Friday, 6 December 2013

"HANG NELSON MANDELA" - British Conservatives in the 1980s


I was actually a Liberal centrist SDP supporter until I went to college and met some of the Conservatives


"A Blackpool conference where members of the Federation of Conservative Students, which in those days had Mark McGregor and current Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow among their leaders, proposed motions calling for Nelson Mandela to be executed as a terrorist. They wore suits with collars and ties and lapel badges screaming "Hang Nelson Mandela." Truly barking boys on the wrong side of history.

They were not entirely alone. Margaret Thatcher denounced the ANC as a “typical terrorist organization,” and one of her strongest supporters, Teddy Taylor, said Nelson Mandela  “should be shot.”


from


It is hugely ironic that Mandela, a consummate politician that brought his riven country together in a spirit of positive life affirming unity, should pass on the same year as Margaret Thatcher, the contemporary that did so much to ruin his reputation at the time.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME review

AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME kind of reminded me of Tim Burton's ED Wood without Johnny Depp's heroic sense of non-achievement and with Dr Who #1 Bill Hartnell in the Lugosi role.

It is literally an adventure in space and time, shown as one final adventure for a forgotten and rapidly aging actor who is already a relic from another era. It is an emotional ride but should not to be missed by anyone, let alone Who fans. Actor's are all convincingly versions of the originals and it is supremely written by Mark Gatiss, who amongst many other notable achievements is co-creator of BBCs SHERLOCK.



One of the supreme ironies of this kind of drama is that the world of the early 1960s now looks far more alien than the alien environments being portrayed. It does struggle to get across the warmth of Hartnell beyond the grumpy stills. I'm Pertwee era but when I finally caught up with Unearthly Child I thought it one of the best.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Marvel One-Shot: Don't Wait Up Tony

 INT.
STARK TOWER, NEW YORK after the events of THOR THE DARK WORLD
Around a large table in a sumptuous high tech multi million dollar environment Stark Enterprises CEO PEPPER POTTS and DR. JANE FOSTER. enjoy a glass of wine over what looks like a very expensive meal.
Nearby DARCY LEWIS pours herself another large glass of red wine from a carafe.



PEPPER POTTS
But it's Asgard Jane.. surely...

JANE FOSTER
Oh sure, it is amazing, on so many levels. But try and get a Burrito for breakfast .. I guess if I talked to Volstagg..

DARCY LEWIS
<interrups, slurring>
You can't get Burritos for breakfast in London either.




Pepper and Foster ignore her and continue to talk about Asgard. Darcy gets up from the table with her wine glass and approaches a dancing head up display filled with lights and graphics. This is run by JARVIS.

DARCY LEWIS
<waving her hand at the graphics> So err.. Jarvis.. are you an actual artificial intelligence?

JARVIS
I believe Mr Stark would refer to me as a Cognitive Simulant

DARCY LEWIS
<struggling to be interested>
What's the difference exactly?

JARVIS
Miss Lewis according to my records you took a political science major?

DARCY LEWIS
Science. Yeah. Political Science.

JARVIS
<wearily> Then yes - I'm an artificial intelligence.


Darcy has lost interest. She plays with the music controls on the headup display. Jarvis tries to protest.
As Duran Duran comes on Darcy kicks of her shoes, climbs onto the table and starts to dance.
The song is "Is There Something I should Know?"

Jane ties to apologise to Pepper but Pepper is smiling

 JANE FOSTER:
Sorry its jetlag

DARCY LEWIS
<dancing>
no it isn't

 PEPPER POTTS
<amused>
I like this song

 JANE FOSTER
<considers her wine and the remains of the meal>
We're not used to high living

DARCY LEWIS
She doesn't pay me

 JANE FOSTER
No I don't pay her
<some inebriated guilt leaks out>
You know Darcy we should talk about that

Darcy shrugs



 JANE FOSTER:
<returns to Pepper>
So are you going to give me the S.H.I.E.L.D. sales pitch?

 PEPPER POTTS
I don't do sales. We have a Division for that. Its fair to say though that we've seen the best of them and you've seen the worst.

 JANE FOSTER
You make  S.H.I.E.L.D.  sound like the I.R.S.

 PEPPER POTTS
I wouldn't have taken you for one of the anti-government types

 JANE FOSTER:
Is  S.H.I.E.L.D. government though? Who are they?

 DARCY LEWIS
<still dancing>
 I didn't vote for them


TONY STARK enters. He is surprised.


 PEPPER POTTS
Well rather than wait for us all to bump into each other in some extreme situation that you or S.H.I.E.L.D , Steve, or Bruce or...
<shrugs>

 DARCY LEWIS
Jane's boyfriend

 PEPPER POTTS
.. kicks off I thought we'd bring everyone together here for a civilised

STARK :
Girls night out?

 PEPPER POTTS
Well, night in - for me.

JANE FOSTER
<looks around Stark Tower interior> : For us, this is definitely a night out

STARK
Is there a reason Jane's boyfriend isn't here?

 PEPPER POTTS
Yes. I didn't invite him.

STARK :
You socially snubbed an Asgardian? You should be running S.H.I.E.L.D.

 PEPPER POTTS
I know 

<Stark tastes wine from carafe>

STARK
Is that the Domaine le Roy '64?

 PEPPER POTTS
<mischievous smile>
How would you know if it was?

STARK
<Tony runs the wine over his palate - it's just not interesting enough a subject for him>. Oh - OK

<raises a toast to Foster and Lewis>
Dr Foster, I've admired you work

JANE FOSTER
I know - You tried to make it a compulsory purchase through S.H.I.E.L.D. after New Mexico.

STARK
I thought you needed supporting

JANE FOSTER
I need to be left alone

STARK :
Be nice to talk some time.. about .. I could ask your opinion of ..String Theory?

 JANE FOSTER
<looking surprised/amused> String theory?.. sure.. I could ask your opinion of.. biplanes?


 PEPPER POTTS
<Pepper beams>
It's nice to have guests isn't it?

STARK :
You two have obviously really hit it off

JANE FOSTER
<seriously>
It is an honour to meet Tony Stark

STARK
<ignores her, raises his glass and smiles at Darcy>
Princess

<Darcy gives a snarky smile in return and adjusts her glasses>

STARK
Careful on the table, it can double as an automated medical facility. So, three of you - hardly a party?

DARCY :
We've left the other two, we think they have some issues to work out

<Camera pans to balcony, behind soundproof glass NATASHA ROMANOV and BETTY ROSS, have not touched their drinks and are in heated discussion. Betty is wiping away tears.>

<Stark and Foster have in an instant science competitive edge>

STARK
It's a shame you weren't around to see more of the action in New York

JANE FOSTER
I've seen plenty of similar since

STARK
Word is you are working with Eric Solveig again

JANE FOSTER
He is a genius in the field. A valuable member of my team

STARK
He's also a diagnosed schizophrenic dabbling in a new science we barely know

JANE FOSTER
I would guess he's already forgotten more on the subject of wormhole tech than you'll ever know

STARK :
Well that much is true. And the fact that that British papers call Solvieg is a traitor to the human race isn't an issue?

