Sunday, January 31, 2016

classic album : let it bleed

hello there

time, look you see, for another one of them looks at an album i would consider to be one of the greatest ever recorded. you are all, as many have, over the years, very welcome indeed to disagree. also, as usual, i don't set out to give a definitive technical or historical account of this record; rather just the basics of a background and my reaction to it.

towards the central part of the end of last year i had the great pleasure of meeting some sort of ambassador from our province, along with the self-selected Viscount of Stockton. after we had completed our meeting, i strolled on past HMV, as i am so want to do, and picked up the CD variation of the recording of Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones, a band often referred to (mostly here) as The Ro££ing $tone$, such is there now current proclivity to place money above music in the most Noel Gallagher way possible. considering the high coin of money count that Stones records usually have, it was a delight to be able to buy it for a mere £5.99, a price you seem still able to get it at.

why this album out of all the Stones records? well, we will get there. first, yes, the well worn trivia. yes it was indeed Delia Smith who, or if you like whom, baked the cake on the cover. yes it was the last record recorded with Brian Jones. yes it was the first record to feature Mick Taylor. and yes, it was the last band the album released in the 60s, and with it being released in December 1969, many might say it is very much the definition of the end of a specific era. but let's move on.

but of course, google and apple have decided to once again clash over the subject of picture orientation. sorry about the above, but no matter, that will actually tie in quite nicely with some comments later on here.

a statement i have always made of the Stones is that they never really released a "great album" in the sense that their only true peers, The Beatles and The Who, did. this should not be interpreted as them being a singles band, seeing records as being "some killer, a fair bit of filler". it's just that my experience of Stones albums is that they didn't feature either the fluency of a Beatles one, or the "concept", smash you in the face and never stop smashing you in the face approach gently taken by The Who. oddly, for me, the one time they did have any "fluency" was by sheer accident; on the collection of outtakes released as Tattoo You, a record thrown together as an excuse for a lucrative tour.

the Stones did make many albums that have come to be seen as classics. Exile On Main Street is the one most go for, with an honourable mention to Sticky Fingers. for me, though, the greatest is the apparently frequently overlooked Let It Bleed.

what makes it so great? well, it is bookmarked with two songs regularly regarded as being in the top ten of all Stones songs of all time - which is saying something. the record commences with the dark, brooding, wailing at the horror of it at majesty that is Gimme Shelter, and comes to an end with the resignation of lament that is You Can't Always Get What You Want. this musical journey from a dark start to the acceptance of despair features stop offs at the ultra-sexed, whacka oompah bass funk of Live With Me, Keith Richards having a go at singing on You Got The Silver, the seemingly effortless excellence of Midnight Rambler and my favourite, Monkey Man, which sees that rarest of things - the Stones apparently making a public comment or response to comments, allegations and suggestions about the band.

for trivia fans - Monkey Man is the one on the GoodFellas soundtrack. when a coked up Henry Hill hits yet more cocaine and you hear the unmistakable sound of Jagger screaming i'm a monkey, that's Monkey Man it is off.

a peculiarity of the rest of the record, and in fairness a few moments in the above mentioned songs, is just how much of it is built up, or if you like constructed, from variants of Honky Tonk Women; a single only release from the same sessions. Country Honk in particular is basically that song with some fiddles and banjos making it a country version, but the other songs have hints of it too. virtually any other band, you would think, constructing a record out of variations and different takes of the same song would be taken to task, but that doesn't seem to stop it all working here.

no, i am not going to do my usual thing of making a video of snippets of the songs in poor sound. it's cheap enough for you to buy the album; even easier for you to "stream" it or listen to it via other means.

with the band's enthusiasm for "special editions" of late, be it the understandable revisit of Exile to the somewhat less understandable and perhaps bizarre decision to give Some Girls a deluxe refurbishment, i really don't quite get why this one has not been revisited, revamped and given a massive re-release. perhaps it is down to the fact that many of the songs recorded for the sessions of this record ended up on the next few albums, but mostly i suspect that it's just that damned dark a record, in all senses, for the band to actively go back to, despite the two "biggies" being staples of any set.

when i say dark, i mean dark. one criticism regularly thrown at the Stones is that of them carrying on, despite their age. their response to that has always been "well, no one has ever done what we have done, certainly not for so long. it's impossible to say how long it will, or should, last, as there is nothing to compare it to". certainly no band has gone through quite what the Stones did at the time of Let It Bleed. outside of the arrests, there was the small matter of Brian Jones being fired and later found dead in his swimming pool. as such, this record features a peculiar, perhaps taste and decency defying combination of songs that at times see the band with Brian Jones, with Mick Taylor and as a four piece.

why is it called Let It Bleed? good question, and one that i have no definite answer for. rock legend says that it is some sort of dig or response at The Beatles' calling an album Let It Be, with the Stones variation being somewhat harder, darker and restless. it might have been quite a good idea to name it something else after the death of Brian Jones, but it would seem that the Stones did not care one jot if anyone interpreted the album title as being a reference to his passing. for whatever reason that it is called what it is, it's a title that absolutely captures the sound of the record itself.

much as is the case with The Who and The Beatles, a "best of" is usually a good point of departure for someone looking to explore the sounds of The Rolling Stones. whereas at times The Who have albums that sound better than what made it to a "best of" and The Beatles just sound good across it all, however, there's a lot of room for "hit and miss" when seeking out Rolling Stones albums to try. i would say, though, that Let It Bleed is the album that mostly captures all that i, and millions of others, love of The Rolling Stones.

well, yeah. i mean, if you wanted a less threatening, less dark, less bleak Stones record, then Sticky Fingers or Tattoo You. but i would go with Let It Bleed.

i hope this has been at the least of slight passing interest to someone, and i really hope that one day the band elect to stare this demon in the face and issue a retrospective look at the record. if nothing else, it would be nice for them to fix the frustrating, couldn't care less approach to the artwork - both on the vinyl and all CD issues - which sees the tracklisting randomly given rather than in order.

