Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Manic Thief Preachers

hey everyone

well, it's no secret that i'm quite the fans of the Manic Street Preachers. it gives me no joy, then, to have to write something that slates them for one of the most idiotic decisions & releases in the history of music.

as i posted a little while ago, the Manics are to issue a new "Best Of" set towards the end of the year. this one claims to be a "complete" single collection. despite the fact that their previous, first "best of", Forever Delayed, is not even a decade old yet this seemed like a fair enough release - since then they have, after all, released four studio albums (although, in an act of sheer criminality, no singles were issued from the best of them, Journal For Plague Lovers) and many raised an eyebrow at the omissions from the "best of" tracklisting anyway.

the formats announced were a standard 2CD set, a 2CD set with a bonus DVD containing (they say) "all" the videos, and then a very large, very expensive sounding "complete singles" box set, compromising 39 CDs of all the singles and some extras.

although the standard CD issue set tracklistings were released, no further information was given about the proposed "big box set" straight away. that has changed, and here is what it looks like.

oh. it's a conventional looking white/cream box with "Manic Street Preachers" written on it in some sort of off-gold colour. not the most imaginative or attractive thing the band have ever released, but never mind, those "complete singles" inside are what we want, and surely that is what we shall get. yes?


the text in the above picture is a bit small, so here you go with the details :

- 39 audio tracks on 39 CDs
- 38 Video tracks on 1 DVD
- 3 Vinyls
- 7” poster
- A lipstick and a compact mirror

a number of apologists and optimists are hoping that this is some sort of bizarre typo, but apparently no it is not. you are reading the above correct. the "complete singles" collection is complete only to the extent that it will feature, at the rate of one song per disc, only the a-side released. the price for this? best on offer at the moment is a staggering £165. the words "rip" and "off" spring to mind, let us have a look at why.

firstly, it is not being pedantic nor picky to say this set without the b-sides cannot really be called "complete". the Manics are well known for the high quality of the b-sides to their singles. just about every one of their singles had at least two new tracks on it and some of them contained remixes and live tracks. when you add up the fact that a number of them had 2 or 3 versions issued with unique tracks, a conservative estimate would have it as well over 150 available on the singles only tracks have been discarded.

adding to the frustrating disposal of all the b-side material would be the fact that even if you have bought all of the singles anyway there are a number of tracks that you own which you are limited in the ability to play. the 2 DVD singles from the Lifeblood album feature some songs that were only ever on those singles. the three 7" singles release from Postcards For A Young Man all had b-sides that were vinyl only too. it would have been excellent to have them, amongst others, in a more flexible format like on a CD.

there is also the question of, if anyone is dedicated enough to actually buy this, who on earth is going to bother ever playing so much as one disc? i mean, most Manics fans (and you have to assume this set is aimed at the fans rather than the casual buyer) will have all the songs here at least once on CD already. why would you take out a CD with one track on and play it?

a sign of concern would also be that there's no images of what exactly is inside. if you assume that there's no way the discs will contain replicas of the original single artwork (how could it? that would involve listing b-sides which are not there), i'll bet a penny or two that the CDs are just in plain envelopes or boxes.

it's not like the inclusion of 3 7" vinyls offers any excitement either. for a start, one of them is Motown Junk whcih was made available on a 7" in May of this year and another is a real slap in the face. why? because it is Jackie Collins Existential Question Time off Journal For Plague Lovers, that's why. despite the fact that they made a (still unreleased) 'radio edit' and promotional video for the song, it was never released as a single.

there are a number of uber-loyalist fans who shall, of course, buy this release. a mixture of "wanting to own everything they release" and the extras (one or two shall be keen on the lipstick and compact, believe it or not) shall make it irresistable to some. for the most part, though, this is a real slap in the face to fans who would be prepared to make sacrifices and save to buy a set of this cost if it, literally, "did what it said on the box". it doesn't.

i would love nothing more to put the blame for this, to say the least, disappointing release on their record label. they do, after all, have a very good reputation for being the most consumer unfriendly organization in the world. i refuse to accept, though that the label had 100% control over this and that the band had 0% input. i can only hope that at least one journalist has the guts to ask them why exactly they feel it is ok to release this set in this way, for it can be seen as nothing but a waste of time and money.

