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Sunday, 31 May 2009

sitting in the sunshine is good for chatter

DSC_0566
Sometimes its fun to just sit in the sunshine and chat.

That was the basis of our Sunday after Jo & Andrew's occasion on Saturday.

Breakfast at the hotel. As an aside, I should count how many days away from home I've had this year so far. I noticed I was up to 28 flights since January the last time I looked on the BA site.

Then a leisurely pack and checkout from the hotel before heading to walk along the canal side and finally to arrive at the Rising Sun for a late lunch - sitting outside in the sunshine whilst various from the previous day's wedding party came and departed towards their various homes.

We stayed until late afternoon, chatting and occasionally watching a pair of buzzards swoop across the valley with the Mendip hills in the distance. Then a winding B road route back towards London where, for much of the route, we were the only car on the road.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Jo and Andrew's wedding pix


The main reason for the Cheltenham weekend!
Congratulations to Jo and Andrew - and these are my snaps from the occasion.

Friday, 29 May 2009

one for analysis

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My work phone/blackberry accompanies me most of the time when I'm away from home, although I have a separate iPhone for 'social use'.

Of course with my two day escape for a short vacation, the work phone has been buzzing like a swarm of wasps. The problem with onesy-twosy holidays is that no-one else really cottons on that you're away and so all the work just stacks for return. I mainly resisted the temptation to answer the calls although the BLOCK CAPITAL SMS messages seemed to grab my attention.

In addition to the two phones, like many, I also attempt to keep some separation and filtering with the blog.

I've written ages ago about my own little rules when blogging about what can and can't make it into 'publication'. I'm also sure that anyone who reads a blog for a while could start to piece together aspects of a blogger's life and interest, which I'm sure is acceptable and in many cases encouraged.

Its like a Venn diagram of Work, Social and Self and a set of decisions about how much to disclose. It shouldn't really be a worry, because it assumes that any passing readership really has the time or inclination to join the dots - which mainly they don't.

So back to the phones...Next week, we are all being issued with new gadgets at work because the phone contract provider is changing and the old ones won't work. I had a choice of a replacement Blackberry or iPhone. My current 'personal' phone is already an iPhone, so I could theoretically simplify my life with a single device for both business and social.

But I've resisted.

I'm keeping the work phone separate.

I justify the easier typing of emails on a blackberry keyboard, but at the same time I know it is easier to keep a gap between business - world and rashbre central.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

strozzi palace

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Another interesting apartment for Thursday and Friday, as we travelled to Cheltenham prior to Jo and Andrew's wedding at the weekend.

Stupendous weather to help us enjoy the cafe society of central Cheltenham. Some last minute shopping before the weekend and a move to yet another hotel which was the base for the occasion.

In the meantime I was able to drift off towards Montpelier although the run of events has successfully prevented me from any other blog posts.

Monday, 25 May 2009

accidental and spontaneous profiterole consumption

I had to crawl out of bed extra early on this Bank Holiday morning and once more make my way to LHR T5 for another quick flit abroad. The roads were clear and I whisked through the check-in/security in about five minutes. I even stopped by the lounge to drink some Executive Coffee.

But I couldn't help thinking that I was all bizzed up on a day when everyone else was in their recreational garb. Of course, by the time I got to my destination, it was back to normal.

By this evening the thought that UK was having a day of stupendous sofa sales and blockbuster television talent show semi finals is just a distant concept.

So Bart and I headed off to a nearby open air bistro, where we cracked open some Cote du Rhone, dined and enjoyed some accidental profiteroles.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

spinning through a sale dvd

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Impossible to miss the 'Sale' signs spread across London yesterday, along with the nostalgic advertisements for just about everything.

I briefly succumbed, buying the DVD of "the Thick of It" upon which the current movie "In the Loop" is based. Spin doctored macho politics, describing a fictional Ministry of Social Affairs. Remarkable how many currently topical events get referenced, even MP expenses.

I missed the original series on telly, but it was a worthy £5 purchase for all six episodes of the original.

Apparently the makers were given enough money to make a single pilot episode but reasoned that if they filmed it very quickly they could get three episodes made within the original budget; slightly at odds with most real government situations.

