Misfortune and Glory

Did you know some people consider it bad luck to walk over three drains? Or whatever those sort of large grey squares in the pavement are that usually come in twos or threes; could be drains, could be vertical graves. If you’ve ever been walking with someone who considers three drains to be unlucky, and they shove you out of the way so neither of you walks onto an oncoming drain triplet, then it really is your duty to demonstrate to them that real bad luck comes as a results of forcing your beliefs on others, or shoving. Perhaps trip them over, or slap them promptly across the chops, before whipping out a pre-bought scratch card and scratching it off in front of them. If you do this with enough people, eventually you’ll scratch off a winner, no matter how small the prize. If they really are moronically superstitious, you should then be able to convince them that for you, slapping them, or tripping them, or punting them in the coccyx (dealer’s choice) is empirically lucky for you. If in any subsequent situation where you stand to gain based purely on statistical likelihood, they should either offer up a part of their body for you to thump, or prioritise their own safety over their mental sickness. Either outcome should be pretty satisfying.

Contrarian that I am, I try to subvert superstition wherever possible since it annoys me so much. My life is a constant stream of smashing mirrors with open umbrellas under indoor ladders, while screaming Macbeth at all the pennies I never pick up. My mum would always refuse to cross on the stairs when I was younger, but this was her superstition, not mine, so any stand off between us at opposite ends of the staircase would last a mere second before I started to proceed. Or I would feign concession, waiting until she was halfway, and then proceeding, forcing her to retreat with the confused irascibility of a customer leaving DFS without a discount.
My favourite superstitions have always been brought up my nan, who has so many by which she lives, every daily activity seems to have potential bad luck attached to it. Her life must be a constant obstacle course of old wives tales, preventing her from turning on the television if her socks match her hair, or only changing gears while driving if the clock is on an even number of minutes. Her last pet was a white dog, which if you ask me, is a pretty transparent attempt to ensure that the only thing crossing her path is the exact opposite of a black cat.

The most confusing thing is that some people see luck as governing all things, with every event open to be interpreted as having an objective value of luckiness, in the sense that it could be a reflection of how lucky that person is. You’ll often hear people say ‘knowing my luck’ followed by a sort of example of sod’s (or Murphy’s) law. Such as: “Oh I hear you got a great deal on your new car?” “Yeah I did, but knowing my luck, it’ll probably breakdown the moment I get onto a motorway.”
Or: “Wait, you mean you just found that bag of drugs on the floor? For free?”
“Yeah, but knowing my luck it’s probably one of those drugs that comes with the weight of the deaths of the thousands of people for whom the drug industry is destroying their country. Honestly I have the worst luck. Probably.”
This can also be seen as a weird perversion of egotism disguised as humility, in that these idiots think that it’s endearing to speculate on worst-case scenarios of their life, fabricating unfortunate but more interesting alternate versions of future events. They insist that something unique might always happen to them, but with a negative bent supposed to temper it. Instead of them walking uneventfully home from work, they’ll surely encounter a statistical anomaly, such as bumping into an old friend, or tripping over the body of Jimmy Hoffa, but turned around so it’s less positive and therefore less self-centred, so the old friend is an ex who makes the meeting really awkward, or the only reason you found Jimmy Hoffa is because it turns out you killed him. It’s like a humblebrag, but the brag is replaced by solipsism. ‘This event was so unfortunate, because it happened to me and I’m so unlucky. If it had happened to anyone else, it would have been normal. Oh gosh aren’t I such a cosmic klutz?’

