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Tom Daley’s butt crack

Whenever I peruse my miserable blog stats, I always click on the ‘search terms’ section (the word combinations that nudge people towards my little corner of the internet) to give myself a much-needed boost. Sure, the depressingly low visitor numbers indicate that I’m a failure, but at least I can console myself with the fact I’m not hitting the internet for nude photos of Barry Chuckle and Nadine Dorries (separate searches, I might add). Nor am I Googling for images of “Chris de Burgh’s nipples” or desperately trying to identify the cast of Glade’s ‘Poo at Paul’s’ Touch ‘n Fresh commercial. Yeah, life’s pretty good!

Until, that is, I had an epiphany. These search terms represent people who’ve landed on my blog unexpectedly and have immediately exited the page without reading a single word, disgruntled that “Tom Daley’s butt crack” didn’t appear before them like a sexy apparition. The upshot being: my blog is less appealing than a young diver’s chlorinated crevice. Is there really any point in my continuing, I pondered?

No.

And so this, my 100th blog post, will be my last.

Far from being a decision based on a silly interpretation of my blog stats, it basically comes down to the fact that no one reads this stuff. It’s become an emotionally draining process for me to spend hours excitedly tapping away on my laptop only to see my words sink without a trace as soon as I hit ‘publish’.

I’ve only ever written one successful post, back in 2011, when I wrote about Nadine Dorries, the Mail Online and the sexualisation of children. Emerging from a dull meeting at work to discover that my blog post had been retweeted far and wide on Twitter – and even mentioned on other people’s blogs – was a dizzying and exciting experience. The biggest compliment I received on that day was from Dr Petra Boynton, who told me that she’d snorted coffee out of her nose while reading it. (Someone once told me that my turn of phrase made them choke on some couscous, but this really was the promised land.)

Of course, so-called ‘success’ was short lived (and has never been repeated). My next blog post – the difficult second album – hit the world with a whimper and was greeted with general indifference. I didn’t write a single word for six months after that. Blogging is all about peaks and troughs. But mainly troughs.

Anyway, I just want to say a genuine, heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s supported this blog over the last four (and a bit) years. And to anyone who’s ever left a comment, shared, retweeted or ‘liked’ a blog post, or said anything nice about the rambling nonsense I’ve written – you’re all wonderful (and probably know who you are).

And thank you to SudoOne for leaving the only comment on my last full blog post. “Superb piece,” he very kindly wrote. (I thought so, yes.)

Right, those naked pics of Pauline Quirke and the cast of Birds of Feather won’t search for themselves. I’m off.

Bye.

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A three-tiered chandelier the size of a car ferry

ilb-eating-money“It doesn’t matter about money; having it, not having it. Or having clothes, or not having them. You’re still left alone with yourself in the end,” as Billy Idol once said, probably through a perfectly cultivated sneer. Unfortunately, as profound as Idol’s quote is, for some people it’s simply not true. It does matter if you have money. And perhaps most crucially, it’s important to show everyone else what you’re doing with it.

Let’s face it, when the end finally does come, if you can’t afford to have your withered, cryogenically frozen body launched into space aboard a rocket crammed with the material possessions of your obscene wealth – while funereal confetti cannons shower mourners with singed and unusable £50 notes – what’s the point of your pitiful existence?

That’s obviously not my personal view. As I have no money, I’m firmly with Billy Idol on this one. In the event of my death and subsequent funeral, I wouldn’t have the remaining funds to do anything more showy than have a single cloudy eyeball sellotaped to a firework rocket and launched from a milk bottle. But for supposedly wealthy people like Instagram user ‘itslavishbitch’, who I happened upon this week, it seems that money and possessions are everything. And thanks to social media, he’s now able to keep the rest of us “peasants” (to use his delightfully arrogant term) constantly updated about just how wealthy he is.

Not much is known about ‘itslavishbitch’ except that he’s a 17-year-old called Param, who resides in San Francisco and appears to be a sort of Asian Montgomery Burns. The unsubstantiated rumour is that he’s the son of Shikha Sharma, CEO and Managing Director of Axis Bank, India’s third largest private bank. But there are also rumblings that he’s nothing but a fake (albeit one with access to a staggering array of expensive-looking props).

A little bit of research by Digital Trends revealed that his social media channels all appeared online between January and March this year, with his personal website (www.itslavishbitch.com – also created in March) being set up through ‘Domains By Proxy’ – a service that allows you set up websites while keeping all personal data out of the public domain. Whatever the truth – whether genuine multi-millionaire or mere troll – he’s a truly detestable character. But one, admittedly, who’s actually made me feel a lot better about not having two coins to rub together.

