Dec 25, 2011

Relaxing by river Ouse.

Dec 11, 2011

An HDR of St. Martin in York.

Sep 18, 2011

Mike Portnoy talks about his feelings on his days out of Dream Theater.

Dream Theater have just released A Dramatic Turn of Events, their new studio album. And this is the first record in 25 years that doesn't include one of the original founders of the band, Mike Portnoy. has just released a long and interesting interview in which Portnoy talks about the events that have been going on for the last year and how he feels about many aspects of the new Dream Theater formation, the new album, his old mates and his own life. 

Unlike many of the interviews that I've been reading lately, including those made to other musicians, this one seems to have some real feelings in it. As the very MP says in his facebook page: "Wow, this interview REALLY dug deep w DT I answered honestly and from the heart as I always do...(ignore the Blabbermouth f*ckwad comments at the bottom...those people are so cruel...UGH)".

I think it's an interesting reading. Take a look:

PORTNOY: I Would Have Waited For PETRUCCI If He Wanted To Take A Break From DREAM THEATER - Sep. 17, 2011.

Sakis Fragos, publisher and chief editor of the Greek edition of Rock Hard magazine, last month conducted an interview with drummer Mike Portnoy (ADRENALINE MOB, DREAM THEATER, AVENGED SEVENFOLD). A few excerpts from the chat follow below (transcribed from the original audio by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On whether he already made the decision to leave DREAM THEATER before he began touring with AVENGED SEVENFOLD:

Portnoy: "I didn't make the decision to leave DREAM THEATER before [hooking up with] AVENGED SEVENFOLD, but I knew that something had to change in the DREAM THEATER camp. It's unfortunate that it was me that had to change, because I never wanted to leave the band — it was never my intention; I never wanted the split. I just merely thought that the band really could use a break, because I think the romance was really dying — backstage and between [the members] personally. 25 years without a break is a very, very, very long time and sometimes these relationships need a break from each other to rekindle the flame. So that's all I suggested. And even before I [went on the road] with AVENEGED SEVENFOLD, I remember touring with [the progressive rock project]TRANSATLANTIC at the beginning of 2010 and already knowing that something was wrong in the DREAM THEATER world and that I really needed a break from the guys and the whole DREAM THEATER machine. I knew something was brewing and I knew that I was unhappy, and as has been well documented elsewhere, I merely just wanted a break. But unfortunately, those guys [the rest of DREAM THEATER] didn't see it that way and didn't respect my request for time off. It's unfortunate [that it turned out that way]."

On some of the recent interviews with DREAM THEATER members in which they described their roles in the band as being "much more balanced" following Portnoy's departure and keyboardist Jordan Rudess' comment that Portnoy was "the DREAM THEATER police" who controlled the songwriting process while the drummer was in the band:

Portnoy: "It hurts me when I read stuff like that, but I also know that a lot of Internet web sites love to start controversy and stir up the pot, so I know a lot of times quotes are taken out of context; I've seen it happen to myself so much over the past year. So I understand that I have to take that stuff very lightly and not get too upset about it. But yeah, maybe they are more balanced, because the reality is, in all the time I was inDREAM THEATER, I was running the show; I don't think that's a secret and I think those guys would admit it. I was always the most proactive, the most passionate and most focused workaholic member of the band. I worked for that band every single day and never took a day off. So I was very, very obsessive and passionate and controlling over the baby; I didn't anybody to ever come in and hurt it or change it or affect it, and I had my finger very much on the pulse of what I thought the band should be and what I wanted to give to the fans. So I don't take offense to somebody pointing it out, because the reality is that's the way it was. And if now, without me, they're a little bit more balanced and they're splitting up the jobs… whatever works for them. But I always knew that they were each gonna have to step up in terms of their involvement and commitment once I left, because before I left, every single decision went through me, and those guys didn't necessarily have their hands in a lot of decisions through all those years. So I knew that they were all gonna have to step up their game and split up the work so they could work. So I guess that that's what they're doing, and if they're happy, then I'm happy for them."

