Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Things I've Learned from the first year of doing @GBApodcast

The following things are things I've learned, achieved and considered in my first year of making Getting Better Acquainted. Many of the things I've learnt have come from conversations that haven't come out yet but will be aired in 2012.


Having spoken to so many people about themselves, and tried to empathise and find common ground, I've been reminded that we are both similar to each other and very very different. Everyone is weird because everyone is not you, and you are weird to everyone else.

All three conversations with my mother (but especially the third) yielded both the revelation that if I am to forgive myself my flaws then I have to forgive my mother and her mother their flaws. For they are the same flaws. All of spring from the same river and it flows down.

The weekend I recorded those conversations was a highly emotional one where I also held a new born child in my arms, interviewed some old and dear friends and spent time with my 6 year old niece.

From that weekend came my new attempt to sum it all up:

"We're all just people trying to get through life in whatever way we can."

GBA 24 Mum #1 by Getting Better Acquainted

To look out for: Mum #2, Mum #3 and the GBA special devoted to this revelation.


Meditation / Yoga

I've talked to people about these practices and I've come to the conclusion its time to get rid of both my sneer at, and fear of, meditation and yoga. My fear of silence probably needs to be conquered. These practices may help me find more peace in myself and give me perspective on all the chatter and clutter. I find that I crave a great stillness. But how do I find a way to fit it into my time? That's something I've yet to learn. Hopefully 2012 will offer up the answer.

Whatever my problems with fitting these new and possibly beneficial projects into my life, one thing I scribbled down after a GBA conversation was:

"I have the resolve and drive to get my shit done so I need to just do it. But also relax about it. Give myself space to breathe."

And I have done that. I'm less harsh on myself than I was. And I'm getting things done. Possibly more. But I take time out for myself and I'm enjoying the process more. I'm less desperate to race to the end.

GBA 23 Jessica by Getting Better Acquainted

GBA 27 Joss by Getting Better Acquainted

Look out for: Lily


Learning in the edit

Some conversations have been a revelation repeated. And sometimes I didn't notice what I learnt the first time properly!

Listening back to my conversation with Louise I realised I'd been on the path to the above mentioned revolution earlier than I'd thought and her wisdom in that conversation and the things I said in response informed and strengthened it.

GBA 19 Louise by Getting Better Acquainted

Listening back to the conversation with my brother Tony I realised that it would be interesting to people who didn't know us. That it was in the words of Jen a conversation full of "startling honesty". At the time i'd been disappointed with it. In the edit I realised that it had been a really great conversation and one that I should reconsider and remember. One of many times this year I've learnt things on mic.


Friendship and Family

I didn't expect the conversations to be so personal. I should have expected it but sometimes you don't think about the most obvious things. You don't fully consider them.

So many conversations were journeys into shared history. And often at the heart of that history is shared love. So I've had a chance to examine the bonds of closeness I have with people.

GBA 22 Zoe by Getting Better Acquainted

GBA 16 Owain by Getting Better Acquainted

GBA 11 Clive by Getting Better Acquainted

GBA 4 Liz by Getting Better Acquainted

GBA 6 George by Getting Better Acquainted

To look out for: Jess, Richard, Alex, Jack and George, Jen

I've also realised I was closer to more people than I thought and gave felt friendships deepen on mic.

GBA 31 Ged by Getting Better Acquainted

GBA 2 Elspeth by Getting Better Acquainted

And i've reconnected with old friends and places and revelations have come from that. Not just revelations but wedding invitations and day trips.

GBA 26 Angela by Getting Better Acquainted

GBA 17 Cardiff by Getting Better Acquainted

Look out for: Steve and The Coventry Special



The show has been organic in how it's come together. But looking back some themes seem very prominent to me.

Some have come from its structure:
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Occupation
  • Conversation
  • Memories
Others have come from my own preoccupations:
  • Art
  • Class
  • Politics
  • Getting through life
  • Nature verses nurture
And some have surprised me:
  • Faith
  • Death
  • Honesty
  • Coming of age
  • Spirituality
  • Purpose

Even the word plug and the process of asking people if they have anything to plug has been a surprisingly provocative thing. As demonstrated by Eric:

GBA 33 Eric by Getting Better Acquainted



I accidentally deleted GBA 1 which is why it now appears out of sequence. In the aftermath of that mistake I discovered that Soundcloud offers the ability to create a spotlight tab which I'm now using to house a set of episodes designed to introduce the new GBA listener to the show.

Soundcloud also allow you to create sets which has allowed me to start grouping connected episodes together. So the show has its actual order, that is designed with variety and range in mind. But now you can also follow strands of the show. I see GBA as a tapestry anyway but now it is easier to unpick.

Musicians by Getting Better Acquainted

Theatre by Getting Better Acquainted

These separated strands also bring out the element of the show that is an audio autobiography told through the connections I have made with others.

Family by Getting Better Acquainted

University Friends by Getting Better Acquainted



I've been on four GBA road trips this year and this is an element I hope to expand in 2012. The other two (Coventry and Bristol) will be coming out next year.

GBA 15 Edinburgh Festival by Getting Better Acquainted

Three of these four trips were journeys into my past literally, although the fourth one was even more related to my past in both less and more direct ways. You could say all of them were about facing and coming to terms with myself. Or my-selves, who I am now and who I was then.

