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      30.09.2005 03:53
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      Comprehensive selection from their best era

      Time for another album review! This time I really MEAN it when I say I'm not going to do a track by track analysis of it, chiefly because there are 34 tracks to contend with!

      Today's subject is the recent anthology released by 3 Colours Red entitled "If You Ain't Got a Weapon…" ( a line taken from their song "Nuclear Holiday"). This two CD set was released earlier this year on the Sanctuary Records label and is widely available in all good music stores (as they say on the telly….) as well as online. I was lucky enough to bag another Ebay bargain and got myself a brand new one for only £5.80, but elsewhere prices vary from £9.99 to about £14, as is usually the case.

      For the uninitiated 3 Colours Red kicked off in 1996 with their own brand of raw, poppy, punky rock and gained a loyal hardcore of fans and some success with their first few singles from their first album. The band were Pete Vuckovic on lead vocals and bass guitar, Chris McCormack and Ben Harding both on guitars and backing vocals, and Keith Baxter on drums.

      Their second album appeared in 1998 showing a more accomplished edge but having lost none of their power and edge. It was all looking and sounding good. They even had a fairly big hit with the single "Beautiful Day" (nothing to do with the U2 song of the same name) and appeared on Top of the Pops. However, come the middle of 1999 the band were experiencing that old chestnut, 'musical differences' and their live appearances at that years festivals turned out to be their last and the band split. That's a potted history anyway, but the story continues later!

      Right, so, as I said, your hard earned cash gets you 2 CDs here. Disc 1 comprises 13 tracks which are chiefly a selection from their first and second albums ("Pure" and "Revolt") as well a few live tracks and a couple of BBC session tracks. The only thing I find a bit questionable here is the fact the original album tracks ("This is My Hollywood", "Beautiful Day", "Pure" and "Paralyse") are included here in addition to the live and BBC session versions (the exception being "Hateslick") - why not choose different songs? I enjoy listening to both but can't help thinking it would have been better to add a bit more variety there.

      The second disc has 21 tracks and presents a far more interesting selection for both those who are already fans of the bands and those just discovering them. There are more tracks from both the aforementioned albums here mixed in with the best of their B-sides. As someone who already owns the entire 3 Colours Red back catalogue (my first taste of them was live at Reading Festival in 1997 and I've been a fan from then on…) there are no surprises here but it's nice, from my point of view, to have all these tracks on one disc all ready to play! Again, the one thing I find a little odd is that the B-sides all run as the first 12 tracks on this disc and the final 9 tracks are the further selection of album tracks - almost like they were trying to fill it up? I think, personally, I would have preferred them mixed or have the A-sides juxtaposed with the B-sides, together with the additional album-only tracks.

      Well, musically speaking, there are no disappointments for me, although I already knew what I was getting of course! There are the heavier, chunkier, aggressive songs such as "Paralyse", "Age of Madness", "Mental Blocks" (one of my favourites!), "Fake Apology" (another favourite!) and "Nerve Gas" against the slower, melodic "Beautiful Day" and "Fit Boy and Faint Girl". Mixed with these are the less heavy but still powerful and punky tracks such as "Sixty Mile Smile", "My Own Gauge", "Calling to the Outside", "Zip the Morals" and "Nuclear Holiday" to name but a few.

      To pick up on the earlier potted history of the band, they decided to reform in 2003 with Paul Grant replacing Ben Harding on guitar and have since released another studio album, "The Union of Souls", and have been touring widely. I for one am very pleased by this!

      I'm always in two minds about such compilations as this. On the one hand some people feel cheated if they already have the majority of the tracks but find there are a few previously unreleased/rare tracks on it - as is this case here - and like to complete their collection. On the other hand they're very handy for bringing together an alternative play list and all the singles/B-sides on one disc as well as being ideal for people interested in a band but unsure of where to start. Personally, in the case of "If You Ain't Got a Weapon…", I'm going for the latter :o)

      **UPDATE - I originally wrote this a few months ago while waiting for the category to be added - since then the band have announced they are splitting up again and have just finished their final tour :o(

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        29.05.2005 19:31
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        Ooh, I’ve been meaning to write a review of this CD for ages since I requested it to be added some months ago now, but so many distractions, so little time! Anyway now I’ve got round to doing it, here we go……

        Let’s start with a quick, potted rundown of the artist for those who may be unfamiliar with the name. The luscious (yes, he’s one of my many crushes…..!) 37 year old Scott Weiland was lead singer of rock band the Stone Temple Pilots from 1991 for about 10 years. He fell into the ‘traditional’ round of drug and alcohol addiction for a few years before going through rehab and emerging as lead singer with Velvet Revolver last year. Somewhere amidst all this in 1998 he produced this solo album, “12 Bar Blues”, released on the Atlantic label, which was met with mixed reactions from fans and music press alike.

        This solo album can be somewhat difficult to get hold of but I managed to buy a copy off Ebay earlier this year for about £7, it’s also available from Amazon (on import I think) for the average price of around £13. Now when I received the CD I was ready to listen with an open mind having read both positive and negative things about it in the music press and online. I knew it wasn’t going to be a chunk of ‘post-grunge rock’ a la Stone Temple Pilots or more heavy, glammy rock as offered by Velvet Revolver and it also wasn’t going to be a slice of angst ridden ‘poor me, I’ve been an addict’ introspection either according to these reviews. So what WAS it going to be? Well, there was only one way to find out…..

        Let’s play the darn thing!! In slid the eager CD tray and so it started…….

        The first track, ‘Desperation’, launches with a pseudo-funky New Romantic era feel to it shortly being joined by a distorted guitar. Unexpected but not unpleasant, with a simple catchy tune and Weilands distinctive voice – I was surprised but not disappointed.

        I’m going to avoid a tedious track-by-track analysis here and just pick out a handful but admittedly this will be difficult with this particular album as each track does have a certain unique feature to it unlike many bands/artists’ albums and I have to admit it takes a few plays to really embrace it, if you’re going to.

        ‘Barberella’ is the second track, completely different from the first and on my first play of the CD it was the one that struck me the most. Very stark, with a lot of basic drum machine percussion and Weiland sounding very vulnerable and like a young Bowie on the verses. Quite emotive.

        Now I can’t hold it against Mr W, and he wasn’t to know, but I find ‘About Nothing’ infuriating. Oh, it’s another catchy, distinct track BUT there is a synthesised sound running through the chorus which sounds EXACTLY like my front doorbell!! You can imagine the consequences…..never have I got up and down so many times in such a short space of time. If it wasn’t for that it would quite possibly be my favourite track!

        Agh! I said I wasn’t going to give a blow-by-blow account of every track didn’t I?! I might have to retract that – I’m finding it difficult to decide which ones to leave out now!

        Track four gives us ‘Where’s the Man’ – I love this one, didn’t at first but it’s grown on me. A ‘big’ sound, reminiscent of those 70s ‘prog-rock’ bands with acoustic guitars and real singing – the gentle, swooping type that sounds like he feels every word. It’s beautiful.

        ‘Divider’ is another track which is relatively stark – no cluttering with unnecessary instruments, solos and suchlike in this mid-paced number. Keyboards, maracas and wind instruments all used, but sparingly – oh, and is that a glockenspiel I can hear?! If a woman was singing this I can’t help but feel it would get the ‘torch song’ tag.

        ‘Cool Kiss’ is by far the heaviest, rockiest song here but not in the traditional rock sense. This is another track employing some synthesised percussion and effects mixed among the usual instruments with a small amount of distortion added to the vocal as well. It’s another simple, striking tune.

        Track seven, ‘The Date’, is quite, ummm, odd too! The overall effect is similar to ‘Where’s the Man’ but with some chops and changes along the way and some spooky echo effects. One of the least memorable tracks and one I’m not particularly taken with.

        ‘Son’ follows with Weiland using his more gentle vocal style again which also complements the lazy, subtle instrumentation here. It’s one of the slower tracks on the album and a little too plodding for me unless I’m in one of my very laid back moods.

        Ah well, there are only four tracks left so I may as well do the lot this time. I hope it doesn’t come across as too tedious for that!

        So track nine is ‘Jimmy was a Stimulator’ – a what?! Yes, Jimmy was a stimulator, an oscillator, an emulator, a masturbator, a regulator and so on. Actually I really like this one! It’s a great chunky, choppy, deep beat and quite infectiously catchy. Another highlight.

        ‘Lady, Your Roof Brings me Down’ is next up, and what a great title if nothing else! A tinkling piano introduces what sounds like it’s going to be cheeky song from some sort of musical until Weiland cuts in with a bold Bowie-esque vocal again and a swirling merry-go-round chorus and bridge. Very vaudeville, an odd one, but intriguing.

