Friday, 21 March 2008

Back again

I've walked for miles and miles. For days I've had this vision in ma heid of a beach at sunset. It could have been Skye or Loch Lomond or countless other places from the past, it was warm, the midges not too bad, An Teallach on the horizon and friends farting. Lost somewhere in the past.

This vision needed to be visualised, verbalisation ain't enough, so I sought photos from which to sketch.

I knew the territory was dangerous, but overestimated my ability to withstand the feelings of jealousy and rejection. It held my insides so tightly, I couldn't breathe.

Before things could get worse, I shut down my computer, unplugged it and sprinkled salt over the threshold.

Outside the sky was blue, children played football, folk trekked home from work and I headed north to the Grand Union Canal, then followed the towpath east towards the city.

In my mind, the same feelings rocked like the maelstrom. Dark storm clouds rose on the horizon, jagged shards of lightning heralded the opening of the heavens. Snow, hail and rain. The weather suited my mood, but sadly not my clothes.

Eleven miles later, the sky was blue and cloudless, darkening with evening. I rolled into a quiet 13th Noteish bar, Oh Bar, grabbed a pint of Guinness from the barmaid who looked like Cameron Diaz and started forth onto the ether with my mobile phone.

63336 Any Question Answered says "The London Bowlie kids are going to see 'Hayman, Watkins, Trout and Lee' perform downstairs at The Kings Head, Crouch End. Last Harbour are also playing". Folk in Glasgow are going to The Flying Duck and I fell asleep reading Atlas Shrugged.

It was a mindboggling combination of trains and buses that got me to 2 Crouch End Hill.

£9 in and missed the support act. The room was dark and full. Jona present and Gina near the bar, 63336 was right.

I settle at the back with my notebook. A beautiful girl with her hair in ringlets sits not far away.

On stage, the familiar drawl starts. Whilst for years I was just vaguely aware of Hefner, it wasn't until the joyful days of 2006 that I was taken along and warmly embraced the songs and the music.

This carried on through the dark days and into the sunshine of 2007 with countless more shows caught.

I still find myself aching, what am I doing here? What do I hope to find? The answers are not in the music.

Its a bit bluegrassy, as advertised, warmer and more embracing than the usual awkward pleading. The between song banter seeks to undo this step change.

I had the fear that for this gig, there would be no photies at all, not even the usual blurred, badly taken ones as style. From where I'm sat I can't see the stage, neither can the beautiful ringlet girl. Luckily some folk sat nearby invite me to stand in front of them where I can get a perfect view of the stage.

Tears of gratitude well up in my eyes, blurring my vision as I try to return to my seat, I knock over their table and eliminate about six drinks.

Bruce Springsteen - Hungry Heart

Its a mostly seated kind of place, chairs arranged irregularly to take account of the structural pillars in the building, some architect's comedy.

The crowd has thinned markedly when Last Harbour reach the stage. Probly folk wisely seeking a way home from this middle of nowhere corner of London. If I lived here, would the turmoil of the first few paragraphs have occurred? Who's to know?

I have a hella long way home tonight, but as your thankless reviewer I stay to scribbled and glance up, looking for signs of life amongst the zombies.

The mob on stage started off sounding a little like Arab Strap. You know how The Just Joans' re-recording of 'Lookin' Like Rain' sounds a little like Arab Strap, well, if The Just Joans and Last Harbour merged, it would be a complete Arab Strap.

The set progresses and they start to sound like Butcher Boy.

Halfway through the set something incredible happens, they have the keyboard player sing. From where I was sat, I couldn't see the keyboard player until she stepped up to the microphone, it was Gina.

The last time I remember seeing her was eight months ago, when I first arrived in London, she was doing the door at The Social, she looked up at me and said "Do I know you?"

We first met in 2002, in Glasgow, B&S at the QMU, having chatted for months previously on the internet, our communicae has been intermittent or incidental ever since. But after six years, I finally see her on stage, hear her band, hear her play.

It was amazing.

The room crystalises. I start seeing things, noticing stuff that I wouldn't have earlier despite 63336's best efforts. Right there in front of me.

My heart swells.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

ill theatre narative

It was a nice run of strips, two week's worth before I lost my nerve.

To be honest when the storyline started I didn't really have much of a clue, just needed to get out of reality, and into some other world where things happen.

