Smokin’n’chokin’

Working Title/Artist: Louis Hine (American, 1874-1940): Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 A.M., May 9, 1910  Department: Photographs Culture/Period/Location:  HB/TOA Date Code:  Working Date:  scanned for collections
Stretch here. I have been not smoking the smoking cigarettes since August 1st 2014. I feel healthy, my lungs are full of air. I go for long and boring runs now and sorta see the point of it. Sometimes, I cough and enjoy the lack of a wheeze and that little bit of phlegm that would jump out in to my munki mouth. Despite years of abusing these little wonder sticks, I can now look forward to living maybe five to ten years longer and see my family and friends flourish into old age. Ahhh.

BUT, Jesus, fuck that, I fucking miss them. Here’s why:

  1. Travel: Standing at a bus stop or train station, occupying your time with your own thoughts is generally boring. Smoking a cigarette fills time. It fills between 5 and 8 minutes. You look at the board and it says 18 minutes until your travel device arrives. That’s two lovely, enjoyable cigarettes. You don’t want to be thinking about stuff like how to be a better munki or solving the world’s problems. That’s none of your business. Smoke. Also, in Winter it keep you warm and safe.
  2. Tramps. The majority of conversations I have had with people of the streets have occurred around cigarettes. In fact, on one holiday to San Francisco, I spent most of my holiday money passing out cigarettes to the homeless, causing petty tramp-fights due to the queues forming around my person. I felt like Jesus did when he smoked, I did.
  3. Accentuating a shit situation: You have a row; lose a job; the car won’t start; you get clamped; a piano falls on your sister; Christmas Day; Salman Rushdie keeps hanging around you; Lupita Nyong’o says you have no talent and you’re not funny; fucking Ryan Gosling actually has young geese (fuck sake); you pay your TV license and they give it to Ryan Tubridy to keep up his sense of self-worth; you find out there is a God, but vow to continue to trust the tenets of nihilism etc… With the aid of a cigarette you can stop, regard the situation, shove one in your mouth and take a timeout. Without cigarettes, the only option is to revolve and revolve and revolve quickly until dizziness makes amends.
  4. Funerals: Socially awkward, uncomfortable, cold, long, boring…. Stand outside and smoke. You’ll look anxious and people will forgive the chain-smoking, thinking you’re working through issues. You’re not. You barely know the deceased. You are just ignorant, but y’know content.
  5. Social occasions: See above. Smoking areas are now the only places in bars or clubs where people are actually having fun probably. Be careful though: outgoing people tend to use wild hand gestures to add to their boring stories. Smokers will burn you real good. You’ll make friends, fall in love, sway… anything you want and you ARE getting the night air. What could be better? The downside is the cancer and the smell of ya. Also great for getting away from the desk at work. Well except when getting to the spot and the most boring person in the company is there. Bullshit conversation about their social life and then you avoid eye contact for years. YEARS!
  6. Life expectancy: How fucking long is long enough? Do you want to live forever? I’m not sure I can afford to live until a ripe old age. I’m skint. At a certain point, the onset of old age will make my remaining munki years slow and cumbersome. Naturally I would be okay if I had an optimistic outlook, but fuck that, that hasn’t happened and tumblr_ndm5w7gn2p1tjsogwo1_250isn’t going to. So now I’ll have to endure a healthy, broke end of days. Sounds great. But, if I go back on the smokes, I can shave off a number of those painfully boring years, despite suffering a terrible painful death coughing phlegm on everyone. Hmm…what to do?
  7. Cause of death: So, yeah, If I don’t smoke, I will die from something else, right? What if the thing that kills me is really stupid, like being run over or being eaten by penguins or falling in the shower or being assassinated accidentally by a secondary terrorist organisation or choking on rocket or choking on asparagus or choking on a Pharmaton or choking on yoghurt or falling off the Eiffel Tower or falling out a bungalow window wrong….grrr? Instead, a persistent cough, breathing apparati…later.
  8. Non Smokers: Hey I don’t smoke but I’m not a non-smoker, right? You can fuck right off if you think that.
  9. They taste fucking wonderful and go so well with booze and LSD. In fact if you are doing acid, I recommend about 60 cigarettes (80 if microdots are your thing) and of course, breathing. Breathe, Shirley, breathe! Who do you think you are, Tom fucking Cruise?
  10. Finally, remember, we are all alone. With a cigarette you are never alone. You have a sense of purpose. That sense of purpose is to smoke a cigarette. It is one of the simplest things you will learn in life. This and the knowledge that most humans you encounter in life are straight up conservative assholes and they think the same of you. Family, friends, confidantes, your religious entity, doing good deeds, receiving praise? None of these things will ever give you the same feeling as the first optimistic 30 seconds after lighting up a beautiful stick of dried out leaves. Inhale, exhale. Life is good. For now.

