Friday 26 September 2014

Yet Another Music Meme

I love a good meme and I love a good music meme even more. I have discovered yet another one while prowling cyberspace so without further ado, let’s get going.

1. Which bands/artist do you own the most albums by?

That’s easy – Rush. Given that the band is very soon celebrating their 40th anniversary, and they have been my favourite band since 1981, it’s kind of obvious really. In total I have nineteen albums by the band, including live recordings. Let’s hope they continue to make superb music for a while yet.

2. What was the last song you listened to?

I am currently have iTunes on shuffle on my desk top and the song that has just finished is Here Is The News by Electric Light Orchestra, a classic from the early 1980’s.

3. What’s in your CD player right now?

The song I am currently listening to is Every Day Is Exactly The Same by Nine Inch Nails:

So the album is With Teeth (by the same band of course).

4. What was the last show you attended?

The last gig I went to was Within Temptation at the Manchester Apollo, earlier this year. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, they are a symphonic metal band from Holland.

5. What was the greatest show you’ve ever been to?

I think that would have to be Rammstein, a highly controversial German industrial metal band who sing almost exclusively in German yet are massively popular among the metal loving English speaking world. The show was incredible, full of fire, fun and a massive audience of English people all singing in German – myself included.

6. What’s the worst show you’ve ever been to?

That’s easy – Cher. My ex-wife persuaded me against my better judgement to drive all the way to the Birmingham NEC in the late 1980’s to see this so-called superstar. The support was fairly dreadful but Cher simply took the piss in terms of value for money. I was used to seeing the feature artist on stage for at least an hour and a half. Sher came on and sang a few songs, changed her costume every five minutes and played for just over an hour. The best bit of the concert was when she disappeared for five minutes and left her dancers to show their art to a fairly good rock instrumental – but even that was ruined by a big screen showing us all how great Cher was at singing and acting. At the time it was the most expensive gig I had been to, which is another reason why I hated it.

7. What’s the most musically involved you have ever been?

I guess that means taking part in a musical act of some kind. I have played a trombone in the school orchestra at Walsall Town Hall in front of an appreciative audience of parents and teachers and also played in a brass group in the school hall in front of a similar bunch of people, including a stand up solo to the Floral Dance. How embarrassing.

8. What show are you looking forward to?

I have three concerts lined up in the next few months but the one I am looking forward to most is Steel Panther, a kind of extreme version of Spinal Tap who take the piss out of 1980’s heavy metal. They are extremely  rude and offensive but hilarious.

9. What is your favorite band shirt?

I don’t buy band shirts anymore because, quite frankly, they are a complete waste of money.  The last one I bought was Guns’n’Roses way back in the early 1990’s, so I’ll select that one.

10. What musician would you like to hang out with for a day?

I think my current favourite is a guy called Steven Wilson, a progressive rock genius who is the main songwriter and driving force behind Porcupine Tree. He has recently released his third solo album called The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories) which is one of the best albums I have heard for years. I would like to spend a day watching him at work.

11. Who is one musician or group you wish would make a comeback?

I would like Led Zeppelin to go into the studio one more time, with Jason Bonham replacing his father John on the drums, and record an album in the same style as their very first album.

A particular favourite is Dazed and Confused and if they could reproduce a bluesy masterpiece like this I would be absolutely delighted.

12. Who is one band/artist you’ve never seen live but always wanted to?

Again that has to be either Steven Wilson as a solo artist or with his band Porcupine Tree. He toured last year and played in Manchester but sadly, I was in Muscat so I couldn’t go.

13. Name four or more flawless albums:

I have a lot of flawless albums - but these immediately leap to mind.

AC/DC – Back in Black
Air – Pocket Symphony
Dream Theater – Metropolis Part II: Scenes from a Memory
Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
Joe Satriani – The Extremist
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet
Queensr├┐che – Operation Mindcrime
Rammstein – Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da
Rush – Clockwork Angels
Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories)
Within Temptation – The Unforgiving

14. How many music related videos/DVDs do you own?

I own a couple of Rush DVD’s, and ones by Alice Cooper, Roger Waters and Nine Inch Nails.

15. How many concerts/shows have you been to, total?

I’ve been to so many over the years that I simply cannot remember. I would say well over a hundred.

