Seven Things More Interesting than Kate Middleton’s Cervix.

by Lily Rae

As Kate Middleton smiles beatifically in hospital, her cervical dilations being broadcast to all and sundry as she squeezes a mewling pork chop out of her dainty wine cellar, I’m saddened and sick that she’s now fulfilled her purpose as a breeder to this repulsive family. This unfortunate child will be taught from the moment it becomes sentient that it is better than every other child in the country. It will be doomed to a name like “Henry” or “Edward” or “Victoria” or “Elizabeth” – it will be sent to a vile boarding school and its every move will be documented by fucking Hello! Magazine. It won’t be able to have so much as a furtive teenage wank without there being some scandal. And yet, across the country, people are putting down Union Jack tablecloths and organising street parties and building shrines to William’s blue-blooded testicles (probably). It’s sad and pathetic.

So here are some things that are more interesting than this ridiculous royal baby nonsense.

1. Muesli

image: wikimedia.org

I’ve just rediscovered muesli. I’ve never been a huge fan – it’s chewy and oversweet one minute, and then flavourless oaty goop the next. However, in the summer months all thoughts of eggs and bacon or pancakes or beans on toast go right out of my head and I just want something cold and quick which will keep me going til barbecue time. It was invented about a hundred years ago by a Swiss guy. He gave it to people in hospital – probably because they were going to die anyway.

2. People trying to change their fortunes through palm surgery

image: yourjewishnews.com

Yes, this is actually a thing. People are asking for lines to be carved into their hands in an attempt to increase their chances of health/wealth/happiness. It costs over a grand and the ‘surgeon’ in the article is clearly insane. People are idiots.

3. My album!

It’s called Your Face and it’s all finished!! The tracklist is as follows:

It’s Not Cute, It’s Just Creepy

Posh Totty

Linda Hamilton

Fun Sponge

I Don’t Care About Anything

If You’re Bad At Poetry (Don’t Do It)

Skeleton Song

You Remind Me Of Someone Else

So Damn Nice

Your Face

All I need is artwork and gigs. If you want to give me a gig and you’re in the UK within reasonable distance of London, LET ME KNOW! My songs are very short and I don’t have a band – if you want to be in my band, then for god’s sake get in touch. I can make people dance without touching them.

If you want to help me with artwork and you is well arty, then also get in touch. Facepaint enthusiasts especially.

Not gonna lie. I don’t have any money and I’m not expecting to buy a castle with the proceeds of this album. But I solemnly swear not to do an Amanda Palmer and pretend that I can make it up to you in hugs and beer before going home to roll around in ill-gotten gains. I can’t. But I will make sure that we have lots of fun and I definitely won’t shaft you.

4. The things you find under your bed when tidying up

image: wikia.com

I have a large collection of Sylvanian figures from my childhood. My best friend Robyn and I used to rip off their tiny pretty dresses and trousers and shirts and manufacture weird tribal robes out of red tights, and put little cocktail stick spears into their hands and make them fight each other. I also found a plastic lizard in a makeshift leather jacket, some Beanie Babies, two copies of the Smiths Special issue of the NME, a reeeeeeeeally sad diary (documenting 2006-2007 – not fun) and a note to myself in marker pen saying “NOT FRIGID – JUST CREATIVE.”

5. Giant snails

image: blogspot.com

The giant African snail has no natural enemies, according to Wikipedia. That’s a pretty good life. When I was little, my dad and I used to go to Brixton market (when it was actually a market, and not a horrible yuppie village full of boutiques and weasel coffee) and this one time, he bought me two giant snail shells.

They were incredibly beautiful. Gold and brown with flecks of creamy white, perfectly spiralled, like an ice-cream cone designed by God. Unfortunately, they smelt like a tramp’s crotch.

6. The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons

image: londonandall.com

It’s the Bicentenary of the Hunterian museum this year, and I’ve not actually been but am desperate to go. Anyone fancy coming to look at some skeletons?

7. Roller Derby! Or specifically, CROYDON ROLLER DERBY!

image: rollerderbyphotography.co.uk

Roller derby is a very fast, very scary game on rollerskates. Without going into the rules too heavily, two teams of women beat the shit out of each other with one especially speedy terror from each team trying to zip round and score points by passing the other players without getting creamed.

