Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Review : December

Finally December to conclude my review of 2011. First of all a note on why i did this, apart from instant nostalgia of course. All the information i have used for these reviews is available from my Facebook and Flickr accounts and my blog. Thus it shows just how much information you can put about yourself online. Now of course a lot of these data on the likes of Facebook require context and memories to make any sense of them but someone who didn't know me could probably put together a reasonable review of my 2011 too, i hope this will therefore be of use to future historians.

December involved a third trip to Worcester this year, this time taking my Mum to do some Xmas shopping. I also attempted some Xmas crafts using pine cones, they didn't turn out quite as well as i hoped but at least it wasn't as weird as last year's nativity scene with dinosaurs. After Xmas i paid a trip to Wilmcote and retraced the steps Mary Arden might had made down to Stratford. Well i walked along the canal of course, which didn't exist when Mary was around, she probably took the bus or train. I also paid a short visit to Whitehouse Common in Sutton Coldfield.
Star Wars Lego Advent Day 18
December was marked by a rediscovery of Lego. I bought a Star Wars Lego Advent Calendar and also bought some (and was bought) other sets from the City and Star Wars ranges. Lego is a key aspect of geek-dom after all.

Song of the month was "Magic" by Ladyhawke. My music blog has a review of music in 2011.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wilmcote to Stratford

Needing some exercise to get over the Christmas excess i headed down to Wilmcote today for a canal walk. I headed along the canal towards Stratford and after awhile decided to walk all the way down to the termination point of the canal where it meets the River Avon in Stratford. It was a 3 and a half mile walk down there which did me good. It was nice to visit Stratford again of course and i had a short walk down the river Avon in the opposite direction to where i usually go, this will be something i will be aiming to explore again next year.

Wilmcote is such a nice part of the country, South Warwickshire itself has a beauty even in the depths of Winter (OK its mild this year). This is where i hope to live one day...
Wilmcote to Stratford DSC_0068

2011 Review : November

The penultimate month of the year saw me travel to Milton Keynes (for the first time, as opposed to just travelling through to and from London) for the first day school of my current Open University course. Both MK and the OU campus are rather strange places to be honest, naturally i got lost. The day school was an interesting experience however, once i found where i was supposed to go!

I also returned to Worcester, this time walking the canal there and went to Stratford for what i thought would be my final visit of the year (though i went there again today so obviously it wasn't).
Worcester DSC_0064
I launched a new blog, spinning my comic reviews from my music blog to their own dedicated home. Take A Clean Sheet Of Paper is the new blog and hopefully it will also be a success. I completed a Bristol F.2B kit and then called an end to my 2011 Airfix modelling campaign. The outhouse where i do my kits is just too cold in Winter to sit there and hold a paint brush steadily. I shall begin the 2012 campaign in March perhaps.

Song of the month was "I love boys" by Amanda Applewood.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Review : A-Z of 2011 Pop

I put together a playlist on Youtube bringing together an A-Z of bands i liked in 2011. I drew a blank on Q, U and V but the other 23 letters stand for some pretty good bands and songs. Check them out!

2011 Review : October

October was the month i had been awaiting all year with trepidation. Why? Because of my 40th birthday. I officially became an old man. I could have taken stock i guess, but didn't. Or had a mid-life crisis, this i did but of course my crisis was in my own unique style. I bought a record player and some 7" singles.

For my birthday i went to Oxford for a very enjoyable break, there i took many photographs of the dreamy spires and the canal using the new Nikon DSLR camera my wife bought me for my birthday. Later in the month i also went to Hatton again.
Oxford Museum of Natural History
Other highlights of the month included seeing the Tintin movie (in 2D natch) and seeing my first ghost. My house is haunted and for years i have felt a presence and sometimes also heard things, one night in October however i saw what looked like a Victorian lady in a bonnet by the side of my bed out of the corner of my eye. When i turned my head she was gone though. Later on i saw her again. Luckily there haven't been many hauntings since.

I had my first eye test for a couple of years, once again i came away without needing glasses though the optician told me i might need some after i came again in a couple of years time. Getting old see?

Song of the month was "Helas" by Young Michelin. Completed kits were a Hurricane I and a Hannover Cl IIIa, the latter had wonderful paintwork which took ages to do but it was worth it afterwards, more or less.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Star Wars Advent

As i mentioned earlier in the month i had a Star Wars Lego Advent Calendar this year. Well all the items were opened before Christmas of course but i took a photograph every day and you can see them in this Flickr set here. My favourite was the mouse robot on the Death Star which Chewie so memorably scared away.
Star Wars Lego Advent Day 14

2011 Review : September

September began with my first visit to Worcester (that i can remember anyway, i may have come before as a kid). A very nice city Worcester is too which i like indeed, so much so in fact that i returned twice later in the year! Another trip was further afield, this time up to Wigan for my cousin's wedding. While i was there a horse in the field outside the hotel window looked me in the eye and then had a poo. I consider this horse the most honest creature i have ever met.
Lancashire P9170008
At the start of the year i made for myself a (short) list of three targets for canal walks in 2011, on one day later in September i managed to cross off two of these targets by completing the Tame Valley Canal (it is the canal neared to my work so i walk along a short stretch of it very frequently but had not yet walked the stretch from Great Barr to Walsall - well until September 24th anyway). In doing so i was also able to walk the Walsall Canal and cross that target off too. The other target, the Dudley Canal, can wait until 2012...

I received my MA materials ahead of the start of the course in October. After nearly a year off study (my final exam on my BA was back in October 2010) getting started again as a student was a bit daunting. Analogue TV came to an end in the Central region, thus the teletext age ended for me. Although i only read the letters page on P145 at the end it was still a sad loss. Completed kits in September were a Grumman Gosling and a Spitfire Vb.