If anything, current truths are proving stranger than the fiction.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

i am welcomed back with tube, bus and road closures

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Saturday's early morning cocktails supported overwhelming logic to stay at the Sanderson rather than crosstowning with limited direction finding faculties. The room was all a bit Philipe Starck, white box, stainless steel, electric voile curtains, deliberately offset bed and strange workout devices augmented with a ceiling landscape picture.

By proper morning the inadvertent jaunt to Berners Street seemed entirely logical, as did the very late breakfast considerately served until 11:30.
electro voile in white
Then outside into everchanging London streets. Nearby Oxford Circus tube's big gates were pulled shut. Oxford Street had its usual roadworks. The easy 137 bus route to Sloane Square was cancelled because "A Night at The Museum 2" was sponsoring a pedestrian only day for the entire length of the shopping area.

Our simple resourcefulness found another route, but I feel sorry for the confused tourists arguing with the shouty man in the yellow jacket at the myriad non functioning bus stops.

I smiled to myself about this place called London.
hotel lobby
hotel lobby

Friday, 22 May 2009

spring awakening, malaysian supper and martini cocktails

spring awakening
I'll come clean, I was late.

My ticket was left in the lobby and the others were already watching when I arrived late for Spring Awakening at the Novello.

The play/musical is set in a 19th Century German school and is an emo teenage self discovery piece, from an original Frank Wedekind script from the 1890s updated with angsty rock music.

I'm guessing Frank didn't have a very good time of it, judging by the storylines of this play which was banned when it was first shown in its original form.

Many of the story arcs describe young hopes dashed upon the rocks of ill fortune with gothic paths of teenage self destruction at every twist.

Its still an interesting piece and has a strong cast who keep the pace through a story which ends gloomily and then gets picked up again in a couple of refrains to re-lift the audience.

Then out into the Aldwych and across to Suka, where we'd booked a 10:30 table for a late supper. Malaysian dishes to accompany stories of Mel's recent visit to Melbourne, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Followed by a short walk to the Purple Room for some frisky Martini cocktails.

I could tell I was back in London.
sandersons

Thursday, 21 May 2009

time to leave this foreign city

jailhouse
03:44 am. I just woke up. The windows are open. Its already getting light. Across to the left there's a slash in the sky where early red sunlight is cutting over the horizon. White and orange bursts against a receding night.

I hear a gull's scree, from the nearby waterside.

Dim light several floors below me bathe communal areas in safety. From the other side of the building there's shouts from revellers, whose voices I have become accustomed to in this foreign town.

In the full morning I will pack. Leave this place. Next time I will be here as a visitor.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

can't find my way home


I'm late getting back to the Temporary Apartment, after a business meeting which overran. For the locals the weekend starts now, because of various holidays that can be linked together to make a four day weekend.

I'm heading home tomorrow, mainly because all of the flights were full tonight and I couldn't even get a seat on an early flight in the morning. Everyone must be taking mini-breaks.

Tonight, I've just ordered a pizza from the Italian takeaway and am on my way to buy some milk from the Seven-Eleven because The Nearby Shop That Never Opens is, as usual, closed.

testing flip mino hd upload straight from camera to youtube


A geeky post today.

Seeing whether I can record video whilst on the road and upload it to youtube with a soundtrack using just bent coathangers and old chewing-gum.

And for something more inspired, here's Vermillion Lies rather good video using Barbie and Ken.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

and today I was the loathsome traveller

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There's a few rituals associated with regular business flying. Getting on and off planes speedily, not blocking the aisles, good baggage management.

The same as regular London commuters know about how to navigate pavements, the Tube and to avoid stopping in inconvenient places. The same sideways look when a Slow Moving Object interferes with the flow.

So I have this thing about phones on planes. The last call made just before the bing-bongs sound or the naff nokia tones at landing to show how many txt msg u hv rcvd bcs u cnt b out of cntct 4 vry lng. These things also get the sideways looks.

But today I must hold my head in shame as I walked all the way onto the plane whilst in a headset conference call, sat down at my seat and continued until I noticed the sideways glance from my co-located passenger. That sideways glance. Oh no. I had turned into one of them.

I shall try not to let it happen again.