        Bear with me, we’ve only got two tracks left to go now! Number eleven is ‘Mockingbird Girl’. More of that thick distorted guitar against a meaty chorus line which contrasts nicely with the more gentle, chippy verses. Not one of the best tracks but not one that’s hard to get along with.

        Finally ‘Opposite Octave Reaction’ closes this album serving to wake you up if there’s any chance at all (unlikely) that you’ve dozed off along the way. A nice fast, chunky song to end on – I just love this man’s voice! Still melodic and intricately constructed, like all the tracks here, but this is one of the more memorable songs to finish on. And that’s it.

        All tracks on this are written, or co-written, by Scott Weiland and he also plays the majority of the instruments with various additional musicians appearing on different tracks.

        Well if you do buy this expecting something akin to the Stone Temple Pilots or Velvet Revolver you won’t get it and, understandably, that’s probably why it produced some negative reactions and reviews when it appeared. For all that it’s an album of oddities – but then if all twelve tracks are oddities then they’re no longer odd are they?!!

        If you want something a little unexpected, varied and challenging then give it a try, if you prefer to know what you’re getting then don’t. It may take two or three plays to sink in but now I love it!












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        • More +
          09.04.2005 18:27
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          I’ve been meaning to write a review of this DVD for ages, since Christmas in fact, when I received it as a much welcome present. Remember Christmas?! Yes, it’s taken me three months but now I’ve done it…

          I’m still fairly new to the world of DVDs so the novelty of the good quality and handy menu features which are not found on most videos still delights me! Especially in the case of a DVD of long time much loved band with the lead singer, Joe Strummer, sadly prematurely passed on.

          Enough preamble, let’s get on to the important stuff! The Clash were one of my favourite bands when I was in my teens (a long time ago!) and remained so. I own all their albums and most singles (on that funny old black vinyl stuff) but sadly had never had a video of them so when I saw “The Essential Clash” DVD in the shops some time ago last year I dropped some appropriate subtle hints people as Christmas loomed and luckily my cunning plan worked!

          The DVD comes in the standard clip open plastic case accompanied by a colour biographical booklet inside. It was released on Sony Music Ltd in 2003 and is marked as being suitable “for Mature Audiences 16 Years and Over”(!) For your money you get approximately 90 minutes worth of promotional videos, some TV clips, live bits and a special exclusive silent movie made by Joe Strummer, in black and white, featuring the band (Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Nicky “Topper” Headon) aswell as various friends and acquaintances acting in a spoof gangster movie. There is also a full discography with sample tracks and the expected interactive menu so that you can select tracks or skip bits as desired.

          The highlights for me are the first twelve tracks of live and promotional videos – the memories came flooding back! I have to confess the first time I watched this DVD it was through tears – both of nostalgia and the sadness of Joe Strummer’s death a couple of years ago. The Clash always refused to appear on “Top of the Pops” so those of you old enough would recognise a lot of these tracks as those shown in place of the band appearing. The DVD launches with a “Clash on Broadway” trailer before heading straight into “White Riot”, followed by “Complete Control” (my favourite!), “Tommy Gun”, “Clampdown”, “Train in Vain”, “London Calling”, “Bankrobber”, “The Call Up”, “Rock the Casbah”, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (live) and “Career Opportunities” (live). Everyone a gem, both musically and visually, and compelling to watch. A couple of the earlier tracks are marred by what is probably damage to original video master copies with what looks like tracking problems but it is minor and doesn’t spoil the viewing, in fact in may even be intended! I’m not sure as the particular tracks in question I had not seen for a long time, if at all, so I can’t remember.

          After these comes “Hell W10” – the aforementioned film written and directed by Joe Strummer and made in 1983 while the band were on a break in between touring. The film is black and white and silent (as far as dialogue goes) with the old style dialogue frames and set to various Clash instrumental tunes from throughout their career. The music is great but I have to confess I found the film itself hard going and didn’t persevere with watching it after about the first twenty minutes or so.

          The film is followed by some promotional footage and interviews from television in the mid-late seventies including rare and unseen footage and then there is the discography, with a live version of “I Fought the Law”.

          This being a present (and a great one!) I don’t know how much it cost but a little internet research shows it being available from about £15 - £20 depending where you shop and it seems to be available from all the expected outlets such as HMV, Virgin, Amazon, etc.

          Apart from the slight struggle through the film in the middle I loved every minute of it and it the DVD provides a wonderful visual catalogue of the The Clash’s relatively short existence from 1976 to 1984. For any old (or not so old!) Clash fan I would certainly agree that this is “Essential” as the title suggests!





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          • Sagem Myx-2 / Mobile Phone / 26 Readings / 24 Ratings
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            04.03.2005 15:22
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            It’s finally happened. I’ve given in, I’ve succumbed. I have always hated mobile phones and seeing and hearing people use them but now I’ve got one. Sorry to let down any fellow mobile-haters but an emergency situation led to me making the agonising decision to get one.

            Why?! Well, a few weeks ago I had my landline phone and broadband internet access cut-off when I was unable to pay an overdue bill. I called Customer Services (the only number I could still ring) to explain my mobility difficulties and my reliance, particularly, on my internet access for communication and virtually everything else. I tried to explain that with no means of contacting anyone then I couldn’t get my bill paid, but if I couldn’t get my bill paid then I had no means of contacting anyone! Customer Services were about as much help as a paper hat in a monsoon so I was eventually forced to find some change and waddle to a phone box to call a friend to help me out. So I was without the use of a phone for about three days and without my broadband for about five days. This might not sound too vital to some people but when you are stuck at home 99% of the time and rely on it, it is very distressing.

            As a result of this I gave some thought to what would happen if a similar problem arose again, either through a fault or not paying the bill on time or whatever. Maybe I should just buy a cheapie mobile phone to have in a cupboard in case of emergencies? “Mobile” phone is a bit ironic really when I’m far from mobile myself!! So, after wrestling with my indecision, I did a little research on the internet and in my mail order catalogue as to prices, etc. I knew next to nothing about these gadgets never having even used one before let alone bought or owned one. I was just looking for one I could buy outright, as cheaply as possible, could pay for calls as I needed with no binding contract, had basic functions of phone calls (obviously), texts, and answerphone at least. I was not going to be a “phone snob” about this purchase – I was not concerned with brand names, trendy features and such like – I wanted a budget buy that would do the job when necessary.

            Bearing in mind my low financial budget my best course of action was to order one from my mail order catalogue so I could pay gradually with no interest charges and have it delivered. Admittedly this isn’t the cheapest option in most cases but I could not afford to buy one outright either online or in the High Street and I can’t go traipsing round the shops either so to my catalogue (Kays) it was.

            There I found the Sagem MY X2 on sale down from £44.99 to £31.99 so I decided to go for that. It was the cheapest available, on a pay-as-you-go network and offered all the necessary functions so I ordered it and waited for its arrival.

            A few days later the alien gadget arrived in a little box, complete with charging device, manual, SIM card, battery, phone top-up card and the usual plethora of leaflets. It was wearing an ice blue case with clear (but small!) silver coloured buttons. The first thing that struck me was how small and light it was – it was going to be fiddly to use! Its given weight is 89 grams and it fits comfortably in my small hands. Once I’d inserted the supplied battery and SIM card according to the simple and clear user manual I had to plug it in to charge for about 6 hours before its first use (subsequent charging takes much less time).

            This phone comes connected to the T-Mobile pay-as-you-go network and a top-up card is supplied with the phone so you can take it in to any participating shop, pay your money (minimum £10), the card is swiped and the credit goes on to your phone account immediately. However one thing I didn’t know, and which wasn’t clear in the manual, was that you need to ring Customer Services and register your phone and card FIRST before you can put money on it so my first trip to the shop was wasted as I hadn’t done this. Once I’d overcome that little glitch and my phone was fully charged it was ready for me to use for the first time.

            I only know a couple of people’s mobile phone numbers so I tried a handful of test texts to get the hang of it and once I was happy (didn’t want to use too much credit!) I stopped and proceeded to test out other functions and fiddle with the settings to suit me. The user manual has clear diagrams and simple instructions to explain all this and I had the time and date set within a minute and had found all the pre-set choices of ringtones, 3D wallpapers and animated screensavers ( about ten choices of each). I opted it for it to give a cat mew ringtone for phone calls and a cow moomoo for text messages :o)

            Additional features include the Phonebook facility to store all your contacts, security features if needed, WAP access for connecting to the internet to download additional ringtones, wallpapers, etc., calculator, money converter, alarm function, memory storage display, vibrate option, T-mobiles own interactive zone, picture puzzles, databank, choice of languages and text formats and more – quite a lot really considering I was only after basic functions!