Song of the month was "Careful what you say" by Class Actress. I discovered the joys of neo-synth pop, a genre i would be listening to a lot more in the months to come.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas world

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year and i hope you will continue to come to my blog in 2012.  As i am such a weirdo geek i photographed my Xmas dinner of course to upload to teh intarweb.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Review : August

The month of rioting, i did not of course as i'm not a gimp. Instead i discovered the joys of Wilmcote which became my new dream place to live. Not far from the station along the canal i came across a spot of total tranquility, no traffic noise at last! For someone who has grown up within earshot of the Spaghetti Juncrtion all his life that is a big thing. Another place i visited was Warwick and its canals, another nice place. I managed to fit in trips to Curdworth and Stratford-upon-Avon too!
Wilmcote P8130048
After my wars against the moths in July (which still rumbled on into August) i was called upon to deal with another infestation, this time of mice at my Mum's house. I had to kill a mouse which was running along her bed, i felt so bad afterwards to be honest but it had to be done. Mum found 2 more dead mice in the weeks afterwards but none since so hopefully that has been sorted out now.

I completed a Fairey Fulmar kit and my song of the month was "A key turns" by The Depreciation Guild.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TOTP (25/11/1976)

Jimmy Saville (RIP) is here with the hottest pop sounds and lo we have a new number 1 but first...

Kursaal Flyers - little does she know
This song was used later on by a cough mixture brand for its advert. We get a not unpleasant syrupy (ahem) pop song and they have some washing machines on stage, no doubt an inspiration for Vic Reeves many years later. The singer also has a quiff so big it interferes with the studio ceiling lights.

Dr Hook - if not you
Dr Hook wonders who is going to mend his pants, well its not me thats for sure. The director displays a burst of genius when the camera fixes on an electric guitar during the pedal steel guitar solo. Still all the same of course, strings and stuff.

Billy Ocean - stop me
Stop me if you heard it all before, oh please because i have.

Legs & Co (the show where they were officially named has been lost alas) are here to interpret Be Bop Deluxe’s “maid in heaven” through the medium of dance. Keen to win over bitter fans of Ruby Flipper the Legs have gone for the nearly naked look, oh and the usual dodgy dance.

Jimmy has an uncanny knack of collecting sailors when he is on TOTP.

Cliff Richard - hey Mr Dreammaker
Not my favourite Cliff song (not that i have many) but not a bad music video to be honest, for the time anyway, which looks like a bit BBC Sci-fi horror. Only sans cybernauts or daleks.

ABBA - money money money
Another ABBA anthem, we get an intriguing video full of meaningful looks and 70s frocks.

Elton John - sorry seems to be the hardest word
Well its a great song and he wears great specs.

Jimmy is surrounded by ladies, one of whom seems to be being goosed or nearly falling over anyway.

Chicago - if you leave me now
So Pussycat are no more, we got AOR city instead with the same MV used on an earlier show.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Review : July

The heat was on, especially at home where i had a moth infestation in my living room! I spent all of the month hunting the things down, luckily by the early Autumn it seemed like they were all gone. I ended up breaking my vacuum cleaner during the early battles but it was an ill-wind (sorry) as i was able to purchase a Henry as a replacement!

One experiment in July was to take a photo every day during the month, the results were mixed with some days i was finding it hard to think of something interesting to photograph (and it makes it look like my life revolves around canals and coffee which is probably true) but you can see them all here. July was a busy month for going places and hence for photography, i took 932 photos (the most ever in a month) including photoshoots in Leamington Spa, London (including the Imperial War Museum), the Soho Loop in Birmingham and Hatton.
Imperial War Museum P7160079
I also went to a few cricket matches including T20 and 2nd XI action at Edgbaston and Walmley, the former was a televised match and i was able to spot myself in the crowd later on when Sky replayed it, the first time i've ever seen myself on TV, mind you i was just a blur in the crowd which is probably a good way of summing up my life.

Model building continued, i finished a lovely Spitfire Ia and started a Fairey Fulmar. Song of the month was "Cold colours" by the Trembling Blue Stars.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Around Mere Green & Whitehouse Common

On my last day of annual leave for 2011 (apart from the days i have already allocated next week as the uni is closed) i decided i should go somewhere. I did think about Wilmcote but the weather was pretty poor so instead stayed a bit closer to home and explored a bit of the public footpath on Whitehouse Common in Sutton Coldfield that i haven't yet done yet (it seemed to end at a farm, i decided to not go any further incase the farmer released his bulls after me), as well as some wonderfully bleak Winter landscapes along Fox Hill Road.

Afterwards i went and took some photos of an interesting church i've seen in Mere Green near the supermarket i always go to, i find its pink look intriguing so took a few photos of it too! Here you can see the photo set.
St James' Church, Hill. Mere Green

2011 Review : June

The midpoint of the year was marked by two genuinely life highlights. During the month i saw the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart in concert (my review here) thus marking the first time i had actually seen whom might be considered my favourite band at the time live (and not cheap has-beens as usual). I also was able to finally attend a graduation ceremony when i was awarded my BA History. For various reasons i never attended a ceremony when i got my BSc Software Engineering at BCU but now finally i was able to don the gown!

It was a good month for canal walks and photography, i took no fewer than 623 photos this month including walks around Curdworth, Stratford, Whitehouse Common and up the Tame Valley Canal in Perry Barr.
Whitehouse Common
I bought a new electronic toy at the start of the month, an iconic HP-12C calculator. Reverse Polish Notation, natch. I developed a new way of budgeting using post-it notes on the wall, and it seems to work quite well. I continued my model making and completed a rather unwieldily Supermarine Walrus.

Song of the month was "Heaven's gonna happen now" by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mr Pump's Legacy (Stratoship H.22 Part 1)

Herge's Tintin is world famous of course and rightly so, especially with the new Hollywood movie now out (which is very good by the way) but Herge drew other comic strips too including Jo, Zette and Jocko. Jo and Zette are two children who get into adventures with their pet chimp Jocko, though usually by way of their engineer Father.

In this adventure they end up flying an advanced new aeroplane that is trying to win a prize by crossing the Atlantic in the fastest time yet.

The comic strip is truly beautifully drawn, and wonderfully reproduced here with some of the cleanest lines i've ever seen in a ligne claire strip. It is a true period piece set in the 1930s with a heavy dose of art deco, especially in the aeroplane the Stratoship H.22.

There is a good plot too with other powers trying to sabotage the record attempt. How the children manage to end up flying the plane is a bit contrived maybe but sets up part 2 of the story as they fly off lost...

The only criticism i have is that Jocko is a bit annoying though does provide some excellent comic relief at times. Its not Tintin but its an excellent comic adventure in its own right.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Review : May

The weather improved and the cricket season properly got underway. I am a member of Warwickshire County Cricket Club and try to get to the Edgbaston ground at least 6 or 7 times a season (plus a 2nd XI game at Walmley) my first match being a CB40 game against Leicestershire. I also attended a day of the county championship match (my favourite competition) against Durham.
Warks vs Leics 01/05/11
I conducted a foodtography experiment in May, for a week i photographed every breakfast, lunch and dinner i had and uploaded to a Flickr set. I might do the same next year and then i can compare if anything much has changed food wise but i doubt it. I went to Stratford-upon-Avon at the end of the month, the first of 4 trips to the town this year. Its become a bit like my second home i guess. I also paid a trip to the Kingfisher Country Park in east Birmingham, not far from where my Nan used to live.

During May i finally got some Flash training after years of asking work for it! Better late than never i guess but i haven't actually used my Flash skills (careful) since attending the 2 day course. Its all HTML5 nowadays of course, well not quite but it will be soon. Perhaps the training was simply a present from work as i passed my 10 years of being a BCU employee in early May.

My Airfix model planes continued to roll off the production line, i completed a Gloster Gladiator and a Fairey Battle. Song of the month was "Welcome to infinity" by Hyperbubble.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Movie serial fun

Years ago the Christmas TV schedules were a lot more innovative and fun (of course by law everything in the past was better than it is today, except for equal rights for women and internet speeds of course, everything else nowadays is rubbish) and usually the BBC showed something like Flash Gordon (as in the 1930s movie serial) every morning in the run-up to Christmas. Not nowadays of course, basically the same pap is shown as is the rest of the year. It just shows a lack of imagination and edge by the schedulers. What would you rather see in the morning? Homes Under The Hammer or Buster Crabbe battling a man in a rubber monster suit?

Well i do have the latter on DVD... so i have begun watching the serial, an episode a day, in the run up to Christmas. Watching the evil Emperor Ming, rooms full of crackling electrical equipment and men in unconvincing armour puts me in the Christmas mood unlike anything else!

Happily a number of other serials are in the public domain and are available to download off the internet so i might just do that over the break...
"What can you see Flash?"
"Rip Off Britain? What's that all about?"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Review : April

The Spring was here and the walks began in earnest, i walked a few footpaths around Curdworth and Sutton Coldfield and visited Coleshill a couple of times. I also managed to fit in a canal walk along the Tame Valley Canal (for a change). 317 photos in total were added to my Flickr account, including some of an airship that flew over my house. I did wonder if we were at war with the Kaiser again.
Blimp over Erdington
A notable thing i did in April was register for my Masters degree with the Open University, that i finally began in October. Apart from that though it seems a pretty mundane month. I built 2 kits, a Canadair Sabre and a Gloster Gladiator. The latter my first biplane for some time.

Song of the month was "nothing new" by April March.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Lion look like... well System 7.5-ish

Great as Mac OSX is i do miss the old Finder and UI from pre-OSX Mac days. Of course it crashed a lot, didn't have very good multitasking and less toys than OSX but some charm and fun was lost when Apple transitioned. I miss the days of trying a funky extension (remember the one that rendered your desktop in ASCII characters?) and Resedit to do weird (and dangerous things) to your Mac.

Well we can't go back to those days on a modern Mac (though maybe i'll boot up one of my relics one of these days) but we can do a few things to make our uber-modern Macs more classic, more retro, only without da bomb. One thing i have done is use the excellent to give my desktop rounded edges, as Steve insisted rounded rectangles are everywhere ok?

Another thing is to use a retro wallpaper. I used to like the green tartan wallpaper, luckily some other people had a yearning for the old wallpapers too and they are available to download. Now all i need is Chooser and i will be in retro-Mac hog heaven.

2011 Review : March

As the Winter receded and Spring approached things picked up on the activity front. I did my first canal walks of the year, visiting the Titford Canal in Oldbury early in the month. I also visited the Plantbrook Nature Reserve. After just a handful of photos uploaded to Flickr in February there was a whopping 228 uploaded in March!
My wife Arlene became a British citizen in March, attending her citizenship ceremony was interesting. It was all very New Labour, smiley and friendly but with strict rules and little tolerance if you deviated from them. Other highlights of the month included setting my mortgage on a new fixed rate for 5 years as i thought the base rate was long overdue a rise, now in December the base rate still hasn't risen and analysts reckon it won't rise for a while yet. Ho hum!

I resumed model building after the Winter break and completed an Bf109 and a DeHavilland Comet. I applied for Olympic tickets (though was ultimately unsuccessful) and tried to change the toilet seat in the bathroom. Problems with the screws meant i gave up for the moment... unfortunately the moment to resume has not come yet!

This blog was created in March, another attempt to create a personal blog and its still going so maybe this one will finally work.

Song and artist of the month was Susan Fassbender and her hit "twilight cafe".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Xmas crafts

I enjoyed making Xmas decorations last year so was keen to do so again, though this year i wanted to do something a little different. I collected some pine cones at the weekend and this evening i created these decorations. I put some glue on the cones and then shook them up in a bag containing cinnamon and glitter stars. After the photo was taken i also added a felt accessory and will consider adding some tinsel too. I could have done with some proper glitter to be honest i might get some if i make a second batch.
Cinnamon and glitter star pine cones

2011 Review : February

February was a busy month work wise, the University held its graduation ceremonies and i joined the PR team there to take some atmosphere and additional photographs. I was able to meet a pop star, a Lord and a film legend. I won't say who they are as i'm not a showbiz namedropper!

