Steve Kane's almost entirely pointless blog

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Jobs 'n' shit

Long story short: Got a temp job for two days from one recruitment agency. Then another recruiter offered me an ongoing temporary contract but wanted me to start on the day that the first two-day assignment was supposed to start. Phoned first recruiter and said sorry but I've got a better offer. Started the better offer on Thursday. During the day, I was called by a third recruiter offering me an interview on Friday for another ongoing and better paid temp position.

So, come lunch hour on Friday, I went off for the interview. Recruitment consultant gave me wrong address and sent me to the agency's local office. Explained situation to local office who called recruitment consultant's manager who provided another address. Walked to new address a few streets away but was told that the person I was meant to see worked in another building that was, coincidentally, opposite the recruitment agency's office.

Finally made it to correct address and sat my interview; more of an informal chat, really, just so they could check that I wasn't a complete moron. Returned to work. Two hours later the recruitment consultant called, made grovelling apologies about the address fuck-ups and said that I had been offered the ongoing and better paid temporary position. Oh, and, um, could I start on Monday?

Ended second day of ongoing temporary position by telling my boss that I'd had a better offer and wouldn't be back on Monday. He was very understanding but also saddened because he was desperate for someone to do the job and had had several temps before me who had all been complete morons.

Have been working ongoing and better paid temporary position for about four weeks now. It's pretty fucking shambolic. It took them two and a half weeks to sort out my computer system access so that I could actually start doing the job I was hired to do. Everything worked for a week but then I lost access for apparently no reason. And then it fixed itself this morning. Pretty frustrating but, then again, better than the alternative of unemployment, starvation and destitution.

Oh, and it is another banking job. How the hell did I end up working in banking?

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

I have a blog?

Oh yeah, right, the blog...

S'pose I should write something here. It's been a while. When did I last post...? June.

Right, so, at the end of May I was told I was losing my job in two to four weeks. But then I didn't. The company kept me on for another week, then another, then another. It was the end of July before they finally let me go. And since then I've been sat at home looking for another job. In the middle of a recession. With unemployment figures at their highest level in fifteen years. Yeah, working as a temp for a bank during one of the biggest economical nosedives in history was never going to be the most secure of career paths.

You can appreciate, then, why I have been a little preoccupied and neglecting my blogging duties?

What else? Been on a couple of dates. Waste of time as usual. I have managed to cobble together something resembling a new tune in the days since I lost my job. It's kinda' gloomy and not finished yet. It is resting in that limbo state of almost-done-and-needs-a-little-something-else-but-I-don't-know-what. A rough version is up on SoundCloud which you can listen to by using this embedded player thingie:

Song For No One by Steve Kane

Blah blah, what else... I'm on Twitter. My pal Suw Charman persuaded me to sign up over a year ago before it became famous in the mainstream press when it was populated mainly by tech-heads and nu-media journos. It is now, of course, a handy way to stalk celebrities. I didn't know what use it would be to me for a long time but I am gradually using it more often. I'll put a feed up in the sidebar so you can revel in my 140-character pearls of wisdom.

I've more or less given up on writing fiction. I haven't written anything for three and a half years now, virtually nothing since I puked out that novel for NaNoWriMo in 2005. I dug that out a little while ago - I couldn't get past the first page for the awful, awful prose. I can no longer in all consciousness refer to myself as a "writer" anymore. The desire and the ideas have dried up, vanished. There was a time when I'd always be mulling over ideas, newspaper articles or snatches of overheard conversations at work or in the street would set me off on some bizarre train of thought. Not so now: I sometimes sit down with every intention of firing up my mental fiction engine and get back into it. I think and think and think and... nothing. No stories to tell.

I don't know why this is. Perhaps I am so out of the habit of writing fiction that my brain has forgotten how to do it - "use it or lose it". Maybe I see so much shite literature getting accepted for publication while good writers, innovative writers, writers pushing the boundaries and daring to be different, are routinely rejected and I think, "What's the point?" Who needs my words? What have I got to offer? Who gives a fuck what I have to say about anything?

All I know is that the need to write has gone. I even thought about deleting this blog, this entire website, even. The only reason I don't is because of some vague notion that I might one day feel the need to write again and that I might rekindle my ambition to get my stuff into print.

I am still interested in music, though, which is something. I was listening to all the stuff I produced for Mad Hatters' Review the other week and, damn, some of it is really fucking weird. I don't even remember writing some of it. It seems that my ability to experiemnt creatively hasn't completely abandoned me.

I also seem incapable of hitting the apostophe key when I type and always press the semi-colon button instead. Every time. I have no idea what this has to do with anything but I thought I would share.

I am going to try and blog more regularly from no on. Honest.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

The interweb defines me

I am perfectly sane. It's true: a Facebook quiz told me so.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Uh

Two albums by The Fall I ordered arrived in the post today. The "bonus disc" on one of them didn't contain the bonus tracks at all but was a duplicate of the main album; the other one had a bloody great scratch on it.

The fried eggs I cooked for dinner didn't turn out very well either.

Bollocks.

One of them days, I guess.

Christ, what a crap blog this is.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Random conversation #2

When at work, instead of swearing when something goes wrong, I say something like "fiddle-sticks" or "flibberty-jibberts".

"Why do you say those silly things?" a colleague once asked.

"Because otherwise I'd say 'fucknuts' or 'cunting ball-sacks'."

She looked horrified.

"You see my point," I said.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Random conversation #1*

Female work colleague: "So, Steve, what team do you support?"
Me: "I don't support anyone."
Female colleague: "No one?"
Me: "I don't follow football."
Female colleague: [Uncomprehending face] "What... not at all?"
Me: "No."
[Momentary baffled silence]
Older female colleague: "Well, if you did follow football, what team would you support?"
Me: "Er...?"

* Don't read too much into the "#1" - this may be a series that goes nowhere.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

34 years old. Me, that is, not the blog

Yes, this morning I am flopping about my apartment after an evening of theatre and booze to celebrate another birthday. The play, incidentally, was an amusing show called Edward Gant's Amazing Feats Of Lonliness...

In 1881, one of the Victorian theatres most enigmatic impresarios, Mr Edward Gant, presented his famed travelling show for the very last time. In 2009, Anthony Neilson and Headlong Theatre are proud to present a reconstruction of this historic and extraordinary evening of mystery and magic, spectacle and strangeness. Behold . . . The Amazing Feats Of Loneliness!

Anthony Neilson is one of Britain's most acclaimed playwrights, creating pioneering, taboo-breaking new work in a bold and compassionate way. Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness is a beautiful and very funny exploration of performance and performers, of sadness, mortality and wonder.

Contains strong language and scenes of a wonderfully freakish nature.
And jolly good fun it was too, a sort of mix of Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, The Mighty Boosh and The League Of Gentlemen. I mean, any play that contains the line, "A woman so ugly I would not have shat in her mouth if she were hungry," has got to be good for a giggle.

Tuesday night - St. Patrick's Day, as it happens - I went to see a band called Stinking Lizaveta. I was meant to meet some acquaintances at an Irish bar but, oddly enough, the place was rammed with St. Paddy revellers and I couldn't find my chums so I went to the gig instead.

Turned out to be a most curious night. The venue was a small bar called Bloc. It's a tiny place that has no stage area; the three bands performing that night were all crammed into a corner with barely any room to move.

I was sitting at the bar nursing a pint of Guinness (what else?) when a tall, skinny woman approached me and asked if I was there to see the band. I said yes. She then asked if I was on Last.fm and was I the guy who's been listening to Tom Waits this weeks. Mad, isn't it, how you can be recognised by your online social networking profiles? I can't decide if this is a good thing or not. On the one hand I got to meet and chat with a really cool girl at a gig who might have never spoken to me if she hadn't recognised me (although maybe she would have - she was happily going around chatting to anybody who happened to be in front of her. I wish I had that kind of confidence); on the other hand, it could end up like this...

(Before you ask, the tall, skinny, cool, pretty girl was quick to mention she had a partner so nothing like that was on the cards. No, I ended up leaving the gig with someone entirely different but... no... not going to tell you about that. It wasn't good.)

And work has been sucking the big one too. My "productivity" came under an unusual amount of scrutiny so basically I've been working my nuts off so as to ensure I don't get sacked. But fuck it, I won't bore you with that: it's my fault for working for an evil cunty bank. Suffice to say I've been putting in lots of overtime for some extra cash and going slightly crazy with stress over what's happening.

Interesting month. Been getting into lots of Tom Waits, something I've been meaning to do for years, and rediscovering Yello and Art Of Noise, the two bands who really got me into electronic music when I was a kid.

Let's finish on a song, shall we?

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Stuff what has happened recently and shit

Went to see a band called Rampant Rabbit the other week who are a "doom-laden funkadelic" DIY noise rock band. Or, at least, they were a "doom-laden funkadelic" DIY noise rock band, for the band have now disbanded. Never mind. They were a three piece, two bassists and a drummer, who sounded like a cross between Melvins and Primus - noisy, shouty and fucking loud (the volume no doubt exacerbated by the confined space in which the gig took place). 'Twas an entertaining racket.