this is all rather out of step with other re-releases at the moment. over the last few years a number of bands have issued expanded, "deluxe" versions of their albums and greatest hits, and there are two superb, exhaustive re-releases on the way from Nirvana and U2 this year. it is only the Manic Street Preachers, apparently, who think that what the fans want is less music than was released the first time around as opposed to more.

for examples of how good actually-complete Complete Singles sets can be, go off to google or similar and search for the singles sets issued by acts like Duran Duran, The Stranglers, The Clash, Morrissey and Marillion. fans of those artists were lucky enough to get all the tracks released on singles, either as a box set of them individually or as a 3 CD set.

word from the moutpiece of the band, Nicky Wire, is that the group are going to take an "extended break" after a celebratory concert for this release in December. quite honestly, if this set is really what they think the fans would appreciate then perhaps it is time for them to take a final break. rather they go away now before they tarnish their image any further with insultive gestures like this. there are better, more acceptable and fair ways to extract money from their fans.

do by all means by the standard set of National Treasures, but everyone - even the most die hard fan of the band - should avoid purchasing this. buying it will only encourage record labels to issue even more poor, shoddy and incomplete sets like this.

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hotel Jason

hey everyone

my good chum Spiros has forwarded on this picture to me. it is of a sign for a hotel somewhere in Greece.

i was not quite sure what to do with the picture so i thought i would post it here, along with what i think is a link to details for it.

nice one Spiros, cheers

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

Monday, August 29, 2011

silence around the lambs

hey everyone

well, as it happens i have a stack of new pictures from beautiful New Zealand to put up here. i just have not as yet gotten around to it, sorry! let me make amends, then, with a few of the pictures involving the major event about to hit New Zealand.

nope, not the World Cup thing which England shall win with ease, i am talking about what i think is called "lambing". Gillian gets quite cross when i use the wrong terms for places and things over there, so i trust that the think part satisfies if i am wrong!

it must be quite exciting for certain people in New Zealand at the moment, then, and you must please take note of the fact that i didn't specifically state or even suggest my brother-in-law Grant in this regard. it does seem, though, that one has to be a good deal more careful at this time of the year than one usually would when they do whatever it is they do with sheep.

it looks like a most excellent time to be other there and check out nature take its course, then!

nice one, residents and visitors of New Zealand, for sending those over! i shall post some of the other pictures you sent over in the not too distant future!

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

weekend images off the blueberry

hey everyone

....and no, it seems i have yet to become bored or tired of taking pictures on this blueberry device thing and sending them off! only the three for your perusal, though!

at the weekend we went off to South Fork for a visit, much to the delight of Grandma. William too was very delighted, as not only did he get to see and play with Marmite, but he also got to give the drums a good bashing!

James briefly considered joining in on the guitar, but alas he had some top level cartoon watching to do. as for William's drum skills, well, he is better at playing them than i am!

back home and as we've had some lovely weather this weekend James wished very much to go out and play on the ace jungle gym in the garden. here he is having a go down the slide.

the more astute of eye of you shall, no doubt, have noticed an extra hand in the above picture. if not, well, scroll up and have another look i guess! for those who spotted it, well, i am pretty sure you can guess who it belongs to - yep, he who simply must go ahead and do everything that big brother is doing!

a busy and mostly excellent weekend on this side of the world, despite not too many blueberry pictures from it! in retrospect i suppose i should have taken one or two of William busy in the shops with me, clutching his Mickey Mouse socks and new toy horse. oh well, perhaps next time!

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

Friday, August 26, 2011

pizza time!

hi everyone

well, this business of taking a picture on your blueberry device and sending it off to here, there and everywhere can be quite addictive, i can tell you! i do tend to start looking about for things to take a picture of and try to send off to contacts and who have you, i must confess.

every now and then, of course, an image presents itself that suggests, if not demands, a picture be taken. James sitting down to have a weekly treat of pizza and William joining him would be such an instance!

apologies for the picture not being all that great - my particular model of blueberry appears to be bereft of a flash, and when you add that to my exceptional lack of photography sensibility and skill, this is what you get!

no doubt more pictures to follow in the near future!

