The Five Worst Things about the Abundantly Awful ‘Interstellar’

1. Christopher Nolan: has his haircut got away with him? Has his haircut gone to his head? This movie is the actual embodiment of his haircut and those lips pursed always like a bursting moneybag.

2. The inaudible utterances, or rather not, because so often was the dialogue that unspeakably awful that its getting drowned out by the film’s redeeming feature, the music, was more like sweet relief than an impediment. (How I longed, as soon as she’d done it, that a foghorn had obliterated Anne Hathaway’s discourse on the cosmic force of love, though nothing could have saved me from those global, rolling eyes). Still, there were occasions when clarity might have been nice – or crucial, I don’t know. When a bedridden Michael Caine was forced to convey 23 years of age through nothing but his voice, the poor old dear (hospital blanket up to his ears) resorted to a impression of Steve Coogan’s impression of a Caine appreciably aged in ‘The Trip’. The fanfare on the heels of his declaration told me there was a something afoot, at least; still, the big reveal, as it left Alfie Snr’s lips, was tantamount to an automaton’s bops and bloops and blips. Which brings me to my third point:

3. Nobody is human. Had they been given a pulse by their creators, some them might have been inhuman, though. “Come on, Randy (or what in the hell the son’s called),”underage drive my truck blind through a cornfield and risk the life of not only me but your precocious twelve-year-old sister.” And then almost of a cliff, all because of Matthew McConaughey’s soaring affection for a drone. Indeed, Matthew seems to stand in for the Nolans (the brothers co-conceived this monstrosity) not only here but anywhere the greater galactic/scientific contingencies totally sideline the concerns of living and feeling people – like, say, when he leaves it to the very last minute to break the news to his daughter that he’s travelling, oh, only into another galaxy for an unspecified amount of time. It’s telling that the only character with a sense of humour is TARS, a robot whose by-the-numbers, programmatic snarkiness comes down less to his artificial intelligence than to the Nolans’ cold and aloof one. Now maybe it’s just me, but only two of TARS’ jokes were actually comprehensible. (The stony silence of the audience, bar the self-gratified gigglings of a smattering of who I assume were IT consultants, suggests I am not alone here). How I longed for a bit of zing in this cyborg, a little, “Wormhole, huh Matthew? You’d be pretty well acquainted with all of that.” TARS was so restrained that it got so I started to think that his name was TARS because his big show-stopper was tar-and-feathering a colleague of his choice. One can almost see it with a lampshade on its head, trying to cajole an intractable Matthew to yield to its quivering brush. “It’ll be fun!”

4. Matthew Damon. None of his scenes are in the least bit necessary. Some, though, are kind of funny, especially that in which the camera zooms out to show the expanse of the tundra in which he and McConaughey tousle. What can be achieved by this? you wonder. Oh, he can break the glass of McConaughey’s helmet with the years-older glass of his own – of course. Also, Damon’s Captain Mann has got to be one of the most ineffectual villains to have ever graced a screen; surely my memory serves me incorrectly, but did he really cry all his lines? As he stumbles away from a writhing McConaughey: “They say (sniffle) that you see your kids (snuffle) for the last time when you’re about to die. Do you see your kids? Do you see them (whimper), Matthew?” When his capsule (or someone’s) blew apart like a bargain pinata, I didn’t feel any sort of actual triumph; it felt like an itch scratched, a gnat getting slapped.

5. The denouement: after all of Jessica Chastain’s braying at the camcorder and throwing equations around the NASA hub before kissing Topher Grace’s incredulous mug – not to mention McConaughey’s histrionics in the suspended Escher of his daughter’s bedroom (and has parental favouritism ever been given a wider berth in a film before?) – the ending, wherein Matthew, having traversed light-years just to get one last glimpse of his true beloved (“May my son be long dead,” he should be saying, “burnt in the fires that my brilliant daughter started!”), is such an astronomical anti-climax you almost can’t believe that you’re seeing it. “Ah, you,” Jessica says, working the latex mask Michael Caine was rudely denied, “I’ve got kids now, so hop along to Hathaway.” At which point something dawns on me – McConaughey and Hathaway are meant to be in love! The prospect of his going back to retrieve ol’ Doe-Eyes does nothing for me; I have more feels watching Matty resuscitate TARS in his heritage house. This film is an unqualified disaster and should be shot.

