Yoga Laptops: Are They Worth It?

Some eight months ago now, I came to face the reality that my old laptop was lagging behind so figured it was time to invest in a new device. But where to go from the tried and tested HP models I had been using for years?

A quick scan of the web and I noticed the new range of “yoga” laptops were dropping in price and thought I should take the plunge. I mean, how cool would it be to fold up a laptop on the train or plane and watch movies to ones content? I loved the sleek design and lightweight style of the Lenovo range so thought I should give one a try. The Yoga 520 checked out to be a half decent model and, at just $950, it seemed a great price to boot.

It came with a narrow border and touch screen, a 360 degree hinge and no less than 3 USB ports. On the downside, there was no CD drive so the only way to watch films would be ones downloaded from the dark side of the net. I can live with that. It was small, easy to carry around and had good speakers or an easily accessible headphone port if required plus all the Bluetooth features that are now part of our day to day lives. I found that the VLC Media Player (a free download) was great for video file playback with minimal fuss too. My FLAC Frontend (Torrent transfers) and Bit Torrent Pro software also work without fuss and, at great speed. Essentially, the funky yoga laptop does everything I need and then some. Fantastic!

Start up was somewhat easy. I mean, coming with Windows 10, it was never going to be easy but you get that. Most of the set up was voice activated and installing programmes was also simple enough. Transferring files from laptop to external drives also proved to be a simple task. All in all, I’ve found most operations rather simple and hassle free.

The one downside is that the silver shell tends to scratch without much effort. It’s a pity because the sleek design is spoiled by the many marks that have accumulated over the first 8 months of its life. I tend to take good care of things as well so it was indeed somewhat disappointing to find this floor in the design. Then again, if that’s the worst problem facing me and this Lenovo yoga laptop then, it’s safe to say, I’ve done well.

Of course, I could have bought an iPad but that wouldn’t cater to most of my needs. Thankfully, it’s been a fantastic investment having the Lenovo Yoga 520. Yoga laptops are boss!

Liverpool Potentially 4 Games Away From First Title In Three Decades!

Three points in the bag, ten days of rest ahead and four very tough yet winnable matches away from the title. That’s how Jurgen Klopp must look at his sides run home after a nervous seven goal thriller against Crystal Palace yesterday afternoon.

The reds shall welcome Leicester City to Anfield next up before visiting West Ham four days later and then hosting Bournemouth on February 9th. During this period there is no reason why all 9 points cannot be captured, it would leave Liverpool with just 12 matches left and a minimum 4 point lead over rivals, Manchester City. The gap could potentially be more as City host both Arsenal and Chelsea during the same period leaving a greater potential to drop points and widen the gap.

Is it time to believe?

With 60 points after 23 completed matches, no side has gone on to lose the title from this position in the Premier League era. Liverpool can still amount amount a whopping 105 points should they win every match in the run in. Whilst this scenario is highly unlikely, the points per game average they hold at the moment would see Liverpool finish on 99 points. Manchester City would need to amass an astounding 46 points from just 16 games to catch Liverpool meaning they would only be allowed just the solitary draw in their run home.

The Old Trafford factor.

Liverpool visit United on February 24 whilst City play their neighbours on March 16. Both games could be pivotal in the race as a resurgent United continue their desperate chase for a top four finish which seemed impossible only six short weeks ago.

United aside, Liverpool would then only need to overcome Spurs (March 30) and Chelsea (April 13) at home along with a visit to Goodison Park on March 2nd to clear the hurdle of tough remaining matches. The other run home fixtures would include Watford, Burnley, Huddersfield and Wolves at home with away trips to Fulham, Southampton, Cardiff and Newcastle to round out the season.

So where are the unexpected hiccups you ask?

Of course the distraction of the Champions League may yet play a pivotal role in proceedings as to would injuries to key players and a highly unlikely form slump on the domestic front. Some still believe (myself included) that the reds can comfortably compete on both fronts. And why not? This is a very special side that Klopp has built and they are more than capable of achieving incredible results.

Klopp knows how to win titles. He knows how to close things down. One thing we all know is this. If Chelsea come to town in April and Liverpool only need a draw to remain in the box seat for the title than we won’t be seeing any repeats of 2013/14 under Brendan Rodgers. Or corners like the one taken by Iago Aspas.

