Monday, January 29, 2007

First gig of the year

On friday c came over to stay, she was in the uk for the weekend, taking a short break from her work in nice. When I went to stay I had given her a monkey swallows the universe cd, which she enjoyed, as did some of her lab peers. The opportunity to see them live whilst in the uk was one of the reasons she decided on returning for this weekend. Thankfully her flight and train journeys went without delay. Met up with a, and we headed to the gig after a quick drink in the showroom.

First up was a band called Gyppos, which actually is probably not an intelligent name as it has racist connotations. They played a brand of rock in the vein of half man half biscuit, perhaps with an air towards the arctic monkeys. Despite the excellent guitar work, the vocals were very poor, dischordant, though in patches it almost worked. I think they will have to make music that accounts for their vocal limitations, or adopt a different vocal style. Next up were slow down tallehasse, who I thought were really quite dreadful. Stuggling with three chord progressions, i admit sometimes simplicity works. And sometimes it just doesn't. One track sounded distinctly like norwegian wood bu the beatles. However, when I see bands like this I think, wow, i can play those chords, maybe i can be a rock star....
mstu live
monkey swallows the universe were again superb. Celebrating signing a record deal with loose records, the set included tracks that may appear on the upcoming second album. With tunes of this quality you can't help but think another great album is on it's way. The highlight for me was a new track called elizabeth and mary, which had a much more edgier sound than previous tracks. Driving drum rhythms lead the track, and nat pushes her vocals to the extreme with this passionate display.

More pics on flickr

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

I've a million and one things to do, but yesterday I decided that I was going to go to the cinema. It was the only night the showroom was showing pan's labyrinth at a time when I'm not at work. Actually it was quite liberating to just think everything else can wait, tonight I'm going to go to the cinema. In fact I didn't even need to bother cooking as I had a handful of macdonalds vouchers that had come through the post. I'll have two big macs please! Thing is I probably won't fancy another big mac for quite some time now. So I did some blogging, listened to operator please, which got me in the mood for punching the air. Well, ok, not quite literally, but if I'd been a heavy weight in training I'd've been ready to hit some punch bags. I'd've what a funny word, it has two apostrophes. I digress... so it was walk, then maccy D, then walk, then cinema. Excellent, all ready for some dark fantasy tale.

Well, it certainly isn't Willow, nor for that matter is it anything like Labyrinth!

Pan's Labyrinth has a huge rating on rotten tomatoes which helped convince me to watch the movie. It is, however, a very dark and stark movie. A realist/fantasy movie where you are left unsure as to whether the fantasies are purely in the mind of the central child character. Set in Spain during the civil war, Ofilia travels with her mother to stay with mother's new husband. Captain Vidal is the sadistic leader fighting the resistance, who holds no qualms when it comes to inflicting pain and torture on those he considers his enemy, leading to some gruesome scenes. At the backdrop of these realist stories, Ofilia has her fantastical quests from the dark and sinister Faun, leading to various encounters including the revolting 'Pale Man' whose antics and image was so abominable that a girl sat near me had to run out of the cinema in fear - and not return! This tale of death and destruction with it's dark fantasy scenes is rather brooding, but it was the final scene that really struck me. Ofilia is told she is the lost princess of the king of the underworld, and on passing three tests she will once again enter his presence. We are not sure whether these quests are a figmant of her imagination, but the scene where she meets the king is quite potent. I can't remember the exact words of welcome, but there was a great sense of love and affection of receiving his daughter back into his presence. It made me think of the love of god for his children as he welcomes them into his presence, and that the path to this love is not easy, though it is ever-present.
I initially thought that I wouldn't relish watching it again, but after a day, I think I would. It's a good film, but not an easy one to watch.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Things of note

During January I have enjoyed some things and hated others, so I thought I would give a brief rundown for you so that you can either try out the things I've liked or avoid the things I've hated. Apologies for such a poor post, if you have better things to do then there is no need to read further. However, if you are a little bit bored at work (in your lunch time of course) then it may well introduce you to something that you like too. Perhaps you could comment and make this into some kind of interactive forum. (If, as my site stats suggest, you have popped over to this blog due to searching for cures to a swollen uvula then you ought to check the june 2006 posts)

5 Good things

  1. 6 music - what a great radio station, an ecclectic mix of past greats and novel new bands.
  2. Operator Please - came across these australian kids thanks to 6music. Top passionate shoty punky pop tunes. They even have a song all about Ping Pong. They rock.
  3. malcolm middleton - has a new album out very soon and the upcoming single Brighter Beat sounds superb. The guitarist from arab strap looks due to release his third excellent album. Buy them all!
  4. Jarvis Cocker - check out this brililantly funny video for his single. Oh, and I've got tickets to see him live in sheffield - yay!
  5. iPod - what a wonderful thing for storing many records, you can never have too much music.