Actually, it’s not that bad, but it’s all about the clicks, isn’t it.

Book Review: ‘It’s OK! I’m from the Daily Mail: Tales of a Foreign Correspondent’ by Richard Shears

As foreign correspondent for Britain’s Daily Mail, Richard Shears has seen and done many remarkable things. As a memoirist, though, Shears shares his extraordinary life experience in a collection of ‘tales’ whose punch is dulled exactly where the Daily Mail has profited – it globe hops, it investigates, it’s the kind of sensational the masses lap up, but it’s also written with an objectivity that leaves many questions about the deeper truth. On book’s close, all the reader knows is that Shears – and this is the sole motif with which he tries to unify the book (and his life?) – has been extremely lucky.

But like all good tabloid journalism, there are genuinely exciting and scandalous moments to be had (by?). Throughout, Shears appears as a lucky and plucky PI: see him stake out fraud and philanderer (and British MP) John Stonehouse, then tail him and his mistress to a remote rural lookout where he snaps the lovers’ kiss in a photo that leads to Stonehouse’s eventual arrest. Its thrills, it’s true, are undeniable.

Still: though such stories, in no short supply, are full of intrigue and daring-do, close calls and timely coincidences, the events recounted seem nowhere near as phony as Shears’ own self-representation. Is he really just the unwitting recipient of some whiz-bang fortune and a jolly good time to boot? There is ruthlessness here, and for all his efforts at likeability, Shears lets slip on the odd occasion: witness, for example, Shears snaffle a former Miss India from under an old friend’s nose, then convince her to renege on her contractual agreement with the old friend’s paper, a rival to the Mail. Shears should really give himself more credit.

In short: those looking for no more than a ripping yarn will probably enjoy It’s OK! For those after the real scoop, though, ‘It’s OK’ is precisely how you’ll feel about this book.

MY CRISES IN STATUSES

For three disturbing years (disturbing for my friends, but also, let the records make it known, for me as well) I had a series of identity crises on Facebook. Let me stress something: private dilemmas are best resolved outside of public forums. So, for the edification of the wider world, and especially those teeming masses of teens for which Facebook is, in their glassy eyes, as inextricable as an IVF machine, I reproduce here the worst of my doings, my public undoing, my crises in statuses:

“DAVID ROBERTS was woken up by his alarm at about a quarter to six this morning but proceeded to sleep in, hitting the snooze button another time before finally getting out of bed, still yet sleepy (he’ll admit), stumbling into the bathroom to undertake his morning hygiene regimen and, this completed, dressing for work which was eventually reached by two trains and a bus, the last of which wasn’t boarded before a quick breakfast at a cafe in Epping where David Roberts sat at a table eating a slice of banana bread whose core wasn’t properly toasted but there you go, next to which sat a coffee, a flat white, which David can, thanks to informative diagrams on the chalkboard next to the front door, tell you held 6 oz. of coffee, which coffee’s steam rose to a sensible height somewhere in the glare of the morning sunlight flatlining through the cafe’s broad front window, by which window stands the door and by that the sign with the pictorial representation of the cup that David, steam now segueing round his face, was drinking from that very moment, leaving the banana bread in favour of the cup, and then David got up and boarded the bus aforementioned and rode it out to Carlingford, getting off at a sensible distance from the school which sat just across the highway, and whose English staff room seats a comfortable twelve-odd staff members, one of which is currently (if casually) David Roberts, who, as a matter of fact, sits in the staff room now while writing the status that you’ve just finished reading.”

“DAVID ROBERTS is a PAID ACTOR. This guy’s on fire.” (I was in fact neither.)

“DAVID ROBERTS FEELS LIKE HE’S BEEN TORN TO SHREDS BY A PACK OF WILD ANIMALS.”

