Sunday, February 26, 2017

delivered day of release

hey there pop pickers


there are oh, so many areas where i would yield and consent to the declaration that i was a failure. it would be quite fair and, look you see, reasonable to suggest that i have failed to make the grade in many areas. one such area would, to be sure, in fulfilling my passion if not obsession for purchasing musical recording releases on the day of release.

to be fair and to be sure there's only been two releases this year that i would normally, if not nominally, have liked to have been at HMV to purchase on the day of release. in being even fairer, one of them - that one off of Rick Wakeman - was a record i only found out about long after release. the second was one that i could not gamble on not getting, however.



indeed, as you can see in the medium of Commodore 64 mode with the scan lines most decidedly on, what we, or if you like i, speak of here is the No Plan ep off of David Bowie.

whilst i understand that if you have any interest in this all it is limited to the record alone, but still it's my blog so i will write as i will. the announcement of a physical release of this was one i greeted with much joy. initially the four tracks of the ep were "digital only", and came out on what would have been David Bowie's 70th birthday and what was near enough is close enough to have been the first anniversary of his passing. yes, i bought the digital download at the time.

everything about the physical format release, however, said "limited number". to this end, a number of online retailers indicated that they had sold out of it when i looked. with HMV not coming back to me in a timely way to say they would be stocking it, rather than risk missing out i, or rather my (considerably) better half, placed an order for me for it from the world's most well known grocer.



the above is indeed the inside of the physical release of the No Plan ep. that there is further indeed the last known photograph of David Bowie; at the least it is the last officially released portrait image of him.

it strikes me that there's a generation out there that is perhaps not sure of what an ep is as such. this is not their fault, for the term sort of fell away long before the physical format of music in any sense fell out of favour around the turn of the century. "ep" stands for "extended play". it was used to refer to a release that wasn't a standard 7" single but was also short of being an album. 4 - 5 tracks would have been standard for such a release, back when we went and bought music. from a price perspective, usually the cost was somewhere between a 7" single and an album, often rather close to what one would pay for a 12" remix single.

for what reason are these tracks out as an ep, then? well, it brings together the three songs which David Bowie recorded for the Lazarus stage production which he was heavily involved with, and adds the song of the same name of the play to it.



this is not the first time these three songs have had a physical format release. all three appeared on the Lazarus original cast recording, from what i remember as an "extra" bonus disc. no, the original cast recording of the music of Lazarus did not sell all that well - not many rushed to buy music that would not make sense without seeing the stage production, or if you like play, and at the time of release only a few hundred people in New York could possibly have seen it.

never mind all that, is this any good? yes, it is. with these being declared as his final ever studio recordings there is an immediate temptation to declare them brilliant on that basis alone. but no, they happen to be rather good songs in their own right. good songs which, but of course, one cannot but help read things into, since they were composed and recorded at a time when he knew he was not long for this world.

there was something of an expectation, if not anticipation, that the three songs would be released as part of a Blackstar special edition, along the lines of what happened with the previously unreleased tracks that came along on The Next Day Extra. a DVD, or even Blu Ray, of the videos for Lazarus and Blackstar would have been welcome, but for now it seems this is not to be.



i am sure the three songs here make some different form of contextual sense if seen and heard as part of the Lazarus stage production. as this is a luxury not afforded to me and millions of other listeners, we can but go on what we know.

with the above being the case, it's hard. as in, it is hard not to hear the song No Plan as anything but Bowie exploring the fact that he didn't plan on ever not being around, with some musing perhaps on the fact that his music is all that will remain to remind. as in it's difficult to accept Killing A Little Time is anything other than a much, much more angry confrontation of impending death than the peace with it expressed in Lazarus and Blackstar. as in it's virtually impossible to hear When I Met You as anything but a final, moving, sweet declaration of love for Iman.

the above could be all wrong, i would accept that being the case gladly. but, you know, this is me, and i can only hear these songs as i hear them. there are those out there who say we should not be reading as much as we do into songs like Blackstar and Lazarus being messages of goodbye, but i fail to see how any other such listening is now possible.



how are the songs musically? very much in keeping with the whole of the Blckstar album. No Plan and Killing A Little Time have the jazzy influence you'd find in Sue (In A Season Of Crime and 'Tis Pity She's A Whore. in contrast, When I Met You in a number of ways echoes mid-80s in terms of rhythm - it's a wonderful, funky "dance to me" piece, and the more i listen to it then the more i think it should perhaps have featured as the final track on Blackstar. but, it didn't.

is this for the more casual Bowie fan? probably not, no, not unless you haven't got the song Lazarus and for some reason want to own it, but not in a way that means you need to own the Blackstar album. those of us who are full on fans will, no doubt, all already have bought this, or will be aiming to purchase the vinyl issue of this ep in April.



does this ep being declared as his final studio recordings mean that this will be the last ever David Bowie release? i would imagine no, not at all. other than the inevitability of further compilations and re-releases to come along, there's still a few unreleased (in an official sense) things that we know of. an entire album, as point of fact, in the form of Toy, although of course Brian Eno keeps tweeting links to where people may find it gratis on the internet.

and so on to the next day of release, then. unless something interesting and exciting happens before it, i would imagine this will be March 17 for the new Depeche Mode album. or maybe one day of the weekend after the 17th, we will see.



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






Saturday, February 25, 2017

playing the percentage game in book reviews

Hello Reader


Or indeed greetings "robot" bot thingie, for some 50% of all web traffic is not real.


And so I have finished reading another two books, look you see. Standard protocol has come to be that I would then at such time pass comment on those that I have read, or if you like fashion some sort of review from my thoughts, feelings and reactions on them.

In terms of this protocol, or standard way of doing things, it would be a given that the first image of such a post would be the front covers of the two novels which I read, with the following comments being a quick, spoiler free overview. Let me not move away from this approach.



Spoiler free review? As far as I can, sure. The Sleep Room off of someone called F R Tallis was one of the finest books which I had ever read but is inexplicably and irrevocably ruined by the bizarre, unnecessary and awful final 2.65% of it. By contrast Nomad by James Swallow starts off a little bit cluttered, smooths out, becomes highly compelling reading and carries on being outstanding all throughout the whole of the novel.

