Today’s Top Tune.

14 March 2010 , Sunday

Today’s Top Tune is ‘a free song a day’ from KCRW, which I assume is a radio station, by download. Here is the link to the page. Hope it works for you, I hear they’re pretty eclectic. Or at least, they like Alexi Murdoch, which always pleases me.

I found this site through another blog, here.

Ribbon of Fire.

14 March 2010 , Sunday

Hadrian's Wall running over Houst Crags

The longest wall in the United Kingdom was last night lit up by a ‘ribbon of fire’ as volunteers and spectators took part in one of the North’s largest pieces of public art.

Hadrian’s wall, stretching about 80miles from Wallsend near Newcastle to the Solway Firth just North of Carlisle and with some parts still towering at 10feet, is generally considered to have been built to keep out the barbarians further North and as a tax and customs frontier. The wall has fallen to stone plunderers and general disrepair as you might expect since AD410, but along with many roads and forts, these Roman momuments still remain a strong constituent of the regional identity.

The project to light up the wall comes as part of a more general drive to reinvigorate local and outside interest in the culture and heritage of the North. It coincides with other projects such as ‘Lakes Alive‘ and ‘British Tourism Week‘ and was run by Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd.

Suprisingly enough the organisers of the event did not really expect a massive turnout and were apparently a bit taken aback by the sheer volume of volunteers to light the beacons at 250m gaps. People from across the country came just to see the event and I am sure as a result it was a boost for the pubs and eateries in the region.

Lights adorn the structure

We decided to go to the pyrotechnic show a bit late in the day and as a result did not get to some of the more impressive areas in the Northumberland national park. However the excitement at the tiny road we stopped at was palpable with more than your usual kids and the oldies alike waiting for the show. When it came, it was slightly less inspiring than I  had expected. Not being sure what was a flame and what was a cars back-light at the distance we were at was irritating. I had expected the flames to burst into light one after the other, and actually they did as the camera-copter flew over, but only after having being lit with a dull-red flame for several minutes which was a slight anti-climax I thought.

A section of the wall lit up in Saturday's show

That took none of the enjoyment out of it though; the feeling in the air as we waited on that frigid hillside in hats and coats against the chill of the wind, waiting for the flares travelling at 60mph to burst in a cascade all the way from Newcastle to Carlisle. Flowing across the hills in the footsteps of 2000 year gone legionairres. It was magic.

I get the feeling that this event will be repeated. Against all the forced festivals across the country, much hyped and plugged, none that I know of caught people’s imagination like this. Fire and the emotions it stirs is a powerful thing, and is celebrated across the world. To have generated such interest with so little advertisement is proof of the popularity our heritage can still engender and I hope that this may at some point become a permenant fixture of our Northern culture; fire fiestas all along the wall all on the same day. It could be something special.

Avast!

(Lower Photos borrowed from the Daily Mail)

WoodWorkIng.

11 March 2010 , Thursday

My latest plan to purge myself of boredom is at hand! I will create a table. Not just any table, but as they say in Espanol: La mesita de centro.

That’s right, I will create a coffee table. Turn away now if you don’t care about woodwork.

Here is an enormous picture of my initial plan:

Plans for a beautiful Table

Now allow me to explain. The tabletop was initially meant to be made of one large piece of wood, however from research done today at the woodcutting place, I probably won’t be able to get a plank that big or it will split and bend as it dries like some kind of crazy slug. Because of this i will try my hand at buying one long plank, say 10′ x 1′ x 2″, chop it in half and laminate it together with maybe some dowels or a mortis and tenon joint. This should give me easily enough width and thus el Table will be most of the way there.

The plan then is to cut it to a fairly rough rounded shape and then plane and sand down until smooth and rounded at the edges. I will then take a hole saw and cut four approx. 100mm diameter sections through the board. Then I will insert the legs.

These legs, as kind of visible on the picture, will have a thin end and a thick end. Sort of like two cylinders of differing diameter placed on top one another. The ledge formed by the thicker will support most of the weight of the table and the thinner will do all of the joining together and carry some of the load. The smaller cylinder will be made by fist making the larger, then cutting down with the hole saw and across with a hack, this could be tricky.

There is a plan included on the insert to make a mini mortis and tenon ‘lock’ between the leg and tabletop. That has pretty much been written off in lieu of it being much too hard, but it would be cool and look great on top.

For the legs I will probably have to buy some large pieces of wood and round them off. What makes this job particularly interesting is that I only have two power tools available to me. A jigsaw and a drill. The sanding and planing will be done by hand, unless I can find a drill bit that will do it for me. I plan to start in the next week or so and will post updates on how the project progresses.

I should also point out that I haven’t even a GCSE in resistant materials, I took Graphic Products. Not that my design skills benefited much. So I’ll be pretty proud if this actually works out.