“DAVID ROBERTS just ordered a coffee in Mandarin, and let me tell you, it beats ordering a mandarin in coffee.”

“DAVID ROBERTS did this! Did that! David Roberts was at this place at this time with these people and here’s the photos to prove it! DJ Whatever really went off last night – isn’t that right, @name-of-friend-of-yours-who-didn’t-invite-you? Here’s an incongruously grainy photo of the drinks I had. Here’s the meal I ate, and here’s the plate post-meal. Here’s some pocket lint! #hilariouslint! Best enchilada eva! But Y is my bed untucked ths morning? Sum1 explain! In-joke about bed untucking shared with 700 and intended for @someone-you’ve-never-met-nor-care-to. This box set, that country I went to, brand name, name-band, name-drop ad nauseum.”

“DAVID ROBERTS just ordered a coffee in Mandarin, and let me tell you, it beats ordering a mandarin in coffee.”

“DAVID ROBERTS begins to suffer from third-person fixation. David Roberts’ fingers – thanks to the compulsive accessibility of his iPhone – are never far away from the touch-responsive face of his Facebook profile, and thusly his mind is forever aflutter with stats that start with David Roberts. David Roberts is waiting for a bus. David Roberts has indigestion. And now here we are – and wasn’t it inevitable? – where the full extent of what David Roberts is doing is planning and writing stats. Disturbing.”

“DAVID ROBERTS hopes you all had a LOVELY weekend!!!”

“DAVID ROBERTS has many friends, and some of them he even gets along with in real life…” (The lovely weekend a thing of the past, apparently.)

“DAVID ROBERTS is, again, a PAID ACTOR. It seems logical to start asking people to ask me for my autograph. So: ask me for my autograph.” (Again, not true.)

“DAVID ROBERTS is on the threshold of something BIG. I mean BIG, as in really BIG.” (I was not.)

“DAVID ROBERTS IS UNDERGOING AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS.” (This, now this, was true.)

“DAVID ROBERTS worked in a warehouse once.”

“DAVID ROBERTS does a mad impression of The Modern Child, and it goes like this:

(Talking to his mother:) ‘Melissa. Melissa I’m hawt. I need a cold dwink coz it’s so hawt in here. I am wheely burning up. Melissa you’re tired and hawt I can see, you look all tired and old. Can I have a dwink? I need a dwink. Then can I have a cupcake? I need a cupcake. I need a cupcake to get all over the $200 authentic major team’s soccer jersey I wear now as a potent reminder of the coercive capabilities of my blood-curdling screams. Which bwings me bwack to my cupcake proposal. So can I have a cupcake? NO I WON’T BE SICK. I not swick like you, Mumissa. I seen you vomit. I SEEN YOU VOMIT! I did I did I did I did; I seen the vomit and the damage done. Can I have a cupcake? CAN I HAVE A DWINK? CAN I HAVE A CUPCAKE AND A DWINK AND THE WHOLE DANG PLANET ON A SILVER PLATTER?’”

“DAVID ROBERTS would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for letting him into their homes… and their hearts.”

“DAVID ROBERTS is, as of now, on status hiatus. That’s right: David Roberts is hanging up his stat-hat. Now, during his stat-sabbatical it may dawn on him that he took too seriously Facebook’s invitation to share what’s on his mind, and in the dwindling (sic) light of the dawn hour, as the gaps betwixt the slats of his blinds do gradually light up with the rising of the sun, it may alight on his stat-deprived mind that the psychic toll is great and irrevocable, that what’s been shared is forever lost. Yes!: by the emergence of a sun that’s real and the scrolling light of an illumined blind, his psychic bind will be slowly unknotted, and his stream-of-consciousness will flow again where once it had stuttered for the sake of stats. And still, and though: say that by the garish light of day David finds himself immersed not just in the salve of bright daylight but a loneliness stark and irrefutable, a loneliness that had once been appeased by the sharing of David’s incessant thoughts…”

“DAVID ROBERTS IS BACK IN THE STATUS GAME, BABY!”

