Friday, 31 July 2009

Pillow Talk

Before I left the mighty Chancellor SFC I thought I should pass comment on the pillow menu.....

Here is a transcript:

The Chancellor Hotel offers high quality synthetic down pillows on your bed [four of them]. A firmer polyester fibre [I corrected their funny American spelling] pillow is located in the closet [walk-in]. We are pleased to offer the following additional pillows for your comfort. Please limit yourself to two items.

Real Down

All natural classic favourite

Magnetic Therapy
[Some hocus pocus BS about swelling, insomnia, improved circulation]


Helps to sleep better and reduces neck pain, headaches, and lower back pain. All natural filling conforms to the shape of the head so the weight of the head and neck is evenly distributed and correctly supported.

[Yes you plug in your ipod and away you go]

Satin Beauty
Poly fibre desined to reduce pressure on facial bones. Silky satin cover helps maintain hairdos overnight

Linear Gravity
[uh what?] Non-allergenic, anti-microbial, with cervical support that has two different nexk rolls that offer gentle and firm support.

Reduces snoring to promote a deeper more restful sleep by elevating the chin from the chest, keeping the airway open.

Perfect for pregnancy or recovering from surgery

Between the knee
Reduces stress on the lower back

Isotonic Memory
Space-age foam designed by NASA has a unique self-moldng characteristic. Reacts to body temperature keepign sleepers cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Fill with warm water to sooth neck and upper back. Suction cups to position in the deep tub for maximum comfort.

This pillow is a personal item and therefore is $7 and yours to keep.

White and other white noise machines available

Monday, 20 July 2009

Oh the Irony

Amazon deleted 1984 off users' kindles.

Food so Far

Ed wanted a hotdog league table. So far I have two cities tied on zero, nether has tempted me into a hotdog. The ones at Turner Field looked rank I have to say, although they may have been delicious, and none of the carts on 5th and 6th Avenue this afternoon and evening inspired me to partake in the frankfurter experience.

Thursday- No food other than British Airways- you want a review? Cottage pie not awful; banoffee pie awful, chicken sandwich not awful, crème cheese sandwich beyond awful, tasteless, textureless, banal.......

Friday- Blueberry muffin for breakfast in Peachtree Centre (possibly more to follow on downtown Atlanta), then pizza at Turner Field, out of 10? I'd give it -1. I don't think you should really be allowed to call it pizza. The beer (now here I can feel a league table coming on) Budweiser Select, now I am tempted to speculate how they selected it but it wouldn't be very edifying reading. Not a good mark for Turner Field on night one so far as food and beverage are concerned. All the beer at the stadium cost $6.75 a pint for those interested.

Saturday- Full house, standing room only at Turner Field, so I went to the club house where they served something called “Tomahawk” out of a tap. Said 'beer' I think it would be fair to say is even worse than the Bud. At least the Bud was in a can, stored in a vat of iced water (note to Edstock revellers James McNamara knows how to serve shit beer: very, very, cold), Tomahawk was passing itself off as real beer. I forgot I had a bottle of 1 year out of date Sam Adams in a seedy bar in the middle of an unofficial parking lot of Thursday, that was quite good considering.

The club house is a mighty and inspired idea; spread over two levels in right centre field it is a full table service outside bar with snacks and food in full view of the field. The view is outstanding, the food, uh... um.... my buffalo chicken wrap with potato chips was T in the Park Fajita challenging in value for money terms. The hands down winner in the ball park food stakes was the Smokin' Joe's (I believe) BBQ. I had a pulled pork burger with corn and potato chips. I'll mark each constituent separately, the burger with the pulled pork and BBQ sauce was MSGlicious, 9.5/10, corn on the cob- 4/10, potato chips 8/10, so pretty good all around, apparently I should have had the black eyed beans not the corn.

Anyway that brings me to New York and the point of this post (there's a point?); Bonne Soupe on West 55th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue is great. The food was good and the service a combination of French and New York rudeness/efficiency- in fairness they were very busy. It was 5:30 and the last thing I'd had to eat was pecan pancakes at 8:30am in Atlanta, I had an hour until I had to head back to the Rockefeller Centre to start my tour and this place was filling up. More impressively the staff were eating in the restaurant at the bar. I dived in and took a table for one. As soon as I sat down a glass of water arrived, then a basket of bread and the glass of white I ordered. I chose the quiche, no sooner had I ordered than a green salad arrived followed by my slab of quiche Lorraine. Desert; crème brulee and a coffee, the whole bill came to less than 30 dollars including drinks and I was out of there in 55 minutes. Highly Recommended!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Jeff Franceour

Writing in Georgia- it seems appropriate.

