The Album That Shaped Me

The year was 1994, I was 16. An impressionable age, and the music at that time was fucking dull. Nirvana was brilliant, but Kurt Cobain was a twisted punk soul that became misguided. Phil Collins was still doing things. Pop was just another new face singing over a sequencer that had been left on for 2 and half minutes. And then…

Suddenly there was Oasis. And immediately my teenage years had a soundtrack.

I was 16 and getting high in my mate’s house (his parents were away), and some guy said to me, “fucking hell, you look caned Jelly!”, and as I grinned, Supersonic came on the hifi, and I lay there in a haze of wonder. I’d never heard anything like that. I’d heard Rock and Roll, but nothing that seemed to ooze confidence and attitude like that.

Then a year or so later, I was in a pub, with my body struggling to cope with the new toxin I was shoving in it. We could still smoke in pubs in those days, and I was stood by the bar, with a cigarette in my mouth ordering beer. Cigarettes and Alcohol came on the jukebox, and it made me stick my chest out, strut around and find the nearest girl to get off with. (I’m aware that some people may not know the full definition of “get off” – so: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Get%20off&defid=2559916).

And now I’m 18. And still a virgin. I’m in a club. A shit club called “Strattons”. Dreadful place. The floors are sticky with sweat and spilled beer and christ knows what else. The last song of the evening comes on, and it’s a track from the newer Oasis album: Don’t Look Back in Anger. Some girl just grabs me and we sing at the top of our voices until the lights come up and we have to get out. I offer to walk her home and when we get back to hers, the night continues and I proceed to lose the last bit of my childhood whilst my new favourite album plays in its entirety in the background.

That relationship went nowhere. But the first time my heart did get broken, I was wandering home, and Live Forever randomly began playing on my walkman (yeah, walkman).

So you see. Definitely Maybe is not only my favourite album of all time. It accompanied me through the trickiest and greatest times of my formulative years.

My Top 6 Most Feared/Hated Animals

I’m not a naturalist, but I love animals. I got to my late 20’s and just wanted to know everything about them. So I’ve watched countless TV shows and read lots to learn all that I can. They’re fascinating and strange and scary and beautiful. I don’t particularly fear a lot of them, certainly not the popular phobia-inducing spiders. Just wary because of my respect for them. In Florida, there are some big buggers colloquially known as banana spiders, and they are huge! But not venomous and pretty much just sit there all day catching dumb bugs so they can gorge themselves silly at night. However! There are some fucking nasty, horrible and dirty bastard animals out there. And here are the top 6 little shits:

African Armoured Cricket:

This little absolute wanker is a cricket who has developed a taste for flesh. It’s about 5cm (2″) long and basically crawls into birds nest and eats the chicks. It has sharp spikes all over itself and can fall out of huge trees, get up and just go climb another tree to eat whatever it finds. Dirty, little, shit.

Scorpions:

All of them. They are stupidly terrifying looking, and have not 1, but 2 forms of attack. Not content with stinging you pretty much to death with its “jabber”; it can also pinch you really hard with its claws. Oh and some of them glow in the fucking dark. What the fuck is that about?!

Stonefish:

So, let’s have a lovely little paddle in the surf to cool our feet… “Ouch!!! Jellyfish sting!!!” Oh no my friend, that ain’t no jellyfish sting, it’s much, much worse. In about 10 minutes you’ll be wanting to have your leg cut off it hurts so bad. This miserable little creature sits around doing nothing, and when you get near it, it pops up its spine that injects venom. And it really, really hurts. Sometimes to death. In its defence, it injects venom proportional to the amount of pressure applied to it, so it’s another way of evolution sorting out the fat people I suppose.

Shithead parasite (I hate it so much, I will not give it the courtesy of looking up its proper name):

This is a parasite gets into a fish. Nasty already, but it gets worse. In order for it to make more parasites and live on, it needs to be in a warmer environment. So it attacks the central nervous system of the fish and makes it effectively commit suicide by jumping out the water, whence it will be eaten by some poor unsuspecting bird, e.g. a Heron. And in its new warmer environment it thrives. Wanker.

