Monthly Archives: April 2015

“Why do you love cursing?”

I commented on a Youtube video the other day, where the woman who was filming said that she was grateful that people put up with her swearing and looking a mess. I said that I loved the fact that she ‘cursed’ and ‘never put herself together’, she was a hero of mine for it. Someone replied to that comment;

Cursing

“Why do you love cursing?”

I drew a mental breath to reply…but then stopped. No-one had ever asked me that before, and in fact I have never actually given it any thought. I do love swearing, there’s no doubt about it; I do it a lot and I enjoy it when other people do it well. I feel an almost disproportionate joy over swearing; I wanted to examine that a bit and understand whether I was simply being confrontational and obnoxious. After careful consideration, these are my thoughts;

  1. It’s the adult equivalent of saying “smelly poo-poo bumhead”. Observe a small child cracking up laughing about farts; that’s the effect a well-used swear has on me.
  2. Swear words are power words. They are sharp, pointed words that concentrate the impact of what you are trying to say. Sometimes, “I’m really angry with you right now and I need you to go away” just simply doesn’t cut it.
  3. It’s frowned on more when women swear, and that is just a challenge as far as I am concerned. I don’t accept any circumstance in life where people are not supposed to do something based on whether they have a vagina or not.
  4. Well timed and inventive application of swear words shows a level of verbal creativity and connection to one’s emotions that indicates a healthy mindset.
  5. Societal objection to swearing seems to come from historical value judgements about proper conduct, which are based on the imposition of misguided character and class standards, with a good measure of piety – all of which immediately provokes a two-fingered salute from me.
  6. See point 1.

I find people who don’t swear at all really interesting. My sister is a great example; yes, she can be encouraged into a comedy “motherfuckeeeeerrrr…” every now and then, and has roadrage-triggered potty mouth the same as everyone else. Most of the time however, she doesn’t swear on principle. I cannot imagine the amount of bile and irritation that you have to internalise and suppress by knowing the perfect word to express your thoughts about someone or something, but choosing not to use it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not completely socially inept; I still have the swearing filter that I was brought up with intact. Hence, I don’t call people motherfuckers in front of my Nan, nor do I tell customers or colleagues that they are dickheads when I am at work. Well, not the ones I don’t know very well, at least…

Being British, I also have a great love of well-crafted understatements. Personally,  I like to use a healthy mix of exaggerated restraint and explosive obscenity to mould and shape my communication – in the same way that artists use different shades of colour to add shadows, highlights and depth to their creations.

And let’s not forget that it’s downright hilarious when people apply a little creativity to swearing.  I found a new favourite when I took a How Sweary Are You? quiz, which introduced me to the phrase ‘bollockfaced shitnubbin‘.

I am a big fan of pairing swears with non-swears, for example ‘cockweasel’, ‘asshat’ and ‘assclown’, all of which I really enjoy. [Incidentally, I like ‘clownshoe’ too, and that’s not even a swear]. If you are so inclined, can thoroughly recommend this Swearing Generator which I have spent many a happy hour clicking on; it merrily combines words like canoe, waffle, wrangler, womble, and bungle with actual swears to provide a constant stream of childish entertainment.

titpilot

…as an example

I have a lot of lazy anger. It’s not the all-consuming, danger-to-your-mental-health kind of anger, and neither is it the productive kind that would drive me to change the world. I am consequently a big fan of anyone who can successfully use swearing and anger together as a vehicle for sharing comedy. Swearing is not essential to the process, but it is a perfect way to refine anger into a short sharp message, and I have a healthy admiration for people who use it effectively. Frankie Boyle is a particular master;

<3

Speaking of the C-Bomb, a few months ago at work, my laptop was really playing up and at one point I spat at it “…you little cunt!” One of my colleagues visibly shuddered, and I asked him if he was alright. He said “I just hate it when women use that word.”

…well now, that’s just an invitation, isn’t it? It’s become a point of fun between us, and I of course modified my language; now I apologise loudly and directly to him every time I refer to anything as a cunt.

Parsnips

Candidate for my favourite tweet of all time.

This Sunday evening can suck my dick

And before you ask – no, there is nothing I need to share with you, that was metaphorical.

I don’t like Sunday evenings at the best of times, but normally it just manifests in an inability to sleep properly. Today however it has aligned with another source of irritation, to produce a Go Fuck Yourself response to the end of the weekend of almost epic proportions.

I first noticed it in my teens, but when I spend too long stuck doing things I don’t really want to do, I can feel something inside me winding tighter and tighter, and getting frustrated, trapped. I get short tempered and snappy, and I stop even being able to enjoy the things I normally like. I reject everything. I need to travel, to simply be somewhere else, somewhere new.

I ran out of holiday allowance from work last November with my trip to Minneapolis, and the holiday year only reset on 1st April, so I have spent the last 6 months or so doing nothing much out of the ordinary. I went off throwing stuff and shooting things with my sister last weekend, and while it was great fun, it wasn’t enough of a departure to relieve the mental pressure.

Thankfully, it’s only a week and half until I head off to Norway again, and I am desperately looking forward to it. In the meantime, I decided yesterday to go back and revisit a place I used to go when I was a kid, the Rothschild Museum in Tring.

I guess it’s called the Natural History Museum these days. I love it there, and it really forms the backdrop to a large part of my mental landscape. Long story short, Lionel Walter Rothschild (the slightly mental son of an immensely wealthy family in late 1800’s Britain) fell in love with animals and decided that the best way to express that was to collect them. 19th Century Pokemon, I guess. He had a zebra drawn carriage and Galapagos turtles on the estate, and did all sorts of other things that you totally could not get away with now. His parents did what any loving family would do; bought him a museum to put them all in. It’s now part of the Natural History Museum family, although very little else has changed – at least in the 30 years I have been visiting.