Walter Cronkite died tonight.

Anyway, back to what I was going to write about; Frenchy, he swung at the first pitch he saw tonight and made an out. He did the same last night and ground into a double play.

Atlanta is full of 50% off Franceour shirts- here is an example I particularly like:

What you can't see and I didn't take a photo of because the woman in the shop thought I was crazy, is the John Rocker icon. It's still full price, nine years since he mouthed off and eight since he was traded- he's still full price though!


I thought the best way to keep in touch with the various people who are interested in how this goes would be to blog a little.

It might not be daily, but I'll try and post something up here with a couple of pictures too regularly.

If I set everything up correctly, it should also post to facebook.... and as Ed says in a previous post there will be Tweets over at hopefully.

Anyway to get things started I thought I'd start with a whinge. Atlanta Hartsfield Airport has the weirdest baggage claim ever.

Got of the plane, queued for nearly an hour to get through immigration (you still have to fill in a green I94 form even if you did the ETSA thingy online- what's up with that?). Then obviously my bag was right there at baggage claim, excellent I thought. Then I proceeded through customs, easy..... But wait, what's this? I have to check my bags again to "enter the airport". Then I get the body scan treatment- hand luggage through a scanner- laptop out of bag- No bottles of water- etc etc ....... Then you walk down a corridor which is litterally 2 miles long, with a train you can take to speed things along...... At the end is a new baggage claim where you get to do the whole carousel shuffle all over again.

Now the good stuff- watched a spectacular sunset on the MARTA on the way into downtown. My hotel is literally right on top of Peachtree Centre station, and everything I was expecting. I have the corner room on the 16th floor. The view from one of my windows is due north.

I have a 32" widescreen tv- and free wireless internet. Oh and the shower is the size of Wales.

Its 10am, I'm getting ready to go out for something to eat and get me a new Braves cap.

I'm planning a day at the ballpark this afternoon- Turner field tour- Braves museum- batting practice- something to eat- pre-game ceremony (reason for the trip to Atlanta)- and the game- Jurrjens and Pelfry tonight.

There will be no hotdog league. I just don't like them very much, I wouldn't be qualified. I will rate ball park food generally if you like though.

Braves one last night 5-3, so lets hope they keep it up. I'll try and educate the locals into booing Francoeur, we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Something intersting happened on Facebook

My brother's friend Tom posted something and prompted a discussion- he's prone to exaggerate (apparently), I have an ego approximately the size of a house and it was about legislation and the BBC. For fairness at this point I should point out I did write my dissertation at university on the subject of television and permissiveness in the 1960s, so I have read some books on the subject.

Anyway here's the link. If you're not a friend here is what happened:

Tom Cole Rowan Williams, the BBC might well be funded by the licence fee but that doesn't mean it has to broadcast more material for Christians. I pay the licence fee too, yet I don't get upset about Auntie's lack of full-bore smut, visceral horror and Cheech and Chong marathons. Don't I count, Rowan?!

Simon Gardiner at 11:51 on 30 March
points ou that public service broadcasting is what the license fee is for.....

"Ofcom's phase one review of public service broadcasting states that religious programming is "generally considered to be core PSB territory".[51] Section 264(6) of the Communications Act 2003 requires that public service television broadcasting in the United Kingdom must include services of a suitable quality and range dealing with a number of subjects including "religion and other beliefs". For the purposes of the Act a belief is defined as "a collective belief in, or other adherence to, a systemised set of ethical or philosophical principles or of mystical or transcendental doctrines" (section 264(13)). Therefore broadcasting covering religion and other beliefs is part of the remit of all public service channels."

The logical conclusion to this is to say this, sorry Tom you don't count. Its called public service broadcasting not Tom Cole service broadcasting- that's what the internet is for.

Rowan Williams is appointed to represent the views of a relatively large people, and he has a pretty strong case that the BBC is not living up to its charter on this one.

The BBC has gutted its religious programmes commissioning department and reduced the quantity of religious programming on the World Service. Reducing religious output (especially Christian) on the World Service is particularly serious as most religious broadcasting verges on the insane.

Also he deserves a break- he wasn't one of the nutcases protesting about Jerry Springer the opera.

Tom Cole at 14:11 on 30 March
Heh heh. 'Tom Cole service broadcasting' sounds brilliant...!

No, in all seriousness, I take your point that anything made by the BBC isn't likely to be the sort of ludicrous puff-pastry that passes for telly on God Europe (actually, did you know that when the God Channel first launched there was The God Channel and God 2, which is pretty bizarre for a monotheistic religion, eh?). And, again, point taken that Williams isn't too objectionable (on the whole, even though I think he's intellectually dishonest for the sake of preserving the status quo).

