Friday 29 May 2015

Pop Music Through The Decades

This year I’ve been waving goodbye to each month with a musical interlude. The month of May is going to be treated in the same way but instead of concentrating on one particular artist, I thought I would do something slightly different and offer a song for each decade that I have been alive.

Regular readers will know that I am in my early fifties, which means that I am now in my sixth decade of walking this planet, ranting and generally being an arse. 

Rather than choosing obscure artists, I delved into my iPod library and have selected for your pleasure (or otherwise) a pop song that I love from each ten year period.

I hope you’ve heard of the songs and I hope you like them.

1960’s – The Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil

Do I prefer the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

To be honest, I like both bands because they are responsible for some terrific songs.

My dad hated them and my exposure to bands was limited until the 1970’s and by then it was all over in terms of airplay. I have listened to both since then and have edged towards the Rolling Stones in terms of preference. If I were to list a top ten of both bands then Sympathy for the Devil would be number one. I can tell what you’re thinking:

“You like heavy metal and this song is about the devil. It’s no surprise you like it.”

That’s pure coincidence, dear reader, because as you know, loving heavy metal does not make you a Satanist.

1970’s – Kate Bush – The Man With the Child in His Eyes

Kate Bush is a rather eccentric artist. I actually laughed when I heard Wuthering Heights for the first time, simply because it was weird enough to be a one hit wonder. After all, there were plenty of them about in the seventies, weren’t there?

This song was her follow up to that strange single and completely different. There’s something about the song I like – I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

It’s difficult to admit it, particularly since I was discovering heavy metal at the time.

“You mean you like Black Sabbath AND Kate Bush?” 

The answer is yes – and I don’t mind confessing it now.

1980’s - Icehouse – Hey Little Girl

After the trauma of climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I was shaking like a leaf. I said to Mrs PM:

"Right – let’s find a pub! I need a drink!”

We found a pub in The Rocks and I marched up the barman and said:

“Give me a beer – ANY beer.” 

As the cool, cold liquid gushed down my throat, I started to breathe more deeply and I looked into the eyes of the woman who had made me suffer, a woman who, incidentally, was very apologetic but desperately stifling a fit of the giggles.

“Do you feel better now?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

And I did feel better. I started to take in my surroundings and realised what I had just done. I was quite proud, despite my dissipating terror. I listened to the dulcet tones of the other patrons of the establishment and noticed the song that had just started.

That song was Hey Little Girl.

“Do you know, something?” I said to Mrs PM. “I really like this song.”

Mrs PM grinned but said nothing.

At that precise moment, and just for a couple of minutes, it was my favourite song in the world.

1990’s – k. d. lang – Constant Craving

This is a really nice song and not one that people would usually associate with my taste. It’s a simple pop song with a really nice tune. What I like most about the song is the voice of k. d. lang. She sings beautifully.

I don’t think there is anything more to say, other than sit back, relax and enjoy this lovely song.

2000’s – Goldfrapp – Train

There is little overlap in my musical taste and that of Mrs PM but a couple of Goldfrapp songs occupy that special place. This is essentially a dance song but there are elements of the electronic style I like from the early 1980’s and hints of the 1970’s in there too.

Of course, Mrs PM’s transient taste means that it is over for her (after all it is over ten years old now) but I will continue to fly the flag for it.

The video is slightly naughty (in case you are a little sensitive).

2010’s – Gary Numan – My Last Day

Way back in the 1980’s Gary Numan was at the forefront of the revolution in electronic music. I was amazed a few years ago to discover that he is still producing music thirty years later.

His new style is darker and the music has evolved, so much so that this year I bought his latest album (released two years ago).

You will hear more about this in my musical round up of 2015 later in the year. My Last Day is the last song on the album and is a slow burner. It builds up to an amazing crescendo with terrific keyboards and drums – just the kind of song I like.

If Gary Numan continues to produce music of this high calibre I will be buying his next album for sure.

And finally …

I hope you liked the songs. 

