Sunday, 26 October 2008

What's the point in having a blog if you're not going to be emo?

A couple of years ago I returned from adventures in far off lands to learn that whilst I was away, my grandfather had suffered a stroke.

When I visited him the next day I was pleasantly surprised by his condition. He was awake, alert, and seemed to be in good spirits; although his inability to speak (he couldn't form words, it was as though he was perpetually tongue-tied) kept us all guessing as to his mental well-being. Compared to the state of my dad after his stroke (mostly paralysed, very far away), it seemed entirely possible that granddad could recover fully and revert back to the fiercely independent, witty and charming 80-something year old man that I'd known before I left.

But as the weeks went by, there was no improvement. Nothing changed, other than granddad's mood - which got blacker. He was prone to bouts of intense grumpiness (a common Brooks trait, to be fair). He declined the offer of speech therapy. Eventually, he declined the offer of food.

In a number of ways, this was quite reassuring. It showed that he was still aware enough of himself and what was happening that he was able to make a choice.

It didn't stick, though. Either he didn't have the will to starve himself to death, or he was convinced by others that it wasn't the way to go. He was discharged from hospital some weeks later, and ended up in a retirement village; a small community of flats 'n' such, for old folk that aren't far gone enough for the nursing home, but have no reason to be living in house now that all the kids are grown up and they've outlived two wives.

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the same. I went with dad last Christmas to pick granddad up and take him back for lunch and presents and cheating at board games and all the other usual Christmas shenanigans. Five minutes of sitting around in that place depressed me enough that I was given to thinking of happier times; which depressed me even more, so I started to think about dying instead. Despite all this, granddad seemed happy enough. Not "all there", but content. Dad would visit him a couple of times every week (the retirement village was just down the road from the parents').

A couple of months back, dad went to pay his regular visit and found granddad on the floor in the kitchen. It wasn't obvious what had happened, whether it was another stroke, just a fall... but granddad wasn't doing so good. He's been in hospital ever since. During that time he's deteriorated quite rapidly, physically and mentally. A few weeks ago he was diagnosed with vascular dementia; a few days ago he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

The hospital - after talking to all the right members of the family - have decided that they will no longer attempt to treat granddad for any of his illnesses. At present, he is pretty much comatose; and in the next few days he will be allowed to die. Peacefully, and painlessly.

This is a good thing.

A toast: To Eric Brooks.


I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when recounting the gentle beauty of the Sia gig, that some sort of balance would be restored when we went to see Raging Speedhorn.

If ever there was a gig to annihilate all memory of anything nice ever happening ever, this was it.

Through The Abyss had already started playing by the time we got there. Good, but unremarkable; to my ears they sounded a little like defunct UK hardcore types Medulla Nocte, but since almost no-one knows what they sound like either it's probably not that useful as a reference point.

Start Of Nothing appear to be the outcome of a musical therapy group set up for tourettes-afflicted white supremacists. Except that they are almost certainly not white supremacists.

Shaped By Fate were better than the last time we saw them... but only slightly. Their guttural commands that we should all "step the fuck forwards" went unheeded, as during Start Of Nothing's set the hardest-of hardcore kids had started dancing like morons. Specifically, in that sort of shadow-fighting-I'm-going-to-whirl-my-fists-about-and-do-spinning-
kicks-in-the-middle-of-the-dancefloor-and-if-you-get-hit-it's-your-fault kind of way. It was only a matter of time before a dance fail occurred.

Fortunately, the splendidly monikered and spandex-clad Take A Worm For A Walk Week put an end to all that, by playing such abrasively unlistenable spazcore that even the most determined hardcore bibble channeling the spirit of Chuck Norris couldn't find a beat to roundhouse in time to.

And finally, the mighty Raging Speedhorn, the aural equivalent of being hit by a train. My attempts to avoid injury failed almost immediately when I got caught in the mosh, hurled to the floor on the other side of the room, and got my head cut open with a guitar. Good times.

