Now That’s What I Call Music 2

Now That’s What I Call Music 2

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This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released- March 26th, 1984

Music History

The Smiths exist! The world is a better place for this alone. The Now albums represent Virgin and Universal records output at this moment in time, with other labels joining as they became more successful, so there are glaring holes where certain acts should be.

Me History

One month old, I believe I had been spending most of my time screaming, drinking milk, and crapping myself. Which actually covers the majority of my entire autobiography.

If I had to save one track from this album, and all the others had to burn in a fiery pit, that track would be… Run Runaway by Slade. I get to keep all the other Smiths songs. I regret losing 99 Red Balloons, but I get to keep 99 Luftballons, and I’m a sucker for German language versions. It kills me to part with the spastic funk of Hyperactive by Thomas Dolby, but until the world respects Slade with the credit they’re due, I must fight for them.

Track by track breakdown

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 2

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Sausage, tomato and pepper Stew

Again, an easy one. Takes about 45 minutes, but half an hour of that is watching telly. Warming and autumnal. One rule. Use the best sausages you can find. High meat content, and peppery. They’re the main event, don’t be eating some breadcrumb and bollocks based nightmare. Those sausages are for a dirty Saturday fry up. Which is probably my favourite thing to eat. BUT NOT FOR THIS MEAL.

Ingredients

Measurements to your own taste. I trust you.

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Peppers
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Very high quality sausages
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Balsamic vinegar

Recipe

Stick the sossies under the grill to cook while you prepare the tomato and peppers.

In an ovenproof saucepan , sweat the onions, garlic, mushrooms and peppers, adding thyme, oregano and balsamic towards the end, as everything softens.

Add the tinned tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes or so adding salt and pepper, and cooking out till savoury rather than bitter.

Put the cooked sausage in the tomatoey peppery ragu. Shove in the oven at around 180c for half an hour, when thick and ever so slightly burnt on top.

Serve with bread and some greens.

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My love letter to a city

This week, the Tories are in Birmingham for their annual conference. I don’t  mean to be political, but JRR Tolkien based the Shire, the idyllic homeland of the hobbits on it’s greener pastures, and it feels a little as though Sauron has popped into town to say hello. Although, to be fair, it’s nice to see that any politician is aware that life thrives outside of the M25.

Anyway, my offense at their being here made me wonder why I am so offended at their presence. The somewhat predictable answer is that I love this town.

I am from a small town on the furthest eastern edge of Kent. I dare not repeat it’s name, for fear that more Londoners will arrive and attempt to further gentrify the place. So in short, I am a southerner, brought up with my southern ways, and not made for life north of Watford.

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I first came to Birmingham a decade ago, to meet my girlfriend’s (now wife’s !) parents. The warmth with which I was treated, from when I got off and had a swift half by Digbeth coach station, to the reception from her parents in the heart of the Black Country, to when I went out to Snobs, the indie disco par excellence in town was unparalleled by any city I have been before or since. Only Melbourne has come close.

Continue reading My love letter to a city

My Living Room is Awesome! (part 2- bed)

Not a normal living room, the bed can confuse- my wife and I are currently living at her parents while we save for a house, and her dad converted a garage into a little granny flat for us. Eventually, I’ll tidy up in there, and post a picture, but decency prevents me till my pants and socks are put away. Anyway, the next big bit is our bed! For furniture geeks, it’s a queen size leather and oak bed, from Dwell, a company I used to work for, and who sadly nearly went out of business last year. Thankfully, they’re still around, albeit in a reduced capacity. As a former employee, I have to say this may be for the best- in their haste to expand, they did forget to look after their employees so well, which is what prompted me to move on. I hope that they regain their successes, and don’t forget their mistakes of the past, as the guys at the top were sound.

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So this was a bit more complex, because I didn’t have a very large base piece to lay the matress on top of.

I used:

  • 10 brown 4×1 bricks
  • 2 brown 3×1 bricks
  • 2 any color 2×2 bricks
  • 8 cream 4×2 bricks
  • 1 cream 6×1 plate
  • 2 cream 2×2 bricks with a roof type slant (the pillows- I don’t know the technical term!)

