public by Alice Hawke

Do you know what it feels like, simply walking along minding your own business, but so painfully aware of all the sniggering and remarks between people passing by. Always with my headphones on, but nothing playing; an excuse to ignore them, but I can hear the giggling, the remarks, the attempts to get my attention, the slurs. And every time, it hurts.

I wish I could be invisible again, I just want to blend in, to be accepted as normal, to be equal to everyone else. But there is no equality, there is no fairness. Not all lives can be improved with merely compassion (e.g. people born with physical limitations) but across the board it would be a much appreciated improvement. I’m just trying to live my life; we’re all just trying to live our lives. All of the pain in my life, and there is a lot of it in such a variety of areas, it's caused by people. Of course there are others out there having to live worse lives than mine, but the chances are that you the reader haven’t dealt with quite the continually worsening shit that I’ve been dealing with day after day. If you have a partner, or a car, or a steady job, or a ladder to the future, or some certainty about the next week or month, or possess any desirable skill that’s so hot right now. Or the right body. Or maybe you have all of those things. I have none of them, and less.

On top of everything I have to deal with just to get by, everything going on behind the facade of someone somehow managing to hold it together, and any hope for the sun coming out tomorrow being regularly knocked out of me, it would be nice if I could at least walk to the shop without feeling all eyes on me, being made to feel abnormal, like some sort of freak.

If "it gets better", I'm still waiting for any sign at all.

The Life of Pablo by Alice Hawke

My favorite tracks, in order (I’m not counting skits and I don't love every single track)



No More Parties in LA

FML (though I could do without the last 60 seconds)


Pt 2

Facts (Charlie Heat version)

Ultralight Beam

Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1


Real Friends

Firstly, I think Kanye West is an artist. I don’t like everything he produces, but that’s not the point, art makes you feel and think something. Along with other projects of his, The Life of Pablo does that for me.

But, a lot of the beats also sound like they took no more than a few minutes on each. In music there can be ‘complex basic’ beats that are superficially simple but intricate if you listen closely. Then there’s ‘basic basic’ beats, where they’re blatantly simple. A lot of The Life of Pablo is the latter. I imagine this isn’t accidental, as he is after all very self aware - I Love Kanye demonstrates that. But it doesn’t quite work - I don’t think the Mona Lisa would be so admired if it had been done with a graphite pencil. Impressive nonetheless, but it could be even finer - more on that later.Lyrically I think it's as sound as any other Kanye album, it's just the beats are lacking.

For example, No More Parties in LA - it may be my favorite track, but it feels like there a lot of missed potential; few of the beats on the album really progress anywhere. In No More Parties in LA, the sections at 0:37-0:43, 0:59-1:04, 1:38-1:42, 1:57-2:04, 2:16-2:21, 2:37-2:43, 3:12-3:18, 4:11-4:16, 4:51-4:58, 5:11-5:15, 5:30-5:35, 5:50-5:56 feel like some promising progression is being teased, but then he just loops the beat again. Famous is completely different at the start and end (I prefer the sound of the end over the beginning), but Waves is pretty much the same throughout. Some tracks feel like they could be so much more...

Unless it’s all one track. When the album released, I delayed listening to it because you can only listen to something for the first time once, and many people recommended altered track orders. 18 tracks is long for an album, yet it’s just under an hour - a lot of the tracks are disappointingly brief. I decided to trust Kanye and listen to it in the order he intended, and I can’t see an argument for any other order. Musically, it feels like a very logical 58 minute journey, a journey I’ve taken six times in the last 24 hours and enjoyed each time. If it was on a CD (and it never will be, but if it was) I couldn’t tell you when some of the tracks necessarily changed because it flows so well.

With Waves, FML, and a few others, I’m disappointed that the tracks are quite so short, as I feel they could be so much more if he evolved them, if it was more than just a 58 minute journey. It makes the album feel rushed, this definitely isn’t 2+ years work. Which is a shame, as as I said, Kanye West is an artist, and with The Life of Pablo he’s not quite doing his 'artistry' justice. There’s not really a bad track on the album, but few feel complete. The album shows a lot of promise, I just wish he’d finished it.