Sunday 24 May 2015

How Dare They Cancel My Favourite Shows

I am absolutely fed up of American networks cancelling shows that I love, particularly when the season finale is either a cliffhanger or leaves hooks that lead into a continuation of the story in a new season.

How dare they!

I have just finished watching season three of The Following starring Kevin Bacon as a flawed FBI agent hunting psychopathic serial killers. I was excited because although the story of season was concluded, it left things open for an interesting season four.

“I can’t wait for that,” I said to Mrs PM who also enjoyed it.

Imagine my disgust when I discovered not ten minutes ago, that there would be no season four at all.

Rant? I think I may have redefined the word. My soapbox is struggling under the ferocious assault and the cats are watching my fury, wearing their specially made ear defenders so they can laugh at my antics.

Oh dear - he's off again!!!
 This isn’t the first time shows have been cancelled prematurely. I really hate it when a story doesn’t finish.

It’s like having a book you are reading snatched from your grasp and hurled into an incinerator and then discovering that it was the only copy. Or watching a film and discovering that it was only partly finished.

The behaviour of these faceless people infuriates me.

I can imagine a bunch of suited men in black sitting in an office and deciding whether to continue the season. Just because a few thousand less people watched it, is that truly grounds for pissing me and thousands of other people off?

It doesn’t matter whether the show is a triumph – it’s all to do with money at the end of the day – and that’s a real shame.

Don’t get me wrong; if a series finishes and ties up all of its loose ends to bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion, then I am happy. I may not be happy with the ending, but at least I have some kind of closure, something I desperately need from such a series.

One of my favourite shows ever, Babylon 5, survived for 5 seasons, despite the threat of cancellation lurking over it like an unseen nemesis. As brilliant as the show was, I feel that it seasons three and four were somewhat rushed in order to get as much of the story in as possible. The result was a triumphant season four story arc that thrilled me. It was so good that season five was commissioned and, sadly, didn’t reach the high standards of its predecessor. However, at least the writer managed to conclude the story in a satisfactory manner, leaving one happy Plastic Mancunian.

Some series have been so popular that the television company has persevered and allowed them to run to a conclusion and I’m delighted that they have. One example is Breaking Bad, which Mrs PM and I are currently ploughing our way through. Somebody bought us the DVD box set for Christmas with a recommendation that we should give it a try. We are currently close to finishing season three and are both thoroughly enjoying it, knowing that the series reaches a satisfying conclusion. I am happy that I can watch the remaining episodes in the knowledge that there will be complete closure.

I have to say, that UK TV companies generally allow a series to run its course and seldom cancel a show at the end leaving a massive cliffhanger. It has been known though. The world’s longest running science fiction series, Dr Who, was eventually terminated after 26 years in 1989 and the UK geek world was outraged. Thankfully the BBC had a change of heart, though it did take another 16 years to do it.

I just wish that the US networks, who are meant to provide entertainment, would concentrate less on being so ruthless and look at the bigger picture. There are millions of people outside of the US who love these shows.

Think about that, Fox, NBC and all of you other US networks. Next time you want to cancel a show, ask me first!

How about you, dear reader.

Have you suffered the deep frustration of having your favourite TV shows cancelled?

If so, which ones?

Sunday 17 May 2015

Travel Essentials

When I go on holiday or on a trip abroad, there are a few essentials that I have to take with me.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to talk about underwear, toiletries and a passport. That goes without saying unless you think I am the kind of person who only takes one pair of underpants, one pair of socks and sneaks into countries, spending a week or two there with a progressively stronger hum emanating from him.

Rest assured that I do take lots of underwear. Nor am I some kind of ghostly spy from a Robert Ludlum novel.

When I say "essentials" I really mean luxuries that keep me sane when I am on a totally tedious long haul flight, or stuck in a remote hotel on a business trip in a room with only a TV for company, which has three very poor channels all in a foreign language.

