A little bit Ziggy

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Bowie

 

David Bowie is dead.

 

Both my heart and mind are struggling with this fact.  How can he be dead when I have a new album to listen to?  How can he be dead when all I see online this week are posts that link to his many powerful performances?  How can he be dead when he’s been an important part of my life for nearly forty three years?

I never met him and only saw him perform live once, but, like many other people throughout the world, as this week has proved, David Bowie is a dear friend who had no knowledge of my personal existence.  A friend who spoke to me intimately with every song he wrote.

 

In 1973, my parents bought a record player for the first time ever.  I was fifteen and had hardly given music any thought.  I was aware of the stuff they played on the radio, but just as background, and knew that friends talked about music without connecting to anything they said.  Until this point I’d been more interested in the Apollo Moon landings and reading science fiction.

With a record player in the house, here was a new toy to play with.  But what should I buy?

Initially, I think I only chose Life on Mars? because of the title’s science fiction implications, only realising later it was about something very different, yet the music and lyrics drew me in and my love of Bowie began.

At first it was a slow burning relationship.  The next two singles I bought were Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel and Frankenstein by The Edgar Winter Group, which was the start of my eclectic taste in music.

Then a few weeks later, while on a family holiday, I spotted the Space Oddity album and bought it immediately, even though I couldn’t play it until we all returned home.  Again, the implication of science fiction teased me, along with an interest in hearing more by this man.  This was a time, of course, before the internet and the only way to hear music you wanted was by luck on the radio, by owning the records or by having friends who owned them.

However, being shy back then, I didn’t have many friends and none of them had any Bowie records.  But curiously, I found myself making more friends in the coming months through a mutual interest in Bowie’s music.  I think it’s fair to say that in this respect alone, he had a life-changing impact on my life.

More albums were added to my collection – The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane; all brilliant, all so different from each other.  His almost eclectic approach to music seemed completely fitting.

My love of his music was both fulfilling and left me yearning for more (even now, this is true) to the point where, when Diamond Dogs was released, I got to the record shop just as they were opening the delivery and my copy was the first out of the box.  I was the first of my friends to buy it.  I think I played it virtually non-stop for months and it still remains one of my favourite albums.

Plenty of people claimed to hate Bowie at that time and I was laughed at for wearing T-shirts with his image on or for having my hair cut in the Ziggy/Aladdin style (though sadly not dyed orange), yet I enjoyed the fact that these people didn’t like the same music as me.  And in spite of my shyness I had a way to be a tiny bit extrovert – I could be a little bit Ziggy.

My musical tastes developed and broadened – Pink Floyd, Queen, Alex Harvey, for example – but Bowie kept delivering the goods with more variety.  Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger and Scary Monsters were all excellent in their own ways.  New lyrical styles and a number of instrumental pieces saw him develop as a songwriter and a musician.

In spite of this, and although he wrote a number of great songs, Bowie didn’t put together an album that felt like an album (as opposed to a collection of songs) until Outside came along in 1995 and suddenly the old magic was revived again.  An album to compare with the likes of Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs in its conceptual themes.

It felt like my friend had come home to me and the cooling of my love for his music and lyrics had never really left at all.  It still burned like a beacon.

It’s now over twenty years since Outside was released and we’ve had a number of other excellent albums since then.  I’ve been dabbling with musical compositions during this time and I’ve become a professional writer, neither of which would likely have been possible without the ongoing influence of a man who came from humble beginnings yet had such powerful visions that he shone like the star that he is and always will be.

I’ve only listened to the new album a few times since it was released, but already I find that the title track, Blackstar, is lodged in my mind.  And I love that a Bowie track still has the power to do this.  It is a very fine last album.

David Bowie is dead.

I am sad but still so in love with his music.  When I see the wonderful outpourings of love on the internet this week, I realise I have millions of friends who I will likely never get to know or even meet, but our mutual interest in the music of Bowie will always bind a little part of us.

In some ways I’m still the shy teenager who bought Life on Mars? but I’m also much more than that.  And today I’m also feeling a little bit Ziggy.

Thank you, David.

