Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More free music coming up - and a Radio Programme you should listen to

Oh that's not one of my better blog post titles is it?  Still, never mind...

On occasion the modern world is quite good, actually - I recorded and mixed a new song yesterday (well, Neil the recording man and me anyway), uploaded it to the BBC website thingie ('the Uploader') - and it's going to be broadcast on on t'BBC on Saturday evening (27th July) - So it'll have gone from a lyric sheet and some chords in my head to public broadcast in 5 days. Not a record (no, it's an MP3!) but well. y'know...pretty good.

So...a big thumbs up to the Beeb. It's nearly 7 minutes long (though I doubt they'll be able to play all of it) and is my First World War song - 9 verses sung from the perspective of a mother. I even did a bit of reading before writing it...It's a bit depressing and has a political message and is a bit picky and folky music-wise so a bit of a new thing for me.

So...even though 'local music' is not the same as 'good music' (though they do pick the best of course!) let's have a cheer for Alan Raw and the BBC Radio Leeds Introducing thang - and not just because they're playing me...Or maybe a little bit because they're playing me...

Also...I'll be giving away the song on Bandcamp very soon (see the 'shop' button which should take you there where you should be able to download it for free in a few days - that's not the download time, that's an idea as to when it might be available).  I could put it on here but to be honest it's easier to re-direct you to bandcamp.  So there.

It's called 'The Fields' by the way...Catchy title next time hopefully...

Back on board!

Deary me...Have been locked out of the old blog for a few days due to some jiggery pokery that Google keep saying about having 'conflicting accounts' - looks like a ruse to get people to open a Gmail account to me.  But what a load of old pony really...Perhaps there really are technical reasons but they could make it easier...But I'm back in by the looks of it. 

Hurray for me and a thumbs down for Google for making me read really boring weasily stuff that I didn't understand - there was no 'just let me into my Blog dammit!' button to hit...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fun World Cup game!

Hey folks...I just tried this - the Doritos 'Score and Win' game aka the Doritos Penalty Shootout.

Here's how it works...Now don't forget the code on the packet - the one that's not printed correctly?  OK, can't use that packet, let's try the other one...

Here we go...this'll be fun.  Enter your code number in the box.  Wonder why nothing has happened.  Try it again.  And again.  Squint at packet to check you have this right.  Think of giving up.  Take ages to read the 'what's this' advice associated with the code number box.  So...take the middle number in the 'best before panel.  Take the letter off the end of that number.  Go to the next line and take just the first four digits of the number there - don't forget to ignore the colon...Add these 4 digits to the end of the first number (see above).  That's your code.  Unless your packet is one of those printed in another format in which case scroll through by clicking the arrow to tell you how to decipher your alternative code.  Now, add your email address twice, tick the 'terms and conditions' box and sign up for exciting news about Doritos. 

Now, to prove you're a person, try to read the unfathomable jumble in the box that might be letters.  Enter something random into the box hoping to get another set of letters that might re readable this time.  Try this around a dozen times until a jumble comes up that you can half read - if you're lucky you might be right.  You can then play 'the game' by dragging a football across your computer screen.  1 in 5 chance of winning a free pack, 1 in 7 chance of winning a tenner and 1 in 12 chance of winning £100.  That'll be 1 in 420 chance of winning £100 then I think, not 1 in 12.

Then, travel to Doritos head office.  Ask to be directed to their marketing department.  Ask for the person responsible for the 'score and win' promotion.  Bend them over their desk and insert packet of Doritos up their backside.  Then ask for their email address so you can hassle them again in future.  Tell them their 'game' is rubbish and that England have not been involved in any penalty shootouts in this world cup.  Tell them that any world cup themed adverts are counter-productive. 

Go and buy some Tescos 'everyday value' tortilla chips.  Note the differences in quantity and price compared to Doritos.  

Moral of this story 1: Don't ignore the colon.  Moral of this story 2:  Adding 4 digits should do it...

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Longest Day

It's the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  I wrote a song about D-Day a while back.  It's not been released.  But It's now up on Bandcamp for you to download for free - http://johnparkes.bandcamp.com/

Here's a long explanation about the song which possibly takes itself a bit seriously...

