At Least I Have Hair

Things have ground to a halt around here lately. The school holidays have begun, which has led to the inevitable transformation in the weather from good to bad, and the customers have dried up. Maybe that’s because I’m not doing anything to bring them in, but that’s more to do with the fact that I can’t decide which advertising strategy to waste my money on next…

So last week, in order to try and kickstart things, I went to have a meeting with my “business partner” and very long time friend. He says that he will join me in business if I can prove it’s worth it. He has a paying job, you see, and it’s not something he wants to throw away. Fair enough to him, he has a lifestyle that needs cash. Lucky old me doesn’t – though I more than pay my share around here with the housework I do.

Anyway, I decided to meet this friend for another reason too… because, on reflection, my last blog post was rather depressing. It was a stark realisation that my social life is precisely nothing at the moment. So, a catch up with an old friend would work wonders in comparing our lives.

Unfortunately, he comes out top in almost every department. He has a job, he has money, he has a long-term girlfriend, he is saving up for a deposit to get his own house/flat, he has lots of friends that he meets regularly, he doesn’t spend most of his day on computers or moping around the house…

But there’s one thing he doesn’t have which I do. In abundance.

Hair. I can’t believe it, but every time I meet him he has less of it. The old thatch on the roof is seriously thinning, and in a few years time I can’t see him having anything on top. Fancy that, having an egg in the nest before the age of 30. I suppose, at the very least, he doesn’t have grey hair. It’s just madness though, so I have to count myself lucky that, apart from a little thinning at the corners, where a receding hairline is beginning, I am blessed with a full head of the stuff.

After I had recovered from the shock, we spent some time discussing what to do. I came to him for help really… I rather hoped that he could spread the word about the business in his work, and I might get some sales. Sadly, it hasn’t happened yet, but he assures me he has told everyone he knows. I suppose spending £200-400 on a computer is a big commitment that requires careful thought… but dammit, I need some business!

But in any case it was nice to catch up with him and we got some good ideas together for some progress we might be able to make in terms of drumming up some business. He’s a very good friend like that, always creative and full of possibilities. That’s why we would be perfect in business… we complement each other well.

Argh, this just has to work.

The Mother of Invention

… is necessity, so they say, and it seems to be true. Because my necessity at the moment is driven out of extreme boredom. So my brain has actually come up with a few schemes to pass the time.

The first of which is a rather good idea I’ve had relating to the work I do involved in youth football. Not that anyone reads this blog to steal the idea, but I’d still rather keep it under wraps. Suffice it to say that I’ve wasted several of the past few days installing CMS systems on some web space I’ve got to try them out. I think I’ve finally found the one I wanted.

It’s also been a bit of an education. I’m not a good web designer, but I’m pretty decent at HTML/CSS (and standards compliant too, bloody Internet Explorer). I can’t do anything too fancy as I’m not that good, but I’ll give most things a bash. But now I’ve realised that with CMSs, the days of getting too deeply involved in writing HTML markup are almost over. The joy of templates and easy administration systems makes it all a breeze, and you can get on making the site look the way you want, rather than worrying over tiresome HTML/CSS semantics, and wondering why it looks so shit on IE.

Of course, I’m a late arrival to this bandwagon. I’m sure CMS has been going on for a long time, so in that respect it’s good to finally catchup, probably just at the moment the bandwagon is moving on anyway. I’ll bet I’m still out of date. But then I always will be as I just can’t cope with programming like PHP or databases like MySQL.

At the moment though it does feel like time wasting as, for the site to work, I need writers/bloggers. I’m sure they’re out there, and I’ve got some ideas to find them. But even if nothing comes from it, it’s kept me entertained and gave me some new experiences.

The other idea (yes, just two) I’ve had is more financial and is related to a website I read daily. They run an annual competition, and I’m thinking it needs to step up a gear. I’m going to drop the organiser an e-mail and see if he’s considered my idea before. For all I know he has and it’s not practical, but hey, I like sticking my oar in where it’s not wanted on the internet. In Real Life, I doubt I’d be so bold. That’s the joy of having a different “personality” in cyberspace.

I’ve also been getting up half an hour earlier. It seems I have more time to do the things I want during the morning, so it makes more sense to tack it on here rather than at night where I don’t do anything anyway.

Oh, and on Wednesday I finally got round to giving blood. Well, it did help that they just down the road. Eight times now. How… exciting… but it was definitely the easiest donation I’ve ever done. I got there for 2pm and was out by 2:30pm. That’s including the 5-10 minute sit around at the end eating the amazingly good biscuits they have, and always wishing I could buy them in shops but can’t. My three-monthly craving for “Oat Crunch” is now satisfied.

And now, I require food. $DEITY bless whoever invented cereal. They must really have been in a fix.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Just for a brief moment (!) I am going to indulge in a little melancholy. It used to be the order of the day around here, but in recent years I’ve got a little better at managing my emotions. However, due to the current situation of my life, I feel the time is right for a bit more analysis.

In life, there are people who do things. They achieve a lot by being the people who put the practical steps into action.

Unfortunately, I am not a Do-er.

There is another group of people: Thinkers. A Thinker is useful in other respects. Do-ers often need Thinkers in order for them to have something to do in the first place. There are very few people who are skilled in both disciplines. Such incredible people deserve a lot of respect.

The problem is, however, that Thinkers get very little credit in life. Yes, the brainboxes like to trade Plato quotes, or out Marx each other, but in the end, Average Man or Woman on the Street tends to be a little less cerebral than that. He or She likes to know the answer to the question: “What difference will it make?”.