Unfortunately, the artistic representations of roller derby are pretty polarised – we’re either portrayed as a herd of Miss Trunchbull-type heifers stampeding around a track and accidentally killing Simba’s dad, or else we’re a bunch of buxom 80s hookers in fishnets and PVC, theatrically slapping each other until our tits fall out of our crop tops.

Neither is true. Believe me when I say that women from all backgrounds play this sport. Publishing executives, prison guards, teachers, therapists, estate agents, waitresses, and the gainfully unemployed. Rich girls, poor girls, big girls, tiny girls. Women with tattoos, women with kids. We can all skate, and we can all hit each other pretty hard.

Luckily for you, my league – the formidable Croydon Roller Derby – are playing against the Welsh Tiger Bay Brawlers on the 17th of August. It’s a Saturday, it’s in London, it’s only £5.50. The crowd go nuts, there’s hooting and hollering, there are cakes, there are stalls, there’s a bar, there’s a raffle, there’s an opening bout (kind of like a support act) which I’M PLAYING IN. you have absolutely no excuse. Even if you have no idea what roller derby is, I can promise you the most exciting day of your life.

I love sports, though it’s tough to keep loving it when the world of sports is so controlled by men, and only seems to value female athletes if they look like lingerie models. That’s why I love roller derby – it’s by women. It’s for women. Men help out, but they don’t take centre stage. And no-one can argue with a female athlete who can give dislocate someone’s shoulder with a legal hit.

Buy your tickets here, find us on facebook here, follow us on twitter here. Mainly, though, buy your tickets here.

PS: I’m especially looking for people who might want to come along to the game and write about it. Email me at lilyraew@hotmail.com if you might be interested 😉

MSN: A Requiem.

by Colin Surname.

Today, well-known computering firm Microsoft are starting the retirement process of their once-popular instant messaging program MSN Messenger (The ‘MSN’ stands for ‘MesSeNger’). This news is particularly wounding to those of us who were teenagers within the first decade of this millennium (‘the ooies’), or at least pretended to be.

Messenger was generally used by smiling women with an interest in movie. image: MSN.com

We grew up with it, you see. We were on the computer all the time before it was cool. Whilst you were out having physical contact and getting sufficient sleep, we made friends all over the world. They might not be able to lend us sugar, but they can be there for us when we need to talk at 5am.

I don’t think of MSN as a close friend per se – more of a chatty client. Though its low self-esteem caused it to constantly try to ‘update’ itself and fit in with the social networking crowd, it provided us with many formative experiences along the way:

    • Our intellectual growth: from textspeak, through proper English, to ALL CAPS OMG
    • Our first long-distance relationship
    • Our first online nudity
    • Our first long-distance breakup
    • Seeing our very own parents come to discover Messenger
    • Blocking our very own parents
    • Minesweeper Flags

MSN, or “Windows Live Messenger” as it was known to morons, had a famous cry, “Dooty-doo!”. Despite limp imitations such as Skype’s “Bwouwup” and Facebook’s “Buwoo!”, “Dooty-doo!” remains unassailable and will always resound in our (L) of (L)s.

Jen asks about her own hair. Sally laughs in the face of “Loading”. They both go 2 movie. Image: Softmaximum.com

Messenger had a lot of innovation – for example, it was the first IM client to introduce the ‘Nudge’. This feature brought online communication one step closer to real life by emulating that point in a conversation where they look away from you for a second, so you jump on their foot and do a primal scream.

The Group Conversation feature, meanwhile, gave us the opportunity to form vast committees of friends and have a big, focussed discussion. Sure, most of the people dropped out within the first minute, but that Malaysian guy you ended up with knew a lot about chemtrails.

MSN’s later years were not moments of pride: it would often be found in the company of cheap young pleasuredroids with algorithmically-unlikely female names. Some of us were driven away by late-added features, such as Winks, display pictures being on the left, and fewer people signing in. Still, MSN recognised the different fonts and colours in our voices, and could always express whatever little yellow face, animal impression or lewd, poorly-animated custom gesture we wanted to make.

“That which we cannot say through an Emoticon, we must pass over in words.” – wiggy_wittgenstein2004@hotmail.com Image: miranda-im.org


MSN Messenger will actually be continuing its service in mainland China, where it still enjoys widespread use, though only two unique messages are allowed: “I love our country” and “I agree”. For the rest of us, though, our beloved interface will soon be no more, whenever Microsoft empties their Recycle Bin.