Of course, ever since last year I had this image in my head of leading an army of giant spiders to castle Bowlie whilst it burned, but I wasn't sure how to get there, just random exploring of the internet and chatting to Robster on MSN.

Damned MSN, there's something up with my internet at home, still can't get on MSN or check my email, well, I can use a webmessenger sometimes and I can pick up the email on my fancy new phone, but its not quite the same.

So when the call to return to Bowlie came through, it was a bit of a windfall for the webcomic storyline, seeing old chums again, talking to folk for the first time in years. Like the time travel webcomic from last month, there were tears in mine eyes.

Alas the internet is very different from real life. Some bits looks familiar and with the online presense some bits of real life feel more familiar. It was a weird evening when I wandered back into The Buffalo Bar, the place has the same colourscheme as the messageboard, same folk too, kind of.

Soon the crushing loneliness set in again, its still me under this mask, with the same fears and anxieties, and the same crazinesses.

God knows where the storyline was going, getting up to the blogger balloons to find them empty or something, crazy adventures floating around. I had this idea of visiting the secret garbage continent in the Pacific, welding together a load of lumps of plastic and starting a new civilisation.

Alas, I lost it. As an avatar of the matrix between real life and bowlie, I lost it, thought too hard and couldn't face going on.

It was only after I posted the thing with the balloons, that I realised I was back to the falling motif that I've used a couple of times before on ill theatre. Its like a default state.

So from the artist's side of things, it was a warm and rich world of castles, giant spiders, dinosaurs and balloons, familiar faces and unexplained stuff. But god knows what it looked like to a casual observer or even folk with some depth of perception, was there enough hinted at to flesh it all out. Whilst possibly only folk who were party to an obscure bowlie thread months ago would have got the spiders thing, what would anyone else make of it, just surreal adventure?

Where now?

Back in the office / factory / car, looking down at my coffee and trudging along until the next spark of inspiration carries me away.

Thanks for coming anyway, and thanks.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Spam me if you dare

I got a few emails this morning from an internet acquaintance, via They were both invites to a club night, I gather when you create an event on, it gives you the option to send out invites to specific people, with a personal message.

Two identical messages.

Now, in the email, the part labelled 'personal message' wasn't a personal message, it wasn't to me, it was write as if to a crowd of people who'd all been along for the ride. I was almost tempted to round up a crowd of people to all read the email at the same time, but didn't. Emails are individual things.

Sure when you write them, you could be addressing a crowd of people, but when you recieve an email, there's no crowd, just you and your inbox. I don't like being addressed as a crowd, twice, when its just me.

I'm pretty shy outwith the internet, I stand on my own at the back. If I really make an effort, if I try really hard, I get over my shyness. If someone holds my hand and walks me through, then its not so hard. But most of the time, I stand on my own, take it easy, and don't bother.

I'm not a crowd.

I got another spam email this morning, it was pretty amusing. Some chap using a Scottish Power email address was sorting out his own gig spam system and sent about three hundred email address and names to all three hundred addresses. Pissed off as I already was with my phone and from being impersonally spammed at, it took me a few second to send a reply to the Scottish Power chap, trying to extort money from him in return for not signing up all the email addresses to every porn spam site I could find and doing a reply to all.

The chap didn't pay up, but learnt an important lesson about how to use the blind carbon copy email protocol and not to use his work email address.

Now, back to the two spams from an internet acquaintance via On one of the popular internet messageboards I frequent, they'd also posted an advert about the event. Messageboards, you can address a crowd there, because they're generally open access, many people read the same message, as a crowd, many people can comment to it and see what other people have written. Its a different thing to email.

Unlike BillBones-esque random dunno who these chumps are but I'll try to yell at them until they listen to my damned Superman band, the internet acquaintance had a vague idea who they were addressing, what sort of people would read it, and maybe some specific people who would read it. Maybe, in the words of the heart-shaped creature on my shoulder, its not too much of an arched eyebrow sideways leap of fancy, to assume that the internet acquaintance knew I'd read it.

So why bother sending the email gig spam too? This combined effort doesn't make me want to go to the club night.