One of the other acts on the bill was a lanky, fop-haired, indie looking kid who thrashed out chords on his guitar to a backing tape of basic drum machine rhythms whilst screaming into a microphone. Ten out of ten for enthusiasm but he was little more than a mad busker. Hmm, "punk busking": an emerging genre, perhaps. Look out for it. Still, he was an amiable young lad.

What else, what else... oh yes, I went to see Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York, his début as director as well as writer. Phillip Seymour-Hoffman plays a theatre director suffering ill-health and a failing marriage. When his wife eventually leaves him he decides to mount an ambitious theatre project: he builds a replica of the city in a massive warehouse and populates it with actors to play people from the real world and to semi-improvise the brutal truth of his painful life. Reality and fiction bleed into each other in a typically "meta" Kaufmanesque fashion.

It's all a bit of a mess albeit a humane and thought provoking mess. The film is not as tightly structured as Kaufman's collaborations with directors Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind). This is due in equal measure, I think, to the nature of the script and Kaufman's direction - it all feels a little unfocussed and flabby.

That's not to say it's a bad film, by any means. It is by turns intelligent, emotional, inventive and blackly funny with many strong performances. Having said that, I can't imagine that I will return to it as I have done to the aforementioned Kaufman penned films. I can't help but wonder if Charlie's scripts aren't better served by the fresh eyes of other directors. On the other hand, this is his first outing behind the lens and perhaps time and experience will see his directorial prowess grow.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Which is scarier: vampires or avant garde classical music?

I've indulged in a bit of hardcore culture this week. On Thursday evening I attended a performance of seven movements from Stockhausen's Aus den Sieben Tagen, a collection of fifteen "text pieces" written in 1968. Instead of a tradition score of musical notation the players are given a series of textual instructions. For example:

Think NOTHING
wait until it is absolutely still within you
when you have attained this
begin to play

as soon as you start to think, stop
and try to reattain the state of NON-THINKING
then continue playing
This sounds like an horribly pretentious idea that would result in a mess of unlistenable noise but it produced a fascinating, engaging and curiously humane piece of improvisational music. The percussionist was particularly fun to watch as he bowed a giant cymbal, rattled beads, beat out rhythms on an empty plastic water cooler bottle and scraped a whisk around a hub cap. It was impossible to know how much of the performance was rehearsed and how much the musicians improvised on the night but it was a truly enjoyable performance.

On Friday night I went to the GFT to see F.W. Murnau's 1921 film Nosferatu complete with musical accompaniment by Scottish guitarist David Allison who, through clever use of a delay pedal, built up a live layered score as the movie played.

I thought the film was wonderful - those iconic images of Max Schreck rising up out of his coffin and his talon-fingered shadow creeping up the stairs... brilliant. In a way, I wish I could have seen it in an empty screening room: it was a bit difficult to fully immerse yourself in the film when there are chuckles coming from the audience. This is understandable because aspects of a 90-odd year old film are inevitably going to appear silly and outdated to 21st Century cinema-goers. A couple of the friends I went with commented that, although they thought it was great, it wasn't scary. Well no, if you judge an old, old horror film by contemporary aesthetic standards you are unlikely to conclude that it is frightening. The trick is to imagine what 1920s audiences were used to; to them it would have been astonishing. You have to regress, rediscover a certain innocence, lose yourself to the grainy photography, the jerky motion, the theatricality of it. Besides, as with the best horror yarns, the fear is in the subtext. The homicidal yet erotic suggestiveness as the shadow of Schreck's extended fingers creep over Greta Schröder's sleeping body? C'mon, that's frickin' creepy by anyone's standards!

I stayed in on Valentine's Day, as usual, and watched Tod Browning's Freaks which I picked up for a couple of quid on DVD. I also got a classic 1960 French horror flick called Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without A Face) and Get Carter for a fiver each. That's the rest of my Sunday sorted.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

I dunno' nothin' about nothin'

There's a good article in today's Observer newspaper by Tim Adams about our anxiety over the current world financial crisis and society's ability to successfully assess risks. A passage towards the end of the article concerning a book called Expert Political Judgement by Philip Tetlock struck me as particularly interesting:

Tetlock's book is based on two decades of research into 284 people who made their living "commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends". He asked them simply to do what they apparently did best: predict what would happen in the world next in answer to specific questions. Would oil prices rise or fall, would there be a boom or a bust, would we go to war? And so on. When the study concluded, in 2003, Tetlock's experts had made 82,361 forecasts and the results were correlated with the facts as they had turned out.

The experts were less accurate in their forecasts than a control group of chimpanzees choosing entirely randomly would have been. Even specialists in particular narrow fields were not significantly more successful than reasonably informed laymen.
This neatly encapsulates a growing suspicion of mine that takes stronger hold as I grow older: that those in authority, politicians, managers, consultants, movie studio executives, advertisers, teachers, clerics, parents are as clueless as you and I, that the entire human race doesn't have real idea of what is going on, that we as a species are blagging it, making it up as we go along, grateful to blindly follow anyone who has the arrogance to stand up and say that they have figured it out and equally grateful to use them as scapegoats when it inevitably turns out that they have not.

As Stanley Kubrick once said, “If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered.” If we believe that there is somebody out there who claims to understand what's going on then it provides false reassurance that the world in which we live is predictable, stable, safe and not a big bloody maelstrom of chaos. If somebody claims to understand how it all works then it absolves us from the responsibility of trying to understand how it all works.

This tendency makes us naive and easy to exploit. I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I am woefully bad at managing money and yet even an economical dunce like me can see the folly of the government trying to persuade the people to spend their way out of an economical crisis caused by public overspending. Does Gordon Brown really think that people whose credit supplies are rapidly disappearing and leaving them with huge debts in a time of dwindling confidence in job security are going to spend more money on unessential crap?

Even an economical dunce like me can grasp the notion that giving multi-billion pound bailouts to the people whose irresponsible lending fuelled the public's overspending is going to keep money flowing. Are the banks going to use that bailout cash to keep lending or are they going to hang on to it to cover the own arses until this crisis blows over? Gee, Gordo, whaddya' think?

Who is ultimately to blame for this crisis? Irresponsible lenders? Irresponsible consumers? Irresponsible advertisers? Irresponsible media? All of the above? Everybody complicit in creating a culture of superficial aspiration, consumerism and unfounded self-entitlement? Hasn't anyone read Madame Bovary?

There's another all too human trait for you right there: we never fucking learn.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not going out today...

Two reasons:

  1. I'm suffering from a pesky cough and sore throat that took hold on Christmas Eve (but didn't spoil my Crimbo too much - just annoying).
  2. Rival Glasgow football clubs Rangers and Celtic are playing this afternoon at the Rangers' home ground, Ibrox Stadium, which happens to be about half a mile from my tenement building. Whenever Rangers play at home there are always big crowds wandering around outside the building and a massive queue to get onto the underground train at the station right under my living room window. This is the first Rangers vs. Celtic match at Ibrox since I moved here. Big, big rivals in the way that only same-city football clubs can be. Might see a bit of action from the safety of my second floor flat after the match.
Hope you all had an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas Day.

[UPDATE] - Everyone appeared to leave the game in a civilised and orderly fashion. A good thing, really, except from a morbid entertainment point of view.

[ADDENDUM] - Sorry, I realise that this post is virtually identical to this one. Have I really run out of fresh material for this blog?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Boycott YouTube on 19 December!

Guess what: freedom of speech under fire by big corporate bully-boys once again...

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quote of the day

Filched from a friend's Facebook profile and so very, very true:

"Without music, life would be a mistake."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Snap it up

Last weekend and another gig. This time it was Red Snapper, one of my favourite bands. I'd seen them live three or four times between 1995 and 2000 but they then broke up. And lo, for I was sad. But then they got back together at the end of 2007, started recording, produced a new album and are touring again. And there was much rejoicing.

A fusion of jazz, electronica, dub, funk, techno and trip-hop, the band consists of Ali Friend on double bass, Richard Thair on drums and David Ayres on guitar, and a succession of guest horn players, currently Tom Challenger. And, boy, can these guys play. Despite all the technical jiggery-pokery evident on their recordings, these guys are superb musicians who infuse real energy and humanity into their music.

I once saw them at an outdoor summer festival, V99 I think it was, and remember dragging my mates along. It was the middle of the afternoon and there were maybe forty or fifty people milling around by the stage. The band came on and started playing to this diminutive crowd, the guest vocalist looking a bit disgruntled at the lacklustre turnout. The band played on, great as ever, and everyone was enjoying themselves. About four or five songs in, I happened to turn around. The previously empty field behind us had filled out with people drawn by the wonderful noises of the Snapper lads. I might have felt just a little tug of smugness at that moment.

Likewise, the turnout at last weekend's gig was disappointing. The venue, an intimate place as it is, was barely half full. Red Snapper may not be a household name but I would have thought they'd have been able to draw more people than that. A bit disgruntled, I felt bad for the band. They deserve more attention.

