Tag Archives: Non-Fiction

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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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

 

 


 


Music Review – Ali E – We Are Strangers

Getting back into my own territory, Ali E looks like an escapee from two or three decades ago, I was quite pleased when I first listened to this one and made no bones of stating so in the review.

Original is here.


 

Like a cross between PJ Harvey and Kim Deal, Ali E walks her own path. Hailing from Melbourne in Australia, her songs sound like she has let music and events soak her neurons throughout her life, which has created a turbulent mix of 90s post rock and magic summertime vibes.

We Are Strangers starts with a simple two string riff that will stick in your head, it moves swiftly on through the rest of the introduction then quietens down for a laid back verse with minimal guitar, a deep, dark bassline and some whispering drums. But before you know where you are, it mugs you with a noisy pre-chorus, which lasts not more than a couple of heartbeats before it fades back into the verse, leaving you wanting some foreclosure.

After a short verse-like interlude the chorus proper starts and you are rushed through an all too short fist of power chords and split lead vocals. However just because it’s short doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful, dragging you bodily into the next part of the song.

Unlike a lot of bands Ali E doesn’t seem to believe in a verse, chorus, verse structure, going for a more free flowing style of “what do I think will sound nice next?” even bringing some violins in to round the sound out and make the whole thing seem like a slightly surreal bus accident involving The Levellers and Melissa Auf der Maur.

In the grand scheme of things, We Are Strangers may not be introducing us to anything particularly ground-breaking but then, in the grand scheme of things, who cares! This is a fun track that makes you want to get up and dance!

 


 


Music Review – Loose Tooth – Pickwick Average

Before browsing the Semplesize list for that day I had never heard of Loose Tooth, but that didn’t stop me enjoying their mode of excitable teenage rock thing.

I was quite pleased that I managed to elbow an oblique reference to some actual literature into it, although I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Hardy it was nice to make the cross-media comparison.

As ever, original is here…


 

Philadelphia, city of brotherly love, also the city that delivered Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Walkmen to our ears. Loose Tooth, however, have shunned the normally laid back vibes of their geographic brethren and gone for an all-out 90s alternative-fest.

Much like the ground-breaking Charles Dickens novel with a timeshare in the song’s title, Pickwick Average is a sequence of loosely-related adventures, just in rock music rather than literature.

It starts off with a rough drawl of a guitar riff, then swiftly escalates into a full on incursion of overdriven guitars and disaffected vocals, however this isn’t the full story. After giving you a good slap in the face to start off, the song plays on the quiet-loud-quiet theme, so beloved of pretty much every grungy rock band of the last twenty years.

After finishing the first verse, such as it is, there is a break for coffee and a bit of decelerated introspection, wavering back and forth between fast and slow the song doesn’t seem to know whether it’s coming or going.

But wait another minute and suddenly they’ve made up their mind and decided that quarter time is the way to go, the drum laboriously beating out a backing while the guitars seem to be noodling around just for fun, as if angling to accompany a comedy film based around Alabama.

Loose Tooth is quite reminiscent of The Breeders, with asymmetrical guitars and a longing for a better life. Pickwick Average is a fun track, with enough happening to keep you interested all the way to the sober end, the only downside being you’ve probably heard another band doing the same thing before.


Check My Brain

Another original article tonight…


 

For me, it’s unusual to be able to buy an album and love it on the first listen. There are only three artists…four at a push, who I can be sure will make me smile as soon as I hit the play button. In no particular order Bob Mould is one, Swervedriver is another, the third is who I’m going to tell you about now.

Sadly, and it’s always sad when this happens, even if it’s expected, the singer of this band came to an early demise on the fifth of April, 2002 through misadventure, I’m sure you know what I mean. Unsurprisingly the group then split up, seemingly for good. However the members were each active in a number of capacities, not least of which was as fundraisers for a bunch of good causes.

Then in 2005 the three remaining members came together to perform as a band, for a charity gig. Over the next three years they continued doing this, drafting in a number of high profile guest performers to fill the distinctively voiced original lead singer.

