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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Snaps From The Isle Of Wight

We spent last week on holiday in the Isle Of Wight, a place we'd never visited before, but choose for the range of things to do and the excitement for Elis of taking the car on a boat. We stayed down on the south eastern side of the island in a holiday home in the town of Shanklin.

Well, we caught the weather lovely, it was sunny pretty much most of the time, although a couple of days were hampered by a cold wind. I had a thoroughly wonderful time and really enjoyed the location. There were some lovely sea side locations with interesting cliffs and views, and the odd touch of the run down sea side town that I love so much. Anyway, rather than bore you with words about it, I thought I'd share some snaps (as per usual).

First up, we visited Shanklin Chine, a lovely little valley all fenced in that you have to pay to enter. We had a nice walk down the picturesque gorge and enjoy a nice home-made soup at the heritage centre at the end of it. Going from the top entrance, you make your way down to the seafront at Shanklin, with its lovely views of the stratified cliffs and the English Channel. Down the Esplanade is the adventure golf and arcades. I managed to get a hole in one on the last hole and set off the alarm, winning a free round which was a big buzz, Elis enjoyed himself in the arcade.

The waterfall at Shanklin Chine

Elsi enjoys the view at Shanklin Chine

Elderly couple rest whilst big ships go...

Beach huts and sea at Shanklin

Light and clouds on sea side buildings

Beach huts on Shanklin sea front

We spent one enjoyable day at Blackgang Chine, an adventure park about 10 miles down the coast from Shanklin. Elis loved it, and I had a lot of fun as well. The place was a strange mix of mechanical displays, cowboys, pixies, dinosaurs and pirates. We didn't quite get time to do the whole park, but if you're in that neck of the woods, I'd recommend it.

Family portrait in the hall of mirrors at Blackgang Chine

Dinosaur attacks Elis at Blackgang Chine

Elis faces a monster in Rumpus Mansion at Blackgang Chine

The Mouth Of Hell at Blackgang Chine

Elis inside the Mouth Of Hell at Blackgang Chine

We did a lot of trips to attractions whilst on holiday, rather than go and sit on the beach, which we can do here at any time. Other highlights included Dinosaur Isle at Sandown. The shot from inside the museum features the display which had a nice Victorian print of dinosaurs. I used to love those old prints and sea faring maps with strange beasties (here be monsters) as a child and this reminded me of them. The photo is to remind me to search out more of those old etchings. Lastly we visited the model village at Godshill. The last shot is a strange little model boot that you can sit your children on to take photos at the model village. It's supposed to be Mother Hubbard's shoe, but look closely through the window, and for some reason you can see a skeleton.

Display at the Dinosaur Isle at Sandown

Elis, my camera and a skeleton inside old mother Hubbard's show at Godshill Model Village

Posted by Dio Bach at 19:06 | 1 comments | links to this post
Sunday, May 25, 2008

In Praise Of Jericho

Jericho Series 1Never one to be up to date with great TV, I've been having a bit of a catch up the last few months on some TV series that I'd heard good stuff about. I have to say I'm not a fan of the US style drama series, but that's a whole other post that I'm not going to waffle on about now. That said, I recently watched the entire first seasons of Heroes (really good), Dexter (superb) and after seeing the adverts on the TV for the DVD release recently, I plumped for season 1 of Jericho.

I don't really follow a lot of stuff about TV, and I don't follow the behind the scenes news either. In the back of my mind I recalled people I knew who were into US TV had recommended it, and I also vaguely remember hearing critics praise it in the past. Seeing the advert on TV really got me interested and got the discs on my rental list. It took a few weeks to work my way through, and I just finished the first season tonight, and have to say its been one of the most intense TV shows I've enjoyed for a long time. It was absolutely mesmerising.

As the show neared its end on my DVD player, I took a look around for the second series, only to find the show had been cancelled twice, first after the end of series one, then again after 7 episodes of the second season. It was cancelled due to lack of viewers, and in a way for me, it's a good thing it has now finished. One of the biggest things that wind me up about US shows is their money-spinning, open ended nature. Had Jericho carried on to seasons 4,5 and so on, I'm sure I would have soon tired of it. I was also disappointed to read the second season was a bit disappointing as well, but hey - I'm still going to seek it out just because the first one was so damn good.

