Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tis the season to be jolly.....

Just a quick post to wish my reader a Happy Christmas. I know, I could have sent a card, but frankly I was too stingy to buy a stamp.

I like Christmas, but one of the things that annoys me about the festive period is the forced jollity and bonhomie that oozes around for all of December. I combat this by acting like a miserable bugger, while inside I'm hopping up and down excitedly about opening presents. However, there are some things that can crack my Scrooge-ish facade.

In lieu of a Nine Tenths Full of Penguins Christmas gift, I give you Eddie Izzard talking in his own inimitable fashion about the first Christmas.



There are a couple of swear words in there, so be warned....

Wishing you a Happy Christmas (or insert faith-neutral good wishes here).

*Update
Right thats it! I am no longer myself. I have got old and soft. I found myself watching the first Santa Clause movie today. 'Whats so bad about that?' I hear you cry, well wait for the kicker. I quite enjoyed it......

I feel wrong. Just wrong. I think I'm going to crawl into a whiskey bottle for the remainder of my Christmas break. I'm just ashamed. Oh well, at least my Pandora Radio station is good, that offsets the shame somewhat.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In which I get all misty-eyed about Sigur Ros

I don't normally do internet/blog meme things, but this one (courtesy of the ever excellent Patroclus) caught my attention.

It is the great Wikipedia Band Name Meme....

Here's how you play. Click here to be whisked to Wikipedia and then click on 'random article' on the left side of the page, the title of the first article is your band name. Then click it again, that will be the name of your album . Then click 'random article' a further 7-10 times, and those titles are your album track names.

Here is mine:
Band Name: Fjalar
Album Name: 4th Infantry Division
Track Titles
1: Democratic Republic of the Congo
2: Fours
3: VYRE
4: Cingulate Sulcus
5: Sohni Lag Di
6: Kora Kagaz
7: Reactivity Series
8: Clinchfield
9: Varfell
10: Transcendental

I think it brings to mind a band clinging desperately on the coat-tails of Sigur Ros. Fjalar are a band with hints of political activism and delusions of grandeur. I like them already....

While I'm thinking of Sigur Ros, I'd just like to mention their new DVD Heima. It is utterly stunning. Sigur Ros are an Icelandic band that specialise in making beautifully ethereal music that is quite unlike anything else. They released a documentary following them as they toured round Iceland promoting their last album Takk. Heima has the documentary as well as a second disc full of concert performances. The main documentary has footage of the band playing at a variety of rather offbeat locations in Iceland.
If you get chance, you MUST see this on a big screen with good quality sound. There are some moments where the combination of the Icelandic scenery and the wonderful music is so staggeringly beautiful that I found myself getting a lump in my throat and actually felt that I might shed a tear or two.

Movies
The Departed *****
Cliffhanger **
V for Vendetta ****

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bah Humbug...

This year I'm feeling resolutely un-festive so far. I'm not actively scrooge-ish, but I'm failing to feel the cheer of the season as yet.

In an attempt to kick-start some yuletide goodwill I offer you this marvellous little ditty/video by the wonderful Sufjan Stevens.



Ah thats a bit better......bring on the mince pies.

I decided on a bit of a colour scheme change to go with the switch to www.ninetenthsfullofpenguins.co.uk. Do let me know what you think.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Misunderstandings

Before I crack on with this post I just need to do a bit of housekeeping.

The url of this blog is now http://www.ninetenthsfullofpenguins.co.uk/. Of course, you'll still be able to get to it via the blogspot address, its just that this one is a bit more streamlined. Why not bookmark it now?

On to business. I spent the weekend in a very grey and sodden Birmingham, a place that has on every occasion I have visited it, treated me to lots of rain. So it was that I pitched up at Birmingham New Street train station at about 6pm on Friday evening. As I was a little earlier than expected, I needed to wait outside the station for a while.

I bought myself a rather large coffee in a cardboard beaker the size of a small tanker and plonked myself outside the station to wait. I had come directly from work in Manchester, so I was still wearing a shirt and tie and my smart black coat. As I was sitting on my bag, reading a book (the excellent Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin incidentally), my open coffee steaming enticingly by my side, deflecting panhandlers with aplomb; something unexpected happened.

Engrossed in a particularly gripping chapter, I almost failed to respond when a smartly dressed gentlemen bent down and calmly deposited 20p in my coffee cup, which was still half full. He generously said something along the lines of "Here you go mate" before moving off. I was rather taken aback and all I could respond with was "Ermmmmm" in my best teacher voice. On hearing this, our Good Samaritan turned back and looked at me properly, horror dawning in his eyes as he realised what he'd just done.

He scurried back apologising so profusely and with such embarrassment on his face that I couldn't help bursting into laughter. After a few minutes conversation he went on his way with a face like a belisha beacon, but with the knowledge that he'd given me the best laugh I've had in ages.

Incidentally, while I'm talking about coffee; I visited a Costa Coffee in Solihull (kicking weekend eh?) and foolishly ordered a large black coffee. I was expecting a large black coffee, what I received was this two handled soup bowl containing over a pint of black liquid.


Movies
Hot Fuzz ****
Kingdom of Heaven ***
Munich ****
Ghostbusters *****
Beowulf 3D ***
I really enjoyed this at the cinema, mainly due to it being in utterly stunning 3D. However, be warned on two counts. Firstly, if you do watch it in 3D, expect a splitting headache when you come out. Secondly, its certified 12A which means in theory, you could take young children to it. Whatever you do, don't do that. Its considerably more adult than 12A would lead you to believe. Definitely worth a watch in 3D though....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Life imitating art

George Bush has never been a man to let facts get in the way of, well, anything.

Monday saw the release of a report by his own intelligence agencies that essentially said that Iran was not building nuclear weapons. Did the conclusion of this report that brought together the collective expertise and knowledge of the 16 branches of US intelligence signal a reduction in Bush's vehement rhetoric against Iran?

Of course not. Here's a quote from one of the candidates vying for Bush's position come the elections next year. Democrat Senator Barack Obama:

"Bush will not let facts get in the way of his ideology... and that's been the problem with their [the Republicans] foreign policy generally."

It seems that Bush and his advisors have got their (black) hearts set on another war before the reins of power are prised out of his hands in 2008. And it seems even his own intelligence agencies won't stand in his way....

Read the story here.

It scares me that the Iran-US storyline in Spooks at the moment is increasingly seeming less inconceivable by the week.

Movies
Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix ****
Serenity ****
28 Weeks Later ****
Pans Labyrinth *****
Fight Club *****

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Celebrating 100 Posts with a New Feature

Nine Tenths Full of Penguins is 100 posts young today! Break out the balloons, party poppers, jelly & ice cream...

I've been thinking quite a lot about music recently as I have received many gratifyingly positive comments about my Pandora station (Quite Early Music, which can be heard here) since I blogged about it last week.

