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...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hatton to Shrewley

I enjoyed my visit to Hatton in the Summer so returned this morning, this time to travel along the Grand Union in the other direction towards Shrewley. In doing so i came up to the Shrewley Tunnel, now this 400m long tunnel doesn't have a towpath alongside so i had to climb the hill and go through the tunnel and then rejoin the canal on the other side. This is a very nice stretch of canal indeed. and you can see my photos here of course.
Hatton Shrewley DSC_0541

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TOTP (30/09/1976)

Dave Lee Travis brings us the hottest sounds in between eating something in a no doubt unrehersed and hilarious segment. ABBA are still number 1 but we start with a bit of rock. And not any ordinary rock...

Can - i want more

The SFX come out to play for this catchy bit of krautrock with Can's biggest (and only) UK hit, though some of the audience members look bemused and bored as usual. But he uses a violin bow to play his guitar! Its krautrock! Its awesome! Truly a highpoint in TOTP history though i may be in the minority with that opinion.

DLT is still eating. Hilarious.

Randy Edelman - uptown, uptempo woman

Hairy man playing piano, hooray! It has lots of pretty high piano notes and an appealing American accent to the vocals, that was an easy win back in the 1970s but i am a harder man to please.

Sherbet - howzat

Man in blue suit who seems to have lost his shirt. This has an  appealingly slinky dirty melody to it but of course this song has been ruined by being used in limited over cricket matches when a wicket falls.

DLT has cream all over his beard and nose. Hilarious.

Ruby Flipper are here to do "the best disco in town" by the Ritchie Family, well a disco tune is easy for them to do as they don't really have to try anything too adventurous with the choreography. Its still a formless mess though. Ruby Flipper remind me of a group of work colleagues who practice a dance routine for an away day task from their usual job in marketing.

DLT has a box of chocolates but who cares because now its time for...

Tina Charles - dance little lady dance

I got to say i love Tina though she seems to be wearing the curtains we had in our living room in 1976. So thats where they went. Its a nice song though though its lyrics seem designed to appeal to 3 year olds.

DLT has a chicken leg.

Jesse Green - nice and slow

Funky soul with flute and a guitarist in a cowboy hat. The audience seem to prefer it to Can though. I hate them.

DLT has a full dinner. Have we finally reached the punchline of this joke?

Demis Roussos - when forever has gone

Brian Blessed's warbling younger brother is here to croon for you, wearing some kind of hideous purple tent. His song quickly descends into what sounds uncannily like a semi-drunken singsong on the last night of a package holiday to the Med. No doubt this was central to his appeal.

DLT is now dressed like Demis and has a similar robe and calls him over to share his wine. I get the feeling this entire theme of eating was just so DLT could make a lame joke about BBC wine to Demis who looks suitably bemused.

ABBA - dancing queen

Different video this time. Yay!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Comics : Star Wars Omnibus - A Long Time Ago 1

Over the last few weeks and months i have been rereading my sole surviving Marvel Star Wars comic from the early 1980s and also buying another one on Ebay. I did ask if these had been republished in collected form and indeed they have so instead of wasting 5 pounds on a faded tatty comic why not spend just twice that on a big thick (oo-er) volume?

This collection begins with the Marvel comic adaptation of the film of course, but interesting as that is i was more interested in seeing how they continued the storyline after the destruction of the Death Star while waiting to adapt Empire Strikes Back a few years down the line. To be honest the original stories do not begin that well...

The first story is a retelling of the Magnificent Seven in all but name (at least that is kind of apt considering the Kurosawa influence on Star Wars in general) with Han Solo assembling a motley crew of mercenaries to fight off some alien hoards to defend some poor villagers. All seems fine though the story is very unlike Star Wars, apart from Solo and Chewie all the characters seem rather Marvel generic and it just doesn't feel Star Wars...

Things begin to improve later on when Darth Vader makes a reappearance and the Empire in general, an interesting new universe begins to emerge involving the Empire's allies the House of Tagge.

Of course the problem for the comic creators was that they only had the first film to play with for background, nowadays there is a much more expanded universe. Thus some events and characterizations in these stories are a bit off (yes Luke and Leia get lovey dovey a lot!)

Overall a great set of comics and well worth the money.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eye test

Two years ago i had my first eye test since i was a child, as i used a computer all day and most of the night (I probably stare at screens for about 18 hours a day) i thought it was time that i had another test! I've always had excellent eye sight though i could tell that it wasn't quite as good as it used to be. Well at my test i was found to almost have perfect vision, 20:19.75 or something. So no further action required.

