Category Archives: Real Life

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!

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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!

 


 


Gig Review – Swervedriver – Amplifier Bar

Initially I was shocked when I walked into the Amplifier and it was smaller than a postage stamp. For a band of Swervedriver’s calibre I expected at least big enough to swing a couple of cats in. Intimate just about covers it!

Although Dream Rimmy are probably too young to have heard of either Throwing Muses or Ride they sound exactly like Kristen Hirsch singing over the latter’s musical chops. A highly entertaining bunch of chaps and chapesses. A tight rythmn section, three guitars with unerrimg synchronicity and an awesome synthesizerist (um…), make them ones to watch out for.

Childsaint’s influences tend more towards The Breeders, Slowdive and PJ Harvey, but the sum of these alt-rockers turns out to be more than their constituent parts. With choruses being belted out by all four of the women making up this outfit, all they need is a bit of recognition and they will have young girls the world over aspiring to be like them.

Swervedriver, however, are a law unto themselves. Beginning the set with latest album opener Autodidact they start as they mean to go on. Unstoppable guitars hammering your senses into submission, then doing it again and again until you’re begging them to slow down.

For Seeking Heat came next, with ear pummeling guitars and more energy than you could shake a drumstick at. The set continues mixing old with new, Never Lose That Feeling gets a big reaction from the crowd and the drums feel like they are trying to rearrange your internal organs, then Setting Sun calms things down a bit until they intensify towards the end where a hammer on your head would have much the same impact.

Rave Down is pretty much as you’d expect, only more so, followed by a bass heavy These Times. Then it’s back to the new album with For A Day Like Tomorrow, which has a big rock chorus and a stupendously long outro, setting the tone for the rest of the concert.

Sunset is almost album perfect and MM Abduction is slow but perfectly formed. Lone Star could also have come straight from I Wasn’t Born To Lose You and The Birds also has a stretched but exciting finish.

Then we get to the song everyone expects in a Swervedriver set: Son Of Mustang Ford – only this version is verging on heavy metal and no worse off for that. To complete the first part of the set I Wonder? builds to a crescendo and begs the question, are they wonder-ing how long they can make one song last. Not that there was anything wrong with that, it gave a nice chance for all four of the group to showcase their musical talents.

After a short break they came back on for an encore, picking Everso as the first song and continuing from where they left off. For real fans they then played a version of Last Train To Satansville which sounded more like the less well known B-side Satansville Revisited.

The final hurrah was Duel and the crescendoing continued to rise up until a barrage of feedback, pick slides, wah-wahs and pedal driven excess called the whole thing to a close.

Now it’s  finished and my ears are gently humming to themselves, I feel a little sad that it’s over and the 17 year old version of me who first heard of Swervedriver has gone back to sleep again. However the much older and wiser me, living in the here and now, has a new night out to put at the top of my list of all time best gigs and is pleased that his favourite band have matured in the 25 odd years I have been following them.

 

The Setlist

Autodidact –
For Seeking Heat
Never Lose That Feeling
Setting Sun
Rave Down
These Times
For A Day Like Tomorrow
Sunset
MM Abduction
Lone Star
The Birds
Son Of Mustang Ford
I Wonder?

Encore

Everso
Last Train To Satansville
Duel

 


Politics

I’m not generally one to weigh in on political matters but I thought that today’s vote for independence, or otherwise, was too important not to talk about. I wrote this on my Facebook page so all my friends could see it, although to be fair I think I know how most of them are voting already, that’s what makes them friends!

 


 

Good morning Britain from Australia,

Before you head out to the polls today please take the time to watch this video of Professor Michael Dougan, a Law professor whose speciality is European Constitutional Law at the University of Liverpool, talking about the implications of leaving or staying in the EU.

Having moved to Western Australia two and a half years ago (for purely personal reasons, nothing to do with the economy, jobs or immigration), I am seeing your current situation from the outside but from the point of view of an insider.

Now while I love living in Western Australia (WA) I think there are some things that could be learnt from looking at us. WA, and Perth specifically, is a very remote place, both geographically and socially. One of the outcomes of this is that everything – yes really, EVERYTHING – costs a lot of money because Australian trade agreements were set up by a single, sparsely populated country (Australia) with other countries who were either more populous or else more powerful.

