November 2008

Well, maybe not wonders.

I was a member of a writers’ group called Wee Worders, where the remit was to write very, very short stories to various prompts. And much fun was had by all.

My very first effort was something called Marshmallows, which tipped the scales at a hefty 150 hefty words. So roughly twice as long as this post.

I’ve heard this morning that Fiction At Work have accepted it and it’ll appear in a future issue. Yay!

More details as and when.

Stitch that

Stitch that

In a freak dishwashing accident, I slashed my hand with a glass tumbler last night. That’s a photee of it ->

It didn’t look great when it happened or when blood was splashing off the kitchen floor. It didn’t look that good when I was clutching a bloodied tea towel to it while I waited for my brother in law to take me to casualty. Then nurse Debbie at Stirling Infirmary was good enough to clean it up and fasten some paper twist-sticks to it and for a moment, it looked alright. Some seepage later, and it looks a bit tinky. God knows what it’ll look like four days from now when I can finally unpeel it.

So maybe it’s the loss of blood or the fact that my right hand is looking a bit trailer-trash. Either way, I was right in the mood to have a sneaky listen to the new Britney Spears album — Circus.

And I have to say, it’s a super pop record.

It starts brightly with the Womanizer single that flirts between catchy and downright repetative but comes to rest in the former camp.

And you could be forgiven that this was the level the whole record would be pitched at, and if that had been the case, I wouldn’t have been complaining too much. After all, Britney excels at the bubblegum, throwaway end of the market.

Next up, though, is the title-track. There’s only two types of people in the world, Britney sings. The ones that entertain, and the ones that observe. Well baby I’m a put-on-a-show kinda girl. Understatement of the year, perhaps, but it shows a certain self-awareness that perhaps lends itself to a more sophisticated record.

Thematically, there are circus / carnival influences and the lyrics — while I doubt they came within sniffing distance of Ms Spears’s biro — serve as almost a catalogue of her ups and downs over the past months and years. So there are attacks on the paps (Kill The Lights), melancholy bairn appreciation (My Baby) but most interestingly, a journey into the detached state of mind belonging to someone with everything in the world except something to lose (Shattered Glass, Blur, and the best track on the album, If U Seek Amy).

Which brings me to that pick of the bunch. There’s a play on words hidden — maybe not hidden … maybe covered with a few leaves — in this song and once you hear it, you can’t not hear it. All of the boys and all of the girls are beggin to if u seek Amy, she sings.

All in all, she makes a good point.

I have three heroes: Stephen Fry, Bret Easton Ellis and Glen Phillips. While I’m waiting for a new epsiode of QI or the anticipated follow-up to Less Than Zero, here’s Mr P’s new project, Plover, which deserves to be big but won’t.

Sorry about that last one.

If there’s anything that reminds me of my own mortality it’s the fact that Appetite For Destruction was released in 1987. Twenty-one years ago. It’s probably the album I’ve listened to most, although seeing as it predated the iPod and its handy count function, you’ll have to take my word for it.

In 1991, Guns N Roses released the Use Your Illusion double header that was, at best, iffy. Some great, some shite.  Critics and fans agreed that there was probably one great album hidden amongst its over-indulgence and repetition.

So now, in 2008, some seventeen years later, we have new Guns N Roses material. To illustrate the magnitude of this event, seventeen years before 1991 (ie, 1974) we were in the realms of The Joker, Seasons In The Sun, Band On The Run, Cat’s in The Cradle and … would you believe … Kung Fu Fighting.

The long and short of it is, the record is a strong 8 out of 10. It’s not brilliant. It’s not flawless. The world is not going to embrace it in the same way it did with Brothers In Arms or Thriller or, even, Appetite For Destruction.

And stalwart fans of AfD who never bought into UYI 1 & 2 may have a bit of a problem with CD. There are elements of Nine Inch Nails in there. There’s synth work and prog influences. With an open mind, though, it’s relevant and timely and just how a hard rock album presents itself toward the end of the first decade of the 21st Century.

It’s mostly good but in places it’s very good. The title track, IRS, Better and There Was A Time are all highlights and there are a few others — Prostitute, Catcher In The Rye — that may grow in time to become exceptional. It’s never less than interesting.

Today, though, I listened to all 76 GnR songs from Appetite For Destruction up to Chinese Democracy. The former is unbeatable. Maybe the point is not to try.

The bottom line, though, is if Sebastian Bach is to be believe, this is the first in a trilogy of new material. I’ve already started the stopwatch. Axl — you’ve got 17 years to beat.


I’ve been a fan of Death Cab For Cutie for a while. If you haven’t heard of them, you should check them out because I guarantee that you can’t take a guess at their sound or their genre in the same way you could for, say, Cannibal Corpse. You might be pleasantly surprised.

They didn’t tour Scotland for their last album, Plans, or if they did, I missed it. They are, however, touring the UK with their new album, Narrow Stairs, which is my outright favourite record of 2008. Last night took them to Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange and me and Stoobs went along to check it out.


Youngsters, yesterday

Probably for the first time at a gig, Stoobs and I felt old. Two mid-thirties guys standing in a room full of students. Imagine a few hundred people in checked shirts, skinny jeans that hang of the arse (arse optional) with the gusset round about the knee. Imagine boys with PlayMobil hairdo’s and thick glasses that obviously don’t have a prescription. Imagine short girls with grey make-up and sullen expressions. Then imagine me in a Misfits t-shirt and Stoobs in an ensemble entirely put together by John Rocha. It was interesting from a people watching point of view and we spotted a Mika lookalike along with a guy who we strongly suspected had turned up to exchange some corn.

The concert itself was excellent and Stoobs, who really only likes AC/DC and variations thereof, also managed to enjoy himself and the kids created a good atmosphere in a venue that can sometimes be lacking in that department.

Only downside, for a band with six albums of material to choose from, a main set that lasts only an hour seems a bit tight. Apologies if the encore went on for another hour, but we’d already left so we’d miss the traffic exiting the venue. Dear God, I really am getting old. I mean, I guess I’d prefer to hear an hour of excellent material (which is what we got) rather than have an extra half hour of mediocrity punctuating the set, but there were some other great songs that they missed out.

Never mind. Another one ticked off the list.

Oh, and special mention to the guy in front of us who shouted at the end of a most songs, “‘MON THE DEATH CAB!!”

Quality shout.

I kinda wish that this had turned out to be a bit harder. But it didn’t.

That’s me done. I’ve finished.

It actually turned out to be 22,000 words in 11 days but I’m still happy that the overall word count is within 1,000 words of where I planned it to be. Happier still that I somehow managed to write 9,000 words today and some of them I’ve very happy with indeed.

So that’s it. The plan is now to stick it in a virtual drawer and forget about it until the New Year, at which point the rewrite begins.

But actually, before I do that, I’m going to get Lulu to make up a few copies. First of all, I find it easier spotting mistakes on paper but second, I want to give a copy to the people who’ve been kind enough to read the story as I’ve been writing and who have offered encouragement and support along the way.

I’m nice like that.

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