the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice
Sunday 8th November
Well, I was going to start with the usual apologies for the delay between updates, but frankly, it's been so long any apology would be meaningless, and besides I've had other stuff to do. Not that I can guarantee to have remembered all of it. So, where to start? Well, how about a few highlights?
Nantwich Show - As usual I dragged my nephews round the Nantwich Show and International Cheese Festival. And as usual (or at least usual for the last three years) it was a tad damp. I took some pictures, of course, and a video of the rather underwhelming stunt biker and you can see them on my Nantwich Show 2009 set on flickr. I'm kind of getting used to the mud at the show now, but once again was left wondering why there was no metal roadway put down at the entrance to the showground. The main route up to the cheese marquee must have been about two inches deep in slurry-like mud by the time we left. Lord knows how anyone with a wheelchair or a pushchair coped with it. If I was organising the event, that would have been the first place I put any roadway.
Holiday - For the first time in ages I had a proper going-away holiday. A week with my sister and her family at the Pontins Holiday Park in Caister-on-Sea. And very nice and relaxing it was too. The weather even stayed nice all week. It was raining on the day we arrived, but after that it was pretty much sunshine all the way. We had a couple of days out at the Caister Castle Car Collection and the Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre but mostly we stayed on site.
- Caister Castle Car Collection - Two attractions for the price one. An old ruined castle and a classic car collection. Except that the castle doesn't look as old as it actually is (being one of the first brick built examples) and you're not allowed to photograph any of the cars in the exhibition hall. I don't mind the first bit, but the second annoyed me, especially as they weren't giving us the hard sell to buy pictures, postcards or souvenir programmes on the way out. Perhaps they're overly paranoid about the cars being photographed and then stolen to order...? Anyhoo, I took a load of pictures of the castle and of the exhibits outside the main hall and have whacked them up on flickr in my Caister Castle Car Collection set.
- Sea Life Centre - We were saving this for a rainy day, but in the end it didn't rain so we ended up going on the Friday. There were plenty of things to see and look at and I have to say it was well laid out. No problems with photography here although they did ask you to refrain from using your flash. (Not the first time I've been asked to refrain from flashing in public...) Sadly, a fair few of me pictures turned out to be slightly out of focus. Never mind, I've salvaged the best and stuck them up on flickr in my Sea Life Centre set. The one downside of the visit for me was that the last exhibits were the seahorses and these always seem to make me feel melancholy for some reason. So instead of walking into the gift shop feeling cheery and ready to splash the cash, I just wanted to go home. Is it just me that feels like this about seahorses?
- The rest of the holiday Most of the rest of the holiday was spent within the confines of the camp. Which was alright - there was plenty for the kids to do, the beach was right next door and the pub opened at 8 in the morning for brekkie... And there was entertainment laid on every night, so there was always something to do just about every minute of the day. Good fun, and of course, pictures available on flickr in my Holidee 2009 set. I just wish I'd booked a couple of days of either side so that I had time to energise myself before I went and to recover when I got back... Lesson learned for next time.
UA Europe Conference - For the first time in ages I managed to persuade an employer to send me off to a conference. I couldn't manage to get them to stump up for me to go to LavaCon in New Orleans, sadly, so had to make do with the UA Conference in Cardiff. Can't say I've had any great times in Cardiff, to be honest, but that's probably because I've only been there to see Crewe get beaten... Anyway, that all changed this time round, because I had a great time - met some good people, learned some interesting things, heard some inspirational presentations and even managed to get a beer or two down me neck. Not sure exactly how much of it is directly applicable to my work at the moment (apart from the single-sourcing stuff) but all very interesting in a geeky way. Did you know that HTML 5 is coming, for example? I didn't.
Crewe Alexandra - Have to start wondering what's going on down at Gresty Road these days. Amid rumours of impending financial meltdown, the club have sacked a manager for the second time in less than year. I wasn't too disappointed to see Gudjon Thordarson get the heave-ho, to be honest, because we weren't playing attractive football, weren't winning and weren't developing our young players for the future. We lost two promising Academy graduates to Stoke during the summer due to GT's attitude towards them, apparently, That's not to say GT didn't do some good things - he signed two useful central defenders from non-league for nothing, got Zola fit enough to play 12 games in a row, sent a couple of lads to Iceland to get more experience and got rid of a lot of useless players over the summer. Sadly, he also sold two of our better players for next to nothing. In the end a run of four defeats including a dismal thrashing at Accrington Stanley and a woeful home loss to Bury was enough for the board to pull the plug. Dario has stepped into the breach once more and with only one training session got the team playing football again. There were promising signs in the defeat at home to Rotherham (although the defence and goalkeeper still looked suspect) and then a good win at Bradford. A painful loss at home to local rivals Port Vale got some fans grumbling, and they grumbled some more after the defeat at Notts County, but the recovery appeared to have started with a fine win at Cheltenham. Sadly, it all went titsup yesterday at York, where Crewe looked comfortable for 85 minutes and then conceded two late goals to crash out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle. I think there might be a bit more pain to come before we settle down and start fulfilling our potential. At least we can concentrate on the league now! In the longer term, Dario is pretty much likely to remain in charge till the end of the season and then things will be reviewed. Hopefully this signals the start of a proper succession plan, with assistant manager Steve Davis being groomed by Dario to gradually step up and take over first team affairs. Onwards and upwards. Hopefully.
Music stuff - Probably forgotten at least one of the gigs I've been to in the last couple of months, so apologies if you were expecting me to review your band. One of the things I can remember is that Sgt Wolfbanger have finally put their album out. 'Think Inside The Box', is the name of it and it's available from all good record sellers. And some crap ones. Actually, you can download it track-by-track from Amazon, or order the CD (cheaper than the download) online from bigCartel. Another of the things I can remember is going to see Wolfbanger, along with Bathroom Crooners and Heebie Jeebies supporting Slow Club. Bathroom Crooners opened the night. I liked them when I saw them last time, but this time I was a little disappointed. I think I was probably disappointed by the lack of original material as much as anything. They were just breaking in a new drummer and so were working round that, but I wanted to hear their songs not their covers of other people's. But maybe that was just me. Still think they can live without the ukulele cover of a Peaches song though. The other thing I noticed was that lead singer Sam was stuck behind his keyboards all gig, even when he didn't actually play them on a song. Think he needs to find a way to get out from behind them every now and then, to be honest - break the barrier the keyboards create. Next up were Sgt Wolfbanger, who were excellent as usual. Frontman Dan (that's a description by the way, not a nickname like he's in some Guy Ritchie-directed gangster musical) has really grown into the role and has a real stage presence now. Buy their album, see how good they are. Or at least check out their myspace page. Penultimate band were Rotherham's Heebie Jeebies. Frankly, I could live without ever hearing from them again. Their recorded material is riff-heavy stuff marred by sub-Libertines vocal stylings. Live, they were a godawful, shouty mess. Finally, boy-girl-acoustic-duo, Slow Club. I was fearful of a twee-cum-kitsch overload and they were a bit winsome at times. but overall they were very entertaining in a light acoustic American-folk-type way. Best moment of all was probably their totally acoustic encore in the middle of the audience. The other musical extravaganza I recall is the inaugural Club Sumo night at Square One in Crewe. I have to say, first off, that being slightly drunk, I probably wasn't in the best position to judge how good it was. On the other hand, I can tell you that when acoustic song boy Chris whatever-his-name-was started off down the other end of the pub, I couldn't hear him properly over the murmurings of the assembled throng. It was a situation easily resolved by moving down to the other end of the pub, but I reckon it wouldn't have hurt to have turned his mic and guitar up a bit. Unlike the Sumo Kings, who kicked off their set with the guitars turned down and the bass prominent in the mix, giving us a garage-rock sound reminiscent of Pere Ubu. Sadly they ruined it by turning the guitars and vocals up and then they sounded a lot like any other shouty indie band. They're a good shouty indie band, make no mistake, but we're not short of those.
Anyway, in the midst of all that, you'll be delighted to know I've continued splurging on the old cheapo DVDs. And I've bought a few as well...
- Quarantine - another in the long line of Hollywood remakes-cum-rip-offs. Here, it's Spanish horror, [rec] that gets the treatment. A TV documentary crew join a fire brigade unit on a shout and find themselves sealed in an apartment block with a multiplying horde of rage-zombies. It all ends badly.
- Shrooms - Drugs are bad. And the wrong sort of drugs are really bad and can instead turn you into a psychotic killer. Here, some irritating American youths travel to Ireland to sample the magic mushrooms, like you do. The cute one ingests the wrong fungus and via some trippy, hallucinatory expositions, it all ends badly.
