Reverie and thought

Possibilities

I was cleaning my netbook earlier. It was making these weird noises as if it was choking, and on taking it apart I found the fan was full of dust and muck. So I cleaned it and then looked at it. Really looked at it. And I went off on a reverie.

Pretty much all I do, all I think and all I create is contained on the hard drive in the picture above. And it suddenly struck me as how remarkable that was, and how fast it’s happened. How incredibly fast.

Take music. When I first got into music there was tape. To record anything of worth you HAD to rent a recording studio, and the equipment therein cost a small fortune – literally. Tracks were laid down on damn great reels of expensive two inch tape and mastered onto reels of quarter inch tape … and there was tape hiss. Oh, if you had another small fortune you could remove most of it, but never all. Hiss was part and parcel of recording, then.

Computers took a while to infiltrate. But the incredible thing was that the programs you used were elegant and tiny. They had to be because RAM was finite, and again, cost an arm and a leg.

Now, any idiot with a laptop can record an album. Without tape hiss. Without tape. Now programs are huge and bloated because elegant code doesn’t matter anymore – RAM is cheap.

Writing.

Then: longhand delivered for someone to type out. Edit it with red pen and re-type. Rinse and repeat. To become a writer you really had to want to write!

Now: open up program of choice and off you go. A gazillion websites inflate ‘writers’ egos. Some even make it. NaNoWriMo (I’ll say no more).

Photography

Then: actual film stock. Twenty four or thirty six shots on a roll. Develop and print in a darkroom.

Now: digital. Snap as many as you want because you’re bound to find one good, usable shot. If not, photoshop it. Bing bang boom, done and dusted. Deliver the ‘product’ by email. No more messengers on motorbikes.

Film

Then: actual film and cameras and crews, etc.

Now: digital cameras and storage. Make a documentary during lunch; a feature film over the weekend. Edit at home (oh, and write the music too, if you fancy it).

Those bits and bobs stuck to the motherboard behind the hard drive in the photo above are enablers. Art is no longer precious or special. Art is everymans and everyman is an artist.

This blog wouldn’t be here without my baby netbook. Neither would my music be available all over the world, or Midnight Dude, the book I wrote a story for and typeset.

I wouldn’t know the wonderful (albeit virtual) people and friends I’ve met on-line, and I wouldn’t have websites to visit and loiter away my life on….

It was at this point my reverie ended. I looked at the cat as I put the back cover on and fumbled with its screws. Percy’s real. He’s not an avatar. Neither is he a trainable toy that follows me around the house meowling until, in a fit of pique, I remove the batteries.

I look out of the window. The garden fence I fixed this morning is still standing. Its real, not virtual. As am I, for my sins. But with the rate of change; with the rate of human invention, for how long? How long will it be until I’m just a virtual plaything? How long before the real and the virtual blur so much it becomes impossible to tell the difference?

Without a shadow of a doubt computers have changed our lives; my life. But is it really for the better, or should the Luddites rise again before it is too late?

Evocative.

Evocative.

 

I walked by this and had to take a photograph. It brought to mind ideas for all kinds of  stories. Admittedly, most are dark. 😉

  1. The nouveau-riche neighbours who feel the garden is bringing down their property value and will do anything to get it sorted out. Anything, up to and including murder.
  2. The house has been owned for generations by a warlock. He’s frightfully polite, never seems to get any older than his apparent thirty five years, but has recently — some twenty years ago — given up on gardening.
  3. The old couple suffer from dementia. She, who used to take the car out mini-cabbing, and he, who was in the SAS and has taken to wearing his jungle uniform complete with weapons, pack and machette. The postmen keep disappearing.
  4. Sometimes the house is there, sometimes it isn’t. Two boys, who are looking for their football, stumble into the garden just as the house decides to transmigrate.
  5. There are layers, and there are layers. Underneath the garden are tunnels that lead to other worlds, but passage is strictly one-way only, and anyone stumbling into the tunnels had better have a map.
  6. In the lean-to on the side of the house, an old man sits, whittling. A young boy, playing truant, befriends him. Their relationship flowers as the young boy grows up; the old man tells his story, and one of the figures he has carved finds a soul.

