Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Love me, love my recommendation

I discovered a new comedy on Netflix last week. In the little thought I put into this post prior to writing it I contemplated not telling you what the programme is called, simply because then you won't accuse me of doing the very act I'm criticising. Then I realised that I'm criticising myself for doing that thing anyhow, so it kind of doesn't matter.

On top of that I don't think anyone reads these blog posts these days anyhow, so to hell with it.

The programme is called Norsemen.

It's set in the Viking Age in Norway and I started watching it purely because someone I follow on Twitter mentioned it and I tend to like most things Scandinavian. It was potentially a win win for all, as fuckwits who don't understand that that is what a "win win" is anyhow and who probably go around saying 'safe haven' too would say.

The thing is, I started watching it because I thought it was one of those serious, gory and adventurous Viking drama series. Instead, about five minutes in I realised it's a comedy. It's a dry, dark comedy mixed in with quite a lot of gore. I've seen it described as the bastard child of Game of Thrones and The Office (obviously the proper British Office, not that American trash). I don't suppose it could be a bastard child with two parents, but that's another matter. Other than that the description seems accurate.

It's one of those "hang on, did he really say that?" type of comedies, not in your face hilarious but think on it afterwards hilarious. There's oodles of subtlety to it and I apologise to all Sri Lankans here for I know you don't have subtlety there.

I binged on it big time and watched both series in about three days. 

The thing is I've been telling everyone I know about it.

"You must watch this."

"I know you'll love this, give it a try."

"I've found this brilliant programme."

And, though I've come across a surprising number of people who have already watched it, all of whom loved it, not one person I'm aware of has watched it following my recommendation.

You know me, I ponder and cogitate on these things. It dawned on me that it's important to me to try to get people I value to respond positively to any recommendations I make. I know it's entirely my ego and I'm quite sure it's human nature, not just one of my idiosyncrasies.

But yes, I want people to listen to a song or band I have told them about. I want you to watch Norsemen because I suggested it and I want you to read that book I recommended.

It matters doesn't it?

We all want to be that person, that wise counsel who discovers something and spreads it to the masses. Influencers I think is the word. Yet it's all about the ego.

As they said in Friends.

"It's not love Monica, it's just food".

Monday, February 25, 2019

A WTF Moment!

Ever have stuff happen to you, or perhaps just things you encounter, that make you wonder if you are getting old or whether the world is losing its head?

There I was, casually out with my brothers a couple of weeks ago, off to a rather pleasant gig as it happens.

Musicbiz bro gets something out of his pocket and puts in his mouth.

"Do you want one?" he said to me.

"Hmmm what is it?" I asked.

"It's a chewing gum" replied he.

"It's actually bubblegum flavoured chewing gum" he adds.

"What? Bubblegum flavoured chewing gum?" said moi.


"Erm, so it tastes like bubblegum, feels like bubblegum, only you can't blow bubbles with it? I asked.

"Yes that's about it" he responded.

What next?

Apple flavoured oranges.


Maybe I'm getting old and the world is losing its head.

Friday, February 22, 2019

What makes a good Teacher?

I'm lucky that in over 20 years of playing the drums in London I've been able to study under a multitude of teachers.

I'm currently with a fairly well known guy who is out around the world on tour with someone for most of his time, but teaches when he has some downtime. He teaches just because he loves to do so and is absolutely brilliant.

It suits me as well that I go to him say once every six months and walk away with a mountain of things to work on, that might take me another six months, a kind of point and shoot approach. He gives me guidance, points out things that might just need a little fine tuning, then gives me wads of manuscript paper about what we've done and sends me off into the big bad world.

He can cover things in a reactive way; when I say I want to address a particular issue and he helps me to solve it. Or he can be proactive; when he looks at my playing and improves things that I'm unaware I had a problem with.

I've had teachers who have been good at one or the other before; the proactive or the reactive, but there have been few with this mix of both approaches.

But I saw something the other day; someone who is a "professional" in a field who has no practical expeience in said field and it got me thinking about what makes a good teacher.

I made a list of my drum teachers recently and it consisted of a motley crew of the good, the bad and the ugly. There were two who, as teachers, were downright useless to me. I say 'to me' because it may well have been the case that these people were fantastic mentors to different students, that they just didn't click for me. But also I think a truly good teacher should be able to adapt to the differing learning styles of students.

One of these useless to me guys was / is a top drawer internationally rated player. He has gigged, and still does, with world class artists and is hugely liked and regarded in the music business. And in the one (maybe my sample size was small here) lesson I had with him I got the distinct feeling that he had decided that he would do a bit of teaching in between gigs just to keep some money coming in with next to no thought put in to how he woould approach things.

Lovely bloke. Crap teacher.

The other baddie was a well know London player / teacher who I studied with for about six months. He was only my second ever tutor and I think I was a bit green. I did learn some useful titbits from him but there came a point where I looked at the picture and realised that I felt worse about my playing and abilities coming out of every lesson than when I went in.

Maybe some students get motivated by feeling like this, but I don't. So I moved on.