            As with most mobile phones the cover/fascia can be changed and other accessories are available to buy separately such as cases, USB cables for data transference, car kits, handsfree kits and the like. I admit I have invested in two new covers (Tigger and Hello Kitty!) and a little leather case for it but I found these on Ebay and the total for all of them together was only about £5.

            Right, that about wraps it up I think, and yes, I still HATE people using these in public and so far I have NOT taken mine out with me or used it in the presence of anyone else! I have used it for a bit of fun texting at home but apart from that it will be kept, as intended, in a convenient place for emergency use only or if, by any slim chance, I have to travel somewhere alone in the future. It suits me and it serves its purpose – enough said!




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            • Daewoo DV 500 / DVD Player / 22 Readings / 21 Ratings
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              20.02.2005 12:23
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              A whole new world has opened up to me! Well, maybe that’s a bit of a drastic statement but I’m often late in catching up with technology (due to financial constraints rather than technophobia!) and now I have at last entered the world of DVDs.

              I’ve had rather dodgy hand-me-down video players for a number of years and I have the facility to play DVDs on my computer but I find watching anything more than a few minutes long on the computer screen a bit hard on the old eyeballs so I’ve never considered buying full length DVDs and have just stuck to watching those extra, bonus tracks often found on CDs.

              I hadn’t seriously considered getting a DVD player. I’m not a great one for watching movies and the usual tight budget didn’t really make it an option. However, due to the generosity of the elderly couple living in the flat above me, I now have a DVD player. They had been given one by one of their more affluent relations but they’re just happy with a TV and aren’t ones for keeping up with technology so they asked if I would like it otherwise it would just be sitting in a cupboard! Well, what could I say?!

              So I’m now the happy owner of a Daewoo DV500ES DVD player. My new gadget is a slim line silver coloured little thing with all the necessary features. I won’t go into all the technical blurb as it means little to me and, I expect, most ordinary buyers! Suffice to say it has a remote control (of course!), an ‘on’ button, it plays DVDs (also with the usual pause, stop, fast forward etc) and has a display to show the time, date, settings etc. This model is a Region 2 player, designed to be compatible with discs designed for Region 2 (UK/Europe) or All regions. Is that too basic? Ah well, there’s more to come.

              Luckily, being new and still boxed, it came with a little manual for those of us new to such gadgets although I tend to be in the “fiddle with it and see” group of technology users. However the manual is comprehensive and easy to understand should I get stuck anywhere trying to do anything I’m confident it will be in the manual somewhere which covers connection, how to play DVDs and how to use all the functions and features as well as the technical specifications for those that need to know. There is also a “Troubleshooting” section should you run into problems but as this section is barely two pages long I suspect (hope!) there is little that can go wrong.

              Although I didn’t connect it myself the operation took minutes – just a matter of plugging in the leads into your television, and, if required, connecting it to the video player too in the same manner. Then it was switch on and go! Happily I was given DVD player a couple of months before Christmas so I received a handful of DVDs as birthday and Christmas presents and they were on hand to play. The picture and sound quality is crystal clear with none of the tracking or distortion glitches often found with ordinary video tapes and this whole new world opened up to me as I discovered what all the buttons on the remote control actually did. There are options to select or skip particular scenes, through the initial opening menu you can go straight to a particular scene or track (very useful with music DVDs which are my preference), you can search for a scene, select to repeat a scene/feature, zoom in or out, change angles, program it to play in a certain order or time as well as the more basic fast/slow play and skipping back and forth (old fashioned rewind and fast forward to me!). The machine is also compatible with CDs and CD-Rs, so you can simply use it as an audio CD player if you want, as well as picture CDs and MP3 discs. Oh, and if the fancy takes you, this can also be used as a karaoke machine with the microphone output!

              Well, without getting all technical on you, which I won’t do as I’d be rambling and waffling and I’d be hard-pressed to understand a lot of it myself let alone anyone reading, that about covers the “need to know” facts I think. I’m perfectly happy with it and am enjoying scooting through my, still minimal, collection of DVDs finding all the extra features which aren’t usually found on video tapes and whizzing back and forth from track to track.

              As I didn’t buy this myself I’ve had to do a little internet surfing to find out price and availability and the general price region seems to vary from £40-£50 from all expected electrical and specialist internet retailers. I also found one going on Ebay for £10 so this needn’t be a major purchase!

              I think by DVD player standards it’s probably a fairly basic model but it looks nice, is easy to operate and does the job and that’s all I ask really.


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              • faceparty.com / Internet Site / 28 Readings / 24 Ratings
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                03.01.2005 18:08
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                So what have I been doing with my time lately? Well this Faceparty site has quite a lot to answer for! It’s not the only culprit (still tied up with Ebay, games sites, music forums, etc), but it’s the one I’m going to write about today!

                I would normally steer well clear of supposed “dating” or making friends sites due to being cautious and cynical but I ended up joining Faceparty by accident (I’ll explain in a minute!) and it’s become a bit of an old friend now for company during those quiet moments….

                So how did I come to find and join Faceparty? I’m a member of a forum on a site for one of my favourite bands. It’s a very active forum and a lot of us know each other from “real life” through meeting at the bands’ concerts and such like. Anyway, we were finding that each time a new member joined the forum the usual round of introductory posts was getting a bit tiresome each time so one member, who already used Faceparty, suggested that all of those that wished to joined it and made a profile there so we could then direct other members to that to find out about each of us rather than having to post about ourselves over and over again. I thought this was a good idea (as well as something to do!) and duly joined up and built my profile, and so here I am!

                A bit about the basics of Faceparty first. It has thousands of members all over the world of all ages, although the minimum age appears to be sixteen, which is fair enough as there is some adult content on the site and it, hopefully, prevents older people with the wrong intentions of contacting much younger people. There appears to be no upper age limit so if you’re looking for a Sugar Daddy or a Toyboy the possibility is there ;o)

                Faceparty is free to join and it is quick and easy to build your profile using the usual template/form type pages and you can add up to four photos as a free member. If you want more facilities you can upgrade to use their “Cool Tools” for £25 a year – I’ve done this as you get some useful extra features if you’re a regular user – but then as a free member you still have plenty of options. As a free member you can browse through other members profiles and contact them if you feel the urge, you can send and receive messages through the site although for free members there is a daily message sending limit (10 I think), but if you upgrade it’s unlimited. Some people obviously do join looking to meet the opposite sex, others just to make any friends or just chat and so on – it’s really up to you :o) All your personal details can remain private so if you wish you needn’t reveal your email address, real name, whereabouts etc so there is no worry of your privacy or safety being compromised.

                All members have a Buddy list so you can see quickly which of your contacts may be online or when they last logged in and you can link these directly to your own profile so they show up on there for quick and easy access. You just click on their name (user ID) and send a message. All members can adjust their personal settings for privacy levels and email notifications. If you are pestered by another member or do not wish them to contact you both free and upgraded members have the option to block people and add them to a “pest” list too. All members also have the facility to enter into a private chat with other members in a drop-down box if they wish to as well, all though this facility can be a little slow and unreliable – I tend to stick to the simple messaging. There is the option to do voice messaging but I have never tried this as it doesn’t appeal to me so I can’t comment on how that works.

                Another fun part of the facilities available to all members is the rating system. When you visit a member’s profile you may, if you wish, rate them. There are about 15 rating options ranging from dog egg, chav and pantie thief to pin-up, hunny, fox and hot! This is a fun little feature and it can be quite an ego-boost if you get a lot of nice ratings too – luckily I haven’t fallen prey to any nasty ones yet!!

                So what else does “Cool Tools” offer for upgraded members then? Well, a couple of my favourite facilities are the ability to see WHO has actually rated you as what (free members just see the ratings but not who’s responsible) and you can also check to see if a sent message has been read and/or replied to if you’re waiting to hear from someone. Further tools include more options to jazz up your profile like changing the colours and themes as well as no limit on photo uploads or messaging. There is also the “Buddy Spy” facility where you can see who else has you on their Buddy Lists, as I mentioned earlier. Finally, upgraded members have access to an Online Diary – or “Blog” as they’re now known – which shows up on your profile page if you choose to use it to update visitors on your latest news! This can be edited, deleted or continued as you choose.

                Faceparty also has merchandise on offer in its on-site shop for the real enthusiasts – there are T-shirts, stickers, keyrings, etc bearing their little happy chap logo available to buy if these appeal to you.

                Right, I think that about sums up the facilities and possibilities of this addictive little site and those of us who enjoy contacting new people or just having a casual online natter when we’re feeling bored or lonely will probably love it and visit it several times a day (like I do!) I know people have/do meet people from the site, as with many other sites, and the obvious cautions apply with this. As yet I have not met anyone (other than those I had already met/know from the music forum) I have chatted to on the site although I have made a handful of good friends who I would certainly like to meet given the opportunity and have kept me company online when I’ve needed it most.

