Sunday, October 23, 2011

This week I have mostly been: Registering for Movember

It’s been a while since I’ve returned to this blog. I have received many emails, text messages, tweets and even the rarest of things nowadays, handwritten letters of concern. Where have you been Spod? What’s been happening? Are you still alive? How do you expect us to survive without your life enriching tales about drunken Swedish Elks?
Do not concern yourselves, I’m back now, and I’m about to explain the reason behind my hiatus. (By the way, I didn’t actually receive any emails, text messages, tweets or handwritten letters of concern, I’m pretty sure my Dad is the only person who reads this blog and even he wasn’t that bothered that I hadn’t written anything).
The reason behind my hiatus is that I have reached a turning point in my life. As a modestly fat over privileged middle class man (I look a bit like a younger John Motson who’s lived on a diet of Guiness and twiglets) I felt it was time I did something positive for society instead of just complaining about its ills.
When I was drunk once I made the outrageous comment that I would like to dedicate my life to charity, to helping the people less fortunate than myself. It was pure coincidence that a homeless man was slumped on the side of the street as I said this, someone who had been chewed up by modern society and spat out, forced to live on the filthy, malodorous streets of London, and as I passed with my girlfriend he said.
‘Can you spare any change please sir’
And I gave my stock homeless person response without thinking
‘Sorry mate, I haven’t got any change’
The worse thing about this was that, not only was I lying, I did actually have change, I was in fact carrying the most amount of change I’ve ever carried in my life, I was carrying approximately £100 worth of change in a plastic carrier bag. The change I’d collected from my daily expenditures over the past few months or so. I was taking it to be changed into crisp £20 notes at the Coinstar machine at Sainsbury’s, which I’d go on to spend on frivolous items such as beer, Nando’s fillet burgers and Converse trainers.
So obviously my claim that I’d like to dedicate my life to charity was a hollow one. I remembered this story a few weeks back and I was pretty disgusted with myself. When I think about it, I don’t do anything for charity. I don’t even donate any money to the Salvation Army man who collects at Gosford station every Wednesday, even though my Grandad was in the Salvation Army for years and played tuba in the brass band (the character of Harold Bishop in Neighbours was based on him).
So I decided not to write anything on this blog until I came up with something positive to write about. Some way I could do something good for my fellow man.
So I’ve decided to grow a moustache.
Some people run Marathons, some climb mountains, but I’ve decided, along with thousands of other men, to grow a moustache over the month of November for the Movember campaign.
The aim of the Movember campaign (You can find out more here) is to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and depression.
As a man, and as someone who has family members and friends who have suffered from depression in the past, I thought this was a good charity to start contributing to on my quest to be a better and more selfless human being.
I plan to make myself look like the camp cowboy from the Village people to raise some much needed funds for this charity and nothings going to stop me, not even the outrageously sensitive skin on my upper lip.

So have a read about the Movember campaign and see if you're interested. If you're feeling saucy you might even want to donate some money. Here’s a link to My Mo Space page if you do want to donate to me personally.
I'll be putting some pictures on there to chart the progress of my facial fuzz and I’ll also be posting updates on my journey into Freddie Mercuryville here.

So lets do this together people, man, woman or child, remember, shaving and waxing is the enemy. The soup strainer is king.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This week I have mostly been suffering: from the booze blues

The horror, the insurmountable horror…….
I can’t do it….I just can’t do it…………………….
There’s a taste in my mouth that can only mean a pestilent Badger with terminal dysentery spent the night in there…….but that’s impossible, how could I fit an entire badger in my mouth…….
Despair…..despair….despair……I’m staring into the unfathomable depths of despair……..
Condemned to a life of hopeless misery………………….Arrggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh………..sob.
The incoherent babblings detailed above are just a snippet of the thoughts that were vomited out by my chemically unbalanced brain last Sunday morning.
What could possibly have happened to you to make you think such thoughts I hear you ask? Had you just discovered you had a terminal illness? Had one of your loved ones been in a terrible accident? Had you been forced to watch an entire DVD box set of Grey’s Anatomy with your eyes prized open in some grizzly Guantanamo bay style torture ritual?
No. It was none of those things which caused my brain to enter such barren lands of murky depression. It was a commonplace thing, something many of us indulge in from time to time. It was that most available and craved for substance which is a crutch to a lot of us in the western world:
Yes, I was a plaything of Bacchus on Saturday night, I was battered, bladdered, hammered, smashed, ripped to the tits, off my nut, sozzled, mortal, tight, drunk, rat-arsed and pissed.  I’d reached the enviable level of mental incompetence where I found it difficult to stand or talk coherently.
There are large swathes of the evening I don’t remember, I seem to have lost the natural thread of space time directly after the moment I lustily sucked on a slice of lemon after downing a tequila shot and only recovered it in the middle of a conversation about why historically carrots were purple rather than orange with a bemused taxi driver who barely spoke English. Where the intervening hours disappeared to is anyone’s guess.
The reason for this over indulgence is moot. This wasn’t the first time this had happened, but after the hedonistic party there always comes the hangover, the morning after, the post mortem, where every single snippet of the night before is analysed and judged, the tongue had been loosened by the booze, the inhibitions dropped, but now it’s over you find a little voice in your head begins to talk.
‘You really are an idiot aren’t you? What kind of cretin tells their boss that his breath smells of rotting fish guts?’
‘Why did you go on the dance floor and make such a fool of yourself dancing to ‘Wake me up’ by Wham? You looked like a wind-up toy suffering from Parkinson’s disease. You really are the most oafish imbecile on this planet aren’t you?’
But whose is this little voice that pops into your head the morning after the booze up? Who is behind this cruel vociferous criticism? Let me tell you, it’s that grim spectre of the macabre, (you never see him arrive but he always turns up when the effects of the alcohol have worn off),’ The Booze Blues’.
‘The Booze Blues’ is a terrifying beast, he can strike fear into your heart at any moment and turn you into a babbling, jabbering fool. When I awoke on Sunday morning he was there with me, forcing me to remember what a drunken shambling buffoon I was the night before, blowing everything out of proportion until I was struck dumb with despair and horror at the prospect of carrying out the most mundane simple tasks.
A Shower? Impossible
Cook Breakfast? Dear lord, the horror.
Get out of bed? Simply unfeasible
For me nowadays ‘The Booze Blues’ sticks around for a while, making me wallow in self-pity and loathing, destroying my state of mind, making things seem a thousand times more difficult than they are, making me want to blub uncontrollably at the drop of a hat, and to be honest I never want to hear from that vulture of human misery again.
A good friend of mine once said ‘Spod, there will be one day when you wake up after a night on the booze, and you’ll say to yourself, truly meaning it, I’m never doing that again’.
I’ve had that moment, it came on Sunday morning. Alcohol is a depressant after all and some people just shouldn’t abuse it, including me. In fact if it was discovered today it would immediately be classed as a drug too harmful and dangerous to be legal. Makes you think doesn’t it………………..yeah, really does make you think………….oh sod it.
Does anyone fancy a pint?

