Tawdry Tinsel Town by Dr Dave Salmond

Like many people my age, I was born in the 80’s. Whilst this was a bad time for fashion and music , it was, in my opinion a golden age for the silver screen. I was lucky enough to be born and have a few formative years before technology gave us the wonderful invention of home cinema. I have been hooked to film from a very early age, one of my earliest memories was watching Star Wars for the first time one Christmas when I was five and I have been hooked ever since. But to my young mind it was tragically unfair to have to wait another full year to watch it again (for some reason I only ever remember Star Wars being on at Christmas). Then along came VCR and Betamax. Now I no longer was a slave to the programming directors of the BBC and ITV, although I had to wait until after the format wars were over before my dad would part with any money on a video player (media savvy or tight fisted I’m not sure).

Until this point I would get my fix from trips to the cinema or whatever was shown on TV; child friendly films or more often cartoons. The 80’s was awash with family/ child orientated viewing, Disney films were going strong, Jim Henson’s puppets were popping up in film’s like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, not to mention the ubiquitous Muppet movies. We also had out-and-out kids classics in the form of The Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, Monster Squad and the Karate Kid which, after watching, every kid thought they could do kung fu. For the older kids, John Hughes was pumping out teenage angst ridden cinematography like Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles before moving onto the more family orientated National Lampoon series and eventually Home Alone.

With the advent of the video player, all these movies and many more could be watched at home whenever the mood took you. Trips to the video store became a weekly highlight for me; being allowed a choice of one movie at the weekend was an all consuming task, do you take a chance and get something new, hire out Adventures in Babysitting for the tenth time or get that film that everyone was talking about at school? Too many options is sometimes a bad thing. This often led to what seemed like hours deliberating which film to choose in the video store, wondering around with one film in hand but still not entirely sure if that is the one you want. Part of this consideration for me wasn’t always about which title you where allowed to take home that week, it was about the one’s you weren’t.

The introduction of the video player had inadvertently provided a loop-hole to certain film makers in the early 80’s. Low budget, mainly slasher horror movies, could now bypass the film certification board by releasing their films straight to video. These video nasties caused public outcry and eventually stricter regulation of the video market. Although this had been addressed by the time I was at an age where I was watching films, it had left a bit of a cultural legacy. Hollywood had obviously spotted that there was a market to be filled at this end of the spectrum and by the mid to later part of the decade was pumping out 18 rated films at quite a rate. Although 18 rated movies were nothing new, they had become something to aspire towards, pushing the new boundaries and seeing what film makers could get away with under the new guidelines.

So this left me in the video store, clutching my copy of some childish film wondering what those very stylised film boxes were on the top shelves. Knowing that this forbidden fruit was out of my grasp, legally and physically, gave them all the more appeal, even though I knew they were put out of my reach for a reason, be it because they were too violent or had bad language, having to wait until I was eighteen seamed unfair.

This started a new craze for me, to see as many age-restricted films as I could. I no longer cared if they were good films or not, it became more about the age badge on the front of the cover. U rated films that I’d loved became babyish in my eyes, now it became a race between me and my friends down the street and at school to tick off as many 15 and 18 rated films as we could. Being the first kid in class to see the much talked about, over hyped film we weren’t meant to see became a badge of honour. We didn’t care that watching some of these films would scare the shit out of us or maybe warp our outlook on the world (I like to think I’ve turned out ok despite some of the films I watched at too young an age) it was all about the bragging rights of been the first person to say ” I watched The Terminator over the weekend.”

We used many and what we thought were devious and clever tactics to watch these films, taking advantage of lax parenting where possible, sucking up to the older kids down the street, blackmailing older brothers and sisters who’d been caught smoking into letting us watch them whilst babysitting at someone’s house. Sometimes just flat out lying about seeing a film would get you through if you’d overheard enough people talking about the key scenes, all so you could brag about it at school even though you’d never seen it. I would lie, cheat and on a couple of occasions steal to watch as many films as possible. This was my obsession with movies.

