Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bublé!!

In a momentary lapse of reason I clicked on "add to basket" for the Michael Bublé Christmas CD when on Amazon the other week.  My wife and daughter both wanted it for the lead up to the festivities of Christmas.  Oh Lord forgive me - I must make amends!

It arrived yesterday and on the journey home I walked from the station to my mother-in-laws where Mrs F and Daughter-of-Furtheron were having dinner.  We got into Mrs F's car to drive home and they had said CD in the player and preceeded to torture me with it.  The drive home is less than 10 mins - I can walk it in 20 and wished I had.  Finally I had to crack wound down the window and screamed out "Help! Get me out of here they are playing Bublé".  The woman walking her dog seemed a little surprised.

Now Mr Bublé is very popular but every time I hear him I just don't get it at all, it is cheesy, sickly, dummed down crooning, and he is devoid of any emotion in any delivery of any song I've heard, I just see him swaying on stage winking at the prettiest middle aged MILF that catches his eye in the first 5 rows, honestly I really wonder if he started the whole thing as a parody and no-one but me gets it?

To restore my sanity this morning I had John Martyn on the MP3 player on the train and was moved close to tears more than once.   There is a man who could, write, sing, play and just pour emotion into his fingers and throat...  Mr Bublé take note, music is about emotion not simply play/singing all the right notes in all the right order.

I just found this fantastic version of I Don't Want To Know on Youtube from the great BBC Transatlantic Sessions series... love it!



Now see that's better isn't it... RIP dear Johnny - forever in my heart and soul.

Grateful

I was going to post about the economy, the Chancellor's statement (Osborne, not Valorum, though you might think we've gone over the dark side given the perilous state of everything), the strike, the debt mountain - I started typing it on the way into work after reading the paper.   But frankly is was a miserable post that concluded we are all doomed, capitalism is reaching it's ultimate zenith of a small number with huge wealth and the rest of us fighting for existence from the scraps from their tables.  So I binned it - what's the point?

Now what is worth talking about is that I went to a meeting last night I've not been to in ages.  No real reason except that family circumstances make Tuesday less than ideal for me to be out that night every week.  I had been invited along by the secretary to be the speaker.  Now 6 years or so ago this was one of my "home groups" I was secretary myself and the guy who is now secretary was himself a struggling newcomer who couldn't sustain a fragile sobriety and went back out there for 2 more years of misery before coming back again.  He is now sober, well, healthy, working - in fact doing remarkably well in his job, got a nice place to live, a new girlfriend etc. etc.  A sober success story and a lovely, lovely bloke.

A lady came in for her first meeting.  she wasn't well, her husband had brought her.  As I started my story she became disruptive, she didn't mean it, she needed a drink or some pills, her husband you could tell was at his wits end.  Two of the regular female members of the group took her out of the room and the rest of the meeting was held with her wailing in the background.  I hope she comes back when of a mind to be receptive to it.  You don't turn up at an AA meeting in the first place if it isn't shit - it clearly was very shit for her yesterday.

Gratitude - I'm sober.  How?  Buggered if I know sometimes I just don't pick up a drink now - I know it'll make it all worse not better.  I like waking up not feeling like shit, sweaty, head pounding, hating myself and the world and picking a fight with the world from the moment I open my eyes.  I'm alive, I'm sober, I'm healthy, I'm warm, I have food in my belly and licence for my telly - to quote Paulo Nutini.  He goes on to say that "best of all I've got my baby".... well for me "best of all I've got my sobriety"  (I know it doesn't scan into the music - forgive me)  without that I'm nothing.  And at the end of the meeting "the promises" were read out as is tradition at many meetings...  now whilst I can't say "fear of economic insecurity" has left me or "the feeling of self pity" has totaly slipped away in that room with a lot of memories of my early sobriety with some influential friends I'd not seen in a while I did indeed feel that I've made some significant progress over the last 7 years or so... not perfection thankfully my ego has enough of it's own will but some progress to be sure.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Gig Review - Gordon Giltrap Brook Theatre Chatham 24-Nov-2011

Another visit by Mr Giltrap to the old Town Hall in Chatham.  The Brook makes use of the old Town Hall's main ballroom which is a spacious but still reasonably intimate setting for Gordon's one man show.  I've seen him several times here now - Gordon has affection for Kent as he was born in the county and has many family connections still with the area.

As ever Gordon was on top form playing through many old classics, Dublin Day, On Camber Sands, Heartsong, Lucifer's Cage etc. whilst interlacing in material off his latest album Shinning Morn in particular showing off his capabilities using a partial capo on a couple of numbers.

