Friday, 28 October 2011

What do you buy the Aston Martin owning guitarist?

Now I'm sure this has been a problem for many of you over the years.  Well we know have the solution.

Aston Martin guitars and amps!!!

Inspired by the Gibson Corvette guitar (Yuk!) and the Fender Jaguar Strat these are now available for order.

The guitar is a high tech carbon fibre affair made by Status.

Love the logo between the pickups and the Aston style "vent" on the upper bout, although I wonder if any punks out there might find that injury inducing as they thrash windmill style around.  Punks playing this... maybe not.

Anyway so you've got the DB9, Vantage or what ever and your beloved has bought you the guitar.  You can't possibly just plug it into any old amp can you?  No of course not.  Enter the Aston Martin amp

I love how this looks - the grill has real 1960s DB4 look about it.

More info at Aston Martins guitar and amp site.

Now for the painful bit...

The guitar is £5,995 and the amp is £7,995!!  Available from World Guitars if your bank balance can stomach it.   Just one thing, would both these fit in the boot of an Aston?  How rubbish would that look scratching you DB9 fighting to get these off the back seats!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

RIP Amy Winehouse

So now we know.

The verdict of "misadventure" brings a close this sad story.  "Misadventure" - sounds almost a playful word, a lark, mucking about and something went wrong.  Drinking yourself to death is not just mucking about that went wrong.

The official level of alcohol in her body was 416mg per 100ml.  Apparently 350mg per 100ml can be considered likely to bring on fatal consequences.  The drink drive limit is 80mg.

I dread to think what levels were in my system at times - especially towards the end.  I was barred from a pub for life in the last few weeks since I was drinking pints of Guinness faster than they could be poured.  I know one day I gave up counting at 20 pints - got off the stool and drove home!  Utterly ridiculous -  somehow I never killed myself or others.

The story of Amy having been abstinent for a while then picking up again isn't novel either.  I hear this time and again in the rooms of AA.  I myself stopped for about 6 weeks at one point in the last year of my drinking.  But of course then the voice said "So you must be cured now" and I had a pint.  Nothing bad happened, so I had another and another and another... Everytime in that last year when I did stop for a few days/weeks when I started again soon it was back as bad, in fact actually worse, than before.

RIP Amy - all I can really say is "There but for the grace of God (who I don't actually believe in by the way but it is a figure of speech) go I"

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Interesting BBC programmes

I'm seriously ill by the way - I have the man flu - which if you are male you'll understand that I am very very nearly at deaths door and how I struggle on is a triumph against all adversity.   Hang on why I just slurp my extra strength LemSip....

Right - I'll not dwell on my serious medical condition clearly...

I watched a couple of great programmes last night during a "home alone" period when my daughter and wife were at swimming training.

Firstly Dr Alice Roberts has an entertaining and educational programme on at the moment about the evolution of human beings.  This was the second in the series.  It is interesting the kind of things they are showing in the development of bipedal humans from tree dwelling apes in the forests.  Driven by climate and forced change of habitat as the world changed around our ancestors.  Interesting stuff - looking at how we evolved to a particular type of diet, why cooking might be the reason we developed bigger brains than the species before us etc. 

Secondly I watched a programme with Marcus du Sautroy, who actually makes me wish I had paid more attention in A level Maths, in which he discussed the recent announcement of measurement of the speed of neutrinos being slightly above the speed of light.  He brilliantly (valiantly) tried to explain why this matters, it blows up a lot of Einstein's theory, explains why for mathematicians there isn't a problem with something travelling faster than the speed of light (it just needs to come into existence at that speed, it can never be accelerated past that speed since that would take infinite energy).  Now the problem could be a measurement issue, or some such.  It was all jolly interesting, and again I listened to string theory in 4 minutes and simply have to say... sorry don't get it!!  I doubt I'm the only one.  Anyway - if you want to be confused, educated, entertained and bewildered all within an hour worth a watch.

I reflected briefly on the link between these two programmes.  It was (in the grand scheme of things) only a short time ago that we were running around hunting game and digging up roots etc. as our only way of survival - now we are arrogant enough to talk about theories of "everything".

Sunday, 23 October 2011

RIP Marco

Only a week after having to share the sad loss of Dan Wheldon very sadly MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli died at today's Malaysian MotoGP race.  He had a front end fold on the second lap and sadly instead of him and the bike sliding straight off into the gravel trap for some reason the bike came back across the track and he was hit by two other riders.  His helmet came off in the impact and it was obvious from that split second that this was very bad news.  The race was abandoned and soon it was announced that Marco had not survived the crash.  He was 24.  He'd come 2nd last week for the first time ever - had struck a deal to be a brand new Honda next year and would have won GPs soon and possibly been a champion.

