Friday, August 29, 2008

Free Awesomeness.. iticity?

When was the last time you got something for free? And don’t think about quoting me that “hub” website featuring all the pretty ladies that a much valued work colleague MADE ME LOOK AT, because God’s gonna make you pay someday – in her own unique mysterious way – for checking out all that type of stuff.

For now though, put your wallets and confessions away because in these tough, credit-crunch times it’s my sincere pleasure to spend my holiday week cooped up in the house avoiding the rain and working on a little project, the results of which I now offer you for free. As you can see from this photo I’ve managed to connect my late-80s “music centre” to the computer and have a begun a (potentially mammoth) endeavour of converting old vinyl and tape recordings to digital format.

The spark for this idea was the recent discovery of some long lost recordings by The Signals, greatest pub rock ‘n roll pub ever. From Falkirk. The boys and I have worked out that the two songs in question were the first demo tracks for our “difficult” and never completed third album and must have been recorded in 1988. Sh#t, that’s TWENTY years ago! Anyway, if you click on these dark red lines that are underlined, you’ll be whisked off to the band’s MySpace site where you can hear them in all their hissy, four-track, cassette-like glory and, if you so desire, DOWNLOAD THEM FOR FREE. Here’s a little background to both…

Stronger Than Love
A song about a girl (surprise!) that, unusually, I originally wrote on the piano so that my talented wee sister Rona could teach me how chords work properly. Not sure where the Cleo Laine-like “do-be-dee-doo-bop” stuff at the start came from. But I really like the bright, cutting guitar work that young virtuoso Billy Bob Hay is displaying throughout. Eat your heart out Robert Cray.

Band of Gold
A song about the greatest pub rock ‘n roll band ever (ergo, a “band of gold”) going to a regular gig haunt where one of the members – the bass player let’s say – meets a girl, falls in love and lives happily ever after*. Not sure how this song will sound on your computer/iPod but we were obviously doing a lot of experimenting with that new-fangled stereo invention at the time, with singing and guitar parts switching suddenly from one speaker to the other. Check out the Duane Eddy guest solo in the middle!

If you’re not already reaching for fresh underwear at the thought of indulging in two “new” Signals recordings, I have a bonus offer for you. Back in the 80s when I wasn’t leaping off ridiculously high amplifier stacks during Signals gigs, I often did a little recording work with a good friend who, for the purposes of this story, we’ll refer to as Mark. Because that was his name.

Mark was a prolific songwriter but preferred to have other people sing his songs when he recorded them. During my recent great vinyl and tape excavation, I discovered some of the recordings and have uploaded one called “Like There’s No Tomorrow” to my own MySpace site which you can access by clicking on these dark green words that are underlined. The harmonies are nice but I’d be obliged if you could just ignore the bits where the melody is a tad out of my range. Thanks.

I’ve a very strong suspicion that this song was heavily influenced by a hit single for a famous 80s duo but I’ll let you have a guess as to which one and will let you know my interpretation in a couple of days.

Meantime, have a great weekend and enjoy the free stuff. Remember, it’s free.

*Twenty years on, the bass player and his girlie are still happily wearing their “bands of gold”… see what I did there?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's Not Rocket Science...

Every time I log on to Blogger to paste and upload some “writing” that I’ve already documented in another application because I’m too scared to click or use any of the complicated switches, knobs and options that Blogger has to offer – stuff like “Settings” and “Template” and “Whatever You Do Don’t Touch That Big Red F#ck-Off Button” – I complete my pasting/uploading business in short order and then get the hell out of there before any kind of hey-guys-look-at-the-techno-freak alarm goes off. But today I decided to take the bull by the horns and venture to dark, mysterious places I’d never been before. Like under the sink where all the cleaning products are kept. I think.

As promised last week, I have a ton of recent photos of my nephews and niece – the World’s Four Cutest Kids™ – but rather than paste them into one long post which would have you scrolling down till Christmas, I wanted to replicate something clever I’d seen on Lesley’s site; the flickr badge.

Creating the badge was relatively easy but then flickr presented me with literally “hunners” of lines of Klingon-like technobabble and casually suggested that I “simply paste” this into my website. After much time reading some “help” files, I worked out that I would need to delve into the dreaded “Template” and paste it there.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a film from the 70s called “Juggernaut” where Richard Harris has to defuse a load of bombs on a panic-stricken ocean liner (“Fallon is the champion!” clap-clap, clap, clap, clap…) but clicking on Blogger’s “Template” was a bit like opening up one of those cataclysmic megaton destructive devices. Lots of bells, whistles, coloured wires and whirling tapes, poised to bring the entire internet to its knees should I even breath in the wrong direction.

