Sunday, 30 November 2008

Snippits for a another rainy Sunday

It's been a cold, wet and misty day and I've been tired after not enough sleep. Last night we (Pete, Sonny, Gavin and me) played poker and I did poorly... We played 3 games and I won nothing! I don't recall even having a good hand all night!

Here are a some snippits:

On Wednesday I went to see the musical Hairspray in London. I am not usually a fan of musical theatre, but Sonny has kept on about seeing this (as he's seen it many times it seems)! Do I relented and thoroughly enjoyed it. The actor who plays 'Link Larkin' was a runner-up in one of the crappy talent shows we have on TV - his name is Ben James-Ellis and he's extremely cute and he can actually sing and dance. Considering the stage moves he has to make, he must be really fit.

Talking of musicals, Pete bought the DVD of Mamma Mia and we watched it on Friday night. I must be one of the few people in the UK to think it was tripe, considering it's now the biggest earning film in UK history. The story was stupid, the acting mixed, the singing painful, the songs forced into the script and the ending silly. So, I admit that it could be fun, but it wasn't for me at all - and I do like Abba's music, so that's not the reason. I gave it 4 out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database - all of my ratings can be accessed via my website.

Also on my website is my Amazon wish list for Christmas...

I noticed a news story that made be laugh about "voodoo dolls" of French President Nicolas Sarkozy today. A court has said the dolls can remain on sale, but must carry a label saying they are offensive to him and some people say that using a pin in the doll could be an offence.

I have done some analysis and my most successful 2 blog entries were: the photo one and the light gay relief one. I received comments and emails about both - so thanks for your feedback. You will appreciate that the views were very different for the 2 topics!

And finally... coming soon: I have recently taken a Strenghfinder(R) test at work and thought I'd share some thoughts on that.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Guest Blog #2 - Oldies can be goodies

This is the 2nd in my series of guest bloggers. This blog entry is by Sonny, one of my oldest friends (in that I've known him many years, not that he is 79 years old). I have been looking forward to this contribution and I wasn't disappointed...

“Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day
Oh in the tower of song”

Last week I saw Leonard Cohen perform live at London’s Royal Albert hall; fulfilling, if not a lifelong ambition, then a very long held desire. I can almost hear the readers of this groaning with the thought of having to ‘endure’ this 74 year old curmudgeon, but please hold those thoughts. This man is maligned, he’s been know by various dark monikers – the suicide song-smith, the merchant of death and many more bleak titles. All of which are completely unfounded. Granted, he has a knack to the more melancholy but within his great emotional insights there is a delightful smattering of humour, and jotted amongst the more famous of his ‘dark songs’ are some very uplifting tracks (such as Independence has Come to the USA, Closing Time, and Ain’t no cure for love).

But I’m not writing here to wax lyrical about the man’s music, you can be the judge of that yourself – you’ll either like him or not, but either way, he’s most certainly worth an open-minded listen. What I want to comment about was the concert and specifically the man. The man is in his early to mid 70s, not that you’d know it from the way he ran onto and off the stage and performing for just over 3 hours. But what had me in my elements was not the music or seeing this legend in the flesh (though that was a huge plus), it was the unexpected presence he had on stage – he was at once charming, modest, and above all, he exuded humility. After every song, he removed his fedora hat, bowed down to ‘his friends (the audience), turned and bowed to each of his band members and then returned his, near tear-filled gaze back to the audience before continuing his performance.

It may seem like a minor thing to notice over and above the music and vocal performance, but in this day and age of self-pontificating, glory-seeking egoists that fill our screens and airwaves, the pleasure of seeing a performer to is so totally engrossed with his art and the delivery of that art to an audience was more than most of the audience could handle. He had us, all of us, in the palm of his hand – staring, puppy dog like at the stage hanging on his every word and movement. It was enrapturing. If some of the artists we admire today could put a tiny percentage of that honest into a performance, into delivering a heartfelt performance for their audience, well life would be so much more rewarding.

He’s still touring Europe and then going to the States around Easter… if he comes your way do, please do, that the time to experience Mr. Cohen… He may be at an age where he should have hung up his boots, but at the moment, he’s giving the greatest live performance of his life and probably of anyone performing today.

There will be another guest blog soon. If you are new to my blog due to Sonny's blog entry - please add a comment, subscribe (on the right of the page) and bookmark (see icons below)!

Monday, 24 November 2008


In a previous blog entry, I mentioned how must I like radio. I am also a big fan of Podcasts i.e. a radio programme / audio broadcast that you download to your computer and/or mp3 (mine's an ipod) often using suitable software. I use iTunes as is allows subscription, sorting and storage. By the way, I keep mistyping Podcasts as Podcats, whatever they are.