Goodbye, MSN. I know you’re off to that big instant messaging server in the Skype.

https://i1.wp.com/messenger.msn.com/MMM2006-04-19_17.00/Resource/emoticons/cry_smile.gif

The Top 10 Worst Sex Scenes (that I can think of at the moment)

by Ben Browne, author of The Popcorn Bucket.

If you’re offended by movie shagging, don’t click the links.

Movie sex is very different from actual sex. You don’t need me to tell you that – you have brains. Most of it seems to take place in a parallel universe where bed sheets are L-shaped and there’s no such thing as cellulite or beer bellies. Where are the scenes where one of the lovers has to grovel and bargain for the act to even take place? Where’s the bit where one of them swears the other to secrecy and informs me that if I tell people about this, they’ll deny it? Guess that’s why they call it “Hollyweird”, eh?

Compiling this list, I realised there are very few films that actually contain decent sex. In your bog-standard film, they’re usually eye-rolling affairs that you have to endure in order for the film to move on. Sort of like unskippable YouTube adverts. At worst, they grind everything to a halt and ensnare you in a web of awkward hilarity. This isn’t a definitive, all-time, chiselled-into-concrete top ten, just ones that came to mind when posed this question. This isn’t in any particular order either, so don’t tell me number 6 should be higher or whatever.

1) Daredevil (2003):

Daredevil was a lacklustre superhero outing about a blind lawyer imbued with superhuman abilities who deals with court cases by day and deals out vigilante justice by night. Today it’s only really known as one of the lowest points in Ben Affleck’s career and for introducing the Goth warblings of the aptly-named Evanescence to the world.

Fucks funny: Future husband and wife, Affleck and Jennifer Garner, get their slow motion writhe on in front of a roaring log fire. They touch up each other’s battlescars in a big old heap of cliché. This isn’t the worst offender ever, it just neatly encapsulates most of the laughable tropes associated with love scenes. Last year’s The Dark Knight Rises has a similar scene, but is thankfully handled slightly better. If you could make it through the attached intellectually offensive Entertainment Tonight snippet, you’ll have picked up that we have studio interference to thank for this shite scene. Mercifully, when it came to the director’s cut, this scene is missing- just one of the many reasons the director’s cut is the superior version.

2) The Sweeney (2012):

(image: thefancarpet.com)

(image: thefancarpet.com)

The Sweeney is a terrible film based on the gritty ’70s cop drama of the same name. It starred Ray “Cock-er-ney” Winstone and Ben “Plan B” Drew. Having been tasked to review it, I resented every minute of its runtime and couldn’t wait for its laughable finale (an underwhelming car chase through a dreary caravan park) to be over. You know you’re in trouble when even an appearance by Damian Lewis can’t save your film.

Fucks funny: This one is based on the participants, rather than the actual sex, so call me shallow if you want. I had to look away when Ray Winstone and the lovely Hayley Atwell nip off for some celebratory thrustings in a pub toilet. I’ve been a bit in love with Ms. Atwell since she played Peggy Carter in the underrated Captain America film. She’s bloody brilliant. So you can imagine the last thing I want to see is Gravelly Ray jamming his tongue down her throat and mindlessly humping her like a dirty old bulldog. Reading that back, I sound oddly possessive of Ms. Atwell. I’m not. It’s just some day she will be my wife. She WILL. I carved it into my arm and everything.

3) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012):

(image: nextmovie.com)

(image: nextmovie.com)

I don’t actually mind the Twilight franchise. Most of the films are godawful, but then I’m not in the target demographic. I wouldn’t call myself a fan by any stretch, but I certainly don’t possess the searing hatred for it people on the Internet seem to be consumed by. Yes, it is terribly written and yes, there are some insidious moral undercurrents about love and sex due to author Stephenie Meyer’s religious background, but it’s mostly pretty harmless. Breaking Dawn Part 1 also featured a terribrilliant sex scene where the couple destroy a four-poster bed in an Austin Powers-esque bit, but Part 2 takes the cake.