A very very sad loss - This year Marco I watched you mature and try hard to get rid of the wild man image some branded you with and the last few races showed you were a true threat to the top riders.  Love and prayers to his family and friends trying to come to terms with a tragic young loss.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Quick Book reviews - Death of Kings - Bernard Cornwell, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Death of Kings - Bernard Cornwell.

The latest in Cornwells Lord Uhtred series.  This one finds devout pagan, Danish raised Uhtred still fighting for the Saxons.  Alfred the Great is nearing the end of his life without seeing his dream of all England united in a single kingdom... the squables with the Danelaw in the majority of the north of the country overshadow this.  With Alfred near to death some scheme to take the crown of Wessex for themselves, others eye Mercia the puppet kingdom that is a buffer between Wessex and Danelaw.  Others want peace - peace?  With Uhtred about?  No chance!  Even in his 40s he is the most feared Saxon warrior.  This brilliantly tells the history around the narrative of Uhtred and his follows.

I love Cornwell's stuff - if you love old history and fictional novels based way back when - read this.  Makes you proud to be British and descended from these tough guys!  As I sit there reading it on a Kindle in the HS1 into St Pancras...  GRRR!  Maybe I should shout "Shield wall on me" next time they cancel the 17:27 to Broadstairs and see what happens?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lot of hype around these 3 books and the death of the author - however I can see why.  Captivating read frankly.  Brilliant if odd main characters, twisted plot lines evil villains at each turn, even Nazi's!!  One of the best thrillers I've read in ages.  Top stuff.

If only I was like the main character - he seems to be able to bed any female between 25 and 60 with no more than a smile and his intellect... cobblers!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I want it all and I want it NOW!!!

This post is about change, fear, anxiety, faith etc.

I'm slowly getting into the new job.  It has been an interesting journey so far.  Basically I've been recruited into a new position in the organisation that actually is yet to fully exist.  This is because they are only a certain way through all the proposed changes to the division I'm in and therefore I've joined as head of a group that won't exist until all the changes are completed and that is still a little way off.  So it is a little bit odd at the moment, there is stuff going on in the existing structure which I'm listening to but not actively involved in.  I've been involved in some of the organisational change stuff working with my boss and others on the job descriptions and gradings with HR. Work is beginning to come along that I can pick up on since new stuff, like some bids for new projects don't have an obvious owner other than myself so that is ok.

But overall I just feel not quite there yet.  Change takes time and I'm only just knocking on the door of 4 weeks here and in a large complex organisation with multiple drivers, stakeholders etc. it is to be expected that you can't get to know it all in anything like that time.

And I know all this - change curves like this are natural.  Some things already feel natural - the morning regime of getting up getting ready and walking to the station - sorry did I say "walking"?!  Yes I commute on the train now so have a 20 min walk to the station, a 10 min walk at the other end and the same in the evening... well not totally true the lovely Mrs F most days picks me up about half way back from the station which is exceptionally kind of her.  I've sussed out a couple of good places for a coffee/tea break during the day and a couple of nice cafes if I need to get a hot lunch.  Like I say in some ways it seems I've been doing this for ages not just a few weeks.

But there is an anxiety about this all, mostly about (as ever) my ability to achieve in the role etc.  I'm a born pessimist with a healthy dose of negativity thrown in for good measure.  Fear of the unknown and anxiety about the change is not to be unexpected.  I need to ride the wave of this out.  I need more faith in myself, as a friend once said about a different job move - "You can do the job, they wouldn't have employed you if not" (Simple!) and also faith that whatever the outcome it will all be good.  What's the worst that can happen?  Well I suppose I could lose the job, but that's surely unlikely.  The consultancy I left to come here were sorry to lose me and I've had recent independent corroboration of that, so there proof that I'm not a complete dunce.  However in my head there is always the little voice saying "well pulled the wool over their eyes didn't you" - even though I didn't!

It will be - I really like much about the place, people and atmosphere.  It is certainly different working in a research university to where I've previously worked but it is certainly a nice place to be.

One of the phrases I hated in AA when I first came about was "time takes time"... but I want it now!  I want it all and I want it now! (To quote Freddie Mercury).   To think a year ago I was out of work and busy decorating.  Not long after that I started beginning to look around for a job - I applied for a ton that I never even got a polite brush off reply from and many where it was "you don't fit the necessary requirements" etc.  As ever I put on a brave face to most but inside started to seriously panic that I was never going to find a job again.  Now look at me - I had two offers on the table a few weeks back - I had a choice to make!  Time takes time...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Sad news

My post about champions is more poignant than ever in the cold light this morning.  I had half thought of holding on hoping to be able to report another British Champion - name Dario Franchitti as Indycar champ for the fourth time.  Whilst he is champion the manner of the last race leaves all that in the shade.  The terrible loss of Dan Wheldon another great British driver who had conquered America was just so so sad.

Motorsport is dangerous.  I watched the movie Senna over the weekend and was in tears around the final few mins when they covered that awful weekend in 1994 when he and Roland Ratzenberger lost their lives - motorsport is much safer now than then but it is still dangerous.

Dan Wheldon was a great driver, sadly not with a regular drive this year which for a past champion was mad frankly.  He turned out once this year at the Indy 500 and won!  Shows the quality of the man without doubt.

A sad loss and over shadows motorsport...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Champions decided

It is the end of the motorsport seasons... so we know Vettel is now the youngest ever double world champion, his dominant win at Korea is another in his remarkable year.  Will he rewrite all the record books?  Possibly the way he is going.

MotoGP wrapped up in Australia aptly enough with Cassey Stoner fully deserving his second world crown - he has been slightly Vettel like on his Honda whilst Rossi has struggled to get around with the Ducati, which whilst Cassey didn't win the championship on it last year, he at least was in the hunt.  Rossi unfortunately fell off again today in the nasty Philip Island conditions.  I wonder if he is thinking "Maybe I should have walked away from this before now?"  Next year will show the man.

Nearer home Matt Neal won the BTCC crown in the last meeting which was not really that exciting as Plato couldn't challenge on a circuit where the outright speed of the turbo powered cars showed.  However it was a see-saw year in that championship and if it had rained today in Nottinghamshire you never know...

However to cap them all so far was the deciding round of the BSB last week at Brands.  Last race, last lap and Tommy Hill (local town hero) and John Hopkins (USA ex-MotoGP star who has had a chqeuered past and is rebuilding his career) go into it second and third separated by 2 points at the head of the table.  Whoever crossed the line first won all.  They overtook at pretty much every corner you can, Hill's slide into Sheene (old Dingle Dell) was frankly unbelievable!  Then Hopkins was back past going into the last corner but went slightly wide and Tommy was on him as they swept up the straight to the line and they crossed... with Tommy just in front the margin officially 6 one thousands of a second.  Unbelievable.  Great for Tommy for his first title but you had to feel for Hopkins he raced hard and fair with a bad injury picked up a month or so back but no excuses from him.

What a shame that you have to watch it either on Eurosport or wait like I do for the highlights on ITV4 later in the week.  We have some great motorsport in this country it is sadly not given the level of TV coverage I feel it warrants.

Watch this!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My continued rise as an international singer/songwriter

... well that has to be a bit (er... a lot actually) tongue in cheek to be honest but I do have somethings to be proud of.

I got an email from PRS yesterday which outlined my recent royalty earnings.  All bar a little bit of change I'll soon be £50 richer!!!  Now that may not cause the bank to call me in for a wealth management interview but I'm pretty chuffed.  I have a piece of paper (well a PDF but I can print it out) that has a list of my songs on it and the amounts paid due to the performances of them.  See I can show this to my grandkids when I'm old and grey :-)

The income is from me playing my stuff live at various gigs etc.  But it does show the value of becoming a member of PRS if you are a musician performing live music.  Every venue should be licensed for live music if you are playing there, they have paid a sum to PRS already based on size of the venue etc. for that.  Therefore there is a pot of money that PRS has hold of already that should be distributed to the writers of the material being played at their venue.  So effectively this is "free" money - all you have to do is join and remember to register your works with them and then your gigs when you perform.  In the words of a Russian Meerkat (my daughter still won't believe me they don't come from there) "Simples!".  Previous posts of mine on PRS are first PRS cheque I got and SoundCheck Event Review.

Secondly I've had some more airplay courtsey of my good blogging pal 4Dinners over at Scooter Forums Radio.  He has a great Sunday evening show 6pm - 8pm where you'll find an eclectic mix of his own favourite stuff ranging from Pistols to GnR to ska and 2Tone etc..  He is also flying the flag for unsigned artists featuring such as yours truly and a few others.  So in the last month anyone in the world with an internet connection could have tuned in and heard my stuff - that is a potential audience of billions isn't it?  Ok in truth a handful of people will tune in but what the heck I am still getting some exposure.