 JANE FOSTER 
I've known Eric for years and he built a life on sound science and being a human being without selling any weapons

<Darcy and Foster high five each other and Darcy climbs down from the table>

STARK :
You should meet Banner, he's high on the morals as well. I'd try and keep the irritant levels to a minimum with him though.


<Stark leaves, with a wink at Darcy. She grimaces back at him>


JANE FOSTER
<to Pepper>
I've got to ask - what do you see in that guy?

PEPPER POTS
He's obviously not your type

 JANE FOSTER 
Obviously

PEPPER POTS
Well, he's smart - but not that smart. There is one technical challenge he'll never work out.

DARCY LEWIS
Is it taking a crap in the Iron Man suit?

PEPPER POTS
No he got around that early on
<face wrinkles>
no the one thing he'll never solve is the thing that looks back at him from the bathroom mirror every day.

 JANE FOSTER:
So he's your technical challenge?  

PEPPER POTS
No. I'm CEO of Stark. These days he's just my hobby.

DARCY LEWIS
"Behind every great man there is a great women"

PEPPER POTS
We are not behind them, its just that they are standing in front of us

 JANE FOSTER
I could relate to that better if mine wasn't immortal

 JANE FOSTER
And somehow Tony Stark isn't doing it for you either Darcy

LEWIS :
No

<Darcy looks warily at Pepper>

DARCY LEWIS 
well you know that story about my dad being a mechanic in Oakland 

<the other two stop and loop at Darcy. who takes a huge glug of wine>

DARCY LEWIS 
Well.. yeah.. ok.. errr .. promise you won't freak out

FOSTER
<she knows just has not faced up to it>
Go on..

DARCY LEWIS 
Oh what the hell
<looks directly at Jane>
Tony Stark is my dad




 I could have written a review of THOR : THE DARK WORLD but instead I though I'd post this to show my appreciation of a really fun movie
it was inspired by http://www.themarysue.com/jane-foster-dexters-laboratory/

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sandra Bullock and Jane Fonda (Gravity review)

GRAVITY!
Watch Sandra Bullock strip off in space like Barbarella and pilot a Soyuz like it's the Millennium Falcon! - Seriously - it is rarely you see a mature actress, absolutely not trying to do anything but survive, look fantastic, AND act the pants off everyone else in the movie.

Admittedly that is pretty much only George Clooney, who only seems to be repeating his characters from the coffee ads. Clooney does perform a warm role in a cold movie but really serves to set up emotional scenes so Bullock can hit them for six. Really nice to hear Ed Harris again as the voice of Mission Control (as he was in Apollo 13).

If you don't see GRAVITY on a big screen you will really kick yourself. The first movie I've ever seen that I forgot I was watching in 3D, it makes Avatar look like House of Wax.

Steven Price's jaw dropping soundtrack never seems to get mentioned. It seems to be half way beween Hans Zimmers work for Christopher Nolan films and Ligetti's 2001 music. Another reason to see this in a decent cinema.

I think it is time to say that director Alfonso Cuarón, after Children of Men, is a genius. The 3D we should be paying attention to here not that seen by the audience (great as it is) it is the dimensions used by the director, as this film has no up or down for nearly it's entire length. Cuarón uses the entire screen and all the dizzying perspective like a zero-G Hitchcock. Even the very soundlessness of vacuum itself is used for dramatic effect, as astronauts try to deliberately and careful unhook themselves in the foreground, unaware that high speed mass destruction is happening just over their shoulder.

Much as I've gone into overload on Pacific Rim, and Rush recently Gravity is a classic movie that will be half as good on on a small screen. Likely it will be referenced for years just for the technical detail
like
"piloting the Shenzou will be just like the Soyuz" (no it isn't)

Other matters
It would be churlish of me to mention Jane Fonda's Barbarella without noting her cameo on The Newsroom recently.

We regularly talk now about US cable mini-series being on the same level as great movies. I wouldn't put Aaron Soorkin's The Newsroom at the very top, much as I love it myself, but Jane Fonda's lightening bolt intervention at the end of S2 is the best cameo I've ever seen in an HBO series.
If you've followed this plot for a while it is based on CBS news and Dan Rather being mysteriously setup and discredited as they investigated Geroge W Bush. When the Newsroom debacle hits the fan in the face of Network owner Leona Lansing you'll just want to stand up and cheer.
Climax of The Newsroom S2E7 "Red Team III"

And thanks to Vue Islington
Back to Gravity - I've seen Pacific Rim, Rush and now Gravity at Vue Islington and hugely enjoyed all three. Quality of movies helps (all groundbreakers I think in their respective genres, Gravity is a stone cold classic movie full stop) but the seats, the quality of the screen, the sound and great and friendly staff all helped make for a great night out. Ordinarily I would be looking for an indie cinema first off but I needed serious visuals and sound for these movies and this well run example of a chain cinema delivered each time.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Paul McGann and Richard E Grant go on holiday to Space by mistake (Dr Who courtesy of i09)

Classic reaction to Night of the Doctor, which establishes that Paul McGann (8th Doctor) and Richard E Grant (Great Intelligence) are now both in the cast of Doctor Who
"As it turns out, the 'Time War' was really just a euphemism for The Doctor & The Great Intelligence's booze-&-drug-fueled roadtrip."

from I09 poster N29_W95

who goes on to post possible earlier incarnation of similar




I had not seen this before and I laughed so much I hurt my face

Monday, 11 November 2013

Where to get inspiration for hopeless creative projects

You are staring at a lot of work, you are not sure if it will ever be recognised or understood, but you have to write it. If it isn't written it will stick in your mind like a fishbone for years. You have to get it down but you need reassurance that even the most seemingly worthless project is worth it somehow.

Here are three movies I always go back to that convince me my latest doomed creative project somehow cosmically has to happen, all featuring creative disaster from which nuggets of beauty make them more worthwhile than most of the crap out there. They sound grim, I find them all hilarious and hugely inspirational.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dig!
Classic music documentary featuring two feuding indie pop bands that were once great friends. One will make it (briefly) big, the other will fallout apart in hilarious acrimony. Which one will be remembered in posterity?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/24_Hour_Party_People
Infamous Manchester fop Tony Wilson wants to create a record company in which there are no contracts and artists have all the power. It is a disaster on almost every level but gives birth to the UK dance scene.

and of course

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Wood_(film)
Even the man universally regarded as the worst film director of all time deserves to make his terrible terrible stuff his own way, with his own unique vision.



