2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 59,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

And may I just wish you all, whoever you are, a Happy Hogmanay. Even those of you who have never commented upon let alone liked one of my posts. Even you!

Sha la la la la

Baby It's You - Shirelles single

Baby. It’s. You.

Baby. It’s You.

Baby it’s. You.

Baby It’s You – however you want to punctuate this line this is a song of the purest of pure romantic love songs Pure romance. Pure reasonable obsession.

Much of pop music is about ‘you’, the otherwise lesser referred second-person of the made up fiction world. And what passions this ‘you’ inspires. What passions you inspire? Am I talking about you? Do I know you?!

This is the seductiveness of the second-person. Its crafty craft. Actually some obscure person in some obscure place is the actual subject of all the directed passion and angst but if you are in the similar throes of love then that love song about ‘you’ is about you, and your love. Oh yes it is. Oh no it’s not. Well it is kind of isn’t it? What with the universality of romance and love and relationships and all that? What a head-fuck! But all aboard this crazy train together we go.

The object of your love, hate, love and hate, gaze, affection, infection. Infected with first love. First requited love. First requited serious love.

As serious as love.

Shirelles album Baby It's YouBaby It’s You is one of many sultry Burt Bacharach musical muses. And it has lyrics by David, but not Hal. Rather a Mack David, along with Luther Dixon. Wikipedia gives the full details here.

Is it the sparse lines that make Baby It’s You? The simmering, shimmering performance by the Shirelles and lead Shirelle in particular? Some marriage of them both? Perhaps it was her song waiting to be written. Her being Shirley Owens. Or perhaps it is Bacharach’s Brandy Bacchanalian back-beat?

Or some cocktail of all those heady ingredients?…

The Beatles covered ‘Baby It’s You’ on their debut album, ‘Please, Please Me’, so this Shirelles’ song is not perhaps the most famous version.  Not even the second most famous version as a Californian group called Smith had a Top Ten hit with it in 1969 and perhaps more significantly it then featuring in the 2007 Quentin Tarantino film Death Proof.

Anyway. Be that as it may. It is my favourite version. And in pop music that is all that actually matters isn’t it? As said it is all about you. That is me, not you! My opinion and has someone else said the world can shut its mouth…

Anna Calvi - Suzanne & ISince its release over a half a century ago it has had many covers… Best in my view is by Anna Calvi from her ‘Suzanne and I’ album but another notable, notable at least by the artist involved than what they bring to the song, version is by the Carpenters with a surprisingly lacklustre treatment.

Many of the other versions are too dutiful and not worth the listing nevermind the listening. I have a problem with the cover version in principle. If a song is special why try to make it standard?…I suppose it becomes standard by the vanity of subsequent performers thinking they can bring something new to a song, though others that do, do not even try that, content just to do it verbatim, a superior karaoke version at best.

The actual year of this song’s birth was 1961. Does it matter? It is older than me and most of you reading this I am sure, and so? Songs are time-capsules. This song is not over-fifty but teenage and forever teenage. Well songs are time-capsules until some performer comes along and attempts a chicken-in-the-basket version of them but let’s not hark on that again!

The lead Shirelle

The lead Shirelle

And with Baby It’s You, it is the Shirelles rendering that transforms the song, unmatched and unmatchable. As noted, Her Song. Their performance of those words and music, words and music which are but slender, not much to go on, a fancy yet made so much of by them and Shirley Owens in particular.

If you have some familiarity with the Shirelles likely it is because of the glorious ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ though again you may know that from a version by its co- writer Carole King (with her writing partner and later husband Gerry Goffin, then later still, ex-husband) ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’

But it is Baby It’s You that we are concerned with, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ is a post for another day. Perhaps you will write it?!

Here comes the song.

Sha la la la la, sha la la la la, sha la la la la.

And believe me this is the correct number of La’s as I have counted and recorded them very studiously. If you see a different la count on another website including those devoted to song-lyrics (and flogging you the ring-tones that go with them) then they are just lazy and or plain wrong! What I am not going to attempt though is the tempo of those la’s. I mean you can just listen to it after all! Or if you can read music try this.

From Online Sheet Music Dot Com

From Online Sheet Music Dot Com

Sha la la la la

at quicker tempo this time and with male backing singers.

Then enters Shirley Owens.  She sings about You and to you. She talks to us. And herself. Rather she sings to all of us, including herself. We think. Or I think! For the second-person we can but be certainly uncertain.

