Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

Another fun year with lot's done and more not done. Preparing to wind down for the last day of work , get some Fizz for the Party, and have a good time. Amazingly the bin men came this morning so they must have been putting in double shifts this week , good on them. Anyway here's a short vid of some of the snow, soundtracked by some of my white noise guitar:


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Blair Dunlop - A Real Christmas Treat





We've just returned from watching the Albion Christmas Band finish up their 2009 tour at the Sage in Gateshead , and the concert was , as usual , a resounding success with Ashley Hutchings leading proceeding in between selling and signing CDs outside the hall and engaging with the audience ably supported by the rest of the band , Simon Nicol on guitar , Kellie While on gorgeous vocals somewhere between Sandy Denny and Joni Mitchell , and Simon Care on various squeezeboxes and Morris dancing. An excellent run up to Christmas while promoting their new CD "Snow on Snow".

As if this wasnt enough they had brought on support , the 17 year old Blair Dunlop , and prodigious guitar talent who played 4 pieces and held the audience spellbound throughout. There were two songs the ominously titled "Road Beneath My Wheels" (I was thinking "Wind Beneath My Wings" , mercifully Mr Dunlop was in a different universe) and "Why Georgia" a John Mayor composition.

These were complemented bu the percussive instrumental tour de force "Drifting" and finishing with the Trace Bundy arrangement of Pachelbel's Canon which can be seen here:




Blair Dunlop's website is here. As yet there are no official releases. Just like General Fiasco when I first saw them , and in his field just as impressive.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Winter Solstice 2009

The Winter Solstice was yesterday, Dec. 21, 2009, the day when the Earth tilts farthest away from the sun.

The solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the official start of winter. The word "solstice" comes from the Latin "sun stands still" and celebrations of the solstice pre-date Christmas, though you wouldnt think so the way some Christian Fundamentalist go on. Anyway the days get longer from here and I've put together some winter images backed by Jethro Tull's "Ring Out Solstice Bells" which can be downloaded here:

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Snow Has Arrived

The snow has arrived managing to curtail all my weekend travel including parties and visits to friends. Friday I managed not to slip on all the snow and and ice , though vertical continuation was curtailed by a combination of marble floor and spilt coffee on Newcastle's Central station. This capped a bad end to a really good day which started to go bad when I caught a bus to Darligton Station which went for a one hour journey round a dodgy concil estate before dumping me back where I started. At the beginning of the journey I asked the driver if the bus went to the station , he replied in the affirmative. Hmmmm....

Darlington seems to be the only place where busses with the same numbers going in the same directions can have completely different destinations!!! This happens with the 11 and 14 in Darlington . They also have timetables with huge important chunks missing . This one opposite the station has no information between 0718 and 1301 !!


Anyway to on a more cheerful note here's some of the snow that kept us housebound this weekend soundtracked by the excellent "Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland" by Grandaddy , which you can get here:

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Killing In The Name Of ... The X-Factor??






I must say I tittered more than once when I saw the Facebook Group "Rage Against The Machine For Christmas Number One" , which wants "Killing In The Name" as Christmas Number One to ensure that this years's X-Factor winner , Joe McElderry, doesnt hit number one. There are quite a few flaws in this, which are in no particular order:

  • While I have every respect for Rage Against The Machine , they're not exactly the embodiment of Christmas Spirit.
  • RATM are the current number one (at this point in time 16th December 2009) but Joe McElderry's single The Climb is not released til next week and is only 30p on Amazon!!. The Facebook group membership is about 750,000 worldwide while the X-Factor audience is 15 million in Britain alone . Thats a quarter of the population.
  • If you're a RATM fan why don't you have all their albums , especially their eponymous debut?
  • RATM are on Epic . Joe McElderry is on Syco (appropriate contraction for Simon Cowell's Label) . Both these are part of the Sony empire so whichever you buy , Sony profit!!!




If you want a proper Christams number one go for Holly Golightly's "Christmas Tree On Fire" or The Muppets' "Bohemian Rhapsody"



Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Is It Christmas?





Every other record on the radio is a "Christmas" record. Some are good , some are absolutely atrocious. It's obviously Christmas, it's still dark and rainy outside.

Sadly it's Terry Wogan's final week before retirement and they reckon the listership for Friday's show will top 14 million!!. Thank god they got young Chris Evans to take the reins rather than that Jonathan Ross. They reckon that after Brian Matthew's Sounds of the Sixties on a Saturday a third of listeners turn off when Mr Ross makes an appearance. Here's Terry doing his "hit" , hilarious!!