Right, for those wanting a more in depth look at the two books then do, please, read on. Be warned, though, for one of them sensational *** SPOILER WARNINGS *** is in place for the remainder of this that I write.

As ever links to the books are purely for convenience. They are to the worldwide grocer and in no way are any sort of endorsement or affiliation from me, or if you like moi.

To start with the first of the two I read would also be to start with the most frustrating experience. Well, start “reviews proper” at the least. And that is precisely where we shall go from, then, with a look at the sins unnecessarily committed by the novel The Sleep Room by, as noted, F R Tallis.

Provenance of my copy? ₤1, off of The Works shop when I found it in their sale section earlier this year. It all looked rather interesting, and I did not consider the cost to be a gamble. Also not making it a gamble was the conversation the lady of the till had with me. I wouldn’t suggest or infer it was flirtatious, but the custodian of cash for the shop did seem to spend a great deal of time discussing with me how much she loved the book, and indeed how she had paid the full retail value price to read the book when it was first published, 2013 or 2015 I suspect or otherwise think.

Plot? It’s set in and around 1950s England. A young psychiatrist, James Richardson, is offered a position in an experimental like psychiatric facility by someone he has acolyte like feelings towards, the well respected Dr Hugh Maitland. The facility is somewhat controversial. For the most part it promotes Maitland’s view that any psychiatric problem can be treated via chemicals and medication alone. The jewel in the crown of this approach is the sleep room of the title, a section of the facility where patients are kept asleep for some 23 hours of the day.

The purpose of this is, well, perhaps too much of a relevance to any enjoyment of the novel to reveal here. As, for the most part, would be a discussion of the events and developments which happen affecting Richardson and his tenure at the facility.

Pages 1 to 366 of this novel are brilliant. Superb, as point of fact. The text is rich, lovely, exquisite and beautiful. Its free flowing way makes it an absolute pleasure to read, and yes, to borrow the cliché, it is one that you would wish to keep reading rather than put down. The Sleep Room is a truly wonderful, neo-gothic, semi-post modernist gem of a tale. At least, it is as far as pages 1 to 366 go.

It is so very sad, then, than pages 367 to 376 go right ahead and undermine the above. Undermine to the extent of ruin, spoil and trash what would otherwise be a superb novel, one worthy of praise and promotion.



Despite the fact that the novel had, on page 366, reached a very satisfactory and good, natural conclusion, there are these 10 seemingly sellotaped on. Why? Is it the author trying to say he is “more cleverer” than his readership? Did he seek to deliberately trash and pollute the quality of his own work? And why did no editor or publisher step in and say this last part was a mistake?

To show how little I know, a quick survey of the internet suggests many published reviews liked the last part. There are, however, also voices of discontent and displeasure with it; ones which echo my words.

I would love nothing more to rant and rave with an explicit and specific look at the problem with it, but to do so would be to reveal all of the novel. This would strike me as being rather unfair for those reading this who may want to try the novel for themselves. And, as some 97% of the novel is so well written and wonderful, I would not wish to tamper with that potential experience.

Onwards, then, to Nomad off of someone called James Swallow. No, I had not heard of him before. He has now, however, been added to my list of authors who I shall actively seek out the works of, for this novel was really, really, really good.

Provenance of my copy? Double that of The Sleep Room, for this novel cost me ₤2 new off the shelf off of Tesco. It was not so much the price that lured me in, however, as it was the sticker on the front. This sticker said that it was for fans of I Am Pilgrim. As it happens, I am very much the fan of I Am Pilgrim. Not sure if I reviewed it here at the time (I seldom do when I read things on the e-reader, the print in the paperback version was too small for proper reading), but I Am Pilgrim was one of the best things what I had ever read. So look out for that one too.

The plot? Barcelona is hit by a terrorist attack. And not just any sort of attack. It is the work of a bomber who has managed to infiltrate and place a bomb despite supposedly stringent measures being in place that would have detected and stopped it. This is something of a sinister game changer, then, and has very dire, serious and scary consequences for world security.

In the light of this, a somewhat secretive British military unit are investigating a possible lead on the perpetrators. Disaster and death strike, however, leaving all but one of the unit dead. And, in a true sense of the English way of doing things, the one who lives is immediately under suspicion of being responsible for the death of the others. The one left must use what skills they have to prove that they were not responsible, and further find out who exactly was.

To be honest, and I expressed my concerns to my (considerably) better half, after the first two chapters I thought that this would be a bit too cluttered and distracting. So much goes on in the first few pages that it gets a bit confusing. I feared that I simply would not be able to recall or keep track of who was who and what meant want. This settles down quite quickly thereafter, however, and you are left with a superbly written story.

The approach I have taken above has been quite deliberate in avoiding too much of the details. This is a novel that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone. On that note, it is possible that you’ve already picked up the book, noted that the most prominent review quoted on the back of the book is off of The Weekend Sport, as in sister paper to the Sunday Sport, and decided that it is not for you. Up until then I had no idea that any of the editions of the Sport did book reviews, but please all the same do not let that distract you.

My understanding is that Nomad is due for publication and purchase in America this very year, with this year being 2017. I do hope our American friends like it. The novel is pretty much cut from the same cloth as James Bond and, indeed, the Jack Ryan novels off of Tom Clancy. It is also every bit as good as the superb I Am Pilgrim was.



And so there you have it. One novel which was brilliant and then undermined with a pointless, rubbish 2.65%, one which started off with a shaky 2.65% and turned out to be brilliant. Both, I would boldly suggest, are worth reading.

Hopefully this has all been of use to someone somewhere out there. Thank you, as ever, for taking the time to read all of this!



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


Friday, February 24, 2017

random bowie - scary monsters.....and super creeps

Howdy Pop Pickers



And so welcome, look you see, to volume two of my “Random Bowie” project,. If luck, fate and the hammer of the gods be with me, my intention would be to do one of these a month. Whilst sadly we will get no more Bowie albums (bar posthumous releases), it is not like there is an immediate shortage of records I may pick at random to muse on.

For many, though, this second instalment will seem like the last of consequence. As in, this is it, folks. For certain critics, David Bowie’s zenith, his zeitgeist, his epitome and his final act of greatness is the album this month. Scary Monsters…..And Super Creeps has, as we shall see, become something of a line in the sand, or if you will a flag in the ground.



