Monday, 31 October 2011

Iconic Images 20 - Halloween Edition

I've never really been a fan of Horror Films and am certainly not a fan of the modern type - I prefer older horrors where psychological tension and anticipation are the order of the day (or night) and not blood, guts, gore and Sadism.

In view of this being Halloween, however, I've looked out a couple of old film posters - only one of which I've seen - which could lay claim to the "Iconic Images" tag.


Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunday Sounds 23

Inspired by her recent appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, this week's Sunday Sound comes courtesy of Beverley Knight...


Saturday, 29 October 2011

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King... or Queen

Those of me who know me know that I am lifelong Republican. It has, ever since I was conscious of these things, seemed wrong to me that our Head of State should be determined purely by the fact that he, or occasionally she, happened to be born into line of succession.

To me, this runs counter to every Democratic instinct. Even where the Head of State has no substantive powers, surely the country should be allowed to democratically choose who that person is. After all, the Head of State is a figurehead in the country and a representative of the nation in the international sphere*.

In a Republic we would be unlikely to restrict presidential candidates seeking election to males, only allowing woman to stand if no men were available. We would be unlikely to enquire after the religion of the spouse of candidates, disallowing any who were married to, heaven forfend, a Catholic (or was, indeed, a Catholic themselves).

For now, such a republic remains a dream in the UK. Indeed, the tide of republicanism in this country has receded somewhat from it's high water mark around a decade ago. It could be argued, indeed, that the current constitutional settlement is implicitly - if not explicitly - the democratic will of the people. So yesterday's decision by the Commonwealth Heads of Government to abolish Male Primogeniture and the restriction on the Monarch marrying a Roman Catholic is to be welcomed as a small but positive and progressive step.

There are, of course, a number of other steps which I would like to see - disestablishment of the Churches of England & Scotland and allowing the Monarch to choose their own faith, for example - but, for now, it would be churlish to deny, as Republic does, that this isn't a significant step in its own right.


* Although I will concede that, from the UK's point of view, this side of the role could diminish if we adopted a Presidency along the Irish model. Test this by asking yourself how many non-executive Presidents you can name, for example who's the President of Germany?

Guilty Pleasures 6

You may notice a recurring theme in this series - a number of the tracks featured are (and will continue to be) from the late eighties. There's no difference this week with this from Martika - even after twenty-three years, I still really enjoy this without even the excuse of youth on my side!


Friday, 28 October 2011

It's time to play the music...'s time to light the lights...

OK, well maybe not just yet - the new Muppet film is out in the States at Thanksgiving but not in the UK until 17 February 2012. No matter, thanks to the wonders of t'interweb we can still enjoy the trailer:


Thursday, 27 October 2011

I am No. 4,027,375,590

The world's population is expected to hit 7bn on Monday and over on the Beeb's website, you can find out where in that number you came (well, approximately!). I am No. 4,027,375,590. It also transpires that I'm around the 78,362,899,628th person to have ever lived.

You can find out what your numbers are (along with some additional information about your own country's population and life expectancy), here.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 3

So, what have I chosen from NOW! 3? Well, I could have chosen Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Against All Odds by Phil Collins, Duran Duran's The Reflex, more from last week's featured artist, Cyndi Lauper, Queen, Tina Turner, Wham, Bronski Beat.... the list goes on. I have, however, chosen Ultravox with Dancing with Tears in My Eyes...



Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tuesday Titter 5: Christopher Columbus vs. James T. Kirk

This week's Tuesday Titter is an Epic Rap Battles of History production which pits Christopher Columbus against Captain James T. Kirk:

You can see more Epic Rap Battles here.


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sunday Sounds 22

Yesterday's Steps edition of my Guilty Pleasures series wasn't to the taste of my friend and fellow blogger, Stephen, as he made clear with his comment on the post. So, to make it up to him, here's a Sunday Sound which will be much more to his liking:

Of course, if you are not Stephen, I do hope you enjoy it too!


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Guilty Pleasures 5 - The Steps Edition

Once upon a time, I was very sniffy about pop - and, indeed, about this weeks act. Gradually, though, I decided to embrace the cheesiness and fun of acts such as Steps. Now they're back at number one in the album charts - and reformed to boot - I feel able to admit in public to being a sucker for their bubblegum pop. 

Here they are with One For Sorrow:

Now, stop dancing and get back on with what you were doing.


Thursday, 20 October 2011


Courtesy of  Herpetofauna of Europe
Whilst looking for a poem to post, I came across this one by D. H. Lawrence which range vague bells - I must have read it years ago, although I can't remember where or when.

It's longer than most poems I choose to feature, although I make no apology for that. It is quite easy reading, on one level, but will bear several readings and some scrutiny.