My problem here is with certain sectors of the populace assuming they've got a right to legislate BBC output purely on the basis of the licence fee. As I say, I pay the fucker too and see nothing which represents me or my interests (well, some of BBC4's output, granted...). I may not be definable, but I'll tell you this: if you took a straw poll of the populace and offered them the chance to see Songs of Praise Part II: Return of the Lord or Jenna and Friends go Wild in Estonia, the former would be stripped from the schedules before you could say 'Tiswas'. Christians may make up a proportion of the populace, but so do philosophy-loving slackers...

I mean, who the hell is BBC3 aimed at?!

But anyhow, my attitude's probably explicable by the following: I don't believe in the licence fee. Like all forms of democracy, it doesn't work. And leaves us with Strictly Come Dancing. UGH!

Tom Cole at 22:09 on 30 March
Also, 'collective belief'?! Man, Christianity is a 'collective belief' of the country on the statute books only... I'm not denigrating, I'm just saying so.

Mind, this makes me wonder. If all it takes to enact change is a publicly-recognised presence, I wonder if banding together all other cynical Gen X types and calling ourselves Transcendental Slackitators would wok? No? OK then...

He got one in there without me even getting a chance to reply!!

Simon Gardiner at 22:30 on 30 March
Well we can all get on board with BBC3 bashing.

I don't think the license fee has anything to do with democracy, the whole point of it is to insulate us from it.

If you wanted to make a case against the license fee (I should come out as 100% in favour), I would say that the BBC should be made to dump all local radio and a whole heap of digital radio stations (probably all of the extra ones). BBC3 and BBC4 should be scrapped and their good content used to back fill for the shite on BBC1 and 2 these days....

Ban cross promotion- sell off its other media outlets (sorry radio times boy), I think the magazines and the publishing is quite difficult to justify too.

Also I don't think you're being very fair- no-one is suggesting Songs of Praise II- (that's alot of dashes) but rebroadcasting 'thought for the day' perhaps with a panel discussion afterwards for half an hour per week on the World Service wouldn't do anyone any harm.

And they should not be able to count the Heaven and Earth show as religious programming. Its like this morning for dunderheads.

They could make a programme where philosophers and theologians discuss the implications of the ideas in Richard Dawkins' books. There's the possibility to make an interesting programme about cross denominational and cross-religious debate. I wouldn't watch it but provided it was made properly I don't see any reason why it shouldn't fulfill everyone's criteria of what PSB should be.

Anyway just two ideas which I think shouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility but I don't think the BBC is interested enough in making serious programming.

For the record its a slightly odd way to make the argument against the pap on tv to argue in favour of broadcasting pornography and slasher movies. I can't believe I'm writing this but I'd rather watch Songs of Praise.

Tom Cole at 14:01 on 31 MarchI'm being deliberately OTT (ask Ed - if I can, I'll always exaggerate).

Actually the BBC already has a show like the panel show idea you mentioned. It's called The Big Questions, it's broadcast on Sunday mornings and it's a pile of wank. I wrote a blog about it on Pessismystic a little while ago which was so vitriolic it caused a relationship to end. So, yeah, to my mind they've not got it quite right yet.

Oh, and your Beeb reforms are pretty much what I'd suggest too! Yeah, it'd mean I'd be cut adrift but, m'eh, omlettes and eggs. And besides, it'd mean I'd be free to lie around in bed all day watching Sun Ra documentaries from BBC4 which have taken over Flog It's slot in the schedules.

And since Auntie's slashed its factual and news budgets, I think it's fair to say that serious programming's not at the top of its agenda. If Tess Daly ain't on it, it don't mean a thing.

But returning to our original point: I want smut and horror. Rowan Williams wants more religious programming. Why should his request be acknowledged while mine's ignored? Again, I genuinely don't believe that Christianity's a mainstream enough belief to dictate media output. It's as if the Plymouth Brethren demanded BBC programmes dedicated to their beliefs, simply because there's more than one member of their cult in society.

Also, and this might be a bit contentious, isn't it dangerous and misguided in this day and age to promote any world religion uncritically by pandering to its requests? The more forelock-tugging that goes on to appease religion, the more muddied the waters of reason become. Why have we collectively renounced the Enlightenment over the past ten years or so?

Anyway that is where we are up to so far.....

So here's what more I have to say

There is a great danger in democracy that everyone assumes everyone else is just like them and that their life experience is representative of everyone else's. I think Tom has fallen into this seductive trap.