16. Who have you seen the most live?

Bizarrely, the band I have seen most is Thunder, a British rock band from the 1990’s who still tour occasionally. They play good old British rock music that is totally inoffensive and extreme fun. In fact I have actually met the guys when my mate managed to wangle a couple of tickets to the after show party.

Here is a sample of their work:

Here's when I met them (in 2005):

17. What is your favourite movie soundtrack?

I don’t own this OST but I would say The Matrix because it has two fantastic songs on it as well as a few other great songs. Here are Du Hast by Rammstein and Dragula by Rob Zombie.

18. What was your last musical “phase” before you wisened up?

To be honest, I love music from all the phases I have passed through – including 1970’s disco. See next question.

19. What’s your “guilty pleasure” that you hate to admit to liking?

I know – I shouldn’t like this but I do and I can’t help it. it takes me back to a time when I loved bopping away with all the other kids at the school disco in the 1970’s.

I present to you, Daft Punk with Get Lucky – and I love this song and I don't mind admitting it.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Telly Hell

What is going on in Britain? We’re all cracking up and going mad – MAD I tell you.

I know why we are going mad – and I have a cure. The people of Britain will not like it one iota but in my view, you sometimes have to be cruel to be kind.

My plan is to purge our television of all programmes that turn people into dribbling imbeciles whose common sense seems to take a holiday for the duration of the garbage they are watching.

What has caused this outburst, I hear you cry?

I was reading about what people like to complain about on the TV and I came across an article that said a number of people had complained about the use of the phrase “soggy bottom” on a programme that seems to have turned the UK into a bunch of maniacs. The programme is called “The Great British Bake Off” and is basically a cookery programme where amateur bakers compete against each other to win some form of pathetic prize – what the prize is, I don’t know – I would never watch such rubbish.

The programme should be removed from prime time telly because, quite frankly, it turns people into brainless goons who find excitement in truly awful entertainment; some people become obsessed with such trash telly and feel the need to write about how the phrase "soggy bottom" upsets them enough to write a bloody letter to the BBC.

What is wrong with these people?

What turns normal every day pleasant and intelligent people into these sad obsessed complainers?

I'll tell you the answer: programmes made in telly hell.

Here are some programmes or types of programmes that I would relegate to the early hours on an obscure television channel or, better still, wipe off the face of the earth, in order to save humanity.

Cookery Programmes

Cookery programmes should be relegated to a specialist channel and not be shown all day every day (or so it seems). Such programmes are becoming more prevalent every single second of every single day, making celebrities out of bizarre people like Jamie Oliver, Anthony Worrall Thompson and Delia Smith. Such shows have turned these so-called celebrities into megalomaniacs – like this:

Yes – Delia claims she wasn’t drunk but wanted to use her “status” to get the crowd behind her favourite football team simply because of who she was.

She just made a fool of herself and of those who thought such a rant was a good idea.

Soap Operas

Soap operas do not reflect real life – if they did then society would break down into total anarchy, particularly if real life reflected soaps like Eastenders.

I have a confession; I used to watch Eastenders, Coronation Street and Brookside religiously (as they are on all the time or so it seems). Thankfully, I had a Eureka moment on 5th July 1991 and said to myself “Hang on! What the flump am I doing watching a programme where every character is a flawed arse who wants to con, shag or kill everyone else?”

Soaps are responsible for inflicting Jason Donavon and Kylie Minogue on us. Thanks Australia for Neighbours and Home and Away. And what about Dallas and Dynasty? America is just as culpable.

And of course, I am absolutely certain that we are totally blameworthy for inflicting Eastenders on our American and Australian friends, making them all believe that every cockney is a depressed gangster who screams at every other one and then kill themselves.

Talent Shows

The X Factor is still on for what seems like the gazillionth year. It is a show that dominates Saturday and Sunday night television, exposes us repeatedly to Simon effing Cowell and his equally talentless judges, and presents to us a bunch of lame karaoke singers who are “on a journey”, “have a deep trauma in their lives” and who all sing shit songs in the style of a bad boy band singer or in a bad impersonation a croaking warbling oversinger. Equally deplorable are The Voice, the BBC equivalent, and Britain’s Got Talent, a show that unequivocally proves that Britain has NO talent whatsover.