Because when you look through his Instagram account, you can’t help but love the Internet for giving him the digital tools to make himself look like a total prick. He revels in the trappings of his vast wealth, but does so alone. The things he holds most dear do nothing more than lie around his penthouse suite inanimately, occasionally glinting in the light when a three-tiered chandelier the size of a car ferry is switched on. Meanwhile Benjamin Franklin looks on, disapprovingly, from stacks of one hundred dollar bills strewn about the place. But if you allow yourself to see beyond the apparent wealth on display, it’s an Instagram account that practically howls with the cold wind of emptiness whenever you visit.

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It also seems to confirm that excessive wealth detaches people from reality to such an extent that they’re forever engulfed in a fog of complete ridiculousness. In one photo, he’s shown pouring Bulgari-labelled San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water into a toilet (the only water he’ll shit into, presumably for the expensively fizzy splashback experience), while in another he’s shown tying a $2k wad of dollar bills to a bunch of helium balloons. There’s also a photo of him wearing two pairs of expensive jeans – one over the other – and another which shows him using yet another $2k wad of dollar bills like a mobile phone, with the caption “I be talkin moneyy” (sic). Going off the images alone, Param’s Instagram account often looks less like an elaborate trolling exercise and more like the heart-rending photo-journal of someone suffering from early onset dementia.

He also seems to have a love of expensive stationery. One photo shows his gold Cartier fountain pen, while another purports to show five gold-plated staple strips sitting in the palm of his hand at a cost of $175. I assume he uses them to staple cash to peasants’ faces whenever he’s in a generous mood, which is why I would never be tempted to enter one of his many cash giveaways.

Speaking of which, you can find details of these giveaways on his personal website. Not that you can actually read anything on there, as you’re constantly harassed by an aggressive pop-up that obscures half the screen and encourages you to download his grammatically incorrect book – Its Lavish B*tch – The Guide – which is billed as “a comprehensive young entrepreneur course”. (The true extent of his entrepreneurial experience is anybody’s guess. When the Huffington Post recently interviewed him and asked the question: “How do you have all of this cash?” he bluntly responded with: “It’s my parents’ money.” I doubt he’s generated a penny of the wealth he flaunts, which makes his self-help book something of a bizarre promotion.)

His YouTube channel also gives us a glimpse into his affluent world, with one video in particular serving up a brilliantly mundane moment. After being chauffeur-driven to his “crib” to the sound of ‘I Stunt’ by the aptly titled rap artist Philthy Rich, Param enters a mirrored lift, briefly gives the finger to camera and selects his required floor. “Elevatin to the laundry room hoe,” brags the Boyz ‘N The Hood-lite subtitle. Unfortunately, once he arrives at his floor the video abruptly ends. I was expecting the camera to be plunged into a laundry basket made of spun gold, containing thousands of dollars-worth of fresh clothes, with the subtitle: “Smellin like a motherfuckin summer meadow, bitches!”

If Param is the genuine article, then there’s never been a more stark reminder of the vulgarity of excessive wealth in the wrong hands. Alternatively, if he turns out to be nothing more than a troll – more desperate for attention than possibly any troll in history – then it’s a simple reminder that we live in an age that enables us to sell to the world whatever image we create for ourselves, however ridiculous, divisive and inflammatory. Nothing is ever quite as it seems in the bizarre online world that robs us of so many hours each day.

I’d re-invent myself as an arrogant millionaire, but my stationery’s just too cheap and ordinary. A miserable life of peasantry awaits.

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Offended by things. Lots of things.

American author Fran Lebowitz once said: “Being offended is a natural consequence of leaving the house”. Of course, nowadays, you don’t even need to leave the house, or raise your weary head from your drool-sodden pillow. All you have to do is reach for your smartphone each morning, drop into your social network of choice, then wait patiently for someone to point you in the direction of something vaguely controversial.

You could scribble a colourful limerick on the cubicle door of an Outer Hebridian public toilet, and a photo of it would eventually be blown around Twitter on a disapproving wind of collective huffing. We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time being offended by things.

Back in June, Adidas managed to offend lots of people after they revealed the new JS Roundhouse Mid trainer on their Adidas Originals Facebook page, which featured a garish orange “shackle-like ankle cuff” that some critics said resembled a symbol of slavery. The online backlash against the company was almost immediate. “How  would a Jewish person feel if Nike decided to have a shoe with a swastika on it and tried to claim it was OK in the name of fashion?” said one Facebook user called Kay Tee (Katie, I’m assuming).