I've also been travelled to other peoples homes and other locations to record people from The National Theatre to Hemel Hempstead.

Or for example to a borrowed flat in Stoke Newington:
GBA 13 Richard Tyrone Jones by Getting Better Acquainted

Sometimes others have travelled to me for conversations. Like Eric
who came for night and stayed for a weekend:

I've snatched conversations in places that I was travelling like this one with Matt that was recorded at a friends wedding.


Feeling blessed

The word blessed isn't one I'd normally use, maybe I've been influenced by all the conversations I've had. But regardless blessed is the only word I can find to describe how I feel about many of the conversations that I've had. This one for example:

GBA 18 Sam by Getting Better Acquainted

To look out for: Dad 3, Sonia, Natti

The conversations have had big effects on me. It was nice to find that they had big effects on others. For example Hayley on listening to Elspeth's GBA was inspired to embrace her faith more. She was also inspired to write a song called "Leave the body" a song being recorded for The Reactionaries new album. We'll be performing the song at the Stand Up Tragedy launch date on the 6th of February 2012.

GBA 9 Hayley by Getting Better Acquainted


Off Mic

So often the conversations and socialising that happened off mic but nevertheless happened as a result of meeting with people to record the show have been even more illuminating than what you hear. I'm often catching myself thinking "Doh! Why aren't I recording this?" Although I'm trying to cut down in that and remember one of the rules I try and record by: "You get what you get and you don't get upset."


Self Perception

This year I've really heard myself. At my worst and my best. There is nothing like recording yourself for 4 days talking to your school friends to make you hear a facet of yourself properly. The year began with plenty of that as I worked on what I consider the failed project 4 Days in a Room.

In fact 4DiaR was a big influence on GBA. I learned what works and what doesn't. And I wanted people to hear the other me's. The people I was or could be with my other friends and in different rooms.

So I've heard my voice a lot. On GBA I hear my voice on monitor headphones during the conversations. And later I hear it again in the edit.

I'm very aware of how it sounds, it's tone, the vocal ticks I have. I still find hearing myself hard. I'll think I've become used to it and then I'll find another conversation where I do things I wish I hadn't.

But i'm more philosophical about it now. I've also heard and edited a lot of other peoples vocal ticks. I know my voice doesn't annoy other people as much as it does me. And that the balance sheet has a lot of good moments on it; for every time I talk over someone when they were about to say something amazing, is a time when I listen well, or ask the perfect question. It evens out.

I also think I now hear my own voice in everyday life closer to how it sounds in reality. This is probably a good thing, although I'm not sure in what way it is good yet.

I've been creating things for years but this has been the first project people have sent me emails telling me they like it. Often people I don't well at all. And even occasionally strangers.

It really made my day when Helen Zaltzman from Answer Me This tweeted the show saying:

And we've also had twitter support and respect from Risk and I Like You. The show has a consistent international listenership and was recommended by SoundCloud.

And I've had some really great iTunes reviews and soundcloud comments this year.

All of this plus the mind expanding journey this project had been for me has helped me to see my own strengths as well as my weaknesses.

It has been a surprise to realise that my work has been leading in this direction for years. In fact it was an off mic conversation with my friend Richard (whose episodes will air in the new year) where I first realised this.

It has also been strange to realise that I am the product here. That this form is such a personal one and that on my search to explore truth I have come to this point where there is no filter between myself and the audience. Or at least only the small but crucial filters of the edit and the context.

There is no author or rock star pose, there is just me. My life. The people I know. Our stories.

In many ways this has been very liberating.

The change in my understanding that this project had been us a big part of what has led me to "book the room". This phrase comes from The Dialogue Project's Karl James whose GBA will air in three weeks. The meeting we had only happened because of GBA. And that goes for many other meetings I've had this year.

(I didn't meet with Karl till just after I'd booked the room.)

The room is The Lounge at The Leicester Square Theatre. The show is Stand Up Tragedy.


The Form

I've thought a lot this year, both on and off mic, about the form of GBA. What things it offers that other shows don't. The kind of marvellous medicine that it's ingredients make.

The show is long form and takes the audience on a journey. In fact considering the nature of what the show is and how it relates to what I do (music, writing, performance) has led me to the conclusion that what I'm interested in doing is taking audiences on journeys. I am a jouneyman and not a jack of all trades.

The moments when life intrudes into the conversations seems to me to be the crux of what it's about. When a dog interrupts or a car revs it's engine it exposes the mechanics of the show. But unlike in most forms, where exposing the mechanics makes the show feel less real, in snatched conversations it makes them more real.

The conversations happen in places TV and radio don't go to. In the guests homes, on river banks, in din filled back gardens, walking round the streets of Brixton, Edinburgh and Cardiff. In crowded pubs. In silent front rooms. In sunny back gardens filled with birdsong. And they are captured moments. Spontaneous.

But a microphone is present and that both changes and frames the moment.

The phrase I've settled on that described it is: Heightened realism


Turning 30

I began GBA in my 30th year. I always thought I'd hate thirty. Ridiculously I've been depressed by getting and being older since I turned 22. But I actually like being thirty.

Partly because in meeting up with people I went to school with like and seeing how far they've come I've realised how far I've come. "We've left school behind" as an old friend who wishes to remain off mic put it.

