The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

 

ImageOn more than one occasion I’ve seen critics attack Wes Anderson for a sense of emotional detachment in his films. I’ve always understood why people see this, but have never really agreed. Although I wasn’t a big fan of Rushmore, there was at least a charming affability to Max Fischer. Chas’s overprotective nature in The Royal Tenenbaums is touching and Margot’s own emotional detachment from her family is in fact what helps the film steer clear of cold detachment as a whole – because this detachment is explored and nuanced. In Fantastic Mr. Fox I can somewhat understand the criticism – but is this because it’s harder for us to have an emotional attachment to an animated film? (Well, of course not – how would you explain the Toy Story trilogy otherwise?) Perhaps Anderson’s Roald Dahl adaptation suffers from being a little too short or too focused on its (admittedly wonderful) aesthetic. In Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel I simply don’t understand comments regarding emotional detachment, and found the two to be subtly very powerful.

Upon watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, I sadly understand the criticism more than ever before. Zissou, an oceanographer and documentary filmmaker, is destined to hunt for the gigantic ‘jaguar shark’ he saw kill and eat his old buddy Esteban and kill it in an act of revenge. He assembles his crew and attempts to film his journey, joined by Ned Plimpton – who may or may not be Zissou’s son – and Jane Winslett-Richardson, a journalist who comes along to chronicle Zissou’s quest. Jane is pregnant with the child of her boss, who is married to another woman. Both Zissou and Ned fall for Jane, creating a rivalry between them.

The idea is an interesting and unique one, and gives Anderson plenty of scope for list-ticking eccentricities and quirks. Zissou’s boat, the Belafonte, is beautifully and intricately designed. Detail is incredibly specific. The sea creatures are animated and given something of a plasticine-like sheen, giving the film that storybook quality that features so heavily in Anderson’s films. 

However, at nearly two hours long the idea seems to be a little ambitiously stretched. It feels like you’ve come across a Steven Moffat-penned Doctor Who monster. It’s a wonderful idea, but seems to be just that – a wonderful idea, snatched from the moment the lightbulb hovers over the head and taken straight to the page without always being fully fleshed out. 

On board the Belafonte, then, we’re made aware of Zissou’s infatuation with Jane. But ‘infatuation’ doesn’t quite feel like the right word. They talk a little and Zissou tries – and fails – to kiss her. The next thing you know he’s broken into her cabin and read through her notes where she criticises him for not being the hero he was in her childhood. The obsessive nature of this action implies a possessive infatuation – but despite the fact that Zissou’s character is that of a dejected, slightly glum loner, this crush of his never seems to amount to much in the script. You start to wonder if the infatuation is in fact Zissou’s desire to be hero-worshipped like he used to be in his younger days. If this is the case, it’s too muddled up in the guise of a love triangle and doesn’t ring true. Ned, being younger, more handsome, more polite and generally less of a sulky arse, develops feelings for Jane that are reciprocated. 

Naturally, this angers Zissou. Yet when the two argue you still feel disconnected from the both of them because their relationship is indefinable at this point in the film. Are they father and son or just two blokes who think they could be? Does Zissou – despite not allowing Ned to call him ‘dad’ – like the idea of having a son? Does Ned really like the idea of having Zissou as a father? For me, this lack of a definite relationship made several of their scenes feel distant and at times a little cold. I actually thought Zissou was a well-written and interesting character – but his relationships with Jane and Ned didn’t feel authentic enough for me to become emotionally invested in the heart of the film.

That’s where my main problem with the film lies – in the writing. I’m usually impressed by Anderson’s writing style, and there are certainly moments in The Life Aquatic where he’s on form – it’s certainly a funny film, mostly down to little pieces that actually help build characterisation (Willem Dafoe as Klaus is a real standout character and garners most of the laughs). The film also mostly avoids overly saccharine moments (though the final confrontation with the shark teeters dangerously close), and characterisation is generally strong.

