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Saturday, 29 January 2011

heatless

24h
After Paris it evolved into a kind of chill-out weekend - rather literally.

A late start to Saturday and some good weather made it seem like an opportunity to step out of 25x8.

That's when I heard the ticking in the cupboard.

The control unit for the heating was protesting. First noises and then all the little words on it turning into a sort of ransom note. Needless to say it switched off the heating and water.

The 'ever-open' plumber shops were closed. They are only open until 12:00 and not at all on Sunday. I could call an emergency plumber but that would get very expensive.

Instead try switching it all off and then back on again. It's partly worked. Not properly, but survivable for a few days.

I'll call the plumbers again on Monday, but meantime I've ordered a replacement part from the internet. We'll see which works fastest.

Friday, 28 January 2011

i know cafe debussy doesn't exist

Cafe DEBUSSY - Version 2
Paris this week, although it was the usual blur of meetings, taxis and hotels.

At least I saw the Eiffel Tower, even if from a distance. It gives that sense of being somewhere recognisable, as if the interesting driving wasn't enough.

At one point I commented to my fellow passenger that I usually ended up getting lost in the tunnels around la Defense and driving in circles. Of course our professional driver wouldn't do that...Or would he? Yes we drove around the same area three times looking for the exit to the hotel.

It could have been a scene from a gritty gangster movie where we were eventually dropped. We found our way past some loading hatches and then into the hotel by what seemed to be a side entrance.

La Defense is a busy daytime office area, but I'm not sure that it has quite the vibrancy of downtown Paris in the evening.

Still, une nuit a Paris.

Monday, 24 January 2011

mixin' it in the tumbler

lolita
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.

All those moments will be

lost in time

like tears in rain.

.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Being Human again

Being Human Series 3 kicks off this evening.

They move to a new gaff in Wales and Annie seems to be stuck in the television.

Spot the Fawlty Towers reference in the preview scene.

I'll be watching.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

the impossible girl - kim boekbinder

kim boekbinder impossible girl
I first ran into Kim Boekbinder's music when she & her sister Zoe were singing a song with Amanda Palmer that subsequently appeared on the "Who Killed" album.

Then Kim produced daily a string of 31 different lyrics during January 2009, which became a kind of spur for me during February 2010 to have a bash at the February Album Writing Month.

In Kim's case the writing process was shared via her blog as she managed to put up a treatment for each song pretty much on the day. From day one it was interesting and the lyrics had twists, like the watery predicament in the love-struck "Underwater" and the quirkyness of the Hell's Diner.

Later came a more lengthy project to produce a full album, but by using the Web as a funding source and some of us pitched in a few dollars of encouragement to see what wonders would emerge.

And the songs started appearing, far from daily, but this time in blocks of around three, spread over a longer period during 2010.

Then Lo, by mid December in America - or with postal delays to the UK - by mid January, the sparkly album has appeared in a shower of fairy dust small pink glittery stars and hearts.

"Tell the world!" said the little note included, and yes, that's what I'm doing.

From the first claps in the intro to track one, to the shimmery last chords of the poppy Tinkerbell, it's an enjoyable album (My theory is there's an earlier ending to the main album, by the way).

What I also like is that it really plays through as an album with a few tracks that directly link and sections of a narrative that lace through most of the album.

There's also some very hook-based tunes included yet a sparseness in places that is very reminiscent of the earlier songwriting. A range of musical styles, with a core consistency that holds it all together.

I also really like the stripped down style which keeps direct personality that can sometimes gets glossed over in other peoples' productions. The lyrics are also smart and the twists that were apparent in the "31" still apply in a Sex, Drugs and Nuclear Physics with maybe a quantum fiddle kind of way.

So even if she does show up with 23 friends in the middle of the night, I'll know the irony of being captured by someone impossible.
kim b

Friday, 21 January 2011

virtuality

virtual
The last few days have seen me racking up the business dinners. Typically English, one night was a curry, another night was an Argentinian steak house, next was an Italian and then yesterday we were in a Chinese with the spinny table in the middle.

It was a co-incidental series of face to face meetings in the day-time and then suppers before people headed back to their respective countries on the next mornings. We had Americans, Dutch, Belgian, French, Swiss, German, Finnish, Danish, Italian, Canadian, Swedish, Slovenian and probably more mixed together at the various sessions.

I couldn't help notice the change to the 'now-ness' of these events though. They were all on a still personal scale, perhaps 10-15 people together at a time, rather than huge filled ballrooms. But in all cases there was an 'always-on' culture of laptops, iPhones and Blackberries.

Its a bit like inhabiting two worlds simultaneously. The physical, and the parallel virtual one. Many of us already do this on phone calls and teleconferences, where we'll also be connected to email and the net, but when its face-to-face I suspect it can dilute effectiveness.

