Electric cigarettes, SuperSmoker etc… and Will Self

August 24, 2008

As you no doubt know, I’ve been an inveterate puffer for many years – more than three quarters of my life thus far, save a brief three-year period in my twenties when I seemingly possessed the requisite powerful combination of willpower, stamina, emotional security and lack of financial resource to quit – temporarily as it later turned out. As I recall, it took nothing more than the messy aftermath of a failed relationship to send me scuttling back to the welcoming whorls of demon nicotine.

I’ve always been aware that smoking isn’t ‘good’ for me – in terms of bodily health rather than any sense of either spiritual or psychological wellbeing. And I’ve always told myself that I would aim to finally quit around about the same age that my father did, his 50th birthday – he subsequently lasted into his eighties before succumbing to an (unrelated) aneurysm.

With that landmark birthday now on the horizon, I’ve given no small consideration to quitting of late – my determination in this respect somewhat undermined by the fact that I still enjoy the weed and derive some psychological benefit from it.

Having previously tried and failed to give up using nicotine gum, acupuncture etc…, I recently became aware of the electric cigarette.

tasty packaging

And so I duly plonked down my money via eBay (the measure of my commitment being £30 plus postage) and took delivery of the SuperSmoker Ultimo, one of a small range of products promising the delivery of nicotine in a manner mimicking that of the ‘traditional’ cigarette, but with a tiny fraction of its deleterious effects, eschewing as it does the forty-two or so other potentially carcinogenic chemicals present in your average gasper.

Also under consideration was the prospect of being able to ‘light up’ and puff away in enclosed public environments – since one’s only exhalation is water vapour, the worst I’d have to contend with would be the unwarranted attentions of self-righteous but topically ignorant non-smokers. Or so I thought.

Here’s the thing – the SuperSmoker (and I’ve no doubt other products of its ilk) does indeed mimic the experience of smoking a real cigarette, and I’ve no doubt that it does, from its cute little replaceable cartridge, deliver the requisite nicotine hit.

But for me, it’s simply not been enough. Invariably self-exiled to the back door at dinner parties and the like, I’ve tried using the Supersmoker as an alternative to cigarettes – but have noticed that my urge to delve into the Camel Lights has not been assuaged in the slightest.

So what’s the problem here? I’m ‘smoking’, I’m taking in nicotine….

Could it be that nicotine isn’t the addictive source of my cigarette craving – leaving aside any psychological reasons, could it be that, for me, the addictive component isn’t nicotine at all, but one of the other various chemical components of the humble tab? Carbon monoxide anyone?

I was at the Edinburgh Book Festival this afternoon for an appearance by Will Self, a reading followed by a thoroughly hilarious impromptu Q&A stand-up session during which he provided better value for money than many plying this trade professionally along the road.

more tasty packaging

more tasty packaging

Note the topical title of his most recent tome here….

Anyway, in the aftermath, I dutifully queued up to have my fresh-bought copy signed, and asked him if he was himself a smoker and was aware of electric cigarettes. Turns out he is, and does use one – in conjunction, apparently, with gum, patches and whatever other nicotine delivery mechanisms he can get his hands on – in addition to still smoking yer actual cigarettes, though at a greatly reduced rate (three a day as I recall). Seems like he might be experiencing something similar to myself, in that it can’t be ONLY nicotine that’s being craved.

Nevertheless, following his example, I intend to persevere, cutting down to three a day and restricting myself to the SuperSmoker otherwise.

But after I’ve returned from China and Japan next month.


Tony Parsons at the Edinburgh Book Festival

August 9, 2008

I’m most familiar with his music journalism as a ‘hip young gunslinger’ at the New Musical Express in the 1970s, though I’ve also read and enjoyed a couple of his novels over the years since.

Not expecting too much, I accepted the offer of a spare ticket and braved the sodden weather to listen to him talk about his new novel ‘My Favourite Wife’ at a Saturday evening Edinburgh Book Festival session.

Being entirely unaware of MFW, I’m really glad I did. With strange serendipity, it’s set in contemporary Shanghai – and Waki and I will be off there for the first time a little over a month from now. Required reading before we depart, I think.

