The Great Outdoors

As something of an appendix to the last post about dropping material on Medium, my buddy Mr Wayne Simmons has also taken up residence there and made his first post about his workspace. I'm reasonably sure I've dropped some things on here before about where I like to work but no harm in rolling through it again.

Some of the time, I work at the kitchen/dining room table which is nothing special. Just a flat piece of wood with four legs. Unlike Mr Simmons, I have no man cave, no posters, no action figures, no paraphernalia at all and with good reason. I get distracted easily. Thus, in front of me sits a blank wall. I even moved all of the pictures that were on it to the wall behind me so I couldn't see them.

Which all sounds a bit dull... unless you've mastered the dark art of using the wall like a screen on which you project the film running in your head - which I do. It's a little more complicated than that, but that's all you're getting on that front.

However, the rest of the time, I write using a pen and notebook and I like to work here:

...or somewhere close by. There are many places to sit, write and watch your dog run free. There are also buzzards, hares, ravens and occasionally (sadly) other people with dogs but you can't have everything.

Believe it or not, I can get a lot of work done here. Words flow and that's what counts. It's a good feeling too because it never feels like work but neither am I averse to writing on trains, in the car... I guess the point I'm trying to make is I don't mind where I write, so it may as well be pretty. How disabling to have be in a certain place before you can get any work done. Thus, I have learned to be ready because it comes when it comes.

So there you have it. That's my day. If you're looking for pictures of sexy desks and workspaces - much like this one occupied by Bruce Springsteen - you're shit out of luck...

But this below - featuring Al Gore - is my idea of absolute hell. How can you focus and get anything done somewhere like this:

Where's the blank canvas to be filled? From the look of all this stuff, it looks to me like it's already been completed by other people, which is pretty much the story of Al Gore - apart from An Inconvenient Truth which is excellent and obviously made before he collected all this crap.

Seeds Of Decades

A whole week with no posts = busy.

The first thing to happen was that I recognised one of the holes in my life was that I missed writing about music so I figured I would do something about that. Not being of a mindset to launch anything as complex as a magazine right now - one is quite enough to look after thanks - I had a look around The Place (aka: the internet) to find a good place to do such a thing and made a call. You can't say jack on twitter, even less on instagram, I could post them all here but that wasn't really the point, tumblr has less attention span than both of my kids and the dog put together (which is a shame), which just left Medium to try out.

I have a love/hate thing with Medium but it seemed like a good a place as any online and so far so good. If you take a look here, you'll see that I branded it with my dearly beloved Burn logo - hey, it wasn't doing much else aside from lying around in a folder - and is populated with the album reviews I pulled together this week. As more weeks pass by, my plan is to press on with three or four a week... and that is the total extent of my plan with it for now. 

Let's see what happens. If you're in for the long haul with me, there's a BURN link up top in the navigation bar.

For the record, this first week features Cheap Trick, Nickelback, Uncle Sam and Mark Lanegan.

I finished my Father's Day present this afternoon. It looked like this and I loved it very much. As they say in places like Paris and Rome, it was "fucking excellent". The only reason I didn't finish it sooner was because I had too much work to do...

If music is the rock you stand on and you were born between 1960-ish and you can remember Live Aid first hand, you'll relate somewhere along the line, I promise.

I sat in Mark Ellen's office once with my proto-mag, Rock n Roll Babylon, when I was trying to bravado my way into EMAP on a wing and a prayer. He was very nice and encouraging about the whole thing and after reading this, I can see why.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants at some time.

Anyway, I've now moved onto this...

...which has had some good write ups around The Place and so far, is living up to the quotes on the cover. I have lot's of work still on the desk this week but I plan on tearing through it pretty swiftly all the same. 

Meanwhile, work continues on various projects and my feet are getting itchy for another road trip. Must do something to rectify that. 


