Tuesday 31 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 31

At last we’ve reached the final day of this weird blogathon. I’ve enjoyed it – and I hope some of you have too.

My last song is currently top of the list in terms of number of times played on my iPod. To be fair, if ITunes had been available way back in 1973 the song would have been something completely different I am sure.

And yes, you’ve guessed it, the song is a progressive rock masterpiece, in my opinion anyway. It is called Drive Home by Steven Wilson and features an extraordinarily emotional guitar solo at the end by Guthrie Govan.

Steven Wilson has the uncanny ability to write sad songs and this is up there with the best of them.

The song is about a man who loses his wife in a car crash and blocks the incident out completely until, later, his wife comes back as a ghost to remind him what happened, urging him to move on and deal with the pain.

The accompanying video is equally sad – but despite this, the song is absolutely beautiful.  If you don’t want to listen to the entire song, just listen to the guitar solo from about 5 minutes into the video.

Anyway – that’s it. I’ve completed my second 31 day blogathon and I must say that it has been fun and has actually ticked off a couple of “resolutions” for 2017 (although not completely). I don’t really want to highlight resolutions but if you set yourself a target and (kind of) achieve it, you suddenly feel a warm and fuzzy feeling inside – something akin to happiness and contentment.

I moaned earlier about how dreadful 2016 was and how January as a month is dark, dismal and depressing and how I needed a distraction and this series of posts has helped a lot. I have increased the amount of writing I have done and also resurrected a 30 day challenge and this has helped me forget about 2016 and this, the worst month of the year.

As we enter into February I am content. I still haven’t lost my temper with a rant about Brexit and Donald Trump despite provocation of the highest order and I can hopefully put all that behind me and start being more positive.

It’s tough but I recommend it.

What’s in store next?

February will bring more misery in terms of the cold British weather but in terms of writing, I am going to aim to complete the first draft of my terrible novel.

I am also currently attacking my language skills, by brushing up on my German and French and taking on another language – Italian. We are thinking of a trip to Italy in September so I would like to impress the locals by at least being able to ask for things in their native language. My exploits with Spanish have shown that this is very difficult – but I like a challenge.

Whether I’ll achieve it or not, who knows – but it will be fun trying.

I will also continue with this dreadful blog and maybe try to post more regularly. Sadly, for you dear reader, that means more garbage from Manchester but it at least it will help those who want to see “How Not To Write A Blog Post”.

See you in February sometime.

And, as a footnote, I hope you’ve experienced a wider range of music and enjoyed a little bit of prog!

Welcome to my world!

Monday 30 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 30

Today’s song is another by Canadian power trio Rush, called Cut ToThe Chase.

This is a song about chasing your dreams and ignoring those who try to dissuade you because they think it is a waste of time.

Everybody should have dreams and strive for them, otherwise what is the point of being alive? I truly believe that with a little willpower, it is possible to achieve your ultimate desires; history is full of such people.

Some people choose to be proactive but others simply wait until they are older and add desires to their bucket list when they realise that death is approaching.

I know that death is following me around and while I am doing my best to outrun him, I am relatively content not to create a bucket list of things that I feel I need to do before the Grim Reaper finally impales me on his scythe.

To be honest, I feel it’s now too late to try some of the things I would have attempted as a young man.

Age and sensibility have taken over and, for example, the very idea of hurling myself out of an aircraft with nothing but a huge silk sheet attached to my back with rope does not appeal to me in the slightest.

I might actually have tried it at the age of 20 when my fear of heights was non-existent.

Other features of growing old would simply interfere with such desires.

That’s not to say that I don’t have dreams – I do. But the difference is that I don’t want to achieve them just to cross an entry off a list and boast about my achievement to other people. I don’t want to tell my mates that I swam naked in the Mediterranean Sea for many reasons, not least of all that the mental image of me stumbling into a cold sea showing my fat arse and worse would be something that they would never forgive me for.

An image like that remains etched in the area of the brain marked “OH MY GOD!” for eternity.

Friends' response would almost certainly be a tsunami of verbal abuse that would make Quentin Tarantino run away in shock.

Actually, I realise that I may have given you the same mental image of a strategically shaved ape waddling into the sea, dear reader. I am truly sorry about that.

My dreams are personal ones and a lot of them are ongoing. Additionally, there are some that I haven’t even thought of yet.

I believe that no matter how old you get, you should continue to strive to make yourself happy with achievable and pleasant dreams that you can still manage. Put aside thoughts of having a dangerous liaison with the Angel of Death – you can’t do anything about that but you may bring forward the date if you decided that abseiling down the Eiffel Tower was something you feel like you must do.

What’s wrong with making an effort to be nice to people?

What about travelling?

What about writing that book of your innermost thoughts that your family friends can enjoy after the Grim Reaper carts you away?

All of the above are on my list, as is meeting as many new people as possible (as long as I can rid myself of the Shyness Beast).

Such things are easy, dear reader.

I bet you’re still thinking about a naked ape in the Mediterranean aren’t you?

Sunday 29 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 29

Today’s song is one of my favourites by Polish progressive rockers Riverside. It’s called Conceiving You.

The song is about a man who is watching a woman from a distance and is totally afraid to actually go and talk to her. Subsequently, he finds himself simply worshipping her from afar.

The poor fellow in the song resonates with me because when I was a shy, spotty ugly youth, I found myself unable to talk to girls that I liked. My rampant shyness was a curse and if I somehow found a nugget of courage in my deranged psyche and actually asked them out, I was destroyed when the inevitable rejection happened.

I chose to look at such girls from afar and watched in agony as other guys succeeded where I knew I would inevitably fail.

Shyness really is a curse and can be debilitating. Over the years I have all but conquered this affliction - though sometimes I am still stuck in a corner terrified to speak to strangers, beating myself up and trying to metaphorically slap my own face in order to snap myself out of the irrational fear that is disabling me mentally.

Nowadays, I consider the worst possible outcome and even then it is not that terrifying. What I have found is that I have an empathy with other shy people and when I see somebody standing uselessly in a corner trying to pluck up the courage to speak, I force myself to actually help them out.

“Hi there; I’m Dave,” I say trying to mask my own nervousness and in a lot of cases I can see a mixture of relief and pleasure that somebody has taken the time to start a chat.

On the other hand my forced efforts to chat to strangers can backfire.


Because I am a nutter magnet.

There are times when I don’t have to say anything to nutters – they come to me and inflict their strange views on me, much to the amusement of others who may be watching.

Click here to read some encounters I have had with nutters. 

Sadly, some of these encounters with nutters have been self-inflicted. One such incident involved a Manchester City fan (the blue side of Manchester) in my local pub. I was standing next to him at the bar and I just casually started a conversation.

I was with two mates, one of whom supported Manchester United (the red side of Manchester), the nutter’s fiercest rivals.

At first, it all went well.

“Who do you support?” he asked.

“Walsall,” I said proudly.

