Shiver My Tinders – Has App Dating Saved or Sullied Modern Romance?

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There’s a scene in Spaced where, prompted to discuss the contrasts of love and war, Tim concludes: “one involves a lot of physical and psychological pain and the other one’s war.” It’s particularly salient in the cyber sphere, no more so than Tinder, an app that takes the world of dating to new humiliating levels (well, for me, anyway).

There often seems to be a stigma of shame attached to Tinder, as if admitting you possess it on your phone is like being caught rifling through the Sunday Sport or, worse, listening to the new 1975 album. When I got it myself, there was a surge of guilt as it began downloading, as if I’d just entered the dark web and was already loading up my bitcoins.

A few weeks on from that initial excitement, the lack of cohesive conversation, frequent right swipes and being lulled into getting ‘super likes’ (which must be the equivalent of spouting some sexually verbose jargon from an upturned Transit) has left me feeling confused and agitated; it feels like I was given my first trip to a brothel, only to realise I was only there to read the gas meter (NB – I should point out now that I don’t think Tinder users are prostitutes).

Of course, I could be using Tinder incorrectly, and its very premise is suggestive of possible outcomes. The initial connection is contrived from photos, creating the visage of a heavily filtered cattle market in which people are wheeled out, judged on their looks (at least initially) and then consigned to different compartments. To me, I felt this method was a little redundant – one bad photo and you could miss out on a marriage. Alternatively, nice cheekbones and a fervent filter could result in a horrific conversation. Short, snappy biographies belie the fact Tinder is all about looks, but it’s certainly hard to look past the fact it can feel like stumbling into a modelling agency and realising you should be gorging on Haribo instead.

People had told me that Tinder was a portal to sexual satisfaction, where young people can compete for brief sexual whims and not worry about the consequences. Both buoyed and troubled by this, I did soon realise that my methods of conversation were perhaps more inclined to eHarmony. My first ‘match’ descended into disappointingly redundant badinage; I’d ‘swiped’ her due to her band-loving biography and indie-indebted fringe, but the back-and-forth that followed left me aggrieved. “So you’re into rock music, then?” I asked, possibly adding some sort of emoji to show I’m a ‘fun guy’. “Yeah man, I love it,” she responded. “Same here,” I replied. “So what bands are you into?”. After a few minutes, she replied: “Lots”. I waited again. Nothing. Obviously, my question was always going to be difficult to answer, but I was at least hoping for a précis of which I could cross-reference with my own. It’s been three weeks and I still don’t know if she thought Loveless was banging.

All of a sudden, I fell into the ‘Tinder trajectory’, which comprised of a match, a brief chat and then a social shutdown; basically the cyber version of a drink, a fag and a long bus ride home. I’d speak to a girl for a couple of days and then they’d disappear into the ether. It became a frequent occurrence – you’d say hello, spark up some awkward conversation and then, within 48 hours, you became last week’s PoF. Maybe I should have just asked for sex in a humorous but forthright way. Maybe I should have used more wink faces. Maybe I should have thought of a better opening gambit than “are you indie”.

It got worse, though, for plundering the streets of Birmingham became a flurry of fear as I bumped into a string of Tinder trysts. At the front of the bar, I turned around and in shock saw at least two girls who I’d matched with. In that situation, even a socially inept person like me knew an introduction of “hi, you might remember from me? Tinder? Mentioned Salinger in my bio?” or “oh, thanks for replying to me on Tinder. That’s a super like I’ll never get back” wouldn’t be right, but we still exchanged uncomfortable glances. We both knew. And it didn’t feel too good.

There were rules I discovered along the way. I felt like a slightly more aloof Louis Theroux, being ingratiated into a new world. Don’t include photos with other people (especially girls), as that can lead to confusion that you’re a). not the person you say you are and b). are a player. Don’t tense. Don’t pout. Use Snapchat filters sparingly. Oh, and in my case, don’t use a picture that’s you dressed as a floral hippy.

