29 March 2011

Hathern, not quite a google

I decided a bike ride was in order, having had a reasonably intense beer and music weekend. I'd been intending to visit Hathern, a village that GoogleMaps assured me was 2.7 miles away, so figured it'd be a nice quiet bike ride.
Turned out it's about 5-10 mins bike ride. Pah. Stupid googlemaps.

On the way I discovered that the pissant village of Shepshed has had a plethora of new businesses opening up. We now have a new bakery which looks quite good, we may wander down there in the weekend.
And to keep the BNP (or who-ever) happy, a guns 'n' ammo shop. Yes, I know. It's what I've been missing too.

Hathern, differs from Shepshed, in that's it's pretty. It's smaller than Shepshed, but has (at least) three decent looking pubs. Including one that advertised a 'fine collection on malt whiskies'.
the three I found that looked good were, the Three Crowns, Dewdrop Inn (with whiskies), and The Anchor Inn.
There's not much else to Hathern, a few farm shops, lots of dirt tracks with potholes (woohoo), and a church. I even took a picture of the church, just to excite you lot, and demonstrate that we currently have weather that almost approaches summery. The second pic is my dislike of power lines sorted, and putting a sunset spin on things. Without the actual trouble of taking one at sunset. Heh.

 Love, roving biker B

24 March 2011

Movie: Route Irish

The new movie by Ken Loach, Route Irish examines the effects of war on both the local populace, and those involved in the fighting. The main characters are all from Liverpool, and in keeping with most Loach movies, accents are to the fore - and probably the most prolific use of the word 'fuck' that I've heard for sometime. the main character, Fergus, is a hard-man, ex-SAS and now ex-private security in Iraq - and the movie opens at a funeral for his best friend Frankie. Nice touches of homoeroticism in there too. The only character I identified who didn't have a regional accent (remember, this is Loach), is the very PR savvy commander of the private security firm. He pisses Fergus off, and so Fergus embarks on a quest to find out what happened.
This revolves around a cellphone.
The script is, as you'd expect, extrememly tight, and the cinematography flits between Liverpool and Iraq seamlessly (same DoP as 'Kes' apparently). It's a thriller, but not in the Hollywood style, everyone has failings, some more obvious than others, there are agendas hidden within agendas, but by god was it engrossing.

I'll admit I'm a Ken Loach fanboy. But this one, far more of a thriller than we're used to from Loach, is superb. It doesn't rock along, but it sucks you in from empathy with apparently sympathetic characters to almost understanding why you'd do the incomprehensible. Brilliant.

Frankie, who is, generally, a likeable, genial chap (while alive anyway), is played by John Bishop, the Liverpudlian comedian. It may seem overly-calculated to engage with the viewer, but it works nicely, making his flaws more real.

Go see this, one of the best movies I've seen for some time.

Those of you in the UK, Curzon Cinema's are offering it on the OnDemand service. I used this, I had some initial problems which, after looking at data logs, suggested our exchange here (at 7pm) was getting overloaded - although download speeds were floating around 3-6kbps, and according to Curzon all they require is a 1kbps connection. Anyway, we filled in a couple of hours then watched it later when things seemed more stable.
In Curzon's defence, when I emailed them to say this - they responded within 12 hours with useful info, and asked me to run frame analysis script for them. So kudos to them.


22 March 2011


Unions at my current workplace are a little odd. There's a number of them, and they don't seem very co-ordinated, so those on certain grades are represented by one, and those on other grades by another. Today those in one of the unions (?UCU?) are on strike, complaining about various things, mainly retirement age increases and changes to the pension scheme.
I'm not a member of the union, and, afaik only one of my team is a member of this one.  So it's not affecting me much, although it's very quiet in the office since everyone else (aside from another member of my team) is off. Either on strike, or working from home, or holidays.

My issue with all this is that I don't think the union is being very realistic here. Higher Education has very generous provision of pensions, leave etc, so some realism in the current climate is required. I'm also unimpressed with the multiple union approach, makes collective bargaining difficult, and it seems very unfair for those in the other union. My team member, the one who is in today, pointed out what her conditions are which are not as good as mine, surely more unified employment conditions would be a better idea?

