Tuesday, July 28, 2015


hello there

not a particularly great deal of consequence, as usual i suppose, look you see. just a blog post to keep things ticking over here a bit, giving you, who apparently has absolutely nothing else better to do, something to have a bit of a gander at since you're here now.

it is, in theory, our summer here. yes, indeed, English summers are supposed to be a thing of glory, revered and admired around the world. this year, alas, has not really seen things work out like that. as in, with today all but over, we've had two days of solid rain in this, the last week to form July.

here i am endeavouring to enjoy what i can of the weather we have been given.

yes, as you can see, i am still getting on really rather well with all that quitting / cutting down considerably business in respect of the cigarettes. actually, this one is a bit of a cheeky fag, so to speak, as it is one of my (considerably) better half's cigarettes. i inadvertently picked up her packet this morning, which she is quite cross about, and has since made me purchase her a whole new packet.

speaking of a cheeky fag, Spiros reports that London is not doing all that much better with the weather than us at the moment. we all know when it is raining in London because the national newspapers are in London so when it rains there they all print front page stories about how it is raining in London, how absolutely terrible it is and how no other place in the world suffers the way London does with rain.

not that rain prevents a hard man like Spiros going out and about. here, have a look. this is an image of one of Spiros's favourite places in the world, the disused and somewhat distressed former Blockbuster video rental store in tropical Hammersmith.

the bag you can see there by the white section of wall is one that, Spiros assures me, is "owned" by that tramp like vagrant who resides in the general area of the disused branch of Blockbuster. evidently he was not there at the time this picture was taken; presumably he was off doing whatever the hell it is he does from time to time during the day.

i happen to know that one of the things he does is have a go at being a bit of a hair stylist, or if you like barber. i know this because once Spiros gave him a pound coin, a pair of scissors, a bottle of cider and the instruction to be free; to go around and cut hair with gay abandon. so actually maybe he has been detained by the constabulary, should any misunderstandings have happened as a result of that.

back to my travels in a proper part of England, and here's an abandoned, if you like used, packet of cigarettes i spotted.

i took the picture as a means to remember to investigate them further. 777 is a brand i am not at all familiar with, and so this was the first time i had seen such cigarettes. well, a box that had them in.

the health warnings were all English, as far as i could make out, so it's not like this is an el cheapo brand from Greece, Romania or some other, similar, eastern european sh!thole that the people of, lucky them, have access to decent priced cigarettes. 

would i try out some of these 777 fags if i were able to find them? undoubtedly yes. they are in a nice, shiny package, after all, and they are cigarettes. i am sure they would get whatever job i asked of them done.

finally, then, here is an image of what Spiros described as being a "bunch of twats", apparently being described in such terms as they were stood waiting for the Apple store to open.

why were people waiting for the Apple store to open? beats me. perhaps Apple has unleashed some new product that today was the release day for, and these are eager hipster, "millennials" types, keen to get their hands on it at the expense of their parents or a financial institution as soon as possible.

for what reason was Spiros at the Apple store? from what i could work out he was in the company of a gent he had recently met in a building which had a secluded public lavatory in it, and the two of them were on some sort of jolly crusade to try and meet Sir Paul McCartney out of The Beatles. to my knowledge, they alas failed in this quest.

more, dear reader, as and when it happens, which might now, looking upon a calendar, might only be in August.

if this is indeed the final post for July, remember the month this way.

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kiss camera

hi there

well, look you see, if you have stumbled upon this blog post hoping to find one of them mucky things where ladies kiss each other in front of one of them "web cam" things, you've taken a wrong turn, or if you like you've lucked out. this isn't about that sort of kiss thing. instead it's all to do with that rather well known band of that name.

i had a speculative conversation with Spiros about the idea of putting some Kiss on the stereo in my car. yeah, i am back driving, so i am ploughing through all them blank cd's once more to make smart mixes to as i drive around. as Spiros is quite the Kiss man, so to speak, he was very enthusiastic about this idea and to celebrate shared with me a number of relatively rare and obscure videos of the band in, as it were, action.

for some reason i thought some of you might quite like to see them. here we go, then, with Kiss blazing the way for the likes of Michael Jackson and, if i remember right, Madonna by agreeing to promote the most splendid drink Pepsi as an item you may want to buy.

there's a school of thought that says neither Paul Stanley nor Gene Simmons ever met a dollar that they didn't like, and were always more than happy to accept it in exchange for, well, whatever they had. seriously, if you are bored, go ahead and google "Kiss merchandise" or "Kiss licensing" and be amazed at how many hours you can spend staring at things they gladly sold the band name to.

and i say there's absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. why, pray tell, would you go off and be a rock star if not to make huge mountains of money? this crap that some so-called fans go on about, about how rock stars should not "sell out", doesn't pay the bills or let you live the extravagant life of a rock star. if it were the case that i had an ounce of talent and had some sort of music career, you can be certain i would have gladly exploited and sold it any way i could, thanks.

that said, maybe i would have drawn a line if something like Kiss Meets The Phantom was thrown at me as a commercial opportunity.

if you got all the way through that trailer, well done, even if some 30% of it is promoting NBC or whoever opted to broadcast that film.

i am one of the select few to have witnessed the whole thing, as it happens. Spiros had a smart VHS tape of it, and made me (and possibly my (considerably) better half) watch it one night. my abiding memory of the film was that one of them had lasers firing out of their eyes, whilst another had lightning that came out of their fingers. i think the latter was Ace, and actually it was pretty smart, with the idea being pinched 5 or so years later for that Star Wars thing when the Emperor or someone did the same thing.

whilst the film has a certain curiosity level to it, and in following on from the above point about that Emperor a bit like that Star Wars Holiday Special it's possibly a film best left as a curiosity rather than a thing you actually watch. at least when Frankie Goes To Hollywood appeared in a film, it was totes smart in the form of Body Double.

finally, for this blog post and not for the Kiss money making machine, here's the band quite happily accepting however much money them b@stards in Sweden, or if you like Sverge, would throw at them for appearing in a lottery commercial.

if it's no surprise that Kiss would accept coins of money off of them b@stards in Sweden for doing a lottery advert, is it a surprise to me that them b@stards in Sweden would consider Kiss popular enough a reference point for adverts? not really. whereas i wasn't aware of Kiss being all that big or popular in England as i grew up, they were absolutely massive in Australia in the early 80s. i remember it being something of a matter of pride, when you went to visit someone, that they would show you which Kiss albums they had. Unmasked was the most popular, closely followed by Destroyer.

have i had a listen to some Kiss in the car as such as yet? no. today i had a bit of Stone Roses on, followed by a dash, or if you like flash, of Queen. i have no doubt that i will have some Kiss on the go in the car soon, though.

hopefully this has been of some slight interest to one or two of you!

