Monday, February 27, 2012

Rogers One Number: Day 2. A review.

The three people who may read this - this isn't for you, well of course it is but it's really a communication addressed to Rogers - I know, of course, 'they' will never get to read it - but if you don't try.....

I'm a Rogers customer and until a year ago I had their cable, home-phone, internet and wireless (2 of them with data) then about a year ago I changed the home-phone to Primus saving a good $25 a month and so as it currently stands we have TV, Net and 2 wireless phones with data. I pay them a fair whack each month and it would be more if I didn't threaten to leave them every year and get discounts all over the service to make it a little less of a monthly sting to our outgoings.

In return for this 'whack' I expect good service. Do I get it? Actually, they are not bad. Some rather interesting to's and fro's with their customer service people every now and again but on the whole it's ok.

My PVR misses the occasional programme for no particular reason. Every now and then the PVR has to be shut down and rebooted and sometimes that happens when I have something I want to watch recorded on the hard drive that will soon be wiped as a result of that. Their online billing service is good - it's getting better - it used to have problems with updating payments but it was good enough to alert me last year (when number 1 son was over and downloading iTunes movies!!!) that I was about to exceed my data allowance and allowed me to top it up with a $5 increase. 

The reception on the Rogers wireless phones is average - if I visit my in-laws in Stittsville it disappears, though, and reception in my house in Alta Vista isn't that great at times either - thank the wireless gods for Wi-Fi.

So the service in general is ok - room for improvement but ok. Now Rogers in their infinite wisdom decide that an improvement means adding stuff like peripheral services and apps.

Hmmmmmm, well that should read: they scramble to try to bring services that others provide and don't quite make the mark, but they advertise the hell out of them as they help bring in new customers, I guess.

Well, let's take a look at a couple of these services, I'll get to One Number - just stick with me.

There is a service called TV Manager and it links your wireless phone to your PVR(s) so you can see what you have recorded and scheduled and edit that or schedule new recordings remotely. OK? Sounds good? Sure, only it doesn't quite work. I started using this last week and it fails to completely update itself. 

If I activate my TV Manager now - it still shows that I have a House from last October as well as an Amazing Race and a NCIS:LosAngeles all from October - when, of course, I do not.

When one tries to refresh or update the 'app' it gets stuck on 'retrieving account information'. When something like this fails to work 100% it is practically useless to use and rely on. On Friday I noticed that I was recording Kitchen Nightmares (Gordon is boring me) so I deleted it. Only, I wasn't deleting KN, I deleted Fringe which I record directly after KN and start a minute early so as to catch the beginning but the TV Manager saw it as KN and I deleted it. Thankfully the HD stations have a back-up and I recorded it on FOXW once I realised what I'd done.

The new Rogers service is one that links your computer to your wireless phone and allows you to see, receive and send texts, calls, video calls and emails all from one screen - it's called One Number and it was launched this past weekend - or so it would seem if you saw all the TV ads for it over the weekend.

I love new tech (even though it's not that new) and as I'm a Rogers customer I thought I'd try it and see if it a)works and b)is worth me using it on a regular, if not daily, basis.

It was relatively easy to sign up to it as it uses your 'My Rogers' sign up details and after a couple apps had been installed and some registration verification it was ready to try out.

This also incorporates a contacts app called '1 Contacts' which syncs your contacts from your phone so you can use them when using One Number from your computer.

The $$ aspect of this is interesting as you can make and send text messages for free in Canada - the sticking point is that it looks like you have to pay for anything 'in-coming' - seems a bit of a dated setup but I guess they have to make a penny or two somewhere. I had a lengthy text conversation with a friend who is on my list of people I can text and call for free (it's called MyFive) and I'm now wondering if I will end up paying a few cents for each of his replies I received while using One Number - we'll see.

So, for texts it works just great - being able to text using my keyboard instead of my iPhone keypad is a joy. Now, I mentioned that you can add email accounts to it too. So, I added my Gmail account and started getting email notifications and dealing with emails through the One Number 'hub'. It didn't go well.

