Friday, 30 November 2007

Performance Poets 2 - Linton Kwesi Johnson

The original Dub poet whose first album appeared in 1973 with LKJ reciting his poems in Jamaican creole over dub reggae music.

Initially his poems were highly political reflecting the problems that faced Afro Caribbeans in England in the seventies. I bought several of his early releases before losing track of his work in the eighties.

Always liked the rhythm of his words and especially their juxtaposition with some very fine dub reggae.

So here are some clips, starting with It Dread Inna Inglan from his first album.

Then we have If I Was a Top Notch Poet which is a more recent work.

Finally the title track of his first album Dread Beat An’ Blood, shot in Paris with some fine reggae going on in the background.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Let’s All Be Careful Out There

If you are using Windows as your OS and Internet Explorer as your browser then you are at risk of having your computer highjacked by rogue hackers.

This story highlights the lengths to which they will go in targeting their victims by what part of the year we have reached. So it has been stopped for now but these guys never give up and will return sooner rather than later.

You can protect yourself to some extent by ensuring that your Windows contains all the latest security patches from Mickeysoft.

Far better though to use Firefox as your browser, I have been using both for some time now and have found that even though pop ups are disabled in both only Firefox actually stops them occurring at all sites.

You can get it here and it is free - woo hoo.

PS and if you use Outlook as your mail client they supply a less likely to be hacked client called Thunderbird - liked the film then get the client.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Blackadder Goes Forth

Was out of the country in ‘83 when the first series appeared on our screens but was soon advised on my return that it had been “must watch” TV.

By the time of the last series I had been hooked on the scripts and the acting, a lot of fine British actors had appeared throughout the four series (Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Tony Robinson, and Rowan Atkinson to name but a few).

A satirical look back at our history - what’s not to like. So here are three short clips from it, first up is How the First World War Started, followed by Secret Mission (nails our WWW1 generals lack of intelligence) and finishing with The Russian Revolution.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Reduced Shakespeare Company

Was musing the other day about the last time that I went to a theatre to see a production that was not stand up or music and decided that it must have been in the nineties.

Remember going to and really enjoying a production of Guards Guards at local big city’s main theatre. Then remembered catching a performance by the RSC at the same venue sometime earlier - they went down really well.

So here are a couple of quick clips of them and if they ever appear near you then make the time to go out and catch them.

First up we have Biography of William Shakespeare, followed by The Othello Rap.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

ID Cards -A good Thing?

Not from where I am sitting, despite the government claims on how they will prevent identity theft and help to catch terrorists I remain unconvinced.

First up is the cost, £5.31 billion - latest estimate from May 2007. Like it is going to come in on time and to budget, for a short list of fecked up government IT projects read this.

Next up is that hoary old chestnut of biometrics making them “very secure”. Taking fingerprints as a start point I had no idea how easy they were to replicate until I read this yesterday from the always informative and entertaining Dr Ben Goldacre.

The data that they plan to store on the cards would be very valuable to those in the criminal fraternity who could use it to perform identity theft on scales not previously seen. Cloning fake ID cards will prove to be a very lucrative business to them as well.

Look at how little effort it took to “crack” the new UK biometric passports and regardless of what the government tell us I feel sure that the same will apply to ID cards.

I just do not trust government to keep our data safe and have great trouble swallowing their claims for the “benefits” of having ID cards, it is just another attempt to control us.

Read what they are doing right now in the US with mobile phones which have GPS chips - call me paranoid but it will start happening here soon - may even have started already.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Randy California/Spirit

This dude was one of the finest electric guitarists ever to have graced the planet, he played with Jimi Hendeix in New York in ‘66 when he was only 15. He got the name California from Jimi as he had 2 Randys in his band and needed to distinguish between them.

One year later Randy founded the band Spirit with his step father on drums and they went on to record several great albums, with my favourites being The Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus, Spirit of ‘76 and Future Games.

Only got to see them play live once (back in the 80s) and had to make a 170 mile round trip to do it - but it was worth it, they were on great form that night and everyone really enjoyed it.

