Roman Holiday

Hello, it’s been a while. Arwell was being an idiot the other day and suggested I start my blog up again, I thought about it, and because I’m bored and snowed in, I thought I’d oblige him. He was probably expecting a post about me being drunk or something though, not a 1500 word post about history. No idea if I’ll keep posting or not.

I’ve recently been listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcasts on my drives to and from work. They’re really good, long podcasts about history. The ones I’ve been listening to are about the fall of the Roman Empire. They added up to about 15 hours or something in total, so were definitely hardcore.

He talks about loads of stuff prior to Julius Caesar coming to power, but obviously that’s where the entire series is building up to. I knew the gist of what happens with Caesar because of just general history stuff you learn in school and also because of the TV programme Rome. But I knew nothing about anything before him, Gaius, Sulla, Cinna, the Gracchus brothers, Pompey (play on) Cicero, Cato, Crassus, all of them guys.

It’s pretty mental all the stuff that went on, just everyone getting killed as soon as they lost power, everyone lying about everything, everyone shagging everyone. It seems to me like it was basically a real life Westeros. But with even more guesswork on what actually happened than there is in ASOIAF, as at least everyone hopes we’ll find out what’s really happening in the books, but we don’t have a chance with ancient Rome.

After finishing the podcasts, I decided to re-watch Rome, I’m only a few episodes in, but it’s great actually understanding some of the minor plot points, or references that went way over my head before. Like the two main fictional characters Pullo and Lucius were arguing about the future and Lucius says something like “I’ll end up like one of those damned Gracchi” and Pullo goes “Who?!” because they’d died ages ago and he’s meant to be uneducated, but I sort of understood it. I imagine there’s load of other bits that will still go over my head though.

But the main topic of this post was going to be about Julius Caesar, as there’s some great little stories about him in the podcasts. For instance, when he was a young guy, he got kidnapped by pirates, and they set a ransom of 20 silver talents (I just had to look up what a talent was, it’s 32.3kg). Caesar got pissed off with that, because he thought they undervalued him, and made them lift it to 50.

He then sent his slaves off to fetch the money from back at home, and whilst they were gone he started writing poetry and reading it out to the pirates. They hated it and kept telling him so shut up, he called them uncultured savages and told them he was going to come back and kill them. I picture this a bit like the Vogons reading poetry to Ford and Arthur in Hitch-hiker’s guide, purposefully knowing it’s shit as a form of punishment.

When he got free he did come back and catch them all, and then crucified them. Carlin talks about how horrible crucifixion actually was, I’d never really thought about it. Apparently rather than big nails through your hands and feet (like what Jesus was), normally your arms and legs were roped to the cross, which still must’ve been shit. And you were just left there hanging, whilst you died of exposure after a few days, but in complete agony from your arms and legs cramping and dislocating. Apparently people used to beg the guards to break their legs, so that their arms would take all the weight and they’d slump down and strangle themselves on the rope. Or they’d try to get them to stab them to put them out of their misery. Sometimes if the begging wasn’t working they’d try to sell their clothes that they’re wearing to try and persuade them. If I was a guard, that’d probably put me off more, I wouldn’t want their horrible death clothes.

Onto a happier theme, Caesar was also a bit of a playa. Apparently he slept around with all the other powerful men of Rome’s wives and sisters. One senator called Cato was this really old fashioned senator that went by the book on everything, and everyone really respected him. One day he got pissed off with Caesar for not paying attention during senate meetings, and he had a go at him in front of everyone. During this, one of Caesar’s slaves snuck in and passed him a note, and Caesar read it. Cato saw this and was like “Hah, look at him, he’s not even paying attention now, he’s reading a note. Pass it here and I’ll read it out if it’s so important.” And it turned out to be a Roman version of a booty call off Cato’s sister. Burn.

Something that threw me was that apparently Caesar went bald really early, so shaved his head to hide it. But in nearly all the statues of him he’s shown with hair. He also chose to have his pubes plucked out by slaves, which sounds fucking horrible.

