Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Monday, July 25, 2011

Today's Ramble

So I was sitting and idly reading through some of my old blog posts and I said - y'know, Jeff, you're a funny old bugger. Honestly, some of the stuff I write about! Goodness gracious! To say I am eclectic is to say that the Blue Whale is quite big. But it came upon me time and again that the funniest and arguably the best posts are usually the  free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness rambles that sort of start from nowhere and take on a life of their own. Sometimes I don't even have a clue what the heck I'm going to write about or even the point of it all until it's all over. But that, mes amis, is just the way I like it. It's the way I converse naturally, especially with family members, so why not? 

My girlfriend Laura has time and oft commented that listening to my sister and I have a conversation is one of the funniest things ever (or words to that effect). And I think it's probably to do with the fact that we have a shared experience (our childhood) and the fact that we like a lot of the same things and find a lot of the same stuff funny, so we have our own little references to things, like little in-jokes. But unlike ordinary in-jokes where the joke is kept private, part of the fun is in explaining the source of the joke to others, because it's usually a great story. I also have an active imagination and a liking for somewhat surreal humour. So add all those ingredients together and whaddya got? Lil' ole me.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, rambling. I was rambling about rambling. So let's cut the preamble and amble down a ramble, or the whole thing will be a bit of a shambles. Oh, and watch out for the brambles. 

I was thinking about this whole Amy Winehouse thing. It's the same old story, isn't it - troubled artist, addictive personality, prodigious talent, dead at 27. Many other no-talent hacks writers have remarked upon the fact that other tortured souls before her had died at the same age - Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison being the four well-known ones, but the "27 Club" as it became known contains other notables, and not just musicians either. Poet Rupert Brooke, dancer William Lane (aka "Master Juba") and Joseph Merrick the Elephant Man being other examples. More recent additions include Kurt Cobain and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff.  Others include blues legend Robert Johnson, Dave Alexander of The Stooges, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan of The Grateful Dead,  The Manic Street Preachers' Richey James Edwards (OK, that's a tricky one; he's only missing, presumed dead, and he was 27 when he went missing. However, the circumstances were freaky - his car was found abandoned and all signs point to him jumping off the Severn Bridge - but the band has kept paying royalties into his bank account for him should he ever turn up alive) and Echo & The Bunnymen drummer Pete DeFreitas. All 27. Every single one.

Reading a list like that, it kinda makes you glad to be older than 27, doesn't it? Dangerous age to be. Of course, the list is not confined to musicians and sideshow freaks. Andrew Cunanan, the guy that killed Gianni Versace, too. Steve Olin, baseball player. Pat Tillman, football player.  Andres Escobar, Colombian soccer star. Actor Jonathan Brandis. Henry Moseley, English physicist. Bobby Sands, IRA hunger striker. Jean-Michel Basquiat, for Pete's sake. All of them gone at 27. Blimey.

So what exactly is my point? I dunno. I cannot draw any definite conclusions from any of this. So why am I writing about it? Well, ya gotta write about something. You can't just leave your faithful public waiting and waiting, you have to get out there and publish, dammit. I wish I were more disciplined about my writing, but I have so many passions and likes and dislikes and other stuff whirring around this strange grey glob (well, I assume it's grey - it might be turquoise for all I know) inside my cranium, and so much other stuff to fit into my day that it's a wonder I can even walk and chew gum at the same time. In fact, it's a wonder any of us can. (In case you're wondering, yes, I can.) The whole Transition Town thing is becoming a major part of my life and I don't want to stop, because I need to get the group to a level where it can sustain itself without me at the helm. I love what I'm doing, and I want to follow through on what I started, because i truly believe we are making a difference. As the great  German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe once declared, "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. begin it now."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Look Of Success

So the news lately. Wow. Murdoch. Cameron. Amy Winehouse. Norway. Just kinda makes ya think, doesn't it? Doesn't it? Oh, it doesn't? Well, that's just you. It does me. It makes me think... what a bunch of idiots there are out there. I'm serious. I mean, yes, I am shocked about some of it, even taken aback, nay, stunned, but generally, just amazed at the sheer amount of people out there who are just arseholes.