One of the benefits of owning an MP3 player of frankly ridiculous capacity is that I am able to have thousands of songs on there at any one time. I often choose to listen to them all on random, which can throw up some wonderful combinations of tunes. So I've decided to record some of these on this here blog.

This is how it will work:
Step 1: I will set the player to random
Step 2: I will record the first 10 songs that present themselves
Now I will make a deal with you. I will record all ten (including any of the embarrassing ones that lurk in the nether regions)if you promise not to laugh too loudly.....

Here are the first ten:
1) Manic Street Preachers - Removeables
2) Linkin Park - Points of Authority
3) Jonezetta - Popularity
4) Arcade Fire - Antichrist Television Blues
5) Further Seems Forever - Bleed
6) Derek Webb - Rich Young Ruler
7) Anberlin - Audrey, Start the Revolution!
8) Def Leppard - Hysteria
9) Levellers - Haven't Made It
10) Muse - Map of Your Head

I will leave you to judge which, if any, I am slightly embarrassed about....

Sadly, not my CD collection

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pandora's Box

I have been cruelly severed from my interweb for about 2 weeks, so I apologise for my enforced absence.

Since returning to the information superhighway I have been reacquainting myself with Pandora. If you are unfamilar with Pandora, it is a website that creates a personalized radio station based on music you have selected. You choose a selection of your favourite bands and then a fiendish music monkey on the other side of the world selects songs that it believes you might like.

So far so Web 2.0. For the most part it works really well and I've discovered loads of new bands through Pandora. However, there is a fly in the ointment. Every now and then, the music monkey decides to arbitrarily subject me to lots of dreadful europop dance music. I have no idea why it thinks this. Unless it has taken my admiration for certain artists and thought "Hmmm, he likes Theivery Corporation who are electronica and Sigur Ros who are European - ergo he must like 2Unlimited" (I'm not kidding, it played No Limits, for the love of all that is holy).

Anyway, if you'd like to hear whats in my ears, go to Pandora and search out a station called Quite Early Music.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

#Say Anything, But Say What You Mean...#



A random fan video to a great song by Mae. Here is the official music video version. I think I like the random one a wee bit more.



Look at their website here: http://www.whatismae.com/default.aspx

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Duuuuudddddee- Road Trip!

In honour of surviving the first half term in my new job, I decided to go on a bit of a roadtrip with my younger brother Adam. When you hear the words 'road trip' you have in your mind a certain image bequeathed to us by Hollywood. Alcohol, exotic and exciting locales, naked women....

So where did we go for our road trip? Edinburgh? London? the English Riveria?
Nope - Worcestershire & Northants....

There was a reason for the choice of location; we would see some family, drink a reasonable amount and do some random things. These we accomplished in spadefuls.

Day 1:
We arrived at our base in Droitwich having visited my cousin Dan, his wife Natalie and their ever increasing brood. Adam wasted no time in starting to flirt with the blonde receptionist (the fact that she was probably more than 25 years older than him didn't phase him at all). We then scooted across to have dinner with my aunt & uncle. On returning to the hotel we made the welcome discovery that not only was there a brand new pool table to enjoy, but that the bar was essentially open all night for residents.










We ended up playing a pool game called Killer with two random blokes who worked for Bosch, who were having a sort of conference thingy at the hotel. One of them was a Scot called John and the other was a guy from the North East whose name I forget but who we christened Jellyfingers (not sure why....perhaps the many Grolsch had something to do with it).

Day 2:
The day dawned brightly and in my case, somewhat painfully, as I stumbled in a zombie fashion (un-cordinated, vacant expression, groaning slightly) towards breakfast. Once our raging headaches had subsided sufficiently to consider driving safely we set off to see our Grandad in Evesham. Although first we diverted to Bromsgrove so Adam could find stodgy food to placate his hangover. I have never seen a place as odd as the centre of Bromsgrove that day. There seemed to be the most half-hearted attempt at a fair going on with one trampoline and this risible Magic Kingdom thing that no children went near and that old men watched intently.
It seems that randomness was catching as when we rolled up in Evesham and took our Grandad to do his weekly shop we saw this sitting outside Morrisons.

Not sure why it was there - although, it would be a cool way to do your grocery shopping....
On the way back to the hotel we sailed majestically through Pershore, stopping only to take pictures with the giant duplo/lego/playmobil man.
In the evening we saw the frankly dreadful Resident Evil:Extinction in Worcester. A privilege which cost £7.20 a ticket. I believe I may have sqawked slightly on being told the price, I also narrowly avoided saying the words 'Are you sh**ing me?' out load.

Day 3:
On our way home we decided to go to a safari park as neither of us had been to one for as long as we could remember. So we detoured to the West Midlands Safari Park, where I was keenly hoping that there would be monkeys and penguins. Sadly, I was to be disappointed on both counts. But I did see wolves, tigers, elephants and stroked a zebra which made me rather happy.

I did want to give you a couple of pictures, but sadly Blogger is being recalcitrant in that area right now. I may add them later. However, you can look at all my Safari Park pictures on photobucket here.

Movies
Stardust *** (A missed opportunity, fun though)
Resident Evil: Extinction *
Master and Commander ****
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Extended) *****
The Station Agent ****

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Still & Moving Pictures

The first wednesday of this very month saw my emergence from pub quiz hibernation.

In a new venue in South Manchester; myself and Eyan's pub quiz returned in autumnal glory (See previous quiz shenanigans by clicking here). By clicking on this link right here, you can see his sports round. Below for your edu-tainment is my picture round which will fiendishly test your knowledge of Manchester people. Click on the image for a bigger picture.

Answers in about a week....

No googling allowed...... I will know.

*Answers in the comments*

Movies
Nightwatch *****
Daywatch ****
The Bourne Ultimatum *****
Children of Men *****
Blades of Glory ***
Alien vs Predator *
Hellboy Animated: Blood & Iron ****
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai *****

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Shock as politician indulges himself in....politics.

In the news today.....When the Tories criticised Gordon Brown over his 'convenient' trip to Iraq on the day he announced 1000 British troops would be coming home, No. 10 Downing Street leapt manfully to his defence.

"[the Tories] suggested the PM used the armed forces as a "political football". Sir John Major also questioned the timing of the announcement and Mr Brown's visit.

But No 10 said it was "preposterous" to suggest the PM was playing politics"


Allow me to translate No. 10's response into non-spokesperson speak:
"Ah. duuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... (accompanied by Friends-style head wobbling)

Must be a slow news day on the BBC.... Anyhoo, it gives me a chance to post this marvellous cartoon by Steve Bell.
While we're talking about political cartoons. Here's one by the Guardian's Martin Rowson about David Cameron's intriguing approach to concrete policies.
I love political cartoons.



*sigh* I'm so middle class......

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From the sublime to the completely ridiculous...

In my last post I remembered fondly the impact of people like Joy Division, Tony Wilson and Factory Records on modern Manchester. So from the sublime melodies of Love Will Tear Us Apart we approach the ridiculous as reported in today's Manchester Evening News.