Some trivia and what have you to commence? Surely. This album marked the end of an era for Bowie in a couple of ways. At its most obvious, it was the last album to be conceived and commenced in the 70s, a decade few would argue with being his greatest. This was also to be his last record for RCA records, with the next coming out on EMI some three years later.

Which songs would you, the more casual of Bowie listener, associate with the Scary Monsters album? It is proudly home to two superb singles in the form of Fashion and Ashes To Ashes. The former, weirdly perhaps, has never felt like it has ever been unfashionable or out of step with any period in the 37 years since release. The latter is, famously, a “sequel” to Space Oddity, with the fate of that song’s ostensible protagonist, Major Tom, being explored. A curiosity is that, in his lifetime, Space Oddity and Ashes To Ashes were, until Let’s Dance came along, the only solo Bowie singles to make number one in the UK. At a time when you had to actually sell songs to chart, etc.



Anyone who attended, or if we are honest endured, the Glass Spider tour of shenanigans in 1987 will also be familiar with a third, lesser known single. The Glass Spider shows routinely started with a heavy handed, stage loaded with people performance of Up The Hill Backwards. A good enough song, but not quite in the league of the two other singles. Also, in certain territories the title or if you like titular track was released as a single.

Other than the singles, any standout moments? A few. Let’s start with the title track. It’s one I didn’t really like for a while. The song always felt, if this a term, over layered and more busy than it needed to be. Bowie’s affected cockney vocal tone, distorted, was something I found quite distracting. Roll on episode six of the superb FlashForward TV show, however, and you get an episode named after the album and song. You also get a cover version of the song by a band called Sea Wolf. This is due for the most part to the rather ingenious yet menacing use of the version, but to be honest I like the cover version more and it led to me rediscovering the Bowie version. Sadly it would seem the Sea Wolf recording is not available to buy.



If you think the above is a crime, then think on. For a cover of a Bowie song to be better than the original is rare, but it happens. Evidence of proof? Nirvana’s take on The Man Who Sold The World.. But maybe we will get to that album one day.

For many the most outstanding track on the record is Teenage Wildlife. It’s one that has also been open to some interpretation, indeed debate, of the meaning. Quite a few, it seems, have taken the song to be David having a bit of a dig at the emerging ‘New Wave’ artists of the day, in particular Gary Numan. I’ve never had that feeling off the song.



To my ears Teenage Wildlife was the sound of Bowie closing a chapter of life. It was an expression of progressing if not getting old. A statement, to an extent, to the record industry that as he very much was David Bowie he was not going to be taken advantage of like a teenage pop star. Also, bearing in mind other lyrics on the album (“more idols than realities” from Up The Hill Backwards), I’ve always felt the song was him saying “enjoy my music, but I’m not here to influence, direct or dictate your life”. This I took from what always seemed to me to be quite clear words to that effect –

You'll take me aside, and say
"Well, David, what shall I do?
They wait for me in the hallway"
I'll say "Don't ask me, I don't know any hallways"
But they move in numbers and they've got me in a corner
I feel like a group of one, no-no
They can't do this to me
I'm not some piece
Of teenage wildlife


A shunning of fame, perhaps, maybe. If so, he certainly did for three years as he went off to act on stage (The Elephant Man) and screen (Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence) before very dramatically embracing it with Let’s Dance and beyond.

One thing that has always troubled me deeply with the Scary Monsters album is It’s No Game. No, not the Japanese lady vocals, some of the English language lyrics off of David himself. Specifically these lyrics –

Draw the blinds on yesterday,
and it's all so much scarier
Put a bullet in my brain,
and it makes all the papers

This was released just 3 months before someone did put a bullet in the brain of well known Bowie friend John Lennon, and it did indeed make all the papers. A pure co-incidence, of course, but still quite a dark, possibly macabre, accidental bit of actual foreshadowing, rather than how the term foreshadowing is lazily used these days.



Speaking of lazy uses, the critics. If you cast your mind back to the start of this post, I mentioned that for critics it would seem that Scary Monsters….And Super Creeps was as good as it was to get. Virtually every album from Bowie from Black Tie White Noise onwards was reviewed somewhere as being “…his best and most important since Scary Monsters”. This, for a Bowie fan, got quite tiresome and annoying after the third or fourth recycling. It is with some joy, however, that I discovered Bowie was aware of this critical laziness. Indeed, legend has it that at one point he considered releasing a record called “my best and most important one since Scary Monsters” just to beat them at their own game.

I, for my sins, have the 1992 Ryko edition of this recording on CD. It was, I believe, the last of the Ryko re-issues. Four extra tracks feature. There’s a superb, haunting re-recording of Space Oddity on it, presumably with the intention of it being paired with Ashes To Ashes. There’s also an excellent re-recording of Panic In Detroit, with the tempo most decidedly upped from the original Aladdin Sane version and a ferocious vocal from Bowie. The cover of Alabama Song isn’t as good as The Doors cover version, and the line about “show me the way to the next little girl” is just damned creepy no matter who does it. Crystal Japan is the fourth and final bonus track, an instrumental which I think also featured on the All Saints instrumental compilation.



Is Scary Monsters a record that you, the casual Bowie fan looking to own more of his material, should consider? Yes, absolutely if you don’t already own it. The critics are right to keep highlighting this in one respect, as it most decidedly is a really good balance between commercial, accessible David and creative, critically acclaimed Bowie.

And yes, well, there you have it. No idea what the random album will be next month, or whenever it shall be. Let me gaze lovingly at my collection and see which long player takes my fancy.

Thank you, as ever for taking the time to read.



