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Category Archives: Review

Small Change, Profound Difference

It is not often I extoll the virtues of technology and it’s even more rare for such to bring a tear to the eye. Let me explain.

Across the decades I have amassed a significant music collection on my Mac, a mixture of uploaded cd’s, downloaded purchases from Amazon/iTunes and independent offerings. If I was to press play and let it run on unabashed it would take a month to get through. When I was spending every morning at my desk I could merrily listen to my tunes, mixing Mozart with Madness, a touch of Mancini mingled with Marmalade, Zakk moshing with ZZ Top, as I whittled some html coding, wrangled a bit of number crunching, wrestled with photo editing and such like. It was entertaining and uplifting, seeing as my brain seems to be mostly filled with lyrics and set to Kareoke mode.

With the loss of my mobility I became separated from this mentally motivating activity and I have so missed it, time spent at my desk has become seriously dwindled. I had considered streaming services but felt resentful at having to pay money to hear music I have already spent monies upon.

I had procrastinated about searching for an answer, I had dawdled over posting on the MacForum for a suggestion. I had hoped Siri could help but my Mac is too old. I started seeing adverts for the new HomePod mini and the sown seed slowly germinated, maybe one of these could access and play my music. It spurred me on to ask on the forum if this could work with my particular kit, I hit publish and waited for a potentially helpful reply.

To my delight and surprise a helpful bod answered my post and introduced me to the app “iTunes Remote” as a potential solution. Google and I spent an evening reading and researching, could this be the answer? Could it really be that straightforward? Well, dear reader, in short, yes!

So yesterday after carer had positioned me at my desk I set to. Slightly pessimistic because things that class themselves as quick or easy rarely are. I followed the instructions with a tingle of anticipatory expectation.

  • App Store, download free app iTunes Remote to iPad
  • Open app, select manual set up (4-digit code appears)
  • Open music app on Mac
  • From Devices list select iPad
  • Enter iPads 4-digit code
  • Done, sorted, connected.

It really was that easy!!!

Okay so far so good…..but…….. now to test the theory. From the iPad app I selected a track and hit play and music sprung forth from my Mac ✅ …… I adjusted the volume, skipped forward and backward. Alright…..but…… I put my Mac to sleep, counted to twenty, opened the app and selected a track and again the swinging piano vibes exuded from my dozing Mac ✅✅. Right then, the big test, shut down and restart both the Mac and the iPad, open app and select a tune, without hesitation the dulcet tones of the lyrical warbler wafted across the room ✅✅✅. Another test, this morning I opened the app and selected a play list annddd it’s playing ✅✅✅✅.

I am reconnected to my music, my smile could not be wider, I’m busting my (sat down) moves, twerking so much I’m gonna give my buttocks whiplash, I have gone from famine to feast ….. so much choice, it’s almost overwhelming. Brain is fizzing as it sings along to tracks it hasn’t heard for years.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2020 in Music, Review, Tech

 

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What cost entertainment

There’s been rumblings again over the cost of the TV License fee, whenever that particular debate rears its noggin I have the same thought. How many of the dissenters could list the areas the BBC covers? This is followed by a second question, how much to the same dissenters pay for other entertainment streams?

Currently the TV Licence fee is £157.50 per annum, which is about £13.13 per month, for thousands of hours of international, national, local news and radio stations, there is sports and nature coverage, funding into natural history and films, commissioning of documentaries, comedy, drama, quiz shows, music shows, buying-in of internationally renowned programmes, some niche series. All the online content on the website, I-player and BBC Sounds. And a heck of a lot more that I’ve forgotten or not found yet.

Back in the dark ages (I think that’s the 1970’s nowadays) we had three channels and none were broadcasting 24/7 (I know, utter deprivation), yet there always seemed to be something worthy of watching. The 1980’s brought a couple more channels and while one was thought to be a tad ‘alternative’ slightly ‘avant- guard’ this expansion still didn’t diminish viewing choice. There have been many changes since then……

So what’s available to us now to broaden our viewing options.

