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Showing posts from August, 2009

Bomb the Bass

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I'm typing this with sore fingertips. It's the index and middle finger on my left hand, which I suppose is unusual given that I am right handed. It's a bass injury, of course. Yesterday I rehearsed for the first time in few weeks, and as is so often the case, my fingers had recovered from previous bass playing activities enough for a fresh injury to occur. When people discover that I play bass guitar in a couple of bands a common reaction is "Oh, so you're a musician then?". Well, no, not really. I don't think so. Whilst many bass players are indeed talented musicians I wouldn't put myself in the same category as them. I see what I do as the equivalent of keeping time whist moving my fingers around. Even so I find it quite tricky and have to concentrate. An unfortunate side effect of this concentration is that I tend to stick my tongue out of the side of my mouth or gurn horribly with the result that a lot of gig pictures of me are hideous. So even

You All Everybody

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I see from the entertainment pages of the popular web that Oasis have apparently split up. My first reaction was "Oh I didn't realise they were still going" . I don't think there's anything wrong with Oasis - I quite like the first album - but didn't think they were anything particularly special. No more or less a band than, say, Shed Seven. My second reaction was "What, again?" Didn't they keep splitting up in the nineties and early 2000s ? Reading the news from the time and comparing it to now it seems like they keep recycling the same old ideas when it comes to band altercations. They definitely had a big barney in 1996. I remember it well, as it had a direct effect on my life. Anyone who reads this blog regularly (anyone there?) will know I'm what you could call an aspiring writer and am currently working on a novel. What you may not know is that it's not my first novel. I wrote my first novel in the early nineties. In retrospe

No Win No Fee No Way

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"Have you been involved in an accident that wasn't your fault?" Countless ads and unsolicited emails start in this way, claiming to be able to win the recipient thousands of pounds in compensation. Most of the time of course I ignore them and consign the emails straight to the trash. However, a few years ago I had reason to engage such services. I tried two separate companies before giving up. Back on Monday 23 May 2005 I was cycling home from work, minding my own business. I still remember what was going through my head at the time - I was imagining what The Matrix films would have been like if they'd starred Vic Reeves instead of Keanu Reeves. Anyway, I was heading south along Lewes Road towards the junction with Coombe Road . The traffic was at a standstill although the cycle-path was relatively clear; I was making my way through a corridor of space between a line of parked cars and a line of stationary vehicles. The sun was out and it was a pleasant evenin

Panic Now

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"There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler's mind" Douglas Adams, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish It can't have escaped the attention of the more observant amongst you that I began both today's and yesterday's entries with a quote from Douglas Adams, specifically quotes from his magnum opus, the five-part Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Those of you who know me won't be surprised; Douglas Adams's work has been a big influence not only on my own style of writing, but on my mode of speech, my way of thinking, and not to put too fine a point on it, my life. I suppose it can partly be put down to the age at which I became acquainted with it; when Hitch-Hiker's was first broadcast I was an impressionable thirteen year old and, thanks to almost constant self exposure to science fiction in general and Doctor Who in particular, a fledgling nerd. I was therefore gripped initially by the SF

Dreams of flying

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"There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss." Douglas Adams, Life The Universe and Everything Seriously, where do dreams of flying come from? As I've discussed before, many aspects of dreams can be explained as a side effect of the brain processing memories or performing self diagnostic tests during downtime, but I'm not sure about flight. We've never flown in real life, so how can we dream about it and why is it (a) such a common dream and (b) for me at least, such a consistent experience from dream to dream? Freud of course says that flying in dreams represents sex. I'm not sure about that as I've dreamed about flying since before puberty and anyway, if dreams of flying represent sex what do dreams of sex represent? One of the things I find most fascinating about my flying dreams is that within them I always "remember" that yes, of course I can fly, how c

False memory

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As if to punish me for mocking her creation yesterday, last night Neuralgia the Goddess of Headaches caused me to wake after only three hours sleep with a splitting headache. It was so bad I had to get up and take a couple of painkillers rather than just lie there and hope it would go away again. Well I'm sorry, but that actually proves my point. In pre-painkiller days all one could have done about such pain would be to have gone back to bed and hope to sleep it off. Well, duh. Nocturnal headaches, especially ones that wake you up, are even more pointless that the regular variety. Where is the evolutionary advantage in them? Still at least being awake at such an unusual hour - that is awake after approximately two to three hours sleep rather than at around two am - did give me the opportunity to observe the dream engine running at capacity whilst awake. In particular I was impressed by what was going on in my visual cortex. Every time I closed my eyes I was assaulted by a int

