bookmark_borderGig: Post Modern Jukebox

Everytime I listen to the current hits of the day I come away with a catchy tune in my head. Sure it’s auto-tuned, heavily produced, and reliant on a hook rather than things like a melody or a smart lyric but they are catchy nonetheless. And yes, I am big a huge snob about this and no I don’t care.

For me the sign of a good song is one that can embrace change, that can be rendered new by a change in tone, or pace, or instrumentation. Some bands do it to themselves (think Creep by Radiohead, from thrashy distorted guitars to heartfelt acoustic ballad) and some artists grab a handful of such tunes and make a career from twisting and cajoling them into new shapes.

So, to be fair to the popstars of today, it’s safe to say that SOME of their music holds up to that test; when Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox rolls into town and provides a swing/jazz musical makeover to modern pop songs the results are utterly, bewitchingly, fantastic. Check their Youtube channel for some examples.

But how well would those cover versions hold up live? Well, suffice to say that rarely do I remember smiling so much during a gig, and yes there was no small amount of shimmying too.

Covering tracks like Are You Gonna Be My Girl, Seven Nation Army, Creep, No Surprises, Chandelier, Cry Me A River, Shake It Off and more, the performers delivered time and again. With the main compere, who also sings, and four other singers, plus a tap dancer, to entertain us, whilst the voices may change but the style remains true.

And what voices they are, the main singers all delivered whether giving us a jazz hall smokey rendition of Seven Nation Army (quite possibly my favourite of the evening and not JUST for the amazing shimmering dress), serenading us through Cry Me A River, or big banding their way through Shake It Off, you can’t help but smile, boogie and sing along. Ohhh and the clarinet/saxophone player almost brought me to tears when they stepped in front of the mic for a low key rendition of Creep. One voice and a double bass, stunning.

A far cry from the ‘I’m the rockstar, you are the audience’ affairs you see far too often at the Academy, PMJ turned the entire place into a big house party that just so happened to have an amazingly tight band performing that night, ohhh and your friends just so happen to have a fair set of lungs on them and, hey, you know ALL the songs!

This was my first time seeing PMJ perform live, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, having only really seen some of their YouTube videos (worth noting that the performers in the videos were not on stage last night, it’s a revolving cast) but I was blown away by the calibre of every person on stage, and the entire experience is (obviously) a whole lot more involving up close and personal although, admittedly, we were right at the very front.

If you get the chance, this is one jukebox that is well worth dropping a few dimes into.

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • Apple Music’s Archaic Album Categorization→
    Benjamin Mayo sums up one of the most annoying features of Apple Music: the way the service thinks everything is an “album”, making it extremely inconvenient to find what you’re looking for. These artefacts of compact discs show up again when looking at an artist page.
    And this, amongst other reasons, is why I use Spotify.

  • Last blog standing, “last guy dancing”: How Jason Kottke is thinking about at 20
    In 2013, Jason Kottke wrote a prediction for Nieman Lab’s year-end roundup: “The blog is dead, long live the blog.” Kottke was then (and still is) owner of one of the longest continuously running blogs on the web:, founded in 1998. “Sometime in the past few years, the blog died.”
    Pffffttt, he’s only a year or so ahead of me (although his is a ‘true’ weblog, not this ramshackle nonsense)

  • The Breakup Museum
    It’s a simple necklace: a tiny, brown-striped clamshell tied to a black leather cord. The shell was gathered from a beach in Italy, and attached to the cord by means of two holes drilled into the shell with a dental drill.
    It’s always the little things, found one such item myself just this past week. *cries a river*

  • “Some women will shag anything to get anywhere”: Lisa Stansfield on fame, Weinstein and the problem with Jeremy Corbyn
    She was the biggest British female soul star of the Nineties. At 51, she’s back and ready to let loose. Lisa Stansfield likes to do an impression of Lisa Stansfield.
    What a great voice to be heard.

  • A true Olymipic moment
    Something like this happens at every Olympics. Humanity is strong than we give it created for.

