31 October 2009

An odd day ending well

Been unpacking most of the day, then groceries so starvation was avoided. This included som large bottles of lager for Halloween horror DVD viewing.
Mmm beer n drunkeness, lesbian vampire hunters (love that movie), cloverfield (load of crap avoid at all costs), and now Friday 13th part 1. I have suspiria for later to add both prog n class to the proceedings. This has been tricky with drink n iPhone so I'm off for vodka :)

love b

20 October 2009

Things wot I have learned

My time here hasn't all been music and work, no sirree bob, I've like learnt stuff.
Here's part 1 of a probably occasional series on the Locals.

Beer teaches me things
While proggin' it down in the forest of dean, the beer at the venue was Freeminer. I just drank it and thought, odd name. Following a visit to the museum all was revealed. Once you'd done a year and a day underground in the Forest of Dean, you'd be granted the right to have a personal plot. I've even found it on wiki, and more importantly the FreeMiner brewery history. The website also explains why there are sheep all over the place roaming free-range, another 'right' of the foresters. Fascinating stuff! Oh and you should check out their range of beers, I might get some for the names alone...

Mi duck
Old people here say stuff and end with 'mi duck', or rather as it sounds 'me duck'. actually with the absence of teeth on many of them, it's hard to say WTF they are saying. I asked around the office and no-one knew why, they just said 'its what they say around here'. According to wiki, it's thought to derive from Anglo Saxon 'Duka' meaning My Duke.

I thought there was something else, but meh, it's gone now.

Love, B

18 October 2009

I'm not sure how to describe this video

Other than it's beautiful. And odd.
Musically: Arcade Fire? Anathema? Maybe Waits?

When ads don't work

Watching Meshuggah - Bleed on youtube and an ad to buy Seasick Steve's new album pops up.

16 October 2009

This could be a fun game

Run into a department store, scream I've won the lottery and will cover $500 for everyone! 

Then disappear while a riot starts as customers 'want their free stuff'.

Ahhh America, bless.

love, me.

14 October 2009

Summers End, Prog it, Prog it real good

The Chicken emailed sometime ago and said, let's prog it at the Summers End festival. Seeing that Steve Hackett and Pallas were playing, I said yes. And promptly forgot (mostly) about it all.
I did get around to booking a car and the Summers End Prog Bus to get us from the B and B (also booked) to the venue and back again. This showed remarkable organisation, which I can largely blame on the Chicken who provided links... He also said we'd be wearing capes, I just said yes as it seemed easier and being prog, it made sense.
Getting to the Forest of Dean  was a bit of a mission, and I now officially hate googlemaps directions. They make life very very difficult, and altho working nicely for most of the journey, then decided B roads were where its at. Consequently it took 3.5-4 hours to get there, and just over 2 to get back (where we ditched google and used an old fashioned paper thing called a 'map' bound in a 'book'). Annoyingly the pub next door to the B and B, and the pub down the road were both closed, not opening to 630 on a Friday night seemed wrong, very wrong. While wandering around for food, we met up with PsychoChicken and Al who probably needs a nickname, and I suspect Terry will do for now.

We found another pub which was open and commenced beering. Mmm beer.

Steve Hackett I'm a recent convert to Hackett era Genesis, 'twas the remasters that dun it. As such I didn't have any of SH's back catalogue so went into the gig pretty open. And he blew me away. I think most people know he can play guitar, but may be unaware of how diverse he is. Everything from hardcore prog, classical, avante-garde jazz, even metal. This gig totally sold me on Hackett. He's stunning, and his support band were brilliant - totally in tune with where-ever he went. The one over-riding aspect of all his music is tune, he understands that prog only works with a good tune (as does all music, but particularly if you're heading over the 5 min mark!). I bought the Tokyo Tapes - a gig in, surprisingly, Tokyo, from a few years ago. And on the strength of the track from the new album we heard, I'll be getting that too.
I think S enjoyed bits of it, and if you weren't a fan it was certainly diverse enough to find something you liked. PsychoChicken, Terry and I thought it was fantastic. PC had been waiting for quite a few years to see SH...
Beer was consumed. Then some whisky, worlds ills were fixed. Great night !

