42

42

 

I turned 42 a few days ago. As birthday’s go, it was quite unremarkable from the point of view of opting to go to work, the usual wakeup start of 6 a.m, then a day spent in the cold, doing my usual stonemasonry routine in a nine hour day. I had a celebratory meal with my family after work (which was lovely) then came home and the day was just as good as over. It added a sharp contrast to my 41st, which was spent lounging around in the beautiful Caribbean sun of Grenada, I have now vowed to myself that I won’t do a working day on my 43rd, 44th etc. I felt quite flat.

Entering 42 has been a poignant experience lurking in the back of my mind, mainly because it has provided me with a little opportunity to dwell on the numbers involved. It caused me to reflect on ‘halves’, specifically half of my lifetime, twenty one years ago.

At 21 in 1992 I’d just moved to Bristol, having left the comfort zone of my familiar home county in Norfolk. It had been a massive step in my independence as a young man, no longer reliant on the familiar faces and locations I had always known as home. It was a leap into the unknown and uncertainty. I took the move in a brazen spirit, it felt a little risky and dangerous, I won’t deny that deep in my heart I felt the call of adventure and the unknown variables just meant excitement to me.

Historically, twenty one years ago was a pivotal junction in my life, the choices I made in relocation became life changing circumstances which echoed on to present day. I live in Bath now, having spent eleven years in Bristol. Those years, upon reflection were like a burning forge for fashioning the man I would eventually become. I won’t deny that they were emotionally incredibly difficult years in the most part, much of my life in Bristol became a stormy season of letting go of ‘kidulthood’ even though I wasn’t aware of this at the time. I’d wrestled with myself and my often complicated emotions throughout the most of it. I generally don’t look at my ‘twenty something’ years with much affection, I was lost, directionless, emotionally lonely, acutely aware of being in a boat without a rudder and terrified of what that actually meant in the long run. At the same time, the connections I had made with new friends had helped me through the most difficult of those times, I will always be grateful to those who cared.

By the time I reached my thirties, I felt a great relief, It seemed that the most desolate and difficult emotions had passed. Life still seemed difficult but I felt that I’d survived a lot of the shit I had either put myself through or been put through. This gave me a core of resilience, I knew I had it, and it pleased me to know I could survive. Is that how one starts to grow up?

I’m quickly heading into the tenth anniversary of meeting the lady who is now my wife, this adds another contrast for processing half of what happened over the course of twenty one years ago. She has been the greatest personal catalyst I have ever known, my lover and my best friend.

Becoming 42, has been a ponderous experience because of the above reasons. I know that I have lived my whole life all over again since being 21. In turn, the memory of my twenty one year old self has been akin to remembering being a child; something I could never have anticipated feeling. Unlike the string of small recollections I have about being an infant, the memory of who I was as a younger man, seems very fresh, as if two decades worth of living feel like something that happened last year. It makes me feel a kind of emotional vertigo.

It’s easy to imagine further down the line, advice I would have given my younger self, changes I might have made to do things differently, but, I don’t really go too far into those thoughts because I’m mostly happy with who I am and how life has changed for the better. Remembering half a lifetime ago is bittersweet, of course there are things I would do differently if I could do them all again, yet at the same time I’m very aware that my greatest mistakes and challenges have also been my greatest teachers, and now I’m old enough to appreciate such an insight. Isn’t this a case of Ouroboros eating its own tail?

2142

*Hat worn like a lemon for artistic purposes

 

 

Let’s Have a Riot.

Nocturnal adventures are currently experiencing a grey mist which unfortunately obscures my recollection of travelling six out of seven days a week at the moment, so I’m a little disappointed to not be adding much content to my @Night section. Regardless, the pace of 2013 and all the things I’ve been involved with remains largely a relentless procession of days, mainly involving a significant degree of hard graft. I’m currently involved in a building project that has been going on for nearly three months. I’ve helped disembowel the basement level of a house in Bath in view to knocking three rooms through into one large open plan space, then building an outdoor extension onto that. The project has taken me away from general stone masonry practices and moved me out of that comfort zone into learning quite a bit about general building techniques. I’d say, on the whole I’ve learnt quite a lot. Sadly, by 8pm on any Friday evening my mental activity is so diminished that my brain resembles a soggy house brick.

To let off a little steam, I went up to Worcester last weekend (Jan 27th)with my friend Auri, to engage in an excellent activity called ‘Zombie Riot’. Like the name suggests, the activity was an organised riot, with 50% of it’s combatants made up to resemble Zombies. It takes place once a week at a trading estate a couple of miles from Droitwich. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, how well organised the event would be or quite how much fun would be involved. In retrospect, it’s easy to imagine how badly it could have been done in the wrong hands. Fortunately, the event was in the very capable hands of a company called RAM Training, who consist of ex soldiers- infantry and airborne. These guys really know how to orchestrate a controlled riot and make the whole exercise a massive dose of fun.

Wash your bloody hands! – Auri and I getting some decontamination.

The day is divided into two riots featuring two equally balanced teams, each team gets sent off to a training  bootcamp of either zombie rioters or military police. (Attack and defend) My friend and I found ourselves in  the Zombie group for the first half of the day, we were garbed up in protective clothing and gory face paint then taught various strategies for breaking through riot police defences and tackling people down to the ground in a controlled fashion. In spite of the cold January wind breezing around us that morning, the bootcamp training soon got all participants warmed up and having a good laugh within a short space of time. We were briefed on what to expect when the opposing team would arrive and we were encouraged to utilise the boxes of crates filled with plastic bottles half filled with water as throwable projectiles. For the larger build, stronger players, a small group were shown how to overturn a car parked in the middle of the first riot zone.

Training whizzed by quickly then we were told that the enemy team were making their advance to the main riot arena. The arena itself was a somewhat neglected corner of the trade park, dilapidated corrugated iron buildings sitting on waste ground with abandoned, smashed cars littered around them, for mood, the setting was absolutely perfect.