Walsall are a club that struggle two divisions below the Premiership and as such are not a threat to Manchester City at all. The nutter liked the fact that I support such a pitiable club and actually patted me on the back stating I was a true football fan. I walked back to my mates with the nutter talking to me but at that point, his true nutter identity revealed itself, prompted by my Manchester United supporting friend whom he overheard talking about their last match and how they were unlucky to lose.

The change was terrifying. This seemingly reasonable and pleasant man suddenly allowed his hatred for Manchester United to transform him from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde.

He turned to my mate and introduced himself with these words:

“Unlucky to lose? Your pharking red bastards have the referee in your pharking pockets!”

His tone was menacing and he spat the words out with an ill-disguised threat.

“What?” my mate said in surprise.

And then he made a mistake. He responded.

“Oh – and Manchester City are squeaky clean?”

The nutter reacted in a way that even I couldn’t have predicted.

“Shut your pharking mouth before I put you on the pharking floor!”

My mate just calmly said “Discussion over!” and thankfully the nutter left after briefly staring menacingly.

The other lad I was with looked at me and said:

“For God’s sake, Dave! Will you stop talking to strange men?”

That wasn’t the end of it.

The nutter and his mates later left but had to pass our table to do so. As he passed, he once again flipped between Jekyll and Hyde!

“Here are the GAY BOYS!” he said with a barely disguised threat.

We ignored him but then, bizarrely, he came up to me, patted me on the shoulder and with a genuine smile on his face he said.

“I hope Walsall do well, mate! Good to meet you!”

Now I almost said “Didn’t you just call me a gay boy?” but one look from my mates told me not to open my mouth again!

You see, dear reader?

I am a nutter magnet and I just wish that on this one occasion I had allowed my shyness to win a small victory.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 28

Today’s song is another from the brilliant Porcupine Tree called Sentimental.

This is a rather sad song about young kids not wanting to grow old and somehow stay as young as they are but with the added feeling of having wasted their life so far.

I remember when I was a kid that I really wanted to stay young and play forever, but the overriding issue that I realised would remain was the lack of money. As far as I was concerned, with money came freedom and if I had that money I could do what I wanted.

Sadly, a thirteen year old can’t always get the money they want. My parents looked after us but we weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately I went to, what was considered, the best school in Walsall, and consequently a lot of kids with rich parents also attended. The big difference was that a lot of them were pampered by their parents who gave them enough money to buy all the latest gear, whereas I missed out. I could see the unfairness of life and I think that this shaped me politically and certainly changed my outlook.

What I saw was that my own parents immensely proud of what I had achieved but some of the other kids I knew were pushed by already successful parents and really struggled to cope.

I was happy with where I was going but I didn’t like the environment I found myself in, particularly when I was at the mercy of rich kids who showed off their treasures and mocked me for not having the same wealth.

My only option was to get a job to get extra cash and it was the best thing I ever did. It was a simple job, in a newsagent but I was able to buy stuff and fight back against the more privileged kids. I worked at the newsagent from thirteen to eighteen, assisting the manager with delivering newspapers, setting up all the paper rounds, collecting money, stock taking, shelf-stacking and, towards the end, selling stuff from behind the counter.

It was all menial work but I thoroughly enjoyed the job, so much so that the manager of the shop tried to persuade me to ditch the idea of university and consider a career as a manager in the chain of shops.

Sadly that wasn’t for me and I had to disappoint him.

However, what all of this taught me was that working for money was a good thing and while it interfered with my social life a little, it meant that I did have some freedom and the ability to laugh in the faces of the pompous arseholes at school who flashed their daddy’s cash around without having earned it.

The job prepared me for a real career and when I actually started work after university, I embraced it with gusto.

Regular readers will know that I am now sick of the rat race but the truth is that I am not a kid anymore and, having worked in IT for over thirty years, I want a change. Whether I achieve my new goals in the years to come is questionable but at least I am happy being the age I am and looking towards the future as an old man with some pleasure – as long as I am physically able to cope of course.

But that thirteen year old kid is still in my head and occasionally surfaces.

I love that and don't ever want that to change.

Friday 27 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 27

Today’s song is Incommunicado by Marillion.

The song is about fame, specifically somebody who wants to be famous but isn’t too happy about all that being famous entails.

I know for a fact that I would be a terrible celebrity and I have absolutely no desire to be famous in any way. I would definitely not want people to stop me on the street and ask for my autograph, nor would I like to be disturbed while having a meal in a restaurant or while travelling on holiday.

I would definitely not want paparazzi to stalk me relentlessly in order to capture me on photo in an embarrassing pose or situation, resulting in my face (and possibly worse) being splashed over the internet or in the tabloid news.

Worse, I wouldn’t want people from my past selling terrible stories about me to the press for money and their own fame.

It would be a nightmare.

And, to be honest, I can’t believe that people crave fame so much, Do they know what they are letting themselves in for?

I laugh when certain celebrities constantly seek the spotlight, prostituting themselves for recognition and then, when they have had enough, lash out at the very people they are trying to impress when caught at a low point.

I’ve seen so many celebrity meltdowns when a paparazzo has caught them off guard or when a shy fan catches them in a bad mood. It’s a paradox I can’t explain.

I realise that everybody deep down has an introverted part of themselves that needs solace in their own company but surely if you are the kind of person who throws yourself out there for adoration and fame, you must realise that this part of you will rarely get a chance to surface.

I also don’t understand why somebody should be famous for absolutely nothing, that is the kind of person who has nothing in their portfolio other than making an arse of themselves on a reality television show like Big Brother. These people are mostly just arses who are willing to humiliate themselves to gain fans but have absolutely no discernible talent.

And what of the fans who love these sad attention seekers?

Why would anybody be a fan of Kim Kardashian????

It is beyond belief.

In my view, a true celebrity is somebody who should be celebrated for having done something worthwhile – even better if they did so without even trying. Musicians who make people happy through their music, actors who whose talents move people in movies and plays, authors who write brilliant books, comedians who make everybody laugh; there are many more examples of people whose work should be celebrated – that’s the origin of the word “celebrity”, for crying out loud.

What I really hate are those celebrities who assume that they are better than normal people like me. You know the kind I mean; the kind of person who walks up to restaurants and say:

 “Get me a table now! Do you know who I am?”

There are many examples of “divas” who seem to think that the rest of us are sub-human. Here are some examples of laughable diva behaviour:

Justin Timberlake has one of his staff disinfect every doorknob he comes into contact with every two hours.

Britney Spears threatened to sue a London venue $5000 if the phone rang in her dressing room.

Any chauffeur who drives Kanye West must wear cotton clothes. Man-made fibre is not allowed.

Adele sent hotel staff on a 140 mile round trip to fetch pizza from her favourite pizzeria at 11pm. When it arrived finally a few hours later, she was asleep so it remained uneaten.

Mariah Carey had to be lowered onto a sofa on a TV show so that she wouldn’t crease her dress.

Jennifer Lopez has to have everything white including flowers, tables and tablecloths, candles, settees and curtains.

There are hundreds more if you care to look.

Personally, I rate myself higher than each of these bozos.