- Hannibal Rising - The origins of Hannibal Lecter. Turns out he wasn't born bad after all. Who knew? In fact, it all started when his parents were killed during the war and he and his younger sister are "rescued" by a ragged bunch of deserters. Sadly, they live in the middle of nowhere and food is in short supply. Younger sister doesn't last long once the meat runs out. Luckily the arrival of the Russian army saves Hannibal from being eaten. Post-war, Hannibal gets taken in by his uncle in France. His uncle who just happens to be married to a martial arts expert. A martial arts expert who trains him up for his revenge mission. It all ends badly for the surviving deserters, of course, and Hannibal escapes to America.
- Outpost - Nazi Zombie Movies. Bleedin' fousands of 'em! Well, maybe not, but one of a few that have hit the shelves recently (Dead Snow, Outpost, er, that other one...) Anyway, your man here rounds up a bunch of mercenaries in some war-torn Eastern European country and heads off to an abandoned Nazi bunker. The mercenaries think they're off to retrieve some gold or something, but your man is after some sort of doomsday device that turns soldiers into invincible zombies. Sadly for him there's already some invincible Nazi zombies guarding it and they're not letting it go without a fight. Predictably, it all ends badly.
- Replacement Killers - John Woo lends his name to this caper as Executive Producer and it certainly reflects his bullet-heavy style. 'Tis a simple tale of an assassin whose conscience prevents him doing a job and must deal with the consequences. The consequences being that the gang boss has put a price on his head AND is going to kill his family back home in China too. Luckily, our hero gets some assistance from a sassy, beautiful forger. And while it's all ending badly for all our hero's other associates (and most of his would-be assassins) the two of them find a way through. It doesn't end too badly.
- O Brother, Where Art thou? - Light comic romp with George Clooney and two accomplices escaping from a chain gang and having various misadventures as they try to stay one step ahead of the chasing pack, while heading for George's home town so he can see his wife and children again. It doesn't end badly.
- Ideal Series 3 & 4 - More misadventures of Manchester's laziest drug dealer. His attempts to have a peaceful life are once again de-railed as things get ever more complicated. There's more capers with Psycho Paul's gang, Judith next door, some born-again Christian plumbers and the usual disintegration of relationships. Lots of things end badly.
- Shark in Venice - Ludicrous nonsense involving sunken treasure and sharks in the waterways of Venice. It starts badly, tails off in the middle and the less said about the end, the better...
- What Lies Beneath - I really wanted to see this at the cinema when it came out but was over-ruled by the mob and forced to watch Pitch Black instead. It's OK, I'm not bitter. Well, not any more. Or any less. The lovely Michelle Pfeiffer thinks she's being haunted and grumpy hubby Harrison Ford is no help. I wonder why..? Probably because he's read through to the end of the film and knows that it's all going to turn into a confused mess. It all ends badly. But not in a good way. In a "what the frick was that waste of my time all about" way, in fact.
And that really is enough for now. Hopefully next time, I'll be able to tell you how hilarious William Shatner's latest book is, or list the CDs by bands you've never heard of that I have purchased. I doubt it though - I'll probably be spending most of the time apologising for the lack of updates, assuming you haven't lost interest. Just remember, the update arc of the fatfakir universe is long but it bends towards eventuality...
They squat in the cottages of our ancestors, making bloody pottery
Saturday 1st August
Apologies for the lack of updates on the website. There have been sporadic updates on thief-of-time.com, or Facebook as it's more widely known, but I really ought to keep this thing a more up-to-date. And, as I'm sure I've said before, I ought to do it more often because I end up with a massive update to do, like now, if I don't. Anyway, I haven't been updating because I've been doing other stuff. Yeah, Jim in social life shocker! Hold the front page...
First up was a weekend away in Blackpool to celebrate my friend Kerri's birthday. I won't say which, because a gentleman never reveals a lady's age. (First one to suggest that neither I am a gentleman nor Kerri a lady gets a slap!) There were about ten of us (I think) made the trip up on Friday afternoon and we were joined by a couple more on the Saturday. What goes on tour, stays on tour, of course, although I do remember gatecrashing some scantily-clad hen party's photo-opportunity... I expect that'll turn up on t'Internet somewhere, with a "who is this fat basket ruining our picture?" label on it. Anyway, it was a very enjoyable weekend of beers, beers and more beers. True to form, I did nod off for substantial periods on both Friday and Saturday nights and struggled to down beers on Sunday morning. Think I might be getting too old for this sort of malarkey... There are pictures on Facebook, but I'm not telling you where they are.
The following weekend I took a trip, with my sister, Liz, and her husband, Roger, "oop Narth" to visit my older brother, Mark, and his wife, Kate, at their swanky pad near Leeds. We were joined there by my younger brother, Eddy, for a civilised afternoon-cum-evening-cum late-night of drinking and dining and generally catching up. As we don't get together that often - having last met up at our Grandpa's funeral - it was nice to be able to catch up in more relaxed circumstances. Sadly, Eddy had to dash off on Sunday morning. Always the way, but if he will grow up and get responsible... The rest of us enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and the warm summer sunshine (whatever happened to that?) in the garden. All too soon it was time to leave though.
I then had a couple of weekends pottering about. Well one weekend of pottering and one weekend of semi-pottering and looking after my sister's kids for a night. And then it was time for the the annual works BBQ. As always it was a pleasant chance to be able to toss aside the cares/pressures of work and socialise with colleagues. And this year, we had a quiz. Which my team won. Of course. Post-BBQ (and a bit of a kip) it was off up to The Box (a venue I don't visit often enough) to see Sgt Wolfbanger in action, supporting Attack! Attack! (not to be confused with Attack Attack! of course...) I arrived to hear some fairly heavy sounds going on courtesy of some band or other. Sorry whoever you were, but at this remove I can't remember your name or find the info on t'Internet on who you were. Post shouty-rock, Sgt Wolfbanger gave us a fairly truncated set (just seven songs) but still managed to remind us why there's such a buzz about them at the moment. I missed most of the headline set by Attack! Attack! as I was outside trying to cool down a bit, but from what I heard I missed a cracking set. On the other hand, if I'd stayed inside I probably would have melted! Following the Wolfbanger experience, there was a day rehydrating and then, on the Sunday morning, it was off down to deepest Warwickshire for the annual Lawrence family gathering. We normally get together at the end of June but this year we had to re-arrange as our host was unavailable. Unfortunately, this meant that other family members weren't available, so we were down by about half the usual suspects. Also, due to our host's other commitments, there was no barbecue but instead amix of pizzas and stuff for the kids and for us adults, an enormous Indian takeaway. Still, we all had a jolly time and enjoyed a rather delicious curry. And there was a first for me - I managed to bring some beer back with me! Usually I drink it all, but this year, being forced to socialise a bit more and stuff my face with delicious food prevented me from managing my quota. I really must be getting too old for this malarkey.
As my social whirl continued, interrupted by occasional visits to the office, I found the time for my trip to Grimsby for a nostalgic weekend with Steve and Kev came round somewhat faster than expected. Having booked the afternoon off, my plan to get home for a bite to eat and a cup of tea was scuppered by an unreliable train and the necessity of going shopping on the way back from the station. So I was a bit flustered when Steve arrived in his (wife's) swanky Audi TT, to whisk me me across the country. Still, what was I worried about - I could eat my sandwich and drink my drink whilst Steve had to concentrate on the driving. He got us there safely (obviously) and there was just time for a cup of tea and a freshen up before it was off out to hit the town. First stop was the "new" college bar. I say new, but it's been there a few years. It was new to me and Steve though - when we were students in Grimsby, the nearest bar to the campus was the Wheatsheaf pub. Given that they were offering beer at student prices it was daft not to resist, although we probably stayed a bit too long. (In case you're wondering how we got in the student bar, I ought to point out that Kev is now a lecturer at the Grimsby College.) From t'college it was off to town, via the Wheatsheaf for some fish and chips before moving on to take in a few of the old haunts before stumbling up the stairs to Gullivers. Hard to believe that the place is still going, to be honest, but as the one alternative venue in town I guess it'll always get business. It hasn't changed that much since I was a regular, although the one notable change was that there's now a man in the gents trying to flog you tat while you're having a wee. Given the size of Gullivers toilet, there's no way to avoid him. It was most off-putting. Of course, that's about all I remember of Gullies, because I fell asleep. Proof positive that I'm getting too old for this malarkey... Saturday morning, after a restorative fried brekkie in Cleethorpes, it was off to the smallest pub in the world for a few liveners before making our way back into the centre of Cleethorpes for more booze, a bazillion games of pool, more booze, a curry and more booze. Oh, and some more booze. Trouble was that being old farts we couldn't manage the vast quantities of beer we could in our heyday, so by about 8 o'clock we were on the Vodka and Red Bulls and in danger of actually sobering back up again! Still, at least they were keeping me awake! A few more beer and a deciding game of pool (I am the supreme pool-playing champion of the universe or something. Or best out of me, Steve and Kev) and it was time to call it a night. Sunday, we had a leisurely breakfast and then a gentle tootle back home. All very pleasant and we'll have to do it again.
