Big Red Hootenanny

About a week ago, I was involved in organising a party for Comic Relief. I was only a small cog in a big wheel, the bulk of the show organised by P. J. Montgomory. I hosted the show on the night (my first time doing standup in five years) and brought along equiptment for the bands who would be performing on the night. P. J sorted out some great prizes for an epic raffle held at the end of the night as well as the venu, the acts and everything connected with that. I’ve known about this since November and I have been writing since then to try and come up with material suitable for the show.

At the last minute I scrapped the Lot and decided to write something the night before the show. This is actually something I did a lot when I was performing before but something (I can only assume the onset of old age) meant that I can no longer remember things the way I used to. So it was an interesting night from my perspective.

I would have liked to have blogged about it at the time but it was a long night and I just can’t remember it anymore. Anyway, today I have been looking at the footage from the night and I have to say, it wasn’t half bad. I actually spent most of my time on stage performing comedy songs and I learned that the stuff I write by myself seems to go down better that the stuff that I had always thought was tried and tested. If you don’t know what I mean by that, I used to be in a comedy band performing other people’s material, loads of people wrote for us.

I suppose it is the onset of the same memory erasing old age that has made me look more closely at the material I write and perhaps the hootenanny will see me return to writing and performing stand-up. Certainly the few jokes I did went down well. These days, however, I just need to put it in to more of a rehearsed set.

All of this introspection is detracting from what I wanted to say in this blog. I really wanted to thank everyone who was involved in the night. Our headline act was the amazing Taylor Glenn. We also had acts from friends of ours Verity Smith and Andrew Davies.

In all, it was a good night where we raised over £500 for comic relief. We also released a single as well called Red on the Inside which is still available and I urge you to go and buy.

Thank you. To everyone who came, to everyone who laughed, to everyone who bought the single. You really did help us help comic relief make a difference.

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Everybody needs good Androids

I might be blogging a little more from now on. I could make this a weekly thing or perhaps daily… OK I won’t go that far. If i can just find a little time to sit and concentrate, well that’s a start.

The reason for my extra bloggage is because of my new toy. It’s an Android tablet which is why I can…

Blog this bit from the privacy of my own loo. After all, what better place to sit and concentrate?

Now i could have done this with the iPhone as well and it’s true that I can’t take this tablet away from a wireless network and have the same benefits. Ipad owners among get you must be wondering why I prompted for such a device. Well the reason is simple really. I wanted an iPad but the damn things cost so much money. This Advent Vega from PC World cost me £250. That is around half the cost of the ipad and around a third less than the Galaxy Tab (which is a smaller device as well). After flashing the rom, I have access to all that the android has to offer with nearly as good a selection of apps as on the iPhone store. The major benefit for me is actually in the development.

When I first got my iPhone (actually it was when I got an iPod Touch) I loved the apps. I wanted to dig in to this world and make my own. So, I looked at how I might do that. If you are not a Mac owner then you are screwed. On top of the price of buying a computer you also have to buy a developer’s licence. I think the cost of that is around £100 per year. Expencive stuff if you are just a hobbyist.

Last year I thought all of my prayers were answered. Flash CS5 was released and with it the ability to write native iPhone applications. What happened? Apple decided that it didn’t like Adobe doing that and closed down there developer EULA so that you could only write apps in Objective C. What a waste of money for me and development time for Apple. With the android, I have none of those restrictions. I can make Alps to my heart’s content. Putting them on Marketplace is something I’ve not looked in to yet but (as I said before) I am a hobbyest first and foremost.

So, those are my reasons for going down the android route. It’s something I have yet to regret and I am looking forward to spending a lot of time working with the new tablet and making it my own. You should hear more from me as I can blog in the comfort of my sofa, bed, toilet or oven. It’s just like the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, and that makes me a very happy Steve.