Friday, September 30, 2011

This week I have mostly been writing: a letter to Carlos Tevez

Dear Carlos Tevez,
I’m writing to you now to offer my support in what has been an extraordinarily traumatic period in your career. The professional footballer has been much maligned in society of late, and you yourself have borne the brunt of the criticism this week for what was in my mind, a brave and courageous act. Other people (nasty people who you shouldn’t pay attention to) say this act was the act of a sulky, ungrateful, obscenely overpaid, arrogant oaf, who had thrown his toys out of the pram because he couldn’t get his own way, but I disagree.
I am of course, talking about your refusal to come on as a substitute during your teams defeat at Bayern Munich in the Champions League (your team is Manchester City by the way, I’m just reminding you as it may have possibly slipped your mind on Wednesday night, I often forget things, I forgot my house keys twice last week for example). With half an hour to go, the manager (the manager is Roberto Mancini by the way) asked you to warm up because he wanted to bring you on, he wanted you to turn the game around, to save Manchester City from ignominious defeat.
‘Go on Carlos’ he said, ‘Get in there my son and save the game’
And you said ‘I won’t, I won’t, I won’t, if you make me play, I’ll scream and scream and scream until I’m sick’
Now that’s a brave think to do, you’re making a stand and that’s to be admired, I mean, how does that tyrant Roberto Mancini (who does he think he is, your boss or something?), expect you, Carlos Tevez, to work under the conditions you’re expected to? Does he expect you to just turn in a great performance at the drop of a hat? After all you’re a professional athlete who allegedly gets paid a meagre quarter of a million pounds a week (by the time you’ve gotten up in the morning and taken your first shit, you’ve already earned more than I will in a whole year, I often think of this and smile), how does he expect you to just turn on the skill when you don’t play from the start of the game?
Would you ask Michelangelo to come in and finish painting your chapel ceiling when the other bloke you’ve hired has made a hash of it? No you wouldn’t. Michelangelo would just laugh in your face. And you laughed in Mancini’s face Carlos (well not really, you just looked like a stroppy five year old), and rightfully so.
I know your struggles Carlos, you’re homesick, you miss your family, you don’t like England because it’s cold and it rains, you don’t speak the language very well (you've been in England 4 years, 4 bloody years Carlos, what have you been doing with your time, surely you should've picked the language up by now? I moved to Australia from England 18 months ago and I've already picked up the lingo here), you do what you love for a living in return for great riches, adoration and acclaim, yes, yours is a heavy cross to bear indeed Carlos, I don’t envy you. From now on, I’m taking your example, if my boss asks me to do something and I don’t feel like it, I’m just going to tell her to get stuffed (I’ll be sacked obviously, maybe you can throw a couple of thousand my way to at least put some food in my families mouths in these times of economic uncertainty if this does happen).
Keep your chin up Carlos. I’ll be thinking of you
Yours Sincerely

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This week I have been mostly thinking: like an Elk