Snake by D. H. Lawrence

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth 
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.

The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, 
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! II

This week it's the second in my series selecting a track from each of the UK series of NOW! That's What I Call Music compilation albums. After (currently) 28 years and 79 albums, the series is still going strong. Indeed, in the compilation album charts for the year to date, the last three NOW! albums hold the three top spots.

(Incidentally, talking about the charts for this year, it looks likely that Adele could achieve the top-selling single and album in both the UK and USA. If she does, she'd be the first British act to do this since the Beatles in 1964!)

Anyway, back to NOW! II and my chosen track which is, drumroll please, Cyndi Lauper with Girls Just Want To Have Fun:



P.S. There were a number of tracks I considered for this entry but there can only be one... If you'd have preferred Queen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood or the Eurythmics (to name but three), my apologies. Of course, any or all of those acts may get the chance to feature again!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tuesday Titter 4: Lego Eddie Izzard

I've been a long-time fan of Eddie Izzard whose brand of surreal but intelligent humour is right up my street. He has the rare ability to take a common-place piece of observation comedy and use it as the starting point for tremendous flights of fancy.

Today's Tuesday Titter is Eddie's take on queueing at the all-night garage and is taken from my favourite show of his, Definite Article. The video, by Thorn2200 on You Tube is one of a number of lego animations which are well worth checking out.



Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sunday Sounds 21

One of my favourite hymns back in the day was - and, I suppose still is - Amazing Grace. Sung well, it has an inordinate power to touch something in the human psyche (or, for those of a religious persuasion, the Soul). It has also been adopted as tune that every piper can play at the drop of a hat, as any visitor to Edinburgh in tourist season could testify.

Here, he have the best of both worlds - a beautiful rendition of the first verse with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers giving support for the rest. Rather brilliantly, though, this is an uptempo version which captures the joy of the last verse (although this is not sung in this rendition) and excises the trials and snares of the third verse.

If you're unfamiliar with the hymn, or the lyrics referred to above, here are the most common verses:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.


Saturday, 15 October 2011

Guilty Pleasures 4

OK, so depending on your point of view, this may not qualify as a Guilty Pleasure (which could be said for a lot of the posts in this series, I imagine). Last night I was listening to iTunes with shuffle on when it served me up some Destiny's Child with Bootylicious and, well, I just had to post it. Indeed, I'm posting it twice! First, the original, pop version:

Next, here's the version I prefer and which inspired this post, the Rockwilder remix featuring Missy Elliott:

Enjoy. x2


Friday, 14 October 2011

Brunel's SS Great Britain

Recently I had my parents staying with me for a week which gave me the chance to play tourist around Bristol and do some of things I've been meaning to do since I moved here. One of these was to visit the award-winning exhibition of the SS Great Britain.

The attraction has three distinct elements. First you descend beneath the shallow pool around the boat (positioned at about the level of the normal waterline) into the dry-dock. You can then walk around the entire ship and admire the workmanship of those who pinned the iron plates together, as well as the ingenuity of Brunel's screw propeller and balanced-rudder. Patches of rust and a number of holes in the hull give a hint of the challenge that faced those wishing to restore the ship. The dock has to be kept at (from memory) c. 20% humidity in order to continue the work of preserving the vessel.

The next section is the "Dockyard" Museum which tells the story of the ship in reverse from her rescue from where she had been abandoned in Port Stanley, her use as a coal ship, her voyages on the emigrant route from Britain to Australia (as well as a stint as a troop ship during the Crimean War) to her original purpose as a Luxury Transatlantic Liner.

Finally, you board the ship and, with the help of a choice of audio-tours, you can explore the deck, see  the first class cabins, the galley and steerage, gaining an insight into the way people would have lived during the long voyages. Perhaps most amazing is the replica engine which has been installed to give an idea of the scale of the engineering feat Brunel pulled off in developing "the world’s first iron-hulled, steam-powered ocean going ship."

My ticket is valid for a year and I fully intend to make use of it again. Indeed, as I am off work on Monday I may even go then! Anyway, this post is about some of the photos I took - here they are:

The replica propeller

Below the waterline

The Deck

Replica Engine (detail)

The Stern
The story of the Steam Ship Great Britain is fascinating on many levels - the ingenuity of the engineering, her history as a passenger liner, the changes and adaptations over the years, her decline to become a cargo vehicle and then her ultimate demise in the Falkland Islands. The achievements of bringing her back to Bristol (right to the dock in which she was built) and her restoration are amazing. If you are ever in Bristol for any length of time, add her to your list.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

This Be The Verse

Today's poem is, lets be honest, a pretty bleak statement about Human Nature. I may not wholly subscribe to the views Larkin expresses here - after all it's not just misery that is handed on from generation to generation - but there is an element of truth in it. The poem also has a beautifully simple structure to go with its simple (and simplistic) logic.