On how the last few DREAM THEATER albums contained some very heavy, PANTERA/METALLICA-influenced riffs along with brutal backing vocals from Portnoy, all elements which are missing from the new DREAM THEATER CD, "A Dramatic Turn Of Events":

Portnoy: "I can't speak for those guys. I can only speak for myself. But I always wanted DREAM THEATER to change with the times. A lot of people only wanted to hear 'Images And Words' for the rest of DREAM THEATER's career, and as far as I'm concerned, I think DREAM THEATERneeds to be a band that moves with the times and changes with the times. I didn't wanna be playing stuff that sounded like 'Learning To Live'for the rest of my life. So I think it was important to have modern elements and incorporate it. And if those guys disagreed and didn't want [the music] to go in that direction, then they could have easily spoken up. As much as I was a control freak with everything in DREAM THEATERoutside of the music itself, when it came to the music itself, me and John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess basically wrote all the music together. So if they objected to a direction that I was presenting, then they were always welcome to speak up and have a say. So it's not fair to blame me for the musical direction; we shared that vision together."

On the possibility of a reunion with his former DREAM THEATERbandmates at some point in the future:

Portnoy: "Well, you can't take a 25-year relationship and just throw it out the window and disregard it. So I never say never. If those guys ever asked me to work with them again, I would surely consider it, depending on my availability and what's going on in my life. But the reality is right now they've moved on and I've moved on. And I don't think they have any intention in looking backwards right now; it doesn't seem that way. I suppose if things work out with their new drummer, then they would probably have no reason to ever look back. But if, for some reason, thingsdidn't work out, then I suppose that maybe it would be something that they would consider. But I guess we would cross that bridge when we get there. But right now a lot of those bridges are burned at the moment, so there's gonna be a lot of rebuilding that's gonna need to happen first."

On his current relationship with his former bandmates:

Portnoy: "Jordan, to his credit, has been the only member of the band that has reached out and sent me some very nice, supportive e-mails, and I appreciate that. Jordan has always been a real sweet person. As far as [bassist] John Myung and [singer] James [LaBrie] go, I haven't seen or heard from them since September 9, 2010 when we had our last conversation. [John Myung] happens to live down the block from me, but I still have yet to see or speak with him since September [of 2010], so it's been almost a year now. And John Petrucci I reached out to in October of 2010 in hopes to try to reconcile and work out our differences and make things work. And I reached and talked to him. But that was the last time I spoke to him. And he never even responded [after that], actually — he just had his lawyer respond to me. So, unfortunately, I would love to have a personal relationship with the guys, but for whatever reason it's been shut off between us and it's very sad. It's sad for me because those guys were my brothers for so many years. But they've moved on and I'm moving on as well. 

On whether the "fun" element was missing from DREAM THEATER towards the end of his tenure with the band:

Portnoy: "I think so. I think with ADRENALINE MOB it's just about having fun. I know when I left DREAM THEATER I was leaving a lot of security. I could have stayed in DREAM THEATER the rest of my life and been secure financially and secure in terms of a career, but to me, I can't be making music with a band because I have to — I need to be making music with people because I want to. And with ADRENALINE MOB, we just absolutely love playing with each other, and there's a real sense of excitement every time we hit the stage. And we're definitely building this band from the ground up. I can't count on playing to five thousandDREAM THEATER fans every night. We're playing in a lot of these clubs to just a few hundred people every night. And it doesn't matter — we feel like a new, young band that's going city to city and making fans every single night; we have to win over every single person in the audience each and every night. And there's a sense of excitement and rejuvenation that comes with that."

On how it feels for him to see DREAM THEATER releasing a new studio album that he had nothing to do with:

Portnoy: "It's something that I never in a million years thought I would have to see. It's very strange for me and it hurts in a lot of ways; it's very sad for me. I would have preferred it if we just took a little break rather than split up, but this is the way that the cards unfolded and there's nothing I can do about it. If this is what they wanna do, then they'll move on and I'll move on. So what can I say? It's not anything I can control."

