I’m head-down-bum-up over my display for the upcoming Bricktober 2021 exhibition these school holidays. So while I’m spending countless hours away from my loved ones, locked in a neon-lit room with the curtains closed, chipping my nails and growing the callouses on my fingertips as I spend hours debating over exactly which face is the best one to put atop that minifig people will glance at for less than a half-second on the way to fangasming at the bloke who just shoved Star Wars minifigs into a bunch of straight-out-of-the-carton City sets (I’m not bitter), I thought I’d have a look at which five bricks I come back to again and again every time I want to achieve an effect.
Here, then, out of the several hundred different styles of Lego brick, are the five I can currently call my favourites. Until next time I’m asked.
For some reason, I’ve been in a particularly pythonesque mood this last week. Specifically, Lord 16 and I have been revisiting some of the earlier movies of visual genius and anti #Metoo douchebag Terry Gilliam (One should never meet, hear from, listen to, or read interviews with your heroes). And make no mistake, the director of Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King, The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a storytelling hero of mine, as were the other Pythons…… when they were Python.
Post-Python… the others… ehhhh, maybe not so much.
So when I turned my school-holidays-attention-span to reading, and swallowed the David Morgan-penned Monty Python Speaks! The Complete Oral History in just over a day, I was particularly drawn to the dismissive comments made by the living Pythons to the solo work, or rather, lack of it, undertaken by Graham Chapman (TL:DR He didn’t do much, and what he did was rubbish). Which gave me pause, because I can’t recall enjoying a lot of what the remaining crew have produced over the years. Still, in for a penny, in for a post, so after due consideration, here are the five remaining Pythons, and the works I think are the highlight of their post-Python careers.
Confession time: As much as I’m a fan ofJoy Division, I couldn’t really give a toss about New Order, the anaemic and noodly electronica pioneers and progrock evolutionists who rose from their ashes. Which makes it all the odder that I’ve basically inhaled three books by their former bassist, Peter Hook, this year. I started with Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, which I enjoyed so much I’ve devoured his histories of The Hacienda, and New Order, which is where we come in. Because in reading Substance: Inside New Order, I’ve contracted a strange side effect: finding support bands in his concert listings, and discovering I enjoy them way more than the band I’m reading about.
So here, in the interests of helping expand the musical horizons of some of you, and exposing myself to a chorus of disbelief and bewilderment from the rest, are five bands I’ve discovered through the pages of a book about New Order that I like far more than the band they supported.
5 for Friday: Attack of the Supports.
A Certain Ratio
How did I get to fifty years of age, and reading a book about a completely different band, before I discovered these guys? They’re simply fabulous: fun, impulsively toe-tapping, moody as fuck, and musically fascinating. They’re a perfect conglomeration of all the sounds I should have been smothered by in the mid-80s, were I not stuck in a guitar-driven country soaked in bogan rock and cod-new wave soft funk. (Not a complaint: no life is poorer for being steeped in INXS, The Models, The Angels, et al). Like James a year or so ago, it’s taken me far too long to discover them, but now that I have, I’m too busy downloading to talk to you…
The Durutti Column
So completely non-typical of anything else on Factory Records, or Manchester, or the 1980s at large, to be honest. Crisp, clean, jazz-inspired guitar instrumentals that are perfect for lying on the bed to, eyes closed, in the dark, letting the music carry your mind on journeys far away from the bollocks of the day. The best comparison I can make is to XTC with the lyrics removed, which is a compliment. After the pompous, self-important posturing of a New Order song this comes as a blessed relief.
The Happy Mondays
Yeah, I know I’m late to the party on this one. What can I say? The mid-80s in Boganville, Western Bogantania didn’t dive heavily into Madchester e-driven trancepop. As an adult I’ve been aware of the Happy Mondays without ever really delving into them: frankly, the track I’ve picked out is the only one I’d really heard before, and even then, only because JJJ occasionally tears itself away from shitty Australian garage rap to indulge in a bout of nostalgia. Anyway, to the surprise of approximately nobody I’m sure, it’s great, they’re great, the rest of their stuff is both mad and great, and you should listen to them because they’re great.
