The boring mental health one

I always find talking about my mental health weird and difficult, particularly in this kind of capacity. I’ve been meaning to do this forever though, and I guess some form of insight into what I’m like in my head wouldn’t go amiss. It’s often pointed out to me that I’m quite a closed off person so it’s going to be a bit of a push for me to open up.
I think one of the most difficult things is to say what exactly is “wrong” with me. I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety but the longer I’ve gone, the more I’ve researched and the more treatments I’ve tried I’ve begun to realise they’re probably part of a wider spectrum of things. Before I was discharged from therapy I asked my therapist if they thought I had OCD as, from reading into it (the invasive thoughts among various other behaviours), it seemed almost certain to me that it was the case. We did a brief assessment, agreed it’s more than likely the case but I manage to control it to a decent level the majority of the time. The little things I do to control it go largely unnoticed now.
So to reiterate, I know some of the symptoms but I’m not totally sure of the exact illness. I’m ok with that, I don’t think it needs a label aside from if anything goes horrible again and I end up back in therapy. Don’t get me wrong, I benefitted a lot from therapy, I’d just really rather not go through it again. And that isn’t even really for the actual therapy element. My main issues were based in having to deal with my GP. They weren’t mental health specialists, which I understand. But my initial meeting was about anxiety attacks, feeling suicidal etc. You know, that old chestnut. They nodded along and wrote a prescription for Citalopram. I didn’t react well with Citalopram. It made my invasive thoughts a lot worse and I had uncontrollable urges to harm myself in a variety of unorthodox ways. After a couple of weeks of freaking out, hoping I’d settle into it, and doing my own research I discovered that with OCD and other “control based” mental illnesses, Citalopram is generally quite a bad fit. So I went back to change my medication and had to tell the GP what I needed, which was Fluoxetin/Prozac. I still didn’t get along with Prozac, it basically turned me into a zombie for about a year and I have very little memory of my time on it, but I wasn’t having panic attacks or freaking out every day so I stuck with it. In that time I was on a waiting list for therapy.
Therapy was good for me, even though I’ll admit I get really paranoid of people knowing things about me so I held back a fair bit of information. It’s odd but even though my therapist was there to help I still didn’t want them to know how violent my invasive thoughts can sometimes get. That’s the other thing, I’m not a violent person so to have thoughts like that really scared me. The line between what is just an invasive thought and what is an urge is sometimes very blurred and it’s distressing to think I was/am capable of such creative and aggressive thoughts. Right now those thoughts are very much under control because I’m generally in an ok place in my head. At the moment I’m just the kind of standard depressed person who doesn’t have the energy to do things I need to do (I write a to do list almost every day, with little things like household chores and even reminders to shower and eat included in it) but also never wants to sleep. I’ll literally stay awake until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. I’ve found Pokémon Go helpful with that, it means I’m out walking a lot so I end up more easily worn out and sleep better/more.
But yeah, I don’t really want to waffle on too much but I guess if you have any questions just ask? I’m usually quite open about it but I don’t like it being all over social media, so where possible I prefer to do it in private.

Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

It’s been a while since Thrice last released a studio album, almost five years in fact. So today is a day I’ve been in anticipation of for quite some time. They’ve always been my favourite band for their drive in pushing forward and trying new sounds and approaches to songwriting and To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is no exception.

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I was tempted to write this as a track-by-track but we’d be here for days so I’ll just go over the main highlights.

The most noticeable singular element of almost all of Thrice’s more recent work has to be the guitar tones, and TBEITBN follows suit. The cleans sound so crisp, bluesy and piercing without drawing your attention from the rest of the song, and the heavier tones feel like a warm musical hug, but not in a way that drowns out the more subtle elements. If you listen to The Window and Black Honey you’ll understand. And the vocals. Oh, the vocals. I’ve been in love with Dustin Kensrue’s voice for around 14 years but it seemed to reach a new level on Beggars and Major/Minor. It’s all gravelly and lovely. Blood On The Sand and Death From Above are my favourites for showcasing exactly what I mean.

