TV to die for. If ‘Boredom’ was a disease.

BAD TV. We’ve all been there . . .

Ok, you’ve just watched the first segment of a TV programme about ‘Dave’ – a man with an irrational fear of pastry who has just returned to his job at the local cake factory after a 3 year break. He is traumatised, but takes his first real step to recovery when he handles a box of jam tarts. The big question is: How will he cope when he is asked to put the filling in to the short crust apple pies? Join us after the break to find out – when we’ll also see how Dave takes his wife’s ultimatum (cut to shot of Dave’s wife):

“You either eat my steak and kidney pie or we’re finished, Dave!”

Oh, the excitement.

I’m tired and it’s a slow TV night, so for some reason that currently escapes me, I make myself a cup of tea and return to await the fate of Dave and his pastry paranoia.
Cue irritating musical sting, followed by a patronising voiceover

“Before the break we met Dave, a self confessed scaredy-cat when it comes to pastry based products. He’s been fighting his phobia for over 3 years now, following his horrific industrial accident involving a giant mixing bowl. The incident left him with terrible mental scars and quite a nasty flour intolerance.”

We see a montage of shots that we just watched less than 10 minutes ago. Voiceover lady continues, unaware of my growing annoyance:

“We saw how the phobia had changed his home life with his wife Mandy and how he is now bravely fighting back by returning to his job at the local cake factory. Dave managed to successfully pack a box of jam tarts, but how will he cope with his next challenge?”

The logical part of my brain tells me that this recap is predominantly for those people who missed the first segment of the programme. It gives the late comers a chance to catch-up and hopefully increase the viewing figures.

However, another part of my brain says ‘Oh, you missed the beginning of the show? Tough! Get over it. Catch the repeat if you’re that perturbed or, better still, use your mind and intellect to work out what’s happened and fill in the gaps yourself’!

The ‘Infinity Re-cap

As if this wasn’t bad enough, we get exactly the same sequence of events at the beginning of the next segment, and the one after that until the end of the show. Only each ‘recap’ is longer than the previous update as the producers seem to feel the need to recap everything that has gone before. So in the end you have a programme that is scheduled for an hour. Of that hour there are approximately 15 minutes worth of commercials, taking the content down to 45 minutes. Then you have to factor in at least 25 minutes of recap footage, for those of us with early onset of dementia. Making the content of a supposedly 1 hour show, a mere 20 minutes. And this is when looking at UK TV – I wouldn’t even want to do the math for a US show.

Kitchen Nightmares USA

Speaking of US shows, I have now had to give up on ‘Kitchen Nightmares USA’. I was a big fan of the UK version of Ramsay’s culinary swear fest, but the US version is so dumbed down, I’d get more mental stimulus watching my underwear go round in the washing machine for an hour. Not only does it suffer from the ‘recap to infinity’ syndrome, it also has a bad case of ‘over dramatisation-itis’.

“There is full scale panic in the kitchen as Chef Ramsay discovers that one of the chefs has over seasoned the pork,” growls Hollywood Voiceover man.

“Hmm, there’s a bit too much salt in this mate,” Ramsay calmly states.

“Oh. Ok.” replies the chef.

My God, the drama, the tension. It’s almost unbearable. Hollywood Voiceover man then precedes to give a brief outline of the above conversation (that we have watched literally seconds before). We are also treated to a slow motion replay of the salt being poured into a saucepan and Ramsay tasting the dish. After a few minutes of this, I almost long for the post commercial recaps we get on some trashy UK programmes.

BBC & HBO – The Good Guys

This always happens to me when I decide to stray away from the tried and trusted providers of HBO and The BBC. Thankfully both of these are still making great TV. From HBO’s The Wire (only just being shown on British terrestrial TV this week) to The BBC’s Rome (actually BBC/HBO co-production) and dozens of others in between, they really are miles ahead of the competition. In fact, I will be writing a future post going in to more detail about what makes their programming stand out.

But for now I will try to wipe my mind of the ‘infinity recap’ and the mind numbingly banal subjects of most of our TV schedules these days, by digging out an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. 40 minutes of unpredictable BS-free comedy.

Just to recap . . . at the beginning of the blog we discovered how the author was annoyed with inane, repetitive recaps of events he’d only just witnessed. We then went on to look at . . . . . ok, let me just file that joke away in the file marked ‘Labouring A Point’.

