Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Those World famous brands

Something I read recently mentioned some internationally recognised trademarks. The Golden M, the tick (or swoosh), the green fruit with a bite taken out of it and the fizzy drink with red and white swirly writing.

I would bet that you have already said the names of the respective companies to yourself.

If you can think of any more please add a comment. I am only looking for trademarks or logos that are known all over the world.

As a sidenote did you know why Father Christmas is always depicted in red and white?

It's because Coca Cola commisioned an artist to draw him to advertise their beverage in 1931. The image and the Christmas ad campaign was so successful that it has remained with us.

The power of extreme marketing!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Possibly the best book I have ever read!

Londonstani by Gautam Malkani

In my book there are 4 types of book, so things can get confusing:

  1. Total Crap - Looks so bad that I don't even read it, or I give up after starting it.
  2. Crap - I read it, I finish it, I don't like it and I forget it.
  3. Good - I read it, I finish it, I like it but I eventually forget it even though I remember that I liked it.
  4. Brilliant - I read it, I love it, I remember it.

There are very few books which have fallen into category 4 for me. "Wilt" by Tom Sharpe would be one. "1984" and"Animal Farm" would be in and also "When memory dies" by A Sivanandan, such a powerful and thought provoking story.

There are the odd one or two that I remember even though I thought they were no good, but writing too much about these will mess up my whole classification system so I shan't. Except to say that then there would be 5 types of book and life would not be as simple. The Man Eater of Punanai would be straight into the new group along with a load of stuff by Wilbur Smith. That series about the genius Egyptian dwarf and those swashbuckling Courtney's. Intricate plots and interestingly written but a load of shite.

Most of the books I read fall into groups 2 and 3 but now, I have a new entry flying straight in at the top of group 4.

Londonstani is a novel about a group of teenagers growing up in the predominantly Indian area of West London called Hounslow. From a geographical point of view it was literally very "close to home" for me. I work in Southall, just next to Hounslow and I live very close to it so I know the area pretty well and I know many people who have been raised in this environment.

From the first page, I was fixated by vivid descriptions of streets and buildings I am familiar with and language I hear every day. I could relate to so many of the situations faced by Jas, our narrator, and his friends as they all try to cope with their parents in the Anglo Asian culture. The average middle class white British reader may not appreciate the humour in some of these sections but I am not sure how many of these average people exist anyway.

Then, after I had become engrossed by the locations and the background, I got hooked by the actual plot. Gautam Malkani builds the story and I felt sympathy and hurt and heartache and anger as I went through all the trials and tribulations with Jas, our hero. The story builds to a surprise that made me flick back through the book to see if I had missed any obvious clues.

On at least a couple of occasions I laughed out aloud at the narrative, because it was funny, not because it was crap. It is so engrossing that, at times, I felt as if I was part of the novel rather than just the reader.

I did all this while recovering from laser surgery on my eyes so reading took me about 3 times longer than usual.

I reckon it's a book that Anglo Asians in particular will love but it's a story that could appeal to most so just buy it and read it. It's a number 4 for me. It's so high up in my ranking that i'll read it again, soon.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

James Brown said

"I love Mimosa, the funk band. I can't wait to see them at The Cellar Bar in Bracknell on Tuesday 30th May. I particularly like their drummer oooowww!"

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Mourn with me

Vanilla Diet Coke is no more.

My favourite drink ever.
I always loved cream soda, I always loved Diet Coke.
Then they made a combination of the two.

Cold, poured over ice, sometimes with Arrack.
Nothing better.

It's gone now, probably because I am the only person that bought any.

Please come back.
I miss you.
I'll buy double and I promise to drink it all.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I just don't get it

These are only a small selection of the things I just fail to understand:

Mercedes cars

I don't doubt their quality, I don't doubt their fine German engineering, I don't doubt their prestige. I just can't get my head around them.
I am a car person. I'm not one of these blokes who thinks of a car as a means of transport. Oh no, a car is an experience, a hobby and can stir my emotions. I can talk about the merits of the BMW 5 series compared to the S Type with the best of them. But Mercs don't even enter the conversation for me. They're all the same, different size boxes, just different model numbers, none of which anyone knows about anyway. Except motoring journalists.

Coldplay

They wrote some good songs.
Then they wrote some more. The same, but with slightly different words.
Then they put them on an album. Every single person in the world bought 5 copies of the album.
Then they repeated the whole process a few more times.

What happened to happy songs with happy chords and funky grooves? Ah yes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have written all of them.

People who complain about Ikea

Ikea sells wood, glass, plastic, screws, glue, instructions and meatballs.

