Archive for December, 2007

Stockport home of the fake Ugg boot

Stockport home of the fake Ugg boot

Originally uploaded by

Back in Stockport for some last minute Christmas shopping.. it’s not changed one iota, except for the effect inflation has had on the £3.50 Bag Shop.

Fairy tale of New York

Shane.The true meaning of Christmas.

Auntie’s upset a lot of folk with it’s censorship of The Pogues classic ‘Fairytale of New York‘ the numpties. Vent spleen here or here. I think it’s nuts for all the reasons most people have stated. However, someone ‘could’ submit an Freedom of Information request* to the BBC (by click here) enquiring how many complaints it has actually received on this subject? They have to respond by law within a certain time. Also, I though Radio 1 had a policy of not playing anything over 10 years old, hence their banning of the Quo, or have they stopped that now?

I think it’s a great song. It’s the only Christmas song that contains a row to my knowledge. As as we all know Christmas can also be a time for the odd crossed word  right? It’s a real Christmas song, about hopes and dreams, love and fighting, but the belief that next year will be better. Also there’s no mention of Santa, Jesus or Reindeers…yay!

Also nice to see Radio 2 not giving a hoot and playing it anyway.

*FOI is fancinating, here’s a list of all the canteen complaints for this year. Why someone wanted to know this I don’t know.

McDonald’s sees fit for a refit

New McDonald's on Victoria Street The refitted McDonald's on Victoria Street McDonald's on Victoria street

Everyone’s favourite high street public toilet chain has refitted its Victoria Street branch. In a record 72 hours they’ve turned it into something more akin to Pizza Express, right down to those single funny red plastic looking flowers with the yellow stamen. It’s all dark woods, fake leather and bar stools, contrasted with clean cream lines and colours. All of which highlights even more the fact that you are eating out of a sheet of greasy paper with your fingers. That’s right, the only thing that looks out of place now is the food.

There’s a large homeless community in and around Westminster Cathedral, many of whom could be seen nursing a cup of lukewarm coffee in this branch of Maccy D’s. I wonder what they make of it?

Flash web based iPlayer launched.

Ashley Highfield seems to be a man of his word having told me back in July that iPlayer on a mac via streaming would happen ‘by the end of the year’. And here it is.  Seems a little buggy though, I’ve had two streams drop out on me.  Still, much easier to use and ‘get’ than the app.

Flash web based iPlayer

The new BBC homepage
Lots of this about the internet up your ego , keith , and martin B. But now it’s officially visible and I’ve had a play with it, here’s my thoughts, God it’s weird to experience this from the outside.

• I like the bigger promos, the mixture of picture promo (are they still called that?) and traditional.

• In many ways it reminds me of a fancy version of Gateway – the BBC’s Intranet – which also had fold up/down sections.

• I’m not sure about the all page colour change – but at least it gets away from that f**king cyan/blue

• I like the ‘display options’ thingy, High viz, comfort, increase text size, fully customisable – content and layout are separate.

• I’m glad the hideous logo’s gone, after 4 years! That was some of the worst designing I’ve ever seen (I’m looking at you Fitch!) and I hated it from the moment I saw it. At the time anyone who objected to it was taken outside by Marketing stormtroopers and shot through the head.

• The Sin Bin has gone, the daft double search has gone, the contains-no-tools toolbar has gone. Hell it’s all gone, Finally. I love it because it’s a clean break, it’s all new. It seems to be based on functionality and users needs rather than empire building, marketing and which petal head has the biggest genital organ. Maybe this is because dept heads aren’t there anymore, are they? Isn’t it all ‘Vision’ now?

And now to my only real criticism, and it’s this. The BBC could, and should, have done this two years ago. I also wonder what this project was like to work on? Was it fun? Were their tears? Did the opinions of tech, editorial or design fall on deaf ears or were they headed? Was it run like the iPlayer project by external powerdroids or was it a small agile team of talented people and Sven style light touch management? I want answers Beeb people!

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Scouse for tea.

Scouse, buttered cabbage, olive bread and glass of beer

Show me a more tasty and easier dinner than that? I made it yesterday in my slow cooker, cooked it all day, then let it cool and in the evening put it in the fridge. When I got home tonight I just had to heat it up. You’ll hear a lot of talk about owning a slow cooker and returning home to a house perfumed with heady scents of long cooked stews and sauces, and that’s fine…

..however the reason I cook it and then let it cool the day before is two fold. One, I can keep an eye on it, two: things always taste better the next day, when the flavours have set. Another reason is that you might not make it home. I was once out with some friends, and it was one of those quick one’s after work that was just turning into something crazy when a colleague announced he couldn’t get another drink in because ‘he had to go home and turn his slow cooker off’. How we laughed! No one wants to be in that position.

