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Archive for January, 2010

Yesterday morning when I let the cats in only one of them came home.  I didn’t think anything of it because one or the other of them is often late coming home in the morning.  Around 10am S text me to say that she still hadn’t come home.  

This, of course, sent alarm bells ringing.  If it had been Abigail, our grey and white cat, then I wouldn’t have been so worried.  Abigail is a wee fighter.  She’s clever and, sometimes, mean.  Madeline, though, who was missing, is a very simple cat who likes cuddles and loves her kibble. 

our first picture of Maddy!

 

Abigail is a vicious wee killer, as well, often brining home dead mice and birds for us.  Madeline, I don’t think, could catch a wounded baby bird fallen out of its nest unless it fell right on her head.  She’s lovely and wonderful but very docile and, like I said before, a little bit simple. 

So, since it was Maddy that was missing I was a nervous wreck.  She had never gone 12 hours without food before and I was sure that if she was alive she’d have found her way back. 

S went on a wander through the neighbourhood yesterday scoping out all the most obvious streets in case she had been hit by a car, but after a few hours of walking he had found nothing. 

This made for a very stressful and tear-filled evening at our house yesterday.  Even Abbey wasn’t eating and was moping about the house with the cat equivalent of a frown on… I got up to look out the back windows every 10 or 15 minutes, convinced that I’d see her meowing at me each time.  But to no avail.  

sleepy kitten...

 

I couldn’t get to sleep last night.  I felt like I had failed her.  We adopted this kitten when she was born and we promised to take care of her.  She doesn’t ask for much – just food and a warm place to sleep and, more often than not, cuddles galore.  She just wants to be loved and looked after.  And we’d failed her.  

In my mind, of course, she was dead.  There was no way she’d go 24 hours without food – no matter how lost she’d gotten!  She’d been hit by a car or poisoned by the guy who lives at No 9.  Or attacked by some animal.  Or she was caught by her collar (quick-release, but still!) and slowly strangling herself to death.  

It was awful. 

Of course I kept getting up out of bed to go to the windows and call for her over and over.  At least every half hour. 

yes, she sheds a LOT!

 

It was only just gone midnight when I was at the back windows calling, one last time before sleep, when I heard a faint but definite meow!  !!! I called S to the window to witness and prove I hadn’t created the meow out of sheer force of will and sure enough there it was again! 

We couldn’t really tell where it was coming from (from our back garden there is a choice of around 15 other houses near by) so S went out into the yard with a torch to see if he could pinpoint the location. 

It was definitely coming from the left side of the house.  So out we went into the night with our torches wearing our pyjamas.  We were prepared to at least locate her even if we couldn’t really go knocking on peoples’ doors at 12:45.  

We didn’t have to go very far!  On the other side of the neighbour’s house we could tell the meow was close!  there were two yards abutting each other and S tried desperately to see where she was with the torch but couldn’t see much from where we were. 

There was a brief debate as to whether or not the neighbours would mind if we let ourselves into their back garden or not, but we couldn’t just leave her there meowing at us so pathetically, so S went through their unlocked gate and I stood guard in case we woke them and they came to the door. 

After a minute or so of shuffling the flashlight around trying to see where she was, shifting a bin from one side to the other to get a good look behind it, through the fence and into the rosebush on the other side where she, certainly, was caught, S found her! 

Maddy waiting for Santa!

 

She was not in the rose bushes.  She was inside the neighbour’s wheelie bin!!! With the lid shut over her!!!  I don’t know how long she had been there, but I figure it was hours and hours.  Either some kids put her in there for a joke ( I hope not!!) or the lid was open and when she went to investigate it closed behind her.  That is probably the most likely explanation as it was the paper and cardboard recycling bin and, as I mentioned, she’s a bit on the chubby side, so as soon as she stepped into it (curiosity killed the cat, etc) it shrunk under her weight allowing the lid to close. 