If you buy all this you have to first figure out a way to carry about 900kg from a very high shelf in the store to your car. This distance is exactly 37 yards longer than the London marathon. Or the New York marathon.

You then have to squeeze the stuff, which takes up more space than Argentina, into the boot of your car. Here it may help to fold the seats down.

You take it home, spend about 3 weeks trying to put it all together, go back to the shop to get the bits that were missing and finally it is done.

It is very cheap and looks good in a Bjorn Borg's place in the country sort of way. There is even a strange perverted type of satisfaction in knowing that you weren't beaten by the Johnny Swede. They build their shops out of town, they employ less staff, they keep their overhead down and they sell cheap. That's what they do.

If you want fully assembled furniture delivered into your house with no hassle, great customer service and steak, then go to Harrods. It will cost you more but you'll get nice vegetables rather than that cranberry sauce thing they do at Ikea.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I love you so much I can't shit properly.

And some other songs:

She feels like a new man tonight

How can I miss you when you won't go away?

My wife ran off with my best friend and I sure do miss him

I used to kiss her on the lips but now it's all over

Forget the night, help me make it through the door

If you really loved me you'd have married someone else

I'm so miserable without you it's like having you here

Apparently some of them are real songs!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The best blogs in the world ever

Part 1

I landed in the blogosphere about 6 months ago. I had been aware of its existence before then but always thought that bloggers were all geeks with a boring life. As tends to be a trend in my life I didn't land with a big bang or any great fanfare, I just crept in and lurked around for a good while to get a feel for things. I decided I rather liked what I saw so I hung around, lurked a bit more and became a firm follower of certain blogs, particularly those with a Sri Lankan theme.

Eventually I started to write my own one. I could always close or delete it if things went pear shaped. With hindsight I am not sure what I thought might have gone wrong. I had no pre conceived notions about readership levels and no real expectations of it, so I suppose I was always going to win. The only thing I decided at the start was that it would always be positive, not a vehicle for me to slag off people or events.

It has been, and will continue to be, a huge learning experience. It has changed the way I look at many things and I continually catch myself thinking "I must blog about that".

So, either my geeks and boring life theory was wrong, or I am a geek with a boring life.

I have been mesmerised by the quality of writing in some blogs and totally underwhelmed by the crap that some people will write (and read) about. I have also made some new friends and met some interesting people.

These are just some of my favourite blogs. They are the ones I read most regularly and are all great for a variety of different reasons.

Electra - http://electra.blogsome.com

I discovered this one very early in my "reading blogs" career. The author is a 20 something (or maybe younger) ladette who lives in Colombo and I mean ladette in the nicest possible way. As many do she blogs about her life and the trials and tribulations of her experiences. The difference with this blog is that Electra has the rare ability to portray her deepest thoughts and feelings in a way that doesn't sound pretentious.

Ian - http://the1trucoolguy.blogspot.com

A Canadian business / management student with Sri Lankan origins, currently studying in Sweden. He blogs about his learning experiences and his travels. I love trying to figure out exactly what he is talking about in his more academic posts and I usually fail.
I laugh aloud at his humour.

His post about driving incidents in Sri Lanka is the funniest post I have ever seen http://the1truecoolguy.blogspot.com/2006_04_01_the1truecoolguy_archive.html

A blog that displays many writing styles and themes and well worth a peek. It's an honest blog, he publishes his name and is very open about everything, from his family to his career. I like that aspect of it.

Dominic Sansoni - http://dominicsansoni.blogspot.com

The photoblog of one of my favourite photographers. His work always shows stunning use of colour and light. I would be happy to take one photograph as spectacular as the many he has on this blog. I have spent many years taking photographs in Sri Lanka and can appreciate the effort and time Dominic must put in to taking his wonderful landscapes. I would love to spend a day with him "in the field" just to learn a bit about his craft.

Lady Luck speaks - http://lankandoc.blogspot.com

S, the writer, has a similar background to me, a Londoner with Sri Lankan origins. She also has a keen interest in music and often writes about music related stuff, which is nice. She is a medical student and therefore far more intelligent than me.
Her writing style is sharp, witty and full of anecdotal observations on life. Her descriptive writing makes me wish i'd paid more attention in English lessons at school.


Hot Chocolate - http://hotchocolate.blogsome.com

Written by a Sri Lankan student at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. She writes about her day to day experiences and discoveries. I find her writing style very easy to read and it's interesting to accompany her as explores and investigates the UK and its idiosyncrasies. She seems like a good egg.


Have a look, check 'em out, see if you like them too. My apologies if you're one of the above and I've made any incorrect assumptions about you. Thanks for making me smile!

