Friday, February 27, 2009

The future of music

There's been a fair amount of coverage on digital music recently. I must be hopelessly naive, but I thought illegal downloading had been stamped out years ago. I thought we all blithely bought music through iTunes. The naughtiness was limited to copying CDs off your mates and sticking them on the server at work. A 52 year old accountant told me all about file sharing and which sites to go to get free music.

I sat with Steve Purdham at a do the other night. He's working with Peter Gabriel on a new business called You log on and you can listen to virtually anything (through your computer), you can create playlists, compilations and collections which adds that social networking element so essential to anything new on the web. You can also buy music to keep, at about the same price as iTunes. The catch is it plays a short advert at the beginning of a track.

Much of the coverage of the last two weeks on this kind of thing has focused on Spotify, which requires you to download a program, but is quite similar, and nodding in the general direction of, which I still haven't quite got my head around yet, despite the presence of a window (right) which reveals what I've been listening to (and all the attendant embarrassment that comes with it).

As a business it's a brave move, bringing together two busted industries in a state of paranoia and paralysis - advertising and music.

This would be superb if and when I get round to routing the PC through a decent speaker system, rather than docking the iPod.

My bookmarks this week

Here are some links to good things I've seen this week. Thanks to Words Dept for this handy but simple idea.

Hardeep Singh Koli on The Long Good Friday from the Spectator.

Middlesbrough fans told to be quiet during games - wouldn't happen to Rovers.

Police looking forward to summer of truncheons

A bad day for my Mum's old next door neighbour.

From 7 to 11

So, dilemma time at the football club. Ludicrously, junior football in this country leaps from 7-a-side to 11-a-side when kids get into Year 6. At our club we have two decent 7-a-side teams, each with squads of 9 or 10. Here's the question, do we try and recruit some more players and run two teams? Or do we create one team with a big squad where some kids may not play as much football?

I'm painfully aware that boys get distracted and have more on when they get to 10. More and more kids play music, drama, other sports, have entrance exams for private schools, have divorced parents with different priorities. Coaches have to be more than just keen fathers, they have to take a course to be an FA Grade 1 coach. The transition will be massive too. Holding the whole thing together is a mammoth task for whoever takes it on.

So far I've only talked to people who are emotionally involved (parents). What does anyone else out there think?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


It's difficult to know where to start with charity appeals. How do you decide whether one charity is worth supporting and another isn't? I've long admired the work of Warchild, who I first came across with their work in Croatia in 1996. The magazine I edited at the time carried a cover story about their work in Mostar, where they worked at helping both Croat and ethnic Bosniak kids. They are of course well known for their imaginative musical ventures they've inspired. The latest is called Heroes, musically it's very good indeed and as charity appeals go I think the work they do is amazing. Go on buy it, here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Food fun in Leeds

Yesterday's food review in the Observer saw Jay Rayner venturing north to Piazza by Anthony at the Corn Exchange in Leeds. Coincidentally I was there myself today. It looks amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't get to eat anything more than a croissant and a cup of strong coffee.

Rayner's review was the usual mix of the vaguely patronising and the annoyingly observant. By and large he was right about the atmosphere of the Corn Exchange. It feels empty and in this climate you wonder how it can be filled. There's a cheese shop on the lower floor which has a special temperature controlled section for some serious cheeses, also insulated from the hams and oils at the front of the shop. They needed to, the Yorkshire Blue and the Bishop's Finger nearly knocked me out. My excuse for not buying was it was 11 in the morning and I had a full working day ahead of me. I didn't need any excuse at all to not buy a bottle of balsamic vinegar for £85.

It's got to be worth a visit again though.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The future's Orange

I know this blog is not about work. But there's a link here to a piece I've done in the online Deals section of North West Business Insider. It's about a business run by a bloke called Simon Orange. He was a bit miffed that one recent article about him mentioned (on the front page) that one of his five brothers is Jason Orange from Take That. As you can see, I've studiously avoided mentioning that fact.

Should we be worried?

I only expected to come away from Old Trafford yesterday with the satisfaction that I had the opportunity to take two of my children, my wife and my father-in-law to see Rovers at the Theatre of Dreams. In the end, I also came away with a sense of dignity, pride and searing injustice. It's all been said and done, here, here and here.

