About Neal Moore

Entrepreneur, writer, musician, photographer, filmmaker, co-founder & CEO of http://www.click2view.asia .

Virtually Innocent

According to the date on my last post I’ve been a lazy bugger for the past five months, possibly swanning around in my smoking jacket awaiting inspiration however I’d like clarify that is not actually the case.  Having struggled to get past chapter five of my novel Roll With It I thought I would set myself a more achievable goal lest it all seem a bit too much like hard work.  That goal was to write a 10,000 word short story and, after five months of writing, re-writing, scrapping, burning, dowsing, recovering and eventually writing again I am proud to present my first substantial piece of short fiction entitled Virtually Innocent.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Virtually Innocent by Neal Moore

Inspired in part by Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series Virtually Innocent is a present-day sci-fi that asks whether technology can fuel or foil our basest instincts.

The story centres around Alex, a Virtual Performance Designer at a top movie effects house, who decides to use his talent and technology to sate the desires of society’s most depraved perverts in the hope that this will prevent them succumbing to their urges, but will he succeed or just make it worse?

It’s a 30 – 45minute read with a little love story weaved in there too.  I’d be delighted if you downloaded it (for free), read, reviewed and shared it with others but beware, it’s probably not for those of a sensitive disposition.

Best, N

Happiness Is A Cigar (Period)

Back in the 80s there was a legendary ad campaign in the UK with the tagline “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet”.  Well, forget Hamlet and I think they may be on to something.

I used to be a smoker, a proper smoker not a so-called social smoker; in fact I smoked around 15 cigarettes a day for 13-odd years, which means I got through 71,175 in my time.  These days I only smoke cigars, twice a week, and am no more likely to call myself a “smoker” than someone who enjoys the odd glass of wine would call him or her self a “drinker”, with all the connotations that implies.  Smoking cigars, for me, is nowhere near the slavish addiction I had to cigarettes but far closer to the rarefied pleasure of decanting a fine spirit into a polished glass as a reward, or consolation, for the day’s endeavours.

When people see me whip out a stogie many get curious; they want to know how cigars are properly smoked and why those that enjoy them seem to enjoy them so much.  Most people who claim to have tried a cigar say that they didn’t like the taste or, worse, that it made them feel sick.  And they’re probably right, for there are different grades of cigars and different ways of smoking them.

Most people’s first experience with a cigar is as an emerging adult; they are bought en masse to celebrate a graduation, a bachelor party, marriage or birth of a baby.  They are bought because they are seen, in popular media, as an essential part of the celebration ritual much like champagne or presents.  However, though most people know the name of a decent champagne and can easily acquire a bottle from the local Offie most people don’t know the name of a good cigar and buy only what’s available behind the counter, which more often than not is a Hamlet, a Henry Winterman or a Café Crème.  These are to premium cigars as Babycham is to champagne, a woefully weak imitation.

Premium cigars are a different breed, constructed in three parts; the filler, the binder and the wrapper, from the finest hand-picked tobaccos grown, not just in Cuba, but also Brazil, Cameroon, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands and the Eastern United States.  I won’t go into the whole process, that’s what Wikipedia is for, but I will try to explain the unique pleasure I, and my cigar-smoking friends, get from this particular indulgence.

The Range

Just like wine (or whisky) there are scores of cigar manufacturers in different parts of the world producing dozens of blends and brands in a myriad of shapes, sizes and colours.  Just as you may have a preferred wine maker or region that produces a particular grape blend or label you like the same can be said of cigars, meaning there is lots to learn, lots to try and lots to discuss.  It is a subject with deep roots and innumerable branches and the more one knows the greater one’s pleasure.

The Ritual

Cigars aren’t smoked liked cigarettes and I don’t just mean the way you suck ‘em.  I mean that you don’t absent mindedly extract one from a box of twenty identical sticks, spark it up and suck it down before the boss notices you’re gone then race back to your desk.  You make time for a cigar; first you need to select the right one for the moment depending on the time you have, the mood you’re in and what you’re pairing it with.  Then you have to prepare it by either cutting or punching the closed end or ‘cap’ before lighting it by gently rolling the open end or ‘foot’ over a blue flame being careful not to touch it but holding the tobacco close enough so that it naturally combusts.

