Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A David Essex double bill...with a little help from a stellar cast.

The first of the two films, That'll Be The Day is the better of the two and really sets a standard which Stardust can't quite meet. Ringo Starr totally nails his part, delivering his lines with perfect humour and timing. He's convincing and likeable and also a good sport, appearing in his underwear and there's even a bum shot (I don't think it was a stunt bottom!) Having seen him in A Hard Day's Night and Help, it is strange to see him go from squeaky clean Beatle to cheeky Scous chappy with a bit of a mouth on him, but he makes the transition perfectly. Billy Fury appears as a singer and Keith Moon as a drummer, as the other notable famous cameos. As for David Essex, he appears confident yet unassuming and it's an enjoyable viewing experience. As for Stardust, although given the filming locations of some of the scenes, it was clear they had a larger budget, this sequel fell short of the mark for me. I enjoyed it but it wasn't as good as its predecessor. Ringo Starr had the good sense not to participate in this film. The cliches are just too Beatley...it seems to me that the industry realised that they had to give the world The Beatles again. Early on, it's a street similar to Mathew Street in Liverpool, and set inside a music club inside a cellar, like The Cavern...there's even a house which looks very much the same as John Lennon's house in Weybridge. It would have been in poor taste and a bad career move for Ringo to have included himself in this! Later on, the film goes into a documentary mode, like the Albert Maysles footage of The Beatles. It was just a bit too cliched for me and the acting not as strong, although Marty Wilde was good.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Heavenly.

In typical Ken Loach style, this is an honest slice of life. This drew me into the storyline even further as the characters were so convincing - the acting and the casting is superb. That said, one of the characters didn't even audition; he was a passer-by simply watching the camera crews set up and got offered a part in the film. And the lead actress is currently working as a primary school teacher. The characters were easy to like and to relate to, and there were some truly heartwarming moments in the film. It's definitely true to Glasgow life - the sense of humour and sense of community overrides all the adversities the characters face. For this reason, the strings of profanities are not gratuitous and instead genuinely add another layer of authenticity to the plotlines. If you are easily offended, I suggest you buy the edited version;

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive

I admit, the accompanying album, took a while to grow on me; as much as I love the genre, I wasn't convinced by Paul's interpretation of them. Over time, and with the help of this film, I have been converted. And I think it could change a lot of other peoples' perceptions about the man and his music too. It shows there is yet another string in his bow. The interactions between Paul and everyone on this film, from his own crew, to session musicians to famous musicians, are natural, relaxed and on an equal level. This, coupled with his obvious self-deprecating sense of humour and general ability to laugh, put everyone at ease and endeared him to those he worked with and definitely to me watching this documentary. The session drummer described these sessions as being "free", showing how relaxed and friendly it was, which clearly shows in the footage of them recording. Everyone seems to feel comfortable and joyous. It's a fascinating insight into the creative process of this album, and to paraphrase what the bass player on these sessions said, he respects the music, which makes me respect him. Praise for Paul comes from everyone who is interviewed, including Eric Clapton, who despite his own illustrious career, spoke of his reverence for some of the stellar musicians also playing on this record. At this stage in Paul's career, it is good to see him fulfill such a long-held ambition (according to Joe Walsh). He breathes new life into some old songs, is faithful to Sinatra with his cover of We Three and his own contribution of My Valentine is sublime. It fits in perfectly with the rest of the recordings, and is further proof that the man is versatile. Generally speaking, I think Frank Sinatra and his songs are untouchable, but I was certainly impressed by the version of We Three I heard here. The film also goes a little into the history of the Capitol building; from the photographs on the walls of legends who have previously graced its studio floors (ie Nat King Cole, Sinatra and Coltrane, to the continued use of the vintage preamps, microphones and compressors, even the marks left by Les Paul by way of the echo chambers he originally designed...a fascintating taster of how the built environment helped shape this album. Paul said that the last time there was such an adverse reaction to any title he had suggested, it was the name The Beatles, which some associated too much with creepy crawly insects. Kisses On The Bottom had the same impact and it certainly adds another dimension to the (still) cute Beatle.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Kindle Fire...Not too bright.

Much heavier than the this tablet is also physically bigger than its no-frills sibling. With its colour touchscreen, Android operating system and webcam, it looks just like your average tablet. Call me cynical, but it appears very much to be a clever ploy to enourage the purchasing of content and apps, in a less subtle way than rival tablet, as the first thing you enounter is the Shop option, and at the end you will find Offers. You can also see all your purchased eBooks in a more in-your-face way than the Apple iBooks are displayed on their device. Like on the Amazon web site, you are offered suggestions based on your recent purchases. They don't miss a trick! When it comes to actually reading an eBook on the Kindle Fire, the screen looks sharp and it's easy and comfortable to read, although I actually prefer it on the because it's much smaller and lighter to hold and to carry in public. Then again, there is the option on this one to purchase audiobooks too which has its uses. It's also different from previous incarnations in that you simply swipe the screen to "turn" pages, as opposed to there being a physical button as there was before. The News Stand app is good, allowing you to subscribe to and download newspapers and magazines, although it's worth noting that these don't come in HTML format so it's rather visually boring. Lovefilm, Amazon's acquired movie rental/streaming service, is enabled too, allowing access to films and also to TV shows. You can also upload your own videos to the device to watch if you so choose. It seems a bit slow when trying video playback, and this was rather frustrating. The picture quality wasn't as clear as expected. Amazon have attempted to cover all media formats, allowing you to sync with your Cloud account and listen to all your downloaded tracks. The speakers are louder than I had expected, although the sound quality isn't as good as it could be. I think maybe they're trying to do too much with this tablet at the detriment of the quality of its features.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Roving with Roland.

At first glance, it's a brilliant idea - a portable setup with 6 channels, perfect for recording 5.1 surround sound when out and about on location. I am definitely glad I have it. It can power an additional two condensor microphones at 40 volts, which is just as well because the front microphones are rather clunky and don't really record so well. Really, it should have hit the mark there and then, but I'm not entirely convinced by the R-26 because of this. It's definitely a useful tool though, and I have enjoyed exploring it and seeing how good it really is. Given that this is a portable device, I would hazard a guess at saying it would be best used outdoors, as opposed to indoors. It would sound more natural, as opposed to being expected to act as a studio built into a portable unit. Aesthetically, it is rather big and heavy and looks a bit like something out of Star Trek, and the accessories kit was a massive letdown; I would avoid it at all costs. It is sturdy and rugged enough, ideal for use outdoors.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Better The Devil You Know.