Time for a Climate Change

I don’t want to be one of those people who smugly announce the latest thing that they’re doing to save the planet in the vein hope that it will, somehow, impress others. I say this because those who are impressed with such utterances seem to be just as venal and smug as the utterer. Having said that, I drive a hybrid. I didn’t buy it to save the world with. I bought it because it was meant to be cheep, although recent rises in petrol have meant that it now costs the same as my old car did to run and any savings I thought I might make are being eaten up by the three or four services it has to have each year… even though it is not old enough to warrant getting an M.O.T. I am now left with a car that doesn’t say anything about me. If a Ferrari is meant to be a penis extension, what on earth is a hybrid? It’s only real use is to save the planet, something that we now know it won’t do because a hybrid’s carbon footprint (or tire track if I am being pedantic) is greater than that of a petrol car.

Bugger!

So, the hybrid is a confused animal much in the same way that we are over climate change. The argument at the moment goes like this. We are either responsible for climate change or we aren’t. Those who think we aren’t also think that there denying of climate change means they are quite within there rights to go on living the way they have been all these years. Those who think we are believe that we, as the instigators of the earth’s altering, must do something to slow, stop or reverse the processes we started.

The one problem with this argument is that it is flawed on both sides.

There has been enough controversy around the theory that climate change is man made so as to cast doubt as to whether it is. From leaked emails suggesting faked research to alternate theories with similar amounts of evidence to back it up, at a glance you could easily be mistaken in to thinking that this is just something that scientists have got wrong. Then, there are the political lobbies and organisations like Green-piece who have been accused of over stating the argument for there own political gain. Knowing us humans, I am sure that some of this has been going on. After all, it is in our nature.

Similarly, the argument against tends toward the supposition that climate change is either not happening or not as serious as we have been told. Whilst there is certain evidence of the latter, the one thing that is left out in these debates is that most scientists know that climate change is happening. It’s silly to assume not when the physical evidence can be seen with our own eyes, like the polar ice caps retreating. That issue is not the point of contention. The problem is that climate scientists can’t prove that without our impact the Earth would be doing anything differently. This is largely because our very nature here disrupts the balance anyway, in a natural way.

Climate change happens. It’s not a bad thing… it’s just a thing. The human species, however, doesn’t like change and will do whatever it can to preserve the way of life we currently live. At a more macro level you can see this in the way that we raise our children. We want them to become miniature versions, not of ourselves, but of the people we think we should be. Part of this is to maintain a balance, keep the equilibrium between a world with us in it and one without. Our children will carry on for us. As a species we do this through setting up conservation areas and schemes to protect endangered species. We feel responsible that we are changing the world around us and (quite frankly) we want that to stop.

This is how the question of whether the changes in the climate has been raised. It’s either something we can do something about or something we can’t do something about, either way it’s something and when something is going on there is a tendency to try to do something about that something.

What I am going to write now may be a controversial thing to say but I feel it an important point to get accross.

NONE OF IT MATTERS!

Think about it logically. One of the following statements might be true:

  1. Climate change is man made.
  2. Climate change is natural.
  • If climate change is man made or there is something we can do about it, We should do that something.
  • If climate change is natural or there is nothing we can do about it, we can keep living as we have been.
  • The oil is running out and shortly we won’t be able to live as we have been.
  • The something we can do to make an impact on Climate Change will also help move industry down the path of removing our dependency on oil.

I’ve always been a little bit of a ‘climate-change skeptic’. For me, the evidence that I have seen does not necessarily equate with climate change being man made. I’m 100% convinced that it’s there and it’s happening but there is a big leap between that and saying we are definitely responsible for it. Far more worrying, in my mind, is the dependence that we all have on oil. Not only has this caused many horrible wars, and is likely to cause many more, but it is one of the reasons that our governments can’t seem to leave the middle east alone. The point is, we seem to be reaching the point of peak oil. When we get to that point, with every year there will be less and less energy available to mankind. What are we going to replace it with?