Okay, so being the greatest band to come out of Iceland is a little like being the greatest red wine to come out of Nigeria, but the Sugarcubes are legitimately fantastic. Just a high-quality combination of voice talent, musical skills, and songwriting chops, with a voice and outlook that stand them apart from their contemporaries. It’s a bit of a cheat to say I only just discovered them through the book — say, rather, that like the rest of the world I’ve become so used to the one-woman rollercoaster ride that is Bjork that I’ve overlooked and forgotten much about the band that created her. It’s beyond time they were polished off and held back up to the light.
Ahh, that short period in the ’80s when electronica and swing intersected, before the former took on a direction all its own and spent a decade up its own fundament before really coming into something wonderful. Mike Pickering was the king of the early British superstar DJs. Big fat bass lines, big fat sax lines, and the plinky jazz noodling reigned in hard in support of the funk. There’s nothing not to love.
So I was talking to Lord 16 about Doom Patrol, which lead me to introduce him to the work of Richard Dadd, and then Luscious and I were watching Red Dragon, the film about Thomas Harris’ inability to distinguish between two similarly named William Blake paintings, and well, here we are: five artists who left the comforts of sanity behind to go chasing after their own interdimensional butterflies, for which we are all the very much better.
5 for Friday: Go on, then. Chase Those Waterfalls.
It’s turning out to be a Shakespearean kind of year. Not in that the Queen has died, I’ve written a bunch of plays, and I’m going to die by the age of 52. I mean, chance would be a fine thing. But more in the fact that I’m posting a shit-tonne of Shakespearean insults at anybody who’ll look at me, I’m currently reading 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear, by James Shapiro– one of the best books I’ve read in years — and, well, there’s this post. Inspired by both the above occurrences, and to help scratch a serious yen to watch some more celluloid Shakespeare again, here are five of the best filmic Shakespeare adaptations you could use to fill your eve.
I think we can all agree that stupidity is a favourite hobby of mine.
One of the ways it manifests itself is in a deep love of nonsense rhymes: I have a long-standing habit of wandering around quietly singing nonsense lyrics to songs, and frankly, my performance of “I’m Jumping Jack Flash, with a flashy gash” is better than anything the Stones have done in thirty years.
One of the other ways it manifests itself is in an occasional desire to write a picture book, something I never seem to get around to finishing because, just as frankly, I never seem to finish them. Anyhoo, here’s as good a place as any to show you what goes on inside my head when I’m not looking: here are five opening bits I loved enough to commit to scrap paper.
5 for Friday: There Was a Yong Man from Nantucket, with pictures!
Time for some more Friday fun, and to celebrate my recent acquisition of the final title I needed to complete the entire John Ostrander run of Suicide Squad, I thought I’d take a look at five comic book teams that haven’t had the benefit of a recent ongoing run or shitty-Will-Smith-movie-I-still-love-because-shut-up.
So here are five comic book teams that a) need to make a return and b) need to be given to me to write, because it’s my idea and my website, so there.
One of the new beginnings, or beginnings anew, for 2021 is a return to the writing habit. Truth to tell, it’s proven a stop-start affair so far, but one thing I have managed is to generate some beginnings, one of which I’m plugging away at to try to at least finish something.
So, to keep that goal in mind, and… if not celebrate, then certainly note… the fact that I’m slowly clawing my way back towards some of those routines, activities, and perhaps even careers that used to make me happy, here are five story openings I’ve managed to get down since the start of the year.
The new, resurrected 5 for Friday continues. This time, prompted by a conversation with Luscious and Darth Barbie, I’m looking at five bands that provided a connection between me and our late son Blake.
I spoke earlier this week about my plans for 2021, including returning to my regular blogging features, such as 5 for Friday. So what better way to kick off a new year of this feature than by expanding on my previous comments and detailing five goals I want to achieve, and maintain, during the coming year.
So…… lot of weather we’ve been having lately, innit?……
All right, let’s talk serious shit. I’ve lost my way since our son Blake completed suicide back in September 2019. Of course it’s understandable — Luscious and I have been swallowed by grief, and anybody who can’t understand how that level of grief can affect you has my permission to stay quiet — but the ultimate end of that process is that my life has turned in upon itself and started eating its own tail. Everything that was supposed to be good about coming to Karratha — gaining fitness, writing more, lowering my stress levels, finding my post-50-year-old-future, etc etc and so forth — was destroyed, and what’s more, I didn’t care.