I went through a Gerry Anderson phase and bought the complete Thunderbirds and Stingray boxsets and then proceeded to devour the Supermarionation action within a couple of weeks. I'm unable to answer the vital question of Penelope or Atlanta though. The Killing also kept me gripped.

Photography wise it was a very poor month with just 7 photos added to my Flickr (for comparison in July i added 932!) The best of the lot was probably this one of a narrowboat on the canal.
Tame Valley Canal
The Depreciation Guild was my band of the month with their "Crucify you" my favourite song.

Tintin : Flight 714

The penultimate (completed) Tintin adventure is maybe one of the darkest of the lot, thus it maybe is an unusual way to start a retrospective review of all of the Tintin books on this blog but i've got to start somewhere!

Tintin, Snowy, Haddock and Calculus end up on a private jet which is hijacked and landed on a remote island in the West Pacific by a group of hoodlums intent on relieving one of the world's richest men (a superbly arrogant and vile Carreidas) of some of his fortune. The island they land on has more secrets than even the bad guys banked on though...

Flight 714 is a dark story though not without much of the humour that you often get with later Tintin and its ensemble cast, it is even a bit post-modern at times with recurring jokes from earlier in the series. The violence is rawer, less comical than the early Tintin days but i find the emotion that brings up makes Flight 714 a very engaging read.

Flight 714 has been criticised though for its deus ex machina resolution involving extraterrestrials but i have no problem with this, the story was written at a time when ancient astronauts as popularised by Erich Von Daniken were very popular and alien abductions and sightings were very common. This book really caught the late 60s zeitgeist but in subsequent years Von Daniken's ideas have become discredited though this doesn't detract from the excitement such fantastic ideas cause if they were true, nor indeed the quality of Flight 714.

It has some of the best examples of artwork in any Tintin story, some of the scenes such as the jet landing, can only be described as cinematic and breathtaking. It is not perfect though, some of the small universe syndrome Tintin suffers from crops up again, as bad guys we've seen quite a few times already in early books return again. The story also seems to finish fairly abruptly. These are only minor points, while it might be less accessible than some earlier Tintin books Flight 714 is truly a high point...

This review originally appeared on my Take A Clean Sheet Of Paper comic blog.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011 Review : January

As i live such a varied and exciting life i have decided to do a monthly review of 2011 to show off just how cool i am. That is irony of course but i am indeed embarking on a review of my activities in 2011 of which this is the first part. Mostly this is for myself as an aide memoire, this blog is my new media diary after all, but maybe it will be of interest to others too...

January was cold, the cold snap continued over the Christmas and New Year break which meant we were not able to go up to Lancashire and exchange gifts with our relations up there until late in the month. In hindsight this was a good thing as it meant there were a couple of presents left to open a couple of weeks after all the others.

Early on in January though i was adjusting to life as the owner of a shiny new iPad (Xmas present). I can't emphasis how much this changed my life to be honest. Its one of that small elite group of technological toys which generally did make a difference. Its never far from my side at home, which means i can write rubbish on Facebook much easier of course. I also got a Kindle in January and this was another wonderful toy.

In the mid-part of the month i went down to London to see my in-laws and enjoyed some strong wind assisted fun around Canary Wharf on a Saturday night. Luckily i didn't get arrested and executed as a terrorist.
Canary Wharf
Looking back at my Flickr archive it was a quiet month on the old photography front, probably mostly because it was so cold. I did capture one of the British Waterways service boats on the local canal, i remember the crew told me they were on their way to clear a blockage in Saltley! I also took a photo of one of my cookery experiments, this was supposed to be red cabbage with blackcurrant which i believe actually turned out not too bad! One highlight (?) in the month was joining my PR colleagues in the Brains of BCU Quiz, i believe we came third.

I broke my 3D movie virginity by seeing Tron (though this also remains my only movie experience avec les specs) and also saw The King's Speech. Tron was a good film though when i saw the 2D version on DVD later in the year the lack of the extra dimension it did not spoil my enjoyment much at all and i remain to be convinced of the benefit of 3D in movieland apart from the makers' bank balances. On TV i began my love affair with The Killing and Sofie Gråbøl.

Harper Lee was my band of the month with their sublime "I don't need to know about your wonderful life" my pick of the pops. How is that for irony?!

Monday, December 5, 2011

TOTP (04/11/1976)

Noel Edmonds is in front of a sack, and he of course makes a hilarious joke about getting the sack. No one could have predicted that of course. Pussycat remain at number 1 but to start off...

Showaddywaddy - under the moon of love
The faux 50s rockers are here, cutely their “live” performance is interspersed with a recording making earlier when they are wearing different coloured suits. Doo wah wah et cetera. Its inoffensive fun.

The Manhattans - hurt
This earnest video again, every single ounce of emotion is drawn out. The sort of song you listen to when you’ve had a break-up, a row, or broken your lava lamp and especially if all three.

Noel has all the entries for the name the dance troupe competition in a sack. He says there have been so many entries they’ve got to delay the naming until next week.

The nameless dancers are here to dance to “All right now”, that is a bit old isn’t it? Oh wait its another song that rips it off rather blatantly, in fact its the Steve Miller Band with Rock and me. The dancing looks like a rip-off too of the kind of formless shuffling Ruby Flipper mastered.

The Who - substitute
My favourite Who song is in the chart at #15 for some reason, not that i am complaining obviously. Here is some live performance from The Who. Oh yeah. I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth too. This a bit better than Showaddywaddy eh?

Bonnie Tyler - lost in France
Its not bad if your second single makes the top 30 according to Noel, of course in the 1970s it indeed was good going. A jolly tune with a bit of accordion in the background just to hammer home this song is about being lost in France. Next week Bonnie wears a beret and an onion string.

Tavares - don’t stop the music
The Tavares have stolen the world’s entire supply of dry ice. And have dressed as matadors too, they are spoiling us.