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

batman shoes

hello there

the boys, as boys are so often inclined to be, look you see, require some new shoes. other than the fact that they are growing lads and thus need bigger sizes, they have an incredible knack of demolishing and destroying shoes in a way us of an adult age are not.

i was merrily on my way to go and purchase some more when i recalled that earlier in the year i had purchased an as yet unworn pair for William. i saw them, saw that they were too large, but thought that he would very much want them when his feet got a bit bigger. they have, and he does.

yes, dear reader. indeed, as the title promised, and as you can see right before you in the above image, these are a pair of very smart Batman shoes. or, if you like, they are shoes which have Batman on them. that last way of describing them is probably the more accurate one, for i suspect, pedantic fans, that the man of bat did not actually own a pair of these himself.

a look at them through the magical lens of Commodore 64 mode with scan lines on? why, certainly, for that is something which would make these cool shoes even cooler.

going through my gallery of Commodore 64 mode pictures, i am certain that the quality and output of the images is far better on the iPod than it is on this iPhone device which Spiros very kindly gave me. however, the iPhone is easier to get and, well, scan lines are scan lines.

going back to the shoes, and not only do they look cool, but they also do something very cool indeed. something that i was unaware of them doing at the time i purchased them, so a happy accident.

yes, in particular for those of you watching on an Apple device and are unable to actually see the above video, they do indeed a smart "chasing lights" light up effect when they hit the ground. no, sadly, to my knowledge they do not do grown up shoes with such fancy features on them. that Usain Bolt fella would look all the more awesome, and probably go even faster, if he had fancy lights on the go when he did that smart running stuff he does, for instance.

i would be sure that people who like either Batman or shoes, or are all the more excited by a combination of the two, would like a bit more details on the shoes, or at least another detailed picture. here's the side, which seems to have some randomly selected panel off of a comic strip on it.

yeah, sorry about it being upside down. i tried to rotate it around so it was the right way, but google was having none of it. google really doesn't like it when you try and upload pictures taken off of an Apple device, and it shows the contempt in not rotating images.

it is indeed all velcro in terms of securing the shoe onto a foot, as you have probably worked out. that rather smart Batman logo is indeed the closing velcro strap thingie, it's not like it is hiding another strap or encases laces or something like that.

would i be interested in a pair of these if they did them in an adult size 13? probably, yeah. if i got funny looks or stares off of the public, well, that would be their problem for looking at my feet in the first place.

i only got a pair of these for William. although they had them in his size, James expressed a wish not to have smart shoes featuring Batman, lest they make him seem "uncool" amongst his gang of mates. which is fair enough, i would have had similar concerns, although many of my friends would argue that at any stage of my life it would have been virtually impossible for me to reach an "uncooler" level than i was naturally on.

an image of the boys in the glory of Commodore 64 mode? sure, why not.

as for practical matters and considerations of these shoes, i paid a price of £12.99 for them, which i considered to be most agreeable and acceptable. where did i get them? from that nice man Mike Ashley at his class store Sports Direct. as regular readers will appreciate, i do like to spend as much money as possible at Sports Direct, for it allows that nice man Mike Ashley to hire yet more members of the so called "cockney mafia" to work at Newcastle United; a thing that geordies seem to love.

i would think that i have pretty much said all that i can think of to say about these shoes, so here you go, another picture of the top bit, or if you like front, so you can see how class they are.

it will be interesting to see how long these shoes last. William's usual approach would be one of demolishing the shoes as quickly as possible. with the Batman on them, however, it's possible that he might well elect to look after them.

hopefully this has been of some interest to all you shoe enthusiasts and Batman fans!

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

Argentina batter Argentina in Argentina

hello there

quite an unusual, and indeed unexpected, look you see, headline story over in that newspaper they call the Daily Mail today, dear reader....

i am going to assume that they will fix this headline at some stage, but for now we can all look upon this as-is screenshot and marvel at Argentina's very impressive result against Argentina.

and yes, i know "nobody reads the Daily Mail" is what populists will be shouting as loud as they can right now. i am still somewhat baffled as to how it gets more "hits" than most other newspaper sites combined, then.

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

Saturday, July 25, 2015

the Guttenberg oppression continues

hi there

you hardly need me, look you see, to tell you that 2015 was, in the hearts and minds of all, the year that Steve Guttenberg was to be once again be the most celebrated actor in cinema. in an otherwise mediocre looking year for movies, many of us were looking forward to seeing Lavalantula, a cinematic spectacle which promised to be the best movie of the year, if not decade or century.

Lavalantula is, as you are aware, more than a film. it's the hugely anticipated reunion of three of the most celebrated members of the cast of the first four Police Academy films, of which Steve Guttenberg is of course the second most important.

excitement is such that everyone on earth is looking to see the trailer for this film. the makers, however, do not care about this, and have blocked virtually every country on the planet from being able to see it.

it's this short-sighted, narrow minded approach which feeds piracy. i am sorry to see that the universal importance of the return of Guttenberg has been lost on the makers and distributors of this movie.

if you are lucky enough to be able to see this trailer, or the movie, enjoy!

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

unknown pleasures - atari 2600 Gremlins

hello there

i was at something of a loose end this afternoon, look you see, so i switched on one of them Atari emulator devices on that netbook i use from time to time. i have absolutely no idea if such things are legal or condoned for use (Atari emulators, not netbooks), but i believe that i've got what i consider to be a very good relationship with the Japanese, so i am sure they won't mind.

scrolling through the many thousands of games available for this emulator i discovered one that i had no idea had ever existed. it was called Gremlins and i decided to give it a bash, on the off chance that it was in some way related to the 80s film of the same name. as it turns out, it was.

i had no idea at all that Atari were still making game cartridges in 1984. this was, after all, the era of the Commodore 64, a powerful computer and gaming device which had about 16 times the power of the Atari 2600. even the humble ZX Spectrum, as crap as it was, could claim to have 12 times the power of the Atari. and yet, of course, games on the Atari were far more enjoyable than on the Spectrum, mostly as things could be more than one colour at a time on the games.

the game itself is somewhat advanced and pretty much "out there" by usual Atari standards. it looks good, plays well and it is fairly easy to work out what you need to do in it. even if, as is the case here, what you need to do in the game bears little or no relation to the events of the film on which it is based.

here's a quick look at stage 1 for you. as in, yes, there is more than one stage - another rare thing for the Atari.

what do you have to do exactly? well, you control that smart dude in blue pants, who is presumably one of the main characters off of the film. for some reason a load of them mogwai things are on the roof of a house, and they are falling off it. also, for some reason, there are a whole load of hamburgers in the garden.

the game must take place after midnight, for if one of the mogwai things eats one of the hamburgers, they get transformed into them cocoon things (not Steve Guttenberg style ones) which sees them reborn as gremlins.

a bit of video of stage 1? sure, why not, since i had the iTwat off of Spiros on the go for some class Commodore 64 images of it all.

i must confess it has been a few years since i watched Gremlins, but i don't remember a bit where one of the characters caught ll of these fuzzy creatures in the hope of stopping them getting to the hamburgers that were for some reason all over the garden. i mean, i certainly remember them eating after midnight in the film, hence them becoming gremlins and further hence the title of the film.

what happens if you catch all of the mogwai that are falling? you get a load of points. you don't stop them getting to the burgers and going on to be non-Guttenberg cocoons, though. that would rob you of moving on to the second stage, or if you like stage 2, of the game.

erm, yeah. stage 2, or if you like the second stage, sees you stood on a plain somewhere, with a gun. the cocoons hatch, suspiciously human sized gremlins pop out of them and start running at you. you must shoot them, or you die.

if that sounds rather more like a Death Wish or Cobra sort of thing, i would agree with you. again, it has been some time since i saw the film, but i don't recall any sort of Dirty Harry like exploits or shenanigans where a lone dude stands and just shoots at them as the gremlins hatched. if there was a scene like that, then the gremlins probably wouldn't have gone on a house trashing rampage and the film would probably have been about forty minutes long, give or take.

weirdly, the scene echoes one or two moments of Aliens, where all them boss marines go mental shooting at the cocoons before or as they hatch in order to stop them facehuggers from knacking them. perhaps James Cameron was one of the few to own this cartridge, quite liked this second stage and decided to incorporate it into his movie. nice one, if so.

what happened in stage one, as far as i can work out, had little or no bearing on what happens in stage two. whether i caught all the mogwai (or whatever) or whether i left them to just fill their boots with burgers, i always went on to the same number of non-Guttenberg cocoons in stage two, and the gremlins always hatched at the same rate, running at me at the same speed.

what happens after you have shot to death all the gremlins in stage two? well, first off you feel like you've achieved something, as it can get quite tricky, and after that it's straight back for another go at stage 1.

and this goes on repeat until you die, or run out of lives, and you get the game over screen in pretty smart off of the movie font letters...

that Atari made this game at all was what you would call a balls out move. by 1984 the company was virtually bust. this was partially because everyone had moved onto better machines, like the Commodore 64, but mostly because they had bankrupt themselves with that very bad, infamous game based on ET The Extraterrestrial. to have a go at another Spielberg related movie in order to turn their fortunes around screams of that "keep calm and carry on" slogan which was recently popular.

like the ET game, the Gremlins game had little or nothing to do with the actual film on which it was based, bar the best type of similar looking character rendering the programmers could pull off with 4kb of memory space to play with. unlike ET, this game is actually rather smart, and is fun to play.

as i said, i had no idea that this even existed, so i assume it's pretty straightforward to say i never had it. although we still had our Atari 2600 in working order when it came out, it was limited to use on the classic games - Oink!, Keystone Cops (or Capers), River Raid, Pac-Man and that smart Empire Strikes Back game. for new games, my brother and i looked only at ones for the Commodore 64 or ZX Spectrum, as we had access to both of them.

i'm led to believe that Atari did not really market or push this game, or release it on a wide basis, so there's every chance that even if i had known it existed and for some reason looked for it i probably would not have found it for sale anywhere north of London. whilst the game is pretty smart, i somehow doubt it would have been considered smart enough to save either the machine or the company at the time.

if you had and still have the cartridge of this game, it's probably worth a small fortune. you may well want to go and get it valued or appraised, or maybe just play it.

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

Thursday, July 23, 2015


hi there

i had, look you see, a bit of a whim last night. i fancied watching a film, and so consulted the somewhat large amount of movies that i have acquired over the last year or so for fees ranging from 49p to £1. as it happens, one of the more expensive ones, Husk, is what i selected.

a spoiler free review would be that the £1 i paid for the blu-ray disc (yes, really) was worth it, as it was a decent enough sort of horror fright-fest which, despite a somewhat predictable plot, made me do a little bit of a jolt-jump with a mild shock sort of thing.

for the rest of this post, then, let's call on our old friend the scrolling text for a warning........


you've been warned, then.

plot? it pretty much cuts to the chase in this regard, which is somewhat understandable with the film having all of 80 minutes allocated to it as a running time. 5 members of the youth of America are in a car, driving along by some corn field or other. they are chatting about the usual stuff American kids chat about, when all of a sudden a whole load of crows - a murder, i believe the expression is - twats into the windscreen and absolutely knacks it. the kids crash into a ditch as a consequence.

four of the kids seem OK despite the crash, yet one of their number is missing. at certain points the remaining ones decide to stand around and smoke, go look for help, and indeed go looking for the missing one of their merry gang. then all sorts of strange, spooky and scary things happen.

for the most part, then, you get to spend some quality time with any number of the 5 kids who are essentially the only cast members in this movie. it's a very stereotypical Breakfast Club type of thing, with 5 distinctly different personalities on the go - personalities that would not normally be friends in the real world. but this is a  movie.

pictured above is one of the kids, the "driver" as it were, who has a knife. he looks like someone has taken the dna, or if you like sperm, of Dennis Hopper and Richard Hammond off of Top Gear, thrown it into one of them massive hadron collider things and decided that the net result should be an actor. in performance, alas, he leans rather closer to Hammond than Hopper in acting skills, but he's not too bad.

actually, they are all fairly decent, or at least acceptable. when first introduced to the cast, i had fears that they were going to annoy the p!ss out of me and i would switch it off, but this turned out not to be the case.

sorry if this review bounces around a bit. there are, it has to be said, gaping holes and massive problems with some of the plot of this movie, as brief and as intended to "just get on with it" as it all is. like, for instance, why exactly the kid with glasses keeps getting flashbacks as to why what is happening to them all is indeed happening.

yeah, that's him in Commodore 64 mode. for some reason, never given, from time to time he goes into a trance and sees the past history of the corn field and assorted houses they find, witnessing things that may or may not say what's going on and possibly give clues as to what's the best thing to do to get out of it all partially alive. if you like pointing out such issues and errors, IMDB is your friend, as that is where people can look and feel as proud as a chicken that has laid an egg by dismissing everything they see in a film.

weirdly, the character i liked the most was the one i thought i would seriously dislike. the "jock" sort of character has all them smug physical characteristics of that twat Vince Vaughan - you know a face that just screams "please punch me in this". as it turns out, decent character played by a decent actor.

a flick through the cast on IMDB suggests that most, if not all, have gone onwards from this movie to bigger and dare i say better things. traditionally, that was the point of these halfway decent, low budget horror films. from the trash that was The Hand Oliver Stone went on to make many classics. Peter Jackson used his experiences making some smart, cheap horrors to do all them films with midgets and rings in them. and so on.
my biggest issue with Husk was that it didn't live up to the promise of the 18 certificate it has. i had forgotten what a bunch of namby pamby, fanny nancy boys the BBFC can be. although the film is most certainly not for family viewing, there's no sex or nudity, no particularly gruesome or graphic violence and gore, and only the mildest of psychological shocks. it really does not warrant being made as exciting as an 18 - i would have thought 15 - 17 year olds were the perfect market for this movie, looking for something in it with cheap thrills to watch on a weekend. if that's the sort of thing teenagers still do.

on the disc were some trailers for other films from the same studio - After Dark or something - that actually look smart. Fertile Ground was one, which i also have on disc here, and The Task was the other, which i will most certainly buy if i see.

as for buying this one, well, for some reason a while back Poundland had a mountain of brand new blu-ray discs going for £1 each. that's when i bought this one and, if i remember, Fertile Ground. as Poundland have a habit of randomly stocking stuff like that, well, that's why i try and call in there on a reasonably frequent basis.

some of the film making techniques, alas, screamed throwing every trick the director could think of at it in order to see what works. this was problematic when "shaky cam" was used in a chase through a dense and crowded corn field. i appreciate that it was done this way to try and emulate the sense of fear and terror of those running, but the key here was that the field was dense with corn. all you really saw was smears of green all over the screen. also, as mentioned, the film did make me jump once or twice, but it could have done it a few times more too with a few seconds trimmed in scenes that were trying to create tension.

