Tuesday, 24 February 2015

This Makes Me Smile


In the sixties my uncle remarked that anyone would have to be an idiot to wear a T-Shirt advertising a company name. I can't remember who the company was but it always stuck with me. While I've never had a problem with discreet external labeling like Wrangler, Levis and Lacoste, this are getting quite silly at the moment.

The Label Is King
Everyday I see people plastered with Superdry and Jack Wills in particular. No the quality may be acceptable, but wearing their clothes is only one step up from donning a sandwich board. Really everytime I see these people I don't see a style guru , I see a branded sheep. I wasn't thinking of any song in particular but the Kinks "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion" should be nailed on for this.

I know that on my journey to work tomorrow I will see people advertising Superdry and Jack Wills , and when I next go shopping I will buy something that looks class and doesn't need to scream it's name like Fat Face or John Rocha , or even Next.

Sleep well and have fun tomorrow.

Monday, 23 February 2015

World Book Night 2015 Is Almost Upon Us


Dead Man Talking
I can't believe it's four years since my first World Book Night. Then I had 50 Copies of  Philip Pulman's Northern Lights. This year it is 18 copies of Roddy Doyle's  Dead Man Talking , so one of my tasks is to finish my current book and read this before I give it away so I can appear knowledgeable about it. I always read the book I'm giving away and it's always good to engage with people about it and hopefully either get people to start reading or to restart their reading.

Thinking about this has just reminded me of one of my favourite TED talks about the joy a book can bring , better than any film or play or TV episode because books use and trigger your imagination.



Here is the World Book Night site and a list of this years books. It's on Thursday 23rd of April which is William Shakespeare's birthday and for 2012 and 2013 I wasn't sure why the day (not the date) changed each year. It's also a charity funded campaign so if you want to help click on the button
below and donate a little cash.
WBN 2015
That was the second bit of good news , the first being that I have been offered a position of a Systems Analyst, which will be another excellent challenge as well and keeping me off the street. So anyway it's time for bed as I need to get up tomorrow to do seven and a half hours looking for jobs ..... Oh no I don't !!

SO I suggest you watch the TED talk and buy a copy of the book as it;s a quick read and will only cost you a quid.

Festival Fun - Comparing Photos At A Fall Gig


The last four days have see three days of music and seeing about fifteen bands which is a lot even for me, although this is not so much about the music about various fringe observations , which looking back on have amused me , or made me glad I side stepped them.

On Thursday I went to see the excellent King Charles at The Riverside and all three bands were superb. I briefly spoke to the guitarist with Man Made who was a really nice guy as well as being a talented guitarist and it turned out he is Nile Marr son of Johnny Marr previously of  The Smiths. That night at the end of the Gallery Circus set something started dripping through the ceiling. It turns out the toilets had got blocked , so I'm not sure what was overflowing but we managed to avoid the wet area, and the gig was totally brilliant.

While I'm guilty of posting photos on instagram, facebook and twitter I am amazed how many people see to spend virtually the whole gig on the phone or tablet. While watching The Fall , who are musically challenging , there were four ladies in front of comparing holiday and family snaps on their phones and mobile devices, I don't know if this is the normal modus operandi for Fall audiences these days.
Comparing Photos At A Fall Gig

Yesterday I was in a crush to try and see Public Service Broadcasting, but my sensible head moved me to the sides to ensure I could breathe. I'm sure there have been worse concert crushes, and I don't know what the solution is , but people forcing their way into the crush carrying multiple pints in plastic glasses and various takeaway foods on paper plates did not make the situation any better.

I thought I'd try Tesco's next day wine delivery. They've farmed it out to Yodel , split it into two parcels and keep sending me texts saying it will be delivered today. No time or anything , so they will probably wait round the corner and wait til I have to go out. After all in in a twelve hour delivery window there's only one possible time they could deliver. God I almost sound like a Daily Mail reader don't I!

However today is the day when I find whether I've been chosen as a giver for World Book Night 2015 so my fingers are crossed for that. I've been doing it since 2011 and here's a post on my first one.

Anyway I came out of it all in one piece , having seen some amazing performance, and looking forward to a totally brilliant week.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Be My Valentine ... In Grey



Well Valentine's Day is here and the weather is very grey. It's doesn't matter where in the world you are the grey featureless skies with te promise of maybe some drizzle do not provide for the best inspiration.

"Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia.Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia."


There's a Wikipedia entry with more information here.

Today has also been chosen for the release of the film of "50 Shades of Grey"  in the UK in which a controlling  male abuses a young vulnerable female. The male actor is James Dornan (who played a controlling male who abused, raped and murdered young females in the BBC production "The Fall", do you think he may be getting typecast?)  and the girl he chooses is Dakota Johnson , daughter of Melanie Griffiths and grand daughter of Tip Hedren who suffered major avian abuse in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". I won't be going to the cinema to see the film , and apparently B&Q are preparing for an increase in demand for ropes , duct tape (what will rock bands do? oh they use gaffer tape so it's OK) , and cable ties which in the wrong hands could be very dangerous. This week Breakfast TV has been having features on  that make BDSM very cosy and fluffy. It isn't and , ironically somebody could get hurt (and I know that's ironic considering the nature of BDSM) and there a hell of a lot of free books on the subject on Amazon Kindle. They even have 50 Shades Restraint Kits and Party Games! 

50 Sheds
The marketing machine has even caused me to buy something that I can wholeheartedly recommend to all you and that is the excellent and very funny "50 Sheds of Grey" , the follow uphas also been recommended to me by my friend Julie , so I will avail myself of that at some point. So all this hype has at least brought a smile to my face and with pages like the one below you can see that it is a genuinely funny and slim volume that doesn't exactly take itself too seriously unlike it's source inspiration.

So thats my thoughts on the whole phenomenon, but the positives are that it is weekend , and remember you always have a choice.

Pain and Lego
Also according to The Guardian the B&Q run on duct tape was a PR Ruse which has been fairly successful. The article is here .

So enjoy yourself today , and don't get to tied up in things that dont matter, make sure you smile and laugh and have fun.

There's only one piece of music we han have and that's the Motorhead / Girlshool "St Valentines Day Massacre" EP leading off with "Please Don't Touch" and I'll bet there will be a lot of people using that line later on tonight. Have a brilliant day y'all.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

On My Radio


Quixotic
Some mornings listening to the radio can actually lift you day. I've just heard that all the good weather will be in the North East, which is where I will be today and also I've heard an old record  "Too Tough To Die" by Martina Topley-Bird which is absolutely amazing , very reminiscent of PJ Harvey who is one of my favourite artists.

I'm going to have to check my digital library to see if I have the record , the problem is with over 80,000 songs , manually searching is not really an option. I do find it amazing that in 2015 so many organisation still use paper as a method of storing data that they need to search.

But anyway it turns out I don't have the record so that will have to be tracked down soon.

I know this has been a short post but given my outpourings yesterday I think I can be let off.

Anyway it's time for me to get off to work, so everyone have a good day today/

Monday, 9 February 2015

Brief Encounter at The Tyneside Bar and Cafe where Dali Meets Disney


Today after doing a couple of hours at the excellent Oxfam Books and Music in Jesmond , I got mack into Newcastle and decided to go for a cup of coffee and a cake at the Tyneside Bar and Cafe. I was chatting with the girl behind the bar (who's name I didn't get) and she recommended the carrot and cinnamon cake to go with my coffee and I noticed the film playing. The Tyneside Bar and Cafe has a program of silent film screening every afternoon and a couple of weeks ago I caught some of The Battleship Potemkin. It's really brilliant idea to have these films as a backdrop to be engrossed in as you have your coffee or cake.

Anyway I asked what the film was that was showing and she told me it was a thirties rendition of Faust, she didn't know much of the story of Faust but was determined to find out more having watch most of the film and , like me she was impressed with it. It's a two hour film and you can watch it above. This led to a chat about German Surreal Horror and Salvador Dali's involvement with film and I was racking my brains about a film that I'd seen recently but also seen as a child with some lasting images of strange angular paths and a bearded eyeless monk through a window (yes I remembered that from my childhood). Anyway a girl a the bar called Amy who also works at the Tyneside Cinema and threw in some ideas including Un Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or but more intriguingly mentioned a Salvador Dali and Walt Disney collaboration. This is a short film called Destino started in 1946 and completed in 2003. You can watch it below and to me it is jaw dropping, I have to thank Amy for telling me about this absolute gem:


However I still couldn't  remember the film I'd seen,
That Path
so decided to search while I had my coffee and cake. After about ten minutes I remembered it had featured in a documentary on European Horror films by Mark Gatiss and then googled European Surreal Horror and there it was "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari" , which I had discussed at some point with my friend Craig another Tyneside Cinema guy. So I had a really good day , discovering things I didn't even know about thanks to Amy and finally remember THAT film , which I'll use to finish off this post.