Anyway I saw Moonpigwere doing some excellent cards like this Mr T spoof!!!

Monday, 14 December 2009

I Smell Winter





It's dark and rainy , all we need is snow and then winter will truly be here. I was hoping there'd be a video of teh Housemartins' "I Smell Winter" but it wasn't to be so I've put in "Build" instead. A truly wonderful band.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Pickering To Whitby by Steam Train

In October we decided to try the steam run from Pickering to Whitby on the Nork Yorkshire Moors Railway. This turned out to be excellent , with proper compartmentalised first class carriages , though the steam seeping through the floor was slightly disconcerting . Here's a short video of the journey soundtracked by the Kinks "Last of the Steam Powered Trains" , which you can download here.

Leonard Cohen and Wireless Connections

While on holiday I tend to use local libraries for internet requirements and usually these are adequate for what I need. However I was shocked to find that Stratford's main library , which was free last year , now charges £5 an hour!! Local residents don't fare much better with 30 minutes a day free then £2 per half hour after that. Not too good if you're unemployed or on a low wage. One of the reasons for the rise in library usage is the provision of internet access . It seems that Stratford are trying to drive people away.

We signed up for the library at Pershore which was free , this follows the one in Helmsley which is a very reasonable pound an hour.

BT Openzone is not much better with £6 for 90 minutes which has to be used within 24 hours with no comeback for slow connections and the like.


StarbucksStore.com

As an alternative I got a Starbuck's card and availed myself of their free wi-fi. I know I spent a fortune on coffee , but the surroundings are pleasant , the coffee is good and I could get stuff done. When watching "True Blood" a remark was made that the proliferation of these sort of Coffee Shops (Starbucks, Costas, Cafe Nero etc) has resulted in a decline in general calcium deficiency due to the amount of milk that people are drinking!! Maybe an urban myth , but a good one!



While in Stratford we discovered that the excelent Pub "The One Elm" give free wi-fi access with any purchase , and were extremely pleasant , and seemed to have an excellent menu as well. That's one to try the next time we are in Stratford.




Across the road was one of our target restaurant , Bernadettes , named after the Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes collaboration from "Famous Blue Raincoat" - "Song of Bernadette"apparently, a video is below...



It's a Champagne and Oyster Bar but does does excellent if slightly expensive food . The fish and chips is recommended and the service excellent!! Here's a video of one of their cookery schools.



Saturday, 12 December 2009

Kings Heads and Staddle Stones

Just back from another week in Worcesterstershire , managing to discover several new restaurants, and the secret of the ubiquitous mushroom shaped stone structures that seem to be everywhere down the there (there's three on the farm).

Apparently they're sort of foundation stones for barns that were used to keep rats away from the harvest. Thanks to Julia for putting me out of my misery on this one, more info can be found here.

Also discovered the rather excellent Kings Head in Aston Cantlow, the speciality food being their Duck Suppers , the explanation from their web site is:

"After the war most food was rationed , however the landlord of the time had a smallholding at the rear of the Kings Head where he reared his own ducks! This excluded them from rationing!, even some locals supplied a few for the pot, as during the war vehicles could only be used for deliveries, so this was a great excuse to visit the pub using rationed petrol!

Even after the war popularity grew and it was not long before the well heeled brummies visited in their droves. The Kings Head was at one time serving up to 10,000 duck suppers a year!"

My personal experience is that the food, service and surroundings are top knotch and well worth a visit. On leaving the pub we saw a three legged dalmation , with a very friendly owner. A great pub in a very nice village.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

A Very Odd Week

A very odd week this has been culminating in a bloke with a bright green beard walking into the newsagents as I was buying the papers. I didn't ask!!

This week I've had people speaking in tongues and other weird stuff , but the other night , around midnight I heard noises on the roof . Scraping and shuffling and finally something halling down the roof , before hitting the decking with a bang. It was dark , wet and coled , so I left it til the following the day. In the graden I found the blue item on the right. It looks like a dustpan that's been chewed by a dog. I reckon a seagull picked it up and dropped in on our roof while it was sitting on one of our chimneys!!!

In the olden days I reckon that people would hav said we'd been visited by God or The Devil warning us to clean our house or we'd go to hell!




These days Derek Acorah would make a whole TV series on this and manage to work Michael Jackson in there as our saviour.



Sunday, 29 November 2009

How Free Is Free?

In today's Sunday Times was a voucher for 5 Live Blur songs from iTunes , a follow up to the free CD last week in the same newspaper. This is all well and good , but it turns out the songs are DRm'd and can't be converted from iTunes format , and hence can only be played on a PC if you install iTunes , and on an Apple Mobile device such as an iPhone or iPod.