The following Friday, as if my liver hadn't suffered enough, I joined up with a load of ex-colleagues (and new friends) from MDS for the Rail Ale Trail. I've mentioned it before on here, but for the uninitiated, this is basically a train-based pub crawl from Warrington to Dewsbury and back, calling at Stalybridge, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Marsden and Stalybridge, which all have bars on or near the station. Trains are about every 45 minutes to an hour, giving you plenty of time to sample the real ales on offer. Or sip some lager, if you must. And because all the bars are in close proximity, it's not a pub crawl that's really affected by the weather. This year there was a pretty large turn-out and it was good to catch up with a few old colleagues and that. I nearly missed the train at Marsden due to going to the chippy and am not entirely sure how I got back from Manchester, as I was extremely drunk, but get home I did and I had a great time, I believe.
The following Friday I was off back up to The Box to catch The Lockdown playing one of their final gigs before the lads all bugger off to University. Despite comedy capers with a delayed train, I still managed to arrive in time to catch Secret Fiction, and I'm glad I did. Proper old skool indie, reminiscent of bands like The Monochrome Set, early Orange Juice, Felt, The Brilliant Corners, them types. Very enjoyable. By complete contrast, I could live without seeing Bad Attitude ever again. Definitely not my cup of tea - I'm not a massive fan of heavy rock, anyway - and compounded by the vocalist's appalling mid-Atlantic accent. I was half-expecting a shout of "Hello Cleveland! How ya doin'?" to be honest. Still, there were laughs to be had at the expense of their over-enthusiastic cheerleader. With pretty much a homer crowd, The Lockdown didn't have to try too hard, but they showed that they'd learned the lessons of their last headline spot at The Box and were much tighter this time round, delivering a set chock full of top tunes. They were still a little unsure how to handle the encore, but that's a minor quibble. Top notch entertainment, again.
Saturday afternoon, having recovered from the Lockdown gig, it was off to Leamington Spa for my mate John's 40th birthday. Many beers were consumed and I had a good time. I don't see John often enough, but then that's probably true for all my friends. I'm a bit rubbish at keeping in touch. Well, a lot rubbish really. Anyway, Leamington Spa is a lovely town, John and family have a fantastic house with a splendid garden and I really ought to make sure it's a lot less than four years before I go a-visiting again. Maybe next summer, during the close season... And next time I'll remember to take my train timetable with me so I don't end up having an hour's wait at Birmingham on the way back.
Despite my gallivanting up and down and across the country, I have, still found time to indulge my fetish for cheap DVDs. And this month, I have even managed to pick up a few that are better than alright. This month I have purchased and viewed the following:
- Magnolia - Tom Cruise has been in some right tat in the course of his career but this almost makes up for all that. Almost. It's hard to explain without making it sound either weird or just rubbish, but this is a quality film.
- Young Frankenstein - Gene Wilder as the grandson of the famous Herr Doktor, trying to live down his grandpa's reputation but ultimately giving in and trying to recreate the famous experiments. ably assisted by Marty Feldman as Igor. One of Mel Brooks's all-time classics, I fancy.
- Office Space - I have a friend who goes on about this, and has a red Swingline stapler that she's overly fond of, but until recently I had never seen it going cheap and, to be honest, the cover put me off a bit. I should have known better. A deeply cynical look at life in the cube farm.
- Lady Vengeance - Starts off appearing to be a straight-forward tale of a woman who took the rap for a lover and now wants revenge on him, but then sudddenly whacks you with with a whole new world of pain. I felt as if I'd been punched in the guts when the big reveal happened.
- The Notorious Bettie Page - a biopic of sorts of the the lovely Ms Bettie, who was a famous, erm, glamour model in the fifties and indeed rather lovely and not a little saucy. It's an interesting story but doesn't really add anything that aficianados of her life and work didn't already know.
- Sunshine - The sun is dying and a crew has been sent to re-ignite it. Sent in the unsuccessful footsteps of a previous attempt. And whaddya know, they find their predecessors and discover why their mission failed. But not before lots of them get bumped off, of course.
- Layer Cake - cor blimey guv'nor, if it ain't a little gangster movie starring a few good old British thesps and Daniel 'James Bond' Craig.
- War of the Worlds - Tom Cruise pisses all over the goodwill engendered by his appearance in Magnolia by starring in this awful re-make. The Special FX and that might be top notch but the plot is pretty woeful and Mr Cruise appears to be sleepwalking through the film. In fact you probably could have just edited together bits of any of his last ten roles to make this film.
- Silent Movie - proof perhaps that not everything Mel Brooks does is saturated with genius. It has its moments, of course, but it also drags at times.
- Hot Shots/Hot Shots Part Deux - 'I loved you in Wall Street!' Ahh the spoof - the sort of stuff Charlie Sheen did so much. Fair enough. take the money. These are OK and came in a double pack for £2.99, so I ain't complaining. So there.
- Monty Python - Almost Everything Box Set - surely the bargain of the month. A 15 disc (yes, fifteen) for a mere nine pounds and ninety-nine pence, courtesy of those generous folks at Morrisons. Not got through much of it yet, but I will. Might even make a side project out of it...
- Ideal Series 1 & 2 - The misadventures of Johhny Vegas' hapless small-time dealer. You must have seen an episode or two surely?
- Watchmen - the 2 Disc Special Edition, which wasn't cheap actually and doesn't contain the Tales of the Black Freighter on the second disc as I was originally led to believe. Arse. Still, the film itself didn't disappoint. I could complain about the stuff that got left out and the change in the crucial plot development at the end but unless you're a fanboy like me, you probably won't notice. Top stuff, in spite of what Alan Moore might think.
Anyway, that's yer lot. I would add more but I've got to go and have a couple hours kip before getting up to pack me bag and bomb off on holiday. Next time round I'll upload all me photos and give you reports on the Nantwich Show and International Cheese Festival and my holiday. Possibly.
That was the weekend that was
Wednesday 3rd June
I was going to start with a rhetorical question about why you always feel knackered after a Bank Holiday weekend but, frankly, I know the reasons why I felt so tired last week. Three days and four nights of taking in the gigs of Crewe's Volume Festival did me in, not to mention the all-day drinking....
Things kicked off on Thursday evening with a few beers as part of the Crewe Blog get-together, timed to coincide with the start of the festival. Opening proceedings, in Bar 22 were female duo Sahreal. Undoubtedly talented (and attractive, it must be said) their keyboard, violin and twin vocals are very easy on the ear. Sometimes a little too easy, but that's a minor quibble and one easily addressed by adding some more instruments. Promising start. From Bar 22, the Crewe Blog gathering rolled onto Square One where former Seahorses front man Chris Helme was doing a solo spot. He went down particularly well with the crowd, and clearly has a great voice, but I'm not a particular fan. (Feel free to point out that I've not performed on stage in more than 20 years, any time you like!) Moving swiftly on and under the influence of slightly too much alcohol, it was off to The Box for Mutha Humbucker, who were preceded by bonus solo artiste Jasmine (at least I think that was her name). She was alright although didn't make a lasting impression on me. The main act, the aforementioned Mutha Humbucker, are very good at what they do but I guess whether you like them or not will depend on your tolerance for rock-based cover acts. I don't mind them and they were good at it, so it was win-win for me. On the other hand, on the drink front it was lose-lose as I over-indulged and nodded off at the bar...
In my defence, I had been at work since the early morning, I hadn't had anything to eat since lunchtime and it was the end of a very long day...