So, she was safe and sound.  She ate half her body weight as soon as we got her in the house, though.  Tonight when I get home from work I am going to knock on the neighbours door and explain what happened so it doesn’t look like we were sneaking.  In case they notice their bin is not exactly where they left it. 

Abbey & Maddy with their high-beams on!

 

I am afraid to let them out now and they will be on house arrest until further notice.  Plus I am going to smother them with love and make sure their collars and tags are all up to date. Something I do all the time, but you can never be too careful, apparently. 

xo 

A

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the end of an era

Well, today I undertook a momentous task.  I deleted the first ever e-mail account I ever signed up for.  You may laugh but I’ve had this account since July 27th 1997.

Times change, though, and the only e-mails I get to this address are junk and it is a waste of time going through them.  I have saved any e-mails I wanted to keep to another e-mail address and the time has come to hit the Close This Account button.

The benefit of this exercise (I am also deleting four other accounts) is that I came across some fantastic e-mails.  For instance the following e-mail which I sent to my Mom from Liverpool when Alison and I studied there in the fall of 2000:

Hello mother dearest,

Last night in my dorm was really crazy. Apparently someone almost got strangled to death in the common room, the entire gang of guys in my hall pitched in to move some chick’s vehicle by hand, three people got dumped by their significant others, and I found out who it was that egged my window. It was a teeming mass of hatred. Big fun.

Oh, the memories!!

So, officially, as of today you can no longer reach me on the following Hotmail accounts:

  • ohkodie
  • velvetgoldfish (May 7th 2000)
  • readysteadyokgo (April 7th 2002)
  • expatriategold (August 14th 2002)
  • baedeeds (February 9th 2003)

Like I said – the end of an era.

(It’s a good thing I have 9 g-mail accounts to keep me happy. Yes, that’s right, 9!!!)

xo

A

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Just for the record I think all of these videos rock.  Not only do I think they rock, I think they will rock you.  In fact, I think if you watch them you will think they rock and therefore you will also rock.

Watch them. Watch them as soon as possible.  Then watch the rest of the OK Go videos on the site.  Then go immediately out and BUY THEIR ALBUMS.

OK Go – Here It Goes Again from OK Go on Vimeo.

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass from OK Go on Vimeo.

OK Go – WTF? from OK Go on Vimeo.

OK Go – Do What You Want (Wallpaper Version) from OK Go on Vimeo.

Actually, while we are on the subject of videos and bands, why not read this: An Open Letter from OK Go.

And, in case you didn’t get the hint from the post I did the other day, go to their website and check their touring schedule on a regular basis because nothing in the world rocks like these guys do when they are on stage.  Seriously, you will not regret it.

Tomorrow – even more OK Go stuff.  Mostly the videos I took at the concert yesterday.  I know you will all come back as soon as possible now that you know what is on the docket, but let me stress the fact that you will not expect what is coming.

Maybe put two pairs of socks on tomorrow because my post (and these guys) are going to rock the first pair right off.

Seriously.

xo

A

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oh such grace, oh such beauty

The year was 2001; the venue was the Odeon in Cleveland, Ohio. The band was They Might Be Giants, but, to be honest, they only feature lightly in this story. And I suppose the dramatic beginning is a tad OTT for my little blog, so I am going to get right down to the point:

On October 21st 2001 Alison, Sarah and I went to the Odeon in Cleveland, Ohio to see They Might Be Giants. Little did I know that this would be the start of a (so far) 9 year long addiction. If I had known then that the opening band would grow to be one of my favourite bands of all time perhaps I would had left the show before they came on stage.

I would have missed out on a lot, though. I would have deprived myself of some of the best memories of my youth.

Who could I possibly be talking about? OK Go: A fairly unknown, unassuming and deliciously talented foursome masquerading as everyday musicians. I am not sure whether it was their wonderfully catchy songs, their (let’s face it, undeniable) gorgeousness or their cover of “Kiss Me Son of God”, a song by the headlining act. Imagine the opening band covering a well-known song by the headliners! Very, very awesome! There was also another cover song involved and, I am going out on a limb here, I think it was “Crimson & Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells.