In my opinion that's very restrictive . I do have iTunes (which is free , incidentally) , but would have to spend at least £50 on a portable device to play them (iShuffle) , which I'm not prepared to do. Given that Blur and their record label supply the music , probably paid for by The Sunday Times how come Apple can stick their oar in and dictate how you listen to the damned stuff. Anyway here's some Apple product if you like that kind of thing!!



Monday, 23 November 2009

What Will They Complain About Now?

Now that the mutant offspring of Bros have been ejected from X-Factor what will people complain about. X-Factor is a method of making a quick buck for Simon Cowell who is excellent at media manipulation. He is the onlsolid thing in the show , everything else is peripheral ephemera. The show is the latest in a long line of prime time rubbish stretching back to Opportunity Knocks , New Faces and Seaside Special. Anyone who watches this can't complain at what the get.




I saw thirty minutes of it over the weekend that confirmed that my general decision to ignore it was correct. Now I DO know what I'm missing , and thank god I am!!!

Incidentally during the adverts they were advertising a Chris Moyles' Parody Album !!! Weird Al Jankovic was bad enough , but Moyles manages to plumb even deeper depths of rubbish . "I Predict A Diet" indeed!!




Oh and they's just announced U2 are headlining Glastonbury next year!! I still wont be going!!



Friday, 13 November 2009

Tickets , Touts and Gigs

It's that time of year when there seems to be a hell of a lot of decent gigs on , and promoters seem to find even better ways of ripping you off. The O2 Academy use some legalized touts called ticketweb who charge a £1.50 processing pluss a 10% service charge if you buy one line or by card. Get round it by paying cash at the venue. Previously they had a print your own option , where for £2.25 (plus ticket price , plus service charge) you could use your own materials to print your ticket!

The other venue I've used is the Sage at Gateshead who charge about a pound to send the tickets out to you . Admittedly their tickets are normally about double the acts at The Academy , but they don't rip you off.





Having said that , Paolo Nutini at the Academy was £22 a ticket , and with charges that came to about £26 quid a ticket , provided by my very good friends Jan and Lynn for services supposedly rendered. Gig was great though massively overcrowded and I definitely owe them one!! Here's the offilcial "Pencil Full Of Lead" video:




And the Live Session one that I prefer:


Friday, 30 October 2009

Remastered Deluxe Derangement

Just checking the reissues this month and it seems that everyone is going overboard with 2 CD , DVD deluxe reissues of old albums. We've had the Beatles Remasters series , where the sound has been scrubbed up and CDs augmented with a documentary which is unfortunately in Quicktime format . Why they couldnt do it as DIVX so you can play it on your DVD player I dont know, Quicktime is part of the Apple Bloatware Empire.




I recently acquired "In The Court of The Crimson King" and "Red" by King Crimson which sound incredibly great on my basic 5.1 system. These are part of the King Crimson 40th Anniversary reissues:




While this is all very well these Deluxe Reissues seem to be becoming the norm rather than the exception, very often augmented by out takes which were deemed "not good enough" for the original release. So this poses the question - "Is this just andnother money grabbing exercise by the record companies?".




Probably , but it does give you the opportunity the hear stuff that would have been lost , and hopefully doesn't affect the production and promotion of new music , but I feel that shops and companies are more likely to push a Beatles reissue than a new record by , say , General Fiasco. And that's a bad thing!!

Monday, 26 October 2009

You Too Can Microsocialize

While Facebook has loads of flaws it , and other "social networking" sites seem to be promoting the rise of Microsocializing , that is to say having absolutely minimal contact with people while still having the ability to know where they are and what they are up to.

I was introduced to Facebook by a good friend , although I didnt have a clue what it was, and since then found it useful to post online photo galleries , make, regain and keep contact with friends from Tynemouth , to Tanzania and New Zealand , as well as playing online Scrabble and being involved with the Time Vampire that is Mafia Wars!!

In the end I think that Facebook is a good thing , but wonder have I really got 111 friends, though today someone who I met playing Scrabble who at the time was going through a bad time , today became happily married , and that sort of thing you can't buy . The good feeling affects everyone in touches.

There are many people who wont touch Facebook , maybe it isnt for them , but I've found it extremely beneficial since signing up and it's also probably responsible indirectly for getting me into Ice Hockey!!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Dust ...