Have a great night everybody, because I have had a great day

Metallica Was Right? - A Personal History of Music Media From The 1950s To Today



My friend Royston posted a link to this blog post from KFMX  (Lubbock's Rock Station) about the legacy of illegal downloading. It sums it up in a nutshell. Although I'm in two minds about the grammar , sould it be Metallica Was Right or Metallica Were Right. Anyway this post isn't about grammatical correctness it's about the whole music stealing thing , and where we are at today and why we are here today musically/ It's probably best to do it roughly in temporal order so I'll do it by decades:

1950s:


A Complete Music Centre
Vinyl became established, first in 78 format with seven inch 45's becoming the single record content delivery device of preference. 12" 33rpm Albums named because sheet music was collected in albums was the modus operandii for Classical Music because of the length of the pieces , although spoken word albums came out that played at 16 rpm . If you look at a full featured vinyl record player that's what the 16 option is for. If you do want an classic record player take a look at RPM in Newcastle.

The thing is unless you had your own recording facilities in the 1950's the only way of stealing music was to actually shoplift or resort to burglary. Music theft was limited to plagiarism and blantant exploitation like Alan Freed's co composer credit on Chuck Berry's Motorvatin' because there had to be a white presence.


1960s:


Reel To Reel
Music took of in this decade, and you had a proliferation of transistor radios and portable vinyl disc players, and affordable reel to reel tape recorders were available. These allowed you to record either from the record player, radio or television. However this was not widespread so artists and record companies just saw it as another marketing opportunity, however the BBC threatened prosecution of anyone who recorded TV programs , although they then later asked for recorded copies when trying to replace lost shows . Albums became more popular especially with bands like the Beatles and Beach Boys shifting industrial quantities and incidentally albums were commercially available on tape reels. Really record companies were seeding the ground without looking to the future.

1970s:

 
Select a Tape
This is when supposedly the shit hit the fan for record companies. Music was becoming more portable. The introduction of the 8-Track tape and more importantly the compact cassette tape. These were introduced by record companies again to sell product, but when cheap portable recorders were put on the market you would have thought that someone would have realised that customers would not just record their own voice or birdsong.







Lots of companies produced tapes and recorders and customers started recording music from TV and radio and records and sharing it with their friends. This was countered by the "Home Taping Is Killing Music" campaign. What actually was happening was that record companies saw a threat and adopted a terrible attitude that their market was comprised of thieves. Home taping went through the roof with the introduction of the Sony Walkman , because this meant that you could take music that you had paid for with you by copying to a C90 tape. Record companies didn't like this either because they saw it as a potential loss of revenue.
John Martyn 1+1

Companies started marketing pre recorded cassette tapes which sold well , but in a completely odd ploy Island started the 1+1 series with the album recorded on one side and the second side blank for you to record whatever you want on.  The only image I could find was for the John Martyn album Grace and Danger, although these was a normal delivery method for Island completely encouraging people to tape music. I don't know if there is a caveat or disclaimer on the tape somewhere.


Killing Joke
The portability of recording apparatus meant that bootlegs now became more prevalent, so as well as official releases , you could , if, ironically, you were prepared to pay way over the odds for usually substandard recordings.

The record industry tried introducing a high frequency signal on the vinyl record to combat taping, and finally introduced a 5% PRS levy on all tapes.


Home taping didn't kill music, if anything it helped spread the word. Although you could only record in real time, so you knew what you were doing. Though for the first time you could put together tapes for parties , driving , bus journeys, running but you still knew that you should really buy the records. However often you would get a tape from a friend, listen to it and then go out buy the album. The record companies didn't acknowledge this.

