Monday, October 31, 2005


“You mean you can’t drive? How do you get around?!” is the oft cry I hear from many a people upon discovering my inability to control a motor vehicle. They seem shocked when I tell tales of walking or cycling everywhere.
“Walk?! But it’s up hill and it takes at least fifteen minutes!” Was one utterance of exasperation I’ve had when describing my journey home. Oh no, fifteen minutes – so inconvenient. I enjoy it though it’s like a buffer between work and home Time to gather thoughts, reflect, plan your evening meal or just hum along to the iPod.
Still this is nothing compared to the disgust I get when I tell people that I use (get ready for this) public transport…

“But you must always be late, it’s dirty, expensive, hot and now thanks to 7/7 it could even spell certain death.” To be honest I no longer use the public transport around town. That, I agree is ridiculously expensive for such comparatively short journeys. However people who rely on cars seem completely oblivious to the fact that public transport is actually relatively cheap and reliable, especially over long distance. In three years of travelling back and forth to university the bus was only late twice – once because it got stuck in a major traffic jam which would have effected me had I been in my own car anyway. I used to relish the 90 minutes journey – sheer escapism often to the sounds of Mark & Lard (when Radio 1 mid-afternoon was good) through gorgeous Herefordshire/Gloucestershire countryside.

Recently I travelled to Birmingham by train. The carriage was clean, comfortable I had a seat and the air con was lovely and refreshing. The train was bang on time through all its stops and I got to the centre of Brum without the hassle and expense of finding parking. On the way back however the train broke down – this lead to an hour delay. Cries of disgust from many a passenger. I shrugged it off and enjoyed an hour wandering around Worcester where we’d stopped. No big deal.

So next time you need to take a journey why not think twice about your own car. Help save pollution and fight the continuing price rise of oil by going on public transport – it’s not nearly as crap as its image would make believe.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Intensive Comments

When I started this blog I made an unwritten rule that I’d never respond to any comments left. Mainly because I didn’t think I’d get any but also because my blog is my chance to air my opinion and the comments box is the chance to air yours – if they’re different even better because that gives the reader something to ponder over. However the anonymous poster of the following message about my Robbie Williams album review has really angered me;

Think you are talking out your arse, this is such a personal album touching upon many a fan, almost taking a 360, his first album reflected so much, this does exactly the same, if you want the last album, go and buy it again... people like you should not try to criticise as you really can't accept change... this album is fucking amazing.... move on you drip!

What angers me is that this commenter has obviously not actually read my blog in full. The first part of the review was based solely on the first listen to the album – in all honesty I didn’t enjoy the album as much as first listens to other Robster albums.. however if the commenter had bothered to read on they would have seen that I argued exactly the points they have i.e;

Commenter: “people like you should not try to criticise as you really can't accept change”

My Review: “So to sum up this is a more challenging album for Robbie fans – but to be honest I’m glad. I’d rather he try out new sounds and new ideas, there are far too many bands that keep releasing the same stuff in the same key with the same chords.”

There – in black and white, (well black & grey) I said I’m glad Intensive Care had a different sound… It’s brave and the change is good.

Commenter: Think you are talking out your arse, this is such a personal album touching upon many a fan

My review: Verdict: I love it! Album of the year for me so far putting Kaiser Chiefs into second place. Even the covers tarot theme perfectly captures the thoughtful feel to Intensive Care.

So perhaps Mr Anonymous should read stuff properly before jumping to conclusions. If you must know Intensive Care is the only thing I have played on my iTunes this week apart from Zero 7 and the Chris Moyles Podcast… and only because that had an interview with Prince Of Pop himself.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Intensive Listening

Thanks to the wonder that is I received my copy of Robbie Williams’ new album, Intensive Care, 48 hours before its actual release. As a fan of the Robster I was delighted but is it any good?

Popular opinion on the first single ‘Tripping’ is divided. I’m in the ‘love it’ camp preferring it to last years ‘Radio’ so I was looking forward to the album. First play however was disappointing. It felt wishy-washy. Robbie’s albums always seem to consist of a fine balance of good upbeat singalongs and brilliant ballads. This album seemed to hover somewhere in the middle. But then came the final two tracks; ‘A Place To Crash’ is an extremely catchy rocky song more in the traditional Robbie vein – it’s followed up with ‘King Of Bloke of Bird’ which is a perfect balance and the last 30 seconds provide a gorgeous instrumental end to the album.