                Fun, safe and, if you want, totally free – sounds good to me!




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                • More +
                  27.09.2004 17:58
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                  Yes, I know it’s nearly a month ago but there haven’t been many reviews of this years Reading Festival so here’s mine anyway!

                  The Carling Weekend Reading Festival is my annual holiday so it’s quite an event for me each August Bank Holiday. This year it took place from the 27th – 29th August at the usual location comprising several fields in Richfield Avenue, Reading in Berkshire.

                  I’ll go through a few basics with you first. You can buy tickets for the event at all the usual outlets but be warned - it sells out FAST! Weekend tickets which include use of camping facilities cost £105 plus booking fee or you can buy day tickets which are usually around £31 per day plus booking fee. If you are intending to camp for the weekend, like me, you can arrive at the site from midday Thursday onwards and afterwards you have to be packed up and away by midday on the Monday. I won’t go through all the recommendations for camping equipment and “survival” gear (I think there’s a separate category for all that!) but suffice to say take a supply of loo roll, plenty of money and be prepared for all weathers!

                  This years’ main stage line-ups on all days seemed a little disjointed according to the general consensus of opinion of the people I spoke to although I was generally happy with it some of the running orders seemed a little odd. There is also the Radio One Stage which is the second largest and generally focuses on up and coming bands or just those who prefer a smaller setting. Then there is the Dance Tent (self-explanatory!), the Carling Stage for lesser known and unsigned bands and the comedy tent for those who want some light relief with no music! Obviously I’ll concentrate on the bands I actually saw, whether or not I liked them, as listing everything on every stage would take way toooooo long.

                  Friday saw the whole event kicking off with Goldie Lookin’ Chain on the main stage – they of the “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do” song. They were a good, fun band to start with and despite only knowing the aforementioned song I did enjoy watching and listening to them. Some hours later I sat through Swedish band The Hives who have never really grabbed me despite being rocky and frenetic it just sounded like they were playing the same song over and over again to me. Prior to seeing them we had ventured over to the Radio One stage to see The Wildhearts who played a blinding set despite continuing technical problems and it was great to see them back again and in fine form with their blasting tuneful brand of punk.

                  Back to the main stage for Ash. They were good and played a varied set of old and new but were far short of spectacular and suit a smaller stage, where I’ve seen them before. Next were The Offspring, another of those bands who I enjoy for the first two or three songs before they become repetitive and boring and there is something about the pitch of the lead singers voice which literally makes my ears hurt.

                  Friday nights headliners were The Darkness who I was looking forward to having missed their set at the Festival last year. They were openly nervous and in awe of headlining such a major event for the first time and did rely heavily on their image and lots of stage effects to carry it off but their music was enjoyable, Justin Hawkins (lead singer) very charismatic and funny and they just about carried it off with all that combined. An enjoyable end to the first night.

                  Saturday kicked off with the 5,6,7,8s on the main stage (they of the maddening “woohoo” song) – I didn’t go and see them myself but my friend did and said they were very good. I was determined to make it to the main stage in time to see the New York Dolls as I had been looking forward to seeing them AND seeing who were going to replace the now deceased three original members. Despite a long time away from the scene, they played a great set displaying how many bands since have been understandably influenced by them. Original members David Johanneson (vocals) and Sylvain Sylvain (guitar) headed up the band and were joined by Sammi Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks) on bass but I’m afraid I don’t know/can’t remember who the other replacement members were!

                  After the New York Dolls we made our way over to the Radio One stage to see The Ordinary Boys and 80s Matchbox BeeLine Disaster. The Ordinary Boys played a youthful enthusiastic set reminiscent of early Jam with power and tunes. 80s Matchbox etc did not impress me although my friend liked them I found them to be a little too unstructured and they descended into a wall of noise in most songs.

                  Now for a bit I’d been dreading. We needed to be back in place on the disabled viewing platform (I use a wheelchair) in time for that nights headliners – The White Stripes – however this meant I would have to sit through the whole of Morrisseys set before hand, and if there’s one band/person I have always HATED it’s the Smiths/Morrissey (who, by the way, looks alarmingly like Freddie Starr now he’s getting on a bit….) I survived it by holding on to my pint of red wine, with ear plugs in and a blanket over my head which a kindly soul had lent me. So I saw no evil, heard no evil but I must admit I spoke quite a lot of evil.

                  At last it was time for The White Stripes who had to cancel their scheduled appearance at the Festival last year due to injury/personal problems. They lived up to expectations played a lot from their “Elephant” album as well as older tracks and covers with variations on the expected versions of their known songs. Thoroughly enjoyable although a little uninspiring just to watch the two of them on stage!

                  So it was Sunday, the last day, and we made it to the main stage half way through the second band on – Thrice – who were playing some unremarkable thrash metal. Next on where The Rasmus. Oh dear. After being greeted by a hail of bottles and boos they lasted about two minutes making a hasty exit from the stage barely finishing their first (and only) song. Sad and scary for the band and sad for anyone there to see them (which didn’t seem like many…) but amusing for the rest of us who didn’t know/like them.

                  By total contrast the Dropkick Murphys appeared next and they were fantastically entertaining with their blend of punkified Celtic/ska music akin to Rancid or a more punky Pogues. Impossible to stay still through and immensely enjoyable. The Streets came on next, I only really like his recent “Dry Your Eyes” hit single so I was really looking forward to a whole set and I’m afraid my opinion remains the same. However he was obviously popular with a lot of the crowd and went down well.

                  Placebo were another band I was looking forwared to and I was disappointed to see that, yet again, they were third on the bill and not headlining despite drawing a large, enthusiastic crowd and putting in a storming performance which spanned all their excellent albums. They were on top form for a relatively short support set.

                  Oh Lordy, another mass bottling occasion occurred next. 50 Cent came on to loud boos and the hail of bottles started again and continued with venom until he left the stage about 15-20 minutes into his set. I’m indifferent to him and his music and I must say I admired the fact that he tried to persevere for so long unlike The Rasmus, but again it was sad for anyone hoping to see him and potentially dangerous for those on stage having to dodge so many missiles despite being amusing to watch. He was rather an odd artist to have amongst Sunday nights line-up and chiefly heavier rock acts though so I feel the organisers had maybe not thought that through…..

                  So on to the final act of Sunday night and the whole weekend – Green Day. The American punk/pop band have been around for about ten years now and are very popular although I struggle with them as I can hear so many ripped off old punk songs in their music! Due to the earlier “bottling off” events of the day Green Day were left with about an extra 45 minutes to fill and so they also did some straight covers of old punk classics – the bit I enjoyed the most of their set! Still, they were hugely popular, performed well and pleased the crowd, and I have to admit there are worse bands that could have headlined.

                  And so it was all over for another year…..

                  Before I go, having given you a rundown of the event and the bands just a bit more about this years festival – mud, mud, MUD!! Rain, wind, mud. By far the worst year for weather that I’ve experienced and being in a wheelchair getting through the mud was nigh on impossible (the late night Reading litter buggy rescued me from the field on one occasion…..)

                  For those of you, like myself and my friend, who may not have unlimited money supplies and are planning to stay for the weekend take food and drink supplies with you. It’s far too expensive to rely on the outlets on site for all your meals and drink. We’d just treat ourselves a couple of times a day maybe as paying £1-£2 for a plastic cup of coffee was ridiculous when you could buy all the ingredients and take a little camping stove for a fraction of the price (which is what we do, obviously). I won’t go into all these money saving and survival tips as, I mentioned before, I think there is another category dealing with all that important information!

                  Right, OK then, there you have it – my holiday for this year! Messy, muddy and tiring but GREAT :o)










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                  • digi-stik.com / Internet Site / 1 Reading / 15 Ratings
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                    18.09.2004 03:30
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                    **Please Note - This is about the PRODUCT "Digi-Stik" (camera) and not the website Digi-stik.com but depite repeated requests Dooyoo still haven't moved it to the correct category so I've given up waiting! Thanks :o) **
                    ---------------


                    I don’t normally do techno gadgets. I’m not technophobic or anything but I’m never quite sure what to include when writing about them and I’m a terrible one for launching straight into using something without reading the instructions first (to be fair, I normally do OK though!) I thought I’d make an exception for this little camera – the Digi-Stik Fun Camera – as it’s quite straightforward and I’ve found it really useful.

                    To put you in the picture (pardon the pun!) first, I didn’t have any type of camera at all and my friend knew that I sort of yearned for a little digital camera to capture those moments when my cat is being impossibly cute and also for taking pictures of items to put on Ebay which weren’t practical to scan (have you tried scanning a large cuddly toy?!)

