Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hi. My Name's Matt and I'm a buyingcrapIdonotneedoholic.

It comes as a shock I know, but it's true.

Since I've been working a bit more than usual and 'invested' in a few new hobbies, I've managed to tone down my gadget buying considerably. Right now I am fighting a genuine compulsion to buy a new TV.

It's true that the one I have is flawed - it has no SCART connections, no HDMI connection and randomly turns itself off in the summer. Also the bit of it that makes things HD also makes everything green so I can't use that bit of it.

However. It still works, and the fact is the only HD thing I have is the XBox and I really don't play games that often anymore so buying a new TV is a bit retarded. This is the conversation I have with myself pretty much daily at the moment, and it will be ahrder as the price of a decent replacement comes tumbling down in January.

My one possible saving grace to my complete lack of consumer willpower is my considerable ability to create unworkable plans. This year it is to be more frugal, buy less crap, so that maybe; just maybe I'll be able to get my own place in 2010.

So, the book is open. Lets be honest, I'll crumble on January the 1st.

Christmas, The Joy of books, SWAG! and the Ninja Lurgy

So I left Surrey at 3:30am Christmas morning. I called my brother up at 6:30am(ish) from a Motorway services. This was primarily a malicious move on my part, I decided if I was lugging his pressie all the way from Surrey at stupid O'clock in the morning then he would suffer too.

Granted the car did the majority of the lugging, I just find detail gets in the way of vengeance.

I arrived, picked up my Pob-like older brother* and went to the parents house. Gifts were distrubuted, my mum had good Swag this year for once which was awesome. Though it did mean that my role as 'computer repair guy' was immediately doubled as she is now the proud owner of a laptop with Vista (*spit!*) on it and a digital camera.

I should clarify 'Computer Repair Guy'. My primary role is to go home, shout at my dad, remove all the shit he's spent the last few months installing on his computer and telling him never to install anything ever again. My dad's hobby is collecting malicious programs. He is banned from my mum's computer.

I drank lots on Christmas day, really far more than is good for me. And yes, Jo, I did when pressed (by pressed I mean 'looked at') did spout bile and venom about the travesty of THAT cover version. Most people agreed with me but I think only because my passion verges on zealotry in things like this and they were likely quite scared.

Sadly, Pedr did not attend the traditional Christmas booze up and fall-over, arranging instead to meet up on Boxing Day. Unfortunately on Boxing Day I was suffering a mysterious illness that required me to lounge around reading and listening to the radio whilst eating constantly and I was not in a state to go to the pub. This was probably a good thing, Boxing day is always a bad day to go out in Ruthin, it's like a bad tempered version of Christmas Eve.

So we rearranged for the Saturday but sadly I was still feeling under the weather as concealed beneath my mysterious definitely-not-a-hangover illness was the Christmas Ninja Lurgy.

The CNL is something I get whenever I go home for Christmas, it's not usually particularly harsh, just persistent. One of those illnesses that mean you are well enought o go to work, but anything social is off the cards as you know the moment you engage in revelry you will be struck down the next day in a mercialess assault of snot, coughing, sneezing and general blechiness. I had to drive on Sunday so couldn't really risk it.

On the plus side, Mike made a face melting chili and I was able to watch such awesome movies as 'Slugs!', 'Monster!', 'Pursuit!' and other one word, exlamation marked works of cinematice detritus. I also watched the genuinely enjoyable (not in a 'this is so bad' kind of way) 'Undead' - an Australian movie about aliens and zombies. Throw in some robots with lasers coming out of their eyes and you have a perfect movie.

I mentioned reading, I spent pretty much 2 out of the 3 days I was home just reading. I've not finished a book in over 6 months for one reason or another, I managed to finish 2 over Christmas and it was extremely gratifying to just sit around reading, probablt the most relaxation I've had in a very long while.

Finally, cool swag from awesome people.

I love Swag.



*Not just in looks, he also has an inability to form an intelligible sentemce. This does not stop him from tring of course, relentlessly and without pause 24 hours a day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

OK....Christmas

I'm really very sorry about the previous post, I needed to vent that. I'd managed to avoid that partioular cover until today and it was so awful it released some of the rage.

I don't have a huge Christmas this year, driving back tomorrow and back here on Saturday or Sunday. None of that matters, I am going home - there will be booze, there will be foods, there will be family and there will be friends. I also travel bearing gifts, so hopefully I'll be spreading a little joy too. Some are for me that I am being good about and not unwrapping before tomorrow.

Most importantly, there will be piggies in blankets. Some people seem to think the big Turkey thingy is the centre piece. These people are clearly idiots, the turkey is there in order to have something large to put the piggies in blankets around. And the roast potatoes, essentially it's there for structure. So, now you know.

Another couple hours and I finish work and am out the door, I'll be wrapping, cleaning & packing. Then a fairly early night with a plan to set off around 4am. This plan will certainly fail, but you have to aim high people! Live the dream!

People make the party, and my people rule. 2 days is plenty.

Hellelujah

I don't object to cover versions of songs, even awesome songs. I want that understood right away.

However (yeah, you didn't see THAT coming!). BAD cover versions are just painful. It's like when Wil Smith stars in remake of a classic movie, or a wildly inaccurate movie version of classic literature. It's essentially pissing on genius. It's the difference between eating at a nice restaurant and stuffing a shit burger down your gullet so you can start playing with the free toy.

OK, the point:

Leonard Cohen is a genius. He makes you want to slash your wrists whilst necking a bottle of pills and hurling yourself off a bridge into oncoming traffic. That's a powerful guy.



Jeff Buckley's intensely awesome cover version.

Clicky (embedding is disabled on this track for some reason)

Seriously, I may get lynched for saying it but I think Buckley's version is just astounding and prefer it to the Cohen original.

Then there is this:



Which is essentially an exercise in demonstrating vocal range.

Now it's true I have a natural bias against anything vomited forth into the world by Simon Cowell, I think he is an evil and insipid shit who's sole purpose is to destroy art in all its forms. But that's not what I object to the most, it's the way that she sings the song. It's utterly without feeling or any attempt at understanding the lyrics, the entire track is sung in a 'Look at how well I can sing! Look! Look! Look at me! Look!' kind of way. You know, all R'n'B since 1988.

Compare that with the way it's sung by Jeff Buckley. I mean. You tell me, which is the shit-burger that may just satisfy for 5 minutes and which is the amazing meal and restaurant you are going to go back to time and again?

Honestly, I've not been this angry about a song since Busted covered Teenage Kicks by the Undertones.

**************************

There's a bit of a backlash against people like me, who despise reality TV with every fibre of their being - ESPECIALLY popularity/beauty contests like the X-Factor. Apparently I am a snob. The idea of sticking my head in raw sewage fills me with revulsion, not doing that doesn't make me a snob. Watching shows like this illicit a similar feeling, so I'm not sure where the snobbery comes in when I refuse to watch. If someone sticks their head in raw sewage and then asks me what my favourite used sanitary towel in the raw sewage is, on the immediate assumption that I too enjoy sticking my head in raw sewage, then I am going to voice an opinion on the subject. If then, raw sewage is poured liberally into 80% of the country's food, again on the assumption that raw sewage is where all the kewl kidz are at, then my ire will be raised even further. Hence this overdue posting.

Never let it be said that I under stretch a metaphor.

Also, I watch some right old crap. Seriously, I watch some awful things. My biggest viewing vice will be B-Movies and the like, especially horror, monster or Kung-Fu flicks. Some are so bad they are good, some make you feel someone has mugged you and stolen 2 hours of your life. But I love them all from the amazing Evil Dead I&II right down to 'Frogs!'*. Oh. And Troll II. Everyone should see Troll II. A movie so bad, it's working title was 'Goblins' but in an effort to increase ticket sales they called it Troll II in order to imply it was a sequel to a moderately more successful movie.

Anyway, I digress. I watch some right old crap, but the crap I watch is actively sought out and isn't the only thing on network TV before 9pm.


/rant.

EDIT:I totally forgot the silver lining! Leonard Cohen needs the money, so at least all those bleating sheep that bought this piece of crap have given their money to a worthy cause, as have all the more discerning people who bought the Jeff Buckley version in retaliation! /EDIT



*in which there are no frog related deaths, or indeed frogs. they do manage a gecko related death, a moss related death, a tree related death (evil tree, but no tree rape as in the Evil Dead) and an implied turtle related death. I can only assume the sheer horror of a deadly killer turtle was deemed too gruesome and disturbing for the unsuspecting audience.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Resolutions

I don't believe in New Year’s resolutions, I think they are silly, arbitrary and invariably unachievable and pointless.

