Friday, 25 March 2011

Can Support Companies Smell Fear?

There is something about how when you're in a rush, last mintute etc, the support companies around you can almost sense this and add to your dilemna. It's as if urgency has its own pheromone and anyone near it suddenly becomes inept, slow, rude or just plain dumb.

Take DHL for example. Normally a very reliable and proven company. If I have an urgent parcel though, they will pick it up at 5.29pm (stating they always pick up between 9am and 5.30pm - so an entire day is wasted waiting and stressing), they'll forget to leave a tracking number, lose all trace of the parcel if you phone customer services etc etc. Take Windows Explorer, you can guarantee that when you are putting in your credit card details to book the last seat on a flight that Windows will suddenly panic and close (quite often to protect you from a website that you've used a hundred times before).

Of course, when there isn't any urgency, your passport arrives weeks early, your money is in your account the same day and the flight isn't delayed 'cause someone got drunk.

Life, I guess, has a way of reminding you how unimportant you are, and support companies have a way of reminding you of all of those swear words you'd forgotten.

Sometimes you feel like the cat...

Currently Drinking:

This weekend I'll mostly be drinking whisky in Groningen, North Holland. And next weekend I'll be at WhiskyMessen in Kolding, Denmark... tis a hard life sometimes!

Currently reading:

Starts almost exactly as 'Lustrum' (also by Robert Harris) but so far so good. Will have finished it by the time I get back from Holland (& Denmark).

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A ramble on remembrance...

Tough to remember the last run-of-the-mill dram I had. Tough to recall, in detail, most of them. The problem is, I suppose, that we remember the greats and the disastrous. I can recall the very best drams, the Springbank's from the 60s and 70s; the Glenfarclas 40yo; the Glenfiddich Aged over 40; the Springbank 1918; the... well, you get the message. Equally, I can remember the Old Rhosdhu; the High Commissioner; the (so-called) Thai Whisky (paint-thinner more like). In between these drams, everything can get a bit hazy.

Its not our fault, we can't help but remember the biggest and best and the poorest or worst. Describe to someone your favourite dish and its easy, now try describing to someone brocoli. I can go into great detail why I hate Sprouts but have difficulty waxing lyrical about a bowl of porridge.

There are currently anything up to 50,000 different bottlings of whisky available in the world. Yep, 50,000! What portion of this staggering amount of whisky falls into the 'memorable' category? A very small percentage (remembering that for Scotch whisky, only about 8% is bottled as single malt whisky, the rest as blended) - maybe 0.2% or perhaps as much as 0.5%. That means there's an awful lot of 'ok' whisky out there you're going to have to wade through before you get to the top or the bottom of the pile.

And here's the real problem for you: no-one can help you find the best or avoid the worst because it is completely personal. For me this makes it really hard to pick casks and I can only subject each and every cask sample I taste to one important question; 'would I buy a bottle of this'. As I often quip in my tastings, there are only 2 important things when sampling a whisky;

Do I like it?
Will I buy it?

So, more often than not you will find yourself commenting upon a whisky as being 'ok'. Occasionally it will be outstanding and memorable and hopefully rarely, it will be poor and therefore also memorable. The real fun, is finding your way!

What have been your best and worst?

Currently Drinking:
This arrived in the post today so was opened straight away. Smoky Marshmallow - another example of the extraordinary peated Bunnahabhain. Giving the rest of Islay a run for their money! Sue-poyb!

Currently listening to:

A truly classic album and the one that kept Rush in business, well, for the rest of their lives. Worth buying just for 'Passage to Bangkok'.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Australian Pink Floyd Show... pink kangaroos?

I'm reduced to this. Thankfully not alone though. Born about 20 years too late for my taste in music, many of my musical heros are geriatric or deceased (or indeterminably, one of the two). So it is often tribute bands that offer me the 'live' experience my music deserves. The APFS (I'm not writing it out each time I mention them...) have been going now for around 20 years and are the closest you're going to get a real Pink Floyd experience.

I first saw them over 12 years ago and they have come a loooong way since then. Close your eyes now and only the truest of fans will miss Gilmour's unmistakable (and clearly unmimmickable) voice and the fluency of play that can only come from the original artist. At times though, even the most ardent fan has to acknowledge how good the APFS are. Sorrow, Time and Wish You Were Here are the clear stand out tracks from the current set-list (which incredibly includes a number from Animals - when was the last time you heard one of those tracks live?).