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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

more images off of Andrew's blueberry thing

hey there

well, as Andrew has taken the time to forward them on, and indeed expressed exceptional decency in doing so, i figured that there was no known barrier to putting here a few more images that he took on his blueberry device and forwarded on to mine. they are quite clever these blueberry things, i believe you can even make and receive phone calls on them if you are of a mind to do so.

anyway, here is the gent that Andrew would call Dad and i do call Uncle Colin. this is a picture of him very much "in action", so to speak.

in the above Colin appears to be driving that which would be the Harlo Gang's equivalent of the much beloved Family Truckster out of National Lampoon's Vacation. except that it is not really a Family Truckster as much as it is a car with a caravan on it.

to my knowledge the above picture was taken as the Harlo Gang were on their way from London (innit) to Birmingham. if i recall the particulars of the calendar correctly they moved from London (innit) to Birmingham on the precise day that the recent riots moved from one to the other too; read into that what you will.

when they approached and indeed arrived in Birmingham they took an interesting decision, which was to go and visit a factory where they make confectionaries - you know, chocolate and that.

an unusual place to go and visit, you may think. that may very well be, but it is not quite as unusual as the picture they take, create and give to you as some sort of memento.

actually, in retrospect, "chocolate surfing" does look rather class!

finally, at least for now, here are my Uncle Colin and Aunty Angela showing off what misguided nutters they can be from time to time.

yep, that's right. not only are they on holiday but they also have some chocolate directly from the factory. and they are off jogging. the fools!

many thanks for the pictures Andrew! looking forward to the next batch!

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

giz a croggy to Middelburg....

hey everyone

hello there, and a very warm welcome to those from where i came from and the surrounding areas who may well have stumbled upon this site by a random google search on the phrase i used for the title!

Erika, Lyla and Ruby-Lee were in town at the weekend and, as Erika wisely doesn't particularly wish to have anything to do with combustion engine driven perambulators, required a lift home. Mum was only too happy to obliged, with James and myself happy to come along for the ride.

James was particularly thrilled at this set of circumstances - not only did he get to see his beloved cousins for a while, but he also got to take a ride in the most excellent bus that we took up to Sun City once again. here are he and Lyla all sat down and ready to roll!

the two of them had great fun on the journey, in particular when they messed about with one of them satellite navigation device thingies. James kept typing in the names of excellent places that he wanted the machine to tell him how to get to, with Sun City, Dinosaur City and T-Rex City being his top 3.

Ruby-Lee seems somewhat excited about the bus ride too, but more because it provided her with an excellent place to have a nice nap!

once the long trek north was completed it was time for a spot of lunch, and where better than Spur? not only is the food quite class, but they seem to give you as many balloons as you can carry as a thank you for your patronage.

James and Lyla managed to almost not pop all of them, too!

finally, then, here are all of those who took the trip. except me of course, as i was having to use the blueberry phone thing to take the picture with.

a nice, interesting day out!

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

classic cinema : the silence of the lambs

It is with a sense of disbelief that I notice it is now just slightly over 20 years since the silence of the lambs was released. A bit of research says that I wrote a piece on the film just over 3 years ago, but what the heck, let me expand on that and write even more. I will, however, skip recalling the plot and what have you again.

one of the biggest surprises about the film is that it got made at all. When the first novel to feature Doctor Hanninal Lector, Red Dragon, was filmed as Manhunter and subsequently flopped at the box office, legendary film producer gave the rights to any sequel to it away for free to in some financial trouble Orion pictures. In the mean time, though, in a kind of deal that only Hollywood could understand, Gene Hackman had obtained the film rights to the novel of The Silence Of The Lambs and intended to both star in it and direct. Hackman eventually dropped out of the project, though. There were rumours of a health scare for the great actor, but the commonly accepted reason is that he was concerned about the levels of violence in the story, in particular in the light of the somewhat unwarranted and over the top criticism of the violence in his masterpiece of a performance in Mississippi Burning. How exceptionally fortunate, then, than he should have overcome this concern a bit later on to deliver an astonishing, worthy Oscar winning part in Eastwood’s film Unforgiven.

Director duties eventually ended up with Jonathan Demme, which was an interesting choice to say the least. At this point in his career he had never worked with anything as “dark” as this, but had delivered the celebrated Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, along with a couple of well received in every sense bar financial, quirky films in the shape of Something Wild and Married To The Mob.