The availability of networks raises a more general point about the way meetings work. What's the level of engagement we can expect? Nothing against multi-tasking, but there's also a need to use judgement about when to be in the moment and to 'switch it off'.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

all is not what it seems in bedlam

bedlam heights
I see that the forthcoming television series about a converted asylum is getting ready to launch a property web-site to support its activities.

Also that the copy for the web-site plays around with some of the plot-line such as its references to 'existing residents' and 'residents old and new'.

The green lettering has something in common with the goo that will run down the wall in the opening episode. And don't get me started on that messy bath. The soundtrack is pretty good and this is one to watch in the dark or with flickering candles to get the best effect.

For The Triangle I did something similar with its deliberately confusing related site.

The Bedlam storyline is around a new metro lifestyle housing block in a converted building where some of the 'older residents' seem to still have a point of view about what should happen.

Excuse the pencil-drawn placeholder logo below. I'd move the sofa away from the wall.
bedlam heights

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

bodyguard manouvre

bussed
Yesterday evening featured a business dinner. In fact this week is filled with various evening sessions, as well as a couple of lunches. The thing that made yesterday's unusual was partly because I was a late arrival. I'd been told the venue and made my own way there, about an hour later than everyone else.

I had a good reason for being late but it meant I missed the briefing about the nature of the event.

So when I arrived I was shown to a private room where the door was very carefully opened. I could see inside through a small opening and there on the table were a couple of black assault rifles, next to a few magazine clips. Across the room I could see someone firing a handgun and further across the room I could see glasses where the table had been set for a meal.

I felt my pulse rate quicken before I worked out what was happening.

"You'd better put these on," I was instructed, as someone handed me some safety goggles.

Of course, the theme of the session was about focus and targets for the new year, and someone had decided to make it very literal with what out to be supervised target shooting.

Luckily there was quite a gap before it was my turn to be instructed in the ways of bodyguard defence.

A real case of shooting from the hip.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

radar

anamorphically flared bus
My new car has just flipped past 4000 miles and had it's first car wash. I've also reached that point where I think I will need to read the manual. Not all of it, but a few points that I can't quite fathom.

The main one is the phone, which on my old car had a facility that let me program a few handy fast dial numbers. This one has a different system and instead you have to press a little button and say a word like 'home'. Like the television comedy sketches, it's easy to get confused and end up in the navigation menu, or changing the music, instead of the correct number. I'm sure I will master it, but I think I will need some practice first.

Another interesting facility is the radar system. Not one of those speed detector things but radar connected to the cruise control. There was an article about something similar in the papers at the weekend saying it will be available in about ten years time. I seem to already have something like it, where once a speed it's set, the car knows when to slow down and speed up again. Rest assured I have been using it with some caution.

It's a bit like when I first started using an automatic, after years of manual gears. I soon came to the conclusion that the automatic's heuristics were better at deciding when to shift than I was. I put both these features into the realms of "quiet technology". Doing useful things with minimum fuss.

Now, about that phone dialling...

Monday, 17 January 2011

Anna Calvi


Anna Calvi - Jezebel (Live)
I can understand the feedback from someone I attended a gig with recently who said "I'm not sure what I've just seen!" at the end of it. It's a bit like that for me with Anna Calvi.

I've been listening to her album for a couple of weeks and it's a classily engineered production with quite a bit of space in the mix. Guitar sounds that evoke a kind of Jeff Buckley live session and some jagged lyrics with occasional reminders of something that would fit within a Twin Peaks soundtrack.

The reason I think I'm struggling is because I listen for a while and then feel the need to flip to something slightly more conventional - Paloma Faith or Imelda May. And I don't think I'm easily phased by new things. This is just somehow isn't quite clicking.

On paper it ticks the boxes. Singer/songwriter. Interesting background. Musicality. Performance skills. I'm just not quite engaging with the performance. I understand its supposed to be challenging, that Brian Eno has helped out, that its supposed to push some boundaries. Normally these would all be pluses for me. But I'm just not sure with this one.

I've added it to the iPod now, so I can listen in the car.

The trouble is, Paloma and PJ are waiting.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The King's Speech in The King's Road

George VIWell, Saturday's plan went smoothly. What was fun part way through was seeing a genuinely enjoyable film which created much positive audience reaction and then, at the end, as the titles rolled, hearing loud spontaneous applause from the audience.

We'd visited the Chelsea Cinema in the King's Road. It's the one that quite often shows European films and looks quite unlike most multiplexes, with its very wide seating area, convenient bar and somewhat 1970's styling.

The film we'd been watching was "The King's Speech" - about the yet to be King George VI breaking past his speech impediment in the stormy times that led to him becoming King.