  • A single dad walked 11 miles to work every day — until his co-workers found out
    Trenton Lewis’ legs ached from the 11-mile walk he made every morning to get to his 4 a.m. shift. And yet the 21-year-old dutifully did it for seven long months.
    No YOU’VE got something in your eye…

  • My Ready Meal Is None Of Your Fucking Business.
    Tonight, scrolling through Twitter, I came across a frankly audacious message sent from the ‘Bath Conservatives’ account, that had tagged me in.
    Jack Monroe in wonderfully scathing style. They are mighty.

  • Typing Practice
    I didn’t start my journal with the idea of recording my progress toward the ultimate truth. I was nowhere near bombastic enough to think I had anything important to say, even to my future self.
    So many reasons to keep a journal.

  • How to Keep Going
    Click to see larger!
    One to print large and pin up everywhere!

  • How Protein Conquered America
    My bodega is only a little bigger than my studio apartment, and sells no fewer than 10 kinds of Muscle Milk.
    Ahhh protein. My main food source at the moment, apparently.

  • The Women of WakandaNakia is the Real Revolutionary of “Black Panther”
    This story contains spoilers for Marvel’s Black Panther.
    Yes, yes and YES.

  • I have forgotten how to read
    Author of Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in an Age of Constant Connection. Turning, one evening, from my phone to a book, I set myself the task of reading a single chapter in one sitting. Simple. But I couldn’t.
    Wow this sat down HEAVY.

  • The Winter Olympics Feature 2,951 Of The World’s Greatest Athletes, And Also This Woman
    There’s a premise built into the structure of the Olympics that pretty much every single Olympian, even those far down the standings, are elite athletes at the top of their game performing at a level most fans could only dream of.
    This one of these stories at every Olympics. Humanity sometimes is a bit odd.

  • The ‘Poor Jen’ Narrative Fails Every Woman, Everywhere
    Jennifer Aniston and husband Justin Theroux have announced their split after six years together.
    I pains me to admit that this needed pointed out to me. A trope I’ve seen so so often.

  • Hundreds of rough sleepers in Scotland to be offered homes
    At least 600 of Scotland’s most vulnerable rough sleepers are to be provided with homes and the continuing support they need to sustain their tenancies, in the largest commitment of its kind in the UK.
    Proud to be Scottish (and proud to have contributed).

  • Japan’s Stock Market Got You Confused? Try Analyzing Eyebrows
    With Japan’s stock market having slipped away from strategists’ targets set at the start of the year, investors seeking alternative analysis could consider studying eyebrows.
    Because I’m not confused enough about the ‘magic marker’ eyebrows already??

  • Laurie Metcalf Was Hiding in Plain Sight
    A unicorn, a monster, a phoenix, a machine, a heavyweight fighter, an astronaut, a superhero, a thoroughbred, a home-run hitter, a waitress juggling “16 entrees, 42 starters, 16 desserts,” a jazz virtuoso, LeBron James, Magellan, Snuffleupagus.
    Mild Lady Bird spoilers, which you should go and see because Metcalf is mesmerising.

  • From imitation to innovation: How China became a tech superpower
    In late October 2017, when I went to visit Kai-Fu Lee, China’s premiere artificial intelligence (AI)-focused venture capitalist, I entered his office complex from the back side of the building.
    My prediction: The war is coming, ideologies will build on the back of such achievements, they always have. Tech is the new battleground.

  • At Japan’s suicide cliffs, he’s walked more than 600 people back from the edge
    Almost no one jumps on rainy days. They jump when the sun returns and the masses step outside, reminding them of their misery. They jump during financial crises and in the early spring, when Japanese schools open and the pressures of life converge.
    It is always, ALWAYS good to talk. Even a few words can change a life. You have no idea the impact your words may have with others. Don’t be scared to reach out.

bookmark_borderWriting sparks

Struggling with the duvet cover I paused and reminded myself just how good it is to slide between fresh bed linen. A few more wafts of the duvet and several curses later my bed was made. It took a lot of willpower not to just climb in right there and then.

What an odd phrase, how many people have a bed so tall they need to climb into it? Isn’t the English language wonderfully obscure at times. It strikes me, without recourse to research, that this is one of those phrases that comes from ye olde times, when beds were an entirely different proposition.

