29 December 2011

Whisky tasting

Just a small localised one this time, with me.

Glengoyne Port Finish 13yo 46%
Nose: bourbon, fresh cut wood (pine), cut grass, spikey, hint of vanilla, cloves?
palate:  green apple, sweet orange, tingly,
Finish: medium

I don't get much port on this finish, but it's quite a refreshing dram. One you'd drink more of, especially during the afternoon. Not a complex evening malt.

Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila d.1997 b.?? G and M, 43%
Nose: peat, phenol, rubber,
Palate: warm, weak, salt, honey, bacon,
Finish: medium-long, pepper/salt comes thru

I wonder if this is a whisky that suffers from being diluted to43%? Would it have been more interesting at cask, or 50%? Lack of age statement makes me wonder if it's a young Caol Ila too, there's an absence of complexity - although it's not fiery, so 10-12yo??
It sticks in the mouth as a finish for sometime, with more honey appearing (ie sweeter) which is encouraging, shame the palate doesn't live up to the Nose and Finish.


26 December 2011

Cooking with Bruce : Bits of Xmas dinner; Pavlova, turkey, scallops

Although there was an intention to cook lots of different stuff over Xmas, realism kicked in and I ended up splitting them over a few days. Mainly as we had enough food for Xmas/Boxing day.

Dessert involved two different ones - pavlova and xmas pud. At least that was the plan, in the end we stuck with pavlova and the xmas puddings are lying in the fridge awaiting another day, another dinner.

3x egg whites
3/4c caster sugar
1t vinegar
1T cornflour
1t vanilla essence

Beat egg whites until very stiff, add sugar in 3-4 lots, beat until very very stiff and glossy. Add everything else, and beat more. yes, there's lots of beating. It's like childcare.

Turn out onto greaseproof paper (or whatever you're using), cook 30min 150C then 30min 125C.

Xmas Pudding - has already featured in Cooking with Bruce. See here. 
although this year I used lagavulin 16yo to add a hint of smoke and pepper.

Xmas dinner
Pancetta wrapped turkey with herb lemon and pinenut stuffing.
From the BBC Good Food webpage. 

Scallops with corn salsa
This was supposed to be served in pastry, tbh that seemed pointless to me, so I gave up. And I hate making pastry. Yes, I know. I did try, but I got bored and didnt like it. Not sure where I stole this from.

1T lime juice
1T red wine vinegar (or in my case, sherry vinegar)
1/3c olive oil


Spiced Scallops
1c corn kernels
3 spring onions, chopped
1 small avocado, chopped
Combine, and add two tablespoons of dressing.

1/4c flour
1T sesame seeds
1t tumeric
1t cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
12 large scallops
1 egg, beaten
olive oil for frying

Put all dry ingredients together, mix, dip scallops in egg, then toss in dry. Fry 30s each side until golden.

Mix through 1T dill, parley, coriander into the corn mixture. Put on plate, place scallops on top, drizzle remainder of dressing over it.

B. Somewhat full.

22 December 2011

Whisky Cabal Meeting 6

We gathered together, one doctor short, for the final Cabal meeting of 2011. As usual there was a diverse collection of drams, although oddly a predominance of standard releases. I've been a little slack, and away on holiday, hence the delay in getting the vital bits of info to you all. As usual links are to our favourite whisky shop Loch Fyne Whiskies, except for the Port Ellen.

Port Ellen 26yo Old Malt Cask
A ghost Islay distillery, Port Ellen closed in 1983 and bottlings are becoming rare, and very expensive. I picked this up quite a few years ago after an Islay tasting, as I'd enjoyed it, and I think it's a criminal shame that most Islay whisky is bottled so young. There's no reason why they have to be ball sack rippingly vicious, try an old one and feel the power and complexity...
I can't find a link for this particular bottling, so here's a general Port Ellen one.
Nose: salt, peat, new leather, fireworks
Palate: subtle, spicy, sulphur, fireworks
Finish: med-long, throaty, salt, warm, mulled wine.
7.5-8 /10

Glendronach Allardice 18yo 46%
Nose: Sherry, sweet, honey, furniture polish, cake
Palate:  tasty, sweet, toffee, honey, fudge, xmas cake
Finish: long, xmas cake
7-7.5 /10

The Cabal seems to be liking the Glendronach's, certainly a sherry monster, but very yummy. 

Glengoyne 17yo 43%
Nose: old socks, chopped nuts, dairy milk chocolate, ozone
Palate: chocolate, bit watery, oranges, raisins, sherry, green apple
Finish: medium, chocolate, sweet

Glengoyne pops up quite frequently here. I like it, which can be traced directly to Neil. As can Edradour. The 17yo is very quaffable, and comes highly recommended from our professional quaffers.

Jura Diurachs own 16yo 40%
Nose: sweet, chocolate, oranges
Palate: chocolate, sweet, seaweed/sushi, xmas, 
Finish: med-short
7-7.5 /10 "Very quaffable"
Bit of a surprise this one. I know everyone raves about Jura, but I've never been a huge fan. Always seemed to be missing something, possibly they'd been built up too much. So we went into this one not expecting much, but really enjoyed it. Interesting whisky, and worth trying. Usefully Jura are selling it in smaller bottles (not sure what size, I guess 375ml?) so won't kick the wallet too hard.

Benriach Tawny Port 15yo 46%
Nose: fighty, salt, sweet, acetone/acridine, antiseptic
Palate: salt, port, bad red wine but not in a bad sense,
Finish: salt, med-long, warm character
7.5-8 /10
To quote the previously mentioned Neil, we'd describe this as 'bats-arse mental'.
We like Benriach, their whiskies have huge character, are very different, and even though they throw up a lot of unexpected flavours, are brilliantly balanced. 

Port Charlotte 9 59.2% Bottle 2950/6000
Nose: salt, bacon, iodine, medicinal wipes, phenol (industrial!)
Palate: chocolate, sweet, raisins, salty, fighting
Finish: long, spikey, chocolate high cocoa, raisins

Addition of water chilled it down a bit, but increased the chocolate and sweetness, less fighty nose but more bacon. Called "bandage compress" by one of us.
8.5-9 /10

I like the PC's, and I like how the flavour profile has changed over the years. If you like your Islay's, and like them complex, go for the PC. 

SMWS 127.3 8yo Refill bourbon 67%
Having said there's complexity in the PCs, we threw this one in as a PC where subtlety is not the main focus of the booze.
Nose: light, salt, bacon, "cold medicine", iodine, wood chips
Palate: very drinkable, leather, burger rings, sweet, bourbon

"what a way to go"
Addition of water gave:
Nose: medicinal, phenol, floor polish
Palate: warm, rubbery, chocolate, gin n tonic, sweet, honey
Finish: warm, big, long

8-8.5 /10

We finished the evening with the SMWS 121.39 'Easy Drinking Dram' which we've reviewed a few times before.

We have a few lined up for the next tasting, so I guess we should get on with planning that....


11 December 2011

Of cuts, scrapes and gigs

I see winter has decided to arrive. This time last year the UK was dying in a unexpected arrival of snow. In winter. Yes, surprise all around. The rest of Europe seemed to cope OK, a situation reflected in recent Eurozone discussions. Britain on the outer, everyone else banding together to sort stuff out. Maybe.

Managed to slice my thumb while washing dishes. For I am that talented. While rinsing dishes, a plate broke and sliced through to the bone. Brilliant. Sacrificing a tea towel for blood soaking, we contacted NHS direct, ending up at the walkin center to collect some sutures.
What I learnt from this experience:
* I'm a crap patient, preferring to ignore everything (this came as a surprise to no-one)
* use disposable plates
* Tues evening is a great time to injure yourself in Lboro, the cemetary would have exhibited more life than the NHS walk-in.

It seems reasonable now (following infection, woohoo), just waiting for the numbness to clear. Stupid nerves.

Went down to Birmingham this weekend, loved the art gallery, hated the crowds. But yes, definitely recommend the gallery/museum. the Xmas markets were nice, but too crowded - didn't seem that bad last year, but then I realised I went during the week. and it was much much colder. But I had some mulled wine, so things were improved.

There's a small monthly classical gig scene at the University here in Lboro, which for the last few months I've missed - due to other gigs. But finally made it for the December gig. This was a duet between Maxim Rysanov (viola) and Ashley Wass (piano). Thoroughly enjoyed this, neither performer had huge stage presence, but the music was superb. Dominated by Faure and Debussy, the programme could have been quite boring. It started with Bach (Suite #2) as a solo performance by Maxim, brilliant. To the point where I picked up a CD of him playing three Bach cello suites after the gig. Two Faure pieces (Romance and Pavane); Debussy (claire de lune); and Faure (Elegie). So yes, lots of stuff you'd recognise. But sounded good, and some very good performances.

