Friday, July 2, 2021

Don't Get Around Much Anymore.

It's coming up on two years since I last visited family and friends in Australia. What a fabulous trip! Spent time with family and friends, visited my old stomping grounds, picked up some Australian albums which had been released while I'd been away, and the same with a few books. That trip really settled and recharged me.

I have no idea when I'll be able to visit again. 

Recently, it has hit me quite hard that it may be a year or two - or even more. Technically I could travel now, if I wanted to go through the hassle of being on a plane, wearing a mask, surrounded by strangers and not receiving even the current low standards of food and drink, then going into quarantine at the other end and facing the prospect that here or there closes their borders and I'm unable to travel for extended periods. I would have to add two weeks to the trip, just to sit in a hotel in quarantine, and then possibly the same coming back here, but no-one seems sure of the rules in the UK, not even the government. But the biggest thing is the cost would be prohibitive. 

I hadn't looked at airfares for nearly two years, but was stunned to see this morning they are currently four times what I usually pay. And then the two week quarantine at the other end apparently costs about the same as 1.5 times the usual airfare price. So a trip home which I normally get for around £900 would be closer to £5000. (As I said, I'm not even sure of the quarantine coming back into the UK - that could also add to the expense.)

So no, I can't travel at the moment. And I have no desire to sit on a plane for extended hours with strangers. Heck, I'm even cautious about going to the supermarket, and limit that unless I must.

But my mental health says I need to get out and do things, see people, interact beyond the monitor in front of me. I need to chat in person, be around others and have a laugh.

Good news is always appreciated, and I've had some this week which helped. Making plans with friends and family also helps, and I've taken time to do this during the week as well. And fine wine and eating never hurts. And yes, I've partaken this week - although I've been good and watched my intake on both counts.

It's draining, isn't it? And it made me think of all those people who applied for the one way trip to Mars, including 8 months or more with a bunch of other people in a tin can ship the size of a minibus. Yup, I wonder how many of them are going crazy after a year in an actual house.

Is NASA using this time to study the psychology of people in lockdown?

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Elasticity of Time.

When I was in primary school, in the early 70s, my friends and I played soldiers - both physically acting out scenes as well as with our toy Airfix soldiers. I don't know if we were truly aware of what was happening in Vietnam, but I don't think it even entered our consciousness and, and so we always played WW2 soldiers, and being British immigrants, watching shows like Colditz, and reading those WW2 comics, we always played British soldiers fighting the Germans.

The early 40s seemed so long ago to us, a world from another time, a time when the world was dismal and black & white. It was a time my mum and dad had been kids and told stories of their lives during the war years. I couldn't imagine how long ago that was. And yet it was only 30 years earlier.

Sitting here in 2021, and subtracting that same 30 year time period, I think back to 1991 and it's not that long ago or remote. It seems quite bizarre to me that the time in which I played those soldiers is almost 20 years further in time than those thirty years between the war and my primary schooling.

It all seems very strange. Where has the time gone since then? How can it have passed so quickly?

As I sit here writing this, I'm listening to an album of mid 60s music (no, not Beatles). A psychedelic collection of tracks and artists that are now largely forgotten. A collection of songs that is around 55 years old. And if I take it back to when I was a child playing soldiers, it would be comparable to my Dad actively and frequently listening to music from around 1918.

I do listen to current music, I read current science fiction and fantasy. A lot of both, actually, but I must say the music and the SF of the 60s, 70s & 80s, are the ones I hold closest to my heart.

And I suspect I'm not alone.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud.

Last week was good. I went to Norfolk for a week, staying in a lovely stone cottage. I managed to catch up with an old friend, ate lovely food, drank some wine, had some of the local beer, and went for walks with my wife and puppy.  I also visited Holt and Norwich, two of my favourite places. Visited some vinyl shops and made some purchases, and generally enjoyed myself on the Norfolk coast.

But, as George Harrsion once famously (and bravely) told some Californian Hells Angels when they came to visit and asked him if he "dug" them, "Yin and yang, heads and tails, yes and no."

Clouds, silver linings, and all that. 

Some sobering news, some plans gone astray and some other disappointments. It all balances, doesn't it? At least, I hope it does.

None of this is world shattering, and there are many in far worse positions.