Anyway, yesterday I was in the bird’s section and once again marvelling at the sheer size of some of them (…to be clear, they are all dead, stuffed and on display – which causes me more and more discomfort as I get older, but that’s a discussion for another time). I turned round at one point and burst out laughing when I clocked this dude looking at me. Enjoy.

Freaky Bird

A Boat Billed Heron, apparently.

I think I may be the untidiest adult that I know; Part 2.

This is where I live

This is where I live

Every now and then I have moments of clarity, and I actually SEE things. I just had one of those moments whilst looking at my computer desk. I decided to tidy it up, and share with you exactly what occupies my space with me on any given day:

  • Ketchup
  • Salt
  • Black nail varnish
  • Matte finish nail varnish topcoat
  • 2 x bobby pins
  • 2 x unsharpened pencils
  • 2 x Micro SD adapter
  • 2 x pencils, sharpened
  • Tube of Savlon
  • 2 x 1″ nails
  • 2 x Biro (1 black, 1 blue)
  • Old unused planner
  • Book; Mogworld – Yahtzee Croshaw
  • LED headlamp
  • 2 x CD markers (red and black)
  • Record cards
  • Packing note (liquid eyeliner)
  • 2 x scratchcard (losing)
  • Tesco receipt
  • Tape measure – DIY
  • String
  • Dart barrel (minus point and flight)
  • Shoe polish – black
  • Eggtimer
  • Cinema ticket stub Dumb & Dumber Too
  • Thimble
  • Barclays Bank PIN sentry device
  • Tape measure – sewing
  • Complementary airline earphones & adaptor
  • Wool sewing needle
  • Shot glass
  • Dried liquid eyeliner – copper
  • Clothes peg
  • Curved glass photo frame – empty
  • SD Card – storage unknown but maker “2005”
  • 4 x retractable ID badge holders
  • Entry wristband – 2014 tattoo convention
  • Android USB cable
  • 4 x CD; Evil Scarecrow, Strapping Young Lad, Marmozets, Blood Command
  • 2 x band patches; Inspiral Carpets, Blink 182
  • 2014 Diary
  • Packaging 1TB external hard drive
  • PC Games; Far Cry 3, Alice: Madness Returns
  • Sony Walkman circa. 1993
  • Pirate themed hole-punch
  • Loom band bracelet
  • Blank CDR discs
  • Keyring breathalyzer
  • Tube of Raw Sienna acrylic paint
  • Travel Connect Four
  • $20 USD
  • Digital camera case – empty
  • AA Membership card – expired
  • Cinema ticket – Alien & Aliens Double Bill
  • Samsung earphones
  • Bookmark from Greece
  • Holocaust exhibition pamphlet from Oslo
  • 5 x hairbands
  • Moomins sticker sheet
  • 12″ ruler
  • Ethernet cable
  • Various teddybears; giraffe, meercat, grizzly bear
  • JVC XX Earphone case – empty
  • Barclaycard Prepaid Gift card
  • Nectar card
  • Viking ‘tattoo’ stickers
  • Bookmark – ‘lucky’ Scottish heather
  • 5p in copper coins
  • Birthday cards – various years
  • Bottle caps
  • Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Eau de Toilette
  • Battersea Dogs & Cats Home Supporters Pack
  • 2″ screw
  • SIM Card
  • Clear cased wristwatch
  • Band stickers – various
  • Foamy the Squirrel cult membership card
  • 2 x teaspoon
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener
  • Headphone jack
  • 32GB flash drive
  • Rennie Macintosh picture frame – empty
  • C90 cassette – The Cream of Eric Clapton
  • 2000AD playing cards
  • Spirited Away figures
  • Skull candle
  • Pirate wristwatch
  • Bag of various body piercing jewellery
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • 3 x AA batteries
  • 2 x AAA battery
  • 2 x bulldog clip
  • Button
  • Gas & electricity metre reading
  • 2 x pairs nailclippers
  • Magnet
  • 5 øre coin (1978)
  • Metal curtain tieback fixing
  • Oinking rubber pig toy
  • 2 x dice (4-sided and 10-sided)
  • Ultra Magnus
  • Pistachio shell with eyes
  • World of Warcraft blood elf rogue figure
  • EDF energy Zingy figure
  • Crowbar
...I give it a week.

…I give it a week.

Throwing Stuff And Shooting Things

My sister and I went on an ‘adventure day’ hosted by 3xtreme in East Grinstead, which is in the southeast of the UK. The theme was zombie apocalypse/hunger games, and was billed to include crossbows, axe throwing, shooting, spear throwing, archery, all sorts of wonderful stuff. I was way more excited by the axe throwing than I should have been; I’ve always liked holding hammers, and axes are my weapon of choice in a video game, if there’s any available. Maybe there’s something in my childhood that I need to look at…

East Grinstead

For reference, if you’re not familiar with UK geography.

It looked really good and sounded exciting, but as with anything like this that’s relatively unknown, there’s a bit of pot luck involved. Photos can’t be trusted as a realistic representation, so unless you actually know someone who’s been, you could be walking into anything. I was mentally prepared for it to be like one of those Winter Wonderland horror stories, where parents pay loads of money to take their kids to a promised Lapland in the heart of Wiltshire, only to find it’s just a cordoned off field with a few bales of hay, a couple of sheep in reindeer headbands and a drunken Santa who’s forgotten his trousers and shouts at the kids.

Also, the other thing to be aware of with events like this; they attract weirdos. Yes, I do appreciate the implications of that statement… but I am talking about the type of people that until you actually meet them, you’d think only existed as parody characters in comedy shows. They’re normally too short/unstable/boss-eyed to get into the military, but they are so determined that they’ve still put in the time to learn the jargon and get the kit, or at least a vague approximation of. They’ve learned everything they know from reading Bravo Two Zero, and listening to Keith with the gammy leg who works in the Army surplus store.

