Employed, But Looking…

At the moment, I don’t have much of a social media presence at all, so I’m not about to become one of those idiots who wax endlessly on their timelines about how shit their job is and then wonder how on earth their boss found out about it, but suffice to say…

I need a new one.

I am off every weekend, so that’s a tick in the pro column, but on the other hand I’m up at 4am Monday to Friday, so that’s a big fat con.

I’ve been doing it for over a year now, but contrary to my expectations, you never really get used to waking up in the middle of the night. I’m fine when I’m working, but the moment I get home I’m fighting sleep until bedtime… which is another thing: I simply can’t go to bed early enough to set me up for the next day. I mean, I could, but kids are still outside playing at that time. I probably average 5 hours of sleep a night, which may not sound like much of a sacrifice but believe me, it catches up to you.

So, I need to find something with hours that are easier to manage, and something that gives me options in the evening.

Watch this space.

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What I’ve Done This Week #25…

Rico is drunk more often than he isn’t, and he usually clutches a half-bottle of cheap supermarket vodka to his chest like he is nursing a child. It’s one of those brands that is more petrol than alcohol. Occasionally, when he thinks nobody is watching, he will take a swig. Like anyone really gives a shit. Charlie lets him ride for free as long as he keeps his slurred and salacious comments to himself which – to his credit and my surprise – he usually does.

That’s near the beginning of Flowers For Someone Else, and I probably won’t be changing it. I like it. It’s got a sustainable rhythm, although I’m not even sure what I mean by that. Sometimes, the magic of writing is in how it sounds: how it feels when you read it back. You can’t point it out, and you can’t pin it down. It’s just… right.

Yeah, I know. It all sounds like self-congratulatory bullshit. And to some degree it probably is, because writing can be a very lonely and insulated endeavour. You may go for long stretches when you are the only one who will be saying nice things about your words, so patting yourself on the back from time to time for a job well done is no bad thing.

The story isn’t finished yet, but it’s getting there. And when it’s done, it’s gonna be good.

Fatal Extraction, Part II…

I was more than a little apprehensive on the morning of my extraction, to the point where I began to wish she had just pulled one or both of my teeth out last time I had visited, so that I didn’t have a week to think about it.

Between the first appointment and this one I had told The Girlfriend© about the possibility of being knocked out for the procedure, because I didn’t want to have to deal with the pain. I thought it was a pretty good idea, but she steamrolled over it so quickly that I figured she must have been on commission from the local anaesthetic supplier.

So, my mouth but seemingly her decision. Anyway, passive aggressive thoughts aside…

I accepted a needle to numb the offending area. One jab on the outside of the gum, and one on the inside. Not confident that the drug was going to take, I asked for a third injection, and the dentist was quick to oblige.

She gave me a pair of uber-cool glasses to protect my eyes from the copious amount of blood that was always a possibility, but she need not have bothered because I had them closed for the entire procedure.

It seemed to take forever for the tooth to come out, so long in fact that a few minutes in (once the fear had reestablished itself) I considered telling the dentist to stop – I was just going to keep the thing in my head after all.

But alas, I let her carry on… until I heard it snap. I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as loud as I thought it was, in the moment, but listening to someone wrench a tooth from your jaw is up there as one of the most unpleasant sounds you’ll ever hear.

After it was out she told me it had quite a lengthy root and asked if I wanted to see it. I guess they call that dental humour. No, I don’t want to see it! Throw it in the bin, take back these stupid glasses, and let me open my eyes!

Hopefully she disposed of it, but you can never tell with these maestros of the mouth… perhaps she has a collection mounted on her wall, of all the rotten and broken chompers she has yanked out over the years.

… to be continued…

Ghosts – Michael Jackson’s Forgotten Masterpiece…

Yeah, time certainly does fly. It’s hard to believe it’s been an entire decade since Michael Jackson died – June 25th, 2009.

Controversy aside, Jackson is one of the most influential people of the twentieth century. You certainly don’t have to like his music, but you do have to respect the reach of his sound, his choreography, and his style. He is – in the true sense of the word – iconic.

Everyone can hum the tune to Billie Jean or Beat It along with many others, and because music is released less traditionally these days, Thriller will forever be the best-selling album of all time. This was helped in no small way by the title track – the music video for which is still, pound for pound, arguably the greatest one ever produced.

But here, on the tenth anniversary of his death, I would like to highlight a Michael Jackson master stroke that I don’t think ever got the attention it deserved.

Ghosts was released in 1996 as a special limited edition box which I bought as soon as it was in the shops. It was a long time after his heyday, but Michael Jackson was always a draw, so I thought this was going to be a big deal… except, it really wasn’t.

included in this deluxe collector’s edition was the remix album, Blood on the Dancefloor on CD, and the CD single On the Line. It also came with a glossy theatre-style programme for the main attraction, which was very nice…

…and the main attraction here was Ghosts itself, an extremely elaborate music video that clocks in at just under forty minutes. It was effectively a new take on what Jackson had achieved a decade and a half earlier with Thriller, and in many ways he was trying to recapture that old glory. There’s a little more of a focus on story this time around, and there are a few songs that help to fill the running time.

Of course, being 1996 this was packaged on VHS, and has not since been officially released on any other format. For what it’s worth, I still have my copy tucked away in the garage in case one day it’s worth a fortune.

Ghosts is actually pretty hard to come by in this modern, digital age, but it is floating around online. Check it out and let me know what you think.

