Something for the Weakened

Archive for 2010


December 18th, 2010 by Alastair

I’ve recently found myself replacing my frequent vocal curses with titles of George Formby songs. It’s oddly soothing to say “Oh, Mister Woo,” when something has just gone to cock. Try it. I dare you.

For Your Consideration Eleven – Nepotist’s Special!

December 12th, 2010 by Alastair

If you’re uncertain what these are, use the search function. One of the other ten will tell you what’s going on and might just introduce you to some music you might enjoy. Stranger things have happened. I imagine. Here’s the selection this time around -

Frags – Depth of Everything

Let’s start out by putting the nepotistic aspects of this choice straight on the table shall we. The artist known as Frags is the designer of this very website and, probably more importantly, my brother. The nickname stems from our Father’s conviction that due to his diminished size at a young age and his slightly felty appearance, that he very much resembled a Fraggle. He wasn’t a dwarf or anything, just shorter than the rest of the family (I still lay claim to being the tallest man in the world, despite many people trying to prove me wrong with petty things like ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’). I’m also uncertain about which Fraggle our Father was referring to, but due to our both having blonde hair at that age I would guess Wembley. Over the years, friends of his and mine would refer to him as Fraggle, though this was slowly shortened and corrupted to the Frags that people still often refer to him as today.

To remove some of the nepotism cards from this delightful table I have here, I must point out that he has never as far as I can recall pointed me toward the site on which he hosts his own compositions, nor does he know that I’ve found it (I certainly haven’t told him) or listened to anything there. I discovered the existence of said site only yesterday and this was only by accident. Having recently inherited an aged Mac from him (no matter how aged, still more up to date than my previous PC), I found that he hadn’t deleted the favourites from Firefox, so spent a few minutes going through them to see if there was anything worth investigating. His own work was one of the more intriguing things I stumbled upon. We’re not so estranged that I had no idea that he was recording music of his own – he’s passed me CDs of his work in the past and I’ve heard his abilities as a DJ improve exponentially over the past decade and a half, since I first heard his muffled attempts at mixing through our adjoining bedroom wall. But I was unaware that he had created anything new recently and this can only have been done in the past twelve months. And I’ll tell you for why.

The track in question is effectively a remix of the song In Swollen Silence by Nurse With Wound, from the album Soundpooling. I know my brother to be a fairly voracious consumer of music, but feel fairly confident in stating that he doesn’t have a vast quantity of the recorded output of Steven Stapleton. I, on the other hand, have a small selection of his thirty year long discography. I’m also particularly fond of that particular song, to the extent that I included it as one of my selections when I appeared on the Eclectronimentica podcast. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I say to you, that with that evidence at our fingertips, it is only possible to conclude that the artist known to the world as Frags downloaded said podcast, ripped said song from it’s centre and reinterpreted it with, oh, I dunno, Ableton or summat. Which I find sort of flattering in some strange way. It’s almost certainly not a tribute to my outstanding musical tastes (no, I am the arbiter), but I’m going to take it as such anyway.

Remixing anything by NWW is a peculiar prospect I would imagine. The dadaist nature of much of their (well, his, it is mainly Stapleton’s vision) output, the fact that its rare for there to be much in the way of beats, especially not regular ones, and the odd moments of sinister tunefulness probably actually makes them easier to sample than many artists. What Frags seems to have mainly concentrated on are the parts of the song containing vocals (swathes of it are instrumental), adding the beats, keyboard swathes and the odd squelch here and there. Some of the original has been processed slightly too, a little reverb here, a little process that I don’t know the name of there. The major difference between this and the original is the absence of the terrifying sound of god belching that appears half way through with no forewarning (and again at the end with a slightly sad inevitability). That’s probably my favourite part of the original for reasons that can be heard at the end of the aforementioned podcast, so I won’t blather on about that again here. Shame that it isn’t included, but it probably wouldn’t have worked in the context of a piece of down tempo drum and bass.