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



Thursday, February 23, 2017

the lego batman movie

hi there


me doing a review sort of thing of a film within a month or so of its general release is quite rare, look you see. i suspect i managed to do something like that as and when that Rogue One (which should have been called The Renegade Ten) came out, but that would be that.

and so, hot on the heels of the film being released as recently as (i think) 3(ish) weeks ago, today i got to go and see The Lego Batman Movie, or if you like The LEGO Batman Movie, for the makers of the plastic brick based toys really, really like capital letters. more than me, anyhow.

no, i did not go and see this film of my own free choice. i mean, i was interested and that, and it's had some good reviews, but i was in no rush to catch up with it. the boys, however, were, and it's been half term holidays here.



the above is indeed the boys sat in the movie theatre, excitedly sitting through some twenty minutes of adverts, enjoying some premium, bespoke and luxurious popcorn. the latter description is, of course, based on the assumption that it must be so because of the cost, but yes of course a rant of that will come soon.

what's that? you are in a rush, and you really don't have time to wade through my waffle and nonsense so could i just give you the gist? sure. The Lego Batman Movie is really rather funny in places, but overtly long for what it needs to be and perhaps not as good as The Lego Movie from a couple of years ago. yes, indeed it is fun for any and all Batman fans out there, so long as they are not "fanboys" that tend to take it all a bit too seriously.



what's that above? a comic that William picked up recently in advance of seeing the movie. good. one of the things i loved off of my youth was the comics and magazines which were released as a tie-in or promotion for films. none in my day, however, were as cool as to feature the main toy off of the film. yes, with the £3.99 comic you get the "limited edition" style of Batman dressed as he mostly is dressed in the film.

anyway, for those not in a rush, or otherwise prepared to tolerate my comments more. the plot of the film? The Lego Batman Movie does, for better or worse, pretty much turn its back on the various Lego Batman video games, direct to DVD films and other, Lego licensed Batman involvement. it takes it as you know all about the caped crusader so does not trouble you with an origin story. which is a nice change.

oh yeah, plot. very much aimed at a 21st Century, Millennial type, selfie taking "dab" enthusiast audience. it turns out that The Joker is not the arch-nemesis he thought he was to Batman, and his emotions are hurt. so he hatches a plan - involving The Phantom Zone off of Superman - to make Batman hate him more than what he hates anything or anyone, so as to give meaning to their relationship.

along the way with this, then, we get pop ups and cameos from virtually all other films and TV shows which have a licensing agreement with Lego. there are even one or two which are not related to other Warner Bros releases, but no - there's no Marvel Universe or Star Wars cameos. at least not that i saw.



the above are indeed our movie tickets and the receipt off  of the concessions stand. indeed, no Commodore 64 mode this time - apparently this picture mode is called "Hercules", which i will assume was some sort of very orange based 80s computer or video game system.

it is the reaction of anyone who goes to the cinema in England - possibly the UK, although it wouldn't surprise me if Westminster subsidies it in Scotland to give that lady one less complaint - to baulk, to cry and be frustrated with the costs of it all. the days of cinema being a very affordable, accessible to virtually all outing are long since gone.

whilst in the grand scheme of things the ticket prices were not so bad - it was just 10p south of £21 for me and the boys to be permitted access - the concessions truly are frightening. a small bag of M & Ms, a (very) small popcorn and three (rather) small cokes came in at £15.79. if you're in a position where you can order what i just listed and pay what i paid without feeling you should say "please can i now pull my pants back up if you are quite done with me" then i congratulate you on your life of fabulous wealth.



speaking of value, you will, if you will, recall that i said the Lego Batman Movie comic with a smart Batman limited edition Lego figure cost £3.99. pictured above, and below, is one of the "lucky dip" Lego Batman Movie character bags what you can buy. these cost £3 each, and you have no idea at all as to what character you are getting. paying 99p more for the surety of a recognizable Batman, plus a boss comment, strikes me as being particularly fair and reasonable.

now that i think, the tickets for the movie were some £3 less than i had been led to believe they would be when i looked into the costs on one of them "internet" things. perhaps the price is less for those who elect to see a movie at 10:50am. that would explain the rather full theatre we were in.

more comments on the movie? sure, there have not been many. as mentioned, it's pretty good. excellent in as far as using the music of Harry Nilsson goes, for One comes on the soundtrack for a particularly poignant moment. there are several really, really funny bits in the film. the pacing, however, is somewhat off. some 15 or 20 minutes could so easily have been shaved off the running time.

i was advised that there were a lot of jokes and references which were intended only for adults to "get". i must be not as old as i thought, then, as i didn't spot any of them. sure, there were plenty of references to Batman films of the past, but nothing i would consider saucy or cheeky. 



the above, which like the packaging before has been rotated by Blogger, shows the "pink tutu" Batman which came in the "lucky dip" packet next to the rather smart black Batman that came with the comic. i am somewhat baffled by the "pink tutu" outfit with the Bruce Wayne / Batman character head, really. whilst this outfit does feature in the film - for some 3 seconds - Barbara Gordon is wearing it as she wrestles with her identity as Batgirl.

whilst the box office figures suggest that my endorsement is hardly required, for what it is worth i would say that yes, if you're in two minds then The Lego Batman Movie is worth a look. i have a feeling that it's going to be all that much more enjoyable and comfortable viewing as and when the home video release comes around,. but if you're looking specifically to burn off some excess cash at the cinema then you could do a lot worse than go see this.



should the above be taken as a hint at our next cinematic outing? perhaps, maybe. whilst William is rather keen on all of this Power Rangers stuff i do not believe James to be too fussed. they both just happened to see other children positing for pictures by this display and decided that they very much wanted in on this.

and that's just about that for another post here, then. as usual thanks for reading, and i can but hope that someone somewhere found something to be of interest here, if only in the mildest and in of passing way.



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




celebrations

hello there


oh, you say. today is indeed, look you see, possibly a strange time to look back at a cause of celebration, but i have just gotten around to it. it's been busy. not that this is much of an excuse, for when it comes to the ways of the world in which one may be busy, who is and who isn't, i suppose.

anyway, yes, after that laborious, contrived and challenging introduction, on to the point. it was recently the circumstance that i - moi - marked another year of being around passing in the milestone sense. how was it all? good. and how have they been, the years, in general? i would so surely argue there has been many more good than there has been bad.

i am indeed blessed enough to be surrounded by people who are so kind as to celebrate special events with me via the conduit of good wishes and gifts. the former i cannot really share with you here, but i suppose i can over on that facebook thing if you elect to connect with me. it is fortunate, however, that the latter allows itself to a more visual representation.



should the above look like they might be an indication of a selection of the gifts which my family, the 75% of my family whom you all tend to like a lot more of than you do like me, lavished upon me, all is well. yes, i know that looks all rather smart in Commodore 64 mode, but a "proper" picture to come along soon.

not that it was just my immediate family who lavished gifts upon me. and not that this has stopped, either, for i am reliably informed that an extra special one is on the way from the mainland. actually, it probably will have arrived by the time this is published, but at time of writing no.


