Nov 012013
 

Like many other people I was saddened to learn of the death of Lou Reed this week. It was like another piece has been chipped away from me.

I took the time to listen to a few tracks, most notably the version of Perfect Day released by the BBC in 1997 to support Children In Need and featuring a myriad of stars.

I also fondly recall Lou’s appearances in one of my favourite movies – Wim Wenders’ Faraway, So Close! – where he sang Why Can’t I Be Good.

I happened to be in a HMV music store on Monday and it was playing its own tribute with a track that I instantly recognized but could not remember the title. I had it on a compilation double cassette tape – remember them? – called Sounds of The Sixties or something along those lines. One of the other tracks from the compilation that sticks in my mind is My White Bicycle by Tomorrow, which I have just discovered was Steve Howe’s band before he joined Yes. What would we do without Google and Wikipedia?

For several days, the melody of the Lou Reed track has haunted me. Finally, today, I checked out iTunes to see if I could come up with the name. I called up Velvet Underground and stared at the list of tracks. None of the titles listed leaped out at me. I thought I was going to have to work my way down the list until I found the track in question. But then I had one of those inexplicable moments. Something deep in the recesses of my mind prompted me to click on Venus In Furs, part way down the list, and it was the track I had heard in the store.

The search for employment continues. I was invited for an interview at 48 hours’ notice. The interview was scheduled for 2:30 pm on Thursday and would have involved a four-hour train journey. Unfortunately, I had a medical appointment on the same day. I had been waiting two weeks for this appointment and was loathed to cancel, so I contacted the company and asked if I could reschedule the interview.

Here is the reply:

Unfortunately we are only holding interviews on Thursday at this stage, I have another interview slot at 9.15 if this would be more convenient.

I also enquired about getting my travelling expenses reimbursed. It would have cost me in the region of £70 to attend the interview. I was told that the company was not in a position to reimburse travelling expenses. I also gained the impression the interview was a preliminary one to draw up a shortlist for a second interview. So had I been successful and made it to the shortlist, I could have had to spend £150 attending both. I think £150 spent on Lottery tickets may have produced a better return.

I did a bit of research and learned that the US parent of the company in question paid out $158 million in dividends in 2012. Further research revealed that the company in question was not a particularly good employer to work for. Journalists are routinely made redundant in order that the directors can pay themselves huge annual bonuses. I think I dodged a bullet there.

It is no coincidence that all of my former colleagues at The Birmingham Post who have remained in the UK, with the exception of two, are no longer working in the regional newspaper industry. I now know the reason why.

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Aug 162011
 

Getting out and about taking photographs brings me into contact with some interesting characters.

At the weekend I was about to take some shots of a building that used to be an old filling station on U.S. 90, when two guys, who had been parked in a battered red pickup truck, drove up and asked what I was doing.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

They were rough and ready in their appearance and looked like extras from the film Deliverance but my English accent seemed to diffuse any suspicions they may have had and we got talking.

You could have knocked me down with a feather when the driver, who later introduced himself as Tom, started waxing lyrical about the BBC series Doctor Who and said Tom Baker was his favourite Doctor Who of all time. I don’t know whether the shared forename might have influenced his choice. The conversation then turned to the comedy series Coupling. Tom it turned out was a great fan of the BBC and British comedy in the mould of people like Ricky Gervais.

He much prefers the cleverness and dry wit of British humour to its American counterpart, although he conceded that not everybody in America gets the British style of comedy.

I said that American humour places a greater emphasis on visual gags, while British humour’s strength is its subtlety and the clever use of words.

He and Raymond, the other guy in the cab, were originally from Indianapolis and moved to Jacksonville about a year ago. They are engaged in the scrap car business.

The mention of Indianapolis quickly brought the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning into the conversation, a subject more in keeping with a couple of average American Joes. Needless to say both Tom and Raymond were big fans of the Colts.

Tom told me he had bought his wife an Indianapolis blanket that he was going to attach to a frame and hang on the wall. Raymond jokingly said he might spray Jacksonville Jaguars all over it.

I said to Raymond: “You like hospital food then?”

Tom laughed, turned to Raymond and said: “That’s British humour.”

After about an hour we shook hands, parted company and I got down to the business of taking photographs of the building and U.S. 90.

The encounter with Tom and Raymond proved once again that outward appearances can so often be deceptive. You should never judge a book by its cover.

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