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Monday, June 5

Waking up

I seem to have spent a lot of the weekend asleep. As a result my head is woozy and my back aches. However, it's Monday morning and I was on the road to work at around 8am, which is impressive. It is less impressive when you factor in the fact that I was in bed long before 11pm. Owing to traffic, I didn't manage to get into work before 9. However, it wasn't a horrific drive in and I wasn't entirely with it - I was probably using my spider-senses to drive with. I am not Spiderman, but I think I still have spider-senses. It's my spider-senses which allow me to drive with my subconscious and also allow me to solve coding problems while I'm not thinking about them.

The problem which had plagued my last couple of hours at work on Friday evening was fixed with a small and subtle change, the nature of which had revealed itself to me while I wasn't directly thinking about it over the weekend. So, before 10am, I had changed the landscape of my particular set of problems. Not bad for a zombie.

Dirty Dancing
Although I don't have a huge amount to report about the weekend, I'll have a go. For a start, the movie Dirty Dancing was played a couple more times. I didn't ask for this, and I didn't watch it very much. My girlfriend appears to need it to be played, though, and if it helps her get through the day, then I have no particular objection to it. I think that Dirty Dancing has everything. You name any sort of movie genre, and it has it. I'll demonstrate:
  • Chick flick - duh!
  • Comedy - it's bloody hilarious, with lines such as "My mom kicked me out when I was 16 and I've been dancing ever since" - it's going to be a joke
  • Musical - it's definitely a musical. They use song and dance scenes to advance character and plot and there are moments when an entire crew of people suddenly seem to know all the moves to a piece of music - see the "everyone walking down the aisle to 'Baby' on the stage" scene
  • Horror - this is one of the scenes they cut. When the abortionist is working on Penny (Swayze's dance partner) using "dirty knives and a foldaway table", Johnny's cousin can "hear her screams all the way down the corridor" but despite trying to bust in, he finds his way barred. Imagine that shown in graphic detail - it's a horror/slasher movie scene for sure.
  • Cop/Crime movie - another of the sub-plots. In this case, it's the old couple who go around the resorts stealing wallets. It's down to "Baby's" "detective work" that this couple are apprehended. Indeed, if it were not for their undercover operation, dancing mambo at the Sheldrake hotel, Johnny and Baby would never have found the clues to indicate the old couple. The original tag line for the movies was going to be "She's an ethically minded future member of the Peace Corps, he's a dancing meatloaf - together they fight crime".
  • Western - yeah it's a western! They're up high on a mountain, right? In the wilderness of America. Who's down below? I'll tell ya who. Indians! Thousands of 'em.
  • Ghost movie - Swayze's not really alive...
  • Martial arts - some more off-screen action there. During some of Swayze's high-kicking dance steps, Jackie Chan is just off screen getting them in the face.
See. I'm wondering whether this might not work as a party-trick on stage.

Or maybe not.

A lack of G strings
The hilarity you might create with the phrase G string is your own lookout. I'm a professional. I don't giggle at talk of G strings when I'm thinking about my guitar. When I'm thinking of ladies' underwear, I am, of course, a snickering wreck. It doesn't even have to be any particular sort of ladies' underwear. Just ladies' undergarments in general.

Anyway, the problem I set out to solve on Saturday was caused at the gig the other day where my guitar string snapped during my "ditty". I still need a name for this ditty, but that's important right now. I like to have a couple of spare sets of strings with me - this means that I can break a string during the soundcheck, replace it, break the replacement, and still have a chance of having 6 of the right strings on the guitar during the performance.

I don't go round purposely breaking guitar strings, but my supply has managed to dwindle. Bizarrely, though the B and E strings, which are the thinnest on the guitar, are supposed to be the most breakable, I usually break the A, D and G strings. Mainly the G. These are the thickest of the strings with the exception of the E string at the top of the guitar, which I seldom break. I don't know exactly what I do that breaks these strings, but they break. G mainly.

So, my G's had run out. I had to find a guitar shop. I had to find one which sold strings individually (I begrudge paying £6 for an entire pack of strings when I need only one of them). I also needed to find one which had the G's - or bronze-wound acoustic 0.24 as I like to call it to avoid saying G-string and to avoid getting one that's of the wrong thickness for my thick fingers.

