I love a bit of Maiden as much as the next middle-aged, dog-walking vegetarian but can’t quite get behind the notion of aligning my musical genre of choice with organised faith – the goals of one seem quite at odds with the professed beliefs of the other, surely?
Obviously this result should probably be taken in the spirit of the kind of lightly subversive, nose-thumbing surrealism that I suspect it to be (note the high ranking of ‘Jedi Knight‘ as a faith of choice in the UK census, even after the quality of the “Star Wars” prequels should have killed aligning oneself to Uncle George’s franchise outright).
So, if I’m reading all of this correctly, the proper conclusion to draw from this census is that agencies of social control (which we normally oppose with all-consuming fervour) are a very bad idea until they provide you with the opportunity to make a snarky response to a survey.
Posts have been slow (well, non-existent) on this blog since Thursday because our lovely laptop was not happy. A rather unpleasant, grinding sound had begun to emit from my dependable internet conduit on Wednesday of this week, rendering extended usage an unpleasant prospect.
Starting up the machine was a trial, downloading my regular tranche of podcasts was an exercise in ignoring constant background noise and on top of that, my wife now works from home, so a dead or dying laptop was a total non-starter. Action had to be taken, dag-blast-it!
My first fear was, perhaps naturally, that the hard drive was on the way out and that I was due for a serious wallet-depleting repair session with the attendant data recovery costs which that would imply. Duly prepared for bad news, we packed up our laptop and took it with us to our nearest PC repair joint and steeled ourselves for bad news.
Bad news, believe it or not, which didn’t actually come.
Our problem was connected to the picture above – the laptop’s fan had died on us. And why had it died?
Yep, the computer’s best friend, animal fur. Our tame computer repair chap rang us before proceeding with the fixes to show us the state of our laptop and it was like a scene from grooming day at a dog styling salon – it really doesn’t help our favourite digital devices to live around two very furry dogs and to have to cope with the shedding and general doggy detritus which accompanies life with a fluffy pal.
Thank the Happy Computer Sentinels for their overwatch duties on our laptop, who’ll soon be back home with us. This post, in fact, is being written on an old XP based desktop machine which has more than proved its mettle during this weekend and been a real help in a jam – a machine that, ironically, I cracked open to look at in the last year and did some remedial work on. #
Including cleaning and sorting out its dusty old fan…
Every family has their resident, unpaid technology whisperers – the one, uniquely calming soul who speaks fluent gadget, effortlessly tweaks new mobile phone settings and performs that most essential of modern miracles, making the internet work.
In my family, I am that unfortunate soul.
The major problem with that, of course, is that I’m entirely self-taught and nowhere near being a network engineer, so the major stuff which goes wrong is absolutely beyond my ken. Power-cycle a router? Can do. Install software and do updates? No problem. Reinstating an internet connection which is shown as being connected but fervently resisting any attempt to allow any device in the house to connect to the internet? Utterly bewildering.
After the best part of two hours on the phone with my ISP’stechnical support team (and three hours of shutting down, starting up, plugging in ethernet cables and grimacing before that), we finally got the damn thing working again by jiggling a pin in a small, hidden port to reset the device entirely. It feels insulting, somehow.
I’ve had better Sunday afternoons, let me assure you. But everything appears to be working now and Mrs Rolling Eyeballs has been able to blog again and work so I feel as though my wasted hours of first world problems, switching on and off again, obtaining ethernet cables and obsessive tea drinking were all worth the dubious pleasure of chatting with outsourced call centre staff who couldn’t understand my not especially difficult to understand Northern British accent, wouldn’t accept that my PC’s settings were not located where they expected them to be and the sudden, inexplicable collapse of my laptop battery.
It sounds like a horrendous cliché, but it’s true – you really don’t miss the things you take for granted until they’re snatched away by the dread faeries of soul-crushing tech fail…
It’s not a problem which many of us will ever have to deal with, I grant you, but it’s good to see lottery winners finding creative (if jocular) ways to go large with their new windfall.