Our house is not dirty , I reckon it gets dusted, hoovered, cleaned every seven days. However I've just used our Dyson Trackball Hoover thing and done the main bedroon and office room and it's filled the dust compartmentment. It proves the Dyson is very efficient , but you have to wonder where it all comes from. Amazing!!

Having said that the rest of the house only half filled the dust compartment, that's it for another seven days. Just need to buy a new garden hoover as the one I got from Wickes packed in ...It had their name on it!!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Apple, The Devil and Bloatware

Supposedly The Devil tempted Adam and Eve with an Apple . Now Apple are trying the same withe rest of the human race with theie iProducts.

I recently downloaded iTunes Version 9.0 for the PC , 88 Mb big. What the hell is the reason for that. It plays music and video's and allows you to buy stuff from their store (it their proprietary format of course).

The irony being that physically in the iPod Nano and Shuffle you have some of the smallest music players possible , however you need the afformentioned bloatware to pre load the damned things. Apple arent the only culprits , though , almost anyone with a market presence seem to think that size will impress . NO!! Functionality impresses , though I can't see Microsoft and Apple and the rest going for efficiency while they can make money without providing an efficient product with a relatively small footprint. Meanwhile we can watch Apple's latest product in their (simulated) advertisement soundtracked by "She Got Me Dancing" by Tommy Sparks , available here :


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Exclusive? Moi?

click here
What is the meaning of exclusive? Given that Vodafone and Orange have just acquired rights to sell Apple's iPhone , which was previousle only available on O2 , I was surprised to see a full page advertisement in the Sunday Times advertising the iPhone's exclusivity to O2. I suppose you can't believe all you read in the papers then!!!
What I could belive is that my neighbour had provided me with a barrow load of firewood for my wood burning stove when some sizeable branches from his tree fell into our garden whilst on holiday. As well as clearing the wood away he also chopped the thing into stove and chimeniere sized sticks - well deserving of a couple of bottles of Oddbins fizz!!!

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Joy of Communication

Thanks to TV , Radio , Newspapers and the Internet we can find out things that we want to know and and a lot of things that we don't.

The success of the internet , effectively invented by Tim Berners-Lee is due to the fact that it was open source and therefore free to use. Yes you pay for access via your connection , but the internet itself is free to use. If it hadn't been it would have just become another closed network. This was explained to me on TV last night on a program I caught some of while channel hopping , but it was probably on BBC4.

This morning Terry Wogan on the radio mentioned a cook who "peeled peas" , I hope this was a joke rather than some mad new cooking methodology, Sunday Lunch will take weeks to prepare unless Primark take over the supply with their vast army of slave labour (how else do you sell shirts for £3 , it's certainly not economies of scale).

One of the things the internet allows is anyone can use it to be contacted or to advertise effectively for free , though people have to be able to find you. Here are four sites which are essentially information sites about the owner and their trade but have still managed to generate sales of their products be it pictures or plants.

Mark Johnson - Professional Aircraft Photography

These are the new equivalent of the card in the shop window or phonebox, but with a potentially wider audience, and they show that the internet is for everybody and anybody.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Back To Oswaldkirk

Just back from another excellent holiday in Oswaldkirk. The cottage (Honeysuckle Cottage) is excellently located close to Ampleforth and Helmsley and out of the range of mobile phones.

The sheep in the field kept escaping , but were unable to remember how to get back , so when they got agitated had to open the gate for them.

During the holiday we managed to visit Riveaulx (left) , Bylands Abbey both, I assume , excellent examples of Henry VIII's destructrive tendencies , but Ampleforth is still in use and very impressive.

Also did the steam train journey from Pickering to Whitby resulting another visit to Folk Devils , where a young Goth girl (about 4'7" but 6' in her platforms) was unsuccessful in her attempted purchase of the latest Kiss offering!!!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Finally Did La Rosa

Finally did two nights in La Rosa at Whitby , in the Little Red Room , and I can say it was totally excellent . Liked it so much that we're going back in February.

As well as the hotel itself just being excellent they have wi-fi , but no TV or room phones (given that everyone has a mobile these days who needs one). Also they have a very civilised mid day check out . Breakfast is served in a hamper , consisting of fruit juice , cheese scones , fruit cake , cheese , boiled eggs , coffee - superb.





The room was packed with interesting things some of which can be seen on the site , but liked the skull in the cabinet and the Red Riding Hood pictures as well as real Red Riding Hood hung on the door!!

We were advised that we could park on the street , but given that most street parking in Whitby is free , this wasn't an option , so we used the West Cliff car park . This gives the option of of paying via mobile phone / card via the RingGo web site- which means you can extend your parking without returning to the car park .