Carlin reckons he was a full on genius up there with Mozart, and that he was basically the greatest ruler ever, even though he also committed more than his fair share of genocide. Something he seemed unsure about was whether Caesar was actually as forgiving as he acted, or if it was all a ploy to get the public on their side. Like when his rivals lost battles to him, instead of killing them like a normal Roman would, he’d pardon them and let them live. When Cato lost to him, he killed himself rather than let Caesar forgive him.

I’m sure there were more interesting things that I had to say about him, but I can’t remember them at all.

There was a good story about a guy called Crassus, who was the richest man in Rome in Caesar’s time. He made loads of his money by setting up one of the first ever fire brigades. But instead of being helpful with it, he was a massive prick. There were fires quite a lot back then, and because the houses were so close together, they’d spread loads. So Crassus set up the fire brigade which was just a bunch of slaves with water buckets. And as soon as he heard about a fire, he’d head down there and say to the house owner, “either sell me your house for next to nothing, or we’ll let it burn down.” So if they sold it, he’d use his fire brigade to put it out, otherwise he’d let it burn down. But because the fires would spread, before his slaves put it out, he’d go to the other nearby house owners and say, “sell me your house for next to nothing, or i’ll let the fire spread”, so he ended up owning loads and loads of Rome. Pretty decent business strategy.

There was also a great quote from Pompey, when he was invading somewhere (maybe Rome) and some guy told him it was illegal and he said to him “Little man, don’t quote laws at men with swords”. It’s like out of a film, although I suppose it could’ve just been made up by whoever wrote it down. Either way, it’s a pretty good line.

It blows my mind that we know all this stuff, or at least the story version written down by the historians, and it happened 2000 years ago. But then we don’t really know anything at all that happened in the dark ages over here. Lazy, illiterate bastards not bothering to write anything down.

I’d advise everyone with an interest in history to listen to the podcasts, they’re intense, but great. I’m going to start on his Mongolian empire podcasts next week. And I’d advise everyone who likes TV to watch Rome, it’s like a precursor to the Game of Thrones/Spartacus style tv, violence, sex and politics. The first series is amazing, the second is very rushed because TV executives are dickheads and they cancelled what should’ve been about 3 more series so it was compressed into one.

If anyone knows any good books to read about that sort of thing, please let me know. I don’t have a clue where to start. And obviously I only know all of this from the podcasts and the TV programme, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on any of that stuff, which I probably am.

It’s made me really want to go to Rome and see all the old stuff that’s still there. But if the film Jumper has taught me anything, it’s that the Roman ruins are full of massive irritants.

Also, after not posting on wordpress for years, this new layout is shit, is it trying to be tumblr?

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Guitar Hero

So, I finally got around to starting my plan to be the world’s biggest rock star. I bought a guitar at the weekend. I went to a guitar shop and asked the person what the best stuff was for my budget, it looked and sounded cool, so I trusted him. Feel free to slag me off for buying crap stuff, I’m almost certainly only ever going to play it in my bedroom anyway, I don’t have any friends round here that’ll play punk rock (boo hoo).

Anyway this is it:

It’s a Vintage VS6 something or other (I probably should’ve took the description card), basically, it’s the cheapo version of the guitars the mercury league use, so it must be good. It’s “nearly new”, so I got it cheaper, but it’s in nearly perfect condition.

Then the amp I got is a Fender Mustang 1:

Apparently it’s a good first amp, because it makes loads of pretend amp sounds. Now I wasn’t sure if this is a good thing, as most of the settings he flicked through just sounded like metal bands, so rubbish. But the bloke said it was pretty good value for money, so I got it. Maybe when I’ve learnt more about guitars, I’ll know what “sound” I want. At the moment, I’m using the “57 deluxe” setting, there’s 9 others, and I can adjust them individually. Does anyone have any suggestions?

So far I have learnt 3 seperate scales, about 8 different chords, am getting quicker at figuring out which fret is which note, and figured out the “riff” to a song that I don’t know what the song is. I’m just really shit at changing between chords at the moment, but power chords are saving me trouble in that aspect. But I can’t figure out if they’re cool or not.

Anyway, who wants to be in my punk rock band? We don’t have to be called Google United, but there will be songs about footballers.

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Fuck Adverts

Loads of people on my twitter feed talk about adverts all the time, and this isn’t meant to offend any of them, fair enough if you enjoy, even better if it’s your job. But seriously, I can’t stand them.