I tried to delete emails and nine times out of ten it would return an error message. If you reply to an email it's very difficult to view the thread, in fact it's almost impossible to deal with an email that goes back and forth a bit. It's like you see messages coming in but those sent out seem to vanish.

The main problem with emails through One Number is that it doesn't update or sync fast enough. If I'm to close my Gmail tab on my browser and just use One Number then this has to be addressed. Maybe a manual refresh button would help until this happens automatically or 'real-time' but as it stands, for me, One Number is unusable for emails. Maybe if you are someone who turns their computer on once a day and checks email - then it should be ok - I have my computer on 24/7 and only power down twice a week to blow the cobwebs out and I am on this thing constantly.

So again, Rogers fails to come up to the standards I expect - do I get a refund?

Rogers - stop spending time, energy and dollars on new services that just don't quite make the mark - it erodes your reputation and ultimately the brand. Spend some dollars on getting the basics up to scratch first - my 2 PVRs are old - I rent them from you - why not, instead of launching your next 'whizz-bang' service, you send me two of the latest boxes? I'll be much more impressed.


PS - How could I forget the most infuriating part about being a Rogers TV customer is that damned archaic EPG (electronic program guide). Really? This is the best you can do? When I search for a programme it takes forever. At least do an update so you can search using the second letter as well as the first. At least this would help - but Rogers EPG must be the worst I've ever used. If you haven't a ne one in the product pipeline I suggest you scramble!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Golden Globes PSA withrawal... and a mini-review!

This is an official withdrawal of yesterday's public service announcement with regard to Ricky Gervais and his potential to upset, offend or otherwise provoke reactions of shock and horror at his cutting and risque remarks and jokes at the expense of the Hollywood crowd.

No PSA was needed.

At best he was mildly funny on a couple of occasions. Was it "take the money and run"? I felt that after his monologue that he sort of just gave up any original material. Maybe he WAS gagged but they didn't admit it? The conspiracy theories will, no doubt, abound.

The Angelina 'haters' seem to be out in full force - they all seem to know her intimately and are able to 'accurately' translate her facial expressions as ones of contempt for the whole process and everyone around her. Come on - I don't know if that's true or not but I think the criticism is a bit mean. I liked her dress even if the red lippy was a bit harsh looking for my old eyes!

Dress round-up (I'm no fashionista) - Sarah Michelle Gellar was in a tie-dye gown that looked like it had been made from the same material as one of my Rolling Stones T-shirts - just didn't look good. Michelle Williams' dress was nice but my favourite of the night was the simple black dress worn by Rooney Mara and Madonna just needed to get one a size bigger - her breasts looked just uncomfortable. As for the guys - who cares!? I'm hoping one year Ryan Seacrest will ask a guy what he's wearing and they'll say "Thrift Store" or "It's mine - had it since I was 20" or "It's hired".....

Everyone seems to be cooing at Seth Rogan and his penis/erection joke - REALLY???? it was worthy of a 12 yr old at best - is America just starting to accept the cock-gag (gag means joke btw - no pun intended). This wasn't even a joke - it was a one line shock soundbite. Really disappointed - I thought Seth was better than a cock joke.

Some of the talent tried to have a 'go' at Gervaisesque humour often trying to get back at him. Why try? Really? Madonna made a complete arse of herself relating to kissing a girl and suggesting Ricky might be that girl..... and that fake accent! I know she lives in the UK but really there are many Americans who live in the UK and don't get an accent like that.

Johnny Depp, again, had the right idea - laugh about it! BTW - I thought Johnny was on a 5 beer buzz or something else - he seemed 'on something' to me - but he managed his 'best film' introduction ok.

I had no really bad reactions to any of the awards presented, no surprises - nice to see whacky Meryl get a gong for the Iron Lady - must see that film!

Homeland was a big winner but as it's not been shown in Canada I can't say whether it's award is warranted.

I am a bit puzzled as to why The Big Bang Theory wasn't nominated in more categories - also a bit puzzled as why Boardwalk Empire didn't win more and, frankly, most of my favourite shows were not even nominated as Sci-Fi and anything remotely 'fantasy' based never seems to get much in the way of nominations or awards. I have to say it was nice to see 'Person of Interest' get a People's Choice Award last week as 'Best New Show'.

