Winter Is Coming…

Here’s an update of sorts. Busy seems to remain the flavour of this part of life’s seasons. So, being rather ensconced in my career as I am, I still fill the pockets of free time that I can snatch, with musical creativity. I compose tunes in break times, always gunning for a development in my style and ability to arrange. An hour a night at meddling with my electric guitar is starting to pay off. I’ve been (according to my Instagram page) been practicing for thirty seven weeks. That’s two hundred and fifty nine hours based upon my hour a day regimen. “The path is long” as I’ve been told, I can believe it, but on the whole as each week passes, I gain a little confidence and have found on certain occasions, I have a magic hour where my hands seem to intuitively glide around the fretboard and satisfying metallic shreds occur. Given a little more time, I’ll post something for your anonymous curiosity.

Halloween 2015 has just passed. It got me thinking that I should mark the occasion in some way so I delved into my music files and dug up the first piece of music I created back in 2013. I added a simple visual from the opening sequence of Halloween 3 (An old horror favourite) and uploaded it to Youtube. The piece, as with most of my noodlings, is thought of as a work in progress, as I intend to return to it at some future point and flesh it out a little more. It was always intended to be a track with spoken narrative, mainly inspired by the Bauhaus  tracks ‘Departure’ and ‘Of Lillies and Remains’

In the mean time, I’m refining my ability to 1. Play the guitar parts myself. 2. Develop the guitar melody so that it builds and evolves more throughout the track. That said, I’m still pleased that this first version was the main reason I began this musical adventure, I found that I’d proved an old daydream to be something that would eventually find some substance. So, here’s ‘The Summoning’ a working title that may become something else eventually.

As mentioned, life is busy and it seems all available space is filled perpetually. I’m working in Bristol currently, helping restore an old Victorian hospital so that wealthy people can live there in luxury apartments. There’s a certain irony that the site is immediately adjacent to a massive, crammed block of flats inhabited mainly by the impoverished. As a partial remedy to this juxtaposition of fortunes, a new building is due to be erected that will serve as a visual barrier between to the two classes. One can almost imagine the kind of neighbourly dynamic that may present itself if civilisation reaches the kind of societal boiling point that it sometimes seems we are heading into.

I’ve digressed, what I had intended to mention is that my wife has provided me with access to her Audible – audio books account and recommended gems within. Whilst I perform architectural conservation tasks by numbers, my mind and ears are often operating in a different sphere altogether. Recently I have listened to a magnificent anthology of spooky stories by John Connolly called ‘Night Music -Nocturnes Volume 2’

I’d adored his earlier book ‘The Book of Lost Things’ and subsequently found that the aforementioned audio book was equally, if not more gripping that the previous offering. I highly recommend it and the narration is superb. I found particular delight in a section of stories around the middle of the recording under the heading ‘The Fractured Atlas’ If like me, you enjoy the spooky old yarns of M.R James, H.P Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, then you’ll find your spine suitably tingled by these stories.

Available here.

The next audio book I listened to was ‘The Versions of Us’ by Laura Barnett. A most enchanting love story about two people, Jim and Eva who meet in Cambridge during the nineteen fifties. One of the things I really loved about this beautifully written story was, the way the narrative branched out into different timelines, allowing pivotal plot points to unfold in entirely different directions to each other. It digs deep into the questions I think all of us sometimes wonder “What if I’d chosen to _________ (Insert hypothetical tangent universe question here) Instead of _____________ ? (What you actually did here) What you are left with is a rich tapestry of three vivid narratives of the same couple living their lives through seven decades with all the love, heartbreaks and loss in three entirely different universes to each other. The book saves the reader from the complications of  the ‘why?’, it isn’t necessary. Each story is so luminous with believable characters, dialogue and situations, one just easily accepts the three versions of events as they unfold. It also made me snivel repeatedly during solitary moments on my scaffolding, I don’t mind admitting it.

