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Tuesday 31 January 2012

A Shared Listening Experience.

I am currently reading the autobiography of Andy Kershaw, "No Off Switch". For those who might not know of him, Andy is a UK radio DJ, presenter and journalist.

Over the past few years i have have read several autobiographies of other radio DJ's and musicians, all of whom seem to have been born within a few years of myself. It was a golden age obviously.

Apart from all of these books taking me back to a long gone past, they all have something else in common.
They have all reminded me of the way in which i listened to music back in the 1970's. Especially the early and middle years of that decade.

Back then, a lot of my music listening was done in the company of other people, usually my close friends. Something very different from the way in which we tend to listen to music today.

Andy Kershaw talks of riding around in a friends car, which had a stereo cassette player and blasting out his friends favourite guitar player, Rory Gallagher and his album "Live In Europe". An old favourite of mine as well as it happens.
He then talks about being at his friends house, with others and listening to artists such as Pink Floyd and their "Meddle" album. It was in this way that Andy Kershaw was introduced to those artists.

My own experience is very similar, although a car didn't come into the equation until a few years later. And when it did it was an 8 track cartridge player, instead of a cassette. Anyone remember 8 track cartridge players?
What i can remember though is the album that my friend used to play, or that i asked to hear all the time on his cars cartridge player. It was Humble Pie's "Thunderbox". Funny how these things stick in your mind isn't it?

A good friend of mine back then had an older brother, with an extensive album collection and a few of us used to go back to their house after school. We would then trawl through that collection, seeing band names on the spines of the album sleeves that we'd only ever read about in music papers, pick out a few and play them.
In that way i was introduced to bands and albums that i may not have heard otherwise.

The one that sticks in my mind from that time is the Rolling Stones album "Goats Head Soup" and especially the track "Star Star". That was probably the first time that i ever heard the word "fuck" on a record and back then it was so shocking that we just couldn't resist multiple plays and sing-a-longs.

My next door neighbour at the time, who was the same age as me, always seemed to be getting new albums regularly. I can remember him compiling 'wanted' lists for his birthday and for Christmas. Consequently, i spent many hours at his house and many more listening through the dividing wall between our houses.
As before, there is one album that instantly comes to mind when i think of that time and one that i asked to hear just about every time i visited that house. It is Roxy Music's "For Your Pleasure, both for the music and for the gatefold sleeve.

All of these examples remind me of the shared listening experiences that i had in my youth. But, the thing that sums it all up for me is when a group of my friends would get together to listen to music and the album of choice would be, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon".
For people of my age group that is, probably, the one album that many of us can remember listening to with our friends. I have heard that particular shared listening experience relayed on radio programs and many conversations.

I have spent many hours laying on the floor, in darkness, or in candlelight, listening to "Dark Side Of The Moon". I can remember that sometimes being a strangely, spooky experience too. When the album faded out we'd all voice our own interpretations as to what on earth the album was all about. Helped by nothing stronger than tea and cigarettes. More interesting stimulants came later.

Although music is a very personal thing, that shared listening experience made the music all the more powerful and memorable.

In these days of iPods, mp3's, iTunes and in-ear headphones that shared listening experience has gone, or is fading fast.
When was the last time, outside of a club or disco, that you listened to music in the company of friends? And when i say "listened to music", i mean without any other distractions and in a private place.
And for that matter, when was the last time that you listened to a complete album all the way through?

How times change.

Don't get me wrong i'm all for new technology. I love the fact that i can carry my entire music collection around with me, listen to any track at the touch of a button and do so in the privacy of my own headphones.
But, i wouldn't have missed those days of a shared listening experience for the world.

Those poor kids of today just don't know what they're missing do they?

Sunday 29 January 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For.... might just get it.

Are you prepared for that and for the sacrifices you might have to make?

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Keeping It Real.

Maybe i'm just getting a little pedantic in my old age, or maybe i just get some kind of perverse pleasure out of it, i don't know? But, one of those things that bugs me these days are errors that i notice in tv programs and news reports.

The worst offenders, for me at least, are programs, or news reports, that feature the railway system in the UK.

I'd like a pound for every train that i've seen going backwards, but is actually shown as going forwards. For every train that is meant to be from one Train Operating Company, but is actually from another. And for every train that is stated, or suggested, as being in at a certain location, but is actually somewhere else.

Of course, having worked on the railway for very nearly 36 years has a considerable bearing on this. But, i'm sure that people from any walk of life can spot similar errors in areas that they are aquainted with?