Fucks funny: Drippy newlyweds Bella and Edward (Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson) do the maritals in a quaint little cottage. Annoyingly, the film skimps on the details on how two undead beings with no blood running around their bodies can even have sex. It’d be like trying to poke a sock into a bucket of sand. Being rated a 12A, the filmmakers are severely limited in what they can actually show. Usually to get round this, they have the hackneyed close-up of a hand clenching the bedsheets to imply orgasm. Breaking Dawn Part 2 thinks it knows better than that by CGI-ing a golden sparkly mist around Bella’s head when she reaches O-Town. When this happened, I hooted with laughter. It’d be a genius bit of parody if it wasn’t so earnest.

4) The Rock (1996):

It’s the cool thing to hate Michael Bay and most of it is with good reason. However, the only reason I sometimes feel the urge to defend him is because he’s responsible for The Rock, one of my favourite films. If you haven’t seen this thick slab of fun starring Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery and Ed Harris, I urge you to do so. It’s your typical “Bayhem” atypically coupled with a strong script, genuinely great performances from the lead actors and a surprisingly complex and sympathetic villain.

Fucks funny: Any Nic Cage sex scene is a bad thing. I just don’t want to see or think of the guy on the job, quite frankly. Stanley Goodspeed’s rooftop love scene with his fiancée makes me cringe every time I see it. His oily commentary coupled with his infamous unhinged expressions cause me to smile and grimace at the same time. This is probably the least offensive entry on the list because the scene is predominantly played for laughs. Also, no-one in their right mind would get down to business to the strains of Elton John’s “Rocket Man”.

5) Monster’s Ball (2001):

Monster’s Ball made some ripples back in 2001 but is now only really remembered for nabbing Halle Berry the Best Actress Oscar for her role as a Leticia, a woman whose husband is on death row. It’s one of those films that seems important at the time, gets nominated for a buttload of awards but fades away from the public consciousness like, well, Evanescence.

Fucks funny: In what should be a touching union of two lost souls finding comfort, Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton go at it hammer and tongs. I have two problems with this. One, Berry’s constant refrain of “make me feel good’ at the start which she strains out with like a toddler having a tantrum in a crowded shopping centre. Two- ol’ William Robert Thornton Esq. who goes through the motions grunting like a winded pensioner and with an unwavering look of boredom on his face.

6) Gigli (2003):

Widely known as the other other low point in Ben Affleck’s career (Jersey Girl represent!) Gigli (pronounced jeel-yee, not “giggly” although the latter is more fitting) is a turgid romantic “comedy” that deals with some slapped together mobster shit. It starred Bennifer Mark I (J-Lo instead of Garner) and was rightfully a box-office bomb.

Fucks funny: After a millennia of leaden dialogue and zero chemistry between Larry (Da Fleck) and Ricki (Lopez), Ricki and Larry return to his apartment and after some painful exchanges and some kissing, J-Lo leans back on the bed and says one of the worst lines in the history of cinema (probably): “It’s turkey time…Gobble gobble!” which has got to be the least attractive cunnilingus come-on ever, apart from something like “Fancy frenching the clam?”. The resulting sex is yawnsome too, but you won’t notice it because you’ll still be reeling from les mots diabolique.

7) The Matrix Reloaded (2003):

Resulting in Phantom Menace levels of disappointment, the hugely anticipated sequel to game-changer The Matrix was released in 2003. The film had a strange preoccupation with the tedious “real world”, meaning audiences were forced to sit through long stretches of boring people talking about their boring problems instead of watching leather-clad badasses flipping off walls ‘n shit killing people multiple times over before they hit the ground. Revolutions is the stinkier turd though.

Fucks funny: Famous anti-actor Keanu Reeves gets hot and heavy with the none too thespianally gifted Carrie-Anne Moss whilst a city-wide underground rave goes on. Swirling dreadlocks, bare feet, nipply tanktops and sweaty slow-motion make this one a killer. The monotonous pulsing music doesn’t help either.

8) The Terminator (1984):

Now, I love me some Terminator. The first film is a stonking classic and Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the best sequels ever made. One of the things that separates The Terminator from its sequels is that at its heart, it’s a love story spanning time itself between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor (Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton). It’s actually quite touching, but will hurt your head if you think too hard about all the timey-wimey stuff.

