Latest History of Rock Music Podcasts Now Up

There are actually two episodes going live now, at 1AM UK time. One is a very short disclaimer episode about how I’m going to deal with misogynist abusers in the podcast, which largely replicates what I said a couple of weeks back on here.

The other is a proper half-hour episode, looking at Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and their song “Ida Red”, and at the birth of Western Swing.

For those of you who use iTunes, it should be on the iTunes site shortly.

And as always, here’s a link to a Mixcloud playlist of all the songs excerpted. This one has both kinds of music — country *and* Western — as well as a little bit of jazz and one blues track. It has the Carter Family, Bob Wills, Sylvester Weaver, the Lightcrust Doughboys and Django Reinhardt.

As always, this is supported by my backers on Patreon, so if you like the podcast and can afford it, please join them.

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“The Hickey Packet” for Patreon Backers

As you may know, people who back my blog and podcasts on Patreon get free ebook copies of all my books (and people on higher tiers get free paperback or hardback copies).

Partly to thank them — and also partly to encourage people to sign up for my Patreon (I lost a very important freelance client last month, through no fault of my own, and my income has dropped precipitously — I frankly need the money) — I’ve now posted a Patreon-only zip file of epub versions of all my released books (if you need other versions, this site should be able to do it — I don’t currently have copies of all of them in all formats). This is twenty-two files in total — all the books I currently have available for sale, plus a collection of some blog posts about Doctor Who, and another collection of a few short stories, neither of which are available for sale.

All my Patreon backers can find that collection here. It has all my self-published books — novels, books on music, books on comics, books on Doctor Who — plus the two full books I’ve written for Obverse, who very kindly allowed me to give copies to Patreon backers (the short stories I’ve written for Obverse collections are *not* there, because that would be unfair to the other authors and the editors).

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500 Songs Episode 2 Now Up!

Episode 2 of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs is now up on the website, and should be on the podcast’s iTunes feed in a couple of hours.

This one is on “Roll ‘Em Pete” by Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson and covers, among other things, the longest entertainment strike in US history, blues shouting, booglie wooglie piggies, a show sponsored by the Communist Party, and hokum songs. It covers a *lot* of ground, actually.

There’s also a Mixcloud playlist of all the music you hear excerpted in the episode, which you can stream here.

If you like the podcast, please tell someone about it, and if you can also support me on Patreon.

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My Response to the “Consultation” on Changes to the Lib Dem Constitution

I have a very simple response to the proposals by a “leader” who got the job without actually being elected by the members of the party, and who is now trying to ensure that party members never again get to elect a leader.

I think these proposals are *grotesquely* wrongheaded, for the reasons set out in https://www.libdemvoice.org/oneemailaddressonevote-a-foolish-idea-58832.html . They amount to turning control of the party over to whichever special interest has the inclination to set up a botnet (and no, the supposed “safeguards” suggested, all of which would be trivial to circumvent, would do nothing at all to mitigate this. If the party can check that names are on the electoral register, so can any malicious actor).

This would be a bad idea even at the best of times, but at a time when interests opposed to everything the Lib Dems claim to stand for are known to be engaging in cyberattacks, one might as well just hang out a sign saying “the Lib Dems welcome our new authoritarian Russian-backed leadership!” and have done with it. (I am no believer in grand conspiracy theories, but I think extending open-handed invitations to have our electoral system compromised would *invite* conspiracies).

I think that even more than the proposals themselves being misguided, foolish, and potentially deadly to the party, the way in which the party is being railroaded into them is insulting to the party membership and the party’s traditions of internal democracy. And even more than that, I find the idea of spending more than £50,000 on this monument to one old man’s ego by holding a special conference on the proposals — at a time when one can barely go five minutes without another begging letter purportedly from a party luminary because the party is so short of funds — nothing less than obscene. 