I made a new friend on the way

I am not the kind of weirdo I was talking about, by the way.

Imagine our delight then when we arrived and it was actually at a proper outdoor activity centre, and the only people there with any kit were actually instructors. Other people on the adventure day with us were a Dad with his two sons, a couple who just looked like any normal couple you might see in Tesco, and four young giggly teenage girls.

Joining us late was a group of 6 “young adults”, who were not only late, but then took their sweet time wandering off to the toilet, gathering their takeaway coffees and chatting amongst themselves. I got the impression that they weren’t used to having to listen to anyone else telling them what to do very often.

Whilst it had been warm and bright on the drive down, the weather forecast had said that it was going to rain for a bit in the early morning, before clearing up to be sunny for the rest of the day. I had therefore committed to shorts for the entirety of proceedings – not just because it was due to be warm, but because all of the trousers I own are actually longer than my legs, and therefore a REALLY bad idea if there is going to be any hint of mud. It did indeed start raining as soon as we arrived, and even though we were expecting it, it was still disappointing.

This totally qualifies as bright and sunny.

This WAS warm and bright. No, honestly.

We eventually went off in a convoy down to a field half a mile or so away from the main centre. We parked up and walked past a group of the tattiest, greenest caravans I have ever seen (which actually made my car look well maintained), down a muddy slope to the bottom of the field, where there was a tree-lined stream, and a camp set up in a little hollow. The shelter was a little lean to, with benches and a firepit, covered by camouflage tarpaulins.

Once there, we were divided into two groups; the other half were taken off to start with the archery in the next field along, and our group stayed where we were to begin with the air rifles. I was rather pleased about that turn of events because a) it was still drizzling, and the trees offered some shelter and b) the 6 pricks were away in the other field.

The instructor, Dave, talked to us about the guns we were going to be using, how to safely carry, load and fire them. He also explained about how to ensure the gun is braced into your shoulder properly and not get too close to the sights on the top, in order to avoid cracking yourself in the face when the gun kicks back. I mentioned that I had in fact done exactly that to myself when I was younger, and given myself a black eye, ha ha ha, don’t do THAT kids…the funny thing being that while doing a sunburn reccy later on, I noticed that I had a sodding great lump above my eyebrow which looks very much like I had done exactly the same thing again. Well done, me.

With any luck, it won't bruise this time...

With any luck, it won’t bruise this time…

Anyway, we split into pairs to work our way through 10 different targets along the side of the stream. The targets themselves were perched in the branches of the trees bordering the water – metal animal shapes, with little yellow ‘kill zone’ dots painted on them. If you hit the target, you got a point. If you hit the kill zone, the metal animal fell over and you scored two points. The group that scored most points got to dictate which of the two teams did the final activity of the day first, and therefore got to leave earlier.

My sister and I worked our way around the different targets, leapfrogging one of the pairs of girls who were giggling and squealing about not being able to pull the trigger because it was too hard. I generously thought at the time that they had simply forgotten to take the safety off, but based on later events, it’s entirely possible that they just couldn’t do it. My sister was consistently good at hitting the targets and didn’t miss much, but for me it was another example of my complete inability to moderate anything; I either hit the kill-zone or missed entirely. As it happened, I achieved the joint top individual score with the Dad, which I think says more about how everyone else’s day was going than it did about mine.

Dave had a started a fire in our absence, and we steamed the rain out of our clothes whilst enjoying some toasted marshmallows and waiting for everyone else to get back.

20150411_100613

Yes, I am aware marshmallows have gelatin in. Now. Never occurred to me at the time.

Once everyone was finished and scores collected, Dave talked to us a bit about trapping in a survival situation, and then we moved on around to the archery where the other guys were – unsurprisingly – taking their time.

Recurve Bow

We’ll just stand here in the rain waiting guys, don’t worry about it.

Here we were using ‘recurve’ bows and the instructor, Mark, talked us again through safety and how to shoot the bow properly. Once more, I was completely inconsistent, and once more, I managed to injure myself – although this time it was more immediately apparent. Every time I released an arrow, the bowstring snapped me inside my left forearm on the way through. I don’t mind admitting, it fucking hurt. Mark had a forearm strap that he gave me to wear, which really helped and also offered me some reassurance; I can’t be THAT much of a spaz if someone has already designed a bit of kit for it. [It’s shaping up to be a cracking bruise, by the way]

We had a few rounds of shooting, with the gradual introduction of balloons in the centre of the targets (I have to be honest, I only managed to hit mine because the wind blew it to one side and into the path of the arrow I just fired), and then lastly a rubber skull with an apple on its head, which the youngest of the two brothers absolutely nailed.

We then went back to Dave, who introduced us to the crossbows, and a movie reality-check about the difficulties of actually using them in a combat scenario. He had three different weapons, which ranged in price from £100 to £500, and ranged in ease of ability to cock from “Hmm, that was harder than I expected” to “Help me; I think I just herniated a disc in my spine”. I’ve used a stock picture because I was too busy paying attention to take a photo of my own, but you need to use a special rope tool just to cock these crossbows, before you can even get in a position to use them.

Crossbow

You need to brace your foot in the bit at the bottom, and pull until you burst something.

We all had a go at firing each of the three weapons at a couple of dummies on the other side of the field, and the speed they fire at is surprising and impressive. While the end result is pretty devastating, these crossbows were time consuming and labour intensive to cock and fire. I imagine they would be good for hunting, but more of a liability in any combat situation.

20150411_114207

I won’t deny that it was a lot of fun, if over a bit quickly… say no more.

