Friday 29 March 2019

Blue Friday - I Spy

More dark than blue but squeezes in here on account of a terrific performance - peak Pulp.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

“Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh?”

I've been trying to write this post for a long time. Ever since the first Blue Friday post, in fact, and that was way back in November, last year. Every now and then, I open the draft and write a few more words, but mostly I just wonder how I can fashion this into something that people might want to read. That's what this blog used to be, mainly: opinion pieces. Not too many people read it back then, certainly not as many as drop by these days to see what YouTube video I've embedded.

I tried to touch on it recently. Well, I say recently, it was September 2017, but I tried to explain my pet theory of Earth as a spring, and how I feel this particular spring was reaching its inelastic point. I should add that I'm not an environmental scientist, and my theory hasn't appeared in any journals, nor has it been peer-reviewed. In fact, the only places it has appeared are here and in the pub. But that doesn't make it any less valid, does it? Maybe, maybe not.

Either way, I need to drag all this up again, sorry. It's just that the pace of change seems to be accelerating, beyond even the more pessimistic estimates. The spring is being stretched, further and faster. Something's got to give. Don't believe me? Here are some notable recent(ish) news stories that you may have noticed:

So. Let's have some sort of recap. There is undeniable climate change occurring. Whether you believe it is man-made or not, I don't care, just so long as you accept that it's happening, that's a start. Sea levels will rise. The population is spiralling. But the ecosystem is filling up with plastic, everywhere. An insect apocalypse is coming. There'll be no pollinators left. In other words... there will be more people than ever, with less land for them to live on and less to grow crops on (if we can even pollinate), let alone raise cattle, and drinking water will be a precious resource. It's not hard to imagine that the final roll of humanity's dice will be going to war over food and water, is it?

There is a school of thought that mankind is smart, and that we can invent or innovate our way out of this - the old idiom that necessity is the mother of invention seems to fit, doesn't it? But I can't help but feel that we're waking up too late, and that there are too many vested interests amongst the ruling classes for the kind of action and decisions that need to be taken to actually happen. When you have a political class whose prime objective isn't the national (or global) interest but self-interest, when being populist enough to stay in power is their key driver, what chance is there? And when policy and investment decisions are made to line the pockets of associates and backers... well, that's when the leader of the free world backs increased investment in coal. Heaven help us.

I'm a parent, like many of you, no doubt. I used to think that crunch time would come, not in my life time and hopefully not in that of my child, but I envisaged a difficult life for any grandchildren I might have. But with every new story I read, every new piece of peer-reviewed climate science that is published, the more I start to worry for this generation, the current crop of kids. We talk, at home, about our child's future, how we can ensure the best education, what skills to equip New Amusements Minor with. But on top of the traditional, scholarly pursuits, we've also talked about how we teach skills around growing food, building shelter and self-defence. And that's not because I'm turning into some kind of evangelical prepper, with an "End is nigh" placard and a cupboard full of tinned food, but I do think life is going to have to change, radically, for everyone if anyone is to survive.

So what can we do?

I mean, it's easy to think that we, as individuals, can't affect an impact on a system with 7.7 billion others in it. And maybe that's true. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. And it doesn't mean we shouldn't spread the word about it too. I expect we've all got low-energy light bulbs and loft insulation, bags for life and reusable coffee cups. That's great. Fuel-efficient, low-emissions cars too. Also great. But none of this is going to be enough. We have to reduce consumption of everything. Recycle and repurpose more. Have fewer children. Use less power, and source what power we do use from renewable sources. We need to grow food, encourage wildlife, pick up litter, don't ask our GPs for antibiotics when we've got the sniffles, cycle more, burn less, actively seek alternatives to single-use plastics, choose biodegradable detergents... Hell, we need to choose life!

All of us. All the time.

It isn't easy. We are all part of the problem, but all must do our best to be some small part of a solution. Otherwise, there is no solution.

Here are some charities that you might want to get behind: GreenpeacePopulation MattersWorld Land TrustWWF

I'm also acutely aware that most of you don't come here for a lecture, or even a rallying cry. It's music, books, TV, film, all the usual. So here's a new song, Armatopia, from Johnny Marr, which he described on Radio 2 this morning as being "about ecology". Bright and breezy sounding but it sort of fits - check the lyrics. Oh, and +10 kudos points for anyone who can ID, without Googling, the quote that gives this post its title...

What's going on?

Ranking Roger, just 56. Bloody hell. 2019 is turning into 2016...