(It gets worse.)

“DAVID ROBERTS got really down today when he realised he’ll never know what it’s like to be kissed by David Roberts.”

“DAVID ROBERTS is the most attractive person in this train carriage.”

“DAVID ROBERTS reviles his generation’s introspectiveness! What’s more, he does so in a series of self-absorbed statuses (status having always been the key concern of any committed self-aggrandiser) specially designed to excuse him of blame! And about these iPhones: in my day we had ‘vanity mirrors’ (harps on some construct of David’s imagining, relieving the tension but distracting, distracting), the worst of which were shaped like hearts so that one could behold their face so bordered; today’s vanity mirror you tote and gaze into but here you can CHANGE, you can MODIFY you! (Here David, having written so much, wishes he’d never undertook this; and in apologetic parentheses he starts to back away: is it only *himself* he is writing about? What, exactly, is he trying to achieve?) You kids (continues the imaginary curmudgeon) just can’t stop poking away at yourselves (the construct by now so parodic its dentures are falling out onto its blanketed lap) and you just don’t care, you just don’t care… (but sleep has descended, the rocking chair’s still, and no doubt David’s status tomorrow will make out like nothing has happened).”

“DAVID ROBERTS doesn’t remember giving the makers of ‘Magic Mike’ the rights to his life story, but there you go.”

“DAVID ROBERTS is now a proud father!” (I was not, nor am I now. This was written by a friend, but seeing all the ‘likes’ I was accruing, I went with it and wrote the following:)

“DAVID ROBERTS met this girl at some, I don’t know, Developmental Day, and she was obviously a very idealistic young woman and me, I was the male equivalent, I guess, and over sandwich quarters we struck up something of an accord, she with her bangs and sideways glances, I with sandwich quarters and a sweater thoroughly becrumbed… Her hair coquettishly covering half her face, she asked what I aspired to. “Happiness,” I said, my eyes at a level with hers. Her eyes responded in kind, they did, and thus was born to us Simon Magnus Roberts, coming in at a surprising 6 lb. and sporting eyes of the kind that shone when his mother and father first met.” (All bullshit.)

(Three days later I wrote:) “DAVID ROBERTS is missing his little man :'(; it’s Simon’s first day at school today. They grow up so fast.”

“DAVID ROBERTS was sorry to learn that Simon’s new school friend is imaginary. Just seems a little pathetic, really.”

“DAVID ROBERTS might just wrap this up here and now, if it’s all the same to you:

In the first sentence, David’s non-existent son Simon has already left primary and is priming himself for high school, at which point a sub-clause discloses that David’s equally non-existent wife – a brilliant intellectual and bra model both – is having her second phantom pregnancy, Simon having been her first. (It should be noted here, too, that David’s ‘lady’ is as unimaginably beautiful as she is imaginary; that is, extremely). Parenthetical aside aside, sentence three reveals Simon to be 30 and enjoying ridiculous fame in a society even more intent on valorising nobodies; in a much-publicised interview seen the world over, Simon professes that David was ‘never there’ as a father, which statement David finds especially rich coming from a non-existent son. Indeed, he’s watching his son defame him from a retirement home in the fourth and last sentence, but senescence has worked conversely for him (as had, indeed, his whole life): senility means that sleights against him aren’t just perceived but actual, he talks to people who are living and within earshot, and after the interview he is often heard ranting ‘I have no son!’, which is entirely true.

AND WHO SAID POSTMODERNISM WAS DEAD?”

(And on it goes.)

“DAVID ROBERTS is a SCORPIO. You’re welcome.” (A desperate bid for identity, perhaps?)

“DAVID ROBERTS goes to the doctor and says, ‘Doc! Hey Doc! I feel like a pair of curtains!’ And the doctor says:

‘My God. You’ve every reason to.’ So I’m currently installed at Hornsby Hospital,

in an east-facing, third storey window. I can’t seem to get through

the pane.”

