Eating For Free at the #1 Restaurant in Calcutta!

When the Telegraph ask if you want to go for a free meal to the #1 rated restaurant in the city to try their new seasonal menu and interview the chef, you of course say yes! This was my first assignment for my internship here, and it was some way to start. Dum Pukht was my first taste of proper Indian food, having spent a good part of last week eating plain rice while curled up sick in bed. This piece is something a bit different for me, but was fun to put together – hope you enjoy reading!

In Calcutta, the #1 and #2 rated restaurants in the city are a thirty second walk away from each other’s doors. Not far from the main entrance of the extravagant ITC Sonar hotel, which is home to six restaurants and a nightclub, you’ll find the rustic Peshawri, which offers a wide variety of Indian cuisine. But within throwing distance is Dum Pukht, the restaurant that has held the #1 spot on TripAdvisor for the last two years. Chef Zubair Qureshi tells us, with a grin, “They know we are #1. There is a lot of friendly competition”.

It is perhaps, then, in the spirit of friendly competition that Dum Pukht is offering a brand new menu throughout February – one which is built around the culinary delights of qaliya curry. From the 1st until the 28th, Dum Pukht is serving a selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian qaliya dishes, ranging from Gosht Chaap Qaliya – lamb chops cooked with yoghurt, brown onion and almond paste – to Nadru Kofta Qaliya – marbles of minced lotus stem and hara masala finished in yellow gravy.

Dum Pukht invited T2 down to the ITC Sonar to try their new dishes, and it was certainly an incredible dining experience. From the moment we arrived, greeted by opulently dressed staff and the huge white stone curves of the front entrance, through to the moment we left – the ITC Sonar was a remarkable venue, and home to some of the best food in Calcutta.

We arrived at Dum Pukht at about half seven, when the kitchen had only just opened and the restaurant was empty. This allowed us to take in the beautiful décor of the room – moody orange and white lights illuminate a marble floor, while onyx cladding along the walls complete the ambience. The kitchen at the back is surrounded entirely by windows, allowing diners to see (and hear) the food being created, and offering a real sense of spaciousness.

It was at this point that we were given the chance to taste a few items on the menu. First up was the Gosht Chaap Qaliya, lamb chops cooked to perfection in a wonderfully rich sauce. Second, and my personal favourite, was the Mahi Dum Sarso Qaliya, a whole baby bhetki fish marinated with mustard, yellow chilli and yoghurt, finished on dum. This fish has an incredible texture: creamy and salty in the extreme, melting in the mouth like butter.

Last was the Gosht Chandi Qaliya, which chef Qureshi said was his own personal favourite, and the dish he would order from his own menu. This piece of boneless lamb is slow-cooked for four hours until it falls off the bone, and the tastes of cardamom, saffron and turmeric increase the intense flavour. The dish is topped with a garnish of silver leaves for a decadent finish.

The long preparation time of these dishes epitomises the slow-cooking style which Dum Pukht is named after. It is a style of cooking which originated in Persia, but has since become a part of Indian and Pakistani cuisine. For the qaliya dishes, chef Qureshi says he starts from a simple base of yoghurt, coriander and assorted spices before building up his recipes. Each is laboured over carefully, as evidenced by the delicious flavours on show.

Mr Qureshi is a chef with plenty of experience – he has been cooking at Calcutta’s Dum Pukht for over seven years now, and before that spent another six at Dum Pukht in Delhi, at the hotel ITC Maurya. He grew up in Agra, surrounded by a family of chefs, and his grandfather was khansama to the Raja of Mahmudabad in Uttar Pradesh. To put it simply, he knows what he is doing.

All of that experience has been poured into the new qaliya menu which Dum Pukht is providing throughout the course of February. This is an experience not to be missed for anyone who loves great food, great service and world class accommodation.

How to Not Get Laid on Valentine’s Day

Hello everyone. Today is Valentine’s Day, and that means network television and organized broadcasting the world over will be delivering you a steady drip-feed of romantic sap to fuel your plans for getting laid. For those of you who have no such plans – for the freedom fighters rocking it solo on the most depressing day of the year – I’ve put together this list. Here are my favourite subversive movie romances: the tales of love that were weird, dark, or entirely unexpected. All are guaranteed to not get you laid on Valentine’s Day.

