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Meeting Danny MacAskill

http://www.bikeradar.com/news/article/is-danny-macaskill-the-male-susan-boyle-25579

The plush interior of Red Bull’s Tooley Street offices almost seemed inappropriate when I met Danny MacAskill, the daredevil Scottish stunt cyclist who rode to fame in 2009, with a YouTube video profiling his abilities being watched by over 16 million people.

I mentioned that Danny could be seen as the male Susan Boyle, what with him being both Scottish and a YouTube sensation. He laughed as he replied: “I’m not sure I can quite compare myself to Susan Boyle, but it’s been crazy. From making one small video to all this. I was at the Laureus Sports Awards in Abu Dhabi, with people like Roger Federer and Usain Bolt, because I was nominated for an award. It was just crazy.”

Ah yes, that video. The five minutes of incredible death-defying stunts and tricks, on the streets of Scotland, soundtracked perfectly by Band Of Horses. Not a second wasted, every shot expertly filmed by his flatmate, and watched by millions of people every day, most of whom comment with just a single word: “Wow.”

Danny macaskill:

“My flatmate Dave filmed it”, he exclaimed, eyes lighting up. “It started off as a small project but it was interrupted by bad weather, so in the time it took to film it I was learning new skills and it all built up from there. But we never thought about who would watch it, we just did it for fun. To this day I still find it hard to put into perspective what’s happened since it was put online.”

And a lot has happened. Since the video, Danny has been inundated with media attention. He’s appeared in a music video for the indie band Doves, in adverts for S1jobs.com and Volkswagen, has been seen on international television, and turned down the high profile Ellen show in the US because they wanted him to ride his bike dressed as host Ellen DeGeneres.

“I need to be careful with what I go on, and to make sure that I don’t look like an idiot in front of a lot of people” he mentioned, smiling, when asked about the Ellen story. With that in mind, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Danny is how down to earth he is. Sportsmen usually fall into two categories – boring and egotistical – but MacAskill is neither. He’s affable and funny, and incredibly unpretentious for someone so talented.

Danny macaskill:

He had never been in a gym until six months ago, which is astounding considering the power and poise needed to generate his stunts, jumps and leaps. Since then he has been working with a Red Bull trainer to get back to full speed, which he describes as ‘disgusting”, laughing as he winces. In fact, Red Bull have helped Danny immensely since they signed and sponsored him in 2009.

“Red Bull said they were going to give me sponsorship, and at the time, although I knew Red Bull were a cool company, I didn’t really know what it meant to be a Red Bull athlete,” he said. “I do now. It’s brilliant because I can do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is just to ride my bike.”

Danny macaskill:

Future plans include working on a new film once his collarbone heals up. “I’m really excited about the new video,” he said. “I have so many ideas it should be excellent”. Despite this, he maintains that: “I ride my bike because I love doing it. I’d give everything up just to ride my bike all day.”

It’s that attitude which is so refreshing and inspiring to hear. Rather than engage in dull and dreary ‘press talk’, MacAskill is frank and honest. After all, as he says himself, “I don’t think that far into the future. When I’m done with this I’d like to have done my best, and taken as much as I can from it”, before adding: “I’ve not got massive plans; I’ll take everything as it comes.”

I think he summed it up best when he said: “I’ve gone from working in a bike shop with no windows downstairs to travelling all round the world and getting nominated for awards.” Not such a bad life for a regular young guy from the Isle of Skye.

Something I love…

The thought of sunshine being an actual object has always interested me. The ability to shine, dazzle, warm and regulate at any given moment. A life force, a giver of joy, a sheer pleasure. The respite from the daily grind, all wrapped up into one little package of love.

When I first saw it, what struck me the most was the colours. A vast array of twinkling forces, combining together to almost blind me within its innate beauty. Deep greens nudging for room among the strong yellow, deep chocolate-brown snuggling alongside the purest reds, and the most glorious off-white I had ever seen.

And the top and the bottom, two waves of the strangest colour known to man. A dark cream, or perhaps a very light brown. It’s not especially important to me, what does increase the pulses and tense my back is the way the whole ensemble works. Doesn’t matter on whether you call it doubly delicious to observe and feel, or simply as heaven on earth, it speaks to everybody in different ways.