I do find some union members attitude amusing, many of them are taking the day off, but are just pottering around at home - or taking holidays for the day - if you do believe in the strike, why aren't you supporting people on the picket lines. Reports from the picket line suggest there are around 10 people on it. Devastating!!!

Since coming over here, my political positioning has changed. Back in NZ I'd certainly be comfortable as being described as left, or centre-left. Over in the UK, the work culture appears highly inefficient - well in HE anyway - and my leftie (NZ) tendencies are more centre. Which makes me slightly confused as to what's happening. Hell I even agree with some of the Tory plans. waahhh, this is really screwing with my head.

On the plus side, we've got the music on and having a productive day. Huzzah! thanks strikers!


20 March 2011

Metal - and one of the worst songs ever...

Catching up on some metal listening, and came across this gem. It may, well ok is, one of the worst songs ever:

there ya go, suffer.

19 March 2011

6 nations - final round pt3

France v Wales
If Wales win by 28 points they win the 6 nations. Just to add a little spice. And that's in addition to marc livremont's continuing feud with the French rugby public.

Fifteen minutes in, and it's become clear that random France have turned up. Wales are playing with structure and purpose, France are doing 'stuff'. Most of which isn't coming off for them. However they do look good in broken play, probably the only team in the 6 nations who has. Especially the pairing of Parra and Trinh-Duc, who for my money, have been the best half/fly combo.
Very scrappy game so far, and the French 'plan' of broken play meets 7 a-side is throwing the Welsh who are showing poor ball control.
So a very scrappy loose first half, with the French in the lead, probably deservedly, but still all over the place.

Second half, and the French are playing more as a team, and certainly look better than the Welsh. Again, a French side that could have won the 6 nations. Had they turned up more often. Some empathy as a Wgtn supporter there !
Basically the Welsh had no clue what they were doing. Is it time for a cleanout of coaching staff? they may have won games this season, but have never looked convincing doing it.

Overall, not a good 6nations. My picks weren't good, but in retrospect, I'd probably have chosen them anyway. I think the French could be very good, or indifferent at the World Cup, England will be overrated, Ireland a darkhorse, Wales should stay home, Italy could be OK, and Scotland may surprise. Maybe, although I'll admit it's unlikely, but there is a good team in there somewhere.


6 nations - final round pt2

England v Ireland
The Irish anthem seems designed for drunk people. I respect that. As near as I can make out it consists of mumble mumble Ireland Ireland mumble mumble Ireland Ireland .
Hmmm the ref in this game is policing the 10m rule. Would be nice to see that continue. Ireland have definitely come to play, and are rattling the English.
My beer appears to be evaporating too, probably something to do with the weird brightness outside. it's something the bible never warned me about, acts of god include beer evaporation, guess that was in the lost 5 commandments...(bible committee wanted it on one side of a4, something had to give).

Ok, that was a great game. Thoroughly enjoyable, fast, Ireland were very committed and deserved to win - it's the game ireland have been threatening but never quite delivered. England finally met an opponent who took it to them. This is what I've been looking for, and I'm now reasonably convinced that England are not half as good as the press have been making them out to be. Lack of leadership and focus was evident in the team. Something Keith Wood put his finger on after the match.
O'D had a blinder, but standout, and deserving Man ofthe Match, was Sexton. Certainly played himself into first choice 1/5 for Ireland.
England looked a lot better when Wilkinson came on, he provided more structure, something Flood was missing.

Have to admit, I'm very happy with that result :)


6 nations - final round pt1

I watched the 'Canes v Blues game this morning (stupid 630am kickoff on a Saturday) which I had the feeling would be the best of the four games I had planned. Sadly the 'Canes didn't manage a win, but the game was fast, flowed well etc.

Scotland v Italy
the 6 nations is a much slower game. There's a massive reliance on one off the ruck and short passes, which seems to be caused by a very loose interpretation of the 10m rule, meaning the defence is up very quick and flat. All sides are using floating defence well so even if they threw it out quickly, it may not actually open any gaps.
What isn't happening are runners hitting the line at pace, or using alternative lines to attack the line. This means a floating/drifting defence will always get across. Watching the Super15 this morning really emphasised the differences here.
First half; Scotland's lineout has looked good, although they've been unable to get over the tryline. Italy have had shown a well organised defence, and some flair on attack. The 8-6 lead to Italy seems about right.
Second Half; a more focussed performance by Scotland produced two tries. Particularly good performances by Lamont and Gray seemed to lift the team. Having said that, the last quarter has fizzled out. Both teams seem out on their feet, with neither having a lot of structure.
Scotland, eventually, deserved the win.

more soon.