Wall-E

Yes, Wall-E. Wall-E is a movie about a pair of binoculars on wheels who falls in love with a floating trash can, and in the process of trying to court her accidentally ends up saving the Earth from a biological apocalypse. For my money, this is Pixar’s finest hour: a screwball romantic comedy starring two robots who never speak, and yet tell us so much about climate change, the nature of humanity and the power of love. And who could forget that intergalactic slow-dance through the vacuum of space, Wall-E flying around with his little fire hydrant, wide eyes staring longingly at his robot darling?

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater’s ‘Before’ trilogy contains two of the most romantic movies ever committed to film, but there’s something a little different about Before Midnight, its third and final act. This movie is about the parts of a relationship that don’t get idealized in movies: the late stages, where two people have become so comfortable with each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies they know each other better than themselves. Linklater’s depiction of marriage is dangerously intimate, and shocking in its pragmatism. “If you want true love, this is it. This is real life. It’s not perfect, but it’s real.”

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien is a coming of age story about two Mexican teenagers who embark on a road trip with an alluring older woman. All three characters have secrets, and Cuaron’s depiction of young love, lust and jealousy are scintillating as the group make their way across Mexico, a backdrop which seethes with political and economic turmoil. Much of Y Tu Mama Tambien’s power rests on a masterful romantic turn at the very end of the movie which I won’t spoil here, but which forces the viewer to reassess everything that came before.

Her

Spike Jonze’s Her is one of the most contemporary and socially aware romances made this decade. In it, Joaquin Phoenix’s Theo falls in love with an artificial intelligence inside the operating system of his apartment, played by Scarlett Johannson. The unusual pair develop a growing intimacy throughout the course of some wonderfully written conversations about sentience, commitment and the nature of feeling. Her is both a glorious satire of modern humankind’s obsession with technology, and a touching, passionate story about the limits of what can (and cannot) be loved.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This excellent movie is all about love and memory: what we remember of the people we used to love, and how we might forget about someone we’ve stopped loving. Couple Joel and Clementine have a vicious argument, causing Clementine to seek the assistance of new age corporation Lacuna Inc, who have the ability to remove all her memories of the relationship. A devastated Joel resigns himself to the same procedure, but midway through decides against it, and the majority of the film takes place inside his mind as he fights to save his memories of Clementine from being erased. Imaginative, futuristic and totally unique: this is a romance like no other.

Why You Have to See ‘The End of the F***ing World’

I punched my dad in the face and stole his car. That seemed like a good place to start”. So says seventeen-year old psychopath James (Alex Lawther), in the first episode of UK drama/comedy The End of the F***ing World, which made its international debut on Netflix this past month. James is a troubled child with a traumatic past, and in his spare time he sneaks off into the woods to murder cats, dogs, and butterflies. He is planning to murder his first human target when he meets Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a brash and outwardly confident young girl at his school who he pretends to fall in love with.

Things don’t quite go according to plan, and James’ scheme is put on hold when he and Alyssa decide to leave town in his dad’s car – but not before delivering the unfortunate man a punch to the face. This sets in motion a darkly comic and wildly unpredictable journey, brought to life by the fantastic acting of Barden and Lawther in the lead roles. Straight-faced and socially inept James is the perfect foil to Alyssa, whose fiery personality is a front for a lot of vulnerability and pain.

It quickly becomes clear that The End of the F***ing World is more than just a comedy with a dark sense of humour. As the series progresses, it tackles delicate topics like mental health, parental role models, masculinity and domestic abuse. But it does so very subtly, and never loses its ability to make us laugh out loud. In fact, some of the shows funniest moments are those that arise out of the bleakest situations: in a later episode, we are introduced to local drug dealer Johnny, who only ever wears shorts. “What did you wear to your ma’s funeral, Johnny?’ someone asks him. ‘Black shorts’, he replies.

