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Friday, December 31, 2010

The changing of the year

I'm sitting in my mother's house, it's just past 9pm on the last night of the year. I'm tired because I had a late night last night and I'm sitting here watching the worst television, drinking a bottle of wine and writing this blog because, frankly, I'm bored.

What is it about New Year's Eve that has turned it into an endurance event? I know it's not the world, it's me.

I sense changes afoot for 2011 but no resolutions.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

No Cowell Bitch, Me

While the nation decided, without any sense of irony (see below), which forgettable Cowell cash cow to promote over the other, I was ramping up some enthusiasm for playing a few songs myself. Not to millions of slavering, television-fixated fuckwits, but to a bar full of real people. Yes, here is the news - music is alive and well, despite the best efforts of The High-Trousered One. And let's not have any post-X Factor whines of 'I only watched ironically' - the viewers and voters are complicit in the misery now to be unleashed on our unprotected ears. Mercifully it'll all be over by Xmas + 10. Oh, and here's a prediction. X-Factor Matt's second album, around this time next year, will be a forgettable mish mash of self-penned ditties, written from the sanctuary of rehab.

No, what my little foray into open mic territory has proved is that you could throw a net over any group of 50 people and get one X Factor final-quality performer. This means that all of this bullshit is just a big musical lottery show. Imagine going through all that only to find the public like you less than a cuddly painter and decorator. The 'it could be you' strapline is more appropriate for X Factor than it is for the Lotto.

You might think that as a middle-aged man still playing at playing, this might be sour grapes, a lament for my never-started music career. I have always been around much better musicians than myself. My own brother, for one - a prodigious talent who, it would appear, can play anything with a keyboard or strings and compose orchestral works or play concert grade piano. He teaches music. He IS music. That has cast a long shadow over my own noodlings which I have never really escaped. But he's just one. I have a lot of friends who are simply excellent musos. Some play, some don't. As for myself, I have no illusions. I'm a mid-table, second division bass player and a Vauxhall Conference (or whatever the lower divisions are called now) guitarist. I know it, my friends know it. I don't let it hold me back.

Tonight, however, I finally felt validated. I got to play with 'Doc' Doherty of the mighty Xdreamysts. That's proper NI New Wave royalty right there. I have his records, and I told him so. And tonight he joined us, on a stage, to jam some songs to real people.

So Mr Cowell - while you're selling your anodyne, vanilla-flavoured pap as some kind of significant cultural moment, I have been down with the resistance. We'll be back.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I'm completely absorbed in National Novel Writing Month, even if it has imposed some strange and harsh disciplines on me. The aim is to write an original novel of 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. At first glance, my reaction was suitably Clarksonian - how hard CAN it be?

The answer is very hard indeed. The nanowrimo (sic) site offers lots of fancy tools to tell you how you're doing, or not. You can paste your output into a widget and it tells you - in my experience at least - how far behind target you are. The initial maths is easy. You have to write around 1660 words a day, every day. Of course, every day is different. You think 'I'll do a lot at the weekend and catch up'. That would be fine if it was a mechanical process but, dammit, you're writing a novel. there's a creative process behind it all. You have to people your novel with characters and situations that have some kind of authenticity. If you lose sight of this, you might as well just cut and paste 'blah blah blah' over and over.

So when my alarm goes off at 6.30am, I'm already resentful of the tyranny the daily target has imposed upon me. I hope, that by osmosis, a great idea has occurred to me while I have been asleep. In my dressing gown and sucking on the first tea of the day, I batter away for an hour until it's time to get ready for work. At lunchtime, like a compulsive exerciser, I have to get some more words down. I go home, eat my tea, do whatever I have to do and get back to it. Usually after 1am I collapse into bed, having checked if I have made any ground on the target.

I will complete in time, even though my graph of achievement flatlines twice for days on end. On a good day, I could rattle off four or even five thousand words. On that kind of form I could nanowrimo in ten days.