So here are a couple of short tracks (around 3 mins), I Got A Line On You and Nature’s Way. Last one is around 9 mins but with the added bonus of Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers) guesting on If I Miss This Train - a big ol’ blues jam to brighten up your weekend.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Bad Day at Work?

If you had a bad day at work then head over to Whichendbites and read this.

If it does not make you smile then you have just experienced the frelling nightmare of nightmares of a day.

Oh and it has been snowing in Aberdeenshire where even the snowmen are now using wi-fi for blogging.

Tokyo - “Foodie” Capital of the World

Apposite given yesterday’s post that the Michelin Guide has crowned Tokyo as the foodie capital of the world by awarding it’s restaurants more Michelin stars than any other city it has reviewed to date.

This is the first year that it’s restaurants have been reviewed (using a team of 3 French and 2 Japanese reviewers) and they have awarded it a staggering total of 191 stars.

For the record, Paris has 98, London 50 and New York 49 so a total of 191 is quite amazing. Fine dining over there is quite a different experience from any other country on the planet - there are some places where you can only get in if you have been recommended by an existing customer.

There are many styles of Japanese cuisine and to fully appreciate some of them requires an extensive knowledge of the local culture. Even the colour of the ingredients can have meaning.

To learn more about fine dining in Tokyo read this article.

Me, I am off out to bag me some tempura.

Thursday, 22 November 2007


Saw this film earlier this week and it totally blew me away. It is a classic tale of blind master swordsman taking on copious amounts of bad guys and defeating them.

The fight scenes are amazing to watch (not for the squeamish) with incredibly fast action but the film is much more than that. It is beautifully shot, contains a lot of humour and large parts of the story are told in flashbacks - and it ends with a rousing song and dance piece.

Written, directed by and starring Takeshi Kitano this is one fantastic movie, catch the trailer here.

I am informed by reliable sources that today is a holiday in the colonies/fledgling democracy/USA, so a happy holiday to all my readers in the US - and try not to overdo it on the eating front, there are only 33 days until Xmas.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


This band contained not only two of the finest 60s folk guitarists (Bert Jansch and John Renbourn) but also the delightful vocals of Jacqui McShee.

Added to that you have my favourite stand up bass player (Danny Thompson) and Terry Cox on drums. Pretty hard to define their sound but they lie somewhere between folk/jazz/blues.

Here are two songs from their Basket of Light album (1969), Light Flight and Train Song.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

News and A Song

The King of Spain told Hugo Chavez to “shut up” last week, someone turned this into a ringtone and 500,000 Spaniards have since downloaded it. You can check out the story here and can listen to the ringtone - sounds awful to my ears.

Things I never knew, “there are 162 islands off the coast of Scotland”. This dude has visited and spent a night on all of them - well I guess that everyone needs a hobby or two. He has some cool photos over at his site.

Another week another whimsical cat tale.

Finally, I came across this video while trawling though YouTube over the weekend. It is a cover of one of my favourite John Prine songs performed by Bonnie Raitt and her band.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Farewell Scully

It is with a heavy heart that I have to report that Scully over at Skywritings has decided to retire from the blogosphere and has pulled down her archives.

She is a fine writer and artist whose daily contributions will be missed by her many readers.

All the best Scully for whatever life brings you next.

I will raise a glass of Cragganmore tonight to your memory.

Slàinte mhath!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Dreams Shattered - Scotland 1 Italy 2

So that is it - we failed to qualify but will finish 3rd in a group that contained the two finalists from the last World Cup and one of the quarter finalists.

Considering where we were in the world rankings when the draw was made for this competition that has to go down as over achieving of the highest quality.

There were some bad decisions made in last night’s game but to be fair they went both ways so we cannot really complain.

The good news for the next World Cup draw is that we will at least be among the second seeds so should not end up in another “group of death”. Most of our side are young so the future is looking bright if they continue to play as they have done in this campaign.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Beer 110 - Wychwood’s Hobgoblin

This is the flagship beer of the independent Wychwood brewery, rich dark red brown in colour (my photo does not really show this) with a fairly malty taste which slides easily down the throat.

