Here’s a really interesting video from the World of Tanks people. Yes, it’s a YouTube video, but you can drag your viewpoint around to see the video from different angles. This is particularly interesting when they’re inside the tank, as you can pause the video and have a good look around. Contains a mixture of exterior and interior footage of real and replica tanks, and game animation.
It’s been a while since I wrote, you know, actual words here – nearly six months, which is my longest gap ever – so I thought I’d make a cursory effort and record the weekend.
It started on Friday, with a day off work and a trip on a whim to Kirriemuir where my Dad grew up and where we visited my grandparents for many years. As with anywhere you haven’t visited in a while, there were changes. The Star Rock shop (established 1833) was still there, but across the road was a railway modelling shop that I hadn’t visited before, and I came out with my wallet figuratively lighter.
The square now features a statue of Peter Pan – apparently it’s a replacement for the one that used to stand in the Glengate, but which got damaged – and the Town House which I remember housing Kidd’s the chemist is now the Gateway to the Glens museum.
Inside the museum, there’s a model of Kirriemuir in the 1600s, which I enjoyed seeing, and the silver casket and illuminated scroll given to J.M. Barrie when was granted the freedom of the town. I hadn’t realised he was buried in Kirriemuir as well as being born there – I’d always just assumed he’d been laid to rest elsewhere.
Kirrie’s other, more recent, famous son has also been honoured with a statue since last time I visited. I had seen the flagstone to his memory in Cumberland Close, but now he stands in effigy opposite the Gairie Mill.
Perhaps not as rock and roll as Bon Scott, but just as cool in her own way, on Saturday I was on my way home from spending the afternoon with friends in the Whey Pat when I spotted on Twitter that Sydney Padua was in town for a conference of mathematical biographers, and had gone to the Whey Pat shortly after we left. I hopped off the bus again and was able to shake her hand and tell her how much I liked her book (Buy it!). A very pleasant surprise.
For anyone who missed it, the trailer for the forthcoming Dad’s Army movie was released a couple of weeks ago. It's due in cinemas in February.
I'm a bit cautious about the prospect of a movie, because the one with the original cast back in the 1970s was an absolute turkey. Why did so many perfectly good sitcoms of the period wind up as terrible, terrible movies? However, on the admittedly dubious grounds of a trailer it looks like this might be quite good.
Electro swing is perhaps a bit misnamed – it’s a combination of 20s or 30s-style trad jazz (rather than the slightly later and smoother swing) with more modern instruments and styles including hip hop and electronic dance music. The UK’s 2015 Eurovision entry, "Still In Love With You" by Electro Velvet was an example, though a kind of disappointing one. I was pleased it was a bit different and wanted to like it, but couldn’t convince myself and ultimately it didn’t do too well. We scored a majestic 5 points, only 360 behind the ultimate winners, Sweden.
Happily, the French do it better and msinvisfem pointed me in their direction. Caravan Palace formed about ten years ago, and have just released their third album, <I°_°I>. All three are fun and listenable, and I’d recommend checking them out. Here are their official videos, and it’s also worth skipping to the end where there’s a couple of live performance videos, including a full concert. If you like what you see, they’re currently touring and will be in the UK in December, including a date in Glasgow.
Why <I°_°I>? Watch the earlier videos to find out! But if they’re not quite your cup of tea, try <I°_°I> too, as I think the blend of old and new shifts a bit in the third album.
Caravan Palace – 2008
Panic – 2012
Rock It For Me
<I°_°I> – 2015
Full Concert: Karlstor Bahnhof Heidelberg, 2009
A thousand years have passed since the events of Tales From the Kingdom of Fife, when Zargothrax, Dark Sorcerer of Auchtermuchty, invaded Dundee with an army of undead unicorns before eventually being imprisoned in a frozen pool of liquid ice, encasing his immortal body in a cage of eternal frost. (“Seems legit”, as the top comment under the relevant YouTube video says.)
Now, in the far distant future year of 1992, Zargothrax is released from his prison of frost by a cult of unholy chaos wizards, and Dundee and the Galactic Empire of Fife must be defended from their evil domination by King Angus McFife XIII (descendant of the original Crown Prince Angus McFife) and the eagle-riding Knights of Crail.