Ohhh how I adore such things, these quirks of conundrums, paragraphs of prose that puzzle and cause pause to ponder.

I miss writing.

Obviously I have been writing and posting here for quite a while now – this is not the writing I am looking for – but it’s been many months since I sat down and tackled any form of creative writing. Yes, let’s call it that, creative writing.

I have three stories that are languishing in various states of incompleteness. One is about a building. One is about daydreams. One is about beauty. None are beyond first draft (if that), and all are of indeterminate length. They may be novels, novellas, or just short stories, but length is not my concern as the aim isn’t to write a specific type of thing but to finish a thing.

It’s always good to finish a thing so it has been somewhat of a mild annoyance that these stories have been languishing in the doldrums, lost to the flat calm of a sea with no muse.

Writing is still an aspiration and remains a topic I read articles about, garnering advice, tips, and how-tos, in the hope that some (any) of them stick and perhaps will bring the spark that lights my desire to again pick up one of these stories and see where it takes me.

As it turns out, sparks can happen when you least expect them. All that time consuming books and articles on writing, all those hours reading short stories and poems, all the while trying to goad my brain into writing mode.

So it was the other night as I finally slid into my freshly made bed. I’m not sure where it came from, but there it was, a tiny flickering bulb of an idea.

It wasn’t a revelation but it was something. And it was enough of a something that I sat up and let my brain follow it to conclusion, realising it might be just the thing to get me over the bump and allow me to finish one of the stories (the daydream one).

It was such a good idea (I think, it’s hard to be subjective) that I got back up out of bed to jot down some thoughts so I wouldn’t forget them.

I’m not sure where it will lead but if I can get one of these stories to some state of completion then that would be a step forward, although if I’m being honest I have no idea if I’ll ever get to a stage that would render the morass of words I’ve thrown down to be anything that is consumable by others.

But that’s never been the point of why I’ve been writing.

Except, maybe it has? The closer I get to feeling like these stories are finishing the more I wonder how they might be received by a wider public. Is my ego trumping my fear? Perhaps, as it does have the echoes of some of my thoughts behind the years and years I’ve been posting nonsense on this blog; I’ve always stated that this blog is for me but knowing that others read it is definitely a factor in why I continue to publish.

It shouldn’t be, I know, but it is.

Regardless, if the writing bug is descending on me again then I’ll welcome it with open arms. I’ve missed the nagging feeling that it brings, prodding me into action with the promise of beautiful prose and cathartic release.

As I lay back in bed that night, my brain was already whirring away, extrapolating my idea into ever wider directions and themes and plotlines. As I started to drift off to sleep I took myself to my writing place and found I was already there, sitting at an old wooden table in front of window that looks out over a remote wilderness. I type the final words that finish every story that has ever been, push the keyboard away and, rising from my chair I lift the empty coffee cup and walk out of frame.

The End.

bookmark_borderPodcast: The West Wing Weekly

Geek alert: I frickin LOVE The West Wing.

If you’ve never seen the show then this episode by episode ‘following along’ podcast will make each moment richer.

Scrap that, if you’ve never seen the show, drop everything and watching the Pilot episode. If you enjoy that, then subscribe and listen to the first episode of The West Wing Weekly (TWWW) and if you aren’t hooked by then, well, I’m not sure I want to know you.

THE WEST WING WEEKLY is an episode-by-episode discussion of one of television’s most beloved shows, co-hosted by one of its stars, Joshua Malina, along with Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder.

Where TWWW stands apart from other podcasts is in the range of guest stars they have on the show. From the creator/writer Aaron Sorkin, through pretty much every major cast member – Alison Janney, Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe – and other people involved with the show in the background, including Snuffy Walden who composed the theme tune and some other notable guests like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It’s insightful, funny, and a real treat for fans of the show.

Part of the reason it works so well are the hosts, Hrishi brings fan-like dedication, whilst Joshua brings the actor view, both before and during his time on the show. There are also quite a few funny stories of Joshua being a complete wind-up merchant; any of the episodes with Bradford Whitley feature some delicious back-handed compliments from both sides.