If you want to find a guitar shop somewhere you've never bought guitars, you have to wander aimlessly and look out for two things:
  1. A guitar shop - obvious really
  2. A guitarist - noticeable by the guitar on his back
In this case, I found the latter. He pointed me to a shop that was "100 metres down the road". Metres! What the hell? I didn't realise that we'd really gone metric. Young people!

Here's a tip. To get an idea of the quality of a guitar shop, look at the guitars in the Window. If they're Fender, Ibanez, Martin, Taylor or Gibson, then you've got a good guitar shop - they stock good guitars and they advertise the fact. If the guitars are mainly Squier, Stagg or Encore, then you have a guitar shop that sells shit and is proud of it. Not that Squier guitars are that shit. I have two Squiers, both of which I'm fond of, and would swap for their equivalent Fenders if I had the money or used them enough to warrant it.

Both guitar shops I visited were good. They had some good guitars in the window and a good selection of instruments inside. Despite this, I managed to get only spares for my A and D strings, the G strings being out of stock in both places. In the first shop I got excited and started looking at guitar cases too. My guitar bag is in reasonably poor condition and I would like one which can cushion the guitar and also provide space for leads and the other assorted crap I carry with me. I didn't find a case - the fact that the shop had a Telecoustic guitar like mine in stock helped me find that they didn't have a bag that fit it. I did, however, buy a neat little fold-away A-frame stand. I may be able to carry this stand around with me more easily than I can carry my other stand. We'll see.

Other in-town missions
I'd walked into town this Saturday with the idea of getting some exercise, getting some guitar strings and a haircut. The strings mission had failed. The exercise had worked in as much as I was on my feet for a couple of hours and some of that was the walk into town. The unspoken mission to get lunch was also successful as Subway provided me a salad - though it took a lot of effort to explain that I wanted this standard item from the menu.

Ashley: Can I have a chicken teriyaki salad, please.
Man: What bread?
Ashley: No, a salad?
Man: (pointing to the bread and speaking slowly, like I didn't know what I was doing) Which roll?
Ashley: (miming a round bowl) No the salad... in a bowl.
Man: Salad?
Ashley: Yes.

That was unnecessarily complex.

The haircut didn't happen either. I had a hot head and couldn't be bothered waiting in the shop. I bought a smoothie, though, which was near the hairdresser's and was a good consolation prize.

Sadly, my missions were all a failure. I didn't have the energy to walk back to the house - the hot day and the aimlessish wandering had pretty much done for my legs - so I called my girlfriend and got a lift.

Laughing Matters
Over the course of the weekend I also read the book Laughing Matters by Steven Jacobi. As I mentioned in a previous post, I bought this book somewhat narcissistically as I thought it might mention me. It did, and I had a few moments of amusement out of that. However, the book is not about me... as such. It's about the experiences of someone, who feels himself to be ill-equipped to be a stand up comedian, trying to become a stand-up comedian. If you want a fairly accurate view of the book, read the link on its name, as I agree with a lot of the reviewer's comments.

However, despite not being a particularly illuminating book, and without any particular story arc to follow, or indeed any major events to get excited about, this was an enjoyable read. I suppose it may be something to do with the fact that it occasionally mentioned people whom I know (like me, but not just me), places I've been and places I ought to go. The interest in the subject of comedy was genuine and came from a rather detached point of view. A lot of what he said was accurate. A number of the questions he raised I arrogantly believe I could answer.

More importantly, this book was quite similar to the sort of book I might have written myself if I'd stopped after a handful of gigs. The only difference between Steven Jacobi and myself is that he seems to have managed to get a back-stage pass into some places I would never have imagined attempting to go. Even now, I could not imagine requesting an audience with Ken Dodd. Conversely, I would definitely bore my reader with the excruiciatingly detailed descriptions of my days out (see this entire blog) even listing which drinks and muffins I'd had alone the way. You need only read my fringe diaries to see this in action.

So, an odd read, but a brief one.