But please download the song, have a think maybe and pass it on or whatever...You can pay something if you like but there's no need... 

This is my song about D-Day, June 6th 1944. I recorded it a few years back. It wasn’t intended as a song to mark an anniversary or anything and it doesn’t really fit with my other songs, and partly for that reason it hasn’t been released. I have mixed feelings about the military and patriotism and heroism and war and commemoration.

Very few people examine lyrics for meaning (not my lyrics anyway!) but I’d like to mention a few things about it anyway.

As many will know the title comes from the film ‘The Longest Day’ – all star cast and all that telling the story of D-Day. From what I’ve read subsequently it’s fairly accurate though clearly selective in what it portrays. So, that’s the title.

There are a couple of Churchill quotes in there – you might notice the ‘sunlit uplands’ and the ‘new dark age’. I know a lot of people who broadly hold a lot of the same views I do aren’t big Churchill fans – they point to the General Strike and his views on Ghandi and India and, well, lots of other stuff. I may agree, but he was very human and funny and emotional too – and most importantly he had Hitler and the Nazis ‘taped’ to use an old fashioned term. And some of his speeches still bring me out in goose bumps when I hear them. So I’m happy to quote him.

When I first came up with this song it was more specifically intended to be written as if it were the ‘voice’ of a contemporary person or participant. I dropped the idea really, probably because it would have been too difficult - but that’s why the phrases ‘this Nazi crew’ and the ‘patriotic types’ are in there – they’re old fashioned and meant to be. On the other hand the ‘piss and fear’ and calling out for mothers is more a modern view I think. A reminder that war is not glorious anyway. I hate that phrase ‘the glorious dead’ as there’s nothing at all glorious about being killed in war in my view.

The ‘eyes of blue’ are future generations of course – me for one. I was told that my dad was wounded in the D-Day landings but I later found out that wasn’t true (he was actually wounded in the raid on Dieppe in 1942). I don’t actually know if he was there, but I do know he was involved in several amphibious landings and when asked what he did in the war he said he was a radio operator on landing craft. He died in around 1976 when I wasn’t very old so I never got the chance to ask.

When I added the ‘eyes of brown’ I was thinking of Jewish people. This is a bit of an anomaly really, as at the time I don’t think many of the invasion forces were aware of the Holocaust. There’s a bit of a myth grown up that WW2 was a straightforward fight by the good guys against the perpetrators of the Holocaust which isn’t true – or at least is much more complicated. If you want an indictment of Winston Churchill by the way, I read his 6 volume History of the Second World War and I think I’m right in saying it’s not mentioned once. He mentions Jews in a faintly patronising way (as he does Greeks and Indians I think) just once or twice. I didn’t spot any outright racism though (even from a modern point of view) – but no mention of the Holocaust.

Anyway, going off on a tangent here – and I need to remind myself that it is just a song and doesn’t support that much analysis.

Moving on...I’m still not 100% sure about the ‘when England’s right’ line and ‘salute your name’ but in this case I reckon that patriotism is defensible at least – so it stayed. ‘The Allies’ wouldn’t have worked as an alternative lyric by the way but it’s worth remembering the men from New Jersey or Idaho or wherever - and from right across the world that died liberating countries thousands of miles from home.

One final thing to say about this song. The last verse doesn’t really work very well I’m afraid. This was my attempt to finish the song by bringing things up to date – a reminder that there are still Nazis about. The BNP must have been ‘on the rise’ when I wrote this. I was sort of echoing (maybe consciously I’m not sure) Woody Allen. There’s a scene in one of his films where one of his Liberal friends is talking about how the Nazis were given what for in an article in the New York Times - Woody suggests that going down to meet the Nazis with a baseball bat would be more effective. I applaud the sentiment at least.

This reminds me that I was threatened with arrest in Leeds a few years ago against the background of a Nazi demonstration. Nick Griffin had been arrested for something or other and was on trial at Leeds Crown Court. I didn’t know this and stumbled upon it when I came out of my work for a sandwich. One of the apparently rival right wing groups that were there had their own flag. This is worth mentioning – the flags were bright red with a white circle in the middle. In the circle was a black cross like affair. Didn’t half remind me of something. And I think they still objected to being called Nazis.