The Kit

To complete the ritual, you need the kit.  First comes the humidor, an airtight lacquered box generally lined with Spanish cedar wood that keeps the cigars humid; after all there’s no smoke without water.  (Case in point, if you want to send smoke signals from a campfire you need to cover it in moist leaves, not dry ones.)  Cigars at the Off License are not kept in a humidor, neither are they hand-rolled or made from hand-selected tobacco for that matter.  They’re actually made from tobacco scraps that are artificially flavoured, homogenized into sheets and rolled by machine.  They are essentially the Chicken McNuggets of the tobacco world, which may explain the sickness.

Next is the punch or cutter, there are many different styles of cutter; the guillotine, double guillotine, scissors…  They all achieve the same end but are similar to a bottle opener in the process of getting in to a cigar and can be a work of art in themselves.

Then there’s the lighter.  Cigars burn hotter than cigarettes because they’re not infused with flammable chemicals therefore it’s best to invest in a butane lighter if you don’t want to relight every few minutes or rely on long matches in a stiff breeze.

The Smoking

Finally, there’s the actual smoking.  The smoking of a cigar is not to be hurried.  Unlike the humble cigarette a cigar is entirely organic and not pumped full of chemicals to enhance the nicotine or increase the pace and evenness of the burn.  They burn very slowly and a single cigar rarely takes less than 15-minutes and can take up to an hour-and-a-half to get through depending on the size, the humidity and of course the smoker.

First you take the smoke into your mouth but you do not inhale.  Like the grapes in wine, tobacco leaves take up the properties of the environment they are grown in.  Typical flavours within the smoke include nuts, coffee, dark chocolate, red wine, vanilla, leather and herbs.  Some are more ‘full bodied’ than others and the taste can even change depending on age and humidity. (Yes, cigars can be aged.)

Once you have had a satisfying hit of the flavor you slowly allow the smoke to escape your mouth and maybe inhale the last 10% just to get a little buzz going.  Any more than that and the nausea of the inexperienced bachelor party smoker will kick in and spoil the moment.

For me cigars are natural, artisanal and feel authentic in world stocked with machine made, mass-produced mediocrity.  They require care and consideration to smoke well.  They’re a rare treat that helps slow life down and create moments of contemplation in an otherwise hectic schedule.  If you’d like to try or learn more visit your local Cigar divan and ask them to make a recommendation or else check out the videos in Cigar Aficionado’s Newbie Corner.  If you want a personal recommendation drop me a line, Nx.

Get Therapised!

I once read a great article about the portrayal of mental illness in movies; how it’s all either raving mad men brandishing axes or glassy-eyed window-lickers rocking back and forth in the corner of an asylum, the point being that, in reality, most mental illness is very dull and that’s because most mental illness is Depression.

I myself have dealt with depression; several years ago after a split with a significant other I found myself on the well worn path to oblivion with a certain Mr. Jack Daniels as my guide.  I’ll spare you the boring, mostly bed-ridden details but after a couple of heavy drinking and smoking years my mind and body got together and staged a mutiny outside Liverpool Street Station one morning whereupon I collapsed, a shivering, snotty mess atop the escalator opposite Pret a Manger.  Following a swift assessment from a bored looking City nurse who placed me squarely in the stressed-out-cityboy box  (probably her dozenth that morning!) I was referred to my GP who, along with the usual words of wisdom about less booze and fags, more sleep and exercise, recommended a course of CBT.