Its not just the overloading of spam. I am a person, I exist in real life, I have feelings and emotions and a crazy eratic personality. I've spent the past twelve months going to as many indiepop, anti-folk, mates in bands, comedy, ukulele, tweepop, psychedelia gigs as is humanly possible. I wrote about it too. It was mostly a lonely lonely road.

Standing in the same room as the same people listening to the same music, filled me with crushing feelings of loneliness. Seeing the same people at all the shows and knowing I could never talk to them, and they would never talk to me, all we have is the shared experience of gazing at the same band.

Of course this is bullshit.

I know this, and you, if you follow this blog and the one before it, know its bullshit. But sometimes I feel that way, most of all when its a bandless club night. The last record-playing club night I can remember going to was the NPL just before New Year, I hung about with the Drive Carefully crew and the Plimp clan, my circle interacting with the Glasgow Bowlie set. But even so, my nerves got the better me, the girl was in the corner of my eye, and I fled. Back in my car, four hundred miles, quaking all the way.

Spam is yelling, spam from friends is insulting.
Looking me in the eye, or holding my had and saying "hey are you coming to this?" I will follow to the end of the world. Christ, Nos hasn't been in The Loves for five years and I still go to every show.

Contact Details

Its getting a bit unmanageable so here's a summary for me, and for you

Live Messenger (MSN messenger)
Google Talk

manc_ill_kid at hotmail dot com
illandancient at googlemail dot com
chrisgilmour at roksan dot co dot uk

blogs (no longer updated) (no longer updated) (no longer updated) (no longer updated)

Social networking
Bowlie (rarely used)
Jockrock (rarely used)
SoundsXP (rarely used)
HDIF (rarely used)

Sunday, 2 March 2008

When did they stop making mobile phones?

I just want to send an email using my mobile phone (quickly and easily)

This is a rant about
  • Complex system
  • Specific user requirements
  • Unhelpful salesmen
  • Carphone Warehouse
  • Call Centres
  • Crap User Interfaces
  • Hotmail
  • Difficult things that ought to be easy
  • Power requirements of over-specced devices
  • The Post-wristwatch life

Modern technology ought to be great, but its broken, modern technology, all of it. It was a simple enough request, if I review gigs in the future, I want it to be an easier process than it has been for the past year. Instead of scribbling in a notebook during the show, then typing up my notes on my computer when I get home, I want to be write the review on my mobile phone, and send it straight to my blog.

I can send text messages with my phone already, its a simple and easy process, I do it about twice a week. I use my mobile phone for little else, if she's lucky my mum gets a phonecall once a fortnight. This is my current situation. No endless streams of messages to friends, no multi-hour phonecalls to girlfriend, no business calls, no use.

On average I spend £10 a month on mobile phone credit, probably less, but for calculations herein, I'll assume £10.

So, I finally bite the bullet and walk into a mobile phone shop. Carphone Warehouse.

Lets be clear, I don't want a contract, I'm not going to pay it. If my phone runs out of credit, I may go for weeks before I can be arsed topping up, that's okay, it costs me nothing if I'm not using it. With a contract, they'd take the money anyway, and if I try to cancel it, and move house, there's this whole waste of everyone's time, money, energy trying to track me down. No contracts for me with mobile phones.

So, chap in Carphone Warehouse, explains that if I want to stick with Pay As You Go, and sticking with my current provider, T-Mobile, it kind of limits my options. And I don't want to spend much money. In fact, the only phone that can really do it is the Sony Erikson K800i, for £90.

It has 3G internet access and I can surf the net apparently. I don't want to, I just want to send emails. I don't even want to check emails, I just want to send them. But no, full internet access it is.

At this point, the sales chap, explains he can get YouTube on his phone. This doesn't help me at all. I've seen YouTube, its on my computer, if I had a TV, I'd be able to watch similar things on that too, I have an iPod Nano, I can watch the same shit on that too. I just want to send emails with my phone.

3G internet access doesn't come cheap, on pay as you go, you can get it for £1 a day on the days you use it. Fine. The calculations in my head go like this
£5.00 - ticket for gig
£5.00 - booze at gig
£1.00 - cloakroom
£1.00 - internet on mobile phone.

However, Carphone Warehouse Sales man explains that if I get some kind of contract with them, which works out to be £22 a month, I get the phone for free, and 500 free texts and 30mins free talking. If I did the complicated sums, it does work out cheaper than just buying the phone, and I just want an easy life. I just want to acquire the ability to send emails from my phone and get the hell out of the shop. So I agree to this contract.