It’s not the way you smile that touches my heart. Sha la la la la.

I’ve seen this rendered as ‘It’s not the way you smile that touched my heart’ but that tense is confused – it would need to be ‘It’s not the way you smiled that touched my heart’ – and she clearly sings ‘smile’ but to these ears it does indeed sound as if she is singing ‘touched’, perhaps ‘touch’  which also reads odd so I am filling in the gap as ‘touches’ and perhaps it just trails off in her mouth, she thinks it but does not vocalise it…and this idea has the Karen Carpenter seal of approval with her clear if sha la la la la-less take on that line too.

It’s not the way you kiss that tares me apart

Yet more songs about dissolving and resolving in love. No sha la la la la this time rather…

Woah-oh-woh. Many many nights roll by

I sit alone at home and cry, over you.

What can I do?

I can’t help myself.

Well this is what we tell ourselves anyway. Even if we are not helpless we want to believe that we are. And revel in this bitter-sweet surrender.

Cos baby it’s you.

Sha la la la la. Baby it’s you. Sha la la la la.

Next verse.

Sha la la la la. You should hear what they say about you. Cheat, cheat. Sha la  la la la.

They say, they say, you’ve never, never never been true. Cheat, cheat.

Much better than singing it damn straight as ‘They say you’ve never been true’.

Woah-oh. Doesn’t matter what they say, I know I’m gonna love you any old way. What can I do, when it’s true.

I don’t want nobody, nobody, cause baby it’s you.

Sha la la la la. Baby it’s you. Sha la la la la.

Then an odd musical interlude of squeaky slightly shrill organ, yet an oddly fitting offset too.

Interlude over.

Woah-oh-oh, many, many nights roll by.

I sit alone at home and cry over you. What can I do? I can’t help myself.

Cos baby it’s you. Sha la la la la. Baby it’s you. Sha la la la la.

By the by they had another song simply called ‘Sha la la’ though the la count after sha’s in that song was not a faithful four as here but all over the shop! And of a much faster tempo. I just thought you should know!

Don’t leave me alone. Sha la la la la.

Come on home. Sha la la la la la.

(Fades to whisper)

Baby it’s you. Sha la la la la.

Good morning midnight, It’s Christmas

A Christmas post of mine from last year which I am posting again. I don’t know if you remember it the first time but whether you do or you do not I hope you like it. And if you do not I may still send it again next Christmas!

Blog Rest and Play

Cristina Sleep It OffMy mother said ‘I’m a survivor, I pull together Christmas every year.

Something has to last’ she said ‘Once a year let’s have the past’

And then one year to reach up high to hang an angel from the tree

became a painful thing ‘Besides she’s lost her wing’ my mother said

Thing’s Fall Apart by Cristina Monet-Palaci first appeared pale-faced and defiant upon the world, well New York anyway, same thing they say, well New Yorkers say anyway, back in 1981. Going by her first name Cristina her pop-life burned briefly incandescent before evaporating in a puff of neon-dust several years later.

This post is about Things Fall Apart only, though it itself may tell you very much about Cristina. It was her Christmas song, or rather her concession to Christmas song, which as you should gather already is hinting that for her the spirit of Christmas is the…

View original post 908 more words

Previously published

When I started this blog much of my writing was opinion pieces – some politics but mainly reviews of TV, music, art, fashion and other categories too numerous to mention – I did not know much what to expect but knew enough about how the web and search engines worked that much of the traffic I was going to get would be based on the subject of my reviews not for the quality of my writing. And so it proved to be. Some of my most popular posts have not been ones I thought were my best, in turn some of my posts that I was most pleased with sank unseen.

I did not mind. Most importantly for me I was writing and writing regularly. And occasionally I was getting encouraging feedback.

Earlier this year I decided to try some fiction too.  I was wanting to do it but was aware that having regularly posted review-type posts I may lose the interest of those that had followed me for that.

Nevertheless this same group of subbers provided me a guaranteed if unwitting audience and I was sure I would get some feedback – unless it proved too horrible and then a diplomatic silence! Well I did get some feedback and it was encouraging.

However search engines bringing new traffic and readers I was less hopeful about – the nature of fiction is that it is messy and fuzzy and all of those non-categorizable things and so I was not expecting my poems and flash fiction to get as many hits as my reviews of The Jelly Fox or The Wolf Is Getting Married which have both had over a thousand hits. And so it proved to be.

