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Gordon Ramsey and a kick up the a@*e

4 Nov

I recently had a brief chat with someone about their ultimate dream to go on Gordon Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen” , which sent me off into my own little world on a tangent…as these things usually do.

The person I was chatting to mentioned how Ramsey has such a bad reputation as a nasty person, and how this actually didn’t matter to them one bit. Sure, he seemed like a nasty person, but there was a method behind it which this guy recognised and appreciated.

Seeing him explode like a nuclear bomb full of the english languages worst offenders on tv can give you the wrong impression, and in this day and age where many people flinch at the slightest sign of conflict* it’s understandable how he’s gotten the reputation he has. Look a little deeper into things though and this attitude makes some sense. Hopefully I can explain it well enough for you to agree or at least understand.

* it seems that these days the perception of ‘conflict’ has turned from “an actual situation whereby someone is giving you unwarranted/undeserved abuse” to “a situation where someone is telling you something about yourself you might not like; cry, cry, for the love of god cry about it…your warped sense of self isn’t going to hold up unless you deny any and all criticism!!1!”.

Okay so; cooking is a discipline. Like taking a career in Law enforcement/ the army, learning a martial art, studying dance/music or engaging in any other activity that requires consistent improvement for you to attain a level of comfort within the discipline.

The first method of teaching or leading someone in any of these arts is to give them enough information for them to realise they need to be their own spur and their own worst enemy if they want to improve. This method takes time and tends to weed out the ones who don’t have the heart.

The second method, as used by Gordon Ramsey and the Army, is to well…push them as hard as possible. This also weeds out the ones who don’t have the heart, but in more spectacular fashion.

Neither method is superior, both are just different. One method might be better depending on circumstances (the discipline in question, the person in question, circumstances, etc…) but both have the same aim: to get the student to realise that they need to do this for themselves.

But of course, as I’ve mentioned before ( https://rhinoprayer.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/youre-not-finished-not-at-18-19-21-30-40/) people have a tendency to think they’ve finished learning/improving once they hit a magic mark. Oh of course they’ll spout ridiculous soliloquoys about how they’ve “got passion, determination, a good attitude, etc…” but a lot of the time it’s quite obvious they’ve put more effort into thinking of those words than actually embodying them.

And here’s where Ramsey’s attitude steps in. When he meets someone who is full of talk but then fails to show any substance behind it, he flips out at them because here’s an adult who’s kidding themselves into thinking they’re a fully functional and well rounded person when the truth is they’re having trouble boiling an egg because they’re too busy pumping themselves up by shouting adjectives and motivational slogans at the same time.

“Fortitude! I’m level-headed! chicken stew! WHOLE NINE YARDS!!”

And I can understand it. Both sides. I can easily understand how someone can fool themselves into thinking everythings alright and that they don’t have to put too much effort into consistent improvement – it’s a tough thing to take a long hard look at yourself when your grown up and think “wow…yeah I’m not all I’m cracked up to be…better do something about it”.

And I can understand Ramsey’s attitude too, because very often the “softly softly catch a monkey” approach doesn’t work with people. Try to persuade them softly and they’ll just take it as an opportunity to sit back into their bubble of self delusional to shout a few more slogans at themself. In some cases, and specifically in Ramsey’s case -where he gets people wanting to learn but refusing to take a long hard look at themselves, break it down and build it it back up- people need a good kick up the arse.

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Progress is a stealthy beast

27 Jun

I’ve had cause to mark a bit of progress over the past few days. I didn’t notice it at first, but that’s always the way isn’t it? Things change for the good so slowly that you don’t remember the full frame of reference you have, preferring to compare yourself on how you were recently rather than long ago.

A while ago I was chilling outside a bar having a smoke when a Brazilian guy rambles out the door and stands in my general vicinity.  I strike a bit of a conversation and we shoot the breeze for a few minutes before two girls stumble, and I mean stumble, out the door in front of us.They were obviously with the guy, although I don’t know how well they all knew each other seeing as there was still that ‘first meeting’ sense lingering in the air, but they were cosy enough.

