Slippery auto-complete offers surprising prospect

Autocomplete - Oil me up

It’s old hat really to get comedic value out of the iPhone Auto-Complete language mangling – until it happens to you.

I was picking up our office manager Penny today, she is currently sans transport and lives nearby, plus it’s nice to have a natter in the car. On the right is the exchange Penny had with our support helpdesk lead Leigh attempting to explain I was collecting her at 8:20am.

Good lord, it’s just so wrong.

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Sleigh bells ring – my ears are blistering

I’ve been running a ‘Christmas songs on Spotify’ playlist competition at work. The rules are simple:

1) 10 songs

2) Must be Christmas related

3) Points deducted for inclusion of Mariah Carey (actually I didn’t tell anyone that, but that’s how it’s going to get scored)

Bells - it's all about the bells

Bells - it's all about the bells (oh and the choir of children if you've got the budget and the production values)

What is great is about the Christmas song genre is that it’s so broad, so diverse and almost every artist at some point has given it a go – generally because it’s a bloody good commercial idea (and crucially, not necessarily the best artistic idea).

Did you know for example that Jimi Hendrix did Christmas songs? Or that the Manic Street Preachers basically admitted they must have nicked and enjoyed their sisters early 80’s copies of Smash Hits by doing a cover of ‘Last Christmas’.

What I’m especially looking forward to in a few days is when my old school friend Michael Jones mails me his annual CD of Xmas songs. It’s always a belter and always has really obscure random madness on it. Wham sung by a computer – check, a generous helping of Reggae from the Trojan Christmas album – check, Old School Hip Hop Xmas songs – check, Philly Soul Christmas songs – check.

A Christmas song playlist can be taken in many directions – you could do the drop dead classics – start with Slade and Wizzard, end with Nat King Cole and go past Shakin Steven’s, Wham, Greg Lake, Mud, Jona Lewie and Kirsty McColl & The Pogues on the way.

OR

You can explore a hatred of Christmas (look no further than Helen Arney and ‘It’s going to be an awkward Christmas, darling‘)

OR

You could go US punk for Christmas.

OR

Go with a proper jangly, boy-girl  C86 indie pop Christmas (the ‘Very Cherry Christmas’ compliations are always a favourite round these parts)

Or

You could look for god awful cover versions featuring sampled dog’s and cats  (I blame the Casio SK 1 for this) or worse an allegedly keyboard playing cat.

OR

Grab your cocktail shaker, consider whether eggnog is a good idea and smoulder with a 60’s lounge feel – with the stylish vocals of Julie London, Dean Martin, Lou Rawls, Peggy Lee and the orchestrations of Billy May and Eddie Dunstedter.

OR

If you live somewhere properly posh, or have a fondness for muzak and prefer your Christmas pop tunes delivered by a string quartet then that’s available too.

And even though he’s now a weird, be-wigged, incarcerated, actress murdering loon, back in the 1960’s Phil Spector delivered what is still arguably the best overall single christmas album with ‘A Christmas Gift For You, From Phil Spector.’  The title alone hints at the rampant ego-mania that would eventually consume him. However, it’s Christmas – put that to one side (just like a recently discharged weapon) and revel in the pop-tastic brilliance of it.

So what makes a good Christmas playlist ?

A good playlist should (too my ears at least) have a mixture of styles, it should be un-afraid to mix the known with the unknown. Like Christmas day itself it should conceal some surprises but equally it should (mostly) stick to a reasonably expected pattern. There should always be at least a couple of Christmas classics – but possibly as covers or less well-known styles. You don’t want it to sound like the Christmas muzak in a shopping mall or rely too heavily on the over-played and over-familiar. Most of all, it should make you smile and want to put it on again. I’ll even let you put Mariah Carey in it if you really want to – after all it’s the season for generosity.