And that's about it, really. I could write more, but the mice need cleanin'.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Please call me Eddy if it will help you relax

It is worth noting that my grown-up workplace is owned by an American company, and as such there is a distinctly American flavour about many of our practices and general goings-on. This is most noticeable when it comes to anything even vaguely health and safety related; Americans are famed for their litigious nature, and so our cruel tyrannic overlords at grown-up work go to great efforts to ensure that we don't get sued, for anything, ever.

Which seems reasonable enough... except it can get just the tiniest bit patronising at times.

Exhibit A: The attachment to an email sent to all recipients on site on Friday, entitled "Crossing the Road".

I was literally angry with rage. I don't think I need to explain why.

It's not like this is a one-off, either; about a month ago we all had to sign a bit of paper to confirm that we had read and understood the attached single point lesson on Safely Ascending and Descending Stairs.

Meanwhile, less rubbish things have been happening. Charlie Cat has returned from her summer death camp shenanigans, and has brought an actual cat with her.

The cat's previous owner (Charlie's sister) named it Molly. This was noisily proclaimed to be a rubbish name, and so the following shortlist of alternative monikers was produced.
  • Brian
  • Jeff
  • Scorponok
  • Hitler
Instead of any of the above, we seem to have settled for Rasputin. Rasputin enjoys sleeping and sitting on things, and so fits in quite well here.

All this, and I got to take bits of Matt's car apart last weekend too. Matt (who did not produce a short film in the 1940's entitled "Nazi Super-Men Are Our Superiors") has already produced a splendid account of our epic and manly exploits. It's got pictures and everything. Click here and here...

Sunday, 12 October 2008

From up here, they look like ants... and their flesh tastes just like chicken

Last weekend was a feast of audio visual delight. Sort of.

On Saturday, I went to The Thekla to see Sia with The Boy, Paul the RoboJew and Lovely Ruth. Except that the RoboJew and Ruth
didn't see Sia, because they didn't buy tickets in time. Dumbasses.

Support came from some guy called Scott Matthew, who did a good Guy Garvey (Elbow) impression, mit the ukulele also. Sadly, as much as I like Elbow, and ukuleles, it was all just a bit too insipid and simpering to bear. "
...I'm not special but it helped to know that someone thinks I am..."


We fled to the relative safety of the upper decks of the good ship Thekla, where his muffled whimpering could be drowned out with the carefully measured application of booze.

Sia and co played much the same set as when we last saw them, with a sprinkling of new material thrown in for good measure. Although she often plies a similar trade to Mr Matthew with the introspective and depressing lyrical content, she pulls the whole thing off with a lot more dignity and class; and her chirpy between-song banter is the perfect foil to any sense of pretentiousness that may try to creep in.

Which is not to say that there's no heart-wrenching moments. Watch this and blub like a little girl who's pet hamster just died.

Of course, all this tuneful pleasantness has created something of an imbalance, musically speaking; so next week we're going to set things straight with a Raging Speedhorn gig. Nice.

The next day I assembled with a small throng of other geeks to watch the new Death Race film. It's not the dumbest film I've ever seen; but that's only because I've seen The Fast and the Furious, which is the dumbest film ever made. Death Race begins with the ridiculous premise that it will take until 2012 for the American economy to collapse, and gets steadily more preposterous from there.

This doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy it... it is essentially gun/car/guncar fetishism that borders on the pornographic, and Matt (who has never been affiliated in any way with the Nazi party or other extreme right-wing organisations) and myself had great fun trying to work out what cars were hidden underneath all the armour plating and miniguns.

That said, I'm pretty sure that I got stupider just by watching that film.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Smoko III: Day of the Living Smoko

Single point lesson: Hot things are hot. So when you put an electric heater next to a heat detector...

...all the fire alarms go off, and the entire building has to be evacuated.

While we were all standing around outside, an unattended piece of equipment started a small fire in one of the workrooms. Amazing.