The cross of Saint George flies proudly








World Cup fever is upon us!

By some amazing coincidence and I kid you not, this is post number 66 on my blog. That is an omen and is clearly a sign that England will win.

My St George' s flag is flying from my car and the excitement here is starting to build now.

My brother says that the flag on my car makes me a chav. Bollocks to him!

I'm proud to fly it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My problems with iTunes

My CD collection numbers around 600 CDs and I have managed to import most of them onto iTunes. The only ones not done are those that I have looked at and thought that I will never want to listen to again. Milli Vanilli is the only one that springs to mind but I know for sure there are others. So to all intents and purposes my iTunes and therefore both my iPods now house my entire CD collection as well as all the songs I have bought at the iTunes music store.

Yet I still wonder whether online purchasing of music will ever totally replace the concept of buying CDs or records or whatever the "hard" format may be. Why? Because there is something tactile and emotional about the act of going into a shop and buying music that cannot be replaced by buying online.

There are so many CDs that I have bought purely because I have been browsing through a rack in some obscure music shop and happen to have glanced at that old album by whoever, then bought it. I have been attracted to it by the artwork or the colour or any number of random reasons but I have bought it by chance and that is what is missing from iTunes, chance.

I go into the iTunes music store and regularly buy music but usually it is music that I know I want. It might be a song that I have to learn to play, it might be an album I have been thinking about buying for a while or it may be, as is increasingly the case, a funky compilation album where I have been able to listen to a clip of each song before I purchase. But, and it's a big but, when I really, really want an album I don't actually feel like I own it unless I have bought it at a shop on CD. Last week this phenomenon became apparent to me when the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their latest. I like the band, primarily because Chad Smith, their drummer, is a favourite of mine, but I also like their music. I was a but sceptical about buying the album, thinking that the band has become a cynical money making machine, but I wanted the album anyway. I wanted the real thing.

I know I could have paid less and got it online and even though I can burn a CD from iTunes and print the album artwork and put it in CD case it just doesn't feel like proper ownership to me. I want proper artwork with proper sleeve notes and the like.

Pearl Jam, another of my faves have a new CD out and I'll buy the hard copy CD of that because I want it in my collection. Undoubtedly iTunes has made it much easier for me to buy music as anyone can go online and look for obscure albums or artists and buy their stuff. That, as far as I am concerned, is good. It's just that this virtual music business is an accompaniment to the real thing.

If I was Mr Apple I'd try to make iTunes more "human" by putting in some kind of fuzzy logic browsing feature. One where you hit a button and it takes you to an artist with a tenuous link to the last one, or something like that, I don't know. I'd also try to give more in the way of "sleeve notes" when you buy online. It would be good to read detailed notes about the music on your iPods display. There are lots of albums I buy where I want to know who the musicians are and usually that is not possible when I buy online.

On the other hand I'm probably just old and unwilling to adapt. Most people using iTunes probably don't care at all about buying "real" CDs and, in a few years time, they won't even know what CDs are.

The only thing I know for sure is I wouldn't want to be a music store owner in this day and age unless I was Steve jobs!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Groove is in the heart

For years my best friend has goaded me whenever I say to him that "white men can't drum".

I am not being racist and I mean it in good humour but what I am getting at is my half baked theory that some people grow up with a more rhythmic background than others.

As a child I was struck by the fact that many Sri Lankans will happily carve out a pretty funky rhythm on a table top with their bare hands. It is a common sight to see a Sri Lankan pounding out a baila or Kandyan rhythm with their hands, for no reason other than the sheer joy and fun of it. Everyone in Sri Lanka is an air drummer.

In the UK and Europe we have air guitarists and there really are air guitarist competitions, I kid you not. The days of "Mummy, I want to be an air guitarist when I grow up" are not far away. In Sri Lanka there are air drummers, although real drummers are in good supply too. It's in the blood.

Many African and black American people grow up understanding the tremendous feel of a powerful groove. Some of my all time favourite drummers, John Blackwell Jr, Bernard Purdie and Steve Jordan are black guys who are famed, not for their technical abilities or the way they can play fifteen different drums with one foot, but for the way that they can play a simple groove but make it feel as good and rich as Bill Gates donating every dollar he has ever made to charity and keeping quiet about it.

For many drummers the holy grail of drumming is to play a technically simple groove and make it feel like something very special and all my favourites are the ones who can do it. It doesn't look flashy, and to the non musician it is hardly noticeable, but it's a feel thing. A great groove makes a song feel good. Think of classic James Brown. Next time you listen to one of his songs pay attention to the drums and feel that groove. I guarantee you'll be dancing.

