Tag: Consumerism

Shopping In Reverse

(this is a tale of … shopping, in reverse)

Today I did a bit of a stupid thing:I tried to do a morning’s food shopping without any money, which is a bit difficult considering our economy isn’t a sexual favour-base bartering system, in which you jerk off the cashier to get a box of Coco-Pops, but instead uses money to obtain things. This created the interesting scenario that I had to work my way back through the store, basket in hand, putting each item back in the place I’d got it from, until I was back at the entrance, with an empty basket, just like I’d been when I first walked unwittingly through the doors; I’d basically gone shopping in reverse.

This was one of those experiences that was weird simply because its opposite has been ingrained in me, like when I play right wing in handball, having more experience playing left back, which causes the entire court to look like I’m playing on 150cc Mirror from Mario Kart; but in reality, there’s no inherent reason why walking one way through a Sainsburys picking through expensive boxes of crap food should be any more strange than doing the same thing in the other direction.

But that’s just what ‘weirdness’ is, things that don’t conform to what we perceive to be ‘normal’, instead of things that don’t conform to some kind of universal or objectively correct way of doing things. Normality and weirdness are based on experience, and maybe next time, shopping from start to finish will feel less normal, and shopping from finish to start will feel less weird.

This post also gives me an excuse to share this wonderful Lego version of Eddie Izzard’s Supermarket Routine, which I was reminded of as I moved my things around the supermarket without buying them.

Stop Hating On Valentine’s Day!

(if you’re looking for some nice, romantic music for this evening, may I suggest this piece?)

That title may come as a surprise to those of you who’ve been hanging around this blog for a while, considering I’m about as romantically active as a vasectomised panda, but I’d like for everyone to stop being so down on Valentine’s Day. The holiday is apparently about giving a shit for the interests and opinions of other human beings, and giving them heart-shaped trinkets when you could be donating to WaterAid like a decent human being, in a pathetic attempt to get into their pants, which might have some historical basis but I won’t look it up just to prove how little relevance that basis has to a discussion about the day. And while I’ll be celebrating this most uncelebratable of holidays by going to a club night entitled ‘Stuff Valentines’, a lot of people have an insane variety of opinions on Valentines Day, ranging from soppy indulgence in the annual provision of pink chocolates and cut-price DVDs of Ten Things I Hate About You in Tescos across the land, to outrage at the very concept of this commercialised, diabetes-inducing piece of shite holiday, whose continued existence just further exemplifies the extent of mankind’s fall from perfection way back when we were chilling in the Garden of Eden (possibly).

But my point is that both responses, regardless of the intention to celebrate or ridicule Valentine’s Day, contribute to it as a holiday; like language, holidays can’t be forced onto civilisation, they take time to develop, and have a number of influences across many generations – this is why Christmas is celebrated about four months before Jesus’ actual historical birthday, because it – as a single event – has been shaped as much by pagan ideas and the practical need for a party in the middle of the bleak winter, as it was Christian theology. Similarly, Valentine’s Day isn’t so much about an upsetting array of PDA, involving so many painfully unattractive people that I start to consider myself literally the most physically underwhelming human being ever to have been produced in our ten thousand year history, but strong opinions on what is ultimately a pretty trivial celebration, even within the trivial world of partying on specific days for no real reason.

People that hate on Valentine’s Day, and the people who indulge in it, are contributing as much to the developing lore and legacy of the holiday as those who buy teddy bears with hearts on their bellies; this’ll probably turn out for the worst, as Valentine’s Day 2065 will be more about those mutually exclusive opinions, and the resulting civilisation-smashing war that will envelope the Earth due to humanity’s impressive desire to defend trivial viewpoints to the literal death. This has already happened with Easter – a religious ceremony being turned into an excuse to buy plushy rabbits carrying baskets of Creme Eggs – and Christmas, whose explicitly religious origins were being warped into broader, more secular bits of humanitarian charity way back when Charles Dickens told us not to be nasty at Christmas, or get visited by some pissed-off ghosts.

So that’s why I want us all to leave Valentine’s Day alone; to its supporters, I tell you to show affection 365 days of the year, and even if you claim that you do, there’s still a single day placed above all the others in terms of love and companionship, which means your romantic efforts of all of the other 364 days will be somehow inferior (this is also why I’m not a fan of celebrating marriages, anniversaries or birthdays just because they fall on a single day each year); and to its opponents, of which I was one until the last few days, I’d encourage you to ignore this farce of a holiday: stop writing ironic, self-referential blog posts about ‘Valentine’s Day Tips For Singles!’, or tweet about how much of a capitalist shithole planet Earth has become because there was some pink tinsel in your flat’s kitchen this morning. If we work together, and start prioritising meaningful, long-term affection for another over individual trinkets and gifts, and ignoring the fires of idiocy around the 14th of February instead of dousing them with petrol, we can consign this crap holiday to that mythical plane of mere memories, removed from reality, where it can share space with Wind Waker’s Hero of Time, the Polytheistic beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians, and the expectation that a Tory-Lib Dem coalition would cut tuition fees.