The second half kicked off Dubugnon (Incantatio for viola and piano). I'd never heard of the composer, but this was superb. Reminded me of Can, which may have something to do with listening to Tago Mago before hand. But it was great. Definitely recommend those of you who like more interesting music (classical or rock) to give him a spin.
Here's part 1 (part 2 is also availble on youtube)

Then back to Faure (Apres un reve); Dubugnon (lied); Debussy (Prelude: la fille aux cheveux de lin); Ravel (Pavane).

So yes, civilised evening. Following by a ball numbing bike ride home. See, it's early Dec and no snow, so still biking.

Gig next week is Marillion on Wednesday. So we're heading down to the Gerhard Richter Exhibition at the Tate before hand, check in at hotel, gig, then head to Namur for Belgium beer for a few days. Mmm beer. Ironic really, it was easier to get Belgium beer in Wellington than it is in the UK. FFS. And yes, I know I could use beers of europe website, but it doesn't seem to have a consistent selection.

Annoyingly I seem to have lost all my notes from my bikeride holiday, so it's just going to be distances and photos. Bollox.


27 November 2011

Recent gigs, briefly

Awhile go we headed up to Manchester to see Tori Amos, courtesy of tickets Paul had to unload before his departure to mooseland.
I lost track of Tori after Boys for Pele, although iTunes reveals I've got Venus and back lying around somewhere. Even if I have no idea what it sounds like.
Tori is, well, idiosyncratic. This tour had her and a string quartet, playing, from what I could tell, all new-ish stuff. Certainly post when she and I departed. I enjoyed it, the strings added quite a bit to what could have been a pretty boring concert. I'm glad I went, but won't be buying any CDs and unlikely to see her again. It got a bit 'samey' for me. Her piano playing is stunning, as you'd expect, and the use of piano/synth worked well.
I really enjoyed Manchester, lots of good food, excellent music shops, lots of vinyl, good coffee, beer. Yup ticked all the boxes for me. And it only pissed down when we headed to the gig.  recommend this pub btw.

Jim Lauderdale
Wasn't sure if I'd seen him before, discovered I hadn't, but I had heard some of his stuff before. I turned down a Fish gig in Nottingham, preferring to randomly hear some country/bluegrass dude in Leicester. I think I made the right decision. It wasn't rivetting, unlike other country stuff I've been to recently, but certainly enjoyable enough to pick up an album. Bluegrass and more pure country than I normally listen to, so something different.
The gig was just him and a guitar, so raw-er than this would suggest:

Pure Reason Revolution
Somewhat bittersweet, this being the bands final tour, as they will split after the London gig. Their debut album, the Dark Third, is a brilliant mix of choral, prog, electronic, beach boys. I love it.
Album 2 never clicked for me, but Album 3 'Hammer and Anvil' was a great mix of electro (Depeche Mode) and the prog side. Really rated that one.
The gig was good, with the feature being a full performance of the Dark Third. The support band, Long Dead Signal, were worth keeping an eye on too.
PRR were enjoyable, if odd. There's a lot of sampling, which caused a feeling of soulless-ness for some tracks. Although given it's electro, it kinda works. The Hammer & Anvil tracks were excellent live by the three piece.
The second half was the Dark Third (Euro version?) which is far more guitar based. Great to hear that live.
So yep, enjoyable gig, glad I went. Musically very good and great to hear them live, finally. Also good collection of hip young things, is prog cool?

that's from The Dark Third
and now one of my favourites from Hammer and Anvil

Dimmu Borgir
Shouldn't be a surprise that I went. Although did knock me a bit, two late nights! However this was an evening with Dimmu Borgir, so a 2 hour gig, with a complete performance of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. Very early album from 1997, and not one of my favourites.
I prefer the newer stuff, but still good album. Nice to hear effectively old school Norwegian black metal.
There was enough of the newer stuff in the second half which was good. Excellent crowd in, as I've mentioned before, I like metal crowds - there for the music, not to be seen. And oddly, some hot babes, not many tho.
I've linked to this before, but it is everything I like about the band.

DANFest (progfest)
Hey a progfest in Leicester, I kinda had to wander along.
The Moscow Riley, not really prog. More an odd combo of Nirvana and Sabbath. Did not grab me.
Grey Lady Down, I remember these guys getting wraps many years ago on mailing lists. Then they disappeared. Apparently they've come back. Very 80s neo-prog, but the new stuff (they're working on a new album) is heavier, although as they admitted at the gig, needs polishing. I enjoyed them. May keep an ear out for the new album.
Guy Manning: I keep getting suggestions to listen to him. And I'd heard a couple of tracks on an old compilation album from a mailing list. This was an acoustic gig, and TBH was a bit dull. His music was folk-prog, and at least one of the backing singers annoyed me. At times he reminded me of Jethro Tull and Willard Grant Conspiracy. But not as good as either. I've been spinning some tracks from his website, and they aren't too bad. A bit of Fairport there too.

And that was halftime, I wandered to a cafe read the paper, and promptly smacked my hand while doing up my bag. That hurt quite a bit.

Alan Reed he of ex-Pallas. He's now recording an new album, his voice is incredibly strong. The new stuff sounds good, there's an acoustic EP available while he's working on the album. Really enjoyed the  new stuff, and his version of Who's to blame? was excellent, and his guitar playing is very good.

Paul Menel  knew I recognised the name, the ex-IQ singer. Fantastic live performer, charismatic, energetic, good material. Not very prog, outside of the IQ track, far more rock. Hugely fun live band, definitely recommend seeing them.

Sadly at this point my thumb got too much so I came home, missing IO Earth (who I saw at SummersEnd and was bored by) and The Tangent, who I really wanted to see. but with the gigs running late, i probably would only have had 30 mins of the Tangent before running off for a train.


Cooking with Bruce : Curries with B

Been awhile since I blogged, but that's about to change, music, injuries, trips, food. Or rather, that's the intention.
Anyway, tonights dinner:

Carrot, lentils, spinach daal
1x tin of lentils (cos I can't be arsed soaking and cooking for hours)
1x chopped carrot
1c chopped spinach (I used frozen)
1t hot chilli
3cm grated fresh ginger
2t coriander powder
3 cloves garlic
0.5t cinnamon (in retrospect, I'd leave this out)
1t cardamon powder
half a tin of tomatos
50ml cream

Mix all in a sauce, except cream, in a saucepan and cook gently until the carrot is soft. Add cream, simmer for 5min.

Tandoori mushrooms
Remove stems from mushrooms, grind a little salt and lemon juice. leave.

vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1cm grated ginger
1t tumeric
0.5t chilli
half tin of tomatos

Heat oil, gently cook onion until soft, then add ginger, tumeric and chilli. Mix, then add tomato. Divide filling between mushrooms.

3T yoghurt
1 clove garlic, chopped
1cm grated ginger
0.5t paprika
1t coriander powder
1t garam masala

mix, then pour over mushrooms. bake at 180C for 8-10 minutes.

Serve on rice.

12 November 2011


Yes really, a woman has been given a suspended jail sentence for biting a hole in her boyfriends scrotum, after a bit of a session.

Judge's summary: "This relationship is over, I think both of you accept that."


10 November 2011

PC9 Whisky

Bruichladdich make Port Charlotte as their big cask strength monster. It's been brilliant over the years, watching it mature - I've had the PC 6,7,8 and now 9.
Apparently they weren't going to bottle a 9, and instead wait for the 10yo expression. On the strength of the PC9, I'm glad they did bottle. It's a wee bit special. I've dug up reviews for the PC8 and PC7 and can't find one of the 6.

n: salt, medicinal, phenol, washing house soap
p: salty, raisins, warming, chocolate, 
f: long, complex, warming, salty sultanas.

add water
n: more smoky, sweeter, phenol dominating, hint of oak barrels?
p: more spiky and prickly, sweeter, but loses chic
f: more pepper than neat

this is something special. my notes may not do it justice, but this is a superb whisky. complex, interesting, weird things happening. 
for those of you after an investment, the older expressions are worth a bit now - so may be worth picking up two bottles.
All of the others I've tasted had ratings around 9, which seems about right for this baby. Oh yeah LFW link.

must be time for a cooking with bruce blog...


30 October 2011

Movies for Halloween

We've decided to go for cheesy pulp comedy. Or classy bgrade coolness, depending on perspective.