Such shows are gold dust for tabloids because they fill their pages with bilge about the contestants - which is apt really because I would probably ban tabloids too.

Reality TV Shows

I do not want to watch Z list celebrities trying to dance on a Saturday night in Strictly Come Dancing. Nor am I remotely interested in any other Z list celebrities who want to be dumped into a jungle in Australia. The only time I would be interested would be if they exiled Piers Morgan on a desert island – but only enough to see his smug face crumble when he realised that there would be no cameras to film him, he wouldn't actually get paid and he had to stay there for six months.

I am equally uninterested in the bunch of oversexed Geordies trying to get their end away in Geordie Shore and a bunch of posh pratts in Made in Chelsea.

I can got to the city centre late on a Saturday night to watch that kind of garbage.

Freak Shows

If I woke up and discovered that I had piled on 500 lbs or developed and embarrassing and totally horrendous bodily ailment that made me look like The Elephant Man, I would immediately call the hospital and beg them to fix me behind closed doors. I would not ring Channel 4 and say Can I be a contestant on Embarrassing Bodies” and subject the entire horror of my condition to the whole of the UK, including showing the full gory details of all operation I need to rectify the situation.

Mrs PM is a sucker for these kind of programmes and usually watches them when it is my turn to cook (having recorded them the previous week). When I walk into the lounge, I then find myself confronted with my tellybox showing me an explicit operation, complete with blood and gore, of a man just at the point where the surgeon is going to puncture his swollen scrotum. I look at my plate and see a lovely meal but the sight of a bloated ballsack about to be sliced somehow turns me off my dinner and makes me want to throw up.

That is not entertainment.

And Finally...

There are lots more programmes I want to consign to TV Hell. I will tell you more in a future post.

Over to you, dear reader.

What TV programmes make your blood boil?

Which TV programmes would you consign to TV Hell?

Am I being weird in my choice or am I the crazy one?

Actually – perhaps you shouldn’t answer that last question.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Dave Versus The Volcano

I have recently fulfilled a rather strange ambition; I have stood on the edge of the crater of an active volcano.

To be honest, it wasn’t really an ambition – it’s just something I have never done before – and I didn’t really plan to do it.

It was an accident.

This rare episode occurred in Santorini, a most beautiful Greek island, which was formed as the result of an enormous volcanic eruption thousands of years ago and is thought to have contributed to the demise of the Minoan civilisation on the nearby island of Crete.  Basically Santorini is what’s left of the island of Thera, a much bigger island that was devastated by the eruption.

Our initial plan was to visit the old port of Fira and take a boat trip around the small uninhabited volcanic island of Nea Kameni and then take a dip in some hot springs. Sadly, our plans went awry, when a small in a boat tried to charge us 200 Euros. In the end we went with the tourists on a packed boat, for the princely sum of 15 Euros each.

To our surprise, the boat arrived at Nea Kameni, and we were treated to a stroll up to the active crater at the top of the island. I was totally unprepared for the hike, wearing beach sandals instead of half decent trainers. Mrs PM and I also had very little water and the temperature was fairly high.

The walk was relatively easy but the temperature and the ground made it tricky for me, not because I am so unfit that I can’t climb what was effectively a small hill; my sandals were constantly filling up with tiny bits of volcanic rock, which felt the need to glue themselves to my sweating feet and irritating the skin.

I moaned to Mrs PM about my choice of footwear. As we climbed, we saw a lot of signs warning us not to take samples of the rocks.

“So will they check my feet and sandals?” I quipped. “I’ve probably acquired a couple of pounds of volcano in my sandals; my feet will look like The Thing's from the Fantastic Four - only black.

We were accompanied by a polyglot guide, who spoke in Greek, Spanish, English and Italian. Not only was his knowledge of the volcano exceptional, his command of language was terrific.

At the peak, we stood next to a still active crater, complete with smoking rocks and the distinctive smell of sulphur and enjoyed an incredible view of Santorini and the surrounding islands.

We returned to the boat, whereupon I spent half an hour chipping volcanic rock from my disgustingly sweaty feet. The boat continued to the hot springs on the smaller island of Palia Kameni and we were told that we had to swim 50 or 60 yards to reach the spring.