To help you tiptoe through this mince-pie strewn mine-field you can explore some of the playlists the team and I have produced so far >>

D247 Happy Winterval 2011 – Paul Smith (By Me)

D247MikeH-Christmas (By Mike Hlaford)

KennyMas MMXI (By Kennhy Milliner)

Eclectic Xmas (By Jamie Bartlett)

D247 – Pauls Christmas B-Sides (By Me)

D247 Merry $*(%!” Xmas  (By Andrew Garner – which featuers only one song but it’s a corker)

It’s even possible to enjoy Christmas through the soundtracks of films commonly associatated with Christmas (It’s a Wonderful life, Wizard of Oz, Singin In The Rain, Nightmare Before Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol etc):

Christmas At The Movies  (By, errrr Me)

It also amuses me to think that the Ronnettes backing melodies of ‘Ding a linga lling long ding’ in sleigh ride is REALLY not a million miles from Ministry’s ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod‘.

All that, and not a single mention of Bing either.

How to recover your sanity

If this has all got too much for you – as it often does this time of year. There’s always the Festive 50 to look forward too. Since the death of John Peel this has been picked up by the brilliant folks that run Dandelion Radio. They start playing the Festive 50 as soon as the click stikes midnight on Christmas Day – and I for one will be tucked up in bed listening via their iPhone app, I’ll have had an overdose of Frosty The Snowman by then and need an antidote.

My Bookshelf, my dead-tree, real proper book-shelf

Taking inspiration from Wood Green Bookshop. I’m going to celebrate one of my bookshelves (and then cheat by including my bedside table too).

If anyone fancies joining in and doing the same – do it! What could be nicer than sharing what you’ve found, what you like. A bookshelf conveys your interests and passions and it celebrates real, proper, tangible, smelly, floppy paper based books.

When you’ve got the photo(s) and some words – blog it, and tweet it. I’m adopting the tag of #MyBooks when I refer to this little endevour.

I LOVE looking at other people’s book shelves, I guess I’m just nosey – so here’s mine.

There is one long bookshelf in our Kitchen / Family room – and this is the current collection of books on it. We used to have a house that had lot’s of room for books, now we have a few shelves and I keep lot’s in storage boxes in various places (boooooo).

I’ve also included a pic of the books that I take off the shelf and put on my bed-side – in the folorn hope that one day I’ll go to bed early.

Descriptions to follow over the weekend – but wanted to get the images up for now.

Starting from left to right

1) Royal Horticultural Society books

Brought on a special offer from ‘The Book People’ because sometimes I do try and do useful things to make the garden pretty.

3) X’Ed Out – Charles Burns

First volume of Charles Burns latest graphic novel serialisation. Fabulously weird and featuring a great TinTin homage. Remember reading it on train after picking up in Gosh comics and feeling a bit self conscious as it has some illustrated nudity. I’ve loved Charles Burns after picking up Black Hole in Gosh about a year ago – first time I saw @hayleycampbelly if I recall, I was soaking wet and made some quip about Gene Kelly making it look easy. I also recorded the sound of the shop for the British Libary sound archive.

3) Thrill Power Overload – Bishop.

Warts and all history of 2000AD. Christmas present from my dad who first brought me a copy of 2000AD in 1981 – from which I’ve never really recovered.

4) Factory Records – Complete Graphical Album

I’ve always loved Factory sleeve designs and Peter Savilles work (not that he was the only designer). A sumptuous catalogue of every FACing sleeve.

I brought a copy of ‘True Faith’ on 12″ vinyl from the Virgin megastore in Birmingham in 1987 – the design of a leaf set against a bright blue background was strikingly simple, elegant and totally curated. It was followed quickly by a copy of ‘Substance’ – which is a record sleeve that started to give me an appreciation for typography. It also contained imagery that Peter Saville said he imagined as ‘art for the lobby of IBM in 2000’. Having worked in IBM in 2000 I can confirm there was nothing that interesting in the lobby of even the Southbank office.

This is a book that mixes several passions of mine – design, music, typography, Manchester and history.

For a while I lived in walking distance of the Factory offices on Princess Street. I drank in the pub over the road (the Lass O’Gowrie). This book reminds me of all that, of all the music and even being amazed at the wobbly suited, face slapping part of the True Faith video. It also reminds me that in a pop quiz I can spot the intro to True Faith from the single opening drum sound.