What I’ve Done This Week #24…

I have chosen my poison: I am going to leave all my other unfinished projects on the sidelines for the time being and throw myself into my suspense tale, Flowers for Someone Else.

This will likely be my written project for the foreseeable future – until I get sidetracked, of course – and it will possibly see me though until we go away on our theme park trip in the middle of July… although I hope to have it cracked by then.

I have got a very robust foundation here, and it is just as likely that I will find the finish line in a few days as it is to elude me for a few weeks. It’s difficult to tell. I know the destination; it’s just getting there with intelligence and sophistication that presents the hurdles.

I have over 1000 words (most of which are even pretty good), and it feels like the kind of story that really should not go on much beyond double that length. These kind of pieces are delicate acts of balance, and the longer they go on the more you’re fighting that pesky law of diminishing returns.

Potted Film Review: Toy Story 4 (2019)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Keanu Reeves

Toy_Story_4_posterWhat’s it all about?
As per the events of Toy Story 3, Woody and the rest of the gang now live with Bonnie, but she is about to begin kindergarten and Woody is concerned that the experience will be difficult for her. It is here that we are introduced to the newest character – Forky, a suicidal plastic spork whom Bonnie adores.

While Woody is encouraging Forky to integrate himself with the group, he lays everything down to find an old friend who has been lost for years. His selfishness results in Forky being kidnapped, and – with the help of some new faces – Woody needs to devise a plan to rescue him in order to bring him back to Bonnie.

The final act – which I will not spoil here – is an emotional ride in which you will not only forget these are toys, but that this whole thing has been computer generated. These characters prove once again that nobody does animated heart and soul quite like Pixar.

Watching it with the kids…
As with all the Toy Story movies (and everything that Pixar does) this is superficially for children, but there’s always a deeper theme aimed at adults.

Verdict…
It takes a lot to elicit an emotional response from me at the cinema, so bravo to the writers, animators, and performers of Toy Story 4. It’s a great movie, but is it the best iteration of Pixar’s flagship series? I don’t think so. It has a similar feel to the third entry, and – although Woody has always been the main star – here he takes up more screen time than ever before, at the expense of everyone else that we have come to know and love. It’s absolutely fine, but it sometimes feels more like a solo spin-off movie than a true ensemble sequel.

Recommended (highly) ↑

Eagles, Chapter II – Desperado (1973)

Members: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner

Desperado is the only studio release in the catalogue of the Eagles that was conceived as a concept album, and that fact alone could have meant this second offering was also their last.

It is the difficult second album – the one that has made many artists and broken so many more. Desperado shows the confidence of the Eagles to take their sound in a different direction, and the skill to do so without seeming like they are  just trying to find a new audience.

Doolin-Dalton (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / JD Souther / Jackson Browne)
Leads – Frey & Henley
From the evocative opening mouth organ, this is a great scene-setter that tells a good story. One of their finest album-only tracks. 8
Twenty-One (Bernie Leadon)
Lead – Leadon
Not one of my favourites, but it’s upbeat, very short, and the country sound is more reminiscent of their debut album than anything they would produce in later years. 5
Out of Control (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Tom Nixon)
Lead – Frey
Probably the hardest vocal Frey ever laid down for the Eagles, on top of a drum-heavy track. The title is apropos, because at times this feels more like a jamming session than a song the Eagles released. 6
Tequila Sunrise (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
This is an Eagles staple, but I have always found this song to be a little overrated, probably because it is played so damn often. Not a bad song – the Eagles don’t really do those – but far from their best effort. 6
Desperado (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
This is another familiar number, even to the casual ear. It is also one of the best songs that came out of the Henley/Frey writing partnership, and one of a handful of tracks that is synonymous with the band. It’s hard to hear anybody other than Don Henley singing this one. 9
Certain Kind of Fool (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Randy Meisner)
Lead – Meisner
This is Meisner’s only vocal lead on this album, but this is his finest hour. He always sounds good, but he connects here with every line and he sounds great. 9
Doolin-Dalton (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / JD Souther / Jackson Browne)
instrumental
It’s difficult to judge this as it’s an extremely brief banjo interlude that segues beautifully into…
Outlaw Man (David Blue)
Lead – Frey
…Frey’s best song on the album. I still think that Glenn’s voice is more suited to something in a softer genre, but his work on the first two albums suggest he wants a rougher edge to his tunes. 7
Saturday Night (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Randy Meisner / Bernie Leadon)
Lead – Henley
This Spanish-infused song is the only one credited to the original four members of the band, and it has grown on me over the years. I never used to get it, but I have learned to appreciate it over the years. 7
Bitter Creek (Bernie Leadon)
Lead – Leadon
A good song, and a very good fit for Leadon’s voice. The track keeps hinting that it wants to go somewhere else, but it never does. 7
Doolin-Dalton/Desperado (reprise) (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / JD Souther / Jackson Browne)
Lead – Henley
I like Doolin-Dalton and I like Desperado. Individually they are excellent songs. So together they must be amazing, right? Well… not really. It’s a case of the whole not being as great as the sum of its parts. Stilll good, but this mash-up is not as strong an end credit sequence as I had hoped for. 7

Overall: 71%
This could have ended up all kinds of wrong, but instead, Desperado is a definite improvement over their debut album. At least a couple of the songs on offer are right there in the conversation for the best tracks that the Eagles ever released.