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Shameless Self Promotion #3

There came a knock, knock, knock at the door and Mrs Lee accepted two boxes from the post-person. Inside, more copies of Oblivion, ready for upcoming events, and some author copies of The Department 44 Files. It sure felt good to hold my 4th release in my hands!

Anyway, cast your eyes over a display I put together of my total output to date, including a photo of the dedication inside TD44F:

 

 

 

Are people really that stupid?

I’m often to be found berating myself for thinking the worst of people, bemoaning the seeming loss of common-sense and reduction in perceived levels of intelligence in society. Try as I might to maintain some level of hope for our future and convince myself it’s the minority not the majority, I too often sense I’m fighting a losing battle.

The rise of (so called) talent shows is a favourite piece of evidence. Coming clean straight away, I’ll admit to watching the earlier series of Britain’s Got Talent and Pop Idol, I’ll often still be found viewing The Voice when it’s on. However, it soon became apparent the main draw of the shows, at least in their earlier, audition rounds, is the voyeuristic ridicule of the untalented wannabes. You’ve all seen them, just like me they can’t sing a note in tune or in key, yet they’ve fallen for the lure of instant fame and money for no talent. It’s true the British love an underdog, but, do we really have to love the deluded, direly-in-need-of-a-reality-check so much?

It runs insidiously deeper. Lack of knowledge is somehow seen as cool and something to be emulated. Without any hint of apology I trace this directly back to the phenomenon of Jade Goody. I know, I know, she fought a brave battle against cancer and lost (I have 2 very personal reasons to despise cancer) and left young children behind, I can’t find fault in that at all. What I can find a huge, ginormous, gargantuan fault with is the way her lack of knowledge and education was lauded – ‘oh, look at Jade, she said Portuganese.’ Now, some will say that she made pots-full of money out of it, pots of money I personally haven’t made, and that is very true. However, it wasn’t her, was it? She was hooked up with very clever people who latched on to the (incomprehensible) popularity and marketed her mercilessly, built a whole business and businesses around her. If that’s what floats your boat, then fine, but I have too much self-respect and wouldn’t want my legacy to be so tainted, I would want to be a force for good, for learning, and advancement.

Therein, also, lies the crux. Business and marketing have no regard for much more than the bottom-line of the ledger. If it can make money, go for it. I can cite a couple of examples from TV adverts I detest. The first – a certain product that you spray in the loo to contain the odour of your deposit. Why? So the next person doesn’t smell your emissions. I’m sorry but when I have to use a public lavatory, I expect nothing less than the funk of previous users. It’s one of those things, I wouldn’t expect to walk into a convenience and smell roses, it isn’t the natural home of roses! Also, here are more chemicals to be filtered out at expense by the water companies and a plastic container that carries an extra environmental cost. The second – pods to throw in your washing machine. They come in a box anyway, so where is the environmental saving against separate powder and conditioner/softener? What really boils my blood though is the TV advertising. See how easy it is to throw a pod in your washing machine with a ridiculous grin on your face – who the f*ck grins like a moron when they’re sorting out a washing load? Next come the displays of absolute f*cktards who are incapable of measuring out powder and liquids without covering the floor with it. Excuse me? Who pours the powder straight from the box to the washing machine drawer? Ever heard of a scoop, advertising executives? And you don’t need to fill the cap of the conditioner bottle to measure it out. Washing machine drawers have graded receptacles. People must actually see these adverts and think ‘oh yeah, I might spill some, that would be easier.’ Unwittingly, they’re knocking themselves down, assuming the role of the f*cktard.

Come on people, we’re all better than this. The human brain is still the most powerful, capable, and fastest computer in existence (on this planet, anyway.) Use it!!

 

More Music

I performed my daily check on the old Bloggy McBlogface this morning and was slightly amazed to see 30 visits yesterday, the majority looking at my recollection of the Alex vs Tree incident. That level of support and interest is very much appreciated and I hope I can continue to post pieces/ramblings (delete as required) that attract an equal, or even  greater, level of connection.

With that in mind, I realised it’s a while since I’ve bored/regaled (again, delete as required) you all with my recent favourites in the musical world. Those who know me, and have read my previous meanderings, will be aware of my incredibly soft-spot for Rush, but, surprise, surprise, I’m not going to mention this in this piece – d’oh, I just have, haven’t I?

So, I’m going to start at a similar intellectual level to the 3 gods of Canadian Prog: Mr Steven Wilson, solo and Porcupine Tree.