Is my novel any good? Probably not. I'm not doing this again. Probably.

I can't help thinking that the number of words in this blog would have taken me over my daily target had they been nano words. Acording to the widget, I'll complete on Dec 7th. Watch this space!

It's growing ...

Our Nigerian chum returns 12 Google results. Details in a day or so. ...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The great Google experiment #4

Six results. All Twitter-related. Hmmm ....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The great Google experiment #3

"Your tweet to Keith Chegwin has been sent".

Let's see if that brings anything!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The great Google experiment #2

Bingo! Our imaginary footballer has turned up as a Google search result. He was referrred to in a tweet by a follower of his co-parent ;-)

So, therefore: Google count to date = 1

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The great Google experiment

I have today invented a completely fictitious footballer, whose name I shall not write here. It is my quest to see how long it takes for someone other than me to mention the name somewhere so it returns as a Google search result. It currently doesn't and the name is constructed in such a way so as to be plausible but not something you could end up at by mistyping something else.

Let the fun commence!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Qualifying Clause Deficiency

Have you ever noticed that people are losing the ability to find a second, qualifying clause for their sentences? It is not uncommon to read "the new operating system is awesome", as a statement of fact without any contextual information. Why does the new operating system provoke reverential fear and wonder*? We never find out. What is it about the new operating system that makes it better/different? I suppose that Qualifying Clause Deficiency exists in other areas of life and has become an accepted part of our new communications culture. I think our lives would be much richer if we insisted on a qualifying clause for every assertion. It would make us think a little bit about what we want to relate, instead of just spurting something out in order to make a noise along with everyone else. 'Rocks' is the epitome of this trend. 'My new phone rocks'. What precisely does that mean? Aside from superlative hyperinflation (everything is awesome, brilliant, superb, fantastic when it should be good, functional, attractive, pleasant), why does there have to be a new, hip way of saying 'rather good' every ten minutes?

So good people of the interwebs. Use your qualifying clauses and use them well. Here are some examples to get you going:
  • The iPad is cool (because I can look at screen-based porn in the bathroom now).
  • Stephen Fry is God (because he knows more words than me).
  • The new Bang & Olufsen system is superb (it really brings out the warm analogue tones of my old Dooleys records).
  • Robbie Williams is cool (because now I can bring my secret Take That CDs out).
  • Mussolini was a git (but at least he got the trains running on time).
*Awe = n. reverential fear or wonder. Awesome = adj. 1. inspiring awe; dreaded. 2. slang marvellous, excellent. (Concise Oxford Dictionary)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Carlos has left the United Kingdom ...

... and gone to live in that strange mid-Atlantic place that many of our popular music artistes seem to inhabit. You see, I found myself recently in a small wooden box, nervously staring at an expensive recording microphone and tasked to add some backing vocals to our band's recordings. The words were very British English (I wrote some of them, so that's a given!) but as soon as the music started, all ability to pronounce words properly fled me. What happened, as I sweltered in the box, was that I was magically transported to that world where a 'thing' becomes a 'theee-yung' and 'this' becomes 'theeeee-us'.

And you know what? Mid-Atlantic English is the only acceptable one in which to perform popular music. Your Ray Davies, Pete Shelley and Noel Gallagher are all very well in a parochial British way but for maximum global acceptance you have to park yourself vocally 1500 miles off these shores.

Never mind auto-tune (and for the record - pun intended - everyone does it so stop pretending to be so shocked), there should be a software gadget for auto-mid-atlanticing any vocal performance. That would be an essential weapon in the arsenal of any music producer.

