Wednesday, 28 September 2011

2.8 Hours Leeds - Words from the Front Line

As some of you might be aware, last week I became a zombie for three nights as 2.8 Hours Later dragged it's congealed corpse to Leeds.

I've written about what it's like to be on the front line for North Leeds News, and you can read all about it by following this link:

2.8 Hours Later - Words from the Front Line

Monday, 26 September 2011

Music Reviews (again)

I may have mentioned this before, but I don't like music reviews. I don't like the idea of somebody telling me what a song sounds like when I haven't heard it, and I don't like the increasingly ridiculous ways in which music journalists employ hyperbole and surrealism in an effort to make their review original. They wouldn't have to do this if music reviews weren't pretty much redundant - surely if you were writing something worthwhile, there'd be enough to say without padding the whole bloody thing out with emphatic error-strewn metaphors and near-audible sighs of exasperation/deep passionate longing. If you simply must review a track, can we not stick to actual descriptions that make sense? Can we please perhaps mention the instrumentation, the general sound and ambiance? Instead of talking about the sky or bin lorries, or robots from space, or other totally unrelated information?

In retaliation to some frankly absurd efforts I've read recently on a trip to Kettering while at a work conference (the only excuse I deem good enough to actually buy and read a music magazine), I've decided to claw back some sanity by making fun of them. It's what all the best people do. So here are some utterly ludicrous fake reviews I've made up for songs I actually like and would love you to listen to. Kill two birds with one stone, shall we?

Anders Ilar - Moon Over Hillside

A celestial wash of sparkling fragments fill the air, as this intensely serene exploration of the true depths of ambient techno swoops and glides over a reverberating bassline. A study in astrological electronica, Ilar creates a soundscape filled with twilight mystery from a country half-immersed in mythology and midnight sun.

Dub Phizix - Rainy City Music

A childlike scattering of percussive sounds and warm synths moves softly aside for a comforting bass drop, somewhat reminiscent of a duvet with a cat on. The sounds of a torrential winter's downpour can almost be heard through the curtainous veils of warm indoor sounds, a definite cold day classic.

Rido - Poison

A robotic vulture circles above the parched red terrain of Mars, another flaps it's haggard wings over the skeleton of a fallen animal. It is the year 3490. Over the horizon, huge clouds of dust are gathering - it's the return of the Marshalls, the protectors of the solar system, galloping on android horseback towards the citadel. Evil futuristic wild-west DnB. 8/10.

(I quite like this last one.)

Friday, 23 September 2011

ANOTHER CRUSADE - This time it's WHAM (and Highland Toffee)

I heard some very sad news today. Apparently, Millar McCowan, the company behind such confectionery as Highland Toffee bars and the timeless Wham Bar are going into administration for the second time.

This means, sweet fans, that there is a possibility that there will be NO WHAM BARS. None at all. Forever.

I can't cope with this, and once again put on my campaigning hat and starting hammering out emails to companies I thought might be able to buy the beleaguered company and save our sweets (SOS).

First on my list was Swizzels-Matlow.

Dear Swizzels Matlow (you really do have the best company name in sweets history)

First of all, let me tell you that I have long been a fan of your sweets, ever since they were filling up a well-planned party bag or used as a bribe to make me hoover the garden or take out the bins as a child. Drum stick lollies have always been my favourite (although those weird powdery round lollies that seem to last forever and are shaped like Jupiter are quite good too).

I am writing to you with a bit of a cry for help, if I'm honest.

I found out today that Millar McCowan - makers of my childhood after school treat Highland Toffee and also the pleasingly zingy (but sometimes painfully sharp) Wham Bar - are going into administration for the second time.

This has made me, and in fact my entire office very sad indeed as these sweets like yours are integral parts of our childhood memories.

My rudimentary knowledge of business has led me to understand that the only way Wham Bars can remain on the shelves of newsagents everywhere is if another, more successful company buys Millar McCowan and agrees to continue making these wonderful purple roads of chewy sugary delight. I'm asking you, as successful sweet makers and business-savvy individuals to take a bit of a fun risk and help this struggling company out. I know a lot of people who'd like you very much if you did so, and we'd all add you as friends on Twitter and Facebook.