Progressive, moody, talented musicianship, meaningful lyrics. It seems Porcupine Tree may have run its course, which is a shame as there is a depth to the musical catalogue with a good mix of heavier and softer pieces. Most of their albums are heavily conceptualised but that’s really not a problem. Have a listen to Lazarus, Fear of a Blank Planet, and Prodigal.  In his solo work, Steven relives Porcupine Tree alongside more diverse sounds. His latest album, To The Bone, is very poppy, not usually my thing, but he keeps me engaged in these songs. I’d recommend anyone to have a listen to Nowhere Now and Pariah, the latter featuring guest vocals by a very talented Israeli vocalist, Ninet Tayeb.

In keeping with my recent conversion to female fronted metal bands, and my attraction to music by Canadians, I’ve discovered Leah McHenry.

Leah McHenry

Leah is a bit of a rarity in musical circles in that she shied away from a regular contract and went independent. Not too rare I hear you cry, but add to that the fact that she doesn’t tour and it becomes more interesting. The reason: she’s a mother of 5 and home educates, she doesn’t want to sacrifice her children’s childhoods for the rigours of touring. Leah has 2 full length albums and an EP out, with a 3rd full length imminent. The music is heavily influenced by Celtic and fantasy themes and very atmospheric. I thoroughly recommend a listen – try Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep, This Present Darkness, and Mainland.

And now, for something quite similar to Nightwish, symphonic metal from Austria in the form of Edenbridge.

Edenbridge

Powerful, driving metal sounds, strong vocals, eastern tones to the guitar sound, and anthemic choruses – what more could I ask for? It was quite a pleasant surprise to discover this band, especially as they’ve been recording since the late 1990s with a strong back catalogue. I don’t think they’re terribly well known in the UK, although they have a good following in Europe and Asia. Have a listen to Sunrise in Eden, Arcana, Higher, and The Moment is Now.

Stone Sour.

Stone Sour

I cannot believe I haven’t mentioned the mighty Stone Sour before! Especially as Corey (Motherf@&*er) Taylor is the driving force. Perhaps better known as the frontman of Slipknot, Stone Sour are actually Corey’s band prior to the masked shenanigans, he also provided the inspiration for Sergeant Corey Naylor (see how cleverly I disguised him?) in the Gene Weavers books. There are far too many great Stone Sour songs to list a mere handful, but I’ll do it anyway: 30/30/150, Through Glass, Say You’ll Haunt Me, Tired, Do Me A Favour, and Fabuless should be good for starters.

As a poor writer, I don’t have pots of spare cash to purchase music. Consequently, I’ve caught up with most of this new stuff (new to me, anyway) via YouTube. It doesn’t quite sit right, but it is where record companies and artists post their songs and music videos so it has some legitimacy. Also, they receive revenue from advertisers. DON’T STEAL MUSIC. I far prefer to buy music and reward the people responsible for my listening pleasure. They work bloody hard to write songs, record, and release them and what happens? People illegally download and little money makes it back to the creative individuals. I know the cost of music is high and the record labels take a huge bite but, to my mind, that doesn’t justify out and out theft. I know how I’d feel if somebody stole from my creative juices!!

A Close Shave

It’s a telephone call that all parents fear to receive. Mrs Lee and I had gone to bed (it’s ok, I’ll keep this clean!) when her mobile rang. It was my son’s girlfriend’s mum: Alex has had a car accident.

We didn’t know how serious and my back was really giving me trouble, so Tracey and Kathryn whizzed off in our car to see him. As it happens, it was a nasty accident, an ambulance was called to take him to the major trauma A&E at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham. Tracey dropped Kathryn back home – poor girl had a Maths GCSE exam the following day – and we set off for QMC in the early hours.

Once we got into A&E and Alex’s trolley, he was on a spinal board and had his head restrained. It looked bad, but we could tell he was reasonably well – he was looking at his mobile! He’d had a scan and the Doctors were awaiting his results. There were a few hairy moments when he thought he was going to chuck up but it didn’t come to pass. In the meantime, Nottingham’s latest stabbing victim was placed in the next bay along, 2 policemen in attendance.

The scan results came back clean, Alex had been very lucky. He was battered and bruised, walking wounded but nothing was broken – except his car.

This is what the aftermath of swerving to avoid a deer that ran out in front of him looks like. Tree 1 : Vauxhall Insignia 0.

Alex car

A Grand Question.

Ok, the title is a little contrived. I’ve just watched the 2018 Monaco F1 Grand Prix and my question is, why do we not have permanent settlements in space, on the moon, and infrequent manned missions to Mars?

Quite a leap I hear you cry, but hear me out, or rather, read me out! There was one section of the televised coverage when I watched from the cockpit camera of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. That little red bullet raced up through 7 or 8 gears, dropped back to 1st, maxed out at 180-190mph. That’s quite incredible. What is even more incredible is the stresses, pressures, and temperatures that each individual component is subjected to every second of the race.