“DAVID ROBERTS circa 2010 wafted through my window last night. ‘David’, he beseeched from his purchase on my bed, while a blustery north-easterly whipped curtains round his head, ‘what’s with the Facebook statuses?’”

“DAVID ROBERTS’ Facebook statuses have been turned into a set of laminated ‘flashcards’ and boxed under the title, “Recognising a Nervous Breakdown”. Promises to be a big, big hit.”

“DAVID ROBERTS has got precisely NO comments in regards to his amazing looks tonight. It’s eerie.”

“DAVID ROBERTS gets emotional at beaches.”

“DAVID ROBERTS wants to know what happened to you, Amelia. I’m well aware that nothing less than the very description of your job was to welcome people to the newly renovated pub at which we met that night – and a fine job you did of it, too – but nowhere was it required that you welcome people into your *heart*. ‘I’ll see you there,’ you’d said, all earnestness and light, but as the agreed night descended and your emergence went from imminent to non-existent (in painful increments composed of unknowing, of a promise not broken but gradually bludgeoned), the memory of your buoyant face began to take the lurid hue of the varnish slapped on the premises where you’d made your fickle promises. So now I welcome *you*, Amelia, to come forward and explain yourself. Your failure to respond to a status you have no way of seeing will only fuel my irrationality.”

“DAVID ROBERTS is sitting near the Opera House, looking at the Harbour Bridge. To think there was a time he could do this kind of thing without telling everyone.”

“DAVID ROBERTS turns 25 in 10 days. I have to say that it has been an absolute pleasure being able to watch myself blossom over the last twenty-five years. Congratulations, David; only ten days now, buddy.”

“DAVID ROBERTS would just like to congratulate everyone on their engagement to everyone else. Congratulations.”

“DAVID ROBERTS celebrates himself.”

“DAVID ROBERTS would just like to remind everyone that he is an actual human being with real human emotions. Thanks.”

“DAVID ROBERTS wants to be married in four months. Who’s in?”

“DAVID ROBERTS has the best partner/spouse in the World! Not only did s/he just buy me the best present in the best city in the best country in the world, but s/he just donated all of her kidneys to the kids in the orphanage we visited last week (partner/spouse: “I feel like the reason I was born with 200 kidneys is because I was born to GIVE”). Also, we’re soon getting married while space diving.”

(Caution: the following three statuses show you just where you’ll end up if you entertain this level of self-indulgence. Just a warning that some of the following content is upsetting.)

“DAVID ROBERTS doesn’t know why his reminiscence is lit with some transcendental glow, but lo: there he is, but a year beforehand, and young, an eternal eager-beaver and mistaken, misunderstood performance artist (whose project, his life, is a work-in-progress), sidling up to a seat just aft of a lass in limbo (her eyes at half-mast in tribute, perhaps, to her graveyard of slain brain-cells), and saying, so it slips out the side of his mouth, “I was here, but a year in the past” etcetera, that infernal and asinine rigmarole. (And around and around and around we go.)”

“DAVID ROBERTS HAS WITHSTOOD THIS WEEK ALONE: his being upended on the floor of a venue; waking fright, terror in slumber; the skewed spewings of inoperable photocopiers; a ‘click’ in the deep of his hip (when walking), a sense of his going unheard (when talking); classes in which, mid-garbled speech, he wished that the teacher would please shut up; repeated entreaties from his Year 10 students to show them ‘The Grapist’, a YouTube skit; and finally (but perhaps most relatable of all), his very own Facebook posts.”

“DAVID ROBERTS continued to rant ineffectually into the vacuum – leaving no truthism, non-sequitur or turn-of-phrase unturned – and without exception everything said evaporated into the internet ether like so much pollen, indiscernible dust-mites, so much SUPPOSED FRIENDSHIP.”

(Thank you for your time, and please: be wary.)

TRACK-BY-TRACK REVIEW OF TAY’S ‘1989’

K, I need to be upfront will you – I did not realise at the time that I had actually mistaken ‘1989’ with Pharmakon’s death industrial album ‘Bestial Burden’. As a result, some of the following content may not actually comment on ‘1989’. That said, I’m sure Tay’s done a great job.