It's easy to say that if we play like that we'll be OK, but everyone's scrapping down there now. But I'll say it anyway: We'll be OK.

John Gwynne keeps up

I'm the getting the hang of watching rugby. At Sale Sharks v Bristol the other night I pretty much followed everything. It helped that we were sitting near to legendary commentator John Gwynne (pictured) who has the most incredible voice. He didn't know who scored the second and fourth tries either. But we all knew who got the third one - Nick McLeod (sponsored by Insider).

If you're wondering John who? Then there's more about him, here and here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

BYO Popcorn

Rachel took the boys to Cineworld Stockport today to see BOLT. A good time was had by all.

But here's a thing. While the public have cottoned on how extortionate the popcorn, sweets and drinks are at cinemas the widespread response has been to bring your own. There's a story here. We certainly have done; in fact, it's what Woolworths was good for. There are now signs up everywhere saying there will be random bag searches to stop you bringing in your own food. Clearly cinemas are struggling to make ends meet on ticket sales alone and make up the shortfall by charging so much for a bag of Revels and a tub of pop.

This reflects an inbalance in the economics of the cinema business. Something needs to give here, possibly in the amount studios charge cinemas, therefore in the amount of money actors get paid.

And the film? They all loved it, but they still can't have a dog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Twitter yee not

Everyone is getting Twitter. Just click on a business case here on Corporate Bubble, a media insider view from David Hepworth and look at an enthusiasts sample courtesy of Ear I am to see what I mean. I haven't the time yet. I can blog small on here too, I don't see the point. Yet.

Just in Edinburgh

We've just come back from a day trip to Edinburgh. What a fantastic city - with, for me, lots of happy memories of August festival weekends, New Year parties and a few good sessions in the bars of Rose Street, The George Hotel bar and the City Cafe in Hunter Square.

Not this time, we took all the kids on the train and hiked around. Our kids don't feel they've had a proper day trip until they've had a run round a park and spent their pocket money on tat. Luckily Edinburgh is good for that, as long as the tat has tartan all over it.

We even did the Royal Mile and saw Holyrood and the Scottish Parliament building before getting the open top bus tour down to Leith and back round again. It's a side of the city I'd not seen before with some great buildings and a sense of grandeur. I just enjoyed being with them all in a place that holds many happy memories.

But I wonder what memories of the day the kids will have? Two of them fell asleep on the bus tour and we were in and out of the Museum of Childhood within 20 minutes. Another was sick on the way there and at least two of them were starving an hour after we had tea.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Johnny Was

I'm sitting here with laptop, bottle of Zentao Amarone 2004, watching Jonathan Ross and seeing Morrissey performing This Charming Man. It reminds me what I really loved about the Smiths, it was this.

If Tommy Cooper were alive today

I met this bloke with a didgeridoo and he was playing Dancing Queen on it. I thought, 'That's Aboriginal.'

This lorry full of tortoises collided with a van full of terrapins. It was a turtle disaster.

I told my girlfriend I had a job in a bowling alley. She said 'Tenpin?' I said, 'No, permanent.'

I went in to a pet shop. I said, 'Can I buy a goldfish?' The guy said, 'Do you want an aquarium?' I said, 'I don't care what star sign it is.'

I bought some Armageddon cheese today, and it said on the packet. 'Best before End'

I went to buy a watch, and the man in the shop said 'Analogue.' I said 'No, just a watch.'

I went into a shop and I said, 'Can someone sell me a kettle.' The bloke said 'Kenwood' I said, 'Where is he then?'

My mate is in love with two schoolbags. He's bi-satchel.

I went to the doctor. I said to him 'I'm frightened of lapels.' He said, 'You've got cholera.'

I met the bloke who invented crosswords today. I can't remember his name, its P something T something R.

I was reading this book today, The History of Glue. I couldn't put it down.

I phoned the local ramblers club today, but the bloke who answered just went on and on.

The recruitment consultant asked me 'What do you think of voluntary work? I said 'I wouldn't do it if you paid me.'

I was in the jungle and there was this monkey with a tin opener. I said, 'You don't need a tin opener to peel a banana.' He said, 'No, this is for the custard.'

This policeman came up to me with a pencil and a piece of very thin paper. He said, 'I want you to trace someone for me.'