Because I am a nice guy – and that’s probably why I would be the world’s worst celebrity.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 26

Today’s song is one of my favourites, if not THE favourite, song from Pink Floyd. The song is Money and comes from the top selling album Dark Side of the Moon.

People think that this song is about how brilliant money is but let me squash that misconception right here. The song is in fact about how bad money can be and if you listen carefully to the lyrics it is obvious.

I would love to have lots and lots of money but the only reason is that it would free me of the shackles of work and allow me to escape the rat race.

I don’t want much – just enough to live comfortably, travel and buy the things that will make me content. I would not want to be a multibillionaire with so much money that I could wallpaper my house in £50 notes – that way madness lies.

It amazes me exactly how much money the world’s richest people have. What on earth would you do with it all? And how can such people live with themselves when they see extreme poverty?

I’m not suggesting for a second that all rich people are greedy selfish arses; in fact I know of some whose philanthropy is legendary.

Take Bill Gates for example. He has made billions from Microsoft and but now focusses on philanthropy and in total has given away around 30% of his fortune to charitable causes. Mind you, he still has billions left – but I can’t fault him for his morality and generosity.

I honestly don’t know what I would do if I was worth as much as some of these hugely wealthy people. I think I would follow the example of people like Bill Gates and hand it out to people whose life would be improved.

This doesn’t stop me from trying to win the National Lottery, although sometimes the top prize is much more than I can imagine owning. At the time of writing, the jackpot for the National Lottery is a cool £12 million and for the Euromillions lottery it is a whopping £62 million.

While such sums would be a drop in the ocean for people like Bill Gates, such sums would be life changing for a nobody like me.

That said, I do have a plan if by a miracle my numbers come up. I would have to thrash out the details with Mrs PM who would no doubt impose her own constraints on my new found wealth but ultimately I would get my own way.

I won’t bore you with the detail but suffice it to say that it would involve resigning immediately from my job and then jetting off on a first class round the world trip armed with a huge box of notebooks and lots of pens to make notes for a colossal travelogue.

To be fair, I probably wouldn’t even need the full £12 million and I would give a lot of it away.

I have never believed people who say that an injection of such amount of cash will not change them. Some people in the past have won lots of cash and carried on with their day jobs, which I simply cannot understand. As I’ve said, for me it would mean freedom and a way to escape the negative aspects of my life.

That said, I’ve read enough about people who have suddenly become rich and changed their life so much that they wished they hadn’t won. That I can understand because suddenly you wouldn’t necessarily know who your friends are and there might be some resentment. I heard a case of a chap who bought a huge house and moved away from where he lived and then became miserable because he lost a lot of his friends and became isolated, maybe because he became a bit of a diva.

I wouldn’t want that to happen as all and I would try my best to protect my current life (apart from work). For that reason I would remain anonymous and simply tell family, friends and colleagues that I had “come into some money” without specifying how much.

You will never see me popping a champagne cork whilst holding a huge cheque for £12 million, dear reader.

Sadly, that’s almost because I will never, ever win.

Still, I can dream, can’t I?

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 25

Today’s song is a full blown epic from the genius that is Devin Townsend. The song is called Earth Day and is one of my favourite songs.

I love this song not only because it is brilliant musically, it is also a kind of piss take of all songs that try to influence people with a hidden message and the lyrics are actually quite amusing in my opinion.

So just shut your face and take a seat
Because after all, you're just talking meat
And music?
Well, it's just entertainment folks.

A friend of mine is a big fan of Irish superstars U2 and last time he saw Bono and the boys, quite a few years ago now, he was a little annoyed.
“Were they any good?” I asked. 
“Musically, yes,” he replied. “But I paid a fortune and I don’t want to pay that kind of money to be berated by Bono for not agreeing with his views.”
Apparently Bono was ranting at the audience again.
He’s famous for it and a lot of his fans are put off by his antics. I know I am and I would never go to a U2 concert for that reason. That said, a lot of people do watch them live and buy their albums so he must think he is loved. I own a couple of their albums and if you cut through the bullshit, some of them are actually okay (well the early ones anyway).
As I’ve said before in this blogathon, I kind of like intelligent lyrics when there is a message.
Sometimes I choose to ignore it but in general I don’t mind too much. I’d rather listen to a song with a message than a song about a bloke picking up a woman in a night club and spending the night together rutting like rabbits.
I find it annoying when artists impose their views on their fans. I don’t count ranting at them; I mean forcing them to adopt their views for a brief period of time.
“How can somebody do that? “ I hear you cry.
Morrissey did just that.
When fans of The Smiths turned up in Manchester to see their idol, they were greeted by a sign that said:

Furthermore, as part of his set, he played a song called Meat is Murder whilst on the video screen at the back, the audience were treated to scenes of gruesome horror from various slaughterhouses.
Do you think that’s a good thing, dear reader?

I don’t. 
I think I would have walked out of the gig and demanded my money back.
You may think that’s hypocritical and perhaps you are right but there is a difference between listening to a political rant from Bono (which to be honest I wouldn’t really enjoy either) and the total ban of meat for an audience most of whom are, like the rest of us, omnivores.
I’m not against vegetarianism or veganism – each to their own I say. I have friends who do not eat meat for whatever reason and I know and I totally understand their reasons. What I don't want is for them to spend all of their time trying to preach to me about why I should give up meat. And they don't.
If I have paid a fortune to an artist to see him perform (his ticket prices are really expensive) and am banned from partaking in a favourite foodstuff while watching (apparently) 15 minutes of horror then that artist has crossed a line.
Just to reiterate what Devin says in his song: 

And music?
Well, it's just entertainment folks.
Let’s just remember that, Bono and Morrissey, shall we?

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 24

Today’s song is my favourite by Muse and it’s called Knights of Cydonia.

The song is an anthem for people who want to stand up for themselves, fight oppression and take control of their own destiny.

I particularly like the lyric:

I’ll show you a god who falls asleep on the job

How can we win when fools can be kings?

I believe this rings true particularly in recent times and, as I’ve said before, the anarchist inside me is chomping at the bit to lash out at the injustices of the world. Sensibly, I now choose to ignore him, apart from the occasional rant, mainly because I have become pragmatic about these things.

I know that there are few people in the world who totally agree with me about everything, so, when I think about it, why should anybody else listen to me when I stand up like an angry old blond ape and start pontificating about how everybody should have my ideals?

The truth is that they shouldn’t. All they will do, at best, is take my views on board and make their own judgements. That’s (kind of) what I do am starting to do myself to be honest, much to the anarchist’s disgust.

Ultimately we live in a democracy and while everything might not be perfect, at least there are ways to protest peacefully without fear of reprisals.

All of this certainly hasn’t stopped me ranting in the past, something which others have found entertaining, probably because I can be quite energetic, animated and use certain phrases (peppered with the odd expletive) to express my disgust.

There have been several targets over the years and when I look back over some of them, I have in some ways been proven to be correct. Most have been political figures but sometimes the world of popular culture is a decent and easy target.

