Provincial Letters

Far from the mad crowds of the city, Blaise Pascal passed comment on the strange behaviour of this urban contemporaries in his Provincial Letters. The connection between them and this blog is somewhat tenuous.

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Location: Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

My star sign in Superstition. And I didn't believe in reincarnation last time, either. The only thing I can't tolerate is intolerance. I am a fanatical ant-fanaticist. I am bigotted only where bigots are concerned. I am a fundamentalist atheist. I'm proud to be a product of evolution; I know it in my genes.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Posted @ 13:00One of those moments

They happen now and again: if they were not so rare they wouldn't be so special. But, just once in a while, there are moments, induced by some book, film, play or music, which move you to tears or some equally deep emotional response. It's happened to me; I've seen it happen to others.

You know the sort of thing: you see a film for the first time and it captures, beyond expectation, the circumstances of your life; you hear a song which excites and amazes; you read a passage in a book which sums up everything that's important at the time or simply moves you. It is sometimes a particular moment or phrase; at other times it is the tone and manner of the entire experience (often intimately entwined with the company in which you share the experience).

For me, such moments forever engrained in my memory and are shining gems in the otherwise dark caverns of my life. There are songs: Sam Cooke's Darling You Send Me, Shanghai's Solaris (from the Fallen Heroes album; particularly that "I don't know yet…"), Bruce Springtsteen's Jungleland (from the Born To Run album; particularly Clem Clemen's saxophone solo) and The Incredible String Band's Big Huge album. There's Molly Bloom breathing "Yes" and Rick & Elsa parting on the airport tarmac. There's Ophelia bidding "Goodnight, sweet ladies, goodnight" before she vanishes forever. There's Eliot's "Oh you who turn the wheel and look to windward; Consider Phlebus, who was once as tall and as beautiful as you". There's The Big Lebowski and Brother, Where Art Thou?. And Apocalypse Now and Fat City. There's an enamelled purse lid discovered at Sutton Hoo and now resident in the British Museum. There's the Dali's Gospel According To St. John. And Gieger's house in Gruyère. There's waking and seeing Les Dents De Midi at Evian from my bedroom window. There's watching the smiles and sheer talent of all those once hesitant, but now confident, performers who have appeared at the Tap & Spile. I could go on, but won't — I had prepared a long list but omitted the rest because they were too excessive or too personal.

You've all got your own examples: rare, beautiful, precious and unique. But, usually, these little epiphanies of ours happen at a great distance in time and space from the creators of the object or experience.

I, however, have been granted the rare privilege — not often experienced by the creators of such artefacts — of seeing someone so moved by something I did; and I was moved as well. To know that you've moved someone so directly and significantly is directly and significantly moving. My friend had "one of those moments" (soppy beggar was moved to tears) and it has also become one of my moments. I am humble and honoured to have had such an effect. I'm also amazed and shocked that I am capable of such things: cynical old bastard that I am, I presumed myself possessed of an immunity to causing such responses (I found ET manipulative, messianic and moronic; I can't watch the damn thing, I think it so poor and so blundering in its desire to evoke an emotional response). But, this little incident has made up for the hundreds of times I've played songs and felt that no-one was listening, or cared.

The identity of the "soppy beggar" and the song in question are a closely guarded secret, so don't ask.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Posted @ 11:57RSRLS

Deftly — and quietly — avoiding any explanation for the month-long gap in the mind-expanding content presented here…

I have mentioned the existence of RSRLS before (and elsewhere), but I feel it necessary to amplify [pun? — I think not] my thoughts and experience of this distressing — and common — condition.

What is RSRLS?

The condition known as RSRLS (Recording Studio Red Light Syndrome) afflicts normally competent musical performers when they are placed in a enclosed space near any form of recording equipment and the "record" button is pressed. Usually this entails the illumination of a special light (usually red) indicating that recording is taking place. In such circumstances the musical performer manifests symptoms of extreme incompetence and loses all abilities to operate their chosen musical instrument and string a coherent sentence together. It matters little that the performer is usually comfortable (or, at least, not too uncomfortable) exercising their skill in public, in front of several (or, even, tens of several) people — sometimes, even in front of strangers. It also matters little that the recording environment is opperated solely by themselves or only by friends and supporters. Immediately that light goes on (and, experiments have shown, the light doesn't even have to be visible — or even exist — to the performer for the syndrome to manifest) the performer turns into a lump of gibbering jelly.

What are the symptoms?

The primary symptom of RSRLS is an immediate loss of all the learnt motor skills associated with operating one's chosen musical instrument: a guitar becomes a plank of wood with jangly bits of metal attached; a piano becomes a box filled with strangely shaped wooden effigies; accordions become leather bags attached to screaming insects; and banjos become, well, banjos.

Normally simple actions involving the instrument (such as knowing what it's actually for and knowing how to hold it) become almost impossible, whilst all memory of the tune or song to be recorded flees, seemingly forever, from the performer's mind. If required to sing, the performer will instantly be transformed into a native speaker of gibberish with an incomprehensible regional accent. The performer will, however, be able to play the piece perfectly, once the recording light goes off.

Is there a cure?

The simple answer is "No". The more complicated answer is also nearly "No": "No, but…"; as in "No, but drinking beer whislt recording makes you feel better, even though the end result is still the same". The most complicated answer to this question involves differential equations, quantum mechanics and the vaguely illegal consumption of mind-altering substances, but essentially boils down to "No".

What can you do?

If you want to help RSRLS sufferers, the best thing you can do is buy them a drink in the pub and ask them to talk about something else, because listening to stories about RSRLS can be very, very, very boring.