A respectable 5.2% abv which is not reflected in it’s easy drinking flavour, goes well with a curry as this one did last night. Widely available in North America.

What a relief to wake up to light drizzle this morning, no need to scrape ice off the car windows as I had to do on Thursday and Friday mornings.

Friday, 16 November 2007

At Last a Use For Chocolate

I did not even know that you could make biodiesel from chocolate or that there was a company over here transforming 100 tonnes of it every week until I read this in the paper yesterday.

The incredible part is that all the chocolate would have ended up in landfill sites if these guys were not transforming it.

Five Favourite Spaceships

As a variation on a theme of favourite aircraft I thought that favourite spaceships would be entertaining.

Number 5 Romulan Wardbird - Star Trek

Always thought that these looked graceful with a sinister threatening look to them - kind of sums up the Romulans.

Number 4 White Star - Babylon 5

One very beautiful looking spaceship, has an air of elegance that none of the other craft in the series possessed (except maybe for the Vorlon’s) - and they sure did for the evil Shadow ships.

Number 3 Tardis - Doctor Who

The very first spaceship that I ever saw, unprepossessing to look at from the outside but it’s ability to travel through time and space coupled with the size of the inside make it a winner. Oh and the latest incarnations of the series have proved to be very entertaining.

Number 2 Serenity - Firefly

A very practical looking cargo ship with inter system capability coupled with in atmosphere operation, extremely durable yet also having a certain elegance to it. Kept flying by an extremely competent female engineer.

Number 1 Moya - Farscape

A living ship (and a mother) this one was always going to get first place as it comes from my favourite sci-fi series, not only cool looking in normal flight but awesome in starburst mode. More than just a ship she enjoys travelling in deep space for the pleasure of it and provides a home for her rag tag collection of passengers.

Honourable mentions to Dark Star, Valley Forge (Silent Running), Lexx and Talyn, Moya’s son.

Thursday, 15 November 2007


This comedy series run to two seasons on Channel 4 (around 1999/2001), was written by and starred Jessica Stevenson and Simon Pegg.

It is pretty hard to summarise in a few sentence but the words surreal, cult, weird all spring to mind. Very distinctive camera style and the shows are peppered with references to sci-fi and films.

The basic plot premise is that Tim and Daisy pose as a young professional couple in order to rent a particular flat - madness and mayhem ensue.

This clip from the second season gives some of the flavour of it but if you ever get the chance I would recommend catching all of it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Gordon R Dickson

Reading a post over at Scully’s earlier this week reminded me that somewhere in the archives upstairs I have six or so books by Poul Anderson that I have not read in 20 odd years. Must try digging them out again.

So I scanned the shelves behind me and noticed the Dorsai books by Gordon R Dickson, bought them 30 years ago but have not picked them up for at least 16 years - so that is my reading sorted out for the next week. Hard core military SF writing with great story telling at their heart.

I hate throwing books out but as space is limited I have had to clear out some over the years, had to let my Heinleins go 20 years back, and most recently some of my Piers Anthony sets went to Hairy Nephew. Judging by the piles around the house I am getting very close to having to undertake another clear out, some old friends will have to go but not before one last read.

Uh Oh

We have another outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus on our shores. This will go one of three ways as I see it:

Outbreak will be contained by the culling - could be tricky here as the birds were all free range living outside (unlike the last one).

Outbreak will spread - shortage of turkeys for Xmas.

Outbreak will break the mold and find a human subject where it can evolve into a human to human form of bird flu in which case we are all screwed - not very likely according to the scientists.

On a much lighter note I read about a cat that now expects to be collected by a car from the same place about from 1.5 miles from it’s home every morning

Monday, 12 November 2007

Beer 109 - Badger’s Tanglefoot

This helped to revive my brain last night, golden coloured with a hint of fruit in the taste it is one of my top 5 English ales. Weighs in at 5% abv and because it is so easy to drink it ought to be labelled “dangerous”.

