Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Feature Presentation

Ahh the smell of popcorn and the stench of those awful hot dogs – yes it’s time for another visit to the cinema… not Hereford cinema of course, that’s shit. Instead we’re off to Worcester for some yellow fever.

After a delicious bite of Nando’s we booked up for The Simpsons and loved every minute. Not a great plot (Homer pollutes Springfield so severely that the US Government seals the town off in a huge dome) but the gags are thick and fast. The gags are great too – Simpsons gold – all the characters are there though I could have done with some more screen time from Mr Burns and an appearance by Sideshow Bob. If I could I would have bee laughing out loud throughout the movie – sadly though there were only 5 people in the auditorium and with my deep voice I think laughing would have annoyed those 5 – I tried to keep as controlled as possible.

By 7.30 the film had finished – which led us into doing something I have never done before… we decided to go and see another film! Just half an hour later we were settled down for Harry Potter.

It’s my least favourite book so hopes weren’t high… boy was I wrong. An absolutely perfect film. The visuals are stunning with the set design of the Ministry being spot on. The Dumbledore – Voldemort battle is awesome and you finally get the feeling the magic is really powerful. Rupert Grint has come on in leaps and bounds and is proving himself the best actor of the three leads but Umbridge – well she was perfection. If anything more evil that she appears in the novel. Tonks & Bellatrix also displayed perfect casting. The one weak link is Emma Watson. Originally I’d have her as the best of the tree leads but in Order Of The Phoenix she seemed awful, I was really aware that she was acting – just all seemed a bit false.

Anyway 5 out of 5 for Potter, 4 out of 5 for The Simpsons. 1 out of 5 for the popcorn…

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Capital Blog

It’s the most time I’ve spent in central London in years, and I got to ride the Tube loads… which I love. You hear the jokes, how crap public transport is but as someone coming in from outside of London I marvel at the tube – how efficient it actually is. All those trains running simultaneously on all those tracks yet there’s so few accidents. I love the architecture of it, the design, the smell, the history.

Also I got to experience the new free newpapers that are now common sites on the tube every evening – it’s good to have something to read to escape the piercing eyes of that slightly weird bloke sat opposite you.

There’s capital radio – waking up to Vaughany instead of Moylesy. There’s opening your bedroom window in the morning to be greeted by the BT Tower. Being able to hop on a tube anywhere and experience loads of culture and history.

In one day we soaked up the sights of the Natural History Museum and the smells of Covent Garden and the colours of Camden.

I love London!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Shearing Review?

Last night I returned to The O2. It’s my second time there – the first was the secret launch night for O2 employees that displayed a few problems…

Most of the problems seem ironed out, there were no crushes on Entertainment Avenue, however the huge queues for the restaurants were still there. Luckily inside the O2 arena its self there was a distinct lack of queues and we were served in second flat for food – much better than last times 90 mins.

I’d gone to see the Scissor Sisters and my expectations were high. I love the band and have twice been amazed by their live performances at the Brits – performances that made me vow to see them live.

So they came on stage and straight away something was wrong… the sound was awful. All bass and no top – I could barely make out the singing instead being blasted by the drums and bass guitar. Obviously after Djing for 8 years I’m bound to notice things like this more than your average blokey so I asked Miss Smeg what she thinks – ‘I can hardly hear them’ she noted – bingo it wasn’t just my geeky DJ ear.

At this point I resigned that it may be and hour of just enjoying the lighting – which was absolutely stunning throughout – and the stage was amazing. There was a huge fault other than the sound though – the fact you couldn’t see them. A huge stadium gig and they didn’t even have decent large screens to relay the action to the back. Instead there was a blurry back lit projection as part of the set design – which occasionally showed live fuzzy pictures of the band but mostly had computer generated guff that you get as part of Windows Media Player.

Cue the third problem, out of the 19,000 people there we were stood behind the one girl that decides she wants to dance like a freak for the whole fucking show. No matter how much we moved our heads to see she’d move to block our view. Normally I find nothing sexier than a woman dancing well – sadly she was nothing like a woman dancing well – she jumped and jiggled in a variety of bizarre movements that distracted me from the show.