The show’s production is fantastic all around, too. Its editing is snappy and stylish, cutting quickly between scenes and jumping backwards and forwards in time. The soundtrack features plenty of memorable songs, and a score put together by Graham Coxon of Blur. And the cinematography is gorgeous, particularly in the later episodes, which feature long shots of desolate, windswept beaches and sunsets.

The End of the F***ing World performs a deft balancing act between comedy and tragedy, making us laugh in order to get us thinking about some important and under-explored issues. It had me completely hooked for the entirety of its short duration, and it’s shocking ending left me wanting more. Simply put: The End of the F***ing World is one of the best shows to come out of the UK in some time, and wider international release on Netflix means you have no excuse not to check it out.

Confessions of an English Backpacker in Australia

Hello everyone. There hasn’t been a huge amount of content on the Wooden Man through January, because I’ve been busy preparing for my trip to India. I’ve now arrived in Kolkata and started my journalism internship at the Telegraph, so you can expect to start seeing regular content again. I’ll be posting most (if not all) of the pieces I write for the Telegraph on The Wooden Man, starting with a travel piece about my trip to Australia last year, which you can find below. Thanks for reading!

There are a lot of ways to swear in Australia. This was one of the first things I learned about the country, having newly arrived in Melbourne after a 26 hour flight from London, Heathrow. My friend and I were sat in a bar in the city’s north district with an Aussie bloke named Patrick, who’d had a few drinks and was now explaining, in great detail, the many ways you can swear in Aussie slang, and the different meanings behind each one.

As introductions go, it was certainly unique. We were struggling to pay attention, having spent all of the last two days on planes, trains and buses. When we arrived at our hostel (ambitiously titled The Mansion), I had slept for fourteen straight hours under the effects of jetlag and extreme tiredness. And now I was being delivered a drunken lecture in profanity by a man I could hardly understand.

My friend and I had decided, quite impulsively, to move to Australia for a year on a working holiday visa. I quit my job in Bristol and we flew out at the end of summer, arriving at the start of September. The city of Melbourne was our starting point: a fashionable and multi-cultural melting pot of Asian, European and Australian.

It might have been 10,500 miles away from London, but the second lesson I learned in Australia is that the world can sometimes be a very small place. While in Melbourne, I received a message from a friend I lived with at university, who told me he was working in Tasmania and coming to Melbourne that weekend to do some sightseeing. By complete chance, he had booked to stay in the exact same hostel we had, on the exact same floor, in a room three doors down from ours. The universe can be a crazy, mystical thing sometimes.

In our first week in Melbourne, my friend and I ended up at a hippy commune. A small group of us, based on a tip from someone at the hostel, made the long walk through the city’s Fitzroy district, in search of a restaurant that was rumoured to serve food on a pay-as-you-wish basis. When we got there, following a trail of wild lemurs through dark suburban streets, we were served Sri Lankan pancakes by dreadlocked staff wearing tie-dye t-shirts, as psychedelic New Age music played on the speakers overhead. That was an experience I won’t soon forget.

We stayed, for most of our trip, in hostels. There are plenty of horror stories about hostels, some of which I experienced first-hand. In one, there was a mysterious red stain on my bedsheets, which could have been either blood or ketchup. In another, an entire colony of ants emerged from out of the plughole at the same moment I decided to take a shower. And in another still, a backpacker on the same floor as ours consumed some illicit substances, then started screaming as he hallucinated that the hostel staff were demons with horse heads.

Generally, though, hostels are a fun and cheap way to live if you don’t mind the lack of privacy. Here are a few tips for anyone planning to stay in one: first of all, avoid that guy in every hostel who sits on the stairs and badly plays the guitar, in an attempt to impress the ladies. Second, don’t let yourself be bullied by dishonest hostel owners and landlords – the majority are very friendly, but there are some who try to take advantage of travelers who don’t speak the native language well, and don’t stand up for themselves.

And lastly, be aware of the person who sneaks into the communal kitchen and steals any food that isn’t padlocked shut. One anonymous backpacker in Brisbane became my mortal nemesis, after he/she repeatedly stole the strawberry jam (and nothing else) out of my fridge bag, forcing me to leave a very sternly worded note (that’s about as angry as the British get).