Other than that, the 3 hours went without a hitch - but it was all the more boring for it - I was glad when it ended.

Until the Oscars.......or the SAG awards....

PS - can a Canadian channel please pick up Homeland now it's won an award so we can see what the award was based upon? Thanks.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globes PSA.......

People of Canada and the USA please note that tonight's Golden Globes will be, for the 3rd year running, hosted by Englishman Ricky Gervais.

Whilst I know he isn't the most popular choice of host for this prestigious award show I will be watching for this reason and this reason alone.

When he rips the 'piss' out of you and makes observations that are based on things you (the star/actor) have probably done or films/TV you've made that are bad etc. please don't get upset. It's really one of the worst qualities and it's not very admirable or conducive to people continuing to like you.

Take a page from Johnny Depp's 'book' - laugh about it and even engage in some post award 'sketch' in which you match the humour with humour of your own.

Tonight's humour will, in all likely-hood be 'close to the bone' - risque and 'base' in it's flavour of 'funny'. Just the kind of humour I find funny. A lot of other people also find it funny - probably the majority. 

To the minority that find this type of humour offensive I say this to you:

This is the 3rd year RG has hosted. you know what he does. You know he's going to do it again (especially as he's probably going to push it as far as possible in his 3rd and probably last year). So, in that vein, I will draw your attention to the button on your remote control for your cable that is labelled 'channel-up' - use it. If you didn't like him last year or the year before - you have the option and the prior warning to be able to make the choice to NOT WATCH him.

If you don't like RG and you opt to watch tonight's show anyway - please do me a favour and keep your negative opinions to yourselves. No excuses, you've been warned.

My message to RG is this - please make me laugh - please rip the piss where it's warranted - please be clever in your attempts at making me laugh - please do not let me down, please be unexpected.

Thank you.

PSA ends.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Facebook haters: please read and digest!

This has been on my mind for sometime and on a quiet Friday evening before NYE 2011 I've decided it's time to say it how it is with regard to everyone's favourite (well almost) social media platform, Facebook.

The main reason I'm writing this post is that I'm seeing more comments about FB related features, upgrades and 'improvements' being posted on FB and I seldom agree with either the sentiment or the accuracy.

Some are just copy/pasting what someone else has posted, so a comment/hate goes viral - often inaccurate or unfounded. If you don't like Timeline after you have seen the 'sample profile in Timeline mode' THEN DON'T OPT TO GET TIMELINE.

Some are just one liners with no explanation, "I hate timeline" or, "I hate the sidebar". Then there are those strange requests people copy and post that request you, as their friend, to do something so that you can't see what your friend is doing on FB.

If you don't like Timeline after you have seen the 'sample profile in Timeline mode' THEN DON'T OPT TO GET TIMELINE.

Let's just start with the premise of the 'deal' with the FB user and FB itself. Firstly, Facebook is NOT a committee or community based forum for you to meet your friends or make new ones. It's run by a company. They have the right and I would argue, obligation to improve the site and make changes as THEY see fit, NOT you.

If you feel so strongly about the change or the 'improvement' you don't like you can leave FB, no one is making you stay.

FB should be applauded for making improvements and developing the site - if there were no improvements in the tech/online world we would all be still using WordStar for our word processing and battling with the F keys or still battling with DOS or the first Windows.

Now, not everybody will like improvements that FB do to their service and no one ever expects that - again, if you don't like it enough then you can leave and not use this free service.

The contract you have with FB is that you can use the service for free and in return you will see advertising and sometimes FB will sell your information enmass and you will see advertising that may be more appealing to you - not that bad a deal I think.

IF you don't like your information being used in this way then either don't use the service or don't put information up on FB that you don't want them to use this way - simple stuff isn't it?

Over the past couple of days I've seen this:

"With the new 'FB timeline' on it's way this week for everyone please do us all a favour and hover over my name above In a few seconds you'll see a box that says 'Subscribed'. Hover over it, then go to 'Comments and likes' and unclick it. That will stop my posts and yours to me from showing up on the side bar for everyone else to see, but most importantly it limits hackers from Invading our profiles. If you re-post this I will do the same for you. You'll know I've acknowledged you because if you tell me that you've done it I'll like it. Thanks."