In Praise of Alexi Murdoch.

11 March 2010 , Thursday

Alright, after those last two fairly negative posts I’ve decided to produce something a little cheerier and in deference to that, here is a review of one of my favourite artists at the moment. Alexi Murdoch.

Alexi Murdoch is a singer/songwriter with a fun background. Born in London, raised in Scotland Greece and France (Wikifact) and now domiciled in the United States his music is relaxed, reflective and smooth and has been featured on films and in numerous American sitcoms. An influence he is most commonly associated with is Nick Drake; now I hope that doesn’t put too many of you off, I assure you he is considerably happier.

Alexi's first album, 'Time Without Consequence'

The first album of his I was exposed to was ‘Time Without Consequence’, at times a haunting record that just stunned me and took off with my shoes. It was my good ginger friend that introduced me and ever since I’ve been plugging away for this talented musician, trying to get as many people interested as I can. As much as I would love to have his music my own little secret, and I confess sometimes that can be nice, I’m not really the sort to keep it all to myself. You see; I like to share this kind of thing.

So above is ‘Song for You‘ which I think is just great.

Now the thing I really love about this guy is that he has repeatedly turned down record deals just to keep his musical integrity and gone it alone. Now some of you might say this is a squandering of talent and a waste of an opportunity and a bit too in keeping with said Nick Drake, but I think it honestly is the best way to go if you are as good as this guy. He needs to be free to do as he will to get the best out of himself and this way he can do that. In contrast with people like Drake and J.D. Salinger, Murdoch is not a semi-mental, albeit talented, recluse. He’s just a guy who buzzes off his music and enjoys playing to people who really appreciate his work. His goal is not domination of the stadia, but the pure pursuit of something he adores.

That is why I like him so much, and why I do so hope I’m not completely wrong in my assessment. From my ginger friend, I hear he still does live gigs in coffee shops still. That is fantastic. If I ever was as talented as that I’d do half my stuff as small as possible and free just for the hell of it.

Alexi Murdoch's second album 'Towards the Sun'

Now his second album, Towards the Sun is perhaps not quite so good as his first in my ears, and that may be because I’m so attached to the first. However it has some strong tracks on it and I cannot think of a nicer way to spend a hungover Sunday than to listen to this finger-pickin’ good artist and just contemplate stuff. The album is at the moment undergoing a 5000 copy run.

I bought one from his website, as I tend to when I’m too drunk to care about money, in October and it was no. 1017 so if you want it, there should still be time. At present I have only the mp3 version of Time Without Consequence, but as soon as I get the money or drunk enough again I’m going to grab me a hard copy.

Well this was my Alexi plug, check out these tracks: ‘Orange Sky’, ‘Breathe’ and ‘All of my Days’ from the first album. I haven’t heard his second enough to get a proper handle on the best tracks, but I know the title track was definitley a good’un.

Disappointment in Wonderland.

8 March 2010 , Monday

Disney's Alice is shocked by What Tim Burton Did.

Alice in Wonderland came out! I didn’t realise it was anywhere near ready!

What I wasn’t ready for was that it wasn’t Alice as I remember her, a confused vulnerable and fairly whimsical girl. This was Hollywood Alice. Complete with bravery, an imaginary (or not) world nicely in parallel with the real to help her overcome her problems and talking magical creature-friends that now aid her on her path to betterification, rather than just mess with her.

The thing is I’m not sure why. Or why anything that happens here happens for that matter. Contrary to the original’s intended lack of good solid sense, this just plain refuses to explain the characters motivations; which seem to have developed since Alice’s last visit from having tea to insurrection and revolution with gothic overtones to leave you with a funny Narnia-Esq. feeling. Perhaps Burton got them mixed up. There is also nothing unpredictable here despite bearing little relation to the novels, Alan Rickman even provides a book that tells us exactly what will happen.

Miranda Richarson might as well have been the Queen of Hearts

Queenie, played by Helena Bonham-Carter, was far too close to being straight out of Blackadder and if Carter hadn’t noticed then surely Melchett should have had the stones to point it out. That they never thought it might not go down well with a British audience raised on Curtis and Elton’s masterful depiction of Elizabeth I beggars belief.

I think what particularly fails though is some of the choices of media. The soundtrack I found excellent throughout the piece, until the credits. Then Avril Lavigne blasted out and removed any sense of glorious frivolity that was left in Burton’s barren Narnia. Why do this!? It is  unnecessary, especially if you already have a talented composer, to switch so sharply to that rubbish. Another sticking point was the Johnny Depp ‘dance’ near the end that only leaves a hollow inside. I was actually embarrassed.

The entire film had been dark and grungy, to my previously stated distaste, and then thrown in is something from Alvin and the Chipmunks possibly to lighten the mood. It only blackened mine.