Also kicked off by GBA has been a reanalysis of my past. This has been partially lived out on mic. It is important to try and forgive your past, embrace it as part of yourself, and I am both pleased and surprised to find myself doing both.

Getting older is ok. Being young was rubbish. I know myself so much better now.

One of the things I know is that I don't know anything very much. But one thing I do know is that I am very glad to have found Getting Better Acquainted. It seems to fit. I am very proud of it.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

@WTFpod with @marcmaron : A full on recommendation:

If you don't already listen to WTF with Marc Maron then can I really strongly suggest you start. The latest with Michael Ian Black is a great conversation between two very similar and very different people who share a respect and distrust for each other. Plenty of tension but also some revelation.

But there are so many other amazing conversations. They really get into what being an artist in the modern world really entails, the contradiction and humanity that lies below the face of" Holywood" or "Show Business" and the experiences and instincts that can drive people to dark places but also inspire them to try and share their experience.

Marc Maron talks to people you'll have heard of and people who you don't know at all. Often the people you'd never heard of turn out to have some of the most amazing conversations the show offers.

Here's some people he's had on the show: Stewert Lee, Sandra Bernhard, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Rock, Robin Williams, Tig Notaro, John Hamm, Bryan Cranzton, Ira Glass, Janeane Garofalo, Anthony Bourdain, Doug Stanhope, Louis CK, Jud Apatow, Gary Shandling, Aubry Plaza blah blah blah...

But the show isn't so good because it has famous people on it. It's good because people really talk. And they try and understand each other and they try and work out life and art and all that shit. It has an intimacy to it generally recorded in Mark's garage, and the conversations are between people who often know each other personally and have some history together, or at least who work towards the same sorts of goals and desires.

It's such a great show. And in many ways is both the model and inspiration for Getting Better Acquainted. If you find initially that the intro monologues are a bit too full on give it time, they aren't too long and then the conversations begin, and as you learn to know Mark in an intimate way you are able to "get" him and the intros stop being abrasive and start being moving, funny, annoying (in a satisfying way) and sometimes incredibly profound.

I love this show.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Off the road

Just nearly got run down by a scarily hard seeming bloke on a bike.

"Why'd you turn the wrong way?" he said.

"I don't know. I'm sorry." I said.

"Get off the fucking road then you fucking cunt!" he said.

"I'm sorry" I mumbled again and hauled my heavy bag out of his way.

He rode off on the pavement (which we were both on at the time.) Him and his silent female friend sped over the road at a super sprint riding over the pedestrian crossing (when the lights were red).

At the other side of the road he stopped on the pavement and glared at me. Then the swerved round an old lady and swept out of my life.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The truth behind #Clarkson...

These stupid attacks on Clarkson's right to free speach put fog around the truth. To not have legal attacks on Clarkson for his conduct (and I bet you that none will be instigated) is to have a double standard.

Many people are prosecuted unfairly in this country; the twitter joke trial, fortnum and masons 140, etc... People received 4 years for a Facebook page advocating rioting. Even though it didn't incite a riot.

If Clarkson shouldn't face legal proceedings (and I don't think he should) then none of them should face it either. This is what people should be complaining about. This is where we have something worthy of outrage.

When people make public statements against power it is being seen as illegal. When they make them with power, even in an offensive way, it is not.

That is not fair. It isn't right. And it is the way things have always been, to a greater or lesser extent.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Striking Issue 2: Blinkers

Osbourne says: "While I accept that a 1% avarage rise is tough, it is also fair to those who work to pay the taxes that will fund it."

I'd like to remind the chancellor and many people posting anti-public service worker stuff that people who work in the public sector ARE people who pay the taxes that fund them. You pay my salary. But I also pay my salary. You benefit from the services I provide and so do I.

I've heard reports of people telling leafleting strikers to "get a job". Well they have one. That's why they can strike.

I respect many positions on the current events. But I'd like an end to these silly ones please.

Striking Issues: We're all just trying to get through life...

ATN: Public and private sector:

Please stop buying into the narratives created by the political classes. We aren't against each other. We are all being attacked by cuts to our public sector, by increased food prices, redundancies, etc... It doesn't matter what sector you are in.

It's disgusting that it's illegal to hold a general strike that would gave the power to unify us and allow us to insist on an ate alternative. Our unelected government do not have a mandate to dismantle/privatise the welfare state. They are holding us to account rather than the banks and corporations. Nothing is being done to address the terrible inequality of the super rich having so much.

In terms of strikes. Yes, it is a hard choice. There are no perfect options. Yes, we ALL deserve to be treated better. Yes, much of what we have is unsustainable in terms if resources and environmental impact. Yes, the poorest are really badly affected by public service strikes. Just as they are by private service strikes. Most people don't strike lightly. They lose their pay. It is a right to withdraw your labour. A right I believe should be extended to everyone, union member or not.

Everyone is just trying to get through life! Let's stop squabbling and respect peoples decisions. If you are on strike I understand that decision. If you choose to break the strike I understand your decision. Neither option is ideal.

Let's stop all this nonsense and remember who the people with the REAL power are. Let's start saying: "after you've addressed all the other places money can be found, like tax avoidance, Robin Hood/Tobin tax, making the banks pay us back, cutting slower, cutting differently, fair income tax etc... THEN we can talk about cutting public services.Then we can consider the problem of pensions for an ageing population!"