 

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Moss Garden (for David)

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Zite

I love Zite.  If you don’t know of it you can look at the Zite website.  I read it every day on my iPad and it’s such a useful way to get news and articles about the things I’m interested in.  Not only can you set the categories you want, it will learn from your preferences if you like or dislike articles you read.  It’s also really easy to post links to Twitter and Facebook.

And now I have a good Android phone I’ve installed it on there, too.  Perfect.

I never felt that general interest print magazines covered the kind of things I wanted and specialist magazines were too specialised, if that makes sense.  Now Zite is the kind of thing that appeals to me on all sorts of levels, from gaming news to articles on writing to world news to comics.  It pulls together a great mix of serious and light, heavy reading and the trivial.

I think it’s what tablets and smart phones were invented for. 🙂

Windows 8 could look better

When I’ve seen screenshots of the forthcoming Windows 8, the thing that strikes me first is how ugly the colours look:

Why would they show off something that makes it appear as if the whole of their staff have had their sense of colour removed?  I spent a short while coming up with a few themes just to show the endless possibilities that could be at their fingertips.  Some of the following may not be to everyone’s taste.

Another year goes by…

It’s that time of year again.  That one where, if I’m not careful, I’ll depress myself with thoughts of advancing years.  However, I have a lot to be thankful for (pressies, for a start) so I should be positive and look at the good things like June, family, friends and a job I enjoy doing.  Blimey!  When I think of all the unfortunate people in the world (poor, hungry, ill, opressed) I’m a very lucky guy.  I wish everyone could have my level of fortune.  Take care.

 

I also figured that if I stop counting the years I may stop growing older.  😀

A day of bits and pieces…

My dad had an operation last week.  It was fairly minor, but he can’t drive for a couple of weeks; so this morning I took him to his doctor’s medical centre to get his flu jab.  they must have been shooting the stuff in with a nail gun as each person in the queue was in and out in seconds.

While we were there we bumped into a couple of people (husband and wife) I haven’t seen since I was about nineteen.  They’re a bit older than my dad, but still looking very fit and healthy.  The woman had the cheek to say that I was “broader” than when she last saw me.  Blimey!  I’ve jut lost a bit more weight, too, which makes it 12 pounds in total since the beginning of September.

I went to see my son, David, and his girlfriend, Katie, and my grandaughter wasn’t there!  They went out to see a film last night and Leilani stayed at her aunt’s for the night.  I dropped David off on my way home as he was playing rugby this afternoon.

June and I went shopping this afternoon, which was a little odd.  Although we didn’t get a huge amount, the local Sainsbury’s seemed to be less well stocked than it usually is.  It’s not a big supermarket, but it’s always been pretty well stocked in the past.  Mind you, when we need to stock up in a big way we have to go through to Market Weighton and shop at the Tesco there.

There’s another supermarket being built in Pocklington and the local paper described it as a “discount supermarket”.  Aren’t they all?  I don’t know the details, but I suspect it’s going to be a Netto or a Lidl, which I can’t believe will get the custom.  We already have a Co-op and this doesn’t do nearly the amount of trade that Sainsbury’s does and it’s a bigger store.

The cat was all over my desk a little earlier while I was trying to catch up on my e-mails.  I have to push the keyboard away to give him space or he’d just walk all over it and today he just plonked himself down right in front of me and only moved when I’d stroked him and scratched behind his ears enough, at which point he jumped down and went back downstairs.  It’s good to know that I provide an adequate service for him.

I drew this week’s Mitchell cartoons a little while ago and prepared them for posting tomorrow and Friday.  I’m really getting into doing them.  With the semi-demise of Octavius I may return to doing three Mitchell cartoons a week.  I’ll see how I’m fixed when the latest workload clears itself.

It’s been pretty dull today and now it feels like it’s getting dark already even though it’s not quite 6pm.  I really dislike the way that the dark evenings rush onto us so rapidly at this time of year, especially when we put the clocks back later this month.

I don’t think June’s knee is quite up to a walk to the pub, so we’ll probably spend the evening in watching the TV.  I hope we have something good recorded because they’ve taken Wallender off this week.

