Category Archives: entertainment

Worm In My Brain

I think we’re all familiar with the concept of the “Ear Worm”, a song that gets stuck in your head and refuses to leave no matter what you do. Usually it’s one that you hate and would probably be willing to cut off your ears to avoid hearing ever again. With me, that song is “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, or as I always knew them, Men Without Talent. I won’t add a link to the video, as I don’t want to alienate any of my readers, precious few as they are. However, this post is NOT about that kind of ear worm.

October and November were particularly rough months for me, both at home and at work (Five Years, I Know It’s Over, Oops I Did It Again) and I will admit to not being in the best of moods. As I’ve said elsewhere, the music played at work is dreadful, ( On Repeat) and if I never hear Cyndi Lauper caterwauling “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” ever again, it will be about 50 billion years too soon.

In order to compensate for all this, especially as the Christmas music started the day after Thanksgiving, a song popped into my head, sat down, put it’s feet up and reached for the beer. Only a couple of weeks before this, I had completed reading “Publikation” by David Buckley, a well researched and equally well written history of Kraftwerk. As a result, Der Fab Vier featured prominently on my iPod as I walked to work. I know their music is seen as repetitive, and to some extent it is, but it brings back many happy memories.

I think it must be related to my Aspergers, but the song that drilled itself into my brain was “Pocket Calculator” from the album “Computer World”. You see, that particular track is very sparse, the lyrics are spoken and the themes simply repeat over and over again.

Pocket Calculator

Computer WorldI find it a very comforting track, almost an aural hug, if you like. It’s  stripped down nature has a calming effect on me, and having it play in my head for hours at a time allowed me to reach a state of detachment meant that I could do my job without perseverating on my situation. One other thing that makes this track special for me is that back in 1981 I saw Kraftwerk perform at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool on their Computer World tour. This is the tour that was famously delayed as the band had to work out how to bring the entire Kling Klang studio with them. I don’t know if you can imagine the sight of a couple of thousand Kraftwerk mad Scousers dancing like berserkers while four men stand on stage behind what look like post modern ironing boards not moving an inch. It was a fantastic night, and I remember being one of the crowd after the show pressing their faces to the bars over the green room window shouting our thanks to the band. BTW, Liverpool loves, and I mean, really loves Kraftwerk.

Another thing about this track is that it represents the actual birth of Electronic Dance Music. If you’ve ever been to a rave, attended a Skrillex concert, bought a track by Daft Punk, Deadmau5 or Swedish House Mafia, you owe it all to four guys from Dusseldorf. I know this may sound like hyperbole, but listen to the riff at 2:50 and tell me otherwise. I have to say that it seems a bit weird to have been present at the creation of an entire music genre, but I was, as was everyone else who attended a gig on that tour or bought the L.P.

So now you see why I made no attempt to work the song out of my consciousness. I just couldn’t. It was like a self generated security blanket, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. As things have calmed down and my life has assumed a state of what for the sake of argument I’m going to call normality, the track has popped up less and less often, and pretty much not at all for the last couple of weeks. I don’t know if it was purely a stress reaction, or if the book sparked something, but whatever the reason for it popping back into my head and taking up residency, it did me the world of good. I’ll be fine from now on, as long as no one tells me “You can dance if you want to”.

 

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The Answer

Before I start I just want to point out that this post is not part of the current series outlining all that has happened in the past couple of weeks. I need a little more time to get my thoughts in order before I put electron to LCD, so bear with me as I go off on a tangent. Actually, I’m surprised that no car company has produced a model called a Tangent. It would make for some pretty amusing advertising copy, but I digress.

My local fine brewing establishment has a Thursday night ritual that has been going on for a few years now. At first I wasn’t keen on it, and would usually try to avoid drinking there on Thursdays due to the noise and the overcrowded nature of the bar. You see, it fell prey to the all time most popular pub event: the trivia quiz.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good trivia quiz. I have a vast fund of useless knowledge at my disposal and enjoy putting the little grey cells to to work as Hercule Poirot was fond of saying. The issue was that as I didn’t know anyone there back then, I didn’t have a team to join and didn’t fancy paying the buy – in ( there isn’t one, as I found out later).