Fucks funny: Reese and Connor get funky because they fancy each other and also because of the small matter of saving humanity blah blah blah. It’s the early ’80s so some things can be excused, but by gum, is this bad. The whole act is accompanied by a tender piano rendition of the kick-ass Terminator theme which doesn’t work at all. Also, Reese grips on to Connor’s tits like he’s holding a ladder steady for a builder. Coupled with the fact that they both make faces like the Shepherd’s Pie they had for dinner is repeating on them and you’ve got a fabulously bad love scene. Rest of the film still rocks the shit though.

9) Showgirls (1995):

Showgirls is a legendary capsule of cringe. Fresh from not being able to act in Saved by the Bell, Elizabeth Berkley transfers her unacting skills to play Nomi Malone, a drifter who just wants to make it big as a showgirl in Las Vegas. It’s an exploitative, entertainingly crappy film with plenty of nudity on display. You get the feeling it was always destined for a late night Channel 5 slot. It’s also worth checking out if you haven’t, if only for the scene I’m about to describe.

Fucks funny: Nomi seduces Zack (Kyle MacLachlan) and revenge-fucks him in a pool, tastefully surrounded by neon palm tree lights. It all starts fine enough, a little champagne drizzle here, an underwater suck there, but soon the pair unite and Nomi starts thrashing and flailing around like a dolphin having electroshock therapy. As with most of the scenes on this list, the soundtrack takes it to the next echelon of awful.

10) The Room (2003):

Source: theman-cave.com

Man, 2003 was a bad year for sex wasn’t it? I wonder what went wrong. Anyway, Showgirls may be bad, but The Room makes it look like Citizen Kane. This low-budget pet project of weirdo Tommy Wiseau is awful. Everything is off about this film. The dialogue, the acting, the story, the music- everything. It’s pretty much a comprehensive list of how not to make a film. Having said that, it’s funnier than 90% of the comedies out there. It has gained cult status as “the worst film of all time”, but I disrespectfully disagree. The Room, whilst apocalyptically terrible, manages to be incredibly enjoyable. I would say the worst films out there are the ones that aren’t even entertainingly bad. There are often special screenings of The Room around the country and you owe it to yourself to go to one. You’ll never forget it.

Fucks funny: Take your pick. Like the rest of the film, the sex scenes are fantastically shite. Everything is so unremittingly dreadful from the atrocious music to the painful acting. Even the humping is off, at times it looks like he’s thrusting into her thigh or just past her altogether. How bad do you have to be if you can’t figure out what goes where? My personal vote is for any time we see Wiseau’s arse. I could have quite happily lived without knowing what it looked like.

Top Five Reasons to Love Ayn Rand: Because I couldn’t think of ten!

image: theprovocation.net

Ayn Rand is everyone’s wealth-obsessed, scary grandma. Parents put their children to bed threatening that if they don’t behave and go to sleep, Ayn Rand will pop out of the cupboard and scream about the virtue of selfishness.

People like to poke fun at Ayn Rand for many (justified) reasons. She wrote two of the world’s most “difficult” books, and god knows we don’t like things that are difficult. She tried to do the Louise Brooks haircut and sadly it just made her look like a Slytherin student. She was nasty and mean about pretty much everyone and there was a slightly rapey bit in The Fountainhead. She hated Christmas. She was, all things considered, a batshit insane megalomaniac with weird ideas on right and wrong.

Despite this, I kind of love her. Kind of. And before you search me on Pipl to see where I work and try and get me fired, I DON’T EVEN HAVE A JOB, SO HA HA HA. In your face, overreacting students!

Anyway.

1She was a batshit insane megalomaniac

image: nndb.com

I don’t think that, in order to be a feminist icon, you have to be nice. You don’t have to have written books on feminism, or even be up to your knees in gender politics – in fact I think it helps if you don’t. Any suggestion that Ayn Rand could be a feminist icon will be forever obliterated by the fact that there was a rapey bit in the Fountainhead, because women can’t really do what they want and get away with it.

And, truth be told, Ayn Rand didn’t give much of a shit about feminism – she believed you were only as good as your ideas, which I can get  behind – although the world she grew up in was one dominated by powerful men (I don’t think you saw a whole lot of female leadership in Soviet Russia). Her main concerns were fetishising the wealthy and convincing everyone that selfishness was a good thing. She did write a series of essays attacking feminism (although she was a staunch pro-choice advocate which is alright by me), arguing that “an ideal woman is a man-worshipper, and an ideal man is the highest symbol of mankind“. She even went so far as to say that, should a female candidate ever run for president, “I vouldn’t vote for her.” Not a shining beacon of sisterhood.

