Friday, 31 October 2014

too hot, too greedy....

Earworms of the Week

Books from Boxes” – Maximo Park

I've liked Maximo Park since their very first album, although I think my favourite of their records is their second, "Our Earthly Pleasures".  This is my favourite track from that album.  I haven't heard it in a while, but when it popped up on a playlist the other day, I was struck again how this is such a beautiful combination of the music with Paul Smith's wistful lyrics.

"Rain explodes
At the moment that the cab door closed
I feel the weight upon your kiss; ambiguous"

They have some proper stompers in their back catalogue (Apply Some Pressure being the most obvious), but this is my favourite.  Good band.  Derby-born guitarist, you know.

Kids in America” – Kim Wilde

Nope.  No idea.  What a tune though, eh? Inevitably, I had a massive crush on Kim Wilde when I was 12.  Who didn't?

Iron Man” – Black Sabbath

Because sometimes you really just need to listen to the heaviest, most basic riffing that you can find.... and it doesn't come much heavier or more basic than Black Sabbath.  There's a classic Comic Book Guy kind of a guy at work, and he likes to spend his lunch hour sitting up in a public seating area, quietly tapping away on his technology blog on his Macbook.  On the front of his Mac, he has a massive sticker of Iron Man in his classic pose.  Bless him.  I think he thinks that this combination makes him look like the coolest man alive.  Well, who am I to judge?  Perhaps he is.

This is a Low” – Blur

It's songs like this that help you to realise all over again how ridiculous the comparison between Blur and Oasis really was.  I somehow can't imagine that Noel Gallagher would ever come up with something like this, and I doubt that Liam Gallagher even knows what the Shipping Forecast is.  There was a guy busking "Half The World Away" on his guitar outside the Coop on our high street on Saturday lunchtime this week.  Some pissed up lads walked past him, shouting for him to play Wonderwall.  When he kept on playing what he was playing, they just started bellowing Wonderwall at him as they walked past.  That's Oasis fans for you, eh?

I Stand Corrected” – Vampire Weekend

I like their first album very much.  I like their third album very much.  I've listened to their second album about twice.  What happened?

Return of the Mack” – Mark Morrison

Leicester's finest.  I caught the end of an interview with Chrissie Hynde on 6Music last Sunday.  She was talking about her life and choosing records.  She had the choice of any record in the world to play the show out and, remarkably but wonderfully, she chose this.  Apparently, every time she hears it, she wants to believe that she lied to him and did him wrong.  Perhaps she did.  It's a brilliant record though, isn't it?  In my head it's always paired with "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio for some reason... and beautifully, one of my leaving gifts from my team at work today was Coolio's cookbook.  Respect.

Everywhere” – Fleetwood Mac

Ah.  Beautiful harmonies and drifty-away type music.  Not always my cup of tea, but just sometimes it scratches an itch you didn't know you had.

Bright Eyes” – Art Garfunkel

I watched "Watership Down" quite a lot as a kid, and I think I loved it.  I say "think" because it's basically pretty horrific in parts, isn't it?  Never mind when the Black Rabbit comes to take Hazel, what about the bit where the rabbits were being gassed?  This is a children's story, right?  Well, I suppose you have to learn about the brutality of life and the inevitability of death sooner or later, right?

Africa” – Hackney Colliery Band

Hipsters, for sure, but I defy you to listen to this and not have a smile on your face.  I decided this week that the original version of this song would be one of my Desert Island Discs.  It's not a cool choice, but it's such a majestic record that I just plain don't care.  This is a happy, happy version.  I think I want this version played at my funeral.  Right after "Fire" by Arthur Brown.  OK?

"Christmas Wrapping" - The Waitresses

It's not even fucking November yet and I head this playing twice -- TWICE -- as I walked past reception today.  TOO SOON.