The girls start drunkenly jostling for attention from all angles straight away and I decide I’m having none of it. That’s a pretty decent step for me in the first place, but not the point proper ( I have a habit of calling people out when they’re acting like idiots anyway).

One of them starts hassling people for a smoke while obviously  rolling one up anyway. Bad mistake purty; if you’re gonna prey, do it right…and not in front of someone who can innocently-but at the same time damn blatantly- steer a situation in other directions (i don’t know how I get away with verbally assaulting someone for something like this and still have it seem like it’s all good, I really don’t).

But anyway, the two girls start really screaming for attention, which leads them to start making out – while looking around at the audience- and coming on to the brazilian lad. Long story short: they dragged him away* to what I can only presume would be the best night of his life, and I was pretty happy for him. I was, honestly!

*(While getting dragged away I wished him a good night and he stretched his arm out to shake my hand; he looked like someone getting eaten alive in a zombie film!)

The progress in all this? Well a few years ago I would have either

A) read the situation early and done my best to wedge myself in between the girls and the brazilian. Would I have succeeded? who knows, the point is I would have tried, making myself feel (and look) like an idiot either way.

or B) used this instance as an excuse to barrel off into a drunken wallow spiral…

“It should have been ME, JIMMY! jimmy it should have been me…”

about how things never work out for me and how life is terrible and how I could have had them and all that pointless babble, then gone on the dreaded hunt for the ‘last chopper from Saigon’.

I was pretty happy with that for one, but even happier when I saw the same two girls over the weekend at another bar and thought to myself “Huh…would ya look at that.” without batting an eyelid or, worse, letting that little devil on the shoulder start whispering “Huh would you look at that is right…dirty bitches. You know what to do…”.

In the past I would have genuinely, and drunkenly, tried to swing my way into that little sandwich regardless of the circumstances. And then there’s the fact that, more and more recently, I’ve taken stock of myself during nights out and figured that my time would be better spent enjoying the company of my friends than keeping watch/hunting for a nice piece of ass.*

*(hey it’s a hard thing to do when you’ve got the horn of a raging bull, but; I’d much rather take part in memories I’d like to remember rather than ones I’d like to forget)

Fuck me, I really did waste a lot of time back in the day. I was never hugely successful on the occasions I let myself ease out of my principles (which could even make it worse haha), but still I allowed myself to be taken over by the mindset, and the mindset is key.

Progress is indeed a stealthy beast. I never thought I’d be sitting here writing this sort of stuff and, even better, I never thought I’d be happy with myself about it. It takes a long time to change, and it’s very easy to forget where you started. Carrying on without knowing, or acknowledging, where you started can lead you to not see much improvement and maybe even influence you into thinking there’s not much point. Look far back enough though, or hard enough, and you’ll see a point you’ve been moving away from. From there, keep an eye on it.

I’m not gonna let all this allow me to become complacent though, hell no. Keep one eye on where you’ve been, and the other on where you want to be…Besides: The Last chopper from Saigon has more of my soul than I care to think about.

(and of course, the obligatory music. I’m curious; is this appreciated? or am I just getting peoples nerves by putting music at the end of the posts? Is it a page-loading hassle worthy of unsubscribing from the page? If you’d care to comment your view, it’d be much appreciated!…although I do love me some music, so I can’t promise your view- if negative- will be heeded;)

All the best

Green lantern and complex shapes; willpower is a muscle

20 Jun

Well then, I saw the Green Lantern movie. No, this isn’t going to be a review (there’s enough of those out there), but there was one thing about the movie, and premise, that got me thinking. So, although there might be some things about the movie in this post (*Cough* Kilowogs voice was ridiculously wrong *C-Cough*) I’ll only be using it to relate to my point.

The basic premise, if you don’t know it, is that the Green Lanterns get their power and strength from willpower. Simple enough. The more willpower a Lantern has, the better equipped they are to become a good one. The ring holds the power, and the reserve of energy, but it’s the wearers willpower that really makes the difference and makes it possible for the energy to be used (just in case you saw the film, heard an innocent enough line and were thinking “If the energy is a collection of all the willpower in the universe, why doesn’t it just give the wearer incredible power regardless of their character?! I CALL SHENANIGANS!!”).

