Country Music

Friday 5th August

It used to be called Country and Western when I was a boy, the Western bit I suppose because of the cowboy hats which every country singer seemed compelled to wear.  The first ‘country’ music I remember must have been novelty songs like ‘The Runaway Train’ or from musicals like ‘Calamity Jane’ or ‘Seven Brides’.  But Hank Williams songs were sometimes played on the radio, his plaintive lonesome voice yearning out to us, and Elvis was sometimes country too; in fact the roots of Rock’n’Roll are deeply embedded both in the Blues music of the Deep South and in traditional country music.  This is now called ‘Bluegrass’ and is a separate genre, but grew out of the early settlers who often came from Ireland or Scotland and brought their fiddles and accordions with them.

But the first real country music I loved was Johnny Cash, with his deep voice and distinctive guitar, and he sung songs about ‘Folsom Prison’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue’.  I can remember seeing him on TV live from San Quentin prison, almost an outlaw himself. There was also Roy Orbison singing his lonely songs and the big hit ‘Pretty Woman’.   But during the Sixties, as The Beatles and The Stones revolutionised popular music, Country became distinctly old-fashioned, music reserved for old people who liked Don Williams and George Hamilton and Jim Reeves.  There were exceptions like Dolly Parton and Glen Campbell who broke through into the charts occasionally but for my generation ‘Country and Western’ was totally uncool.

Then the Byrds released ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ which was a new style of country and folk mixed with lots of jangling guitars but still those lovely sentimental harmonies and great romantic melodies.  The Eagles followed and this new style ‘Country’ music suddenly became cool again, they even released an album called ‘Desperados’.  Around ’76 I bought another great country album “White Mansions” sung by several rising country artists like Emmy Lou Harris.  Country is huge again, and is now called Americana with stars like Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett digging deep into ‘roots’ American music.  A few years ago the old and great Johnny Cash started a series of ‘American Recordings’, very basic, just his voice and guitar and suddenly he was the coolest ‘old’ man on the planet.

Country music has this huge emotional pull; you almost involuntarily start to smile as you hear those sweet and often sentimental melodies again.  Just like ‘Rock and Roll’ and Soul it will probably never die.

2066 – William and Janek Meet Again

Thursday 4th August

Conversation date 20661121

-[So my friend we meet again.  Hello Janek.]-

Yes, as you can see I am using the biro and pad.  So, hello William.

-[We managed to get some of your old yellow pads you used to use crunching numbers for us. We always wondered why you relied on them; they are such antiquated tech.  But it seems to work, your writing is still pretty neat, and completely legible.]-

This seems easier, quicker at least than using any form of keyboard.  And natural, I can’t tell you why.  Amazingly, even though I am still trying to re-learn voice-speech, it seems as if my hand can still remember how to write.  Hardly anyone bothers to write now, but I can still ‘remember’ how to.  How strange is that?

-[Remarkable.  But in every way you have proved to be remarkable.  I cannot begin to tell you how valuable your contribution has been.]-

Contribution?  Funny, it doesn’t seem that way to me.  If you remember, dear William, there really was no choice.  I was hardly a volunteer.

-[Well, I am not proud of the thinly veiled threat I made.  The truth is that we were never going to euthenase you.  There were those who wanted you ‘clagged’, for a while at least, to teach you some sort of lesson.  But I think you had suffered enough, besides you were far too valuable to us.  Your whole running away, your failed attempt at freedom, was the very vehicle we needed to co-erce you into the ‘select’ programme.  Your skills, your remarkable ability had long ago been noticed.  We had you on our radar already.  But we also knew that you weren’t ready.  You were simply not the sort of chap to volunteer without at least some persuasion.  But after your little escapades we, I, felt you may be ready.]-

Ready?  That’s a strange way of putting it, isn’t it? I was only ready because I was totally defeated.  At the very end of any resistance I might once have put up.  Fucked, is the word for it.  And literally fucked too, by the way.  Has anything been done about that bastard Skinner and his super-priviliged chums, or are they still buggering any poor idiot who wanders into their compound?