The picture above is of an Elk if you didn’t know. But what kind of Elk is it? Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a drunken Elk, it’s a heavily inebriated Elk, in short, it’s a pissed up Elk that has gorged itself on fermented apples and fallen into a tree.
I laughed the first time I saw that picture and read the story about that Elk. There I was, on Friday morning 8.40am, slumped in my swivel chair in the office, staring down the barrel of another 8 tedious hours  of unstimulating ‘work’, giggling like a village idiot at a picture of a drunken Elk who had fallen into a tree in someone’s front garden in Gothenburg.
This would be the highlight of my day without a doubt. 8.40am and my day had already peaked; it was all downhill from here.
Then I started to think about that Elk. What could have possibly motivated him to seek the oblivion of drunkenness?
Maybe he was wandering through the suburban gardens of Gothenburg and happened to gaze into someone’s living room window. Maybe what he saw there made him despair at his existence; made him think that fermented apples were the only answer to his problems.
But fermented apples are never the answer are they? Unless the question is; what is Cider made from?
So what did he see when he looked through the living room window of that suburban house? We can only hypothesise but I would guess it was something like this:
He saw a Family, huddled around the warmth of a plasma screen TV, slack jawed and drooling into their dinners of processed dead cow innards encased in floury baps, staring at scenes of stupefying horror played out on the TV screen(or Jersey shore as its otherwise known) without a flicker of emotion or brain activity.
He saw a hunting trophy on the wall, an Elk head, and as he saw that Elk head looking down with its cold dead eyes on the whole sorry spectacle of the family, with mounting distress he realised that that Elk head, the hunting trophy, formerly belonged to the body of one of his closest friends.
So what were his thoughts when he saw this? We can only theorise but I would guess they were something like this:
‘Colin! No! Why have they done this to you? Murdered you and kept your head as a trophy? These unsightly, slovenly, grotesque, morally bankrupt barbarians are the pinnacle of evolution are they? They hold the fate of every creature on this planet in their hands? We’re doomed, completely doomed. I can’t take it anymore; I’m going to eat some fermented apples’
That’s what I assume the Elk thought, and let’s face it I’m probably right.
The great philosopher and alleged sex offender Michael Jackson once sang ‘What have we done to the world? Look what we’ve done’.
And when we do look at what we’ve done, when we really look, it’s hard not to be disgusted with ourselves. So we don’t bother looking.
I never wanted to look, I never want to look at the bad things I’ve done never mind taking a gander at the crimes of the entire human race, but when I realised we made an Elk so depressed that he wanted to get drunk enough to fall into a tree, that for me was the final straw.
So I decided to make a difference, to campaign for animal rights, to raise awareness about climate change, to poor every ounce of my being into making things right, I’m only one man, but I can make a difference, I can, I can….and then I had satellite TV installed at my house….. and I realised I could never be angry at the human race again…..I mean how could you despair at the tyranny of humanity when there’s quality programming like ‘Cake Boss’ on TV?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This week I have mostly been uncovering: an inconvenient truth

“Are you sure this is a safe operation David? I must admit I’m a little scared” said Michael as he lay on the operating table. He glanced nervously at the table adjacent to his. A motionless body lay upon it, covered with a sheet.
“Well, you can’t completely rule out complications with this complex a procedure Michael, but we have done several trial runs with animal as well as human subjects and I can assure you, it’s perfectly safe”
The consultant patted him reassuringly on the hand.
“This operation will not only give you a whole new body, it will completely rejuvenate your career. It will finally let you escape the baggage and unsavoury allegations of your past, you can start again, this is such a wonderful opportunity for you Michael”
Michael still looked unsure.
“This has all happened so quickly” he said, “I know it’s the best thing for me, but I wish I’d had more time to think it through. Has everything been prepared for after the operation?”
‘We are sorry for the short notice Michael’ said the consultant “but we only have a very small window of time for this kind of operation”
He pointed to the motionless figure on the other operating table.
“The host had reached full development and we needed to act quickly, the record company have arranged everything for you afterwards, actors have been hired to play your parents and friends, and a whole back-story has been provided for you, just try and relax”
“Will there be any side effects”
“Your new body may feel slightly unresponsive at first, and the brain transplant will leave a visible scar on the forehead for a while, you will have to wear a long fringe to cover it, but I’m sure you can cope with that’
The consultant picked up a syringe from a nearby table.
“Now, I’m just going to apply the anaesthetic, you’ll wake up feeling like a new man Michael, now count down from 10 for me’ The consultant removed the needle from Michaels arm as he began to count.
“10, 9, 8,.....” Michael felt the comforting oblivion of sleep begin to engulf him as the anaesthetic coursed through his veins.
“7, 6, 5.....” So long Michael Jackson he thought......
“4, 3, 2, 1....”
Hello Justin Bieber.

Friday, September 2, 2011

this week I have been mostly watching: The Money Masters

Let me tell you a secret. If you went to Fort Knox in Kentucky in the United States of America, the highly secure compound which allegedly holds 4578 metric tons of gold in its vaults.
If you went there, and by some devious means managed to fool all the layers of security and to get inside, and once inside you managed to open the vaults containing all that precious, but essentially useless, metal. You would be stunned, incredulous, as to your shock and horror; you would discover that all the vaults are empty.
But why? How did this happen you ask? Well, it’s because I stole it. Yes, it was me; using a scheme so ingenious it would put the world’s greatest criminal masterminds to shame. I now have every ounce locked in my garage at home alongside my home brewing kit….
That of course isn't strictly true, I don't have it, and if I possessed the majority of the world’s gold I’d hardly be wasting my time typing this drivel. No, if I was that rich, then each day I would undoubtedly (quoting the philosophical musings of that precision marketed pop strumpet Ke$ha) 'Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy')
I often wonder what it’s like to wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy, to be a huge success story and exponent of the American dream, and I normally come to the conclusion that my brain would probably capsize within the hour, unable to deal with the attention and over stimulation.
But anyway, back to the gold, or lack of it, in Fort Knox, it’s not some kind of crackpot conspiracy theory that it’s no longer there, there is actually some evidence to suggest that the gold was used as collateral against government loans used to help the US escape the depression in the 1930’s, and the majority of it found its way into the hands of privately owned European banks which helped to fund Nazi Germany.
I discovered this by watching the incredibly long and equally compelling documentary 'The Money Masters'. The documentary was made in 1995 and details the history of money and the banking system from back in the time of Jesus to the present day. It describes in detail how the world’s money supply has come to be controlled by a small number of obscenely wealthy individuals who own privately funded banks such as the Federal Reserve in the US.
These evil men or ‘Money Changers’ basically control the planet through the use of ‘Fractional Reserve Banking’ and are able to increase or decrease the money supply as they please, thus creating depressions or economic booms at will.
There is seriously mind blowing information in this documentary (even more mind blowing than waking up in the morning feeling like P Diddy) as you discover the ‘Money Changers’ had a hand in causing such historical events as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Depression, the Russian Revolution and the battle of Waterloo (from which a man named Nathan Rothschild ingeniously managed to manipulate the British economy) to name but a few.
The film also proposes a solution to the problem, to take away the power of the banks and let governments issue their own money, this doesn’t seem to be any nearing to happening though as the ‘Money Changers’ currently own the majority of the worlds media and can entice politicians with their filthy lucre.
My only criticism of the film is that the narrator William T. Still incessantly jabs a biro at the camera throughout, forcing each point home while dressed in a tweed jacket, but I’m sure we can all let that one go.
So watch this documentary if you can people, encourage your friends to watch it, together we can educate ourselves and stop this evil plutocratic empire. Only then can we truly rock in a free world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This week I have been mostly listening: to singers who can't sing