As ever Gordon entertains between the songs with anecdotes, jokes and whimsical tales.  He is a man of very pleasant company.

For all the guitar maniacs out there here is my recollection of the guitars used

Vintage Gordon Giltrap signature
Fylde dreadnought
Fylde 12 string - 1970s vintage which Gordon recently acquired and frankly sounded fantastic!
Rob Armstrong "baby" guitar (Lord's Seat and Here Comes the Sun)
Rob Armstrong small bodied guitar - used for Appalachian Dreaming in replacement of the old "boot sale" guitar
Vintage AV3 semi - fitted with a piezo bridge, used on Dodo's Dream.

In particular the Vintage signature model held it's own given it's sub £400 street price against the £2000 plus price tags (at least) of the others on stage.  I'd seriously like to get both a 6 and 12 string model of that myself... however I doubt my playing will do them justice!

A brilliant night out - whether you are a guitar nut or not, a night out at a Gordon gig is really good.  Now I'm a player and there to be wowed by some of his brilliant technique but as he said "All that matters is whether you like the sound of the tune or not".  Spot on and to show that is more than true several times I found myself drifting off into the music, taken to wherever it wanted to take me and only at the end of the piece did I realise I'd stopped trying to figure out how he does the trills so quick or what was the strumming pattern there etc. etc.  Truly great music played superbly.

Book Review - The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The concluding book in the Millennium trilogy and a gripping one at that.  At the end of the 2nd book there was a tense ending with still unanswered questions (clearly) and this book picks up directly at the final point of the preceding title.

Once again the two heroes of the piece at Lisbeth Salander - who is one of the oddest main characters in any series of books you may find and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist. 

So firstly - you can't really read these books out of sequence, especially this one follows so much from The Girl Who Played With Fire that frankly I suspect you'd be totally lost before long.  However if you have read the first two there are still a bunch of questions to be answered about what happened to Lisbeth in her childhood and how none of this has ever come to the surface before. 

Without trying to give too much of the plot away Lisbeth is in hospital gravely ill and still likely to come before the court on a series of charges relating to the incidents in the previous book.  Blomkvist is determined to help her despite her reticence to ask for any help or to engage in any dialogue with authority figures.  Finally you start to get beneath the outer layers of her in this book and begin to understand, in part, why she behaves as she does.

The whole plot revolves around several groups and their investigations into the events and also those that will stop at nothing to conceal the original truth and there are a couple of interesting sub plots as well.

And the ending... well just let's say that the seed was very much sown for the next in the series... and there lies the rub and the real life bizarre controversy around this series.  If you don't know Stieg died suddenly just after the first three books were accepted for publication.  His long time partner had collaborated on these, has the uncompleted manuscript for the fourth and allegedly outlines for up to 6 more.  However Stieg died without a will and without marrying his partner Eva Gabrielsson so by Swedish law his father and brother inherited his estate, which with the sudden international success of the novels was not inconsiderable.  Eva has refused all offers asking repeated for the total rights to the works, not she claims for the money but to manage them as Stieg would have wanted. 

I'd love to read the 4th novel if it ever comes out.  There is a trilogy of films (in Swedish) and the first is a soon to be release Hollywood block buster.

In fact sooner or later the whole story behind the real life story may become a book/film... Larsson was himself a journalist who publicly exposed some nasty folks - not unlike Mr Blomkvist in the books.  His death maybe simply one of those things but I'm sure there is a list of conspiracy theories as long as your arm as well.

Anyway to sign off on the book - a compelling read if you've got into the characters via the first two books.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The A13 blues

Didn't Billy Brag do a Route66 rip off way back about the A13?

Well it was hardly the road of dreams on Tuesday night!  We did manage to get to the gig all on time, but the air was blue in the Furtheronmobile at one point.  There is a bunch of roundabouts all together all with a gazillion cones around them and seemingly not one iota of a sign that might actually tell you what chuffing exit to take! 

Whatever - we got there as I say in time and Daughter-of-Futheron had a great time.  Mrs F and I retreated up the road to a little Italian restaurant with a good set menu and had a lovely meal - despite Mrs F's coffee cup falling to bits as she lifted up and coffee all over the place.  Anyway on the way back I checked the map - probably should have done more of that on the way up there and we got back a lot quicker than it took us getting there! 

I did also have a terrible nights sleep that night - been a long time since I've had a bad dose of insomnia but I really had a rubbish night being fully awake for ages between about 2 and 4 and only sort of dozing through the rest.  All normal service was resumed last night I'm pleased to say so it was purely a one off.

Off to see Gordon Giltrap in concert in Chatham tonight... living the dream or what - Southend Tuesday, Chatham Thursday when will my rollercoaster millionaire lifestyle come to an end?

Oh there was some show on the TV last night... looked like some rubbish magazine programme a bit like That's Life with Nick Knowles hosting.  Anyway somewhere along the line one of the presenters made some quote about students getting free bus passes... oh dear, Mrs F is a little touchy about bus related stuff following the great bus ticket scandal - so they got a berating email from her I think indicating they should check their facts before shooting their mouths off.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sweet 16

Well maybe not so much of the sweet?  No, no I jest honestly.

Somehow my darling daughter is 16.  16!!! Where the hell have the days, months, years gone.  Her due date was 21st of Nov.  At about 3am that morning Mrs F woke me up and said "My waters have gone"...  So into action, called the midwife, called the in-laws, made sure all the bag etc. was ready.   Midwife turns up and says "Given your waters have gone I'm calling an ambulance" - I remember Mrs F strapped to a wheel chair thing being carried down our stairs by two burly ambulance guys with her in one of her uncontrollable gigging fits.

Anyway - as with our son guess what... nothing.  All day... nothing, I thought "This'll be like last time and she'll have to be induced etc.".   Anyway with my son packed off to stay with the inlaws I left her on the ward in the late evening, and went home.  To bed - be fair I was knackered having been up half the previous night ;-) (expect plenty of comments from female readers after that one ;-))

Just got into that deep sleep at about 11:30 and the bloody phone rings.  "You better come in her contractions are starting".  So in I go...   about 3am our daughter appeared with a mop of spiky jet black hair... which is odd as that soon fell out and she has been blond (in more senses than one) ever since.  I phoned my Mum as soon as I could - about 3:30 - well she had said to call her once the baby arrived :-)

But now she is turning into quiet some young lady.  I'm awfully proud of her you know.

Tonight her birthday treat is to see Example (look him up :-)) with her lifetime best buddy in ... Southend!  Yes Mrs F and I have to amuse ourselves in Southend whilst the gig is in progress ... Southend, Tuesday night, in November... living the dream or what!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

How do they get away with it?


I looked in a well known high street pawn brokers in Chatham yesterday. I just looked in and saw a '72 style Telecaster Thinline hanging up. It said on the ticket clearly Fullerton USA - £599. WHAT! I went in...

Even before getting within 4 yrds of it I could see it was a wrong'un but I asked for it off the wall for a quick look.

Hmm.... Let us start with the obvious things I noted.

1. No serial on the headstock - I think it highly unlikely one of these would not have one, some early ones may be but.

2. No bullet truss rod. EH! All Thinlines with humbuckers had the same neck as the custom, i.e three bolt with adjuster and a bullet truss.

3. black paint inside the body... what?

4. The bridge was held on by normal woodscrews... through holes in front of the bridge pieces as well as through the centre... again WHAT!

5. no Fender stamp on the bridge saddles, which never looked like been within 5000 miles of the USA!

6. pickups - gold plated. Yes you heard me... I know. No Fender logo across them and only 2 screw fitting - all thinlines had 4 screw adjustment.

7. turn over... four bolt neck plate. Wrong. With a stamped serial number... on a USA post 72 instrument!

8. Strings anchored through a piece of plastic set in the body.... sorry not 6 brass farrules...

So I hand it back to the guy and said "That isn't a USA Fender mate" and start to explain.... He was "too busy" and moved off. I pondered a call to trading standards but what is the point - sadly though a Coldplay wannabee may well get his Dad to shell out for it for Christmas, that would be a travesty.

New song called Partial

Click on this link to hear Partial

Influenced by David Mead - using a partial capo, covers the top 5 strings at the 2nd fret leaving the low E open.

Enjoy

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Jon Gomm - Passionflower


All you can say really is... Holy Cow!  Followed by "Pass the chainsaw I need to chop up my guitar collection and give up!"

Friday, 18 November 2011

Buying tickets for gigs these days

Coldplay - Emirates Stadium June 2012.  Tickets on sale 9am Friday 18th November 2011.  I was online, logged in and punched in 3 for the unreserved seating at exactly 09:00... after a couple of mins - can't allocate your request.  Try again - 7 min wait... think I'll be clever and start a second window - neat eh!  No they've thought of that somehow via Cookies I presume or IP tracing spot it and tell me to start again - bugger.  So go again about 09:10 now... more than 15 min wait.  Hmm... not looking good.  Not unexpectedly it tells me again cannot fulfill the request.   One last try - instant rejection... sold out!  What a joke.

So I try another site - that says all the cheaper ones are sold out already so I elect for the more pricey reserved seats... yippee success, however we'll need oxygen due to the altitude we are sat at and we're in a different postcode to the stage - how come they are £20 dearer than the nearer unreserved seats?  Oh yes - of course they were all sold out... in 10 mins.... so I had little choice.    Call me a cynical old git but I bet they are already available at inflated cost on the "fan ticket exchange" sites.  The whole thing these days is a total sham.  Still I'll have a happy teenage daughter when I tell her we can go to the ball... ;-)  And of course we're lucky I have a job where I can have a coffee and have unrestricted access to the internet... how anyone who works in a job like a teacher or lorry driver or policeman etc. is ever likely to be able to buy concert tickets in the modern world is frankly beyond me - seems less than equitable.  Maybe the old days of bunking off school to stand in a queue at the box office was in fact actually fairer.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Little acts of kindness

On this blog there is a page entitled "My Drinking Story" - it is actually simply an assembly of three posts that I put up on this blog around the time of my 6th AA birthday in May 2010.  I put it there when I revamped the template etc on the blog a few months ago.  Earlier this week someone read it and left an Anonymous comment saying simply "Thank you".  How kind of them, I've no idea if they are seeking a solution to their own or someone else's drinking problem, someone struggling in recovery looking for a bit of a boost to get them through a bad day, hour, week, month or whatever.  But how kind of them to just let me know that they had read it and were grateful it was there.

Someone else in the blogsphere who is a long term reader of this blog responded to a comment I made on their blog with another act of generosity and kindness.

Both these things are quite little in the grand scheme of things but they really hit me - it is these little things that really matter.  The saying thank you, the acknowledgement of someone else and offering what you can in return.

Service is one of the three sides of the AA triangle - the long serving AA "logo".  Service, Unity and Recovery - the three pillars that AA exists on.  It is at times easy to lapse into thinking that having a service position in a group, intergroup, region etc. is your fastrack route to ticking that box.  But service doesn't have to be about simply helping the wheels of AA be lubricated and keep rolling, important though that obviously is.  Service can be - helping stack the chairs at the end of a meeting, giving someone a lift to a meeting, speaking at a meeting and then there is the little clause in Step 12... "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs".  Note the last 7 words.  It isn't good enough for me to be a "good" member of AA around AA only - I need to work at this everywhere.  Never easy.  Also though it shows me that I can look for some help, guidance and instruction from those in AA those that at times truly do understand the inner most workings of my head but also I should look to those in rest of society who exercise these principles without having to consider them as AA work in progress they do them naturally or through some other inherent driver.

It is easy to be ignorant, resentful, angry, bitter, argumentative, judgemental it is harder to be open, considerate, caring, kind, respectful.  To be honest I don't think our society helps much, turn on the tv and you are bombarded with people telling you this is better than that, the news is full of journalists telling us not just what happened but their interpretation of the motives behind it and the consequences of it etc.  The Eurozone crises for example - how much is that now at the state that it is simply since reporters have looked for a new doom and gloom story to again make us resent the bankers and the politicians.  The reporting of something as a "crises" rather than an "issue" leads to a "panic" not a "solution".  Maybe it wouldn't be different (how can you tell?)  but as I say may be more acts of kindness and listening without judging would do us all a better service.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Book Reviews - Agent 6 - Tom Rob Smith and The Legion - Simon Scarrow

Agent 6 - Tom Rob Smith

This is the third novel I've read by Mr Smith.  All three have had as the central character Leo Demidov.  Leo is an ex-KGB officer who has wrestled with his loyalty to state and party with his own inner moral code.  The two previous books Child 44 and Secret Speech were both excellent reads and I was looking forward to this one.  I wasn't disappointed - it leaps forward in timeline at times (like some films do) from Leo's time in the KGB in the 50s through the 60s and onwards into the 80s.  The plot centres on a tragic event which completely throws Leo's life into turmoil - one that will haunt him for the next 15 years. 

This is a brilliant book.  Really a fantastic page turner with shocks and twists at all page and there is more than one climax in the book - the final ending was for me extremely emotional.  There is a great deal of knowledge shown about Russia through the period and you do get under the skin of people living in that regime at those times.  It is an interesting insight to a world that I have no personal experience of, this might be a novel but it is a highly educational one at that.

The previous books have received much critical acclaim and this is just as good in my opinion.  The one odd thing like the previous two is that all speech is indicated in italics which takes a little getting used to.  Not sure why but it has been a consistent style through all three books so Tom obviously has his reasons for it.

Thoroughly recommended - one of my reads of the year so far.

The Legion - Simon Scarrow

The umpteenth volume in Simon Scarrow's Roman series still staring the intrepid duo of Macro and Cato.  If you've followed these since the beginning when they started as the "Eagle" series the boys have been to England via Germany and back to Rome and to the outer reaches of the other end of the empire in Syria.  Then the "Eagle" moniker got dropped and the lads continued their adventures ending up putting down a slave rebellion on Crete.  This latest book takes up the story from where it left off with Macro and Cato chasing after Ajax the leader of the rebellion who had escaped from their clutches at the end of the last book.  This time they end up in Egypt chasing Ajax and his band of rebels down and also having to take on the might of the Nubian (Sudanese in modern terms I believe) army in a battle to preserve Rome's control over the bread basket of the empire - the fertile lands bordering the Nile.

It is all good rollicking stuff - with individual fights and battles a plenty.  If you've read any of these before there is little different in this one, that isn't a criticism this is a winning formula so why change it.  There is one twist revealed right at the end as they finally corner their nemesis Ajax that I hadn't been expecting so touché Mr Scarrow on that one.  The other little plot twist on this one is that Cato is rising rapidly through the ranks and now outranks his friend and mentor Macro leading to some little tension between them. 

So all in all not a bad read - and the ending?  Well the next instalment is ably lined up and I believe already hitting the shelves in hardback form...

Friday, 11 November 2011

The bus ticket scandal!!

Here is a good one... frankly you can't make this sh** up!

We have for the last 4 and a bit years bought my daughter a termly season ticket to get to school on the local bus company.  Luckily the council just introduced a scheme when she moved to secondary school that allows us to get that at half price - yes unbelievable to many of you but until then in the free republic of Medway you had to pay full fare to get your kids to school!  Even at half price that is a lot of money - that latest one cost us £98 a couple of weeks ago... yes folks about £600 a year for about a 4 mile commute!  My £4000 a year to London which is 10 times the distance actually seems a bloody bargain compared with that!

Anyway - it has always been a family gag about the bus station.  They used to have to look the cost up in a book and then do a calculation manually on a calculator then write the ticket out by hand!  Recently i.e. in the summer they "improved" this.  Now they... look the price up in a table, do the calculation but then print the ticket on a ticket machine like the drivers have in the buses!  However they still have to write on the students name and the stops it is valid between!  (Dark ages really :-).  They then get a bit of company branded card and laminate it to that.  Brilliant.  When this new system came in my wife was told it was because the drivers wanted the tickets to all be the same style.

Since then my daughter has been challenged several times regarding the validity of her ticket.  On Tuesday morning finally one driver said "This ticket is a forgery you can't use it".  My daughter sighed and said - "Ok single to the school then" and bought a ticket.  "Can I have my bus pass back".  "No you will use it again it is a forgery".  My daughter was incensed - by now the whole bus is knowing something is up.  She states "That cost my Mum £98 you can't just take it off me".  He refused to return it.

My daughter in tears called my wife.  The driver refused to discuss the issue with my wife on the phone at the next bus stop.  My wife called the bus company - well a call centre located somewhere in the UK nowhere near us - to complain.   I called at 2pm to be told that the driver was "still on the road" - I very nearly wanted to quote HSE at them that given he took the ticket off my daughter at 7:20am I really hoped they seriously weren't suggesting he'd not had a break for the last 7 hours driving a bus with up to 70 people on board about!   My wife called again at 5pm to be told they had identified the driver but not spoken to him yet!

Next day we decided to leave it - no point in racking up expensive calls - it was one of those 0845 numbers which cost a blinking fortune from mobiles.  4pm my wife called - to be told that the following...   (The lady read it verbatim off the incident system)

"Driver took ticket as it was a forgery and Chatham bus station have dealt with it".

Even she was incredulous.  We'd had no phone call, no explanation.... nothing.   She noted my wife's anger and returned it to the duty manager of the area with an urgent flag. 

By now my position was that we'd never see the bloody ticket again and that either through incompetence or to cover tracks someone had conveniently "destroyed" it.  I was having fantasies of me having to go to court to get my £98 back!

Thursday - my wife gets a call in the afternoon at her place of work.  A very very apologetic man explained that the ticket had been confirmed as genuine, the driver spoken to and the ticket could be collected from... the place we originally flipping purchased it!  My wife went there straight after school with my daughter and it was "sheepishly" handed over by the counter staff, who made no comment and no apology either.

So we have the ticket back... for how long I wonder?  I still feel she will be challenged again and can't rule out the possibility of another confiscation as the drivers clearly have limited knowledge of their companies operating procedures.  God help them if they do - I think this time Mrs F will give chase along the route, board the bus and there will be the mother of all rows!

We are going to write a letter of formal complaint to the bus company firstly complaining strongly that they need to train their drivers better, that the way my daughter was treated was humiliating and degrading - she was in floods of tears and shaking with upset on arriving at the school, we want compensation for the additional tickets, phone calls and parking fees incurred and finally demand a written apology from the company and hopefully the driver himself to my daughter.   I don't hold out much hope - my ploy will be saying the letter is "open" and will go to the local press if they fail to act within 7 days.

This is all on the same theme as the other posts today - my daughter is a polite, hard working, diligent student.  She is on the brink of adulthood and at the point where she can put in the effort and sacrifices to study more, get a job, try to make a difference, pay her taxes, be a role model to others or she could... give up, treat people with disrespect, look to either live of the state, fiddle her taxes or fare dodge etc.

I hear many people crying out for the youth to show respect.  You know what?  Disrespect breads disrespect!  I see it daily - and sadly I have to say mostly by people in my generation or older - it is true the students and youngsters around me show polite respect most of the time the those around them.  Who the hell is at fault with the degeneration of our society.... I'm inclined myself to be on the side of the young currently.

The Student protest in London this week

A facebook friend commented about the protest in London this week "...shouldn't these bloody students/wasters of taxpayers money be in the f**king lectures they a moaning about paying for?"   I politely commented back that it is "reading week" at most London unis this week, meaning many courses have no timetabled lectures and also that Wed afternoon is traditionally sports afternoon as well so that the march was scheduled for a time when the majority of students wouldn't miss a lecture.   The tabloid inspired snap judgement made me smile really and reminded me to criticise from a position of little knowledge is a dangerous thing.   To be frank the march started at the bottom of the street my office is in - I could barely hear the protest over the droning helicopters and there were more police on the streets than protests and bystanders combined!  There could be an argument that the massive police operation was a bigger waste of taxpayers money.

An unashamedly proud parent post

I am a proud parent.  We went to my daughters "parent evening" last night.  They really are awful flipping things.  A hoard of parents all feeling madly out of place, this is my daughter's domain, the teachers talk to her with a closeness I find at times odd since I have pretty much no knowledge of them but they know my daughter very well, the building is an old school (some bits about 100 years old I believe now) my daughter knows it intimately pulling us this way and that way.  We arrive for an appointment, there are no chairs to wait on so the parents shuffle like naughty kids waiting outside the Head's office. Then the teacher shuffles the appointments apologizes for running late and calls you over.  Then the conversation is really with the pupil - rightfully so but I feel at times almost purely an observer in on my daughters life, just given an glance through a normally closed window.  The teachers talk about assessments, mocks, exams, grades etc.  It is all jargon that most parents no doubt struggle with.

But the phrases that some out are.  "Pleasure to teach", "always has an opinion", "is far better than she believes she is", "Shame she isn't considering this for A level", "I'm so pleased she's considering this for A Level she'll do very well", "A is easily obtainable A* is possible", "A* isn't in the bag yet you need to continue the brilliant work", "she listens really well, something not easy to teach to others", "A reflective learner who considers the feedback and always improves her work".

We leave after an hour or so with the impression that my daughter is clearly the best student the school has ever seen and will conquer the world in the future.   No seriously she is a very bright young lady who clearly puts effort into her studies, she also clearly listens constructively to the majority of feedback and endeavours to incorporate that into her future work.

Teenagers today seem to get massively bad press.... see my post about the student protest in London this week as one minor example of that.  However the majority of youngsters I come into contact with are hard working, care about themselves and others, have strong moral views on particular topics, want the world to be a better place, are fed up with the system us cynical old gits seem to perpectuate and often would put many of the "adults" in the world to shame through both their quality of thought and action.

So I am today an immensely proud parent - not just of my daughter but also the many of her friends we saw at the event last night who I know make up the majority of the younger generation - the ones who frankly given the mess we've made we should begin to entrust the future to more rapidly than we do.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Soundcloud vs Reverbnation vs etc.

Following on from the last post.

I've kicked off a couple of discussions on a couple of forums to see garner people's opinions on these.

So if you have any and are  a member of LinkedIn then go here or if you are, or would like to be, a member of Rock-Til-You-Drop then go here.

If I get much debate on these I intend to end up summarising in both places and back here at some point in time.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Soundcloud

Increasingly I've been finding more and more people are out there on SoundCloud.  So I've joined them, clearly MySpace seems pretty much long dead and Reverbnation whilst good is looking a little old and haggard in the fast paced changing world of music dissemination.

Anyways  I've a profile and a bunch of tracks up at http://soundcloud.com/grahamhunt-1 please pop over and say hello.

One thing with Soundcloud is that it very much is a mix of producers and consumers - there are a huge number of people on there simply using it as an on-line music juke box - which has been a restriction with Reverbnation for me the only people who join up are normally other musicians, Soundcloud looks a more direct to consumer method.

Having said all of that of course - if I ever get to 100 plays I'll be happy! :-)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Gibson Firebird X

Gibson continue to court controversy with another new techno rich offering.

I've not even seen one of these in the flesh but have read a couple of reviews and seen the demos on Youtube etc.

What do I think?  Firstly I like the Firebird shape this being based on the second non reverse version.  The headstock looks odd, I think it had to be 3 a side for the robot tuning but I think an asymmetric shape would have suited the body shape better.  The finish... well personal choice, I'm not madly keen and would have preferred at least some natural or block colour option.  The body is ash by the way, different for Gibson.  I have a home made Ash bodied humbucker loaded Strat - I like Ash, dense good sounding wood only used from time to time by Fender and some others. Maple fretboard!!  Yep Gibson seem intent on pushing the boundaries of their expected norms on this one!


Now the technical bit...

It is too much to cover but lets try.  You have three pickups all different magnet types.  There is the robot tuning system Gibson have sold on several other models already - now that is bloody clever!  If you do use a lot of different tunings it must be worth a look at.

But it is all the built in gubbins that is really the main thing here.  On the side of the top bout of the guitar are two banks of sliders blue and red.  Blue control modulation, reverb and echo effects, Red compression, distortion and EQ.    Each of the three sliders controlling a different parameter depending what effect is selected.  You select them by the two toggle switches on the front of the guitar toward the lower bout.  They select the effect but also you twist your knob (steady now!) to mix in the amount of effect with the dry signal.

So - already confused!  Yes it is hugely versatile - but hang on I've got to select this, twist that move the bloody fader on the side!!!  You can store and recall patches... HOORAY!!!  So you fiddle set up the sound store it and all set for the show.  All of this is analogue electrics - which Gibson make a big noise about and so have some reviewers - although I'm lost as to why really...  horses for courses really.  I think a lot of the control built in here (more to come later) would fit to digital sound sources a la the Line6 Variax as well.

Oh I forgot - it has piezoelectric saddles so has an acoustic simulation mode as well!

Now - you get to foot pedals as well!  This allows quick recall of the patches and also one of them is an adjustable one so you can vary some parameters with your foot whilst playing.  THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BITS OF THIS WHOLE THING!!!  Here is the thing I think will suddenly stick, it is simple but innovated genius at the same time.  These work by Bluetooth - you know the thing you use to connect your phone to a headset or to download photos from a phone to your laptop - it can do a lot lot more.  At last someone really using it for something brilliant.  No extra cables etc but external control of your guitars controls.  Ever tried "violining" on a Les Paul bridge pickup?  Not easy I can tell you...   with this idea that would potentially become common place - or jumping to predetermined pickup and control settings from a footswitch.  Trust me I think once others get their heads around this we'll see others jumping on this idea - if I made guitars I would be doing it now!!

So a leap forward or a leap too far?  Probably too far for most of us.  However I see this on sale at about £3,300 - there are a couple of places quoting under £3,000.   You all have that sharp intake of breath moment but hang on... Gibson Les Paul Custom £2,799 - PRS Studio £2,749... and you only get normal pickups and no patch / external control on them?   Think on it...

Gibson Mini Site dedicated to it.

Comprehensive demo by a Gibson product evangelist!

Step 10

Last night I visited a meeting I don't often go to.  I'm thinking I ought to go more often plenty of friends there who I don't see as much as I used to, plenty of strong sobriety etc.  I felt wonderfully at home and happy.

I was asked to be the initial speaker on Step 10.  It was funny I was asked on Monday and said "yes" as any good AA member should do.  But Tuesday and Wednesday I was thinking, not for the first time in my recovery, maybe I shouldn't do this - I'm a bit of a fraud I don't do it the way it should be done.   Hang on, what way it SHOULD be done, it is a programme suggested not mandated.  Anyhow on Wednesday night at my home group a young AA talked about his first year in recovery and touched on the steps including Step 10 and said like all the steps he needs to do it every moment of every day when needed.  I woke up at that and thought - "Exactly that is how I live it".