On a return business trip from China a few years ago, I found myself flying from Beijing to Amsterdam on China Southern airlines and while the service and environment were no better or worse than any European airlines, the entertainment left a lot to be desired. We had a small personal TV screen in the back of the seat ahead but the entertainment package consisted of three terrible English films and hundreds of Chinese movies. The Chinese passengers loved watching the latest national movies but for me they were terrible. I tried to watch one and gave up because it so awful.

I had nothing to entertain me, other than trying to compose a tune out of the close harmony snoring that was going on around me.

This is exactly why I need something to keep my brain from seizing up in disgust.

Here is my list:

iPod Classic

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of music . My iPod Classic can accommodate my entire CD collection. At the moment it contains almost 7000 songs which if played altogether would provide almost 22 days of continuous music.

It’s great for relaxing on a dreary long haul flight and even on holiday when sitting on a sun kissed beach watching the sun’s rays reflecting off the still blue water. 


I am an avid reader and consume books. When travelling, I read so many books, especially if the trip is a solitary business trip or we are chilling out on a sunny beach somewhere. In the past I have had to sacrifice clothes (not underpants and socks you’ll be pleased to know) in order to cram another paperback into my luggage; either that or fill my hand luggage with books. Worse, I do have a tendency to hoard books so I end up having to bring them back with me too.

Not now though. My Kindle has saved me. I can download as many books as I like because Kindle storage weighs zero grams. It makes no difference whether I download one book or one hundred books. Gone are the days of taking an entire library onto an aircraft.

I know that purists mourn the dawn of the Kindle and other eReaders but when travelling, it makes life so much easier.


"We need a new manager!"

I am a sad old fool who still plays the odd computer game. As rare as that is nowadays, I do dabble, particularly on a long haul flight where the only entertainment is a library of bizarre martial arts films.

My particular favourites are football games, in which I either play football matches against the computer, and lose horribly, or as a football manager when I have arguments with computer sprites who play crap and end up getting the sack for precipitating the relegation of my chosen club.

It’s fun though – at least until the swearing starts.

Nexus 7 Tablet

I didn’t think I needed a tablet but now I am converted. The Nexus 7 is a smaller, cheaper version of an iPad but is just as versatile. I have converted my old collection of DVD’s into Nexus 7 friendly files and loaded them onto the device so that I can watch movies at my leisure. I also have an app called Sky Go which allows me to download movies from Sky’s library of films and watch them offline. Add to that a few other useful apps, like puzzle games, offline dictionaries and I  have a very versatile device that allows me to access the internet via hotel wifi to keep me in touch with what’s happening in the world and send/receive emails etc.

I can barely survive a trip without it.


I know what you’re thinking. Making phone calls, sending texts and surfing the internet on a mobile network while in a foreign land can be very expensive.

That’s true, but when abroad, a smartphone is absolutely essential. This device is smaller even than my Nexus 7 tablet which means I can fit it into my pocket when I am out and about. The great thing about my phone is that I can download maps of my destination and use GPS to find my way around foreign cities without the need for paying stupid money to download maps on the fly. I can also download offline dictionaries in a variety of languages which stops me looking like a fool when sitting in a restaurant which has no menus in English. There are so many useful apps available that my smartphone is almost like having a travel guide with me all the time.

And it takes decent pictures too.


"I''m still not sure I have anough cameras!"
As good as a smartphone camera is, it simply doesn’t meet the standard of a proper digital camera. We have two cameras, the first is a small one that fits snugly into my pocket and takes amazing pictures, particularly in the dark. The other is a digital SLR which Mrs PM uses to take incredible photos. Of course, it is much bulkier but the photos it produces more than compensate from the stigma of standing out like a tourist. At the start of this year I was too scared to use it, but I have spent 30 days trying to master a little bit of theory with a view to actually trying to take some half decent photographs with it when we go to Brazil later this year.

And finally …

I’m sure more sensible readers will roll their eyes and say “What about sun protection, health protection, guide books and all of the other essentials to keep you safe?”