They’re lyrically just as strong as ever too, I’ve been sat here for ages trying to pick some of my favourite examples but I can’t. They’re all just so so good. There’s such a wide variety as well, with some political songs such as Death From Above (which seems to be written from the perspective of a drone pilot) being a clear contrast to Stay With Me, the track directly before Death From Above and is more like a love song. Songs like Stay With Me show how incredible Thrice consistently are at constructing songs, there isn’t a single dull or out of place chorus on the whole album but the thought that goes into the writing is so evident in Stay With Me. They know when to keep it simple and when to play with time signatures of structures, and do so in other songs, but Stay With Me is fairly straightforward but not lacking in brilliance.

From watching the studio updates on YouTube, they said they were bringing in new music but trying to shine light on various eras of the band’s duration and it’s been so carefully done to make it seem either accidental or casual. In places it feels like an amalgamation of the best bits of the albums following The Artist In The Ambulance that you’d only really notice if you had them pointed out to you or if you’re a Thrice nerd like me.

The chorus for Death From Above brings about memories of Silhouette though I can’t place way (probably the time signature and general heaviness), and Whistleblower would fit perfectly on Vheissu, but by far the easiest one to point out is Salt And Shadow. It’s such a perfect album closer, reminiscent of some of the tracks from the Air chapter of The Alchemy Index. It almost feels like a lullaby, with the multi-layered vocals lending themselves to probably the best ‘light’ song Thrice have ever written. I also love the way Salt And Shadow ends, it’s a very subtle hark back to the “You’ve got to play it again” from The Beltsville Crucible from The Illusion Of Safety but it’s so expertly done that it’s easy to miss.

I had high expectations for To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, as I do with every album by every band I love, and I’m so pleased to say they’ve all been exceeded. I know a lot of other amazing albums have been released this year but TBEITBN has shot to the top, with most of the songs mentioned here being among the best songs I’ve heard for a long time.

Screaming Into The Abyss

A few people have asked for this so here we go.

Firstly, this isn’t in response to the Neil deGrasse Tyson video about the presence of aliens in the universe, but it is something I think about a lot. If you’d like to watch it, the link is here.

It’s always a weird thing to consider. Humans seem to have this arrogance that if there is life ‘out there’ that they are not only able to communicate with us, but also that they want to communicate with us. It could be that they’ve received our messages but didn’t see it as worth replying for whatever reason.

There are a number of other reasons why we’ve not been contacted, of course. Maybe we’re going about it in entirely the wrong way. Humans can only see around 2% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear around 1-2% of the acoustic spectrum. Even on Earth there are life forms that can’t communicate with one another. I’m sure we’ve all read that story of the lonely whale who could only make noises out of the hearing range of the rest of their species and was thus unable to communicate. Considering this happens on Earth it isn’t too far fetched for it to happen anywhere else. It could be life on other planets have tried to contact us and we’re just unable to ‘hear’ the message. Or they see a different 2% of the electromagnetic spectrum and as a result we’re just ghosts to one another.

Another thing is the timing of our attempts to contact alien life. Say it takes 50 years for our message to reach whoever may receive it, it would have to reach them at a time within their development or evolution where they’d be able to collect and interpret that data, then form a response that we’d understand. We’ve tried to send references for them to use in building their response, but what if they didn’t understand that was what it was for? There are ancient languages on this planet that we’re unable to translate. Given the universe is around 13.8 billion years old, we might be contacting a civilisation in it’s infancy, or conversely a civilisation where our technology is considered to be archaic. They might view television and radio the way we view ancient Egyptian methods of communication at the very least. And even if they are able to receive our message, decide to reply, manage to form a response, know where to send it then transmit it back to us, it would probably still take another 50 years to reach us. So from our original transmission we’re talking at least 100 years for it to get back to us, assuming the 50 year model. If we extend that to 500 years we won’t hear back for a millennium, at which point our technology may very well have moved on to the point we can’t receive those messages anymore.

To go back to Dr deGrasse Tyson, he’s been widely quoted as saying that with the universe as huge as ours, saying there’s no alien life based on the areas we’ve looked for it is like looking into a drop of water and concluding there is no life in the oceans. There are currently approximately 10-14 million species on Earth and over 5 billion species having ever existed. It seems bizarre that all of these will have been condensed onto one tiny speck in a universe that is billions of light years wide.

