Sunday 26 August 2012

My Own Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Many years ago Douglas Adams wrote about a book. The book had on it's cover the words "Don't Panic"  and was updated by various researchers. Earth's entry read "Harmless" , shortly to be upgraded to "Mostly Harmless" by researcher Ford Prefect!

The book is what ts says containing useful information about where you are , a bit like the Lonely Planet Guides today . Crammed with useful information about everything and I realised that anyone who has a reasonably smart phone has their own Hitch Hikers Guide in their hand!!

H2G2 was the online incarnation of the book but obviously it was still about Earth as barring the odd trip to the moon , man is quite content to stay here . There is still plenty to do. Anyway you can see what by phone looks like now either side of this bit , one locked , one unlocked.

I can do all these things with it:
  • Make and take phone calles 
  • Send and receive texts
  • Be involved in Conferences
  • Take Pictures
  • Look up information that others have stored
  • Watch Videos
  • Listen to radio shows and music
  • Find out where I am
  • Find out where I'm going
  • Schedule my time
  • Listen to music
  • Record videos and music
  • I can't teleport .... yet

So we all have our own guide , here in our hands.

How lucky are we?

Saturday 25 August 2012

I Have an iPad ... And I might just use it

I now now have an iPad and you know I will find something to complain about. First up it comes in a cardbourd box that contains the cellophane wrapped box that actually contains the damned thing. So not very green Apple , are we?

Next up everything is very whitely packages , put you have to put the damned plug together !! Its not even because it's a multiple power socket , it's just to make things awkward!!

Then you have to have an email address to use the damned thing and  need to register , this is part of the Apple Control I detest.

There are other gripes as well but ...

Garageband sold the thing to me and there are some good applications . It's fast and easy to use and it's the software that sells it. It is definitely faster and more responsive than my Advent Vega.

The apps are plentiful , some are rubbish and some are amazing . SOme are usefull and some have  a lifespan of five minutes.

I have succumbed to buying an iPad , because its a good tablett and will be a studio in my had . I wont be buying a Mac or an iPhone though . My Samsung Note will do me :)

Boxing Spectacular

On of the things with CDs iand vinyl is having a tangible artefact and sometimes the packaging that goes with it. From the heydey of vinyl Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick" with it's fold out full newspaper and Hawkwind's "Space Ritual" and "In Search of Space"  were major experiences. The Hawkwind ones were reproduce in CD format.

The japanese do some great vinyl / CD reproductions but often the wording is illegible without a magnifying glass!!

We've recently had the Pink Floyd Immersion editions , and the latest major addition is the Blur 21 box. Now these might be worthy endeavours but each one clock in at around a hundred pounds or more , not too easy on the pocket!

Following on from that we have the Peter Gabriel "So" and Sex Pistols "Never Mind The Bollocks" again in wallet destroying editions. The think is once you get them you have to put them somewhere , they are 12" by 12" boxes.

The only one I have at theat size is the Elektra box set , which was reduced from it's normal £150 to £40 , and I have a number of smaller boxes such as the CD version of the Smiths Complete and The Electric Light Orchestra's Classic Albums (11 albums for £20).

These are great if you want them but you can't really get too many of them from a cost and space perspective!!

Sunday 19 August 2012

Homogenisation Hell

A couple of years ago I was reading a book by Bill Bryson in which he noted that every high street in every town or city was beginning to look the same. There was a Boots , a WH Smith , a Woolworths , a BHS , a Next  and a few others . I noted the Glastonbury was missing a couple of these and in a recent visit to Totnes their only concession was I think a WH Smiths or maybe a Superdrug.

Anyway , I was in Newcastle today in various parts of the centre and I seemed to be always in sight of a Starbucks , a Costa , a Pret A Manger , a Boots , a Subway etc . It reminds of the Sylvester Stallone film Demolition Man where the only brand left is Taco Bell . I dont know if they paid for that or just enjoyed the irony of the product positioning , but it does get scary when your choice is being whittled away like that.

Even on Newcastle Railway Station we have Starbucks , Costas and WH Smiths , oh not forgetting Greggs !!

Electrospectacle .. a sort of History of Electronic Music

EMI are currently doing a promotion called "Electrospective" and Mojo Magazine this moth have the fifty (in their opinion) , most important electronic albums. This post is in no way definitive and may contain errors and disagreement , but it's really some observation on a lot of the way I saw much of it happening.

