I press out days in perfect carbon copy

It's either because I've come back early (comparatively speaking) or because I've come back early and I am jobless, but I feel somewhat inactive. I have stuff to do, mind - I have money to make; for example I intend to begin selling all of my CD collection. I have had some attempts to dissuade me from this; but that's a lifetime's worth of music there! Having lots of CDs is brilliant and makes you look cool and knowledgeable when it come to music! I never thought I'd see the day when you, Rich Fox, would sell- and all that nonsense. I came back from university with no CDs and a handful of DVDs that I'd taken with me, and that's how I like it now. My room in my dad's place feels claustrophobic; racks of CDs collecting dust, let along books and DVDs (although I currently have no intention of selling either of the last two collections, essentially because they have not yet become available in any satisfactory digital version).

Yes, one of the reasons I have completely succumbed to the Great Digital Revolution is because of the convenience of it all. Many Luddites out there claim that you don't get the sound quality of CDs with mp3/mp4, but that's simply not true; if your songs are 256kbit or above, that is standard CD quality (and in fact Digital Audio Broadcasts around the 128kbit region). I download at 320kbit if that's an option. Another argument against a digital music collection is the risk of losing it all one go - to which I reply are CDs not flammable? Are they impermiable to flood or sewerage? Where, pray tell, do you keep your back-up CD collection? It's not hard to make multiple copies of MP3s, in fact for this very reason it's better than CD.

I've sold may, many CDs over the years, yet always kept certain ones behind for mainly sentimental reasons - but not now. It'll probably take ages to sell them (no doubt some will never sell) but they're the kind of thing that I don't think I'll enjoy lugging to my next home after university, wherever that may be. I'm also going to sell my vinyl as well. I don't have many LPs and 7"s, but again, they just collect dust..

My plan of action (at least whilst I'm jobless) is to keep active mentally, physically and financially, in any order. Physically, I'm finding then absence of a swimming pool in walking distance from my house hard to deal with. I really got into the swing of swimming back in Canterbury, which included the 60 minute total walking time to and from. I also miss the ability to find someone to play Aerobie with at the drop of a hat. As a result, I do go swimming here at home, but my physical exertion is greatly reduced. Pontesbury is not the kind of village one can jog/run around, and the best option is Pontesford Hill; a fair rocky clamber which takes around one hour to transcend then decline and be home in time for sherry. I'm going to try to climb it several times a week (I said to myself I'd climb it daily, but that isn't going to happen. I'm not disciplined enough). Mentally, I've been reading the books on my bedroom shelves. I'm currently completing Empire of the Sun (1984). J G Ballard died in April, so I've been meaning to have a Ballard renaissance ever since. It's hard to believe that this is the same author who wrote dystopian nightmarish satires like The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) and Super Cannes (2000). Such a vast change in style. There is rumoured to be a book published soon of conversations between Ballard and his oncologist during his cancer treatment, which will no doubt be a deep philosophical tract.

I'm also going to take up drawing as well. Recently I discovered some old pen drawings I did when I was 16. Very fine, dot-shaded drawings of Kurt Cobain, Henry Rollins,
Björk, and other musicians. The one of
Björk I gave to my friend Jo, who turned 30 the other day. The drawing was in perfect condition, and I knew she's a fan. Below is the original Kurt Cobain drawing I did which I think started my interest in technique at the time:

This was done the summer before I went to college. All through school, and up until I was at college, I always wanted to do something to do with art. By the time college was over and I had started my first semester at Wolverhampton University, I really was not into studying art any longer and had no idea what I wanted to do.. except perhaps make it in a band. But in the summer of 1994, I really enjoyed drawing, and I never really kept it up. I think that this piece in particular is something I still get great pleasure from looking at, mainly because of the simplicity of it - I find it hard to believe I stopped where I did with it, and I know it's finished because I'd signed it. I don't believe it looks exactly like Cobain, but I think it conveys his iconic haircut and slouch, which is enough. At the time, through sheer will power, I finished it with it looking like this. No need to add extra to the left-hand black sleeve, no need for any more guitar neck. Done. This is a restraint I think I show very little of in many ways (creatively or otherwise) and it has inspired me to get drawing again this summer.

A combination of mental and physical activity has also become manifest after I took up more physical exercise from reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2008) by Haruki Murakami. This is a memoir of sorts on Murakami literally explaining why he started running thirty years ago and why he still continues to do it to this day, along with being a novelist. It's short and reads almost like one of his novels (I'm guessing this is his style) and although I wouldn't say I've specifically come away from the book feeling totally inspired to take up running, it has made me want to take up some form of regular exercise, for the discipline and for the positive results. Murakami, in the book, discusses the kind of music he likes to listen to whilst running; something that really keeps him motivated. This has inspired me to choose some music to exercise to (maybe not swimming, though).