Tears were being shed through Wish You Were Here as everyone in the small Hammersmith Apollo Theatre joined forces to drown out the band, singing in complete harmony, mournfully watching the images of Syd Barret and Rick Wright (both now departed from our world) and pictures of the rest of the band in their youth and more recent. We were all wishing they could be with us, perhaps not to be on stage but more to experience their legacy. They would have been touched, no doubt.

The new 3D element was unnecessary and a slight distraction if anything, but complaints are hard to find. The new lead singer, taking many of Gilmour's parts was the campest Gilmour I've ever heard, but then he did not miss a note, word or emphasis and how do you copy Gilmour's voice?

A great night with great fans and a great band paying homage to a great band.

What I'm currently drinking:
...well, I've still got some left after St Patrick's day...

Currently listening to:
The album that convinced me there was more to the Boss than just being Born in the USA etc. A great album with some outstanding songs from a fella that can apparently write songs in his sleep. (If you get the chance, check out how many songs he's written for other people!)

Friday, 18 March 2011

'The Fountainhead' a quick review

As a huge Rush fan (more on them another day, lots more...) I've just finished Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead'. Neil Peart, Rush's lyrcist and drummer often mentions 'The Fountainhead' and 'Anthem' as major influences on his writing.

Ayn Rand, for those of you who don't know and can't be bothered to google, believed in egotism and the power of one rather than collective efforts (she opposed fascism, communism, well nearly all of the other 'isms' apart from 'egotism').

'The Fountainhead' is the story of 4 main characters; 2 architects; 1 slut and a captalist, media-mogul (think Rupert Murdoch, but 20-30 years younger). The 2 architects are juxtaposed; one, Howard Roark, is brilliant (gifted perhaps) whilst the other, Peter Keating, is also brilliant but a plagiarist. The slut (Dominique, named after her ability to fall like a domino on men) manages to marry all of the main characters simply because she has to. It is impossible to like any of the characters, their actions being almost foretold by fate or legend. Half of the book is spent describing how characters 'did not need to express their desires as they knew what the other was thinking' (not a direct quote but close enough).

At first you find yourself fascinated by the Howard Roark character until you realise he is an unbelievable, fantastic ideal - how Rand would like all men to be I guess. That's at about page 30 with another 700 pages to go.

The main problem with the book is that it didn't start me thinking... aren't you supposed to question your values, beliefs and thoughts when reading so-called profound books? Well, not with this one.

The greatest compliment I can give this book is that I finished it, although towards the end of it, I was losing the will to read on. Oh and there's a movie of this too (not sure how they made an interesting movie of one woman sleeping with three men...)

Recommended if you like long monologues, lots of 'unspoken things', outdated philosophical twaddle and a complete lack of real character development or explanation.

Not recommended to anyone wanting to read a good book.

And I still have 'Anthem' by Ayn Rand to read...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Welcome to my blog

I'm a bit late. I realise that. I tend to be in life but it doesn't usually stop me. I was late finishing school (20); then University; late in writing my Malt Whisky Guide (Michael Jackson had already written 4), late in becoming an independent bottler and definitely way behind every other human and their dog in starting a blog.

Problem is, see, I'm one of those annoying gits who has something to say on everything (whether its p.c. or not or whether it is an informed opinion or not) so I've put off starting a blog as my mouth (or in this case, fingers) can get me in trouble. I can't put it off any longer though...

I work from home; alone. Sympathy please, I'll need it now before you know what I do for a living. Working from home is GREAT - I get to see my kids more than most other dads and can turn on the XBox during my lunch break. It has several drawbacks though, mainly interaction with other humans and boredom. Most of my work is done by email so my time actually spent talking to another human is very limited... hence the need for a blog.

So this blog is my chance to communicate on the mundane, to rant, rave, discuss (with myself), reveal and eventually recant on everything that 'normal' people get to talk about in a 'normal' office environment. Expect a lot about Sport, Music and Whisky as these are my three biggest passions. Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions.

Currently Drinking:
Finishing off the last of my bottle of the WWW Forum Tamdhu. I've really noticed a Huge change in the character of this one as the bottle has slowly emptied.

Currently listening to:

A real return to form for the Durham crooner - was really surprised to find the standout track (Song To The Siren) was written by Tim Buckley (Jeff Buckley's father). Recommended if you like any of the latter Roxy Music stuff, Simple Minds, adult pop etc - and definitely check out some Tim Buckley on YouTube -