Thursday, 26 January 2012

Jetlag Music

The following blog post was brought to you by a combination of jet lag, bananas and listening to Spotify playlists for almost twenty four hours straight. 

I have been so cocky since my return. “You sound perky,” had been a regular comment on my mood since I landed back on Scottish soil. Jet lag wasn't going to get me. I left Los Angelos six thirty in the evening, managed to doze on the plane and allowed myself a pint once I passed through the hell that is Heathrow's Border Control service. Back on a plane to Glasgow where I dozed again on the short flight. By this point it was five in the evening, GMT style. I had been (relatively) awake for twenty four hours, eaten two dinners and a breakfast in the middle of the night. Somehow I made it through the evening until bedtime.

Then I slept for twelve hours straight.

“You sound perky,” Him Indoors muttered as he stumbled into the living room this afternoon. “I feel great!” I replied.

Yeah, I don't feel so perky now. Wide awake at three in the morning, GMT style, when I should be finishing off my last beer before bedtime, LA style.

One of my New Year's Resolutions was not to get stuck in a musical rut. I am cheating a little bit in January. Due to my travels across the pond, I thought it was a wise idea not to actively pursue any of my goals. Apart from the musical rut. That was relatively easy one to achieve. In total I was spending approximately forty hours on planes plus a lot of waiting around at airports. I assumed I would read on the plane; an incorrect assumption as I entered that hideous state of being too tired to read but being too aware of my surroundings to stay awake. Planes are a sociologist's dream and a OCD nightmare. 

Thank God for Spotify and its Offline playlists feature. Below are some of the songs I enjoyed on my trip to LA and San Francisco. Some have stories. Some don't; they're just there to be enjoyed.

The Walkmen – Juveniles

Story: Him Indoors and I decided to partake in a gig whilst we were in San Francisco. Originally, we decided to go and see The Walkmen after catching them as support for Arcade Fire in June. Unfortunately, the decision to buy tickets was left a little late and the gig sold out. I had made up a playlist before I found out we couldn't go. I hummed and hawed about whether I should remove the playlist. We were both determined to go to a gig in San Francisco and had booked tickets to see these guys:

Voodoo Glow Skulls – El Coo Cool

Authority Zero - No Regrets

A bit different, huh? I was worried that I'd love The Walkmen, hate Voodoo Glow Skulls and Authority Zero and spend the evening glowering into a pint. The gig is an entirely other blog post so I'll summarise by saying I threw caution to the wind and decided to listen to The Walkmen. 

So that is the tale of the Gig That Almost Was. 

(On a side note, I really enjoyed the Voodoo Glow Skulls/Authority Zero gig. More on that later, kidlets.)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll

warning: may contain glitter

(Also many thanks to @kirstininnes for recommending the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs amongst many other great artists)

Lady Gaga – The Edge of Glory

Story: Fortunately for Him Indoors I chose not to renact this video on the fire escape of our San Francisco hotel.  

Aloe Blacc – I Need a Dollar

Coming Soon: The true extent of America's poverty problem really hit me in San Francisco. I was staying near Union Square, on the border of the Tenderloin district. This area was described to me by a native San Franciscan as “the kind of place you see everything: trannies walking around in the middle of day, drug dealers, pan handlers. Just give them a look of disgust and walk on.” A bit like Glasgow on Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday evening. 

No matter where I went in San Francisco, I was confronted with the homeless population. Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf, the CalTrain station, swarms of people on the corner of Market and Powell. Always asking for a dollar.

Cold War Kids – Golden Gate Jumpers

Story: Not much of one but not enough material to warrant a blog post of its own. There are no barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge across the Bay. Anyone who jumps is not coming back. This is not a spot for attention seeking suicides.

Coming Up:

A trilogy of songs from The Killers; the 'most played' tracks from my Killers playlist if you wish. Just because. And yes, I know the middle one is a cover but I didn't know that until Him Indoors pointed it out.

The Killers – Read My Mind

The Killers – Romeo and Juliet

The Killers – When You Were Young

College Featuring Electric Youth - Real Hero

Story: The song above is a fitting end to my holiday and, indeed, this blog post. On the plane home, I planned to watch Drive. I had missed its outing at the cinema and had heard great things about it. Ryan Gosling is absolutely fantastic as the lead character, a movie stunt driver that gets involved with LA gangsters. At times my inner feminist bristled at the stereotypical representation of women: the only two female characters featured were passive creatures that were either brutalised, sex objects or passively relied on the men in their lives. Overlooking that minor quibble, the film had a great storyline that kept me hooked. Also its run time comes in at a respectable 100 minutes which is becoming a rarity in today's blockbuster world.