I was at work one day in 2009, with no idea what was about to hit me when suddenly I noticed a link someone had pasted, to a new song from an old band. The song was called A Looking In View and the band was called…

Alice In Chains

 

 

I was somewhat excited…to say the very least.

I grew up (sort of, I was about eighteen when I first heard them) listening to these guys tearing a hole in rock music and crawling through the ragged cavity with guitars from the netherworld and vocals which sounded like they were being wrought from twisted steel and shards of glass. Suffice to say I was a big fan!

I hesitantly clicked on the link and crossed my fingers, hoping that whatever they had done wouldn’t destroy all my memories of the band. After pulling on my headphones the song started and I was thrust into a new world of respect for a band who could undergo such tragedy and come back with original material as strong as anything in their previous canon.

The thirteen year hiatus in new material had, if anything, reinvigorated their lyrical and song-writing skills. Not to forget that replacing a front-man can be deleterious to a band, but with William DuVall, previously of Alice in Chains-a-likes Comes With The Fall, they had found a slightly new sound and a fantastically different type of figurehead for the group.

The first album after the reformation which was Black Gives Way To Blue didn’t really hint at the influence DuVall would have on them, however what it did have was ten pieces of heavily overdriven, raucous musical violence, and then, oddly, an ultimate track which is a duet with Mr Elton John?

My favourite track from this record is by far and away Check My Brain. It has string bends which sound too low to be possible and a fantastically cheerful [sic] chorus, which seems to suggest that anyone living in California needs to see a psychiatrist. The rest of the tracks are perhaps not as heavy but with titles like Acid Bubble and Private Hell some of them come pretty close.

What was incredible, to me at least, was that they have kept the amazing split lead vocals which defined the band in their previous heyday, Cantrell and DuVall sound like they were made for each other.

The fantastic offset harmonies continue throughout their last album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The title is a little conceited but apparently the new singer had finally been allowed to start displaying his political and religious views. All the members of Alice in Chains are staunch atheists, but never before have their views been so obviously displayed as through their new album, and especially its title track.

The song, which is track five on a dozen track, hour long symphony of grunge, verging towards their early career metal roots doesn’t pull any punches and outright tramples over religion of all kinds. The first three or four tracks are shockingly heavy, Hollow starts us off and has a fantastic riff which drags you kicking and screaming behind its vapour trail, until it stops five and a half minutes later. This album hardly lets up all the way through and by the end you can’t help but be sad that it’s all coming to a close.

Before I finish I need to tell a short story, which might give you an idea of the influence this band have had on my life and how much they have given me over the years…

Five years ago my lovely wife, who I obviously care for more than life itself, was pregnant with our first and only child. I was on my lunch break at work and had been for a walk around town. On my way back I happened to walk past Rock City, a club in Nottingham, where we used to live, which occasionally hosted interesting concerts. A new poster of upcoming dates had been pasted in an attention demanding spot and on the list was Alice in Chains.

My mouth dropped open, followed swiftly by my wallet as I walked through the door in a stunned state of consciousness and purchased a ticket. I started back to work and looked a little more closely at the entry pass I had just become the proud owner of, my eyes skipped lightly over the details until a nagging feeling made me look again.

The date on the ticket seemed very familiar, the reason being that it was my wife’s birthday, her only birthday while pregnant, and five months pregnant no less. So I had just purchased a very special ticket to a very special gig on a night which should have been very special for a completely different reason.

I called my wonderful partner and explained the faux pas and, because she is the most fantastic lady on the face of the planet she said that it would not be a problem and that I could make it up by buying her something fabulous. I believe I did!

This story explains both what Alice in Chains mean to me and why I love my wife so much.

I’m looking forward to the next album!