The Line Of Duty

This morning I began to pull together an interview with one of my favourite tattoo artists in the world: Noon. You can find his blog here but for the sake of getting this post off to a good looking start, here's one of his recent pieces:

It always surprises me that almost 100 issues on (just 15 more to go) from when I started, I can still find great things to talk about. Or at least I can when my co-conspirator is still passionate when it comes to their end of the bargain. Noon is one of those guys. I'm hoping it will be every bit as good as I want it to be when I'm done. 

File under pending... for a couple of weeks.

Aside from magazine things, this week I've been pounding the keys on a script that I believe has legs. Another couple of days and I'll be done with the second draft... writing such a thing (one day I'd like to be able to point you back to this post with hindsight as my friend) has left me with a lot of off-cuts. There's so much on the cutting-room floor, if I'm still feeling uber-positive about the whole thing after the weekend (because these things have a tendency to back you into a corner) I might carry on into next week and see where those bits might take me because what I really need right now is another project to stare at me and ask when I'm going to pay it some more attention... honest it is.

Earlier this evening, my mother sent me a text. One of those mysterious ones out of the blue that suggests the whole thing would become much clearer if you had been in the room with her while she wrote it. This has happened a lot more than it used to since she got an iPhone. 

The content of the message went like this:

"You will look like Billy Connolly when you get old"

My best guess is that he happened to be on TV at the time. I did see something a couple of days ago about some paintings of him that had turned up in Glasgow (I think) so I'll assume that was the trigger... but I haven't seen a pic of Billy for a long time - so I went to find one.

So first, Robert Plant (as detailed here) and now Billy Connolly. I'm starting to see a pattern of hair + beard emerging.

Billy is 74. I could live with that look. It's coming down the line regardless. My mother knows me well.

Items Of Interest From Other People Whose Work I Dig:

I saw today that Jonathan Carroll has a new book out in August - this has jettisoned itself to the top of the wish list with ease. If you're not familiar with his work, he posts regularly on Medium and it's always worth the trip.

But... you don't have to wait if you're intrigued. The man has a huge backlist and never disappoints. If you're looking for something new to help pass the evenings under the quilt with a torch, this is a good place to be.

On the music front, I tried to be adventurous at the start of the week and listened to the new Katy Perry album for some reason and wished I hadn't then diverted myself back to more familiar territory. There's a new Goo Goo Dolls EP on the racks but when I had finished with it (twice), I couldn't remember a thing about it. Putting music out because you can and not because you have something to say is wrong in every way you can think of.

Then a bird came into the kitchen, knocked a box of dog snacks off the shelf and I remembered Cheap Trick have an album out... it's not all out yet, but there are some advance tracks strutting their stuff. It looks like this:

But while I was hunting down that album cover, I saw there was also an album out last year which had totally passed me by in every way you can think of... and it's all there. Cheap Trick have lost nothing over the years. Nothing at all. That one looks like this:

Life is good when Cheap Trick are around.

A Flying Dog

To begin: a flying dog. I have a flying dog and he rocks...

Got up stupidly early this morning and wiped out a stack of day-job work that was hanging around which left me with a free morning (kinda)... so I wrote a short story. It had been bubbling under for a while and this morning it fell out of my hand almost fully formed. Typed up, I'll let it swim in its own juice for a while and see how it looks at the end of the week. Then (and only then) will I look for a home for it but mostly, it's good to have wrapped something up again. 

Then, I got a bee in my head about a song that had been unfinished for far too long, so I wrapped up the lyrics for that too and tonight I am Home Alone which is a good opportunity to piece it all together. It's called Cry Baby Ridge - and I did not rhyme 'ridge' with 'fridge'. That Alicia Keys song is pretty good until it gets to that part. Somebody should have pointed that out in the studio but it's out there now and you can't take it back. 

I guess pretty soon I'll have to record something and post it for public consumption.