Monday, 18 May 2009

more UK election 11 July 2009 rumours started

you're all fired
If the Queen has quietly asked Gordon Brown to dissolve Parliament, then we need to work out the timetable. There's usually at least 30 days from dissolution to an election, which rules out most of June.

July has only been used once since 1918 and August and September have never been used because of the summer holidays and the way it would weird out the results.

So theoretically, the most likely month is October, which has been used the most times since 1918; six times in October, followed by five in May and four in June.

Now, if the level of upset was maximum and pitchforks marched upon Westminster, then a July date is still possible, but would require rather a lot of gearing up in a short time. I'm also wondering if a Speaker is needed during the dissolution process, because even that role seems a trifle fragile at the moment.

Technically, Gordon still has another year, with the last valid date of the current Parliament being 10 May 2010. Because of dissolution procedures, the election wouldn't need to be until Thursday 3 June 2010.

So will we get another year of Gordon and Co, or is there election fever in the wind?

We have the Euro elections and a few by-elections in a few days. I'm guessing Brown, Cameron, Clegg and the others are getting into huddles to think about timings and campaigning. In July, it would need to be 4th (oops - sensitive?), 11th or 18th.

And what if the Monarchy did call for the end of the current Parliament instead of it being Gordon's dice roll?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

post eurovision cooldown

dita cools it
Well, like many others, we are cooling down after the excitement of the Eurovision contest yesterday evening during which we spent a couple of hours making mild bets and critiquing this anachronistic European television.

As Brits, we've had plenty of years of Irish-voiced commentary to absorb and although Graham Norton rang the changes, the jibes were similar to his predecessor.

There is no clear criteria for selecting the winning entry. It doesn't seem to be song, musicianship, performance or any of the more obvious reasons and even the political bloc-voting of the 42 counties was somewhat less-predictable. I suppose it is just a question of making sure that bookies' favourite gets sufficient votes to ensure a return.

The Norwegian winners had several of the right ticks. It seems that violins were important and they did this well. I know the lead singer Alex Rybok was originally from Minsk, Belarus, but hey, it's within a days flight of Norway.

The British entry hovered around the fifth position, somewhat upstaged by the surrounding entries which had glowing nuclear reactors on stage in one case and hordes of woodland faerie nymphs in another.

Our singer and Lordly pianist combo was a trifle staid by comparison, with no sudden wardrobe changes although singer Jade did get a violinist's elbow in her eye.
dita at eurovisionThe Germans tried adding Dita von Teese, who is no stranger to wardrobe malfunction but despite their most spectacular use of glitter, were unable to get any half decent score.

I suppose I quite enjoyed the Iceland, Azerbaijan and Turkish entries, more because they typified Europop, although try as I might, the fairyland winner just didn't appear on my shortlist.

And it seems I wasn't alone, judging from the robust twittering occurring during the event, on a separate couple of #channels created just for the purpose.
norwegian violin fairyland

UK Autumn General Election rumours started

peasants largeI wonder if the Queen could ask Gordon to call for an Autumn General Election?

Just to tidy up the loose ends around the politicians currently needing more time with their accountants.

And maybe to fill some of those gaps from untimely resignations?

Would it be a populist request, or seen as something from a parliamentary monarchist system?

Whose side would you be on?

Back in 1381, when the peasants were revolting and marched on the Tower of London, you'd need to know.

Take the Tower of London test to find out.

1. What do you usually wear?
a. A steel helmet, heavy duty body armour and stout boots.
b. An exquisite bespoke outfit made by the finest French tailors in silk and velvet.
c. An exquisite bespoke outfit made by the finest Italian tailors in silk and velvet.
d. Rags.

2. And for a special occasion?
A. Full metal jacket, gauntlets, mail collar, steel helmet, weapons, cross of St George.
B. An outrageously stunning creation fresh from the Paris catwalk, damask with ermine accents, shoes with pointed toes so long you trip over them.
C. Purple robes, white alb, red and gold girdle with matching chasuble, Mitre and Crosier.
D. Rags (plus a steel helmet, long bow and a pole arm).