yeah, this blog post is getting a bit confusing with the writing, even by my usual standards. sorry for that, just a confusing day i guess. clouded, somewhat. anyway, let's press on.



indeed yes the above is a celebration of two of the equally fantastic seven 7" singles which were released by the band Frankie Goes To Hollywood; the best there ever was, the best there ever will be. this framed celebration was presented to me by my Uncle, and yes that Uncle, the one that took me to see the band perform their art. it was, of course, presented on a broader scale as an offering on behalf of the entirety of the sensational Harlo gang, and i appreciate it all from all.

when the subject of a birthday comes up it is a natural instinct to consider this a most suitable, indeed agreeable reason to have cake. cake is always a very welcome thing to have, and the thing with it is that when there's a justified reason for having some it means you can eat even more of it than usual to show your passion for celebration.



the most magnificent sponge cake you see above, resplendent with cream and jam as is the English way of doing things, was most kindly and thoughtfully baked for me by Gran. i would like to give you, dear reader, every assurance possible that it tastes absolutely magnificent. William, our youngest, really likes the taste of this cake too. he is, however, quite small and relatively easy to fight off, allowing me to enjoy more of it all the more.

speaking of Gran, it is one of the realities of life that she is no longer able to visit either the nearest HMV or the closest tobacconist as much as she might like to. such things are quite an effort for me, and one must remember that Gran is now precisely twice my age.

with the above being the case i was presented with suitable and indeed sufficient finances to go off and collect some very specific things for my birthday as a gift from Gran. this i most certainly did.



yes, indeed. a rare case of a UK bought packet of my most beloved and so sorely missed Marlboro Red, and the most recently of released of David Bowie compilation CDs.

in respect of the Marlboro, they remain the finest cigarette in the world, and so out of jealousy, spite and malice they are the ones most brutally taxed by the British government and thus most expensive. they are of a cost that, despite being in no distress financially, i could not afford to smoke on a regular purchase basis. the travels of Spiros, and others, around the world to places where they are cheaper is a most wonderful, luxuriant and splendid blessing.

a closer look at the David Bowie set will be here with us below soon, or right now if you like - just scroll down, no one is stopping you. for now, though, a look at them gifts from that 75% in the detail which is decidedly not Commodore 64 mode.



actually i have missed out one or two things here, and i have missed out the boss, brilliant popping candy chocolate bar that Auntie (no, the other one) got me too. hey ho, let's play the hand dealt.

and absolutely yes, that is a plush lush meerkat you see before you. i really do love meerkats, man. here in England they seem to be associated with some sort of adverts. for me, though, i shall always fondly remember going to see them in the parks and zoos of Africa. awesome, beautiful creatures they are. and as with the cake, William has taken something of a shine to this gift for me, but also as earlier he is quite easy to fight off so don't worry.

that is indeed the luxurious 4 disc (1 x Blu Ray, 2 x DVD, 1 CD) box set of the celebrated 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth, starring David Bowie and others whose names i failed to catch. a really beautiful box set too, and one that in time i shall no doubt have a closer look at on the pages of this blog.

the novel? the very latest Charlie Parker adventure from John Connolly that exists in a paperback form.as i have mostly enjoyed these novels, in particular the last few, i look forward to starting to read this one quite soon. i have some 50 or so pages of Nomad to go, and that has been one of the best novels which i have read in quite a while.



yes the above is indeed the magnificence of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood celebration presentation in Commodore 64 mode with the scan lines most decidedly on. there would be little more i can add in the way of comment, i just thought it would be smart to include this variation of the image here.

cards? cards. in this day and age it is of course the case that greetings and messages of goodwill are sent digitally if not electronically. that would be because it is cheaper and easier to do so, and there's nothing wrong with that. what would be the point of technology, after all, if we did not use it. also, electronic greetings here in England might well be all stored by the wicked and the evil of Theresa May for who knows what purpose, but at least they don't suffer attempts at being stolen as is the case with the mail.

but still, it is most splendid and wonderful to get things through the post, especially and in particular when they are really awesome and amazing birthday cards.



no, your eyes do not deceive you, young jedi - a significant percentage of the cards received, or at least those that are on display here, are branded with all that Star Wars stuff. well, the odd flippant comment aside from time to time, i have really rather liked all the Star Wars stuff since i first encountered it, what, some 40  years ago. blimey.

on  the one side this post feels as though it is me, me, me, woo hoo, look at me, i had reason to celebrate. on the other, though, this is my blog, kind of, and so what else is it that i would write about, or where else is it that i would put it? hopefully, as my age suggests, this isn't all generation snowflake of me, at the least.

a return to look at that David Bowie Legacy set? sure, and of course an appreciation of the fact that, thankfully, for the time being Marlboro are resisting the legal requirement to change the iconic packaging of their brand. i guess they are waiting until March or May or whenever it is, when it becomes a legal requirement.



i elected not to purchase or otherwise obtain this Legacy set, either in this 1 CD format or the 2 CD one which has also been released, when it came out. the reason for not doing so was that it left the door open for someone to get it for me one day as a gift, if they so wished, and that i had the overwhelming majority of stuff on it quite a few times over.

it is, however, a rather smart set to have. the single edits of songs actually feature, which is nice. rather infamously, the early 90s Singles Collection featured, rather frustratingly, the album version of songs rather than the not available at that time 7" edits. the compilation itself has been rather well thought out and flows really well.

with regards to stuff unheard on this set by me, that would amount to two tracks. that's the "2016 edit" or remix of Life On Mars?, and the "radio edit" of Lazarus. they are very nice indeed to have for the sake of completion in the collection, but neither pose much of a challenge to the original, loved versions.

and that, as they would say, would be that. thank you for indulging me by having a read of this and, should you have sent them on, thank you once again for the good wishes!



