Who Remembers… Motorola m301!

Put your hand up if you consider yourself to be one of those people who have had a mobile phone for the longest time.  Now keep your hand up if you had the ORIGINAL mobile phone (of my time anyway) – the Motorola m301!!

Oh my goodness, just thinking about it now makes me laugh!  It’s so funny the way people cringe when ‘The Brick’, as it is so affectionately known, is mentioned, as though they didn’t carry it proudly on the street, speaking loud enough for everyone to know “I have my own phone!”  After all it was the cutting edge of technology, right?!

I personally didn’t have one, but my mum did, and I remember the fascination with it when it first arrived at our house.  Even if my brother and I so much as laid a finger on the new phone, it would be, “No you’ll break it!” or “Read the instructions first!”  But when you think about it, what was so complicated?  Was it the vast choice of ringtones – ‘High’, ‘Medium’ or ‘Low?’  Was it the fact that once you pulled the aerial out, there was a very good chance that it wouldn’t stop flowing and you were in danger of never getting it all back in again?  Or maybe it was a health issue – the possibility of permanent muscle strain in whichever arm you held it in.  Who knows?

When you compare the Motorola m301 with some of the popular mobile phones that followed, e.g. the Nokia 8210 and 8310, you wouldn’t believe they had the same purpose.  The m301 took up half you head, whereas the later phones could get lost in the palm of your hand, if not your inner ear.  Even though the Motorola was about 10 times the size of some current phones, they weren’t exactly loaded with features.  Going into the heading ‘Menu,’ you could access……. the phone book!  Wow…

Mobile phone thefts are higher nowadays than ever, but it’s surprising that it wasn’t higher back then.  All the thief would have to do is spot the m301 across the street, stretch out and grab it by the aerial, making sure they had a wheelbarrow ready for their speedy getaway!

A friend of mine recently told me that before the m301, Motorola in fact had another ‘mobile’ known as the Motorola 8500.  I know what you’re thinking – that must have been way before your time.  Mine too, but apparently if it was more popular it wouldn’t have been nicknames ‘The Brick’, but rather ‘The Boulder’.  When I recently saw a photo of it, I actually spluttered with laughter.  It was my friend’s dad who owned that phone, and she said that whenever the phone rang in public, she and her brother would run as far away from him as possible, because they were too embarrassed to be associated with him.  My my my… how times have changed!

The Motorola 8500.... I'm still laughing!

All jokes aside though, it was 16 years ago that my mum first had the Motorola m301, and in that time the mobile phone industry has blown up into a culture of its own, spawning sub-cultures in its wake.  Not only are phones just about used to make and receive calls, they are also for music, emails, internet, games, and even to watch movies.  It makes me wonder what sort of nicknames we’ll be giving to the current Blackberrys and iPhones in years to come.

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The Legend Will Continue…

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Born to amuse/To inspire, to delight/Here one day/Gone one night – ‘Gone too Soon’, Michael Jackson, 1991

Today marks exactly one year since we lost – in my opinion – the greatest entertainer I will know of in my lifetime.  I was, and still am, an absolutely huge Michael Jackson fan, so naturally I was absolutely devastated by his passing.  It will always be one of those “Where were you when…?” moments, just like Princess Diana’s death or 9/11.

I was in my bedroom at around 10pm, chatting to my mum about her recent holiday in California.  It was her first trip to the U.S. in all her 60 years, so she was like an excited child.  My phone then rang and it was my close friend asking me if I was okay.  I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I replied:  “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”  Then she asked: “Haven’t you seen the news?”   The minute she said that I instantly knew it would have to be related to Michael Jackson.  I immediately became hot, and picked up my remote control to change the channel to Sky News where I saw the breaking news: ‘Unconfirmed reports – Michael Jackson dies after suffering caridac arrest’.  My mum had to hold me, because from what I remember I became light-headed and she thought I was going to faint.   There was no way I would have gone to sleep and woken up to the news, because I was receiving constant phone calls and texts messages through the night – anyone would have thought I was actually related to him!  I LOVE Michael Jackson! (I even referred to him as my uncle, because I used to be married to one of his 3T nephews… but that’s a story for another time!).  I remember there was speaculation that he was in a coma, so I was just praying and praying that this was the case, and he’d wake up from it.  I didn’t go to bed until after 3am, when it had been confirmed, and I think I slept for a total of about one hour before I had to be up for work.  I didn’t cry, but I did throw up in the morning as soon as I got to the bathroom and remembered.  And I pretty much avoided all newspapers and magazines until the coverage died down, because I didn’t want to read any of the tabloid hypocrisy.  His was the celebrity death I dreaded the most.