It didn't matter in the end. The band launched into their set with customary gusto and the crowd, though small, was vocal in its appreciation, genuine fans who clearly knew and loved the band. There was a vague atmosphere of belonging to a select group privy to this brilliant band.

But still, more people should listen to Red Snapper. To this end, watch this:

And then go purchase their new "mini album", A Pale Blue Dot. And then go buy all their other records.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ibex Syndrome

I can't believe that I've never mentioned this but I suffer from a condition known as Ibex Syndrome. It is a truly debilitating sickness that can have devastating effects on personal relationships and seriously impair one's capacity to function in everyday society.

The best way to describe Ibex Syndrome is by way of an example that will also explain the origin of its name*:

I was in a restaurant and just as my friends and I were being shown to our table a young woman approached me and said, "I know this sounds like a weird question but if you could be any animal, what animal would you be?"

"An ibex," I replied without missing a beat.

"What the hell's an ibex," said the young woman to her friends as I wandered off, triumphant at having trumped her supposedly "weird" gambit with a suitably obscure response.

About twenty-seven seconds later it occurred to me that a very nice and attractive woman had singled me out in a packed London restaurant full of eligible bachelors and I had completely failed to capitalise on the opportunity to get friendly with her.

This, then, is Ibex Syndrome: the irresistible compulsion to sacrifice acceptance, popularity and even the possibility of romance for the sake of cracking a smartarse gag, the wilfully surreal or offensive genius of which is evident to nobody but you.

This is also known as the Groucho Marx Effect.

You may laugh but Ibex Syndrome can destroy lives or at least seriously hinder one's chances of making friends and getting laid. Honestly, there should be a charity or something, a telephone helpline perhaps, for the poor victims of this heinous condition who cannot help but render themselves unfit for interaction with their fellow humans.

* The term Ibex Syndrome having been coined by my friend, Sonja The Belly-Dancer, upon hearing this tale of woe.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh, he's so deep

One thing that movies, books and TV seldom show you about depression is how boring it is. The same stupid, negative thoughts go round and round inside your head, over and over and over, and you can't stop it. It's tiring, exhausting, and exasperating too because you know that those stupid, negative thoughts are complete bollocks, just thoughts, not facts, but you can't stop thinking them. You can say to yourself, "Stop it, just stop it. This is nonsense, it's not true. Why am I even thinking these thoughts? I know they are not true," as many times as you like but the same thoughts go on and on in like an infinitely repeating drum loop pounding away in your head. It's like a neighbour playing loud music all night: you shout and pound on the wall to make them turn it down but it goes on all night, every night, keeping you awake.

You begin to imagine your brain as a separate entity, an malicious little goblin that lives in your head who taunts you every hour of the day: "You're rubbish. You're a loser. People think you are weird. Nobody is interested in anything you say. Women don't desire you. Nobody thinks you are cool. They are all having much more fun than you are. They are all getting more sex and they are laughing at you as they do it. You're pathetic." And it's not true, of course it's not true, you know it's not true but the little goblin keeps saying it and saying it and saying it, over and over and over...

It's so wearying and boring and you wish more than anything that the goblin would just shut... the... fuck... up.

You never see that in the media, though. No, you only see the extreme stereotypes: The charismatic manic types, the Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest kind of wild men. Ooh, they are so charming, so edgy, so dangerous and - *giggle* - kinda' sexy; The tormented geniuses who could change the world if only they could conquer their torment and harness their amazing gifts. With time and care and probably the love of a good women they can emerge triumphant. Oh, how moving, how inspirational; The lovable retard. He may not know much but he is pure of heart, gentle of spirit and can show us what's really important in life. He can teach us all to love again!

Fuck that.

That's not most people's experiences. Most people with mental issues simply suffer from plain old mundane impenetrable gloom. It's tiring and frustrating for them because they have to live with the goblin's taunts day in, day out, and it is tiring and frustrating for those who try to help them because no amount of reasoning can assuage the negative thoughts even though everybody involved knows that the goblin lies. All anyone can do is try to find ways to ignore the goblin, distract yourself from his perpetual taunts just enough so that you can function with something approaching normality. However, it is a never ending treatment because no matter what you do the goblin will never completely go away.

No, there's only one way to shut the goblin up for good and that solution is a terminal one.

I'm sure there are many of you out there who view suicide as the coward's way out. Well, fuck you. You have no idea what you are talking about. Go and watch Cuckoo's Nest or A Beautiful Mind or fucking Forest Gump again and bask in the tragic beauty of some romantic image of the tormented mind. Go enjoy your emotional enema and then, once cleansed, fuck off to MacDonald's thinking that you understand something about the mentally ill.

You know nothing. You have never had to confront the mundane everyday reality of what most genuine depressives have to try to deal with. You don't know what it's like to have that goblin droning relentlessly on and on at you all the bloody time, immune to any kind of reason or rational argument. Of course, the goblin talks to us all from time to time, and to some more than others, but is he there all day, every day, refusing to be silenced and giving you not a moment's peace, not for one second? No? Well then, don't pretend to know what it's like and don't you fucking dare call those who can't take it any more and are driven to shut that belligerent little goblin up for good "cowards".

They just want some peace.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Internot

Not been around. Did you miss me? Thought not.

But where have I been? I haven't been anywhere is the reply but my interweb access was fucked for a few weeks. Long story short - although the word "story" is perhaps too a generous term to apply to a mere computer fault and my attempts to fix it: switched Internet providers which meant swapping my old USB modem for a new wireless router/modem plugged into a network port. Except that my computer didn't want to network with said new router and refused to pick up an IP address. Made sure everything was plugged in, turned everything off and on again, checked there were green lights where there should have been green lights, tried changing cables, turned off firewall, removed all spyware software from computer, cleaned the registry, manually configured the IP address, reset TCP/IP stack and Winsock... but nothing worked.

The only option remaining was to reinstall Windows. Spent a few days backing up all vital documents, files and executables onto external hard drive, checked that I had all necessary installation discs and then gave my old PC a virtual enema.

Fortunately, it worked. Yay, etcetera.

Then had the fun of reinstalling all my software and hardware and was reminded the hard way that most of the programs and drivers needed replacing or patches to make the fucking things work. That took another week.

I've just about got everything important up and running. Finally.

But it has been not a little fraught and frustrating.

It is good, however, to have flushed out all the crap from my system. It's amazing the amount of unnecessary guff you accumulate on your hard drive over the years.

Anyway, relax: I'm back now. All is well.

I promise to write about something more interesting next time.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hot gig action, yo

Yeah, I was going to tell you about that Killing Joke gig I went to, wasn't I.

Well, Killing Joke did a gig in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. And I went. It was good.

Hmm, I s'pose I should expand on that a little otherwise this will be a real crappy excuse for a blog post.

OK, so, this is the first time that all four original members - Jaz Coleman, Geordie, Youth and Paul Ferguson - have toured together for 26 years. Jaz Coleman, the band's shy and retiring frontman, comes marching out on stage adorned in boiler suit, lank black hair, hastily-applied face paint and bulging crazy eyes. He looked, quite frankly, fucking nuts, as if he could leap into the audience at any moment and start killing people. This is, of course, exactly why we love him.

His murderous aspect is juxtaposed somewhat by his heartfelt but often cheeky anti-establishment comments between songs, and he is quite touching when paying tribute to his reunited band mates and also former bassist, Paul Raven, who died last year of heart failure.*

Highlights? Wardance, Money Is Not Our God, Whiteout, and the double-whammy of Love Like Blood (dedicated to Raven) and Eighties (Jaz: "This next one's called Push Push Struggle...") were fantastic. It was also great to hear some older tracks like Follow The Leader and Madness get a rare live outing. Overall, there was an excellent balance of early Joke and later material.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show, in fact, was the make-up of the crowd, an almost equal mix of older original fans and a younger post-Pandemonium crowd. Me? I guess I fall somewhere in between.

(Here's an easy way to distinguish an original Joker from a new fan: Ask them what their favourite track from Killing Joke's eponymously-titled album is. An old-school fan will assume you mean the Joke's 1977 debut whereas a young whipper-snapper fan will think you mean the band's 2003 album. The correct answer is, of course, "Which one?")

Here's a little taster of the Joke doin' it for real...

A week later, in stark contrast, I went to see Roots Manuva. Now, Roots Manuva is that rarest of beasts: a good British rapper. So many British hip hop artists adopt this faux-American style and get all bling an' gangsta' on our asses, yo. It's laughable, really.

Roots Manuva (a.k.a. Rodney Smith from Stockwell, London), on the other hand, suffers no such pretensions. His raps are unashamedly grounded in British culture, his lyrics intelligent, insightful, witty, self-deprecating, gritty and occasionally bleak. The production on his records is also quirky and inventive, no lazy beats and samples thrown together in five minutes. There are all manner of odd effects and vocal manipulations bouncing around the stereo spectrum.

I confess I don't listen to a great deal of rap but this man is a genius.