I tell you all this because the rant I am about to go on may sound a bit negative and despite all my current misgivings about the state of the film industry today I do still have a love of cinema. It was a big part of my childhood as I’ve explained and even into my late twenties I was still buying DVD’s on a weekly basis, purchasing new titles and replacing my old video collection. I’m not sure exactly when it started to happen, but slowly the number of films that I would watch started to decline and when I did watch a new movie they just weren’t captivating me anymore. I’d laugh less at comedies, be drawn less into thrillers and action films just flat out bored me. For a time I just assumed that this was natural, that becoming jaded towards things was part of getting older. I’d talk less to my friends about new films either because I had no interest in seeing that particular years big blockbuster or more often than not they got sick of me bitching how shit cinema had become. This posed a bit of a problem to me, I was still enthusiastic towards other things from my childhood, so why was my love of film dwindling? I was still finding new music that I enjoyed, I still spend hours in book shops looking for and discovering excellent literature. So why did my passion for film disappear?

I’ve pondered this question for a few years now and while you may disagree with my conclusions, just remember that this is how I justify that it’s not me that’s gotten old it’s Hollywood that’s gotten shit.

The first point I want to raise is the current trend of the PG-13 rated movie, whilst this certification had been around since 1984, it seems to be the dominant force at the moment. I understand that a film maker wants his or her film to reach as wide of an audience as possible but aiming all films at a more juvenile target base in my opinion is the wrong way to go about this. I also realise that this isn’t solely the decision of the film makers themselves but more so the studio’s that produce them. Why make a film that only mum and dad can enjoy, get them to bring the kids as well, more bums on seats, more money. With this attitude of aiming at a younger target audience holding so much sway, whilst good for the money machine, can be very detrimental to a good story. Don’t get me wrong, some children’s films, Pixar especially, write very strong and engaging stories. This is because from the very outset these films were designed and primarily aimed at children, but they incorporate subtle adult themes aimed at the parents, who they know will be taking their children to see these movies, so that everyone can enjoy them. The money men in Hollywood see this and think that the same rule applies coming the other way. If you take a dark, hard hitting storyline that was never intended for a younger audience, the only way to achieve this mass appeal is to take away the darker, more unsavoury elements until it is suitable for a younger audience. This leaves you very far away from the original concept and so the story suffers, the language that the characters use seems wrong, certain motivations and decisions they make, now that they are trapped in a more child friendly world, feel wrong and sometimes don’t fit with the story anymore because certain scenes had to be cut to achieve this must-have rating of PG-13. The argument I’m trying to make with this point is essentially that starting from the bottom and adding more adult elements as you go works, starting at the top and then subtracting them doesn’t.

My next big gripe with Hollywood is the constant rehashing/reworking/reimagining and to making it look modern and to fool you that there not just pulling the same old shit, rebooting (I hate this phrase) of movies you’ve already seen. I could quite easily name you 20 films from the last five years that have been “Reworked for a new generation” because Hollywood is churning them out at a ridiculous pace. Again this is nothing new but the trend accelerated to an absurd speed around the time of the 2007/8 writers strike.

The strike lasted around eight months, but although it is referred to as the writers’ strike, a lot of other professionals in the entertainment industry joined them on the picket lines , including many A list actors. Whether this was a true show of solidarity with the guys at the bottom of the pyramid or a PR stunt is a different matter entirely, either way it succeeded in shutting down the behemoth that is Tinsel Town.

The fallout from all this, is that after the strike was over, the easiest way to get the movie machine moving again was to pluck some readymade scripts off the shelf, blow the metaphorical dust off them and get filming. I’m probably over simplifying this a lot, but to me it’s the only logical way to justify how to the public hardly noticed a total eight month shut down in an industry that can take on average two years to produce a finished product. Plus it gave the big guys at the top a way of punishing the writers by effectively cutting them out of the film making process, admittedly not fully, but you’re not going to engender the best results from someone if you just hand them an old finished script and then only ask them to rework it; most people would just phone it in. Or more perversely the execs at the top might find a writer that loved the original script, but because of this love they then become unable or unwilling to tamper with the work. Either way by skipping or half arsing the first building block of a story driven entertainment medium it is the finished product that eventually suffers. The story.

The last point I want to raise in what I see as the decline of the film industry is without a doubt the strongest part of my argument, and that is the rise of television.