Now, here’s a question for you, if you found out that Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of Eternal Reccurrence was actually fact, and we do live our lives over and over again in the same sequence an infinite number of times, would you watch the new series of X Factor?
X Factor inexplicably starts again in Australia next Monday, so if I sit down and watch it, according to Eternal Reccurrence I will inescapably have to sit down and watch it at the same time and place in my life for eternity. The stupefying blithering of the Quadrangle of mediocrity (or the judging panel as its otherwise known) of Ronan Keating, Mel B, Guy Sebastian and Natalie Bassingthwaighte will echo in eternity for me, and that is a truly terrifying thought.
It must be said that I spend far too much of my time contemplating the rancid boil on the buttocks of musical entertainment that is X Factor, and I always arrive at the same conclusion, a large portion of my favourite singers would never get past the audition stage of the show. Why, because they can’t actually sing to the X Factor polished gold standard.
Let’s take Dave Berman from the great but sadly defunct ‘Silver Jews’ for instance. His bored sounding monotone drawl wouldn’t cut the mustard in the X Factor world.

That was ‘Random Rules’ arguably the Silver Jews best song which features the greatest opening line I’ve ever heard. ‘In 1984, I was hospitalised for approaching perfection’
Then of course there’s Tom Waits, who sounds like he’s smoked every cigarette ever made in history. I love his experimental circus swamp horror blues but you can’t beat a Tom Waits ballad. This is from his classic ‘Swordfish Trombones’ album.

Finally, here’s a song from Wu Lyf, a British band who are making waves at the moment with their rabble rousing epics. This is my personal favourite from their debut album ‘Go tell Fire to the Mountain‘, it’s called ‘We Bros’. The singer doesn’t sing, he grunts incomprehensibly like a disgruntled ape dying from terminal flatulence.

All these singers plus many more (Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Mick Jagger, Wayne Coyne, Neil Young etc.) would fall at the first X factor hurdle because they aren’t technically good singers, but they have something indefinable, something special that makes their voices distinctive, visceral and emotive, something it’s hard to put your finger on, if only there was a word or phrase to sum up what they possess....oh yeah, that’s right, it’s called the X Factor.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This week I have been mostly reading: Footballers autobiographies

Morrisey once sang ‘There’s more to life than books you know, but not much more’ (mind you, in the same song he also sings ‘Let me get my hands on your mammary glands’, so I’m not sure he can be fully trusted as a font of wisdom, imagine using that as a chat up line for instance). But when he sang that line in ‘You Handsome Devil’ I’m sure he wasn’t thinking of the millions of turgid and banal Footballers autobiographies currently clogging the shelves of your local Waterstones. Going back to the despicable and ultimately pointless looting in the UK that happened last week, I made the point that the looters left Waterstones untouched because of their ignorance of the importance and value of books, but maybe it wasn’t because of this, maybe it was because they had once been paralysed with boredom after reading ‘David Beckham – my side’ and were now terrified at the sight of words written on a page.
Theo Walcott’s ‘Growing Up Fast’ is the latest in the long line of football biographies. If you don’t know, Theo Walcott is a 22 year old England and Arsenal Footballer and his book is currently being serialised in The Sun newspaper. Here is an unintentionally hilarious snippet I read yesterday, just for reference, Mr Capello is the current manager of England, renowned for his iron discipline and to set the scene, the England team are on an outing to the Golf course. Take it away Theo:

I got Dad to bring my clubs and because there's a very strict food regime under Mr Capello I was really craving some crisps, just something different from the rather bland food we're allowed to eat, so I told Dad to bring me a snack.
He brought Pringles but as he was lifting my clubs out of his boot I noticed with horror that Mr Capello was watching everyone like a hawk. Dad was about to hand me the Pringles but realised just in time that it would be a serious error and put them back in the boot as nonchalantly as he could.
The food we're officially allowed is OK, it just gets a bit boring. So during the build-up to one match some of us snuck in some Nando's on the quiet.
That was a seriously nerve-racking episode. Everybody kept expecting Mr Capello to burst out of the shadows as the players were eating their food.

