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>Day 198 – 5,000 up!!

28 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Soft Cell – The Twelve Inch Singles

Oh my – Check out the little counter thing at the bottom of the left hand column of stuff – at the time of writing it says ‘5,033’. That’s over five thousand ‘hits’ on the site since i started this thing, oh, 198 days ago.

A rough bit of mental arithmetic makes that an average of around 25 ‘hits’ per day. Not quite up there with the BBC or Google, admittedly, but I am quietly impressed, I have to say. Impressed (and slightly concerned) that there are around 25 people who are interested/bored/sad enough to read my daily ramblings.

Of course that’s a bit of a sweeping assumption. It could be that it’s a different 25 people every day who come along once, say ‘what is this rubbish’ and never come back again. But no, it looks like I’ve got a bit of a hard core following out there, who keep me doing this every day. What will you do if/when I ever get back into gainful employment? Expect me to carry on on a daily basis?

You would, an’ all.

But without coming across all Simon Bates, I’m glad you’re out there and – whether you like it or not – I’ll keep this going as long as I realistically can.

Some progress on the job front today – I gave my feedback on Friday’s interview to the recruitment consultant for follow-up, and got in touch with the business in London about the contract opportunity passed on to me by my former colleague. At this stage I just wanted to put them in the picture about my availability, as well as expressing my definite interest in the role if circumstances allow. It would not be fair to agree to the role, then try and wriggle out of it half way through because I had a permanent role to go to.

Although chance would be a fine thing.

Anyway, we are to continue talking – an initial phone call tomorrow to talk about the role and firm up on interest, if circumstances allow.

After a bit more internal admin-type things (audit committee expenses, house insurance, updating my jobseeking activity and the like) I forced myself to get the ironing board out again. Looking back, it was day 157, the last time I blogged about ironing – and looking even further back, ironing seems to rear its head every forty days or so.

So. Forty days worth of ironing. That’s a bloody big pile of ironing.

This time, rather than do all the ironing in the kitchen, I thought I’d lug it all up into the lounge and do my ironing up there, catching up on the DVD pile while I did so.

Which would have been fine, apart from two things.

Firstly, I discovered very quickly that my multitasking skills do not stretch to ironing and watching TV at the same time. This slowed things down considerably.

Secondly, the plug sockets in the lounge forced me to iron right handed instead of left handed. Now I do have a degree of ambidexterity, so this was not impossible, but it did slow me up even more.

But no matter – it was a lot more entertaining than standing in the kitchen doing the ironing.

So what did I (try to) watch while smoothing away? Two things – secondly the DVD of Magazine performing in Manchester that I mentioned recently, but I started by watching the recently-released Stones film, ‘Gimme Shelter’, about the performance at Altamont that ended with the death of Meredith Hunter, murdered in front of the stage (and on camera) while the Stones were performing.

I’d not seen it before – it is a very powerful film, particularly the moment when Hunter draws a gun in front of the stage, before being stabbed in the neck and dragged away by the Hell’s Angels who were notionally responsible for security on the day.

How could such a thing happen? Or rather, how could the event have been organised in such a way that the possibility of such a thing happening could arise? I think Altamont has to be viewed in the context of the times. Earlier that summer, Woodstock had taken place and – chaos and disorder notwithstanding – had passed off entirely peacefully and calmly. This gave rise to the feeling that such behaviour was the norm, rather than the outcome of a relatively unique set of circumstances.

The Stones, who had missed out on Woodstock, clearly felt the need to have their own, mini-Woodstock in San Francisco, as the climax of their 1969 US tour. Working under the naive impression that it would all just come together and be groovy, man, such fundamentals as finding a safe, appropriate venue, with a full infrastructure including – crucially – security, were glossed over, rushed, and subject to some very bad decision-making.

The worst decision was to entrust security to the local Hell’s Angels – a completely different organisation to the ‘weekend Angels’ entrusted with a similar role at Hyde Park in London earlier that year. The San Franciscan Angels came fuelled with strong drink, armed with weighted pool cues that they were keen to use, and prepared to ‘own’ their territory in front of the stage, regardless of the bands and their fans.

