Monday 31 October 2016

Talking Culture: 31st October 2016

The guests on my Monday 31st October Rocket FM Lewes 'Talking Culture' radio show were all writers: Emily Elgar, Beth Miller, Umi Sinha and Catherine Smith.

Music playlist:

The Beatles: Paperback Writer
The Puppini Sisters: Wuthering Heights
Pam Tillis: Mi Vida Loca
Cliff Richard: Please Don't Fall In Love
Brian Wilson: South American
Dean Friedman: Ariel
Talitha Rise: Invisible Fishing
Clifford T Ward: Wherewithal
Katrina Leskanich: They Don't Know
Agnetha Faltskog: When You Really Loved Somebody
Herb Alpert: Casino Royale

Monday 24 October 2016

Talking Culture: 24th October 2016

The guests on my Monday 24th October Rocket FM Lewes 'Talking Culture' radio show included Tim Rowland from Lewes Theatre Youth Group as well as Jo Beth Young and Martyn Barker from locally-based band Talitha Rise.

Music playlist: 

Paul Simon: Kodachrome
Paula Cole: I Don't Want To Wait
Ashley Tisdale & Lucas Grabeel: What I've Been Looking For
Neil Sedaka: Next Door To An Angel
Britannia High Cast: Start of Something
Eurythmics: Who's That Girl?
Frank Stallone: Beyond The Sea
Talitha Rise: Deadwood
Nellie McKay: David
Talitha Rise: Magpies

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Rocket FM Lewes: Talking Culture

Here are a few edited highlights from my Rocket FM Lewes 'Talking Culture' radio show on Monday 17th October 2016, with artists Susie Monnington and Keith Pettit.

Monday 17 October 2016

Talking Culture: 17th October 2016

My Rocket FM Lewes 'Talking Culture' radio show on Monday 17th October 2016 included Chris Stones from Glyndebourne's Education Department and pianist/vocal coach Carol Kelly in the first hour, followed by artists Susie Monnington and Keith Pettit in the second part of the programme.

Music playlist: 

Anthony Newley: Strawberry Fair 
Lenka: We Will Not Grow Old 
P J Proby: Somewhere 
Nanci Griffith: You Made This Love A Teardrop 
Eels: Losing Streak 
Cheryl Bentyne: Tea For Two 
Neil Diamond: Delirious Love 
Ellie Greenwich: River Deep, Mountain High 
Tony Christie: Louise 
Fun: Why Am I The One 
Gilbert O'Sullivan: Get Down

Monday 10 October 2016

TRE Talk Radio Europe gadgets for October 2016

Here's the technology I talked about in my TRE Talk Radio Europe 'gadget guru' conversation today:

Blue Raspberry USB microphone

Blue has previously produced other microphones called the Snowball and the Yeti, so don’t try to read anything too much into the 'Raspberry' name. The difference between this and them is that this is designed to be portable.

For example; you want to record something using your laptop or your phone. Maybe a podcast, maybe yourself playing a musical instrument, maybe your mates in a band. Either you use the built-in microphone, which is generally okay but not outstanding, or you plug one in.

This is the plug-in solution. I’ve been sent one of these to play with and I’ve grown very fond of it. To start with, it looks like a serious piece of kit: it’s got a built-in desktop stand, something of a retro appearance and it actually feels good because a lot of it is constructed from metal.

The Raspberry plugs into the USB connection on a laptop, with a cable that's supplied. If you’re using an iPhone or an iPad, it also comes with an Apple Lightning cable that lets you plug straight in. If, like me, you have an Android phone, you’ll probably need a little USB OTG adaptor – mine cost me 99p off eBay.

What’s really clever is that the microphone also has a headphone socket, so – just like the professionals – you can plug headphones in and hear what you sound like when you’re recording. There’s a control on one side for headphone volume and one on the other side for microphone level. A little LED shines green when everything’s okay but goes yellow or red if the recording is too loud.

One of the other neat features is hidden inside: the Blue Raspberry has what the makers are calling an Internal Acoustic Diffuser. They reckon this resembles the way that recording studios and concert halls are treated, so your recording is all about the voice or the music and not about echoing rooms. There’s insulation built into the stand as well, to reduce the risk of vibrations messing up your recording.

If you like figures, it’s up to 24-bit 48KHz audio, which means it’s decent quality, and has a frequency response of between 20Hz and 20kHz. Depending on how you adjust it, the mic is about 130mm high when it's on a desk and weighs 272 grams. It’s all powered from your phone, tablet or computer – so no need for extra batteries – and works with a whole range of audio and video recording apps.