Saturday, 9 November 2013

Funk Custard : The Wolverine, 6music on Saturday mornings and the increasing obsolescence of the idiot box

Comic book movies have no respect for comic plotlines, and decent radio (with it's kid sidekick the internet) is making broadcast tv very disposable

Life really is minuses and pluses. Sometimes you have to be ready to take all the pluses that fall your way and ignore the minuses as soon as possible.

Example, last night finally caught up with The Wolverine (extended cut). Supposedly based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's classic berserker rippin Nippon Noir tale of the X-Men's Wolverine in Japan. The new movie was a crushing disappointment, almost as bad as the previous Wolverine effort. It prompted the increasingly familiar comic book fan reaction :

"How did they screw THAT story up?"

What should've been Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza with adamantium claws is another junevile superpowers drama with a take on the character than can only be described as adolescent. So he's indestructible now? FFS. Among the dramatic misssteps right from the off is Japanese prison camp guard as sympathtic character and icy cold Yakuza daughter Mariko, the love of Logan's life, is now a skinny model with all the intensity of frozen saki.

And two seconds watching the lame fight scenes show the ripping fury of the original tale has been largely ignored.

Positives? The principals are all good, with standouts from Rila Fukushima as Yukio and Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper. I would hope to see both again in better movies. Hugh Jackman is ok again as Logan but we never seem to see him go the full red eye that this role needs. What hurts particularly is this movie was all great potential, James Mangold is a good director and last I heard the Chris (Usual Suspects, Day of the Gun) McQuarrie script was nailing the original property. Who knows what happened but it seems a long way from a Chris McQuarrie screenplay.

For all the great respect shown to these comic characters in this modern golden era of comics films there is next to none for the storytelling in the original material. We've seen real classic tales like the Dark Pheonix (X Men 3), Galactus (in Rise of the Silver Surfer) the Elektra saga (in Daredevil/Elektra) and most recently Garth Ennis's great Extremis (Iron Man 3) all butchered by Hollywood screenwriters so far. Will I be alive to see those classic story-lines adapted properly? I doubt it.

So next morning walking up after that was grim but, look around and the pluses this morning are there. Just happen to be stuck in sorting the Exmoor house and the brand new Hughie Morgan Saturday morning show is on. I can't lie and say I've been a fan of his band, or himself before ('interesting' character obviously) but I'm there now for this show. This is what Saturday mornings have needed for years, just the right amount of attitude and swagger to kick a slow Saturday's arse right into gear. I'm almost tempted to say this is the best thing to happen to my generation at this time of the week since since TISWAS - it just swaps custard for Funk.
And he's got Harry Shearer on next week. I really must catch up with Le Show in the meantime.

I could rattle on about any number of 6 music shows, Stuart and Maconie, Tom Ravenscroft and LL are just my personal favourites, but these days you just take them as a given. They are all great and an indicator that having the radio on is much better company that an attention grabbing tv blaring moronic adverts every ten minutes.  If even the Hughie Long show is a must listen then that goggle box in the corner really is becoming a relic.


This may be a sign of the times. I haven't replaced the tv in this place and I'm not sorry. Were once the tv had our whole attention, now we are most likely to be primarily messing with laptops and Ipads and the idiot box which needs to be muted every time an ad break comes on (increasing the volume of ads I think is banned in the US I think) is just a painful distraction. Radio, 6 music at least,  is much more more likely a nice background mood generator. Even setting aside the actual quality of the stuff presented to us these days by tv broadcasters the future of radio as a support to our online activity must be looking very bright.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

THE STONE TAPE : "The best haunted house story"


Recently caught up with what in-the-know types used to say was the best haunted house story ever filmed, Nigel Kneale's THE STONE TAPE,  a long tv play, virtually a BBC tv movie, first shown by the BBC in 1972. It was shown again a year later at Halloween and developed a legendary status in the following decades.

After decades of build up you might think The Stone Tape was disappointing but it was still comfortably the scariest thing I've seen since Prometheus.

This is from the era of the original BBC Survivors (so you know this isn't kids stiff) written by the creator of Quatermass, Nigel Kneale. It is directed by one of the best and last of Hammer director's, Peter Sasdy and comes furnished with audio tinsels from the BBC Radiophonic workshop.

It stars Jane Asher returning to the genre for the first time since Roger Corman's classic Masque of The Red Death, (apparently she appeared as child actress in Hammer's first Nigel Kneal adaptation, Quatermass Xperiment in 1955). She is Jill Green, a a smart but sensitive computer programmer, who becomes the center of the action in the house. Aside from the supernatural this is a part that provides magnificent period detail on the  miseries of the 70s working environment, especially for women. Her boss, played by the excellent Micheal Bryant, is a sexual predator in charge of a leading edge technology company, and the general atmosphere of beery incompetence gives a fascinating look on its own at the technological desperation of Britain in the 1970s

This becomes mere background story detail when a masterful haunted house tale kicks off - but as you'll see on your viewing, it is the twisted little details about The Stone Tape that really stick with you.

Plot?
RYAN, a high tech company researching a new recording medium takes possession of a newly renovated old mansion, and when it finds a mysterious disembodied scream in a walled off area of the cellar  it seeks to record and explain the phenomena. If they can just establish that the audio is a recording held within the stone they'll have an industry breakthrough that will make them a fortune.
Unfortunately for them there is more than one recording.

The scientific rationale for what takes place is established early on and it is believable and consistent throughout. This makes the chills considerably more effective when they arrive. The rationale is so convincing, 'The Stone Tape' has since become an accepted theory within parapsychology.

Ultimately this ends up in the territory of Kneale's Quatermass and The Pit, which if you are familiar with it should be recommendation enough. New viewers just discovering the charms of classic Dr Who, and stumbling across The Tomorrow People and Sapphire and Steele in turn should definitely not miss this, it makes the Pertwee and Baker eras look like the B movie child entertainment they probably were (much as we loved them at the time).

What is really effective about The Stone Tape, apart from the great acting, dialog, characters, and drama are the strange almost surreal plot threads and details which are not resolved entirely but suggest enough to be quite troubling.
I'm going to be very careful with spoilers here.

Some of the wierd details, like The Spam, seem to go nowhere, like the stairs which lead up from the basement to ..?