Funnily enough today looking at stuff about the cancellation, I visited the Nuts Online protest site set up by the fans to try and get CBS to invest in more episodes of the show. I recall visiting it when it was first set up, but I can't recall why (boingboing post maybe?) At the time it was all meaningless and I knew nothing about the show behind the protest, but now I can see why so many fans took the time to donate and try and get more episodes. I'm pretty certain I thought the level of protest and action of sending nuts was a bit OTT at the time, but there you go, boots on the other foot now.

So, if you've not caught it or know anything about it, the show follows the residents of a small town in Kansas called Jericho, and how they survive in the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the US. The situations and events get progressively darker and desperate as the series progresses, and there's all sorts of great plots going on around who set of the bombs, and the secret service agent who's involved in it and in Jericho.

The show focused on both the best and worst of human nature, which is probably why it worked so well. It had a great balance of warm small town characters and people you generally want to see do well and follow their stories, set against a grim struggle for survival and a real upheaval in the way lives of the characters. It's sort of like Northern Exposure meets Threads in some ways, very gritty with some heart stopping action and suspense. Seriously, every episode just seemed to get more impressive and intense than the last. I can't recall having been so enthralled by show since the original mini-series of V was on back in the 80s.

Unfortunately, at the end of the first season things were not closed as I had hoped for, and given the cliffhanging nature of the series, I can see why the original protests were sparked off. The end did feel a bit rushed and smacked of Deus Ex Machina, but still, it was pretty explosive and tense none the less. It was also extremely emotional, a real tear-jerking, nut-kicker of an ending.

It's a shame there's not more stuff like this out there, if you haven't seen it then it gets a top recommendation from me. I'm looking forward to seeing the next season even if it turns out to be disappointing. I hope they manage to close a number of the dangling story threads that are still unresolved, but I think if it got into a Lost / X Files sort of never-ending story ramble it wouldn't have that special something it has now in this very short form. Great TV, really, really super stuff, check it out if you haven't already.

Posted by Dio Bach at 23:11 | 1 comments | links to this post
Thursday, May 15, 2008

Times They Have A Changed - A New Old 4 Track

Well, I mentioned in the last post I might pick up a 4 track, and I went and did just that this week. Thanks Joe for the offer of a Tascam Portastudio, but I had my heart set on replacing my old recorder.

My old deck was a Fostex XR-3. I remember when I bought it back in 1997 it was the most expensive things I'd ever bought, weighing in at a hefty £250. I was working at Tesco at the time for not much money, so I spent a long while paying that one back. Anyway, a couple of years ago I put it up on eBay and sold it for about £70, with the intention of buying one back in the future.

This week I spotted a newer Fostex 4 track of the same family, but a slightly newer model with some better specs. It's a Fostex X-24, and I picked it up for the princely sum of £12. Yup, £12.

It seems the digital age has rendered the old analogue recording methods all but obsolete on the home recording front. Personally I like the sound of my old tapes, they have a warmth about them that digital recordings just don't have, so that's why I've been keen to pick one back up. It also means I can play my old master tapes again should I want to borrow something from them, as the old Fostex played the tape back at 2x speed to improve quality, and this one does the same.

It made me smile, paying so little for it now, and thinking back to how broke I was when I bought the first one. It never ceases to amaze me how things move on in prices. But I was in for a shock today when I saw how much blank tapes cost. I sort of remember hearing a few years back that most places had stopped selling blank cassettes, without really thinking much about it. So today I start looking for some high end metal cassettes, as they are recommended for the Fostex as it puts a lot of demand on them. To cut a long story short, they don't make them anymore.

I did some searching, and now the only place you can pick up metal tapes seems to be eBay. And they're not going cheap either, there's some high prices on them, £5 - £15 each depending on the make and length. There's got to be some irony there, the tapes are now more expensive than the 4 track. I'd just assumed that tapes were still being made, and good audio stockists would still carry the high end audio tapes. How wrong I was.

I eventually found some suitable Sony metal tapes, and having used them in the past decided to pick up a few. I've no plans to do anything in the near future, but if the medium is dying out, I thought the prices would only get more expensive as time goes on. Still, for that warm and fuzzy lo-fi sound I love so much, they're worth every penny and an investment for the future. I think I will be building a little stockpile for when I get my arse in gear, book those guitar lessons and get recording again.

Posted by Dio Bach at 22:59 | 3 comments | links to this post

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