Me and My DVDs

Own it on Blue Ray and DVD Monday!

So goes the American accented exhortation to own the latest DVD release. I must admit that I used to be susceptible to these adverts. What with this and buying them from Amazon; picking up cheap ones in the supermarket, I have quite the collection of DVDs. Too many to watch that’s for sure. So why did I buy them?

Well, I’m guessing it’s because I belong to the video generation. Not for us was it enough to wait for the film to be shown on the television. We were in a the start of the video rental revolution and we could watch them when we wanted. The first film that I ever saw like this was, wait for it… Rosemary’s Baby.

Wtf?! Rosemary’s Baby? I mean, I was a teenager. How it happened is lost in the mists of time, but I have a vague recollection that it was our PE teacher who got it out for us when we went away on a residential to play football – it was 1980 something. And never mind any of that, the school had a Betamax player! Yes, we were part of the 25%!

So far so scary. Next up, Police Academy. I remember hiring it one morning when I was doing my O levels. I’d been to collect the newspapers to deliver and whilst I was there picked up the video. After delivering the papers and having breakfast it was time to crank up the video and sit back and relax. This was, thanks to Mike Read, the first time I ever heard Frankie’s Relax.

But enough of that nonsense, I fear I’ve slightly lost touch with what I was trying to write here… video renting –> buying –> DVD buying, ah yes. I mean, what is the actual point in buying them? I have an extensive collection, but I can only watch one at a time. This includes some that I haven’t watched even once.

I must admit that I do have a particular favourite that I do occasionally put on at bedtime and fall asleep to. I will then be woken in the wee small hours as the TV hisses away in the corner once it’s finished. I’m not going to tell you what it is, cos you’ll laugh, but it’s the seventh film in the series of eight about the boy who was a wizard

So back to the original question. Why do I buy them? I mean it’s not as if I even have the time to sit and watch them – witness my guilty nocturnal treat. I suppose on the one hand, it’s the triumph of nostalgia over realism. Then it’s a cultural / snobbish thing. I want, no I need to be able to have at hand the classic films and TV comedies that I watched whilst growing up in order to prove what good taste I have. I need to be able to sit and recount vast chunks of The Young Ones or The Outlaw Josey Wales to prove just how cultured I am. Ha ha! Like that’s gonna work!

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There has been a great deal of talk about the BBC in the recent couple of weeks. Let me explain my position on the organisation.

As I commented way back in 2010 on this website I believe that it is an important arbiter of the quality of TV output across the range of TV companies in the UK.

Of course you may be of the opinion that the BBC’s output is crap. You might disagree vehemently in paying what you would describe as a tax to watch the television, especially when you don’t watch the BBC. There are countless other reasons and arguments for wishing the BBC to be hobbled, to have its remit reduced. Some of them are valid; some are not.

One reason that is so invalid and, dare I say it, anti democratic is to assist the other TV companies. I’m not going to name names, but I do hope that you will know exactly which individual, which organisation, believes that he / it stands to gain most from the downgrading of the presence of the BBC.

Imagine too the irony, oh the irony, when George Osborne criticised the ‘Imperial reach’ of the BBC’s website on the Andrew Marr show on the Sunday before the budget just gone. Imperial reach from a man representing a governing party which cannot gather more than a quarter of the available votes in the country. Pfft!

Anyway, moving swiftly on, although not too far… In these days of austerity, I have had to make sacrifices in my household budget. One of these sacrifices has been to cut out the pay TV subscription. One thing that I have not cut out is my TV Licence. There is a simple reason for this. It is the width, length and depth and let’s face it, the sheer quality of stuff put out by the BBC. Yes, I watch ITV and Channel 4 and I have even been known to take a peek at Channel 5.

Since I made the decision to stop receiving pay TV channels I have been subject to a sustained broadside of marketing material from them. Phone calls and glitzy sales documents offering me half price subscriptions for twelve months and even, yes, wait for it… a 32″ Samsung TV. It is as unwelcome as it is unwanted, but I have no option but to grin and bear it – something to do with my marketing preferences?! Some people may feel the same way about paying their TV Licence fee, I get that. However, for the money paid out in order to avoid the knock on the door from the TV Licence Detector Man (TM), the return is beyond comparison.