No matter, 10 minutes in and the sound became clearer, bass still slightly too heavy but the singing was now audible. Jake Shears amazed me in that he is a truly great singer – something that perhaps you don’t register so much on the studio albums he hit all the notes perfectly despite bounding about the stage with energy that gave me an asthma attack just watching… but that’s all he did. There were no costume changes and none of the flamboyance that has made me love the Scissor Sisters there were only two bits of audience interaction - Anna Matronic made some bizarre references to Jesus, which didn’t sit well, and then Jake ripped the piss out of Barbara Streisand.

All in all then a huge disappointment, they just didn’t seem to connect with the crowd and the atmosphere was slightly lacking… apart from jiggling girl… They played all the hits which was great but they played them identically to the albums – usually with live performances you expect a few tweaks to make things more fun.. they didn’t even do a cover.

I wouldn’t go to see them again, which is a shame as I do genuinely love their music but they were such a stark contrast to Basement Jaxx whom I saw last month and had the same arena alive in seconds.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Well Read

So it took me under 48 hours but I’ve finally finished Deathly Hallows and what did I think?

Well it’s definitely different, and most of my predictions were on the money too. It started as I predicted and Petunia did indeed have a slightly more developed role. My RAB predictions were bang on. The book did take a departure from the usual Harry Potter tale, and it has to be said I liked it though eventually the constant setting up camp and moving on again did start to get a tad tiresome.

My predictions on Snape were totally wrong however my idea that Voldemort having Harry’s blood sort of became utterly crucial to the plot. Finally I asked why did Dumbledore have the Invisibility Cloak? Again, correctly, this was an important part of the story and set up the reveal for the Deathly Hallows.

It’s been a wonderful 7 school years and I’m kind of sad that the tale has come to an end. There was just one thing wrong with Deathly Hallows though – the epilogue – which was the cheesiest stinking crap I’ve ever read in a Harry Potter book, for me it actually spoilt the great ending to the previous chapter.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Potter Predictions

In little under 12 hours I’ll have my soggy hands on a copy of The Final Book, but what of its contents? Hmm, I’ve been pondering this for the last 2 years…

I’m guessing it’ll start with Harry leaving the Dursley’s for the final time. Dumbledore, before his death requested that Harry do this as it is one place he’s truly safe. While he’s there I’m guessing we’ll learn something about Aunt Petunia. She obviously has associations with the magical world…

Harry will leave the Dursley’s to attend Bill & Fleur’s wedding. We’ll learn how badly Bill has been affected by his bite from Greyback. He’ll then begin the quest to find the horcruxes – starting at Godric’s Hollow

I’m guessing ‘R.A.B’ – who stole the horcrux – is Reginald Black. Sirius’s brother.

We have to find 3 more horcruxes. A forth – a locket – has been taken by R.A.B.

This book will probably see a departure from the school year format of the previous 6. This could be why JK Rowling is concerned that some fans may loath it. Of course another reason for the loathing could be the death of 2 main characters… or perhaps a loved character turning out to be a villain. (Hagrid anyone?)

Throughout the series much has been made of Harry having his mother’s eyes. Could this have a lot more significance than merely bearing a resemblance? She blessed him with her love, could there be a physical connection too?

Voldemort used Harry’s blood to return to power. Harry is, of course blessed with Lily Potter’s love. Could the fact that Voldemort has traces of this running through his own veins become a weakness in the presumed final battle?

In book six Snape spend some time drumming into his class the importance of ‘Non Verbal Spells’. I feel these may become very important in book 7. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Snape may have used this skill when cursing Dumbledore with the Avada Kadaver spell. Although he did say this out loud but what’s to say he wasn’t thinking about a different spell entirely…

Why did Dumbledore have James Potter’s invisibility cloak? Dumbledore has the power to be invisible without it.

Ginny & Harry, ahh young love. Will they find happiness or will one die protecting the other?

Kreacher is , apparently ‘very important’.

So, that’s it my thoughts and guesses on what’s to come when I start reading just after midnight tonight. (It’s handy living just 5 minutes from Waterstones.) Still I’ll probably be wrong. Whatever happens it’ll be a shame to say farewell to Rowling’s rich and entertaining universe but it’s been a great ride, all because my flatmate forced me to read it. Cheers Spoony!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Going Potty

Sometime in early 2001 I turned the final page of Fleming’s final bond book and sighed. I’d finished my 6-month task of reading the adventures of Bond and I’d nothing left to read.