The film opens showing Bertie (Colin Firth) struggling and stuttering to make a radio broadcast and being criticised for it by his father King George V. By contrast, his highly self-confident older brother David (Guy Pearce) seemed to have a social world at his fingertips.

The story showed the attempts of Bertie to break past his stutter, led by the efforts of his wife (Helena Bonham-Carter), who introduced him to the non-nonsense and somewhat eccentric instruction of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). There's some great Royalty meets Commoner scenes which created much laughter in the cinema.

Meanwhile those partying fingertips of David were never far from Baltimore socialite Wallace Simpson, although its not entirely clear that she was only within one man's grasp.

History tells of the death of George V, which made David the new King Edward VIII. He didn't make it to be crowned though, staying as monarch for less than a year, because of his wish to marry Wallace Simpson which created the basis for his abdication.

The reluctant Bertie was instead to be crowned as the new King. Albert couldn't be the name - it sounded too Germanic, so George VI was chosen to create continuity with his father. Luckily most of the Royals have plenty of spare names.

The story continues with the lead up to the Coronation and the see-sawing improvements of the to-be King's speech in the time when much of Europe was preparing for World War II.

I enjoyed a well-told and engaging story, with much delicate humour as well as a sense of the dark times ahead as George VI prepared for a reign which would run the course of the second world war.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

jammed week

jammed
I see my last post was about "slip sliding' away" and that's the feeling from the last week.

Where did it go?

We have just been through that annual start up period and quite a few counters get reset and dials twisted as everything ramps up again.

It's a short time containing an abnormal share of special meetings, plans and PowerPoint alongside the normal stuff.

It's impacted the scribbles that normally make it to rashbre central blog. My approach is supposed to be to write an entry each day taking around 10 minutes including adding a picture. Sounds simple enough? A sort of short postcard about anything.

That's when it surprises me to see that it was actually last Sunday that I last wrote anything here at all.

It doesn't feel that long ago because of the travel, hotels, client meetings, decks of materials and other paraphernalia of my working world. Bizarrely (for many people) I was commuting to my office on Friday for a meeting at around the time most people were heading home for the weekend. Traffic jams in both directions accompanied by those ultra intense sparkly police lights with a combination of red and blue flashes. I made it back to the sofa by about 10pm.

So today's plans are purely social and later I'll be in the King's Road and then maybe on for a movie. I sense an evening with restaurants may also be ahead. Formulaic? Maybe. Fun. For sure.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

slip slidin' away

Bicycle Ride
Out cycling again this morning, although there was a noticeable amount of frost and ice to contend with. I decided to take the road bike in any case, although the thin tyres pumped to high pressure were not perhaps as sensible as the altogether squishier mountain bike's footwear.

It was still fun to marvel at the universe of sparkles looking up at me from the road surface, a constellation of optimism as I picked my way along the country lanes. Even my back pack water supply had an extra icy edge and the temperature on the bicycle's handlebars read 1 degree C, despite the sunlight. The fields to the sides of the road were sprinkled with icing and a few extra streams had appeared as the surface water was finding routes to the nearest brook.

I was aware of the extra slipperiness and even stopped once at the bottom of a particular stretch to consider my options. I'd felt the back wheel spinning faster than my forward speed and considered whether to turn around. No, it would be fine if stayed in the track in the middle between where the car wheels had polished the surface.

Most people I encountered were also out for the fun of the morning, other cyclists, walkers (including a group of about a dozen with sticks and staves), a group of about six joggers being led by a determined coach, dog walkers. We'd all greet each other with 'Good Mornings' and general pleasantries as we passed each other on the lanes.

Then a variation: "Be careful up there!", called a couple of cyclists in yellow heading the other way, "We just came off!". I was approaching The Big Hill and didn't need much of an excuse to slow down based upon their advice but it didn't look particularly different from the preceding section. That's before I turned the corner to see the new ice meadow across the road. I'd seen the red triangle sign with an exclamation about a quarter of a mile back and already been wondering what the particular exclamation was to signify.

Simple enough, it was a predictor of my language as I slid gently off the bike with a slight bouncing sound. In Germany I used to call it Glatteis because I'm not sure that the English "Black Ice" quite emphasises the slipperiness. It's that stuff thats almost impossible to stand up on.

The scrape on my knee matches the hole that I already had in these jeans.

A sort of co-ordinated tatterdemalion look for my return journey.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Johnny's got a boom boom


The new Mac App store helped me remember that I already own that SongGenie application which can be used to tidy up iTunes libraries.

I fired it up a couple of days ago before I headed into work and then just remembered it this morning. It's chugged through my entire library and sorted out the missing album covers, titles and even lyrics so that my largish collection is back up to date.