Me getting into full blown Zombie,’ I’m going to seriously twat you one’ rage mode.

It was incredible how quickly the mood of our group elevated to an amped state of pre-riot aggression, once we knew that the other team were within the perimeter of the arena, we were encouraged to growl,scream and shout all manner of Zombieisms just to stoke up their sense of apprehension. We were kept behind a wire fence barrier, which would be smashed down at the command of one of the marshals at a particular point, until that moment, we lobbed wave after wave of water bottles at the huddled group of riot police cowering behind their Armadillo shields. The command was given and Team Zombie went full charge into the cluster of opponents. It was delightful mayhem, the Armadillo shield barriers lasted a second before we crashed through with the full intent of taking down anyone resembling a slightly fearful riot police officer. Naturally  they were trained to counter attack with foam covered batons. The rules of engagement were quite simple, If you are a Zombie, tackle your opponent down to the ground. If you are  riot police, strike  Zombies six times to take them down. Once defeated, players are out for a couple of minutes before a marshal prompts you to get up and join the fun again. I got beaten down almost immediately on the first attack, It afforded me a brilliant couple of minutes watching the rest of the combat take place. I was reminded of my childhood, during the Winter months,when there was black ice on the playground, kids would take a long run up to a patch of ice and do a sliding skid, usually in a procession of other kids. Occasionally someone would collide with someone else and fall to the floor. Someone else would yell ‘Bundle!’, which would prompt all other kids in the nearby vicinity to charge at the fallen duo until there was a pile of clambering children writhing about on the floor laughing. The riot wasn’t a million miles from this as it was clear that combat would start to form clusters.

Riot

To keep the riot ongoing and fresh, the game would seamlessly be marshalled into separate waves taking place at three or four locations within the main site. By the time the riot was into it’s fourth wave there was a strange combination of everyone being fully familiar with riot dynamics and physical fatigue. It takes a lot of stamina to charge and tackle down armoured, shielded opponents over the course of about twenty minutes.

I really enjoyed the primal nature of the combat, that incredible rush of being firmly in the moment with two simple objectives; attack and survive. It’s a very similar mentality to how I feel when I’m paint-balling, another fabulous source of adrenaline.

The final stage of the riot was a simple theatrical state of closure. The riot police were ushered back outside the riot complex and the large metal barred gates were closed and locked. Zombies yelling abuse and taunts on one side, Riot police doing the same from the  other. I found a rubber severed human foot near where I was roaring, so I picked it up and slam-dunked it  so it bounced off someone’s helmet on the other side of the gate.

This neatly took all participants to lunch time, where we indulged in a much needed food break. This was provided by the organisers as part of the package. Hot soup and a variety of baguettes. Absolutely perfect for the energy expended during the morning session.

Unfortunately,Auri decided to duck out of the afternoon’s riot schedule having discovered that rioting wasn’t quite as exhilarating as jumping out of aeroplanes…

After lunch, the inevitable roll reversal took place. My team and I kitted up in riot gear while the other team went off to learn Zombieisms. The Riot police first exercise was an unexpected treat, we were given paintball guns and taken into a warehouse area designed for training armed squads to enter scan and eliminate any targets, I think it was called a ‘Room sweep’. The onus was on team work, two people would enter a corridor, scan and fire at any obvious targets before shouting ‘Clear!’ which would allow two other squad members to advance further into the compound to repeat the exercise while having their backs covered by the first two. A bit like a baton race but with guns. Our excellent instructor, guided the training and threw a flash-bang grenade into one of the rooms just to add to the   authentic combat training atmosphere. An air raid siren droned throughout the entire exercise which created another level of tension to the procedure.

Shoot2kill

After everyone in the Riot police group had had a turn at this tactical exercise, we were then taken into another warehouse to learn how to use Armadillo and Snatch shields.

The Armadillo shields were pretty cool, when used correctly, they lock together edge to edge creating an instant wall between users and rioters. This does require all riot police moving in unison and barking repeats of orders issued by a commanding officer. I wound up being an Armadillo carrier for the afternoon riot, I found the shield quite uncomfortable and a cumbersome weight after a while but in the spirit of wishing to fulfil my team roll and also defend myself when the barrier was ultimately smashed through, I clung to the bloody thing and used it as best I could. It may have been a Moose to carry but it certainly performed with excellence at batting away hurled objects and charging undead.

The afternoon riot was somewhat more intense than the morning one, all participants understood their roles perfectly, as if the morning had merely been a warming up exercise.

When my group entered the compound and advanced into riot zone one, we noticed that larger projectiles were occasionally smashing into our defences, the sight of a plastic beer crate whizzing through the air being a particular example. My team worked well, the Armadillo defence seemed to last a few seconds longer than the other groups morning effort. We seemed pretty effective at beating down our attackers with the foam batons, I think I only got tackled down effectively once. I’m not a violent person by nature but I do acknowledge that there is an element of my character, call it my dark side, that relishes in combat games whether they be electronic, paintball or riotous. I admit freely that I took great delight thwacking people in the chest,hips and knee areas while snarling “Get down, GETT DOWWNNN!!!’ It fed and satisfied my inner fascist.

Riot gear

I’ll send you home in a fucking hearse!

And then the second game was over. We all marched back to the main warehouse to change out of our riot gear, shake hands with our opponents and part company. The day ended on a high, I could see it in everyone’s faces, they were exhausted yet elated. The event had been everything promised in the title and more, we’d had a riot, both figurative and literally. I felt  so impressed with the overall organisation of the event, the RAM training team are superb and provided an event designed with meticulous attention to detail, which in turn gave the whole day a total sense of value for money. As we began to get ready to leave, we were informed that for £10 we could obtain a download link for photos taken by the RAM Training guys during the day, for £20 we could also buy a DVD with footage of the riots. I couldn’t help but pay for both. With hindsight, I would have just bought the DVD, the footage was excellent and really captured the energy of the day. The photos on the other hand were a little disappointing as the bulk of them featured mostly other people, if you  are attending with a large party of friends this would work better, if it’s just a couple of you then there are a lot of pictures of relative strangers to sift through. Quite a few of the shots  were poorly lit with dubious attention to composition. If you are thinking of attending a RAM training event, then I’d definitely suggest getting the DVD version of your day, it provides a very satisfactory ‘action replay’ of your memories.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAs6CnKdiqU’]

The day was superb value for money (£60 on Living Social) I fully intend to do it again, bringing more reinforcements with me next time.  For anyone who has found this review whilst looking up the Zombie Riot, I’d recommend turning up in clothes that you don’t mind getting mucked up or damaged. The day, as mentioned is brilliant fun and involves a lot of physical activity so I think it helps if you are feeling fit and don’t mind a bit of rough play. There were plenty of ladies involved in the rioting so don’t go thinking it’s just fun for the boys.