Smoke if you got em’!

DOWN with the kids

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Sometimes I look in the mirror and see Henry Hill in the final scene of Goodfellas. That moment when he realises the mundane future,  that expression of weariness stares back at me. I’m not old or young: I’m in the middle, the horrible middle youth. Too young to retire and give up, too old to join a band. Too exhausted even to bother with a mid-life crisis. The span between 30 and 50 is as demanding mentally as the hormonal mess of teen years, filled with the same ‘what the fuck?’ moments every morning when you open your eyes. Is this middle youth? Or something else?

Now, I’m a professional something, with a wife, child, mortgage, car loan, two dogs and a non-stick pan. I’m also an uncool, balding, cynical, wrecked shell of a human, who has finally lost control of the handlebars, looking at music reviews, wondering at what point I started missing all the new bands.  My interests aren’t represented in the media, I am unlikely to harass Joe Duffy of an afternoon, am Irish but not that Irish kind of Irish. Demographically speaking I’m from that group who drink heavily, mangle the guitar, play playstation, write, work in a demanding job and worry about money all the time. If that is a demographic.

FASHIONLESS FREAK FASHION BITCH

My dressing room of disaffection contains black t-shirts, black jeans, black boots, pretty much the same uniform since I was eight, but I was cooler then. The use of branding or logos is prohibited by a demented code I developed as a teen. Colour is always the enemy, as is self-help. I am Max Schumacher in an Anthrax t-shirt.

Why? There is nothing that irritates my soul more than when I see people with GAP or FITCH illuminating their chests. Why be a walking billboard? People are conditioned to wear clothes from the many outlet stores that have popped up because they are on special offer and some weird set of unwritten fashion dogma tells them that a little alligator on their shirt will make their peers sit up and demand to know who this fantastic character is. If you’re not going to bother then don’t. Or else become a hipster, but then again I don’t really know what a hipster is. Someone with skinny jeans, no defined muscle mass and cardigan buttons in their earlobes, right?

I do not react well to that market which feeds us. Maybe I’m William Gibson’s Cayce Pollard, who had a pathological sensitivity to logos and brands. Yet, I’m also that loser who wears band t-shirts at age 37, ha! I met a guy in the lift in work a few years back who commented on my Front 242 t-shirt, sarcastically pointing out that he used to wear such t-shirts before he stopped being angry at the world. I stared at this chinless, overweight shit and resisted the urge to punch him. Who is not angry at this world? Oh.

MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO PARENTS

It all comes down to my teenage obsession with music and how certain people remain consumed throughout their lives. Others choose to drop these childhood things and wear ties and jodphurs and place Dido on their stereos as it is unlikely to offend anyone. People like myself, whose religion changed after hearing Nick Cave’s “Tender Prey,” feel heartache that the underground we loved is now sponsored by mobile phone companies. We grew up with American or British punk, metal, indie, goth and dance music, not because we didn’t love our country, but because the rare Irish gems faded quickly. We listened to those influential groups long before their recent wallet-filling comeback tours. These days I can’t even listen to the amazing Pixies without a sick feeling in my stomach.