But if you insist on celebrating this holiday, I have one piece of advice for you – remember that you, regardless of how awesome and long-term your relationship is, will die alone, and leave your partner to face the gruelling monotony of human existence without you, and without the hope of ever finding a companion to make the hurting stop.


Clothes Shopping Sucks

(if it takes any longer than fifteen minutes, you’re gonna have a bad time)

I had to buy some nice clothes yesterday, for a fancy-pants ball I’m going to tomorrow, because apparently writery, Englishy-type people do that sort of thing. For the record, I’ll be wearing a dark grey jacket, black shirt, black trousers that are neither jeans, trackies nor suit trousers, and some brogues I got for forty quid, but don’t expect pictures because I’m unphotogenic as shit and I’m not breaking my current eighteen-and-a-half year streak of not taking a selfie.

But to prepare for this occasion, I had to spend five hours in the big M&S on Oxford Street, and it was the most tediously depressing afternoon of my life. First I needed my neck and chest measured, which only revealed to me that two jackets in the entire store would fit me because I’m so small and, apparently, thin; I was seriously considering shopping in the kids’ section after the annoyingly helpful shop assistant shoved a whole two jackets in my face, asking me to try them on as if I couldn’t already decide I wanted the black one over the blue one because, well, it was black.

Then looking for shirts was fun, as I trudged around the racks of neatly-folded pieces of cloth and superficial judgement that for some reason cost like twenty quid a pop, making constant unintended Spinal Tap references to myself as I asked ‘could this be any blacker?’ to every dark-coloured shirt I encountered, before finding one appropriately close to the colour of purest despair itself. This wasn’t helped by the fact that my neck is apparently as thin as a pencil, and so like 90% of the shirts in the store were too generously-necked for one such as myself. And I don’t mean to stress the look-how-thin-my-clothes-are angle too much here, but there are three types of cut of shirt and jacket at M&S – regular, tailored (smaller) and slim (the smallest); all of my clothes came from the, apparently limited edition, ‘super slim’ range, that didn’t cost any more than their larger brethren, but did make me feel a bit like an ant shopping in a store designed for buffalo.

Next came the belt, which was a surprisingly easy decision considering there was literally one belt in the store that would fit me, and then the shoes, which were basically a ‘buy the first thing you see’ job, which I then complicated for myself by texting a picture of said shoes to my father for approval (for he knows how to play this game better than I do) only for technology to tell me to piss off and refuse to send the picture, creating an unnecessary faff over a pair of shoes that are themselves unnecessary, considering I can see literally one instance in my life when I will wear them.

All of this, of course, was prefaced with the ‘aesthetic’ discussion, a marathon series of texts between myself and my father in which he told me that I needed to buy nice clothes, and I said no in increasingly angsty and immature ways, before two half-hour phone conversations about what to actually wear (types of clothes, colours, whether to wear a tie or not, etc) and the daunting price point of 400 quid for this escapade, that my dad was happy to pay for but still scared me, and the final, four-hour Facebook Messenger chat with my friend who is also going to this party, who is indeed wearing a tie (oops) and is spending eight pounds on his getup (400 my arse), which just confused me to hell and back.

Then there’s the actual process of picking clothes, which consists largely of holding up pieces of black and dark grey cloth to a colour-confusingly yellow light in a perilously small changing room that, without so much as a bench or a window, looks more like the cell Saul Tigh was held in on New Caprica, and seeing which makes you look like less of a twat; and spoiler alert – you’ll look like a twat whatever colour’s covering your ugly body. There’s also the pricks milling around you taking a genuine interest in all this garbage, and the festive music pumping weakly out of the ceiling like the voice of some god of capitalism, and the fact that the guys on the checkout, after watching you limp through their store all day like Jesus spending 40 days in the desert, ask ‘how is your day?’, and are surprised when you tell them to shove their coathangers up their c*nts as you’re being dragged away by store security, forcing you to repeat the whole awful experience at the New Look next door.

But I don’t get fashion, so that might just be me.

John Lewis, Get Off My Heartstrings

(the plucking, it burns!)