Outrage by Alice Hawke

Here are some facts:

  1. There are Muslim students studying at Miami University (in Oxford, Ohio)
  2. To purchase halal meat (killed literally "according to religious law"), a visiting professor stated that people have to travel 40 miles to Cincinnati
  3. Just under fifty people signed an online petition asking local grocers to sell halal meat
  4. As a consequence of this and student discussions with management, a local Walmart store now offers halal meat - the store manager said “I am pleased to announce that we have set a halal meat section in the store.”

As the weary among you may have guessed, this chain of events inevitably sparked outrage, courtesy of the intolerant and short-sighted views of some people, combined with a mainstream media ecosystem that allows news to be reported with key polarizing facts omitted or obscured. Here's a selection of posts, unaltered, that people have posted on the Walmart Facebook page. All I am copying are the comments themselves - no names, no attribution, I'm not giving them a soapbox. If you seek verification though, you can check that the comments do indeed exist by going here and clicking on "posts to page" on the left (however, according to one commenter, posts have been deleted).

I think it is disgusting and repulsive that you are complying with Sharia Law, which slaughters animals in the most cruel way to provide Halal meat for Muslims. I will never buy meat from you again, neither will any of my friends.
Walmart just lost a lot of business bowing to the muslims including mine.
PLEASE TELL ME THIS IS NOT TRUE? IF IT IS I AND ALL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY WILL NOT BE SHOPPING HERE ANYMORE.........Upon the request of Muslim students at Miami University, Walmart recently made the decision to provide halal-certified meat at the Oxford location. Manager Elijah Woodard made a formal announcement that the store would be accomodating these requests.“I appreciated the Islamic students bringing this interest to our attention,, “I am pleased to announce that we have set a halal meat section in the store.”
Since you surrendered to inhuman Halaal.......I and my friends, family are going to boycott you at every cost..
Walmart is now serving meat that has been prepared halal style to appease about 50 Muslims in Ohio. Halal is very cruel to animals. PETA is naturally nowhere to be found.
Shame on you wal-mart
NO to halal meats
Why do you keep deleting my posts?
Im not being vulger, im not cussing, im not attacking anyone. Yet you keep silencing me?! Why!
My family and I will not be shopping at your stores until you PUBLICLY say you are NOT selling halal meat in any of your stores!
Animal cruelty is a felony in all 50 states. And halal is definitely animal cruelty!
Target will be getting my Christmas business since you keep deleting my posts trying to silence me.
I just read that your company is doing things to comply with sharia law..
Please let me know so if that is true, I can not only quit my job there, but also never set foot in your stores again!
I hope it’s not true!
A little heads up here! I shop almost exclusively at Walmart,however there is a story on the net where you are start catering to muslims! Once I see this in my local store we are done!
BTW, There are millions of us who feel that way! So proceed at your own peril!

I could continue with many more, but you probably get the gist. I should have said this earlier, but I'm no expert on the various methods for killing animals - I doubt many of us are. Am I for or against the halal method of killing animals? Neither. I am not well enough informed on the matter, so I don't stand for either side.

The fact is though that a Walmart store in Oxford, Ohio now has a section for halal meats. They have not replaced all meat in the store with halal meat, they are merely responding to a consumer request to sell a wider variety of products for the convenience of customers, which in this case, is stocking some halal produce. It's not even the first time this particular matter of convenience has occurred, yet people are up in arms about it as if it's a new decision. One of the commenters posted from Texas - on the assumption that they don't travel 1,250 miles to do their shopping at the Oxford Walmart, I don't see why they're suddenly so indignant, considering that several individual Walmart branches across the United States have offered a halal selection of meats since at least 2010.

