This is the 100% accurate and definitive list of the best European countries to visit.
Because even nazi sympathising genocidal maniacs can have a fantastic coastline.
Por que me encantan las fiestas, la gente y la cultura.
Because Mogwai, Buckfast and red squirrels.
2. Loathed as I am to admit it, France
I won’t massage their egos any further, but you’ve got to hand it to them.
Numero uno! Is that even Italian?
I’m probably not the first person to point out that we have invented the most powerful mechanism for human interaction and cooperation ever conceived, yet use it to share pictures of kittens. In the spirit of Buzzfeed, Upworthy et al, I will give this article a ridiculously over-egged headline and a picture of a sloth doing something cute, but if you want to understand my drift, you might have to actually be bothered to read a few hundred words. Sorry about that.
I awoke this morning to a Buzzfeed article about an artist called Lindsay Bottos. To cut a long story short, Lindsay found herself at the brunt of cyberbullying for no other reason than being a relatively attractive woman with a Tumblr. I’m sure that many commentators’ angle on this story will be the failure of feminism: “The male gaze”, that sort of thing. However, there is an underlying tendency behind this whole issue which is, if anything, far more disturbing/interesting in my eyes. When people watched TV, it was called the ‘three-second zapping culture’.
Now we’re in the digital age, it’s this same zapping culture which draws us to Buzzfeed, Tumblr and the rest. If this new century can be characterised by anything, it is the way that visual culture has replaced the written word, and that information is becoming ever more bite-sized. Why watch a 2-hour film when you can watch a one-hour episode of Breaking Bad? Why read an essay about the meaning of art when you can see the idea expressed on canvas? Why read a cookery book when you can watch a youtube video instead? There is no doubt that, for good and for bad, all the information in the universe is slowly being condensed and filtered into manageable chunks. These bitesize pieces are easier to digest and help us to achieve more as human beings. But the flipside of all this is that we are becoming really sucky at thinking for ourselves, of holding complicated ideas in our heads and of seeing things in ways other than black and white.
To take an arbitrary example, let’s look at internet memes. They are funny because they are able to sum up a ‘type of person’ or a ‘familiar situation’ so well. They play into the same human weakness; the need to stereotype, to condense information, to create a shorthand, to distill a thought to its essence. They are also incredibly cruel for the person who’s been memed: They have had their individuality erased and whatever intentions they had in striking that pose have been completely airbrushed from history. They have become nothing more than a hideous caricature, a shorthand for an idea. Sucks to be them. But what is a selfie, but the creation of one’s own meme about oneself? Every selfie is in all circumstances the same meme: I think I’m hot. Just as College Liberal might not even hold liberal views, you might not think you’re hot. But you don’t control your message. The public controls it. They think that all selfies are the “I think I’m hot” meme. Any reaction to your selfie is a reaction to “I think I’m hot” not to you as a person. Don’t take it personally.
In a digital-visual world, there is no room for ambiguity, the marginal, the esoteric. The children of tomorrow will not memorise Shakespeare’s sonnets or Sanskrit grammar. They will not follow trains of argument with logical rigour. They won’t understand the irony of Buzzfeed – the website that specialises in short lists – decrying people who judge artists based on shallow first impressions.
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1. Spiral (France 2005-12)
Coming out of the Canal+ stable, a TV station which has become synonymous with good telly (kind of like a French HBO if you will), this gritty French police drama will have you hooked from the opening credits. Part procedural cop show, part gore-fest, Spiral explores the dark underbelly of Parisian life, where prostitutes and gangsters rub shoulders with bent coppers and dodgy lawyers.
2. Lilyhammer (Norway 2013)
Lilyhammer is a Norwegian Netflix original and is the highest-rated TV show of all time in Norway, where nearly a quarter of the population went online to watch the story of an American gangster who escapes to Lillehammer as part of the witness protection program. As well as being a hilarious, innocent-abroad-in-reverse-comedy-drama, Steven Van Zandt speaks in English throughout, meaning less subtitle fatigue.
3. The Bletchley Circle (UK 2012)
But try as you might, you just can’t beat a good British period drama mini-series. The Bletchley Circle has all the key ingredients: Sensational period details and great character actresses. However, it’s the riveting, based-on-a-novel plot revolving around a group of former Bletchley Park code-breakers who put their talents to post-war sleuthing that really gets the heart racing. More seasons are in the pipeline, apparently, too.
Getting into Oxford University is, like, really hard. And it’s, like, really expensive, too. But it must be cool, because David Cameron and Mr Bean went there.
… Let’s Hack it!
Option 1: The Brookes Blag
Oxford has another University. It’s called Oxford Brookes, which sounds a bit like Oxford. Especially to foreign employers. Even more so if you leave out the ‘Brookes’ bit. It’s also a lot easier to get into (though it costs the same amount in fees).
Total Cost: £9,000 per year.
The Pros: Oxford without the geeks. The word ‘Oxford’ in your degree. Life amongst the dreaming spires and all that.
The Cons: That nagging feeling at the back of your mind that whispers “you didn’t really go to Oxford, did you”.
Option 2: An Armchair Approach
While studying in Oxford is all very well and good, it has a fatal drawback: You have to actually be arsed to live in Oxford.