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




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

avec cristaux fraicheur

bonjour


i am not at all sure, or if you like i am uncertain, as to which proposition holds the truth, dear reader. it would either be that my occasional musings on the subject of toothpaste are rather popular, or it's just that anything which i write is, look you see, quite pleasant to read. neither would strike me as being likely, but the figures tell a different story to that which strikes me.

the last time, i believe, that the subject of toothpaste rotated around to being a thing here was November of the year gone by. as opposed to that November which is to come. that particular post, relating to Max Fresh branded variations as it did, can be found by clicking here, although thus far some 300 people have made such discovery without me leading.

interestingly, should you be interested in such, this new, or if you like most recent, post on the subject of toothpaste relates in certain ways to that previous one. this is in ways which go beyond similar familiarity of the subject, too.



the above, showing with the precise clarity of Commodore 64 mode, are two new packets, or if you will tubes, of the 'Max Fresh' toothpaste which the 75% of my family whom you all like a good deal more than you like me prefer. as illustrated, it is the "shiny" version of the product which usually costs more, and yet i was able to procure this for £1 a go off of Yorkshire Trading.

it might be that i was able to obtain this at a lower price because of the language variations on the packaging. the variations are indeed hinted at in the title, and the introduction. there's no way you would miss such clues, i suspect, but there you go, confirmation that you had not.

perhaps the most important part of this post would be the consumer information awareness element, so let me do that now.  per the earlier post i have both observed and noted that the "plain", non-embossed version of this toothpaste was freely available from Poundland for £1 a go, whereas the shiny, embossed variant of the packaging was sold for £2.50 or higher at other stores; mainly ones who have foregone the simplicity of making all £1 a go.

this has changed, somewhat. certain stores, i not - and please i did not single out Morrisons, but still - are now selling the flat, bland version of Max Fresh for £2.50 or higher, rather than the shiny version. so watch out.



yes, that above picture is indeed the boys as they are or were this week, and no this does not really have much to do with the main crux or thrust of this post. we just happened to go on a lovely walk during week, which during the course of i took this picture. i thought family and friends around the world might appreciate it.

what was the thrust or crux of our walk? to visit the postal services. one of them wished to enter some competition in one of their magazines, and so we went off to post it. yes, there was rain, but as you can see the boys were very much prepared for it and anyway there was not so much.

toothpaste? sure, we can go back to that now, if you like.



here, or rather there, you go. the above shows off the rather internationalist, or if you will global, nature of this particular style of branding of the apparently quite celebrated Max Fresh toothpaste. there's the name and that of it in what i have taken to be French, along with in in Arabic, or an Arabic related language.

of the many curious anecdotes and incidents which i have experienced one would be pertinent to the above. once i went to see a doctor. the ailment or condition or problem i could not recall. what i can remember, however, is that i got to hear off of the doctor that one should not purchase any product which has Arabic writing on it, for it has been poisoned as an important strategic part of the Middle East's efforts to wipe out the West.

no, seriously, this i was told with a straight face by a medical professional, and no, not really i did not and do not believe it. i have always taken "multi language" packaging to be a simpler, efficient and far more cost effective means for producers to reduce their operational costs. should i be wrong and the doctor have been right, however, well then bravo you, the Middle East, for exploiting our Western weakness for our passion for indulgent luxury dental products, and may you do well with your win.

and that would be that for now. more, toothpaste or otherwise, as and when it happens, dear reader.




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


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Harry Nilsson hygiene products

hi there


over time, for it is all i have to do such with, i have waxed lyrical of my love for Harry Nilsson. he's one of those great artists who, for some reason, has been overlooked by the world at large. most, look you see, know him as "song from Midnight Cowboy dude", which he is, as well as being "dude what did the proper version of Without You". but there is, look you see, much more to the man and his music.

something i really rather like to do is, when chance, time and the elements permit, live my life by the lyrics which Harry has left us with. in another time and another place, or if you prefer by clicking here, you can see and recall the time when i had a go at his idea of putting the lime in the coconut and drinking it all up. this was in accordance with how he willed it to be in the song Coconut, off of the celebrated Nilsson Scmilsson album.

whereas that did not go down at all well i have every confidence that a slightly less literal interpretation of the song lyrics shall be a most spectacular success.



yes. oh, hang on, i have just noticed that there's a sort of rainbow glint to the above picture, and of course it is Harry Nilsson's recording of Somewhere Over The Rainbow which is the most celebrated and indeed fondly remembered.

where was i before i got distracted. oh yes. as you can see, someone called Original Source is quite the fan of Harry Nilsson to. i assume this to be the case, as that would, to my mind, be the only possible reason why someone would stick lime and coconut milk into some body wash lotion type of stuff.

is this another post about me buying cheap hygiene products and writing a post about it to distract from the fact that i bought cheap? no, not at all. i didn't actually need any, but when i saw the ingredients on this bottle i felt obliged to buy it.



the above image does indeed represent some of my copies of Nilsson Schmilsson, whilst granted it covers the majority of my Nilsson collection as a whole. how many copies of Nilsson Schmilsson do i have, exactly? at least four, with the other two not on display here still boxed away.

why would i have so many copies? well, have you heard it? it's a pretty incredible album. sometimes a piece of music is so good you just need to purchase it again to satisfy your adoration. other examples would be The Stone Roses off of The Stone Roses and, indeed, Welcome To The Pleasuredome by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Nilsson Schmilsson is, of course, the album which Coconut features on. those of you who have not heard the album are missing out. that said, many of you will have heard the Coconut itself in isolation, for it is the song which plays on the end credits of Reservoir Dogs.

whilst it is clearly the case that this lotion, or if you like potion, or if you prefer body wash, is inspired and informed by Harry Nilsson, it isn't actually an officially endorsed Harry Nilsson product. but it should be, and i hope the manufacturers give some of the money from sales over to the Nilsson Estate as some form of royalties payment.



have i used this body wash yet? no, not as such. i have every intention of doing so, as and when my current one (some mix of banana and milk, i believe, perhaps even coconut milk once more) expires or otherwise finishes. and yes, i would suggest it is quite likely that i will sing Coconut as i use it. and no i will not be doing a video of it to share here.

i would have to say, ultimately, yes, it is true. there can be no avoiding the fact that my "trying to live life by the lyrics of Harry Nilsson" rarely, if not seldom, goes beyond a reference to the one song every four or five years. but i do look out for opportunities, all the same.

anyway, more as and when it happens, dear reader. if not sooner.