-[There are some decisions taken by the government, the powers that be, that are not always completely understandable.  I share your horror, your indignation; your sense of betrayal.  I would like to say that I share your pain, but that might sound fatuous.]-

Yeah, well.  I suppose at the moment that episode pales into insignificance compared to my present state.  Who would have thought I would ever be so helpless.  I think I am making some sort of progress, but it is slow.  Painfully slow.  I can, as you can see control my right hand, though I still fall flat on my face when I try to walk.  Or is that a metaphor for my whole life?  Also can I beg you to try some other form of pain-killer for this bloody headache?  It is so constant, that I cannot think over it.  It is like a block, a huge lump of rock, a slab of concrete right in the middle of my brain, and it is stopping me from thinking straight

-[Of course, we too are concerned that you are suffering.  You said you thought you could detect some progress.  Can you possibly elucidate?  Apart from using your hand how are you feeling?  In yourself, you know.]-

Elucidate?  That’s an old-fashioned word William.  If only.  Elucidation seems a long way away.  The progress is that I do not feel quite so tired.  I still like to sleep, to drift off recalling scenes from my babyhood.  But I am not so tired, not so weary.  In many ways the world I inhabit now is similar to babyhood, that most delightful and most forgotten of states.  I have people to feed me, to clean me, to wake me, to adjust the temperature when I am cold, to change my nappy even (diaper the Yanks call it, but actually guys it is a nappy. I assume that we are still in England, so please use the language we bothered to invent).  Strangely I don’t feel ashamed of this at all; being pretty helpless I mean – though I do have to turn my face away when one of the female assistants lifts my flaccid cock by the foreskin, and with rubber gloves over her pretty little fingers wipes the shit off my balls.  After all my condition is hardly my own fault.  And I do sort of know when I am going to pee or shit, I just cannot get myself to the toilet on my own.  You couldn’t just give me some buzzer, I suppose.

  -[Of course, how thoughtless of us.  A buzzer, why on earth didn’t we think of that?  Relying may be too much on the Hypercom’s analysis of your condition to notice the obvious.  It will be sorted straight away.  How about all this sleep, Janek?  This is worrying us.  It was never anticipated.  Can you tell me something about why you think you need so much sleep?}-

I just do William.  I am only happy when I am asleep.  Waves of contentment flood over me as I drift off.  At times I feel as if I am on a Lilo, basking in the sun and I just want the current to carry me away.  Far from shore, in fact so far out that there is no way back; that’s what I want.

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden – by Jonas Jonasson

Wednesday 3rd August

I don’t often buy a book simply by the title, but when one starts with “The Girl Who” and is by an obviously Scandinavian name then I am intrigued.  A few years ago I read the Millenium trilogy starting with “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and they were really good.  These led me on to the Wallander books and I have read a couple of other Scandinavian writers along the way.  Anyway I bought the book on kindle and have just finished it.

Where do I start?  Firstly it is not a detectives story, or a murder mystery or anything of that genre at all.  Secondly it isn’t particularly Scandinavian; admittedly a large part of the action takes place in Sweden, but it could just as well be America or France or England, there are no descriptions of the dreary weather, I don’t think that snow is mentioned once either.  The book is rather a sort-of political fable.  There are very real politicians involved in the story but highly fictionalised versions (I hope) of them.  The story itself is ridiculous, absolutely improbable and with so many twists and turns that you stop ‘believing’ after a few pages.  The real beauty of the book is in the writing and the ‘hidden’ asides and the philosophical messages it sends out to one.  It is also very funny in a black or dry style, reminding the reader all the time of the perfectly ridiculous nature of the obvious.