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

then and now

hey there

wow, that's just strange. as i checked that my most recent post and, as it were, published correctly, i noted that, look you see, a post from some three years ago was all of a sudden on my list of most recently read updates here. it's one of a picture my mate Sinbad took, and it features me making what many might presume to be an obscene gesture, although it should not be taken that way.

me making a perfectly legitimate gesture which some incorrectly and rather harshly in a judgemental way take to be obscene is not strange. what's just odd is that it the image features me wearing the exact same shirt what i chose at random to wear today.

to that end, then, for those of you who have or for some reason wish to click on the above link to the picture as described, a selfie allows for one of them "then and now" sort of things. sadly, it has to be a selfie of course, as Sinbad is not here to take a picture for me.

oh, great. i see apple and blogger are fighting again about picture rotation. sorry for that, i tried editing the image so it was portrait as intended, but landscape shall have to do.

no, i have not gotten better with age in terms of looks, and yes indeed this whole sorry episode says more about my wardrobe imagination, and lack thereof, than anything else.

anyway, onwards with your day, good people.

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

yes i still read books

greetings people

well, look you see, wow. some further book reviews for you, the reader, written at a time when January is grasping at the last moments of its lifespan before February comes along and makes it a barely remembered thing. i think the last time i did any sort of book related review thing was November; such has been the fall off in my reading since they fiddled with the bus timetables so as to make buses, and reading on them, untenable to the point of impossible.

how many books have i read in that time? just the two, as would be standard for me to throw up here for comment. in slight defence, if required, of the time it has taken to read, it's been "busy" with both birthdays and Christmas being things, and one of the novels which i read was massive.

a quick look at the two books i managed to get through despite my shallow procrastinations, excuses and deliberations, followed by a somewhat spoiler-free overview? certainly.

i, although it does not always feel like the correct word, enjoyed both. The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer is yet further evidence that Brad Meltzer should be more well known, and The Secret Of Crickley Hall is further superb work from James Herbert, although in this instance genuinely unsettling and quite disturbing.

forward not backwards, then, and be warned for *** SPOILER WARNING *** is a thing which exists and is in place for the more specific reviews, although i shall try not to give up too many details. as ever, links to the books are not an affiliation or an endorsement of purchase by myself; they're just there for ease of use by anyone who for some reason feels obliged to make buying decisions on the basis of anything i write.

 i think the first, or if you like previous, novel i read off of Brad Meltzer was The Tenth Justice or something like that. from what i recall, my review was "didn't like, except i did like, actually it was quite good". it was like, this could be something truly exceptional, it just had an inexplicable sense of some kind of unquantifiable magic touch missing. much of this is true of The Zero Game, alas. it was really good, but there's just that lack of a sense of "wow".

plot? we are introduced to the idea that it gets very childish amongst staffers, interns and assistants working at Congress. apparently to pass the time and make government less boring, a game is devised where people sneak certain words and references into legislation and, or if you like or, bills for giggles. what if it were the case that someone used this game to make a change which seemed trivial, innocuous and irrelevant, yet could have severe, serious and quite bad repercussions by happening to exits?

if you've read the above and ask just how plausible could such a game be, let me assure you that the answer is "very". for no reason beyond my own amusement whilst in the corporate world, i used to sneak in things like Bowie and Manics quotes, plus the odd line from the silence of the lambs, in client correspondence and reports intended to be read at the business end of executive level. so the plot kind of hit a note with me straight away.

this highly probable premise, alas, leads to a few improbable twists in the plot, but at no point does this book claim to be either realistic or a likely set of events. it is, or if you like was, highly entertaining. a particular highlight, and i am going to need to be spoiler mindful here, were some narrative tricks which caught my attention and kept me reading.

the way in which Brad Meltzer tends to get promoted is "if you like John Grisham (presumably his books, not his often bizarre views on the world)" then you will like this sort of thing. whilst i don't think there's much of a direct comparison between the two, oddly that seems spot on. The Zero Game is one to try.

what am i listening to as i write this? CD 2, or if you like the second disc, of the simply frankie goes to hollywood tin that got released last year, or maybe the year before. decidedly good it is, and i am getting all nostalgic as i do so.

onwards, then, to the massive, north of 600 pages novel which took me so long to read in the form of The Secret Of Crickley Hall by James Herbert. from a costing perspective, whereas The Zero Game cost a relative amount as part of a "two for £5" deal at Boyes, that place where the haberdashery section is a hotbed of sexual tension, i picked up this particular novel, in a clearly never read condition, for £1.50 from a charity shop.

plot? a family which has recently suffered the loss of a child moves into a spooky, eerie looking house whilst the husband and father of the family does some work to make some sort of offshore venture work. none of the family feel particularly comfortable in the house, least of all their pet dog, who runs way whenever possible. it transpires that, during the Second World War, a horrible, heart-wrenching tragedy happened in the building, leading some to the view that the the house - called Crickley Hall, hence the title - is cursed to the extent of possibly being haunted. to varying degrees, each member of the family goes through different senses of whether or not they believe the house is haunted or cursed, and in doing so uncover the dark secret of what really happened in the house.

up front and yes, once again, credit goes to my (considerably) better half for introducing me to the works of James Herbert. on the one side when i picked this up i went "oh, another novel by him that features a haunted house". it is a lot, lot more than that, though, and over its many pages it touches on all sorts of things, in particular the occasional need for secrecy and cover ups in times of war. granted, actual war, not catchy, made up phrases such as "the war on terror".

do i recommend this novel? not with any great ease. i found, as i would imagine anyone decent would, the depictions of harm brought to children deeply distressing, harrowing and difficult to read. i mean, i appreciate one cannot shy away from the reality that such things happen in this world we have made, but that does not mean all wish to subject themselves to accounts of it. if you, like me, from time to time are a big, soft, fanny of emotional affectation, proceed with caution. if it helps, from what i can work out the BBC version of the novel greatly and seriously sanitises these depictions.

phew. well, as ever, i can only hope or trust that these comments give someone an idea or two about novels they may have considered thinking about reading. i appreciate that neither are either new or at the cutting edge of what people are discussing in a literary sense right now, but there you go.

next read? something that is not north of 600 pages in length. i would appear to have stockpiled a number of novels here; let me select a relatively shorter one to read and hopefully enjoy.