Additionally, luck can be seen as an unstoppable, inexplicably omnipresent force, like gravity, or Deliveroo. It’s a less obviously culturally-appropriated and selfish form of karma; some unseen value that influences our future outside of physical cause and effect. It’s pretty hard to think of it as distinct from religion, since there’s not much difference in a confusing religious rite performed to receive cosmic favour, and blowing an eyelash to wish for world peace, or for crisps to somehow be good for you.
Perhaps I should spread word of a new universal force, in the realm of karma, or fate. A force like luck, but that has no consistent causal link. So one occasion of you being shat on by a bird, could result in you running out of salt for dinner, and the next occasion could bring your toilet to life. I call this force ‘Croip’, and it could seriously impact your life. Don’t touch that dog! You might be causing a toxic gas leak in Honduras! Thinking of holding that door open for a colleague? Better not, in case it results in hundreds of spiders kicking you in your sleep. But it could equally cause an ice-cream sluice to appear in your shed, so perhaps you should. Croip doesn’t know what’s good or what’s bad. If you believe in karma, then maybe you believe that you found that tenner on the floor because you didn’t masturbate this morning, or that when you dropped your phone and it landed on your shoe, so the screen didn’t break, that was because you put the toilet seat down out of consideration for your female housemate?
What must you then think of people who suffer from terrible diseases? You must consequently assume cancer victims are also on the receiving end of karma. Wait, do you think that they deserve to have cancer? Jesus Christ. You fucking monster. At least with the Croip system it might be as a result of something good they did, because it’s all entirely random. So they could be a wonderful person. Or people in positions of power, or high political office might be there because of horrible things they’ve done, God forbid. But that can’t be right. Karma is just, yes? And everything is just.

Just shit, knowing my luck.

Next time on the bandwagon, it turns out that ‘Tim Goodings’ was a nom de plume this whole time, and I reveal my real celebrity identity. Hint: I didn’t not write Carrie. Or didn’t I?


Learning Desire

People like to claim that you learn something new every day. The word ‘new’ in that aphorism is pretty redundant; if it wasn’t ‘new’ you wouldn’t be learning, you’d be remembering. You’d have more flashbacks than an episode of Lost. See, that’s you remembering Lost. Boring isn’t it? How about: “You’d have more flashbacks than a subject of MKUltra”. Look that up, and you’re learning. It’s very tempting to revisit comfortable ideas, and familiar entertainment, like watching an episode of a TV show you’ve seen dozens of time before or listening to your favourite song. One area in which I reliably seek out something new is if I’m watching porn, and even then I occasionally return to some old standards, like an ageing pop star wheeling out lacklustre ditties from their latest album in concert, only to settle back into their hits moments later, allowing the audience to relax and possibly orgasm.

Even movie studios know that people don’t like change or surprise. The logical next step from incessantly sequelising movies was to create shared universes, taking their cues from comic books, and the Casualty/Holby City crossovers of yesteryear. This way, we have an established identity and style, but for different characters, each with a wealth of adaptable stories behind them. So if you see a Marvel Studios ident before a movie, you can expect colourful action, humour and predictably satisfying plots without having to know anything about the main character. And likewise, if you see a DC Comics logo before a movie, you can expect at least two hours of slow motion drudgery, muted colours, and confusing story, unless you were lucky enough to see the one about the woman, which only just came out this year because, as we know, making a movie about a woman is much too risky. It is at least, uncommon, and therefore closer to an unknown quantity, hence fearful studios taking too long to normalise female-led stories. I understand it. Familiar is comfortable. I’m writing this in one of only three places that I write anything, because I’m used to it. Although my precedence for comfort is not to the detriment of women. Unless this blog really takes off and becomes a recitation of supposed female failings, from Eve biting the apple all the way to that time Paula Radcliffe shat herself during the marathon.

My current attempt to convince myself that I’m unique and interesting, is to once again try to learn some French. Partly because learning a language is good for the brain, and promotes creative thinking (I’m guessing that bit, but that’s a pretty creative guess wouldn’t you say?), and partly because I literally have no idea what women want, but this can’t hurt. Word of warning though – if you’re learning French too, and decide to delve into some old Tintin comics, avoid Tintin in the Congo. You can be as fluent in a romantic language as you want, but sitting in the break room at work staring at images of black people depicted as monkeys is not a good way to appear cultured. The best I could manage was to shake my head in consternation, and repeat the pre-Googled phrase: ‘Non non non. C’est dommage.’ That’s right, speaks French, and thinks racism’s bad. They really broke the mould with me ladies. Realistically though, unless I go to France it won’t be much use, unless I want to read untranslated Camus, or eavesdrop on French conversations. And unless they’re talking about Tintin I’ll have very little to offer.

