Wednesday, December 30, 2009

five years later

hey there

well, as this is what might be my last post of the year (decade, if you will), i notice that it's five years ago today that i started this blog off!

thanks very much indeed to the regular and irregular visitors who stop by and read my news and musings; much appreciated!

to mark this anniversary, i thought why not go back even further and post some of the splendid pictures my Dad has recently scanned for a brilliant photo show film he created in November.

first up and here's a picture of me with my Great-Grandfather, Robert Chapman. if i am right, it is from him that we carry on the name Robert in the family.

and, going on the couch, here's a picture from the same time with my Great-Grandfather Jock Harland.

now then, if the clothes and style of the pictures above look very much like the splendid series Life On Mars, that's probably due to the fact that i was born in the year the series (or most of it, at the least) was set!

and finally, a pic of me in my early years.

it's rather rare that i like pics of myself from anytime (well, who likes looking at themselves?), but the above one is one that i think is rather cool!

many thanks again for all the class pics you scanned, Dad! there are about a thousand or so more, i am sure one or two will feature here in the future!

right then, unless i get inspired to write something else tomorrow, that's about your lot for this year. if you celebrate the dawn of the next year (we shall probably be in bed long before midnight), have fun, be safe and behave!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shrek Baby William

hey there

Michele was changing baby William over the weekend and James noticed that, mid-vest taking off, William looked a touch like one of the 'Shrek' babies from the splendid film Shrek The Third. i was summoned to take a picture, so here you go!

for those of you unfamiliar with a "Shrek baby", i would suggest that you watch the rather funny film, but in the mean time, here's a pic of the Shrek family for comparison!

in the mean time, William Norman Stanley is four weeks old today, so in celebration here are a couple of pictures of him looking just like himself rather than a cartoon character!

it's still the case of so far, so very good with William. we are very lucky, if not indeed blessed, to have such a healthy and happy baby!

be very excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ian Brown - Just Like You

hey everyone

well, thanks to the most excellent site Record Store, and indeed to the Post Office for managing to not only deliver the record but deliver it in one piece too, i am now the proud owner of the splendid new Ian Brown single, Just Like You.

as one of the outstanding tracks on the outstanding My Way album, it was ace to see that Ian had given the go-ahead for this to be released as a single, backed with a remix of the track by no less than The Prodigy.

whereas it's a bit disappointing not to get a new or live track on the b-side, there's no arguing with the majestic nature of the 12", CD and poster package!

now then, there are two class things about the poster. first off, those with an eye for the finer details will have noted that it's, erm, "more than a little" bit Stone Roses in style. secondly, just what is that down in the corner?

when i opened the package and saw that we were one of the fortunate few to get their copy of the poster signed, well, what else could i say but YESSSSSSSSSSS! Record Store are really ace at getting these signed packages - this one shall take pride of place in my collection, which thus far features items signed by Brett Anderson and the Manics!

on a possibly sadder note, one can't but help wonder how much life the fine artform of the single has left. with the recent success of an old Rage Against The Machine song getting the coveted Christmas Number One spot from downloads only, one can't but help fear that record labels just might start to think proper, physical releases are no longer worth the cost and effort. i hope that this is not the case, i really do.

in the mean time, you can order the 12" (with an unsigned poster) or the CD single from Record Store if you haven't already!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


hey everyone

well, i know it's rather rare that we get to sit and watch new or recent movies, but the numerous good reviews and comments about Zombieland meant that we felt compelled to seek it out and watch it. see Spiros and Richard, i do listen to your advice, if only as and when it suits me.

to be honest, watching a film starring Woody Harrelson and featuring a chainsaw on the poster wasn't going to be too much like hard work for me. quality horror films are getting to be far and few between, it has to be said, so anything that looked promising was likely to get a watch sooner or later.

whilst not an outright horror film - it's more a "comedy with horror elements" rather than a "horror comedy" or a horrid "horror spoof" - it is indeed, upfront, a most splendid film indeed.