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

oh so many illustrations and

hello there

it would seem, look you see, that i have fallen into that state of erratic updates here. this is something of a shame after seemingly getting off to a proverbial, if not actual, flyer this year, but there you go. if you want you can pretend that infrequent updates are a result of me pursuing quality over quantity here for updates, but we know that this is a lie.

speaking of quality, however, this. this which i see google and apple have had a falling out about the rotation of, but anyway.

yes. as those of you obtuse to have clocked the quote in the title will be well aware, this post is all about a diary, except for the bits which are not. except, to follow through on the quote, you don't have to sneak into my room to see it.

no, you are not incorrect. this is not just any diary. far from it, for as you can see, it's a special secret One Direction branded diary. yes, if you like, this is a continuance of my love of the band, and all five (i think) of the former and current members of the band whose name begins with a D, hence the name of the group.

that is indeed the padlock on this secret diary, there is no fooling you. actually, going on the presence of the lock, surely this is more of a secure diary than it is a secret one? the difference is slight, granted, but all the same quite an important one.

as that padlock is probably made out of mega-titanium or something, and thus is unbreakable, it is perhaps just as well that it comes in a way that the diary is not locked closed. the keys, as you can see, look, are on a magnetised ring of steel and cannot be removed, and are in such a position that they will not reach the lock.

i guess that anything i write in my secret diary will be unsecured, then. which is possibly why it is in fact called a secret diary rather than a secure one. well, what can you expect for 49p. and speaking of cost.

what's that? a blurry image of a theoretical proof of postage for some items i sent to New Zealand. £8.45 - around 17 One Direction branded secret diaries - is what i have paid to send just slightly south, as in 1g short, of half a kg to that land far, far away. how much does that come to per 1g or even per 100g? no idea.

and as for just what it is i sent, well, if i remember to do so i will let you know as and when i get confirmation of its arrival, which should be a formality since i have proof of postage and everything.

this image, somewhere near this text depending on what device you are using to look at all this, is of the inside of the secret / secure diary, taken in the magnificence of Commodore 64 mode. the smart pencil that came with it is included for scale, should you wish to have an idea of the size and also know what size the pencil is, which would be important, i think, to ascertaining exactly what scale is being shown.

what's the quality of the paper like? conventional, i suppose. i mean, it's hardly as if one would expect vellum, or papyrus or something like that. whilst the surface quality is not really what you would call rough, it's not exactly smooth either. it is paper that would serve it's purpose.

and, speaking of purpose, what am i going to do with my smart diary of either secret or secure nature? i actually don't know. the closest i have ever come to keeping a diary is this blog, and this is not exactly what one would call secure or secret i suppose. the point of attraction was firstly the price and secondly that it is One Direction branded. what, if any, use that i would get out of it is only something that i have paused to even consider thinking about right now, and thus far nothing comes to mind. perhaps i will just keep it close, on the off chance that i have some thoughts about One Direction that i wish to write down but for some reason not write down here on this blog.

does my mate Spiros keep a diary? goodness me yes. i once had the fortune, good or bad, to read a paragraph and it made me bleed from the eyes a little. he once considered publishing his diaries, possibly in some small way inspired by the money made when they tried to publish the diaries of Hitler (Spiros reckons he is much, much better than Hitler and so he is by default more popular and so would make more money), but publishers were having none of it. one told him that, even in a edited form, his diaries would break obscenity laws in 38 different countries, several of which he had never even heard of.

i mention Spiros as soon i shall be posting him this smart investment what i made.

that is indeed the DVD of Reno 911 Miami, a very funny film. that it only cost me 25p is a further sad indictment of how devalued physical copies of movies have become. sure, it's an ex-rental copy, but it plays perfectly, and 25p is just still.

should you have not ever or never seen the film before, i do suggest you find a copy, as it really was exceptionally funny. no, sorry, you cannot have this one, i am sending it to Spiros.

that said about the devaluation of discs, i do quite love how the maximum amount of money any One Direction branded product which features all five members has a maximum price of £1 these days. basically it is the sorry state of affairs that, here in 21st Century England, the actual value of something is quite irrelevant if the classic line up of One Direction features on it. that one left meant that this cost me all of 49p; ridiculous as the pencil alone would probably usually retail for more than that.

why are items with all five One Directioners now only valued at £1 or less? it's not like it was an important member that left. i mean, if there was a Beatles item of merchandising or memorabilia which didn't have Ringo on it, it's not like you would get to pay less for that. if anything, in this admittedly bad example, you would probably expect - and be quite happy to - pay more.

well, i would suggest that it is fair to say i have wasted enough of your time with this particular subject. should i have any other thoughts or observations on the matter of my smart diary that only cost 49p, i will do my best to control myself to the extent of only writing about them in the diary itself.

