January, 2001

I Know, I Know! Too Much Me

January 25th, 2001 January 25th, 2001
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I had a little whine, I had a little cheese. I put on my hair shirt and I walked to the shops on crutches, not because I’m lame but because I was feeling lame. The shops had sold out of everything I wanted but I bought some essence of crab and some sour grape juice anyway for a little retail therapy. Spending money somehow makes me feel better about myself.

I hobbled round to a friend’s house on the way back and knocked on the door. I knew they weren’t expecting me as I’d seen them already this week but I saw the curtain twitch and could see they were in. They saw I saw and Eesaw, my friend, opened the door and let me in. I handed Eesaw the sour grape juice and Eesaw responded with a rictus show of teeth.

We sat in the kitchen drinking bitter herbs and Eesaw smiled a little and nodded at my comments about life, the universe and everything. Eesaw looked down from the loudly ticking clock and smiled a little more upon seeing me put salt instead of sugar into my hemlock-flavored brew. The kitchen was a little chilly so I had to rub my hair shirt to keep warm and this was not pleasant. Eesaw put a coat on and I took this as a sign that it might be time to go.

Two hours later, as I was leaving I noticed Eesaw had been doing some more sculpting in wax. Sure enough, there was a little figurine of myself which Eesaw had been using as a pincushion. I was touched by this and by the attention to detail, especially the hair which Eesaw had tweaked from me one strand at a time only yesterday. I was even more touched by Eesaw’s gift as I left the house. It’s not many friends will think to give you a plank to whack yourself about the head for the journey home!

Quick Fixes All Round

January 13th, 2001 January 13th, 2001
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I saw 28Days this week which is a navel-gazing film amounting to far less than it clearly could and which is therefore a disappointment. It stars Sandra Bullock as an alcoholic who goes into rehab for four weeks, hence the clever title. It seems to have suffered from art by committee syndrome and is basically Hollywood paddling in the shallow end of the ‘coming to terms with addiction’ pool.

The only line that really stuck out, to my mind, was something about how addictive personalities are people who get caught up searching for a quick fix solution to life’s problems. And the more I think about it, the more I think that actually applies to nearly everyone in the modern western hi-tech consumer-oriented world. We’re sold on the idea of a quick fix by television, comic books, newspapers and those short catchy pop tunes all of which are geared to filling you up for three minutes and leave you feeling unsatisfied. Set meal for one, two and keep the change.

We’re living in the age of flavor enhancers and artificial colors and, although it’s not hard to find something that isn’t chock full of monosodiumglutamate, those things are swamped by the pretty pretty snacky snacky things.

An example. I’ve been seeing the name Yo Yo Ma pop up on various internet discussions this week. That’s an odd sort of coincidence or maybe he’s just in the public consciousness at the moment because a friend was telling me about him just before that happened. Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a great classical music buff but I like to try things and music is always such a wonderful thing generally, I thought this would be good – start listening to someone who is regarded as the best cellist in the world.

So yesterday I went on the hunt for Yo Yo Ma in the town where I live. Five record shops. Shouldn’t be a problem. Should it? Well, yes it is. Two of those shops are owned by the same chain and have, err, stuff all in the way of a classical selection. The Queen Mother’s Birthday Favorites, Nigel Kennedy and music to watch commercials by hardly qualifies as a selection. The third is Woolworths, which had Niel Young and a lot of empty cases in the Y section. Fourth was HMV which was slightly better but not really.

I went into the self-styled jazz and classical specialist, a tiny store with four racks. And that was four racks of very very little. The poor sales assistant was having trouble explaining to someone with hearing difficulties (irony?) that they needed to clean their CD to stop it skipping. I left empty handed and will search in the big major got-everything store in central London today. Thank goodness for London!

This also reminds me of Robbie Williams standing up at the Brit Awards a couple of years ago and saying something like, “I’m amazed that I get an award for something I find so easy to do.” Duh. That’s because pop music is mass-produced rhythms and a lot of big marketing budgets, methinks. A triumph of form over substance and technically clever but not really deep is it? Or am I just being cynical? Is great art or great music really just a five minute wonder with a short shelf life?

Okay I buy it because I enjoy it too. I’m a victim of quickfix MSG culture and I want it want it want it. And why not? I’m certainly not knocking Robbie Williams, who clearly does have talent. But I’m also an adult now and I don’t want to eat candy all the time, so why is the nourishment being undersold? Is it just cheaper to market chod or is marketing a big con trick anyway run by MSG junkies? Answers on a postcard and never mind the cost of the stamp.

January Blues

January 6th, 2001 January 6th, 2001
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This kind of happens to a few of my friends the first week of each new year. They party to excess over the holiday season, drink too much, dance all night, get up and try to work too. All the money gets spent and they have that alcohol ‘come down’ which everyone gets but usually only gets acknowledged physically rather than emotionally.

You do know alcohol’s a depressant doncha? It lowers our psychological barriers, our inbuilt resistance to doing stuff. That’s one of the reasons why it’s fun. You can be more yourself than you are regularly. But afterwards, there’s usually a price to pay. The next day there might be physical symptoms and it can knock the immune system out of the ballpark too. Look around you at all the flu that’s going around. Coincidence?

That’s not all. There’s also an emotional come down. While my buddies are feeling physically drained, they’re also getting emotionally down. I know this won’t last but it happens and it’s worth realising that it does. Then it’s not so much of a shock. Play some Howlin Wolf and get into it. Detox, exercise, keep to your regular patterns. Ignore people who write in slogans. Ha! Caught you there.

Physically run down. Emotionally under the weather. Cold. Fluey. No money left after the excess of Christmas. There’s only one thing left for my poor friends to do. Go out and buy themselves hair shirts in the January sales.

Well, it made me smile.

So that was last week. Now everyone is little more detoxed and it’s time to get off the sofa. Play some music. Pick that guitar up and start thinking about a holiday in the sun…