Now, I know what you’re thinking after reading that, you’re thinking ‘Oh, the trials and tribulations of the professional footballer, why must these obscenely overpaid unfortunate souls be denied what the rest of us take for granted, can’t they eat their Nando’s in peace without fear of reprisal? Why is the world so unfair? WHY? WHY?
The rest of the book undoubtedly holds even more heart rending depictions of Theo’s life thus far, the time he licked a KFC crispy strip in defiance of his personal trainer, the time he almost ate a piece of beer battered cod, and the legendary occasion he took a small sip of low alcohol lager right under the nose of England manager Fabio Capello
But let’s not make this just about Theo, he seems like a nice chap, and has kept his nose clean compared to some Footballers, his is just an example of the hundreds of books that are written in a similar vein detailing the lives of rich twenty something sporting professional who haven’t really done anything remarkable other than play sport at a high level. It’s not their problem; they’re signed to money spinning book deals by their agents and can only tell the ghost writers what has happened to them, obviously omitting the interesting bits which could sour their public image or career, it’s not their fault they have essentially nothing to say. The question is though, why should a 22 year old man who is famous for running really fast while manoeuvring a spherical piece of air filled leather with his feet be the subject of an autobiography, when there are so many people who have led far more rich and interesting lives out there struggling to get their stories published. Well basically it must be because these books sell well and are in demand, but doesn’t it make you despair at the fate of humanity to think that a man as morally bankrupt and oafish as Wayne Rooney will eventually have more books to his name than John Kennedy O’Toole (writer of the comedic masterpiece ‘Confederacy of Dunces’) and Franz Kafka combined? Well I think it’s depressing. Please let me know if you do, it’s lonely up here on my high horse.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This week I have been mostly watching: Looters in England

I’m sure you’re aware of the mass looting that has been going on across England this week, especially if you live in England as most of my family and friends do. To me, what sums it up quite well is a comment I read on Facebook. It said that all shops on Clapham high street had been broken into and looted except for one. The Clapham branch of Waterstones. A book shop, a repository for the knowledge and ideas of the human race that have been recorded for prosperity in the form of the written word. The most valuable thing we have to offer left untouched.
Obviously the looters had no interest. As their knuckles dragged along the pavement, they probably stopped, scratching their heads in bewilderment as they looked in the shop window, what kind of shop is this? What possible gratification could I gain from mindlessly vandalising the place and stealing its contents? Let’s go and steal some more tracksuit bottoms from JD Sports.
It’s like ‘The Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, except of course the Apes in the film revolt because they are motivated by a burning sense of injustice instead of the desire to nick themselves a new pair of trainers and a plasma screen TV.
To be honest when I first heard of the riots that were sparked by the shooting of Mark Duggan, I thought people had had enough, the dire economic climate, unemployment, government cuts and corruption had finally caused the powder keg to burst in an explosion of violent protest, but having read many articles about it, and watched footage on the internet, this isn’t the case. In comparison with the uprisings across Africa and the Middle East there is no apparent political motivation involved at all in the England looting spree. The family of Mark Duggan were quick to disassociate themselves from it and most of the looters wouldn’t even know who he was. It seems like it’s all a bit of a lark to them, a visceral thrill to attack police, steal the items that they can’t afford, and to destroy the communities they live in in a totally mindless and ignorant fashion.
While it’s easy for podgy middle class people like me to take the moral high ground with these looters, there’s no real argument for sympathising with them, while it can be argued they are products of their ethnic background and environment, that’s no excuse for this kind of destructive, nihilistic behaviour.
When you look at it, it’s really an unsophisticated mirror image of what has been happening for a long time in the financial and political world. The global financial crisis was essentially caused by a small minority of white collar criminals and politicians who looted the general public on a grand scale to satisfy their thirst for power, drugs, strip clubs, high class prostitutes and in the case of some British politicians, Hob Nob biscuits.
Of course these high-end criminals appear to be essentially above the law whereas the looters captured on CCTV will receive some punishment, it’s arguable whether carting an 11 year old through the courts because he stole a wastepaper bin from Debenhams is going to help though.
Obviously there’s no quick and easy solution to this problem, society as it stands is riddled with criminality and greed on all levels, not just in the poorest communities. We have created an essentially godless society in the western world, which is fine, as long as you replace God with something a bit more spiritually nourishing than Wayne Rooney’s Street Striker, Katie Prices gargantuan mammary glands or the pursuit of cold hard cash.
At the moment there is a gaping vacuum, a nothingness in all our lives that we’re told can only be filled by fame, success or the new deluxe reissue of ‘Exile on Main Street’ by the Rolling Stones. When I feel depressed, bored or disenfranchised with my existence I go out and buy something to vainly try and fill the void, but to do that, I have to earn money, the looters bypassed the boring part of this process and just went and stole what they want. Hopefully next time they might loot Waterstones and end up reading a book, who knows, it might help inspire them to try changing the world for the better rather than exacerbating its problems. Well, unless they pick up a Twilight novel.