If I’d stumbled upon the garden walking miles from anywhere out in the woods I’d probably think it was even more strange, dark, magical and odd. As it is there are quite a few dilapidated spaces around, if you only look for them. The gardens that butt onto the back of my garden, for instance, are equally unkempt. Three doors away a swing is almost completely covered by brambles, and I wonder what happened to the kids who used to play on it.

Mankind thinks it’s tamed the planet, but beware! Plants, given half a chance, will have their day.

Ringneck Doves and the PX

The Ringneck Doves

The big fat Pidgeon wasn’t there today. Instead, a pair of Ringneck Doves occupied his branch. Maybe they put him off, or maybe they take it in turns to branch share, who knows? I say ‘Ringneck Doves’ with caution, because the dove website says they only live in captivity and the tree in my garden isn’t.

I’m writing this having just got back from the shop where I bought a packet of Oreos. I’d forgotten quite how much I dislike them and that brought back another vivid memory.

When I was a young teenager my best friend was Dan, an American whose father worked for the U.S. government. In those days we had nothing American  other than Levis and Kojak. Consequently I loved hanging out at his house where they had a weird cornucopia of fantastic comestibles. It was there I was turned on to root beer, discovered the delights of salsa and corn chips, became addicted to Reeces Pieces (and the ever sickly but moorish Reeces Peanut Butter Cups), and found out that Hersey chocolate wasn’t the be all and end all, but was actually rather foul – though not as foul as Cadbury’s chocolate was to the American palate, apparently.

And then, once I’d been thoroughly inculcated into their strange and enticing foreign ways, I was taken to the PX! OMFG! I thought it was better than sex – though at the time I hadn’t the foggiest idea what that was and I’d now like to officially retract the sentiment. The PX was amazing, though. A supermarket full of American goods not available in the U.K.. I was a pig in heaven and spent all my pocket money.

Now, of course, there’s nothing you can’t get either in your local corner shop, where I bought the Oreos, or via the net. In a way it’s sad, because you really don’t need to meet new people, or travel, to try the weirdly strange – Amazon will deliver.

Upping Sticks

From Pett to Bohemia - and about time, too!

We’re upping sticks and moving from countryside to town: from Pett Level to Bohemia, St. Leonards.

The reasons are numerous, but probably the most salient is the saving of £250 a month in rent, plus, it’s a house and a place we can be ourselves. For the last two years we’ve been living in this … umm, well, to be frank, a tarted up shack. The owner bought it at the very top of the market for £250,000 and consequently has to charge a ludicrously high rent for it. We viewed on a beautiful may day and, obviously, had on rose tinted shades. In summer it’s sweltering; in winter it’s bloody freezing. Worse, this year we’ve been bitten to death by mosquitos, to boot.

We’ve never put pictures up, B wants to paint murals and can’t, and I’ve felt trapped. The house we’re moving to is a different kettle of frogs entirely. We can do what we want there. Paint it how we like; do what we want, and provided we pay the rent, and don’t raise it to the ground, all is peachy.

Another BIG motivation in moving into town is travel. Whichever way you look at it, if you live in the country you have to travel to get anywhere. The nearest shop to us is six miles there and back: a supermarket fourteen, and petrol ain’t cheap!

Jobs. Unless you want to start a small smuggling operation there aren’t any out in Pett. Besides, ‘they’ have radar and sniffer seals and you can’t ‘bring in’ much in a radio controlled boat – even if you have one, which I don’t. I’ve a gas guzzling car, but it doesn’t count.

So that’s what I’m up to. Meanwhile, in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi has legged it and the Arab Spring is trundling on and gaining ground with every day. Odd it is how there are so many different ways to live the brief time we’re allotted on our lone planet circling a sun in the spiral arm of one of billions of galaxies.

It makes you think, doesn’t it.

Blood & mosquitoes.

That's my blood, that is ... the fuckers!

Yes, it’s a really bad if not truly appalling photo (though it was taken on a phone in a room with pretty dim light). The thing is I’m worried. Either there are a LOT MORE savage flying biting beasties this year, or I’ve lost my mind.

