Category Archives: Real Life

Music Review – Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog (Album)

It was recently my birthday – Yay – and one of the things I tend to ask for is new (or old) music, as it’s a luxury I would probably not buy for myself.

This year I felt very lucky to get five albums by four different bands including:

  • Rainier Fog by Alice in Chains
  • Fallen Empires and Wildness by Snow Patrol
  • Dumb Days by Tired Lion
  • Pacific Daydream by Weezer

If you know me at all you probably won’t be too surprised to find out that the first one I listened to all the way through was the latest Alice in Chains release Rainier Fog. And it is exactly what I was hoping for!

As I’ve mentioned before, Alice in Chains started out in the midst of heavy, hairy metal and, if you listen to their first album and some of the unreleased stuff that came to light when Music Bank came out, you can really hear how close they came to skirting Grunge altogether and finding a place among the other Rock heavyweights of the time.

But they chose a different path and became the leaders of a new style which was much darker and, generally, more depressing than their Seattle based compatriots, comprising such cheery topics as drug addiction, depression, war, loneliness and psychological problems, they blazed their own trail through Rock and spurned a host of copycat acts.

This, their sixth studio album, sits alongside their back catalogue, including solo projects and other bands that have come and gone along the way, so snugly that it is hard not to think that you know some of the songs already.

The opening track, The One You Know, starts like a screwdriver to the temple, which is then joined by a marching squadron of zombies. The percussive drumming continues through the verse then the chorus opens up into a wonderful musical field of primroses, sounding a bit like they got confused and mixed up the order of the parts of the song.

After setting the scene they waste no time reaching into their back catalogue with the title track, Rainier Fog, which could have been a recently discovered outtake from Facelift…but with better production.

Red Giant is a slightly different beast, sounding like the bastard child of Metallica and Layne Staley. The harmonies are so dark you need a match to see the lyrics. At the moment this is probably my favourite track on the album!

Fly, however, sounds like Pearl Jam writing a new track for Jar of Flies. Acoustic guitars and a screeching electric solo really take you back to the nineties.

The next track is called Drone, so you can guess what it’s like without too much effort. Bluesy sludge through the verses with a melodic fingerpicked solo reminiscent of Lies by Guns ‘n’ Roses.

We’re back with Lars and the boys for the intro to Deaf Ears Blind Eyes, but then segueing to classic Alice in Chains territory for the chorus with a minor key harmonic piece of introspection.

Maybe hails back to the 1970s and, strangely, sounds like nothing so much as The Mamas and Papas. Jerry and William work beautifully together to produce something which is more than the sum of their voices. In this case though all the trees are not brown, they’re dead!

Dirt is the album that So Far Under would fit most comfortably on, with a chorus which has been pitch bent until it snapped. Antagonistic sounds are smashed together between the verses and choruses, but make the track into something that is difficult to turn your ears away from.

In Never Fade du Vall takes over. Sounding a little like Comes With The Fall, a bit like Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, and a lot like early Alice in Chains and, as is his way, it sounds like a love song or paean in memory of someone you used to know. It’s a bit of a shame they don’t give him more chance to lead, as he’s quite riveting when he does so.

The final track All I Am does the opposite and hands the reigns to Cantrell. It’s slow, it’s introspective. It could have come straight from Degradation Trip and is none the worse for that.

If you’re a fan then you either have it already or are saving up your hard earned pennies/cents to get it as soon as you can, if you’re not then look them up on YouTube and spend some time getting to know what you’re missing, then buy it and find out what it is to be one of the most popular Grunge bands in the world.

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Underground, Overground

About 13 years ago I got a job as a team leader for a team of techies at a university.

About one year into this one of the guys was troubleshooting a problem with a user’s calendar and asked me to help out, by giving me full access to his own calendar in Microsoft Outlook.

A week or two later I realised he had forgotten to remove my privileges, and had gone on holiday. I immediately created a recurring event on the second Monday of every second month which simply said:

“Remember you’re a Womble.”

I then removed my access but also sent out an invite from my own account to the rest of my technicians for the same date every two months, to tell him that he is a Womble – all of them accepted without questioning what on Earth planet I was on (I loved that team).

Because of the way Outlook works, after I removed my privileges, he wasn’t able to delete the reminder. Oops!

It is now about twelve years later, he left my team about six months after this incident and we kind of lost touch a bit (you know, work, etc.) even though we were still in the same department. Since then I have moved jobs, and emigrated to Australia.