Anderson’s problem with this film seems to be the tying together of several well-developed characters, who end up feeling as separate from one another as the tiny cabins that populate the boat the film is mostly set on. This, plus a wonderful idea that is perhaps better suited to a short film than a near-two-hour story, lets the film down significantly.

I did enjoy The Life Aquatic – it’s adventurous, visually engaging and at times very funny. I just didn’t believe it. Even though Anderson often likes to tell stories about storytelling – and often lets his audience know this – I still usually find a way into believing his films, in getting emotionally invested in them. Here, I have to agree somewhat with the critical stance that this film, at least, has issues with drawing the viewer into the emotional lives the characters share with one another.

A Poem For Michael Gove

ImageAs you may have heard, Michael Gove recently completed another step in his apparent quest to claim the title of Ultra-Turd, and scrapped classic American texts from the English Literature GCSE syllabus. This made myself and a lot of people angry. And instead of finding Michael Gove and telling him he looks like a strange duck or punching in the face, I showed this anger by writing a little poem for him, which I hope he likes (and it’s not American! I’m English, Michael! Promise!)

 

Gove

Look what you’ve done: a shout from within,
no reasonable doubt, a door silences all and
Atticus walks out.
You hold your hands up: yes, racism
is obscene. But what can we learn
from a Southern court scene?

Caulfield’s caught swearing,
(he doesn’t like school, he thinks about
sex which doesn’t really happen,
he is sad and happy in absurd oscillations)
Sixty-one to eighty-two,
you salivate at the book bans:
is the rye for catching
plucked by English hands?

Think what they’ll be reading:
Huckleberry Finn? For dialect
a plane away you swear there’s just
no room – and what if all the kids
start drinking in the afternoon?
And where’s the Thames,
where’s Hampton Court,
the thou, the thee, the whom?

Was driving on the wrong side
the cause of Myrtle Wilson’s death?
(And what’s the American Dream,
anyway? And why would you
be dreaming it?)
Why are billboards eyes of God
and why would you be
screaming it?

You like your labour soft, pallid;
Lennie’s was too manual
(were you scared the puppy crushed
was a King Charles Spaniel?)

The Crucible had God – and don’t
you have him, too?
And wasn’t England’s first Witchcraft Act
signed in 1542?
You like your classrooms puritan,
wheels within wheels, fires within fires…
is American literature comfortable atop your funeral pyres?

 

Facebook’s Accidental Truths

ImageA year or two ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a status expressing disgust at seeing two people root around bins in a McDonald’s car park to look for those Monopoly stickers that can sometimes be exchanged for various McDonald’s products. 

The weird fusion of a) wanting to be honest to gain people’s respect and b) pandering for people’s ‘likes’ on Facebook often results in this sort of thing. It’s horrible, of course. To call people out on looking through bins is a strange thing to do.

Do you know those people? No. Were they offending you in any way? Probably not. Was the event particularly extraordinary or profound? Not at all. By calling them disgusting are you achieving anything? No. Do you know anything at all about these people? Of course not. Do you think that by sharing this thing you’ve seen on Facebook and calling it disgusting you’ll get a nice handful of people liking your post – confirming that you weren’t wrong and that it really is just laughable and gross? Yes? Then you’re set.

The gamble some people take on Facebook is genuinely intriguing. Despite assertions that people aren’t really themselves online, these sort of rude/offensive/careless posts made to be ‘liked’ tell you something about everyone – not everything, of course. I’m not at all suggesting that you can ‘know’ a person in that way through Facebook. You’re just given a glimpse – but what you’re glimpsing is sometimes more interesting and complex than you’d think.

This isn’t anything new. People know this already. It’s just helpful to be reminded. When you see someone post a status laughing at two people looking for tokens which can be exchanged for food in car park bins you have a whole glimpse into a sort of truth nobody would willingly like to share. It’s a double-edged sword but the first strike – the likes, the comments, the reminder you’re giving people that you’re still here and still funny and still opinionated – is powerful and instant, while the other edge draws blood and leaks – it’s not the actual wound, but something nasty about it, something that comes from it.