I told my mum that I'd opened a theatre. She said, 'Are you having me on?' I said, 'Well I'll give you an audition, but I'm not promising you anything.'

I phoned the local builders today, I said to them 'Can I have a skip outside my house?' He said, 'I'm not stopping you!'

This cowboy walks in to a German car showroom and he says 'Audi!'

I fancied a game of darts with my mate. He said, 'Nearest the bull goes first' He went 'Baah' and I went 'Moo' He said 'You're closest'

I visited the offices of the RSPCA today. It's tiny: you couldn't swing a cat in there.

I was stealing things in the supermarket today while balanced on the shoulders of a couple of vampires. I was charged with shoplifting on two counts.

I bought a train ticket to France and the ticket seller said 'Eurostar' I said 'Well I've been on telly but I'm no Dean Martin.

I phoned the local gym and I asked if they could teach me how to do the splits. He said, 'How flexible are you?' I said, 'I can't make Tuesdays or Thursdays.'

I went to the local video shop and I said, 'Can I borrow Batman Forever?' He said, 'No, you'll have to bring it back tomorrow'

A waiter asks a man, 'May I take your order, sir?' 'Yes,' the man replies. 'I'm just wondering, exactly how do you prepare your chickens?' 'Nothing special, sir. We just tell them straight out that they're going to die.'

Legion raid is sickening

I am so proud to live in Marple, I love it. But this just makes me weep. There are no words to describe just how sick some people have become.

The long and short of it is that the Legion was raided by violent scum a couple of days after Danny Winter's funeral, presumably knowing the takings would have been high. They battered Al Stonall, the manager, and hacked at him with hammers and a machete.

There are often crimes that provide a turning point in public consciousness. Think of Stephen Lawrence's murder, or the shooting of Jesse James. I hope this becomes one of them. If anyone at all knows anything about who may have been responsible they need to pass that on.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On the phone

By way of adding to my list of gripes about drivers, I have another. Drivers who text or phone while driving. My answerphone message says - "I may be driving" as a way of saying, so I won't be taking your call. It is so dangerous. I don't even do hands free.

Last night it seemed I was caught in the convoy on its way to the shite drivers convention at the end of the A57. One absolute moron was driving a large Range Rover (personalised number plate too - aagh!), when I pulled up alongside the idiot was on the phone. What do you do next? Can you call the police when you get home? Does it matter? Will anything happen?

I've even had an email today from a road traffic lawyer saying the legislation is vague, which it always is when tricky lawyers come up with lame excuses for breaking the law, or shift the burden of proof.

Slow down, it can wait.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Making a stand on memory lane

Just a few days after going to a gig at the Academy I had lunch at the University of Manchester today. I had a happy time there as a student and have been talking about doing a few things with the careers service to point would be journalists in the right direction (accountancy).

It was great to be there again. There was even an occupation of the admin block, which should end tonight as Hamas and the Isrealis call off their war under such pressure.

Student gestures are nothing new. I popped my head around the door of the Whitworth Hall, the glorious room where my graduation took place. I stood in the exact spot where I stood upright during the National Anthem in July 1988, while everyone else on my course resolutely and insolently sat with arms folded.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Glasvegas live - poor show

We went to see Glasvegas at the Academy last night. It was poor. Really, really, really disappointing. The "wall of noise" was just a tuneless din. You can't even blame the poor acoustics in the venue as Friendly Fires were excellent. I think Glasvegas must have a very good studio producer, as the whole arrangement was all to cock. The energy and power on the album (which I love) is as much about the silences as the full throttle feedback and the chugging bass.

It's the first time I've been to a gig at Manchester University since I left in 1988. Maybe I'm just an old git, but I had a flashback to punk gigs circa 1981 when I'd wish the time away as the noise was just so ear-bleedingly awful, but we were too cool to admit it. So, I can say it now: Insurgents, Warsaw, Anti-Pasti, UK Subs, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Chron-Gen and the Angelic Upstarts. You were rubbish.

Funeral for Danny Winter

Marple lad Danny Winter was laid to rest yesterday, following a service at St Georges Church. The Royal Marine corporal was given full military honours in a service attended by 600 people. He was killed in Helmand province in Afghanistan. Story is here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

ITV is rubbish, in nearly every way possible

Just how rubbish is ITV? We lost our coverage for a few seconds before the goal in the Everton v Liverpool game last night, but we did see Dan Gosling's goal. A lot of people didn't and ITV has had to issue an apology, here. The Mail has the sequence in lurid detail and is calling this Goslingate.