There's a news story on BBC today about Patty Jenkins (the director of Wonder Woman) being a woman and breaking box office records for being a woman and doing so. While this is great - and I really loved the movie for all the right reasons - surely such stories aren't helpful in levelling the playing field of gender when it comes to... well, anything. There is never specifically 'man' news about box office records, so why point out this one? 

The world has gone nuts. A director is a director is a director and you either did a good job or you didn't. She did a great job. Wiped the floor with the other DC super-hero movies too but equality means you did what you did and then you move on to doing something else, doing what you do some more.

Gender roles should only be pointed out when it either involves childbirth or being able to piss standing up. Normally I would say it must be a slow news day, but in today's climate, that would be an outright lie.

A Bear Rescue update: I can take a few knocks. The black Bear Rescue tee-shirts that were meant to top up the bear fund fell hard on their face and died a death from not meeting the minimum print number requirement... set-up costs and all that. The white variant by Hannah Willison is still up and doing great though. Funny because when they were white, people wanted black but the black didn't sell and the white one is rolling just fine. 

Go figure.

It's been an easier ride to point people at the Just Giving page and equally as profitable. 

Finally, in the hand for reading this week, is this new collection of shorts - Men Without Women - from Murakami. I would say how good it was, but I don't need to. It's the law.

The Bear Necessities

This was taken a few short days ago and I post it here because... I don't remember it being taken at all. For a pretty close-up shot, how could I not know this was happening? Unless the guy was using a paparazi lens from 100 feet away, surely I should have been aware of such a thing - the man is right in front of my face.

Pic Credit: Marc Wainwright

Pic Credit: Marc Wainwright

Today is the last day you can pick up any of the three designs in the Big Bear Rescue store. I think it wraps itself up about 10pm tonight, so if you're in, get it on because I'm archiving these forever and ever after tonight... never ever to be seen again on a shirt. Forever ever.

Thanks for all your support with this if you bought one along the way, it's been very much appreciated... and the other shirt in the store, the white one from Hannah, that will be around for a good few weeks yet.

Do what thou wilt. Swiftly.

I was beginning to despair in the extreme that there was nothing new to listen to this week that would keep my attention beyond a few minutes and just as I was about to hang up my ears on the world, I saw this had sneaked under my radar - and holy mother, is it ever good. It plays like a Real Album from the mid seventies. For maximum enjoyment, it really needs that volume tweaking some. 

...and then this evening, I have part three of the monks laying waste to the planet in Doctor Who followed by a late night showing of Wonder Woman - which finally looks like a DC movie worth going out of the house to see.

Right now though, I'm going to play that guitar until its frets bleed all over my fingers. Practice, practice , practice... that's the way forward.

Sion Smith
Welcome To The Party

I hear there's a general election around the corner. They always confuse the hell out of me because all parties promise something 'better', but they never mean 'better for everybody', no matter what side of the fence you may be standing on.

What baffles me most is just how many people there are in the ball pool and what they all hope to gain from it. One would suspect money, kudos and power for the most part.

I'd like to propose a little something. I have no idea if it would work or not but I'll float it anyway.

What if, there were just three people in 'power'. For the sake of argument, let's say Mrs May, Mr Corbyn and er... another one (you choose - their names escape me). Surely three intelligent people - and we must assume they all are intelligent no matter what your fingers tell you to type on social media - could fix things quickly and easily?

Three people around a table.

"We have a problem with the NHS..."

Cue whiteboard. Somebody is handed a whiteboard marker and stands next to it.

"What are these problems?"

Between the three, they list all of these items on the whiteboard... and between the three, they come up with the answer that some of the solution is more money, some of the solution is to change things and some of the solution is to let the public know that fixing this is going to cost money.

And between the three, they decide where that money will come from, what those changes will be and in a very short amount of time, together they come up with a plan to fix things and put it into operation. 

All of those donations to party politics, all that driving around of buses, all of that time spent on TV (or not)... that's all time those few people could spend doing things instead of telling people what they're going to do and inevitably not end up doing because they didn't 'win'. Maybe all of the other people milling about could be useful in collating figures and making charts of where attention is most needed. I don't know... there's most likely lots of work to do behind the scenes. 