Flash-forward twenty years and the sweet, suburban scenes that are painted from the dabs of social media feel slightly stomach-churning. “I met your Mom on this app, son. She had a dog filter on but I gave her a chance” and “well, he sent me a photo of his man marrow, but he knew who Emma Watson was” are scary premonitions that could well come true.

For me, I’ve decided Tinder isn’t the right platform. I want love to be something serendipitous; I’d rather tell my grandchildren I met my wife by awkwardly spamming her Instagram. What can I say, I’m old-fashioned.

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Has Anyone Actually Listened To The Hunna?

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When it comes to the end of the fiscal year in The Financial Times, there’ll no doubt be a list concerning what businesses have achieved the most economic growth through social media. I’m sure media-savvy concerns like Starbucks and Spotify will creep in the top 10, but surely another outfit that would feature high would be The Hunna.

To say The Hunna have been omnipresent on Facebook would be like saying Harambe is “partially missed”; they’ve utilised social media adverts to a maddening degree, so much so that fans of anyone from DIIV to Dido have been instructed, nay, implored to hit The Hunna up. If you like breathing, you’ll love The Hunna. If you like the feeling of adolescent angst that comes from the uncertainty of post-Brexit Britain, you’ll love The Hunna; it got to the point where you half expected to log into Pornhub and find an advertisement stating “if you enjoy clit lick, you’ll enjoy The Hunna” (maybe they’ve done that, I’m not sure…Pornhub remains as dusty as my weights room).

At first, The Hunna became more famous for their advertisements rather than their actual music. On an episode of The Simpsons, there was a PR hype frenzy circulated around a children’s television show, Gabbo, to the point where the moniker was merely plastered across the press, raising suspicions until it actually became apparent it was just a dummy. A similar thing happened with The Hunna – their adverts and maddeningly erratic clickbait was so potent that one was curious to what The Hunna actually was, or what music they made – could it be jazz fused with Simpsonwave? Loveless with bongos? The sound of Matt Healy being slowly bifurcated and chopped into Van McCann’s turtleneck?

I tried to find feedback, but none was forthcoming. I went onto The Hunna’s Facebook to try and find answers, but aside from finding their relentless campaigning had done some good (they boast a healthy 226,000), I couldn’t find any sufficient answers. Every ‘fan’ of The Hunna confessed that they hadn’t heard a note. “I was told to ‘like’ it,” one said. “I like Adele, so I liked The Hunna,” another chimed. But no one knew whether they were aping Mogwai or Mumbai.

So, I’ve decided to help The Hunna out and actually listen to a record. And, you know something, they’re okay. Just okay. A little polished, a little guilty, but all in all it has the blistering ethos of many modern bands that find pride of place in Kerrang!. I’m not sure I’ll go and watch them, but then again, I do enjoy music played with guitars through amps, so…the chances are I’ll enjoy it.

 

 

D’oh-N-A: How ‘Lisa The Simpson’ Showed the Importance of Family

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While we’re growing up, most of us will reach a clashing conclusion – whether witnessing an over-affable uncle at a wedding, or a feckless father weeping at a wake, we’ll cruelly say to ourselves: “I don’t want to be like that.” Whether we say it loudly or bury it beneath, there are some traits within our bloodline that one wishes to be withdrawn from the family circle. But family is family, and while you cannot escape some harsh inevitabilities, you must also learn to love what you have – Lisa the Simpson is a lesson in both.

Smart, solitary and in possession of a strong social conscience. Those three accurate assumptions of Lisa Simpson’s character are jarringly juxtaposed with those of her family members, particularly the men. It’s something that has come up frequently throughout the series – from Lisa’s brief, but brutish, barbs at the ape-esque Homer in Lisa’s Substitute, right through to the feeling of disassociation in Summer of 4 ft 2 – but has never been tackled as full-on as it is here. In this episode, Lisa finds herself “descending into mediocrity”, and fears that she will inherit the idleness of her couch-dwelling father. It’s sweet but strong, provoking questions of whether Homer was, too, a talented youngster who plunged into passivity.