I might have been persuadable to vote for a very amended version of these proposals — without the ludicrous idea of the botnet actually getting to choose the leader — were they brought to a normal conference as part of the normal order of business. But given the revelation that these are intended to be brought at a special conference — which will cost the party money and will likely also cost the individual attending members money many of us can’t afford, for a navel-gazing constitutional change that is in no way an emergency, and which seems designed to ripen the party for a takeover by illiberal Labour “centrists” if not by much worse elements — I will firmly oppose even those parts of the proposals which might, in isolation, otherwise not seem as utterly ludicrous as the proposal to turn over our party leadership to hackers does.

These proposals are being presented to us as faits accompli by a leader who was also presented to us as a fait accompli, and we are being asked to pay to give away the party to whoever can be bothered to take it from us. This is mismanagement at an epic scale, and proves that the party constitution *does* need to be changed — to take the power to make stupid decisions like this away from the unelected grandees who pack federal committees, and to ensure there is proper democratic accountability among those committees so we are never again threatened with having what’s left of the party democracy turned over to any of the party’s enemies who wants it because of one man’s folly.

I harbour no illusions that this response will make the slightest difference to anything — it’s very clear that consultation responses will be cherry-picked to present the predetermined conclusion that Vince Cable is the wise sage whose bright idea of a cargo-cult invocation of Canada will save the party — but at least if I respond like this you can’t say absolutely no-one opposed this.

This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?

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Short Story: Terms and Conditions

Thank you for purchasing the TimeMaster 3000! Please read through these terms and conditions and signal your acceptance at the bottom by clicking “I accept”.

You are licensing this TimeMaster 3000 for your personal enjoyment. The time travel feature is provided purely for entertainment and demonstration purposes, and must not be operated in jurisdictions where this feature is illegal. Currently those jurisdictions include all countries in North and South America, all countries in Europe, all countries in Asia, all internationally-controlled areas of Antarctica, and all countries in Africa except for Somalia. By accepting these terms and conditions you are acknowledging that you will not use this feature in those jurisdictions. TimeMaster Inc accepts no liability for any loss or damage caused by illegal use of the TimeMaster 3000.

Any liability for damage caused by temporal paradoxes, including but not limited to the deaths of the user’s grandparents or other ancestors, the murder or non-birth of major historical figures such as dictators, or the death of insects in the Jurassic era, rests solely with the user. By accepting these terms and conditions you are accepting all liability for any such damage and indemnifying TimeMaster Inc against any legal action taken now, in the future, or in any alternate timelines.

The red button must not be pressed. Do not press the red button.

You acknowledge that the TimeMaster 3000 contains a safety feature which will activate if the user takes the TimeMaster back before July 31 2025. On all journeys before this time, any attempts by the user to upload the blueprints for the TimeMaster or to take it to a patent office, in any jurisdiction, will be met with sudden death. By accepting these terms and conditions you are accepting that you have no right to the intellectual property embodied in the TimeMaster 3000, in this or in any other timeline.

You acknowledge that you understand that the TimeMaster 3000, upon arrival in the past, causes minute deviations from the timeline you have previously experienced. You acknowledge that should you have purchased the TimeMaster 3000 on an installment plan, with the intention of using lottery winnings, proceeds from sports bets, or similar sources of funds to pay for the outstanding installments, you remain liable even should the results of said gambling not lead to the outcome you expect.

We repeat, the red button must not be pressed under any circumstances. TimeMaster Inc accepts no liability for loss of life, limb, or reproductive capability caused by pressing the red button.

By accepting these terms and conditions, you undertake not to bring any person or animal who has previously died into the present. You accept that resurrection of the dead is punishable by execution in many states, and that there are innumerable legal precedents regarding people who have previously been pronounced dead by a medical professional. You acknowledge that this applies to lost loved ones, to dead family pets from your childhood, and to estranged family members with whom you wish you had reconciled, as well as to all other people or animals.

You acknowledge that should agents for the Department of Temporal Security visit you upon switching on your TimeMaster 3000, you will not divulge the address of your TimeMaster 3000 supplier, and will not provide any details which will allow criminal enforcement actions to take place against TimeMaster Inc, its agents or employees.