  • Sky
  • Virgin
  • BT Vision
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • Apple tv
  • Now tv
  • Brit Box (how to get people to pay again to watch repeats, classic)

These additional services are not as far reaching, or offer the same degree of entertainment, yet in comparison seem to cost more than the BBC. I guess what the dear old Beeb needs to do, as discussed in W1A, is to “find out what we do best and do less of it, better“!

All the same …. as I scroll up and down the Freeview TV guide and cannot find a thing to watch (that’s a fib, I’m watching Apollo 13, again), I wonder if all this availability has done anything to improve our entertainment access.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2020 in In The News, Life, Review

 

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Tim Minchin

It’s not very often that my ear worm chooses a whole artist but recently while lazing in bed or pootling on the iPad I suddenly get the urge to sing “……fuck I love boobs though…..”, maybe it’s just as well I am not out and about in public!

Tim Minchin describes himself as a musician, but this underplays his artistry, his creative skills and his often dark humour. How he analyses the things that make you think, how he dissects and interprets thoughts, ideas, philosophies and puts them into a song that hooks you in linguistically, musically, emotionally and mentally. But what is it about his creations that seem to appeal to me.

Maybe it is his acrobatic linguistics and agility, in songs like Prejudice or his piano whimsy of Rock & Roll Nerd, maybe it is the poignancy of I’ll Take Lonely Tonight or the deep thought of Not Perfect, perhaps it’s the pure risqué amusement of Inflatable You or the musicians amusement of F Sharp, he performs a couple of beat poems which take you on a journey so adroitly, especially Storm. It could be the absurdity that he sees meets with me.

Now I should add a warning here, he uses language some don’t care for and he has opinions that some would not agree with, especially on the controversial topics like religion, creationism. It is not a mocking attitude, more of an “I’ve read and listened but still don’t understand how people wholeheartedly believe ‘this'”.

I enjoy watching his live performances as his expressions and timings add another layer of language, there are few piano players that almost mesmerise me, Jools Holland is another, Tim seems to throw his hands (and sometimes feet) at the keys and they always hit the right notes, the right way at the right time, he cannot sit still as he plays (unless it’s a serious song). He tends to perform barefoot, a throwback to early experimental days where going barefoot helped him feel confident and quelled the stage nerves.

It took me a while to decide which song to link here, I make no apology if you find yourself merrily, absentmindedly singing “…..fuck I like boobs though….”

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2020 in Music, people, Review

 

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Tall Ship Chronicles

A FaceBook member of a sailing group posted that the first eight episodes of this series had been released on Amazon Prime. Hmm, might be interesting to watch life aboard another ship, curiosity had me tapping play.

The premise is Andrew Younghusband (a Canadian actor and broadcaster) joins the 3-masted barque Picton Castle as volunteer crew for the 19-month around the world voyage. Along with his film crew of one, they document life on board, their fellow crew and places visited on this sail training expedition. This series covers leaving Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, heading south to the Panama Canal, and across the South Pacific to Vanuatu.

Bearing in mind it was filmed in late 2000 and across 2001 I was prepared for it to feel a bit dated and the clarity of filming not crisp, but I was not prepared for the lack of informative content and blatant lack of continuity in editing. It had an amateurish feel to what was supposed to be a professional production. You would imagine the first episode or two would tell you about the ship, it’s routine, the watch routine, the victualling and feeding the crew, maybe an introduction to some of the equipment, methods of rope handling and knots and what a job title means (Bosun, lead mate, etc). Sadly all that was missing or skimmed over in a throw away comment.

Considering they left snowy Canada in November within minutes the crew were seen clad in t-shirts and shorts. There was no way to perceive the passage of time, not even a little ‘day ?’ type logo in the corner.

By episode three you begin to recognise characters and can see that after a significant number of weeks, personalities within this isolated, confined bubble are gelling, cliquing and romances are developing. People become comfortable with each other, whilst remaining comparative strangers, many not knowing whether their fellow crew member is married or single, their day job, or much about their past, but willingly share clothing, shampoo, hugs and thoughts.

There were also one or two surprise reactions, sailing is not a democracy and cannot be done by committee, there has to be a leader and that leader is always the Captain. Living on a vessel that is moving constantly, through weather that is ever changing, people’s action or inaction can have a dramatic consequence. As learning crew you will get corrected and criticised for things not done ‘the ship’s way’, laziness or apathy along with sassy sarcasm quickly becomes not tolerated. Some people became resentful of being told how to do something they felt they are doing correctly and begrudged what felt like working in a dictatorship, especially when you’ve paid a lot of money to be there. But that’s the nature of the beast.

It was interesting to see how they all pulled together, how actions became instinctive, the perilous become normalised and whether they all realised it or not, they were learning a lot about sailing, the world and getting along with people. It reminded me of my first voyage how the ship became our complete world.

I think I was looking to come away from the eight episodes entertained by things that happened, having learnt about areas of the globe, reminded of some of the sailing language I had forgotten, and intrigued by the characters. It felt like an opportunity missed with how the programme was edited together – still it was heaps better than things like Big Brother and TOWIE.

There is one thing that has left me hanging and will likely never know the answer to, there was a twelve year old onboard (without his parents too), I wonder what life was like for Sloan when he returned home and started high school, and how is life eighteen years on.

There are another eight episodes to complete the series but with no idea when or if Amazon Prime will drop them, I might have to see if YouTube has them.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2020 in Films, Review

 

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er, again

The joy of iPlayers, across the past five months, every night I have been watching two episodes of the hospital drama, er. All 331 of them, it became a nightly joy, to see the familiar faces.

Ask anyone who was/is a fan and they’ll remember Clooney as Doug Ross yet he left after season three and Julianna Margulies as Carol Hathaway who left end of season six. Both relatively short lived characters across the fifteen seasons. Noah Wyle appeared in the most as John Carter, closely followed by Laura Innes as Carrie Weaver.

There are countless storylines of the core characters that stay with the viewer after the credits have rolled, when the helicopter crashed on Robert ‘Rocket’ Romano, the incredibly moving illness and death of Mark Green, played by Anthony Edwards, the poem recited by Abbie Lockhart (Maura Tierney) when she married Luca Kovac (Goran Visnjic) I Carry Your Heart With Me by EE Cummings. Some of the more amusing scenes, the patient magnetised to the mri scanner because the students forgot to switch gurney, a Jerry the desk clerk and the new interns getting stoned by gifted brownies. Every corner of life seemed to cross the threshold after suffering some impact, it never shied from the hard hitting issues hiv/aids, dnr and assisted suicide, domestic/sexual abuse, the complexities of religion and families.

It felt so ordinary, by which I mean unstated, not falsely acted, and that’s a testament to the writing, the dedication of the actors and the whole crew, and the attention to detail. It did lose its way a little after Michael Crichton died but thankfully pulled it back for the last two/three series.

After so enjoying revisiting this delight, the first night after watching the final episode, I was at a loss what to watch, so ended up watching various things on YouTube and was left deeply unsatisfied.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2020 in General, Review

 

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The Professor And The MadMan

The film is about the professor, James Murray played by Mel Gibson, who in 1879 began compiling the first comprehensive edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, (aiming to find the first usage of, continued usage of, correct spelling and correct pronunciation of every single word) a task led the overseeing committee, and Doctor William Minor played by Sean Penn, a doctor who submitted over 10,000 entries while he was undergoing treatment at Broadmoor Criminal a Lunatic Asylum, London.

There was something very gripping about this based on true events film. We see the hidden power of women behind these men, as well as the blind patronising manner of those in authority. Not only the Overseeing Committee and it’s inner politics but also the medical officer at Broadmoor.

