Sunday, April 30, 2006

Those cheeky scamps in the media

I read with interest that the media, particularly the UK tabloid press, are blaming the Football Association for the failure to appoint Luiz Felipe "Big Phil" Scolari to the job of England football team coach. This makes me incandescent with rage. There is no doubt that the FA have been a bit disorganised, but lets have a look at the facts. Why are the England team looking for a new manager 5 weeks before the World Cup starts? It's because the tabloid press have been hounding the current incumbent Sven-Goran Eriksson for months to say if he was going to stay on in the job after the end of his current contract. Now it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Eriksson would probably and quite rightly have liked to have decided whether to stay on after the World Cup but he was forced into deciding before the World Cup by the ridiculous argument that he owed it to the fans to let them know. What! Why? And the media just wouldn't let it go until he decided to tell them he was leaving, presumably just to shut them. Thank you the media.

So having hounded out our current manager the media criticise the FA for chasing a few English also rans from the middle of the premiership (Curbishley, Allardyce, McClaren). Come on! We are talking Chartlon, Bolton and Middlesborough. They are all plucky teams that are currently punching above their weight, but we need a world class manager for England. What they didn't realise was that the FA was actually chasing Big Phil Scolari who had won the World Cup with Brazil and Euro 2004 with Portugal. Exactly the sort of coach we need to get for England. The FA made a formal and secret request to the Portuguese FA to approach Scolari because he was about to run out of contact following the World Cup so they agreed.

The only proviso was that this all had to be kept under wraps for the time being because Scolari didn't want to show any disloyalty to the Portuguese fans. But as luck would have it our friends in the media followed the FA representative to Lisbon and the next day "Scolari to accept England job" is on all the back pages of newspapers across Europe. Not surprisingly, the next day Scolari pulls out of the job stating that the press intrusion had screwed it up. And the newspapers headlines? "FA incompetents ruin it all". Thank you the media. You hypocritical lying wankers.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Compact Cassette Horror

At the weekend we replaced a dodgy old chest of draws on which our TV sat with a fine sheesham wood table. Since the chest is going to the rubbish tip I needed to remove and relocate all the contents. Two of the draws contained photographs which were easily moved, but the third draw contained loads of unmarked or partially marked cassette tapes. I haven't played any of these tapes for at least 10 years, mainly because I don't possess a cassette player. The fact that these tapes had been ignored for so long means that they aren't very important and that most of them will be filed in the bin, but I wanted to check what was on some of the tapes for incase there were any lost gems, particularly home recordings from my early musical days. So I hot footed it to Curry's to find the cheapest tape player I could find. They no longer sell "pure" tape players so I had to resort to buying the cheapest combined cassette/CD/radio which was just $16.

Well there were two horrors to be discovered. The most predictable one was some of the music that I had written and recorded in my yoof. Ropey 3 chord music with 6th form poetry lyrics abounds. I did find a few gems which I will be copying over to the PC for old times sakes. A very ragged but strangely cool version of "The Breath of Fate" featuring myself with Matt and Glastonbury Jon. Also a few early demo's from my first proper band Crazy Uncle. But the second horror was how awful it was using tapes again! I couldn't believe it - 4 minutes to rewind a TDK D90. No way to know where the tunes are. If you are playing an album from beginning to end then no problem, but if you are trying to find something or are attempting check out what is on an unlabelled tape it is a nightmare. Thank goodness for random access digital media for killing this rubbish.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

1st International Barnes Table Tennis Tournament

So a couple of weeks ago I ordered a table tennis table for the back garden. Table tennis is always fun because people generally think they are better than they really are and tend to get a bit competitive. Just right for when your having a barbecue and a few beers with some friends on a sunny day. I asked for it to be delivered last Saturday. Maybe I'm getting too cynical, but it didn't really surprise me that having spent all day waiting for it - it didn't appear.

