Spectral Mornings

I had a shit of a day at work yesterday: a double-dose body-blow of corporate bullshit which felt like I’d just gone a punishing round with Tomasz Jablonski.  Then, in the evening, I got home to this, and it was like my best friend put their arm around me, gave me a beer, and told me not to worry.  Please listen; this is the best thing you’ll hear this week.  Then buy it, because the proceeds are going to a UK charity which supports research into Parkinson’s disease.  Enjoy, folks; the hairs on the back of your neck will stand to attention, because that’s just the way our Mr Hackett rolls :)


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Expunging Frustration: Guest-Post Wood-Cutting Tutorial!

Axe1Hello everyone!  And welcome to this week’s edition of Expunging Frustration, which is proud to be guesting on Chris James’s blog.  Expunging Frustration is the magazine for people who know that Inner Peace can’t be reached until we’ve properly expunged our frustration with lots of jolly nice violence!  In last week’s edition, we discussed how cold-blooded murder is still frowned upon in many parts of the world, and alas, not really a frustration-expunging option for most of us!

Well, this week we have an activity which we guarantee will leave you completely frustration free and open to enjoy quality Inner Peace!  So without further ado, here is our massively helpful tutorial for expunging your frustration by cutting up lots of wood!

First, tell your wife to order three cubic metres of wood.  You’ll have plenty of frustration when she decides instead to order eight cubic metres, and then has it all dumped on your drive like this: Continue reading

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Irony (a rant)

Beautiful, isn't it?

Beautiful, isn’t it?

In four years, I’ve never ranted on this blog.  Until now.  I’ve had enough.  And the reason?  One thing: the Large Hadron Collider.  You would have to be living in a cave not to know about the most wonderful scientific construction of our generation.  Thousands of years from now, future historians will marvel that, back here in the Dark Ages, we were able to push the boundaries of science like they are doing today at CERN in the midst of our vicious, arrogant, feeble-minded, hate-filled, prehistoric capitalist paradise.

Ten years ago, when this incredible piece of machinery was still under construction, I wrote a futuristic novel with it as the backdrop: when the LHC accelerated a certain particle to faster-than-light speed, it opened up a whole new multiverse, revealing limitless alternate realities.  The story was, at that time, good enough to get a literary agent.  But the literary agent couldn’t sell it to a publisher.  So I self-published it in 2011, and I’m very grateful for the handful of approving readers I managed to snag (keep going: I’m getting to the irony bit). Continue reading

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Good news for all Renaissance fans

RenaissanceHere’s some good news for fans of the symphonic progressive rock band Renaissance.  Yes, they are still going, and the lovely Annie Haslam remains on top form with one of the most beautiful English singing voices ever committed to record.

Next month they’re doing their first European tour in over 30 years, and yesterday they started a campaign on indiegogo to raise funds to film the concert at the London Union Chapel on 16 April.  Seeing as getting to one of the gigs is outside my price range, I decided to pitch in to hopefully get that gig filmed.  Click here to go to the campaign page and have a look at all the lovely Renaissance-related goodies on offer!  You’re welcome :)


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Alan Hewitt’s new Genesis book: A Selection of Shows

Alan Hewitt with his new book

Alan Hewitt with his new book

Good news for Genesis fans as tomorrow sees the release of Alan Hewitt’s new book on the Greatest Rock Band in the World, called A Selection of Shows.  Those of you with long memories might recall when Alan dropped in for a chat way back in November 2013, during which he mentioned how long this book was taking him to write.  Well, last week I managed to grab him in the very friendliest of headlocks to find out that A Selection of Shows has taken him five years to create from start to finish.

But what’s it about?  As Alan described it, the book “proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Genesis were one of, in not the most, prolific touring units to come out of Progressive Rock.”  Despite the title, I wanted to know if the book describes all of Genesis’s and its members’ solo gigs between 1976 and 2007.  When Alan had finished laughing his head off, he replied: “At the last count Genesis and the various solo off-shoots have performed 4,830 gigs since 1976, and that is just the ones I am aware of!   A book of that magnitude is beyond my meagre resources even if I wanted to write such a tome.  It would be practically impossible to write such a work anyway, as a great many of the gigs are not documented by live recordings, and others are but the recordings are hidden for one reason or another, so I did the best that I could with some of the resources at my disposal.”

