Memes Blog

The Easter Egg represents the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, the weapon used to defeat the deadly Bunny. We make forms of both of these in chocolate, which we then ritually destroy.

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Five of my Favourite Bridges

Liberal England is trying to resurrect the old fashioned blog meme with “Five of my Favourite Bridges“.

Not that it’s easy to pick just five, but here are five that have made an impression on me over the years.

Photo by Geoff Shepherd/Wikipedia
(Photo by Geoff Shepherd/Wikipedia Commons)

The Royal Albert Bridge

We’ll start with Brunel’s famous bridge across the Tamar linking Devon with Cornwall. Because the approach spans are on a tight curve with a 15mph speed limit you get a good view of the bridge from the train window while crossing it, and the low speed does make it feel like you’ve crossing into another country.

(Phoro by E Gammie/Wikimedia Commons)

Barmouth Bridge

Back in the late 1970s the timber viaduct across the Mawddach estuary was being eaten by worms, and the cost of repairs was used as justification to close the Cambrian Coast railway, which was said to be losing too much money. But wiser councils prevailed, the bridge was repaired, and it’s still possible to travel by train up the top left-hand corner of Wales. Crossing the bridge at high tide it feels like you’re on a boat rather than a train.

The Globe Inn in Lostwithiel, viewed from across the river in the evening light.

Lostwithiel Bridge

The only non-railway bridge of the five. This medieval pack horse bridge across the river Fowey links the railway station to the pub, neither of which existed in the 13th century when the bridge was first built. But what more can be asked of any bridge?

A pair of BLS

Tellenburg Viaduct

Switzerland is full of spectacular railway engineering, and this graceful viaduct is a faviourite of mine. It dates from 1915, built to carry the Bern Lötchberg Simplon main line across the Kander valley a mile south of Frutigen. The rather more utilitarian concrete structure alongside is a later addition, built in the 1970s when the railway was doubled to cope with increasing traffic.

Castlefield Viaduct

Castlefield Viaducts

This is not one bridge but several, and the combination of railway bridges at multiple levels and canal basins forms a kind of Victorian spaghetti junction. Some of the railway viaducts are still in use, one has been reused to carry the trams of Manchester Metrolink, though the most impressive one visible in the background has been disused since 1969, and now has trees growing on it.

What are your five favourite bridges?

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The Five Songs Meme – Mid-summer edition.

Time, I think for the Five Songs meme to be cast into the Blogofacetwitsphere again, for what it’s worth. And the five songs from me are:

Heather Findlay – Red Dust
Panic Room – Song for Tomorrow
Stolen Earth – Tuscany Sun
Morpheus Rising – Those Who Watch
Blood Ceremony – Daughter of the Sun

So, four songs with a Mostly Autumn connection, either containing ex-members, or sharing members with the current lineup. And the last one, which has no MA connection that I’m aware of, does have flute all over it.

Red Dust is the opening number from Heather Findlay’s “The Phoenix Suite”, a record I find I’m liking a lot more now I’ve had the chance to hear the songs performed live. This hard rocker came over very powerfully, even in stripped-down acoustic form.

Song for Tomorrow is yet to be released, but has got stuck in my head simply from hearing it performed live at the recent Panic Room gigs, which is surely a sign of a memorable song. It’s a big epic guitar-driven song with a great riff and a strong vocal melody. A classic in the making, I think.

Tuscany Sun is the first new song we’ve heard from Stolen Earth since the formation of the band earlier this year. As with the Panic Room song above, if there’s more where that came from, then we’ve got some good music to look forward too in the coming year.

Those Who Watch comes from the five song EP “The Original 2008 Demos” which I picked up when I saw Morpheus Rising supporting The Reasoning last year, but never really gave a serious listen until now. There’s some great songwriting here despite decidedly rough-and-ready production, and this brooding number is my favourite from the EP.

Daughter of the Sun is the ten-minute closing number from Blood Ceremony’s second album “Living with the Ancients”. With it’s doom-laden guitar riff, bewitching flute and sinister swirling organ, it sums up everything I like about this band.

