A Diary by Sarah Louise Lambert

Posts tagged “Thoughts

Blair Witch

“I will be with you, whatever”

Not a line from a cheap and tacky Get Well Soon card, this is a memo from Tony Blair to George W. Bush back in 2001, mentioned prominently in the Chilcot report published yesterday. The Chilcot report by Sir John Chilcot is a 2.5 million word document on the Iraq war, which began in 2003.

The ex Prime Minister spoke live on TV yesterday, and took questions from the press, in all, a 2 hour marathon.

Blair is a master speaker, like Obama, he knows how to deliver a speech, how to get a point over. He knows everyone will hang on every word, dissect every statement, and he also knows body language is all important in the final analysis.

Blair read his reply to Chilcot, giving his side of what happened in the days after 9/11 and the build up to invading Iraq. Now, let’s be very very very clear… there is, and was, no connection made between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. The invasion of Iraq was because Saddam was believed to have weapons of mass destruction. Blair in fact wrote a memo to Bush, stating that any links between Saddam and 9/11 were tenuous. Yet time and time again, yesterday, Blair drew upon the 9/11 event to justify the Iraq invasion.

Blair read his reply to Chilcot, in a broken voice, the “on the edge of tears” voice. Brilliant coaching in my opinion. He must have practiced that for hours. Over and over, getting that tone. However, after he had read from his speech, a comfort zone where he knew what was coming next, he then invited live questions from the assembled press. The questions were quite cutting, and Blair fumbled for answers, stumbled to keep the sad voice, and at times verged on anger… almost a “how dare you question me” you weren’t there maaaaaan!

Blair drew on hindsight quite often, Chilcot’s report, the journalist’s questions are all with the benefit of hindsight.

In my opening quotation, written by Blair… “I will be with you… whatever”! There lies the key to everything which happened afterwards. No matter what Blair says about the following line in the memo, about seeking UN sanctions, the memo opens with those words… “I will be with you… whatever”! The “whatever” overrides anything which is written after that opening statement.

In the UK, we have a Prime Minister and senior Members of Parliament who form what is known as a Cabinet. Essentially, these MP’s look after various parts of our daily life. There is a Minister of Health, another for Education and so on… these Ministers are all part of a team (Cabinet) in times of great importance.

So, shouldn’t Blair’s memo have said… “We will be with you… whatever”?

In fact, Blair didn’t consult his senior MP’s over Iraq, he relied on political Aids and others close to him. That’s why the memo states… I rather than We.

The USA were going to invade Iraq anyway, no matter what. Most European countries opted out, waiting for a UN mandate, but the UK however, committed itself to war. A minor role maybe in terms of size of armies… but Tony Blair wanted to show George Bush “our” solidarity with the USA… like some lapdog wanting a pat on the head for not crapping on the carpet.

Back in 2003, there were many who took to the streets of London, protesting against the impending war, hundreds of thousands held banners pleading with Blair not to put us in an illegal war. But he did. No notice was taken, no shaky sad voice back then, no crocodile tears… only BRAVADO! Tony the warrior, filmed with our soldiers, the leader in a pure white shirt, no tie. But Tony wouldn’t be fighting, Tony wouldn’t loose any limbs, Tony wouldn’t die in a heap of sand. Tony was too busy perfecting how “hard men” walk, with his friend George Dubbya… a man who can’t even find a door, or string 4 words together without forgetting what the 3rd one was.

But the very important question surely must be, when did Blair decide to go to war, was it after consultation with his team of advisors in 2003, or was it on the day he wrote that personal memo to Bush in 2001…?

That memo is the smoking gun…

 

 


David Is A Moron

I voted to remain in the EU. It is a week ago since that vote took place, and in many ways, it feels like it never happened. Nobody in the government seems willing to push the Article 50 button, not least David Camoron, who has resigned over some matter of principal… strange, because I didn’t know he had any principals.

I voted to stay, not because I believed Camorons lies, but because out of the two options available, In or Out,  In seemed the right choice to make. I do however understand why some voted to leave. Not the racist idiots, but those Brexiters who have genuine concerns over a single bank, and a single army agenda. Once, this was purely the subject of conspiracy, now it was talked about in the mainstream Daily Express yesterday.