On whether he feels that some fans have misinterpreted his decision to leave DREAM THEATER and forgotten all his contributions to the band:

Portnoy: "It hurts, because all of my heart and soul and blood and sweat and tears for all those years of DREAM THEATER was based on doing things for the fans. I always made sure DREAM THEATER was a very fan-oriented band, and everything from the fan clubs to the web sites to the official bootlegs to the setlists to the artwork to the merchandise, that was all stuff that I oversaw and controlled for the fans. And then, when this split happened, to see so many DREAM THEATER fans turn their backs on me, it really hurts. I'm a human being — I'm made out of flesh and bone — and when I read that stuff on the Internet, it breaks my heart and it bothers me. But I've had to turn off my computer and try to turn my back to that stuff, because when I read it, it breaks my heart. When Idon't read it, I'm very happy with where I'm at — I'm very comfortable with what I'm now doing in my life and career and I just need to, for the first time ever, make decisions to make myself happy. For 25 years, I made decisions to make the fans happy, but for once in my life, I need to follow my own heart. It breaks my heart when I see fans turning their backs on me, but on the other hand, I don't want to forget to mention the fact that there's a tremendous amount of fans that do have my back and that aresupportive of me and understand what happened and are behind my next musical steps. So for those people that are [still behind me], I'll never let them down — I will continue to work as hard and as passionately as I did for DREAM THEATER. I will put all of that into everything I do in my career, so the fans that stick with me will have a fan-friendly artist for life. It's just the way I am, and that applies to every band that I work with."

On the fact that the recent DREAM THEATER European tour was the first time the band played the same exact set every night:

Portnoy: "Well, I'm sure there's gonna be many things in the DREAM THEATER camp that are gonna be different, because the fact is that I made all of the decisions for the band beyond the music itself. So, of course, there's gonna be some things that are different and then, of course, there's gonna be other things that are gonna follow the framework and the ideas that I laid down and they'll just continue to utilize what was established in the past with me. So how they run the band and pick up all of my slack, all duties that I left for them [to take care of following my departure], how they do that is up to them. I don't know. I guess we'll all be waiting to find out."

On some DREAM THEATER fans' opinion that the "magic is gone" from the band's sound and songwriting chemistry now that he is no longer part of the group:

Portnoy: "I always thought that the strongest elements and personalities in DREAM THEATER were me and John Petrucci. And in the early daysKevin Moore [former DREAM THEATER keyboardist] was a big, big part of that chemistry, and then in the later days Jordan Rudess was a big part of that chemistry. But at the end of the day, it was always me and John[Petrucci]. And John Myung, of course, but he's a quieter person, so he's not as strong of an element because he's quiet by nature. But yeah,John Petrucci and myself were, and I think will always be, the sound and the style and the heart and the soul of DREAM THEATER. And I think if you take either one of us out, I think it's like when Roger Waters andDavid Gilmour split. David Gilmour carried on PINK FLOYD withoutRoger Waters, but as far as I was concerned, it was never the same.Roger Waters was a big part of the [sound on] all the classic PINK FLOYD albums, and once he left, I think PINK FLOYD sounded like aDavid Gilmour solo band. I honestly think if John Petrucci came to me last year and said he needed a break, I wouldn't have continued DREAM THEATER without him; I would have absolutely respected his desire for a break and I would have put the band on hold and waited for him. So it saddens me that he wouldn't do that for me, because I think DREAM THEATER, at the end of the day, was always about the chemistry between me and him."

From Mike Portnoy's Facebook page:

Sep 13, 2011

David Coulthard against Gran Turismo 5 in PS3.

David Coulthard, the Scottish Formula 1 racing driver, has been the main star in a kind of event unlike anything that I've ever heard of before. 

What's that been? Well, remember our beloved British motor show Top Gear? Its test track has been the main stage of a race between David Coulthard and a bunch of the fastest drivers in Britain. What was the peculiarity then? It was that Coulthard was the only one who was driving a real car. 

Yes, you've read right. The Mercedes that the Scottish driver was driving was quite real, but the rest of the drivers were at the wheel of a virtual car, the same one that Coulthard had and they raced in the same track in which he was, the Top Gear test track. Only, it was the virtual track in Gran Turismo 5, which should be by far the most realistic game ever made.