3. A Beard is:
A. Bound to get caught in your armour.
B. This season’s must have fashion accessory, worn forked, with a long moustache.
C. Not as good as the old fashioned clean shaven look (including top of head).
D. A symbol of oppression. How much are these beards costing us? I bet they are all false.

4. Your ideal holiday would be:
A. A booze cruise to Calais, with plenty of action.
B. A summer relaxing on your estate in the Dordogne.
C. A Pilgrimage to Canterbury.
D. Holiday?

5. This new Poll Tax is:
A. Hard on your pay packet, but someone has to pay for the army. Perhaps the rich should pay more.
B. An excellent idea. Everyone should pay the same. You can’t get fairer than that.
C. An excellent idea, but don’t forget to put a little extra in the collection plate on Sunday.
D. An unjust oppression of the poorest in society. Make the rich pay more.

6. The Savoy is:
A. A palace in the West end. Totally indefensible. Civilians should make for the Tower if they value their lives.
B. A charming place just off the Strand where you can get a bite to eat in polite company (once it reopens).
C. A palace named after the Savoy family, one of whom was the Archbishop of Canterbury.
D. A hated symbol of oppression, home of the king’s wicked uncle, John of Gaunt. Burn it down!

7. When dealing with foreign tourists do you...?
A. Speak to them in English, but much more loudly.
B. Speak to them in French, the international language of culture.
C. Speak to them in Latin, the international language of scholarship and religion.
D. String them up. It’s the only language they understand.

8. You are visiting the Royal apartments at the Tower when you hear rioting outside. Do you...?
A. Grab your weapon.
B. Grab your hat. Your outfit needs an accessory.
C. Grab a crucifix.
D. Grab anything you can lay your hands on.

9. You find a splendidly bejewelled cup. Do you...?
A. Guard it.
B. Admire the workmanship.
C. Bless it.
D. Steal it.

10. When introduced to the king’s mother do you...?
A. Salute, and call her ma’am if she speaks to you.
B. Drop your deepest bow or curtsey, kiss her hand if she offers it and wait for her to speak first.
C. Expect her to curtsey to you.
D. Jump up and down on her bed and ask her for a kiss.

11. Finally, when Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?
A. Adam, obviously.
B. A true gentleman would naturally recognise good breeding.
C. Ask your parish priest to look it up in his Latin Bible. Clue, it’s near the start.
D. No-one. We were all born equal!

How did you do?
Mostly As: Welcome to the Fortress, soldier! The Tower of London needs bold recruits like you to defend its walls and towers against attackers. Help shoot our siege engines this summer!

Mostly Bs: Obviously destined for a life among the knights and ladies of the Royal Court. You might enjoy a visit to the Medieval Palace at the Tower of London. Or come and cheer your champions at the Tournament this summer.

Mostly Cs. A career in the Medieval church awaits! We do have two Chapels Royal here at the Tower. But beware, churchmen have not always had it easy here. In the White Tower, you can find out more about our first prisoner, the Bishop of Durham.

Mostly Ds: You are one of life’s peasants, and proud of it! While lords and knights have tried to take the Tower and failed, it was the peasants who actually broke into the most secure place in the kingdom. Come and see the Tower of London's new display about the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

eurovision results latest twitter with added pino grigio

eurovision results predictionWe've decided to squanch around the telly this evening with more wine than is sensible and watch the Eurovision contest.

As a continued way to fund rashbre central, we have bet the bank on the complete results in the order shown, using the customary combination of statistics, artistic merit, geopolitical block vote and live twittering via #eurovision #twumpet and @ewanspence.

Yeah.

And the Cirque du Soleil are rather fine.

Graham - leave some gaps.

Update: Of course the table was merely the rashbre central computerised predictions. And there was no fiddling the winner.

I saw Oliver Cromwell shake his head outside Parliament today

Oliver Cromwell
The statue right outside Parliament is that of Oliver Cromwell who made England into a temporary republic during the Civil Wars of the 1600s.

As Cambridge MP, he joined the Roundhead movement and ran Oliver's army leading to the execution of Charles I and the creation of the Barebones Parliament.

After his death he was buried in Westminster Abbey - which is where the statue looks today. His military exploits were brutal and when the Royalists returned, his corpse was dug up, hung in chains and beheaded.

But the controversial statue stands directly outside Parliament.

350 years ago Parliament had little power, pretty much an advisory body for taxes. Cromwell positioned it for the privileged control it now exercises as a parliamentary monarchy.

Cromwell's point was to end arbitrary dictation from people who considered themselves above the law. What would he make of how things have developed?

Friday, 15 May 2009

Low Anthem from sofa at the Slaughtered Lamb

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Attending a gig at the Slaughtered Lamb in Farringdon is a little like being in a big room in someone's house with some favourite musicians playing within arms' reach. We sat on sofas and comfortable chairs to hear The Low Anthem and their excellent support act Ohbijou.

The pub above the venue is wide and spacious, with lively chatter spilling out onto the pavement and then down the stairway at the back is the small door to the performance area where around 100 of us watched the bands perform.

Delightful.

Kicking off with the multi-talented Ohbijou, who played and passed the instruments around almost at will. Canadian, from the other London, a seven piece mini orchestra of sounds, from violins, guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, banjos, synths and pretty much anything else they could lay their hands on. A worthy band in their own right, my only criticism would be that their CDs were not available at the end when I would have just bought one.

A short pause to recharge our glasses (Red Stripe seems to be the indie venue beer, same as at Union Chapel) and then The Low Anthem came to the floor, easing their way into "Cage the Songbird" whilst the sound system adjusted.

I've had their 'Oh My God, Charlie Darwin' album for a couple of months and its frequently on my play list, so it was a treat to hear several numbers from this and also from their older and more dusty cattle herding 'What the Crow Brings'. Mysteriously they referred to their more recent album as the one due to be released in June, but I gather they've got a different distribution deal now. They are, indeed, to hold a launch gig in Union Chapel around June 23rd for the CD which they described as gospel with science.

rashbre phonecam

The Providence, Rhode Island band is a three piece, with talented musicians who each are able to play multiple instruments. The highly animated bassist Jeff Prystowsky can also fire out great drum patterns and pedals a cool pump organ (pub chat suggests this was an eBay purchase?), the lead singer Ben Knox-Miller is a guitarist who has a superb voice and vocal range and the saxophonist Jocie Adams can also NASA blast a mean bass riff and counterpoint the rocky and bluesy numbers with real grit and gusto.

The little gang of us that attended sat in arms length of the band, enjoying every minute. As we left we briefly complemented the band in the bar, before hitting the interweb to ensure we have tix for the CD launch.

Recommended.

And here's something to the Ghosts who write History Books.
p.s. They are at Koko tonight, supporting Ben Kweller.
oh, and were at the London Eye

Thursday, 14 May 2009

time to repaint the H on the helipad

helipad
I see there's a few more allegations about political mishaps involving inaccurate expense claim submissions.

I can't help wondering whether we've all got this wrong though.

The process seems to be that some modest claims up to around £32,000 can be made within a year for politicians as part of general upkeep. Kit Kats, bath plugs, a few hotel movies, moat plumbing renewal, the odd extra house mortgage or two and redecoration of the half timbered dwellings on the estate all seem to be within the permissible claims.

So why not extend the process to the rest of us?

We pay into the tax system, so a few gentle claims for day to day running couldn't be too much of a problem. There could be a limit like the one the MPs get. Why, I'd even settle for that same amount as long as it was tax free and available annually.

But please don't misunderstand me. Here at rashbre central we've been economising too.

Take the helipad. We added a tennis court to the top surface so that it could be used at other times for relaxation, and even invite the neighbours around for a game of doubles. But the difference between us and some of the MPs is that we've had to pay for this ourselves, instead of being able to claim it at as necessary expense of doing business. I ask you, how else could we get from the rather distant redesignated primary residence back to place of business if we didn't have this essential facility?

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

i like the feeling of being slightly lost


Another quick bish bosh commuter video, this one from a quick walk from the Temporary Apartment.

I wondered whether it would be possible to make the video in ten minutes (No), but plugging in the camera, dragging a few clips, speeding them up and adding some transitions and a bit of music took about half an hour.

