Saturday, April 27, 2013

All the news that's fit to print(?)

Not that many years ago someone described the Internet as a sea of information that was ankle deep.
Even further back in time I have quite vivid memories of being taught critical thinking by my English teacher in my final year of high school. He taught me to seek out facts even if they weren't the truth that I was looking for.
News and current affairs are easy to come by online. But quality is something that is sadly lacking. Any whack job can publish whatever they want (I certainly am here!) and often people simply lap it up.
Being disillusioned with much of the media I started to look far and wide to see if I could find news, current affairs and opinion pieces that were actually worth reading. Here are the results of my search so far. Please remember that the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. Feel free to engage, make suggestions and disagree.
First of all; Twitter. What I've found is that if you're prepared to spend time working out whose postings you want to see here then it is an extremely effective source of almost instant information. Personally I've dumped nearly all of the mainstream media feeds for the simple reason that it's too much, too often and too late. I get my technology news through Wired, Gizmodo and the Australian Financial Review. AFR doubles up nicely for almost all other news that's worth knowing about. I also get a fair bit of coverage from CyclingNews. Other than that I follow a few bloggers, musicians and friends who are interesting and not just tweeting every single thought. The other really good one to follow here is the ACT Traffic Police. While they seem to have the work experience kid doing the actual tweets when the spelling and grammar are considered, the content is very quick and useful.
I do have both the ABC and SBS news apps installed on my phone (and their websites and Twitter feeds linked) but they are average at best. If you were to believe the SBS World News app in particular then all that happens overnight is soccer. And the ABC latest news section can be hours, if not days old. Don't bother with these. I haven't found a news app that's worthwhile yet. But then I haven't paid for any either.
Zite and Prismatic are online services that allow you to setup a list of your interests and then they feed you stories based on these. Zite in particular "learns" and remembers what you've read (and liked) to personalise the feed. Both are free and if you are happy to spend 5 minutes registering and choosing some interests then they're pretty good. Prismatic will also send you a daily or weekly email digest of articles – not a bad starting point or for reading on the bus. Zite's only downfall that I can see is that it is only an app and not available via the web. For crusty old timers like me that's a distinct disadvantage. How long can it be before there is a good app emulator for PC/Mac? For what it's worth, my main interest areas in these two are Gadgets, Guitars, Education, LEGO, Star Wars, Motorcycles, Science & Technology and Cycling. I'm not using them for mainstream news at this point.
Google had a fantastic service called iGoogle. Basically it was a blank canvas webpage that you could add widgets to – widgets that dragged information from all over the web about topics you chose. Sort of like Zite for the web. I used it all the time and it was my homepage for years. But, while it still exists Google is shutting it down soon. Boooooo!
Of course I've tried the major newspapers online offerings (I object to purchasing a hard copy these days even if I do put it into the recycling). And, in my opinion there isn't a mainstream daily newspaper worth paying for – the news is out of date by the time you get it. So unless you're reading for entertainment or the crossword it's a waste of time.
Online most of our papers are advertising vehicles and I find that annoying as well. If I paid would the ads go away?? I'll find out.
There is a bit of an exception here that I've only recently discovered. The Australian Financial Review. For years I was under the assumption that it was dedicated purely to business news and I therefore ignored it. Oh wow, how wrong I was! It's a great font of information on a wide range of topics. The website is very good and I've already mentioned their quality Twitter feed. It's not a bad read in hard copy either but at $3.30 a day it doesn't give me everything I need. My only gripe is that many of their online headlines link to a one sentence article – you have to be a subscriber to read further. For $60 a month you get both hard copy and online versions which isn't bad I guess. I'm still not sold on paying for my news online but I recognise that it costs money to provide a service and that's where subsribers and advertisers come in.
Another new source of online information is . Its tagline is, "academic rigour, journalistic flair" and I think it delivers this quite well. It's a site founded by four of our major universities and the CSIRO. Their blurb states that, "The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public". I've found the articles to be well written and balanced. You wouldn't go there for breaking news, rather for in-depth and well researched opinion and facts.
So there, you go; a few options and things to try out.
But don't believe everything you read...
And it wouldn't be my blog without a couple of songs to finish off. I'm sure you can work out why I've chosen these...
Rollins Band – Liar -
Billy Bragg – Don't Buy The Sun -
Midnight Oil – Read About It -
Thanks for reading.
DJ Rob

