Beside the Victory

At approximately 18:00 CET, I am 36,000 ft approaching the English coast, flying back to London Gatwick from my birthday weekend away in Barcelona with my wife Michelle. I had decided to postpone listening to ArseBlog Arsecast from Friday (recorded late on Thursday evening) until this particular moment. (A full blog post to follow in due course but I was enjoying a Real Husbands of Hollywood marathon on my Nexus 7) I had almost drifted to sleep to the hum of the Airbus A319 engine outside. Minutes later I heard my name on the mp3 player, while still in a semi conscious state. I had to rewind and listen again! Then I had to interrupt Michelle reading her magazine for her to hear the announcement as well.

The irony of this whole weekend is as follows. Last year I won a competition on the same aforementioned blog for tickets to see Arsenal play Southampton at the Emirates. The same opponents we played this weekend, on my birthday infact but I would be away in Espana. Being able to catch up on the scores later that evening via the BBC Sport app and BBC World news (which annoyingly but understandably no longer displays a clock on screen!)

On Friday afternoon my winning prize – an exclusive cashmere scarf from Savile Rogue arrived and I had to post a photo online. Many famous football faces such as Mancini and Delia Smith have worth their famous football wear.

Savile Rogue

Comedy Genius

Stumbled onto this video while switching over from the football on ITV HD. I know I should be more dedicated and sit through all seven hours of the annual BBC telethon but some years are better than others. The first edition away from Television Centre was always going to be interesting and I am surprised they selected Eltree Studios. (However it worked out well, with Strictly Come Dancing being based in Blackpool this weekend) Although it was poor excuse for international football on the other side (even if it is watching England lose!)

Hats off to Harry Hill for coming up with such a brilliant concept and casting each part perfectly. I have to say I miss his Saturday early evening TV Burp show. Just a shame I got into it rather late. Oh well, only a month to go until his movie is released in cinemas.

Movember Again

Last year when I joined the annual Movember movement for the first time, the decision was at the eleventh hour. I decided to join around 30th October, mere days before the start of November. Roll forward twelve months and this year I am better prepared and taking part with fifteen colleagues. Generation donations to “CA Mouchas” has raised almost £500 before the start of the month, which is pretty good going but to date I am yet to get off the mark. Therefore the begging begins now and where else to start than my personal blog!

You can check out my achievements from last year over on FlickR. I got Michelle to take photos every few days rather than on a daily basis but I ended up looking like a call centre worker from Bangalore (according to my friends Pav and Sippy).

Day 10

You can go and make a donation on my MoBro page. Although the clever people behind the site will already have e-mailed all my donors from last year with a gentle prod to donate to me again this year. I have also downloaded the official app, which I am trying to use to provide regular updates and photos. The aim is to go for the Hulk Hogan look of the early 1990s but we shall see. The more important target is to raise more money than last year, so anything over £225 will be a big difference to this wonderful cause.

Update – my final total was £320 so I beat my total from last year by almost £100! Thanks to everybody who donated to my page, I really appreciate every penny you gave in support of this fantastic cause. However, I have decided to take a break from Movember for 2014 and possibly for 2015 also. I will be donating to friends MoBro attempts but not partaking myself, after two successful consecutive years raising over £540!

Local Radio

Whenever I go to get my haircut at 2 Geezers on Slough High Street they are listening to local radio station Time 106.6. As you can probably imagine, this “All Time Favourites” local radio station has staple songs and by some strange coincidence they are always broadcast while I’m waiting to get my haircut. On Friday, I left work at 5pm sharp to ensure I got into town to get my haircut before they close at 6pm sharp. The last few attempts I have made to get my haircut had all ended in failure and my hair was now just a big mess and now desperately needed to be attended to. I knew I was unlikely to find the time on Saturday.

Perhaps the only time I appreciate commuting to the office by train rather than car as when I worked at Microsoft, I did not have to worry about parking my car and ensuring the ticket would last long enough. I park in the Herschel Car Park behind the High Street and it is just a short minute walk to the barbers. However, I was caught out on Friday 16th September when I got a parking fine for overstaying. Even though I had the change for two hour slot, I only bought an hour ticket. My mistake, I would never do that again but low and behold, a mere month later I was in the same predicament. However as all the lower decks are marked for Monday to Friday only I had to drive up to the sixth level and this was perhaps my saving grace. I had the change for a two hour slot but the machine would not accept five pence pieces. I was stuck. I paid for over an hour but only got an hour ticket (as I was ten pence short). While I waited in the long queue at 2 Geezers I resigned to the fact I was going to be getting another £25 parking fine.

Back to the local radio which played Yah Mo B There by James Ingram and Michael McDonald and 1980s hit Hold On by Wilson Phillips. Only when I go to get my hair trimmed do I go into a time warp of the last last thirty years.