Not to ruin the film too much for you, but there’s a training scene where the hero of the piece gets put through his paces…for a minute or two. Now, if you’ll allow me tostep off course for a minute, I’d just like to say that this was incredible disappointing. If you’re a fan of the comics you’ll know that Kilowog, the trainer of Green Lanterns, has a habit of putting new recruits through their paces like dogs of war.

In the film, Kilowog tussles with Hal for a minute or two,  steps aside for someone else to have a go then drifts off on a cloud to presumably look for the rabbit farm he was told the guardians placed on OA especially for him, like some sort of monstrously disciplined Lenny from ‘of Mice and men’.

But anyway; as disapointing as that scene was, it was a throaway scene just afterwards that got my attention. Hals guide to the world of green genes

“…and here comes your host tonight:TOMAR RE, ladies and gentlemen, tomar re!”  (…sorry, that music just totally goes with him as an intergalactic game show host…)

is showing him how to make shapes with the ring. Standing there looking like a cross between a chicken and a fish (…which, is…actually pretty well done and accurate to the comics as far as I know. I wasn’t trying to be insulting with that description), he’s casually fooling around with a construct ripped from the mind of M.C. Escher himself then twisted by a thousand car wrecks.

Fair enough; this guy has the experience. He can conjur up all manner of shapes and constructions because he’s been at the job for years (and, importantly, he’s got the imagination…that’s a Green Lantern thing I’m not even going to get into), spending countless hours and missions honing his willpower into a finely tuned weapon.

Astonishingly though, he then pushes the hero to do the same. (…Say whatnow?!) He tells Hal jordan to create the exact same shape that he had been just messing around with and, believe it or not, he does it with a completely straight face; like it’s nothing in the world. Does he do it?…like fuck he does. This is my main disappointment with the training sequence (And I do love me a good training sequence); this point is completely passed over. It’s like “Oh, hey; you got a ring?! good times…good times. Now do this. and this. Why can’t you do it?! do it I said!!! FAILURE! you’re a FAILURE! *tsh GOSH this will never work out for you…” *

*(you could argue that Hal has enough willpower already, seeing as he flies military aircraft using the power of steelballs, and should therefore be able to do anything he wants with the ring; but his willpower is only in one, very specific, area…Someone who has the willpower to run ten miles might not have the willpower to stand still for two hours.)

My long winded point about all this, is that Willpower is a muscle. It needs to be exercised, strenghtened and refined. Start with basic shapes, get them down as tight as possible, then you can move onto the three dimensional spiral tornadoes gyrating in alternate directions based on the proximity to and direction of beautiful women.

If you’ve had experience balancing out two opposing things with willpower, you’ll know what I’m talking about. A few years ago I was trying to start a healthy new activity in my life while trying to give something bad up at the same time. It didn’t work out so well. There were times where I would get super pumped about the activity, so much so that I’d push it hard, and then come home only to fall straight back into the bad habit I was trying to drop.

The reason? I had used a hefty chunk of my willpower in pushing myself to do something positive. So much so, that when I returned home tired but happy with myself, I had no willpower left to keep the wolves from the door.

Trying to go the full whack from the start set me back a lot. Time after time I would put too much willpower into either starting the good or ending the bad, and I’d end up tipping the balancing scales too far one way or the other. It took me a long time to be comfortable enough with myself to say “Hold on, just hold on a minute. Keep some in reserve for later; you know you’re gonna need it”.

I’d love to tell you to go hell for leather in everything you do, I really would. But let’s be honest here; in the real world there’s a million and one things vying for your attention. If you focus on using all your willpower on one thing and one thing only, you’re gonna be left running on empty when something else comes around. Start with the basic shapes; refine them, exercise them and strengthen them, but keep some in reserve for when you need it. After that, when you’ve got a good feeling you’re ready; start dishing out the willpower in bigger doses in different directions.