He was at the meeting last night - Kismet - another of those AA coincidences that do stretch my militant agnostic views to the limit at times.

Step 10 is about keeping personal inventory and when wrong promptly admitting it.  The 12 and 12 book (essay on all the steps and traditions) talks more about the spot check inventory than either a daily reflective balance sheet or a longer term periodical review.  But it is how I have to live these days - working at this hard in early recovery once I had learnt I could live with out the booze but "what now?".  If anger rises I have to look at me - pride, selfishness etc. often at the bottom of it.  Anger is no good for me that route lies drink.  Interestingly the sharing in the meeting had some polarizing views (not surprisingly there are as many programmes in AA as alcoholics!).  I side for me with the argument that anger is not good, it is a natural emotion but it is not the way to let it out etc.  I used other thoughts at these times, stuff I learnt from a psychiatrist on a course about interpersonal skills which had a lot about Transactional Analysis in it.  Rebellious Child, Critical Parent - these are modes where the anger in me will take me and it is not profitable in any relationship.  Saying how I feel is ok "I don't feel you are listening, appreciating my position here".  "I am frustrated that you can't get x done sooner" etc. that helps.  Tell them but get it away from me for a more productive conversation.

Also one great thing that I learnt from someone very early on... "You have to give everyone the right to be wrong"...  True!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Book Review - The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The second in the Millenium trilogy.

This book picks up some time after the initial book finished but the two central hero characters are the same.  This time we get much greater insight into the illusive character Lisbeth Salander.  Through the book elements of her past that have made her the social misfit she is are gradually revealed.  You understand much more why she is like she is.

This book is however darker and more brutal than the first.  Larsson was himself a campaigner against violence against women following an experience in his own life.  This book is more explicit about some of the abuse and the violence more prevalent than in the first book.  However as part of a campaign to expose exploitation and abuse of women it does an excellent job.

The narrative is fast flowing with many twists and changes to keep you guessing.  It is indeed a shame that Mr Larsson did die so young, he'd have gone on I'm sure to write many more best selling novels.  Definitively a thumbs up approval from me.

Post script to St Paul's story

Subsequent to the last post.... here is an excellent commentary on the current position from a BBC journalist.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15567206

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

St Paul's

So what is going on at St Paul's then?

The protest is as ever the loose coalition of folks who are against the excesses of capitalism - some no doubt more than others in the mix.  Some probably just want a "fairer" system, would like to see that the world economy was not put into recession by the actions of relatively few.

It would have all been a bit of a side show with probably little coverage in the media after the initial glare of publicity.  However now various members of the clergy are falling like nine pins over the whole thing.  Bizarre!  I'm still not sure why they have resigned.  First to go was Cannon Giles Fraser - who appeared to have been instrumental in the siting of the camp around the cathedral in the first place when the protestors first turned up and were looking for somewhere near the London Stock Exchange.  He seems to have resigned as he felt decisions being taken inside the cathedral were ones he could not agree with.  The subsequent initiation of legal proceedings to clear the protestors bear that out.

Then the Dean Graeme Knowles resigned as well.  Although for me it is difficult to fully grasp why he went - it seems he has fallen on his sword as the criticism of the cathedral has risen in the press, in particular the lack of a coherent strategy for dealing with the camp.

What a shame really - whilst this continues to give the protestors much more publicity than they probably ever expected it hasn't shone a good light on the cathedral.  They have now suspended the legal proceedings as well.  Confusion reigns one feels.

It makes one wonder exactly as one of the home made banners displayed at the site says "What would Jesus do?"   Should the cathedral be seen to try to restrict the right of the protesters to peacefully protest?  There is a perception that this about fairness within society to try to stem the continue inequity between the rich and the poor - not helped by recent statistics showing that executive pay in FTSE100 companies has risen nearly 50% in the last year.   I think we either except the Orwellian construct that some are more equal than others or we do try to do something to stop this.   Whatever caused the current recession, be it over zealous bankers looking for profit from unsustainable risk, poor legislation by government on the financial markets or the actual policing of the financial markets by the relevant authorities,  the bottom line answer is that pretty much everyone is now feeling the pinch somewhere...   well not with a 50% payrise you probably won't.    That has to be the point of the conversation somewhere here doesn't it?

As a side show Louise Mensch on Have I Got News for You was very funny about the whole situation....

She's a politician... yes an MP... people have voted for her to represent them in deciding the current and future policy of the country... Lord help us!