                    So last November, on my birthday, my best friend duly arrived with a present for me and I had no idea what to expect. I opened it to find this little gadget – and was delighted! She happily announced, “Don’t be embarrassed or anything – it’s not an expensive one!” Of course, that didn’t matter, neither of us have a lot of money and as long as it did the job I wasn’t going to be snobbish about it!

                    The Digi-Stik Fun Camera is just that – for fun. If you’re a “proper” photographer or after superb quality you won’t get it with this but if you’re uses are much the same as mine then this should do fine until you get afford an upgrade to a “proper” camera, digital or otherwise. More details about the camera can be found on the website WWW.digi-stik.com as well as where and how to buy but let me tell you a bit about it before you rush over there!

                    I opened the box to find this very lightweight camera, about 5 inches high and an inch wide complete with a belt clip and a little stand. It comes in a silver-grey coloured hard plastic casing and included with it are the essential installation and software CD , connection cable (USB) and instruction manual. That’s all, no frills! It takes two AAA batteries or will operate from your computer power when it’s connected. Beware of leaving it on by accident – it eats batteries! To operate there is one shutter button for taking the shot and one button for adjusting the settings, deleting unwanted photos and switching it on and off so it is fairly idiot-proof!

                    Needless to say I started playing with my little gadget almost straightaway without reading the instructions and it was pretty much obvious what did what but if you need more detailed information this is the instruction manual. I say “manual” – it’s actually only an 8 page leaflet including covers and is lacking in troubleshooting tips and software instructions but adequate to get you started reliably. It details all the required technical specifications (which I won’t list here) and gives the basic operating and care instructions. In here you can find out how to change from photo to video mode (I still haven’t sussed that one!), how to change the picture resolution (only two possible choices there – high and low!), how to operate the compression mode and how to delete photos. In fact this review is probably considerably longer than the so-called manual!

                    I found the camera quite fiddly to use because the buttons are small even for my tiny hands and the view finder is quite awkward too – it’s small and what you see in the viewfinder is deceptive as once the photo is downloaded I found it actually chopped a lot of the bottom and left a gap at the top! Once you have mastered this positioning it’s not a problem but if you’re using it for the first time on “once only opportunity” shots then you may be very disappointed with the result. Another problem here is there is no preview screen as you get on larger or more expensive digital cameras so you really can ONLY rely on what you see as you are focussing on your shot which isn’t totally accurate as I have previously explained. Once you have composed your shot and pressed the shutter button it beeps to confirm the picture has been taken. The beep is quite quiet so you have to actively listen for it or you could find yourself frustratedly pressing the button over and over again and getting multiple identical shots (yes, guess who did that!) So far my pictures have been a little poor but this is largely down to the fact that most of them have been taken indoors, in the evening in fairly dim artificial light. In good daylight or strong indoor light the shots are fine but this camera has no flash or suchlike adjustment so that’s another point to bear in mind when assessing if it’s suitable for your needs. In high compression mode you can take up 19 shots and in low you can take up to 76 shots and it has a 16mb memory. This amount of memory is "fixed" and there appears to be no option to buy memory cards or change it but on a small, relatively inexpensive camera like this I don't expect that.

                    The software provided is Arcsoft PhotoImpression 4 and includes the basic downloading and editing devices as well as a program for making videos (Arcsoft VideoCompression 1.6). So far I have only used the still image software which I have found to be quite straightforward and reliable if a little basic. You always have the option of editing/producing your photos on an alternative imaging software once they are downloaded of course.

                    Oh, before I wind up just a little cautionary note if, like myself, you are unfamiliar with these gadgets – remember to download any precious shots BEFORE taking out/changing the batteries as that results in wiping the memory and your photos will be lost – I found that out myself too.

                    So you want one? OK, my friend managed to find this one for me on sale in Woolworths for £15 (there were also on sale for the same price in WH Smiths) but its recommended retail price offline is £49.99. I must admit I find that quite incredible given how basic the camera is and the photo quality. That said you can however buy one directly from the Digi-Stik website, the address I mentioned earlier, for a much more reasonable £29.99 but it’s probably worth shopping around both online and offline first given those large prices differences. Having used it I think I would be reluctant to pay more than £20 for one myself.

                    For me this does the job adequately and is simple to use. If you are on a tight budget or won’t be needing to use your camera once then this is probably perfectly adequate for your needs but if you want more flexibility or high quality then it may well be worth saving up for something more high-tech.

                    Well, I think that about wraps up all the essential information – any questions, please ask!


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                  • More +
                    30.07.2004 00:16
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                    I think it?s time I dealt with a blast of music again! My latest CD to remain glued into my CD player is Velvet Revolvers ?Contraband?, and it?s really rather jolly good to coin a little-used rock phrase ;o) Velvet Revolver consist of three former members of Guns ?N? Roses ? Slash (he of the wild hair and top hat)on guitar, Matt Sorum on drums and Duff McKagan on bass ? Dave Kushner of Jane?s Addiction connections also on guitar and the rather wonderful, utterly gorgeous (biased? Me?) Scott Weiland, former lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots and solo artist. So that?s some pedigree for this band to live up to! They succeed with ease although it has to be said the resulting music is far from innovative and new in the rock genre. Inevitably I can hear a lot of Guns ?N? Roses styled guitar work in here but that?s no surprise really, is it? Thankfully Weiland does not have the same rather high pitched, strained vocal that former Guns ?N?Roses (from herein referred to as ?GNR? for brevity!) singer Axl Rose has, something I found could get quite tiresome after a while and which made me give up on GNR after their first album to be honest. Weiland?s vocals are far more listenable long term with more range but no thrash metal type growls or clichéd squealing. ?Contraband? is Velvet Revolvers? first album released this year on RCA records sporting a basic, no-frills cover chiefly in black with a simple, small silhouetted woman holding a revolver on the front and a band photo on the back. The booklet included contains song lyrics and all the usual essential information expected. The CD itself consists of thirteen tracks of good stonking rock but displaying a good variety of tempo, tunes and riffs therein. At the moment I couldn?t really say there is a bad track on there but there are definitely a few blinders! Now I know it?s generally the norm for a CD review to go through a track-by-track analysis but I find that can be rather tedious (as
                    well as difficult!), so I?ll give you the track listing and just pick out a few choice tracks to highlight. Anyway here goes with the track listing first? 1) Sucker Train Blues 2) Do It for The Kids 3) Big Machine 4) Illegal I Song 5) Spectacle 6) Fall to Pieces 7) Headspace 8) Superhuman 9) Set Me Free 10) You got No Right 11) Slither 12) Dirty Little Thing 13) Loving the Alien ?Sucker Train Blues? kicks of the album as it means to go on really with sirens, meaty guitars and a strong tune which instantly gets the bum moving and the shoulders jigging (I can?t manage much more than that these days!) No wall of sound though ? all instruments and vocals are distinct and clear unlike some bands/albums which can end up badly produced into nothing but a crashing noise. This is also one of the many tracks which features a simple, catchy harmonic chorus, somewhat reminiscent of Def Leppard and suchlike in a more soft rock vein. ?Do It for the Kids? is a far more ?in your face? song, again with a powerful guitar lick and the somewhat trademark chorus style and again very catchy, another one to get you moving. ?Illegal I Song? is a great chunk of driving rock, at first you think it?s fast but it?s deceptive. Powerful with more of those tempo/riff changes which make this album stand out from the crowd and keep you wanting to abandon all dignity and bust a move around your lounge!! Moving on to ?Fall to Pieces? we are presented with a gentle guitar intro and Weiland also singing singing gently and emotively before the track crashes into a dramatic slice of rock with a very GNR guitar tinkling over the top and then back to gentle mode again. This is one of the more varied tracks on the album, one of those ?mini-epic? type of tracks. The single ?Slither? is most definitely a highlight on here with its great tempo change between verse and
                    chorus and a chunky ?running? type of guitar riff ? it?s so hard to describe these things! Weiland starts off with a deeper mildly menacing tone before letting rip. No dribbling on for too long either, its fast and it ends abruptly with no messing about! ?Loving the Alien? is NOT the David Bowie song of the same name from some years back. This closing track is a far more gentle number with gentle silky vocals and uncluttered backing music, almost out of character and a very ?singalong? track. It closes the album nicely if you were hoping to be drifting off to sleep by then and not be woken with a start! On the whole I would say this album would not disappoint fans of heavy metal/rock like myself but may also appeal to those who found GNR somewhat too heavy and hard going due to its softer chorus melodies and the aforementioned different vocal style. All the tracks on this debut album were written by the band themselves and it was produced by Andy Wallace, a well known rock producer who also worked with the likes of Nirvana. I bought this for £8.99 from CDWOW but it?s widely available from the usual outlets at the usual sort of prices (I sound like a TV ad now!) For me, as a life-long unashamed fan of heavy rock and the like, this is just my cup of strong coffee with cream and sugar!