“It is best to jump off the boat,” said our guide. “But you can climb down the ladder if you wish.”

I read that as “you can climb down the ladder if you a GREAT BIG COWARD AND TOO SCARED TO JUMP IN THE WATER.

The captain of the boat had a magnificent huge white beard and was also an impressive polyglot. As we queued for the ladder, he was challenging people to just leap from the side of the boat. The captain urged a Spanish guy in front of me to leap into the sea and he duly obliged. His girlfriend was less keen and under duress was persuaded by the captain, now speaking fluent Spanish, to follow her boyfriend’s lead. She reluctantly climbed over the side and clung to the captain.

No es frio,” said her boyfriend now treading water. “It isn’t cold.”

After an eternity she finally leapt in.

The captain looked at me and smiled. “Your turn,” he said in perfect English.

I asked myself how he knew I was English, but perhaps my light hair, pale skin and general demeanour told him my nationality. Actually, bizarrely, I am usually mistaken for a German and I often find random Germans picking me out from a crowd as the obvious German. Why? I have no idea but it happens a lot. For example, last year we flew to Hong Kong on Lufthansa, and the stewardess welcomed Mrs PM on board the plane with a very friendly “Hello and welcome to our flight.” I was behind Mrs PM and the same stewardess said to me “Guten Tag und willkommen auf unserem Flug”.

Anyway, the captain looked at me as if to say “Are you going to jump – or are you CHICKEN?”

In typical Marty McFly fashion I said “Of course I’m going to jump!”

And I did. And it was fantastic.

We swam slowly to the hot springs on the rocky shoreline of the tiny island and as we approached we could feel the difference in temperature as the water became hotter and more yellow; you could see the brown and yellow particles in the water. It was wonderful.

Sadly, when I finally got back to the hotel and had a shower, I realised that I needed to take two showers to remove the residue of the hot springs. After my first shower, I towelled myself down on the pristine perfectly white fluffy hotel towels and realised with horror that I wasn’t quite clean enough – the towels where filthy , now coloured with a revolting and highly suspect browny yellow colour.

I think, for a while, I must have looked like I had a proper suntan.

I have to admit that Santorini is my favourite Greek island so far. The views over the caldera are stunning, particularly when the sun sets in the evening. It is definitely worth paying a little bit extra for a cold beer while watching wonderful sunset.

Another surprising thing about the island is the varied nationalities of tourists. On past visits to Greece, I have usually only encountered Greeks (obviously), Germans and British people. On this trip we encountered Russians, Americans, South Africans, Spaniards, French, Germans, Italians, British, Australians, Chinese and Japanese as well as a family from Venezuela and even Greek tourists from the other islands – a truly cosmopolitan tourist venue.

I’ll leave you with a few photos of this beautiful place – I hope you agree.


Beautiful sunset

Another beautiful sunset

The town of Oia

Another view of Oia

The hotel's cat trying to drink the swimming pool. We christened her "Pussaka"!

This is where Dave took on the volcano with sandals full of volcanic boulders!

View of Palia Kameni and Aspronisi from Nea Kameni.

Sunday 14 September 2014

How To Boil An Egg

“He’s a useless cook – he can’t even boil an egg!”

I find such condescending statements bring out a unique reaction in me; a perfect storm of outrage, annoyance and frustration. Such statements lead me to race for my soapbox and rant.

I am not the world’s best cook by any stretch of the imagination (in fact I absolutely hate cooking – I hate it almost as much as I hate both ironing and gardening – or ironing in the garden – I hope you get the picture). But if somebody were to tell me that I couldn't boil an egg, I would find the nearest chair, request that person to sit down, grab my soapbox and rant at them.

Rather than ranting to you, dear reader, I just want to offer my thoughts about a culinary chore that the experts suggest is the easiest of all culinary chores.

I can hear you asking:

“What on earth has caused this idiot to start waffling on about boiled eggs? Has he lost his marbles?”

Let me explain.

I have just returned from a holiday in Santorini with Mrs PM and her folks. Each day in the hotel we were served a boiled egg as part of our breakfast. We had no control over how this defenceless egg was cooked; it just turned up in a little egg cup. One thing was consistent – the egg was as hard as concrete.

This sparked a debate whereupon I was told, in no uncertain terms, that my own views on boiled eggs were weird.