Despite being around for only a few short years, Podcasts are hugely popular now with tens of thousands available from the professional radio stations and newspapers to marketing people and amateurs. The content is as varied as the internet. I usually listen to them in the car on 107.5 Stephen FM (I have an ipod transmitter!).

So, here are just a selection of my favourites as at todays date, in no particular order:

1. Football weekly (Guardian newspaper) - twice weekly look at UK and world football, with a 'witty' twist.
2. Friday Night Comedy (BBC) - the best Radio 4 comedy from the Now Show to the News Quiz.
3. Front Row Highlights (BBC) - movies, music and art from across the week on Radio 4.
4. Get-it-Done Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More (Stever Robbins) - a brief guide to working smart.
5. Mark Kermode's Movie Reviews (BBC) - Taken from the Radio 5 Simon Mayo programme.
6. All Songs Considered (NPR) - Does what it says on the tin. They also do a great live music podcast.
7. The Q podcast (Q 4 Music) - Various music related podcasts.
8. Stephen Fry's Podgrams (Stephen Fry) - Rants and wise words from a genius.
9. Coverville (Brian Ibbott) - Cover versions and much more on a podcast that used to be a little amateur but is now a slick production.
10. Rhinocast (Rhino records) - Great discussions on great music featuring Bob Lefsetz.

I also listen to Adam & Joe, 8 out of 10 cats, Money Box, In Business, Music Week, Look away now and many many more!

Does anyone have any suggestions? Please comment.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Things ain't what they used to be

Pete took his mummy on a shopping trip to Lille today, so rather than do my usual thing and laze around the house, I ventured down to Sarflundun (for those not in the know, that translates as South London) to watch my football* team, Crystal Palace, play Bristol City. It was a fine match with plenty of action and goals. I wont bore you with a full report and I wont bore you today with my views on why the club is failing... maybe another time. I don't really like going on my own, but my mate James was working so I decided to go anyway and travel to the stadium early for several reasons:

1. To buy a retro replica top from the 1990 season. This being the best season in the clubs history and the time that I really became interested in football.... and footballers.
2. To grab some junk food before and after the game. This ritual must be observed on pain of death.
3. To take a walk around the area my grandparents and parents all grew up in and soak up some nostalgia - and as we all know, nostalgia is not what it used to be.

Where the stadium sits is the border between London and Surrey - though it's all just one very crowded run-down hole. I walked to the small flat where my late grandparents used to live (my dad's parents) for over 40 years and a couple of things saddened me. Every Sunday morning, my Nan would polish the brass step and you could see your reflection in it. But now, that same step is tarnished and dull (like the whole road) - I would bet money that the last person to clean it was my Nan 7 or 8 years ago. The second thing was seeing that my Grandad's local pub, The Victory had closed down. He used to go in that pub every other day or so for 40 years, almost religiously, which is ironic as it's now the local Islamic meeting centre. The other regulars made him a t-shirt once with the slogan "Victory fruit machine instructor" as he loved playing the slot/fruit machine - it was the only gambling I ever saw him do.

However, the little house where my Mum grew up looks far better and is very obviously privately owned, but is still in an area that I would not walk about in after dark!

Large parts of South London are not nice - many areas are dirty, falling apart and don't feel safe. Of course, there are some nice areas - but not many. Perhaps it always was bad and my happy memories of long holidays staying with my Grandparents and playing with my cousins are clouding my brain a little.

I am tired now after a long day (as I dropped Pete and his mum at the station at 6.15am). So now is the time to laze...

* No matter how many times I hear or read it, I can never call it Soccer. It's just wrong to do so.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Selling pictures... or not selling to be precise

Over the past couple of years I have taken many thousands of photographs - it's one of the few pastimes I am really passionate about. Although I will take the camera to most places I will visit, I did this religiously for a year from my birthday in April 2006 to April 2007.... a year and one day in pictures.

It is actually very difficult to take a picture every single day that is worthy to be shown to the world - but I think I just about pulled it off. Via the link above you can see what I did each day for the year and one day. I eventually put the 392 pictures into a photobook (yes, some days I chose 2 photographs!) . Luckily, Pete and I were living in London at the time, so I think there were more opportunities then to take some good shots. We also went away at weekends quite often - I will tell you all about why that was the case another time.

Some of these pictures I love dearly and would like others to see them. So, a few months ago I decided to try and sell some of them - mainly to publications looking for stock pictures. There are hundreds of stock photo websites and I have since found that only a handful of my favourite pictures are suitable. Some are not large enough, some have slight blemishes, some have other 'faults'. Therefore, I have had to take some specifically to sell and hope to sell them through this site. But this site alone has 14 million pictures, so mine may well get a bit lost!