Wuthering Heights” – Kate Bush

It's not the whole of the song per se that's been stuck in my head -- how many people can sing along to that? It's the beginning bit; those tinkley piano bits before she starts warbling along.  It's that bit.  Over and over and over again.  At least it's a good bit, I suppose.  Could be worse.  This song really sounds like nothing else, does it?  It's however many years old and it still sounds fresh and unique.  How many songs can you say that about?  Astonishing.

And with that.... have a great weekend, y'all.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

my reach is global, my tower secure....

I’m changing jobs on Monday.

After fourteen months working with my little team on a project, next week I will be taking up a new position somewhere else in the organisation. I'm on secondment, and because secondments are in theory capped to a year, this was always going to happen sooner or later. What’s exciting for me this time around is that I won’t just be returning to my old job in IT. In fact, I won’t be returning to IT at all: I’ve got a completely different job.

I was in a bad place when I started this job. An incompetent line manager had taken a personal dislike to me and was making my life as difficult as he possibly could and marginalising me wherever possible. Taking this secondment quickly made all of those problems irrelevant (and the line manager left the business around March this year anyway, but even before then the clouds lifted and I was really starting to enjoy work again). Having my own little team to manage was a real lifeline for me: I’ve loved working in a different part of the organisation and taking on a much more pastoral role than I ever had – formally, at least – within IT. Whisper it quietly, but I’ve thrived having more of a leadership role too. I no longer feel like I’m outside the tent pissing in, and being able to tangibly influence things seems to have brought the best out of me.

You might not have noticed, but I’ve been moaning a lot less about work here too …. Which benefits you, dear reader. (Unless you hate me drivelling on about music instead and took a perverse kind of pleasure in my descriptions of our Dilbert-like organisation.  Each to their own).

Luckily for me, I made enough of an impression on my bosses in this job for them to actively seek me out and encourage me to apply for another job in their wider team. It’s sort of related to what I’ve been doing over the last year or so, but it’s a much more prominent role with a lot more accountability. I’m not getting any more money, but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, it’s that a sense of self-worth is a lot more important to me in my job than the money I earn.

I’m a little bit daunted by my new job because there’s so much that I don’t know and I’m being thrown right in at the deep-end, starting on Monday. It’s good to be a little bit nervous though, I think. It shows I'm out of my comfort zone. It might have been easier to slip back into my old job, but I’m fairly sure that sooner or later it would have driven me back to where I was a year or so ago, and I don’t think anyone wants that.

I’ll be sad to leave my team, for sure, but I’m not going far away and they’ll have to work with me every week anyway. They’re all wearing black tomorrow and they’re taking me out for a farewell lunch, which is very sweet of them. It’s nice to know that you’ve made a difference to some people, even if only in a small way.

When I first started work, I used to think that I had the talent and desire to make it all the way to the top.  Perhaps I've got the talent, but luckily for me, I realised somewhere along the way that other things are simply more important.

[I've been in this meeting.  Have you?]

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

bad cover version...

There's been a poll of the best cover versions ever recorded.

It's quite a list. Feast your eyes on the top 20:

1. Pet Shop Boys - Always On My Mind
2. Johnny Cash - Hurt
3. The Stranglers - Walk On By
4. Jimi Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower
5. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
6. Soft Cell - Tainted Love
7. Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friends
8. Sinead O’Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U
9. Muse - Feeling Good
10. Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
11. Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
12. Adele - Make You Feel My Love
13. This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren
14. The Clash - I Fought The Law
15. China Drum - Wuthering Heights
16. Nirvana - The Man Who Sold The World
17. Aretha Franklin - Respect
18. Eva Cassidy - Songbird
19. Leona Lewis - Run
20. Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks

Hm.  Something of a Curate's Egg of a list: good in parts.  Say what you like about whether or not it deserves to be number one, but PSBs are a fantastic band and that at least is a more interesting choice than just plumping for Jeff Buckley.  His version of "Hallelujah" is good alright, but is it even the best version of that song?  Isn't he covering the John Cale version of Leonard Cohen's song anyway? And where's Alexandra Burke on this list?  Eh? Tell me that?