I have a feeling that nobody can help themselves when they see a blatant error pop up on their tv screen? They immediately sit up in their chair and start shouting at the the tv. It is at this point that your wife either notices the same error, or points out that it doesn't really matter and that nobody actually cares.
But, i care and i think that it matters and that is good enough for me.

I can think of a couple of recent examples.

My local BBC news program did a piece about the temporary closure of a rail line, which includes work being carried out in Ore Tunnel, near Hastings. During the film they managed to show the wrong tunnel and the wrong type of train that would be affected. You might not think that this matters, but the train showed was electric and the line and trains to be affected are diesel. An electric train would not get very far on a non-electrified line now would it?
As you can imagine this provoked some debate and laughter amongst local railway colleagues online.

My other example, or examples, concern an otherwise very good BBC program called Great British Railway Journeys. Quite often during the program they show trains going in the wrong direction and shots that are obviously, to the trained and experienced eye, filmed and then played backwards.
As a general rule, trains in the UK drive on the left hand side by the way. So, as soon as i spot one on the right hand side of the tracks my eyes prick up.

As it happens, a few years ago i was actually involved in the filming of a specialist railway documentary. I helped the director facilitate his filming and also drove some of the trains that were filmed. The film was of a train drivers eye view of the railway lines between Brighton, Seaford and Ashford.
Although this was all filmed correctly, after all it was likely to be watched by many railway "anoraks". There was still some footage that was filmed to be used backwards in the finished product.
This was only footage filmed from within the train, looking out of the side window and to be honest there is no way you would be able to tell the difference anyway.
In this instance i totally understand why this was done. It certainly saved a lot of time and money and was not trying to deceive anyone. But it does show how just how frequently this kind of thing is done.

Whilst i fully understand that all of this doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things and that there are certainly far more important things to get worried and worked up about. I've always felt that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
As far as tv programs go, i have often thought that these "errors" are generally down to lazy journalism, cost cutting and maybe even deception.
And it doesn't exactly fill you full of confidence in the program concerned does it?

After all, if you can't believe the footage, how can you believe the words?

And don't get me started on news reporters standing in outdoor locations when there is absolutely no need for it. For example:
- Reporters hanging on for dear life and desperately trying not to be blown away when reporting gale force winds. We all know it's windy, but we don't need to see a reporter struggling in the wind, or having their umbrella blown inside out, to realise that.
- Local tv news reporters doing an outdoor piece from, literally, right outside the door to the tv studio building.
News doesn't suddenly become more exciting, authoritative or relevant because it is "reported" from the outdoors.

Phew! That feels better.

PS: If you are interested in seeing, or finding out more about that railway documentary i mentioned and see me driving a train, follow this link: Video125
I might just give the DVD a view myself.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Adapt Or Die.

Some suggestions for media companies & the entertainment industry and other related thoughts.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Not A Good Kodak Moment.

Yesterday i posted a blog called "Blacked Out", all about the proposed SOPA & PIPA acts in the USA.

In that post i mentioned about how many older companies had been caught out by the digital revolution and how many of those companies had  failed to react to the new way of doing things.

Well, today Eastman Kodak have gone and proved exactly what i was talking about. Apparently Eastman Kodak have filed for "bankruptcy protection" in the USA. Whilst this is not the end of the company, at least not yet, it is a bad day for a company that has been at the forefront of photography since they were formed 133 years ago.

There can't be many of us who have not owned a Kodak product of some kind during our lives. I can remember the first cameras that i owned and i'm pretty sure that they were all Kodak models.

So, what has gone wrong?
Well, Eastman Kodak have just failed to adapt to the digital age and have, consequently, been left behind. Yes, they've tried to keep up, in fact they were amongst the originators of digital photography. But, they have obviously failed to see where the digital revolution was headed and probably didn't think it would ever supercede the old analogue days.
How wrong they and many others have been.

All this just goes to show how far down some companies have their heads in the sand. The digital revolution is not going to go away, it is here to stay. The digital genie is well and truly out of the bottle and can never be put back into it, no matter how much those old companies wish it were otherwise.

As i said in yesterdays blog post, complaining about the new kids on the block and trying to legislate against them and their ways will not solve the problem. Older companies need to adapt and innovate, or face the inevitable consequences.

It is sad to see a company as well known, well liked and iconic as Kodak to be in such dire straits. Especially a company and a brand that has been a part of so many of our lives. But, ultimately the problem is all of their own making.

