Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Smoke-Free Zone

It's been precisely one month since I last smoked a cigarette. This should be a source of pride for me but I feel strangely underwhelmed by it. Judging by the amount of literature and quitting aids on the market I imagined that I was embarking on a mission that would take me to the deepest, darkest depths of my soul. Okay, that might not be a very deep or dark place but I thought it would be far more difficult than it actually has been. Having said that, it's not as if I'm out of the woods yet. I still want cigarettes occasionally and I would very much like it if I completely forgot what I loved about them in the first place.

My main issue, the reason I'm feeling underwhelmed, is that I am, so far, not feeling the beneficial effects of a smoke-free life. I feel that I'm missing out by not smoking. My chest doesn't wheeze, that's true. I've probably saved a nice bit of cash and will continue to do so. And I've put on a few pounds and am enjoying my food more. These are good things. But what about the freedom that I'm supposed to feel once I've broken my nicotine shackles? Where's the euphoria?

Don't tell me it doesn't exist 'cos I've seen the adverts. Full of healthy looking people wearing unbearably smug grins. They're saying:

"We've experienced something smokers and the never-have-smoked cannot have felt. So nerr. We worked really hard for this, we struggled like you can't imagine and this is our reward. Just look at me enjoying this grape. Mmm."

And that experience, I imagined, was a Nirvana of some kind. Well, why not? I've read/heard/absorbed through osmosis the idea that giving up smoking is supposed to be more difficult than giving up smack. Well, I've never had to give up smack but I have seen Trainspotting and it looks far tougher than anything I've been through in the past month. At no point have I found myself puking out of any orifice and I've definitely not seen any dead babies crawling across my ceiling. It was too easy. I feel that I've cheated and been cheated.

There is one more stage, though, that won't be so easy. The reason I gave up smoking in the first place was that it was an initial stage in my getting fitter. Now I have to get fit. I've been putting it off but I've honestly been waiting for the weather to get better so I can jog or cycle in daylight without getting wet or too cold. I'll start in a couple of weeks, okay?

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Criminally Vulgar

Sometimes it feels as if the online world is full of people communicating with eachother and I'm the only exception. I've always been shy and rather-backwards-in-coming-forwards but the web must be full of people far more socially inadequate than me who are chatting away without a care in the world. Why is this?

I've just got myself a myspace. I've enjoyed customising it with backgrounds and music. I've enjoyed the banter I've had with my friends. The thing is, these friends are real life friends, not myspace friends. I only signed up to myspace because I felt left out. Now I don't feel left out, that's good. However, I have absolutely no desire to interact online with anyone I don't already know. Conversely, I have friend envy. It feels as though there are parties going on everywhere to which I'm not invited, that everyone on myspace has more friends than me. But if I don't want to interact with people I don't already know then why would I care? Is this one of those paradoxes of modern life? Like, or example, the more comfortable our lives the more insecure we feel?

There are more avenues to communication open to us than ever before. Could it be that the easier it is to communicate, the more inadequate we feel when we don't communicate? Or is it just me being neurotic? I fear it is. Whatever it is I don't care because I get paid tomorrow and that's a massive relief. No man of my age with the lack of responsibilities that I enjoy should spend saturday night at home watching TV because he has little money. But that's what I did. I went out on Sunday and made up for it but that's not the point, that was a gig planned weeks in advance. It was Howling Bells and they were very good. In fact the entire day was excellent, Kerri and I thoroughly enjoyed having a good drink up and enjoying some quality music. Next week is Brett Anderson and then the Arcade Fire. On both of these nights I'll be having a great time with people I love. And that's the kind of interaction that really matters.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Chairman of the bored

It's been a week since my last post and I've nothing to write about other than the fact that I can't think of anything write about. This is depressing, I can't be that stupid and my life is surely not that dull. Probably best not to dwell on that actually. But this won't do. I'm now going to spend a few minutes perusing the BBC website for inspiration and will hopefully find something to take the piss out of. Back in 5.

Well, it took approximately 2 seconds to find something I can mock. This is partly due to my expertise in mocking but mainly because on the front page I read that The Jam have decided to reform without Paul Weller! Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler are not only touring but also writing a new album! Hahahaha! Well, the fans'll be queuing round the block for that one. Let's take a look at some of the venues they're playing; ooh, the Aberdeen Lemon Tree! And the Northampton Soundhaus (formerly the Roadmender)! Really guys, are times that hard? By all means go and trade on your former glories, God knows there are a few of them. But how about touring by a name other than The Jam? It's like The Smiths reforming without Morrissey and Marr. Or Morecombe and Wise without Eric Morecombe. How about Rick and Bruce play The Jam? You could leave the words The Jam really big and the others small so people don't even notice them.

Here's what Weller says of a reunion: "Me and my children would have to be destitute and starving in the gutter before I'd even consider that, and I don't think that'll happen anyway ... [the Jam's music] still means something to people and a lot of that's because we stopped at the right time, it didn't go on and become embarrassing." Enough said. Presumably this means that Paul won't be taking up the kind invitation to join the tour...

Well, that's certainly made me feel better. What else is there? Ah, here's something far less worthy of ridicule. Britney Spears shaves her head. It may be apocryphal but I'm sure I've read a few times that the shaving of one's head is often a precursor to a breakdown, which wouldn't be a surprise to many people in Britney's case. Baby One More Time, one of the finest pop songs ever, is eight or nine years old now. It really doesn't seem that long since the schoolgirl Britney was dressing up as a....schoolgirl in the video. She's not looking so fresh-faced now. Just announce an official retirement or something, Britney. Maybe people will leave you alone then and saddos like me will have to find something else to write about.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Talking urinal cakes

As a child I, like many other children, wondered what the future might bring. Some might have imagined labour saving robots or x-ray specs, smell-o-vision for your television or a time machine. I was slightly out of step with my peers with regard to my hopes for the future. Many were the times I faced ridicule because of my apparently forlorn hopes and dreams. Not for me visions of space travel, oh no. I was aiming far higher.

Well now, in the year 2007, I've been vindicated. I was right to stick to my guns and endure the playground taunts. Who's laughing now, eh? I present....the Talking Urinal Cake:

SANTA FE -- New Mexico has taken its fight against drunken driving to men's restrooms around the state.
The state has ordered 500 talking urinal cakes that will deliver a recorded anti-DWI message to bar and restaurant patrons who make one last pit stop before getting behind the wheel.
The top of the devices feature the state DWI slogan -- "You drink, you drive, you lose."

Some Albuquerque bars installed the devices this week.
And the state Transportation Department plans to distribute them to Santa Fe bars and restaurants as well as establishments in Farmington, Gallup and Las Cruces.
The state spent $21 for each talking urinal cake for the pilot program but will ask bars and restaurants to pay for future orders if the idea catches on.
The cakes have enough battery power to last about three months.

(Taken from

People, we're living the dream

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Spring Snow

Well, Winter snow really but "Winter snow" isn't the title of a book I read a while back by a mad Japanese fascist. I've not seen this much snow in years but it's not that much really, just a few inches. Enough to bring our travel infrastructure grinding to a halt, of course.

Just thought I'd note a few things that I've done or will soon be doing. I haven't had a cigarette for a week now. It's been fairly easy. I haven't felt the need to barricade myself indoors and I've only rarely felt really tempted. Makes me wonder why I didn't do it years ago. I certainly don't yet feel like a non-smoker although these last two days I've hardly even thought about having one. And at the time of writing I haven't felt the need to use my nicotine nasal spray yet today. That stuff is still evil but not quite so evil as it felt last week. I've downgraded it, in evil terms, from Linda Blair in The Exorcist to Monty Burns. Next follows the getting fit regime but I might leave that until it gets a bit warmer. Early May perhaps.

Sis and I are off to London on saturday to see a band. They're called Dirty On Purpose and are playing at the free afternoon thingy at Notting Hill Arts club. They're from the US and don't have a record deal over here and I like that. It makes me feel as though I'm still in touch a little with what's going on, that I'm still down with the kids, y'know? Actually, it would be terrible if I really was down with the kids as I'd probably be listening to the bands that I slated in my last post. I'm happy being a discerning 30-something music fan. More details on the gig to come.

Dan got in touch today to ask me if I'd like to watch Fulham play at Bolton on sunday. This fixture would normally be as attractive as a cold sore even to a Fulham fan such as I but when he mentioned free ticket, travel and grub then it suddenly becomes quite interesting. So I said I'd love to go. Another good reason to go is to spend a bit of time with someone I don't see nearly enough. That's Dan by the way, not some woman in Bolton or anything like that. I've never been to Bolton and probably never will again.

And that's what I'm up to, more thrilling details soon.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Neon Bible

The Kooks. The Automatic. The Fratellis. The View. Kaiser Chiefs. Especially Kaiser Chiefs. You are all mediocre. I concede that your brand of bouncy indie pop will always have a following and that this may be enough for you. You'll squeeze out a few albums, have a cracking good time and maybe even earn a few quid to fall back on. Good luck to you.

But don't you ever think that you could try harder? Maybe you're restricted, talent-wise, and are trying as hard as possible already but I don't believe this (Kaisers excepted). I just think that you're scared. Scared to move out of your comfort zone and aim for the stars. Scared of offending your fanbase (don't worry about the fans, you'll be replaced in their affection as soon as they're fed-up with you). Scared of failure. Well, you should all hang your heads in shame. One listen to Neon Bible will tell you why

Arcade Fire have somehow, amazingly, miraculously, improved upon Funeral. It's as if Win Butler and his merry troupe all decided to raise their game by about 20%. The overall feel of Neon Bible is pretty similar to Funeral, but everything seems just a bit bigger. Loud bits are louder, quiet bits quieter, hooky bits hookier. It grabs you by the throat and screams "THIS IS MUSIC!!!". It's glorious from start to finish and won't be bettered this year by anyone. It's the kind of album that makes me angry that I have to listen to so much other rubbish on the airwaves, hence my little outburst in the first paragraph.

Surely Arcade Fire aren't that much more talented than our indie popstrels. They're just trying harder. They understand how fortunate they are to be able to make music for a living and are constantly striving to justify themselves. And I'm just one of the lucky beneficiaries of their will to improve themselves and their musical environment.

In 43 days from now I get to see them play live at last and I'll be able to die a happy man. Actually, I'll wait until after Glastonbury. Yes, that's a better idea.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

I got those burning nasal passage blues

I haven't had a cigarette for 19 hours. I was asleep for seven of those hours so let's call it twelve hours. That's pretty good for me and the best bit is that it's been quite easy. Every time I've felt like sparking up I've just told myself that it's a bad idea. I'm home from work now though with nothing but this blog to keep me occupied until bedtime and I'm beginning to feel a bit clucky. Maybe I should have some of my nicotine replacement...

I chose a nicotine nasal spray to help ween me off of the cigs. I chose it because it is hardcore, the quickest way of getting a hefty dose of nicotine into the body. I, on the other hand, am not hardcore and this stuff hurts me but I defy anyone to squirt this evil substance into their nasal passage and not snivel like a hay fever sufferer in a bath full of pollen. Ive never snorted tabasco sauce and don't plan to but it can't be much worse than this. It comes in two phases: The initial squirt brings with it a pain and nausea that I've not encountered before. And I know my nausea. The sinuses feel primed to explode under the pressure. Tears fill the eyes and then cascade down the face. Your head feels expanded. Not figuratively like hippies smoking a joint, but literally like Arnie at the end of Total Recall in zero atmosphere. There is a brief period of relief as you feel the pain receding and the head returning to its normal size. Don't be fooled, it isn't over. The next phase is when the devil spray makes its way down the back of the throat. It feels as though some small insect has decided to take up residence and the only way to get rid of it is to cough as hard and often as possible. And the taste! My God!

Or maybe I'm just a little over-sensitive. Anyway, the not-smoking is going well.

On my very first post I wrote that I'd be remarking on music that I'm listening to and I've just realised that I haven't done that once yet. So. Got Arcade Fire and Cold War Kids albums today (before they're released of course, it's the only way). Cold War Kids: Not bad, might be a grower but probably not my thing. Arcade Fire? I'm only on the third song so can't really comment but it sounds fine so far. A bit less grandiose than Funeral. As I type a new song has started featuring a church organ so it might be a little more grandiose than Funeral. Either way, it's grandiose. I really should have been a music journo, shouldn't I?