I knew nothing of Parson’s private life, but learned that his wife is also from Tokyo. Seems he’ll also be in Shanghai and Tokyo around the same time as we will, presumably promoting his book there. Vaguely odd coincidences, I felt.

July stuff

August 3, 2008

Causing me to leave my chair to mandhandle the CD player last month were…

WIRE – object 47 — good stuff, but not as mellifluously exploratory as Read & Burn 3 had led me to believe it might be. Still, looking forward to finally seeing them live in September.

ROEDELIUS & TIM STORY – inlandish — picked this up at the stunning Harmonia show in Glasgow last month and was fanboy enough to ask the man himself to autograph it for me. Lovely laid-back piano and electronic atmospherics.

SOISONG – spring 2008 tour ep — four tracks that have been trailed in shorter form on their MySpace site for a while. Annoyingly hexagonal CD which I can’t f-ing play, so am having to make do with an mp3 download.

WAITS, TOM – orphans: brawlers, bawlers & bastards — got this to get myself in the mood for his live show – and regret not having done so sooner, since there’s some particularly odd and engaging tracks on the ‘bastards’ cd.

LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY – the mighty upsetter — bit the bullet and bought this on import from Japan, since it’s showing no signs of emerging elsewhere. Stunning stuff, lovingly produced by Adrian Sherwood. Japanese-only extra track ‘Queen Elizabeths Pum Pum’ worth visiting the urban dictionary for – I wonder how this would be received in the UK.

HARRY BECKETT – the modern sound of Harry Beckett — another Japanese only (for the moment) OnU Sound release. Not being overly enamoured of jazz, I’d not heard of Beckett before, and I doubt I’ll be checking his other work as a result of this. That said, I’m enjoying it a whole lot more than yer average jazz trumpeter album. Dub soundscapes, toasting etc… all thrown into the mix.

KEITH LE BLANC, – chess moves: future blues — more OnU Sound related stuff, this time Tackhead players plundering the Chess label catalogue to mixed effect. As Little Axe, they do it better.

NEGATIVLAND – thigmotactic — their first song-based album in a while (they say ever, presumably ignoring dispepsi at least), and very humalongable. Amusing accompanying artwork, apparently with the originals available from their website.

CAMILLE – music hole — French chanteuse who uses her own voice as instrumentation. Elaborate, clever and occasionally soulful.

GINMAN/JORGENSEN – s/t — former punk singer with a jazz bassist, from Denmark. Gifted this ten-year-old cd by a friend, and it’s a minor revelation – smokily atmospheric jazz-lite that calls to mind Barry Adamson or Angelo Badalamenti.

That’s about it, give or take a few older things I’ve been gifted (Ivor Cutler, Pay It All Back – Live) or had burned for me.

Tom Waits Glitter & Doom tour in Edinburgh

August 2, 2008

Twentyone years ago I had probably the worst seat in the house (top tier, back row, jammed in a corner) for Tom Waits last visit to the Playhouse in Edinburgh, and he still blew me away.

Nevertheless, I took a bit of convincing to shell out a whopping £107 quid for ticket to his show there on 28th July. Ouch. Ok, received wisdom is that artists aren’t making much from cd sales any more, but is that really sufficient justification for that kind of price? Though she likes Waits too, my partner wasn’t slow to point out that we could go to Paris for the weekend on that kind of money.

Gripe over – the show itself was a revelation, Waits playing to the crowd, raising dust stomping carnival-barker style atop a mini-stage, his extraordinary mellifluous croak in fine fettle. Backed by a well-rehearsed (or tour-hardened) band who recognised that the space between notes is as important as the notes themselves.

Two and a bit hours flew by, and my not recognising a few of the songs made the pleasure all the sweeter (I never understood those who go to concerts and express disappointment if they don’t hear note-perfect renditions of albums – why not just stay at home and turn the stereo up?). Anyway, some shopping is in prospect to fill the gaps in my Waits collection.

The National Public Radio site in the US (npr.org) is carrying a full show from Atlanta earlier in the tour as a podcast, well worth checking out.