Speaking of erstwhile X-Factor winners, I see that Leona Lewis makes the top 20 with her cover of Snow Patrol’s “Run” whilst the Righteous brothers barely scrape up to number 21 with “Unchained Melody”?  How can that be possible in a reasonable world?

Well, at least they didn’t finish underneath the Robson & Jerome version of the same song, I suppose. Perhaps this is the inevitable result of asking the general public what they think and then having the final list curated by luminaries like Fearne Cotton, Trevor Nelson, Simon Mayo and Steve Lamacq (although, to be fair, I very much doubt that Steve Lamacq will have voted for Leona... although I think the high placing of the Stranglers has his fingers all over it).

Naturally, reading this got me thinking about my own personal favourite list of covers. Hurt and Hallelujah probably go without saying, right? And All Along the Watchtower… but outside the original list, how about:

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground
Aretha Franklin – Say A Little Prayer
Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Next
Scott Walker – Jackie
Dusty Springfield – If You Go Away (bit of a Brel section going on there, eh?)
Futureheads – Hounds of Love
Suede – Shipbuilding
Nouvelle Vague – Too Drunk to Fuck
Manic Street Preachers – Suicide is Painless
Patti Smith – Gloria
Faith No More – War Pigs
Propellerheads – OHMSS
Tori Amos – Rattlesnakes (although I like almost anything of that album of covers she did, tbh)

Any other suggestions? I'm sure you've got your own favourites.

I’m pretty sure I could come up with hundreds more covers before I coughed up Leona Lewis, to be honest. Nothing against her particularly, but it’s not really pushing the envelope much, is it, and it certainly doesn’t improve on the original… shouldn’t that be one of the key criteria for a great cover version? (albeit even I would struggle to suggest that some of my own nominations are actually better than the originals, so it’s not the only criteria by any means)

Well, it whiles away the hours on a fairly tedious day at work anyway.  Although, as I also discovered today, apparently I would include "Africa" by Toto in my list of Desert Island Discs, so what the hell do I know?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

because it's you and me, we're history...

There was interesting article on the Guardian yesterday: it featured prominently at the top of the article, a Nazi soldier’s snapshot of an execution (“The last Jew in Vinnitsa.” Is apparently scrawled on the back in the handwriting of the soldier who took the picture). It’s one of those photos that immediately grabs you: a soldier stands with his gun pointed at the head of a kneeling man as a crowd of onlookers behind them crane their necks to get a better view. It’s the blank indifference in the faces of everyone in the picture that grabs me, even the face of the condemned man on his knees is almost expressionless. The author describes how seeing the photo in Berlin at an exhibition in 1990 stayed with him long afterwards:

"Long after I had returned home, I was turning over the components in my head – the victim, the executioner, the audience – haunted by the thought that, as much as I wanted to imagine I could only ever find myself in the place of the kneeling man, there was nothing in my DNA, my Glenn Patterson-ness, that absolutely guaranteed I could not end up playing either of the other roles. The only safeguard that I could see was vigilance, against any ideology that reduced human beings to the one word for which they could be murdered (Jew, Commie, Prod, Taig, Brit, Mick … or fascist, come to that); and against yourself, that you didn’t just shrug such language off. By the time the onlookers have gathered, the victim has been made to kneel and the soldier is pointing his gun, it is far too late to ask how you got here".

Predictably, the real fun was to be found in the comments underneath, where a character called Witchend pops up. They’ve seen the photo before, of course:

"Yes. I know the one. Everytime I hear mention of the Germans savagery and inhumane cruelty, thats the one which pops into my head. How anyone could do such things to people , especially innocent trusting children, is beyond me. And no. I don't believe it's an inherent 'human' trait. I believe certain cultures and people are more likely than others to allow such ghastly crimes be comitted in their name. I know we're all supposed to forget this kind of thing nowadays ( even when it happened only 70 odd years ago) and ' forgive and forget' , but this happened in Europe, by supposedly ' civilised' people. Absolutely astonishing. It should be remembered for centuries to come. Not airbrushed away.”