This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune!

As regular readers will know, I recently reached the end of my "Not an A-Z of my CDs" series, which featured tracks I like but don't actually own. Having had a couple of weeks to think about an alternative, here is the first in what I anticipate will be a long-running series.

The concept of NOW! That's What I Call A Tune is simple - each week I will select and feature a track from an album in the NOW! That's What I Call Music series, starting with the original from 1983 and going all the way to  what I reckon will be number 84 by the time I catch up in around a year and a half!

As a bonus treat for this first entry, I also include an advert for the first album:

You can browse all the adverts here.

Having almost chosen UB40's Red Red Wine or The Cure's The Lovecats, I've chosen Paul Young with "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)...

Hope you enjoyed!


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Tuesday Titter 3:

I've previously featured a couple of "Just a Minute Reloaded" videos on these pages in the past and I've found another one. This time featuring a certain Mr Stephen Fry talking about digital radio:



Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sunday Sounds 20

This week's Sunday Sound comes from Evanescence with the beautiful and haunting "My Immortal":

Evanescence - My Immortal (Video) on MUZU.TV



Hats off to Sainsburys

Next year, as I'm sure you know, London will host the Games of the XXX Olympiad and the XIV Paralympic Games. 

As they get nearer, the various sponsors and partners of both the Olympics in general and London 2012 in particular are increasingly promoting the games and their connection to them. Some, like Lloyds TSB, are even incorporating the 2012 Olympic logo in their branch fascias!

Many of the principal sponsors are supporting both events, the organisation of which is being fully integrated for the first time. That said, a number of these are choosing to only, or at least mainly, display the Olympic version of the logo on their paperwork, vans and websites. That's why I found it refreshing on Friday to note that my local branch of Sainsbury's had the Paralympic prominently displayed in their window.

A little detective work (O.K., a visit to their website) reveals that they are the first ever Paralympic only sponsor. Aside from the games sponsorship, they are also sponsoring Channel 4's coverage of Paralympic sports.

So, hats off to Sainsbury's for raising the profile of the Paralympics.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Guilty Pleasures 3

I'm not sure whether this feature will remain a Saturday fixture but, for the time being at least, it seems to have settled here.

This week I've chosen a track by Ms Belinda Carlisle. But which? After all, pretty much any of her hits would qualify as a Guilty Pleasure. First choice would have been Heaven is a Place on Earth but that, and Leave A Light On For Me, sadly had the dreaded "Embedding disabled by request" message. 

Here, then, is Circle in the Sand:



Swing Low or Allez les Bleus?

So Scotland, despite a good performance (particularly in the first half) against England last week, are out of the Rugby World Cup. This weekend, the tournament moves to its knock-out stages with Wales v. Ireland and England against France today. Indeed, by the time this is published, either Wales or Ireland will be through to the semi-finals and awaiting the winner of the England/France clash.

As a Scotland fan, who do I support now? Well, quite naturally, I feel an affinity with the other Celtic countries - the Welsh with whom we share a political and (to a point) an historical heritage and the Irish with whom we share a cultural heritage. I'm hard-pressed to choose between them although I have a feeling the Irish will win (or will have won...).

But what about England and France? Naturally I will support our partners in the Auld Alliance, our Gallic cousins, la France. Oui? 

Non! Je ne soutiendrai pas la France, je soutiendrai l'Angleterre.

Whilst many Scots will be supporting France - or at least not supporting England - I'll be on England's side. Not just because I live here but because it's the grown up thing to do. As our partners in the United Kingdom, it is also the right thing to do.

Nationalism (at least with a small "n") can be good but in this context it too often becomes parochialism. Scotland's identity should be about what it is, not what it isn't. Supporting "anyone but England" is childish, immature and does nothing to improve relations with our Southern neighbours.

It's true that the English do sometimes have a confidence bordering on arrogance and a tendency to belittle the other members of the Union. As with so many other things in life, responding in kind achieves little. Sometimes one party has to be the "bigger person" and take a more mature approach.

Supporting England doesn't come easily though - even, on occasion, to some English people. It can be hard to muster up real emotion and enthusiasm when watching players who are so often the opposition. But support them I shall, along with Wales and Ireland, as long as they are in the competition.

Dewch ar Gymru

Tar ar √Čirinn

Come on England


You can find previous writings on this subject here.

Update: This is the post as drafted... obviously I now feel foolish to have called the match for Ireland.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Simon's Cat[s] in "Double Trouble"

Hot on the heals of "Cat and Mouse" comes the new Simon's Cat video "Double Trouble". Once again, this is an all too familiar story...