To be perfectly honest with you, I hate ranting about politics and I try my best not to do so – particularly on this blog. Last year, in 2016, I wound myself up so much that I actually started to hate the world around me and I found that totally unacceptable.

My views on life were uncharacteristically negative and the spiral of despair threatened to go out of control.

I made a vow to stop being negative in 2017 and start thinking positively. Thus far, it seems to be working.

I almost snapped at work last week when a colleague told me about a story he had read on the internet. It involved a young female who had been cut off by her parents for being a spoiled brat. She claims it is because her boyfriend was black but her parents deny this.

What did she do? She raised $10000 through crowdfunding. People actually gave her money.

The anarchist within rubbed his hands in glee because this was worthy of a rant and, for about ten seconds, I forgot my resolution, took a deep breath and handed over the reins to the anarchist.

And then I stopped.

“What am I doing?” I asked myself. “Does this really make a difference to me? Why should I care?”

I turned to my friend and said You almost got me!”

“SHIT!” he exclaimed. “I was looking forward to the first rant of the year!”

Another colleague said “I’m not sure I like this new Dave!” and I think she actually meant it.

To be honest, I don’t care.

I want to be happy and unless I actually move completely out of my comfort zone and start actively DOING stuff about it, as Muse suggest, I will get nowhere. In fact, even if I do that I will still probably get nowhere.

All I can do is moan and there are too many good things in life to let these monolithic developments get me down.

I used to own a mug that said “Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down” which I bought in protest to my company’s policy of not allowing swearing in the work place.

But that joke mug has a message that is actually something deeper.

The best way out is to joke about it and hopefully you will see the mad anarchistic rants of 2016 become cynical and satirical put downs instead.

And that will piss of the anarchist no end.

Monday 23 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 23

Today’s song is a beautiful and unusually short song from Dream Theater, a band who are infamous for writing epic long songs.  A lot of their songs are lengthy, some reaching the dizzy heights of more than twenty minutes. This song, called Wait For Sleep, is usual because it is only two and a half minutes long.

Dream Theater fall into the progressive metal category, yet a number of their songs are what you would call mellow and beautiful, featuring deep and profound lyrics accompanied by exquisite piano, mild guitars and a powerful voice.

Their songs are intelligent and I love that.

This is one of the reasons I love progressive rock generally. The genre is fundamentally rock but is largely experimental and includes other genres from jazz to classical music, from heavy metal to dance music and is full of amazing technically challenging experimentation with time signature shifts and interesting subject matter.

There are a lot of people who mock progressive rock and label it as weird.

And that’s one of the reasons I like it. I think I am drawn to weirdness and I guess that’s why some people may think that I, too, am weird.

I don’t mind that. In fact I am fascinated by it. As I said in yesterday’s post, I find myself drawn to strange conspiracy theories and people who believe in bizarre things. I love the supernatural, the idea that there are aliens out there.

Most of all I love people who simply refuse to change their principles despite the colossal amount of evidence that shoots their belief system down in flames. Such people argue that the evidence is fabricated by the government and that the rest of us are the brainwashed majority and gullible fools.

I can spend hours listening to people like this. The only problem I have is that I don’t want to offend them and sometimes I struggle to keep a straight face.

My first real encounter with such a person was, unsurprisingly, at university. I studied computer science, which involved statistics and mathematics, and, as you can imagine, my course was full of geeks. I was surrounded by intelligent people who loved science fiction and the same weird shit that I liked. I was at home. There was one guy on my course who was, like the rest of us, an intelligent geek who loved a bit of science fiction – except he took this further – he was a strange conspiracy theorist.

He was utterly convinced that UFOs were real and that the governments of the world were covering this up from the rest of us. He studied maths and had a total grasp of logic yet when he talked about his passion, that logic disappeared completely to be replaced by irrationality and paranoia.

I loved it.

Now I could provide mathematical proof to you all that the number one equals the number two. You may scoff at this but I can provide convincing proof. Of course, my proof is utterly flawed and if you apply constraints then my proof is shown up for what it is – total misdirection that was exposed by logic.

In a conversation with my wacky friend, I brought this up and he knew what I was talking about because we had both learned about this mathematical misdirection. My argument was that all of his evidence of conspiracy theory was misdirection and that when you applied logic to the proof of conspiracy then the truth was exposed and the conspiracy shattered.

And he disagreed vehemently calling me a misguided gullible fool.

I asked for his evidence that UFOs and aliens exist and, of course he could provide nothing. His argument was bizarre because he claimed he had seen UFOs in the sky himself and the fact that there was no other proof was in fact proof that the government was hiding it.

In the end I gave up arguing with him and satisfied myself from that point on with just listening to his madcap theories. I knew that he took it seriously because he had a telescope and actually spent some evenings every week scanning the night sky for unidentified lights and odd movement.

He was a magnificent crackpot and I loved him for it.

By the way, if you want me to prove that 1=2 then let me know (if I can remember that is)!

Sunday 22 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 22

Today’s song is another by British prog rockers  Arena. The song is called The Butterfly Man and is the song that introduced me to the band.

When I first heard this song, a cold shiver ran down my spine and I was struck by its spooky nature. 
My mind ran amok because the subject matter fits perfectly within the darker recesses of my imagination, the menacing section where I conjure up weird monsters that would scare me shitless should I ever be unfortunate enough to encounter them.
Such a creature is The Butterfly Man, presumably so-called because he (or it) is a collector.
Unfortunately, rather than gathering insects, the target of his collection are human souls, imprisoning them in a place from where there is no escape. 
Nobody is safe.
The implication is that the creature is not human and waits in the dark catching people when they least expect it.
I love this kind of stuff and it pushes all the buttons that put me on edge. Ironically that kind of excites me because although I am scared, I love the concept of a monster kidnapping people and effectively locking them away forever.
It’s a terrifying prospect and it would make a great book and/or movie.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with creepy films to be honest. I love to watch them and be terrified by them but later, when I go to bed, they have ingrained themselves in my subconscious mind and consequently I sometimes struggle to sleep as my weird imagination elaborates on an already terrifying premise. 
Even if I do eventually sleep, my dreams are invaded by the monsters I have witnessed, only this time they are magnified to the point where I wake up in a cold sweat.
Basically they induce nightmares and I hate that.
“You’re looking tired,” people will say.
“Yes – I watched  scary film last night and didn’t sleep very well.”
“You utter wimp!”
One of my favourite wacky conspiracy theorists, David Icke, believes in a variation to The Butterfly Man. If you listen to the lyrics of the song, the Butterfly Man lies in wait in the dark on the edge of your consciousness, waiting to strike like a snake.
According to Icke, there are interdimensional beings that can exist just outside of our perception. If you have ever been alone and suddenly had an intense feeling that someone or something is there with you then the chances are that you have encountered one of these beings. Icke says that sometimes these creatures accidentally reveal themselves to us.
So if you are alone and have a crawling sensation something being present and, maybe, catch a glimpse of something as you turn around, just before it vanishes, then you have met one of David Icke’s interdimensional, alien, illuminati lizards.
Or it could be a ghost.
Or it could be The Butterfly Man.
Or, most likely, it could just be your vivid imagination having just read this post. If I cause this to happen, dear reader, then I apologise.
The truth is that David Icke is just a crackpot or, quite possibly an amazingly clever con man who has somehow identified something within his fans that he can exploit to pander to their own wacky conspiracy theory ideas.
As I’ve said, I am a weird fan of David Icke but not because I believe his crackpot theories. As far as I am concerned, he is a walking novel, a talking creepy horror story, a man who is entertaining most of us with an elaborate and totally incredible plot, set in the real world, embracing existing conspiracy theories in a way that entertains me.
He is not telling the truth; he is spinning a yarn – and a very entertaining one. In many ways, I believe he is just a prolific story teller and long may he continue to do so.
I love crazy, weird stuff like this.
Actually, I am alone as I type this and I have a feeling I am being watched.
Ah – I am being watched.
My big fat cat wants his dinner!