Hands off the BBC, you odious ideologues.

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Bl@@dy Petrol Pumps

Having been a driver of diesel cars for most of my car owning life, it has come as quite a shock to me when I have had to fill up my petrol car.  I cannot for the life of me get the bloody pump to work consistently.

For some reason, wherever I fill up, it takes an age as whenever I try to increase the pressure on the pump trigger it cuts out on me.  I have tried rotating the nozzle in the petrol tank almost through 360 degrees.  I have tried to push the nozzle in as far as humanly possible.  I have risked getting my feet wet by pulling the nozzle out a little. All to no avail.

Boo and indeed hoo…

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Damon Albarn, R6 Music Festival 28/2/14

On Friday 28 February 2014 my lady and I enjoyed our time at the Radio 6 Music Festival at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse.  With two stages featuring a total of twelve acts between 4.15 pm and nearly eleven o’clock, the highlight was Damon Albarn’s set with his new band the Heavy Seas.  Yes, it’s a cliché, but as headline act for the first day of the two day festival, then surely that was only to be expected.  Again, well yes, but boy did he and the band deliver.

Starting with the title track from his new album, Everyday Robots, there really was no stopping our Damon.  I was a big fan of Blur (yes, and Oasis too), but I’m not so familiar with an awful lot of his work since (Gorillaz included).  I could therefore, have been a little disappointed that there wasn’t a great deal of Blur material.  However, I’m forty-four, not as self-indulgent as I used to be and this was a 6 music event, so I knew that this wasn’t going to be a Blur fest.  Furthermore, being stood within five metres of Albarn added to my enjoyment – I think perhaps that this was perhaps the greatest appeal of the whole event.

As for the gig itself, Damon Albarn conducted himself without any of the airs and graces which perhaps could be ascribed to a pop star.  He was up front about the fact that the gig was the first time that he and the Heavy Seas had played together.  It’s a strange paradox perhaps, but the overriding impression that I left the arena with was his humbleness.  These are some new songs, with my new band, I hope you like them… and us.

Set list:

Everyday Robots
Lonely Press Play
Tomorrow Comes Today (Gorillaz song)
The Selfish Giant (Live debut)
You and Me
On Melancholy Hill (Gorillaz song)
Hollow Ponds
Photographs (You Are Taking Now)
Kingdom of Doom (The Good, the Bad & the Queen song)
All Your Life (Blur song) (B-side from the Blur track, Beetlebum)

Encore (slightly delayed after drummer, Pauli The PSM, had put his foot through a drum skin):
Mr. Tembo (Live debut)
El Mañana (Gorillaz song)
Heavy Seas of Love (Live debut)

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Stop dreaming of the quiet life

So here am I, Saturday morning, attempting to get out before it starts bloody raining again.

So, why, you ask, I am sat typing this?  I have no logical or plausible answer to that question.  It’s as likely as not that I’m struck by the need to put something on my blog.  I am, as it were an inconsistent blogger.

My regular visitor(s) will have noticed that there are plenty of Daily Mash articles – all of them very funny – but not nearly enough from me.  No doubt Google Ads will notice soon, and my account with them will be suspended.

Not that that should be too much of a problem, as I’m just not making the bucks from that particular income stream. Or, in actual fact from any income stream whatever!

Anyway, enough of this nonsense.  It’s back to work on Monday after a week off with the teen / almost-teen fruit of my loins.  It’s been a curious sort of week.  They have been with me this week, and I have been cursing the fact that I can’t watch what I want to on the telly and I can’t “go on the computer” when ever I want to. But now they’re back at their mother’s for the week and it’s, like, kinda too quiet here…

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Educators as Education Secretary

Now there’s an idea.  Following on from my post on the relative merits of Messrs Grieve and Gove for their respective positions in government, I though I’d take a look back at those people who have held the position of Education Secretary, just to see when (if?) there was last an actual teacher or lecturer in the post.