One year on and there are still so many unanswered questions surrounding his passing, but we have  also really been reminded just how much of a musical genius he was, through the constant airing and countdowns of his music videos, and even the fantastic West End show Thriller Live, which is an amazing tribute to him.  I firmly believe he achieved exactly what he was put on Earth to do – to entertain, to inspire, to delight, and to be a great influence.  He was never meant to grow up to be a doctor or lawyer or office worker.  I just hope his name and image do not become a tacky merchandising tool, a bit like with Elvis (sorry Elvis fans), and I also hope that his more vocal siblings don’t try and make money off him in the name of ‘memorial’. 

I personally don’t think it was his time to go yet, though others do.  The fact that in recent years he didn’t achieve the musical heights of the 80s and 90s, and yet the tickets for his 50 proposed O2 shows sold out in a matter of hours, and young children, like my seven year-old nephew, instantly recognise “Michael Jackson!” show me that his legacy will live on forever.

Rest in perfect peace Michael Joseph Jackson x

Who Remembers… MN8!

Of course I remember them!  I’m not embarrassed to say – I was an MN8 groupie!  Not the type who would sleep with the band of course, but more the type who would try and be everywhere they are if possible.  I was only about 17 at the time, so I won’t apologise for it dammit!

For those of you who may not remember, MN8 were a UK R&B group who burst on to the scene with their hit I’ve Got A Little Something For You which reached number two in the UK charts in 1995.  KG, G-Man, Dee-Tails and Kule T went on to have a further six Top 30 singles and two albums, and even supported Janet Jackson on her tour.

My favourite member was KG – I seriously fancied him!  What I also liked about them was that they seemed to be easily accessible.  My friend and I were very proactive fans, so we would travel to the BBC studios every time we knew they would be appearing on Top of the Pops, and we managed to hang around long enough for KG to notice us and go and get us guest passes to the National Lottery Show where they were performing.  Our best achievement was when we found out they were recording their second album in London, so one evening we decided to call every single recording studio in the Yellow Pages, until we found them.  It sounds crazy but it worked!  The person who answered the phone at one studio passed us on to to G-Man who invited us to go and chill with them the next day, so we did, a number of times.  Oh to be young again…

Last year I read an online interview with KG on Digital Spy, which stated that he was now married (boo!) living in Sydney, Australia, and working on his own music.  Being my favourite MN8-er and all, it was only right that I kept up with tradition contact him myself for an update and a short walk down memory lane…

KG & Wendi B, circa. 1995/96 at a South London recording studio

What are you doing all the way in Australia??
After MN8 I just wanted to get away so I travelled a bit – NYC, Stockholm, and Tokyo, and I settled on Sydney.  Today I work and live between Sydney and London.

When your deal with the label ended, did you all try and find another deal, or were you fed up of MN8 by then?

The timing of our decision to move on and the end of our contract was purely coincidental. We felt we’d been viewed and had functioned as one entity for so long that we needed to be individuals for a while. There were no immediate plans to find a new home.

I noticed back then that in shows or photo shoots, all the guys would go topless at some point, except you… WHY??

If you notice – in the beginning only G-man would take his shirt off.  It was just his thing, his personality. G would often go shirtless in public long before MN8 – why not? He had abs for days. Me, I always felt that less is more and while I kept in okay shape and did one or two of shirtless shoots, I just didn’t make a habit of it.

