I think I’m getting too old for this shit

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So, there I was in the car park at some soulless sports center just outside of Bath.

I was a 2 hour drive away from home, a bit knackered and sweaty and feeling my age – about the only time I ever do – as I struggled loading a flightcase of electronic shite into the van.

Yes, it was another gig.

I’ve been playing in bands ever since I was about 14 and that was over 40 years ago and I think I’m coming to the end of my gigging life.

Last Saturday was typical – get picked up from home at 3.30pm, drive to Pete’s house, load the PA and other gear into the van, drive to gig – typically a one and a half to two hour journey – unload, set up gear, soundcheck, try and grab food and drink, play gig, take down gear, load van, drive home, unload at Pete’s, get lift back home, get in about 2.30am.

That’s 11 hours from start to finish and although the money’s good, work it out at an hourly rate and it’s far less than I earn the rest of the week.

I’ve been doing this for over 40 years now and I still don’t really understand why. Yes, it’s paid employment, but there are easier ways to help make a living and after all these years, it’s not an ego-driven thing but I always try and play well, and if someone thinks they can do better then they’re welcome to form a band and fucking try. I’m always well-prepared musically and gear-wise. I know my shit and I always give my best.

In the band I’m currently with – a ceilidh band – we’re an integral part of the evening – it’s not like we’re background wallpaper music. If we play well – and the caller’s good – then we can really lift an evening. Especially if the dancers are enthusiastic and/or experienced.

It’s not like some crappy pub gig where you’re largely ignored even though you might be playing really well.

So…there are a few gigs between now and Christmas and after that I may well not be in this locality as Shark Towers goes on the market next week.

That rather puts the tin lid on things then.

Regrets? Of course – it’s been a major part of my life since I was very much younger. I’ve been all over the UK and even abroad – only last year we played in Belgium. I’ve had some fantastic times with the people I’ve played with on both a personal and musical level. It’s been lucrative and it’s even put food on the table in the lean times…

The upside is that I’ll no longer have commitments at the weekend and I won’t have to lug bloody great flightcases across car parks at unsociable hours.

I’ll miss it though – it’s been fabulous.

Question Time with Griffin – a wasted opportunity

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After all the hype, last night’s Question Time proved to be rather underwhelming.

The panel of Jack Straw (Labour Justice Secretary), Baroness Warsi (Tory shadow communities minister), Chris Huhne (Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman), Bonnie Greer (playwright and critic) and Nick Griffin (BNP leader and MEP) immediately split into the factions of Griffin versus the rest and went rapidly downhill from then on.

It soon resembled nothing more than ‘An Audience with Nick Griffin’ and concentrated almost exclusively on the BNP policies regarding race and immigration.

Straw seemed to doze off at times and he reminded me of the incontinent old gimmer who sits in the corner at parties and wakes up every so often to moan about the music being too loud before shitting himself and nodding off again.

Huhne was blandness personified – nothing he said really registered with me.

Baroness Warsi performed reasonably well and gave Griffin a few tough moments but never really got going and when she did, Dimbleby reined her in and moved on to the next question rather abruptly.

Bonnie Greer came out with some amusing stuff but seemed more concerned with making herself look clever than with making Griffin look a fool. Even then her historical banter with Griffin showed that neither of them had much grasp of history.

In short, the panel lacked intellect and gravitas.

The debate never widened and we never got a chance to hear how Griffin’s party would sort out the economy, improve policing and the justice system or tackle Afghanistan.

So, how would I have handled this edition of QT?

The panel would have been stronger: Redwood or Hague for the Tories, Cruddas or Field for Labour, Ming Campbell for the LibDems and Shami Chakrabarti as the non-politico (although that’s open to debate!)

The questions would have been far more wide-ranging so that the emotionally-charged  matters of race and immigration were far less dominant and the audience should have been less partisan.

That way, there would have been more of a level playing field but Griffin would have had to prove himself as an ‘all rounder’, which so far he seems not to be.

As it was, Griffin emerged as a one issue politician who was fortunate to have only been asked questions on his ‘specialist subject’. I doubt whether his performance boosted his popularity to any significant extent and he had one or two sticky moments when he looked like a blustering idiot, but he could have emerged from the programme far worse than he did.

In short, a wasted opportunity and the only winners were really the BBC, who managed to attract 8.2 million viewers.

Nick Griffin on the Jeremy Kyle Show!

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Well, it’s a big fucking day here on Planet Hype.

People all over the world are peeling back the shrinkwrap from their eagerly-awaited copies of Windows 7 and those who queued up last night to get their hands on their copy at mdnight are probably jacking off to porn as we speak and marveling at how fast the pages are loading or something equally mindless.