And of course the 1% and the top tiers of the 99% are just people too. The thing is it is wrong for so few people to have so much. Money is just a tool for organising society. It isn't meaningful in itself. It is a fiction we write. And we can rewrite it. Or we would be able to if we could get hold of the pens.

And how about we approach industrial relations with respect?

Teachers could perhaps be offered more time and less paperwork in exchange for cuts. Public service workers could be offered free transport to and from work to offset the changes to their previously agreed terms. It is hard to have agreed to something, worked with that understanding for years and have it changed by someone with better conditions to you.

We need to move forward with empathy, understanding and the aim to make things more fair and equal. Our political classes and others with power are failing to do this. Let's lead by example and show then how they should behave by taking this approach to each other.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

"That brief period between 1917 and 1979, when British wealth, trembling in fear of revolution, ceded some power, opportunity and money to the working classes is over. There is now no politics to express or admit the enormity of what has happened since the 1980s – how wealth and human respect drained from the bottom to enrich and glorify the top."

Polly Toynbee. Gdn 14.7.11
(Via my dad.)

I don't always like Toynbee but that quote is spot on.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Future

Yesterday I saw The Future by my favourite short story writer Miranda July She is also an artist, filmmaker and performer.

I loved the film. It resonated with me on lots of levels. It was, I guess, a magical realist film, although for all its surreal elements, it felt straight forwardly realistic to me. It seemed to represent exactly how I experience the world: a bittersweet existential dream.

The only thing I felt was wrong with the film was the voice of the cat who narrates the film. It was voiced by Miranda July who played the female lead. But the cat is a male cat. I think she voices the cat as his monologues may just be in her characters imagination. That's fine. So make the cat a female cat. Or else lose that idea and have a male voice for the cat.

This film was the kind of film people either love or find really annoying. I loved it. Why not see how you feel about it?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

God is in the detail: RIP Jackie Leven

A great but sadly unknown singer and song writer has died. A man who lived terrible things and made them into warm and wonderful songs. Warm like the sunshine falling on the polar ice. Warm like your hand feels when it holds something dead. Warm like almost cooled metal that has been smelted and beaten.

The first song I heard by Jackie Leven was The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ It's one of those perfect songs that punches you in the gut and then reaches up to wrap itself round your heart, squeezing gently. It smashed into me from a compilation cd made for me by my friend Alex. I was 20 years old. I played it on repeat for a long time. I didn't want to stop hearing it.

It seemed to be absolutely about me and at the same time it was about everything that has ever existed. It seemed to describe both my soul and all of history. It didn't change me exactly. It was more that it uncovered something in me that had always been there but id not known before. From then till now that part of me has always been there, close to my surface. Poking out from time to time.

I borrowed the album Fairy Tales for Hard Men and listened to it. It was full of songs and a voice that spoke in simple poetry about domestic violence, alcoholism and drug addiction. Intensely personal and yet amazingly universal it mixed the specific and the transcendental. I could relate absolutely despite never experiencing those things.

I listened to the album every morning and evening as I walked between my house and campus, Leven's voice engraving itself into the slate of my mind. My feet kept time with him as I walked along the thin, winding, Lancashire roads. Twice I found myself crying.

A year later in a small church in the city of Edinburgh my girlfriend and I saw him play. A man in his 50's, overweight with long, greying, scraggly hair he didn't look impressive. He called to the venue staff for a pint glass half full of red wine and half full of white. He drank 3 of them that night. He explained that his voice had only just recovered from when he was stabbed in the throat. He'd had to learn to sing again.

He started to play.

Despite being only one man and a guitar he provided rhythm worthy of a full drum kit, his tapping foot miked up booming the bass, his fingers beating out snares and toms on the body of his instrument. His healed voice reached high up into the churches rafters and whispered in your ears.

In between songs he told hilarious anecdotes about heroin addiction, death and suicide. They were funny, sad and absolutely enthralling. They were warm, wry and above all else painfully human.

We were sat on the front row. It felt like he'd invited us into his front room. He asked people for requests and I called out for The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ. He looked me in the eyes and said in his soft Scottish accent;

"It's a great song. But I can't sing it anymore since the stabbing."

He looked me in the eyes.

And he played Exit Wound instead. And I'd never heard it before. And it was beautiful.

Afterwards in the bar we bought his CDs. Unlike when I've bought CDs from singers before and after I felt like something had passed from him to me. Not an exchange. He had given me something. He looked right into me, from the stage and in person, but there was no judgement there just understanding.

We were the only young people there and in that respect I think we did touch him a little. He was surprised we knew him.

And even though I know it's not true I do feel like I knew him.

Which is why I feel sad that he's gone.

Friday, 11 November 2011


This is what I think we should be remembering: WW1 was a war about money and power that massacred a generation. We still wage wars and massacre people for country and capital. Lest we forget.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Bonfire Thoughts

May I suggest taking time this bonfire night to read V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. That book is where the Guy Fawkes masks you see at various demonstrations and occupations comes from. I'm not too keen on the appropriation of those masks in that way. But the book is really worth reading. It is very relevant to the current political climate. A very cautionary tale that influenced my thinking greatly. I fully support the occupations and protests too despite the masks. There is gross inequality in this world and we need to address it. The way we are structuring things isn't working. But we can always choose to rearrange it. Or even change it all together.

