Oxegen Blog #2 - Dos and Don'ts...

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Warren Bell | 13:17 UK time, Tuesday, 7 July 2009

It's easy to get carried away with it all when festival season rolls around. You've got your tickets, you've either bought a tent or liberated one from the dusty, disused corner of a relative's garage, the line up features all your favourite bands and you have gathered a hardy group of like-minded music lovers to share the experience. All you have to do now is get yourself through the gates and the good times will take care of themselves, right? WRONG! Don't be one of the naive people inwardly repeating the mantra above - arm yourself with ATL's wily range of top tips below to ensure that your festival experience isn't peppered with regret.

DO: Go and see at least one band you've never heard a note of in your entire life. What's the worst that could happen?

DON'T: Stand near a couple lovingly cradling each other in the middle of a mosh pit. One or both of them will inevitably become extremely upset as they get crashed into. You, as the meat in a mosher/loving couple sandwich, will likely become the focus of at least one person's ire. MOSH PITS ARE NO PLACE FOR PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION PEOPLE - NO PLACE AT ALL!!

It could be you...DO: Attempt to imagine the feeling of being dunked in mud by a group of over-zealous bumpkins who have never before been in the presence of festival-going sophisticates like yourselves. Not being familiar with your type, they will mistake their confusion for fear. Their fear will likely lead to a cry of "YYYEEEOOOWWW" and them careering towards you at breakneck pace before dumping you face-first into the mud. If you suspect that you will not like this feeling, perhaps this festival is not for you.

DON'T: Forget to personalise your tent. Year after year, people seem to overlook the fact that tents are mass manufactured and therefore look almost identical. This means yours can be pretty hard to spot in a field featuring thousands of tents, particularly when it's dark and you may have imbibed a judgement-impairing jar or two. Smack a bit of paint on it, attach a large inflatable banana, surround it with barbed-wire security fencing complete with a 30 megawatt spotlight and small electricity generator - whatever tickles your fancy. Not everyone's got snazzy iPhone apps with built-in GPS and the like that do the job for them...

DO: Bring your own wet-weather gear. You may find that, despite the ongoing deflation in the global financial marketplace, that an isolated pocket of hyper-inflation exists in the localised cabal of raincoat / poncho distributors on site when the rains come. Funny that.

Wacky wear in action. Tragic.DON'T: Wear a white tuxedo or some such ridiculous outfit. You will become a target. And rightly so. ATL does not condone what will inevitably happen.

DO: Get to the front of the crowd at the main stage and sing along ultra-ehtusiastically. With a bit of luck, you'll appear on the big screen just as you completely forget the lyrics and make a bit of a tool of yourself, thus amusing everyone in a 500-yard radius.

DON'T: Stay in a hotel and submit your pay-per-view film costs as part of your expenses. This is mainly one for journos, media personalities and assorted dignitaries that may be in attendance. Oh, and the ATL crew, who sadly don't fall into any of those categories.

DO: Keep it green. The hoardes that descend on Punchestown can leave a fairly indelible mark on the place in many ways, so try and do your best to use the recycling bins that litter the site. See what I did there?

Leave the wellies at homeDON'T: Bring a pair of wellies. I know, I know, as a safeguarder of public trust, we should be instructing you all to arm yourselves with functional footwear. The thing is though, you can swop your mud-encrusted shoes for a free pair of wellies at the Schuh Welly Exchange on site. Your dirty specimens will then be cleaned up and shipped to the third world to provide shoes for those who otherwise couldn't afford them. So forget the wellies and bring a pair of shoes you don't mind donating instead.

DO: Choose one member of your festival-going party to be the designated parent of the group. If necessary, pay this person a small gratuity to make up for the added responsibility such a role demands. You'll be thanking us when your temporary mummy or daddy fishes you out of puddle of questionable origin or prevents you gambling away your actual parents' car in a late-night game of camp site backgammon with those hustlers in the neighbouring tent.

DON'T: Get baked in the sun. The smell of 80,000 "revellers" being singed simultaneously could lead to a catastrophic scene like this...

Warren's Rants #2

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Warren Bell | 14:32 UK time, Friday, 20 February 2009

Stupid Adverts

Now I don't want to sound like Peter Griffin, but do you know what really grinds my gears? Adverts on telly that say ridiculous things without any hint of realising how ridiculous they sound. There are the old classics of course, like ones for cosmetic or laser eye surgery that, after relaying the benefits of their treatment (being able to play tennis, be sexy etc), reassure you that "our procedures are carried out by fully qualified surgeons". Really? I sort of assumed that. If I need any of that stuff doing, I think I'll go with a firm that doesn't feel that having qualified surgeons performing their surgery is one of their main selling points thanks all the same.

