Wednesday, 28 December 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 12

This was very nearly a shoe in for Wet Wet Wet's version of "With a Little Help from my Friends" but then my eyes lighted on this gem, which could just as easily be posted in my Guilty Pleasures thread...

It's a Stock, Aitken and Waterman masterpiece; Hazell Dean with Who's Leaving Who?:


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Tuesday Titter 13 - Mrs Brown's Boys

Last night I saw some of Mrs Brown's Boys for the first time. I found it quite enjoyable although I felt that, in some ways, it was derivative of Father Ted. It certainly taps into a similar vein of the humour to be found in parochial Irish life.

Anyway, a brief browse of the BBC Comedy site found the following clip. It's not particularly big or clever comedy but it is funny and brilliantly timed. My main complaint is the volume of the laughter track - I find it a bit too dominant:


Monday, 26 December 2011

Boxing Day Ballet

One of my memories of Christmases past is of my mother and I, once we had a telly, watching the ballet productions that BBC2 screen(ed). Funnily enough, my father would often excuse himself whilst these were on! 

In particular, I remember watching (and mum, a friend and I went to see it live some years later) was Matthew Bourne's innovative production of Swan Lake which features an all-male corps de ballet.

Here are some excerpts performed at the 1998 Royal Variety Performance and introduced by The Two Ronnies:

Apologies if you would have liked (or preferred) to have seen Jim Davidson after the break...


Sunday, 25 December 2011

Sunday Sounds 29

This week's Sunday Sound is inspired by a bargainous purchase in Fopp yesterday - I got a Double DVD of Franz Ferdinand featuring a number of live tracks and two complete concerts for the grand total of £3! 

Here they are with "This Fire":


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

An Orgasm... and a Trailer

First, a definition:

I refer the reader to the second definition above; "a... point of intensity of emotional excitement". It is no exaggeration to say that, using that definition, this video generated such a reaction:

Sod Christmas, roll on the 14th December 2012!


NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 11

The track choice for this entry was perhaps the easiest yet... I had to choose a track which was also on the first album I ever owned (a gift from unsuspecting parents...).

Ladies and Gentlemen, the one, the only, Kylie Minogue:

I did want to choose this video of her doing it on the Showgirl tour but, at least on my PC, the sound seemed out of synch.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tuesday Titter 12: Kylie, Clunge and Bus Wankers

Last Friday saw the annual Comedy Awards, hosted as usual by Jonathan Ross. During the show, the fabulous Kylie Minogue presented an Outstanding Achievement Award to the creators and cast of The Inbetweeners. After three fantastic series, the film (which I have yet to see, as it happens) has broken various box office and DVD sales records this year.

Puerile, cringe-worthy, crude, rude, the show is everything you'd expect from four teenage boys who are caught between the good students and the bad, the cool kids and the nerds. The film trailer gives a flavour of the humour:

What you might not have expected was Kylie's obvious fandom and wholesale adoption of the show's own particular lingo:

I've a feeling I'll be enjoying that clip for years to come!


Monday, 19 December 2011

Happiness in a Loaf

Recently, in the course of my work, I called one company whose hold music must have been from a "Classical Adverts" album. I was treated to Bach's Air on a G String and Dvorak's New World Symphony - I ended up feeling happily nostalgic...

...and wanting to smoke a loaf of bread. Or something.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sunday Sounds 28: Two Kyries (and a Kiwi)

I wasn't sure what to post today and was toying with pieces by both Rachmaninov and Beethoven before I made my decision to go with Karl Jenkins. 

Specifically, I've chosen his Kyrie from "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace". This rendition is from the first Slovenian performance of the work:

There's a bonus today as well because I also found a Kyrie by an Argentinian composer, Ariel Ramirez (1921-2010). This is from his work "Misa Criolla" and is taken from Kiri Te Kanawa's album "Kiri sings Karl" which was conducted by Karl Jenkins and contained a number of his works along with some others, such as this:



Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Simon's Cat in "Fowl Play"

The latest Simon's Cat video was released earlier - it's a Christmassy one entitled "Fowl Play"... Enjoy!


NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 10

You will notice a distinct lack of Christmas music on these pages, for which I make absolutely no apology. This week's featured NOW! album - which incidentally was the first to be released as a Double CD (the previous albums had had an edited down single CD release) - does have The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl's Fairytale of New York which is often regarded by compilers of festive hits as a Christmas Song. It's not, of course, but to avoid any confusion I've not selected it anyway.

