Sunday, 19 December 2010

A note on music from films

So recently I watched Master and Commander, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Both are very different but equally worthwhile films. Anyway during the final scene of Master and Commander the captain (Russell Crowe) and the ships doctor  - who is awesome - (played by Paul Bettany), play a very nice violin and cello duet. So I had to find out who wrote this and after some intensive research (Googling) I discovered the piece to be Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid or (Night Music of the Streets of Madrid) written by a certain Mr Luigi Boccherini, who as it turns out is a bit of a badman; whilst employed by King Charles III of Spain he wrote a trio which included a passage of music the King found displeasing, rather than remove the passage he doubled it and was forthwith dismissed. 
I was fascinated by the way the cello is used in this duet, played in a cantabile manner and given a intensely lyrical part to play as opposed to accompanying the violin, similar I thought to Bach's Prelude from his cello Suite No 1: interpreted masterfully here by Paul Tortelier.

The other piece, from The Curious case of Benjamin Button, is a ragtime concert waltz written by the one and only Scott Joplin (composer of such overplayed piano works as the Entertainer) . Named BethenaBenjamin plays the waltz in the movie, and again the melody just got stuck in my head, so I had to go and find the song.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Critics' Critic: Sennheiser PX 100 II Headphones

So a while ago I wrote this review of a review about the Sennheiser  PX 100 II Headphones.

Everybody loves a bit of the white stuff

The nation's guilty pleasure, snow - the creme de la creme of small-talk. So what is it about the crystallised compound that gets people so hot under the collar?
When many people summarise English culture, they throw around the same old bunch of clich├ęs: "the English love to complain"; and especially "they love to complain about the weather". However, this is not the case. We English are a rare breed, never happy, always the critic; we are no nation of complainers, merely perfectionists. Our urge for perfection in every level of society is immediately obvious. Our shops; our food; our architecture, all exemplify our passion for perfection. We revel in retail; hallmarks of our fine food culture are prevalent: the Aldis, the Asdas, the Burger Kings, all embody our desire for excellence. Nowhere else can you realise your potential to "Spend a little" whilst living just as meagerly.
Our bounty of boutique is ever expanding: you can't picnic in a grassy field for five minutes before it's bulldozed to make way for the next catalogue merchant: "don't appreciate it, Argos it".

Rain remains the hallmark of English discussion; furious debate about the weather's antics crop up in every morning Mcflurry queue across the nation. We even try to predict the militant tactics of the weather, before the onset of climate madness begins. "Rain likely"; "blustery winds probable" - these are the complex matters of contention which plague the media. Uncertainty about the weather is matter of livid analysis; and of the different possibilities for climatic conditions, snow is the overbearing champion of public obsession. This is where the weather-fanatic really gets a chance to shine, claiming they are "sure it will snow" and assuring all around them that a "white Christmas" is definitely worth penning into the calendar.
However, many claim to hold a grudge against the icy precipitation and are happy to go to great lengths to make sure this is known; Facebook and Twitter feeds inevitably become snowed under with a clamour of frantic reviews of the English weather and it becomes abundantly clear that much of the population "hates snow!!!". This is advertised presumably to ensure they are not disappointed come Christmas day, when upon opening a soggy parcel, they find their most hated of all Weather's henchmen quivering in a obscene mound.

The hysteria that a light dusting of frozen water can inflict on our western democracy is incomparable. While many will find the global endeavors of Earthly civilization prosaic, a few piles of the arctic material throw the nation into frenzy: it's every man for himself as frosty apocalypse sweeps the globe, all opinions on the sub-zero molecules must be aired before the total collapse of life as we know it!
Personally I'm all in favour of a good helping the white stuff.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Old George knew how to make a proper cuppa

A ten-bag goes nowhere these days

The thing about being a caffeine addict is: it's expensive, you don't sleep much, and you're forever waiting for your next fix; that next cuppa is never soon enough. For some people it's smoking, for some alcohol, for others something a little stronger does the job, but me: for me it's a steaming-hot beverage that gets the job done. No sooner has my next pay cheque (well, EMA) hit my account and I'm out flittering it away, shooting cheap espresso in some backstreet coffee shop. If it's not espresso I'm shelling out for,  I'll be out securing my next ounce of leaf, hoping that'll see me through the week; a ten-bag goes nowhere these days. But when the bag hits the cup, you know it's all been worth it, as the familiar aroma of brewing leaves hits your nostrils you feel assuaged, in the knowledge your next caffeine kick is just an arms-reach away. Your trembling fingers clasp the mug, the veins on your arm popping with anticipation, you feel your endorphins hold breath.. And all at once that hot-brewed elixir is cascading over your senses, filling every orifice of your conscience with piping-hot aqueous pleasure...