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

blue gum and helmet

hi there

earlier today, as opposed to some imaginary later today scenario i have created, look you see, i could be found by those wishing to find me conducting business as an ardent and steadfast patron of Pound Land. i went into this fine store for some very specific items, the details of which i wish not to reveal. what i am happy to reveal, however, is an item which caught my eye and was subsequently purchased.

yes, to save you some time if you would like to leave and find something of greater interest on the internet, this is indeed going to relate to hair care products of quality and distinction.

whilst it is very much the case that any product from Australia is going to be a product of quality, this is particularly the case when it comes to any hair care or related product. Australia did, after all, invent the concept of care and style for hair. this was mostly done via the conduit of Jason Donovan, but echoes through other Australians. examples would be him off of AC / DC that isn't dead, isn't Geordie and isn't the one in legal trouble for arranging death by murder, her off of that film with that guy, him off of Neighbours who is sometimes in NCIS, him off of the band Rose Tattoo and Mel Gibson. in respect of the latter, the criminal or unpleasant bits about him are his American origins; his hair is most decidedly Australian.

having a massive image of Australia on this bottle of what turned out to be shampoo was a big attraction, then. as was, as point of fact, the incorrect "Oz" being used. when someone wishes to refer to that nation, or if you like continent, with that word, it should be "Aus" not "Oz". The use of Oz here refers to that place in that book and that film, and indeed that magnificent television show about the prison. also, the use of the phrase "serious volume" quite excited me. i cannot recall ever before attempting to add volume to my hair whether serious or trivial.

enough of shampoo for now, though. we shall return to it, my friends, but in the title of this post i promised you some helmet action, so here you go.

you may well have noticed over the last few months or so a slight increase in the level of Star Wars branded marketing. this might be connected to a new film of that name coming out, or it might be related to Disney going on a cash grab to claw back the many coins of money they have spent on it. anyway, the latest branded marketing is a series of magazines calling itself the Star Wars Helmet Collection.

i have, for what will presumably seem to be, like, totes amazeballs obvs reasons, picked up the second edition of this styled collection.

yes, that's right. once again my resolve was tested. a theory Disney seem to have is that i will throw money at anything they put an image of Boba Fett on and i will not try to resist.

what is it specifically? well, it's a presentation statue-like thing of the ostensible helmet worn by Boba Fett in the space films. apparently it is 20% of the actual size, assuming their definition of a 1:5 scale equals mine. have i been tempted to take a ruler to it to see if this is true? yes, but i have not done so.

also it comes with a magazine that theoretically should be all Boba. it is not, as it happens, but a fair bit of it is. like, for instance, this page.

quite smart that is, and i am very pleased to see that the Wookie scalp is restored and in place. some later or if you like latter day presentations of Boba Fett have airbrushed that out for some reason. 

do i have any intention of buying other or all editions of this helmet collection? no, but let us for a moment return to the pizazz and glamour of shampoo off of Australia.

what's the single most exciting and brilliant part of this shampoo for me? on the basis that i have not actually used it yet?  the, as the title of this post of blog might have hinted, presence of blue gum. and not just any blue gum, look you - it's Tasmanian blue gum.

mainland Australia has, it would be fair to say, some issues with Tasmania. it is, for those of you that do not know, the little island which sits to the south of that nation, which advances fair, on the side which Perth is not on. when people draw a picture of Australia, or produce some sort of badge, invariably they tend to leave Tasmania off.

the denial of Tasmania even existing in Australia is quite something. they even went to the extent of naming the lower part of the mainland "South Australia", so as to state that is where it ends, as if they were saying "sorry, mate, but that Tasmania has got f*** all to do with us, it is below our bit that we call the south". further, the only thing stopping the Australian government from petitioning the UN to say that the maps of the world are wrong and that they should be turned to show Australia at the top of the world is the fact that this would make Tasmanian to the north of their nation, and give it more prominence than they believe it warrants.

is the mainland Australian view of Tasmania fair or unjust? i have no idea. i cannot think of any issue or quarrel i have ever had with the place. none of my business, i suppose. i am, however, quite excited to find out what sort of "serious volume" their blue gum hits my hair with.

anyway, back to the helmet of Boba. here is a look at some more pages (well, two) from the magazine what came with it.

no, i shall not be buying any more of these. why not? i'm not really interested in them. well, the scout trooper one looks sort of smart, but i will be f****d if i am paying the full price of £9.99 for that or any of the other non-Boba Fett ones. certainly not for the next edition, which appears to be the gay robot out of the films, no matter how shiny it is.

anyway, i am sure there will be many people who are enthusiastic about getting all the helmets at a 20% size ratio from all the films about Space Battles. good luck to them.

as for the shampoo, well, the one that i am presently using now, the one which has coconut elements to it, is thus far satisfactory. here's hoping that when that's finished the blue gum one takes my hair to all sorts of new levels. well, a level of serious volume, at the least.

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

it's confusing these days

hi there

not too much of any use to anyone, really. that, however, could be the point, look you see.

today was a day on which i received an unsolicited and certainly not invited text message on one of my phones. no, not that one, the other one. this in itself is not unusual. it does, however, look like it might be a scam. my travels on the internet, as i shall discuss further later, have made me none the wiser.

but first, here's a picture of the text what came in.

for those of you who can't or simply won't read the above in picture form but for some reason wish to read it anyway, here's the text

Here's a gift to start your new year! Enjoy £5 FREE credit for 7 days! Reply FIVE before midnight 26 Jan and the credit will be added to your T-Mobile plan by 29 Jan. Thanks from EE. Text STOP to 1234 to opt out of marketing.

it sounds all nice and official, which is what makes me think it is something of a scam. for a start, if a mobile phone service operator provider type of thing had my number and wished to give me £5, they would just go and add it and text me that they had, no? also, that number is not one i have had a message from before, and i have had plenty of my service providers. i suspect that display number masks one of them premium things. 
a glance around the web suggests that messages along these lines have been fired off in the past, but no one seems able to say if it is legit or not. i am very sorry if you are looking at this hoping for a definitive answer as to whether it is a scam or real, but i can't give it. everything about it, however, scream scam. 

anyhow, if this has been of remote interest or use to anyone, nice one!