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and is typically a 12 week course of one-hour appointments that aim to equip you with the tools to make better decisions i.e. deal with the symptoms of your depression better.  This worked for me for about six-months; choosing the gym over the pub, a salad over a kebab, a wheatgrass shot over a tequila one, but sadly I couldn’t stick to it.  The issues underlying my depression were still there so I decided to look into psychotherapy, which brings me right back to my reason for penning this post…

I am, as you may know, an otherwise healthy, middle class white boy from a loving two-parent family who raised me to get a decent education that would provide me with choices as an adult.  Ergo, when I first considered going to therapy for my depression I experienced a lot of guilt.  I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror and asking myself Why do you need to see a therapist?  What have you got be depressed about?  Don’t you know there are people dying in the world?!  This, I have learned, is common.  Many of us don’t believe our depression is worthy of professional attention because many of us don’t class it as an illness but it is an illness, an illness of the mind and just like every other part of the body the mind has its own specialists.  So let’s use our minds for a moment to imagine someone we care out being physically ill, lying in bed with a red nose, sore throat and streaming eyes.  They look up at you and say, “I think I’ve got the flu.”  How do you respond?  Do you look back at them incredulously and ask “Why?”  If they suggest that they might need to see a doctor, do you snort derisively and demand to know “What for?”  I doubt it, because you can see they are in pain, the symptoms are clear.  However, for many depressives incredulity and derision are typical responses to their diagnosis.

Unfortunately, depression doesn’t care about your upbringing, your education or your social status any more than the flu does.  It’s an illness.  And just as you don’t have to have trekked through the arctic in your underwear to catch flu, neither do you have to have participated in a bloody war or seen your parents gunned down in front of you to get depression – it just happens.  When it does you need to treat it like you would any other illness, go to your doctor and consider seeing a specialist i.e. a psychotherapist.

Think about it, you wouldn’t suffer in bed with the flu refusing to see a doctor or drink your Lemsip because you felt guilty about it would you?  So why would you suffer with depression when the treatment is just as readily available?

As I said, when I first considered going to therapy I experienced a lot of guilt; I didn’t think my issues were worthy of therapy, that other people have it much worse than me.  Well of course they do!  And just because other people are dying of cancer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see a doctor about your sore throat or runny nose.  If your mental or physical health is impairing your quality of life and you have the motivation and the means to do something about it, you must.  It’s those that wallow in self-pity or who continue to bring others down through their persistent negative attitude and poor lifestyle choices that should feel guilty.  Make a positive choice; if you think you’re suffering from depression – get therapised!

The Writer – An Experiment in Video

Ordinarily when I shoot it is with a full crew and broadcast quality kit however I wanted to see what I could accomplish with the bare minimum of equipment and expertise so challenged myself to make a film, with no help, using just a handicam and iMovie on my Mac.  This is the result.

I’m fairly happy with it in so much as it plays to its strengths rather than exposing its weaknesses i.e. I had no mics so didn’t try to record live sound but rather recorded a VO into the internal mic on my Mac using Garageband afterwards.  Making it also reminded me that video is just a benign medium and content is what’s important.  If you have good content the quality of the video is less of a concern as evidenced in breaking news reports; when professional cameras can’t reach the scene mobile phone footage is fine because the content is what matters.

Anyway, I’m now considering turning this into a little series to keep me out of trouble so watch this space. Nx

Highway 61 Visited

Highway 61 RevisitedRecently I was lucky enough to realise one of my life’s greatest ambitions, a real tick on the bucket list; I took a 2,000-mile road trip through the Southern states of America to visit the home of Jazz, Blues and Country a.k.a. New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville, with my bro and his buddy Doog.  Here, to the best of my recollection, is what happened as we headed out on Highway 61 (and others) like a rolling stone with Bob Dylan as our guide…

Atlanta, GA

The Rebel Outlaw BurgerWe touched down in Atlanta, Georgia and picked up our car – not the Dodge Charger I’d ordered but a Nissan Ultima, gutted – nevertheless we piled in and navigated our way through the labyrinth of one-way systems that is the downtown district (think Croydon on a much bigger scale) and finally checked-in for our one night in the ATL!  Once we’d dumped the bags and anything else that had accumulated during the 10-hour flight we headed out to eat at the legendary Vortex Bar & Grill, home of the Triple Coronary Burger as featured on Man Vs. Food.  None of us was actually brave enough to tackle the TC’s three burger patties, three fried eggs, fourteen slices of American cheese and ten slices of bacon so we went for the Rebel Outlaw instead, half a pound of chuck steak covered in pulled pork, cheddar cheese, bacon and lashings of spicy sauce.  It was only after dinner that my two travelling companions and I remembered we’d be trapped in a car together for the next two days on our way down to the Big Easy.  Needless to say, the windows were rolled down for much of the journey.