The story behind the story that brings these people (and so many others) together is the true glue. The kindness of the guards when the Doc helps one of them who is injured, saving his life. The anguish of the wife of the man Dr Minor shot dead accidentally one fateful night. The family support and strength of the Professor. The Committee members supporting and dropping allegiances at the drop of a hat.

The one thing above anything that spoilt this film, was not Mel Gibson’s Scottish accent, but the diction and clarity of Sean Penn’s American one. There were numerous times where due to his gravely tone and quiet manner it was almost impossible to hear what he was saying and I nearly resorted to subtitles.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2020 in Films, Review

 

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Review – Hunters

It’s been a while since I wrote a review, after binge watching this series I thought I’d put digits to keys.

WARNING. :: This series is not for the faint hearted, it is highly explicit in language, violence, sex, torture and gore, if you are alright with that sort of thing then it is a very watchable series.

PREMISE :: Shortly after WW2 there was another kind of battle, who could claim the highest intelligent scientific and medical minds for their country. Thousands of former card carrying or oppressed into Nazi-ism people were given opportunities to relocate around the globe, some to the U.K., a high number to Argentina and other South American countries but the biggest tussle was between the USSR and the USA.

This brought much conflict in the USA as the nation had also become a refuge for many thousands of Jews, who either fled Europe or survived the atrocities. Known as Operation Paperclip, many Germanic scientists were instrumental in the space program, as well as thousands living peaceful lives as doctors, teachers, business leaders, bankers, police officials, government agency personnel etc.

Across time these hiders would be discovered, or recognised and attempts would be made to bring them to war crime justice, but the politics often meant they were just spirited away to another part of America.

THE SERIES :: A very affluent Jew puts together a rag bag of people to hunt down these villains, the torturers of the Death Camps and administer a little retribution of their own. Centering around the young teen Jonah, whose Safta (Grandma) was shot by a Nazi when she threatened to uncovered his truth, he is taught the horror and truth by those connected to those haunting names of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen and how it is right and relevant for his generation to keep up the fight. But it is not that straightforward, everyone has their secrets, their own reasons and motives for working together. The biggest being that potentially a fourth Reich could rise and take over the largest democratic country, from the inside, with help from those in South America (and an enigmatic leader with eyebrow raising connection).

THE DELIVERY :: I didn’t really ‘get’ into the style of delivery until the third episode. In general I found the whole thing frustrating and gripping, straightforward and complicated, over exaggerated and subtle, far fetched and plausible, thought provoking and fanciful, and list of contradictions. Other reviewers have labelled these contradictions as Tarantino-esque and that’s a deserved description.

The interspersed stories of Meyer (Jewish Nazi Hunter leader) and Ruth (Jonah’s Safta and Meyers true love) during their time in the death camp, and others cleverly connects the past with the present, which for this series is 1977 New York.

THE ENDING :: Hmm, without giving too much away, the ending was equally satisfying and not so. I don’t know if this was written as a one series drama or whether it was written with a potential second or spin off, let’s just say that door is slightly ajar.

There were some excellent plot twists, confessions and character actions. There were also some very annoying confusions, I’ve no idea why the Vietnam Vet was kidnapped and taken to the Argentinian hub of the uprising, other than to reveal a twist. I’ve no clue about the English catholic Jew nun (don’t ask, I’m not sure either) her story, motive, truth.

Over all it was worth the watch and I would watch a second series.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2020 in Films, In The News, Review

 

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Tick Box Engineering

I’m at it again. Another customer survey has dropped on my mat. This one a lot more properly put together than the previous poorly photocopied double sided single sheet job, this is a twenty page booklet.

As you can see, the choice of options for the various questions is rather well thought out and worded, with seven levels of perception. It went on to ask how I felt about particular situations in my personal circumstances.