Hearing these two great tracks inspired me to have an immediate second listen. Straight away ‘Ghosts’ stood out much more but the song that really grabbed me was ‘Advertising Space’

After a few listens I’m finding ‘Make Me Pure’ a brilliant track, almost up there with ‘Better Man’

Robbie has this unusual ability to create ‘growers’ – tracks that take a number of airings to ‘click’. It was the same with ‘Rock DJ’ and ‘Come Undone’ but it is Intensive Care that demonstrates this ability more than ever before. I was Djing last night and I’m glad to say ‘A Place To Crash’ got the dance floor filled – a potential Robbie smash there.

This morning the first thing I did was put the album on – I can’t get the tunes out of my head though the only track that isn’t growing is ‘Spread Your Wings’ – the backing track sounds like one of the instrumentals from Channel 4’s Supernanny and the way Robbie speaks the lyrics it sounds like an attempt at recapturing Escapology’s brilliant ‘Me & My Monkey’.

So to some up this is a more challenging album for Robbie fans – but to be honest I’m glad. I’d rather he try out new sounds and new ideas, there are far too many bands that keep releasing the same stuff in the same key with the same chords. Robbie may loose some long time fans with Intensive Care but I think he’ll gain new ones too.

Verdict: I love it! Album of the year for me so far putting Kaiser Chiefs into second place. Even the covers tarot theme perfectly captures the thoughtful feel to Intensive Care. It’s a different sound but it’s not the disaster all the Guy Chambers fans were predicting – a success and I look forward to more Williams/Duffy collaborations.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Crisp Talk

I’ve talked before about my love of salty potato based snacks or crisps as they’re more normally known. Pringles used to be the daddy for me. However the last few years have seen that respect eroded with the addition of dodgy flavours. Paprika and Smoky Bacon are both over-salty nightmares with a harsh aftertaste. Mexican Salsa was awful and the new Sweet Chilli taste very synthetic. The two new flavours I loved – Pizza & Curry were both withdrawn with only a years shelf life. The one success has been marvellous - Hot & Spicy flavour.

Luckily Walkers came into the frame with Sensations. I was suspicious at first but their superior taste and flavours have won me over. Balsamic Onion & Vinegar is gorgeous, as is the minted lamb. The new pork and mustard flavour is delicious and then, of course, there’s the don of Sensations. Thai Sweet Chilli. Far superior to Pringle’s offering no synthetic aftertaste instead there’s that lovely warm, sweet sensation over your tongue.

Last night though I was pleasantly surprised by a new addition to the Pringles Dippas range – Thai Green Curry. After the recent experience with their other Thai flavour I was suspicious but gladly it seems Pringles have finally produced a nice flavour – It is reminiscent of the old Curry flavour but with slightly more of a kick. Now all they have to do is bring back Cheese’Ums and I’ll be a happy man!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why Do I Hoard?

While moving house I discovered a strange thing about myself. I keep a lot of crap. An oversized £10 note. A Friends mobile phone holder. The cinema tickets for every film I went to see between 1998 and 2003. My old student ID cards, birthday cards. Boxes for various Star Trek memorabilia. All the number 1 CD singles between 1997 and 2002 as well as a multitude of other singles despite now having them all again on various compilation albums. Tickets to see Robot Wars live and Star Trek Voyager Calendars from 1996-2002. I’ve got all the Comic Relief red noses ever, my school uniform. A CD rack I never use. Awful GCSE woodwork projects. Every issue of the Beano 1987-1999. Why? Most of it is sentimental, I can attach happy memories with many of these objects, people, places names and faces. I have the memories though so why do I need that physical attachment? My girlfriend oft describes me as sentimental and nostalgic. I still cherish my Ghostbusters toys and my Sega Megadrive. I still love my Voyager VHS collection despite now having the lot on far superior DVD. Now I am moving out of the parents into my own home it is time to cast of some of these possessions away. There’s a fortune to be made on ebay with a lot of it I’m sure but it’s just so hard to say goodbye.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hobbies & Not Having Any...