Acceptance of these terms and conditions shall be taken as acceptance that TimeMaster Inc may take any action, up to and including, but not limited to, sending assassins into the torture chamber in which the DTS agents are holding you, to kill you before you provide the DTS with incriminating evidence. You accept full liability for any deaths caused by such a mission, including your own.

By clicking “Accept” you acknowledge that you hold full responsibility for your own medical or funeral expenses should you press the red button.

TimeMaster Inc may use any data collected on your travels to build up a complete biophysical profile of your timeline, and may use this for any purpose it sees fit, including but not limited to overthrowing democratically-elected governments and preventing the passage of the Time Travel Equipment (Criminalization) Act of 2028 by altering your votes in Congressional and Presidential elections after the fact.

By accepting these terms you are acknowledging that any changes that TimeMaster Inc has already made to your timeline, including the deaths of loved ones, the ending of intimate relationships, and the way you lost your last job and haven’t been able to get work in three years now, were all necessary for TimeMaster Inc’s end goals; that as without those changes to your timeline you would not have been willing to use dangerous and illegal technology for what you think are your own purposes but which actually serve a higher goal you will never understand; and that TimeMaster Inc bear no moral liability and should feel no guilt for what is about to happen.

To acknowledge that you have read and understood these conditions, just click below, and your TimeMaster 3000 will be ready for use! Be safe, and most importantly, have fun!

Your Friends At TimeMaster

This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon, who will also be getting another short story, “A Sceptical Werewolf in New York”, that will be Patreon-exclusive for at least a month. Why not join them and get that story?

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A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs Episode One Now Up

The first proper episode of my podcast A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs is now live at https://www.500songs.com/e/episode-1-flying-home/ . It will shortly be up on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/a-history-of-rock-in-five-hundred-songs/id1437402802.

This one looks at Benny Goodman’s “Flying Home”, and at Charlie Christian.
When you’ve listened to it, you can listen to a mix of all the music I talk about at Mixcloud.

And remember, this podcast is backed by my supporters on Patreon.

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Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell to Earth

I probably won’t blog every week about my thoughts about Doctor Who — indeed, I probably won’t watch it every week, as I don’t have a TV — I was visiting friends to watch it this week, as the debut of a new Doctor, and a female Doctor at that, and a *Northern* female Doctor at that, is something we were all keen to see. But I did see it this week, and thought I’d get my initial thoughts down, before seeing what the more general reaction has been.

Overall, I’d say this is probably the best debut of a new Doctor since… well, “Rose” seemed pretty good at the time, but in retrospect I was probably giving it far more benefit of doubt than I should have, and since I’ve not rewatched it in thirteen years, I may well not think of it as highly if I saw it now, especially as I’m more aware of all Davies’ writing flaws.

Other than that, it’s the best debut of a new Doctor since “Castrovalva”.

Before people take that as overly high praise, remember I am not a fan of the post-2005 series in general, though I’ve enjoyed several individual episodes, that the McGann TV movie has some fairly basic structural problems, and that McCoy and Colin Baker both debuted with what it’s safe to say are generally considered their weakest stories. So I’m not holding this episode to a ridiculously high standard.

But it did easily clear the basic bar set for it, and it did some stuff that I wasn’t expecting (as well as some stuff that I was).

First, the one actual criticism I’d make is the YouTube framing sequence, where first we think that Ryan is talking about the Doctor but later it turns out that he was actually talking about his grandmother. This is hack and cliched, and was the one moment in the entire episode that felt entirely off to me.

But on the other hand there was another moment involving Ryan that gave me great hope that this series will be much better than it has been, and which almost made me cheer.

Ryan, for those who don’t watch the show or don’t remember details, is dyspraxic, as am I. And at nineteen years old he can’t ride a bike — I still can’t, at forty, and nor can I drive a car. At the start of the story, his grandmother and step-grandfather are patiently trying to teach him to ride, and he keeps falling off, and eventually gets frustrated and throws his bike off the top of a hill. This is entirely accurate and about what would have happened to me if I hadn’t given up on trying to ride a bike long before I turned nineteen.