Buffalo, I think, early 2002

I was hooked. Mostly Alison, Sarah and I were glad because we had tickets to see They Might Be Giants again a few days later at the Newport and were thrilled to death that the opening band weren’t awful. I had no idea I would get so addicted! What hooked me for life? They were all extremely nice. I mean, apart from their almost manic insistence that we SIGN THE E-MAIL LIST!! They were funny and when we talked to them they listened. They took our advice that they should cover Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” because if there was ever a song written to be covered by OK Go it is “Jessie’s Girl”. It was bizarre. So the night after the show in Columbus we drove to Pittsburgh to see them at Club Laga and it was the beginning of the beginning.

But with a little bit of money we could buy us a car.
With a little luck we could get away from where we are.
Let’s get out of here.

We’ll drive, one thousand miles an hour.
We’ll fly by wheat fields and water towers.
We’ll go. We’ll go and we’ll go and we’ll go. Let’s go.

~ 1,000 Miles Per Hour

Over the last 9 years I have seen them in concert 46 times (27 times in 2002 alone), and tonight they are playing the ABC in Glasgow which will make 47. I have never once been disappointed. I have never once regretted my decision to drive however long/far to get to their shows, not even the time in Indianapolis when the show was 21+ and I was too young to get in. I have personalised number plates on my truck in Ohio that say OK GO. Somewhere in my Mom’s house I have four posters, one with each of their names on it, from after the Loyola show when Jorge lined them up on the bleachers to take pictures.

Andy, Dan, Tim & Damian

I’ve been there for the infamous e-mail list phase, both Andys (Duncan and Ross, equally awesome), their horn player phase (very cool) and their sound engineer with the “patented eyeball test”. I have been to shows on tours for all three of their albums. I’ve seen broken guitar strings, broken instruments and even a broken leg. I have seen them play 11 different cover songs and the scene from Les Mis. I have even been lucky enough to hear them play “The Unrequited Orchestra of Locomotion”. I miss seeing them do “Women & Men” which was a rap song and totally unforgettable. I have seen two dances added to the repertoire, neither of which was anything less than spectacular. I’ve seen them play in nine different states and three different countries. I’ve travelled over 18,000 miles (roughly) to see them in concert and I have even seen them play a gig with no power at all.

Women & Men, what a magic combination!

Every show I have ever seen has been surprising. Every song they play sounds better every time I hear it. Every time I see them there is something brand new, even if it’s only been 24 hours since the last show. They have always kept me guessing. Even now every time they post a tour I check to see if there are any shows near me. I think if I were still living in the US then I would be on the road a lot more.

My truck!

There is just something about these guys on stage that is utterly indescribable. They were all born to be performers, but what strikes me as fantastic is each of them could quite easily be anything else in the world.

I guess there’s got to be a break in the monotony, but Jesus, when it rains how it pours.
Throw on your clothes, the second side of Surfer Rosa, and you leave me, yeah, you leave me.

~ Here It Goes Again

But all of that is so far beside the point! The main point I want to make is that they’ve always been so nice! They never needed to be nice; I still would have gone to their shows (see above: addiction). I’m sure there were times when it was difficult to be nice to me (did I mention the year I saw them live 27 times?) They could have been like any number of bands out there who take their fans for granted but they never have and that is the most important thing. They get more popular and more famous every time I see them but they always have time to hang about and meet their fans, shake hands and sign autographs. It is fantastic and very much appreciated.

So, thanks guys. Thanks for making such great music and thanks very much for making it worth my while.