Montgomery, AL

The road to New Orleans runs right through the arse end of Alabama, skirting the top of Florida, where friends are close but family is closer.  As we raced through we saw no real evidence of in-breeding but plenty of white clapboard houses and similarly styled Baptist or Methodist churches every ten yards or so right up until we reached Montgomery, our overnight stop where we met the divine Caitlin at the equally divine Alley Bar.  No photographic evidence remains of either of these heavenly finds so maybe it was just a collective dream we had but from what I do recall she called us “y’all”, poured us drinks, found us a motel, played 80’s hair metal and lured us into the refrigerated Shot Room where concoctions such as Alligator Piss are downed in ice glasses which are then smashed ceremoniously against the wall.  Now, we hadn’t intended to “visit” Montgomery, more like make use of it’s facilities, which is why we asked Caitlin to book us into the cheapest motel in town, which she did.  The La Quinta Inn & Suites was handily located just off the I10, next to a petrol station and an ample supply of Crystal Meth courtesy of the local, and very vocal, junkie community.   Our thirst not fully quenched by Caitlin’s hospitality we asked the ample receptionist if there was a bar nearby to which she replied; “Yup, but y’all better drive.”  I mentioned that, as the only designated driver, I was hoping to leave the car and catch up on beers but she made it quite clear that walking would be inadvisable.  Having already covered 160-miles we decided just to pop over to the petrol station for some takeaways instead – also inadvisable.  With TOURIST clearly painted across our English faces we were ogled, heckled and eventually approached for cash/drugs/sexual services by the toothless and twitchy hoards who we made marginally less threatening by Christening them all Cracky McJacky (and running).  Funnily enough, we left quite sharpish the next morning.

The rest of the route through Alabama was green and pleasant enough, sound-tracked by country music and, in particular, a song by Brad Paisley about how men can’t help but sexually harass women called I’m Still a Guy.  Unfortunately I can’t find that on YouTube so will post Miranda Lambert’s barnstorming girl-power anthem Mama’s Broken Heart instead:

New Orleans, LA

NOLA Jazz & Heritage FestWe arrived in New Orleans for the second weekend of the legendary Jazz and Heritage Festival.  The weather sucked but it didn’t seemed to dampen anyone’s spirits and the French Quarter was every bit as alive as you’d ever dreamed, with music in every bar in Bourbon Street.  We got mind-meltingly drunk on the first night, which is as it should be, and while the amateurs (my little brother and his little friend) struggled with hangovers the next day I headed out for a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs at Daisy Dukes before heading up to the festival site past the remnants of Hurricane Katrina.

The festival was enormous with not just jazz but blues, gospel, rock, reggae and even Native American music represented.  I stuck around for Jimmy Cliff but even his tropical grooves couldn’t warm me so I headed back to wake the boys and head out for a second night on the tiles though this time on a stomach lined with gumbo and jambalaya.

On Saturday the sun burst through the clouds and, after another gut-busting breakfast at Daisy’s, we all headed to the festival settling ourselves mainly in the Blues and Gospel tents which were divided by one of the more sparsely populated bars and the only one we found serving frozen daiquiris.  Now I don’t know if it was the daiquiris or divine intervention but the Gospel music was an absolute revelation that moved a middle-class white boy from the ‘burbs to jump out of his seat and dance in the name of the Lord!  We completely forgot about the likes of Willie Nelson and Fleetwood Mac and instead stayed enraptured under canvas.

Next on the agenda was a drive up Highway 61 along the Mississippi through Baton Rouge to Clarksdale where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to become a blues guitarist thus creating my brother’s job (professional guitarist).  We ended up eventually in Jackson, MS home of bluesman Bobby Rush and the Bulldog Bar where the effervescent Jenny gave us an in depth history of each of her 64 draft beers and served us the greatest BBQ chicken sandwich know to man.  Next stop, Memphis TN.