Friday, April 26, 2013

Song of the Week #243

My brain hurts.
I've spent the majority of this work reading, researching and preparing an assignment for the university course I'm doing. And whilst the subject matter has been extremely interesting, putting together a narrated online lecture has been tedious. I know I can teach. I would've been so much happier to knock out a few thousand words. But, it seems that this is the brave new world of online post-graduate study. I'm glad this is my last unit – the whole experience hasn't been all that satisfactory.
And I know I'm getting to be a bit of a broken record on the subject, but if you're thinking of coming along to one of our Midnight Oil shows (18 and 25 May) then get your skates on and buy a ticket. You can get details and see the shameless self-promotion photo here. If you don't understand why the t-shirts say what they do then click here.
There were a couple of big events in our house this week. First up was Angus' birthday. He's 15. He's made the most of his pay increment at work by being there pretty much all week! Of course ANZAC Day was on Thursday. Zoë went to the Dawn Service and took ages in the shower afterwards thawing out as it was –2 degrees here in Canberra! ANZAC Day is something I've written about before. It's also doubly important to me as it is the anniversary of the death of one of my Grandfathers. My favourite thing this ANZAC Day was the photos of my good friends Laff and LIz taking their newborn daughter to her first ANZAC Day service. He's a returned serviceman so he and his wife deserve our thanks.
During the week I discovered a website called "MyJam". Essentially it's a music streaming site. But unlike something like Spotify, it's free. You sign up, select your fave song of the moment and MyJam then shares that song with anyone interested because the either follow you or a tune they like is related somehow. It's pretty cool and I've been turned on to some very cool tracks as a result.
First up is this one by Chris Bathgate. Wikipedia reveals that he is from Michigan and is an "indie-folks singer-songwriter". I like the fact that he started out in Heavy Metal bands before returning to folk music. I can relate.
Chris Bathgate – Yes I'm Cold -
This next one is an absolute killer. From Hank Williams. But listen carefully to the tune in the verse. Can anyone say. "Bill Haley and the Comets"? This was 8 years before Rock Around The Clock.
Hank Williams – Move It On Over -
Neko Case is a Canadian singer who you may have heard singing in the band "The New Pornographers". This track was written by John Mellencamp and is slated to appear in a new Stephen King film called "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County". Hopefully the film will be better than another that had an awesome soundtrack – AC/DC's "Who Made Who" was made for the film "Maximum Overdrive".
Neko Case – That's Who I Am -
Punk rock is mainly the realm of white boys and girls. There are a few notable exceptions like Bad Brains and of course the Ska influence is a veritable melting pot. The next band were out of Detroit in the 70's. This song was one that came around on MyJam and that made my ears prick up. I kinda like the fact that Death were an R&B band who changed styles after seeing Alice Cooper play.
Death – Views / Can You Give Me A Thrill -
Alice Cooper – Under My Wheels -
You may wonder what song I put up to get these recommendations. Well, it was Johnny Cash's version of "I Won't Back Down". It pretty much all flowed from there through Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Ron Sexsmith and Tom Petty. But there were some fairly left field recommendations and that's what I really like.
Here's a new(ish) one from Ron Sexsmith – he's very quickly becoming of one my favourite singers. His songs are melancholy but as he says in an interview in March's "Uncut" magazine, "there is comfort in a sad song". See what you think...
Ron Sexsmith – Love Shines -
But to finish, the opening theme to my uni presentation. I hope it gets me top marks!
The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue -
See you all next time on the Muppet Show.
DJ Rob