Today I hastily clambered up Pontesford Hill to Join Us (1998)by Bluetip. Because of this choice of music, I can say that what with my first year at UKC ending, my return home, and my original intentions for this blog, everything has come full circle. I'm sure that I've bored half my music-appreciating friends to death with this, but once more, for the cheap seats, this is the greatest album I have ever heard in my life.

I first got the CD around 2000/2001, when I was very much into Fugazi and the whole Washington DC/post-rock scene. After years of straight-up hardcore, post-rock seemed like the natural progression (it is for many a generic rock fan such as yours truly). Once I discovered the cheap-priced records from the Dischord Records website (owing to Ian MacKaye et al's decent business ethics) I bought a load of albums by bands either through recommendation or just because they had a cool name. Bluetip came from neither, but I bought it anyway. I won't deny that after the first few spins, Join Us hadn't cut it. In fact, for a while I preferred Polymer (2000), and it wasn't until I began to listen to the lyrics of Join Us that I slowly began to become aware of its brilliance; first the lyrics, then the music followed.

Front man/guitarist Jason Farrell is a man not afraid to bare his soul, but in more than just a godawful, mawkish, syrupy manner - Join Us is harsh, cynical, poetic and continuously funny. The album haemorrages great lines like "Stamps make shitty Band Aids / Letters come back stamped with Fuck The Sender" (Cheap Rip; about the ordeal of writing a love letter), "Mean, sweet and empty, my teeth are singing 'Sugar, come back to the cavity'" (Bad Flat; the woes of being on the road), "The word 'bitch' makes its appearance / You can hear men's thoughts click to fighting / So they take to kissing each other with their fists" (Jersey Blessed; no doubt Farrell's heartfelt interpretation of the place), "I want to piss on every continent / Treat my body like a suitcase, pack the scars / In case I catch myself forgetting" (Slovakian; final track, and a heartfelt cry to the pleasures of being on tour, regardless of the hell also). As a matter of fact, the title of this post, and also the Soft Reminder quote at the top of this blog, are also lifted from the lyrics on this album. To say Join Us has been an influence on me would be an understatement.

Aside from the lyrics, the music here is also the best guitar-driven rock I've ever heard. The production is phenomenal (J Robbins, of course) and I realised after this became more in my favour than Polymer that Dave Stern may have been the musical driving force behind the band here, with Farrell being the front man. There are some timeless riffs on this album, and a sound I have heard few replicate well (if at all, nobody's heard the damn thing!) The final riff of I Even Drive Like A Jerk is something I savour repeat after repeat (is that a xylophone..?)

Absurdist Media gave a fine and comprehensive estimation of Join Us back in early 2007. I just came upon this by chance after a particularly feverish attempt to find guitar tabs. The post comments on how the lyrics can be relatable to a certain kind of guy in a particular period of his life, which I found an intelligent and interesting observation. There is undoubtedly a specific belligerence and ability to self-deprecate here that a lot of people (guys?) seem to drop in later years for wont of seeming to become more settled and mature. However, regardless of whether I still relate immediately with Join Us, it still stirs me like nothing else I've ever heard.

It doesn't matter what has come since, even from Jason Farrell or Dischord Records. It doesn't matter what bands influenced Bluetip at the time (which are hard to spot anyway given how original and fresh this album is). This is it, the best record ever recorded. One of the best pieces of art ever produced, full stop.

Another reason I say things have come full circle now is because I am here, with too much free time, too much thinking time, and I can feel Old Rich sneaking back in; the Rich I seemed to put partially on hold whilst at UKC. The Rich who gets depressed for no good reason and thinks everything is worthless. The Rich who is paranoid when his friends don't return calls right away, the Rich who thinks his university friends will have ditched him by next September, and that everything is awful and we're all going to die. Well, Join Us helps tame Old Rich, and it also does nothing but encourage New Rich (if there is such a thing beyond the degree) -the more nocturnally social, reasonable, and 'slightly' less stressed-out Rich.

A lot of people are not frank on their blogs about their mental deficiencies, their concerns or weaknesses. They tend to write about how awesome their day has been and how worldly they are at times; this goes back to my original disdain towards Facebook and Twitter and all that diabolical nonsense, how easy it is to edit or gloss-over frightening facts about ones existence. But I've always planned to keeping it real with my blog, even if means banging on like this, but stick to it I shall.


