Tuesday, 30 December 2008

December Sunset

The year 2008 is at it's sunset, so it seems apt to post a photograph I took yesterday of a December sun setting over the Hampshire countryside.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas Wrapping

I never saw myself as a rapper. Slim Siany? No, not me, I'd never get the hang of such foul language in public (my mother might be watching). But I quite like wrapping gifts. Although admittedly when you have 3984763984765 begillion to wrap, it is tedious and an annoying chore.

This weekend I did a Christmas present wrapping service for donations to Cancer Research Wales. It was good fun actually, and even better to think of money being raised for a good cause. We were set up in a shopping arcade in Cardiff City Centre, and were quite busy, mostly with guys (sorry) dumping a load of gifts and looking as stressed as a size 6 pair of jeans being squidged onto Kerry Katona.

It was actually quite random to see how much people donate too. I was astounded by the generosity of many, I mean seriously taken-aback. And then (and I know you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth but) disappointed with others. Having said that, it ALL counts, no matter how big or small, and as I said it restores your faith in humanity when most are so generous with what they give.

I also now appreciate even more the wonders of selotape. What an invention. Where would we be without it?

Cancer Research Wales

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Homemade Mince Pies

Forget all those woeful sighs,
Feast on some nice mince pies!
Maybe pour a glass of wine,
Unleash it onto, your waistline.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Music Picks of 2008

An end of year list, because I am a musical nerd and enjoy compiling these kinds of delights. So nah. Anyway, this list is for the best new musical albums I have heard in 2008. They're not in any particular order, because that's too difficult again.
It's been an odd year for me, as I haven't bought as many records as I normally do, and thus haven't listened to some albums I would have liked to have got my ears wrapped around.

Martha Wainwright - I Know You're Married...
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules & Love Affair
Lindstrom - Where You Go I Go Too
Devon Sproule - Keep Your Silver Shined
REM – Accelerate
NEON NEON – Stainless Style
Spiritualized - Songs in A&E
No Age - Nouns
Portishead - Third
Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing
Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

I've probably listened the most to Martha Wainwright's album, due to my inherent obsession with all things Wainwright connected. It's an excellent record, as ever very much recommended. It was also great to see REM back to form with Accelerate, their best album since the criminally underrated New Adventures on Hi-Fi. And it was good to see Portishead return to the scene with Third. Their last album was 11 years ago, incredible. And they didn't disappoint with this new record. Hoorar.

Vampire Weekend were new to me, but their album is ace, and one of the few acts that gets regular airplay on Radio 1 that I actually enjoy. It's pop-up beat-rock-ivy-league-without being overly quirky into naffness or even worse, pretension. Actually, Fleet Foxes' folk-haunting-rock have also been given a bit of Radio 1 play too...had better watch that. Super band though.
A new discovery was also the folksy Devon Sproule, who was at the Cambridge Folk Festival this year. And she rockz. (On an entirely unrelated note, I also think her name is rather cool). Speaking of names, Fuck Buttons is possibly my new favourite name for a band ever. The best electronica album I heard was probably Lindstrom, well, it's one of the most listened to. While Hercules & Love Affair are still ridiculously far too unknown in the UK.

I enjoyed the new Sigur Ros album, but it does kind of merge into their last record somewhat. But I've just plonked (technical term) them into the list on reflection. Their film from 2007 Heima, was amazing though and definitely worth watching for not only some fantastic live performances but for some quite breathtaking cinemaphotography of Iceland.

I beg to the musical Gods that 2009 will bring a brand new Kate Bush album.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Walking on Tightropes

Sometimes I feel I am pretty much walking a tightrope. Every day. There's a Rufus Wainwright song, Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk where Rufus sings about lessons for walking on tightropes. He's not wrong.

And then today, I actually see someone walking a tightrope. For real. And playing the violin (quite nicely) at the same time. In fairness, this is one impressive talent. This man needs fame and fortune from Britain's Got Talent. Move aside Paul Potts, a singing embryo and a Hitler impersonator playing the spoons whilst painting a replica of the Sisteenth Chapel ceiling.

Tightrope walking brings me nicely onto my favourite film of 2008 (and I seriously doubt I will see a film from now until the 31st of December that will better it). It was Man On Wire, the documentary about the wonderfully eccentric, yet genius Frenchman Philippe Petit, who decided to tightrope walk between the tops of the WTC Twin Towers in 1974. It's a fantastic film, filled with moments of poignancy, suspence, disbelief, wonderment and humour. Petit is part insane, but mostly part genius. He is a charming, exuberant character, who adores and embraces the slightly bizarre in life with such gusto, he makes you glad to be alive just watching him. And this passion he bursts with for wire walking, is so evident, you begin to feel it too.

Director James Marsh does such a great job with this film. Interspersed with interview clips of the main people involved, are footage and clips from Petit's exploits in the 1970s, along with little reconstructions. It all gels marvelously. There's also some insightful footage of the construction of the towers, which make you appreciate the creation of such magnificent structures. And where Marsh possibly achieves the most is the fact the fate of the Twin Towers is never mentioned. We all know what happened. There is a strong poignancy there, it is all dealt with dignity. But the subtlety is perfect. The film is a testament to the greatness of the city itself.

Philippe Petit is not subtle however. And neither was his achievement. It's an incredible story, and an incredible film. What he did was almost a piece of art work, even if it did result in his arrest. We're all walking tightropes sometimes, but Petit's lesson is to embrace life and follow what you have to do.

See the trailer for Man On Wire here.

Monday, 8 December 2008


Jingle Bells, Santa, Frankincense & Myrr,
Yes it's *that* special time of year,
Christmas, Christmas, it's always the same,
Shopping frenzy, busy, insane.
Peace on earth? There's not much merry,
With a scrum to buy the last cranberry.
Panic buy, as if the world will end- But!
It's only one day the shops are shut.
Homes covered in lights to see,
Tinsel plastered over the tree,
A smorgasbord of endless plastic,
It all looks rather drastic.
And seeing the cake that's over iced,
What's this to do with Christ?
Running around, and trying to jape,
Decorations ruined, from years of selotape.
Packet puddings, it's a bit of a cheat,
Mountain of food that no one will eat.
It's so great, have some wine,
Everyone's having the best time.
Around TV festive specials we group,
Or Shakin' Stevens on a continuous loop.
Once December 25th is over, forget details,
It's off to the shops and scrums, to 'enjoy' the sales.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Buddy Holly lives in Cardiff

Today's random crappy graffiti. And apparently Buddy Holly is alive and well and living in Cardiff. Nice. Better tell Peggy Sue.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Problem Parents

Smallest book in the world: "All the Times My Dad Didn't Lose His Rag"

Over the dinner table Sunday night at my parents' house, Dad pipes up with: "Oh you remember that time I argued with that bloke."
Actually Dad, no I don't....there are far too many times to sift through over the years to remember individual occasions...

Mind, nothing was better than his gem of a quote later on. "The Sound of Music...I expect those kids are all grown up now."

No Dad. Kids in films remain the same age forever more. "I know kids in films stay the same age forever..." he replied to much laughter. Stop digging dad! (But don't change. Ever. I'd miss the comedy).