1) Timeline has nothing to do with the sidebar. Timeline is the 'opt-in' new version of your profile - it is going to be available for everyone but at the moment it's 'opt-in' which means you have to WANT it. If you don't then keep your profile as is.

2) You can un-check 'Comments and likes' for your friends if you want and then they will not show up in YOUR sidebar but unless you are friends with someone the activity there would NEVER show up "for everyone else to see".

3) Hackers don't gain access to your account from the sidebar! They don't even see your likes and comments in the sidebar unless you have hackers for friends. Hackers get to your account (and only if it's worth hacking and most are NOT) by two main methods - sloppy or easy passwords. 123456 or PASSWORD is NOT a password. The other way is by you leaving your FB logged in and your computer in an area where someone can open it up and change your password - I see FB accounts 'high-jacked' daily by family and friends who post joke status updates - the next step up from this is someone you DON"T know gaining access. The sidebar is NOT a way in to your account!

So, dear FB user who hates this or hates that about FB, please don't post hate comments - I think you should leave the service if you are so pissed off. Also, before you go making changes to your settings - make sure that the instructions are based from FACT not fiction.

Also, take time to look at your settings on Facebook. These settings are your control. Adjust your settings to control the access people have to the information you upload rather than just unchecking individual friends in a non-effective and ad-hoc way that does little to control access to anyone, whether friend or hacker!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When a life is lost...........

Is there anything more tragic and heartbreaking than when someone you know, or a family member, passes away? It becomes harder to deal with if they go 'before their time'.

With pets it can hit just as hard - even though we all know that, generally speaking, we will outlive our cats and dogs, it's still a wrench when they pass on - especially when, often, you have to 'put them to sleep' and making that decision is something I just had my first experience of.

I just got back from our vet after realising that our little Lulu (6 month old orange female cat) was not right at all. She started presenting with all the symptoms of a virus called FIP which is the mutated form of FACV which she probably picked up when she was a tiny kitten.

Her little foibles that were initially put down to 'quirkiness' started to make sense over the past couple of days in a symptomatic sort of way. Her ability to pee in the middle of the floor, her very limited appetite and her constant sleeping became pieces of a larger puzzle.

Then yesterday she lost use of her back legs which completed the diagnosis.

Web research was done and a fairly accurate diagnosis was made and confirmed by the vet. I then agreed that we had to put her to sleep.

I've had, and lost, a few cats in my life but all have been given away at some stage or ran off or killed in some variation of motor vehicle incidents. I've never had to put a pet to sleep - it's not an easy thing to do especially when the little mite is only 7 months old.

I thought I would be ok in dealing with this as it was and still is the right thing to do - but it has hit me a lot harder than I ever thought possible. Maybe it's because Lulu was such a lovely little kitten or maybe it was the fact that I was there holding her while she passed away - I don't know. I do know that what happened today, although not cruel, was very very sad to the point of heartbreaking, and I'm a tough guy, right!?

What am I going to be like when Meg (our dog of 7 years) dies or needs the same decision making? A good friend died a couple of years ago of a heart attack the night before his wedding - he was in his early 30's - tragic and sad, and I was very sad - and it hit me in a different way. My Grandad died when I was 20 and I was sad but he was old and it wasn't such a shock, after-all - old people die.

Maybe the level of sadness or reaction to death is not only linked to the strength of the connection you have with that person or pet but also to the shock factor when they go all too soon.

Lulu was not the healthiest of cats but before the weekend I had no idea I would be taking her to the vet to end her life today. Maybe that is the reason I'm a mess right now? Unforeseen decision of life or death thrust upon me out of the blue.

Poor little Lulu - she deserved more than 7 months of life and most of that she was cranking out symptoms of the virus she had iside her - she liked her green blanket and her cat tree house and she loved her bed by the heating vent that used to be Meg's bed.

Meg will miss eating her poo! I'll just miss hearing her little bell on her collar as she slips around the wooden floors...... rest in peace little Lulu - you were only here for a short time but you affected me and Mar and the people who met her more than those few months really should have. Hope you are in a better place and able to jump and run and bounce around like you were meant to in this life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I'm NOT a racist, but come on guys.......(positive discrimination)

Happy Canada Day! Well, happy Canada Day for last Friday anyhow.