But others are left to hang with just enough suggestion lead onto conclusions that are genuinely chilling in a typical Nigel Kneale fashion, simultaneously scary, thought provoking and arguably brilliant science fiction with it.
I would for instance try and explain this strange comparative bit of background detail with the plot

RYAN
SAVE


But I'm not 100% sure what it is myself and don't want to give away a spoiler, suffice to say you'll probably know what I mean and it sends a shiver down my spine just thinking about it



Wednesday, 30 October 2013

FILMS TO LEAVE IN YOUR WESTCOUNTRY HOLIDAY COTTAGE FOR VISITORS

A Halloween list for a friend in 2009

FILMS TO LEAVE IN YOUR WESTCOUNTRY HOLIDAY COTTAGE FOR VISITORS

RING CURSED TAPE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Qw4FDyz904

DON'T TRUST THE LOCALS
Straw Dogs
Plague of the Zombies
Ring/Ringu
Wicker Man
Hostel
The Hills Have Eyes
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Eden Lake
Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension)
Blood on Satans Claw
Wolf Creek
Salems Lot


DON'T GO OUTSIDE
The Birds
The Ruins
The Mist
The Fog
Picnic at Hanging Rock
The Village
Sleepy Hollow
The Happening
Hound of the Baskervilles (the Hammer version *obviously*)
The Long Weekend
Don't Look Know
Cabin Fever
Dog Soldiers


DON'T STAY IN THE HOUSE
The Shining
Legend of Hell House
Amityville Horror
Burnt Offerings
The Changeling
Poltergiest
The Evil Dead


DON'T!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7W_sMFoyMs

and maybe a historical film,
Witchfinder General
to give them a bit of a break

IT ISN'T GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT
Threads
The Day After
The Bed Sitting Room
28 Days Later
28 Weeks Later
The Stand
No Blade of Grass
Day of The Triffids
On The Beach
Lord of the Flies
Omega Man
Soylent Green

maybe some classic Shakespeare to cheer them up
Titus Andronicus
Macbeth (Polanski version *obviously*)




Sunday, 27 October 2013

Manchester United's history of managerial change - reality from those with long memories

I vividly remember the last managerial change over at Manchester United and would like to make a probably futile attempt to convey a dose of reality to those already attacking the new manager David Moyes.

The famous banner attacking Ferguson, three years after the most successful football manager in history started his job at Manchester United

  • If David Moyes stays manager at Manchester United it will be all downhill at the club for the next three years
  • If David Moyes leaves Manchester United it will be all downhill at the club for the next THIRTY years 

Obviously the club has been spoilt with success for decades but the team that Alex Ferguson eventually began to win trophies with at United bore very little resemblance to the team ( three time FA Cup winners) he inherited from the previous manager Ron Atkinson.
Ferguson in that horrible first few years cleared out all the fan favourites from Old Trafford, including Gordon Strachan, Paul McGrath, Kevin Moran and Norman Whiteside. It was heartbreaking, especially as some of these players would return to haunt the club later for their new teams. Ferguson knew what he was doing though, as club captain Bryan Robson was kept as a figure of transition, and Ferguson's final job saving trick was to bring back the fan favourite player Atkinson had foolishly sold to Barcelona - Mark Hughes.

The big new players to the club were massively expensive defenders like Gary (WHO?) Pallister and chippy busy midfielders like Paul Ince. None were flair players like Jesper Olsen. Ferguson swapped and changed with goalkeepers disastrously seemingly playing safe with a known Scottish keeper before somehow winning a European trophy by beating Barcelona with a solid shot stopper on loan from Luton (Les Sealey).

The style of play was rank and the player purchases were boring because Ferguson spent years building from the back. The stars we'd loved and cheered to epic FA Cup victories were replaced with some dour loyal Ferguson secret policemen. This gamble took three years to pay off, but it did eventually at the clubs darkest hour - losing the last 1st Division Championship to Leeds United (containing Gordon Strachan) when it was there for the taking.

The Championship had been lost in exactly the same way it had been lost throughout the 80s under Atkinson, with United surging through the table until a vital midlfielder (usually Bryan Robson, in this case Ince) was injured, and team collapsed. This could have been the end of the team and Ferguson's career. But by now, staffed with Ferguson's loyal soldiers, it only made them stronger. They won the Championship the year after and from there on the only way was up and eventually, only eventually, Fergie's teams became known for exciting football as well as being impossible to beat.

If you are looking at the United team now and saying to yourself "Moyes can't win with this team" - you are correct, because when he does start to win big it will probably with a totally different team. But if Moyes is removed and fans all jump on the managerial merry-go round we've seen at every other club for that last 30 years United may not win again at all.
The David Moyes of the late 1980s
And one final thing. DON'T LISTEN TO THE MEDIA. Liverpool fans and Newcastle fans have a point when they say the media has it in for them because turmoil at their clubs attracts attention and sells papers. Ferguson has spent decades making enemies in the press and the vultures have been circling for a while. There are a lot of journalistic careers waiting to be made by feasting on the corpse of Manchester United, and the tragic collapse of a giant followed by a annual managerial and player clear out is a narrative that makes a lot of people a lot of money.
You won't be one of them.

To go along with the "well today people don't have the patience to wait.." is a tacit admission you are a sheep whose head gets filled with whatever crap a tabloid news source is willing to peddle. Go along with it if you don't have ability to think for yourself but don't dare moan to me because I've seen it all before..

Friday, 25 October 2013

B*llsh*t Debt Statistics

In a pub a couple of weeks ago I tried to explain a crazy fact about the UK's level of national debt to a friend. According to infamous leftie historian Niall Ferguson Britain's most worrying time of national debt wasn't now, or in the 70s, or even after either of the two world wars. The worst level of UK debt as a % of GDP was 200 years ago.


First Graph - what we normally see when the subject of debt is discussed in the media - note the scary graph starts at 2008 


Second Graph - those same figures - debt as a % of GDP shown historically before 2008

Third Graph, for US readers showing what your level of terrifying debt (default! default!)  looks like compared to the record of the UK. Note that AFTER that high peak of debt the UK became the sole world superpower. So much for national decline based on debt eh?

CLITROCK 3 - THE PEARL HARTS + DANA JADE + DEUX FURIEUSES (two reviews, updated with pics)

An event to raise awareness of FGM. All funds raised went to Daughters Of Eve.
Updated with pics (b/w) by Mark Hanson
Two reviews of the night, check out Suzan Randal's below. Suzan was careful enough (she works for the government) to write when sober.

Contact DanaJadeMusic@gmail.com for mo' info on this and future events

Myself and a guy from the U.S., Mark got there crazy early and so started drinking some time before even tune-up. It has to be said I was a little new to the subject of the evening. I was just there to see some great female bands and wasn't disappointed. Ironically it was really refreshing, after recent twerking controversy, to have overt female sexuality take a back seat to the music. I honestly think I wouldn't have enjoyed these bands any less if they all looked like Dumpy's Rusty Nuts.

THE PEARL HARTS

At Reading '92 as part of Nirvana's prescribed playlist for the Sunday you could be amused by Shonen Knife dressing up as schoolgirls and playing Black Sabbath songs about cats. It was very funny and great music, huge entertainment, if a bit silly.

The Pearl Harts is where 20 years of gender progress gets you, as there is not much silly about the Pearl Harts, a young looking but deadly serious two piece playing deadly serious rock.

