Monday, January 18, 2010

Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun

Lots to get through...

I've just finished reading Mick Wall's biography of Led Zeppelin, When Gods Walked the Earth. As briefly as I can put this, it's not very good, but I do now have a sort of chronology to do with Zep, which was always a little screwy. The weird thing about reading the book was things I remember, because for a few months, I was peripherally on the edge of the monster LZ movement.

In fact, talking about 1979 and 1980 is something I've never done much; they were peculiar times in my life, for a number of reasons. For someone who still classes himself as unbelievably naive, back then, 30 years ago, things were off the wall! Through some strange quirk of fate, I got to know one of Zep entourage; he was the godfather of a guy I shared a bungalow with in 1979-80. His name was Rick Hobbs and he was Jimmy Page's PA.

The only mentions of Rick in Mick Wall's book were to state his promotion from driver to PA and, of course, the fact he was last person to see Bonzo alive; but seeing his name in print brought back a lot of oddly sepia toned memories. But at least the book, in that sense, was accurate. The rest may well be, but the over riding feeling that one got from this biography is that the author had the complete cooperation of John Paul Jones; why else would he come out of the book as the only member of the band not eventually portrayed as a monster?

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On conclusion of the Zep biography, I sat down with the new Stephen King book, Under the Dome. Now, I'm only 150 pages into it, so I'm not going to pass any judgements, because in my opinion, just about every one of King's books (Cell not included) have intriguing and interesting first 150 pages or so - it's his framework and its always worked for him.

However, there are a couple of things about the book I want to share. It weighs in at 880 pages, which makes it, I believe, either the 3rd or 4th longest of King's tomes, I'll get back to this...

On the cover at the top it says, "The greatest popular novelist of our day" - Guardian. I know for a fact this strap line has been used on just about every single King book of the 21st Century and I also know that the above line was actually originally used with a question mark after it, in a feature in The Observer in 1998. I also find the missing the to be a little disturbing.

Secondly, at the foot of the cover it says HIS FINEST EPIC SINCE THE THE STAND - which could easily read 'His Biggest Epic Since...' And why describe it as an epic just because it's long? One of Led Zeppelin's most 'epic' songs is The Immigrant Song and that weighs in at less than 3 minutes!

But I'm just nitpicking; having a little preamble before I sink my teeth into... "A fabulous teller of stories who can create an entire new world and make the reader live in it" Express. Now that could be the Daily or the Sunday Express or even a completely different one; I used to live in Daventry and they have the Daventry Weekly Express and frankly, the above quote would be embarrassing if The Gusher (what the DWE is called by the locals) had run it. Surely any novelist's job is to be able to create 'an entire world that the reader can believe in and become immersed in'? Let's forget about the totally wrong use of English, because if we want to be petty, King can't make anyone live anywhere; this is the most stating-the-bleeding-obvious quote I've ever seen on a book and if Hodder & Stoughton think this is what helps boost sales, then they have become as complacent as King has in his story telling abilities.

I know, a pointless rant. But I get so pissed off when I see rubbish littering the literary world. There's a glaring typo in Mick Wall's earlier mentioned book that proved to me that editors of major writers no longer edit they just spell check. It's just lazy and as a very lazy person, I feel insulted!

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I was viciously attacked and headbutted on the nose on Saturday!

The perpetrator was the wife and it was done completely by accident. She was busy washing her hair over the bath and was just finishing up, when I decided that I couldn't wait a second longer for whatever it was I needed to get on the other side of her. So as I was leaning over, up came her head, fortunately with a towel around it, otherwise I think my nose would have just disintegrated.

The force she hit me with was discernible by the crack my nose made. In fact, on retrospect, we both agreed we thought it was probably shattered. It sounded like the noise you get when stamping on frozen snow and ice.

However, two days later and my quite remarkable powers of facial recovery have kicked in. Yes, it still looks swollen and there's a small bruise on the bridge and down towards my right eye (and it hurts like billy-o to blow my nose), but amazingly there seems to be no permanent damage.

That's twice now, and both times by girls I like!

My mum always said everything comes in 3s. I'm now very conscious of the fact that my nose is going to be a karmic target for a final and decisive nasal assault!

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I normally hate the winter. It depresses the hell out of me. Yet, this last month of Arctic conditions have been strangely uplifting. Some of the coldest days were the best, because for the first time I could remember for a long time, there was no dampness - it was a genuine cold, like you get on the continent and far easier to combat against than the usual damp and drizzly cold that seems to seep into your every pore.

But the weirdest thing about the cold snap, especially when the day time temperature never got above -3 degrees, was watching things freeze. I was in the car and because of the temperature inside the car, some of the snow on the roof started to melt and when I stopped a trickle of water ran down the windscreen. As I hit the windscreen wipers instead of just sweeping the water away, it sort of spread across the windscreen in hundreds of little icicles. The ducks have a pond and when the weather gets cold you have to smash the ice up so the poor little buggers can get in the water. At the height of the cold the thickness of the ice on the pond was getting on for 6 inches, but, we had to check on the pond a number of times during the day, because the area cleared would start to get slushy - as in start to freeze - even with 6 ducks swimming around in it.