As usual, I would love to hear your feedback, along with suggestions for future rants and musings. Please Retweet, follow and recommend to your heart’s content.

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Learn to play an instrument – if I can ANYONE can!

Musical Myth Number 1: Being able to play an instrument is a unique, innate skill. You either have it, or you don’t.

I have to admit, this was a view I was forced to agree with during my formative years. This was partly due to the fact that many relatives would constantly remind me of this fact anytime I even thought about going near an instrument and also my early attempts didn’t really help to dispell the myth.

My first brush with musical destiny came in the form of that incredibly versatile ‘instrument’ – the Triangle. Hey – don’t mock. Those things are more difficult to master than you think. It was always going to be an ambitious undertaking – a primary school production of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker Suite’. I was a precocious 7 year old with something to prove and a will to succeed. ‘Better to burn out than fade away’ I remember thinking, as I anxiously waited for my single note at the crescendo of the first movement. My eyes grew wide with expectancy and my little 7 year old heart quickened slightly as I heard the music rising majestically to it’s conclusion. Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . and . . . now!

However, the only sound I created in that performance was a dull thud, followed by a sharp intake of breath, as I missed the triangle and clobbered my thumb with the beater. My teacher was frantically ‘stage whispering’ for me to try again, but to no avail. My remaining energy was spent on holding back my tears of shame and embarassment.

“Don’t worry,” said my Dad, “you tried your best. Some people just aren’t musical.”

Two years on and you find me now as a slightly over confident nine year old. My self belief had certainly taken a battering from the ‘Triangle Incident’ (as it became known), but I still loved music and felt that it was only a matter of time before my virtuosity would make itself apparent. Finally it would appear that the time was at hand, when our teacher produced a small corduroy bag that contained a musical instrument that we could all learn. I could barely contain my excitement as she theatrically pulled out . . . the Recorder! Wow! ‘What is it?’ I thought. I just knew it was going to be my passport to musical greatness and couldn’t wait to hand over my mum’s hard cash for that little baby. I can still remember my disappointment when I finally got hold of one, along with the book of tunes that we could learn.

“Er, Miss? There seems to be a printing error in my music book. It only seems to contain variations of the same 3 pieces of music – London’s Burning, Frere Jacques and Three Blind Mice.”

Come on. When was a rendition of London’s Burning ever going to stoke the fires of musical creativity (no pun intended)?

“Yes, but we can all do different parts and do a ’round’!” the teacher cried enthusiastically.

Grow up.

It has to be said, I have since realised the Recorder does hold a certain charm – The Beatles, Fool On The Hill anyone? But, such things were a far from my mind as my frustration and lack of patience lead to me ‘accidentally’ losing the instrument a few months after starting my lessons.

“Well, you’re not having another one if you don’t find it,” warned my mum.

Oh well. Never mind.

Which leads us to what, for many years, I considered to be my ‘strike 3’. I was progressing gently from a Triangle to the Recorder to . . .the Violin – of course! It was the next logical choice. Everybody knows the old ‘Triangle-Recorder-Violin’ method. And I just knew that it would be easy. It was just a little wooden thing with 4 strings that you played with an old piece of horse hair – how hard could it be?!

Fortunately, the school had agreed to lend pupils an instrument to get them started and see how we would get on with it. We got to take our own violins home the night before our first lesson. I couldn’t wait to get it out of the box and start playing. I lasted about 15 minutes before the cat had a seizure and my parents began inadvertently teaching me some new swear words. I wasn’t perturbed though. I knew I’d be fine after my first lesson. Just needed to know ‘what the notes were’.

With hindsight I think the violin teacher probably recognized it was a mistake to try to teach eight 10 year old boys at the same time. We didn’t even make it to the end of the first half an hour lesson before he ‘asked us to leave’. The problem arose even before we had put the bow to the strings. The teacher would start at one end of the line correcting our posture and instrument position and no sooner had he moved to the next pupil, the previous kid would slightly lower his elbow or arch his back slightly. After about 20 minutes he was a nervous wreck, running up and down the line moving an arm here or adjusting a hunched shoulder there. It looked like some strange Japanese game show. Obviously we found this completely hilarious and could not contain our amusement, meaning we moved out of position even more. We had our instruments immediately confiscated and were told to get out before we’d even had a chance to play a note.

Typical state school. They give up on you so easily.