16 March 2011

Owsley Stanley and anal accidents

Items in the news that have attracted my attention today:

an obituary of Owsley Stanley, LSD producer for, in particular, the Grateful Dead (also their sound man). Details here

Wondering where your parsnips went? Need more vegetables for the roast? Just like a magician, you can pull them out of your arse. Sadly true.


6 nations - penultimate round

Ok, so it's a few days late.
This round, on paper, promised little. Unfortunately illness had struck the house, so alternative options were limited.

Italy v France
Spirited defence, and better ball control by the Italians kept them in the game. Not really sure what happened to the French, there were flashes of brilliance, but overall the forwards never really delivered a platform for Parra et al to attack from. Nothing very flashy by the Italians, but as mentioned, holding onto the ball makes a huge difference.
The Italians deserved to win, and without a recognised kicker, probably made it harder for themselves. Yay  Nick Mallett.

Wales v Ireland
Dull game. Very very dull. Neither team looked good, with the Welsh being sneaky enough to get away with blatant cheating (Richie would be proud). Neither will be a threat at world cup, the Irish are getting too old, and the Welsh have no organisation. Far too much kicking the ball away in the hope that the opposition will make a mistake. Again, you can't score with the ball. No, that's not a euphemism.

England v Scotland
I've well and truely given up on my, now over optimistic, support of Scotland. One of the commentators put their finger on it, a good team playing badly. But today, they played with more cohesion, and were equal to the increasingly well organised English team. Good commitment by the Scots forwards, including ball retention, meant that although they were starved of possession they weren't wasting it.
England are still confusing me, sure they are winning, and winning ugly - which is the sign of a good team, one who can change their style and still grind out victories. But they don't appear to have come across a good team playing well (France came close). They maybe a threat come world cup, but I'm not sure. I'd watched the 'Canes game on Sat morning, and what struck me was the hand speed, something that's still missing from the Northern Hemisphere game.


13 March 2011

How should we judge?

The music press, the tabloid press, the quality press, so yes, pretty much all media, has been up in arms against dear Gwyneth turning up on Glee. Initially I thought this would be based on some deficiency in performance, nope, she covered a Gary Glitter song.
Gary, you'll remember, has a conviction for paedophilia.

So Gwyneth was being judged on her choice of song. Or rather composer.

Now I'm not defending Glitter. But it strikes me that at some point we need to think about how we approach art, and the artist. They are two different things. It's not a new problem, off the top of my head:
Wagner - anti-semitism
Polanski - under age rape (tho this was dropped during plea bargains)
Vikernes - murder
Spector - murder
Meek - murder/suicide
Lennon - IRA support

The world of music/art would be a poorer place without their output.

Stephen Fry presented an interesting exploration of his love of Wagner while trying to come to terms with Wagners anti-semitism.
That's the crux, can you separate the artist and the art? Should you?

I think yes, you can separate the two. I listen to a lot of black/death metal, does that make me a Satanist? well no, as an atheist, I can't very well go on and believe in Satan.
I like Wagner, and find the emotional power in his music sublime. I challenge anyone to hear Pilgrim's chorus and not be moved. But do I find this inspires me to hate a group of people (can't bring myself to say 'race')? Nope.

So rather than judge Gwyneth and Glee on, as the media are doing, promoting paedophilia, judge her on the song.
Absolute wankers can be utterly sublime artists.
Here, have some Wagner:



It's been one year. And to celebrate S and I had a romantic virus, using tissues for the paper anniversary. We had to turn down invites to another wedding anniversary, and lie in bed. Feeling poorly, rather than any other more sordid actions.
The wedding was lovely, the S buggering off for 6 months wasn't, so in practice we've been here in the same house for 6 months. And we're still talking!
As I type that, I have headphones on listening to Deerhunter, and S is watching some dire crud on Channel 4 with ugly twats attempting to cook. but it's a peaceful, if mucousy, evening.

smoochies to S!