The list of white people who can play a smooth sounding sexy beat is endless. Jeff Porcaro, Billy Ward, Chad Smith, David Garibaldi and more. These guys just have groove running through them (not Jeff Porcaro who is no longer with us).

I just think some people are born with an ability to groove and an appreciation of rhythm, some can learn and develop it and some will never have it, no matter how hard they try.

The photo is of Bernard Purdie, one of the funkiest drummers of all time, one of my heroes. His drumming is a constant inspiration to me. If you get a chance to see or hear him play just do it. You'll leave with a smile on your face and a groove in your heart!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The story of Gap and my very English dilemna

Gap is a strangely interesting shop to me. For starters I never know whether to call it "The Gap" or just "Gap". I have settled on just "Gap" for now, but I am open to persuasion. Also I take a great liking to some of their clothes yet I can't stand others. This is unusual for me. I don't go for the preppy American look that many Gap garments are aimed at but there are other things that have a lot more British "cool" about them and they are great.

Now by Sri Lankan standards I am about average height. Most of my friends here in the UK will laugh in disbelief at this but it's true that I have cousins in Sri Lanka whom I tower over. However, by Western standards, I am a short arse. So short that my legs almost don't reach the ground, so short that when I walk towards you I don't actually get any bigger.

All of which may give you some idea why I have a soft spot for any jeans that are made in "short" leg lengths. I happily spend many hours browsing through the jeans section in Gap where they sell jeans in about 7 different styles, all of which are available in short lengths. On top of that most of these styles are now available in a variety of "washes" because some spotty kid of a marketeer at Gap thought it would be a great idea to offer any wash from brand new to the 10 year old look. I can picture the meeting at the marketing department of Gap now:

"But Tarquin this idea of yours to sell a huge range at premium prices, every jean available in all the different sizes and washes, I mean who's gonna buy them?

Well Wojtek, I think there are a few middle class people in the UK with a bit of disposable income who have got nothing better to do than write blogs and buy loads of expensive consumer items"

And that's where I come in.

I've now got a wardrobe full of Gap jeans. I am working towards ownership of every style in every wash but I know that I have to apply myself to achieve this formidable and worthwhile goal.

It will take me years to buy so many pairs of jeans, smuggle them into my house and then into my wardrobe, then discard the bag and receipt without my wife realising. Then, at some point, I have to wear them for the first time without giving the game away, which is not easy either. It does strike me that there is something fundamentally wrong with the concept of these "5 and 10 year old looking jeans" when I wear them for the first time and she says "I see you've got new jeans then". For fuck's sake, there's something wrong there isn't there. I know it's not her powers of observation that are particularly developed as I could come home in a pink dress and she probably wouldn't notice sometimes. It must be some sort of women's intuition, I guess they can't help it.

So anyway, I'm in Gap on Sunday trying on another new pair in the changing room. It was quite early so there weren't many other people in the shop and I heard a chap in the next but one cubicle talking to one of the assistants and asking for a different colour shirt or something. I thought to myself "that sounds like Mark"(a friend, as opposed to just any bloke called Mark).

But I wasn't absolutely sure and this is what caused my huge dilemna. I didn't want to shout to him in case it was a stranger who might mistake my friendly shout as some sort of gay approach. The likelihood of this happening was increased significantly by 2 factors. The first one was my state of undress, or more accurately the fact that I was without trousers. The second was the fact that I was wearing Ray Ban Aviators as I was still recovering from my very recent eye operation.

With my rugged good looks, Ray Bans and no trousers I figured that an approach to a possible stranger in the Gap changing rooms was not a good idea. A handlebar moustache would have completed the look but I wasn't worried about that small detail. So I figured the safest option was to get dressed and hang around near the exit from the changing area for a while trying to look nonchalant and browsing through some of those stripey preppy American type shirts that I wouldn't wear in a million years. All this while making sure that I could see the chap clearly when he had finished his trying on.

Sure enough, he came out and it was Mark. Phew! We had a chat, went for a coffee and all was sweet as.

It was a dilemna that could only have happened in England. If I was one of those loud Americans I would have just shouted at him and no one would have been bothered about it, least of all me. If I was in Colombo I would have shouted in Singlish, he would have replied and the chances are that, even if he wasn't who I thought, we still would have been related or gone to school together or had some connection. If I was in the Netherlands we probably both would have been gay and it wouldn't have been a problem anyway.

But this is England. We don't do that sort of thing here.

What makes a great advert?

I was watching TV the other night and I saw a brilliant advertisement.

