Idle Eye 128 : The Turn of the Screw

It started with Mary Poppins. Perfectly harmless, but the seed was sown. When I didn’t baulk at that, the bar was incrementally raised: Doctor Doolittle/The Jungle Book/Oliver/Bugsy Malone, even Camelot (which was really quite grown-up). Still I did not flinch. Then the heavy artillery: Cabaret/Grease/Jesus Christ Superstar/New York, New York/A Star is Born. I took umbrage at the latter, my tender sensibilities already affronted by the vulgarity of Hollywood pizzazz. But still they kept on coming: Evita/A Chorus Line/That’s Dancing. And then I knew. How could I continue to live this lie? The sleepless nights, the deception, those red velvet trousers I had always secretly despised? No, the time had come: I had to tell my mother I was straight:

Mother:  Oh, don’t be ridiculous!

Me:  Ma, I am. I think I always have been. I’m sorry.

Mother:  It’s probably just a phase, dear. Lots of boys your age go through it. Now, settle down and I’ll pop on some Barbara Streisand.

Me:  Please don’t. I’m serious about this.

Mother:  Of course you are. Let’s have a cup of tea and you can tell me all about it.

Me:  You’re not listening to me, Ma. I’m straight. And no amount of cups of tea or Barbara Streisand will change that.

Mother:  Yes yes yes! No need to shout. Now, I’ve been flicking through the papers and they’re showing West Side Story again at the Ritzy on Saturday. Thought we might…

Me:  You’re just not getting it, are you? I don’t want to see West Side Story, I don’t want to see The Sound of Music and, to be frank, I don’t want to see any more musicals. Ever. Again. Do you understand?

Mother:  I’ve seen you watching Cabaret alone in your room. And singing along.

Me:  Cabaret is different. The narrative is the driving force behind that film, and the music just so happens to be great as well. But without the former, they’re just songs looking for a vessel. The combination of the two is a heady mix. It’s the unsurpassed, bitter-sweet genius of Bob Fosse.

Mother:  See?

Me:  See what? Look, just because I like Cabaret does not make me gay, ok? You’re just going to have to get used to it.

Mother:  But…but what will I do?

Me:  I know it’s hard for you right now. But lots of straight men go on to lead happy, fulfilled lives and I’m determined to be one of them. I just want you to be happy for me. Do you think you can do that?

Mother:  Yes…I think so. But are you sure? I mean, have you actually tried it? You know…

Me:  Yes, I have.

Mother:  Oh God…(sobs)…I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry!

Me:  Please don’t be, Ma. It’s ok, really. And I think, given time, you’ll come to love Echo & the Bunnymen as well. They’re super on stage, and you’ll die for the hairstyles.

Idle Eye 117 : The Silence of the LANs

Way back in 1995, when Brian Eno unleashed his 3 1/4 second micro-ditty on the new Microsoft Windows startup, he unconsciously escalated the extinction of the human race. Bold, I know, but think about it: Ever since then, we have acclimatised ourselves to endless pings and pongs (none of which last long enough to be truly irritating, though still being the aural equivalent of nails down a blackboard), reminding us that an email is in, a lorry is reversing or the filter on your water softener needs changing. It’s the price we pay for living in an increasingly computerised world, where machines take the drudgery out of those tiny, mundane tasks we used to just do unthinkingly.

And now we are once again free. Free to linger twenty seconds longer when we put out the recycling, free to eat another bun before leaving for work, free to swap the ringtone from Coldplay to Kylie, and free to take the time to consider our freedom. And if we forget to do this there will always be another sonic nudge, composed by a teenage digital guru of whom we are supposed to have heard, denying us the luxury of our own free will. Silence has become the flaccid hangover of yesteryear, rather than an essential neutral space from which all ideas spring forth. And slowly, we are morphing into the cabbages we now have more time to chop:

BING BONG!!! Based on the median temperature taken in your area over the last eight months, it is an above average day outside. You will not be needing your walking boots or Echo & the Bunnymen trenchcoat.

SPLOSH!!! Based on nocturnal activities over the last twelve hours, we suggest you hang on to whatever fluids you have available. However, immediate release of solids is recommended to facilitate motion of any kind.

QUACK QUACK!!! This light-hearted alarm call suggests that you have an amusing, alternative persona and would be fun to go out with of an evening. You, and 15,000,000 others just like you.

UUURRR UUURRR!!! No, it’s not an air raid. Time to call your mother.

FWHO-HOO-HOO HOO-HOO!!! Somebody you’ve never heard of has just texted you on the train. Either that, or you are shit at whistling.

All these little intrusions incrementally chip away at our ability to act for ourselves. We know this and accept it without resistance. In time, we will inevitably become pathetic, dependant amoebas, like die-hard listeners to the Radio 4 comedy slot, hopelessly reliant on whatever dross is out there yet powerless to affect any meaningful change. Ironically, we do have the ultimate say: By turning off our devices, flipping our laptops onto silent and taking the reins of our lives for once. By denying the fat controllers of our local area networks the autonomy they so desperately seek by merely flicking a switch. But we don’t. Because they haven’t made an app for it yet.