Link to Ram Training below.

 http://www.ramtraining.co.uk/zombie-riot.php

2013- Brief update

Added some new playlists to Radio HIAB-X and included two new sub-sections ‘Childhood’ and ‘Forties’ as the ever growing mass of my personal music collection makes it online and is listenable. At some point within the next couple of months, it’s my aim to create downloadable PDF mock CD sleeve files for each playlist. This is generally intended for my own anorakish pleasure, whilst adding a further historical dimension to those audio archives.

I suppose it’s fair to say that HIAB-X.COM has become a kind of dumping ground for the general contents of my mind, a slow uploading of thoughts, feelings and music that have kicked around in my head for many years, dreams and their imagery also form part of that.I used to keep handwritten dream and life diaries, I used to make mixtapes and CD’s for friends, you could consider that this website provides a ‘One size fits all’ dimension to those formerly separate strands.

I often read that we live in a Narcissistic age and I admit that I feel a degree of discomfort that I may be guilty of indulging in that spirit, however,  I also accept that with very limited means of truly making a mark on the world, such collections as this are a personal time capsule where my intentions are to share with those who might be interested, be you a friend, family member or just some random web surfer looking for something to pass the time away.

 

 

Dredd 3D

This review was originally part of an overall blog entry,as I talk quite a bit about the movie Dredd 3D, It seemed better to just dedicate review to one entry.

With a large degree of caution, I went to the cinema with my wife to see the new film Dredd 3D. In case the word Dredd means nothing to you, he’s a comic book hero from the British comic 2000AD. And he looks like this:

It has been a long time since I’ve bought or read 2000AD, it just kind of happens to you after a certain age, however, it occupies a special place in my heart for being heavily influential during my teenage years as a motivation to enjoy futurism and taking an interest in illustration.

During the mid 90’s, Hollywood got it’s grubby mits on the Dredd IP and managed to single handedly make cinematic vomit out of it by releasing a film based on Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone, with a script penned on toilet paper using faeces for ink. It was so awful, I remember fighting the urge to stab the person sitting next to me out of blind vitrilolic rage. The film was directed by Danny Cannon, be warned, remember the name and avoid.

Inevitably,Dredd sloped away from cinema, leaving a godawful aftertaste in everyone’s mouths and wasn’t seen again. During the early naughties, rumours began to surface that the parent company for the Dredd franchise were in early planning stages to make a couple of new Dredd films, wiping the slate clean for a proper reboot, putting Danny Cannon’s wrongs to right. So, fans of the comic once again found their interests piqued by the promise that the new movies would be strictly true to their source material.

This was a teaser for the soon to be revived franchise, although after an initial burst of publicity about the early stages of development, things went quiet…for about nine years.

I don’t think any long standing fans forgot about it, once a promise is made, you kind of expect some sort of delivery , even if it takes nearly a decade.

Finally, sometime around a couple of years ago, the rumour mill kicked in and it appeared that Judge Dredd really, really would be making a return to the silver screen. Karl Urban was going to be the leading actor. No, he would not be removing his helmet, Yes, it would stick more to the roots of the original comic stories, Yes, the production would be geared towards an adult audience and by the way, here’s a movie still.

Reading the general vibe this image created amongst the interested and curious web denizens, one could detect a slightly hopeful sounding ‘Hmmm!” which soon became

“AAAAAAAgh!” when the following images were released.

“What the fuck have they done with his bike?!” People cried.

“What the fuck is wrong with their ill fitting helmets?” I thought.

 

(Although, it had to be said, the helmets still looked pretty cool and infinitely better than)

(I still feel violent when I see this image.)

Well, in spite of the general bitching about the new aesthetics, there seemed to be a genuine optimism about the potential of the new film as Alex Garland had been brought in as script writer and the director Pete Travis had a reasonably shit-free resume of previous directorial outings.

So, what did I think of Dredd 3D?

Essentially, it’s a great film. It won’t stand to be one of ‘The greats’ of cinematic history, however, it has a truly worthy place for being a very decent contribution to the Judge Dredd brand. The synopsis (Lifted from the press release) is as follows:

The future America is an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One- a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge — a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.

During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. A heinous crime calls them to a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture- a 200 story vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her ruthless clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control center and wages a dirty, vicious war against the Judges that proves she will stop at nothing to protect her empire. With the body count climbing and no way out, Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival.

And it pretty much delivers exactly what it says on the tin. I knew I was enjoying the film within minutes, it was the combination of gritty atmosphere, Karl Urban just nailing the persona of Dredd as soon as he appeared on screen. The aesthetics that people had been voicing concerns about seemed to begin making visual sense when viewed in motion. The film was largely shot  in Cape Town and Johannesburg, I think there were budgetary reasons for doing so. Visually, Mega City One in this new rendition was a very stripped-down version of the futuristic conurbation as seen in the comics, even the vehicles seen on street level had a more 20th century feel to them. It would have been tempting to be critical of this technological downgrading yet, as the film rapidly delivered a very plausible visual narrative, it was easy to accept this particular vision of Dredd’s world. All of which was further underlined by solid delivery from the cast, and the excellent industrial, gritty soundtrack by Paul Leonard-Morgan. It felt like watching a futuristic Dirty Harry movie. This is a salient point as Dredd the comic character was originally inspired largely on Clint Eastwood’s craggy faced, hard edged lawman.