The starting point seems to be the soundtrack for the film "Forbidden Planet" by Louis and Bebe Barron around 1956 . Now there is no doubting the importance of this album , totally electronic resulting in eerie incredible sound textures for the film based on William Shakespeare's Tempest.

However none of this would have happened without Les Paul's electrification of the guitar and invention of the multi track tape recorder.

Joe Meek was my first pop introduction to "non normal" sounds , on records such as "Telstar" by The Tornadoes with int's organ treatment .

Around the same time Dr Who hit the screens and Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop brought us Ron Grainer's incredible Dr Who theme , still amazing fifty years on. Delia was part of White Noise who provided us with the wonderful Electric Storm album.

With psychedelia we heard phasing being introduced on records such as Nirvana's Rainbow Chaser and by the time I was taking an interest in music bands such as Hawkwind and Tangerine Dream were the leading  electronic lights. My first introduction to Kraftwerk was the flute driven "Ruczuk" , which admittedly had a regimented rhythm and phasing , though with teh release of "Autobahn" they were truly an electronic band.

The Theramin came to the fore notably on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" , apparently the result of a failed endeavour to create a burglar alarm in Russia!

Mojo reckoned Queen were denigrating electronic options with the "No Synthesisers"  notices on their first couple of albums. Queen were just making out out clever they were. No Synthesisers but Brian May had plenty of electronic hardware backing him up.

Walter (Now Wendy) Carlos had been releasing albums such as Switched On Bach done entirely on the Moog Synthesiser and came to prominence with his soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange".

The us rockers were hit for six when Giorgio Moroder masterminded Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" . This was disco !! But it was good disco!!

Any I have missed lots out but I hope this makes you want to find out more. I've not mentioned Bowie , Jean Michel Jarre , Depeche Mode , Brian Eno , The Human League or Depeche Mode and I could fill another page or so with artists.

EMI's Electrospective here.

Saturday 18 August 2012

The New Football Season Starts Here .... Well

..actually it started last night with Cardiff City easing past Huddersfield. Most of the media have focussed their attention on the Premier League despite this only being 20 clubs , and Sky especially doing their usually fawning brown nosing over whoever they think has money , so this season it's Manchester City , with Arsenal , Liverpool , Manchester United and the rest rest are therir to make up the numbers.

Last season they were soooo disappointed that Newcastle United did not implode as they had continued to do under Freddie Shepherd , Mike Ashley despite his continual publicity gaffs managing to get it right where it matters earning the grudging respect of most of the Newcastle fans.

After the plummetting fortunes of Preston , for the first time on Monday night Graham Westley got a standing ovation as his totally rebuilt team beat Huddersfield in the Captal One Cup.

So looking forward to another roller coaster season and who knows what may happen. Theres bound to be the odd controversy so we have to have a Half Man Half Biscuit Song to finish. Full lyrics here:

Sunday 12 August 2012

Mariner 9 in Spanish City

Spanish City
I've been wandering by the Tyneside Cinema recently and been struck by the poster for Mariner 9, named after the Mars Space Orbiter , not a feature film but a media installtion by Kelly Richardson (@richardsonkelly on twitter). Yesterday I dropped in looking for the class postcards that they have stopped doing and again Mariner 9 caught my eye , along with the closing date , Sunday 19th August , meaning I had to go today or get over next weekend , and when you limit your options something always turns up to thwart you so .... I made my way to Whitley Bay , specifically Spanish City , which has served in that past as a ballroom and funfair , but then fell into disrepair befiore peing picked up by North Tyneside council to be refurbished. So the first thing I saw was the spruced up frontage and refurbished dancers and when you enter , under the dome , you get an educational timeline of the place from its beginning up to the present day. Here is the Wikipedia entry with links onward.

Mariner 9 Kelly Richardson
Mariner 9 - Kelly Richardson
 Anyway what I really went to see was Kelly Richardson's Mariner 9. What can I say without spoiling it? I desribed it as hypnotic , and  it was amazing. Based on what my be happening on Mars in 200 years , itmakes you mind work and to be quite honest I could have stood all day watching , hoping to spot something  I'd missed. The sheer size shows nods to John Martin , probably the greatest artist to originate from the North East. I also though that it was not a plays for kids , but their were two six year olds mesmerised by the piece.

