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Big in the 70s

December 19th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Music

I have just been looking at a list of the best-selling albums of the 1970s. It was a bit of a surprise because if I was a contestant on Pointless and was asked to name a best-selling album of the 70s I would probably have thought that Framptom Comes alive or Bat out of Hell were bankers, and it turns out they were not even in the list of top 40 LPs.

It is quite surprising how many other albums that everybody seemed to have turn out not to have been bought by everybody but just by everybody I knew – like Live & Dangerous, Machine Head, Yessongs, Silk Degrees, Hello! and Trick of the Tail. It is also surprising to see three ELO albums there. Out of the Blue was expected but A New World Record and Discovery much less so.

I still can’t really believe that more people bought the Sex Pistols and two different Leo Sayer albums than Frampton Comes Alive.

It is probably just as well that I never get round to filling out an application for Pointless.

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Inflation madness

December 14th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Technology

I had an email from Virgin Media the other day.

Remember how we used to just have razor blades? And then we started to have razors with two blades? They were advertised by an animation showing how the first blade left a bit of stubble and the second blade caught that? And then it turned out that the second blade left a bit too, so we got razors with three blades. And then four. I can’t remember how many blades we got up to, but recently I saw an advert for a new razor where the feature being promoted was that it only had, and needed, one blade.

Madness.

Anyway, the current Virgon Tivo box lets you record three shows at once, which is nice and was the thing that Virgin pushed a lot. One of the things I have seen on the Virgin box is an advert for Sky Q which lets you “record four shows while watching a fifth”. That seems a bit unnecessary. When you get to watch those four are you going to record another five? Where are you going to find the time to watch all the things you record?

So what was in the Virgin email? Of course, it was promoting their new box, the V6 Tivo, that lets you watch six programmes while you watch a seventh. This is so unnecessarily over-the-top, that Sky are going to offer the same functionality on their boxes after the next firmware upgrade.

At some point these boxes will be able to record more simultaeous programmes that there are channels, at which point the hipsters will put aside their vinyl for a while to buy up old VHS machines because they can only record one ting at a time.

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Eric Johnson

December 14th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Tonight I turned on Vintage TV and there was some virtuoso guitarist playing. It was a bit like Jeff Beck in places or Steve Vai in others, but I didn’t recognise him, so waited for the caption at the end to find it was somebody called Eric Johnson. The name didn’t even ring a bell, which is more my fault than his, since he has apparently been playing music professionally since the late 1960’s.

Obviously I went to Wikipedia to find out about him and I have to say that the start of the section about his early life did make me smile as it sounds a bit like a trying-to-be-quirky Twitter bio.

Born into a musically inclined family, Eric and his three sisters studied piano and his father was a whistling enthusiast.

That is now one of my favourite Wikipedia lines, nearly as good as the description of Tanzwut that says:

Tanzwut are known for their heavy use of bagpipes, an unusual instrument for a metal band.

Now having a listen to some of Eric Johnson’s back catalogue on Spotify and I am finding a lot of it impressive but not in a way that really does much for me –  bit like a lot of Jeff Beck’s stuff makes me feel.

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Dirk Gently

December 12th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I see that Netflix now has a US-made version of Dirk Gently’s Holistic detective Agency available. I saw some odd bits of it while Jayne was watching it on her PC and although there were a few good gags I can’t say that I was tempted to watch it myself, despite (or maybe because of?) being a fan of the book and the BBC Four adaptation. I think Jayne bailed out before getting through the first episode.

I think that the BBC really nailed it with their version, so anything else is going to suffer in comparison.

What is really annoying is that the BBC version was discontinued because of funding. When Netflix and BBC America came up with some funding for a whole 10 episodes they should have tried to get Stephen Mangan, Darren Boyd and the original writers to continue in the same vein instead of trying to shoehorn it into an American setting.

Also, spreading it across 10 episodes might also be the problem.

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Time lapse

December 7th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Technology

Well this is fun! But also frustrating because we are now used to quite high resolution satellite imagery and obviously the whole time lapse thing can only be done to the resolution of the worst  in the dataset.

If you zoom in to Crawley you can see the major changes, like Maidenbower springing up, but you can’t get enough detail to look at individual streets or groups of streets.

One of the best places to look is Sharm El-Sheik, where you can see that the place was just desert in 1984, then an airport in the desert and then a huge resort spreading from it.

