What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

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Ben's Head-ShavingAs announced a couple of weeks ago, my young son Ben had decided to raise some dosh for Cancer Research UK by having all his lovely locks shorn off.

Given he’d be walking around completely hairless for a bit, it seemed sensible to do it at the start of the half-term break so he had a chance to get a little bit of head-fuzz back. Thus, last Saturday we headed to Charlies Hair Salon in Wakefield (note: no apostrophe) to get the deed done.

The lad was remarkably chipper and quite excited when we arrived, and a small crowd had gathered to make sure he went through with it! Sitting in the chair, full of smiles, the hairdresser asked nervously, “Are you sure? All off?”

“All off.” I confirmed. “Bald as a coot.” And so it began…

ben_composite

…and it was done in less than ten minutes, all ready for the cold snap we’re due next week!

In total, the boy raised £862.50 for Cancer Research UK, and we’re very very proud of him of course – well done kid, this is one very proud Dad!

Thank you to everyone who contributed and who gave a few quid (and lots more sometimes!) when I asked, and thanks to Charlies who did the head-shave for free and ran a collection in the salon during the shave – you are really stellar people!

Hairy Ben“Sponsor my son, please!”

My son Ben has taken it upon himself to raise a bit of dosh for Cancer Research UK by shaving all his hair off and going bald, and he is seeking sponsor donations for it. He’s always been the lad with the longest hair in his school, and is well known for his mop – it’ll be a bit odd seeing him bald (and I don’t envy him given it’s approaching winter). All power to the lad though!

The hair, once snipped, will hopefully be going to another cancer charity to weave wigs for kids who’ve lost their hair through chemo, etc. so it’s all good!

If you can find it in your hearts to chuck a couple of quid his way please, that’d be lovely and he would be epically grateful (and so will I!). I’ll post some photos once he’s all bald, and maybe even Ellie will do a video of the ritual head-shaving on Youtube.

His fundraising page is at https://www.justgiving.com/ben-rowbottom/ – even a couple of quid would be welcome, please!

nltj_podcast_logoI’m podcasting again, under the monicker of No Less Than Jess. It’s got its own (rudimentary) place to listen which is over at www.nolessthanjess.co.uk but you can subscribe via iTunes Podcast Directory.

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07473_freedomtoIt’s Pride season in the UK – all sorts of carrying-on-alarming from the LGBT scene and its supporters, rainbow flags and walking groups, free hugs, camp-as-anything acts, and a lot of very very drunk people. The first Pride for me is usually the big one in London at the end of June which – after a hell of a car-crash of a parade in 2012 – has bounced back with aplomb.

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I’ve just got in from putting a sticker in the back of my car. Those who know me personally will realise how monumental this is: I don’t stick stuff inside my car windows – I sorta begrudge even sticking a tax disc holder there. However, this is even more striking as I tell you it’s a yellow souvenir car sticker for the Tour de France 2014 Grand Départ which has been the buzz of Yorkshire since it was announced in late 2012. Yep, seriously.

Grand Départ Launch Continue reading the full article…

10306728_1486127544950489_8532018272090923079_n (1)Ah, that time of year again – the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. I’ll freely admit that there’s been a lot of personal stuff go down in the past month or so (plus ça change) which has meant I haven’t really had much time to keep an eye on what’s been going on. That plus ESCtoday being a shadow of its former self combined to leave me woefully underprepared for this year’s competition. I’d kept track of what Molly was doing as the UK entry, that was about it.

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I’m clearing a lot of my Acorn kit I’ve accumulated over the years and paring down my collection. Thankfully there is a handy Acorn Show this weekend in Wakefield, and I’ve got a stall there.

I’m looking to sell the whole lot:

  • A variety of Model B’s, some workers, some not (keyboard cable or PSU faults sometimes), some with boards, 1770/8271 DFS, etc.
  • A couple of Master 128s
  • Archimedes A420/1 base
  • RiscPC 7000 base
  • At least one Master Compact
  • A load of Econet stuff including clock boxes, junction boxes, Master Econet modules
  • Copros including 6502 cheese wedges, and a 512 in external case
  • A couple of other cheese wedges: teletext adaptor, Prestel adaptor
  • Acorn Atom (no PSU, condition unknown)
  • An Electron and some Elk peripherals including Plus1 and Plus3
  • A pile of 5.25” and 3.5” floppy drives, some cased, some not
  • A couple of DLT drives and a load of tapes
  • A pile of MDFS wedges (system units, floppy units, some SCSI drive units, tape streamer)
  • A lot of EPROMs/ROMs, which will all be priced at $buggerall
  • Some Master 128 cartridges

Additionally, there’s a load of other bits including MIDI interfaces, Music 4000 keyboard, EMR stuff, EPROM programmers, other bits and bobs. There’s also some non-Acorn stuff I chucked in a box for sale.