Television has always been perceived as the ugly sister to cinema, lower budgets, a lower calibre of actor and a smaller screen. It has always worked under the “stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” philosophy. Whilst this approach has always paid the bills, certain networks have come to the realisation that the only way to compete in a very over saturated market is to up the quality of programming that they are showing. Ok we did have to endure a near full decade of reality TV and countless clones of judge-based shows full of arrogant and talentless nobodies passing harsh judgment on members of Joe Public, but over the last few years that has started to change and we are now in what many people regard is a golden age of television.

I don’t think there is a single defining moment that you could point to and say this is the thing that changed the entertainment landscape, it was a combination of small changes, but to me the biggest of these small changes is the progression of technology. DVD box sets and streaming services have changed the way we watch our favourite shows, now we can watch an entire series in a day if the wish grabs us. The fact that technology has managed to change the way in which we watch television has forced TV networks to up there game. Gone are the days where a TV schedule matters. With the advent of the likes of Sky plus boxes, or their equivalent, people can now record their favourite shows with a lot less hassle then my beloved VCR. Online services like BBC iPlayer and 4oD let people watch at their own convenience. Without this rigid scheduling in place, people now have more freedom and have almost instant access to any show that is shown on a network regardless of where in the world it was first broadcast.

This change in the way we consume TV has shown the television broadcasters that what has always been perceived as one of their biggest weaknesses was all along their greatest strength, and that is run time.

For the most part television followed a tried and tested formula for a very long time. Be it a sitcom, drama or detective thriller with a run time of either thirty minutes or an hour, it didn’t really matter because the formula worked on them all. That is to say that every episode was almost self-contained. Once you where introduced to the main characters of the show there was very little development on an episode to episode basis. The show would start, the story would pan out and everything would be back to the beginning all wrapped up in a nice little bow as if nothing had happened by the end. On occasion some shows would have a two part episode, they would end the first episode on a cliff hanger, leaving the viewer in suspense and having to wait a full week to find out how the story concluded, and to me these where always the better stories because they were more fleshed out. Given the extra time, the characters felt more believable with their choices and motivations. They could take more time to solve the big riddle that would lead them to the bad guys or have the time to ponder a moral dilemma and because of this the stories flowed more naturally, it never felt there was a rush to cram everything in or that bits had been chopped out to fit into the regular time frame. They were essentially mini movies with our favourite TV characters.

So that was how TV worked for a long time, lots of individual episodes with a thin narrative running through them and a double episode to finish the season. And then a show called Twin Peaks came along.

Twin Peaks was an oddity to say the least, the camera work and lighting was a little experimental for TV, designed to put the viewer on edge. But it was the way that the story was told that gave Twin peaks it’s unique style, there was never an easy solution to the mysteries, one would always lead to a bigger one and this drew the audience in week after week. It was a show that wasn’t afraid to take its time telling a story. In fact it wasn’t until pressure from the network when they started to get cold feet in the second series that the original murder was revealed.

Twin peaks was a show well ahead of its time, a reason why it only had two seasons before being cancelled, networks and audiences were still not truly ready for a storyline that had no clear end point in view, but it did leave behind a legacy that is striving today. It wasn’t until HBO commissioned the Soprano’s, almost a decade later, that this format of serial drama was revived and flourished. Thanks to Twin peaks and its pioneering storytelling, we have had shows such as The Wire, Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, shows that have a story arc that lasts an entire season and beyond. These shows amongst others have proven that given the writers enough time to properly develop the characters and their motivations, they can build truly engaging and fantastic storylines that draw an audience in more than a film could ever hope to achieve given the limit of how long a film can realistically run for.

These are what I see as the main problems and challenges facing Hollywood. There are many more that I would like to cover but I feel like I’m rambling a bit by this point. I haven’t touched on the terrible camera work that is the trend at the minute. The stupid shaky cam type films seem to have fallen by the way side thankfully, but we still have the likes of J.J Abrams throwing lens flare into almost every shot and Michael Bay shooting films with so many jump cuts that it can give you motion sickness. Nor have I touched on the over reliance of CGI, the fad of 3D or the constant stream of superhero films.

