Sunday, November 25, 2012

Number 91

Cold Call
I sat down for my coffee break, on Thursday, got my phone out and I'd missed a call, but there had been an answer machine message left. I was listening to it when another call came in on the phone, from the same number.

It was a company in Wellingborough who had got my number and my first name. The conversation went something like this:
"Hello is that Phillip?"
"Phillip who?"
"Er..."
"If you know the person who owns this phone is called Phillip then presumably you know their surname?"
"Is that you Phillip?"
"I'd presume you know me as you speak as though you do, but as I haven't been called Phillip for 25 years, I have to presume you are trying to sell me something." Seemingly oblivious to my points, she continued.
"I represent [some company] and I'm ringing you about the PPI you may have paid on a former loan."
"Okay. Can I ask you a question? Are you calling me because you have evidence of me having bought PPI or is this just a cold call so that you can get hold of my details?"
silence.
"Well?"
silence.
"This is a cold call isn't it?"
click.

I get more and more of these calls. I wouldn't mind if I'd been fucking stupid enough to get PPI when I took loans out in the past, but I'm loath to spend anything extra on anything I don't think I need and PPI is the kind of thing I would avoid like the plague.

There is also this point that any 'proper' company that may have sold you PPI or some similar product is duty bound to inform you, if you feel you've paid it and shouldn't have. You don't need these fly-by-night company of cunts to take their own 50% cut of what might be rightfully yours.

What has pissed me off more than anything about this is it must have been O2 who have sold my details to someone because, much to the sometimes ridicule of the kids at school, I have an old phone and I use it to make phone calls and send text messages and as sad as this might seem, you can trace my use activity back a year and I have never used it for anything other than talking or texting friends - a select band of friends at that. So unless someone like Roger, Billy or the wife have been selling my details to opportunist companies...

Supermarket Shits

Friday was a mare of a day at work - it was windy and windy is actually worse than wet, cold or sunny; it seems to have a very wrong effect on the kids. I got home and the wife was already out with the dogs which meant that we had more time to go get the weekly shopping.

We have avoided Sainsbury's in Duston for months; the store is being rebuilt and the few times we have been there it has been a stressful affair and on the whole unsatisfying visits, because the store had been in such turmoil we ended up forgetting loads of stuff.

However, I read in the paper on Thursday that the store was having it's grand reopening on Wednesday 28th. Reopening seemed a bit steep a description as the place has steadfastly remained open despite the builders, idiot car park attendants and ongoing chaos. In fact, they have been going to great lengths to tell people that the store is still open and not to forsake it.

Friday evening in Shoesville. It's a fucking nightmare to get anywhere at the best of times, but the 5 miles between the Headlands and Duston was always going to be the stuff of madness; but we figured that it would be worth it to see the almost finished new superstore and hopefully get some of the things that Sainsbury's in Wellingborough doesn't stock. We set off at 4.40 and got to Duston at 5.10. I should be grateful that the journey only took half an hour, but our journey was to prove fruitless and futile. There was a man, who barely spoke English stopping people from going into the store. "It is closed now until Wednesday."

"But I've just driven across the town in rush hour to get here."

"It is closed now until Wednesday," he said either ignoring what I'd said or choosing to ignore it. So we had to continue driving through rush hour to get to Tesco Mereway as this was the closest store and we needed some food.

What has pissed me off the most about this has been a) the fact that Sainsbury's have been banging on for months about the store remaining open throughout the chaos, and b) there's a fucking great advert for the store and it says nothing about the shop closing Friday.

As you can imagine; there was an almighty pissed off email sent off to Sainsbury's about this.

The Impending Garden Wars?

Someone, somewhere (on the Internet), said to me on Friday morning, "Why are you so angry?" It's actually a fair question, the irony being that someone as foolish and foolhardy as I am can't suffer fools at all. It's why I've said I will probably die of an aneurysm or heart attack as a result of going apoplectic at something or someone. Friday lunchtime was a perfect example; standing in the street shouting at three adolescents on bikes; offering to 'ave em all' while standing there in a suit, by my front door. I got so angry I resorted to just telling them to fuck off...

So why am I so angry at times? Especially as most people think of me as being particularly mild mannered (or at least that's possibly my warped perception of what others think of me). I might be able to answer that, but frankly I can't be arsed. Instead I'm going to tell you about me doing my nut, again, this morning when the wife suggested we needed to spend some money on the garden next year.

"If Fishwife thinks I'm going to pay for the replacement of the fence panel in the duck run he's got another think coming."

"I wasn't talking about that side of the garden."

"Well, we need to think about it as the buddleia is the only thing keeping it up and I'm not paying for the fucking thing because it was his fault the poxy thing went rotten in the first place..." Rant rant rant rant.