Yes – they are essentials (particularly sun cream which prevents me devolving into a lobster) but I need simply pleasures to keep me sane on long tedious flights and when stuck on my own in a strange hotel room in deepest darkest China.

Sadly, I have to endure another business trip to China in June and I will have nobody to play with. The devices above will make the trip far more enjoyable.

So there!

Over to you, dear reader.

What do you regard as essential travel items?

Sunday 10 May 2015

The Evolution Of Ideas

Can I share something with you, dear reader?

I’d like to take you on a journey inside my imagination. Don’t worry - I won’t steer you to the weirder zones (even I don’t want to go there).

I see my own imagination as a universe teeming with ideas and thoughts hurtling around the cosmos, some of which take form and head towards a central point where they can evolve and hopefully make the transition from my mind’s eye to the real world, becoming a Word document, a comment in my notepad or an email to myself to store in my ideas folder.

The pinnacle of this evolutionary process is a blog post.

However, I sometimes have a problem – actually getting these ideas to evolve into something tangible.

Sometimes, I am delighted when I have a thought and convert into a blog post. Yet there are many times when I find it tough. Such ideas are quite good until the point when I try to put pen to paper and at that point they refuse to advance any further.

There are several reasons for this.

Some ideas seem great in my head yet but when converted into real words lose impact and refuse to progress any further.

Other ideas when reviewed at a later stage seem to be ridiculous and are cast back into my imagination in the hope that they can improve.

Yet more ideas are simply too weird to be cast into the limelight.

I equate the process as similar to trying to crowbar an elephant into a garden shed – pointless and impossible.

Yet, bizarrely, the more annoyed I am about an idea, the higher the likelihood that it will be cast onto the internet for you to read, dear reader. It’s almost as if my creative juices are fuelled by an inner rage. I like to think of this as my inner Hulk. 

When the inner Hulk speaks,  I stop worrying about how good or bad the post is and focus solely on getting all of the angry words down. As the thoughts cascade around my head and the volume of my inner ranting voice increases, I find that I type faster and before I know it I have a very crude blog post that just needs to be sharpened before publication.

And that worries me slightly.

By nature I am a very laid back person who doesn’t like to be angry. Ranting is therapeutic and helps to disperse the rage – which is a good thing. The problem is that this shouldn’t be the catalyst that helps an embryonic idea develop into a blog post.

I need another more inspirational method to be more creative. I have been exploring the options and there are definite ways to achieve this.

One other method that works is to be passionate about the idea. Regular readers will know that I pepper my inane nonsense with posts about music, something I like to do on a fairly regular basis to bore you into coma. While my inner ranting voice inspires me to write about things that make me angry, another inner voice – the Blind Enthusiast – pours out my inner enthusiasm in a similar way to the inner Hulk.

I reckon that if I allow the Blind Enthusiast to expand his horizons, more of my weird ideas will make it from my imagination onto the internet to bore you even more, dear reader.

With that in mind, I am apologising in advance for the posts that will appear over the coming months – starting with this one.

The Blind Enthusiast is currently in charge and raring to go.

Before I go, let me just ask:

How do you develop ideas into blog posts?

Do you have an Inner Hulk or Blind Enthusiast?

Are you as weird as I am?

Thanks for listening.

Friday 1 May 2015

Little Miss Nasty

I sometimes wonder why people feel they have the right to cause offence and be just downright nasty.

If I offend people, usually by accident I hasten to add, I feel absolutely terrible about it and I am usually overcome by guilt. Even if I genuinely dislike the person, I will apologise profusely, although sometimes I also wonder what good an apology actually does.

I mean if I were to say something along the lines of “I’m sorry I’ve just squashed run over your cat.”

The apology isn’t going to bring the cat back is it? A better alternative would be to try to replace the cat and offer some other form of compensation, surely?  Not that such things stops me. British people apologise for everything anyway – even if it’s the fault of the other person.

You may wonder why I’m talking about nastiness. Well a certain person has been at it again. I am talking about none other than Katie Hopkins, a woman I first mentioned in my post earlier this year: A Celebrity Rant.