We went to a swanky 'do' at the Westin but that's for another time.

During the day I watched 2 hours of TV broadcasting the celebrations on Parliament Hill. I'm not a big fan of the Royals but I kinda like to see them treated with respect and such and that was the case in Ottawa.

After the Gov General inspected the troops/RCMP?? (the guys in the bearskins) and a couple of badly timed flyovers......and while I think of that - I know it's protocol for the GD to inspect but wouldn't you have thought they would have had William do it as he was in the neighbourhood?

Anyway they did all the pomp then sat down to about 90 minutes of a show.

I think this most years but stay quiet about it then I heard the guy on the radio this morning who I rarely listen to (Loll Green?) talk about how unrepresentative and skewed the performances were; too much folk, too much frankly poor performances and too much from Quebec (ironic that it was mostly French and the Quebec side all but ignored the Royals the past couple of days).

I really have to agree with him too! I'm all for proportional representation but it seemed very French and most of the acts were just terrible, sorry guys - I know they must rehearse their butts off but it just wasn't a show fit for a world stage - and we were on the world's stage with Will and Kate in attendance.

The NCC replied to these critics by saying a lot of the BIG Canadian acts were busy and unavailable. I do NOT buy that - and I yearn for the day when a Canada Day show can really represent what Canada has to offer in the way of entertainment in 2011.

I would like to have had that show last Friday when the Royals brought the world's press with them to witness that shambles of a show - which was also more or less repeated at 9pm before the 20 minutes of fireworks that were humdrum fireworks too - nothing that special for a special day.

KD Lang was in town, The Hip are around as they play Bluesfest in a few days, where was Celine (don't like her but you have to admit she is a good ambassador for Canada), BEIBER for god sake! RUSH, Neil Young - it should have been a barnstormer of a concert!

Next year keep the concert more balanced and properly representitive, get some bigger acts, let the headliner play more than just ONE song!

File this under #grindsmygears


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Birthday retrospective....... "my favourite band is....."

I frequently get asked, "who do you like, who's your favourite band/artist/singer etc." (not that people really 'speak' a 'forward slash' but you get the picture!). The answer to this question always gets to me because the answer is always in flux depending on my age, outlook, mood and influences - and of course whether I've been in the right place to actually hear any of the music in the first place. There could very well be a band in Chile that would blow me away but I'm probably never going to hear them play.

When I first started to listen to music rather than just as something that was played on the radio (my very first memory was getting a tiny tranny with a tiny ear plug and listening to Tony Blackburn [UK DJ] spinning 'Nelly the Elephant') I guess it would be when i got my first cassette recorder. Remember those cassette recorders that came with the microphone? I got one for Christmas in about 1974, I was 11 and I got a cassette of a TV music show called 'Supersonic'. It was ITV's answer to Top of the Pops that was still a BBC institution on a Thursday night.

This cassette included tracks by artists 'of the day' and I guess this was my first 'Album' that I listened to that formed the basis of my musical 'taste'. This was the track listing:

Side 1
1: ANDY BOWN Supersonic

2: PILOT Magic

3: DRIFTERS Save The Last Dance For Me
4: DEAN FORD Hey My Love
5: GARY GLITTER Oh Yes You're Beautiful
6: SHADOWS Let Me Be The One
7: HOLLIES He Ain't Heavy
9: GLITTER BAND Love In The Sun
10: OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN Take Me Home Country Road

Side 2
1: BAY CITY ROLLERS Keep On Dancing
2: HOLLIES The Air That I Breathe
4: BARRY BLUE Hot Shot
5: MATAYO Brother
6: SWEET Action
7: SON OF A GUN Maison De L'Amour
8: HELLO Games Up
9: LINDA LEWIS Remember The Days (Of The Old School Yard)
10: SHOWADDYWADDY Hey Mister Christmas

I know! A blast from the past, right?