Like the previous album, it romps joyously through a Fife-flavoured galaxy of cheese. It’s a worthy successor, but with more laser-powered hammers, chambers of cryogenetical fire, robots, cosmic rage (of Astral Dwarves from Aberdeen), and eagle-riding Space Knights of Crail.
Stylistically, it’s still HEROIC FANTASY POWER METAL (of course), but as befits a more futuristic epic, there’s a greater role for synthesisers than was previously the case.
The previous tale concluded in the ten-minute Epic Rage of Furious Thunder. This album doesn’t pull its punches either, with another 10 minute epic finale – Apocalypse 1992. I can’t express how accurately this track captures the far-off technological future of 1992 – you’ll just have to listen to it and find out for yourself.
As for me – I’m also waiting, for the physical album to arrive, so that I can find out what the disc of bonus tracks has to offer…
Edit: I didn't know when I posted this earlier, but today would have been Roger Delgado's 97th birthday: #HappyBirthdayRogerDelgado.
I’m not a costumier. My skills stretch to sewing on the occasional button so, when attending Gallifrey One in Los Angeles, Roger Delgado’s Master was an easy choice for me. Although he does occasionally appear in extra-terrestrial garb, he’s mostly associated with smart dark suits, and as I mentioned last time, I’ve always fancied having something with a Nehru collar. The creative bit for me was constructing the Tissue Compression Eliminator, and msinvisfem helped me by applying black and white hair dyes from Manic Panic. Apart from that, everything was purchased.
I tend towards dressing in black anyway, so enjoyed putting together an ensemble that unashamedly emphasised it. The suit was by Alvin Amario, and ordered from eBay. Although the Nehru collar went through a bit of a revival in the UK fifteen or twenty years ago, it’s a bit tricky to find on the High Street these days, particularly when your High Street is in St. Andrews or Dundee. The suit’s light and comfortable, and although I had to settle for an oversize waist on the trousers, they were OK with a belt. Underneath, I wore a matching shirt from Bargear in case it showed (but I don’t think it did). I should probably have worn a shirt with long sleeves, but I’m not a long sleeve person – I’m just not comfortable with them.
For footwear, I wore my usual brogues, but with black jacquard spats from Gentleman’s Emporium which I’ve had for a while. Spats are disappointingly hard to get hold of, but they’re an ace item of clothing. They look smart, they can be unobtrusive (I’ve worn dark spats in public and at work without comment, although the day I don the silver ones I expect people will notice) and they’re remarkably comfortable, snuggled cosily around your ankles.
I covered my hands with military dress gloves from Southcombe in black cotton. Delgado’s gloves seem to be leather and I could probably have worn the leather gloves I already have, but I thought cotton would be less bulky and warm, while still looking smart.
Was it successful? Judge for yourself:( You? The Master? I'll be The Judge! )
Interesting music video. Musically hard to characterise; to me it sounds like a blend of computer game, 70s TV theme, sound effects, electronica, and dubstep (you can see how the album it's from is categorised by genre on Wikipedia). The video's steampunk western and both music and video tell a short story - a bit gorily in the visuals, but very watchable.
Chap hop is a blend of hip-hop music with a chap æsthetic; that is, a dandyish steampunk or early twentieth century style. It’s decidedly uncool – and was even before Michael Gove expressed a fondness for it – and furthermore, a fair proportion of it is not especially good.
However, fear not, for a while I ago I ploughed my way through most of it and compiled a list to share with some friends. Here, for your delectation, I present “Chap Hop – The Good Bits”. (If you’ve only got time for one, make it Fighting Trousers, but they’re all worth checking out for different reasons.)
Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer:
Songs for Acid Edward: a history of 1990s techno, on the banjolele
Just Like A Chap: a more typical example of chap hop
Fighting Trousers: Professor Elemental challenges the upstart Mr. B
(The unseen "Geoffrey" is, of course, the Professor's simian butler)
Sir, You Are Being Hunted: gangsta chap hop; a promo for a computer game of the same name
Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esquire:
Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk): chap-hop meets barbershop
A Belated Introduction: Sir Reginald realises he’s being mistaken for Mr. B and Professor Elemental.
Spot the cameo by Glamis castle, and count the knuckles at the end.