Take politicians for example. Take them out and break their thumbs. I am serious. It seems that the overriding quality one has to have to be a successful or enduring politician is to be an utter cock. Talk crap, have the look of a guilty Airedale that has just pissed on your front doorstep, and be in cohoots with every shifty-eyed journo, dribbling lobbyist and corrupt banker you can lay your greasy mitts on. For an example, look at this guy...

This dude...

In fact, all this lot...

Even  this guy.

Would you trust any one of them to even sit on the toilet the right way round?

100 Records That Shook The World, #39

Music Of My Mind (LP)

Stevie Wonder

Music Of My Mind, Stevie's fourteenth LP, was released in March of 1972 when Stevie was just 21 years of age. It is only the second of his LPs where he had the majority of artistic control and one that showcases his early synthesiser work. Although not an LP that features many big hits (the exception being "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)") it is considered by many to be one of the most influential Soul/R&B albums of all time, and featured at number 284 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gotta Love That Red Tape

There have been a lot of days recently where I haven't written when I could have written, but I've been finding it hard to focus. You see, I have a lot going on in my life right now. I have taken it upon myself to start a grass roots movement in my town. It was a spark of an idea, a flash that came to me on the way to work one day when all these disparate elements melded in a blinding realisation and I finally knew what the hell it was I was put here to do. I'm not talking about a religious experience or even an orgasm. Just a clear moment when I realised that if nobody else was going to get up off their fat arse and do it, then i would have to be the one to get up off their arse. And now I have all these people joining me and we are actually getting some shit done. People of note are sitting up and taking notice. And of course, people are also calling me and complaining. Because try as one might, whatever you do in life, at least one person will take offence or be annoyed or something. But you know, it's like Abe Lincoln said, "You can't please all the people all the time, so tell them to sod off." Or something. He also said, as I recall, "Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes."

But grumpy people of one form or another are always likely to infest your life. And the problem is, grumpy people do not understand that by being grumpy, they'll make you grumpy. So then you'll vent to someone about how shit it is to be grumpy, and in doing so, you'll make them grumpy. In the end all you have is just one great big old grump-fest. Which sucks.

I try to start every day with an open mind and a positive attitude. Sooner or later, though, someone or something will mess it all up. It could be someone moaning and complaining about something at home, in the street, in the shop, at work, or wherever, or it could come in the form of a letter from the Dept. of Work and Pensions. The DWP. What a bunch of bureaucratic bumholes. Let me tell you a story.

I applied on June 14th for Job Seeker's Allowance. I used the 'online application' method, because this was supposedly 'faster'. I received a phone call 2 days later telling me that if I could come in for an interview on the 20th, that would be great, oh and could I bring with me my birth certificate, driving licence, all the payslips I had ever had, my CV, and since I was living with a single mum with 4 kids, could I please bring all of her stuff too, plus about 15 pieces of mail, her ID and the fingernails and DNA samples of all the people she had ever come into contact with if it wouldn't be too much trouble thank you kindly.

And of course, I accepted this.

I duly went in with about 4 mailsacks full of info to prove

  • who I was
  • who she was
  • who her kids were
  • where we lived
  • my bank info
  • her bank info
  • the length of my wedding tackle
  • how much benefit we were both receiving and why
  • the names and breeds of all the pets we had ever owned
  • and above all, what it was that had caused me to even BE unemployed anyway.
Generally speaking the people I came into contact with at the Job Centre (well, it used to be called the Job Centre back in the grim grey days of the 80s when I was fresh out of school - nowadays it's called JobCentrePlus! because it's hip and happening and now and fresh and they're all down wiv ver kids lingo and all dat shizzo. Aight?) were quite nice and friendly. They were all very understanding and I was assured that once they had processed all the information that we'd supplied on the convoluted forms in which they needed to know the ins and outs of a monkey's arsehole, a decision would be made about precisely which benefit (and how much) I would be entitled to. In the meantime I had to keep coming in and signing on in good faith that eventually they would get their fingers out.

Time went by.

After a few days my girlfriend started to get a little concerned about the fact that we hadn't yet heard a word from the powers that be. I assured her that this was perfectly normal, I'd done this last year and it usually takes a while for them to notify you by mail.

Time went by. I signed on again. I said, "I say, chaps. I haven't been informed about my rate of benefit?" to which I was told, "All in good time, sir. All in good time. Fret not."