When I look at the most impactful teachers I've had I notice that they are the ones who have given me confidence, who have positively inspired me. There have been a couple who have been okay, but seemed rather bitter about their own lack of success, about the fact that they were sitting teaching idiots like me rather than out gigging with the Foo Fighters. We all want to feel wanted, not a poor second best or a fallback because Plan A turned out to be filled by Taylor Hawkins or Craig Blundell.

Maybe I'm also a bit shallow, but I've picked teachers to begin with based mostly on what I think of their playing but also on their reputation; who they've played with and what they've done.

Then, very quickly, it becomes all about how good a teacher they are to me.

With practical expeience comes knowledge, but one needs to know how to get that knowledge into your student in the best and most positive way.

Two things are definite; just being a top level player is not enough and just knowing the theory isn't enough. The best ones are those with a mix of gigging / playing experience with teaching ability. It needs to be the right balance, but I suppose one can't really have too much teaching nous.

Just for the record; I can't teach to save my life!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

On Menstruation and Religion

I saw a rant by a friend on Facebook recently on the subject of menstruating women not being allowed in certain religious sites in some parts of the world, specifcally Sri Lanka.

It's mildly embarrasing to admit this, but it's a subject I've been wholly unaware of until I saw this. Though  I'm immensely proud of my heritage the fact is I've been born and brought up here in the UK and largely with a "western" attitude towards religion, whatever that may be.

One of the things I think that involves is an 'opt in' rather than 'opt out' mindset, but that's a topic for another day. Another thing it involves is no mention of women having to cover up much and certainly no mention whatsoever of women who are menstruating not being allowed to visit certain sites.

So when I heard about this in Sri Lanka I asked a few people. I was told that it's just a normal part of everyday life there and many accept it without a second thought, though many think it's archaic and sexist too.

I now know that it's considered 'unclean' by many, that it might invite the wrath of the Gods. Well it seems to me that it's mostly priests blinkered men rather than anyone else who is bothered by it.

I mean, if I were a God or a deity I'm sure I'd be focussing my efforts on helping poverty and suffering, sorting out wars or providing new snare drums to needy drummers, not whether some women are on their monthly cycle when they decide to worship me.

Fucking ridiculous. Just saying.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Gig Rant. Slightly

I was playing a gig with one of my bands on Saturday evening. We've somehow got to do these pretty big rugby gigs at one of the largest professional clubs in the country, in which we play in the bar after the match and get a largish crowd, about 500 - 900 people depending on the match.

These things are raucous, loud and very full on. We've decided that we need to play one long set, as taking a break, even a quick one, means that the crowd start to go home and the place empties sooner. So it's two and a half hours of full on rock music (Oasis, Muse, Killers, that kind of thing), which gets knackering on the drums.

I sit there, playing my little brown arse off, intermittently checking my blood sugar to ensure I'm not on the verge of passing out and stuffing glucose tablets down my neck when needed, and listen with raised eyebrows when the singer or lead guitarist mutter between songs about how tired they are. I'm sure there is no role in a band that is more tiring but it's what we drummers do. Sympathy? No chance.

Anyhow, this gig was full of pissed people. The weather was stunning by London February standards, the home team had just won convincingly and all was good, including, dare I say it, the band.

So of course, some numpty decides he's going to get up on stage to impress his mates.

Up he gets, narrowly avoiding damaging valuable instruments and equipment in the process. The soundman is giving him those "Damage anything of mine and you'll fucking pay one way or the other" looks and the rest of us get on with things.

The bloke gets hold of a tambourine and is now topless, singing and tambourine playing (a term I use in the loosest possible way) and absolute best mates with every member of the band. At every possible moment he comes up to one of us and tells us how great we are, how he'll play anything we want. Which is quite bizarre as he clearly couldn't play, I don't know, even something as simple as a bass guitar.

We go along with this for a bit; his mates in the crowd are many and are jeering our hero along happily, but after a couple of songs he's still up there and has been joined by about four others.

I don't have the luxury of a monitor and I have to confess that I had a moment of doubt in myself. There were about four people playing four tambourines and I'm not sure any of them could have put "Tambourine playing - numerous years of experience" on their CV.

I started to think "fuck I've got to keep time here, despite these fuckers, it's my time and I don't care where any of you think you are, I'm in charge." It actually was quite a challenge. I dug in, concentrated hard and did my job, but it took a surprising amount of focus to defeat these random tambourines I could hear all over the show.

The thing is, this idiot stayed up on stage for a good half hour, until he got a bit bored, perhaps realising that it actually is a bit tiring. Another girl had decided to join him and she stayed up for the whole of the set, around forty five minutes at the end. She had the demeanour of one of those people who has a good idea but, once they kick it off, are just not going to back down whatever the circumstances.

She lasted right until the end, but at a certain point she adopted the body language of a passport control person who knows she's being secretly filmed but keeps forgetting it.

At the end of the gig she shook hands with each member of the band and thanked us. Weird, I know, but kind of sweet. I suspect she thought she was some type of guest star, without whom the crowd would have all gone home ages ago.