"What about the other side?"

"I've been spoiling for an argument with that fat cunt for ages. I'm going to tell him that the fence needs replacing and that I'm not paying for it alone. He's got to pay half of it or I'm going to leave the fucking thing and he can put up with Marley eating the cat food they stick out for all the stray fucking cats that shit in our garden. The fuckwit needs to fucking understand that he doesn't own this street, especially the way he fucks with people with his parking antics." I then realised the wife had gone upstairs and was ignoring me. Can't say I blame her...

I am becoming a bitter and twisted version of Victor Meldrew and I need to chill out a bit.

But it doesn't escape the fact that Fuckwit isn't going to use his disability card with me on this one. I will put it to him very succinctly - we need to replace the fence and that means we not I. I will get it done, but he needs to contribute 50% of the cost or it won't get done. If he uses the lack of money argument I will point out to him that the wife and I can't afford to employ gardeners or car valets which he seems quite keen on having; so perhaps he should forsake his car being valeted for a month and pay for the fucking fence to be fixed. I might even remind him that as I have a lung condition, a fucked up arthritic back and an anger management issue he had better not remind me that he's on DLA because I might rip off one of his fucking legs and beat him around the head with the soggy stump. Then he will be fucking disabled ...

And breathe...


স্টাফ এবং নিরর্থ
  • Obviously Levitation has been played to death this week, but thanks to Al the Landlord at the Vic I also discovered the band called Other Lives. I downloaded their two albums on Wednesday; gave them a listen to over the last couple of days when I haven't been Levitating and found them to be so good I'm adding them to my Christmas wishlist. Oh and I'm listening to Astronautica at the moment by the wonderful Hidria Space Folk!
  • It's been a difficult week being a Spurs supporter, especially with my boss who supports the Arse and a Spurs manager who clearly wouldn't know an arse from an elbow if he was poked in the eye with either. And now the Saviour has gone to QPR...
  • Isn't condensation a bitch?
  • Can I just say that it's terrible that all the places in the country have been flooded; but you really need to understand that the government - any government - doesn't really give a shit, despite making sympathetic sounds and making idle promises about looking into improving flood defences. It costs too much money and no one has any money. I'd also like to point out to those of you who hadn't noticed, we were in drought conditions 8 months ago and everyone was panicking and claiming water would be rationed by August. The last three droughts we've had in this country have all had the same fears brought to the fore and within a couple of months the country has been under water. We get dry spells; we get very wet spells; the country has been like that for millennia.
  • My mate Will has been bemoaning how, as he's got older, he has developed intolerances to some foods - wheat and mushrooms to name but two things he has to avoid if he doesn't want to be ill. I've noticed over the last couple of years that my guts aren't big fans of mushrooms any longer, but my love for them has meant that I'll put up with some mild discomfort. Now it appears that the same can also be said about beer. Not only am I getting old, have had to stop taking drugs, smoking and exerting myself too much, I now have to stop eating and drinking the things I love the most. Getting old is a complete and utter cun

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The 90th One - Review Special

Meanwhile Gardens by Levitation
and
Meanwhile Gardens by Levitation

As my regular reader will have noticed, I was currently playing my way through my upstairs record collection; starting at A and going all the way to the Zutons. I got to C, found my way to the extraordinary album by Cradle called Baba Yaga and figured I'd stick a link to the best song on the album on my social networking sites. This simple You Tube search set the tone for the entire week (and, no, I haven't made a mistake at the top of this page).

Chloe's Room is a strange one. It's about 16 minutes long and is pretty much a folk/acid/prog track. It is the outstanding track on Baba Yaga and suggested that the man behind Cradle, the utterly bonkers Terry Bickers, was something of an old hippy. Finding Chloe's Room proved to be almost impossible and the only thing I could find on the entire interweb thingy was the entire album on You Tube. Thanks to my extraordinary powers of observation, the recommended watches on You Tube included something called Food for Powder by the mighty Levitation and something I didn't know existed.

Levitation was the short-lived Terry Bickers project after he walked out on The House of Love (yes, that's where you've heard of him) and he famously split the band up after a gig suggesting the band had lost it at a time when it was clear they were just about to become one of the best bands in the world; the music press loved them, even if some dared to suggest they were actually more influenced by prog rock than anything else. I had to be content with just two albums - Need For Not (the only official album) and Coterie (an album of b-sides, extras and out-takes that was actually released before NFN) and a large hole in me.