Friday, 4 November 2011

First reaction

I half hate this new song from @AmandaPalmer Reasons for the hate:

1.I'm not a John Lennon fan, specifically Imagine might be the song I hate most... ever. In a choice between Angels by R Williams and Imagine I would choose to keep Angels. Obviously songs that inspire hate are catchy, you even love them on one level, but they are horrible big lies, and they are full of smug self aggrandisement from their singers.

2. Sid Vicious annoys me. His myth has been mentioned enough. This is a twist on it sure, but I'm sick of him. He ruined one of my favourite bands and is a sad train wreck not an icon.

3. It encourages more people to play the ukulele which helps to make me both less special and more of a "cool" poser for playing one. Everyday I worry I will wake up and find I've become a hipster over night.

4. It's pretty simplistic.

I love it for all the obvious reasons ;-)

DISCLAIMER: only heard it once so far.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fun and Games

Recently I've been bombarded by games and my attitude to games.

My writing group played games during a recent trip we took to a house by the sea. We didn't play many games, most of the time went down like this and like this, but we played enough to bring back all my complicated feelings about these things.

Then a few days after this my niece and nephew (and their parents) dropped in for a flying visit. This visit was too short and late in the day for a game. But they tried to fit one in anyway. They love playing games.

And then today I listened to this episode of The Dork Forest.

Also some months ago I was at a stag do where we were expected to play Monopoly and Risk. I think that I managed not to play either game. And the alcohol, in that instance, took the edge off the whole thing. As did my current strategy towards playing games which is: "I will not recognise the validity of the game. I will treat winning and losing as equally invalid states. I will try and play the game morally and ethically correctly."

Yes. This technique gets me through it. But it essentially makes me the most annoying person to play against. Well actually the 2nd worst. The worst is me when I don't do this. The me that storms off in a flood of shouting and tears.

Indeed, I am not a fun person to play with. Sorry about that.

I heard recently that monopoly was invented to demonstrate that by becoming a monopoly you cripple everything, no one can carry on, and so no one wins. But we've relegated that message to the subliminal level if we pick up on it at all. People think that becoming the monopoly means you win. I've found over the years that this game will cause me to hate my closest friends. I cannot separate "game" morals from real ones. Which is strange as I have no problem with this in fiction, and I count computer games as fiction. But I cant get lost in an imaginary world when it's represented by pieces on a table top, or a bunch of cards, or a pencil and pen.

So part of my problem is I cant suspend my disbelief. Or maybe that's not quite right, I am somewhere in between belief and disbelief. I know I'm playing a game but I take it seriously. Monopoly means reminding myself how horrible capitalism is. Risk reminds me how horrible imperialism is. And when playing with friends this implicates them in these actions. I hope they wouldn't fuck people over that way. But they are happy to in a game.

The other problem is that I'm really really competitive. But I find competitiveness to be repellent. So playing a game means wrestling with myself and hating myself. This is especially problematic when it comes to things like 'unfairness'. I don't think I'm particularly clever and I definitely have bad coordination. I also don't think these things are valid ways of saying people are better than other people. I don't like meritocracy. I don't like systems that judge and rate people. And that is what games are. I hate both myself for being crap and the structure for making me feel crap. And on the few occasions I win I hate the nasty feeling of being "better" than other people. It's worse because my instincts are to be a right wanker about it.

I tend to be an all or nothing person. I'm not happy unless I either get top marks or I fail spectacularly. By opting out I'm trying to create a narrative where I'm the hero, partly because I'm scared I'll lose, and partly because I'm scared of what I might become to try and win. But it is still, on many levels, trying to prove myself "better".

Games and guilt are synonymous in my mind. I like computer games better because they are immerse and everyone has their own clearly delineated individual narratives.

One real world game I like is Chess. I like it for its elegance and the intense, almost meditative process where you are sketching out an idea of how your opponents mind works. Really it's about understanding the other person. It's intimate and one on one.

I also like Scruples. But then for me it's a game where winning or losing are actually immaterial. You get into the minds, the emotions, the morals, the life experiences of the group, you get into the big ideas. That's what I like to do. Similarly the game Pancakes verses Waffles that my friend Liz taught me is great. We played a short version of this last week and got it down to Hope verses Love. On that night Hope won incidentally. The majority would get rid of Love if it came to the choice.

I also like what I call judgemental Guess Who. Where the only questions you can ask are judgements: "Do they look depressed? Are they gay? Would they steal something?" In this game mostly no one wins as both people (or teams) judge differently. But it's fun. Well it is my idea of fun.

We played Apples for Apples last week. This is a similar kind of game to the above. I thought it was okay but I felt the group should be able to vote on whether the persons definition of a thing was right. I missed the democratic element of a game like scruples.

Surprisingly I won that game. Making my stance the opposite of subversive. "I'm winning but I don't accept the validity of winning." No one wants to hear that!

The last problem I generally have with games (apart from the few mentioned above) is that I find them really boring. But I also feel bad about knocking someone else's idea of fun. I also worry that I must not be fun to be around. And so another cycle starts. Everyone seems to have a higher capacity for these things than me.

But then I have a higher capacity for talking endlessly about big ideas and emotions than some, for many people that quickly becomes boring.

I'd play Scruples all the time if I could.

Sadly I forgot to take it last week.