Watching the film, in the context of festivals I have been to myself, the most striking thing is the height of the stage, and the lack of distance between the band and the crowd. No real secure area in front of the stage, which must have been a maximum of four feet above ground level – this to serve an audience in excess of 300,000 people.

It is clear from a very early stage that the Angels are out of control and are uncontrollable. The violence meted out is shocking, as is the bands’ and organisers’ inability to cope with it. Eventually everything descends into anarchy and mayhem.

The end of the Aquarian dream, the Woodstock era? Maybe. The inevitable consequence of a badly organised, naively controlled event, inappropriately policed? Almost certainly. Whatever, ‘Altamont’ will forever be remembered as one of the days the music died.

Phew!

Today’s actual soundtrack comes from Soft Cell, Leeds synth-poppers who come with ladles of camp and buckets of sleaze. ‘Pop’ is probably an unfair epithet to bestow upon them, because whilst they were certainly popular, their music and subject matter is as far from mainstream pop as it’s possible to get – stalking a seedy underworld of freaks, sordid and extravagant sexuality and misery.

The duo were at their best on the twelve inch single, as this collection shows. They were able to stretch out, turn their songs into extended vignettes on the sleazy underworld they took as their subject matter.

This was as good as they got – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. It lacks the extended intro that comes with the twelve inch version, but does get straight into the meat of the story.

>Day 21: It’s just like watching Brazil!

6 April, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue

Apologies for the slight delay in service today – busy afternoon yesterday so playing catch up here.

The anticipated Saturday film got a big thumbs-down from Mrs W so a trip to Blockbuster had to be made to find a suitably appalling film to watch. This dovetailed nicely with a trip to Dominos to collect a couple of pizzas to eat whilst watching. I promise you some healthier food options in the coming days – but one has to pig out occasionally, doesn’t one?

Oh yes – the film….if I told you that the ‘star’ of the film was one Vincent Jones, former ‘professional footballer’ and all-round bad guy, you can take a rough stab at the degree of quality we were aiming for, can’t you? And whilst it won’t be anywhere in the queue for the Oscars next time round, it did deliver on a number of levels. Not very challenging levels admittedly, but it passed a couple of hours very enjoyably. Anyway, it was called ‘The Midnight Meat Train’. You will not be surprised to learn that blood and guts featured prominently, although – sadly – no gratuitous female nudity that I can recall. It does have some pedigree in that it was based upon a Clive Barker short story. Vinnie, bless him, does not get to speak a single word in the whole film (although he glowers a lot). This is eventually explained – Spoiler alert! – by the fact that his tongue had been forcibly ripped out by the roots at some stage in the past. Which is nice.

My God, we are shallow, aren’t we?

Anyway, up early on Sunday to bake a loaf of bread for my Mum and to watch the Grand Prix. You can keep Eastenders, Corrie and The Apprentice – Formula One has to be the best soap opera on telly at the moment. Jenson Button continues to provide this year’s ‘rags to riches’ story as the Team That Very Nearly Didn’t Exist carries on winning, and McLaren convincingly play the part of the big bad bully in the corner, unblushingly telling fibs and hoping to get away with it.

For once, the race itself provided a great deal of drama, mostly provided by the weather, but I find the tactics surrounding the timing of pitstops, the choice of tyres and the varying ability of cars and drivers to stay on the racetrack when things get a bit hairy to be absolutely fascinating. A shame the race didn’t make it to full distance – not for the first time in the history of televised sport, the demands of the schedulers taking precedence over simple common sense – but that added its own element of drama as the needs and desires of the governing body came up against the very clear ‘bugger this for a lark’ attitude of the drivers.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, it was off to Goodison in the afternoon for the Everton – Wigan game. On paper, this could have been quite a tough game for Everton, Wigan just one place beneath us in the league and coming to us on the back of a decent set of results. They has beaten us 1-0 at their place earlier in the season and are a big, strong set of players – the sort we normally struggle against.

Well, as it turned out, it was a stroll in the park really. We were the pick of the two teams in the first half, passing the ball around well without really doing too much with the ball, whilst Wigan never really threatened our goal. Not much protection from the referee, Tim Cahill in particular getting some very rough treatment from Michael Brown, who was booked and failed to reappear for the second half – possibly to save him from a likely sending off.