This is the dilemma affecting newly-minted millionaires Adrian and Gillian Bayford, who this week claimed a winning EuroMillions lottery jackpot of £148 million, leading music store owner Adrian to joke that he’d like to use some of his cash to persuade the classic Guns ‘N’ Roses line-up to reform.
Putting aside the sad truth that even if you paid him handsomely to play a private gig for you the odds are that Axl would still show up two hours late, I got to thinking about what manner of frippery I would spend my hypothetical jackpot on.
I’d hire out my local multiplex’s bigger screens, hook-up a games console and blast through some action games for an evening of delirious nerdery. Or, you know, build my own cinema addition to whichever house I bought (which would, of course, be Hagrid-friendly). Who hasn’t gone to their local cinema and thought – “You know what ‘The Expendables 2’ needs? To be ‘Uncharted 3‘ or ‘Dragon’s Dogma‘ instead and have me playing it”
I’ve never been a car guy, so expensive luxury prestige marques are not for me. What’s the point in buying something that jettisons a metric ton of value once you get the keys and sit behind the wheel for the first time? Likewise, I don’t aspire to own a helicopter or personal jet – this kind of personal transportation is more my speed….
And if money was truly no barrier to creating things that I know would please those I love…
I’d hire the developers of lovely, eccentric and desperately underrated XBox 360 platformer “Ilomilo“, Southend Interactive, to code and create a sequel to their glorious XBLA title. Because Mrs Rolling Eyeballs would quite like that, don’t you know?
I wrote about the appalling treatment that feminist art-punk collective Pussy Riot were receiving at the hands of what passes for a judicial system in Russia a few weeks back, and on Friday the inevitable happened – arrested band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were handed two-year sentences for the in-no-way imaginary offence of hooliganism committed by a group of persons motivated by religious hatred.
Or, as appears to be the case, the rather more accurate crime of criticising Vladimir Putin‘s Russia and the Draconian B.S. carried out on his say-so to silence dissent in whatever form it takes.
I try to wear my atheism lightly – nobody wants a strident anti-theist blogging in their face with their best sub-Dawkins one liners annoying the crap out of all and sundry – but cases and religiously motivated legal decisions make it very difficult for me not to have absolute and complete contempt for believers who allow their personal convictions to intrude on their professional lives and directly impact those who don’t share their faith.
By all means, take the Pussy Riot collective to court and charge them with presenting a political protest – but don’t bring imaginary deities into it. That’s just cretinous.
If your God’s so offended by protests against he/she/it, have the omnipotent icon show up in court themselves to explain just why they require such absurd overreaction to be carried out in their name. What’s that? You can’t get your God to actually show up? Oh, how very convenient.
This verdict is about silencing unpopular thought, women and ideas – and non-existent, invisible, oddly diffident deities don’t really come into matters, but can be invoked by the terminally cynical to silence criticism of their fascistic approach to social control. Let’s just get things straight, shall we?
You can follow the fight to free the band members via Amnesty USA’s site – and hope that Putin soon realises that this idiotic debacle is doing more to dent Russia’s reputation than a decade of locking up oligarchs and riding rough-shod over democracy has done to date.
Clearly, I’ve not kept abreast of world news – if I had, the treatment of Russian art-punk collective Pussy Riot by Darth Putin would have moved me to write this post previously. Your usually scheduled daily helping of power metal, Christopher Nolan worship and complaints about video game storytelling will be along anon.
I don’t suppose I should feel any surprise that Vladimir Putin‘s zero tolerance response to criticism of his dictatorship presidency is to round-up the geeky art students responsible and sling them in the clink, but the brazenness of his actions is sufficient to raise an eyebrow in the West, where our freedom to yell slogans and strum two chords is mostly protected and unlikely to get us into any serious trouble with the law.
Seriously? A trial with a potential jail sentence of seven years for playing a few songs in a church? It’s fair to say that those of us who have reasonable freedom of speech, assembly and dissent in our countries don’t realise just how fortunate we are when we see people protesting on TV and being arrested (or worse) as a matter of course.