Anyway, one of them had a megaphone and was going on about how millions had died defending free speech (I think Mr G was up on a charge of inciting racial hatred or something). I overheard this and got a bit cross. I shouted ‘from the Nazis’ to point out the obvious fact that the war was well, generally in favour of free speech and that millions had indeed died defending free speech – from the Nazis. Before I knew it a big and angry looking policeman came barrelling towards me with three of his mates just behind nearly knocking me over and telling me I’d better shut up or he’d arrest me. These days I like to think I’d tell him to calm down and point out that if it were OK for Nazis to shout down a megaphone it was OK for me to shout without one. It must have made a bit of a ridiculous sight as I remember I had a sandwich in a bag in one hand and a vanilla slice in a bag in the other. I sort of shrugged and walked off I think.

Anyway, the point is that once in a while you get Nazis on the street who need to be confronted on the street. When I first came to Leeds I was attacked by Nazis in my first few days for wearing an anti racism badge. That wouldn’t happen these days and I genuinely think that racism of that kind is receding into history, and since I wrote the song the prospect of Nazis on the street seems more remote. But it didn’t at the time is the point. And best not to be complacent, eh?

So this song is my acknowledgement of D-Day. It maybe makes me seem a bit more supportive of war and the military than I really am. But the D-Day invasion was certainly one way of destroying Nazism, whatever the arguments might be about empire and imperialism and ruling classes and the rest.

The picture I’ve used to illustrate the song is an old picture of two women in my life. My dad never met them. They both have blue eyes. Though brown might have been better!

lyrics:

Longest Day

Here, on the longest day of the year
Dawn is breaking from above the waves
But we are sure why we’re here

I’m here for you – your eyes of blue
Unborn, un-named
Free just the same

Here, on the greatest day of the year
Fight your way up to the sunlit uplands
Against the new dark age

We hit the ground - for her eyes of brown
We get back up
For a future love

Not just the patriotic types
But everybody came
And just for once when England’s right
We can salute your name

Here, the shortened lives and the tears
The teenage boys cry out for their mothers
In shit and sweat and piss and fear

‘Cos talking won’t do
Against this Nazi crew
A fight for peace and truth
Coming to a street near you

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

David Crosby - Wow!


It’s so good to have been around music for years and years and to still hear something so absolutely stunningly good that you want to listen to it over and over again.  Years ago I remember buying ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ by the Jam and playing it maybe 20 times in row.  It was so good I just couldn’t get enough of it.  Similar thing happened with ‘Bringing it all Back Home’ and ‘Hunky Dory’ – records so good (for large parts anyway) that you wonder how it’s possible.  More recently big sections of White Bread Black Beer by Scritti Politti and Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes did the same to me.  Today’s is a song - ‘If She Called’ from David Crosby’s new album 'Croz'.  It’s just him and one guitar so far as I can tell too.  It’s just stunningly good – I’m not going to try to describe it – just go and have a listen. You should probably buy the album too.
 
It's undeniable that most songwriters decline over time.  Some almost buck the trend (Neil Young springs to mind) but really, that's just what happens.  I'm still hoping that Paul McCartney will come up with a couple more absolutely brilliant songs before he retires - but David Crosby is over 70 and this song really is as good as anything he's ever done - vaguely reminds me of 'Everybody's Been Burned' in approach.  Go and listen to it now!  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lawnmower delivery update

I forgot to mention – I ordered the lawnmower previously referred to online as the shop (I’ll call it shop and not ‘store’ thank you) didn’t have any of the most suitable model in stock - except on display of course.  This is the good old fashioned routine I’m used to...But order online by 6pm and they guarantee delivery the next day.  I raced home from the shop and got the order in at 5.48 on the Wednesday afternoon.  By 7pm on Thursday the thing hadn’t arrived so I called their customer helpline (which was actually still open) to find out what had happened.  I was told that really I needed to have ordered it a couple of hours earlier for next day delivery as it takes a while for them to process the order. 