Journey, Heroes, Dilla and the donuts.

10 Jun

Seeing as it’s Friday (don’t sing it…for the love of god, please don’t sing it) and I’m feeling extra good from training like a demon this morning, I’m going to go a little bit heavy-handed inspirational on you with this one. Relish it; It’s not gonna be often, hopefully.

I can’t tell you how good the first coffee and smoke after training is. Just beautiful. Anyway…

After hearing the now classic Journey song “Don’t stop believing” The other day I started wondering about it’s interpretation and appreciation. Nearly as soon as it was revived it was taken as a club pounder, used whenever the dancefloor was emptying to entice people back on to the floor. It’s incredible just how much it hooked people, but understandable seeing as every girl who stumbles through a club with a drink in one hand and her shoes in the other likes to consider herself a “small town girl”.

The infamous “Don’t stop believing” chorus, while used by the drunken patrons to reassure their desire to improve upon their jimmy choos and get that pay rise they thought they deserved, is quite an effective anthem. On it’s own it can be a simple inspirational lift, encouraging you to continue pushing for whatever you’re striving for. Taken with the verse lyrics though and, for me, it holds on a completely different aesthetic.

To be honest though; as much as the lyrics are great, they’re not the reason I love the song. The backing section is.

Being an (ex) drummer, I fall in love with beats. Jay Dilla gets me hard (read the second comment on that link; it’s just genius),  Billy Cobham is a legend, and I’ve dreamt about playing with Buddy Rich . I love a good beat. I know that doesn’t mark me out as anything special within the larger population of music heads but I find the slightest tap of a cymbal or an off beat on the hi-hats can send shivers up my spine. Anyone can play drums reasonably well, it takes a master to know which beats to hit and which to not.

The integral break in the song, “on and on and on and on…” is nothing without that drum build, and even less without the fat rhythm that goes straight after. Think of it: would the build up sound as good if the drums and bass straight after didn’t sound like a clutch of volleys shot from a cannon? After that, the extra tap on the ride cymbal and hi hats in the bridge sections at two minutes and during the solo, coupled with that super sweet bass in the ending section just makes me go masmndffemfhurrrrr…..

Yeah…that’s some good bass.

Next time you listen to it, focus on the rhythm section. Solid. Damn solid. The funny thing is; it doesn’t need a dance type remix…that rhythm track is perfectly balanced as it is. ( that is, unless you’ve already appreciated it…I could easily be way off the mark here).

The reason I’m rambling on like a gleek (oh god…it’s   happened…it’s finally happened) is that while many songs have  inspirational leanings (and some downright set out with that aim in mind; something which actually sets the truly inspirational ones apart from the crowd), the writers/performers can’t influence how it’s appreciated too much.

Take David Bowies’ Heroes. About the Berlin Wall, and written a long time before it came down, it’s a darkly uplifting song. I love it, but for a very particular reason.

Yep, I absolutely love it. It’s a great song. There’s one thing that never fails to strike a fire with me though; that “I” sung at 1:15. After the relentless but restrained steam-train run of the song up until then, it shatters the conformity of it and manages to sum up everything about the struggle to define or assert yourself, the desire to connect with someone and could possibly be interpreted as the moment when a person realises themselves. In one letter. One simple letter. Sung incredibly.

So, seeing as there’s a few people reading these blogs now (thank you all;) I’m wondering (and hoping you’ll comment)…

what kicks off your shivers in a song? is it the content? the execution? the rhythm? the subject? or is it that certain, inexplicable moment when an instrument just strikes a note or a chord, and you think “…oh.”

leave a comment or a link if you fancy. Ahem…first person to say Rebecca Black’s friday will be ridiculed (Unless, of course, they can prove the theological importance of “Friday” in influencing the end of the cold war and the resulting cultural change from a libertarian perspective).

Here’s a personal favourite to kick start your weekend. Hope it does you good. The song itself is a goodun, but that piano is simply divine.