On Friday, I left work a bit early to attend the final date on Florrie’s lightning acoustic tour for Coffee House Sessions, which I mentioned when I discovered it a couple of weeks ago. I’m not a great gig-goer – in fact the sum total of my previous gig attendance is seeing Runrig in 1989 and Big Country round about 1990. On the other hand, if you’re one of the select acts that play St. Andrews Student Union, as they did*, and I like your music, there’s a reasonable chance I’ll turn up…
Call 911 (Fred Falke Remix)
I like Florrie’s music, so I went along. I’m not quite sure when I first discovered her, but I think I heard Call 911 on Last.FM a few years ago and it stood out. When I followed up a bit and realised that there wasn’t a duff track on the whole Introduction EP, I started to pay attention.
The Introduction EP
Having been drumming since the age of 6, Florrie started work as a session drummer in 2008 before quickly starting to establish herself as a solo artist, now describing herself as drummer, singer and songwriter. Having seen her on Friday, she’s actually selling herself a bit short, as she plays the guitar too, with a nice crisp confidence. Her recorded style is light, but intelligent, anthemic pop, with strong rhythm and high production values.
Given the very produced studio sound, it was intriguing to see that the Coffee House Sessions tour was to be acoustic; just Florrie and a guitar. Although it’s become more of a “thing” to perform unplugged over the last 20 years, not everyone can do it.
Florrie can. The session was quite short; I just sat and enjoyed it so I didn’t keep a note of which tracks were played or how many, but it must have something like six or eight. Definitely included were Left Too Late (a favourite of mine), Live A Little and Radioactive (a cover of Imagine Dragons), another cover I didn’t recognise but worked out later (Budapest, George Ezra) and the more current tracks Little White Lies and Galaxies. The delivery was sharp, confident and above all musical, emotionally complex and expressive. The studio production may add to Florrie’s music, but she has impeccable foundations and doesn’t need it – with one small exception.
Coffee House Sessions
The envelope of her vocal range is pushed a bit in Little White Lies just before going into the chorus, and it's the one time she sounds a bit weak; the lyric is "My breathing shallows/I can't pretend", rising at the end to the point where her voice cracks. It's an effective musical portrayal of a rising emotional tension when it works, but it doesn't always work live, which is a shame. It's a great studio track, with the blend of a thundering locomotive drum beat and a touch of melancholy that's a bit of a Florrie signature:
Little White Lies
It’s good though, that she’s trying things that test her, and that she continues to be original. The Sirens EP on which a first version of Little White Lies was included is notably a bit experimental, with something just a bit unusual about each track. An acoustic tour is a bit of variety too. Not everything is a hit with me, but the percentage is really high; the only talent I can think of with a similar success rate for my tastes is Marina and the Diamonds. I’m really looking forward to the release of Florrie’s first album in the first couple of months of next year.
And finally – not that this matters musically, but she’s just a really nice person. At the end of the set, with a little time to spare before I had to be somewhere else, I asked for an autograph on a Florrie beermat and we chatted for a couple of minutes. I said the honest but unimaginative sorts of things people say on these occasions (You’re really good! When’s the album out?), and she, who must hear them all the time, was not only charming but offered me a hug before I left – something I didn’t expect at all, being slightly over twice the age of most other folk in the room and probably looking older than that. Particularly impressive after an intensive ten day tour, and three performances that day (the Universities of Stirling. Strathclyde, and St. Andrews, in that order, all in under 6 hours).
I’ve included quite a number of videos in this post, but couldn’t possibly include everything I like. If you enjoyed any of these, check out the rest of Florrie’s back catalogue while it’s still relatively small! The easiest place to do that is on YouTube as florriemusic. Florrie’s also on Twitter and Facebook. Wikipedia is good for track details, and you can buy on iTunes. Finally, check out the adverts:
* For what it’s worth Runrig were ace, particularly listening to them play their version of The Times They Are A Changin’ a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Big Country were OK, but a bit samey to listen to for a whole gig, even after the Peace In Our Time album had marked a change in their sound.
Archive recreation for The Great Martian War documentary by impossible factual for History Canada.
Directed by Christian Johnson, (Plazma). and Steve Maher (impossible factual).
Music: "88" by Working for a Nuclear Free City.
As the final date on her acoustic UK University Coffee House Sessions Tour, Florrie is playing the Rector’s Café at St Andrews University on Friday 17th at 5:30pm. You don't have to be a student, and entry is free.
