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.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

More Passionate, More Emotive.

Over the past few years I have noticed in blogs and other social media, that a reader was so upset or angered by a book that they threw it across the room. 

I usually wonder if this is literal or metaphorical.

Did they really fling the book across the room? I certainly hope it wasn't a large hardback with a cat on the receiving end. The way it usually reads, though, I suspect that whether they did or did not throw the book, they want us to think they did. And the only reason I can see for this is to show how much they love books, how much the written word speaks to them, and just how passionate and emotive they are.

OK, if that's your measure, then you win. I don't throw books, no matter how much I don't like them.

I can get lost in books and music. I have stood in an audience, listening to a band with eyes closed, and just allowed it to wash over me. Simply standing there, a smile on my face, and a moment that transcends. 

The same with books.

I've read through tiredness and beyond any realistic ability to comprehend the words simply because I loved it so much, was removed from this reality so far, and didn't want to lose it.

Yes, they move me - but not every album or book will. There are books I've persevered with and finished because I was determined to do so, but others I've just given up. I am much less forgiving with music but that's partly because I can skip ahead, sampling tracks, then remove the disc from the player before assigning it to a charity shop bag.

And then, like the above example reader, there are the books I don't like because they frustrate me or anger me. Depending on the context I may continue for a bit, or close it and return for another attempt, or simply stop at that point. But never, not once, have I thrown the book across the room.

But perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps there are those who truly have thrown books across the room in anger.  I'm just glad I wasn't at your place when there was a TV show that angered you.

I have no desire to be hit by a large flying flat-screen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Get Back To 1969.

For the last week or so, while working, I've been listening to the Beatles' 1969 Get Back rehearsals.

They were potentially planning a live show, their first in almost 3 years, and so on a cold January morning they arrived at a soundstage at Twickenham film studios with a crew recording the rehearsals for a TV special.

It was cold, the soundstage was cavernous, and their relationship was fraying - for a number of reasons. But they made music, playing old rock 'n' roll standards and learning new songs. After a week or so, George had had enough and quit. The others continued for a day or so before deciding they weren't working as a trio and so they packed up and left.

A week later they had convinced George to return, with the proviso there wouldn't be a concert and they would move to a friendlier studio space. And so, with an 8-track recorder borrowed from EMI, they moved the rehearsals to the basement of their offices at Apple Records, a studio which was being built but was not yet complete. They continued rehearsing for the rest of the month until the climbed the stairs to the roof where they played live for 42 minutes across the rooftops of London. Their last ever live performance.

The film crew captured more than 100 hours of footage, which formed the basis of the Let It Be movie. The sound crew for the film used portable Nagra recorders to tape the audio, all on 16 minutes tapes. 

The 8-track recordings from these rehearsals became the accompanying album.

More than 20 years ago, bootleggers managed to get hold of around 550 of these Nagra tapes, and started releasing the complete rehearsals. They managed around 60% of the rehearsals before they were busted, and all the tapes were returned to Apple. But they made backups, and the backups were then released on the internet for fans.

What this means ifs that I have around 97 hours of audio from these sessions. It has been a long-time ambition to listen to them all chronologically. And now I am living the dream.

It's not for the faint-hearted. There's lots of dialogue and discussion (fascinating if you are a Beatles scholar), sloppy attempts at half-remembered songs, take after take after take of new songs as they learn them. Even I get a little bored after an hour of Maxwell's Silver Hammer with accompanying anvil strikes and whistling intro.

I listen to a couple a day while I'm working, and I'm currently about 17% of the way through.

Yes, they can be tedious, they can be sloppy, they can be flat due to disinterest from a disintegrating band. But when they're on the same page, and focused, they can be absolute magic.

And those are the moments I love.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Lost in Translation?

During the 90s, I lived in Tokyo for around six years in total. First for one year, then after a year back in Australia, back for another five.

It was a great experience, a wonderful time to be in Japan. I made a lot of friends, working with teachers from around the world. We worked all day, socialised after work, and mostly got on very well. There were a lot of transients, young people working to make money to fund the next leg of their adventure, but there were also those we considered "lifers".

Those were the days before the internet was a thing, and so sadly I never really managed to keep in contact with many of my friends.

The last school I worked at was the exception. It was a small Berlitz school in Shimo-Kitazawa, and the core staff there hardly changed for the four years I was there. For the most part, we're all still in touch, and some of us have even caught up occasionally.

Last night I was feeling nostalgic, trying to remember names and faces, and wondering what happened to them all. I'm sure I have photos, but unfortunately most of them are currently in storage.

My first teaching job was with Nova in Otsuka, a suburb of Tokyo near Ikebukuro. I worked with Susan, a Canadian, and Heidi and Tim - both Americans. I am still in touch with Heidi, but I do wonder what happened to Tim and Susan. (and yes, I recall their family names).

I don't remember many students there. There was one lady who I think was a reporter, and a trained opera singer. One night I convinced her to sing. She only let one, short note out, but it was intense and I remember the office staff all jumping and looking up. She also managed to get me tickets to the filming of Naruhodo The World, a TV show hosted by Beat Takeshi.

Another student was a huge fan of Mr Big, and gave me one of their CD singles when I left. Another gave me a cassette tape of the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. I hope you're still enjoying your music. 

When I returned a year later, I started working at Nova in Ueno. That is where I met the Doctor, a good friend who remains in contact. We even manage to catch up every couple of years and hang out. But I lost touch with all the others there. (Canadians) Doug and Sean. (New Zealander) Mel. (Americans) Rick, Dan, Brett. (English) Sian, Ed, Elizabeth(?). (Australian) Harold. There was a Japanese-American guy whose name (I think) might have been John. And many others. All good people, all fun.

What became of you all?

I moved to another Nova school for a short time. I think it might have been Okachimachi - very close to Ueno. I only remember one teacher there. I think she was Australian, and her name may have been Lisa.

I hope you're well.

After that I moved to Berlitz at Shimo-Kitazawa. As I said, I am still in touch with many of the teachers there, and one student. But during training, and visiting other schools, I got to know many more. There was the lady who spent a year living in a tepee and dealing drugs in a previous life, Larry - a keen photographer, and John, whose sister was a famous comedienne in Australia. Paul from South Africa, Juliet from the US, Chris from Canada, Oliver who loved cycling, and a few others.

Wouldn't it be great to catch up and reminisce?

And then so many students. Many of these I remember. Kumiko, who was embarrassed when she gave me giri-chocolate. The TV director, who gave me ringside seats to the Sumo and went to America to study film-making. The husband and wife dentist team, the two lovely ladies who took me out for lunch when they heard I was leaving. So many whose first names I forget. Many of these I remember their family names, but I'm leaving those off this page.

Ah what a time it was. And if you remember me from Tokyo days, whether through language schools or elsewhere, please get in touch. It would be wonderful to hear from you.