It is the one for the Honda (Civic I think). It shows a full choir singing the sounds that a car would make whilst making a journey. The voices appear to replicate the exact sounds made as the car encounters different road surfaces and different weather conditions along its journey. From the sound made as the car splashes through puddles in the rain to the sound of the tyres as it drives over a cattle grid, they are all there. It finishes rather cornily, as the car accelerates into the sunset and the choir reaches a crescendo.

To me it is a great piece of creative advertising. I admire the creativity behind it, I think the idea and its execution are stunning. I am just not sure that it is a good advert.

Why?

Because it doesn't put across any unique selling points about the car itself. It could be an ad for any make of car and it would probably have the same effect on me.
Sure, it creates a desire within me to think of an idea like the ad itself, but it doesn't make me want to buy a Honda. This is the Company that gave us another innovative and stunning ad, the one with a "domino type" of chain built around mechanical components from one of their cars.
Same principle, something visually and aurally stunning, just different execution.

On the other hand there is a TV ad I have seen recently for a new Volvo convertible. It is trying to push the more emotional aspects of the Volvo brand, rather than concentrating on safety, as they have in the past. It is centred around the word "feel" and is accompanied by press ads.

For me it works. It arouses my emotions. I have found myself looking at Volvos, not the old fashioned ones, but this particular model. Please don't tell anyone I told you this though.

It's a funny subject, advertising, particularly TV advertising. I think that, here in Western Europe, we are lucky to be bombarded on a daily basis by some of the most advanced ideas in advertising combined with all the latest products. Every time I go to Sri Lanka I am intrigued when I see the way in which advertising there differs to the UK. It looks to be many years behind in its development but no doubt that gap will decrease rapidly over the next few years.

But sometimes I see something here and think that the ad men have got so much up their own arses and made something to appeal to themselves, forgetting that they are not the target market.

Mr Honda may have come up with some TV ads that win all the awards and get all the prizes but, in years to come, most will remember the brilliant adverts and forget what they were advertising.

The all time great adverts are surely those that are remembered as ads but also as products. Over the years some of the Guiness ones have been memorable and some of the Levi 501 ads have become as iconic as the jeans themselves. The big thing about all of them is that we remember the product as well as the advertisement.

When I think of the Jeans ad with Nick Kamen in the launderette I can remember the song, I can remember almost every detail and I can remember the exact product, Levi 501s. When I think of the "dancing Guiness man" ad, I can remember every detail. I don't know the name of the song but I can hum it and of course I know the product.

That is what makes a great advert.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My eyes adore you

It' s now 3 weeks to the day since I had laser surgery to correct my shortsightedness (and a bit of astigmatism) and my current conclusion is that it is one of the most incredible experiences I have gone through in my life.

During the first 2 weeks I struggled with the recovery. I know that I did write that my vision was almost perfect but it was so inconsistent in those 2 weeks that it was quite unbearable. I had spells in which it would be perfect but I needed to have entirely perfect conditions for it to occur.

So I needed to have the right amount of moisture in my eyes, the correct amount of light as too much glare was agony and too much dark meant I couldn't see much. Then my eyes had to be fresh, not tired. If all these things came together I would have great vision but it wouldn't last for long as one of the fators would always change withing minutes. But I had far more periods when it would be blurry and my eyes would feel uncomfortable and during these I was just so frustrated and impatient.

However, as time moved on I found that my eyes became more tolerant. I could stand more glare, the darkness wouldn't affect them so much and I wouldn't have to put the artificial tears in my eyes as often. Last Friday (12th May) was a turning point, as that was the first day when I felt that my sight was good more frequently than it was bad. This has continued.

I still have to keep putting all kinds of drops in my eyes but I am only slightly more sensitive to glare than normal, my night vision is as good as it was before the op with contact lenses in and I can work at the PC and read books without struggling. I have been told that the eyes can take up to 6 months to heal fully after treatment so I know that they aren't finished but I also know that they are bloody excellent even now. As the healing continues I am so excited with my new found freedom. They are still a little bit uncomfortable at times but that is continually improving.

I learned a lot of things during my recovery period. I found it really hard to do nothing at home, not read, not watch TV, not surf the net, all I could do was listen to music but even that was hard as it was so uncomfortable to even look at my iPod. My new pastime of putting my iPod on shuffle and taking pot luck was great but, when I didn't know the song, I couldn't resist the temptation to squint and frown at the iPod's display to read the track information.

Now I have near perfect vision for almost all the time. Last night I went to my first band practice for 3 weeks and enjoyed myself no end. We have our second gig in a couple of weeks' time and we are getting better all the time. I drove home and spent most of the journey in awe of my new clear night vision.