So...if you’re ordering from B&Q just nip over to wherever they’re based and find out how much before the 6pm cut-off point is the real life cut-off point that's not the advertised cut-off point.  Or stay in all day the day after the one they say they’re going to deliver on...
 
I would make some quip suggesting violent retribution but the police do their policing via the internet now and their sense of proportion was taken away in government cuts...So I won’t.

Making do with one lawnmower

Sometimes I love the stupidity of online...For example...I just bought a lawnmower online (I know, rock and roll!) – the website I’ve just bought the lawnmower from then says ‘you may also want...’ – and shows me a list of suggestions for things I might also want to go with my new lawnmower.  This consists of a string of pictures of, guess what? – Lawnmowers!

Now I don’t know about you, and call me crazy if you like, but I’d suggest that if you’re in the business of selling lawnmowers via your website a really bad time to try to sell someone a lawnmower is 10 seconds after they’ve just bought a lawnmower from your website.

And now I’m being pursued by lawnmowers.  I can’t visit a website without banners and side thingies and pop ups with adverts for lawnmowers.  I guess there may be things that having bought one customers are desperate to immediately buy another one – but lawnmowers?
 
I’m going to ignore being stalked by lawnmowers.  I’m going to follow some of the other adverts – hey look! -  Here they have ‘championship football results at great prices’! And ‘still looking for can I paint on plasterboard?’  – I guess they have software that doesn’t work properly – the clever young pups of marketing.

While I’m wooing you with sexy lawnmower talk – the lawnmower I bought cost £68.  The extended protection guarantee’ costs £2.99 a month for 10 months or £19.90 a year...You work it out...

Meanwhile here’s the latest tempting offer just through from B&Q in the wake of my lawnmower purchase from B&Q (though it could be from Flymo in the wake of me having just bought a Flymo) – If I sign up to the Flymo Gardening Club e-newsletter for free I can be entered into a prize draw to win a fantastic Flymo UltraGlide!  I rather assume this is a lawnmower.  A bit like the one I just bought...

 
Yes, I just bought a lawnmower.  But just the one – for now...

Laugh? I nearly drowned! - An urgent message from the safety elf

I have an urgent update from the world of instructions...this is the best one since the one about not letting burglars in through the cat-flap...This one is from the instructions for some Slazenger swimming goggles. 

The first item in the “GB: Fitting Instruction” is a WARNING – “use only under competent supervision”...well, OK, I guess that means no-one can use them to swim unsupervised - but the second part of the first sentence on the instruction leaflet says “WILL NOT PROTECT AGAINST DROWNING”

So...There you have it.  All you people who breath through your eyes should really be careful and I repeat just to make the warning crystal clear – that WEARING SWIMMING GOGGLES WILL NOT PROTECT YOU FROM DROWNING!  Have you got that people?

I’m going to have to contact Slazenger I guess – will my trunks protect me against drowning?  Or flippers perhaps?  At my local pool people have been wearing goggles on their eyes and breathing through their noses - the fools!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Designer frames?

I've just ordered some new glasses.  As in specs.  I have a couple of random thoughts.  The first is when did it become such a money making racket?  Sure, nowadays I have complicated lenses and whatnot but when did the inevitable response to the question 'can I have some new glasses please?' become 'certainly sir, that'll be four hundred and fifty pounds'?

The other one is how do they invent the frames that are not 'designer frames'?  Do these frames not have a designer?  Do they have one shed containing Giorgio Armani and Kok Wank sitting down with sketch books and Mac books and another shed with half a dozen monkeys with some bits of wire and string throwing frames together for plebs? 

I think what they mean is that the cheaper frames have been designed by a designer that you've not heard of.  Mind you. I haven't heard of most of the designers.  Some were apprently designed by the Police for a start.  Whether this was Sting and co or your local Community Support Officer wasn't clear.

But the main cost is still the lenses - silver, gold or platinum sir?  I'd like the plutonium lenses please!  As advertised by the silver haired couple with perfect teeth.  Or could I have the magnesium ones?  And a match. 