OK, so you all (both of you) know the drill by now. List five songs you’re grooving on right now and post them on your Blog/Livejournal/Facebook wall or wherever.

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The Five Songs Meme, 2011 edition

I think the Five Songs Meme started out on Livejournal and spilled over to the blogosphere.

It’s quite simple – just list five songs you really into at the moment; not your five greatest songs of all time, but five songs you’ve been listening to a lot recently, for any given value of “Recently”. And give a few words explaining why.

Not sure in these social networking days whether blog memes still have any traction, but it gives me an excuse to talk about music, so here it goes.

Barclay James Harvest – The Poet/After the Day

I’m a late convert to Barclay James Harvest. While they’ve been on my radar screen for decades, it was only seeing the John Lees Barclay James Harvest at the 2009 Cambridge Rock Festival that prompted me to start exploring their very extensive back catalogue. The version of this song I’ve been listening to comes from a 2006 live album by the John Lees BJH. It’s the sort of music for which the term “Epic Symphonic Prog” was invented; hugely melodic. massive walls of Mellotron from the late Woolly Woolstenholme, and some fantastic lead guitar. We’re in serious goosebumps territory with this one.

Heather Findlay – Phoenix

The title track from Heather’s debut solo EP. While the stripped-down production is a significant move away from the big wall of sound which characterised her previous band, her distinctive melodic songwriting is still recognisable. This is perhaps the strongest song on the EP, a powerful vocal performance, with some intriguing and very dark lyrics.

Judas Priest – Persecution

The double concept album “Nostradamus” is Judas Priest’s equivalent of Kiss’ “The Elder”. It’s a strange mixture of metal, prog and more than a trace of west-end musical theatre. While parts of the album venture into those most un-Priest regions, it does contain a few old-school metal belters, and this is the best of them.

Liam Davison – Heading Home

Liam’s solo album has been one of the unexpected surprises of the year so far, revealing Liam not only to be a great songwriter but a far better singer than many of us imagined. The production and arrangements recall the cinematic sweep of early Mostly Autumn. This is perhaps my favourite song, ending with a glorious solo backed by washes of keys from Iain Jennings, and a great groove from Stolen Earth/Breathing Space bassist Paul Teasdale.

Phideaux – Have You Hugged Your Robot

I don’t really know that much about this band; “313″ is the only album of their I own, but this song is one of the standouts. Despite a piano figure lifted from Greig’s “Hall of the Mountain King”, this particular song more quirky pop than prog, but there something about the exuberant energy of this song that gets me.

And that’s it.

I’m not going to tag anyone in particular, but anyone who wants to pick this up and run with it is welcome to. Post on your own blog if you’ve got one, in the comments here if you haven’t, or somewhere within Facebook’s walled garden if you really don’t want your words visible to the whole wide Interweb.

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It’s Five Songs Meme time again!

Time to launch the Five Songs Meme into the blogolivejournalfacebooksphere once again.

It’s quite simple – list five songs, preferably accompanied by a word or two explaining their significance.  Not your five greatest songs of all time, but five songs you’re really into at the moment in time.

  • Mostly Autumn – Unoriginal Sin.
    Listening to last years excellent “Live 2009″ album reminded me of just how powerful a piece of music this is; some tremendous multilayered harmonies that show just what a band with three top-class female vocalists can do, and carries an incredible emotional charge.  It’s also one of the relatively few recent Mostly Autumn songs where Heather Findlay is the sole composer of both lyrics and music.  Quite unlike anything the band have done before, I wonder how much this song is an indicator of the sort of direction Heather might take in her solo career.
  • Breathing Space – Questioning Eyes
    Breathing Space’s big epic was the Classic Rock Society’s song of the year for 2009, and was a worthy winner.  Like the previous song, it’s one where knowing something of the back-story heightens the emotional impact; for me, just hearing the intro always brings a lump to the throat.  There’s a great YouTube video of the first ever live performance of this song at Bilston Robin 2 last May, a gig at which I was present, and I remember congratulating co-writer Iain Jennings immediately afterwards.
  • Panic Room – Dark Star
    Yes, another female-fronted prog song, I’m afraid.  This song is to “Satellite” what “Apocalypstick” was to “Visionary Position“, only with dramatic organ chords instead of the spiralling electric violin.
  • Dream Theater – Trail of Tears
    DT’s “Falling into Infinity” album gets some stick for being too slick and radio-friendly, and reeling in the extended muso jams that characterised just about everything else they’ve ever done.  Only right at the end of the album did they get to do a 13-minute epic, and this is that.  John Petrucci’s solo is just jaw-dropping.
  • Gustav Holst – Mars, Bringer of War
    Before I discovered rock’n'roll in my teens, I listened to a lot of classical music under the influence of my parents.  I always loved “Mars”, and it’s probably the reason than as soon as I discovered Rock I headed straight for the section labelled “METAL!!”. This may have been written in 1916 and be played by an orchestra, but this is surely one of the first ever heavy metal instrumentals.  And of course, it’s in 5/4 time, which is very Prog.