Eurovision. Eurowow.

Hoorah, hooray, it’s Eurovision Day!

It’s hard to write this without giving away too many of the tweets I have saved in my drafts on Twitter. There are a few things to cover though.

Firstly, a handful of people have asked me what Eurovision is. In short, it’s an international music contest featuring basically every country in Europe (and Australia, though nobody really knows why). Whoever wins hosts it the next year, this year it’s in Sweden, and it’s broken down into two semi finals and a grand final.

Each semi final consists of 18 acts, of which 10 go through. These are then added to the previous winner’s entry and the “Big Five” to make a final of 26 acts. The Big Five are the five countries who make the largest financial contribution to the competition, and in doing so get a free pass to the final. The Big Five are France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. It’s probably a good thing the UK get a free pass every year because if we didn’t there’s no way our past few entries would have made it to the final, especially not this year. Honestly. It’s dog shit.

But yeah, some people didn’t watch the semi finals because they’re super duper shit and would rather watch just 26 of the 42 entries so here’s a brief run down of what they missed from not watching it. You missed Bosnian rapping, Greek rapping, a gravelly man representing San Marino, an Estonian card trick, some droney rock shite from Montenegro, Nicky Byrne from Westlife, a man from Belarus who was naked and howling in a wolf’s face and a few handsome men from Denmark. Sucks to be you. If you’re able to watch them on iPlayer I’d recommend it, but skip through the sketches in between. Again, utter dog shit. Especially the BBC’s attempt at a comedic version of a Scandinavian drama. I’d rather watch my grandparents fuck than go through that again.

As for the ones to look out for in the final, Belgium are the openers of the competition. This is a shame as it suggests they may not do well with the voting, but it’s a very typical 90s Eurovision song complete with a glittery jacket and some snazzy dancing. I’ve got the Netherlands, Israel and Bulgaria in my top five even though they’re also relatively early in the running list too. All strong songs with a bit of something extra to help you remember them. I’m not giving anyway away though, you’ll have to watch to see what I mean.

A couple of other songs I’ve been singing to myself lately are Croatia’s entry and Latvia’s entry. Both pretty big outsiders as far as the bookies are concerned but they’re just about memorable enough to get a decent spot in my opinion.

The others kind of tend to merge into a big mess with only a few others standing out, some for the wrong reasons. Poland’s entry has some of the worst lyrics of the competition and the singer looks like Weird Al Yankovic, and the less said about Georgia’s entry the better. I just hope the people in the venue are protected with some form of eye protection. It’s a light show that can be seen from space.

Anyway this has been brief as fuck but I’m excited and I’m not gonna spunk my best material away here so you’ll have to wait until 8pm tonight when I start live tweeting the whole fucking thing.

Attention Artists and Small Businesses!

I have news!

I really hope this is of use to some of you. I’m sure it will be.

You know at the start of this year I was sorting things about buying equipment to start manufacturing myself, and as a result also being able to manufacture for other small businesses and independent artists? If you didn’t, you do now. Well I’ve been working on things and have finally started producing my own mugs and tote bags. This should speed up delivery time for those items, and a few others that’ll be developing soon. For the moment I’m not going to be making phone cases myself as it means having to guess the number of blank cases I’ll need for each model and I don’t have the storage at home to accommodate them at the moment.

This means two things. One, I’ll be able to make stuff for brands, bands and artists. Either in bulk or to order. I’m still working on prices as it’s fairly new but from what I’ve seen it’ll be pretty competitive. I already have the mug prices worked out. I know a few people have been looking to add some items to their stores but didn’t want to pay for a lot of items etc in bulk. That’s not a worry now! I can make them for you as the orders come in, and even send them direct to your customers if you like.

Before moving on to number two, I’ve also recently purchased a lovely thing called a light tent for my product photos. Once I’ve got that fully sorted and worked out I’ll also be offering pictures of the items I make for you as part of the package. That’d be especially useful for anyone who’d prefer for me to send items straight to their customers.