If I had to sum up decades of my life by bands, the 60s was probably The Beatles, the 70s was Genesis, the 80s was Talk Talk and the 90s would be a struggle between The Verve, House of Love and the mighty Levitation. I'm inclined to think on overall output that Levitation would just scrape in as the winners - that's how important this band were to me. But they disappeared, Bickers did odds and ends but apart from Cradle most of it was meh and because of Cradle I discovered there is another album, that was never released. except there wasn't just one album, there were two...

For me, finding a lost Levitation album could only really be matched by a new Talk Talk album and I frantically searched the net for some idea of what Meanwhile Gardens actually was, only to discover there were two versions of it. The original version with Bickers on vocals and a different version with another vocalist, dragged in after Bickers threw his toys out of the pram.

I found a blog. I found a link. I downloaded an album that I can't buy. Then I downloaded another album I can't buy that was the same but different.

Meanwhile Gardens (1): Despite being press darlings in 1993, the fact it took me 19 years to discover this album even existed suggests that Levitation were not commercially viable, which might suggest why this album was never released. That's a massive shame because even though this album is clearly not the finished article, it showed just where the band were going and they were going 'Prondie'. If Talk Talk were the innovators of Post-Rock, then Levitation were the innovators of Indy Prog and even if bands such as Blow Up Hollywood have never heard their stuff, then their influences must have been seen in other bands.
This is a monster of an album - not in size, but intention. It starts off like an indie shoegaze album but quickly morphs into something different. Bodiless, Greymouth and Food For Powder are all pretty generic and the kind of thing you imagine Levitation doing but not making the finished cut; but once Gardens Overflowing starts you realise you've just wandered into wonderland.
If you got lulled into the sense of disappointment by the first three tracks, the next 6 bend you over and give you a damned good fucking. Prog pop meets indie brilliance meets something altogether new. King of Mice, Going Faster, Magnifying Glass are all massive tracks; long, sprawling and resonating with menace and passion - Going Faster possibly a single, but also classic Levitation, which best sums of King of Mice as this could have featured on any album and been a highlight. Twice is an instrumental that just barks at you and makes you wonder why they didn't do more and the actual album ends with the sublime Burroughs, possibly one of the best tracks ever written by anyone anywhere.
The album is completed, as such, by three tracks that were recorded at the studio but never got further than instrumental tracks - Heavy Roller, Unknown and All At Sea are all unique, not like you would imagine from a band with the sensibilities they have and possibly a hint at where the band might have gone had their leader not been a bit mad.
Obviously, knowing me, this album has been on heavy rotation since I downloaded it. It's in the car, it's in the office and I'd have it in the bog and bedroom if the wife would let me. it has a few weak spots, but it is like finding an orgasm I forgot about 20 years ago and reliving it over and over. 9½/10

Meanwhile Garden (2): After Terry Bickers left the band, the remaining members figured they had a future, even without their master. They did, they became Dark Star and had their own flirtation with success. However, they went back into the studio and re-recorded a lot of the above album with a new singer, Steve Ludwin, and this version was released in Australia and has since become something of a collectors item.
As a Levitation album it's not a patch on the above, but as a stand alone album, with some different tracks, it's pretty good. Ludwin is no Bickers in the vocal department (and that is damning him with faint praise as Bickers vocals sometimes leave a lot to be desired because they can seem so weak at times) and you get the impression that the gutsy tracks on 1 have had their balls removed by too much production. Take King of Mice, an atypical Levitation track which with Ludwin singing just hasn't got the power or the atmosphere and it suggests that Levitation were only brilliant because of Bickers and as hard as the rest of the band tried, without their god they were just another cult. 6/10

Things have moved really fast since I downloaded these on Tuesday. I have now discovered there is actually two versions of the first album - the summer and autumn versions. Whether these will ever be available or found on the net who can say (a quick search just kept taking me back to the forum where I first discovered this), but the history of one of my favourite bands has just got a whole lot murkier and after nearly 20 years of resignation, I'm excited at the possibility of finding even more tracks by them. That helps keep the legend alive!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Numero 89

Shitbags

I've been worried this week. My breathing has been dodgy and I've been out of breath more than I care for. My lovely colleague Louise, who stopped smoking 40 a day about 2 years ago, was very supportive reminding me that I am 50 and it takes a damned sight longer to feel the benefits - she's 59 and still doesn't feel like she's anywhere near fully got control of her lungs back; but she reckons the improvement is there and I should stop looking for it as it will only exacerbate my fears.

It was 3 months on Tuesday and I'm still as adamant now as I was back in August when I started to get really scared. The most obvious improvement is my sense of smell and I have to be honest, doesn't the world smell fucking 'orrible; I'm picking up all kinds of smells I would have been oblivious to 4 months ago and a lot of them are really nasty. I was going to say unpleasant, but frankly that's an understatement.