To join this meme, choose your five songs, and list them on your blog, Livejournal or whatever.  If you don’t have a blog, just leave an entry in the comments here.

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Ten Years Ago

At the beginning of what all but a few diehard pedants agree is a new decade, a lot of people are getting reflective about where they were ten years ago. Reflections range from the trivial to the profound.  Some of mine:

  • I had just been made redundant in the aftermath of a failed merger, the ultimate fallout of which was to see the CEO jailed for stock fraud.
  • I was wishing people a Happy New Year on CompuServe rather than on Twitter and Facebook
  • I had never heard of a prog-rock band called Mostly Autumn.
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The Five Songs Meme arises from the grave again

Haven’t seen ye olde Five Songs Meme on the blogoljfacebooksphere for ages, so it’s time to set it shambling forth again.

It’s quite simple – just list five songs you’ve been listening to a lot lately. Give the reasons why if you want; that bit is entirely optional.

  • Breathing Space – Questioning Eyes
    Some people have claimed that a song is diminished if you know who a song is about. I think that’s total cobblers. This is a real lump-in-the throat song precisely because I know what it’s about.
  • Barclay James Harvest – Poor Man’s Moody Blues
    I never saw BJH in their prime, but I bought their 1987 live album “Live Dates”after seeing the John Lees Barclay James Harvest at the Cambridge Rock Festival last month. It’s got a lot of the standards like ‘Child of the Universe’, ‘Mockingbird’ and ‘Hymn’, but it’s this one that particularly stood out for me.
  • Blackfield – Hello
    Closing song from their self-titled first album. Blackfield are very good at melancholy.
  • Parade – The Diamond
    I need to do a full review of “The Fabric”. This is one of my favourite songs, some heart-melting vocals from Anne-Marie Helder, and great guitar playing from a certain Mr Josh.
  • Arena – Purgatory Road
    “When the Martians land on London town”.  Arena are the Saxon of prog; It’s corny as hell, but knows it’s corny, and doesn’t care. This one stands out from the album “Pepper’s Ghost”.

I’m not tagging anyone – If you want to pick up the meme, post to your own blog, livejournal, facebook wall or whatever and link to it in the comments.

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Time for another one of those “meme” things, I suppose…

Another meme, from The Ministry of Information

1. Last film you saw in a cinema?
It’s so long since I last went to the cinema that I can’t actually remember

2. What book are you [re]reading?
Currently halfway through Charlie Stross’s “The Atrocity Archives”.

3. Favourite board game?
Can’t single out just one – I can name Railway Rivals, Illuminati (which isn’t technically a board game, but plays like one) and Arkham Horror, which is always fun, but takes ages.

4. Favourite magazine?
I don’t think there are any I now buy religiously every month, they all seem to have gone downhill lately – “Continental Modeller” has become “Obscure Bolivian kettle monthly” and “Classic Rock” seems to have turned into a Guns’N'Roses fanzine.

5. Favourite smells?
Bacon. Vegetarianism, cured!

6. Favourite sounds?
Fender Stratocaster played through a Marshall amp by someone that knows what he’s doing
A real Mellotron (Yes, I know the response to that is “have you ever tried to lift a real Mellotron”)
English Electric 12CSVT diesel engine on full power – such as a class 37 climbing that grade out of Weymouth.