Formula 1 often comes in for criticism over the fairness of the competition. Teams have varying levels of budget and the big players, your Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull have huge advantages against the younger/smaller teams. So, where does driver ability factor into things? It’s true there is little difference in actual lap time between a top driver and an also-ran. Of course, over the timescale of a full race, the slight difference in lap time becomes a huge gap at the end. But calmness, unflappability, speed of reaction, general driver temperament all play their part. There’s a reason why a driver becomes a household name such as Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna. The top teams are configured to recognise the talent and recruit it. I kind of know what I’m talking about here as I worked in Officer and Aircrew recruitment for the RAF for 15 years. The selection process for the people this organisation responsible for UK air defence and force projection utilises is well thought through, well-funded, and incredibly tough, from a viewpoint of raw ability to personal discipline and charisma.

There’s another comparison between high-octane motor sport and speed of sound fully up-to-date modern military aircraft. That’s the engineering. From the materials used, metals and composites that can sustain incredible stress forces and temperatures, oils and lubricants that persevere through such use and abuse, electronics that monitor and record it all to the tyre composites that lay it all down on the track or on landing.

The question I have to ask is, if we can achieve all of this in the names of sporting entertainment and military preparedness, why can we not achieve similarly amazing progress in the field of human progression? The USA’s success in breaking the USSR in the great space race was, perhaps, an own goal. What have we actually achieved since then? Yes, we’ve landed probes on Venus and Mars, landed on a comet, performed incredible scientific probes of Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto etc. But, closer to home, we’ve launched the ISS and that’s about it. Most of the out of this world stuff has been achieved by robots.

The whole world expected moon bases, space stations, sub-orbital transport vessels, the mining of asteroids, missions to Mars. People expected it but weren’t willing to pay for it. Not when a new microwave, a bigger car, cheaper taxes could be had. The promised future was betrayed by a comfortable, predictable, much less risky now. Governments had been the big drivers, the only source of sufficient finance to drive those successful space programmes that petered out. People lost the thrill for that in the promise of easier, more comfortable lives, new players entered the political arena with the financial means to drive religious fervour, low petrol prices, and the right to own a personal arsenal of awesome firepower.

The trouble is you can’t really blame people for wanting to settle back and enjoy it – well, maybe not the arsenal of guns, but that’s a battle for the here and now of America’s youth. You see, in an era when it’s more dangerous to be a US high school student than a member of the US armed forces, the youth are actually ascendant and they have progress in mind. It’s not all restricted to the USA either. Young people across the world are generally more forward thinking than the older generations. The challenge is to infiltrate, or change the mindset of, mainstream politics that is dominated by the older, supposedly better-placed to rule, generations. Sure, engineering and control capability has increased and advanced. Engineering and technology has leapt forward in leaps and bounds, as long as the mark 1 human prototype hasn’t been put too much in harm’s way.

There are new players in the game. Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, as individuals who have risked personal fortunes and reputations to drive human ingenuity and imagination, alongside such companies as Boeing and Airbus. NASA continues of course, the Russian space programme has teamed up with ESA, even India has a space programme.

Have I gone off target? Are you still there, or have you wandered off? I hope not. The thing is, a science-fiction writer is imbued with a surfeit of optimism for the human race, with a smattering of realism that allows the stories to be engaging. We have to hope that humankind has a promised future amongst the stars, where we originally came from. It seems to me the original hope promised by governmental projects has subsided somewhat. Thankfully, there are replacement services in the shape of privately owned companies that want to sub-contract to government projects, launch commercial satellites, harvest celestial objects for resources and put paying members of the public into space on timetabled excursions. Maybe the future is looking bright – as long as we can convince more young people into education and wean them off the dream of instant stardom promised by too many.

 

TD44F

The Department 44 Files is due for release 1 August 2018.

Contents:

1.       The Disappearance of the BCRS Fiennes 

2.       Control Part 1 

3.       Events from Subterranean Depths 

4.       Control Part 2 

5.       Outbreak at Inverness 

6.       Control Part 3

7.       Forest Sentinel (novella)

8.       Picking at Memories 

TD44F cover

NEW ARRIVAL!!

I’ve not blogged for a while, sorry. There has been a valid reason, baby Amelia was born in the early hours of 9 May 2018, changing this author’s name to GOG – Grumpy Old Grandad. She was a week and 5 days late and the nervous, anxious wait wreaked havoc on my writing schedule. Never mind, she’s here now, perfect in every way and we can proceed to spoil her as is the right of all grandparents! (Ignore my messy hair and the Cthulhu t-shirt)

Amelia