Friday, August 5, 2011

This week I will be mostly celebrating: Ruby's birthday

‘What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high?’ 
Now, you may not be familiar with that lyric from the Pavement song ‘Stereo’, you may not even be familiar with the band Pavement, arguably the greatest shambolic alternative rock band of the 90’s, but that lyric, and the fact my daughter Ruby is approaching her 1st birthday, has made me reminisce about the day I found out I was going to be a father.
It was December 2009, I was living with my Australian partner Emma in North West London.  That month I had purchased tickets to see my favourite band Pavement who had reformed after a ten year hiatus. The gig was in May 2010, a long way off, but surely things couldn’t change so drastically that I wouldn’t be able to go. That was highly unlikely.
I should also mention that Emma was 3 weeks late for her period. We weren’t that concerned, she had never been regular; we even chuckled along in high spirits as she did an on-line ‘Are you pregnant?’ questionnaire. Surely not we laughed, it’s just a coincidence you match most of the symptoms we guffawed.
Then Emma did a pregnancy test. We even talked about what we’d do if it came back positive;  Of course, we’d have to move back to Australia so she could be close to her family.
It never entered my head it would be positive though, I’d indulged in so much binge drinking over the past 10 years that I was sure to be firing blanks.
I was confused when she exited the bathroom giggling nervously.
‘So what’s the verdict?’
‘Go and see’
So I walked into the bathroom and looked at the pregnancy tester. Two solid purple lines stood out across the diameter of the results indicator.
I frantically fumbled with the instructions to the kit, screaming ‘Wait, what does this mean?’
I knew full well what it meant; struggling for breath I lunged for the toilet bowl, consumed with nausea and anxiety. Then a sudden moment of calm hit me before a thought sprang into my head. It was:
‘Oh shit, this means I’m going to miss seeing Pavement’
That was not how I’d imagined I’d react to the life changing news that I was probably going to be a father, and you would be correct in assuming my priorities in life were slightly out of order at that time. To be honest, I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel scared, I just felt overwhelmed as I walked from the bathroom to the living room, sank to my knees and buried my head in the sofa cushions.
What followed was a blur of hospital appointments and breaking the news to friends and family. All were ecstatic, but I could tell by the voices of some that they realised what it meant; that I’d have to move half way across the world to Australia to do this. After all, a support network was needed for Emma that just wasn’t there in London.
So for me, this joyous news was tinged with sadness; I didn’t want to leave the rain soaked and beer sodden shores of my much loved home country of England, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
So it was with a heavy heart and cheeks well moistened with tears that I boarded the plane to Sydney on the 28th April. Just for the record, Pavement played on the 11th May.
But as well as feeling happy and proud I was to become a father I was also consumed by fear. How could I possibly risk getting human faeces on my hands when changing a nappy? What if she vomits on me (which of course was inevitable)? How to I deal with the stump of the umbilical cord after she’s born? What about the fontanel? Surely it’s not safe to face the world without a fully formed skull.
The due date of 28th July came and passed and finally the induction was scheduled to take place. 8th August 4pm at Gosford hospital it was, and it was a long and uncomfortable night we had to endure.
The sofa bed I had to sleep on in the hospital room was especially uncomfortable, some would say Emma had it worse; going through excruciating contractions every 10 minutes is no picnic, but I do feel women milk it on these occasions.
Then it all began to happen. Obviously experiencing the final stage of labour is something I’ll never go through, but helplessly witnessing a loved one in excruciating pain is the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. The Gas and Air didn’t help me at all.
At the closing stages the room suddenly filled up with people, one of the midwives grabbed me and pulled me to the foot of the bed so I had a full view of the frankly bizarre sight of Ruby’s head appearing and the final push when she was ejected from safety into the world at large.
I vividly remember the moment of panic, waiting to hear Ruby cry so I’d know she was alive and well. When she did, it was the greatest relief I’d experienced in my life up to that point, and as I looked down in awe at what we had created, I knew straight away I would do anything for her, I would bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for her, and I would love her with all my heart and soul for the remainder of my days.
All my ridiculous fears and squeamishness disappeared instantly. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, there would be many sleepless nights, there would be frustration, anger and fear as well as joy and happiness, but I knew I could deal with it, and witnessing this commonplace miracle (after all it happens every minute of every day), I finally knew what it was to be a man, and I wouldn’t have exchanged this moment for anything in the gamut of human experience, well except for seeing Pavement at Brixton Academy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

This week I have mostly been receiving: inappropriate jokes from John

Who is John you may ask? Well, John is a 42 year old man who used to work for the telecommunications company Vidophone. In the event of the death of a celebrity or a tragedy which claimed the lives of the unfortunate people involved, his job required him to write a bad joke, mocking it in the most unsavoury manor possible. This joke would then be sent on to a select mailing list of vidophone users by SMS, who would in turn pass it on to their friends, who would pass it on to their friends, who would pass it on....well, you get the idea.
John was successful in his work and his offensive and crude jokes reached a wide audience, reaping rich reward for Vidophone and himself. One lunch time though, his life was changed forever.
God, who seldom had much to do with his creations on Earth anymore (they were in general a great disappointment to him), noticed that people were laughing at several awful jokes written about the recent death of one of his favourite human singers, Jamie Beerbungalow. This was something he couldn't ignore, so he decided to pay a visit to the source of those jokes, John from Vidophone.
John was eating a chorizo sandwich alone in the staff canteen when God appeared. So as not to scare him, God had come disguised as the person John respected most in the whole of human history; Derek Trotter from the British sitcom 'Only Fools and Horses'.
God spoke to John:
'Alright John, me old china plate? Its God here, I've come as Del boy because I didn't want to shock you with my normal appearance, being omnipresent means I’m pretty much a mass of eye balls which isn’t very pleasant as I’m sure you can imagine’
John was slightly taken aback; he was an atheist so this was most unexpected. 'Hello god, what can I do for you?'
'Well John, I’ll get straight to the point, I don't like what you're doing here. These jokes you're sending out are disgusting, have you not thought of the harm you're doing? How would you feel if someone was laughing at a dirty joke about someone you cared about?'
'I see what you're saying God’ replied John 'but to be fair, there's a demand for these jokes. If people didn't get a cheap thrill from reading them, I wouldn't keep being asked to write them.'
'Just because it’s popular, doesn't mean it’s pucker John. Here, let me show you something. Close your eyes.' God laid his hand on John’s forehead and showed him a vision of the future.
John saw a large group of people gathered at a funeral.
'This is your daughters funeral John, she had grown up to play for the England women’s football team like you dreamed she would, but the whole team was tragically killed in a plane crash on the way to the World cup'
'My God, that’s terrible' John was distraught.
'Yes it is. Now, you see this, this is a pub. You see that group of lads laughing at something? Well, they're laughing at a joke that’s making fun of this tragedy John, your tragedy. How does that make you feel?'
'That’s disgraceful, what kind of person could take pleasure in someone else's misfortune like that......oh, I see your point, I help to perpetuate this kind of behaviour'
'Yes, well. I'm asking you to make a stand against this kind of behavior John. You see how negative it is, don't be a plonker all your life. You’re in a position to make a difference, so instead of sending out a joke, send a positive moral message.'
John sat there, shell shocked.
'Oh, your daughter doesn't die in a plane crash by the way, that was just a shock tactic to get a reaction from you, she becomes a successful accountant in Basingstoke'
'Really? Thank God'
'That’s alright, don't thank me. Anyway, think about what I've said. You can help to arouse people’s consciences about this. Don't forget, I'll be watching you.' And with that remark, God disappeared in a puff of smoke.
So John, went back to his office and instead of writing another evil and unfunny joke, he wrote the following message and sent it to the mailing list via SMS:
‘While keeping a sense of humour in tragic circumstances is certainly important, laughing at spiteful jokes which mock other peoples tragedy is not big or clever. The human race is capable of great things but is constantly being undermined by this low brow ignorant behaviour. Take a look at the man or woman in the mirror and make that change.’
Ten minutes later John's boss came in.
'What is this shit John? People want a laugh, not to feel bad about themselves. You've lost your edge, pack up your desk and sod off. You're fired'
So John left Vidophone with a clear conscience. If he'd tickled the consciences of anyone else that was a bonus.
He went on to write marketing emails for the charity organisation St John Ambulance, earning a fraction of the money he did at Vidophone. Still, his family are very proud of him, if a little resentful that he threw away his highly paid job, and with it, their chance of an indoor swimming pool being installed at their house, but such is life.
Meanwhile, God and Satan were sat in the communal bar between heaven and hell watching these events unfold on the big screen TV.
‘Well done G-man, that’s one soul saved for you’ said Satan.
‘You’re still way out in front though S-Dog’ replied God standing up to add one more to his total on the grand scoreboard. ‘I was hoping John could affect more people with his message’
‘Yeah, I could do with a bit more competition to be honest, but you realise someone has already taken his place don’t you, there’s nothing people like better than to laugh at someone worse off than they are, it’s the nature of the world’
‘I really have created a bunch of little monsters haven’t I?’
‘I don’t like to rub it in G-man, but I have to agree’
God took a sip of his pint and said ‘Oh well, fancy a game of darts?’