I don't want to sound too pleased as I am aware that my vision could fluctuate in the next few months while my eyes complete their healing process but, after 30 plus years of wearing glasses or contact lenses all the time except when sleeping, perfect unaided vision is something I can't even remember.

If anyone is considering doing it and you are worried about it then my advice would be to go for it. For me it has been worth the money and the discomfort.

The biggest lesson I learned was how lucky I am. I have all my faculties and I am so lucky that I can afford to pay for this kind of "luxury". There are so many less able people in the world and they often don't have the money or just the circumstances to change their luck, yet they just get on with things without complaining.

I salute you.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I am a Sri Lankan and I like carbohydrates

My Sri Lankan upbringing means that I love carbs. Any meal tastes better if served with rice. Noodles, pasta, bread and potatoes are essential foods. Don't even get me started on the joys of hoppers and string hoppers or the thought of one of my favourite meals; plain string hoppers with prawn curry and some pol sambol mmm.....

Here in England people say "curry and rice" instead of "rice and curry" for good reason. That is how it is eaten here. Most of my friends are surprised when we go for a curry and I ask for a whole portion of rice but it is just what I am used to and, as far as I am concerned, it is the correct way. It is a struggle for me to have to cope with a plate heaped full of curries with a tiny portion of rice hidden underneath a bean or something.

Then again I often have to suffer the pain and discomfort of eating rice that is either undercooked or not salted in restaurants here, things that would never happen in Sri Lanka. I can honestly say that I have never ever been served a portion of rice anywhere in Sri Lanka that was not prepared properly.

All this means that, although hardly "de rigeur" any more, the Atkins diet was never going to be a long term option for me to lose weight and maitain my "healthy lifestyle". Bollocks to that! I did try it a few times and it is true to say that the weight piled off me each time. The problem was that it was too much of a sacrifice. Week after week of eating curry without rice, meat without potatoes and bolognese without spaghetti became too dark and too depressing. I could never have faced the prospect of a whole lifestyle without these carbs and so the Atkins diet was always a short term quick fix for me.

That is the whole problem with most of these "diets". We use them as a method to lose weight quickly and then we got back to our old eating habits and, within a few months, we are back to our old weight. So we go on a diet, lose the weight and then go back to our old eating habits. You get the picture right?

That is why I have decided that I am going to try to change my lifestyle instead of dieting. I am not really drastically overweight, I just want to lose about 6 to 8 pounds and keep it off. I am eating more healthy foods, I am trying to eat a bit less and I am trying to eat less rubbish. The weight loss is far more gradual than with the Atkins, or any other diet, but I am hoping it will be long lasting.

I am also trying to do more exercise. Some vigorous walking every day, I stopped smoking about 18 months ago and that has helped me to do more exercise. I am lucky in that drumming every day probably contributes a bit towards my cardio vascular fitness.

I am proud of many of my British characteristics, the way I can say "sorry" for nothing, my ability to put up with appalling service in restaurants and then feel really bad for not leaving a tip and the like. I am also proud of my "Sri Lankanness", my ability to eat huge portions of rice is only one example.

So I'll do all these things, lose some weight, keep it off and still be able to eat rice, hoppers, pasta and all those other delicious carbs.



Wicked!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Billy Ward Clinic - London

I had the huge honour of seeing Billy Ward do a drum clinic on Saturday.

For those who don't know Billy, he is one of the top drummers and drum educators in the world today. As a player he is most well known for being the drummer for Joan Osborne, the American singer / songwriter. He has also played for countless well known artists from Robbie Robertson to Yoko Ono. On the drummers' side of things he has rapidly become one of the most enthusiastic and informative educators, with a way of imparting his knowledge that is quite infectious.

Sorry if that all sounds a bit gushing but he really is that good.

So, on Saturday evening, my 12 year old daughter, herself a budding drummer, and myself headed off to sunny Croydon to see the great man do a clinic. We got to the London Drum Company, the shop involved, with lots of time to spare so we bought some chips and spent some quality Father/daughter time eating chips in the car and listening to the FA Cup Final. When that finished we wandered around the drum shop looking at things that only a drummer would appreciate. Bass pedals, cymbal stands, snare drums and kits. You know the kind of thing.

After a while we went into the venue, a church hall 2 doors away from the shop, and found some seats. I was pleasantly surprised as we got the 2 chairs directly in front of the drum kit. A dangerous gamble, as our enjoyment could have been very high or very low, depending on how loud he played. Luckily for us the volume was at a comfortable level throughout the evening. The venue was small and must have only had about 70 or 80 seats so everyone was able to see and hear very well.