Pain

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The perceptual hole in my cheek has gone away, replaced by a sore patch on the inside of my mouth with a knot of string at the centre. The string - stitches apparently - is supposed to dissolve in time. I suppose it's no worse than when you bite the inside of your cheek, and at least it's an excuse to eat ice cream. As an alarm system, pain is second to none. I have nothing but the utmost respect for it. I still remember a cautionary tale I read as a child concerning a blacksmith who, upon flattening his thumb with a hammer or something, wished out loud that he could feel no pain. This wish was duly granted by a passing sprite and the next day when the blacksmith was going about his business he looked down and " ...there was his arm, burning merrily away ..." So, pain is a good idea on the whole. But I can't help feeling that sometimes it's got it wrong. Pain after injury is fine; I can see the point of this - it prevents the sufferer moving around too vi

Body horror

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I'm writing this with a perceptual hole in my left cheek. A couple of hours ago I had a biopsy which involved a local anaesthetic to allow the maxillofacial surgeon to take a tissue sample from the inside of my mouth. As a result I'm drinking a glass of water and half expecting it to dribble out the left hand side of my mouth which I could swear was wide open to the elements. It's just like the feeling you get after a dental anaesthetic only more so. I don't exactly know how much flesh they took or what they're sending it away to be tested for, but apparently it will take a few weeks. Still that's not too bad. They had to send my DNA away to Wales once and that took a month and a half. I'm continually disappointed with what medicine can and can't do. This isn't an attack on the health service of any one country as I'm sure things are the same anywhere. It's simply that 21st century medicine just isn't good enough. Perhaps I feel this

McDonald's English

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This is something I haven't seen that many people complaining about yet, although I'm sure there are any number of curmudgeons 1 banging on about this in dark corners of the internet. Never mind, I'll join their ranks anyway. There's a lot wrong with McDonald's, most of which you can find elsewhere on the internet , so I'm not going to waste your time or mine discussing it here. I'm not on about exploitation of workers or damage to the environment. You won't hear a thing in this post about about the promotion of unhealthy food or " supersize me " culture. I'm worried about McDonald's English . The only definition of this term I could find online was in the Urban Dictionary and that wasn't what I meant at all. I'm talking about something far more insidious. By the use of one sustained ad campaign over a number of years McDonald's Corporation have managed to infect the brains of a large proportion of the English speakin

Pick my brains

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I'm not sure what the rules are for doing this thing at weekends. During the week I have to get it done shortly after getting up as I need to get going to work. Today I don't have to go to work so didn't get up for a while and even when I did I didn't have any deadlines so there was no urgency getting this done. As I'm imposing this regime on myself, I suppose there are no rules, or if there are then I have to write them. The first rule of daily blog is that you do not blog about daily blog. That means I have to force myself to stop being so self referential when I do this. This is a good thing; there are only so many ways I can write about what I'm actually doing at that very moment before I disappear up my own rectum in a recursive paradox. Even though I am still doing it now. I must stop. This weekend isn't going to be as relaxed as I was hoping as I did have to bring some work home with me. This is partly because there's a lot to get done, but a

This space intentionally left blank

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The problem - well, one problem because there are quite a few - with writing this first thing in the morning is that I'm still not quite clear in the head as I think quite a bit of my brain is in dream mode. I don't know about other people but I'm not remotely compos mentis immediately after getting up - the body may be upright and the eyes nominally open, but to all intents and purposes, the brain is still running iDream . If I'm really unlucky my eyes will still be in REM as well and I'll keep tripping over and spilling my coffee everywhere. Insert joke about Happy Shiny People here. Anyway, this means that some of what I've been writing this week comes as a surprise to me later in the day due to, as I mentioned on Tuesday, the brain's tendency to forget night time narratives. This can be a good thing as I can read it twenty four hours later with a fresh eye as I would someone else's work and judge whether it's shit or not. However the downside