Available here

Once I’d regained my manly composure, I moved on to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. In a strangely similar vein to The Versions of Us, this story follows the multiple lives and deaths of Ursula Todd, beginning in the early 1900’s. A very effective plot device takes the reader/listener through a fractal maze of the protagonist’s existence as she lives the same life over and over again branching off at various narrative points to discover the paths that never were or what might have been. She never fully recognises all the other versions of herself that had been before and we never really need to know why. In an age where concepts like the Multiverse and Parallel Universes are fairly well understood constructs, I think Atkinson makes the assumption that the reader will bear these things in mind whilst enjoying the stories. Once again, I was entranced by the richness of the narrative and the growing beauty of the characters as they are slowly revealed throughout their various subtle iterations. As the story takes place over several decades and passes through the Spanish Flu pandemic and two world wars, it creates an often harrowing account of life in both Germany and Britain, particularly during the later war, where we see through the eyes of Ursula as a young woman and consequently see the carnage from an adult perspective. It is both a wonderful story and history lesson.

Available here.

By now, I’ve learnt to carry robust tissues in my pocket whilst listening to these stories. It is a credit to the authors, and narrators that they can reduce a man to a snivelling wreck when he should be focussing on the job at hand.

Listening to the last two stories prompted me to think about life’s ‘What if?’ a little, quickly realising the futility of such lines of enquiry. It did make me ponder however, the recognition  of the transient nature of things and people; our lives in general. I thought of the passage of time and that curious knowledge that comes with having lived a few decades, that there are people you know, that you meet up with for one last time without either party realising that you will probably never see each other again in this life. School friends, ex lovers, occasional family members. Its a funny thing, you say  your goodbyes in such a casual manner, perhaps even say something like ‘see you soon’ and then it never happens. Its like a little death of sorts and I have pondered if we would all act very differently if we were armed with the knowledge of these fateful last encounters?

And then there are those you know you’ll never see again if you can help it, and you’re glad. Good riddance you fucker!

It’s a funny thing, this life…

Said to nobody in particular.

2015

RADIO HIAB-X 2013: Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality 2013 from hiabex303 on 8tracks Radio.

Two thousand and thirteen had its own musical flavour, I seemed to gravitate towards electronic grooves and music that, in my mind, would be the perfect soundtrack for floating around in Virtual Reality to. My enthusiasm for the Oculus Rift VR headset was constantly in the back of my mind, perhaps because I’ve been keen as a gamer to see a true paradigm shift away from monitors and screens into a realm of infinite creative possibilities, something totally immersive. The music from that I discovered in this year stoked my imagination. Enjoy this mix.

HIAB-X Headquarters.

I’ve tried a couple of times to write about how I spent the majority of my free time during the last six months of last year. It was the reason blogging and much of my other digital activity fell into a deep and procrastination-free coma.  Rather than post out of date info that was sketchy at best, I’ve just decided to write a new post and start over.

As a little bit of background, here’s how the project began. In 2007 when my career path took a U-turn and ventured into the world of stone masonry, my wife and I had also just been through a year  of minor upheaval as we’d decided that rather than moving house, we would refurbish our existing abode and extend it. Our original plan was to add some extra room onto our kitchen by buying a small plot of our neighbour’s garden that was immediately adjacent to it. When this didn’t go through, we decided instead to buy two wooden cabins to use as extended spaces away from the main property. A ‘his’n hers’ kind of arrangement of outbuildings, If you like.

Time passed and the buildings became functional, I used mine as a workshop for man jobs, and because the cabin was a respectable size with two small annex rooms, we put in a sofa bed, should we need to put up guests. It was an ok setup, damp and cold in the winter. I never felt satisfied that as a usable space, that it worked as well as I wanted it to.

In the meanwhile, my career in stone masonry fully blossomed and the cabin became a place I infrequently visited. Sometime earlier last year, It occurred to me that both cabins would benefit from some retrofitted internal insulation. The materials were ordered, arranged to be delivered at a future date after I’d had time to prepare the spaces, then promptly delivered on the non agreed date one week after ordering. A large palette of styrene backed plaster board, probably twenty large sheets of the stuff arrived one rainy Friday afternoon. Plasterboard doesn’t do rain very well, so I was forced to throw my plans out of the proverbial window and fill my cabin as quickly as possible with the sheets of board, I hadn’t been in a position to clear the place out and now I was filling it up, and taking up half of the available floor space in the process.