However.

Stephen Fry's weightless Feline

Much of that was just me being picky; on a happier note the film was gorgeous. Everything was vivid and snactacular as you could imagine. The Cheshire Cat was fantastic. I loved his lazy movement, the pawing of the Hatter’s hat and that he was Stephen Fry. I loved that over half the actors were British, something that actually can be quite important in a subject as treasured as this. I liked that Sauraman was in it. I even liked the obsession with stabbing people in the eyes.

There is a lot to be said for this portrayal of Wonderland then if you accept it stand alone. There is fighting, there is a land of wonder, there are beasties and there is beauty.

There is not a lot of truth, but sometimes you just have to give up expecting Hollywood to deliver a faithful rendition of a beloved and complex literary classic.

Oh and I know I haven’t said a lot about Alice herself, that’s because she’s not the central character anymore.

(For the magic of the old Wonderland check this out:  Alice in Wonderland)


Alice in Wonderland came out! I didn’t even realise it was anywhere near ready! What I wasn’t ready for was that it wasn’t Alice as I remember her, a confused, vulnerable and fairly whimsical girl. This was Hollywood Alice. Complete with bravery, an imaginary (or not) world nicely in parallel with the real to help her overcome her problems and talking magical creature-friends that now aid her on her path to betterification, rather than just mess with her. The thing is I’m not sure why. Or why anything that happens here happens for that matter. Contrary to the original’s intended lack of good solid sense, this just plain refuses to explain the characters motivations, which seem to have developed since Alice’s last visit from having tea to insurrection and revolution leaving you with a funny Narnia-Esq. feeling. Perhaps Burton got them mixed up. There is also nothing unpredictable here despite bearing little relation to the novels, Alan Rickman even provides a book that tells us exactly what will happen.Queenie, played by Helena Bonham-Carter, was far too close to being straight out of Blackadder and if Carter hadn’t noticed then surely Melchett should have had the stones to point it out. That they never thought it might not go down well with a British audience raised on Curtis and Elton’s masterful depiction of Elizabeth I beggars belief. I think what particularly fails though is some of the choices of media. The soundtrack I found excellent throughout the piece, until the credits. Then Avril Lavigne blasted out and removed any sense of glorious frivolity that was left in Burton’s barren Narnia. Why do this!? It is unnecessary, especially if you already have a talented composer, to switch so sharply to that Canadian pseudo-gothic drivel. Another sticking point was the Johnny Depp ‘dance’ near the end that only leaves a hollow inside. I was actually embarrassed. The entire film had been dark and grungy and then thrown in is something from Alvin and the Chipmunks to, I suppose, lighten the mood. It blackened mine. However.

Much of that was just me being picky; on a happier note the film was gorgeous. Everything was vivid and snactacular as you could imagine. The Cheshire Cat was fantastic. I loved the laziness of his movement, the pawing of the Hatter’s hat and that it was Stephen Fry. I loved that over half the actors were British, something that actually can be quite important in a subject as treasured as this. I liked that Sauraman was in it. I even liked the obsession with stabbing people in the eyes.

There is a lot to be said for this portrayal of Wonderland then if you accept it stand alone. There is fighting, there is a land of wonder, there are beasties and there is beauty.

There is not a lot of truth. But sometimes you just have to give up expecting Hollywood to deliver a faithful rendition of a beloved complex literary classic and instead argue over the correct colour scheme.

Oh and I know I haven’t said a lot about Alice herself, that’s because she’s not the central character anymore, good as the actor was.

Plastic Beach – Gorillaz.

3 March 2010 , Wednesday

Plastic Beach, the new album from the Gorillaz, comes out very soon and there is a preview of the album on the Guardian’s website here which streams every single track. A nice present.

The Gorillaz' new album Plastic Beach

I have to say though I am disappointed with this effort. Apart from a few of the middle tracks such as Stylo, Empire Ants and Glitter Freeze, the album is a little uninspiring and fails to catch the interest. I’m not saying I expected every song to be a riot of colour and brilliance, but I was expecting a general higher standard with every single track and peaks of excellence and the odd shallow trough. In short I thought it would

be as new and radical and fresh as Gorillaz (UK). It wasn’t.

Having said that, it is alright; with a few flashes of brilliance, but not something you’ll be playing again and again in ten years time.

It will be interesting to see how it is recieved when it properly breaks. My guess is that it will experience the raves of most of the music industry as they try to make it more than it actually is. This is always the case with artists like Damon Albarn and something I particularly have a problem with.  If this wasn’t done by him, I doubt very much that it would recieve the critical laudation it has already stirred.

In summary, The Gorillaz have done and should do better. Now lets wait for the critics to waste their roses rather than save them for one James Hendrix.


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