However, it was the next question that let it down. It was “Does the service help you to achieve this” with a yes or no answer. I had a problem with this because I wanted a third option, so I could put “sometimes” or “to some degree”. Putting no, is not justified but putting yes seemed to give the impression that all was hunky dory.

As I got to the last page, I wondered whether I had been sent the survey in error, because the question asked whether I purchased additional care independently and how this was paid for. You see folks, I self-fund, I get zero financial assistance from any Council or Benefit. So cheekily I added a box to the set and added that.

Yes, I am a rebel!

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2020 in General, Review

 

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X-rating Review

I’ve been ‘selectively chosen’ to complete a service user questionnaire…. hmmmm, not sure if it is wise of them, or me. I have issues.

To begin with, I am not impressed with the quality of this questionnaire (pictured above), I didn’t need a hidden words game in trying to read the darn thing. Whilst they did provide a stamped addressed envelope, the covering letter failed to give a deadline, so can I give it a week or a month to ponder over.

It is difficult to ‘grade’ competency when over the past five-six months I have had at least thirty different people visit me, some excellent and others not so good. Some I saw once and never again, some are my infrequent regulars, some are my oftens and a handful are my always. Wouldn’t it have been better to say “For the week x to y, how did we do?”

Grading is so subjective, after all two people could receive the exact same service yet one grade it as average and another as very good. How does this highlight areas that need attention. Hmm, maybe I’ll add an anonymous letter suggesting that maybe sending out ten or twenty of these a month asking how they did the week prior, would give a better overview across, say a six month period.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2020 in Life, people, Review

 

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Jane Eyre Tour


It is a reasonably well known tale, orphaned child reluctantly brought up in disdain by Aunt, sent off to an ‘educational institution’ at the age on ten. Many years later the child as an adult is a teacher in the same institution, working for bed and board, wishing for something better. She secures a post of Governess at an isolated mansion for a child, where Jane for the first time has freedom, warmth from friendship, and a sense of inner contentment. When the master returns from his travels, his aggressive demeanour, their differing stations in life, her straightforwardness, fuel a tender passion. But there is a heavy secret, locked in the attic is his mad first wife. When Jane discovers the truth she runs away from the lies and the liars as well as trying to distance herself from the distress and disappointment, however something draws her back, and when she returns she finds the mansion in ruins and Mr Rochester blinded from injuries. 

Both my sister and I had seen several adaptations of this classic Charlotte Brontë story.  As this was a National Theatre production we knew it was not going to be the traditional theatrical setting, however as we took our seats the stage was set with what looked like a grown-up sized childs playground climbing frame. Slowly the auditorium began to fill but with just five minutes before curtain up, there were still more than half the seats vacant. The complete cast of 12 took up their starting positions.  Whilst the dialogue, accents and costume stayed close to the original story, the staging was contemporary and sometimes difficult to properly grasp its concept and symbolism. The introjection of music and singing sometimes felt disconnected. By the third act seeing the quiet cast move and climb up and down the various ladders and stairs without seemingly purpose, became rather annoying and children climbing in the playground.

This in no way means the performance was bad. The actors did a brilliant job of portraying the various characters, and by far the most enjoyable was a bearded gentleman who played the part of Pilot the dog, who often raised a mild laughter from the audience with his instantly recognisable dog like antics. The actor portraying the arrogant Mr Rochester brought with it a sense of distraction, of brooding resentment of how his life had been mapped out for him by his father without making him evil or wicked.

For us the thing missing from the production was the sense of a sinister secret. In everything we have seen or read there was always a sense of foreboding, of Jane being told not to go into the attic, of sounds and happenings that indicate all is not right. There was absolutely none of this at all throughout the whole performance, only twice was manic laughter heard. For us it was a significant element that was missing.

With a mixture of live music and recorded sound effects these had a tendency to drown out the dialogue of the actors, and on occasion I felt I had missed a vital piece of information that carried an element of the story. This is not unique to this production but something I have experienced at other performances at this Theatre.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Books, Films, Review

 

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