Therefore the line-up will be selected from:
Army of Darkness
My Name is Bruce
which, as a double-feature, works nicely

and bonus cheese brilliant of Van Helsing (which was superb at the Embassy theatre).


29 October 2011

A day to myself, and technology

So, I've got the day and house to myself. What to do? Movies, coffee, music, and beer. Simple.

Movie watch (so far): My Little Eye (alright thriller); Badlands (really enjoyed this)
Music (so far): Opeth-Heritage; Dream Theater-A Dramatic Turn of Events

Both albums were loud, as they're supposed to be. And were used as a backdrop to my cooking of some piccalilli. Yes, that's the kind of radical behaviour I get up to when left alone. The house smells of white wine vinegar, mustard and ginger. Works for me. And co-incidently goes well with the Crabbies Black Ginger Beer (6%, aged, and includes other spices - very very tasty - tho not as quaffable as their standard).

I've got left-overs from last night for tea, as I can't be bothered moving.

usually it pisses me off, but in this case - win. I've got a ReadyNAS duo where I store all my music and stuff that's not in the google cloud. It has 2x1.5TG drives in there, set up for full redundancy, so if one fails, everything is backup on drive2. Mainly as I don't think it would be good for my sanity to lose my music collection...sure I could import it from CD again, but the purchased mp3s and vinyl<->mp3 conversions, not quite so easy to replace.

Anyway, I recently upgraded to the new firmware and noticed it supported MacOS Time Machine backup. I thought, that's kinda useful. And didn't do anything about it. Last week I enabled it, set aside 300GB of NAS space for it (to back up both Mac's, it's done on MAC address, so both machines can share that 300GB), and kicked things off. It's much slower than my firewire800 external drive - taking many hours to do the initial 65GB backup. I'd configured it to not backup the dropbox directory, and may yet remove the Applications directory. But once it had done the first backup, it's been very quick, and runs happily in the background every few hours.
this means at some point soon, I'll have a few external harddrives to dispose of (2x 250gb USB, a 1TB internal loose, and a 750GB firewire800) which will be nice to tidy the electronics up a bit.
Here's the info from ReadyNas.

Right, onto the next movie and some beer. Piccalilli is now bottled.


28 October 2011

The Trews

Wandered to a gig last night, a Canadian band called 'The Trews'. I hadn't heard anything by them, but the ad had name-checked the Tragically Hip. I figured that was simply a desperate ploy to find a Canuck band someone had heard of.
But no, the Hip influences were quite definitely there, slightly more punky (?spikey) and heavier in places, so more the missing link between the Tragically Hip and the late Tea Party. Apparently they are quite big in Canada.
Great stuff, very small crowd which was unfortunate, but excellent show. It's great when you randomly turn up to a gig, with no expectations, and come away buying CDs. 8 quid well spent!

Here's a couple of vids, but I'd definitely recommend checking them out. UK tour schedule here


20 October 2011

Whisky show 4 : the final slide into depravity

Our heroes had been left enjoying an unknown blend. The vertical compass sliding, hours ticking by, the water bottle rapidly emptying. Had we thought of it, songs would have been sung; sea shanty's, obscure prog, ditties concerning ladies from tipperary (or this from Alec), strangers hugged. Instead, we found....

Benriach Pedro Ximinez 58.3%
Apparently I liked this, it got two ticks.
Yes, that's the end of the review.

Benriach 1972 40yo
Tasting notes appear to have gone out the window by this point, but:
Very sweet, vanilla and white chocolate, pineapple.
This was whole new levels of perfection. Someone should buy me a bottle. Please.

LFW Link

Old Malt Cask Clyneish
Having graced as many stands with our presence as we felt deserved us, we went back to some of our favourites.
Vanilla, white choc, pineapple, very prickly on tongue.
Clyneish seem to consistently disappoint. Located across the road from the old Brora (*swoon*) distillery, they've singuarly managed to miss the greatness of Brora. Oh well, maybe with time...
LFW Link

Glenglassaugh 43yo
Nose: lime, parmesan, pineapple, kiwifruit
Palate: spikey, sweet, butterscotch
Finish: long, pineapple
I have a comment from Alec, which if I take the letters individually, looks like: Surhi. I don't know either.
9/10. Probably 10/10.

Glenglassaugh 45%
Nose: sweet smoke, salmon
rating: 10/10 (me); 9/10 (Alec)

Longrow - Oloroso sherry 14yo
Tomatin 15yo
Tomatin - Decades
Tomatin 1973 (not as good as I hoped)

LFW Link

We left then, before we were thrown out. There is discussion ongoing as to whether we had a coffee from Monmouth. I say we did. But no evidence to support this. Train ride home was quiet. A lesson from Alec, do not buy a large packet of crisps.

A brilliant day, and although crashing out when I got home, I felt good the next morning when I got up at 630 for rugby, and then Freshers Fair. See, I told you it was responsible drinking.


19 October 2011

Whisky Show Pt III

Last time we heard from our still standing heroes, they'd run off for a spot of luncheon. With water. Coffee was looked for, but discovered to be of the instant variety. We passed on this and sauntered back to the battle zone.
Before heading to the battle proper, we stopped off at the whisky and food matching session. These were very small drams, but with food.  No reviews, but I've tried to list what they were with.

Cragganmore 12yo can't remember what this was with
Caol Ila 12yo  with cheese (either cheddar or blue, notes just say cheese)
Dalmore 15yo with olives. This worked very very well. My extensive notes say 'lots yum'
Jura Prophecy  not a huge fan of Jura, but this with dark chocolate worked well

And so, further fortified we found a new stand to lean on...

Balvenie 15yo #908 single cask
Nose:  vanilla, fruit, honey, salt
Palate: pear, fruit, honey
Finiah: medium, fruity, sweet
7.5/10 hmm, notes appear a little more legible, although some of it looks more like 'rubbed fish'

Balvenie Port Finish 21yo 40%
Nose: rich, complex, burnt sugar
Palate: port, burnt sugar, complex
Finish: medium, peated, prickly which changes to mellow

Balvenie Peated 17yo
Nose: light, salt
Palate: smokey
Finish: medium
6/10 didn't work for me

About this point we had a longer talk to a German we'd met on quite a few stands and he suggested we head to a whisky fair in Limburg, Germany. My notes were good enough to work this out. Brilliant.

Kilchoman 5yo 60%
Kilchoman promised a lot, and then bottled their 3yo at 43% and kinda ruined it. So I was interested in trying the 5yo at cask...
Nose: very peaty, salt, burn
Palate: peat, smoke, phenol
Finish: long, massive
9/10 This is what I wanted. Ok, so there's no tact or subtlety, but then again sometimes you just want a big fuck off Islay. This qualifies.

Benromach 2001 Cask 
Nose: oil, salt, Islay          +H20 - increases floral notes
Palate: peat                                 - warm, floral
Finish: medium                           - medium
No rating on this one! LFW link

Longmorn 30yo Gordon and MacPhail
Nose: apple, demerra sugar, rich
Palate: long toffee, apple, sweet, syrupy mouth feel
Finish: medium-long
9/10 I don't think I want to know how much this one cost. But I do like Longmorn.

Strathisla 1963 43% Gordon and MacPhail
Nose: apples, pears
Palate: pears, brilliant, cream
Finish: medium, sweetness, ?fudge?
9/10 Very good chance these two are in fact 10s, if we'd had them on a clean palate.

Another whisky tasting we got told about, George Hill Whisky Tasting at the Loughborough Town Hall. Damn my notes are working their cute little ass magic.

Glen Grant 25yo Gordon and MacPhail
Not sure which one it was tho (G and M have a lot of their website)
Nose: Green apples
Palate: smooth, apples, fruit, tasty
Finish: medium, very nice, spicy fruit

Caol Ila - 1997 - Private Collection G/M
Nose: sweet, smokey Ila !!
Palate: fruit, smokey
Finish: med-long

I think it's fair to say things had degenerated by this point. But notes continue...

Glengoyne 1972
Nose: fudge, apples
Palate: fruity, rhubarb (maybe?!!)
Finish: sweet, rhubarb custard

Glengoyne 21yo
Nose: yummy!!! fudge, sweet, complex, pears {maybe}
Palate: sherry, complex sex!, pears, sweet
Finish: long, yummy
LFW Link

Great Cop???? B???  [I'm pretty sure this was a blend, and I have no f'ing clue what it was called...]
Nose: very ???, grass
Palate: fruity, unbalanced

It's fair to say, looking at the last couple of pages of notes, things do not improve significantly. But for some of the better drams we threw back a lot of water, just so you lot can be wowed by our ability.
Vertical update: still standing.
Glass update: some acquired

And so, for another break we leave our heroes, both trying hard to focus and find somewhere they hadn't been before. And to avoid crap blends. But never fear, BenRiach beckons in Part 4 in Sphen's Glorious World of Whisky.


