Thursday, 31 January 2013

Not quite to eleven

Yesterday I dug out my guitar amp for the first time this year. In fact it was the first time in a lot longer. It's not that I don't play guitar anymore, more that I have a habit of playing my electrics unplugged when I'm at home. Pragmatism has trumped purism when it comes to recording. I have an impressive collection of virtual amps and cabinets in Amplitube that probably cost less to assemble than it would to replaces the tubes in my Marshall. But when it comes to live playing you can't beat a nice valve amp.

Truth be told yesterday's rehearsal was a little too quiet to quite hit the niceness of a well driven combo; although niceness isn't something to strive for in punk. Neither is quietness. Playing along to sequenced drums on a Macbook probably breaks the rules too. Ultimately, though, isn't punk all about challenging the status quo? That, at least, is what I was led to believe the other day via Twitter when I stumbled across a picture of a Joe Strummer quote that described punk in a way I'd never heard before: "punk rock means exemplary manners to your fellow human being."

Now I know enough to know Twitter is hardly the guardian of verity so I turned to Google for conformation. (I'm not sure if this is more a case of frying pan and fire or pot and kettle?) It seems that more than one place on the internet seems to agree Strummer said this. It's from an interview in 1999. Out of context it seems a strange statement so I thought I'd cut and paste a little more context. Joe is asked what is a punk attitude. He replies like this.

"Punk ain't the boots or the hair dye. I've been asked to define it many times so I've actually thought about it for a couple of seconds. It must be the attitude that you have, that approach everything in life with that attitude...I go straight in, see what's wrong and I fix it. If we're meeting some new couples, the second someone lights a cigarette, I grab an ashtray and it'll be there while everything's going on.

Everyone else there will be standing around while their ashes fall off. That is a punk attitude because I wanna be aware of what's going on. My motto is 'never take your eye off the ball,' which is a soccer motto. I like to be completely aware of what's going on at all times, even if it's four in the morning. She needs a chair or he needs a beer. There's no long wait 'cause I've already clocked it while everyone's going (jabbering) meh-meh-meh. I'm going meh-meh-meh too but I know what's going on around me. This is punk rock. In fact, punk rock means exemplary manners to your fellow human being."

Punk as selfless servanthood: now there's an interesting concept. Perhaps I should write a song about it!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Today's challenge

There is more going on in the world, and in our lives, right now than snowboarding. However, if you'll indulge us, I'll take this opportunity to explain why this photograph is actually a lot more exciting than the dog seems to think.

Today nine of us, and snowboards, headed up to the local ski centre. Three of us where the Novi Most Jajce team, three were older teenagers would been part of the group that did the intensive snowboard course we ran a couple of weeks back, and three were younger teens who had no snowboard experience.

The challenge for today was to see if we could put into practise the training we'd been given and pass on the skills we'd learned. We, the leaders, hoped this "we" would include the older teenagers; that they would help in training and encouraging those trying snowboarding out for a first time. That was the plan but we all know what can happen to the best laid plans. However, we also know we're not the only ones who love it when a plan comes together. And that's what we can report today: the younger ones learned, the older ones helped coach them and everyone went home happy. Hopefully there'll be enough snow for more of the same - with different faces - next weekend.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

World Snow Day

Today was World Snow Day so we went snowboarding this afternoon. It was not epic conditions but I made this video anyway. Maybe it'll inspire you! (Find out more about World Snow Day.)

Monday, 14 January 2013

The warm glow

This was the parting shot of how we kick-started 2013: a final powder run up on a mountain above Jajce, bathed in the golden light of a glorious sunset. As introductions to a new year go I can't remember one that has been as exciting and satisfying, so exhausting and downright painful. No pain, no gain is a well worn cliche but, this time at least, it was well worth playing through the former to see the later.

I'm not a gambling guy in the Vegas sense but there was a reasonable dose of risk taking involved in organising what we've been up to for the last week. We had to have the equipment in place; there had to be snow on the right mountains; we had to have found people who'd rise to the challenge; we had to hope our snowboarding friend would work well in translation; not to mention trying to convince onlookers that what we were planning was legitimate youth work and not an excuse for play time. As I sit here, nursing my aches, on the other side of this adventure I know a question mark only continues to hang over that last part. The equipment came together, good snow fell, our young people surpassed themselves and Iain, on his first visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, handled teaching with translation like a seasoned pro.

If I have one regret it is that he didn't get as much play time as I had promised, but his suggestion that we use Saturday's day off to film snowboard tutorial videos was too good to pass up. That Saturday was the best weather day for filming so far this year was a most welcome bonus. My job is now to edit these videos and get them online as quickly as possible. His challenge is that if you watch them and apply them you could go from nothing to snowboarding properly in two days. I've seen it work. If you are up for the challenge and need and mountain to practise on I can see one from our kitchen window!