The programme started with a short solo by a young guy called James Birt. I don't know much about him other than the fact that he won the "Young drummer of the year" competition run by mikedolbear.com in the UK this year. He is only about 15 or 16 and he is a much better player already than I will ever be! He played for about 15 minutes, some solo stuff and to a few songs, all with extreme assurance, coolness and musicality, then handed over to the main attraction.

The way in which Billy presented the clinic was to take many of the concepts covered in his DVD and elaborate on them and demonstrate them. Most of the audience were familiar with the DVD, it is chock full of useful concepts and ideas, and it was good to see them explained in person. He is the sort of geezer who says stuff that is totally obvious but, when he says it, you sit there thinking "Why did I never think of that?"

He played several songs in a variety of styles and talked about his lateral approach to many aspects of drumming. It is always a joy to witness any musician get as much pleasure from playing their instrument as he obviously does. There were smiles, there were grimaces and there was laughter. He took time to answer questions, demonstrate concepts and pose for photographs.

I learnt a lot but the biggest thing I got from it was a good boost. Seeing someone with that much ability and enthusiasm for their craft has one of two effects on people. It either makes them want to give up or it makes them want to try harder and get better.

I want to try harder, get better and have lots of fun whilst doing it.

Thanks Mr Ward!

Oh, and thank you for being so nice to my daughter, you are her new hero.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Muse - Supermassive black hole

I just heard the new single by Muse - Supermassive black hole.

I can't say too much about it other than it totally blew me away.

I have been a Muse devotee for ablut 6 or 7 years. They are everything that Radiohead could have been if they hadn't gone too poncey for my liking. But this song has captivated me in just one listen.

Funky drumming, driving bass and thrashing guitar work. It is a little slice of genius. I can't wait for the new album.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Michelle Dewberry - The Apprentice

She won.

I am pleased.

As this amazing series drew to a close I became increasingly impatient and frustrated with Ruth, the Badger. She just didn't look genuine to me. Her on camera smiles all seemed to have an off camera grimace to them. There were expressions caught on camera that showed a hint of her "looking after number 1" attitude. If Ruth had won I would have been left incredibly disillusioned with the programme.

On the other hand, Michelle blossomed in the last few episodes. She had been in the background, doing good work but largely unnoticed. She burst through at the final hurdle. She looked cool, calm and competent and thoroughly deserved the title. Of all the contestants she was one of the few open and honest ones. When she messed up she admitted to it. "I was wrong to think I could manage Syed and Paul".

One of my highlights of the series was the emergence of Syed Ahmed and his "couldn't have made it up" personality. Someone should be talking to him right now and negotiating terms to make a fly on the wall documentary series following him as he progresses in his career. Or send him to the USA to make a programme following him there. It would make for fascinating and compulsive viewing.

There were lots of elements in the series and its making that I disagreed with but, I have to say, I agreed with the result. I would love to see the BBC make the next series with someone other than Sir Alan Sugar, a real business leader. Sir Alan, for all his wealth and success, is not a highly respected professional business leader. He boasts about making decisions himself and disregarding others' opinions. He call himself "one of the most belligerent people you will ever come across". He is not what most business people would describe as a role model.

I won't forgive him for firing Ansell and saying that he was "just a Salesperson". Salespeople make the world go round. Behind every great business person is a great Salesperson and many of the best ideas have failed because they have not been sold properly.

Amstrad is a large Company but it is not right up there with the Vodafones and the Tescos as being massive and hugely influential. As far as I know Amstrad, and Alan Sugar, made and sold some innovative products, mostly in the eighties and nineties, but I really can't think of the last time I considered buying an Amstrad product. Can you?

The BBC probably won't trade him in for a different model though.

He is great TV.

Michelle - Good luck, you deserved your victory.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

10 lists I could make and number 1 on each

1. The 10 most beautiful women in the world (that I don't actually know) - Jennifer Aniston

2. The 10 best bands of all time - Thin Lizzy

3. The 10 best types of food - Rice and curry

4. My 10 favourite places in the world - Galle Face (probably)

5. My 10 favourite cars - Ferarri Dino (246 GT)

6. The world's top 10 drummers - Bernard Purdie

7. My 10 best TV programmes - Sgt Bilko

8. 10 favourite gadgets - my ipod

9. 10 favourite people - my daughters

10. My top 10 wishes - Peace in Sri Lanka


With my thanks to http://buduammo.blogspot.com/2006/04/eleven-things-i-shit-brick_114593377432602902.html for the inspiration.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

I'm not sexist but........