Barbie but no Ken
The heat seems to have sapped my strength. After sleeping in late on Sunday I managed to do very little. I went to get some drinks from the garage - an expensive hobby. Then I inspected the barbecue we were to cook lunch/dinner on (one meal fits all), decided we needed some long-handle barbecue equipment, went out to find some, failed, came back, lit the barbecue, cooked everything and then felt very tired.

I slept in the middle of the day and also went to bed early. All I managed in between was a couple of board games. I don't know why I was so tired. Perhaps smoke inhalation? Perhaps the heat of the day wears me out. Perhaps I've been saving up some huge need for sleep. I don't know.

On the up side, though, I had managed to barbecue the food from raw, which was not what the instructions on the food had demanded. What sort of a nanny state do we live in when it becomes necessary for food to come with instructions that require you to oven cook the food before giving it to the barbecue chef? What right has TV chef Gordon Ramsay to suggest that men should not be allowed to barbecue food? This is just plain rubbish. I'll be honest with you, barbecuing all but burgers and steaks (which tolerate being eaten half-raw) can be risky. Indeed, sausages and chicken can be particularly poisonous if cooked incorrectly. Particularly chicken. However, wings are not too bad - not much flesh on them - and anything marinated is equally fairly easily cooked. You just have to know what you're doing.

I whole-heartedly object to the nanny-state principle of "well, you can have a god, but do everything the safe and dull way first". It's like the adults of the nation have been reduced to the equivalent of a child given a rubber hammer and told to knock nails in the final millimeter with it (when in fact all the nails have been put in by a responsible adult). The idea of cooking on a barbecue is just that. It's not to "give the food a barbecue flavour after it's been cooked". If you want to do that, then why spend money on charcoal and firelighters? Just borrow some ash from a neighbour's barbecue and put it under your nose while you eat the oven-baked food! I am a barbecue purist in the sense that I think food should be cooked by the heat from the coals.

I am not going to get all eggy about what sort of charcoal to use, or whether lighting with firelighters is cheating.

I did a reasonable job of the cooking. A few things looked a bit cremated, but I sampled everything and nothing tasted burnt. I had made a mound of coals which was thicker in the middle and sparser on the outside to give me different speeds of cooking and different temperatures. It would appear that I'd made the middle too hot to do anything especially useful, so I think I probably made a mistake there. However, perhaps I didn't, as the whole thing burned long enough to do the job and I had the option to flash fry something if it needed it. The chicken was kept off centre. It was very nice.

It's odd, but barbecuing is important to me. Simple as that. I like it to be done properly.

The process of getting the thing going is still a bit arduous. I would like to learn some better techniques. My method seems to involve a lot of fanning and blowing. I had a piece of cardboard cut from the box of an electric fan we bought on Saturday night - this seemed strangely appropriate for the job in hand.

Apologies for the long and blethering nature of this post. As I mentioned at the start, it's Monday morning. The plan for the morning was to sort out the problems from Friday evening and then connect my work with everyone else's - reintegrate as it were - in preparation for this week's work. The process of reintegration takes a while, during which time I can't do much else. I have to wait it out. This particular reintegration should go wrong. At least, I expect it to. In addition, I had to reinstall some software to make it possible to do the reintegration. So, step by step, I've been waiting for a computer, while simultaneously emptying my head of the thoughts about the weekend.

As always, this blog bears the brunt of my desire to brain dump. Perhaps, like Steven Jacobi, I could try to get some sort of book deal and tell the readership about what I've eaten, where I've driven, what traffic I encountered and who I met. However, I think you have to be established in order to be given your own head to do something like that. I sometimes wonder whether I shouldn't try to write some sort of a "here's my adventure" book. I would like to write about The Musical! which remains a part of my life I'm still amazed by. Perhaps the story of that isn't over, though?

The week ahead
Outside of work, the week ahead looks fairly straightforward. I have a gig on 7th. I also have a service booked for my car on the 7th, so there may be some jiggery pokery to get through that day ok. Apart from that, there's nothing. Perhaps I'll find another book to read. I've just bought Crying With Laughter, Bob Monkhouse's autobiography, so maybe I'll read that.

I think the first part of The World's Worst 100 Websites is published this week, so maybe I'll read that - my voice always looks different in print.


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