Second, I’ve started work on a new set of products to sell under a different brand name under the Mr Crypt umbrella. A few of my designs are vaguely linked to the BDSM/kink/DDlg community (my Daddy’s Little Princess being one of the most notable) so I decided to roll with that and make a few more. I’m working on the same sort of items as I sell through Mr Crypt alongside new products that I’ll soon be introducing to both brands. The new brand is called Little And Hyde and at the moment largely works around pet names and terms of endearment used for partners. Very soon these will be customisable for people who have less common names for their partners. There’ll also be a range of colours etc too. It’s all very exciting!

In other news I’m looking to do more big pieces, particularly ukuleles and woodburn projects. I already have two ukulele plant pots that need painting and finishing off and you kindly picked a theme for a skateboard deck by voting on Twitter. There’ll also be pint glasses coming very soon to mrcrypt.bigcartel.com. In the meantime, head over and get some lovely stuff!

Blink 182 – Bored To Death

I know there are no doubt thousands of people writing in reaction to the new Blink 182 song but I’ve been waiting for this for a long time so I’m adding one more to the mix.

I’m not going to dissect the whole song and discuss each tiny element, and I’m also going to try to avoid direct comparisons between Tom DeLonge and Matt Skiba because, in all honesty, that kind of thing feels a bit lazy. However it has to be noted there are obvious differences that serve to highlight the influence each has had on the songwriting process. This is also Blink’s first time working with John Feldmann, so it’s hard to say which elements are present because of his and Skiba’s involvement, or simply down to Tom not being there.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of “spacey” guitar effects, not that I hated them on some of the more recent Blink releases but I find this song to be far more direct in terms of tone, and it’s also worth mentioning how quickly the vocals come in. The whole thing feels very condensed; almost all of Bored To Death has vocals in some form going on. The whoa-oh bits drag on a bit but I understand it. It gives Travis a time to do what he does best and drum the heck out of everything. There’s also a fair bit of whoa-ing on recent Alkaline Trio albums, so that could be Skiba’s influence shining through.

While we’re on the topic of Skiba, I’ve been a huge fan of Alkaline Trio (and their associated projects) for years, I think I bought From Here To Infirmary around 15 years ago. As soon as I found out he was going to be working with Mark and Travis on this album I was so excited, more excited than I probably was for Neighbourhoods and Dogs Eating Dogs. His introduction seems to have given Blink a new energy. Not necessarily better or worse, as people are so often drawn to say, just different. I’m also excited to see the impact it could have on bands who are either friends with Alkaline Trio, or involve Dan or Derek (The Lawrence Arms, The Falcon and Hot Water Music to name just three).

I’m kind of rambling and just throwing random thoughts into this so I’ll round it up before I get too heavily into it, as that’s something I’m trying to avoid. It’s 10 years since Mark and Travis released When Your Heart Stops Beating with +44 and Bored To Death sounds like a kind of natural progression from that. It has a certain urgency about it, Mark’s vocals are as good as they’ve been for years, Skiba’s vocals are probably as good as I’ve ever heard them and for the first time since Take Off Your Pants And Jacket it genuinely sounds like everyone involved is enjoying what they’re doing.

Anyway, I’m finishing this here. There’ll be a drawing based off the lyrics for Bored To Death coming soon but I wanted to upload this in the meantime.

Heavy Music

We’ve all described a band as “heavy as fuck” because they play really fast and loud, the vocals are indiscernible and the drums are mainly blast beats and double bass pedals. Heavy heavy heavy. Fast fast fast. Shouty shouty shouty.

Based on these criteria it’s really no surprise that people tend to exclude the likes of Radiohead and Björk in their lists of heavy artists. However, if we reconsider what it takes to make music “heavy” then they definitely can be at times.

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When I saw Refused (I’ll try not to mention this much but I’m still buzzing from it) they were supported by Anna von Hausswolff. I wasn’t sure what we were expecting, having never listened to her before, but her performance was certainly an experience. In hindsight I did really enjoy it but at the time it was all a bit of a shock to the senses. I’ll try to describe her style of music as best I can. Say, for example, you’re watching a horror film. It’s set in a forest. It’s just starting to get dark and the main characters are about to encounter a whole world of awfulness. A song begins to play to add further tension. You think to yourself “Oh shit, someone’s about to die in this film.” One main character watches another die and survives to carry the burden of what they’ve seen with them for the rest of their life. Even this doesn’t do Anna von Hausswolff’s music justice but I’m sure you’re at least part of the way with me in understanding. My brother described it as “Disney doom.” It carries hope and loss at the same time, the sort of music that could be played to lament a loved one.