A national tabloid has given her a column which gives her a stage to write offensive comments about anything that takes her fancy. And recently she seems to have cranked up her game.

If you are not aware, there are currently hundreds of people trying to flee from war torn places like Libya and Syria to seek sanctuary in the European Union and paying large amounts of money to unscrupulous traffickers who pile them in huge numbers into useless boats that simply cannot accommodate them. These boats then set sail for southern Europe on treacherous seas and hundreds of people have drowned as a result.

Katie Hopkins wrote an article describing these poor people as “cockroaches” and “feral humans” and that she did not care that these people were dying.

This isn’t all she has said. Recently she had a pop at depression basically saying that these people need to pull themselves together and “get some running shoes and some fresh air”.

She is basically trying to seek attention but is going about it in totally the wrong way. Some people try to claim the moral high ground by “telling it as it is” and don’t care who is upset as a result of their outburst.

In their view, it is a good thing to offer such appalling opinions, saying things like “It’s my opinion – just deal with it.”

The truth is that these people have no clue how hurtful their words can be. Nastiness is something I simply cannot understand. Why would you want to hurt the feelings of a fellow human being in any way?

Katie Hopkins is just the celebrity face of such nastiness (though I use the word “celebrity” in its loosest possible term – actually by saying that, am I being nasty to her?). In my opinion she says the things she says just for attention. In other words, she had a taste of fame on The Apprentice and now she wants more of the same, even if it means becoming one of the most hated people in Britain.

She is like a keyboard warrior, or internet troll – except she’s worse because everyone knows who she is and she actually says bad things in front of the camera too.

Australian comedian Adam Hills sums her up perfectly:

Of course, she won’t listen.

Nevertheless, she might think again thanks to recent events. Such is her ego that she thinks she can go to a TV channel with a proposition for a show where she interviews celebrities as a form of entertainment for the rest of us, the majority of whom really do not want to hear her utter a single word more. Unsurprisingly, when agents were approached to put forward their celebrities for a cosy chat with Ms Hopkins, nobody would do it, citing her controversial opinions and nastiness as the reason – and a pretty valid reason it is too. I know that if I were famous I wouldn’t want to even be in the same building as the woman, let alone the same room.

The one thing I could use Katie Hopkins for would be the unit in scale of nastiness. For example, if somebody were to say something nasty in front of me, I could chastise them by suggesting that they had reached a certain level on this scale.

The unit would have to be a centiHopkins (or cH)  because the top of the scale would be a Hopkins, i.e. the pinnacle of nastiness, with 0 cH being really nice (just like me) and 100 cH (or 1H) being really nasty.

The Hopkins Scale of Nastiness
Seriously, though, such nastiness is rife in the UK but it’s not limited to the shores of our small island. I’ve seen and heard similar things in other parts of the world too. People being nasty too or about other people based on wealth, religion, skin colour, nationality and even something as ridiculous as the sports team you support.
I’m not built that way and I simply do not understand  those who are.
The chances of Katie Hopkins ever reading my words are tiny if not impossible. 
But, if you DO stumble across this blog post, by accident, Katie, then all I have to say is this.
Please stop being nasty to people. 
As human beings we need to love and be loved and I think you are capable of both. 
If you want to be famous, the general public will hate you for uttering outrageous statements under the pretence that “these things need to be said”. 
The truth is that they do NOT need to be said. 
What you need to do is be a kind, generous and caring person who uses her fame for good rather than spouting bile and vitriol in the direction of everything that displease or annoys you.
There’s no need for it. 
Despite what I’ve said above, I will be nice to you because nastiness is not in my nature. I’m sure if you try you can eliminate this and people will warm to you.
I hope you care enough to listen to me, because although you wind me up with your outrageous and offensive comments, I can’t bring myself to stoop to your level and write a truly nasty post about you.
Being hated for being nasty is not a good thing - and nobody will love you for it.