In conclusion what I want to get across is that I miss good story driven cinema. Hollywood just isn’t providing that for me anymore and I find myself looking towards television more and more for entertainment. If you disagree with the points I’ve made, fair enough, but if you take a look at IMDB’s list of top 250 films, only 4 of the top twenty were made since the year 2000, which to me suggests a slide in quality. Like I said at the start of this rant I do have a love of cinema, but until there is a change in Hollywood, you’ll find me with my feet up in front of the TV.

doctor daveDr David Salmond is 33 and lives in Hull. He has a keen interest in former Eastern-Bloc Europe in that he eats lots of sausages and drinks beers that have unpronounceable names and are served in vases. He gamely joins in with mine and Mr Taylor’s discussions about football despite the fact he much prefers rugby league. On my wedding day he was legless by 11am. He has read more books than anyone in the entire world.

Andi Ware On: Why I won’t be wearing a Poppy this November

Once again we have reached that time of year where we are asked to remember our fallen service men and women, when the sepia tone of November is contrasted with the blood red of paper poppies. In the coming weeks we will see countless poppies fastened to the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders, but not mine. Once again I will neglect to wear a poppy this year and as always my reasons for doing so will be largely misunderstood. I have in the past been accused by friends and colleagues as lacking respect or possessing a degree of impertinence. That truth is that neither is true. There are a number of reasons why I refuse to pin a small paper flower to my lapel each year but a lack of respect of acknowledgement of the sacrifice of others are not one of those.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1, a fact that will no doubt make this year’s remembrance that little more emotionally charged. In acknowledgment of this the Government pledged to spend around £50 million marking the occasion. The sentiment of all ceremonies and monuments are to remind us that the 1914-1918 conflict was a fight for freedom and democracy. I find this hard to swallow. Many of those that died in that horrendous war did not know real freedom because they lived in abject poverty and were never truly represented by members of parliament. The working classes (who made up 80% of Britain’s population in 1913) were all too often forced into enlisting by propaganda or were press-ganged by employers. For those young men the notion of freedom and democracy was an incomprehensible concept.

Some years ago when I first read Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists I was struck by an acute sense of sadness. Not only was it the desperation of the protagonists in Tressell’s turn of the century tale of the woes of working men in England, but it was also the understanding that many of these characters (the novel is based on Robert Noonan’s real life experience as a painter and decorator in Hastings) would face the horrific great war just a couple of years after the book’s conclusion. For me the poppy is a reminder of the misinterpretation of WW1, that it was somehow a noble war in the name of freedom and democracy. For those young men the notion of freedom and democracy was an incomprehensible concept.

It is a curious symbol, the poppy. In the last decade or so it appears to have been elevated into something transcendental. The phenomena of poppy burning which has led to arrests under the Malicious Communications Act seem to have elevated the simple poppy, sold by children and war veterans, to a higher status. The image of the burning poppy seems to be an insult on our very being. It is my argument that we have become so obsessed by the protection of this sacred symbol that we have neglected to recognise its true meaning. Could it be that our protestation over the burning or defacing of poppies is actually a manifestation of guilt? It is my argument that as a society we have become so removed from the real sacrifice made by those that have died in past conflicts that the poppy is worn with pride but worn in lieu of any empathy. The wearing of the poppy for many is the equivalent of hitting the Like icon on social networking sites. By Liking something we feel that we are displaying a certain kinship. Be it with a sentiment, emotion, cause or charity this simple act of tapping a keyboard has replaced solidarity in the internet age.

For some time my wife has been bothered, or rather incensed by the fact that in England young women are not offered a screening for Ovarian Cancer (a procedure that should take place for young women under the age of 21 or when they become sexually active) whereas screenings are offered in Scotland. Like many she has subscribed to pages on social media showing support for women who have died at a tragically young age due to the illness. Recently I suggested that she inquire on a social media site whether those who had Liked a page dedicated to raising awareness of cervical cancer would be willing to go on a march. She did not receive one response. It appears that political activism in our society has been reduced to Liking a page on a social media site or posting a one line comment. For me the wearing of the poppy occupies the same space. It is worn in lieu of something real such as genuine emotion.

So this year rather than wearing a poppy I shall take some time out to imagine what life in a trench might have been like, or what seeing off a relative (I have two brothers both of similar age to many service men and women) who would never return. I shall do this because this is a time for remembrance and not symbolism.

Xavier DwyerAndi Ware is 33 years-old, married and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that.

