Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Anyway, I love it when my hi-tech household runs like digital clockwork. Mrs Wife and I invested in a home cinema system earlier this year, which I think has been one of my best buys ever. I love being able to watch DVDs and hear the action explode all round me.
At least I did until the woofer stopped working this week. The rest of the speakers work just fine, but they are hampered by the lack of low frequency kick generated by the working woofer.
Several emails and phone calls later, the good people at Acoustic Solutions and Argos have decided that the best option is to exchange the system. Which is all well and good until it comes to unravelling almost 30 metres of cables and dismantling all the speaker stands, a task I have been engaged in for the past two evenings.
Still, it will all be worth it when I sit down to watch all six Star Wars movies back to back at some point in the next two weeks. Life doesn't get much better....
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
But yet again I pulled it off and the paper is complete for another week. So I am now lounging on the couch, browsing the worldwide interweb and listening to Love's Forver Changes.
I've had the album for a few years, but have never really been able to get into it. Some people I know think it is the work of bona fide genii (which I believe is the plural of genius). It may well be, but something about it just never floated my boat in the same way that many albums from that same era have.
I'd much rather have the psychedelic wooziness of The Beatles at their most experimental, the all-out, good time, bluesy rock'n'roll of the Stones, the sheer ferocity of The Who, the English whimsy and tongue-in-cheek humour of The Kinks, the organ-backed howl of The Doors or the harmonic blend of Simon and Garfunkel.
In fact, when you throw Dylan, The Zombies and the Small Faces into the mix, Love struggle to make my top ten of bands from the 60s.
Don't get me wrong, it's a good album. It just doesn't strike that chord with me, and joins a list of other musical acts that I've never really been able to fathom, amongst them Springsteen, The Strokes and Captain Beefheart.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Another weekend, another mouth-watering Premiership clash.
Chelsea may have spent three thousand gazillion pounds in the summer to hoover up a few more of the world's best players, but their squad hasn't gelled as well as Jose Mourinho would have hoped.
Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson seems to be getting the best from his previously mis-firing team, including a rejuvenated Rooney and revitalised Ronaldo.
If anyone had said at the the start of the season that a Man Ure squad missing Ruud Van Nistelrooy would be top of the Premiership, with the opportunity to go six points ahead of Chelsea before the end of November, I'd have laughed in their face.
But the Reds seem to have clicked, perhaps because they had been so completely written off beforehand. Ferguson has always excelled at building a siege mentality in his squads, from the beginnings of his success at Aberdeen onwards. That they are playing football with an artistic flair which is absent from Chelsea's play at the moment would no doubt make a Man Ure victory today all the sweeter - what better than to play the champions off the park?
That Chelsea's squad is now bursting at the seams with world-class players may be the root of their problems - how can you possibly accommodate Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack, Geremi, Jon Obi Mikel, Joe Cole, Arjen Robben, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien AND Andriy Shevchenko in the same team? Put simply, you can't, and it may be that the sheer weight of dented egos will drag Chelsea into second place in this year's Premiership.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
What a wonderful way to bring back childhood memories (even if Windy has sold his soul for the advertising cash).
Look out for He-Man selling bleach and Huckleberry Hound peddling washing powder soon.
Friday, November 24, 2006
The reason for my happiness? I have just completed my Christmas shopping from the comfort of my office chair.
I know that I moaned about people starting Christmas too early in this previous post, and that I demanded no-one mention the C-word until December 1.
But Mrs Wife has been driving herself, and as a result me, into a frenzy by demanding that we buy everyone's presents and write the cards so that we don't have to do it nearer the time.
So, leaving the purchasing of most of the gifts to the little lady, I have finished it off with just a click of my mouse and an assault on my credit card.
It must be the first stirrings of middle age - having my Christmas shopping completed by the end of November. If only other areas of my life were so organised....
Thursday, November 23, 2006
First up, the Scottish Executive (the nice name given to Scotland's kiddy-on parliament) aims to raise the legal age of buying tobacco products from 16 to 18 within the next few months.
This announcement follows the ban on smoking in enclosed public places that was put in place in March. As a non-smoker, I have certainly seen the difference. Waking up the morning after a heavy sesh, it's much better to find that your hair and clothes don't reek of stale smoke.
But I don't know how much difference raising the legal age would make. Lots of people I went to high school with were smoking from the age of 10 or 11 - they were obviously able to get the cigarettes without too much difficulty, and I don't think the Executive's plans will change that in any great way. But hey, good luck to them.
Next, the Big Government down in London will be cheered by the news that the EU is not going to allow people to buy alcohol over the internet from other member states, thus circumventing taxation in their home country.