1980s:


This was the decade that changed everything. The record industry introduced the new cure all, the perfect indestructible medium of CD. This was a cold planning campaign by the music industry, they introduced very cheap CD players, CD players were part of the all in one music centres replacing the cumbersome vinyl turntable. People bought music centres not realising that this made their vinyl records obsolete. So they needed to buy CDs to replace the vinyl , except CDs were expensive £12
Bright Silver Discs
compared with around a fiver for the vinyl equivalent. Mid price albums were a bargain at a tenner. Now you weren't offered a trade in for your vinyl so you were paying for the medium. Did this mean that the music had no actual value?

But anyway this was a McDonaldisation moment for music, suddenly you had remote controls , you could program the way a CD was played , you could skip and repeat tracks, it was convenience for the ears. And you could program a CD and record it to cassette to make your mixtape.

The new medium had no clicks or background vinyl noise, and the first song I played on my new CD player was The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", played loud. A mistake I never made again. Previously the song was introduced as the needle hit the groove, this time the opening power chord just hit with no warning at all. That was my first impression of CD.

But again the music industry just saw a huge cash cow, but they were selling discs containing music converted to digital signals and guess what happened then......

1990s:


CD replaced floppy discs as a medium for computers. They could also be written to. Home computers were taking off, the internet was connecting people and at this time the music industry decided it was time for another change. CDs would deteriorate and were not as indestructible as we thought. They needed replacing. Incidentally I've had CDs for thiry years that are still fine.

The music industry told us we now had to but DAT . It's tape! Tapes break , get tangled , and you cant easily change the order, and a blank tape cost as much as a CD. DAT did have it's place but just became a specialist niche and never threatened CD's dominance. However......

The CD data was copied into a digital file stored on computer , this was MP3. It was not created by the industry so there was no regulation. People could copy albums to there computer and duplicate them to CD, but more importantly could use the internet to share music using peer to peer networks such as Napster.

People were ripping , sharing and downloading music and not paying for it. The music industry had given everything to the public on a plate. Like with cassette they tried legal downloads but included DRM which limited what devices you could play YOUR music one. It didn't work. Elton John and Metallica were the biggest voices behind the movement that eventually shut down the peer to peer network Napster citing the amounts of money they had lost. The thing is most of the people who downloaded stuff were actually doing it because they could, they would never have bought the music if they couldn't download it so the figures were irrelevant , and these artists didn't give a fig about their fans when the issued old product on CD , then brought out a new version with an extra track, ten brought out a remastered version , expecting fans to cough up money each time.

However in the days of pay per minute internet connection a friend of mine spent £30 to download a Basement Jaxx album he could have bought over the counter for a tenner.

The nineties were the decade where certain people began to expect music to be free, not realising how this affects the people who produce it. This was a direct result of the music industries pushing of CD uptake in the 80s without any thoughts of impact analysis.

The New Millennium:


The turn or the century digital music became the norm. The internet has become very fast , and they perception that music is free has driven down the price of CDs. These days a new Cd will set you back around a tenner, a new vinyl album will cost you twice that. If the cost of albums had kept pace since say, 1975,  you would be paying £80 for a new album today. I've used Job Seekers Allowance as a guide for this , in 1975 I bought the new Pink Floyd album "Wish You Were Here", it cost me £3.25 , now JSA stands around £70.

People can listen to music of their choice free on Youtube , Spotify and any number of streaming services. The problem with these for the artist, is that royalties are paid on a pay per play basis. So if a track is streamed on Spotify an artist will get paid a very small fraction of a penny, if their record is played on the radio they'll be paid £50 (that is completely made up but it is a reasonable amount). I don't know what the answer is to this.

But this leaves us in a world where to make money bands have to charge a lot for gigs and merchandise and kids think that stuff (music and video) should be free.

However music is still vibrant and alive, record shops are still going strong especially with National Record Store Day . New music is still being produced and I still buy a CD a week of usually new music the latest being the Wooden Shjips album  "Back To Land".

The music industry is continually bleating about lost profits and stealing , but in digitizing everything they have created something that can be stolen over and over again, although as recent trends have shown , sensible pricing and convenience will actually result in sales and income, otherwise iTunes would have died a death long ago, and they still cause havoc and inconvenience with their licensing and terms and conditions.