I hope you decide that Highland Toffee is worth the effort.

Kind regards,

Your friend,


Don't think for a minute that all you can do is stand there and watch in horror as the option of buying a Vimto bar slides slowly out of reach - do your bit! Either leave your name and a contact email address in the comments section here (or DM me it on twitter, or email me it if you like) or contact them yourselves!

I have also contacted AG Barr, as although they are a fizzy drinks company, they sell the Irn Bru bar through Millar McCowan, and I thought they might like to help keep the company Scottish. So here is their email too!

If you can think of any other companies we could approach to help save the Wham Bar, I'd be thrilled to hear it. I mean it. Literally thrilled!

Happy emailing!

(I promise I'm not trying to make a habit of this sort of campaigning thing, but I feel this is important).

Friday, 16 September 2011

My crusade for Rocky Ice Cream begins.

It's a common misconception that chocolate digestives are the best biscuits. They aren't. Rocky biscuits are the best biscuits. Yesterday an idea was born. Rocky Ice Cream.

I have decided that I can't live a day longer without Rocky Ice Cream.

I have thus and with verily muchness of speed contacted Fox's Biscuits with the idea, in the hope they will create this masterpiece for us all.

Here is what I have sent to them so far.

Hello Fox's Biskwits.

I wanted to contact you via Twitter but I don't think you're on there - you should perhaps think about getting yourself a little account, we really like biscuits over there.

What I wanted to contact you about was this - I've come up with a great idea for something you should sell. Something so great you'll think "Oh my word, WHY HAVEN'T WE ALREADY DONE THIS?". I know that personally, I can barely stand to live another day without this idea coming to fruition and ending up in my local supermarket.

I present to you the naissant idea of ROCKY ICE CREAM.

I don't mean just a choc-ice-type confection. I mean a Ben & Jerry's sized tub of malty vanilla ice-cream swirled with caramel and generously scattered with huge chunks of Rocky biscuit and milk chocolate.

Think about it. Is that not the most delicious thing you've ever heard of in your life?

Please think about making this a reality - I know several people who'd happily eat this product, and I bet I could find more.

Yours hungrily,


(@Shinybiscuit on Twitter, if you decide to make an account and want a friend to talk to)

If enough people decide they want to help, maybe I'll make a Facebook group or something. until then - WE WAIT.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Orange Streetlamps Mk2

Online music magazine The 405 have been kind enough to put my weird don't-really-know-what-it's-about article on their otherwise highly-regarded website. I am somewhat chuffed.

Go and read it here:

Monday, 12 September 2011

Zombie Finishing School with 2.8 Hours Later

Preparation is key if you want to survive. People can spend months and months storing food and supplies in their homes, but when the ravenous hoarde starts dragging itself through the streets, will they be able to use their weapons appropriately? Will they remember which order of unlocking the bolts and chains on the door is the fastest? Can you afford to wait until it happens to find out?

It's often said that to understand your enemy, you must know it entirely. Get inside their collective mindless heads and know what their next moves will be. For this reason I felt it would be pertinent to go along to a Zombie Training Course and really get to grips with what motivates the undead - learn their feeding habits (rabid) and their sleeping patterns (nil). I joined a merry band of like-minded sorts and booked myself into Zombie School, where I was taught as much as a human could know about being a ravenous corpse, without actually having to undergo the trauma of being bitten. Which was nice.

Inside our makeshift barracks ("no pictures - this is top secret") we watched instructional videos and filled in necessary paperwork. We ambled and crawled, hissed and screamed as we lurched towards our tutors, as they shouted our motivations. "You are Zombies! You do not talk! No laughing!". Later we were allowed outdoors to take our skills to the streets, howling and dodging and staring wild-eyed into the faces of our prey. It would be a fair assessment to say that a lot of us got a bit carried away.