From starting off lyrically with Joan Jett, The Donnas etc as a base, they have obviously branched out musically with Tony Iommi guitar and even a bit of Bill Ward drums (?) even at the end. The planet splitting riffage was all their own material I think, and not a trace of girly irony. Even looks wise - with the long hair and Charles Manson era threads and jewelry - they were channeling early Sabbs.

What would you call it? Girl's Bedroom Baroque? Is that condescension? I was fighting off waves of good natured condescension throughout The Pearl Hart's set. I met them afterwards and just didn't know what to say - it felt like a scene from American Gothic : Coven (which I'm enjoying right now). Tiny tiny girls that looked like giants on stage - kind of like meeting your bad sister's scary daughters - all you can think to do is ask them out for ice cream - and all they want to do is wreck your house and firebomb your car.
They would make a blistering support band for Black Moth
Even more impressed to find Pearl Hart's promo contains heavy clippage from TIMES SQUARE, quite an obscure but brilliant 80s cult movie I discovered at spiritual home the Scala decades ago. It should be noted they manfully struggled with sound cutting out several times in first few songs, which meant we got to hear them twice, which was no bad thing,

DANA JADE


Dana is organiser for the night, everyone seemed to know her but luckily I don't need to be nice. This band could have headlined the event pretty easily. A wildly unpredictable fusion band that could be mistaken for a London Yeah Yeah Yeah's, there was absolutely nothing dull about Dana Jade and her band - and from the linking moments between songs and her general contribution as compare you'd think they have a chance at stand up as well. Parts of this felt like a Variety act, and it was good to have a bit of light relief between the first and last bands.

Musically this was surprisingly heavy but with a great pop angle (this is the sort of act that is crucified in the recording studio into being a novelty pop band). Despite looking a little unpredictable DJ were very tight and played as if they have been on tour for a while, despite being put together at short notice apparently - the drummer was on loan from Goldfrapp (Dana Jade is "more fun" apparently).

Great tunes, very dancy and featuring highlights like punk covers of M.I.A. songs. Again like the PH, there was no winking ironic Dread Zeppelin hilarity about them, they were just straight covers done with a new twist. Dana's great voice constantly reminded me of Karen O and the band have a similar warmth and inclusiveness to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who are similarly bonkers unpredictable in terms of look, feel and genre.

Late on in the tiny but great venue (Roadtrip &The Workshop in Old Street) Grolsch now flowed like it was the Cafe Muchen, 1986. By the time one of several gorgeous Afro-London princesses stood up to give a moving speach about FGM I was too far gone to take anything with the requisite amounts of respect so I'll have to cover that in more detail another time. Suffice to say FGM is a terrible issue that needs a lot more attention, and just getting angry and shouting at the tv is not very constructive.

DEUX FURIEUSES


Deux Furieuses I've already seen a lot, the band must be sick of seeing me in the audience. Tonight they seemed glistening with terrible purpose but apparently it was because singer guitar Ros Cairney had a fever and was ill. They should maybe play with a fever more often, as this was the best I've seen them.


For those not in the know Deux Furieuses are a blood curdlingly efficient two piece that play like they have returned from the grave to avenge some ancient grievance a' la the Abominable Dr Phibes.
And FGM actually would be a pretty suitable ancient grievance if you had to pick one.

Comparison with Angry V era PJ Harvey is often made but if anything they are even more cut back and angry even than that era PJ. With slightly more cynical detachment they could be The Stooges, or more mania they could be The White Stripes.
For me they need an extra dimension somehow, maybe they should spread their wings with some surprising covers maybe (like Dana Jade). I was trying to think of a Paloma Faith song and Public Enemy popped into my head - Sophisticated Bitch and She Watch Channel Zero are both pretty misogynistic but great songs - If I was DF's manager I've try and get them DF to conquer those in some way. Is there some Chris Brown track DF could tear asunder with bitter irony?

Personal note
Been renting in London for a long summer now while my house is reconstructed on Exmoor. Was getting a bit jaded about London, and have been getting reclusive again. I think though that was mainly a problem with the various class systems developing within Islington - this night out completely recharged my batteries, thanks everyone

UPDATE:
I knew I'd asked Suzan for something.. it turns out it was another review

It’s the first time I’ve arrived at a gig and been invited to enter a vagina, but then this was Clit Rock 3. There were three all-female bands on the bill at Roadtrip &The Workshop in Old Street. The event, though,  was so-named as it was held to raise awareness and funds to end female genital mutilation (FGM).
It’s a heavy, heartbreaking subject. So how was this night of rock going to play?
First up on the small stage were the Pearl Harts, a young duo with 60s-style hair swinging over guitar and drums, moody and melodic, the freshness of their vocals wafting around the basement bar. It was a great start.
They were followed by Clit Rock founder Dana Jade with her band. Funny, flirty and fabulous, she brought soca punk to Shoreditch, daring the audience to dance. This was an intimate gig and it was getting hot down there. Thoughts of Trinidad were washed down with cold beer.
Then to the headline act, Deux Furieuses. I’ve seen this band a few times already – I was wearing the slightly tight vest – and am still in awe at thepower produced by this  pumping two piece. Slick and sassy, they had the crowd at the opening guitar riff and kept us with songs like Now You’re Gonna Listen. We were listening. Ros Cairney’s clear, commanding vocals hit their peak with the raw emotion of anti-rape song, Are We Sexy Enough? On drums, La Batteuse Furieuse made amazing drumming look like the most natural thing in the world.
I heard someone say that in addition to being brilliant musicians, Deux Furieuses seem like really nice people. The same could have been said of everyone there that night.
At times throughout the gig, we were reminded of our reason for being there.  Two FGM survivors, from campaign group Daughters of Eve, briefly took to the stage to share their message. Their bravery and dignity were breathtaking, and the whole crowd, men and women, were with them.
Clit Rock 3 got it right.
-Suzan Lindsay Randle
An event to raise awareness of FGM. All funds raised went to Daughters Of Eve.

My Twenty years at the 1992 Reading Festival - Nirvana, PJ Harvey, L7, Shonen Knife, Bjorn Again

My Reading festival diary from 1992, the year Nirvana played their legendary set. A victim of multiple software crashes, latest thanks to the new GMAIL chat/txt editor, and brain fades.  More recent observations notes are in square brackets, italics are from second or third draft in approx. 1995.
I have grown to appreciate Nick Cave more in the intervening years


My Twenty years at the 1992 Reading Festival

These few remaining parts of Capt. Hodgson’s journal were found by the Norwegian rescue team a few weeks after his ill fated attempt to single-handedly conquer one of the most inhospitable music festivals in the world. The slow disintegration of body and mind in the midst of arctic weather and chronic snakebite (surely frostbite - Ed) are fully in evidence here in the first part of the journal which is repeated here as it appears in scrawly black pen on the back of a "Reading Campaign Against Racism and Fascism" leaflet.