The UK stood to lose billions of pounds in lost revenue if the law had been changed. However nice it might have been to order a bottle of Polish vodka for a couple of quid over the worldwide interweb, or a nice Port direct from a Portuguese warehouse, at least Gordon Brown won't have to worry about making up those lost billions.
And finally, it seems that Britain's high rollers get through almost 60 million quid's worth of cocaine each week, and that we have the fastest-growing cocaine problem in the west.
So what does all this tell us about life in Little Britain? That we're a bunch of party-loving junkies? That we're so determined to have a good time that we're prepared to die in the process? Or that no matter how hard the government tries, they won't stop us drinking, smoking and taking drugs?
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Although, in a former life, I worked as an IT support technician, I've been away from it for long enough that I've lost touch with what's hot in the world of mobile PCs.
Which processors are fastest? Who makes the best RAM? Which manufacturers should be avoided?
Ideally, I'd like a mimimum of 1GB RAM and 60GB hard drive. In a perfect world, it would be a Dell, but go beyond their basic packages and they start getting pretty pricey.
So I'm throwing the question open to the floor - what's the best deal for the laptop I'm looking for? Preferably costing (substantially) less than 500 quid.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
But when the two evils clash, where do I put my loyalties?
One the one hand, we have Celtic, the sworn and bitter enemies of the Famous Glasgow Rangers. A club whose players and fans, their horrible green and white hooped shirts - even their stadium - call forth a great dislike from within me (I would say hate, but that's a bit too strong).
Then, on the other, we have Manchester United. A club with an arrogant manager, the club at which the loathsome Roy Keane reached the pinnacle of his abilities and the spawning ground for Real Madrid's overpaid ballerina David Beckham.
Should I be wishing for a Manchester United win at Parkhead tonight to show the Bhoys that they aren't as good as they think, even at home? Or should I back Scotland's only remaining representatives in European football's premier competition?
It's a no-brainer. Tonight, Matthew, I will be a Manchester United fan.
Monday, November 20, 2006
1: Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream (from the album Disraeli Gears): Clapton at his finest, matched by Ginger Baker's thunderous drums, both of which are anchored by Jack Bruce on bass. The only three-piece band ever to have matched the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
2: White Palms by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (from the album Black Rebel Motorcycle Club): Bass-driven punk squal taking a pro (or anti) religious stance, depending on your beliefs. "Jesus when you coming back, Jesus when you coming back, Jesus never coming back - Jesus I dare you to come back."
3: Mucho Mungo by John Lennon (from the Dakota disc of the Lennon Anthology box set): Downbeat acoustic lament in which it is possible to hear baby Sean screaming in the background. A little hint of the way Lennon's life was going before he died.
4: Mellow Doubt by Teenage Fanclub (from the album Grand Prix): A slice of acoustic beauty clocking in at less than three minutes long. Includes the Fannies' trademark layered harmonies and a whistled solo. Possibly their finest song.
5: Ode To Billy Joe by Bobby Gentry: A song that, despite its dark subject matter, always makes me smile. Gentry's vocals, whilst hardly in the soul diva category, are nonetheless highly evocative. I love songs that tell a story, and Ode To Billy Joe is a fine example.
6: Bad by Michael Jackson (from the album Bad): A song that, from those opening synth strings, transports me back to when I was seven and this album was released. I don't care what anyone says, at that age I thought Wacko was the coolest guy on Earth, dressed in shiny black leather and dancing like some futuristic spaceman. Pop as it should be done.
7: Desert Drought by Cast (from the album Beetroot): High-tempo, jaunty indie number driven by flutes and bongos, an interesting combo. Sounds nothing like anything Cast had done previously, which is probably a good thing. Typically nonsensical lyrics though: "The way some people operate, they spend their time promoting counterfeit that's fake".
8: A Bell (Of Love Rings Out For You) by AC Acoustics (from the album AC Acoustics): Inoffensive indie song that could have been written at any point between 1966 and 2006.
9: 138th Street by The Walkmen (from the album Bows + Arrows): Jingly-jangly guitars and almost Dylan-esque vocals. Reminds me of The Pogues' Fairytale In New York.
10: PS You Rock My World by Eels (from the album Electro-Shock Blues): Typically gloomy but oddly inspiring string-laden love song of sorts.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
For the last 10 years of his life, Elvis wore both a Christian cross and a Jewish star on chains around his neck.
When asked why, the drug-addled, obese rock'n'roll legend replied:
"I don't want to get kept out of Heaven on a technicality."
Friday, November 17, 2006
However, it is not soft, white, fluffy snow that lends itself to snowballs and sledging, but cold, wet, horizontal snow that gets in your eyes, numbs your fingers and soaks you to the bone.