The five senses all combine to make it a memorable experience each and every time. To touch, it’s soft, smooth, and delicate. To smell, well one can only compare it to a freshly mown lawn every day of the year, or a particularly smashing bakery, or even the smell that wafted over the Garden of Eden after Adam first destroyed Eve’s genital regions.

The sound, well it’s eerily reminiscent of John Cage’s infamous 4’33, the classic ‘silent’ orchestra piece. It’s not what you can’t hear that’s important, it’s what you glean from the gorgeous silence, a much appreciated reminder to appreciate what we have today, before it’s gone tomorrow.

We have already touched upon what it looks like, so let’s focus on the taste. On one level, it’s almost too perfect to write about, such is the sheer size of the experience. A million different emotions fill the world at that period, all good, none painful, except for the heartbreaking experience when it’s finished.

Sunshine, radiating into my life in a small, beautiful package. And at just £1.29, the McDonalds double cheeseburger could do that for you as well.

The bores on drugs?

Despite being nearly twenty years old and living in London as a student, I have never taken drugs. Even as a youngster, struggling to adapt to an ever-changing world in the Essex badlands my mind never clouded, my hands never begged, and my heart never longed for anything stronger than a full fat coca-cola and a chupa chup.

This can be determined because of a number of factors. One of those is fear, fear at changing myself to fit the needs of others, fear at becoming addicted, fear of perhaps enjoying the sensations and thus obliterating my entire outlook on life. For if I was wrong about drugs, what other things am I also wrong about? Do rolled up charity shop jeans and boat shoes really make a man stand out positively? Are the Geldof family incredible? Do I really know?

There are also the horror stories. I’m not a tabloid frenzied maniac, but as a comedian who I can’t remember once said, you never really hear of positive drug stories do you? Boring Bill Hicks diatribes aside, I’ve never known anybody to turn into an amazing person after they have started dabbling in a bit of crack, or how enlightened everyone became when they started dabbing MDMA into frenzied lips.

The arguments again are obvious and often stupid. “It’s MY life”. “You don’t know how to have FUN!”. Yeah, obviously which is why I’m up bright and breezy on a blissful Saturday morning while you’re all nursing severe headaches, shitting purple silhouettes and bemoaning the fact that you can’t remember anything that happened last night. If you think you got spiked, you probably didn’t – you’re just a bit of an attention seeker who can’t handle what you take.

Despite this, I’m not anti drugs in the slightest. Sure, smoke a bit of weed to relax, do whatever you do with speed to get you through that super tough maths exam, but that’s where I draw the line really. Does taking a little white pill really make a night that much better? If you need to do anything to get through something, isn’t it time to reconsider your life? Why take pills to make shit, thumping dance music tolerable when you could go somewhere that means you can have fun naturally, not binge drink sambuca and pretend you’re sexy.

It’s just depressing isn’t it? Life is a struggle yeah, and we should all do things we enjoy, but I would genuinely love to understand what it is about drugs that are so amazing. Some people would reply along the lines of “how can you slag something off without trying it?” For the same reasons that I haven’t raped anyone, or moonwalked in Basra, because they’re complete bullshit, immoral and wrong.

Getting stuff shoved in your face when not in a sexual situation is always problematic. Whether it is religious zealots, charity workers, or people you know who endlessly boast of how much they drink, how much coke they took, and how many people they got off with. Yeah, part of me is jealous, but the other half of me realises what utter dicks these people are, and how uncool it all is. Wasting the peak years of my life doing the macarana in a chain nightclub in residential hell doesn’t really appeal to me, and I sincerely doubt it does to many people deep down.

It’s tough to have these feelings though, when so many people who share them are actual knobs though. Obviously I’m talking about those nutters who claim to be straight edge. Nothing quite like setting yourself apart by aligning yourself and labelling yourself is there? I’d LOVE to be buzzing off my tits to Basshunter to save myself from the boring drone of a prick who hasn’t had a cider for a week so they reckon it makes them Henry Rollins. They should try depriving themself of air instead of booze.

So really, I hate everyone. Yet also, I love everyone. It’s the eternal contradiction, do I follow my head which tells me that drugs are unnatural, or my glowing heart which wants me to follow the crowd and shoot up? I’ve gotten to this age without even taking a paracetamol, so fuck knows how a belly full of amphetamines or gums full of white powder would make me feel.