' "But its coming from that way now!" A tall blonde Antipodean is trying to manoeuvre his tents entrance away from the direction of the rain.  I feel like grabbing the sad Australian git and shouting "YES ! Welcome to English weather you tanned bastard - AND THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING"

Its just begun to rain at Reading (17.55 - Friday) and as I'm here on my own I thought I'd keep a journal. No Matter what the conditions. I think the John Pilger book I've been reading is getting to me. Vietnam, Cambodia ... Pah ! This is READING and even a gut full of snakebite and a lack of tent pegs isn't going to stop me describing the horror. God. The Horror."

Ironically a major reason for the eventual abandonment of the journal some 36 hours later is the requisitioning of all pens in the tent to hold it down during the gale and torrential rain of Sunday morning. It continues.....

"A man opposite my tent has started hitting a large piece of scrap metal with a hammer. My first impression is that he's building himself a toilet. I haven't been to the toilet yet. I think this is a bad sign."

"I am pretty pissed actually."

"(Maybe he's trying to make Reading campfire music. Is he going to be doing this all night ? At Cambridge (Puffy, fiddly, diddly etc) Festival they play Roger Whitaker songs on acoustic guitars quietly so it doesn't wake the kids up. Here they just hit pieces of scrap metal with hammers. At least it provides a use for the deck chairs."

"And I actually am quite pissed.  Exhausted by the toil of bending all my tent pegs. I realised I needed some more but found the Camp Shop (no - they weren't all dressed as Danny La Rue and I'm glad I didn't mention it) had sold out of everything but Mars bars. (WHY? Would we really be able to get obese enough on confectionary over a weekend to improve the stability of our tents ?). Beer and Programme them" ? 
Increasingly hard to make out
 "Programme cost 4 quid. I don't know where its worth it or not coz I'm still talking to you (I hate writing when I'm drunk). Beer - one thing I respected Reading for last time I went was they way they had a " "Strict" or "Shit" Oz lager tent. Fiddly diddly nearly put Chris off festival puff shithole Cambridge Folk Festival's only alive bit is its Guinness tent - very fucking.." 
unreadable
"+ woobily swelter"
Probably meant to say "Sensible and woolly sweater"

"The guy across from me has just emptied a sweater full of scrap metal into a bin bag"

"Reading Festival had a lager tent. But this year - Nothing ! I THINK - especially from the camp/site car park, that they,re trying to take over from Glastonbury. The beer is all workers beer company. £2 a pint !"

At this point his delirious mind seems to hear the voice of a colleague now sitting at home watching the weather on Ceefax saying "III tooolld yooouu soooo ...."

Gradual improvement in the scrawl would indicate the amount of blood circulating around the snakebite in the brain is on the increase.

"I made a note of the best t-shirts I've seen so far. My favourite at Glastonbury was HIPS, LIPS, TITS, POWER (Silverfish). Most of the t-shirts here are Nirvana ones worn by 15 and 16 years olds. The best of those that aren't are:-
ALTITUDE NOT ATTITUDE
READING FESTIVAL - CULTURAL CHERNOBYL (Manic Street Preachers)
FUCK WOODSTOCK (Therapy ?)
KEEP MUSIC EVIL (Fatima Mansions)

"Interesting comparison No.2- Glastnobury is surrounded by the slopes of a gorgeous West Country valley. The only scenery visible from the main stage here is a tall and quite ugly block of flats." 
A clumsy X has been scrawled after this. This block of flats became the target of much of the shouting during Public Enemy.

"Its lovely to see neckless skinheads on the Hog Roast stall- which someone how seemed to attract customers at Cambridge and Glastonbury- being treated like the KKK here." 
During Saturday night when the Ice Age descended the piles of rubbish and discarded Workers Beer Company paper pint pots were collected together by Reading Man to form primeval bonfires.
 "What da fuck is dat ? Da KKK ? Put dat shit out !" said Chuck D  (thankfully shielded from the sight of the Hog Roast boys by a speaker stack) in a very Public Enemy idiom.

"I'm writing this in my tent on bits of paper. Nowhere sells notebooks. I asked a guy at a Workers Beer Comp bar where to get paper from and he thought I meant Rizlas. No amount of talking to this man could convince him that I actually wanted a notepad. I wanted RIZLA's and I was too embarrassed or paranoid to admit it."

"I must unpack now and digest the sight of the main area about 3 hours into Day 1. When I was last at Reading it was a sunny day and the clientelle and setting reminded me of Bartertown from Mad Max 3. You just knew Tina Turner would have gone down a storm. Today under broiling black clouds (normally only seen in Spielberg films) and the occasional bright blue sky the mindless, doomed, stumbling hordes look like characters from the end of Moorcocks "Stormbringer", as the forces of law and chaos square up for the battle that will bring about Ragnarok. In essence much like Donnington (Monsters of Rock) but with more O levels and less denim and acne. PiL are on soon. Must now unpack"

The journal continues on the back of a "Youth Against Racism in Europe" leaflet. He has just entered the main site and the snakebite has been topped up with real ale. Evidence of feeling sorry for himself. The attempts at Hunter S. Thompson now seem more like Thompson Local.

"This is a moment in time. Years from now grunge metal and Nirvana will be history and I'll be at Donnington or .... "

A totally unreadable word.
He wanders over to the main stage and begins to gaze at the startlingly intelligent and clean looking brunette on stage with the guitar. Is she at the wrong festival ?

"Spooky ! I asked three times at a club this week"   (Dizneyland) Actually night before last, what a rock and roller ! "I asked about 3 times who does a song they kept playing called Sheena-na-Gig. Its the first thing I hear when I turn up ! PJ Harvey ! And its the last song of the set..."

"The PiL clientelle are arriving" Lots of mean looking bastards kicking Utah Saints fans out of the way on the way to the stage. "PiL start by doing a Led Zeppelin tune I Know they are taking the piss. Some of the crowd don't and they are swaying admiringly to the music as Johnny leers at them. "England gone soft" he shouts - the first of many jibes at the crowd. I'd like to see him at the front row of a Godfathers concert. He lives in fucking Hollywood. He pulls a moonie, showing a big middle aged bum. He's suffering from chronic Townsend Syndrome"

"The crowd if front of him are now shouting "Johnny is a Wanker".
"So I'm a wanker" he says loving the abuse "I'm proud of it. The trouble with you youngsters is you're afraid of you're own sex tools"
A couple of actually pretty good songs later he's got the crowd and me on his side. "There's aren't many good things left from this country - And I'm one of 'em" A moment later he adds "Not bad for an Irishman" as if he's having trouble taking himself seriously these days. Q says Johnny Rotten/Lydon is not so much a singer as a music hall comedian. You can see why. Just to be nice they overrun by half an hour to play EMI- an old Sex Pistols song. This is good. And funny. Because it means the Wonderstuff, who are on last, are going to have their set cut short. He he he. 1 - Nil to the oldies."