Saturday 21 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 21

My favourite artist over the past couple of years is Steven Wilson, the man behind Porcupine Tree. Today’s song is called Insurgentes, the title track of his first solo album:

Steven Wilson has a great ear for melody and his more mellow songs are simply beautiful, as you can see from today’s choice.

A lot of his music has an underlying theme of melancholy and some of the subjects he sings about are quite dark. For example, the theme of his most recent album is based on the true story of a young woman who moved to the city and disappeared without anybody noticing, despite the fact that she had friends and family. She had died in her bedsit in London and her body lay undiscovered for two years.

When I hear stories like this I am deeply saddened and I wonder how the poor woman could possibly have been missed for so long. If this had been a work of fiction I would have been sceptical about such a thing happening.

But it wasn’t fiction at all and that exposes a massive flaw in the way society functions.

One of the points about the story is that if you live in a small community then everybody seems to know you whether they are your friends or not. I have seen this myself in small villages and towns I have visited.

Small places seem friendlier in many ways. For example, you can stroll into a pub in a country village and immediately local people take notice of you because they don’t know who you are. The same happens in shops and many people will strike up a conversation to find out about you, perhaps wondering if you are going to become a local yourself.

Small places have more of a sense of community and people bond with each other more than they do in a city.

If you live in a metropolis such as London or Manchester, the chances are that you will join millions of others shopping in a huge city centre, eating in one of numerous restaurants throughout the urban sprawl and drinking beer in a variety of pubs in different neighbourhoods. If, like me, you wander around the city you rarely bump into people you know while you are out and about especially the further you go away from your own home.

The point is that in a city like London you can be anonymous whereas in a small community this is more difficult.

At my current time of life, I am still captivated by cities and exploring the place is better if you are anonymous. I know a lot of people in Manchester as you would imagine but there are two and a half million people living within the metropolitan area and it is impossible to build such a sense of community. Manchester United football club regularly cram 75,000 people into the stadium for football matches – that is more people than the population of some small towns and if you ever visit the place it can be daunting when you are sitting in the top tiers of the stadium looking down at the thousands of people all united and focussed on the football.

To be honest, I try not to think about the anonymity in a big city and I imagine that as I get older the temptation to move to a smaller cosier place by the sea will become far more appealing.

Thankfully I am still young and mobile enough to have fun in the sprawl that is Manchester and I hope it continues for many years to come.

Friday 20 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 20

Today’s song is Eve of the War, the first song on Jeff Wayne’s musical tribute to War of the Worlds.

I have loved this album since its release way back in the 1970’s and it is one of those rare things that Mrs PM and I share in terms of musical taste. A couple of years ago, Jeff Wayne toured the country with a full orchestra and lots of special effects to bring his concept album to the stage and Mrs PM came with me to see it.

The concert is to date the only one that we have both been to see and to be honest I can’t ever see this happening again.

For me, though the real triumph is the story. The book by H.G.Wells is one of my favourite novels. I first read the book at school at the tender age of thirteen. My English teacher introduced a lesson by suggesting that we all read a classic novel and write an essay about it.

Initially I was depressed because until that moment the term “classic novel” referred to an out of date boring tome by the likes of Thomas Hardy or, worse, a play by William Shakespeare. The school kept a library of suitable books and I immediately selected the book based on the title alone.

I devoured it!

I took it home and read it as voluntary homework and the essay I wrote sang its praises. I imagined I was present as the tripods marched across the English countryside systematically destroying all traces of humankind with the deadly heat ray.

The book also kick started my love of science fiction and horror novels generally. I have since read hundreds of books but few have had the impact of War of The Worlds.

I’ve also read other works by H.G.Wells, including The Invisible Man and the Time Machine. The latter book is also a classical favourite of mine and I was delighted about ten years ago when I discovered that an authorised sequel had been written by another science fiction author I enjoyed called Stephen Baxter.

The sequel was called The Time Ships and took the original premise of Well’s masterpiece and expanded it into a mind-blowing epic. If you like the original novel, you will love the sequel, although Baxter sometimes let’s his imagination run amok in a way that can be bewildering.

I also recently read an authorised  sequel to The Day of The Triffids called The Night of The Triffids  by a little known author called Simon Clark and it was certainly worth a read.

However, I have discovered that an authorised sequel to The War of the Worlds is about to be published, with the intriguing title The Massacre of Mankind. And even better, the author is the same guy who wrote The Time Ships, Mr Stephen Baxter.

Given the nature and style of the other books he has written, I imagine it will be phenomenal and I am really looking forward to reading it.

In fact, I would dearly love to have a go at writing a sequel myself and even though it would be totally dreadful, I would love it, mainly because it would tell the story as I think it should progress. In fact, it lends itself to more than one sequel in my view.

Maybe I’ll add that to my unending list of writing projects I am unlikely to ever start.

Thursday 19 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 19

Today’s song is called Slow Marching Band by the legendary Jethro Tull.

I’m pretty sure that Jethro Tull’s main man, Ian Anderson, wouldn’t like his band to be called a progressive rock band but sadly for him the powers that be have already etched their name in stone to the list of progressive artists.

As with the yesterday’s post, the song is about the end of a relationship so I’m not going to talk about that topic again.

Slow marching bands are also associated with funerals and the first thing that leaps to mind is the opening scene of one of my favourite James Bond films, Live and Let Die:

The scene always makes me smile because the whole elaborate event is staged just to kill a spy. Of course, in reality, the poor spy would just have been taken out without having staged a fake funeral just to cover the crime.

James Bond films are famous for being over the top and I love that. Sadly, they also make me wince because the villains always have the opportunity to kill 007 at least twice during the movie and, somehow, he escapes with his life.

The Austin Powers movies take this to the extreme and only Dr Evil’s son points out the stupidity of not killing the hero immediately:

In Moonraker, the evil Hugo Drax says:

“Mr Bond, you turn up with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season." 

“Mr Bond, you defy all of my attempts to plan an amusing death for you.”

Why the hell didn’t he just kill Bond with a gun when he first clapped eyes on him? Some villains have come close but never managed it.