More time passed. Now we were getting seriously peeved. I called them and after waiting for ages with Vivaldi on a loop I was transferred from pillar to post and even though everyone I spoke to was nice and polite, not one of them could see on their computer screens what the holdup was, though all concurred that yes, this was taking a long time, and normally an application is processed within 11 working days. They did say, though, that the processing centre for the Kent region had been moved from Ramsgate (in Kent), to Stratford, in Greater London, and that that may have something to do with the delay.

Cut to July 7th. I went in to sign on. Again. The very nice lady whose desk I sat at was having an awful day. The printers were against her. Nothing was working right, and of course SHE didn't know why I had no idea how much benefit I was going to get, or when, or even IF I was going to get it.

On the Friday I called again, and finally they said, well, we see here that a payment is being put through to your bank, covering from the 17th of June (apparently the first three days of a claim are not counted as they are what is termed waiting days) to the 7th of July. Finally. However, this was on Friday, and the money did not show up in my bank till Monday morning. 

The next day, Tuesday the 12th, I got what I had been waiting for - a letter from DWP saying how much I was entitled to per week. Great.

Today, Saturday the 16th, I get a letter saying that they will not be able to pay me JSA from the 17th June 2011 because I am receiving Tax Credit. They knew I was getting Tax credit, because that was on one or two or a half dozen of the multiple forms I had supplied them with at the outset. It had just taken this long for a flunkey to notice it. This is basically saying, "We paid you but we made a mistake. Can we have it back please?"

Sorry. No can do. Spent it.

So am I grumpy? Hell no. It's probably only a matter of time before they write to me again, saying, "Sorry, we made a mistake. We can pay you now." By which time I will have a job anyway. Me? I'm as happy as a pig in poo.

So - what's next?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

100 Records That Shook the World, #40

There's a Riot Goin' On (LP)

Sly and The Family Stone

After their first four albums and their amazing performance at Woodstock, Sly and the Family Stone, could, it seemed, do no wrong. However, they moved to LA, got involved with drugs and the Black Panthers, and Sly wanted to record songs that embodied the spirit of the time. It was the end of the Sixties and a lot of terrible things were happening what with the Vietnam War and political asassinations. Epic Records were anxious for Sly to release more product, following the critical and commercial success of 1969's Stand!, but after an 18-month period during which their only release was the single Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),  Sly himself drove over to the record company with the masters for Riot,  much to Epic's relief.

The album, which contained the hit single Family Affair,  had a darker, more foreboding, depressing tone, and extensive overdubbing produced a 'swampy' feel to the whole shebang. It has been called one of the most influential albums of its time, and along with Marvin Gaye's What's Going On it captures the feel of that whole time perfectly. In 2003 Rolling Stone placed it at #99 on their 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.


100 Records That Shook The World, #41

Theme From "Shaft"

Isaac Hayes

For the second time the deep-voiced singer-songwriter who was Stax' saving grace after they lost their entire back catalogue to Atlantic Records in 1968 makes the list. He'd saved their butt in '68 with Hot Buttered Soul in which he redefined soul music and singlehandedly invented the slow jam; and now he was doing it again in 1971 with the defining moment in blaxploitation soundtracks. No further discussion necessary - just crank the speakers up and enjoy.

Musical Puzzler: Sting

Alright folks, it's been long enough. I need to stop fannying around and get my arse in gear. Actually, no, I have been rather busy with other projects of late and I simply have been too tired mentally and physically to find anything to write about. So, we need to get back up to speed. And the first order of business is The Musical Puzzler. I left you last time with what I thought was a fairly easy question to answer. After all, I asked who portrayed 'Ace' in the Who film Quadrophenia. A classic film, and one that anyone with a knowledge of Google would be able to look up. The answer, of course, was one Gordon Sumner, otherwise known the world over as Sting. And no, not Sting from WWE, Sting from The Police! Sting from... well, Sting. Now, I am sure that most people with a knowledge of who Sting is will recall that he was named Sting because when he was a young up and coming musician playing in the working men's clubs in the North of England, he was rather fond of a black-and-yellow striped sweater which earned him the nickname. So that is not the next question. The next question is...

What is the link between The Police and Wall Of Voodoo?

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