Now, while I will happily take the piss out of people who are behaving like idiots or arseholes, I generally try not to be negative about people who are trying their best… Unfortunately, at this point in the day, two of the young girls were so totally incapable that it actually felt dangerous having them around.

One in particular (who had looked from the start of the day like her boots were too heavy for her to walk around in) would definitely have struggled to even open a packet a crisps. She couldn’t cock the bow with the lightest draw weight, and ended out catapulting the heaviest one at the Dad who was trying to help her. I hope he’s OK actually…

After we had all surveyed the damage wrought upon the two ‘zombies’, we moved on to my favourite bit of the whole day; spear, knife and axe throwing with Mark. As before, the previous group were still arsing about by the time that we got there.

Throwing Crop

In your own time, darlings.

There were a series of wooden stands, with sodding greats slices of tree nailed to them, with a knife and an axe for each one. Next to those targets was that hay that I had been expecting, but it was there for hurling the spears into. We each stood in front of one station, had two throws of each pair of weapons, and then moved along one space ensuring that everyone got a go on the spears.

Turns out, throwing lumps of metal is surprisingly difficult, and I could not have failed harder unless I had thrown the knife and the axe down behind me and just run face-first into the target.

20150411_122833

Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t stab myself in the back of the head.

To my utter relief, it wasn’t just me. It was like we were all hopeless peasant villagers from a medieval action movie, where a heroic warrior steps in to train The People how to fight against whoever it is that is oppressing them. In the first scenes of the training montage, the hero sits on horseback, watching in awed disbelief at the sheer incompetence unfolding around him, as the scruffy villagers utterly miss the archery targets, trip over their swords and accidentally set fire to their own shoes. I thought that was all hammed up for the sake of the films – nope, that’s precisely how it would have happened. Every time Mark shouted for everyone to throw, there was a spray of weapons quickly followed by synchronised clattering and thuds as everything simply bounced off, landed handle first, or just whistled off into the distance. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I thought it was hilarious, and I don’t think that I could have scripted it better.

Clatter

I have marked each comedy rebounding axe with an yellow arrow.

The spears were OK and felt fairly familiar, but the axes/knives were a different matter. It’s an unusual throwing action, completely different to any sport I have ever been forced to participate in, or any action I have needed to use in any line of work. Imagine, if you will, the first time a toddler throws a ball, and then just ends out hurling it enthusiastically onto the floor in front of them. That is EXACTLY what it felt like I was doing on the first two axe stations. I also felt like I was rolling my shoulder out of joint. I was clearly Doing It Wrong.

Now, while I like to think that I am smart, and quick to pick up facts and processes and numbers, physically speaking I am an absolute fucking doofus. It takes me an inordinate length of time to learn new physical abilities. I flail at stuff like an angry child with absolutely no success, until eventually something clicks and I can just do it. Normally, I get so frustrated that I give up ages before the ‘click’ moment, and rarely end out doing most of the things I’d like to be able to.

As a result, I am deeply envious of people who can pick new physical activities up instinctively, and we had one of those people in our group – the oldest of the two boys. I couldn’t say how old he actually was, just that he was old enough that he didn’t look like he was made from parts of other, taller boys any more, while being too young to buy a round of drinks yet. He got good really quickly, and was the only person to land the two handed axe at the end, although his Dad gave it a good go.

20150411_124136

Well, it looked cool, if failing miserably at being effective.

To be fair to myself, by the time I reached the third station, I was actually landing the axe on 50% of my throws, and on one occasion I managed to land the knife too. (Granted, the knife was flat edge of the blade into the wood, and the axe was hanging on by the tip, but I am taking that as a Win.) It was nothing short of haphazard, but it was progress, and I would have liked to have spent loads more time there.

Sadly, it was the end of the session and we had to break for lunch. One thing I can say for sure; I do not want that to be the last axe I ever throw. Despite not exactly being the axe-wielding maniac I had hoped for, I really enjoyed myself and will definitely be doing more – watch this space.

After lunch, and after sitting around again waiting for the other group, we got to use some air pistols, but any gangsta fantasies were very quickly destroyed. We gathered inside a darkened hut, with scrim netting across the ceiling and a tin can range at the far end. We were all given the opportunity to practise opening, loading and closing a few different types of handguns… which proved to be a lot slower and less slick than I think a few people had hoped for. There was quite a bit of grumbling and struggling, followed by slightly disappointing little crack noise when the gun was fired. Boyz n the Shed; it’s the British version.

Aight.

“Aight.”

When the girls got up to have a go, Dave dialled the difficulty back a bit and gave them an easier gun to load – I can’t remember what it was called but it looked liked something out of an Indiana Jones movie. All you had to do was break the barrel down, pop a pellet in, and close it again. Those girls were hopeless – seriously, one of them couldn’t break a fucking Kit-Kat. If it really WAS a zombie apocalypse, I know who’d be going for bait first.

Anyway, we all had a go with a few different handguns, and I can state categorically that I did not hit a damn thing. That is not in any way an exaggeration. I thought I was lining the sights up properly, but absolutely nothing hit. The pellets all disappeared into bales of hay at the back, so I couldn’t see where they were landing, and had no idea what I was doing wrong in order to correct it.

My sister on the other hand did really well, which was great, because shooting was the thing she was really interested in. The older lad from earlier also shone, as did the fourth of the girls who ended up with us… I just stuck with looking more badass than everyone else.

20150411_142920

Don’t disabuse me of the notion.

Album: Strapping Young Lad – Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing

1995, Century Media

1995, Century Media

  1. S.Y.L.
  2. In the Rainy Season
  3. Goat
  4. Cod Metal King
  5. Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)
  6. Critic
  7. The Filler: Sweet City Jesus
  8. Skin Me
  9. Drizzlehell

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the mighty Devin Townsend‘s first solo album, so I thought it was well worth revisiting for the sake of posterity.