Some things I will never forget:

  • The “raging keyboard solo” from “There’s A Fire”
  • Andy's raging keyboard solo

  • A show at the Canopy Club in Urbana, Illinois simply because the club was decorated with palm trees
  • The gig at Notre Dame University which was outdoors and, therefore, quite amazing, and very green
  • The night in Toronto when I wore my velcro letters t-shirt (honestly I am so cool) and had it read “SO DAMN HOT” which wasn’t good enough for Dan who re-arranged them to read “M DAN SO HOT”. Fantastic.
  • Plastering every surface that would stand still long enough with okgo stickers – I made it into a game. Where can I stick that sticker now? If I take a running leap I am pretty sure I can get it to stick to that road sign…
  • The night at King Tut’s when the power was out but the boys sang from the steps of the building next door until the police came. Then they did their dance to “A Million Ways” with Tim and Damian humming and bopbopping along. Quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen them do.
  • The show at 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis when I played air hockey with Dan. Erin and I had given an ill-advised lift to a fellow fan who had been at the Loyola University show a few weeks prior. She drank a lot of tequila.
  • The show at Modern Formations in Pittsburgh.
  • Any one of the times that Damian and Tim enacted the scene from Les Mis: absolutely some of the most entertaining minutes of my life.
  • The show at Fireside Bowl in Chicago which was amazing for so many reasons: It was in a bowling alley. There was an ancient Asteroids video game there that was receiving messages from the Mother Ship and intent on taking over the world. It was in a bowling alley.

Some favourites:

  • “The Unrequited Orchestra of Locomotion”
  • “1,000 Miles per Hour”
  • “Return”
  • “The Fix Is In”
  • “No Sign of Life”
  • “Oh Lately It’s So Quiet”
  • “A Good Idea at the Time”

I haven’t had much of a chance to listen to their new album, since it was only released a week ago, but I am sure there will be some favourites from that as well. Their new video is great, though, I know that.

Do yourself a favour: Buy their albums. Even more than that, though, go and see them live. You will not regret it. If you can’t manage either of those at least go and watch their video for “Here It Goes Again” at their website.  It’s phenomenal.

Also, while I am handing out thanks, I would like to thank the guys for introducing me to Longwave, another band I really like. Also for playing those shows with Phantom Planet.

xo

A

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When I sat down to compile my list of my Top Ten Albums of the Decade for 2000-2009 I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  It was always going to be difficult, but I didn’t think it would feel so much like killing off my dearest friends.


I decided a brackets chart (think sports play-offs) was the best way to fairly come up with a Number 1.  I began with a list of 64 albums and pulled them from a hat (not even a joke) to randomly fill out the first row of “challenges”.  This first elimination round was the easiest although I did feel bad for some albums; for instance, Biffy Clyro’s Puzzle (2006) which in and of itself is a great album, but really stood no chance up against Idlewild’s The Remote Part (2002).


I tried to divide my decisions equally between My Favourites and The Best, which is trickier than it may sound.  This is where my guilty pleasures fell to the wayside often to be trumped by greater, but perhaps less listened-to albums. I’m sorry Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! (2005).


I suppose this is the time for “without further ado”, so here you go:


My Top Ten Albums of the Decade


10. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004)

9.   Our Lady Peace – Spiritual Machines (2001)

8.   Snow Patrol – Final Straw (2003)

7.   Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

6.   Kings of Leon – Only By the Night (2008)

5.   Idlewild – The Remote Part (2002)

4.   The Libertines – Up the Bracket (2002)

3.   The Killers – Hot Fuss (2004)

2.   Razorlight – Up All Night (2004)

1.   Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)


And because I always like to know who the runners-up were:

11. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm (2005)

12. Muse – Absolution (2003)


The Arctic Monkeys steal the show with their brilliant debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006). Not every track is a stunner, “Riot Van” and “Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…” aren’t very good at all, actually, but even including those two tracks this album is, by far and away, the best that modern (Indie) music can ever hope to be.  In my opinion.  It gets underneath the skin of the noughties youth culture and pushes the most sordid moments into glaring light.  Alex Turner’s lyrics are so brutal and honest they will forever stand as an almost photographic view of the UK at the beginning of this century.  The crowning glory of this album is, of course, their first single; “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” which will undoubtedly pack the floor with dancers on the quietest nights in the loneliest clubs 10 years from now. Don’t believe the hype, indeed.