Why not use the power of the interwebs to watch lectures online? It’s like being in Oxford, except without the spotty geeks, three-legged pub crawl participants, hooray Henries and Cowley crack whores.
Total Cost: £0
The Pros: Learn from the greats at your own pace.
The Cons: It is an internet thing and therefore mostly ephemeral.
Option 3: A Scholarly Scam
It’s a not-very-well-advertised fact that members of the public can attend lectures at Oxford University. At the discretion of the college, you could attend a series of weekly lectures for as little as £60 per term. Basically, peanuts. Then you could buy a year’s subscription to the Bodleian Library, costing the princely sum of £38.
But what about the one-to-one tuition that Oxford is so famous for? Well, you could advertise in the Daily Info for a private tutor. You’ll find a PhD student or junior academic is willing to teach you one-to-one for £25 an hour.
The downside? You won’t get a degree. You’ll have nothing to show for your efforts except, like, actually knowing stuff.
Total Cost: £818 per year.
The Pros: An actual Oxford education, without the stress or the essay deadlines.
The Cons: No degree certificate, but then Oxford don’t give out degree certificates, so you’re fine.
Option 4: The Language School Lie
There are private colleges around Oxford which cash in on the ‘Brookes Effect’. You can spend a few weeks in Oxford doing a short course in anything from beginners’ English to advanced Calculus for a few hundred quid. And the colleges have names like ‘St Cuthberts College, Oxford’ or ‘Marlborough College, Oxford’. You also get to hang out in the Turf Tavern, go punting, pick up some received pronunciation and generally feel like an extra from Brideshead, Downton et al.
Total Cost: £200 for a short course
The Pros: A certificate bearing the words “Studied English at Regency College Oxford” or some such gubbins.
The Cons: ‘Con’ is the definitely the operative word.
Option 5: The Deuchars Deception
Sit in The Eagle and Child or The Lamb and Flag, wear tweeds and talk about Marxism. Soon enough, everyone will assume that you’re a Queen’s Fellow anyway.
Total Cost: £3.80 a pint.
The Pros: Beer
The Cons: Can’t remember. Whose round is it?
LIKED THIS? NOW READ: How To Pretend To Be Great At Piano When You’re Not.
Sometimes it feels like a day doesn’t go by when my Facebook newsfeed doesn’t contain the words “When are the new Public Enemy/Sex Pistols/Rage Against The Machine going to appear? We need music with a message instead of all this meaningless pop crap…”… I find this sentiment so quaint. It’s almost cute to think that there are some people for whom The Pirate Bay never happened.
If Punk Rock taught us anything, it’s that people love to feel rebellious and will pay good money for ripped jeans, albums about fighting the power, Che Guevara posters and the $375 Urban Outfitters jacket pictured above. Teenagers love to consume the ideology of rebellion. After all, it’s so much easier than actually Fighting the Power. Remember in Withnail and I when the drug dealer complains that they’re selling Hippy wigs in Woolworths? It’s what they used to call recuperation in the olden days of Socialist yore. Or, as the Clash so elequently put it, turning rebellion into money.
What – let’s call him ‘Facebook Guy’ – doesn’t realise is that sitting on your arse listening to Billy Bragg is no more subversive than sitting on your arse listening to Justin Bieber. Whether it be Britney Spears or Bob Seeger, any major label record purchase is essentially an act of fellatio on a huge corporate penis. Facebook Guy thinks he’s rebelling by listening to Public Enemy, but he’s really sucking Vivendi Universal Music Group dick.
At the end of the day, Bob Dylan didn’t end the Vietnam war any more than The Hoff brought down the Berlin wall. The Economic machinations of the Geopolitical power nexus massively dwarf any ideological merit which accrues through someone – even the Lennons and Strummers of this world – writing a pop song.
If, like Facebook Guy, you are waiting for the next Public Enemy, I think I may have found them. It’s YOU. You can share, bootleg, steal, lend, swop, blog, give away, mashup and remix music. Become a producer instead of a consumer… (and you don’t even need to leave your armchair!). But if you can’t be arsed, don’t worry. Some kid from Hackney with Fruity Loops and a Twitter account is doing it right now. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
The ad hominem argument states that you should not judge what a person says by who the person is. I found myself being reminded of this yesterday when I watched the Russell Brand/Paxo video. To the extent that I’ve followed his career at all, I can’t say that I was ever overawed by Mr Brand. The fact that his autobiography was called ‘My Booky Wooky’ rang alarm bells for starters. And so, too did his breaking of the ‘no skinny jeans on a man over 30′ rule. That’s without even mentioning the hair.
It seems we were all hasty in our dismissal of the bearded celebrity squirrel, however. It turns out that he is in fact a good sort. His non-specific, though oddly persuasive message of revolution, transcendental meditation, toppling the 1% and other such quasi-lefty sentiments struck some sort of chord. And it looks like I’m not the only one.
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This blog has been rather quiet of late as you might have noticed. I spent the summer touring around music festivals, mostly with the rather excellent Disco Shed and any writing I did was for my Bass music blog, which you can find here.
I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the number of views, comments and messages I’ve received from this blog. Thank you for taking an interest in my rather eccentric and erratic posts!
If you’d like to do a guest spot, feel free to get in touch