And am I glad that I'm not a duck. Jesus can you imagine dangling your legs into a pond during that weather?

However, that reminds me of a story I heard on This Morning many years ago. A former prisoner of war in Burma was being marched across the Himalayas in subzero temperatures, when the Burmese soldiers told the men to wade through the mountain stream rather than along the snowy path. The logic it seemed was the stream was a constant 2 to 3 degrees, while the mountain pass was -15. The old POW reckons by doing that all their lives were saved. What he never said was what it was like when they finally got out of the water!

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It appears, that with a past that includes drug taking, sexual debauchery, child slavery, money laundering, organised crime, homophobia, sexism, racism, sizeism, spoonerisms, ageism, and all the others that I can't spell, I'd be a shoe in for local, if not national politics. One friend suggested I'd be a kinder, more agreeable face of the BNP; while another suggested that if I want my voice to be heard I should try out as the new speaking clock.

Apparently, if nothing else, I'd need a campaign manager and unfortunately the only people I'd trust with the job are either ranting fascists, uninterested or have a bigger nose than me (although maybe not at this very moment!).

I think you can possibly tell that while my interest in this hasn't exactly waned, it's taken on a sort of new ambivalent feel!

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Fair enough, beating a guy half to death with a cricket bat is pretty awful; leaving him with a brain injury is potentially even worse. But when the person on the receiving end of this battering was the perpetrator of a vicious kidnap style heist, that resulted in the 'victims' being tied up, threatened, beaten and fearing for their life. On escape, two of them decided to get some retribution and chased the men who attacked them, in their home, finally catching one they hit him with a cricket bat.

Subsequently, the man responsible for the horrendous attempted robbery was given a 2 year supervision order with the Probation office. The two men responsible for delivering the beating were given 36 and 39 months in prison respectively. Their appeal was denied outright and now the men have to hope that the high court judge that felt their actions were far worse than being terrorised in their own home, will reduce their sentences to something along the lines of Tony Martin - the reclusive weirdo that laid in wait for his burglars and shot one of them, dead, with a shotgun!

This country's law and order regime is a joke. And that's coming from someone who works in the industry!

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I said there was a lot to get through, so, I'm saving the most controversial till last, because it involves people I know (or in this case people I don't really know and you might have all got bored by now and given up). I want to talk about Facebook!

I used to be such a new PC nerd. When things like Compuserve's forum started up in the 90s, I was there. In fact, I've been involved in a lot of these embryonic social networking ideas - Yahoogroups, Egroups or whatever; all that nonsense with Delphi forums; if there was a place to be in, I would have tried to get there. I was no different from anyone in comics at the time; it was a new medium and was beneficial to whatever cause you might be on.

But that changed. Everything nerdy about me started to disappear. Culminating in selling off my comics collection and realising that because I have no children, I don't really have anyone I'd leave all my shit to. So, I started to de-clutter my life. I wanted to be able to put everything important to me in one big trunk and if all else fails it can be buried with me (or burned, depending on how I exit). At one point, the comics, records, books and general collectible ephemera took up an entire loft and a spare bedroom.

The only real throwback to my nerd days is my love for the few things I ponce about with on my PC. I was a latecomer to Facebook, because I'm one of those people that likes to be in on something early otherwise I feel as though people will think I'm just bandwagon jumping. I was sitting bored one night in late 2008 when I decided to try this nonsense thing everyone was talking about and from that point on, I started to allow it to infiltrate my life.

Let's talk about some of the good things on Facebook first. I'm a useless relative, so it allows me to keep in touch with my nieces, nephews, cousins, second cousins and in-laws. I know more about their lives now than I would have dared to have known 2 years ago. Not all of it is good, but just keeping in touch with them means I don't spend as much time worrying about them. It also has given me access to long lost friends, in far away places like Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Brazil and even the Faroe Islands! It offers a number of applications to wile away the hours on boring days, sleepless nights and when there's bugger all on TV. It acts as a sort of personal calendar, allowing you to keep track of friends and relatives birthdays or special events. In terms of being a personal organiser, Facebook, if used properly and with the right applications, can become a sort of mega version of Microsoft Outlook with vast interactive abilities.

But, then I start to struggle to find anything else positive about it. There's a lot of stuff on there that just seems pointless. I'd call it examples of idle frivolity, but there's a certain desperation about it that gives it an unseemly feel. The problems with Facebook far outweigh the benefits, if you want to be analytical rather than facile...