Scrolling through Facebook now reveals these accidental truths in strange and interesting ways. As someone who loves writing, and writes for at least an hour every day, these honest exclamations – that aren’t always aware of their own honesty – can be helpful. Sometimes you’ll see a stupid phrase on Facebook, something misspelt that looks and sounds better than the correctly spelt version, an opinion you abhor, a message of affection that is natural to the writer yet bizarre and cold to the reader.

I wrote a short story about the two people rooting around in the bins. That status helped me write something. I thought it was a horrible status, of course – close-minded, cold, condescending and cruel (that’s just the Cs) – but it helped me think about the people on the other side of the coin. The people who had no idea they were the subject of a Facebook status which was used to fuel one girl’s popularity – who were they? Where did they live? What did they do? Were they happy? Who did they love? Who loved them? What was their earliest memory? 

I also set myself the (slightly bizarre) challenge of writing a poem made entirely out of words and phrases I saw on my Facebook feed. Here it is, taken from one evening’s social networking a few weeks ago:

Today is not that day (happy birthday!
thank you!), I didn’t think I’d see you speechless.
Say it again? I want to watch something.
Hahaa I’m not saying it is but she
took a HUGE fashion risk (it paid off),
thanks for the invite the realisation
I did thank you I am just about finished and
have no life who am I kidding, it won’t
charge at all, deep apologies,
time to relax, monthly outing,
abstract, motivation,
funny, study,
helpful,
babysitting blog
holiday nowholiday
sixthquestionslastday
form blog helpful,
funny studying for abstract
monthly outings, I won’t charge
at all, no kidding, I thanked you before
sorry I can’t make it fashion fashion
but she is, watch anything, deaf awareness
or motionless actually, thank you,
happy birthday! today’s the day!

Isn’t Facebook weird? Isn’t it weirdly fascinating? For all the times people have made me angry on Facebook, there’s so much more behind every word selection in every status. Why did they word it like that? Did they take time over that? We all do it – sometimes I spend a good minute or so trying to choose a ‘tagline’ for these blog posts when I share them on Facebook. Whether what we read is funny, honest and kind or self-righteous, problematic or discriminatory, it gives off these strange truths about people that they don’t mean to give off themselves – and then opens up a whole network of looking at people in different ways, asking questions to them, about them and as if you were them.

 

Acid Pig

I’ve already failed. I said I was going to try and post at least once a week but apparently I can’t even do that, which is quite pitiful. My last post was on May 23rd. It’s now June (what? Since when? Are you sure we’re still not in 2013?) and I’ll be moving out of my first year uni accommodation in about a week and a half.

Then the summer lies ahead like a Snorlax-shaped bouncy castle. Fun at first, then cripplingly boring. I’ve got a job sorted out, which is something. I’ve posted a message on Facebook to my four best mates that consists purely of the words ‘impromptu holiday?’ I haven’t heard anything back yet. Usually getting the five of us together for a few hours at the pub is an achievement enough.

Then, in September, I’ll be moving into the house I’ve bought with four of my current flatmates. Tomorrow this means we have to get together and ring around about all the boring stuff, saying things like ‘please give us water!’ ‘please give us electricity!’ and ‘please give us an internet provider who is lenient about illegally watching TV shows!’

In the more-than-a-month-now period I’ve had since my only first year exam, I’ve mostly been reading and writing. I must have read about five or six novels. The last I read was Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, which is hauntingly brilliant. Now I’m reading Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. I’m over halfway through now and I like it so far.

I’ve watched two new films, too: Withnail & I and The Royal Tenenbaums. I loved both. Oh, and I’ve started watching House of Cards on Netflix with one of my flatmates. That’s also really good. Kevin Spacey is brilliant.