Suddenly the young trendies equalise with The Charlatans. Millions of school girls in baggy t-shirts appear out of nowhere. I feel like an alien so I leave.

Unfortunately none of the food stalls are specialising in non-terrestrial …

<no idea what I’m talking about here. I was, and am knocked out by the food at Glastonbury and it always one of the highlights>

…so he makes do with some scrumpy and oggles for a suspiciously long time at the poster stall. This fact coupled with bizarre hippy bullshit about "The setting sun making the edges of the storm clouds glow gold" could possibly indicate Capt. Hodgson had been hitting the morphine quite hard. A final admission that "Frank Sidebottom - V. Funny" would seem to confirm this.

Here our on the spot commentary ends - the remaining pages lost in the apocalypse that also ended the journal and should have been a decent English Sunday morning. Later - under hypnosis to avoid further trauma, Capt. Hodgson would recall the rest from memory

Mmmm... Saturday. I did make a mental note that whatever instruments the Smashing Pumkins were using were of excellent quality. Try as hard as they might they just could not smash them up at the end of the set. As well as John Peels Full Results Service the real highlight of the day was Shonen Knife. Cute oriental schoolgirls playing aparenlty innocent nursery rhymes in the manner of The Clash.
"This song..." said the lead singer from a mouth in which butter would not melt as if talking to a class of 4 year olds "..is about a cat" Before launching into a song more Black Sabbath than childrens tv she sneaks a cheaky "Meeoow" into the mike prompting a WAAAARRRRGHH !!! from the seething horde of salivating greebos.

Sunday morning is really beyond description. Maybe I should read some WWI poetry. Imagine waking up in a gale in a badly secured tent and realising you're sharing the Somme with 30,000 irresponsible grebos and crusties with toilet training even worse than you're own. Also the men on the Somme hadn't been drinking snakebite for days.

Hours later, about 30 minutes before the first band of Sunday was to go on the rain had stopped and we all trudged up through the ankle deep mud toward the entrance to the main sight. I didn't know weather we were going to enter it or surrender to it. It was then I met a friends who I found disgustingly chirpy and clean - who had just arrived for one day with some of his friends. "You mean.." said a girl "You've been HERE for 2 DAYS ?"

Three pints of snakebite later it was raining again but I felt much better. The day really got swinging when Bjorn Again came on. We made our way to the front and in the sweat hot crush and ankle deep mud we wished we were wearing platform shoes as we pogoed ourselves deeper into the mire. It was a wonderful atmosphere, like Tom Jones at Glastonbury. No macho crap. Mass frenzied silliness. Made all the more funny by the way everybody new the words to all the songs and sometimes our singing seemed to drown out the band. It seemed hardly out a place that a man stood next to me wearing a mud caked wedding dress. During "Take a Chance on Me" he got me to give him a leg up - something I immediately regretted as soon he began to suck his foot out of the mud. My hands after this were enough to make the girl next to me shriek.

We got very muddy. Though not as muddy as some of the other bands that day (mostly Seattle type stuff - what others would call Sub Pop grunge crap) notably L7, who turned from Girlies with an Atitood to girlies with genuine bad moods under a constant (but basically good natured) barrage of mud from the crowd.

<I distinctly remember a guy directly in front of me thowing mud at the L7 bassist who seemed to think it was me. I was quite embarrassed about it. She stormed off and then back on to throw something back before continuing. Next week found out from Select magazine that someone from L7 had thrown her tampon at people in the crowd. It’s possible general embarrassment at this incident stopped me mentioning it the first time>

Other than PJ Harvey and Shonen Knife (all girlies) the only other band who came on who weren't pretending to have an Atitood were Nirvana. Huddling in the cold around a burning pile of rubbish waiting for fucking Nick miserable twat Cave to get off the collection of bikers I was with was taking bets on whether Nirvana would turn up at all, such was the level of rumour about the lead singers state of health.

<At some point I detached myself from the others. I thought they were so fed up they were about to leave. Sentiment was generally very anti-Nirvana and response to Cobain's health rumours was “I hope he’s dead”. We were all in agreement on Nick Cave though now I would probably have enjoyed it..
…Just forward to 1997, a Stag Night at the Hogs Head in St. Albans, the news that Kurt Cobain has shot himself is the start to the evening and the general response is
“Good!”
and
 “Who?”
Only seeing a semi conscious soon to be groom in a shopping trolley travelling down the old railway line later would save that evening for me>

Then Nirvana came on. In response to rumours that the Mr Cobain was at deaths door a nurse pushed him on in a wheel chair, while Mr Novoselic made a Dr. Kildare speech thanking doctors and family for their support. They were taking the piss. They didn't play "Teen Spirit" (Bjorn Again had done their own version earlier). Asked us to say hello to the lead singers new baby, we sang happy birthday to the bassists Grandma (who thankful was safe at home in - wait for it - Bosnia), and told crap jokes while they were re-tuning guitars. I mean - obviously they smashed all their instruments up at the end - OBVIOUSLY but you got the feeling its coz they were having a laugh rather than making a statement.

Towards the end of the last song each member of the band began to do their own thing. Lead singer sat at the front showing the crowd experimental guitar, the bassist wondered off in search a fire extinguisher and the drummer began standing his drums on top of the amps. He then used a symbol as a frisbee to knock them off. Eventually the fire extinguisher arrived and the band escaped through their surreal musicscape covered by clouds of carbon dioxide that glowed bright white in the lights.

Music was pretty good too.

*** ALL THE  IMAGES ARE RIPPED OFF ***

2013 notes
  • I was a huge Nirvana fan before after and since. I played it down then as virtually everyone I knew hated the band, but at the time I placed that Sunday night in my top three live performances I'd ever seen.
  • The crowd singing is often mentioned during 'Lithium' - it reached a climax during that song but everyone around me (and I was about 20ft in front of stage) was singing loudly to everything we knew the words to right from the off! Perhaps a collective and climactic bonding experience after three days of weather misery, I've experienced similar at Glastonbury.
  • Wow those jokes were bad :-)
  • They did play Teen Spirit apparently. When I finally caught up with the Nirvana Live At Reading DVD I remembered previously unheard The Money Will Roll Right In and D7 were highlights that ended the set very strongly
  • The fact that Nirvana insisted on the insane lineup for the Sunday - Shonen Knife, L7, Bjorn Again etc - because they didn't want 'lame' British bands (this would have been Britpop) makes it one of the first ATP like events, were performers are asked to curate the festival.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Beyond The Wall of Sleep 3

The link between bad sleep and Alzheimers makes insomnia a clear and present danger to the human race. Below are the contents of emails I send out to friends who have trouble sleeping - it has worked for me for years and it works for most of them too.