But learning a new skill takes patience. Something which we’re constantly being told is in short supply in our current age of instantaneous communication and information, thanks to video games and Netflix and electricity. People don’t have the patience to invest in a long-drawn out game like Grand Theft Auto 5, ignoring the fact that it’s one of the most-played games of this year so far, despite being released four years ago. Certainly time-intensive RPGs must be a thing of the past, hence why games like Fallout 4, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Skyrim, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Final Fantasy 15 literally don’t exist and have never been bought. Similarly, thanks to Netflix, a network like HBO could never make a success out of a slow-paced, weekly fantasy series. And even if they could, there’s no way it would inspire people to go back and read the original source material; several dense tomes as thick as a Victoria Sponge. No, there’s no patience anymore. This whole time I thought I was learning French but apparently that’s now impossible. I was probably just commenting on YouTube tutorials of Goat Simulator and binge-watching every episode of House of Cards in a single day.

C’est dommage. Whatever that means.



Next time on the bandwagon – Mirrors. A fad? Or are they here to stay?

Vapid Eye Movement

“Man, I had the weirdest dream last night. So I was in this submarine…” – Everyone at their worst.

The singer Gabrielle, who somehow made wearing sunglasses a signature look (not a patch on my oft-mimicked trademark of wearing shoes when outside) assured the world in 1993 that dreams can come true. Entirely accurate, presuming you only have very pedestrian dreams, like one I once had about driving to get petrol, and upon arrival at the petrol pump, realised I actually had enough petrol, and so went home. The main issue with this of course, is that ‘dreams’ are now synonymous with ‘aspirations’ instead of just ‘your brain doing whatever the fuck it wants when you’re asleep’. You may as well equate an artistic desire to depict a beautiful landscape in watercolour, with someone who snorts powdered paint, then sneezes onto a post-it. And in case you’re wondering, yes that probably is a brilliantly well-veiled criticism of modern art.
Dream interpretation is based on the idea that dreams can be revealing and meaningful, instead of a random assortment of images and thoughts, which is symptomatic of the human mind. We yearn to find patterns and meanings in everything, whether seeing a face in an Artex ceiling, or presuming to find deliberate thought in Ed Sheeran lyrics. Every aspect of life can be psychologically evaluated, like how what you wear affects how people react to you (to illustrate this, try wearing a Spider-Man outfit to a climbing centre. You’ll soon notice that people treat you like you’re some sort of prick), or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, where subtle changes in your phrasing can penetrate other people’s thoughts. For example, using the word penetrate, even innocuously, can turn the listener’s thoughts to smut.

There does seem to be a circular logic to dream analysis, whereby people marvel that something they were thinking about a lot, turns up in a dream, hence proving that they were thinking about it a lot. Similarly, if something turns up in a dream and was previously believed to be of no consequence, it is now proven, by its appearance in the dream, to be more important than first assumed. Consequently it is given more attention, and then looms larger in the dreamer’s mind. People don’t need to be told what they are thinking about a lot, because luckily we have direct access to our own brains and thoughts. Dreams are a BuzzFeed quiz you take that purports to guess your age, but only consists of one question: ‘How old are you?’
Worse still are people who believe dreams to be predictive. I honestly don’t know whether that makes more or less sense than believing you can divine your own future based on the relative position of giant rocks that happen to orbit the same star we do. At our brains have the potential to predict our own behaviour, and to some extent the behaviour of others based on that (see Spider-Man example above), but again, dreams are essentially a mind-mess; a basket of dirtied thoughts thrown into a washing machine and tumbled around until the colours run. The most ordered that dreams get are lucid dreams, wherein the dreamer knows they are dreaming and can sometimes take control of themselves, and influence the dream. Some people can do this anyway, while most have to practice it to get it right. One method I’ve seen is to get into the habit, in your waking life, of constantly asking yourself whether you are dreaming or not. Then you will eventually find yourself asking this question during a dream, and apparently realise you’re dreaming. As a trade-off that seems a little uneven. In order to enjoy a semi-realistic hazy fantasy, you have to induce an existential crisis by constantly questioning your own reality. And who’s to say that when you ask yourself ‘am I dreaming’ while asleep, you won’t just answer ‘no’?

My understanding is that dream interpretation is usually much more straightforward than we think, and it’s our minds sorting through emotions attached to the events of our day. Like whether we find Helena Bonham Carter’s ape character in Planet of the Apes just interesting, or sexually attractive, and whether we can continue to live a normal life based on the disgusting answer. If you end up having a sex dream about an ape after that, don’t assume that your brain is trying to communicate an atavistic desire to regress evolutionarily, and that you are spending too much time indulging your higher brain functions. Assume that the prosthetics were shit. And be thankful you’re not Tim Burton, who had to direct his ape-attired wife all day, and then they went home together and he had to reconcile a continued sexual desire for her. Unless that was his plan all along. Filthy bugger.
The only rational reaction to dreams is to do nothing. You’re unlikely to learn anything from them, although they apparently serve a purpose within your brain that you don’t need to be conscious of. Don’t dwell, don’t analyse, and if you ever have a sex dream about an ape, don’t worry. And certainly don’t bother to write an entire blog about dreams, in a vain attempt to rationalise it.