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                    • Best / Worst TV Adverts / Discussion / 8 Readings / 23 Ratings
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                      16.07.2004 04:55
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                      I just can?t help it, I don?t know who else to ask, so I?m going to air my dilemma here! It?s this current TV advert you see, it?s bugging me. Normally I let these tiresome advert breaks wash over me and as soon as they are seen they are forgotten but this one has posed a puzzle for my and leaves me wondering whether I?m overlooking something really obvious, whether the makers have made a mistake or whether everyone else seeing it is left in the same quandary as me! What on earth am I going on about? Well, I think the advert is for AA insurance services (hence putting it under this category) or AA Loans or AA (Automobile Association ? just to clarify!) something, that bit passes me but the crux of the matter is who the hell are the people supposed to be?! It?s the one where two couples draw level in their cars at the traffic lights and look over at each other. The women are identical as are both the men. Both women are called Bev and both men are called Kev. There is a short interchange of ?Bev?? ?Kev!? ?Kev?? Bev!? and so on. Now what I can?t work out is the connection here. On first viewing it just appears that identical women are dating identical men ? presumably two sets of twins BUT if you had twins you wouldn?t give them both an identical name ASWELL, would you?! So they can?t be twins? So the next more convoluted theory that occurs to me is the old one that people tend to choose partners that look the same or similar to previous partners to these too have chosen new partners looking like their ex-partners and just happen to meet each other at the lights and find this out as well as all knowing each other?! (Are you still with me here?......) If you haven?t seen this yourself I hope I?ve put you in the picture (or utterly lost you!) but it?s shown often enough so I think anyone that even watches a minimum of television may have seen it at least once. That?s it really. I just hoped someone may be able to solve the p
                      uzzle for me or at least confirm that I?m not the only one trying to work it out! Therefore this is a short piece, no ambling, rambling or analysis. I can?t even tell you in great detail what the advert is about as I?m inevitably always distracted by the aforementioned puzzle of the characters involved. My one point to make on that score is that when ad makers have that effect they are surely missing the point of advertisement? It?s meant to make you aware of a product or service and remember it ? but if the advert in question just confuses or distracts you from its aim then they?ve failed surely?! Anyway, I feel better for getting that of my chest and I hope at least one of you can either put me out of my misery or at least offer solidarity in confusion!! Thank you, over and out :o)

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                      • playandwin.co.uk / Internet Site / 2 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                        02.05.2004 06:06
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                        Another day, another website, another addiction! I was never much of a ?gamer? with computers BUT online simple puzzles and arcade games are another matter ? especially if there is the (small!) possibility of having a little win! If the same sort of methods appeal to you then you?ll probably become as addicted to Play and Win.Co.Uk as I and my best friend are! I can?t quite remember how I stumbled across this website but I?m very glad I did, or sometimes I even regret it due to the hideous amount of time I spend there, depending on how I/you look at it. The basic idea is that each week from Friday morning until the following Thursday night you collect tokens on the site ready to go into that weeks? draw for a small number of cash prizes. Tokens can be collected by playing the various games, doing their five daily scratch cards, sending e-postcards and clicking on a number of daily banners. If you?re like me in doesn?t take long to amass in excess of 250,000 tokens per week ? you think that?s a lot? I?ve come across other people that manage to amass several times that amount, depending on which games you pay and how much you win on them of course. Right, I?ve jumped ahead a little. Let?s start with some basics. The website is appealing, colourful and pretty self-explanatory with good guide areas, FAQs and technical support. You are greeted by a cheeky monkey header which appears to be their mascot and registration is free and simple as with most sites, just requiring your basic details and email address and you choose your user name. Then you are ready to go. If you wish you can also create your own user profile for others to view and collect some friends along the way. Your profile can be as basic or detailed as you wish and it includes a guestbook and a games statistics area where you and other players can see which games you play and your high scores ? a useful reference or boasting mechanism! The website itself is simplicity to navigate
                        with a clear left hand menu and all games open in a new window. When you log in each time your current token total is also displayed at the top of the page as well as showing a list of online friends and site administrators, who usually haunt the chatrooms. Now, the important information, which games can you play? They have both multiplayer and single player games available so if you want to play against others you can partake in games such as Bingo, Backgammon, Yahtzee and Hearts. If you prefer to play alone without direct competition you can opt for games such as Diamond Mind, Egyptian Pyramids, Solitaire, Mahjong, Balloon Buster and Word Game. All games are free in monetary terms but a few cost a small number of tokens for each game (e.g. Bingo is 20 tokens per game) but you can win thousands more if you?re lucky! Again each game has the potential to win tokens in different ways and different amounts and these all accrue towards your final weekly total which are automatically entered into the Thursday night prize draw. Each game also has an accompanying chat room which you can see as you log into each game (but don?t have to partake in ? you can click on to the users lists instead just to see who is online if you find the chat going on by the side distracting, that?s what I usually do). In the same area there is also a rooms lists displaying each game so you can be playing one game but click over to chat in another games? chatroom, if you follow ? this may be useful if you see one of your friends playing in another room but you don?t want to leave your own game or if you just want to check who?s around and where (SPY!) This is also where you can make friends and view some interesting and amusing profiles as well as checking out each others games statistics to see whether you are really as good as you think you are!! Prizes? Well, as I said near the beginning this isn?t going to make you rich but then the fun of playing the games is eno
                        ugh for me. Each week there is one prize of £100 cash, five prizes of £20 cash and a number (two to five per week) of £10 prizes which can be won doing the previously mentioned daily Scratch and Win cards. You don?t have to wait long to find out if you?re lucky either ? the weekly prizes are announced by email to all members by Friday morning so you?ll know almost instantly and by then you?ve probably started accruing your next weeks tokens anyway! As I said this site is MAJORLY addictive as the games are so simple to pick up and enjoyable to play. You can also check past winners lists on site. Personally my favourite and most played games are Bingo, Diamond Mind and Egyptian Pyramids. On the Bingo there are different game levels ? beginner, speed, expert, etc ? which draw numbers at different speeds so you can keep up but they all cost 20 tokens to play and all have a potential prize of between 5000 and 200,000 tokens if you?re the lucky game winner. So far I?ve won 9 games and my biggest prize has been 50,000 tokens but I?ll keep trying! If you want to stack up tokens quickly Egyptian Pyramids is a good one although it took me a few plays to get the hang of it but you can easily accrue a few thousand tokens per game once you know what you?re doing. Diamond Mind is more strategic and so far the one I?ve won least tokens (anything from none to about 400 so far) on but very addictive. This should give you some idea of the way the different games work as far as potential token hauls go. The best thing to do is just try them and see! I?ve only just recently started playing Word Game which is another lower token one but that could just be done to my beginner level. I?ve only been using this site for about three or four weeks so I haven?t been lucky in the cash prize draw yet but as I?ve already said the fun of the games and watching my token total mount up is keeping me satisfied and hooked so far. So, if you like a simple, accessible site wit
                        h quick but absorbing games and the added bonus of a potential cash win then I BET you?ll soon get hooked on Play and Win :o)

