How Do I Not Screw Everything Up With A Badly Thought Out Gift?

When you’re in a relationship for a long time, you will, obviously, find yourself in a sticky situation. No, not that one where you feel your relationship is getting stale and you decide that rather than talking about it you embark on a string of one-night stands that leave you hollow and emotionless and hating yourself for being a bastard (anyone? No? Just me then?). I mean the one where you have to try and find something nice to buy her for her birthday.

Birthday’s are awesome, of course. Parties are fun, you have an excuse to make contact with old friends/distant relatives, and you get some sweet swag. Unless you’re the person having to provide the party, respond to the contact and purchase the present.

In particular when it’s your girlfriend. Christ knows that the tiniest little thing can make her cry with tears of joy or tears of rage dependent on how much it appears that you’ve understood the phrase “I like shiny things” (tip: silver foil doesn’t count). There’s a fine art to picking out that perfect present, and it’s one I’ve yet to master.


But I do have some myths on gift buying that I’d like to clear up before I go into my own personal dilemma.

1. The more you spend, the better the gift.

So many conversations that I’ve had with friends about buying gifts for their other halves involve a pissing contest over who spent the most amount of money. I think the worst hit to the wallet was something like £75 for a necklace, and they’d been dating less than six months.

Seriously? Do you need to spend this much on a girl to gain her affections? The most I ever spent on Jen is about £30, and that was spread across three different items, all of which were objects that didn’t belong about your person. Does that make me cheap, because I’m willing to seek out the best deal I can get and not go for extravagant pieces of jewellery? Does my girlfriend secretly resent me for not buying her these things?

(The answer, by the way, is no, because she has one accessory that I conceptualised and comissioned (from my mother and sister) that she loves.)

2. She’ll love it no matter what, because it came from you.

I’ve been told this so many times and I will never, ever believe it. Not totally, anyway. An ex once gave me a mug that, when tilted, played a loud football-style chant. It turned out that she knew it would annoy me (our relationship was doomed from the start, and again when we went back out, and then again the time after that (God I was lonely back then)), which thus made it the perfect gift.

The point is that it’s possible to screw up, no matter what he/she says. What you buy a person is a reflection of yourself as much as it is a genuine opportunity to show your appreciation towards another human being. And, even if you’ve been going out for a while, you’re still being judged.

(This may or may not just be my own personal worry; it is entirely possible that Jen means it when she says it.)

3. Gifts guarantee sexual favours

I don’t care if your intentions are ironic, don’t even joke about this.

Leading you back to my inital concern though…


So right now I’m searching for presents for Jen’s birthday (which is a month away, but hell, Christmas decorations are going up) and after a moderate discussion about what I could possibly get her, I was informed that I should rely on our “in-jokes”.

Of course, what with me being an hour away from her at almost all times, and the fact that when given a specific constraint the typical human will simply forget everything within the constraint, I then forgot all our in-jokes. So now I’m out on my sleeves, desperately trying to claw together a reasonable idea.

My great ideas have already been shot down. Radical Face recently released a new album, and I’m like “oh I could get her the CD”. Then, like a dick, I tell her about it, and she’s all “oh man I could totally get that from uTorrent (or whatever she uses)!”. Damnit! If I’d kept my mouth shut, I could’ve had the most fucking spectacular present ever!

And now I’m faced with the trouble of what theme do I go for? One of the things we do a lot together is play video games; do I get her gaming related gifts? We often go for walks; some walking boots? I occasionally make gay jokes about me and her dad; mental re-programming sessions?

Do I actually need to spend a large amount this time? We’ve been dating for nearly two years, and for the first time in my life I have a large sum of money and a good idea of when another large sum of money will fall into my lap. Is now the time to splash the cash and make a big show? Or would that just look like I’m trying too hard to make up for the fact I don’t just live down the road from her anymore?

If I get her something, will she really appreciate it? It’s not related to anything she actively seeks out to enjoy, but if I stick it on then she’ll enjoy it. But does that mean she could stomach even more of it? Is she only enjoying it because I enjoy it? Would she ever use it? (Being deliberately generic here cos I know Jen reads this.)

Do I get her something she mentioned a vague interest in but I didn’t take it as a serious thing and so forgot the specifics and don’t want to get it wrong?

