you need to go before you're anywhere near as proficient as you'd like to be. I'm having one of those moments tonight. Something myself and my girlfriend are very fond of is the series of TV monologues Alan Bennett is so well loved for, namely Talking Heads. The DVD box set we have contains both series and a third disc of Bennett's Telling Tales monologues.

Both in the fictional Talking Heads episodes and the true stories from his life in Telling Tales, the rhythms and elegance of his writing and delivery astound us every time. A particular favourite is the famous A Chip in the Sugar, which Bennett performs himself as the character of Graham. His ability to perfectly capture the way people of different generations speak to one another, coupled with the acknowledgement of both the dark and light sides of normal life, well, they humble us.

My girl and I are both writers for national publications, and we are both working on novels and other projects that are testing us and helping us progress in what we do, and to watch and listen to the work of Alan Bennett brings us back down to earth and reminds us we need to work hard to be better, so that we may develop far enough to one day have even the smallest amount of his grasp on characters and dialogue.

The first thing of his which I read was his book Untold Stories. I must confess I have only been awoken to his work in recent years, and that book of stories from throughout his busy and eventful (yet very normal) life was one of the most gripping pieces of writing I have ever read. Even now I dip into it and soak up the language, the worlds he conjours that are brought back to vivid life, and I marvel at them.

Everyday stories of everyday events, stories of him struggling with various issues throughout his life, all of them are played out in beautiful, lyrical detail upon the page. It makes me want to work harder at what I do, and be better than I am. It also makes me want to be more open about myself and the things I believe and deal with, and maybe one day I'll be able to put some of the things I've lived through into terms which are that beautifully arranged. Maybe. Until then I'll watch, listen and read those words and bask in days that were never mine, but feel so real.