The Climax Blues Band - couldn’t get it right
A singing saxophonist! This is cool, especially as singing sax man has an appealingly low voice. As a bit of late 70s boogie woogie rock it can’t be beat.

Noel is on stage with Chicago who he thinks should be at number 1 but they arn’t so ner as its still...

Pussycat - Mississippi
We’re back on the river boat!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pine cones and craft

I was out collecting pine cones and needles this morning. This isn't something i normally do on a Sunday morning but i am feeling like i should be doing some proactive creative things this Yule and not settling back to just eat endless mince pies and watching bad TV. Last year i created some candles and a nativity scene, this year i have decided to take some inspiration from this website on Yule crafts. What i am going to make yet is undecided but i thought i'd get some raw materials anyway.

The pine trees are on a corner of Spring Lane Playing Fields which is near where i live and was the playing fields of my Primary School (i guess the school don't use the fields anymore as its too dangerous?) I wonder how big these trees were when we used to go on nature trails and the like on the field back in the early 1980s? Were they even around then?
Spring Lane Playing Fields

Worcester and canal art

I returned to Worcester yesterday, only a couple of weeks after my last visit, only this time to take my Mum there and didn't go on some canal exploration epic. Since my Dad died a couple of years ago she doesn't go to that many places mostly because she doesn't know how. Sometimes it is easy to take for granted how easy it is to travel around, use the train et cetera but when you have spent decades letting someone else make the decisions and doing the organisation when you then have to do it yourself i guess it is pretty daunting. I took her to Stratford for the same reason in the Summer, though she hasn't yet made the trip herself as she said she would, i guess inertia is also another factor.

There was a Winter Fayre in the city and i bought a nice vase at a stall selling hand painted canal style goods. I did want a watering can though but someone beat me to it! I might just get it off their website instead.
Worcester 03/12/11

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent calendar Star Wars Lego style

Its been years since i last had an advent calendar, in fact i can't remember the last one i had. No doubt i was at primary school and probably opened all of the days early so i could scoff all the cheap chocolates! Well i have more will power these days and won't cheat with my Star Wars Lego advent calendar. Every day there is a new toy to build and here is the first. It looks a bit like a Rebel Alliance blockade runner to me but then again i do have a good imagination. I will be photographing each days new toy up until Christmas Day, and uploading them to this Flickr group.
Star Wars Lego Advent Day 1

Asterix in Switzerland

A key part of this comic blog will be reviewing the books of the 2 titans of European comics : Asterix and Tintin. The question that springs to mind is, where to start? I could start with the oldest books and work my way to the end, or conversely start with the latest ones and work backwards. I thought it would be more fun to review these books in a random sequence though so lets begin...

Asterix in Switzerland is one of many of the indomitable Gaul's adventures where he and Obelix frolic around in a foreign country steeped in national stereotypes. Goscinny and Uderzo do the ancient Swiss (or Helvetii) proud here by portraying them as a nation obsessed with cleanliness, time keeping, banking, yodelling and melting cheese. Unfortunately ancient Rome predates the arrival of cocoa beans into Europe so we couldn't have the chocolate stereotype too.

For a change though Asterix and Obelix are doing a good turn for a Roman, a tax inspector who has been poisoned by a corrupt governor, the awesomely evil Flavus. Getafix sends them to Switzerland to find a rare Alpine flower which is vital for the cure but Flavus sends word to his fellow governor to stop them at all costs...

This is a high point in Asterix with an excellent plot and hilarious charactisations especially the main villan Varius Flavus who is a truly odious individual. It is also good to see the usual Asterix universe turned upside down a bit with a Roman as good guy.

The humour in this book is also among the best, including Obelix's complaining about having to eat cheese with holes in it when he is hungry. As he says, holes won't fill a hole!

This review originally appeared on my Take A Clean Sheet Of Paper comic blog.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Take a clean blog...

My music blog has had a sideline in comic reviews since its inception (some reviews also appearing here) but i thought it was high time that comics had their own blog so i have created a new blog called Take A Clean Sheet Of Paper for just that. Comics (or graphic novels if you are posh) will be reviewed here, i also intend to review comic related movies i see and maybe some other relevant items too. So take a look, i'll probably still cross post some reviews here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

TOTP (27/10/1976)

Tony Blackburn is here with the hottest pop sounds...

Alan Price - kissed away the night
We start off with a rather generic piece of mid-1970s pop-rock, it has piano and some sha-la-las and isn't much better than passable.

Tony Blackburn is wearing a t-shirt that states he hates David Hamilton, no doubt there will be a hilarious joke later on.

Chicago - if you leave me now
Tony says its the #3 sound and a lovely sound too. Its a syrupy piece of white pop-soul recorded in a studio somewhere but no doubt thousands of miles from the BBC.

OK here comes the joke, David Hamilton is wearing a t-shirt that says he hates Tony Blackburn. LOLZ

Leo Sayer - you make me feel like dancing
OK this edition of TOTP is turning into my Dad's record collection. Leo does high-pitched disco singing in a hi-tec SFX laden studio set piece with a budget of tens. I grew up on songs like this, but somehow ended up loving pop music.

Joan Armatrading - love and affection
Raising the class a bit Joan with one of her folk-rock hits, but because just seeing someone standing there with a guitar is a bit boring we get some SFX fun too. At one stage we get about 20 Joans on the screen at the same time, which quite frankly is enough for anyone.

The as-yet unnamed new dancers are here to frolic about to Lalo Schifrin's "theme from Jaws", this has to be a new low. It is unimaginably bad but does include wet suits and shark fins but maybe not in a good way. Tony pimps the contest again but don't enter now as the competition to name the dancers is over, no matter how good your entry they arn't going to rename Legs & Co. at this stage in 2011.

Simon May - the Summer of my life
Boring man at the old joanna, got to say this isn't a vintage edition of TOTP.

Wild Cherry - play that funky music
Play that funky music white boy. Is it funky though? Interesting question.

