Weekend Photo Fun – White

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@BakingAitch got in touch on Friday to suggest doing a one off photo special for the weekend with snow as the topic.  I’ve been thinking for a while of ideas to follow up the summer and december photo fun projects that have been really good fun and liked the idea of a ‘pop up’ weekend.  I didn’t want to do snow though as it would rule out people where there is no snow at the moment so as always I spoke to the kids who always set the themes and they suggested White.  I wasn’t sure if we’d get many as with it just being for the weekend people might not pick up on the idea but turned out that I needn’t have worried as some lovely photos came through and as always some great interpretations.  Have a look through the gallery and see what you think (if you click on the gallery then you can go through them at full size if you want to).

I’ll definitely do the summer and december projects again which cover a period of weeks but I quite like the idea of the odd random or topical weekend theme thrown in for good measure.  As always thanks to all of you who picked up the theme and contributed photos.  Cheers

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Great Expectations

I came to this book having read very little Dickens. We read A Christmas Carol in the book club a few years ago, but I don’t think that really counts as a fully fledged Dickens. In the book club we have tried on numerous occasions to try and get a ‘proper’ Dickens on the table to no avail. The length and perceived complexity has always been a barrier when our usual monthly time frame is factored in.

At Christmas, we usually allow ourselves more time by dint of the fact we can never get together in the run up to Christmas. So the stars were aligned and Great Expectations (GE) was suggested and carried to be the December book, the last of the year.

I have seen a fair few television and film adaptations of GE and it’s fair to say some of them cast a fairly long shadow. David Lean‘s seminal and masterful black and white film adaptation has long been a favourite of mine. It is sensationally cast and acted and the trademark lush Lean cinematography is a joy to the eye. Recent TV adaptation with Ray Winstone is also worth a mention for its dark beauty. Although I’ve not seen the most recent film adaptions, there are already lots of ways this book can be digested which can sometimes be an issue when reading a book for the first time.

I’ve written before about the issues of film versions of famous books and the reading thereof. It’s always an interesting process to see if the book can bring something new to the reader as often its the book that comes first and more often we’ve seen the film version first. Anyway, on to the book. First thing to note is that Dickens is a very funny writer. I’m talking laugh out loud funny at times. His keen eye for the ridiculous back then is not lost on the reader of today and his superb characterisations are at the heart of this book. Dickens wrote this book and many of his others as serialisations for magazines and at times this is obvious with an almost soap opera nature to the chapters. In the first half of the book this does drag on a bit if I’m honest and the minutiae of the various family lives does wear a bit thin when it’s not driving the narrative along.

The story of Pip plucked from poverty and propelled into wealth and a life of ‘great expectations’ by his anonymous benefactor is well-known I think, but the book fills in lots of the gaps and embellishes what is already a timeless and rewarding story. Dickens is a master at tugging on the heartstrings and he shamelessly goes for the jugular where emotion is concerned. Having read Clare Tomalin’s superb biography of the complex writer, I can see how he drew on much of his upbringing and early life in GE.

The second half of the book is where Dickens’ turns in a virtuoso writing performance. He takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotion by bringing Pip’s story to a fulfilling and dramatic conclusion – not entirely in keeping with what we’ve seen in the film adaptations over the years. I’ll admit I found this very long book hard yards in the first half – even with lots of Xmas down time it took some application to get it rolling – but in the second half of the book, the pages turned easily and quickly.

This is a very moral book about hopes and aspirations and what might happen if we actually get what we wish for and it not turn out quite as we expected. It’s a book about friendship – between men predominantly – with women portrayed as manipulative and cruel. There’s a sweet bromance between Pip and Herbert that is as passionate as any Jane Austen male/female romance and male characters and their relationships with each other are the backbone of the book.

There is an interesting moral conundrum at the heart of this book. Ian S likened it to a reverse Frankenstein – Pip is turned into this reverse monster, a gentleman. Dickens creates this construct then almost as Shelley did with her monster, explores morally how everyone behaves around it. It’s an interesting idea – a Dickensian Prometheus. Rob explored the theme of social mobility – just as prevalent in Dickens’ time as now – and what the outcomes might be. Michael built on this theme with Pip and Estella’s ‘ideas of destiny’. Gurdev countered with the thought that Dickens’ stature as a literary genius may be overstated and he likened him to a Grisham of his time – and who can argue with that? Ian T finishing thought was around the Pygmalian-isation of Pip, you get on in life but at what cost…

As ever with a brilliant book, we had a brilliant evening discussing it. And as I’ve said before, often the discussion and ensuing enlightenment sheds a different light on the book. So is Dickens all that he’s cracked up to be and are his stories still relevant hundreds of years later? I’d say yes and yes. Dickens’ timeless understanding of the human condition has lots to tell us today and although the language and conditions may have changed, the themes and emotions have not.

Superb.

