Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Month: July 2014

The Cure – Faith

This is record number three for the Cure, if one discounts the rehash/cobbled together thing that is Boys Don’t Cry. Yes, let’s discount it, if only for simplicity’s sake.

The two albums that came before this were arguably post-punk, with the quieter Seventeen Seconds edging onto some of the gloom-doom road this band was heading down. Three Imaginary Boys was full of sharp staccato bursts of guitar, walking bass lines and throbbing percussion. Seventeen Seconds slowed affairs down a bit and upped the goth and atmosphere quotient, especially on otherworldly classics like A Forest. Well, they’ve reached their gloom-doom destination on Faith, and what a marvellous destination it is.

Each of the eight tracks on this record are testaments to sparse and tight thinking – guitar, bass and drums with subdued keyboards, each instrument clearly defined, although the Cure does manage to pull off the sense of hints and allusions throughout. There are nuances and touched-on flavours everywhere. Even on rockier tracks like Primary and Doubt, there are still hidden corners and fugitive lustres. Simon Gallup’s bass is front and centre on a few tracks too, like opener The Holy Hour and the hypnotic Other Voices.

The highlights here are the dreamy All Cats Are Grey and the wonderful desolation of The Drowning Man. The latter song is an ode to the Gormenghast character of Fuchsia Groan, who is one of literature’s more tragic belles. The song is a hypnotic and droning dirge and comes close to my definition of the ultimate Gothic track.

Yet, this record is unlikely to appeal to any new listener not keyed into the Cure’s early stuff. Yes, it is downbeat and there’s certainly no fun or joy to be found here. Repeated listens are needed unless you’re really surfing the same waves this music is. Critics at the time dismissed this record (and its even gloomier successor Pornography) as a bunch of self-indulgent moping.

And you know, it probably is a bunch of self-indulgent moping, but to me, that just makes this record even more compelling.

the cure - faith

Scott Lynch – Republic of Thieves

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard, #3)The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This installment spends far too much time in flashback for my liking. It’d be great if Locke Lamora was an engaging character, but he isn’t. It’s like Lynch is purposely withholding vital or telling information about his protagonist for a future volume.

Either that, or he simply doesn’t know how to create a compelling lead character. All of the significant attendant characters are more fleshed out or have more intrinsic interest than Locke Lamora. While there’s many successful books out there in history where this is so, I’ve always found it to be poor character development.

So reading the acres of flashback was a chore. I’m sorry, Scott Lynch, I couldn’t care less about Locke as a kid. You don’t give me a solid reason to. It’s the right here, right now that drives your characters, not the infatuation they had for a girl when they were ten.

Further, I think Lynch is starting to fall for the cult that’s surrounding him and his stories. His tales are popular and so’s he. There’s a lot of lazy writing going on here, with too much reliance on cheap KHAAAAN! type over-dramatic effects. Too much pointless and nagging banter between Jean and Locke too. Almost at sitcom level.

Yet for all this, Lynch knows how to spin a good yarn, like Feist etc, before him. The world he’s made is intriguing and well-developed.

Just…make Locke Lamora a more interesting character please, without resorting to ineffective narrative tricks like flashbacks.

All right, so flashbacks aren’t an ineffective literary trick, but they can be overdone, like anything else literary. It’s overdone in this book. Too much history, not enough right now.

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So sad to watch good love go bad…not!

It makes me cry, to see love die, said the Everly Brothers in their timeless 1960 single So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad), and in the workaday world, this is true. For most people, I imagine seeing their own (or somebody else’s) romance crumble would make for tragic viewing, if you could detach yourself from it.

However, in the fiction world, destroying romance and long-established loves is something I gain a particularly sadistic amusement in doing. Now, like all else, there has to be a reason why the love is sundered. Of course there has to be. Few sane people wake up and decide that will be it: marriage and/or relationship over. Something had to lead to that point. Maybe many somethings.
everly brothers
Quite often, it’s the interposition of a third party. To give an example from a story of my own, a married couple whose togetherness has lost its vibrant edge come to a colony on another world. He to work on maglev trains, she as a dental nurse. They seize the opportunity to come to this far-flung outpost of humanity for the money, and to save their dying marriage. It’s pretty obvious neither of them have a clue how to save it. They can talk a good rebuilding process, but there’s no deed.

He meets a younger woman – a very amorous young woman at that – and soon casts his lot in with her. She, the wife, meets a very unusual kind of human and she goes off in her direction. Fairly soon, any thought of re-strengthening their relationship has gone down the gurgler. Things go from bad to worse to execrable.

Throughout the disintegration process, I’ve detailed (as best as I can) why they are failing. Highlighting their character flaws, their differing needs and wants, and demonstrating how it’s the little things that often derange.

They do get back together at the end – sort of. It’s a big sort-of too, because there’s many lingering unanswered questions that lie between them – as it should be.

But why do any of this?

A lot of fiction, especially science fiction, simply doesn’t go there. Science fiction is usually about ideas and it’s not often you see a work of SF that is very human-centric and goes into the minutiae of failing relationships. When it happens, it’s an accessory to the Big Idea the author is trying to propound.