11 March 2011

Cooking with Bruce : Salad of grilled squid and vegetables

It's been awhile since we had a cooking with Bruce, so hopefully you haven't all starved....it's looking like you'll get three recipes over the next few days as I've been quite taken with stuff I've cooked recently.

Oh and a shoutout to tomato based readers :)

Salad of grilled squid and vegetables

3 squid, cleaned, tentacles reserved   [it's bloody impossible getting good quality squid here in the midlands, so I used fish]
2T olive oil
lemon juice
1 red chilli chopped [I leave the seeds in as the ones around here aren't hot enough]
dark sugar
sea salt

Split the hood, score the squid, then chop into bit sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the rest of the stuff for at least 30 mins.

fennel bulb
sun-dried tomatoes
pumpkin (not really supposed to be there, but I needed to use some up)
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

Chop the vege's very fine, then cook on a very hot griddle pan (or grill, which is what I did). Place in a dish with tomatoes, drizzle with oil and season.

Rocket Salad
4 handfuls of rocket leaves, washed
good balsamic vinegar
olive oil
ground black pepper

Mix the balsamic and olive oil in a 1:2 ratio with some black pepper.

Cook the squid, get a very hot frying pan, add squid (or fish!) for 15-30s (slightly longer for fish) then remove.

rocket salad in the middle, veges and squid around the side, drizzle with olive oil and parmesan shavings.

Love, B

6 March 2011

Enter me sexually

I was registering for some stuff, and was pointedly ignoring the sexual orientation question (listing them as single options implies mendelian genetics, fools) and religious belief (don't get me started).

This sensible approach, leaving them as 'unspecified', caused the following error:

3 March 2011

Phoenix Foundation and Fairport Convention

Live gigs this week. We wandered down for the Phoenix Foundation's album release party at Borderline. I've followed TPF for years, thanks mainly to Andrew L telling me I had to, and I've rabbited on to all and sundry how good they are live, so hopefully some of that has sunk through...
What's been interesting is since the success of Pegasus is the professionalism of the band. Previously there was a genuine level of excitement concerning: a) would the band all start on the same track and b) how many would make it to the end. Now, however, everyone seems pretty focussed on the music. There's probably a secondary reason for this, but I would never suggest TPF had had a bit before gigs....

What has always set them apart for me, is the banter onstage, largely between Sam and Luke. Thankfully with increasing sales/popularity they've kept a pretty downhome approach to live performances. Having more than one songwriter in the band (Sam, Luke, Conrad and Will have all released solo albums) keeps them fresh, and the pull between Sam's krautrock/prog leanings and Luke's Americana provides an interesting middle ground.

I've raved about the new album Buffalo before. Suffice to say the songs work well live, and the audience was very much into the gig. Usual complaints about f<>ng London audiences, but I'm really pleased I saw them, and also pleased Neil finally got to see them. His leaving do in Wellington coincided with a gig, which I went to. I may have rubbed that in a bit.

So that was Saturday, Sunday was spent easing through the day. Once again time spent with Alex S required a quieter day.

Tuesday night I caught up with another of TPF gig go-ers, and we headed to Fairport Convention since they were playing in Loughborough. I managed to struggle down to town, ending up at the Swan for a pint and dinner.
Gig started bang on 8pm with a nice fiddle/guitar duo. Lyrics seemed a bit trite, but the guitarist was very good - nice use of percussive effects.
Fairport Convention are one of those bands I've been aware of, intended to listen to, and have never really managed it. So when Paul mentioned they were playing here, it seemed to solve all those problems in one. I'd heard some of the stuff when Richard Thompson was in them, thanks to Amanda, but little else.

I really enjoyed it. they've been going since the late 60s, and from the appearance of the audience, so had most of them. Paul and I didn't think our (relatively) young ages brought down average much.
The band opened with their 1971 album 'John Babbacombe Lee', a folk-rock (folk-prog?) album that I really enjoyed. Interesting harmonies throughout, which were quite reminiscent of CSN, as were some of the song structures. Really enjoyed this, it's not an easy album but I'll be keeping an eye for it.
Including a number of tracks from the new album, the second half showcased more variety, and the superb musicianship in that band.
I'd definitely go see them again, and I'll probably grab an album or two.

 Here's some youtube of John Lee, although the sound is more tinny than what we heard.