Pussycat - Mississippi
For their third week at number 1 Pussycat are live in the studio, having bored of their floating gambling den.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An owl at Christmas

For some reason my wife wanted to put the Christmas decorations up yesterday, i did think it was a tad early even for me but so be it. We bought some new decorations and i got this lovely creepy owl. I suspect it will be inhabiting my nightmares any night now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stratford (again)

We went to Stratford-upon-Avon today, for me the 4th time this year i believe. In fact i have been to Stratford more times this year than the rest of my life put together (that i can remember anyway). And why not as i love it! I wanted to go to Stratford before the end of the year to see what it as like there in Winter as i've only ever been in the Summer before, and also i wanted to stock up on fudge at the sweet shop on Henley Street!

We had a nice day out including seeing some Morris dancers, some old cars and were followed by a lonely goose. Here are the photos i took.
Stratford DSC_0012

Friday, November 18, 2011

Worcester (again)

I went to Worcester for the first time in early September though didn't have time to see the canal (the Worcester & Birmingham Canal terminates here and joins the River Severn), so i returned today and rectified that. Here are the photos i took including many at the huge marina!
Worcester DSC_0061

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jewellery Quarter

Yesterday i visited the university's School of Jewellery which is one of our campuses i have not visited before (and thus was able to cross it off in my Ian Allan ABC of Birmingham City University Campuses). The SOJ is located in the city's Jewellery Quarter, home of many jewellers and workshops, which is a nice part of the city i haven't visited that much even though i worked on the edge of the Quarter for the first 3 years of my working life! I must come again one day, though preferably in the Summer.
Jewellery Quarter

Monday, November 14, 2011

Comics : Cinebook Recounts 2 : The Falklands War

To someone like myself who remembers the Falklands War of 1982 very vividly (maybe the most abiding TV memory of my childhood) a graphic novel telling the story of that war at first appears very strange. But then again graphic novels of WW2 seem fine and for some people they were vivid memories too so why not?

And indeed this is a very beautiful piece of work with excellent artwork. To fit the whole conflict into the confines of one volume was difficult i bet and at times the story races along at breakneck speed and also puts somewhat odd speech into the "characters'" mouths in order to advance the narrative sufficiently. I did notice a couple of inaccuracies with the events portrayed here but something only a military or history geek would really pick up on.

This is a very good piece of work, it should be required reading for British children to see how a British colony was regained nearly 30 years ago despite great difficulties and great cost.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2011 building over

The outhouse where i build my model planes is unheated and thus is too cold really from November to about March. Therefore like last year i have decided to call a halt to building kits and wait until it warms up a bit! As a final act after a lot of hard gluing and painting i collected all the projects built in 2011 together for this photo. 2011 building campaign over, here are some i made earlier

Thursday, November 10, 2011

TOTP (21/10/1976)

Ed Stewart is here to run us through the hottest pop sounds...

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - love is a prima donna
Steve is in a rather fetching red suit, the song itself grooves along fairly inoffensively but then moves into a rather higher gear and some lovely guitar work Ed appreciates.

There is a competition tonight, get a pen and paper ready.

Demis Roussos - when forever has gone
The warbling big man is dressed as Moses and still has a fantastic big beard. A song that probably works at the end of a long night in a Mediterranean bar but maybe not so much here...

Ed has a couple of sailor girls with him, daughters of a couple of Beverley Sisters apparently. I’d rather look at them than...

Paul Nicholas - dancing with the captain
Paul has gone for a bowler hat and white jacket look which is not very nautical. It doesn’t change my enjoyment of this song though. SFX alert! Overlay of some water moving about while Paul tries to get people to clap. Ah good its ended.

Rod Stewart - sailing
Rod walks around a boat looking moody. We get to see some film of Britain’s sea power too. Little did people know watching this that the Tories were soon to get back in power and gut the Royal Navy, of course that couldn’t happen these days.

Ed is a thorn along six roses... the new TOTP dancers infact and the audience are invited to give them a name. I suggest... er... Legs & Co. Do i win?

John Miles - remember yesterday
At the old joanna for a rather generic but not unpleasant late 70s pop-rock song.

The as-yet unnamed new dancers are here to dance seductively to the Average White Band’s “queen of my soul”. Well parade around in flowing dresses anyway on a star shaped stage, very age of Aquarius. One of the dancers looks like my art teacher at secondary school (in the 80s), couldn’t have been? Could it? I hope it was.

Climax Blues Band - couldn’t get it right
SFX overload takes us into a mass of flares and long hair. Nice understated cool feel to this.

Whats this, Joe Bugner (no really) is here to introduce the number 1...

Pussycat - Mississippi
Same western themed MV on a boat, great stuff by the way.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bristol F.2B

The latest Airfix project has nearly been completed, my Bristol F.2, which can be seen here post-varnish. Unfortunately i had a bit of a mishap later on which broke the top wing off!!! Hopefully its nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of glue. Bristol F.2B

Saturday, November 5, 2011

MA Day school

Today i attended the first day school of my current Open University course (which is an MA in History of course), the day school was at the OU's HQ in Milton Keynes. This was the first time i had been there, indeed the first time i had been to MK! An interesting if slightly strange place to be sure, both the campus and MK! I of course got lost on my day to the day school (well its traditional for me, i just wonder how it is possible for someone to have such a lack of a sense of direction!)

The day school was good, though tiring, and i had a nice chat with my tutor. Unfortunately at the train was delayed coming back home due to some overhead line problems nearly Wembley (though in the end my train was only delayed 30 minutes). That meant i had time to have a surreal chat with a dopehead on the train platform, he was on the run from the police for breaking his bail conditions because he couldn't go back home because his girlfriend (who seemed also pretty drugged up) had burnt all his clothes and stabbed him. He was looking to go to Wales to hide, though got on a train for Glasgow. I think he was too high to really care one way or the other! Milton Keynes

Friday, November 4, 2011

Firefox woes and redemption

Firefox is my favourite web browser and seems to work best with how i surf the web, so when Firefox started to develop terminal crash-itus on my work PC i was most annoyed. It remained rock solid at home on my Mac but quickly became unusable at work, crashing after 1 page load. I tried the latest version and even downgraded to version 3 after trying my best to scrub away the previous version from the hard drive but no joy, at most i gained a few hours respite.

