Tuesday, 30 June 2015

My Social Media Challenge: #FindPeterWhite

When I was three (or at least I presume I was three – maybe I was four, but almost certainly not two) I started going to a nursery at Bradley Green in Worcestershire. I don’t think it exists anymore. There I met Peter White, who became my best friend. Although when we both left nursery at five he went to a different school to me and lived a reasonable distance away, we remained friends for many years, corresponding by letter during term time and then spending the holidays at each other’s houses. Our interests were mutual – He-man, Thunder Cats, Star Wars, Cross Bows & Catapults, Centurions (who even remembers them?) and such like. We would make costumes, write scripts and generally invent and inhabit a parallel universe in which 1980s cartoon themes would be rolled into one mass of geeky fun. And then all of a sudden it ended. I can’t quite recall when, but it must have been around the early 1990s – probably at the age of 11 or 12 or so. I have a flaky memory of the last time I stayed at his house but I don’t really recall I parting of the waves – I think it was just a case of no further action being taken and other distractions happening. And then before you know it, five years have passed, then ten, then... it’s just a memory.

Occasionally I have given this some thought (not that much in fairness) and fleetingly considered if it would be interesting to get back in touch, only to fall prey to immediate distraction. After all, how the hell do I even get in touch with someone for whom I have no address, no telephone number, no email address (email wasn’t even invented then) and to whom I have not spoken to in nearly 25 years? Thats a pretty tough assignment. Google his name? Find him on Facebook? Along with the other 1000 Peter White’s? Consider also that I can’t even recall with precision what he looks like. I can vaguely recall his appearance as a ten year old, but he is now in his thirties – he could have a beard like Gandalf or have had a sex change and look like Beyonce – it’s anyone’s guess. (I'm not actually suggesting that his has incidentally).

But enough of the defeatism. Curiosity killed the cat and I hate cats, so let’s be curious. In the spirit of re-discovery, I am going to set it as my goal to explore whether social media can help me with this quest. I don’t know where I will start, how I am going to do this, whether this is purley a monumental waste of time, or even if there was a deep underlying reason that I have since forgotten about as to why we failed to keep in touch. Hang all of that – let’s try and locate this person!

Starting now – it trends. #FindPeterWhite

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Back from Hiatus (Part Two): The Power of Social

So, taking this from where I left off on my last post, I found myself sat in the back of a taxi, having finished the Heavier Than Heaven biography on the way back from a recent meeting in London. The sun was shining, I felt a little melancholy (actually I felt completely depressed by the last few chapters, but that was tempered slightly by the prospect of arriving back home) and my mind wandered back to the early 90’s and then to the differences in following artists then and now. Back then, you had a small selection of music magazines, most of which were relatively mainstream, with the exception of Kerrang (which itself was still a rock and metal publication at that time) and if you were fortunate to have Satellite/MTV then you’d get access to a few videos plus Headbangers Ball (which would need to be recorded on VHS late at night). Other than that it was fanzines, gigs and word of mouth. Now it’s easy – doesn’t matter how obscure the band, you’ll get information on forums, social media and probably snippets on YouTube. Moreover, audio will be available through file sharing, online mail order, Amazon and a million other avenues. Easy peasy. In one sense it means we’re all more connected, yet in another we’re more distant. I feel I have access to anything I want right now, but equally unless you are into the latest trends then you’ll never feel a part of whatever movement is going on. In the case of music that’s because the last decent trend fizzled out in 1994 when Kurt Cobain died, several other grunge bands broke up or fell victim to drugs and the remainder either sold out or became crap. Nu Metal almost instantly became crap after a couple of promising albums and since then there have been no new genres that can genuinely point to being original. That’s isn’t to say there hasn’t been great music – far from it – it’s just that the internet has transformed consumption of music to something akin to a lunch menu vs a sequential movement. It’s probably better that way, but ultimately something has been lost in the process...

I digress. The point is that things change and the world is a different place. I like to rediscover the past in all forms, but it can become a morose activity at times. Anyway, the point I was leading to was that my reading of those books and the opening up of those memories got me thinking about lost contacts – people I’ve forgotten about, things that stopped happening, that sort of thing. And how that probably wouldn’t have happened had social media been around twenty years ago because those ties would have retained at least a digital fingerprint – a traceable link ready to be resurfaced at a convenient time. Of course, the gap cannot be plugged – once things are lost and you only have limited recollection (or no recollection) of them, that’s that. Which got me thinking – I wonder exactly HOW powerful social media is? I wonder if it really could be put to the test for a particular challenge that I have in mind...?

Friday, 26 June 2015

Back from Hiatus (Part One): Heavier Than Heaven


I’ve been away for some time, not that you have probably noticed because this blog has no doubt grown weeds around it and had a couple of windows smashed in by local kids so you just moved on. Anyway, there are plenty of reasons for my hiatus and I could spend time talking about some of the distracting challenges that I had last summer, or the fact that I’ve moved house this year... or even the shocking events that took over everything over Christmas.

I won’t though. At least not right now – there’s plenty of time for that later. I wanted to come back in with a few thoughts that I had recently when reading a couple of books. At this point I should just mention that I have a habit for picking things up after the event at a time to suit. There are countless films I watch when I can be bothered, which might not necessarily be when they come out or even within the first couple of years. Same with books and music and TV shows. Often this is down to circumstances (like I can’t get to the cinema – a big issue in recent times) but it can also be down to apathy – I’ve rarely been sucked in by the Zeitgeist but it does haunt me once it’s been discarded by everyone else. Anyway, in this instance, I picked up a couple of books that I didn’t bother with a decade or so ago when they were released – the first being The Journals of Kurt Cobain and the second being the Heavier Than Heaven biography.

I suppose I was motivated to do this by the prospect of watching a couple of the up-and-coming / soon-to-be-released Nirvana biopic/film docs and the Journals book is one of those things you can flick through casually, providing you are willing to suspend the idea that it does seem a little intrusive. Heavier Than Heaven on the other hand is an all-consuming piece that really takes something to digest...a little like Baldrick’s poem is starts out bleak, becomes depressing in the middle and the less said about the end the better. Owing to the fact that the end is a known and inevitable outcome it really takes it out of the reader, but then anyone who is a fan of Nirvana’s music will have read it or will want to read it. I had avoided both because the problem with that band is that they became so “owned” by the media and fans alike that it was difficult to maintain a personal connection with their music when the whole world was putting them on a pedestal – and this was even true in the late 90’s and throughout the 2000’s when these sorts of releases were published and various anniversaries were reached. Anyhow, the partial misery of reading of Kurt Cobain’s chronic heroin abuse and a spiral into complete and utter hopelessness and depression has been tempered by the re-discovery of his music, which on the rare occasions that it happens is a great joy: you get the music presented as new once more with the fact that you own the back catalogue and are familiar with the story. It’s partly nostalgic but also a pleasant haunting – like an encyclopedia in which eras can be cherry-picked, blended and dipped into without the all-encompassing chains that come when living through the time itself.

This probably sounds a little too whimsical and essentially I could surmise by simply stating that iTunes is great, but there is a convoluted point, which is that this has provided me with a one hand a retrospect and on the other a chance to compare eras: the early 1990's as a fan of music, film and art vs the present day. Hold that thought...