Whisky Show Pt II

In the continuing story of a cabal whose liver has gone to the dogs...

Glenlossie 1975 49.7% from BBR
Nose: green apples, perfume
Palate: tang, sherry, apples
Finish: medium, tasty
Like this a lot, but can't find it on their website, damnit.

One of our finds last year was Berry Bros. and Rudd, and their superb selection of whiskies. And so we found their table again, found the same guy we spoke to last year, and let him lead us astray. *Result*

Bunnahabhain 1979 32yo 54.7% BBR
Nose: light, delicate
Palate: massive, rich, sherry, full, utterly unlike the nose!
Finish: fantastic, meaty, full, long
Appears I liked this one, a lot. Shame I can't find it on their website. Grumble. Again.

Glenrothes 1995
Nose: coffee, chocolate
Palate: mocha, sweet, butterscotch, round   [is round a real description? meh...]
Finish: medium-long
I got hooked on Glenrothes when I picked up a bottle duty free, quite cheap (£30) and was blown away by it, as were my usual whisky partners in crime. Although the cabal missed out. Poor cabal. Since then we've had more of them, including some SMWS, all of which were uniformly great and interesting.

Glenrothes 1988
Nose: sweet, light, sherry
Palate: chewy, sherry, candied citrus
Finish: long, sherry, massive
I want some. I really really want some.

Glenrothes John Ramsey
Nose: floral, xmas cake
Palate: sherry, xmas cake, chewy, smokey
Finish: medium, sherry
9/10 a beautifully balanced whisky

You can buy Glenrothes from BBR, or LFW. I think it's fair to say, you won't regret it.

GlenGarioch Founders Reserve
Nose: toffee, old socks (and not in a good way)
Palate: very bourbon, strong
Finish: short
Did not like this. Won't offer a purchase link, because I care.

GlenGarioch 12yo
Nose: complex, bourbon, grass
Palate: light
Finish: short-medium
Again, avoid.

Old Pulteney 17yo
We escaped GlenGarioch to the Old Pulteney stand and asked to be saved as we were feeling unhappy from our recent tasting experience. thankfully the nice man took us under his wing...
Nose: chardonnay oak, green apples
Palate: tasty, peppery   [I think it's fair to say by this point notes are arbitrary...]
Finish: medium   [aside from arbitrary, they are also lacking in details]
I'm beginning to get over my aversion to OP, having had some quite nice ones recently.

Balblair 1987 or 1977 51.4%
There is some ambiguity as to which vintage this actually was. Apparently this was around £150.
Nose: pineapple, apple toffee, [and another word which looks like mayo...]
Palate: balanced, fruity, rich
Finish: medium, not hugely interesting
(Balblair was on the same stand as the OP)

Old Pulteney 23yo
Nose: Green apples
Nose: fiery, prickly pears,
Finish: short, tangy, prickly  [may have needed water, a concept that didn't occur to us]
I think I'll be hunting down more OP. Cabal...go forth and, err, acquire !
LFW Balblair Link

We headed off to find some food at this point, although in our usual style we got sidetracked by the SMWS stand.
35.39 Arabian Nights 31yo 40.9%
Nose: old socks (but good), rhubard custard sweets (I think Alec may have contributed that one...)
Palate: spiky but boring
Finish: medium-short
6/10 too rough
And an epic fail for SMWS. I'm prepared to concede it may not have been SMWS's fault, it may have been us.

We will leave our intrepid journeys (pt2) for a time, while the victims go forth and enjoy some food. And a lot of water.


and in other news, battle metal

After a ridiculously hot week, the English weather has crashed back into the more expected damp and cold early winter. Cold enough that I've dug out the polypro's and a jacket. That being said, even at high speed on the bike this morning I was still warm, so it may have been overkill.
Currently in denial over a cold, I blame freshers flu. But it's more annoying than debilitating (again, I have crap man-flu), and it's not like I can get any more grumpy at work.

Wandered down to London last week to meet up with Mr S for our yearly dose of battle/folk metal. A mini-fest called Heidenfest, with 6 bands on the card.
First up were Skalmold, an Icelandic bunch of crazed viking metal. Great stuff and great start to the evening. In keeping with battle/folk/viking metal, all very tongue in cheek and OTT.  It's a bit hard to describe them, so instead have a 10min video....

Is it just me or is Icelandic quite amusing to listen to?  Although the song itself is ace.

Next up were Trollfest who are, apparently, some form of super group for folk/black metal.
Again more fun than a packet full of wobbly jelly. Great stage presence - if you flick through their website, you'll find their singer wearing t-shirt with "fat people are hard to kidnap", which seems to sum up their approach to music.
Oh and big win for Trollfest? Use of particularly non-metal instruments, such as accordions. The world of metal needs more accordions, oh and balilika's, which they also seemed to have.

Here's a video, ostensibly about the making of the new album, but realistically it's a homage to drinking. A lot. Whisky, jagameister, beer ... and heartfelt sentiments such as "if Jesus comes back, we'll kill him again"

SAdly band 3 weren't able to attend, a Russian group called Arkona, who were stuck in France for some reason.
And so to Band 4, Alestorm. We'd seen these guys before supporting Sabaton. Scottish Pirate Metal. Three words that work really well. No really. Lots of pirate shirts and blow up cutlasses present in the audience - always good to see. As expected, they put on a great show. More rum and beer. In fact i like them so much, you're getting two videos.
Mainly as the second one uses a keytar. And much like accordions, metal needs more keytars. Mmm KeyTar.

Finntroll were up next, and with that kind of name, we had high hopes. Sadly the band appeared to take themselves seriously, and we weren't too hooked on them. Oh well. One duffer out of 5 wasn't too bad.
Actually this song seems ok, wonder why we didn't like them. They did, from memory have a banjo which was a good sign...

And finally, the mighty Turisas which Mr S had dragged me to last year. Great stuff. Lots of make-ups bags in the mens toilet by this point, all red and black, in preparation for Turisas. They are a great live band, their leadsinger has brilliant stage presence, and they are the kings of battle metal. Indeed their main song is: Battle Metal. As headliners, I'm giving you two tracks:

Fans were fantastic, lots of dressing up, and lots of chicks. Ahhh metal gigs - if more people made the effort they'd see how much more fun metal is than any other genre. Even black metal (Dimmu Borgir) was a really good atmosphere.

Shortly I'll be heading back to whisky reviews. But I thought a music interlude would be appropriate.


17 October 2011

Whisky Show 2011 Part 1

We enjoyed last years Whisky Show so much that it really was a no-brainer to attend this years. The big win we noticed last year was the limited number of tickets available meant it wasn't packed, indeed it was quite comfortable moving around the stands. And the food they provided was good.

This year, due to a falling out (?) between the organisers, the venue had changed to Vinopolis, which also hosts Whisky Exchange in London. This is next to the Borough Market, so gave us an opportunity to wander around it. Sadly I couldn't get any Monmouth Coffee as the queue was rather long. But the cafe down the road is also very good, and not nearly as packed.

Reviews will start out with some detail, and, as expected, begin to decrease in both detail and in the original, legibility. But somehow I'll cope. This may stretch to more than one post, it was that sort of day.
We definitely noticed the absence of Islay whiskies, the independent bottlers had some, but the majors (Bruichladdich, Caol Ila, Lagavulin etc) were absent. Ardbeg were present, sort-of, consisting of hot chicks pushing a very large bottle around and offering nips (of whisky). Which we turned down. In keeping with last year, we aimed to acquire 1 or 2 glasses to share with the cabal. This was successful, and so a career in espionage beckons.
I suspect this blog may break the record for most links I've done in a post...and where possible, I've linked to Loch Fyne Whiskys for purchasing.

Btw: this will read as a large number of drams, but bear in mind each isn't a full measure, most are not even half measure.

