Monday, July 30, 2007

I have the powerrrrrrr...

I have had a red mexican Fender Strat for the best part of the last twenty years, during which time it’s never really been used in anger. Certainly not at a gig or anything. Though it was second-hand when I got it, with all its dings and scrapes, it still is a real Fender Strat and I do rather enjoy playing it.

I would have been hopping from foot to foot as a teenage proto-musician if I’d have been able to lay my hands on one of them, simply for the fact that, if you put the pickup selector switch just there, you get a wonderful, bell-like, kind-of-hard-to-describe sound that no other guitar really gets anywhere near. That, plus I had no money.

Now, it’s had plenty of studio outings, where its lack of oomph can be worked around, but I’d always hankered after somehow ‘getting it sorted’ so I could use it more. It’s enjoyable to play, just frustratingly gutless compared to all my other guitars (of which there are currently thirteen, and a banjo).

For those unfamiliar with the world of electric guitars and their aftermarket bits ‘n’ bobs, the two closest approximations I can think of are either the world of custom computer building (of which I am also an avid inhabitee), or the far more ghastly world of strap-on bits for cars. Mainly, this latter area seems to be for people who hold to strange and arcane beliefs that a gutless, worthless, hideous pile of rusty compact-car tat can be made into a thing of gorgeous artistic loveliness by the simple application of some deafening speakers, horrifyingly expensive paint, stripes, plastic replacement lights that apparently make your tiny car look like a Lexus, and what are known as ‘body kits’. Which just make cars look like shit.

Returning to my main thrust (oo-err), there is a pretty large market of bits and pieces with which to, umm, make one’s guitar go faster. Or, in this case, “go more louderer”. There are boutique manufacturers of pickups, designed to elicit tones “you never knew your guitar could produce”. What, like the bellow of a defecating gorilla with hemmorhoids? There are literally hundreds of potential “drop-in” replacement parts before one even thinks of taking a router to the wood and accommodating something larger.

I’m no stranger to the smell of the soldering iron. Many of my other guitars are modified, tweaked, fiddled with in some way or otherwise non-standard. When younger, I always just thought that a guitar was a guitar and you pretty much got what you were given. Oh, how I can look back and laugh now... ;-)

The prime reason for taking so long with the Strat comes back to that particular sound it can produce. You wouldn’t want to up the power but in the process lose the tone, would you? Not that you couldn’t put it back to the way it was before, but it just seems a rather profligate way forward.

Then, light dawned. Or, more accurately the manufacturer EMG came up with a rather neat little solution. As you can see from the pic of the guitar, all the pickups and electronics (volume and tone controls) are actually mounted on a sheet of plastic, known as a pickguard. After removing the strings, about seven screws and desoldering the two wires to the jack socket, the whole assembly lifts out. What EMG have done is not only make completely wired-up drop-in pickguards (because a whole bunch of other manufacturers do that), they’ve been working with respected guitarists across the years to come up with signature series pickguards, like the one I’ve just replaced Fender’s feeble pickups with, the David Gilmour model.

Knowing that it would be highly unlikely that Mr. G would want to lose the tone of the Strat (not too hard to find documentary evidence, really...) and being an admirer of his anyway, I thought it would be a fairly safe bet. It was indeed. The output from the guitar is now certainly comparable with many of the high-output Les Pauls and Yamahas that I have, but still has a lovely sweetness of tone that is the signature of the Strat. I’ve only just realised that the EMG website describes his main Strat as red too. Ooh, now I seem like a total fanboy...

Now all I have to do is find a way to be playing the thing for days on end without letting my business fall to the ground and remembering to eat occasionally... ;-)

Oh, and doing the keyboard rehearsals for the TN gigs. Oops, did I say that out loud..? ;-)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

All aboard the Shite train

The UK government has recently announced ‘major’ plans to upgrade the ailing rail network across the entire country. They’ve called it, in a typical blat of spin-induced frenzy, “the most ambitious plans for expanding the railway for 50 years”. Oh, my sides - the sheer hilarity...

I’m not sure whether the government believes that everyone in the UK has never been abroad and seen decent rail services for themselves, or whether they just don’t give a shit what the public think, but the plans amount to a publicly-funded, cheap-ass, low-rent patch-up job on a network that was eviscerated in the 1960s and hasn’t looked forward since.