Trouble is I like to see and I don't want to look really stupid (a bit stupid is fine!) so they've got me.  And my money... 

System's down mate!

Not that you'll remember but I posted a while back about a shopping trip to the local Co-op to buy a loaf of bread when they had a power cut to the till.  They had bread, I had money, we both knew the price but they apparently didn't have enough electricity in the right place to actually sell me anything.

Well...same happened at my local post office recently.  To be fair I have 2 local post offices.  The nearer one is a bit useless and they don't seem to know how to do anything very post-officey.  The slightly further away one is really good and they know what they're doing.  They might have had the gumption to improvise and to have avoided what I'm about to relate...

But...on this occasion I went to the nearest post office.  There was a hand-written sign on the counter window saying 'system down'.  There was a man fiddling with a magazine at the counter (might have been the Puzzler or something similar).  I approached and he pointed at the sign and shouted 'system's down'!  I explained that I just wanted some second class large letter stamps and he said 'sorry mate, the system's down'.  So it seemed the system was, er, down.  I suggested that maybe he could sell me some stamps anyway.  I knew he had stamps and I assured him I had money and I said he surely must have something that told him how much stamps were.  Absolutely no bloody use at all.  There was no way apparently that he could take some stamps out of the book he had in front of him and take my money and give me the stamps I wanted given the fact that the 'system' was 'down'!  He said I could buy some ordinary stamps from the other counter (the grocery counter) where apparently the system was less down or it's down or upness was less crucial to the process of selling me stamps.  But of course they only had small letter stamps not big letter stamps.  Perhaps 'the system' isn't interested in the tiny but only the slightly bigger.

So...now you know.  If the system is down you can still buy stamps.  But only small ones.  From the non post-office counter in the psot office. 

If we ever have a prolonged power cut or system downage we'll all starve and everything will stop.  The shop can be full of whatever it is you want.  You may have money and you may be able to add up or just know what items cost.  But they won't be able to sell you anything because the electricity is off somewhere or the system.  Is. Down!

Size is really wasteful and annoying

Dear supermarkets, petrol stations and all shops.  Could you please fix it for me next time I buy anything to LET ME HAVE A RECEIPT THAT'S LESS THAN 2 FEET LONG?!!! 

A single receipt would be nice - Ideally just one piece of paper.  Perhaps 2 or 3 inches in length.  Also, I'd like not to have an advert for 5p a litre off petrol that you don't sell at your supermarket or for discounts on things that I've never bought before but your computer tells me I might be interested in.  And I don't need a receipt for my shopping and a separate receipt for the method I used to pay for my shopping.  You could actually not give me a receipt at all on most occasions if you like.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

This ain't for no English teacher

I saw a job advert today - for an 'Assistant Principal: Inclusion & Cohort Provision'.  Is this to do with being second in charge of providing soldiers to prevent the sacking of Rome?  After consulting them? 

I followed the link out of curiosity to find out if it meant anything.  It says "We are seeking to appoint an outstanding Assistant Principal to join our Leadership Team You will be part of a strategic leadership team who direct and lead the school with particular responsibilities for inclusion and ensuring key cohorts have opportunities to make outstanding progress".

Ah ha - it's something to do with schools then (and not using full stops too by the looks...and inconsistent use of capitals for proper nouns...)  In  the next paragraph they use the word 'teacher'.  It's just so depressing to see almost content free management-speak being used when they're advertising for a teacher.  Here's the next paragraph: 

"This role is for an exceptional teacher whose key purpose is to model and lead improvements in teaching, in particular for students who present challenge.

The main requirements relating to the leadership standards are listed below and involve the following commitment:

  • Shaping the future
  • Leading Learning and Teaching
  • Developing Self and working with other
  • Managing the Organisation
  • Securing Accountability
  • Strengthening Community"

Notice how it reads like a content free Tony Blair conference speech. 

C'mon education people, learn to speak proper!  Sorry to go on but 'key cohorts'?  Unpick that one!

Incidentally if they find an outstanding teacher could I suggest that they put them to work er, teaching?

I'm off to develop self and work with other....