I’ve been listening to the new Bangers album a lot recently (I may have mentioned it before), and there’s a lyric that goes:

“The kind of people that say

advertising is the only real at form these days.

When an actual human being would say

that shit just gets in my way.”

Which is basically exactly the way I feel about it, I don’t think it’s art or anything. It might be very clever, and sometimes funny, but nearly all the time they’re shit and some even some how end up as fucking catchphrases.

That fucking meerkat, saying “simples” is not funny, not when the meerkat does, and especially not when someone in real life says it. Those adverts and that fucking singing idiot have put me off using both of their websites, so that’s a bit of wasted money.

Gem just did a blog post that mentioned Du Jour, the pop band from the hit film Josie and the Pussycats. For people that haven’t seen it, it’s basically a film parodying the culture of advertising, where everything in the world is just one big advert trying to exploit as many people as it can. And to sound like a hippy cunt, I do worry that the world is more like that than I like. Especially with all the terrifying stuff that gets stored about you on the internet these days. I posted about it before, but I was thinking about it again recently, what if google is a bad guy? They’ve probably got enough information on most of us to do anything they want.

I’m as materialistic as anyone, I love owning stuff, and obviously advertising works on me. It’s pathetic, collecting shit isn’t a human instinct, unless it’s collecting food or bits of wood or something, and surely that hasn’t carried down to collecting dvds, or owning the must have new game. But I’ve still just bought a load of new records and spent £50 on films I’ve already seen.

The amount that gets spent on advertising is also sickening, I know it’s the most extreme example in the world, but during the 2010 superbowl half time break, 30 seconds of advert cost $2.6m. As a complete guess, it’s going to cost at least that again to produce and film it and everything, so for 30 seconds of tv time, it’s going to cost about $5m dollars. $5m dollars to reach about 100m people (apparently). Yeah, that’s only 5cents per potential customer (MATHS!), but how many people actually pay attention and buy stuff, and not just watch them because they’re meant to be cool? There’s probably really good statistics on it, and obviously they’ve worked out the profits and losses, but it just seems like such a waste of time and money.

Sorry, this has been incredibly rambling and nonsensical, basically, I hate adverts. But don’t hate people that like them.

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THUNDERSTORM!

Thunderstorms are my favourite weather, and there’s a badass one going on right now. Badass for england that is, anyway. When we were flying over to america for our road trip last year, out the window we could see this amazing, massive thunderstorm going on over some town in the middle of nowhere. We could just see the clouds lighting up again and again, it looked amazing.

And then when we were actually in america, upstate new york to be slightly more precise, we were staying in a cabin at a KOA (kampground (twats, it’s spelt with a c) of america), and had heard that there was a storm coming, but weren’t quite expecting what actually came. We were even contemplating camping in a tent. Just as it got dark the storm hit, and it was the most amazing storm ever, it was raining so hard we thought the cabin was going to get washed away. And there was bolt lightning going off every where, it was just amazing. We don’t get to see bolt lightning much over here, in fact, I’m not sure I ever have. It was a great night, it was just leading up to halloween, and the little cabin had a tv, so we all stayed up watching halloween on a tiny screen, and then being too scared to go outside. Four 25+ year old men, scared of a 30 (at a guess) year old film we’ve all seen before. Blokes.

I really want to see the other types of lightning too, ground to cloud lightning, ball lightning and red sprites and blue jets especially. But barely any normal people have seen the latter two, and I think ground to cloud lightning is basically impossible to notice. I can’t even figure out if there’s any real photos of red sprites and blue jets, google just turns up loads of computer generated images, which are pointless.

Another type of weather I love is tornados, I’ve wanted to see one basically for as long as I can remember. The hit film Twister only helped to further my desire. When we were going across america I was really hoping to see one, but I don’t think we were there in tornado season, and probably in the wrong part of the country anyway. I’d love to go on one of those tornado hunting trips, but imagine the disappointment if you never saw one? It’s the same thing that puts me off going to try and see the northern lights, it’d be so upsetting if nothing happened.