So, a little over 100 of my works are available, but no-one is buying at the moment. I will probably have to take some dull photos for corporate brochures, but my next step may be to target the needs of specific companies, for example there is one on there already featuring a Caffe Nero cup. If you have any ideas for required stock pictures, I would be grateful to hear your views.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Germany 1 - England 2

England beat Germany?!?! Now that doesn't happen too often.

It was a good game to watch, plenty of action and that doesn't happen often with an England game either. The difference was that we didn't have the arogrant primadonnas as they are "injured". Yeah right. These players wanted to play wanted to show skills. It felt like a Premiership game - lots of closing down, a few long balls to use the speed of the forwards and good interplay between the backs and "wingers".

My ratings:
James: 6
Johnson: 7
Terry: 7 (made up for his defensive error
Upson: 7.5
Bridge: 7

Wright-Phillips: 6.5 (he still thinks he can run through people)
Barry: 7
Carrick: 7.5
Downing: 8
Agbonlahor: 7.5
Defoe: 6

Carson: 4
Bent: 7

Young: 6 (it's not a good idea to use a webcam if you are famous)

Maybe Postman Pat, I mean Fabio Capello has the skills to make England a winning team and worth watching.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


During an episode of the Simpsons (Hungry, Hungry Homer), the word Meh was used by Bart and Lisa:

Homer: Kids, how would you like to go... to Blockoland!
Bart & Lisa: Meh.
Homer: But the TV gave the impression that...
Bart: We said "meh"!
Lisa: M-E-H. Meh.

Ever since then, Pete and I often use the word... followed by M-E-H of course. It's defined as being indifferent/not caring.

To really show how a TV programme can influence society, Meh has been selected for inclusion in the 30th anniversary of Collins English Dictionary. Hundreds of words were suggested by the public including jargonaut (a fan of jargon); frenemy (an enemy disguised as a friend) and huggles (a hybrid of hugs and snuggles).

So next time you are asked a question and your response is complete indifference, you know what to answer.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

You scummy people...

Last night, artist Adam Neate arranged to leave 1,000 works of art around London for people to pick up and keep. What an amazingly generous thing to do.

Volunteers took hours to distribute the works. You would think that the lucky people who found these often stunning pieces of art would be grateful for their lucky find and cherish the art. Most will, but some truly scummy people are looking to profit from the Adam Neates talent and personal gift by selling the items on Ebay.

You should be ashamed of yourself; you selfish, greedy people. You will try and justify your arrogance by saying that the artist gave the work away. That's right, he gave it away so that people could enjoy it - so why didn't you give it to someone who would appreciate it?

And for the record, the lottery experiment failed in a spectacular way!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Pick me a lottery number!

I think it's about time I won something significant on the lottery. So please feel free to post a number in the comments field between 1 and 47. I will pick the first 4 entries, plus my lucky number and my day of birth and a lottery win will come my way! Other suggestions will be used for another line, if I get sufficient comments posted of course.

The theory from the late great Willie Rushton for winning the national lottery is as follows:

Pick 6 numbers. As you rarely have a number come up, you can assume that they wont, so you can discard them! Do the procedure again and again until you have 6 numbers left and you enter those numbers - they are bound to make you rich!
Of course, any winnings from my strategy can't be shared, but you'll have a great story to tell your friends! So please leave a number in the comments and don't forget to subscribe to this crazy blog!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Some light gay relief

Although I have never seen High School Musical and never will, but I thought some of the stories about Zac Efron (see previous blog entry) have been quite witty - one headline in particular made me laugh:

Gay Men And 13-Year-Old Girls Unite In Protest Against Cut Zac Efron Shower Scene

A scene was cut from the film which sees Zac practising some moves. Dance moves I assume. For some reason, the producers felt that the scenes were a little too much for a teen film. One reviewer thought that the scene alone could change the rating! After seeing some of the pics, all I can say is.... Shame!

Back to more serious matters for the next blog entry.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Armistice Day

Today is Armistice Day. On this day 90 years ago at 11am, the guns went silent across Europe, with millions dead.

I had written a long blog about the horrors of the first world war and about the men who never had a chance to experience life. But I think it's better to simply say that, today we honour the young men who died, from many countries across the world.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

100 facts about me - 1 to 10

I was sitting at Edinburgh airport earlier this year and the flight was delayed, so I decided to make a list of 100 things about me. I stole this idea from another blogger and found that it's not that easy to do. Here are the first 10 - in no particular order. I may post the others as and when I feel like it!