Ultimately, what can you do? Let people be themselves I suppose, but it just gets me down. I shouldn’t hate the player, I should hate the game apparently. Maybe I should just hate myself for not getting it. Or not be a cunt.

Why I love….. Boxing

I am a fine believer in romance. The first dance at a wedding, the kisses in the rain, the hand in hand stroll through Queens Boulevard. But inside, lurking in me is a cavernous roar, a burning desire for violence. Perhaps it’s the Essex boy in me, years of growing up in the badlands, drunks learing through the alleyways as the prostitutes give out handjobs to fill their pregnant bellies up with a little bit of crack to last them to the morning. Or maybe I’m just a sadistic bastard, either way sometimes I just want to see people get hurt.

Some people love boxing for the ‘sweet science’ aspect of it all, the cat and mouse games, the cagey affairs which are not too dissimilar to a game of Chess. On rare occasions I am one of them, the recent David Haye/Nikolai Valuev bout was an intense twelve rounds of boxing, as the 6,3 Haye stayed out of range from the seven-foot Russian beast. Haye bobbed and weaved that night, a broken hand in the second prohibiting an all out war, an injury that probably did him the world of good in the long run. A solid left in the twelfth, which made Valuev unsteady on his feet for the first time notwithstanding, Haye, an incredibly heavy hitter used all his nous to succeed. And succeed he did, taking home a segment of the World Heavyweight Championship.

Often though, I like the punches. Sounds simple, sounds almost gutteral, but the thwack of glove upon temple is a glorious sound. The crowds response, sometimes boisterous, often hushed adds to the occasion. On rare times, the intake of breath can be heard around the world. Take this video, featuring Paul Samuels and Cello Renda, two fairly mediocre boxers hitting each other at the same time, and both being knocked down. I thought that was the sort of thing you only saw in Rocky films.

On one hand, it’s an extremely funny video, as the sideshow Bob lookalike, and the guy who looks like a Greek waiter both fall to the ground with all the grace of John Leslie on cocaine, but there is also a ‘wow’ factor, as they both dust themselves up and continue with the battle.

Boxing does have its moments of comedy. Tyson Fury is a 6’7 21-year-old gypsy boy from Manchester. With the name of a superstar and the mouth that Max Clifford would be ashamed of, Fury has achieved some notoriety – and also popularity in his short time in the sport so far. Part of this is down to this video, which above all else proves that he can take a punch, even if it is is own…

Then there is heartbreak in boxing. From Gerald McClellan’s gruesome beating at the hands of Nigel Benn which resulted in McClennan being permanently blind and 80% deaf, to a similar fate befalling Michael Watson, a popular British boxer who was left brain-damaged by Chris Eubank, who incidentally was a man who did much to help boxings popularity, particularly in Britain during the late eighties and early nineties.

But there is one story which always leaves me cold, and always makes me question whether boxing is really the sport I should be dedicating my love for. Billy Collins Jr was an undefeated prospect who had risen from the gutter of life in nowhere America by boxing his way into a better life. Unfortunately, during a match with the grizzled journeyman Luis Resto on June 16th 1983, Collins Jr was battered and bruised over ten concussive rounds by Resto.

It was a shock to everyone, until it was revealed that the protective padding had been taken out of Resto’s gloves, allegedly by Resto’s garish trainer Panama Lewis. The removal of the padding meant that Resto was effectively hitting Collins Jr with fists, and the damage subsequently left him with a torn iris and permanently blurred vision. Below is a picture of Collins Jr after the bout, those of a sensitive disposition should close their eyes and scroll down as it is very haunting.

Resto and Lewis served two years in prison. Collins Jr suffered a lifetime of not being able to fight again, and so on March 6, 1984, aged just twenty-two he crashed his car and killed himself, leaving behind a tortured family, including his father who was the man who felt Resto’s gloves and realised the fatal crime.

So yes, moments like that affect my psyche and give me shivers that run long onto the night. But then I sit and think about some of the poetry I have seen in the boxing ring. Everyone knows the classics, the rumble in the jungle, Tyson/Holyfield, Gatti/Ward and Harrison/Williams 1. The people I love are the chancers, the mavericks, the ones who gave it a go against all adversity.