‘Ground-breaking’ ideas like making platforms longer, chucking more trains on the already congested network and opening up the congested bottlenecks like Birmingham New Street and Reading. All of this is to be phased in across the next seven years and, once we get to 2014, will be evidently not enough and a new plan will have to be drawn up that takes into account that this one was the work of a conclave of retards.

Oh, but they have ruled out Maglev trains as they’re too expensive. Whoop-de-doo. And there was I, thinking that we’d all be given free jetpacks at our destinations by girls with purple hair wearing silver mini-skirts. Actually, I wonder if we can work that last bit in somehow... ;-)

At the risk of dredging up the ghost of the corrupt imbecile Beeching and his rail ‘reforms’ (look it up under “butchery” in the dictionary), there needs to be a little more forward thinking going on here. Otherwise, you can just give the money to me and I’ll burn it out on the patio. The rail users will be just as pissed off either way. Like it or not (and I happen to love it), the UK is part of Europe and really ought to start behaving appropriately. A long-term plan for adopting the continental loading gauges (the size of the trains themselves, not the distance between the rails, which is generally the same) would be much easier to implement. If the station platforms are going to be altered make them longer, why not make them lower and slightly further away from the trains? This would mean that continental rolling stock and (here comes the sucker punch of the whole piece) double-decker trains can start to be used, dramatically increasing passenger loads without cramming humans in like cargo.

Cattle get more space per animal when transported than humans. Bear that in mind...

In the 1890s, a real visionary by the name of Edward Watkin, chair of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway decided to expand and build its own line into London. Other rail companies were charging extortionate rates for use of their lines, and he also had another plan up his sleeve. Adopting the continental loading gauge, he wanted eventually to build a tunnel under the English Channel (or La Manche - “The Sleeve”, from the less proprietorial French perspective) and have a direct rail link to the mainland. One which would, rather handily, automatically be able to send trains through to his line with no adaptation or restrictions. History, in the shape of World War 1 and the financial overstretch of building the line (over £11 million) were sadly against the plans of the ambitious Great Central Railway.

As part of Doctor Beeching’s narrow-minded The Reshaping of British Railways (if you take out the “esh” in the first word, you get a much closer approximation of what he actually did...), the GCR was closed, much of its track was lifted, and only small sections remain in the hands of enthusiasts who just won’t let it die. Good for them.

Now, bearing in mind that there are lots of derelict track-beds about (yes, I know they’re not all complete now and some re-routing will have to take place), couldn’t the real re-building of the UK’s rail network begin to take place on old, abandoned routes, building a realistic network that could have the capacity for passengers and freight far exceeding those of the proposed “ambitious” plans? Yes, Birmingham and Reading desperately need expanding, but imagining that cobbling that together with a bunch of platform- and train-lengthening somehow constitutes a “plan” is the work of a gibbering syphilitic madman who grins while soiling himself.

We’re running out of space (actually, we pretty much already have run out of space) to build more roads. Most of which are either being destroyed by the amount of trucks using them, or are being clogged by them as they overtake each other at a speed differential of one mile per hour. The twats. There is a section of road between here and my mum’s which actually has permanently-installed signs warning of skidding hazards. Which have been caused by trucks gouging huge gullies in the roadbed of the nearside lane. These grooves, which are obviously wider than the wheelbase of most standard cars, drag the driver from side-to-side in the lane in a most disconcerting manner. Not a thought of repairing the damn surface, mind. Just a bunch of fucking signs.

I suppose one could always invest in a Hummer (a truck for people with no taste who can’t drive and don’t wish to learn, but somehow ‘need’ a military vehicle) which might just be wide enough. Or maybe a Lamborghini, though that might actually be even wider...

Freight by rail is more cost-effective if there’s a decent infrastructure in place. More passengers would surely use the rail network if they didn’t feel they’d be treated like cargo and crammed onto out-of-date rolling-stock (and possibly killed in one of our increasingly frequent crash “spectaculars”). I both love using the rail networks in mainland Europe and simultaneously feel ashamed of ours whenever I travel abroad.

So, ‘government’, stop patching up an old, knackered network, start thinking a little harder and actually take responsibility for making some tough, expensive decisions that will work on the larger timescales this country needs if it isn’t going to be the laughing-stock of the rest of the world. Stop putting old farts in decision-making posts regarding technology. They don’t know what they’re on about. Just look at the NHS IT reforms and tell me these overpaid buffoons know what the difference between a hard drive and memory is.*

And stop thinking that “more roads” is the kind of solution that someone with a functioning brain-stem would do anything other than spit on. Public execution would be too good for you.