In person he is a warm and amusing presence engaging in random banter with his on-stage cohorts and the crowd. It's been a long time since I've seen a performer generate such goodwill and affection from their audience. And, aside from anything else, his music rocks and kicks and makes even a rhythmically challenged klutz like me shake his booty.

But, here, watch this and tell me it doesn't raise a smile even if you think you hate rap.

* Just noticed that tomorrow, 20th October, is the first anniversary of Paul's death. R.I.P. Raven, my man.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wire

No, not The Wire, the celebrated TV show about... what is it about, anyway? Cop show, isn't it? I don't know, I don't watch TV anymore. It's supposed to be brilliant, by all accounts, so it can go on my "Essential TV DVD boxsets what I must buy before I die" list. Other shows on the list include Deadwood, Dexter and the last couple of seasons of The Sopranos. I'm sure there is other great stuff I should consider but I can't remember what they are.

No, the "Wire" to which I refer is this lot:

Yes, that Wire, the post-punk pioneers from them days. I was only two years old when their debut album Pink Flag came out. They have a new disc out called Object 47 and it ain't half bad, I tell thee. And this isn't some reunion tour cash-in that seems to be in vogue at the moment because, barring the occasional three to four year break, they never truly disbanded and continued to produce albums throughout the eighties, nineties and naughties after the magnificent triumvirate of Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 in the late seventies.

The question is do they still have it or are they a bunch of sad middle-aged geezers desperately trying to hold on to their youth? Answer: they still kick arse. They got up there and spent an hour and a half making the biggest, crunchiest ear-offending racket I have heard for quite some time and pissed all over today's so-called nu-post-punk wannabes from a very great height.

Having said that, I would have liked to have heard more of there downbeat experimental stuff such as Practice Makes Perfect or In A Heartbeat. Can't complain, though, with a gig that ended with a ludicrously fast and loud rendition of 12XU that makes Minor Threat's cover version sound like Celine Dion. (Hmm, Celine Dion performing Minor Threat classics - there's a thought.)

In summary, then: bloody great show! And it only took me half an hour to get home afterwards. Sweet.

Future gigs pencilled into the calender include Killing Joke, Roots Manuva and the Scottish national Orchestra performing Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring. Marvellous.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

When I'm cleanin' windows...

I get up this morning, head a bit fuzzy from imbibing a generous dose of fermented barley and hops the night before, throw open the living room curtains in time to witness this...

That's hardcore dedication to window cleaning, that is. Hope he got a good tip

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mmm

The three of you who read this spiel regularly will have noticed that dispatches from my Great Glasgow Odyssey have dried up. Simple enough reason: after the hijinks and crazy adventures of actually getting here life has settled down into a regular and, frankly, unblogworthy routine. I got a flat, I got a job (oh, please rest assured that I still believe banks to be agents of Satan himself even though I work for one now. I pretend that this is an exercise in irony but, let's be honest, I'm a sell-out) and for the time being it's going to be the mundane business of grafting and surviving.

Still, you'll be glad to know that I have actually been out socialising with work colleagues. No, really! I got drunk and everything. Of course, I do end up being a bit boring and wandering off home at a sensible hour so as to not piss all my money away. Plus, after a few drinks I like to get home to my own music collection and my bed. But at least I am making the effort to not be a total hermit.

I've also been trying to sell off some of my CDs and DVDs, partly because, having dragged my hoard all the way from Oxford and up to the second floor of a tenement building, I've come to accept that there is a very strong likelihood that I am never going to watch or listen to a fair portion of my collection again and that those items are an unnecessary burden*. I'm also fucking broke and need some cash.

So, blog posts will be not so frequent for the moment, such is the ebb and flow of inspiration and the creative urge.

Oh, I have been recording unusual and extraordinary names during the day job but I will save those for a later date**.

* My book collection, however, is sacred and will forever accompany me on life's journey.
** And, you know, when I've got more than two.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tan mah hide

The reason a post that was going to be about fake tans ended up being about flat hunting is because I was ruminating on the number of browned-up young women at work which, in turn, reminded me of a letting agent who showed me round a flat (you see, there is some kind of order in my seemingly random thought processes).

This agent was a woman in her early forties, I'd guess. She was good looking with a slim yet curvaceous figure so it was a shame that she went to such lengths to make herself look ridiculous: strappy vertiginous stiletto shoes, a sleeveless, frill-trimmed blouse with plunging neckline to accentuate an ample bosom, a short, butt-hugging skirt that was smart in itself but dragged into trashiness by the rest of the ensemble, all topped off by the fake tan. I don't know what was worse: the luminosity or the telltale patches of pasty white flesh on the palms and around the soles of the feet. When I should have been paying attention to her spiel about the property I was actually thinking that if you are going to wear revealing clothes over a bottle tan-job then you really should make sure that all visible areas are adequately treated.

I couldn't understand it. Here was a perfectly attractive woman who had made herself look utterly ridiculous because - why? - she thought it made her look glamourous, sexy, younger? Sorry lady, just makes ya look kinda' cheap and pitiful.

I know that there is a terrible, terrible pressure on girls and women to look good, that they are bombarded by the media with images of supposed physical perfection but let me set something straight:

Fake tans from a bottle look like exactly what they are: fake tans from a bottle. They don't make you look as if you have been jet-setting around the world, they make you look weirdly orange. May as well tip a pot of paint over your head because the effect would be no less convincing.

While I'm at it, fake boobs look weird and unnatural, botox-injected lips look weird and unnatural, facelifts look weird and unnatural. All those images of so-called beauty that assail us every day from every direction are carefully engineered, expensively mounted, grossly manipulated: i.e. fake, as fake as a tan from a bottle. They have nothing to do with real beauty in real life.

You know what real beauty is? A body and face animated by humour, joy, intelligence and compassion*.

Now that, that, is sexy.

* Well, OK, and an acceptable level of personal hygiene.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Almost too convenient

So, the wedding over and my newly-wed chums off to Thailand for three weeks, I settled into their house, fed the cat, succumbed to satellite TV (I'm not proud - I only have the five UK terrestrial channels at home which I barely watch but, dagnabbit, there are lots of episodes of Malcolm In The Middle, Futurama, South Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons that I've never seen; I had to make the most of the opportunity), and, most importantly, looking for somewhere to live.

You know, it's almost enough to make me believe in fate the way things worked out: a six-month job assignment coming to an end, the house in Oxford in which I've been lodging for four years being put up for sale and my friend's house in Glasgow being available for me to stay rent-free for three weeks, all those events occurring at around the same time, circumstances dovetailing oh so conveniently to facilitate my escape to the land of porridge, haggis and loch-dwelling monsters. I don't believe in destiny or suchlike woolly concepts but all these circumstances don't 'alf coalesce into one fat gob of coincidence.

But to drag this post screamin' and cryin' back to the point, I spent three weeks on buses, trains and feet scouring the city for a place to call my own. Due to my budget, all the places I looked at were modest 1-bedroomed flats in old tenement buildings. Fine by me - that was exactly the kind of place I was looking for. I must confess to nurturing a clichéd romantic vision of the lowly writer tucked away in one of the less affluent areas of the big city, eking out a modest living by day and working on his literary masterpieces by night in his humble abode. But, you know, with all white goods provided and high-speed Internet access. I'm such a fake.

Most of the flats I looked at were more or less suitable but what often put me off were the living conditions of the incumbent tenants. It doesn't matter how good a property is if, when you go to view it, you are presented with piles of pizza boxes, bottles, dirty dishes and some guy plodding out of the bedroom in his boxer shorts scratching his balls. Likewise, discovering that the soon-to-be evicted tenant keeps a cat in the flat that's shut inside all day and therefore performs its ablutions anywhere it sees fit does not create a favourable impression no matter how well appointed the place may be. How many times did I hear an exasperated landlord or letting agent say, "Err, we will, of course, get the cleaners in to give the place a thorough going over... um..."

Just as my three weeks of free accommodation were up, I found this place. It had everything I wanted with just a couple of caveats: electric rather than gas cooker, some slightly disconcerting dips in the floorboards in the bathroom, plumbing to the shower that is, as my dad observed, "a little Heath Robinson", a noisy extractor fan in the kitchen*... Nothing major but enough for me to want to go away and have a think about it. I told the landlord that I was definitely interested and would get back to him the next day. As I was leaving I had to make way for a young woman who was also there to view the flat.

I thought it over, decided that the benefits of the flat far outweighed the quibbles I had and so decided to call the landlord and tell him that I wanted to take it. "Ah, I'm so sorry but the girl who came to look round right after you accepted the place on the spot. But, look, I've arranged to meet her tomorrow to sign the agreement and pay the deposit. If for any reason she changes her mind then I'll call you straight away, OK?"

Disappointed, I said OK but resigned myself to the fact that I had lost the place. Oh well, I still had a couple of days left and a few viewings booked. I'd just have to keep looking.

Whaddya' know, the next day the landlord phoned me: "She can't get the deposit together after all so if you are still interested...?"

Yes, yes, yes, fuck yes, I have the money in the bank and I can give you the deposit right now. (Obviously, I played it a little cooler than that.) Yet another dollop of good fortune spooned onto the gob of coincidence that has brought me here.