The drains on the back entrance to the school smell like the back entrance of a diseased man after he'd eaten 4 tins of beans, 2 packets of Jaffa cakes and 17 pints of Guinness (with a couple of chick pea and cabbage vindaloos thrown in for some tangy-ness). I get a whiff of it most days, yet a lot of people don't seem to know it's there. But I think my boss's office is haunted and no one else thinks its anything but my impending madness.

It has been one of those monster weeks at work; one of the kind that I will only really be able to explain in full when I no longer work there. Fights, unbelievable air-headedness, bird shit, restraints and physical interventions, putting up with a professional whinger, discovering a few things that has boosted my ego, but not turned my head and being witness to a couple of things that will only truly be appreciated when I can go into full Phil-mode with rather than pussy-footing around.

However, and probably the reason for the reticence, is the news that I have a nickname. I've had a few - Hallicks when I was a pre-teen; big-nose, cunt, Phil the bastard, Fil Fil Fil to name just a few. However, the latest one has a strange and rather pride inducing ring to it. The year 11s have started calling me... Legend. And I believe it is because of this blog, which might result in this blog migrating somewhere else, changing its name and allowing me to go back into full bastard mode (that's Bast not Barst).

A lot of people at school bought the book on Kindle, but I think quite a few have found Farkynell2 - this blog - because there have been some references to things that have only appeared on here and I get the impression that a percentage of the older kids at the school are even more endeared towards me because of my no-holds barred, no-nonsense approach to calling a digging implement a spade; either that or they're unbelievably sad and enjoy reading about my mega-exciting and dynamic life. The strange thing is that last year I was the favourite of the lower part of the school - years 7, 8 and 9 loved me, but 10 and 11 weren't so keen. There's been a strange about face this year, with year 11 exhibiting this new found respect for me, but the lower years now viewing me with a lot more suspicion and fear. But that's no bad thing...

Going back to the non-smoking for a second; last time I tried to stop I'd put on over two stone by the time I hit the 3 month mark and after 6 months, when I gave up giving up, I'd gone up to over 16 stones - which is getting on for 200lbs (possibly more, I can't be arsed to work it out) - this time I'm only 8lbs over my usual weight and I'm kind of convinced I never actually got back to that 13st weight despite the fags and less carbohydrate intake. However, as well as having this almost constant asthma attack, one of the main symptoms of COPD is the fact you find it really difficult to put on weight, which is why sufferers are shoved on steroids a lot. I suppose the thing is, I'm pretty much convinced that when I do go and get all these tests done that they will find something wrong and probably incurable with me. I sat watching the telly this evening and day-dreamt of taking a really deep breath again...

Down and Deep

I've had a mass clear-out this week on my Yahoo email account. I went from 61 emails to 9 with a bit of judicious hacking and slashing. While I was doing it, in my draft folder I found 7 or 8 unsent emails (or in a few cases, serial numbers etc., for stuff I need - like my Kindle account and my AVG shit) and one of them was written back in May when I was desperately unhappy at work; was still feeling the effects of the first two chest infections I had and probably needed some catharsis.

Boy... I should write more when I'm depressed. It's bleak stuff; stark and hard with an edge to it that you wouldn't usually associate with me, but I sat there and thought, "fuck me, did I really write this?" Maybe one day, like the extremely long diatribe about my 6 years at the YOT, I will put it up on the blog; mainly because I should as it is a great example of what I can do when the pressure is off and I'm just writing for me rather than thinking about possibly selling it, publishing it or becoming the next big literary thing. It's possibly an example to why Skizz hired me and SB had so much faith in me.

My Beard

I don't do charity (and the reasons and disagreements with it could fill five blogs), but I got myself into a situation at the beginning of November because I grew a beard and moustache. It has been trimmed since I returned to work, but every one thinks it's something to do with Movember and being the person I am, I never said it wasn't, but I also didn't say it was. That has meant that now I want to shave the fucking itchy and anachronistic thing off, I can't or my colleagues and kids will think I've wimped out. I might take a photo of it and stick it in here.