Well, enough chatter. Do you want to see what happened? Just take a look at the video. I just miss Clarkson, May and Hammond in it. 

Sep 12, 2011

Did Arthur C. Clarke predict the Internet in 1964?

I've just come across this rare clip belonging to the 1964 Horizon programme, broadcast by the BBC. In it, we can see the British science fiction author, inventor and futurist Arthur C. Clarke, the man who was known as belonging to the Big Three of Science Fiction along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. 

I'll leave it up to you to decide if Clarke predicts in the video something that is really happening as of now. He does, in fact, describe actions that we all commonly do nowadays and ways to carry out such actions that we consider quite normal today but were unthinkable in 1964. Or were they?

Sep 8, 2011

The World Trade Center and its anniversary next 9/11.

Next Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the attack that pretty much changed the world and made 9/11 a date really hard to forget.

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center used to mean something to the New Yorkers and maybe they were a symbol to the American people in general. Now, they mean something to the whole world.

A lot has been written about the attacks and new information is still being disclosed nowadays. You can't really help it. And we'll probably never know the whole story, what's true and what's not. Was it a plane what hit the Pentagon? Or was it not? What about the fourth plane? What was it that actually happened in it?
As the reputation of the American government goes, they hardly ever tell the whole truth -or even the truth at all- and probably interests too high are at stake to not make the story publicly known.


Not a single person inside those buildings deserved to die like that. So shame on those who did it and shame on those who let it happen.

We were all American on that day.

Sep 7, 2011

Oker "Burlando a la Muerte".

This post isn't exactly related to anything about English at all, but I can't help recommending this band. I've just discovered them today and I've loved their first album. 

They are a heavy metal band from Madrid called Oker, with influences based on the scene from the 80's. They are all gifted musicians but I've been especially impressed by the voice of their female lead singer, Xina. Listen to the whole song below and tell me what you think, she's so different to any other singer I've heard before with a couple of exceptions in Spanish classic bands. But anyway, her voice and style are really personal.

Well, it's best that you give their music a try, if you are into rock or metal of any kind you'll probably like them. Enjoy!

Texas on fire.

It appears that huge wildfires have been declared in Texas these days. Rough times for the people in the U.S. again...

(Photo: Reuters/Mike Stone).

Sep 6, 2011

Freddie Mercury.

I know his day was yesterday, but what the hell...

One of the best artists that ever lived, and this song that I've always liked since I was a kid to celebrate him. Funny that I first listened to this in vinyl, by the way... My Fairy King.

Edguy's "Age of the Joker".

I've been waiting for this album for a while. I discovered Edguy when I saw them live as Iron Maiden's supporting band in the awesome concert that they gave in Valencia last year. I immediately loved them, they were the best supporting band that I've seen so far in my whole life. 

Well, I've been listening to their albums since then. They have really (REALLY) good stuff, and the talent of these guys from Fulda is unquestioned. Also, their frontman Tobias Sammet, is the leader of a parallel project called Avantasia, if you want to try it as well. They are coming to Madrid next month and it's been more than two months since I got the ticket to see them. I like them that much. 

However, after having listened to Age of the Joker a couple of times, I don't really think that it's as good as their previous work. It's still good and fun to listen to, but I was expecting more from the band this time. I'll give it another chance, though, maybe it's one of those albums which take a while to get a grasp of. 

Here's a sample of it, I like this song more than I liked the single Robin Hood in spite of how funny were the video and the promo pictures. Enjoy!

Sep 1, 2011

Dream Theater talk about "The Spirit Carries On" documentary.

As you probably know if you are into Dream Theater, the band is about to release their last album, A Dramatic Turn of Events. There are going to be up to three editions of this record, at least one of them including a DVD with the documentary titled The Spirit Carries On

This documentary is the way in which the band present the castings that they did after the mysterious departure of Mike Portnoy in order to find a new drummer for the band. The task was not easy, as we are talking about the guys who are, most likely, the most gifted and talented musicians in the world. The Spirit Carries On was pre-released some months ago and can be seen since then on Youtube in high quality. It's a blast to watch, I've seen it several times already and you can't get tired of it. If you are into progressive metal or simply metal or rock itself, give it a try. If you are already a DT fan, you'll love it. Also, Mike Mangini, the drummer that was finally chosen, is a monster. As someone said in the queue to see them live in Leeds last July, he's not even a drummer. He's a genious. That was a huge concert, by the way, and I also had the chance to get all of their signatures on my ticket as well as their pictures with me. They are really nice guys as well. Awesome experience, definitely.