When I met the landlord later to do the business, he told me that after we had spoken on the phone the girl had called him to say that she had got the money together after all. Ha! Tough shit, lady, the place is mine.

All I had to do then was find a job, which I did just as the last of my funds were trotting merrily out the bank: another happy coincidence.

I'm actually a little freaked out by how everything has slotted so conveniently into place. This isn't how it usually works. What's going on? Well, best not to get too paranoid about it - just enjoy it, Stevie boy.

And rest assured, dear reader, I am.

By the way, this post was going to be about fake tans. Kinda' went awry there, didn't I.

* The landlord replaced said noisy fan before I moved in which was jolly decent of him. He also replaced the broken toilet seat. Oh yeah, I've gotta' show you the toilet seat - it's a work of art. I'll post a picture later.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Anti-climax

The football the other night turned out to be an anti-climax. I don't mean the match itself (although I gather from people who follow such things that it was a nil-nil draw - ooh, exciting stuff...) but in terms of post-match mob disorder outside my building. True, there were lots of people wandering around on their way home and a big queue developed outside the subway station but apart from the odd whoop and holler wafting on the breeze through my window it was all pretty civilised. No gangs of footy fans stripped to their underpants, chanting, dancing around with sticks and worshipping fire... nothing.

There is another match on this afternoon - Rangers vs. Liverpool - and there is a steady stream of people heading towards Ibrox stadium as I type. The only mildly anti-social behaviour in evidence is a regular flow of lads taking a piss up the wall behind the shops on the main road. I have a clear view of that from my window: no sign of hidden spears or nunchucks. Disappointing. Maybe things will liven up after the match.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Chill Da Wren

Children. Hmm. I'm not great with kids. They make me uncomfortable and I never know what to say to them. Why this is the case, I don't know. Thinking about it, I never got on with kids when I was one so there's no reason why I should get on with them now. Then again, I often don't get on with grown-ups either. Fuck it: people, I basically have a problem with people. But children in particular are small and weird and I don't know what they're for.

Case in point: a couple I know, good friends, have a son who must be about three years-old (I can't be exact without sawing him in half and counting the rings). This little boy had never taken to me. Whenever I attempted to communicate with him he always gave me this slightly uneasy look as if I were some tramp who barks and rambles incoherently at you and just won't go away even though you have given him all your spare change. (To be fair, though, he's a wary little thing and looks at most people like that; it's not just me).

So, we're all at my mate's wedding in Glasgow and guess who I've been placed next to during the wedding breakfast - that's right, the little boy who looks at me as if I'm the biggest freak alive*. What to do, what to say? I sit there talking to my pals round the table, occasionally glancing in the kid's direction and smiling but he is too busy investigating a bottle of bubble solution and a bubble ring. He was having trouble getting the hang of blowing bubbles but eventually managed to blow some across the table in front of me. I cooed some googly baby noises and made a grab for the bubbles that passed before me. The little man seemed greatly amused by this. He was even more amused when his bubbles ended up floating on the head of my beer and amused still further to blow bubbles in my face when the starters arrived. Then his dad and I tried to catch the bubbles in our mouths which he thought was the funniest thing ever.

I was his pal after that and he no longer looks at me as if I might be a maniac who could kill him with an axe.

Oh Christ, this post is quite sweet. I do apologise. I don't know what's come over me. I'll try and find something to rage about next time.

* Don't even think it, motherfucker.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Energy prices

I don't know about you but, in anticipation of the big increases of energy prices, I snapped up a capped tariff on my electricity supply until the end of August 2009. Just as well because following EDF's 22% gas price increase and 17% electricity increase last Friday, and British Gas announcing a 35% increase on gas prices and a 9% rise on electricity today, capped tariffs are vanishing faster than support for Gordon Brown.

The capped tariff I managed to get from Scottish Power is ten percent more than the variable rate I was on but if the prices go up by 20%, 40% or even 60% as some are predicting then I'm bloody lucky to have got that capped rate at all.

I don't know what is more frightening: the rocketing energy prices or the fact that I had the wherewithal to take measures against it: I'm usually a bit rubbish at financial planning.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Work 'n' fitba

Tomorrow night sees Rangers play Spanish team FBK Kaunas. This will be the first football match played at the Rangers' home ground, Ibrox Stadium, since I moved to Glasgow

Why should I, utterly indifferent to the Sport Of Overpaid Simpletons as I am, give a toss? I'll tell you why: Ibrox Stadium is half a mile up the road and my building is right next to a bus stop and a subway station. This means that tomorrow night there will be hoards of football fans milling around right below my window; and Glaswegian football fans can be... a spirited bunch. Advice has been unanimous: "Don't go out."

I'm not worried, though. I'll get some beers in, pull a chair up to the window and observe the shenanigans from the comfort of my second-floor flat. And when Rangers have a home match against their great local rivals Celtic, well, that should be a riot (perhaps literally).

Oh, and I started a new job today. Financial admin computery stuff, very little customer contact, no answering phone calls, dead convenient location, overtime available if I ever need a bit of extra dosh. Sorted.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

When is a church wedding not a church wedding?

But enough about weird dreams: Let us return, gentle reader, to my Glasgow Odyssey.

Although, as an aside, "odyssey" is one of my problem words, a word that I can never remember how to spell and have to look up every time I use it. It's not as if I am generally bad at spelling - I have no problem remembering how to spell "onomatopoeia", for example - but there are a few words, "odyssey" being one of them, that just won't stick. "Occasionally" is another one: one "C" or two, one "S" or two? I never get it right first time.

Anyway, this wedding in Glasgow was held at a rather splendid building called St. Andrew's in the Square. It is a big old auditorium that has a café-bar in the basement which means that you can hire the space, the catering, the drinks and the waiting staff in one convenient package. But the great thing about St. Andrew's is that it is a restored 18th Century church but is no longer used as such. This means that you can have a church wedding but are not tied to having a religious ceremony (my friends had an humanist ceremony), and you can hold the reception complete with bar and band or DJ there as well. Result.

Inside St. Andrew's in the Square

It really is a brilliant venue for a wedding and we had one hell of a party there. It almost makes me want to get married just so that I can hold my wedding there.

Almost.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Planes, Trains and... er... just planes and trains

What was I saying? Oh yeah: Glasgow.

It all started, as these tales so often do, with a wedding. Actually, no, it started with me missing my flight from Birmingham to Glasgow on account of the fucking hopeless train service from Oxford. I should have known better, really: I have never had a train journey to or from Oxford that has gone entirely according to plan. Delays, unannounced cancellations or the train coming to a halt and standing dormant for hours for no apparent reason: any or all of the above occur without fail every time.

Nevertheless, I foolishly thought that taking the train to Birmingham International Airport would be the most straightforward way to catch my flight. I simply had to make sure that I allowed plenty of time to make my flight in the event of some unforeseen delay. I really should have known better, shouldn't I.

I was surprised to discover that there was only one train every hour to Birmingham Airport. To put this in context, Birmingham is about 65 miles from Oxford, they are connected by direct rail links, one of which passes through the airport's station before reaching main stations in the city itself. Oxford, although not a huge city, is home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world and a popular tourist destination and yet none of the train companies see fit to lay on more than one train an hour to one of the nearest international airports. OK, yes, London Heathrow Airport is about ten miles closer, but still, Birmingham isn't exactly a tiny hamlet whose airport is a short sliver of cracked tarmac overgrown with weeds.

But what do I know?

My flight was at 11.55am. The train journey would take about one and a quarter hours. Departure times from Oxford station were 8.30 and 9.30. If I caught 9.30 then I would be able to check in at the airport about an hour and ten minutes before my flight. That was pushing it a bit, I thought. I know, I'll be sensible and responsible and catch the earlier train and arrive at Birmingham with over two hours to check in. So I got up nice and early, checked the web for any reports of problems with trains that day, set off with my bags and walked the mile and a half to the station, arrived about twenty minutes before the train was due to arrive only to discovered that at the last minute, out of the blue, the train had been cancelled.

I was somewhat perturbed by this turn of events but consoled myself with the knowledge that I could still get to the airport in time to check in if I caught the next train at 9.30. No problem. It would be fine.

Or it would have been fine if the 9.30 train had not been forty fucking minutes late. Forty minutes. Technically speaking, I did finally arrive at the airport in time to check in for the flight if I had only been taking hand luggage. Unfortunately, I wasn't only taking hand luggage and the hold had been closed fifteen minutes before I got there. There was nothing for it but to fork out some ninety quid for the three o'clock flight that afternoon. I spent three hours in the departure lounge bar and drowning my anger.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cross Country trains for making me miss my flight and costing me £90. It gives me great pleasure to know that I will never have to step foot on one of your tardy, overpriced and overcrowded trains ever again. My thanks also to First Great Western for their equally useless services in and around Oxford during my time there.

Despite this less than auspicious start, my Glasgow Odyssey was destined to improve greatly; but that's a blog post for another day.

To be continued...