It was a great sampler for me to be able to say to myself, "well I don't like BCR (sorry Roller fans) or The Drifters or Showaddywaddy BUT I kinda like The Hollies, Shadows and Pilot! 

Anyway my next 'watershed' was an influence from my Dad of all people! (He was into Demis Rousoss about this time so a bit of a strange one looking back at it}. He bought me a cassette called "24 carat Purple" a greatest hits of Deep Purple that he said a bloke at work liked and thought I would too! It was probably 'Yapper', eh Dad?

Anyway, this cassette was just an 'eyeopener' for me, I played it almost until the tape stretched. Within a week I new all the words, all the riffs (to air guitar to) all the drum beats (to air drum to) and I was hooked on Deep Purple - they were my first favourite band!

High School in the UK is 11 - 16 yrs old unless you stay on in sixth form until you are 18 and soon after the Deep Purple experience I went to high school and then of course got influenced by what all my friends were listening to. I had a paper round and therefore I could buy a cassette or LP about once a month and of course I got them for Christmas and birthdays, or 'record vouchers' as my parents knew they would get the selection wrong!

I made a fortunate mistake one Christmas. I was given money to get a couple of albums (read LP's) for my Christmas pressie from my Mum and walked into town and met my friend, Steve. Now, as i flipped through the albums I really knew that I wanted to get the soundtrack to 'Tommy' by The Who but as I was with Steve the album I chose sort of said something about me and I fancied myself as a bit of an 'at the edge' type of musical aficionado! So half with this in mind and half thinking well I'll get 'Tommy' with the vouchers I get after Christmas I bought an Album by a band I'd never heard much of, and it was the best 'mistake' I had ever made at that time, musically.

I brought the double album home and put the first side on my record player, plugged in my hifi headphones and lay back to have my first listen to 'The Song Remains the Same' by Led Zeppelin! WOW!

I flipped those records for the next 3 or 4 hours, missed tea, and remember just loving the way in which music that is new can transform from something that you listen to and like to something that you actually know and get inside of to the point that you tell yourself that if you could play those instruments you could probably recreate every note! 

I still bought 'Tommy' after Christmas but it taught me that I really needed to widen my musical 'funnel'. I started listening to AC/DC (Dirty Deeds era), KISS (Alive 1 and 2 era), Black Sabbath (Never Say Die era) and of course my fixation of my teen years, Staus Quo!

Quo were a big thing for me when I was 14/15/16 yrs old. I appreciated and loved all the other music I was listening to but this all fell into perspective after I went to my first 'gig' at Birmingham Odeon to see Quo play live on the 'Rocking All Over the World tour' in 1977, I was 14.

I wan't now just listening to music, I was experiencing it like never before; I just had no idea that music could affect me the way that first gig did. The loudness, the showmanship, the fact that I recognised all the tracks; I felt I was a part of the experience rather than just watching and listening; it blew me away.

I was hooked on music and it's been that way ever since. I have always tried to see as many of the artists I like play live.

Quo were always big in the playlist of my musical history but as I experienced new bands and artists and genres they took a back seat a bit as new music evolved through punk and then 'New Wave' and on through the New Romantic era and out through the other side I started to realise that I liked a whole load of completely different sounding music and that started to include classical as well as even a bit of opera!

I liked, and started to use, the word 'eclectic' when people asked what I liked. I was listening to the Four Seasons (not classically challenging now, but then......), The Clash, The Smiths, Rush, Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen as well as The Cure and a whole slew of heavy metal and rock bands.

Every now and again I obsess a bit over one band or artist depending on my mood and based on whether I am about to see them in concert or have seen them etc. and also if they have anything new 'out'.

My first obsession was probably Bruce Springsteen. Simon Morgan (who is the drummer in Suede) used to take the piss out of me religiously for this obsession but it never matters when you get these bouts, they are unstoppable and inexplicably rational to the subject of them. *I have never name dropped Simon before, strange that he crops up......anyway.....

I was about to see Bruce at a gig in Leeds, Roundhay Park I think and I really only knew Born in the USA so I decided I needed to hear more than just the 'Borns' ( ....To Run and in the USA)....Off I went to the record store and got every album he made.....