I must point out, I am not a member of the Labour Party, I never have been, therefore I didn’t vote for Corbyn. Some people think I am a Labour member, but let me put that one to bed, I am not. Never have been either. Probably won’t be, ever. If I had been a member, with a vote for who would become Labour leader 10 months ago, I wouldn’t have voted for Jeremy Corbyn anyway. Yet that is strange, because Jeremy Corbyn is probably nearer to my own leftist ideals than any of the other candidates were… Perhaps I know, neither Jezzer or Myself, would ever win a General Election. Leftyism isn’t popular, people don’t like fairness and compassion, people are selfish. We are a Me Me Me society.

The Labour Party coup d’etat is making more news than the Conservative Party meltdown… which is a strange concept, don’t you think? Here we have a Conservative Prime Minister, David Camoron, who promises the electorate a referendum on our EU membership. He campaigns for us to stay, but loses the vote… and somehow, that’s Jeremy Corbyn’s fault.

We are in limbo at the moment. We have voted to leave the EU; the EU know we are going to leave, some want us out as quickly as possible, but until we formally tell the EU, by handing in the Article 50 paperwork… we are technically still in the EU.

Personally, I think some stalling is going on, perhaps our Brexiteers will be disappointed… Leave might not mean leave. Leave might mean stay?

What a mess…

Like most people I am prone to forming habits. Writing regularly is a habit. Not writing is a habit. So, it has been 5 months since my last visit. I haven’t even logged on, so apologies to anyone who posted a reply, Maxxy… I wasn’t expecting you.

 

 

 

 


Europe 2

The Conservative Party, has for many years contained a sizable proportion of Eurosceptics, which various party leaders have found difficult to keep in line. Never mind the openly eurosceptic UKIP, a large proportion of Conservatives aren’t exactly keen on remaining in either. The official Conservative party line is difficult to write when so many high ranking politicians disagree with E.U. membership. So this in-out vote which we will have soon, is designed not only to give the public a vote, but also, it shuts up any future Conservative party descent.

That is what I meant in my last post by, “smoke and mirrors”. This is an information deception, with Cameron telling the public the vote is for one reason, when it is actually for another purpose.

There is a comment on my last post which is very pro E.U. but it also highlights the problem of debt, and the bailout conditions for countries like Greece etc. To be honest, this is a complicated area. Maybe some countries shouldn’t join a single monetary system which is impossible for them to adhere to.

This of course causes tension between nations, as people in Germany feel they are paying for other peoples debts. The truth however is slightly different. Politicians and banks impose debt… not some Greek guy who owns a restaurant or gift shop in some back street on the island of Kos. Banks impose interest on loans… and if you replaced the word “Interest” with the the words “OUR PROFIT”, you’d see a bigger picture.

People always quote the “benefits” of being in the E.U. without actually stating what the benefits are.

Freedom of travel?

Well, I’ve been to France, Germany, Belgium and Spain and I met Americans and Australians and Chinese there… they had freedom to travel too.

But yeah, I could go and work in Europe right now. France maybe! Paris has always been a special love… or Spain, I like Spain. Barcelona is an amazing city. But then, I have friends who work in the USA… Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

Australia… Now that is a bit of a trek; the distance makes it difficult to come home and see the folks, but I had a friend who set up business there.

As I said, beware of voting for something which benefits someone else, rather than you. It seems that the benefit of E.U. membership is leveled towards banks, politicians and large business… but for us mere mortals the benefit is difficult to see. I could pretty much travel to any country on this planet if I wanted to… apart from the growing amount of countries classed as war zones.

As you may, or may not know, I own, along with two others, a florist shop. Yeah I know, I have no idea how that happened either. It definitely wasn’t in the script for life, but here we are… strangely happy, strangely content.

Our flowers come from Holland. Each and every single flower travels on an overnight refrigerated wagon journey. We mainly deal with two suppliers, not to trade off one against the other, it’s just about stock levels. Sometimes one has what we want, the other doesn’t. We did actually use a third supplier for a while, but now we don’t, but that is another long and sad story.