Thinkers like to pretend that they know what difference their ideas will make. They spend all their time analysing situations, producing hypothetical scenarios and urging action. But Thinkers aren’t infallible. And when they make a mistake with their projections, we get the usual response from Average Man or Woman on the Street: “You don’t know the first thing about real life”.

We denigrate Thinkers. We see them as lazy people who couldn’t be arsed getting off their own backsides and putting in the hours at the coalface; instead they get other people to do the work for them. Consequently, we love the hard workers, toiling day and night for little reward to deliver the undeliverable. It is never a problem of implementation. It is always the idea that’s wrong.

I’m not sure if I’m a Thinker. Not yet. I can be if I put my mind to it, but no one is going to hire a Thinker from university. You have to earn your thinking stripes, for what that’s worth in the light of the above.

There are other people too. There are Actors (who neither think, nor do, but manage to convince people that they do do)… there are Connectors (who bring together the Thinkers and the Do-ers, who grease the wheels of social interaction). And, of course, the Apathetic and Fatalistic – who either don’t care, or are happy with accepting that “it wasn’t meant to be”.

And then there are Regulators. These are people who neither think nor do (in a meaningful sense), but instead try to make sure the Do-ers come into line with the Thinkers. They also, generally speaking, like to make sure there is a level playing field for all concerned. They are interested in fair play, and the rules of the game.

Nobody likes Regulators. The Thinkers find them as lightweights. The Do-ers find them as repressors. They stunt intellectual curiosity. They limit free thought. They stop people just getting on with the job.

Nobody dares to recognise their important role. If there are no rules, and nobody enforcing them, then we have anarchy. Yeah yeah – we all love anarchy, of course. Until we suffer it. Until we see the impact unfair practice has. Then we all call for rules and regulation quicker than you can say “class action lawsuit”.

But still the Regulator’s role is a thankless one. If all is going well, no one cares for rules as they are not needed. If all is going wrong, no one cares for rules because they stop creative solutions.

My worry is that, in my life, I am falling into this job. Much as it’s an important one, it’s not going to allow me to leave a mark on history. It’s not going to give me a chance of inspiring future generations. Nobody remembers a tax inspector. Everyone remembers a doctor, nurse, teacher, sports person…

Somehow, I have to change this. I have to, at the very least, move beyond being a mere Regulator. I have to become a Do-er. I have to contribute something. What that is, I don’t know. And why going out there and doing stuff makes me nervous I don’t know. I wish it didn’t.

Where next in life? I haven’t the foggiest idea.

Music To My Ears

At the moment, the house is peaceful. My family, apart from one of my brothers but including the dog, have gone away to their static caravan in Wales for a few days.

It’s always good to get a break from them. They are too noisy and argue too much even at the best of times. Plus, the nice weather yesterday would have meant that there’d be a lot of grumpiness here. We tend to get like that if we overheat. But I’ve managed to avoid all that, which is excellent.

The other bonus is that without my family being here, I can spend a bit more time than I normally could practicing on the guitar and keyboard, because there are fewer people to annoy. When my brother goes out, I also get a chance to do some singing, something I don’t do enough of any more. Ever since I left for university four years ago, I’ve not been able to sing as much, making me feel like I’ve regressed a lot.

Generally, this is true of all my music playing. I first started playing guitar in 2001, but I feel like my standard of playing hasn’t changed over the last six years. I don’t seem to be adding songs to my repetoire any more, and no matter how hard I try I will never be able to play an electric guitar solo of any quality. Mistake after mistake. Maybe my brain is not cut out to play the guitar.

The only bright light is my keyboard/piano playing, which is so much better than it has ever been, and the more I practice the more it continues to improve. But that is far more frustrating because I still don’t think I play it properly, and if I had the money the first thing I’d do is get me some piano lessons.

The main reason for this post though is an observation I’ve made recently about the decline in my musical creativity. I can ad lib on the keyboard through major pentatonics and it sounds good. But it sounds the same all the time. There are only a limited number of chords. The same is true of my guitar playing. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall. There seems to be no clear way ahead for me to keep improving.

But it gets worse. Between the ages of 16 and 18 I was a prolific song writer. The lyrics were nothing special, but there were a few tunes that I thought were really fantastic. I still have them all, and still have several recordings so I won’t forget them. But I really don’t know what’s happened to my musical creativity. All of a sudden I wrote my “last” song in 2003 (weirdly enough, I’ve just checked and it was exactly five years ago today), and since then I’ve written only two songs. During my creative spell, I notched up at least 40 different songs. About half were crap, but such is the creativity process. Trial and error.

I just don’t know what happened to me from that point onwards. I seemed to lose the ability to write lyrics, and my brain seemed to think “Why bother?”. Which is a good question. It’s not as if they were ever going to make me a career.

The sad explanation for me is that I was obviously inspired during that period of my life to be musical. I must have been living a life which filled me with ideas and determination to use my talents to make something good. But now I feel like I’ve lost all that. I feel like I just can’t be bothered making music any more. Even though I enjoy it. I still improvise, but I never say to myself “Note that down!” or “Write some words to it!”

It’s just all gone. Can I really have lost a talent? Or do I just need shake myself up?

Nah. Again, I get stuck in the usual question of “What’s the point?”. It may be fun, but half (if not more) of the fun of music making is in the performance. And they never will be performed. Maybe if there was an outlet I might feel the inspiration again. Perhaps my younger creativity days were full of a naivety that I could do something with the music and so pushed on regardless. Now… the jaded cynicism of age must have kicked in.

Sigh. Apathy rules, OK?