Friday, April 19, 2013

Song of the Week #242

A week is a long time in rock 'n' roll. Especially when an order arrives, it's your birthday AND you visit the second hand shop. Wow, I'm maxxed out with awesome stuff to listen to. Lucky that it is school holidays!
Amazon delivered the new Stryper and Suicidal Tendencies albums and we've spoken about those already. Both are excellent and for fans of either band I doubt that there would be any disappointment at all. ST especially take it to the streets after 13 years without a studio album. The third CD delivered was from New York metal kings, Anthrax. This time around they've put out an EP named "Anthems". It's a few cover versions of songs that influenced them. You get re-workings of tracks from bands like AC/DC, Boston, Rush, Journey and Thin Lizzy. They are pretty faithful to the originals but there is a great level of energy evident on the disc and these are great driving tunes.

Anthrax – Keep On Runnin' (Journey cover) -
Yep, it was my birthday yesterday. 42. That's my age as well as the meaning of life as you all are aware I'm sure. I had a great day with my family. My Dad was here as well which was very special. Zoë proved herself an absolute legend, giving me the new picture disc vinyl version of the classic Iron Maiden album, "Live After Death". Now I have it on vinyl, original CD, re-issue CD and DVD. It's probably time to admit a level of obsession with this two disc opus and get copies of the original vinyl and cassette!! In terms of live albums there's not much that compares.
Iron Maiden – Two Minutes To Midnight (live) -
If you've read my weekly ramblings more than once you'll realise that I really like guitars, books and music. So having my Dad to visit meant that I had time to bounce ideas off him in person rather than via email. As such a visit to Beyond Q at Curtin was in order. They have an amazing selection of second hand books (in an arrangement that means you can actually find things) as well as quite a few crates of records. I raked around and came away with two Southside Johnny LPs, one by Tom Petty (thinking of you Garry) and one I'd been looking out for by John Fogerty.
Tom Petty – Here Comes My Girl -
Among my other birthday gifts was a magazine from DJ Al-Ee-Sun called "Treadlie". It's about bikes (there's a shock). But not racing bikes. Not mountain bikes. And certainly not time trial bikes. It's about bikes that you ride to the shops, or commute on, or just ride for pleasure. There are loads of beautiful single speed, fixed and commuter bikes in there that are as much works of art as they are modes of transport. Riding to the coffee shop on one of these looks like a lot of fun. I'm sure there's enough room in the garage...
My good mate Dave took some time out this week to start writing a book. By my reckoning he spent a lot of time writing on his blog as well so I hope that the book got a look in! I know it's not going to be this kind of book but I like the song anyway...
The Beatles – Paperback Writer -
I'm a Star Wars fan. I've attempted to like Star Trek as well but with very limited success. I read recently that Dark Horse Comics had a new series of Star Wars comics coming out set in the time period between Episodes IV and V. Now, given that those are the best two films I thought that the comics would need to be pretty good to satisfy rabid fans the world over. After comic #1 selling out, and the reprint selling out too I finally managed to get my hands on print #3 or #4 this week. Not being a comic fan I don't have much to base my opinion on but I liked it a lot. I'm sucked in and I want to know what happens next. The artwork is pretty good too. I'll be back for more.
My Dad played me a CD when he was here of a duo made up of a guitarist and a guy on Northumbrian pipes. After the first tune I was very, very keen to hear more. It was reminiscent of Marillion (the quieter stuff) and the production was great too. So I shot an email off to the contact on the CD to see if I could buy a copy. I have a real thing about NOT copying CDs of local or small time artists. Well the reply came back short and sharp..."we don't have any CDs at present". That was it. No other information, no "thanks for your interest", no nothing. That mildly cheeses me off. I remember DJ SABMcTin emailing people in Peru and advising them how to get our CD. So, I won't name the band in question. But I will play some Marillion instead.
Marillion – Go (live) -
I wonder how AC/DC feel...I spotted their debut album for sale in the Post Office today! I guess it's all money in the end. It's kind of amazing the range of stuff you can buy in there though. Books, phones, gardening implements, weather stations! I did listen to this AC/DC track in the car today though. It's from an album that was fairly huge but isn't admired much by the critics. Personally I love it. It comes from a time where the band weren't afraid to add a little extra drive to their guitars. Lately the guitar sounds are cleaner and cleaner – with just more volume as opposed to drive. This is a great track and a fun video. There was a really cool long form video featuring a few songs from this album – I remember getting it on VHS and laughing along with some rocking tunes.
AC/DC – Fly On The Wall -
I'll be writing later in the week on the blog about my ongoing battle to find decent news and current affairs coverage both online and in print. Feel free to let me know if there are any particular sites / feeds / apps / papers that you thing deserve mention for being good. I had also planned to explain my exasperation with our elected representatives using education as a political football, but really, I'm too angry just now. I'll let my ideas simmer.