Bright and early we found ourselves in Lydney, walked the main street, walked back again. Found a pub. Mmm beer.
First up were Godsticks from Wales. I'd picked up their EP some months ago as it was a) cheap and b) good. Seemed very nervous, but settled down and seemed to be having a great time on stage. Really funny self-deprecating line in humour too - after one song crashed and burned, they told the audience not to clap. Fun times, good band, and definitely one to watch. Review that got me to buy the EP is here. Thoroughly enjoyed this gig.
Quantum Fatay were a very professional sounding band from Belgium. PC described them as a focussed Ozric Tentacles, which seems as good a description as any. I got a fair amount of Goblin from them as well, although a bit harder than both the Ozric's and Goblin. Thoroughly enjoyed the gig, but decided I had enough of that style so didn't buy any. Would go again if they were touring - and the vibe was great, the band were having fun on stage whcih came through in the music.
Parallel or 90 Degrees are a band I'd heard the 2CD best of thanks to PC and the inter-hemisphere CD shipping co-op. Andy Tillson is the main bod behind the band, although Po90 had been put on hold for a few years while his other interests, including Tangent, were developed. I'd already picked up the new album (Jitters) which was for sale at the venue, so was looking forward to seeing them live. Unfortunately they weren't very good. Tillson's voice was annoying, although it sounds quite different on the albums. Odd. He's also not very organised on stage and I found him quite distracting between songs. Having said that, the music was superb if you discounted his voice. Quite political lyrics, which generally I think don't work too well - and in places Po90's feel quite forced. Hard to say what they sound like, I think a generic musical-prog/genesis is the best description - good tunes, and can get quite heavy in places. Worth checking out a CD.

RPWL are a band I've tried to like. I have their second album, I've listened to a lot of them on Franz's radio show. Everyone else seems to think I'd like them - rock based prog. But they leave me cold. Having said that, I wanted to hear them live as that often makes a difference, and as the secondary headliner for the day we figured they'd have a good crowd and stage show. They did, but I was still left cold. Their music seems to have little in the way of tune to it, and they are taking themselves far too seriously. One aspect of prog is that it has inherent silliness - whcih the other bands on Sat all understood. RPWL are all technically gifted musicians, but unlike, say, Dream Theatre, they don't know how to hold the tune. The rest of the crowd seemed keen, but our merry band of prog crusaders got bored four tracks in and headed back to the pub.

Scottish proggers Pallas have been around for years, one of the 80s neo-prog crowd. I got hooked on last years 'Dreams of Men' which was an excellent album, full of riffs, good lyrics, tunes, good musicianship, and the vocalist is pretty damn good - if pixie like to the large guitarists. My first chance to see them live, and damn they were good. Big slap to the head for their soundman who mixed everything upto 11, annoying asthe festivals soundguy had been doing a great job. Great to hear some of my favourite tracks live including GhostDancers, and some preview tracks from the forthcoming album. Well worth their headlining position.

We'd decided not so much booze on Sunday, but that didnt stop us suggesting we'd have some in the afternoon. Mmm beer.
First up were I/O Earth who were musically good, and seemed more like a jazz band playing prog. Not a million miles apart those genres anyway. It was interesting hearing a sax in a prog band, but the female vocals didn't do much for me. Apparently she was covering for the normal lead singer who was off somewhere - had a good voice, but nothing incredible. I got a bit bored during their set and decided not to buy anything. I'll keep an eye out for new stuff from them, as it was excellent in places. I'm not a huge fan of female fronted bands - I've ranted before about lady-metal...also too many guitar solos
Mr So and So I'd heard their original, or at least an early, album - produced by Steve Rothery. And hadn't thought much of it, so never bought it. Apparently they split up and have recently reformed. Not sure why they bothered. Basically they play southern rock but make it unnecessarily complicated. If I want southern rock, I've got plenty of it and played well, if I want complicated music, I've got plenty of that too. File under could do better.
Also Eden, the band of one of the event organisers. Good musicians, although the singer (and organiser!) was flat for most of the gig which detracted hugely. Lyrically the usual slightly dire middle of the road prog stuff. A few FFS moments, suggesting they were worse than some in the weekend. Not going to buy anything, and probably won't keep track of them. Although slightly better than RPWL :D