In our games of capture-the-flag we learned more about defense tactics than we ever could have barricaded into our houses at the turning of the apocalypse, and for that I'm very grateful. Sashes became gory trophies, and car parks became bunkers we were prepared to guard with our life. Imagine how much more intense it would have been were we wearing full make-up.

On the 22-24th September we will be bringing our terror to the streets of Leeds as part of a street game called "2.8 Hours Later". You should take a look, it's fun as well as educational. It's all for your own good, you'll learn how to survive without being caught. You have one advantage - we won't bite.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

How to be photogenic

A long time ago, it used to be customary to finish work on a Friday afternoon, head straight to the pub and get as drunk as possible. This could continue for most of the weekend if you didn't have anything better planned, and then Sundays were generally used for horizontal, stationary activities like watching TV, eating pizza and moaning that your tummy hurt. Now, the same customs are followed week-in week-out - for the British are nothing if not traditional folks - but with one large difference in the genetic make-up of a blow-out weekend. The photographs.

It used to be that a photograph was posed for - that you were on the whole warned when you were required to stand awkwardly within shot. Films weren't that expensive, but they were still finite, and you didn't want to use up all 24 exposures firing wildly into the dark simply because one of your mates has ordered a cocktail with a curly straw, or they'd fallen over into a hedge, or they'd lost their t-shirt in a dance-off. Even if photographic evidence of these occurances did surface, it was easy to point over the gloating picture-owner's shoulder, shout "OH MY GOD IT'S JIMMY SAVILLE" and tear the offending article into confetti as they peered into the distance at a child with a 99.

Not anymore though. Oh no. Camera phones have been my arch-nemeses (thanks @cunthorse!) for years now, snapping here there and everywhere, capturing my badly-constructed Play-Doh nose and 50p-shaped head in all manner of ridiculous poses and contortions. My face has three poses - eyes closed, mouth open (talking) and drinking, and a kalaidoscope of these three options is carted out every Monday and Tuesday by 'friends' who think they are being really funny by posting every single one on my social networking sites of choice. They know I won't un-tag them as I feel that this is a monstrous display of vanity, and I am not vain. I don't mind that I look like a startled be-wigged egg hidden behind several pint glasses - I've come to accept that despite that not being what I look like in the mirror, it's probably what everybody else sees. What upsets me ever-so slightly is that there are very rarely nice pictures of me that I'll want to save and look at when I'm older. If I made a photograph album today, I'd have about five pictures of myself and friends in, and for the rest of the past decade I'd have to pretend I'd done a Harold Bishop and vanished off the face of the earth.

I'm just not photogenic. But how does one become photogenic? Is it an attribute that can be lost? If so, how? I haven't always been a photographic disaster - in the late Eighties I was a baby model in Lancaster and Morecambe. I know, I know. I too marvel at how well-adjusted I have remained despite the glamour and attention of my youth. But is there such a thing as a photogenic baby? Or did I just always happen to be wearing a very nice hat, or chewing an adorable toy? You'll have to forgive me, I'm not very good with babies, and as such I'm not sure what it is that they do. I'm not even confident I could tell them apart, but I fear that's vaguely baby-ist, and I don't want to start making some kind of anti-baby name for myself. They're okay. (As a side-note, in case you were wondering what a baby model does for work, they sort of lie around and are used in advertising for local photography companies, baby shops, and other things I'm not able to recall. I'm sure there's a need for them for some reason.)

I suppose what I want to know are your photo tips. Do you have a fail-safe face you pull in order to have at least one picture every Saturday that doesn't make you look like an impersonation of yourself? What can I do (besides refraining from constantly shouting in people's faces) to stop looking like I'm constantly shouting in people's faces? I await your help anon.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Guest Post for 21st Century Musical Goodness

If you follow me on twitter or facebook, you'll probably be aware that I'm a horrible music spammer. However I'm not making apologies for this, I'm just saying thanks, you put up with a lot. I guess you must at least like some of the links I bombard you with every day.

I recently wrote a guest post for my friend over at 21st Century Musical Goodness. If you like dark/deep DnB (or even if you don't know if you do) go over and check it out please :-)
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