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January 2024

February 1st, 2024 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I know its not just me that feels like January lasted for ever. Everybody was joking about it on Twitter so much that it became a cliche, but it really did seem to drag on. Obviously it has been miserable and cold, but its winter, and although we had a little bit of snow it has been warm (for January) after that, so I haven’t been hiding indoors all month.

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Getting carried away

January 27th, 2024 · Posted by Skuds in Music

When I treated myself to a turntable for my 60th birthday I had intended to have a small collection of records. Or small-ish. My brother-in-law, Rob, had mentioned to me that he had been finding vinyl collecting a bit habit-forming and addictive and, as I am finding out, it can also be contagious because I think I have caught it off him.

All this is occurring to me because I noticed that the Horsham record fair is on this weekend. I fully intend to go, if only for an excuse to get out on the motorbike, but I realised that since Christmas I have bought 20 LPs already(!)

OK, that makes it all sound like a financially-crippling habit, but that haul of 20 LPs only cost (I think) £65 in total because they were all second-hand from Wickford market and Crawley record fair. You could spend that just buying two or three new LPs. Best of all, there was only one dud record, and that was only a dud because it turned out to not be the right record. It plays OK, it is just that I thought I was buying Abba: the Album but it turned out to be Super Trouper inside the sleeve.

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Time and a Word

January 21st, 2024 · Posted by Skuds in Life

There are a few words that keep cropping up in online conversations and commentary on social media, and newspaper comment pieces, that are not new words, but which seem to appear a lot more than they used to. In fact, I reckon that these words were very rare about ten years ago. It is only a feeling and not backed up by rigorous analysis. I wouldn’t know where to start with rigorous analysis, but I bet some lexicologists working for dictionary publishers have the tools to do it, and I would love to see the results.

The specific words that I am referring to are: grift/grifter, performative, and gaslighting

Is there more grifting, performative behaviour and gaslighting going on (it does feel that way) or is it just that the words have become fashionable of late? It would be really interesting to see statistics of when these words took off. I suspect that Brexit and Covid are responsible for a lot of the gaslighting and grift uses, as they are for so many other things.

Is there more grifting going on, or just more people accusing others of it? Are the accusers pointing the fingers at real grift or are they, ironically, doing a bit of gaslighting? Is it just the sheer amount of online opinions now?

I would also be really interested in a breakdown of how many times the word ‘gaslighting’ is actually being used correctly.

Whatever the reasons and appropriateness, I do feel that the increasing use (overuse?) of these words is actually decreasing their impact as they are moving into the realms of cliche, where words lose their power as they lose their novelty.

I’m sure the increased use of these words is symptomatic of something. I don’t know what, but I’m sure it can’t be good and that, in some way, they are reflecting an increase in the general shittiness of the world, and I’m equally sure there are others that I just can’t think of at the moment. “Culture wars” maybe?

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2023 – Ghosts Again

January 6th, 2024 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Music

As a born and bred Essex boy from Basildon, its amazing that I have got this far into my lifetime playlist without putting a Depeche Mode track on it. South-East Essex has been represented by Doctor Feelgood and Yazoo already, but it has taken this long for our biggest export to get included.

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December 2023

January 4th, 2024 · Posted by Skuds in Life

December is a funny old month. It can just slip by as you focus on getting this crappy year over and hope than the next one will be better somehow. Towards the end of the month a lot of people, especially those with children, knock of for Christmas a week early, making work difficult because you can never get hold of anybody. And then there is the weather… No chance of the snowy landscapes I remember from childhood, just unrelenting rain and one named storm after another.

So generally a fairly uneventful month, mostly spent indoors.

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A year of reading

December 29th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

At the beginning of 2023 I set myself a target to read 100 books in the year and, somehow, I have over-achieved by 20%, having read 120 as of today. Its a good place to stop because it makes the maths really easy to work out: an average of 10 books per month. I guess it helped that I did have a few work trips that involved a lot of time in airports, planes, hotels and Glasgow buses. It helped even more that I broke my shoulder and had a few weeks off work, unable to do much more than read. Even so I am quite chuffed with myself.