Resolutions FOR the New Year made on the 23rd of December are an infinitely more sensible idea. Especially when those resolutions are fuelled by 3 months of massive amounts of overtime, sleep patterns that are inversely proportional to said overtime and whilst one's mind is cheerfully unravelling.

So that's the approach I've taken, I suggest you all follow my fine example - unless of course you are not morons with an inability to say no to any piece of work that looks remotely interesting. If that's the case, the less effective but more traditional resolution my suit you better.

Anyway, resolutions. Prepare yourselves, there's at least one on this list you are not going to like. I put it first to get it over with, think of it as ripping off a plaster (that's band-aid to you silly Americans with your cute little language).

1) Daily Blogging - it occurs to me that I am not blogging much and when I do it's dull, uninteresting and, as a general rule, ill tempered. A lesser man would take this as a sign that he is dull, uninteresting and, as a general rule, ill tempered. Obviously I discarded this possibility as pure nonsense.

Even in the unlikely event that this is the case, my natural contempt for my fellow man must surely dictate that I increase my output and not decrease it? So from January 1st I am going to make concerted efforts to blog daily. They will doubtless start off as lengthy as this one, but most days should be little more than a paragraph musing about how they make Kinder Eggs

2) Use my Annual leave differently - OK, the last 2 years I've had some awesome holidays, which has been great. Couple years ago I spent 2 weeks in Pittsburgh, which confuses many - especially as I didn't do huge amounts whilst I was there, but that suited me down to the ground. I got to see an old friend, do some interesting mooching on my own and spend other days vegging out eating sandwiches. It was fucking great. Same year I spent a few days in Italy with some close friends, also awesome.

This year I spent a lot of time and money with the Canada trip for Nick's wedding, which had some real highlights (not least of which was the wedding!). But other than that, I don't know what I did with my time.

Next year I am going to keep UK based, I want to take shorter breaks and make sure they really are actual breaks or make sure I am going to do something. I've already secured my Glastonbury ticket, I'll be going to Download and maybe Rebellion UK, Hammerfest and some of the gentler festivals. I also want to make sure that I see enough of my friends and family So I am going to be doing much more long weekends and less of the full week off kind of holidays. Some times of course I just want to eat chips and watch DVDs.

3) Keep looking - I've stopped looking for new things to do this year. I took a few new interests, both of which have suffered as a result of my current workload, which is slightly disappointing but not irredeemable. I also stopped looking for new jobs etc. which is always a mistake for me because I get comfortable, then I get bored. I was bored this time last eyar and I was looking, I now have interesting things going on so I stopped. Really what I should be doing is looking for the next thing to do because what I am doing now will stop being interesting in April. Probably sooner.

This isn't about definitely moving job or company or country, it's just about reminding myself that I can, because I really am not the sharpest tool in the box.

4) Read more JOlivia! - I haven't kept up to date with the happeningses in the lives of the two people whose blogs I have read since the day I started blogging and I feel like a cad (yeah that's right Hannah, I'm sticking with the 17th century). Also I haven't read Famulus' blog in ages.

It's not for me, these poor souls are missing my valuable insights and observations into their humdrum lives and they deserve better.


So that's the shortlist.

So there you go, prepare for the flood!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Charty Democracy

So I was awoken by my alarm this morning at some ludicrously early hour, I always ignore my alarm but it's good to have a routine.

Ok. Yes. I am one of those freaks who like to be woken up massively in advance of when he has to be woken up just to have the satisfaction of knowing I don't need to be awake for ages and can go back to sleep. And yes on a normal day and for reasons best know to itself, my brain wakes up about 2 minutes before that alarm goes off no matter when I set it for.

After the first false alarm alarm, at 7:30am the radio kicks in. It's far enough away for me to have to actually move about in order to get to it, so usually I leave it on and gradually wake up enough to be in what I like to call the 'post-asleep, pre-11am/4 cups of coffee' state. I'm working on something snappier, but I am the literal sort so it’s not easy.

Anyway, I kind of went past the bit where I could do a seamless segway into the point of this post. The radio comes on at 7:30am just as 6Music News starts. Today, once they'd got past all the unimportant stuff to do with terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Thai airports and suchlike, they moved onto the important business of the Billboard charts. Apparently the Killer album beat Guns 'N' Roses Chinese Democracy to the number 1 spot. Apparently pundits had expected it the other way around, some bollox about in hard times people listen to hard music.

