About Me My Bands

A brief history of Shiny Tight Stuff

Foundation (to 9 months)

Shiny Tight Stuff is the name of the band that I formed with my friend Craig at the end of 1997. A few months earlier I had bought my first bass guitar, after years of listening to music and imagining that I was up there on stage. I realised that there was no reason why it shouldn’t be me, and so I took the plunge. It was only a matter of weeks later that Craig, motivated by my own bravery, decided to get a guitar and join the fray. It was on the 27th December 1997 that I was idly flicking through a video games magazine in Craig’s bedroom, and I remarked “I wish I had a girlfriend so that I could make her wear shiny tight things.” Craig responded “Shiny Tight Things would be a good name for a band.” Hold on, we thought – we’re a band… kinda. In fact, the only thing stopping us from being a band at this stage was the fact that we didn’t have a name. Literally within minutes, we realised that by giving ourselves a name, we could legitimately claim to be in a band, and impress the girlies. Initially Shiny Tight Things, we took a poll amongst our friends and agreed that Shiny Tight Stuff was marginally catchier.

Music Music reviews

Some Recent Listening

Here’s some stuff that I’ve been listening to lately.

Brassbound **Brassbound** by *The Ordinary Boys*

I should let you know that I don’t change the CD in the car very often. As a general rule, I’m so eager to either (a) get to work or (b) get back home again, that it never quite seems to be the right time to go through the rigmarole of opening the glove box, getting a CD out, performing the changeover routine, blahblahblah. This particular album, however, was sufficient to set a new record – I could only listen to it one-and-a-half times before my brain said No more! and I involuntarily but willingly ejected it from the system. I ejected the CD – not my brain.

This album is completely pointless. It’s unoriginal ska-pop that just treads a load of boards that made a rather nasty squeaking sound first time around. I had heard of this band before, but it wasn’t until after *Celebrity Big Brother* ended that I thought to myself, hey that Preston fella wasn’t completely repellent, I wonder what his band sounds like.

Well, short-lived that was.

Trouble **Trouble** by *Ray LaMontagne*

This, however, is superb. I do most of my listening to music whilst I’m pootling about on the computer, reading weblogs and writing PHP and fiddling about with CSS. Every once in a while, I find myself listening to an album that is so poignant and rich with sound that I hit the switch on the monitor, and allow myself to do nothing but listen for the next 45 minutes. This is one of those albums.

Fabulous voice, fabulous songwriting. This is everything that I thought [O][] by *Damien Rice* would be, until I discovered upon continued listening that it was shit.


The Back Room **The Back Room** by *Editors*

There are one of two possibilities here. Either I’ve only listened to this album twice, or I’ve listened to it a dozen times but it’s so unimpressive that I’ve not noticed. The singles seem to be reasonably catchy, but the overall effect is early Coldplay with larger testicles – not enough to really twizzle my goatee. This might be one of those albums that needs to be played in the car. Tell you what, I’ll make a note, do that, and then get back to you.

Supernature **Supernature** by *Goldfrapp*

Ah, *Goldfrapp*. *Goldfrapp* have never, to my knowledge, disappointed. Alison just gets hotter and hotter, and the music – well, I suppose the music does too. I should make a date to go to a *Goldfrapp* gig, I really should.

There is a but. The first song was used on a mobile phone commercial. If it was the second song, or the third song, then that would be fine, but I find myself wondering whether I’ve put on the *Goldfrapp* album, or if a commercial break just started. This is bad for me, and bad for *Goldfrapp*, but probably quite good for the mobile phone company in question.

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not **Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not** by *The Arctic Monkeys*

This is a tragic tale of *Libertines* proportions. *The Arctic Monkeys* are good, really good. This album is good, really good. But it just can’t cope under the weight of everything that’s going on in its name. Some people would call it hype, but it’s not. It’s more like a religion. This band have a lot of peoples’ hopes riding upon them, and I don’t think that they’re up to it. They are drowning in their own gimmick, and the Pandora’s Box-esque nature of things means that this fabulous new way of getting yourself heard will very quickly be hijacked and controlled by the players in The Industry, and the only thing that will have changed will be the brand of clothes being worn by the guy who is making millions off of your effort.

If I sound cynical and pessimistic, then I apologise. This is the end result of years of analysis and pessing. I don’t pess lightly. My pesses have been thought about at length.

Plans **Plans** by *Death Cab for Cutie*

I’m not au fait with the whole history of *Death Cab For Cutie*. In my cybertravels, I often stumble across mentions of them here, there and everywhere. Generally, these mentions seem to be about who they are, and why they are, and some television program called *The O C*, and there is precious little mention of the music. This album, for those who are interested, is a collection of mainly exceptionally good songs, with some slightly dull ones that don’t really ruin things too much. There is some very competent songwriting ability in evidence here.