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What are the forgotten gems in your music collection ?

I’ve been time travelling today as I took a trip rooting through my old vinyl records on the hunt for some forgotten gems.  Most mornings I put some music (tends to be digital) on and often cause much mirth and embarrassment as I sing, pogo and cavort around the kitchen while making the breakfast and if I can remember I’ll tweet out a morning music track and see what other people might be listening to.  The other day @albfreeman replied with Smashing Pumpkins and we got into a conversation about Catherine Wheel who I saw support the Pumpkins on the Pumpkins first ever UK tour in a tiny club in Birmingham.  I really liked Catherine Wheel at the time and had seen them a few months previous being supported by a band that I never thought would amount to much whereas I thought Catherine Wheel would be massive (what ever happened to Radiohead by the way?).  I’d not listened to anything by Catherine Wheel for ages so went hunting and put some on, a process which got me thinking what other little gems are hiding away.

So I’ve been flicking through my records today to see what I could find, a fantastic trip down memory lane of good and bad bands seen and the memories associated with certain gigs and times.  An impossible task but I’ve tried to pick out 10 forgotten gems.  These are tracks that I have not played in years and years and I’ve only looked through the vinyl and it would change if asked to do this tomorrow but it’s been a lovely exercise that anyone who loves music should go and do.  If you do do it I’d love to know some of your forgotten gems:

In no particular order here’s my 10

Black Metallic – Catherine Wheel

 

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Had to put them in as this was the basis of the idea.  Not sure it stands up on listen again but live this track was blistering and almost as loud as My Bloody Valentine.  Think the band got lumped in with the shoegazing movement which I suspect was their downfall.

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Sally Cinnamon – The Stone Roses

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The Roses get played a lot in this house but not this track, primarily as it’s on a vinyl 12 inch and I tend to revert simply to the first album or Fools Gold.  A friend of mine dragged me along to some tiny hall to see them right at the start and he was almost frothing at the mouth with excitement.  The gig was pretty uneventful after all Ian Brown is terrible at singing live but the stage presence was unmistakable.  I bought this single shortly after and listening to it again today you can hear the beats and sound that laid the foundation to a whole musical movement.  By sheer coincidence the same friend that took me to see them happened to be on a train to London shortly after the gig and ended up sat next to John Squire who was designing the art work for the debut album.

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Powderfinger – The Cowboy Junkies

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This is a track off the achingly beautiful Caution Horses album which used to be on almost constant rotation after I stumbled across it and is well worth tracking down if you’ve not heard it and indeed I’m going to get a digital version shortly so I can carry it round with me.  Perhaps the best Sunday morning album and yet it’s been way too long since I’ve given it a proper listen.  The track is a cover of a Neil Young song and it’s the track that led me on the journey of investigation into the great man and his music.

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Just Got Back Today – The Jennifers

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No idea how I stumbled across this originally but still sounds great I think and remarkable to think it was written and performed by a couple of 15 year olds who then went on to form Supergrass.  This was I believe the Jennifers one and only single.

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Touch Me I’m Sick – Mudhoney

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Perhaps my “God Save the Queen Moment” when I first heard this, a realisation that things were changing and some new brooms were coming along to sweep away all that had gone before and I was happy to go along for the ride.  Whilst certain other Seattle bands caught the headlines a couple of years later this track laid down the blueprint for grunge.  I’ve been jumping about like a loon listening to this again today and it still sounds vital and visceral.

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Chameleon Day – Talk Talk 

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What an utterly sublime band Talk Talk were and listening to the Colour of Spring album again today I’m not sure why it doesn’t get more credit packed as it with some fantastic tracks – Happiness is Easy, I Don’t Believe in You and Living in Another World as examples.  This one in particular is a bit different odd and beguiling and was very at odds to what was around at the time I seem to remember – sounds almost Radioheadish ?

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My World is Empty Without You – Afghan Whigs

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Back to Sub Pop and also another cover this one of The Supremes by Greg Dulli and his criminally underrated Afghan Whigs putting a very different slant on this classic track.

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Lump – Presidents of the United States of America

Take a serious subject (a friends brain tumor) and turn it into a anthemic mosh-a-long – what’s not to like.

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Jealous of Youth – The The

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I was lucky enough to see The The which was quite tricky as I don’t think they toured that often (could be wrong there) and Matt Johnson was a fantastic songwriter who produced a string of classics before vanishing as far as I’m aware.  I still play The The regularly but I came across this 12 inch / EP today which I don’t think was on any of their albums and certainly is not something I’ve played for over 10 years.

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Seether – Veruca Salt

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Single taken from the American Thighs album which I think was the only album the band produced.

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So there you have it, a journey back through some old vinyl.  Not saying that these will appeal to all or even that they are classics but they are all tracks that warranted another listen today.  Not sure what they say about me or my tastes apart from clearly influenced by guitars, indie and grunge – guilty !