It was the latter film listed there, and Demme’s preoccupation with trying to just work with the same people again and again, that very nearly led to what would have been an ill-advised, fatal to the film casting decision. Whereas the studio and screenplay writer Ted Tally had Oscar winning, celebrated actress Jodie Foster in mind for the pivotal role of rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling. Fresh from working with her in Married To The Mob, however, Demme really, really wanted to cast no less than Michelle Pfeiffer in the part. I shall leave that to sink in for a moment.

Now, there’s no doubting that Ms Pfeiffer is talented. But talented enough to pass off as Southern Belle, rookie agent Starling? I think not. Gladly, neither did she, and she passed on the film part. As with most who declined to be part of the film the levels of violence were given as the main concern, although you would imagine that her previous experience with a sequel (Grease 2, anyone) also made her hesitant. Considering that Ms Foster had attempted to get the rights to the novel herself to ensure that she got the part of Clarice Starling it does now seem like one of those “just meant to be” roles. And how thankful the entertainment must be that it all fell into place like that – for the last 20 years, from The X Files to the various incarnations of CSI, the influence of her performance in the part on all other female law enforcement characters is perhaps a major legacy of the film which gets overlooked.

In regards of Anthony Hopkins getting the part of Dr Hannibal Lector, well, that’s another fascinating tale. It seems that Brian Cox, the original Lector (or “Lektor” in the film) in Manhunter, was never even considered to reprise his role. The first choice for the part was Jeremy Irons, but he turned it down more or less straight away, citing that he had recently done “evil” in his Oscar winning turn in Reversal Of Fortune and had no wish to return to it straight away. In interviews many years after the film, it turned out the studio really wanted Louis Gossett jnr for the part of Lector. He didn’t so much turn it down as his agent did, an agent that went ballistic that any studio would “dare be so racist as to offer the part of a cannibal to a black actor.”. Louis only found out that he had been offered the role a while after the film had been released, and promptly fired his rather too politically correct agent on the spot.

What is easy to forget now (20 years later!) is that, as with Manhunter, the part of Dr Lector was important but also secondary. With barely 15 – 20 minutes of screen time in the accepted screenplay for The Silence Of The Lambs, it was “unlikely” that they would be getting an A-listed star to take on an inherently evil character in the sequel to a poorly received film. Nonetheless, the likes of Jack Nicholson, Robert Duvall Sean Connery and Robert De Niro were all approached for the part, and all turned it down. It’s an interesting turn of events that the last two listed there went on to appear in films which liberally borrowed from key plot points of The Silence Of The Lambs (Just Cause and Backdraft respectively).

Where Jonathan Demme nearly went so wrong with casting Clarice Starling it has to be said that he went very, very right with the part of Lector. With Irons declining and Louis Gossett jnr unaware of being offered the part, he went with his third choice for the role, a respected but relatively little known Welsh actor called Anthony Hopkins. The reason for wanting him was because of the heartfelt, decent man he played in the film The Elephant Man. This surprised Hopkins, as he couldn’t quite grasp how playing a perfectly decent, compassionate doctor had made the director somehow envision him as someone who, on paper at the least, was pure evil.

The genius of what Jonathan Demme brought to the film was behind the reason. Whereas at a superficial level Dr Hannibal Lector is a psychopathic killer who eats his victims, there’s the fascinating back story of the character – a great intellectual man, capable of care and compassion. Demme wished to highlight this in at least equal measure to the brutality of the man – there is no killer quite so dangerous, after all, as the charming killer who seduces you to your fate. It would be safe to assume, then, that Louis Gossett jnr was very much wanted for the part on the basis of his superb Oscar winning turn as the drill instructor in An Officer And A Gentleman, where he played the part with the required compassion and brutality.

Here’s an understatement for you – Anthony Hopkins’ turn as Dr Hannibal Lector became an instant icon. It is a performance which has been frequently declared and voted as the most terrifying in cinema, and rightly so. He towers over the entire film despite being in it for barely fifteen minutes – a dominance with limited time not seen since Brando in The Godfather. In both cases, both were full worthy of the Best Actor Oscar for the year with a quality performance over quantity of time, although infamously Brando did not particularly want his award.