the basic plot premise of Zombieland is that, thanks to one undercooked "mad cow disease" infected burger, the overwhelming population of America has been turned into Zombies, all craving and seeking the last few humans to eat. the film does not (thankfully) bother itself with the science of how this all happened, instead focusing on the rather contrived manner in which four (well, sort of five bearing in mind the "surprise cameo") of the last humans meet up in search of various destinations of importance to them.

on the way to where they all wish to go there is of course meetings with zombies, and these are zombies which they dispense of with a reasonably wide variety of methods and weapons.

it's the meeting & beating of zombies that gives this film a strength and weakness, really. beyond the highly amusing opening to the film and inevitable big drama ending there's actually very little "zombie action" during the movie. on the one side this is an indicator of a "modest budget", but then again if the film had just been all guns blazing zombie-bashing it might have got rather tiresome and repetitive.

moving away from the lack of zombie fights, what it doesn't have in volume it certainly has in quality and style. "zombie kill of the week" is a recurring feature of the movie, and star of the show Woody Harrelson certainly has a few moments of magic. there might not be (disappointingly) a single on-screen chainsaw attack as hinted in the poster, but never mind - a banjo seems to work out nicely.

i couldn't really tell you the first thing about the director, writers or other cast members of this film, but as said the star of the show is most certainly dear old Woody Harrelson. it's rare that one sees a bad film with him in it, really, but this is the "high quality Woody" from Natural Born Killers and Wag The Dog i am happy to say. for many the true "star of the show" is the "surprise cameo" appearance by.....well, i won't say who. he does feature in the cast list on most sites and his appearance has been widely reported, but on the off chance you don't know and want to keep it a surprise, i shall remain silent.

Zombieland is a riotous, frenzied slice of 85 minute entertainment, loaded with highly quotable one-liners and several laugh out loud moments. it was made on a modest budget and didn't have its sights set on being a cinematic masterpiece, but it certainly exceeds its target of being solid fun viewing.

i note that the inevitable "Zombieland 2" has been announced, one can only hope it's a sequel that's an equal. if the scope is expanded a bit (i.e. the characters perhaps might want to flee zombie-infested America instead of simply heading to a funfair on the off-chance it is zombie free), who knows, it could surpass what we already have.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

scenes from Christmas in New Zealand

hey everyone

well, what do you know, our dear family in New Zealand sent many pictures from their Christmas Day celebrations. how many? more than our Dad has mailed off, which is something of an achievement!

i shall only be putting a few of them up here, mind - Grant or Gillian can always set up their own email, or protest to me to put more up, if they wish to have more images up here!

first off and here's Grant with another of those bizarre rituals he seems to have come up with and implemented whilst being in New Zealand. this one, unless i am missing something here, at least does not feature sheep or any sheep-related activities!

i may be being a little mean to Grant here, as "take kids to a body of water and chuck them in it to celebrate Christmas" does tend to suggest that it has my sister's thinking behind it. never mind, they seem to be enjoying it!

and, on the subject of enjoying, it seems that Katie really, really likes Christmas dinner!

and who could blame her? it does look rather yummy, if just not as yummy as the magnificent steak Erika did for me!

now then, this picture of Daniel comes with one of those priceless stories....

as far as Gillian and Grant can work out, Daniel clearly wanted some more magic Christmas time, so got up and out of his room after bedtime. however, his energy and enthusiasm wasn't as great as he had hoped, and thus he had just dropped down to the ground and gone back to sleep a few steps out of his room!

never mind Daniel, just falling down and sleeping where you land is a not uncommon occurrence on Mummy's side of the family!

and finally, as hinted at in the other update, the famous, celebrated and lovely annual Christmas self-taken picture of the whole Farnworth clan!

thanks very much for the pictures!!!!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Christmas 2009

Hey Everyone

well, Christmas Day has been and gone once again, and to tell the truth your humble narrator is still somewhat exhausted by the day! James managed to sleep to as late as 5am on Christmas Morning - i think Michele and i got 4 hours sleep between us rather than each!

never mind, we managed to sleepwalk through large chunks of the day! the important thing was that James was rather excited to see what Father Christmas had brought him, and he wasn't at all disappointed with what arrived!

first up was what James had hoped Father Christmas would bring him, and indeed did bring him - even if Mummy & Daddy had to try and work out how to put it together beforehand. when exactly was it that someone somewhere decided that bikes should be sold in boxes?

now James has never ever ridden on one before, so he hasn't quite mastered the art of pedals as of yet. he sort of gets the idea, but for now he seems happy enough if Daddy is on hand to push him along!

as and when James has got the hang of doing it all by himself, however, Father Christmas has made it be that Daddy is all ready and raring to go riding with him!

as for young William, well, for the most part he decided to sleep through Christmas morning. lucky him, i say!!