What do you do? Well, due to the unpredictable British climate and the desire to not have to keep shifting twenty sheets of giant plasterboard back and forth between cabin and garden, I decided to start work by working around it. “It’ll take a couple of weekends” I told myself, and the gods of D.I.Y had a good laugh.

A couple of months later both cabins were insulated.

So, close to tears, sitting in the chaotic midden of quadruple handled personal belongings plonked over to one side of my cabin, I began thinking. It had been my intention to return to business as usual, I had a work bench area in the main room and a designated guest area in one of the smaller rooms. At the time, I was considering how to decorate over the plasterboard to give the spaces a more welcoming finish for both myself and a wouldbe guest. In addition to that, I’d spent much of last year feeling frustrated that my artistic creativity had been the victim of ‘too much going on’ and no appropriate space to occupy, where my creative juices could flourish. You see, on any given week day evening or weekend, when not working down the cabin, I’d fallen into a trap of sitting at my kitchen table and zoning out in front of my computer. We live in a small terraced cottage, each room is functional but there isn’t a suitable room to bang on a stereo and get out the creative arsenal without encroaching on someone else’s plans for vegging out at the end of the day. I’d long accepted this, but felt creative inertia chewing away at my soul like an angry malnourished rat.

Sitting in my personal midden, an idea popped up rather innocently…”What if, I shifted my work bench over to the small guest area, and what if I turned the main room into a more comfortable recreational area?” followed by “What if, that area was decorated to look a little ‘Bohemian’?”  At the time, I’d recently seen an image on Tumblr that I’d felt a wistful bit of affection for:

boho

Although not entirely to my tastes, it seemed like the person whose room this was, had made themselves a little nest of comforts and stimulations that harkened back to another era. I liked that, and the seeds were sewn in my own imagination. I set to work moving my work bench, then cursing the fact that, having built plasterboard insulation around it, I now had a bloody great gap to sort out, which I did.

The following months saw a flurry of intense activity during my evenings and weekends, sometimes that activity just involved going down the cabin and taking a perch then staring intently into the contents of my own skull. I was working out problems, imagining things that hadn’t materialised yet, just basically building the space in my own mind. I’d come to the conclusion that I’d borrow from earlier ideas I’d tried out in my early twenties, where I’d cheered up dismal bedsits with strategically placed Indian bed sheets to hide flaking, lumpen ceilings and cracked plaster walls.

My wife had been banned from entering the cabin since about June, I’d sold her the idea of there now being a second living room, come reading room, and I wanted her to see the final product without worrying about the gigantic mess leading up to it. During my working days on a large construction site, I’d noted that a fair amount of useable timber was being skipped; off cuts from roof joists and the like, so began rescuing bits and pieces to recycle and repurpose them. My original idea had been to make storage using old scaffold boards, but with my bohemian direction starting to take shape, the idea upgraded to using joist offcuts to fashion shelves that would start in one room, turn corners and continue into another room. Silly ideas began floating up.

  • It needed flocked, damask wallpaper.
  • It needed skirting board
  • It needed to have a bank of shelving areas to store various house cluttering artefacts, like ornaments, movies and books.
  • It needed to look fucking cool with some alternative lighting methods…just in case the need to dance around should occur.
  • It needed a much comfier and welcoming sofa bed than the shitty Ikea one I’d kept down there.
  • OK, the cabin needed to be multi functional because of the above and more.

These aims and ambitions kept me busy all the way through until December the 31st, by which point, if it hadn’t been the Christmas break, I’d have seriously burnt myself out. It’s pretty hard being a stonemason by day and an interior mover and shaker at any other given moment of free time.

Finishing touches and a grand scale tidy up took place and completed around five p.m on New Years Eve 2013, later that evening I escorted my wife down the garden to see the fruits of my labours over the last six months. I must admit, I felt very uneasy about the prospect as her former banishment from entering the cabin had potentially conjured up ideas of some kind of palatial den, that may or may not have lived up to expectation.