Microsoft are encouraging people to have ‘Windows 7 Launch Parties‘ FFS.

The only logical outcome of celebrating such an underwhelming event must eventually be ‘Congratulations on a successful morning dump’ telegrams from the Queen. (I’d get one every fucking day!)

It’s another Microsoft operating system – not some sort of Second Coming – and merely makes Vista less of a fucking pain in the arse than it was.

So, just get the fuck over it.

However, if Twitter is anything to go by, the Windows 7 launch pales into insignificance compared to BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on tonight’s ‘Question Time’ on BBC1.

As I write this, UAF supporters massing outside BBC Television Centre have breached security, been ejected and now Griffin is in the building ready for an early recording of the program.

My own view is that Griffin should be allowed to speak so that he isn’t denied his rights and, hopefully, so that he will be revealed on national TV for the obnoxious turd smoker that he is. The UAF – those self-appointed guardians of free speech for everyone but fascists – would seek to deny the British public that possibility. Go figure…

What interests me more, however, is how much of the hype that’s been built up over Griffin’s TV appearance is all about ‘trainwreck television‘.

Whatever happens tonight – Griffin makes a total arse of himself, someone else makes a total arse out of him, the audience get stroppy, fistfights break out between covert BNP and UAF members, someone has a ‘grassy knoll’ moment, etc, etc – I’m sure that it isn’t going to make boring viewing, but, then again, neither would a nun being torn apart by rabid stoats.

And isn’t that what it’s developing into?

Another chance for the great British Public to see something shitty happen to someone else from the comfort of their living room sofa?

People are planning – again, if Twitter is to be believed – Question Time parties and there’s even a Nick Griffin drinking game that I’m sure is going to be de rigeur in certain circles tonight.

I’m not against fun – and, let’s face it, Nu Labour have taken a lot of that particular commodity out of our lives because it’s very, very bad for us – but are we really so hard up for entertainment that what could be a worthwhile debate is transformed into the Jeremy Kyle Show for the tweeting iPhone owner?

Swing out, Sister!

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I’m not at all religious but perhaps if I’d gone to a Sunday School where Sister Rosetta Tharpe was in charge then things might have turned out rather differently.

Primarily a gospel singer, Sister Rosetta also had her roots in jazz and blues and she was a really fine guitarist who wasn’t afraid to rock out when she felt like it, which fortunately she often did.

I’ve never seen any photos of her with a Fender and she seems to have favoured Les Pauls, SGs and Gretsches, very often with her amp cranked up until it distorted.

Here’s a fine clip of her performing  ‘Up Above my Head’ with a huge gospel choir and toting a very nice Gibson SG Custom – and you just wait for the solo…

Hashtag abuse?

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Never has it been so easy to complain or express your displeasure about anything as it is today.

Twitter, e-mail and web forms now mean that you don’t have to stir from your screen to pop a letter in the post box or even pick up the phone and talk to anyone.

At last, the public is empowered.

But is it?

Some facts and figures:

Jan Moir writes an article in the Daily Mail (circulation figures are about 2.2 million daily) which people find offensive, a Twitter hashtagging frenzy ensues and 22 000 people complain to the Press Complaints Commission.

Frankie Boyle makes a joke about the Queen on ‘Mock the Week’, 75 people complain (the viewing figures are about 5 000 000 a week) and then the BBC Trust clears the joke as it didn’t go ‘beyond audience expectations’ for the show.

In Jan Moir’s case, the outcome of the complaints has yet to be revealed, but if only Daily Mail readers complained I make that 1% of its readership who set the process in motion. Of course, that doesn’t include people who were offended by the online version of the story. So, the number of potential readers of the story could be considerably higher and thus the percentage of complainants even lower. Added to the PCC complaints, we even have formal allegations of a hate crime being committed although I can’t find any figures for such complaints to the Police. (Moreover, how many people would have been blissfully unaware of Moir’s article, had her name not been hashtagged to fuck?)

Frankie’s outrage percentage is even lower – just 0.0015% of viewers complained. In fact, the 75 people who complained did so about a repeat of MTW. The first time it was aired the number of complaints was 6 or 0.00012% of viewers.

Anyway, that’s ‘people power’, but I’d argue that ultimately it’s disempowering us.

Look how a few people managed – with the not inconsiderable help of the Daily Mail – to get Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand removed temporarily or permanently from the airwaves. The bandwagon jumpers then managed to hike the number of complaints to 38 000, many of whom freely admitted to not actually hearing Ross say ‘fuck’ on Brand’s late night radio show.