I’ve found myself re-watching episodes and with all that insider knowledge and with the presenters views in my head, end up seeing so much more detail and richness in each episode. They frequently talk to members of the production crew as well, writers, directors, producers, camera operators, so there is always something different to learn and new insights to be found.

I simply cannot recommend this enough, and if you weren’t a fan of the show before, then you will be once you start watching along!

I’m not going to link to any episodes as this podcast works best if you watch the TV show in sequence.

However, for those of you who’ve already watched The West Wing before, you can skip to your favourite episodes, the Pilot, In the Shadow of Two Gun, Two Cathedrals etc…

You can subscribe to future episodes using this RSS Link.

bookmark_borderI met a spaceman

Ground control to Major Tom…
Ground control to Major Tom:
Lock your Soyuz hatch and put your helmet on!

I can still remember the first time I heard Space Oddity. I can recall just how otherworldly it sounded to me and while that was largely down to Mr. Bowie (an entirely other being for sure) it sits squarely alongside a similarly titled book that I’d just finished reading which was, in turn, the very reason I had listened to that track in the first place.

I was maybe 12 years old at the time and the idea of space was more Star Wars than 2001 but I was slowly learning about the Apollo program and pages of my encyclopedia were starting to fall open at anything space related. I wouldn’t say it was a phase, it wasn’t like I wanted to be an astronaut or anything but, especially for people who grew up in the 60, 70s and 80s, space was a big deal.

The Space Shuttle was still active, and no matter how many times you see the footage it’s still mind-boggling to imagine, regardless how you try and frame it; as an engineering feat it’s one of the greatest achievements of mankind, the scale of it beyond anything done before; as a spectacle it’s equally mind-boggling, watching something that large move so so quickly.

And these days with the rise of social media, streaming content from the ISS being, it’s even more prevalent and even easier to keep up with. The fascination remains.

Fast forward to last Friday and I, along with a thousand or so others, found ourselves face to face with a spaceman. He goes by the name, and title, of Colonel Chris Hadfield, and there he was, an actual real life astronaut.

I’ve seen him interviewed and watched his YouTube videos that he recorded in space but wasn’t really sure what to expect. On stage were two chairs, two glasses of water, so I presumed it would be interview style. I was wrong, wonderfully wrong. Instead he spent about 1hr 45mins talking about, well, everything.

From his earliest days watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon, through all the decisions he made, all the things he decided to learn, he reaffirmed one notion; he wasn’t born an astronaut. He learned new things he thought would be useful, he looked at where he wanted to go and made decisions based on that desire, the desire to one day make it into space.

He also talked about the impact seeing the world from space and how clear it is that this is one world, that borders are invisible up there. He talked about the amazing and inspiring people he has worked with, all different genders, races, and religions. He talked about what happens when things go wrong in space (answer, you don’t panic because you’ve practised for when things go wrong).

He also made us laugh. Describing an incident he had during a spacewalk, when he was rendered temporarily blind, we all laughed aloud when he told us he was venting the air from his helmet out into space. I know, it doesn’t sound funny, maybe it’s the way he told it…

What struck me most, especially considering the number of young adults and children in the room, was his constant reaffirmation of ‘you can do whatever you want’. His positivity and belief that humankind is better together shone through. Even though they faced great danger, he said, it was important to remember that danger does not equal fear, you only fear the thing you do not know or have not prepared for, and that fear is easily overcome by learning and practising.

Yet it was all hyperbole. At one point he informed us that the odds of ‘something bad going wrong’ on his first flight aboard the Space Shuttle was 1 in 38. A quick check and it turned out that there were about 38 seats in each row of the seating. Would we have turned up that evening knowing that one person in each row would die?

Yet despite all the grandeur of space, and all of his amazing achievements, Colonel Chris Hadfield remained wonderfully self-effacing, full of empathy for his fellow humans, witty, and boy does he have a splendid moustache. His talk was uplifting, motivational, moving, revealing, and entertaining. He held our attention easily for the entire time, peppering his talk with photos and video clips and, of course, he closed by talking about that song, a version of which he recorded in space.