Miles Vs Waudby

mike 2014
About seven years ago, I dropped round a mate’s house to drop off a birthday card. I hadn’t seen him in a long while and on the last occasion I had spent time with him he was a good few stone overweight, rather introverted and he’d confessed to me that he’d been struggling with the drink. His mam shouted up the stairs that I was waiting for him and when he walked through the living room door I actually skipped a heartbeat upon taking stock of his appearance. The man that I once knew as an athletic, handsome twenty-one year-old had descended further down the road to obesity and alcohol dependence and stood before me deathly pale, wearing a faded t-shirt and jogging bottoms, and, by his own admission, well in excess of thirty stone. I left that his house day stunned and upset that my friend had succumbed to such terrible problems. A couple of vague text messages were sent with the intention of meeting sometime soon, even though I knew it probably wouldn’t happen, and with the event of my grandfather passing on a short while later, I’m ashamed to admit that I kind of forgot about Mike Waudby over the next few weeks. It came to pass that I wouldn’t see him for another three years, and one night in 2010 when I wandered onto the streets of HU5 having just done the soundcheck for one of my band’s many “last ever gigs”, I received a text from my good friend Danny West, something along the lines of “I’m in (name of bar), swing by if you can, I’ve got a bit of a surprise for you.”

That surprise was the once-again lithe and muscular Mike Waudby, with his chiselled jawline and smiling face that I remembered from when he was twenty-one. During that three year absence, Mike had undergone the most astonishing and inspiring transformation, both physically and mentally. Through sheer hard work and phenomenal discipline, he had shed eighteen stone of his body weight. When I started this website, it had always been an idea of mine to get Mike to write his story, and although it took much persuading, he eventually did. If you’re one of the twenty people on Earth who hasn’t read it, it can be found here. http://sittingontheswings.com/2013/10/07/18-stone-weightloss-by-mike-waudby/
His story has captured the hearts and minds of many thousands of people all around the world, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him about the changes that his article brought to his life. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

So Mike, it’s almost exactly one year on. Your extraordinary article about your weight loss is the most viewed piece on this site by a mile. Where you slightly overwhelmed by the response?
Allen, I was in complete shock. To be honest I was bricking it when you posted my article, terrified people would ridicule me. If you hadn’t sent that text saying it was the best piece of writing you had ever read I probably wouldn’t have let you post it (by the way, I thought you was being sarcastic at first!) The second you posted it I actually had to leave the computer and go downstairs thinking “What the hell have I just done?” I was trembling to be honest and anxious to see the replies. When I saw them it was a relief, in fact it meant so much, more then I can express.

It was an unbelievably honest piece of writing. Did you sit down and think about it for ages before you did it or did you just think “Fuck it, I’m just gonna let it all out”?
I wasn’t seeing my girlfriend that evening and was just sat in my room reading discussion boards on training so I thought I’ll open Word and just give it a go. Then it just came out, I didn’t go over it a few times or change anything, just wrote from my heart and tried to be totally honest. I’m no writer; I got an E in English at school. It was in fact the first piece of writing I had ever written and I didn’t even plan on writing it as my weight was like my dirty secret, something I was greatly ashamed of. I only told people I trusted and would understand like the guys/girls at the gym and the odd person in the pub. Felt good to get it out there, like a massive weight off my chest (no pun intended).

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the comments and replies were hugely positive, you sadly had to deal with a few people who for some reason felt the need to have a dig at you. Can you tell us about that and how you dealt with it?
You mean those sad losers on the newspaper websites? Firstly, I won’t pretend to be Mr tough guy, it pretty much destroyed me. I’m not wanting to sound like a fanny but the main one was “I bet he looks disgusting under his clothes with loose skin, better off being fat or dead”

Since losing my weight, loose skin was my biggest fear. I tried to top myself again because of it so for some prick to say that just hit me hard, my biggest fear was if people notice it and go ewww so yeah, I had a little a cry, not going to lie, but about 90 mins later I thought don’t be a wimp, I could probably shoulder press this twat above my head, I’m twice the man he is (my character, not size).
In the end I stopped looking, I didn’t even buy the national papers I was in the next day, or any of the online stuff which I deeply regret now as 90% was actually positive comments like you said.