It is a brave move to try and rework such popular classics...ones which shaped and defined a pop career which has now spanned a quarter of a century. Nonetheless, transforming songs to which we all danced twenty years ago into moving ballads...familiar songs in new keys, styles and genres has been a labour of love which has definitely paid off. Every song has been faithfully reworked, with some beautiful orchestral scores added, and even different recording techniques, including using microphones more appropriate to these genres of vocal than to pop songs. Then again, you would expect nothing less from Abbey Road Studios. This album proves Kylie is an ever evolving, talented performing artist who is just as credible and valid as ever, and shows she is definitely not just a one trick pony. It may not be a total departure from pop music that she is seeking, but no doubt, this album is definitely able to help secure a seamless transition to a more mature sound and style. There is also a totally new track included; Flower, which shows the likes of Adele how it's really done!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Re-Kindled.

The first change you will notice is that this new kindle is black, instead of the grey seen in previous models. I find it makes it easier to read the print on the screen, which still only operates in black and white. That said, I do think that the white background of the pages on the screen appears generally brighter, which must be down to more than just the shell colour being black instead of grey. The text itself also looks sharper and clearer than before. Bear in mind, this is a budget, entry level ebook reader, so it doesn't support HTML. In fact, it doesn't seem that any of the spec as to what formats it does and does not support, has changed. The software itself does not appear to have been updated, although I do think that it's opening pages quicker too. If you are looking for a no-frills eBook reader, then this new, slightly improved Kindle is the one for you, but if you are looking for something a bit more exciting, then you might want to consider the

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Nikon - Cool pick!

For such a compact camera, there are a lot of features packed in. That said, it's totally user-friendly, intuitive and easy to use, even for beginners. The 16 megapixel CMOS sensor works in collaboration with the EXPEED processor and allows you to take clear, sharp photographs in any level of light...from a sunny day to a dusky evening...from a concert to a fireworks display. It allows just the right level of light and there's less glare and red eye than previous, similar cameras I have used, such as the which I thought was rather good when I originally bought it!! You can also select the scene mode yourself from a choice of 20, although generally I didn't feel this was necessary as the camera does automatically adjust itself according to the light settings surrounding it. However, the macro facility was useful as was the ability to photograph documents/written black and white. Further to this is its own Intelligent auto-focus system, which allows the camera to choose the clearest focus for the subject matter. This works even if the subject matter isn't in the centre of the frame. The inbuilt vibration reduction is really useful for example when taking photographs or filming on a moving train or dancing around at a concert, and together with the Anti-blur high ISO, it ensures you take steadier photos than you'd think possible given your own motion! Also worth a mention is the panorama option, which when compared with the Panorama option on my iPhone 5 camera, delivers a much smoother picture which doesn't look so much like several pictures cut and pasted together. When it comes to filming, the HD quality is impressive for its size, and when said films are blown up, even on a projector to more than 100 inches, the clarity is crystal clear and doesn't suffer pixellation or graining, unlike other cameras I have tried. The large size of the touch-screen LCD screen is useful. There is a stylus included in the box, although I preferred to use my fingers. The only slight issue I had was that I found the adapter slightly troublesome to assemble initially, although again, unlike my previous Coolpix camera, I welcomed the development which means you no longer have to remove the battery in order to charge it in a separate cradle - it is now possible to charge the battery still in situ in the camera. This is a big plus point. Overall, a brilliant compact camera which has pride of place in my handbag for day-to-day use.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Electric....no arguments!!

Much as others who have already reviewed this album, I am a longtime Paul McCartney afficionado (you could say he's a Lifelong Passion of mine, in fact). I also have the first two Fireman albums in addition to his entire back catalogue. This album is pretty far removed from his previous Fireman releases. It sounds a bit like the sounds he produced on Twin Freaks, which was remixes of some of his songs. Although there were some vocal sounds in parts of Rushes, this is the first Fireman release to include sung vocals. These are delivered in time to some really funky beats, much as you'd expect to hear in an achingly hip bar or club, and I am confident that this album will actually be played in such premises in the immediate future. Despite his successes and the adulation and critical acclaim he has received throughout his career, McCartney is very insecure. He has said himself he feels more able to kick back and goof around and noodle with these Fireman projects and so this is Paul McCartney being relaxed, free and himself. Not that his other releases are not true to himself, but he has long been pigeonholed as some soppy balladeer and as such a one trick pony but of late, most notably and recently with Electric Arguments, he has proved this to be anything but the truth. A highly recommended album which is getting a lot of positive feedback from all quarters, and one I'd recommend to any fans of Paul McCartney, and of ambient and dance music per se.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Face facts.

I have now been using this device for coming up to the recommended three months period in which change becomes noticeable. I was using the Slendertone Face for the radiance it promised, as opposed to the tightening/firming programmes available, because I felt my skin was a bit dull looking. In the time I have been using it, I have noticed that my cheekbones are definitely slightly more defined (but not razor sharp like a supermodel, not that I was expecting that!) and my skin feels plumper; I assume that this is because there is more circulation to my face as my skin is smoother and brighter looking. I have been told I am looking well in recent weeks and have even been asked for ID more, so I am putting it down to my dedicated use of this machine. The reason for me knocking a star off its rating is that I have sensitive teeth and I found that wherever I positioned this on my face, anything more than a moderate setting made my teeth and jaw hurt, so I couldn't really use it as effectively as perhaps I might have been able to had I not had sensitive teeth. Although the initial outlay is expensive, as is the replacement of the pads every quarter, I would still argue that compared with regular facials and/or injectable treatments, this kit offers good value for money and I would recommend it.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Kitchen additions.

Silver Service. This microwave is smaller inside than any I have previously used, but still perfect for what I need it for. I like having the dial on it to turn around according to how long I need it to heat for, as opposed to some models which are solely digital. I have no issues at all with its operation; I find it heats things evenly and efficiently, actually requiring less time than advised. However, I have knocked a star off it for two issues I have with its design. I would have preferred it to have a button to open the door, as opposed to having to yank the door, which ends up dragging the entire unit across my kitchen worktop unless I use the other hand to hold it in place. Also, the front is really hard to clean without smearing and even splashes of water end up looking really obvious and unslightly. A tip I have, surprisingly, is using a few drops of baby oil on a cloth to wipe the outside clean (this is not to be tried inside the microwave itself). Totally cool. Originally, I ordered this fridge because I was looking for an undercounter fridge without a freezer compartment as I already have a freezer. I was also attracted by how well the internal design was thought out, making the best possible use of fairly limited space. It's deeper than my previous larder fridge and can fit loads in! I'm still getting used to the temperature adjustments, finding that at 5 it freezes everything and at 4, butter is just as soft as it would be at room temperature...4 and a bit seems to be the general consensus! When the fridge arrives, it is important to note that Beko advise that you do not plug it in for at least 4 hours post-delivery, which is apparently to allow the cooling systems to settle in their new environment. Once switched on, it begins to cool very quickly. Definitely the best under-counter fridge (without a freezer compartment!) I've seen. A not so perfect blend. The Tefal SlimForce Plus does what it says it will...mostly. I think the package offers great value for money when compared with similar products, given the amount of extras it comes supplied with. Blitzing a vegetable soup was no problem for this device...trying to break down cloves of cooked garlic in a gravy which was at the time thin, not so effective - in fact, it was useless. The positioning of the on/off button is a really poor design feature, especially for someone with smaller hands and shorter arms (like me!) I had to hold down the button on top of the handle continuously, which I also thought was poor, because it can't be hard to come up with a button which just stays on once pressed once? I found it heavy and clunky, and had my wrist at a funny angle trying to use it. That said, the attachments come on and off easily and are easy to clean. All in all, there is room for improvement and I'm not entirely convinced I would order this particular hand blender again given the choice.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