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



Saturday, February 18, 2017

Stones Hold Court

Hello


Some years ago Keith Richards, or if you like Keith Richard as our friends in America seem to have a proclivity for calling him, made a statement as part of some sort of interview. That statement was along the lines of how established his regular day job, a card carrying member of The Rolling Stones, had become in English life. His exact and precise words escape me, but it was along the lines of how everyone in England born after 1962 had but three constants to their life – the Queen, the Sun and the Rolling Stones. Flamboyant and arrogant perhaps, look you see, but fairly difficult to fault.

To this end, then, it’s somewhat fun to occasionally look at a specific day in the period from then to now and see just what it was that this great constant, The Rolling Stones, were doing. For sh!ts, giggles and the sheer fun of it, I thought I’d throw a dart at a board and see what date chance, for my aim would fail, gave us to look at. And so it was that chance decreed it would be 18 February 1973.

As it turns out, The Rolling Stones were not in England on that date. Nor were they, dear reader, anywhere to be found on the decidedly English side of the equator. No, the band was off doing a gig in Melbourne, Australia, as part of what came to be known as their “Pacific” tour.



The Australian leg of the Pacific tour came after the ill-fated, as in cancelled, proposed Japanese concerts. Much, you would think, to the disgust of the Japanese teenagers of the day, the Japanese authorities declined to let the band enter the country as they had the temerity and nerve to, as was their duty as rock stars, indulge in drugs. This was all bad luck for Japan, but good news for Aussies, as it meant the band were refreshed, ripper and raring to go.

In terms of the date we agreed to look at in random ways, The Rolling Stones played at the Kooyong Tennis Courts in Melbourne on 18 February 1973. The day before they had done two shows at the same venue, presumably to meet demand. Which naturally makes one think about exactly who thought that a tennis field would be ideal to host the number of people with an interest in seeing the biggest rock and roll band in the world.

Can you see or hear the performance of The Rolling Stones on 18 February 1973? 50%. There’s a link here for an upload of a pretty good bootleg of the show in audio format alone. Also, some people sell CDs of this recording for north of ₤20, but as the band would not get a penny of that you’re probably all better off just listening online for free.



So if you want to hear it online for free, at time of going to press these coloured words here are the link you want to be clicking on.

Any particular highlights of the gig? Well, yes, all of it. This is The Rolling Stones, people, and further what many would say was “peak” Rolling Stones. The set was somewhat heavy on the three albums recorded most recently towards 1973, which means mostly it was made from numbers off of Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street. Many would argue that them three form a triumvirate of their greatest albums, so certainly win for the fans in attendance.

It is indeed true that another game one can play with any date you like from 1962 onwards is “what were The Rolling Stones doing on that day and how much of what they were doing related to Ronnie Wood getting married or divorced”. Whilst the last 25 or so years have provided some rather interesting and exciting entries, this was not the case back on Sunday February 18 1973. No, back then The Rolling Stones were a virtually Ronnie Wood free zone, with Mick Taylor being second in command to the card carrying Keith Richards. It can be said that, for the most part, The Rolling Stones did what they did then for the love of music and further did as they wished with the revenue generated by it. Concerts, albums and compilations were not hastily arranged on a whim to satisfy any bill generated by the matrimonial adventures of prolific romantic Ronnie.



A fair question would then be what was Ronnie Wood doing on February 18 1973, and how much of what he was doing was some sort of self-starter project to finance an adventure in matrimonial bliss or otherwise pay for the end of such satisfaction. This has a simple answer. At that time he was a member of the fantastic group Faces. On that Sunday he, Rod, Kenny, Ian and other Ronnie would have been gathered around the radio, listening to the chart. It is highly likely that they would have had some pop and crisps on the go as they did, making a party of it. When they heard the chart they would have been delighted, as their single Cindy Incidentally was a new entry at 17, climbing to number 5 the following week.

What did Ronnie do with the coins of money earned off of the success of the Cindy Incidentally single? More crisps and pop, probably. I’m not sure, but I think back then Ronnie and Rod were rather more inclined to brief, short term relationships with the ladies just after concerts had been completed rather than going all civil ceremony.



Anyway, that’s what the Stones were up to back on February 18 1973. There’s some people, one or two in particular, who I know for a fact are pretty big fans of the Stones but were most likely busy with something else that day. For them, then, a 44 year old puzzling mystery of what Mick, Keith, Charlie, other Keith and Bill were doing that day has been resolved. Hopefully the information has been if not of use then of flat interest to some others, too.

Thank you, as ever, for taking the time to read this. Or indeed just to look at the pictures and slim through my words.



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




Friday, February 17, 2017

where men meet

hi there


the many fans of Spiros may be forgiven for rejoicing some as this post does indeed relate to the latest of his activities. i do appreciate that, look you see, due to certain idiosyncrasies and his fondness for making new friends of gentlemen many of you will have clocked that this is so from the title alone.

in this instance, however, it is a Spiros observation, or indeed if you like happening, that has a far wider context. a much wider context, perhaps, in particular if you prefer the word wider to far. if playing scrabble, or some similar word game, wider would certainly win the player more points, i would imagine.

anyway, Spiros was recently out and about as he is so prone to do. as he was not of a mind to engage a London cabbie in a bout of fisticuffs he elected to travel via the Tube, being as it was one of those days where they weren't on strike.as a result he saw the following now somewhat famous poster, and indeed something of a less well known happening related to it.



yes, that is indeed the somewhat celebrated poster off of Lloyds Bank, which may or may not be the same thing as Lloyds of London; a matter i will leave you to check on. this poster has been celebrated as it is a sign that Lloyds in particular and financial institutions in general are starting to warm to the idea that some men just plain prefer to live with other men.

an interesting, and one would suggest unexpected, effect of these posters is that they have given the gentlemen of London who identify with the chaps portrayed on the advertisement a new signalling place to meet. according to Spiros, gentlemen who wish to meet other gentlemen - for purposes of short term, mutually beneficial friendships or otherwise - no hang around in the vicinity of these posters.