Take veil for sex noises

"What you need to do is carefully remove the turf, and put it to one side. Then you dig the hole", my dad instructed me before he went to Mallorca. "Get someone to help you, if you need. But bury her just here.. this corner of the garden."
Floss is most definitely on her way out. After twenty-three years on this earth (yes, twenty-three years) the old white, fluffy mog is on her last legs and the end is nigh.

Floss has been with us for two years. Before that, she was with my auntie Charlotte, and before that she was with nan. She has survived several of her litter, and if it wasn't for her obviously now very weak condition, she'd probably have outlived Earl just by default. But she won't. She's eating very little, her internal organs are one at a time saying right, that's enough. I've been in this game too long, and she only gets any kind of pleasure when she's out in the sunshine. In fact, today she was out in the sun for half an hour, looking very peaceful. I stood at the backdoor just watching her, wondering if this would be the moment went she finally gave in. But she didn't. She came back in, looked at her food like it was complicated and disturbing, and tried to lie comfortably in her basket. I rang dad, left a message saying I think it's time, and am just waiting for the go. I've never dug a grave before. I'll light a candle afterwards.

So, I'm back home now anyway. Year one completed. I absolutely cannot believe that I'm one third of the way through my degree. The last few weeks have flown by and have been busy (hence my lack of posts) but I'll try to put in this post as much as I can about how it's all gone down. Please feel free to take a toilet/tea/coffee/cigarette/sex break anytime you need to:

I got 80% in my final essay for the Tacking Text: Explaining Style module - this is my best essay result of the year. Funnily enough, I didn't think I'd do that well. See, I started the essay at 10:30pm (not the night before the deadline, though. Just late at night) and attempted to replicate the conditions by which I did an essay the month before and got 75% for; I closed my door and curtains, dimmed the lights (i.e. pushed my lamp against the wall to create a dark, lava-like glow in the room), stuck on some classical music (James Newton Howard that night) and gave myself til 01:30am to do as much as I could. After the three hours I'd written it, and was happy with it, but felt like it was a bit too easy - a bit too pleasurable. I left it til the morning, re-read it, but found that I really couldn't say anything more, so I just handed it in and hoped for the best. Then I got the 80% mark. I did genuinely love writing the essay though (my notes took much longer than the type-up) and found the book to be incredible.

The text was Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (1989) which was the novel we read for the module (we also studied one play and one poem). Everyone's probably familiar with the film adaptation with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson (not a bad version I suppose) but the book was just staggering. It's all told through the narrative of Stevens - head butler at Darlington Hall - who is attempting to win back a previous housekeeper he is obviously in love with, but who is also living vividly in the past. His narration is unreliable, and his solid professionalism is heartbreaking as it reveals his missed opportunities. Partially set against the backdrop of WWII, it feels highly authentic. It is also very funny at times. I recommend it highly.

My other essays marks were also not bad, but I think I'll need to do extremely well in The Tale exam to get a first this year. Oh well. I've enjoyed it all anyway, and next year I'll know what to expect a bit more. After The Tale exam on Tuesday, my dad and uncle John (from Canada) were waiting at the house to load up the car to bring me home - firstly, though, I showed them both round the campus and gave John a guided of Canterbury (but let him make his own pilgrimage round the cathedral). Ayumi came along and met my dad. Dad was his old self, inadvertently utilising cultural hypercorrection when confronted with a foreign person; firstly he bowed to Ayumi when he met her (much to his own horror after he did it) and then went on to imitate a couple of her utterances in a distinctly exaggerated Japanese accent. I wanted the ground to swallow me up, and I fear for when she comes over in July.

On the final Saturday before I left, I organised a curry for a few of us, and Dan Parker managed to come down for the night. Dan was his usual, interrogative self towards new people - particularly those of my friends who are not British - by asking them what their national flower, animal or dish were. Sophie (Luxembourg), Fran and Chiara (Italy) and obviously Ayumi (Japan) all acted with an initial air of affrontedness when Dan first got going, but soon realised that this is just Dan, and I think the night went well. The food was amazing, and really good service considering there was quite a few of us there (Blaine, Emily, Charlotte, Nick and Julia also attended). I really felt like it had been a good year, having so many good people there that night. Others couldn't make it, but there's always next year. Here is a particularly good picture with Sophie, Fran and Chiara heading home:

Dan seemed very happy with fatherhood. This was the first time I'd seen him since the arrival of baby Mary. It was genuinely great to have at least one friend from back home down to see my first year living arrangements, even if it was the last forty-eight hours of it.