They need my debit card, sure.
They need my address, not sure why, but hey, if it gets me out of the shop quicker, who cares, I'm not going to be staying at the address for long anyway.
They need my previous address, sure, I don't live there, I don't give a crap.
They need some other form of ID, such as my driving licence, why? In case I'm not who I claim I am, not sure why this is required. If I've stolen someone else's identity, why should my mobile phone provider care? But heck, I want to get out of the shop and so far this is the only way possible.

Alas, there is a problem validating my card or some details and we wait for something on the computer.

We wait, I get bored. The sales chap says I could go out and carry on with my shopping and he'll phone me when it comes through, shouldn't be long.

An hour later I return to the shop, and we are still waiting. The sales chap phones up the bank financial type provider and gets put on hold. He has to deal with other Carphone Warehouse customers, so I'm put in charge of waiting by his phone for the bank financial type providers to finally come to the phone.

I wait, time passes.

An hour and a half later, nothing has happened, so I tell the chap to cancel the contract credit thing, I'll just pay for the phone with my credit card and stick with pay as you go. It'll be marginally more expansive, but I just want to get my emailability and get out.

The phone, to get the cheapest deal, comes with an O2 sim card with £10 credit. I can just use that up and chuck it away when I'm finished, sticking my old T-Mobile sim card in the phone. And with that, I'm skipping into the car park with my new phone, two hours after I walked in.


I have a hotmail email account, I have done since I started uni, getting on for over a decade now. Its served me well, until recently when my home internet access appears to be blocking my access to MS Windows Live, Hotmail, MSN messenger and so forth.

Its driving me slightly suicidal with frustration. I could be spending the evenings chatting to people, arranging to go for coffee, or to the cinema, just friendy type stuff, the healthy relationships that elf recommends.

So, using the O2 sim card in the new phone, and simple instructions, I can access the internet, its a slow process, with many clicks, but easy, I can check my Hotmail, and log on to MSN messenger or whatever its called these days. I can look at naked women too.

So, to be daring, I tried sending an email from the hotmail webpage. Its a slow and painful thing, I had to log in every single time, the predictive text isn't quite the same as my old Nokia phone, but after plugging away for about twenty minutes, I fired off a hello world test missive to myself.

It worked. But sadly, its too slow and clunky to use in a gig reviewing situation, compared to both
a) scribbling in my notebook
b) writing a text message using my old phone

I believe the leet/webspeak for this situation is

Luckily, the phone has an email option in its message application, rather than using the web. Trying not to consider just yet that the chap at the Carphone Warehouse has fucked me over. I didn't want to set up my email on the phone right then if it's tied to some disposable O2 account. So I swap over sim cards to my T-Mobile one, which kind of works right away. No need to unlock the phone or anything.

Sadly I have no credit on my T-Mobile sim card. It was late, the shops were closed, I couldn't be arsed walking to the cash machine to top-up there and damn their eyes, I can't top-up on the T-Mobile website because that site seems to be blocked by my home internet provider.

When I moved into this place I'm staying at, the wireless broadband was AOL, kind of, and possibly BT too, at the same time. That was many months ago, and now, when I do an IP address lookup thing on myself, it says my internet access is provided by Carphone Warehouse.

I've spent too long with them already, I'm going to waste no more time or money with Carphone Warehouse. I have no contract, I have a phone, which should have the functionality I wanted.

I just want to send email from my phone (quickly and easily)

The quickly and easily caveat is now significant. Already at gigs I carry my regular phone, my notebook, several pens, and a digital camera. I don't want to have to carry two phones just to be able to send that email gig review when its painful to have to log on to hotmail every time.

The next day, Sunday in fact, its my niece's birthday, and I get to see my brother, he'sfar more patient with call centres and he knows about mobile phones. Whilst I want all this to be quick and easy, he has either lead a charmed life and has managed to get email, google earth, photo albums and everything on his phone or he makes it look easy.

He quickly realises I could have stuck with my old phone and just phoned up T-Mobile to enable internet on my old phone, and I ought to return my new Sony Erikson to the Carphone Warehouse. Luckily he's known me long enough to go with the flow when I say there's no way on earth I am ever returning to Carphone Warehouse, I'm going to keep the new phone and damn them.