Rumour has it that we are to pay for enjoying the hottest summer on record earlier this year by having one of the coldest winters. If it's already snowing in mid November, in an area which doesn't tend to get the worst conditions, those predictions may be right.
We'll find out soon enough. Think I'll invest in a new sledge just in case.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I would have posted during the day, but I spent all day in court.
Fear not, dear surfers, for I was not in the dock, merely sitting through the day's business as a reporter.
It staggers me just how many people commit crimes in my small town. The public gallery was absolutely packed with people waiting for justice to decide their fate.
Most of these people, when appearing in front of the sheriff, chose appropriate clothing for the occasion. They wore white trainers, tracksuit bottoms and sweatshirts. Some had their headphones draped around their necks.
One gentleman (I use the term VERY loosely), when asked whether his name was John Smith, answered "sure am". Which went down really well with an already crabbit sheriff.
The crimes were, for the most part, drink driving offences and people who had been fighting in the street whilst drunk. One upstanding member of the community was brought before the sheriff for shouting at his wife and mother-in-law, telling them that they were "a pair of f***ing mongols".
If ever there was evidence to suggest that Darwin got things wrong, it's the 'people' in Scotland's criminal courts.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Yet man cannot make calorie-free food that tastes as good as the real thing. If we can observe the surface of Mars first hand, why can't we invent a jam doughnut that's as good for you as celery? How have the assembled scientific minds of the 21st century not yet stumbled upon the recipe for calorie-free Dairy Milk chocolate that tastes EXACTLY the same as the original product? Why aren't nutritional experts urging us to make sure that we drink two litres of Coke each day and ensure that we get our five daily portions of cheesecake?
I'm no scientist. I am to mathematics what Paris Hilton is to celebacy, and to physics what Courtney Love is to decency. But surely these dietary advances are possible?
The reason I ponder this problem is because I don't like healthy food. Quiches, salads, fish and most vegetables fail to register on my list of most palatable foods. I'd eat red meat every day if I could, would gorge on chocolate and guzzle fizzy drinks by the bottle.
But if I ate to satisfy my desires, I'd end up being removed from my house by a fire crew, watched by little children standing with mouths agape as the crane buckled under my bulk.
Anyway, that ends today's groanin'. I'm off for lunch. What am I having? Chicken soup....
Monday, November 13, 2006
Channel 4 was showing the film, but being clever, we decided to watch it on DVD instead, thinking that our viewing would be unsullied by adverting breaks and that we'd get the benefit of surround sound.
Whilst both these facts are true, what we forgot to take into account is that the DVD version is extended. It takes almost FOUR HOURS to watch this movie. That's half a working day.
The films are cinematic masterpieces, there can be no doubt of that. But at a combined length of something approaching 15 hours, they do require stamina if you're going to sit and watch them.
Which is why, at work today, I am bleary-eyed. Mrs Wife and I had harboured ambitions of watching the three back-to-back, a feat I previously managed with the original Star Wars trilogy.
I think, though, that those plans have now been shelved.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Whilst round at Ralphd00d's site 'Boobies and Beer', I decided to use a random series of binary digits to determine whether my life to date was worthwhile.
And guess what? I scored pretty high! It seems my body is the best bit about my life, closely followed by my love life (I think the two may be connected).
My lowest score was for friends and family - so screw you all, I'm going to use my aparently hot body and firm financial footing to buy new and better friends.
(I'm only joking folks, I love you all really....)
|This Is My Life, Rated|
|Take the Rate My Life Quiz|
Friday, November 10, 2006
Google searches that have brought visitors this way in the past 24 hours have included "absolute munter" and "Derek Riordan caught in a strip bar".
Who says high culture is dying?
Tonight, 'professional' wrestlers descend on Argyll for a performance in the local sports centre.
Before anyone starts, I KNOW it's 'fake', and they aren't really getting hurt.
But surely no-one over the age of 12 watches wrestling because it's real. They watch it for the entertainment value.
And whether or not the bodyslams and piledrivers are real, these guys are still lifting and throwing other big guys, which is an impressive show of strength and coreography.
Baby brother (who is 22, but still my baby brother) was meant to come through to watch this feast of lycra shorts and ridiculous headgear (as modelled by RIP and the Masked Destroyer in the above photograph).
If he had been 10, his presence at the event would be have been guaranteed. I think he still secretly believes he will grow up to be Hulk Hogan's tag team partner, and his knowledge of WWF wrestling from the late 80s and early 90s is frankly disturbing (bearing in mind that he was only six in 1990).