Next time on the bandwagon – My smoke alarm’s been going off for about two weeks. There’s no fire anywhere, so should I turn it off, or continue to let it embarrass itself?

Easter Funny

Telling a child that someone they will never meet died because of all the bad things he assumes they’re going to do is quite scary. And a little passive aggressive.
“Oh no I’m sure you won’t do anything bad, but just in case, I’ll go and die.”
You know that pang of annoyance you get when you offer someone a swig from a bottle or can, and just before they imbibe, they mop their sleeve swiftly around the rim, to save themselves from your disgusting essence? That’s what Jesus was doing.
A little insulted, you assure: “I haven’t got a cold sore or anything.”
“No, I’m sure you don’t,” followed by a shit-eating grin, and an indulgent chug, during which you wish you did have a cold sore, that had fallen off into the can, and was now flowing down into their stomach.

Jesus prompted a self-fulfilling prophecy; proclaiming everyone past, present and future as sinners, hoping this proclamation would prove so convincing as to drive people thousands of years later to give up pancakes, cigarettes or drink-driving for lent, filling them with enough sinful pride that they feel vindicated to become gluttons and pig out on chocolate eggs, while constantly being shown images of the most lustful animal on Earth, the bunny. Obviously this has now led to bank holidays, with the definition of ‘bank’ now broad enough to cause Aldi to close early. So we get more days off work to sloth around, greedily drinking of an evening, having a great time, making all the bar staff wrathful and envious that they seem to be working harder than normal on those days, suggesting bars are somehow the opposite of banks.

If I was Jesus, and I’m not saying I’m not, I’d have maybe spent Good Friday forgiving all the other criminals who were getting crucified, setting them free with my telekinetic powers, and generally showing compassion as an example of how not to sin. Then we could have made this weekend about being generally empathetic to people, but in a non-materialistic way, as a spiritual antidote to Christmas. I mean sure, we live in a capitalist society, so inevitably it would end up with Marks & Spencer’s selling ‘compassion hampers’ full of assorted fruity teas, candles, and those weird favour vouchers that couples with no money give to each other on Valentine’s Day. Everyone would watch Pay It Forward and pat themselves on the back, give a little more money to homeless people and then insufferably post about it on social media. But it’s a better idea than ‘watch someone die to learn a lesson’. That’s the same philosophy as the villain from the Saw films.

The huge leap between what happened to Jesus, and the way Easter is celebrated in the modern day is an easy target, but obviously there is a logical progression. Rabbits are of course a representation of life and fertility, although apparently in ancient times, rabbits were thought of as hermaphroditic, and therefore able to self-fertilise, meaning they could give birth without ever having sex. Sound familiar? Rabbits fuck so much they have expressions named after them (at it like bunnies, Playboy bunnies, carrot guzzler etc), and therefore were associated with the Virgin Mary. So the Easter Bunny exists as a concept precisely because people believed it could go fuck itself.
And the whole egg thing, well I was told as a child that eggs were another symbol of fertility, despite the fact that most people are exposed to eggs as food more than as procreation, and in order to eat an egg you’re really relying on infertility, unless you want to eat an embryo you monster. But as it turns out, they are a symbol of Jesus’ empty tomb; the fact that he rose from the dead and wandered off without even leaving a note. Again, hugely attention-seeking. Just a simple, “Woke up, feeling much better, must have been a false alarm. Stay classy – J”, would have sufficed.
And since Creme Eggs aren’t empty, are we to understand they don’t believe in the resurrection? Is the white and yellow fondant inside representative of the mouldering corpse of just some guy with ideas above his station? No wonder they’re sold much earlier than normal Easter eggs, the heathens.
And I can only assume that Easter Egg Hunts correspond to grave-robbing.