With pale, sensitive skin, I was nervous about trying this out, but according to the manuals, it is fine for pale skin. There is a spectrum shown in the booklet which shows exactly which skin tones can and cannot use this IPL system safely. It is unsafe on blonde hair and on very dark skin. Before using the device on an area of the body, it is strongly advisable to do a small patch test 48 hours before conducting your first full treatment. A patch test is basically a small area on your body, where you try the IPL out twice, side by side. Fortunately, I had no adverse reaction and so was able to continue using the device. There is a small cordless instrument which you need to use each time you treat a different part of your body. It detects your skin tone and this automatically adjusts the settings of the IPL ready for use. You then apply a thick layer of the gel to the area which is to be treated. Because it's a fiddly process and the gel dries out, I would recommend you apply it in small patches as you go along. You must ensure that the IPL is applied flat against the skin or it simply will not operate. A white light signifies that it is ready to use. You press the button ONCE and there will be a red flash. Do not look into the light - you can see it side on (protect your eyes!) There will be indentations in the gel on your skin where you have already treated, which helps you keep note of where you have and have not treated. You must not treat the same area more than once in one session or you risk burns. Another reviewer suggests using a white eyeliner pencil (or I'd say any colour) to mark the areas you have treated. I would say this is a good idea - I tried it and found it really reassuring knowing I wasn't at risk of overdoing it! Treatments should be carried out every 2 weeks for the first couple of months, and then to maintain the hair reduction, it reduces to once a month. I find it a time consuming process requiring concentration and focus and to be honest, it is fiddly, but the results are definitely worth it because even though I've only been using it for 5 weeks so far, I can already see an undeniable reduction in hair regrowth. Financially, it is a big outlay, and the replacement activation gel [[ASIN:B008LQZQWM Gillette Venus V Activation Gel]] is another ongoing commitment, but compared with the cost of getting similar treatments carried out professionally at a salon, and with the knowledge that it will dramatically and almost entirely reduce hair regrowth, I would definitely say it is a worthwhile investment.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

At Last/So Fine...Can't Get It Out Of My Head.

Having bought and enjoyed Paul McCartney's album Kisses On The Bottom, I was looking forward to hearing Jeff Lynne's offering. As with his other new release Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best Of ELO, he plays all the instruments himself. You can see this in the video for Mercy Mercy, where in scenes remeniscent of the video for Coming Up by Paul McCartney, Lynne performs the song and you can see images of him juxtaposed so there are several Jeff Lynnes in the room, all playing their own instrument and making the song complete. It's a great album, but you'd expect nothing less, especially given that Lynne produced it himself too. This album is a re-recording of a hand-picked selection of songs from ELO's illustrious career, recorded and produced by their frontman Jeff Lynne. He plays every instrument and sings every vocal himself, so while it's not the original ELO lineup, it is the best of their best. The reworkings add something to the originals, albeit very subtly. After all, to the average ELO fan's ear, the songs were perfect anyway. However, Lynne's reworking of these masterpieces is tasteful and sympathetic to the originals, yet freshens and tidies them up. Coupled with the recent television coverage recently, this may well bring him a legion of new fans as it's also a great basic overview of some of ELO's best songs. It's certainly impressed this long-standing fan.

Magical Mystery Tour.

This is a lovely, well presented package. It contains plenty of extras to make it well worth getting as opposed to just buying the DVD on its own. The film itself has been restored and the soundtrack remastered to sound even better than ever in surround sound. It's presented on bright yellow discs which are aesthetically appealing and just another nice touch. I really enjoyed the extra footage, with up to date commentary from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and Anthology footage from George Harrison and John Lennon. It's worth buying for this alone. I really enjoyed McCartney's insights in particular, as it showed just how far ahead of the times the Beatles really were...more than just progressive! Ideas such as filming a Parisian gendarme and using a jaunty version of La Marselleise as a soundtrack is very "out there" for the time, but years in advance of what was going on in terms of film in the period, and definitely still relevant now. I also loved the book with all the bonuses such as scripts, call sheets, correspondance etc which gives a tantalising and delicious insight into the production process of the film, which is just enough and no more (I can never get enough of these goodies!) Also included is a 7" mono EP which is a faithful recreation of the original and even a replica MMT ticket. A brilliant package which will keep me going for years to come - I found with the that even now I find new things every time I go back to it.

Friday, 5 October 2012

I certainly was Taken with this film...

With the release of Taken 2, which I am looking forward to seeing, I revisted my old review on Amazon and also re-watched the first Taken film. Below are my thoughts on the film as written in early 2009. When I saw this film last year, I was really surprised it wasn't more hyped up, lauded and attracting higher audience volumes than the one I was in. I don't really like gangster films; I like chick flicks. So for me to give this top marks and sing its praises shows what a great film it is. Like the reviewer Anna has also said, despite Liam Neeson's character shooting anyone and everyone, it's not too gratuitous or bloody. I also agree that I had a pretty good idea where the story was going, but I was not bored by this, and I was still engaged and entertained all the way through. The ending was chick flick enough to keep me happy too, although at this stage I was rather enjoying the fights!! I also felt that some parts of the story were not so far removed from reality, more specifically the human trafficking and the violence of the usually Eastern European gangs which operate such things...so it was quite harrowing to see these scenes. I also had a vested interest in this film as I work in security. An overlooked film and one of the best from 2008.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Abbey Road: The best studio in the world.

This is a lovely coffee table book with high quality pages containing a fascinating archive of photographs, which give an insight into the workings of Abbey Road Studios. They are, of course, best known as being home to The Beatles, but to this day, it is still a working building, still producing some amazing music and hosting some fantastic events. The book has quotes from Abbey Road staff, including a brilliant one from the producer John Leckie, on page 233 where, to sum it up, he describes Studio 2 as being "designed to be an amplifier." Anyone who has either had the priviledge of being in that room, or really listened properly to music produced in there will understand and agree with this statement. I would warn ardent Beatles fans that this isn't Beatles-centric, and somewhat bizzarely, there is nothing at all from or about Geoff Emerick, but it will broaden your understanding of what else happens at Abbey Road, and which other artists have passed through its doors. All in all, a fantastic book for your average music enthusiast. *HERE is a link to my video review of the book, so you can have a tiny sneak peek inside its pages*

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Visible Difference.