Stuff’s stuff

All the best; have a goodun. Don’t stop believing, good people…don’t stop believin’.

hang in there kitty, I’m mad as hell…

4 Jun

“See the good”, or something to that effect, is a classic of sit-on-yer-arse inspirational motivation…

It’s needed, don’t get me wrong about that at all. Without seeing the good in things you can easily get disillusioned with yourself and the world and end up packing it all in for the sake of knocking back a few beers under your local bridge with your new ‘best mate 4eva’ bridgey Joe, who just so happens to be a concrete support column.

Without seeing the good you can mess things up proper. Seeing the good in even the smallest thing can give you the hope, respect, inspiration and courage to continue fighting whatever demons are waiting in the wings and slowly sculpt yourself into the person you want to be. This is an essential part of improving yourself and gathering the strength to continue on a long, hard road. Unfortunately, there’s a trend going around that reasons you must only see the good if you want to live a happy, fulfilling and prosperous life. Not so, true believers. Not so at all. If anything, this is a dangerous thing to believe.

This way of thinking is productive but let it run loose too wild for too long and, slowly but surely, it’ll warp itself into the attitude that you should always see the good and only the good, regardless of what’s happening, resulting in you ignoring the bad sides to events and eventually shutting yourself off from bad situations altogether.

Now there are times when I’m a complete legend (…humble of me, I know); where I’m more than happy to reassure someone that they should just “hang in there kitty”, stay calm, assess the situation and deal with it carefully. Once in a while though, just once in a while, I’ll decide to prop up a giant banner screaming “Drop kitty…DROP!!” while shouting profanities at the subject.

Not because I’m an insensitive idiot, of course (although I have been known to drunkenly shout at people for displaying despicable personality traits), but because I really think you should look both ways, not just at the good parts of things.

By looking at the bad parts of the world and, more importantly, ourselves, we can keep from getting complacent. I love noticing someone behaving ridiculously because it gives me a marker: “Don’t end up like that“.

Everything has a balance, good and bad are no different. To only focus on the good in life is to foolishly confuse yourself into thinking “well damn, everything is alright”. It’s not. You’re not. As much as there is plenty of good in the world, you can’t argue that it’s not also full of hate, indifference, discrimination, apathy, greed and idiots. You could very well be one of them (but if you’re reading this you’re probably not…everyone I’ve met on here seems to be pretty damn worthy so far;)

If you want to get through life posting as many inspirational quotes as possible while looking at pictures of sunsets, blissfully ignorant of the vicious contrast within our society and culture, you go right ahead. I’m not mad at ya, don’t worry (nor am I against sunsets, for the record). If you want to do something about yourself though, you’ve got to get mad every once in a while.

There’s a scene in the classic film “The Warriors” where, after completing a dangerous journey home and getting off the L train at the last stop overlooking a sunrise on a dilapidated, depressing Coney Island, the main characer queitly asks “This is it? this is what we’ve been fighting all night to get back to?”. Taking the time to look long and hard at the state of things can be a very good spur for improvement. If the character in the above scene had been inclined to see the good, he might well have just remarked “Aw geez super! the junkies left some clean needles on the ground over there!”…

Everytime I hold the door open for someone who doesn’t acknowledge it, everytime  I watch someone take their shopping or coffee or purchases without wishing the clerk a nice day, everytime I see a politician (or anybody else for that matter) scream dishonesty with their body language, everytime I see someone shirk a moral responsibility or the possibility of a virtuous life and everytime I notice a person hide from themselves….I love it.

I love it because it gets me mad. When I’m mad, I learn about the world and the people within it. See the good and learn what you want to be, see the bad and,even though it might be hard or depressing, learn what you don’t.

On a related, and hopefully brief, sidenote, I find it very interesting that in this day and age of respect, equality and “everyone is entitled to their say and their right to say it” mentality, we still find make time and effort to quietly/subtly judge or discriminate against everything…except ourselves and the most basic elements.

Comment on someone’s clothes, their views, their racial backround and the stereotypes hidden within, their music choice or even their personality and you’ll always find people who’ll line up on either side of the divide (whether they’ll admit it openly or not). But, comment on someone’s actions or behaviour, for example: “you were too selfish there, calm down a little”, and suddenly everyone comes to the same defence- “hey man, don’t be so, like, judgemental!”. The reason? we’re all afraid the spotlight will shine on us next.