Husk was a halfway decent idea for a film, made purely to entertain and showcase some above average talent. unless you are a mad keen horror film fanatic i wouldn't say go out of your way to try and find it, but if you stumble upon it on or around the price i did, it's 80 minutes or so of time you won't particularly regret watching it. as it's unlikely that i will be watching it again, if anyone who knows me and knows how to get hold of me wants to have a gander, get in touch via the usual channels and i will send the disc in the post at the weekend.

erm, yeah, whoops - a couple of weeks ago i watched that Dracula Untold thing and have yet to review it here. as it seems i for some reason review every film i watch here, i will write of it eventually.

happy watching, if you do!

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

the return of FAGS by SPIROS

hello there

for those of you who are for some reason interested in the specifics of the title of this particular blog post, look you see, do feel free to click on the pretty colours here and see the first, second and indeed third original editions of this infrequent yet weirdly regular topic. i would suggest, however, that you read this post all the way through before making any commitment to click, because it's not like the other posts are going to be all that different.

Spiros in general is a gent who, as regular readers will not need telling, tends to get quite excitable from time to time. a thing which excites him a very great deal indeed is finding what he considers to be peculiar, unusual and different cigarettes, which he forwards on for me to try. this, i am pretty sure you have guessed, is something that has happened once more fairly recently.

if you think you are looking at a packet of 10 Richmond Superkings, that's because, ladies and gentlemen, you are indeed looking at such, unless for some reason you have become fixated on the franked stamp also visible in the picture.

had i previously smoked Richmond cigarettes before? no. as you can see right there, the price for 10 of them is £4.14. that's quite expensive for my blood, thank you. i will stick with the cheaper ones, be it Winston when i am lucky enough to find them, or the random ways of Carlton when i am not quite so lucky. 

i had no idea what to expect when i got them, to be honest. Spiros for some reason had gotten it into his head that Richmond cigarettes were intended for a considerably more homosexual market than most fags, so i anticipated that they would either be menthol, or rather light in dangerous chemical and compound content.

as it turns out, as i think you can see here, they compare very favourably indeed to my preference these days, Winston. and yes, oh how i would love to be able to afford Marlboro at all, never mind a frequent basis.

if tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide are any sort of guide as to how strong a cigarette is, and as a consequence how class they are, then as you can see by 0.1mg of something or other the Richmond are marginally superior to Winston. or, if you want to look at it from another perspective, they are marginally worse for you, i guess. 

with this being the fourth edition of fags by Spiros, i should perhaps have called this one Citizens On Patrol, should i not? that's the one most fondly remembered for being - to date, and never say never - the final appearance by Steve Guttenberg in a Police Academy film. to say that they all went south after his departure from the series is both and understatement and really saying something.

lacking - some might well say severely so - with Richmond is, it seems, the glamorous sense of guaranteed danger when compared to Winston.

as you can see, Winston hold the promise of certain death. Richmond, meanwhile, only offer to "seriously harm" you and people near you. 

i suppose, if it were a choice between just these two alone, which one you would select is all down to what you want to achieve with them. if you're ok with the idea of just seriously harming a few people then Richmond is the way to go. if, however, you are intent on death, then the Winston it is.

at this stage, then, i suppose i should point out that smoking is a very, very silly thing to do. it's not widely accepted or smiled upon despite being legal. as point of fact, there are many hundreds of illegal activities that people engage in which are considered far more socially acceptable than smoking, going on the stares i get, the tut tut motions, and the put on coughs certain twats affect when they see me, usually on the other side of the road from them, smoking. so please do not read this blog as some sort of endorsement or promotion of cigarettes; rather just a review sort of thing. besides, as i have said before, if you are looking at me as some sort of role model or guide for life, you have major problems and smoking is but a slight one of them.

proof, as they say, is in the pudding. and, indeed in this case, in some nice quality Commodore 64 mode with scan lines on pictures.

how are they? very pleasant, actually. as in, if a packet of 19 0r 20 of them were south of £7 a pop i would possibly smoke them on a relatively frequent basis, against all my efforts of quitting / cutting down considerably. i mean, look, they are not Marlboro, but what they are is pretty decent.

i did, however, get a distinct sense of unease as i enjoyed these ten. not out of concern of harming others around me, seriously or otherwise, but because my thoughts were drawn to the intended market for Richmond.

to my mind, Richmond cigarettes are a brand which was intended to be purchased and used, or if you like smoked, in London alone. specifically, i think that Richmond superkings were intended only for senior members of the constabulary. i could imagine the boss, or gaffer, sitting by the holding cells of a police station in the 1970s, happily smoking them as the PCs and so forth under his charge merrily set about beating a confession for some crime or other out of the first gypsy, homosexual or black person they happened to find walking anywhere near the scene of the crime.  it's not a pleasant image, and it doesn't sound at all like a pleasant time, in particular if you happened to be a black homosexual gypsy. however, times change, and it would be quite wrong to insist on holding their use then against the makers of Richmond now.

Spiros, for the record, went to great lengths to get me these Richmond to try. he could not find them in a shop naturally, and so instead requested that his preferred proprietor of choice get some in stock. the proprietor agreed, on the condition that Spiros agreed to purchase all the stock he got should they not sell well amongst his other patrons.

there is every chance, then, that i will be getting further Richmond in the post off of Spiros. unless i go down to London again and collect them, which is actually possible, for i am presently bereft of Fortnum & Mason fancy marmalade.

at this point it might be worth pointing out that if you want to get something in the post off of Spiros, then as far as i know the win with Spiros contest is still on the go. Spiros has even set up one of them fancy chrome book computers to handle the avalanche of emails he anticipated in getting from his many fans who wanted something from him. so far, however, to my knowledge he has only had mails offering him cock pills, as well as a few helpful hints from google by google telling him how to best use google to do google things.

and, well, that's that. if you were for some reason wondering if Richmond superkings were worth trying and you are a smoker anyway, then my view is that they are pretty decent.

hope this has been of help!