Karnataka, I owe an apology to HippyDave here. As I've said I don't like female fronted rock bands much, so tend to diss the entire genre. Dave's mentioned a few times I should give Karnataka a shot, and I've ignored him. PC felt the same as me, but heard some stuff of theirs and thought it was good, so the trinity and hanger-on S turned up for the gig. Wow. Blew me away, great musicianship, great singing, kinda folk-prog? err how does one describe them. Definitely buying the new album when it's out. Their lead singer liked our capes too.

To Cape or not to cape, that is the prog.
We'd decided that the capes should be revealed for the final show on Sunday. Crickey they were superb capes - top marks to our cape maker ! Gold lamee, fully lined, stiff collar - wonderful stuff.

They caused a stir.

One point we'd all noticed was an absence of interaction between the fans, we were used to marillion conventions where everyone chats. this lot tended to look like the sad ass loser kids you'd beat up at school. Not entirely tongue in cheek, but you could see some of this lot either blowing up schools or falling into prog - and their parents beside themselves at option (2).

Our capes got them talking, strangers came up and spoke to us. All asking 'why'. Thanks to Terry and PC we had an answer: there's not enough capes in prog these days. Bring back the cape. As mentioned the singer for Karnataka enjoyed them, as did their guitarist, Clive Nolan seemed to smile when staring at us from stage, as did Nick Barratt - and the other organiser of the festival thought they looked good. So all in all, result.

Pendragon headlined Sunday night. They've had great reviews of the new album 'Pure' and on the strength of those I'd got PC to pick me up a copy, although I'd only had a chance to listen to it once. Live they were brilliant, certainly knew how work the audience - helped as their fans appear to be utter nutjobs. Charles Manson might have suggested they hold back a bit. Very loud, very rock, and very enjoyable. Good use of images/movies as back projection. Nick's voice was pretty crappy as he had a cold, but it worked. And his guitaring was excellent, it's not as dominant as some bands, making this more enjoyable than some prog bands who go sing, guitar, drum, sing - repeat. Live, the band are much heavier than on the album, which sounds great, and its unfortunate the album isn't as heavy sounding. Clive on the keys seemed quite restrained, bored even, guess thats why he has all the cheesy other prog groups (he's the cause of Arena...). Great rock with a prog tinge. I'd definitely recommend checking out Pure if you like rock, actually if you liked the last GnR album (Chinese Democracy) I can see Pure going down quite well. Even S said she liked it.

Sadly we had to skip the encores as we had a long drive ahead (it was 11pm !), but it looks like I'll be spending some money on Pendragon too. Damnit.
Lovely area around Lydney and the Forest of Dean too, we went to a museum of the area on Sunday morning after brekkie and before proggie, very quiet, green, tranquil and pretty (the area, not the prog). Well worth visiting, and the beer in this area of the world is superb.

Really enjoyed the bands and the festival, the three (and occasional 4) of us had a great time. Much beer, much hilarity - well it is prog, and I think we'll be onboard for next year. Although our outfits need to be bigger, better, more prog - since our feeling is, everyone will be wearing capes next year.
Discussions with DH and the LP have suggested a disco-prog fusion maybe the way to go...

Prog out bruvva's, me xx

7 October 2009

Movies: Invention of Lying

I promise this will be a shorter post.