I think that’s it for now.

Linux – One Year On

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my long-awaited switch from Windows to Linux. Though it was not an overnight transition, it’s much easier to put a date on commencing the metamorphosism than completing it.

I always try to be very careful around the subject of Linux advocacy, because if you say too many positive things about it, then people will fall under the misconception that it’s a good substitute for Windows. And it’s not, but it is a good alternative, if you’re willing to face the learning curve.

Some things worked right out of the box (eg USB, all essential hardware at a basic level), some things required a little bit of effort (eg wireless networking, multimedia keys on the keyboard, optimal screen resolution), some things just never ended up working, but I got over it (eg lack of read-write support for NTFS, lack of support for Lexmark printer, burning audio CDs takes twice as long), and some things still bug me a little to this day. For example:

  1. Games – I’ve tried Cedega, and did actually manage to install Max Payne using it, but when I tried to play the game, it hung. The closest that I came to a satisfactory gaming experience under Linux is nethack. It would be nice if I didn’t have to reboot every time I wanted to play a game.
  2. Video – Nothing seems quite as slick as Windows Media Player, I’m ashamed to say. I find myself occasionally having to load certain WMV files in gxine because they won’t play in VLC. I’m sure that this is conquerable, if I just spend the time on it. Additionally, for some reason the menus in build 0.8.4 of VLC are borked, and I can’t access the playlist. I’m currently using 0.7.0, but apt keeps trying to upgrade me to 0.8.4 again.
  3. …while we’re talking about apt: it’s a fantastic tool, and it really simplifies installation and upgrading, but it has downsides. For example, Firefox 1.5 is not available in the repositories for the current version of Ubuntu – only 1.0.7. This means that if you want 1.5, you need to install it yourself. It’s not a terribly simple process, but it is well-documented here.

But conversely, some things happen so much more smoothly than before, it’s unreal. I’ve found myself writing shell scripts and python programs to automate tasks that I would previously have done manually, like correcting ID3 tags on MP3 files, and transferring photos from my camera to the computer.

I’ve heard people describe Linux as having a steep learning curve, but as your skills improve you realise that it doesn’t obstruct you from doing the things that you want to do. The only limits upon what you can do, and learn, are the limits of your willingness.



Here’s another indicator of impending fatherhood: my opinion on the word “fuck” has changed considerably recently, even over a very short period of time.

My attitude towards it used to be that it was a heavily trafficked word, generally used gratuitously beyond the point of diminishing returns, but if used at the right time it could often add the necessary spice to a presentation.

Today, I looked at some of my old writings elsewhere on the web, and it suddenly seemed excessive and inappropriate. I think to myself, is this really the example that I want to be setting for my son? I personally consider it a harmless enough word, but I am aware that grandparents and teachers are less impressed when it sprouts from the mouth of a four year old. Not that I really care what they think, but it would make life unnecessarily difficult for both me and the child.

Obviously sheltering a child from unsuitable language is an impossible task, so I suppose that the best that I can hope for is to make it clear to the child that these words are just words, though considered offensive by some. This is probably one of those concerns that takes second place to more pressing matters as soon as the baby is born, so it’s probably not worth getting too worked up about at this stage.

Dear Donkey

Dear Donkey – Noel Edmonds? FFS.

> Dear Donkey,

> After the recent success of *[Deal or no Deal][]*, do you think Noel Edmonds will make it back onto primetime TV?

> Anon

[deal or no deal]:

**DonkeyDonkey says:**

I recognise you. It’s been a long time since I was sat in this particular seat, typing at this particular keyboard, but something about you seems familiar. And if you are who I think you are, and I think you are because I recognise your email address, then I have to say this: you’ve let yourself go a bit, haven’t you?

I mean, what’s this *Deal or No Deal?*

Rhetorical question – I’m not incapable of searching Wikipedia – but you’re watching shows that I haven’t even heard of. That either means that you’re cooler than me by a factor of a million, or dumber than me by a factor of a million. We can rule out the first using the Laws of Physics, and we can deduce that the latter is highly likely using the Laws of Noel Edmonds.

I’d answer your question, but my bale of hay is ready. Maybe I’ll come back to this dumbass query after dinner.

On second thoughts… no.

GNOME or Fluxbox?

I currently have two window managers installed on my computer: GNOME (which is the default with Ubuntu) and Fluxbox. I installed Fluxbox because I found GNOME to be just a little bit too heavy on the features, and I quite fancied the idea of starting with something really lightweight and then just finding ways to add the particular features which I needed.

I’ve been using Fluxbox as my default window manager for about a week, with some success. I’ve managed to resolve a good number of my gripes, but a few things still are outstanding.