Monday, July 25, 2011

This week I have been mostly not listening to: The Eagles

I stumbled across a song called 'County Line' by Cass McCombs a couple of weeks back, it’s a beautiful ballad from his album 'Wits End' about returning to a former home you never loved but which still has a hold on you. When Cass McCombs sings 'You never even tried to love me' in his soulful fragile croon it really hits you in the gut the only way a great song can. Have a listen:

While you couldn't class that song as a country song, the vocals and melody reminde me of one of my favourite country singers Gram Parsons, which in turn reminded me of how much I hate the Eagles.
If you're not familiar with Gram Parsons, he's an influential country rock singer who tragically died in 1973 from a morphine overdose at the age of 26. He was originally in the Byrds but went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers before going solo and releasing two great albums 'GP' and 'The Grievous Angel'. Gram struggled in obscurity for most of his career partly due to the colossal sales of the Eagles, who had taken country music and turned it into the musical equivalent of a Texas redneck farting into an empty KFC bucket, providing further proof that the most successful band in a genre is often the least talented and interesting. If Gram Parsons was a Flying Burrito then the Eagles were a low grade sausage roll constructed of pig snouts and anuses encased in a dry flaky pastry.
But when I was an ignorant 17 year old I thought all country music was rubbish because of the Eagles, what a fool I was. Luckily I saw past the infinitely tedious guitar solo of 'Hotel California' to the crusty golden nuggets of Neil Young and Gram Parsons underneath. Here's a bit of Gram for you. This song is called 'Brass Buttons'.

So in conclusion, don't judge country music by the Eagles or Garth Brooks in the same way you wouldn't judge all Hip Hop music by ‘Boom! Shake the room’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Don’t miss out on all the goodness on offer like I did.
Before I sign off take a look at this performance of the absurdly great country standard 'Galveston' by an impeccably coiffed Glen Campbell. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a protest song against war taken from the personal perspective of a man on the frontline reminiscing about his home and the love of his life. Prepare for an emotional rollercoaster.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This week I have been mostly playing: Spot the Da Vinci code

