Avatar 23kHz

On the recent Beans outing to Dublin, I briefly mentioned the frequency profile of FM transmission and the reasons we have alarms connected to certain frequencies. Since this raised a small eyebrow of interest I thought it would be a good idea, from both an educational and bean-scoring viewpoint, to expand further on this subject.

Settle in, this one’s going to be wild.

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Avatar Loyalty update

Many, many years ago I wrote a post here on the Beans about my porridge loyalty card. I seem to remember it was not deemed as impressive as I had hoped and nobody else really seemed very invested in the level of loyalty I was showing to a simple breakfast food.

Anyway, a lot of time has passed since then, so I thought it would be a good time to look through my wallet and take stock of all the loyalty cards I now possess. By doing so we will learn something about where my allegiences lie in 2024.

I found seven loyalty cards. Here they all are.

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Avatar Twenty one years on

A year ago, when it was twenty years on from the founding of Zyurisizia, I wrote a post about the fledgling nation that Ian and I helped to birth, and we had a short conversation about what its flag looked like.

My contribution was only that I had “a feeling it involved triangles”. Ian dredged up slightly more detail, recalling “triangles and a red circle, a bit like the Chinese flag”, though in what way that resembled the flag of China, which has no triangles and no red circle, I don’t know. We then recalled that territory was claimed by fastening the flag to the longest pole we could find, and planting that in the ground in various places.

Luckily I have now found my Office Memorabilia CD, so after a year of impatient waiting, you’ll be pleased to know the answer is now with us.

The capital city, which was the Office, was claimed with a hand-drawn flag on a 30cm ruler.

We then moved on to claim the Wildlife Area a few days later, by which point we had a more professional flag on a metre ruler.

I haven’t visited the Scholars Gate housing development to check, but I assume the flag is still prominently flying there somewhere.

For your peace of mind, this is probably all the Zyurisizia nostalgia there is to be had, so next year you’re probably safe from a “twenty two years on” type post. Still, lots of fun was had by all concerned.

Avatar Quennell

Most days I drive to the station and go to work.

Like Ian, I use my eyes while driving, both to look at things, but also to observe them. Sometimes my looking and observing is simultaneous and sometimes both have to take it in turns.

There is one thing that sticks out when I drive to the station, and it’s this:

If it was called Clennel Hill I’d know exactly where I was. We all know that Clennel is a small village and a former civil parish in the parish of Alwinton, in Northumberland, England. We also all know that a clennel is a genteel way to refer to a kind of arse flannel. But it’s not called that, it has a name that’s far more obscure and meaningless. A quennell? Nobody knows what that is.

I’m posting this here in the hopes that, having declared that this is a meaningless word and that nobody knows what it is, I’ve created the right circumstances for Kev to put the word into Google and immediately tell me what it means.


Avatar Episode 16: Socks

I know, I know, I missed a month. It’s sort of worth the wait though, Chris gets sweary at the start of this one and wait ’til you hear next month’s episode… phew.

Anyway, this time we discuss:

  • Socks
  • Socks over Socks
  • Bed Socks
  • Socks
  • Clothes over clothes
  • Fleece.

Avatar Four Word Reviews: Doing it My Way

It’s been a long time since we last dipped our toes into the chilly water of Four Word Reviews – seven months, in fact. That’s largely because the mysterious supply of terrible CDs has been slowing down lately. Still, there’s one here now, and that is an album that’s ten years old this month: Doing it My Way by the 2006 X Factor runner-up Ray Quinn.

There’s not much to say about this album – as we will see – for the simple reason that it’s an album of swing cover versions. It contains exactly the songs you would expect and they’ve all been recorded and performed in exactly the same way as all the hundreds of other albums like this that have been churned out over the years. Everyone from Robbie Williams to Jason Manford has had a pop at it, and they all basically sound like this.

In this specific case, Ray Quinn was all of 19 years old when he came second (second!) in the X Factor, and he was whisked away to Los Angeles to record this album at Capitol Records Tower, in the very studio where Frank Sinatra belted out some of these songs in a more genuine way many years before. I read that on Wikipedia and it might be the single most depressing thing about the whole album. Wait, no, this is: it was a gold-selling album in 2007 and Ray Quinn became the first artist to score a number 1 album without ever releasing a single.

