Brain Bite #18 – The Return of the Living Blog

Posted by Rob on 6th April 2016 in Brain Bites, Other Stuff |

Phew — well, it’s been months since my last post! I’ve been planning to post on here for a while, but everything’s been crazy, and still is — I’m just catching a moment at the end of today (and likely at the end of several days, as I probably won’t have time to finish this blog post in just one of my free moments) to put something together. And since it’s a brain bite, because I’ve got too much to write about, let’s begin with a bit of music.

Dream Theater: On The Backs Of Angels
Dream Theater, who first formed in 1985, are one of the world’s best-known progressive metal bands. Combining much that’s typical of both progressive rock and heavy metal, and featuring a front-man who looks like he should be wearing a Sons of Anarchy jacket, they’re famous for both their creative style and their technical proficiency. This is one of my favourite recent songs from their repertoire — which is extensive, so there’s lots more to find if you like this one. Some of their music is gentler, and some louder — this one rests quite nicely in the middle. Give it a try, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it.

(Also, as a fascinating tidbit — three of the members of Dream Theater (including former drummer Mike Portnoy) are married to three former members of the all-female heavy metal band, Meanstreak.)

Speaking of music…
One thing that I’ve been doing recently is a back-to-basics thing, trying to teach myself the piano from the ground up, using something called Alfred’s All-In-One course, which appears to be a three-book progression from Hopeless to somewhere between grades four and six (probably a mixture of bits from either end). I can already play some bits of music — chunks of Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata, though my knack for Bach’s Invention in A Minor has faded, alas — but learning from the ground up, even from the first book that I’m now working through, has taught me that I really didn’t know too much.

It’s also harder on my hands a little, but I’m hoping that — as I progress — I’ll learn to play the piano, rather than just learning to play a few specific bits of music on it. This does mean playing simple tunes over and over, but I find I’m far more tolerant of that than I once was. Child me was fine with it, teenage me hated it, but adult me seems to be content to wheel back to the beginning and get this right from the ground up. I’m progressing in leaps and stumbles so far — some parts fast, others not so quick, but I’m being more patient than I’m used to.

(Note: as of writing, I’d just spent three days essentially playing variations on When The Saints Go Marching In, and got more satisfaction out of getting it right than I did with most of the more complex things I tried to learn. It’s been many, many years since I last learned any instrument from the ground up, and I’d expected it to be a lot less fun than it’s actually turning out to be.)

And writing!
That’s the point of all this, after all, isn’t it? Well, lately, I’ve been setting the short fiction aside more, and bringing together some of my novel-length projects. I have a lot of drafts written, and all told, they amount to the bones of at least four novels, and possibly as many as six, depending on how you break it all down. In time, I think I’ll bring these together — but at the moment, my mind is pursuing a completely different novel, as that’s the thing that is most exciting me right now. And ultimately, that’s the thing that’ll keep me coming back to it and help me to drive it through to completion.

And food and health!
Not going to harp on this point too much, but it’s all going well at the moment. I also realised recently that the dietary and health plans I’ve followed since 2001 have, essentially, all been part of the same evolution of one new idea — initially born of shunning the failed concepts of the 70s in the hope of finding something that actually works, but then growing from one simple idea into another, until at last you get a more complex model of how human physiology actually works, all backed up by an ever-increasing pile of scientific studies. I’ll revisit this another day in detail, no doubt, but it’s something I’m finding equal parts promising and fascinating at this point.

And Neko, the Mighty Bird Huntress
After a spell of hunting with too much eagerness and not enough stealth, today (which is the third day of writing this blog, for those keeping count on their fingers) Michiko’s speed finally overcame her over-eager nature and let her catch a bird, which was subsequently brought inside with its head inside her mouth, and then rescued by my wife in a panic. I’m not sure whether to feel worse for the bird, which was rescued in a bit of a state of shock and just sat around outside for a while, or for Neko, who probably has no idea why it was such a bad thing that she finally succeeded in catching her birdy.

And, at last…
It’s actually taken me TWELVE DAYS to get from the start of this post to the end of it, which gives some idea of how busy I’ve been. But I’m here now, and I’m going to end as I began — with a little bit of music. Because, after all, why not? And because I think they’re interesting, let’s start with a cover-version that’s been doing the rounds.

I’m very fond of cover versions, and have quite a few that I like — I’ll probably return to posting some of the others later. But for today, though I was sorely tempted to post either a Motorhead cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, or the excellent Nirvana cover of David Bowie’s ‘Man Who Sold The World’ — both worth looking up, if you’re unfamiliar — I’m going with a cover by the metal band Disturbed, of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’.