“Why don’t you try Harry Potter?” My flatmate enquired. Ugh. Potter, I thought, I hate fantasy, I loathe Lord Of The Rings, why would I enjoy Potter – it’s the same thing – trolls, goblins and dragons.
“Seriously you should, I mean all your kids at school are reading them wouldn’t it be better to relate to them and read what they’re reading them?” flat mate continued eagerly pressing his copy of The Philosopher’s Stone into my hands. He was correct, the school at which I taught was flooded with Harry Potter – everyone seemed to be reading it.

Reluctantly I curled up on the battered sofa that adorned our student living room and began with chapter one, ‘The boy who lived’. Four hours later I was still there – absolutely hooked. Just a few days later and I’d finished The Goblet Of Fire and was desperate for more.

“But that’s it, the next one’s not out.” My flatmate informed me.


Since then I’ve re-read the books a few times, I’ve seen the films – applied the Potterverse to my teaching a few times and attended the midnight book launches. But tomorrow night it all ends. The final book.

It’s weird that a children’s book should become so enthralling. While I have re-read Potter many times since I haven’t yet revisited the Bond novels that I read just prior to Potter… though I have a feeling that in a weird kind of bookend I will do so this summer.

So what will happen? I’m going to make some predictions tomorrow… then see how wrong I am!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Summer Anthems

Since beginning my life as a party DJ back in 1999 I’ve noticed that every years there is one song that becomes the anthem of the summer.

1999 – ATB 9pm (‘Til I Come)
2000 – Spiller Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)
2001 – Kylie Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
2002 – Elvis Vs JXL Little Less Conversation
2003 – Beyonce Crazy In Love
2004 – Eric Prydz Call On Me
2005 – Pussycat Dolls Don’t Cha
2006 – Gnarls Barkley Crazy
2007 – Rihanna Umbrella

Each time these songs become the sound of the summer. They are the most requested songs that year – usually still so when it comes to my Xmas bookings. Every year there are close contenders. 2000 also gave us Rock DJ, 2006 had Scissor Sisters I Don’t Feel Like Dancing etc. This year I was certain that Amerie Gotta Work would be the sound of summer 2007. It’s cracking brass riff and R&B beats quite reminiscent of Beyonce’s Crazy In Love. I was wrong. Umbrella came from nowhere to claim its, to date, 9 week run. Personally it’s the first summer anthem I’ve not enjoyed. I just find it dull, it’s almost as if it never gets going. It’s feels a tad to slow and lacks the uplifting feel that the summer anthem should have.

Of course, in reflection it’s perfect for this year. Here we are in mid July and 2007 is the summer that never was. Rihanna’s rain dance certainly sums up the feeling of the nation and thus despite my loathing of it is possibly the most perfect summer anthem ever.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Lost Cause(way)

If you were shopping in Cribbs Causeway on Sunday… if you drove past four people in blue t-shirts holding signs begging for a lift then I have one message for you. You are all miserable, soul less bastards. I can forgive a lot of you. Those with simply no space for us, or those with children & shopping filling the back seats fair enough, we didn’t expect any help from you. But the dozens of you in empty people carriers, the three of you that offered to give the female 50% of the team but leave us males stranded you lot are pure evil and I condemn you to suffer at least one nasty rash or a very sore pimple in the next month.

We were stuck at Cribbs for 2 hours. 2 Damned hours. 120 minutes that saw our Jailbreak victory ebb away into a humble 30th place.

We eventually got a lift from the pure fluke of knowing someone that happened to be using the Cribbs Causeway MacDonald’s… yes, it is a small world.

So when we crossed that soggy finish line at 6pm we were somewhat solemn. We had one minor victory - £707 for charity – but the buzz we felt of storming into the lead up the M5 that afternoon had long gone.

Still, there’s always next year…

Monday, July 16, 2007

Homeward Bound

3, 2, 1, Go!

And then we stampeded. Bustling and pushing, shoving forward to be the first team out of the doors of The Winter Gardens, Weston Super Mare. It was a stroke of luck – I know Weston well and thus, for the first Jailbreak in 7 years my team had the advantage.

We stormed round the seaside town, around Jill’s Garden, past the Silica and on to the Grand Pier. We completed the treasure hunt and then had to start trying to get a lift. It wasn’t going to be easy – we were playing against Spiderman, Venom, a team of jockeys, aliens and even four Ugly Betty’s. Luck was on our side as we were among the first few teams to reach the outskirts of Weston, powering there under our own feet. We pleaded with cars driving past for a lift. Begged. Held signs aloft proclaiming ‘charity hitch hike – HELP!’ to show were weren’t just scruffy cheapskate students trying to bag a free ride.