She's been releasing EPs since 2010, but now apparently an album is in the offing. I think it'll be worth checking out. I like most of what she's released so far (and kudos to anyone who can release a song called "Experimenting with Rugs").
Nick Robinson’s second question to Alex Salmond in the video clips I embedded yesterday was (in full) “…on a more general point, John Lewis’s boss says prices could go up, Standard Life’s boss says money will move out of Scotland, BP’s boss says oil will run out; why should a Scottish voter believe you, a politician, against men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profit?”
Some people, including Nick Robinson, are claiming that he answered the first question (about RBS), but not the question I’ve transcribed above. Here’s the clip again, followed by my breakdown of the answer with regards to Nick’s second question:
Alex starts addressing the second question, at 1:50, making it clear that that’s what he’s doing by saying he’s moving on “to the generality” – the same sort of language Nick used when describing it as “a more general point”. He doesn't say why we should trust him more than the businessmen, which was the literal question (would anyone believe it if he did?), but he sets out a couple of reasons why the businessmen's announcements might be seen in the same light as claims from a politician:
- He suggests they were coordinated by David Cameron's business advisor.
- He states that the "new" announcements from two of Nick Robinson's three examples (BP, Standard Life) were repeating things they'd already said months ago. (He doesn’t mention John Lewis.)
He then goes on to make a detailed comparison with RBS (not one of Nick's examples in the second question, although it’s relevant to the first) where the reporting was substantially more alarmist than the Chief Executive of RBS's portrayal to his staff, leading in to his criticism of the Treasury's (and the BBC's) role in the reporting.
In fact, he spends nearly four minutes working on reducing the relative credibility of the announcements from business and their leaking and reporting before he first tries to move on to the next question, which is pretty much (if not literally) what Nick asked him to do.
Finally, at 7:00 he mentions two witnesses from the business world (Martin Gilbert and Sir Angus Grossart) who've made statements more favourable to the case for independence, thereby introducing a positive argument as well as the preceding negative ones.
It wasn't a soundbite answer to the soundbite question, but (IMHO, obviously) it was as reasonable an answer as any politician in that situation could give.
The BBC’s has published a response to complaints.
As a supporter of Scottish independence, even I sometimes get frustrated that the SNP don't explicitly say what their "Plan B" is (implicitly it's always seemed fairly clear - a currency union isn't the only way of keeping the pound).
Whatever you may think of Alex Salmond, he's not daft, so there had to be a reason for him consistently failing to give the clarification that obviously many people want. I would have guessed that it was something to do with maintaining the strength of his negotiation position after a "Yes". That wasn't a million miles off, but it wasn't wholly right. Here's Alex Salmond giving the clearest explanation I've seen of why the SNP are taking the position they are:
Well, I already knew I was an extremist, as Nick Clegg was kind enough to inform me of it a couple of years ago.
What I hadn’t realised was that I’m practically one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. According to George Robertson – sorry, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen – Scottish independence would be “cataclysmic in geo-political terms”. Gosh, nice to know we count for so much.
There’s a lot of inflated language going round about the independence campaign and it’s daft. Really, if a measly 8.4% of the UK’s population peacefully vote to govern themselves, that’s going to cause the fall of Western civilisation is it? Particularly when what’s being proposed actually sounds a bit like a loose confederation with the rest of the UK? There’s a lot of good will there, if folk are prepared to stop caricaturing independence for a small country as a global catastrophe, and comparing the Unionist cause to that of Lincoln in the American Civil War.
George Robertson’s a coof – if you don’t believe me, watch him comprehensively lose this debate in Dundee last year, turning a 38% margin in his favour into a 13% lead against him. And remember he was involved in determining the Scottish Parliament’s electoral system that was going to help devolution “kill Nationalism stone dead”.
Let’s take his words as seriously as they deserve, at this, the dawn of the Apocalypse. If the world says it’s time to go, tell me, will you freak out? No; with fires in New York, locusts in Detroit, and zombies in Atlanta, you’ve gotta laugh at the zombie in the front yard:
And I really, really want to thank you for reading to the end. ;-)
Interesting story on the BBC web site, with video, about a serious attempt at a modern airship, hybridised with a flying wing. (Its airship ancestry is more obvious.) You may have seen pictures before, as it’s a project that’s been resurrected in a new form, but interesting to see it within a hop, skip and a jump of becoming a commercial reality. May contain trace quantities of Iron Maiden.