Friday, 7 October 2011

October and ONWARDS


Podcast news:

Getting Better Acquainted has been getting fantastic responses. People I hardly speak to emailing me out of the blue telling me they're enjoying it. So glad it's working for people. It's certainly changed my life. And it's only just begun, so many great conversations are stored on my hard drives and will be released weekly for at least a year!

The series has a main feed where you can stream or download the episodes: http://soundcloud.com/gettingbetteracquainted/tracks

You can also subscribe and download it via iTunes: http://bit.ly/GBA-iTunes

But when I was reorganising the files to create the direct download option I had a revelation. Another interesting way to listen to the series might be to listen to the separate strands rather than the tapestry:

University Friends
Writing Group
The Cardiff Episodes
Conversations with Musicians
The Fringe Festival Season
Apples for Everyone
GBA Specials

These playlists will grow as the series goes on. New lists will be added.


The podcast experiment Four Days in a Room is over. The last episode aired last monday. We have gathered the best episodes together in a downloadable/streamable playlist: www.fourdaysinaroom.co.uk

These are the 18 best episodes from the series. And they are all that now remains of the project.


From now till mid November I'm producing the true story podcast Spark London on behalf of rethinkdaily. Subscribe to it on iTunes or stream in on Mixcloud

Music news:

The Plural have made written, performed and recorded 1 song each month this year:

There will be three more. Each song is done in a day. This months song was done is 4 hours: http://snd.sc/ns7gCR


The Reactionaries are beggining their second album. It is going to be great. Our first album is here: http://snd.sc/nxzXAn


My new band is still looking for percussion but we are very close to existing. It will be a monthly web series released as a podcast and as YouTube videos. If you know anyone interested in doing percussion for it or getting involved with filming it or designing its website please pass on my details to them. Maybe you're that person in which case drop me a line.

Other news:

Some other things are brewing, both in terms of writing and performing, but they are still in progress so I'm keeping them hush hush.

I did recently experience Hackney Hear and it was AMAZING. I strongly suggest you do your best to experience it too. Follow it on facebook and twitter for all the latest HH details.

Thanks for your time.

Please let me know if you want off this email list!


Thursday, 22 September 2011

The right always claims to hate state control, but what is the death penalty but state control?

What power always wants is control. But control of others not them. Free markets but authoritarian justice systems. Keep the rich white men rich. The kind of liberal allowed is the kind that sells to anyone regardless of their needs. Not the kind that tries to understand and empathise with other human beings. We might not have the death penalty here but we are still governed by a government that supports freedom for those who are already free and state control for those who are already controlled.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A great Haruki Murakami Quote:

"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others - coldly, efficiently, systematically.

I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories - stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.


I have only one thing I hope to convey to you today. We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong - and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others' souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow The System to exploit us. We must not allow The System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made The System."

Haruki Murakami

Full text here.

Monday, 4 April 2011

@marcmaron sums up my current approach to art:

"I live in the world of emotions, of human struggles in a very psychological and emotional way. I wanna know what's beyond the art. In my worst moments I think that art is an excuse for people to hide. In my best moments I think art is a perfect expression that speaks to all those emotions and heightens it."

Marc Maron (@marcmaron on is @WTFpod)

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Getting Better Acquainted [and more...]

Hello my friends,

I was at the TUC March for the Alternative and at some of the UK Uncut Occupy for the Alternative actions. This is my blog about what happening.


I am starting a new podcast in May. It's called:

Getting Better Acquainted

Part 1: A ten minute monologue where Dave helps the audience get better acquainted with him by telling autobiographical stories.

Part 2: A long-form conversation [45-1hr] where Dave gets better acquainted with someone he knows.

Part 3: Audience feedback

[A podcast is like a radio show that is released over the internet and can be downloaded and played on mp3 players (such as iPods).]

To find out more about GBA and to find out about how you can take part check out this blog. I will be approaching many people on this email list about the show more fully at a later date. Go here for a sneak peak at the music for the show.

Four Days in a Room a new podcast series, has it's 13th episode coming out on Monday

"Discussing profound things in a silly way." "A podcast experiment." "An audio journey." "A strange muffled voicemail message that you can't stop listening to!"

Subscribe to it via iTunes. / Or follow it's RSS feed. / Like it's facebook page. / Listen to it on MixCloud

We're blogging the episodes and the reactions to the episodes here: http://www.fourdaysinaroom.co.uk/

If anyone fancies giving listening to it and want a recommendation these are my personal top 5 of the ones we have broadcast:

5. Episode 8: "Is consciousness an evolutionary disadvantage?"
4. Episode 6: Flashback to the first morning
3. Episode 7: "Yes it's Fu*king Political"
2. Episode 9: The Melvin Episode
1. Episode 11: The Journey

Please spread the word and subscribe, we've had a lot of great and interesting feedback to what's gone out so far. The show will take you (and took us) to all sorts of places. Please travel with us. Engage with us. And judge us.

Speaking of listening journeys, said.fm has recently had a few fantastic make overs and is set for some even more exciting developments in the future. If you like audio that's the place to listen. Here's a good blog what they wrote telling you why: http://blog.said.fm/a-clear-signal-through-the-noise (Check out my audio selections here.)

Some of my friends have some good projects. Here are two I want to get behind:

The Hackney Hear: An interactive GPS-triggered audio tour of Hackney, revealing the borough’s best kept secrets in 400 unique audio pieces.