"Caving to demands", "surrendered", "catering to muslims", "bowing to the muslims".......... really? In order to maintain their beliefs, people had to drive an hour each way to buy meat. That's an inconvenient waste of time. If you need to regularly buy something and nowhere near you stocks it, why not ask? That's what they did, and the store decided to cater to the consumer demand. I am not a Muslim, and whether I believe in halal methods of preparation or not is irrelevant - here's a Voltaire/Hall quote: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" - I'm not saying I disapprove, but my point is that whether I believe the same beliefs or not is irrelevant - I have no right to tell others what they can and cannot believe, none of us do. You have the right to believe whatever you want. There are moral boundaries, yes, but is halal preparation directly affecting you? No. Are you the animal? No. Is Walmart forcing halal meat on you? No. Is the Islamic community insisting that everybody eats halal meat? No. Interestingly, the Jewish tradition of kosher slaughter involves no stunning, no shooting, but a swift incision across the throat with a knife. That sounds rather familiar, because halal slaughter also involves no stunning, no shooting, but a swift incision across the throat with a knife. I don't see any "millions" of people complaining about kosher preparations, I don't see any nation-wide boycotting of kosher meat vendors, or public hatred towards people who practice Jewish beliefs. If you morally oppose such methods of slaughter, then fine, that's your belief and you have a right to hold it. I would hope though that if you oppose religious traditions and beliefs that use a sharp knife to quickly kill an animal, you also oppose battery farming, animal testing, and any other method of killing an animal that doesn't result in guaranteed immediate death, such as hunting or other butchering methods. If however, you are outraged and boycotting Walmart for providing a convenience to people who wish to maintain their beliefs while you eat a reconstituted hot dog made from tortured pigs, fry an egg from a chicken that was later trampled to death by fellow scared chickens in horrendous conditions, and then wash your hair with some cheap shampoo that was tested on animals, then I have a few words for the hypocrites stirring up unfounded hatred: Fuck you, and how dare you.

September 11th 2001 and the subsequent conflicts have clearly had a negative impact on general feelings about Islam. But remember, those were extremists responsible for the attacks. They do not represent the majority beliefs of the religion they claim to represent. When people forcefully inflict things on others is when you have a right to be outraged, for example, if a government won't allow two people of the same sex to marry. Or if a religion decides to ride off and inflict their religious beliefs on other countries. Or some people turn up and force the natives off their own land. That's not fair, that's not equality, and it's an institution inflicting something on others. You can be annoyed at that. If a law is passed that enforces all meat sold nationwide to be halal, then you can be annoyed. But that's not the case, so it's not an issue. Not to assume, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the people fuming at the halal news have a couple of animal heads on their walls and the dripping corpse of a deer in the back of their truck. That's the worst part, that not only are these numerous intolerant misinformed bigots spouting their unjustified concerns and hatred, they have no ground to stand on, and no high horse. Apparently double standards are still socially acceptable.



EA just can't (or don't want to) win by Alice Hawke

As a gamer, I, like many others, have a strong dislike for the big gaming publishers who blatantly put profits before customers, such as EA and Activision (my thoughts on Ubisoft are for a later post as my feelings about them are rather more complex).  I do rather seem to have a penchant for burning bridges... Anyway, EA's latest 'grand gesture to the gamers' is giving away The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection until July 31st 2014, 10AM PDT, as their way of saying "we're ending support for the game". Because nothing says sensible like giving away software that you're ending support for - imagine if Microsoft gave away Windows XP.

Don't be mistaken, I'm not being ungrateful - I love The Sims 2 to the extent that it's hands-down my favorite of all the Sims games. There's so much 'DLC' (except of course back in 2004, it came on discs instead) that there isn't really anything you can't do in the game. On that topic, for example, with The Sims 2 Apartment Life Expansion Pack, you could live in any number of varied apartment buildings, with neighbors in the building. From all I could see in what I played of The Sims 3 with similar expansion packs installed, their new idea of 'apartment life' is living in a penthouse with no neighbors in the building, thus negating the entire point of living in a virtual apartment instead of a house.