Should the reds win these four key matches against United, Everton, Spurs and Chelsea then they will go a very long way to ending the drought and there will be very little City can do about it.

Why The Gillette Advert Has Men Outraged!

It’s been 72 hours now since Gillette launched a new advertising campaign directed at the toxic masculinity in our society. Upon first viewing, I said to myself, “This is brilliant! But there’s gonna be one hell of a backlash!”

And I was spot on from the get go.

Through life, I’ve always been one to push the boundaries and explore my sexuality. As a teenager, I got into wearing make-up, dressing in odd clothing and listening to what was then considered, alternative music. I had found my niche. Unfortunately, my niche was quite small and my friends and I more often than not, found ourselves subjected to vile abuse and the occasional beating. On no less than eight occasions, I found myself waking up in hospital beds after being severely battered. Often, I was too scared to tell my family what happened because they didn’t approve of my lifestyle. Like a majority of Australian’s at the time.

When I stepped out for a night out, the abuse and threats were constant. They would call us queers, faggots, bum fuckers, pillow biters, cock benders, poofters and even a lot worse. We’d have objects thrown at us, refused service at bars, denied entry to venues, have security follow us in shopping centres, end up being harassed by Police officers and refused entry into buses and trains. It was a shit time but still, it was character building.

More than a few times we would find ourselves chased by Neo Nazi skin heads brandishing knives or simply just a group of drunk yobs who wanted to “bash some faggots”. Small things amuse small minds ey? Over time, I’d learnt to live my life in fear. The abuse and threats were so regular that you would spend a lot of your time looking over your shoulder. Quite often, people would tell us to get over it and harden up.

“If you want to dress like queers and faggots”, a nurse in A&E once told me after a beating, “You deserve every bashing you get!”

That was all predominantly in the 1990’s and early 2000’s now. I’ve managed to move comfortably into my 40’s and still be in one piece. For many woman today, that simply isn’t the case.

In 2019, woman are still being objectified, belittled, ridiculed, assaulted, raped, bashed and, as this week proved in Melbourne, murdered for simply being woman. The woman in our society are being told that there is no problem with toxic masculinity. It’s just “boys being boys” and all that. Rubbish!

As I grew older, more of my life began to include a lot of time spent in sporting and gym change rooms. This is where you see and hear it all. Photos being passed around, videos being shared, comments about which girl “needs a gang bang” and then some. I could spend an entire month writing about what I have seen and heard in these environments. It’s disgusting. It’s degrading. It’s vile and it simply has to stop!

Quite often, I wonder how the men and boys would feel if it was their own daughters photos being passed around that change room? Or what if it was their own wife or mother being subjected to gang rape “chat”? I used to keep quite during these conversations for fear of being hassled myself. I guess I was too scared to call out people who I considered my peers. When I began, some years later, to call men out on this, I’d be frowned upon and excluded from groups and clicks. One fellow referee who now officiates in the NRL and has touch judged at State of Origin level told me, “You must be a faggot if you have a problem with the way we talk about girls?”.

Toxic masculinity in full flight right there ladies and gents!

So, what’s changed to allow Gillette the window of opportunity to make the most compelling commercial in living memory?

The #metoo campaign has been a breath of fresh air in our world. Too many creeps have been getting away with too much for too long. It’s time more men were called out for their poor behaviour made an example of. The Gillette campaign itself has copped a lot of flack for pointing out exactly what is wrong with our society. Men are running scared and reacting poorly to the commercial because they know the game is up. You only have to look at the vile backlash Gillette are getting on social media to see the commercial is having a huge impact in our world. They know it’s time to start being better men, as the Gillette slogan says. Above all else, It’s time men stopped playing the victim and started taking responsibility for their actions. Inappropriate behaviour towards woman needs to stop and if you don’t understand this, you are going to be left behind.

Nobody should live their life in fear of anyone. Remember men, the next time you want to objectify a lady, remember this one important detail. That lady you are about to wolf whistle, grope and throw a lewd comment at is someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, someone’s mother. Would you accept that kind of behaviour if it was your loved one? I thought not…..

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Feyenord Stadium, Rotterdam – 25 June 1983

This concert from Rotterdam is relatively early in the throws of “The Serious Moonlight Tour”. It’s a big contrast from the rowdy American shows on tour with a more subdued and in sync fan base taking in the shows. It was the first of two consecutive nights in the city and marked the 26th show of the tour to date. Essentially, just past the quarter way mark of a tour that took in some 96 concerts.