Instructions

1) Base – lay 6 of the brown 4×1 and the 2 3×1 bricks in a rectangle 8 studs wide and 9 studs deep. In the gap in the middle, put the the two 2×2 any colour bricks- these will support the duvet/matress part.

2) Mattress/ Duvet– lay the 8 cream 4×2 bricks from the front to the back of the bed- the any colour bricks should hold these in place so the middle doesn’t collapse.

3) Headboard– place 2 of the remaining 4 brown 4×1 bricks to fill the 1 stud gap at the back of the bed, then place the other 2 on top of these. Place the cream plate on top of this.

4) Pillows– place the two remaining pieces where you’d imagine pillows should be.

Et voilà!

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Stir Fry- so simple it hurts

Stir fries are great. Beyond the chopping, you’re cooking for maybe 6 minutes tops and you have a lovely dinner done. I was so busy eating it the only photo I have is of an empty frying pan. The one important factor is to use the thinnest, cheapest pan or wok you can. This way it’ll stay very hot, and the meat will cook while the veg stays crisp.

Ingredients

  • Dead animal
  • Crispy vegetables
  • A red chilli
  • Groundnut or sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice or white wine vinegar
  • Ginger
  • Five spice

Recipe

Chop all the veg and meat very thinly, and mix 1tbsp vinegar, and 1tsp of five spice, ginger, and soy sauce per person in a little bowl or ramekin.

Heat the oil over a high heat, then just before it smokes, chuck in the chilli and the meat until sealed, about 1 or 2 minutes. Chuck in the veg and pour over the sauce and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Serve immediately.

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The wok tip is from Nigel Slater’s Appetite, the first 80 pages of which are essential reading. The rest is merely brilliant.

It’s War

So, as if there were ever a choice, we’re back off to the Middle East to spread peace and democracy with big ol’ bombs.

The case for and against has been made, in its usual emotive way, with one side saying the only way to stop ISIS beheading innocents is to bomb them into submission (the irony of the meaning of the word Islam being lost on them), and the other saying that by bombing villages and breaking up families, we just create the next wave of angry militants. So far, so emotive on each side.

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But what if we look at it from another metric. What do we get out of our involvement?

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the pro and anti camps are both right. So for every one terrorist blown to bits, we are responsible for creating another in the crossfire. More contentiously, let’s say that our glorious leader’s motives in going to war are entirely straightforward, and the aim is to stop ISIS and nothing more.

With that out the way, what is the financial benefit to us of doing this? The Daily Mirror says the financial cost of going to war here is £3 billion. Taking into account tabloid hyperbole, let’s call the actual figure £2 billion. What do we, as shareholders in UK plc. get for the £35 each of us will be paying for this endeavour?

Continue reading It’s War

Now That’s What I Call Music

I am 30 years old.

I think I’ve said this before. I never expected to be thirty, I’m not sure anyone does. The aging just happens while you’re concentrating on more important matters, like life and cronuts.

The Now That’s What I Call Music series is also 30. The first volume was released shortly before I was born, and we’re now somewhere in the high 80’s. A year or so ago, inspired by a pub conversation  I listened to all of them, end to end. It was… informative. It was also interesting (to me) and a strange way to experience  the recent history of pop music.

So I thought I would share in this, by blogging every single one, with my feelings on the music, incredibly biased reviews, and when I feel like it, my personal relationship with the song. If the song’s particularly good, has a particularly good or bad video, or if it entertains me, I’ll put the track on.

I hope you enjoy, but then, I’m doing this for me more than anyone else. But regardless, enjoy.

Now That’s What I Call Music

Now That's What I Call Music
Now That’s What I Call Music

This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released- November 28th, 1983

Music History

Even at this early stage, a lot of the 80’s style is already there. Pop is getting glossier, there are power ballads and electropop, early hip hop/electro (sort of, Rocksteady Crew), and the early alternative scene is represented by The Cure.