How did people you all knew, before the group started, react to your success? Did you have haters?
Yes, haters come with any level of success. Saying that, for most part the people we knew before MN8 were quite supportive when we became successful. What was interesting was how the ‘new friends’ we met at the top fell off when we weren’t as hot – that was very interesting indeed.

L-R: G-Man, KG, Kule-T and Dee-Tails (front)

So you’re working on your solo stuff now, right? What type of sound are you going for?

The music I make today is contemporary – futuristic R&B + dance. I’ve changed a lot as an artist and a vocalist. In MN8 each of us would play a role, sing as instructed and pull back; the focus was to make edgy 90’s pop music. As a solo artist, and an experienced producer/ writer – I make sure my music has a little more swagger and the vocals are a little more dymamic, soulful and in line with my influences today.

Will you be releasing your material for the Aussie market, or will you come back to the UK?
I haven’t really got any plans to release directly in Australia. While some pockets of Australia have a sophisticated R&B ear and following, I come to Oz for the surf, sun, anonymity, space and not much else.

When I think about it MN8 and Damage were the only UK groups of their kind back in the 90s.  Have you been able to keep up with the current UK scene, e.g. have you seen JLS, and what do you think? They’re a bit like the sons of MN8…

Yeah I have kept up with the UK scene. It’s funny – I recall when Backstreet Boys came out, then *NSYNC. Execs and members of the press would tell us they were modelled on us – blue-eyed version of MN8 – with their swagger and ‘I’ve Got…’-esque sound. However, while we’d like to take credit for influencing them, these bands went on to develop their own sounds and inspire others.  So while JLS may smack of MN8 at the moment, they will go on to define themselves in much the same way.  In any case I hope they do really well and make a lot of money.

Are you still in touch with the other guys? What are they up to – also married family men?
Yeah, we keep in touch. I spoke to G-man recently for the first time in a while, and it was good to touch base. G is still making music, managing artists etc. Dee-Tails is acting and into filmmaking. T is still making music and is settled.

In this age of boyband reunions, have MN8 considered it?
Yes –  I’ve been speaking to G-man, Deetails and T and we are nutting something out –  we’ll see what happens…

Is there anything you look back on or think about that now makes you cringe?
Looking back, there are a lot more pluses than minuses. As time passes I feel MN8 was very cool for what it was (or should I say is…)

Anything you’d like to add?
Nothing other than it’s been a pleasure to assist.

Just so you all know, KG and I are now best friends.*

*That’s a lie

Speaking Easy: Buying drinks, Clubs, Barbie, Mixed relationships, Bleaching, Israel

This week I attended a monthly event  called Speakeasy, where  people gather to discuss topics – completely random subjects – and debate it out in a mature, sometimes heated but never rude manner.  So I thought I would share the questions asked this month, give you my opinion on them, and ask you to share yours:

If a guy offers/buys a girl a drink, should she not give him something in exchange?

One guy at the debate summed it up perfectly for me:  it’s a gamble.  Plain and simple.  If a man sees a woman he finds attractive and chooses to offer her a drink, he can’t then expect her to give him her number if she accepts the drink.  He can HOPE she does, the same way we HOPE our numbers are the lucky ones chosen in the National Lottery draw.  It would be different if the woman came up to him and asked him to buy her a drink, because he would have the right to ask what he gets in return.  Fair’s fair.  Some said that a woman should know what is expected if she accepts a drink, and I understand that completely, because a man isn’t going to offer it to a woman he finds unattractive, but I just think he has to be prepared to get nothing back, because not every woman is the same and that is the risk you run.

What do you think?

Is there a stigma attached to meeting a potential partner in a club?