R.I.P. Rude Boy

Wednesday 20 March 2019

The place I love

The plan was to take in two gigs this week: The Wedding Present (for what will be the ninth time) and From The Jam (for what would have been the seventh). But bad news - due the the unspecified illness of an unidentified band member, the From The Jam gig will not be happening, re-arranged instead for December, apparently.

Since the FTJ gig would have seen them performing All Mod Cons in full, here's an appropriate song. Doubly so, in fact, as I'll be back on my old stamping ground, seeing family and friends. This is for The Man Of Cheese - see you soon, mate.

Still it's always in the back of my mind...

Friday 15 March 2019

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Nineteen in '19: The Shock of the Fall

I've read far less in recent years than I would like. To help remedy this, I've set myself the modest target of reading nineteen books in 2019. When I finish one, a thumbnail review here will follow.

7/19: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

The blurb: "I'll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name's Simon. I think you're going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he'll be dead. And he was never the same after that."

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man's descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

The review: Before finding fame as an author, Nathan Filer was, amongst other things, a psychiatric nurse. This is important, as The Shock of the Fall tells the tale of a mental health service user; Filer's CV adds an authenticity that other writers might strain to reach but ultimately fall short of. And there are big themes bouncing around here, on top of the mental illness - how about the death of a child, depression, self-harm, suicide? No, it's not a comedy. But it's not misery-porn either. Filer's trick here is to tell the story in a genuinely engaging, likeable and occasionally humourous first-person narrative, and it really works, not just at making difficult subject matter palatable but also at keeping the pages turning.

There's more to it than that, of course, as you might expect from a debut novel that was, incredibly, subject to an eleven-way bidding war between publishers. Yes, our narrator Matt is, like all the best narrators, unreliable. But more than that, he is also, for want of a better word, affected. His mental health, and its evolution, is as much a character in its own right as Matt himself. And because that character is unusual, different in fundamental ways from the average reader, it makes the story immediately more engaging. more gripping. This style, and this story-telling device, reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, in which an Asperger's syndrome-like condition affects the narrator. Also of Elizabeth is Missing, by the wonderful Emma Healey, in which a form of dementia affects the narrator. Those are two fine, fine books, and The Shock of the Fall is every bit as good. My only minor quibble is an important coincidence in the book's final act that I felt was a bit of a stretch - I can't say what (no spoilers!) - but other than that, I devoured this 300+ page book in five lunch breaks. I guess that makes it un-put-down-able. Also, it may be a comparatively quick read but it lingers long in the mind afterwards. That's usually a good sign.

The bottom line: authentic first-person account of a troubled young life, hard to put down, full of subtle pathos and with a memorable narrative voice.

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★★★☆

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Who are you?

I'm having a bit of time off here but you may be interested to know that JC over at The New Vinyl Villain has kindly published my "imaginary compilation album" piece on The Who today. It's here if you fancy a read.

Cheers, and thanks again to JC.

Friday 8 March 2019

Thursday 7 March 2019

Another R.I.P.

Magenta Devine has died, aged 61. She is remembered fondly, by me at least, for Channel 4's Network 7 (which seemed groundbreaking at the time) and especially BBC Two's Rough Guides to the World. Here's a great YouTube find from the former, of Magenta interviewing John Lydon.

Feels like every year now requires an updated version of Endless Art - "Mark Hollis, Keith Flint, Magenta Devine - R.I.P."

Wednesday 6 March 2019


I saw a bloke this morning, going about his business on the school run, wearing a trilby. And not in an ironic way, or to be a hipster. Just wearing a trilby, as a trilby, because it was a bit cold and a bit drizzly. This pleased me no end.

When I was a kid, my dad had a trilby. He never wore it, it just hung on the coat rack in the hall. The only time it would ever come down would be for me to dress up as this guy:

I don't know whether Dad still has that hat, but I'll ask him next time I visit. Maybe I can purloin it. I won't wear it (it'll clash with my Jeff Goldblum glasses, obviously) but I would like to have it, I think, to remind me of times past.

You might be expecting me to post something from much-lauded Blue Nile album Hats, to go with this, but no - partly because that's too obvious, partly because I've never really rated it. But I'm thinking of those past times, the 1970s, and Albion. This seems better suited.

Monday 4 March 2019

Twisted animator

Jesus, only 49. That's no age, is it? R.I.P. Keith. Everyone will be posting this today but here's a tune, perhaps his finest moment, that I have heard an unhealthy number of times due to its inclusion in a computer game of my youth. I have a very clear memory of being in a club with my mate Tim, and asking the DJ if he'd play this. He replied that he wasn't allowed to. Would Keith have railed against the club management, or been pleased to have crossed their line, I wonder?