As neat as some of the new mechanics introduced into The Sims 3 were, even if you were to drop £354.79 (yes, that's right) on buying all of The Sims 3 on Steam, you still wouldn't be able to do everything you can in The Sims 2 (such as run a business hands-on (as far as I know)). Harking back to Windows analogies, that's as if Microsoft were to release a successor to Windows 7 that's half-baked and unsuitable for desktops. Oh...

Once again, I'm getting off-point, but at least you can see how much I appreciate The Sims 2. Which is why I think it's a pretty nice gesture on EA's part to give it away for free, even if just for a limited amount of time. BUT, the inexplicable choices on EA's part don't end there. For some unknown reason, The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection now has SecuROM DRM, which in my eclectic experience has been one of the most frustrating DRM 'solutions' there are for 'protecting' PC games from piracy.

If EA are 1) giving the game away for free (albeit for a limited time) and 2) ending support for the game, why do they feel the need to impose horrendous DRM on consumers yet again? It's bad enough (but understandable from their point of view) that you have to use Origin (which is comparable to Steam as much as LibreOffice is to Microsoft Office) to obtain and play the Ultimate Collection - adding SecuROM protection has, in the eyes of the press, essentially negated the good will of giving the game away for free.

I really would be fascinated to know the thought processes going on at EA. That said, I'd love to know the thought processes at many billion dollar corporations making similarly inept decisions. Going back to the title of this post and the first sentence of it, the saying "too big to fail" comes to mind. While it turned out that THQ (RIP) weren't big enough to be invincible, it's fairly clear that both EA and Activision are, pretty much, too big to fail, which is presumably why they never seem to be fussed about what opinion the public, and more importantly, their customers, have of them.

Apologies for all the parentheses.

Television and hype by Alice Hawke

If you spend an amount of time browsing the actively populated areas of the internet, you're probably aware that there are several television shows with a large following behind them, and with that following, hype. Lots of it.

These shows being Game of Thrones (HBO), Breaking Bad (AMC, ended), The Walking Dead (AMC), and to a lesser extent, Mad Men (also AMC). It's no secret that I watch a lot of television - over 120 shows - but of those four, I only watch one and a half. "How can there be a half?" I actively watch Mad Men (am in the process of catching up again), and I watched Breaking Bad up to and including Season 4 Episode 7 before I finally threw in the towel. I'm sure I'll finish it eventually, but it never really won me over.

That's my issue - it never won me over. I'd heard people praising it like it was the best thing ever to grace television screens, that it's the equivalent to sliced bread and the second coming rolled into one. The Wikipedia page says it's "widely regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time". To me, it simply wasn't. It was slow paced and empty, but not in a good way. When things happened, they felt like they were just trying to ramp up the pace for the sake of it, and when nothing happened, it felt more like a bottle episode than a deep focus on the characters (see S3E10, 'Fly'). As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, Walter White is an asshole. He started off noble (perhaps too much so) and with good intentions, but he broke bad far too soon and then roller coastered around that level. The characters in the show are just... extremes of humans in a way. I'm sure there are people in the world like that, but for them to all be in the same circle? Anyway, I'm getting distracted. The point is, it didn't live up to the hype I heard.

Mad Men is another matter. I find Don Draper's mentality fascinating, the look into the not-so-distant past equally fascinating, and all the characters very deep. Incidentally, the hype there was a few years ago for Mad Men seems to have died down, and now the only hype I see about it is from dedicated fans - not posers jumping on a bandwagon.

Maybe I'm just jaded, maybe it's all just a social construct. Perhaps people watch these hyped up shows because their friends go on about them, so they watch them and then, to avoid being different, rave about how awesome it is and all views snowball out of proportion. This could be why I 'bear' Mad Men, because the only other people talking about it are other people who actually care about it.

I am not a hipster. I don't get annoyed at certain shows because they become popular, I'm just irked when hordes flock to mediocre programming and hidden gems die because of a lack of viewers.