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

the broken pencil

hello there

yes, look you see, this title is descriptive of this post as in the sense of being "pointless". i warn you now, before you read on, so you can't moan at me after the fact if you do indeed read on. it's all about, in short, why exactly a car is all of a sudden once again a thing in my life, should that information help you determine whether or not you read on.

of the many, many things i was all excited about upon my return home - and yes, i know i have been back home for close to 20 months now, but it's still exciting - was the prospect of not having to have a car, ever. life in South Africa without a car was a nightmare, and a good way to gamble with your life. as indeed was having a car there, but that's another story. the British public transport system, you see, is world famous and celebrated as something which removes the need to have a car if you don't want one. or, at the least it was.

in my time back, public transport - specifically the buses - has gone from fine, to workable, to changes to life needed to be made to use them to now, which is changed in such a way that they are effectively forcing as many as they can to stop using them. so here follows, then, a b!tch and moan of the changes, how very, very fortunate i am to have had at first support and then the chance to make alternate arrangements, and what i've done to vent my anger.

yes, to make it all a bit bearable, i have indeed used Commodore 64 mode for select pictures. you're welcome.

my initial daily timetable was workable, although some of my colleagues looked upon me in disbelief. at first, in order to be at verk on time, 9am, i needed to be out of the house at about 7:20am to catch a bus which would get me to town an hour before verk started. it was that or get one only 20 minutes later, but get to town some 20 minutes after the starting time of verk. going home was OK; the bus left 10 minutes after verk finished, a gentle jog got me there and i was home by 6:30pm. which wasn't ideal, sure, but hey.

then they changed the schedule. the change meant that i had to be out of the house at 7am to get a bus to get me into town an hour or so before verk started. the later ones were changed, too, to an extent that in theory i would get home at around 6:40pm, but usually it was a good deal closer to 7pm that i made it home. yeah, that's 12 hours each day out of home. quite a sacrifice, you may or may not agree. at this point i should stress the length of my journey. from home to verk is all of 8.2 miles, or if you like around 14km. and the bus took 60 minutes to make that journey.

when the boss at verk learned of this, he asked if me working a bit more in the morning & at lunch, leaving earlier on an afternoon, wouldn't help. this it did, and i was very appreciative of being able to do this. i was able to get a bus leaving town at, in theory, 5:20pm, taking 50 or usually more minutes to make that epic trek.

but then, wouldn't you know, they changed the timetable again, which took away entirely the 5:20pm service.

that's the new timetable, farcically using Roseberry Topping as an advertising point. it's a disgrace that Arriva have been allowed to use that picture, since it is buses past it which they have so ruthlessly cut. ruthlessly, and with little or no notification. it was only when i saw, by chance, an A4 printout stuck on the side of a bus saying that "changes were being made" that i was able to go through their user un-friendly site and find these changes.

basically, then, i was left with a choice - verk less, if at all, and get less money, or spend a lot less time at home with my family. this was some tough question, as for some reason both the people at verk and my family actually rather like me, and think it is pretty bearable having me around. this ends, as you know, with me getting a car, and so verk and my family get a pretty decent amount of me. more time with me, as point of fact, that i would probably want to have with me, but there you go.

i did indeed, as point of fact, ask Arriva, in particular their "commercial division" who apparently have the final say in everything they do, if they felt that i should spend less time working or less time with my family as a consequence of their secret changes. they have not, thus far, answered this question. go figure.

have i done my usual thing and written off to people about my displeasure? oh yes, indeed i have. they have stopped replying now, but the responses from Arriva themselves were fascinating. i've kept all the mails, but i am not sure i would wish to bore you with a whole load of "copy and paste" stuff that's mostly standard, stock answers, sent with no thought or care.

the most interesting part of the correspondence from Arriva, other than their lack of answering if i should spend more time with my family or waiting for buses after verk, was their dishonest presentation of changes they had made. their big justification for making the changes that they had was that the "changes to timetables made in February 2014 were not working". this disregards entirely the fact that they made other changes, in July 2014, as you've had an insight into above with my daily routine. it would be fair to say more people gave up on the buses due to their awkward times (and lengthy journey) after July 2014 rather than the ones made in February 2014. it's interesting that Arriva want to pretend that they made no such changes.

requests for information on why exactly they changed bus times to such an impractical nature were met with mixed results. to clarify, they now have a bus running on my route at 4:50pm and then at 5:50pm. most people at verk, i think you will find, finish at 5pm or 5:30pm. to whose benefit was the 4:50pm one?

Arriva won't answer that. in the very same mail that they make it clear they are running at a loss and cannot make a profit from buses, they say they are not prepared to reveal their "research" into what time to run buses as this would "give away secret business information that is sensitive and cannot be seen by competitors". erm, yeah. considering they are the only bus company operating on that route i am not sure who or what they view as competition. also, if i had ambitions to run a company at a loss, i am fairly confident i could do it without access to trade secrets, thanks.

as for why they elected to keep the changes secret, they said that they had notified councils some 56 days prior to the changes, and had made the information available "on social media streams". which social media streams, i wonder, for Facebook was unblemished by such information.

in response to this, i pointed out that i did buy a 4 weekly pass of them. i gave them my home address, my email address, my home phone number and my mobile phone number. i always ticked "yes" to the question "please send me information and updates about changes to routes". i asked them why it was, then, that i got no messages at all from them about changes to some 16 services in my area. they have not answered this. who knows, then, what they consider to be updates and changes "important" enough to let the people who have asked to be notified know about them.

no, i didn't just contact Arriva. this is, after all, public transport, and so i wrote to Middlesbrough Council, North Yorkshire Council and, for good measure, my MP. all 3 have in fact responded, and within 10 days of my letters. well, it was an acknowledgement of receipt from the MP, but that's better than nothing.

in all cases the people from the council were, i believe sincerely, sympathetic to my plight, but - as i suspected would be the case - said that there was nothing they could do, as the matter was in the hands of Arriva and their "commercial division". rather bizarrely, North Yorkshire Council also sent me what appears to be tender and application forms to do the school bus routes for them, which i will give consideration to.

no, i don't expect buses to run at a time that happens to suit me. as i would like to think is evidenced in my lifestyle changes to accommodate buses - with the kind support of verk and the understanding of my family - i was happy to make changes. but a 12 hour day as a result of incomprehensible and unjustified changes to a bus timetable was rather too much to put up with, hence the car.

public transport is quite a bone of contention here in England, if not the whole of the UK. the whole point of deregulation, or if you like privatisation, of the buses and trains was to create competition that would ultimately benefit us, the public. instead, from what i read, the government over the years has had to throw more money in subsidies at buses and trains than they would have spent if they had remained nationalised, and yet somehow all the bus and train companies make huge profits. also, as anyone will tell you, ticket prices for anything you would consider to be public transport have just gone north, and go that way frequently.

many are calling for British Rail to be brought back. i can certainly understand why. i hope this campaign stretches to say bring back a nationalised bus system too.

a closer look at the acknowledgement off of my MP in Commodore 64 mode? sure.

yeah, sure. a lot of this is very first world. oh, poor, poor, pitiful me. many would say i am fortunate to have a job, and that even if it did keep me out of the house 12 hours a day i should be grateful and thankful as there are many far worse off. of course there are, but that's not my fault, and i fail to see how sitting and thinking of how many people are worse off than me would magically give me more time, either at verk or with my family. hence the car.