I will be the first to admit that I did not groove to this album when it came out. As you might get from the title Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing, it’s not big on singalong melodies. Back in the heady days of 1995, it was too alien for me, and it was only in revisiting it 10 years or so later – after drawing the connection to Devin Townsend who I had latched onto in the meantime – that I had laid sufficient musical foundation for it to have a place to bed in.

I am neither a musician nor a visionary, and I do not easily embrace new things; the music I like now absolutely stands on the shoulders of the music that went before it. Notable examples that I rejected out of hand when I first heard them, which within a couple of years went on to become two of my favourites, were Carter USM (on Top of the Pops in 1991) and Korn (on some-metal-show in 1994). I really didn’t understand what was happening to my face, and it was only time and intervening layers of other music that moved me to a place where I could actually hear it.

[…if you will, it was like inaccessible content; I had to go and level up my music experience before I could unlock those musicians…good grief, I actually said that…]

I digress! The Devin Townsend Project, Zimmer’s Hole… while Townsend is incredibly talented, and I really enjoyed the humour that seemed to thread through everything else that he touched, that is not as apparent in this album. You’d think with tracks titled Cod Metal King and Goat that there might be more room for having a bit of a giggle, but the music and lyrics both feel like much more of a protest and a wholehearted “Fuck you” than anything else.

Actually, with the benefit of Wikipedia and the album notes from the remastered copy, that all bears out. I won’t simply re-type what I’ve read, as if it was all my own research; in fact, it’s funny as fuck so I’ll just include Devin’s own words at the end of this.

The album itself, I really like now. It’s not my favourite, because it misses that mischievous spark and devilment that appeals to me in Townsend’s other projects. But it is balls-out, loud, an interesting mix of noise… and it’s great for thrashing along to. I am not going to go back through musical timelines to see who did what when, and who might have influenced whom, but in places Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing has elements of the same rolling, dirty, industrial sound that is present in most of Revolting Cocks – Linger Ficken’ Good, and also in White Zombie and Fear Factory stuff of the same era…but then with the next track it leaps feet-first into out-and-out thrash metal.

I’ve been punched in the head before in my life – twice in fact. I have no desire to ever get punched in the head again. Due to this, there are certain tracks that as soon as I hear them, they send me scurrying for the corners of the room without a backwards glance because I know what’s coming. There is one of those particular tracks on Heavy As… called Happy Camper. As soon as it kicks off, you just KNOW it is going to trigger a furious meat-grinder of a circle pit with the kind of fists-and-feet frenzy that I simply do not have the balls for.

That for me is the special thing about this album; it’s heavy, but loads of different kinds of heavy, and heavy that I had never heard before, all in one place. Was it ground breaking? Honestly, I don’t know enough about everything else that was around at the time to be able to stake any money on it. Sue me.

You also get a couple of tracks with that signature Townsend vocal, the soaring, ethereal wail that wouldn’t be amiss in a darkened cathedral in any good horror movie soundtrack.

For me, this is not the best album, but I do feel that it’s significant, and worth your time to witness the first flourishes of the genius that is Devin Townsend. My personal favourite track is Skin Me;

Also, as promised;

SYL1 SYL2 SYL3Enjoy.

My Brain Is Going To Kill Me

I often say quite flippantly that with my less-than-healthy lifestyle and exercise aversion, it’ll be a heart attack that ends my run on this planet. The truth is though, I’m genuinely scared that it will be my brain that lets me down in the end.

While I have been really fortunate to sidestep pretty much any other medical issues so far, I have suffered from migraines since I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, and my word, they are absolute  fuckers.

I feel lucky that the symptoms have gradually become less intense as the years have gone by, and whilst I don’t experience all of the symptoms all of the time, when I was a kid I used to get the full shebang. There’s the splitting headache which is always in the same place, running from the crown of my head in a straight line down to behind my right ear. The left hand side of my lips and tongue, plus my left hand get numbness, then pins & needles. Nausea and vomiting sometimes come to join the party; on one occasion a couple of years ago, my first delightful indication something was wrong was my recreation of that bit in the Exorcist with my morning coffee. They are all pretty nasty and it’s a complete lottery; I never know which combination I am going to end out with.

By far the worst element for me however – and the only one that I DO experience every time – is the loss of sight. You know those floaty things you get in your vision sometimes? Well, imagine those made of a jagged streak of light which prisms into different colours. When I was younger, that was how I knew I had a migraine on its way, because one of those would appear in the top of my right eye.

These days, it starts as patches of lost vision. When I was 9, we did an experiment in Science class to demonstrate blind spots;

Close your left eye, look at the cross, and then move your head slowly backwards and forwards.

Close your left eye, look at the cross with your right eye, and then move your head slowly backwards and forwards.

At one point, the dot on the right will disappear. That is exactly what happens in my vision when I am getting a migraine. One time I was driving on the M1 motorway up to Sheffield, and the steering wheel of the car just vanished. Today at work, my right hand started to disappear as I was typing. It is now my warning that I have twenty minutes to get to safe ground.

The loss of vision creeps over my right eye, then drifts across and causes my left eye to tunnel down. Once both of my eyes are impacted, that’s when the pain kicks in.

I work about 8 minutes drive from my house, so whilst it’s a harrowing experience, I know I have enough time to get home. Once I have recognised a vision spot, I take 4 ibuprofen tablets and I just leave. I get home, crawl into bed and stay there for about 4 hours until the pain fades off. After that, my brain just feels really sensitive and swollen, and I have to be careful not to move too fast. Or sneeze. Please no, anything but the sneezing.