Now, where's my JLS CD?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bloody cats

Last night, around midnight, a tabby cat jumped onto my living room windowsill and peered in. I don't like cats and usually I will send the local cats on their way with a harsh word and the threat of violence (actually, cats have learned this now and seem to avoid Chateau Carlos). You'll understand by this how unusual it would be for a cat to take such a liberty, in my mind at least. For whatever reason, I opened the window. Maybe I admired his swagger, maybe it was the blustery night. I thought that as long as no-one was looking, I'd extend the hand - or paw - of friendship, a bit like playing football in no man's land at Christmas. I have to admit that I was prepared to allow the cat in for a while for some non-consequential petting before I would turf him back out into the darkness whence he came. The cat, by now rolling gleefully on the sill, rubbing his face on the concrete and looking every inch the relaxed gent only looked disdainfully at the open window. His blank face seemed to be saying 'you've got the wrong end of the stick, pal'. I reached out to 'help' him inside and he just patted my hand with partially sheathed claws and playfully gnawed on my fingers - sharp enough to remind me he had claws and teeth but lightly enough for there to be no real intent. After a couple of rounds of this, and his manifest lack of interest in coming out of the squalls, he gave me a final blank look, jumped down and vanished into the night.

I can't help feeling that that cat used me for for some purpose I cannot fathom. And that's why I hate cats.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Strange Fruit

You have to admire Apple. There's marketing genius at work here and it has been troubling me since iPad Day that I couldn't find anything in my analogy locker to describe how it all works. Now, as the same people queue up yet again outside shops to get an iPhone 4, I have gained understanding.

Apple treat their customers like spoilt, greedy children and give them several Christmases a year. The secrecy, the suspense, the mystery ... I know people who seemed genuinely aggrieved if they can't have their Apple stuff on the day it is released. Like Christmas morning when everyone is outside on their new bike and you're not. Boo hoo. Unlike the real one, Apple make their Christmases moveable feasts and tease their children: "oh dear, we left the new 'phone prototype in a bar". Genius.

There would have to be compelling reasons for me to queue up outside a shop to spend some hundreds of pounds on a gadget on the day it was released. They would include, but not be limited to, the gadget:
  • enabling me to fly like a bird;
  • making me irresistible to women;
  • enhancing my car's performance to Bugatti Veyron levels;
  • conferring immortality; and
  • granting me free drinks in any bar, simply by showing it to the bartender.
I don't see the new Apple products dealing with any of these. In fact, as far as I can tell, the iPad is a laptop without a keyboard* and the iPhone 4 is a mobile telephone that does a few webby things. I have an iPhone, it's a perk of my employment and I like it. In these harsh economic times I would not burst into tears if they took it off me. With the ghost of my dear old socialist dad sitting at my shoulder I'd say it would be better to keep a working man in a job for an extra week than gratify my desire for shiny toys. But liking the product and being turned into a fiery-eyed evangelist for the Church of Steve Jobs are two different things entirely. And that's what they do, by sucking customers into the 'club' and turning them into salespeople. From the outside it looks strangely like an addiction, the nervous avarice of Christmas coupled with a bunkered 'chosen people' mentality Jim Jones would have recognised and applauded.

Maybe I don't understand after all. I wouldn't buy a phone because the camera on it is better. I'd buy a camera. If I want to read a book, I'll buy a book (and enjoy owning it and not worry if it falls in the bath). Apple fanpeople are probably already slavering over the next pointless thing that will fail to make their lives any better or easier, and despise me for not 'getting it' in the meantime.

Ah well.

*iPad users - there is bad stuff in the world Apple didn't think you're smart or sophisticated enough to see: men kissing, women's breasts etc. It has been explained to them now, so now you can.

Monday, April 19, 2010

iPad musings by Swiss Tony

Desiring an iPad, Paul, is very much like courting a beautiful woman: she's unobtainable but you desire her, she's attractive and you can imagine what she'd be like to handle. She's sleek and appealing and she'll look good in your company. Other men like you will want to use her as you plan to. But when you've waited for her to say 'yes', perhaps after a long wait and an expensive dinner, you may find her bland and unresponsive. She may promise tricks and new sensations, but in a week you'll have experienced them all. Then one morning she'll fart in bed and you'll be ringing her a taxi home and ogling her younger sister.