I love charity shops. There I’ve said it. Amongst the detritus people rightfully jettison from their lives (Ally McBeal box sets on VHS for example), in a charity shop you can often find treasures like a miniature drum kit or the soundtrack from Xanadu on Vinyl.
I also find it’s more rewarding to clutter your house up with recycled, second hand items that have some individuality and history rather than blindly consuming mass produced tot, after all, the human race must have accumulated enough reusable junk over the course of its history to more than satisfy future generations. Plus of course, all the proceeds go to charity which is also obviously a good thing.
But I’m not here to discuss my penchant for musty tweed jackets; I’m here to discuss a new sport that’s gripping the nation.
What is the sport in question I hear you say? Well, it’s called 'Spot the Da Vinci Code'.
The rules are as follows
'Spot the Da Vinci code' is a sport for 2 or more players that takes place in a charity shop. The aim of the game is to be the first player to 'spot' a second hand copy of the 'Da Vinci Code' by comedic author Dan Brown. The winner of the 'bout' or 'chukka' is declared when one of the players reaches 100 points.
Points are awarded as follows:
·         Once a player has 'spotted' the Da Vinci code by Dan Brown, he or she must declare the fact to the other players by saying 'Look I've spotted the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown'. The book is then independently verified by the other players to ensure it is in fact the Da Vinci code and not a different Dan Brown title (Angels and Demons or Digital Fortress for example). 10 points are then awarded to the player and the game continues until all copies of the Da Vinci code in the shop have been spotted. If all copies have been spotted and a player is still yet to reach 100 points, the game moves to the next available charity shop.
·         If 2 or more people spot the same copy of the Da Vinci code simultaneously the 10 points are shared amongst the players equally.
·         In the unlikely event of a draw, all players should contemplate why they are wasting their lives playing this game and go and do something more constructive.
Now I've been playing this sport for 3 years (I'm still undisputed world champion), and I can honestly say I have never failed to find a second hand copy of the Da Vinci code in a charity shop.
Why is this you may ask? Why is there such an overabundance of ‘Da Vinci codes’ in this cruel world? Well, I think it’s because the Da Vinci code became too popular for its own good. All of a sudden, against their better judgment, everyone had a copy.
I bet you had a copy, and like secretively gorging yourself on leftover pizza slices from your neighbours’ bin, you became ashamed, disgusted with yourself that you’d given in to the fad, and so you took your tear soiled copy of the Da Vinci code down your local charity shop with your Ally McBeal box set on VHS and you gave it away, thinking you were doing the world a favour.
But no-one’s going to buy the Da Vinci code are they? Everyone on the planet has bought a copy and given it to a charity shop themselves already you small minded fool, so what’s going to happen to them all? Can they be put to good use? Facing the uncertainty of an environmental and financial crisis as we undoubtedly are, the question must be asked; can the unwanted spawn of Dan Brown help?
I think they can, here are some suggestions:
The Da Vinci code powered car
Instead of burning fossil fuels to power your automobile, burn the Da Vinci code (I’m not condoning book burning, I love books and hold the written word as sacred, but in this case, as it’s for the greater good, I can let this one go). The tax for the Carbon produced can then be billed to Dan Brown who would be indirectly responsible. Don’t worry, he can afford it.
The Da Vinci code currency
As conventional currencies such as the Euro become obsolete, a world currency can take its place where copies of The Da Vinci code can be exchanged for goods and services.
The Da Vinci code home
Houses for the homeless can be cheaply built using copies of the Da Vinci code that are compacted together to form rudimentary bricks.
But while the bigwigs in government continue to ignore the aforementioned obvious solutions to the abundance of ludicrously mediocre thrillers in our charity shops, we can at least take solace in the sport of ‘Spot the Da Vinci code’, a ray of sunshine in our otherwise bleak lives.
I’m looking into starting a national league, if you’re interested please let me know, places are still available.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This week I have been mostly listening to: David Comes to Life by Fucked Up

The sound of Fucked Up can be summed up by contemplating their front man 'Pink Eyes'. Imagine a large, sweating, shirtless man with copious amounts of body and facial hair running at you screaming and growling. How do you feel? Maybe a little intimidated, definitely exhilarated, and even possibly slightly aroused. These are certainly the emotions that come to the fore when I hear the thrilling mixture of 80's hardcore punk and melodic art-rock squall on 'David Comes to Life'.
People will often tell you that no-one cares about the album format anymore, that it’s been killed by the internet and the quick fix download culture, but this certainly can't be leveled at Fucked Up. In 'David Comes to Life they have fashioned a sprawling Rock Opera in four parts concerning a tragic love affair between the main protagonists David and Veronica. You by no means have to invest in the story to enjoy the album, and due to Pink Eyes almost unvarying delivery of the lyrics in a fierce guttural yell, the plot can sometimes be impenetrable, but if you're interested, the lyrics can be found here (they're not Goethe or Shakespeare but are certainly ambitious and worth a look).
After the opening, relatively sedate, chiming guitars and gentle feedback of instrumental 'Let her Rest' the pattern of the album is set by the rollicking 'Queen of Hearts'. The pounding rhythm section forms the foundation for the towering wall of sound on which Pink Eyes fierce vocals sit. These vocals are really the only harsh and abrasive thing about the bands style and they are balanced perfectly by the interplay between the three guitarists (10,000 Marbles, Gulag and Young Governor). This interplay, coupled with additional guitar overdubs brings the melodic punch and each song is laden with hooks. Guest vocals from Cults singer Madeline Follin and singer songwriter Jennifer Castle (representing the characters of Veronica and Vivian respectively) are scattered throughout the album which also provide a nice counterpoint to the uncompromising voices of David and the apparent narrator Octavio.
The pace doesn't let up after this, an acoustic guitar briefly appears at the start of 'A Slanted Tone' and 'Truth I know' before being dismissively stomped into the ground, but other than that there is no respite. The gloriously euphoric hardcore punk-pop just doesn't stop.
It’s difficult to pick out individual highlights as the songs themselves are so similar in tempo and structure; this is not a criticism by any means, if you can do something this well why deviate from it. The band have refined and perfected this sound and to me this album has the whiff of a classic about it.
The only thing I can imagine turning people off is the sheer size of the work, weighing in at 18 songs and 78 minutes it’s a monster, but it’s definitely worth investing your time and effort into, David and Veronica's story is also compelling if you have the time to dig into and decipher it.
So don't lose patience, the rewards are there for you. 'David Comes to Life' may be destined to take up its rightful place alongside previous punk epics 'London Calling' by the Clash and 'Zen Arcade' by Husker Du, or it may be criminally ignored by a public who are scared of a challenge to their attention spans, but As Pink Eyes bellows on 'Under my Nose' : It’s all been worth it.
Spod Rating: A big Fucked Up Thumbs up
Best time to listen: when riding on the back of a bomb
Worst time to listen: when lulling a newborn baby to sleep