I woke up this morning to a rejection. Due to circumstances, I haven't submitted any stories for a while, but I managed to get this one out during an extremely busy time. I watched as Submission Grinder and Duotrope counted down through their recorded submissions, until there were very few left standing. I started to have hopes I was in the last few, which it turned out I was. Unfortunately I didn't quite make it past the very final cut.

How final? The Table of Contents was announced within a couple of hours of my rejection being sent to me, and I saw the TOC before I'd managed to check my emails.

This is a story I love, and a publisher I regard highly, so it was disppointing to say the least. But I managed to receive a personal and quite lovely rejection.

But onwards and upwards, send it out again, and hope for the best.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Sad Gits. Sad Gits Everywhere.

People are fascinated by all manner of things, and I find that fascinating.

I'm not just talking about people who like or love something, I'm talking about the collectors or fans who love every aspect of their passion, and thrive on a tiny tidbit of new information that others would roll their eyes at. 

There can be a certain amount of elitism and snobbery in fandom. I've witnessed and experienced it myself. A few years ago I was told I wasn't a real football fan as I didn't go to every match. But there are different degrees of fandom and ways to be a fan.

These types of comments remind me of the Detectorists, a TV show about two guys whose hobby is to walk around farm fields with metal detectors looking for treasure, in whatever form that may come. There is one scene, in the video below,  where one of the detectors beeps, and they both pause as one of them digs for the item before recovering a ring pull from a can of soda.

Andy:  What you got?

Lance: Ring pull... '83... Tizer.

Andy: What do you do with 'em?

Lance: Bag 'em up... Stick 'em on eBay... People buy this shit.

Andy: Sad gits.

Never mind the fact that he was instantly able to tell us the year and the brand the ring pull was from. It's also telling that these guys think the ring pull collectors are the "sad gits". The ring pull collectors probably think the same about these guys. 

I sometimes see in the Speculative Fiction world a number of readers or writers who refer to some sports as "sportsball" when pointing out how much they don't like football. I find this term quite condescending as these are people who, for many years, have had to sigh and explain to others that science fiction isn't all about rockets and robots. Perhaps sports fans should start calling SF "robot books" or something.

A bunch of people I know think I'm a Beatles obsessive. I'm not. I collect bits that I can afford and see by chance, but I generally don't hunt for items. On the other hand, I know some fans who want every available pressing of a particular album - even from the same country but pressed at different plants. I know people who can look at a photo of the fabs and tell you the date and the location instantly. (Yeah, I can do that with some photos, but these guys make me look like a know-nothing newbie) 

I just love their music, and want to learn more about them. Maybe it's partly because I'm a frustrated guitar player who always wanted to be a real musician.

It's great to be passionate about something, isn't it? To have something that sparks your interest, that makes you want to learn more, to collect and gather and to enjoy. Does it matter if it's wine, fine art or train time-tables?

Sad Gits of the world, unite!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Looking Brighter?

2020 was quite the year, wasn't it? And when it rolled over into 2021, I just felt fatigued and didn't think there was much to look forward to. There was a definite blurring of days, weeks and months and an expectation that the Sisyphean struggle would continue.

We're a third of the year through, and while life in limbo continues, it doesn't feel as bleak as it did. Perhaps it's the weather. The days are longer, brighter, warmer. Perhaps it's the vaccinations - I've had my first and am waiting to hear on my second. Perhaps it's a few other bits that have fallen into place for me.

Whatever the reason, I'm quite enjoying my life at the moment. 

Work has been really busy, but I've enjoyed every moment. I'm listening to some great music at the moment. Really enjoying the films I'm watching and the books I'm devouring. I am very close to completing several projects which have been haunting me for a couple of years. And we got a new puppy.

We lost our two girls over the past two years - good girls who moved with us from Australia and lived to be almost 17. A ripe old age, but we missed them terribly and the house was empty without them

So now we have a new presence in the house, and the house feel like a home again.

Is there anything more joyous than a puppy, bouncing around for no reason, exploring all he can, and excited by everything?

He is a good boy, completely adorable, and is filled with personality.  You'll all get to know him, and love him as we do.

Good boy.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Rule of Three?

For many, three is a lucky number.

In some religions, it's seen as the perfect number. Certainly I've seen Christians use 333 to counteract the devil's 666. It represents many things - past, present and future, for example. Or harmony, wisdom and understanding.

And sometimes it seems the rule of three applies. Good things happen in threes? We've all heard that, haven't we? But do they?