Greetings from Asbury Park, Born to Run, Darkness on the edge of town, The River and Nebraska...played them non-stop. My favourite? Oh, yes I loved The River and Candy's Room and Cadillac Ranch and so on but the album that I really LOVED was the one most people dismiss as not that great: Nebraska.

I'm not the only one who likes this album but I'm in the minority and I soon realised that my favourite music is always the music liked by the minority. I think it's the feeling that maybe I 'get' it and I like to think that most others don't.... so it's almost like a more personal experience for me when I like an artist or an album that isn't mainstream or loved by the masses.

Don't get me wrong I still love the Rolling Stones....seen them many times but they are not a personal music experience for me like, say, Julian Cope is.

Ah, Julian, one of my more aggressive obsessions! I've never stalked someone before but in 1995 Mar and I took a visiting friend to Avebury on the premise of seeing the stone circle and maybe checking out an old pub and surrounding buildings etc. Really, in my mind, it was an excuse to possibly, remotely possibly, in a pigs might fly way, 'bump' into Julian - as he lived locally and frequented Avebury a lot.

Mar and our visitor were interested in the gift shop way past my limited attention span so I stepped outside and as I walked around the next corner who did I see sat outside the 'Stones' veggie restaurant but Julian and Dorian!

It was was of those sharp intake of breath moments and my instincts just kicked in and marched straight up to them and introduced myself, went and fetched Mar and had a nice chat for half an hour or so. I remember asking dorky questions intended to demonstrate to him that I 'knew' his music and I still cringe a bit to this day. We got guest passes to a gig in Cambridge (we'd already seen him twice on the 20 Mothers tour but another time wasn't going to be sniffed at) and our friend went too!

Now Julian can get a bit 'out there' even for my taste in music and I have to say I have NOT listened to his 30 minute Odin chants! Recently I have not been such an avid listener and some of the recent Blood Donor stuff isn't for me.

In the realm of Jehovakill and Peggy Suicide and 20 Mothers, Julian was my favourite artist for a good 15 years and is still a top 5 favourite to this day.

I've had less aggressive strains of obsessions over the years; John Mellencamp, Rush, Thin Lizzy, Massive Attack, Portishead, The Smiths, The Human League (!!), The Jam but I feel a new aggressive obsession coming on and have done for a few years now......

I started noticing this artist later in her career than I should of but I think it was more down to the way in which she was marketed and promoted than me hearing and dismissing her.

It wasn't until I got back from Canada in 1995 that I started to catch her on shows and on the radio, she started while I was away from the UK so I didn't witness her debut or anything.

When I first heard "Down by the Water" it was like, uh, oh, yes, I like this sound, I'm liking it a lot and so it went with some of the more accessible tracks she wrote and recorded; Rid of Me, C'Mon Billy, You said something, This is Love, This wicked tongue...... I sort of liked some of her stuff and there was some quirkier stuff that was a bit beyond me but I was happy with my level of knowing and listening to PJ Harvey and then I thought it all went a bit 'south' with White Chalk in 2007, I just didn't 'get' the album at all and thought that my collection of 20 or so songs that exist on my playlist would be it. How wrong was I?

This past few weeks saw the release of "Let England Shake" - it's an album with a 'crust'; first listen and it's 'ok', maybe even 'not really my thing ok' but after the second third and fourth playing it becomes obvious, after you break though the cust, that this album is a classic, genius, out there and even a bit 'what the fuck is that'......but ultimately it's brilliant. 

If you don't know the music of PJ Harvey it's not the album to introduce yourself to her with but if, like me, you've been on the fence but falling slowly to her side of it and like most of what you hear then this album seems to pull ALL of her work together to such an extent that I went back and started listening to the tracks I wasn't so keen on the first time around and ...... WOW! This is the start of a new obsession for sure.

Let England Shake is by far the best album she has written and recorded and I just can't listen to anything else but PJ at the moment, I'm sure it'll pass in a year or so but the best birthday present I could get today would be to learn that she is touring North America in the next year or so and I can hear, experience and be apart of an event where this amazing artist plays her songs, just for me and the minority!

My name is Chris, I'm 48 and my favourite artist is PJ Harvey!

Have a great day.