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

Sunday, January 24, 2016

paying for air

hey there

it would be no understatement or falsehood, look you see, to state that driving in the Land of Eng is somewhat different to doing so in the Africa of the South. this is true to the extent that, here in England-Land there is distinctly less chance of being shot at whilst driving, and motorists tend to be of a mind to adhere to the principles of both safe driving and the laws in place governing how one may command a combustion engine powered perambulator on the roads.

should you think that the above insights, and those insights are merely a start, means on an automatic basis that motoring is completely, if not entirely, better here than in the Africa of the South, you would not be far from wrong but you are not entirely right. there is a down side to life on the roads here. for the most part that down side kicks in as and when you need to add fuel to your vehicle of choice.

other than the high cost of fuel here (try R25/l being seen as cheap, dear friends in Jozi), you have to get out of your car and put it in yourself. wow. in downtown Johannesburg, or anywhere in the Africa of the South, one simply pulls in to a station and a nice chap comes and puts it in for you.

the same chap,and i am getting to the point of the whine now, also does some rudimentary work on your car. as well as putting the fuel in, he also cleans your windows, checks your oil and water, carries out some rudimentary maintenance on your alternator, observes the condition of your battery and - here it comes - checks the tyre pressure for you. here you have to do all that stuff yourself and, in respect of the latter, in some instances pay to do so. 

that picture above is off of a Shell garage, where yesterday i theoretically needed to pay 50p for five minutes access to air in order to check my tyres. in this case i did not need to pay as a taxi driver had just checked his and there was some time left from what he paid, but still.

normally i would not use Shell to check my tyres. the fuel depot which usually benefits from my patronage, mostly because the lady who works there is an old school friend of my Mum, happily provides air for free. however, their hose for the air is knacked at the moment. an idiosyncrasy of  my car is a proclivity to lose air in the tyres at the front, so i kind of needed to become a temporary patron of Shell this weekend.

what does this picture of some stamps have to do with paying for air? absolutely nothing. i just picked them up yesterday, and i thought you might like to see them i believe, ostensibly, they are a "special edition" stamp designed to celebrated the90th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, but i am somewhat baffled by the colour.

over here in the Land of Eng, stamps are normally formally coloured to represent in exact details the qualities of the two major political parties. 1st Class stamps are red, which represents Labour. this is done so to capture the essence of Labour - pushy, forward, imbued with a sense of entitlement that they should be first, cost you more, promise to deliver what's best for you and, more often than not, fail to deliver. 2nd Class are blue to represent the Conservatives - they claim to be cheaper for you, yet deliver only as and when they see fit to and, as a consequence of that, tend to end up costing you more than the face value in the long run. despite the merits and failings of both, whilst 1st Class would seem to be the best it is usually 2nd Class which ends up being inexplicably more popular.

in this respect, i have no idea how to interpret the political statement made by Royal Mail in respect of these purple stamps. from what i recall UKIP adopted this shade of purple as a colour. maybe then it is the case that these stamps on a superficial level seem like a jolly good idea, but ultimately it will prove to be silly and self-defeating to use them.

anyway, back to air, and paying for it. in fairness to Shell, for your 50p you do get to get your hands on some remarkable digital technology that transforms the art of checking and putting air into your tyres into something off of Terminator or Space Battles. you are required to digitally enter the PSI (whatever the f*** that is, i found it written somewhere in the car) of your tyres and then the machine digitally inflates your tyres to that PSI level.

despite their charging me, or if you like some taxi driver, 50p for some air, i do have a lot of sympathy for Shell Oil. they, like me, had their lives unexpectedly and forever changed with the advent of the digital calculator. just as if you type 337 into a digital calculator and turn it upside down you get my name, if you type 71077345 and do the same you get the words Shell Oil on it. as you cannot do this with any other oil producing company whatsoever, except 0553 to get Esso, Shell have suffered a great deal of acrimony, prejudice and harsh treatment from the pure jealousy and spite of others. i sometimes like to think the harsh, negative and judgemental treatment i experience from time to time comes from a similar jealousy within people who cannot write their name on a calculator.

my Uncle Colin, in his infinite wisdom, suggested that i would learn or come to enjoy driving a lot more in England than i ever did in the Africa of the South on the basis that here it features a good deal less firearm use and a great deal more interest in safety. he was predominantly correct in this statement, but still i don't really care for this business of having to not only do the PSI thing on my tyres directly, but also be expected to pay for doing this.

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

Saturday, January 23, 2016

slipped day of release

hi there

with regards to the vibes it is very much, look you see, the best of times and the worst of times. whilst this year is panning out to be one of the best for a while for new releases, no matter what sort of music you like, we've spent most of this month saying goodbye to some of the greats.

and all of that goes some way to explaining why, should some sort of explaining be required, i managed to forget that there was a shiny new Suede album out for release yesterday. fortunately, the day before yesterday - or if you like Thursday - i got a reminder, so yesterday - or if you like Friday - i could make my way to the V of the HM.

as you can see, even by the minimalist standards by which the HMV now promote music they didn't seem all that keen to promote the fact that the Suede, indeed briefly The London Suede for reasons of copyright in America, had, as the kids of today say it, "dropped" a new album. in a very, very "puppet show and Spinal Tap" move, their promotion or profile raising of Suede seems to be second to the news that someone or something called Savages or something like that. let us hope that the Suede at least got the bigger dressing room.

there is the slightest of defence for HMV in doing this. for some bizarre reason Suede carried out much of the promotion and fanfare for this album some 2 - 3 months ago. as in, they played it in full in concert in November and recorded that to include with a "special edition" version.

why announce and promote an album 2 - 3 months prior to the release? well, some of the reason or answer for that is in the next picture. oh, the new album of of the Suede is called Night Thoughts, since i have not mentioned this thus far.

yes, that's right - in the doorway the HMV have decided that the optimal positioning for Night Thoughts off of the Suede is above The King, Elvis Presley but below Megadeth. and next to a rack selling the most recent marking of the age of Adele.