7. Worst feeling in the world?
I don’t really feel like answering this one.

8. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?
“I suppose this means I have to get up”

9. Favourite fast food place?
Murray’s sandwich bar in Alderley Edge

10. Future child’s name?
Hessian for a boy, Rafia for a girl. That is not a very serious answer.

11. Finish this statement. “If I had lot of money I’d..”
Buy a house with a basement big enough for a big US-Style model railway layout.

12. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
No! There is a teddy bear named “Isambard” in the house, but he sits on the sofa.

13. Storms – cool or scary?
Cool, provided you’re under cover.

14. Favourite drink?
Coffee (white, one suger)
Old Specked Hen
Leffe Blond

15. Finish this statement, “If I had the time I would”
Build that US-style basement buster with the money from question 11

16. Do you eat the stems on broccoli?
No. The stems don’t get as far as the saucepan

17. If you could dye your hair any color, what would be your choice?
I like it the colour it is now, thank you.

18. Name all the different cities/towns you’ve lived in?
Slough, Reading, Sale, Cheadle Hulme

19. Favourite sports to watch?

20. One nice thing about the person who sent this to you?
He didn’t exactly ‘send’ this to me, but he does appear to like Marillion, giving him better taste in music than 99% of the population.

21. What’s under your bed?

22. Would you like to be born as yourself again?
That’s just a fundamentally silly question.

23. Morning person, or night owl?
Night Owl.

24. Over easy, or sunny side up?
Eggs, ugh.

25. Favourite place to relax?
Horse Cove, south Devon (between Dawlish and Teighmouth). Unfortunately they’ve put up some of those horrid pallisade fences ruining the view.

26. Favourite pie?
Shepherd’s pie

27. Favourite ice cream flavour?

28. Of all the people you tagged this to, who’s most likely to respond first?
I’m supposed to tag people?

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Yet Another Meme

This meme comes via The Ministry of Information. Judging by one or two of the questions, I think it originates from somewhere in MySpace. I’ve omitted a couple of questions for which I couldn’t think up sufficiently witty replies.

1. Where were you for New Year 2007?
Slough, where my parents live, a much-maligned town.

2. How did you get the idea for your MySpace name?
Combination of my first name and the username I use on a lot of music-related forums, which also happens to be my domain name.

3. What are you listening to right now?
“Standing In My Shadow” by Breathing Space, not coincidentally the song I’ve currently got on the MySpace profile.

4. Has the death of a celebrity ever made you cry?
Who are these ‘celebrities’ of whom you speak, and why should they mean more to me than real friends and relatives?

5. Do you live in a zoo?
Er, no.  These questions are starting to get silly.

6. What did you do this morning?
Got up, had breakfast, and returned to Slough from Colchester

7. What does your mother do for a living?

8. Where do you work?
Alderley Edge, in the heart of Footballer’s Wives land

9. What are your favourite smells?
Bacon. Vegetarianism cured, instantly!

10. What are the last two digits of your phone number?
The same as the class number of the North British built electric locomotive preserved as part of the National Collection.  If you keep on asking silly questions, I will give sillier and sillier answers.  So there!

11. What was the last concert you attended?
Mostly Autumn at Crewe Limelight on the 19th December.

12. Who was with you?
I went on my own, but met up with a lot of the usual suspects once I got there.

13. What was the last movie you watched?
It was so long ago I’m not even 100% what it was; it may well have been Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I told you it was a long time ago.

14. What do you dislike at the moment?
That the bad guys seem to be actuve in Pakistan, and this is going to have repercussions on the rest of the world. And I found a friend of mine died on boxing day.

15. What do you crave right now?
Coffee. I knew I’d turned the kettle on for a reason.

16. Did you dream last night?
Yes, but it was pretty surreal, and I can’t remember what it was about.

17. What was the last TV show you watched?
May well have been the last one of “Later with Jools Holland” on Friday, which I watch in the increasingly vain hope that there will be someone decent on there.