1. My name is Stephen - not Steve, Ste, Stevie or Stevo.
2. I am concerned that I may be slightly dyslexic*
3. Over half of my clothes are blue.
4. I prefer red wine to white wine and lager to bitter.
5. I have been, and always will be, addicted to Sim City 2000, though Elite, Jet Pac and Manic Miner were fine games in their time.
6. The smell of cigars reminds me of sitting in the seats at Selhurst Park Stadium.
7. I have sold hundreds of items on eBay.
8. I suspect that I have a good singing voice, but don’t have the confidence to really try it out.
9. I believe that my mum’s spicy potatoes are a near perfect recipe.
10. I can always get to sleep by concentrating on an ongoing story I started a couple of years ago.

* Q: Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac?
A: He lay awake at night wondering if there really was a dog.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

I'm still not sure whether this is a joke!

Have I gone through some kind of time warp? Is it April the 1st already?!

We've had loopy councils in England banny Christmas because it might offend people (it never has and never will), we have had councils wasting tens of thousands of pounds "refreshing" logos and now we have this...

Schools to give unruly kids foot massages

I'm really glad that I spend a good proportion of my income on council taxes! Here's a radical idea - why not show these kids that doing bad things means that you lose out in life rather than benefit?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Can you guess what todays entry is about?!

So the USA has a new President in Barack Obama and I think he might be a little better than the last one (how on earth did George Dubya ever get voted in!?). It is great to see a black person in charge - but that is the last reason to support him; I think there are going to be a few changes, especially with regard to how the rest of the world see the USA. At the moment, the country is seen as aggressive and a bit of a bully. I personally can't wait to see the back of Bush.

And where has George been during the long campaign? I assume that the McCain camp wanted to distance themselves from the buffoon as much as possible.

News reports yesterday stated that a man had been seen climbing the fence at the White House. When apprehended, the security guards told George W Bush to go back inside.

And in Florida and Arizona they also voted to ban gay marriage. Doesn't it say somewhere about treating all men equal over the other side of the pond? Oh, except those gay people of course. The narrow minded people appear to have won. I find it sad that a country like the USA with its amazing diversity can sometimes show a lack of tolerance. The Californian vote to ban gay marriage hasn't been announced at the time of typing, but it doesn't look good.

An interesting statistic: If California was a country, it would be the 7th biggest economy on the planet.

Another amazing statistic: The average UK adult has 1 breast and 1 testicle.

And as today is an important day in the history of the United Kingdom, let me just say: "Remember, remember the fifth of November, The gunpowder, treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot". Burn a Guy for me tonight.

Monday, 3 November 2008

It was an interesting weekend...

Pete and I went to see Quantum of Solace at the local cinema on Friday night and it was packed (For the record, Pete is a little obsessed with Daniel Craig). I enjoyed the film as an action piece, but missed some of the Bond humour that we have come to expect. I also missed the famous line "the name's Bond... James Bond". To omit this is just wrong! The opening car chase is stunning and the action was pretty much non-stop.

And now the sports news:

The Stanford 20:20 cricket game in Antigua was played between England and an All Star team in which England were thrashed. I found the event to be an over-hyped, unnecessary game. Isn't cricket above this type of distasteful commercialism? We have managed to sell our national team for a few dollars (OK, quite a few dollars) - we wouldn't do this with football and that is certainly just a business these days. My Dad didn't enjoy the experience, shouting at the TV throughout. I like the idea of 20:20 - a quicker exciting form of the game which may attract more fans, but I don't think that selling out is the answer.

Some great news for Britain was that Lewis Hamilton (who comes from a few miles from where I live) is the well deserved Formula One world champion. I would ask Lewis not to leave it until the last mile of the last race to clinch the title next time - my nerves couldn't stand it and I was only listening on the radio! What I did notice, and I found it a bit sad, was that during the post-race press conference, Massa, Alonso or Raikkonen failed to congratulate Lewis. Are they bad losers, dislike him or just highly competitive? There is some criticism against Glock for allowing Lewis to get past, but I think that little piece of good luck balances out some of the bad luck that Lewis has had this season - what the doubters have to remember is that McClaren made a potentially risky decision to change on to wet tyres whereas Glock remained on dry tyres which meant that he had very little grip in the wet.

And finally... Pete and me bought some curtains (yep, we're getting old) and got a bargain.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Diamonds are what?!

You know what really grinds my gears? That awful TV advert from Armani in which Beyonce sings...

"Diamonds are a girls best feeerwwwwend"

No Beyonce, it's pronounced friend. There is no W in the word and you don't need the 'Fer' part at the beginning, 'Fre' will suffice.... friend!

It always reminds me of Only Fools And Horses when the cabaret singer is singing the Roy Orbison song Crying. Hilarious!

p.s. I wonder how many little Beyonces there are living in Essex council estates?