I mentioned already one stroke of fate. But there was another coincidence later in our trip, when my friend and I moved to the city of Sydney. The apartment we rented here was home to an Indian man by the name of Sheldon, who was originally from Goa but had moved to Australia to study. When we told him we were English, he said that he used to live in England, in a little town by the name of Chippenham. My friend and I stared at each other in disbelief – Chippenham is the very same small town both of us live in, and Sheldon had lived there for a year when we were in school. We’d probably walked right past him.

Sydney itself is a sight that has to be seen at least once: the grandeur of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, the hustle and bustle of George Street, the restaurants and bars shining under the coloured lights of Darling Harbour. I spent New Years Eve in the Botanical Gardens, queueing all day to get a view of the bridge and the spectacular fireworks show that brought in the New Year. That was a fantastic way to welcome 2017.

The nightlife, too, is very colourful. Sydney’s Ivy Bar is worth the cost of entry: an enormous complex spread out over two buildings, each with multiple stories where you can buy fancy cocktails, Australian beers and just about any other alcoholic beverage imaginable. The rooftop bar even features an open air swimming pool, if you fancy taking a dip while you sip.

The only downside is the cost. Everything in Sydney is very expensive, from the $15 pint of beer I spotted on a restaurant menu to the cost of a hostel, which can be as high as $60 a night. That’s about three times as much as you can expect to pay in other parts of Australia, and five times what you might pay in another country. For anyone thinking of making the trip, make sure you book accommodation far in advance: in Sydney, every hostel in the city will be booked a week ahead.

My favourite place in Australia, though, and the one I would recommend above all others, is Brisbane. Brisbane is a gorgeous city, one which seems to be in a perpetual state of tropical summer. The streets are busy but not crowded, and the views along Eagle Street Pier, which follows the river from the city center through the Botanical Gardens and beyond, are magical. If you take this path all the way down the river, the Brisbane River Walk is a hidden treasure – a running/cycle path built right on top of the river, which takes you right alongside the shining lights of Story Bridge.

Running and cycling are a huge part of Australian culture, both in Brisbane and beyond. If you make the trip, pack a pair of running shoes and experience it firsthand. At 5pm in Brisbane, the city becomes a fluorescent explosion of runners and cyclists as everyone leaves work, allowing you to witness Australia’s famous fitness culture for yourself.

And you can’t leave the country without experiencing a proper Aussie barbeque, either. Streets Beach is a must see in Brisbane: cross over the bridge from the city center into the South Bank, and there are parks, free access swimming pools, and a huge playground for the kids, all of which feature free barbeque stations. It’s the perfect way to soak up the sun and enjoy the city views.

Wherever you go in Australia there is lots to see, and backpacking is a cheap and exciting way to experience the sights and get off the beaten path. I was sad to leave, but the year I spent there was full of stories and people that I’ll remember for many years to come. If nothing else, I learned how to swear like a proper Australian.

The Wooden Man is going to India!

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As I alluded to in my last post, and as many of you will already know, I’ve got some exciting news to share. I’ve been accepted to complete an internship at The Telegraph in Kolkata, India, and will be leaving a few weeks from now at the beginning of February. It’s only a month long, but afterwards I will be travelling around India for a few months more, or as long as my finances allow.

The paper have said there may be an oppurtunity for me to write a travel blog which they will publish, but even if that doesn’t come to fruition I will be writing one for The Wooden Man. I want to bring lots of new content and ideas to the blog in 2018, so expect some form of travel diary and some tales from the East. Hopefully I’ll be able to share on The Wooden Man some (if not all) of the pieces I write for the paper, as well.

Outside of this, I have lots more ideas for content to come in the rest of 2018. I’m currently in the process of writing a short story which I will be posting here chapter by chapter once complete. It’s kind of a surreal mystery/horror story which features solvable logic puzzles, and is expanding beyond my initial idea for it as I write. This was going to be my next project after finishing AOTY, but it might go on the backburner until the summer now I’ve gotten the internship. You can definitely expect it at some point in 2018, though – I’m very excited about it.