The deadlock was broken about halfway through the half, a good advantage from the referee freeing Osman, who played Jo in (possibly in a marginally offside position). A delightful left foot finish across the hapless Kirkland made it 1-0.

Second half, and just as my dad was saying we needed a quick second to settle things down, Fellaini duly delivered. Played in by Hibbert, he had plenty of room to turn and shoot low across Kirkland. And five minutes later, the game was over as Kirkland could only palm out a shot from Fellaini straight into the path of Jo, who couldn’t miss from six yards out. A fourth followed later, as Kirkland again couldn’t hold onto a Fellaini shot, Osman this time the recipient of an easy rebound that he tucked away nicely.

With the game won, Moyes brought the kids (and Saha) on for Cahill, Fellaini and Pienaar and we played the game out in second gear, allowing Wigan to attack but without really looking like we’d let them back into the game.

4-0 then, a nice warm up for the next two games against Villa and United, who coincidentally were beating each other up at Old Trafford as we made our way home. And the perfect result there too, as a last-gasp United winner puts us within one point of Villa and United back above Liverpool.

It’s all good!

And in other news, Andrew and Natalie next door brought their new baby daughter home as well. In the excitement we didn’t quite catch the new baby’s name – either Anna (or was it Isla?) Marie (Maria?). Nice to have some good news and share in some happiness after the upsets of the last week.

Black and Blue is not, by any stretch of the imagination, The Stones’ finest hour. Their version of the reggae standard ‘Cherry Oh Baby’ is particularly awful – but it does have ‘Fool To Cry’ which (barely) justifies the price of admission. Anyway, it’s on Spotify (along with 37 other Stones albums) so you can listen for yourself here. What do you mean, you haven’t downloaded Spotify yet? Get it sorted!

Recipes – something will be posted later on today for your delectation – I promise!

>Major reappraisal needed

9 September, 2007 Leave a comment

>I gave up on the Stones sometime back in the late ’70’s/early ’80’s, not long after Some Girls, and in the context of the ‘year zero’ mood that surrounded the birth of punk – why did I need the Stones in my life when I had The Clash?

Why indeed? To be fair to myself, the Stones didn’t help themselves – apart from the odd track here and there, there was nothing coming out of Rolling Stones Records to make me think my view of them was fundamentally flawed. And yet…

Back in the ’60’s, I was a Beatles boy. No surprise really – growing up on Merseyside, left-handed and called Paul, there could only ever be one band for me. And the Stones were a bit dirty and smelly anyway. But then the ’60’s turned into the ’70’s, The Beatles were no more, and Sticky Fingers and Exile… began to make an impression on me. I remember buying Tumbling Dice on its release and playing it to death – despite being unable to make out a word Jagger was singing. Still can’t, for that matter.

But it seemed like things were winding down for the Stones. I bought Goat’s Head Soup, which was good (but not great), as was It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll. Black and Blue was pretty average, and it started to go downhill from there. Some Girls upped the ante for a while, but was in hindsight a bit of a ‘dead cat bounce’. And anyway, the world had moved on.

So that was that, really. but recently I chanced across a few bootlegs on t’internet from the golden era and thought, actually, they weren’t a bad little band, really. On the back of that, I shelled out for the ‘Biggest Bang’ DVD set and…..well….they’ve still got it really, haven’t they? Probably never lost it.

When you’ve been around for 40-odd years, you’re going to have built up a bit of a back catalogue and by Christ, what a catalogue! But what really impresses is the energy and passion that still drives the live show. On DVD the sheer spectacle is inevitably scaled down, but this is a good thing, because what comes through is the actual tightness of the band – especially Charlie and Keef – and if I look half as good as Jagger when I’m his age, well, I’ll be doing alright.

So – 40-odd years in…best live band on the planet? Yes, the old gits probably still are. So much for me dismissing them as rock dinosaurs/boring old farts thirty years ago!

Sorry chaps – you were right, I was wrong.

Categories: rolling stones