Penge & Hampton

  • Up to C still; this has been made up mainly of The Cure this week, but midway through the week I got into new territory with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Collective Soul (who did a couple of good albums worth of material); The Charlatans, who suffered; I decided to keep Wonderland despite it being very poor in places, but dumped Sympatico because it is utter shit. China Crisis led me to create a new word doc called The Dump List, which is essentially a list of singles/tracks that I would have kept on their own, but am not prepared to keep an entire CD. The two CC albums I had crammed onto one CD had just two tracks I can see myself playing again (and besides, One El tends to play them one every year or so at his quizzes, so I can get my fix then). There's more of the above to come and some Crowded House, Sheryl Crow and a few others. I have to be honest, I have five CSN(Y) CDs and I only think one of them is what it says on the cover.
  • Watch Grabbers, a great little horror/SF film set on an Irish island that reminded me more of a Ealing comedy than a horror film. Marvellous stuff.
  • England are rubbish.
  • Remember Glass Onion? The occasional blog I do with recipes? I'm going to do one for all you meat eaters.
  • Went back to the Lamplighter to win some money for the quiz kitty, walked away with nearly £40 and dropped 2½ points out of 60. Sounds like it was easy, but it was actually a real brain-racker!
  • As I write this Spurs are 1-0 up against The Arse and my dreams of that twat AVB being sacked are in tatters; but I know, deep down, that by 2.30, we'll be 3 or 4-2 down and looking like a sack of shit.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Number 88

If God Existed...

... Then one would have to imagine he was on some seriously fucking weird hallucinogenics when he came up with this:
 This is a water bear, a microscopic organism and my initial thought was it looks like a hoover bag from your worst nightmare...

Is Time Speeding Up?

"I can't believe it's November already," said one of charges on Thursday. "This year has gone so fast." I sat there and worried. Kids aren't supposed to think time flies; kids complain if there's 4 minutes left in the day. However, this isn't the first student to mention this to me in recent weeks.

I tend to be in a slightly playful mood with kids who come across as more intelligent than your average behavioural problem, so I said to the girl who made the comment, "Yes, but what if time was really speeding up but we don't realise it?"
"We wouldn't live as long, we'd just think we did."
WOW! I've heard some existential stuff before - usually from acid heads - but from a 14 year old?!

That got me thinking; time could be speeding up. Because time is relative, as long as the entropic nature remains, time could speed up and as long as everything was mimicked from a normal time span, we would only have a primordial feeling that it was happening. Then I realised that entire sentence might be a load of made up nonsense and decided to subject them to some opera for being smart arses...

Dead Bread

So, I might be big headed about my cooking prowess and my newly acquired skills at manipulating a bread making machine, but if you forget to put the mixing paddle into the baking vessel then you end up with a 3 inch thick fibrous brick that not even the dogs wanted to eat.

Neil, who is visiting with his lovely fiancée Jenny, commented yesterday that having a bread making machine doesn't save you that much money, if any. Well, if I continue to make loaves of bread like that then it will end up being more cost effective to buy bread from an independent bakers.

Top Band Name

When I were a lad I always wanted to have a rock band called Planned Accidents. You know, playing air guitar at 15, thinking you're Percy Plant and trying to come up with a cool sounding name. A couple of weeks ago, something popped into my head, a brilliant band name, that needs to be used. Ladies, gentlemen, strange alien beings, I give you...
Dudley Pope and the Fascists!

A Short Conversation

"What are you going to do when you leave school?"
"Nothing; my parents are rich and they'll look after me for as long as I want."

...

أشياء غير معقولة
  • Have been pleasantly surprised by some of The Cure's stuff I have never bothered playing. It seems that while Mr Smith never really matched the wonderful Pornography, he did do enough stuff in the 80s and 90s to at least make him worthy of a mention. 
  • I have been listening to Ozrics in the car and took a sabbatical from the alphabet listening to give the new Hidria Space Folk a bash and I have, for some reason, put a Global Communication CD in the wrong place in my alphabetical listings and couldn't be arsed to stick it in G. Crash Test Dummies might get the bin treatment.
  • I began A Dance with Dragons yesterday, despite promising a student that I would read Of Mice and Men over the weekend. I enjoyed A Feast for Crows despite it lacking in major characters and a main/major story. I did find it hard work at times, but the moments of utter madness more than made up for it.
  • Who would have thought that the typo 'avbout' would end up having so much meaning...
  • Here's my chance to upset a load of my friends: on retrospect, all the Star Wars films are a load of B-movie shite. Carrie Fisher couldn't act to save her cocaine habit.
  • The search for decent potatoes continues - the piss poor summer has, it seems, put paid to anything that's worth eating...
  • The Walking Egg certainly went off-piste this week. I get the impression the original comic is now just the inspiration rather than the rule.
  • Have you guessed what it says yet?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Number 87

Saturday Musings

Shit; I have to go and do the hoovering...


A Shelved Idea

Warning: This might contain some spoilers, but they're going to be vague at best.

This idea I shelved the other day must have some resonance because I haven't stopped thinking about it since I decided to shelve it. You might view this as positive, but it's actually been something of a post mortem and I think far more interesting than everything else I haven't been doing.