And I got to thinking. It's kind of okay when these fellows jump up with us, when they play a bit of tambourine, do a few dance moves and make their friends laugh and think they're the bee's knees.
But don't overstay your welcome.

We the band, work hard. We rehearse, we learn songs. We have big fights about the arrangements, about all sorts. We get there hours earlier to set up and leave hours after the crowd once we've taken everything down. We get paid next to nothing too. It really is a labour of love and we really do love it.

So do your thing, have some fun. Then please, get your arse off our stage and let us do our thing.

Rant over.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Rules of I Love You...

Is it too controversial to start by saying that most Sri Lankans, perhaps Asians in general, don't really say "I love you" or express emotions much? I don't recall a single moment when either of my parents said it to me or either of my brothers and I don't hold any grudge or bad feeling towards them for it, I just accept that's life.

Or, come to think of it, am I being unfair in that it might be a generational thing rather than racial? Because I don't think the parents of any of my schoolmates would have been affectionate, either verbally or physically, in those days. It just wasn't done.

In the West kids these days are brought up to say the 3 magic words once every fifteen minutes. It's compulsory, like watching reality TV or having botox done. What's it like in Lanka these days for youngsters? Do they say it a lot or is it frowned upon?

The rules of I love you, they confuse me though. You may know that I have women in my life. I have my now grown up daughters and C, the girlfriend / partner. I don't like using the term "girlfriend" for her because it feels too young, too immature. But (and I'm sorry to admit this, I really am), the word "partner" makes me fear slightly that someone will think I'm referring to my same sex partner. Even as I write this I feel like some sort of caveman. It's wrong and I know it.

The thing is; should one always respond to an "I love you" with an "I love you too"?

C once told me off for doing so, saying that I don't have to respond in kind every single time, that sometimes a person just feels it, says it and it doesn't need the reciprocation.

But then my girls sometimes say it to me and will have a dig if I don't return the thing, like some sort of tennis ball flying back over the net, only I'm unsure if I should have attempted the shot or if I'm even in the game.

I've also noticed that kids say it as a variation on "goodbye" to each other but they usually miss out the "I" and just say "love you". It's bizarre, but to me it changes the whole context, making it sound like "see you later" or "cheers". Add that tiny "I" onto the phrase and it becomes proper and meaningful, like a Sri Lankan man buying a domestic appliance for their wife on Valentines day.

Who said romance is dead?

Monday, February 11, 2019

My name is RD and I'm probably lost.

I was reading Cerno's post the other day, about him being a blogger for 12 years, and it made me nostalgic.

Truth be told, I've forgotten how to write, not that I was any writer in the first place, but I mean really, I can't even get through a sentence without missing a letter or typing a double T there when actually I was going for an apostrophe. That's what mesaginn, Whatsapp and all these new fangled things do to a chap I suppose.

And, in the dark recesses of my mind, I'm aware that most of my last blog posts have touched on the subject of my not blogging very much anyhow. Well that's all a bit self centred isn't it, all a bit about me with no element of me asking any questions about you.

So, how are you?

I reckon you've got older. Been through some major life changes and done things that you thought only your parents did. You might well be a parent yourself now, dealing with the trials, tribulations and joys of raising youngsters and, if you ever have time to pause, wondering how it happened so quickly.

Do you even still exist?

I know we witneesed the sad passing of one or two bloggers, but generally I'll put my money on you still being around. Though most likely not reading this, as none of us read blogs. You might have emigrated to Australia (Hello G12!). I wonder, are you even doing what you thought you'd be doing now? Many have changed careers and are doing something they enjoy and others are wildly successful in the career they set out on.

And Colombo, how you've grown!! Every time I go there the skyline is unrecognisable. That Lotus Tower thing, that I so hated at the beginning, has now become a landmark that the whole of the metropolis seems to point at. It glares at everyone with its purple and greenness (I used a word with 3 sets of capital letters!) and for people like me, with the sense of direction of a deflating toy balloon, it gives a decent indication of which way you're going.

So, I should tell you, I'm now 53. Yes, that's getting on a bit. But it's taken me until very recently to realise that thing; that I have no sense of direction. With age comes wisdom (some) and I used to think I was normal, that I could find my way around a place as well as any man. But I can't and I admit it.

It takes me I reckon about 5 - 6 times as long as the average person to get familiar with  the Geography of a place. Satnav is my friend in that I use it to get myself to place that other people smell their way to. Then, whan I finally memorise the route, the person usually moves house or the one way system changes, not that that ever happens in Colombo or London.

It's ok. I'm dealing with it. I've stopped pretending. I've stopped thinking of mental navigation as some sort of worthiness and a measurement of a person and I'm admitting to myself and all around me that I'm as clueless about how to get somewhere as a fart in a collander.

But, if you see me, it could be in Colombo or London, looking aimless, staring at my phone and for all the world behaving like a Colombo businessman in a branch of Tesco, you'll know why.