Not surprisingly, Witchend gets called on this, with a German poster asking  “Are you seriously trying to tell me that there is something in my culture that makes my people more likely to allow such horrible atrocities?

Witchend replies: “I'm afraid the evidence is irrefutable. Not nice I suppose, if one is german, but just examine the actions of Germany and thousands upon thousands of Germans who contributed to these savage acts, many doing their utmost to preserve the status quo until the last bullet.”

It’s clearly a waste of time trying to reason with someone like this, who is either wilfully ignorant, or a troll (or both), but a few people have a go. Here’s Bluecloud: “If I understand you correctly, you are saying that people who tend to commit atrocities should be attacked. The trouble with that is [you] have clearly defined those people as being anyone who happens to be German. I hope you now realise how it is possible for people who think they are rational to commit acts of genocide: simply dehumanise a whole folk and it becomes easy to attack and kill them

And that’s the point, isn’t it? That’s pretty much exactly what’s happening in this country right now with the tone of the dialogue that is happening around immigration; the rise of UKIP and the impact they are having on the immigration policies of the other parties. Only yesterday, a Conservative minister was in trouble for describing how British towns were being “swamped” by migrants and their residents “under siege”.

And today, former Labour minister David Blunkett has come out in agreement.  The success of UKIP has shifted the language that politicians are using to describe immigrants, and this in turn has washed down into how ordinary people are starting to talk. Frankly, it seems to be becoming acceptable to be a bit racist. For me, Mike Read’s UKIP Calypso was a laughable embarrassment, but in the comments of the article where I first read about it (in the Daily Express – don’t judge me, I followed a link), the comments were hateful and stupid, for example:

"There are lots of people here whose families fought for what has become the 5hit hole dumping ground of the world. Let me see, how many of those who fought for Britian have been dumped to one side by Britian after they've exceeded their usefullness - you know, like the Soldiers on the streets at the moment. Served with honor and distinction defending our country and our way of life meanwhile we're pandering to foreigners, putting them up in hotels while real heros lay on the streets at night

See how easy it is to start seeing people as “other” to us and trumpeting how they should be treated differently to us?

Us – GOOD. Them – BAD.

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s law, isn’t this how it starts? By the time the onlookers have gathered, the victim has been made to kneel and the soldier is pointing his gun, it is far too late to ask how you got here.

Monday, 27 October 2014

my sunday dreams to dry...

Every Monday morning, I get an email from a couple of guys I used to work with  - a husband and wife team - who now run a training consultancy together.  It's a circular email that they send out to everyone in their contacts book, and that sort of stuff isn't really my bag, but they were always really nice and it's still better than most of the email I get at work, so....  It's generally quite chatty and informal, with a bit of news about what the family have been up to, followed by a link out to an article one or other of them has written about something or other.  This week was a cracker and related to Dale Carnegie's 1936 classic book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People".

As the article told me from my inbox this morning:

"What makes this book so special to me is that it was written in a different era. We believe that we are stressed out, that the world is moving faster and faster. Maybe that is true. Yet the advice that Carnegie gave before the Second World War is still pertinent today".

Okay.  It's Monday morning and I'm on my first cup of coffee and in no particular hurry to start my day.  I'm a little bit interested.... so blow me away with these insights.  Let's do this.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1)Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
2)Give Honest and sincere appreciation.
3)Arouse in the other person an eager want.

6 Ways to Make People like You.
1)Become genuinely interested in other people.
2)Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
3)Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
4)Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
5)Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Win People to Your Way of Thinking
1)The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
2)Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You’re wrong.”
3)If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4)Begin in a friendly way.
5)Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
6)Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7)Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
8)Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
9)Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
10)Appeal to the nobler motives.
11)Dramatize your ideas.
12)Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader
1)Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
2)Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
3)Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
4)Ask questions instead of giving direst orders.
5)Let the other person save face.
6)Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement.
7)Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
8)Use encouragement. Make the fault easy to correct.
9)Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

Um.... so, on the one hand, that's really good advice.  But on the other hand, how the hell else do you treat people?  Do you really need to be told that it's good to be genuinely interested in what other people have to say and to show respect for their thoughts and opinions?