I know it's not the same thing at all, but if I spent as much (comparative) time editing the mag as they do on all those things, I would produce a single issue a year if I was lucky. 

Is this such a dumb idea? I've seen Conservative governments and Labour governments in my lifetime and all that ever happens is this: those in power at the time make things happen and the other people say they're wrong - regardless of which side you're on, that's exactly what happens year in, year out. Later, when the roles are reversed, they just blame each other for the mistakes.

But all of these people can't be wrong all the time.

If they are, why are they running the country? 

The NHS is good example because everybody can relate to it. How come every single person in the country can't afford an extra £1 a month/a week when we can all afford Netflix, phone contracts and coffee at £4 a go? An extra £1 a month/£12 a year from the entire adult population would be er..... £753,114,000 which is a lot of cash from such a small amount. This is based on a loose population search which is currently 62,759,500 - I think my maths are solid. 

If you went for it and called in an extra £1 a week (the price of a fat-boy Snickers bar at the moment) you could crank that up to umm... 32,634,94000 ... I can't get my commas in the right place for this one, but I think it's around £32 billion... or is it £3 billion? You could fix a lot of things in that year regardless of which answer is correct... and that's on top of whatever is going on now.

It could just be 'fixing money'.

I am no politician - as is probably obvious to anybody reading this who does have a clue - but a small country such as ours shouldn't be hard to run in the civilised world. A few people - of varying sex, age and ethnicity - can make things work. Of this I'm convinced. Put your ego away, look at the facts, agree on them and stop fucking fighting just to prove you have a place at the table. People would love you... and you would have all the kudos, money and power you ever wanted.

...or is that the script from the last couple of weeks of Doctor Who?

Maybe it's not a fix for everything and some things, like the Trident question would be difficult, I don't get why it costs whatever it costs - do we rent it? It would however get most things done quickly, smartly and sounds like a 'step in the right direction'.

Let's face it though, most people don't care about the reality of the world. Just their own little corner of it. If you never take a train, you could care less about train politics. If you don't have kids, you don't care about childcare problems. The list is endless. 

Hmmm. The more I write, the more I see how little I know and when I don't know anything about something I tend to shut my mouth. Maybe I should just move to Copenhagen or somewhere in Switzerland....

Back to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Sion Smith
Time. Always Waiting In The Wings.

I went to see Kiss last night. I've been a Kiss fan since 1979 but I think that was mostly because things used to take a long time to filter down the line back then - I could have jumped on slightly earlier with better media at my disposal and maybe a bit of extra cash. Still, it's a fair old whack of time and I have never once regretted my allegiance and still don't. It was good to see them again. Most telling however: I took Rhiannon with me to see what she would make of it and if I say she used up all her phone storage before she killed her battery by taking photos and videos, that's probably a good indication of how that side of it went. 

There's a lot of detractors around - as there always has been - to which I say: what will you be doing when you're looking down the barrel of 70? 

I also got mistaken for Robert Plant. Twice. I'm sure Mr Plant spends a lot of time hanging out by the doors of large indoor venues. Go figure. Then again, there are very few other people I would like to be mistaken for.

Meantime, this morning I was looking at doing some reviews for a couple of sites I like and saw a request for a review of a movie called A Ghost Story (when it's finally released which I believe is sometime in August) and having watched the trailer (which you can find here) I like the look of this in a big way.

It looks super-smart, elegant, classy and so far up my street, it's in my house. 

Yeah... it better be as good as it looks.

My beloved Big Bear Rescue project is slowly grinding to a halt and I don't know how to deal with it. I guess there a million good causes out there and bears don't feature very highly on the list of people who live where there are no bears. When you have a social media campaign that has a reasonable support behind it but it fails to translate into sales of the shirts - which are fantastic no matter how successful the campaign is - well... I'm struggling to see a way to make it work in both the long term and the short.