That query is answered, devastatingly but unreliably, by Grandpa, who informs Lisa of the “Simpson gene”, an absurd but agreeable assumption that, as adolescence ascends, intelligence is replaced with humdrum grades, listless attitudes and boorish pastimes. It’s an ironically dumb plot device, but as it comes from the vegetative vowels of Abe, we’re left satisfactorily unsure of its credence.

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This then leads to the rest of the episode. Being Season Nine, it alas falls somewhat flat – where Summer of 4 ft 2, an episode devoted to Lisa’s emotional turbulence as an outsider, was sweet and funny, Lisa the Simpson feels a little rushed and unsure. But, luckily, any episode featuring Lisa is naturally going to exude pathos, a bittersweet premise and a heartfelt ending.

Another idea that the episode portrays is the importance of family. Similarly to the great Lisa’s Wedding, Lisa may have contrasting interests than those of her family (sans Marge, perhaps), but she still loves and cares for them, as well as possessing enough similar traits to keep the theory of adoption at bay. Here, instead of wallowing in her news, the stoic brain in Lisa ironically compels her to experience the life of an underachiever, which involves watching hilariously kitschy reality shows with Homer and Bart. It’s sweet and funny how Lisa tries hard to harbour a zest for such trash, and I particularly like how she grouses “if she’d started dinner three minutes ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess” when Homer and Bart complain to Marge they’re hungry; that moment feels devastatingly real, when someone who’s an outsider tries hard to conform, adopting the same mannerisms and moans to make them feel compatible.

The integral scene is when Bart and Homer, on their knees furiously devouring squashed up chocolate, entice Lisa to follow suit, ravenously inviting her like a pack of dogs eager for a new cub. Lisa’s cry of “I don’t want to turn out that way…like you!” could have come across as harsh and condescending, but instead it feels like a sombre realisation. The irony is that throughout the episode, Lisa’s inquisitive search for DNA (leading to a hilarious Troy McClure skit), genes and puzzles shows a girl who’s intelligence was as robust as ever. The episode does give us a detailed detour into Lisa’s life, however, as she plunders thoughts into her diary, wrestles with her conscience and then gives her brain some final nourishment, taking in the high culture she enjoys before she resigns herself to “talk radio” and “vulgar mudflaps”. Does cleverness outweigh conformity, or can we live coherently without such intelligent pastimes? The show investigates this with aplomb.

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Lisa the Simpson was the last episode of the Oakley/Weinstein era, a display of emotional depth that was simpatico with their seasons. At the end, Homer rallies up the Simpson men to show Lisa there’s hope in her future, but it’s up to Marge to save the day by proving the Simpson women all turn out okay. As a premise, it’s a little disappointing – Bart and Homer *are* smart, but in different ways, but in this episode they’re displayed as slack-jawed simpletons. Luckily, the ending is much more satisfying on a Lisa front, as it not only confirms she will keep her intelligence, but also shows that a lot of her DNA, even from her dad, isn’t such a bad thing to have, particularly his sweetness and compassion. As she cries out “woo hoo!” at the end (followed by a corrective “splendid”), it shows Lisa isn’t ashamed to be a Simpson, and that’s perhaps the smartest thing she, and other family outsiders, could discover.

“Your brain is the best friend you’ll ever have,” Lisa implores at one point. She’s not wrong, but it doesn’t have to be your only friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Ryder – Why The World Still Needs Winona

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‘Winona Forever’ goes the slogan. Immortalised by a generation raised on the Gothic glamour of Beetlejuice, it was also the phrase that was, ironically, temporarily etched onto the arm of eccentric movie alternahunk Johnny Depp. Even more ironically, such a statement – delivered in honour of Winona Ryder – hasn’t exactly rang true, for career-wise, Miss Ryder’s adulation has been the very definition of transitory.