I tend to appreciate that memorable, good movies have a particular beat to them, like music. The language of a good film is one of efficiency, scenes that are the right length, characters that remain plausible, plot points that progress in a logical sequence so that suspension of disbelief isn’t broken. Not overly relying on special effects to bolster weak points in the plot etc. There are plenty of movies out there that never achieve any of the above and these are the films I have little time or patience for. Dredd 3D managed to deliver a well structured story that remained engaging from start to finish.

The movie also restored some of my faith in Alex Garland as a script writer, having been generally disappointed with with his previous bungled third act in the movie Sunshine, a film I managed to love, then hate all in one sitting.

The thing to bear in mind with Dredd 3D, is that it’s nothing high brow, it offers little in the way of thought provoking ideas, if you are hoping for narrative depth, then this isn’t a film for you. Having said that, Judge Dredd as a creation has never been about that, he’s an urban, hardcore lawman constantly fighting crime in a dystopian sprawl. If you go to see the film with that in mind, then you’ll probably be entertained.

Olivia Thirlby’s depiction of Judge Anderson was probably my only minor sticking point, this is not a criticism of Thirlby as an actress because, I think she played her part as a rookie Judge as well as the script allowed her to. My quibble with Judge Anderson in the film is more to do with knowing what her character is like in the comics. She’s sassy, bold, confident and equally matched with Dredd as a fellow crime fighter. In the movie, she is none of this. The potential is possibly there for future sequels (presumably) but on the whole, Thirlby’s Anderson is an emotionally vulnerable woman doing her best to keep her head above water in a very trying set of circumstances, It works very well in the film, but she isn’t the PSI judge I grew to love reading about over the years.

It would be silly not to mention that Lena Headley was a superb Dredd villain, I had previously enjoyed her lethal and aloof performance as Cersei Lannister in HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’. In Dredd, she served her role perfectly as the drug dealer gang leader Ma Ma, and was particularly chilling in her softly spoken, calm delivery of psychotic dialogue. There was just enough back story to illuminate how her character developed from downtrodden prostitute to a violent, drug dealing scumbag. Like much of the rest of the movie, her scenes were functional and lean, providing just enough information to give her purpose without getting bogged down with unnecessary exposition.

Much has been said about the 3D visuals in the film, some people have hyped them as equal to those experienced in Avatar. I don’t happen to agree with this but am open to the idea that my experience might have been compromised by the cinema I viewed it at. The 3D seemed ok but I never felt like I was immersed in the experience and certainly never felt like any objects were hurtling out of the screen towards me, like I felt when watching Avatar.

I’d be interested to read anyone else’s experiences with the 3D in Dredd to gage whether I was just unlucky with my local Odeon or not. As it currently stands, I could have happily watched the movie in 2D.

For the showcase 3D moments, the eye candy was all about the use of the fictional drug ‘Slow mo’. The scenes were shown from a user perspective and pretty spectacular. Lots of colour boosting and hyper-slow motion cinematography. The overall effect created an almost comic book style set of action sequences and made an excellent contrast to the grittier, more squalid scenery of Peach Trees Block.

My closing thoughts on Dredd are this; having seen it once, I would happily watch it again. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the Blu Ray is choc-full of extra features. It’s the sort of movie that has left me with a positive afterglow, it has plenty of moments that are pleasing to recall, which I think is generally the sign of a good film. It’s out in the UK at the moment and will be hitting the US on the 21st. I like to think that it will continue with favourable ratings, we’ve been given a taste of how Dredd’s world is ripe with cinematic potential, now this film is out, it begs for expansion and fleshing out.

++++

HIAB-X Does WordPress

Sayonara iWeb.We had our fun didn’t we, but then you stopped being cool, you got lazy and stopped updating, then you started acting like personal websites weren’t that important, then you pissed around with my hosting and finally, finally you just crapped out on simple things like being able to upload new content without making it feel like digital root canal surgery.

I will not miss you.

Hello WordPress and a big hello again to my anonymous lurkers. If you’ve just arrived at hiab-x.com for the first time, my name is Matthias aka HIAB-X. I’ve been doing this site since around 1999. It’s a site of personal interests often updated with blog rambles, dream diaries, my personal mixes for Radio HIAB-X and whatever else takes my fancy.

This latest WordPress upgrade comes courtesy of my patient friend and co conspirator Jason Hess, without whom I’d still be spitting feathers at Apple’s defunct/dysfunctional, web authoring software.

For those of you who are my more regular visitors,keep watching this space, as I learn the ropes, I hope to fully utilise any cool features that I like in WordPress in order to enhance and make more dynamic engaging content…either that or just a few bell’s and whistles to help you waste a little more of your time online. Starting from now.

Comments are now back, so feel free to do what you never did before and say what’s on your mind. ;-P

More soon.

Keeping it Regular

Connect The Goddamn Dots!

Blogworthy news this week was the rare opportunity to see one of my all time favourite industrial thrash metal bands ‘Ministry’ play live (almost) on my doorstep at the O2 Arena in Bristol. I’ve seen them play live once before in London, so to travel a stone’s throw away was a real treat.

A couple of virtual friends arrived in Bath to pay my wife and I a visit, then we headed off to Bristol to see the band. These days I tend to shove earplugs in before live events like thisas I’ve rather grown fond of being able to hearthe day after a gig. My wife and I had found that the last time we saw Ministry that earplugs also made it easier to listen to the wall of sound emanating from the stage. It has to be said, apart from the dulling of the higher frequency noises, earplugs don’t affect the ability tohear the show in any kind of detrimental way.