Or the ad for InjuryLawyers4U - the Toys'R'Us of the legal world - where the bloke who was a bit nasty in The Bill and Eastenders (and what sort of message is that supposed to convey?) lets you know that the people who will be representing you in your quest for compensation are "real lawyers". He actually says that. He actually says "they're real lawyers". In an advert for a law firm! Have I gone mad? Is there a firm offering to represent people in court proceedings that doesn't employ "real lawyers"? I would guess they're struggling.

The latest is the advert for RAF careers that shows loads of random stuff from civilian workplaces coalescing into a cool looking fighter jet before informing us that "you don't have to be a pilot to fly in the RAF". ARE YOU SERIOUS!!?? WHY NOT? Let's hope for Britain's sake that there's not another major conflict fought in the air then, because I don't reckon that a motley crew of nurses, telephonists and health & safety advisors would be able to emerge victorious.

What next, you don't have to be able to sing, play an instrument or write songs to be a famous and popular musician?

Hmmm? Eh? Oh. I see.

And don't even get me started on Iggy Pop. Dear, oh dear, oh dear.

A Comic Web

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Warren Bell | 13:41 UK time, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

I was at my parents' house the other week scooping the proceeds of their oft-vaunted but more often procrastinated clear-up of the attic. Basically, my windfall contained some spare baubles I could maybe hang on my Christmas tree, some embarrassing singles from my youth (Shakin' Stevens' Green Door anyone?) and an absolute shed-load of old comics and annuals. The experts on the Antiques Roadshow will not exactly be rubbing their hands.

Naturally, leafing through old copies of The Beezer, The Dandy, Whizzer & Chips and The Beano (not to mention Oink which, did you know, Marc Riley once drew for), took me on a bit of a nostalgia trip that I won't bore you with, but it also got me to thinking that I probably haven't bought and read a proper comic in at least a decade. But no matter, like most things these days, you can now get your comic fix online.

***WARNING: The pages of TV Go Home, Unnovations and Get Your War On linked to below all contain strong language and adult themes***

For me, the fun started with the discovery of TV Go Home back in 1999 during the first job I had that provided internet access (the fools!). It's a bit more edgy than the Radio Times, granted, but it totally cracked me up and marked my first encounter with the genius of Charlie Brooker. It was also the original home to one of his more well-known creations, Nathan Barley. At that time I was working for an internet start-up in central London, so I could see how accurate the Shoreditch / fake wide-boy / media jerk caricature was, simply by turning round in my chair and taking in the 'charms' of some of my colleagues.

As is the genius of the web, a small and innocuous link on the navigation of TV Go Home led me to another Brooker creation (along with his Zeppotron pals) - Unnovations. Again, in true Brooker style, it's not exactly one for the easily offended, but it confirmed me as a follower of a writer who has latterly brought further amusement and insight with his Screenburn columns in the Guardian newspaper and the brilliant Screenwipe on BBC Four.

Probably the greatest comic discovery you can make on the web though, is David Rees' Get Your War On. Sometimes you are just fortunate enough to idly stumble upon greatness. It provides an acerbic and insightful commentary on American government in digestible chunks that surfaced around the time of the outbreak of the 'War On Terror'. It's one collection of cells that former president Bush probably wasn't counting on providing savvy opposition. Sadly, no new cells will be appearing as Rees brought the strip to a close in January 2009 but, like TV Go Home and Unnovations, it has by now 'graduated' to hard copy and is available in all good bookshops (and a few rubbish ones). Online is still the best place to digest it though, especially given that the vast archive does not appear together in one volume anywhere else.

Of course, these three comic masterpieces were all some time ago. These days there is a proliferation of new online comic strips (such as XKCD or Explosm, to name but two), as well as many of your old favourites brought to a new platform (hey, maybe I don't need to leaf through all those issues of Roy of the Rovers to find the one where the brothers out of Spandau Ballet signed for Melchester Rovers). It's like keeping it old skool, in a new skool way. I also found, when having a hoke about the Guardian website for the revival of You Are The Ref (a former staple of Roy of the Rovers), news of an alarming new publishing empire about to hit whatever the digital equivalent of the newsagents' shelves is. Happily, it's already being lampooned, even before it's started. The comic tradition lives on.


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