I haven’t got a hobby. I hate that. Sometimes I sit there on a boring evening and ponder what to do. I can spend hours showing Bowser what for on the Gamecube or DS. I can waste aeons browsing the web or reading a good book. Some evenings and afternoons I while away the hours volunteering my time to Hospital Radio. Then there’s the DVD collection – oooh how I love to sit in front of a glowing box watching the digital data on a shiny disk be translated for my pleasure. None of these though are proper hobbies. This came to my attention when updating my CV. What do I put under the title ‘Hobby’
I’d love something old school. Trainspotting? Hey I’m already a Trekker – that’s geeky enough. Stamp Collecting? Hmm costs money – now I have that oh-so-heavy mortgage hanging above my head the hobby has to be cheap. Model Building? Tried that when I was younger, my nose and the warp nacelle of the Enterprise-D became quite attached… no thanks.
It’s a man thing though isn’t it? I mean, Hobbies. You see very few women in the local Steam appreciation society. I was once told (I think I was told, It could, perhaps, have come from Wilson on ‘Home Improvement’) that the male need for a hobby, to be creative, is because of an unconscious jealousy of the females ability to create new life inside her. Sort of makes sense. I do a lot of stuff with my spare time – Roller Coaster appreciation is another thing I could count for myself but it all sounds so different. “Hobbies: Reading, Writing, Internet, Gaming and Rollercoasters..”

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Spectre of Entertainment

I have long believed that the BBC are the best producers of television in the world. While many independent media stations and publications often knock them I still automatically tune to News 24 or Radio 4 if there is a major breaking news story. Radio 2 contains some of the finest radio programming & presenters anywhere while Radio 1 promotes fresh new talent and sounds expertly. On TV the BBC have been responsible for many of the last decade’s most delicious shows. Recently Doctor Who, Spooks, Dick & Dom and Little Britain.

The fondest memory I have of the BBC is for making me the most scared I have ever been in my life. The other day I was walking through town where I saw a number of people wearing ‘Most Haunted Crew’ T-Shirts. I laughed at the thought of a local building appearing on this awful program. I’ve watched it a few times and I feel it is making a mockery of genuine investigation into a fascinating subject – ghosts. Derek & Yvette should be banned from coming anywhere near a camera for producing this dumb show. It is a pale imitation of possibly the greatest 90 minutes of television I’ve ever watched…

It was October 1992, I was excited as it was one of the first times I’d been left home alone. I tuned into BBC 1 for their live Ghostwatch. Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene & Mike Smith hosted a 90-minute investigation of the most haunted house in Britain while Craig Charles provided the light relief. The studio ghost expert was, bizarrely, the head-tutor from Channel 4’s ‘Teachers’ Of course it was all a sham – an expertly produced ‘what-if’ drama that wasn’t even live. On the night I didn’t know that. I sat watching fascinated by what the university investigators had discovered at this haunted house. Central heating banging, school textbooks being defaced, a girl being scratched and a spooky voice uttering ‘Round & round the mulberry bush.’ I sat terrified as the ‘live’ broadcast descended into chaos. Banging, crashing wailing felines and Sarah Greene being trapped in a ghastly ‘glory hole’ (ahem). The image of ‘Pipes’ the spectre behind the happenings haunted me for years.

I waited petrified for my parents to return, “Mum, mum they’ve proved ghosts exist, they’re real…”

Of course it wasn’t and the BBC got into all sorts of trouble. The broadcast even being linked to the suicide of one lad who got a tad too scared! It was never to be shown again… well until it got a DVD release a few years back.

It still sticks in my mind though – I was captivated in a way that no TV show has ever emulated. I doubt it could be done today, we’re too media savvy – but I’d love to see it attempted!

More on Ghostwatch here.
..and here...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Crackin' Gromit...

It looks like the film I most want to see this week is going to be a huge hit. Well at least that's what I think judging by the random drunk old guy out side my local Tesco a few minutes ago. There he was, in his late 50s at least, rosey red face swinging a carrier bag around proclaiming, "I love Wensleydale"

Wallace would be proud...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bigger On The Inside

I love my new house, it doesn’t feel like home yet but we’re getting there. In spring we plan to tackle the back yard – not that big but a lick of paint, a few pots and I’m sure it’ll do wonders. But for some dumb reason I’ve decided I’d love a TARDIS in it. You see it’s not big enough for a shed and although we have a huge cellar for storage it’d be a lot easier to have a small shed for storage of BBQ, plant stuff and patio furniture. How cool would it be to build a TARDIS?! Far more interesting than a shed. I’ve looked into plans and cost and reckon it could be done for around £400. (Self build obviously)

It’ll probably never happen, my girlfriend is doing her best to dissuade me. I’m amazed at how many people out there in interweb land have actually taken on such a project. Like this bloke for instance… oh and this one.