i wouldn't really claim or presume to be some sort of crusader, but leave me out of this equation for a moment. there are a great many people who simply can't just buy a car to deal with this disappearance of decent, reliable public transport. there are people who need buses and trains to go to and from work, or verk if like me they believe the word is best said with an Austrian accent. there are people that need buses to get to hospital and doctor appointments, to get to school and college, to get to shops, and quite frankly just to go and visit people.

i cannot understand why the public transport system here has been allowed to fall into such a sorry state. it is, as far as i can see, run by a company clearly not fit for purpose - by their own admission in mails to me they cannot successfully serve the public they are supposed to. those of us who, for whatever reason, preferred to use public transport - as well as those who had no choice but to - have had to endure paying more for less, and it looks like it is all going to get a lot less as time goes by. the next changes are planned, from the mails i have got, for April 2016. i will not be surprised to see some routes cancelled all together.

and so that's the end of my bus adventures. no more bus books, no more bus vibes. no more exciting times of buses breaking down, no more seeing and meeting interesting people, no more enjoying bus drivers throttle a clutch to death. hey ho, it was sometimes fun whilst it lasted.

if you're reading this after also being affected by the changes made in the last week, all i can say is i am sorry that there's no practical help here, but also that you are not alone in your frustration and anger.

i've lived in a world where public transport is either unsafe, unreliable or simply doesn't exist. trust me, it is not a very nice or pleasant world to get around in. it beats me why the powers that be think it's OK to let the same be true here.

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

what happens if i press this one?

hi there

well, yes. i should, look you see, be making more effort to update this blog on a far more frequent basis at the moment. i know a few of you are rather excited about me driving on a regular basis, and look forward to tales of woe, collision and indeed elk avoidance. sorry, no incidents to report as such as yet, and not really a great deal of interest to share here.

connecting the two above, however, gives me reason to post something and pose a question.

as i drove home today, in the midst of a traditional English summer, i was struck by how dark it was, due to the warm, elegant overcast weather conditions we are enjoying. i was further struck by the fact that most other motorists were driving around with their lights on, so that they may be all the more visible to other, or if you like fellow, motorists, as well as pedestrians and elk and that sort of thing.

i contemplated - briefly - putting the lights on in my car, to do a sort of "solidarity" like thing, i suppose; some act that might make me briefly feel like i fit in somewhere in the world and belong.

the brief ways of my contemplation were mostly as a result of my confusion as to how the lights actually work, which came not long after i established just where Mercedes, or whoever, decided it would be a good idea to put the light switch.

i am at something of a loss here, dear reader. i am used to a kind of a twirly knob sort of thing, or indeed button, that one may with ease use to deploy, ignite or switch on lights. this is all dials, numbers and turny switches, this. it has left me confused, bewildered and, if i am a little bit honest, somewhat scared of what will happen if i press any or all of them.

if anyone reading this has some sort of easy way of explaining to me how exactly i just switch "normal" lights on, and indeed how i switch them off at a later stage, i would greatly appreciate it. winter, as some tv show has been saying for a few years, is coming, and it's not like that is going to make the skies any lighter.

yes, i would agree, or indeed concede, that my usual approach to lights on cars is that they are entirely superfluous. you only really need them if you are a complete fanny or right nancy boy, or otherwise want to draw attention to yourself. "ooh, hey, look at me! i am fancy and posh as i have lights!". that's the same logic them show off posers have when they put their indicators on; like i am supposed to care where they are going. however, here there seems to be a great emphasis on people driving legally and safely, so i thought i would give it a go.

and yes, stopping at red lights, and sticking to your designated side of the road, does kind of go against all that i ever saw on the streets of Johannesburg.

i look forward to being, as it were, illuminated by your guide on what to do with all them switches, then.

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

Sunday, July 19, 2015

the random seven

hello there

yeah, one of them "keep this blog ticking over" posts, look you see. sorry, i probably have one or two serious whines and gripes to post and that, but i'm still struggling with ebola laced, scurvy strength man flu that has sarin gas in it. that, and no real energy to write, alas.

here we go, then, with seven random images from the past (as opposed to the future) that i have culled for your viewing pleasure.

first off, then, and yet another one of those things that i have gone "oh yeah, what happened to them" about. that would be the marvels and wonders of the Christmas Hamper.

actually, two things happened, i believe. one is that all them shops that are around now started issuing "saving stamps" and the likes for use on a traditional Christmas shop, and indeed started selling their own hampers.

the second, of course, would be that big massive hamper company, Farepak i think, going bust and loads and loads of people missing out on their Christmas hamper and losing money.

my memories of Christmas hampers would be ones of vague wonder. i can remember Mum & Dad being quite chuffed as and when theirs arrived, for it was full of all sorts of exotic, unusual and rare items - mostly that one would eat - which you would not have during the year. this was all in an era, of course, where there was less choice about things that you ate, with something off the beaten track somewhat difficult to access.

now, of course, once can go absolutely mental any time they like, getting anything they care to think of from anywhere in the world, any time you like.

is the lack of this special, rare stuff loaded Christmas hamper one of the reasons why Christmas no longer feels as magical and special as it once did? maybe, i guess. nothing seems seasonal beyond the weather anymore, really, so no one time feels all that more special than the other i suppose. it could be that sort of thing, i guess, or it could just be me getting old. 

i did ask, late last year, if no one does them hampers anymore, and i got a sort of a "no, not really" answer to it from everyone. as mentioned above, i suppose it's sort of all why exactly would you buy a box, case or if you like hamper of stuff for Christmas when all the stuff in it was stuff you had all the time, anyway?

another thing that people would no longer do is go to an actual store and rent a movie for the night to watch, hence you no longer seeing smart, full page adverts like this.

boss that they used Commando to promote the idea of going down the street and renting a video, even if they downplayed the name of the film somewhat. i am pretty sure that CBS FOX released Aliens round the same time too on tape, which must have made for a bumper time down at the rental store.

it's all this "streaming" and download business now, of course, and we have a generation that will never own a movie or album on an actual, physical thing that was created purely to house it. they seem happy enough with all that, but i do kind of miss the days of browsing boxes, looking for a film to rent with mates.

when you rented a video, you of course required something to watch it on. and what better, you may well ask, than a smart four head JVC machine?

i have absolutely no idea what the modern day equivalent of increasing the heads in a video machine would be. i don't think you can shove more than one laser into a DVD or Blu Ray. i suppose for all that streaming stuff it would be increasing the RAM or something?

just as with vinyl, there's a bit of romance to the old video machine. it's easy to forget how groundbreaking it was, especially outside of America where people only had 3 or maybe 4 TV channels to choose from. although from America one got stories that remain legend to this day - like how it was almost a contractual obligation for any British artist going to New York to call in at John Lennon's apartment and watch his video copy of The Exorcist, a film that at the time the British censors told Warner to "not even bother" trying to get the film released in the UK. watching a stream or download of a movie that theoretically anyone could access from any part of he world doesn't have quite the same "cool" ring to it. hey ho.

