Lyrically Evocative (33)

David Bowie’s 1971 album ‘Hunky Dory’ probably ranks as the one record I have listened to more than any other during my lifetime. It was a “You had to be there” moment, when this amazing album was first released. I know every track by heart, and still enjoy listening to it as much as I did when I was only 19 years old. Fifty years ago!

As I got older though, I resisted change. Even now, small changes to my routine can frustrate and annoy me, and I constantly find myself raging at the need for change in almost every single aspect of daily life.

I forgot what it is to be 19 years old, yearning for change.

But David reminded me, when I listened to this song again last week.

Here are the lyrics, written by him a very long time ago.

Changes
David Bowie

Oh, yeah
Mmm
Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for
And my time was runnin’ wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
How the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
There’s gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
Mmm, yeah
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Where’s your shame?
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time
Strange fascinations fascinate me
Ah, changes are taking
The pace I’m goin’ through
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Ooh, look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: David Bowie
Changes lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management, DistroKid

And here he is singing them. Reminding me of the constant need for change.

Christmas Yet To Come

Inspired by the novella ‘A Christmas Carol’, written by Charles Dickens in 1843, I have dealt with Christmas Present, and Christmas Past.

But what of ‘Christmas Yet To Come’?

At my age, I don’t know how many more Christmases I will be around for. But I suspect they will start to feel very different from those that went before. I am not really predicting anything, but I do have some thoughts on how that difference might show itself.

Online shopping will dominate of course. It already does that, but there is every chance that physical shops will cease to exist. The sending of Christmas cards will be a thing of the past too. With younger people having little or no experience of sending letters and cards, added to the increased costs of posting them, that tradition will be consigned to history, I am sure.

Home TV screens are certain to get bigger too. Being able to stream anything on demand will put an end to the usual batch of TV ‘Specials’ that I grew up with, and are still around today. That might actually be a good thing. Those big screens will also allow more virtual contact with friends and relatives in real time, meaning that you could feasibly have a Christmas celebration electronically, without leaving your home.

And as Global Warming becomes more apparent, and the ‘carbon footprint’ of travelling has greater impact, flying around the world to see family members or enjoy seasonal holiday breaks will also become a memory.

Then there is the preparation and cooking of food. It can’t be that long before a turkey dinner with all the trimmings will be able to be delivered to your door in twenty minutes. Delivery companies will add extras like Christmas Cake, Yule Log, and Mince Pies to their menus, and probably even supply any booze you want too. You will able to click a few boxes on a Phone App, and set the table ready to hear the doorbell ring.

The virtual aspect of life might well extend to religious services too. Why go out in the cold to sit in a draughty church, when that can all come to you on your 100-inch TV? That’s if there is anyone left who still remembers it is a religious festival of course.

I won’t be around to see all of this, but I might still be alive for some of it.

What about you? How do you see Chrsitmas changing? Or perhaps you don’t think it will.

Let me know in the comments.

Block Editor Looming

From the comments on my blog over the last few days, I have noticed that a large number of you have now been switched to the block editor by WordPress. Despite the provision of the so-called ‘Classic Block’ nobody seems to be very happy about having to use the new system. One blogger has already told me via email that she intends to stop blogging now, as she cannot be bothered with the learning curve necessary to continue.

I fear this may be the case with many others, in the weeks to come. I also have concerns that this will not be the last of the changes that WordPress intends to force upon us bloggers in their quest to satisfy their Business and Professional customers.

You will all remember my complaints to WordPress, and the issues I have had with them concerning critical blog posts I published. What you may not know is that I am not alone. Hundreds of other bloggers have been contacting WordPress over the past year, complaining that they want to retain the option of the old editor without having to pay for a plan that allows ‘Plug-ins’. For their part, WordPress continues to assert that the new block editor is ‘easier’ to use, and they have no intention of changing their mind about its forced introduction, obviously.

The plain truth is that WordPress could not care less about hobby bloggers, and those who blog occasionally for relaxtion, or to get their thoughts or writing down online. As far as they are concerned, we are old news, and have had our day. If we leave in the tens of thousands, they will not give a shit, believe me. This is mainly because they currently operate in excess of 40,000,000 blogs through their platform. So even if ten million of us abandoned the dictatorial WordPress, they could still make plenty of money with the remaining thirty million.

So far, I have escaped the mighty shadow of the Block Editor. But this morning while trying to edit my latest post, I received a worrying error message on the screen.
“You can no longer edit in this format”.
I ignored that and carried on, and it went away. But it is a warning of what lurks around the corner, I feel that.

At least I got to finish my serial.

August Bank Holiday

Today has been a public holiday in England. The shops have been open of course, albeit with reduced trading hours.