Whilst I only get migraines once every 6 months to a year, I never know what is going to trigger them or when. As a consequence, I never go anywhere without ibuprofen. I have two packs in my kitchen, one in my drawer at work, one in the bag that I take my language books to London in, and one in every rucksack that I own.

I know myself that my migraines today are nowhere near as bad as they were 30 years ago, which may or may not be because now I know how to mitigate the effects. I also appreciate that I don’t suffer anywhere near as badly as some other people – my Nan’s next door neighbour is bed-ridden for 3 days normally.

Wherever I sit on the scale of effects, it’s terrifying. I lose depth perception, and reality itself seems like it has slid out of arm’s reach. I stumble around with my hands out in front of me like a Scooby Doo zombie, I quietly start to panic and I don’t feel like I can’t even speak properly. There is something happening inside my brain that I have absolutely no control over.

No-one has been able to pin down exactly why migraines happen, but as far as I understand it; chemical changes in the brain stem cause the brain to react in an unusual way to usual things. I still don’t really know what triggers mine, but it always seems to be things that I am looking at. So – my body spikes my brain’s drink, and instead of looking at my display screen and going “Oh hey, look at you – all reading shit and typing” my brain sees the monitor, gets over-stimulated, freaks out, and goes to sit shivering and rocking in the corner.

My brain happens to be my favourite thing about me, and the idea of anything happening to it really does scare me. Strokes, Alzheimers… every time I get a migraine it reminds me how delicate a balance there truly is inside my head and how vulnerable I am to things that I am not in charge of.

Album: twenty one pilots – Vessel

2013, Fueled By Ramen

2013, Fueled By Ramen

  1. Ode To Sleep
  2. Holding On To You
  3. Migraine
  4. House Of Gold
  5. Car Radio
  6. Semi-Automatic
  7. Screen
  8. The Run And Go
  9. Fake You Out
  10. Guns For Hands
  11. Trees
  12. Truce
  13. “Glowing Eyes” (originally on Regional at Best)
  14. “Kitchen Sink” (originally on Regional at Best)
  15. “Lovely” (originally on Regional at Best)
  16. “Forest” (originally on Regional at Best)

Every now and then, a song will reach out and grab onto me, and hold me so close that it’s the only thing that I can even think about. That happened last week with Fairly Local by twenty one pilots.

I heard it on TeamRock – in fact, they had it as one of their singles of the week – and it struck me immediately. Whilst I am largely a metal kid, there is a lot of room in my heart for other genres, and I am a big fan of dubstep, and drum n bass. I like drums, and I like bass, and I tend to be pretty easy-going about whichever format they choose to arrive in. Fairly Local had a dub edge to it, but it DIDN’T QUITE fully commit. I tracked it down on Youtube…and fell in love as soon as I saw the video.

On top of being a really good track, it turns out they’ve got a proper drummer (Josh Dun) and the singer (Tyler Joseph) looks a little bit like he comes from the dark side of life – both of which are things that are guaranteed to endear a band to me. I then went on a bit of a mission to check out what other songs of theirs I could find; it’s all really quite different musically, although they are still clearly not on the same page as everyone else, and there is a sense of humour that weaves its way through their videos.

The album that Fairly Local is from – Blurryface – isn’t out until May 2015, so I decided to backtrack and and get myself some of their earlier stuff. The first two self-released albums I haven’t been able to find physical copies of yet [and if I’m buying something damnit, I want to actually HAVE it] which left Vessel, their first release under Fueled by Ramen from January 2013.

I made the mistake of putting this on in the car – a mistake, because by the time I got to work, I was two tracks in and so intrigued that I wanted to sit and listen to the rest of it and see what it was going to do next.

This album is really well produced, well crafted, with a bright, fun, thumping sound. In fact, it sounds like bold colours, and American TV, and sunshine. The thing is though, when you refocus just behind the initial façade, there’s a young man, in the dark, pulling at his hair and howling.

Here there be demons… but no clichés, no angst, no attitude, no swagger. It just IS. I like it.

I can’t help it; however musically good they might be, I find myself rejecting on a gut level bands or artists who seem to celebrate being either victims, or arseholes. It always strikes me as being arrogant, childish, petulant, and I just can’t get behind it.

…yeah, because I’m such a fucking grown-up

But anyway, there’s a level of simple honesty about twenty one pilots without any self-congratulation that really appeals to me, all layered in with some really splendid musicianship.

There are elements of stompy pop-folk, with ukelele’s and pianos, with switches from rap into well ranged vocals, all mixed in with beat shifts and tone changes everywhere. And it all works. The opening track, Ode to Sleep, cannot be described as anything other than schizophrenic… but as someone who has always had a rocky relationship with my brain at night, it’s also perfect.

There is no way that you could truly describe their sound as anything other than pop – extremely well crafted pop – but it’s also…NOT QUITE. It’s like looking at pop in a cracked mirror; it’s still there, bright and shiny, but also broken. I cannot help but wonder if the dark edge from the lyrics might push it a bit out of the reach of the usual pop afficionados. The 80’s were great for dark pop, but since then it’s all seemed to be a lot more self-promoting, defiant, materialistic – focused on what you HAVE more than who you ARE. I am honestly not sure where exactly twenty one pilots sits in that spectrum.

All I can say is that I really bloody like them, and I am properly excited about making the new album part of my life.

Album: Blood Command – Funeral Beach

2012, Fysisk Format

2012, Fysisk Format

  1. Pissed Off And Slightly Offended!
  2. March Of The Swan Elite
  3. Cult Of The New Beat
  4. Death To All But Us!
  5. Wolves At The Door
  6. High Five For Life
  7. Here Next To Murderous
  8. True North
  9. Corpse Reviver
  10. Oceans Inside Neptune
  11. Funeral Beach

Blood Command are a Norwegian trio, comprising of Yngve Andersen, Silje Tombre and Sigurd Haakaas, and Funeral Beach is their last album, released in October 2012. There’s nothing very much on their website, or any other social media outlet that I can find, that suggests they have done anything since, which is a shame.