I’ve been a fan of boxing all my life. Perhaps it’s admiration for those who do what I cannot– I can’t fight for peanuts, and had the snot beaten out of me regularly throughout my schooling career by a succession of anencephalic bullies. Perhaps it’s a function of my cultural background– I was the poor son of poor parents from a poor City in a poor part of England, where the fight game was a genuine option for clambering out of poverty and into some sort of money and independence. Perhaps there’s just a part of me that remains brutish and primal, no matter the veneer of civilization I drape around me.
Whatever it is, I love boxing. It stirs my blood, pumps my heart, and gets me bouncing with energy when I’m getting ready to roar into a situation and tie one on. I genuinely watch a bout or two before a performance or an appearance, and often use bouts as a form of reward or regular intervention when faced with a long, boring task. I grew up with Jeff Fenech, and the bloated over-hyping of Mike Tyson, the saga of the Waters’ boys, the rise and fall of Lester Ellis and Jeff Harding. From there, like fans of any pursuit do, I discovered history: the greats, the not so greats, the classic moments, the controversies, the gods, the villains. The story. And I discovered my own favourites, many of them from the land of my birth, perhaps because they represent a story that I sidestepped, or maybe because they’re just, somehow, better. More exciting. Greater.
That is, perhaps, an argument and a list for another day. For now, here are five bouts that never fail to get me going.
And we’re back! It’s been some time since I’ve inflicted a 5 for Friday post on you all. Blame Real life ™ and the fact that editing has a tendency to crowd all other considerations out of my teensy, tiny little mind. What has also occupied my mind, at least that section devoted to music, while I’ve been editing is an old, old favourite band of mine. The Angels have been on high rotation, jacked up to 11, and making the walls bounce.
I’ve spoken elsewhere about my love for this band, particularly in response to the death of their iconic front man Bernard ‘Doc’ Neeson a few years back. While every bogan that surrounded me in my teenage years was obsessed with AC/DC, The Angels were my particular escape of choice. They were nastier, edgier. AC/DC celebrated drinking, sex, and a particular thick form of fuck-the-police-ishness that resonated with the junior thugs of Rockingham. The Angels were more pointed, more personal, political without the fine edge of rage (and also without the overweening smugness) or Midnight Oil, describers of street level culture and community rather than the nebulous drinking culture reflection of AC/DC. I once described the two bands in the terms of a bar fight: AC/DC was the loud, drunken thug throwing beer glasses and overturning tables; The Angels the guy who waited quietly at the bar until the combatants stumbled past, and then silently shivved them in the ribs with a flick knife.
It’s been a couple of weeks: full-time employment called, and while I may not have been engaged in the writah-dahlink life I crave, my son’s Scout Jamboree for next year has been paid for, so that’s a thing that happened.
While I desperately try to re-insert writing back into my daily routine, I’ll need a bit of help and guidance. Here, then, are five books that form the cornerstone of my industry reading, and the pillars upon which my library of books about writing stand.
Every month, patrons of my Patreon account who pledge $3 or more have the opportunity to choose the topic of a 5 for Friday post. This month, thanks to the generosity of patrons Narrelle M Harris and Andrew McKiernan, I’m looking at five myths about the writing process that make my teeth itch.
We all know the myths the general community believe about writers and writing: anyone can do it; we must all be rich from those sweet, sweet publishing dollars; yet somehow we’re all willing to do anything for free because exposure…… Sure, it’s risible, but at least the general community has the excuse of ignorance. We actually do the business, and yet, somehow, we manage to perpetuate just as many harmful myths about the process amongst ourselves.
Perhaps it’s because, deep down, we know that the only true secret to writing is to sit our arse on the chair and keep doing it until we get better. And because it really is just that simple, we have to build up an air of mystique to prove to ourselves that we’re really magical, mysterious artistes. Here are five lines of bullshit you hear authors spinning to each other while we all nod sagely as if we believe it, even though we damn well know better.