Admittedly, Topshop recently had to remove a Slayer t-shirt from sale because it featured the death’s head insignia – “in the name of fashion”. But I strongly doubt that the elephant-sized Goering in the Adidas boardroom is the distinct lack of Nazi-influenced designs in their range of sports-casual footwear. Of course, if they now phase out their famous three stripe trademark and replace it with the double Sig Rune of the Schutzstaffel, those monsters will make me look pretty stupid.

If the ankle chain on the JS Roundhouse Mid had been attached to a leaking bag of clinical waste, which wearers of the trainer had to drag behind them like determined mountaineers pulling the corpse of a frozen friend through deep snow, it still wouldn’t have generated half the commotion that the chain’s link with slavery did.

Ironically, while everyone was busy dribbling their self-important opinions about the “Amistad Originals” (as they were rib-ticklingly dubbed) reports that Olympic-branded shoes and clothing – to be worn by Team GB and Games volunteers – were being manufactured for Adidas in sweatshop conditions in Indonesia went largely undiscussed.

But that didn’t matter. Because eventually, after 3,500 largely negative comments on their Facebook page, Adidas announced that they were cancelling plans to release the trainer. The offended masses of Facebook and beyond had triumphed.

At the start of the year, there was even a mild hoo-ha about the season five promotional poster for Mad Men, which appeared, in all its minimalist glory, on phone booths, bus shelters and subways in New York, and even plunged spectacularly down 12 stories of the Figueroa Hotel in Los Angeles.

The debate about the ad campaign flared up after a New York graphic designer photographed one of the posters on a phone booth for his “daily photo project” before posting it to Flickr, Instagram and Twitter, with the comment: “I’m not too sure how appropriate is this Mad Men poster”. His photo (and opinion) was then widely retweeted, re-posted, analysed, discussed and expanded upon across the Internet.

Because that’s what we do now. Rather than leave our thoughts and feelings bouncing aimlessly off the walls of our minds like an abandoned game of Pong, we routinely disseminate our observations to a global audience of strangers for wider consideration and analysis.

For die-hard fans of the show, the Mad Men poster – striking in its simplicity – was a visual cue to dust off their Dorothy Thorpe Roly Poly glasses, top up their whisky supplies and buy enough cigarettes to turn their lungs into charcoal briquettes. (While for opportunistic scribblers on the New York subway, it was a sure-fire meme.) But for those who weren’t familiar with the show’s distinctive iconography, there was a problem with the poster’s bleak imagery. One New York blogger wrote:

“If you know the show, you smile at the inside joke. If you don’t know the show, you Google “March 25″ and maybe you guess what it is or maybe you think March 25th is National Commit Suicide Day and you start the search for the perfect building to throw yourself off of. Or, if you see it in NYC, you think of [Richard Drew’s ‘The Falling Man’ photo, taken on 9/11].”

Anyone who speculated that the Mad Men poster might have been advertising March 25 as “National Commit Suicide Day” should perhaps have noted other unlikely observances in their calendars, such as ‘International Do A Poo On A Miniature Golf Course Week’ and the widely celebrated ‘Smash Your Nuts With A House Brick Day’. It was a ridiculous argument. Although one blog commenter did dwell on the suicide theme by suggesting that the Mad Men poster could certainly be viewed as insensitive – especially if we all clicked on the handy link he’d provided about the death of Paul Tilley, the former creative director at DDB in Chicago, who jumped out of a window at the Fairmont Hotel window in February 2008 (four months after the finale of Mad Men’s first season).

That’s the thing with the internet, you see. If ever you’re not entirely sure as to why you should be offended by something, there will always be someone willing to take you by the virtual hand to help you to join up the dots – any dots.

Unsurprisingly it was the poster’s ‘falling man’ link that was the most emotive observation. Although it mainly seemed to be bloggers who raised the spectre of 9/11, with some helpfully placing Richard Drew’s iconic photo next to the freefalling Don Draper image – just to make absolutely sure we got the comparison. Similarly, one blogger wrote that the Mad Men posters were in “bad fucking taste”, while helpfully linking those three fucking words to the ‘Falling Man’ Wikipedia page. You can heavily signpost an argument on the internet like nowhere else.

Most recently, a pop-up Benetton store in SoHo, New York, called ‘The Art of Knit’ managed to offend some uptight parents with its ‘Lana Sutra’ installations; yarn-wrapped mannequins contorted into various sexual positions by Cuban-born artist Erik Ravelo. And once again it was a photo posted to Instagram that sparked the debate (albeit without a supporting tirade from the poster about their love of knitwear being forever ruined).