Fairly certain there wasn't too much thrash jazz about in during the Wall Street crash, but I am assuming that by allowing them to make these kinds of studies, we are keeping these idiots and their highly flammable beards, corduroys and pony tails away from naked flames. Not so much for their own safety but for the sake of preventing substantial property damage.

Anyway, I digress (again). A more likely indicator that Axl 'I'm taking my football home' Rose's latest endeavour would enjoy chart success is the fact that both AC/DC and Metallica's latest offerings both debuted at number one.

Now, here's the thing... Oh shut up! You knew there was going to be a thing; it's your own fault for reading this far!

The thing. Metallica, biggest metal band of the last however many years. Newest offering? Awe-some. Seriously awesome. After some of the shit they have produced over the last 15 years, I can't tell you how good this album is if metal/hard rock is your thang. They also had the benefit of having their last album be utterly without redemption, a truly awful piece of crap that had no idea what it was or where it was going. Which, rather than losing them sales this time around, led to a 'Well, it's going to be better than St.Anger - even if they just somehow manage to make some kind of audible syphilis infection, it'll be better than St.Anger' feeling around this release. Couple that with the gap between albums and tours, the more awesomeness of Death Magnetic, the general return to form and the fact that they have a monumentally huge fan base - this was never not going to be number one in a LOT of countries.

AC/DC. Not buying the new AC/DC album at some point (I have a few copies on order) if you're a rock/metal fan is not an option. Angus Young is God. I don't give a toss that all their albums sound the same after Back in Black. I refer you to Angus Young and rest my case. Also see 'Army of loyal fans'. Number one in a LOT of countries. But for a different reason, this isn't a 'return to form'. It's AC/DC, they are awesome and they rock. They've always rocked; even when it wasn't fashionable to rock (hang your heads in shame Metallica! You may have rocked at gigs, but your albums? They did not rock.). This is a loyalty 'Fuck you, I'm 103 years old and AC/DC are getting to number 1 because immortality wins every time bitch!'

OK, maybe not. Maybe they are just both really good albums, metal and hard rock seems to be back in fashion without the necessity of sub-categories like Emo (rebranded Goths with better make-up) or Nu-Metal (E-chords and the rap/melody combo). It'll stop being in fashion again fairly soon I am sure, but it won't stop being awesome and populated with some of the world's most talented musicians.

Chinese Democracy. I have a few problems with this offering:

1) Fifteen years in the making! - Bullshit. 15 years of Axl Rose in and out of rehab, hiring and firing musicians like some kind of demented genius but without the genius part. They probably knocked this thing out in 6 months all told.

2) Bandwagon jumping - You really get the impression they wanted to get this out around the time of the other two releases, I'm sorry but G'N'R, sorry, Axl Rose stopped being relevant about a decade or so ago.

3) Appetite For Destruction - The band, in whatever its form, has never written anything that comes close to the awesomeness of this first album. Use your Illusion was cool, great pair of albums but not a speck on AFD. The Spaghetti Incident was laughable...and this, well. See below

4) Was it worth the wait? - No. Fucking. Way. I heard some of the tracks on My Space. They are not BAD tracks, but there's nothing new here. This album basically sank Geffen Records as an independent entity, and saw the walk-outs of numerous music execs, producers, musicians, tea ladies, basically anyone who had any contact with Axl Rose. Fine if it was a symphony of metal or crescendo of hard-rock the likes of which the world has never seen before. But this REALLY isn't. This leads me on to point 5....

5) You're not AC/DC - AC/DC make the music they make because that's what makes them happy, and hard-core AC/DC fans don't like change. Or nurses (they keep stealing their clothes). But mainly, they don't like change. They WANT to keep making the same song, and their fans WANT to keep hearing the same song. Guns N' Roses were a pioneering band once - original, talented and volatile. Now?

6) You're not even Guns N' Roses - You're just Axl Rose working, essentially, with session musicians who fucking hate you. The rest of your crew are off doing their own thing over in Velvet Revolver and have been for years, in fact they have 2 albums. They are looking for a new lead singer right now, but don't be waiting by the phone.

So. Not a bad album from what I've heard of it and I will end up owning it as the first track is certainly pretty good. What it isn’t is 15 years and the livelihoods of those left in the wake of Axl Rose's ego.

 
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