A War & Peace Odyssey [1]

Odyssey definition: a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune.

I’m not going on an Odyssey, I’m reading a book.  War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy is one of the most celebrated novels of all time.  Being the annoying vacuum of culture that I am, I decided I would give it a go.  I use the term Odyssey because the thought of this book is terrifying.  It is 1200 page long story about Russian nobility during the height of Napoleon Bonoparte’s European dominance.  Thankfully, I caught the BBC version of it last year, and it gave me the courage to buy and now read the mammoth novel.  What I’m going to try and do on here is breakdown the book, for my own benefit and also to hopefully show that this book is not scary at all.

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Part One: Pages 1-112

I am so glad I watched the BBC television version before reading this.  It means that I can put names to faces and remembering characters is much easier.  And remembering the characters is key.  It’s key because Tolstoy bounces around between them and of course they all have long Russian names.  Though each character is carefully designed to be recognised when they appear.  For example, Pierre, the most protagonist like is described as overweight and unattractive, as well as been easily noticed by his bold political views. The princes and princesses each have their own traits and this allows Tolstoy to separate their stories from one another.  With that being said, I was surprised by how interwoven the characters are and how close together the situations are.  It seems to flow from one dinner party to the next, making the narrative tight.  However the universe is clearly expansive in its issues as the dialogue between the players is very complex.  They are mostly discussing Napoleons advancements and this opens up conversations about politics during wartime.  It’s as interesting as it is hard to pick apart and so far I’m really enjoying the book.  The first part is a simple read and I’m starting to fall down the rabbit hole of Russian nobility of the early 19th century.

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This Is Outrageous: A Radio Show

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host ben on the left and myself with the glasses on the right

My flatmate Ben Grogan is doing a Masters in Mass Communications, which means that he has been at university for a long time.  It also means that for the last few years he has been hosting a student radio show.  With us realising that we has similar interests, I jumped on a new show with him entitled This Is Outrageous (a peep show reference).  So, on Mondays 1 till 3pm we take over Newcastle Student radio to mostly talk absolute nonsense, with some music in between. The aim of the show is to try and be as different as possible, whilst also mimicking some of our favourite podcasts along the way.  For example this week we interviewed DJ G (George Oxley) who is a young Bassline deejay from Sheffield who is opening up his own club (links below). We also discussed the OJ Simpson case, picked and reviewed some films I had seen this week, and tried to play music people may have not heard yet.  It is a total working progress, but we are having fun with it, so if you need a companion in your life on Monday afternoons you know where to go (again links below).

Listen here: http://nsrlive.co.uk/ (only works on certain browsers, chrome to be sure!)

DJ G soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/djgoxley

His new Bassline club: https://www.facebook.com/011Four/?fref=ts

The Movie Doctors & Trainspotting: Book Reviews

I read these two books over about a week and it felt great. Reading books is a great feeling. It is an accomplishment when you finish them.  A race that has been won.  A mountain that has been climbed.  Now I haven’t read War and Peace in a few days but a book about films and a beloved cult novel.  This doesn’t make me less proud of my self.  I have burned through around 800 pages and it has left me extremely content.

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I was gifted The Movie Doctors by my flatmate because he knows how much I admire it’s author’s Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo.  Famously the BBC radio film review team, they are literally the best double act in movies.  If you have never watched/listened to their reviews on Radio 5,  I would highly recommend it.  This book is pretty much non-fiction in its style, with the ‘doctors’ part of it being the foundations of the content.  Essentially, they use illness diagnoses to discuss film.  It is cluttered with movie references and recommendations from Kermode, with a dialogue with Mayo every now and then to keep it grounded.  A must read for film geeks, as the the spectrum of the industry discussed is broad.  Simply read, and put together,  I would push anyone towards this book as I’m sure there’s something in the pages for them.

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I bought Trainspotting in Edinburgh and was surprised by how much I was engulfed by it. The film is very precious to me (reviewed the sequel on here) and I have this rule (that I often break) where I don’t read the original novel of a film that I love.  This is due to me believing that a film can stand on its own, but I succumbed to Scottish pressure and read the legendary piece of fiction.  The short answer is that I loved it.  It now sits nicely in my brain next to the film where it can stay to be a companion to it.  The Scottish style in which it is written so brilliantly by Irvine Welsh is thoroughly entertaining.  It makes the book so readable and the world so easily to fall in to.  Every chapter is full of mental remarks and incidents that are strange but profound.  Alongside the film it is gritty and real but most of all fun to read.  There is a chapter in this book that hit me so hard, and was so unexpectedly gruelling and heart wrenching that I had to take a quick break before carrying on.  Overall, you have to read this book, it is as seminal to me as The Beach was (also reviewed on here) and is timeless as a work of art.

I have bottled down 800 words of pure thrill into two paragraphs so this feels less of an accomplishment.  Next I am going to read War and Peace and hopefully get a certificate when I turn over to the last page.