It would appear that Big Brother contestants and identically annoying Manchester twins Sam & Amanda Marchant are releasing a pop single. That in itself is not a surprise, many pathetically short and usually crap pop careers have been spawned by the inexplicable phenomenon that is Big Brother. No, the truly hideous element of this story is that some moron at Sony actively sought out this monumentally irriating duo to cover...... Barbie Girl by Aqua* (give me strength....).

One or other of them was quoted as saying (in a no doubt giggly high-pitched way)
"There were all these agents there, saying Sony want you to release Barbie Girl, and we were like 'wow' cos it's our favourite song, it's dead girlie."

Okaaaaayyyy. Although, before I move on, here is another quote from the dynamic duo on their 'brand' Samanda.

"We don't want to be individuals, we want to be one"

Okaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy. Read the full story here.

Also in today's MEN. an interesting little article tucked away on the inner pages. According to a poll by ettiquette experts Debrett's, 63% of British women voted manners the most important factor in their choice of a partner. Meanwhile, 29% were swayed by intelligence with a mere 5% saying good looks were the deciding factor. Right, so we infer from this that most women prefer intelligent, well mannered men rather than rude, handsome ones.....

Now, I am both exceedingly well-mannered and reasonably intelligent. But ask me how many dates I have been on in the last year. Go on - ask me.

The answer is none.

This of course, may have something to do with:
A) my beer belly,
B) the fact I have a face like a bearded egg
or
C) a combination of A & B

I'm not saying this to elicit sympathy in any way, just to point out the futility of this type of poll. I put it to you that what we can learn from this poll is that 5% of women are brave enough to tell the truth to a complete stranger in the street brandishing a clipboard at them.

A polite intelligent man yesterday

*Anyway, as any connoisseur of comedy covers knows, the best Barbie Girl cover is by classic neo-punkers (I'm so sorry for using that phrase) MXPX. Listen to it here.

While we're talking about bands, check out this oh-so-indie video by Starflyer 59. Its for a track called I Win off their My Island album. Marvellously, the band featured in the video are not Starflyer 59 and their legendary frontman Jason Martin doesn't appear in it at all. Watch it here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

From darkness to light in a madchester stylee

On BBC 4 just t'other day there was a fascinating programme charting the rise and fall of Factory Records. Factory was the now legendary label started by the late Anthony Wilson among others. Click here to read about it and watch some clips.

I always found Anthony Wilson rather annoying, but during this programme I started warming to him. The concept behind Factory was not just to sell records and make money. It was also a kind of social experiment to see if music and the Hacienda could help effect citywide change. The thing that started my Wilson thaw was his obvious love for Manchester. It came through in everything he was saying, both in the recent interviews and the archive footage. I've been living in Manchester for over 6 years now and I love it, there is something about the place that gets under your skin. Watching this programme made me realise that the atmosphere and energy of Manchester that so many love is in no small part down to people like Wilson and Factory Records. I salute them now....

Plus this gives me an excuse to post footage of Manchester legends Joy Division, which is always worthwhile

Movies
Mrs Brown ****
Kind Hearts & Coronets *****
Black Gold *****
An amazing and terrifying documentary about the coffee industry. Watch it. I will NEVER drink non-fairtrade coffee ever again. What the big coffee companies do is little short of evil...
Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back *****

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spitting Feathers.....

There some things in this world that can leave me speechless with rage or helplessly drowning in my own annoyance. These include reality TV shows, Catherine Tate, fashion nazis and people being unnecessarily rude.

However in this post, I want to vent my spleen at the truly hideous publication that is Didsbury Magazine. It is the free glossy magazine that is shoved through our doors once a month. I am aware that Didsbury is a fairly affluent area (although, I myself am far from affluent), but Didsbury Magazine is the most offensively capitalist, middle class toilet rag I have ever had the misfortune to set my eyes upon.

Here's how it describes itself on its website:
"Didsbury Magazine is the glossy lifestyle magazine for the style concious (sic) citizens of Didsbury and South Manchester"

Arrrrgh, I'm already furious, just reading that description (let alone the bloody spelling mistake). It is full of toothily perfect rich people talking about how marvellous their lives are. It tells you the best places for 'ladies who lunch' (there is genuinely an article using that term in the latest edition. I'm not joking - 'Ladies who Lunch'! for f*@k's sake...). It completely ignores the fact that its coverage area includes some estates like Merseybank & Nell Lane where the daily problem of which £50 moisturiser to use or what to do with your seed heads is not really an issue.

Now we get to the point that had me speechless with rage. In July, Didsbury Magazine had a fund-raising ball. It was 007 themed and was attended by lots of people and lots of local companies donated prizes. Now, I am the first to applaud the wealthy putting their hands in their pockets to help those less well off. If you follow this link you can see photos from the big night. How much money do you think all those exceedingly well dressed, well troughed people raised on the night?


£1000......


Lets just think about that shall we? At first glance, that sounds like a lot of money. Until you think how many people were there, how much the whole thing will have cost to put together. Then suddenly £1000 seems like an insultingly small amount. I remember a youth group I was involved with that only had about 10 members who managed to raise over £500 pounds for charity.

How dare this vile publication brag about raising what is, frankly, pocket change? If they'd got their guests to put in £20 a piece and saved the money from the event, they'd probably have raised double the money. It seems to me that the evening was a chance for wannabe WAGs and Sloane Rangers to get pissed out their tree and show off their impressive wealth while feeling they were "making a difference."

Or maybe I'm completely wrong about the whole thing. But hey, that's what blogs are for, venting spleen. I feel much better now....

By the way, you may be asking yourself: "If he hates the magazine so much, why does he read it?" That is an excellent question, well done for asking it. I read it because I like to get cross about things from time to time....

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blog Envy

I have been thinking about blogging this evening.
Tim at Cultural Snow encouraged his ample readership (I am, of course, speaking numerically - I'm not suggesting that loads of fat people read his blog) to pick a blog from his blogroll, read it and then leave a post. Read the post here.

I looked at a few and left posts on a couple. As I did so I reflected on how many quality blogs are out there. So, in order to help you sort the quality wheat from the new-meeja chaff, I've decided to present to you the .....

Nine Tenths Full of Penguins

Five. Greatest. Blogs. Ever *

(Keep a weather eye for the TV programme of the same name appearing on Living TV soon. Paul Tonkinson, Keavy Lynch from B*witched & her who plays Louise in Two Pints of Lager & A Packet of Crisps have already been signed up)

1) Fat Roland
The random and highly amusing ramblings of my radio partner-in-crime Eyan. Expect the surreal and a passion for Electronica.

2) Quinquireme
A blog that has been in existence for 6 years. Which means in blogosphere terms that it is practically on a par with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3) Post Secret
PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. It can be funny, disturbing, uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking.

4) The Manchizzle
Essential Manchester blogging hub....