And on that note it's time to sign off. I was going to play the original version of this next tune but I stumbled across this version and I can't resist. Laughing is so much better than being grumpy (sometimes)!
Weird Al Yankovic – I Want A New Duck -
DJ Rob

Friday, April 12, 2013

Song of the Week #241

"Time, time, time, see what's become of me..."; a great lyric and fitting really as the run to the end of term has been more and more hectic. But we've all made it there one way or another. That is with the exception of my very good mate H who has been struck down with a lurgy. Here's a song to raise his spirits and hopefully break his fever.

Joe Cocker – Feelin' Alright -

With daylight saving ending here in Canberra I've still needed my bike lights in the morning but it is light by the time I get home. There's something truly awesome about riding alone through the fog as the sun creeps out making the back roads feel like part of an eerie science fiction film. You know that bit in Star Wars where the mist clears and Han Solo works out that they're not really parked on an asteroid? Well that's how it was (minus the Wookie) the other morning. And then there's the magnificent view over Canberra from the top of the Arboretum climb as the city emerges from the foggy blanket. I'm still averaging just over 300km a week and with holidays here I'm planning on enjoying a sleep in and some riding in the sun!

Cat Stevens – Morning Has Broken (live) -

Ages ago Angus saved up and bought a new iPod. He wanted one that did more and I was proud that he was able to organise to save. But what this meant was that his old one needed a home. So, a while later I deleted the million and one games from it and loaded it up with a huge selection of great tunes. Then I stuck it in the car and left it on shuffle. Quite often this means pure gold in terms of what comes around to listen to. It's random and there's a lot of tunes on there so you never get bored. This one came up yesterday and I was pretty chuffed that Zoe knew all the words! And there I was thinking that she was totally addicted to Glee, One Direction and Taylor Swift!

Johnny Cash – Delia's Gone -

I first heard that song on an excellent Johnny Cash compilation called "Murder". You guessed it...all the songs are about murder. There are other volumes too ("God" and "Love") but "Murder" is the bomb.

The other song that really made me tap my foot (which isn't great if you're driving I guess) was this one. What a hoot!

Spin Doctors – Jimmy Olsen's Blues -

The whole Spin Doctors album is a real treat if you're a fan of tasty guitar work. I wonder what happened to those guys...

So, Margaret Thatcher passed away. My personal view is that death is a time to show some respect or at the least to pass no comment no matter who it is. There were quite a few distasteful displays from a range of people online and in the media. Putting an interesting spin on the event was Billy Bragg who had, in the past spoken and been involved in opposing Thatcher. I watched an interview with Billy Bragg who related that Maggie made him a Socialist. You can watch the whole thing here if you like – it's quite interesting. There's no doubt that Thatcher is an important person in both the history of Britain and of the World but personally I'm glad that we had emigrated before she took power. If you look back you'll see that in the end her own party didn't want her and her policies.

What were Thatcher's legacies? Well I could go on about it but this probably isn't the place. Here's a link to a collection of good articles collected by The Guardian.