This will be great, but it needs your help. They are doing it through crowd-funding. Which means they need your donations. Even a couple of quid would do. That's the thing with crowd -funding, everyone can pay a small bit and big things can happen. If you can't donate you can support them and spread the word via their facebook and twitter accounts.

Content - a new British sci fi drama
: 148 years in the future, a group of strangers lose their 3D `internet' connection and must set out across a forgotten world to find it again.

This project is just an idea at the moment. But it's a great and well developed idea. My friend has written the first two episodes and he is involved in various different approaches to getting it made. Check out the Pitch
and the Plot Outline. If you like it then like the facebook page. He may be looking for collaborators to help make trailer or promo videos of it. He's really looking to engage audiences in the process of creating this show.

New band still seeking members. (Please spread the word/get in touch)

The Plural's
March 20th track is now available for your listening consideration. We are writing/recording/mixing and releasing 12 songs over 12 days over 12 months. By December we'll have an album of material.

Listen to our first 2 tracks (and all future tracks) on our SoundCloud page.

Like our facebook page to keep informed of when our tunes come out.

The Middle Class Bastards are also available on SoundCloud for free streaming and download. As me and Alex prepare to go in a different musical direction, under a different name, we thought it was time we tidied up the house we are leaving, so that if we ever come back it will be a neat and tidy place to return to.

The Reactionaries album is now AVAILABLE! Yes, over a year after it was finished, and after being mistreated by some people who mess musicians about, we have decided to go completely virtual and completely FREE!

So you can stream and download the album from our SoundCloud page. You can see and download the album artworks and lyrics on our Flickr page.

Other Reactionary places are myspace and facebook

We won't be getting started again properly till September but... The Reactionaries will probably be performing live for the first time at Autumn Shift on May 14th watch the above space for details and developments.



ps Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/goosefat101

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Getting Better Acquainted: New podcast coming in May

GBA is a podcast show being created by Dave Pickering. The format of the show will be:
Part 1: A ten minute monologue where Dave helps the audience get better acquainted with him by telling autobiographical stories.

Part 2: A long-form conversation [45-1hr] where Dave gets better acquainted with someone he knows.

Part 3: Audience feedback
[A podcast is like a radio show that is released over the internet and can be downloaded and played on mp3 players (such as iPods).]


Getting Better Acquainted Needs You:

If you know me then you’re a prefect candidate for the show. Even if you know me through friends and have only met me briefly. Being on the show is not a large demand on your time. I’m looking for an hour or so of conversation. I can accommodate and I can also travel to wherever you are. I’ll provide refreshments (and travel expenses if you come to me.)

There are lots of interview shows with famous people. This is an interview show about the rest of us. Okay so you don't necessarily have anything to plug (although if you do you can). Okay so you aren't used to talking on mic, you aren't generally inclined to do this sort of thing. But you are interesting. Everyone is interesting. Let's have a conversation.

If you have any story that you want to tell then here’s a place you can tell it.

For people who listen to the radio GBA will hopefully be like Desert Island Disks or maybe even Parkinson. For podcast listeners closer reference points might be WTF with Marc Maron, The Nerdist or NPR’s Fresh Air for the main show and The Moth or Spark London for the opening monologue.

What I aim to get from the interviews:

Interesting, moving and engaging conversations.

Personally to learn to listen better.

Find common ground between myself and the guest.

Talk about interesting and unusual experiences or expertise the guests have.

Have a true and genuine conversation.

If this sounds good to you then download the form and get in touch:

[Word Version] [PDF Version]


Saturday, 26 March 2011

The truth...

I have just watched the BBC news. First up any claim that the BBC has a liberal bias is 100% bollocks. What I just watched was a very slanted representation of the march I went on today. The headline should be: Over a quarter of a million protesters marched peacefully through London. That is the most important thing.

A small group of people committing vandalism and clashing with riot police isn't the lead story. Not only is it not the lead story it is also vastly misrepresented by being on a continuous loop. Generally no footage of the earlier march is shown. Everything is violence. And that is already over. [NB at the time of writing this it had all got quiet, it was only later that the clashes began again. This doesn't change any of the following:]

Furthermore they are mixing things up. The violence was NOT committed by UK Uncut. But by a hardcore of "anarchists" / "the black bloc". They are mixing these two separate groups together. UK Uncut did peaceful, intelligent protest.

They even described wanting tax dodgers and banks to pay their taxes as an anarchist ideological point of view. Anarchists do not believe in taxes, let alone that they should be paid. That is stupid misinformation.

By emphasising all of this and even playing footage of the violence as their pro-march talking head [Sunny Hundal] was on they were giving as false impression. They even continued to play it when he said that it was the responsibility of the media to present the events realistically rather than top loading it with the violence. They proved his anti-media point as he made it. BUT pictures lodge in the mind more than disembodied voices.

This is terrible reporting. It also forms lies in peoples minds. All I can hope is that there were so many people there that these lies will be seen clearly. The truth must be told. We also have our OWN media and can spread OUR news via it. Facebook, twitter, whatever, make sure an accurate view is seen by those who weren't there. This is important. Today we said: "Who's streets, our streets." and we walked down them freely communicating a message. Tomorrow we must say "Who's media, our media." and reclaim the truth.