Then there’s the recent ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ ‘Paki’ row. 400 complaints so far – and interesting to note that use of what’s now known as the ‘P word’ garnered far fewer complaints than someone saying ‘fuck’ – although no viewer ever heard the word ‘Paki’ on ‘Strictly’ as it was said off-air.

A few years ago, most people, if offended by such things, would have pissed and moaned a bit and very few would have bothered to take it any further, but now they can.

A recent Daily Telegraph article on the Moir case has some interesting points about the whole subject of empowerment through the internet.

I spoke just now to a well-respected gay journalist whose own anti-Moir tweets have been RT’d all over the place. He did make one interesting point: “You wonder whether the question of free speech has crossed these people’s minds. Is this really a matter for the Press Complaints Commission?”

There’s a difference, I think, between social media users who employ every rhetorical weapon at their disposal to hit back at Moir, and those who want to stop views like hers being expressed in future.

I’m all in favour of criticising Moir for her spite, and especially the twisted leap of imagination that took her from Stephen Gately’s dead body to an argument about the nature of civil partnerships. Not only is that criticism fair, but it has worked: Moir’s reputation is in tatters this evening. But, my God, the social media world harbours some pretty smug and self-righteous individuals. The words “I’m sorry, but you’re not allowed to say that!” are never far from their lips – or, to put it another way, only liberals are allowed to be offensive.

Wise words, I feel, and ones of warning too.

Do we really want freedom of speech jeopardising more than it already is and the power to pass judgment  on what people say appropriated by a few self-righteous types with a Twitter account?

And we’ve all seen how few people it needs to sway a frightened MSM.

Is this really empowering people?

Or is it just one more way in which we actually lose the power to choose for ourselves what we read, see and hear in the media?

Windows 7 and the 21% solution

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Well, Windows 7 is now installed and so far, so good.

I thought the release date was today (22.10.09) but I got my pre-ordered copy a couple of days ago.

I installed it as an upgrade to Vista although, lets face it, the Sinclair ZX81 OS or even a fucking abacus would be better than M$oft’s last poxy effort.

Anyway, after backing up my shit I went for it yesterday with no small degree of trepidation – this is Microsoft, after all.

Things went swimmingly until the Windows 7 files were being expanded.

The process stuck at 21% expanded and then stayed there for what seemed like a small eternity, but was probably about 20 minutes.

I googled from my laptop and soon found this.

It appeared that I was not alone, even down to the same percentage of expansion, and further googling confirmed it.

Sure enough, after about another 15 minutes it resumed and then stopped a few more times, eventually taking about an hour.

So, if you have a similar problem, simply wait and it should be fine.

The install process also seemed to hang when it was transferring existing files and settings over to Windows 7, but I just waited and everything eventually worked.

Is Windows 7 any good?

That’s tricky – ask me in about 6 months time.

Quite honestly, if it’s 1% better than Vista it’ll be a massive improvement over that execrable piece of shit.

Fucking twang!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, it’s probably pretty clear that I’m a closet country music fan.

I blame the guy who really started me off on guitar over 40 years ago. He had very eclectic tastes in music and I was exposed at the age of 13 to people like Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, Les Paul and Chet Atkins.

I never really liked Chet that much – a bit too ‘easy’…the guy could play, that was for fucking sure but he didn’t do much to inspire me and I filed ‘country guitar’ away and didn’t plan to revisit it.

A few years down the line, however, and I start to hear guitarists like Albert Lee in the criminally underrated Heads Hands and Feet and I realise that although this is country, it also rocks like a bitch too and I then start finding out about the genre of country guitar in earnest.

In fact, I’ve gone all the way back to the 1930s, taking in Western Swing and the sublimely raucous Junior Barnard, before getting slightly more up to date with seminal country players like James Burton, Jimmy Bryant and Merle Travis and then even more recent fretmeisters.

A lot of the time, I have to wade through some pretty mediocre shite to hear the gems, but it’s worth it because I’d never have discovered these two guys, amongst many others.

First, Brad Paisley. He’s capable of playing some blindingly good guitar amongst the frankly maudlin crap that he makes mega-bucks playing. Beautiful Telecaster tone and the action on his guitars has to be seen to be believed – talk about ‘stiff’! I thought I had my action set high, but Paisley’s is ridiculous, as you can see in this clip of him trying out a Doctor Z amp that I’d probably sell my own granny for…

Anyway, here he is with ‘Throttleneck’:

The second player here, Vince Gill, is sort of similar in that he makes a more than comfortable living playing some really crappy stuff, but he’s another dynamite guitarist. Here he is with ‘Liza Jane’, and that’s the UK’s very own Albert Lee (with the trademark hair) on the other guitar.

And it’s all Telecasters.

A guitar which does exactly what it says on the tin.

What more do you need?