Take Michael Gomez. Never the best technically, but what desire, and what a heart. Putting aside all the controversy in his career, and putting aside his remarkable life (okay, I’ll mention that he was born into the back seat of a car after his dad had crashed the vehicle en route to the hospital. And that his mother left his family for another woman. And his stabbing. And the fact he goes by the moniker of ‘Gomez’ when he’s an Irish Manc.)

Other than that, like I say he was a gritty, resilient fighter who was responsible for two of the finest rounds in boxing, during his war with Alex Arthur in October 2003. Gomez, the underdog who had stepped into Arthur’s own backyard reigned victorious, knocking out his Scottish rival becoming the British champion in the process.

Gomez’s career floundered after that, bar knocking Amir Khan down briefly during their 2008 bout, and his last fight was against a cross dressing ex boxer, but he will be fondly remembered by those who love the underdog, and those with a bit of spark about them.

Boxing will never unify the people. For every million buys Haye will get on PPV, for the tens of millions who watched Cooper/Ali or Benn/Eubank there will as many, if not more decrying it as a savage sport. They’re wrong. What’s more disgusting, seeing two men face the toughest battle of all, the will to win in a boxing ring surrounded by thousands baying for blood, or the lazy cynics who cushion their meaningless lives trapped in the bubble of reality television and bottles of cheap wine. Knock outs might be crude, but they’re nowhere near as morally reprehensible at Katie Price’s tits.

So I love boxing, and will hopefully continue to in the years to come. That’s what I love, every year there is someone new to get excited about. Whether it’s Fury, or Groves, or Mitchell, or De Gale, or whether it’s me savouring the probable upcoming Mayweather/Pacquiao bout, all the excitement is a positive thing. I’m staying up till three to watch some Central American skinny bastard knock out a hick from Alabama, and I’m loving it. Buncey’s podcasts, the forums, the hype, the let downs, the shocks – all of it makes boxing so damn perfect, and so remarkable.

I’ll leave you with the man purported to be the greatest of them all, Muhammad Ali. In the video below he’s not boxing, but he’s talking. Talking to that British institution Michael Parkinson, about race, religion and creeds, for a primetime BBC audience. Look at the charisma he exudes, and tell me who else in the world of sport could have spoken so eloquently, so passionately, and let’s be honest – so fucking funnily as Ali did to Parky. They say don’t hate the player, hate the game. Don’t hate boxing because it’s apparently barbaric, hate yourself for not getting it.

90 minutes with Cass Pennant

Very few people live lives exciting or memorable enough to have films made out of their life adventure whilst they are still living, but Cass Pennant hasn’t had a normal life. Abandoned, when born in the late fifties, Cass was a Barnado’s baby, relying on the warmth and safety of an elderly white family in Slade Green, Greater London. What followed was an up and down roller-coaster of love and lost, of friendship and of darkness, of bullets and books. Arts London News met up with the self dubbed “hooliologist” on a dark damp morning in Central London, to ask; who is the real Cass Pennant? The violent hooligan that has been caricatured over the last thirty years via films, books and courtrooms, or the sensitive writer living a dignified and respectable life as an author and publisher.

Talking about his childhood, Cass told me that although “being the only black kid in Slade Green was tough”, his upbringing wasn’t to blame. “I started up in a gang and I ended up in prison”, he informed me, eyes locked onto mine. “I had a very violent teenage life but you can’t blame that on my parents all they ever gave me is love.” Love and affection seems to be an important part of Cass’s life. He talks lovingly of his son studying at Bristol university, and he talks lovingly on his life – both the good and the bad, which is reassuring to hear in the world we live in of constant malaise and regret.

The life of Cass Pennant has never been an easy one. Imprisoned “at least twice”, he speaks bitterly of the way he was treated inside by the “racist screws” who made life unbearable for him. A youth of violence on the terraces, amidst the gloom of the recession hit early seventies has clearly left an impact on his life. Looking at the man, so big and strong you would have to make the assumption that his favourite music is something booming and grandiose, but he told me that his favourite album was the greatest hits of Van Morrison, the erstwhile singer songwriter who found fame in the seventies with gentle hits such as ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. “Do you remember when we used to sing”, went the song, and I asked Cass if he remembered what he used to sing on the terraces, and who his heroes were.