The general audience pattern of my fiction is initial hits within the first 24-48 hours as regular subbers give it the look over, a very few of them hitting the Like button, and a few comments too. Then pretty much that is it – the odd trickle of single views appearing over the subsequent weeks and months.

Incidentally if you don’t know this already as well as being able to see your whole blog traffic for the last day, week, month, and longer, you can also see the complete history of traffic for any individual post. It can be edifying viewing!

The small feedback I did get was though insightful and gave me confidence in those posts (and caution about the posts where there was silence). It gave me the confidence indeed to want to submit them to journals and competitions.

One such post whom I can not name – very cloak and dagger! – all will be revealed (or not revealed!) shortly – I decided I would submit to a short story competition for Writers’ Forum. Writers’ Forum are a British based print and online writing journal and each month run a Short Story and Poetry competition. Nothing remarkable about this – many journals do. You can use sites like Duotrope who list many – not just for competition entry but for journal publication too. Or you can just use a search engine and be inundated and perhaps overwhelmed by all the options available to you.

This particular competition was a fee one – £6 – with a first prize of £300 second £150 and third £100 – not life-changing amounts to be sure but not to be sniffed at either. And they can build up your profile too. For this particular competition they even offer to critique your submissions – for an extra fee, naturally!

More importantly if you win a prize you can call yourself not just a Writer but a Professional Writer and that’s the end of that, no arguments!

This competition required writing between 1000 and 3000 words and my post was somewhere bang in the middle. So there I was happily reformatting my blog post as per their competition requirements – double-spacing, wide-margins – when I thought I should perhaps give the Terms and Conditions the once-over and there it was

All entries must be original and previously unpublished

– this includes newspapers, magazines, books and websites.

Publication on private online forums that are password-protected

and in private letters and emails does not count.

So even though the post in question has made me not a penny and has but double-digit viewing it counts as published and can make me not a penny more nevermind £300.

I was not going to be perturbed though. They would never have likely even heard of my blog-site let alone this short-story post, right?

But I thought I would type into Google a few lines from it as figure this is something they would likely do too and lo and behold it showed up on Google’s first page – yikes!

So I thought I would mark it private. This particular post received 9 Likes and 3 Comments and to all concerned I thank you. The post has not been removed just hidden!

It would disappear from Google eventually surely – I know that Google can make back-up copies of content but in terms of the original it would become unindexed. I hoped.

I only marked the post private a few days back and it is still listed on Google Page One so I will keep revisiting. But if it should not disappear?

Now I am not putting all my apples in the proverbial one basket. I intend to submit to many journals and competitions, the same entry multiple times too. Rejection I care not! I do not expect everyone who reads my prose to like my writing and same expectation applies to magazine editors and prize jurors too. If not for you, then someone else, and on.

And it is not just money that I am seeking for my writing, it is for increased profile  – for my writing that is, not me. I want my writing to be as read as widely as possible. It is not for me to say how high a profile my writing deserves but I do know that simply self-publishing it on a blog is not enough. It can get too easily overlooked, irrespective of its quality. I need to go out and pro-actively tout it too.

And I am aware that some journals and competitions do not have this stipulation about previous publication – and yet others that do but allow blogs. There are no standard terms and conditions in these things. But equally I do not want to limit my options in this regard either.

So if I cannot make my current blog fiction elude the all-seeing Google eye then none of my future fiction will be self-published on my blog. It will be typed on my Mac as per but then reside hidden away in a private file awaiting its life being endlessly entered in competitions and journals.

This does not mean the end of my blog I should add. Though fiction is the writing that gives me most pleasure its particular well is not as yielding to me as non-fiction or opinion-piece writing. And that type of writing will continue – I hope! – on this blog.

This post is as much to clear my head about my current writing plans but I also thought it was worth a share as some of you reading this may also be happily publishing your fiction on your own blogs unaware that it may limit your options to submit it for paid publication at a later date.

Show Me The Monet

Show Me The Monet - BBC Website ImageI have planned to blog about Show Me The Monet for a while.

Show Me The Monet is an arts program from the BBC where artists submit their works to a panel of critics with the potential to have their work exhibited and sold at an Art Gallery.

You may not have heard of it outside of the UK and even if in the UK you may not have as it was a program hidden away in the schedules of daytime telly.

Anyway having finally got around to writing about it I discover this sorry message on the show’s production website.