What a change from the thieves at North Tyneside who fail to provide machines that take all your money, don't provide an alternative , don't give you the full amount for what you pay , then fine you £25 !! This image to the left is the £3 ticket that gave me 6 hours (rate 80p for 2 hours so I paid for 7.5 hours) . To the right is the fine .


As well as that , 25 miles from Whitby the exhaust went . I thought I'd get it fixed in Whitby but both garages were very helpful , but couldnt get the parts til monnday, though Borough Tyres reckoned they could have done if I'd have gone in early enough. Also they both closed at noon , it's nice where lifestyle comes before profit.

Anyway , we discovered The Vineyard Restaurant (formerly Harrys) and Trenchers , both of which I'd recommend and we had a visit to the Magpie Cafe . Yes you have to queue but it's worth the wait. Also no trip to Whitby would be complete without a visit to the excellent Folk Devils record shop . I left with a Desert Blues compilation and several other interesting CDs.

Monday, 14 September 2009

What The Puck?

Have recently returned from my first Ice Hockey match at the Newcastle Metro Arena , featuring the Newcastle Vipers vs Nottingham Panthers. Didn't know what to expect and my only previous experience was the excellent 1977 film featuring Paul Newman , Slapshot, trailer below:




The game is split into three twent minute periods , with clock stops for the many infringements. The puck is vulcanised rubber which the announcers constantly warns the crowd to be vigilant about as it "may leave the ice", which does quite often , though only once managing to vault the protective screens. How you protect yourseldf against a 100MPH piece of vulcanised rubber is a mystery to me , which I hope I wont have to answer as intend going again. Below is footage of the match I took soundtracked by The Stranglers Tank (Download here) . The third Vipers goal is about about 1:25 :


The game is well worth watching and I can see the addictive attraction , think I'm hooked , though don't have the T-Shirt yet!!

Here's some footage of the Vipers against Cardiff:


Saturday, 5 September 2009

A Few Days In Hexham

For the first time in many years , this Bank Holiday Monday we visited Hexham 20 miles to the west of Newcastle in the Tyne Valley. We were disappointed to learn of the demise of Priestpopple Books, a wonderful second hand book emporium , probably driven to the wall by Oxfam and the like.

However we did discover the excellent Mr Ants eaterie,situated on Priestpopple , which has the unusual menu side entry of chips by the pint or half pint!!!

The Wetherspoons in Hexham is esconced in an old cinema , although the cinema is still functioning , but like many of their takeovers looks incredibly impressive.

We noticed several shops were shut. I regard this as a good thing as it means that people regard life as more important than work. On of these was the excellent "Artful" run by Karen Morgan (I think) and filled with her and other artists work. This shop is well worth a visit , down St Mary's Chare off the main drag in Hexham.

Today finished of with a visit to Bouchon , a french restaurant (or "Bistrot" [sic] as they describe themselves on the website and literature) in Gilesgate . The food is gorgeous and very reasonably priced , the pace was packed to the rafters and the staff run off their feet. Their seemed to be a few mistakes , but these were swiftly rectified , and I will be going back again and would recommend you do the same if you get the chance.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Two I Can Understand - But Three?


Today I was in Newcastle and passing the club shop in town noticed they had a third kit on sale. Can some one explain this to me if it's not to rip off the fans that the club has already ripped the mickey out of with the antics since the sacking of Sir Bobby Robson.

A club needs a home kit (the black and white) ,

an alternate kit (this year it's the "Solero") ,

anything more shows naked unashamed greed.






Why don't they stock some of the retro stuff if they do want to sell more Newcastle shirts, the sort of thing that TOFFS (The Old Fashioned Football Shirt) provide?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The Beatles Rockband - Why?





On the ninth of September this year (09.09.09 who thought that one up - no doubt some mad Yanks will realise that 999 upside down is 666 so the Beatles are really Iron Maiden!!) the Beatles are going to have their back catalogue of thirteen studio albums reissued plust the non album stuff on the two Past Masters discs, with the sound scrubbed up along with a documentary pertaining to the relevant album. That's all well , good and understandable.


What is not understandable is that on the same day 45 songs from this excellent catalogue have gone through the processing mill for the various "Rock Band" game variations where numpties can pretend to be their idols with the aid of various pretend instrument. So who's going to be "Don't Call Me By My Stage Name"?