The facts of the matter are that I couldn't find any cinema data on people attending porn or horror cinemas, but if you look at this report from the BBC you will see that cinema attendance overall was estimated at 156 million people in 2006. Or 3m people per week.

This article, suggests at the bottom that porn channels account for 5% of Sky's business which recorded £5bn in sales in 2008. Reading the article I think that they got that number [5%] from working out that there are 55 channels providing adult entertainment on Sky (55 divided by 1000 channels). They also point out that these channels do not publish subscriber numbers. I don't think there is anyone who is seriously claiming that Sky makes most of its money from these channels. Sky has just over 9m subscribers, so its £5bn is about £45 per month per subscriber. Lets to a completely pointless and unrepresentative calculation- assume 5% of Sky's income was from the porn channels (not the millions of people subscribing to films and sports channels), and people were paying £5 per night as the Belfast Telegraph article suggests they can. How many people would that be? The answer is 50m views per year. I think that is totally unrepresentative as a number. But bear it in mind. That is just under 1m people per week.

Ok so now the religious numbers:

In the 2001 census everyone had the chance to tick a box to say what religion they were, they could leave it blank, they could answer no religion or they could write in what religion they were. It was by this process that I believe Jedi became an official religion of the UK, I don't know who the people who wrote that think the joke is on- but anyway.

The results came back like this:

71% of people said they were Christian, or 41,000,000. 15% said they had no religion, and 8% were too stupid or too arrogant or too insulted or whatever to tick the box, we'll assume they have no religion to, if only 'cos there are enough pillocks filling the numbers of the religious out already. That means that about 13,000,000 people have no religion.

Ah you say- but none of them go to church. And you'd be right. Well actually you wouldn't. Here's the result of the most recent survey of church attendance I could find freely available for linking to etc on the internet. Its for England only so its only out of 50,000,000. The other data for films and Sky covers the whole UK. Anyway it shows that 'usual' church attendees number 3m per week or approximately 150m per year.

Anyway Tom you are flat out wrong. The BBC devotes more hours per week providing free advertising to cinemas than it does to broadcasting about religion. I don't think that is particularly justifiable. I'm not here advocating taking off Film 2009 with Jonathon Ross (but you could I wouldn't complain), to make way for more Songs of Praise. But it should be possible for the BBC to seriously engage with an issue as important as religion. It is running away from its statutory obligation to represent for better or worse the established religion of the majority of the population of this country.

While they are at it they could make a programme about both the Plymouth Brethren and the Enlightenment. I'd watch both... probably.... if it had tits and blood spurts in it!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Bob Ross of Photoshop

So who remembers Bob Ross? I suspect if you didn't grow up with access to American PBS TV or cable or satellite TV in the UK you won't know what I'm on about. Unless you've seen Peep Show... in Peep Show Bob Ross is God. He presented the Joy of Painting, teaching wet on wet technique for oil painting.

Anyway, as everyone knows painting is for dweebs, but what if you paint on your computer? Now, a few years ago I posted somewhere else the hilarious results of an online photoshop competition: future products from Apple Computers. Featuring the iToilet etc.

I've always been fascinated by digital art and now I've discovered this guy called Bert Monroy. I have to say I'm pretty sure what he does isn't art, it may be an art to do it, but I don't think it tells us anything deeper about ourselves or the human condition. Check his stuff out, I really admire it, I would go so far as to say I like it even. I don't think I would buy it and hang it on my wall though. There have been painters through history who have specialised in painting what I would call hyper-real pictures, Mr Monroy is following in their tradition. I think his stuff is fabulously skilled, crazily labour intensive, illustrative and interesting to look at. I just don't think it's art and I can't quite put my finger on why, but I know its got nothing to do with the fact he made it with a computer.

Anyway, Bert has a podcast show on the internet which shows you how to do what he does, using techniques he has perfected in photoshop and illustrator to create photo-realistic images.

In the show I link to above he draws direct comparisons between himself and Bob Ross. When I happened across his show on the web I was immediately pulled in and interested I wondered why and what it was that made him like Bob Ross.

When I was about 5 my grandparents had there bathroom re-tiled. It took the guy several days, everyday I sat outside the bathroom on the landing and watched him, helped him, brought him tiles. I was 5 I don't think I was thinking "one day I might have my own bathroom to tile I better find out how to do this". I think I've just always been fascinated by watching other people work.

I think that's why we/I like watching Bob Ross and Bert Monroy. I don't think its because it's art. Art is impossible to teach someone, you can't show someone how to make art. Bob and Bert don't; they teach us techniques to make pictures. It's a subtle difference but I think its actually more fun to watch.