Yes, I know its rough.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

how does tuesday feel like it should already be the end of the week?

hotelcostes5
Brushing my teeth this morning, I wondered to myself how could it possibly only be Tuesday morning. It already felt like another whole week had passed. I guess its a function of a short weekend and playing with trains and cars and taxis and planes and some action-packed long working days.

So I headed for an early breakfast at the Nearby Fashionable Cafe, and ran into Okke. He independently commented that it already felt like a long week, although in his case he'd just arrived here at around midnight after miscellaneous plane hiccups. And Paul has just left town for Toronto, via Frankfurt and Mel was texting me from LHR on the way to Melbourne via Singapore.

So here I was at 6.55am getting ready to grab a cab across town when this old lounge track comes onto the cafe's speakers. 'One Night in Rio', by Louis Austen, which is only a slightly more exaggerated part of what we were feeling.

The rashbre central copy is here, and here's a few of the lyrics, sung in European:

"So we met at the Hilton Hotel at the lobby
We said we have to leave immediately to Germany
So we hired a cab,
When I saw the cab I thought I’ll faint! because this little cab
Was just a Mitsubishi, a shifted car,
I’m used to ridin’ limousines, luxury cars, with all my stuff,
a minimum one suitcase, two pairs of shoes and three backup singers
I’m used to this, I need this!

Anyway, this driver had no idea how to get to the airport,
‘cause at the 14th street he took a left turn, instead of a right turn,
and I was really mad at him which was:
Hey man we have to.. to be at the airport in a few moments!
So how hard can you do that!
‘cause the flight, leaves, to Berlin!
...
So finally we arrived in Berlin
It was raining, of course
So nobody’s picking us up
‘cause where the hell are these guys?
But anyway, so let’s go get the luggage
And we went down and, there was no luggage, there was no luggage!
So I waited half an hour for my luggage
So I went down to the counter and said: excuse me, where is my luggage?
We flew from New York to Berlin
So he looked into his computer, and he said:
Sir, it’s on the way to LA (LA, LA, LA…)


You get the picture.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Londoners - bring back Eros

screenshot_01
I leave the city for a few days, return and they've changed the Evening Standard.

Some bright spark has decided to remove Eros from the logo, which is probably one of the recognisable parts of London for many 'out of towners', along with Big Ben, the Eye and the Gherkin.

They've also changed the paper's typeface, but the overwhelming impression now is of generic superbranding, where the word 'London' has been added so that the same format can be used in Moscow or Georgia.

The problem is that it just makes the image look bland and like any corporate house magazine. I expect someone paid a shedload of money for the makeover and the new use of "eyecatching orange" for the stripey bits is presumably to find something that isn't blue or red.

Bring back Eros. Show we love the Smoke.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

who needs google streets when you can do this?


simulated commute ;-) Nr 1 in a Series....

more cammuter moments - trains 'n planes

After the cammuter walk video, I thought it would be fun to collect a few further moments from the commuter archives and so I've added them here into the next couple of posts below.

I quite like the idea of cammuting, although in my personal case there isn't really a 'normal' route, hence the variety of transport modes shown.

Maybe I'll have a look around or try to see whether other Londoners have also produced little videos of their regular travels.

I've received a backchannel email that someone is going out this sunny Sunday to have a crack at it.

cammuter Nr 2 - train into Waterloo


cammuter Nr 3 - plane into Heathrow

cammuter cam Number 4 : Jubilee Line



Cammuter Nr 4 : Jubilee Line - another oldie but goody

Cammuter cam Number 5 : Evening in Knightsbridge


Cammuter Nr 5: Shortcutting through from Sloane Square to Beauchamps Place at night

Saturday, 9 May 2009

listening to radio 1 - big weekend is actually rather happy

big weekend R1Driving back from the supermarket, my car was still retuned to the radio station from when the garage repaired the springs a couple of weeks ago. I've hardly driven the car since, let alone flipped the receiver command system.

It was on Radio 1.
The Big Weekend.
Live music from Swindon.


It caught me unexpectedly, and is actually quite good. I may have to dig out one of those handwritten cool lists for revision.
cool list
Click here for streaming and webcamming (via Steve)

Friday, 8 May 2009

enjoyed State of Play before Chianti refuel

State of Play
I enjoyed watching 'State of Play'. A good and mainly tightly scripted conspiracy thriller about newspapers, relationships, politics, police against morality questions around friendship, self serving ends and ways to derive 'truth'.