Even Goldfinger bottled it with the laser beam.

If I were a villain in a Bond movie (and I could be because I’m English have mad hair) I would shoot him myself as soon as my henchmen had him tied up.

My final words would be simple: “Goodbye Mr Bond!” and I would ignore everything he said.

To be honest, it would make a terrible Bond movie and, of course, it would be the last one.

Nevertheless, it would enable me to turn the tables and start a franchise where the bad guy, i.e. me, has to thwart attempts by other agents who are Licensed to Kill from actually trying to stop my plans for world domination.

James Bond would be the first to fail and I would come against a new double O agent in each movie.

And I would have a fantastic bad guy name, something like Axel Rampage.

“Good evening, 001. Rampage by name, Rampage by nature. See you in the next life!”


I might start writing the first screenplay called:

Licensed to Rampage.

It’s a well-known fact that bad guys have more fun and since I have been constantly overlooked in the Bond franchise, you can consider this my challenge!

Do you think my idea has legs, dear reader?

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 18

Today’s song is called Space-Dye Vest by the brilliant progressive metal band Dream Theater. Again, this is a mellow slow burning song that may make you ask:

“What do you mean “Metal?”.

The song is quite sad and dark and reflects the pain of a relationship being over from the perspective of the person who was dumped while he struggles to get over the fact that everything is over.

There are so many songs about the pleasure and pain of love, so many in fact that often they are quite shallow.

Some, however, are quite profound and this is one of the better ones, both musically and lyrically.

I’ve only ever been dumped once and, to be honest, I could see it coming. I was 18 years old and the girl in question was the daughter of one of my parents’ best friends, so the family connection was quite strong, which is one of the reasons that other people took the break up more seriously than either of us.

As usual, I shall protect the identity of the girl in question by calling her Gwen.

Gwen was my second serious girlfriend. My previous relationship had ended a few months earlier and had lasted for over a year and my parents, particularly my mum, had reacted badly to that one.

“You’ve dumped that poor girl?” she had said angrily and demanded to know why.

I think she saw wedding bells even though I had only been 17 years old. So when Gwen and I got together, I think my mum was totally delighted; not only did I have a new girlfriend, the bonus was that she was best friends with Gwen’s parents.

It was a win-win for her.

The truth is that Gwen and I kind of drifted into the relationship because of our parents. We saw a lot of each other because of them and were already good friends. I was hopeless with the opposite sex at the time and blindly tried to chat up women who were out of my league, making a complete arse of myself every time. I was also very stupid because didn’t really see it when a girl liked me.

This was the case with Gwen and she made all of the moves.

Sadly, for her, I had just discovered the joys of alcohol and was in my final year at school with A-Levels on the horizon and at the same time looking for a place at university. I was also an arsehole generally.

The problem was that I was changing, both my appearance, my outlook on life as well as trying to calm down and stop being an arsehole. Gwen and I got together at totally the wrong time.

I spent Saturday nights in Walsall town centre drinking with my mates and then knuckling down with work the rest of the time. Gwen wanted me to spend time with her and, to be fair to her, I neglected her. When we got together the first thing she used to do was moan about how selfish I was. She was working and not at school so she didn’t understand what I wanted and what was driving me.

Nor did she understand that I needed to spend time with my best friends on Saturdays.

It was doomed and the inevitable happened after about three months.

I called at her house and she opened the door.

“Hiya,” I said.

“I’ve had enough,” she growled. “Why don’t you fuck off back to your boyfriend, Stan!!!”

Stan was my best mate at the time (that wasn’t his real name by the way – I just want to protect the guilty).

“Are you dumping me?” I asked, incredulously.

“I thought you were clever,” she said. “YES I AM DUMPING YOU!”

And then she slammed the door in my face, leaving me standing there shocked. I remained there for about a minute then burst out laughing. I realised at that point that I didn’t really care that I'd been thrown onto the scrap heap and instead, went to Stan’s house (as she had said) where we went to the pub to discuss it over a pint.

Strangely, the next time I saw Gwen, she was her usual self and we actually chatted like the old friends we were.

Gwen will always stand out in my memory, however. A few months after we split up, my dad died. My mum wanted to tell Gwen’s parents but she was a complete mess, so I took that responsibility. I walked the short distance to Gwen’s parents’ house and knocked on the door.

Gwen saw me coming and assumed that I was visiting her.

She opened the door with a smile and said “Hiya! What are you doing here?”

I looked at her and blurted out “My dad’s died!” and then burst into tears.

Gwen grabbed me and gave me a huge hug as I rested my head on her shoulder and wept like a baby, soaking her jumper. She dragged me into her house as I sobbed and gave the bad news to her parents who also fell apart in grief. Gwen made me a cup of tea and sat next to me holding me as if I were going to run away forever.

At that moment, I felt closer to Gwen than I had ever felt to her when we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Sadly, I lost touch with her after I left Walsall but that one memory of Gwen comforting me is far stronger than just being an ex-girlfriend who dumped me for being an arsehole (which I deserved to be fair).

I will never forget what she did to comfort me.

Thanks again, Gwen.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 17

Today’s song is called Trains by the brilliant Porcupine Tree. This is a beautiful and thought-provoking song written, of course, by the amazing Steven Wilson.

You may initially think the song is about trains but there is much more to it than that. I think it’s a song about summer love and childhood with trains providing the hook for the memory of long summers past.

As I sit here typing this post in the deepest darkest depths of winter I long for sun and summer.

January and February are the worst months of the year for me and when they vanish I usually celebrate.

December is actually cold and dark too but at least we have Christmas to raise our spirits and make life enjoyable. Remove that and you just have cold, dark miserable January. It’s dark in the morning when I go to work and dark in the evening when I get back. The only daylight I see is through an office window so my daily two mile walk at lunchtime is just that little bit better – that is unless January weather has kicked in and decided to drop snow or what seems like the entire Atlantic Ocean on my poor head as I navigate the cold streets.

These two awful months are the low point and I actually start to feel slightly depressed. I don’t suffer from depression but somehow the dark grey skies and freezing weather haul my usually happy demeanour down towards despair.

However, I’m nothing if not optimistic.

I usually try to arrange a couple of things to make January a busy month so that I can take my mind off the negative aspects that January and February force to the surface. For example, I have a couple of gigs lined up and I am enjoying pouring my thoughts out to the world in a daily blog, as rubbish as they may be. I also have a trip to London arranged and a weekend in Chester enjoying an engagement party for some friends.

I will get through this with flying colours and as soon as the weather warms up and the buds appear signalling the arrival of spring, I shall smile a lot more.

And then summer will come with its wonderful long days.

Mind you, some British people may scoff at that last sentence because although the days are long, the weather doesn’t always play along. I don’t care because summer also brings with it the holiday season where Mrs PM and I will leave Britain’s shores to enjoy a break in places we know will be sunny and beautiful.

This year, we have a couple of holidays booked already and others planned.