One thing I can do now is use this sort of thing to push me harder. The day after I completed a 13k assault course, now bearing in mind on that day I was weighing 16 and a half stone; I train for explosive power, not long distance, so every time I thought about giving in I thought of what that prick said and then I thought of all the positives too and those kept me going. I finally made it in a respectable time. I got weighed a few days later, I had lost 7 pounds. Probably muscle. Bugger.

You wrote about your dad’s part in turning your life around. How has he felt about your recent notoriety?
He’s proud. Though he always had been. His biggest worry was people taking advantage of me. An agent wanted me to do this and do that, he was just concerned about it all. He knows more than anyone how much hard work I put in, especially mentally.
I declined going on Daybreak, for which he said I was a fool. He was right, I should have gone on it but this was happening way too fast, I would’ve just been a mumbling wreck at the time. Today though I would be on there in a flash!

When we were in the pub a few weeks back you were keen to stress that the key to this sort of achievement is not the physical effort, but the mental strength. Is this something that you believe in strongly?
You need the mental strength to make the physical effort. I mentioned in my article that people may be over weight for many reasons, not just greed. You need to change your mind set, you have to fight the demons in your head that are preventing you from making the effort. Depression as many know can knock the shit out of you; you have no energy or enthusiasm. This was just one battle in my mind I had to tackle. There was many more. Physical effort is important but without the correct mindset, it’s hard to make that impact on the training side.

Having been in that position and pulled it round yourself, how would you convince someone who’d completely given up on themselves to start on the road back?
Buy my book and join our forum!
I could write pages on this Allen but the best way I can sum it up is make a start now.
Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong or it’s only for a bit at a time. Just do what you think is right. Make the effort just like I had to.
If you try, you see results. Then you try a little harder. You see more results. Then you’re a fucking machine, seeking more knowledge to improve what you are doing and how to better yourself and make what you’re doing even more progressive.

Tell us about the work you’ve been doing and what projects you’ve got in the pipeline.

I mentioned I have never written before, well now I can’t stop! I have my book which is receiving amazing reviews; I have The Weight Loss Warriors along with Mike Pratt which is an amazing community people can go and seek help for all aspects of life as well as weight loss. I’m also writing articles for other sites and even working on the next book which will be a complete weight loss package as well as our own supplement range and clothing line.

Are you happy Mike?
Good final question. Ask me this a year ago I’d have said no. Today I feel fucking amazing! Inspiring people from all over the world is an overwhelming feeling you just cannot put into words that do it justice. I’ve made it my ambition to help others fight obesity and trust me, you know I’ll never stop until I have made the biggest impact on not only people’s lives but the weight loss market too.

All of Mike’s current work along with his EBook is available here

http://www.theweightlosswarriors.co.uk

Mr Miles’s new book is available here: http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Ten Songs by Darren Sant

If you asked me to name my top ten songs again in twelve months I’d probably picked a totally different ten, such is the nature of my ever shifting love of music. It would have been easier to name a hundred tracks. Here goes, in no particular order:

Superstition by Stevie Wonder
Quite simply, this song exudes funk. So much so that it makes a bald, fat old git like me want to dance. It makes me feel alive – that is why it has made my top ten.

Across 110th Street by Bobby Womack
I first heard this track on the soundtrack to the Tarantino film Jackie Brown. I like songs that talk to me about reality and there’s a very hefty dose of that in this track. Funky as hell too.

Sometimes by James
You can hear the rain. You can feel the desperation. A track that is exceptionally well produced and album that would make my top ten every time.

The Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young
A song that oozes melancholy by a master song writer. Young’s plaintive vocal is a warning so heartfelt it’s impossible not to take notice.

Waterfall by The Stone Roses
With my friend, Shaun Kelly, I saw the band at the height of their powers at a small venue in Paris. Full of cheap red wine we felt like kings of the world and as this track washed over me I felt that anything was possible.

Kelly’s Blues by The Triffids
In the early days of CDs I happened upon their album Calenture. Every track is a gem and the concept of Calenture stays strong with several of the tracks. The album was so different to anything I’d heard at the time. I still play it, often.