At the very end, he picked up a guitar and to a backdrop of a video showing shots of the world whizzing by underneath the ISS, he strummed and sang.

I can still remember the first time I heard Space Oddity and 30 years later for just the briefest of moments, on a dreich Friday evening in Glasgow, I was there. I was Major Tom.

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • In Conversation: Quincy Jones
    In both music and manner, Quincy Jones has always registered — from afar, anyway — as smooth, sophisticated, and impeccably well-connected. (That’s what earning 28 Grammy awards and co-producing Michael Jackson’s biggest-selling albums will do.
    Quite the interview this, to say he’s not shy about revealing secrets is… well just go read it.

  • String Theory Says We Have At Least 10 Dimensions, But That’s Not The Weirdest Thing About It
    Okay, well, maybe string theory isn’t all that simple. For one thing, it requires the universe to have at least 10 dimensions to work (and some versions require as many as 26).
    You know, some of us struggling in just one of these dimension things. Calm down, science, calm down.

  • Deadpool 2: is this the most annoying marketing campaign ever?
    At this stage, it feels like Deadpool 2 has been coming for several eons.
    LOVED Deadpool but yeah, the sequel already had a lot to live up to but already feels over-hyped?

  • My secret battle.
    It was 28th October, a few short weeks ago. It was about 11:10 on a Saturday afternoon and in twenty minutes time we were going live for Saturday lunchtime’s game on Sky Sports between Manchester United and Tottenham.
    Many people struggle, and the more voices that talk about this stuff the better.

  • What is happiness made of?
    An infographic for you.
  • 6 Artists on Their Favourite Abba Songs
    Who knows what strange formula goes into the perfect pop song. Some strange admixture of melancholy, melody, joy, lust and a glorious middle eight, maybe? But something else, too, something far more elusive that structure and theme.
    Who doesn’t like Abba! (note: if you don’t like Abba don’t darken my door again!)

  • Oxford Comma Dispute Is Settled as Maine Drivers Get $5 Million
    Ending a case that electrified punctuation pedants, grammar goons and comma connoisseurs, Oakhurst Dairy settled an overtime dispute with its drivers that hinged entirely on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law.
    This is hilarious, although the solution looks so ugly (but is grammatically correct, I checked with a lawyer!)

  • Satire only makes Jacob Rees-Mogg stronger
    Take heed, the metropolitan liberal elite! Cower, all you Conservative moderates!! Weep, environmentalists, and prepare your online petitions!!! Jacob Rees-Mogg is upon you, a black darkness over the shire, a shade upon your allotments, a frozen shadow upon all your back garden gazebos.
    We need more direct criticism of people like him (see also Trump, stop laughing at him, starting taking him down!)

  • 15 ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use in daily life
    Plastic pollution is an issue many of us are now highly aware of, thanks to David Attenborough’s recent series Blue Planet II shining a light on the staggering scale of harm plastic waste has on the environment. “A truck load of plastic waste enters our oceans every minute.”
    A handy list and definitely something I’ve been much more conscious of since said TV series.

  • The Sound of Ice: Nordic skating on thin black ice sounds like lasers
    This small lake outside Stockholm, Sweden, emits otherworldly sounds as Mårten Ajne skates over its precariously thin, black ice. “Wild ice skating,” or “Nordic skating,” is both an art and a science.
    Fascinatingly eerie.

  • He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.
    In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm.
    Right. That’s it. Turn off the internet already!

  • Nana’s Famous Pancake Recipe
    Today is without doubt one of my favourite days of the year – pancake day! I  love pancakes… I am not talking crepes, which are lovely in their own right, but a Scottish pancake which is a thing of beauty.
    Shared because Scottish pancakes are the best pancakes (aka drop scones don’t ya know).

  • Olympic biathletes learn to shoot between heartbeats
    U.S. biathlon Olympian Jeremy Teela at the Vancouver 2010 Games. Back in 1767, Norwegian border patrol troops had far too much time on their hands. So they decided to put their two best skills —firing a gun and cross country skiing—to good use.
    Lunacy! After that much cardio the ‘between heartbeats’ for me is about an hour after I stop for a lie down.