She was thoroughly delighted with her visit, so much so, we spent the rest of the evening celebrating in there. You know you’ve done a good job when your wife is happy to spend her evening in the shed!

Slideshow of the cabin so far: Hover over an image to skip back and forth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As it stands, the cabin will remain a work in progress, it needs to be lived in and added to, I may well add images of its development here as I go along. Needless to say, it’s now a great little place to be creative, or just read and listen to music.

 

 

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

 

 

World’s End

The actual playlist on my computer was 20+ tracks covering my favourite tunes from 2012, when it came to creating this compilation I had to strip it down to twenty of my favourites for the year where Terence McKenna’s ‘Timewave’ was supposed to reach it’s Omega Point. Needless to say, it didn’t, you get another musical compilation and I in turn can look at the empty playlist for 2013 and wonder what audio delights the next year will bring. Enjoy my 2012.

World’s End from hiabex303 on 8tracks Radio.

He Craved Lucidity.

As HIAB-X.COM evolves and fills with more content, I’ll be dedicating more of my writing to  experiences with altered states of consciousness. I haven’t deliberately meddled with my perceptions for many years now although the historical legacy of my adventures during my twenties still has a very profound impact on my world view today. I’m not ashamed of where I’ve taken myself, I sought answers to questions that couldn’t be adequately be answered by anyone else’s written accounts, I had to see things and experience them for myself.

During the period of my twenties, probably somewhere around 1996, I began taking an interest in the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. I’d read a fair amount about the subject and felt a natural gravity towards experimentation with techniques suggested to induce one.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s pretty straight forward. Ordinarily, everyone dreams, you may not always remember it but it’s a hardwired biological fact. If, like me, you are fortunate to have good dream recall, it logically follows that all dreams as most of us experience them, are events that occur in the night, where the dreamer remains completely unaware of the condition of being in a dream until awakening in the morning. At this point, the awareness of the dream is that of a collection of fragmented, recollections of what had happened in the dreamers mind at night.

Happy with that definition? Good.

OK, a lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer’s critical faculties kick in and conclude  with the general notion “Oh, this must be a dream!” or thoughts to that effect. Most of us have experienced this also. From my own experiences and speaking with countless friends about it, many people gain this brief insight during uncomfortable dreams and nightmares only to awaken from the dream a moment later. The dream is lost and we are safely back in the reality of being in bed in the dead of night.

There is another way of going about it, the one in which the dreamer gains the self awareness of the situation at large and remains in that awareness as the dream continues.

This is the proper art of lucid dreaming and at best, it can be very tricky to attain this state either regularly or for any significant duration.

The Nineties was an exciting era for technological innovation, particularly for the emergence of gadgets that suitably fell into the niche category of ‘Techno-shamanic devices’. These were things like the early Mind machines and creations like Stephen LaBerge’s ‘Nova Dreamer.‘ I’ll cover Mind machines in other post, for now, I’ll keep on topic with the Nova Dreamer.

The Nova Dreamer was a device designed to be worn during sleep and resembled a slightly over sized eye mask.It contained a small computer situated above the centre of the eyebrows which had infrared sensors in place just above the eyelids. What it it did was very clever, it would detect when the sleeping wearer was going into REM sleep (The mental state where dreams begin to occur, then it would gently flash tiny LED lights just above the eyelids which in turn would appear as a light orientated visual cue within the dream. The cue of the lights would not last long but the theory was, that the will and attention of the wearer, hoping to have a lucid dream, would be sufficiently invoked to a point where the cue was understood and lucidity could begin.

A certain degree of mental preparation was also involved, simple daily practices such as keeping a dream diary, employing critical thinking to discern the multitude of ‘unlikely’ occurrences that might suggest that ordinary linear reality was not being experienced.

There was also the practice of ‘reality checking’ whereby the would-be lucid dreamer should take pause during certain random points during the waking day and perform some brief mental tests to ascertain that a dream was either occurring or not occurring.