Today’s been a dull day. Outside it’s been threatening to rain for a while and the air is dense with pollen, meaning I’ve sneezed enough to power a small lightbulb in a shed for forty minutes. I’ve drank lots of tea. A mate and I tried to set biscuits on fire. Then he put post-it notes with drawings of eyes on my eyes. The Tate would have probably accepted it. Just now the same guy has thrown the cut-off top of a juice carton at me. He drew eyes on it so it looks a bit like a pig. The juice tasted like acid so we call it Acid Pig. Acid Pig is now looking at me. I wish you were here to see.

I can see the use by date printed on Acid Pig’s acidic little head. 20th June. By then I’ll be back home, and will have been back for a week. It’ll be my mum’s birthday in a matter of days. Acid Pig has done a lot in bringing this post to a natural close. As it stares at me I thank it for giving me that very minor and insignificant glimpse into the very near future. Thanks, Acid Pig.

 

Talking About My Secondary School (And Fighting For English)

I’m pleased to find out that my secondary school (I was going to write ‘old secondary school’, but I only left it last year so it doesn’t really feel ‘old’ to me at all) now has much more of a voice when it comes to literature and creative writing than it ever did while I was there.

I first saw this upon learning that the school has a Twitter account (such hashtags! So networking!). There was a tweet about a literary festival at the school. I had to re-read this several times, since in my mind – and certainly during my time there – literature was something the school didn’t really seem to care for. But my eyes weren’t deceiving me. The school held its first literary festival earlier this month, which made me feel a) incredibly proud and b) profoundly annoyed that I left the year that I did. 

Further to this, after exchanging emails with my old A Level English Literature teacher (and, I’d say, the best teacher at the school), I found out that the school had offered Creative Writing as an A Level this year. It’s even better than that, in a way – they’re opening it up properly next year, because this year the A Level has been carried out in after-school sessions. A group of students have been going to out-of-hours lessons to complete a Creative Writing course. Respect to the teacher(s) and students for making that possible. I’m jealous I missed all of this.

When I was at the school, the English department was, I’d say, overlooked. The school prides itself on science and technology (ironic, since I can comfortably say these were two of the worst-taught subjects I came across in my seven years there*), and English always seemed like an afterthought. Actually, it was never really a ‘thought’. I was nominated with three others for the position of head boy in my penultimate year at the school, but knew I wouldn’t get the ‘post’. A good friend of mine was also nominated. I studied English Literature, Theatre Studies and Religious Studies. He studied English Literature, French and German. I was quite comfortably aware that neither of us would become head boy or deputy head boy. This didn’t really bother me in any way. What did we have to offer in a school ‘of science and technology’? We didn’t quite fit the desired demographic. We both took part in the annual school musical. We were very much performing clowns who liked reading books. We were never going to get the position without having a more business-headed, mathematical/scientific-leaning future ahead of us. That friend of mine is now studying at Cambridge University. 

Now, of course I’m not suggesting that my affiliation with English – and my love of it – hindered my chances in that respect. That would be a stupid thing to say. What I am saying is that English was always treated like one would treat an old National Trust building – vaguely important, but not worth wasting too much time discussing. The Powers That Be (by which I mean the cluster of ‘senior’ figures in charge of the school in a bizarre autocratic group bordering on farcical) weren’t too fussed about English. Creative writing was never spoken of. What was it? Telling stories? What’s the point in that? It is, of course, the most powerful thing we can do. But there it was all a bit airy-fairy.

Before I left the school to start my degree in English Literature with Creative Writing, my sister was taught by my then head-of-year. He asked her a couple of times how I was in the run-up to my exams. He also asked after me once I left the school. Once or twice, of course, he asked her how I feel about knowing I’ll never get a real job/wasn’t doing anything worthwhile. All tongue-in-cheek, of course – but with an element of seriousness that underpinned a general feeling across the school. The same teacher allegedly put me forward for head boy. These tongue-in-cheek comments were not out of the ordinary – he was very much a teacher who appealed to the popular, clique-y students in younger years, often doing this by subversively mocking other students or mocking the clique-y students themselves. He was humorous, though, so got away with it, to the extent that most younger students – even the ‘unpopular’ ones – were charmed by it and held him in their heads as a wonderful teacher. In an early AS Level lesson, where he went on a tangent about how he didn’t really ‘believe ADHD is a real thing’, I started to doubt that notion. 

