Thursday, 18 August 2016
2016. Well. We've had no personal catastrophes. Zachary's now at school. Kasper's walking and talking and will be starting nursery soon. But the world seems to have gone to pot, doesn't it?!
And on top of all that, I'll be 50 next week!
It was only 20 minutes ago that I was in my twenties. An hour ago, I was a teenager. The weather at the moment reminds me of the summer of 1976. I was 10. It really doesn't seem that long ago.
[Perhaps we get a nice, hot summer every 40 years?]
Anyway. I've done it before. Let's have another crack at it. I'm going to start posting here regularly again. In my head "regular" means every day. Pragmatically, 3 times a week would be good. You and me both know that you won't see me again until after the next general election though.
Right - crack on. See you soon. And remember: "Don't let the bastards grind you down. Unless you're a lens."
Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Sodium is one of the most reactive metals in the periodic table. Just one gram of sodium will burst into flames on contact with water. Human beings are 75% water, at least. So you can see the potential for damage this could cause.
Cancers, allergies, viruses: all things that might be caused by the sodium or chlorine that "the man" wants us to eat, on a daily basis.
Friday, 2 January 2015
356 days ago, my Dad had a catastrophic stroke. We didn't think he would make it past the first week, but somehow he did. However, the incident left him severely mentally and physically disabled. He spent the rest of 2014 in a nursing home, where he was well looked after.
Two days ago, on New Year's Day, after a short illness, Dad finally passed away.
We knew that when the end came it would be a shock, and we would be terribly sad. And so it proved.
But it is also a great relief that he has now been released from the awful ordeal that he has been suffering for many months.
I'm not sure I can adequately write down how I feel about my Dad. Maybe I will try in to put it in words one day soon. He was strong, kind, generous, quick to laugh and very funny, and I am going to miss him for the rest of my life.
I love you, Dad.
Friday, 24 October 2014
What was I saying. Oh, yes, The Apprentice. While it's fun to get annoyed at the idiocy of the contestants, and wonder why they do so spectacularly badly at many of the tasks, it strikes me that each episode is setup as an exercise in Sysyphian futility from the start. We shouldn't be surprised that they get things wrong - we should be amazed if they ever get things right.
Let's break it down:
1. The task itself
This is usually impossible. "Create your own fragrance and market it in two days". "Create an original piece of home fitness equipment". "Create an innovative new wearable technology". These (and other tasks) are all things that real companies spend months, if not years, and millions of pounds in R&D, testing and marketing, and still don't always get it right. Yet we're supposed to mock these amateur business people (if you're a swimming instructor or a personal assistant, you're not really "in business", let's face it) for not getting it right, under pressure, in a competition, in 48 hours.
Lord Sugar might as well ask them to found an ethically-responsible bank, providing funding for hi-tech projects in the Indian sub-continent, with only £500 and a pop-up shop in Hoxton.
2. The format
The teams are always split into two. One half does "market research" (usually asking one woman who owns a shop) and the other designs the product. In real life you would do one, or the other, first. Then use the output to feed into the other. Forcing the sub-teams to do both simultaneously, without the opportunity to consult until afterwards (as it is obvious the producers do, otherwise, why wouldn't the project manager change the way they do it!) is a guarantee that you will end up with different requirements.
In the part of the show where they produce the products, they will have one team doing the manufacturing while the other does the marketing and packaging. Again, it is structured so that one team doesn't know what the other is doing, until too late - surely the hand of the producers again, otherwise, why wouldn't at least one of the PMs have seen through this ruse - leading to a product which doesn't match the marketing (or vice versa).
3. The blame game
This week's episode had the typical Apprentice blame-game hallmarks in a nutshell. PM Roisin was blamed (by her colleagues, by Sugar, by Karren) for not setting realistic price points. Yet the film showed her saying "don't sell for less than £25. £20 minimum". James was in a sub-team, miles away from the PM and only contactable by phone, conducted a fire-sale, selling for (on average) £8, yet Roisin was told she should have controlled him better. How? If it was a multi-day task she could have seen his performance at the end of the day and 'sacked' him, or bollocked him, but she wasn't given the chance to do that. She only found out about his performance in the boardroom, at the same time as Lord Sugar. OK, she wasn't fired, but she was coruscated for her performance when, in real life, she would easily have had the chance to get rid of an underperforming colleague.
So, Nurun gets fired for being anonymous and ineffective. Quite probably true. But James lost them the task by completely disregarding his PMs instructions and "going rogue". But he can't be fired because he's a mouthy wide-boy, a big character, and what all TV shows need is big characters, regardless of whether they were actually the ones who deserved to be fired.
4. In summary
Anyone would think the whole thing was somehow being rigged and manipulated by shadowy figures behind the scenes...
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
I'm posting now as we wanted to share a photo of our 2nd son, Kasper, being born.
He was delivered by c-section, so if you're squeamish, you might not want to scroll down to see the picture.
But we think it's rather beautiful.
Typing a bit more here, so there's some space used up...
And more here...
Right. That's enough.
Here it is - the moment of birth
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
Ms Cyrus wasn't doing anything that Madonna hadn't done before. Christina Aquilera and Britney Spears. Lady Gaga. All of them have pushed the boundaries of what's acceptable to see on stage during a pop performance.