After some consideration I was forced to admit, it had to be true: You can either do it or you can’t. So although I toyed with playing keyboard when I was 12 (I got one for Christmas and spent the next few weeks trying out all the different sounds and pretending to play along with the demo track) I pretty much ditched the idea of ever being able to play an instrument.

I joined a band as a singer when I was 16 and although I was mercilessly teased for not being able to play an instrument I still didn’t have the courage to try to learn to play anything. I found this really frustrating as even before I played an instrument I was always keen to write song melodies and lyrics – but you try communicating with a guitarist when you don’t even know what a chord is. Most of them will just mock you and then play a Blues lick really loud just to compound your ineptitude.

That was until a few years later, I met my friend and co song writer, George. Here was a guy that was a great player, but had loads of patience and actively encouraged me to suggest where the melody should go. After a while of playing and writing together, he finally convinced me to pick up the guitar and have a go myself. His view was, and still is, if you are prepared to put enough time and enthusiasm in to it, then anyone can learn. So I got my first guitar, George showed me some stuff and I started to learn simple songs. I cannot tell you the thrill I got when I first managed to play Peggy Sue. Not long after that I started writing my first simple songs and from then on I fell in love with the guitar.

That was now over ten years ago, and I have to admit my playing ability did pretty much peak quite a few years ago. I got to a level where I could play most simple songs and write my own little tunes and pretty much left it at that. Which is fine. Some people want to be able to play to the level of Rock God. Some, like me, just want to play, sing and write stuff. I let George do all the complicated stuff.

So don’t let your doubts, or those of other people, dissuade you from having a go. Learning to play an instrument is one of the best things you can do. It’s great for improving mental focus and dexterity not to mention being great fun. If I can do it, with my terrible musical history, then anyone can. I would love to hear how you get on.

The BBC have a site which is a great place for info on how to get started and why it’s a good idea. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/playitagain/

If you are thinking about guitar lessons and are local to Leicestershire in the UK, I wholeheartedly suggest checking out the George’s Go Guitar Lessons Website.

Enjoy.

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Can an iPod Replace A Live Band?!

I have been performing live gigs with various bands, playing both original material and more recently covers, for well over a decade now and in that time I have noticed a worrying change in the expectations of live audiences. Particularly at weddings now, it seems that punters want all the entertainment and spontaneity of a live band, as well as expecting them to know every song ever recorded.

Don’t get me wrong, throughout the years I’ve had many strange song requests (bear in mind we are a 4 piece, all male band with no keyboard) including: Chicquita by Abba, Superman by Black Lace, White Riot by The Clash and Ape Man by The Kinks – a number of which are good songs, but not really suitable for a 60th birthday or little David’s Christening. I always knew it was probably a mistake to play an NWA track  for the first dance – still, you live and learn.
Anyway, I accept that you’re always going to get some mentally unbalanced member of the audience shouting at the top of their lungs, “Do Talking Heads, Psycho Killer!” but these days it isn’t just the odd request that bothers me. The word ‘request’ isn’t really accurate. Now it’s more like a demand, followed by gasps of incredulity when you have to politely inform the groom that you don’t play some obscure Soundgarden B-side from 1987.
“You don’t play that? You’re joking right? It’s dead easy, just goes . . .”
He then attempts to hum the tune into my ear whilst the rest of the band ‘tuts’ and tells me to ignore him. To be fair, the rest of the band spend most of their time ‘tutting’ disapprovingly at me anyway – I’m the singer, so I’m used to regular abuse and taunts. Although, I don’t complain too much when members of the audience are dishing out the compliments after the gig – seemingly oblivious to the fact that there are 4 of us in the band. Which kind of emphasizes my next point.
I honestly believe that the average person thinks that the actual music – the playing of the instruments etc – just somehow ‘happens’ and that it’s as straightforward as selecting a track on their iPod. I hate to shatter any illusions, but it doesn’t just ‘happen’.
Although their have been many occasions when, like most experienced musicians, we have been able to bluff our way through stuff with only a moment’s notice, most songs require some kind of rehearsal. We don’t just turn up at the gig and hope for the best. We learn new stuff all of the time and try to make sure we have plenty of stuff for differing tastes and occasions. Between us we know dozens of songs but sometimes it’s never enough. We recently finished playing at a charity gig, having played 2 encores and having a fantastic response, only to be accosted by some miserable sod on the way out:
“You were quite good tonight, but really can’t believe you didn’t play ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. You’d have had them eating out of your hand if you’d played that. Very disappointing.”
Before you ask, it wasn’t a room full of Liverpool football club supporters, so don’t know why he thought we should play that. Wouldn’t mind, but he didn’t even bother to request it when we were playing!
The latest trend I’ve noticed is for the client to ask if we can send them our repertoire so that they can ‘choose the songs and the order’ etc. I always politely refuse. Would you ask a plumber if you could check out all of the tools and parts he’s going to use for a job so that you could tell him how to do it properly? Not unless you had a burning desire to know what it feels like to remove a monkey wrench from your bottom. By the way, that isn’t the metaphor I use with a client.
The fact of the matter is, even a great DJ can’t quite grab an audience like a great live band can. A band usually has a much better grasp of what an audience wants – and can also change gears, knowing when to really push them and when to back off a bit. We can drop the volume and repeat a chorus a few times to get the whole room singing with us. Because that’s the real attraction of live entertainment – it’s a two way thing and when done right it should be charged with energy and spontaneity.
It’s a conversation and as such we actively seek feedback and we want interaction. We don’t mind receiving requests either. As long as that is what it is – a request. Not a command. If we don’t know the specific track they’ve asked for, we play another song by that artist or something in the same vain. It’s a bit like the Genius function on iTunes, except that our method actually works. We also ask the client, beforehand, if there is a particular track they would like us to learn for their event and make sure we put in the extra time to learn it.
So whilst we may not know every top 100 hit of the last 60 years, we can play a pretty diverse range of stuff from a 50’s Rock n Roll track, through to Motown, Glamrock, 80’s Pop and Modern Indie. And, unlike an iPod, our battery won’t die half way through the night (as long as the drummer gets his fair share of the buffet).
We have instruments and we’re not afraid to use them. So, just for a night, ditch the iPod attitude and go and find some live music.
You never know. You might just like it.
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For more information about my cover band (available for pubs, clubs and private functions) check out http://www.thekicksband.co.uk