*If you think they’re the same thing, go out into the yard and shoot yourself. Do it. Do it now, you cretin. Also do it if you think that “hard drive” is the big box that you switch on. That’s called a computer, you web-fingered throwback.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

God Speed

Writer Pal had organised a B&B, so I drove us down to Southampton to stay the night and get the ferry in the morning. Initially, we were going to take the car over, but as I hadn’t driven on the island before, didn’t know my way around, and the car ferry takes 55 minutes compared to the passenger-only hydrofoil’s nippy 23 minutes, I made the executive decision to leave the car in Southampton and travel by cabs once we hit the island.

The mighty Hank arrived, on his way back from a family holiday and the three of us boarded the ferry, beginning what was to become a day of often very amusing reminiscing of our times with our now-absent friend, Frank.

I’d never set foot on the Isle of Wight before Monday. Picturesque and hilly, it was unfortunately being drizzled on from the leaden skies, something which never really stopped for the whole day. Didn’t stop it from being a pleasant place, though the cab drivers would have a tough time beating a glacier in a speed trial. After coffees in the terminal area, we schlepped across to the crematorium for the service. Pulling into the car park, I was relieved to see at least one athletically-torsoed young woman with her top off, as a family hastily got dressed into more funereal duds behind a car. If you’re reading, I’m sure a light blue lacy bra was “just what Frank would have wanted”. Ho ho.

Meeting up with Marion, Frank’s ex-wife who’d arranged much of the day, we were introduced in quick succession to a whole host of family and friends who were all doing their best to hold it together before the service kicked off. A lovely little booklet, with a photo of Frank at his dashing best, outlined the non-religious order of things, and it was lovely to see that another mate, though not able to attend, had selected a poem to be read out during the ceremony.

Amy, the celebrant, took us through a wonderfully personal history of Frank. Too many funerals have an impersonal feel, with the speaker obviously not really knowing much about the subject and caring little for the detail of their lives. Not this one. In fact, it was so moving, both in terms of laughter and tears, and evoking so many treasured memories of our boy that I, for one, was glad that there was a Van Morrison tune in the middle.

I can’t stand Van Morrison. Having something else to think about, ie. just what it was that would drive normally sane people to waste perfectly good money on Van bloody Morrison albums, gave me a brief, but desperately welcome respite from knowing that, just over there in that box, my mate was dead. In truth, I’m not exactly dry-eyed as I write this.

After the ceremony, we took another glacial cab to this place - the Spyglass in Ventnor:

In the boathouse at the back, collages of photos and old publicity shots were laid out from Frank’s time as a stunt-man and arranger. There were many shots of him taken at fan conventions and Prisoner-related events down the years, many of which triggered yet more memories amongst us. There was an awful lot of “Do you remember when Frank said...” or “What about that time when Frank...” as the afternoon turned into the evening. A lovely spread of food and wine was descended upon by the assembled horde and many a glass was raised by us all in memory of our very dear friend.

A chap called Dave told us about the time he’d been out walking his dog at the same time Frank had been walking his two. Another dog had created some kind of disturbance, at which Frank’s two dogs had proceeded to run round his legs, tying them together with their leads. Frank had fallen over and this chap Dave had gone to see if he was alright. The first thing out of Frank’s mouth, as he was lying there on the floor, was “Normally, I’d have rolled out of that. I’m a stuntman, you know...”

During the ceremony, Frank’s friend Steve had understatedly described Frank as not exactly a religious man. Though he speculated that, if Frank was to be proved wrong and there was an afterlife, he could just see Frank wandering up to the fella in the throne, asking him what rank he was, and then quietly telling him “You’re in my chair...”.

I chatted briefly with Frank’s daughter who, it turns out, lives not too far away from me with her family - small world, eh? Marion and her new husband Paul were a mine of information about the island and were instructing me on places to see and places to stay when I go back. I will be going back hopefully this year, when there may just be a bit of half-decent weather, on the bike, to do a little bit of a tour of the island at a leisurely pace. Even though it was rainy and overcast, looking out to sea then back up at the small town of Ventnor hugging the small harbour and modest beach, I could definitely see why Frank had decided eventually to go there to live and, eventually, make it the place he would be laid to rest.

