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My employment of six and a half years with the London Borough of Camden came to a finish on the 1st of April. As part of the current Tory Coalition government’s idealogy-led policies of shrinking the State, my department was cut from around ninety staff to just over forty. I won’t go into this in great detail, because people far more intelligent and eloquent than I am have done so in detail, because it’s done and it had been signposted for over a year, long before the current cabal of bastards in Westminster took control of the purse strings. I could wax on about how central Government demonising local Government doesn’t do anything to improve services or the quality of recruitment, how Eric Pickles is pretty much every stereotype of a vile Conservative rolled into one, and how this culture of pitting the masses against the public sector in a game of EMPLOYMENT RACE TO THE BOTTOM is beneficial only to the multinationals that treat the majority of their workers with disdain and engender these feelings in the first place, but – hey – I was one of those dreaded ‘back office staff’, so I probably deserved it. Right?

It’s been an odd time for me recently, anyway.

Last year I applied for, and was accepted to, study planning at Heriot Watt in Edinburgh, which kicks off this September. Reasoning that university is going to make me as poor for the next ten years as a lot of my friends have been for the last ten years, I made rough plans to leave my job before the summer started, and to spend  some time abroad. My girlfriend and I ended up making plans to go away together, and booked everything up – we leave May 30th for New York, and I’m not returning until the end of July.

When it became clear that the upcoming restructure/job cuts would kick in from April 1st, I put in for voluntary redundancy. I simply didn’t want to apply for a job if it was only going to be for two months, especially when so many people would be losing theres. I’m aware of how arrogant this sounds, by the way. My request was turned down, and I was forced to reapply for my own job. Let’s just say that I did not give 100% of myself to this task, and I did not receive a job. I was then processed for redundancy, paid off, and sent away.

So for the last month I’ve been unemployed for the first time since I was 19. For the most part, it’s been a productive time. I’ve been working on my little record label again, sorting out a few new releases. I’ve been teaching myself how to make the most of WordPress, and using this knowledge to buff up the label site, and now I’m quite happy with how it looks. I’ve been sorting through the vast amount of crap I’ve accumulated in the last ten years, sorting and boxing it all, so it can be safely stored in my mother’s house when I do go off to Edinburgh. I bought an Xbox 360, and I’ve completed Grand Theft Auto 4. I’ve watched four complete seasons of Daria, a couple of King of the Hill, the first season of Treme, a lot of Sons of Anarchy. Basically, I’ve kept very busy. I made a few attempts to look for work, but where I am right now pretty much all the short-term temp work is call centre based, and quite honestly that was awful enough at 18, let alone 27.

Still, there were still some moments when it just got too much. The quiet suburban house, the endless reruns and ads for no-fee legal challenges and laser surgery and SELL US YOUR OLD MOBILE, the total lack of anything constructive to do with your time. It all just gets smothering, and I say that as someone who was never at risk of losing his home, as someone who doesn’t have to try and slot his unskilled self into an overcrowded job market of a dying economy. I’m actually lucky in all this.

It’s nearly over, anyway, and I’ve got a lot of fun stuff to look forward to. But beforehand, here is a list of things that I need to achieve by May 18th, 2011:

  1. Finish my student finance application.
  2. Apply for my university accommodation.
  3. Cancel my Three mobile broadband account.
  4. Finish boxing up the vast number of CDs and the moderate number of books and DVDs I own, so they can be stored whilst I am living in said university accommodation.
  5. Burn one hundred 3″ cdrs, and then print, cut and assemble sleeves for 100 3″ cdrs.
  6. Send out a bunch more things I owe people.
… might just go play some Red Dead Redemption, instead.

Or, at least, I am.

Hello, neglected blog. I’ve been having a quiet Bank Holiday inside, so far I’ve left the house three times, all to go to one of the local shops to buy junk food. I have, however, watched FOUR WHOLE FILMS. This is pretty good for me, as I really like watching films but never really do so. So to celebrate, here are some words I wrote about them. Please bare in mind that, although I did watch the first two entirely of my own volition, I was drunk at the time. I am telling you this not as an excuse but as context, as CONTEXT IS IMPORTANT. Onwards:

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (2007) **
Absolute fucking rubbish. Seriously. Writing more words about it would be a bigger waste of time than watching it was. It only gets more than one star because the Silver Surfer decides to provide Galactus with access to the Earth’s core by making a hole in the Thames just outside the Houses of Parliament, which is hilarious if you imagine Brian Haw and his hippy camp’s reaction.