Yes folks, it’s that time of the year again; adverts and mascots are coming pouring out of the woodwork to commemorate the monetisation of a religious festival into nothing more than a glorified Beanie Baby hunt, parents across the land are weighing up their children’s love versus their ability to pay off their mortgage some time before 2278, and cynical frakkers such as myself are getting worked up about very little to compensate for the fact that it’s going to be another year of black socks and disappointment under the tree; it must be Christmas!

And how do we know that it’s a mere 48 days until the big day? John Lewis have released their annual heartstring-plucking short film, which attempts to associate throwing money at trinkets with concepts such as love, companionship, and human imagination, which are the sort of things philosophers have debated, and will continue to debate, for centuries, but instead of answers coming from all that we get a kid playing with Lego with a CGI penguin as a solution.

Compared to last year’s effort, The Bear And The Hare, Monty the Penguin and his loser of a human owner (who apparently has no real friends to play with) is a much more emotional story, this time involving real human children to amp up the ‘awwww’ factor, and including the ever-cuddly creature of a penguin, which, as any biologist is aware, is happiest when reading a book by torchlight under a bed (because penguins can read) or bouncing on a trampoline in the middle of summer (because penguins live in such a soft, warm environment in the wild).

But there’s a much more economic undertone to this advert, that it encourages – or even forces, upon pain of being called a heartless bastard – us to buy a specific toy: that of a penguin. Whereas last year’s effort could legitimately claim to be a short film from an indie production company about communal activities and being welcoming to others, with the John Lewis logo only plastered onto the end slate, the conclusion of this year’s film shows the dear Monty the Penguin to be nothing more than a plushie, meaning that loser child I mentioned earlier only gets companionship from a toy penguin, as opposed to a real one. This also suggests that it is not something like togetherness, or showing people new experiences, that make a good Christmas, but that by throwing money at a single product in a toy store, all your kid’s dreams will come true: the ‘happy ending’ of this year’s film was the purchasing of a second toy penguin, doubling the amount of capitalist bullshit disguised as a moral conclusion, whereas last year’s ending was about a bear hanging out with a hare because they were actual friends, rather than toys pretending to be friends.

And I think this problem has flown over the heads of most of the esteemed film critics in the YouTube comments; some have realised that last year’s film was perhaps more emotional, but I’ve not seen a single user point out the fact that all this kid’s, and his bloody penguin’s, problems have been solved by buying things. This is a terrible moral, that can’t really be extended to the rest of life; if the kid wants companionship through money, he gets a toy penguin, but if adults want to buy companionship, we get hookers, neither of which are emotionally healthy solutions.

At last there’s some reality to this year’s advert though, unlike the mystery box of 2011, which could be a decapitated dog’s head for all we know, or the chilling quest of a snowman to find a snow-girlfriend (because even in the culture of snowpeople, it’s the men that go on journeys, and the women that sit there waiting to be whisked away by a handsome stranger), where he only moves when the camera’s not looking at him, making him little more than a festive weeping angel. And, for all my moaning and nit-picking, it is a sweet film with a conclusion that could be seen as a nice one, with the boy feeling empathy towards a creature he has invented entirely in his own mind, making the child some kind of omnipotent god of altruism, presumably before he can spell ‘onomatopoeia’.

But the best thing of all of this? You people get to start longing for Christmas as if it’s only days away, but you’ve got seven weeks to go; enjoy the most drawn-out and agonising wait of the year folks, it’s a wait no number of CGI penguins can make shorter!

Nostalgic Shopping

(at Sports Direct, no less)

Today I signed up for a crap-load of societies for the coming year, some of which I’ll probably leave after the first taster session. But I am excited for the football and rugby societies, because I greatly enjoy the former, and used to greatly enjoy the latter. And while I lack technical footballing ability, and my rugby ability resembles a ferret valiantly body-checking a group of cement trucks, my biggest concern has been the kit.

Namely I’ve just shelled out over a hundred quid on footy socks and gumshields.

But buying this stuff has brought back some of the pleasant memories of eleven year-old James, who optimistically frolicked through OPRO stores and school sports outfitters, picking the coolest-looking (and invariably most expensive) things from the shelves for his inevitably awesome athletic career.

Yeah that happened.

But now my expectations are lower, and I’m looking forward to scraping into the seventh team through a combination of injury, luck, and bribing the captain with the use of the fridge I have in my room; its alcohol-storing potential exceeds my athletic potential.

Either way, I’ll keep you posted on my sporting endeavours.

Also, I wrote this on my phone, which is awkward, so sorry for the shortness.

Buying Things Online

(like this sort of stuff)

Now that I have a bank account with money in it, and a debit card with a number on it, I am free to waste money buying things for myself online, rather than going through my parents; it’s not like they’d stop me from getting anything (unless it was astronomically expensive), but there is a certain freedom to being able to order my own laptop case, or burn three quid on a Kairosoft game on the App Store all by myself.