5 bad things

  1. Car insurance companies
  2. Car insurance companies
  3. Car insurance companies
  4. Car insurance companies
  5. Car insurance companies

Bird scorecard system

My uni housemate has just published some scientific research worthy of Science, one of the most highly regarded scientific journals. The work is even of such interest to the general population that even the bbc have reported on it:

bbc news artical
newscientist artical

He's developed a method of scoring the biodiversity of the bird population and the effects of various farming methods on bird populations. Enabling the prediction of species that will become endangered dependent on the farming and eco-stewardship methods employed. A very useful tool, with some interesting results on the impact of farming GM crops.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Monika Webster

Is the title of the first single released by the delgados, and it is backed by a 'brand new car'. Which is what I now have, well when I saw brand new, I mean, brand new to me. So really I have a car, that was once brand new. Another fiesta, cos i like them a lot, and this is the newest car I have ever owned, it is only 6 years old. Hopefully it will enable me to get to work in a much more convenient manner once i've sorted out the insurance. It is black, in case you were after further details.
So much of my saturday was taken up with viewing cars and purchasing. The evening I met up with a at the showroom. Whilst reading the programme about upcoming films I discovered that die grosse stille(into great silence) is coming soon. I've been wanting to watch this movie ever since reading a review from the toronto film festival. It sounds very intersting.
We had gone to watch babel, one of a number of films that I would like to see at the moment. There are parts of this film that work superbly, the sense of the varying cultures of morocco, mexico and japan is quite striking. The interaction of the characters, the modes of communication add to this, along with the wonderful camera work and a clever soundtrack that weaves the cultures together. On the down side, the film is overlong, which seems to be a trend these days. It's not that I'm against long films, but if you begin to feel the movie is overlong whilst watching it, then it's time to get out the scissors and cut some scenes, leave them for the movie geeks to watch on their 2DVD packs. The character played by brad pitt becomes rather dull as there is not much of a story for him, basically he's trying to get his wife to hospital in morocco. We don't need ten scenes to tell us this! It's actually the moroccon characters that are really interesting. The japanese storyline really made me feel sad (slight spoiler) following the trails of a deaf mute teenager struggling with her own identity and feeling unlovable. She struggles for attention and goes to extreme measures to garner male sexual attention. Thankfully it doesn't lead her to take her hown life, which towards the end of the film I feared would be the conclusion. Perhaps it could've ended like that, and such and ending would've made me feel sickeningly sad. Not really what you want when you go to the cinema, but if a movie can move you to such emotions then on one level it has suceeded. Though will have failed if you've gone out to the cinema for a nice evening out!
After dp had dropped me off near my house I bumped intyo dp and j who were on their way to the C&C, I didn't need much persuading to join them for a couple of beers. I was able to have a good moan about how much i disliked insurance companies.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Zephyr in the sky at night

I wonder...

It was a bit windy today. Gradually throughout the day it got noticably windier and reports of road closures came through to the point that we were told to leave early. I'm still on the train, and I thought that for once the train was going to save me time on my journey home. One of the guys set off from the site cabin, still wondering the best route back, however within 2 minutes he had returned.
"Don't think I 'm going to get very far"
"why's that?"
"Tree's blown over"
And he pointed to the dirt track that leads from the road to the site cabins and a conifer had blown over, broken a wall and lay strewn across the access track. We found some rope on site and I tied it around the branches, couldn't remember any of the sophisticated knots I learnt at scouts, so made up my own version of a round turn and two half hitches. The other end was fastened to a tow eye on a car, and then the exciting bit as the car revved up and sped forwards dragging the branches away and freeing the road.
I was last to leave as I was still confined to the train time table. Got to the station. Now Thorne South station is little better than a bus stop, a brick shelter and that's your lot. You could even imagine it necessary to wave the train down as it goes past. At lunch I'd managed to contact the rail company and discovered that the line was still running. Though I was still a little concerned as to whether the train would still be running. There is absolutely no way of telling from this station. The fast train to manchester airport, which doesn't stop, came past, which was promising. It proved that the line was still free. The time for my train came and went, and I began to wonder how I was ever going to get back home. Certainly didn't relish the thought of spending the night at thorne. The train from sheffield arrived on the other platform and I dashed across the line to ask the conductor if he had any information. Turns out the train had been cancelled and his train would be the next to pass, so he invited me onto the train to Scunthorpe, where we turned around and came back, eventually arriving in Sheffield. I was now late for a meal with friends that I had been looking forward to all week. Thankfully e picked me up from the station and we weren't too late.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Getting a new job

Seems like I'm not the only one dissatisfied with their current job. Dave Beckham has signed himself a new contract to play for LA Galaxy, teaming up with the great Alexi Lalas of crazy goatee sporting, guitar playing, slightly rubbish american footballer to score against England fame. It's not about the money, but about the football. I too would like to help with the promotion of the 'beautiful game TM" in the states and was pondering the chances of securing a multi-million dollar contract. I was chatting with my cousin suggesting I could try something akin to the infamous Ali Dia the worst player to have ever featured in the Premiership. His agent wrote to the then Southampton manager, Graeme Souness, pretending to be African football legend George Weah. The letter spoke of his cousin, a senegalese international star. Graeme was impressed and gave Ali a contract, and he soon made his debut appearing as a subsitute. He really was terrible, so bad in fact that he himslef was substituted sometime later! If I could pull off a similar trick with a Beckham-esque contract, I'd be sacked after a week, but £1/2M in pocket.