Being grown up

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Today I have to be a member of an interview panel. It's one of those grown up things that I never feel one hundred percent ready for. You might think that sounds ridiculous at my age, but being a grown-up is something that only seems to happen to other people. Or is it? I am beginning to suspect that the reason that other people seem to be quite capable of being grown-ups is that it's a perceptual thing. Something only visible from the outside and, like being confident, a lie. Inside I feel like the same person I always was; there's an unbroken stream of me-ness going all the way back to my earliest memories. At no point was the child I was switched off and the adult I supposedly am switched on. I think this is true of everyone. How much like an adult you appear depends merely on how good you are at acting. When I spent a couple of years attending a weekly drama class (just a bit of fun really) I was told that I was good at it - I suppose I just need to learn how to appl

The Male Bonding Cabal

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Yesterday I had to work at home for an hour or so in the morning so that the handymen employed by the letting agency could get in and have a look at the loo which wasn't flushing. As is so often the case when you're waiting for someone to arrive, I couldn't relax. I kept going to look out the window to see if they were on their way. And as I did so, I observed yet another instance of a phenomenon I've noticed before. It's that men in the manual trades - be they car mechanics, plumbers, handymen, road workers, dustbin men et al - seem to share some unspoken bond and can instantly strike up a conversation with each other based merely on the experience of staring at a hole in the ground or unspecified engine part together. The first van to arrive was a drain and toilet unblocking specialist, whom at first I thought might be my man. However, once he'd parked he just ambled over to one of the car mechanics that work in this street and spent a minute or so chewing

The first hurdle

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It would be really embarrassing after having made all that song and dance yesterday about how I was going to do this every morning before coffee to have given up on day two. So if nothing else I'm not going to do that. Or is that a double negative? Should it be "if something else I am going to do that" ? No, that doesn't sound right either. One good thing about writing first thing is that the dreams are still fresh in my mind, even if they are nonsensical as ever and prove absolutely impossible to transcribe. Of course it makes perfect sense for us to forget dreams shortly after waking. Some modern theories of dreaming say they're a way for the mind to sort through and process the memories of the day and defrag the brain. If this is true then imagine the confusion if amongst those memories to be processed were the memories of the previous night's dreams. If you weren't careful after a few days you'd end up with dream feedback, and every night you

An experiment with a...

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This isn't the first time I've tried something along these lines, but it is the first time I've tried doing it in precisely this way. The idea is that before I do anything else in the morning I spend approximately half a hour writing in this blog, thus free up my creative juices for writing some of my novel later in the day. I suppose you could look at it as letting the taps run for a few minutes before running a bath - so don't expect anything spectacular here; it will probably be the wrong temperature and will have bits of grit in it. Of course this is by no means a new idea. Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way recommends doing just this; spending x amount of time first thing writing your Morning Pages . I did try and follow this method for a while but the main problem I had with it was that Ms Cameron describes the Morning Pages as " three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing " and I have a problem with writing longhand - it takes

Who has stolen the future?

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We've been living in the future now for almost twenty years, and I have to say it's been a big disappointment. Some people might say that the rise of the internet is something that we didn't predict and which has gone very well thank you and which has led to all those people walking around with iPhones - a mobile, portable entertainment and communications centre in their pocket. Isn't that futuristic enough for me? Frankly, no. Whilst I did make myself what I now realise was a toy laptop out of an old box file in 1973, drew a picture of a mobile phone ( see above ) in 1974 and always had a hankering for a wrist TV, to me the future was defined by one thing and one thing alone. Space. It's not surprising - one of my early coherent memories is being woken up in the middle of the night to watch Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, and I'm sure I got through more than one Airfix kit of the Saturn V and Eagle etc. Back then it was not unreasonable to assume that things

Deplorable man

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You've almost certainly met him. And you almost certainly hate him. He's the kind of "nice bloke" everyone seems to know and love, which alone is reason enough for loathing. Then there's his appearance. For a start he's usually far too tall. You know the kind of tall. Not lanky and ungainly but just tall, the kind of tall that women seem to like. You're almost too scared to ask in case it's something ridiculous like six foot ten. He doesn't have much hair, but that's no comfort because he's usually shaved his head and so as a consequence just looks cool rather than bald. Most of the time he wears square rimless glasses which make him appear far more intelligent than you suspect he is. He's got a wide grin that matches the glasses and makes his head look like the front of an expensive car. He's always casually dressed. There's a baggy t-shirt with some hip-hop graffiti design on it that you'd love to say was too youn