I was recently sent the new Visible Difference skincare range by Elizabeth Arden to trial for Debenhams, and below are my findings.
Visible Difference Gentle Hydrating Cleanser: 5/5 star rating. I really liked the texture of this cleanser, and when I accidentally got some in my usually very sensitive eye, it didn't sting at all. My skin felt soft and refreshed after using it, and not stinging or tight like a lot of cleansers leave my skin. Visible Difference Gentle Hydrating Toner: 5/5 star rating. This toner smelt fresh and pleasant without being overbearing and left my skin feeling smooth and hydrated without causing any stinging sensations. Visible Difference Optimising Skin Serum. 5/5 star rating. The silky texture made it glide onto my skin beautifully without any greasy residue. Although the entire range is fantastic, I can tell what a difference it makes using this serum in addition to the rest of the products. Visible Difference Hydration Boost Night Mask. 5/5 star rating. My skin was noticeably different right from the first time I used it. It was plumper and unbelievably soft and smooth. I had comments from people telling me I looked glowing, dewy and radiant! Visible Difference Gentle Hydrating Cream SPF15 5/5 star rating. The inclusion of SPF really sold this cream to me, as did the fact that it actually works. It absorbs quickly without leaving any nasty residue, and any product which runs due to perspiration doesn't leave streaks, marks, stinging patches or hurt the eyes. Made a huge difference to my skin, even spending many hours outdoors in all weathers. Visible Difference Gentle Hydrating Night Cream 5/5 rating. The cream soaked into my skin really quickly, meaning I was able to go to bed soon after applying it, knowing that I wouldn't be smearing it all over my pillows! In the morning, my skin felt soft and smooth and comfortable, as opposed to the definite tightness I have previously woken up with.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Marvellous Magnum.

Whilst shopping in Westfield, Stratford in London, I came accross an ice cream boutique with a difference.
The well known brand Magnum are offering customers the chance to create their own bespoke ice cream. There is a menu on the wall. You begin by choosing between vanilla ice cream and chocolate. You then select 3 toppings of your choice from a wide selection (I went with edible rose petals, blue poppy seeds and cocoa nibs) and then choose a chocolate coating and a chocolate drizzle.
At £3, it is about £1 more than you'd pay for a single Magnum in your corner shop, without the added bonus of the extra toppings and drizzle. It was a fun experience, and I enjoyed tucking into my creation, which is shown in the image above.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Get it nailed!

Nails Inc Couture is the latest offering from the cult brand Nails Inc and makes the perfect personalised gift, either to give yourself or to give someone else. The concept is simple; you select a colour, choose a lid for it and then select a box, before naming your unique nail polish (up to a maximum of 12 characters). Prices start at £16, which is reasonable for a Nails Inc personalised product as the possibilities are almost endless! Furthermore, Nails Inc polishes are really great quality and long lasting both in the bottle and on the nails.
The picture isn't the clearest, but here is a rough idea of what you can create!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

There are NO drawbacks with Corel DRAW X6.

Having used both X4 and then the vastly improved I was keen to see how it was possible to improve on such a great piece of software. One thing is that if you're using it on a 64-bit system (as I do on my main PC), it's much faster than its predecessor (not so much so if you're using it in 32-bit as I do on my laptop). Its increased speed is, in part, I think, due to its recent optimisation for multi-core processors. This allows you to work with more than one part of the suite running concurrently without any slowness, ie if you're running the Website Creator, Corel Draw and Photo-Paint elements together, it shouldn't make any difference (or at least, that's how I found it when I was working with it on some web design). I would recommend that you use the Corel Connect feature to optimise your activity with multiple tasks. There are some great new features, such as in the aforementioned Photo-Paint programme, you can now use the Smart Carver to edit photos to remove unwanted bits and adjust the aspect ratio. Overall, a worthy competitor to the Adobe software (although I admit, I use both as they both have capabilities I consider to be essential (I think I'm becoming spoilt by the high expectations I've gained from using these programs!)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The king of strings.

I've been using these on my and they are a perfect fit, both literally and in terms of how well they create the sound I want. They have a truly lovely tone and are easy to play with comfort. They're easy to change and are very long lasting. I wouldn't use any other bass strings now.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Away, Away with this abomination...My Eyes Are Fully Open!!

I must confess, I read a few others users' reviews before ordering and reviewing this album myself. So, I bore in mind that the orchestra was electronic, although I have to say that having listened, aware of this fact, I noticed that the instruments did not sound "warm" and so it then became very clear to me that they were indeed not actual instruments being used. I also agree with others who say that it is hard to distinguish some of the lyrics being sung at times, and as Gilbert And Sullivan songs are ones people like to sing along to, I don't think these current incantations do the originals any justice. The quality is shockingly below par for Sony-BMG, and I was saddened and disappointed to see that this was the label which released this album. I would not even be impressed with this standard of delivery on a west-end stage, let alone on a CD. I am sure there are better Gilbert And Sullivan compilations out there; this one does not do them justice.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Ideal food...I mean Home, Show (Part 1)

Tuesday was a well deserved day off from the dreaded day job, so I took myself down to the SECC to check out the last day of the Ideal Home Show. I must admit, with the exception of the Bang & Olufson stand, I wasn't that enthralled...maybe it's because I'm sadly only renting at the moment...but then I smelt burgers and headed towards the smell. There I came across a room full of both food/drink and fashion/beauty stands, and felt much more, erm, at home (pardon the pun). I watched one of the fashion shows and was largely uninthralled, with the notable exception of one lovely Pied A Terre dress, which I, erm, spotted.... if budget allows, I need this dress in my life. The first food and drink stand which caught my attention was The Loch Lomond Brewery where I was proffered a sample as I passed. With a disdain for ales, finding them heavy, bitter and, well, a bit Northern Male, I declined this offer, only to be told I could be proven wrong. Loving a challenge, I sampled The West Highland Way which is lovely, light, fruity and a little honeyed. OK, point proven. Speaking to Fiona, the director and brewster was really interesting; it's surprising to have a female owning such a business, but I think it's going to do well. Artisan products are always worth paying that bit extra for. I suggested the range would do well at Peckham's, and it's actually being brought out there soon, which is great news. Currently, it can be bought at Co-Op stores in Scotland. Another notable stand was the Truly Scrumptious Designer Cakes where I got to decorate my own cupcake...my inner 6-year-old couldn't wait to play with all the glitter and sweeties...I was very proud of my handiwork, and loved eating it, even though I walked around with glittery teeth for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A fascinating insight into the President.

Although I follow world politics, I knew virtually nothing of Obama before he ran (successfully) for president. Making history as the first African American president, the eyes of the world were even more upon him than they would be for a white leader. The book details the long marriage of the Obamas and their background as a couple and as a family. It has been said many times that behind every successful man is a strong woman, and that has never been more true than in the case of the Obamas. They make a great couple, great parents, a great family and great representatives of the USA, but this has taken years of hard work and dedication, which is also explained in the book. I found it an inspiring read and it just garnered further respect for a groundbreaking leader who I believe will go down in history for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Theme For A Dream.