Show Me The Manet - off air message

What a pity.

Even if I did not enjoy the art being presented by the hopeful artists or care very much for the critics who they must first impress I would still watch this show purely because of the opportunity it presents for, in the main amateur, artists to show their works and get a wider audience. Even if the critics say no to the works we the audience may well say yes to them. Other opportunities may arise for them and their art because of all the TV Eyes upon it.

Sure for artists themselves there may be more effective routes in what is in effect a large-entry competition with a pyramid prize structure – a kind of X-Factor for Painters, Photographers and Sculptors.

Show Me The Monet - various clipsThe title of the show is an obvious pun on French Impressionist painter Claude Monet. In some parts of our country the show may be referred to as Show Us the Manet, phonetically punning after another French Impressionist (if more proto) painter Edward Manet – I just had to crow-bar this joke in!

With the decommissioning of the show the website itself has also given up the ghost. But there is still program information to be found on the BBC channel that broadcast it BBC 2.

The show’s Gary Barlow, Louis Walsh and Tulisa were Roy Bolton, David Lee and Charlotte Mullins. Their backgrounds as you might expect were in art history and criticism – Roy Bolton also is a dealer.

The Dermot O’Leary of the show (okay that’s enough over-working of the X-Factor comparison), the presenter was Chris Hollins whose background is in, well, presenting.

The show did manage 2 series and 25 episodes in total displaying therefore many works in the process.

And the real interest of the show was the artists and their art.

Katy Sullivan displays 'Disneyland'The image above is of former GP Katy Sullivan, with a portrait of her daughter titled ‘Disneyland’, standing expectantly before the judges at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England. Incidentally the judges are referred as ‘the hanging committee’ – hopefully not as in ‘hanging them out to dry’!

As well as presenting their art to the judging panel they have to explain a little about it and put a price-tag on it, being asked how much they think their art is worth. What an impossible question to answer I would have thought.

They were very impressed with Katy Sullivan’s work and could not believe it was only her fifth ever oil-painting. Katy Sullivan has her own website with includes a portfolio which presents a better image of this work.

Disneyland portrait by Katy Sullivan

They voted it through to the Show Me The Monet Exhibition. It was also selected for the Holburne Portrait Prize courtesy of  the Holbourne Museum in Bath, England where it won the People’s Choice Award.

I am not going to detail all the art featured as there is a great deal of it and it is better viewed on the BBC 2 program website itself. But I will display a few more to give you an idea of the type and standard of work featured.

Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf - JuneThis next is titled June by a London based artist Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf. It passed muster with the judges but remained unsold not meeting her guide price of £1800. One great thing about the web is that most artists will have if not their own website then their work hosted elsewhere to be seen alongside their other works providing further context. It can also provide an opportunity to see what the subsequent fate of a featured work on this show was.

Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf with worksFontaine-Wolf has her own website and you can see her here stood before June and other of her work. Her work can be seen in higher resolution on her site too. And it transpires that ‘June’ was subsequently exhibited at the Royal College of Art’s Henry Moore Gallery.

I thought I should finish with a work where the judges voted No but which I would have voted Yes just to remind too of the subjective personal nature of art. However, on the website at least, all the work featured was either unanimously yes or at least majority yes. There were certainly works that were declined so clearly the website has spared those artist’s blushes being repeated.

So in this spirit of positivity to finish on a work the panel were unanimous about. This one is titled ‘Between ‘me’ and ‘you’ (1) – History Series’ by another London based artist Laura Jacobs. Her guide price was for £2000 and it sold close to it at £1750.

Show Me The Monet proved that not all daytime TV is created equally. And reminds that there is much artistic talent ever to be discovered.

Laura Jacobs - Between me an dyou

A Sculpture

Foundry Statue Morrisons CloseThis above sculpture may or may not be particularly noteworthy to you.

But the location may be. It is for me. For it is situated on a traffic roundabout, and not even a particularly busy traffic roundabout rather one that is mostly passed by shoppers on their way to and from a grocery supermarket, or to get their vehicles filled up with petrol or diesel, or even washed.

Sculpture MorrisonsOn the other hand perhaps it is a good way of this sculpture getting attention to itself as likely most shoppers are creatures of habit and will be passing by this roundabout and thus sculpture on a regular and frequent basis. At some point their curiosity must get the better of them, even the most resolutely art-unimpressed of them, to wander over from their parked vehicles and take a look at it? Certainly this was the case with me.