‘1989’: A Review in Tracks

1. Okay, so this is called ‘Welcome to New York’, but all I’m getting is an awful lot of belabored huffing here. “Huh – some welcome,” I feel like saying. What – did she run from her loft to the airport? And why does she insist on our standing on top of this rancorous generator? (In the car park, too. Tay: I’m tired, and your hair is feathering badly.)

2. Geez, okay. ‘Blank Space’ is far from blank. A robot is screaming and playing a drum. Oh, here she is, dependable Tay… but her bangs are a mess, all flyaway. Now what? She is squatting on the Oriental mat and, American Apparel hanging off her like rags, is proceeding to send out a series of primal screams that just has to be heard throughout the walk-up. “Honey T,” I want to plead, crackling to a crouch, “we gotta think about our appearances here. What happened to a nightmare dressed like a daydream? You’re a nightmare wrapped in a horror show, girl.” My stomach and my mint julep tea are troubled.

3. ‘Style’. Right. Taylor has divested herself of all vestments and is elbow-deep in the task of buzz-sawing her teak coffee table in half. She’s got her wild eyes fixed immovably on me, too, which, what with the flight and my settling jet-lag, I could happily have done without. It’s hard to discern whether her accompanying screams are directed at me or at Harry Styles. At this point I am madly formulating my excuses. I hate to say it – hey: this is Tay – but I’m pretty much halfway out the door.

4. Ah, someone’s had a little too much to drink, and here’s me needing a good old slash. I’m tapping intermittently on the bathroom door, but the urethra starts making its demands (as it will) and I settle for a steady and a rhythmical pounding. Tay is busy hacking up a lung in there or something. ‘Out of the Woods’, huh? Anything but.

5. Ugh. I’ve just got T-Swerves snug in her Boden Knit (Spots) when she starts screaming “Honour Satan” right at the top of her voice. Look: I’m a pretty convivial guy, but I draw the line whenever someone starts, as they do in these lofts, rowdily invoking the Prince of Darkness. And meanwhile, okay, so Tay’s making some bold stylistic choices, but really: a stamping press? A fire alarm? Last I saw Tay she was hanging out the window of an oldy-time tower like fucking Rapunzel, her braids as tight as chastity belt. And oh, what’s this? It’s a fucking guilt trip? ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’, was it? Swell.

6. Taylor’s back at it full-tilt, and not for any want of consolation on my part. I’m assuming ‘Shake It Off’ is in reference to the bugs she’s hallucinated into the lining of her skin. And now she’s got clamped in her white-knuckled fist what resembles a neon ice-cream cone but is actually, as the ensuing noise indicates, one of those reverberating kids’ plastic microphones found in all garage sales ever held. It’s hard to decipher the content of her rant (and I am planted firmly at the opposite end of the room) but she seems to be saying, over and over, “I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here.” “You don’t belong here?!” I want to scream (screaming being the mode of expression du jour). “Then who in the hell’s hug mug have I had my lips all over this whole heinous night?” And then he emerges – one of those heartthrobs soon to be found on the ‘ex-lovers list’. “How are the digs, tho?” he tosses me blithely. He then joins Taylor is a spine-chilling chorus of maniacal and unyielding laughter.

9. Bonus Track: ‘I Wish You Would’. It’s a nice riff on Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’. This, now this, is the Tay I know. I’ll take this Tay any day.

TRACK-BY-TRACK REVIEW OF ‘RUN THE JEWELS 2’

1. ‘Jeopardy’: when Mike’s yelling at me totally unprovoked, I’m thinking “This truly is this month’s bookend to ‘1989’.” I’m a huge fan of the line in which Mike admits to being excited by kale, which really is the wonder-thistle. Also partial to Jamie’s rap about sucking monsters’ vaginas.

2. What I love about the phat beat on this little pony, ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’, is that it sounds like a chronically, cripplingly shy teen copping his first significant feel: “Darling, da-da-darling, d-d-da-d-da-d-da-darling.” Very poignant.