Hydrogen is a great idea and I’m sure, in car terms, that it will become the next big thing (as soon as oil companies understand they can make as much money as they are doing right now by making it). The problem is, to get that, you have to burn fossil fuels. Wind and power will give us some returns, and of course solar energy is becoming cheaper. It is still, however, not enough to feed our energy needs as a planet. Nuclear energy actually produces 75% as much carbon as the fossil alternatives, which won’t be around for long and, it’s not renewable. Renewables are the way forward. They have to be if we are to rely on having enough supply to meet demand.

Lack of oil also brings up other topics. How are we going to feed ourselves? The global economy is geared towards trade with other countries and many manufacturers ship across the sea. With no oil we will have no food apart from what we can grow, plant and barter for.

Our world is an oil based economy whether we like it or not. It is in everything we do. From the cars we drive to the food we eat and the clothes on our backs, our over-reliance on oil is going to be our downfall when it suddenly runs out. So, why aren’t we leading the way, beating a path to the new scientific revolution of cheep, safe renewable energy?

Because we’re human and we don’t like change.

Ironically, the changes that we would have to make to allow society to continue using an oil-less fuel system (whatever that may be) are the same changes that we are being asked to make now to combat climate change. So I put it to you that whether or not climate change is man made, we have to make these changes to ensure the continuation of our race, our civilization and our world.

Is that really too much to ask?


Make Your Dreams Come True!

I spent Saturday in London. Not the city, I skirted around that tremulous conurbation, safe in the knowledge that if something did go wrong, I could dip my toe in to the sprawling weekend traffic without having to pay the congestion charge. London (at least the outskirts) is a nice place, not the shabby rundown terraces or giant high-rise areas that we are used to seeing on the television. Of course, the stereotype does exist, how else would it have become a stereotype in the first place. But it is not the London that I know.

The morning was spent with an old friend of mine, Nick, who is a comedy writer, father of two and punster first class. We’ve written together before and we shall write together again in all likeliness. He’s doing very well for himself, working with an independent production company and generally doing things that he never thought he would to pay the bills. Not prostitution you understand. He wouldn’t stoop so low. Not after the knee surgery anyway.

After polishing off the majority of a roast dinner that his lovely wife had slaved over all morning we sat chatting over drinks. He had a cheeky little Italian Amarone Classico and I an impertinent Ribena in and cardboard box. I sucked it through a straw. Upon leaving, I was seized with the thought that my life could have gone down the same path as Nick’s. It might even have made me happy. But then I am fickle and realise that I will probably only truly be really happy when they release all of the Goodies on DVD.

The main reason for going down to London was actually to see another friend of mine who is actually from Cheltenham. Before someone points out the ridiculousness of traveling such a distance to see someone who lives only 15 miles away from me, I should point out that he was there for a reason. Way back in the mists of time (which is probably around July) Joe took part in a talent contest called Open Mic UK. The principal is simple. Musical acts from Open Mic nights all over the country compete in heats until there is only one left. Joe went in for it and it was no surprise to us when he announced he had got through to the second round. He’s good like that.

This then saw a group of us on the M5 one October Saturday, heading to Cardiff to support Joe in the regional finals. There were three acts from Gloucestershire. They were all awful apart from Joe but you could see that some of the competition was fierce and there were some really good acts who didn’t get through. Joe’s name was the first out of the hat when they announced who would be appearing at the area finals in Hayes, Middlesex. This is what brought me to London.

I arrived at the theatre to find the previous group coming out, an absolute mess of people huddled around the entrance and it took a minute or two to get inside. Actually, I had been listening to Derren Brown’s new book in the car. Part of me still wanted to be sitting in that same warm atmosphere, little happy bubbles of my vast lunch comforting me as I drove and a warm, friendly voice diverting my concentration from the rather important task of searing two tones of metal around. I do like driving, although it tires me. Once actually getting inside, however, things took a turn for the better and I met up with the J D Kelly party (that’s Joe’s public persona. Have a look, www.jdkelly.info, he’s a great performer).