Through the early part of the show, you can hear a man talking to a friend and passing on sing titles and other bits of information about Bowie. My imagination by now is considering if this guy has brought along his girlfriend to introduce her to Bowie is perhaps he’s there with another male friend who also isn’t too aware of Bowie’s work? There is also a lovely energy concealed with lots of clapping along by the masses giving the tape a bit of a party feel. To be fair, it’s a nice way to spend your summer in Europe. The tour had recently swung its way through parts of France, Sweden and West Germany leading up to this Rotterdam double header. Despite starting out in Arena venues, bookings by now were being upgraded into stadiums as demand for tickets increased by the day ensuring extra shows would also need to be added.

David Bowie performs on stage on the Serious Moonlight Tour at Feijenoord Stadion, de Kuip, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 25th June 1983. (Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns)

As an example of the scale that the shows would take on, Bowie initially played Wembley Arena on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of June to a decent yet rather small crowd of sorts. By the 1st of July, he would be playing three consecutive nights at the Milton Keynes Bowl to massive crowds totaling 174,984 concert goers over the three night residency that was tacked onto the tour before the shows moved over to America. All in all, Bowie sold some 2.6 MILLION concert tickets as the year rolled on. Chances are, he could have sold three times that amount had there been enough dates and venues to add into the mix.

During “Let’s Dance”, there is still plenty of clapping but also a great deal of sing along happening with the crowd. This was Bowie’s latest hit from an album that had reached number 1 on both sides of the pond and in many other countries around the world. Anything with Bowie’s name on it in 1983 was doing great business and it would turn out to be the first time in his life that he would make some serious coin to back up his reputation. The album and tour would go on to out-sell Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album and subsequent tour that carried out a few months after Bowie’s had finished up in Hong Kong.

Two thirds of the way through this concert and the en mass clapping and signing is still going on. This would have been a brilliant concert to have attended. In fact, i’d love to hear from anyone who might have been in attendance at the time? “Station To Station” carries a lot of power during this show. Easily the highlight of the entire recording if I am being honest.

One small gripe I have held against this tour over the years is the lack of variation to the set lists in each territory. One or two songs change here and there yet, for the best part, the whole tour revolved around a very similar list of songs each night. From memory, these two Rotterdam shows differed only by the inclusion of “I Can’t Explain” on the second night. As I am sure many concert goers at the time went to both concerts, it would have been rather nice to have a few songs changed up. Particularly for the 50,000 plus fans at these shows who seemed to be right into the music. Still, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to a tour of this magnitude. I own almost 70 concerts recordings from this tour alone now and am always amazed at how professional and tight the band is all the way through from Europe in May to Asia in December. Truly spectacular.

The taper of this show needs to be commended too due to his almost perfect capture of the show. There are a few shady dip as can be heard in the suddenly muffled recording of “Fame” which I would put down to either a change in tape and positioning of the recorder or security potentially spotting the taper. The rest of the concert appears to suffer a little from this however, it isn’t too bad as far as recordings from this tour go.

It might be time to dip back into the 1976 tour next time. There are some truly splendid concerts I have recordings of from this tour that require some further examination so for now, it’s goodbye to the 80’s and hello 1976.

Setlist:

1 Intro Music
2 Jean Genie Intro
3 Star
4 Heroes
5 What In The World
6 Golden Years
7 Fashion
8 Let’s Dance
9 Breaking Glass
10 Life On Mars
11 Sorrow
12 Cat People
13 China Girl
14 Scary Monsters
15 Rebel Rebel
16 White Light White Heat
17 Station To Station
18 Cracked Actor
19 Ashes To Ashes
20 Space Oddity
21 Band Intro
22 Young Americans
23 TVC 15
24 Fame
25 Encore break
26 Stay
27 Jean Genie
28 2nd Encore Break
29 Modern Love

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio – 29 July 1983

Right from the start, I knew I was onto something good with this tape. It’s a curious one to say the least. The concert is spliced together from two different sources with the first four songs and “White Light, White Heat” (which sadly has the intro cut) in the middle of the show coming from source 1 which helps piece together the rest of the previously incomplete show. The concert was recorded on a Teac recorder with TDK tapes and, whilst picking up a good deal of crowd noise, it doesn’t spoil the show at all. Actually, the crowd in some ways, add a bit of charm because they are all a bit “wild west” if you know what I mean yeah? I’d suggest even that this is one of the better concert tapes from the entire Serious Moonlight Tour of 1983.