Still, it's better than moving the bloody cheese or whatever other bullshit language people use for these sorts of books now.  I had someone quote Stephen Covey at me the other day, presumably because he lacked the wit to put the theory into his own words and thought I wouldn't notice.  Important but not urgent?  Spare me.  And as for that whole elephant, lion, dolphin or monkey thing that seems to be prevalent in the management at my company.... well,  eugenics simply has no place in the modern workplace, does it?  You know that's what that is, right?

Hmmm.  Maybe I'm just grumpy on Monday mornings.  Perhaps I should save reading things like this until I'm on my second coffee.

Friday, 24 October 2014

you can hear her hum softly....

Earworms of the Week

"Do I Wanna Know?" - Arctic Monkeys

AM is an absolutely fantastic album; it rumbles with both menace and with melody.  They've come a long way as a band since their smash-bang debut album, but the Arctic Monkeys are also still completely recognisable as the same band.  This song is almost primal and it's absolutely brilliant.  C doesn't often express a like for music from my collection; she tolerates much of it, but can take or leave it in the main.  She likes the White Stripes, and I think she's a fan of early Kings of Leon.... and she loves this song.  

"Wonderful Christmastime"- Paul McCartney

I'm sorry, but here it is.  I don't know where it's come from, but it's a highly toxic earworm.  Approach with extreme caution... not least because it's only bloody October.

'Bootylicious" - Destiny's Child

I may have voted with my feet at Glastonbury and watched Queens of the Stone Age when Beyonce was headlining the Pyramid, but that doesn't mean I'm not ready for the jelly

"Gangsta's Paradise" - Coolio

My team found it a little hard to believe that I knew the lyrics to the start of this song.... but, to be honest, doesn't everyone?

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I take a look at my life and realize there's nothing left

Of course, we were all thrilled to discover that, when we tried to find out what had happened to Coolio since this record, apparently he's branched out into cookery.  Cookin' With Coolio.  As the man himself says:

"Everything I cook tastes better than yo' momma's nipples."

Who could argue with that, or with the replacement of normal measures like tablespoon and teaspoon with "dimebag" and "nickelbag"?

"Rivers of Babylon" - Boney M

Impromptu team sing-a-long to a song that was released in 1978 before most of them were born and before I was really old enough to listen to music?  Why the hell not?  It was Friday, after all.

"Human Again" - Young Knives

The Young Knives popped up on my shuffle this week and, as happens every time I listen to them, I was struck by how good they are.  Their tunes are punchy and melodic and why they haven't been more successful beats the hell out of me. I suppose I should just be grateful that they're still finding ways to make and release music at all in the face of indifference.  Still, I imagine they're still pretty much the best thing to have ever come out of Loughborough.

"You Better You Bet" - The Who

Perhaps not from their golden era, but a cracker nonetheless.  I can never quite escape the feeling that Roger Daltrey is a shouty man who bellows a lot and basically just got lucky, but I suppose you can't argue with the record sales, can you?  I'd rather have a pint with him than Townshend, anyway.

"Man Smart, Woman Smarter" - Harry Belafonte

Listen Mike Read, you ignorant cockwomble, this is what a calypso is supposed to sound like.  Honestly,  you couldn't make UKIP up and making jokes at their expense is like shooting fish in a barrel.  It's just a shame they have a seat in Parliament and may win more at the next election.  I'm ashamed and embarrassed that apparently casual racism is okay now in this country.