James very kindly opened up William's presents for him, mind!

now then, you may recall from an earlier post that "Santa's helpers" had put up a present for James from Grandma and Grandad on Christmas Eve. we left the curtains closed in the morning, leaving them for James to open up and see what was outside.

as you can see, he was rather impressed with what he saw!

it's not my place to brag, really, but i would like to think that the caps i put on the bolts increased the stability of the trampoline, as well as created an easier way for James to climb into it, as excellent as all the other stuff that Richard and Dad did.

a happy bonus for James was Lyla popping over with Grandma and Grandad later in the morning to see how James was getting on with his presents. needless to say, the cousins loved playing together on the trampoline!

William did wake up a little bit when Grandma and Grandad called in, long enough for a little bit of a cuddle with Grandma at least!

later on it was time to go over to Grandma and Grandad's house for some more presents, and a particularly fine lunch - many thanks again for my chunk of steak, Erika. it might not be the traditional turkey, but i like and prefer it!

James had written very nice cards for his Grandparents, which Grandma and Grandad were very taken with! hopefully they liked their presents too, but i think the card and a big hug from James was all that they wanted!

James is, it has to be said, getting very good indeed at helping others open up their presents. even though Lyla didn't ask for James to help, there he was, assisting it getting the wrapping paper off her gifts!

it's no bad thing that James helped, really. on behalf of Santa i wrapped the presents for her, and i do tend to get called "Mr Sellotape" with my somewhat "make sure that it is wrapped" approach to presents!

in turn, Richard, Erika & Lyla got us some generous and excellent gifts, the least of which was not a brilliant Motorhead t-shirt for me! William also got some lovely new clothes too, including this rather ace one!

it is something of a tradition for the family over in New Zealand to mess around with a timer on a camera and do a portrait picture at Christmas. we (well, Dad) decided to have a go at the same thing, with the help of his tripod and indeed every now and then pressing the right button on the camera!

the result is not too bad at all!

speaking of tripods, Mum & Dad got each of us a rather dapper "video camera" each, if "video" is the right word for them these days. "digital media recording device" is no doubt the actual technical name, but to some of us it shall always just be video.

when not debating (arguing) with Dad over who had the biggest, best and shiniest tripod, Richard was keen to show off his skills with it, as you can see here.

without wishing to scare either small children or even smaller animals, just what kind of films does Richard wish to make with a tripod and a self-timer? this next picture gives you something of a clue!

yes, i think the less said about that the better!

i cannot say that we had a relaxing Christmas, but we did have an incredibly fun one. hope the same is true of you wherever you are in the world!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bouncy Bouncy Builders

hey everyone

well, i am really tired and it's going to be a busy day tomorrow, so i should be in bed. however, Dad asked for an update of tonight's activities as soon as possible, and after all his hard work and effort who am i to not do it now?

it would seem that, amongst other things, Father Christmas (via way of Grandma and Grandad) has brought James (and eventually William!) a rather smart trampoline for Christmas. Erika, bless her, thought that i might be able to build it myself. Richard and Dad, being somewhat wise to the ways in which i cannot do any DIY stuff properly, were over tonight to "help" build it.

now, when i say they helped, they pretty much did everything. it was safer that i stood just slightly out of the way and held certain things to pass them as and when they needed them.

it's not that i didn't do anything. far from it - Richard and Dad were unanimous in saying that i was the best person to do the all important job of putting the caps on the bolts on the legs of it.