Tired of Olympic hype? Try living in the UK. Your humble (and normally quite reasonable) blogger has had it up to his Musketeer-style chin beard with all things sporting after a year or so of relentless build-up to London 2012 and would happily go into suspended animation until the whole thing is over.
As a dyed-in-the-wool, adopted Sheffielder, I obviously wish Jessica Ennis well in her heptathlon campaign but I really would rather ignore the vast majority of the Olympics – a feat made quite challenging by the approximately 906 channels being devoted by the BBC to the imminent hostilities glorious sporting spectacle about to unfurl.
To distract those of you who can’t get that excited by athletes doing things slightly more quickly than they did them previously, take in the joyful image above of Iron Maiden‘s mascot Eddie, as originally found on the Metal Hammer website.
If you’ve ever owned an iPod whose internal hard drive began to make the dreaded clicking chime of doom, you’ll know just how I feel right now – yep, my beloved 80gb MP3 player has gone to the great gadget graveyard in the sky.
Getting over the undeniable fact that this is a first world problem, and that there’s a lot of people dealing with a lot more on a daily basis than merely the end of a beloved leisure product, I don’t feel embarrassed to confess that I felt absolutely sick as Poddy gasped and clicked his last. Anybody who has had this kind of device fail befall them will no doubt attest that the feeling is rather akin to that clearly evident on the face of Wile E. Coyote in the RoadRunner cartoons, as he looked directly into the camera seconds before plunging towards the canyon floor.
Did I back up my music? Is it all there? What about the podcasts? A range of questions begin to present themselves, not the least of which is “Do I want to keep going down the Apple route or should I cut my losses and get a cheaper MP3 player and manage my music the old-school way?” Because, friends, an 80gb iPod Classic isn’t a cheap thing to buy – and the less said about the hilarious price of a 64gb iPod Touch the better (oh Apple tax, will you ever stop providing me with entertainment?).
Not that moving past Apple is easy, once you take format quirks and the fact that the iPod is now synonymous with MP3 player for many retailers and users – the various flavours of iPod are the only game in town…
Inspired by Angry Metal Guy’s list, and because everybody loves a top ten (no matter how arbitrary they end up being), here’s my selection of the best records in 2012 so far. I can’t really say that anything which I’ve picked up has been a massive disappointment, and I’ve even found a band in the form of Diabulus In Musica who I totally adore and had never heard of before taking a chance on their second release. Excellent returns from old-hands, convincing albums from established Euro Metal acts and cracking debut collections – you can’t say fairer than that from a year, can you?
1) Delain – “We Are The Others”. Clearly the best album this gifted Dutch symphonic metal quintet have released so far – as much for the ways that it diverts from the established musical template of that genre whilst still retaining their identity. It’s the kind of record with enough diversity that your favourite song will change with each listening session – for me, the late-album track “Are You Done With Me?” is an alternate universe smash hit, but “I Want You” is also a genius slab of knowingly overwrought, sweeping metal balladry whose lyrics take a delicious, twisted about face in the last minute or two.
2) Luca Turilli‘s Rhapsody – “Ascending to Infinity”. Face-melting operatic insanity from the former Rhapsody of Fire guitarist. The soundtrack to movies not yet made, with a lovely cover of the Alessandro Safina opera/pop crossover hit, “Luna”, which somehow perfectly fits in with the neo-classical influence and metal flourishes evident elsewhere.
3) Epica – “Requiem for the Indifferent”. Confident, seemingly effortlessly melodic symphonic goodness from Simone Simons and co – but with the underpinning, genuinely metallic riffing and musicianship which carves the band out a distinctive place of their own amidst the multitude of European bands playing in a similar musical field. This is a record which I’ll be returning to repeatedly in the months to come, ahead of the band’s UK tour at the end of 2012.