Couple this with my son having a photograph being used as the back drop for the website for Futures current free download the Furtheron family is pushing the boundaries of popular mass media consumption.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

it can be cruely short

Regular commenter on this blog JohnJayJay posted a comment on my Birthday Post the following wise words

To paraphrase: "Getting older isn't necessarily fun, but it beats the hell out of not getting older...if you know what I mean."   (He quotes his mother as the source btw)

Events in the news over the last two days bring that succinctly into focus.

Steve Jobs founder and CEO of Apple Computers has passed away aged 56.

Graham Dilley ex. Kent and England fast bowler has died aged 52.

Now - both of my generation, Graham Dilley I remember watching back in the early 80s when I went to sample cricket at Canterbury with an old school pal.

Life can be cruely short and makes me realise I should live my life with a bit more happiness, smiles and passion and less frowns, angst and resentment.

Sad too to note that Bert Jansch has passed away.  Davy Graham, John Martyn and now Bert, they may not be names that every household is aware of but their influence in the folk movements of the 60s and 70s cannot be understated.  They have influenced a generation of guitarists and indirectly another generation.  Strikes me that in the last year or so we have lost the vanguard of a great guitar troubadour legacy.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

CD Reviews

Long time no reviews... I need to put that right.

Firstly here is a first for good old Luddite Furtheron, funny I work in IT and generally do believe that technology is a great thing, look at what it does give us... just look around you now; simply from the clothes you are wearing, the chair you are (probably) sitting in, the computer you are reading this on, the internet that delivered it, the electricity needed all over the place to do that and provide the light, heating, cooling etc. etc.    I'm going on a bit but anyway... the first of these reviews is actually... a download review!!!  I know, I know but it is true Furtheron for once didn't buy a hard copy CD so that he could then read the lyrics, timing of tracks to the nearest second, muse on the value of the various engineers on particular tracks etc.  I decided to buy something, went to Amazon, clicked on it, downloaded it and bunged it on my MP3 player in a matter of seconds... damn clever all this new fangled stuff isn't it?  :-)

Opeth - Heritage

There is more than a sense of irony that my first ever major release purchase on line (I've bought single tracks and stuff before) is actually a new album that harks back to previous time.  I've liked Opeth stuff I've heard before (Son-of-Furtheron has some of theirs) up until the point the singing starts then sadly the death metal, throat stripping shouty things are just not for me try as I might since I like the sound of the music underneath.

However I'd listened to this on a streaming service a day or so before it came out and was really pleased that the vocals were not like that.  Also musically the whole thing is clearly a homage to the influences from the 70s that have shaped Opeth as one of the stand out groups in modern prog rock.  To my ears much more King Crimson than Genesis or Yes but others may look to BJH and others in there as well.  For modern parallels it is very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree material.  If you are an old prog-head that bemoans lack of new music you like then do try this I think you'll be convinced there is valid prog being created out there in the 21st century and not just from the likes of Yes getting themselves back to a good creative space.

John Martyn - Heaven and Earth

A difficult CD for me to review this.  Regular readers of this blog may know that Johnny holds an intensely special place in my heart.  I discovered him through BBC Rock Goes to College I think back in the 70s when I saw him perform one of his solo acoustic but with a pickup gaffer taped onto his Martin through a bunch of effects, not least his Echoplex.  I won't say it was love at first sight, it took me a while to get into his stuff but that initial meeting blew me away.  It must have been about the time I read Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and was confronted by people doing stuff in music and writing I just found as utterly bewildering at first contact but alluring and exciting as well.  I then was a great admirer of John's "band" period with Grace and Danger still one of my all time favourite albums which some Martyn fans will find perhaps odd but the emotion and musicianship on that album still are to me amazing.

As many of you will no doubt know John passed away last year.  I'm friends with a cousin of his who is still struggling to come to terms with that on a personal level which shows the mark of the man.  Heaven and Earth is a collection of "unfiinished" work that he had been producing in the lead up to his death.  Therefore this has been completed after his sad and untimely demise.  In that is a worry as you wonder what he would have left on, taken off, changed or added to.  Who knows but I'm still very pleased it was released, whereas his previous release On the Cobbles was a part return to the more acoustic troubadour material this is back into the jazzy band flavour which is as I've said stuff I love from him.  Phill Collins a collaborator on Grace and Danger and subsequently releases and tours is back with John again and his vocals with John's is a spine tingling combination.  A fitting farewell?  For me I'd say yes without a doubt, it is clear he wasn't a well man at some points but frankly this is a mighty Martyn release.   The real stand out track for me is the Phil Collins written Can't Turn Back the Years - given the subsequent events a more poignant epitaph cannot be created.  At least with John we have the legacy of his albums, I defy anyone not to listen to Solid Air, Grace and Danger and Heaven and Earth and not be left with a conundrum of feelings all centring your thoughts on what a genius Mr Martyn was in capturing emotion in music.