We’re still in the midst of Battcon, and while the focus is on the inevitable writerly pursuits– writing, drinking, bitching about the successes of others, drinking, hanging around the pool, complaining that my career is over, drinking, watching TV and drinking, with the occasional bout of writing and self-hatred– it’s important that it all be done to the correct soundtrack, because, you know, generation that grew up on The Breakfast Club.
Queen is the first band for whom I ever felt a fannish attraction, predating even my all-encompassing and lifelong Madness love. Outside of Bohemian Rhapsody(the only song to realistically challenge Stairway to Heaven for the unofficial Greatest Song Ever Recorded title), their catalogue up until the demise of their hypnotic genius front man Freddie Mercury is a wall to wall layer of brilliance and bona fide superhits. I have owned their Greatest Hits Volume 1 album in at least 4 different media, and worn it through in each one.
Between Mercury’s voice, guitar god Brian May’s soaring riffs, and the joyous flip-flopping between whimsical Victoriana and tear-your-balls-off rock and roll, they are unforgettable, and simply impossible to recreate. What we can do, however, is take a moment to step outside the long list of radio staples we still teach our children (boom boom, CLAP, boom boom CLAP…) and highlight five works that haven’t stuck in the general consciousness, despite their brilliance.
Here, then, are five of my favourites from outside the long, long list of giant monster hits we all know and sing regularly wherever there’s an outdoor event with a taped soundtrack (boom boom, CLAP, boom boom CLAP…)……
The longer you write, the more you begin. The more you begin, the more you accumulate false starts, mis-steps, and generally unusable fragments.
Writers are hoarders, at least of ideas: a good writer never throws anything away, and it can be years between writing a false start and finding the one perfect moment, idea, or circumstance that allows us to finish the story. My personal record is 11 years between abandoning an opening, and completing– and selling– the finished story (At The End There Was a Man, which appeared in the Coeur De Lion anthology Anywhere But Earth). I know of other authors who have gone more than 20 years between beginning and finishing a story. Ask around: we’ve all got one.
So, for your entertainment and education, here are five openings I’ve been carrying around for over 5 years, waiting for that spark to see them through to completion.
Those of you who still don’t roll over and pretend to be asleep when I mention my Patreon campaign will know that patrons of a certain level (Okay, it’s 3 bucks a month. We’re not talking high finance, here) get to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, this week I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my writing, my performing, and my approach to art.
I grew up in a time when an episode of a TV show was shown once, at a specific time, and if you missed it, well, you might just never see it. As I grew into a teen, and then a comedy obsessed young adult, the list of shows I obsessed over grew and grew into, well, an obsession. One I should have followed all the way to a PhD thesis, but that’s a story for another time. I compulsively purchased books of sketch scripts, and spent hours picking apart and analysing Beyond the Fringe, The Goon Show, Round the Horne, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, A Show Called Fred, Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour…… the list is enormous, and largely British. I recorded scripts on tape– sometimes with friends, sometimes solo– playing with voice, and timing, and pitch. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I collected LPs– and did up until my second marriage. And I watched: over and over, episodes of every show I could find: first on TV, and then, when video cassettes became available, on tape, then disc. I am a fan. I could easily have become an historian. Here are five shows that changed the way my brains works. 5 FOR FRIDAY: AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Those of you who have been paying attention to my Patreon campaign will know that one of the rewards offered to patrons is the ability to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Colin Sharpe, this week I’ll be discussing five of my favourite songs by those master of British pop perfection, XTC.
Back in the 1980s, among the Chock Solid Block of Oz Cock Rock on which I was weaned, I uncovered a deep and lasting love for those British songwriters who defined the world in acid-etched clarity and humour: Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, Madness and the Specials all retain a special place in my heart. And alongside them, XTC, and three songs in particular that were FM radio staples– Senses Working Overtime; Making Plans for Nigel; and Generals and Majors are magnificent songs that remain close to my heart, and I could probably wax on about them until we’re both blue in the brain. (If you haven’t heard them before, follow the links now, then come back. We’ll wait, ready with a hearty I KNOW, RIGHT? at your return.)
I KNOW, RIGHT?
Now, in all honesty, we could begin and end right there, but those gateway drugs of songs were only the beginning of a life-long love. So here are five other songs that hit me right in the frontal cortex, and which I’ll be humming as they carry me to my grave.
Next week, thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my approach to writing, performance, and public speaking. But for now, get out the headphones and sink into 15 minutes of musical bliss as Andy and Colin do what they do best: swan around being brilliant.
So I was watching an episode or two of Young Justice with Lord 13, because I am a grown-up who can watch anything he likes and Luscious was in the house and she hates Teen Titans Go!. We came across an episode involving an incursion into Belle Reve Prison, home of the Suicide Squad and hub of the Amanda Waller empire. Except, in this incarnation, Belle Reve was just a prison, and Waller was just the warden, and frankly, I was pissed.
I’m a loooooong-time fan of the Squad. I liked them before they were cool and popular, nyer nyer. I’m still bitching about Bronze Tiger not being in the movie. And Lord 13 is always up for a conversation about comics and superheroes. So we got to jawing about the Squad, which, naturally, turned into a discussion about who we would have in our Suicide Squad comic, because we are boys and whenever two or more boys shall discuss comics, the conversation will turn this way. It’s the law.
So we decided to share today’s 5 for Friday post, and present to you 5 characters we would include in our respective versions of the Suicide Squad
The news this week that The Emoji Movie became the first animated movie to win a Worst Movie Razzie sounds like a good excuse to look back at five of the worst animated movies I’ve been forced to endure. I love animated movies: at their best, like Akira or the Toy Story trilogy, an animated movie can be a dazzling, inspiring whirlwind of imagination and technical wizardry.
These are not that.
5 For Friday: Won’t Someone Think of the The Children?
It’s been a month since I left the cultural hub (BWAAAAHHHHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!) of Perth behind, and joined Luscious and the kids in the Northern Sunlands of Karratha. It’s been a breath of fresh air for us– hot, dusty, red-tinged air. Luscious has taken to her new life as a High School teacher as if it’s the job she’s been waiting 25 years to do, because it is. The kids are exploring social opportunities they wouldn’t have accessed where we were living before, and there’s a new sense of freedom in being by ourselves.
As for me, well, not having to report to the hated day job has resulted in exactly what we wanted: I’m writing again, with purpose and intent. After months of stagnation, I’ve taken Ghost Tracks past 40,000 words and on towards a final first draft tally that should come in somewhere between 50 and 52,000. It’s entirely conceivable that the first draft will be wrapped up well and truly before the end of March. I’m enjoying a sense of freedom that I had forgotten existed, and slowly, those part of my creativity and soul that had withered are beginning to recover.
So, by way of recording some of the things that have changed with this new location, here are five aspects of life in the Northern Sunlands that have provided new impetus for me, my writing, and my overall well-being.
Over the last week or so, I’ve been diving deep into I’m Your Man, the recently released biography of Leonard Cohen. Like many artists of singular genius, Cohen was nowhere near a saint, and the book doesn’t flinch away from his compulsive womanising, heavy drug use, and long litany of broken personal and professional relationships. But it also works hard to distill and analyse the brilliance of Cohen’s lyrics, and musical style, and the stories and methods behind them.
Naturally, the reading has inspired some serious musical bingeing, as I listen to the songs discussed over, and over. Frankly, I’ve been in heaven. So, by way of sharing the love, here are five of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs.
Turn the lights off, pour yourself a glass of whatever floats your spirit, silence the house, and drink in the words, the beautiful, glorious, words.
The car went first. Then the furniture. Finally, on Wednesday, I drove Luscious and the kids to the airport and they went too. I’ve a couple of days of work and house tidying left, and then I’ll follow them. Rockingham is over, and our future– at least for the next 2 years– lies in Karratha.
I’ve lived in Rockingham, on and off, since the age of eight. That’s a gnat’s breath short of forty years. It’s my home. No matter where I travel– including this move, for however many years it lasts– no matter where I move to, my new location is viewed in terms of where it lies in relation to Rockingham. I’m not moving 1600 kilometres to Karratha, I’m moving 1600 kilometres away from Rockingham.