Hmmm. Should I do it? I can see it being a project I start with full gusto and enthusiasm and then after a month giving up leaving the cellar full of half finiashed 7ft high MDF Tardis doors! It’ll be like the Blue Peter Tracy Island all over again which spent 2 years on top of my wardrobe half finished! Besides, thinking about it I haven’t even got a Sonic Screwdriver and I’m sure a Phillips one would be no good….

Monday, October 10, 2005

How To Win A Pub Quiz

As a quiz master I’m often asked for tips on winning. My stock reply is don’t play to win - just enjoy it. That was always my mantra when taking part in a quiz myself though I guess £100 cash or some free beer is always a bonus.

So how do you win a quiz? Well here’s some tips. For a start a good knowledge of Bond or 007 is a must. Every single quiz I’ve been to there almost always seems to be a Bond question – even in the ones I write I seem to slip them in. It’s usually which bond girl, or who sang…. Though sometimes it’ll be ‘which Bond.’
Look for current events too. Last week Charlie & The Chocolate factory came out. Sure enough quizzes featured questions about the original movie or the book. Likewise back in March/April every quiz I went to was asking questions about Doctor Who – and it’ll almost always be lazy ones that don’t need research. What does TARDIS stand for being a prime example. Just looking logically at current events like that can definitely lead to good guesses at what any given weeks pub quiz will contain.

Finally big advice here is look for themes. This is something I’m guilty of when writing a quiz. If I find a good question I’ll milk it for everything it’s worth. Last year every week I asked a question about the Monopoly Board or Monopoly rules simply because the board was kept next to my computer. I had a run of weeks about dartboards – again it was opposite where I was sat when writing the quiz. If, at your local, you get asked a question like this then I will bet you the next week there will be another question – simply because it saves the quizmaster the hassle of doing research for a question. I’ve recently discovered a list of international vehicle registration numbers.. that’ll keep me going for months!

Of course If you ever do come to my pub quiz be warned, as a fan of pub quizzes myself I am aware of some of these tricks of the trade – and often try hard to go against them… well unless I’m having a lazy ‘Quiz by numbers’ week…

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bless Me Father Roddenbury, For I Have Sinned...

I remember when I was about 6. Messing about in the living room, mum in the kitchen I switched the TV channel from the boring news to BBC 2. I sat watching fascinated by two men in pyjamas attacking a lump of reddish brown rock with laser guns. Later wisdom would teach me that this was the Horta from Star Trek The Original Series episode “The Devil In The Dark”. It was my first experience of Star Trek and it wasn’t long before I sat and watched the Wrath Of Kahn. A few years later The Next Genration debuted and I was hooked – I was a Trekker.

Flash forward to 2001 and (Star Trek) Enterprise arrives. The very talented Scott Bakula is the perfect choice for captain and I’m looking forward to another crew and another exciting voyage…. Sadly the excitement never arrives. Apart from Captain Archer the characters all seem boring and 2D. T’pol is just plain annoying without any of the character strength that made Seven fascinating in Voyager. Worse still is that none of these characters really seem to be happy there. Gone are the bold brave explorers from the other Starfleet ships – instead we have a bunch of nervous tykes scared of what is around the next corner. These are meant to be heroes, role models even. Archer sometimes manages but the rest seem reluctant. I try and try to get into it reminding myself that TNG & DS9 took a while to hit their strides but it just doesn’t happen. The final nail in the coffin is Star Trek Nemesis. A weak remake of The Wrath Of Kahn where the writer & director seems to have failed to get a grasp of any of the characters I have loved for the last two decades.

It’s the first time a new TV season has started without any new Star Trek since 1987. A few years ago I’d have been devastated but now with my beloved Star Trek DVDs keeping me company (every single Star Trek ever… except Enterprise of course) I’m actually not bothered it’s actually woken me up to what else is out there. For starters we’ve had the excellent Doctor Who. Sheer brilliance and I’m eagerly awaiting David Tennant’s ‘Christmas Invasion’

There’s Lost on Channel 4 (well it seems more like an hour of adverts with a bit of Lost every now and then!) – and I’m hooked. What’s a polar bear doing on a tropical island. How does a wheelchair bound man suddenly develop the ability to walk? What’s that French radio broadcast? Who is the mysterious man in a suit that is being spotted?