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It was heavy as fuck. Drone-y, in a good way, and at times the tone of the organs and keyboards filled me with a dreadful weight. That weight in itself is what I sometimes refer to when I say a band or musician is heavy, which is what I mean when I say Radiohead and Björk have their heavy moments. Their songs have a tendency to create tension and inspire an internal sense of longing and dread, and that’s far heavier than any blast beat can be. I’d class Videotape by Radiohead and Sæglópur by Sigur Rós as two of the heaviest songs I’ve ever heard (I’m sure I’ll think of others later on but for now these two demonstrate what I mean pretty much perfectly).

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Despite this kind of music requiring a more focused form of listening (I find I can’t just have it as background music, it demands my full attention) I’m always looking out for more of this style. I guess you can also count Explosions In The Sky, This Will Destroy You and some pieces by Sigur Rós in this bracket. So please recommend songs or artists/bands to me. I’d love to have my mind blown and my head fucked a little more.

Seeing Refused

This is over a month late but whatever.

The Shape Of Punk To Come is my favourite album of all time. I don’t say that lightly, I’m pretty much the biggest music snob I know (something I’m not proud of but can’t seem to break from). I first heard it when I was about 14 or 15 – around 2002, fuck you, I’m old – and immediately fell in love with everything Refused were about. It broke my heart when I found out they broke up several years prior to me discovering them. I’d never get to see them live. Sad faces everywhere.

Then! In 2011! There were rumours of a reunion! Followed by an announcement that they’d be performing at Sonisphere 2012! I already had tickets for Sonisphere and the news had my dick so hard my knees almost burst. Happy faces everywhere. Then, because at this stage fate was deciding to just fuck with me in the most awful of ways, Sonisphere was cancelled and Refused were added to the Download line up instead. The people with whom I was meant to be going to Sonisphere couldn’t make Download, so my wait to see Refused live continued. Sad faces again.

They did a couple of other festivals after that, which I couldn’t afford to attend, but last year they finally released a follow up to TSOPTC. As soon as I knew there was an album coming I hoped for a tour. Freedom was released last June and a tour was announced. We got tickets. Happy faces. I was half expecting it to be cancelled and more sad faces but nope. I finally saw them last weekend, after around 14 years of waiting. My brother didn’t even have to wait that long to see Guns N Roses (albeit not the ‘real’ Guns N Roses if you want to be a dickhead about it).

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The setlist was perfect, older tracks being combined sublimely with the songs from Freedom. They even found space for Coup d’État, Rather Be Dead and Life Support Addiction from Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent. As they closed with New Noise into Tannhäuser/Derivè, the atmosphere in the room was electric. From front to back, the whole room as getting into it either by singing along or by taking part in the pit with the oldest average age I’ve seen for a while.

Seeing a band live can sometimes ruin the magic or something like that, but The Shape Of Punk To Come is still my favourite album and Refused are still my favourite band. Happy happy faces.

Vegan aliens and a quick update

I feel like I should apologise in advance for this one, it’s pretty bizarre. A few weeks ago I tweeted that I’d had a dream about vegan aliens and a few people asked about it and it made sense to write about it here rather than make a thread on Twitter.

So you’ve already got the basics. It was a dream. About aliens. Who are/were vegan. They were your typical alien in terms of how they looked, which kind of annoyed me. I thought my imagination would at least interpret their appearance somewhat but no, just your standard “greys” doing their funky space thing. I don’t remember much about how they communicated but it wasn’t just body language and I don’t think it was 100% telepathic. Some of it was telepathic though; they projected an image into our minds of the future of our planet if we continued with our unsustainable practices with regard to animal agriculture, habitat destruction and insecticides that are harming pollinating insects. It was their aim to come to Earth and ask those of us already challenging one or more of these practices to go and live with them. We could stay if we wanted, so we could continue our efforts in striving for change on our home planet, or we could go with them to what seemed like a utopia with clean air and renewable energy.