I’m pretty certain that nothing much has changed in the routines and practices of the budding lucid dreamer. I was particularly interested in using the mask as it seemed like a good shortcut to lucid dream induction. Although effort was involved, there was also a little bit of electronic help at hand. I briefly had access to a Nova Dreamer which I’d obtained on a trial basis. Unfortunately for me, I found the mask incredibly uncomfortable to go to sleep with, as it was quite rigid and felt like a clunky facial object. I’d wake up every morning with it somewhere next to me in bed and no recollection of having experienced a lucid dream. Even though I’d followed all the instructions that accompanied it, including a rather in depth course in lucid dream induction, I just couldn’t get on with the mask. Within the safe period of my trial, I repacked it and sent it back to the company who’d supplied it.

Irony ultimately ensued, on the day I returned my briefly owned Nova Dreamer, I went to bed and experienced my first ever lucid dream.

The Dream.

It began with a false awakening, I remember sitting up in my sofa bed and feeling a momentary disorientation. I was in the right bed but it had somehow shifted position within the bedsit I was living in. I just couldn’t fathom why this should be and promptly decided to try a reality check, I took a look at my hands. (As suggested in the lengthy procedures outlined in A Course in Lucid Dreaming) I was immediately surprised to see that I held a tube of Colegate Toothpaste between my hands. This immediately began the realisation that I was in fact experiencing a dream.

The sheer thrill and excitement of this awareness began to destabilise the dream, I could feel the room around me beginning to fade and vibrate as if it were a bubble about to pop. Fortunately as I was quick enough to realise this, I returned my gaze to my dream hands and felt a general calming down of my surroundings. A sense  of stability descended and I hoped out of bed.

I was struck initially by the appearance of my bedsit in its dream form. It looked like the place I actually lived in, the layout was almost the same yet all personal objects decorating the abode were other worldly and unfamiliar. I briefly took notice of a black pyramid ornament sitting on top of my TV set. The object resonated faintly glowing red lines that looked like drifting parallel laser beams. I was fascinated yet at the same time hungry for further experience of my environment, I wanted to see what the outside world looked like and promptly left the bedsit via the exterior kitchen door. I was incredibly unprepared for what I would then discover.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=intJbX4OUR4&feature=youtu.be’]

In reality, my back garden was nothing special; some compacted soil and a horrible little Hawthorn tree.

Until that point, I'd never given fairies serious thought.

In my dream reality, the garden was the same scale but had now gained two rows of parallel trees evenly spaced on opposite sides of the garden to each other, i think there were six trees in total and they were swarming with flying life forms that looked like fairies from folklore. The only noticeable difference with these fairies was that they had  flickering lights glowing from their backs, the lights appeared to fan and had a fluttering wing like appearance. The beings took no notice of my presence, my dream jaw was on the dream floor at the sight of them but then I was distracted by yet another surprise; I felt a warm air current breeze over my bare arms. It caused me to look around and notice the radiant sun. It was a beautiful, non blinding giant orange orb hanging in a golden sky. Vivid to behold, probably four times greater in size than the brilliant sun of reality. I was noting as I witnessed this, the vivid hyperreality of the situation, everything before me stood in vibrant, tangible,infinitely detailed form. This observation appeared to occur in my head as a thought processing the perceived world before me.

I looked down to check my body was still there, I felt quite unbothered by the fact that I seemed to be naked. I briefly focussed on my left nipple and I decided as this was all happening in a dream, that perhaps I could shift form. Was there any reason why not?