We’ve covered that she was a pretty nasty woman. The fact is, she was – and is – a female individual who will never be forgotten. There is no other woman I can think of who had such outlandish ideas, who so thoroughly believed in her own philosophy, and who jumped headfirst into a man’s world without a backward glance. And one thing is very much certain: she influenced a lot of men. And didn’t have to be even remotely sexy to do it. That’s why she’s one of my favourite women, even though I fully accept that she was a wrong ‘un.

2. I like art and freedom

image: wordpress.com

Art and freedom are undervalued and endangered. When you live in a society where a thousand angry keyboard warriors are calling for a woman to be punished for expressing an opinion, however mean-spirited, freedom is endangered. That’s not freedom of speech: it’s selective freedom from opinions you don’t like.

Now, you have to agree with something in order to like it, and if the majority don’t like it then the Prime Minister gets involved for some reason and I’m going off topic.

I also like art. Not when it’s diluted and easy and nice and everyone likes it and agrees with it like FUCKING MUMFORD AND FUCKING SONS. I don’t know why it is that I like nasty art that people hate – perhaps because it’s a more interesting response. Which is why I fucking love Atlas Shrugged, ridiculous tome of silly that it is – because it’s good, and partly because lots of people hate it (or haven’t read it).

3. She was a big fan of Disney.

image: wikimedia.org

I also love Disney. Had Ayn Rand lived long enough to take a trip to Disneyland, she would have soiled her weird old pants with glee. I love Mickey Mouse ears and Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror and even It’s A Small World. There’s a soft spot in my heart for the awful overpriced European fast food. The quote on the right, taken from The Fountainhead, is on a plaque at Disney’s Epcot Centre.

Ayn Rand wanted Walt Disney to turn her book Anthem (which is probably the best one tbqh) into a film. It would have been a bit grim.

4. She was an INDEPENDENT WOMAN (except for the whole Medicare thing).

image: slate.com

It seems that women are only allowed to be champions of their sex if they claim to represent womankind as a whole. Anyone with a differing opinion is vilified, no matter how brave or intelligent they are. Margaret Thatcher, perhaps the most hated figure in British political history, was exactly that. She didn’t spend her time wibbling over whether or not people would agree with her politics – she went out and lived them. She studied ultra-hard, exploded into politics, and changed the country forever.

Today it seems you’re only allowed to be feminist if you’re a self-loathing liberal and write articles – case in point! – and the heroines of feminism today seem to consist of a handful of Oxbridge graduates and any daft individual bleating about “trigger warnings”, “sitting the fuck down” and “bullshit” on their Twitter accounts. But what’s more impressive to me is saying “bollocks to this self-perpetuating argument” and getting on with more exciting things, like running a country or writing two books which will go on to heavily influence crazy Republican politicians. The women who really change things are the ones who get on with stuff, are belligerent, pushy, and who fight to get their own way.

I’m fairly certain that, difficult or not, Atlas Shrugged will live far longer than the thousands of articles bemoaning the fact that someone has disagreed with you on the internet.

5. She rightly identified that feelings are boring

“Don’t ask me about my family, my childhood, my friends or my feelings. Ask me about the things I think.”

Feelings are boring. There is nothing more dull than talking about your feelings. Like a Vulcan, Ayn Rand claimed that she didn’t really do feelings or belief – such things weren’t rational. Moreover, she was a fierce and proud atheist, intensely critical of any idea that put faith above reason. She was notorious for the

She bloody loved teddies though. image: blogspot.com

arguments she picked, and for never backing down until she had won – either by strangling her opponent with her enormous brain, or by staring at them until they cried. “An emotion”, she says,  “tells you nothing about reality, beyond the fact that something makes you feel something.”

Meanwhile, someone somewhere is “having feels” at a TV show.

Considering the hundreds of years women spent being told that they were hysterical creatures whose emotions overwhelmed them to the point of fainting into the coffee table, Ayn Rand’s no-nonsense belief system is a breath of fresh air whether you agree with it or not. God knows there are enough women writing earnestly about how things affect them. Ayn Rand, crusty old professional troll that she was, didn’t have time for that crap. And more power to her.