I’m not afraid of the spotlight, in fact I welcome it. There might be times when it highlights some things I don’t want to acknowledge, but that’s all part of the process. Helps me learn and improve.

That was the river

29 May

Noticing a reminder for someone’s birthday on facebook gave me one hell of a memory… strange how the smallest thing can set you off.

This time last year I was basking in the Italian sunshine with a cool drink surrounded by great group of people after tearing my precious routine apart. I had gotten stagnant, sedate and sorry for myself. Too damn sorry for myself. After working my ass off for the best part of five years, I had gotten into a depressingly easy routine: Work, rest, play at the weekend -for one night only…


“…Time not to exceed six hours but must be more than one, drinks allowed: five grain based beverages and four small measures of whiskey, CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION: must be paralysed drunk no later than half past eleven, mitigating circumstance are allowed in the case….”

I was taking steps, but they were painfully slow to take root. I made efforts to improve; mind body and soul, but many many times I saw myself sitting back into comfort. I had to do something: I was slipping deep into a horrible mindset. I thought I was sorted for life, didn’t have to worry: just get through to retirement then I can live a little and enjoy myself. Stay as safe as possible. Stay comfortable. Stay in the bubble. Not a good attitude for a young twenty something to have, not a good one at all. Along with that, I wasn’t as nice a person as I thought I was.

Thanks to some stellar inspiration from friends, family and near strangers, I shook myself long and hard enough that eventually I did something about it. Seeing the right circumstances fall into place, I quit and went travelling to learn a new language and enjoy myself. It worked out pretty well I must say.

The thing is though, it took a long time to get to that stage. A hell of a long time. I didn’t realise during the process; I got frustrated at myself countless times, but each and every step mattered.

Little steps make the difference. The only difference worth counting. Little steps build the foundations needed for solid, consistent and fruitful progress. You need strong foundations to build a house, not just a nice roof. Sure; grand gestures are all fine and impressive, but they rarely have a lasting impact if they’re not built on the smaller steps.

It took me a hell of a long time to get myself into a position where I could make such a decision. Every small step, even when a lot of them seemed completely insignificant, made a big difference in the end. Everytime I challenged myself physically, mentally and emotionally, it contributed to the mindset and confidence I had about myself when I finally made that all important decision.

The thing is though, it’s an incredibly frightening thing to do. With so many positive representations of it in films, books and on television, the prospect of creating a decent life for yourself is almost accepted as a pretty easy thing. The reality of it is a lot different. So different, that I’m sure there are thousands, if not millions, of people around the world who know they want to do something, anything, but are paralysed by the thought of it.

Things don’t happen like in the movies. There’s no training montage, no two minute scene where a guy realises he’s an idiot and comes up with a wacky plan to get the girl back, no ‘rally round the troops everythings’ gonna be fine’ moment with friends and family that sets everything right again (if anything, that just ignores the situation). There’s none of this. There’s the long hard slog. You push yourself step by step and, without making any giant leaps, any big steps or amazing improvements, you slowly but suddenly find yourself with some damn strong foundations. After that, it’s up to you what to do with them.

For anyone out there who knows they want something but aren’t sure what it is, don’t worry. Don’t worry at all. It’ll come to you. Keep working, keep taking the small steps, keep improving and keep stoking the restless thirst for knowledge and hunger for improvement. Take you’re time, but don’t get complacent or lazy. Keep going. You’ll know when you’re ready, don’t worry. Play in the river, learn how to handle yourself and deal with things then, when the time’s right, head out into the sea.

(If I was you, I’d watch this full screen with the sound turned way up…it’s only beautiful)

The results are incredibly satisfying, believe me they are. My position at the moment might not be admirable by some people’s standards, but it’s a good one by mine. I’m happy. I know what I want, what I’m doing and how to do it. I’ve got some good foundations, and I’m never gonna stop building on them.