“John Charles and Clive Best.” he immediately replied, referencing two of the early black footballers in England. Multiculturalism in football, and sport in general within Britain didn’t really take off until the early eighties. Ron Atkinson, a man lambasted and vilified for racial slurs at the early dawn of this century was one of the first managers to regularly pick black footballers, and those players, people like Cyril Regis and Lawrie Cunningham certainly gave a black voice to the often snow white voice of football. Race is a subject Pennant is particularly vocal on, no surprise considering some of the abuse he experienced in his earlier life.

“When I grew up there was no Irish, no blacks, no dogs,” he said, looking forlornly towards the table. “It was a nation of ignorance, not a nation of racism.” A salient point, considering the abuse he suffered whilst in prison for one of his two sentences – both of which he feels were a “stitch up”, and he feels strongly that he was the victim of a witch hunt to try and kick out hooliganism by making him a scapegoat. I understand his stance completely, for too long violence in football was covered up, excuses polluted the air as the crowds thinned to an alarming rate, and it began to look like the beautiful game as we know it was becoming a poisoned chalice, doomed to fail. Then came Heysal, an incident which Cass feels was the turning point of eliminating hooliganism from the majority of English football. In spite of this, he warned that “it might be gone in England, but in Eastern Europe violence in football he still rife.” Proof that the problem of violence still lingers.

Cass’s problems escalated into something more serious than scuffles in the stands. When working as a doorman in dark, dreary, dour Deptford, Cass was shot three times in the chest. He describes it as the “ultimate violence”, and his bravery in reliving the story is testament to his strength as a man. He describes in terrifying depth and detail how he was shot “three times in the chest, and I couldn’t even see it coming.” Like a gory horror film, he continued his tale, telling me how “the bullets slammed through me as I moved forwards not believing what was happening.” 50 Cent and gangster rappers might idly boast about being number one with nine bullets, but there is nothing glamorous or cool about staring at the steely eyes of a man who is literally telling you what happened the moment his life almost ebbed away from him, on a grimy pavement in South East London.

Redemption occurred after leaving prison for the second time. His second sentence had turned his life around somewhat, he had discovered books, cherishing to his heart the book ‘A Stone For Danny Fisher’ by Danny Robbins which he says was the catalyst for his own writing, and that our interview was the first time he had said which book first inspired him. “It was the only time I felt free” he told me a fellow prisoner had said to him when talking about books, and the escape in which they gave him to save him from the grind of being locked up 23 hours a day.

Life seems to be good for Cass now. A classic tale of the working class kid coming good, he is now a respected author, most notably of his autobiography, the gripping and sensational “Cass” and is also a book publisher who enjoys films like ‘Heat’, and the original ‘Gone in 60 Seconds, which he told me “they only show in prisons because they don’t want the public to be corrupted, whereas the prisoners already are!”. He is open minded about culture, listening to me bleat on about Spotify when he bemoaned that he “needed someone to download him music.” This was a nice change from the serious side of Cass, it was nice to see him joking and laughing with me. “I don’t laugh often”, he said, “I’m a serious man”. With the life he has led he can be whatever he wants to be. And I’m not just saying that because I’m afraid he might beat me up.

London boxing, and David Haye

As the gloves have settled on David Haye’s sensational victory over Nikolai Valuev on Saturday night, Arts London News investigates the effect a Londoner as World Heavyweight Champion could have on London, and how to get into the boxing world with no previous experience.

A visit to the Fitzroy Lodge boxing gym achieved an interview with the esteemed boxing trainer Mick Carney, who was the first man to train Haye, guiding him through his amateur career from a “long legged ten year old”, to a silver medallist at the World Amateur Championships. Carney’s profile on his gyms website describes him as a man who, after a long distinguished career as both a boxer and a trainer is now trying ” to entice today’s youngsters away from their computers.”

“If you’re not serious about it, forget about it” said Carney when I asked him if prospective boxers would be welcome at his gym, based in Lambeth. He has a point. Boxing is an extremely tough, vicious sport which requires much discipline. Thousands try every year to make it, mere dozens achieve their goal. “It takes two years to learn the fundementals” Carney told me, “the toughest thing is trying to get the kids to stay on.” By this he was referring to the challenge in getting young people to stick at boxing when they might get a beating first time round. “It’s not the problem with starting boxing”, he added, “David Haye never achieved anything until he was seventeen.”