I Want My DTS (on my TV)

My home cinema set up ,if you want to grace it with that name , consists of a 32" Beko Flat screen CRT TV that cost me £80 second hand five years back, a Samsung Hard Disc Recorder / DVD player and a Samsung Home Cinema Amp (both of which proclaim their DTS ability in the many badges on the front) with Yamaha sub woofer and speakers. The makes of all these bits of technology are irrelevant apart from my old Beko TV doesnt suffer from the "Motion Blur" of the modern Plasma / LCD TVs.

Anyway I decided to listen to H.A.A.R.P. the live Muse Album of their 2007 Wembley Show on the "Black Holes and Revelations" tour. I was given the option of stereo or DTS , no 5.1 option. Switched to DTS option there's nothing . Tried DTS options on a couple of other DVDs, still nothing. Checked that fount of all knowledge , the internet , and someone suggested that the digital sound stream should be bitstream rather than PCM. What the hell does that have to with DTS? I don't know.

Anyway may that adjustment and lo and behold we have Matt Bellamy and co escorted out to the sound of Prokofiev's "Dance of The Knights(Montagues and Capulets)" from "Romeo and Juliet" before launching in to "Knights of Cydonia" and shaking the house to it's foundations. Job sorted!!


Monday, 24 August 2009

Nothing Much To Report .. Apart From England Winning The Ashes


The football season is well underway , England have won the Ashes despite Australia scoring more runs , taking more wickets and generally being better , but that's the nature of the game , the best team doesnt always win.

Incidentally The Duckworth-Lewis Method of determining the score in one day cricket has inspired an album of the same name featuring the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon and an be sampled here.

The Newcastle saga shows no sign of resolution with Mike Ashley seemingly asset stripping the club of it's best players , while on the field the club are actually doing quite well , positioned at a healthy third in the Championship at the time of the post. We'll just have to see how things pan out.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Newgate Street in Newcastle Reopens and The New Football Season Starts

After what seems like years , Newgate Street reopens to busses . This is going to to completely mess with my head as the 36 reverts to it's normal back and forth route rather than the current circular one!

As well as that the new football season kicks off with Sheffield United at Middlesborough , Preston entertain Bristol City and Newcastle visit West Brom for the inaugural BBC televised match. Hopefully there will be many monents like Jeff Stelling's (hartlepool supporter) manic finale to the 2008-9 seaons when the Championship final play off place was grabbed by Preston thanks to goals from "The Beast" Jon Parkin and Sean Saint Ledger:

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Another One Bites The Dust...

A pleasant day in York yesterday was marred by the fact the Track Records another independent record shop had bitten the dust (see here for the ongoing saga) . This means there is an "award winnng" DJ shop which seemed to specialise in non descript T Shirts , HMV, and charity shops as the only palces to buy music left in York. This is happening everywhere , and while the internet is a convenient place to shop , and downloading is convenient, if we dont watch out we'll only be able to buy what Tesco deem suitable for us. The non changing Top 30 , X-Factor future seems to be getting closer by the day.

I really don't know what the answer is, I try and do my bit by buying from Reflex , RPM , JG Windows and Roots 2 Music in Newcastle (Spin is still going online only) , but I'm just one person and to quote Joni Mitchell:

"You Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Gone"

Maybe Maximo Park at RPM have the right idea - "Apply Some Pressure":




Suggestions on a postcard please

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Latest Charver Fashion Accessory

It seems these days that the Charver fashion accessory of choice is a twelve or twenty four pack usually of Fosters or Carling , possibly even Strongbow for the more upmarket minded.

On Newcastle Staion this morning and theres a group of them garnishing their Strongbow with acessories from the local twenty four hour Greggs in the form of pasties and sausage rolls!!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A Bee, See!

There seems to be a lot of worry over the apparent decline in the global Bee population. It doesnt seem two minutes since swarms of killer bees were coming outr way according to the resident scaremongers in the government and the Daily Mail. Apparently you can attract bees by planting Rosemary and Lavender in your garden . We;ve done this and the garden attracts a healthy number of these impossible flying machines. Below is a short montage soundtracked by Jonathan Richman's excellent "Buzz Buzz Buzz" available here:

Saturday, 18 July 2009

What If A Deaf Cat Had No Sense of Smell?

Over the past few months we've managed to successfully keep cats out of the garden with a combination of Lion Poo and a Sonic Gun (see entry here) . However today a ginger cat jumped into the rockery and was completely undetered by the sonic gun. Which begs the question what if the cat is deahf and has no sense of smell......


This one was in the parking square in Tideswell , so is OK.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Mouth of Tyne 2009

This year's Mouth of Tyne Festival (Tynemouth & Southe Shields) looks great with The Script , Dodgy , Baghdaddies, Teddy Thompson and Soznak appearing , as well as the rest of the stuff. The Festival is an annual event and far better than the corporate Evolution Festival further inland on the Newcastle Quayside with its no drink except what we sell you , and compulsory wristband policy.