5) Never Knowingly Underwhelmed
The blog of Andrew Collins, who I have had a great deal of respect for since his Radio 1 show with Stuart Maconie back in the day. He is also the author of the only biography I have ever read and enjoyed - Still Suitable for Miners, which is about Billy Bragg.

* Well, I say ever.....

Movies
Star Wars: A New Hope *****
The Truman Show ****
Run Fatboy Run ***
Stargate ****
Hot Fuzz ****

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Greenbelt Phlegm Vol 2: Greenbelt Day the Second

Welcome to the second of my post-Greenbelt/Greenbelt FM related musings. Read the first one here. In the last post I talked about Billy Bragg's Friday night performance, here's a video of him doing a random Carpenter's cover at the request of a possibly ironic Greenbelt crowd.



Saturday dawned sunny, bright and (because I was getting up at an ungodly hour) bloody freezing. I was terribly excited as at 9am I slunk in behind the microphone for the first of my Greenbelt Today shows. These shows were a bit of a departure for me in terms of radio. If you've ever heard any of mine and Eyan's podcasts (if not, click here), you'll have discovered that our radio style is a bit ramshackle, with lots of banter and generally very silly. Greenbelt Today is more like a Radio 2 thing with live guests talking about serious things.

In my first show I interviewed various people, most notably a gentleman with the superb moniker of Greg Valerio. Greg is the founder and CEO of a company called Cred Jewellery who make ethically sourced and produced jewellery. He was our favourite guest because he was interesting to interview and he actually brought real gold with him to show us. Sadly, he took it with him at the end of the interview. We also met two randomly selected lovely people who were to become our Greenbelt Today Guinea Pigs. Mark and Katie kindly agreed to go to something at the festival every day that was selected by us and then come on the show the following day, tell us about it and receive their next assignment.

My show passed without a crisis but then, due to a mix up, I found myself staying on the air afterwards to present a music show for which I was completely unprepared! It was great fun as I got to meet Kit Ashton and the Greenbelt Minstrels who came on and chatted for a bit and played a couple of marvellous live tunes. Later in the day, I randomly ran into my old vicar and boss from my youthworkerin' days, bought an exceptional hat (brown fedora!! Just like Indiana Jones - yay!), edited stuff for other shows and generally worked till about 9pm.

Despite being shattered, in the late late evening I visited the beer tent and met up with various Manchester bods. It felt strange, as I was sitting with them I felt out of place. Just a couple of years ago, these were people that I felt very comfortable around. But it really hit home to me how much I have changed (for the better I think) since I separated from my wife in January 06. With a few notable exceptions (including the legendary Fil the Destroyer and his long-suffering better half Di), I felt I just didn't fit in. I didn't feel bad about that, just thoughtful.

Anyhoo, I took myself off to my tent and was asleep shortly after midnight as I had to be up at 6:45am the next morning.....

In the next installment of Greenbelt Phlegm:
Something or other happens.....

Back in the real world however, I have started my new job. This is exciting and extremely tiring. I also had a rather silly flat-warming party roughly themed on the Big Lebowski (which was mainly an excuse for guests to wear dressing gowns and drink alarming numbers of White Russians.

Movies
The Bourne Ultimatum *****
Next *
Back to the Future Pt 2 ****
Back to the Future Pt 3 ***
Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom ****

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Greenbelt Phlegm Vol 1: Greenbelt Day the FIrst


I have just returned from a fantastic weekend at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham this weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with Greenbelt, it is a music and arts festival that takes place once a year at Cheltenham racecourse. I've been attending for a while, but the last two years I've been working at the festival radio station. So many exciting things happened that I am going to beg your indulgence and present you a blog post for each day of the festival.

Greenbelt is really like nothing else I've ever experienced, the closest I can imagine would be a smaller, more Christian Glastonbury type thing. Click on the link above to find out more. Each year the festival has a theme, this year's being Heaven in Ordinary. This last 6 days, especially with the glorious weather we had, has been the closest to Heaven I have experienced in a long time.

I won't talk about the Thursday when I arrived on site much, except to say that it involved setting up many many tents in the wonderful sunshine, then an evening in the Organic Beer Tent (a recurring event you will find over the next few posts).

Possibly due to the combination of lots of sun and a moderate amount of strong organic beer; myself, Eyan and Anna from the Greenbelt FM team woke on Friday morning with horrific hangovers (like "Urrrrrggggghhhh, I think I'm actually dead" type hangovers). I emerged out of my tent like a George Romero zombie groaning and stumbling around in my search for liquid replenishment (and a banana).

However, on with the show as it were. I had no presenterly duties, so I was dispatched round the festival site on various errands to help prepare for the afternoon's shows. I also did my bit for GB FM publicity by lending my meagre erection skills (oo-errr) to the placement of banners.
I think this picture really does bring out my best features. The 2 inches slightly below my knees. They can be admired on the left of this picture purloined from the official Greenbelt section on Flickr.

I was assigned to help out on Eyan's Live Lunch Show, which went very well. He interviewed some excellent guests including a particularly striking young lady called Alicia from Christian Aid. She was promptly booked to come back in for the remaining Live Lunch shows. This went down very well with the straight male members of the Greenbelt FM team (oo-errrrr. OK time to stop now....)

The rest of the day flashed by in a flurry of activity, including some frenetic planning with my excellent team for my show Greenbelt Today (the first of which I will blog about in the next post).

In the evening I met up with a friend and went to mainstage to see Billy Bragg, which was amazing. The man may not have a great voice, but his songs are as powerful and passionate as ever and he can work a crowd brilliantly. My favourite line from Billy that night was a throwaway comment about how that as he has aged, his music has been upgraded from punk to folk. It had me chuckling quietly under my breath like a lunatic for 5 minutes.

We also tried in vain to go and see something young and trendy in The Gentlemen, who are a very exciting young Sheffield band who Eyan and I cruelly labelled as the Christian Busted on Refresh FM at Easter. They are much better than that and deserve to do exceedingly well. Sadly about 7 million people had the same idea as us and we couldn't squeeze ourselves into the venue to see them.

Finally, the evening started as the day had begun, in the beer tent. I met up with various Manchester people who all commented on the belisha beacon sunburn look I had assiduously cultivated during the day. Thanks go particularly to Stephen Devine who managed to mock my excessively red face despite it being near pitch dark in the beer garden.

In the next thrilling installment of Greenbelt Phlegm:
More beer! I actually get unleashed on a microphone! I interview some Minstrels (not chocolate ones)! I hold real gold in my hand! We inflate chairs! I eat a jacket potato! I buy a hat!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

#Working Niiiiinnnne to Fiiiiiiiivvvvvveeeee#

(Well actually more like 7-2....)

I am more excited than a bucket of hamsters running over a bucket of pigeons today. In less than an hour's time I will be cramming my many-pocketed rucksack into a small car full of lovely people and winging my way to the Greenbelt Festival. Like last year, I am working for the festival radio station Greenbelt FM (see last year's post about my adventures here) which will no doubt be great fun once more.