The new Ricky Gervais movie, now I'm not a big fan to start with. Didn't like the office much, found Extras ok, and think his stand-up is mildly irritating. Not a good start for going to the movie, but hey nothing else on and the reviews I'd seen had mostly been positive.
Yeah not so much. I found it a one-trick-pony, interesting premise, kinda funny start, then tails off as the sinking feeling of oh god we've only got this one punchline and another 90 mins to fill starts to kick in.
There are some excellent scenes, the pizza boxes doubling as Moses' tablets, and that the entirety of christian religion being based on a bunch of lies to make people feel good was funny and well done. Interestingly the religious bods haven't complained about this, given how blatant it is in the movie I'd have expected a few more howls of protest.

It does drag, it's not very funny and if you have to watch it I'd suggest DVD. 5/10. At most. And only cos i've just had lunch and am feeling relaxed.


6 October 2009

The British Service Industry

This has been coming for some time. I need to rant. I need to rant about the British service industry. Or rather, I need to rant about how the British need a service industry.
I can't say I didn't expect problems, I'd been warned, and over the years I've experienced it. But, the problems keep coming and coming and coming…

Before the problems, there have been some highlights. Curry's delivered the washing machine the next day - and that was a bank holiday. Go them. I've been back and bought other things from them, and am likely to again based on that. HMV and Amazon have always been good, but then in many ways, they are significantly different being international and dependent (largely) on internet based business.
RicherSounds, wehre I got the TV and stereo were also great. Nice service, good equipment, and quick delivery. Result.

Banks: HSBC are cocks. Continually changing the position of the goal posts, we need this, we need that - I provide them, they want more. The concept of a postal address differing from the home address appears an anathema to them. So in the end I said I'd take my salary, told them what it was, and find somewhere that did want it.
Opened to Abbey with 'I'm very pissed off at the moment, having been given the run around at HSBC, are you going to do the same?'. Took 10 minutes to sort out an account.

Phone and Internet. Now this is where the anger is likely to explode. I ring Virgin and say I want cable as their website had spat the dummy at the credit history check. So we go through all of the steps over the phone, eventually finding that this place is too new. That warrants repeating, too new. Apparently Virgin cabled before this place was converted, and Virgin no-longer do cabling.
Now that I could almost accept. So I said fine, hook me up with a phone line (which I didn't want) and internet. So we go through the same stuff. Eventually they decide my credit rating is poor so they can't do it.
End of story.
I questioned this, pointing out quite reasonably that having not being in the country I couldn't really have a credit history, and surely if the bank and a tenancy agency (more about them later), were ok, surely a cheap internet company could cope too. No, there was no way they could do anything at all.

Fine. Next up was Sky. Went through the website, also crashed at the credit check, so I rang them (twice) and ended up with the same result (twice). Sorry can't do anything, at all, as you don't have a credit history.

Now, for those of you playing at home it's worth pointing out that there are only three companies here who can set up the phone (afaik), BT, Sky and Virgin. Although there are innumerable internet providers.
So although I didn't want to deal with BT, I didn't have a lot of options - so went through the internet options, and voila, failed that too. So rang them, got cut off. Rang back, went through questions, no I really don't want your TV package - well it doesn't show rugby, yes I know it shows classic rugby, but I really don't want that - credit check - failed. Sorry.
Oh for fucks sake.
Ring back the next day, get a different guy who, before we get to the credit check section, wants me to be ringing from the flat so they can tell what the phone number is. I point out that the reason I'm ringing is to get a phone line. The irony escapes him.
In an effort to be helpful (bear in mind, this is me - helpful is not an adjective I like), I wander down to our phone people at work, explain my problem - to much hilarity (as I also received in my office), but grabbed a phone from them. So I tried to ring BT, I could dial 8 of the 10 numbers (0800 800 150), but after the '1' it would cut to some annoying bitch saying 'i'm sorry this call cannot be connected, please check your number'. You're sorry? How the fuck do you think I feel !