So, what would happen to this supply if we were not in the E.U. ? Would trade between us dry up and disappear? Well, according to our suppliers… “The UK is a huge market for us, we cannot walk away. Whatever new restrictions will apply, we will have to comply… life goes on you know”!


European Campaign

The campaign to stay in Europe has begun, a newsletter dropped through my front door yesterday containing lots of reasons why we should vote “Yes” to staying inside Europe. It even has a photo of Karren Brady on it, with her endorsement.

So, let us look at the facts of why we, the UK, should stay in Europe, and also why we should leave.

Firstly a little background. The UK finds itself under the umbrella of EU, the European Union, although, we the citizens have never had a vote. Back in 1973 the UK joined what was then known as The Common Market, and in 1975 there was a referendum vote to stay in. Much has changed over the years, and a simple exchange of goods agreement has turned into the UK being governed by European law.

Prime Minister Cameron promised us a vote if he won the last election, and as he did, we are now preparing to have a vote at some point in the future.

David Cameron wants to stay in Europe, but states that he wants some changes to our membership. These changes, whatever they are, will be put to us, and from this we will all make our decisions… stay in or come out.

But, how does a man who wants to be in Europe, negotiate new terms worthy of us staying in? By wanting to stay in Europe, his bargaining chip was already wilted…

“So Mr. Cameron, what do we need to promise you to make you stay in Europe”?

“Well, nothing really, because I want to stay in anyway”!

“I see, Mr. Cameron… you ask a lot from us”!

So you see, our UK negotiations are founded on Bullshit… like many things in life, it’s all done with smoke and mirrors.

Has Karren Brady read the Maastricht Treaty? Does she really know what will happen if we leave the EU?… My opinion is, she hasn’t read the document, and like me, she has no fucking idea what will happen if we stay in or if we pull out… Her endorsement on staying in, is just a personal opinion, based on what her friends might say if she had an opposite opinion.

So, what dropped through the letter box yesterday, was simply four pages of printed hearsay, bullshit and opinions of what might be. Four pages of guesses, because, let’s be honest here, nobody knows the future.

Cameron wants to stay in Europe because it makes him more powerful. By being “in”, he is a leader of a country which belongs to the EU, rather than the PM of a small island. By being “in”, he wields the power of a large club run by Germany. Cameron’s owners, those who donate to his party and back him in their newspapers, want to have power too… that’s why they gave him money to win the election.

This vote is not about you, or me… it is not about losing thousands of jobs if we pull out. Do you really think a Conservative government gives a shit if you have a job or not? It’s about bringing European counties into line… one government, one set of laws, one currency, one bank. That is what you will be voting for, one final vote and no going back.

At the beginning of this post, I said we would look at the facts, why we should stay in Europe, and why we should leave. The truth is however, we don’t have any facts, just some celebrity endorsement, by the Dame Brady, like she was selling tickets to a West Ham game.

Truth and facts in politics are very rare things… be aware of what they want you to do for their benefit rather than ours!

 


Signatures

Signature endorsed musical gear is big business for many manufacturers. It isn’t just guitars and basses either, which get the endorsement treatment, there are signature amps, signature stomp boxes, even signature picks. Essentially they are copies of the kit used by famous artists who have tweaked it beyond the normal model.

A signature guitar may have different pick-ups than those found on a normal model, or it may simply be a certain colour.

One of PRS’s best selling guitars is the Bernie Marsden signature. Bernie Marsden, ex of Whitesnake, helped design the guitar, and insisted it would be available as an SE model only. This means it is made in Asia, rather than being a Custom model made in the USA. The price is kept down to around £500 and this probably determines it’s popularity.

Usually though, signature models are at the higher end of the price scale. All of the top priced Fender Stratocasters tend be endorsed models.

Another anomaly to this tradition is the Matt Bellamy signature guitar. Muse’s Matt Bellamy helps to design and plays guitars made by Hugh Manson, and they cost something like £4000. But he now has a signature guitar made by Cort Guitars. It looks pretty similar to the real thing, and both Manson and Bellamy helped in the project, the guitar even has Manson pick-ups… but it comes in at around £500.