There's some structural conventions, like in a good blues song, to make it easy to absorb - a short opening scene during which someone is eliminated from the plot. Helicopters, aerial swoops around skylines, CIA Langley, clickety clackety noises and a special synthesizer sound reserved for the prowling man with the big gun.

A scruffy metropolitan Saab-driving reporter (Russell Crowe) whom all of the cops know, eye-candy cub-reporter accomplice (Rachel McAdams) who writes the 'Capitol Hill' blogs for the paper(chalk cheese etc). Tough Brit scene-stealer editor trying to sell copy to stop the newly acquired paper from toppling (Helen Mirren). An entourage of only semi-named cops who are mostly a step behind the wily reporter's investigation centred on his ex room-buddy senator (Ben Affleck with a cheesy Philadelphia accent).

Snappily paced, with a few longer scenes to give time to breathe a little. Some settings confused my sense of the 2009 period - I found myself checking a car date sticker in one scene to be sure. The cluttered newsrooms full of paper were for me more evocative of 70s movies than a 2009 paperless workplace, but hey, maybe the press still do it the old way.

With references to Watergate Building (been there!) whizzing around Washington (ditto) and Georgetown (yup), there was a combination of homage to other reporting stories and perhaps just things to make it easy to fix the location for a global audience.

By random co-incidence I'd also watched 'Body of Lies' a few days ago, with Crowe playing against Leonardo di Caprio (another good popcorn film) and it was interesting to see the way Crowe can change his whole appearance and demeanour for the different roles. Less so with Affleck, where I thought it more a good casting choice for him as the neat but flawed senator.

And back to the blues song formula, one hopes in a film like this that certain things will happen; the genre needs the underground car park scene, helicopters, convergence of the unconnected, the important twist when you think you know what has happened. Its all there.

BUT. I gather this was adapted from a BBC screenplay produced some years ago. I'm wondering in hindsight if there's still enough of the original plot arc there to have limited some of the choices from what a modern rebuild could do? I'm guessing it was a mini-series, which could explain why I thought there was an end in sight around 2/3 of the way through (end of episode?).

Also the blog/new media savvy gal with the faux 1940's columnist name Della Frye, could have driven more into the plot. Don't just give Crowe a Blackberry, do something more interesting with the social media. Instead, Crowe ends up instructing McAdams and Affleck on spin management. A modernist twist here could have been more fun.

That's me being a tad over critical though; was this a film to watch before drifting along to an Italian restaurant for some good conversation over a glass of wine?

Will I watch it again when its a DVD or on Sky?

For sure.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Joanna Lumley is next Prime Minister

joanna 1
I know rashbre central leaked the "Harriett Harmon for Prime Minister" story a few weeks ago. It was long before it made it to the popular media and created many 'painted into a corner' denials.

We're now seeing the alternative scenario develop. As sundry further (very) senior Ministers get their strange cleaning allowances scrutinised and Harriett has to take the role to explain them, we can reveal that an absolutely fabulous person is being groomed as the next premier.

We're now seeing Joanna showing the government how its done before she makes her play to become an independent candidate and populist Prime Minister because the others on offer aren't good enough.

She may even stop the current Deputy Leader and Prime Minister spending their governmental time talking about over-privileged domestic allowances whilst the economy continues to burn.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

signs of US economic recovery

simpsons stamptastic
rashbre central likes to be ahead of the curve and the lifestyle media detectors are sensing recent United States fiscal measures beginning to move things into a better place.

The signs of this are not always obvious, but the issue of these stamps will almost certainly precede a new Bull market, stimulated by the accompanying feelgood factor.

Monday, 4 May 2009

my cycling encounters a car treasure hunt

Scrivener
This morning I re-pumped the thin tyres on my speedy bike and decided to go out for a spin in a few twisty lanes. I did okay with the hills but had inadvertently chosen a route which was also being used for one of those car treasure hunts. Clearly popular, turning the normally tranquil single track lanes into something akin to school run traffic congestion.