Last year it was hot. In high summer (where we are now a year on) it was so damn hot all the windows were open nearly all the time. Yes, I had a few bites, but they weren’t bad.

This year it’s like I’ve teleported to another planet. The bites swell up to enormous lumps which last for several days before going down. As I write I’m sweating in a long sleeved shirt and a dressing gown – but this, believe it or not, is better than suffering the damn bites.

I suppose there’s a chance I’ve become allergic to mosquitoes. But why now? Hmm? Or maybe, if you like conspiracy theories, ‘someone’ wants us out of this overblown shed and is pumping mosquitoes in through its cracks. I dunno, but I’m not happy. I’m not happy at all. 😦

The internet isn’t a lot of help, either. It exacerbates my paranoia with articles about the rather nasty Blandford Fly, which is spreading countrywide. And then there’s this – and I warn you not to watch it if you’ve just eaten. It’s a chap who was bitten by a mosquito and … well, you’ll see.

It’s a battle, and not one I think I’ll win. Even though the walls and ceilings are dotted with their corpses there’s still the question of my blood. I wonder if eight imperial pints is enough?

Cheers.

A drunken society? Maybe, but at least we recycle.

I took this inside the huge metal glass recycling container in the local Sainsbury’s car park – the same store and car park that ‘Perspective‘ is set in. It is not the best photograph I’ve taken, but it is evocative.

What it evokes I leave entirely up to you. 😉

Downs and ups, and the price of breathing.

The proof of the pudding....

THE DOWN:

“We didn’t get it.” He spoke down the phone, his tone as light as possible considering he wanted to scream.
“Oh. Well, there it is then,” the reply as upbeat as he’d known it would be, the pain held in check. Both trying to kid the other that the news wasn’t as crushing as it was. The longer the wait the more convinced they were they’d got it – and the wait had been interminable.
“They’ll be others, and it was good practice you know.”
“Yes, but … fuck! I’ll have to send the Porche back.”
“See you tomorrow.”
“Mmm.”

So what have I learned from not getting a job? Firstly: not to talk about anything before it happens, and secondly: not to be downhearted. Damn me I was – for a short while – but there’s no point.

We sent in two versions, we should have concentrated on one. We were very tired when it came to mix and that was a MAJOR mistake. We did pay attention to the brief, but obviously we made errors. So, for your delectation and delight, here is the brief, followed by what they said and the two verions we submitted.

THE BRIEF:

——————————————

HUGE NY Ad Agency needs a SINGER/SONGWRITER SONG for a national NUTRITION/HEALTH BRAND’s TV COMMERCIAL. It’s estimated that this gig will pay $15-$25,000 up front, but the back will bring in more dollars–LOTS of national airplay coming down the pike. This is going to be a little complicated so read VERY carefully!

The TV spot features a male/female DUET singing about taking your nutrition to the next level. It’s starts with a guy, playing guitar. 3 seconds into the spot, he’s joined by a young woman who sings along with him and plays tambourine. She becomes a one-woman band as she begins to ALSO play a kick drum and a keyboard–added in that order, and introduced one at a time (in your arrangement).

All this needs to take place in 30 SECONDS, while they sing the lyrics below! The good news is that this is a DEMO, and the agency folks know the lyrics they’ve been handed by their client are on the fat side. Your job is to keep the CRITICAL parts of the lyric in tact, while cutting SOME fat to bring this song in at exactly 30 seconds. You can trim a “yeah, yeah, yeah” down to just one “yeah,” etc., but you MUST keep “Anthem” and “Go Nutrients” and as much of the original concept as possible and MOST of the lyric in tact. Quoting the Head Creative guy at the agency: “Write a great SONG with as much of the client’s lyrics as possible.” Easy, breezy, nothing to it, and bring it all home in 30 seconds!

Musically, this SONG needs to be UPTEMPO, HIP and FUN, and in a Jason Mraz or Bruno Mars-like style of putting (vocal) doubles or triplets on top of half notes. That could give it a cool, fun, funky feel while helping you get most of the lyrics nailed in 30 seconds. Melodically, your song needs to sound like a HIT with a KILLER HOOK–it needs to be infectious, memorable and singable.