So I shot off an email to the supplied address asking when to expect it or if they couldn't say, give me details of the delivery agents and I'll contact them direct. It's kinda important to know - it's not like they can pop it through the letter box or hide it behind the bin. The silence was deafening. So having had no reply for a couple of days I rang them up asking why they still hadn't contacted me to say when the delivery was scheduled. They said they would ring me back with the information. They didn't. So I rang back the next day asking for answers. They said they would ring back in 15 minutes. 2 hours later I rang back pointing out the difference between what they were saying and what was happening. They got a supervisor over - they said that the person who should have rung me had now gone to lunch. I asked why no one could just tell me when it was going to be delivered? She said she would ring me back in 5 minutes. She didn't. Eventually I got a call from someone who sounded very sulky saying there were delays because of Easter and it would be delivered in the middle of next week. So, no question of an apology for ludicrously bad and ill mannered service. I didn't bother asking why Easter has caused such a run on Table Tennis tables. Perhaps Jesus rose again to have a couple of matches?

Anyway, it appears that I will get the table soon and we can set up the inaugural Barnes International (well if Irish Marcus turns up) Table Tennis Tournament. I bet they are getting worried down at Wimbledon. (Incidentally the company behind the bad service is if you want to avoid them.)

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters are a band that have been worshipped and ridiculed in equal part over their 25 years history. Variously described as gothic miserablists and a shimmering industrial groove machine. I am fortunate to fall in the camp that can fully understand how preposterous they are and yet love them all the more for it. Any band that enlists bonkers Bat out of Hell producer Jim Steinman to produce their some of their singles (This Corrosion, More, Dominion) have to have a thick vein of humour running through their work. Likewise when band leader Andrew Eldritch enlisted the much derided Tony James to join after he had masterminded the heroically bad Sigue Sigue Sputnik. But beyond all that, the music is the thing. Mixing heavy metal, psychedelia and dark brooding dance beats the tunes rock along at a might pace but the barbed intelligent lyrics are what really make the songs stand out.

I've seen The Sisters play live a few times, headlining the Reading Festival, selling out Wembley Arena and even seeing the "secret" 10th anniversary gig at Leeds University. They make for a mesmerising live experience. Currently on a 50 date world tour to celebrate their 25th anniversary ("Biting the silver bullet tour") they hit London in early May playing the Astoria. I really wanted to see them again for old times sake and agreed to go with my good buddy Lightning Tom. Imagine my chagrin upon discovering that I was not the only one with this plan and that the gig was completely sold out! Fortunately the day has been saved by the power of eBay which has produced two reasonably priced tickets. So I'll have to start brushing down my Cuban healed winkle pickers and smoking jacket.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bill Gates is an Alien!

Big news with the return for a second series of the rejuvenated Dr Who next Saturday (in the UK) is that Bill Gates will be making an appearance. This link from explains that "Gates will be revealed as an alien who had been living undercover on Earth with a secret mission to take over the planet with a line of ubiquitous software". It all makes sense now!

Such a shame that a quick squint at the early April publication date rather gives the game away.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Audio Books on the Move

For the last few years I have found CD audio books to be a life saver when I driving long journeys. A nice 8 hour thriller makes a return trip to Manchester a pleasure rather than a chore. The good thing about using the CD in the car is that it always remembers where you where when you start the car again after a stop. I now want to repeat this trick with a mobile device so I can listen to books as I go for walks. I have downloaded loads of free audio book which are in MP3 format - however, I'm curious how other folks do it and what mobile device they may have chosen.

Firstly, the books are typically broken up into one MP3 file per chapter of a book. I know that many MP3 players default to shuffling the tracks. This may work nicely when your listening to tunes but may get a bit confusing when it is shuffling chapters. So how do you get it to play in order? Create a play list - seems a bit of a chore. Likewise, I don't want to add audio books into my music library - the last thing I need is a chapter of Frankenstein being read out in the middle of a party. So what do folks do? Install two different media players? (I use Media Monkey).

If anyone out their listens to mp3 based audio books on a little device I would love to hear how you are doing it and how successful it is.