i am going to guess that there was an idea to release Night Thoughts off of the Suede in November, when it was ready to go. the juggernaut that is the sales of an Adele recording, however, probably inspired them to delay it somewhat. are the Suede in the same target demographics as Adele? apparently, since everyone buys Adele. even, in a somewhat dubious testing method, my Dad rates Adele higher than he does Oasis.

a brief pause from the world of the Suede to celebrate the coming of Easter, via my preferred channel of having a look at how Pound Land are promoting the coming of that time of year.

whereas last year i was very excited and enthusiastic about Pound Land Easter cards, with particular emphasis on the smart yellow envelopes, i think not so much this year. few appreciated or responded to my enthusiasm, and for all the Easter cards i sent out in smart yellow envelopes i got only a very small percentage back in a reciprocal way.  whether it is people don't like posting things in general or simply do not like me i do not know, but ultimately the conclusion of either is no post for me.

back to the Suede, then. whereas avoiding the Adele was wise, i am not sure that either Suede or their fan base would have expectations of mega sales and chart domination, to be honest. the band love what they do, the fans love it, that's enough i guess.

i did wish to purchase the special version of it, featuring the DVD, but HMV priced me out of that. whilst the amazon had the special edition for £12.99, i thought that if the HMV sold it for slightly north - say, £14.99, i would but. alas no, they stuck a £15.99 on it. that's just too greedy, so normal version it was.

and no, i went nowhere near the £29.99 uber deluxe version in an odd box with a book, thanks.

yes indeed, as you can see there deeper into the store HMV did elect to give Suede more prominence on their "trending" section, probably only to accommodate the uber edition box.

in this era of apparently dramatically falling CD sales, i don't get why the record labels cloud and confuse the market with multiple editions. outside of the Suede, take for example one of last year's better releases, Another Country off of the Rod Stewart. the "normal" version was £9.99, whereas the "special edition" with some 4 or 5 extra (excellent) tracks was £12.99. the dilemma was feeling like you were getting ripped off paying £9.99 for less songs, yet also felt you were being taken advantage of by being requested to pay a few pounds more for some 12 - 15 minutes extra music that, on face value, was not considered good enough to be in the "normal edition" of the album.

i am no marketing expert, but i cannot help think that if the Suede had just issued the CD & DVD version alone, in a normal box, for just slightly south of £10, then it might have inspired more purchases. we shall see, though, if i am right in this regard when the sales figures come out next week.

what's the Night Thoughts album like? outstanding. no, i had not bothered to listen to any of the "leaks" or "streams" of it prior to getting it home last night. i wouldn't go as far as some of the reviews, like in particular the one on the cover in which the Telegraph paper of news suggest that the band has "redefined" the concept of an album, but it is very good. it's atmospheric, very catchy, impacting and Brett's vocals are awesome.

yes, fans of the Suede, all factors are in place - Brett still, after all of these years, refers to we, the people, in terms of plastic and cellophane references, and images of diesel, chemicals and what have you come through. but it's all as excellent as ever.

nothing on the album has really or instantly tugged at my heartstrings or made the instant connection to me in the way that, say, Barriers off of their last album, Bloodsports did, or the whole of the Coming Up album did. that said, i feel this one's going to be played for quite a while, and just what the band are saying is going to sink in and resonate for a good while yet.

so, is that it for new releases for a while? as far as i know the next ones i am excited about happen, or "get dropped", on the same day in March, with Primal Scream and James issuing new recordings. if something else i like happens to get released in February, well then so much the better. the Suede and the Bowie will, however, do very nicely indeed for a good while yet.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

no concept

hello there

this blog post i am prepared to admit, look you see, could well be the most indulgent of the self one which i have ever done. which, yes, is saying something. it's all about the fact that i have had a hair cut, or if you like have arranged for someone to cut my hair. it is the sort of blog post i would imagine that the average millennial feral vermin scattered around the wastelands would write, if they were in some way literate. going on the way they loiter in food places, i suspect not.

anyway, a new approach and direction in the way i look. behold.

yeah, i know, it hasn't all of a sudden made me look decent or good, but it has, hopefully, at the least made me look a little bit more better than i did.

for some reason it occurred to me, or  rather "just popped in there" last night that i would quite like "short and spiky" hair. so off i went to the barber, or if you like hair menders. this would be the first time i have put any sort of effort, consideration, work or time on any sort of hair styling in about 30 years. it would have been around 1985 or 1986 that i last did anything like this; no doubt in some ill-advised by all the same noble effort to look as stylish as Holly or Paul out of Frankie.

it is indeed the case that i, like you, instantly think of the Sledgepoo episode of Sledge Hammer as and when the subject or topic of hair styling comes about.

there is no such thing as a bad episode of Sledge Hammer!, so picking which one is best is virtually impossible. the one where he goes to the hairdresser is, however, one that makes me laugh long and hard, in particular when he reaches for his gun when accused of having "no concept" to his hair.

if you have never, ever seen the Sledge Hammer! before, or have not seen it in years, then i wholeheartedly recommend you seek it out and enjoy, or enjoy once more.

why do i think that i thought it would be a good idea to all of a sudden care for my hair after about three decades of not doing so? no idea. there's a concept out there which suggests that people who do not care about themselves at all do not care how they look. i have seen much evidence in my life to dispute this, but if this sudden interest in hair appearance is a sign that i sort of like myself well then that's nice.

one would have thought, if i suppose one ever thought to reconsider me, that with all the fuss and nonsense i engage in with regards to citrus infused shampoo i would have more concern than i do for how my hair looks. this has not been the case for, as mentioned ad nauseum  (or however you spell it), quite a while.

that is indeed the "official portrait" of the new direction i have taken with my hair; the look most decidedly accentuated and enhanced by the use of Commodore 64 mode with the scan lines on.

maintaining this class new style is going to mean me engaging in a far different ritual than that which i do now on a morning. up to now i've sort of just got on with things, leaving my hair to look as however it so wishes, or how forces of the environment dictate. now, my (considerably) better half informs me, i shall have to mess about with a comb, some gel and a hairdryer.

my engagement in this new ritual will see me hum Night Fever by the Bee Gees. i shall just pretend i am Travolta in that scene where he gets his hair ready with a hairdryer in that film about going off on the lash on a Saturday night, the name of which escapes me for the moment. i am not sure this shall extend towards me investing in polyester strides or shirts with absolutely massive collars, but you never know.