He Will Not Divide . Us

Tell me Shia LaBeouf isn’t crazy.  Tell me we aren’t looking at the slow breakdown of a celebrity.  Over the last couple of years or so him and his performance artist team (LaBeouf, Ronkko & Turner) have certainly suggested that.  From the outside it has been a viewing of an existential crisis as well as watching a man reflect on his own weird individual life.  However his latest project is his most impersonal, and a chance to see that him and his partners are attempting to make a movement for good.

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The whole thing is really simple: outside the Museum of The Moving Image in New York they have set up a camera & mic that is being broadcast live on the internet, and they have invited anyone to say ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ in front of it.  It’s effectively an attempt to bring America together post the appointment of the highly polarising Donald Trump, though the actual website gives a list of convoluted reasons for the project.  In short, and after 3 days of the 24hr stream, it’s brilliant.  Every time I go to the website something profound is happening and I’ll definitely be spending a lot of time there over the next four years (or however long Trump lasts).

It has done that awful thing to me where I have a sudden faith in humanity and it has shifted by political views back towards the left.  This is because I have been glued to the people who have shown up to say the words, or protest against them.  Take the guy who took a 12 hour bus from Toronto for example and has been rapping an inch from the camera with Shia today.  Or Ally and Maximilian, who for a while formed a community around the camera, a group of friends.  The words are now rarely said in repetition, like they were initially by oddity Jaden Smith, and have become more organic.  It took less than a day for people to start mixing up the phrase, or singing it.  I love these people and every second I watch the stream, I want to be there more and more.

Last night and this morning it really peaked for me.  Around UK midnight time a man appeared with a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap on, yet there was no real tension.  He stood there with his thick moustache, Harley Davidson t-shirt and tracksuit bottom as he rallied the crowd.  At first he was questioning the whole thing, and was crudely whispering to the camera, but after a while he blended in with the scene.  It was like he had been converted, or better yet become an example of the project being successful.  Everyone around welcomed him in and thus his reactions to it all was fascinating.  His aggression was humorous and his warmth likeable, showing no divide between a Trump supporter and non-Trump supporter.  Then there this morning when I woke up, the master of fun was there alone.  A guy carrying a tent dressed fully in pink, professing his own internet art.  He passed on messages of challenging yourself and forcing failure so that you can improve, while of course sometimes throwing in the divide mantra.  And this actually inspired me.  For whatever reason a random guy hundreds of miles away made me think about my own life, which is a bizarre feeling.

Every so often Shia pops in, to pump up the group.  He bounces around saying hello’s and love yous to everyone and these are probably the best moments.  It’s when the energy is lifted and the repetition comes.  Though it also brings conflict, because understandably people are sceptical of the man.  A video that will no doubt go viral and become a staple of the livestream is a few seconds where he screams at a young guy who is against the project.  And obviously this defeats the purpose of the coming together and respecting different views idea, but it also shows the passion of it all.  I’m a passionate person and I have felt a great deal of it watching this stream.  The spirit and joy that these people are in  is really admirable.  I see only positives, and when something bad happens I’ll look silly, but I cannot get over how cool it is.

I have utterly fallen in love with the stream and it’s literally made me emotional.  It shows the power of kindness and from this has swayed me back towards the left side of politics. I’ve found that you have to look past some of stupidity that appears within people and realise that we are all the same.  We are all imperfect and shameful, but have the ability at times to show a bit of unity.  This stream mostly just makes me laugh, yet still I feel changed by it, and I think that is the ultimate goal of art.

Watch it here and you will understand exactly what I am saying: http://hewillnotdivide.us/

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Side-note:  This is a form of art explaining another form of art again, so i apologise.  I have been moved by all sorts of stuff recently, not just this daft pretentious performance. Mostly by the debut album of Spring King, which is called Tell Me If You Like To, and is absolutely brilliant. I’ve already started assigning people in my life to songs on it when I hear them, which is a sign of something I adore.  Listen if you like indie/punk or if you’re a fan of not being depressed.

Pacemaker

The bitter cold in my room is beginning to worry me.  Can you freeze to death from prolonged sessions in a mildly cold room?  I ask myself that question now as I drink coke and plough through this writers block.  Coke is awful, evil capitalist superpower dragging my morals across the floor as I take each sip.  I don’t particularly care though, I care about Newcastle, and Simon Sheffield, and history, and Tom Cruise.  Can all these things be represented through my early lonely university experience?  I ask myself this question as I put a second jumper on to clothe myself from the dread.  The coke is nice, yet I can taste the sugar more than usual.  Perhaps it’s because I’m having one of my transparent periods, where everything seems clear.  My typing hands are possessed by some writing demon, a friend inside me I don’t see often enough. Or an enemy I’m at war with.