According to the brewery’s web site the name derives from the first tasting session held by the head brewer, several were consumed and on rising to leave the head brewer experienced a loss of steering and Tanglefoot was born.

First came across in when holidaying in Dorset, we were staying in a barn on a hilltop and it was quite a trek down to the sea and from there along the coast to The Smuggler’s Inn.

Fine old building selling Tanglefoot, and it had hot and cold running water as well (the barn lacked such facilities) - so after an extended lunchtime session it was time for the return journey.

It seemed to take much longer than the outward trip - but that could have down to the effect of the beer on our feet.

And the reason that there is no head on the beer is that I had to replace the camera batteries after pouring it - not a very long lasting head but that is a minor quibble.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

New Sidebar Additions

Brain feels like mush today - probably not unrelated to staying up until 03:30 this morning listening to music from the seventies and trying to finish the last bottle of red wine (thanks for passing out on me G).

First up is The Missy M Missives - written from a secret location somewhere near to Aberdeen. In her own words “Thirties, Scottish, script-writer, producer, lecturer and ringmaster of my family, The Flying Martinis.”

Next is If The Creek Don’t Rise, written from the middle of nowhere in New Mexico - describes the lives of two pioneering eccentrics as they wrestle with living 2 hours away from “civilization”. This lady takes her cats with her when she goes out hiking - do not know what could be stranger than the cats actually going out with her, oh and cool pics of the views.

Finally Which End Bites?, the musing of a front line UK police dog handler gives an indication of what their job really entails and some of the bureaucratic bullshit they have to endure.

They do not post every day but when they do it is always worth a read - now for some hair of the dog to try to jump start my brain.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

News Stories

Wonder if the person who wrote The Terminator script had ever heard of this (around since 1969).

This was a major news story here this week.

Why a kilogram no longer weighs a kilogram is explained here.

Goat-free roads made me speed’ - you could not make this up.

And finally, Toads are ‘open-minded’ about sex

PJ Harvey

Along with many others first came across this lady while listening to John Peel’s radio show, a very unique individual. Was reminded of her yesterday while passing through the BBC radio web site (to get at the Kermode live video stream) and came across this link.

She plays 2 songs from her latest album and gives a very entertaining interview.

Followed this with a trawl through YouTube and found this early gem from her second album (filmed in 2001), then hit paydirt with this cover of Satisfaction.

Polly Jean and Björk - two unique ladies performing together, aural bliss for the weekend.

Friday, 9 November 2007

I Do Not Think That This Is Working

Came across this site while surfing over a Tam’s place and thought maybe I should try it.

I did but I am unconvinced by the result that it gave me, the only explanation that I can think of is that is biased towards British spellings but as the site appears to be US based that one does not fly.

Try it out for own site and see if you agree with me that it appears to be “broken”.

iPhone Mania?

Not in this hoose, they go on sale here tonight at 18:02 and the “meeja” is watching for signs of the mania* that accompanied it’s US launch.

Expensive, overrated, and you cannot replace the battery yourself - WTF?

Now the Nokia N95 - supports 3G, has a 5 Megapixel camera (c/f 2 meg on the iPhone) and you can change the battery/sim card yourself - what more do you want?

I do not use my mobile enough to justify buying one but if I did this one would be my choice of today’s offerings.

* Online Etymology Dictionary has this to say on the origin of mania, c.1400, “mental derangement characterized by excitement and delusion,”

Which sums it up pretty well.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Space Stuff

New planet found (only 41 light years away) but the really interesting thing is the gap where an Earth like planet could be lurking.

And Discovery returned safely yesterday after a 15 day successful mission - commanded by a lady as is the ISS, that is what I call progress.

I just love watching the ISS track across a night sky in the Highlands with little background light - one of life’s simple pleasures.

Oh, and deep joy at DBA cottages, the DVDs of Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica arrived this morning - will try to ration them out but will probably fail.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Butthash Alert

Thanks to Noddy for alerting me to this disturbing “yoof trend”.

As if the world was not crazy enough, then from that page I followed the link to Crack Crazed Squirrels Terrorize South London.

Raised a smile on a driech Wednesday morning.

John Peel

I own and listen to a pretty varied range of music (folk, reggae, blues, bluegrass, punk, dance etc etc) and while some picks came from family or friends the majority of them came from listening to Peel’s radio show over the years.

You never knew what was coming next on his shows and that was the fun in listening, some of the stuff that he played I just never got, but then through him I discovered a whole range of artistes whose music I just love.

Here is his favourite single by The Undertones - Teenage Kicks.

I will forever be grateful to him for introducing me to these guys - that song still makes the hairs on the back of my neck rise after 34 years. Listen out for the harmonies being supplied by Peter and Bunny - truly magical.

Sadly John passed away in 2004 at the age of 65 but his legacy lives on.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Petrol Rant

Driving out of Smalltown this morning I noticed that the price of petrol had finally reached the 100.9p level for a litre regular unleaded. But it gets better, the highest price in the country for this is 109.9p per litre as of yesterday.

At the highest price that works out at £5 for a UK gallon of fuel, (or $10.44 for my North American readers) - two thirds of the cost is taken by the government.

This is on top of the £180 per year road tax that we have to pay if your car is more than six years old and has an engine size over 1549cc, and do not get me started on insurance costs or veins will burst.

It might not be so bad if I could find an open road to drive along but I am living at the wrong end of the country for that to ever happen.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Beer 108 - Morland’s Old Speckled Hen

This used to be brewed in Oxfordshire so qualified as a local beer, however in 2000 this was bought out by the “evil empire” of brewing for whom Eldest Niece works.

Have to admit though that they continue to turn out a beer very close to the original, quite hoppy in flavour with a good bitter taste and a lovely colour. At 5.2% abv it was easily robust enough to accompany last night’s curry.

On an unrelated note us Brits now send over 1 billion texts each week (same number as for all of 1999), if I send more than 2 a month then something is well out of kilter in my universe.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Performance Poets 1 - John Cooper Clarke

Was watching the first two of the “last” Sopranos episodes on video (thanks to my friend D who recorded them off his satellite for me) and was stunned at the end of the second which ended with a voice/”song” that I recognised.

It was Chickentown by John Cooper Clarke, and I thought that this was a weird comes across one of his works. Saw him live once in the local Arts Centre and thoroughly enjoyed him. Here is another of his pieces Beasely Street - Enjoy.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Meme Time

Found this at one the the cab blogs I frequent and found it a fun way to pass some time.

Meme instructions:

1) Go to Wikipedia
2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3) List three events that happened on your birthday
4) List two important birthdays and one death
5) One holiday or observance (if any)

So I enter April 10 and get


1) The Sepoy Mutiny popularly known as the “Revolt of 1857” broke out in Meerut, India as part of the Indian independence movement (1857).

2) The RMS Titanic leaves port in Southampton, England for her first and only voyage (1912).

3) The Belfast Agreement is signed (1998).


1) Bunny Wailer, Jamaican musician (1947).

2) Bob Bell, British engineer (1958).


Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Italian-born mathematician (b. 1736 d 1813).

Only one observance and that was too obscure to include.

Will not “tag” anyone with this but if you are a loose end ...

Friday, 2 November 2007

The Modfather

Paul Weller has been one of my favourite song writers since I first hear The Jam back in the late seventies. I also approve of him being his own man and changing directions several times to do what he wanted rather than what the business or his fans would have preferred.

So here are three of his mellower tunes for you to enjoy, the first is That’s Entertainment (from the album Sound Affects)

The second is Wild Wood from the album of the same name, and the last one is Broken Stones (from Stanley Road), which has the added bonus of a trombone solo from Jamaican legend Rico.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Mad Scientists?

New Scientist magazine has published an article on the top ten “most bizarre” scientific experiments of all time.

Unfortunately you need to be a subscriber to read it, however courtesy of the “Grauniad” you can get a flavour of it here.

These crazy scientists probably had an “Igor”* assisting them in their weird experiments.

* Discworld reference.