Whether chocolate womb or chocolate tomb, if you care about Easter enough that you’re annoyed by the omission of the word on confectionary items, then what you care about is branding, and seem to be more concerned by a company not cashing in on a religious holiday in order to sell more chocolate than you are about Easter itself. And to be honest, I do care more about the branding, it affects me more in my daily life. If I’m eating a chocolate egg, I need to be told what for. I can’t be expected to deduce the religious connotations of a shape with my own mind.

If you encounter someone that has managed to comfortably equate these things, and they happen to be eating an Easter egg, ask them for a bite. But make sure to wipe the edge first, I hear religion can be contagious.

Next time on the Bandwagon, something less topical, like ‘what’s the deal with Hitler?’

Instrumental Illness

“If music be the food of love, you must be terrible in bed.” – Naughty Shakespeare.

What’s the first album you ever bought? Mine was Jamiroquai – A Funk Odyssey. Pretty cool eh? Well it’s not true, that’s just what I tell people was the first album I ever bought. The real, embarrassing answer I’ll save until the end. Brace yourself, it’s bad.

I refuse, however, to concede that I have bad taste in music. I don’t think anyone would admit that about themselves. It’s admitting that we’re not as cool as we think, like a forty-year-old who snaps out of their middle-aged fugue long enough to realise they’re wearing a ‘Bazinga’ t-shirt and crocs.

Naturally I went through the obligatory shared hallucination that groups like S Club 7 were good (no that’s not my first album, it’s worse than that), and came out of the other side realising that popular opinion was only a useful guide if sustained. Aside from that, the only barometer you have is obviously just what you like, whether genre, or artists you admire intellectually. I’ve certainly followed artists that I like up to and beyond the point that I can still enjoy them. One of my favourite musicians, John Frusciante (former guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) had an incredible run of solo albums, but he seemed to be on a mission to alienate every single person that could ever enjoy his output, leading to this:


Christ it’s bad.

But we all have artists who we will continue to follow no matter what they do. Just look at Neil Young’s dreadful synth-pop album from the 80s (it’s real), Bowie’s jungle album, or everything Ed Sheeran’s ever done. We latch onto the artists themselves, not just the output. Annoyingly, image and personality seem to have a big impact on our enjoyment of music, which just makes Ed Sheeran’s popularity even more confusing.

To me, the only thing more annoying than the question ‘what sort of music do you like?’ is the response ‘a bit of everything.’ I’ve been guilty of saying both, but if someone really gets the same enjoyment out of Chopin’s nocturnes or John Cage’s 4’33″ that they do from listening to Slayer or DJ Otzi, then their brain must be an entirely smooth blob, meeting all experiences with no emotion, only a blank stare and a bland, monotone murmur that they witnessed an event. Having taste is as much about what you don’t like as what you do. Imagine looking through a friend’s music library to see if you have any common favourites, and seeing the entirety of all music. They may as well have nothing. Those people are eating rice for every meal. Their favourite programme is the test card. Their favourite Pokémon is Ditto.

I definitely think you can tell more about a person by asking what music they don’t like. I’m not big on negativity, but if I meet anyone that tells me they hate Bruno Mars, I’ll pat them on the back and invite them round for dinner and compliments. Conversely, if someone tells me they don’t like The Beatles, I have to question whether they’re being deliberately obtuse in an attempt to feign discernment, or if I’ve accidentally hallucinated a piece of talking furniture.

I mean, each to their own etc.

To get lofty for a moment, there is something incredible to me about music. If we were living back in the days of the classical elements of the Ancient Greeks, who considered everything to be made up of fire, water, earth and air, there’s something elemental about music in my opinion that earns it a place among that bullshit list. It feels essential, all-pervading. Almost as though some songs exist as Platonic ideals that were plucked from another plane. Not created, but discovered alongside mathematical constants and scientific formulae, waiting to be channelled through some willing genius. It hits harder than the written word (this blog aside), and you don’t need any prior knowledge to appreciate it. Certain songs just swell in your chest, and change your thoughts. Perhaps it’s a cliché, but Bridge Over Troubled Water does that for me. As does Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah, Five Years by Bowie, No Children by The Mountain Goats, Today with Your Wife by Jonathan Coulton.

And of course, the song that started it all, Witch Doctor by The Cartoons. That’s right. The first album I ever bought was ‘Toonage’ by the Danish novelty band The Cartoons, who wore weird plastic hairpieces and dressed in sort of colourful zoot suits. Awful.