Adieu, from all of Frank’s boys.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Under Water

As most of the UK is disappearing under the floods, the RNLI is bizarrely having to send lifeboats inland, in order to rescue people from hotel bedrooms, stranded cars and their homes. If you’re able, please spare a thought for the volunteers who man the real “fourth emergency service” and, if you can, donate a few quid.

I’m off to stay in a hotel in Southampton tonight, in order to make the ferry crossing tomorrow morning for Frank Maher’s funeral and wake (see blog entries passim) on the Isle of Wight. It’s good to know that there are quite a few of us making the trek to see him off. Though there’s more rain scheduled, the wake’s going to be in Frank’s favourite pub, so we’ll be able to give him a decent send-off without needing rescuing... ;-)

Now to find a nice loud shirt to go with my black suit. Frank always appreciated my sartorial elegance. Usually by wincing when he saw me... :-)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dead Lines

Well, well, well... It seems that, on a Friday mid-morning, a client has decided to have a teleconference to go through their ideas for a job that needs a complete rework for a client meeting Wednesday next week.

’Scuse me if I don’t fall off my chair in shock, surprise or anything other than a spot of moderately weary resignation that this is the way of things. This particular job is also being developed with a writer who, being a mother, has the added joy of school finishing early today at 1pm and therefore having a short supply of available concentration time this afternoon.

When, during the teleconference, the client outlined the timescale for delivery, there was an unhealthy and awkward pause, during which the writer and I really couldn’t think of anything to say. Well, no really easy way of saying “you’re fucking kidding, right?”. Having had a previous deadline reduced from nine days to two to get a bunch of visuals in on time, and having shoved tons of other work out of the way to do so, it does grate somewhat to have the same thing repeated no more than a week later, after getting things back on track (ish).

Not that I hold anyone at the client particularly responsible. Being the supplier at the end of a long chain of clients, end-clients and legal departments means that everyone’s hold-ups collect in a malodorous pile on my desk. My client is running about almost as much as I am to get this stuff delivered to their client. One of the more difficult things about operating a business and being in direct contact with clients is knowing how to say no, or to knock them back when they start treating you (unconsciously, I hope) as an employee, or at least as someone who has no other clients than them.

Terpsichore, my legal-eagle chum, often has the same problems with one of her clients for whom she does a three-day-a-week residency at their HQ. Her immediate bosses have no space in their diaries for any new appointments between now and Christmas, yet she’s just been asked (well, it’s basically been assumed) to attend three meetings, at which she’s expected to stand up and do a presentation, in just over a week. In Birmingham, Manchester and London (I think). Finding just the right levels of insouciance with which to raise one eyebrow, laugh and say “I think not” are sometimes a little tricky.

And, instead of getting on with the work, what am I doing? Blogging... ;-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Compact rehearsals

A small room, four musicians and twenty years since the music in question’s been played at what one might charitably term “battle speed”. What had the potential to have been a process akin to extracting teeth with mole grips while simultaneously being kicked in the nuts actually turned out to be one of quite jolly fun.

I am now part of a venture which will remain nameless for a few more weeks (though the generally astute and venerable readers of this blog will undoubtedly piece together the fiendishly cryptic clues and work it out) until it gets announced officially. As long as my memory, right hand and available practice time hold together for me, I should be involved in playing keyboards, the odd bit of bass, guitar and singing here and there at some gigs later in the year. What fun!

As was commented on during today’s relaxed rehearsals, there are the people who will come and see the band who were originally fans, but there is also a whole slew of people who have never known any of us in any kind of musical context. The reactions of the latter to seeing us on stage should cause some not inconsiderable merriment among our ranks.

Not that I’ll be able to do much in the way of “rocking out” as I may have done in the past for two very good reasons.
  1. I’m not the singer in this particular outfit. Being the singer (at least when I used to do it) meant that one could stare keenly in the other direction when loading and unloading of vans took place, producing a battered tambourine from a rucksack at the appropriate moment as if it had required some kind of effort. Moreover, it meant that one was relatively unencumbered on stage with tiresome things like instruments. This gives one free rein to leap about, shake one’s mane and otherwise indulge in ‘giving it the large one in a rock stylee’. (nb. this usually results in one’s singing coming out like the gasps of a bronchial marathon runner, so not necessarily a terribly good thing)
  2. I’m going to be playing keyboard parts that are 20% simple, 70% moderate to complex and 10% holy crap. While playing the first 20%, I’m sure I could bounce around a bit, the 70% ranges from grooving on the spot to fairly vigorous head-nodding, but the last 10% are a carpal-tunnel syndrome sufferer’s nightmare. Not that I’m complaining, mind. I’m sure our first ‘all the band together’ rehearsal will be conspicuous for being let down the most by my good self, but that hasn’t deterred me from finding a good deal of fun in it all.
If the shrewd observer wishes to see a particularly fine example of me ‘rocking out’, then look no further than the first track in the set, on which I play bass and not keyboards. One of my old buddies in this venture says he can’t wait to see this happen, but may need to be carried off the stage as he’ll be in fits of hysterics. Charming, eh? ;-)