When I checked my phone after getting on the train to work this morning the self-same techie had tagged me in a post on Facebook. I wondered what it could be. The post had four words in it. Can you guess what they were?

It turns out he still gets bi-monthly reminders that he is a Womble. I suspect he will do until he leaves the university, although it is one of those kind of places where you can have a job for life!

I’m hoping he stays for many years yet, moving up the echelons, eventually reaching some kind of senior management role…and keeps getting reminded that he is, indeed, a small, litter-collecting, sentient mammal who lives on Wimbledon Common!!!


Internet-Out

So my wife and I recently bought a house. It’s a lovely little place not far from where we were renting previously. “Why are you telling us this?” is the obvious question. Well, to introduce to you this catalogue of disasters that has been me trying to get iiNet to set up the internet connection at my new address…

 


 

To: customer-relations@iinet.net.au

Subject: Activation of service – complaint

 

To whom it may concern,

Customer number: XXXXXXXXX

Call references: XXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXX (there were further calls but the iiNet toolbox only shows calls updated in the last two weeks)

 

I write to ask for assistance in setting up a phone and internet connection, and to complain about the service received so far on this matter.

I first called iiNet on the 16th of November 2017 to inform that I had purchased a property [this is where I gave iiNet my new address]. I told the customer service representative that I would be completing the sale on Wednesday the 22nd of November and moving in on Saturday the 24th of November. I was not required to do anything further and was assured that the internet connection and phone would be switched on and working by the time we moved in.

I was particularly keen to hear our phone would be available as we had previously moved [this is where I gave iiNet my old address] three months earlier, and, despite several phone calls to iiNet to try to sort it out, were without a phone service for the whole period we lived at the address.

I arrived at the new house on moving day, plugged in the NBN box supplied by iiNet to my previous address, and there was no internet. I called iiNet on Monday 26th November to enquire as to why it wasn’t working and was told that it would be live the next day. It wasn’t, so I called again. I was informed that the service was active and should be working.

After three more days it still wasn’t working, and during the ensuing phone enquiry was told that I hadn’t supplied a ‘Proof of Occupancy’ document. Not once in the previous two weeks and four phone calls was this vital document mentioned. I was told it would be ten business days after I submitted the document before my internet would be connected. I submitted the document immediately.

I called again on the 7th of December to be told that I needed to supply the NTD Serial Number and MAC address (again, never mentioned in previous phone calls). It appears (from looking through my call log on the iiNet Toolbox site – see reference numbers above) that the details were added to a separate stand-alone call and none of the previous call logs. This probably explains why, when I called – again – on the 8th December I was told that I hadn’t supplied these details.

However, upon further questioning the customer service representative confirmed that I had supplied the details, but they hadn’t been passed onto the NBN HFC department. I was told it would be 48 business hours before the service went live.

Breathless with anticipation, I was yet again disappointed when, after 48 hours, it was clear the internet still wasn’t live.

Yet another phone call and, after initially being told the internet service was active, I was put through to another representative who informed me that the original NTD box was required to make the connection live.

Just to clarify, it has now taken four weeks and countless phone calls for me to be told this information. The previous owner has, obviously, moved out and I have no way of obtaining this box.

I’m now told an engineer is required to visit my house to install a new NTD. This is apparently not possible until Tuesday the 19th of December. As I am at work that day, I will need to arrange leave in order to wait four hours to allow the engineer to carry out the works.

Assuming the engineer is able to set the new NTD up without issues, the whole process will have taken 33 days. My parents live overseas and we use Skype to contact them. They have now missed seeing their granddaughter opening her presents at her second birthday, my wife’s birthday party and our new house. My children have missed seeing their grandad on his birthday. These events are important to us, and are the reason I contacted iiNet so early so that we would have the internet connection active as soon as possible after moving in.

Below is a list of all the phone calls I have made (outgoing) and received (incoming) in relation to the iiNet NBN and telephone services. Over seven hours of my time so far.