See No Evil 5

This is the fifth and final collection of pictures from See No Evil - at least on these pages as I have more to post over on my Tumblr blog from time to time. You can see all the posts in the series here. My favourite in this set is the third picture, what's yours?



Thursday, 6 October 2011

Iconic Images 19 - In Memory of Steve Jobs

I've got a confession to make. I've never been a huge fan of Apple computers. At school, I could barely work the BBC Basics, let alone the new-fangled Macintosh's.

Of course, Apple now is about more than computers. Indeed, it arguable how much it has to do with computers at all. Since Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997, it has transformed into a trend-setting, design-led, producer of mobile entertainment hardwear and retailer of content for its various devices. 

From the launch of the original iPod, through the development of the iPod Touch and then the iPhone to the iPad, they have identified/created, developed and exploited the market, gaining legions of followers and devotees. Indeed, if I had greater resources, I would probably upgrade from my trusty iPod Shuffle despite a certain cynicism about the regularity of new launches that Apple manages. An iPhone at my next upgrade isn't out of the question, either...

There is little doubt that without Steve Jobs, Apple would not have become the company that it is today. The question now is; can Apple continue to be that company? Whilst the answer may not be clear for years, we can be certain that Steve Jobs has left his mark on the world. Just as we remember the achievements of the innovators and industrialists of the past, so future generations will laud the contribution Jobs made on Technology and Retailing in our present.

iMac Advert

Original iPod advert

Apple Rainbow logo


Dover Beach

It's been a while since I posted a poem (how many times have I said that on these pages?!) so it's about time I posted another.

I first came across Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold when I was studying for my Highers some 20 years ago. Fortunately years of learning poetry for elocution lessons (as well as memorising Bible passages for Sunday School) meant I was able to remember enough of it to use it as the basis of my answer for one of the essay questions in the exam.

In the intervening years I have occasionally come across it again, and have always enjoyed it. I'm not sure I could write an essay on it now, though. Fortunately, I don't have to, as there is much analysis available elsewhere on the internet, including in this Wikipedia entry.

Anyway that's enough rambling from me other than to say that, like most good poems, this is worth taking time over. If you skim read it, you'll lose any chance of interpreting the author's meaning or feeling the emotion of the piece. Take it slowly and let the rhythm and cadence carry you through to the end. Enjoy:

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold 

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;- on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

5 on the 5th - October

It's time for 5 on the Fifth and this month, the theme was "pleasure". 

I'm afraid my pictures aren't particularly on theme, other than I took them during a pleasurable walk at lunchtime today. They were all taken on Brandon Hill in Bristol. The Tower is Cabot Tower which celebrates the achievement of John Cabot who sailed from Bristol and discovered North America in 1497.

Follow the link to Stephen's blog to see how the theme was interpreted by other contributors. Additionally, you can find a bonus pic over on my Tumblr blog


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tuesday Titter 2: You should consider having sex with a Bearded Man...

A while ago I found an audio version of the track I've featured today and shared it on Facebook. I make no apologies for repeating myself with this video of The Beards with You should consider  having sex with a Bearded Man. This is, quite simply, a comic song of the highest order:



Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sunday Sounds 19

When this series started, I envisaged it being "semi-regular". It seems, however, to have become a firm fixture in my blogging week. In what seems to have been no-time, I'm now at the eighteenth entry!

This week, I've chosen an artist who, in the UK, was a one hit wonder. Whilst this single was a huge hit (and reached number 2 in the charts), the follow up only charted at No. 61. Here's Alannah Myles with Black Velvet:


Saturday, 1 October 2011

Guilty Pleasures 2 - The Strictly Edition

Last night, Strictly Come Sequins started again and my fellow bloggers Stephen and Caron would have been glued to their screens. (Although I suspect Stephen also had his Cuban heels on and was practising his Salsa moves...)

Of course, as usual with these "Celebrity" things, I barely know who a number of the contestants are. There are a few singers, though, and one in particular qualifies for addition in my new series of Guilty Pleasures. Here's the lovely Holly Valance:



Don't Come Home Too Soon

Well, it's all come down, from Scotland's point of view, to the match with the Auld Enemy. Nothing short of a victory will suffice. Indeed, we need to win by at least eight points and deny England a bonus point. Anything less and we will crash out of the (Rugby Union) World Cup at the group stages for the first time and fall victim of what was always going to be a tough group.

The message to the squad is, therefore, simple: Don't Come Home Too Soon. And, right on cue, here's Del Amitri with Scotland's Official (Football) World Cup song from France 1998:

Much as I love Del Amitri though, this post would be incomplete if I didn't include a rendition of Flower of Scotland, this one courtesy of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers (of which more anon...):

C'Mon Scotland!