Anyway, long story short, I somehow managed to do it (I've no idea how) and if you’ve read down this far you should now be able to see the “badge” with the cute kids – encapsulated within its own smart white bordered box I might add – on the right hand side of your screen. Get your “ooohs” and “aaahs” at the ready and click away.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Future Is Coming

Next week I am on holiday and since the f#cking rain in Scotland appears likely to continue until such times as the polar ice caps melt and we all grow gills to enable us to survive in Waterworld, I could be spending a considerable amount of time in the house, staring out the window and watching my grass grow past the six-foot mark.

However, this is good news for both readers of this website because when I’ve finished with all the window-staring, I’m going to attempt to make some changes to the underlying website “template” to drag it (kicking and screaming, no doubt) into the 21st century. I don’t want to give too much away just now but let’s just say that when you both come back to see the differences in September, make sure you’re sitting down because digital lightening bolts will fly directly out of your computer screen to stimulate every one of your six senses and byte you (see what I did there with the funny computer-related word?) on the ass.

Here’s a hint of what’s on my to-do list…

Photos: Following my recent World’s Greatest Uncle™ road trip, I have great photos of the World’s Four Cutest Kids™ which are gonna make you go “ooh” and “ahhh” and “honey, get upstairs to the bedroom NOW!”

Music: Although I know this whole iPod madness is just a big flash in the pan, I’m going to indulge the hysteria by converting a few classic vinyl and cassette recordings to some kind of digital format, “empathree” is it? This will include some long-lost and recently-discovered recordings made by The Signals for their never-completed and “difficult” third album. Get ready to “download”.

Toys: Two weeks ago I bought the greatest, electric-powered indulgence a boy could ever hope to possess. Get ready to scream with pleasure because I will share this with you next week.

Video: No longer will you have to stare longingly at that picture of me in the green t-shirt at the top of this page and wonder how much I’ve aged since it was taken in 2003. I have another toy which will confirm that I walk (if my groin ever heals) and talk, sometimes simultaneously. Get ready to cock your head to one side, sigh and say, “Aw, look at him wearing his new glasses… so cute!”

So, an exciting few days in prospect and a lot to get through and I’m looking forward to getting started. Either that or the sun will return and I’ll just go out and play golf all week.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Run Keith Run

Those of you who, like me, have younger siblings who are twins will know that the first rule of being big brother/sister to twins is NEVER let the wee b##t@rds be in the same team when playing “fun for all the family” Christmas games. Twins have a strange kind of telepathy thing going on so they need to be separated – preferably with one locked in the basement – whenever someone suggests a quick round of “Taboo”, the mild-mannered, word guessing game of “unspeakable fun”.

We once played the “Famous Person” edition at Christmas and, since I’d forgotten to wear my Joey pants before eating and was distracted by the seams in my jeans straining at every turn, I neglected to notice that “the twinnies”, Rona and Keith, had wangled their evil way on to the same team. The game did not last long…

Dad: “Right Rona, it’s your turn.”
Keith: “C’mon Rona, we’re ten points ahead already. Super!”
Rona: “Okay... it’s a man... and he was once…”
Keith: “JOHN F KENNEDY!!!!”
Rona: “Correct!!!”
Neil: “Aw for f#ck’s sake… what’s the f#cking point… Christmas is sh#t… I’m f#cking outta here… someone help he up off this f#cking bean bag… who invented these f#cking things anyway… aw b#llocks, ma jeans’ve burst… who f#cking shrunk them in the wash… eh?... EH?”

Good times.

Anyway, twins can, more often than not, do good as well as evil. Sharp-eyed readers (i.e. ones, unlike me, who don’t need to wear f#cking glasses) will remember that a few months ago I wrote a thing with a similar title to this wherein I shared an email I’d received from Rona telling of her intent to run the London marathon. She achieved that impressive feat in April and now her twin Keith has decided to match her by also successfully writing an email. Here it is…

Dear Family,

As many of you know, Rona ran the London Marathon in April in a wonderful time and raised a lot of money and awareness for autism. Rona’s run inspired me to not only get fit
(it inspired ME to set my alarm and get up early to WATCH the marathon on tv), but to do whatever I can to raise awareness and money for Autism research. I’ve been training for the last two months and plan to run the Chicago Marathon on October 12th.

Please support me
(KEI-THY! KEI-THY! KEI… oh, you mean with my wallet?) in raising money for such a worthy cause. You can sponsor me online by visiting

Your support will not only get me out the front door on those early morning long runs but importantly it will give a lot of kids and their parents an important support system.

Wishing all of you the very best.