 

Outgoing – NBN

16/11 – 22:09mins

16/11 – 24:23mins

26/11 – 01:47mins

26/11 – 43:54mins

27/11 – 01:52mins

30/11 – 36:12mins

07/12 – 26:08mins

07/12 – 00:55mins

07/12 – 13:25mins

08/12 – 35:22mins

08/12 – 49:01mins

12/12 – 21:47mins

13/12 – 28:03mins

 

Incoming – NBN

27/11 – 18:55mins

27/11 – 12:22mins

08/12 – 02:44mins

 

Outgoing – Phone

05/09 – 00:18mins

11/09 – 21:38mins

13/09 – 04:20mins

15/09 – 29:15mins

09/10 – 02:16mins

27/10 – 18:13mins

31/10 – 16:41mins

 

Incoming – Phone

09/10 – 17:28mins

 

Please, can you set up our internet and phone service. We have been inconvenienced enough. We are available before the 19th if an engineer can come around earlier than this. Failing that, I would appreciate an early appointment so I don’t have to use too much leave. I can be contacted on [this is where I gave iiNet my phone number] to confirm the appointment.

Finally, the customer service representative offered one month’s free service for my inconvenience, but said that he would also talk to his supervisor to see if he could secure me further compensation. Please contact me when appropriate compensation for my time, inconvenience, lack of phone connection for, now, four months and lack of internet for three weeks has been determined.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Dan Ladle


Read ‘Em And Weep

Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook, follows me on Twitter or, unlikely as it seems, occasionally looks at my Google+ account, will know that for the past two years or so I have been undertaking a reading marathon of Pratchett proportions.

I started with The Colour of Magic and continued with all 41 Discworld novels, as well as the maps, cookbooks, tourist guides, kids books and short story collections. After this I started on the non-Discworld books – Strata, The Dark Side of the Sun, the Bromeliad trilogy, the Johnny Maxwell books, etc.

The reason for this single-minded readathon are numerous, I tend to reread my Pratchett collection every few years anyway, but after his untimely death in 2015 I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a book by any other author.

I assumed this feeling would pass but several months later I was still in the same mood, a year later I felt the same, two years later and I was still in my reading rut.

Seemingly unrelated, about two months ago we got notice that our landlord wanted their house back, which was a bit inconvenient because we were just in the middle of trying to find somewhere of our own to buy. Scroll on to about a week ago and the house is full of boxes as we get ready to move to a new rental. I was packing up my Pratchett collection (shudder) and amongst them I found my Kindle, untouched since I picked up The Colour of Magic.

I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I left it on top of my drawers in our bedroom. Then, last Sunday night I was getting my stuff ready for work the next day and thought “why the hell not” and slipped the e-reader into my bag.

When I arrived at the train station on Monday morning I got it out and started reading (American Gods by Neil Gaiman, if you must know!), and have been doing so on every journey to work and back since. It seems my reading mojo has returned and, with it, my brain has also fallen off a deep precepice into the icy waters of “I Have To Write” again.

Ideas are sloshing around inside my head like a particularly spectacular Formula One pile up and my fingers are itching to type. But what to do first?

I’ve been working on a few things, slowly, for the past few months, a Discworld fan-fiction piece about Rincewind; a comedy fantasy novel about a vampire; a biography about my life as a type one diabetic; a kids book I’ve been working on for a couple of years now.

All these conflicting stories are arguing for precedence, so what I’m going to do is…go to sleep! Life is complicated enough at the moment without worrying about what and when to write, so I just need to put digits to keyboard whenever I get the chance.

Wish me luck!


The Glorious 25th

Just a quick post in my lunch break today, If you were drawn here by the title then you already know what I’m talking about.

If not, suffice to say, it’s a reference to a series of events as outlined in Night Watch, one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. It’s a much darker story than many of his other books and recounts a few days around the 25th of May, 1957, 30 years before the present time (in the book’s timeline).

There are many places you can find out about what happened, but this is a good place to start.

In some ways it seems ridiculous to memorialise something that didn’t really happen, but many religions have survived this way for thousands of years, so if a bunch of Discworld fans want to make the world a better place because of some fantastical fictional events then I say, good luck to them (us!!!).

For my part this year, I have created the following image:

25th

However there are many ways to help raise awareness of the plight of the people who lost their fictional lives that day, and if you are a bit tech savvy, then you can take a look here (although the GNU Clacks codes are actually taken from a much later time in Discworld history, but as we’re all friends I figured that doesn’t really matter!).

Anyway, for those of you who want to remember the Glorious People’s Revolution of Treacle mine road, and those who made it into a lot less of a massacre, I salute you comrades.