The great casting did not end there. Scott Glenn is note perfect as senior agent Jack Crawford, and one of the most excellent overlooked performances in the history of cinema is that of Ted Levine as the actual villain of the piece, Buffalo Bill. It is perhaps because of the preposterous controversy around the character that few have dared to celebrate the performance. The usual politically correct lobby groups were up in arms over the idea of presenting a transsexual / transvestite as a deranged serial killer. To this day I am still not at all sure what it is that upset them – was it that there’s absolutely no way, in their eyes, that a transsexual could be a criminal, or did they think that everyone who saw the film would assume all transsexuals are criminals? Either way, a very stupid argument and one which rather unfairly cast a big shadow over the excellent work by Levine here.

Since we are on the subject, another ridiculous controversy around the film was, apparently, it being “sexist”. A fair part of this argument was that Buffalo Bills victims were all women. That’s an interesting conclusion to get to, really. What would they have preferred, that he attacked people equally of both genders and indeed every race, religious belief and sexual persuasion in the name of equality?

The other argument as to why it was a “sexist” film is one of the most ridiculous complaints ever issued about this or any film. There were complaints because of the sexist treatment the character of Clarice Starling was faced with at practically every turn. Well, yeah! That’s the whole point, really. Starling is a determined woman trying to carve her place in a world that is seen – rightly or wrongly – as an exclusively male preserve. Neither the character nor Jodie Foster’s performance would have been quite so interesting and extraordinary if it was bereft of the dimension of fighting sexism on the right side of the law as well as tracking down those who were on the wrong side of it.

Leaving aside the content of the actual film, the success of it took just about everyone by surprise. It was a “sleeper hit” – perversely released, some might say, on Valentine’s Day in 1991, word of mouth and astonishing reviews led to it being viewed as the “must see” film of the year. The box office figures reached, over $270 million worldwide, was unprecedented for a film with a distinctly horror tone to it.

Also unprecedented for a horror film was Oscar nominations. Few horror films, or any film with subject matter that could be interpreted as “dark”, ever get formal recognition. That this film not only got nominations but also went on to win the “Big 5” (actor, actress, director, picture and screenplay), the first time a film had done so since One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, tells you all of the calibre of film this is.

The Oscar wins also give a third unprecedented level of success for the film. The film was released at a time considered to be “out of competition” usually, and the fact that the ceremony at which it was honoured occurred more than a year after the release date also indicates just how this movie lives in the minds of those who have seen it. It was the first time a film had won Best Picture whilst it was already available on home video; this point often being listed as “helpful” to its winning awards, as people were able to be reminded of how good the film was in the comfort of their own home before casting their votes for winners. No surprise, then, that “Oscar screener” videotapes were issued in time for the next awards to Academy voters in the hope of reaping the same benefits.

It’s little surprise that the well crafted film lived in the memory of the Oscar voters, really. Visually the film is superbly crafted, with Demme bringing the “isolate the subject, ignore the peripherals” approach to this that he showed off in the Stop Making Sense concert film, where the audience actually seeing the concert being film are all but ignored. A wonderful, understated soundtrack and flawless performances inspired by a superb script made this a textbook definition case of how to craft a film that shall live on forever.

Another level of influence this film has had is on your humble narrator. A number of people have expressed their dismay and confusion at the fact that I rarely use capital letters correctly in my posts here. Well, blame this film! I love how the title looks on the poster in all lower case letters, and ever since then I have tried to more or less replicate it in all that I do!

If for some reason you have not seen this film, I trust that all you have read has said this to you : “see it.”. I am somewhat surprised by the lack of “fan sites” across the net for this film; I can only hope that this second post of mine about it encourages those last few people yet to see it to watch it soon!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

your turn to drive

hey everyone

William, it has to be said, is quite the ritualistic child. he very much likes doing things the "same way as he has always done them", if one can do such things without yet hitting that 2 years old milestone!

the latest ritual he's hit upon is going out with me to the cars in the morning as i load bags and what have you up. he does this partially as he likes a walk around, but mostly as he likes to have a quick crack at this driving business.

he does love sitting and turning the steering wheel and has, once or twice, nearly mastered the art of releasing the handbrake and seeing what happens! i usually catch him before he presses or pulls something that he perhaps should not, but he does put up quite an impressive bout of resistance when i open up the door!

James would usually be too involved with some sort of breakfast cereal and an episode of Phineas & Ferb first thing on a morning to bother with this kind of thing!