I can see out of my window two men across the bridge.  Are they workers?  Honest people, that actually contribute to society?  Possibly electricians, the white box they are circulating around looks full of electrics.  One of them is on the phone.  I wonder what he’s talking about.  Probably how they are ill prepared for the job at hand, but still require payment. Are they lazy or righteous?  They’ve gone inside to what I envision is a much warmer building than the one I’m sat in. Although it has warmed up a bit, thanks to my ability to switch the heating on.  I can hear the coke fizzing still.

Continuing to stare out of my window is meaningless; I need to get out there.  Talk to people; not let my anxiety control me.  Who would I talk to?  The homeless guy outside the old baths?  He doesn’t scare me like the rest of them.  There is a patience too him, an enormous sense of experience.  He doesn’t need your change; he’s had your change.  I finished my coke.  This is far more rewarding than my university course.  A foundation year. What a joke I am, what a failure, what a reject.  Maybe not that last one, I am sure I have some fans out there. Selasi from Kenya reads my blog on a library computer that he commutes to after his school day.  He is a well of Kenyan, adopted by rich parents, saved from the Nairobi slums.  Lived through turmoil and now he enjoys my witty rhetoric on a Woody Allen film.  This is my dream.

Shall I research for this?  Is my goal to plunge through page after page in the library?  I’m not entirely sure what this is.  Is it real, or am I just asking myself too many questions.  It’s too abstract, too indefinite to be called anything.  There’s no need for a title or a description.  My teeth hurt from the coke, I’m regretting drinking it. The plan was to write about the new Daniel Radcliffe films, and it’s transformed into this.  I have sat down at my laptop and metamorphosed into some languid poet. Or a fool.  The sentence before the last probably doesn’t make any sense under the microscope.  The green pen of the a-level marker would ruin those few words, and then write a series of ‘poor comments’ in the margin.  Thank god that’s over with.

I have 11 minutes left until I have to start getting ready to leave.  Or meet.  Or whatever it is I’m doing.   Putting a time limit on this makes it all the more exciting.  Will this ever be read?  Another question that will probably never be answered.  A question that will be lost in the stratosphere of my subconscious when I delete this in 10 minutes.  That was a fast 60 seconds.  I’ve always had this notion of time passing at the same rate as normal; making it easier to suffer through three periods of German when I was 14.  However now I see time for what it is.  A traitor.  Someone we put so much trust into for them only to kill us.  I’m going to stop now.

 

Super Hans Live: THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS

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The idea of seeing Super Hans live is a dream to me.  He is the single greatest sitcom creation in history.  Peep Show would not be the same without him, and as an insane fan of the series, I jumped at the chance to get a ticket to see the drug addicted musician live.

It’s such a bizarre concept.  A side character in quite a niche sitcom goes on tour.  What will it be?  A comedy set or a DJ set?  In the end it wasn’t really either, and became a mix of hilarity, a really varied music set, and a mad night out.  The crowd were clearly all massive Peep Show fans like me, and when Hans finally strutted on stage like Liam Gallagher, the place erupted. Suddenly Red Stripes went flying as Matt King melted into his most famous role in television.  Then, the laughter came, because you can’t help but laugh at the funniest guy in history as he prats around in his fur coat.

And, it’s interesting, because where does Super Hans start and Matt King end?  About 5 minutes in, it didn’t matter.  No longer was it about fitting the gig into some contrived category, but an utter chaotic triumph.  A remix of ‘Lets Dance’ by Bowie played and it was like being in a rave, never have I heard such a heavy version of that song.  I mean credit to the actual musicians here, especially the DJ bouncing behind the front man, who dropped banger after banger.  Not to say King didn’t do anything, it was just more about being the character for him.  At one point pretending to play the guitar opening to ‘Fools Gold’ by The Stone Roses, before throwing it to the side a few seconds in to continue to float about.

Effectively, it evolved into a blend of a stage play with a bassline, with King getting more and more involved with the people gleaming up at him.  The crowd being amazing, with mosh pits forming, chants beginning, and the shouting of ‘This is Outrageous’ was always followed by the shouting of ‘This is Contagious’.  What more can I say about a brilliant experience.  Peep Show fan or not, there is no way anyone would not find joy to bouncing around to Super Hans.  He is a hero of the millennials, myth, a legend, and this tour will answer no questions, but will certainly raise a few heartbeats.

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Side-note: After this, me and my flatmate went to a club in Newcastle called ‘theCUT’ which had it’s indie night on, also pretty cool.

I have writers block.

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Do I even like poetry?

No, you just think that you do.

I think that I like it.

Describe liking something.

I can’t.

No-one can.

Maybe I do like poetry then.

You don’t.

Stop telling me what to do.

Grow up.

Has this become a poem?

Grow up.

I’m grown.

You’re not acting it.

You don’t even exist.

I exist.

In my head?

In everyone’s head.

Like a parasite.

Like a warning.

A warning about what?

Problems.

Everyone has problems.

­ Exactly.

Side-note:  More like ‘writers laziness’.