So – Scouse, the iconic stew of Liverpool that gives Scousers their name. Like seemingly everything these days there’s a 100 different variant recipes on the internet, here’s some of them:-

Liverpool City portal – Neck of Lamb or Beef, potatoes, carrots
Ciao – Minced beef ? Wtf! But at least it’s got pearl barley in it
Recipe Source – Beef, potatoes, carrots
Merseyside today – Beef or lamb, cabbage and tomatoes?!
Sugervine – Beef and lamb
The Foodie – Beef and lamb, thyme
UKTV Food – Beef, carrots, potatoes, red wine?!!
Recipezaar – lamb potatoes
..and some guy on Youtube who cuts his veg with a carving knife.

Wikipedia and the scouser tell tales of the etymology of the word. The other thing you’ll hear is ‘each family has their own version’, but I just wonder how many families in Liverpool sit down to a bowl of scouse these days? William Black couldn’t find any in his ‘The land that thyme forgot‘, though he describes it as being made with silverside. Also perhaps unsurprisingly there’s no mention of it in my copy of Larousse Gastronomique, though much is made of other country’s ‘poor folk’ dishes – pah!

For me scouse has got to be made with lamb, if only to maintain some geographical continuity. To the west – Irish stew, made with lamb. To the east, Lancashire hot pot, made with lamb. But then if a ‘born in the shadow of the Liver building’ scouser makes it with beef, who am I to argue?

Well, for what it’s worth here’s my version. (makes enough for two in my slow cooker)

150g (two bits) lamb neck fillet cut into chunks
1 large carrot cut into chunks not rounds (I hate carrots shaped like 50p’s)
1 parsnip into chunks like the carrot
1 small potato cut in chunks
handful of pearl barley
1 glass of water
1 glass white wine (yeah I know not trad, but hey)
Salt & Pepper.

Method: I sweat the onion and the veg chunks in a little butter to get them going. Then seal but not brown the lamb. Pop the lot in a slow cooker, put a clean tea towel over the top and leave for ages.

Serve with cabbage shredded fine, boiled quick, and then wilted with a little butter and loads of pepper. Or if using red cabbage, white/red wine vinegar and a little all spice.

And to watch while eating this, maybe the new video, Home, by Amsterdam, Liverpool’s finest band. Who I last saw two years ago at the Borderline.

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Goodbye guitars

saying goodbye to my guitars saying goodbye to my guitars

Back in late September when I had a bit of a life crisis and subsequent life laundry, I amazingly managed to convince myself that, after 16 years, I didn’t need two guitars and that perhaps the band wasn’t ever going to get back together.

I worked all the summer of ’91 in a chip shop in Lyme Regis to buy that electric guitar and amp. Grunge was around at the time and everyone seemed to be forming bands, arguing about names and having musical differences, normally all in the same afternoon. I only ever played one gig in front of a paying audience. It was at Munroe’s, a shitty nightclub behind the market in Stockport and I think my mum actually dropped me off in her mini metro – ROCK! We were on a stage 6″ high, but when you’re ‘up there’ facing 30 or so faces it feels like you’re standing on the white cliffs of Dover. We were the support act to the support act, The main act was a band called MrMeaner, (you can read about the gig here). The guy who printed the flyers didn’t know what we were called, and so as he knew the drummer’s name he christened us ‘The Steve Chapman Experience’. Our set list consisted of L7‘s Pretend We’re Dead I think, and some Nirvana covers.

Anyway, that was all a long time ago and it’s time to move on. So I took my two guitars to The Doghouse, which is a small guitar and skateboard shop attached to Antenna Studio’s here in Crystal Palace, where I said a very emotional goodbye. Johnny, a really nice guy who also makes custom Dickinson Amps offered a part exchange for a single new acoustic. It has a much better sound, but being brand new and made in China the fret board smelt of fish (the glue I think) for the first couple of weeks until, um, dirt, finger skin and sweat ‘seasoned’ the board.

And so to today, like a divorced Dad with visiting rights, I went back to Antenna to check up on them. Johnny’s done a great job cleaning them up and restringing them. I’m hoping some 16 year old kid looking to buy his first guitar comes in to the shop clutching some hard earned savings and a dream of being in a band and buys it, or it could be yours for £150.

custody visiting rights on my guitar

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
December 2007