You get some nice things on your cut price Bellamy which includes a Kill Switch, pressing this little button gives a stutter type effect as the pick-ups are turned off (killed). What you don’t get is the Kaoss Pad, which Bellamy is pretty well known for using. This gizmo when tapped or rubbed like a laptop mouse pad, creates what can only be described as “weird noises”… it can sample parts of what you’ve just played and repeat it back, or, most times it just seems to do it’s own thing. I guess it needs some practice to work out exactly what it does, as it seems to do something different each time it is touched. Actually to be fair, the Korg Mini Kaoss pad I tried out was attached to a very sexily named Ibanez RGKP6-WK, but it’s the same idea.

I watched a sales demo video for the Gus G signature amplifier made by Blackstar, based on their 200 watt head. All I could gather was that Ozzy Osbourne’s latest guitarist turns his amps to 10. Volume turned to 10, Gain turned to 10. That was pretty much it… it’s a standard 200 watt amp head turned to max… then he signs his name on it. Maybe I missed the tweaks…

Slash’s signature Wah pedal from Jim Dunlop has a slightly longer sweep than a normal model. When you put your foot on it and press down, it goes down a little further than normal, giving a slightly longer sweep of sound effect… a longer Waaaaaaaaaaaah if you will. People have been doing this for ages by taking the rubber bung off the pedal shaft, in fact that’s probably what Slash did way back in the day.

The Vox Joe Satriani Wah pedal is worth a look though, that is different… pricey but different. But a Wah is a Wah is a Wah Wah… They all go Wah Wah. Even my cheap and rather gorgeous Hell Babe Wah goes Wah Wah.

I guess the market for Signature gear is huge, and while people buy them, manufacturers will make them and find new muso’s to endorse. Personally, unless you’re in a tribute band, I don’t see the point. Playing guitar is about creating your own sound, not recreating somebody else’s…

 


Thick or Thin

I was going to end my recent theme of blog posts… “buying your first guitar” with the last update. But. Somebody mentioned necks.

“You should mention necks! “Necks are important”!

Yes, I guess they are, and they are often overlooked when purchasing a first or early guitar… like I just did. So, let me put that right.

Guitar necks are not the same, they differ in length and thickness… They seem to have become thinner, as music fashion has changed over the years. Thin neck guitars are marketed as “fast”, fast to play and aimed at shredders. Making a guitar neck narrow or thin, essentially pushes the strings nearer to each other, and the close proximity of the strings aids finger speed.

A wider neck, as found on a Stratocaster, or some older Gibson’s, enables strings to be pushed or “bent” further, which is good if you plan on playing the Blues.

If you have big fat sausage fingers, you may find a thin narrow neck difficult to play, especially when playing chords. Of course, shredders tend not to play chords… but as a beginner, you probably will… so maybe a guitar with a fatter neck would be easier to learn on.

In reverse, people like me with small hands will find a fat neck a challenge.

Neck thickness is something to take into account when buying a first guitar, so try a few different guitars in your local shop before you buy one.

 


Two Tips To Spend A Grand

One of my “friends”… and the word is used very loosely 😀 latched on to my post about buying a first guitar. A short but very very significant discussion broke out. I asked him to write down his views, and with that done, I did a quick copy and paste jobby, and you can read what he has to say below…

Now, in this series of amazing musical advice, I move onwards and sideways to discuss “guitar teachers”.

I think I should point out at this very early stage, that I have never had a formal guitar lesson. I was going to at the outset of my guitar journey, but I never did. So… my knowledge of guitar lessons is pretty much non existent. I did have years of piano lessons, the choice of tuitor at the time not being in my tiny hands.

I will however give you some opinion on being tutored, as opposed to the alternative, which is, teaching yourself.

If you are going to play piano, take lessons from a formal competent teacher who can take you through your music exam grades. The sense of achievement and playing in front of your parents with all the other lil maestros is immense…

Playing guitar is a little different. Yes you can go through the grades like any other instrument, join Rockschool or whatever floats, but to crank out a few tunes or join a bar band and cover some Jimi … ain’t no need for no qualies!

You don’t even need to learn to read music, although, it helps if you can. But for those who can’t read music, there are “Tabs” which you can use instead, and they’re so easy peasey lemon squeezey to use.