Ministry played a blistering and furious one and three quarter hour set covering tracks from the most recent album ‘Relapse’ all the way back to ‘The mind is a terrible thing to taste’. The Bristol crowd seemed a little subdued to begin with but by the halfway mark, the audience energy ramped up into a suitable frenzy of jumping around and slam dancing at the core. I managed to get into the full swing of dancing like a loon but sorely regretted wearing my knee length New Rock boots which were heavy on the feet and made me feel like I’d been nailed to the floor, apart from that, the rest of my body got a good workout!

The highlight of the show came with the encore when the band played a couple of numbers from the album Psalm 69
NWO and Just one Fix, they also played Thieves and the infectiously danceable So What. The later, I went a bit mental dancing to.

Just as quickly as the evening began, it all seemed over in a flash. I’m hoping this won’t be the last time I get to see them live, they put on such an awesome show and I feel like I’m seventeen again when I dance like that.

As we piled out of the arena, I heard my name being called, I turned around to see my old chum from Norwich, Matt D standing behind me. We haven’t seen each other in a couple of years, it was good to see his little bawldy head again.

And then the rest of the week commenced, the usual stint of 5:30 am wake-ups and 21:30 Bed times. The space between is full of clambering around on scaffolds attending to an assortment of stone masonry jobs. I’m pretty much in my element with it all, there’s much to be said for doing work that you enjoy, it seems so much less like work.

On the building I’m working on, I’ve spent a bit of time building a radial wall into an area where there used to be some crunky old fire escape. Here’s what I’ve put in its place.

There’s now a sash window above the stonework, simple pleasures and a contribution to the historical arc of the building.

This week I’ve also been reading up on Hermeticism, following the observation that its symbology occasionally appears in my dreams in an explicit manner. What I mean by explicit, is that the symbology leaves little room for interpretation other than being of itself. I live my life with an enquiring mind, though not religious and not an atheist, my own spiritual perspective is one very personal to my unique field of experience. I won’t deny that there is an overall odd facet of reality that tends to point beyond the otherwise quantifiable world. So far I’m certain that the very nature of the mind is an intrinsic link between the outwardly normal world of predictable experiences and those things that happen on the fringes of ordinary reality. It could be argued that all psychic and preternatural occurrences are nothing more than extensions of how the individual’s brain operates.

Scientifically, it could be argued that universal oddness is nothing more than a mental condition, however, In my experiences, many of these mental conditions have had the unusual quality of containing information particular to future events …which as time has unfolded, have revealed themselves to be highly detailed and specific. I don’t think that my thoughts are a time machine and I’ve put consideration into the notion that I might have subconsciously projected my own ideas into an event to make the proverbial ‘shoe fit’. It really isn’t that, I am merely a witness, and It would appear that some things that I experience, appear to occur by my coincidentally being there to then know that I’ve seen them previously within a dream state.

I have been fortunate in two or three cases where I have discussed my dreams with a person, who has then been with me at a later date to witness particular specific details come true. While they’ve gasped at the transpiration of the uncanny, I’ve been quietly relieved that I’m not just imagining the synchronicity of it all.

Having lived this life for forty years, I don’t feel that my understanding is any greater, only that certain borrowed, bullshit ideas and notions I once held as factual have fallen away. I don’t think anyone can tell it to you, nobody can give it to you. The closest experience I have to life containing an otherly , spiritual* dimension is my nightly excursions into the realm of dreams. I consider myself fortunate that I have artistic ability and a general command of language to express that state of consciousness in an effective way.

So, I’m currently taking an interest in the branches of esoteric thought that is covered by Hermeticism. It could be a dead end, or it could be another piece of my personal jigsaw puzzle. I think that the explicit symbology that I’ve mentioned earlier warrants an investigation of sorts, If I find anything notable, I’ll probably mention it in these pages at some later point.

There does seem to be a rhythm in nature that underlines the principle of “As above so below” I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I was in St.Lucia a few years ago, sitting on a jetty overlooking a small bay. The waters were calm, I noted a large flying insect buzzing along the water’s surface. In a split second, a large fish leapt from beneath the surface and caught the insect in its mouth before plunging back into the sea. Within that same brief moment, a large seabird dived into the same spot of water, only to emerge a second later with the same fish caught in its beak! It flew away to enjoy its piscine meal. I felt so fortunate to have observed that incredible moment of symmetrical predatory dynamism, it has stayed with me ever since.

I am an aspect of the universe observing its own nature, we all are. This I believe is a fact of life and not enough of us are realising the simple truth of that reality. But I don’t think I can tell it to you, if you know that already and you really just know that, then consider yourself a little more enlightened than the average shoegazer…I just couldn’t say that above that realisation, that I know what any of that truly means, but I’m still travelling, still looking, still listening to the inner and the outer. Perhaps with time deeper meaning becomes apparent.

Journey.

What a trip.

Hello void dwellers, time for another pry?

OK, firstly, this site is now up and running due to the kindness of a friend I’ve never met but known digitally since the days of my first website ‘Hellclouds’, heh! Apple ceased hosting last Sunday and hiab-x needed a new home. Thanks Jason 😉

I’ve been very busy recently as a subcontractor in the centre of Bath, I’m helping with the assorted repair and rebuild requirements of a central 18th century hotel. It’s great having the regular work but oh boy, getting up at 5:30 to start at 7:30 Mon-Fri is making me resemble a walking corpse by 8:30 most evenings, my appetite for brains has leapt through the roof.

I must admit that I do love my work in spite of its regular coating of stone dust and building site grime, every job has its own unique challenges and I sometimes have to pause in amazement at the strange trajectory my career path has taken, it was rather unexpected and I’m now a qualified stone mason/conservation mason. It’s funny turning up at a job, being briefed on what I’m required to do then being left to my own devices. And I know what to do! I don’t have to generally ask anyone how to do something anymore.

In between work I do like my follies and side projects. Last blog entry I was generally

bemoaning the whopping disappointment that was Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’, however before seeing the film, I had been inspired by promotional images of the giant statuesque head featured in the movie. I set to work carving a small scale replica which kind of became a book end. I found the project challenging as most of the images I could use for reference were frontal views bathed in shadowy light. I’d also not carved a human head before. I eventually bought the ‘Making of Prometheus’ book in hope that It would contain another perspective…which it kind of did but not particularly satisfying as the side view was also obscured by bloody set building equipment! Errrr, well I did my best…

I also recently carved the grumpy looking piece of stone at the top of this page.