This is the last of the big holidays until Christmas, and is traditionally very warm, often humid. But we have seen a very different August in England. Wet, chilly, and nothing at all like we have come to expect. Today struggled to get to 16 C in the daytime, and now that the sun has set, it is decidedly cold for the time of year.

This is a significant, and notable, change. It wasn’t more than a few years ago when we had temperatures exceeding 30 C, on the same day.

Usually, we smell barbecues, and hear music coming from the surrounding houses. Children are out late, still playing, the week before they have to go back to school.

But not this year, when it feels almost like the start of winter. It is like we have missed a season completely. We have gone from a briefly too hot summer, straight into an unusual start to winter.

If anyone was ever wondering about climate change, and that included me, I admit.

Wonder no longer.

Thinking Aloud On A Sunday

Moods.

You know me. I try to always be polite, reply to every comment, read all the blog posts of those I follow, and do my best to be part of our great community. I share stuff on Twitter when I can, host guest bloggers, and feature as many other bloggers as possible. I write fiction serials, photo-prompt stories, film reviews, and tell everyone about Ollie my dog.

At times, (frequently) I let out my frustrations by having a good moan or rant about blogging etiquette, followers who don’t follow, and other such pet peeves.

But most of the time, I am just ‘Me’.

We have all had a bad year in 2020. For some, the stresses and strains of the pandemic have been added to by becoming ill, bereavement, or employment issues.

I don’t have that much to complain about, I really don’t. I have survived eight months of a killer virus that primarily targets people in my age group. I have managed to remain financially stable, overcome a few domestic issues around the house, and even get work done by contractors.

I continued to enjoy blogging and writing, and the company of my online friends in this community. Despite serious medical problems for Ollie, he survived those, and remains my constant companion. He provides me with a sense of responsibility that I might otherwise have lacked. Having him makes me get up and get ready, leave the house on long walks in the countryside, and interact with local people. I doubt I would do a tenth of that, without Ollie.

So why have I suddenly become so moody, irritable, and losing focus?

I have no idea.

Bad News From WordPress

In case you haven’t seen the notifications, WordPress will shortly be doing away with the ‘Old Editor’, and forcing us to use the ‘New’ Block Editor. This supposedly improved Gutenberg editor will replace even the original block editor, so everyone on this platform will have to bite the bullet and try to cope with it.

I have written before about how I consider it TOTALLY UNNECESSARY for WordPress to do this. People who are not good with technology -like me- are dreading this all over the blogging community. As with so many things in the modern world, WordPress is choosing to ignore the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ commonsense maxim, and I have yet to read any reasonable excuse as to why they consider the change is worthwhile.

If ‘business users’ find the new system better, then let it just be an option for them. That should be easy enough for WP to arrange.

Paying to blog won’t help. I pay for a plan, but that will still not allow me to keep my cherished ‘Original Editor’. Many current bloggers struggle to get the best out of the basic system, and they will now be forced to try to adapt to a change that seemes to me to offer no discernible improvement for the average blogger.

June the first is the big day, so brace yourselves!

I am very serious about this, and worried that I may get so frustrated with trying to cope, I might have to give up my one real joy in life, blogging.

If any of you very tech-savvy bloggers have an ‘idiots guide’ to the new system, or even screenshot tutorials, I for one would be grateful to see them.

**UPDATE** Video guide from Fraggle, via this link.

https://fragglesotherplace.com/2020/05/22/the-new-editor-for-wp/

Another short fast track guide from Ron in Alabama.

Quick and Dirty (New WP Editor)

 

Otherwise, I might be saying a sad ‘Farewell’ to you all, on June 1st.

If that happens, it’s been fun, and I send you all my best wishes.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Weather, and illness.

I went to bed last night with an annoying chesty cough. I took some tablets, and retired early. I had been feeling cold for two days, after a change in the weather from twenty degrees and sunny, to thirteen degrees and showery. I woke up not feeling that much better, even though I had slept soundly for over ten hours. That got me thinking about the connection between illness, and weather.

When I was young, many forms of illness were blamed on the weather. Coming home in wet clothes, I would be told, “Get out of those wet things, or you will catch your death of cold”.
During some of the famous London smogs, we were issued with cloth ‘smog masks’ at school, and told that we must not breathe the air outside without wearing them. Apparently, the air would affect our breathing, and leave us with long-term lung problems. They seemed to forget that I was returning home to a house heated by smoky coal fires, and to parents who chain-smoked cigarettes.

Sitting too long in the sun was never considered to be a health hazard though. I never knew that sun cream existed, until I was in my mid twenties. But when I started to get severe hay fever in my teens, I was told it was ‘the hot air’, and that I should shut my bedroom window as I slept, so as not to breathe too much in. Visiting sick relatives or friends was never an issue either, as long as they put their hand over their mouths when they coughed or sneezed, I was reliably informed. Once they had finished coughing or sneezing, we were of course expected to hug them, and kiss them goodbye as we left.