#GNUCecilClapman

#GNUNedCoates

#GNUDaiDickins

#GNUJohnKeel

#GNUHoraceNancyball

#GNUTerryPratchett

#GNURegShoe (Temp)

#GNUBillyWiglet


Chris Cornell – 20/07/1964 – 18/05/2017

Update: I wrote this before I heard the circumstances of Chris’s death and considered altering it to make it feel a little more sensitive, however I think that depression is often not faced head on and, although my eulogy below doesn’t specifically talk about Cornell’s mental illness, I am going to leave it as I wrote it and let you find your own meanings in his words!


When I was a teenager I taught myself to sing by turning my stereo up loud and joining in. This is how I got to know Soundgarden, and Chris Cornell so well.

That was the 90s, around 25 years ago. Today I don’t sing so much but I still listen to many of the bands I picked up through my teenage years – Soundgarden included. Their most recent album, a bit of a surprise when it was announced because they hadn’t released anything for 16 years, was King Animal. There was nothing particularly surprising about it, it was still very definitely Soundgarden, but with more experience and insight into the workings of the modern world.

My favourite track from the album is Black Saturday, an incredible journey through old age and euthanasia, a subject which has been on my mind since Terry Pratchett covered it so eloquently in his documentary Choosing to Die. Sadly now, though, this is something that Chris Cornell will never have to consider.

Promise something,
Kill me right away if I start to get slow
And don’t remember
How to separate the worm from the apple
Don’t wait ’til tomorrow,
Kill me right away if I start to listen
To the voices
Telling all the mouths what they need to swallow

The thing I always found impressive about his lyrics was the way he managed to take everyday phrases and twist them round to make them mean something completely different, or nonsensical. For instance, in Superunknown he faced psychological issues head on.

If you don’t want to be seen
Well you don’t have to hide
And if you don’t want to believe
Well you don’t have to try

Which resonated with 17 year old me in a way I couldn’t quite put into words myself.

Now, as a forty-something year old man, I still listen to Soundgarden for their incredible guitar riffs, clever use of words, unusual time signatures and rip-roaring solos, but after today the songs will take on a new meaning for me and fire off memories of another talented life cut short and sorely missed.

Apologies if this isn’t the most coherent eulogy, but because the songs are so closely intertwined with my persona I find it difficult to untangle my feelings and thoughts.

I’ll leave you with a song of my own, one I’ve talked about before and the one, I think, in which I came closest to equaling Chris Cornell’s use of language.

Open

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
How can I show you,
That my love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We cannot take it back now,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
Now more than ever,
My love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We’re going to be together,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
I can take your world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again


Music Review – The Desert Sea – Elevator

My first ever rock concert was at the tender age of 16. Me and my best friend were, at the time, big (but not in stature) fans of the fundamental heavy metal band – Iron Maiden. As I recall it was very loud and Bruce Dickinson accidentally got himself stuck on top of the massive amplifier stack and had some trouble getting down again.

Now, 26 years later and my tastes have moved on somewhat, I still occasionally fire up some Living Colour or Megadeth, but Maiden – although talented – just don’t really seem to have moved on very far in the 41 years since they formed, so for me at least they just don’t really do it anymore.

The above goes some way to explaining why I chose to do this review, I couldn’t believe that anybody could be so fixated on 80s heavy metal that they try to reproduce it, down to the last screeching guitar solo hammering-off-and-on.

 


 

Starting off like they fell over a Japanese Voyeurs track then remembered they really like Iron Maiden – The Desert Sea’s latest single, Elevator is Proper Metal in the greatest eighties; not certain I should be taking this seriously?; is that Robert Plant?; I thought The Darkness weren’t playing anymore?; sense.

Hailing from Sydney, this hasn’t stopped the band gathering inspiration from every single Heavy Metal icon from the beginning of time to the present day. Their influences are listed as QOTSA, The Raconteurs and Soundgarden which, to a degree, I can agree with because all three of these heavyweights’ influences come from the heyday of long haired guitar screeching chug rock and blues.

Don’t get me wrong, this sounds fresh and interesting but is also reminiscent of so many other bands that it’s hard to identify where the originality takes over from the genuflection to days gone by.

This is the kind of track I could imagine lots of (very) young people jumping about to in a rock club while the more mature metal-heads look on, bemused, from the side lines nursing their bottles of Hahn Super Dry and mumbling about Led Zeppelin.

The solo sounds very much like Dave Murray was pointed at a guitar and told to “just do what you do”. The rest of the song doesn’t deviate too far from the basic heavy metal archetypes of twiddly guitars and throaty choruses.

That said, if you like Metal you shouldn’t be disappointed. Rock on!