I’ve yet to finish listening to all the songs on the site yet, but would encourage you to give them ago, some of them are rather fun. Haven’t got to the DJ mix at the bottom yet, but am quite looking forward to it. Bet it’s got the Wombles in it. He always uses the bloody Wombles. That said, the world must at least be grateful that he didn’t try sampling any of my inane droning from my podcast appearance. Though there is still the terrifying prospect that he might have the only recording in existence of me doing the paper review on early morning BBC local radio. Brrr.

Drinker. Pinter. Milk.

December 4th, 2010 by Alastair


ME. So was there a fire?

HER. I’m sorry?

ME. The burns.

HER. What are you talking about?

ME. The burns on your face.

HER. There aren’t any burns on my face.

ME. Oh. (pause) Um. Another drink?

HER. No, I don’t think so.

Exit HER to the sound of a decreasing mute trumpet scale.

Idle Thought

November 28th, 2010 by Alastair

It’d never really occurred to me until today, but had anyone else noticed that Ray Davies never really wrote choruses? Sure, there are repeated refrains and motifs, but not anything you could really call a chorus in most of the Kinks’ early hits. I’ve not been listening to the albums or anything, not recently anyway, so I’m not saying that he never wrote any, but having had a quick skim through the well known classics released in the sixties, none of them seem to have a chorus. Except maybe David Watts. And that wasn’t a hit.


Not Writing, Not Writing, Not Writing – Day 16

November 22nd, 2010 by Alastair

So as the few of you who read this and don’t speak to me on a regular basis may have surmised, the writing project didn’t really work out. The Friday following the previous entry produced no material and ended with my stumbling home in the early hours of Saturday morning in an inebriated state. That Saturday’s hangover lasted most of the day, during which time I managed maybe two hundred words. The Sunday involved my going out for most of the afternoon and early evening and by the time I returned home, it became clear that I was not going to catch up with the six thousand words I was short and I decided to put the whole thing to death. Which is a bit of a shame, though it has put both it and me out of our respective miseries.

There were a few things within what I wrote that I was reasonably happy with, but it was becoming more than a bit of a slog. The fact that the characters were so bloody nice was one of my problems. I’m a lot happier writing flawed, mildly unpleasant characters and the corner I’d written myself into meant that I would have to keep up this insipid level of loveliness for at least half of the length of the month (that was where the twist would come and would have made things more interesting for me). The corner itself was the fact that I’d started with about four lines of dialogue set in ‘the present’ and had moved into an extended explanatory flashback for the rest of what I had written. After almost four thousand words of this, I still couldn’t see a way to wind things back round to the ‘present day’ without some sort of horribly crowbarred linking of themes. Which I’d have found disappointing.

A fair amount of what I’d put down was clumsy and poorly thought out too, which contributed to my disillusionment. There are a fair few lists of events masquerading as plot and some points where the narrator seems to be developing a personality, which was to be something I’d planned to expand upon, but really don’t come across well at all. Much of this is of course down to the fact that the whole endeavour was very poorly thought out, when it was thought out at all. Should I have another go at something like this again I’m going to have to at least figure out a loose outline of where I’m going, otherwise I’m just going to fall into this trap again (it being the self same trap I fell into last year).

Since this admittance of failure, I’ve fallen into a bit of a slump. This glumness first manifested itself in my purchasing a digi-box for the telly. This was mainly down to my desire to watch the adaptation of Kirkman, Moore and Adlard’s The Walking Dead. This was curtailed somewhat by my discovery that although the FX channel is free to view over here, it’s not actually available through freeview boxes, only cable or sattelite. Which was frustrating. I’ve also been unable to catch up on The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margret or Getting On due to my housemates insistence on watching Match of the Day. Sigh. I have however discovered that the box has got Tetris hardwired into it. Which I have been playing. A lot.


Really a lot.

I’m beginning to worry that I might have a problem.

Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but I did lose almost an entire day to it last week and still find myself sat in front of it for hours at a time. It’s a wonder that I haven’t worn out the batteries in the remote yet.