Dancefloor Nostalgia

Back in July my friends planned a trip down to the seaside to visit the O2 Academy in Bournemouth. The dance venue, formerly known as The Opera House was hosting the final night of Slinky before the global dance brand closed its doors for good. While the date for the first weekend in October, seemed like an age away, I put my name down as one hundred percent confirmed. While I would perhaps not have planned for a weekend away, I decided to book a cheap hotel and kill two birds with one stone by also seeing my old school mate Steve and his ten month old son Theo. Extended the social gathering to a full day allowing me to catch up with my mate who I had not seen for over two years. The last time I was in Bournemouth was on Wednesday 15th April 2009, when I drove down to watch the Champions League Quarter Final second leg of Arsenal v Villareal.

How time flies, it was over seven years ago since I was last at this venue, seeing Dutch DJ Tiesto perform in early August 2006. The place has been completely refurbished since my last visit and the upstairs balcony now only accessible to those with a VIP bracelet. Back in my carefree single days, the weekend I recall being mega packed with clubbing in Bournemouth on Friday night and then driving straight up to Leicester for my friend Sachin’s engagement party. That was just the way I rolled back in the day. Driving to all locations when now I would prefer to catch the train. I caught the train down to Bournemouth, using the time to catch up on my podcasts and two episodes of Eastenders on the BBC iPlayer I had pre-downloaded onto my Nexus 7 (2012). How times have changed indeed!

Slinky - The Send Off

A great night had by all. I wish I could say, that I stayed out until I was thrown out of the club at 5am. The reality is that was never going to happen. Being now, such an old timer, I lasted until 2:30am with my friend Paul, when we decided to leave and head back to our respective hotels. I believe the hardcore few, including Kevin stayed until closing time.

The Mother We Share

We live in a connected world. The news story I will see presented by George Alagiah on the 10 o’clock news on BBC One will feature in print media such as The Daily Mail and on the radio in heated debates on BBC Radio Five Live. Therefore we have to be selective on the news we do decide to consume. I have streamlined my podcast diet down to just three main regular slots. The fantastic ArseCast by ArseBlog every Friday during the EPL season. The Consumer Panel featuring multimillionaire Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis (there is an oxymoron in there somewhere!) Finally Let’s Talk About Tech presented by the delectable Chris Warburton. These two weekly podcasts from BBC Radio FiveLive, Thursday lunchtimes and Saturday evening respectively! I still need to get some partizan teach news so listen to The Engadget EuroCast but the broadcast of this is sporadic, usually once a fortnight but weeks can go past with no edition due to the tape recorder having chewed the cassettes. Rather a feeble excuse for a tech journalist website owned by AOL.

In Let’s Talk About Tech they feature new music every few weeks to keep the format fresh and appeal to a wider audience. Remember it is broadcast during prime time on a Saturday night. Last week I listened to the podcast some twelve hours after initial airing in the gym around 11am. I liked the band Chvrches and their slice of 1980s electronic synthesized pop on single The Mother We Share. The song was predicted to chart somewhere inside the Top 40 later that afternoon. I downloaded the song later that evening but it was news later in the week which came to both shock and dishearten.

I missed the bands performance on Jools Holland but some kind soul had uploaded to the segment in full onto the interweb so I was able to download and enjoy the understated but enigmatic performance of their song. While at work I noted an article by lead singer Glaswegian Lauren Mayberry on The Guardian website. People think they can hide behind the cloak of anonymity on the internet. Feel they can defend their position under the law of freedom of speech and expression. However words on the screen have a powerful impact on people in the real world. In particular impressionable teenagers, some of whom have tragically taken their own lives as a direct response of online abuse so called cyber bullying. Something has to be done to change the sentiment that anyone and anything is fair game in the wild west of the world wide web. Perhaps prominent figures, such as lead singers in indie bands speaking out, naming and shaming the offends will be a good place to start.

Becoming Mike Teevee

Friday 27th September will go down in the history of UK television as a bumper day. Perhaps not since Christmas were so many shows starting, returning or saying goodbye on an epic night of television, focused mainly on Channel 4. Late September is always the time that new shows start Stateside and favourites, such as Glee and The Big Bang Theory return for another season.

Unsure why this date was chosen but it was UK premiere of new ABC show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I had anticipated this show for over a year. Since the post credit scene of The Avengers, it was only a matter of time before Joss Whedon returned to his first love – the small small screen. Televisions shows based on movies are rare, the usual route is for a television show to become so popular and successful for it to transition onto the big screen. The level of success for a movie is debatable. Just look at 2010 A-Team or 2011 Sex In The City 2. The Sarah Connor Chronicles was an intelligently written, well paced action series which was an off shoot of the Terminator franchise. At one point it was mooted that it would have a plot line to lead into the Terminator Salvation movie but in the end this did not happen. You can appreciate the difficulty for a director to consider the plot for the standalone movie and not having to consider canon from other medium. It was a shame the show only lasted two series because it deserved much more. The casting was perfect, particularly Lena Headley in the lead role and Summer Glau as a Terminator, Cameron. They were able to move away from ever becoming a Terminator of the week show to a character driven story, showing the lengths a mother will go to to protect her son. Plus there was the interesting sub plot of FBI agent Ellison on the trail of all these incidents and trying to put the pieces together.

