Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Days Run Away

Apparently, Amazon is selling the Kindle for a new low price of £109. You could buy about a dozen expensive paperbacks or five hardbacks for that kind of money...

I have been told by two separate individuals - one the man who trained me to be an editor and the other, a man who I used as an editor on Borderline, that human beings read paper better than a computer screen. Its something to do with reflected light and the physical presence of ink. Apparently if we're reading on screen, we are having the light pushed at us - it goes into our sensory brain in a different way than printed words.

Now, oddly enough, while I can edit on screen (you train yourself to do it), I can edit considerably better if I have a hard copy in front of me. in fact, trained to be a copy/sub editor for many years, I can pick out mistakes on a page without even having to read it. It's to do with the shapes of words. we become familiar with the patterns of the language and therefore if someone puts a word that is wrongly spelled onto a page, it leaps out. The same happens when reading on screen, but it's considerably harder.

It sometimes makes me wonder if proof readers actually proof hard copies now. Over the last few years, I have been utterly flabbergasted by some of the simple spelling mistakes I've seen. Considering the amount of people who look at a new novel before it's released, you'd think they'd get it all right, wouldn't you?

Recently, I've reread the Dark Tower books. A couple of times during the first four books, the main character Roland has been written as Ronald. Now, back in those days, when proof readers had manuscripts to work from this kind of mistake is almost excusable - Roland and Ronald are both similar shapes, have the same letters and are both names. The last three books, written in the 21st century have a number of mistakes that are so galling that you have to wonder if King's editors are frightened of doing anything to his words. case in point would be Cell, a book that is essentially a rewrite of The Stand but in half as many words. There are so many badly written sentences, spelling errors and inconsistencies that you have to conclude that King's editor, Chuck Verrill, didn't even bother assigning a proof reader, therefore further proving that King could probably release his laundry list and it would be a best seller. Doesn't make for a very professional image though does it?

As for the Kindle. Well, times are changing fast. when I released Borderline in 2001, the net, believe it or not, was still very much in its adolescence. The net was growing exponentially, but download speeds were still in the stone age. as I mentioned her once before, a 1 meg file in 2001 could take as long as an hour to download; nearly ten years later I can download a 700meg file in about 15 minutes less. At the time, spending an hour of your dial up or limited access downloads for a magazine that gave you over 64 pages every month was probably deemed a luxury, especially if you read all the websites and the solitary (and out of date) magazine about comics. If I released it today, we'd have no problem whatsoever hosting it and we could increase the size 100 fold and still not be the slightest bit concerned about its size. But, one of the reasons Borderline failed was because people like to read a solid copy. I knew many people who printed Borderline out when they downloaded it - it felt better in their hands. I think for a large part of the population holding a paperback is far more desirable than holding a electronic tablet. Plus, books don't often go wrong. You don't have a battery or charging problem with them. You don't pick up a book and have trouble switching it on, do you? Technology goes wrong - whether its a design or just the fact we don't build anything to last nowadays.

I wouldn't give a Kindle house room, because that is what would happen to it. It would get stuck on a shelf, gathering dust and be used as nothing more than a trinket or a 'here, look at this piece of shit' item.

***

Genesis. Been talking about them a bit recently. Doing a bit of back cataloguing in the car. Started by putting the first three albums in the car and then the next three. The sixth is the clincher.

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway should be regarded as the high point of Genesis's career, despite all the rumours and stories about the album, its tour and the subsequent departure of Peter Gabriel. Listening to The Lamb makes you realise that in many ways this was the high point of prog rock in the 1970s. Genesis were renowned as the whimsical country gentlemen of prog. They lent classical perspective to the genre and in many ways were in a class of their own in the genre. However, when The Lamb came out it was different. Very different.

Many people, myself included, think that Selling England by the Pound is the band's best complete album. The ones that preceded it had their moments, but Selling seemed to be the sum of all parts. It was, in this modern age, highly conceivable that their direction would need to change. When the album came out in 1974 it was nearly two years before punk became a force and to be fair there wasn't much music before punk that had balls or a cutting edge. The Lamb did. In fact, it had so much that many Genesis fans didn't like it. For my brothers, there were a couple of tracks that they liked, but as an entirety they struggled with it. Therefore, in a house with three record players and only one copy of any album, it was The Lamb that I spent many a long night in 1975 listening to.