Humbolt Squid:

It attacks people just through sheer audacity. It’s got bioluminescence and glows red when it’s angry. And it has a beak. A BEAK!?!?! Seriously! Google image that shit. I will not post a link to it, because it makes my head tingle… and not in a good way.

Chihuahua:

Because, well, you know. What’s the fucking point?

Your Mobile Phone is Shit

So, It’s come to this. I’m writing a goddamn article to vent some frustration at the idiocy of twat fanboy phone nobheads.

Android or iPhone? Which are you? You’re pretty much one or the other. I’m Android. Always have been. Tried using an iPhone for a while, but it made me so frustrated it wasn’t funny. I don’t understand why it’s so fucking closed to any real customisation. There is no question that it’s a wonderful idea (OS speaking), the hardware looks boss, it’s user-friendly to the max and has instigated a genuine public interest in a ‘gadget’ like never before (XBOX vs Playstation was interesting, but only to a tighter network of geeks). It was the first proper smartphone, and I thank Apple for bringing it to us, because without it, there probably wouldn’t be anything like Android.

Android is truly the public’s choice. Market share of phones using the OS went ballistic in a short space of time. The world’s biggest manufacturer of mobile phones isn’t Nokia anymore, thank god. It’s Samsung, and whilst I’m not massively impressed with their hardware, they certainly churn out and sell a fuckload – so they must be popular. My choice of mobile is the Huawei Ascend P1 if you were wondering… oh you weren’t? Well bollocks – I’ve told you anyway. It truly is the greatest phone I’ve ever owned (apart from a HTC One X that I did have, but left on a shelf in a supermarket like the pillock that I am… and no insurance…). It does everything I want. In a geek way. I control all the multimedia at home with it (Spotify/ VLC). I VPN to foreign countries to watch TV that is geographically locked. And I do all the usual stuff that I know iPhone can do. However, I do it with style, and grace and true productivity. My launcher of choice is TSF Shell (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia0uaql99Kc), and literally shits all over iOS’s rather simple folder designs and homescreens.

Yes, iOS is pretty. Yes, it’s functional and everyone can use it without too much tutorial. And if you like that sort of thing – it’s perfect for you. But it hasn’t evolved. It’s still the same layout as 2006. On the flip side though, the fact that your next TV/hand held gaming system/GPS/vanity mirror (http://www.cybertecturemirror.com/main.php)/refrigerator (yes, really: http://www.samsung.com/us/topic/apps-on-your-fridge) is going to have Android integrated has to tell you that this Android thing is massive. It really is a big deal and will be getting exponentially huge before too long…

P.S. Blackberry/ Window OS? Literal worst.

Jellylife

Picture the scene if you will: The year is 1980. The place, Naples in Italy. A young boy of 2 and a half is asleep on a camp bed in the shade outside the apartment block where he lives with his mum and dad. His dad is in the British Navy and has been posted to Naples for 3 years, they’ve been there for about a year already.

There’s some noises and laughing, and people moving boxes and such in the apartment next door – a new family moving in. They are Dad, who’s American Navy, mum and 2 daughters.

For the next 2 years, the families form a great relationship. There’s even an earthquake in ’81 and everybody sat outside on the street afterwards drinking brandy. (The boy slept through the ‘quake, despite all the crockery falling out the cupboards in the apartment. Bizarrely, in ’82 when Italy won the football world cup, the winning goal prompted an understandably large reaction from the Italian folk, and that woke him up…!) They all visited places in Italy together, and went to carnivals and festivals and borrowed each other’s cars and the mum’s babysat for each other’s kids. Tim, Sarah (9 years old) and Mandy (8) played together and read books together.

Then in late ’82, The Brits had finished their posting and went back to the UK. A couple of months later, the Americans made sure that during a driving tour of the rest of Europe that they went on before they traveled home to the States, they visited the Jellymans (if you hadn’t figured it out yet – that’s me) in their new home.

The Williamsons went back to the States. Jimmy, the dad, was posted to California somewhere and the mum’s kept in good contact thru the years, writing letters and swapping photos. Sarah married and had a couple of kids. And Tim mostly went nuts – the 90’s were a strange and crazy time to grow up in.

