Where’s my organ?

Sitar: not an organ.

I lost my organ last night. It had been there a few days before but, last night, it inexplicably turned into a sitar.

This wasn’t convenient. Partly because a sitar doesn’t sound anything like a Hammond organ but mainly because it chose to morph into the twangy ethnic instrument during the two bar count-in to Crocodile Rock. I needed my organ back quite badly – this was only the second song I’d ever played live. In a busy pub. With half my family watching on. A Bollywood version of an Elton John classic wouldn’t have gone down well.

After much fumbling, I found my organ, eventually, but a little later I couldn’t find my brass section either. Instead, I inadvertently triggered a drum and bass groove. This surprised everyone – not least the drummer who looked twice at his kit and hands to check they hadn’t started bashing out the manic 4/4 rhythm without him knowing.

If truth be told, these instances of sweaty-fingered patch scouring were simply a couple of minor mishaps amongst an evening of quickly brushed-over Les Dawson incidents which, I think, went largely unnoticed by those watching. From my point of view, forty-five minutes of music seemed to pass by in an enthralling, sweaty, panic-fuelled adrenalin rush. Six months of work for what felt like ten minutes of performance time. But worth every second.

If, like me, you’ve spent the best part of ten years playing an instrument to yourself, your dog, or the potted plant in the corner of the room, get out there and play live. Trust me, there’s nothing quite like it. Regardless of how many mistakes you will┬ámake.

Social spaghetti

Someone kindly sent me an invitation to join Google+ yesterday. And join I did. I joined the bejesus out of it. Although I couldn’t tell you why.

…Because I have no idea. I certainly didn’t need to.

A quick check of the ‘Social’ folder on my iPhone tells me I now have no less than six apps which are of the networking variety. Let’s take a quick look at each one:

  • Twitter: the most interesting and useful of all six. A genuinely brilliant and concise way of sharing web content and keeping up to date with whatever it is that you’re into. Those who long for the day of unlimited character length tweets are missing the point entirely. If that ever happens, the site will be rendered pointless. Those 140 characters are key to its success.
  • Facebook: unadulterated, mindless attention-seeking and photo sharing housed in a truly dreadful website and even worse iOS app. It’s also the only place where people you went to school with beg to be your friend, regardless of the fact they spent their entire time at school ignoring you. Observing the startling fall from grace of those you once deemed untouchable is quite enjoyable, though.
  • Foursquare: a limited shelf life, when you realise that all you’re doing is telling people where you are and they, in turn, couldn’t give two shits.
  • Linkedin: the corporate world’s Facebook where the number of ‘connections’ you have is directly proportional to the perceived length of your penis. From what I can tell, there is no other point to the site (I have 28 connection, incidentally).
  • Soundtracking: probably the most self-indulgent of all six. It allows you to build the ‘soundtrack to your life’ by boring people to death with what you’re currently listening to. A useful, free marketing tool for labels, mind, and that has to be praised.
  • Google+: new, currently invite-only but, as far as I can tell, far more sensibly designed than Facebook. It also allows you to arrange your friends into ‘circles’, which they are not aware of. You know, pretty much like you do in your head, in real life – friends, family, work colleague, morons, etc.

This leaves us in a tangled web of interconnecting online databases with which we share, inform and bore. Updates from Foursquare can be automatically fed through to Twitter, whose tweets can be shoved directly into Facebook, which automatically displays the latest music you’re listening to via Soundtracking. Ultimately, this means you end up with the same list of your previous actions on every site, albeit with a free bit of advertising from the original source.

Sound confusing? It is.

This all begs the question – why don’t they all just get together and create one service? A mammoth social network which takes the best bits from every system above. Sound impossible? Well, it probably is, but it won’t stop me suggesting it.

We all accept advertising is inevitably going to appear on the majority of these sites, so that’s ok – let them all share the profits. I’m sure the people behind Twitter would welcome some real cash rather than hypothetical flotation valuations.

Get the governments involved. Get them to fund that rather than hair-brained Big Society schemes.

The biggest problem, though? What do we call it? Facebotwittsquaretrackingin+? I’m sure there’s other, minor technical and comercial implications, but we can cross those bridges when we reach them. This must be decided first. Answers on a postcard, please – I’m starting to bore myself.

Who’s in? Mr Zuckerberg?

Child’s play

Burning London

I did some daft things when I was a kid.

Sky Tennis ranked pretty highly in the idiotic stakes. The sole aim of a sport we hoped would one day make Olympics, was to hit a tennis ball as high into the air as possible. Simple. I think there may have been some rudimentary scoring involved, and, had this taken part on a tennis court, it could quite easily have been dismissed as nothing but harmless, boyish fun.

Only, Sky Tennis took place in our street, which was a tiny cul-de-sac, littered with cars.

My dad only found out about the existence of this ground-breaking sport recently and wasn’t amused to find out his own car was regularly on the receiving end of a tennis ball that had kissed the ozone layer before plummeting back to earth, its increasing speed rendering it as heavy as Dawn French. We gave up Sky Tennis, thankfully, after my friend suggested we try playing it with a golf ball.

The withdrawal of Sky Tennis left a gaping void which had to be filled. We needed more excitement so, one afternoon, decided to throw various pieces of rubbish, wood and discarded bread into a neighbour’s back garden. This followed a long-running dispute with the neighbour who, from what I can recall, did nothing other than be fat. Suffice to say, he got very cross indeed and gave us a proper telling off. A brief moment of chaos ensued as one particularly supportive parent came rushing to our aid brandishing a golf club. No one got hurt, but lots of naughty words were exchanged, much to our amusement.

This all happened during a fairly brief period. We were perhaps 12-13. Young, inexperienced, inexplicably angry at everything and happy to discover enjoyment in the most destructive of activities. There’s nothing wrong with that and I don’t regret any of it – we were kids.

Listening to Radio 5 Live this week, I’ve heard a worrying number of ‘social commentators’ and youth workers suggesting that the hooded individuals behind this week’s appalling riots were committing such disgusting acts of vandalism and theft because of boredom and a feeling that they ‘don’t fit in with society’.

What unadulterated garbage. I’d wager few of them even know what the word ‘society’ means.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but, I’m sorry, the people suggesting such things are just wrong.

Everyone in the UK has a chance to make something of their lives, regardless of their background. There’s not a single person out there who can’t get a job of some description. Our political system may be flawed in many ways, but it is not an excuse for disenchantment amongst the younger generation.

No, the people behind the riots are simply very thick little toe rags who haven’t grown up. They haven’t left that 12-13 year-old period that both my friends and I naturally abandoned when we realised you had to earn your own crust in life.

You may well think the word ‘thick’ is a bit harsh, but please remember, these are people who were filmed breaking into a Carpet Right store and stealing carpet samples. They can’t even get looting right.

Still think they’re hard done by? “We’re doin’ this ’cause we wanna show all the rich people that we can do what we want, innit,” said one charming young lady earlier this week, having no doubt assisted in smashing up an independent retailer’s premises moments before. If you can’t be bothered to sit and think about the repercussions of your actions and are stupid enough to believe that every shop owner is a millionaire, you don’t deserve sympathy, or the right to continue breathing.

We possibly made a few dings in our parents’ car bonnets when we were kids, but these little shits are smacking cavernous craters into people’s lives and, most worryingly, don’t appear to have any idea of the damage they’re doing.