Although I’ll have basic guide prices with me for some of it, I’m willing to entertain any sensible offers (including “job lots”) as this is all part of my house clearance. I will not sell privately in advance of the day. However, I’m expecting a bit of interest so you will need to get in early if you want a chance of “the good stuff”, I suspect.

EVERYTHING is sold-as-seen. Where there are *known* faults, they are noted on the item. There are no guarantees, what you see is what you get, but I’ve connected all the Beebs up to my CUB monitor here and noted down when things aren’t right. I won’t have a monitor with me but I understand other folks will have faultfinding/repair places there. It’s a jumble sale, treat it as such 😉

And please wish me luck that it’ll all fit in my little Fiat Punto 1.4, and doesn’t knacker the suspension. See you Saturday 😉

Edit: As of 12th May, everything has been sold. Please don’t waste my time or yours by asking me if stuff’s still available 😉 Ta!

IMG_1690Yesterday was Record Store Day 2014. Here’s an article I wrote for the Jumbo Records fanzine which was given out in Leeds – wonderfully put together by the gorgeous and talented Antonia Lines. It’s loosely based on an article I wrote in January last year entitled Changing The Record, in case you think you’ve got déja-vu….

I love physical media. There just isn’t enough of it nowadays, what with downloads and The Cloud and playlists an’ ting.

I’m an old bird really: my first single was a 7” copy of Heart Of Glass by Blondie which I persuaded my grandmother to buy for me. It came from our local WHSmith, back when they stocked music and weren’t taken over by cheap chocolate at the checkout. The sheer joy of the record, the artwork on the front and the notes on the back, the enigmatic shine of the grooves in the black platter which (if you were really clever) you could use to work out what song was what.

Then came the sheer talent of being able to get a needle in a track-break on the first go. You could totally skip tracks with that.

In the 1980s I’d listen to music on the radio and then go and find the record – I’ve got a fond memory of attempting to sing ‘The King Of Rock’n’Roll’ by Prefab Sprout in Woolworths while they tried to work out what it was (they did guess, but it took a few minutes of caterwauling by the pic’n’mix). I saved and saved so I could by a 12” copy of New Order’s classic Blue Monday – and if my schoolfriends had any records to sell, I was there with whatever readies I’d scraped together.

I loved physical records in the early 90s when I’d dig around on Thursday in Leeds Market, just after I’d got my pay-packet from my little weekend bar job. I’d buy albums purely because of the artwork on the cover and discovered some fantastic artists that way – both mainstream and people you’ve never heard of. Musicians like Duncan Mackay, bands like Can and Kraftwerk, early Genesis, Joan Armatrading – all remnants of someone’s old record collection being replaced by CDs.

Then there were the mid-90s: I’d make a pilgrimage to Jumbo to see ‘interesting stuff the staff found’ complete with a small sticker telling you what it was like – comments like ‘big farty bass and a synth line your mum will hate‘. That was brilliant – it’s how I discovered artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and labels such as FFRR. The local independents made a fortune out of me in my Uni days.

By the turn of the millennium I was living in London, but I’d still go up to the vast record stores of the West End such as Tower which was open until midnight every night. I’d come out of the pub absolutely plastered, go to the shop and buy a pile of CDs from the sale pile. The following morning was always a voyage of discovery, not least when the bank statement arrived. My partner at the time would roll her eyes at the carrier bags, and the one single obscure classical music CD bought to placate her.

Then came Record Store Day. Hooray! My favourite RSD acquisition from last year was the Dutch Uncles cover of Slave To The Rhythm, a great reinvention. Interesting remixes, fantastic covers, strange collaborations – it’s all there. But the thing is – it’s all there even when it’s not Record Store Day. Go find your independent store, dig around. Buy stuff! Listen! What’s the worst that could happen?