Billy Bragg – Thatcherites -

The Young Ones – Cash -

It almost wouldn't be an episode of Song of the Week without a reference to cheesy heavy metal. This one is in from DJ McG...a teutonic mix of AC/DC, Judas Priest and the Blue Oyster Bar fashion club...and it's awesome!!

Accept – Balls To The Wall -

Heavy Metal has always had a bad rap. Whether it was Tipper Gore raging against the hedonism of Motley Crue or legions of parents cringing as Marilyn Manson took shock rock to extremes it has never been easy for the fans. DJ DJ alerted me to this article which asks, among other things, that if murder, disembowelment and blood are verboten in metal then why is the same standard not applied to opera? Of course, the other issue which gets me is that it is easier to decipher Tom Araya's (from Slayer) singing than a lot of operatic works!

I think if I had to choose a few lines to relate how I feel at this point in time then much of this next song is just perfect. In my case I drive the hard bargain with myself. Don't worry though, I'm working on sorting that out. Anyway, this is a truly beautiful song; the voice, the guitars, the melody and the shuffle of the percussion is exquisite.

Ron Sexsmith – Hard Bargain -

And to finish off...let's go back to the start.

The Bangles – Hazy Shade of Winter (live 2011) -
DJ Rob
(don't forget to keep an eye out here on the blog – with holidays I usually have more to say and music to play!)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Song of the Week #240

Hi everyone,
Apologies for the lateness of this episode and the brevity as well. There's been a lot going on in WoozleLand.
I need to make you aware of a band I've only just come across. I'm 99% sure that their image is a huge joke. But regardless of their questionable lyrics the music is fabulous. I described it during the week to a friend as a cross between Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate and the Dr Who theme song. Maybe a bit of Iron Butterfly in there too. The band's outrageous bio and the fact that none of them will reveal their true identities just firms my opinion that it's a huge PR job.
Ghost BC – Genesis -
Just to counter Ghost's lyrical stance, you might be interested in some extended thoughts that I put down about the Christian Heavy Metal band, Stryper. They are here.
Stryper have a new album and it's pretty good. In fact it's great. They always rock hard and are great musicians. So are this next band, in a very different way. Releasing their first studio album in thirteen years are the seminal skate-punk band Suicidal Tendencies. Don't let the name put you off, they're not encouraging self harm, in fact usually the complete opposite. Try this excellent track from the new LP. It rocks, it grooves and it certainly makes me tap my foot.
Suicidal Tendencies – Shake It Out -
Sometimes songs just stick in my head for days. This one did that this week. I tried hard to get it to move on but on my Thursday and Friday cycling efforts it seemed like my mind was stuck on repeat. Lucky it's a good song I guess. Any song that uses the name of the writer's home town is cool, but when you can manage to fit "Te Awamutu" into the lyrics you must be special...
Crowded House – Mean To Me -
Sad news this week with Chris Bailey from The Angels passing away. He was the bass player for six of their albums.
The Angels – Marseilles -
Congrats to Andy and his band EXP for successful gigs at the Royal Easter Show – I've seen some footage and this is a great band!
Just before I close, a huge welcome to the wordl to William James Pollock. In October 2011 we went to Jacqui and Will's wedding and now they've added to their family with a beautiful baby boy. I hope that you all get plenty of sleep and have great lives together. This is a song that, as the Best Man, I quoted at DJ Duck and MC FatBoy's wedding. It seems very appropriate now as well. A lot might go on in life but really, happiness boils down to one simple thing...
The Beatles – All You Need Is Love -
Thanks for reading and listening.
DJ Rob

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood...