Well, anyway, either if you have seen the documentary or are about to, here you have an inside look on why the band chose that way to announce their new drummer, Mike Mangini. It's short but definitely interesting. 

Aug 30, 2011

A Game of Thrones: Special Effects.

If you have been enjoying the first season of Game of Thrones of late, the HBO series based on A Song of Ice and Fire, you will probably like this video. It contains some samples of the special effects (pretty much CGI) used during the post production of the series. 

The visual effects have been created by BlueBolt, and as you probably know, the second season of Game of Thrones premieres spring 2012. 

Aug 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene.

Irene looks pretty big, hope that nothing major happens to the folks at the other side of the ocean this time. 

More info here.

Aug 26, 2011

Barón Rojo in Madrid in October!

Legendary Spanish band Barón Rojo are reuniting the original band for a special concert in Madrid celebrating their 30th year on the stage. It will be the last concert of their current tour, and it will happen on October 22.

Aug 24, 2011

York Minster.

A panoramic view from the top of the cathedral of York, York Minster, taken with my DSLR.

Aug 18, 2011

Red phone booths, anyone?

What's happened to the classic English phone booths? That's what I kept asking myself during my recent visit to England. I visited Leeds and York and could hardly find any. They had been replaced with modern looking -but much uglier- ones. And they were grey. Sad.

Are they replacing all of them? I guess that probably London is crawling with them, as it's probably the most touristic place in the country, but to foreigners like me these booths are an icon not only of London but the whole England.

Does anyone have a clue about what's happening with them? Is it the new politics of British Telecom to get rid of them? And if so, why?

Aug 16, 2011

A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin.

It's already been over a month since A Dance with Dragons (careful, spoilers in this link), the last volume so far of the saga A Song of Ice and Fire came out.
As many people have, I've been waiting for this book for ages. I literally devoured the other volumes and was so looking forward to grab this last one.

As I have the other books on paperback I wanted this volume in the same format and I had decided to wait for it -becoming blind and deaf to the swarm of spoilers that are already all over the Internet for a while. 
However, I just found out that books normally take one whole year to appear in paperback format and this one will be no exception. Well, that is waaaaaay too much for me, of course. 
I will buy the book when it is released in the format that I want it in, however I didn't want to also have a hardback sitting on my shelf -that would be quite ridiculous. So, I've been deciding what to do. 

Of course I could download it, as these days there are multiple ways to get one of these digital copies, either legally or not so much. As the legal offer of e-books in Spain (where I live) is practically non-existent, one can pretty much see to find books in Spanish in a different and quite easier way. I want this one in English, of course, and I haven't searched for an e-book version just because I'm not quite fond on reading on a computer screen and e-book readers are ridiculously expensive for the limited posibilities that they offer. Also, I read that they sometimes are a pain to get the specific formats that work with the one you have.

Well, the easiest way of all: borrow it from a good friend till it comes out in paperback and I can add it to my collection. That's just what I've done, ha! I'm a hundred and something pages into it and the story is as good as it ever was, this book grasps you!

Have you not read anything about this saga? You can start with A Game of Thrones, you won't regret it. Trust me.

Jun 29, 2011

A WWII Spitfire recovered from an Irish bog.

This is interesting news for all those who are keen on learning little pieces of history, particularly World War II history. 

A Second World War Supermarine Spitfire belonging to the British Royal Air Force has been pulled from the Irish peat bog it crashed into 70 years ago. Along with it, six machine guns and about 1.000 rounds of ammunition were also discovered by archaeologists in the Inishowen peninsula in Co Donegal. 