Will The Real St Patrick Please Stand Up!

B’Jesus, b’gorrah, and top o’ the mornin’ to ye.

Yes, horrible isn’t it? It’s also a perfect example of the lazy stereotyping that drinks manufacturers now resort to when marketing ‘St Paddy’s Day’.

As someone who actually has some Irish heritage – my grandad is from Kilkenny (check the surname if you please) you’d think that I’d get all excited about St Patricks’s Day. Especially as Guinness is genuinely my alcoholic beverage of choice. Indeed, only a few years ago I did really look forward to going down to my nearest boozer, indulging in a bit of the old ‘diddly-dum’ music and finding an excuse to down a few more pints of the black stuff.

Admittedly, there’s always been a large contingent of ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ who stand at the bar spouting about ‘The Old Country’ when the nearest they’ve been to Ireland is watching the Irish Derby in the bookies. I’d be lying if I said my claim to being Irish was particularly convincing: I have an Irish grandparent which makes me a ‘quarter Irish’. Embarrassingly, in my youth I would regularly tell my friends this, as if I was somehow special.

“I’m not actually English, you know – I’m a quarter Irish.”

Unsurprisingly, I was a lonely child.

Anyway, the point is, I didn’t mind that. It was to be expected; we don’t need much of an excuse to go and get inebriated. However, with each passing year I’ve seen the hype get more ridiculous as the massive marketing machine of the drinks companies has gone in to overdrive. Which leads to my experience on this year’s ‘festivities’.

There is an Irish bar that myself and my colleague try and get to at least one lunchtime of a week (preferably Friday – makes us feel like we deserve it). We both love Guinness and this bar does the best pint for miles. We thought we’d pop down there at lunchtime on Tuesday to sample the ‘real Irish’ atmosphere – ‘It’s Your Paddy’s Day’ as one of the many banners hanging around the place pronounced.

Imagine our horror, as I try to describe the scene that we found on our arrival.

First of all, the place was heaving. That I can handle -the place needs all the custom it can get. I just took issue with the kind of people that were in there. These folks made the afore mentioned ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ look like the real thing. Grown adults dressed in complete Leprachaun costumes, complete with stick-on white sideburns. And that was just the women.

