Provocative opinions aired on the clothes line of life.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Steak and Blow Job Day - how are you going to spend it?

soft heart

Last month, like many other people I sat back and let a digital slush fest unfold courtesy of simpering couples. All were making their spontaneous romantic gestures to each other coordinated by a pre-determined holiday. As with our love lives in general, Valentine's Day had gone public. It seemed that the whole world was in a relationship, as people desperately clamored to out-do one another with their public gestures of love and consumerism. Sometimes it's just not enough to purchase an overpriced novelty gift, for some people if others don't know about it then it isn't significant.

Fast forward precisely one month later and today the so-called male equivalent to Valentine's, entitled 'Steak and Blowjob Day' is apparently just as worthy of our attention. The occasion cleverly incorporates two pursuits most revered by the typical man: meat and an orgasm. (And connecting those together is what funds the official website, if the giant porn banners are anything to go by anyway). I'm not particularly bothered about either Valentine's Day or Steak and Blowjob Day. They're inoffensive and I'm perfectly able to tailor how I feel about them depending on my current relationship status: they're a nice idea if you're attached, but if you're not it's fairly easy to ignore them and go about your daily business as usual.

However online opinions about these events have become extreme in their opposition to each other. Some people are woefully distressed at having no one to share the occasion with but are otherwise happy about spending the rest of the year alone. While others are angrily incredulous that the event is being forced on them and suffocating the free service which they use. In my opinion the latter is definitely the more irritating. If I honestly don't like something I tend to not give it any credence by talking about my irrational hatred for it or how much I'm not celebrating it.

But what bothers me about Steak and Blowjob Day is the idea that it's the masculine antithesis to the apparently feminine Valentine's Day. It's such an insulting stereotype for both genders. They would have us believe that the way to win a woman's affection is through flowers, chocolate and pink fluffy things. And in order to please a man you must cook him red meat and perform a sex act. Both occasions imply that in order to make the other person happy you must not derive any enjoyment from it and treat it as an obligation. Men are perceived as rolling their eyes at having to be romantic and women are portrayed as performing the annual mandatory blow job which they take no pleasure from.Well actually, there are plenty of men who enjoy spending time with their wives and girlfriends which doesn't involve rattling the headboard like a sailor on leave. Just as there are plenty of women who enjoy performing blow jobs because it's a perfectly natural expression of love and sexuality.

Besides, people who are in love with each other take enjoyment from making the other person happy. So instead, what should be applied on these days is how to do that based on individual desires. I'm not advocating that you should only make an effort for someone once a year, but these occasions serve as gentle encouragement for nice activities to flourish. So what if it's commercial? Tailor it to what you both enjoy doing. Just remember, the way you choose to do it doesn't need to be broadcast. I don't make a habit of writing about people who make me happy because the moments I have with them are sacred and for me alone to enjoy.

The ironic thing is that it's not the single people who annoy me the most over whinging about how commercial the respective days of Valentine's and Steak and Blowjob have become, but instead it's the smug couples who take themselves far too seriously. You know the ones. They proudly declare that they make each other happy every day of the year and don't buy into a commercial holiday. That's wonderful but if you feel the need to broadcast why you don't do something, you're just as bad as the people you're striving to set yourself apart from. It's interesting to note that these same people also celebrate Christmas, Hallowe'en, Mothers Day and every other commercially pre-determined holiday.What they could really do with is just piping down and continuing their low-key true love without us having to hear about how it's better than everyone else's. Or as I like to call it: boring.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Dirty Knickers in a Twist: Music Snobbery

"What came first, the music or the misery?" - Rob Gordon

I enjoy listening to sounds and noise. Throughout the year and at most hours of the day. Whether it be emanating softly from a Spotify playlist during my morning routine, blasting from my ancient iPod Nano in time with my brisk pace, reverberating raucously at a summer festival or humming in my head as I sway in a gin induced trance at various meat markets. But while I classify my enjoyment of music as a hobby, I'm not particularly passionate or emphatic about discussing it. Which has led to the assumption that I have no interest in it. This coupled with the fact that I'm the least streetwise member of my friends has culminated in a series of running gags, where I am continually besieged with a combination of exasperation and good-natured ribbing. The most revered being that I only have one track stored to the music facility provided by my iPhone. (My explanation behind that is simple: I have an iPod, I don't need to clog the memory of a device I use to tweet and date from). And barely a get-together goes by where I'm not taunted with this gem of a faux-pas:

Apparently she doesn't even sing (such fraudulent behaviour). I embrace the jest I receive from this indiscretion however, because mortified though I was at the time, it is still incredibly funny. And I can laugh at myself. Occasionally. Or at the very least I can pretend with considerable ease that something doesn't bother me. But nothing leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth quite like music snobbery. So today I'm going to set the vinyl straight. Except that I don't listen to vinyls and while I don't favour the tinny effect radiating from my dilapidated laptop speakers, I refuse to surrender myself to a bare faced lie in an effort to be portrayed as musically superior. (For all of the Tumblr hipsters out there, that was for you).

In my opinion, music snobbery is the worst kind of snobbery, because it's at the root of the pretentious and scornful culture which is so popular right now. Which is in turn projected superficially. Music snobbery is the reason you see people wearing chunky knit cardigans in July and glasses without the integral glass section. Are they going to play cricket? Have they been mugged? No, they've just been listening to French electro or something which sounds broken with no discernible human vocals. Of course I don't appreciate the raw talent of these diverse underground endeavours because I'm too busy Spotifying corporate drivel likened to that of Atomic Kitten. (I wasn't a fan of their early work, but when Jenny Frost joined the group in '01 I think they really came into their own).

I particularly resent the phrase guilty pleasure. The enjoyment you experience may well be frivolous but why should it be cloaked in shame? The first single I ever purchased was by none other than Britney Spears. Because I was eleven. And I still enjoy her pop offerings today. They're infectious and fun. I happen to like pop music. Or chart music as mainstream tunes are now characterised. It's casual and at that particular moment you can't get enough of it. But the added appeal is that it's disposable and there's no obligation to find out any of the context surrounding it. Very much like a one-night stand.

And if I was to choose a genre of music which I've had the most consistent and monogamous relationship with, it would be the broad spectrum of alternative rock. But whenever I happen to make this omission, I'm met with incredulity. "Oh, you own an NME Essential Bands compilation do you?" I don't. Though I am aware of the irritating barrage of statements which NME hurls at you like a puppy with ADHD. "This is THE band of the year." A declaration which is reiterated fifty two times annually. And every song released when it isn't raining is the song of the summer. It's infuriating, yes. But the bands are inoffensive. I don't own any Snow Patrol or Kaiser Chief merchandise, but while it can be boring, it's easy listening. Do I really need to hit 'private session' on Spotify when my playlist reveals an NME tainted 'track of the moment' to prevent the unrelenting cajoles?

A Tumblr account which I follow and respect, recently declared their first single purchase was The Stone Roses, "I Wanna be Adored". Now considering the fact that it was first released in 1989 and she is the same age as me, I severely doubt the validity of that statement. Perhaps she made a vintage purchase while wistfully perusing an old music shop in a tea dress and cardigan. Perhaps her statement is as fake as the retro feel provided by Instagram. But my point is that it's ludicrous why anyone would want to invent a back catalogue of fabricated musical interest or play up to an ideal which is mandatory in order to pledge their chosen sub-culture.

We are becoming less defined by what we take pleasure from and instead are judged by what we hold in contempt. And I've been the worst culprit for it. I cannot tell you the amount of times I've sneered at a Coldplay or U2 fan in a disparaging tone and for what benefit?  The self-righteous charity appeals are irritating, but they're musicians who are good at what they do. As are The Stereophonics. But if you profess to enjoying their pub favourites you're labeled as a rugby chav or a Welsh nationalist. And you will rue the day you ever utter a positive comment involving Lost Prophets or Muse. Or any perspective other than that they've sold out and forgotten their roots. But the truth is they've made vast sums of money and moved on. Such is life.

It's always been a dreadful thing to be successful because if you're not scraping by barely making ends meet then you're suddenly not cool anymore. Well I can't tell you how I much loathe being poor and look forward to the day when I have the opportunity to "sell out". Perhaps then you'll be paying to read my scathing mockery which seems pretty hypocritical, given the nature of my whinge. But then you're entertained by it aren't you?