See previous posts on this

Spoken Audio for Sleep

I’m often recommending the effectiveness of using podcasts to get back to sleep, and how they need to be a strange combination of interesting enough to stop you thinking at 3am and boring enough to send back to sleep. I find that something with a single speaker on a non-e motive subject is good. Podcast discussions are ok up they are upbeat, lousy if they are full of unexpected jingles, ads and music.

Vital aspect to you is that it has to be interesting enough to gauge your attention. If your mind wanders onto areas that you shouldn't be thinking about..

- and in my experience no conclusion reached 2.30am-6.30am is worth a damn -

..the audio you are listening to is useless and you should find something else



Audio books

Here is a brilliant resource - free classic audio novels read by volunteers
I suggest an uncomplicated unabridged reassuring old classic, maybe start on Kipling's Man Who Would Be King (not too long) then some H Rider Haggard. Like Sherlock Holmes? How about AC Doyles Lost World?
 Worth mentioning a friend just listens to the BBC Lord of The Rings every night to go to sleep on an iPod, and has been doing that every night for at least two years. I've been suggesting to his wife that she dress up as a Balrog and surprise him to see if this is having any long term effect but so far she isn't convinced (though as an inquisitive Persian with a scientific background I think her curiosity will get the better of her before long)


Podcasts

My current favourites

When Diplomacy Fails Podcast

which has a single upbeat speaker on a vaguely interesting subject

Pritzker Military Podcast


My perennial favourites

Dan Carlin (both)*

Guardian Football weekly*

MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show*

Best Of the Left*

(*All of the above have gotten so good I save them for when I'm awake)

Serious snooze favourites

Anything from BBC Radio 4 is good to fall asleep to
ESPN FC Soccer show
Note - NPR is even more soporific and sleepy than Radio4 ....somehow I find it easier to fall asleep listening to Americans - maybe because subconsciously I think they are all fictional creations :-)

and  moving into
the class A drugs of sleep inducing podcasts


- Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time
- of which actually I'm a huge fan!
At the tail end of my horror weekend in wintery storm ripped Tangiers I was only saved by Melvyn Bragg and co.
<I'll be brief>
Storms meant the only return to Gibraltar was from a Morrocan container port 50 miles down the North African coast, aboard a half a century old ex-scandinavian ferry (ABBA era decour was past its best) in the heaviest seas I ever want to see. It was like living The Poseidon Adventure with the original interiors from The Golden Shot. Nightmarish, and only a stack of In Our Time on my Ipod got me through it.
I'll type up the words written after the Tangiers trip when I recover - though its two years and counting so don't hold your breath.
IOT is a National Treasure.

and finally from 2011, again part of my Gibraltar coping strategy

I believe I have found the ultimate example of Podcasts for sleep, in the latest and greatest episode of ‘The History Network.’ I’ve mentioned this podcast before as a great combination of an incredibly dull, boring man trying to explain the potentially interesting. If Melvin Bragg’s In Our Time podcast is (usually) a sleeping pill, the History Network is a full course of Rhino tranquilisers.

The latest episode could be the ultimate example of the form. “A History of The Rocket Troop” is a description of how the British army started using large primitive rockets to fire at people in the middle of hectic environments (Battle of Waterloo) long before they were safe or practical to do so. How could that not be interesting? How could anything with ‘Rocket’ in the title be not interesting enough to keep you awake?

It seems impossible, but the sonorous military podcast historian manages to start with just enough detail to stop you thinking about life at 3am, before strangling the subject dead with dull military lists of postings long after you have sailed into the black velvety comfort of sleep. I swear I woke an hour later in a foetal position sucking my thumb.

Final note on classic audio books to sleep to - HP Lovecraft (even the Dreamlands) is not good and Poe is a complete no-no!

Pics are from the much loved Chaosium table top game


Beyond The Wall of Sleep 2

(apparently I covered this before)

The link between bad sleep and Alzheimers makes insomnia a clear and present danger to the human race. Below are the contents of emails I send out to friends who have trouble sleeping - it has worked for me for years and it works for most of them too.


Though it might seem an assumption that regular readers of this blog are strangers to nodding off, my life in one area, sleep, has improved hugely over the last ten years and bearing in mind the horrific news mentioned above I think it's my duty to cover the subject properly for the benefit of others. I have actually blogged about this before - How I Learnt To Sleep

You'll need an iPod, iPhone, or some music audio player with a sleep timer function. Smart music players like the iPod are the tool our parents never had in dealing with insomnia. Steve Jobs must have saved about a year of sleep for me already. Thanks Steve.



Your War On Insomnia
I think I've fallen asleep listening to so many military history podcasts everything now is a military campaign.


  • First off you'll need an iPod, iPhone, or some music audio player with a sleep timer function. Smart music players like the iPod are the main weapons our parents never had in dealing with insomnia. Steve Jobs must have saved about a year of sleep for me already. Thanks Steve

  • Download some interesting Podcasts (see next post for suggestions). You would think music would be the best thing to fall asleep to and many times it is - but if you have woken and are being bothered with thoughts at 3am the mind needs to be occupied with a subject, not given a soundtrack.

  • Get some comfortable good inner ear headphones that you can sleep with and won't leak noise and wake your partner (why does noone invent and market earphones for bad sleepers?) I love Sennheiser ear buds. This is me on the discovery of Sennheiser earbuds while I struggled to sleep in Gib

just slept ten hours two nights running feel AWESOME
I am still waking up at 2 and 5am but I reset Ipod for timer to cut
out after half an hour - I rarely last more than ten mins each time
has to be vaguely interesting audio for me to fall asleep to it.. if
its boring I think about other stuff and stay awake ...how mad is that

  • Buy an eye shade. They look a bit 'fabulous daahling' - (the look is described as 'Zorro' in lifestyle advice classic Get Him To The Greek but they work for me). When it's cold a beanie hat rolled down over the eyes is even better. Even when it is dark enough in your bedroom to not need an eyeshade the gentle pressure on your eyelids will eventually be a sign to your mind that it's time to show the test card and shutdown.

  • Exercise every day without fail no matter how trivial. Suggestion: start with walking up your high street for ten minutes every day at least. Maybe at night about an hour before bed? Take a radio the iPod so it doesn't get boring. Has to be daily routine. Long term.  Find a running shop, get some decent running shoes and slowly jog up and down your neighbourhood before dinner each evening. Again has to be routine but low intensity. 

  • Finally, have sleep munchies (bagels, bananas) ready for 3 am snacks if required. A slightly full stomach gives just that extra boost to the contentment level to push you over the edge and down into that long silky drop into dreamlands.