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Putting the special into xmas special

December 25th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

This evening I finally got round to watching the Brassic xmas special that my Tivo had recorded earlier in the week. What a masterpiece. Mind you, I personally think that Brassic is consistently good, so the main special-ness of this one is that it is 90 minutes rather than 60 minutes long.

If you have never seen Brassic before, then a) why on Earth not? and b) this is not a bad place to start. It works pretty well as a standalone episode. Most of the usual ensemble cast are there, plus a couple of excellent guest appearances from Imelda Staunton and Greg Davies.

In some ways it isn’t very festive. It probably holds the record for xmas special with the most instances of the word “cunt”, for example. You could say that it is the same sort of caper that the show normally has, except the jeopardy this time is in the production of a school nativity play, but it does have the necessary themes of redemption in it.

Most importantly for a comedy, it made me laugh. Out loud. Several times. And that doesn’t always happen for me. Even some things I really like a lot only make me smile. OK, I will admit that the biggest laughs are often down to the strategic use of extremely bad language in exactly the least appropriate places, but that still counts. Aside from that there is always a slightly surreal element to it, and a lot of the underlying humour is in the way characters so often encounter absolutely bizarre things and take them in their stride. Over the course of 5 series, Brassic has managed to create its own world, which looks like the real one up to a point, but where some very transgressive behaviour is normalised

It all goes to show that ‘xmas special’ doesn’t have to be a family show.

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Fish out of water

December 23rd, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I walked into town today to try and do some xmas shopping. Failed miserably of course. As soon as I go into a shop I am paralysed by uncertainty, like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights. Not all shops. I am fine in a bookshop, or a record shop, or somewhere selling computers or hi-fi. Motorcycle accessory shops are OK too. Obviously I am OK food shopping as well. Anywhere else I am a complete fish out of water, and for present shopping I don’t even know what shop to go into, let alone what to look for in there.

Currently kicking myself, because I know I should have gone down to Brighton, where all the strange independent shops would have given me ideas. Crawley town centre has very little that you can’t find in any other town centre in England. The problem with Brighton, apart from the hassle and expense of going there, is all the temptation. I would likely come back with no presents for anybody but an armful of second-hand vinyl and a new tattoo.

On the subject of fish out of water, while I was in town I did look through the charity shops out of habit. I don’t seriously expect to find any hidden gems in the vinyl stock, but you never know. As usual I would have been fine if I really wanted Ray Conniff, old Spanish language LPs or really tatty copies of Showaddywaddy albums, and wanted to pay over the odds for them. There was a copy of the Two Tribes 12″ single but that was £12 or £8 or something like that.

An then suddenly I saw Chris Squire’s 1975 solo album Fish Out of Water. Not only that but the cover looked absolutely pristine and it was only £2. This is exactly the sort of thing I am always hoping to find in the charity shops. Unfortunately I only bought a copy of it last month at the Horsham record fair – for £4 or £5 probably, plays perfectly well but the sleeve is a bit shabby. What are the odds that when I do finally find a slightly obscure 70s prog album in good nick at a low price, it is one of the handful of LPs I already have?

Nice to know they exist though, so I’ll have to keep looking in case any Gentle Giant, Caravan, Tangerine Dream, Can or Van der Graaf Generator LPs turn up.

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Grumpy Old Man Alert

December 12th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I’m going to resist complaining about Christmas. I don’t like it, and don’t like anything about it, with the exception of mince pies and that Mariah Carey song. As a misanthropic atheist I find it all very tedious, depressing and stressful, but then you can’t get much more tedious than people complaining about Christmas, so I have found a couple of other things to moan about instead.

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November 2023

December 11th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Where did November go? It seems like a few days ago it was October and still a couple of months left in the year and all of a sudden its December and life is dominated by mince pies and sellotape. Work got a bit busy so I ended up with a few late evenings running analysis of stuff, but I guess it is better than being unemployed.

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