I fear this freedom to an extent, because it makes the act of buying something online, regardless of the thing being bought, more personal, and as an extension of my impending independence (apart from food, washing, probably a bed, moral support and chauffeuring) from my parents when I move out in a fortnight, rather than a purely functional thing; this means that buying crap online is further incentivised, and I’m more likely to buy a game on Steam than perhaps I would if I had to make my parents aware of my every move.

But with great freedom comes an imminent reduction in freedom; soon I’ll be paying rent out of my account, and a few years later a mortgage, and laundry money. In time, the ability to spend money will become a functional hassle, rather than an enjoyable, activity.

But this just mirrors how money changes as one gets older; in youth, money is willingly spent on Crazy Bones and football stickers (if those things even exist any more), whereas money is later spent either on food, or on providing the money for the youth to splurge on their trinkets. Perhaps, then, I should enjoy this brief period, where I have some money and, for all intents and purposes, it’s disposable: I’ve bought three tickets to gigs this Autumn, about ten iPhone games, an iPhone case, a laptop and most of my university reading that is, after all, a thing I’m doing for myself and for my own enjoyment.

I just don’t envy having to pay for all of this for other people when I’m older.

Blogging On A Laptop

(I’m on a laptop, motherfrakker!)

Yes, I now own a shiny new Apple laptop, a stark contrast to my utterly archaic second generation iPod Touch, and iMac from 2008; you couldn’t even download a more recent operating system than iOS 5 on that first one, dahling.

And while I’m enjoying using this new technological doo-dad, there is a part of me that reasons that this birthday present, for all its expense and afternoon spent setting it up, will allow me to do little more than play Football Manager in a slightly more comfortable chair, at least until I bugger off to University in October. It appears that we in our culture give equal importance to the means with which we do things – a computer to play a video game – as we do the things that we ultimately do – I didn’t ask or receive a new video game this year, that could be played on my laptop.

You can also see this in most aspects of technology; mobile phones only allow you to talk to other people, and all the software updates, hands-free headsets and Apple innovations in the world are unlikely to change the fact that advances in phone technology will not qualitatively change the ultimate function of those phones.

Except that they do; phones can now play video games. Ovens can tell the time. Acoustic guitars can come with built-in tuners for God’s sake. All this means that we are blurring the lines between the tasks that our various devices and gadgets do, to the point of futility; I overheard a guy on the bus asking why buses now tell the time, when almost everyone has a smartphone, or an archaic iWatch predecessor known as a ‘wristwatch’ that would serve such a purpose as well, if not better?

It seems that change itself is enough of a reason for these developments to take place; it doesn’t matter if we all have nine gadgets that do the same thing, because we could all have a tenth, so let’s spend some more money! Hooray!

It’s also worth noting that few of these developments are actually new developments; buses and ovens can tell the time, but the Sun’s been doing that for us since the literal dawn of humanity, and the App Store only provides the same service for people that stores like HMV and Game have been doing for decades. I’d even argue that the invention of the smartphone wasn’t that innovative, because phones became a hub of communication, gaming and the Internet, rather than serving a totally new purpose, unique to smartphones.

And this laptop is no different; it’s a computer on one’s lap, which is desirable for some reason: ‘Wow, look how portable it is!’, we cry (I once took my 20-inch iMac, in its box, to a friend’s house); ‘The keyboard is so easy to use!’, we gush (the same iMac keyboard served me perfectly for five years); ‘It’s so thin!’, we sigh (because I was so concerned about the width of my old computer that I bought it a month’s gym membership, four WeightWatchers DVDs and a £20 voucher for a vegetarian restaurant in central London, from the ‘iMacs, not Big Macs’ menu).

You could even say that this has led to a decrease, not an increase, in innovative ideas, as to ‘progress’ now means to ‘chuck existing features and ideas onto a black rectangle slightly thinner than the one we released last lear’, rather than actually create something from scratch.

But I can’t really moan about it, as I point out the flaws of buying a laptop alongside a perfectly good computer, here on my laptop as my perfectly good computer sits idly next to me; once I port my iTunes library and Football Manager saves across I won’t have any use for the poor, clunky bastard, meaning I’ll simply discard it like the Top Trumps cards, Scalextric sets and feverishly-collected football stickers of my childhood. Awesome American band Icon For Hire summed this phenomenon up pretty well in their song Pop Culture: ‘We all act like we see right through it, when we all know we’re addicted to it’.

But thanks to my parents for buying this for me; I wouldn’t want so seem ungrateful or anything.