Spiros, then, reckons that if you are a gent in London and are eager to meet fellow gents, simply hang around as close as you can to the poster. other gentlemen will stroll by to check that you are there for the same reason, and if so no doubt a suitable conversation and arrangement may be brokered.



no, the above is absolutely nothing to do with Spiros, for he is known to be loathe of anything related to all that Star Wars business. this is rather a quite fetching set which Magic owns and sent me an image of, which i thought i would share here. if i share it here, after all, it means that i have done something with the image, and know where i may find it should i wish to look at it again.

anything else from Spiros? yes. he sent me an image of a sink, or if you like wash basin, from a gentlemen's toilet facility which he had visited. there would appear to be some sort of mess within the confines of the basin element of the wash basin.




no, Spiros did not inform me of what exactly the mess was, how it got there or what part he played in this. i was, as you perhaps may well imagine, somewhat reluctant to ask too, for he may share stories with me of it that would really be best served remaining private. but he did intimate that it might have involved the French. or, at the least, a Frenchie.

well, there we go for now. gents who wish to meet other gents in London should, then, proceed to hang around the indicated Lloyds bank poster. who knows, perhaps you may well meet Spiros there. as for everyone else, i have no doubt that further adventures off of Spiros will be with us soon.



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




Thursday, February 16, 2017

the Barbs happening

Hello, Dolly



I was recently contacted by my parents who, look you see, said that they had acquired if not procured something which I might be interested in. Upon hearing this I said something along the lines of oh yes, I might, might I be, posing it of course as a polite question. Yes, they said, you might well be.

Some images were forwarded to me in order to ascertain whether it might be the case that the possible might be interested which was expressed might well be translated into an actual interest

Upon viewing these images, this was decidedly to be the case.



Yes, indeed. What you can see here, assuming I upload the images the right way around (I am writing all of this at a time long before I shall be posting it), is the decidedly celebrated Barbra Streisand Television Specials box set. This was, I believe, released in 2005, but was always elusive to me in terms of availability and affordability. So, up front, nice one and thank you very much, Mum & Dad, for thinking that I might be interested and offering to send it my way.

What is it? Well, firstly, how dare you be so insolent as to ask so many questions of Barbs. Barbs gives, as and when she wishes to, and gives for a cost. If we ask questions of this she may well throw a wobbler and just take our money without offering us insights into her art.


Beyond that most obvious of answers, what it is would be a coming together of some most splendid, made for television sort of television specials which Barbs did. When? In the 60s, with a partial footprint in the 70s, too. Five in total, since you are being pushy and asking, and so the set consists of five discs.

As you would imagine, I elected to spend several hours just admiring the set, looking at the pictures, reading the words and feeling a sense of connection with Barbs. And then I decided to play one of the discs.



Which one, though? It would have been far too obvious to start at disc one. Somewhat naturally I was really rather drawn to the disc entitled The Happening At Central Park, in which I took it as a given that Barbs would do a concert in Central Park. Some, say a dozen or so, years prior to Mr Simon and Mr Garfunkel doing the same, only with a lot less Barbs songs in the set.




The Simon & Garfunkel Concert In The Park is fascinating. Other than featuring some most splendid music, it does have some curiosities. Like, for instance, the bit where Paul Simon tries to make out like he is not a total reactionary square by cracking a joke about marijuana. And the bits where Paul Simon makes Art Garfunkel stand around on stage doing nothing whilst Paul Simon does some Paul Simon solo songs.

But, we are not here to discuss other, arguably lesser as they are not Barbs artists performing in what must be one of New York’s top three parks. Certainly, you would think, it is the most central of them. No, we are having a look at Barbs in Central Park. Or at least I was going to, until disaster struck.



Yes, dear reader, that old friend of DVD, region code enhancing (RCE) had blessed this disc, and all the discs in the set. The disc was either locked on Region 1, for the USA only, or Region 0, which should make it “multizone” but for some reason Blu Ray players do not like at all.

Most DVD players, if not all, normally have the means to allow you to freely change the setting of the zone, allowing you to play any DVD from anywhere in the world. This is not the case with Blu Ray players, which are locked on to a specific letter for Blu Ray and a very specific zone number for DVD.



I do kind of “get” why they did all this RCE stuff. It was to “protect” markets and distribution rights, all in some sort of effort to protect certain territories from losing out to cheap imports. Understandable from the business side of it, but not so much for us, the poor consumer. Exploiting customers for every penny they can is the way of the entertainment business, of course. For some reason they think we should appreciate this, and all got very surprised when people elected to use something called “an internet” to avoid being so mercilessly ripped off.

So, does the above all mean that I was unable to watch Barbs in action in Central Park? No, not at all. I was able to wield a little bit of magic and know how, and (ahem) was successfully able to have this particular television special play on my TV system with, quite frankly, gay abandon.



When one starts the disc one is confronted with what one might consider to be an interesting bonus. This bonus is the presentation of the Barbra Streisand introduction, by Barbra Streisand, for the 1987 home video release of this televisual feast. Presumably the 1987 home video release was prompted by the unexpected – and highly lucrative – success of the Jane Fonda Workout home video cassette release. Undoubtedly Barbs wanted some of that, but also told all and sundry that they could f*** right off if they thought she was going to wear leotards and legwarmers for something so trivial as money.



Just let that sink in, then. Here I am in 2017, watching a Barbs special from 1967 what features a special message from Barbs recorded in 1987. It’s like FlashForward come real, man, maybe I am a traveller in both time and space.



What does Barbs say in the 1987 introduction? Quite a few things, as it happens. You have to remember, though, that this was all pre-Clinton administration, so at the time Barbs didn’t really care for political statements as there was no invitation from Bill to come and do a sleepover in the Lincoln Room at the White House. Instead, then, she expresses some displeasure with Lloyds of London, and indeed with the authorities of Central Park who did not allow some 25,000 people to come into the park at one in the morning to watch her rehearse.




In terms of the actual show, or if you like happening (and Barbs does like that), it’s splendid. A bit short, perhaps, and rather top heavy on wisecracks and jokes from Barbs, but splendid all the same.



Any particularly interesting wisecracks and jokes? Yes, they are all wonderful as they are all from Barbs. One of the most heart-warming segments is when she assures us, the poor people, that wealthy fabulous people such as Barbs also have to, from time to time, pay for things like glasses. The spectacles variety of glasses.



That might, then, be just about all that there is what I can say about the Barbs box set for now. Undoubtedly I shall be watching the other four discs in the box set, just as soon as I have weaved some more magic what would enable them to work on my tele and that.



Many thanks again, Mum & Dad, for this most splendid set. It is a wonderful and mightily appreciated gift, to be sure.




be excellent to each other!!!!!!