So let’s fast forward a bit. 2009. Tim and Sarah, get to talking on Facebook. And then Skype. And then some more Skype. And Gtalk. Then Skype everyday. 4000 miles apart, just chatting, but something else was happening…

One day, they were on Skype. Sarah was in a Starbucks, and Tim was probably in bed (time difference and all that jazz – he’s not ill, or bed-bound). The end of the conversation, brought the usual jovial “ok, well speak to you tomorrow maybe?”, “yeah, sure”. And then Sarah said, “I love you”. And Tim said it back…. Whoa! I’m in love with her!!!

So I visited her in the States a few times, and she came over here. And in September 2011, we got married on Ponte Vedra Beach in Duvall County, Jacksonville, Florida. Sarah moved over here in February of this year, and the plan is to move over to Jacksonville Beach as soon as is possible.

What an extraordinary journey. 10’s of thousands of miles. A few decades. But now we are very happy. Life is so good together. We even have our own hashtag: #jellylife

Power To Us All

We all get down. But, we all have things we love. We can all laugh at the silliest little things. We all fall in and out of love. But what is a certainty, is that we all get down… some of us, more than others.

There’s peaks and troughs in life. They just exist because they do. Most people get to the bottom of a trough and then pull themselves together and feel better soon enough. However, for some, there’s trapdoor at the bottom of those troughs that leads to a basement, and in that basement is a spiral staircase that goes further down, and at the bottom of that staircase is a room where I’ve sat for periods of my life.

I’ve struggled through most of my life with anxiety. Panic attacks that make me shudder and shake and want to die. A deep paranoia that makes me distrust everyone. A constant nausea for weeks at a time that made me throw up every morning. It’s not a good time. I’ve tried hypnosis, but it’s limited. I’ve tried drugs (the prescription and other kind), and whilst they help, I don’t want to be reliant on them (but the prescription kind will help – better living thru chemistry is what my Mom tells me). I’ve tried meditation, but it just made me lightheaded, because I hyper-ventilated. I’ve tried drinking to numb the pain, but that just exacerbates the depression.

So what does work? I’ll tell you what has helped me. Pure, unadulterated willpower. If, one day you wake up and don’t want to go to work or school because you can’t face it, get up and go do it. If you’re scared to go somewhere because you’re worried about being in unfamiliar surroundings, get yourself there. If you’re uncomfortable in social situations, go somewhere where there’s lots of people and talk to someone completely random (this may not work in a cinema… it may backfire ;)).

It won’t be an overnight thing, but I’m now close to a point in my life where I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and you will be able to as well. The anxiety and paranoia you feel when you’re feeling down? It will ease, just the same as the heartache of losing someone after a relationship breakup or a death. Breathe, be strong, have faith in your abilities and don’t you dare let the anxiety become the owner, take the power back people.

Suggestion: Soundtracks and their Evolution

So, for no reason whatsoever, I’ve begun to listen to soundtracks more and more. The current crop of music that is trending in movies by people like Michael Danna (Moneyball, Little Miss Sunshine), Cliff Martinez (Drive, Contagion), and Hans Zimmer (Inception, Dark Knight Trilogy) is reasonably varied in production values and tempo/sounds, but all the movies I’ve mentioned above are favourites of mine, and so it may just be that since I love the movie, I love the soundtrack.

However, I would actually much rather sit and listen to an entire OST (Official Soundtrack) now than an album. That’s not to say I don’t listen to albums, because I do. But there’s a different emotion that is stirred.

And so to the evolution: I can’t remember an OST that I gave a shit about prior to about 2004 when I heard Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind‘s musical offering. I’ve tried to go back and listen to OST’s of older movies I love: Shawshank or Batman (1990, Tim Burton version), but they’re just too specific to the movie, with crescendos and down tempo beats to match parts of the movie. I know these still exist in more contemporary soundtracks, but they just seem to blend in much better and more smoothly for a fuller kind of listening experience. The OSTs we have going on recently are amazing, standalone pieces of art that should be embraced fully. I mean fuck – look at Trent Reznor winning an Oscar for his soundtrack to The Social Network! Or Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy – Daft Punk didn’t write the soundtrack for the Tron universe, Tron is set in the Daft Punk universe…

Go to Spotify or grooveshark.com and give them a go if you haven’t before, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.