I now live back in Wakefield and we’ve got some great shops. I still accumulate CDs and vinyl, much to the amusement of my children. I sit in the conservatory, hold the gatefold, read the sleeve notes, look at the artwork and listen to the music – you just can’t do all that with a download.

I was interviewed a few weeks ago by a couple of journalism students from the University of Huddersfield, who were doing an assignment to make a short film on the subject of music photography.

Caution: contains jazz, and much arm-waving.

A rollercoaster of a year and, frankly, a bloody awful one. Major things happened this year in my life and although I’m not going into them publicly, it’s left me a shattered wreck of the person I was. 2014 doesn’t hold much promise either. I left my New Year’s Day entry for 2013 hoping friendships wouldn’t change and in actual fact nothing could have been further from reality.

So instead of going into it, here’s 12 music videos and a brief note why each one.

January


January’s choice happened at about 3am on 1st January 2013 in the aftermath of our (then annual) New Year’s Eve party, with a friend in a Freddie Mercury outfit dancing with a hoover.

February


I photographed Spizz Energi at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. Wasn’t too bad, but the reviewer was a bit confused as to why I’d shown up there.

March


Space singing Burn Down The School. They were being supported by a friend’s band and this one turned out to be a fantastic gig to photograph as well. Bern did a review with pics by moi.

April


I discovered Adam Buxton’s BUG and went to the National Media Museum for a lecture on the evolution of music video. This is one of the more brilliant ones.

May


One of the highlights of Live At Leeds 2013 for me was Darwin Deez. This video was actually also part of the BUG lecture but deserves to be here in its own right.

June


All hell breaks loose and I make some serious life decisions. This was playing on the dancefloor on my first night ‘out’.

July


Dutch Uncles performing Bellio. A highlight of Tramlines 2013. I spent a lot of time this Summer talking to Joe Sheerin of Leeds-List who tolerated me talking a lot of stuff at him. We sat sidestage and watched Dutch Uncles groove as it got colder on The Green.

August


By August, I was photographing festivals almost every weekend and gradually coming out of my shell. This one reminds me of Beacons 2013 – my first camping festival in years – not because John Grant was there but because it was playing in the car both to the festival and back from it.

September


The final festival of the year was Bingley Music Live. I ended up talking with Nile Rodgers backstage for a short while; I was in a bad place psychologically, and he helped. So it can be claimed that 1st September 2013 was the day Nile Rodgers saved my life.

October


The last time I went to a gig and ‘maled-up’ for it. I was a wreck. I tried though, I did honestly try and get through it, but it was very difficult.

November


Finally caught They Might Be Giants. Had fun. It took place on Transgender Day Of Remembrance, and I bought a purple band t-shirt.

December


A song from a friend’s band who don’t perform any more, and this was one of the last songs they wrote a few years ago. For some reason I latched onto it again in December, and danced to it in the kitchen on Christmas Eve. You should always dance in the kitchen – it’s law. If you watch the video carefully, you can see my head bobbing up and down in front of the stage – I was photographing it.

And there you have it. 12 videos, 12 months.

nothing_to_see_hereApparently here in the UK we’re due a heck of a storm over the next 36 hours, and all hell will break loose. Me, I’m old enough to remember Hurricane Charley hitting our east coast in August 1986 – I was camping at a place called Beadnall in Northumberland, and my enduring memory of that holiday was holding onto the tent frame hoping it wouldn’t fly away. Now that was a storm.

You might also be old enough to remember that storm which ‘ace’ BBC weatherman Michael Fish didn’t predict, as well.

For a while I’ve lusted after a GoPro – tiny little self-contained wide-angle HD video cameras which can be strapped to cars, bikes, helmets, all sorts of things. They’re the cameras used for programmes like Top Gear, or where they’re strapped to some bloke skydiving out of a plane to get a point-of-view film; fun stuff and with my impending projects involving music videos I could sort-of justify it.

The GoPro Hero 3HD though has got horrendous reviews: from heat issues to random reboots or even just resembling a very expensive brick (you just need to look at Amazon for a litany of woe), so I wasn’t going to fork out the thick end of £400 for the setup I’d like (including the waterproof case et al).