I’ll probably jot the occasional batch of rehearsal notes as we go on, for those interested.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fearless Frank

The world has just lost a tiny bit of its lustre.

Frank Maher, my friend, passed away yesterday.

A mini-bio from the Cult TV website:
After serving in the Parachute Regiment during the war, Frank Maher worked as a stuntman and actor on many of the ITC action adventure shows. An expert in all forms of fighting, he became a master at crashing cars, falling from great heights and leaping through windows.

A stunt man on The Avengers, he played roles in three episodes opposite Honor Blackman. When Diana Rigg took over as Steed’s assistant he appeared as Nicholls in You Have Just Been Murdered, ultimately impaled on a scythe by Emma Peel.

After working on Man in a Suitcase he acted as the stunt co-ordinator for both Department S and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

As well as Roger Moore’s stunt double in The Saint, he played Kraft in The Paper Chase and Rip Savage in the two-part story The Fiction Makers. Two years later he doubled for Moore a second time in The Persuaders!, and appeared in the episode The Man in the Middle.

Forging a long association with Patrick McGoohan after being his stunt double in Danger Man, Frank teamed up with the actor for The Prisoner.

As stunt director on the series, responsible for the action sequences and choreographed fight scenes, he played Number Six in the episode The Schizoid Man and appeared as a Gunman in Living in Harmony.

Frank retired from stunt work, after working on Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, and spent his later years writing adventure novels.

I first met Frank when we were both guests at the Cult TV Festival, back in 2000. I was introduced to him by a mutual friend who had worked with him on Blake’s 7, many years previously. We instantly got on, our shared sense of humour and taste for the absurd forging a strong bond of comradeship, which often seemed an unlikely match to observers, as we were both from widely different backgrounds and generations.

Frank had a thousand hilarious and moving anecdotes about the industry, was fiercely loyal, took absolutely no shit from studio types (especially Michael Winner), was a long-time friend of Robert Mitchum and Roger Moore, used to hang out with the Rat Pack and had only (when I met him, in his seventies) recently given up his black belt in shotokan karate.

Frank inspired people. My friend Henry, who Frank immediately christened “Hank”, and I would often sit and talk through the night with Frank, fascinated by his insights and the story of his life. I would tell friends that I knew were going to meet him for the first time that they were “going to fall in love with Frank”. Much like Hank, there are people who you can gauge other people by - if they like them, they’re good people. If they don’t, forget ’em.

My biggest regret is that I never saw enough of Frank, and never managed to badger out of him the full account of his time in Arnhem during WWII (or, “that fucking shambles” as he often referred to it). From what Frank told me, the film A Bridge Too Far came close, but nowhere near close enough.

Ladies and gentlemen, wherever you are, if you’re able, please raise a glass in memory of one of our country’s very finest sons - Mr. Frank Maher.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Band of Extreme Metal +5

Having bought a couple of tickets to a guitar-type gig (Steve Vai) a couple of years back, I dragged along my mate H (she of the healthcare, policy, legal, pr industry, guru-type) who happens to also do a good line in ‘rock chick’ whenever the Bon Jovi circus rolls into town. She’d not seen Vai before, and was suitably astonished, blown away and so forth by not only the man’s virtuosity and versatility, but also by the amount of fun that can be had watching what is basically a bunch of abnormally talented musicians letting loose and having a blast onstage.

Note to Kaiser Chiefs, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, et al: it is actually possible to entertain people while not actually dumbing everything down to its lowest common denominator.

So, in return a little while back, and due in large part to the manner in which I continually buttonhole people about how Metallica put on a good show, H bought a bunch of tickets for their Wembley Stadium gig last night.