I wonder how weird will it be bringing my son to a Metallica gig when he’s old enough? A guilty pleasure since the age of 11, the thrash metal behemoth stopped being any good after 1988, yet like Fall gigs you go to see them live just in case it’s the last chance you get. The anxiety-ridden metallers are not an underground band from the Bay Area anymore, but a corporation in their own right. During their set, a few years back, I stood happily drunk and watched a man with his son on his shoulders. They were both in awe at the spectacle. Ah, one day, yes, one day, I will force my son to see Metallica and demand that he sit on my shoulders regardless of his age.  Later that night I high-fived the kid a few times until the father got uncomfortable and moved position.

Growing up we watched everything that was new and cool, tried to race ahead of hungry marketeers who needed to commodify everything that we loved and ultimately destroyed any feeling we had for it. The music marketplace annihilated itself because of arrogant executives who didn’t believe in the power of the internet. The tools of production and the ability for music to be uploaded to sites means anyone can be a musician and exist outside of the limitation of record companies.

Oddly this has meant that us middle-youthers get to experience the thrill of our youth for a second time, because the bands of my youth are either starting up again or never stopped. They know that they will make more in this era’s consumer model than in the days when they were popular and influential. This isn’t brilliant news for the current generation. Thousands of new groups fall by the wayside: burning brightly and fading away, all in the space of six months. There are too many old bands releasing event albums and headlining festivals, filling the space young acts should.  Look around now, every festival is headlined by forty or fifty-something rebels with mortgages but no cause other than the derivative output of their generation. How many new bands will be plying their trade in 20 years? They’ll be gone, but there will probably be a new Iggy album.

THE MEATMARKET TURNED VEGGIE

Depressingly evil waking moment: Apple computers have control of my body! My fingers, eyes, ears and lumpy arse have been borrowed at a price by this corporation that constantly bangs me over the head telling me, “No, we’re not a corporation, but your friend. Look how well designed our products are, look how good they go with any room in your house. Doesn’t your dog look cooler standing beside the MacBook Pro? Quick take a pic with your iPhone. Hey is that Gun Club on your iPod?”

Typical though, I am such an old hypocrite, railing against the MAN for all these years, and it turns out the MAN is a geeky fucking hipster who sees even a mess of a human like me as an integral part of his marketing strategy. Apple have since the early nineties forced their oh-so-cool products on a wanton sector of society, the ‘we didn’t have that shit when we were young’ crowd. The age profile for the highest consumers of iPhone and iPad? 30-50, my age-group.

We are willing computer and internet junkies. We don’t see the little adverts flashing through our heads. Every site we go to has a shopping basket, ‘inviting’ us to exist in a global department store. We are the ‘cooler than our kids’ generation and being hooked up to the net, it is mournful for us because we remember the time before. The time before we lost our ideals, that golden time when we ran around fields and wished we had something to stop us from running around fields. Here’s an iPhone! Look! With this app, you can not only control your bowel movements, you can control other people’s too! That’ll be 99c, please.

STUCK IN THE MEDIA OF A SHITSTORM

We are always being informed by the media that we have a unique culture. Do the people who leave comments on the Journal have culture? Those poor bastards can barely raise their knuckles off the floor to actively miss the point. Yet, these are the people who engage with media, my compatriots.

Culture can be video games; gigs; sport; Hello magazine; drinking yourself to sleep after a hard day’s work; the occasional night out surrounded by massive televisions showing footballers at actual size in bars that used to be nice; hoping you will stay alive long enough to finish the many boxsets you are watching and hating Ryan Tubridy because, y’know, he’s Ryan Tubridy.

However, the Irish Times weekend magazine seems to think that the nation is full of upper middle class people who knit their children’s clothes, then wonder why the poor itchy fuckers get bullied at school. Do these things relate to my generation? ‘What to wear when killing foxes. How to stop people killing foxes. Are foxes spreading diseases and killing livestock? Are we too quick to dismiss the ways of the countryside even if it even means the odd fox will get ripped to pieces? How to make fox risotto, with cranberries and chestnuts, YES! CHESTNUTS!’

On the other hand, I am supposed to care about Georgia Salpa, Kate Middleton, Rosanna Davison, John Terry, David Beckham, Tom Cruise, Adele, Susan Boyle, Una Healy, Gerard Kean and Simon Cowell? The question is: would Michael Collins have made this country better or if he lived would he be just another big wanker? Look what happened to Bono.