So, with your new shiny guitar looking longingly at you, should you take a lesson or two?

If you are completely new to any instrument at all, a music virgin shall we say, then yes, a course of lessons would help you progress. So, who do you choose?

Guitar tutors are not all the same, there is no set formula which they work to, and there is no set level of competence either. With that in mind, it is worth having a chat to a few of them in your local area. You need to establish if you are going to get along on what is an important journey for you, and if you share a similar taste in music. After all, if you’re into Black Veil Brides, and your tutors guitar lessons revolve around Paul Simon’s greatest hits… your going to waste your money.

One advantage of having a live face to face tutor, is they give you homework to do. so by the time your next lesson is due, you will have at least learned something. I guess it gets you into a routine of actually picking the instrument up and playing it regularly.

The other alternative is YouTube, where you will find lots of free lessons, tips and advice. “Live” tutors will advise against using YouTube… which means it must be good… No?

If you’re into Blues, Rock, and Metal, then learn and practice the Pentatonic scales, Learn the Modes, and practice every day… practice every day for as long or as little as you can… every day practice!

OK… now onto my friends advice about buying a first guitar.

“I read about what you said about starting playing guitar. Your idea is about buying the cheapest beginner bat, that’s why so many newbs give up after a few weeks. 

“Anyone serious about learning for the first time they should prepare for an investment of at least £400-£500, buy a brand name like, Fender, Epi, Ibanez, Jackson, PRS there’s loads of them to choose from in that price range. Buy a nice one you can grow into, one that’s nice to hold and to look at. Guitars are like girls, good looking ones get picked up more”!!!

When you buy a nice guitar it’ll sound better too and be easier to play. Buy an old pallet and you’ll give up in under 2 weeks. Buy a nice one and you’ll either learn to play or a worst you’ll get most of your money back if you sell it on ebay.

I guess there is a thing or two to learn from that message. I fell into the buy a “Beginner Guitar” trap, and suggested the “cheapie cheep cheeps”. But hey, I still stand by what I said, especially if you are on a budget. The Epiphone Les Paul is an awesome deal for £140. It genuinely sounds amazing and feels good too.

The £400 price bracket is quite interesting. It is probably the beginning of the “serious guitar”, market, as stated above. £400 will definitely buy you a guitar you can “grow into”. There is one point which is very worth making, and one you may not be aware of. Many guitar “brand names” have their guitars made in China and now also in Indonesia… in other words, these huge factories will make guitars for lots of big names, in huge vast quantities… The guy who made your PRS SE could have also made your friends ESP.

So, with a budget of £1000 what would my friend and I buy if we were beginners buying our first electric guitar?

My Friend: I’d play it safe and get a Fender Stratocaster that’d set me back about £440. I’d amp it through a Marshall 5watt valve amp for about £390. I’d add a Wah pedal at about £70. Leads and picks £50. Fender and Marshall hold their price second hand if I gave up I’d get a chunk of the cash back.

Me: I would spend £399 of my Grand on a PRS SE Standard 24. Another £160 would buy me a Blackstar 40 watt amp .  I would have a huge £441 left to play with… I would buy a very useful tuner at £35 and a Cry Baby Wah Wah at £70. To get that “valve” sound from a solid state amplifier, I would also add a £50 Drive Pedal which would give me that over driven sound which my friends Marshall will naturally have in spades. Finally I would also need some leads and picks at £50 or so.

My friend spent £950 from his imaginary £1000, while I spent a mere £765 out of mine… both figures being rounded up.

His is a traditional Blues combination, as the Marshall 5 watt valve amp would sound very mellow and blues driven, and the Mexican made Stratocaster fits it nicely too. My choices are a little more modern, leaning a little more towards rock/metal. The solid state Blackstar amplifier has a clean channel with built in effects… the crunch and distortion effects sound really dirty. At 40 watts, it is big enough to gig with too. The gain works well, but I added the drive pedal to give it the overdrive sound. The SE range of PRS guitars are made in Asia, but they have a quality finish and those humbuckers will sound really chunky.

So, that’s our choices… and we should add… other manufacturers are also available.