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

that whole Apple twenty tough interview question thing

hi there

so, look you see, this gem has surfaced once again. it would seem to get rejuvenated or resurrected once every 18 months or so, normally when there is absolutely nothing better available to post on news sites in the form of virtually assured of success "click bait". 

you may well have come here in that regard - i guess i have some guilt, then, but as i don't make a single one coin of money off this blog, it doesn't really matter much.

it is alledged or claimed that the following questions are the "toughest" Apple ask of prospective employees. most nod and agree that they do this so that they can access only the best of the best for jobs with them. in truth, there is no evidence that Apple has ever asked any of these questions, none of them are particularly "brutal" or difficult, and they most decidedly would not allow for answers that somehow game Apple access to uber-great staff.

here are the 20 questions that someone called Glassdoor gave as being the ones they claim candidates said that Apple asked them. it seems that every newssite and their pet of choice has reproduced them, so i guess it is ok for me to do so. my off the cuff, unresearched answers are given to each. perhaps my answers will show why i don't presently work for Apple or, who knows, show that Apple have missed a trick by not signing me up.

1) If you have 2 eggs, and you want to figure out what’s the highest floor from which you can drop the egg without breaking it, how would you do it? What’s the optimal solution?

well, optimal solution for who? from a finance position the optimal solution would be to do the tests with no eggs; for the research and development team optimal would be the two eggs then an unlimited supply of more to test, test, thrice test and test again and again and again.

my answer would be to use common sense - if we take it as these are raw, standard eggs, they would break from any height dropped. just assume this is the case, and build whatever design it is you need to around that.

2) You put a glass of water on a record turntable and begin slowly increasing the speed. What happens first – does the glass slide off, tip over, or does the water splash out?

again, so many variables. it doesn't say if the glass is full or not, it doesn't say what make of turntable, it doesn't say what speed it starts off at, it doesn't say if the glass is on the inside or outside of the turntable. as most turntables have a fairly cushioned / rubberised surface, so as to hold the vibes in place, i will go ahead and suggest that the glass will probably stay in place, so splashes first.

3) How would you test a toaster?

by putting bread in it and making toast. whilst there are other used for a toaster - toasting tea cakes, crumpets, etc - around 9 times out of 10 a toaster is going to be bought for use in making toast. testing it any other way would not give you any important information relevant to the target market.

 4) Please show me your phone – why isn’t it an Apple product?

because Apple do not presently make a phone which does what i want. i want a phone that has buttons, that i can add and remove files on as and when i want with ease, that i can update as and when i want to, that i can charge with a standard USB and that i can change the battery in. when Apple makes a phone like this, i am there bud.

5) What was your worst day in the past four years?

quite a few to pick, and far too personal in nature to give as an answer to something as trivial as a job interview. in general terms, any day that i have had to say goodbye, farewell or similar to anyone for the last ever time has been the worst day of the past four years / lifetime.

6) You have 100 coins laying flat on a table, each with a head side and a tail side. 10 of them are heads up, 90 are tails up.

You can’t feel, see or in any other way find out which side is up. Split the coins into two piles such that there are the same number of heads in each pile.

 if we assume that there is some semblance of logic hidden in the way that the information has been given, the first ten will be heads up, so take 5 each of them and 45 each of the remainder. or is it meant to be as obvious as, looking at the wording, each coin actually has a head, whether it is face up or no, so just split them any way you like to get the result.

7) How would you break down the cost of this pen?

this smart Harrods pen was the only one i could picture that i had the cost of.

the price was £8.95, but it was part of a buy 3 for the price of 2 deal. if we take that as a 33% discount, at least 45% of the face value of the pen would be reserved for profit and to absorb this. depending on where other costs - staff, premises rental, etc - come from (profit or product costing), you've got about £4 - £4.50 to play with in terms of design, materials for casing, ink, branding, production, etc.

8) Show me (role play) how you would show a customer you’re willing to help them by only using your voice.

good morning / afternoon, how are you today? how can i help you? something like that, i suppose, in a slightly altruistic, partially optimistic and mostly positive way.

what's that picture doing here? nothing, really. just giving you a bit of a break from all of this what you are reading to see a long running issue i have with a Scrabble based game on that facebook thing.

9) Explain to a 8-year-old what a modem/router is and its functions.

a modem is a way that allows your computer to "talk" to another computer through the telephone lines, just how you use a phone connected to the telephone lines to talk to another person with a phone. a router does the same thing, but without the need for wires as it transmits the "talking" in an invisible way through the air.

going on my experiences of them, 6 - 10 year olds are a good deal brighter in this regard than us oldies might assume them to be.

10) Are you creative? What’s something creative that you can think of?

anything i think of is creative. if it isn't, then it is a memory or an experience i have recalled. as "creative" in Apple terms means to remove buttons off devices, or to change the charger connection, it's kind of hard to gauge what they would want here.

11) There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges.

The boxes have been incorrectly labelled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels.

Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit.

By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?

what exactly is the barrier that stops one from looking at all three boxes? i am sure there is some clever answer to this, but i would rather be sure and so would simply inspect all three boxes and make sure they were all labelled correctly.

also, by virtue of the fact that this is an interview for, or if you like with, Apple, there is a school of thought that it would be quite correct to label them all "Apple" for they are surely "Apple" products, no?