  • Samba – I haven’t yet tried connecting to one of the shared folders on the other computers in the house, but GNOME makes this insanely easy. We shall see.
  • Delete – The graphical file manager for Fluxbox is called Rox, and is quite sleek. However, I’m having difficulty getting used to it for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is that if you highlight a file and hit the “Delete” key on the keyboard, it does nothing. Ctrl+X is the shortcut for deletion, and I can’t figure out how to change this. Yet.
  • Trash – On a related note, Rox doesn’t have a Trash folder. There is, I believe, a plugin available to do this, but I consider this to be something that can reasonably be expected to be in the base package.
  • Toolbar – My GNOME toolbar contains a nifty little workspace pager, and a system monitor that shows small histograms of recent CPU usage, memory usage and network usage. Again, I haven’t found equivalents in Fluxbox yet.
  • GAIM – Minor one: I’m not receiving sounds from GAIM in Fluxbox, which means I can’t tell when someone has IMed me, unless I keep the conversation window in view. Which defeats the whole virtual desktop idea.
  • Shutdown – the main menu doesn’t have a shutdown option – just an “Exit” option, which takes you back to the login screen, where you can shutdown. I think that this is reasonably easy to add (something along these lines with a little bit of this), but again, it’s surprising how much you take these kinds of things for granted in more polished window managers.
  • Bluetooth – GNOME is pretty slick when it comes to transferring photos from my phone to the computer. Haven’t looked into this on Fluxbox much, but it isn’t leaping out at me.
  • XMMS – A very scratchy itch, this one. When I right click on XMMS in the taskbar and move it to another workspace, the playlist window stays behind, and there’s no way to send it along without closing XMMS, switching to the destination workspace, and opening XMMS from there.

That’s the entire contents of my list.

I’ve got config fatigue now, and so I’ve set GNOME as my default again for a little while. When the time feels right, I shall go back and see if I can strike some of these items off the list. Rest assured that as and when I nail them, I’ll leave an update here.


Warning of Impending Intelligence

Earlier today, I decided that I wanted to write about my band. In order to provide some context to my article (hereafter referred to as article A), I wrote a paragraph about who we were, what we were about, etc etc. But then it occurred to me that it would make sense to write two articles – a full history of the band (hereafter referred to as article H), and then the one which I originally set out to write (ie article A).

So I’ve written article H, but completely forgotten what article A was going to write about. What’s more, now that I look at article H, I find myself thinking that it’s just a little bit too detailed, and it would actually make more sense to just add relevant historical notes to article A, when I finally remember what article A was going to be about.

Watch this space.


How To Recognise A Gree

A gree is a terrifying beast, which lurks and creeps and pounces. It causes girls to whimper and scamper and pull up the duvet cover to their faces to protect them from its threatening call of Greeeee…

What does it look like? Well, if you can imagine me, but having just come out of the shower, and combed my hair backwards so that it sticks up in long spikes, then you’d be pretty close. Don’t forget the intense stare.


Rich Tapestry Of Life

The slight improvements to which I alluded in my previous post have become significant improvements. She now suffers from very little morning sickness whatsoever, and though still experiencing some tiredness and moodswings, she’s pretty perky for the vast majority of the time.

Today was our 20-week ultrasound scan. The image on the screen was slightly harder to read, probably because there is less free space around the foetus, making it harder to detect its shape. But we saw much more detail – its spine is very clear and well-defined, and I remember well one brief moment where I could see every bone in its hand. The evidence also suggests that it will be a boy. This is a slight problem, as we have managed to come up with many superb girls’ names, but we are struggling with boys’ names at present. Ah well.

On a personal level, my role continues to consist of reassurance and lower back massages. I look forward with relish to fatherhood. I crave the challenges, the purposefulness, the augmentation of my identity, the stimulation. But then I wonder – what happens if I don’t get any of them? What happens if fatherhood turns out to be just mindlessness repetition of the same old tasks? Sure, I’ll be able to point to my achievements, and take satisfaction in a job well done, but I was hoping for a little bit of mental stimulation from this whole project as well. I suppose my only choice is to sit tight, not put all my eggs in one basket, and accept that what happens will happen. I should not abandon the search for mental stimulation elsewhere as well. It was not so long ago that I was just a kid, changing houses and jobs every few years. With so much variety, life is never dull. But now that I am settled down, this search for mental stimulation is crucial. I used to be definitely smart, but these days I’m not so sure. This must stop.

Sometimes I find myself fast-forwarding and practising conversations that are not due to happen for years and years and years. The “where did I come from?” conversation. The “can I have a computer in my room?” one. The “what does cuddy bufter mean?” one. The “you just don’t care about me, I hate you” conversation. Ah, rich tapestry of life.