Now, I was surprised by this album for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I tend to approach any band that gets labelled as ‘punk’ with a slightly raised eyebrow, and secondly, I don’t really groove to female vocalists.

I’ll just qualify that before I get shouted at; there are great female singers who I do like. Off the top of my head, there’s Björk, Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox, Tracy Chapman, Charlene Spiteri, Madonna, Pat Benatar. Now that’s out of the way; I’m really sound-sensitive, and more female singers annoy me than entertain me. Looking at that list, I’m fairly sure if I was to do a scientific study, I would find that there is a particular frequency/resonance/pitch of sound that I am biologically inclined to get irritated by, and a lot of female singers sit right within that range (incidentally, I don’t like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Cradle of Filth for the very same reason).

So, I normally approach female-fronted bands with a measure of caution, but there’s a been a few that I have heard recently who I actually really like, and Silje Tombre really NAILS it for Blood Command. Now I am fully prepared to admit that I was always going to give them more slack because they’re Norwegian and I am biased, but this album is really good. I keep seeing ‘punk’ linked to them, but frankly I don’t know what even qualifies these days; punk seems to have developed it’s own series of sub-genres [including pop-punk which is MORE pop than Green Day; I am still struggling to come to terms with that] but for my money, Blood Command certainly do qualify.

It’s really difficult to pick a favourite track on the album for me, but at the moment I am swaying between Cult Of The New Beat, and High Five For Life;

There’s no one particular sound, style or theme through this album; Silje is definitely the key that brings everything together. The songs swing merrily from jarring riffs to singalong pop choruses, but if you like it energetic and shouty, then there’s definitely something here for you.

New music – and a salute to TeamRock

…and what I mean by “new music” is “music that has only just happened to my ears”.

On a surprisingly regular basis, I will get hugely enthusiastic about something and then have everyone else then turn around and tell me that I’ve been living under a rock, and I’m 3-12 years late to the party. I live in a kind of self-imposed cultural isolation which means that I never really know about any new TV or music until one of my friends directs my attention towards it.

"Hey guys, I just watched Twin Peaks!"

“Hey guys, I just watched Twin Peaks!”

Music is an absolutely massive part of my life, but I never listen to the radio if I can possibly avoid it. The last time I listened to any station with any consistency was when Mark and Lard had the Graveyard slot on Radio One back in the 90’s. They could be trusted to be genuinely funny, and also to play music that I wanted to listen to; if there is one thing guaranteed to stress me out and make me angry, it’s listening to noise that I don’t like.

Babies screaming, car alarms, two songs playing at the same time; all will drive me into a disproportionate fury. I don’t know quite why I am so sensitive to sound, but some of the worst days of my life were when I worked in a warehouse that always played local commercial radio and I forgot my mp3 player… It might sound dramatic, but I genuinely can’t think of many worse ways to spend my time.

This picture alone makes me shudder

This picture alone makes me shudder

I also don’t watch TV. The shows that I am actually interested in seeing are buried under so much generic guff (and/or adverts, depending on the station) that when there is a broadcast that I actually want to watch, I just tune in to that show specifically using on-demand TV services like iPlayer. When there’s a whole series I want to see, I put off watching it until it comes out on box set or Netflix, and then smash the whole thing out in a marathon viewing session. I honestly can’t understand why anyone these days would watch a bit of something they really like…and then wait a whole week to watch the next bit.

All of that said, people who have previously lived with me have paid for Sky, then left the receiver boxes behind when they moved out, and I have kept them connected for the free channels. I always used to switch the BBC breakfast news on in the morning, a) for the clock in the corner and b) to remind me that I’m actually supposed to be doing something.

At the end of last year, I got really frustrated with the huge increase in shitty horrible news stories about people all over the world being nasty, bigoted, murdering arseholes. I tried switching over to a different channel; if I got up early enough I would catch 3rd Rock From The Sun, but more often than not I ended out with Everybody Loves Raymond, and a swathe of soul-crushing audience orientated adverts. It was difficult to decide which was worse; worldwide human atrocity or thinly veiled hysteria-generation about household germs.

As it happens, someone else took the choice out of my hands; on Christmas Eve, some little scrote cut the cable from the Sky dish and tried to pull it out of the wall. I love living here.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Anyway, there was no way I was going to pay for TV, given that I barely watched it and didn’t even like it when I did. I also knew I couldn’t cope with mainstream radio… but then I remembered an American rock station I used to listen to online a few years ago. They eventually shut down the access from outside the States, but with the power of the internet at my disposal, I was sure I could find another station.

I tried a few different sites, and they were OK but didn’t really cut it. Then a few of my friends suggested TeamRock Radio and it was an absolute game-changer. The first morning I tuned in, the very first track I heard being played was Alice In Chains – Would?, and I knew I was home.

The music is superb; a mix of all the good old rock, punk, and metal, with some blues and prog and then a decent helping of awesome newer bands. The DJ’s (which for me at least will make or break any radio show, regardless of how good the music is) are sharp and funny, and are all the kind of people that I would actually choose to spend time with…if I ever went out and socialised anymore, that is.

I listen from when I wake up in the morning, and then stay tuned in pretty much until the early evening – because I can get the station via an app on my phone, I spend as much time during the day at work listening as I can get away with. I have found loads of “new music” in the last couple of months, and I’ve taken a chance on a couple of albums based on recommendations from the DJ’s – and I haven’t been let down yet.