It wasn’t long before the show began. The standard was much better this time although there were still a few duds that were obvious from the moment the music started. Tragedy struck when Joe came on to the stage, however, and the lead that was plugged in to his guitar failed. It happens to everyone at some point. It’s a shame it happened now. The crowed seemed quite supportive about it actually but at that point the damage could have been done. Joe went on to start his song again and I thought he did a good job, semi-grunge style lyrics blended with simple, yet articulate guitar playing. He got a good, solid round of applause at the end of the set and I actually thought there were some acts who he did much better than.

He didn’t get through to the next round. Sad to say, there were only 4 places open for the finals at the O2 arena. And, this is where my whole problem with the competition is brought to light. The four acts that got through on the night were all from Hayes in Middlesex. That’s right, the same Hayes in Middlesex where the competition was being held. Part of the decision was made through an audience vote. It occurs to me that perhaps those with a home audience (where traveling to the gig didn’t cost a fortune for example) might have had slightly better chances than those from ‘away’. I wonder if this was taken in to account when the judges were making there final decisions.

Now, I have to say, there were two acts who really should have got through, and they got through. And, I don’t really begrudge the other acts who made it through either. Or do I? Is it just a case of sour grapes (perhaps which were used to make an Amarone Classico that wound up in the home of a comedy writer the same day of the competition)? I do wonder. The thing is, I never really expected Joe to get any further than he did. This lies not with my thoughts about Joe’s ability but rather than my own experience with talent shows.

I’ve watched for years as in show after show the people who seem to have the real talent are passed over for the ones with the right look or the more commerciality and I always expect it to happen. My real beef with this prevailing attitude is that in doing so we have missed the real musicians. What happened to the next Billy Joel, Eric Clapton or Sting? Did they wind up in accountancy, only playing there instruments as hobbies. Did they give up all together. So, I expected what happened and the “Hayes audience effect” was part of that. It almost felt rigged. There were 18 acts from all over the south west. What makes Hayes a hotbed for talent? It just doesn’t make sense. If you were to impart a fare and partial judgement over all of the acts you would expect it to be a little more evenly spread, wouldn’t you?

This brings me on to another point. They were hardly Open Mic acts. I’ve been playing in open mic venues for the best part of fifteen years now and I have never seen acts like the ones that were on Saturday. We have a rapper called 2 Badda for a start. Honestly, I can’t remember anyone trying to rap whilst at an open mic night. They have generally been the purview of those who both sing and play a musical instrument. Yet, we heard from two of the ‘judges’ on the night who said that he was there favorite act. If that’s what they were looking for, perhaps they shouldn’t call it an open mic competition. Or have they just called it an open mic competition for the kudos of doing something like that?

Perhaps I am being too hard on the competition and what happened on Saturday. Maybe it is seeing a good friend of mine not get through in a competition where I thought he should have done much better. If it is, I can’t help that. I am only human after all. It still worries me, however, that we are less likely to support proper musicians than we are to push forward the next big singer who will release one single, perhaps an album, and disappear in to obscurity.

I think I really blame the music industry, but that is a rant for another time.

In the mean time, if you would like to see J D Kelly get a chance at playing at the O2 then you can text ‘Wildcard68’ (without the quote marks) to 84222. You will be helping to support a real musician get through in a competition which at first seemed to be designed especially to help people exactly like him.


Welcome to my new place

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time. I’m a writer so that obviously means that I think my opinion is more important than it actually is. Starting a blog just seems a good extension of that. I think this is the 4th blog I have started. Most are languishing in the either. I don’ t update blogs well. I am too busy doing the many things that should have brought me fame and fortune by now. This year, I started a writing blog. It failed miserably. Why? Well, eventually I had to forge writing the blog to actually get some paid writing done. I work up to 16 hours each day. It’s difficult to then pour yourself in to writing a blog.

This one, however, is different. This is random nonsense that may (or may not) be entertaining. My thoughts, feelings and a little information about what I’m doing with my life. Why do you want to read that? Because I’m just a little bit amazing. I have just a hint of  stunning about me that might just keep you interested.

I shall start proper soon. For now, I hope you will consider joining me on my quest for random thoughtfulness.