The working title for the idea was Ten Million and the title kinda explains everything. But the origin of the idea is quite convoluted and as a result I'm going to flit back and forth, so you'll have to keep up.

There's this world see and it's inhabited by a few million people distributed throughout the land. Six 'mages' are sent to take a child from arbitrary places because these kids are special. The mages need to do this before the world is plunged into a crazy and bloody war that will destroy most life on the planet.

Sounds simple enough although you could argue that the title, Ten Million, has no obvious connections. Are there 10 million people living on this planet? No. Well there might be but that isn't it.

The simple story hid many layers; the mages were not magicians, shamen or superior beings, but they did have a secret and they were self proclaimed protectors of this planet. There was also a lot more than 6 of them, but the entire story hung on these 6 guys, not the kids they were trying to protect, because the mages were the characters who had the entire history of the story and its world in them.

The six mages would lead their wards to a safe haven, but each of them would encounter an obstacle or a test; this would be character building and would bond the reader with each of these kids. Over the course of the story one of the mage's dies leaving his ward to fend for herself; one gets to his destination with barely any trouble; two encounter adventures, one is captured by the forces that seem intent on starting a world war and the last one, trying to cut corners, encounters creatures he might be ultimately responsible for in a frozen wasteland. All the time this is happening, the kids the mages are protecting can't help but comment on the strange ways the mages talk and the magic they seemed to possess in their bags; while the world they lived in was primitive, agrarian and had limited resources. The bits I did write had the mages' sounding like they grew up in 2012 and that was for a reason; they had (relatively).

Ten Million represents the calendar. We think of our planet as being something like 6 billion years old (or a couple of thousand if you're 50% of the USA), but try and picture what 6 billion years looks or feels like; try and get your average three score and ten years around billions of years; you can't and it isn't a fault. Something triggered this thought and I will get to that, but if fossil fuels are likely to run out in the next couple of hundred years the chances are that in 1000 years mankind either has to use an alternative fuel source or has reverted back to using wind, horsepower and regressed to a more primitive set up. I'm thinking that if man is still around in a million years, life is going to be completely different. A million years isn't really enough to change humans evolutionarily, but the topography of the planet may have changed slightly; we might have had a couple of extinction events and, intriguingly, just what that exists today would exist in 1 million years? Then how about 10 million years? Man has a calendar that covers 2012 years, but 10 million is an awful lot of two thousands.

The world of Ten Million was set in the future, but really really far in the future. Everything was called something different; familiar places didn't exist any longer; the American continent had virtually disappeared and had been replaced by a 10,000 island archipelago (as a result of Yellowstone Park being hit by a meteor) and Antarctica has become the new Australia and Australia has become the new South Pole. The Mediterranean has narrowed and become a deadly salt plain with the remnants of Europe to its north and Africa in the south. Because of the shift in the planet's axis, due to a couple of meteor strikes, the North Pole is now over where most of Canada was. Cape Town would be more like Svalbard and if we're being particular; what's left of the UK is now where sat Portugal used to be.

However, the story was going to be seemingly set on a fictitious world until I eventually revealed the origin of the world. I saw a group of a few thousand people setting up a base on the South Pole, utilising all manner of modern technology to protect a section of the human race against an impending extinction event and them subsequently living for millions of years because of suspended animation technology and hand picking the best of the remainder of the world's inhabitants to keep the gene pool on Antarctica vibrant. There's other little sub-plots to do with genetic engineering, mad scientists who created monsters, the rise of a fascist dictatorship feudal society and the success it has and an impending extinction event that has been manufactured by the mages of Antarctica that is them playing God just a bit too much.

You are probably wondering what my spoiler warning was all about, well, wonder no more.

I've just finished reading A Feast For Crows, the fifth book in The Song of Fire and Ice books by George RR Martin and I have developed a radar for something. I believe that every single book in this series has a clue in it to the origins of Westeros, the Seven Kingdoms and all the other colourful and strange places we've been introduced to. I also believe these clues are unbelievably subtle, could easily be missed or might just be my interpreting the language of the book (the way it is written) as having the odd anachronism or unfortunate use of example.

I believe the clue in the latest instalment is just three words: The Good Shepherd. Previous clues have included a zebra and other animals/oblique references, mainly geographical or perhaps just by the use of words.

Trust me, this is vague and we'll probably all be dead by the time anyone finds out the truth about Martin's books, if indeed there is any, but I think its set millions of years in the future, when the continents have shifted around, creating new lands; in a time when there are no fossil fuels or ways to maintain a technological life. The magic in the Game of Thrones books all seems to be sort of based on science; perhaps the dragons might be slightly difficult to place, but if this is set millions of years in the future, who's to say that geneticists haven't created anything our imagination desires. If there is no fuel to create machines, then powers could be turned to create genetically-modified weapons of mass destruction - just because the world will run out of fossil fuels doesn't mean it will run out of ideas just as quickly. The Seven Kingdoms and all the surrounding places, have many things, but there doesn't appear to be any fossil fuels or machines in any of these worlds and one would think at least one of these things would exist (probably the former).