Now, it’s commonly known by the one or two occasional visitors to my blog that I’m a pretty keen gamer, it was either computer games or football. I opted for computer games and fucking loathe football. Anyway, I’ve recently played a stunning game that I’ll briefly gush praise upon here.

‘Journey’ by That Game Company. (PS3 Only)

Journey is a gaming experience like no other. The first tantalising clips appeared a couple of years ago on various gaming websites, it promised to be visually stunning, revealing a wonderfully rendered cartoon like world where the player controls a mysterious,cloaked nomadic figure and traverses a strange desert like landscape filled with the remnants of a fallen civilisation.

What these teasers promised, delivered in spades. Journey transcends the well trodden path of so many games to a point that it becomes an incredibly emotional artistic experience that one interacts with.Even though it employs some basic platforming game mechanics such as climbing and jumping to reach certain areas, it still manages to dazzle the player with the most glorious visual array of sublime imagery.

So, what’s it all about? I won’t include spoilers from my own playthrough but I can say this; on the surface, Journey is what it says it is. The player begins in a desolate sand dune within a sparse desert, you then begin your travel to a mysterious looking mountain somewhere in the faraway horizon. Along the way, the game provides you with little gifts and visual cues to help your travels become less monotonous than wading through sand, these come in the form of little power-ups that can help you to jump and fly for a brief period, or slide gracefully down a sloping dune.

You will periodically encounter ruins that reveal a visual narrative that begins to provide a backstory for your character and the world it inhabits. I particularly enjoyed encountering these as they remind me of the art of ancient civilisations such as Mayan or Aztec pictorial hieroglyphics, albeit in an animated,computer generated way.

Once you have become familiar with the game mechanics, which are beautifully simple and elegant, you then travel through a gateway leading to the next level of the world you are exploring. It is from here where the player then will possibly encounter another player. Considerable thought was put into how to to achieve this multiplayer dynamic without breaking the spell of the atmospheric environment that the game offers. The result is breath taking, other players remain anonymous in terms of username and there are no distracting voice chats, silly gestures or any of the other often annoying attributes found in other games when meeting other players. Your Journey companion will only be able to interact with you by staying with you, or calling to you by means of singing a musical range of notes. You can only do likewise. It keeps the vibe totally in check and just encourages the player to remain perfectly in character.

On a deeper level, Journey can be seen as a visual metaphor for the path of one’s life, the world we actually live in and the people we encounter during these things. It refreshingly  contains no violence or accumulation of impossible super powers, within the linear narrative of the experience, you are meant to travel through the levels of the game until you reach the mountain. Your journey may be solitary or it more often than not, will be about being a travelling companion with another player. One of the other notable aspects about being a companion is that you will most likely be helped by other players on your first playthrough, should you return (And there are several reasons why you’d want to) you find yourself naturally wanting to help your other companions.

Journey may not be a long game by any means, one can travel from start to finish within a two to three of hours, yet within that span there is so much quality within the experience, it becomes obvious that the duration is note perfect for delivering all of the narrative points that it needs to make.

I can’t finish this brief review without also mentioning the absolutely stunning soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory

This little except to any who have played Journey will prove to be incredibly emotionally evocative.

I don’t mind admitting that at the end of the game I was moved to tears through a combination of having my heart strings pulled by the haunting finale of the game and its rousing score. Its a testament to the game’s creators for being able to pull the player in and involve them so deeply into the narrative. It’s a truly rare thing and even more beautiful for being so.

On to other things. In a brief moment of nostalgic inspiration yesterday, I started the ball rolling with building a new radio playlist called Radio Jacquard. It’s an ode to an old nightclub in Norwich where I spent many a Friday evening dancing and pratting around with friends. The Jacquard was pretty much the only alternative nightclub in the city back in the late eighties and early nineties. On Facebook there’s a Jacquard fan page populated by generations of former club goers. Sadly the club eventually closed leaving a legacy of memories that spanned three decades.

Yesterday, I started chatting with a few old friends and John  the DJ about what music they remembered and associated with the era of our own visits, I’ve managed to rustle up a playlist that contains a good thirty tracks so I’m planning on splitting it into Radio Jacquard Volumes 1 & 2.

If on the off chance you’ve found this blog entry because you were looking up the Jacquard and you attended during the period I’ve mentioned, feel free to drop me a line via Facebook. I’d be interested in any anecdotal memories you may have, also, I’m planning on giving one of the playlists an accompanying picture (album cover) that features old photo booth images of attendees back in the day. (inspired partly by the following sleeve by Sheep On Drugs)

 

So, if you did attend the Jacquard on Fridays between 88 & 91 and would like to be included in a nice little art project, do drop me a line. If you don’t have Facebook, try hiabex303(at)gmail(dotcom)

I’ll post links to Radio Jacquard sometime over the next few days on my usual Radio page.

Other bits briefly…

I’m probably going to alter the section called Mnem so that It feeds directly from my Tumblr account, site statistics suggest that nobody actually bothers looking at this current section anyway but I seem to have an old stubborn stalwart attitude where I’ll post things to it regardless of an audience. The old grid format was a pain to keep updating and takes ages to load.

For those of you who enjoy electronic music with heart, I cannot recommend enough taking a listen to the new album called ‘Napoleon’ by Napoleon (Simon Mills from duo ‘Bent!) It’s a great album, full of sunny audio beams that take the edge off of the British Summer we are currently not having.

Charlie Brooker suggested that we should just rename the season ‘Glummer’ and be done with it. Anyway, Napoleon, have a listen…

Beautiful!

You can get the album from the usual outlets.

OK, that’s me done for this entry. Cheerio
.

When Dreams Become Nightmares.

Blogging,Music and Bad Movies.