So there you go – Ayn Rand was not nice, but I like her anyway.

My Adventures at… The Brighton Tattoo Convention

Date: 16th/17th February 2013

Where: The Hilton Metropole, Brighton.

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The only convention I’ve ever been to before was a Twin Peaks one. While it was lots of fun – red-room themed cakes, people dressed as Nadine and Big Ed, all your favourite Twin Peaks episodes shown on a big cinema screen – the place was hardly packed out. Conventions, as I see it, seem to be watering holes for nerds and fanatics to come and socialise with each other – and while they’re teeming with merchandise, guest speakers, lectures, screenings, music and food, conventions are determinedly outside of the mainstream. I have to confess to finding the idea of a Star Trek convention tempting, but ultimately too dorky to fork out £50 for a weekend. Conventions, it seems, are anything but conventional.

Combine the ‘convention’ phenomenon with the culture of tattoos – according to my school, parents and multiple job agencies, an investment which means you’ll pretty much end up as either a sailor or a prostitute – and you have a weekend so off the beaten track it technically shouldn’t even exist. The idea of the UK’s biggest tattoo convention being held at a snooty Hilton hotel sounds a bit ridiculous – but tattoos, fyi, are compulsory these days. Especially in arguably the most colourful, mucky, exuberant town in the UK – Brighton.

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Now in its 6th year, the Brighton Tattoo Convention is held at The Brighton Hilton Metropole – its largest arena yet. Boasting over 350 artists from all over the world, 10 live bands, a bar and food hall, and even seminars on Japanese mythical creatures (plus an Old Timers’ Talk which I was gutted to miss), it’s a hardcore weekend of high-frequency buzzing sounds, bright colours, gummy sweets and the kind of beautiful body art you have to hide from your mum.. And although tattoos have become a decidedly mainstream fashion accessory, there’s a comforting air of weirdness about beardy dudes with screaming skulls on their necks hanging around the entrance to a notoriously fancy hotel.

I found my way to the Seven Sins tattoo room, where Chic Childs – the beret-wearing boss – was inking a snarling devil face onto someone’s stomach. He’s been tattooing for sixteen years, and this was his fifth year at the convention. The kid he’s tattooing is a bright-eyed 18-year old called Callum West, who explains that Chic is covering up a “tweety bird.”

Chic and Callum

Chic and Callum

“Everyone gets a tweety bird,” says Chic, “and everyone gets it covered up. Today, tattoos are just a fashion accessory. There are gonna be people who wake up in five or ten years time and go “what the fuck is that?” cause they’re just getting stuff that’s trendy.”

Chic recognizes the need for artists to be utilitarian in their work, and is critical of tattooists who try and make their work a ‘signature style’. “I make an effort not to do any one style. I try to do everything. I don’t wanna just do one thing – photorealism and tribal – I wanna do everything.”

For Chic, Brighton’s a short hop from their tattoo shop in Horley – but Frej, a very quiet young tattoo artist who specialises in traditional designs, has come all the way from Västerås in Sweden for this event. It’s his first time here.

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“There’s a high interest in high-quality tattoo work in Brighton, and a strong tattoo culture. Sweden also has a strong tattoo culture. You can always get a nice tattoo in Sweden.”

“The rising popularity of tattoos is a mixed blessing. For me, financially, it’s a good thing but also the mystery of it is disappearing a bit. It’s not the same as when I was a kid and I saw someone with a tattoo. There was a mystique about it. Not so much now.”

Although the vast majority of people milling around the stalls are sexy young twenty-somethings in beanie hats and platform Converse, I met Richard and Melissa from Basingstoke – who I think might be the coolest couple I’ve ever met.

Richard and Melissa

Richard and Melissa

“It’s our first time here,” says Melissa, “and we’re loving it. The venue is large, so you can fit everybody in – and everyone knows that Brighton’s a place where you can do whatever you want to do and be whoever you want to be. We’re big fans of Antony Flemming. He’s tattooing my daughter… who’s around here somewhere.”

Richard chips in. “We also love Kate (Mackay-Gill) at the Tattoo Workshop. She’s brilliant. Ooh, and Darren Brass!”