"Big Louise" - Scott Walker
"Brando" - Scott Walker and Sunn 0)))

Superficially, you might think that there two songs from opposite ends of Scott Walker's career have very little in common beyond the singer.  The first is from Scott 3, pretty much at the absolute peak of Walker's golden years when his honeyed baritone was singing achingly beautiful, lushly orchestrated ballads.  The second is from his new album in collaboration with experimental drone metal band, Sunn 0))) and is very much at the avant-garde end of the spectrum, albeit without a percussionist slapping a side of pork.  Actually, if you listen to the lyrics of "Big Louise", you'll see that already it was clear that Walker wasn't just another just-starting-to-fade teen idol:

She stands all alone
You can hear her hum softly
From her fire escape in the sky
She fills the bags 'neath her eyes
With the moonbeams
And cries 'cause the world's passed her by

Beautiful.  Alright, so perhaps "Brando" is a bit more of a challenging listen, but you can hear the roots of where Walker was going very early.  It's not such a big leap from "Big Louise" (1969) to "The Electrician" (from Nite flights in 1978) and from there through to Walker's most recent albums, "Tilt", "The Drift" and "Bish Bosch".  A couple of listens in, and the new album seems a little more accessible than perhaps Walker has been recently, and is really very interesting indeed.  My favourite artist.  More than 70 years old and still endlessly interesting.

That's your lot.  Have a good weekend, y'all.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

a little bit taller....

On Sunday morning, my very busy wife left for a week long business trip to Beijing.  I had idly planned a day of doing nothing much more than watching films, but then chance intervened.  LB had mentioned the Hockley Hustle at Parkrun the day before, and now a flyer for the festival fell out of the copy of Leftlion that I picked up on Friday night.  It's a multi-venue, single day event with more than 400 artists performing on 40 stages around the Lace Market area in Nottingham town centre.  It's mostly local bands with the money raised going to local charities.

Looking at the running order, I could see that lots of the bands that I have reviewed for Leftlion over the last couple of years were playing: Band of Jackals, Bus Stop Madonnas, Captain Dangerous, The Golden Troubadours, Ropewalk....

Well, why not?  LB had asked if I fancied tagging along, and so I gladly took him up on his kind offer.

It was great fun.  I didn't tick all of those bands off my list, but I did see several of them, and I also saw fantastic sets by Gallery 47 at the Contemporary and Kane Ashmore at Antenna. I also got to meet the (new-ish) editor of Leftlion, a magazine that I've been writing music reviews for now for a little while now.  She recognised my name when we were introduced, frowned slightly and said:
"You're taller than I imagined".

Um.  Taller than average and therefore taller than you were expecting, or taller than you had imagined from reading my reviews of albums and EPs by local bands?  Is there something about the music of Nottingham's punk and metal bands that encourages fans of a smaller than average stature? Or is it perhaps my writing itself?

Be honest: do I write like a much shorter man?

It was a good day.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


I've started running a bit more with my wife.

It's not like we never ran together before, because we did. We do.  When we are travelling or staying somewhere, we'll often take our running kit and go out together and it's really not that big a deal.  It's not something we do very often though, mostly for the very simple reason that we don't run at the same speed.  Let me give you a Parkrun 5km comparison: my best time around Colwick Park is 22:48.  My wife's PB is 28:56... and that was when I towed her around a couple of weeks ago and she broke her previous best by more than a minute.  That's quite a big difference in speed.  She's not running at her absolute fastest at the moment.  Her half marathon PB is something like 2hr 2m, and I'm pretty sure she's got a sub-2 hour race in her, but even so, there's more than a minute a mile difference in our pace.

I think the furthest we've ever run together is about 9 miles around the lake in Zell am See a couple of years ago, and I found it quite tough.  C's natural speed is a little between gears for me.... slower than my normal pace, but also quicker than my slower pace.  It's awkward for me and actually pretty tiring and I'm sure it's annoying for her too.  As we're going to be running the London Marathon together next year, I suppose we'd better both be getting used to it.

We've run together for the last couple of Parkruns.  On the whole, I've found it pretty liberating to be able to just enjoy running without feeling the need to kill myself every week looking for a PB.  I think C has found it nice running with me too, partly because we don't see each other all that much during the week and we get to spend some time together, but also because I help her to run faster.  She's finding her form and just starting to try and up her mileage, but she's been finding it tough: she has a very demanding job that takes up a lot of her time and energy and she's also getting over a cold.  At Parkrun on Saturday, she just didn't have anything in the tank and actually stopped a couple of times to catch her breath.