ABC, M/A/R/R/S, Wet Wet Wet, Bananarama and Billy Idol were all in the frame... but here are Hue and Cry with Labour of Love:


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tuesday Titter 11

Would you mind just telling me your name, Sir? A bit of old school comedy with Fry and Laurie:


Monday, 12 December 2011

Text Santa

As we all know, Christmas is a time for fun, family, friends and presents. 

Alternatively, it's a time of rampant consumerism when even the most hardened Bah-Humbugger like myself* is eventually brow-beaten into getting into the Christmas spirit... 

But Christmas has a serious side. It's a time when we remember the birth of Santa who came into the world to spread his Mirth and sell Coke. Oh, wait, you mean that isn't the real story of Christmas...?!

There are many, though, for whom this isn't the Christmas they'll have:

Those for whom there are no families or friends, roaring fires or chestnuts. Instead they have shop-doorways, parks and pavements whilst others revel around them.

Those for whom Christmas Day will be much the same as any other day... caring for an elderly relative, perhaps, or caring for an ill parent and their own siblings. Elderly, housebound people with no family nearby.

There are those for whom Christmas will be too much. When seeing others happy will remind them intensely of their own unhappiness. Those for whom "joy to world" will ring a particularly hollow note. Those for whom leaving the world will seem a far better option.

There are those for whom this could well be their last Christmas - people in hospices where the staff do their utmost to make life bearable to the last.

And finally, there are children that will need Santa to deliver to them in hospital. Children who won't be able to wake up and sneak downstairs to open the presents, or try and wake their parents at unearthly hours. Families where medical necessity will separate parents for children and siblings from each other.

Christmas is not always what we're sold when we walk down the high-street. Life and circumstances often get in the way. 

The point of this post isn't to depress you, though. The point is to highlight itv's new charitable campaign "Text Santa". 

By simply texting SANTA1, SANTA5 or SANTA10 to 70070, you can donate £1, £5 or £10 to charities helping all the above groups. 

If you're a taxpayer, you can also utilise Gift Aid to give an additional 25% in tax relief. In addition, the Government has pledged to match funding up to £250,000.

You can find more about the charities supported here - it's an excellent initiative by itv and, I think, well worth supporting.


*Actually, contrary to popular belief, I do like Christmas. I just hate (and a previous career in retail ingrained this in me) the 3 month build-up. As a result, I end up being far more grumpy about it for much longer than I would otherwise be. A sensible 3-4 week build-up would make me quite happy.

A trip to the Zoo 2

Yesterday I shared some pictures from my trip to Bristol Zoo Gardens on Friday. The highlight of that visit was seeing the Western Lowland Gorilla and, in particular, the new baby Kukena with it's mother, Salome. Watching the behaviour of the family group was fascinating. Unfortunately, the pics I took of mother and child have not turned out well enough for this post but I have included some other members of the family.

Jock, the group's dominant male

Komale and Namoki (I think)

Okapi - Lodja and Rubani

Inca Terns

African Penguins

As an aside, I recently read Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine's book "Last Chance to See" in which they travel the world to see critically endangered species. It is a brilliant, inspiring, angering and frustrating read and, sadly, 23 years on, some of the animals featured are indeed extinct.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

A trip to the Zoo

I remember as a child, and I'm sure this is a real memory, seeing a Golden Eagle in Edinburgh Zoo. I remember being saddened that such a magnificent creature should be living in conditions where it's flight was restricted to a few metres.

I'm not sure that I was ever against Zoos though - adopting an attitude of ambivalence and recognising that they do perform a valuable service by way of conservation and education. Over the years, I've seen Edinburgh Zoo reduce the number of animals and increase the size of its enclosures as a more modern mindset and approach has been adopted.

In response, my feelings have softened and for the most part I'd now consider myself a supporter of zoos. That's not to say that I don't think that there are not still areas of concern or things that could be improved upon but the good vastly outweighs the bad.

On Friday, I went to Bristol Zoo Gardens - the first zoo other than Edinburgh that I've visited. In some respects is still a Victorian zoo - the site is much smaller than Edinburgh's and some of the enclosures seemed small in comparison, particularly that for the Asiatic Lions. The experience was, however, positive and I'll definitely be going back - especially as the battery in my phone died leaving me without pictures of some of my favourite creatures! 

Here are some pictures I did take... more tomorrow!