now, as my occasional reviews of things like Lynx body sprays will tell you, i am reasonably rather comfortable with exploring my sexuality by means of trying and testing out different scents from time to time. i've not, so far as i am aware, ever tried this one before, but i would be keen to give it a go.

i have the oddest feeling that if this ad has not appeared on this blog before, then at least another ad for this 'musk cologne' has. sorry about that, if it is the case.

can you still even get this stuff? probably, although one suspects that they might not be so keen to promote it with horns these days, with that sort of thing creating the wrong image, apparently.

i am pretty sure i saw this Orca film on the BBC once, and my memory of it was pretty much limited to a rather graphic and harrowing scene of a whale (Orca, i guess) giving birth. i certainly don't recall it being as awesome or as exciting as this poster implied it would be.

i've just checked the news and i am disappointed, as an aside, to see that neither Alistair Cook nor any of the other so-called members of the England cricket team have been arrested yet. this is frustrating, and shows how law and order has broken down. they are clearly guilty of something, and it would not have been all that difficult for the constabulary to find them in the dressing room of Lord's and charge them.

returning to Orca, and to say it was a cheap cash-in on the back of the success of Jaws would be to be of the logic that says The Empire Strikes Back was prompted by the success of Battle Beyond The Stars. that's two quality actors that Orca had attached to it. no doubt Jaws prompted money to be made available for Orca, but they made it properly at least. these days a "cheap cash in" film usually means some straight to DVD affair made for $1million and starring a member of the Busey family. as in we cannot, surely, be far off from seeing Metal Man, about Terry Stalk who is a billionaire inventor that makes a class metal man suit, starring Jake or Gary, being released.

cigarettes which are named after a specific place are something that are not new. they are, however, something that Spiros has recently discovered, and he is very excited about getting for me some fags that are named after places of consequence. i suspect Salem shall not be a brand he accesses, but you never know. i kind of hope he does, as they look smart.

i would be, like, totes keen and down on the Salem life, as presented and illustrated in that advert. it looks awesome, man - reasonably bright coloured shirts, outstanding strides, babes and rods.

looking at that advert i can say i really, really miss soft pack cigarettes. you just get box packets here in England, with that flip top lid on the go. soft pack cigarettes are the natural way to have them, and i wish i could get packets of them with ease.

yeah, i am supposed to be doing all that quitting / cutting down considerably thing still, dear reader, but hey, there you go. i will get around to it, or nature shall intervene i suppose.

finally, then, a rather smart looking celebratory plate for all that Star Wars stuff. it says it is in celebration of the 15th anniversary of it, so i am guessing this is off of 1992?

no, it's not as smart or as classy as that Top Gear Presenter Of Hearts plate that i won off of The Viz, but then what is, dear reader, what is.

it's only about four or five months before Star Wars Episode VII : Mission To Moscow gets released, isn't it? that would mean we are only four or five months away from hearing how Disney, rather than George Lucas, has destroyed the childhood memories of assorted 40 - 50 year olds living in Momma's basement in the more select areas of America. can't wait.

anyway, let me go and take a handful of random pills, see if that sorts out all of this manflu business that i have.

more as and when i have stuff of passing interest!

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

legends of cinema

hello there

sorry for the sparse, somewhat infrequent updates of late, look you see. i've just not really had all that much of interest to post here. which, when you consider what i do believe to be worthwhile to shove on here from time to time, is saying something i suppose. saying what? don't ask me, you are the one reading this.

it is them school holiday things on the go now. i did have a plan for how the boys could spend part, if not all, of this holiday, but apparently they don't let you lease children to coal mines anymore. rather shortsighted, methinks, and best that Osborne character not whine about having no money if he is going to merrily discard such a potential windfall.

anyway, i went along to my favourite shop today to get some films for the boys to watch, on the off chance that the English summer fails like, for instance, the English top order in the second Test today. never mind chaps, it's only the Ashes, don't stress about being 30-4.

i did get some proper and very good films, but i also got these too. these films which blogger has elected, once again, to rotate and upload in a way that i did not intend to. have fun straining your neck to read the names of these films.  

oh yes indeed, dear reader, i quite agree with you. i truly have got some epic, mega, brilliant movies here, and each one of them cost be about 25p or so each. that's the kind of once in a lifetime deal that you simply cannot walk away from.

it would be on the whole, strictly speaking, not quite as incorrect as it is somewhat correct to assume that i did or did not simply grab a whole load of discs for sale from the kids and family section of my favourite shop. i would neither encourage nor discourage a view that i made efforts to carefully select films that i thought would be good or suitable. you are welcome to assume that either scenario happened, or possibly a combination of all three.

anyway, on to a look at the films in some more detail, then. well, whatever detail i can think of.

Chuck Norris is not an actor that one would usually associate with children or family intended films, what with his penchant for doing them smart roundhouse kicks to absolutely batter anyone that gets in the way of his doing whatever it is he does in his movies. this one, Forest Warrior, is billed as a family movie, however, and so i am sure it will be fine for all to watch.

what's it all about? for the most part you really know as much as i do by looking at the box. it looks like Chuck plays some sort of class Forest Warrior dude, who teams up with a bunch of kids to protect a mountain, and presumably forest, from someone or other who wants to do something or other with the mountain or forest that they all disagree with.

i might try and make the effort to watch this one myself, actually. the character Chuck Norris plays is called McKenna, and that's an awesome name, man. also, the write up suggests that he has the ability in the film to shape-shift, by which i think they mean that he can change into a wolf, a bear or any other sort of animal what Bad News mentioned as being a groovy potential sound effect for Excalibur. an owl, then. and a bat too, maybe. but obviously not a cow.

also, to my knowledge, it is physically impossible for Chuck Norris to be in a film in which he does not perform a smart roundhouse kick on someone to knock them out and make them stop doing whatever it is that is upsetting him. i want to see how that gets handled in a family movie.

next up, then, is Home Team. this would seem to be a film that exists for, at worst, no other reason than to stand as a big massive "f*** you" to those who believe that Steve Guttenberg's career is or was limited to the Police Academy quadrilogy and the Cocoon trilogy.

yes, before you get all Australian about it, yes i am aware that usually Cocoon is not referred to as a trilogy as such. as far as i am aware the only thing really stopping anyone calling the Cocoon films a trilogy is the absence, or if you like lack, of a third movie. that to me is a really minor concern, and there's nothing to say that they won't make a third one eventually.

plot? it seems to be a bit of a homage to the likes of The Longest Yard and Mean Machine, to be honest, with a little bit of real life too, if stories as to why certain managers were hired in the Premier League are to be believed. Guttenberg, in a role that i suspect will show off the full limitations of his acting range, plays a former footballer who has massive gambling debts. his punishment for this is to manage a children's football team, which is an interesting approach to debt management and payment servicing - i wonder if someone has thought to mention it to Greece at all in the last few weeks?

will i be watching this film? unlikely. i want to remember Guttenberg as "him off of Police Academy" and "him off of Cocoon", as well of course as "him who was not considered to be as good as George Clooney when they were looking at casting a new Batman".