Brain Damage by Pink Floyd
Stoned off my gourd having ingested a large chunk of cannabis I lay in bed and although it may be a cliché I played Dark Side of the Moon. As I grew increasingly light headed this album took on a life of its own. Classic album and I’m not ashamed to be clichéd now and again! A good friend of mine lost his Father to a brain tumour and it was his Dad’s wish to play the track at the funeral. The dark humour (and bravery) wasn’t lost on anyone.

Northern Sky by Nick Drake
Because no top ten of mine would be complete without a Drake track. Rest in peace you melancholic genius. You left us too young.

Karma Police by Radiohead
An influence from my late brother. With the release of OK Computer I finally “got” Radiohead. Check out the video to this track and if you’re feeling flush splash out their DVD 7 Television Commercials. You won’t regret it

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition my Condition was In) by Kenny Rogers
Another track I love because of a film. This song could have been written for the dude. Treat yourself and watch the Big Lebowski

daz

Darren Sant is originally from Stoke but now lives in Hull, he is the editor of hard-hitting fiction site http://www.close2thebone.co.uk/, and he is the author of several books and collections, most notably Tales From The Longcroft Estate. You can check him out at his website http://darrensant-writer.yolasite.com/, and follow his tweets @groovydaz39 & @longcroft_tales

Self-Disgust Is Self-Obsession Honey by Allen Miles

disappear

I was never cut out for a career. I’m too socially awkward and I never found anything that stirred my passions enough to attempt to forge a livelihood from it. I have a job, but I refuse to be one of the arse-kissing yes-spitters in my workplace so I’ll never get on the ladder. I have found people who I get on with at work and they have similar principals/flaws (same thing, these days), which is why they’ve become my friends. If I enjoy any success in my lifetime it will be through something out of the ordinary, and I’ve known that since I was about twelve years old. It was obvious by the age of about eight that I was never going to be a professional footballer, due to my lack of a left foot and inability to, as my Dad said, “Get my head up”. By the age of fourteen I wanted to be a musician. I learned, very slowly, to play the guitar, and wrote lyrics. By the age of seventeen I had met someone who thought similarly, and we put our plans in progress to conquer the world with our punk band. And we told exactly no-one.

This is the problem I have with my writing career. It was exactly the same as when I was in my band. Back then when someone would ask me if I was in a band, I’d raise a hand to my face, shuffle my feet, look at the floor and mumble “Well, yeah, sort of…” when I should have been drawing myself up to my full height, drilling my eyes into the questioner’s face in the manner of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and saying with all the arrogance in the world, “Damn right I’m in a band, we’re brilliant, and pretty soon you’re gonna be hearing all about us.” Even when we were in a position of promise, my inner-Costanza would race to the surface, making me spout forth a woefully misjudged joke or attempt to be ironic. I remember once we played a venue that was absolutely rammed with young emo kids who had come to see the band we were supporting, not exactly our market but one we certainly could have worked on. Rather than seeing the potential, I took the mic and sighed “Good evening, we’re Sal Paradise, you won’t like us.”

The reasons I don’t brag about my literary endeavours are three-fold: The first is, I think, pretty acceptable. I hate it when people who have no interest in literature ask me questions about my book. The question is always “What’s it about?” and the answer I want to give is thus:

“It’s a collection of short stories and prose, based mainly on themes of isolation and escapism, it’s pretty dark but has a fair bit of black humour in there. . In many ways it’s a reaction to the way our society has become so fleeting and impersonal in recent times. I nicked the title from a Scott Walker song, and I drew lots of influence from the work of Albert Camus, Charles Bukowski and John Fante, as well as the lyrics of Elvis Costello and the life and times of Howard Hughes.”

But I don’t say that. I say:

“I dunno really, I just wrote a few stories about things that I’ve seen…”

Secondly, I worry that I’m no good. Well, not exactly that, but I’ve always been wary of becoming an Adrian Mole or Brian Griffin-type figure, someone who constantly tells everyone loudly that they’re a writer, and when they eventually produce a piece of work it is absolutely abysmal. These characters, along with hundreds of others that I’ve seen Facebook posts by or met on various writers forums, have absolutely zero talent but astonishing faith in their own ability. I’ve never been able to develop that level of confidence, precisely for the reason that if I did march about telling everyone I’m great, and they all buy my book, they might think it’s terrible, and despite me having 100% certainty that my work is brilliant, the consensus is, it’s shite. It’s not shite, obviously. My book is very good, but delusion is so common in the literary industry, and I’m terrified that I’ve succumbed to this disease. Last week I took morning refreshments with one of my best friends, she asked how my writing career is going, and I mentioned that there had been various developments, including interest from local bookshops and the possibility of a signing at Waterstones.