Anyway, a week ago I went to Focus On Imaging, the big pro-sumer photography show at Birmingham NEC. Among the stands exhibiting was a dealer who were selling the Jobo JIB4 action camera – essentially a GoPro clone – which piqued my curiosity. I spent a while discussing with the dealer and came away with one including waterproof case, a pile of mounts, extra battery booster, a remote control and a lens cloth for a penny shy of £200. Winner.

So what’s it like? Tiny and fun! It’ll do 50fps at 1080p PAL (and a higher framerate of 120fps at WXGA), 170-degree wide-angle, and on exploring the menu system I discovered it had a time-lapse feature which automatically welds sequential JPEGs together to output an MP4 movie: I can squish about an hour’s capture into just under two and a half minutes.

Experiment time! I’ve spent a couple of commutes from home to work (and back) tweaking but this morning I had the first day of decent weather across the M62. So then, here you go – Wrenthorpe to Salford in 4 minutes:

(Just in case you can’t see that, there’s a link to the YouTube video here)

I think I probably need to clamp it to the roof-rack in its waterproof case – that way I’m not having to wash the windscreen all the time; I don’t feel quite brave enough for that yet! More experiments to follow, no doubt…

There came a flurry of news just before bedtime last night that high-street chain HMV was going into administration. It’s been on the cards since at least 2007 and while it’s extremely unfortunate that mismanagement of the administration led to staff finding out via the media (accompanied by scuttlebutt and faux-sadness on Twitter) I can’t say I’m surprised in the slightest.

This morning there’s a lot of punditry flying around regarding HMV’s business model, competitors, the inevitable comparisons with online vendors (and HMV’s own failed foray into online sales some years ago), the links to piracy, MP3s, iTunes, and tons more. Yet however you look at it HMV’s business model is completely and utterly flawed: the chart CDs stocked are sold cheaper in bulk to Asda so margins are nonexistent, racks are full of ‘classic’ albums you can find chucked out in Oxfam, there’s very little (if any) stock of local music, and when you want something out-of-the-ordinary you’re bang out of luck unless you want to order it in and wait a week. Just like Jessops before them, they’re box-shifters with stock even Del Boy would find hard to pass on.

It hasn’t always been so. Contrast it with the mid-90s when HMV stocked dance vinyl and had entire racks of ‘interesting stuff the staff found’ complete with a small sticker telling you what it was like – comments like ‘big farty bass and a synth line your mum will hate‘. That was brilliant – it’s how I discovered artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and labels such as FFRR, but that disappeared at the turn of the century and I found other outlets.

(Exception to the rule: the last CD I bought from HMV was This Sporting Life by Skint & Demoralised. I bought it there because I knew one of the lads worked at the Wakefield shop and if anywhere would have a copy, they would…)

I’ll admit I’m a marginal case: I like physical media. I browse CDs, I play vinyl, I buy from small shops such as Crash and Jumbo, I order from independent online stores such as HTFR or Norman Records where possible, and I pester local record labels for CDs rather than downloads. I love exploring liner notes and artwork just as much as listening to the music. The local independent record shop in Cottingham made a fortune out of me in my Uni days, and when we lived in London my wife used to curse because I’d go to Tower Records (RIP), browse the bargain bins and return at 11:30pm with two carrier bags full of stuff I quite liked the look of. Controversially nowadays I also use Amazon – most commonly at music festivals and gigs where I’ll 1-click order a load of the support act’s CDs (well, when they’re not on the merch stand anyway) – but it’s still physical media. I guess I’m in a minority now; not ‘down with the kids’.

The folks who have the bargain-bin physical media philosophy bang-on are That’s Entertainment, which is where your Music Magpie CDs end up (it tickles me that they spotted an opportunity to have a pop at HMV in Manchester). There’s one in the Ridings Centre in Wakefield where I can spend a happy (but costly) hour digging and finding CDs I didn’t even know I wanted, sometimes at five for a fiver. They participated in a small way in Record Store Day last year and it’s somewhere even my kids with their limited pocket money can buy a computer game or a bit of music. Winner.