This year I am presenting a daily show called Greenbelt Today and also producing regular radio partner-in-crime Eyan's daily Live Lunch show.

Despite last minute tent related travails (Damp tent + tent bag + 11 months = tent ruined by thick black mould.... I was quite cross with the person who borrowed it and then told me it was dry when they put it away!!!!), I am really looking forward to this year's festival. The weather looks like being fantastic and I'm rather looking forward to seeing Aqualung too.

I might try and blog while I'm away, but if not have a picture of a penguin kite (Christmas present perhaps?) to tide you over till I get back...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hot Podcastular Action Vol 3

The Odyssey is complete. The final three podcasts from myself and Eyan's radio shenanigans at Easter on Refresh FM. Click here and here to see my earlier podcast posts.



Click on the underlined titles to to be whisked to the download site...

In which we talk about:
Fiddling with turny-dials, Lee being smarter than Chris Moyles, the Plain Jane Super Brain Show, a woman from Atlantis, boys with idiot brains and girls with gills, Lee fires Eyan and promotes Fil from the Posse, we dedicate a mewithoutyou track to the entire world, the continuing saga of the Drive Time feud and the related tasks, throwing shapes - old skooool, we invent the Rockter Scale, Eyan's a sheep, how to file a Norma Jean CD, we count people's aunties, talk about rock melons, whether John Rutter is nice to his pets, Fil's girly feet and cleats, we destroy Bertie the imaginary Refresh Hamster in our game Sackcloth & Bashes, we give Preacha: Geography of a Journey by Cameron Dante a slow death with pink sandpaper and a power sander to the accompaniment of Relight my Fire by Take That.

Games: Chainsaw Challenge, Sackcloth & Bashes,
In which we talk about:
Our show being Refresh-innovative or Refreshnovative, we have a British hour, said farewell to Fire Fly, talked about Delirious being a thrusting young band, a nice lady called Janet who is a woman of the cloth visits us, Eyan defends himself for going to see Take That, the Christian Busted, Eyan then defends the real Busted, Lee liking Patience by Take That, the paucity of good British Christian bands, talk seriously for a change, Lee & Eyan having our own charm and attractions, Lee judges Eyan, Janet throws things at Eyan's head as part of a game, someone asks us to play Misty for them, a toy Chicken that distributes candy from its arse, Lee has his revenge, we have an upsetting text from a listener with ability to compress time, flushing hot cakes down the toilet, haggling for scented candles.

Games: ADVENTURE Game

In which we talk about:
Biblical curses, our bitterness at losing our feud with Abi on Drivetime, a bucket of pigeons being run over by a bucket of hamsters, giggling Stefan and Sarahcontrary, Chucknorrisfacts.com, Shameless Unplugged, Eyan's fluffy sock related explosiveness, Lee's beer impaired memory of Sarah at Greenbelt, Eyan finds George Bush strangely attractive in a simian way, visiting the Quite Early Show pub quiz in a fake outside broadcast at the Fox & Hammer, ladies with flat caps and beards, never camp in a pub, settling the transubstantiation vs consubstantiation argument with a thumb war in Rejoice & be Gladiator, we say our Quite Early Show goodbyes till 2008, we reflect on how rubbish and vacuous we were for two weeks.
Games: Rejoice and be Gladiator, Quite Early Show Pub Quiz

Two gladiators yesterday


Movies
The Simpsons Movie ***
Ran *****

Sunday, August 12, 2007

This is a highlights post...

Due to my internet weebles taking a well-earned summer holiday I have been unable to post on this here blog for a while.

For some bizarre reason, when my computer is out of action or if I am somehow unable to get access to t'interweb I have loads of great ideas for stunningly creative and gut-wrenchingly funny blog posts. Sadly, by the time I get round to actually blogging, all those ideas have sailed out of my mind like a flotilla of racing yachts in a gale. Therefore, I will give you some of the highlights from my brain over the last couple of weeks....

There are 5 things because 5 is the 3rd prime number (its also a Fermat prime dontcha know....)

1) Bowling
In the house I share we are completely addicted to ten-pin bowling on the Wii (we are now a 2 Wii house). I like it because its about half-way between real bowling and previous attempts at computer bowling. However, recently we have had TWO house outings to partake in real-life meatspace bowling, which were exceedingly good fun. Now I hadn't gone real bowling for ages so over the two visits scores of 138, 122, 99 and 117 were most satisfying. Sadly, I think I'll never replicate my Wii best score of 212 in real life...



2) Underage Festival
A festival in that there London for young whippersnappers. Read this article from the Guardian. Near the end Conor McNicholas, Editor of NME makes a comment. NME makes me very grumpy, nay, furiously angry at times. NME has been quite vocal about how modern festivals are being ruined due to old people insisting on attending. Apparently it would like Glastonbury to improve its atmosphere for 2008 by attracting the 'NME & Radio 1 crowd' who it would seem are all 16-17 years old. Now I don't know about you, but most 16-17 year olds are unlikely to read NME as it is a magazine written by people predominantly in their 30s and upwards. So there's an inherent contradiction in their whole argument that makes me very grumpy.

3) Somerset
I visited my friends Andrew & Ann in their new home in Somerset last week. The weather was lovely and the cider most agreeable. Do read Ann's blog here. This is what I have decided to name Taff's View. This is the view from the patio at the bottom of their garden. I am most envious... Click on it for a larger view.


4) For the love of all that is holy, don't read this book!
I had the misfortune to pick up Next by Michael Crichton in the middle of a long train journey. It is dreadful. Don't read it. I only read it because the alternative was staring out the window for 5 hours. In my defence I had 3 minutes to buy a book before I had catch my connection at Bristol so I grabbed it as I enjoyed reading Jurassic Park. However, there were warning signs I should have spotted. Firstly, the half price ticket - a new(ish) book being sold for £3.50? Secondly, these fateful words on the cover which I didn't see till too late "Completely Brilliant!" - the Daily Mail. NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I read a book the Daily Mail thinks is brilliant? I feel violated somehow.

5) Toad in the Hole
I learnt how to make Toad in the Hole! Which was rather exciting, in an 'I'm clearly 30 years old and rather sad' way. I made two for my housemates, which they seemed to enjoy, which was also gratifying.

Movies
Transformers **
(Possibly the dumbest movie I've seen in a long time. But its great fun and the effects are jaw dropping)
The Thing *****
(How a sci-fi horror movie should be done. The effects are wonderfully gruesome and creative considering it was made in 1984)
The New World *
(Beautifully shot, but incredibly dull and boring at the same time. Full of shots of people walking through grass looking pained and emotional)
The Departed *****
Jaws *****
The Contractor *
Breaking & Entering **
Serenity *****

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Arrrrgghhhh - What the HELL is that? And how do I kill it?

Now that I am gainfully employed for September, I am now free to concentrate on the more important things in life, like playing computer games for lengthy spans of time.