finally, then, perhaps the greatest legend of all time in terms of cinema, Bury Reynolds. it seems that The Boy From Wolf Mountain generally, unlike the previous two films, gets rather good reviews, and is quite fondly thought of by those who watch it.

plot? it seems an orphan is sent to live on Wolf Mountain (yeah, so that title seems wrong) with his uncle, who happens to be Burt Reynolds. there he finds an injured abandoned baby wolf, or if you like cub, which he nurses back to health and befriends.

this all sounds like one of them soppy, sentimental films with a good heart - the kind that i would not normally select to watch by choice as such, but yet find myself watching to the end as and when they appear on TV.

i do rather like most of the actors mentioned in this legends post, but i do reserve a special place for Burt. for years and years he has entertained and, despite the ridicule and parody thrown at him, he is a damned good actor. it remains the single biggest disgrace of that Oscars thing that he did not win the best supporting award for Boogie Nights, in which he gave a performance worthy of any so-called "proper" actor you care to name.

now that i think on, a week or so ago we watched that Dracula Untold business, and as recently as last night i for some reason watched Alien vs Predator again, for it is not quite so bad as all them basement dwelling Americans who are really good at shouting on the internet claimed it was. i should probably write something or other about these ones, then, but for now i trust you have found these insights into three films that i have not seen most useful.

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

bus vibes #25 - beach boys, beastie boys, bye

hello there

well, then, look you see, so it ends. my last regular, verk related bus odyssey was way back last friday; apologies for only getting around to a comment and review on what vibes i opted to go with for this final adventure.

i did, as it happens, put some thought and consideration into just what it is should listen to on those last two journeys. as you, however, now know what i selected, assuming you noticed the title of this post, i shall save you the trouble of reading these thoughts and deliberations, instead just getting on with it.

for many years, as in the 80s and a substantial part of the 90s, i had a limited, or if you like ignorant, level of knowledge of The Beach Boys. i was aware of things like Surfin' USA and California Girls, and just assumed that all of their stuff was whimsical, somewhat throwaway pop all centred on giving an idyllic view of America. i was aware that Pet Sounds was an album routinely and frequently celebrated by musicians and the British music press, but i never bothered to give it a listen, assuming it would be just all American beach pop, describing how dudes were all perfect surfers and the ladies just fell in their laps.

and then, around 1997 or maybe 1998, i heard a song called God Only Knows on the soundtrack to the film Boogie Nights. i was somewhat surprised to learn that it was a song off of this album by The Beach Boys that people went on about, so off i went to explore.

it is with some consistency that this album, when magazines and websites are inclined to fill space, features very high up on lists of "best albums of all time", and frequently it is in the top position. it is not for me to argue with it being ranked very highly indeed, although i would be reluctant to declare any album as being the "single greatest ever" one. if a friend, someone i knew or a passing stranger came up to me and said "in my opinion Pet Sounds is the greatest album ever", i would say to them "i know where you are coming from and i dig your style, man".

what makes it so great? for a start it's a complete album, as in "all killer, no filler". i don't want to dive into this whole "concept album" business, but it does make sense that people do hear this one as the first 'concept' album as we understand the term today, as thematically everything is linked.  it doesn't tell a specific story in the sense of, say, Tommy or Misplaced Childhood, but it does tell a tale all the same.

that tale is a deeply introverted, introspective one by Brian Wilson, who i gather more or less forced through his vision of what this album should sound like, with the rest of the band being all but relegated to hired help. what is it that these insights all pertain or relate to? oh, the usual on a broad level - love, hate, life, death, laurel, hardy, peace, war, the world, everything in it. the trick is it's a poetically gifted artist opening his heart and mind and letting it all flow, rather than some contrived, colour by numbers stuff designed for commercial success.

to that end, i believe it was a financial failure in the States, although much loved and much bought in Britain. playing it makes it very easy to see why. whereas The Beach Boys are about as American as you can get, and much of the reference points on this particular album are unmistakably American, there's just this amazing English feel to how it all sounds. and i would, like totes, accept that i have that reaction due to this record influencing the next 5 - 6 years of British psychedelic pop, right up until the point of the hard hitting Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin sound dominating that which was not all the glam of Bowie and Bolan.

my favourite track off of the album? just to be awkward, the only non-Brian Wilson track on the record, Sloop John B. it's from a time when cover versions were done because an existing song expressed what the artist wanted to say better than they could write it themselves, and not just for commercial considerations. just as Crossroads is forever associated with Clapton and Cream, Hey Joe and All Along The Watchtower with Hendrix and Without You with Nilsson, i quite think it's the case that The Beach Boys took ownership of Sloop John B with their cover.

there are, approximately, 1001 different versions, variations and re-released packages of Pet Sounds out on release and available to buy. my advice? basically any CD, tape or lp that contains the original tracks of the album will do. extras are nice, but not essential - what made it onto the final release is that good that there's no chance of anything better than it being on a shelf or on a bit of tape somewhere.

and so, for the final ride, the second album proper off of the Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique.

i still have the original issue CD of this. my Grandma and Grandad who are sadly no longer with us bought it for me, and so for that reason if no other it would be treasured. that it happens to be one truly great album, of course, helps.

yeah, i know, it was slammed, panned and didn't sell well at all on release. i don't know, i heard it and i loved it, and i am glad that as years went by others came to appreciate it too.

Paul's Boutique is the personification of all the artistic brilliance hip hop and rap can be. samples are used as instrumentation rather than a lazy backdrop. lyrics switch from witty, funny and entertaining to harsh, sharp, critical, hard and damning in the break of a beat. it's as an exciting and edgy album now as it was, what, some 26 or so years ago when i first heard it. that takes some doing, that, i would think, by anyone's definition. not bad for a band that were written off as a gimmick with a novelty song called Fight For Your Right.

despite the predominant use of samples for their sound, the Beastie Boys were in fact accomplished musicians, and from time to time let that rip across records. here's a bit of that on a particularly hard hitting highlight on the album, Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun.

from what i can work out, modern day rap or if you like hip hop is all about displaying an on the whole unwarranted sense of entitlement, of being brazen and brash about how much money you are making off the absolute minimum level of work and talent, with the occasional stop off to make sure everyone knows how sorry you are that a mate got killed in a drive by shooting, for some reason using Sting to channel those emotions, in particular if someone has already beaten you to a Dolly Parton track. well, if the kids like that, then that's fine, but i think i really rather preferred it all with a bit more intelligence behind it, as given by the Beasties, and indeed the likes of Public Enemy and NWA.

and so that's that for bus vibes, then. car vibes instead? i really don't think so. it's going to be all Who, Frankie and U2, and i've probably written more than enough on them over the years here anyway. should anything of consequence come up on the car stereo, then sure, but it won't be regular.

i am really sorry that bus vibes didn't get as far as edition #69, as i was really looking forward to some super funky Prince. hey ho.

thanks for reading, and dig what you dig, man.

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