Joshua Radin - The Rock and The Tide

I bought this having seen it on the discount rack in HMV.  Now I bought Simple Times a while back when we saw him backing up Jools Holland at the Rochester Castle gig in July 2009, before he started to get the bigger recognition.  I remember my daughter singing along to a song of his on the radio and I said something about the rest of the album and she was impress/dismayed (take your pick :-)) that I was so hip!

Anyway - this album is actually closer to what I remember from that stormy night in Rochester where Mr Radin was more aghast at playing in the setting of a Norman Castle than anything else.  It is less whimsical solo guitar and voice and a bit more band/rock orientated and that is fine by me.  I like this album quiet a bit and it is a good driving / train listening album, something not requiring the attention of something like Opeth but with songs that pull you in... Mrs F and Daughter-of-Furtheron like it too hence enhancing it's choice as a car journey accompaniment... Son-of-Furtheron would no doubt refer to this as middle class coffee table music.  :-)

Incubus - If Not Now, When?

I discovered Incubus a few years ago and was lucky enough to see an impressive performance of them some years back at the Reading festival - whenever it was that Iron Maiden headlined there.  The last CD of theirs was Light Grenades which I thought a brilliant release.  Since then they have had a little bit of a hiatus over the last 5 years they return with a really credible platter.  They are a very restrained and thoughtful band I feel, they have times of very sparse instrumentation that couple with super vocal performances to deliver some powerful songs which lyrically all appear to be on the theme of love.  Strong stand outs are the opening title track itself and Isadore which certainly sticks in my head.  Perhaps more laid back than previous outings for them it is none the worse for it and worth a listen if you've liked any of their previous efforts or want to find something a little of the standard radio playlist fodder for Coldplay, Snow Patrol etc. but in a similar vein.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A couple of book reviews

I owe you all some book reviews... and CD reviews..

Books first...

Conquest 1066 - Stewart Binns

This covers the life of Hereward who is a legendary figure from around the time of the Battle of Hastings about whom little is known about his life.  This is an attempt to therefore create a fictional account to embellish his life in which he is made an outlaw at an early age, travels widely and becomes a hugely respected soldier.  Up to the point of the recounting of the Battle of Hastings this was a captivating read.  Sadly after that you know that his attempts at the rebellion fail so it is a bit of disappointment from then on I'm afraid and I lost interest in it - that is also disappointing since he is portrayed as a man who after that went on to live further adventures but these are not covered.  Sad, I'd have preferred a briefer recount of his rebellion and more on his later life story.

For anyone into historical novels it is a reasonable read.

Marks of Cain - Tom Knox

Modern day thriller with a twist involving Nazi's, terrorists etc.  There appears to be two different plots for a while that keeps you entertained... however the drawing of them together almost made me wonder if Tom himself got bored of writing two plots and late one night thought what's the easiest way to pull these together... it seemed a little shabby sadly on that bit. 

Also some of the possible themes of the book are a bit "out there" in terms of stretching reality I thought.  But then he has used real evidence to support the storyline.

All in all a reasonable "airport thriller" but a bit lacking in oomph at the end, it just got a bit repetitive the one twist I thought was there wasn't a twist at all.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Another year done

The really observant of you all may have noticed a single character in my profile has changed.  An 8 and changed to a 9 - yes folks it is my birthday today and I've entered my fifth decade on this planet.  My daughter is constantly now reminding me that I have only one year until I'm 50, however I was thinking it funny that we actually count our ages as years past.  You are nought when born... funny you don't count money like that or houses... who lives a 0 Station Road?  If we counted years like money I'd be 50 already.

An inevitable sign of my age is that I needed new glasses, the biggest problem the last years is reading I have to take them off to read then back on to look at the TV etc.  So I've got a pair of varifocals now.  I'll see how I get on with them but so far not too bad.   Although I get strange looks as I move my head about looking at things at the moment, I'm trying to figure out the best bit to look through for this or that.

Anyway - after we'd been out for an early birthday meal yesterday and a walk along the river my darling daughter busied herself in the kitchen and this is now awaiting my return home after work :-)