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.


11 June 2011

Cooking with Bruce: Paneer tikka

And for tonights dinner, a nice warming tikka, hmmmmm tasty.

1 Large block of Paneer
1 onion
1 Capsicum
chopped spinach
Finely chopped Coriander leaves
To Marinade:
1/2 cup Curd  (plain yogurt)
1 tsp Garlic paste
1 tsp Ginger Paste
2 tsp Tandoori powder
1 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
2 tsp Chaat powder
Salt to taste
Red chili Powder to taste
  • Cut Paneer into long 1/2" thick cubes.

  • Cut all vegetables into cubes.

  • Mix all ingredients for marinade and keep aside.

  • Add the left marinade to the vegetables and paneer.

  • Heat oil and fry marinated paneer and veges until cooked.

  • In a plate arrange fried vegetables and paneer on rice.

  • Garnish with coriander and lemon slices

  • Serve tandoori paneer tikka hot with hari chutney.

  • me.

    9 June 2011

    Piccolo trumpet

    Yes, you have at least heard the piccolo trumpet, even if you've never heard of it.

    David Mason died recently. He's the piccolo trumpet player on Penny Lane. More known as a jazz player, he also did a number of orchestral works including flugalhorn in the premiere of Vaughan Williams 9th symphony.

    Damn that's a great song.


    7 June 2011

    Whisky Cabal Meeting 4

    Most of the cabal assembled last night to taste more drams, down one doctor, we knew our chances of coming through the tasting were slim, but bravely ploughed on.

    First up was a trinity of Mortlach drams. Known for being massive sherry speyside monsters ...

    Mortlach 21yo 40%
    N: hay, grassy, salt, and most memorably : drying nicely cut grass, not festering grass.  (remember, this was the first of the night...)
    P: light, toffee, pepper, and salt
    F: medium length and salty.

    As you can see, not your usual speyside sherry monster. And the salt is quite prevalent. However it is a very very drinkable dram, and so scored 7/10. I just flicked through my tasting notes when I bought it, and I'd given it a 7.5/10 so good consistency there.

    SMWS 76.71 20yo 60.1% "Tasty pastry and mellow morello" 1/606 bottles
    N: manly, sherry, christmas cake, toffee
    P: christmas cake, very sweet finish, marzipan
    F: very long, more sweetness, coffee and chocolate

    +water: more mellow, more cherry and leather.

    Ahhh there's the Mortlach. I think it's fair to say this dram was popular. Complex, full bodied, and ideal for those cold winter nights. 8.5/10

    SMWS 76.77 "Hansel and Gretel" 16yo 58.6% 1/604 bottles, 1st fill sherry butt
    N: sherry, christmas cake (but less than 76.71), vanilla (hint of), marmalade
    P: prickly, sweet, orange, strawberries, cloves, 
    F: medium length

    +water: opens up, loses the prickliness, cinnamon/raisin toast came through.

    This one certainly struck you more than the 76.71, which seemed to creep up with its promises of christmas in a bottle. But we all agreed this was still a damn fine bottle, and one of those whiskies which needed the water to open it properly, as such we gave it two scores: 8/10 (neat); 8.5/10 (water)

    Aberfeldy "Rich's mystery malt" 43% Connoisseurs Choice d1990 b2010 20yo
    N: grassy, fresh, sweet
    P: light, smooth, apples, smokey, lemon meringue pie
    F: med-short

    A very drinkable dram for Rich's mystery malt, we were impressed with how it cut through two cask strength whiskies as well. Aberfeldy distillery usually gets ignored, given its vistor centre is the Dewar's World of Whisky themepark bollox. 
    General impression was very drinkable, and good quaffing, and so: 7/10

    SMWS 64.29 "White chocolate coated lemons and limes" 9yo 58.8% 1st fill barrel, ex-bourbon, 1/225
    N: chlorine, sweet, recently cut grass, love hearts (that's from the English tasters)
    P: salty, sweet, watermelon, white chocolate, citrus, dry
    F: bitterness (limes), and long

    addition of water made the dram smoother, but didn't change the flavour. 
    The whisky hails from Mannochmore, another Speyside, I don't think we've had a Mannochmore before, but on the strength of this one, I won't say no to another. It impressed us for complexity for such a young speyside. 