(Look, I'm just trying to inject a little drama and suspense into this ultimately unexceptional anecdote, OK?)

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

I will write about Glasgow soon - promise. In the meantime...

Woke up... scratched arse... lay in bed half-erect wondering if I felt like cracking one off... couldn't be bothered in the end; will probably save it up for a porn-assisted stroke session tonight... eventually got out of bed for a dump and a shower... decided to go to the shop for eggs, chopped tomatoes, olive oil and a new hammer before having breakfast... need hammer to assemble new CD case for cupboard in lounge... put on CD - a bit of Living Colour because I felt like some thrashy funk rock this morning - and thought about what to have for breakfast... got sidetracked into writing this mundane spiel about the minutiae of my everyday life... my stomach is growling impatiently and yet I keep typing this garbage and trying to envisage exactly how dull and mediocre a person would have to be to spend all day engrossed in this pitiful drivel... welcome to the blogosphere.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Brief sort of update thingie

Went to wedding in Glasgow four weeks ago, stayed at friends' house while they were on their honeymoon to look after their cat and look for a flat to rent, spent a lot of time on buses and walking around, eventually found a nice one at a decent price, slapped down deposit, hired van, drove back to Oxford today and will spend the next week packing and saying farewell to chums before driving off to new life in Scotland.

Will write about said Caledonian adventure in more detail sometime soon. Promise.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oi, Pavlov, get to bed!

I love bed. Being in bed is one of life's greatest pleasures; and, no, I'm not talking about that - "makin' fuck" - I simply mean the whole sitting watching TV or reading a book or lying down and sleeping business. I always read in bed. It's wonderful, bliss.

And I shouldn't do it.

I have started attending a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy group to learn how to stop thinking that I'm a loser and give myself the confidence to go out and live life. I'm only on Week No. 3 so don't ask me yet how it's done.

Anyway, today we looked at how depression can adversely affect sleep and some techniques for overcoming the problem. The essence of these techniques is to train your brain to associate "bed" with "sleep" so that when you do go to bed you subconsciously tell yourself that it is time to sleep rather than dwell on problems or worry. To aid the training of your brain is to make sure that you only use your bed for sleeping and not, for example, watching TV or... um... reading.

Suddenly a few things make much more sense like, for example, the fact that when I read in bed I become drowsy very quickly and end up having a nap; and napping during the day is not good if you are having trouble sleeping at night.

In the past I thought that the problem was with my glasses and that I needed a new prescription. I had an eye test and got some new specs but, nope, eyes still got tired. I thought that maybe the lighting was insufficient in that corner of the room so I got a reading lamp for my bedside cabinet. Nah, still got tired.

Today it occurred to me that the reason I get tired quickly when I read in bed is because my brain thinks that I should be going to sleep. Likewise, maybe I have difficulty getting to sleep at night because when I go to bed there is a part of my brain thinking that it should be reading.*

This idea got me thinking about how much human beings are driven by instinct despite our big brains and oh-so-clever capacity for abstract thought that raises us above the level of "mere" animals. Perhaps what does raises us above the level of animals is that we can acknowledge the fact that we are driven by instincts and can define and embed new instincts into our minds.

But greater minds than mine are no doubt ruminating on these ideas in much more depth than I ever could. I'm just another guy trying to learn how to get my shit together and survive.

* I do not, however, salivate when I hear a bell.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Friends for sale

The son of an 88 year old widower has found a couple of drinking pals for his dad after putting an advert in the local post office and offering a rate of £7.00 an hour.

He and his dad interviewed a few candidates and took three of them out for a "trial drink" at the local pub.

I can understand that it's difficult for an elderly man to meet new people to go to the pub with when he is living in a nursing home but doesn't he feel a bit strange knowing that his new drinking pals, no matter how much he has in common with them, are being paid to hang out with him? To be fair, one of the two successful candidates has waived his fee but the other is taking the dosh to top up his pension.

I don't know - strikes me as a bit odd. On the other hand, I'd happily accept £7.00 an hour to hang out at the pub listening to old people's life stories. It would be great for gathering writing material and it would be a nice little earner to boot. Yes, this could be an interesting career move. I should get some business cards printed up and tour the local old people's homes.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Stuff and... things

Bloggity bloggity blog blog blog... come on Steve, gotta' blog about something. Haven't blogged anything for over ten days; surely you can't be suggesting that nothing has happened in that time? Well, admittedly, not much has happened what with your last temp job assignment finishing last Friday and taking a bit of time off to investigate the work/accommodation situation in Glasgow, but that's not especially interesting, is it? It's not as if you've spent the time partying and whoring your way around the seedy underbelly of Oxford. Does Oxford have a seedy underbelly? Must do - everywhere does. Maybe that could be a little project for you.

Still, doesn't help with the immediate problem of not having much to say. I suppose you could mention your ongoing obsession with your Last.fm stats, especially since you discovered that damned eclecticism test and have been trying to listen to as many different genres as possible to bump your score up. Come on, you know you have eclectic tastes, you don't need validation from a bunch of database statistics. Tragic, really, and not worth sharing with the world.

You could talk about why you failed to note the passing of Charlton Heston the other week given the fact you often post photo-memorials for cultural figures. He was, after all, a genuine old-school movie star. You could have commented upon your ambivalence towards his death given the fact that, for example, he was a vocal supporter of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in the 1960s but his latter day public advocation of gun ownership was deplorable; that and the fact that you never warmed to him as an actor despite his star status. True, he was in A Touch Of Evil, one of your favourite films of all time, but the reasons for it being one of your favourite films of all time have absolutely nothing to do with him. Anyway, it's old news now - no point in mentioning it.

Oh well, if you haven't got anything to blog about then you haven't got anything to blog about. Never mind, it's Sunday: why not make yourself a nice strong cup of coffee, curl up with Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and listen to some Otis Redding... or Alban Berg... or Muddy Waters... or Fudge Tunnel... or Sly & The Family Stone... or Ramones... or Luke Slater... or... oh, just go and check your Last.fm stats and then decide. Pathetic. It really is.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Thou shalt always dance

Another Monday night and another gig in Oxford, this time to see the performance poetry/electro/hip-hop stylings of Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip.

They filled the stage with antique furniture - a desk, drinks cabinet, a battered armchair, old lamps with faded, frilly shades. Mr. Pip and Mr. Le Sac proved to be most congenial hosts, engaging in funny banter and bemoaning the fact that they had been given a complimentary bottle of wine but no corkscrew. At various points in the show one would sit back in the armchair to sup a glass of wine (once a corkscrew had been blagged from the bar) to allow the other to fly solo for a while. And the tunes, of course, were great and I had a jolly old boogie.

I had hoped that the crowd would be a little more animate than they were at the Fall gig a few weeks ago... Oh well. I'll grant you that Le Sac 'n' Pip have yet to release an album ("Angles", due out in May) and many people are only familiar with their hit single from last year Thou Shalt Always Kill. I confess that I had only heard three of their tracks before I went to the gig but that didn't stop me getting into all the other cool stuff they played that I didn't know. The rest of the audience, though... well, some of them did a half-arsed movement of the shoulders but they only sprang into life when that song came on.

What's the point of that? What's the point of going to a gig to hear only one song and not show any interest in the rest of the act's material. To be fair, the crowd did cheer and applaud between tracks but, jeez, if a self-conscious uncoordinated numpty like me can jiggle his bits to unfamiliar tunes then anybody can.

Sorry, but Oxford gig crowds are rubbish.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Springtime in England!

Even in England, with its unpredictably eccentric meteorological quirks, you don't expect to wake up in April in springtime to a sight like this out of your bedroom window:

Whacky old England.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Falling

On Monday night I ventured out to the Oxford Zodiac - sorry - the Carling Academy Oxford (gotta' love corporate chain-branding for that underground vibe) for some raucous post-punk noise with Mark E. Smith and The Fall.

Turning up far too early, I retired to a nearby pub which was full of St. Patrick's Day revellers and spent a couple of hours getting suitably leathered.

At around 9.45pm I stumbled into the venue just in time to catch some VJ doing an audio/visual scratch mix thing that went on far too long, although I thought the cries of "piss off!" and "get off the fucking stage, you wanker!" from the crowd were a little harsh.

Speaking of the crowd, I was curious to see what cross-section of the Oxford populace would be there. Oxford doesn't strike me as the kind of place that would embrace a mad, wasted Manc bloke mumbling and screeching scathing social commentary over abrasive punky guitar noise.

Turns out I was right. The band emerged on stage and started to thrash out an impressive racket for a minute or two before the man himself, the legend that is Mark E. Smith, took to the mic and I dutifully cheered and started jumping around with a gusto.

Sadly, though, there were only about ten of us down the front getting into the spirit of the thing. I kept looking around only to be greeted with the sight of a room full of people just standing there staring at the stage with their dead eyes, no joy, no enthusiasm.

Despite this apathetic response from the crowd, the band played tight and good and we dedicated few at the front did our utmost to show Mark & Co. that their efforts were not entirely in vain.