To get back to the theme of this post, it is engaging fun to play homewrecker with your characters. As an author, you do get to play deity with your characters. Place two people in an environment, whether it be a far planet, or an isolated religious colony, and subject them to the whims and nuances of a living relationship. Extrapolate. Give them situation after situation and hurl them in their direction. It often helps to write down a list of things that’d come between a rosy couple. Jealousy, the “other woman”, money, security, a stagnant marriage, etc. Nothing lasts forever, so why should your fictional relationships? Happily ever after is a fairy tale notion, not a reality-based one.

An intro to Operation 47

operation 47

To put it in simple terms, I’m a big person and I have been for years. At least (on and off) since my early 30s. I’m currently 45.

What do I mean by big? I’m 186 cm tall and I weigh about 130 Kg. [Edit 19 Nov 2014: I probably weighed closer to 136-7 kg] I have a significantly big gut, though I’m not really fat anywhere else. I don’t have a fat face and I don’t have a “fat” look at all.

The reasons why I’m fat (I’m not shy about calling myself that – I’m not in denial about my size at all) – the reason why I’m fat is ludicrously simple. I eat too much relative to my energy output. That is, the same reason as anyone else plus-sized. I love my food. I have an undying admiration for certain kinds of smallgoods – you know, salamis, silverside – factually most meats. I like the savoury taste of meat. As much I’d like to go full vegetarian I know I’d miss that taste and I’m not clever enough with my food choices to conjure up a palatable substitute in a hurry.

And I eat too much of everything. It’s not what I eat, it’s how much of it. I struggle with portion sizes, I usually finish off what my kids won’t eat and so on. I’m the garbage guts of the household.
too hard basket
I know why I’m fat and I know what it takes to reduce my weight. So why haven’t I? Well, it’s called the Couldn’t Be Assed Syndrome, or also known as the Too Hard Basket Syndrome. There’s quite a bit of not finishing what I started too.

So I’ve come up with Operation 47. I’m currently 45 as I said (45 and 7/12 to be precise) and I turn 47 in December 2015. Can I lose 40 kilograms between now and then? I’m sure I could. That’s about 70 weeks away. 40 kilograms in 70 weeks is about 0.57 kilograms a week weight loss. Which is neither particularly difficult to do nor injurious to one’s health.

Not only do I want to lose weight, but I want to become stronger. I have what’s called an endomorphic build according to constitutional psychology theory (which see) and so I’m “big-boned” and have a proclivity to pack it on. So I want to start pumping iron. I’m aware that I’m probably going to put on weight due to muscle mass being heavier, but once the fat starts coming off, it’ll balance itself out.

I don’t currently have a diet plan or anything like that in mind, but I have a better than fair idea of what works. So that’s covered. So when does Operation 47 start? Right now.

Let battle commence.

The Saints – Prodigal Son

Disclosure: I’ve not listened fully to any other Saints record, nor have I ever owned any other. Criminal, I know.

Well, on the heels of their breakout record All Fools Day, the Saints reconvened and recorded this. This record features a different lineup than the previous album, but that’s how the Saints rolled. Every record seemed to have a different guy in it, or a returning band member. The only constant was singer/guitarist Chris Bailey.

Prodigal Son is what you’d call a straight up rock album with a slight country edge to it. Side One is made up of faintly ringing melodies, deft touches, chiming guitars, but it doesn’t really grab or hold your attention apart from the confronting Sold Out where Bailey seems to mock the preposterous idea that he – you guessed it – sold out. Lots of brassy horns on that one and it’s a rollicking tune for sure.

Still, Side Two is where it’s at. First up is the dreamy re-recording of their 1983 classic Ghost Ships followed by the rousing Massacre. Tomorrow calms things down a bit then we come to the album highlight of Stay, which rates in my book as one of the best songs ever made. The album then concludes with the folksy yet stark ballad of Shipwreck where Bailey struts his poetic skills. And that’s ballad in the word’s traditional sense too, of a story set to music.

The CD version includes a cover of the Easybeats’ The Music Goes Round My Head which you can safely ignore. It’s a terrible song that was originally on the soundtrack of an equally execrable movie.

OK, in conclusion, Prodigal Son is not a great album. It’s a little too samey on Side One and the songs do blend in to one another. One review stated that it’s “intelligent rock with a prickly edge” and that’s a fair claim. It’s not immediately gripping stuff, and it took me a long time to warm to it, and really listen to anything on it apart from Stay and Ghost Ships. But nowhere does it really sit up and cry out for attention. Understated is a good word to summarise this record. Bailey must’ve thought so too, as this was the last record he made under the Saints name for over ten years.

prodigal son cover

A random list of titles…

For my Short Stories class, one of the things I had to do was come with a list of story titles. I didn’t necessarily had to write stories around the titles, but you know – I might just do that. They won’t be long, they most likely will not be coherent but they will be fiction!

Here are the titles.

    The Kelly Gang at the supermarket
    The Lioness, the Old Fool and Mum’s Cedar-wood Cupboard
    A day’s opera about a night at the races
    How to influence people and subvert them
    Eleven gallons of water and a ten gallon hat
    Three men and a case of dynamite
    A clown got off a bus…then got back on it
    What Terry did that day
    Halfway to Saturn, quarter way to Pluto
    The wedding of the violin maker

Perfectly random. As can be seen, some are perversions of other well-known titles for things, such as films or music records. These were simply the first ten things that came to mind while doing the exercise.

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