I know this sounds really odd. I guess I was processing the mistakes made by humanity and imagining a world without them, in a way relevant to myself (which, of course, had to involve aliens). I say mistakes because that’s how I view them, in regard to the long-term health of Earth and everything living on it. It comes down to interpretation and which industries you support, if you even support any industry at all in their current forms. When I woke up it encouraged me to consider the longer-term effects of my decisions and actions. It also made me wonder if those who had made the decisions leading to our Earth being in its current state had been given an insight into the future like we had done in the dream, whether they’d continue with those actions or reconsider and attempt to find a more compassionate and sustainable approach. Obviously, some would change their minds and some would carry on regardless of any information that might persuade them otherwise. I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to imagine what the world could be like if various decisions had been made, and how they would have affected the global economy as well as the planet on an environmental level. It’d take days to write down all the possible outcomes, similar to writing out all the possible numerical combinations for a lottery, only slightly more extrapolated to include knock-on effects.

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Anyway, back to the dream. What did I choose? I chose to stay. I’ve always tended to shy away from the easy way out, which is what I thought agreeing to go with them to Planet Alien would be. Vegans often refer to themselves as a voice for the voiceless, the voiceless in this case being animals (as well as the humans directly and indirectly affected by animal related industries). The aliens were only asking vegans to go with them, so what would happen to the voiceless on our planet once their voice is taken away, once the people fighting to improve conditions and life for them are taken away? Leaving seemed like a way of washing my hands of the whole thing and saying I’d done my bit and wasn’t prepared to keep fighting.

So yeah, that’s what happened in the dream. It was all pretty lucid and getting it written down has made me realise I’ve probably levelled up as a vegan in terms of my thought processes.

If you’ve had one similar drop me a message somewhere and let me know. Or let’s just talk about aliens.

May as well chuck some updates for work at the end of here:

I finished an Andrew WK woodburn piece the other day, which was lovingly shared by Andrew on Twitter and Instagram. It was really fun to do so I’m glad it got a good reaction. I’m happy to take on custom woodburn pieces or just consider suggestions for future pieces.

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I was recently at the Nottingham International Tattoo Convention, which was a great learning experience. I’m considering my next move in regard to tattoo conventions, and conventions in general. I’d love to try some music and craft kind of conventions, I’ve also had a thought involving a local vegan coffee shop but I’ll have to see what happens with that.

And finally, bee and mandala tote bags are now available at mrcrypt.bigcartel.com 🙂

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Have a great day and be excellent to one another!

Guess who’s back with a brand new post.

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The last time I posted anything onto here was on June 8th. A lot has happened since then. I’m making it a genuine goal to attempt to post more often.

So what’s new?

Well. In the past eight months I’ve been featured in Kerrang and Classic Rock magazine. That was pretty ace. The Kerrang issue was the one containing a review for Refused’s first album for 17 years. I love Refused so that was massive for me.

I also provided a metric shitload of Don’t Be A Dick fridge magnets for the Classic Rock Awards in November, to be given out in goodie bags to attendees. They’re now in the safe hands of Alice Cooper and Chris Jericho,among others. That was pretty fucking cool.

While all that was going on I was looking into getting funding to enable me to grow in a bunch of ways. Sorted all that out and got that through at the start of this year. I’m using the money to purchase equipment to start making most of my products myself rather than using suppliers. That’ll reduce lead times, so you’ll start to receive items more quickly when you order them, and also mean I have more control over releasing one off items like tote bags and cushion covers. It’s basically better for everyone.

AND I’ve taken the next step in getting my brand out there by attending tattoo conventions. I did my first one at the start of February and I’m now looking into the next few. I’d like to try to do six this year so if you can think of any where my stuff would go down well just let me know!

Finally, I’ve relented and decided to give Facebook another bash. I hate it but it might be good for business, which is what I need at the end of the day. I feel like a sell out but I got bills to pay so fuck you.

There’s probably more but I’d rather show you my magazine features and tell you to buy things from mrcrypt.bigcartel.com