Accordingly, I have been playing the Wii edition of Resident Evil 4 for the last few days. RE4 on the Wii is a marvellous thing; the controls are the most intuitive of any of the Resident Evil games, its beautifully atmospheric, immersive and the monsters are great.

Ahhh, the monsters....

You see, my problem with games like this (and I've loved the Resident Evil games since I played one of the early ones on the PS1) is that I'm not very good at them. I have the unfortunate tendency to get rather nervous and jump out of my skin when the latest monstrosity bursts out of a door/through a window/floor/ceiling and proceeds to tear me to pieces.

So instead of keeping calm and going for the all important head shot at the Zombie/Hunter/ Ganados/Tyrant currently eviscerating me, I panic and spray bullets anywhere but where I should be while repeating the familiar litany of "crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap - come on, COME ON, COME ON! (disgusting squelching/tearing sound) BOLLOCKS - I'm dead...."

My current least favourite RE4 beastie is the delightful Regenerator.

These lovely creatures regenerate themselves as you shoot them, they look creepy and their harsh groaning breathing is very disconcerting when you start to hear it. I spent an unhappy hour trying to work out how to kill them (an hour I might add where I died 45 times and repeated a similar litany to that above every single time). I finally discovered that an elaborate combination of running, flash grenades, shotgun and using an infrared scope on my rifle to identify up to 5 otherwise invisible parasites inside its body was what was required. Here is a delightful video of a Regenerator in action. You can shoot it till the cows come home, but it can still do extremely unpleasant things to you. Blerrrrrghh..... (warning - its a bit gruesome)



I know what some of you may be thinking: What is a 30 year old man doing playing games and even worse, blogging about it? Well, its a good question. All I will say is, it beats doing DIY hands down....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Procrastination

I have an interview today.......

Feeling a bit nervous, so I cheered myself up with this cartoon by Dave Walker at We Blog Cartoons

*Update. I got the job - phew!

Friday, July 13, 2007

More penguin madness

Hat tip to Nat for this marvellously insane animation of a squirrel and a penguin in a banjo duel. Things get a bit weird.....

I'm making up for a lack of penguin related nonsense over the last few months. In a blog entitled 9/10ths Full of Penguins, this distressing lack of penguin content has bothered me for a while. Normal wibbling service will be resumed shortly...

Movies
Die Hard 2 ****
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix ****
1408 **
Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark *****

*Answers to the last quiz rounds can now be found in the comments on this post

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Penguin abuse...

This is wrong, just wrong. Extreme penguin bashing. Click on the image or here to play.

But oh so funny....

My best score was 1002.4. Beat me if you can.

Movies
Green Mile ****
Die Hard 4 ***

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Summer Quizzery

Check out previous quiz action here. This month it was my turn to do the music round and picture round.

But in a twist worthy of Machiavelli himself I cunningly decided to replace said picture round with the already legendary cheese round. Each team had a plate of 10 cheeses which they had to identify by appearance and taste. Sadly, I can't replicate the full experience in the blogosphere so you've got to go simply on appearance. Click on the picture for a bigger version.



Edited highlights of the Music Round
1) Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional was used in which superhero movie? X-Men 2, Spiderman 2 or The Fantastic Four
2) Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen was used as the opening to the film documentary in which Morgan Spurlock lived off just junk food for a month. Name the film. Bonus point for naming the other half of the Double-A side that Fat Bottomed Girls was released as.

My birthday is on 19th July, when I hit the magic 3-0. No. 1 singles from my lifetime.
3) What was the No 1 single on my birthday in 1997?
a) Aqua - Barbie Girl
b) Elton John – Candle in the Wind
c) Oasis – D’You Know What I Mean
4) No 1 Single on my birthday in 1987?
a) Pet Shop Boys – It’s a Sin
b) Starship - Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now
c) Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up
5) No 1 Single on the day I was born in 1977?
a) Donna Summer – I Feel Love
b) Hot Chocolate – So You Win Again
c) Wings – Mull of Kintyre
6) Which acclaimed BBC sitcom used this Half the World Away by Oasis as its theme tune?
7) Which German car maker Strange & Beautiful by Aqualung to advertise a new model in 2002? BMW, Audi, VW or Mercedes
8) Name the top 5 best selling UK single of all time?

No googling allowed! Answers sometime next week. *

Just a quick word about Dr Who, the series that has just finished has been generally great. However, just when you thought they'd got it right they hire Catherine bloody 'Am I bovvered' Tate for the next season! What on earth is going on? Check out Tim at Cultural Snow and James Henry for more.

*Answers now the in the comments section

Movies
36 ****
Red Violin ****
Star Trek 6 ***
Casshern ****
Die Hard *****
Die Hard with a Vengeance ****

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Things that have made me smile this week

A few things over the last week or so have contrived to make me smile.

1: I saw this on Dave's Cartoon Church website: He was deciding whether he should confuse Pentecostal Christians by leaving these messages written on leaves at a conference centre type place. The whole thing made me chuckle out loud for minutes. Do take some time to look at his website, it's very funny. Particularly his reasonably affectionate battle with Times Religion columnist Ruth Gledhill.

"These are some leaves I wrote on and left on a bench for the Pentecostals to discover. I enjoy leaving messages for Pentecostals. You should try it."

2: I just finished reading a book by Tom Holt who is an author I like very much. The book is 'You Don't Have to be Evil to Work Here, But it Helps'. It made me smile a great deal. I like Tom Holt because he takes familiar myths and legends like Faust, Beowulf and King Arthur
(in the spectacularly named Grailblazers) and twists them in a very humorously English way.


3: I passed my PGCE and I'm now a proper teacher and everything, which has made me very happy indeed! I think this course has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, which only increases my satisfaction at passing. Last week we had our end of year get-together at our course tutor's house. It was a very enjoyable evening but it was a little bit sad to reflect on some of the people who hadn't made it to the end of the course. There was an alternative awards ceremony as part of the evening, which was rather fun. We had voted in advance in a variety of categories and I was most gratified to be awarded Most Ethical Trainee and Most Creative Trainee.






Better than an Oscar!

Amusingly, I received a few other nominations, the most inexplicable being Most Handsome Trainee. Luckily, justice prevailed and I didn't win that one, I think there are clearly some Newly Qualified Teachers who need a trip to the opticians...
Just need to sort myself a job now...

Movies
Children of Men *****
The Red Violin ****

Thursday, June 21, 2007

How Lord of the Rings Should Have Ended



I find this highly amusing...
"Can you imagine what it would have been like if we'd walked the entire way?"

I was also terribly excited at Dr Who at the weekend. My all-time favourite Who enemy, the Master, is back. It also had Derek Jacobi going from sweet, bumbling old man to scenery chewing pantomime villain in a matter of moments - marvellous!

Movies
Hot Fuzz ****
Oceans 13 **
The Fountain ****
Equilibrium ***

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Old Friends Vol 2 and other Miscellany

Following on from Vol 1 of my adventures rediscovering old musical friends here, its time to briefly complete my odyssey and talk about some randomness as well. Having revisited Delirious I have also re-found two bands who both have a certain folk flavour. Firstly, the Levellers and then Iona.