But rather than spend the evening engrossed in the action, he has opted instead to go on a date.
How the times change!
Thursday, November 09, 2006
What. A. Shambles.
For years, Rangers fans have enjoyed mocking their Celtic counterparts for the Hoops' infamous defeat at the hands of Inverness Caledonian Thistle during the reign of John Barnes.
Now Rangers have reached their own equally painful nadir.
For Rangers to lose is an affront. For Rangers to lose at Ibrox is shameful. For Rangers to lose at home to a team in the First Division is inexcusable.
Until now, I have been willing to give Paul Le Guen the benefit of the doubt. Expecting the man to work miracles was unfair.
But the indifferent performances he has presided over domestically cannot be allowed to continue.
Yes, Rangers have been impressive in Europe. Yes, the side occasionally looks exciting and full of flair, especially when Burke and Adam are firing on all cylinders.
But too many points have been dropped in the league and too many games which should have been guaranteed wins have ended in defeat.
The question now is whether David Murray will bite the bullet and sack a manager for the first time in nearly two decades at Ibrox.
Whatever the outcome, I'm sure the taunts from fans of Celtic (not to mention Hearts, Dundee Utd and now St Johnstone) will ring loud for years to come.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
The most interesting visit of my time at home was when I went up to visit my Granny. She was looking at a photograph of her grandmother, taken she was 94.
This got us talking about our family history - a discussion which culminated with Granny telling me that her grandmother, and therefore both us, was related to Robert Burns.
Now, whether this is true or not, I don't know. But it is very intriguing.
The idea of being related to the most famous Scotsman EVER (I imagine some will make a case for Sean Connery or Billy Connolly, but until there is a Connery Day or I attend a Connolly Supper, it's Burns) is very exciting.
I have severe doubts as to whether Granny's claim is true, but I can't let it pass.
So, the next time I'm back home, sheand I are going to sit down and work on the family tree, Burns and all.
I shall report back.....
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Whilst I don't personally approve of the death penalty, if the US and Britain have spent the last three years bleating on about Iraq 's need for self-governance, at least they've had the good sense to realise that the Iraqis' own decisions must be adhered to.
And whilst there is a risk of Saddam becoming a martyr, they are probably right in their belief that the country will be a lot safer without Saddam.
Monday, November 06, 2006
My grandparents first moved into this house in 1963, and it is the one place on earth which reminds me most of my childhood. Apparently I took my first tentative steps on the grass across the road from the house. I remember staying with my grandparents in the warm summer of 1990, watching Italy v Argentina in the World Cup semi-final before recreating the celebrations of Diego Maradona and Salvatore Schillachi using sapling trees as replacement goalposts.
This park has it all: a hill ideal for sledging in winter and rolling Easter eggs in spring; hedges which make ideal hiding places during marathon Man Hunt sessions; a BMX track and monkey bars that I spent a whole summer attempting to master to no avail.
There are relics of bygone days: a towering concrete war memorial, a band stand practically unused for its original purpose in the past 30 years and an elaborate lions head fountain that has long since run dry and been turned into a flower bed.
In my first quarter century, much has changed. I hope Brechin Public Park never does.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Incredibly, this journey from the west to the east is going to take SEVEN HOURS.
How can it be possible to travel for seven hours in a country as small as Scotland and only travel a couple of hundred miles? Seven-hour journies should at least be enough to take the traveller as far as England.
Just as well I have today's paper and an account of an intriguing Celtic v Hearts match to devour en route.
Friday, November 03, 2006
1: Hawks & Doves by Magdalen Green (from the Magdalen Green EP): Bluesy Zep-like acoustic ballad tinged with harmonicas and bongos. From the young British band's debut single, which I recommend everyone check out as soon as possible.
2: Song of Life by Leftfield (from the album Leftism): A reminder of why Leftfield were so good at their peak. Coming from the same album that gave rise to Open Up, Song of Life starts slowly, combining Indian chanting with quiet drums, before accelerating to clubland in its final four minutes, including Leftfield's own trademark skull-crushing drums.
3: Sittin' Here In Silence (On My Own) by Oasis (B-side from the Let There Be Love single): Downbeat acoustic strum-along from the band's recent renaissance. Only two minutes long, the song hints that not everything in Noel Gallagher's world is rosy in the post-Britpop comedown.
4: Policeman Skank...(The Story of My Life) by Audioweb (from the album Fireworks City): Audioweb's lead singer Sugar was a strange creature - a six foot plus black guy who could sing like an angel and rap better than most of his contemporaries. This reggae-tinged pop romp tells, as the title suggests, the story of his life, arrest and time in jail.