Anyway, I seem to be over the worst of my gloominess and am now facing the start of a week away from employment – of my own volition, it’s not been imposed on me for psychological reasons, honest. Anyone in the Lahnden area Wednesday or Thursday who wants to hook up, do give me a shout as I shall be wandering the streets with scant agenda. Another thing that cheered me up was the discovery of this -

It came to my attention while indulging in one of my regular searches for the League Against Tedium Radio One show (thirteen years since it was broadcast there’s still so little evidence of it online, but there’s enough to prove that it was out there once and someone out there somewhere still has it, grrr). I’d heard of it’s existence some time ago, but had never seen it until last night. A lot of the material is standard Munnery and a fair few lines are ones that I’ve heard him use in the last couple of years. Some of the sketches went on to appear in Attention Scum and the bit with Roger Mann telling a ghostly story was later resurrected on Fist of Fun and Lee & Herring’s Radio One shows, only with The Actor Kevin Eldon playing the part as ‘Roger Mann, Britain’s Scariest Man’. The Actor’s piece as his long time character Paul Hamilton I can’t imagine having cropped up anywhere else, except maybe a one off thing he did in the guise of Hamilton (Comedy Lab or 4Later? I can’t remember). It’s worth it for that if nothing else.

Right. More soon. I imagine.

Writing, writing, writing – Day Four

November 5th, 2010 by Alastair

Not as successful today as I’d hoped, but a reasonable amount produced. Failed to produce anything during work hours – do my superiors read this nonsense and specifically set tasks for me? Wouldn’t put it past them, the hideous cunts. Tried to start early in the evening, but was easily distracted. Why have broadcasters suddenly started putting on television programmes I might want to watch. Damn you, Autumn schedules. Thank Christ I don’t have digital or a computer capable of showing me iPlayer. Spent much of the evening dabbing blood from my lip, after I managed to cut it on the softest baguette you could imagine. Made some pleasing discoveries about the story – now definitely know how the shop works and what it sells. Also pleased to be using a character named Marigold Zapatista. Am now just over four thousand words – about two and a half thousand short of where I ought to be, which isn’t all that bad. Should make it up over the weekend (and I’m doing nothing if I’m not spending my time just ‘making it up’). Tomorrow night is Friday night though, so how strong will my resolve to create and not get hammered be? Tune in later to find out all the dullard’s details!

Writing, writing, writing – Day Three

November 3rd, 2010 by Alastair

Failed to find as much skiving time at work and thereby failed to get as much written as hoped. Still, managed to knock out another thousand words in the past hour, putting me just shy of two and a half thousand. About two thousand short of where I should be. Ah well, tomorrow should be easier. Now, to the pub!

Writing, writing, writing – Day Two

November 2nd, 2010 by Alastair

Not a great day. Discovered that the web Nazis at work are still claiming Google Doc’s is a download site and thereby blocking access to it. Will now have to save each draft three times, if I want to get work done away from home. Spent a pint’s time contemplating where things might be going, with some mildly pleasing results. May have to change some characters names though. Didn’t attempt any writing until gone ten, by which time the cold properly had me in it’s thrall. Forty-five minutes later I’ve still not managed to kick start my brain into anything resembling a useful creative entity, so am going to give it a rest today. Should have some skiving time at work, so will hopefully get some words down during the day. Might have to skip the Wednesday quiz to get on top of things, but we shall see how it all goes. Must go dribble mucus in a corner now. Bye.

Writing, writing, writing – Day One

November 2nd, 2010 by Alastair

To those of you coming to the game late, I am attempting the feat of writing a 50,000 word novella in the space of November. It’s not just me, loads of people are doing it – see! I’m afraid that (hopefully) the next month will mainly see posts like this detailing my whinges about my own lack of talent, how far I’m behind on schedule and the agony that I find writing to be at times. Unless I give up on it like I did last year. Then it’ll be about my unsuccessful attempts to grow a moustache. Anyway, that’s the last time I’m explaining it this month, I shall now bore you with details of the first day’s typing.