The idea of a television show in the Marvel Universe was great and I liked the idea that Iron Man, Thor and friends would not be making a direct appearance. This allows for the development of the core characters of Agent Phil Coulson and his special team. Although I wish Cobie Smulders had an expanded role. The only character we know and love is Agent Coulson. The other new characters we need to warm to. Nevertheless it was good fun, enough nods to the other (unseen) characters and enough going on to make you look forward to next week. However as Michelle said at the end of the show, she hopes it does not become ‘mutant’ of the week like some other shows. There needs to be a cohesive story arch and if there is one man who can pull this off, it is is creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse. Do not take my word for it, check out the reviews over on ShowRatings.tv.

We have stopped watching The X Factor this year. In reality we kind of stopped watching for the past few years, preferring to watch Strictly Come Dancing as our prime time weekend show. The X Factor would always be an afterthought we would watch on delay and fast forward through the majority of the sob stories and focus on the performances. However the quality of the show has declined in recent years. Although I was a casual watcher of the BBC dance show, in married life I have become converted. There was even a time a few years ago when we would record (and religiously watch) sister show It Takes Two weeknight evenings on BBC Two. I have a great deal of respect for these so called celebrities to learn a new skill such as ballroom dancing before an audience of millions and then be judged by the public each Saturday evening.

I have been a big fan of this show, since it premiered way back in 2006. At the time I worked on a helpdesk and it was my manager Nic, whom brought the show to my attention. Insisting we watch the show on premiere night, even though we had been able to watch online via the Channel 4 website on the Monday before the Friday evening broadcast. Do remember, this was a year before the launch of BBC iPlayer, 4oD and other online catchup services. Luck would have it that I would also have the opportunity to see series two recorded at Pinewood Studios. Probably one of my favourite television show recordings to attend and see all the hard work that goes into putting together a thirty minute situation comedy. We had to wait several months before the episode (episode two in series two) was screen. I was able to secure tickets for a series three recording but was unable to get into the studio on the night due to major oversubscription. Standing Room Only, who provide tickets for this and many other game shows and comedies, always release more tickets than they can accommodate. This is to counteract the large proportion of people that are no shows. The show has generally been good over the course the years and I would even stick my neck out and say the last series, screened in 2010 last series was the best. However, perhaps due to the technical nature of the show, it has always had clever moments and flashes rather than constant laughs. I believe because the scenarios have to built up. Like many fans I was hoping for a proper send off with series four but had to make do with a one hour special. My expectations were high but at the end of the show, I felt a little underwhelmed. It was a good send off and as a diehard fan, there were enough in jokes which linked in with the rest of the series. Check out some of the reviews, some include spoilers.

tv addicted

Life Before Shazam

How did we identify songs before the mobile app Shazam? Well you would have to remember a key lyric in the song, ideally the chorus. In most cases you would just have to record those words to memory, rather than write them down as a note in your smartphone. We are talking about the pre-smartphone era, so before the middle part of this decade. I can recall many a time searching for lyrics in Google, hoping the correct song with artist name and song title would appear in the results. Ideally the official music video, which you can then watch on YouTube. In modern times, there is no need to go to such great lengths.

While in H&M in Westfield yesterday afternoon, I heard a song come on the in-store radio system. Instantly I thought the artist was Rihanna, the song had her signature vocal all over the thumping beat. I could even make out what I thought was the title, War Child. I was actually wrong on both counts. I opened up Shazam on my smartphone and identified the song within seconds. It was actually called Wild Child by Australian prodigy Elen Levon. On tagging the song and artist, I quickly share this information with Wunderlist, my To Do List application which records the details under a section called music. Wunderlist has been a revelation for me as a “list” person. Available as an Android app, Windows app and online via the web, I can see my to do list wherever I am. I have a long list of songs I have heard on television, radio or just out and about and need to download.

Over three years ago, in the same store but in a different city, I heard a song but had to wait until I got home to work out who it was by and what is was actually called. Life is so different in this world of instant gratification. I am in my office gym this morning and have listened to the song six times back to back. To be honest, I am glad to finally give my music collection a refresh. My gym playlist has been very stale of late and at time become very repetitive. My podcast diet has been reduced down to mere two weekly podcasts, both from the Beeb. I no longer have the luxury of a two hour commute each day to fill with radio goodness. Listening to Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com on BBC Radio Five Live, while on the treadmill and I try to listen to the Let’s Talk About Tech (the Joy Of Tech was considered too risqué a name for the BBC and although the file name is still referred to by the old moniker) every Monday as that is recorded on a Saturday evening. I tried one of the American gym workout podcasts, GetFitPod last week but just could not get offer some cheesy American DJ, Skip Orem trying sooth me from his warm studio and I’m sweating it out on the rowing machine. I gave up (on the podcast not my workout) after about ten minutes. I did not like his choice of music in any case. Never trust a man with the name Skip.

Shazam can even save the tag, if no internet access is available at that moment in time and identify the song once you are back on the grid. As was the case in point for a song I had tried to identify in HMV a little later on this Saturday afternoon. It was not until later I could identify the song (while identify another song) that the artist was The 1973 – Settle Down.

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