Hopefully this is the first step of the English department in the school to getting the footing it rightly deserves amongst the ‘legions’ of maths, science and technology that, as I remember, were bizarrely hero-worshipped by The Powers That Be. The dedication of the teacher(s) and students in setting up and attending after-school creative writing sessions also warms my heart and fills me with pride. After spending a lot of time at the school feeling disillusioned regarding the lack of importance subjects I loved were given, this can only be a good thing for English and Creative Writing.

 

*good teachers exist in both subjects, of course – and for all I know the two are much better taught now.

Meningitis

One thing that struck me when I walked into my room at university for the first time was the attention that had been paid to printing and distributing heaps of leaflets warning new students about the threats of meningitis. While this is something of a minor downer on an otherwise great moment, it is of course really important. The leaflets were made to be a bit scary. ‘Are you ILL? You might DIE’ – that kind of thing. They really hammered it home. They also left a little welcome box on the desk. It included various leaflets and some random things like an emergency shower gel sachet, a pack of fajita mix and a teabag. There were more meningitis leaflets in there.

Fast forward a little: it’s day three of university, I’m a little hungover and I’m looking into my mirror. There, on my left shoulder, is a sort of bruise-y rash. They go mad for rashes in the meningitis leaflets – especially rashes that don’t fade when pressed. At this point, the word shit is plastered over every wall of my mind. I’d been vaccinated against meningitis, but then that was only two or three weeks before. I press the rash and it doesn’t fade. This, couple with a hangover that’s making me feel sleepy and generally a bit crap, alters the word shit to fuck.

I already know thanks to the leaflets that meningitis can kill in hours, which would be incredibly inconvenient on my third day of university. So I decide that I’m going to have to go to the university medical centre. I haven’t properly signed up at the centre yet, but I presume that for something as serious as this I’ll be able to get some kind of emergency appointment.

I was wrong. Upon entering the medical centre and walking over to reception, I alert the receptionist of my possibly impending doom. Though she seems mildly concerned, she tells me I’m going to have to sign up before a doctor can even look at my shoulder. I look over to the queue of seven or eight people waiting to sign up. Individually it seems to take people about ten minutes to get fully signed up.

I decide that this receptionist isn’t my favourite person in the world, and try to negotiate something. I’ve still got the ‘it can kill in hours’ thing swarming round my head. After a minor and very English dispute, I wait in line, occasionally eyeing the receptionist with mild resentment. I almost want to drop dead to teach her a lesson.

Eventually I get registered and an ‘emergency appointment’ is made for me. I have to wait an hour or so. This isn’t ideal, but I’ve learnt not to piss off the person who organises these appointments. I go back to my room and dither around in my flat for a while. Then I return.

The appointment, in the end, is about half an hour later than scheduled. I get called in to see a nurse, who frowns as she presses the rash on my shoulder. ‘Hmm,’ she says.

Then she looks at me. ‘Have you carried anything heavy on your shoulder in the past few days?’ It’s at this moment that I remember just how heavy that bag was I was carrying up to my flat on the very first day. That bag right there on my left shoulder. I tell her this. ‘You’ve just burst some blood vessels,’ she says. ‘That’s all. It must have been a heavy bag.’

I laugh in relief before apologising for wasting her time. I walk away feeling both incredibly relieved and monumentally stupid – a combination that is very strange and borders on the euphoric. I haven’t got meningitis! I signed up to the medical centre early! Then, at the back of my mind, the lower voice: you carried a bag that was too heavy and burst some of your blood vessels. You thought it was meningitis. You’re a fucking idiot.