Shiva, Asiatic Lioness

Jasmina, Red Panda

Giant Tortoises

Lizards (with apologies for lack of further detail)

Meller's Chameleon


P.S. There's more on Edinburgh Zoo on the blog of the late Andrew Reeves.

The Widow's Window

This post is a gentle nudge in the direction of The Widow's Window where, subsequent to the recent hiatus, I have recommenced postings. Happy days.

Sunday Sounds 27

Sunday Sounds is back! This week I've chosen Louis Armstrong with "That Lucky Old Sun" - heavenly listening:


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Some Good News in the Economic Gloom

This is the post I was busy working on when my computer's last hard drive forced me into an unanticipated interregnum. Here it is in a completed form, with a post-script which relates to news which was reported during that break. 

We are constantly being told that these are hard economic times. To see that you only need to open a utility bill, fill up your car with petrol or look at these BBC News pages (here and here; Notice I've not had to archive the pages - I'm pretty sure the same general negative feeling will be evident whenever you happen to click the links).

Inflation is running at 5% (and for many will be higher), unemployment is at 8.3% of the workforce, youth unemployment has topped 1m (and is at 19.6% for those age 18-24*), growth forecasts have been lowered and the Eurozone remains in crisis.

Of course, there is a danger of too much negative reporting and of talking ourselves back into recession. Indeed, the "R" word is often banded around as if we were. That's another, but important, issue which is a particular bugbear of mine. It's not, however, the point of this post.

There is no doubt, though, that one way or other people are feeling the pinch. According, for example, to the ASDA Income Tracker which measures discretionary income, average disposable income fell by 8.4% in September compared to the previous year.

In addition to the above figures, here are two more:


On Friday [the 18th November], the BBC's annual Children In Need appeal raised an on-the-night record of £26m - £8m more than the total last year. Comic Relief raised £102m this year which even allowing for the £15m that the government contributed was still some £4m higher than the figure raised in 2009.

It is heartening that in these times of austerity we can still, as a nation, think of those in even more dire straits. Perhaps it's because we are more conscious of the cost of things that makes us want to help those in even greater need. Whatever, it makes me proud to be British - not in a jingotistical way (I don't believe in "pride" based on something you have no control over) but proud of my fellow subjects and proud of what can be achieved collectively.


Since I conceived this piece, this research hit the news. In essence, more people are giving to charity but the average gift has reduced. Although this seems at odds with the record figures above, I still think this is encouraging news, in it's way. 1.1m more people have been moved to give notwithstanding the current economic climate - people may not be able to give as much but they are giving.

It may be that Comic Relief and Children in Need, as the highest profile fundraising events, have benefited disproportionately from new gifters but I think it would be churlish and somewhat cynical to let this colour our view of their achievements this year.

Whilst many charities are feeling a squeeze as donations and other sources of funding are reduced, the sector should take comfort from the willingness of people to give - and work on ways to encourage increased giving from these new donors when circumstances improve. Some imagination will be required to achieve that - simply asking people to increase their direct debits is not, I think, the way forward - but with the right approach this could be the start of a new culture of giving.

*Source: Office for National Statistics Labour Market Data Tables Nov 11

Now you see it...

Scotland - and some other parts of the UK - have been getting buffeted all day by unusually strong winds  with gusts of 165mph have been reported at the peak of Cairngorm and 84mph reported in the Firth of Forth causing the road bridge to be closed.

The BBC has, as it does on such occasions, invited people to contribute pictures of the havoc caused and some of the results, including a particularly eery picture of an empty Forth Road Bridge, are here. One picture in particular caught my notice however, as it was taken near the widow's ancestral home. I also thought it would be interesting to find the scene on Google's street view and present the two pictures in a before-and-after fashion.

So here is the first picture, taken on what looks like a lovely, pleasant, summery day:

And now, the same scene today:

It's a pretty dramatic reminder of the power of nature. If you're reading this in Scotland, stay safe and stay warm.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 9

Last week I mentioned how this series gives me a chance to showcase tracks I might otherwise have forgotten about... Of course, that's not the whole story; sometimes, there's a standout track, an all time classic that it would be a sin to overlook. This week is one such week.

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I give you Ben E. King with Stand By Me:


Monday, 5 December 2011

5 on the 5th - The Swansong

One of my favourite strands of this blog has been the contributions to Stephen's "5 on the 5th". Due to the continued death of my laptop, I'm not able to contribute to this month's, which is the last. :-( 

What I can do, though, is direct you over to Stephen's blog where you will find his own entry along with a list of other contributers.

You can see my previous contributions here.