Every time I discover something new, I will share it here. For the time being, if you would call yourself in any way alternative in your music tastes, I cannot recommend highly enough that you give TeamRock a listen. Yeah, there’s the odd pop-rock track, but you can forgive that based on the weight of other genuinely great stuff they play.

Team Rockhttp://www.teamrock.com/

If you already listen to Team Rock, I refer you to my previous point about being late to the party.

What is WRONG with people?

No, really, I honestly want to know.

Today, I actually left my house, and I went into town [which, as it turns out, was a horrible mistake – but I will get to that shortly]. There were a number of reasons for my decision to interact with the real world for a change;

  1. I woke up at 11am and didn’t feel tired – that’s weird, and momentous, so I wanted to do something with a bit more enthusiasm than normal
  2. I have been needing more plastic wallets and backing boards for my comics since at least August last year and only remembered today that I never actually picked them up
  3. I needed a new storage unit for my bathroom since the current one really sucks balls, has done since I bought it 3 years ago, but I have only now decided to do something about it.

And so, I set about my day with purpose. I had breakfast (which is also unusual) and freshly brewed coffee (which really isn’t), dragged some clothes on and got in my car – which still has frogspawn on the rear corner, but as far I am am concerned that shit is staying there until it gets rained off.

The sun was out and everything was going swimmingly; I was listening to the new While She Sleeps album on the drive in, and thoroughly enjoying myself. There is a carpark in town almost next door to the comic book shop, which is coincidentally free-to-park at weekends. I got to Close Encounters and the items I ordered last Summer where unsurprisingly no longer there. I left a new order and this time made sure they had my contact details, which would probably have helped last time, thinking about it…

I stepped out of the shop and into the sunshine. I briefly weighed up the idea of driving my car to Argos for the new bathroom unit, but I decided that was not only lazy, but also the main carpark I would need to leave my car in would be rammed – plus it charges for parking at the weekend. I made what seemed like the best choice at the time and embarked on the short walk across the town centre.

Almost immediately, it became apparent that I had made a massive error of judgement.

I followed a small dreadlocked blond dude who was wearing huge white Beats by Dre headphones, excessively loudly whistling what sounded like that bit from 5 6 7 8’s – Woo Hoo over…and over…and over…AND FUCKING OVER… all the way from the Racehorse pub to McDonalds on the Drapery.

If you're not familiar with Northampton, here's a map for reference.

If you’re not familiar with Northampton, here’s a map for reference.

That’s way longer than any song would be repeating what he was actually whistling, which tells me that he was simply being a dick.

Recently, in a desperate attempt to – literally – drive more traffic into the town centre, our local council in its infinite wisdom decided to de-pedestrianise a stretch of the main high street. It has been paved for at least the last 30 years that I have been conscious of, but has now been returned to being a road…which means all of the pedestrians are now jammed into a fraction of the space that there used to be. There is now nowhere to go to avoid the assholes and the pushchairs, or strollers as they are now marketed. Thanks, America.

I simply do not understand the pushchair thing. I’ve SEEN babies, and they are tiny. I have also had more than one woman insist that I hold one. Those things are definitely the same size as cats, and cats move around loads more, so there is no WAY that they need something the size of a Smart car to be transported around in. If your pushchair/stroller is bigger than a cat-carrier […granted, on wheels for ease of movement and also raised off the floor so you can fit all the shit-catchers and wipes underneath] then I’m sorry but you’re just attention-seeking.

What the fuck is this even?

Just stop it, OK?

Plus (and I am assuming this was because it’s Easter) I had to run a veritable gauntlet of different god franchisees, all waving leaflets promoting whichever brand of Theism they were invested in. There were bloody LOADS of them. I get that there will be a natural overspill around the Jesus Army Centre at the top of the high street because that’s where they burrow, but it’s almost like there were different parties out campaigning for a god-election. Honestly, this isn’t the USA people, calm the fuck down. The only positive takeaway was that they weren’t singing…

…they left that to a costumeless Mariachi band, who really hadn’t got a handle on what’s an acceptable volume for public spaces.

[the whole time, this was happening to the soundtrack of the Whistling Asshole, who I swear was playing a very deliberate game of “How Long Can I Do This Before Someone Elbows Me In The Back Of My Head?”]

Not even mentioning the sheer numbers of people on the streets (I will accept that I made a Bad Call about coming into town on a Bank Holiday Weekend), by the time I got to Argos to have a look at bathroom storage units, I am fairly sure that you could probably SEE the irritation like a corona around me. That, however, must have clearly just presented itself as a challenge; whilst I was stood browsing the interactive screen – as indicated by area A in the stock picture below – a couple came up and stood TOUCHING MY SHOULDER – as indicated by area B in the picture below – despite there being an unoccupied booth just next door.

Agros

As a side note, the touch-screen was slower to respond than a 56k dial-up connection.

After heroically not punching the people getting in my space, I went and queued for my stuff. While I was waiting, a member of staff behind the counter called an order number a few times, before asking if there was anyone waiting for some remote controlled cars. A man who was stood next to me, leaning against a post about 20 feet away from the counter, responded “Yeah, me.”

…AND THEN JUST STOOD THERE.

Go and fucking get it then asshole, what’s wrong with you??

Eventually, he got his stuff, and I got my stuff, and then I went to the fucking pub.

After a pint, I headed back to my car, and on the way I gave a couple of pounds to the old cat lady (who I swear has been collecting money in the same place since I was a kid) and then gave whatever I had left to the man selling the Big Issue a few doors up from her.

Conclusions;

  1. The town centre holds nothing that cannot be less painfully obtained elsewhere
  2. People going about their daily business are not people I want to be around
  3. Everyone else might be from SPACE
  4. Beer makes everything more tolerable