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                        • Swan Rapid Boil Kettle / Kettle / 0 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                          27.04.2004 01:01
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                          Ah yes, the time had come. My little banana yellow bouncing, boiling friend in the corner of the kitchen was signalling its swansong. In plain terms my kettle was about to die. I?ve had it maybe, mmmm, two or three years I think. It was a Hinari Lifestyle (I wrote about it at the time!) kettle in a nice yellow colour for a price I could afford but, being fairly cheap and cheerful, it had its problems. It had always bounced about precariously when boiling, threateningly to somersault off the kitchen worktop, and in its final few months I could only get it to work by strategically levering it up with a teaspoon so that the connections on kettle and base would meet! You had to get the angle just right you know?..it was very technical. Anyway, the novelty was wearing as thin as the kettle and I gradually came to terms with the fact that I would have to spend out on a new one after several months in denial. I?m on a tight budget so I have to shop around for these things which I hate spending money on anyway. My old kettle was £9.99 if I remember rightly and I was hoping to spend about the same again. So it was research time. When I had the opportunity I looked around the shops locally ? Woolworths, Robert Dyas, Index, Argos, etc ? to get an idea of what was available. To be blunt the majority of those in my price range looked cheap and looked like they wouldn?t last long and so would be a false economy. I was after a cordless jug kettle and luckily they seem to be the most common type available so there was certainly plenty of choice ? but not that suited my pursestrings. So after a fruitless search offline and then turned to internet shopping. After searching a few retailers and bargain sites I turned back to my old faithful ? Ebay. I wanted to make sure I was buying a new, unused one and checked the feedback reputation of the sellers (very important!) of items I was interested in. Eventually I placed bids on three different kettles which caug
                          ht my eye and met my requirements, all starting at a low price which would obviously rise ? just how far was the matter in hand. I struck lucky! The one I liked most ? the Swan Rapid Boil ? was the kettle I won with the highest bid. Including postage & packing I paid £10.80 for it ? according to most shops and catalogues it normally retails for between £19.99 and £24.99 depending where you go, of course. So it was a good buy either way! A few days letter my new kettle arrived to usurp my old bouncy boiler. It looked very modern and classy ? a dark, gunmetal grey colour with a clear water level indicator, indicator light, 360 degree rotational base, lightweight and fitted plug of course. A very idiot-friendly instruction leaflet accompanied it. It has a maximum capacity of 1.8 litres, more than my old kettle, which is good considering the amount of coffee I get through in a day. Its minimum fill level is marked as 0.7 litres but it will function with no problem at about 0.5 litres if you want to boil just enough for one cup at a time (saves energy). There is an emergency cut out which acts if you attempt to boil the kettle when empty too. So it was test time. Or rather time for an essential cup of coffee and to see how my new appliance peformed. I like the design. Although it?s the biggest kettle I?ve ever had I actually found it very easy to manoeuvre (I have weak wrists/hands). Unlike most kettles it does not have a full curved handle but an open one which points straight down and has finger grip shaping ? I found this very helpful. The 360 degree rotational base was handy too ? no more fiddling about to match up connections, you can just plonk it back on the base in any position. Its easy to fill with a flip open lid which reveals a large opening and a built in filter to skim off any limescale scum from the water on pouring. Its also quite mesmerising watching the water boiling and bubbling through the clear indicator panel! (See, a watc
                          hed kettle DOES boil!!) It does boil pretty quickly compared to my old one (roughly half the time) although friends have commented that it?s quite noisy just before it switches off! That doesn?t bother me though. If you need to re-boil it for any reason it?s ready to leap into action again in 20 seconds. Well, I think that pretty much covers all its features. Like all kettles to clean it you should not immerse it in water but wipe it clean inside and out and remember to de-scale it regularly if you don?t use anything that does for you along the way (using filtered water helps). My verdict ? I?m very pleased with my bargain boiler. It looks good, works well, handles well and does the job, and that?s about all I require from a kettle really!

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                          • More +
                            16.04.2004 21:53
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                            I felt like doing a music review for a change but was at a loss which CD to write about hence it?s taken me a while. After some thought I?ve plumped for the White Stripes ?Elephant? as it?s been permanently glued into my CD player for a while now, OK, I haven?t actually GLUED it in there ? that would just be silly, wouldn?t it?! As with many people, the White Stripes were first brought to my attention with their ?Hotel Yorba? single, a few years ago now, although they were on their third album, ?White Blood Cells? by then. I heard their album and later saw them play live at Reading Festival in 2001 and so I was hooked! It was refreshing to hear music pared down to a basic simplicity with no frills or over-production but still with good meaty tunes and lyrics which displayed humour, intelligence and sometimes plain weirdness. This makes such a welcome change after so many manufactured bands, ?perfect? pop and high-tech production techniques and instrumentation which often knock all th4e stuffing and kick out of potentially good bands/music. That again is one of the main reasons I love seeing bands live to get true idea of how they REALLY sound. It always pleases me when I hear a band that sound the same live as they do on their recordings ? that?s what I prefer ? not being hoodwinked by special effects, etc. It must be the old Punk in me! Right, I?ve gone off on one there, back to the album in hand then. ?Elephant? was released in 2003 on XL recordings dressed in a cover which also displays the White Stripes simple approach with their trademark red and white colour scheme and a stark picture of Jack and Meg White on the front. Jack sings lead vocals, plays guitar and piano and Meg plays drums and does backing vocals. There you have it ? the ?band?! Admittedly the last track on the album also features guest vocals from Holly Golightly but apart from that there are no orchestral adornments, bells, whistles or frills. Indeed it states on the
                            cover that ?no computers were used during the writing, recording, mixing or mastering of this record? and it was also entirely recorded on a good old eight track reel- to ?reel machine which again enhances that raw, simple, played live sound. I?m all for it (can you tell?!) Let?s get going with the music then?. ?Elephant? kicks off with probably one of their best known tracks by now, the single ?Seven Nation Army?. Starting with its simple guitar hook line the infectious tune explodes out and gets your toe tapping straightaway. As ever Jack does sound rather like he?s singing through a tin can with a somewhat high, frantic tone. The next track, ?Black Math? is a real favourite of mine as someone who loves a good, fast, loud chunky tune which doesn?t get over-indulgent or drag on too long and is impossible to stay still to! A meaty riff without being too fast for its own good. ?There?s No Home for You Here? has a comparatively more complicated structure than most of their songs although by no means unrecognisable. A big opening and choruses of harmonies with pared down verses which leave Jack almost struggling to fit all the words in and one of my favourite lines on the album: ?It?s hard to look you in the face when we are talking, so it helps to have a mirror in the room.? Surprisingly the following track is a cover of Bacharach & David?s ?I Just Don?t Know What to do with Myself? but executed totally in the White Stripes style so if you?re not very familiar with the song you probably wouldn?t recognise it anyway! This is also one of the tracks which emphasises that fact that Jack White is NOT a great singer. He has a distinctive style which complements the music but, boy, does he struggle with the high notes and any softer, quieter moments! After that we have the simple (I must think of an alternative word!) ?In the Cold, Cold Night? which features Meg singing for a change backed by some sparse guitar. A
                            gain it?s a catchy little tune but one of my least liked on this album. ?I Want to be the Boy to Warm your Mother?s Heart? returns to Jack singing and a more chunky, full approach again with keyboards to the fore this time. ?You?ve got Her in Your Pocket? is another of my favourites on here. This is a very gentle track with, as I mentioned before, Jack sounding a bit strained on the softer vocals required and a countrified strummed guitar backing. Did I just say that was a favourite? Oh, here comes another one, you know what it?s like deciding upon these things! Yes, ?Ball and Biscuit? is definitely ?me?! A great bluesy, lazy rock track reminiscent of the Rolling Stones style from the early Seventies ? wandering, with a sneaky hook line and more strident, impressive vocals from Jack. I think this is the longest track on the album too, which is fine by me. ?The Hardest Button to Button? continues the pace previously set with its clever, amusing lyrics and Jack returning to his frantic vocal style over a ?thumpety-thump? rhythm that sets it all off nicely. A comical Sixties-style American voiceover kicks off ?Little Acorns? ? a song of triumph over adversity albeit through minimal lyrics but more of a ?wall of sound? musical backing. On to ?Hypnotize? which has a great tune and another basic riff line which bounces along at a galloping pace and displays that these faster, rockier songs are definitely what the White Stripes are best at. ?The Air Near my Fingers? follows with short, snappy lyrical lines but continues the same musical pace and bounce as the previous few tracks. Another rocky track hits us with ?Girl, You Have no Faith in Medicine? with Jack almost shrieking his way urgently through this one. Definitely another favourite here, given a lightly different sound by the constant madly shaken tambourine (?) throughout and Jack sounding on the verge of actually losing it this time. The final track, all too soon, gives a light, amusing ending to the album. "Well It's True That we Love One Another features Holly Golightly doing guest vocals as she and Meg discuss their feelings for Jack as he cuts in with his responses to their enquiries. It?s almost a childlike sing-a-long tune much akin to those in traditional musicals and a completely different style to the rest of the album but again this is another impossibly infectious number which will remain in your head for ages! So there you have it ? quite a difficult album to review due to the fact the same descriptions could apply to most of the tracks despite the fact that they DON?T actually sound alike (does that make sense?!) If you like your music in the rocky, bluesy vein with a punk influence and attitude then you?ll probably enjoy this as much as I do. Now, I think I need to go off and look up some alternative words for ?simple?, ?basic?, ?frantic?, ?bounce???????.