Adelphi - Linkwood 26yo 53.2%
I like Adelphi as an independent bottler, and I love Linkwood for the big sherry complexity. So this seemed an ideal opening dram.
Nose: sherry, raisins
Palate: sherry, raisins, xmas cake, massive
Finish: medium-long, raisins, very very tasty

This is their new 26yo Linkwood, and on tasting, it's a winner. 8/10

Tomintoul 16yo
Nose: floral, light
Palate: chewy, hint citrus?,  fresh, raisins - hint of
Finish: short, but very nice

7/10. I liked this, very delicate whisky, but well balanced. LFW link

Tomintoul 14yo unchill filtered
Nose: light, floral, citrus, fennel !
Palate: very light
Finish: hint of pepper
didn't like this one as much as the 16yo, LFW link

Glencadam 12yo 46% Portwood finish
Nose: light port
Palate: very sweet
Finish: peppery, medium length
lovely balanced whisky, delivered far more than I thought it would. 7/10

Glencadam 14yo Oloroso finish
Nose: tasteless -ish
Palate: bland
Finish: short, maybe pepper?
Didn't think much of this one 5/10

LFW link for Glencadam

Old Malt Cask - Little Mill 19yo 50%
Old Malt Cask are a wonderfully diverse independent bottler. I've had a number of theirs, including a sublime Port Ellen 26yo.  Little Mill were a lowland distillery, until they closed a number of years ago. Lowland drams get a bad rep, admittedly a large part of the rep is deserved. But after trying a SMWS little mill some time ago, I've become more interested in them.
Nose: grass, citrus
Palate: tasty, warm, honey sweet, cloves
Finish: medium, sweet

I enjoyed this, it's about £50 from memory, and probably worth it. Interesting, complex, and unexpectedly tasty.

Clan Denny Port Dundas 33yo 54.2% grain

Nose: port, mocha, coffee, shoe polish
Palate: vanilla, bitter, creamy
Finish: coffee, med-long
Ok, we were surprised by this. The OMC guy said we should try it, as it was 33yo old, and a grain whisky, so something different. That worked for us. It's around £75, but for a 33yo whisky, that ain't too bad. And tastewise, it's a surprise and very good. Worth a punt.

Tobermory 15yo  (note no website yet)
Nose: sweet, odd
Palate: smoky, sherry sweet, 'hairy'  [at least I think that's what it reads] EDIT: feedback from the PsychoChicken suggests this could be 'fudge' which does make some sense.
Finish: very short, pepper, salt
Nothing special, although better than I remembered, so I may track down other Tobermory's to try.
LFW link

Glenglassaugh 26yo 46%
This was our find of 2010, and so a visit to their stand seemed entirely reasonable. I was hoping they'd have their brand new whisky to try, but sadly no. And at £100 a bottle for a 3yo, I don't think I'll be getting any. In their defence, they are only bottling one cask to celebrate their coming of age.

Nose: sherry, grass, huge
Palate: big, full, tangy, pepper, cloves, lovely
Finihs: medium-long, sherry, wood, warm
I like this whisky a lot, although if I had the money I'd go for their older ones - which are divine.

LFW link

And that, I think, will do for Part 1 of our tasting.


14 October 2011

Photos, film, and their death

There's been a lot of coverage in the press here about the forthcoming death of film. This has, in particular been prompted by the latest exhibition at the Tate Modern main hall where  Tacita Dean has an exhibition shot on 35mm film.
Sort of a last homage to physical film.
Dean even ran into problems getting the film cut properly, as the Dutch lab being used to process the film couldn't manage it - and another specialist had to be called in.
Article on this.

It is an area I've got a bit of experience in. And generally, I'm fine with film dying. When I was taking pictures of chromosomes, the quality of digital photographs wasn't good enough - and the heath robinson approach to attaching a camera to a microscope didn't help. For that reason I took most of my early-mid period chromosome pictures using B/W film. That also meant I could develop each negative to focus on specific aspects of the picture.
After developing the negative, I'd scan it in at 1500dpi and work in photoshop to karyotype or whatever. This did seem to be duplication of work, but the system worked ok for me.

As digital cameras, and attachments for microscopes, improved, I switched to taking the pictures on an 8-10MP camera which seemed to do the job to a reasonable standard.

So from that perspective I can completely understand why film would die. Sure it's sad, but in terms of resolution, cost, speed etc surely digital wins out.

The downside is storage. As it is with most digital formats. Film, although it degrades and gets scratches etc exists for a long time, in the same format (however format shifting film could be a great b-grade movie). Digital however, can be saved in a multitude of formats, and there's no standard on how to change the format as they change. For example, I've got very old images stored as JPG, which although readable, are of poor quality compared to my more recent hi-res TIFF, but what happens if I'd left this on floppy disk, or other pointless media? Could I still read them? Most of mine are on DVD or sitting on the server. But at some point I'm confident they'll reach a stage where I can no longer read them.

Blogs will soon follow concerning my bike ride (promise!) and our whisky show, which involved um extensive tasting. Brilliant!


2 October 2011

Gigs and stuff

It's currently hell at work, freshers have arrived and there are too many I have to deal with. Sigh. Dead giveaways to their arrival: discarded items of clothing including mismatched socks, underwear; empty 2L bottles of stonebow; and piles of carrot containing 'stuff'.

Loving the walk in.

Gigs: we headed up to Derby to see Denys Baptiste the other week. Having been told to listen to his album, Let Freedom Ring, by the PsychoChicken, I'd been hooked for sometime. So with him playing a few minutes up the road, seemed churlish not to go. I dragged S along, figuring he's pretty approachable jazz. Finding food in Derby city centre wasn't too good, but I've got tips from a local for the next visit. Didn't help that the pub we liked, the Brewery Tap, was full - hence the wander around the centre. It seems dead after 6pm on a Friday.
Gig was great. Hard to describe him, but let's given it a bash: elements of be-bop, calypso, african. I think using 1950s/60s jazz (US) and 60s (UK) maybe a good place to start? Meh, it's not a genre I'm that good with. I picked a fair amount of Coltrane (understandable), and possibly some Brubeck and JJ Johnson/K Winding. Was that just me? who knows!

Anyway, thoroughly enjoyed it and finally picked up Let Freedom Ring and his new album, Identity by Subtraction. I'm enjoying the new one, but will give it a few weeks or so to sink through.

Went to a beerfest on the Saturday down at the Great Central Railway which was brilliant. About 40 ales, and half a dozen ciders/perrys. Really lovely venue, and great vibe - definitely going back next year. And for 2 quid keeping the glass seemed a win too. I now have two pint glasses. I may have some photos at some point. Possibly not. Cant remember if I took any :)

Decided to not go to the Unthanks on the Sunday as was feeling a little tired.

But went to a country/folk gig on the Wednesday in Leicester, Slaid Cleaves. It's fair to say that Cleaves is not from the Dolly Parton country pop school. If there's not at least one death, it's just not worth singing.
I'd heard a couple of tracks, but nothing really. Basically he sounded kinda interesting, and with a name like that, I couldn't not go.
He was great. Really engaging between songs, and excellent song writing. Funny and more than happy to sign stuff and chat to the fans. Another intimate gig at the Musician, seated, loved it.
I picked up his new 2CD live album, which from the track listing seems a good reflection of what I heard. Also comes with two beer coasters. Almost reason enough..
Lyrically, driven by characters, so very personal lyrics, and very emotional in places. To the point where he had the audience eating out of his hand. Not sure how many of them had heard him before (I hadn't) but there were a lot of CDs flying off his stall.

and a song written about his now drowned village

Love, B

28 September 2011

Whisky Cabal Meeting 5

Assembling the cabal for another foray into the whisky world proved quite easy, it's Freshers week and we decided drink was the best way to cope.

We adopted a highly technical approach to tasting, left to right. Although in the spirit of reasonableness, we did edit that slightly to put the lower percentage drams first.
As usual, all links go to our favourite whisky retailer, Loch Fyne Whisky.

Glendronach Revival 15yo 46% Oloroso cask
Nose: sultanas, raisins, treacle, toffee, old leather, sweet
Palate: sticky toffee, fudge, sultanas, sweet, honey, brandy (but good)
Finish: warm, long, subtle, fireside dram

8/10. We loved this, and were pathetically grateful that it's owner had managed to save some for the cabal. Basically, you cannot go wrong for £40 with this one.

Glen Moray 16yo 40%
Nose: Fragrant, caramalised sugar, sweet, root ginger, marshmallows,
Palate: weak, sweet, hint of christmas cake, warm
Finish: citrus, oak, short

Regular readers will know we're fans of Glen Moray, but sadly this one is a good 'diet whisky' (not my description, but wholeheartedly endorsed by all of us). Light, very quaffable, and probably ideal on brekkie cereal.

Scapa 43% dist 2000, b 2011.
Nose: parmesan cheese, sweaty sock, salt, sweet, vanilla, light
Palate: drinkable, salt, seaweed, sweet pancake
Finish: medium, warm
Generally I like Scapa, and this was very quaffable. Indeed, it was labelled as such by the group.