For those of you interested in the rest of my choices the full brackets chart (from 32 onwards) can be found here: The Great Album Debate.


In the end I was doing a track-by-track comparison.  The Libertines would have ranked higher if it weren’t for “Radio America” which is one of the worst songs ever written.  The Killers are let down by “Andy, You’re A Star” and the fact that “Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll” was only an album track in the UK and not the USA. I nearly broke all the rules and rocketed Idlewild to the top position simply because someone once asked me whether I was a builder, but I had to play by the rules.


It was a great decade for music and I am very glad that it was also MY decade for music.  If I had been born any earlier or any later then I may have missed it.  Even one year could have thrown this list in a completely different direction.


I am also going to list my top ten tracks of the decade but I think that might be an even harder decision because even the thought of where to start makes my brain hurt.  Wish me luck.


So, what about you?  What were your Top Tens of the decade?  Do you agree or disagree with my choices?


Also, although I am loathe to admit it, I may have forgotten something.  I took great pains to avoid this sad outcome, but if you think I have failed to include something in my Big Album List please, PLEASE let me know.  I can’t imagine I’ve forgotten something that would make it into the top ten, but you never know.  I’m not perfect.


I’m off to play “Red Light Indicates Doors are Secured” at top volume. I suggest you do the same.


xo

A

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This is a list of my favourite albums from 2009: (in order – #1 is the best!)
  1. Muse – The Resistance
  2. Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions
  3. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
  4. Idlewild – Post Electric Blues
  5. The Maccabees – Wall of Arms
  6. Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
  7. Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream
  8. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
  9. The Editors – In This List and On This Evening
  10. Florence & the Machine – Lungs

Albums from years earlier which I only discovered in 2009 and therefore think should count as albums of 2009:

  1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
  2. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
  3. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

Albums I am looking forward to in 2010:

  1. OK Go – Of the Blue Colour of the Sky
  2. Fyfe Dangerfield – Fly Yellow Moon
  3. Vampire Weekend – Contra
  4. MGMT – Congratulations
  5. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring
  6. Glasvegas
  7. Arcade Fire
  8. Kings of Leon

Just in case you wanted to know, that is!

Soon to come a list of my favorite albums of the decade.  I am sure you will look forward to it! 🙂

xo

A

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That is the question.

With winter well and truly set in around these parts the skoosher conundrum is presenting itself daily.

Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about – because you do.  Even if you don’t know you do, you do!

Imagine this:

The overnight temperature was -7*c.  It’s half-past 7 in the morning and you’re in the car on the way to work.  You have scraped the ice off your windscreen. You may have even scraped some of your windscreen off your windscreen in your haste.  You have scraped your wing mirrors. All is clear. You have, of course, been running your car while scraping so it has begun to warm up and all is well with the world.  So you back out of the driveway and are headed merrily on your way.  Which is when all the problems begin.

Not only does the windscreen fog up completely the second you pull onto a street that has traffic on it, but your previously spotless windscreen is now impossible to see through.  Why?  You know why! There is a mysterious browny-grey slime that appears on your windscreen as if from nowhere the second you move an inch in the winter.  And it STICKS.  To make it worse you can’t see the extent to which the brown/grey slime has set-in yet because your windscreen has fogged up.

So you’re driving along peering through the teeny tiny space near the dashboard which is the only un-fogged part of the windscreen, attempting to find a crack in the brown/grey slime and at the same time trying desperately not to run into anyone or any thing and, hopefully, keeping your car on the road.  It would be best if you could also be trying to drive uphill on an icy road which has not been salted (most roads, really).  Or, even better if you live close to the motorway and are trying to merge into rush-hour traffic.