12) Do you think iPad is missing a lot of features (like USB and a camera?)

to the best of my knowledge one of them iPad things does have a camera on it, so this question makes little sense. yes, however, a proper USB port is the one thing lacking on every single Apple product. Also not being able to remove or replace the battery, no keyboard or buttons, no way to expand the memory or storage, no easy way to just drag and drop files you want.

13) What would you say to your future self?

cool, nice one, i make it through this interview alive, then. don't tell me the rest, i will work it out as i go along.

14) Who is your best friend?

what is this, a job interview or whether or not i am a member of the Hilton or Kardashian family? i consider all of my friends dear and important, and i certainly do not rank or rate them. if i had to pick one name for you then it would be my (considerably) better half for her dedication to sticking with me day and night; something i am not at all sure i would do with me.

15) Are you smart?

in what sense? dress smart most certainly not. i like to think i can work things out and know some stuff, but sure, i can be fooled or tricked just like anyone else. also, though i may act like it from time to time, i certainly know that i don't know it all.

16) You seem pretty positive, what types of things bring you down?

random thoughts come to mind that bring me down. i get distressed at the thought of people being lonely or abandoned, mostly, the idea of people suffering and being hurt through no fault or reason of their own. life shouldn't be like that. if you play with matches you get burned, but if you don't then you shouldn't.

17) How many children are born every day?

where? the answer is lots, and is impossible to give a specific on. there are so many unrecorded, unregistered births - both in the first and the third world - that anyone who tries to give a specific, definitive answer is bluffing, and the number would change from day to day anyway. you could also say that 0 (zero) children are born each day, but many babies are.

18) Describe a humbling experience.

what, in general terms, or one that happened to me? any time someone compliments or praises something i did, i suppose, any time someone says something that suggests i am a worthwhile person.

19) What’s more important, fixing the customer’s problem or creating a good customer experience?

i don't see a case where it would have to be either/or. surely fixing a customer's problem means that the customer did not, at the least, have an entirely bad experience? likewise, if you don't fix their problem, or do all you can to fix it, then how is it that they could have had a good experience?

20) Why did Apple change its name from Apple Computers Incorporated to Apple Inc.?

mostly because some sort of deal was done in which The Beatles allowed Apple to use the name Apple, despite earlier promises never ever to be in the music business being broken. the fancy answer here, of course, is because now there's so much more to Apple that just computers, it's a brand that is an immersive experience, a way of life, an aspiration, etc.

whether or not the above are right or wrong answers in terms of a job with Apple is academic. there is no way that i could or would end up working for Apple for the following reasons :

i am many things, but i am not cheap Chinese child labour

i am not a Californian hipster

i have no designs or qualifications in IT

Apple "doesn't do" non-major cities and certainly not towns - they will never have vacancies where i am

i have, and never have had, any interest in working for Apple

beyond that, these questions - and the answers - are meaningless. they may seem hip, "blue sky" and all about out of the box thinking. in truth they're academic, and are just used as a means to give an interviewer time to decide whether or not they want to hire you "just because". unless, of course, Apple or anyone else are really serious about trying to hire someone able to identify what fruit is in a box from the most limited of information.

i will, if only in my mind, one day write a book about all this sort of thing. for now, let it be said that this form of interviewing is intended only to give the illusion that companies like Apple are a break from tradition and the "old way of doing things", with the intention being to create an image of the business being hip, with it, progressive, forward thinking, open and any trendy term you can think of that makes them popular in reality, every job - any job - is broken down to a process and eventually becomes a factory production line. it's just all the more depressing when it happens at companies like Apple which try and pretend that's not what happens to every job - any job - that they have on offer.

if it's your dream, or you "aspire", to work at Apple, then sincerely - may you get to do that. this i would say to anyone with ambition or targets; my lack of them does not in itself preclude me from wishing others success. i, however, probably and most decidedly would not use the answers i have given above; i doubt this is the sort of thing they want to hear.

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

sights of roseberry in the snow


not a great deal, look you see. i just had the rare chance to be in a car yesterday, or if you like the day before today, that i wasn't driving. as they get quite p!ssy about law enforcement here i cannot as a standard take pictures as i drive, but so far as i know i am free to take pictures when i am but a humble passenger.

if i am much, or slightly, mistaken in this respect, well then i guess the constabulary should not have too much difficulty in finding me and feeling my collar, so to speak. unless i am wearing a t-shirt, and thus i will surely evade reprehension for whatever it is i did.

what's the point of this post? as you can see above - not the last paragraph, above that - i took pictures of Roseberry Topping, blanketed as she is with a taste of snow. that remains the case in this next picture, and all others that will feature.

there are, i as i am sure you appreciate, many thousands of far better images of Roseberry Topping, with or without snow, out here on the web. i just took these for the novelty factor of friends and family around the world. if you are neither friend nor family and are looking, thank you so very much for doing so.

why was i out on the roads, or if you like streets, as a passenger? my (considerably) better half wished to have a bit of practice in driving in snowy / icy / frosty conditions. such conditions are, as it happens, somewhat alien to those who were born, raised and mostly drove in the joys of Johannesburg, and so she wanted to give it a go whilst in the presence of others.

not that being from the Africa of the South is an exclusive reason. there are many, many people who have been born and raised in a land of ice and snow that simply refuse to drive or otherwise travel in the stuff. it is treacherous and dangerous to do so.

oh, look, to mix things up this next picture has a bit of tree in it.

how did my (considerably) better half fare? very well. nervous, for sure, and prone to take it slow, but she is a far, far better driver than i could ever wish to be, and did all the right things.

anyway, that's that for this post. if any of these pictures have been of interest or in some way pleasant to have a bit of a gander at, nice one. they were taken with my blueberry and through a car window, so i'm not going to claim they are spectacular. some of them, though, at least for me, give a sense of all that is home.

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