Bit of a slow start. Had got slightly behind on message board lurking, so frittered away an hour on that before finally starting on the work at hand. Then ended up breaking again for another half hour to watch that new Coogan/Brydon thing (I rather enjoyed it – not hilarious but chuckles to be had, can’t wait to read what my subconscious has to say about it). In between those interruptions, smoking far too heavily (always happens when I’m writing), occasional games on the LCD sudoku (since I deleted all games from this computer following last year’s Spider Solitaire farrago, I fear that this might be this year’s vice – might have to hide the batteries from myself) and a complete lack of plot or characters, I still managed to get just shy of fifteen hundred words down, about a hundred off target. Which is a reasonable start I suppose.

Things I can tell you about the story so far – it’s currently centred around and elderly couple who run a shop that sells…um, something. They have ran it together for thirty years. One of them’s just received a suit of armour in the post. Number of characters called Gladys – one. Number of characters called Brian – two. Total number of characters seen – three (probably). Mentions of soup – one. Not entirely sure where exactly I’m going yet. There are some plots beginning to form, but exactly where they’ll lead I’m not certain. Might just concentrate on these two, but imagine I’ll be wanting to play with some new toys in a couple of days so I can do me some dovetailing, but we’ll see. More tedious waffling tomorrow (unless this cold I appear to be developing breaks badly…).

Last Year’s Failure Part Four

October 31st, 2010 by Alastair

Part One will explain what’s going on. It’s only three parts down, so take a look if you’ve no idea what’s going on. In this concluding part we have three openings to scenes I never finished. The first introduces yet another narrative to the proceedings. Let’s have a look.

Milk Fangs was doing surprisingly well in the book trade. Dwight was quite happy with the concept. It was high enough that a couple of publishing houses had been interested in it and had even started a minor bidding war. Not that he was rolling in cash, but with the deal for an inevitable trilogy slapped down in front of him by the war’s victors, he found that he would be comfortably well off for a couple of years at least. Now with the book actually in print and proving to be fairly popular with the Young Adults (a term he hated, but one he was prepared to live with), it looked as if it was only a matter of time before someone from Hollywood came a knocking with a wheelbarrow full of money and a commercey glint in their eyes.

The concept that he was so proud of was thus; out of desperation, a vampire bites a child of six in the 1930s. Before said vampire can suck the youngster dry, it is staked by an errant vampire hunter, who is also killed in far too complicated a manner to go into here, leaving the youth to fend for itself. The girl, now being vampiristic herself, is forced to go out into the world and fend for herself as best she can. Of course, she is now unable to physically age, but still continues to learn and increase in her mental powers as a normal person who only stalks the streets between dawn and dusk would. Hence the milk fangs of the title – due to her age when bitten, every time her teeth grow to pierce the neck of some unsuspecting victim, they fall out, making feeding a rather tricky prospect at times (often with hilarious consequences). All is not lost though, as being her diminutive size and appetite, she doesn’t need that much blood to survive. Plus her regenerative powers mean that the teeth have always grown back by the following night.

Dwight knew the idea wasn’t the most original in the world. He’d not actually read any Anne Rice, nor was he particularly au fais with Scandinavian cinema. He wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about any of the horror genre really. His antecedents didn’t matter to him. He was producing something he considered to be new and , thankfully, he was getting enough people to read it who were either unaware of those past works or appreciated his stuff for its own merits. The fact that he was writing was all that really mattered.

It was far from being the first thing he’d had published. He’d worked on the college newspaper, rag mags in university, done articles for magazines on any subject they’d asked for – anything from interior design to serial killers life stories. It wasn’t even his first book published. A dry, sub academic history of a long closed steel mine near the town of his birth had been the first. He had managed to have two works of fiction printed. One was a particularly unerotic novella for a publisher of slightly racier than usual Mills and Boone, who were contractually forced to publish but requested he send them no further manuscripts. The other, a romance between eighteenth century mercantile families. This was his proudest achievement. It sold very poorly.