5) Bridget Riley – Tate
Patterns, 60s iconic black and white optical illusions and mathematically precise layouts with interference patterns. Waves of colour and repeating structure. Giving way to not quite uniform grids of circles. What’s not to love about Bridget Riley – Present from my wife after a trip to Tate modern.

6) The Best Of Smash Hits – The 80’s
Despite what I may claim – I am still fundamentally a pop kid at heart . I blame my sister for subscribing to Smash Hits – which I would always read and secretly loved. Brought this as a Christmas present for Adele *yes, that old trick*.

7) The Shock Of The New – Robert Hughes

8) Watchmen

8a) Big Numbers

It’s so thin in the photo, you’ll miss it. This is the comic that stopped me buying comics. It was so good, it really grabbed me – and it only published 2 issues before the beautifully complex and interwoven narrative about a soap opera of very real people, fractals, chaos theory, Northampton and shopping malls took is toll on Alan Moore and the artist Bill Siekewicz. Detonating an H-Bomb of financial and family chaos for both of the creators to such a degree that both of them, only now (nearly 20 years on) feel able to talk about it.

The first page showed the train-time table from Northampton to Birmingham. It included the nearest stations to the 16 year old me – Marston Green, Tile Cross. These are the stations I’d use if going into Birmingham to go to Nostalgia and Comics. It seemed approporiate and made the story that much more real and personal.

I stood next to Alan Moore in Gosh Comics back in October this year, probably for a good 15 minutes. I really wanted to ask him if he’d ever pick up Big Numbers again – but cursed with politeness I didn’t. I think I know the answer so it would have been a silly thing to ask, I was content to let him browse and mind his own business. I’m sure it’s one of the damn annoyances of being a legend is having people keep telling you.

9) Making Comics

10) ART of the 20th Century

11) Manchester – Looking for the light through the pouring rain – Kevin Cummins

12) Gene Kelly – Sheridan Morely & Ruth Leon

13) Leiths – Baking Bible – Susan Spaull & Fiona Burrell

14) Leiths – Vegetarian Bible – Polly Tyrer

15) Barbara Hepworth – Penelope Carris

16) Terry Frost – Chris Stephens

17) The Peel Sessions

18) Wild Swim – Katie Rew

19) Information Is Beautiful – David McCandles

20) Time Out – Seaside

21) Total Immersion – Terry Laughlin

22) The Hummingbird Bakery – Cake Days

23) Logicomix

24) Carl Sagan – Kaye Davidson

25) Stephen Fry – The Fry Chronicles

26) Andrew Marr – A History Of Modern Britain

27) Trouble Man – The Life & Death Of MArvin Gaye

28) Bass Culture – Lloyd Bradley

29) Rip It Up And Start Again – Simon Reynolds

30) An REM Companion – It Crawled From The South – Marcus Gray

31) Miss Dahls Voluptuous Delights – Sophie Dahl

32) Alfons Mucha –

33) Seeing Stars – Simon Armitage

34) Zoom! – Simon Armitage

35) Touching From A Distance – Deborah Curtis

36) British Wildlife –

37) Dad Stuff

38) Moonin Summer Madness – Tove Jansson

39) Moomin In Midwinter – Tove Jansson

40) Religion & Science – Bertrand Russell

41) The Man Who Changed Everything

42) Northern Lights

43) The Wasp Factory

44) Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson

45) Eats Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss

46) Clockwork – Philip Pullman

47) The Man Who Invented The Twentieth Century

48) The Origin Of Species – Charles Darwin

49) Pocket Birds

50) Design – Taschen

51) This Is Uncool

52) Fear Of Music

53) Fermat’s Last Theorem – Simon Singh

54) Broca’s Brain – Carl Sagan

Books piled on top

1) The Cement Garden

2) Cosmos – Carl Sagan

3) Everything Is It’s Own Reward – Paul Madonna