While I was at university, like many others, I got into the Levellers with their brand of folk-tinged rock. There are three main reasons that I liked them: their level of energy, an insane catchiness and the left wing politics that informed a great deal of their music. I have spent quite a lot of time listening to what is probably their best album, Levelling the Land. Its not the greatest album in the world, but it is incredibly catchy and you find yourself helplessly singing along. Even though I hadn't listened to it for a good 5 years or so, I still remembered most of the words and found myself singing along with just about every song. Very enjoyable. Not as immediately catchy, but still a lot of fun are their LP debut A Weapon Called the Word and Zeitgeist.

The second band, Iona, have a special place in my musical heart. They are a rather unique mix of prog rock and folk music. I first saw them live in 1990 at Band on the Wall in Manchester and they made me realise that music could be more than just something you had in the background; that it could be something extraordinary. Two of the most amazing moments I've experienced at gigs have been at Iona concerts. I saw them in the mid nineties and as one of their encores they played a piece called Reels which started slowly and just built faster and faster to a dazzling display of musical virtuosity that got the entire audience dancing like idiots, myself included (if you know me, you know I never dance).

The other was at their 1999 Royal Festival Hall Woven Cord concert. They performed backed by a full orchestra and it was amazing. But the most incredible moment was during a song called Beyond these Shores. It's a very simple song and it was so beautiful that as it faded away at the end, you could hear a pin drop and it took a few moments for people to come to themselves and start applauding. Listening to their music has reminded me all over again, just how good they were and still are.

Other Miscellany, of which there are two items because two is the oddest prime number.

1) I have been catching up with real-life old friends on Facebook which has been cool. Facebook is ridiculously addictive and I find it very easy to waste an hour or two fiddling about on there reviewing movies, exchanging wall posts with friends and playing the iLike music game. It feels satisfyingly sociable without any of the pesky actual in-person socialising or 'meatspace' interaction if you like. (hat tip to Patroclus for the meatspace term)

2) Dr Who. The latest series of Dr Who has finally hit its stride ,with the past 4 episodes being excellent. The Lazarus Experiment, the Family of Blood two parter and this week's episode Blink were all very good. Blink had the most genuinely creepy monsters of the whole series in the Weeping Angels (if you watched, how cool were they?!!) and although the Doctor wasn't in the episode much, it was a cracker.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hot Podcastular Action Vol 2

Following this drivel here, I felt that in the interests of nerdy complete-ness (is that even a word?), I should add Vol 2 of the Quite Early Show podcasts. So here we go... deep breaths everyone.
Click on the underlined titles to to be whisked to the download site...

The Quite Early Show - 6th April
In which we talked about our feud with Abi on Drivetime, American and Australian funny shaped buildings and London's Space Gherkin, belly button fluff, God's playlist, listeners letters, gummy eyeballs, Inspector Gadget vs Inspector Morse, Radio 2 & Terry Wogan .

Games: Hunt the Chocolate Eggs

The Quite Early Show - 9th April
In which we talked about Grits & hooves, monkey obsession, penguin fractions, the Day Today, erm-ing, Christian fiction and how crap Left Behind is, Evil & Non Evil music, our professionalism(!), Lee sounding like his Mum, Aled Jones playing drums for Chris de Burgh, Reception animals.

Games: If You Can Spell It You Can Have It

Getting ourselves in the right frame of mind for presenting a radio show on Christian radio

The Quite Early Show - 10th April

In which we talked about Mash ups, inane drivel, Lee & Eyan not being Sarah, Darts, the Queen & the Pope's iPods, Cake & Test Match Special, Round 2 of the feud with Abi on Drivetime, the use of lips in blowing up balloons, Eyan gets a ride in LZ7's hot wheels, taking breaths in recorded albums a la Muse, how Lee is eating too many vegetables and has wind, our new DJ names - Flabby & Flappy.

Games: Balloons & Darts

There are three more podcasts to come including the second Theatre of Noise show. As soon as the engineering gremlins sort them out, they will be winging their way to Nine Tenths Full of Penguins.

Movies
The Bunker ***
Patriot Games ***
Edtv ***
Pirates of the Carribbean 3 *
The only good thing was a magnificent scene-chewing turn from Geoffrey Rush hamming it up as Captain Barbossa. Oh yeah, the effects were pretty good in places...
Zodiac ****

Quzzery in a June Styleeee

Yes, that time of the month has spun round with dismaying swiftness once more. Wednesday night in East Didsbury was yet again invaded by myself and Eyan's unique brand of trivia and silliness in our monthly pub quiz.

See all previous quiz related shenanigans by clicking here. It was my turn to do the general knowledge and theme rounds and they lurk below.

1) The G8 summit is being held in Germany at the moment. Name as many of the member countries of the G8 as you can.
2) What is measured on the Beaufort scale?
3) What is the pirate's skull and cross-bones flag called?
4) Which bird is the international symbol of happiness?
5) They may be complex, vulgar or mixed. What are they?
6) Which country is the home of feta cheese?
7) Which well-loved cartoon animal made his debut in 1937?
8) Roald Dahl wrote the book called BFG. What do the initials stand for?
9) The first official Bond movie was released in 1964. What was the title?
10) Which was the first football team with the word Rovers in their name to win the Premiership?

The aftermath of June's pub quiz

Theme: Greek Mythology

1) The son of Thetis the sea-goddess, Achilles was impervious to harm apart for one weakness. Where was that weakness?
2) Jason & The Argonauts sailed on the ship Argo to find what?
3) Jason was tutored by Chiron the centaur. A centaur is half man and half what?
4) Name the King & Queen of the Gods.
5) What is the name of mountain atop which the Greek gods lived?
6) Medusa was a Gorgon with the charming ability to turn people into stone with a single look. What was the name of the hero who killed her and how did he avoid being turned into stone?
7) Which hero famed for his colossal strength undertook a series of heroic tasks or Labours?
8) According to Greek myth the dead were transported to the underworld Hades by a mysterious ferryman. What was the name of the river they crossed?
9) What was the name of the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, books telling the stories of the siege of Troy and Odysseus’ adventures on his return from Troy?
10) Theseus solved the mystery of the Labyrinth of Crete with little more than a ball of thread. However, what monster made its home in the Labyrinth?

Answers sometime next week...


update 21/06/07 - answers now in the comments region

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hot Podcastular Action Vol 1

There are Refresh FM podcasts available for download. If you would like to hear myself and Eyan larking about on t'radio, do pop feel free to pop across and check out our podcasts some of which are laid out for you in a vague fashion below. Obviously, for copyright reasons, the music has been removed, but the silliness and games remain. This post contains details for our first 4 shows on Refresh FM. Click on the underlined titles to to be whisked to the download site...

In which we talked about how to make Tiffin cake, Call My Bluff, Neighbours, Lee's beard, growing things, Dan going to Scotland, Eyan singing and choirs.