Or do I do something completely, totally off the wall and get her a ridiculous joke present? Would that go down well?

Could I incorporate all these things? Get several presents? I imagine if I was careful enough, I could do that relatively cheaply, but then am I sacrificing my own wellbeing for her? Isn’t that the point of a relationship? Could I honestly spend more money than I would really like to on someone I love and care about very, very much? Does it make me a bad person if I even have ideas such as “more money than I would really like” that I work at when it comes to being generous to others?

I’m sure I’ll work it out. Or, you know, just ask her.

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“Try Everything Once” Track by Track

Well, I’ve got an hour and a half until my next lecture, and I had no idea where anyone is, so now seems like a good opportunity to fulfil a wish made by Ed (http://jokesound.wordpress.com/) and do a track by track explanation of where some of my older songs come from! First up, the first full length album by Signposted Disaster, “Try Everything Once” (http://signposteddisaster.co.uk/album/try-everything-once).

1. If Newton Can Do It…

At the start of every album of his, Newton Faulkner does a nice twiddly acoustic intro that sets the mood for the album. It draws in the listener and makes them think “ahhh, this is nice.” So why couldn’t I give it a go?

Well, if you listen to the track, you’ll see why. This was the first Signposted Disaster song to not feature chords, and was my first step into my very slow progression as a guitarist. It sucks. Don’t listen to it. Go listen to “Angry On A Train” instead, that shit’s hilarious.

(Of course I can’t give up on the awful twiddly intro joke, so the next album, “All My Friends Have Issues”, will feature “Release The Bears” as the intro song.)

2. Wildfire!

This was the last song I recorded for the album. I had to build up the courage to make ridiculous noises while my parents were around for about a week, but I feel it was worth it.

This song basically explains itself – I used to go round to a friends house at lunchtime and hang out with a bunch of people, during which time we would watch Wildfire, a show about a struggling horse ranch. Because we weren’t really watching it, we just assumed that the Mexican guy was called Wildfire. And then one day we did watch it, and were very disappointed.

Anyway, the song came about because Danny G told me to write a song about it, and I thought “hell, why not?” The idea that it was being sung in a bar in the Wild West was added right before I started recording, and I made up the shouts of the listeners as I went along.

I listened back to this yesterday and thought, “what the fuck was I thinking?”

3. Sex In Someone Else’s House

This one, amazingly, is not based on a true story. For one, I don’t drink Becks. For another, I had a girlfriend at the time.

It’s sort of based on the fact that I kept going to these house parties and hearing stories of people getting it on, and I was like, “aw man, why can’t I get my rocks off at a party?” (I may have been a little drunk at the time). I got home and decided to write a song about it.

Fun fact: Jen was supposed to appear as the girl singing back to me, but in the end I didn’t have time, and we kept forgetting to do it.

Double fun fact: The “Party At Ric’s House: The Epic Saga” version is one of my favourite songs that I’ve done. The harmonies work really well, I feel.

4. Animatronically Correct

I was vaccuming the downstairs once, and was mulling things over in my mind. Of course, what exactly led me to thinking about robot girlfriends is something that would probably reveal a little bit too much about myself (or, more accurately, myself last summer), but somehow I came up with this absolutely brilliant phrase, “animatronically correct”.

If you haven’t guessed, it’s a blending of “animatronics” (creating movement through cogs and wheels and stuff (I guess), like the It’s A Small World ride) and anatomically correct (something with all the right parts, in this case a robot with… you know).

BONUS FACT: I grabbed my notepad and pen and set off to Boundary Mill with Mum, keen to get writing the song, but failed miserably.

This is one of the only songs where lyrics came before music, and is a process I never will attempt again.

The decision to have a drum beat was down to the fact I’d just grabbed the old family keyboard out of the attic and was dicking around with it when I found that beat. Started playing along and it sounded cool, so it made the cut.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a keyboard that the solo’s played on, it’s a guitar with a shit-load of phaser and reverb. I’d like to say it’s not very good because I was just getting started, but I’ve never improved (anyone who saw Signposted Disaster live at Manchester Club Academy in March will agree with me).

5. Why Didn’t You Look At Porn?

All you need to know is that this is a true story, and I’m deeply deeply sorry.

6. All The Same

You know when you get writer’s block, and you write something about how you can’t write anything?