It wasn’t long before the government became involved with trying to tell us all that it was nothing to do with the weather. It was ‘viruses’, and they were spread by close contact, especially among families, and on public transport. Information films began to appear, with catchy titles like, ‘Coughs and Sneezes spread Diseases’. They showed people using handkerchiefs, and covering their mouths when they coughed. But despite this new information, my Mum still insisted that the weather was mostly to blame, and that I should always take a jumper or coat when I went out, “Just in case”.

Now I am older, I have discovered that I am more susceptible to illness. A long life has weakened my immune system, making things like cuts take longer to heal, and other medical conditions much harder to shake off, once established. But I socialise rarely, and use public transport even less. Other than walking around with Ollie, I am inside most of the time, and always dressed appropriately for any conditions. But having gone from walking in warm and pleasant sunshine, to having to dress up in warm clothes to take my dog out, in the space of three days, something has got into my system and has left me with a cough that seems difficult to shift.

I blame the weather.

Changing things that already work

I have just been reading a post on another blog about the forthcoming ‘Gutenberg Editor’ change from WordPress. In case you are unaware of the impending change, here is a link to Worpress’s take on it. https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/

As you will see, it is quite technical, at least to someone with my level of computer knowledge. I like to keep things simple, one of the reasons I chose to blog on the WordPress platform, six years ago. I also notice that this new system is aimed at helping those bloggers who use a Tablet Computer, or Smartphone. I still use a PC tower set up with a ‘proper’ keyboard. For all the tech-savvy people out there, I suspect this will cause little or no upset. Those of you self-hosting a dot-com blog on this platform might welcome a change to make life easier too, if that is what actually happens.

But as I said, I like to keep things simple. I still use what is known as the ‘Old Editor’. When WP changed to the supposedly ‘Improved Editor’ some time ago, I chose not to leave the old system. So as you might imagine, I am far from looking forward to having the ‘Gutenberg Editor’ imposed on me.

All through my life, I have been constantly frustrated by unnecessary change. The old saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ works very well for me. Not all of us can adapt to upgraded computer systems easily, and some of us (including me) struggle to get the best out of the current manifestation of WordPress, let alone one more technical.
Anyone else remember ‘Windows XP’? That was a great operating system, and I still have no idea why it had to change. Oh, actually I do. To make us spend money on the ‘new and improved’ one.

Planned obsolescence is the spectre of modern life. It won’t be long before the CD and DVD disappear, PC towers become obsolete, and if you are not doing everything ‘hand-held’, you are yesterday’s news.

If have a suggestion for WP, and all other such companies. If you want to make changes, sell ‘advances’, and foist unwanted ‘improvements’ on us, that’s fine. Just leave the original system in place, for those of us who just about cope with using it, and will possibly be forced out of blogging by changes we cannot get our heads around.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

WordPress

For obvious reasons, I have been thinking a lot about WordPress today.

When I started blogging, this platform stood out as being the most user-friendly, to a novice blogger. The set-up was relatively simple, and I was soon up and running with my own new blog. WordPress also enjoyed a huge following all over the world, so this gave me lots to explore, and also attracted followers to my blog. Over time, I managed to get help from many others in the community, and I was able to learn how to add images, change themes, and much more.

Fast forward five years, and my WordPress blogs have become my main hobby. The first thing I do after I get up, and the last thing I do before going to bed. In between, I read other blogs, comment on posts, and reply to comments on mine. Blogging makes me content, and it also inspires me to write. It has given me a large group of blogging friends, and enabled me to communicate with people from many countries. And of course, it has all been completely free of charge to me, courtesy of some small advertising features that WordPress adds to my blog posts.

But then they have to go and mess around with it. They forgot the first rule of successful continuity. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

They changed the editor.
They changed the notification bar.

They cancelled the Annual Report.
They changed the reader.

They altered the space bar, as you can see here.
Then they kept trying to ‘improve’ the visual impact of the platform, determined to make it more suitable for those using mobile devices. This caused no end of ongoing glitches, and showed that WordPress had forgotten that the majority of serious bloggers still used desktop computers and laptops when blogging. Most of us need a proper keyboard. Try typing a 1500 word story on a mobile phone, adding links and images too. Not much fun, I assure you.

So, the people running ‘our’ platform are telling us that is it going to be their way, or the highway. These random annoyances may not appear to be a big deal to those of you who do not blog. But If I cannot comment on a blog I follow, or add replies to comments made by others, then the whole point of blogging –communication– is in serious jeopardy. If WordPress is to be reduced to just another ‘phone app’, then it will no longer be what we signed up for, that’s for sure. Just a pale version of Facebook, for people to aimlessly scroll on, not bothering to write anything of consequence in the process.