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

Monday, August 22, 2011


hey everyone

regular, if not avid, readers of this blog shall (and it is hoped fondly) recall how my cousin Andrew forwarded on some pictures of London (innit) a little while ago. i believe, to be specific, it was two pictures he sent, although it may well have been 3. sorry, can't be bothered to look up the post right now.

as some sort of repose to this, my youngest cousin (thus far), Christopher or if you will Chris, has taken it upon himself to forward unto me vast swathes of images of London (innit). let me state that the quality is of a constant, just the quantity has been increased lest any family quibbles arise.

but you presumably don't wish to read these theories so much as you do wish to look at these images of London (innit) before they decided to burn the old town down.

first off, and with the riots and building burnings apparently over, let us focus on the next big thing to hit London (innit), which shall be the march of the Olympians on the place. here is the massive countdown thing they have on the go for it.

nice one Chris, always great to look at a massive, giant (and i am checking my typing here) clock.

next up is a walk across London (innit) Bridge, or rather Tower Bridge i think. i don't know, the big fancy tourist attraction one. the name of it is not quite as important as the small matter of Christopher doing that which Andrew did not, which would be including members of his family in the pic!

nice to see you all to see you nice! the images of the Harlo gang do not grind to a halt there, by the way. on a tour of Wembley, Andrew decided to pose next to the shirt of he who is currently the best England player on the go at present!

for those of you rather excited about seeing pre-riot members of the Harlo Gang hold on for a bit, one more likeness shall be heading to your gaze soon enough. in the mean time, though, here's a picture Chris took from the London (innit) Eye, showing off a number of the prestigious buildings that strike their impressive shadow across the London (innit) skyline.

quite frankly i am getting tired of having to write London (innit) on this post due to my insistence that to be correct "innit" must feature behind every reference to London (innit). apologies if i just mention "the city" from now on.

for the life of me, it has to be said, i cannot imagine what interest it is that Christopher might think i have in this next picture, but i am including it here for "the kids" and for those, indeed, who are considerably more "hip" and "with it" than i. behold, trendy types, for here is a glimpse in side the place that i think he said is called Nike World. could be Nike Land or something, mind.

whatever it is actually called, you have to imagine that it looks somewhat different now, for a key point of these riots and that they had in (sigh) London (innit) appears to have been allowing an awful lot of vermin to steal many trendy items like those on offer in this place. rather sad.

on a happier note, and one that i can even relate to, here's Uncle Colin wondering how to get one of the most excellent modes of transport ever to work.

i think you have to be an actual Time Lord to make the TARDIS work, but fair play to Colin for having a go. you never know, it might have turned out that he was indeed a Time Lord. don't know till you have a go, do you?

and why is it that i would refer to the TARDIS merely as one of the most excellent modes of transport rather than the most excellent? well that would be because whilst visiting the BBC at London (innit) they got to see the most excellent car ever to appear in a BBC TV series. behold, mortals, the Quattro!

had i been (unfortunate) to be in (aha!) The Capital City of England during the theft riots, i would like to think i would have not bothered with all the TVs and that which they pinched, instead heading off to "The Bush" (as i think that's where the BBC are located) and tried getting my hands on this! erm, not that i would ever engage in such activity, of course. and nor should you.

moving right along, and here's a classic picture that Chris got of that bridge for your viewing pleasure!

good catch on the rainbow front there, Chris!

and finally, let it not be said that i do not think of the column fanatics who pay an infrequent visit to this site :

many thanks for the images, Chris! any chance of you going back down and taking "after" images to see how it looks now? thought not.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2011

National Treasures

hey everyone.

the Manic Street Preachers do seem determined to have a product out every year. no new album this time, but a rather interesting "complete" singles collection is on the way in October.

it has an interesting cover......

......and a rather misleading name. odd that they should call something the "complete" singles collection when the tracklisting reveals things like Suicide Alley, Underdogs and anything off the "God Save The Manics" EP are absent. still, there's 1 (one) new track on it, This Is The Day.

looks like a bit of a cash in, really, but yes of course i shall be purchasing it.