It's tenuous at best, but the good shepherd reference (Christianity) was one of those 'reality' moments. These books have horses, cows, aurochs, goats and pigs just like our world; they also have zebras, which are talked about like some rare thing from lands where the men are brown... I just think GOT is going to have a twist in the dragon's tail.

You could say that all the characters in GoT have got either western names or variations on them. A lot of the names used in the books have roots in our culture. A lot of the philosophy of the Wildlings seems to be more rooted in the way westernised man has conducted himself. In fact, here's a weird tangent, one that I'd like to think is mine: could the GoT stories be set in the future after a zombie apocalypse and the Others are the evolution of the zombies?

Yeah...

Anyhow, Ten Million was going to be an adventure story, sort of aimed at teenagers and while I had a kind of definite story, like GoT I could see it running and running. The problem is the idea is better than the execution. I looked at the few thousand words I had written and reached the conclusion I often have at times, my imagination is considerably more... flexible than my ability.

I've been considering writing another short story.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Number 86

To B and Back

The alphabet odyssey continues and I found myself in two dilemma filled situations. Neil said to me a long time ago when he bought me the Best of the Beta Band album that it was possibly one of the best best of albums because it really was all killer and no filler. He emphasised that it was really all I needed.

That didn't stop me from downloading Hot Shots II, Heroes to Zeroes and the first eponymous titled studio album and again because of this 'I like this so therefore this must be good to' principal I have never bothered to play them. Perhaps had I played them I wouldn't have wasted the CD.

The Beta Band really are a band whose best bits were all collected onto their best of album; it really is the best best of album for doing exactly that. What I found most odd about this band is the total inconsistency of their music - stuff you think must be from a later period is really early stuff and vice versa. As a follow up, The Aliens (who I have only played one of their three albums so the other two must be downstairs) were/are probably more consistent, even if there is a large dosage of weirdness in their stuff as well. The thing is weirdness isn't always a selling point. The dilemma was whether it was worth keeping the albums on the strength of already owning a shop-bought best of. The common sense bastard in me consigned them to the next fire...

Dilemma #2 was Bark Psychosis. This is the band that are believed to have produced the first album to which the label post-rock was attached, although I'm of the opinion that Talk Talk produced this many years before Hex came out. Here's my problem with it: musos proclaim this album as something special therefore if you know people who rave about this album you treat them like fine art snobs and hedge around the subject of how fucking brilliant Hex is when in reality it's just boring naval gazing shoegaze jazz. Yes, it actually has a timeless feel about it (I'm listening to it as I type this), but I think it's because by its nature post-rock has a timeless feel. There is also the fact that Lee Harris (drummer with Talk Talk) was involved in this record which is a little like saying 'the bloke that tuned the Beatles guitars plays on this tune'.

This album isn't bad, but like Jeff Buckley I can't really see myself thinking 'oh, I think I'll go and play some Bark Psychosis' - I have enough of this post-rock nonsense and a lot more of it has tunes.

I also appear to be down to the last few Bs already, although I am aware there are a lot of them downstairs.

Football

Back in September I got involved in the Guardian's on-line football discussion thingy and my cheery line in Andres Villas Boas hating and general disliking of the way my beloved Spurs have gone branded me something of a troll-like troublemaker, especially when Spurs (playing like 11 strangers in a dark room) managed to get into 4th place in the league. However, my mantra has been simple - never mind the (lack of) quality, feel the width, or something that was once a TV sitcom title - and despite being called lots of intelligent insults (this is the Guardian after all), I've doggedly stuck to my guns about how shit Spurs are.

People are fucking quoting me now. More and more of my rants are being recommended; people are coming round to my way of thinking or have just disappeared (like they do). AVB is shit and now I want the useless Portuguese wanker to leave and take that useless Thunderbirds puppet of a chairman Daniel 'Twatboy' Levy with him.

Football is not The Cure

Gosh, it comes to something when you forget you've written half a blog until four days after you start it! This is how unbelievably exciting my life has been in the last couple of weeks...

Work has been back and it's been hectic, but since when weren't school dens of crazy madness? Quizzes have been lost: to the now rather annoying Bar Stars, who also won the jackpot and could quite easily drive some of the semi-serious quiz teams away - no team has ever NOT been applauded for winning; but the almost perfect Bar Stars achieved the united disgruntlement of the other teams last night as they walked off with the £100+ jackpot and something like their 10th win in the last 12 weeks. We're Lamping it next week, to boost the kitty.