Oban 14yo 43%
Nose: battenburg cake, sweet, honey
Palate: sweet, salty
Finish: tangy, short
Oban is good stuff, but difficult to get. The group said this was very drinkable, but not before 11am. So more a followup whisky to numbers 2 and 3. If you see this in a pub, get it. In fact we are thinking of creating a guide to whisky in pubs.

Glenrothes 1994 46% Signatory bottling
Nose: cut grass, ozone, sweet, light malted, teacakes
Palate: sweet, smokey,
Finish: salt, med-long, sweet honey, pepper
We like this, and at less than £35, you will too. I'm getting very addicted to Glenrothes, and this signatory bottling is brilliant value for money and taste.

SMWS "A tropical rainforest"35.43 1/229 bottles, 20yo, ex-bourbon, 1st fill barrell
Nose: cut grass, burnt sugar, bourbon, sweet smell
Palate: green banans  [and some other word I can't read]
Finish: fish, more spikey with additional water, complex
Another Glen Moray, as we are making a habit of collecting them. More is less in our world. Very drinkable, although seemed more 'fighty' than you'd expect from a 20yo.

SMWS "Complex and joyous" 35.32 1/183 bottles, 34yo, refill hogshead, ex bourbon, 55.1%
Nose: god, LHC, higgs boson, smooth, complex, Prof Cox, chocolate
Palate: sweet, complex, christmas cake, salt, raisins, smooth, chocolate
Finish: huge, long, mohaaassiive, honey,
10/10 (Alec: 9.9/10)
This was a retaste to confirm our only 10. It's definitely a 10. Except for Alec, who refuses on principle to give one. So he gets his own special rating.
It is a perfect whisky. Everything works, but then at the price it is, and it's rarity, you'd bloody well hope it was good. Oh yeah, another Glen Moray.

SMWS "An Artists Retreat" 4.131 1/542 bottles, 60%, 20yo, 1st fill sherry butt
Nose: Clears the tubes, sherry, salt, peat, honey, sweet
Palate: Salt, sweet, chocolate, big flavour
Finish: medium-short, sweet, more peppery with additional water
Another retaste as we wanted to balance it against 35.32. It isn't as good, but it is bloody drinkable. This is a Highland Park whisky, I'm still in two minds over HP but hey when it's in front of me...

Another excellent tasting. Definite quality drams there. Our cunning idea to start a pub drams review section deserves further discussion. And at some stage I'll collate what we've already had, and we can work from there...


6 September 2011

hear me roar!

I'll put some stuff up soon about my attempts to permanently damage myself biking. But today has been a day of manly things.

S had managed to lose the nut that held her pedal onto her bike. Her bike is stupidly put together and I couldn't attach the nut without a ratchet/socket thingy. So I now own one. A big step in my testosterone stimulation. It's got lots of sockety bits, and a couple of extendery bits, all in an ugly black plastic container. Brilliant.

Oh and I even fixed the bike.

I came away thinking I'd earned a beer. Couldn't find one, ended up with a hibiscus tea instead.

Oh well, small steps.


28 August 2011

The Book of Job

22 August 2011

Time for something different

I need a holiday. Mainly for sanity reasons before anger spills out onto people who probably deserve it. So for something different, I've decided to go on a bike ride for a week.
I'm not convinced this is a good idea, well OK in theory it's a great idea, but I have the feeling I'm going to come back highly damaged.

The plan, such as it is, is to bike from Derby up to Sheffield, with a number of side trips so I'm guessing it'll be 100+ miles, over 4-5 days. This is well beyond anything I've done before. If I'm being honest, I'm kinda worried at how my knees will stand up.

But on the plus side, there's a number of breweries and decent ale pubs that just co-incidently line my (vaguely) proposed route. Brilliant.
I'd like to thank Garry and CAMRA for their assistance in this. Since I'll have the evenings to recover in, I may even write up notes and photos and stuff as I imagine there will be internet webz around the place. Oh hang on, I won't have a laptop, ok you'll have to wait.

So any bikers out there? any recommendations for things I should take? Currently my repair kit consists of: spare inner, puncture repair kit, adjustable spanner, screwdriver, hex (allen) key. Oh and a knee brace :)


18 August 2011

Cooking with Bruce: Sushi salad

Origins of this one are, again, vague. But it works really well.

Mix: 2T rice vinegar, 3t caster sugar, 1/4t salt until dissolved, then leave.

Rinse 1c rice a few times (until clear) then leave damp for 30mins or so to soften the rice, although you can ignore this step and just cook the bugger if you're in a hurry.

Heat oven to 200C.
Mix: 4T miso paste (or sesame and oyster sauce, which works just as well), 2T sugar, 2T mirin, 1T peanut oil.
Chop: 250gm tofu/quorn; 2c pumpkin chopped 1-2cm squares; 1c courgette chopped 2cm; 2c mushrooms roughly chopped.
Mix the sauce through the chopped veges, then place in a roasting pan and roast for 20-25 minutes.

Place rice in saucepan, add 1.25c of water, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 mins. Remove from heat (leave lid on). Add the rice vinegar mix. combine with the roast veges.

Serve with some pickled ginger, chopped spring onions and sesame seeds scattered over the top - with soy sauce and wasabi paste. Works well cold too.

Love, B

8 August 2011

Self-harm, it appears I'm good at it

I don't mean in a Richie Edwards kinda way, but this weekend has demonstrated I've got what it takes.

Initially I focussed on my fingers, so peripheral damage. I set out with good intentions to make a nice brekkie, using very tasty sourdough I'd had delivered the night before. The problem came when I started cutting the bread, that breadknife is possessed. It's bitten me before, and by the time I'd finished chopping, I had another two plasters on my fingers.
I'm not a quitter, and so when slicing the bagels for Sun brunch, I did the same. My fingers by this point resembled a cloth covered, blood stained, demon hand.

Saturday saw us head into town, and I wandered off to find some 8mm hex keys (allen keys), so I could dismantle parts of my bike. This proved difficult, Homebase had up to 6mm (which I had too), BnQ had 6mm, but suggest ScrewFit who had what I needed. That wander had taken around 80-90 minutes, and then I meandered home, another 90 mins as I was, by this point, down the far end of the industrial estate. My knee for some reason took this all very personally and got grumpy. I ignored this.

Fixed my bike, replaced the back tyre, so it no longer skids around corners as it was missing tread, replaced the inner tube (as I'd patched it a number of times already), and repaired the front brakes. So obviously I'd be going out riding on Sunday. All went well for the first 10miles, then on the way back the knee decided it really hated me. Especially on the hills I'd found. Yes hills, in Leicestershire. Not big ones, but enough that I was feeling them.

And that's why I spent the rest of the day lying on the couch looking grumpy. I'm in the usual denial mood, and will be walking home this evening, as there is nothing wrong with me.


Ow. I really shouldn't have stamped my foot then.

I did discover the village of East Leake is quite picturesque (in places) and found some orchards that sell to the public, so I sense a return trip shortly. I'm also thinking very seriously about a 5 day bike holiday in the UK somewhere, I desperately need a break from work before I start screaming, so figure a few days hard exercise maybe a good plan.


26 July 2011

Gardening update

The dedicated fanbase out there will recall my replanting of a herb garden a couple of months ago. I did promise some updates, and promptly forgot. So...

1st batch: died
2nd batch: dying
Seeds: died

1st batch: died
Seeds: died
Seeds 2: sprouting

1st batch: died
2nd batch: hanging on, but probably terminal
Seeds: died
Seeds 2: sprouting

The trays have been moved downstairs, avoiding the direct sunlight, so we'll see how that goes. Of course this means, if they do grow, I have to move further to get the herbs. Meh.


17 July 2011

David Cameron, Britain's greatest politician?

These thoughts have been bubbling around for a couple of weeks now. However the current Murdoch phone hacking drama has thrown them some focus. Although I dare say I'll break that by the end ...

For anyone living in a box, Murdoch, or more accurately his organisation, News International (NI), have been hacking phones. The Guardian has been prattling on about this for at least two years now, with varying degrees of buy-in from the authorities, and other news businesses. A lot of it was dismissed as harassment by NI and the police.
Vindication has come in the last fortnight when it was revealed the News of the World (UK tabloid, owned by NI) had hacked phones of: celebrities (meh); families of 9/11 victims; politicians; and the clincher, the phone of Milly Dowler who was murdered a few years ago - what got the public's attention was the NotW deleted off messages as her mailbox was full. Thereby giving her parents hope she was still alive. Ahhh all class. Finally the other non-Murdoch papers have caught on, and the politicians decided that public opinion was strong enough to challenge Murdoch.
that last point is important, as the political class in the UK were in thrall to newspaper editors, and in particular NI. NI owns the biggest selling daily paper (the Sun - and no, I'm not linking to it), NotW (biggest selling Sunday paper, until it was axed last week), The Times and the Sunday Times. Murdoch and his various editors were frequently seen courting the politicians, so no politician was prepared to speak out.
It wasn't just a Tory thing either, Blair and Brown also kept NI close, although Brown's relationship with them seemed more fraught. Which, if nothing else, is a point in favour of Brown. Oh and NI possibly hacked Brown's phone or blagged info from the hospital, before running a story of his newborn son having cystic fibrosis. Class.