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

those holiday pictures

hey everyone

well, after a few promises and hints, here we go then with some pictures from our recent holiday! for those of you who got a hint at them coming and have been keen to see them, i can only trust that it turns out to have been worth the wait!

we had a wonderful if somewhat exhausting holiday up at Sun City. the exhausting part would, of course, come from trying to keep up with James and William who were on top form and wished very much to do everything all at once! well, that's no great surprise; with so much to do and so much space to do it in the boys went wild under our great encouragement!

here's William doing just that, with off in the distance your humble narrator making some rather useless attempt to keep up with him!

William is rather taken with this walking and running business. we had the pram with us for him, but he wasn't particularly interested in it. he walked some remarkable distances for someone who is not quite 2 yet, but did take a quick break every now and then to catch his breath at least!

stopping to take a breath only means more enegry to keep on playing, of course, and the play area near the massive place where one can go for the king of breakfasts (the Cabanas, for those in the know) provided the boys with a great deal of fun!

James has obviously been to the place a good few more times than his younger brother. so frequently, in fact, that he pretty much knows where everything is and exactly what he wants to do the moment we get to the place! as he has not featured in this post yet, here he is posing and looking like quite the chap in the mentioned play area.

i very much prefer to get pictures of the boys together, but it's rather difficult to capture them both looking the same way! Michele more or less managed to get a great pic of them in the play area, but don't just take my word for it - see for yourself!

far too much going on for them to stop and pose, really!

William seems to find endless fascination and interest in the most simple and straightforward of places, it has to be said. he found an old (hopefully mostly clean) container of some description by the swings near one of the jungle gyms and quite happily spent a while playing with that and the sand!

oh, to have that very straightforward and pleasant enjoyment of life once again!

no trip to Sun City would be complete for us without a ride down to the Kwena (i think) crocodile park. over the years i have posted many, many fabulous pictures of the magnificent nile crocs they have there, so shall just include the one here this time.

James remembered the names of all the really big ones (Arnie and The Terminator, no less) and was very happy to see them all again. although we took him around last year i think it was this year that William appreciated them somewhat more - to the extent of sticking his hand through the fence to try and wave hello to them!

other wildlife on display that William took a shine to would be covered by his current favourite phrase, "noisy bird". he loved the aviary a great deal indeed. here's James sat with the two parrots that William took a particular like to!

as for what James liked, well, just about everything would be the answer! a big number one of course would be having a go on the most excellent Star Wars and Jurassic Park games they have available there.

which is not to say he was inside all the time playing them, far from it. an interesting new love he has is for the excellent, fun game that is mini golf, or if you will crazy golf!

a very interesting thing happened as i was showing him how to play the game. as soon as he clocked that the idea was to get the ball in the hole using as few shots as possible James took a shine to just putting the ball by the hole and tapping it in. when i encouraged him to have a go at starting from where one is supposed to, well, the inevitable happened - he got a hole in one on a rather tricky course!

James also took quite a shine to photography, and it was his taking of the camera that led to me sorting through well over 500 pictures to present these to you! even if i say so myself, James is getting rather good with the camera - now that he has stopped shaking it around the moment he presses the button, at least!

here's one he took of "the rest of his family" as we were walking around!

i am not usually prone to vanity or a wish to put pictures of me up here (unless it's wildly amusing), but all the same i have to say i really, really like this one that James took of your humble narrator!

and i really love this one that he took of himself!

rather clever son, well done!

another thing that excited James a very great deal was the "Monster Trucks" they had there to ride on. well, to him i suppose that's what they look like!

he was a bit nervy at first, as indeed was i when i let him go on it. i am currently trying to teach him how to ride his bike, and thus far his learning has got as far as "why wear out the breaks when a wall will come along and stop you?". thankfully, however, with this excellent bike thing he soon clocked the steering and indeed worked out how to make it go around rather fast!

a somewhat more pleasant ride, however, was the delightful "safari ride" train we found near where all the animals are. family around the world can expect the home video "soon" and you should be aware that it features a fair bit of this, since we ended up riding on it four times!

it was a brief yet very pleasant ride around the grounds, with William and James both loving riding around and getting very close to the ostriches, springboks and meerkats. there was also one there that James is convinced is a buffalo, it is not for me to correct him. especially when i did not quite catch exactly which animal it was.

well, there you go! there are about a hundred other stories and pictures to tell, but some things are always best kept as family memories, even here in the 21st Century. hope you have enjoyed what i have put here, though!

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