Can you imagine my reaction? Three people all looked me in the eye and told me that I cannot cook a boiled egg, that my idea of the perfect boiled egg was flawed and even that I don't know how to eat a boiled egg.

Rant? You have no idea!

Here’s what I told them.

First of all, everybody is different. Every person who likes boiled eggs has a unique preference when it comes to the temperature, hardness and texture of their egg. My own theory is that when a person is presented with an egg boiled by another person they politely smile, rub their tummy and say “Hmmmm! Lovely!”

The truth is that they think: “This person can’t even boil a bloody egg. This egg is a disaster.”

The overcooked boiled eggs in the hotel may not have been to everyone’s taste but I will bet you any money that one or two people will have genuinely liked them.

My second point is a corollary of my first point: there is no correct way to boil an egg. When I boiled my first egg, it was a total disaster. I hit it with a spoon and the raw uncooked white exploded out of the egg. I realised that leaving it in boiling water for thirty seconds wasn’t nearly enough.

My next attempt wasn’t much better. Leaving an egg in the pan for four hours, constantly replenishing the hot water is also not advisable.

The correct technique for the best egg is one of trial and error. You boil it, try it, and next day adjust the time until the yolk is flawless, in your opinion.

My third point, and possibly the most contentious one with Mrs PM and her folks (who all agreed) is how to serve the egg when it has been boiled.

Let me tell you how Mrs PM serves a boiled egg. She cooks it and then pours away the hot water. She then grabs a spoon and scoops the egg out of the pan, popping it into the egg cup and handing over to her victim, in this case me, to eat. Sadly, she fails to realise that the egg has just spent a fair amount of time in boiling water and when, a minute later, I grab the egg from the egg cup, it is like grabbing a piece of molten lava forged in the hottest part of the Hell. The first time I did this, I was so shocked that I shrieked in pain and threw the egg in the air. It hit the ceiling and crashed down on the table, spraying yolk all over the place.

My own technique is to add cold water to the boiling water, gradually cooling it down but not sharp enough to crack the egg. I am left with a boiled egg, in cold water, which I allow to cool to a point where I do not need industrial gloves to handle the thing.

When I mentioned this to Mrs PM and her folks, they looked at me as if I had just beamed in from the Starship Enterprise.

“Are you all mad? “ I raved. “What are you trying to do? Burn my hand off?”

Mrs PM’s dad then leapt to her defence with an unforgettable statement that made me laugh out loud.

“You’re not eating it properly.”

The other hotel guests were now openly chuckling.

Being told I can’t boil an egg properly is one thing, but then being told that once boiled, I don’t know how to eat it properly is the lowest insult of all.

“Do you think I am that thick?” I asked incredulously.

“It’s just been boiled,” he said staring at me in disbelief. “You should KNOW that it’s hot. Here, let me show you what you should do.”

I swear this is true. He held his egg by the egg cup and expertly lopped the top of it off with his knife. He explained it to me as if he were teaching a child of three.

I was speechless.

“What if I want to take all of the shell off?” I asked.

“Why would you want to do that?” he asked in all seriousness. “You won’t be able to dip your soldiers into the yolk. You’re doing it wrong. No wonder you burn your hand.”

Yes that's right: a grown man of over seventy years told me that I was eating my egg incorrectly.

“Is there a law about that?” I asked. “The ten commandments of boiling a bloody egg? How about: 

Thou shalt not pour cold water on your boiled egg. 

Thou shalt attempt to eat the egg when its temperature reaches 3000 degrees. 

Thou shalt not take off all the shell with the egg intact. 

Thou shalt slice your toast up into ten equally shaped soldiers. 

Thou shalt lop the top off your egg.

Thou shalt not have any naked boiled egg before one with its bloody top lopped off. 

Thou shalt dip your soldiers into the yolk. 

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s egg. 

Thou shalt not dip your soldier in your neighbour’s egg. 

Thou shalt only eat the remainder of thine egg when all of the soldiers have been doused in egg yolk.”

“Now you’re being silly,” he said.

Perhaps I was but at least I made a few people chuckle, including Mrs PM and her folks.

Do you agree, dear reader? 

Are my views about boiled eggs weird?

Don’t get me started on fried eggs.