The story starts in South Afrca with ‘the girl’ who through a series of bizarre co-incidences travels to Sweden and meets two brothers with the same name.  I must admit to begin with I was quite transfixed and then I lost it in the middle, which became a bit tedious, after all the book though quite slim stretches over a few decades where sometimes very little happens, but the ending was better.  And you always knew, more or less, what would happen as the title suggests she does save the king of Sweden.  Anyway quite a unique book and a good if challenging read.  I am not sure if I even recommend it as I don’t think everyone would like it.  But I thought I might just share my thoughts with you, as is my wont….hahaha

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by [Jonasson, Jonas]

P – is for Pink Floyd and a Messy Divorce

Tuesday 2nd August

The Final Cut was ironically the final cut that the classic Pink Floyd made; the album broke the band.  Or rather Roger Water’s paranoia and increasing dominance of a group that had once been more like a hippy collective than a classic rock band.  Rick Wright was even relegated to a paid session player as Roger insisted on everything being more and more political and angry.  Well, of course the band broke up after or during this, and were never really the same again.  The three remaining members, who managed to keep the name, released two more albums a few years apart and an excellent live one too.  But somehow the magic had gone, this was a gentler sound, excellently played but lacking in any real energy – or relevance.

Roger also released three more records, much in the same vein as The Wall and The Final Cut, but although quite successful these also lacked something.  Roger has continued to tour every few years, reprieving both Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, and if you closed your eyes it really could be the Pink Floyd of old; he employed brilliant players and spared nothing in effects and incredible video and light shows.

The original band had practically ceased to exist when Rick Wright died a couple of years ago.  Dave Gilmour re-mixed some left-over music and released “Endless River” a year ago, but this was a pale shadow of Floyd music – one wonders why he bothered, but then it sold massively well, so more pennies in the coffers.  In a way both Roger and he are milking the old legacy of Pink Floyd.  And the saddest part is that Syd Barrett, the founder of the Floyd, who disappeared in the early Seventies suffered from mental illnesses and died a few years ago away from all the fame and success and the wonderful music he had helped to create..  The band is no more, the divorce is final (but I bet we still get a few more re-releases and box-sets).

2066 – William is deeply affected by Janek’s plight

Monday 1st August

-[Oh Janek, my heart went out to you as I read those words, as they slowly appeared, letter by painful letter on the screen.  For after all of this, the new republic, the advance and success of the Hypercom world, the ‘select’ programme itself; we are still humans.   Yes, my friend, I will talk to you.  Face to face.  No screen-conferring, no artificial interface at all.  I am looking forward to it.  I am more confident than a few days ago that this will turn out well.  We made a mistake, but hopefully not a fatal one.  It was stupid of us to have attempted the reverse conjoining in quite the way we did.  I know that Janek himself was pushing for this too, but we should have been more cautious.  Why was there such a rush?  What advantage did we gain in our headlong charge into the unknown?

Well, there is no point in recriminations.  The very nature of ‘select’ is to learn about the human mind, to change the nature of evolution.  And despite setbacks, despite this setback indeed, we have achieved so much.   I am not sure exactly how we will communicate.  Your speech is still slurred to the point of incomprehensibility.  I will make sure there is a slate available for you, and an old-fashioned biro, if that is what you would prefer.  I am even making arrangements for your old A4 yellow lined pads to be fed-exed over at once, if you want to use them.

We have also attempted a different way of accessing Janek’s stored memories from the Hypercom databank.  We are running one of them through an extremely low-level, still experimental version of nanopowered slate.  This is built organically using living cells and uses only three percent of micropower, just a glimmer of energy.  The slate is also very low-level tech, similar to those old tablets that swept the world fifty years ago.  Absolutely no link however to any other tech at all; a very simple set-up.  We are even transferring the memory files, one at a time, by an old-fashioned memory stick.  So far, so good.  The image is only 2D of course, and cannot be copied, but although it eventually fades and dies it has lasted for at least an hour, and could be re-played again and again without deteriorating to any noticeable degree.  So, we now have great hopes of retrieving and actually saving his memories after all.]-