You’re now on the way to work and have approximately 2 square inches of visibility – suddenly the Fog Gods (great name for a band?) take pity on you and miraculously the windscreen clears to reveal the extent to which your car has been coated with brown/grey slime.

This is EVERYWHERE and impossible to see through.  Coming from the roadway, this slush is momentarily liquid and therefore it should be easy to clear off.  One swish of the wipers, however, smears this slime over your windscreen in, admittedly, quite an attractive pattern. Your two square inches of visibility are now reduced to one millimetre of clear space between each streak of slushy muck.

Now what?  Well, the solution is obvious, one skoosh and all will be revealed!  The roadway! You’ll be able to see the roadway! You may even be able to see the entirety of the car you are crawling up the tailpipe of. Imagine that?!  So what do you do?  You pull the lever which activates the skoosher.  Only to be reminded, horribly, that the solution has frozen overnight and your skooshers are dry. However no one told your windscreen wipers this and there they go happily swooshing along thinking for all the world that they are doing you a favor.

They. Are. Not.  They are just making it worse.  Much, much worse.  Your millimetre of clear space has disappeared only to be replaced by one square inch located somewhere above the passenger seat.  Now relying on your car-pool to navigate (and the tail lights of the car in front which are quite foggy and may, in fact, be warning lights on a runway – you have no idea because you can’t see them!) you are cursing yourself, cursing the weather, the brown muck and, most of all your skooshers which have let you down again.

However fifteen minutes later you will tire of craning your neck and surely, surely the heat of your car engine will have thawed your skooshers.  High on anticipation and the promise the skoosher fluid manufacturers made that their product works at temperatures of -700*c and BELOW you pull your lever with your fingers crossed and totally believing that this will work and you will be able to see again (SEE AGAIN!!!).  It doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work the next time either.  Or the time after that.  Or after that.  You think by now you would have learned, but you’ll try anything to stop having to drive with your head in the passengers’ seat.

You reach the point where you are praying for a much bigger car to pass you going faster so they spray your car (and windscreen) with slush fresh from the road.  With that kind of liquid you could really get the glass clean again.  Or maybe it could start snowing again?  Snow is clean, right?  Please snow.  Please rain.  Please do anything that will wet my windscreen.  You even start fishing about in the back seat for that half-empty bottle of water you know is back there (you can here is sloshing!!) so you can awkwardly reach out the side window at the next stop light (forget that, do it now!!) and use that water to clear the glass. You are willing to do anything for the ability to see.

Having finally made it to work, an hour or so late because you had to drive at 35mph the whole way in because you had zero visibility, and out of some perverse desire to make yourself feel worse, you try your skooshers.  And here, safely in the parking lot, with the parking brake on and your hand on the door to leave the car, HERE when you don’t need to see at all, HERE your skooshers work.  Instantly .  You can see the car parked in front of you.  You can see beyond that to the building you work in.  You can even see Sally on the second floor waving at you from the window.  Here in the parking lot when you don’t have to drive any more you can see.

I’ll tell you one thing for free – you say – I’ll never make that mistake again.  You buy new skoosher fluid (guaranteed below -900*c!!!!) and refill your reservoir – ignoring the “In Concentrate” label on the bottle and not putting in any water at all (freeze on me this time, sucker!).

And there you go at the end of the day, having scraped a bit more glass off your windscreen in your eagerness to get on the road and try out your new skoosher fluid. On the way home driving merrily along you try the skoosh again. And it skooshes just fine.  Except it got colder during the day and the skoosher fluid freezes on impact and your wipers drag ice crystals across your field of vision.

But I really don’t even want to talk about that.

Good luck out there in this, the coldest winter in 30 years (apparently) here in Scotland.

Be safe on the roads and, for God’s sake, don’t use your skoosher!!!

xo

A

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