In 1987 I was in Year 11 at school. Not long before that I'd become a devotee of hard rock and heavy metal music. There's nothing there surprising for an adolescent male growing up in the country.
At the start I was fuelled by a steady diet of as much AC/DC as I could get my hands on. This was pre-internet folks so this meant saving pennies, recording tracks from the local community radio station and taping LPs from school friends. As a result I know every album from High Voltage through to Blow Up Your Video inside out. They're all fantastic and not as similar as music reviewers might lead you to believe.
From my love of AC/DC came exposure to bands such as Motley Crue, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Bon Jovi, WASP and Queen. It wasn't long before I began to amass a rather awesome collection of copied cassettes and a few prized LPs. One of my most cherished items to this day is the box set of Bon Scott era AC/DC LPs that I got from my Mum at Christmas 1987 – she understood.
But we're not here to talk about AC/DC or any of the aforementioned rock legends. I want to discuss Stryper.
It's no secret that Stryper were ground breaking and quite controversial back in the day. A heavy metal band, dressed in yellow and black spandex, with long hair, with an overt Christian message!? There were conservative religious nutters the world over calling the band everything under the sun. This was at the time when the PMRC led by Tipper Gore were on a mission to send all metal bands and their studded codpieces to hell, or at least somewhere that would mean they would never be heard from again. But none of that mattered to me. You see, whilst I respect their message and every now and then it gives me pause for thought, Stryper is all about the music. They could play, they could sing and they were LOUD.
I was pretty lucky in that Stryper's albums from 1985 (Soldiers Under Command) and 1986 (To Hell With The Devil) were available in Australia on vinyl. On the same label as Bananarama! I had cassette copies from a friend in one of my classes who was a big fan via his church. What he also gave me was a copy of their original EP (The Yellow & Black Attack). Later on this EP was remixed and repackaged with two extra songs but the original mix is much more raw. I managed to score a really nice copy via eBay a couple of years ago.
Plenty of my metal loving contemporaries scoffed at Stryper but I really didn't care. I drew their logo on my bag and school folders beside all the other bands. A logo was important back then! Also, if Iron Maiden could quote the Bible (in Number of The Beast) then what did it matter if Stryper named themselves after a verse (Isaiah 53:5)?
Stryper has two guitarists that play lead and rhythm. They are very much cut from the same musical cloth as Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest in those terms. Robert Sweet is an extremely energetic and flamboyant drummer who fitted in well with contemporaries such as Alex Van Halen and Tommy Lee. And then there was the singing...up high, in tune, with harmonies and very much to the fore. The ballads usually got skipped but then I always did the same with Aerosmith!
Like most bands, Stryper waxed and waned – and then disappeared after 1990 for a few years. They returned in 2005 with the album Reborn. It's not bad, but not great. Following that in 2009 was "Murder By Pride" which was much stronger musically. And then it gets a bit weird. In 2011 they released "The Covering" which is an album of heavy metal and classic rock cover versions. I loved it but always saw it as a bit of fun between their original output. Certainly it showed that they loved all the bands I did – Judas Priest, Dio, Iron Maiden. And then there's the album "Second Coming" which was released in March this's re-recordings of a whole lot of their old songs. The album sounds great, it's blasting in the headphones as I type, but I'm perplexed at why they bothered. The original versions still hold up really well. Perhaps the band thought that the whole re-mastering fad was a joke and took it one step further. All I can hope is that there is a whole original album coming soon.
I think that apart from a Greatest Hits album, I've got everything they've released. That includes their re-release of original demo versions from before the band was called Stryper (they were the Roxx Regime). Yep, I'm a big fan.
Stryper could release an instrumental album and I'd happily buy it. They could sing about the merits of indoor plumbing, fast women or worshipping the dark lord and I really wouldn't care. I put their albums on to hear musicianship, melody and energy. You should too.
Here's a bit of a primer:
Stryper – Loud n' Clear (1984) -
Stryper – Soldiers Under Command (1985) -
Stryper – Calling On You (1986) -

Stryper – Always There For You (1988) -
Stryper – Two Time Woman (1990) -
Stryper – Reborn (2005) -
Stryper – Four Leaf Clover (2009) -
Stryper – Heaven & Hell (2011 – Dio cover) -
Stryper – Bleeding From The Inside Out (2013) -
Stryper live – To Hell With The Devil -
Rock on,
DJ Rob