Like my brothers, I was impressed with some of the tracks, but I was more impressed with other tracks that neither brother had much time for. I've never declared The Lamb to be anything, really. It's just been another album in a long line of studio albums, but with hindsight it was pretty much groundbreaking for its day. Yes, its a concept album and there are lots of prog signatures throughout; but it's also really different, full of strangeness the exact opposite to the eccentricities the band often displayed. it also isn't just a Gabriel album; far from it. The instrumentals, all written by the band rather than the singer, are full of weird noises, almost post rock like noodlings and a screech of distorted synthesisers and sound effects. If you sat and compared The Waiting room to any other Genesis track from any other album and you wouldn't think you were listening to the same band.

In many respects, I now look at The Lamb as a kind of punk album. The lyrics, the short tracks, the themes are all diametrically different from anything the band had done, or for that matter would go on to do.

I don't know if it's just the passage of years, but I seem to recall thinking that when Trick of the Tail was released (the 7th album and first without Gabriel) it was a step backwards. A good step backwards, but a regression all the same. And the thing that I can't understand about this is that according to biographies I've read, because Gabriel was absent with family concerns during the early stages of the album, 90% of the music was written primarily by Banks, Rutherford and Collins, with some help from Hackett. Documented interviews confirm that it was Gabriel who had to make concessions, which ultimately led to him leaving. Yet, the core that went onto become the most commercially successful of the various incarnations of the band, never really found that groove again. Nothing the threesome did is a patch on the music of The Lamb.

Personally, if you don't know the album, you should at least Spotify it (but be warned, the listing there is not in the order it is on the albums). There are bits that are typically Genesis - this was 1974 after all, but others that I'm sure will have you wondering what happened to the potential.

***

I think if you asked the wife what her ideal life would be, it would probably be something like a nice large house by the sea, preferably in the Northwest of Scotland, in a town with at least five pubs which all hold pub quizzes.

The woman the rest of our pub team like to refer to as 'the woman with the brain the size of a planet' or 'Mon Capitan' is currently addicted to answering questions. She takes on University Challenge every Monday night. Playing the teams, answering the questions before the students and getting bonus questions by the bucket load. Every week she scores her performance the way it would be scored on the show and more often than not beats the two teams. Plus she's totally fair, even if she knows an answer, if the university teams answer it before she does, she won't count that as a point for her.

***

Ex girlfriends are not the kind of thing you tend to bump into, especially when you've been with your current partner for over 27 years. However, through Facebook and a chance meeting, I've reconnected with THREE!

...

God, despite my crumbling bones, I really have aged considerably better than some people I could mention...

***

Back in the 80s and 90s, the BBC's weather forecast took on a sort of subliminal interaction with the viewer. Essentially, when lovely round and jovial Ian McCaskill presented the weather you knew that behind that smiling visage and sunny disposition, he was going to tell us that we were in for some really crap or unseasonal weather. It was like the BBC decided that if they put the nation's favourite weatherman in front of a camera to tell us that there won't be a hurricane, but something equally as nasty, we'd take it better.

In 2010, that job falls to the Beeb's longest serving weather presenter Rob McElwee. He's been about for years, 20 of them next May! We've watched this fresh faced young man turn into a fresh faced older man, greying at the temples and taking on the role that no other weather presenter relishes - the bad forecasts.

Whenever Rob appears on our screens, we're expecting grim news. He's the kind of guy you like but you don't really want to see. If he turns up between may and September, you know there's going to be flooding, torrential rain, unseasonal temperatures, howling gales and he's not going to try to put a positiver spin on it; he'll just act as if its what we all should really expect, while throwing in a couple of bon mots to try and take the edge off the fact that your week's holiday in Skegness is going to be under three foot of water with the risk of snow and tidal waves.

He's a bit of a God.

***

I am counting down to the start of my two-weeks of work freedom. We're not holidaying this year, the austerity measures are already in action in the Hall house; but we do intend to go to the coast, find some funky woods and do some walking and relaxing. Hopefully, Rob McElwee will also be on holiday...

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