Where to start? Well, let's really throw a cat amongst the pigeons. Just how many people on your friends list can you say you're actually friends with, and I don't mean in the Facebook sense either, I mean in the been out for a drink, popped round to see, been to the wedding of, still keep in touch personally?
How many of your friends aren't actually friends?
How many don't you actually like that much, but have become their friend because you thought, 'shit, I might upset them or their friend who is a real friend'? I can sort of see the point of becoming a friend with someone you don't know, but share a common interest in - that helps breed new friendships; but why bother dancing around with people you do know but don't like when all you're going to do is hide them from your news feed?

Someone I know said he had to spend all his time on Facebook 'offline' because of the number of people who would start a conversation up on chat and he didn't feel right about saying he couldn't or didn't want to talk. Now he can pick and choose who to talk to, no one ever talks to him!

But if 'friends' can be a distraction, what about all the banalities posted under the guise of 'what you're thinking'? I'm just as guilty of it. This Twitter generated way of broadcasting your life to all and sundry. At least, a high percentage of my 'status updates' tend to be weird, existential, or quotes from songs or books - yeah, I go on about having my nose broken or being sick, but I'm just being drawn into the ethos of Facebook, where no secret should be hidden!

Sticking with basic Facebook, another really annoying thing about it, but really more about your friends, are the number of imbecilic groups people join. Groups like: I Bet I can Get 500,000 Members to Join this Group by Easter or I Hate it When the Cat Shits on My Pillow When I'm Still Asleep; Or the easily researchable I Will Not Pay £3.99 a Month for Facebook after July 30th (which is complete bollocks and people should know better!) I could come up with a dozen more surreal and crazy group names, but someone has probably already beat me to it. What makes these things worse is that if you join one and don't block it from your news feed immediately, you will get all manner of twattish comments made by people you're never likely to meet (let alone like) and would avoid like the plague if you were stuck on a bus with. I know, you can argue it's just a way to unite people and I suppose that's why I joined the group about finding a million people who don't want David Cameron as our next PM; but while I know that joining that group isn't going to make the faintest bit of difference (even if Facebook did help RATM to Christmas #1), I do it just to reinforce my own beliefs (and to impress other less intelligent people!).

Before moving on to other areas of Facebook, one last thing about the people. Goddamn it, stop, look and think sometimes before you post something; because even if you're dyslexic, a moron or just plain stupid, sometimes posting something that makes utterly no sense at all doesn't exactly shed good light on you. Plus, talking in txt spk is okay if all your friends are 17, but they might not be. It just infuriates me that people allow themselves to get so wrapped up in this thing, to the degree where they will be led blindly to places that if they existed in the real world would have been closed down through lack of interest!

Now, there's something like a billion different games and applications available, many of which I wouldn't join even if someone threatened to extract one of my testicles with a rusty spoon and a bowl of jelly. But, some of them are pretty interesting (to me); but they are just arbitrarily thrown together and tend to be either riddled with glitches or just don't take any notice of what you authorise it to do, because it is more interested in being some form of Trojan rather than a usable and useful tool. Take the relatives thing. I'm getting suggestions from this application as to who might be my relatives. Well, pardon me, but surely I have more idea of who my relatives might be than a computer generated database program? Over the last couple of months I've had a number of potential relative suggestions and I wouldn't mind if these people were actually people I knew; but they're all friends or family of in-laws and presumably whatever algorithm built into said program isn't clever enough to realise that just because you know someone doesn't mean you're related to them!

I could go on and on, but one feels that the subject of Facebook is one that could run and run. My non-inquisitiveness means that most things on Facebook will never so much as be given a viewing let alone used on a regular basis. Yes, I still spend far too much time just farting about on the few things I do like. But it saps your time and your will. When you could be doing something sensible like researching the fact that Facebook isn't charging, or that there isn't a dislike button, it's just another attention seeking con and you got suckered!

Obviously, I could talk about the privacy controls, the obtrusive adverts for stuff you, me and everyone else has no interest in, or even the fact that, regardless of your machine, it seems to slow everything down - like a downsized version of AOL, it seems to make everything else on your computer become sloth-like, whenever its open.

There's a great new group started (I haven't joined). It's called Facebook is Shit and within a few days has garnered 70 odd members. The most telling thing, for me, is the number of people who joined just to call the creator of the group a twat, moron, wanker, imbecile, idiot, and just about every other expletive you can think of; and all this despite a very funny self-deprecating introduction as to why the group started.

Facebook is shit; but only if you're me or someone like me...

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I heard this evening that Dennis Hopper is dying of cancer. While I've never seen the adulation he's received over the years - he's always seemed a bit like a one-trick psycho - but that doesn't mean that he hasn't been in some damn fine films (as well as some real stinkers).

However, the funniest thing about this actor's impending death (if funny is an apt word) is that he intends to divorce his 5th wife, saying that he wants to spend his last days in peace!

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Time to go.

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