Unfortunately, this DVD is the nearest I'll get to seeing Cliff Richard and The Shadows perform live (unless they decide to get back together again, despite this being their Final Reunion). However, it was almost as good as being there. The instruments were tuned to the specs they were originally, or at least that's how it sounds to my ears...and the vocals don't seem to have aged a day either (whereas the majority of singers from that era have undergone noticeable vocal changes). Cliff also has the energy of a teenager, dancing and moving the whole way through the show. The show was engaging and electrifying and that was just at home...I can only imagine how fantastic it was to have been there in person. Absolutely brilliant and one of the best concert DVDs I have ever seen.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Internet security solution.

After trialling other security suites, and having tried another Kaspersky product, I tried this software on 3 different Windows computers on my home network. I am a heavy internet user, and use forums and blog sites a lot, and have recently had a few problems as a result of this. Having been using the Kaspersky suite for a month now, I am happy to report an improvement because there is a component in the software which allows you to check a website against Kaspersky's database to verify whether or not it's safe. There are other options available such as Sandboxing Technology, which I am yet to trial, but it's a way for you to try out websites in a safe environment, ie without any risk of internet security breach. I look forward to trying out these various alternative options and I trust that they will be equally as positive in their outcome as those I have tried already. For me, it's Kaspersky all the way in terms of future IS solutions. Comment Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Just my cup of tea.

First thing's first; I forgot to heed the advice given by other reviewers of this item; I didn't boil and dispose of a few cups of water before boiling some to drink. There will be a plastic taste if you make the same mistake I did!! I would disagree that the noise level is higher than that of an ordinary kettle. It sounds much the same as an ordinary kettle would when reaching boiling temperature, only this device reaches higher temperatures faster as it is heating a smaller volume of water. The water is hot enough to make your hot drink but I would hazard a guess at saying it isn't quite boiling. I also would agree that it suits only a mug rather than a cup, although there is the drip tray facility should you insist on using a cup. The only other shortcoming, no pun intended, is the length, or rather lack thereof, of the cord it uses to connect to the socket. It means you have to keep it very close to the socket which can be a drag if you have limited space. A great time and money saving item.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Red alert.

Having enjoyed the entire fictional series of Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella, this book appealed to me because it was factual; the diary of a real life woman facing up to her debts. As some other people who have read this book say, it may not seem so frugal, buying multiple dog toys, regular Boots meal deals and the like, but it's a vast step down from what the author was previously spending and it's not meant as a guide on how we should all follow in her footsteps, just a candid diary of a year she spent repaying the massive debts she had accrued. As such, it was an entertaining and enjoyable read and one I'd reccomend.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Sucking brilliant.

This is the best hoover I have EVER used. Yes, it is about the same weight and height as I am, but it is mighty powerful, achieving the previously impossible (lifting what I would gather is YEARS of accumulated filth from the carpets of my rented flat), and making a real difference. It is the noisiest vacuum cleaner I have ever used, so I would advise others living in flats to be mindful of what time of day/night they use it, but that is the only downside I can find.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

TV Heaven.

I bought this TV purely on the strength of reviews left here by other customers. All I had in mind was that I wanted a 32 inch HD TV with Freeview HD (so it's ready to receive these channels as and when they become available) and when coupled with little knowledge of televisions, I found the reviews invaluable. Well, I can say they were right. I've bought other products from Toshiba and always found them to be of excellent quality, so the fact that this TV is from that brand made it even more appealing, and again, it lives up to the expectations I had from its name. The process of setting the TV up, from removing it from its box to building the stand, to turning it on and tuning it, was easy and painless even for a relative novice. I was soon watching television to an excellent standard of picture quality, and as someone who is passionate about sound, I can say, I was really pleased with the sound and was able to avoid having to use an external soundcard and/or speakers. I've had the TV for a few days now and have had no problems whatsoever. I also thought the price was great for what you get, especially when compared with inferior, yet pricier televisions currently available.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The ultimate graphics package for novice and expert alike.

I had no experience using graphics software, nor of using photo editing software, and an embarrassingly sparse general knowledge of computers, yet I was up and running very quickly with CorelDraw x5. The physical package is heavier than expected, but that's because it contains a comprehensive, and in my case, invaluable, hardback book of information to get you started, with step by step explanations and screenshots. There are also video tutorials provided. There are so many things you can do with this software. The book even includes some ideas on jewellery design. Personally, my main purpose will be photo editing, as the options available are fantastic and exhaustive and from what I've seen produces even more impressive results for the basics than Adobe Photoshop. I found installation and running to be totally easy and no interference from/with any other programmes on my computer. I should say that at the moment, I am using this for personal purposes, but I am so impressed I would have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it for professional useage.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Healthy eating guide which delves a little deeper but fails to grab the culinary imagination

I went for this book, not as someone wanting to lose weight but as someone wanting a healthier diet and with an interest in alternative remedies in general, having used such practises as acupuncture and homeopathy. I also know how delicious and healthy the Indian diet can be (it's a million miles from the grease laden takeaways we're used to passing for Indian food over here!) I did see some truth and sense in the initial assessment of your individual type, which is surmised after you answer a series of questions, and as stated in the book, I was very much more one type than the other 2 of the 3 available. Some of the recipes were lovely, such as the fennel consomme with tarragon, and the fish curry, but others were really rather unimaginative. It IS a good guide to healthy eating, and certainly has some easy to follow recipes which won't cost loads of money in ingredients, but other than the introductory chapters which establish your type, and then near the back of the book, the information on precisely what they suggest you eat/avoid eating, there isn't much "new".

Monday, 28 May 2012

More than just lip service.

Although you may (as I did) baulk slightly at the price of this lipstick, you do get what you pay for. A little goes a long way with this lipstick and it certainly has staying power; I didn't need to touch it up at all throughout the evening although as I carried it with me in my handbag, I was impressed by the design of the casing for this particular line of Chanel lipsticks because rather than the usual ones where you run the risk of accidentally twisting the lipstick and mushing it up against the inside of the lid (I speak from unfortunate experience here), you simply push the bottom (the gold bit) of the lipstick casing and then pull it out when it clicks. You then twist the inner tube up and down as required for applying the makeup. The colour itself isn't as pink as the picture here would have you believe. I have uploaded a photograph to the gallery on this page so you can see for yourself. It's a nude brown with a hint of pink. It did still suit my pale complexion and blonde hair. It's a nice shade and a natural look but with a thicker coverage than some sheerer lipsticks on the market. If you want to make it more sheer, I recommend a coat of a natural gloss on top. My personal preference is and also because there is no moisturising element, I use a layer of lipbalm underneath. I use Soin Tendre Levres by Chanel but it's not currently available for sale on this site. Another word of warning with this particular shade of lipstick is that it really shows the colour of your teeth (I intend to whiten them poste haste as a result).

Sunday, 27 May 2012

I Know That Name.

