Rant & Cartoon – Bloody Photographers

(Originally published in Waxxx magazine, February 2012)


So here’s where we are with gigs at the moment. Small gigs, the type that have about 40 or 50 people who you probably know individually, watching a few bands who you might also know.

And then there’s them.

They’ve been wandering into the side of the frame and spoiling the shot for a while now. Today they’re all too visible, obscuring the band you paid to see. Photographers. Thousands of them. Constantly snapping away at everything that either a) moves, or b) doesn’t.

Once upon a time, dear readers, photographers never bothered with such small fry gigs. Anyone claiming to be professional went to the biggest names. They were limited by how much film they could afford and/or carry and these stars insisted that photos were taken for three songs and then you could very much piss off. And that pass doesn’t get you backstage either, so forget about drinking the rider.

Things changed for one simple reason: digital. Now a few quid can get you a memory card that holds thousands of top quality pictures. Getting into the big shows requires effort so there they now are, snapping away because there’s literally nothing to stop them.

Well, you’d think that spoiling a gig for everyone might stop them. But they genuinely don’t seem to care. And boy do the bands suffer. Having 1,000 flashbulbs (no exaggeration at even the smallest gigs) go off in your face at point blank range is not a nice way to spend an evening.

Yet it doesn’t make sense. They may be toting expensive-looking hardware – big enough to give you a serious clunk on the head – but they’re unlikely to be making money from 200 shots of Squitty And The Blood Boils. I think they genuinely believe they’re artists (like DJing, photography is a ‘no effort’ area of artistic endeavour), who will one day have a hugely admired exhibition of their work on the shitty local bands of their area, despite absolutely no-one wanting to ever see it.

I think we – bands and audiences alike – should stand up to these world class bullies. Audiences, put your hands in front of their lenses at every opportunity. Why not, they’re doing the equivalent to you. And anyone on stage, feel free to use this speech whenever you like:

“Hey you. Yes you. Stop pretending you’re invisible. Although I am now blind, thanks to you.

“Nobody cares about these hundreds of photos you’re taking. Nobody. No magazine or website in the world. No art gallery. Not even your parents, who presumably bought that equipment for you, because no way are you making a living out of this. Nobody cares.

“We all know where these photos are going: Facebook, where they’ll be viewed by fewer people than are in this room. And to get that, you had to ruin it for everyone else didn’t you? For the people who wanted to enjoy this event the way it was supposed to be, live. Not stored on a memory card.

“So please put your camera away and join the rest of the crowd. You can either dance at the front or join the surly bastards at the back. You are not above the crowd, you are beneath it and everybody here hates you.

“And when you next plan to go to a gig like this, why not think about that? Everybody hates you. Now, we’ll play a song.”



Cartoon – Ian Hislop

Rant – I’m The Only Person Who Likes Automated Tills

I’m fed up of hearing what is now a cliched bit of stand-up observational comedy: “Don’t you hate automated tills?” Mild chuckles. “Unexpected item in the bagging area.” Wild hilarity.

I think automated tills are a blessing. I regularly walk the streets with headphones in my ears for the simple reason that there’s nothing worth hearing. Violent tramp asking for money? Amped up busker murdering Oasis? Witless screaming teenage girls? So it’s good to go into a supermarket and pay for stuff without having to take off the headphones to hear the inevitable questions that are always asked: “need any bags?” and “got a club card?”

(Both these questions are always asked because they’re corporately dictated: the first because it’s in their interests to have people walking around advertising their store, the latter because it’s in their interests to know what you’re buying. This does not make these questions easier to take.)

My answers to these questions are always no and no, the first said more forcibly because I’m usually already opening my man bag and scooping the purchased items into it. I’ve tried not taking the headphones off and just saying no whenever the teller’s lips move, but I’m aware that I’m being rude.

You don’t get this problem with automatic till machines. I also like them because they’re a great way of getting rid of masses of change without the embarrassment of dumping a load of coins into a poor wage slave’s hand to count. The only problem is getting a human to verify you are not 12 when buying alcohol, but I’m sure the technology to wave the chip in your passport at the machine is not far down the pipeline. Bliss.

Yet people still moan, and speaking as someone who regularly stands frustrated behind people who spend the first five minutes staring blankly at the machine like they’re trying to decipher the Rosetta Stone, I know why they moan: they’re fucking morons.

If you don’t know how the machine works, don’t use it. If you have the nerve to moan about it as well, you’re not a pithy observer of the modern condition, you’re a menace to society. Stand to the side and watch other people use it first. To help, here’s a few tips.

1. You don’t need to press any buttons. Just swipe your items through and feed your money in at the end. If you’re quick like me, the thing need never talk to you either. You can be out the door by the time reasonable robot woman says, “please take your items.”

2. You do know what a bagging area is, right? It’s a pressure sensitive pad that lets the computer know where the item is. If you do everything simply, nothing should happen. If you take stuff out of the bagging area because you wanted to look at a pretty label again, that’s what triggers the now-famous admonishment. Computers are clever but they’re also dumb. You’re just as dumb if you don’t realise this.

3. Because computers are dumb, the “unexplained item” phrase will occasionally come up for seemingly no reason. Just shift the items around in the bagging area until it’s satisfied.

4. Don’t put things straight into the bags, especially if you’ve got a lot of items, as shifting multiple things around will inevitably trigger 3. Sort the bags out when you’re finished.

Seriously, what’s not to like?

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