Then came the adhoc souvenir store that had been set-up next to the bar, selling the obligatory green hats, ‘I Do It For The Craic’ T-shirts and even plastic 4 leaf clover key rings. And there was a queue of people waiting to buy all that shite. People, I hasten to add, I have never seen in that pub before. They just saw the big green ‘St Paddy’ Bandwagon rolling in to town and thought ‘ooh that looks fun’. Fun? Since when did a big knees up down the pub become Theme Night In The Asylum?

Then, just to finish things off nicely, there was a selection of ‘Oirish’ music being played by a DJ that was actually pretending to mix the tracks. At one point he faded the next record up to early and it sounded like an Accordionist was falling down some stairs. Then came the penny whistle solo. A sound I love to hear live when I’m standing in a pub in Ireland, maybe with a nice acoustic guitar and a violin. What I’m not so keen on is when it’s played through a sound system that has all the sonic charm of a rusty gate. The treble was so offensive that at one point one of my ear drums actually left my body and went round the corner for a Starbucks.

Wincing, I took another look around the room to see dozens of be-hatted freaks pretending to enjoy their pints of Guinness, despite the fact it’s the first time they’ve ever tasted it, and saying things like:

“Mmmm, it’s really creamy isn’t it? I love a bit of stout, me”

Ok, ok, I know I’ve probably over-laboured the point here a bit and it may surprise you to find out that I definitely don’t want to get rid of St Patricks Day. Pubs are struggling, with as many as 6 closing every day, so promotions that can bring in this amount of business are a necessity. You would probably also say ‘well why don’t you just not go out on St paddy’s you miserable sod?’ And you’d be dead right.

Which is why my final suggestion is this: How about we have our own Real St Patrick’s Day to be held annually on March 18th? The pubs would be nice and quiet – at least all the ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ would be too hung over from the previous day’s exertions to bother us. We could get a nice acoustic combo in to supply the entertainment. All Leprechaun outfits and cheap souvenirs would be banned and there would be a test question on the door: What was it that Patrick actually did to become a saint? And the answer ‘something to do with snakes?’ would not suffice.

So put the date in your diary and I’ll see you all next year. 2010 really will be ‘Our St.Patrick’s Day’. The real one.

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Wii Fit . . . Me Fat.

“Hello, Wayne. Oh dear . . . . did you know it’s been 231 days since your last visit?”
“Has it really been that long?” I innocently reply.
“You know very well how long it’s been, young man, and I must say I can tell by looking at you that it’s been a while – so get on the scales and prepare for some bad news!”

Ok, the last bit didn’t happen because, of course, at least as of the time of writing this, the friendly folks at Nintendo haven’t activated the Sarcasm Chip (TM) in the delightful little console known as the Wii.

For the uninitiated, the Wii is the one that involves physical exertion; you actually play out the actions needed for any particular game. So for Tennis you swing the controller through the air, executing powerful forehand passing shots or producing a brilliantly judged backhand lob. The reality can be quite different: you swing the controller wildly, cracking the rib of your opponent before following through and knocking a vase off the mantel piece. The point is you get a bit of exercise and it’s great entertainment for anyone watching you make an ass of yourself as you try to outsprint Sonic The Hedgehog in the 100 metres.

Of course, I didn’t purchase the Wii for such trivial distractions. I bought it because of it’s ground breaking fitness aid – Wii Fit (poor sod who came up with the name must’ve been up all night thinking up that one). This really is a great package which includes a range of games and activities to keep you fit and a futuristic-looking FitBoard (something like that) which allows you to do Yoga, Skiing, Football Headers, Step Aerobics and of course everyones favourite workout . . .The Tightrope Walk (?!) I kid you not.

Now, before I go on, I have to say I’m not criticising the Wii Fit in anyway, other than to say it makes me feel unworthy of its considerable merits. It’s brilliance makes my guilt at not having used it for 231 days all the more great. And it doesn’t even seem to mind too much. It’s like your girlfriend finding out you’ve been having an affair for the last 6 months and then saying:

“Tut! Never mind. What would you like for tea?”

When you first load the software you are prompted to do a body test (especially when you haven’t done one for over 6 months). The basic test checks your centre of gravity (highlights posture problems) and then weighs you. Gulp. To make matters worse, when you put on weight, your Mii (a graphical version of yourself, made in your image) actually grows in front of your eyes with an horrific sound effect to accompany it. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary (I can’t see my feet when standing up) as I stand on the board, awaiting the results, a tiny voice inside me is whispering, ‘Maybe you’ve lost weight – or at least stayed the same’. Get real, would you.