Obviously, I'd heard of Mike & The Mechanics, and also Paul Carrack, but this album is my first real introduction to his music. I own and love the Eagles' album Long Road Out Of Eden, and when I found out that a song from it; I Don't Want To Hear Any More was originally written by Carrack, I decided to give him some further investigation. This album reminds me a lot of one of my other favourite artists, Elvis Costello. There are also some elements of Burt Bacharach and Allen Toussaint in certain parts. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the album, especially the track which got my attention in the first place; I Don't Want To Hear Anymore. There was not a bad or weak track, or any I'd skip over, but similarly, there were none which really stood out to me either. I guess Carrack is at a stage where he is past caring about chart rankings and massive sales volumes, although both would be nice, and just concentrating on making the music he loves, which shines through on this album. I look forward to exploring his back catalogue as he's really impressed me with this offering.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Brings Liverpool to life.

I love the city of Liverpool, and made the choice to move here last year. When I saw this film, it just reaffirmed how right this decision was. Liverpool has been long underrated, ridiculed and misunderstood, despite having one of the richest cultural heritages of anywhere in the world (where else do you think MERSEYbeat music came from?!) and some of the most incredible people as its inhabitants, as well as being the world's first real modern trading port with its series of docks and warehouses and sadly being heavily involved in the slave trade. Liverpool and its people have so many diversities; there are so many people of so many backgrounds here; rich and poor, young and old, and from all over the world. The film investigates these people, and gives voices to those who are usually silenced; nobody speaks bar Terrence Davies but he eloquently and movingly tells their stories with a mixture of modern and old footage. I found it humbling to watch and made me proud to be a part of such a beautiful and rich (in the sense of love and culture) city. It is not all seriousness, there are some humourouse and rather rude moments!! Recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in the city of Liverpool and to educate those with a bad impression of what was the European Capital Of Culture last year. Also, big congratulations to both Terrence Davies and Roy Boulter for their hard work in piecing this together; a huge amount of work and research went into the conception and production of this film.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Great sound is on the cards with this piece of kit.

I appreciate that a lot of musicians use Macs, and indeed, the Motu 828 and its predecessors are more often that not used with a Mac, but I am going to base my review on my experiences of using it with a PC. I installed the drivers without any problems at all (you register your purchase online with MOTU which gives you access to the relevant downloads). I've done this with Windows XP, Windows Vista and am soon to try it with Windows 7. I did need to buy a different firewire cable. You may or may not need to buy one too; it depends on how many pins are on your laptop connector; mine only has 4 whereas you require 6 to operate this device. I have used this interface with Cubase, Nuendo, Pro Tools, Ad Lib and Wavelab as well as just enhancing the audio quality of using Windows Media Player, watching DVDs on my computer, and using websites such as Youtube and iPlayer. I have no problems to report, other than that it makes everything sound so good, I had trouble turning it off to go to work/bed!! Not only would I say this is a great piece of kit for home recording but I now regard it as essential to the general music-listening experience as nothing sounds as good to me any more. It's truly spoilt me.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

It's (not) in the bag.

These tea bags were surprisingly sweet; I normally add sugar to "normal" tea, and had noted the recommendation to add sugar to this variety, but there was no need. The flavour was the only reasonable thing about these teabags. I had a pretty significant stomach upset from using these teabags; I assume its laxitive effect is what is meant to help you lose weight. I'd say that the amount of fluid I ended up losing was detrimental and I needed to drink extra water to be safe. I don't see it as having any positive effects on weight loss long term, and long term use is only ok for people who don't mind living with a permanently upset stomach. I wouldn't say that these teabags do any good at all, and would recommend the age old combination of eating less and moving more if you want to lose weight.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Great external CD/DVD drive.

I have been using this with both a notebook computer which has its own inbuilt disc drive, and also with a netbook which of course comes without a disc drive. I used it to install some software onto the netbook and to watch and rip both CDs and DVDs onto both computers (neither of which are Samsung models). I haven't tried it with blu-ray discs so cannot comment on how well it works, if at all. I have just started to burn material onto blank CDs and DVDs, and I would thoroughly recommend using Nero Multimedia Suite 10 Platinum HD (PC)to facilitate this. The drive itself is thinner, lighter, sleeker and generally nicer than other models I have seen. It's quiet, quick and doesn't overheat. It looks great and I have had no problems with any aspect of its operation thus far.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Recent reads.

Snap this up. A cause of both interest and then sadness was the fact that this is based on a true story. However, it is excellently written and brings light to the plight of child trafficking and shows the resilience of one particular child who escapes from Afghanistan to Italy via a few other countries. It is horrifying subject matter but it's not as dark and depressing to read as I might have imagined, and I am guessing that this is because there is a positive outcome for the child. It also conveys the other side of the immigration and asylum issue and as such gives plenty of food for thought. A truly compelling read. The meadow is first in its field. I found this book to be a gripping read because it conveyed the human side of conflict. We are all rather too aware of what happens during wars and what the impact is on people, but this book was a detailed journalistic account of their side of the story. I found it incredibly powerful reading and informative too. They do say that hindight is always 20/20... Cheers for The Chaperone. I already loved the synopsis of the book, but having the character based on the real Louise Brooks was the icing on the cake. It's so well written that I found myself genuinely engaged and interested, devouring this entire volume in a few hours' sitting. I love New York so it was great imagining being in the scenes set there. It was easy to imagine the people, the places and the era, without being out of the grasp of the modern reader. A perfect balance and a perfect read.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Getting ready for summer.

I've taken delivery of a Slendertone Face for women this weekend which I will be trialling and reviewing for Amazon's Vine programme. It apparently takes 12 weeks to see any difference, so I won't be reviewing it just yet, but I hope that using the radiance setting will improve my skintone. I'll also be trying the massage function for relaxation.
I'm also taking full advantage of the abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables available at the moment - my latest discovery is Strasberries which are sold at Asda. These look like wild strawberries, ie small strawberries, but they have a really delicious sweet and full strawberry flavour and a softer texture. I wouldn't say I entirely see the raspberry connection but nonetheless, they're utterly delicious.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

I hold a candle for these little lights.

I adore candles but having moved into a new, smaller room than before, I daren't risk them. So I was thrilled to come across these, and having read Amazon reviews for them, decided to give them a go. They are easy to use, and they're safe, long lasting and effective, as well as them not getting hot so you can handle them and move them around while they're on. My slight bugbears are that the glass scratches easily; I have had them less than a day and there is already a scratch on one of them. I also find the shade of orange they flicker, slightly unrealistic. But not enough not to recommend them to others. I plan to buy more.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Bright idea.