Once I’m back in the summer, too, I’d like to start writing some different kinds of articles. Maybe conducting some interviews with local bands and rising artists, rather than just turning out reviews. And I’d also like to write some more interesting editorial pieces, the kind that require proper research and planning. We may also redesign the visual layout of The Wooden Man again to be a bit more appealing, and to get back in the habit of drawing.

I have some other plans for 2018 but it wouldn’t be as fun to spoil everything here, so you’ll just have to keep checking back in to see what’s in store. Hopefully this year will be even bigger and better than the last for The Wooden Man. I might even get a tan. Alavida!

Album of the Year 2017: The Complete List & Year in Review

Another year, another rundown of my favourite albums. It isn’t easy to write 50 record reviews in the space of a month, but that’s what I’ve done from the beginning of December to now, so thank you anybody who’s been reading. 2017 was the year I started trying to turn the Wooden Man from an internet dump of odds and ends into an active blog that I’ve been attempting to grow, and it’s exceeded my expectations so far.

My goal in April was to get it to 1000 views for the year, which I reached in mid-November. In the course of December and posting up AOTY, we hit just under 1600 views for the entirety of 2017, which is pretty sweet. I have lots more plans for 2018 and some big news to share (which many of you reading will have heard about already), but I’m going to put another post up tomorrow detailing all of that. For now, here’s my complete list of 2017, ranked #1 through #50, which was the basis for all the reviews. Clicking any album will take you to its individual post, and below the list are some thoughts about the year 2017 in music.

 

1.) Milo – Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?!?!                                               9.4
2.) Richard Dawson – PEASANT                                                                 9.2
3.) Brand New – Science Fiction                                                                 8.9
4.) Iglooghost – Neo Wax Bloom                                                               8.8
5.) Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly                                                        8.8
6.) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.                                                                      8.7
7.) Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me                                                   8.7
8.) Elder – Reflections of a Floating World                                               8.7
9.) Perfume Genius – No Shape                                                                  8.7
10.) Four Tet – New Energy                                                                          8.7
11.) Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent                                                      8.7
12.) Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun                                                                  8.6
13.) Gas – Narkopop                                                                                     8.6
14.) Algiers – The Underside of Power                                                        8.6
15.) Big K.R.I.T – 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time                                             8.6
16.) Idles – Brutalism                                                                                     8.5
17.) Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks S3 Soundtrack                             8.5
18.) Jay-Z – 4:44                                                                                              8.5
19.) Slowdive – Slowdive                                                                              8.5
20.) Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights                                                        8.5
21.) Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference                                   8.5
22.) Converge – The Dusk In Us                                                                   8.5
23.) Ryuichi Sakamoto – async                                                                    8.4
24.) Rina Sawayama – RINA                                                                         8.4
25.) James Holden – The Animal Spirits                                                     8.4
26.) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell Live                                                8.4
27.) Angles 9 – Dissapeared Behind the Sun                                              8.4
28.) King Krule – THE OOZ                                                                            8.4
29.) William Basinski – A Shadow in Time                                                  8.4
30.) Oddisee – The Iceberg                                                                            8.4
31.) The Horrors – V                                                                                         8.4
32.) Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkan Badass                                                   8.3
33.) Max Richter – Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works                   8.3
34.) Godflesh – Post Self                                                                                 8.3
35.) Tyler the Creator – Flower Boy                                                              8.3
36.) The National – Sleep Well Beast                                                           8.3
37.) Lorde – Melodrama                                                                                 8.2
38.) Billy Woods – Known Unknowns                                                         8.2
39.) Kelela – Take Me Apart                                                                           8.2
40.) Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins                                                                  8.2
41.) Blanck Mass – World Eater                                                                    8.2
42.) Sampha – Process                                                                                   8.2
43.) Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up                                                                           8.2
44.) Amenra – Mass VI                                                                                    8.1
45.) Various Artists – Mono No Aware                                                         8.1
46.) The XX – I See You                                                                                   8.1
47.) Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness                                                          8.0
48.) Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory                                                             8.0
49.) Alvvays – Antisocialites                                                                           8.0
50.) Brockhampton – Saturation 2                                                                8.0

 

So, 2017. The easy narrative of 2017 is the one about Trump and North Korea and Brexit, the one about impending doom and general gloom. And while I’m honestly bored of hearing that story, it is certainly true that politics was one of the biggest topics in music this year. Political music came out of every genre, from the mainstream to the underground, and some of my favourite albums came from artists with one eye on the streets.