I’ve also discovered Sci-Fi Channel’s excellent remake of Battlestar Galactica. I detested the original – far too garish but this is sheer genius. It’s how Enterprise should have been, gritty, realistic but above all engaging and intelligent. No dumb technobabble and genuine raw emotion the commander is not afraid to speak his mind and tell the crew how he feels (“Get out of my office while you still can…”) much more interesting that the reserved Starfleet officers.

This summer we’ve had Batman Begins and War Of The Worlds, two absolutely gripping SF films, not to mention Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, the forthcoming King Kong. And of course there’s the excellent Half Blood Prince Potter continuation.

So other Trekkers out there fear not. Take off your Federation Blinkers, stop the TNG DVD you’re playing and take a look at the hoards of new Science Fiction that is being produced. Perhaps life without Trek isn’t too bad after all…

Friday, October 07, 2005

House Hunting Stressful?

Back in February when I started house hunting I was told it’s the most stressful thing you’ll ever do. Countlessy, again and again. To be honest though I loved it. I was fascinating going around and viewing homes. Being nosy and seeing other peoples decors and ways of living. I loved mentally mapping out how I’d have the house. The solicitor bit didn’t seem stressful – just long. Like taking loads of little steps instead of just buying the damn house. I do have my girlfriend to thank there though – she’d been through the process before and did most of the paper work.
Taking the house on and decorating it has been great fun. Paint flying everywhere, picking colour schemes and taps. Using rollers, and yes lads…. Power tools! For every bit of work completed you do you find another niggly little bit of work to be done. No big jobs as such just lots of little ones.

It was only in the final few weeks that the annoyance set in. The house was ours, the moving in date was set but there was still so much to do. It was the limbo of being able to see the goal line but not reach it. Sooo frustrating. The knowing that the house was there, it was ours – we could move in tomorrow except there was no kitchen.. Finally we’re in though and, touch-beech-effect-coated-woodchip, no stress!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

When did I become a web junky?

It’s almost three months since I had to disconnect broadband for my house move. Talk Talk have been awfully slow at getting us reconnected – telling us different things at different times. SO much so that when my obligation to them runs out I will be terminating my contract with them. If they hadn’t have farted around so much and kept blaming it on BT (whom, I’ve discovered, had nothing to do with the problems) we could have been re-connected a month ago.

Anyway that’s not the point. What I want to know is when I became addicted to the internet. The first month offline was fine. I had a PDA to check my email and doing that once every few days was enough. By month two I was starting to miss the forums I post on, the film & sci-fi news sites and even browsing Ebay. But I could cope.

By month three and I really found it a pain that I couldn't get online. Everyday something cropped up that I wouldn’t have minded googling. The history of New Orleans, more info on Lost. Some research for a Halloween Party I’m organising.

It got worse and worse. I think of friends I’ve made on some forums, do they think I’m dead? What about other blogs I read, how are those people? Has Queen of the Skies successfully sued Delta Arlines? Is Diamond Geezer still expertly turning the most trivial East End London trivia into enthralling reading? It’s also quite worrying on how dependant I must be on the internet. For a start my music purchases are became lot more expensive. I’m amazed at how much more expensive the high street is for DVD & CDs than Play, Amazon or i-Tunes.

Back in 1996 when I first connected I never imagined the net would become such a big part of my life. Then it was just a good way of killing time for 10 mins looking up spoilers of the latest DS9 episodes. But now it really has become another community I’m part of. Now that the connection is back I’m going to have to apologise to my girlfriend and immerse myself for a few weeks to catch up. Looks like the kitchen walls will have to wait….

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sod's Law

At long last my web connection has been sorted from my new abode and I'm back to blogging!

It's typical though. The summer I don’t have access to my Blog is the summer loads happens. London Bombings, Harry Potter, Live Eight, Olympic decision, Lost and Big Brother. There’s me moving house, loads of cinema visits and films to talk about as well as my Djing dates and radio work. There’s the sad death of James Doohan and the tragedy in New Orleans. Not to mention a visit to Warwick Castle, Blackpool and Alton Towers to report on as well as a week’s break in Cornwall. Oh well guess I’ve got quite a bit to talk about over the next few weeks…