However, once I fell in with the people that now constitute my closest friends I had a ready – made excuse to attend, and the addition of a couple of locals helped pad out our numbers and add some different skills to our knowledge toolbox. The nice thing is that the winning team are presented with a voucher for six free beers, which at six dollars a pop, works out to be a pretty sweet deal. Whenever we win, the vouchers are held in escrow, as it were, and produced either at subsequent quiz nights or other nights when more than a couple of us are present, so everyone gets a fair share in return for their effort.

Starting my new job last year – see “A Forest” and “Au Suivant” –  I had a six month period when I didn’t finish work before 10 pm, so taking part in the 7-9 pm quiz just wasn’t an option. This began to change in June when I had achieved enough seniority to be dealt some middle shifts. Naturally, rather than using the time to get some extra sleep I would  grab a burger from the grill before leaving and head to the quiz as fast as local speed limits would allow.  One of the first times this occurred just happened to be my birthday. My then girlfriend suggested that I bring it up casually in conversation. An idea I nixed instantly as to me doing so would look like trolling for pints. I don’t think we won that night, but I most certainly enjoyed myself.

Even though no one in the team is under 50, we have a broad range of interests between us, as well as plenty of experience, and this really helps. Two of our team are doctors who spent many years in cancer research, so have a very fine knowledge of science, one guy, a local, is basically a walking sports almanac, and as he’s an engineer, is quick as a flash when it comes to anything maths related.

The other local is a generalist, but does know his films to a pretty decent extent and like me knows his geography. I’m very much a generalist too, but I have so much obscure information tucked away ( an advantage to being mildly Aspergers) that I can often pull answers out of the dark corners. Mind you, I have cost us some points in the past, as indeed we all have, but that’s the way it goes. The other Brit, apart from myself and the good doctors knows his stuff too, although for him I think the quiz is as much a social event as it is a test of knowledge. That’s fine with me, as the evening is as much about spending time with friends as it is going head to head with the other teams, many of which are long time entrants, and a bit of friendly rivalry never did anyone any real harm.

We do get our fair share of victories, sometimes by the smallest of margins, and sometimes, as happened last week, by a healthy margin, despite the fact that we dropped quite a few points. I mean, who knew that Jay Z’s real last name is Carter? Certainly none of us did. Thanks to our lineup, I’ve gotten to know the two locals on the team. The funny thing is that I had seen one  of them at the bar for a couple of years, but being the way I am, I never spoke to him until he joined us one evening and then became a permanent quiz nighter. He’s quite a decent guy, but can go on a bit at times. Still, he’s friendly and amiable, so that outweighs his sometimes excessive chattiness.

The other guy? well, he works with our sports guru, so that explains his presence. The thing is, I’m not really keen on him. For someone who bears more than a passing resemblance to a Sontaran, (if you don’t know what that is, ask the nearest Doctor Who fan) he has a very high opinion of his attractiveness to women. Not that I’m going to be mistaken for Ryan Gosling, but dude, really? Also, he’s a survivalist. He showed me the video of the supply room in his home, and he has approximately one years’ supply of food, water and fuel on hand. Oh, and at least six assault rifles and enough ammunition to start a small war. Yup, you read that right. Now, I have a camping stove, some bottles of water and cartons of soup in the house just in case we lose power during the winter, but this guy is ready for the apocalypse.  Think “The Road” “Reign Of Fire” or “The Postman”, and you get the idea.

He seems pretty normal on the surface, and when it’s just the guys he can be reasonable. He’s also not backward when it comes to buying someone a pint, but a couple of months ago he grabbed the behind of one of the female bar staff, and that is just beyond the pale. Had I been the manager, I’d have thrown him out on his ear and banned him. However, the young lady in question, who is very sweet and good at her job “Didn’t want to make a fuss”, so he got away with a stern lecture. To give him his due, he’s been on his best behaviour ever since then, but he’s on thin ice as far as I’m concerned.

As it goes, the quiz makes for a pretty decent night out – a chance to meet the rest of the gang, a bit of mental exercise and the chance to win free beer. Ahh, “Free beer”, the most wonderful sentence in the English language. In fact, we’re organising a cultural celebration in early November and I’ve compiled a quiz especially for the evening. Seeing as we’ll be celebrating British culture, all the questions relate in some way to the old country, and I’ve curated a playlist especially for the occasion. I realise that this might put the locals at a disadvantage, but since when did the Brits care about bloody colonials?

 

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