Will I miss HMV if it does completely disappear? Nah, I can’t even think of a company who might want to pick the chain up other than for the HMV.com domain name. Perhaps it’ll leave a void which can be filled once again by the small shops it killed in the late 80s and early 90s, and although I doubt Wakefield would provide enough business to support it it’d be nice to see a JAT or EGS return to Wakefield’s streets. While browsing Twitter I came across @charlottegore who hit the nail on the head in one sentence: “HMV are a company that wasted lots of money paying rent to keep unsold CDs and DVDs on public display in prime locations.”

No flowers.

Edit: There’s another perspective from Banquet Records which is well worth a read (thanks Martin for pointing me to that).

I’ve started podcasting the local music scene again for Wakefield Music Collective. This is Podcast #6 (I suppose it’s a season-2 opener but I don’t know when it’ll end up on hiatus again) and is probably worth a listen although I’m using a new vocal mic (a Yeti Blue) which is a bit harsh. You can subscribe using iTunes as well as grabbing the MP3 directly from themusiccollective.co.uk.

I’m also involved in Clarence Music Festival again this year and applications are open for bands to put themselves forward to play. Anything goes so it’s worth a shot and this is the first year you can apply online (as opposed to the past 21 years where you had to put in a promo pack by post). Find out more here.

I feel a tiny bit sorry for Jessops after the announcement they’d gone into administration, but surprised it’s taken this long for it to happen. Jessops is (was?) a bit like PC World where you went in an emergency and paid the ‘now’ tax, but as my good friend Mike Hughes points out, why do that when you can get it delivered the next morning from an online retailer for substantially less dosh?

I’ve bought from Jessops in the past: my Canon 5D Mark II came from them when they were in very short supply and (for some reason) the shop in Leeds had two in-stock where everyone else was quoting several weeks’ lead time; I also vaguely recall reasonable experiences buying an EOS 30D from them in an emergency when my 10D packed up a few days before travelling: the Leeds shop staff didn’t mind me taking the body outside and doing a CCD dirt check on it so I could get the cleanest unit after it turned out the one I bought was mucky. More recently the Wakefield shop (sadly now an empty unit) was staffed by a couple of people who knew what they were on about, so it was occasionally nice to pop in for a chinwag: shades of its former life as local independent Richards’ Cameras.

They were purely box-shifters however, and their long-term returns and repair process sucked golf balls through pipette tubing. Long-time readers of this blog will probably recall the fun I had when my 5D Mark II developed hot pixels and they lost the repair; a few months ago when I totalled a flashgun my heart sank when I found out that MoreThan wanted to send it to Jessops to be fixed; true to form it took three months for it to be returned. I should really blog about the whole insurance experience but that’s a story for another day…

I digress. We don’t have an independent now in Wakefield so I can’t shop locally, however here’s where I get my stuff from:

For film, chemicals, and darkroom bits and bobs I first try Dale Photographic in Leeds. They’re upstairs in the Merrion Centre, our last local bastion of independence, their secondhand shelf is occasionally good for a prod around (although they still haven’t found me a Bronica or Mamiya 6×6 body, and they’re more Nikon than Canon). Prices for digital kit are usually more expensive than online but they can be good for a ‘need it now’ purchase.

If the chemicals or film aren’t available from Dale, I’ll go try RK Photographic or First Call Photographic on t’interwebs. Although in the latter case the postage can be quite punitive if you only order a few little bits, they’re good for niche things such as C41 chemicals or empty film cans for bulk purchasing.

For camera bodies and things I could really do with taking back in person if they don’t work or develop a soon-after-purchase fault, I go to Calumet Photographic (our nearest branch is in Manchester). I’ve had splendid experiences with the staff there helping me with bits, chasing around to see if they can obtain me something that’s in short supply, or just having a chat when I saw Lynese (who runs the Twitter feed) at events. They also do ‘open days’ where you can go play with kit and talk to specialists in that particular area.

Finally, if I’m buying lenses and I know what I want (because obviously I’ll have tested it out with a week’s rental from Lenses4Hire), I’ll just go to Amazon. I think I found Bristol Cameras this way, and obtained things like my 17-35mm f/2.8 L-series glass via there. Check the feedback and returns policy though!

While Jessops going under isn’t surprising and their box-shifter role was usurped by other companies who could do it cheaper and better, it will still leave me without a place to go in an emergency if I’m stuck in somewhere without a ‘real’ camera shop because they had retail units everywhere. That bit’s tedious, at least.

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