Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Wrote this for my professional writing class as a 'personal narrative article'. It's pretty close to home, though, so thought it could probably go up here as a little snapshot of my thoughts at the moment...:

My dog is going to die soon. With every week that goes by, we find more and more growths under his skin. With every week that goes by, he gets weaker, more senile, and life becomes harder for him. He might last another month, or he might last six. We can’t really tell. The only thing we can know for sure is that he hasn’t got long.

After sharing fourteen of my eighteen years with him, it’s been a shock to suddenly realise that there will be a moment at which he will cease to be a tangible part of my life. He’s my best friend, more human to me than most people I know, and I just can't think what I would do without him. Sometimes I hold him for hours, late into the night, wracked by the thought that it might be the last time.

I remember when my parents brought him home from Pets Paradise on a sunny Saturday afternoon in 1995. He was a tiny bundle of salt-and-pepper fluff, full of energy and life. He wasn’t house trained, but we soon learned that he had already worked out a use for his sharp little teeth. Before long, he’d been named Nipper.

I can’t help but feel like I wasted those first five or so years of having him. We weren’t exactly close – instead I was more inclined to berate him for barking than to pat or hold him. It was only in about mid-2000 that I recognised what a wonderful companion he can be. Unfortunately, the middle of 2001 saw my family move to London for twelve months, away from friends, family, familiar surroundings, and Nipper. I took two framed pictures with me for that year – a group shot of friends, and one of him. Every glance at that photo was a painful reminder of what had been left behind.

Since returning in mid-2002, we have been close to inseparable. Every day, when I came home from school, he’d bound over to me in a flash and we’d tumble around, play-fighting until we were exhausted. My brother, sister, and I would throw his favourite toy to him, and he’d leap onto and over obstacles with a manic glint in his eye, as happy and free as can be. He’d occasionally stop, lift his head, and howl like a wolf – the least dangerous wolf ever to grace this earth. He loved these games and so did we. They’d go for hours at a stretch. These days, when he actually has the energy to play, it’s half-hearted, painful for him, and rarely lasts longer than a few seconds before he limps off to go back to sleep.

We love him most for his personality. He’s socially maladjusted, immature, often idiotic, and suffers from a terrible case of small man syndrome – he’s wonderful. When walking him, he used to ignore other dogs unless they were at least twice his size. Only then would he react, baying for their blood. When they inevitably ignored him, he’d trot along with his nose in the air, like a victorious prize fighter – never mind that these same dogs could almost certainly tear him to shreds. If a stranger ever came to our door, he would do his utmost to protect his territory, barking manically and sometimes even lunging at the intruder with teeth bared. For such a lovable little rogue, he seemed to take upon himself a role as the fiercely protective guardian of his family.

These days, though, his cataracts and growing deafness mean he can rarely hear people coming into the house, let alone see them. There’s no more yapping, growling, and frantic movement. He just lies there, barely reacting to what’s going on.

He barely reacts to anything at all.

That was the old Nipper - the one who would chase anything that moved; the one who was always there with a wagging tail and an excited howl; the one who showed so much love. He is but a shadow of his former self. His days are spent asleep on the couch, or under a bed. At nightfall he stands at the door, barking at his own reflection in the glass, thinking it’s another dog just out of reach. Even this, though, is half-hearted. He is displaying the traces of his former aggression and energy, but it is now more sad than empowering.

I still cling to what little remains of that dog I grew up with. Every now and then, on his good days, it’s almost like old times again. These don’t last, though, and they are becoming rarer and rarer.

Mortality is a difficult thing to come to terms with. Nipper is slowly but surely slipping away from us, and it’s out of the realm of human control. I guess all we can do is make it as comfortable as possible for him, and enjoy the last days we have together. But I know that no matter how much I brace for it, that final day will be worse than anything I can imagine.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


holy fuck

that is all

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rambles... #1

It is such an exciting time to be involved in any way, shape, or form in music, film, literature, and indeed any form of art. It doesn't matter which point in the creative process you fit in (production, distribution, reception, etc), there is currently potential for the entire landscape to change drastically. All that the community needs for this to happen (and for everybody to benefit from this change) is collective willpower. Let's take the music industry as an example...

Music production has become almost completely democratised in recent years. It's now possible to produce an entire professional-quality album for less than $1500 (2nd hand laptop, mic, interface, etc could even work out to sub-$1000). This means that almost anyone with the will to create can do so. It no longer takes luck, connections, and a ludicrous amount of arse-kissing to be heard. These developments are unrivalled in the empowerment they give to musicians everywhere. Even five years ago, to get a single demo recorded and 100 discs pressed would cost more than an entire home studio does now - it is cheaper now to be a creative force on your own terms and at your own pace than it used to be to simply bang out a couple of tracks. We are now seeing thousands upon thousands of artists taking advantage of this. People like Josh Homme and Trent Reznor, as well as a plethora of other famous and unknown artists, are going into their own studios, without external influences, to make the music that they want, unmoderated by producers and label representatives. It is thus little surprise that what we hear on the radio and see on our TV screens is more diverse than ever. It's simply a matter of people releasing what they want, and the public responding, and it's a fantastic thing for the music-listening public as a whole.