HERE’S YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT SON. NO, THERE WAS NO CELLOPHANE WHEN I GOT IT

While some people are out on their mountain bikes, orienteering their fit bodies around grim mountains, others are spending large sums of money in restaurants to eat chips that just don’t fit in your mouth. A few still sit around and pray to gods who have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning. But then there are those who can tell key events of their lives based on what version of FIFA football they had at the time. Alternatively they are racking up bodycounts so impressive that their Level 50 status brings them to the attention of various military dictatorships, leading to their dream job: John Cusack’s character in Grosse Pointe Blank. The only downside being the eventual marriage to Minnie Driver’s enormous head.

Teenagers of 2013 have more problems than they realise. Not only are they dealing with the adolescent nightmares of peer pressure, alcohol/drug abuse, fraping, and pus all over their visages, now they’ll have to fight for control of their own game consoles from a growing population of aging gamers who remember playing Sonic and Mario and are damned if they’re going to miss out on the latest gems on the gaming market.

Adults my age play computer games. My Dad didn’t. Your Dad didn’t! The supposedly productive hours in our lives racked up in gaming universes mean that to ignore the incredible new games and game engines wouldn’t be fair on us.  These worlds are so advanced that they transcend the divide between traditional adult entertainment of movies and television. The ability of some games like the Call of Duty series to sell more units than any traditional media is pushing them into a prominent area. Pong is gone. The games developers know that their audience are not just kids, but stressed out adults with disposable income who demand quality and the ability to shoot someone in the face.

Alan Moore, the comic artist who created Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has talked about my generation’s retreat to infancy, pointing out that we didn’t really want to take the responsibility of being an adult in the world we live in, since it’s a pretty shitty world. Middle youthers, although that label is redundant, exist in some horrific Judd Apatow version of reality – minus the misogyny. We are immature, yet have mortgages. We don’t sacrifice our enjoyment of the world in order to survive. We vote the lesser of two evils then vote them out when they become all scaly monster. The church didn’t own us like it did our parents so the guilt isn’t really there. But middle age is real, it is coming and it will be interesting to see how the market is preparing for our generation’s needs. What games will we need? Which bands will still be touring? How will we fill our days? Is it wrong to read the New Yorker on the toilet? The country is a mess, but the market is depending on us not to grow up for a little longer

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (ALL YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW)

Who ever met anyone like Sean Sherlock, the Minister of State for Research and Innovation (Ministry of made up ministries)? Where did he come from? Why does he represent my interests in this internet age? He is three years older than me, looks twenty years younger and smiles like he’s telling you to fuck off. I have never met anyone like him. Maybe I could befriend Sherlock, force-feed him brandy and digestive biscuits and while holding his hair over the toilet bowl as he vomits, demand to know why he is representing me. I might just get an answer. More likely, through the tears and snot he will tell me that he has no idea why at our age I am wearing a Cramps t-shirt, smelling of rum and covered in his sick.

182870_527665477279926_395253768_nThis bunch of words I did wrote was published in the summer issue of CULT magazine 2013.

 

STRETCH SONGS OF JOY 2009 Part Un (of trois, Je suis desolee)

Stretch to the music AGAIN!

I will not do my favourite albums from the last decade, BECAUSE who gives a shit what I liked when I was

I hates Stretch Macgibbon. I am not schizophrenic and my head is not...well maybe my head is huge but...

on super drugs in 2001, or during my Taoist phase in 2003, or my bisexual week in 2006 when I bought every Sheep on Drugs album I could find, but then went back to tha LAYDEES? No one. So why would you be interested in Stretch Songs of Joy 2009? Well, because it’s fucking deadly!

2009 was all over the place. Major ups, horrible lows and the usual middling feeling that has kept the centre of Irlandia mired in a wet bog since the dark ages. A premonition of a wondAful new decade happened the other night. Stretch foresees Ups lows and that usual middling feeling. Hmmm, no change there then.