3. ‘Blockbuster Night, Part 1’ earns thumbs for its canastas, but my idea of a “Blockbuster” Night is me at 16 scanning and bagging a plethora of porn rentals for furtive, wispy-haired, middle-aged men (R.I.P. Blockbuster Video, though).

4. ‘Close your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)’ is great for the way Killer M links “liars and politicians” with “conjugal visits” through syntax and syntax alone. This is rap without a net.

5. ‘All My Life’ has a very humorous “pew-pew-pew” sound effect which really transports me to the Captain’s Bride on the Starship I-Don’t-Give-a-Shit (honestly, this song be a 3 minute waste of time before ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’ explodes. What WART).

6. ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’ is a truly wonderful song, and I rankle at the thought of someone making even the slightest fun of it.

7. ‘Early’ features Boots, much like many war films. On a serious note, though, Boots is the producer who gave Beyoncé edge at the start of the year by lacing her fem-nominal album “Beyoncé” with recordings of true-life space tragedies. Factually this isn’t exactly true, but I’m not gonna lose much sleep.

8. All due respect to ‘All Due Respect’! Love those cabana nights bongos, and Jamie spits all over this joint like spitting was socially acceptable (it isn’t, and Jamie should really consider whether this mode of delivery sits well with him. He should also be ashamed of the euphemism “joint”).

9. ‘Love Again’: whimsical reflection on a (presumably married) couple’s compunction to suck each other’s junk. This is the album’s heart.

10. through 12. Just gangbusters, really. Please buy a copy tonight.

I Was a Facebook Farceur

Although you don’t know me, you may share my woe: I’m addicted to Facebook, and it’s killing my soul. No longer am I able to scroll through my NewsFeed without a corresponding upsurge of anger inside me, but eminently able, nonetheless, to continue to scroll, to mortify my flesh. There I sit (in the sepsis of my solipsistic times), tottering away at a screen filled with stills of far-flung holidays, photogenic weddings, the filter-bleached writhing of another public coupling. It’s a full-fledged dependency, engendered and enlivened by a stupid, vicarious FOMO: invariably I’ll scroll down my Feed till I find the post last seen, and, moving upward, proceed to fill myself in. Yes, it’s obscene; but it’s especially bad since my “Like” quota dropped to an all-time low. Oh, how?

Toward the end of last year, a good, a problematically good friend and I found ourselves in contention for the same full-time position at work. His getting the job was a fait accompli, one which I took with the customary good grace: rejecting their offer of continued temp work, I announced my intention to leave and teach English in London, spurred not by any personal desire to do so – having never laid awake at night and yearned for days spent in some run-down reformatory in a drizzly borough in an alien city, quelling riots, deflecting chavs – but rather, I suspect, by the reel of photos of European holidays that constitutes my NewsFeed. An acquaintance of mine, a committed pinger, had been posting pictures of his tireless revelry, his hostel hijinks and his questionable company, and there my quivering finger might have poised above his baby face, beaming, as it did, from the latest exotic locale: yes, I must have thought to myself, if he can teach in London, then so can I.

My announcement announced, arrangements were made for my Farewell Do, my Big Bon Voyage. And henceforth – though I hate to admit it – proceeded my Big F.U… for I was a chronic cyber-prankster. I was a Facebook farceur.

My method, in my hay day (when I was racking up “Likes” like rappers greenbacks in their musical memoirs) was to start off with some straight-seeming declaration – say, “I’m going to London!”, perhaps – then, through a series of increasingly absurd statuses, pull off something like a mocking reproval of anyone stupid enough (read: insufficiently abreast of my affairs) to have ever believed a word I’d said. It was a method that had its genesis in a happy happenstance: in the formative days of my farceur’s apprenticeship, a friend (who, unsurprisingly, is currently in Canada, was last seen in a photo in a hammock with a lady) wrote, and posted for all to see, the news that I was now “a proud dad”. And this was nothing new – was a comment, in fact, on my existing chicanery – but because it was so seemingly earnest, apparently untouched by irony, it garnered a sharper, more generous attention than my own overtly fanciful fare. Suddenly, congratulations were coming in with the faux-enthusiasm that only estranged, disinterested Facebook friends can muster. It was a marvellous feat, a social comment, and I made sure to capitalise on it.