Expect UK pricing to be around £170 when it goes on sale next month, both on the Maplin website and on

Google Pixel

Google has announced a new phone. In fact, as seems to be the way these days, they’ve announced two phones – both pretty much the same except for the screen size.

So we’ve got the Google Pixel and the Google Pixel XL. These are especially notable because they’re Google’s own phones. Although we’ve had Google-branded phones before, those were made in partnership with other big brands like Samsung and LG.

The standard Pixel has a five-inch screen and the XL has a 5½-inch screen: both very high quality. And both have a 12 megapixel camera, which will produce decent photos and can also record high-definition 4K video. They also come with fast charging – this is becoming pretty standard for high-spec phones – which means you don’t need to wait for hours if you need to top up your battery, and there’s a fingerprint sensor for added security.

A big deal here is a built-in feature called Google Assistant. If you’ve been using an Android phone, you’ll be familiar with Google Now, which lets you ask spoken or typed questions. This takes things a step further; it’s more like a conversation. If you ask it what’s on at the cinema, it will give you an answer – but if you then say something like “what’s suitable for children?”, it doesn’t start all over again but instead tells you which local films are good for families. It can also read what’s on your display, so if you get a text message, you can say something like ‘remind me about this tomorrow’, and it will.

The Pixel phones should be in the shops from the end of next week. Pricing is from £599, although I imagine most people will be choosing some kind of subsidised contract deal.

Amazon Echo

Something else Google announced was a little loudspeaker called Google Home, which is voice-controlled and connected to the same intelligence as those phones – so you can ask questions, check your diary, play music, that sort of thing – and also control your house thermostat or your lighting if you’ve got the right kind of switches.

But that’s not yet got a UK release date. What does have a UK release is Amazon’s equivalent, called Echo.

This is something I first talked about a couple of years ago, when it was just available in the United States. It’s a voice-controlled loudspeaker that can answer questions, control other internet-connected devices, play music and help you with your Amazon shopping.

The Echo speaker will cost £149.99, there’s also a baby version called Echo Dot for £49.99. The main difference is that the full-size version has loudspeakers for playing music and better microphones for hearing you. The Dot is really designed to be connected to your stereo or a separate loudspeaker.

Both of them connect to a voice-controlled service called Alexa. If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like Siri on an iPhone or Cortana on a Microsoft phone, you’re not far wrong.

So you’ll say something like “Alexa, play me some Bruce Springsteen” – and if there’s some Bruce Springsteen in your online music collection, it’ll do just that. Or you can ask it what the weather is, or to set an alarm, or what’s happening in the news, or how to cook comething, or to buy something from Amazon. And it’ll link to your smart phone – your online thermostat and light switches – if you’ve got that kind of thing.

The regular Echo is already on sale via Amazon UK, the Echo Dot goes on sale next week.

GoPro Karma

I’ve talked about drones before – remote-controlled aircraft with built-in cameras – but the technology has recently taken another step forward.

GoPro, a company best known for its tiny action cameras, has announced its own drone. It’s called the GoPro Karma – and it folds up for travel. This means it can fit in a backpack when you’re not using it; in fact, it comes with its own backpack just to prove the point. The drone itself weighs a fraction over a kilogram. So if you’re hiking or mountain biking, for example, you don’t need to hold on to the drone while you’re trekking cross-country.

When it’s time to fly, you get the drone out of your backpack, extend its folding arms and feet, then switch it on.

Folded, it’s 36cm long and 22cm wide – but unfolded it’s 41cm wide. Propeller length is 10 inches. The Karma drone has a maximum speed of 35mph and can be controlled up to 1000 metres away from you. Flight time is about 20 minutes until the batteries need recharging, which will take around an hour.

It comes with a controller that has a 5-inch touchscreen and an automatic routine for takeoff and landing if you need it. You can also set pre-programmed courses, so it’ll fly between two points or fly around the subject.

It can use a number of different cameras from the GoPro range; they fit into a special mount that keeps the pictures stable when you’re flying around. You can even take the self-adjusting mount [gimbal] off and use it in a hand-held grip for other stuff – say, shooting video when you’re running around. The basic price is $799 (UK pricing seems to be around £720), which doesn’t include a GoPro camera. If you want to buy one with a GoPro camera, the package will cost in the region of £1000 – that’s the drone, the controller, the stabilising mount, the grip, the camera and the backpack. Karma should be available by the end of the month.