Was invited to a meal with m&e yesterday, a farewell meal for s before her return to university. It was delicious and I always enjoy a nice meal. M had even made some ice cream which was very good indeed.


On Wednesday I was involved in a car crash on my way to work, and I am now sick of re-running the events that led to the incident, the numerous times I've had to repeat myself to the inquisitive and to the insuarance companies. The result was I was in car number 3 of a four car sandwich. Everyone else was able to drive off, my car was smashed from behind by a van which completely wrote it off. I liked that car too, it was nice, though on the good side at least I don't have to clean up the grated cheese that had escaped from my sandwhich the previous day. It was a job I wasn't relishing. If I was a calvinist I would be celebrating the fact that the crash was all part of God's plan, and something good always comes out of these situations (like not having to clean the car) - thankfully I don't care too much for predestination, nor does it seem does dave walker.
Despite being a bit shaken and stiff from being flung around my car from the impact I was ok, but it has left me in a very inconvenient situation with regard to commuting to work. I'm having to leave super early to catch the hourly train from Sheffield, and then a 1 mile plus walk to the site. It means I get in late and the whole process takes nearly two hours. Three hours on friday as they kindly decided to cancel the train. It's just not fun and makes the work even less enjoyable than normal, who wants to spend around 4 hours a day commuting for a job that isn't particulalry interesting.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

travels with v

It was strange to see v at the airport when I went to pick her up. Waiting expectantly in the arrivals hall, the door periodically opening with showers of people as planes landed. The arrivals board indicated that her flight had landed and that the passengers were awaiting the baggage, five minutes after the board revealed that baggage was available then the doors opened with v at the healm. It'd been about 6 months since I'd last seen her, and now in 3D, which is far better than the small 2D screen of the webcam that had been our means of communication. I was really pleased to see her again.
We exchanged presents and spent a few days around sheffield, meeting friends and family and also going to see a few movies. The bizarre, Perfume: the story of a murderer, directed by Tom Tykwer of Run Lola Run fame. A stroy line so strange and twisted that it left you leaving perplexed. However it was infinately better than the dire the holiday, reminding me why I detest romantic comedies that are neither romantic or funny. When was the last time that Surrey experienced significant snowfall between christmas and new year? Still it amused v that I would be willing to accompany her to such a film.
pragueWe spent a few days of the new year in Prague, which is a very pretty and quaint city. It wasn't too cold, but an icy wind made it feel very chilly as we wandered around the city. Public transport from the hostel to the city was cheap and efficient. We saw many of the historical sites, churches that looked like something from Gormenghast, interior decor that, though beautiful, often lifted high some man or other, often some saint or bishop and sometimes in a pose that was quite oppressive, eg standing on top of someone. I find this style frustrating, male and power centric, detracting from my understanding of my christian faith. The changing of the guards was long and dull with few choreographed moves, I'd have preferred some mock sword fights at least! All backed by a brass band leaning out of windows playing a tune similar to the Thunderbirds theme, but in a different key.
We did enjoy a stringed performance of Vivaldi and Mozart, there was some violin maestro dude who was very good and we applauded heartily at the end. He bowed and left the stage, we continued the applause and the backing string players took a bow and left. We continued clapping and the maestro dude re-entered, excellent an encore I thought, but alas, he had returned merely to hold aloft his violin and take a further bow. It's not like going to gigs!
Food and drink was very cheap provided you kept away from the touristy areas, though both me and v felt that czech food left little to be desired. Little wonder there aren't chains of czech restaurants outside bohemia! We did find this lovely tea house where we spent some time drinking strange asian teas and doing sudoku.
slideAfter Prague we went to London for a night for my friends 30th bday, travelled by coach which cost us less than a return to town on the tram! Great to see my friend and also to have a day to spend in london. We visited the tate modern and enjoyed the slide installation, riding the larger slides, which I actually found quite scary with the fast twist and turns. Also amused by Merde d'Artiste and other works on display. One of my favourite museums. Had lunch in London's longest bar near paddington station, then to Harrods, then straight out of Harrods as we could barely move through the hoardes of shoppers. A quick view around the science museum before some yo sushi and the coach home.
Prague photo set
London photo set

Monday, January 08, 2007

New year and all that

Hope you all had a nice Christmas and new year. It's 2007. I've been quite busy, Victoria came to visit after Christmas and we have been away to Prague and London. I'll blog about them in due course, and now that I've changed to blogger beta I may incorporate some changes to the blog design too.