actually, as it happens, i put the bolt covers on, took them off and put them back on again when the net around it needed some adjusting. i would have got them on a good deal faster the second time, as i was primed and ready, only Richard said that he would probably punch me in the face if i didn't stop bothering him with the caps whilst he tightened the bolts.

don't worry, no conflict as i decided not to hover over Richard and his spanner with the caps! and i am really rather proud of how the three of us got it all up OK!

now then, Richard and i have held discussions on what we think our Dad's inevitable mid-life crisis might involve. we have usually considered that it will feature bermuda style shorts, possibly a Harley and most likely a convertible. not for one minute did we ever suspect that it would involve sewing, but as he was most insistent that he sew all the netting himself, well, there you go.

in yet another of his well, hello sailors! moments, here is Dad grabbing hold of an absolutely massive pole after finishing off all his lovely stitching.

you will notice that he colour coordinated all the poles too...........

many thanks for coming over and putting all of this together, Dad and Richard! it would have been a right mess if left to me!

well, wherever you are in the world, have a very Merry Christmas indeed!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

10 albums from 2009

hey everyone

well, it's the inevitable time of year when everyone does lists and what have you of the best and worst of the year. as at the moment i am a little hard pressed to think of enough films of consequence to list i've gone with a music update for now. perhaps a film list will follow, perhaps it won't.

there's no particular order to this list, other than indicating the best album of the year and the one which, without question, was the worst. if you've heard all of these albums i applaud your taste, if not, barring the worst one of course, here's some for your consideration, then.

first up is Journal For Plague Lovers by the Manic Street Preachers. best album of the year? try of the decade, really. it's a masterpiece.
the lengthy post i did on this earlier in the year would mean i don't need to say too much on it, really, except to say that it underlines what a great writer Richey Edwards is/was, which in the context of the band is really saying something as they have got along just fine during his absence.
the one and only negative about Jounal For Plague Lovers was the lack of any singles released. at least two of the songs, Jackie Collins and Me And Stephen Hawking, had chart success written all over them. i guess it's just that, bar the phenomenal "download" story of Christmas 2009, singles are not a going interest for the music industry anymore, which is a great shame.

it feels odd calling this a comeback album, but i suppose that Reality Killed The Video Star is just that, it being some time since Robbie Williams' last album, the rather poorly-received, highly experimental Rudebox.
this album saw Robbie return, with the help of Trevor Horn, the king of pop production, to the kind of music which made him one of the biggest stars on the planet. it's a very welcome return indeed, as it's a fantastic album; i just suspect that the world no longer cares for or craves pop stars, going on the transient, disposable "win a TV talent show, record one record and disappear" trend of the last few years.
Reality Killed The Video Star is filled with great pop and dance tracks, and presumes to do nothing but entertain you. if you've hesitated about picking this one up, hesitate no more - it's well worth a few listens.

as for the most elaborate title of the year, who could beat West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum by Kasabian? crazy album name, and very close to being a very, very good album indeed.
close, but not quite there. The opening few tracks are some of the greatest ever recorded in the 21st Century, as indeed are the last few, in particular their so-far masterpiece Fire.
the "middle section" of the CD, what once upon a time would have been end of side one and the start of side two, are, um, not that great at all, sadly. in fact, it's rather fortunate that the start and end of the album are so mind-blowingly great - they are that good that you are compelled to forgive much in the way of "filler" material.
with so few decent rock bands around (in particular new-ish ones), most instead going for this rubbish "rock-rap" sound, Kasabian are to be embraced, and you could do a lot worse than start with this album.

if you want awards, well, the best Ian Brown album of the year would be Ian Brown's only album of the year, My Way.
the great one had made some claims that this was his "best ever" album, which alas turns out not to be the case - that title remains with Music Of The Spheres. what you do have here, however, is certainly one of the better of his six thus far released solo efforts.
a journalist this year pointed out that reviewing an Ian Brown album is a somewhat pointless affair, as the legion of believes in the man (like me) will buy whatever he releases, irrespective of what's on it or what it sounds like. i bought it, i really enjoyed it, and if nothing else i encourage you to have a listen to his ace cover of In The Year 2525 on it.