Now, I find stopping harder than running slowly.  My own personal approach to running is to flog myself unforgivingly: however I feel, whatever the weather is doing....I'll be out putting the miles on the clock.  I'm reluctant to stop because I'm afraid that one day I will be forced to stop for good.  I don't even really like to stop at traffic lights because it always feels harder to get started again than to just keep going.  I don't respond well to stopping. when my wife stopped at Parkrun on Saturday, the first time I just stopped and made sure she was okay, resuming when she was happy to start running again a few seconds later.  The second time, I tried to encourage her and tell her that she had less than a mile to go and suggesting - jokingly -  that we weren't walkers.  I was trying to be encouraging.  Apparently this didn't work.  She turned on me and snarled: "This is your mania, Tim.  Not mine".

At that point, I nearly ran off on my own at my own pace.  Fuck it.  I'm not giving up my own run to be spoken to like that and it wasn't even my idea to run the marathon together in the first place....only to enter and run myself.  It might be my mania, but I never asked anyone else to come along for the ride. Fortunately, I resisted the urge and we finished the run together.  Even with an empty tank, C managed a sprint finish, before bursting into tears.

She was less than a minute off her PB, even with the stops.  She made sure she finished in front of me too.  She always does.

I'm clear on my reasons for wanting to run 26.2 miles, but I think my wife's own motivations - even if she doesn't want to admit it even to herself - go beyond simply wanting to make sure that I don't break myself along the way.  Let's put it this way: my mania may well be my own, but I'm not the only one with manias in this marriage.

What a pair, eh?

I want to run the marathon with my wife and I'm actually looking forward to training with her because I like spending time with her and it will be wonderful to achieve this together.

....I think we might need to work on our teamwork though.

Monday, 20 October 2014

I'll see you burn...

I keep walking past a huge poster advertising Soltan. 

I don't generally scare easily and I'm not inclined to believe in the supernatural, but I've got to be honest with you here: this particular poster gives me the heebie-jeebies. If I was holding a casting call for an advert like that, I fairly sure that I wouldn't be looking for the spawn of Satan to stare demonically out of the poster, transfixing passers-by with that sulphurous gaze.  She's smiling, yes.... but she's smiling because she can see through you to your very soul and is planning an eternity of torture in the deepest circles of hell.   Look at how the sheer terror on the faces of the other figures in the poster; see how they're trying to pull away from this demon spawn but are held by some dark, diabolical force.

Soltan / Satan.   Even the product name is suspicious.  Hiding in plain sight, perhaps? Who really makes this stuff and what's their agenda?  Do they really want to protect our skin from the rays of the sun so that they can better roast it in the fires of the underworld for all eternity?

It's not just me, right?  It's all there in that poster.  Surely you can see it too?

No?  Look more closely.  Take a deep breath and let go your preconceptions.  Look behind the obvious and pierce the curtain of lies.

Don't just look, SEE.

Pretty freaky, right?


Friday, 17 October 2014

I'm easily ignited....

Earworms of the Week

Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd

I’m one of those people who is resolutely unexcited by the prospect of a new Pink Floyd album. That does not, however, mean that I’m not interested in Pink Floyd. I can’t remember the last time that I sat and listened to “The Wall” all of the way though, but I’m sure I’m hardly alone in finding it something of a slog. This popped on a playlist I was listening to the other day, and it’s an understated masterpiece. But of course, everyone in the world already knows that. As an occasional listener though, it’s good to be reminded of the fact from time-to-time, especially when you’ve been listening to a lot of metal….and that guitar solo is a delight.

Fire” – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

I think I honestly would like this song played as the curtains draw in the crematorium and my mortal remains are turned to ash (I’d like to be dead before this process starts, ideally… so not like James Bond in Diamonds are Forever. No gay hit men either)

“Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord” – unknown

So, the lead developer on our project is a delightful Indian man. I like him, but I can honestly only understand about one word in four. Still, when he has this as his ringtone, an unbelievably cheesy sounding rendition of some devotional song or other, how could you not love him?  Great 'tache too.