Well, it’s perhaps surprising that you don’t have to go back all that far. Although not quite a teacher by profession, Ed Balls (June 2007 – May 2010) had actually done some lecturing, at Harvard nonetheless.  Going back further, Ruth Kelly, SoS for Education between December 2004 and May 2006 also spent time as a university lecturer.

Now, laudable as those stints as lecturers are, it’s relatively easy to teach or to lecture a class where most, if not all, of the members actually want to be there…

So, we go back to Estelle Morris (June 2001 to October 2002) to find somebody who actually taught at the chalk face in a more challenging environment.  Ms Morris you see was a PE and Humanities teacher for eighteen years between 1974 and 1992.  In an inner city secondary… take that!

Going back just a smidge further, we find Gillian Shephard, former school teacher, who was SoS for Education between July 1994 and May 1997.  She also worked as a school inspector before making her move into politics.

So, one might say then that teachers as SoS for Education are not all that uncommon and I should keep my gob shut and let the Prime Minister of the day decide how best he should populate his cabinet.  However, I must return to the theme of my earlier post, they would never even think of putting a non-lawyer in the post of Attorney General so why a non-teacher in Education?

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Just who are these people?

If you have had your head in a bucket of sand for the past few weeks, months or years it is likely that you will not know who Mr Michael Gove MP is.  For those of you who haven’t, then you will know that he is our esteemed Minister for Education.

Now I give you another name to conjure with.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Dominic Grieve MP.  Mr Grieve, is another member of the UK’s Coalition Government, and more to the point he is the Attorney General.  So far so obtuse I hear you tut tutting.  But please bear with me…

Both of these government ministers are in charge of departments which have the potential to affect millions of our citizens.  Both are of a politcal hue which leans more towards the ultra violet than infra red.  But that’s not relevant to my point here, it’s just another thing that they have in common.

No, my point is this. Dominic Grieve is a lawyer by education, training and no doubt by inclination.  It seems eminently sensible that he be charged with the role of Attorney General.  Horses for courses and all that.  But what of Mr Gove?  Has he ever held the post of teacher or lecturer or anything else connected with education?  Not that I can see; I don’t think that he’s even been responsible for the kids at lunchtime at his local primary school.  He’s a journalist by trade.  Get that, a journalist is the person ultimately responsible for the education of our children; that’s my kids, your kids, everybody’s kids.

In fact scrub that, because he’s not ultimately responsible at all.  At the end of his term he’ll just walk away having imposed his own ideologically skewed vision on the children and young people of this country with, I’ll wager, barely a backwards glance.

If it doesn’t work, personally, I’d blame the teachers…

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Fleece jacket as comfort blanket

Well, the sun is out and I’m… still wearing my Berghaus fleece out to work.

Now it’s not that I still need it to keep me warm, oh no.  It’s far too pleasant for that at the moment.  We have lovely sunshine and temperatures up to 22 or even 23 degrees C.

No, it’s a comfort thing.  I need to wear it because, like Linus in the Charlie Brown and Snoopy stories, I feel undressed without it.  It’s also handy for keeping keys in the pocket, not to mention my wallet and, oxymoron alert, my sunglasses.

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Iron Man 3

Went to see this the other day.  Took the boys and my wife.  Loved it.

Confession: I am a big fan of Robert Downey Jr.  I love him as Sherlock Holmes and this role is just so well (under)played.  I don’t know if you remember but Downey had some serious issues a few years ago with drugs and associated misdemeanours, but he really seems to have gotten himself back on track.

Anyway, to get back to the film.  It’s probably a run of the mill Super Hero Action Adventure, but these films have such a willing suspension of disbelief dimension to them that, for my money, it’s hard to know what not to like!  Of course it’s also got Gwyneth Paltrow in it, so that beauty and glamour stakes can hardly be higher.

I’d say that Guy Pearce as the villain and Ben Kingsley in his cameo as the villain’s puppet make the film for me.  Pearce is understated yet deliciously unhinged, whilst Kingsley is especially good.

If I had one criticism, it would be the whole 3-D experience.  To be brutal, and especially for the price, I can’t really see the appeal.  It doesn’t really add much for me, and that’s even with my new clip on 3-D lenses.

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