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                            • catoutofthebag.com / Online Shop / 0 Readings / 16 Ratings
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                              15.03.2004 06:02
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                              Ho hum (or humbug, depending on your point of view), it was nearing that "seasonal"time of year again, back last November, when you have to struggle to find presents to suit your family and friends and also suit your own budget! One of the easiest ways to do your shopping at that time of year, or anytime of year for that matter, is by using mail order catalogues. So here's an early tip for you well in time for this year! These days virtually every shop seems to have some sort of mail order facility available as well as there being specialist catalogues catering for special interests, hobbies, entertainment, fashion, etc, etc. I always find this a useful option as a non-driver with mobility problems traipsing around the shops for hours and carrying heavy bags is not an option whether I?d like to do it or not (and, quite frankly, I?m one of those rare females who does NOT like shopping!) Now on to the interesting/fun/boring (delete as applicable!) part of this opinion. Earlier this year I was introduced to a little catalogue, by an online/offline friend of mine who works for them and knew of my love for cats and all things kitty related. The catalogue in question is called ?Cat Out of The Bag? and, as the name might hint, practically all of the items available feature cats ? heaven! As the cover states they are ?Inspired by the image of the cat?. The different categories within the pages include jewellery, stationery, kitchen and bathroom wares, cuddly toys and ornaments, bags, purses, mouse (!) mats, key-rings, garden ornaments, door mats and useful little knick-knacks. As well as all that there are, of course, items actually FOR cats as well as their owners/staff. These include toys, beds and bedding, cat litter, grooming items and collars. Presumably if you?re not a cat lover, or do not know any, then by now you?ll already be bored by this but for those of you like me who?ll probably want EVERYTHING in the catalogue I?ll go
                              on! Prices are variable ? I must admit for my very limited budget some of does seem expensive but the majority of the items are exclusive to ?Cat Out of the Bag? so you won?t be seeing them all over the place if you?re after something a little unusual. I?ll give you just a few examples:- Doormats range from about £10-£15, cuddly toys are from about £6 - £15, socks (mens and womens) about £3-£4 a pair, tea cloths about £5, ornaments and pictures from about £9 up to £65, purses and bags are £6-£10, cat beds from around £14 upwards, collars from £5 and so on ? I hope that gives you some idea! There are more expensive items such as silver and pewter earrings and pendants, fleece jackets, magazine racks, chinaware (mugs, bowls, toast racks, egg cups and more) and even wine selections! Rest assured they are all gorgeous designs and appear to be well made. So far I have only bought smaller, less expensive items such as note pads and memo boards but they are very nice and good quality for the prices. I only wish I could afford more of the items I like as so many of them are adorable, such as the paw print fleeces, donut cat beds, silver earrings, bags ? oh, I could go on and list everything! Right, on to the important details of how to shop from the catalogue. Orders can be placed by post, phone, fax or online and payment can be made by cheque/postal order, credit and debit cards. I found my orders arrived within about a working week and they state that they aim to despatch items within 14 days but to allow up to 28 days ? this seems to be a standard time frame with a lot of catalogues. The delivery charge is set at £4.50 regardless of the size or cost of your order (so obviously ordering one cheaper item would not be economical!) BUT for larger/heavier items requiring special delivery there is an extra charge of £4.00. They will also deliver overseas but there are minimum order values for this depending on the location. It?s also nice to see th
                              ey offer the usual money back guarantee (or exchange if required) if you?re not satisfied with any items as long as they are returned unused within 28 days ? this is their ?Catisfaction Guarantee?! I think that covers the basic practicalities of the shopping, before I tell you how to get a catalogue it?s worth mentioning the important fact that this company also supports feline welfare charities and you can simply make a donation via them if you don?t actually want to buy anything. Last year they raised around £3000 in donations which was distributed among six cat rescue charities all over Britain ? London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Kent and Yorkshire. ?Cat Out of the Bag? also have four shops located in Bath, Windsor, Eton and Lymington where they apparently stock even more goodies other than those already featured in the catalogue. Sadly I?m not near enough to any of them to visit but I?d love to have an afternoon in one! Full details of shop opening times, contact numbers and locations are in the catalogue. Finally, how to get your hands on this little treasure trove:- *You can email them with your details at: info@catoutofthebag,com. *Phone them on 08707544434. *Write directly to their office at Cat Out of the Bag, Unit 285, Ricardo Way, Ampress Park, Lymington, SO41 8JT, or *Visit their website at www.catoutofthebag.com and fill in the form there. That just about wraps up this festival of felines and I hope I?ve inspired some (a lot!) of you to get hold of the catalogue and have a look :o)

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                              • Quaker Oatso Simple / Breakfast / 4 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                                12.03.2004 18:26
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                                . . Breakfast ? funny old thing, innit? I mean ?break ? fast? ? allegedly a meal to break the fast of having been asleep (i.e. not eating!) for about eight hours. Hmmm, doesn?t really follow in my case as I rarely eat anything before about midday no matter what time I wake up and even then it?s not normally something traditionally thought of as breakfast food such as cereals, toast, etc. Anyway, I digress, on to the subject in hand. Why the breakfast musings? Well, I?ve just been converted to something that is probably considered by most people to be a breakfast choice but, as ever, I eat it whenever I feel like it ? that usually being afternoon/evenings! What is this new eating pleasure? Quaker Oatso Simple, that?s what. This particular product has probably been available for about a year or two now but this was the first time I?d been tempted to try it while doing my online Tesco shopping. There was I perusing the current special offers before I sent off my order when one for Oatso Simple caught my eye. The 269g variety pack containing seven sachets (3 different flavours) was on offer for 99p from the usual price of £1.54 so I thought I?d give it a go and duly ordered one pack. A couple of day later when my order was due TescoMan (no relation to Superman) delivered my groceries to me and it was only then when I found the pack in my shopping that I remembered ordering it. I decided I would give it a first trial as my afternoon snack once I?d finished putting the rest of the shopping away. Right, let me give you the details before I deliver my verdict! As I said this was the variety pack which contained 3 sachets of Golden Syrup flavour, 2 sachets of Baked Apple and 2 sachets of Berry Burst flavour. I won?t describe the packaging in great detail as I think that?s unnecessary suffice to say it comes in a colourful cardboard box with a porridge illustration. What a surprise. Each sac
                                het is intended for one serving containing about 38g. Now I think the chief idea that this is ?Oatso Simple? is that not only does each sachet contain the correct pre-measured amount for a serving it is also made in the microwave so only takes 2-3 minutes to rustle up a tasty hot breakfast (or snack, as in my case). Obviously the chief ingredients for all flavours are rolled oats and sugar, as well as flavourings, and in the case of the fruity flavours there is also a fair measure of freeze-dried fruit and spices added too. All varieties are prepared in the same way ? you add 180ml of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, stir through to mix and then microwave it on a high setting for 2-3 minutes depending on the power of your microwave oven. When you take it out give it another thorough stir then leave it to stand for about a minute to thicken and settle ? then eat it! I decided to try the Baked Apple flavour first as that appealed to me most and duly followed the preparation instructions as detailed in the last paragraph. So there I was with my little bowl of appley, oaty stuff which smelt gorgeous and steamed temptingly, although it didn?t strike me as a very generous helping when made up but that might just be down to me being greedy! Well, I made myself a nice mug of tea and sat down to have my afternoon snack. Mmmm, it tasted as good as it smelt I must say but it was over so quickly! There was evidence of the apple bits and it had a nice firm but glutenous texture and wasn?t too hot to eat straight away. I had sprinkled a little sugar over the top first as I have a very sweet tooth but not everyone will need to ? it was sweet but not sickly. A very pleasant, apple-tainted porridge basically. The following day I tested the Golden Syrup variety which was obviously somewhat sweeter given the syrup flavour and didn?t really need an extra sprinkling of sugar. This one is obviously the closest to ?normal? porridge so may appeal more to the bre
                                akfast traditionalists! Finally it was the turn of Berry Burst to undergo the taste test. This is the one I liked least. It did smell and taste (mildly) of berry fruits but I didn?t enjoy the actual bits of fruit in it as I found them a bit too small, bitty and hard compared to the porridge base. Again I added some extra sugar and I?d say this was the least sweet of all three flavours so needed it the most, for me anyway. All varieties contain approximately 230 calories when made up as instructed (but that doesn?t include the extra sugar I sprinkled on top!) and apparently, according to the box, oats are rich in soluble fibre which helps maintain a healthy heart if you stick to eating low fat foods. Each serving contains 5.2g of fat which means nothing to me but the Weight Watchers among you will be able to compute that! Well, on the box this is billed as being ?tasty, healthy and satisfying but very simple?. I couldn?t argue with any of that bar maybe the ?satisfying? part. I feel that if you really were having this for breakfast in the hope that it?ll see you through to lunchtime and you?re an active person then I don?t think each serving would be enough for you. Even for me as a snack during a not very active normal day I didn?t feel particularly full or satisfied afterwards although it was certainly very tasty and would make great comfort food for its heat and stodginess. If I was facing a long, active day I think I would be inclined to use two sachets at once to make a larger serving. If you try this variety pack and like it then all flavours can be bought in individual packs containing 8 sachets as well as the Original (no flavourings) variety which contains 10 sachets. Very handy as I think I would most likely buy some again but be inclined to skip the Berry variety and buy a pack of Golden Syrup and/or Baked Apple instead ? but at least I?ve tried them all and I know now!

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