Started a couple of Salsa teaching training classes - this was always going to be daunting. There were very few of us available to start the training, seeing as how everyone has exams. On Sunday, it was just Yiota, Lefki, Ben, Toby and I, but we did go over one simple move again and again to potentially show beginners. What is also intimidating is that for the first few weeks, we're going to have 200+ beginners, all wanting to learn Salsa. We've also lost Rutherford dining hall next year, so we've got to cram people into Missing Link hall (less than half the size). It's going to be interesting, but I think we're up for it. Well, we have to be now.

Things I will miss about living in Parkwood:

The air at 6:45am as I left the house to go swimming (never has getting up that early on a regular basis been so appealing). The campus is so peaceful and quiet at that time of day, full of more potential than I could ever imagine.

The 9 minute 35 second walk from my front door to the library cafe. The faces on the way, and the green along the path.

Chris and Maureen, obviously (although there is also a couple of ducks near me here now, so that should help).

Having the friends close by that I had, and also the playing field so close. I only utilised this in the last few weeks, but it was perfect.

It has come and gone, I have had something taken away from me just as I was feeling completely at ease with it all, but that's okay. That's how all things should be. We should never get used to something for too long, never take the sheen off anything. Get rid of it before you get complacent, or let something else take it away for you (like time). We lose weeks like buttons, like pencils. Everything ought to feel like first kiss electricity, even a year in a town that isn't home. Roll on the homework.

I have been listening to a great deal of music whilst revising and preparing to return home.

The first album that I wish to talk about is Souls At Zero (1992) by Neurosis. This was one of those albums that lays the cards on the table for the fans, separating the dedicated from the transient. Many were quite happy with the whiplash hardcore of their debut, and were more than a little taken aback by SAZ, with its sonic landscapes, its dark folk influence and its genuine epic menace. But for others, this is where Neurosis really began to make their mark, something they continued through with such acclaimed releases as Enemey Of The Sun (1993), The Eye of Every Storm (2004), and of course, Through Silver In Blood (1996). But for me, SAZ is where its at, and I don't just mean Neurosis - I mean extreme music full stop. Never before or since has such genius been extracted from blackness. This has got to be in the top three albums I have ever heard in my sorry life. It is just pure pleasure and fear as one - good production, unintrusive, poignant samples, and Steve Von Till's (et al) vocals are just mind blowing. Von Till has developed a voice now which has to be the best in alternative music, but here it is just harrowing and poetic at the same time. As a listener for 10+ years now of this band, I still have difficulty explaining what they address - but I guess the cover to SAZ sums it up quite well. A homemade wicker man (built by the band themselves) emphasises the pagan, sun-worshiping content of their philosophical lyrics. The universe and the world are things that can take as they will, hammering home the futility of everything, especially our own genius for self-destruction. Beyond brilliant.

I first took an interest in Undertones after I heard My Perfect Cousin in an episode of Our Friends in the North, back in 1996. I remember thinking then that they were a solid punk band. But hearing a really good collection such as True Confessions (Singles = A's & B's) (2008) its easy to see that they are much more than just another punk product of the seventies. Undertones are a great and diverse band - you have the loud and angsty post-crooners of Teenage Kicks, True Confessions or Get Over You (all dealing with the paralysing frustration of being a teenager brilliantly), but then you also have a band that lend their edgy playing to more humorous levels with tracks such as Mars Bar and Jimmy Jimmy. Feargal Sharkey never dropped his Derry accent, and this places the band firmly on the ground. No rock and roll idiocy here. If only boiling diarrhea acts like U2 could have stuck closer to reality.

A very distracting album to listen to after you've just been swimming for an hour is Eyes On Green: Live at Tokyo Inkstick 1988 by Syzygys. This sounds so contemporary, and because I only heard them within the last twelve months, I just assumed this was a recent recording - but no, it's 21 years old. Remarkable. But this stuff really is timeless; you have your spiralling, crazy accordion-based instrumentals, racing along like warped computer game music, and then you have the singing, which is instantly recognisable as being Japanese but feels dated compared to the music. A brilliant combination. The complete studio efforts are out there to get also, but this is the best thing they ever released, I reckon.

Finally, I found this taped to the wall in Missing Link before we had Salsa on Sunday. I wondered what the hell it meant until I found out it was a cue used by my housemate Max during the play he was in (I still don't feel any the wiser for knowing this, though):