Three days later my status read:

“David Roberts is missing his little man :’-( It’s Simon’s first day at school today. They grow up so fast.”

The big rug-puller was a hectic epic, and remains, today, my most beloved status. It began:

“In the first sentence, David’s non-existent son Simon has already left primary and is priming himself for high school, at which point a sub-clause discloses that David’s equally non-existent wife – a brilliant intellectual and bra model both – is having her second phantom pregnancy, Simon having been her first…”

…Which was all swell fun, a mischievous kick, and all taken well by my unseen audience. Unbridled fun, and so instantaneously brought about, all of it so airily, unthinkingly done: I never saw the reaction of the people I pranked, or could easily dismiss their rejoinders, their comments. Indeed, such fun was all this arse-about that one might say I got carried away. One might say that I became, in slipping real-time, the splitting image of my Facebook persona. And meanwhile there grew an unmistakable impatience with all this unremitting shtick…

But there remained an avid fan-base to whose dwindled and day-by-day disenchanted members I continued to feel I owed something. In their interest (insofar as they were the extension of my burgeoning ego), my daily and nightly antics became more frantic, heedless, hedonistic. I haven’t space here to reproduce the statuses that span what amounts to a public meltdown performed in a ridiculously private sphere of mostly acquaintances equipped, by this point, with a fervent anti-David sentiment. And still, because the whole thing was ridiculous, a snarkier but just-as-disingenuous projection of a life to stand, in rank and file, with the other projections being ceaselessly NewsFed to my Facebook ‘friends’, that seething mass – because of all of this, a last-ditch status like the following, written while alone in a bar, failed to raise concern, and, what seemed far worse, accrued no more than a measly two “Likes”:

“David Roberts doesn’t know why his reminiscence is lit with some transcendental glow, but lo: there he is, but a year beforehand, and young, an eternal eager-beaver and mistaken, misunderstood performance artist (whose project, his life, is a work-in-progress), sidling up to a seat just aft of a lass in limbo (her eyes at half-mast in tribute, perhaps, to her graveyard of slain brain-cells), and saying, so it slips out the side of his mouth, “I was here, but a year in the past” etcetera, that infernal and asinine rigmarole. (And around and around and around we go.)”

What this was trying to explain, but was, amid the maelstrom of established bullshit, unable to explain, to begin to explain, was that since this FB palaver had kicked off I’d gradually lost my grasp on who I was in the wider, unmediated world. My colleagues had held that farewell months before and, since I’d convinced myself with, yes, no more than Facebook statuses that I was bound for London Town – since, in essence, reality no longer mattered, like that of the extended bender on which I was wasting the money meant for the trip I didn’t want to take – I’d reasoned that the consequences of my non-attendance would be pace my Facebook non-engagement: I’d never have to answer to their confusion, their annoyance, because they would not see me, and I would not see them.

Then London, rudely, didn’t happen. At first I’d laughed it off: I’d Facebook checked in at the airport with my grand goodbyes as I sat in the squalor of my Sydney apartment. “Have fun!” chimed the last of my credulous friends, instilling in me equal parts tenderness and contempt: Don’t they know by now that nothing means a damn? And then, as I hung perilously above rock bottom, I was offered, unbelievably, temp work at my old workplace. And nobody there could believe a word I said.

Oh, but don’t worry: I’m doing fine. I’m on the way out again, though I don’t hold my breath for a farewell this time. And FB? To this date, my last status reads:

“David Roberts is writing, for publication on his blog, a piece which discusses how Facebook stole his soul and destroyed his life.”

Ugh: you know what? Not even that’s true. The last status proper, the true last status reads:

“David Roberts did it! He’s finally” – get this; oh this one’s gold – “he’s finally well-adjusted!”