For example we are visiting our friends in Abu Dhabi in April, taking time out to go to Dubai for a couple of days. In June we have booked a week in Corfu in Greece with my two lads. Later in the year we off for a weekend break in Madrid with friends before finally heading to Italy somewhere in September hopefully.

When I wake up tomorrow on a cold miserable January morning I shall subconsciously counting down to when the days warm up and grow longer and imagine myself walking around the English countryside on a sunny day or visiting a foreign city in a warm climate or perhaps even strolling along a beautiful beach with the sea lapping up to the shore.

I’ll get through this – I always do.

Monday 16 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 16

Today’s song is by my current favourite artist, Devin Townsend. The song is called Bend it Like Bender! and is a very catchy song featuring the amazing Anneke van Giersbergen as a co-vocalist.

Devin Townsend’s music is more towards the Progressive Metal genre but a lot of his music is unique and experimental. In many ways when you hear a new album you aren’t always sure what you are going to get.

This song has elements of dance music in it, particularly the chorus and I can imagine it being played at a rock party to get people up onto the dance floor.

I would certainly join in.

I pointed this out to Mrs PM on New Year’s Eve when we were getting ready to go out. We were accompanied by my eldest lad and his girlfriend and decided to have a few snacks and a glass of prosecco before departing.

Mrs PM wanted to take control of the music. I stepped in.

“You are not taking control of the music,” I insisted.

“Why not?”  she said standing in front of me defiantly.

“Three reasons!” I said.

The first reason I gave was obvious. I simply do not like her music. I cannot stand listening to dreadful dance music with one dimensional lyrics that cover one of two things. These lyrics are either about chatting up members of the opposite sex whilst dancing and using the most innuendo driven hints known to man. Or alternatively, they discuss in sometimes graphic terms, the end result of successfully procuring a member of the opposite sex and the antics the two of them get up to in a bedroom afterwards – usually all night long. Don’t get me wrong; heavy metal and rock songs occasionally do the same but at least they cover other subjects too. Rush, for example, have only one song with word “love” in the title and that is from well over one hundred they have written and recorded.

My second reason was more in keeping with the company we were with. My son likes a wide range of music but he particularly loves rock music and heavy metal (heavier than the music I like in some cases). His girlfriend also likes some rock music including, bizarrely, “screamers”, which is heavy rock where the singers scream rather than singing. Again, in this case, her taste is closer to mine (although she does like some dreadful nonsense too).  Basically, Mrs PM was outvoted because the three of us hate Britney Spears and Rihanna.

My final reason was purely selfish. We were going to a large pub that would clear a huge area as a dance floor and allow people to strut their funky stuff for hours. The problem was that this music would be the kind of drivel you get all the time with terrible dance music, the odd old dance song and, if we were lucky, a vaguely interesting rock song. In short I would have to endure hours of music that I despise – as I usually do.

Mrs PM stared at me then looked around at my lad and his girlfriend for support.

“He’s got a point,” said my lad.

Mrs PM caved in and allowed me to control the music for an hour.

“Okay,” she said.

The good news for her was that I played music from across a few genres, including the song above as well as pop songs, rock, a smidgeon of metal, a pinch of dance music (for Mrs PM) and a soupçon of indie, punk and funk.

Later, I was chatting about how radio plays terrible contrived one-dimensional and repetitive music. I vowed to give up ranting so this was my final rant of 2016.

“I would love to be a DJ,” I said. “I would play all sorts of stuff. I want to be the John Peel of Manchester”.

John Peel was a bit of a hero of mine because he basically played music he loved rather than the playlists that the radio stations wanted him to play.

“Why don’t you create a podcast?” said my lad's girlfriend.

And do you know, I think I might consider doing that in future. I know a guy who does exactly that. He is a super cool person but his musical taste and mine are polar opposites. In fact, he sometimes reads this blog if you have any suggestions, let me know (you know who you are).

So maybe I will do this as a challenge for 2017.

After all, I have almost 7500 songs in my collection and there are vast oceans of music out there in cyberspace to fish from.

Watch this space.

Sunday 15 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 15

Today’s song is a classic from Pink Floyd’s amazing concept album The Wall, called Comfortably Numb.

There is a common misconception that this song is about drugs, particularly if you watch the video from the movie, which shows attempts to revive the main protagonist, played by Bob Geldof, who appears to be in a drug induced stupor.

Instead, claims Roger Waters, the guy who wrote the song, it is about a state of delirium brought on by illness – and the lyrics do confirm this could be the case.

Regular readers will know that I am a bit of a hypochondriac and have almost made myself ill on one or two occasions simply by reading symptoms of diseases, illnesses and ailments and convincing myself that I actually suffer from them.

I am largely over this now because I have trained myself to avoid reading about such things and as a result I live in blissful ignorance of all of the nasty little bugs that can render me useless.

Part of the problem is that I am rarely ill.

As a kid I caught everything going, but thinking about it, so did everybody else. I had mumps and measles but somehow managed to avoid chickenpox, despite my friends, sisters and even in later life, my kids succumbing to the disease.

I’ve had flu once.

I knew it was flu because I could barely move for a week. I spent several days in bed, drifting in and out of sleep, barely able to find the strength to eat or go to the toilet, opting to crawl to the bathroom when it became necessary. It was a totally unpleasant experience and, I guess, the closest I have ever been to being comfortably numb – although the truth is that I was uncomfortably numb.

I have never taken drugs, if you discount alcohol that is, so I’ve never been in a situation where I’m delirious, hallucinating or high on a weird powder. Also, I’ve never smoked although I have to confess that I did try it one time. I was at university and drunk. A friend offered me a cigarette and I stupidly took it and had a quick puff.

“That’s not what you do,” he said laughing. “Take the smoke right down into your lungs.”

Like an idiot, I followed his instructions and something terrible happened. My entire chest felt as if it were on fire and my mind was enveloped in a wave of dizziness which, when added to the effects of alcohol, triggered a rather nasty physical reaction.

I was in a night club at the time and I somehow managed to get to the toilet just in time to puke my guts up. Everything I had drunk and eaten for the past couple of hours was hurled into the toilet bowl and accompanied by a weird blue fog as the remains of the smoke I had inhaled also decided to leave my body.

That cigarette left me in a bad place and I promptly left the night club and returned home, vowing never, ever to allow a cigarette to approach my lips again.

Thankfully, now we have a smoking ban in the UK, I rarely have to even smell the stuff. In days gone by, a trip to a pub usually meant that the following day my clothes would stink of stale cigarettes. Pubs are now smoke free and I can tell the difference just walking into the places.

I often wonder what years of passive smoking did to my lungs. I can only hope that all of those years where we had to endure other people’s smoke didn’t have a bad effect.

I would look it up on the internet  but, being a hypochondriac, I think I’ll resist.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 14

Today’s song is called Eyes of a Stranger by Queensrÿche and is taken from one of my favourite concept albums, Operation Mindcrime.