I always think a consumer boycott cleanses the soul. Trouble is, we're running out of options. Rachel fell out with Sky after Louis chalked up a phone bill doing interactive games when he was 4. I had a dispute with NTL (now Virgin) over their inability to deliver a service and their zealous pursuit of a £30 debt by putting debt collectors after me. Setanta just doesn't work at our house. I don't know why, and they tried to put it right, but I've had it with them as well. Which leaves the free to air BBC and ITV.

We have a Thomson Freeview 6300 box which is full of bugs. There are programmes saved which crash the whole thing and can't even be deleted. We get random programmes about the Lottery saved on it which take up hours of disk space. Last night's football highlights didn't record, though I did download something called Microsoft Silverlight to view them. I always feel slightly grubby using Microsoft software and thought, typical ITV, again.

I do like BBC's computer based iPlayer. Very user friendly and very reliable. And I do like channels such as BBC3, Dave and BBC News. And I like Sky Sports News. The kids like Dave and CBBC. And that's about it. ITV's channels are all full of complete crap. Even their weather last night gave no feeling or indication of what the weather was going to be like today. It is the palest of imitations of everything BBC do. No wonder it is collapsing before our very eyes.

But what I really (really) resent is the move to digital TV and the analogue switch off. The technology is too flaky and the service too haphazard.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Snow business

I remember the last snowfall in central London in 1991. The newsreaders lapsed into saying this week's was the heaviest the country has had since then. No, it is the heaviest London has had since then. There is a difference.

Anyway, this is very funny.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New words for new times

I like new modern words and phrases, created for comedic value. The late, great Douglas Adams created a book full in The Meaning of Liff. The rude one from Viz is good too. In that same tradition Charlie Brooker has added some here. My favourite amongst his selection is this:

piersonality (peers-on-allitee) n. Self-consciously odious celebrity who trades on their own widely accepted repugnance to infuriatingly lucrative effect, thereby creating an unassailable feedback loop of violent loathing in absolutely everyone other than themselves; eg: Piers Morgan.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

*Dons anorak* visits ground

Shaun Smith compiles a wonderfully eccentric website about football grounds and runs the 100 Football Grounds Club, of which I'm a member (I have a badge on my anorak).

He's just notched up his 200 after a visit to Edgeley Park, home of Stockport County and the egg chasers from Sale Sharks. A charmingly detailed account is here.

I haven't been to a new ground since, er, since, er. No, can't remember. Middlesbrough, maybe? But I'm stuck on 123, as I last counted. Would quite like to go to Hull this season.

Podcasting - highs and (relvative) lows

One of the unexpected joys of the iPod has been the number of entertaining podcasts I'm discovering. I've always liked the Guardian's Football Fiver email. One of the untamed wits behind it is a character called Barry Glendenning. Hearing his gentle Irish brogue on the Football Weekly podcast has been a treat. In the last week or so he and James Richardson were joined by Observer's serious sports columnist Paul Hayward. Hearing Barry describing Man City's courtship of Kaka as "like us inviting Girl's Aloud round for a bath together" was funny enough, but the tangible "eh?" from Hayward was one to behold. I would like to see Hayward get into the groove, but he wasn't poached from The Daily Mail, or the Telegraph, I forget which, to make asides about Rafa Benitez looking like a character from The Simpsons. Which is a shame. I can only see one winner emerge here.

I think podcasts have their own character, often giving an extra added dimension to the media from which it is sourced. A lot of newspapers and magazines do a shabby job. Of my two favourite outlets, there are mixed results.

Monocle's is spot on - Tyler Brule is as archly camp to the ear as he is in the written word, but some of his writers don't translate as well as he does.

I have no doubt that The Word magazine's office is chaotic, but the glossy magazine masks these shortcomings and, in fact, makes a virtue of them by channeling all of that energy into the structure of a monthly mag. Their podcast does not. In fact, it's quite hard to listen to as it just seems to be a bunch of fellahs sat around having a laugh. To be fair, this is an evolving media, it may improve with time, and the participants need to recognise what they are good at, and what they are not.