But I learned my lesson, turned my self around and discovered The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album. No more weird hair and stupid colourful clothes for me thanks.

Next time on the bandwagon, I condemn, at length, anyone who’s ever said the phrase ‘cool beans’.

All Roads Lead to Home

The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ was originated by Ella Winter, and popularised by Tom Wolfe as the title of a novel. It’s a phrase that comes back to me regularly with regards to thoughts of moving away from my home town, moving house on an almost annual basis since, growing up and becoming a different person etc. I’m not always sure how ‘at home’ I feel, but maybe I’m just chasing a feeling that I can never recapture. It doesn’t matter what I do to recreate my old bedroom; amassing a new key ring collection, a new assortment of baseball caps I would never wear, or a new hockey trophy for a tournament I never played in. I was a weird kid.

In a very literal sense, I can never go back to my childhood bedroom, because my parents don’t live in that house anymore. Sure, I could knock on the front door, greet the confused inhabitants, and convince them that it’s worth letting a stranger into their house just so he can prove Ella Winter wrong. But even if I could, I’d go into that room, possibly still a child’s bedroom, and all I would feel is a gut-wrenching pang of lost time. Maybe I’d lament the missing Matrix Revolutions poster, (with the appropriate tag line, ‘everything that has a beginning has an end’) the lack of a tiny grey cathode ray television in the corner, and the absence of a singular smell of adolescence. But what I’d miss most is not the objects, or the geography of it, but the feeling of being a pedantic, insufferable sixteen-year-old, yet to decide whether to dedicate his life to any one thing in particular, aside from making sneering corrective remarks at every opportunity.

One reasoning for the direction in which we view time, past into present into future, is the gradual increase in entropy the universe undergoes. The past has already happened, it is set, we agree that these things cannot be changed. They have a lower entropy, a lower level of disorder than the future, in which a greater number of possible versions of reality exist. But there’s comfort in remembering the past. It’s safe. Just ask fans of Peter Kay’s stand up. We know what happened, we know who we were back then, but we can’t say the same about the future. You can never be who you were, and while we should be okay with that, and happy to grow and progress, it’s just another reminder of the inexorable march of time, just like sitting through Peter Kay’s stand up.

Would I really want to be the version of myself I was when I lived in that bedroom? Where I wrote a bucket-list in which I somehow expressed an equal desire to ‘fall in love’, ‘see the Mona Lisa up close’, ‘go to New York’ and ‘con McDonald’s into giving me a free meal’. Where I would paint my Warhammer figurines. Where I lost my virginity (those last two were necessarily many years apart). I want to go back to my old self and tell them that writing a list like that is bullshit. Pointless. What you want will change, and you shouldn’t feel beholden to a promise you made to yourself in the past. Plus McDonald’s really isn’t that expensive. I want to encourage myself to be more in the moment. I’d say not to look forward to the completion of a stupid list, only done so for its own sake. And maybe I’d give some tips regarding losing my virginity. Maybe I’d even get it right.

I used to fantasise about going back in time to my twelve-year-old body with the mind I have now, and being even more of a know-it-all irritant at school, but having the foresight to not worry about the little things. Also knowing which of my classmates would turn out to be followers of the BNP on Facebook, making me feel a touch less rueful of their lack of approval. But what would that do? Realising that nothing I did mattered until I turned eighteen? I’d become a tiny nihilist, accosting teachers and classmates for the tiniest of transgressions, using my knowledge of the future for personal gain and generally being a fucking nuisance. I’d be Biff from Back to the Future.

What’s the point in looking back unless it’s to learn something? I know I was a little shit. I also know that what I wanted then doesn’t matter. I’ve been in love, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa up close (if you want to know what that was like, just Google ‘Mona Lisa’) and I’m going to New York soon. Not because my sixteen-year-do self told me to. Frankly I’d rather not do what that idiot told me to, he had a fucking Matrix Revolutions poster on his wall. Don’t worry McDonald’s, you’re safe.

Next time on the Bandwagon, I’ll be discussing my new fad diet, wherein I eat what I want for a week, then eat nothing for three weeks, fake my death, move to Italy and gradually work back up to my ideal weight using pasta and wine.

On the Originality of the Species

Brief disclaimer, in the following entry, I may well refer to myself as a ‘creative’ or ‘creative person’. If this comes across as pretentious, I apologise. It is merely intended to come across as fiercely accurate and self-aggrandising.