It was out of sync with my own mindset, which was to meander and occasionally pause to look at cows and horses. There was revving of engines, awkward five point turns, large scale maps and plenty of clipboards and mobile phones in evidence. I also seemed to be invisible to several of the motorists who were determined to accelerate along the very centre of the mainly single track, requiring me to pull over to let them noisily pass.

It wasn't simply a case of diverting to another route, I suspect that most of the area I'd selected was part of their course.

I did adjust my route and diverted briefly past a small trading estate which brought a wry smile to my face. It was a location I'd used when I was scribbling my second attempt at a novel and needed somewhere to place some folk who were up to no good. A few days ago I was sent an allegedly final draft of novel one, and seeing the sheds reminded me that I've a partly written novel two, which could be pulled back into daylight.

I'll admit that before some structured shopping this afternoon, I've just spent an hour with Scrivener starting to re-arrange what I sometimes refer to as 'The Square'.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Having a ball... float valve (polymer)... fitting time in the roof

ball-float-valve
The joys of a Bank Holiday weekend. I seem to be involved in domestic chores at present, mainly climbing around in the roof.

One errand is to retrieve some possibly seasonal clothing which has been filed for future reference and another reason is to fix the errant leaking pipe where a cistern is overfilling.

It should be a few minute task, but I have my usual suspicions that I will need specialised equipment and possibly some support from International Rescue.
thunderbird 4

Saturday, 2 May 2009

drive by photography as advanced window shopping

ravski in window
An example of a 'drive by shooting', where I could see something interesting in a gallery shop window but didn't really have time to take a proper look.

The pictures by this artist caught my eye, but we were in a hurry, so a quick grabbed shot from across the street had to suffice.

But it was enough to get the name of the artist, so a google later and I'd tracked down Alexej Ravski and the picture.
ravski from shop window

Friday, 1 May 2009

my Thursday travel backpack still needs to be emptied

buses
I sometimes post a bus or taxi picture when I remember that I'd originally intended to have a sort of London theme linked somewhere within this blog. My recent travelling, both for holiday to Normandy and also to the Temporary Apartment for what is now approaching three months means that the London theming has slightly declined.

Thats not to say I haven't also been around town. A meeting with my Boston friend was in London, a theatrical visit to the Barbican, a South Bank meal at Riviera, business meetings in the City and sundry trips to Portobello Road and the Electric are interspersed with my travel.

But its all gone a bit piecemeal on my understanding the recent UK news events. I'm told that the planes are so full on Sundays now because its the people heading home from their shopping expeditions to cut price London. My friends at the barbecue the other evening were telling me that local (foreign) TV advertisements were selling 'Bargain Britain'.

Whenever I see a picture of Gordon Brown, he either looks morose or has what looks like a photoshopped grin. I know he is supposed to be figuring out how to pilot us out of his recession, but it looks as if there's a fire on every engine at the moment. Choose from corrupt bandwidth-stealing politician expense declarations, car scrappage allowances for those who mainly drive quite old second hand cars so that they can take big loans to buy new ones or a whole series of other questionable situations.

The current government has been in a little longer than the age of the cars which get these refunds, but instead of we voters getting a rebate it looks like a further ten years is needed to get back to a neutral position. Even the Government's petition site seems to suggest that the next thing the Prime Minister should do is resign, with some 34,000 signatories last count.

He won't of course.

And the people taking snaps of one another in Heathrow wearing those blue face masks last weekend. It was around Wednesday when I caught up on that piece of news. A taxi driver asked me where I was from.

"UK", I explained, "Ah, Swineflu", he replied, as I initially tried to work out if it was some kind of local insult. I finally realized it was about H1N1 (swine), not to be confused with H5N1(avian) flu all of which is clear at the aptly named Pandemicflu.gov website. Now I knew why they'd been wearing the facemasks.

So I'll be taking it easy this weekend- my overseas counterparts have been taking Labour Day in its various guises - which created a few unexpected gaps in Friday's schedule. I've a backpack of travel stuff to unpack, but its deposited on the floor at the moment waiting to be unzipped. And there's something strangely liberating about having a full weekend ahead, instead of just a Saturday. Perhaps I won't worry too much about 2019's return to balance. The guys predicting 1999 didn't do such a good job either.
space 1999 cast