Sure enough, after a few seconds, the line on my graph heads up hill and the Mii takes on the appearance of a poor man’s John Candy (circa ‘Cool Runnings’). There’s the grim sound effect followed by the news that I’ve gained almost half a stone in weight – and I wasn’t exactly svelte to begin with!

I should probably clarify that the burden of fitness responsibility does not solely lie with the Wii Fit. Well, obviously, the responsibility for fitness lies with me – what I mean to say is that the Wii Fit is not my only means of losing weight and staying fit. I also own a treadmill, which up until the past couple of weeks, did have at least 3 months where it was almost completely dormant. So despite my mock shock (only for the benefit of the Wii, which obviously didn’t care a jot) it was hardly surprising that I should find myself on the wrong side of the Obese/Over-weight line.

Still, it will do me no good to sit whining about it. I must find my resolve, grasp some self discipline and drop the hobnob biscuits (but they’re so nice with tea). The truth is that when I do get myself on the treadmill or manage a particularly long walk across the tightrope(!) I do feel much better. Psychologically and physically. And as a Yoga virgin before I bought the Wii, I have to say it’s brilliant to do some exercises before breakfast and it really does help with your posture.

So, whilst I’m not publicly promising rapid weight loss and an evangelical approach to my fitness and well being, I am publicly stating that I am going to give it a really good go. Again. Maybe if I say it out loud (is anyone listening?) then there’s more chance of me exerting some actual will power and actually making a difference this time.

Also, I know my little Wii trainer will be spurring me on to succeed. As long as I can be bothered to switch it on. Obviously.

I found a really good (serious) little article on getting motivated with the Wii Fit. Check it out:

http://www.gamepeople.co.uk/lukepyper_topical01.htm

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Fellow Geeks Unite! Are We Not Men?

Most of the time I feel like a fairly capable, intelligent person. And whilst I have all of the athletic prowess of a common garden snail and the physique of Benny Hill, for the most part I am assured of my masculinity and social standing.

Fair enough, I wasn’t educated at Oxford or Cambridge nor was I prop forward (don’t even know if that’s an actual Rugby position) for my school team but I did play a bit of footy and didn’t shy away from the odd rough tackle (no, that isn’t a euphemism).

So why is it that now, in my early 30’s, there are still 2 topics that make me feel like I do in that recurring dream that everyone has where you find yourself standing in your PE class wearing a girl’s gym slip? (What do you mean, you’ve never had that dream before?) And the dual causes for this sudden reduction in my masculinity and self belief? DIY and Football talk.

Just because I don’t follow a particular football club or have no interest in how to put up a set of shelves using self refracting monkey bolts, I immediately become a social pariah.

I once had a 15 minute conversation with a taxi driver about how badly the ‘Blues’ were playing that season. I managed to blag my way through a quarter of an hour by nodding my head sagely and saying “exactly,” and “yeah, good point,” etc, until eventually he asked me who my favourite ‘Blues’ player was (no, I didn’t say Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf – he was reffering to a football team). I scrambled for a few seconds and then, with great relief, I managed to recall the one ‘Blues’ player that I knew at that time. There was a momentary pause as the driver processed this information.

“But he plays for Leicester City . . .” he said.
“Yes, I know” I confidently retorted.
“But we’ve been talking about Birmingham City for the entire journey!”

That was pretty much the end of the conversation and the final ten minutes of the journey were painfully silent, save for the gentle jingling of the driver’s Birmingham City mascot hanging from the rear view mirror.

As mentioned earlier, my other weakness comes in the form of DIY or anything that requires what ‘manual types’ refer to as ‘common sense’ or ‘being good with your hands’ – mind you, the latter was said about Bill Clinton and look how that ended. Because of my general lack of interest in this area and, it has to be said, my past ineptitude, I tend to avoid doing any home improvement activity that involves anything more complicated than changing a fuse or ‘turning it on and off again’.

However, it was a recent conversation I had with one of those very ‘manual types’ whilst waiting around at my daughter’s parents evening a couple of weeks ago that spurred me in to action. Once again my stupid bloody machismo has lead me in to a trap. He was a nice guy, and we got on to the subject of houses etc. He was explaining all of the jobs he still has yet to complete in his home. My fiancee cackled like The Wicked Witch of The West and then very kindly brought it to the guy’s attention that I was completely useless at DIY and that we always paid someone else to do stuff like that. Within those few seconds after the proclaimation of my fecklessness, all of his warmth and laughter died . His smile became a frown and he repeated the words as if searching for some hidden meaning.