Hello again you shadowy anonymous visitors. It seems like a good point to update this blog today. I’m feeling pleased that for now, the format of this web site will remain the same for the foreseeable future. It transpires that moving from Apple hosting will disable the ability for visitor comments to be added to any blog posts. LOL! I’ve had that function for years, seen my hit counter rack up 3K+ hits and nobody has commented on anything so it’s a functionality that obviously has little purpose for me personally. I’m not having a dig at you, I’m all for digital anonymity and fully appreciate the comforts associated with being remotely nosey.

Those of you who come back for repeat servings of this website will probably know I’m currently having fun uploading new playlists on my Radio Hiab-x section.

I’ve nothing but praise for the service ‘8Tracks’; they stand out as a unique music promoting service that actually have the decency to NOT force advertisements upon their listeners. It’s a brave choice and a bold one, I love them for it. The primary reason I can’t get on with Spotify is that as a user of its free version, users are forced to listen to mind numbing adverts between tracks and making matters worse, the software pauses an ad when it detects that the listener is  turning the volume down on it. Consequently rather than being made to endure an advert, I’ve simply walked away from the service. I could write a seething essay on why I loathe 99% of advertising, especially aggressive advertising but I’ll save that for another entry of venting at some other point. In the meanwhile, back to 8Tracks, they don’t do it. Around 1999 having bought my first PC and enjoying the earlier incarnations of services such as iTunes, I began to formulate a plan for creating a collection of music representative of the soundtracks to life as I’d lived it. I called the collection ‘RAM’ and started burning CD compilations based on the music I was listening to during certain eras of life. I decided those eras would be houses I’d lived in. Now years down the line, in the advent of playlists, the decline of the physical formats, it seems that a service like 8Tracks has finally provided an optimal platform for a personal project like RAM. I only regret that I can’t suck memories out of my head, upload them as silent movies that play in the background while my Radio Hiab-x playlists do their thing.

I suppose it’s a bit geeky, but every January 1st I create a new playlist in iTunes and stare in awe at how empty it is and wonder how it will look 365 days later. As the year goes by I add newly discovered music- well stand out tracks, and build a playlist for the year. Music and memory work so well in conjunction for me, I can barely comprehend not doing it.

If there were a place called Hell, there would be a circle for scriptwriters who have a wealth of source material to draw from and still manage to completely mangle a movie script until its a lifeless, festering pile of baboon  droppings.

Yes, I’ve been to see Prometheus.

Yes, I thought it was crushingly awful.

Here’s what I wrote on a fan forum:

It isn’t terribly complicated to dissect why those who hated this film (including myself) hated it.

Prometheus was a ‘one shot’ opportunity to take a tangental narrative hinted in the original 1979 movie, in a new and exciting direction. For many, many of us, who are now long in the tooth enough to have seen the original film at the time, there needed to be some fundamental rules to the telling of the story.It needed to be equal (at least) in its delivery of narrative and well crafted characters.

Reading the wrap sheet of the creative minds at work to make the film, the stellar cast (Most of whom have delivered stunning performances in other films and productions) there simply was no possible excuse for pissing it up.

Over three decades of fans have been gained during the course of the original franchises history, many (Including myself again) held the original movie as possibly the finest of its generation and definitely the finest of its genre. Alien could have been an awful, disposable ‘B’ movie, yet its production values, its well chosen cast, it’s carefully paced script, its sensible approach to horror set an incredible benchmark.

Regardless of whether Prometheus would be a new franchise, set in the same universe but launching in a new direction, it had to, HAD TO, apply certain rules in order to be successful, those rules needed to be at heart, an equal attention to narrative, pacing and characterisation.

In today’s world, it also needed to NOT fall into so many traps that so many disposable movies fall into.

George Lucas inadvertently demonstrated how not to approach a prequel when he decided to do SW 1,2 &3.

Lindelof was clearly acutely aware of the potential pitfalls when he pitched that Prometheus shouldn’t be a prequel.However, it is now clear in retrospect that to even include elements such as the Bone ship, The Space Jokey and creatures that burst out from within was an unconfident or at least underhand way of maintaining the status of an Alien 1979 prequel. Hence the confusion in all the pre launch hype, is it or isn’t it? Because the choice was made to keep those original design elements in the new film, It became imperative that it HAD to deliver a satisfying correlation between the films, therefore landing it back in the realm of prequel.

This now sets up all the ingredients for a fall if the ingredients aren’t correctly balanced.

Perhaps the most baffling visual contradiction was the blatant disparity between the sets and the creatures.

Everyone applauded the HR Giger designs from 1979, they were after all, one of the key visual elements that disturbed and inspired the audience and their legacy remains ingrained into our collective consciousness.

To see the sets and the murals of the alien world in the trailers gave huge hope and false promise that any new horrors would almost certainly be born of that aesthetic. The promise that the new creatures were huge, not the xenomorph and frightening stoked the flames of anticipation higher because any fan of Alien and Giger knows in their heart that Giger has designed creatures that share the DNA of Alien but are freakishly more horrific in their design and concept, several key Giger paintings have repeatedly made their rounds on fan message boards and everyone knows to see them come alive and animated would have been truly wonderful and horrifying to behold.

We now know that his monster designs were completely divorced from the final product and rather unfairly so.

There was a logical efficiency to the original creatures in Alien, they made a horrible macabre sense. Super-sizing the face hugger to become ‘Cuddles’ made bugger-all sense biologically and took the new form into the realm of something Ed Wood could have cooked up. Likewise, the ‘whatever burster’ at the end of the film, clearly lacked the bio-mechanoid elegance of the original Xenomorph yet aped its characteristics in a pretty insulting way. Everyone knows that it ‘is’ but at the same time it woefully isn’t.

So, aesthetically the movie was falling over badly, it needed a really tight script and pitch perfect pacing to rescue itself from the holes it was already falling into.

What a pity then that the structure of the story bobbed in and out of tension building like it had time to spare, like you can get away with almost creeping people out, like you can almost bring about a haunted alien house of horrors but change your mind at the pivotal points.