As was the norm with a lot of shows from this tour, Bowie didn’t say a great deal between songs. He simply moves from one classic to another in his typical effortless way. Letting the songs do the talking you might suggest? Either way, I was caught up in the concert from start to end unlike some shows where you kind of lose a bit of interest during sections, in part because Bowie obviously wasn’t on song during the particular night and you can certainly pick up that vibe. Not with this show thankfully. He delivers everything you could want and more. The very first time I came along a cassette of this show was back in 2000 on a visit to Camden Market. I didn’t buy it because the seller wanted £20 which I felt was a bit of a rip off and, back in those days, a lot of tape sellers at markets recorded tapes at high speed which took a lot of the gloss away. And, there was also the chance that is wasn’t even the correct show as was another common problem back then. Very few market sellers I came along in the 90’s and early 2000’s were genuinely interested in the bootleg tapes they were selling. More often than not, they were just keen to rip off fans with impulsive purchases. Grubs!

A sure fire highlight is “Station To Station”. Earl Slick had a habit of getting a little experimental during this song on tour and I absolutely love how he plays around with the feedback intro on this occasion. It’s hard to imagine that Slick was brought into this tour at the last minute with very little time to prepare. He delivers some of the best guitar work of his career and it’s in full evidence on this night in Richfield. Back in 2003, I met Earl Slick in Dublin and he was a very quiet soul. Didn’t say much and when he did talk, he was very softly spoken. I wanted to ask him about his time working with John Lennon but got a little tongue tired and waffled on about Australia. Daft, I know.

After “Young Americans”, there is a decidable increase in sound and quality of the recording as if the taper of the show has re-adjusted his recorder. You hear a girl inquire, “Is that it?” to which a man comes back to say, “I got another tape in” suggesting he has just switched to a new tape to capture the remainder of the concert starting with a blistering version of “Fame”. I wonder where this taper is now? He sounds pretty young on the recording so I would hazard a guess that he would in his late 50’s today. Does he still have his tape collection? Is he a member of the regular concert trading sites? Is he still a fan? So many unanswered questions. Sorry, for going off track a little here. My mind is always drifting into other trains of thought.

The energy by the time the show roles into “TVC 15” is brilliant. It’s been building and building all the way through. Simmering like a good broth. There is a slight break before the encore kicks in and you can hear a lot of crowd conversation. Some very happy people and, as is the case with concert going, people tend to jostle their way down towards the front when the encore rolls around. By the time the encore comes along, nobody wants the show to finish as Bowie belts into raucous renditions of “Stay”, “The Jean Genie” & “Modern Love”. Bowie had just come off three consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden in New York and the energy from those shows has definitely transcended into this concert.

And with that, comes the end of yet another great concert tape from “The Serious Moonlight Tour” of 1983. The tour would travel onward some 175 miles the next day for two consecutive shows in Detroit, Michigan. No rest for the wicked.

SET LIST
1 Jean Genie Intro*
2 Star*
3 Heroes*
4 What In The World [incomplete starts late]*
5 Golden Years
6 Fashion
7 Let’s Dance
8 Breaking Glass
9 Life On Mars
10 Sorrow
11 Cat People
12 China Girl
13 Scary Monsters
14 Rebel Rebel
15 White Light White Heat [Slight cut on intro tape flip]*
16 Station To Station
17 Cracked Actor
18 Ashes To Ashes
19 Space Oddity
21 Band
22 Young Americans
23 Fame
24 TVC 15
25 Encore Break
26 Stay
27 Jean Genie
28 Modern Love

Low: Iconic Images

One of my most memorable images from my time in high school was reading through and article on Suede where Brett talked at length about the influence Bowie had on his life growing up. One of the photos used with the article was that of Brett lazing about with a large sized poster replicating the cover art of Low adorning the wall of his room.

It’s a beautiful image. Stunning even.

I loved the image so much that I rushed out to buy a second copy of the magazine with the soul purpose of tearing that magnificent glossy photo out and plastering it on the wall just above my bed. I kept all my music papers and magazines at the time so would always buy a second copy if any images needed to become fixtures upon my walls. As you do.