Though we were up in the stratosphere as can be seen from the shot taken from my phone, the show was a good one. Marred mainly by the family of three jug-eared twats just in front of us who insisted on standing and blocking the view for much of the set. Hey ho.

Judging by the tour dates listed on the backs of several t-shirts (the European leg only consisting of 12 shows) and the tour’s name - Sick of the Studio, it’s fairly safe to say that the boys have decided to let off steam with some stripped-down shows, rather than put on the full, 27-truck monster stage show that they have in recent years. If you haven’t seen the DVDs of Cunning Stunts, I really suggest you do. They’re quite something.

As full disclosure, the reason (apart from being a computer geek and complete nerd) that I ended up checking out Metallica live is due to working as a designer on several of their albums. From Load through to Garage, Inc. I had the distinct pleasure of working for and then with Andie Airfix of Satori (who really needs to get a website!) on translating Lars’ ideas, the rest of the band’s sketches and input, along with the management at Q-Prime’s ability to rein it all in into gargantuan artwork for the albums. Eventually I had to decamp a load of my gear into the Satori studio, so that Andie and I could be on tap for the US and also so we could bounce ideas around and quickly get things worked up into something that was worth sending across to the band. Andie has an astonishing CV, as long as your arm, of top acts he’s designed for. Plus, he’s a great guy and very easy to work with.

The Metallica jobs were always a joy to work on. The best photography (Anton Corbijn going out on tour with them as well as scores of sessions he’d done with them), always the largest amount of pages one could fit into a CD booklet, and many opportunities to have some fun with a few spoof covers flying backwards and forwards across the Atlantic. Though the boys in the band had very definite ideas about how things should look, they certainly weren’t averse to trying other suggestions out. One of the photo shoots for Load even had the band looking like they’d just walked out of the glam rock era of the seventies, make-up, false eyelashes, lipstick, fur coats and so forth. I can’t say that I blame the band for not using them in the end. Load was such a radical departure from their previous work that many previously loyal fans walked away from them at that moment. Personally, I think it’s their best since the Black Album, featuring some very thoughtful songwriting.

I was already away from working with them when the whole Some Kind of Monster, psycho-therapist, Jason-leaving thing happened, so I can’t comment on what might be going through their collective consciousness as a band. I watched the SKoM DVD and, from my experience of working with them, I’d say it’s a pretty accurate and honest showing of what they’re like as people. I remember having a long conversation in a bar with Jason after one of their London shows about the physical requirements and dexterity required for playing jazz. He sounded very much like a man eager to try out as many different musical styles as possible. A relaxed and charming man, very much aware of ‘taking off’ his stage persona after the show. Certainly someone I’d be very keen to work with musically.

Anyway, in all Wembley was a thoroughly enjoyable night - huge thanks to H for sorting tickets and taking us all out for the night. If you ever get the chance to see the boys and aren’t already a fan, go check ’em out. You may surprise yourself and like it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Meanwhile, from a bunker somewhere in the desert...

I know, I’ve got this great idea to get people to take us seriously and treat our ‘grievances’ sympathetically.

First, we kidnap someone. A journalist, maybe.

Then we get him on video denouncing the west and everyone in it as tyrants and criminals.

If that doesn’t work, strap a shitload of explosives to him and then get him to talk on camera about how well we’re treating him and that the western world’s a place full of torturers and hypocrites.

That’ll work, honest...
Go here for the full outline.

“Army of Islam”, indeed. I have little enough time for religion as it is, but nasty little fuckers like these have absolutely nothing to do with god-bothering in any shape or form. The only struggle they’re going through is the same sort of self-pitying whining that Hitler ceaselessly churned out in Mein Kampf. The oh-poor-me, no-one’s ever had it as hard and no-one understands the weight of destiny on my poor wee shoulders sort of bilge that people expect of adolescents who listen to emo music, but not of grown men and women.

Open message to terrorists everywhere:
If you’re so right about your cause and so strong in your belief that victory is inevitable, pony up to the table like everyone else has to and talk to people. Discuss, debate, engage with free speech (you might want to look that one up ahead of time) and do deals. Cigars or no cigars, Clinton would at least talk with anyone and try to see what they want. Life is a compromise, deal with it. As the great philosopher Jagger once said “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”

If, however, what you really want is to destroy things, blow things up, steal other people’s territory, settle old tribal scores and gain absolute power and influence by any means, then don’t act so surprised that the rest of us want to remove all trace of you from the gene pool and wipe you from the face of OUR planet.