No. I willed my body to shift gender and it immediately responded. I could hear a noise like air filling a balloon as I watched my chest suddenly inflate into two hairless, perfect female breasts. In retrospect, I regret that I didn’t explore further below but I was reeling in psychological awe at the simple effectiveness at willing the transition. I reflect repeating the phrase over and over to myself “This is a dream, this is a dream…”

I looked up again to see over to the corner of the garden, I noticed that there was an open gate that wasn’t normally there, I took steps towards it and briefly recognised a distinct similarity to the garden gate of my best friend’s old house, even the paving leading into this other garden looked the same… I started to walk through and would have continued my exploration had it not been for the sense of physically acute sensitivity in my left nipple. I looked down and saw that it had become erect, in a perfectly female way so that it was a little fleshy raspberry shape. I couldn’t help but touch it with my fingers, It felt solid, utterly tangible and full of sensation. I started to laugh, a proper belly laugh, at the absurdity of the experience, and that unfortunately, was all it took to wake me up.

Waking up was a strange and heady mix of excitement, the continuity of being conscious from the state of lucid dream to ordinary consensus reality was practically seamless and so on a very rare occasion for me personally, my waking mind was sharp and supercharged. I felt like some kind of time traveller or super human with the ability to jump from one universe to another. The memory of the experience rocked my world for the rest of the day, and in many respects the rest of my life until now. I cannot adequately convey the extraordinary other worldliness of walking through a dream with present awareness perfectly intact.

Since that fateful day in 1996 I have had several other lucid dreams, mostly occurring spontaneously. A few of them were clustered around that original episode. I remember watching Inception the movie when it came out and thinking how accurate the scene was when the streets of Paris reached into the sky then folded over to make a curved reflection of the city.

Around 1996 or 1997 I’d experienced another lucid dream where I looked across the dream city of Bristol, thought of travelling to another part of it and seemed to will a large urban swathe of the cityscape to come rushing towards me as if on rails, my dream feet never walked a step.

Enter the Remee.

A chance conversation with an old friend on Facebook recently reminded me of dream machines, which in turn sparked a reminder of the frustrating Nova Dreamer. I hadn’t forgotten it in spite of its clunky and uncomfortable liaison with my head, I loved what it represented and admired the ingenuity of its design. I never liked the price tag however.

In thinking of it again, I decided to see if time and technology had perhaps refined the design, and I was initially disappointed to discover that it appears to be a discontinued product. I checked the Lucidity Institute’s page on the device and noted that they mentioned that someone else has devised a similar device called ‘The Remee’. Following the link took me to the Remee homepage, and I was thrilled to see that some guys have developed a superb looking sleep mask that operates on the same principles as the Nova Dreamer, even better still, at a very accessible fraction of the cost.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03ouH9Pw_sk’]

I haven’t had a lucid dream for about a year, when I last had one it was frustratingly short, my mind has been generally unprepared for things like reality checks etc so I have found that I tend to reach lucidity briefly before slipping back into a non self conscious state of ordinary dreaming. Needless to say, I’d very much like to acquire a Remee in the near future.

As a dream artist, such a tool will be an invaluable investment, as an adventurer into altered states of consciousness, a chemical free solution into really travelling to the wild side of reality makes this too good an opportunity to ignore. The general demands of day to day living have really tempered my former psychedelic exploration down to a base line of zero activity for at least sixteen years, I’ve had opportunities but generally passed them up in favour of keeping the rest of my life on track and running smoothly as possible. My general muse and drug of choice for creativity has been my fortunate ability to recall most of my nightly excursions in dreams. If Dr Rick Strassman is to be believed, then, these nightly visions I (we all) experience, are largely thanks to naturally occurring DMT released in the Pineal gland. Once again, to use technology to make the most of this wonderfully quirky side of neurochemistry is too good to miss.

When I’ve acquired a Remee, I’ll update these pages and start posting my written and visual results. In the meanwhile, I’ll post some links for you relating to points I’ve mentioned earlier in this post.

Lucidity Institute

The Remee

Dr Rick Strassman

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.

++++

Walking Through The Morse Code Rain

I could tell you that I was trapped on the top deck of an abandoned old double decker bus somewhere on the promenade of Brighton. Yelling through a little sliding window to passers-by below.

“Help! Help! I’m trapped on this bus”

I was alone and a group of Japanese tourists just sauntered by as if my escape pleas were some sort of live entertainment. Everything about this situation was just wrong. Quite a few people passed but nobody looked up to see me in my desperation.