So how does this fit with Davey-boy? Well, as mentioned Cameron has a close relationship with NI, the (now ex) editor of NotW Rebekah Brooks hung out with him, he had a number of dinners with high ranking NI people, and possibly of greatest concern, hired Andy Coulson -  the editor of NotW, during the main period of hacking, as his Director of Communications. Brilliant!

I'll get back to that, and how Cameron has dealt with the phone hacking allegations.
He's been in government since May 2010, and has managed to piss off pretty much everyone when he's tried to change policies or funding. Now, I'm not against all of his proposed changes, there is a hell of a lot of bureaucracy here, and as one example, the NHS does need reforming as opposed to tinkering - as most governments seem to do. He also seems keen to break the monopolies of Union's in the UK, and I suspect that's not necessarily a bad thing. The conflicts inherent in both of those examples relate to change, something the UK doesn't take to very well (in my experience). This conflict over change, has led to a number of protests and development of the Met's kettling techniques.

What I've found interesting is that in each case, the mud, which should have stuck and caused massive political embarrassment, has slid off Cameron. He's been prepared to sacrifice Ministers when public opinion reaches a level he's uncomfortable with, and is prepared to perform U-turns on policies. These are described as indicating a listening Government, one that has enough confidence to change its policies on the basis of consultation and feedback.
In effect, this means that critics of the Government, and there are many, find it difficult to hook into an issue and critique it properly as the boundaries keep changing. The Government is also introducing a large number of policy changes, so creating a large number of fronts of conflict. thus splitting critics, and the public. I imagine for a large majority of people, and I count myself in that number, the sheer number of protests concerning policy change begins to meld into one amorphous blob.
It is this flexibility and shape-shifting that is keeping Cameron afloat.

What has really struck me is that nothing has stuck to him, sure he's been canny and used the LibDem's to front a number of unpopular proposals, and their ratings have plummeted. But Cameron seems to be pottering along nicely. I have to hand it to him, and the Tories, their policy introductions have been brilliantly managed.

So what has changed in the last fortnight? Well for one, Ed Milliband has found his voice. He decided early on in the debacle, to risk NI's wrath, and go after them. He didn't really have an option there, as his leadership has been, thus far, a little weak. So credit to him. Cameron vacillated, defending NI, Coulson, and anyone else, until it became obvious that public opinion has reached whatever threshold he uses to gauge issues, and then he came out all but saying that Brooks should go. Which, eventually, she did. So the Government, led by Milliband, suddenly decided that NI was fair game and started digging into them. Launching inquiries, criticising their behaviour etc. All the stuff you'd expect leaders of a country to be doing as a matter of course.

And yet, so far, Cameron appears to have escaped unscathed, again. He's managed this by his standard method of sacrifice, in this case using NI. What remains to be seen is when the inquiry reports back, how much did Coulson know, and how (or if) he lied to Cameron. Cameron's judgement in hiring Coulson looks doubtful at best, and his defence that the Met had vetted him will need to be examined. If only as there is now evidence that NI was paying off police officers, and that a top police officer left the force to write for NI (Andy Hayman, described as a dodgy geezer -by politicians no less!), others had frequent meals with them, and another ex-editor worked for the police. Hmmm.
Given Cameron's ability to shift, removing the target from critics, I don't think this will bring him down either. The inquiry will take some time, by which time the public will have moved on. However, it will be interesting to see if this is the making of Ed Milliband as a decent opposition leader. He's been on form so far, and staked his claim early.

Back to the question, is he Britain's greatest politician? From a best for the country perspective, too early to say - depends very much on his reforms and what eventually happens with them. From a politically savvy approach, oh yeah - he makes Tony Blair seem positively static. And he had a huge majority to work with. This slippery approach makes it very hard to see what his end-game really is, unless it's politics and power itself. Which, as a career politician, makes sense.
Depending on how the phone hacking goes, as it does have the potential to bring down the government, depending on what revelations come out,and how well Cameron does at distancing himself from NI, I'm going for a qualified, yes.
You get what you deserve.

Most of the links are to the Guardian, but theirs has been the most indepth coverage, and well, I do read them by choice.

B (oohh a serious post, wow)

14 July 2011

sponsered ads

Sometimes they don't work. This is from my last.fm page.

And in other news, my daily average number of tracks has increased from 39 to 40. That may have something to do with the amount of music being played over the last couple of weeks...


Of various musical endeavours

There's been a number of gigs and music related events recently, so briefly:

Pallas - Glasgow
After significant peer pressure by the rest of the caped crusaders, my trusty gold cape was packed and I headed up to Glasgow for the prog-gods Pallas. Beer was consumed, an additional caped crusader was acquired (the cape maker no-less, resplendent in purple), and we headed to the gig. Bear in mind this was Friday night, in Glasgow. The neds were most confused. Arriving at the venue we found yet another cape crusader, our number are growing. Today, the prog, tomorrow, the world. Caught up with the band, who seem quite keen on the cape-age.
Gig was good, seemed to be a warm-up for High Voltage, and everything flowed well. The new material sounds very rocky, and is quite different from the 'old' Pallas. Not worse, just different. I've found it a bit tricky to get used to that, but live, it works well.

Due to time pressures with a nightclub afterwards, the caped crusaders were turned into caped roadies.

Roger Waters - London
The next day saw me flying back to London for the Roger Waters gig. I was always a bit nervous about this, given how much the Waters tickets were, and how much I wanted to see him. The plane I was booked on was 2 hours late leaving the airport, meaning I got into London at 6, just in time to head straight out to the gig (at the O2).
Crickey, that was a gig and a half. A performance of The Wall, with a full multimedia show. I think that's pushing to be best gig I've been to. Sure, there were a couple of mawkish moments, but over-all, emotionally draining.

The Weakerthans - London
One of my favourite bands, so really pleased I got to see them. Quirky Canadian indie-rock. Very relaxed band onstage, similar to Tragically Hip or the Phoenix lads - well ok, possibly not that relaxed. One of those gig you come out of going, yeah that was exactly why I love the band.

Had a quick trip up to Nottingham last weekend to share a pint or two with the Glaswegian contingent down visiting the Nottingham posse. We may have met up in a vinyl shop. I may have bought some cheese, and also Japan 'Oil on canvas' to try and recover some credibility. Europe Final Countdown (12" mix) and The Firm Star Trekkin (12" mix) were the cheese...
And I believe I have a rock gig next week, Queensryche and Judas Priest. Brilliant!


11 July 2011

UK banks

I've decided to change my bank. I am currently with santander, who have managed to screw up every action I've asked them to do. They were good, but the monkeys who now inhabit the Loughborough Uni branch are, honestly, down-syndrome simians. They lie, due to ignorance, they don't do what they've said, their communication is atrocious, and the concept of customer service -jeez, just don't go there.

So for the last couple of days I've been going through what options I've got to move to. Basically, there's bugger all. With the banking crisis squeezing many out, the options are as limited as high street shopping. Cutting Santander, I've got NatWest; Barclays; HSBC (who don't seem to like general people); Lloyds and RBS. There's a few other smaller ones, but not many.
Savings accounts are more varied, as there's more of a win in them for the bank.



7 July 2011

Cooking with Bruce: Zucchini cakes

I do like this recipe, it's very simple, it tastes nice, and goes well with lots of things.

3 zucchini (grated)
3-5 spring onions chopped
2T chopped dill
2T chopped parsley (probably more, or add some coriander leaves)
2T grated onion
1/3c grated kasseri cheese (med-hard cheese, I've also used parmesan or, weirdly, ricotta)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3T flour (poss more)
fresh ground pepper

Grate zucchini, sprinkle salt over it, then leave in a colander for at least 30mins. Squeeze out moisture, then add everything, mix. Season with salt and pepper. You may need extra flour if it seems extra sloppy.

Heat oil in fry pan, dump tablespoon full in - kinda press down to spread, cook until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

The world is your oyster. I had it tonight with a caesar salad, and two of the cakes as 'burgers' with tomato, mustard + chilli sauce, lettuce etc.

Oh, I've also made the same recipe with leeks and feta, which works well too.