Feeling rough on Friday was not good, as I had to get up early and travel over to Yorkshire for my granddad's funeral. Luckily, I was getting a lift and so could spend the journey dozing and slowly rehydrating with a bottle of cola. One of the first disapoointments of arriving in Conisbrough was finding that Butt Hole Road has been renamed Archers Way, as reported in your super, soaraway Sun (and several other newspapers) last week. On the bright side, it should be noted that Backside Lane in Warmsworth still exists. Anyway, the other disappointment was finding that none us had won the sweep on guessing what time Eddy would turn up, because he was already there by there by the time we arrived. After a brief rendezvous at my parents house, if it was off round to grandpa's and the sombre business of his funeral at St Peter's Church, Conisbrough. Although, funerals are never joyous occasions, it was hard to be too sad at this one. The grand old man had racked up 94 and a half years and, for us grandchildren, all we have of him are happy memories - his cheeky smile, his terrible jokes, his sharp wit, and his general warmth. And if those things weren't enough, we had the "comedy" moments of the funeral - the reluctantly-lighting candle, the vicar's inability to pronounce the word 'cordwainer' (he kept putting an extraneous 's' in the middle of it) and the organist who didn't seem to know the hymns. Those things though, were the sort of little things that would have amused him. That said, it was also a little humbling, during the eulogy, to be reminded that the kindly old man that I fondly remember had served with distinction alongside the Gurkhas during the Second World War. It also gave me great pride to see so many people turn out at the church for his service. I hope I can pull a crowd even half that size when I pop me clogs. Anyway, after the service it was a trip to the crematorium for final farewells, and then off to the wake. Which mostly consisted of catching up with the relatives that we hadn't recognised when we met at the church... It was nice to catch up with relatives I don't see very often, albeit under sad circumstances. There was still time for a brief stop off back at my parents house for more cups of tea (I was awash with the stuff!) before heading off back home.
Anyway, as a result of the events of the day on Friday, I was too frazzled to even contemplate going out when I got back home, so missed out on Sgt Wolfbanger, Sad Day for Puppets and other assorted delights. On the other hand there was still Saturday, Sunday and Monday to get through...
I joined the party a little after kick-off on Saturday, heading up to Square One to catch the Sumo Kings doing an acoustic set, as their appearance later in the day was scheduled to clash with The Lockdown. As it turned out a number of 'technical difficulties' meant that Sumo Kings gave us a full-on electric set and very good it was too. These guys have really moved it up a notch since I saw them last year. Top notch. From thence, my carefully laid plans went to pot as I met up with Mr Crewe Blog and a couple of other friends. We ended up watching some footy (the League 2 Play Off Final, to be exact) and thus I missed Autumn Fall at the Bank and the next act I caught was Seb Green at The Express. Despite the name, they turned out to be a decent band, not a solo act. Not sure how much Mr Crewe Blog saw as he was distracted by the arrival of Ipso Facto (more of whom later) and went off to get some informal snaps. From there it was hotfoot to The Bank to catch Yes Sensei, who fulfilled the criterion for all female-fronted rock groups by being fronted by a female... They were pretty good although, as with last year, the sound was too loud inside the actual pub and it sounded better out in the beer garden. Oh and minus points to The Bank for having run out of a lot of draught beers by early Saturday evening. Once they'd finished we moved back to The Express to catcha bit of The Decision. I'd not had them on my list due to the bland name, but as is usual at festivals, it's the bonus bands that turn out to be quite good. As the sun finally set, it was on to Bar 22 to see me old faves, The Lockdown. Much better performance this time round and although I'm still not convinced by the solo spot for the guitarist in the middle, it was much slicker than their appearance at The Box. After that, it was a quick dip into Square One to catch the second half of the set by Sway, an excellent covers band. They were running a bit late so we got more than I expected. Very enjoyable. I left before the end though, anxious to catch the psychedelic goth-pop of London cuties Ipso Facto at The Box. As it was, everything was running behind schedule and we arrived in time to see support act Bleached Wail take the stage. Blistering punky-rock, I think would be a fair description. I do think they need an extra guitarist to flesh out the sound a little more and to give the lead singer/guitarist a bit of a break at times, but that's a minor quibble. Finally, way past their scheduled start time, Ipso Facto took the stage. As predicted by Eddy (my younger brother), they weren't actually very thrilling but they are very fit. And their set ended rather abruptly. Ah well, never mind, time to go home and get some sleep in readiness for Sunday's marathon.
Sunday. The traditional day of rest. And yet there's no rest for the wicked, even on a Sunday. A decent breakfast, a couple of hours vegetating in front of the Monaco Grand Prix and then it was off to catch Sgt Wolfbanger in acoustic action at Square One. Except it wasn't Wolfbanger, but brother of Sgt Wolfbanger in action when I arrived. Can't knock him - he was very good - but he wasn't what I was expecting. And then there was another glitch in my plans as I was dragged away (no, really, totally against my will) to watch some more football on the telly and drink more dirty beer. By the time the footy had finished and I'd had a bite to eat it was time to catch The Clay Faces. Jolly folky-punky Levellers-cum-Men They Couldn't Hang-types they were (although they'll probably hate that description) and definitely worth going to see if you're into that sort of t'ing. They were a refreshing contrast too. I then staggered round to Square One to catch the saucy rock'n'roll antics of Gundogs. No denying the young ladies that front the band are easy on the eye, but musically they were no different to a hundred "rawk" bands I've heard before and their writhing stage antics neither new nor special (Hole, L7, Rock Bitch...). Perhaps I'm getting a bit old but I'd rather they concentrated on having some memorable songs. Mind, worse was to come. I headed down to the M Club to sample the atmosphere of the Punk all-dayer and try to catch a bit of the headliners, one-hit wonders, The Members. Sadly, there was no atmosphere. A bit of a cock-up on the planning front meant that the advertised all-dayer didn't actually start till 7pm and there was no information about any other bands that might have been playing. (As I understand it Wasted Life played and that was it.) Consequently there weren't many people in there and The Members had already started when I arrived. Judging from the quality of their new material it was probably just as well I missed some of it, though. Clearly even the few die-hard punks who were still there didn't like it. They saved their one hit, 'Sound of the Suburbs', till last and once that was done, I was out of the door (as indeed were the band, by all accounts). I headed back to The Box hoping to catch a bit of Silvertone Prophet Deluxe and The Old Romantic Killer Band and as I arrived Flux were just finishing. They were then followed by Highwired, a late addition to the bill, who opened with an Arctic Monkeys number. Alright, it wasn't an Arctic Monkeys number but it sounded so much like one, it might as well have been. Their second number was no less a carbon copy. I was so flipping irritated that I left. Alright, it wasn't just irritation - I was also hot, tired and little drunk. Given how knacked I felt on Monday morning, the early departure was probably no bad thing.
Monday. Final day of the festival and a bit of a chilled-out day. I only caught a few acts. First up were Bathroom Crooners, who were quirky, interesting and a little rough round the edges. From The Imp it was a swift trot to Square One to catch half of Heart of the Sun doing a few acoustic numbers before a stagger off to see synth-based electropop of Monochrome. From there it was back to Square One for some more acoustic stuff (from The Retrospective, I believe, although I'm not certain) before catching the train home for a relatively early night ahead of work on Tuesday.
So what are my reflections of the event? Well, overall, fantastic. Plenty of good bands seen, not too much walking done between venues and beer had at all stops on route. Stand out memories, in no particular order - Sway, Sahreal, Clay Faces, Sumo Kings, Ipso Facto (merely for being gorgeous), Bathroom Crooners. Frustrations - not being able to see all the bands that I wanted due to scheduling clashes or general knackeredness on my part, and that there wasn't an event like this 25 years ago, when I was a young, thrusting bass player in an aspiring indie band. Disappointments - well, I wasn't sold on the M Club's Punk All-dayer idea, but they really fecked that up; the annoying thing being that that reflected badly on the rest of the fest, which went really well. One noticeable thing about this year's festival was that the standard of bands had improved immensely on last year. And there were a lot of local bands popping up - this was a great showcase for local bands. Can't help thinking that next year it might be worth trying to get one of the national music press chaps to come and cover the event. I'm already looking forward to it.
I'm still waiting for this film Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus to be available on Amazon. It looks like a fantastic bit of nonsense, which clearly it is. It would have got a cinematic realease otherwise, surely? In case, you're wondering just how big the Mega Shark is, I can tell you without fear of spoiling the film that it's big enough to take a substantial bite out of the Golden Gate Bridge. And the Giant Octopus? Big enough to smash a submarine without too much effort. It looks soooo much like a B-Movie classic that I can't help feeling I might be a little disappointed.
And on the subject of visual trickery, I've seen a fantastic, if rather swear-heavy, treatment of The Apprentice. Any regular vistors to b3ta.com will have already seen it, so apologies if you have, although I make no apologies for extending it's shelf-life. I have long been a fan of Cassetteboy's audio work, but hadn't been aware he was branching out into video. Here, in all it's Not Safe For Work, sweary glory is Cassetteboy vs The Bloody Apprentice. Genius. Check out some of the related videos too - especially the David Attenborough and Gordon Brown ones.