 


 


An Exercise in Self-Awareness

Due to the seemingly everlasting task of applying for jobs I have decided to take some steps to try and refresh my outlook as, to be honest, it can become a little tiring constantly being ignored and turned down for roles I could do with my eyes closed, welded together, then encased in concrete and sunk to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

I had a sudden brainwave the other night and decided it wasn’t my worst idea, so I did a bit of research, found a tool, then started putting together a mind map of everything I can think of to do with me!

Now, I’ve never tried any mind mapping software before but as usual finance is paramount, which is why I decided upon FreeMind which, after trying and becoming frustrated with a couple of tablet based apps, seemed to be the most simple and effective one you can get for a PC.

So I’ve started writing down everything that I can think of about me! I haven’t finished yet but am well on the way to having a pretty, but messy, synopsis of everything to do with Dan Ladle! It’s a funny problem to try and break everything about yourself into small manageable chunks, then decide which of them is worth expanding. Obviously writing is the first thing I transcribed, I’ve put down all my ideas, whether fully formed and written or just initial scribblings. I also wrote all about my music, although I haven’t gone as far as putting song titles. Then on the other side I’ve covered work and education which, at the moment at least, isn’t as fully stocked as my personal side, but I have a plan to trawl through my CV and chuck anything relevant onto it.

My reasoning for carrying out this task is that, if I have enough information in the map then when I try applying for a job I can look over the image and cherry pick the relevant experience. Whether this will actually work and be practical I have no clue, but at least it’s a bit different to just hammering out the same old words, phrases and other CV related rubbish again and again!

This is where it’s at right now, click on it if you want to see a full sized version.


 

 

Mind Map of Me

Mind Map of Me

 


 


I’m A Strong, Confident Woman!!!

I’m not a woman, that’s a quote.

Not really about writing tonight, more of a rant!

We moved to Australia in January of this year, my wife, our son and I. She acquired a job soon afterwards and I started getting us settled in, but kept my eye on the jobs scene while I was doing so.

It is now July and I am still seeking jobs, not with an incredible amount of success to be honest. Why this should be I cannot imagine. I am a middle aged man who has been working in various technical jobs since leaving university in my twenties, I have worked in computing for the past ten or eleven years and have had experience in many aspects of IT.

I have installed networking kit on people’s roofs in small villages, I have taken phones and computers to pieces and put them back together in better working order, I have led teams of technicians fixing computers, I have implemented IT change management for a university, I have worked in IT security. Frankly I have also removed gut contents from fish and designed circuit boards.

I am smart, I am extremely adaptable and I used to be pretty confident, but searching for jobs and being knocked back for a few over the past few months has really taken its toll on my psyche. I now feel like I’m not really cut out for any jobs that come up, on the myriad job sites I trawl daily for anything worth applying for.

What’s worse is that the misery is starting to encroach on my life and my leisure activities now. And though I don’t like to compare, one of my friends had a bout of depression some time back and I appear to be displaying some of the signs he was presenting at the time. Like losing my creativity and being unreasonably grouchy with my son when he isn’t really misbehaving.

It’s also affecting my usually unbreakable drive to write, which is ironic as I am now writing this post about not being able to write! Frankly it’s all a bit rubbish.

Of course what I would really like to be doing is writing. For a newspaper, a magazine, a newsletter, a book, a ‘blog, a TV show, anything that would publish me really. But of course life isn’t easy and never works out quite the way it ought to. I am happy with my life and my wife and my son and our cat and the house we are living in. I am happy that we moved to Australia. I am just sad that no one can seem to see how good I am at whatever task I am given to do and has snapped me up, before whatever competitor they have that should be fighting over employing me.

Hopefully something will come up eventually, but the days and weeks seem to pass with frightening haste and I never seem to make any progress.

I do apologise if this post is a little different to normal, and somewhere heading towards depressing, but I just need to get some of this off my chest and this is the only place I can put it as it doesn’t really fit in with any of my other sites or ‘blogs.

I hope that it hasn’t put you off me too much and if you are in the same boat then at least you know you’re not alone.

I’m great, someone give me a job please!