This rather minimalistic, space-age looking device is an alarm clock, FM radio and bedside lamp all rolled into one. It has been very well thought out. There are scroll buttons on the side for setting the timings and the intensities of both sound and light, and of course for choosing an FM radio station to listen to. The alarm sounds are varied and there is something for everyone, from your favourite radio station, through to a stimulating start courtesy of an African drum, wind chimes, beeps, and birdsong. At your pre-set time in the morning...or evening if you're that way inclined, your chosen sound begins to emit softly, growing louder gradually until you press snooze or deactivate the alarm. The light also comes on, having gradually also been building up a manner similar to sunlight. As a sufferer of seasonal affective disorder, winter is a time where due to lack of sunlight early in the morning, I'm often sluggish and lethargic and struggle to get out of bed; I really think that this will make a big difference to me when that dreaded time of year creeps in. You can use this device as a radio, playing constantly, and also as a bedside lamp; it goes up to a light intensity of 20, although I was happy with the level of light given at the 12 level. You can even choose three different brightness settings for the small LED time display on the front of the unit. Overall, a very useful and now essential piece of kit, although it is rather too plain looking for my liking. In fact, if I was to suggest any recommendation, other than wishing AM radio was available also, I'd love to be able to choose the colour, although then again, this would probably defeat the object of the light emissions, given that they're meant to resemble natural daylight.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The best thing since, er, sliced bread.

I'd heard a lot about breadmakers recently and despite being tempted by a Panasonic breadmaker with fruit/nut dispensers I plumped for this model when given the chance to try it, and I have bought Karen Saunders' book; Breadmaker Bible as although this machine comes with a recipe book, I like to experiment. As an aside, I do thoroughly recommend the extra book, which is available on this very site. I have made a banana, chocolate and walnut loaf, a cinammon and raisin loaf, and a normal wholemeal loaf, all of which came out perfectly. I didn't know how well the ingredients (I mean the nuts, etc) would be distributed but it worked well and they were smattered throughout the loaves. It was easy to get the hang of how to use the machine, and also easy to take apart and clean relevant bits. I have not yet tried to make jam, but I look forward to giving it a go and seeing how this breadmaker makes jam. Much as a previous reviewer has said, it is heavy and large and does take up space, so be aware of this if you have limited storage/a small kitchen, and if you're only making ordinary loaves, then you would be fine with a cheaper option. It looks very classy and modern though and should match most kitchens.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Trigger happy.

I bought this capo on the strength of the pre-existing review on the product page. I'm very happy to report it's a brilliant investment and although it's 3 times more expensive than many other capos you can find, it's worth it, especially if you use an expensive guitar, because it won't pull, catch on or snag any strings, scratch the neck of the guitar or be difficult to apply or remove and provides a professional appearance and sound augmentation. An essential piece of kit for any acoustic or electro-acoustic guitarist, and the best capo I've tried.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Suite success.

I've been using and wondering how I ever lived without for over a year. To be honest, as the difference in price between this version and that one is so negligable, I would probably still favour the older one. The thing with it is that it does everything and more, and may be a bit offputting to people whose needs are more basic, which is where this package excels. I know there are various free disc burning softwares available, but I would definitely say it's worth the money to buy Nero because it's reliable and does more than just facilitate the burning of discs. I have also learnt from experience that free downloads can often corrupt a computer and cause a lot of system damage so it really isn't worth it in the long run.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Life on Nars

I discovered the Nars cosmetic range many years ago at Space NK and Harvey Nichols in London, and back then it was just as wonderful as it is now, but since I first started using the brand, they have expanded massively, adding a whole host of new colours. My current favourite items, which I wear on a regular basis are as follows: Powder blush in Orgasm, a peachy pink shade which flatters my pale skin and blonde hair.
Sometimes I use a cream blush instead, and I like the soft rosy pink colour provided by Penny Lane
I wear glasses, so prefer to make a feature of my eyes, rather than my lips, as they need more makeup to make them pop. I wear the trio eyeshadow in Arabian Nights, which can be worn day or night despite being smokey and sparkly
I don't like to look too overdone, so I wear a smokey grey eyeliner pencil instead of black; London is my shade of choice
And I finish my eyes off with Larger Than Life Volumising Mascara
Bearing in mind, it's a fairly strong look I have chosen for my eyes, I keep the lip colour natural. I use Dolce Vita lipstick
and for nights out, I use Rosebud lipliner both to line and also to colour in my entire lip as a base coat beneath the lipstick
and coat Baby Doll Lip Lacquer over the top to add a subtle gloss
I know these products are pricey but for me they are worth it as they don't irritate my skin and they last a long, long time, both on me and in my makeup bag.

Monday, 14 May 2012

L-O-L-A, Lola, La La La La Lola

At first, it was the kitsch, retro design of the bottle which attracted me, especially as purple is my favourite colour. I've been wearing Angel by Thierry Mugler for years, and it has undertones of chocolate. Well, Lola is my new number one perfume, with its gorgeous violet-like notes, and also some pink peppercorn, vanilla and rose scents to my untrained nose. It's powerful, sexy and feminine without being overpowering or nauseating. I bought the eau de parfum so it would last longer and I find that I can still smell it lightly at the end of the day when I get ready for bed. A little goes a long way.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Championing Chanel.

Chanel has long been my favourite brand for both perfume and cosmetics, so when I received an email offering me a free sample of one of their new lipgloss shades, I was straight in there! The lipgloss in question is the Levres Scintillantes Glossimer, which I have been wearing for years (shades 104 and 106 mainly). They have 4 new shades, with matching nail polishes, at the moment, and I sampled shade 166 - Amour. The sample itself is the cutest miniature I have ever received; a tiny 3g scaled down version of the full size product I have known and loved for so long. The shade itself is a peachy corally pink (not very technical here) and it's lovely. On my pale skin and set against my blonde hair, it's really flattering, adding a glow to my cheeks as well, maybe as a result of the glitter it contains sparkling and reflecting on my skin....but regardless of how or why, it just looks lovely. It's perfect for summer and I think it would look even more fantastic with a tan. Be warned though, it does highlight any need for tooth whitening, so I've attacked my gnashers with Pearl Drops in preparation for the next time I wear this gorgeous gloss.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A taste of summer.