And that's about it for this time. I'm sure I've forgotten to mention some blatant consumerism on my part (or crappy DVDs, as everyone else calls them). Got a couple of weekends away lined up so might risk taking my camera and grabbing some snaps. One of those weekends is in Blackpool though, so perhaps I might not. You'll just have to imagine me in my string vest and 'Kiss Me Quick' hat, staggering along the prom at four in the morning...
George Stanley Coe
28/11/1914 - 11/05/2009
Rest in peace, Grandad. 94 years young, died after a short illness. Much missed already.
Tuesday 12th May
...and I won the half-time draw. Which was nice.
Well, you may have noticed, I've changed my logo. Not sure if I'm happy with it myself, to be honest, but I thought I'd give it a go and see how I feel after a month or two. Yes, I did design it myself, which probably explains the blocky, dated look. I've actually had this sort of font knocking around as part of another project. A project that doesn't seem to be getting anywhere, so I re-used the graphic idea. You'll also be delighted to learn that I've now got a Facebook page where you can find out my real name, apply to be my friend and, er, read occasional postings from me. You can either use the link or the handy Facebook logo to your left. Get thee hence and get clicking through to me!
Anyway, you'll be delighted to know that not only have I changed my logo but I've also been maintaining my commitment to kick-starting the economy by the purchase of cheap CDs and DVDs. This months bargains include:
- The Rutles - The Rutles - A re-issued version of the soundtrack to the original Rutles mockumentary. Includes a few tracks not included on the original CD apparently, but as I didn't buy that, it makes no odds. What we have here though is Neil Innes accurately pastiching every element of The Beatles back catalogue. Outside of the context of the film though, these songs stand up as well as any and, unlike most comedy recordings, bear repeated listening.
- The Transformed Man - William Shatner - Quite frankly, staggering. A concept album like no other. Because no other features Captain Kirk, declaiming like Laurence Olivier on drugs and backed by lush orchestral arrangements. Beyond that simple description, I don't know how I can do it justice. If you've not heard any Shatner - check out his rendition of Elton John's Rocketman, on youtube. And that's tame compared to some of the stuff on the album...
- So Tonight That I May See - Mazzy Star - Starts off with the simply mesmerising 'Fade Into You' but then goes a bit downhill and gets a bit samey. Worth having for the opening track alone though.
- Blade Runner (The Final Cut) - A second revisiting of his classic film by director Ridley Scott. Better than the Director's Cut, as it's closer to the original film, and you'll be pleased to know that the new SpecialFX don't alter the story in any way, unlike George Lucas' digital trickery on the Star Wars trilogy.
- 28 Days Later - Danny 'Trainspotting' Boyle's zombie horror flick. I went to see this on it's cinematic release back in 2002. It's still slightly disappointing. Some of it is very good but there are occasional passages of arty nonsense which undermine it. On the other hand, it is an intelligent re-imagining of the zombie genre. I think however, I'll stick with my initial judgement that as a monkey-infecting-humans movie it's better than Outbreak but not as good as Braindead.
- 28 Weeks Later - Sequel to the above, featuring precisely none of the cast of the original. And none of the invention of the original. (Although Danny Boyle and original writer Alex Garland are credited as Executive Producers, I reckon that this is only because they had the rights to the original concept. They certainly didn't have a hand in the script or direction.) This is pretty much your standard zombie-cum-peril movie. Bob Carlyle's wife turns out to be immune to the Rage virus, which is handy when he abandons her in order to save his own skin. Bob's kids also turn out to be immune, which is also handy when Bob gets infected by his returning wife and then infects everyone else. An Army medic teams up with a soldier to try to get the kids, and assorted other characters, to safety. Along the way everyone dies, except the kids and they get flown off to infect France...
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail - classic Python, picked up cheap at Morrisons. A jolly romp through the mythology of King Arthur and the holy grail, if you don't know.
- The Life of Brian - Likewise picked up cheap at Morrisons. A jolly romp through the life of Jesus, except that it's not Jesus but a guy called Brian, who is mistaken for the Messiah. Still banned in Ireland, I believe.
- Last King of Scotland - picked up cheap in Morrisons (can you spot a pattern here?) but I haven't had chance to watch it yet. I might get round to it once I've finished this update.
- Saw V - The fifth instalment in the Saw canon and one that hints at closure. Well, there's closure of a kind, but even though Jigsaw himself died at the end of the third film, they've managed two more without him and there's plenty of scope for another. This time round, his assistant is continuing Jigsaw's work but has an FBI agent hot on his trail. Plenty of flashbacks to retro-fit the storyline to the previous films, which works well. And a somewhat downbeat end.
- There Will Be Blood - picked up cheap in Morrisons, again but, again, I've not yet had chance to watch it. Meant to be very good, which is why I bought it, of course.
- Snatch - Guy Ritchie's kind-of-sequel to Lock, Stock etc, that isn't a sequel really. If you don't take it seriously, and given Brad Pitt's accent I'm not sure how you can, it's an enjoyable caper. A caper with a lot of swearing and violence, obviously, but a caper nonetheless.
- Mum & Dad - Grimy, suburban Brit-horror, in which a homicidal cabbie and his sadistic wife, living by Heathrow, prey on the vulnerable. Their dysfunctional "family" gains a new member when Polish cleaner, Lena, is lured back to their house. Trapped in their House of Horrors she can either join them or die. Or wait for her chance and escape, killing Mum, Dad and daughter Birdie on the way. So which do you think she does? Yep, goes for the third option. There's a lot of horror and violence on the way, of course, but escape she does. It's a bit grim but in the end, it doesn't deliver anything I haven't seen before.
All this blatant consumerism has served as a welcome distraction from the fate of my little smashers, Crewe Alexandra, who flirted with escaping the drop but failed to win in their last ten games. In the end they were relegated back to the fourth tier of English football for the first time in fifteen years, going down with little more than a whimper in a tame defeat by champions Leicester. Not that I was there to see it - a dismal defeat away at Stockport eight days earlier had virtually guaranteed relegation and having witnessed that I was in no mood to see the final throes. It was all a bit disheartening and I'm having the summer off and won't be thinking about the footy too much until fixture lists come out... in about six weeks time!
In marked contrast to Crewe, Nantwich Town continued their recent excellent progress on the field and finished the season third in the Unibond Premier League. They had a little dip in form towards the end of the season but having exceeded all expectations in getting into the top six that was only to be expected. Sadly they narrowly missed out on promotion, losing a close play-off final at Ilkeston in a match that went to extra-time. I'm sure that once the disappointment has worn off the players will be able to feel proud of what they achieved and if Steve Davis stays on as manager, I'm also sure he'll be pushing the team to go one better next season.
Gigs. They're like buses. But not in the usual cliched sense of waiting for ages and then four come along at once. More in the sense that they're over-priced, full of sweaty people that you wouldn't normally associate with, and don't usually take you to exactly where you want to go. And sometimes they leave you stranded miles from home... All of which is a bit of a pre-amble to mentioning that I saw The Lockdown in action a few weeks back, headlining at The Box. To tell the truth it wasn't their most polished performance but given that they were studying for exams at the time, they can probably be excused a little. I hope they've learned though that it's not enough to simply turn up and hope for the best. We'll soon find out as they're playing at Bar 22 on Saturday 22nd May as part of the Volume Festival. The fest, for those who can't be bothered to click the link, sees a number of bands playing at a number of venues across Crewe over the late May Bank Holiday. I've already downloaded the line-up and am currently trying to work out a schedule that allows me to see as many bands as possible with the least amount of walking. Although more walking might mean less beer and, consequently, that I remember more of the bands I see...
Being a bit of a fat bloke, I was somewhat bemused recently to see a banner headline on The Sun proclaiming Fatties Cause Global Warming. In true Sun-style, there's a whole load of waffle from "scientists" stating that each overweight person contributes an extra tonne of greenhouse gases a year. All based on the "evidence" that global farming output is increasing to feed the fat people and that fat people are more likely to drive short distances rather than walk. Which you might think is reductively obvious. Of course, the same reductive science would also point out that you can reduce your contribution to global warming by not having children and by breathing less. Now, don't get me wrong, I acknowledge that as a tubster, I can help myself by eating less and exercising more (although I don't drive so I have to walk or use public transport) but it seems to me that global warming has become the latest stick with which to beat the overweight. Am I right? Or am I just getting unnecessarily over-worked over this ludicrously bad piece of journalism?
Sunday 29th March 2009
Like ghosts settling in dark water
So I thought I ought to get round to another update. It has, after all only been about eight weeks weeks since the last one.... First up, news on me old ma, who reached the milestone of her 70th birthday last month. We had a party to celebrate. Well, I say 'party' but really it was an extended Sunday lunch out at the Holiday Inn at Warmsworth. Which was fine - it's not like any of us are really up to partying all night any more. Sadly. Anyway, we had a jolly old time and I even took a few pictures, which you can see in my Ma's Birthday photoset on flickr.
Because of the credit crunch I've been doing my bit to kick-start the economy. In particular the music and crappy DVD sectors. I've picked up a fair few bits and pieces over the last couple of months, so I'm bound to forget a few, but here's a brief run down on what I have purchased:
- Years of Refusal - Morrissey. Not quite the "superb return to form" as it's been widely hailed, if you ask me, but a solid effort that suffers from having too many songs on it and not being particualrly well-balanced. They could have dropped at least one mid-tempo stomper and one slow tempo maudlin number and re-ordered the songs to make a better album, I think. On the other hand, it's better to have an imperfect Morrissey album than no Morrissey album at all.
- Goodnight Oslo - Robyn Hitchcock. A new one from the Hitchster, backed by his REM buddies (Buck, Rieflin, McCaughey) as the Venus 3. No surprises that it's full of the acoustic-slash-jangly guitar music that he does so well. But it's a slight thing and probably not likely to win new fans, despite getting a positive review in The Sun newspaper.
- I Often Dream of Trains - Robyn Hitchcock. Classic Hitchcock from 1984. Re-issued both as a standalone album and as part of a retrospective boxset - as I've got most of the others in the box set, I bought the stand-alone version. It's mostly acoustic guitars and surreal lyrics but contains some absolute belters.
- The Crying Light - Anthony and the Johnsons. Not sure this was a very wise purchase, to be honest. I do like his strangled warblings, but there's only three or four songs on this that are in anyway memorable. Which is a shame.
- Dare - The Human League. Hard to believe that I've not bought this before, having had it on vinyl for a great many years. Classic electro-pop, of course, although I prefer their slightly-less-perfect earlier work.
- Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) - Captain Beefheart. He didn't have a lot of luck getting this out, did the Captain. Recorded twice, with different line-ups, and stymied by contractual wrangling, this started life in 1976 and finally saw the light of day in the UK in 1980 (although it did get a US release in 1978). This sees the Captain going back to his roots after the commercial failures of his more mainstream albums (Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams - actually good albums, in my opinion). Definitely a return to classic Beefheart form.
- This Nation's Saving Grace, Revisited - Globo. An electronic re-working of the classic Fall album that works in places, but falls woefully short in others.
- Grotesque (After The Gramme) - The Fall. Classic Fall album from way back when. Another added to the swelling Fall section of my CD collection. Features absolute spot-on Fall classic 'English Scheme' and the added bonus of 'How I Wrote Elastic Man' and 'City Hobgoblins'. And a bizarre rambling ten minutes where Mark E Smith interviews himself.
- Imperial Wax Solvent - The Fall. The latest release from the long-running grouch merchants. Featuring yet another a line-up (about the 400th I think) but no variation from the basic guitars, drums, keyboards, gnarled vocals blueprint that has served them so well over the years. Sadly, seems to lack the spark that lit earlier Fall records. I think MES needs to find a line-up that can write a couple of catchy tunes.
As well as CDs, I've been stocking up on DVDs, courtesy mostly of Morrison's bargain bins and Amazon's sale, it has to be said. Some good, some bad, some indifferent, but all of them less than the recommended retail price. And all of them needing watching, which is just as well, as my TV reception has gone down the toilet so I can't watch much actual TV (thank god for the Internet!). To be honest, I haven't missed it that much...
- The Abominable Dr Phibes - Classic Vincent Price vehicle, with Vince as the Deranged Doc, wreaking a terrible revenge on the nine medical staff he blames for the death of his beloved wife. And he's not just content to bump them off with a gun or something simple but via all sorts of mad, and presumably painful, schemes based on the Ten Plagues of Egypt. He drains the blood out of one unfortunate victim, has another eaten by locusts, another frozen to death and one gets his throat crushed in a mechanical frog mask. Yes, a mechanical frog mask. It's barking. It's hilarious. It's a camp horror masterpiece.
- Dr Phibes Rises Again - Having gotten away with it in the first film, Dr Phibes comes out of hiding to journey to Egypt find the River of Life in order to ressurect his lovely wife. Sadly, whilst he's been holed up in his crypt, some villain has taken the map from the rubble of his house. Once he's tracked down the thief, he packs up his killing kit and it's off to Egypt to beat the villain to the prize. Biederbecke, the villain, is actually hundreds of years old and has survived thanks to a supply of water from the River of Life. Now his supply is running out and he must find the river in order to maintain his youthful looks. He assembles a small party to help him with his expedition and it's just as well, because Phibes spends his time bumping them off in all sorts of ingenious manners. Manners almost as barking, and certainly as implausible, as those in the first film. Perhaps not quites a pleasing as the first film but another classic piece of camp horror.
- The Grudge - The US remake, not the original (which I bought yonks ago). The timeline for this one is a bit less convoluted than the original, which makes the story a bit easier to follow. It stills cuts back and forth between the various storylines and you have to pay attention. That said, it didn't creep me out as much as the original. Perhaps that was because I knew what to expect.
- The Grudge 2 - The US sequel, obviously. Having rather surprisingly stuck to the original storyline and not spared Sarah Michelle Gellar, I rather hoped they'd try to avoid the Hollywood ending this time round too. Well, they did, but instead went down the Hollywood route of making a complete mish-mash of a film instead.
- The Ring - Again, the US remake rather than the Japanese original (which I've had on DVD for years, so there). I saw this at the cinema and was quite impressed I seem to remember. They've done a decent job, apart from the critical reveal, which they do rather less well. They also chuck in loads of stuff that was in the orignal sequel, so as a consequence, they've not got much room for manoeuvre when it comes to a sequel. Speaking of which...
- The Ring 2 - The US sequel (Yes, I've got the Japanese sequel too and the prequel, Ring 0, ner-ner- ner). As underwhelming as the first remake was pleasing. Although starring Naomi Watts again, she seems to be the only one involved who had any knowledge of the first film. And even she seems to have forgotten most of it. Disappointing.
- Poltergeist - Classic horror from 1982. Not as scary as I seem to remember, but still unsettling. And although directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) the product of that fevered mind, Stephen Spielberg, who gave us ET in the same year. Well worth having for just under three quid of your Earth pounds.
- Child's Play - Another classic, purchased for less than three quid from Morrisons bargain bin. It starts with a bit of a silly premise and spawned some famous (and infamous) sequels but this is genuinely enjoyable. Definitely a little tame by today's gore-porn standards, but an effective little film that relies on those oft-forgotten staples of a decent script and good direction.
- The Blues Brothers - I've seen it. You've seen it. We've all seen it, apart from my nephew Daniel. It was going cheap on Amazon so I bought it for him. And me.
- The Producers - The film of the musical of the film. I was worried that somehow they'd manage to muck about with the original script and make it not funny, but Mel Brooks has got his hands all over this, ensuring that none of the humour is diluted and none of the impact of the awfulness of 'Springtime for Hitler' is lost. I think I still prefer the original film, but this is almost as good.
- The Mighty Boosh (Series 3) - That difficult third series, loosely set in Naboo's shop and featuring the further misadventures of Howard Moon and Vince Noir. Going cheap(ish) on Amazon, if you're interested. I wouldn't recommend this ahead of their first series, to be honest, but it's still miles better than 99.9% of TV comedy.
- Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer - What can I say? I'm still a comic-book fan-boy at heart. And I can't resist the lure of the Morrisons bargain bin. Perhaps though, I should have resisted. This is a steaming pile of pants.
As well as all that, me old mate John sent me some tat. Which was nice, because you can never have too much tat, can you? Except, it's not really tat, not to us anyway. It might be tat to most people but to us it's pure gold. Or something like that. Anyway, what John sent me was:
- Peepshow III - No, nothing to do with Mitchell & Webb but a load of videos, interviews and larking about featuring bands from the Fat Wreck Chords roster. Loud, shouty, punk and ska-punk stuff, all very enjoyable.
- Americanism - various Artists A fine compilation of the mid-80s wave of American guitar bands that were, before the rise of Madchester, all the rage. All your classic acts turn up here - Sonic Youth, Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, Giant Sand, Golden Palominos, Beat Farmers, The dBs, Thin White Rope, American Music Club, Miracle Legion - and a couple I've never heard of.
- WWF: The Music, vol 5 Not the fifth in a long-running series of benefit CDs for the World Wildlife Fund but actually the fifth in a long-running series of cash-in CDs for the World Wrestling Federation, as they were known before they lost their court battle and became the WWE. Features entrance themes for a variety of wrestlers and includes Triple H's iconic 'The Game' played by Motorhead. Also features entrance music for a number of wrestlers no longer with the company (and, in the cases of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, no longer with us). The real interesting thing about this CD though is that all the tracks (even the one played by Motorhead) are written by the same guy. Which explains why they all sound the same.
Anybody else watching Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle? You can catch the recent episodes on BBC iplayer, which I'd advise because this isn't going to be rushed out on DVD. In each half hour episode, Stewart turns his comedy searchlight on to a specific subject. The first one was focussed on the crapness of celebrity books, the second on television and tomorrow night's instalment is on political correctness. Now I quite enjoy his droll sarcasm as much as the next man but there was a segment in the first show when he started channelling the spirit of his own comedy hero, the Rev Ted Chippington. For those who have seen it, it was the bit about the rap singers, the rappers, in the shopping centre. For those who haven't, it was the bit about the rappers and you're going to have to wait till September to check it out on DVD, according to Amazon. Either way, imagine that segment delivered in a flat Stoke accent with a few more pauses, and that, my friends is the style of Lord Ted of Chippington. Sir Stewart of Lee, you are ripping him off and I demand restitution!
Football matters. No, it does. Never more so than when your team is doing well. After three and a half seasons of mediocrity, interrupted by a season of averageness, Gudjon Thordarsson seems to have turned things around and has got Crewe winning again. Well, he got us winning during February (and won the Manager of the Month trophy) but March has been a bit less successful. Can't complain really, it was unrealistic to expect our great run of form to continue. The important thing is that the team moved from the bottom of the table to 17th and four points above the relegation zone, until our recent mini-crisis (two defeats and two draws) and improved form amongst the teams around us mean that we're only a point above the drop zone now. And teams below us have games in hand. Mind you, we have just played three of the teams in the top five, so hopefully the remaining games will be eaiser. I still think we need three wins to be safe but, considering that all but the most fanatical Crewe supporters were accepting relegation before Christmas, this is quite a turnaround. Hopefully we can seal safety by winning the next three games, meaning we can have a right old party at the Crewe ASi end-of-season bash after our home game against Cheltenham.
That other bunch I follow, Nantwich Town, have continued to impress. After a faltering start in the Unibond league, they've found their feet, settled on their best team and seem a safe bet for the end-of-seasons play-offs. Not nailed on, but lying third in the table with games in hand on all but one of the teams around them, they must have a good chance. They might yet top the table to go up automatically, but that looks a remote possibility - leaders Eastwood would have to drop more points and second-placed Ilkeston slip up in dramatic fashion AND Nantwich win all their games, which is a big ask. I'd rather that happened than Nantwich make the play-offs, to be honest, as the play-off final is on the same day as Crewe's last home game of the season and I'll have to go to that.
Anybody fancy listening to Tom Waits in concert? I do. And so can you. Just go to this Tom Waits page on NPR and click on the link to launch their player and stream two-and-a-half hours of gravelly-voiced crooning at it's very best, recorded on Tom's recent Glitter and Doom tour. Top.
Speaking of gigs, I haven't been to many this year, despite always promising I'll do more, but only the other night, I went up to Manchester with a couple of mates to see Alela Diane. I'm no great fan of the folk-whimsy, to be honest, but she does have a luverly voice and as far as I could tell from the Interweb, some decent songs. We arrived at the venue just in time to catch the end of the support act, William Elliot Whitmore. The four songs we saw him play were alright and in 'The old Devils' he clearly has a crowd pleaser. After what seemed an unfeasibly long wait (more than your standard 30 minutes between acts, for sure) Alela took the stage. Starting off solo, she played a couple of songs, and then seemed to be inviting additional band members on stage at regular intervals. Sadly, the introduction of the band didn't really add much to her rather slight songs, especially the rhythm section who consisted of a scary-looking beardy drummer and a bass player labouring under the mis-apprehension that he was backing Iron Maiden judging from his ludicrous rock posturing. Rock posturing made all the ludicrous by the minimal contribution he was actually making. The other annoyance of the evening was the intrusive sound of several people chattering away loudly, as if they hadn't come to see the band at all. Despite that, Miss Alela was quite entertaining, even if one of party did later voice his objection to seeing her dad on stage with her. Not sure I'll be making any effort to see her again though. Once was enough, I think.
And that's just about all the news that's fit to print, except to say that I've finally got round to implementing some proper formatting on this front page, using div tags rather than a table layout. I've testeed it with IE, Chrome and Firefox and it looks OK on my machine. Your mileage may vary. If it looks a heap of crap, please try to let me know. Unless I hear different, I'll assume it's OK and may start retro-fitting it to other pages on the site.
Sunday 8th February 2009
No controlled show
Happy New Year! More apologies for the long hiatus between updates. No excuses really - I ought to be getting on with it. I did intend to do an update over Christmas but spent too much time enjoying myself and then I was up against a deadline at work and spent many days bashing away at a keyboard, so didn't have much enthusiasm for doing the same when I got home in the evenings. Anyway, enough of the flannel, on with the important stuff...
If it's true that the secret of great comedy is all about timing, then my own body's ability to sabotage itself must surely be up for a BAFTA award soon. Having had a fantastic Christmas break, I was looking forward to returning to work, filled with renewed enthusiasm for the challenges ahead and determined to knuckle down and get through my workload. And lo, it came to pass that the weekend before returning to work I was struck by an ear infection which rendered me virtually deaf and decidedly grumpy as I struggled to cope with the pain aned discomfort. To my colleagues it must have appeared that I returned to work in the same bad mood that I had left it two weeks previously... Fortunately, after a bit of treatment, it has settled down but I'm still a bit on the deaf side. Or, more truthfully, a bit more on the deaf side than usual, as I have little hearing in my right ear anyway and the infection was in my left. Deep joy.
Anyway, enough of the moaning, back to the Christmas holidays. I had a great time - I toured round the country, saw some people, drank a lot of booze, ate a lot of turkey and generally had a good time. The weekend before Christmas I went down to London to visit my little brother, Eddy, and his girlfriend, Stephanie. We had a vague plan that I'd travel down early on Saturday morning and then scoot off and watch Crewe play at Millwall in the afternoon, but the excesses of the company party meant that I didn't set off as early as I wanted and Eddy hadn't been up long by the time I got there, so instead we went round to his exclusive club, Shoreditch House, for a leisurely brunch-cum-tea. Apart from the comedy capers with the 'eggs over easy' being overcooked and the wondrous rooftop terrace being closed due to a wedding party (how inconsiderate), it was very enjoyable. Mind you, given the prices, I can see why it's exclusive! Anyway, after having had our fill, it was off back home, via Tesco to stock up on sprouts, stuffing, chipolatas, bacon, ham, chocolates, snacks and booze. We lugged it all back home, cracked open a beer or two and spent a chilled Saturday evening catching up and watching crap on the telly. Sunday was a chilled affair too. Well it was for me - I spent the day reading papers, drinking booze and snacking. Eddy, on the other hand, spent most of the day in the kitchen, preparing one of his legendary Christmas dinners. (I have to hand it to the boy, he does a great Christmas dinner (with all the trimmings) and if you ever get the chance to sample one, don't turn it down.) Because it was Christmas dinner, of course, there was far too much and we stuffed our faces. Well, Eddy and I did, Stephanie was a bit more sensible. After dinner we repaired to the sofa and sat there gently groaning as our over-stretched stomachs attempted to deal with the mountain of food we'd forced down. I had had a vague plan to meet up with Miriam on Sunday evening but I was far too stuffed to move. Instead, we stayed in, watched more crap on the telly and supped more booze. Yeah, exciting, I know. Well, it was actually really enjoyable catching up. I haven't seen Eddy to properly talk to for ages and it was really good to see him. I was actually a bit down at having to come back home on Monday morning.
Anyway, having been to London for a few days, I then had a few days at home, which I would normally have spent rushing around doing last-minute Christmas shopping, but this year I'd already got that out of the way. Instead I spent the time just slobbing around. I spent Christmas Day round my sister's place, scoffing her food and drinking her beer, so I didn't even have to get that much stuff in. I did give them some sprouts for the dinner, but I didn't even buy them - they were left over from Eddy's shopping spree a few days earlier...
After Christmas I took a trip East to see me old mucker, Kev, and his family, in sunny Grimsby. As per usual, I faffed about a bit on the morning I was due to travel so ended up setting off an hour later than planned. I didn't arrive an hour late though because, for once, the trains were all in my favour. I arrived at Derby in time to leap on a fast train to Sheffield and arrived at Sheffield to find the train to Grimsby waiting in the station. Time made up by managing to get trains departing less than five minutes after my arrival. Thank you, train gods. Once I got to Grim, there was time for a butty and cup of tea before I took Kev out for a few beers and a stroll down memory lane. We had a jolly evening out, catching up, knocking back the booze and generally talking shite. I then spent a day recovering and playing his kids at various games on the Wii. To no general surprise, I got thrashed at most of the games - the only one I was really any good at was the pool game. Which was a surprise because I'm not much cop at that in real life! Anyway, the following morning, we packed up a load of nosh and hot drinks and stuff, wrapped up warm and headed off to see the seals at Donna Nook. I took a few photos using my mate Kev's camera and you can see them in this set on flickr. There aren't too many pictures though because it was the end of the season so there weren't many seals still around, and also it wasn't my camera so clearly some of the shots I thought I'd taken didn't come out. Mind, serves me right for not taking my camera with me. Just goes to show - you never know when the photo-opportunity might arise. Anyway, it was a good day out albeit a very cold one. The wind was whipping in off the sea to add a vicious chill factor to the low temperatures. Nice! Anyway, I've vaguely pencilled in a return date in November when there are, apparently, a lot more seals to see and I'll take my own camera. Of course, I hope to see Kev again before November, although I'm rubbish at keeping in touch so November could be the next time we meet.
Anyway, once I'd thawed out a bit from my trip to see the seals, I had to shoot off over to see my parents for a day or two. I took the opportunity to call in and see my Grandpa too. He's 94, you know. Still going strong although obviously not as active as he used to be. He's a little unsteady on his feet now, but if I can get anywhere near that age and be as compos mentis, I'll be a happy man. Anyway, having fulfilled my familial duties in South Yorkshire, it was off back home for a last couple of days recuperation before the return to work. At which point I was struck by the aforementioned ear infection. Oh happy day...
There's been yet more change at Crewe since my last update. Having reluctantly moved to sack Steve Holland as the team tumbled to the foot of the table and ignominious relegation to the basement of the football league, the board turned to Technical Director and former manager Dario Gradi to steady the ship. Dario showed he'd lost none of his ability in getting the team playing again and they secured seven points from seven league games and managed an FA CUP win at Carlisle. He can't work miracles, of course, and the team seemed to be as frail as ever in losing 3-0 at home to Oldham on Boxing Day. They bounced back in fine style to win 4-1 away at Hartlepool a few days later - the first away win in the league this season. That match was Dario's swansong as he stepped aside for the new man Gudjon Thordasson. Gudjon, for those unfamiliar with him, has had spells in charge of Stoke, Barnsley and Notts County. Indeed, he was fairly successful at Stoke, getting them promoted to the Premiership, and only left due to falling out with the chairman. He was, sadly, less successful at Barnsley and Notts County, so maybe he's not the saviour a lot of fans hoped he might be. On the other hand he did start well, with a hard-fought draw down at Millwall in the FA Cup. He then saw the extent of the job he's got on his hands when Crewe played well in the replay but gifted two goals to the opposition and ended up going down 3-2. They followed that up by giving two goals away at home to Scunthorpe before rallying to win with a late goal and then conceding nine goals in two heavy defeats away from home. They managed another last-gasp win last week against Tranmere, which lifted them off the bottom of the table for the first time in ages. I think it's still too early to judge whether Thordarsson is doing a good job, although he does seem to have instilled more grit and determination in the side. The standard of football hasn't improved much but they do, at home at least, look to have a bit of fight in them. I'm not convinced though, that Crewe will beat the drop - the gap between them and safety is still a large one, despite improved results and the usual safety mark of fifty points is a long way away. We can but dream though!
Has there ever been a more pointless TV show than Your Country Needs You?. Fame-hungry hopefuls auditioning to sing a song that no one will remember, in a competition they have no chance of winning, in return for a fleeting hour on the Z-List celebrity treadmill. I'm sure the winner, Jade, is a lovely girl and all that but, seriously, if we even remember her efforts this time next year I'll be surprised. I reckon the best she can hope for is a call from Cebrity Come Dine With Me or Channel 5's next low-budget celebrity cash-in. And whilst we're on the subject of Eurovision, anybody remember last year's entrant, without resorting to Google? No? The year before? Even I didn't remember last year's entrant - I thought it was that awful camp lot singing "Flying the flag" but they were the year before. It was actually former bin man and now unemployed singer Andy Abraham, proving that not only can he not win X Factor, he can not win Eurovision as well... Mind you, I didn't actually watch last year's show, so that's probably why I didn't remember. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the pan-European song fest, but increasingly it's become an irrelevance in the UK, sidelined by the both the politicised nature of the voting and the general awfulness of the UK's entries. Not that we haven't got a history of low quality entries stretching back many, many years, but the rest of Europe appears to have caught up and passed us. With few notable exceptions most of our acts have stuck to the template of cheesy Europop that saw Bucks Fizz twirl to the top in 1980. Grrrr. Rant over.
Actually thinking of music, if you can describe Eurovision as music, there's a few things I need to acquaint you with. First up, you may or may not have noticed that I've added The Box to my linky list on the left. Although I don't go there as much as I'd like, it gets my wholehearted support for giving up-and-coming bands in the Crewe area a place to play, supporting better known bands. Secondly, I'm giving the fatfakir thumbs up to a little ditty by Crewe-based artiste Truth Be Known. It's called 'Boozy Britan and you can see the video on Youtube. For those of you wondering, the pub in the video is the Earl of Crewe. Which is going to be demolished and replaced by an Aldi supermarket in the near future, apparently. Thirdly, back on the music tip, I was saddened to see that serial music abusers v/vm Test have retired the brand and are moving on to do new things. I'm not sad they're moving on to new things, of course, but I will miss their willful abuse of shit music. I think their show at the Portland Arms, Cambridge was one of the ten best gigs I've been to. Luckily they've left the website up, so there's plenty of stuff still there to sample, and there's news of a new project in the pipeline. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for that one. Finally, if you've got a last.fm account, or even if you haven't, I've now got an account and you can check out the rubbish that I like listening to. I've not had enough time to set up a radio station or anything like that but if you search for user 'fatfakir' you should see what's in my library.
I guess I ought to mention the snow. It's not been as bad round here in sunny Cheshire as it has in other parts of the country, but it's still been the most snow I can remember for a while. And not only have we had a heavy snowfall but it's stayed around. Of course, the snow has disrupted my commute to work although, strangely, on Monday, when it was actually snowing, the trains were all on time. Tuesday was a nightmare; my train from Nantwich was cancelled in the morning so I got to work an hour late and then coming home the crossing barriers in Alsager were stuck down, meaning I couldn't get across the track to catch my train, so I had to catch a bus instead. The train from Nantwich was delayed on Thursday morning too, but this time it was a good thing because I didn't set my alarm, woke up late and would have missed it, had it been on time. Anyway, here's a nice picture of the view out of my back bedroom window earlier in the week.
One of my friends did point out that, for a man who can't drive, I do have a lot of pictures of cars on my flickr pages. Of course not being able to drive doesn't stop me being interested in cars. If I could drive (and no, no need to remind me that my New Years' resolution last year was to learn to drive...) I'd probably have a Land Rover, to be honest, or possibly a MKIII Cortina. Or a van. Or a bubble car. Or an E-Type Jaguar, if I was a rich man (Oy Vey!). Anyway, I only mention this because my mate Kev (see above) has a similar passion for cars but, because he can drive, he actually owns a car or three. His particular passion is the Austin 3 Litre, and you can see his collection on this Austin Rover forum thread. I've only had a cou;ple of short trips in his latest purchase (the brown one, if you've seen the pictures) but we have travelled far and wide in the other two. Well, not that far and wide actually as they only do twelve miles to the gallon. They're very comfortable and I shall be sad to see the maroon one go when Kev finally demolishes it. We both once fell asleep in that maroon car. Unfortunately, we were going down the M180 at the time. Fortunately, the road was straight, there was no traffic and the steering was true. We were both VERY WIDE AWAKE for the rest of the journey!
Anyway, that's about it for now - I'm off to ring me Ma and wish her a Happy 70th Birthday. The family all should have been gathered in Yorkshire today celebrating, but her party was another victim of the bad weather. Still, we've re-arranged for a fortnight's time, so you can look forward to pictures from that in due course. I've still got a couple of things planned for your delectation and delight, so you'll have to check back every couple of weeks and see what I'm up to. I've got nearly all my urgent work out of the way so I should have a bit more time to spend working on things for putting on here. I've got a stack of low quality horror films to review and I've got to try to work out the best way to record my music on my computer. (I did give it a go before Christmas but was thrown by the lag between what I played and what I heard through the headphones.) And there's one or two other things in the pipeline. I can't say more, you'll have to wait.