Apparently, the British fighter plane was piloted by an American, Roland "Bud" Wolf, who parachuted safely from the aircraft before it crashed in the bog. 

More details can be found in the Belfast Telegraph

May 10, 2011

Ancient graffiti at the Tower of London.

Graffiti isn't anything new at all. Maybe it's not easy for us to imagine graffiti done in Medieval times, or at least it's not the first thing that would come to mind. However, what about prison cells? The carvings on the walls made by prisoners are images that we are much more used to, we have been seeing that in movies forever. 

Well, this very thing happened in the Tower of london as well. About 8.000 prisoners were held in the Tower between the years 1.100 and 1941, and some of them left their memories on the walls as they spent long hours in the eerie cells. These carvings are a part of history, and we can learn a little more about them in this video: 

May 7, 2011

Ever been interested in acquiring an aircraft carrier?

This proud ship that you can see to your left is the H.M.S. Ark Royal, former flagship of the British Royal Navy.

Do you want to know it a little better? According to its Wikipedia entry, she is the fifth Royal Navy ship to have borne the name of the 1587 flagship that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. Originally intended to be named Indomitable to match the rest of the class, this was changed due to the public reaction to the loss of the Ark Royal name after the scrapping of the previous Ark Royal in 1980, after 30 years' service.

Slightly larger than her sister ships, and with a steeper ski-jump ramp, Ark Royal carried the STOVL (Short Take Off and Vertical Landing) Harrier Jump Jet aircraft, as well as various helicopters. With a crew complement of over 1,000 sailors and aviators, she saw active service in the 1990s Bosnian War and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.

Originally due to be retired in 2016, Ark Royal was instead decommissioned on Friday 11 March 2011, as part of the Navy restructuring portion of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. After Invincible was decommissioned in 2005, and with the retiring of Illustrious expected in 2014, Royal Navy aircraft carrier usage will continue with at least one ship of the under-construction Queen Elizabeth class. After Ark Royal's decommissioning HMS Albion replaced her as the Royal Navy flagship.

Well, now that you know a little more about it, how would you like to own it? Yes, own it. The British military is selling it after having decommissioned it. Don't you believe it? Just visit the Ministry of Defence's auction website and learn about how to bid for it at the auction that there's going to take place. Bidders have until 10am on June 13 to put their tenders forward for the ship. No minimum price is given.

Or... if you are just not into aircraft carriers you might be interested in taking a look at something quite different. Something like these three Type-42 destroyers, HMS Exeter, HMS Southampton and HMS Nottingham. I can already think of a million things that I would do with one of these babies. 

May 4, 2011

More striking pictures on tornadoes in the south of the U.S.

Nature is pushing it a little in the U.S. right now... things are getting difficult for more people, as if they already weren't... 

The source of the photographs (and many more), again, here.

May 1, 2011

The Shackleton Whisky.

Sir Ernest Shackleton has been around in this blog every now and then. He was the famous explorer of the Endurance expedition that tried to reach the South Pole in Antarctica, and during that expedition a hut where the crew used to have shelter was left behind. 

Actually, they left something else than just the hut. They also left some crates of highland malt whisky that were found very deep in the ice beneath the hut. Three of them were dug up by the New Zealand Anctartic Heritage Trust, and three of the bottles were taken to the distillers Whyte and Mackay, which owns the McKinlay brand. It's been more of a century since that whisky was produced and the recipe had been long lost, as no such a whisky is made nowadays. 

All this is really exciting, but what excites me the most is the fact that Whyte and Mackay have been able to replicate this whisky, and I wouldn't mind it AT ALL if one of those replica bottles fell in my hands. 

You can learn a bit more on this in master blender Richard Paterson's blog and also here:

Apr 26, 2011

Joe McNally's advices on how to hold your SLR camera.

Since I'm currently getting more interested in photography as I just got a much better gear than I used to have, I'm posting this short video for you amateur photographers out there. The man is Joe McNally, an American photographer who has been shooting for the National Geographic Society since 1987.

These are his advices on how to hold your camera properly. I'm actually taking some of them for my upcoming life as a photographer:

Apr 24, 2011

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