Me History

Still a temporary tenant in a studio flat made of amniotic fluid and womb. My tenancy ends in two and a half months.

If I had to save one track from this album, and all the others had to dissappear forever, that track would be… Bonnie Tyler and Total Eclipse of the Heart.. It may not be a credible song, but by God it’s fantastic. One to sing at the top of your voice when drunk.

Track by track breakdown

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music

More Popular than Ever? Beards and Masculinity in History.

This is an incredibly detailed and intriguing social history of beards in the UK. I like beards, I like history and I like well written. My only problem with the article is that it lacked a picture of WG Grace, the greatest Englishman to ever sport a beard.

From Wikipedia
From Wikipedia

Dr Alun Withey

This week came the startling revelation that, in the past year, manufacturers of razors and related goods such as shaving foam, have seen a drop in sales of more than £72 million pounds. Market analysts IRI noted that men’s shopping habits were changing and, even though the total market still accounted for 2.2 billion pounds, this was a substantial dent. The cause of this change? Beards.

Beard
Image from: https://gdblogs.shu.ac.uk/b0027028/2013/12/28/what-is-a-beard/

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/511579/Beard-fashion-shaving-products-sales-drop

Nobody can have failed to notice in recent months the ubiquity of facial hair. Keep your eyes open as you walk down your local high street and you will probably notice a variety of styles, with the ‘Amish’ style seemingly especially popular. It is also interesting how newsworthy beards are. Just look at how often they have appeared as a topic for discussion in recent months. The furore caused by Jeremy Paxman’s beard for example. There were lengthy discussions about…

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My Living Room is Awesome!!! (part 1- sofa)

So, in case you couldn’t work out that I am a bit nerdy already, let me tell you I am an AFOL. Which is apparently the preferred nomenclature for an adult fan of Lego.

My dear sister go some freebie lego a while ago and gave it to me, whereupon it sat on my shelf for six months. The onset of insomnia, brought on by an abortive attempt to quit smoking left me sat in the living room with nothing to do in the middle of the night. Half an hour later, I had built a tiny spaceship, entered a state of zen like calm and was ready to sleep.

After that it was all downhill, and I’d treat myself to a set each payday. My most recent has been the Lego Architecture- Seattle Space Needle, which looks fantastic, but was too quick to finish, and a little overpriced. I still love the look of the Lego Architecture range though, and may well treat myself to another soon, probably Big Ben.

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Inspired by my minor disappointment in this set, and bolstered by Warren Elsmore’s fantastic book, Brick City, I decided I would try to build something without a blueprint. Brick City has many wonderful real life creations in it, including Charles Bridge in Prague, Flinders Street and it’s surroundings in Melbourne, and most of London’s landmarks, but I felt that as a start I should go smaller and closer to home, so I decided that I would make my living room in Lego.

I purchased two base pieces and a 650 brick pack of Lego from my local supermarket (I am a hypocrite), and started last night by constructing my lovely Ikea sofa. It is a dark blue Karlstad sofa, and it looks like this.

The Scandinavian choice for the lankier couple
The Scandinavian choice for the lankier couple

Now… I only have dark grey or bright blue pieces, so in the interest of it looking fun, rather than realistic, I went for the louder hue. I also lacked a blue base piece, so there is a light grey piece holding the structure together, which I intend to swap out one day. Although I quite like how it defines the top and bottom of the sofa.

Anyway, to build this, you will need;

  • 4 1 x 1 Brown bricks
  • 1 8 x 4 Blue plate
  • 4 2 x 3 Blue bricks
  • 4 1 x 4 Blue bricks
  • 3 2 x 2 Blue bricks

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  1. Legs- Put one brown brick in each corner of the blue plate.
  2. Arms- Place two of the 1 x 4 bricks at each of the shorter ends of the plate, then place the other two on top of these.
  3. Back- Place two of the 2 x 3 pieces at the back of the plate, then place the other two on top of these.
  4. Cushions- Place the three 2 x 2 bricks in the remaining gap at the front.

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Wahey! You probably could have worked something this simple out yourself!