Haye is central to all of this. On first look at him, he seems to have it all. He used to model for Versace in his youth, is a millionaire world champion and seemingly has the world at his feet. But it didn’t come easy for him. Known for being a brash party boy in his early boxing days, it took a defeat to the grizzled veteran Carl Thompson in 2004 to wake up up and reinvigorate his boxing career. Gone went the partying and the poor diet, and gone from London was Haye, moving to Northern Cyprus to get away from the dark temptations of the old smoke. “We need to thank Carl Thompson for that fight”, said Haye’s current trainer Adam Booth recently, “it gave David the kick up the arse he needed.”

Boxing pundit, journalist and soon to be author Steve Bunce told me, when asked about Haye “Boxing all over the world needed Haye to win.” He continued,  “the heavyweight division needs a young and flash and dangerous champion. Britain has a great domestic scene – some great fights and some great fighters. Haye will boost the whole of British sport, not just boxing.” Bunce also recommended Mick Carney’s aforementioned gym when probed about good boxing gyms to get started. “The Fitzroy Lodge in Lambeth, near the War Museum, is a great gym for strudent to start at – Mickey Carney and Billy Webster have been running it for a combined total of 112 years! that has to be a record,” he said. He continued “Akay’s All Stars club in the Harrow Road, near Notting Hill, is another fantastic gym – Akay introduced a boxing work-out for non-boxers over 20 years ago! He’s a guru and a great man.”

Boxing is not the easiest sport in the world to start at, but the rewards can be astounding, perhaps not monetarily, but certainly mentally and physically. That might sound like an oxymoron when the thought of a man punching you in the head can make you mentally happy, but boxing isn’t just about the violence, it is also about poetry and grace. As perhaps the finest of them all Sugar Ray Leonard once said “boxing brings out my aggressive instinct, not necessarily a killer instinct.” Although considering Muhammed Ali’s advice to “get an education, become an electrician, a mechanic, a doctor, a lawyer — anything but a fighter. In this trade, it’s the managers that make the money and last the longest,” you might want to think twice before lacing up a pair of gloves.

And what about the young Londoners? Whilst Carney was cynical about segments of the youth of today from entering his gym “Bad kids don’t look up to people,” he confided in me. “Bad kids don’t come into this gym, why do they want some arsehole like me telling them what to do?,” he was interested in positive people interested in boxing coming to see him. “You get kids who are interested, then it’s up to you as a coach to put your arm around them and see what they can do.” “Kids have problems” he said, “but I won’t have arseholes in my gym.”

To be a great professional, you need to be a good amateur, and Haye certainly was that, in 2001 he became the first British man ever to reach a World Amateur Championships final.  “The little boy on YouTube smiling after winning his first fight and the guy smiling away on Saturday night achieved what he wanted to,” said Carney speaking about his old protegé. Just think, if Haye can do it, then why can’t you? Get to a boxing gym, find the desire inside of you and explore boxing in ways you never thought you could.

Steve Bunce will perform his one-man boxing show at the Wallington Sports Club, near Croydon, on Dec 1, starting at 8:30pm – tickets just a tenner to students. For details: www.buncelive.com

Fitzroy Lodge boxing gym in Lambeth can be found at fitzroylodge.com

Are all journalists cunts?

Sometimes I think I’d be happy with a simple life. A nice, non abrasive personality, an ability to meander through everything that life throws at me with at a giving smile on my face, the bloody mindedness which enables some people to let everything pass them by and for them to do everything they are told. And then I realise I’m not a massive bellend.

An egotist? Sure. A dreamer? Maybe. A dickhead? Sometimes, but I think that’s needed in the world we live in which seemingly consists of nothing more than a series of increasingly difficult challenges to stop you from getting anywhere you want. A lot of people I know say “well that’s how life works Martin, you can’t get everything you want all the time.” I say that’s dangerous talk. It’s perhaps the ultimate cliché, but life is legit too short for me to imagine that I can’t do whatever I want. My generation has an eerie obsession with dying young, when chances all we’ll all be grandparents one day relaxing in our rockin’ chairs and eating boiled sweets, but I’m adamant that to fully get the most out of however much time each of us have on this planet then you have to be able to believe in yourself, and only then will the belief come to you.