So that;'s it , possibly my longest ever blog post. Hope it didn't send you to sleep.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Lock It Down


An interesting thing happened this morning , my website has been hacked again. Last time it was some Islamic Group who replaced my home page with an absolutely cracking one promoting their agenda, it really did look brilliant , but not exactly what people were expecting to see when they visited Song of The Salesman. So at the time changed the password and removed the pagese.

This time was a bit different , they hadn't hijacked my site as such , but uploaded a lot of files for what looked like a shopping site. Thinking about this, going off the file times , they took over two days to upload , each file around 40-60K , this would have caused my site to slow down or not be available over that timeframe. I can't really think why anyone could be bothered doing this , my site is not a high volume or high profile and webspace is cheap and you can host it yourself.

So the lesson learned is to keep an eye on things , sometimes when all appears ok , it may not be. This was something that didn't affect my website , it's abit like haveing squatters in because I've got loads of spare space.

Police and Thievery
So very little to report apart from it's a nice day and always make sure your doors are locked if they need to be. After yesterdays cold and fog we have bright sunshine which always good for lifting the spirits. Oh and my mate Keith has started another blog here. So now I'm off to do more chores , set the recorder to record some more TV , maybe set up my NOW TV box which I bought with a free Argos voucher but just haven't really needed to use. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.
Wasn't sure what song to use but you can't go wrong with Junior Murvin.

Numbers


Just having a peruse of my blog stats and the average number of hits per page is 93 with highest about 450 , I'm not sure about the lowest , but it's probably about 20. As I've said before I'm sometimes surprised by the people who read and enjoy the blog, as most of it is me blathering on about nothing.

Also most of the visitors seem to come from the USA although that maybe just something to do with routing.

Winter Sun
The weather today has been a lot of very cold fog, I don't know if it was freezing , but I got very cold. This was counteracted by hot chocolates and trying to stay indoors, although I wasn't too successful in staying in.




Anyway it's not a great idea to start writing a post at midnight so maybe I will just stop and choose the Judas Priest song Livin' After Midnight as the song for this post. Thank you and good night.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Dogs and Mice



Birds in the Garden
Today has been more than a little weird. The weather is still wintery and I was going to refill the bird feeders in the garden, I went into the garage and picked up the bag of bird feed from the floor which was almost empty. I though that I was sure I'd only used about half of it , no matter, although the bag only had a small hole in it. Then I looked on the shelf and saw the half full bag of bird feed , secured with an elastic band. It look like there has been a very fat mouse or two in our garage. So I filled up the feeders and think I best store bird seed on the top shelf in future.





Oxfam Dog
Then today in the Oxfam shop we had a visit from a lovely friendly dog , who was also extremely well behaved and brought a smile to everyone's face.

The only downer is that , I think due to the wear, my knees nearly seized up causing a lot of pain, making it difficult when crouching sorting out music and looking for stuff for a Valentine's day display. The irony is that it's best to keep moving as it just hurts when you have been still for a couple of minutes , so in a way I suppose my body is telling me to get a move on and stop being so lazy.

So now I'm back in the house and will watch some catch up tv tonight , and the obvious song for this is the excellent Rat in Mi Kitchen by UB40. Have a brilliant Friday night.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

First Post


This is my first post this month, despite being technically free to do what I please. This week has resulted in time at the DWP , a couple of days at Geek Talent with my friend Dom , a day in Edinburgh, Physiotherapy , a visit to my surgery to get a prescription, and a visit to the Peoples Assembly with my good friend Joan and Mark which included the excellent Jolyon Rubinstein from BBC3's "The Revolution Will Be Televised" on the panel, and tomorrow I will be going to Oxfam , so I am looking forward to the weekend for a rest.

I am just amazed how much you can find to do, and how all of a sudden you find yourself at 11 o'clock at night thinking , hang about , where did that day go. The coming weeks are looking amazing with work challenges and loads of upcoming gigs actually starting this Sunday with The Lurkers at The Black Bull 

I decided to use the Gil Scott-Heron song for this because of the guest tonight but you can see him taking on George Osborne here. Anyway it's time for bed for me , I'll see you soon.