SAVED BY THE BELL: WEDDING IN LAS VEGAS (1994) ****
This is so 90s it hurts. Zack and Slater have a discussion over who was tougher – Seagal or Van Damme – and at one point Lisa refers to some drifter dude they pick up as “some kind of grungy hippy”. Zack engages in some hijinks involving working as a male escort, Mr Belding shows up and it ends with Screech being chased by a fat woman. Minus one star because it included some characters from The College Years and JUST WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT. Also, I’ve been watching the last season of Nip/Tuck recently, which features a fair amount of Mario Lopez action. He can’t act any better but he also doesn’t seem to have aged in the last fifteen years. Score draw?

KILL YOUR IDOLS (2004) ***
Documentary ostensibly about the No Wave music scene that sprung up in the urban wasteland that was downtown Manhattan in the early 1980s, whilst also attempting to draw links with the NY music scene around the time it was made (so you get YYYs, Liars, Gorgo Bordello, ARE Weapons etc). Actual contents of documentary as follows: 30% awesome grainy live recordings of Swans/Sonic Youth/DNA etc, 30% Karen O saying “y’know”, 35% various scene Olds (mostly Lydia Lunch) complaining about the new bands being packaged/middle class/FAKES, 5% Jim Sclavunos telling a terrifying story about Lunch deflowering him in a toilet cubicle. Decent enough watch but a bit of a wasted opportunity.

AMERICAN HARDCORE (2006) ****
Similar premise to the above, but this time taking on the hardcore scene. Particular attention given to southern California and Washington DC for obvious historical reasons. Awesome interviews with Rollins and MacKaye, lots of great live footage (especially of Black Flag and Bad Brains), makers clearly knew their shit as loads of obscure bands and regional scenes covered, altogether a really interesting watch to someone who appreciates that sort of music but doesn’t realllllly like it that much.

We filmed two thirds of the second Terrace Session yesterday. Sadly the weather forced us to film inside once again, but the music more than made up for this.

Episode #2 is being curated by the ever lovely Kev, who runs the rad Big Scary Monsters label. Really excitingly we were able to capture the one and only Walter Schreifels playing a number of songs from his forthcoming debut solo album (out via BSM later this month),  as well as a Rival Schools classic.

Walter Schreifels, my front room

Walter Schreifels, the rabbit

Yes, that is Walter and our house rabbit. Photos courtesy my flatmate‘s iPhone.

We were also treated to a set from Shoes and Socks Off, aka Toby ex-Meet Me In St Louis / Shield Your Eyes, who gave us a set of (I think) mostly new material. So that’s also super nice.

I’m really enjoying working on these, even if we’ve only managed to film one out of five sessions actually on my roof terrace, thankyouverymuch the English weather. Every artist we’ve shot so far has been a joy to work with and watch and film, and I’m really looking forward to getting this material out there into the world.

So today, my fine compadre Aaron Connolly and I filmed the first part of the first episode of our new venture. It’s an online music TV show sorta dealy, where we get musicians to play on my beautiful roof terrace. The aim is to capture natural performances in the beautiful window I have into the sprawling urban environment of London NW1. Or… something. Maybe I just want to wind up my neighbours a little bit?

ANYWAY. Today we were lucky enough to be able film Adam Gnade. This is a bit of a personal coup, as he’s been a favourite of mine for the last few years. Not only is he an incredible songwriter, but he’s als a true stand-up gent who believes in his art and does whatever he can to make it his life, all of which I heartily approve of. Like most of my favourite songwriters, he’s a storyteller. He writes songs about people and their lives and the wide open spaces of America and how these things interact, and all coupled with a sense of musical freedom. It’s real and it’s honest, and that’s good enough for me.

The filming went swimmingly as well. Adam’s a natural performer, intense and driven and a joy to watch and film, and the world decided to provide the perfect amount of background ambience to this. Birds cheeped, children shouted, buses drove past, planes roared overhead, and at one point my next door neighbour, who in 14 months living here I’ve never even seen, came out and started watering his plants with a hose. Truly, a great way to spend a Sunday lunchtime.

Hey, here’s a lovely video:

Because Bruce had it right, and Johnny had it wrong. We’re not born to lose, we’re born to run.

We’re shooting the rest of episode #1 next weekend, capturing both Slushy Guts and Superman Revenge Squad. This is also Very Exciting Stuff. I’m hoping we can get six episodes done (#2 is lined up for April, and will be curated by Kev BSM, beyond that I have no idea) before the summer ends and the weather turns and suddenly people won’t want to stand outside and play music.

Now, the real question remains: am I going to have the balls to ask John Darnielle (or, I guess, his management) to come and do one when the Mountain Goats come over to tour in September? WE’LL SEE.

27th February 2010 – St Pancras Way, London NW1

It is 7:58am. I am 1hr 45 into a 5hr train journey. It’s all good though, because Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is the best absurdist basketball-themed RPG I’ve ever played.

WELCOME TO THE POST CYBERPOCALYPSE, PUNK.

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