Yeah.

This song was a bitch to record, as I was, again, just getting started on finger-picking and sucked balls at it. Chances are there’s a screw up in there somewhere, but I can’t remember at this moment in time, and I hate the song, so I ‘aint checking.

Fun fact: I repeated the Conor Oberst (lead singer of Bright Eyes) joke in track three of “Party At Ric’s House: The Epic Saga”. I’d always wanted to write a parody of early Bright Eyes tracks, which were mostly just Conor screaming and crying, and that’s where that track stemmed from.

7. That Sounds Like A Song Lyric

This was based on the observation that random sentences sounded like song lyrics. Duh. It ended up as my catchphrase for a while, and eventually someone told me to shut up and write a song about it already, so I did!

This was a composite of several random late night bright ideas, in particular the first line that I “swore is true”. It isn’t. I made that shit up. Fo real.

8. Signposted Disaster Goes Electric

It felt weird diving into the electric side of the album head-on without a transitional period. I was originally planning to start with some acoustic guitar, which eventually went into electric, but in the end I just improv’d this little bit and stuck an E5 on the end. Worked out OK I think!

(For an explanation as to why the electric band started, see the Signposted Disaster Facebook page.)

9. One Time I Tried To Record Grindcore And It Didn’t Really Work Out But I Recorded It Anyway

Cameron, the drummer, started telling me about grindcore once. It sounded horrendous. And then he sent me a link to “Raped By Elephants”, and it WAS horrible. Like, awful. Go listen to it, then come back.

Horrified?

I figured I’d never be able to accomplish the dizzying heights of that kind of screaming, so I thought a parody of it, during which the singer fucked up and just started coughing and keeling over, would be fun. Cameron agreed, jumped on guitar, and gave us that metalcore masterpiece you can hear. I played some drums, badly, and Dale plucked a B or a C (I can’t remember) repeatedly. The comment on me dying was improv’d by Cameron. I love it.

10. Stop Living

Signposted Disaster was, initally, an emo parody band. That was why I came up with the stupid name that’s both a little bit emo (only a little, of course) and a little bit funny (less so than the emo). Stop Living, however, was the first time I actually wrote a song that parodied emo culture.

How I came up with the lyrics is mostly a blur. The original, original lyrics are lost in the ether somewhere, and the finalised lyrics were half-remembered and half re-written in a Maths lesson two hours before our first gig. A testament to my writing ability, or sheer dumb luck? You decide.

The solo was added on by Cameron because he really wanted to just fucking let rip on a guitar after drumming for so long. I’ll never be able to replicate that solo. He can, though.

Fun fact: After playing this song once, I hated it so much that I refused to ever play it again. Eventually we did play it again, and I realised I loved it.

11. Maybe

I love Interpol, basically. I wanted to write something that sounded nice and Interpol-y, and this is what came out. I recorded it all by myself, so that’s why there’s no drums.

The lyrics were ad-libbed, although they followed a loose script from the original demo recording, which explains why they make absolutely no fucking sense (and talk about marshmallows and elephants or something (I wasn’t high I promise)).

12. I Wanna Punch Kristen Stewart In The Face

Pretty self-explanatory really. This was the first electric song I wrote (funny how the first songs I write are always about Twilight) and one of the main reasons the electric band got together.

Where the idea for punching her in the face came from I don’t know, but this ended up being both a fan favourite and a point of controversy when an acoustic version made it’s way onto YouTube. The sound guy at the Academy gig apparently loved it though, so that’s good. At least sound guys like us.

13. Stairs

There’s a comic called Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, which is actually a side comic from MS Paint Adventures, and is an ironic take on the webcomic scene. The first comic features a badly copied and pasted drawing of a badly drawn character falling down stairs, proclaiming that he hates stairs.

One day when jamming, Dale suggested we write a song about this. Not knowing what to do, I started playing the God awful chord progression that became the main hook of Stairs, and we all jammed along to it while I quoted the comic. Joe, my best friend, was there too, and he made it worse by playing the reverse of what I was playing.

I initially planned it to be a throwaway joke because, hell, it’s an obscure reference to an obscure comic that no one will ever get. Boy, was I wrong. The fans went for it like rabid dogs, and it’s been demanded that we play it at every gig. Eventually we worked in an outro shout-out for the band to extend the song beyond the initial recording time of 2 minutes to, usually, about 5 minutes. I think one time we stretched it to 7.