I doubt that Eastman Kodak are in any way alone in this and i'm sure we'll see more fall by the wayside in the months and years to come.

So, the lesson today is adapt, innovate, or die.

AudioBoo - LOL Funny?

LOL Funny? (mp3)

Here are links to the books i mentioned in this Boo:

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Blacked Out.

For those who may not already be aware, Wikipedia is not working normally today. Well, at least not here in the UK. Apparently, it can still be accessed via a mobile phone, but.....

The reason for this is that Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has “blacked out” the site for a full 24 hours in protest at the potential passing of the SOPA and PIPA laws in the USA. SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act and PIPA for Protect Intellectual Property Act by the way.

In the USA over recent months there has been a move to bring these laws into effect. Now, i cannot pretend to know everything about these proposed laws. After all, this is all happening in the USA, but it is scary stuff all the same.

Many people probably feel that because a law comes into effect in the USA that it will have little, or no, effect on them elsewhere in the world. They are much mistaken, as these laws have the potential to change the nature of the Internet as we now know it. After all, the internet is a worldwide system and no respecter of international boundaries.

Many countries have, at the very least, tried to bring in anti-piracy laws over recent years.
Now, i do understand why media companies, music, tv and movie makers are worried about online piracy. After all, they feel that internet piracy is costing them a lot of money in potential earnings. And i can see why they may feel that something needs to be done about it.

My problem though is the way that this is usually done and seems to be happening here as well. The proposed law(s) always seem to follow the “sledgehammer to crack a nut” solution and never seem to be fully thought through, or are they?

These proposed laws are always supported and promoted by those big media, tv, music, movie companies and organisations that i mentioned earlier. They feel that they are the “victims” of piracy on the internet, but what they always propose seems to be a complete change in the way that the internet works. It becomes almost a control issue and that is where i start to get worried.

As i said earlier, i do understand the problems faced by those media etc companies. But, are those problems at least partly of their own making?

In the past those companies have had total control over their products. They have set the price we have had to pay and have had no real competition. They have made huge amounts of money and there has been nothing that anyone else could do about it.

Now the internet has come along and changed everything forever and those same companies don’t like it one little bit. One reason is that they have all been caught totally unprepared for what has followed. They have either failed to see the huge potential that the internet offered them, or they have just been too stuck in their ways to do anything about it. Just look at the music industry as an example.

The music industry needed the invention of the mp3 and the advent of Napster before they, belatedly, saw the writing on the wall. They have been desperately trying to play catch up ever since.

You would have thought that those other media providers would have learned a lesson from the music industry, but they have also been caught out in the same way.

As with all rich and powerful organisations, they hate it when that power is taken away from them. So, what do those organisations do? They run to the government of the time, cry foul and ask for laws to be passed to enable them to regain that lost control.

This is what seems to have happened in the USA and other countries. The companies and organisations employ, all too influential, lobbying groups to campaign on their behalf. These lobbying groups then target politicians, elected officials and other influential figures to state and sell their case. Unfortunately, the scaremongering tactics used by the lobbying groups all too often have the desired effect and draconian laws are proposed and sometimes passed.

(In the UK recently we have had the activities of these lobbying groups called into question. There have been calls for their actions and influence to be investigated and quite rightly so. But, maybe that is a topic for another day?)

The trouble with all of these SOPA and PIPA type laws is that they effectively amount to censorship. They are designed to control what we see and have access to. 

This will always be denied by those who propose these laws. They will say that that is not their intention and that all they want to do is stop online piracy and protect their business. But, the actual effect will be to restrict what we see and do on the internet.

In my opinion, the internet is one of the last bastions of true freedom that we have left and it deserves fighting for and protecting, in its current form. Nobody should be allowed to censor, or control it and certainly not a government.

Do we really want to be subject to the kind of internet censorship that happens in other countries? The great firewall of China anyone?

This is why Wikipedia and others have “blacked out” today. They are showing you a potential vision of the future of the internet and they have my full support. 

Is that what you really want? Somehow, i very much doubt it.

You have been warned.

Monday 2 January 2012

AudioBoo - What Next On AudioBoo?

What Next On Audioboo? (mp3)

See previous blog post (I Published A Book) for details about how to get my eBook.

I Published A Book!

I have just published an eBook on Amazon & it is available for Kindle users.

It can be bought on all Amazon sites, including:

Otherwise, just search for "Moose Musings", the name of the book.