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Death of the album….

The era of the album is over. This we know. It ran from the 70s when the guitar came of age and the supergroups ruled the music world and its last great flowering was Britpop– a time when there were a loads of really good albums out there, Blur and Pulp and Oasis’s (whats the story) Morning glory? Loads more.

But what killed the album? The Internet? Yes probably. Well definitely. But you know what helped? CDs.

They are / were at once clinical and ugly. Clean and dirty.

When they first came out people moaned about the too clinical thing, for ages – that the sound was too ‘clean’ and how could you listen to blues on a CD!

I never really got that. I mean yes, there is something irresistibly atmospheric about that scratchy old needle picking some blues or a bit of piano jazz off the vinyl – but come on – we could have lived without that.

But what I really dislike about Cds is that they are so ugly. Vinyl is covetable. Vinyl has, or had allure. Has – it won’t die, and no wonder. The huge black shiny disc, that needs caring for. TLC applied through little soft cloths and unguents and sprays in wee bottles. That shiny line down it when it’s been well polished.

The huge picture on the front – those mad double albums (gatefold sleeves I think they were called) that opened up, the lyrics and all that space for the words and thoughts from the band – the liner notes.

Liner notes, they even had a name for it. Sometimes interesting, often funny or just self-indulgent, it was all good. The name for them by the way, comes from the notes put onto the protective sheets that used to line the album itself back in the day when they were a bit more fragile.

Yes the albums, the covers, the material itself, like jeans, they all just seemed to get better with age. I loved the way the corners of them got frayed – but they looked better for it.

Compare all that with the CD. The plastic cases that grow tarnished – kinda cloudy – and covered in scratches with age. And how those cases so often crack on one side. The little booklets, just too small to take to your heart. Too fiddly.

Yes I am nostalgic. And yes you have to move on – but it’s always sad when we upgrade and its not as good as we had before. When things denigrate – like light bulbs…. Can’t they be environmentally friendly and actually shed light adequately too?

No… oh right.

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Helium Balloons available inside.

In one of my ‘local shops’ (small, papers, milk, chocolate – the essentials) there is a sign in the window, hand written in black marker that reads:

‘Helium balloons available inside’.

I find this perplexing.

I mean there are a lot of things “available” in there. I have mentioned some of them already. But in addition to those items there are a good few that are possibly more appealing, that is would have a bigger market than targeting the helium ballooner who is caught short, helium balloonwise, whilst out and about in Tuffers of a Saturday afternoon.

And the ‘inside’ is quite odd too.

The little man who works there – the owner I would say – is one of those shopkeepers who doesn’t like to move around very much. This includes when he is handing you your change. The arm does not go out very far. He quests for you with no enthusiasm at all. I reckon he is not comfortable with the concept of handing money back, as a general principle.

So, I have taken agin him.

It’s such a poxy little sign too – I mean if he is going for the (helium) balloon enthusiast – and has went to the trouble of getting his black marker out and a sheet of A4 out , you think he’d make a better job of it.

I might go in, ask him if he stocks balloons, he’ll say yes. I’ll say…

Helium balloons. They have to be helium my good man.

Oh yes, did you not see the sign?

Sign, what sign? I saw no sign.

And he will direct me, with only the vaguest, ineffectual movement of his arm to his Helium Balloons stocks… and I’ll find them and have a look at them for a minute, before turning to him and saying.

No no. Oh no. These are the wrong kind. Good day.  

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The shed in my head…

So I was sitting reading Montaigne the other night (that’s the sort of thing I get up to)…

He wrote, in an essay on solitude, that it was a good idea to have a retreat – a place to go to be alone. I like that idea. He called it a ‘back shop‘ and said that in this space we could establish a ‘conversation between us and ourselves’.

He actually did this to establish a buffer between himself and his family (should he lose them) but in doing so he found the merit and importance of a space to think, find detachment, and reflect.

A retreat; basically a shed. I would love a shed. Or a study. Or a really nice shed (with cork lined walls) that is basically a, study.

But I know this person (a woman you understand) and she told me about a guy she knew once who used to say that he had a shed in his head. A place where there are no windows and a no doors, but that I can go to, when I want or need to. A shed that I can go to and have a think, or maybe listen to some old scratchy records, and drink tea out of a chipped mug, and write in a journal.

God I want a shed.

(Some of this is from Sarah Bakewell’s ‘How to Live’ – a damn good read. It’s kind of the acceptable face of Self Help and a rather good bio of Montaigne, in one.)

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On Atheist meeting places…

Alain de Botton has had an idea….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/26/alain-de-botton-temple-atheism

Yes yes, yes I see, I do see.

Its a tricky one this one – the meeting place for atheists one.

I get why and I even agree that for some people it would be a good thing and so useful for Atheism.

However, there is a certain kind of atheist who shouldn’t be encouraged. People who are getting as much and the same thing from atheism as they would do (or, more likely, formally got) from religion.
Oh we have a meeting place and I go there, and I love Dawkins and I wear a T-Shirt, and I’m an Atheist and GOD is SO SHIT!

People sometimes say atheism is empty – and they are plain wrong about that – that is a complete misunderstanding as it is about active rational thought which neccessarily precludes and rejects superstition but based on something positive – reason. And reason is the only basis for progress.
However, it does and should reject empty gesturism, and I am not sure at all if De Botton’s idea is not, a very grandiose and eloquent expression of that.

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Hello there

So I am just finding my feet really. Odd expression that.

I live In Tufnell Park, in North London. I write, when I get time and I do other things. Read on and find out more.

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