This product will likely generate a series of TV spots, so nailing THIS one COULD get you to the front of the line for others. If your DEMO is chosen to be presented to the agency and client, you’ll need to be able to make minor changes (if needed) on Monday, July 4th so the final version can be presented on Tuesday morning. If you’re not fully available Sunday (dinner time) through Monday (dinner time), please DO NOT submit for this listing! Welcome to the intensely fast-paced, whacky world of music for advertising!

Lyrics:
You take a multivitamin every day
But you want to add a little something (hey hey hey)
So you reach for new Go Nutrients from Anthem
Can I get a funky beat on the bass drum
Take Omega 3 to help your heart
Helps your eyes and brain too…so state of the art
Probiotic for when your system feels out of whack.
Immunity? No problemo! And support that digestive tract. (Uh-huh.)
Fruit & Veggie has antioxidants galore!
Will make you glow for the one you adore. (Grrrrr)
Get on up, throw your hands in the air.
Take your nutrition next level, Start a love affair!! (Yeah yeah yeah.)

 Broadcast Quality is needed, even though they may ultimately use NY session singers for the vocals. You must own or control 100% of the Master and Composition rights. If you are chosen, the AD AGENCY will contact you DIRECTLY. The agency is not sure at this time if this will be a Work for Hire deal or exactly what form the deal structure will ultimately take. Bottom line, it will certainly be in line with whatever the Industry Standard would be in a situation like this. This is a HUGE agency, and they’re not in the habit of risking their reputation by cheating musicians–it’s not like they’re a record label – LOL!! Please submit one to three songs online or per CD, include lyrics.  All submissions will be screened on a YES/NO BASIS. NO CRITIQUES FROM TAXI. Submissions must be received no later than SATURDAY, JULY 2nd, 2011 at 6:00 pm (PDT).

——————————————

Our offerings:
Version 1
Version 2

——————————————

What they said:

Version 1:
Doesn’t sound enough like the referenced artists to get forwarded, and the vocals are a little on the not locked together very well side. We KNOW this had challenging lyrics, to say the least. Thanks for working so hard on this!

Version 2:
Similar problems as the other track had. Also, at times, the vocals sound like several people and not a duet. Sorry to be so picky, but the ad agency will be hearing stuff from a handful of NY’s top ad music people and we can only submit stuff that’s competitive with them.

——————————————

What I think!

Pragmatically, they’re not wrong. I don’t even think they’re broadcast quality – though they were supposed to be demos: ideas to be polished.

As ideas they’re okay though they’re rough and need work. Also, they don’t reflect the singers, we were given as suggestions, enough.

Both mick and I have written for commercials before. Obviously, we need to dust off our muses.

——————————————

THE UP:

I came back through the door after going to the shops, this morning, to find a parcel. Inside was something I wasn’t expecting until next month: a proof copy of my book!

Dare I say W00T! 🙂

Holding a real, physical, glossy paperback book of your own work is … mindbogglingly fantastic! The feeling is almost sexual in its intensity. The trouble is I don’t have anyone to go and and get drunk with. Mick thinks it’s ‘great,’ looked at it, flicked through it, and then went to the studio. Brigitte grinned, said it ‘looks really nice’ and then made lunch. And the cats weren’t that overjoyed, either.

But I have this persistent warm glow inside, which quite makes up for the lack of champagne and highbrow critique. And, after all, it is only a proof – speaking of which: sods law I immediately found a major mistake (misteak). What it is I shan’t say – you’ll have gnaw at your nails and guess.

THE PRICE OF BREATHING:

So … what have I learnt? Well, you have to take the downs with the ups and learn from them both. Devastating though the rejection was – and the length of time waiting had a lot to do with that – it’s not the end of the world. It’s a lesson and we’ll learn from it (‘scuse me – that sounds so trite I think I need a bucket). It’s a bummer we’re not going to get $25,000 plus royalites (bangs head against the wall) but that’s life … and the very next day I get a proof of my book. See? The universe takes away and then provides. Sort of – ish.

There’s the core of a new religion in here, somewhere. Hmm. I have a book jacket of many colours. Maybe a coat would be nice, too. And a new musical. 😉