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The Old Days

I went onto the dashboard page for my old blog earlier, for some reason it’s getting about a hundred hits a day, far more than this ever gets. I think it’s because I used to put loads of photos of famous buildings up and now when people search google for them, my page is quite high up. So they’re not real hits, but it’s still interesting. Anyway, I realised that I had about 5 draft posts saved there, and I thought I’d repost one of them. I remember spending ages typing this up when I was massively hungover, it’s about my life as a child and was originally written some time last summer, enjoy:

Last night it was one of my best friend’s sister’s 21st birthday party, it was at their house and they got a marquee up in the back garden, and they had shit loads of free beer, it was great. we even dressed up nice and smart for it, sort of, see below, we’re a classy bunch:

we obviously all got hammered, one mate got took to hospital like a 15 year old scum bag. most of us just got really drunk and stayed up til it was light drinking. at this point i was nearly falling asleep, my options were to sleep outside, or walk the 2 miles home. i chose the walking option, took a few cans of beer and headed off. a few minutes into the walk i decided i’d take a diversion and go through my old village, about doubling the walk to 4 miles, but i hadn’t been to certain parts of the village for about 10 years, since i moved out. i also decided it might be an actual reason to do a blog update, i’m surpised i was thinking this clearly after the amount i’d drunk.

By this point i’d done off with the bow tie and looked like this:

the first landmark i came to was the old water pumping station, i love this building, it’s right on the outskirts of chorley and always reminds me of coming home:

i wasn’t driving, i didn’t have to be careful. this was at about half four in the morning, it was so peaceful, i was just walking up the middle of the road, listening to the birds all chirping away. here are some samples of the roads i was walking up:

along this road, i noticed that the sun was starting to properly rise, and then i came across a house that i’ve never really paid much attention to before, but it looked amazing with the sun rising behind it:

it’s just a shame my shitty phone camera couldn’t pick it up properly, roll on the iphone 4. there’s loads of really nice cottages/farm house along this road that for some reason i thought would be really interesting to photograph, i don’t know why. i wonder what the people in the house would’ve thought if they’d seen me at this point, a guy with a tuxedo from the waist up, bermuda shorts waist down, beer in one hand, camera in the other, in the middle of countryside road at 4.45, i must have looked like a complete nutter. anyway, these are some highlights of the random cottages i saw on my trip:

(please note the domino’s pizza box in the road, we’re not that far away from civilisation)

i never really realised until last night that my local villages are could actually be in midsommer murders, just not as exciting, and the only thing i know called DCI Barnaby is my sister’s dog.

By now i was reaching chorley proper, i’d got to the old local, the malt shovel, i haven’t been to this pub since i was about 10, it was really, really shit then.

the first house that i came to that was relevant to me was shaun’s massive house:

shaun moved to chorley when i was about 10. he was 4 years older than me, and was in the same year at school as mark (more to come on him). he quickly became part of our group, and came and played football on the field all the time. his sister was called ellie, and was my second true love, althought it wasn’t mutual, she was two years older than me, and i remember her looking like fern cotton, when fern cotton was first on kids tv, and not a whore. i haven’t seen her since i moved out of chorley when i was about 13, i imagine she’s gone down hill though. the also had a cousin, whose name i can’t remember, he was younger than me by a few years and kept getting expelled from different schools. he also used to play football, and he was shit. shaun’s house was so cool, it was brand new, and seemed really american (so obviously it was cool), it had a basement and everything! they also had a really long swing from one of the tall trees in the back garden that was always fun.

The next house was the young’s house, over the road from mine (excuse classic iphone photography):

the young’s were a big family like ours, the was 5 of them, compared to six of us, and their ages were all very similar. we always used to go and play with them and things. although the boys were all too young, so they weren’t in the football gang, they were also really snotty (as in runny noses, not rude), so no one really liked them. i still see them about in town nowadays, and they’re all nice people. we used to spend whole summers together, throwing water bombs at cars driving through the village and at strangers in the field we played football in.