Anyway, here is the first five songs I did like last year. Gargantuan-headed slut Miley

Cyrus and Susan

Boyle’s wet dream, Michael Buble, didn’t make the cut this year. Lady (I did not rob my ting from Roisin) Gaga’s ridiculous outfits failed to draw away from her ridiculous voice, so she also missed out. Pensioners U2 released their “we don’t care if the fans don’t like it, we love our new sound” album No Line on the Horizon. Stretch predicts they may return out of their assholes with a huge album with the old sound ON IT very soon. I tried to find room for Fleet Foxes, but would have had to shave off all their hair, and as we know, it is impossible to make indie music these days without unkempt beards and brown cordurouy.

First up

The Black Dog – Tunnels Ov Set (Autechre Remix)

As  we all know, Autechre have fans who like the beautiful sounds heard on the albums, Amber and Incunabula. Others love the carefully constructed manicness of Gantz Graf and Untilted. Most go, “who are Autechre?” These people are many and all around us. Still, this gem of a mix was released this year and I find myself compelled to play it loud in front of visiting priests or social workers, if only to take their minds off the evil that lurks within. YOU NEEDS TO PLAY IT LOUD. THEN STAB THE PRIEST IN THE HEART WITH A MELON-BALLER AND SLIT THE SOCIAL’S THROAT (NOT THROATH) WITH THEIR CLIPBOARD. Leftover cake can be wrapped up and donated to the deceased’s famly. Phew..

W.A.S.P. – Crazy

It is only when Blackie Lawless is staring at you from the stage, with a look that says, “I’m going to fuck you, you little monkey,” that you realise the power of this 97 year old woman. This is probably the catchiest song I have heard in a long time, and the former New York Doll really seems to have the appetite for it again. The wild sold-out show in Dublin recently seemed to surprise the younger members of his band, who were wringing their hankies all through the set. A song very close to Stretch’s heart because of the bafflement I feel every morning!

Andrew Weatherall – A Pox on the Pioneers

After his exertions as DJ, producer and with his partner Keith Tenniswood in the brilliant Two Lone Swordsmen, it is hard to believe that A Pox on the Pioneers is Weatherall’s debut solo album. A seafaring odyssey, the first time I heard it I was kinda puzzled at the sound, but eventually grew to lust after this ska tinged, rockabilly product with an oddly new romantic feel. Now there’s a mouthful. (Insert Tiger Woods joke here)

It also contains the best lyric this year for a chorus “To hell with all those lost at sea, fuck the folk on the wild frontiers, to hell with them eternally, and a pox on all the pioneers” That should win an award on its own. Kudos dudo.

Bonobo – The Keeper featuring Andreya Triana

Now for something to listen to while contemplating the mess you made of your life while eating your cornflakes. Another slice of Bonobo magic. I presume Simon Green gets down sometimes, locks himself in the box room, draws blood, smears it all over the mocha-painted walls and screams out the whole of Slayer’s Reign in Blood, while ringing people he went to school with to tell them how much he hated their haircuts and attempts at sarcasm. But in general, he creates music that is chilled and uplifting, which is lucky for the person who has to paint the box room every six months. His new album, called I will kill your granny with my big shiny axe, while stuffing her rabbit!, is out next year on Ninja Tunes.

Shit Robot – Simple Things (Work It Out)

I love this song. It just goes on and on and makes Stretch all happy! Shit Robot is Marcus Lambkin and he’s from International dipshit Damien Dempsey’s lair Dubalin towin (surely it should be Shite Robot then). After realising the limitations of Dubalin, he went all traitor and fucked off to New York which is why I am probably talking about him now. With Nation of Ulysees punk dude on vocals, Ian Svenonius, this song just makes you wanna DAYANCE. Not like Kevin Bacon in the middle of a circle jerk or Tom Cruise in his underpants, but in your kitchen hosting a dinner party, with a meat cleaver in your hand laughing hysterically, but oh look, you haven’t seen the spilled chianti, you thrust forward with your hips, and are thrown at the table of guests, you cry “move the hummous, move the hummous” and the inevitable happens. Dinner party over.

Don’t like my bullshit, check out cool people’s lists on the best source of music that is BOOMKAT. You won’t find donkey-toothed marketing director Hannah Montana here, although she may be in disguise. Beware