I don’t want to show any lack of respect to my newfound home, it’s a great place to live, however I do miss the ease that I could get hold of, say, an egg whisk for a ridiculously low price simply by hopping onto Google and searching for egg beaters. I often ended up purchasing from e.g. Amazon. Now Amazon is an American company, America has trade agreements with the EU…BUT NOT THE UK!!! This means that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales would then have to pay the same (very steep) tariffs as China, Brazil, India, etc.

I also used to enjoy, to a greater or lesser degree, my occasional trips overseas. Which were a lot easier because most of the places I used to visit were within the EU. No problems with getting visas, and the queues at immigration were always relatively short.

There is a lot of stuff I miss about the UK, but if a greater part of the British population vote “leave” today then it will probably be some while longer, than it would otherwise have been, before I can bring my family back for a holiday, because the prices are likely to mean that we will have to save up twice as much before planning such a trip.

However you’re going to vote today, have a great day. And think carefully before you pick a box to tick.

Cheers

Dan

 

 


 


Bookshop

Bookshops have always held a special place in my life. As an atheist who doesn’t believe in anything that hasn’t got a decent amount of proof backing it up, they are the closest I can get to a holy place.

In my adopted country, today was Father’s Day. Only the second one I have been resident here for. My five year old son was very excited and came running into our room, with the card he had written (with my wife’s help) and the things he had made for me at school.

My wife had organised for us to go out for breakfast, to a Bookshop in South Perth which has a café attached to it. We ordered our food and duly filled our bellies. Very nice it was too.

Upon finishing we sauntered through to the bookshop to have a browse. The young ‘un started leafing through some books about Star Wars, then dinosaurs. My wife had a general investigate to see if there was anything worth reserving at the library – we’re trying to save a bit of money and space at the minute by e.g. not buying extra/unnecessary stuff to fill the house.

After my fill of stegosaurs/wookies I decided to see if there was anything that piqued my own interest. The bookshop wasn’t huge but had an eclectic mix of topics. I realised, with some shock, that I haven’t really been in a bookshop to browse for about eight or nine months. That meant that it was also the first time I have visited one since Sir Terry Pratchett was taken by complications of his early onset Alzheimer’s in March of this year.

I stared at some of the books lined up on the shelves. I moved along and stared at some others. After a few more attempts I realised that I wasn’t thinking the usual thoughts of “ooh, that looks interesting” or “I’ll have to write that one down to get hold of when I have a chance”, I was just staring, blankly.

I am currently in the middle of reading, or re-reading Pratchett’s entire catalogue of books, as amassed on my bookshelves. I am doing the Discworld ones first, The Colour of Magic through to The Shepherd’s Crown. Then I’ll do the non-Discworld books, The Carpet People, Strata, Truckers, The Unadulterated Cat, etc. and so on. Finally I will read The Long Earth through to The Long Utopia. Having not yet read the final Discworld or Long books, it means I will finish with a new one. It is an emotional and exclamatory journey!!!

The problem is that I just wasn’t able to consider looking at any other books in the shop. Pratchett’s passing has left me temporarily (I hope) unable to consider reading anything else by anybody else. I love books and will read almost anything – physics, sci-fi, history, evolutionary biology, classics, speculative fictions, maths, religion, adventure, whatever – This is the first time I have ever stood in front of a bookshelf feeling nonplussed. It was horrible!

It may sound over-dramatic, but I believe what I am experiencing is a form of grief. I am in mourning for a man I met once, but who had such a profound effect on my life that I am a wholly different person to the one who travelled down the non-Pratchett trouser leg of time.

I have lost people before and am conversant with the feeling of broken memories, disjointed conversations and half recalled situations, which rip through your mind at inopportune moments, making you smile and bringing a tear to your eye in equal parts. The odd thing is that in this particular case these memories are wholly fantastic, involving Wizzards (sic.), witches, trolls and a disc shaped planet supported by four elephants carried by a world sized turtle.

If I am right then I guess I will slowly recover and one day may be able to feel the thrill of searching for new worlds and characters, new technologies and species. But for now, I am lost in a lonely literary universe.