There was a commotion from the lower deck.

People.

I clambered down the stairs to see a group of teenage boys in scruffy school uniform piling on the bus, the doors were now clearly open.

I suppose you could say the boys looked a little like Etonian toffs on a day trip.

“How did you get in?!”

I asked.

“Duh! I pressed the manual door button,stupid.”

Said one of them.

I didn’t get off the bus because one of the boys had started driving it. That is how the brief transition occurred, that I was now in a darkened cinema, watching a film, an abstract animation of an old red double decker bus parked in a vast landscape with a red cloud formation swelling up in the sky to the left field. An audio waveform pulsed away in the top of the screen and began to rain lines of black ink and morse code across the expanse of the rest of the screen. A solitary man walked in the dash-dot droplets, devoid of concern for how linguistically drenched he might become.

Neatly transitioning to the arrival at an peculiar old factory standing like a giant cube of decaying bricks ,steel and concrete within a wasteland of extinct industry.

The boys got off the bus, which they’d parked in a cargo bay within the building’s interior.

I was immediately taken back by the gigantic installation of a suspended cuboid structure bearing down on all of us in a central hall area. It appeared to be made of brushed steel, glass and electric blue neon lights clustered in geometric formations similar to Bismuth crystals. I whipped out my phone and pointed it at the formation.
“Bloody Hell! These pictures will take themselves! However I point the camera, the photos are going to be brilliant”

(Or words to that effect)

Some of the steel cubes appeared to have spherical glass objects attached to them, these too glowed electric blue and reminded me of images I have seen of marine bacteria from electron microscope pictures.

I took a few shots and watched as the boys then left the main hall by ascending an old iron staircase. Curious, I followed and arrived in a darkened room with a glowing blue screen situated on the rear wall. I could see quite a few people at at a long modern rectangular table running along the length of the screen, they were all silhouetted, It looked like some kind of modernist rendition of The Last Supper (and another photo opportunity for my camera) Just as I was about to capture the scene, I crashed unexpectedly into Saturday morning. Concluding my adventure at 7:50 a.m

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.

Broken Hart

It took the wind out of my sails, returning to the House of Bannerdown, seeing the works carried out in my absence.

I noted that the pillared porch had been assembled incorrectly so that they stood several meters away from the house itself, built in a discordant fashion, so that the head of the porch had been positioned half way down the columns making an improbable ‘H’ shape. Clearly this was architectural incompetence.

Rory’s business partner appeared somewhere nearby and struck up polite conversation. I noted with interest that his T-shirt bore the motif of the Cross of Lorraine ; my banker mark and symbol of choice. Curious.

I mentioned that the relinquishing of my services had failed to make any sense in the days that had passed since our parting of ways and I was keen to really know why.

He gestured to a transparent polythene bag filled with old books and said in a flat voice.

“Rory didn’t like the way you had stolen the library books.”

I immediately protested that I’d never seen the bag of books in my life.

 I asked whether that had been the only reason, he then said

“Rory didn’t like the fact that you disagreed with our suggested working methods.”

Feeling more impassioned, I began to blurt about how those methods would have delivered a catastrophic effect on the decaying stonework of the house, that those window mullions would just disintegrate upon the first frost of Winter.

 “The Mullions would disintegrate?”

He said, keeping his impartial,and somewhat doubtful flat tone.

In a melodramatic moment I went on to say how the phone call in the pouring rain, where it was established that we would not be working together any more broke my heart and that I’d really loved working with them.

Neither of which was true. Replace ‘broken heart’ with disappointed and ‘loved’ with enjoyed, it would be a more accurate but this was in the heat of the moment.

The partner just repeated the words “Broken Heart?” like a terminally bored business parrot.

His Cross of Lorraine T-shirt kept drawing attention to itself and I began feeling silly for sounding so melodramatic, something about his angelic appearance was unnerving and I couldn’t shake the feeling that his repetition of certain phrases was some kind of verbal ploy to illustrate the unlikelihood of my own garbled sentiments.

All in all, I felt quietly relieved when I finally opened my eyes.