This song plays over the closing credits to Drive. It gave me a timely reminder that music and my personal preferences are constantly growing and changing. At the Voodoo Glow Skulls/Authority Zero gig, the support band was SkyFox*. Ten years ago I would have loved them: their cheeky pop punk style, the crude songs consisting entirely of curse words and about church girls being“easy chicks.” In ten years from now, I may cringe at this blog post and this small sample of my music tastes.

So, to end, here's a song for everyone's inner seventeen year old:

* I'm quite surprised that SkyFox have been around for so long. Their appearance at the gig last week was really clumsy and smacked of a band that had just formed. Mind you, they have a long way to go before they beat the two decade run that Voodoo Glow Skulls have enjoyed. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Goals for 2012

I was fortunate enough to spend New Year in a friend's caravan in the Lake District. It's a rather cosy place and I spent most of my time reading books and pondering the year ahead. Five resolutions seemed to work for me last year so here are my resolutions for 2012:

1. To start running again and enrol in a 10k run event

As I was writing my last check in post of 2011, I remembered how much I enjoyed running. It's a real shame I seemed to have ground to halt especially when I was doing reasonably well. In February I plan to join a local gym (gyms in January are like the special circle of hell reserved for unfit fuckers like me) and re-start the Couch to 5k program. A friend suggested that I enrol in a running event and, to add on the pressure, raise money for a charity of my choice. This seems to be a popular suggestion featuring in many articles discussing running and the motivation to keep going. I'm toying with entering a 10k that takes place in June (that requires a bit more research) and raising funds for the Scottish SPCA. Now I just need to remember which corner of my wardrobe my running shoes are currently hiding in.

2. To continue doing morning pages every day 

Another activity that fell by the wayside upon the arrival of New Job. Morning pages are an activity suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way. The idea is that, upon waking each morning, you immediately write three pages of.... well anything you like. This allows all the flotsam and jetsam of your mind to escape and, hopefully, opens up the creative taps.

I did enjoy doing my morning pages. They got me up half an hour early and, despite most pages being utter dribble, meant I was still writing every day. This compliments goal no. 3 which is

3. To stick to my weekly schedules 

One bad habit university taught me is that I could produce a 2:1 standard essay in the space of a week. Unfortunately this doesn't always translate well to long term projects or the workplace. Part of my plans for this year include taking my writing more seriously; treating it like, well, a job. New Job requires me to work approximately 3 days a week. That frees up an extra 2 days a week to work on my writing as well as enjoying a 'weekend'. I've worked at the weekend since I was sodding seventeen. I deserve to enjoy having a 'weekend' that isn't based around which shifts I'm working that week.

I'm also trying to work out a way of blocking any Internet and television access on my writing days. I do have a small writing space in my bedroom (photograph to follow when I've cleared it up a bit) that is far away from any links to the outside world. On days I need to work on the computer I shall simple pull the plug on the Internet. Stay tuned.

4. To avoid getting into music ruts 

This is partly based on a drunken conversation with Him Indoors in the early hours of 2012. I can listen to the same Spotify playlist for months on end whilst he is constantly seeking out new music. Some nostalgia for gigs gone past resulted in us searching Spotify for Franz Ferdinand, Cooper Temple Clause, El Presidente and what I like to call 'Obscure Shouty Guitar Stuff Him Indoors Listens To.'

My Creative Zen died a messy death in November. To compensate for its loss, I subscribed to Spotify via my Blackberry. This allowed me to download playlists to listen to when I was out and about. This musical freedom should have resulted in me waxing lyrical about aural pleasures. Instead I've been listening to the same playlist for two months. This one in case you're interested.

In order to make more use of this blog, I shall choose one artist a month to write a blog post about. Even if they're extremely uncool. Like this

5) To keep track of the books I read and participate in the Sunday Salon once a month 

In a hungover haze on New Year's Day, I lay on a massive sofa and trawled through Twitter. A common pattern emerging was people posting about their favourite books of 2011. I have a dreadful memory and could name some of the books I read in 2011. But perhaps I read them in 2009? Or was it 2008 I read that one?

If one wants to be a writer, then they must read. There is no "if" or "and" or "but" about it: they must read. Most importantly, they need to remember what they read and whether it was any good or not. This is where the Sunday Salon comes in.

I was introduced to this lovely concept by Alex in Leeds. Each Sunday, across the world, bloggers discuss what they've been reading. Here's the blurb from the website:

Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.
Currently there are over five hundred weekly participants. For a time I did attempt to blog on a regular basis under the Sunday Salon banner. A quick glance at my blog's archive reveals my last post was in 2010. I think it's time to kick start that habit.

So there are my goals for 2012. It's your job to give me a boot up the backside if I'm slacking off, okay?