The Difference of a Day

I can’t believe how much better I feel today.  My head is so much more together and I think that part of it has to do with writing those two blog posts yesterday evening.  If that’s really the case, then the original intention of this blog – to help with my moods and focus – is working.

My TV script idea feels much more cohesive after some work on it today and I even changed one of the characters quite considerably to give it a better balance.  Although there is an element of the cliche about it, still, I think that my approach is different enough that it will push through that aspect and work anyway.  My intention is to finish off the first draft fairly quickly and then show it to some friends for feedback.

Had my hair cut today for the first time in ages.  It feels really weird because I’d let it grow so long and now there’s something missing from my neck.  I think it will be at least a week before it settles back in again.

I spotted a hedgehog in the garden this morning, which is unusual for the daytime.  June went out to film it with the camcorder and noticed that it had an injury on its head.  We have no idea if it’s caught it on a thorn or the cat’s had a swipe at it, but June brought it into the house and it’s currently in a cardboard box in the kitchen.  We’ll release it back into the garden when we let the cat in for the night.

One of the supermarkets in Pocklington recently changed from a Somerfield to a Co-op.  It’s all been done out very nicely, but the arrangement of the shelves feels very confusing.  I think I’ll stick to the Sainsbury’s a little further down the road for most of my shopping, although it gets a little crazy at times and isn’t really large enough for the customers they get.  God knows what will happen when they start building all the new houses around the town.

Doctor Who and Van Gogh

This post will likely contain spoilers, so if you have yet to see Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who, for whatever reason, and don’t want an excellent episode ruined, I suggest you stop reading now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last episode of Doctor Who, in which he went back to 1890 and met Vincent Van Gogh.  I’ve long been into the work of this wonderful artist and have anumber of books about him, including one on his complete works and another containing his letters.  The letters in particular are an excellent insight into him as a person.  I’ve also visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, the latter of which was used in the Doctor Who episode.

The silliness with the invisible monster was a little over-the-top in this context, but overall the meeting with Vincent was handled very tastefully in a great script by Richard Curtis and had a masterful performance by Tony Curran as Vincent.  The scenes at the end were just wonderful and had me thinking, “if only it were possible…”

The tragedy of Van Gogh wasn’t so much that he killed himself (he was a victim of, what people now believe, some kind of bipolar disorder, undiagnosed at the time), but that he had no idea of the greatness of his talent and how much of an effect he would have on later generations of artists and the art viewing public.  If only we could go back and show him this.

But then, how would he have ever been able to carry that burden?

Part of me feels so strongly for him.  To the point where I turn it back on myself, as we are all prone to do – we are our own best frame of reference, after all.  But if such a great talent had trouble making the world see the value of his creative output to the point where he doubted his own abilities, what then of my modest work?

There are downsides to being able to see the bigger picture.  It’s like those films you see that pull out from the Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy – in creative terms I know that I’m “an insignificant blue-green planet at the edge of the western spiral arm” *  The Van Goghs and the Shakespeares are the powerful supernovae.

When you read a great book, when you look at great art, when you see a wonderful film – it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the talent behind these creations.  However, because this kind of talent is way beyond most of us it is actually easy to manage.  Those of us who are not in that bracket can accept that we’re not destined for greatness, but we’d still like to be regarded as good, maybe even very good.  We hope that by persevering with our art, our writing, our chosen creativity, that we can become good.

But sometimes, when we’re feeling down, wouldn’t we all love Doctor Who to take us to the future and show us that we did, after all, make a significant contribution.

But isn’t that the scariest thought ever?  What if we were shown that we were complete failures?  How would we then live with that?  Or worse, we’re told that we will write the best novel of the decade.  Every little thing we then wrote would come under such self-scrutiny that we would drive ourselves into despair.

I’m feeling a little down at the moment, but nothing like the horrors that must have befallen Vincent.  I have a lot to be thankful for in my creative career, but these down times can make certain uncertainties loom very large indeed.  Hopefully, I can manage this in a constructive way.

*Not sure if the quote is right.