The AtoZ continues apace with The Cure. Old classics have been enjoyed and some of the albums I haven't played for 25 years have been dug out. The Cure - miserable stuff doesn't date; their pop songs are woeful: it's that simple.

In the car is/are Ozric Tentacles, because sometimes you have to. Oddly enough, it's pretty banging head music, that strange melding of prog, ambient, indie rave and ska...

Hooray for the Free World

Barack won. All is calm. All is right. Kermitt lost and it would have been weird with a 1970s styled evangelist with 16 wives as president.

There was some twat on Breakfast this morning called Nile something or other. He was British but a commentator for the Republican party. Jesus on a spit, talk about bad feelings. The most positive thing he could say about Obama was that the USA only had to suffer him for 4 more 'lame duck' years.

No wonder Hollywood casts English actors as twats, sorry, villains.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Number 85

No Fat Lady In Sight

Let's get the A to Z of Phil's slightly eclectic record collection update before I start being really boring.

The Ambient World by Jay Burnett is worth mentioning because you could argue it has very little place in my record collection, especially as the CD is filled up with some really cheesy stuff (James Last!), but I have it because of a really excellent remix of Accadia's Into the Dawn and Parks & Wilson's Heavy Air Mix of My Orbit. This might seem a little meh, especially to those of you who think my music taste is well iffy, but My Orbit is something I reckon my prog rock friends would give house room to. Not because it is some strange prog song masquerading as some ambient noodling, but because it samples The Fountain of Salmacis throughout the 8 minutes and it works. This Cd is also one of the first I ever downloaded; waaaay back in the days when I felt grubby downloading things from Usenet in one HUGE file.

One thing about my record collection (and undoubtedly Roger's) is that because Steven Wilson has 247 bands, he's going to regularly crop up in an A to Z, even though I've made a conscious decision to not play Porcupine Tree CDs (there's too many of them and I play them enough already). So my initial reaction on hearing Wilson's dulcet tones was that a PT CD had slipped into Bs by mistake. But it was just Blackfield, SW's Israeli-tinged power pop side project with Aviv Geffen or whatever his name is. I like Blackfield; the first two albums are worth listening to.

The Ambient World CD has added some variation, as well as the James Last track there were a few by Mew, and Wicked Game by Chris Isaak, which is a pretty demented record. Bongwater got played - The Big Sell Out - which isn't a patch on The Power of Pussy but had just enough bonkers in it to save it from the incineration chamber. I have Too Much Sleep on the pending pile. On the player at the moment is the sublime Young Americans by David Bowie, that'll be followed by some Blue Aeroplanes, Beautiful People and Bread. My name's Phil and I'll be playing cool sounds throughout the night...

Pond Scum

I know what you're thinking, but put that thought away or at least throw a sheet over it. This is all about duck shit and other decomposing loveliness. Yes, it's that quarterly time to get knee deep in poo and clean the duck pond out. At least today we weren't graced by Fishwife and co, who seem to think that watching us wade around in poo is great; but I do think his kids have a really unhealthy interest in shit; in fact all kids have.

The problem with our pond is simple. I don't have enough money to get someone else to do it for me.

Puncture Wound

Bollocks to cooking; I decided to buy a couple of pizzas. It meant slobbing out in front of the TV and as the wife's mini-break is drawing to an end it seemed like a good way to end it.

Of the four dogs, Murray is pretty much blameless for everything. Boy dogs are easy. Bitches are called bitches for a reason.

I'd got about 7/8ths of the way through my pizza when  Extreme Arsey Dog (or Ness) just decided that Instinct Dog (Marley) was too close to me and positioned herself between me and Marley and then started on her big time - growls, snarls, teeth, gnashing, uber-violence. Remember Ness is the smallest in the house, but also the most psychotic; a mass fight takes place and I got bitten on the right leg - the fleshy bit just above the inside knee - so badly it punctured the skin. Suffice it to say they have been very quiet for most of the evening.

That was then, this is now, getting on for 20 hours after the above; my leg is sore and we now have a new carpet. The carpet fitter was the kind of man you would gladly avoid for the rest of your life. I also officially shelved one of my intermittent story ideas. It was weird really; there I was walking the dogs running the idea through my head when I just thought, 'this idea hasn't got legs' (my dad and I always used to say if something didn't have legs then it wasn't worth chasing and I'm more than aware of how odd this sentence seems) and decided to stop it. There are some elements of it that might be useable elsewhere, but as it stands it just hasn't got any legs...

Next time: something happens