I left the gig exhausted, my ears ringing, and baring a big stupid grin. I had a fucking great time but I felt a little sorry for all those poor lifeless bastards in the crowd who didn't appear to have any idea of what was going on or why they were there. They probably should have stayed at home and listened to their Coldplay albums.


Anyways, I am now off to Devon for the Easter weekend to chill out and finally reading that damn Tristram Shandy novel.

Whatever your plans, enjoy yourself and don't eat too much chocolate.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hunter S. Moses

This gave me a good chuckle this week:

In the third chapter of the biblical book of Exodus there is an account of how Moses hears the voice of God talking to him via a bush that "burned but was not consumed". According to Benny Shanon, professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the explanation for Moses' experience in the wilderness is that he was under the influence of an extract from an acacia tree that altered his perception of time and made him believe that God was speaking to him through the burning bush.
- Pete Tobias, The Guardian, Saturday March 8 2008
Could it be that Moses wasn't conversing with the almighty at all but tripping his tits off and talking to a shrub? Could it be that the stories that form the very foundation of Christianity are merely the mad rambling hallucinations of whacked out dopeheads, that religion is just a load of made up nonsense? Surely not!

As my pal Wendy quipped, Book Of Exodus: Fear & Loathing On Mount Sinai. Imagine it:

And when the LORD saw that [Moses] turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses, we're in bat country!

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap, y'all

2008 is a Leap Year and today is our extra day. Tradition has it that 29 February is the day when women are "allowed" to propose marriage to their men. (Interesting how, even in this enlightened age of equality*, it is still often the man who is expected to propose - not always, for sure, but often. That has certainly been the case amongst my friends. Then again, maybe I just know a lot of unusually old fashioned people.) I have long been aware of this tradition as I expect many of you have too.

An additional proviso to the tradition I was not aware of is that if the man declines the marriage proposal then he is obliged to furnish the woman with a new gown.

Thanks to my chum Wendy Vaizey for that interesting nugget of trivia.

If any of my female readers wish to ask for my hand in marriage then please form an orderly queue and leave your proposals in the 'comments' of this post. I await your requests with great anticipation.

I thank you.

* Yeah, right - not if much of the "hilarious" commentary on Hilary Clinton's Presidential campaign is anything to go by, or salary comparisons between the sexes, or the persistent "glass ceiling" in many industries, and so on.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Twin casualties

Last night I dreamt that I was in an episode of Casualty (a British TV hospital drama, for the benefit of my foreign readers). All the doctors and nurses were running around as usual looking after the sick but the weird thing was that each patient was the spitting image of their attending nurse or doctor, as were any friends or relatives accompanying them. It was strangely creepy like that scene in Being John Malkovich when the eponymous actor enters his own head and ends up in a restaurant where everyone sports his face.

I can understand why I might have dreamt about a TV show that I watch only occasionally: My chum Paul Campbell is going to be writing an episode for the show (well done Paul!); but what the whole twin thing is about, I know not.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday babble

About 100 pages into The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. Hard work but I think I've settled into it verbosity and mad digressions. Keep telling myself that I've read Ulysses so, hey, I can fucking read anything.


I went to the The British Fantasy Open Night last night on the flimsiest of pretexts - my chum Jai Clare invited me. Got drunk, talked to some interesting fantasy writers, chatted up a nice auburn-haired film producer, joked that I could be the next Hugh Grant or Jude Law, gave her a phone number, possibly mine. Feeling a bit sluggish today.


Had a dream that the house I lodge in was some sort of boarding school except the internal layout was completely different - but it was the house I lodge in. Anyway, the cleaner managed to utterly humiliate me in front of my fellow pupils by pointing out that my bed linen stank of cum.


My resolution to stop buying books until I substantially reduced my "to read" pile has failed abysmally. Awaiting my attention once I have concluded my business with Mr. Shandy are:

  • Other Voices by Andrew Humphrey
  • The Complete Enderby by Anthony Burgess
  • The Famished Road by Ben Okri
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  • L'Assommoir by Émile Zola
  • La Bete Humaine by Émile Zola
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
  • On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
  • On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt
  • The Turn of the Screw / The Aspern Papers (Omnibus) by Henry James
  • The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson
  • London Orbital by Iain Sinclair
  • Nature's Numbers by Ian Stewart
  • Continent by Jim Crace
  • Pesthouse by Jim Crace
  • In Search of Schrodinger's Cat by John Gribbin
  • Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality by John Gribbin
  • The Major Works by Jonathan Swift
  • Palm Sunday / Welcome To The Monkey House (Omnibus) by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
  • Two Tall Tales and One Short Novel by Lucy Fry, Heidi James and Kay Sexton
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Plays And Petersburg Tales by Nikolai Gogol
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
  • The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk
  • Luis Bunuel: New Readings by Peter William Evans
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick
  • River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life by Richard Dawkins
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
  • Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami
  • Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • Writing to the Moment: Selected Critical Essays 1980-95 by Tom Paulin
  • How Brains Think: Evolving Intelligence, Then and Now by William H. Calvin
Utterly ridiculous, isn't it. Still, it makes for an artificially long blog post.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Interpretations

The literal minded among you may interpret the dream related in my last post as an anxiety dream about my hiring a car to drive 100 miles to a wedding in Dorset having not driven for three years.

Maybe, but it all came back to me in seconds. I'd forgotten how cool driving is. I had my homemade Amon Tobin compilation CD blasting out the speakers and there wasn't too much traffic around so, apart from getting lost briefly due to confusingly labelled signposts and the odd obligatory muppet driver getting in my way, I really enjoyed myself.

Oh, and the wedding was quite good too: some blonde Welsh tart of my acquiantance was marrying some American fella. And if Suw Charman (for it was she) wasn't already queen of the blogosophosphere, she damn well will be when the photographs of her gravity-defying burgundy corset hit the interwebs. We are talking Cleaveage Of The Decade™. The geeks of the world will gawp in amazement when those puppies hit their Macbook screens. Oh, and a good time was had by all, yadda yadda yadda.

But I'm pretty certain that my driving dream was not about driving at all.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

No parking

OK, seeing as I have been inundated with... um... two requests for disclosure, here is the dream I dreamed the other night:

I was driving a big family estate car through a typical residential suburb. I turned into a cul-de-sac of five or six generic detached houses that all sat upon raised ground with sloping driveways running down to the road. I turned into the driveway of the house in which I apparently lived. I took the car up the driveway, allowing gravity to slow the car down, put the clutch in and pressed the brake pedal. The car came to a halt in front of the garage door but instead of staying put the car began to roll back down the drive and into the road even though my foot remained on the brake pedal.

The car came to a gentle halt by the opposite curb. Frowning, I gently moved the car forwards, mounted the driveway, took my foot off the accelerator when I reached the garage door and firmly applied the brake pedal, but yet again, once the car had stopped it began to roll back into the road.

I tried again but this time, once the car rolled to a halt in front of the garage, I applied the foot brake and the hand brake. No good: the car rolled back again. This time, though, a neighbour was pulling into the cul-de-sac and had to come to an abrupt stop to avoid a collision. I looked out of the side window, shrugged and mouthed an apology. My neighbour waved and manoeuvred around me to reach his own driveway.

Annoyed now, I attempted to park again, this time slamming down my foot on the brake pedal and yanking up the hand break, but still the car rolled back into the road even faster than before. More neighbours were driving into the street and I had to swerve to avoid them mouthing sorry at them.

Again and again I ascended my driveway, slamming harder on the brake pedal, yanking up the hand brake with all my strength and every time rolling back faster and further into the road, dodging my neighbours' cars, rolling up the pavement, onto their front lawns, across their driveways as they themselves were parking on them, skidding and dodging. It was Cars On Ice.

The car eventually slid to a halt. I clung to the steering wheel, breathing heavily. I didn't know what to do. The car would not stay on the sloped driveway. I couldn't leave the car where it came to rest across the middle of the road. I could not park at the roadside where the car could not roll away - that was somehow not an option - but I could not leave the car until it was parked. I was stranded, helpless.

My dad emerged from the house and strolled over. I wound down the window and said, the brakes have failed. Dad nodded and said nothing. He looked away, stared into space. It's not my fault, I wanted to say. Dad sighed. His eyes tried to communicate sympathy but they could not disguise his disappointment, his resignation, as if to say, he can't even park the fucking car.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Enigmatic blog post title that gives no indication as to what the post may be about and is quite possibly longer than the post itself

Last night I did something that I haven't done for a very long time: I awoke from a dream and... wrote it down.

Leave a comment if you wish to know what the dream was about.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Mentally challenged headgear

Oh, I forgot to mention that the latest issue of Mad Hatter's Review is online. It's got some tunes in it. By me. Check the about page for direct links. Etcetera.

Job done.


I think I'll buy one of those little tabletop ironing boards. And an iron

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Coens on fire, Camden burns

I was very shocked to wake up this morning to the news of a major fire at Camden Market. I'm not intimately familiar with the place but I have strolled around the market and drunk in many of the pubs around there. There are several great gig venues in the area too like Koko, the Electric Ballroom and the Roundhouse that I visited several times last year.