As I was thinking about pulling the plug after the current run, this landed in my inbox:

Chowti is completely blind. But that didn’t stop her owner forcing her to fight for money. Time and again this small black bear was tied to a stake, and mauled by trained attack dogs. People paid to make bets on whether Chowti, already blinded by abuse and neglect, could be dragged to the ground.

Like most baited bears, Chowti’s teeth were pulled out without anaesthetic. She had little defence against the snapping jaws trained to tear into her sensitive muzzle, causing agonising injuries. But the fight was always stopped before the wounds became fatal – a dead bear doesn’t make much profit, and Chowti would be needed to fight again.

In fact, she was forced to endure this torture almost every week – not even long enough for her wounds to heal properly before she was thrown into the baiting ring to fight for her life once again.

Sadly, the many injuries and sheer trauma of their repeated ordeals mean that baited bears often die tragically young...

Which leaves me somewhere between a rock and hard place. I don't want to walk away from something I started with the good - even great - intentions but I don't mind announcing right here that working this is fucking frustrating in the extreme.

Time to rethink the rethink. I dare say I need a profile of Gaiman-like proportions to catch the attention of the public and make it work. I just never wanted to be one of those people pointing at the fire watching shit burn to the ground while I was quite capable of carrying a bucket of water. Perhaps mothballs are called for.

World Animal Protection has a page here where you can donate some cash to the root of this story if you feel so inclined. 

Now... back to work.

The Long Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday...

From yesterday.. which is about Sunday... which I forgot to post:

Well that was a long hard weekend of 2 x 18 hour days amongst a few thousand people. I met up with Fiumix who tattooed me back in November in Florence, got interviewed by some nice people for Alexandra Palace TV which I'll try and find later in the week when it goes live and post a link, talked myself into writing a pilot for a TV comedy idea (long story), made arrangements for half a dozen good interviews including one with Noon which makes me more than happy, met a whole bunch of friends I haven't seen since Christmas, lost my Uber virginity and somehow, made it through the whole of today without one scrap of food passing my lips.

I am, officially, starving and right now, am heading home. When I get there, after I have scruffed the dog and been a normal person for ten minutes, I shall stuff biscuits into my face in front of Doctor Who in the scruffiest clothes I can find.  

I also found this from Plazma Lab which I love. Whenever I think of Tel Aviv - which is where they're based - I don't think of work like this coming out of there, but here it is: 

There's stacks of great original work for sale there - go see.

(Fade to grey...)

(Back in the present:)

And while I was gone, Denis Johnson died. The New York Times pegged him like this:

Denis Johnson, a National Book Award winner whose novels and short stories about the fallen — junkies, down-and-out travelers, drifters and violent men in the United States and abroad — emerged in ecstatic, hallucinatory and sometimes minimalist prose, died on Wednesday at his home in Gualala, Calif. He was 67.

...which sounds about right to me. I fell in love with his work when I picked up Train Dreams at an airport one day. A slim looking novel on the surface - something you would probably call a novella if you were in marketing - Train Dreams confirmed to me what I had always believed but had never actually seen. A novel is as long as it needs to be. If you jettison all of the words you don't need, a slim book can work just as hard as a thick one, sometimes more so.

Thick books for the sake of being thick are more about commerce than the story. I like a book you can batter an intruder to death with as much as the next person but the times all of those words are necessary are few and far between.

Denis Johnson was a class act.  He will be missed here if not amongst anybody else I know who reads a lot... then again, everybody loves you when you're dead, right?  

Meanwhile, back at my own desk -  day job aside - tonight is earmarked for sifting through a mighty batch of short stories I've accumulated and a list of literary mags they're going to be pitched at over the next week or so. There's some fine specimens out there and the great ones are always in print rather than online which pleases me no end.

Talking of which, my buddy Wayne Simmons has a story in the latest edition of Interzone (270) which you can find right here.