The song has become basically the trademark of the electric band. It’s humbling to think that so many people could get behind a song that is so utterly abysmal, and despite my apparent distaste for having to play it at every gig, I am actually very grateful to all our fans for loving it so much.

Now like some of our other songs, eh?

(Other than White Guy, of course.)

14. Statistics

While failing A level Maths because we were writing songs, me and Cameron decided to write a song about the fact we were failing Maths (an idea I repeated in a later, punkier song, “Math Error”). We got me on keyboard, Cameron on guitar and Dale on bass, and wrote a smooth little song to make it all nice.

Then I thought, fuck it, we’re a rock band! Let’s make nice loud noises instead! So I ran over to the drum kit, and we made up a little rock section to kick up the tempo a bit. If you listen carefully, you can hear me get up from the keyboard during recording and run over to the drums (we recorded all the instruments at once to save time and effort).

We played this live once. People threw coins at us. We never played this song ever again.

15. Epic Blues Jam

Cameron: “Can we finish the album with an epic blues jam?”

Ric: “Yeah, sure.”
It’s made slightly less epic by my SD card running out of space, so we had to cut it short.

And that’s it! Hope that provides much more insight into your listening experience than you ever needed.

Oh, and if you need a copy of the album to listen to, grab it from here: http://signposteddisaster.co.uk/album/try-everything-once


Don’t forget to like the Signposted Disaster Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Signposted-Disaster/226604784313

“Blogging” Blogging (Or The Art Of Making Your Toast Sound Facsinating)

It’s still quite a weird feeling when I check out Gaming Lives at midnight to see what’s being thrown up there and seeing something and going “shit! I wrote that!”. It makes me feel like a proper writer or sumfink. My name no longer appears next to the article because of the new site design, which makes sense in terms of a site brand instead of just individual writers, but hurts my ego a little. Not much, though; I can still hold my head up and say “I’m a real writer, mother fucker.”

Anyway here’s what I had to say on disc swapping, which, if you know me well enough, you’ll know I’m vehemently non-plussed about it and hate people claiming that it’s newsworthy.

http://www.gaminglives.com/2011/10/11/insert-disc-two-are-you-mad/

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Because of my broken fridge, my butter has melted. I only realised this today because today was the first time I’ve made toast in a long while, and it’s also been some time since I had bread. In fact… shit, the last time I had bread was last Tuesday, and that was wrapped around a bacon and cheeseburger.

Any normal person would attempt to resolve this problem by, say, complaining to an authority figure who might be able to do something about it. Others may simply move the butter into a working fridge. I said nay; I shall work with my melted butter, and save myself the effort of attempting to find a new home for it or bothering someone else with my troubles.

(It has, I believe, already been reported anyway.)

Melted butter is in no way inferior to it’s more stable brother. Certainly, there’s more control on your butter intake when the original product is solid, allowing for smoother, more even butter distribution on your bread. But at the end of the day, you’re applying fat to carbohydrate; you’re gonna get the same result no matter what molecular structure the entity is currently exhibiting.

Cheese, however, is not to be eaten warm, and never should you eat the waxy edges. Blegh.

Learning began today. I’ve been begging for some learning for so long now; the summer months dragged on more than ever before, and my lazy body couldn’t bring itself to try and find a job or something to kill the time with, so I mostly found myself sat around, refreshing Facebook and telling myself to play video games (choosing instead to refresh Facebook). I’ve heard next summer will be longer, so clearly I will need to get a job. Or get the band back together and embark on a tour. Whichever comes first.

Lectures are scary prospects. Hundreds of people scratching down notes that end up half finished because the lecturer is trying to stick to a timetable. Lecturers whose first language is most certainly not English explaining Computer Science concepts I’ve never heard of before. 40 year old men saying “meow!” as a ball and cat collide onscreen.

Times like this I wish I was just at home, away from it all, hiding in my room with my computer and Xbox. Not doing anything. I know I’d be bored witless, but I’d be safe from everything, and I wouldn’t have to worry about a damned thing.

Going home last weekend was great, but it was hell to come back to uni. There were times when I felt like having a nervous breakdown just so I didn’t have to experience the big bad world for myself. That and be near my girlfriend.