Having been put right into the mood for summer and of course reminded (as if I needed to be) of the possibilities of new gastronimical delights from M&S by this advert I was eager to pop instore to have a look (and a taste) for myself. As for the advert, I am usually loathe to listen to any covers of Beatles songs as, well, they're just not The Beatles! However, I couldn't not love both the recording of Gary Barlow's cover of Here Comes The Sun (even if there is a minor lyrical error in there!) and the advert itself...cheesy as it sounds, it actually brought a tear to my eye! A perennial favourite of mine are Muscat (sometimes also known as Muscat Rosada) grapes, which are an import from one of the most prominent wine-producing regions of the world, Chile. They're in season at the moment and I'm making the most of this fact, buying and eating them as much as I can!
I was also offered a free sample instore today, of a new bakery product, which is touted as being a "Delicious rich chocolate brownie marbled with an all butter vanilla almond cake". And by jove, it IS delicious. The flavours are incredible, and none of the three aforementioned flavours overpower one another. I bought one of these long cake bars and might have accidentally eaten it all already (in the name of research, you understand?!)
It's not all gluttony though, as I also found a most beautiful looking salad, the description of which was equally as appetising. This is a new range; the Foragers choice aromatic salad - "mixed salad leaves with a lime and rice vinegar drizzle, coriander and edible flowers". Absolutely beautiful. I admit, I couldn't taste the lime, but the rice vinegar was lovely...not as aggressive, overpowering or acidic as other vinegars can be (including those used in other salads I've recently tried). The flowers have a herby flavour, and I hope this doesn't put the reader off but to me it was a bit like the smell of Germolene but I promise it's nice. The rest of the salad tastes really green....like wheatgrass. The leaves are crisp and large and bountiful and just look and taste incredible. The best salad I can remember eating.
All this food, and nothing to drink....well the best rosé wine I have ever tasted will sort that out. I'm talking about the Gold Label Rosé 2010, produced in the south of France. It's the most perfect balance of flavours; it's full bodied yet light, and has elements of sweetness yet doesn't leave me thirsty like a Zifandel. A gorgeous dryness keeps the wine well balanced and the deep pink colour shows it's a serious drink. Best served nice and cold. The official description cites it as being "A fruity modern rosé with a deep cerise colour and an enticing aroma. Look out for vibrant flavours of strawberry and pear, with a hint of tangy cranberry and a crisp finish." I could definitely taste the strawberry and another bottle currently awaits me in the fridge, so I'll carry on with my important work...finding the rest of the flavours. Cheers!

Friday, 11 May 2012

NME of the state?

With a keen interest in music journalism, and having read the NME on a regular basis during my teenage years, I found this book not only a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the magazine itself, ie how its staff behaved (or misbehaved) and how it was more a lifestyle than a job. It's a great introduction to the world of music journalism and what really went on, as well as of course a must-have for fans of NME as a publication. It also makes a change to have a book written by people who were actually there, and were a part of it, rather than a secondary or tertiary account from someone who merely wishes that they were.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The secret of good writing.

This book has come out at a great time, when the recent success of the film and the presence of Barack Obama as the first African-American president, which has been well written about in show the steady progress made against oppression since slavery. With this in mind, my first thought when reading the synopsis of this book was "Who in their right mind would voluntarily go back into slavery?" However, having devoured this book in a couple of hours due to the sheer power of its writing which totally captured my attention and my imagination, I really understood the characters. They were put across so well that they envoked the emotions they were intended to, ie I liked them when I was supposed to, and disliked them when I was meant to. I was impressed by, and appreciative of, the care and attention to detail, as it was clear that the author has done her research and this hard work has paid off as all the historical context helps shape the story and of course educates the reader. I learnt something from this novel and even though it IS a novel, I found it added a valuable layer to my knowledge of this period of American history.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Fuelled by Diesel.

Much as Converse All Stars are the most popular and well known canvas shoes, I much prefer the Diesel Exposure trainers. They're incredibly comfortable and hard-wearing - definitely my favourite casual shoes for summer. They're your classic baseball shoe and they look great with jeans, capris, shorts or even with dresses for a preppy look, or for a slightly less brash take on the Lily Allen school of prom dress teamed with trainers. They don't sell these beauties in the stores any longer, so I tend to source them online and I'm about to order some fresh ones in time for this summer.
The high-tops are nicer, as far as I am concerned, than the Chuck Taylors because they don't have the large, glaringly obvious (and in my mind a bit tacky) All Stars logo on the side. Both the low tops and the high tops have a lovely detail, with the Diesel denim theme being continued with a mini pocket and a belt loop being added to the design of the shoes.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Jubilee Breakfast

I was rather devoid of inspiration yesterday as I hunted for something to eat for lunch. I browsed the sandwich aisle in my local Sainsbury's and came face to face with the rather delicious sounding Jubilee Breakfast sandwich. Even better, it was available as part of the meal deal, so I decided to give it a try. The Jubilee Breakfast sandwich is touted as being: Eggs, smoked salmon, bucks fizz & lemon mayonnaise on oatmeal bread. It looks lovely and fresh with an appealing range of colours in its retro union jack adorned packaging. Of course, unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that this year is the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, which is what this new sandwich creation is in honour of. It's a celebration of all things British.
I took the above photo using the Instagram app and put the "1977" effect on as it makes it feel retro, harking back to the Silver Jubilee in the 70s and again, rather British and summery and feel-good. As for the sandwich itself, it was delicious. I would have preferred the egg to be scrambled, but that is a moot point really. The mayonnaise was flavoursome and not too sweet as I feared it might be. I'll definitely be indulging in a few more of these before they are withdrawn (that's the bad thing about limited editions).

Monday, 7 May 2012

Not the most novel approach, but still worth a read.

With an interest in eventually writing and getting published, I decided to give this book a try. Having been on a day's course with the NUJ, I had that experience to compare the knowledge gleaned from this book with, although I found the price of longer courses a bit prohibitive at the moment. The author is successful in her own right, with more than 100 published titles. The aim of this book isn't to guarantee you commissions from editors or a multi-million pound publishing deal with one of the top houses, but it is definitely likely to get you further than you would without reading it. The reader is asked to consider the audience, consider the product they intend to sell, and consider its USP. The points could perhaps be conveyed more succinctly in places, but still I would say that there are several worthwhile points made and things I will be doing myself from now on as a direct result of reading this book.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Not exactly the smell of success.

I absolutely love perfume, which is why I thought I'd enjoy this book. I'd love to learn more about the processes involved in creating a new fragrance. To be fair, there is a reasonable amount of information on all things olfactory, but then the book is overtaken by the "Personal story" promised in the title. For me, this was a bit too much, and didn't strike enough of a balance between what seemed to me to be a bit too much of an ego-trip for the author, and general information about how perfume is made, which was all I was really interested in.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A good starting point.

It goes without saying that music and politics influence eachother...one glaring example of this is the rise of the punk movement in the 1970s against the backdrop of an austere government and the Notting Hill riots of 1976. I chose this book partly because of the recommendation given by Keith Negus, a prominent author of Popular Music books (most notably which was really helpful to me during my time studying Popular Music at university. This book skirts around certain issues, I guess for fear of reprisal or ostracisation, and instead uses Bob Geldof as an example ad nauseum. I think the idea is a good one, and certainly there is a lack of books discussing the relationship between music and politics, but I felt this book didn't go in-depth enough and as such isn't as good as it could have been. As there are limited resources on this subject matter, though, I would recommend it nonetheless.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Better than the negative reviewers would have you believe.

Before buying this disc, I was a bit wary of the negative reviews already published. Yet, when I came to watching it myself, I really enjoyed the film. The cast is stellar and it is well cast. Whilst fully aware that this is a movie and a dramatisation, it is also not so far removed from the truth, ie what would probably happen if we ever did find ourselves in the grip of a terrible outbreak, as it's based on the SARS/HN51 outbreak a couple of years ago and the mass hysteria and general panic of the global populace. My only criticism of the film is the somewhat abrupt ending which doesn't really give any conclusions.