    SMWS 73.41 "Sweet and citric counterpoints" 1/286 bottles, 2nd fille hogshead ex-bourbon 13yo 58.8%
    N: hint of salt, fresh cut pine, bitter lime, subtle nose
    P: spiky, huge, bitter citrus, hot and spicy jalapeno, very fighty!, WTF?!
    F: big finish

    addition of water made it quite quaffable, less interesting but more drinkable, certainly less acidic but more subtlety to the lime. Another Speyside too, this time Aultmore, which we'd tasted another SMWS of (73.34) back in our inaugural cabal meeting.
    This one divided us, mainly as it is a huge whisky, without water our scoring ranged from 6.5-7.5/10, with water we agreed on 7.5/10. I think we may need to revisit this one.

    SMWS 9.55 "Gourmet icecream at the movies" 25yo 52.6% 1/249 bottles, refill hogshead, ex-bourbon
    N: PVA glue, cheap new car smell, sweet, nuts
    P: complex, sweet, honey (?manuka), lime (bitter citrus), thick
    F: hot, pepper - but very short, more manuka honey after a bit

    Addition of water brought out more fudge and caramel flavours.

    We liked this one a lot, we'd had it before - around Christmas, when Alec got a bottle - although I don't think we made notes. It's a Glen Grant, which we've had a few of in the past, but this one was a wee bit good: 8.5-9/10

    And at that point we closed business for the fourth cabal meeting. We are still looking at a field trip (SMWS in London is most likely), and there is radical talk of branching out to beer and cheese. 

    I haven't heard from the other two this morning, but then again, there's been no messages sent saying XX won't be in, as they've died. So I guess that's another win for the cabal.


    5 June 2011

    My weekend does not lack for excitement

    Yesterday I went to Leicester, a city I don't like much, to drop off my DVD player to get fixed. It's been a tough week or so with no DVD player, but somehow we've coped. Headed back to Lboro and did some food shopping, and as usual got frustrated with the lack of things I wanted - although to be fair, it's much easier to find black treacle here than in NZ. And I needed that for the whisky cake.
    Headed to the pub, our newly adopted 'local', the Generous Britain which has recently been taken over by ex-members of our previous 'local', the Swan in the Rushes.
    Watched the Barbarians v Wales game there, which was nice - good beer, nice crowd, and another member of the cabal was there, then headed home.

    Today, oh today, peaking of excitement. I've done writing. I've made a whisky cake to use up my Glenfiddich Solera (not a huge fan of 'fiddich), made some choc and blueberry muffins, roasted some veges for lunch, and about to kick off a vege green thai curry for dinner. A lot of this has been to procrastinate between writing bursts, but it's worked out.

    Oh in sad news: the basil plants mentioned earlier in my herb growing efforts, have died. The parsley and coriander are growing like the weeds they are, but basil has passed on. Your thoughts at a difficult time are much appreciated.
    If anyone has any tips for keeping basil alive, they'd be very welcome... the only time I had a healthy basil plant was in Queen St (Wgtn) and then the feckin' mouse ate it. No really, Mt Victoria vermin infestations are of a better class...


    2 June 2011

    Whats in the news this week

    yes I know I said I'd mention the second round of gigs from the great week, but in the meantime, here's a couple of articles that have caught my eye.

    The Pope has closed a Cistercian monastery. The monks (an ecclesiastical term referring to orders whose life is bound by vows of chastity, poverty and obedience) have been closed down due to 'loose living'. In particular, running a 24hr hotel with a limousine service, and possibly of more interest, concerts starring a lap-dancer-turned-nun.
    I'm sure I've seen that b-grade...

    One more serious article, that I may try and check out more of the science behind, is claiming that the home-test market for genetic diseases is a load of crock. In principle I'd agree with them, there's too many variables for most of these tests. But what was interesting is that they used a variety of kits, and all gave wildly different results. That's very concerning as most other variables were controlled for. What does this mean? well if you were home-testing for heart disease, and got a 'bad' result, what effect would that have? Possible implications for insurance policies?
    As a brush-stroke criticism, most of these diseases are polygenic, or at least are heavily influenced by the environment - so one of the genes predisposing you to a disease, does not equal having the disease. A good example of this interaction is alcoholism, you may have the genes that predispose you to being an alcoholic, but remember a) you'll never become one if you don't drink, and b) if you can show some will-power and control your drinking, then again, you won't be classed as an alcoholic.

    The papers appear to have returned to normal, Obama isn't featuring on every bloody news article. It's been like a media wet-dream recently.

    Oh yeah the other thing, the arsenic lifeforms reported late last year have been seriously questioned in Science this week. to recap, the entirely unexpected finding of some bacteria that appeared to be able to live using arsenic as a substrate shocked (mild understatement) a lot of scientists. Some of them have now published a critique of the research. We await developments...
    (me: I think it woudl be cool, but it's not an area I know much about, so for a change, I'm sitting on the fence)

    right, back to music and Springback 100 proof.