The distribution phase of the process is perhaps where the most controversy, as well as potential for revolution, resides. Of course, we were all witness to the almighty shitfight resulting from Napster, Kazaa, etc, as well as the more recent lawsuits against the creators of The Pirate Bay. The knee-jerk reaction to piracy by major record labels, as seen in Warner Music Group and Universal's attacks on Youtube and the insistency on Digital Rights Management software being embedded in tracks downloaded legally from sources such as iTunes, is completely counter-productive and is liable to do more harm than good in the long run. iTunes has the potential to be a fantastic, and legal, means of distribution, but it has to respect its customers. The restriction of the digital music being greater than that of CDs is ridiculous and insults the intelligence of the consumer. Why should people pay for something when they can get it even better for free? I make a point of not downloading music illegally, but with CD prices as inflated as they are, and DRM-afflicted files being among the only digital alternatives, we are at a point where for most internet users, torrents and p2p file-sharing are the only option that makes sense. The time has come for the record industry to streamline and modernise - more should be invested in research and development, and less in the upper levels of exceptionally top-heavy corporate hierarchies. The major labels must respond in a way which addresses the concerns of the consumer, rather than attempting to maintain their narrowing profit margins. Online distribution must be embraced, with digital downloads becoming the primary means of purchase. This reduces overall costs for the labels, and allows for cheaper purchase prices, thus giving the consumer what they want. Stamping out piracy for good is not going to happen - even before Napster there were bootleg tapes and the like - but the labels can get on the front foot again, if only they would move out of the 20th Century.

On the other hand are those who have embraced modernity and are using the internet to something approaching its full capabilities as a device of distribution. The first and perhaps most staggering example of this was Arctic Monkeys' rise to stardom via MySpace. While the legitimacy of their claims not to have had anything to do with the fan pages set up in their name has been up for some debate, there is no doubting that without it they would have never become so popular so quickly, if at all. Established artists too, have used the internet to their own, and their fans', advantage. Nine Inch Nails, with their free download release of The Slip, and Radiohead, with their 'pay what you want' scheme for In Rainbows, had both worked out that established acts don't necessarily need to raise revenue primarily from album sales. In the case of NIN, decision was to make money through touring and merchandise, rather than allowing major labels (they were with Interscope until 2007) to give their releases "ABSURD" prices. For Radiohead, it was more of a marketing strategy, with one disc of the album available digitally for as much as the buyer was willing to pay, and a box set (with artwork, an extra CD and two vinyl discs) also on sale at a set price. In this case the (essentially) free download served to generate attention and hype, which ensured that the physical release would sell incredibly well. Major record labels can learn a great deal from these thoroughly groundbreaking strategies - much as they would hate to adapt to it, they dont need to make most of their money from record sales. Unfortunately though, the record industry, despite being home to some of the most progressive minds in the world, is far too conservative to even try this in the near future.

Finally, we have the recieving end of all this - the listener. We are the iPod generation, and thus we have unprecedented access to the music we like at all times. Gone are the days of being restricted by a radio playlist, or by however many tapes we can carry in our pockets. Mainstream external influences (radio, TV, and the like) are no longer the sole governors of what we can, and will, listen to. The rise of music blogs and internet piracy has meant that people's tastes are broadening, which gives smaller artists a greater chance of being heard.

It is difficult not to be excited by these developments. They similarly affect each element of the creative arts in democratising both creation and consumption - allowing a greater sense of involvement for everybody. Our generation has the potential to change the world in this sense - we must grab this opportunity with both hands, and commit ourselves to a new and completely different era of creativity and technology.

And now for a bit of quotage from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails (and, of course, some points to draw from it): "The climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more."

Dont allow yourself to be screwed here. Support independent artists, buy your music online from non-DRM sources, and especially from minor labels without big-money backing. However, don't download illegally - if this continues, the labels will simply react more and more conservatively. We must force change here, but only in ways which will bring about a better system.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It begins...

So I've finally succumbed to the web logging (or 'blogging', as those in the know put it) craze.. Whether this actually yields anything interesting and/or insightful is yet to be seen, but hopefully it'll give me a chance to vent some spleen and impart some of my 'wisdom' (I use the term loosely here) upon the few people who actually bother to read it. So here are a few things which are on my mind right now:

  1. I fucking love spaghetti westerns. Re-watched A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly the other night, and they are absolutely fantastic. Who would have thought that multiple-minute-long stretches of dialogue- and action-free footage, with just close-ups of people's eyes could be so engrossing? This has got to be the best scene in cinematic history.
  2. Wikipedia is a brilliant time-burner. I've spent about the last two hours reading about things like Yetis, El Chupacabra, and Tintin. Happy fun times!
  3. Motivation is an interesting thing. Despite wanting to start working again, I just can't seem to motivate myself to pick up my creative output again. I haven't completed a single short story since last year, and haven't written any songs in months. After beginning work on tracks for a full-length recording (blah blah blah self-indulgent, pretentious wanker blah blah blah) a couple of weeks ago, I'm no longer making any progress. This is frustrating.

My quote for today comes from the 'man with no name': "You see in this world there are two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."

I wonder which kind I am