Perhaps we should all be prepared to upgrade, and pay for the privilege of our blogging? It is only $99 a year, so not too much to pay for such an all-consuming hobby. But ask anyone who currently pays for the Premium Service, and they will tell you that they suffer those same glitches, still get little feedback from WordPress, as well as no notice of any impending changes that might affect their blog, or blogs.

This weekend, the ‘Press This’ button was removed. This had previously allowed people to reblog the posts of others without having to transport all their images, and also going through the process of adding comments of their own, or links to the other post. No notice was given, it was just removed.
At the same time, many of us are also finding that we are unable to leave comments on many blogs, and we have no idea why.

In the grand scheme of things, is all this stuff important? Well to bloggers, it is. People who have spent many years sticking faithfully to a platform, a platform they helped build into one of the biggest in the world, are entitled to expect better treatment. Even if the service is free to most bloggers, their involvement is what made WordPress such a successful company in the first place, and it is unacceptable to treat them in this offhand fashion. Ultimately, the community we all cherish being a part of will just disintegrate.

So that’s what I have been thinking about today, as I struggle to email people to advise them that I am not ignoring their blog posts, and watch my ‘Thank you’ comments to new followers fail to appear.

Significant Songs (7)

Andy Warhol

By 1971, I was already aware of David Bowie as a recording artist, and he had enjoyed success with the song ‘Space Oddity’, first released in 1969. I had concluded that this was a man of great talent and potential, but records already released seemed to lack any consistency or focus, and it was hard to decide what direction he was going in, or if he was about to become part of a recognised musical genre. I need not have concerned myself, as the answer was soon revealed.

Bowie signed to RCA, and in 1971, released the album ‘Hunky Dory’. Eleven tracks, mostly short, and all written by him, except one. For me, this was one of the most significant record releases ever, firmly establishing David Bowie on the world music scene, and on a personal level, making him an artist that I would admire throughout my life. He also settled the debate on whether or not he was part of a genre. He wasn’t. He had started his own, invented a unique style, one that he would change and adapt throughout his career. Over the last few decades, much is written about recording artists reinventing themselves. Good examples of this would include Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, and more recently, Lady Gaga. To many writers, and most music lovers, this is seen as a modern trend, perhaps started by Madonna, during the late 1980’s. Of course, this is incorrect, as it was Bowie that started all this, with his changing musical personalities and appearance, reflecting different periods of his music and acting career.

When ‘Hunky Dory’ was released, Bowie was already deliberately androgynous in appeal, seen by some as part of the ‘Glam Rock’ scene; wearing make up, and dressing in unusual clothes. He would later exaggerate this look, as well as alluding to bisexuality, and sexual ambiguity. As a result, he may have damaged his appeal to some markets in the USA, but he managed to create a demand for his music and stage appearances across the whole spectrum of music fans. His good looks made him popular with men and women alike, and his musical talent allowed him access to the serious record buyers, who demanded quality songs, with high production values, using established professional musicians.

At the time, I was sharing a house with some friends, in the South London suburbs. I arrived home with the vinyl album, and started playing it immediately. From the first track, ‘Changes’, I knew that I owned something wonderful, a record release of significance. The first side continued to provide amazing tracks, from ‘Oh You Pretty Things’ (Previously covered by Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, that same year) to the operatic ‘Life On Mars’. I was already overwhelmed, and there was another side to go! One of my housemates, himself an accomplished Blues vocalist and piano player, declared that he thought the album was ‘shit’. His girlfriend on the other hand, was as captivated as I was, and we carried on, turning over to side two.

This started with the seemingly incongruous song, ‘Fill Your Heart’, a happy tune, written by Paul Williams. Then the next track began, not with music, but with Bowie chatting in the studio, then laughing out loud, just as the guitar intro starts; the banter is left in, for the listener to hear what was going on. This was highly unusual, and introduced a certain familiarity and association with the singer, that was of course assumed, but felt no less real for that. The track was called ‘Andy Warhol’, the name of the famous American artist, and film-maker, and it is an undeniable tribute to the man, as Bowie was a fan of his work. The acoustic guitar playing (credited to Mick Ronson) is powerful, and the vocals are pitch-perfect, and have a plaintive air to them. The lyrics are clever, and the whole construction of the song, which runs for less than four minutes, is a complete joy.

It was never released as a single from this album. Two tracks were though, ‘Changes’, and ‘Life On Mars’, both considerable hits. Side two continued with more great tracks, like ‘Queen Bitch’, and ‘The Bewlay Brothers’, confirming our belief that ‘Hunky Dory’ was going to become a career-defining release for David Bowie. But it was the simple acoustic delight of ‘Andy Warhol’, that we played over and over. Forty-three years later, it is still one of my all-time favourites.

Here is the track, as released on this album. As a bonus, for those of you who would like to explore further, the whole album is also available, from the second link. How can you resist?