I began to use Chrome as my main work browser which is fine though i don't really like how it works (and also does not work perfectly with the university's content management system). Then the IT department came and fixed my Firefox for me while i was away on holiday. It fixed things... well for a few days until the crashes returned. Then i disabled Flash...

Since then Firefox has worked for me nearly perfectly! I did have a couple of crashes this morning but these were the first since Monday. So it seems like it may have been the Flash plugin all along, now surfing sans Flash is a slight inconvenience (and ironic because i completed FLI Flash Introduction in the Spring!) but to be honest it is not a total loss and Chrome is always available for Flash enabled pages. HTML5 works fine of course and that is where we are going as a university in any case (and at home too, thanks to the wonderful Hype program).

Blog refresh

I thought it was time to shake things up a bit on my 2 main blogs, which is this one of course and my music blog. I've decided to give Blogger's Popular Posts feature a try in the sidebar but also in general try to present more options to the visitor in the sidebar, more destinations to go to.

It will be interesting to see how the "Popular Posts" section changes, it is set to show the top 5 posts from the last 30 days.

Comics : Blake & Mortimer 7 : The Affair of the Necklace

The Affair Of The Necklace, the 7th translated and released into English by Cinebook, is one of the books written and drawn by the creator of Blake & Mortimer Edgar P. Jacobs (the series being continues by other authors and artists after his death). This book stands out from much of the rest of the series by virtue of the fact the plot is rather mundane (by Blake & Mortimer standards).

There are no evil masterminds, no exotic death rays or retro-futurist science this time, instead the plot revolves around basic theft (of a necklace natch).

Much of the story does take on a fairly mysterious and fantastical air though in the catacombs below Paris but at its heart this is a basic crime and chase story and enjoyable it is too if a bit pedestrian compared to some of the other stories.

Its not the best Blake & Mortimer story in the series but still well worth a read.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Back to vinyl

Years ago (and we are talking mid-90s so literally ice ages ago) i was a vinyl fiend. I bought scores of obscure indie pop 7" singles and a good number of LPs too (though preferred CDs for long play) and all was good. However life changes in the end of the 90s (i.e. getting married) meant i needed space so somethings had to go, in an act of what can only be described as cultural vandalism that included my vinyl collection as i was out of love with indie pop at the time. All my singles and LPs went in the skip, now when i think back at what was lost including much of the Sarah records back discography i regret this so much.

Of course i have continued buying scores of records a year, but now just CDs. However recently there have been a few singles out there released on 7" vinyl only and although its possible to get downloadable versions of these songs i thought it would be nice to actually listen to them properly (and space is no longer a problem these days). So i bought a cheap self-contained record player which arrived yesterday. Two singles i ordered elsewhere also arrived at the same time luckily so i had something to play on it! I'll continue to mainly buy CDs but now i will from time to time enjoy the ultimate pop thrill of seven inches of plastic.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Earlier i cleaned up the mesmerising painting that is at the top of my stairs, a print by J.H. Lynch called Tanya apparently according to this website on the artist. J.H. Lynch was a British artist who sold thousands of prints of exotic looking ladies in the 1960s and beyond. These paintings might be considered kitsch these days (usually by hipster idiots) but i think they have a real feeling and soul about them.

My Tanya was passed down to me from my Grandmother who had the painting in the hall of her house ever since the print had been bought sometime in the late 60s and i always loved this painting. After my Nan passed away i just had to have Tanya (no one else wanted her anyway) and she has been in my house for the last 10 years. I can see her as i open my bedroom door so she is usually the first person i see every day, and what a lovely sight she truly is!

Comics : The Golden Age Of DC Comics - 365 Days

If you are not familiar with these kinds of books, 365 Days volumes, they have an entry for every day of the year (natch) on a specific subject, the daily subject often having a tie in with what the relevant date is. The Golden Age of DC Comics: 365 Days is on DC comics, home of the iconic Superman, Batman and a galaxy of other heroes, this book covers DC from its pre-costumed hero days (when it literally was Detective Comics) to the post-war when westerns and sci-fi periodically knocked the men (and women) in tights off their perches.

Most people will have heard of the main characters like Superman of course and they feature heavily here, though what is particularly enjoyable is some of the lesser-known and maybe forgotten heroes like Air Wave who apparently combated villains by roller-skating along telegraph wires and Fatman who wore a lampshade as his mask. To be honest i think some of these guys would make for better films than some of the recent subjects like the Green Lantern (but considering the rate of which Hollywood is plundering the comics universe i suspect films about Air Wave and the like are probably only a few years off).

Each entry has a subject reproduction from an old DC comic and a brief accompanying paragraph of text. Some of the images are quite surreal, especially some of the pre-war ones with elements of Art Deco. I also really love the start of this horror story, i'd love to read the rest of this!
In fact that is the only criticism of this excellent volume, i wish there was an easy way to read the rest of some of the stories featured in here! Its a huge thick volume you will be dipping into all the time, superb piece of work!

TOTP (14/10/1976)

David Hamilton presents the hottest sounds including Pussycat our new number one! We start off with a bit of soul-disco though...

Tavares - don’t take away the music
Amid a cloud of dry ice come the Tavares, in co-ordinated spangly suits, with this enjoyable if a bit basic pop tune. I can’t remember the show starting with a performance not in the TOTP studio before.

Sherbet - howzat
At #4 now is the T20 wicket taking theme. It looks like a reprise of a previous show’s performance unless the singer only owns the one horrible blue suit. Not only is the singer shirtless under his suit but the drummer is too under his dungarees, must be hot in the studio.

Simon May - the summer of my life
Simon is at the old joanna though this tune is very much wine bar not a kneesup. We do get a lady in a blue dress dancing though.

Ruby Flipper are here to dance Wild Cherry’s “play that funky music”, they do more or less gyrate in time to the music for a change.