Some may know that I'm not so fond of all the see-through boxes for CDs and I'm almost on the point of wondering whether to keep the little flat round things that hold the music.

I suppose its a higher quality than the computerised versions, but with some exceptions I'm not sure it makes enough difference compared with convenience of finding anything with a quick search, which can nowadays be on the iPhone using the remote control facility.

For classifying genres, I don't use SongGenie's attempts though, preferring the extended classifications in TuneUp, so that I can have "Smoky Jazz Rockabilly Pop" instead of "Rock" for a track like the excellent one here from Imelda May. She reminds me what a single can be like and how much can be packed into 2min30seconds.

Johnny really has got a Boom Boom.

Friday, 7 January 2011

working it

chelsea bridge
Mid evening watching a Bleasdale television dramatisation of a German U-boot sinking the Laconia and then rescuing Allied passengers. Rather well done - with a gentler pace than some dramatisations and some very filmic looks - and a Beeb2 Thursday/Friday slot for the screening.

Less well done is that I only finished working in time to see it start at 9pm.

Tomorrow it'll be time for a bike ride as a way to rebalance (ignoring the obvious reference) before I get into some more work.

I've left the work computer abandoned alongside various papers and a big torn-off flip-chart page with meaningful red ink across it. That will get packaged during Saturday afternoon. Along with the late thing that came in at 3.30 that is needed for Tuesday in Amersfoort.

But peering outside, I can see a tall tree bending to around a 35 degree angle whilst leaves skitter in small circles around the garden. I'll find gloves for the cycling and I really do need to fit a rear mudguard to avoid that unintended racing stripe.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

fade to mono then supersaturate

elevated drinking
The fun and games of the last few days has given way to the working week with its new tasks.

I haven't quite moved back into suit and tie at the office yet, but next week the shiny shoe client facing stuff starts again.

I suspected that the meetings booked right at the end of 2010 would all get shuffled around and sure enough they have. I can understand that people returning are spending the first few hours pruning their in-boxes and calendars, even if they did have a peek during the holiday season.

By today, the traffic on the roads and the traffic of phone and email messages is getting back to normal. Everyone has reset themselves and after Tuesday's slight struggle, by Thursday they are all back onto normal schedules.

I'm starting to wake up a few minutes before the alarm again, which lets me get up and turn it off before its annoying beeping starts.

And this year there is already a sense of hectic pace where even an ostensibly quiet week is one where its important to get certain things cleared away. I know that by next week I'm starting to look outward two or more weeks to find clear days.

Monday, 3 January 2011

no reviews

bridges to the future
Our trip back took around six and a half hours yesterday, although I deliberately chose routes to avoid traffic.

It all worked rather well even through the snowy hilly bits and by early evening the landing lights of rashbre central came twinkling into view.

I had great plans for today before commencing full-on work again, but decided instead to take it easy ahead of what is already shaping into a busy schedule.

There should really be time for some of that backward reflection from the last year, but there already too many new things stacking up ahead so it becomes more about tomorrow than yesterday.

It's probably a personal preference, but it's the fun of going forward which somehow wins over reviews.

So I haven't done any.

No book reviews: instead there's a great list of recent book reviews over at Nikki-ann's, which should be enough for plenty of new ideas.

No theatre reviews: instead for theatrical goss and oh so much more there's the untamed lightning of blurred clarity

No protest listings: instead for unusual signage, there's always three leggged cat.

No stories about gadding around the world: instead for continental decisions and unexpected venues, there's always the smoky one.

No road trip travels with music: instead there's the hipstamatic totin' ipod car adventures of the holy hoses

No culinary exploits: instead there's inspirational suggestions from Pat's Perfections.

No glitterati chatterati:instead the mountaintop society weddings are the domain of the Vladtastic.

No fitness or cycling reviews: instead there's the shimmering fitness of Beth and her people watching

No music reviews: instead there's the consistent chart and listings action of a little night music

No top notch festive sharing: instead a certain bob-kat can do that so much better

No fruity suggestions: instead go simply bananas with the Lady herself.

And certainly no trashy exultations: instead go to the original keyhole for such an organ

Happy New Year; a new kind of normal will commence immediately.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

All new


Great to have the breakfast hamper arrive this morning after a night on the tiles. We'd paced ourselves unlike the folk we saw in the bar at eleven am drinking Champagne.

We were drinking coffee at that hour.

By the time we reached the evening venue at a more sensible ten o'clock, the luminous glow of unusual cocktails beckoned.

The next hours blurred past, enjoyably, and we we able to join riverside festivities before heading to the club playing bagpipe music backed by drum n bass.

A whole new interpretation of "we will rock you".

And a fine tap on the door this morning at around 11:11 1/1/11 for a late delivery of croissants and coffee.

Happy New Decade.