So we phone T-Mobile, but if we want to speak to an actual person to get the internet thing enabled, it will cost 25p. So back we go online using a laptop and Top-Up using the T-Mobile site, and we get to enable the internet access online.

Soon the phone springs into life, a text comes through saying I can go online with it.

Its a lie, of course, the damned thing no longer connects to the internet as it did the night before when I had the O2 sim card.

Hours pass, with my brother on the phone talking to various T-Mobile call centre folk. He has an unnerving way of actually remembering the first name they give and then calling them that throughout the call. "So Karen, do you mean that you've taken £2.50 of my credit to enable web access, but without actually giving my phone web access?"

Again, the phone provider seems to require my address and my previous address. We check online, the last time I had any kind of documented contract, even pay as you go, with T-Mobile, it expired in 2000.

Eventually the call centre chap called 'Chris' suggests removing the phone's battery and doing a hard reboot, and as if by magic modern technology once again allows me to access the internet, the world wide web indeed, using my mobile phone.

Having established that sending an email from hotmail its too fucking tedious on the mobile, I try to access my blog directly. Its just as painful to log into, and strangely I can't type a blog entry. I can see the page in very small writing, but can't select the field to write in.

Hotmail, having served me well for so many years, has failed me. It don't let me do POP3, I can't send or check my emails outwith the internet, unless I pay them more money. Nope.

So, I open a gmail account, or googlemail as I think its called. Learn myself a new email address, and a new password, as if my life isn't complicated enough. Enter the POP3 server details into the new phone and try sending an email, written quickly and easily, like a text message.

That was two hours ago. The painful process of checking my hotmail account shows it hasn't come through.

I've spent £110 and nine hours on this so far, with not enough success to call it a success. According to the average of half a dozen IQ tests I've taken, my IQ is 125, or if you ignore the one I took when drunk, horny and very tired in Strathclyde Uni's library in 2001, my IQ is 138.

How come sending an email from a mobile phone is so difficult. Which bit did I get wrong? I don't understand it. All I can assume, until otherwise corrected, is that modern technology is broken. Some fuckwits cocked it up, and broke technological progress.

I read Engadget five times a day, and the stuff on there looks pretty neat, but I am 100% certain its not going to work. Sure it will work for some people, under exceptional circumstances, but generally, its not going to work. The fucky computer will crash, the cheap computer will be unusable, the thin TV will crack, the HD TV will have a worse picture than the old TV and the mobile phone of the future will be impossible to use.

Prove me wrong.

A few other guys at work have the same phone, they seem happy enough with it, they can use it, I've seen them. It proves that my phone isn't that crap, its just its not suited to my purposes.

But there are some other things I've noticed sinc eI stayed up last night writing this.

The battery on my new phone has run down to about 10%. Now when I was in the shop yesterday and showed the salesman my old phone, he was amazed that I was satisfied with its battery life, even after having it for several years. Alas, all that fiddling with the internet yesterday is too much for the new phone, and if I use it for the purpose I acquired it for, then the battery life is inadequate.

Another thing, I'm 29 years old, and during those years I've own around twenty different wristwatches. I haven't worn one for about five years now, but before then I'd go through them very quickly. I didn't lose all twenty of them, its just the strap broke on some, or I grew tired of taking it off and putting it bck on, I'd get a new cheap casio one in the hope it would inspire me to integrate it into my life, but all without any success.

Luckily, until this weekend, I had a Nokia phone, it had the phone on it, and as it was lozenge shaped, I could slip it quickly and easily out of my pocket, and, if the light was good, I could see what time it was without pressing any buttons, and then easily slip it back into my pocket.

Welcome to the post-wristwatch life, its a blissful multifunction world.

My new phone, the Sony Erikson K800i, is not so good. I'd never realised this before, but telling the time is the second on third most important function of a mobile phone to me. The Sony Erikson, its more block shaped and doesn't come out of my pocket as easily. When its in power save mode, the display is blank, so I need to press buttons to wake it up and see what time it is. I don't always want to make calls, send text messages, send emails or look at damned videos on YouTube or for that matter fucking videos on YouPorn.

I just want to know what time it is.

Too much to ask.