speaking of artists who the fans just go and buy any release from, let us not forget that Morrissey started off the year with a new album, Years Of Refusal.
after 6 or 7 years of inactivity, Moz for the last 5 or so years has been somewhat prolific. his, if you will, comeback album You Are The Quarry ranks as one of his greatest ever musical achievements, but there's been the law of diminishing returns since then.
whilst not a bad album as such, the prolific ways of Moz in the last few years does seem to have come with a cost, and that cost was a distinctly average set of songs making up the Years Of Refusal tracklisting. songs that sound good enough to be the 3rd b-side on the second CD single from any of his other albums now all of a sudden appear to be good enough to feature on the album itself.
much like with Ian Brown, us loyal fans bought this anyway, but mindful of the fact that it was released in February, i dare say few copies have been played since April.

Depeche Mode, by co-incidence, released Sounds Of The Universe around April, and i would suspect a fair few of us still give this a listen as we approach the end of the year.
i like Depeche Mode, but i would have no idea what "classic" DM is. i consider Ultra to be their best album, where most fans would go for Violator or any one of their many great 80s releases. for me, then, this album as the "classic Mode" sound, whatever that actually means.
the lead single, Wrong, is certainly one of their better releases, and the remainder of the album for the most part sounds as good as that. i am not sure where Depeche Mode get the inspiration or creativity to keep on delivering quality records so far into their career, but i suppose one should not worry about the how they do it part just as long as they keep delivering.

now then. Frankie Say Greatest, yet another greatest hits set from my beloved, only released seven singles Frankie Goes To Hollywood, should have been my top release of the year. the people releasing it, Universal Music, decided to make a bit of a mess of the release though.
for some inexplicable reason the one true treasure of the whole "greatest hits" release, and unreleased cover of Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?, was made available through "iTunes" only, and even then only if you bought the whole album again; one that you probably had already ordered the CD of. it's like they did not want to have any chart success or CD sales, really. the CD tracklisting was less than inspiring, with most of us Frankie fans having already spent a fortune buying many copies of all that was on it anyway.
the release wasn't all bad news - as part of a deal to get his solo stuff back out on the shelves, Holly Johnson, after a few years of relative silence, came in to help give the release some publicity. good to see him out and about, as it were!
if for some reason you do not have any Frankie in your collection, the 1 or 2 CD set of Frankie Say Greatest will happily fill that gap in your music library; but us fans after some rarities were left disappointed.

aah, Rodders. a few years ago Rod Stewart came to the not unwise decision that the fans were happier hearing him doing covers of the classics than they were watching him slave over new material. it's a win-win, really - Rod gets to sing the songs he loves, the fans get to hear songs they love with one of the most treasured voices the world of music has.
the voice is, sadly, getting rather frail and weaker than it was due to Rod's well-documented health problems, but that doesn't stop Soulbook the sound of Rod that we all know and love.
there's a few curveballs on the album - the version of Wonderful World was not what i was expecting - but overall it's a fine, fine album to have in the car.

caution is required here, as my Dad is quite a Dylan fan. not that i have anything against him. when my Dad asked if i had heard Dylan's latest release, the seasonally themed Christmas In The Heart, i with some diplomacy informed him that i had certainly heard enough of it, thank you, and passed it along to him to enjoy.
erm, yeah. i am not sure what the market is for avid or casual Dylan fans that want to hear him meander through some reasonably well known yuletide classics, but that gap in the market has well and truly been filled. it's not bad, as such, but that doesn't mean that all and sundry will wish to hear this on Christmas morning this year. or next.
Bob Dylan's bash at Christmas is not, however, the worst album of the year, if that's what you are thinking. oh no, not by a long distance.