So I ring them back today, I warned my officemates I'd be ringing BT and if I started going postal, to leave quickly. Bravely they hung around, I'd like to think it was for support, but suspect it was more for amusement.
I got someone else (ahhh call centres), who pushed through the credit check, said, nah seems ok, and set stuff up. Said he could trace the number and see the line was active, so that was ok - and that I should have a phone line by the 17th, and internet by the 22nd. I'm doubtful of both, but hope springs eternal.

The Lesson? Well apparently BT need to be convinced that you really want a phone line, that they aren't providing a service, rather they have something you need, and therefore you should be pathetically grateful if they deign to give it to you. I have no idea how the other companies survive.

Beds: I've already mentioned that one - two feckin' weeks to deliver a mattress? Figure they have a huge supply over easter, forgetting everyone who is anyone, sleeps on hay …
However it was delivered this morning, and it feels nice. Very nice. Certainly a huge improvement over the aired (or optimistically titled futon for grandiose designs, if blatant lies).

At least the bed base people said it would take six weeks, cos they are making it from scratch.

What else? Oh yeah tenancy, the letting agents were nice and friendly, although hardly efficient. Just received the inventory today or fittings and noted damage to the flat, two weeks after moving in. Must check that tomorrow night. They subcontract out their credit check. I filled in the app and specifically noted in the section titled 'special notes', please bear in mind the time difference if you are ringing NZ. They didn't. I've put a complaint in about that, but doubt I'll hear anything back.

Power: letting agents did ring through the initial readings, which I've just found out from the inventory they've finally sent. Had a good chat to a guy over doing readings for someone else - he was swearing about his companies inability to get things done. Funny times.
Having said that, it was reasonably easy to set up over the phone and internet, so we'll see how that goes. It's bound to end badly…
Water: I posted something off to them last week, haven't heard back. Don't care much. Got too many other idiots to deal with.

I did have a lovely dinner (spinach, feta, olive pies) washed down by some Old Speckled Hen, and listening to Queen doing blues, while lying on a nice new mattress.

More later me thinks...

Returning some days later. The phone wasn't connected, although I'd presumed it was, and the internet therefore is not well. Daily phone calls have occurred which have meant I have identified the main phone plug in the house (weirdly in the spare bedroom), and undone the face plate to try the test socket. Still nothing. I appear to have reached resigned, and given up hope that phone or internet will ever reach here. Tomorrow mornings phone call will update BT on my continuing 'fault', and I think I'll try to contact their Service Manager. That could be funny. As I'm well aware I can parrot the same lines he will, and therefore should be able to cut him off in mid-flow. That's likely to cheer me up.

In the end I couldn’t get thru to their SM, I suspect they don’t have one. I got a technician out, who arrived a day early said it was fixed and closed the call. So I went home all excited to find no internet and no phone. Rang back, tech came out again, same result.
Rang BT again and said I want the tech to ring my door bell so I can show him how he hasn’t fixed the problem. He came out said oh it’s a ghost line (which ironically I’d mentioned in my earlier conversations with their answer desk), and fixed it within 20 mins.
So now I have internet. And a phone.

Orange: we seem to have sorted out our respective differences involving internet settings and charging based on free sites. Their network settings on the website are wrong – which they admitted – and I’ve had a refund.

I suspect the next blog will be shorter, and hopefully more positive.

2 October 2009

woohoo midday pisht post

ok, admittedly not that pissed, but a few pints over lunch does wonders for the afternoon. one of the loughborough pubs has a very nice range of ales on tap, and there's a group of workmates who pop down on a friday lunchtime. an imminently sensible plan.

the new PT eventually turned up, and i'm rather partial to it. more reviews later.

it looks like my membership for the SMWS has also turned up. huzzah !

i have a new tv and stereo system (again more details later)

and S turned up.

all in all, a good week.