4) Van Halen – “A Different Kind of Truth”. I was an early doubter of this legendarily fractious band’s ability to bounce back, record a record and tour it without something bad happening. Thankfully, that doubt is more than eclipsed by the quality of this album – it might be a selection of reworked seventies cuts which never made it onto studio records first time around, but the end release is classic Van Halen. End of debate, I guess. The proof’s in the likes of “Blood and Fire”, “She’s The Woman” and “Stay Frosty” – all evidence that the VH you know and love still has it.
5) Firewind – “Few Against Many”. A departure from Firewind’s expected Power Metal sound, introducing 70’s hard rock influences into the mix and doing it without sacrificing the riffs and splendid solos that you want from guitar genius, Gus G.
6) Sabaton – “Carolus Rex“. Sweden’s finest purveyors of fist-pumping, martial tunes about war and gubbins head way back into Swedish history for a tale of divine presumption, flawed military campaigns and good old-fashioned hubris married to some of the best tunes they’ve ever written. All that and inter-band strife which led to the group splintering and taking on a new rhythm section and guitarists right as the record released. For my money – currently £5.00 and coffee stamp card for the local java palace – “Lion From The North” is the best damn thing that they’ve recorded yet. I look forward to seeing Joakim and co. pile drive it into the faces of the faithful at their Sheffield show in November…
7) Lacuna Coil – “Dark Adrenaline”. Many fans were split on the merits of Lacuna Coil’s fifth album, “Shallow Life“. I wasn’t one of those who didn’t care for it (There’s some classic tunes on there – “I Won’t Tell You”, “Underdog”, “The Pain”) but I think that most fans will agree that Lacuna Coil’s 2012 record is a genuine monster of an album – not that these things count, but it’s been the highest charting release in their career in many countries. Sleek, modern production makes the likes of “Against You” and “Tell Me Something More” sound impressively huge and expansive– a progressive and contemporary sounding record which skilfully integrates their electronic underpinnings with fantastic, gut-punching riffs and solos. Modern Metal for the discerning? I should say so.
8) Halestorm –“The Strange Case Of…”. I’m inclined to say that this is the closest thing that this list will get to provoking controversy, as in some corners this band is very much persona non grata – a radio-friendly US rock quartet led by noted spell-check confoundress, Lzzy Hale whose tunes have been tearing up US radio and sneaking into “Glee”, just for the hell of it. There’s no doubt that they have their detractors, but I’m not one of them and I’m pretty sure that this record is a quantum jump forward from their debut album.
That wasn’t a terrible record by any sensible application of the term, but it pales in comparison to this record – go and listen to “American Boys” or “I Miss The Misery” and be hooked by the riffs, Lzzy’s voice – which goes from zero to ‘whisky-soaked, bar-room fight starting hellion’ in five seconds flat. Not Metal, but bloody magnificent.
9) Diabulus in Musica – “The Wanderer”. This appallingly photogenic band of Spanish symphonic metallers are one of the few bands with the ‘beauty & the beast’ vocal divergence that I can get behind without feeling slightly as though I’m being growled and simpered at by a sugar-deprived Cookie Monster and his mate, Dame Olivia Von Divason. The symphonic synths, galloping guitars and dark operatic vocals on “Ex Nihilo” make for some of my favourite tunes of the year – in fact, it may be my favourite trad metal song of 2012. UK shows, please!
10) End of September – Self-titled. One of the bands that I’ve discovered through a review in the UK’s “Power Play” rock magazine, and a genuinely nice surprise. Hailing from Sweden and straddling the middle ground between Delain, contemporary Within Temptation and, say, Kamelot, End of September have a female vocalist in Elin Redin who doesn’t go for operatic flourishes but a soulful, distinctive and plaintive tone which serves the band excellently. If you love your rock big, dramatic but not veering into the full-on metal attack of many groups in this top ten, End of September are a band that you’ll definitely want to listen out for. Their single “Isolated” is a great indicator of their sound – if you like that, you’ll love their album.