Anyway I hope I've piqued your interest.  I really can recommend going to see it.

If you cant I've just found it here so you can watch , but I recommend seeing it in situ so to speak,
Mariner 9 from Kelly Richardson on Vimeo.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Getting Older #1

Just a few thoughts on aging and the difficulties some people seenm to have with aging and the ease with which other people take in in their stride:
  • You can do nothing about getting older
  • If you are losing you hair shave it off don't wear a toupee or have a comb over
  • When My uncle left school when he was 15 and got a job I thought he was old
  • When my dad turned 50 he refused to let anyone mention his age , he's now 78 and going strong
  • When I turned 18 I was scared of hitting 21
  • I didnt get asked how old I was in a pub til I was 18 , I'd been drinking since I was 13
  • When I hit 21 , I never thought I's make it to 30
  • One my cousins turned 65 on his 16th birthday
  • Someone once remarked that I was a bit old at the age of 42 for a job I was applying for , friends pointed out I was a guitarist in a band , socialised , was out most Fridays and most importantly could do the job . They took me on
  • I myself was interviewing a couple of 50 somethings for a position and thought about their age , one had a negative attitude , the other had a positive attitude - Accentuate The Positive
  • A friend pointed out that the problem with humans is they wear out , if we could replace everything before it fails we would live forever , so look after yourself
  • Humans are social animals , keep in touch , talk to people , and be happy , it makes life worth living
  • There may or may not be a god(s) , but I think the hope is born of a devolution of responsibility and a desire to live forever - personally I don't think evolution will let your soul / essence / being die after the body packs up . This is based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever - just hope / faith but if I live on after I will let you all know but I have no intention of leaving just yet.
  • Never put off anything til next week

Anyway I may do more of these but here's a suitable song that all schoolchildren should learn:

Jamaican Fun at 50

The London 2012 Olympics coincided with Jamaica's 50th Anniversary of Independence from Great Britain. There were some stunning performances by Jamaican athletes notably Usain Bolt ,  and a clean sweep in the mens 200 metres from Bolt , Yohan Blake and Warren Weir.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown to gold and bronze in the women's 100 metres as well so a pretty impressive showing.

However I was very disappointed when I heard the Jamican National Anthem which seems pale and flacid given the islands rich musical culture of the last fifty years , though its possibly the equivalent of expecting Great Britain to replace the National Anthem with something by Muse or Queen (Knights of Cydonia anyone ?).

I think One Love by Bob Marley would make a great National Anthem though sneakily I think even better would be Carl Malcolm's "Bonanza Ska".

Any congratualations to all Jamaicans and thatnk you for enriching our lives with your athletics and music !! Heres' some alternative National Anthems :

Friday 3 August 2012

Olympian Thoughts

Barclays Cash Machine

I wasn't really bothered about these Olympics . I've seen financial chancers make fortunes from buying up decaying housing where the Olympic Park now stands , and local businesses threatened by local governmnet jobsworths , when the laws were meant to prevent big businesses from profiting when they havent supported the Olympics.

Although this is ridiculous , opposite is the Barclays Cash Machine boarded up and bin bagged at St James' Park Newcastle. All that does in incovenience customers and show the Olympic Committee to be apparent arses !!

The media has been willing the whole thing to fail and despite my misgivings it has gone off well. But it's a telling fact that so called "private enterprise" , G4S , have had to be bailed out by the military (effectively a nationalised industry). Sometimes private enterprise works well and sometimes it doesnt , governments need to realise this.

I wonder how many people these days realise where the nomenclature of the Olympics comes from . Have they ever heard of Mount Olympus , Zeus and the like? Though I applaud the Olympian spirit and the work many athletes and competitors put in to realise their dreams , very little has piqued my interest however .......

... I had zero interest in the opening ceremony , until I saw it. Danny Boyle has come up with a show to match the Olympic Spirit including Shakespeare , Mr Bean , and the forging of the (Olympian) rings (Is there one to bind them all) . This was something that everyone should see , sports fan or not , though some of the imagery did set me in mind of Peter Jackson's visualisation of Tolkein's exloration of language and folk lore. Theres some highlights on the BBC site here

The full opening ceromony is here

And here's some music that has greaced the games so far ...