“You. Don’t. Do. DIY? You CAN’T do DIY?”

In that moment of embarrassment and shame I became resolute: I CAN DO DIY. I WILL DO DIY. Goddammit! Am I Not A Man?!

Which leads us to my attempt, this morning, to reseal around our bath and replace the beading. It’s been leaking for a while. It’s a very straight forward job. Remove the old stuff. Clean it down, dry it off and get resealing. Simple. Easy. I can do that. So please, would you be so kind, as to explain to me why it took me over an hour to do it, and when I finally gave up – I mean, ‘finished’ – did it look like a small child had spilt a vat full of correction fluid around my bath? And just to compound and confirm my failure my daughter surveyed the damage, tilted her head to one side and with a patronising tone seldom heard from one so young said:

“Never mind, Dad. At least you tried really hard.”

Half an hour later the tube of sealant lay in the bin and the remnants of my tool kit was up for auction on Ebay. It’s time to accept what I am. I may not be a walking Football encyclopaedia or have a working knowledge of how to use the detachable Sparrowflange, but I’m still a man.

I’d like to see how one of those ‘manual types’ would cope if I asked them to edit a 2 minute interview from 2 hours worth of footage and then encode me a 2-pass MPEG2 file with a maximim bitrate of 7.2.

Yeah. I’d show them.

Let me know if you’ve had any similar ‘feeling like a geek/nerd/loser’ experiences.

Fellow geeks unite! After all, are we not men too?

Thankyou for the Music . . .

Potentially not a great start to the day: Awoken by my 7 year old daughter at 7.20am who calmly informs me that I seem to have overslept by about half an hour. She, however, has washed, dressed, tidied her room and now wants to borrow the laptop to prepare for the opening of the markets. She mutters something about there being an overnight surge in Equities and disappears downstairs. At least I think that was what she said – it was either that or “I’m going to check out the Nick Junior website.”

I spend the next 30 minutes stumbling around half asleep and trying to get myself ready for work, then pretend to be a responsible parent by double-checking Megan has brushed her teeth. She has – but reminds me that I’ve put my T-shirt on back to front.
After eventually successfully dropping Megan off at her Grandma’s, I realised I had to try to reverse the faltering start I had made to the day. The answer? Music, of course. I had a twenty minute car journey to reverse my fortunes:
Step 1 – Dig out the never failing Motown compilation. 
Step 2 -Find the desired track (today it was ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ – Stevie Wonder)
Step 3 – Crank up the volume.
Step 4 – Start slow – tap your fingers, maybe nod your head slightly.
Step 5 – Prepare to look silly – sing at the top of your voice and feel the endorphin rush.
Step 6 – DO NOT CRASH* Kelly’s Eye accepts no responsibility for personal injury.
18 minutes and 5 tracks later, I turned off the engine and virtually skipped to work. A couple of hours later and I still feel good – despite being ignored by a client and the fact that it’s Friday 13th.
Try it – you won’t be disappointed, I promise. Don’t just take my word for it either. Here’s the Scientific proof – http://bit.ly/kL8hE

Twitter and a blog? What next – Fire?!

I tried Myspace for a while (still pretty good for music – check out http://www.myspace.com/thekicksbanduk), fell in love with Facebook and then only a week ago, my friend and boss virtually had to force me to try Twitter.

Have to admit I was sceptical, as I already find myself wasting too much time of an evening trawling through Facebook friends updates such as ‘Mmm, can’t beat choccie biscuits!’ or ‘I’ve just bought a lovely pair of socks’. You know – useful stuff. I just assumed Twitter was more of the same, and I guess it can be if you want, but when used with Tweetdeck or whatever other apps are out there, it suddenly becomes a really useful research tool and a great way to network.
I work as a soundman/producer/Final Cut Pro Editor for a corporate video production company, so it’s already been great for finding tips and useful bits of info regarding work. In addition I write, record and perform music so I think it will be great for hooking up with other like minded people. The site above is for a part time cover band I perform in at the weekends, but I will be creating a site for original material in due course, if anyone’s interested.
Anyway, the point is, one thing has lead to another and I thought the next logical step was to try a blog. So here it is. I’ll keep an eye out for interesting video/tech/music related stuff and will try to keep up to date with the posts.
Let’s see how it pans out.

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