So my next eye test was scheduled for today and i was put through a variety of tests, some involving blowing air into my eye and the other following a light in a dial like some rubbish 1970s video game. My eyesight has deteriorated a bit over the last couple of years though i do not need glasses yet. My distance vision is still perfect though i will need reading glasses in a few years, maybe after my next test in 2 years time. This i am not concerned about, i think i will look good with a pair of specs to be honest.

Getting down with the iCloud

Over the last few days, and after the downloading of many megabytes of operating system updates for my Macbook and iPad, i have started exploring Apple's new cloud based service, iCloud, which is intended to supplement your assorted Apple devices, the cloud becoming a kind of glue?

So the basic premise is this, your "stuff" is available on whatever you use, you don't have to worry about your files being on device A when you want to use device B and if you make changes on device B you can later view and edit them on device A, the cloud makes it all work without you noticing. Well that is the theory anyway, does it actually work?

So far i am pretty impressed, my bookmarks have been seamlessly synchronised between the Safari instances running on both devices, as is my iCal calendar, which i can also view online and edit the calendar there if need be. I installed Pages, Apple's word processor, on both devices though found that only the iPad version can save to the cloud. Yet anyway.

There is still work to be done, especially programs getting iCloud support, but hopefully this will happen over the next few months. The Mac version of Pages able to write to the cloud would be good, especially when i start writing essays again later in the year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Comics : Blake & Mortimer (8) : The Voronov Plot

The Blake & Mortimer comic series, originally by Edgar Jabobs and now carried onwards by a number of different writers and artists, are among my favourite comic series. Beautifully drawn in the clear line style they are a high point of European comics with their intricate tales of espionage and weird science set in the early postwar world. I am going to start reviewing the comic books i buy on this blog and i might as well start with the latest one i have got...

In this latest volume released by Cinebook Blake & Mortimer are drawn into a taut cold war drama involving extraterrestrial derived biological weapons, renegade scientists and KGB agents and a battle of wits across Moscow, London and Liverpool on the eve of the space race.

As with all of the Blake & Mortimer books there is a lot of story squeezed into one volume. At times maybe it may seem the story is a little dense but then again you are definitely getting your money's worth!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


It was my birthday yesterday, and as it was a big one (i.e. the last digit is zero), i decided to have a short break in Oxford with my wife. Now i've never been to the university city before though my roots to Oxfordshire run deep... one branch of my ancestors has been traced back to Oxfordshire in the 1650s. My Mum was also taught to swim in the River Cherwell she claims...

Well Oxford goes into my top 5 of places i want to move to. Endless sleepy spires, wonderful museums, weeping willows and young people in gowns. I took a lot of photos, here you can see them. Also i took some along the canal there. The photos were taken with my new camera, birthday present (natch!) Its my first digital SLR so is a step above the compact i have used before. I do have a film SLR though from an earlier birthday (though not used for about 10 years) so its not totally alien...
Oxford Museum of Natural History

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hannover CL IIIa

I completed Project 024 this evening after applying the decals and applying a coat of varnish (well i say completed, the varnish might need a touch up tomorrow, its hard to be sure until its dried). The Hannover CL IIIa has immediately become one of my favourite kits, although the building process wasn't perfect i just love the paintwork so much!
Hannover Cl IIIa

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Open days

Just survived the final 2 Birmingham City University open days of the year, now no more until next June! As you might have gathered they are not the favourite part of my job. The reason is because open days involve far too much interaction with meat space...

This time the open days were a bit different for me, after dozens of open days at Perry Barr (including in June) this time i was at Millennium Point (which we call City Centre Campus) and i enjoyed the experience a lot more. Lot less busy for a start and nicer surroundings. The engineering faculty is here and thats where computing courses are these days and i did see a couple of my old lecturers still hanging around. Engineering also means you can have some nice props on display, like this:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hannover coming along

My latest kit, a Hannover Cl.IIIa WW1 Luftwaffe fighter bomber is nearing completion. I did the bulk of the paintwork first though building was not without the odd emergency. One day i'll manage to build a biplane where everything fits into the holes correctly...

Comics : Blake & Mortimer (11) : The Gondwana Shrine

The latest Blake & Mortimer volume translated and published in English by Cinebook follows on from the excellent Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent two-parter (part 1, part 2), although it can't be considered "part 3" it does follow up quite a lot of the plot... though everything is recapped so you can read this on its own and understand whats going on!