Love, Keith

At this point, I should mention that my other brother Stuart (World Class baby-maker and website genius who’s still available for all manner of freelance interweb work) ran the Glasgow marathon during the 1980s in UNDER THREE AND A HALF HOURS, although he had done a lot of sprint work, fleeing from “Maggie’s Fascist Baton-Wielding Boot Boys” during several marches for a worthy campaign… Blue Peter’s African Appeal, I think it was…

Keith - Ignoring the obvious selfish nature of leaving me as the only sibling not to have run a marathon, I wish you all the very best in October and hope the training continues to go well. Any insane thoughts I might have entertained about joining you on the run in Chicago were ended earlier this evening during five-a-side football when I ravaged a muscle in the thigh/groin area which registered as “F#ck Me, That’s F#cking Agony” when I checked the British Medical Association’s on-line Pain-O-Meter™.

So ladies, if you’re thinking of beating a path to my door this week for a little “booty call” (I knew MTV would pay for itself in the long run), bring ice packs. Lots of 'em.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

To Be Clear...

There was a bit in the last thing I wrote that wasn’t strictly true and has been slightly misinterpreted so I feel I should clarify matters. Amazingly, the untrue bit WASN’T the thing about going to the movies with TWO (count ‘em!) gorgeous women although you’ll have noticed I was careful not to specify whether they were human or inflatable.

No, the bit I’m referring to was the medical diagnosis which, although I still maintain came as something of a shock, is not likely to warrant a hasty revision of my will any time soon. So, for the friend who texted me enquiring about the availability of my Scalextric should I “shuffle off to a better place” I say “tough titties”! (And no, that wasn’t the diagnosis.) Mind you, maybe he meant something else? Like Disney World? Or Pizza Express?

Anyway, two Thursdays ago a so-called “medical expert” pitched up at our office building offering “free tests and advice”. I heard a rumour he’d arrived at the front door with his horse and snake oil caravan but it’d gone by the time I went outside for a cigarette/to check for myself.

Things didn’t start well when he turned out not to be the same hot chick who conducted the very same tests on me almost three years ago so I wasn’t in the best of moods to put up with his crazy smoke ‘n mirrors hocus-pocus. Twenty minutes later when he concluded his “evaluation” with an unnecessary (in my book) chicken-beheading, he shook his beaded rattle and declared that I required “a correction” for a “slightly lazy” left eye.

“Your right eye is perfect Mr Sutherland,” he wailed as the headless chicken ran into the wall, “but it’s doing some of the work for your left eye so I’m recommending a mild prescription for glasses, to be worn if your eyes start to feel tired in the afternoon.”

I just sat there dazed and open-mouthed (he’d managed to re-attach the chicken’s head) barely able to digest what he was telling me. Glasses? After forty-four and a half years of perfect 20:20 vision? Why God, WHY did this have to happen to me? And why glasses? If it’s only one eye, wouldn’t a monocle suffice? Mind you, if I got a monocle I’d also need a butler.

So many cherished hopes and plans now lie dying in the dust. As a good friend so correctly pointed out to me this week, “Well that’s your dream of flying jets at Top Gun f#cked!” And I had such a cool nickname picked out too… Jetboy!

If I’m totally honest, I’ve had my suspicions that my left eye has been a bit lazy for some time now. It’s always the last one to open in the morning and just doesn’t have the work ethic or reaction time of the right. And its attitude is questionable also. Every time a cute girl passes my window when I’m writing, the right eye snaps to attention and follows her while the left is still staring at the keyboard tryng 2 mke snse of al the lttrz thatve gawn all fzzy ‘n blrrd. (Wow, she was nice!)

Obviously, I’ve had to rethink my image makeover for 2008 which I envisage will now look like my cousin Kiefer here. But it’s not all bad news. Another friend remarked to me that glasses will “make u look clever and u can see the burdz more clearly.” I’m also looking forward to whipping them off dramatically during boring work meetings and pensively chewing the ends to indicate I’m formulating some profound argument and fully understanding what the hell they’re all talking about.

On a semi-serious note, I was quite touched that people I care about sent text messages and emails or left comments this week enquiring about my well-being so thanks very much to you all for your concern and apologies if I alarmed you in any way. And to my wee brother Keith who simply asked, “so tell me more about the cinema babes”, I like your style bro!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Still Around...

…but haven’t really had the time or inclination to update you on my World’s Greatest Uncle™ trip, especially after being diagnosed with some fairly devastating medical news last Thursday. Still trying to absorb and make sense of it all. Suddenly life seems very precious. Gotta make every day count. Mind you, I went to the movies last night with TWO (count ‘em!) gorgeous women and they bought me pizza before we settled down to watch Gillian Anderson and her beautiful eyes on the big screen so life doesn’t get much better than THAT!

More later in the week…