  • johnwilkins0318 says:

    Now that Dream Theater track is brilliant. The complicated way the instruments are all in sync, but each one played with amazing dexterity. It’s a long time since I’ve seen a bassist as good as that.
    Purely by coincidence, the Disturbed Paul Simon cover has grabbed a lot of attention this past week or so, and it is absolutely stunning. I gather the man himself actually sent an appreciation of it to the band.
    Poor ol’ Michiko must feel like Squit did when we stole her mouse – I’m sure she thought we’d eaten it ourselves.
    Good to see the music bug is still biting … mine’s sitting and staring at me and making me feel guilty, but I don’t think his teeth are sharp enough to get me off my backside except for the occasional didge and uke duo to scare the cat, and sometimes a quiet ballad or two while Mumsie’s not looking.
    It seem that you’ve graduated in your ambitions to a full-blown set of novels, eh? I look forward to seeing the fruits of that, presumably aided and accelerated by that there course you’re pursuing, eh?

  • Marion says:

    Hi Rob

    Good to hear from you again. Poor Michiko. Fella has occasionally brought in a (dead) mouse and jumped on the bed to wake me up with it and tell me what a clever boy he’s been. He never seems to appreciate my immediate action of throwing it back out doors!

    Thank you for the music. I didn’t expect to like the first and was pleasantly surprised. Though I can’t express it as John can, it was the musicality of the instruments and the harmonies they were making. Afraid for me the vocalist did not please… he detracted from the music somehow..I know, I have bad taste!

    The cover of the Sound of Silence was really great though. The power of emotion and strength of voice from the singer was awesome as Dawn would say. Almost an improvement on Simon and Garfunkel!

    Incidentally, I did find the copy I have of the story you wrote at around 10 for gran. It still made me chuckle and has some interesting ideas. I wonder if you remember it at all. “What happens when you die”.


    • Rob says:

      Yes, I do indeed — and in later years, I wrote a much more elaborate version of that same story, incorporating a few more grown-up ideas along with the goofy things I thought of as a kid, though it now languishes in a folder somewhere.

      (I actually wrote the original version when I was 14, just before Granddad’s funeral.)

      We’ve had our cat bring a mouse onto the bed before too — it’s always an interesting experience to be woken up by a cat chasing its new friend around the quilt…

  • Rob says:

    Yeah, it’s certainly helping! In truth, about two-thirds of the course so far has just been reinforcing things, and convincing me that I’ve already got the right idea and the right approach to a lot of what I’m doing, while the rest is helping me to get some of my more muddled ducks into a slightly clearer row.

    I’ve been working on a sketched outline of the first one for about a week or so, adding characters, and trying to figure out where the core of the story is and should be. For some reason, I seem to do my best thinking in the bath, so I’m often scribbling down notes soon after I hop out.

    Having the keyboard set up next to my work-station works pretty well for me, in terms of that. I’m still pretty awful, but trying to get better! My plan right now is to finish working through book 1, then go back to the beginning and work through the whole thing again to figure out which bits I still don’t quite have down. Then I’ll mark those, and run through each of them periodically after I’m moving onto book 2.

    Fingers crossed!

  • Mam says:

    Love the guitar intro on the Dream Theater piece, and the lyrics. Also love the interpretation of the Sound of Silence. Wonder what Paul Simon thinks of it.

    Good to hear you’re back with the music. Hope you continue to enjoy progressing on the keyboard. It’s got an added advantage to flutes ‘n stuff in that you can sing along (when you get good enoug). So be careful you don’t scare all the birdies away or Neko may not forgive you. I wonder if she’ll just eat the next one instead of bringing it in to ‘share’.

    Any hints going about the novel??? Hope you succeed with this one – at least by impressing yourself. And that we might get a copy eventually.

    • Rob says:

      Nope, no hints just yet — I’ve been brainstorming and outlining for a week and a half now, and I’m loving it. So I don’t exactly know what it will end up being yet — though I DO know how it begins, and how it ends.

      Once it’s finished, of course, you’ll get a chance to see it!

      With the keyboard, I’m still enjoying plonking on the keys. Here and there I get frustrated by it, but I’m not allowing myself to back off from it — I’m just steadily working through book 1 of the set I have, with a view to completing the book (I’m about a third of the way through it), then going through the whole thing again from front to back to brush up whatever I didn’t get the first time round. Once I have all that down, it’ll be book 2, and then book 3. I have the keyboard to the right of my desk, so I can scoot over to it easily for 10 minutes when I’m working, or — quite often — late in the day after my work is done.

  • Mam says:

    Oh yes, it’s only early moth season here, so Tinker isn’t getting much excitement. More meeping at ceiling walkers – and mysterious disappearing things outside – than hunting. (when we go to look, there’s never anything there)

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