But then, his grandmother dies, and he remembers her patience in trying to teach him this skill, and he’s determined to teach himself, so he goes back, and finds his bike, and still falls off. And tries again. And falls off. And tries again. And falls off. And that’s it.

We don’t see him suddenly, magically, get better through sheer force of will. We don’t see him manage to “overcome” his disability. He’s still disabled. He will remain disabled.

And this is impprtant for multiple reasons:

Firstly, disability representation matters, and dyspraxia is one of those disabilities that those who don’t have it don’t understand at all, and that even many dyspraxic people (at least when I was growing up) were unaware of — you don’t realise that no-one else has the same difficulties you do in doing seemingly simple tasks, you just think you’re rubbish (it’s like autism in that respect — and dyspraxia plus undiagnosed autism is a real bastard of a combination for self-esteem, in case you were wondering). It’s also great that Ryan is a *black* dyspraxic teenager — normally, to the extent that the whole cluster of disabilities like that (autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia all seem to cluster — it’s comparatively likely that if you have one you’ll have a bunch of them) is represented at all, it’s represented by… well, someone like me. A white boy or man.

Secondly, people “overcoming” their disability is a dangerous, ableist, trope. It puts pressure on disabled people and says that if you’re still actually disabled it’s your own fault for not trying enough. It might, eventually, be possible for a dyspraxic person to learn to ride a bike, a bit. But it’s not something that can be done with just a little bit of extra trying — it might take literally years of practice, every day, the same amount of practice it might take someone else to become a concert pianist. Saying otherwise is obscenely harmful, and too many TV series do that kind of thing for a feelgood ending.

And thirdly, and in some ways least important but in other ways most, what I just said — most TV series would go for the cheap emotional boost of having the character succeed. It’s a cliche, and it’s dull. And this episode didn’t go for the cliche, and instead went for a more complex, more interesting, option.

There’s a lot more I liked about the episode as well — the little nod to Tomb of the Cybermen showing that this is still the same character as the second Doctor, the fact that the music is no longer by Murray Gold, the fact that it’s colour-graded to look like naturalistic TV drama rather than the unreal palettes of most of the post-2005 series, the fact that the characters were grounded in real working-class jobs (my dad has worked as both a nurse and a bus driver, so this feels grounded to me in a way that other series haven’t).

Whitaker was good — I could go into detail about her performance, but right now I think that any negatives I said would be taken as me being on the “the Doctor can’t be a girl, ewww!” side of things, and I don’t want to give an unbalanced assessment, so I’ll just leave that for now, except to say that I have no trouble believing her as the Doctor, which has not been the case with some other previous actors in the role.

But for me, other than the dyspraxic character and the realism of much of it (other than them getting the trains wrong, of course), the thing that struck me the most was that the script was *competent*. It’s not a great script (I wouldn’t expect greatness from Chibnall), but it was functional in a way that, frankly, most of the scripts by previous showrunners haven’t been — Davies because he didn’t care enough about plot mechanics to have plots actually make sense, and Moffat because he would try to be cleverer than he was.

It felt, actually, very Terrance Dicks — it had a baseline competence to it on the crafting level that much of the post-2005 series hasn’t had. The one moment of subverting the cliche and the one moment of going for the obvious cliche I talked about above sort of cancel each other out in that respect, and the rest of the episode went by, almost uniquely, without me noticing any horrendous failures of craft (the way the Doctor defeated the monster at the end wasn’t quite well enough set up, but it was papered over better than similar events in Davies scripts). 
In everything other than the areas of representation — of disability, gender, and ethnicity — this was a reassuringly traditional, competent, episode. It’s very wisely chosen to play everything safe except for the new stuff, but that’s what makes the most sense for something that has to introduce so many new parts. I don’t think it’ll go down as a classic episode, but it was an enjoyable episode, one I can imagine rewatching with pleasure, and one I can easily see as the opening to a classic series.
I liked it.

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