I leave it a day or two before telling my flatmates, who find it quite funny. Then, nearly eight months later, as I write it up in a blog post, I still feel like an idiot. It’s like I was an incredibly minor C-plot on a poor episode of Casualty.

Reading, Recalling, Returning

I was back home from Thursday to Friday for my sister’s sixteenth birthday – it’s an unfortunate time to have a birthday, mid May, when you’re in the centre of GCSEs. I’m a lucky February person. Sometimes at school I’d strike lucky and have my birthday during half term. Once it fell on pancake day. That was a good day.

I don’t remember GCSEs all that well. I remember not going to one of my maths exams and somehow getting away with it (it was a pointless and forced retake). I also remember the food technology paper being insultingly easy in the opening pages. Pictures of a ladle with questions like ‘what is this?’ hoping that someone out there would write ‘big spoon’ or ‘hamster umbrella’ or something. I also remember walking with one of my closest friends down a hill I had to walk down for seven years to get to school, except this time it wasn’t at eight o’clock in the morning but around noon. It was his birthday, and another of our friends rang him up to apologise for the lack of a present. His reason? He thought it was April, not June. That is to say he thought he was currently in the month of April. That’s fair, as explanations go.

I came back to Norwich via train yesterday. I finished Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question on the Peterborough to Norwich train. It’s nicely written – very funny and warm. Now I’m about to start Jim Crace’s Harvest, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Booker Prize. I’ve never heard of Crace before, so Colum McCann’s front cover quote, calling him ‘one of the greatest writers of our time’, is perhaps encouraging.

Image

I’m also listening to Coldplay’s sixth album, Ghost Stories, on iTunes as a free stream. I like it. I might really like it. The lyrics are, by and large, weak – which is a shame, because I’m one of those people who considers lyrics to be really quite important. But all of that can be spewed out in another post. I wouldn’t inject too much Coldplay into a normal blog post – they’re quite scathingly hated by a fair few people and I wouldn’t want those people to think I take any sort of pleasure in inadvertently raising their blood pressure to dangerous levels.

In more pressing news, I returned home yesterday to find a discarded bra lying outside my window. I certainly don’t remember putting it there (and it’s not really my kind of colour). It’s still there this morning, folded over on itself like it’s giving itself a melancholy, boob-less hug. I feel a bit sorry for it.

Look Up (and roll your eyes)

Image

The other day, one of my flatmates came into my room and insisted that I watch a video that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook recently (it’s also apparently been lurking around Twitter, too – obviously I follow the right people, since I haven’t seen it yet) because she hated it so profoundly. I’d seen the video shared a couple of times, accompanied by comments like ‘wow’, ‘so true’ and ‘dude man this is cosmic yea #kony2012′, but I hadn’t seen it.

The video, I think, is simply referred to as ‘look up’. It’s a five minute amalgamation of several terrible elements fused into one clear message that has apparently permeated the hearts and heads of several people I know. The message is simple: technology is terrible/your laptop is Hitler/you’re missing out on literally everything in life/if you go on Instagram you will never find love. It’s struck a chord with an alarming number of people. This puzzles me, since I felt like I had to watch it from behind my own fingers (a feat in itself, since I also had a bizarre desire to bite said fingers off in a strange fusion of shame and rage).

Andy Murray has already posted the video on Twitter, apparently in appreciation of the elegant poetry that stitches the video together.

Yes, there’s an element of spoken word to the video (by which I mean the style of poetry – there’s nothing strange about people literally ‘speaking’ words), in which rhymes are painfully teased out of not-so-everyday sentences to form this weird and cloying drone that opens with ‘I have four hundred and twenty-two friends, yet I am lonely’. According to The Internet, this opening comment was enough to keep the viewer interested for at least another two seconds, let alone five minutes.