18. What is your favourite piece of jewellery?
I’m a non-goth bloke. I don’t do jewellery.

19. Name someone on your Top 8 who is just like you?
I think this refers to my MySpace Top 8 friends, most of which are bands. Those that are not bands would probably sue if anyone suggested I resembled them.

20. Who is your best friend of the opposite sex?
My sister.  Do relatives count?

21. Who last IM’d you?
I haven’t used IM for ages, and I can’t remember who it was.

22. What side of the bed do you sleep on?

23. What colour shirt are you wearing?
Dark blue.

24. What colour is your razor?
I have a beard, so I don’t own one.

25. What is your favourite frozen treat?
Swedish glace; a dairy-free ice cream that actually surprisingly palatable.

26. How many tattoos/piercings do you have?
I’m not a Goth. Please pay attention.

27. What are your favourite stores?
Waltons of Altrincham.  Until 30 seconds ago, I didn’t realise they actually had a website.

28. Are you thirsty right now?
No. I’ve now made that coffee from question 15 now.

29. Can you imagine yourself ever getting married?

30. Who’s someone you haven’t seen in a while and miss?
I can think of quite a few friends I haven’t seen for ages and really ought to catch up with.

31. What did you do last night?
Been very traditional and place charades. Have you ever tried to act out “Windows 98 user guide”?

32. Do you care what people think about you?
Only people that matter.

33. Have you ever done something to instigate trouble?
Does wearing an Odin Dragonfly T shirt to a Fish gig count?

34. Do you like your nose?
Well, it’s the only nose I’ve got.

35. What colour is your room?
The room I’m in right now is white.

36. When was the last time you worked out?
Not sure if walking to and from the railway station every day counts.

38. Where do you live?
Cheadle Hulme in Cheshire

39. Are you an aggressive driver?
I don’t drive.

40. Who is your cell phone carrier?

41. What is the thing you’d most want to change about yourself?
I’d like to be able to think of the right words to say to someone at the time, rather than 20 minutes after the event.

42. What colour is your car?
I don’t have a car.

43. What is your favourite colour?
Banger Blue.

44. Do you like mustard?
In moderation.

45. What do you tell yourself when times get hard?

46. Would you ever sky dive?
No. If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

47. What do you sleep on?
A bed? I agree with NRT here; this is a silly question. I am a human being, not a cat…

48. Have you ever bid for something on eBay?
A few times. I’ve won two N gauge locomotives, an Arnold BLS Re4/4, and a Roco SBB Re4/4iv

49. Do you enjoy giving hugs?

50. Would you consider yourself to be fashionable?
Fashion is an evil conspiracy to dupe the gullible and insecure.

51. Do you own a digital camera?
Yes, although getting into gig photography is starting to expose the limitations of my present one.

52. What celebrities have you been compared to?
See my answer to question 4

53. What does your 19th text message say?
My primeval mobile phone doesn’t let me archive more than a dozen or so, so I have no idea.

54. How ’bout your 30th?
See previous answer.

55. Who did you hang out with last night?
Parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law, nephew, niece. It is Christmas, after all…

56. What are you doing this Saturday?
Don’t know yet. Got any suggestions?

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The Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme

A long time since I’ve done any memes. This one was started by PZ Myers at Pharyngula as a means of demonstrating evolution in cyberspace. Like my source, I am not going to tap anyone; pick it up as you will.

First, the rules:

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…”. Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

  • You can leave them exactly as is.
  • You can delete any one question.
  • You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change “The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is…” to “The best time travel novel in Westerns is…”, or “The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is…”, or “The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is…”.
  • You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…”.

You must have at least one question in your set, or you’ve gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you’re not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.
Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

The lineage:

The Questions and Answers:

  • The best adult novel in SF/Fantasy is: The Book of the New Sun
  • The best scary movie in modern pop culture is: The Wicker Man
  • The best happy song in classic rock music is: Sabra Cadabra
  • The best cult novel in historic fiction is: The Baroque Cycle
  • The best concept album in progessive rock music is Brave
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