The Script headline on Saturday night in The Priory for a (sold out) paid gig , which probably helps with the cost of staging the festival. Sunday is free with some great music , street entertainment and drink and food at reasonable prices. Festival Site is here.


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Mugged By Apple

It's not out of choice but I have iTunes on my PC . A couple of weeks back I bought Rebel Get By by General Fiasco , and paid my 79p which is fine. However I looked at my list of purchased items and theres two tunes in there that I didnt know I'd bought. Because I'd left myself logged in on iTunes it had done the purchase when I copied the url of the song I wanted to listen.

So if you must have an iPod , and therefore iTunes, beware if you buy stuff off iTunes , log out when you're finished with it!


Thursday, 2 July 2009

I Know It's 2009 But...

Working from home , listening to BBC Radio 2 , with Johnny Walker standing in for Terry Wogan and they've just played "Uncle John's Band" from Workingmen's Dead by The Grateful Dead on daytime Radio 2 . Whatever next , I ask you?

By the Way Uncle John's Band just happens to be a totally gorgeous record as this live performance from Alpine Valley 1989 proves:





Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Punk Not Dad? In Me Shed? Lisa Rogers?

After finding out that BBC Radio 7 are broadcasting Kenny Everett shows in their entirety a friend returned this to me and very funny it is too:




It's over thirty years since the first British punk single hit the shops which was "New Rose" by The Damned released on Stiff Records which I purchased from Malcolm's in Chorley, and not "Anarchy In The UK" by the Sex Pistols released on EMI , withdrawn very quickly netting me £25 in the process as well as a copy of "Never Mind The Bollocks" which I'm allowed to say and print thanks to the work of the great , late John Mortimer ("Rumpole of The Bailey" and all that!!!!





Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Omega Man (and Woman)

A couple of months back I was having various problems with blood pressure tablets that were affecting me both physically and mentally. The tablets were working but the side effects were rubbish , affecting both thinking process and the causing what Pele describes as 'erectile dysfunction'. The problem is diabetes is a debilitating condition and things are only going to get worse , or so they tell me. A possible solution was Viagara , but it's both expensive , and they only prescribe you four tablets a month , when really I want something that'll work on a daily basis.I then came across this in Boots, Cardio-Ace.

Cardio-Ace is essentially Omega-3 Oil , which can be found in oily fish to name but one source. Not availableon prescription because you can get it from a decent diet. Anyway this stuff works. At my annual Diabetic Review the nurse explained how it works. Basically as we get older our arteries and veins get clogged up with fat and gunk making it more difficult for the blood to get round the body and provide stuff like oxygen for the brain etc. What Omega 3 does is act like a brillo pad on your arteries and veins clearing away the gunk leaving your body in a fully functioning state. Would recomend this stuff to anybody . It works!!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Proper Properganda

Recently got involved with Proper Distribution distributing magazines and reviewing gigs and CDs after reading "Last Shop Standing" by Graham Jones (see here). The book mentions how Tesco demanded ten grand from Proper to talk with them about distribution , to which Proper decided against supplying the supermarket chain.

Despite the apparent impossibilty of competing against the supermarkets and X-Factor production line it's great to see that somebody can still produce quality stuff with integrity. Just tried this Amazon Widget thing here:





The label promotes modern stuff , esoteric stuff , repackages old stuff beautifully and it's a pleasure that they exist and care. The only equivalent I can think of is maybe Voiceprint who are based in Houghton-Le-Spring , I believe.



If you'd like to get involved the details are here and the Properganda page is here

Friday, 26 June 2009

Michael Jackson - Not of this Earth (Any More)

Jacko dies at 50 from a heart attack. Sony / BMG Executives must be rubbing their hands with glee.

I'm not a huge fan of Michael Jackson , preferring his early , vibrant Jackson Five work to his later work. Off The Wall was a very good album , but Thriller , despite it being the number one seller of all time (50 million sales and counting) was the start of the slippery slope.

The worst thing is that the media are already trying to dissect his life , talk of family abuse , hangers on crawling out the woodwork.

Just remember his music and slap anyone who tries to dig the dirt.