Rattlesnakes” – Lloyd Cole

Shuffle is sometimes brilliant. Not so much when it coughs up something from one of the dustier corners of my 160gB iPod classic – frankly I daren’t listen to the “all songs” playlist on that unsupervised – but on a carefully chosen playlist, it can sometimes come up trumps…. As it did when I was a little over a mile into an evening run and just at the top of a long hill in the rain. [obligatory mention of the Tori Amos cover]

The Next Jet to Leave Moscow” – Manic Street Preachers

An old jaded commie walking in Red Square
With rediffusion eyes of yesteryear
I’m the biggest living hypocrite you’ll ever see
‘cos the market never lies and your conscience is so clear

So take your badges off
And do your show
Then catch the next flight to leave Moscow

So you played in Cuba did you like it brother?
I bet you felt proud you silly little fucker
And all the sixties dreamers called us English
Said we started something that they could finish

They might deny that "Take Me To The Bridge" is autobiographical, but this one seems seems fairly straight-forwardly about themselves, doesn't it?  "Futurology" is a superb album.  Superb.  So many years down the line and they honestly seem to be getting better and better.

Beat on the Brat” – The Ramones

I tried to explain to a colleague at work today how I wanted to buy a spoof Ramones t-shirt.  Something like this.  Sadly, this led to an explanation of what an actual Ramones t-shirt looked like, followed by an explanation of who the Ramones were, followed by a quick sing of "Rockaway Beach", "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" and "Beat on the Brat".  She was none the wiser, but I felt a lot better.

Beautiful Day” – U2
Space Oddity” – David Bowie

Bono hasn't had the best of weeks, what with having to apologise for inflicting their new album on a billion people free of charge.... but he'll be gratified to learn that, at some point this week, one of his more memorable songs found it's way into my head.  I'm a bit ambivalent about his band, which is a step up from about a decade of positively loathing them, but I do like this one.  Their set at Glastonbury in 2011 resolutely failed to take off (with Bono wearing a fat person's leather suit), but they did have a "live" link-up to the International Space Station, which isn't really something most other bands are able to do.  The commander there actually recited one of the verses to this song, and it was actually really very impressive.  Certainly not something that you see every day, anyway.  Thinking of a link up to the International Space Station obviously then took my head to David Bowie.  That's a better song, isn't it?  Nothing against U2, but I think they'd probably be the first to agree.

Getting Away With It” – James
Curse Curse” - James

James must be one of the most successful bands to be overlooked.  They've sold a lot of records over the years, but steadfastly seem to have refused to be as big as perhaps they might.  Their new album, "La Petit Morte" is excellent throughout, and "Curse Curse" draws the unlikely comparison between two people making love in the hotel room next door and Lionel Messi scoring for Barcelona and sending 100,000 men into ecstasy.  Singer Tim Booth lost his mother and one of his closest friends in the making of the album, so it's shot through with themes of mortality.  Still, it's slightly disappointing to read lazy music reviewers literally translating the album title as "the little death" and failing to see the play on words that might see that translated as the french expression for orgasm.. which is a lot more playful and makes a lot of sense when you listen to this song.  James seem to have been on something of a publicity drive for their new album, playing at the Rugby League Grand Final and other unlikely venues.  I watched their performance at the BBC Maida Vale studios for 6Music, and as well as playing a couple of new songs, they also played a couple of classics, including "Getting Away With It", a song that's relatively recent but had for some reason had more or less escaped my memory.  I actually saw them playing to a half-empty Rock City on the tour for "Pleased to Meet You".  So soon after their massive selling Greatest Hits, and the moment already looked to have disappeared. No matter. They're a good, interesting band, and it's great that they're still producing such fantastic music.

Right - that's your lot.  Have a good weekend y'all and see you on the other side.

Oh... did I mention: I've got a new job?