Are either of them after a tattoo for themselves today?

“I’ve got tons of tattoos already,” Richard says.

“But they’re all really old.”

“Old school“, he insists.

There’s a steampunk coffee company, pretty ladies with pincurls selling candy floss, clothing, art, screen prints of tattoos, a dimly lit bar with a stage for bands later in the evening, and some downright weird shit at a stall run by the famous Eaton Nott – a shop which sticks out like a spooky old toe on a road full of nail bars and pizza places near Preston Circus. It’s the place to go if you’re after antique prosthetic legs, a pig foetus in a jar, or other weird shit.

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The way the tattooing appointments work is that the artists draw lots of designs and put prices on them, as below – so if you’re looking to get a tattoo, you pick a design on the table, pay for it and come back to get it a few hours later! I think you can ask them to do a design of your choosing, though of course they then have to draw it from scratch._MG_9242

Here’s Barb of Inka…_MG_9258

…And the little friend she drew, who lives on my shoulder!_MG_9257

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Being poor, all I could afford was this cool sticker.

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When I asked people who their favourite artists were, two names kept popping up – Antony Flemming from London and Kate Mackay-Gill, who works at the Tattoo Workshop in Providence Place, Brighton. Sophie (pictured) is a big fan, and tends to get all her tattoos done there. She likes the Brighton Tattoo Convention more than the London one because “it’s more of a giggle. Brighton is more homely, whereas the London one is a bit mental.”

the lovely Sophie.

the lovely Sophie.

It’s voyeuristic, but friendly – a school fete for masochists. In every stall, you can openly gawk at someone grimacing in pain whilst a woman five times cooler than you scribbles on their back.

The definition of cool seems to change every ten seconds. Cool is a mysterious thing. Any discussion of what ‘cool’ is negates it – I’m getting less cool by the second. Gladiator sandals used to be cool, as did dip-dye hair, gigantic plastic dinosaurs on necklaces, and Charlie Brooker.

Tattoos, however, have always been cool. They’re a sign that you’re tough, because you willingly underwent and paid for a design to be scratched onto your body with a needle, but they’re also mysterious. Some tattoos have stories behind them, or mean something significant. Others, such as my owl, are just there because I really fucking dig owls. (Hipster disclaimer: I got my tattoo before the great Brighton Owl Boom of 2010, when suddenly everyone conveniently remembered they really fucking dug owls too.) They’re very often beautiful and very often hilariously bad. The clientele have evolved over the past hundred years – from hoary old sailors with naked women on their arms, to dreadful pompous philosophy students with two parallel lines on their neck representing Occam’s Razor or some shit – but a good tattoo is timeless, even if you’re not.

This gentleman is getting Bruce Forsyth's hateful face etched into his leg.

This gentleman is getting Bruce Forsyth’s hateful face etched into his leg.

Tattoos get a bad rep. People make assumptions about you if you have pictures on your skin. The number of job applications I’ve filled in telling me that I’m not allowed to have any visible tattoos is staggering. I can’t wear vest-tops when I visit my grandparents in the summer, because they’ll get offended by an image of a cute little owl. And yet, the more people warn you not to get them, the more determined you are to have one (though tattoos are addictive, so you can’t just have one.) Yes of course it hurts, but you kind of get to like it – especially when you can see why it hurts, and when you’re finally done smearing Bepanthen all over yourself, you’ll have such a sense of glee and euphoria you can’t wait to go back.

I didn’t see many shit tattoos at the convention because anyone who will happily pay to spend two whole days looking at other people’s skin really, really loves them and recognises quality. That said, I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the When I was getting my first one done at Inka, a girl came in and asked for “a tiny heart… no, a star… or a heart… I dunno” on her thigh. She was a lady of larger stature and I am very sorry to say that it looked like she’d sat on a piece of Haribo. And that piece of Haribo will be stuck on her arse for ever. I’ve seen girls with a neon pink Playboy logo above their vaginas. Men with “ONLY GOD CAN JUGE ME” on their backs. Having seen many a dreadful tattoo, I came up with three golden rules.

1. Go big or go home.

2. Don’t go to anyone who has a wonky horse in their portfolio.

3. NO LYRICS.

Failing that, Chic Childs will be only too happy to cover up your Tweety Bird._MG_9247