Sometimes, I would sit and listen to Suede’s self titled debut LP and Low itself back to back whilst gazing into the image and thinking about how Brett managed to look so splendid with minimal fuss. Years later, I learned that flat where the photo was taken was, in fact, littered with fleas from Brett’s cat! That kind of took the romantic edge of the image away somewhat however, I have become a bit of a hygiene freak as I comfortably move into a world of middle aged bliss. Well, if you can call a man boring on 42 middle aged?

The image connects me with a time of discovery and innocence. It helped me conjure dreams of England and seeing Suede and Bowie live which I would go on to manage many times over. 1993 seems an age away. Thanks to this iconic photo of an iconic rock star and album cover, I’ll always look back on this period of my life with great fondness.

Low: An Album That Shaped Our Times

Yesterday marked the 42nd anniversary since “Low” was unleashed on an unsuspecting public.  The album was originally planned for release in late 1976 but RCA Records (Bowie’s then label) kicked off big time and demanded Bowie head back to Philadelphia to record another LP similar to “Young Americans” which, itself had sparked plenty of positive interest, reviews and sold well enough in the USA.  The album had also given Bowie his first number 1 single across the pond in “Fame”.  Now, it seems, Bowie had served up an experimental album that was nothing like “Young Americans”, or “Station To Station” for that matter and was definitely not going to sell many albums at all.  With this advice on board, Bowie firmly placed his foot to the ground and refused to go back to America and, after wrangling, held RCA account and the album hit the shelves of record stores on January 14 1977.

Bowie would later frame RCA’s initial rejection letter and frame it on his wall as motivation for future recording projects.

If you have been to a rave or dance party in the past 30 years, chances are some of the artists you have listened to on your night out were heavily influenced by “Low”.  If you are a fan of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Blur or New Order, upon closer inspection, you will find they are also under the spell of “Low” in some way, shape or form.  Despite falling foul at the time of release, “Low” has gone onto become one of the most important albums of our time.  Pitchfork magazine listed it at number 1 in the most influential albums of the 1970’s.  In 2013, the NME labeled the record as the 14th greatest British album ever made.  That’s some impact.  Bowie would go on to play the album in full during some of the shows of his 2002 “Heathen Tour” and then include a good number of songs on the following “A Reality Tour ” of 2003/04.

Something that has struck a chord with many critics over recent years is that the album feels as though it has taken on a timeless edge. You could surely release the LP on an unsuspecting public in 2019 and it would still have a good deal of relevance about it. Upon release, “Low” reached number 2 on the UK charts and peaked at number 11 on the charts in America. It made small dents in the Australian, New Zealand, Dutch, Japanese and Swedish charts but went relatively unnoticed in most other territories. The year of 1977 was a peak period for both punk and disco which left “Low” floating somewhere in-between and somewhat homeless. Both Brian Eno and Tony Visconti have talked at length over the decades of how everyone involved wanted to push boundaries and break the mold of what had come before.

Sales quickly fell away after the initial rush and the album fell out of sight not long after release. It seemed as though the new found fans in recent times were left somewhat alienated and quickly drifted away. Six months later, “Heroes” would be released and some critical reassessments began in earnest as writers began to back flip on their early reservations of the record. This ever increasing back flipping would gather momentum for years to come and, by 1992, Philip Glass would construct a symphony of “Low”. This was also around the time that many up and coming British bands took Bowie under their wings and name dropped him during interviews.

I first heard “Low” in early 1993. I’d been a Bowie fan for a while and was unable to buy my own copy due to it being well beyond my teenage pocket money keepings so I rented a CD copy of the album and made a cassette tape copy for my Walkman. I remember how much the album threw me upon the first listen. It was like something else all together. From here, I began to find my way through the back catalogues of Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and the like. Essentially, “Low” grew into a stepping stone to the discovery of any number of artists and bands. Over the next year or two, I remember it also being a doorway to Japan, Ultravox Depeche Mode and a world of 80’s synth pop bands.

I listened to “Low” around several times in recent days to celebrate its birthday and remind myself of just how good an album it truly is. May I suggest you do the same if you haven’t already done so?

Long live “Low”! It’s an album that is still transfixing music fans young and old even in 2019. And it’s still shaping our lives too….