The latest stop-block in my life at the moment involves university. I’ve been at my university for over a year now, I’ve made some lovely friends, a beautiful girlfriend and several thousand awful puns, and that part has been great. What is concerning me at the moment is my course. I ‘study’ (and I use that word very loosely) Sports Journalism. Like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, my whole life I wanted to be involved in sport, but ever since I’ve become aware of the beurocracy and the bullshit that emits from the murky world of sports journalism my passion has waned somewhat, like a teenage girls crush on Zac Efron as he gets progressively more hairy.

This wouldn’t be so bad, but I’m currently involved in a bit of my course where we all work on the student newspapers. To me, student newspapers are always full of self-satisfied corporate babble, maybe with one lame opinion piece which tries too hard to be controversial, and lo and behold the one I work on is no exception. Tonnes of non stories, crap articles and boring attempts at investigate journalism are enough to make anyone fall asleep with even the merest glimpse of the soiled pages. When even the people who help make it don’t bother to read it, then what is the purpose of it? Just an ego drive for wannabee journalists who’ll never make it to pretend that they’ve made it some way? Seems like that to me, and I can’t help but feel that the paper used to make it could be better used elsewhere, be it nappies for homeless people, or ten million paper planes to be used in a music video by MIA.

One example of how incredibly tedious this paper is. I volunteered to write for the features team as they were short on volunteers. I soon realised why. After writing a fairly entertaining piece on adult content in kids films, I sent it off to the editor, mildly happy that I’d done a decent job on my first attempt. I received a friendly, but incredibly frustrating reply informing me that whilst they liked the piece, the powers that be ‘loathe ‘I’ pieces’. In other words, they hate anybody writing in the first person, and not in the robotic third person style that has become the norm for the paper.

I was frustrated because, whilst I anticipate and expect changes to be made to my copy, I can’t understand the mentality of anyone literally banning the use of first person narrative just because they don’t like it.  Who on earth writes third person features? Yes, opinion pieces can get boring and a paper full of them would be dreadful, but can’t someone, anyone inject some life and spark into a newspaper that has about as much life in it as Barbara Windsor’s tits?

It all seems like too much hard work for such little gain. I sound like a right div, but if I can’t achieve what I want in journalism, or in the media or in any form of writing, I’d rather just go and become a gardener or a builder than write absolute crap that I just don’t care about. Again, this is where people will pop in and go “life doesn’t work like that!”, but speaking idyllically, why can’t it? Just because someone had to suck cock and make tea on the way to the top doesn’t mean everybody has to. The day I get enthused about 400 words on why students drink too much is the day I lose a little bit of my soul and my spirit. Yeah it could be worse, I could have some arsehole boss making me work all the hours in the world, or I could be on a building site ten hours a day, but I’m not, and so in my world, my discord is based on the bastardisation of creativity and the terminal illness of journalism.

“You cannot make friends with the rock stars” said Lester Bangs in the film Almost Famous. He was referring to a young journalist in the music world who was about to go on tour with his favourite band to write a feature on them (one presumes in the first fucking person.) I can only offer the advice of ‘you cannot make friends with journalists’ because all they long for in life is to fuck the other person over and get ahead for themselves. That’s the main urban myth I can’t stand in journalism, that you’ve got to work in a team to get the most out of it. Absolute bollocks, no-one likes working with other people, everyone wants to get all the glory themselves. And why not, I’m certainly the same but at least I can admit it and not masquerade about trying to do the best for everyone.

Hypocrisy, back-stabbing and let’s be honest, probably shit loads of molestation. That’s journalism for you, and I’m only on the student side. God knows what happens when you get to the big boys, coked up paranoid wrecks desperately trying to pay their mortgage by flogging articles on ‘Top 5 Spoons!’ and ‘Why men are bastards.” I’ll tell you why I’m a bastard, because I couldn’t give a shit about boring writing, especially discussions on spoons, because the whole world knows that the only spoon worth bothering with is Bill Spoon, the scouse Barry Manilow.

Whatever, maybe I’m just not cut out for this, or maybe I’m better equipped that anyone else to succeed. As my spiritual brother once sang, I see no changes, wake up in the morning and ask myself, is life worth living should I blast myself?