Track Title Word 1 Word 2 Word 3 Word 4
1 Ain’t That a Kick in the Head Literally no opinions here
2 Fly Me to the Moon Weirdly flutey and arhythmic
3 My Way Limper than Frank’s Way
4 That’s Life Violently offensive Hammond organ
5 Mack the Knife Robbie sang it better
6 Smile Tuned this one out
7 The Way You Look Tonight Urgh. Creepy crooning crescendo
8 Summer Wind Generic swing sung generically
9 What a Wonderful World Is this even “swing”?
10 Mr. Bojangles OK song made tedious
11 New York, New York No York No York

It’s quite hard to have an opinion about this album because it’s all songs you’ve heard a hundred times before sung in exactly the way you’ve heard them sung a hundred times before. It offers nothing new. You have to listen pretty hard to work out it’s this generic singing guy and not one of the thousands of other blokes with halfway decent voices who have chosen to tread this heavily congested road. It lacks any sincerity. A 19 year old can’t really sing “My Way” and hope to make you think they mean it, not that this particular 19 year old sounds much like he’s trying. Some of the more upbeat and jazzy numbers have been made quieter and less jazzy for some reason. It’s a big, brass-heavy sigh of a record.

In summary, my favourite thing about this album was that I could sometimes forget it was this X Factor guy singing it and let it wash over me like it was literally any other album of identical-sounding swing covers. My least favourite thing was “New York, New York” being turned into a sort of stodgy, plodding recital. Even I give that song more welly if I sing along to it.

Avatar Four Word Reviews: Love Situation

I’m getting used to terrible albums mysteriously landing on my doormat now. I don’t know who sends them or why, but they keep on coming. Normally I’ve heard of the people involved – Vanilla Ice, Clock, that sort of thing, but I have to say I’ve never heard of Gary Wilmot before. I’ve searched the internet to no avail. He’s a complete unknown.

Still, here it is, a forgotten 80s classic: Love Situation by Gary Wilmot.

Gary Wilmot - Love Situation

The feeling I normally get while listening to music for these Four Word Reviews is that I struggle to care about the music I’m hearing, but this album was an interesting first, because I got the distinct feeling that Gary Wilmot didn’t care either. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an entire album of music in which none of the participants show any sign of giving a damn about the music they’re mechanically churning out.

Of the 12 tracks here, four are cover versions. The eight original songs are without exception awful, with the sort of lyrics that slowly and deliberately tell you exactly what the song is about so there’s no space for imagination or subtlety, but it’s not clear whether Mr Wilmot thought that he could genuinely improve on the four songs he covers or whether he’s just using them as a way to avoid having to write any more drivel. In any case, all four are disasters.

In terms of the music, it sounds like someone listened to “A Winter’s Tale” by David Essex and decided to make a whole album like that. There’s almost no sound on the whole CD that is not made by one of the instrument settings on a Yamaha keyboard, though there is a bit of Carpenters-style subdued electric guitar once or twice that’s turned right down so it doesn’t get you too excited. Several of the songs fade out over the course of thirty seconds or more, sometimes from the middle of a chorus, which gives the impression that the producer has had enough and is trying to wrap it up early.

Track Title Word 1 Word 2 Word 3 Word 4
1 Love Situation Dreading eleven more tracks
2 On the Way to a Dream Synth clarinet and sadness
3 Unchained Melody Uninteresting rendition, unmitigated failure
4 And Now She’s Gone Allegedly emotional breakup ballad
5 Take My Breath Away Masterclass in slaughtering songs
6 Star Without a Soul “Raggy Dolls” backing vocal
7 Wind Beneath My Wings Emotionlessly plodding through dross
8 Expectation Road Overwrought ballad about loneliness
9 I Won’t Forget You Not even Gary cares
10 Against All Odds Nobody asked for this
11 Danny You’re a Loser China Crisis with crooning
12 There’s Only Room for the Good Girls Unsuccessfully channeling Billy Joel

Interestingly, after ten solid tracks of slow, quiet, bored-sounding crooning, the last two tracks suddenly pick up the pace, like a direct reversal of all those albums that have ten tracks of lively good stuff and then a couple of slow half-baked songs tacked on the end. Both of them are crap, but Danny You’re a Loser is almost the first appearance of any sort of beat, which is at least a welcome change if not actually pleasant listening, while There’s Only Room for the Good Girls might be a terrible song and a transparent pastiche of Billy Joel but is at least not more mushy, apathetic muttering over dreary keyboards. If they were the first two tracks you’d misguidedly think there was some hope for the album, so in that sense at least it is kinder to put them at the end.

In short, my favourite thing about this album is that it took four songs I already knew and didn’t like, and showed me how it would be possible to make them much worse, so that next time I hear any of them I can at least appreciate the fact that the originals are competently performed and that the singer seems to give a toss about them. My least favourite thing is that I still have no idea who Gary Wilmot is.