Some said ‘yes’ straight away, but I disagree.  There’s rather a stigma attached to saying you’re going to the club to find a partner, because something about that gives off an air of  “I’m just looking for a good-time girl/guy”.  But  I don’t understand why just because you unintentionally met someone at a club, it must mean they won’t be serious.  If you know you are a decent person who just went out to enjoy music, dance, drink and generally have a good time with friends, why is it not possible that someone of the opposite sex went to do the same?  Someone said it would be better to go and find a partner at church, but I think that’s worse, because technically you’re supposed to go to church to praise God, so it would be wrong to be there for the sole purpose of finding a partner.  Again, if it happens then that’s a bonus.  One lady said that the way we are when we go clubbing is fake, because that’s the only time we do our hair nicely and wear nice clothes, etc, and we wouldn’t look like that on a day-to-day basis.  I beg to differ.  I know for a fact that I always try to make sure my hair looks as nice as possible, even when I’m just going to work.  If you se me at the club dancing my arse off to my favourite tune, that’s the real me, and what I’d also be doing if I was listening to it in my room.

What do you think?

Would you buy a Barbie doll for your (black) daughter, niece, god-daughter, etc, given the politics surrounding what constitutes beauty?

I had a Barbie – in fact I had three Barbies, and I can honestly tell you that I didn’t love them because they were white and I wanted to look like them.  I loved them because of the various clothing choices they had.  Plain and simple.  Barbie also had long hair which allowed me to change her hairstyle numerous times throughout the day, and I enjoyed that.  If we have to look at this from a racial point of view, then it wasn’t Barbie who possibly made me feel like I wanted to look like the other girls, but more the fact that the boys at school only seemed to like the white girls… or maybe just didn’t fancy me.  But it had nothing to do with Barbie.  Also, there was a large Barbie head that I know for a fact a lot of black girls would not have learnt how to do the cornrow hairstyle, if it wasn’t for practicing on this popular hair salon ‘toy.’  Another thing is that Barbie was unrealistic even to white girls, because no one realistically looks the way she does, with those body proportions.  So my answer is yes, I would buy a Barbie for my child or loved one.  It’s all down to what you teach your child about beauty.  If you leave it to the media, then you can deal with the future issues your child will have.

What do you think?

Are interracial relationships more accepted when the other person is not white?

Hmm… this one became quite heated.  Some said that yes they are accepted, because anything that is not white is closer to black.  One guy said that he was asked by a colleague at work why he only dates his own race, and whether he thinks it limits his choices, to which he replied that he wants his children to be black and the only way this can happen is if he is with a fellow black woman.  Another lady said that she doesn’t have an issue with mixed race relationships, but rather those who specifically choose NOT to date their own race.  On the superficial surface of it I will admit that if I see a fine black guy with a woman of another race, I’ll huff about it for a few seconds, but that’s only because I’d think want a fine guy for myself!  In real life, I have relatives with partners of a different race, and I like them all.  As long as it’s a case of you liking the person because you genuinely get on, etc, then I have no problem.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  It’s when you make stupid excuses as to why you won’t date your own race, that I take issue with.  And in relation to the comment about any other race being better because they are closer to black – absolute bull.  There are races in-between black and white who look down and are less accepting of black people than white people are.

What do you think?

Should bleaching creams be banned from black hair shops?

Some people shouted “Yes!” straight away, but realistically bleaching creams are needed for those who have skin problems, e.g, Vitiligo or keloids.  In my opinion it is completely up to the individual to know that skin bleaching creams do not do your skin any favours at all, so it is at your discretion to exercise common sense.  Those who choose to bleach their skins for cosmetic reasons clearly need psychological aid and need to learn to love themselves as they are.  One black male member of the audience commented that some black men need to take responsibility for black women bleaching their skins, because of their insistence to only look notice women of a lighter skin complexion, and he’s not wrong.  Of course this made other men, who didn’t really think about what he said, go up in arms.  But we also have to consider the fact that it is not really in our control to have these creams banned, as the black hair shops are predominantly owned by Asians, and Asians bleach their skin probably as much as some black people do.

What do you think?

Was Israel right to attack the aid ship on the Gaza strip?

Now I have to be completely honest – I really do not know the background on this, call me what you like. But the comments and opinions shared went into who Israel really belongs to, Judaism, and even the Bible.  All I will say is that I can’t see how it is ever right to attack an aid ship, unless the ‘aid’ consists of anything that is likely to harm innocent people.

What do you think?