Admired in the ’80s, adored in the ’90s and abolished in the noughties, recently Winona Ryder has undergone something of a career resurgence. Thanks to the cyclical nature of commercialism and a new generation raised on vintage fodder, Winona’s clout has been freshly anointed, young people the world over fawning over her antics in Heathers or her giddy graduate in Reality Bites. Not only that, but her new role in the stunning Netflix show Stranger Things has won her the kind of plaudits last uttered when she inadvertently played second fiddle to Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted.

Stranger Things has succeeded in capturing kudos thanks to its love-letter approach to nostalgia – the science-fiction forays recall the gloriously kitsch ’80s output of E.T., the “kids fight back” ethos of The Goonies and generally enticing, character-driven stories of Spielberg. The scripts are strong and it is the perfect show for Netflix, a platform where binge-watching is almost a pre-requisite.

For Ryder, it’s an important role. Since her infamous shoplifting incident and appearance in an Adam Sandler movie, she became something of a Tinseltown pariah; or so you’d be led to think. Instead, she became more selective about her roles, taking on acclaimed performances in Show Me A Hero, Turks and Caicos and, most notably, Black Swan. However, Stranger Things marks a strong resurgence, the chance to re-appeal to a younger generation that have no doubt swooned over her slight, offbeat personalities in movies by Tim Burton and Ben Stiller.

It has also been a chance for Ryder to a play a role devoid from the rest of her output. From Edward Scissorhands to Mermaids, Ryder’s roles have generally been that of the proactive, the kooky and the off-kilter. She also often played characters a lot younger than her actual age, thanks to her seemingly ageless exterior (it’s startling to accept that she is now actually 44). As an actress, Ryder has shown consistency and versatility throughout her career, and taking on a role different from her previous posts has shown another side to her considerable acting talents.

From the 1980s to present day, anyone of a certain bent will adopt the same individualism, fashion styles and traits of Ryder, from her dark, luxurious hair, junkets of jewellery and her adoration of indie. She is an actress that has stood out for standing out, her Generation X wardrobe, pixie haircut and string of myriad roles giving her indefinite credence.

 

Winona Ryder still emulates the effortless chic that she did when she was hailed as the queen that wouldn’t conform all those years ago. Mixing adolescent innocence with a detached, world-weary reticence, Ryder’s personality is aloof, exciting and lovingly ironic. Her characters, always killer, sometimes cartoonish, have the ability to slide from enigmatic to excitable with one glance of her trademark wide-eyed stare. A born outsider, for those who struggle in their own skin, Ryder’s development in the public eye has been perversely refreshing, watching someone different, secluded offering glimpses of hope and realism to a generation raised on catwalk perfection. Her style, films and personality are permanently endearing, relatable and, above all, real.

Winona Forever…maybe it was apposite, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Sovereign….

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The stars of Sovereign like to think that they’re ambassadors both on and off the pitch. With this in mind, we let out footballers read out some letters that sought guidance, assurance and help from our men in red.

Dear Sov,

            I have spent the past year living with a man. We moved to a new country, aiming for a new start, but it hasn’t quite worked out. I feel like I’ve driven him out. I berated him, hit him, emotionally scarred him, belittled him, and now he’s finally moved out…I couldn’t be happier.

Content in Cardiff,

            Cardiff

“Good for you, son. In this life, when you want something, you have to work bloody hard at it.”

Dear Sov,

            I feel my friends have abandoned me after I switched allegiances from England to Iceland. Voicing my disappointments with the national team, I instead howled with glee when the Nordic men deservedly won. However, since then they have removed me from all group chats, shunned me in the street and stole my Nando’s card. How do I win them back?

Worried in Willenhall,

            Iceland

“I think it is too late for that now, WIW – your card is marked (and frosty). Maybe it’s time you sample Scandinavian living? Living so far away, you’ll find out who your real friends are, hun.”