IDLES, Joey Bada$$ and Algiers released the most overtly political records of the year, but it was everywhere you cared to look, from Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory to LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream. While I loved a lot of these albums, it’s interesting to see that my favourite records from 2017 were those that were not political at all; instead they were the records that felt like self-contained worlds, records that offered a form of imaginative escapism. File under this category the latest albums from Milo, Richard Dawson, Iglooghost, Elder and Angelo Badalamenti, all of which were stellar.

My pick for the most original album of 2017 would be a close call between Iglooghost’s Neo Wax Bloom, Benjamin Clementine’s I Tell a Fly, and Algiers The Underside of Power. All three of these albums do things I’ve never heard before in their respective genres, and were at the very cutting edge of music this year. For anyone who wants to hear something new, give these three a try.

On the whole, I would say 2017 has been a very good albeit not great year for music. Nothing except Milo came close to surpassing my favourite records of previous years, and only two albums reached a 9/10 rating. Nevertheless, the quantity of great albums released throughout the past 12 months was very high, and I was never short of amazing music to listen to.

I’d like to give a quick shoutout to Frank Ocean’s ‘Chanel’ as my favourite individual song of the year, because I tend to only write about albums and EPs on The Wooden Man. Frank has been the artist I think I’ve listened to most throughout 2017, an impressive feat considering he didn’t even put out a full length album. If I was rewriting AOTY 2016 I think it’s very likely blonde would come out on top, but that’s something to save for the list of my favourite albums of the decade, which you can expect in a few years time. Oh yes.

And that’s a wrap! Thank you everybody for tuning in to The Wooden Man in 2017, and if you check back tomorrow you can expect to find out what’s coming in 2018. I’m really excited for the year to come, and have lots of great content and ideas to share with you guys. Tell your friends, tell your Grandad, save me as a bookmark. See you next year.

 

On Sexual Predators and the Business of Shame

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Hello everyone. Before starting this article, which is going to be very serious, I’d just like to take a second to acknowledge that I recently hit 1000 views for 2017 on The Wooden Man, which has been a life goal I’ve been aspiring to for a while now. My aim was to reach that number before the end of the year, and I’ve hit it without even starting 2017’s Album of the Year, which is amazing. So thank you for reading, everyone.

1.) The Power of Celebrity

Now, as I’m sure anyone who has been following the news will have noticed, there have been several stories of high-profile sexual abuse, misconduct and harassment in mainstream media outlets and beyond over the past few weeks. First there was the Weinstein scandal, then the allegations against Kevin Spacey, who tried to deflect child abuse claims by coming out as bisexual.

Then there was Louis CK, and George Takei. And then, a week before me and my brother had tickets to see them live in the O2 Brixton, emo/rock band Brand New cancelled all upcoming shows following accusations of sexual misconduct against lead singer Jesse Lacey. Lacey admitted via a Facebook post he had manipulated women and cheated in the past, while ignoring (though clearly not denying) claims he solicited nude pictures from a fifteen year old girl.

That one was a particularly tough pill to swallow. Brand New were a band I, like many other people, was emotionally invested in. But listening to their music now makes me incredibly uncomfortable – lyrics that used to read as generalized relationship melodrama are now pretty plainly the confessions of an emotional abuser. Take these, from the anthemic ‘Me vs Maradona vs Elvis’, which I’m sure thousands of teenagers have belted out in their bedrooms:

‘I got desperate desires and unadmirable plans / My tongue will taste of gin and malicious intent / Bring you back to the bar get you out of the cold / My sober straight face gets you out of your clothes … You laugh at every word trying hard to be cute / I almost feel sorry for what I’m gonna do’

Perhaps we were being wilfully ignorant. If I’m honest, I knew listening to ‘Me vs Maradona vs Elvis’ that the song carried undertones of emotional if not sexual abuse, certainly a heavy dose of power and manipulation. But it’s easy to ignore when it comes from someone you admire, and that’s precisely the attitude that has enabled these men to do the things they have done, whether it was Lacey, Weinstein, Spacey, or anyone else.