Liverpool Express - hold tight
Its mid-70s pop rock and we love it, bit of singing, guitar solo then some more singing and a singalong chorus.

David Hamilton has a David Essex fan with him, well no one is perfect.

David Essex - coming home
I like this, the backing band are bathed in blue light so they look like Andorians. Good rollicking stomp of a song.

JALN Band - disco music
A British take on disco and gave the JALN Band their biggest hit. A pretty good song to be honest with plenty of energy.

Pussycat - Mississippi
Dutch country and western conquers the British pop chart! I’m starting to really love this song and we get the pop video which is set on a Mississippi river boat (natch).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The art of post-it art

This week i got an album by Tender Forever, and pretty good it is too. One thing i noted immediately though (apart from the fact the CD seems to want to kill my Macbook's drive) is that the title of the album on the cover had been done using post-it notes.
And very cute too... the post-it notes of course. This reminded me of a similar thing i did at work a number of years ago. Every year each office competes with their Christmas decoration display, usually though in our office we takes ages to do anything because we are a) so busy to bother with such trivialities b) can't be arsed.

However a couple of years ago i decided to put up a decoration but do something very different as befitting someone in Creative Services. I created a Christmas tree out of post-it notes.

Did it create a stir? Well it certainly generated some comments. We did not win the competition though as apparently its better going to Poundland and turning your office into a tack-fest, not that i am bitter of course.

Last year i also went all creative with post-it notes though this time i decided to take it to the next dimension... i went 3-D. I created candles and a nativity scene out of various pieces of cardboard and decorated these items with post-it notes and pieces of felt. You see the humble post-it note is the most important invention in human civilisation since the invention of fire. They are just so useful, i do all my financial modelling using them for example. Sometimes you can even use them to leave yourself a note too.
Mosaic Candles

TOTP (07/10/1976)

In a horrific Union Flag shirt Jimmy Saville (R.I.P.) is here to present the hottest tunes in the universe, ABBA are still at number 1.

T Rex - laser love
Marc Bolan with slicked back hair and eyeliner presents an average slab of rock that chugs along reasonably competently though has too many handclaps. Jimmy tells us its at #42 which figures.

Pussycat - Mississippi
Three girls gyrate slowly to a sub-country pop tune. Actually its not that bad, nice chorus anyway. The main singer looks like Brummie Caroline from Big Brother 1 though its just a coincidence as Pussycat were Dutch and indeed were the first Dutch band to go to number 1 in the UK, though not yet.

Rick Dees & his cast of idiots - disco duck
Oh this is so childrens’ light entertainment, man with tache sings to duck puppet. Awesome. We also get a reprise of Ruby Flippers’ best ever performance dressed as geese.

England Dan & John Ford Coley - i’d really love to see you tonight
Stage performance, the tache equipped pair come in a beige suit and a blue velvet one. Sexy. Despite the "England" in the name they were an American duo.

Jimmy Saville has a group of sailors with him, and they are here to announce a technicolour appearance by Ruby Flipper, who must have been asked by the BBC engineering department to test out everyone’s new colour TVs by wearing stripy jumpers and matching legwarmers. They dance “the rubberband man” by The Detriot Spinners and interpret it like by doing aerobics of course.

The Manhattans - hurt
In a studio somewhere the Manhattans croon their way through this nice and slow with deep voiced spoken section to add that extra bit of soul cool.

Paul Nicholas - dancing with the captain
After his faux reggae song earlier in the year he is back with a faux er... sea shanty. Its dire it really is, it takes banality to a whole level, even by 1976's standards. I just hoped the sailors in the audience stormed the stage and keelhauled him but alas no they didn’t.

Smokie - i’ll meet you at midnight
Oh yeah, love this song. Class song just like the Manhattans’ one, these two songs are the bread in Paul Nicholas’ shit sandwich.

ABBA - dancing queen
Still at number 1, the blue stage performance is chosen this time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hurricane I

Project 023 has just been completed, a Hawker Hurricane Mark I (and the third Hurricane in total i have done). A nice simple kit to do though the decals were a bit difficult to do and messed up slightly but the overall effect is good. Hurricane Mark I

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Comics : The Empire Of A Thousand Planets

This is book 2 in the Valerian and Laureline series, they being a couple of chilled dudes from the future who work for the Spatio-Temporal Service of Earth. They travel through space and time having various adventures. I enjoyed the first book in the series and this one is pretty good too. Written in the early 1970s it has a kind of hippie sci-fi feel (think Dark Star) rather than the techno-fascist sci-fi horror that came later (think... well most other things).

Compared to the first book there is maybe a little less out-and-out adventure and action but a more involved storyline. The first book also took place on a ruined future (for us, past for them) Earth while this takes place in a remote corner of the galaxy. Its quite implausible, our heroes have amazing abilities and no doubt a lot of luck but also very enjoyable.

Great play is made by the publishers on the similarities between Valerian & Laureline and the later Star Wars epic of George Lucas. Did Lucas get some "inspiration" from this? Who knows it could all be a co-incidence but there do seem to be quite a lot of co-incidences...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another growing season comes to an end

The 2011 growing season is coming to an end so i thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on my fourth vegetable growing season. This year i changed things around a bit and on the main veg plot dispensed with the wire fences in favour of smaller fenced enclosures around where the crops actually were. However this did not seem to work as well and only some radishes grew using this method though i didn't plant a great deal on this plot to be honest.

Veg plot 2.0 was developed this year further back in the garden and i grew my peas here, i didn't have as successful a harvest as last year despite having more actual plants. I think this new plot gets too much shade from surrounding trees.

Tomatoes have been fairly successful again though its taken a long time to get any ripe fruit, only in the last few weeks has anything begun to ripen and i still have quite a few green tomatoes and time is running out.
Tomato 2011
A big project that has occupied me over the last couple of months has been the lawn which has become very patchy this year. I reseeded it in August though some patches remain so i will have to reseed it again next Spring. Surrounding trees are just sucking the ground dry though so i may have to consider calling in a tree surgeon...