Dear Sov,

            On the outside, I like to think I am a happy, full-of-life gardener and koi tender, but inside I have been wracked with insecurities. I insulted a female referee who has since resorted in overseeing tennis, I forgot to pay one of our staff members who is no longer with us (he’s at Aldi) and left a Vietnamese player’s passport in my second best laptop bag. Do I need to atone?

Concerned in Carlton

            Somewhere

“I think we can draw strength from what we did in the past to become better people in the future. Take a look in the mirror and think what you could have done differently, make a note for next time and throw away the joggers.”

Dear Sov,

            I love da ganja. I know people and doctors probably advise professional footballers steer clear of the Devil’s compost, but I love a nibble and gnaw on a fresh batch of rude roots. I actually think it helps my game. Do you think I should stop? Only we’ve got a copper in our team…

Fucked in Fairview,

            Wednesfield

“As Bob Marley said, you only get “one life”…oh, one love? Well, I hope that’s not true. Anyway, either learn to be a good hider or have a good binge before you put your gloves on, because he’ll be on your case like a guinea pig after celery.”

Dear Sov,

            I went to Chester for university and enjoyed it more than I expected; now I’m going back more and more, but I’m worried I’m abandoning my Sov family – I turned them away from my art gallery because I had a night out, I didn’t come back home for Thanksgiving and now I’ve changed the date of my birthday party so I can go back up. I’m worried Chester is taking over my life. Do you think I need to pick one or the other, or is it too late?

Churlish in Chester,

            Chester (obvs)

“I wouldn’t worry too much, mate…we know as soon as you get injured you’ll come hobbling back.”

Dear Sov,

            I’m a full-time footballer, part-time policeman, but I’m worried the latter is becoming more prominent. I’ve arrested most of my team-mates for their respectvie antics, anything from tying their boots incorrectly to sending kinky Kiks. I’m also worried about my love life – I’ve dated loads of good-looking women, and I’m worried I’m ‘punching’…do they like me for me, or for my uniform(s)?

Horny in Hereford,

            Herefordshire

“Maybe on your next date, go out and give them a lie…tells them you’re still working at KFC and see if they go for it. Alternatively, shave off your ‘burns and see if that was the cause of their lust.”

How ‘New Kid on the Block’ Showed the Pangs of Young Love

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Over its interminable tenure, The Simpsons has portrayed the myriad aspects of love. From flashbacks to future flings, love has always been a topic dripping with comedy and pathos. One character in the Simpsons clan that has, perhaps, had more dalliances than anyone is Bart.

Homer and Marge’s escapades have often been concluded with the sweet premise that they love one another (or, in later episodes, the fact Marge is an enabler to Homer’s unilateral narcissism). Lisa has enjoyed a couple of painfully realistic romances (her crush on Nelson and her crushing of Ralph, to be precise), while even Grandpa has courted several members of Marge’s family, including Patty (shudder). Bart, though, has been utilised as a romantic lead more times than Reese Witherspoon (who, ironically, did play one of his love interests).

So much so, one episode even did a slight Frasier retread when Bart encountered every single girl he’d ever dated (or the ones who returned to do some voiceover work). Such an episode got me thinking about which girl was Bart’s best. The devious diva Jessica Lovejoy is a strong contender, but methinks the right girl was the first one, namely because Bart’s crush was so convincing.

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New Kid on the Block arrived during Season Four, arguably the show’s finest season (although it does have stiff competition from Seasons Three, Five, Six and Twenty Four…just checking you’re still paying attention). An episode sweet and seemingly throwaway, it does impact a powerful message – be careful who you fall for, especially if they don’t feel the same way.