Games: Diagnosticate My Braggadocio & Sin, Lose or Draw (see below)


In which we talked about Dylan from Magic Roundabout and his music, our American friend & Atlanta in Georgia, Lee's sideline in mundane helicopter rides, Eyan's love for Terry Wogan and his podcast, newsforidiots.com, Random Scandinavian facts, a Sonicflood anecdote and biscuits.

Games: Extreme Egg Curling

In which we talked about physically rolling hills and mini mountains, the TON posse, jellybeans, Carruthers from the Beeb and his 'timbre', goodbye to Wax Lyrical, Eyan is mean to Lee throughout, Refresh FM's first ever phone in, Dan & Stef & Carruthers & Fil the Destroyer feel my sack, Eyan sharing a birthday with Rod Hull and getting in touch with our feminine swimming side.

Games: Can You Please Name That Tool Please, Sackcloth & Bashes, the Chainsaw Challenge
wherein we choose between different bad Christian music and destroy the worst one with a power tool....

In which we talked about doing badly in the bandwithnoname's humming contest, the Queen in Manchester, Prince Charles' ears, royalism vs republicanism, unmerited privilege, swallowing bees, our feud with Abi on drivetime, flies kicking over jam, old He-Man cartoons and theme tunes, making our own children's programme, Eyan causing Lee pain.

Games: ADVENTURE - a dangerously violent Easter memory game,
Movies
The Big Lebowski *****
Clear & Present Danger ***

Friday, May 18, 2007

Old Friends Vol. 1

I've been revisiting some old friends recently. This is nothing to do with me joining Facebook, although I will say it is exceedingly addictive. No, I have been revisiting old musical friends.

Now that I have a mp3 player of exceeding capaciousness, I have been copying much of my CD collection so if I suddenly have a desire to listen to a Phil & John album while out and about, I can. This has meant that I have reacquainted myself with some albums that I used to love, but have callously neglected in recent years. So over the next few weeks I will be posting about some of the albums I have rediscovered.
Delirious - Mezzamorphis

This album was released in 1999 and is an absolute gem. The undisputed creative highpoint of Delirious' output, there are elements of U2, Manic St Preachers and, in places, the mighty Radiohead to enjoy. I hadn't listened to it at all until fairly recently and I was surprised all over again at just how good it is. One of the band's trump cards is guitarist Stu Garrard, who has one of the most recognisable sounds around, possibly rivalling Starflyer 59's Jason Martin for distinctiveness.

The album was unusually well received critically for a band who were and continue to be overtly religious. See this slightly grudging 4 star review from Q magazine, who also included the standout track Metamorphis on their CD of some of the best music of 1999. Previously, due to their roots in creating (admittedly excellent) worship music, Delirious had often been overlooked in the music press and shunned by radio. With this album gaining them critical acclaim, the time was right for a sustained attempt on the charts and mainstream recognition.

However, despite two of the singles charting in the top 20 (a feat considerably harder than it is today), backing from clearly non-religious celebs (Neil Morrissey, who introduced them when they played Glastonbury that year) and appearances on the Big Breakfast and Jonathon Ross' Radio 2 show; Radio 1 still refused to playlist their songs or indeed, play them at all, apart from in the weekly Top 40 so the limited chart success was mainly down to a dedicated fan base. (A later album 'Audio Lessonover' was so called because it is an anagram of 'Radio One Loves Us' in reference to their refusal to play any of their songs)

Live @ the Royal Albert Hall

Yet within that fan base, discontent was growing in places. Many fans disliked the 'new' Delirious, feeling that they had gone too 'secular' and had sold out to the mainstream. I interviewed Delirious in the summer of 1999, and they expressed their frustration at the criticism they received from some Christians because the album didn't contain the word 'Jesus'. Despite the critcism of Mezzamorphis, it is still an album that reflects the faith of the band clearly (in fact, 'Kiss Your Feet' has since been recognised as one their most potent 'worship' songs). Controversy also followed in America with many Christian retailers withdrawing the album due to the lyric 'She's as pretty as hell' in the song 'It's OK'. Lead singer, Martin Smith responded with this press release.

It is a shame that Delirious fell in between two stools, with one side thinking they were too religious and the other often considering them insufficiently religious. This completely overshadowed what was an excellent album, regardless of the 'Christian Rock' label. If Q Magazine could overcome the religious element to see the quality, its a great pity others couldn't. This dispiriting experience no doubt contributed to Delirious' decision to return exclusively to the Christian sub-culture they started in. While still an excellent band, they have never yet scaled the heights of Mezzamorphis (although the next album 'glo' came close). Don't be put off by the 'religious' label, Mezzamorphis has more in common with U2/Radiohead than it does Cliff Richard.

Movies
Severence ****
Star Trek: Nemesis ***
Taxi Driver *****
The Station Agent *****
Downfall *****

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quiz, Quiz, Quiz - Answers, Answers, Answers

Here are the answers to the questions from myself and Eyan's monthly pub quiz. Find the questions 3 posts ago or click here.

If, by the way, you are in the vicinity of South Manchester and would like to join us for our shiny pub quiz (there's real beer and everything), come to the upstairs of the Didsbury Village Restaurant at 8pm on the first wednesday of every single shiny month.

Anyhoo, here are the answers:
Picture Round - click here to see the beautiful piccies.
These were all Oscar losers - i.e people who had been nominated but had lost at least once at the Oscars over the past 5 years.

1) Leonardo Di Caprio
2) Eddie Murphy
3) Heath Ledger
4) Holly Hunter
5) Johnny Depp
6) Keira Knightley
7) Ken Watanabe
8) Kate Winslet
9) Natalie Portman
10) Judi Dench
11) Will Smith
12) Steven Spielberg
13) Peter O'Toole
14) Clint Eastwood
15) Meryl Streep

And the Sports Round

1) Name at least two penalty scorers from the Liverpool Chelsea Champions League Semi.
Bolo Zenden, Frank Lampard, Xavi Alonso, Steven Gerrard or Dirk Kuyt
2) Two snooker legends played each other in the first round of this years Snooker World Championship. Who won – John Parrott or Steve Davis?
John Parrott
3) Which golfer is currently top of the world rankings?
Tiger Woods
4) The next F1 race is to be held in Spain on the 13th May. In which city is the Grand Prix to be run?
Barcelona
5) On Saturday 5th May Sale Sharks were hammered 49-0 by which London side?
Harlequins
6) Which were the two teams to contest the 2007 Cricket World Cup final?
Australia & Sri Lanka
7) Canada beat Germany 8-3 in an international final on April the 8th. But in which winter sport did this hard fought victory come?
Curling
8) In which sport would you find the terms rinks, jacks, ends and sets?
Crown green bowls
9) Last week, China's Qiu Hongmei set a new clean and jerk world record. In what sport was he involved at the time?
Weightlifting
10) Which football club’s stadium is closest to the River Mersey?
Stockport County