Ravelo’s art installations – remarkably well done, it has to be said – look like two life-size Morphs wrestling on a colourful bed of spilled intestines. However once the images hit the Internet, the debate as to whether the sculptures were offensive and inappropriate played out in everything from the Huffington Post to the deepest, darkest, ‘secret door-knock’ Mumsnet-style forums. Great exposure for Benetton, but a tedious, and now routine, argument to once again bore the shit out of us online.

I don’t think it’s that we’re more easily offended these days, I think it’s just the ease with which we can now trigger or join a debate that’s turned us into blathering bores. After all, we can share an observation with the world with a simple swipe of our index fingers across the smeared screens of our smartphones. Social media has given us a voice online…and we really like the sound of it.

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Rufus is four-years-old. London 2012 has left a big impression on him

You may recall that I recently wrote a blog post about how refreshing it’s been to have genuine role models splashed across the front pages of our newspapers and featured on TV, courtesy of the Olympics. Much better than the shower of ‘celebrity’ shit that’s usually paraded before our weary eyes on a daily basis.

Well, off the back of that – with only a few hours till the Olympic Flame is sadly extinguished (and only a week till the X-Factor returns, with its unique brand of packaged emotion and contrived bullshit) – my sister sent me an e-mail tonight that made me both happy and tearful. I’d like to share it.

Rufus is my four-year-old nephew. London 2012 has left a big impression on him.

Hi Bruv,

Just a quickie to tell you something further to your excellent blog about the Olympic athletes being better role models than TOWIE etc.

Almost to illustrate your point, Rufus has been absolutely inspired by the Olympics. He’s running more, cycling more and when we took him and Jude out (Ru on his bike and Jude on a trike), he turned the whole thing into a race that he wanted to win. Last night he told me that when he grows up he wants to compete in the Olympics in the rowing, the kayaking, the cycling, the BMXing, the ‘swordfighting’ (fencing), the swimming, the gymnastics, the pole-vaulting, the high jump and the running…..and pretty much everything else he could think of. He told me he’s going to be a super Olympic athlete and we’ll all go to watch him. He also told me that the reason there’s no more fencing on at the Olympics is because they’re waiting for him to grow up so he can train to be in the team. Apparently they can’t carry on till that happens.

It’s been magical to see Rufus so inspired (he refers to his trampoline as his ‘stadium’) and you can see it absolutely everywhere. Earlier today I noticed the kids in our street suddenly doing training outside, running around doing track and field stuff. Rufus’ best friend wants to be an Olympian as well. It’s fantastic, but also soul-destroying to think that it’s all going to be over tomorrow and our children will go back to having bell-end Premiership footballers, glamour models and crap singers as their inspiration. Horrifying.

Let’s hope he stays inspired, whatever he turns out to be and do.

K
xxx

PS – He also wants to do ‘stairs’ as an Olympic sport, which mostly involves lying on them in inventive ways 🙂

So, London 2012 – you have inspired. To all those now charged with delivering the participation legacy, please don’t squander what you have helped to unleash. Rufus could be competing as early as 2028 (Games of the XXXIV Olympiad). Don’t fail him over the next fifteen years or so. Thanks.

*UPDATE*

I also received the following e-mail from my sister:

Rufus was very excited about the Paralympics because we were all so sad when the Olympics ended, and he would ask every day when they were going to start.

When the Paralympics finally began, we faced the inevitable questions about the athletes and their bodies. We didn’t dumb it down or sugar-coat the facts, we told him the absolute truth about the athletes, what their disabilities were and how they came to have those particular disabilities. He often asked how athletes had lost a limb (or limbs) and if we didn’t know, we’d find out and discuss it. (At one point, he asked if a female Paralympian had had her arm “shot off” – so it was essential we provided timely, accurate research to keep him fully informed and his imagination grounded!)

We were completely open about it and it didn’t freak him out or scare him, he just took it all on board and accepted that these things can happen in life. I was very proud of him.

Anyway, one day – part way through the Paralympics – he was trying on some new school socks that were a bit too big for him. He pulled them right up to his knees and told me that they were his prosthetic legs and he’d be able to run really fast. A day or two later we were over at his best friend Austin’s house, when he pulled his arm into his T-shirt and told Austin that he can run really fast with one arm. He subsequently challenged him to a race.

At one point, he decided that he would run with no arms at all and I had to tell him to have at least one arm out in case he fell. He was most put out by this. Then, the day before he started school, Rufus, Austin and their other friend Harry were having a final play date when Rufus pulled his arm into his t-shirt again and spent most of the afternoon running around like that. We only noticed looking back at the photos that Harry and Austin were armless in some of them too!

So in a nutshell, he thinks the Paralympians are amazing!

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