And that’s as far as I got with that one. No real idea as to where it would have gone from there either. The name Milk Fangs stemmed from the same conversation that produced the cycle of horror creatures described in Part One and is an idea that mildly amused me. It was as I wrote those few paragraphs that it occurred to me that there were child vampires in both Interview With The Vampire and Let The Right One In, hence the get out clause sentences. The published novelist thing probably stems from a friend of mine having just had their first novel published around that time. I’ve always found the name Dwight slightly amusing, ever since I learnt to read the credits for The A Team. Next we return to Walt’s friend from the cinema. What do you think he’s got to say for himself?

I’d known Walt since I was twelve. His folks had moved into town from some other southern provincial hell hole that couldn’t have been more than forty five minutes drive away, but no one would ever have the desire to willingly visit. He was forced into my form group at school, with the rest of my plebeian associates. To say that we bonded from the start would be a lie. Trying to fit in at a new school can’t be an easy thing and I thank all the Gods in their respective heavens that I never had to do it myself. Trying to break into already existing cliques, being examined then judged by a thousand new sweaty spotty faces and being branded ‘the new kid’ until the next poor unfortunate turned up must be some kind of unspeakable torture. Quite why parents find it acceptable to do this to their precious darlings will never cease to amaze me. But this was what Walt had to deal with at that tender pubescent age. Frustratingly to me, he dealt with it incredibly well.

I was far from being one of the cool kids back then. I’d like to argue that such things no longer apply to a man of my age, but I still have that nagging doubt that everybody in the world is considerably more well liked than I am. I’m sure that most people have moments of self doubt along those lines at one time or another. My moments are different to theirs, in that I know that I’m right. Not that I’d consider myself despised by many people, or even disliked by that many. Simply that I know the hopeless emptiness of my own condition and, having spoken to a number of people in my days upon this planet, I can rest safe in my assumption that they are doing more interesting things, having more fun, earning more money, sleeping with more people and generally doing better than I ever have or am likely to do. I had that suspicion back then too, though I had more reason to, to some degree.

I was not an athletic child, as you may have surmised. Nor was I particularly academic. I was far from stupid, if I do say so myself, but my grades were never what you would call stellar. A middling student at best, back then. On the other hand, I didn’t really fir in with the geekish set either. I had no desire to join the chess club, would only spend my lunch hours in the library if it was raining, had the briefest dalliance with role playing games that I soon saw for the futile tasks that they are. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends; there were kids who I would play with in and out of school. Just that they were more associates than actual, proper chums. I suppose I was an outsider. There was no inside that I really found myself comfortable in.

Walt was the polar opposite. He was fairly appalling at any sport he tried to turn his hand to, but he would try and play any that anyone invited him to join in. Gangly limbs flailing as he attempted to hit, kick or bat a ball, his attempts at coordination were laughable and, on most occasions, laughed at. But still he would keep having a go, no matter how badly he was causing his team to lose, no matter how much of a tit he made himself look. Every time his body failed him or his elbow accidentally found itself thrusting into someone’s nose, he’d grin his half witted grin and get stuck back into the action. The popular boys seemed to find this attitude annoying at first, which from my outsider’s perspective seemed like the natural course of action for them and I wholly expected to find him tied to fences around the tennis courts with doughnuts smeared on his face (my fate for letting in three goals one particularly unpleasant lunchtime). Yet they continued to let him play, began to find his relentless attempts at athletic endeavour amusing and then, dare I say it, endearing. After barely a month at the school, he was welcomed onto the pitch during breaks, even invited to play for our year’s football team, though only by other students. At least the Games teachers saw that they would have been onto a loser there, so vetoed him after one trial where he had managed to fracture the ankle of our star centre forward.