Over this message (the speaker is reciting this in front of a black background, which is the universal background theme for Deep, Mysterious and Awfully Profound) there are various clips, starting with a girl who takes her laptop to her bedroom, looks at the laptop for a bit, then, supposedly after hearing the disembodied ‘poem’ haunting her own home, and presumably feeling nauseous thanks to the excruciating rhymes, she closes the laptop and looks at herself in the mirror. I’m sure I don’t need to point out how Incredibly Deep this is.

‘When you step away from the device of delusion, we awaken to see a world of confusion,’ continues the message as cameras pan across the bedroom, before ‘mastered’ is rhymed with ‘rich greedy bastard’ and everyone manages to keep a straight face. Perhaps they’re thinking, ‘wow, was that a Swear? I wasn’t expecting a Swear. This is serious.’

The speaker, Gary Turk, then laments the absence of emotion in the online world, which is quite apt when one couples his monotonous – if slightly smug – voice and its pervasiveness over the internet.

Camera tricks like making people fade away are coupled with a distant strumming guitar, as if to suggest that the people we talk to on Facebook don’t actually exist in real life. The overwhelming message is that ‘technology is terrible’, and we’re constantly reminded this through the use of vaguely artsy camera shots and visual tricks (this doesn’t count as proper technology, because it’s aiding the video about how demonic technology is). Around this point lives are referred to as ‘glistening’ (don’t we all say that?) so that there’s an available rhyme for ‘listening’.

At some point the video takes a strange turn as we follow the story of a man who asks a woman for directions and then proceeds to fall in love with her, marry her and have her children. But if he was looking at his phone instead, we are told (using Google Maps, maybe), he would never have spoken to the woman and thus would never have fallen in love and would have died alone posting miserable selfies so people know just how much he’s suffering (and Gary said the internet was devoid of emotion).

Of course, I’m playing Devil’s Advocate. Dissecting the video bit-by-bit is, while entertaining, pointless. The video is just as melodramatic and ridiculous as the next one that will rear its head in a matter of months, and really isn’t worth paying this much attention to since it’ll disappear and return to the swamp in a matter of weeks. What’s puzzled me is the attention the video has been getting, as though this message is the first of its kind. For years I’ve seen people denouncing technology and social networks. The idea of all this technology ‘enslaving’ us, though we created it, is an appealing one – the same thing, in my mind, applies to religion. Create a god, allow this god to enslave you, feel a bit better about it.

By sharing this video it’s as though people are searching for atonement – ah, I’ve shared the Look Up video, I’m aware of just how damaging the internet can be. But I can still use it, because I understand now. It’s all so clear.

It’s easy to attack technology when we feel bored/unfulfilled/like we want to make some money off a badly written poem. Too easy. The overwhelming positives of technology – yes, even of social networking – are easy to ignore in order to invent this strange virus which has captured us all and from which there is no escape, thus making us feel a little better. If we can’t escape it, we’ll just carry on and share videos about how we should all escape it.

Gary Turk has created a world that doesn’t really exist, but it seems like a lot of people want it to so they can pin the blame on something. Technology is an easy scapegoat. The worst thing about all of this comes from a few comments underneath the video on YouTube:

‘You’re an awesome poet, no doubt.’ ‘Poetry that does not rime is for people to stupid to be writers’ ‘Great poem if nothing else.’ ‘you’re a very good writer!’

Or, in the words of a guy called Oscar:

‘what a boring, condescending, melodramatic video’

Thanks, Oscar.

On Finishing My First Year

I’ve finished my first year of university now. 

Well, what I mean is that I’ve finished the work side of it. I’m still dithering around on campus until mid-June (since I’m still paying for my room until mid-June), but I don’t have that much to do. This means I’m getting an (un)healthy amount of reading and writing done. I’m now also the creative writing editor for Concrete, my university’s student-run newspaper, which is great. But, though the rest of spring and summer is laid out before me like an near-infinite line of cocaine made of rainbows, I find myself left with this strange feeling. I’ve finished my first year.