  • Drones that dodge obstacles without guidance can pursue you like paparazzi
    Artificially intelligent drones are coming—and they’re going to shoot some really sick snowboarding videos along the way.
    Once again my love of tech (there is some cool stuff happening to make this work) and my desire for the world to be a better place (can I use this to stalk someone?) collide.

  • New dog-like robot from Boston Dynamics can open doors – video
    Ground-breaking robotics engineering and design company Boston Dynamics have released footage of the SpotMini, a dog-like robot that can open doors in the most unsettling manner possible.
    No doubt you’ve all seen this. Combine with the link above. Smart machines that can track you, and then open the door you closed to keep them out. All hail Skynet.

  • Ambitious Women Shouldn’t Afraid Of The Word ‘Bitch’. Or The Term ‘Ambitchous’
    I was talking to a friend about a big step-up she was facing at work and she suddenly said, “I know I need to do this. But I’m hesitating because I am scared people will call me a bitch.” My reply was harsh: “They might call you a bitch. It doesn’t mean you are one.”
    An aside: what percentage of women who are called a ‘bitch’ are called that by other women? (anecdotal evidence from my very very small pool suggests it’s high?)

  • Photographer Kristina Makeeva Captures the Otherworldly, Frozen Beauty of the Earth’s Oldest & Deepest Lake
    If you’re a nature lover, Siberia is where you need to be.  This is home to Lake Baikal, the oldest lake in existence and it is famous for the depth and large size of it that was made famous by the Great Siberian March by the Russian army in 1920.
    More frozen water that is utterly utterly beautiful.

  • No, opposites do not attract
    Everyone seems to agree that opposites attract. Young and old people, happy and distressed couples, single folks and married partners – all apparently buy the classic adage about love. Relationship experts have written books based on this assumption.
    Great, so I have to find someone who is the same as me? Awesome… /sarcasm

  • An Oral History of The Wire’s Unforgettable 5-Minute ‘F*ck’ Scene
    One of the greatest moments in TV and, as the article suggests, one that cemented by love of The Wire.

  • The United States of Guns
    Like many of you, I read the news of a single person killing at least 17 people in Parkland, Florida today.
    I don’t even know what else to say.

  • The publishing company that’s only publishing female authors in 2018
    When author Kamila Shamsie challenged the book industry to publish only women in 2018 to help address a gender imbalance in literature, just one publisher took up the challenge – the Sheffield-based company And Other Stories.
    For all you book club attendees out there.

  • Snapping Into Focus: Photography As Mindful Practice
    The illiterate of the future will be ignorant of the pen and the camera alike. —László Moholy-Nagy, 1934 Photography is a powerful form of visual expression, available to everyone. Most people have cameras and take pictures—lots of them.
    I never thought about my random ‘stop and snap’ desire as anything other than curiosity.

  • Google turns on default adblocker within Chrome
    Google will start automatically blocking intrusive ads within its Chrome browser for desktop and Android from Thursday 15 February.
    This is good. So royally fed up of my actions being hijacked.

  • In Her Own Words: Lena Dunham on Her Decision to Have a Hysterectomy at 31
    “Hmm, your blood pressure is low. We’ll check that again in half an hour. Is there any chance you could be pregnant? Wait, of course not; you just had a hysterectomy!”
    There are comments about the fact she is white and has money, where many still struggle, but it’s a story worth sharing.

  • What Color Is a Tennis Ball?
    It seemed like an easy question. The query came from a Twitter poll I spotted on my news feed last week, from user @cgpgrey. “Please help resolve a marital dispute,” @cgpgrey wrote. “You would describe the color of a tennis ball as:” green, yellow, or other.
    Oh dear god.

  • Hot on Instagram – but is it art?
    Video: Hot on Instagram – but is it art? Some museums are incorporating cameras in their exhibits for visitors to get the perfect picture.
    Yes it is. Next question?

  • This woman trolls trolls with cakes
    Kat Thek’s Brooklyn apartment looks like it came right out of a Wes Anderson movie. A pink flamingo and a golden skull sit on tables; vintage posters and bags of spices from all around the world hang on colorful walls.