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The Oxygène of publicity

December 7th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Music

I see Jean-Michel Jarre has a new album out, a second follow-up to his 1976 breakthrough album Oxygène, called Oxygène 3. The tracks are called Oxygène Pt 14, Oxygène Pt 15, and so on up to Oxygène Pt 20.

Jean-Michel is not someone to waste a lot of time thinking about titles for things.

I have a had a little stream of it and it is OK. Better than Chronologie but not as good as Zoolook, Revolutions, Rendez-Vous, Magnetic Fields or Waiting for Cousteau. Pleasant enough to listen to, and I will probably listen to it on Spotify tomorrow while I am putting the finishing touches to a bit of VBA I have been working on, but if you really want a late-career masterpiece then best to seek out the recent releases from Metallica or the Rolling Stones.

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Stop the year, I want to get off

December 2nd, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

As if the whole Trump/Brexit thing wasn’t bad enough, this year has seen a lot of celebrity deaths, the latest being Andrew Sachs. Of course this happens every year so I am not sure why it feels worse this year. Possibly because a few of them were absolute A+ list celebrities like Bowie, Prince, Ali, or Leonard Cohen.

There have been a lot of big names going this year: Fidel Castro, Keith Emerson, Leon Russell, Vilmos Zsigmond (a big name for those of us who had to watch a lot of 70’s movies as part of film studies), Alan Rickman, Cruyff, Wogan, George Martin, Garry Shandling, Papa Wemba, Gene Wilder and Oleg Popov, who I am sure I saw in the 60s when the Moscow State Circus came to London and he did his slackwire act.

It has certainly kept the professional obituarists busy and even more so the keen amateur obituarists. You know the types. They feel compelled to write Facebook posts or tweet when just about anybody dies, saying what a sad loss it is and how great they were, but you suspect that half the time they hadn’t really heard of them before. Even more so you get prolific bloggers writing huge articles about the death of Zaha Hadid and yet they have previously never mentioned her or shown even the slightest interest in architecture.

Perhaps they should show a bit of restraint and only publicly mourn those they have previously publicly praised? I know you sometimes you only realise how much you liked somebody when you hear that they died, but not on an almost daily basis.

Anywyay, I am going to take a little time out to think about those people who are still alive. Partly to celebrate the fact that they have (so far) survived 2016 and so that if they pop their clogs any time soon I won’t sound like a complete hypocrite.

Living legends that are still living legends:

  • Aretha Franklin
  • Elton John
  • Bob Dylan
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Nicholas Parsons
  • Tom Baker
  • Madonna
  • Van Morrison
  • Phil Collins
  • Woody Allen

Other people I am glad are still around

  • Trevor Brooking
  • Rick Wakeman
  • Debbie Harry
  • Ralf & Florian from Kraftwerk
  • Manu Chao
  • Booker T
  • David Gilmour
  • Liam Neeson
  • Jackie Chan
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Neil Diamond
  • Kevin Smith
  • Scott Adams
  • Dave Barry
  • Angelique Kidjo
  • Robert Rankin

If any of that lot go before the New Year then I really will be pissed off with 2016!

 

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Solving the Southern Fail problem

October 19th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Politics

During my daily commute I congratulate myself on transferring away from London to the local branch of my company and replacing an expensive, overcrowded, uncomfortable and unreliable train journey with a 5-minute walk, and even more so on strike days. Mind you, I hear that even non-strike days are now pretty dreadful and for the last few years have been a lot worse than whe I used the service regularly and complain about it all the time.

So it is not my problem any more, but I do have two potential solutions to the ongoing mess. [Read more →]

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The Trump taxes

October 5th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

I was not greatly surprised to hear those revelations that Donald Trump declared losses that could have led to him paying no income taxes. I am a little surprised that all the emphasis has been on the not paying taxes bit rather than the making a loss bit.

Trump’s main claim has always been that he is such a successful businessman and would run the US like one of his successful businesses and a lot of Americans seem to find that compelling even in the face of his erratic behaviour. I would have thought that $916 million losses were not really an indication of success.

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No more ‘Chinese friends’

October 5th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology

The news today is that Amazon are banning ‘incentivised reviews’. What that means is that you can’t accept anything in return for reviewing a product, not even a free or discounted product. It has always been the case that you can’t accept payment in return for writing a review, and especially not for writing a positive review, but now they are classing a free product as payment, except in the case of books. [Read more →]

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