Many years ago I was a member of an astronomical society. Over the summer, we would head out to public land with our telescopes, once a week, and offer astronomy for the people. Any one could attend and we would show them the wonders of the universe. People would ask some great questions - about all manner of things. Some questions were about constellations, and would occasionally veer into astrological territory. We were politic and polite, and explained that the stars in a constellation may be very different distances from us, and weren't on a flat plane as they appeared. It was also a matter of people creating those shapes from bright stars. Our brains love patterns, and so we try to make sense of randomnity.

On one of those occasions, when talking about constellations, I recall someone asking one of my friends why all the stars made triangle shapes. I remember we had a chuckle about that one, later on of course. But that was simply someone looking for shapes and, so to speak, joining the dots.

As for the rule of three with good things happening to us? It's the same. Good things happen to people all the time, but I suppose if you're looking for three good things then it's easy to find them.

But for me, in the past two weeks, I have now had four good things happen to me. Four really good things that are occurring effortlessly, and making my life comfortable and happy in these weird times.

And while a couple of these fell into the "it was meant to be" category, simply because of the ease in which they occurred and the manner in which I am benefited, they are just good things which coincidentally occurred around the same time.

Oh, and I am anticipating one more good thing to occur shortly.  Perhaps yet another will occur around that time, and I'll be able to claim two groups of three.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Would You Burn It?

I love the KLF. 

I've been listening to their music since I first heard Doctorin' The Tardis. Of course they were called the Timelords for that release.  They've also been the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, the JAMS and even 2K.

After the Timelords single, I didn't really hear them again until the early 90s. I was living in Japan, saw a couple of used CDs with great covers, and picked them up. It was their music I loved. And I had a couple of videos which were visually brilliant and a lot of fun. From time to time I'd hear something about them, something weird. This, of course, was pre-internet days, and I didn't read much music press in Tokyo. But the KLF continued to sit like a blip on the edge of my "weird" radar.

By the time I left Japan, they'd left the music business, through a very public onstage announcement at the 1992 Brit Awards. But with the now burgeoning internet, I managed to learn more about them. They'd done this, they'd said that, they'd threatened to do the other, then in 1995 they'd announced they would cease all activities for 23 years.

Ah yes, the number 23. Illuminati and all that.

They were fans of the Illuminatus! Trilogy of novels by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. And they seemed to live much of the behaviours and conspiracy theories within. Their press releases were cryptic and mysterious. Their images, logos and iconography were all part of the mythos.  They published a book on how to beat the music industry and have a hit. 

The more I read, the more I learned, the more I wondered whether they truly were a bit mad and believed in this stuff, or whether it was all a brilliant marketing strategy. I mean, there were reports Bill Drummond considered cutting off his hand at a music award ceremony during an onstage performance. 

On the other hand, they apparently shocked everyone at that ceremony when they appeared with grindcore band Extreme Noise Terror, performing an unrecognisable version of 3 a.m. Eternal. But that can't happen by accident. They rehearsed, it was approved and signed off on by the producers.

So is the KLF performance art or are they living their reality? Or some weird mix of both? My opinion shifts from time to time.

And what do the letters KLF stand for? They have claimed a number of things over the year, most commonly the Kopyright Liberation Front. But it shifts, and you get the feeling you're not in on the secret. None of the secrets.

I personally suspect it either stands for nothing at all but just sounds great, or it's some inside joke they'll never explain.

But the biggest secret has to do with the burning of a million pounds on a remote Scottish island. many ask whether they really did it, and why. And they've never been able to articulate that clearly. In fact, it seems they spent a lot of time trying to sort that out for themselves. All indications, by the way, are that they really did burn it. Apparently they later admitted they regretted it. They were also routinely criticised for destroying money that could have benefited others.

But I think I understand why they did it. To simply see what it felt like.

When I was packing to move overseas, I found an old roll of film I'd never had developed. I had no idea what was on it or how long it had been there. But in that one instant, I decided never to find out. I don't really know why, but I tore it open and exposed it to the light. And it was gone forever. A mystery.

Maybe, in that moment, I was just tired of sorting through things.

We've all felt the need to do something just to see what it feels like. I guess the difference between me and the KLF is that if I had a spare million pounds lying around, I would never, could never destroy it.

I've felt ill when I thought I'd lost $50.

Sorry KLF, that was one thing you did I can't see as being cool.