easily the worst, most disappointing album of the year was U2's No Line On The Horizon. i mean, just look at the cover. if the band can't be bothered with a decent cover (and let's be honest, plain white would have been more creative) for their record then there's every chance that the record it holds isn't very good. this album is a very stark, sad illustration of this.
for this album U2 decided to work to a deadline rather than record it, work on it and release it. the last time they did this it was for the less than brilliant Pop album, and this time round they released an album which was nowhere near as good as Pop. yeah, that bad. i managed to listen to it all the way through once, skipped through a couple of more times, and then left it alone.
as their last two albums have been rather good, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb in particular being one of their best for a long time indeed, this is a disappointing step backwards for the band. not one single track bears worth a mention from it, and if you are a U2 fan and haven't blindly bought it, well, the advice would be do not bother to.

well, with apologies to Bono, there you have it! hope you all got to listen to some quality music during the year!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

let me put you in the picture, let me show you what i mean.....

hey everyone

well, those of you with an eye for quality song lyrics will know that the above title can be but one thing - a reference to my dear sister, Gillian. as it is the occasion of her birthday, it be only fitting and right that i pay homage to her here with some splendid pictures. it might, in some small way, make up for the fact that i have used a song lyric by The Stone Roses to mark her birthday - for some reason she does not appreciate the band in the correct way, which is to say not at all.

i am not allowed to say how old she is, by the way. she might not have been born in the decade that she has led Grant to believe she was, as it happens, so i shall leave that there.

and speaking of Grant, let's start off with a splendid pic of the effort we all went to with clothes and that on the day Gillian married Grant.

whereas Mum, Dad & Gillian always look good, Gillian looked particularly stunning this day, and Richard & i agreed (in principal) to look smart(ish) and keep our shirts in our pants for the duration of the ceremony. once we were allowed access to alcohol, however, all bets were off, really.

going back in time, and these pics are entirely random, let us look at the days when Gillian showed off that she "never, ever" had what is colloquially referred to as "big hair".

trying to just skip over that one, many of us (your narrator included) were impressed with Heath Ledger's portrayal of "The Joker" in the recent Dark Knight movie. what a lot of people didn't know, in my best Michael Caine writing, is that he ripped off the look from my sister, as you can see below!

influencing the look of that much celebrated film was but one of many brushes with fame for Gillian. long before the art of match fixing became as fashionable as it apparently is now, Gillian had no qualms whatsoever in greasing the palms of officials to ensure a good result.

in the above instance, i would imagine Gillian slipped the ref a few coins, probably left over from the purchase of a Five Star album, in the hope that he would ensure that Middlesbrough would lose "by no more than 4". nice work.

now, going back to more or less the start, here's a picture of Gillian at home with us all, probably early (year obscured so as not to worry Grant).

now, if Grant was a fashion man (ie if he wore things for reasons other than they had 'Sharks' written on them, that is) he might wonder why there was such a 70s feel to the picture with Gillian as a baby going on the year he has been led to believe Gillian was born. ho hum, he won't notice so there you go.

oh, go on then, here's another fine pic of Gillian just by herself, looking as lovely then as she does now!

Gillian has always had a love of travel, really. i mean, yeah, sure, now she settles for the set of The Lord Of The Rings, but it wasn't always like that. once upon a time she when to the much-vaunted locations around the world. like, for instance, Rhyl in North Wales.

and then there was that place next to where she is now, the land that the Manic Street Preachers wrote a song about.

yep, that would be Uncle Colin in the picture with us! my apologies, by the way, if my awesome socks distract from Gillian in the above pic.

also, if required, an apology for the next picture - the eye magnet that is Grant might distract you all from how truly beautiful Gillian looked on her wedding day....

...but then Gillian always looks good at weddings, like for instance when she was one of the bridesmaids for Colin & Angela's wedding, way back in a year i can't mention in case Grant is sat reading this with his calculator. which is more likely than you think, to be honest.

and finally, here we go with two of the more important pictures. firstly, Gillian has always been a great believer in "slumming it". one of her favourite partners for slumming it is our dear Auntie Susan. here are the two of them well and truly having a hard time at one of those day spa pamper fluffy things.

and finally, Gillian in the present day, with the three most important people in her life.

well, three most important people that were never ever members of The Stone Roses, at least!

what can i say other than, once again, a very happy birthday, dear sister. hope you've had a most splendid day (except for it involving going to verk, of course!), and you never know, we might one day all be together again to celebrate!!

be very excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!