But I also missed all my new friends at uni. The new life I’m in the middle of building. And of course, I don’t want to continue to be a burden on my parents, always cadging lifts and asking for things with that cheeky grin on my face, the one that says “buy it and I’ll love you foreverrrrr!”

I’m torn between the two.

Mostly I just try not to think about it.

It’s twenty five to two.

On Releasing Bears and Hidden Parties

I should really get off the Release The Bears thing, but there’s always been something I quite like about the idea of having an instrumental which leads into something totally bizarre and out of a place, a la Mildred Pierce by Sonic Youth, or, more recently (but not quite the same thing), Give Me Back The Nights by DJ Shadow. Seriously, that shit be trippin’ muh-fucka.

I blame Dale totally, of course, for being the one who suggested the idea during the idiotic fake Signposted Disaster world tour. He figured that on our North Pole leg, we should have bears in cages, and play a song called “Release The Bears”, which would then lead to the inevitable (if this is sounding familiar, yes, I recycled the idea in my Fashion Show review further down the page/back in the archives). I did the original electric demo myself, but what with it lacking drums, it sounded a bit shit.

And then I needed a new opening song, and it was perfect. Re-recorded and acoustic-y-fied, I bring you Release The Bears.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F24953862 Release The Bears by Signposted Disaster

-anyway-

I’ve been at Lancaster Uni for nearly a week now, and by God I can’t wait to get started with some fucking LEARNING. I’m getting really quite bored by the prospect of doing absolutely nothing with myself for a while before getting up and going to a pointless talk that it’s unreal.

Of course, this pattern will continue into my actualy timetable, but fuck it.

I’ve tried to socialise, but only in the context of things that interest me. Cross dress night, for example, did not interest me. Anything But Clothes night was a similar no-no (that was tonight). The ABC afterparty was also out. Not being a big party-goer/dancer/clubber/drinker rather limits my options in the evenings.

Comedy night, however, shit yeah! I was there like a boss. That floor didn’t know which way to turn when I was sat on it. The comedy was also quite good. Also good was the non-alcoholic pub quiz, during which I got chatting to some American third-years who knew bollocks all about the history of the BBC. Typical.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped people attempting to force parties/dancing on me. I don’t mean that folks have been constantly trying to persuade me to go out drinking with them (I can shoot that down super easily!), more that the kitchen on the floor below me has played the same playlist of pop-punk/emo on two nights this week, blaring it out the windows at full volume, during the early hours.

How does one counterract such a musical juggernaut? Well, acoustic music of course. As it happens, Damien Rice actually quite nicely drowns out anything they can throw at me, even when it’s quietly falling out of the speakers. So fuck you party, I can ignore you just fine.

The people on my corridor/in my kitchen are all lovely. They don’t even try to berate me into drinking, which is a definite plus. One of the guys drinks lemonade and vodka, which made me breathe a sigh of relief as I ordered my Malibu and Coke, secure in the knowledge that my decidedly womanly drink wouldn’t be a mark of shame upon my head.

I guess that you sort of have to be like that in this situation. You can’t go ahead and dislike someone because of what they’re drinking, you accept it as their character and form opinions later. We’ll all be seeing each other a lot over the next year, quietly and openly hearing of their likes and dislikes, witnessing their ups and downs, and sharing a variety of objects (I’m personally hoping that -someone- hooks up with -anyone-, since almost every bloody one of us came with partners at home, and I desire more immediate drama), so to be deliberately antagonistic this early on would just be poor form. Also everyone I’ve spoken to about it says they have low self esteem, so hell, they need to be liked.

Which isn’t a criticism; takes one to know one.

My fridge is broken. I mean, I’m pretty certain it keeps things cooler than room temperature, but not by much. We’ve told the relevant authorities (I think), but given that we’re paying £75 a week rent, and it took two days for them to come and saw off some skirting board to get at someone’s plug socket, I don’t hold out much hope.

After my lecture about English tomorrow I go home for the weekend. It’s probably unwise to detatch myself from uni so quickly, but balls to it, Jen’s at home and by the Nine do I miss her. And someone else is also heading home for the weekend, so at least I’m not the only one.

And when I come back I get cake, so get the fuck in.

It’s twenty to three in the morning. The party has ended.