“Wow, that’s great,” she said, “When is it?”

I shrugged my shoulders and told her that I probably wasn’t going to do it as I was worried that no-one would turn up. Her facial expression hit some sort of mid-point between frenzied aggression and exasperation. This stylish, sexy and not-at-all-kindly woman then charged up to me and pretended to wring my neck.

“What is wrong with you? Why are you constantly trying to sabotage your own success?”

I couldn’t answer.

The third reason is, I don’t like referring to myself as a writer. I have made very little money from my published work so far, and until I earn a living wage from it, I will describe myself in employment terms as an underpaid and undervalued healthcare assistant who works for the NHS, as I have no right to do anything other than that.

The writing industry is a very cynical one, as are all what might be termed “creative” industries. You have to know the right people, and you are expected to pay homage to people whom you have no respect for. I don’t review other people’s work, mainly because I don’t feel I have any business judging them, and also because if I don’t like their work I would feel like a charlatan if I gave them a good review. The fact that I adopt this stance has hamstrung me in many ways, as I have very few friends in the business and I’m quite happy to keep it that way, which means I’ll get very few plugs, and very few breaks. My single proudest moment since I first wrote a story came not from reading a good review, not from signing a publishing deal and not from receiving praise from some big-wig in the industry. It came from a brief text message sent by my mate Wes, a builder by trade and a good man whom I don’t see as often as I’d like. It read:

JUST SEEN YOU IN HULL DAILY MAIL. HONOURED AND PROUD TO CALL YOU MY FRIEND.

A simple message of encouragement from a person that I like. Sometimes that’s enough.

I mentioned the very few friends I have made in the business, but those few have shown massive faith in me, and for this I am grateful. Mrs Hoffs, Mrs Johnson and Messrs Bracha and Quantrill have given me huge encouragement, and Darren Sant has shown an almost biblical belief in me from the day we met, blind-pissed at a all-night party. I’ve also had ego-boosting support from many of my work colleagues. To continue to sub-consciously sabotage my career would be to let them all down, so it ends here.

I am immensely proud of This Is How You Disappear, it is the best work I have ever produced, and it’s better than ninety percent of the shite that sells millions every year. It is not always pleasant, it is not a “light holiday read”, it will upset you in places, but it will also make you laugh. It will put images and thoughts in your head that you are not necessarily comfortable with and it will challenge your morale values, but it will also introduce you to characters who you may feel sympathy and affection for. If whoring myself at public signings and readings is what I have to do to sell this book, then so be it, I’ll do it, and if I make a living wage out of it, then, and only then, will I call myself a writer.

It’s out on Friday, the link is below. Buy the paperback and I’ll sign it for you.

“I’m looking to open people’s eyes. I’ll fail, but in the process, I’ll get self-satisfaction. And I know that a minority, a strong minority, will listen, and that will be enough for me.”

Scott Walker

 

Allen Miles, authorAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He’s got a new book out. It’s really good. Get it here: http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Interview with author Allen Miles on ‘This is how you disappear’ and the Cheshire Cat

Originally posted on gillhoffs:

Allen Miles has a new collection of short stories out soon (available as a print edition or ebook), so instead of asking him about that I thought I’d quiz him on the title.  Somehow this led to discussion of Paul Daniels and the Cheshire Cat.  Do feel free to ask him your own questions in the comments.

Allen Miles, author

Allen Miles, authorly bloke

Q: The title “This is how you disappear” suggests you’ve either given some thought to disappearing yourself or to how you would advise someone else to disappear, so prepare to be grilled on that.  How and under what circumstances would you ever disappear, or wouldn’t that appeal as an option to you?

It is an option that appeals to me at roughly 6:58 each morning, which is the time I arrive at work. (Mr Miles’ colleagues wish to point out that the above is a blatant lie, as he is late pretty…

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