Steve Hackett with Alan's new book!

Steve Hackett with Alan’s new book

Finally I asked Alan, as one of the foremost Genesis authorities, what he sees when he looks into his crystal ball.  He said: “Realistically I think the chances of the band we know as Genesis doing anything collectively together again are minimal, but hey, I have been saying that since the late 1980s and I am proud to say I have always been wrong – never say never and all that.  But I personally doubt that Genesis the band will be treading the boards again.”

With forewords from Steve Hackett and Phil Collins, A Selection of Shows promises to be a must-read for Genesis fans.  Published by Wymer Publishing on 2 March, the book is also available on Amazon; and don’t forget to keep up with all things Genesis at Alan’s fanzine site, The Waiting Room.


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Surviving the rest of winter in three-and-a-half minutes

This is a rank time of year in the northern hemisphere: the sun hasn’t been around in months, which makes old skin problems start back up (a-hem), and the cold and damp days aggravate old injuries in the joints (double a-hem).  You’d think someone, somewhere would’ve invented a version of WD-40 for the, er, over 40s by now, really!

But if like me you’re feeling run down, fed up, done in, and thoroughly wrung out, don’t despair.  We’re over the worst of it.  In just a few short weeks, the sun will come back, and I’ll be able to strip off and run around naked in my back garden once again – erm, er… *cough*  So, anyway, put your headphones on, sit back, enjoy this video, and congratulate yourself on having almost made it through another winter.  Hurrah!


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Proof positive that good writing skills matter

Good news: those clever people at Grammarly have proved (proven?) shown that having good writing skills really does make a difference.  They reviewed the profiles of 448 professionals, and then checked those professionals’ earnings against the number of grammar/spelling mistakes made in the profiles.  Grammarly distilled the results into this this smart infographic:


This is the kind of thing that supports my own professional observations: that people who are better at writing tend to be more professional in other aspects of their careers as well, and I’m really happy to find out that they tend to earn more money, too.  However, I must add the small disclaimer here that Grammarly asked me to blog this story because they will donate $20 to Reading Is Fundamental, a charity committed to promoting literacy, and I’m very happy to oblige.  Let’s face it, if more people could communicate more effectively, then perhaps we’d all be able to get along a little better in this world, so anyone who promotes improved literacy gets my vote.


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Ashes Are Burning

Clear your mind, maybe you will find that the past is still turning,

Circles sway, echo yesterday, ashes burning, ashes burning…

Fire1The New Year has seen a lot of blog posts where, to generalise, people are wondering where the time goes.  So, to demonstrate why time seems to pass so quickly, please do NOT watch the video below.  This is 11 minutes and 22 seconds of wood burning in the fireplace in my living room.  If you watch it, it will be 11 minutes and 22 seconds of 2015 lost to you, which you will never get back.  However, the video is set to the song Ashes Are Burning by the incomparable Renaissance, and it is a wonderful piece of music whose lyrics tell us how the ashes of the past can show us the way to our future.

But don’t watch it, unless, like me, you need time to reflect.  Perhaps your WIP is giving you grief, or your boss just ruined your day, or your kids won’t go to sleep, or you’ve just remembered about that bill you had to pay by yesterday.  Such is the miniature which steals our precious time, and which forces us to take yet more time to reflect.  Forget religion: Time is the only god, and how we use our limited supply is our choice.


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Getting That Squishy Feeling – and a Happy New Year!

FireworksHappy New Year!  You know that moment: you’re walking in the darkness, your foot pads down to the soft earth, but there’s an interruption, an instant’s delay when your shoe squishes into something soft and yielding.  You know at once you’ve trodden in dog-shit, and you also know what the immediate future holds: minutes of frustration, wiping your shoe on the grass, straining to see how much of the turd squirted up the sides, and wondering if you’ll have to wash the damn stuff off in your sink or if you should just go for a one-hour walk to let the ground clean it off.

That was me a few seconds after midnight on 1 January 2014.  I was in my neighbour’s garden with my kids.  A few seconds after we’d toasted the New Year with champagne, I strode off into the darkness to dazzle the children with some fireworks.  I didn’t see it, but I felt it when my shoe landed in it.  I stared down and, in the watery moonlight, saw that it had squished up the sides of my shoe.  At once I took it to be a metaphor for what 2014 would bring. Continue reading

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