The tidal wave of allegations that have been levelled against countless men in the last few weeks are a sign that sexual harassment and assault are far more widespread that many of us would dare admit, and are a chilling reminder of how celebrities can abuse the very real power we all collectively grant them.

 

2.) The Business of Shame

At the same time, the way these stories are being reported concerns me. I feel that the conversation surrounding these issues has shifted from a measured and very important discussion to a blind witch-hunt, and that respectable publications are sinking to tabloid tactics, throwing as many bodies as possible onto a funeral pyre of public shame while we all rub our hands with malicious joy.

Before I go any further, I want to share a screenshot I took from the frontpage of msn.com about two months ago, before any of the sexual misconduct stories broke. I was trying to log into Outlook and was stopped in my tracks by the page below, which struck me as hilarious and disgusting in equal measure:

msn ss

SLAMMED. Three of four top stories describe how different people are being SLAMMED, either for their appearance or their political views. Another two stories below describe people who are furious about things, while the rest are cheap attempts at provocation (Dec on holiday, the Grenfell lady). If it wasn’t already disgustingly apparent, shame and fury are the language of tabloid journalism.

But the wider media world is well versed in that language, too. In the days after the Jesse Lacey story broke, I checked the News section of music website Pitchfork regularly, and every single time I did I found a new story of sexual misconduct or harassment. That isn’t an exaggeration. Here are six separate stories in which people have been accused of sexual misconduct, and one in which Morrisey gets publicly shamed for defending Kevin Spacey:

https://pitchfork.com/news/russell-simmons-accused-of-sexually-assaulting-a-minor/

https://pitchfork.com/news/fyf-fest-founder-sean-carlson-accused-of-sexual-assault/

https://pitchfork.com/news/pinegrove-cancel-tour-after-accusation-of-sexual-coercion-against-frontman-evan-stephens-hall/

https://pitchfork.com/news/morrissey-defends-kevin-spacey-questions-accusers-motives/

https://pitchfork.com/news/backstreet-boys-nick-carter-accused-of-rape/

https://pitchfork.com/news/the-gaslamp-killer-sues-over-rape-allegations/

The story about Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter is about twenty minutes old as of my writing this – I checked in with Pitchfork once more before finishing this article and found yet another sexual misconduct story. Two of the above stories are regarding people I’ve never even heard of, but am presumably still supposed to be outraged about. And the last one is crucial, because it details an accusation of sexual misconduct which as of writing is unverified and currently being settled in court, but which led to The Gaslamp Killer being dropped from his label and event organizer.

Now, please don’t think for a second that I’m defending the actions, proven or alleged, of any of these men. Of course I am not. Any form of sexual misconduct, anything non-consensual in any way, is deplorable and disgusting. But many publications are walking a thin line at the moment, and a lot of unverified information is being thrown around just to add fuel to the fire of this story.

And here’s something else important to think about: the front page of msn.com is full of ads. Those ads are paid for by businesses that are literally cashing in on public outrage. Likewise, Pitchfork are making money every single time anyone clicks one of the links above, and the fact that all these stories have risen to the top of the front page suggests that many people are.

Public shame is a business, one which is very cleverly able to hide its dubious motives behind a veil of righteous indignation. Yes, it is a good thing that these stories come to light if they make people step back and realize the extent of sexual misconduct. But ask yourself – do you really think publications like Pitchfork, even the BBC, are primarily pushing these stories because of a social justice agenda? Or is it because scandal sells, and sexual misconduct is a huge views driver?

I think it is the latter, and I’d like to suggest people take a step back to think about WHY they are outraged, WHO they are really outraged at, and WHICH corporations are making money from that outrage.

PS please don’t publicly shame me for writing this

The Wooden Man