Having seen this footage I will be reconsidering if I sign any future "save the BBC" petitions. I guess they are better than Sky! This is ludicrous behavior, the BBC, like the police, are under threat from these cuts. We ARE all in it together. Apart from the millionaire filled cabinet, the banks that gambled and lost with our money, and the businesses that do not pay the amount of tax they owe.

And now I must go and eat a lovely meal with my fellow marchers, who are currently asking the very real question to each other "What shall we watch that we can trust."


Postscript 1: One reason things are being confused is that whilst UK Uncut closed down and occupied Fortnam and Masons they were NOT the "anarchists" who smashed things up outside and threw stuff. That is why the footage shows UK Uncut banners beside the "anarchists".

Some accounts from UK Uncut protestors who were inside F and M:

Video from inside F and M!!

Alex Pinkerman from UK Uncut in Comment is free

Adam Ramsey in Bright Green

Sarah Morrison in The Independant

Laurie Penny in the New Statesman

Some articles and blogs that present the March and Uncut Actions in the way that I and my friends experienced it:

Stuart White in Next Left

Blog by Emma Bob 3

Blog by Jenny Adamthwaite

Postcript 2: The below video and this video on the guardian website seem to me to be closer to most peoples experience of the March and the UK Uncut Actions:

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A lluman glân Dewi a ddyrchafant

When I arrived in Coventry from North Wales the English thought I had a Scottish/Irish accent and teased me a bit for it. I was 8.

When I arrived in Cardiff the Welsh knew I had an English accent and it was pretty rough for me. I was 12.

I left Wales at 18. My mum moved away so I haven't been back as much as I would have liked.

Wales has more of a sense of itself, lots to be proud of, lots to be angry about. Hatred of the English is really just opposition to power and dominion. Something I've always shared. It's the same thing Northerners feel about Southerners. It's the same thing the Cornish, The Scottish, The Irish, feel - not to mention the many places we enslaved and exploited under the Empire.

Still it is not very powerful to be an English almost teenager with glasses and no friends trying to find new friends. .

That said there is, or was, a cultural identity to Cardiff that embraced me and that I embraced. The first pubs I drank in were Cardiff pubs. The first romances I had were Cardiff romances (unrequited generally). The first bands I played in were Cardiff bands. The first place my words were performed was Cardiff. I love the city. I love it. I love its parks, its accent, its culture, its people.

I've been accepted by a small welsh village and rejected and then accepted by a small welsh city. I think I've done my time, paid my dues, I know that I'm not Welsh. But I also think I'll never be properly English. Some people I know have objected to me classifying myself as British. Well that's as close as I can get really. But still I feel part Welsh.

And certainly I approve of holidays that celebrate revolutionary attitudes (title translates as: And they will raise the pure banner of Dewi) Big believer in the need to fight the power (in a non-violent way). But also I don't like the undertones of nationalism, even believing that we need more community and cultural identity in our culture, the stupidity of saying any country or people are better than another just won't go away.

All that said Happy St David's Day.


Friday, 25 February 2011

Critics of modern RnB...

Critics of modern RnB and to a certain extent Pop know this: it is the artform that most perfectly expresses now. You don't like now. Fair enough. Get out there and change now. You will find that art will change to reflect the new now.

Within the context of now it is beautiful, moving and interesting to listen to. But like now it is also shallow, tecnologically focused and searching for something more.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Sounds of the Clouds

Hello my friends,


The Reactionaries album is now AVAILABLE! Yes, over a year after it was finished, and after being mistreated by some people who mess musicians about, we havedecided to go completely virtual and completely FREE!

So you can stream and download the album from our SoundCloud page. You can see and download the album artworks and lyrics on our Flickr page.

Other Reactionary places are myspace and facebook

The Plural's Feb 20th track is now availble for your listening consideration. We are writing/recording/mixing and releasing 12 songs over 12 days over 12 months. By December we'll have an album of material.

Listen to our first 2 tracks (and all future tracks) on our SoundCloud page.

Like our facebook page to keep informed of when our tunes come out.

The Middle Class Bastards are also avilable on SoundCloud for free streaming and download. As me and Alex prepare to go in a different musical direction, under a different name, we thought it was time we tidied up the house we are leaving, so that if we ever come back it will be a neat and tidy place to return to.

Four Days in a Room a new podcast series, has it's 7th episode coming out on Monday

"Discussing profound things in a silly way."

"A podcast experiment."

"An audio journey."

"A strange muffled voicemail message that you can't stop listening to!"

Subscribe to it via iTunes. / Or follow it's RSS feed. / Like it's facebook page. / Listen to it on MixCloud

We're blogging the episodes and the reactions to the episodes here: http://www.fourdaysinaroom.co.uk/

Please spread the word and subscribe, we've had a lot of great and interesting feedback to what's gone out so far. The show will take you (and took us) to all sorts of places. Please travel with us. Engage with us. And judge us.

Speaking of listening journeys, said.fm has recently had a few fantastic make overs and is set for some even more exciting developments in the future. If you like audio that's the place to listen. Here's a good blog what they wrote telling you why: http://blog.said.fm/a-clear-signal-through-the-noise (Check out my audio selections here.)

Got lots of other exciting projects going on but they will wait for later in the year. As ever if you want to be removed from this list let me know.



ps Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/goosefat101