Saturday, 20 June 2009

Motion Blur

In this modern age where things get superceded almost before you buy them , I was suprised (or maybe not surprised ) that HD TVs suffer from something called motion blur , a shadow following something that moves across the screen. Apparentlly the new LED TV sets dont have it. I've always been worried about the HDTV situation which advertises it's product by shoeing and in focus forecound item (such as Wayne Rooney) against a blurred background. I don't want a picture with a blurred background , especially if I'm paying a lot for it.



Incidentally the version of True Colours in the Sky advert is by Ane Brun , available here.

About 5 years back I bought a Beko 32" CRT Television that is still going striong and gives a decent picture. Think I may wait untoil these flat TVs have themseves sorted out.

Last week we had another storming General Fiasco gig , album due in January , at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. This band is so good it's not true. When they introduce a new song you're actually looking forward to it because it's more genius from Owen (bass + vox) , Enda (Geetar) and Leaky (Drumz). They're back in September , I'll be deffo there..





Also next week Blur play the academy in preparation for their O2 Arena Gig. I'll be going for a curry at the Spice Cube.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Remake / Remodel

In his book "Last Shop Standing" Graham Jones (see here) remarks on how Greatest Hits packages and compilations are stagnating the music industry. Apparently Roxy Music have had seven such items , and over the past week there's another Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits, another compilation to celebrate Blur's reformation called Midlife and another Black Sabbath Greatest Hits Compilation.




Add this to the rush of "Platinum Collections", "Dad Rock" compilations for Fathers Day , and similar ones on Mothers Day, Christmas and the like and you can see just how bloated and lazy the corporate music industry has become concentrating solely on moving product rather than nurturing music . The two items should be compatible , though the fact that the industry is run by accountants shows in spades.








I put together a short video featuring recycled music , soundtracked by Roxy Music's Remake/Remodel from their eponymous debut, available for download here.



However in some ways greatest hits are not all bad, they may be a good introduction to a band , and it's good to see bands still touring even if they do rest on their laurels so to speak. Fleetwood Mac (with the genius of Lindsey Buckingham) and Fairport Convention are two that spring to mind. But the best news on this front for was that Arthur Jeffes, the son of the late great Simon Jeffes has put together a band to play the music of the truly wonderful Penguin Cafe Orchestra and will be touring with them , including old and new compositions. Now that IS worth looking forward to. Information here.

Friday, 12 June 2009

What's The Meaning Of Free?

After Carphone Warehouse's re-imagining (see Orange Goldspots ad below) of the word "unlimited" in relation to mobile downloads (250 Mb a month se article here) we now have Sky offering free broadband, calls and Sky+ Box as the main thrust of their advertising campaign. In the small porint it does mention that you have to pay a minimum of about £16 a month to get these "free" services.

A similar thrust is 3s "never pay for another phone call" advert , the condition being that you make Skype to Skype phone calls using VOIP and incur the related internet access data charges . Yes, you dont pay for the calls , but you DO pay for being able to make them!!

The Orange Goldspot that uses THAT word:


Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Train Can Be Fun

Train journeys can be annoying , borring and infuriating. There's lots of things can go wrong , unexplained delays , drunken idiots , jobsworth officials who just seem intent on obstructing you in any way you can.

However the experience can often be enhanced just by talking to the person you sit next to. Sometimes it can be amazing the number of things you find in common. Speaking to a young lady who alighted at Durham for a 62 mile journey to her job in York, we found that we both like the Sage, Richard Thompson , Half Man Half Biscuit and our conversion finished as she recognised my alarm tone of ELP's Hoedown which was meant to be my alarm call to wake me up at Darlington, which thanks to her I didn't need.

Hopefully there will be more journeys like that and less where they guy at the barrier at Darlington spends an age inspecting my ticket making me miss my train.

Here's the video for "Dickie Davies Eyes" one of my favourites, and it features Forton Services , I remember it when it was modern. When this hit number one in the Indie chart the band split for the first time!!

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Saturday, 6 June 2009

I Didn't Imagine The Jazz Playing Monks in Bright Orange

In a conversation in the Market Lane last night I was accused of being off my head when I said I had seen a troupe of monks dressed in bright orange playing jazz in the street in Tynemouth. I spoke to a couple of them in the queu for the beer tent in the Priory (Tynemouth Priory that is) where they told me they were called Excelsior (or some derivation thereof) , maybe had a relationship with the Dutch Excelsior Brewery or Football team. Anyway cant find anything about the jazz band on the net , though I'm sure I did at the time. Situation is the only proof I have is a bit of video I took when I saw them at the 2006 Mouth Of Tyne Festival , the sound was attrocious so I've replaced it with Morse Code Melody by The Alberts available on the album "By Jingo It's British Rubbish" here

The video proof is here: