Saturday, December 20, 2014

Another Cat That Destroyed Christmas

Just the other day Susan and I were chuckling over this photo blog thingy (clumsily) entitled '14+ Dogs and Cats That Destroyed Christmas.' It's far from unique, of course; there are lots of variations on this theme all over the Interwebs; cats do, after all, own it.
When viewing it we thanked our lucky stars that we seem to own a cat that (note: past tense) didn't seem to be interested in joining such a club, which we are aware has a great many members around the world. It's what they do. But then, as if on cue, he started taking ornaments off the Christmas tree in the middle of the night, and in the morning we'd find it or them somewhere it or they shouldn't be. This has continued for a few days, but the new trend is that he'll bring his new toys to the bed, so we'll wake up surrounded by all manner of sparkly junk.
This morning, we woke up to the spectacle you see above. Compared to the carnage unleashed by some of the little gits featured in those blogs, it's not a big deal, but that  Reggie's Christmas tree obsession seems to be escalating naturally causes concern. Sweeping up the plastic pine needles the tree shed when falling, I managed to cut my finger open on a shard of broken ornament. My finger turned red, the air turned blue, and Reggie's name is currently suspended in favour of "Little Grey Mofo" until I've calmed down a bit.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE! (Except you, Reggie.)  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All Too Much

Every morning I follow a routine I enjoy. I crawl out of bed, switch on the coffee machine that my wife has lovingly pre-primed, and head to the office to turn on the computer to read the news, check and respond to emails, and read various blogs. It's how I like to start my day.

The first thing I do is check the news, usually starting with the BBC website. Increasingly in recent times, I click on the link with a degree of trepidation, such is the flow of horror and misery emanating from the human world these days. I wonder what awful shit will stare back at me first thing in the morning. Today, however, the headline that greeted me indicated a new low for humankind, truly a level of evil beyond the comprehension of any right-thinking individual.

In Pakistan, 132 children and nine adults have been massacred by the Taliban. This madness comes on the same day that fifteen schoolgirls were blown to pieces by car bombs in Yemen, and in the same week that news broke of four Christian children being beheaded by ISIS psychopaths in Iraq. When I hear these things, it is difficult to articulate my despair. I lose all hope for our species as by these acts we are dragged deeper and deeper into a seemingly irreversible downward spiral, with maniacs like the Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram and their evil, twisted ideologies, using children as "political pawns" in their insane strides to make the world theirs.

I don't give a flying fuck about their grievances with the US, "the West," or anyone else - presumably EVERYONE who does not share their demented views of how the world should function - as there is not a single reason, however lucid it may seem to them, that these barbaric, brainwashed fuckers could offer to justify or rationalize their depraved atrocities. Without conscience, these monsters are executing CHILDREN, every young life destroyed nudging us closer and closer to a return to the Dark Ages. In the grand scheme, we're probably already there and nicely settled in.  

It is a couple of months over ten years since the horrifying Beslan school massacre in North Ossetia, in which almost 400 hundred people were killed, including a great many children. Like anyone I was stunned into numbness at that awful event, so much so that I felt compelled to include a reference to it in an email I sent to my promoting outfit's mailing list, only ever used to deliver information on our forthcoming shows. I remember clearly one response from a guy who upon receipt of it asked to be removed from the mailing list, as he had signed up to hear about concerts, not - I quote - my "fragile state of mind about the state of the world." I wonder how he is feeling today?

I vainly hoped against hope that the low humankind had descended to in the "modern era" with the Beslan siege might signal a turning point, whereby the perpetrators and those around the world who subscribe to such beliefs might begin to look inward, to question their methods, look at their ideologies, and find another way. But no, that is never going to happen.

My boss at the music store can hardly read the news these days. While he is a man deeply concerned about the planet, educating himself on environmental, economic and other important matters of life on earth, whenever such as today's events pop up in conversation, he tells me that his desperation at what is (increasingly) our dark world is "all too much," so - not in any ostrich-like way, but simply to keep sane - he tries to focus on the good and positive of the world, as thinking about the rest is unbearable. 

These are truly terrifying times. And it is all too much. With each successive dreadful event like today's, the world changes for the worse, and it is ominously feeling like there is no going back. I have tried so hard in recent years not to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders like I have done so much in the past, but it's getting difficult not to, as that weight is forcing itself upon everyone's shoulders, whether we like it or not.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Here's One for All, to Anyone Listening: R.I.P. Nick Talbot

In my former life as a promoter from 2000 to 2006, one of its great joys was meeting so many richly talented and interesting people. In the process of staging shows for them, some became friends. Most, however, were the proverbial ships in the night, lighting up my life briefly on one stop on a tour - artists I would continue to follow, but from whom I never heard a word again unless staging another show somewhere down the line. One such musician was Nick Talbot, recording for the mainly electronica-oriented label, Warp, under the name Gravenhurst.
Nick played a show for us on the same bill as a one-off appearance from the reclusive Creation/4AD artist, Heidi Berry, and a third act I cannot recall as I write. It was one of our more delicate, introspective bills, and Nick played a beautiful set of his gorgeous, dark music. After originally stating upon arriving in Brighton that he would prefer to stay in a hotel or B&B, Nick later changed his mind and, like so many musicians before him, lodged with Susan and I. We found him utterly charming, highly intelligent, nerdy and sweet in his beige 'Rupert Bear' duffle coat. He made an impression, and we took to him instantly. However briefly, it was a real pleasure to meet Nick and spend a little time in his company, as both a working musician and a human being.
Nick passed away last week, aged just 37. The cause of death has yet to be revealed, and may not be. However Nick's life came to an end, it has had an impact on us. It appears that his career was poised to ramp up just a notch with the reissue of two albums and recent shows in Italy. He was tweeting up until December 1st, seemingly with a degree of anticipation at what lay ahead.  But that his death was so sudden cannot help but sew the seeds of doubt in me that all was well with Nick. I do not wish to read between lines that may not even exist, but it just feels ominous, that perhaps Nick passed by his own hand. When I broke the news to Susan, without any prompting she immediately raised that possibility. There just seemed a fragility in Nick when we met him, a deep-rooted melancholy that coloured his dramatic music. This said, he was also very witty and sharp, with a lovely sense of humour.
I remain disturbed about Nick's death, just as I do to this day about the impossibly lovely, but deeply troubled Thomas Hansen, a beautiful and eccentric Norwegian songwriter I witnessed experience an onstage meltdown opening for Lambchop. He could barely string a sentence together, and had to have help from a roadie in forming a chord on his guitar, before stopping mid-song, saying, "I'm sorry...I can't do this," then walking off to a bewildered audience. It was heartbreaking to be party to, but what I believe was his first UK show after that was for us in Brighton, whereupon he apologized onstage and then delivered an incredible set of his wonderful music. We became pals very quickly, but then he was gone, aged just 31. I miss him, and I miss his music. 
In the truest sense of the word Thomas was not a friend: our worlds collided and overlapped for a brief period, during which there was mutual respect and genuine warmth. Even less could be said of my brief encounter with Nick Talbot, but everyone has people that enter and exit their lives when the course of the meetings are meant to end, and Nick would be one who fleetingly crossed my path, leaving happy memories in his wake.
Rest in peace, Nick. Your music meant a lot to a great many, as did you.