Laura Powers is, to a lot of 10-year-old boys, an instant infatuation. Laura (played brilliantly be Sara Gilbert) is cool, sarcastic but good-natured, with a saccharine shrug and easy-going wit that would no doubt make most guys wilt (they should really have done a futuristic episode with Laura in, just to see what became of her). As soon as Bart meets her in the attic, it’s love at first sight, and something many of us can relate to – although I can’t remember too vividly now, I am sure that as a youngster I fell head over heels for many older girls, attracted to their awareness, elder coolness and just the fact they paid attention to me.

No matter what age you are, we can easily stumble into the cistern of love, especially when we feel that person is slightly out-of-reach. With Laura, it’s obvious that she’s never going to get with Bart (let’s neglect the fact that he’s 10-years-old, for a moment), and maybe Bart himself is aware of that fact, but it doesn’t stop him taking baths, dressing in resplendent Hefner haberdashery and swiftly arranging for Laura to babysit when Homer’s lawsuit begins (a hilarious aside that keeps the laugh count coming). From The Graduate to Fresh Meat, the attraction to an older, more experienced cohort can cause the strongest of pangs.

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Such a premise is well-worn territory, but writer Conan O’Brien gets enough originality out of the story to make it worthwhile, as well as making it relatable. Bart’s honeyed but unhygienic refusal to wash his hand (after Laura spat on it – something which again makes her both disgusting and distinguished) has both the pre-pubescent putridness of youth and the heartfelt longing of an adult. A lot of us have surely stored away trinkets, give in to foolish superstitions and saved superfluous texts just because it’s from someone we have a deep-rooted crush on. “How do I get her to notice me?” asks Bart at one point, a question we’ve all posed at some point in our life.

Of course, it was never going to end well, and here’s where the story enters deliciously deadly familiar terrain. Laura entices Bart to the treehouse, where the naïve nymph in him deduces this could be a treetop tryst. However, poor Bart has been friendzoned before the term even existed, and Laura informs she’s now seeing self-styled bad boy Jimbo Jones. Such a sequence seethes with realism – not only has Bart, who has been adopting a nice, slightly coy figure during his friendship with Laura, become a trusted confidant, but he has now been replaced romantically by a homely, but hellraising, brute. Go on most shy, kind 18-year-old boys’ Twitter pages and you’ll see statuses like: “why do girls fall for dicks?”, “girls only like shits,” “nice guys finish last” – you get the picture. Here, The Simpsons shows that even if you move the ages, the same rules still apply.

It gets something of a happy ending – Bart, fuelled by jealousy, exposes Jimbo for a wobbly weakling, albeit through the sociopath that is Moe (“I was just gonna cut ya!”), and it ends sweetly with Bart and Laura giving the surly suds server another phone roasting. Sometimes you realise even if you can’t have them as a girlfriend, being a friend is just as good.

 

Polydor to release ‘lost’ Harambe album this autumn

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In the wake of superstars passing, we often go through seven stages. However, after acceptance there usually comes the feted eighth stage – the cash-in. Mourning fans still needing a fix have in the past been given Nirvana’s boxset of tapes, Elliott Smith’s two posthumous albums and an endless outpouring of the Notorious B.I.G. 

Now, fans of Harambe will be pleased to know that the gorilla – tragically shot in captivity a few months ago – has left behind a Price-esque vault of hidden material. “We weren’t quite sure of which direction Harambe was going to go in,” said Polydor’s Dick Cheese. “We think it might have been left, but he was looking straight on.”

Harambe’s musical exploits come as no surprise to his fervent fans, who all allege that Harambe was shot while taking a smoking break in between cutting his new record. However, fears that the album would never surface will be pleased to know that on Friday 7 October, Polydor will release Dicks Out: Songs from the Mud Tyre, a mixture of lost studio tapes and rough demos recorded straight from the zoo.

“The record represents Harambe at his purest, his most confessional and his most scintillating,” says the press release. “Had he lived longer, we could see Harambe fulfilling his musical vision. Alas, this is the last touchstone we’ll have…until The Best Of comes out this December.”

The lead single, ‘Going Ape’, will air on NPR next Friday.