5: Rain by Terence Trent D'Arby (from the album Introducing The Hardline According To Terence Trent D'Arby): A comparitively weak track from the 80s soul saviour's debut album. Doesn't come close to the greatness he enjoyed on Wishing Well and Sign Your Name. A statement that could also be made about the remainder of TTD's career after this album.
6: Safe In Mind (Please Take This Gun From Out My Face) by UNKLE (from the album Never, Never, Land): UNKLE's futuristic, string-drenched electro hip-hop brings in Queens of The Stone Age's Josh Homme on lead vocals, to brilliant effect. UNKLE are most definitely at their best when collaborating with guest vocalists, with key hook-ups including Richard Ashcroft, Thom Yorke, Ian Brown and Badly Drawn Boy. This track includes the lyric 'Life's a gun that's always pointing in my face.'
7: Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 1) by The Beatles (from the album Anthology 2): The original first studio take of the greatest song ever. Includes woozy acoustic slide guitar, deadened drums and John Lennon giving a heart-rending performance on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. Reveals that at the heart of the most wonderful piece of art ever created, lies a simple acoustic ballad. Beautiful.
8: Talk On by Ocean Colour Scene (from the album Ocean Colour Scene): Many people believe that Moseley Shoals, the album which included the singles The Riverboat Song, The Day We Caught The Train and The Circle, was Ocean Colour Scene's debut. In fact, it was this self-titled record, after which they were quickly dropped by their record company. OCS themselves largely ignore this album, feeling that the band and label's conflicting musical views led to a 'watered-down' debut which lacked the edge of OCS' live popularity. An inoffensive and un-inspiring track, a charge which could be levelled at most of those on the record. Cynically re-released in 1996 to captialise on the band's new-found popularity.
9: Central Reservation (The Then Again Version) by Beth Orton (from the album Central Reservation): Trip-hop influenced remix of the title track from Orton's second album. Although I own all of her albums, I don't think I've listened to one for a few years - which is a shame, as whenever one pops up on the Magic Tune Box, I remember how good she is. Then I go home, forget all about her and listen to Bob Dylan instead.
10: Half A Dream Away by Ocean Colour Scene (from the album Marchin' Already): Seems the Magic Tune Box has an OCS fixation today. Typically well-played, well-produced but terminally bland album track from the follow-up to Moseley Shoals. Includes a trombone solo and some bizarre couplets including: 'The fireman tried but the hose was frozen; The cupboard's bare but the door needs closing'. Does end with a 30-second spell of finger picking by Steve Craddock. Which is nice.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
As I've grown up, I've realised that you need to start saving VERY early if you're going to avoid seriously damaging your credit card and found the days running up to Christmas aren't a holiday, but hectic days at work on the coldest, darkest days of the year.
But Christmas day itself is still a good day to relax, eat too much and watch loads of television.
What really annoys me about Christmas nowadays though is that it seems to start in August.
Mrs Wife and I were in Glasgow at the weekend, and every shop was going into Christmas advertising meltdown, with selection boxes in Woolworths sitting beside the Hallowe'en sweets and the bookshops recommending festive stocking fillers for your mum, dad, aunties, brothers and neighbours' dog.
I am proposing that governments across the world unite and instigate a blanket ban on Christmas at any point prior to December 1st. No mention of 'the C word' is to be made until this date. How can you even begin to discuss Christmas when Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes Day and St Andrew's Day are all still to come?
Aside from the crass and opportunistic retailers hoping to snatch your money, surely no-one would object to delaying Christmas until December? Kids can fill their days quite happily without having Christmas to think about four months in advance.
In fact, kids will whip themselves into a frenzy in the DAYS leading up to Christmas, they don't need additional weeks of making their parents' lives a misery, demanding the latest toys and video games.
I realise that by writing this very post, I am contravening my own law. So, as of THIS VERY SECOND, I don't want to hear anything about Christmas until December 1st at the very earliest.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
We only had seven kids come to our door during the evening, which is just as well, as we were criminally under-prepared. As per usual, Mrs Wife and I neglected to buy any sweets beforehand, and the local store (a supermarket in ambition only) was sold out by the afternoon. So we picked up a couple of bags from elsewhere, which was thankfully enough to see us through.
But there were two disturbing factors I noted:
1) A poor standard of performance from the kids on the doorstep. One little girl of around six attempted Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and couldn't remember the words. I'm sorry, but how can you forget that? It's not a very difficult song.
2) Kids dressed as fairies and cowboys. Hallowe'en costumes should be ghosts, ghouls, vampires, mummies and other assorted scary creatures. Nothing else is acceptable.
I didn't argue with the kids though, and happily handed over the sweeties. Still, standards are slipping.