I thought it fitting to take round about pictures of this roundabout sculpture! Here’s another one.

Morrison's Supermarket Sculpture I took these photos on 12.12.12 but I am making no significance of that – am not going to tag this post so and attract ‘those types’ to my blog! – but you can see it was a frosty winter-day and it gave an added other-worldly dimension to the setting I felt.

At first I tried to get pictures without traffic but traffic proved to be quite persistent in that regard – who would have thought in the middle of the day outside a supermarket carpark! – and in the end relented thinking the pictures are more realistic with the presence of a constant stream of traffic. Though perhaps the presence of a strange man at that time of the day taking photographs of said sculpture triggered their interest and attention much more than the sculpture would have otherwise done!

Sculpture Morrisons Car WashI did not just want to photograph and share it with you though, I wanted to find out more details about it and its creator/s hopefully by way of a plaque – but as I closed up on it there was  no plaque to be discovered – a sculpture with no name and no sculptor giving their name to it, this only piqued my interest more.

Morrisons Sculpture Close Up

I could see that it was representing a foundry with an industrial type bucket pouring molten steel – its usual industrial process diverted from railway switches and crossings instead suspended in time and motion. So perhaps this was the site of a previous industry on this now retail space?

I say retail space as the plan is to extend into a retail park – currently though it is just that supermarket and a drive-by fast food chain (Okay McDonalds, which aside I learn is the third busiest branch in the UK – we are but a smallish town of thirty or so thousand so what does that say about our health!) but there is an area of land nearby fenced off with hoarding waiting for new tenants and it is named the Foundry Retail Park.

This would be my next move to check out their business site and see if they had any further details as to this work.

What I should add is that this supermarket – admire how I am steadfastly not naming it remaining commercially pure despite it being quite clear from the photographs to any of you familiar with it or indeed not familiar with it seeing as the name appears in a few of the photos! – only opened last year, 2011, and the sculpture followed shortly after.

The developers of this land are known as Carillon-Richardson (two separate companies in a business marriage) but the details they provide are sketchy – literally! – including plans and work-in-progress photos of the supermarket build but which then terminate unfinished in July 2011.

Carillon Richardson Bathgate Development Aerial Shot

I then discovered a website for a graphic design consultancy To The Point who are responsible for the branding for this retail park and in a blog post of September 27 they detail that the site is indeed built upon the site of an old foundry – Balbardie Steel Foundry.

This foundry having many owners the latter being  Balfour Beatty and was closed in 2009 according to the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland which includes 72 digital images of the site including this!

RCAHMS digital photography View of sculpture alongside public path of line of dismantled railway with back view of foundry buildings from south. DP053459 Copyright RCAHMS

RCAHMS digital photography View of sculpture alongside public path of line of dismantled railway with back view of foundry buildings from south. DP053459 Copyright RCAHMS

The sculpture had a previous life, but was this life its first life?

And still no details of its provenance. By the way if you like photographs of derelict industrial spaces (as I do!) then there are many colour and black-and-white photographs to feast yourselves upon in this collection including another of this sculpture but that is just it, it keeps being referred to generically as a ‘sculpture’.

I did discover that the steelworks itself was originally opened in 1907 so spanned a full-century before being laid-to-rest (business actually relocated to nearby Queensferry) and there is much detail of its history and main industries undertaken, but no reference to the sculpture. The mystery remains. But in these Internet times there can be no mysteries, can there?!

Keech Furnace Technologies

KFC Foundry Website Images

Well the web did allow me to establish that a South African company Keech Furnace Technology had this listed as one of their previous works as Balbardie Steel Foundry Germiston. Known by their abbreviation, KFT specialise in the design, production and service of electric arc furnaces. They were founded in 1978 so could they have undertaken this sculpture? If so there is no detail on their website.

Credit to the supermarket whose sculpture this sits in front of, okay I relent, Morrisons!, who have commissioned a number of statues situated in front of their other stores such as the two featured below. The first for a Tyneside store, the second a Leyland store.

Jarrow Crusade by Graham Ibbeson

Jarrow Crusade by Graham Ibbeson

Leyland Motors Sculpture

Leyland Motors Sculpture by Stephen Charnock

They though both have information, about their work and their creators.

The sculpture the star of this post remains though a mystery, to me and it seems to the Internet.

To you?

Foundry Sculpture Bathgate