Memphis, TN

GRACELAND!!!This was the big one for me, home of the King, Graceland and it DID NOT DISAPPOINT.  Smaller than you imagine, nestled in stunning, manicured grounds the King’s castle is of it’s time but tasteful and has the unmistakable feel of family about it.  I can imagine he, his parents, wife and daughter were very, very happy there.  As well as the house you can see his clothes, cars and private jet named after his only child Lisa Marie and featuring 24-karat gold seat belts amongst many other extravagances.  The main thing I learned about the King was how incredibly generous he was giving Cadillacs, cash and jewelry away to strangers and $1,000 a year to each of 50 Memphis area charities and is legacy of generosity continues through the work of the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation.

At the end of the tour we reached his grave, which, for me at least, was an extremely emotional moment.  Music has probably been the single biggest and most consistent influence in my life, rock music particularly and that starts with Elvis Aaron Presley, The King of Rock N’ Roll.

Elsewhere in Memphis Beale Street was amusing but essentially a sell-out however the Gibson factory was well worth a visit.

Nashville, TN

Bringin' out the big guns!From Memphis we ventured to Nashville a.k.a. Music City USA.  This was my brother’s suggestion and the biggest surprise to me as I hadn’t previously considered myself to be a fan of country music but boy was I wrong.  Down Broadway every bar musician is a legend, we followed our eyes and ears into one bar featuring a Jessica Simpson look-a-like and her middle aged mum on guitar who made my brother rethink his career choice for she did shred like, well, a mutha!!  We settled into a few Jack Daniels and the duo were replaced by a sextet called the Tennesse Twisters who will go down as one of the greatest bands I have ever seen anywhere under any conditions.  From the Johnny Cash sounding drummer to the yodeling violinist to the bombshell guitar player to the funky gorilla on double bass to the blind multi-instrumentalist who played a regular guitar flat on his lap in every conceivable style before switching to accordion, harmonica, clarinet, you name it!  And they weren’t just restricted to country, there was jazz, blues, rock and some seriously off-the-wall prog shit going on in their set which, by the time they finished and we actually looked at our watches, was 2am.  They’ played for 4 hours without a break whilst we polished off a bottle of Jack.  When we eventually got up from our bar stools all of us hit the floor – this was one of the best nights out I have EVER had and I insist you all go an check out the Tennesse Twisters on Facebook NOW!

We saved one uniquely American experience till last, shooting real live guns!  We found the Nashville Armoury online and headed over giggling like nervious school girls on the way to prom.  Alarmingly the guy behind the counter had no reservations about putting any old gun in our hands but we insisted he make a recommendation suitable for beginners so we entered the range armed with a 22 calibre pistol, same calibre rifle and a 9mm handgun.  The 22’s make a popping sound much like a cap gun and have very little recoil but the 9mm is a serious piece of kit that instantly makes your penis feel 3inches longer (so 12inches total in my case!).  It makes a helluva noise and sends shockwaves up your arm but is as nothing compared to what the cowboy next to us unleashed.  We hadn’t realised but it was Mother’s Day when we hit the range and the drawling, Stetson-ed cowboy next to us had brought his mother along for a day out and presented her with a fuchsia pink, 20-bore, pump action shotgun that sounded like a grenade going off.  Unfortunately for dear mother she was 5-foot-nothing and nearly knocked flat by the blast.  As she steadied herself on her feet she turned to us, gun in hand, and asked “Y’all laughing at me?”, to which we all instantly replied “No ma’am, definitely not.”

My abiding memories of the trip are bonding with my brother; Doog being in a constant state of Burtoning (write in if you want to know what that’s all about) and of hearing more amazing, original live music than I’ve heard in the last 5 years, reinvigorating my passion for seeking out and supporting young artists and bands whether in Singapore or overseas.  If you love music and you have the means, make it happen!

Photos

Bands
Below are a list of the bands who soundtracked our trip and left a lasting impression with their incredible live performances:

Notables
And here are links to some of the other cool things we saw and did but I couldn’t squeeze into the blog: