Friday, 31 October 2008

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Was watching a documentary on American history a couple of weeks back and they played a CCR track at the end of it (Have You Ever Seen The Rain). Had not thought about them since John Fogerty's solo success in the mid eighties, so dusted off some old vinyl and drifted back in time.

They sound as fresh now as they did on the first listen, simple short songs well executed with great harmonies and fine musicianship – that was what passed for pop music back in the day.

To a wee loon in the highlands they conjured images of a distant and exotic landscape; today with thousands of air miles and a fair few places visited around the planet they still manage to do it.

Here is another favourite Bad Moon Rising – cool animation.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Good News

Due to the murky way that financial regulation operates in Germany a number of hedge funds have been hit with a bill of around £24 billion. These are the fine/deranged dudes whose specialisation in the dodgy practice of short selling has not helped the current world shares downturn. They were gambling on the share price of VW going down while being unaware that Porsche had been buying up shares through intermediaries – this would illegal over here but is fine in Germany.

Good to see that they are getting the comeuppance which they deserve.

A Qantas flight from LA to Sydney lost the use of it's weather radar shortly after taking off, luckily an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland was flying not far in front of it. So the Qantas flight followed it to Auckland where the problem was resolved – good to have friends in your airspace.

Good to hear that someone is making a profit in these gloomy economic times, coming on the back of BP's $10 bn profits (up 148% from last year) and Shell's $10.9 bn profits (up 71%) we hear from Exxon Mobil. Spare a thought for these guys. they only made a profit of $14.8 bn in the third quarter – a disappointing increase of only 58%. expect to see their begging bowls any time now.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Cider 104 – Sainsbury's Original Somerset Cider

In these times of credit crunch and house prices crashing I am pleased to bring this product to your attention. At £1.20 for 500ml it is reasonably priced being around 60/70p a bottle cheaper than a premium brand, however there is a better reason for drawing it to your attention.

The product is made by my favourite West Country cider maker, Thatchers whose ciders I have posted about on two or three occasions. This comes through in the taste, probably a medium dry with a fine appley flavour – and at 4.5% abv it will not take your legs out unless drunk to excess.

This one will go down well with tonight's curry - SlĂ inte mhath!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Born Of Hope

Was pointed to their web site today, and have to say that I really enjoyed the trailers. The aim behind the project is to make a 60 minute film depicting the story of Aragorn's parents that looks like it was made as part of Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings.

If all goes to plan the full piece should be available to download next November, as it is being made without any major funding lets keep our fingers crossed for them. Here is this years teaser trailer:

Entering the title into YouTube does give some related results but the further you scroll down the results start to get a wee bit weird, especially when some US politico with the initials BO starts to appear.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

News or Olds?

So some 1200 years ago it turns out that Arabic sailors were taking their dhows from the Gulf to China and back – which has to be a round trip of over 10,000 miles, pretty good navigation skills there. The discoveries from this wreck off Sumatra show that they were not just popping across for a supply of tea.

Saw something on tv this week about using kites to generate power from the Jetstream – sounded like a pretty difficult task. Turns out it is not only the Dutch who are interested in the possibilities – if they get the funding this might just work in the long term.

My pal Noddy was in knots about the fate of Fudgie the hamster earlier this week – he will be relieved to learn that the escaped miscreant has returned to her cell/cage of her own free will.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Cheap Wine?

Okay, this post is for the benefit of my UK readers but the idea is so cool that it may have been “invented” elsewhere. The basic premise is that the quaffersoffers site allows you to search for discount wine deals available now or coming soon from 11+ UK supermarkets/major wine chains.

You can tailor the search by retailer, country of origin, grape variety, colour/type and price range. They give you the results and when the offer on each wine starts and ends.

For some time now I have been doing this on a random basis with a good friend, we go into a supermarket and spot an offer on a wine type that we enjoy and then phone/mail the details back and forth.

This place takes out all of the legwork and is exactly the sort of site for which the internet was invented – they even give you the percentage discount that your are going to enjoy!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


I do not mean the foppish second in line to the throne over here, but wills as in recording your thoughts on what should happen when you “pop your clogs”. Have had a couple of friends pass this year and it set me to thinking about this subject, even if you do not have large amounts of stuff to dispose of setting down what you would like to happen after the event will make things a lot easier for those left behind.

What type of service and what format? Cremation or burial? Last resting place? Flowers or not? The lists just keep on coming.

Everyone's life comes to an end at sometime, it is the one certainty for us all and the least we can do for those we leave is to make the immediate aftermath a little less fraught with agonising decisions.

Have not yet finalised my thoughts but am much clearer on what I would like to occur; a non religious service, some music and maybe some readings from Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett to lighten the tone followed by a cremation and my ashes scattered in the Highlands.

Oh, and a large wad of cash behind the bar to pay for some Guinness and a few drams at the wake.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Amy LaVere

Came across her last weekend appearing on Jool's show, had never heard of her before but enjoyed the two numbers that they did. She opened up for Seasick Steve at his recent Royal Albert Hall gig, and “coincidentally” or not he appeared in this show – now playing a guitar with all six strings.

Originally from somewhere on the Texas/Louisiana border she is now based in Memphis and is touring over here until the end of the month. Check out the dates at her site – would love to make the one on Monday at a village hall in Cumbria but that is not going to happen.

Here is a song called Take 'em or leave 'em from her first album, from the same gig as the other clip - shame that her bass does not feature strong in the mix on these.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Drunk Pony & Other Tales

This aptly named pony (Fat Boy) got more than he bargained after gorging on apples which had fermented on the ground, probably having difficulty walking (a known side effect of cider drinking that I have experienced) he fell into a swimming pool.

Scientific “proof” that surfing the Internet is good for the brain in older people can be found here.

Some more good news for red squirrels, it appears that some of them are developing immunity to the virus which has been wiping them out. Now that is a line of research that Red Squirrel beer could fund to good effect.

Big Brother came another step closer yesterday, why the government feels that it is best placed to store data on dates and times of calls, emails websites visited is beyond me. ISPs and phone companies are required to store the data for 12 months and will supply the data to police/security services on request and this system enabled the convictions to which the Home Secretary referred.

In order to comply with the EU directive the cheapest option would be to double the 12 months to 24 – but then there would continue to be an external audit trail of information requests. Call me cynical but I cannot think of any other reason for this ludicrous “plan”.

To prove the point read this story from earlier this year which reveals that there are more than 600 public bodies in this country which already have the powers to monitor communications.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Stephen Fry

Where to start, comedian, actor, author, columnist, blogger, wit? The Grauniad newspaper once described him as a “Treasure of the British Empire” whatever that may mean; like the Elgin Marbles, Cleopatra's Needle – or any of a load of stuff that we have liberated,looted, robbed from around the globe?

Well not really, his accent is 100% plummy and quintessentially English as this clip of him as General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Forth demonstrates.

Whatever he is doing he can usually be guaranteed to bring humour and intelligence to the proceedings, take this blog entry/column on his friendship with Douglas Adams and their shared passion for the latest technologies.

Here is a short clip of him correcting a panellist's grammar on the QI show:

Never afraid to make a fool of himself as this one shows he remains one of the finest humourists of our times, and you can always catch up with him on his website.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Roy Harper

One of the best gigs I ever attended took place in a small back room of the social club of the IT company who first employed me and featured Roy Harper. This was not the first or last time that I had seen him perform live but that night was really special, a small PA system, a couple of guitars and an A4 ring binder and the man himself. It must have been 20 or more years ago but it still remains fresh in my memory.

There could only have been around 40 people in the room but it was a cool relaxed atmosphere and after doing some new numbers he was happy to play anything that was requested from his 20 year back catalogue.

A great guitar player and song writer he has never gained the main stream recognition which his talents should have brought him, but then he has always been content to do his own thing, making the sounds that he wanted to make and not chasing the illusions of “success”.

This was filmed in 1984 with his friend and collaborator Jimmy Page (who played on the studio album version from 1971 – which came in over 12 mins long).

This next clip is from the same TV show, they were half way up a hill in the Lake District.

Friday, 10 October 2008


When I saw this last night my first thoughts were of the climax of Aliens where Ripley climbs into the exoskeleton cargo lifter and battles with the alien queen. Then I came across this clip of the same device.

Developed in Japan for a practical use in in nursing homes and hospitals this sci-fi looking exoskeleton allows the user to lift weights 40Kg greater then they would otherwise.

The clip comes from an Aussie tv show Beyond Tomorrow which appears to be descended from an old BBC show Tomorrows World. It is a fascinating watch and a reminder in these turbulent economic times that scientists around the globe are still striving to make the world a better place.

Monday, 6 October 2008

News Digest

Starbucks gets itself into trouble for wasting millions of litres of water every day, they run cold water taps at “low pressure” for cleaning utensils. They claim that they need to do this to prevent bacterial growth but food hygiene experts are mystified by this assertion, conventional wisdom would be to use dishwashers.

True love is going out every night for three months collecting rubbish to recycle in order to get flights back from a dream honeymoon trip. The rubbish was recycled at a machine at a Tescos store where they collected loyalty points which they then converted into air miles.

Did you know that this is red squirrel week? Me neither, but a Scottish brewery is launching a Red Squirrel ale this week (no squirrels involved in the brewing process) and some of the proceeds will go to a charity trying to maintain their numbers.

Friday, 3 October 2008

The Magic Roundabout

This was a stop motion animation series for young children made in France from the mid sixties through to the seventies, the version shown in the UK had a completely different narrative from the original created from the visuals.

The English scripts were written and narrated by Eric Thompson (whose other claim to fame is that he is the father of the great actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson). The dry wit of these ensured that the show became a hit with adults as well as children and audience figures reached somewhere around 8 million at the time.

The success of the series led to the development of a feature film Dougal and the Blue Cat in 1972 and I have memories of seeing this in the cinema with a bunch of friends one Friday night. For a children's film it contained some very dark passages and I have often wondered if traumatised some wee tots.

Take a look at this clip where the blue cat (Buxton) is undergoing a series of tests:

Still not convinced, then try this short clip where King Buxton's army sets out to conquer the magic garden.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Gurkhas Win Right To Stay In UK

For over 200 years Gurkhas have been recruited from Nepal to serve in the British army (a simplification glossing over the unlamented British Empire days) and whenever sent into combat have never failed to distinguish themselves with their bravery and ferocity.

Last year our government ruled that any serving after 1st July 1997 (when their base was moved from Hong Kong to the UK) should have the right to live here. The others never having lived here should be denied this right, it was OK for them to serve in our army and be killed/wounded for the aims of the UK government but not to live here because “they had no strong ties to the UK”.

Yesterday, common sense prevailed and 5 of them won their case in the High Court, it should never have come to this. I would like to think that our government will now do the honourable thing and allow all who want to come here to be admitted, but I will not be holding my breath.

If there is a way to weasel out of what should be a firm commitment then this government will find it, just ask the police officers of England and Wales.