There was no room in the story for incidental crew members who were clearly marked for death because they had no other lines or roles to perform. How foolish it was to go back and forth between Prometheus the space vessel and the alien base with diminishing reasons for doing so, abandoning common sense and just assuming that an intelligent audience would just buy into that concept.

In terms of intelligent story telling, surely it is now lesson 101 to ask yourself when writing “Would I do that?”

“If it was me, would I really make that choice.” Fear is a great motivator, it is in our nature to run from danger and remove ourselves from life threatening situations. It is therefore bad story telling to assume that people will collectively buy into supposably intelligent characters taking flighty stances against survival instinct.

I’m sure Damon Lindeloff has feelings and perhaps feels hurt reading his negative reviews, we have feelings too and it genuinely hurts to invest excitement and expectation into a story that deserved a far better, intelligent treatment than the one that was delivered.

It’s only a film.

Yes, but it’s one I (We) grew increasingly attached to because it made promises that should have been easy to keep. I resent the notion that the age of narrative is dead in cinema, there are a wealth of contemporary movies and their makers that clearly illustrate that this just isn’t the case.

When I see an advert telling me to put away my camcorder and recording equipment because It is killing the collective experience of going to the cinema, I have to bite my tongue. My experience and point of view begs to differ, so far, the worst thing going for the movie business is shitty movies that could have been great and shitty cinema goers who think its ok to talk at volume once the film has begun.

Oh yes, if you stick all the surprises as reveals within the bloody trailer, then you might as well show the final scene and do away with the movie altogether.

Remove these three elements from cinemas and well see the movie theatres get a few more years yet.

What a regret it has been to so easily find holes in what should have been a great film, the ‘should have’ movies are perhaps the most unforgivable, for they cripple the faith of movie loving viewers that there is any worth in emotional investment before a film’s release.

                                            ‡        

 Writing the above rant has provided me with s light sense of release as I’ve been quietly mourning the thoughts of what ‘could have been’ and what was expected before the movie’s release. I know it was just a film and therefore perhaps something one shouldn’t get too worked up about, I just happened to care a lot about this one because Alien still ranks as my all time favourite movie of the genre it so masterfully created. But now, it is time to move on…with 0% excitement at the thought that there will be another Blade Runner movie.

 

 

Housekeeping

Briefly updating this website while it quickly approaches its final stages of this current incarnation. I’m quite disappointed that I’ll have to abandon the current format as it has served me well to build a website utilising an assortment of RSS feeds to serve my purposes.

You don’t want to read about my gripes though do you.

OK, as the title suggests, this is just a little bit of housekeeping. I’ve been adding new radio stations to the Radio section. All of them feed from my 8Tracks.com profile here. I’ve enjoyed compiling the playlists so far, they represent the music I’ve had as the soundtrack to my life over the last twenty years. My final aim is to reach as far back as my childhood with the things I remember liking and listening to over the arc that has been my time on this crazy planet.

The mixes are very personal to me and are evocative of the times they represent. I’m not entirely certain how any of them translate to strangers, or people who weren’t around me at the time but I like to think I’ve got good taste in music and an ear for arranging music in order to make an engaging playlist.

As usual, life is busy here in HIAB-X land, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into DIY projects pimping out my crib. Creative art is once again suffering low output due to the demands of getting other things done. Having said that, much of my art is inspired by dreams and lately, my recall has been somewhat fuzzy due to the above ‘busyness’ I do miss keeping my diaries and doing my images to accompany nocturnal adventures but I’m confident at some point I’ll just hop back into being able to focus more on doing it again.

Tidbits of news in brief:

Went to see the incredible Rammstein play live at the O2 in London recently. They put on a show that is unrivalled by any other band I’ve ever seen.

My end of evening routine of mellowing out before bedtime is putting an hour of downtime into playing the incredible game Skyrim. Mum bought it for me  as a Christmas present and I have to say, in terms of providing an unparalleled immersive, engaging, beautifully rendered mythical world with seemingly endless hours of content, there’s nothing quite like it on the gaming market.

Since last blogging here I’ve reached the pivotal age of 40.

Side effects have included: An increased amount of retrospective pondering, several shades of nostalgia and a slowly growing sense that being a thirty-something had its own unique character. I think a sense of mortality does creep in, it has partly provided the impetus to catalog and build a chronological log of photos, comments, music and flavours that life has given so far, arranged on the Facebook Timeline feature.

I had been looking for some software that would provide me with the means of doing this ‘Life so far’ audit, I couldn’t find anything that managed to push all the metaphoric ‘buttons’ then Facebook came along with their new feature that pretty much served every function I was looking for. There lies the bind in what I sometimes feel is a modern ill, I don’t like to be glued to Zuckerberg’s monster more than I need to be, but It transpires that it does have many convenient uses.

What I loathe though, is that I would love to do it all on my own web site but I’m constantly held back by the knowledge that I can never be too personal or provide information that might be harvested by the digital lowlifes that lurk around the dark corners of the web. Who are you, reading this blog? Who are YOU? I like to imagine that you are benign but I’m not naive enough to embrace that sentiment entirely.

Over three thousand hits on this website and not a single comment on a single blog entry : – /

Moving on, I must admit I’m getting pretty stoked about the imminent arrival on cinema screens of the new Ridley Scott flick :Prometheus. It promises to be the spiritual precursor for Alien, which to date remains one of my all time favourite movies of all time. No doubt I’ll write an account of my impressions of it here, I have that horrible hesitancy that It might be awful or sub-standard. I blame George Lucas solely for that feeling, after all, he DID manage to make three consecutive screw-ups and forever mar his legacy with Star Wars. I managed to avoid the last Indiana Jones movie based on that bitter taste and it then transpired that my avoidance was wholly justified.

OK, this was supposed to be a blog entry of updates and now it resembles a moan.

Thank you dear void, for your brief attention paid to this particular missive. Don’t be a stranger now ;-P