After 10 minutes we were off. A lovely woman giving us a lift despite ’having a bad day’. We told her what was going on and she was so impressed she took us slightly out of her way an extra junction up the M5. We saw signs of only one other team this far.

Within minutes of getting out of her car another kind stranger tooted offering a lift. The lovely Kim was fascinated by our charity efforts and pledged to take us all the way to Cribbs Causeway – heaven – a location where there would be hundreds of people… hundreds of cars, many of them heading our way. We’d be guaranteed a lift and we were sure to beat our 2000 record of coming 5th.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

On The Run

Imagine being stranded in a town you’re not familiar with. Now imagine you’ve got no money, not even a mobile phone and you have to get home. What would you do? You’d probably find it quite stressful. Now imagine that 200 people are actually doing this for fun.

Throughout the 1990’s Hereford was home to ‘Jailbreak’. A hugely successful charity that, in 10 years, raised over a million pounds for smaller charities. The concept was simple. Teams of four were given around six months to raise £400 – if they did this they were eligible for the Jailbreak race. On the first Sunday of every July the teams were bussed from Hereford Racecourse to a mystery location in the UK and then had to race back to Hereford with nothing but luck at their disposal.

It was a huge success and an annual event the whole city looked forward to. I took part in three. Blackpool in 1998, Manchester in 1999 and London in 2000. By this time it has go so popular around 150 teams were taking part. It was too successful and too big to organise thus, Ron & Gren – the creators/organisers of the idea – announced that 2000 was to be the last ever event.

And what an even it was, scrambling to return from Centre point in London to Hereford as fast as you can with no money & no phones. I’m immensely proud to say my team came 5th that year. So I was gutted that it was never to be again.

Until now…. today is the Return of Jailbreak. We’ve spent the last six months raising a fantastic £707 and, in an hour or so I will join the other 50 teams ready to relaunch this phenomenon. Am I mad? Wish me luck…

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Despite concerns I am slowly becoming a trainspotter I was very pleased to see this while cycling home - there's something great about steam!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Frothy Beverages

Real Ale drinkers. In my mind they’re an odd bunch of pot-bellied, folk music loving, hairy beer swillers. Slurping such wonderful beverages as ‘Old Growler’, ‘King Billy’ and ‘Grumpling Premium’.

I shouldn’t be so keen to paint people with a stereotype – as a proud science fiction geek I’m part of a social group that’s prone to such lazy presumptions myself. Usually from the direction of up their own arse critics AA Gill who fears anything that he doesn’t get.

Anyway I couldn’t be further from the truth as, on Friday, I ventured to Camra’s 3rd annual ‘Beer On The Wye’ event. A chance to sample over 150 beers, perrys and ciders.

It was great fun, a lively band and a diverse mix of people. Some of the ciders were truly awful but others absolutely gorgeous. I also got a chance to sample a ‘rare breed burger’ hmm. Does that mean it was undercooked or was I eating part of a Dodo? Anyway it was tangy but tasty – much like the perry!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Battery Farm

Weird and dangerous forces were at work in the hovel I call home this morning. I awoke to the regular chirping of the fire alarm informing me the battery needed replacing. I was going to go to Tescos so added it to my mental shopping list and padded down to the kitchen. I glanced at the clock and was staggered by how early I’d woken. 6am. Crikey. Only it wasn’t, you see time was at a standstill – the batteries had gone in the kitchen clock too.

An odd but not unusual co-incidence, until I took a shower. I flicked on the shower radio only to be greeted with nothing but static no matter how much I yanked my knobs. A third device that needed a new battery. What was going on?

It’s annoying to have three devices go at once, mainly because batteries are so bloody expensive. Why do they have different sizes too? Why not just one universal size? As I showered I pondered further. What came first, the battery or the torch? It would be daft to release a battery powered torch when such things don’t exist, but like wise who would produce batteries when no items actually require them?!

I shrugged it off and went to cycle over to Tescos… only to find, yep, I kid you not the batteries on my bike lights had gone too! Is my house the centre of a strange power sucking electro magnetic pulse? Perhaps, but more likely the victim of me being a cheap skate and buying tesco value batteries…