Damn, a real shame, that.


In an attempt to rekindle my interest in films, I made the effort to go and see The Coen Brothers' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country For Old Men. And what a relief it was. After two disappointing films, Intolerable Cruelty and the utterly pointless (if beautifully shot) remake of The Ladykillers, No Country For Old Men sees the Coen boys on cracking form. I read the novel last year when I heard that The Coens were making a film of it and I immediately realised that McCarthy's sparse, violent and melancholy neo-Western was perfect material for them. And how. It is reminiscent in tone and pace of the brothers' first film Blood Simple but in an older and wiser way. Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones are all wonderfully understated in their roles, Kelly MacDonald is strong too.

I can understand why the ending has pissed people off but, having read the novel, I was prepared for it. I don't think I would have minded anyway: I wouldn't have expected a nice, tidy and typical thriller-style ending from the Coens anyway - that is not what the film (or the novel) is about.

To find out what it is about, I suggest you go and see it, think about it for a while, see it again and then read the book. Or read the book first; I always prefer to read the book first for some reason.

Anyway, the film is good enough to make you think that it should be law that all McCarthy adaptations are made by the Coen Brothers. Having said that, The Road is currently in production under the directorship of John Hillcoat, the fella who made the Nick Cave scripted The Proposition, a powerful film that stayed with me long after I left the cinema even though I didn't really know whether I liked it or not as I was watching it. I think Hillcoat and McCarthy will be a good match. Also, Blood Meridian (which is on my ever-growing "to read" shelf) is on the slate for Ridley Scott. McCarthy... Ridley Scott... hmm, it could work; Ridley is nothing if not eclectic in his choices.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

As yet untitled blog post

I don't know where to begin so I will skip the beginning and begin in the middle.


Finally went to see a shrink - sorry - counsellor today and it turned out to not be as an horrific waste of time as I might have feared. She discerned very quickly that I am not interested in discovering why I am a miserable failure with no self-esteem but how I can stop being a miserable failure with no self-esteem. Yes yes yes, it's all because of my mother probably, great, but what do I do about it? I'm not interested in examining the past, I want to fix the now. She said the three magic words before I had a chance to bring them up: cognitive behavioural therapy. I decided I liked her very much at that point. "Oh thank fog* for that, she gets it." She is going to refer me to a CBT group which is nice. Unfortunately, the next round of classes doesn't begin until the beginning of April but, I don't know, having somebody who knows what they are talking about acknowledge that I have a real problem and could offer a practical way forward was comforting. April, though... bit of a long way off. I may buy myself a copy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Dummies (seriously) to tide me over.

I feel oddly... validated

She was also quite attractive. She wore nice boots.


I am glad to hear that despite the death of Heath Ledger production of Terry Gilliam's new film The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus will continue.

When I first heard of Ledger's death I could not help but recall the collapse of Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and think, "Oh no, not again." I don't wish to sound as if my desire to see a cool movie overshadows the sad loss of such a young human being but I am glad the film can be completed. Dr. Parnassus (along with the upcoming Dark Knight) will give us a final glimpse of how this intriguing young actor might have developed, and what better tribute to an actor is there?


I am fucking loving Bartók at the moment


Don't know how to finish either so I will stop here at the end of the middle.


* As an ignostic, I am loath to use the phrase "oh my God." However, from a purely aesthetic point of view and in certain circumstances "oh my god" is exactly the right phrase to use. Therefore, in order to circumvent my distaste for the word "god" whilst not depriving myself of the satisfaction of using the phrase "oh my god" I am experimenting rhyming substitutes such as "dog", "fog", "bog". I must confess, though, that it just isn't the same**.

** However, I have found a most favourable substitute for the exclamation "for the love of god", namely, "oh for the love of fucksy". Go on, try it. The next time you feel the need to express your incredulity at the sheer stupidity of a person or persons in your immediate vicinity, try screaming from the very depths of your diaphragm, "Oh for the love of fucksy!" It really works.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In Review (finally): 2007

2007: The year I stood up in church during a friend's wedding ceremony and read out an extract from The Velveteen Rabbit - a moment I will always remember with great fondness.

2007: The year we lost Kurt Vonnegut. The discovery of his work in my late teens was pivotal in my development as a serious reader. Having gobbled up Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett I felt the desire to adventure deeper into the literary landscape. I was in the habit of picking books at random from shop shelves, reading the blurb, scanning a few pages, impulse buying. One book I found using this method was Jack Womack's Random Acts Of Senseless Violence, a disturbing and vivid vision of social breakdown. I enjoyed it immensely. One of the quotes of praise on the dust jacket likened Womack to some guy called Kurt Vonnegut so I went out and bought Slaughterhouse 5, the title of which sounded vaguely familiar.

The book was a revelation. Funny, serious, wise, angry and compassionate, a moving story of war and the bombing of Dresden that somehow involved time travel and extraterrestrial zoos. Reading this book I realised that serious fiction could be funny and stories didn't have to be told in chronological order. I was amazed how effortlessly Vonnegut took all these fragments, all these disparate threads, and somehow tied them all together on the final page. Most of all I was won over by Vonnegut's wry charm and humanity; reading him was like being taught life lessons by a favourite uncle. "Come here, son, I want to tell you a few things about the world."

Reading Vonnegut is liberating in that he shows you that you can do anything you damn well please in fiction - his books are like permission slips. I'm very sad he is gone but I'm happy that he was here at all and gave us so many wonderful words.

2007: the year I read Ulysses and I finally finished Boccaccio's Decameron. I experienced something of a reading renaissance in 2007: I always have a book on the go but for some reason my appetite became particularly voracious (which maybe explains my resolve to conquer James Joyce's colossal tome). I read a lot of excellent stuff including Pamuk's My Name Is Read, John Fowles' The Magus, Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual, several Richard Brautigans (what a beautifully quirky turn of phrase that man had), The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch, Slow Chocolate Autopsy by Iain Sinclair and José Saramago's Blindness, the last of which affected me the most with its harrowing vision of the ease with which "civilised" society could collapse.

If my appetite for reading increased in 2007 then my interest in film waned considerably. I know I've complained bitterly about Hollywood remaking every good Asian film barely five minutes after its released but it now it seems studios are cannibalising every nation's celluloid history including their own. We're going to get Paul W.S. Anderson's remake of The Long Good Friday pointlessly relocated to contemporary Miami, Ron Howard doing Michael Hanecke's Caché (Hidden), Michael Hanecke doing an American remake of his own Funny Games (why Michael, why?), The Taking Of Pelham 123 and Fritz Lang's Metropolis for fuck's sake. What happens when you've flogged a franchise to death with increasingly shite sequels? Why, you simply start again by remaking the original! Hello Halloween! And talking of John Carpenter, hello Assault On Precinct 13 remake! Hello Escape From New York remake! Apparently John Carpenter is happy to piss all over his own back catalogue of DIY cult classics by endorsing uninspired remakes.

The event that epitomised this trend for me is the fact that Martin Scorcese finally won his long-deserved Oscar for his laziest, most derivative film. Not only is The Departed inferior to its Hong Kong progenitor but it also feels like Scorcese simply imitating his own past glories. You'll say I am taking this far too seriously but watching The Departed and witnessing the subsequent praise and adulation Marty received actually kinda' hurt.

Thank Whoever, then, for David Lynch who delivered three hours of magnificent dread and weirdness in the form of INLAND EMPIRE. It doesn't matter that I didn't follow the half of it, I loved every damn digitally videoed frame of it. Even when I had no idea what was going on I never felt that Lynch was wasting my time with mere self-indulgent waffle - which, coincidentally, was exactly how I felt reading Ulysses. I seemed to be in that kind of mood in 2007. The only other films I enjoyed at the cinema were Zhang Yimou's Curse Of The Golden Flower which, despite the lukewarm critical response, I really enjoyed, and Hot Fuzz, the most gloriously absurd and entertaining film of the year.

Never mind, I procured lots of good music this year. I got stuck into two genres that I have long-intended to investigate properly: Post-punk and classical. By "classical" I really mean "orchestral", I suppose, because the era I have been drawn to has been that of 20 Century modern composers. Yes, I'm loving all that dodecaphonic atonal shit.

Best albums released this year? Chicago, Detroit, Redruth by Luke Vibert, Book Of Dogma by The Black Dog (well, OK, I admit that this is a compilation of previously released material but much of it has only appeared on vinyl so it still counts), Whisper Me Wishes by Kettel, Oblivion With Bells by Underworld, Foley Room by Amon Tobin and the magnificently barmy Tromatic Reflexxions by Von Südenfed.

I managed to keep a New Year's resolution for once by going to some gigs, something I hadn't done for a long time. I went to see Aim, Bonobo, Underworld and Amon Tobin and I'm so glad I made the effort. Music really is one of the things that makes life worth living - a world without music doesn't bear thinking about.

But otherwise 2007 sucked. Let's see if I can get my shit together in 2008, eh?

Ha. I say that every year.

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