People who work in some sort of creative capacity are usually seeking one or more of the following; recognition, an increase in proficiency of their creativity/skill, the opportunity to explain their creativity/skill in a patronising manner to a non-creative lay-person (referred to in creative circles as ‘social furniture’), and of course, originality.

Some of these can be achieved by attempting another; a talent for originality can encourage the practise required to reach greater proficiency, which means it becomes a bigger part of your life and you talk about it to people, leading to recognition as an insufferable, self-absorbed bore.

But isn’t originality a myth? Hasn’t everything been done? I mean Christ, I’m only writing about originality because I just finished reading a book about it. If I were really being original, I’d write about a totally new subject, such as the aerodynamics of salad tongs when fired through crepe paper, or whether candles are basically chips if you’re a Madame Tussaud display. Not interesting topics, but original I’d wager. And is originality a worthy enough end alone? Would it be unoriginal to communicate a familiar feeling to an audience as a way to vindicate that feeling? Or is originality important only as the vessel?

What if I were to expound the well-worn subject of the inferiority of aeroplane food in a totally new and unrecognisable way? Perhaps by suggesting that we have no other high-altitude food to compare it to so maybe we should be grateful. If we found that things tasted amazing on a hang-glider, then we’ll talk. Is that necessarily parody, or is there always a new way of studying any subject in a way that makes it appear new? And is there any point if you end up reaching the same conclusion?

As an exercise for how difficult it is to be totally original, I thought I would try to come up with a brief idea for 5 stories that I don’t think have ever existed before. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. A giraffe is spontaneously transported to the centre of an alien planet and learns to control it from within via the use of Jenga.
  2. Time and Space realise their relationship is disintegrating and hope that having a child will rekindle things. The child is called Stephen and he becomes a groundskeeper for a golf course.
  3. The year is 1782, but everyone is convinced it is 1783 already. Hilarity ensues.
  4. A series of time lapse photographs of grazing cattle becomes sentient and runs for president.
  5. Sweden unveils a new national anthem that tacitly ostracises cheese-lovers. People who claim to be addicted to cheese have to face the reality that they simply have no personality.

I’d like to think that some of these seem pretty original, if unworkable as premises for stories. And certainly I can trace the lineage of some of these ideas to my own influences. In hindsight, number 3 is similar to a fake documentary short I wrote about an 8-year-old girl who thinks she’s 9 and subsequently requires surgery. And number 5 is probably just me thinking cheese is overrated.

A lot of stories we know owe at least something to a previous iteration, and I don’t just mean the idea of there being ‘only seven stories’ or as the ending to The Amazing Spider-Man posits, only one story: ‘who am I?’ which seems rather apt for a film that itself had trouble reconciling its own identity. I mean that I can’t get my head around the creativity of the first person, for example, to use time-travel as a story conceit, as it inevitably leads to the exploration of ideas of free will and determinism, as well as the idea that more people than you’d expect seem to be up for murdering their own grandfather just to prove a point.

It feels so familiar a device now, but the originality required to be able to describe something as weird as moving through time in the wrong direction astounds me. I thought a good analogy for that is a story I heard about how Native Americans were apparently unable to see Columbus’ huge ships approaching them due to having no precedent for structures of that size or shape. I liked how that seemed to illustrate the reticence with which people can react to new ideas. However, upon further reading, I discovered that story to be a load of horseshit popularised by a pseudo-science documentary, misinterpreted from a cherry-picking of John Banks’ journal of Cook’s expedition to Australia, in which the natives can very clearly see the ships. Maybe that’s the key then. Take an original idea, twist and misinterpret it beyond recognition from its source, and present it as something new.

I’ve always wondered if it’s possible still to come up with such an original and multi-purpose idea as time travel for use in fiction. I just don’t like the thought that we’ve reached a point where nothing new can exist. What about teleporting limbs as a sci-fi concept? Send your leg to Spain for some reason, or send your arm to draw cocks in moon dust? If artists borrow and geniuses steal, maybe it’s just for idiots to convince themselves they should bother trying anything new. But look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t want to see a movie of a giraffe controlling an entire planet with Jenga.

Next time on the bandwagon, something unoriginal, cliched and derivative. Or a story about turning all the faberge eggs in the world clockwise by two degrees and seeing if anyone notices.