There are 2 generalisations of the sexes that I believe in:

1. All men believe that they are the best driver ever. Each of us thinks that we are the next Michael Schumacher just waiting to be discovered. In fact this is not just a belief, we actually know this. For a man, driving is not a means of getting from A to B, it is a matter of pride snd a test of masculinity. Any man who admits to any deficiency in any element of driving, whether it is parking, or reversing or driving down a moutain while blindfolded, is not a real man. All real men know this. I am no exception to this.

There are many women who enjoy driving but usually they see driving as a means of transport and cars as a place in which to do their make up. Fair play to them I say. Maybe men would see things differently if we wore make up.

2. Ansaphone / Voicemail behaviour. This is simple. Men always leave a brief, factual and simple message on ansaphones or voicemail, along the lines of
"Hello mate it's Steve, give me a call when you're around. Cheers."

Women, on the other hand, are all capable of having an entire conversation with the mechanical device. Something like

"Hi Julie it's only me, I just wanted to say that I was going out for a drink tonight and was wondering if you'd like to come along. Give me a call, oh you'll never guess who I bumped into the other night. Remember that girl who used to go out with Brian, the one who always wore green shoes. She was looking really rough and I had a really long talk with her and she might be coming along tonight. I was also going to ask you if I could borrow your yellow handbag, the one you bought at Selfridges, or was it Harrods? I need it to go with my shoes that I bought yesterday for an interview i've got next week. I'm really excited about it it's for..............................."

This goes on, finishing with "anyway give me a call when you get back and I'll tell you all about it"

Then, the friend calls back and they have the whole conversation again.


That's it really. Those 2 points are my total views on the differences between the sexes.

Of course there is the additional theory about remote controls and flicking between tracks or channels but i'll leave that for another time....

Friday, May 5, 2006

It's getting fucking annoying now.

After a few hours of work yesterday I had to go home. I think that the combination of artificial light and lots of emails took their toll on my eyes. Just my luck that the one day when I could have done with a typically British dull and grey sky turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far, more significantly for me, probably the brightest. Deep joy.

Indoors with some natural subdued lighting my eyes calmed down and the vision cleared nicely, but at the moment glare seems to be the biggest factor in my visual discomfort. I also have a contact lens in my left eye, which comes out tomorrow. The lens that is, not the eye. I think that the eye will feel much better after tomorrow.

The great thing is that, through the mist and blur, I get small glimpses of the clear vision that I am convinced I will have. It is as if I have good vision but I am looking through a net curtain. Occasionally I get a glimpse through the curtain or through a gap and all looks good. The most important thng is that my sight is improving all the time.

That's my latest. Sorry for the rather self absorbed post but I thought there may be one or two interested people.

I just want it all to hurry up now.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

I'm back

At work.

My eyes hurt and I don't think staring at my PC helps much.

I've just finished ploughing my way through about 4.3 million emails, some of them were even work related.

My eyes are definitely healing but it is slower than I had hoped for. I will just wait and sit it out as I have little choice in the matter. I think the one thng I wasn't prepared for was just how hypersensitive they would be to bright light. When things are a bit dark they feel virtually normal but with a bit of light on them they water and become uncomfortable. Oh well, many people have far worse things to contend with and I am just one of the luckier ones.

I bought a copy of Londondstani yesterday and what I have read so far is rivetting, but it is hard work when I have to take my eyes off the page every few minutes to give them a rest. It is particularly fascinating to me as I know all the places very well and I have worked in Southall for the last 10 years, so feel quite familiar with many of the events.

Going through things like this makes me realise just what a huge proportion of my working time is PC based.

I'll do some more work now, but thank you to everyone who emailed me, phoned me and passed on their wishes.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

My viduom ix almozt perfecy!

But now I am gettting bored!

My eyes are probably running at about 85%. I am pleased with the progress so far and they are getting better all the time. Things are still quite blurry and I am still sensitive to light but it is all improving continually.

This afternoon I have to go to the clinic for a check up, to have the temporary contact lenses taken out and hopefully be given clearance to drive. The biggest problem with this clinic visit is the fact that my Dad is giving me a lift there. The journey will probably be far more scary than the whole "laser eye op" scenario. He is a one in a million, the old man, and his driving skills have taken years to develop and hone, mostly in Colombo. I am sure many of you are familiar with the type of driving I will experience. Even though it will be scary I am very grateful that he can do it.

If all goes to plan I'll be back at work tomorrow with blurred but vastly improved vision. Technology is incredible. I hope I am not counting my chickens before they have caught bird flu, but I am sure that I am well on my way to having perfect vision for the first time in about 33 years. It's a very exciting journey.

Laters.