Category: general

Foolish Games

Over a year ago now, I was in a band that got together for a gig in Paris which was a line-up of colleagues from work. I have been thinking about our vocalist recently, since she’s from Tunisia and has been very active on social networks following the revolution and helping people connect as regular digital communications were hampered.

This is a track from a time before that… a little bit of nostalgia for me recorded at rehearsal – the first run-through of the Jewel track Foolish Games for which I played the piano. The song itself is a story of unbalanced love, and the single was a big success which was nominated for best pop female vocal at the Grammy awards in 1998.

It was a wonderful moment of musical complicity – it starts off a little weak and sometimes slightly out of time, but somewhere in the middle it all comes together quite beautifully. Nothing like music to take you away from the anguish of existence and just let yourself relax for a few precious moments. Funny how this first run through was never matched afterwards, even though it has a couple of rough edges. Click the title or the “play” icon to hear it.

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V Special Club & Friends
Originally uploaded by simon_music

Why I Won’t Read Your Blog

Expose Your Blog

I surf around quite a lot of blogs, thanks mainly to blog exchanges like Expose Your Blog which are like StumbleUpon but based only on blogs, and have the added bonus of gaining you reciprocal traffic. I used to surf on other exchanges too, but they are all losing traffic and are poorly maintained. Expose Your Blog is relatively new and quite a small but vibrant community of those enthusiasts of personal blogging that haven’t defected to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others.

I thought I’d share a few reasons why I might be put off by blogs, and tune out if I land on them again. If you can think of anything else, I’d be pleased to hear it in the comments. Feel free to share your pet peeves too :).

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Book Meme


I’ve seen this doing the rounds : “The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.” In fact the list is from The Guardian (with thanks to research from Pro-Science). Most people would be expected to have read more than 6 because it’s a list of popular books… they were voted for by readers who probably submitted 10 books at least. I’m still going to do the exercise though. No doubt the meme is so successful because it makes you feel good about just how much literature (though some books on the list aren’t classics) you’ve read over the years!

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Same Routine, New Year

A Christmas break is great, but it’s soon over and after wishing you all a Happy New Year, it’s back to the grind of the routine. The roads were OK for the first Monday of the year, but the queues came back quickly and the routine soon pulled me in, not unlike gravity when you bounce on a trampoline.

One advantage of the days around the winter solstice is that I end up driving to work at dawn. This is not great leaving the house (when it’s pitch black) but quite lovely if the sun comes up as I’m waiting around the Argenteuil bridge (Pont d’Argenteuil). I snapped this photo at a red light, the quality isn’t great and you can never do justice to this kind of view anyway, especially not in the few seconds before it changes to green.

Hope your routine wasn’t too hard to get back into. Have a good start to 2011!

Sunrise, Orange Contrails
Originally uploaded by simon_music

Christmas in France

Bûche de Noël

Nice quiet day today, getting ready for a meal tonight since the French celebrate much more on the evening of Christmas Eve than on Christmas Day itself. Some older children open their presents just after midnight in some families, while the younger ones still wait for Santa to deliver overnight.

Traditional meals often include salmon, foie gras, goose, game birds or duck, and as dessert a Christmas “Yule log” of which many types are available. All this washed down with champagne and wine, of course. In some regions – like Burgundy – they might have snails as a starter while in Brittany there will be more emphasis on seafood.

We won’t be doing a full traditional meal, though we might have a Yule log and some wine. No turkey in sight here, though! Have a good Christmas and enjoy some Christmas jokes while you’re surfing away biding your time until you can open your presents.

Image credit: Bûche de Noël by joana hard, on Flickr

Frozen Snowy Swing and Slide

There’s been a lot of cold weather and frost so far this December, and a fair bit of snow. I’ve never seen quite so much fall in one morning as I did today though. I reckon we’ve had 10-15cm (4-6″) of snow in a few hours.

Last night there was already a bit. It took us 3/4 of an hour to get back home from the town centre, usually a five minute drive. Some steep roads were impossible to get up at all, and every start from stationary was with wheel slip. Horrible driving conditions.

Friday night was awful too. Friends coming to visit us before leaving for Morocco took over six hours to get from Calais to Argenteuil – usually a 2 and a half hour trip. They just made a window of mostly rainy / sleet weather to take off from Orly mid Saturday and are now basking in 28°C in Marrakech.

Snow makes the garden look beautiful, and I love the eerie light of late evening where street lamps and moonlight combine with the reflectiveness of fresh snow. It is totally impractical for getting about though, Monday morning could be a real challenge. I hope local authorities and the government now start preparing for earlier wintry weather, rather than once again blaming “unseasonable” conditions for not having stocks of salt, grit and vehicles enough to keep infrastructures moving.

Frozen Snowy Swing and Slide
Originally uploaded by simon_music

Christmas Mood Board

A colleague at work created a mood board with his daughter last year, a visual Christmas list for Father Christmas if you like. I decided to give it a go with Nathan this year, and here is the result, created with Picasa.

You might have to click it to see it at a reasonable size. All images were copied from e-Commerce sites. Clearly there’s a Pokemon / Gormiti / Finger Skate theme to it all…
Christmas Mood Board
Originally uploaded by simon_music

Tasty Guitar Solos

Playing a musical instrument well requires a lot of practice. Motivating yourself is difficult with no goal. When you have other people to play with, and a good vibe between the musicians, and an occasional audience to share the music with, then you might find yourself with good reasons to find that drive. Getting good means spending a lot of time working on ideas and choosing a common repertoire – never easy.

Musical ventures often come to naught. Time constraints, having to rely on other sources of income and commitments gradually take your free time away. There’s no recipe for success or good musical collaboration but one might be to have the social whirl of a life afforded to students, then take a pinch of loneliness, being out of your home country, and having nothing but a CD player and a guitar to keep you company. Two friends from university both found themselves in a similar quantum state at various times during 1995-1996. Of all the times when anything was recorded of their jams, the session when they put down a cover of the track Enola Gay (I don’t remember which other tracks we recorded at the same time) captured some of the keen guitar playing that one of them* was doling out quite regularly on his Squier Strat.
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