There are arguments to be had over whether raunchy and 'outrageous' performances are empowering to women or are just another sign that they (the female performers) are in thrall to some sort of patriarchal influence. When all is said and done, the only person who knows whether they are being empowered or exploited is the performer herself.
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
The cover itself is a re-working of the classic "Heroes" cover. But can the contents get close to that great album?
Title track The Next Day is a straight-forward rocker, which hooks you in with repeated listens.
Dirty Boys has a squawking guitar and sax backing which sounds like it could be inspired by Kurt Weill or Tom Waits. The former is a long-time Bowie favourite, of course.
On track three, the single The Stars (Are Out Tonight), Bowie's multi-tracked vocal stands out for me; along with a beautiful string section and a synth sound reminiscent of Warszawa, from "Heroes". This track took a while to get going, and then finished, just as I was starting to appreciate it.
Love Is Lost feels dark, both musically and lyrically. The whole album has a dark theme to it, so far. Of course, Bowie's work has always been best when it pokes around in the dusty corners of life, fame, love, drugs and music.
Where Are We Now?, the album's first single, is the first slower number. A melancholy ballad which seems to look back on Bowie's time in Berlin. Beautiful. Deservedly his first top ten hit for twenty years.
Valentine's Day didn't have much impact on me. Likewise Boss Of Me, from later in the album. There are fourteen tracks on the album, with three more 'bonus' tracks (is there any such thing as 'bonus' tracks in these download days?) so it's not surprising that there is some thriller.
If You Can See Me is the most up-tempo tune so far and approaches the fringes of the dance music he explored on Earthling, without being too drum'n'bass. I could see myself bopping around the kitchen to it while I cook the dinner.
I'd Rather Be High washes over me, like Valentine's Day, at first. But it has a feel of psychedelia, like something Inspiral Carpets might have released in the 90s, so it could grow on me.
Dancing Out In Space starts off sounding like something James might have recorded in their pomp. That's a compliment. It's a definite toe-tapper. Sonically, it starts moving in unexpected directions which keep the interest up as the tune progresses. Is it a reference to Major Tom? Still floating out in space, looking for a girl to dance with?
How Does The Grass Grow? sounds like a return to the classic Bowie of Scary Monsters era, with an unexpected ya-ya chorus reminiscent of Apache by The Shadows. Odd, but effective.
The past few tracks have lifted the melancholy mood of the album somewhat.
(You Will) Set The World On Fire is a heavier track with a Jack White-style riff.
You Feel So Lonely You Could Die brings us back down to ballad territory. It might be a song about the loneliness of the long-distance spy. But we get an echo of Ziggy's Five Years in the outro of the song.
Heat rounds off the album proper. An atmospheric bass and synth opening, at a very slow pace, very much in the vein of the Berlin trilogy, along with gnomic lyrics. Again, a beautiful track, but what does it mean.
So She - a sweet love song.
Plan - an instrumental. Not one of his best.
I'll Take You There - rounding things off with a celebration of Bowie's life in the USA.
The whole album at this point seems to be Bowie's reflections on his career, and you wonder if he's happy with what he has done over the past 40 years. Well, his fans are happy, so he should be! But maybe the meaning's are more obscure than that.
Overall, it's a brilliant return to form. I can't believe it's been out for 3 or 4 months and I hadn't got around to downloading it yet. Tony Visconti said that Bowie recorded 29 tracks for The Next Day and that more would be included in the next album, due to get underway sometime this year. I can't wait!
Monday, 27 May 2013
And thus the story continues, every time we reach a crisis point in the story, it jumps forward in time to a new, seemingly unrelated story, until we're in the far, distant future, in a world unrecognisable from our own. And when that story completes, Mitchell brings us back through each world, completing each story in turn until we are back where we started.
It' a brilliant device, and you will have great fun spotting the connections between each story. And wondering which of the chapters is "real" or "fiction" in the context of the stories which come after.
Probably one of the best novels I've ever read.
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
- British Bulldog - Team GB's big medal hope.
- Kiss Chase.
- Off-Ground It.
- Block 1-2-3.
- Conkers - may be stymied by the lack of conkers in August.
- Dodge Ball.
- Red Rover.
- French Skipping - ironically the French aren't fancied this time.
- Please Mr Crocodile.
Thursday, 5 July 2012
Silver = 16
Bronze = 18
Total = 55
Unfortunately, the cycling, which got us 12 medals in 2008, has been butchered and there are now far fewer medal opportunities in that sport. But home advantage should give GB a chance to increase the overall medal tally since the last Games. I reckon they should surpass the total of 47 medals, but I'm being conservative and predicting an increase of only 2 golds.
It's sobering to realise that UK Sport's official target is only 1 higher than the Beijing games.
Friday, 29 June 2012
I'm playing Canon Throbbing, the thrusting 'young' vicar, who is engaged (for the past 10 years) to Connie Wicksteed, the doctor's dowdy sister.
Obviously, mine is the main role, even though other people have more lines and more time on stage...!
Read more about the play here.
If you want to come and see it, you'd better get a move on, as tickets are selling fast. No, really, they are.
Buy tickets here.
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
Tuesday, 12 June 2012
Saturday, 2 June 2012
Zachary is now almost 10 months old (in two days time) which really accounts for my lack of activity here.
When I sum up what's happened since I last posted, it's very simple:
- Watching telly.