Marillion's twelfth studio album. The production costs were financed by the band offering fans the chance to pre-order the album, for which they all received a two-disc set (the second disc being a bonus track, some remixes, and recording videos,) and the band got the chance to shop for a label and be largely freed from pressure to make their music a certain way.

It's quite a complex album, really. In some ways it's quite a bit different than their previous work--moving into some late-90's styles (dub, say, as well as some more ambient takes) while still being quintessentially Marillion. Many of the songs are over 8 minutes, and while at first listen you may think that's too long, the trick is to let yourself go and trust what the band are doing. They're continually re-evoking musical and lyrical themes, building layers and taking them down again, pulling you and pushing you through the music. Very few artists could pull that off. There's even a radio-friendly single in Map Of The World, co-written by Cutting Crew singer Nick van Eede.

And Separated Out contains excerpts of the 1932 movie Freaks. Fitting since that's what fans of the band call themselves.


< | Marbles >

A morbid fear of trainspotters

There is a strange breed of hobbyist that haunts railway stations and sidings in the United Kingdom, clutching a notebook to record any movement of locomotives and rolling stock. I recall them as being clad in anoraks (a type of parka) and carrying a tin Thermos flask of tea, huddled in some corner trying to avoid the worst of whatever weather the British climate was trying to buffet them with. Slightly pathetic, these poor creatures stand in wait of their prey, clutching notebooks and (nowadays) digital cameras to record their findings.

Of course, it's not just in England that one can find these poor buggers. They are all over the world, known by different names - railfans, grizzers or gricers, FRNs, cranks, gunzels. In the UK, the epithet "anorak" is associated with these nerds and ne'er-do-wells. One thing that they all have in common is their dedication to the cause of ferroequinology, the study of the Iron Horse.

Why "anorak"? Well it's just possible that it stems from the days of UK pirate radio, when radio enthusiasts would visit the radio stations (notably Radio Caroline) anchored outside British territorial waters, broadcasting illegally to the mainland. These were dangerous days for such travellers, in bare vessels with few comforts; they would don the best weatherproofing they could to beat the chill wind and rain. And presumably, bore their friends to death on their return.

Who's afraid of trainspotting dudes?

Yes, what's the beef? So far, they seem quite harmless.

Well, of course anoraknophobia is about much more than trainspotters. It's a dread of enthusiasts of any field, a terror that at any moment they will begin to disgorge their encyclopædic knowledge of trains (see also Linux, rocks, guns...) Engaging them carries a risk. There's the danger that any sign of interest in <insert topic> will result in the opening of the floodgates of minutiæ, filling all the social space with intense detail "...but of course, the Class 66-002 had a most unusual 2-6-4T wheel configuration...", a fatal flaw for anyone aspiring to conversation.

You manage to avoid trains and railway stations? Well, don't despair, because every field has them. Remember those Dilbert cartoons, in which he's taken some poor unfortunate on a date, only to regale her with intense engineer dramas? "...and then, of course, the whiffling sprocket span backward and the knerfling gear shot off the end! Boy, was I embarrassed..." Exit date.

You know that dread moment at a party when someone approaches you wearing a vacant smile and pocket protectors? That feeling of bowels liquifying? That's the message your body is sending you - the flight reflex. And you'd better obey. because if you don't, you'll have to hear about how iptables is better than ipchains when setting up a firewall, as well as a hilarious anecdote to illustrate the point, then your will to live evaporates faster than a snowflake in the final circle of Hell.

Which reminds me. Did I ever tell you about how I escaped from the Perl programmer in a coffee shop in Seattle...?

momomom says I have been accused of inserting lactation into any conversation.

In memory of an old, long-deleted writeup.

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