I thought 2013, as a year, went by quickly. That’s something I always heard adults say when I was a kid – that the years fly by the older you get. I’m quite pissed off to find that this seems to be true, because the adults always said it with a smile. It’s not funny, Adults. It’s weird.

And my first university year (not really a year – late September to now, early May, if we’re only talking in terms of workload) has gone by so horrendously quickly that I remember certain events that happened six months ago with alarming clarity. I remember waking up and noticing a pile of sick on my carpet before my entire being was filled with a venomous dread. I remember myself and two other flatmates trying to cook a Christmas dinner for thirteen using two strange microwave-ovens and some hobs that operate at dubious levels of heat. I remember being told in the first few days that I sounded ‘northern’ because of the way I say ‘buddy’. I’m from Lincoln (east midlands. EAST. MIDLANDS), where I’m often mocked for not sounding ‘northern’ enough. Now, in Norwich, I’m the most northern person in my flat (if we’re talking in terms of the UK. My neighbour’s from Norway. I can’t compete with that. They have the first three letters up on me). I remember my third day when I thought I had meningitis – but that’s another story for another time.

I’m going home on Thursday for a long weekend to celebrate my sister’s sixteenth birthday, and I’m sure I’ll flit between my hometown and Norwich over the coming months unless train tickets don’t eat away at my bank account like orange-striped moths. After I’m kicked off campus, I’ll be getting ready to move into my house for second year. House. That’ll be weird.

It’s 1:26pm and it’s dull outside, but I can still see a cluster of people huddled around a tendril of smoke by the lake – I’ve never seen so many early afternoon barbecues in my life. I’m drinking a cup of tea and I’ve just finished listening to Damon Albarn’s album Everyday Robots for the second time, which I really like. I feel bad for not having to revise. I’m currently 50 pages into Howard Jacobson’s novel The Finkler Question. I recently finished Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (the longest novel I’ve read – 800 odd pages), which is really good. I also just finished Graham Swift’s Waterland, recommended to me by my grandparents. It’s one of the best written and structured novels I think I’ve ever read.

I don’t know what I’ll do today. Unless it rains I’m sure I’ll go on a walk (otherwise I get all fidgety and start to feel sorry for myself like I’m some kind of battery-farmed chicken). I’ll probably read a lot more, write a bit more and drink a lot more tea. I haven’t yet got into the routine of doing the usual post-exam thing whereby I find a new TV show to watch on my laptop. I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones back home but here it’s proving to be a pain in the arse. I watched the first series of Derek recently on Netflix and sadly thought it was pretty terribly written – saccharine, sometimes cringeworthy… and NaPoWriMo has of course finished. Now what?!

Before I go, thank you to everyone who followed this blog, commented or liked any of the NaPoWriMo posts during April. I somehow shot up to 74 followers, which may spur me on to post some more poetry in the future. 

NaPoWriMo 2014: 30. Being Left, Going Right

It’s the last day of NaPoWriMo 2014, and, aptly, the final prompt is to write a goodbye/farewell poem. Thanks for all the follows on the blog (who knew people who have blogs *like* poetry? I didn’t. Thanks for proving me wrong) and thanks for the kind comments and stuff. Until next year…

Being Left, Going Right

I’m in the gallery I know like it knows us all,
fog on a beast’s back or the quiet erosion
of a cliff. Paintbrushes, pretty mugs (what if? What if?).

I’ve seen masterpieces: dorsal fins
and awful things pickled in jars, pickled hearts,
colourful wars, monochrome battles,

even burnt films, romances in sepia taking us
through to little white booths, whispering half-truths
in audio tours: here on your left, here on your right…

You’ve just walked in for watercolour, left of the till,
and like the first rattle of the spray can there’s a clarity.
All my life has been lived in left

and it’s left me with this. I orbit each stand.
You’re turning right, then right, then right
again, caught in a different rotation.

Please deposit your headphone packs in the
green and silver tray. Thank you for visiting;
we hope you enjoyed your stay.