Even more peculiarly, he fitted in with the uncool kids too. His knowledge of Citadel miniatures was apparently unparalleled by anyone in that fraternity, even though his collection was small in comparison to some of the more fervent collectors. He was happy to participate in their fantasy wasteland scenarios, coming up with daft scenarios to play that would have made Tolkien crimson with embarrassment. His comic collection was his real asset. His brother was several years older than him and was living out in America, doing some kind of well paid foreign office job. He would send back care packages every month or so, containing dozens of the latest issues of whichever superheoes were the current flavour of the month, weeks before they’d eventually find their way onto our local newsagent’s shelves.

But it was the films which had the kids flocking to his door to grovel at his feet. His father was a massive fan of horror films while being a staunch anti censorship advocate. This led him to believe that his children should be allowed to watch whatever they wanted to, so long as it was legal and they didn’t ask too many questions afterwards (thankfully, he didn’t have any porn in his collection, otherwise I dread to think how things could have turned out). Years later he told me that he first watched Cannibal Holocaust at the tender age of nine and had nearly soiled himself in terror. After getting through that so young, everything else seemed pretty tame by comparison, so he continued working his way through his dad’s collection. When he dropped that particular bombshell into a conversation after a few days in the school, word spread like wildfire. Everyone wanted to borrow something so shocking that it would give them nightmares until they’d finished university. Walt was surprised by the attention, but more than happy to lend things out to his new found friends. He wasn’t even that concerned when half of them were never returned or that week when a third of the year seemed like somnambulists having lost so much sleep. I never borrowed anything from him. My parents didn’t have a video recorder.

And that’s where I abandoned that one. Some hints of autobiography in there, second paragraph especially – that being where my head was at last year. I’ve cheered up a bit since then I’m pleased to report. Walt’s character is mainly fictional, with a number of school friends traits grafted onto him. I was never locked to the bike sheds and then smeared with doughnuts, though I was present when it happened to someone else. Shamefully, I did not attempt to help them (by which I mean the smearee rather than the smearer – in my defence I did no smearing). We did have a video recorder, but I never watched anything more terrifying or gory than Hammer films on it and have still never seen Cannibal Holocaust. I know it says ‘fir’ when it should say ‘fit’, but changing it seemed like a betrayal of the spirit of these posts. I have an inkling that this was the last thing that I wrote – I have a tendency of getting a couple of scenes on the go at once, so if I get stuck or bored with one, I can still chug along on the other. What follows was almost certainly started after the previous scene, but as you can see by it’s length, was abandoned pretty swiftly.

“Should I be the first one to make the ‘Yummy Mummy’ joke, or do you want to?” asked Craig.

“What?” Jeff looked up from his frantic typing, perplexed by the comment.

“You know,” said Craig, a half smile splattered across his face. “’Yummy Mummies’.”

“Oh. Yeah. Ha.” Jeff did not know what Craig was talking about. Unconcerned by the interruption he turned back to his keyboard and began hammering the keys as fast as his stubby fingers would allow.

Craig considered following up on his hilarious bon mot, but knew Jeff well enough to realise he would be wasting his time. When he had his mind set in one direction, it was pointless trying to show him an alternative route, let alone trying to direct him to the services on the metaphorical road that was his thought process. He’d tried it before and it only ever seemed to result in his brain hitting the central reservation, flipping a couple of times before landing in a ditch, where it would languish for an hour or more before his subconscious’s emergency services would arrive to put plasters on the cuts and bruises, then let it loose to roam free once more.

It had been three days since the night in the pub where the scheme had been hatched and the pair had actually managed to get a surprising amount done.

What they’d actually got done, we will never know. I imagine it would have involved graphs and charts, as they’re always funny, no matter how unoriginal they may be. I quite like the tortuous analogy there and almost wish that it had gone on a little longer, though that may have over egged it a bit too much. I fear that I might have forgotten that I’d already used the ‘yummy mummies’ gag, which shows just how much attention I was paying to the project by this point. Probably best that I left it where it was.

So tomorrow I attempt to start the whole thing over again. I’ve next to no plot, some vague ideas about some characters and potentially the first two lines. Maybe it’ll work out this year. So long as my moustache doesn’t get in the way. Tedious updates and occasional extracts will follow as the month proceeds. Enjoy.