Gay teaching in California

it's looking probable that California will make teaching of positive contributions to society by gay and lesbian people mandatory in public schools. this is similar to the enforced positive impact teaching for mexicans, native americans, women, etc.

That's all fine and dandy (hehhehe) but what struck me was one of the dissenting Republican voices who said:
"Our founding fathers are turning over in their graves."
(Tim Donnelly)

now what way up are bodies buried...oh yeah turn over, get some baby

30 June 2011

Call me, call me anything

I think I need a new phone. My now very elderly iPhone 3G is beginning to die. And the mute function has stopped working. Sadly it's stopped working on the noise, rather than mute, side. I can turn the ringer down, but it's just not the same as having a nicely vibrating phone in the pants. So to speak.

So my options.
iPhone 4: although it's getting old in terms of hardware, it does integrate nicely with my existing mac platform and I won't lose the (few) applications I've paid for.

Samsung Galaxy S2: quite keen on this one, would be swopping to Android, but it's a pretty phone. It's also had great reviews. And from a quick look all of the apps I've been using on the iphone are replicated on Android.

HTC Sensation: I think it's that one anyway, has had reasonable revie3ws, but seems to be second to the Galaxy S2.

Anything else I should be considering? Any comments on the three above?

Oh more info: I'm likely to be buying the phone outright, and stick with pay as you go, mainly as I don't use the phone/text function enough to really need a contract - it's pretty much emails and web for me sonny jim.

So, any suggestions?


26 June 2011

Cooking with Bruce: Date and feta salad

I usually stick to the recipe, mostly, for this one. I do add some green pepper and chopped celery.
This from Cuisine, Date and Feta Salad.

It's been very hot today, I wandered into town as had to do a couple of things at work (sigh), all sweaty, goddamn a sexy mofo. Had to pick up some brekkie stuff for S, may have ended up with a couple of beers too. Odd. Oh well.
Then I've had my feet up, trying to keep cool. Cooked dinner, and now watching the rather cool series Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry, now Fake or Fortune, then new Top Gear shortly.

still trying to cool down tho'.


MiH and remasters

1991: Queen had a problem, two excellent albums in three years (The Miracle, 1989 and Innuendo, 1991), and a lead singer taking a permanent performance vacation. Generally death isn't too much of an impediment, without bothering to check, I think 2pac and Notorious BIG have released more while dead, than during their eventful lives.

Wot to do? After a tribute concert, of dubious quality, 75% of the band headed back to the studio to put together a new album. Freddie, before ambling off, had recorded as much as he could, and in the recent BBC doco Brian saying he'd hand Freddie lines, FM would sing them three times, and that allowed the band to work up tracks once he'd gone.

So how does Made in Heaven stack up? At the time I felt it could have been a brilliant EP, and I don't think I've changed from that. Possibly two EPs (new and re-imagined tracks).

FM's voice was still crystal clear and tone-perfect, although the power is absent from some of the later tracks. It's evident on some tracks of Innuendo, and is more evident on MiH. I think his lung power had gone too, the length of phrases in MiH is reduced compared to Innuendo. And in places, Innuendo has shorter lines/phrases than earlier Queen albums.

Opening with It's a beautiful day; it's good, but not great. There's a lack of passion or balls, in the track. I suspect it's been emasculated by Brian as the reprise is better, so why did they cut it for the opening? Odd.
MiH is an old FM solo track that had the accompaniment rewritten. Vocally it's great, but as FM recorded the solo album as a distinct break from Queen, it's a pop song that doesn't work too well within the rock band context.
LML, one of the vocal fragments. I like the track, it's new, and works well. Not upto Innuendo levels, but solid. Obviously one of the fragments, as verses are shared between FM, BM and RT. FM's love of gospel is carried through on this track (see Somebody to Love etc.).
Mother Love, really like this. Quite a change for Queen but works. Downbeat, but interesting. Until the end where their mixing of old sound samples, which could have been good, gets messy and even petty.
My Life Has Been Saved, was a bside to the miracle track 'Scandal'. The track was reworked, and lost a little with the retouches, but isn't too bad - although on any other album, it would have stayed a b-side.
I Was Born to Love You again from FM solo album. And again, not really fitting the Queen style. But the new backing track significantly improves the original.
Heaven for Everyone was originally a track from RT's 'other' band, The Cross. The US release featured a RT vocal, but in an effort to appeal to Queen fans in the UK, the UK release had the FM vocal. It is that vocal that was used here. The backing track has, again, been improved. Good, but not essential.
TMLWKY - originally recorded during the Miracle sessions, the song was rejected by the band, instead BM released it on his solo album. Not good. Although this version has more passion than the BM solo one, which suffers, as most his album does, of being over-produced.
You Don't Fool Me - good stuff, nice groove laid down, and good vocal track. Not sure when this dates from, but from the quality of the performance it may have been earlier in the Innuendo sessions.
A Winter's Tale - lovely sweet song, which fits as a companion piece to Bijou. Musically, lyrically, and guitar sound are all similar. Very much a looking back track, and, I suspect, one of the later tracks to be recorded.

It's a Beautiful Day (reprise) - is all the opening track should have been. Much better, ballsier, and a fitting end to the album.
Which begs the question, why wasn't it the end of the album? The ambient piece is nice, certainly not Queen, and certainly non-essential. Would have made a great bonus EP track.

I still stand by my initial comment that the album works better as two EPs, new and 're-imagined'. As an album, it's a poor end to a great career. The band should have finished with Innuendo, which was, ironically (given the circumstances), probably their best album since Jazz or News of the World. Go on,argue that one...

So the remasters, how are they going? It's not the first time the back catalogue has had a refresh, when Q signed with Hollywood Records (in the US) everything was remastered and released with bonus tracks, or remixes. Some of the these were good, I liked the Rick Rubin mixes, unlike everyone else...
there were the remastered tracks for the CD singles from MiH, and the Japanese remasters...etc etc. These new remasters are just that, new. Having not had any of the other remasters (I stuck to vinyl, aside from the bonus tracks) these are new to me. And they sound great.
I've got QI, II, Sheer Heart Attack so far, and they sound brilliant. Crystal clear, but without too much 'CD-ness', the warmth of the original vinyl has been kept.
The bonus tracks are good, also very clean, nothing essential so far, but some good live versions of tracks.
Yeah, just buy them. The first 10 albums (not live albums) have been released. If you don't want the 2CD version, they are also available as singles. It's definitely the sympathetic treatment the albums have been crying out for, and I'm hoping they release something special for b-sides etc later.


12 June 2011

Scientists face reducing kudos

We're watching War of the Worlds - the 1953 version, and in keeping with the sci-fi movies of the 50s and 60s, scientists are portrayed as the heroes, the ones in control, the ones who know what's happening.
Generally, and there are exceptions, they are men with dark hair, tall, jutting jawlines, aged late 30s to early 40s, are confident, and everyone defers to them. Scientists in the movies reflect 'Science' as a whole, not an individual, or an institution.
This reflects the optimism of the era, science was making huge strides (nuclear power, space exploration, cheap cars, fridges, vaccines etc), and the hope was that most of the worlds ills could be solved, given time and science. In particular America was going through a period of relative prosperity (compared to everyone else anyway), and Hollywood reflected both the optimism, and the love of science in many movies.

It's struck me that over the years the optimism of science has been eroded. Now you'll either find scientists as the bad guys (for example, Bond), or as loners, fighting against the army/government. Frequently portrayed as doomsayers, the optimism of the 50s has been replaced with a grim realism. Science maybe able to defer (or cause) the danger, but it will struggle to eradicate it. Now it's left to loners, mavericks, unlikely outcasts, to save the planet. they seize control of the available resources, and save us on their own. They don't need the resources of 'Science' they need their own self-belief, and everyone else be damned.
No longer are scientists called 'Dr' or 'Prof' as in the 50/60s sci-fi, they are now Jim, Brian, or David. And usually in sneering tones.

I think we've lost something.



I've just listened to this.

Interesting documentary about Syd Barrett and his degeneration during the early Floyd years. Including excerpts from one of the last interviews with Rick Wright. The 30 minute documentation looks at how Barrett, the inspiration behind Floyd, broke down due to drugs, fame, and pressure.
Truely one of the greatest lyricists and artists to come out of the early English whimsical psychedelia, and one of the greatest victims of LSD. Sad story by Nick and Dave about how Syd turned up during recording of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and no-one recognised him.

So a couple of videos, firstly from a solo album:

and now, the superb See Emily Play.

This has reminded me that I don't actually have any solo Barrett any more...must rectify that.