The next house was mark and tom’s house:

mark and tom are brothers, and were pretty much my best friends when i was growing up. we always used to play football and climb trees and go for bike rides. they were both older than me, 4 and 3 years respectively, but we used to mess about even when they were 14/13 and i was 10, we’d play football all summer. i saw tom the other year at some business thing completely by coincidence, that was weird, us both being relatively grown up now. i also always used to go round and play megadrive with them, streets of rage, street fighter, wwf, all the classics.

then a bit further up the road was ollie’s/shay’s house:

ollie used to live there up until i was 11, then he moved into the big city of lichfield, shay moved in after him. ollie was two years younger than me, but he used to play football all the time too, he was quite good, especially considering he was playing against people 6 years older than him, and he’d have been about 7/8. i used to go round his house all the time, he was the only person i knew who had sky, so we’d watch wrestling and cartoons. his dad also worked for an arcade game maker or something, and he’d made ollie a diy game machine type thing, were he’d just insert these massive circuit board things, and it’d be an arcade game, and he had the proper controllers and things, it was fucking amazing. we used to play metal slug all the time.

shay moved in after ollie, he was my age and a great bloke. he got a playstation before anyone else i knew, so i used to go around to his and play tekken and crash bandicoot. but after a while we got bored of it and he started playing megadrive round at my house, mostly because there was more games out on that.

the final house in chorley that was relevant to me was catherine’s:

she lived next door to ollie, but she wasn’t really part of the gang, she was 2 years older than me, but she rarely came and hung out in the field. i think she used to do loads of sports and thing. the main thing i remember her for was introducing me to mario (the computer game character, not some italian bloke). me and all my school friends and the football gang all had megadrives, i’d never played on a nintendo until i went round to her house and played mario on her snes. then she got that really good mario game on the gameboy, and i just used to borrow her gameboy for days at a time, it was so good.

annoyingly, i couldn’t take a good photo of my old house, there’s trees and stuff infront, and i’d have had to walk onto the drive to take a proper photo, which i didn’t really want to do.

there is one other important thing

—-

I seem to have given up there, and as I’m on a new computer and phone now, I can’t go back through old photos to find out what I meant. I think I was going to talk about the field that was behind our houses, it was so good. We used to be out there through the summer for about 10 hours a day, playing football, climbing trees, the lot, it was perfect.

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1-2-3-Fest!

Every halloween there’s a magical music festival that happens in Gainesville, Florida. I’ve been to the last three, they have been three of the best weekends of my life. Anyway, tickets just went up on sale this week, which has made me look up who is actually playing this year, and as I was looking down the list, I just got more and more excited. There are so many great bands. Here are lots of youtube clips of my favourite bands:


(they’re touring this month, go and see them)


(sort of)


(BEARD!)

and that’s missing out loads of bands off the current lineup, nevermind bands yet to be announced.

FEST! PARTY! WOOOOO!

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Fuck Da Police

So, all this stuff has been coming out about the met police during the royal wedding. Apparently it’s now acceptable for the police to arrest people for thought crimes, that’s great, isn’t it?

I’ve watched quite a few youtube videos from it over the weekend, it really is awful. Having a pen, or a credit card is not a fucking crime, and neither is being in a park. Fuck off. Just mumble about section 24 or 60, and you can just search and arrest anyone you want, for basically anything? Brilliant.

It’s just a shame that nearly all of the people doing the videos, or involved in the protest seem like complete irritants. I’d still love to actually have the motivation to actually try and change something though, rather than just moan about it, but I never will.

But then again, today I got a leaflet through for the local elections, the only candidates running are conservatives. What’s the fucking point in caring?

And then there’s AV, the “miserable compromise”, again, what’s the point? Why not just let us vote for PR, I might’ve bitched about that before. so I’ll stop now.

On a more positive note, I’m watching Empire Records, and am going to follow it up by watching Dazed and Confused. I know I said in my blog yesterday that I was going to watch 80s films, but I changed my mind. I love both of these so much. I bought them both on video when I was about 16 and had just starting to buy loads of films. I used to watch them so often, they were my go to hangover films. Which is a bit strange with D&C, with all the drinking and everything, I’m surprised it didn’t put me off. I think the thing that makes me love them so much is them just being set on one day in middle america, with a load of kids just living their lives, and I suppose there’s not exactly a lot of plot in either.

If you haven’t watched either of those films yet, you should either kill yourself, or go and buy them. They’re probably only about £3 each.

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