At the heart of this story is that staple of books of Blake & Mortimer's ilk : lost civilisations. Though in the case of the Gondwana Shrine the civilisation is truly very ancient (as in millions of years) and that does stretch credibility a bit. Professor Mortimer takes the lead in this story though of course Blake is never far away and a certain persistent villain also makes a reappearance. To be honest though it would be nice for Blake & Mortimer to have some other enemies...

As with all Blake & Mortimer books its a dense storyline and full of intrigue and adventure, and of course very well drawn. However as the central concept of the story is a little too far-fetched it did detract from the story a little but still well worth your time.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Compact Discs

Listening to Billy Joel's "52nd Street" album on CD earlier made me think about the early days of compact discs. Why Billy Joel? Well this was the first album to be released on CD in Japan on October 1st 1982, though interestingly the first commercial album to be manufactured on CD was ABBA's "the visitors". Of course CDs are still ubiquitous nowadays even in the age of the mp3 and other digital only formats. I buy dozens of CDs a year (at last count 52) still and have hundreds in my house (maybe over a thousand by now, never actually counted them all, maybe i should). Added to that are dozens of CD-Rs and data CDs, though these are becoming more scarce now as people store in the cloud or use USB keys.

My Dad bought a CD player in about 1988 (Matsushita i think), and i got my own a couple of years later when i got a stereo for my 18th birthday, yay!) The first CD i ever bought was Waylon Jennings' "Hangin' tough" which i still have got and it still plays perfectly after 23 years. I still bought vinyl mostly though for years afterwards, vinyl was a lot cheaper for a start. I also bought mostly 7" singles in the early 1990s as i discovered indie pop. In about 1998 i had to throw all my vinyl away though which was a shame, but i was engaged and my future wife needed somewhere to store her stuff in my bedroom (as it wasn't until a few months after we got married until we got our own place). Now i shudder at the loss of all those Sarah singles and other C86 rarities, especially as i probably didn't need to throw them away (and we got divorced eventually anyway!)

As more and more people consume music digitally the CD is becoming a rarer beast, like vinyl it will survive but will become more of a niche. Although i do get music digitally (iTunes, Amazon and free stuff) and play most of my stuff on my Mac in iTunes i do prefer having a physical artefact to look at and fondle (oo-er). I'm not happy with my music collection being one hard disk crash away from oblivion but we'll see just how convenient and secure these cloud services like iCloud turn out to be.

TOTP (23/09/1976)

Smokie - i'll meet you at midnight
At one stage i was tempted to just describe all of tonight's acts in this feast of pop music in one word. But then i thought people would feel a bit shortchanged. The word for this would have been "class" anyway.

The Wurzels - i'm a cider drinker

Kiki Dee - loving and free
Kiki warbles along in the distance all in white amid an ocean of darkness. Maybe she was a kind of angel, or this was cheap staging. I find the fashions of the audience always interesting in TOTP, for some reason hats ringed in tinsel seemed popular in late September 1976, Christmas might be understandable but September? Tony Blackburn asks a couple of tinsel hat wearing girls if they still like the Bay City Rollers. Unfortunately they do.

Bay City Rollers - i only wanna be with you
Rollermania was still going strong then, at least for the moment, this time in a studio to avoid the lads being torn apart by girls. Tough life.

Rod Stewart - sailing
This song might be the first song i remember, i would be not quite 5 when this was released but i clearly remember it playing out of Dad's stereo. Rod gives a rock performance (albiet a bit toned down) in front of a group of badly swaying children and a choir. Its all a bit odd but i do love this song.

Ruby Flipper get tasked with the novelty disco hit "Disco duck" by Rick Dee's Cast Of Idiots, after some basic disco dancing they start turning into ducks and mayhem ensues, though to be honest i'd say they looked more like geese.

Manfred Mann's Earth Band - blinded by the light

A different performance this time with the singer wearing a Superman tee-shirt and not looking like one of Rod, Jane & Freddy.

The Drifters - every night's a Saturday night with you
High trousers and medallions, ugh.

ABBA - dancing queen
I think this was at #1 for some time, so here is the same stage performance again as last time. TTFN!

Its art!

My latest model project is Project 024 a Hannover Cl IIIa biplane fighter from WW1. Having successfully completed a couple of biplanes this year my confidence is higher (though the Walrus ended up a bit wonky) but the main feature of this project is the very intricate paintwork with a multi-coloured camouflage scheme. With this project i am doing as much of the painting i can first before final assembly from experience i have found out that biplanes can be tricky to paint when assembled, especially the underneaths of the top wings. I am enjoying the opportunity to be a bit more creative. Hannover Cl IIIa