Operation Mindcrime tells the story of a naïve political idealist who is manipulated into joining a secret revolutionary society, ultimately being brainwashed into becoming a political assassin with the help of heroin and forced to kill whenever triggered by the word “mindcrime”. When he realises what is happening, he tries to fight back and escape with disastrous consequences.  
The album was such a success for the band that they released a follow up called Operation Mindcrime 2.
The music on the album is excellent but I really love the story and I think that it would make a great film, with a few tweaks to improve the plot.
I often think this, to be honest. When reading a book or watching a movie, my mind tries to retell the story, filling in plot holes or trying to make weird plot twists more credible. I’ve read a lot of great books and in the majority of cases, I have been completely satisfied with what I have read.
Some books, however, have made me rant like a madman. I’m sure that these books have been hailed as masterpieces by some people but to me they are nothing but a disappointment. In some cases, I think the author has simply over-thought the plot to such an extent that he simply cannot finish it properly.
This is particularly true of science fiction, horror and fantasy, three genres that I love. Don’t get me wrong, most of the books I have read are wonderful; it’s just that some of the authors cannot think of a logical ending to the story and just make something up that is unbelievable, even within the context of the incredible storyline.
For example, let me talk about a prolific author whose books I love, on the whole. Stephen King has a fantastic imagination and has written some classic stories, such as Christine, The Stand, It, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Dead Zone, The Running Man, Misery, Needful Things, The Green Mile, Under The Dome and 11/22/63 to name but a few.
However, when he wrote The Dark Tower series, I was filled with anticipation and excitement because ultimately, I hoped, this would be his masterpiece. I decided that I was going to wait until he had finished the series before starting it so that I could read it all in one long sitting without having forgotten what happened in the first books by the time I reached the end.
I was hoping for Lord of The Rings on acid.
What I actually got was a disappointing mess.
I don’t know what he was thinking and I don’t really think that he planned the epic storyline at all. Instead I think it became the bane of his life, and instead of thinking it through, he rushed through it to get it all over with. The first couple of novels were vaguely enjoyable but by the time we ended up with novel number seven, an epic in the number of pages (over 1000) but, to me at least, rushed and disappointing.
The sixth book is bizarre and goes down as one of the worst books of his that I have read.
Yet I had to complete it. Once I have started a novel or series of novels, I have to finish them no matter how awful they are. 
And this is what happened with The Dark Tower.
I remember when I finally finished book 7. I was on holiday sitting by a swimming pool. I closed the book and I was so disappointed that I almost threw the volume into the pool. After suffering books 6 and 7, I had hoped that Stephen King would redeem himself and at least give me a good ending. 
He didn’t.
It was awful.
I threw the book on the floor and moaned like buggery to Mrs PM who was not interested at all.
I won’t add any spoilers because I know that there are a lot of people out there who disagree with me and call The Dark Tower series, Stephen King’s magnum opus. 
How can that be? Did they read the bloody thing?
Anyway, rumour has it that they are making a movie (or presumably an entire set of movies). All I can say is that I hope the filmmakers concentrate on the first couple of books and ultimately rewrite the rest.
Unless there is a massive improvement this is one set of movies I won’t be going to see.

Friday 13 January 2017

Progressive Thoughts - Day 13

Today’s song is A Soapbox Opera by Supertramp, performed in the video below by co-founder of the band Roger Hodgson with a full orchestra.

The song is really about finding meaning in religion, specifically in Catholicism, which I’m sure that many Catholics struggle with.

I am a lapsed Catholic, if such a thing exists. My mother is Catholic but my father wasn’t. My mum’s parents were also Catholic, particularly my grandad who made sure that my mum, an only child, attended everything that the local church threw at them.

I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that he wasn’t very happy when my mum announced that she was going to marry a non-Catholic. From what I remember of him, he was a very strict and principled man and most if not all of his principles came from Catholicism.

My dad was a good man so I can imagine him sacrificing a lot to marry my mum. In the end, he agreed to live next door to my mum’s parents and also to get married in the Catholic church, agreeing to raise his kids as Catholics.

He left that chore to my mum who made sure that my sisters and I were immersed in Catholicism from the day we were born. We had to attend church every Sunday, every Feast Day as well as taking part in extra-curricular activities that the church organised.

We went to a Catholic infant and junior school where again we were immersed in the religion. From baptism all the way to confirmation, via first confession and Holy Communion, Catholicism was stitched into my psyche. I could and still can recite several parts of the Catholic mass in Latin, such is the manner in which they were entrenched.

I suppose I started to question my religion when I left the Catholic junior school for a non-Catholic grammar school, which claimed to be the best school in my home town of Walsall.

Why did my mum allow this?

Mainly because I passed an exam called the 11 Plus and this qualified me for a school that was sought after by most parents in my town. The school used the 11 Plus as a means to pick the most intelligent kids. If I had failed the exam I would have had to attend a Catholic secondary school.

As I got older, I stopped going to church, much to my mum’s dismay. My grandparents both died before any of this happened and I imagine that my grandad would have intervened.

Nowadays, I only mention that I am Catholic when asked or when I decide to mention it in a blog post such as this.

I do wonder what my grandad thinks of all this.

If Catholicism is to be believed than my grandad will be watching from afar and shaking his head in disbelief at my lifestyle choices, particularly as I no longer go to church and openly question religious beliefs.

He may be impressed that I have actually seen Pope John –Paul II in the flesh when he visited Liverpool in 1982. In fact, that was the last time I openly defended Catholicism. A good friend of mine began mocking me when I returned from seeing the Pope drive past in his Popemobile.

At the time, I felt like I had merely seen one of the most famous people in the world. However, my friend asked, in a mocking manner, whether I felt “spiritually uplifted” having seen God’s representative on Earth in the flesh.

Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t specifically defend Catholicism; I defended religion in general. What I actually saw as the Pope drove by was a lot of happy people. I told my friend that belief in a religious system can help people come to terms with all of the nasty things that happen in life. Some people did feel spiritually uplifted by seeing the Pope and these are the same people who will feel the same when they go to church every Sunday.

And it doesn’t matter what your religion is.

Yes, there are nutters out there who use religion as an excuse to create havoc and catastrophe but these people are the minority. Sadly, they get the most publicity. You only have to look back in history and you can see examples of the abuse of most religions to control people and cause harm.

Yet at the same time, I see people who are happy and content solely because of their religion. I am talking about Catholicism, Christianity in general, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism etc. etc.

I do not regard Scientology as a religion by the way.

A prime example of what I mean is when Mrs PM’s grandfather died. He and his wife were “born again Christians” and had converted to that religion about twenty years before. Mrs PM and I immediately went to visit her grandmother. I walked into her house and immediately hugged her and said

“I’m really sorry about Tom.”

She looked up at me and said, with a smile:

“It’s okay, Dave. He’s with the Lord now.”

Her religion helped her overcome her grief because, in her eyes, her husband was now in Heaven waiting for her in Paradise.

Yes, I am sceptical about this, but in that moment, her words confirmed the point that I had made to my mocking friend.

Religion provides comfort and belief and for that reason I won’t dismiss it - though I still hope God has a sense of humour and can forgive the times I’ve mocked religion in the past.