Sunday, 28 February 2016

Real Rock Radio?

Quotation of the day: Garrison Keilor ~ I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.

I've written about the St Louis radio station KSHE ( before, and how listening to it and hearing about the city thereon, kickstarted my interest in going there and my feeling of affinity for the place. I used to think that KSHE was a wonderful station but it's changed in the three years i've been listening. They used to play a lot of schtuff that you never heard anywhere else but now, most of the time they now play the same old songs that every other rock station plays.

But they have a few special programs that convince me that this is an exceptional radio station. For example, there's “The Seventh Day” every Sunday evening – where they play seven albums in their entirety.

There's also a show presented by their overnight deejay – and my Facebook friend – Tommy T., “The Rock Magazine.” On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, he features a different artist and plays deep tracks by them that are rarely heard elsewhere. On Wednesdays, he has a “themed” show; recent themes included songs about winter, and, on Ash Wednesday, songs with “fire” in their titles. The man has a sense of humour! Unfortunately it comes on at 4 a.m. my time; i'm usually up, i'm an early riser, but sometimes i miss it.

But my favourite of all is the “Klassics” show, every Sunday morning, presented by a St Louis broadcasting legend, John Ulett. It's on from 9 a.m. -- 1 p.m. (my time) and it's absolutely brilliant! It's all classic rock music that's never played anywhere else, and that's my era. I used to work every Sunday and had to listen on my phone or on my laptop, but i work in such a noisy place i could hardly hear it. It took me almost a year of complaining bitching moaning groaning and just generally being a pain in the arse but i finally managed to convince my Masters to give me Sundays off and what happened?

KSHE made their audio stream unavailable to Canada. Aaaargh!

It took me a while but eventually i found a VPN i liked – Tunnel Bear – it costs me $10 a month but i think it's well worth it.

If you have the patience to read it, here's the “Klassics” playlist from a couple of weeks ago:

The Grateful Dead -- Uncle John's Band
Ted Nugent -- Call Of The Wild
George Harrison -- What Is Life
Deep Purple -- Space Truckin
Shooting Star -- Last Chance
Cream -- I'm So Glad
Little River Band -- It's A Long Way There
Charlie Daniels -- Caballo Diablo
Robert Palmer -- You're Gonna Get What's Coming
Tarney Spencer Group -- No Time To Lose
Dave Mason -- Feelin Alright
Peter Gabriel -- Solsbury Hill
Jefferson Starship -- No Way Out
Blue Oyster Cult -- In Thee
Loggins & Messina -- Back To Georgia
The Beat -- Don't Wait Up For Me Tonight
Eagles -- Ol' 55
Brownsville Station -- Martian Boogie
Little Feat -- Fat Man In The Bathtub
Danny Spanos -- Hot Cherie
Jethro Tull -- Thick As A Brick, part 1
Steely Dan -- Deacon Blues
Headstone -- Turn Your Head
Stillwater -- Women
Pure Prairie League -- Two Lane Highway
America -- Don't Cross The River
Moxy -- Sail On Sail Away
Journey -- Topaz
The James Gang -- Alexis
The Rolling Stones -- Wild Horses
The Moody Blues -- Legend Of A Mind
Lake -- Key To The Rhyme
Jim Capaldi -- Living On The Edge
Elton John -- Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters
Rod Stewart -- Every Picture Tells A Story
Joe Cocker -- She Came In Through The Bathrrom Window
Poco -- Good Feelin';
Ian Hunter -- Cleveland Rocks
Captain Beyond -- Sufficiently Breathless

And here's my most recent playlist:

James Taylor -- Greatest Hits Volume 2
Small Faces -- Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
Runrig -- Mara
Rush -- Power Windows
Fairport Convention -- The Bonny Bunch Of Roses
The Albion Dance Band -- Shuffle Off!
Various Artists -- The Son Of "Morris On"
Peter Gabriel -- Peter Gabriel

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Spriggsblog vs Her Majesty's Passport Office, Part 2

Quotation du jour ~ Mark Twain: One cannot see too many summer sunrises on the Mississippi

When i left you, in my last episode, it was September, and i was distraught, discouraged and disheartened. I think that a huge part of the problem i'd had was that i had been dealing with two different passport offices, and they weren't talking to each other. Trying to get them to communicate with each other was like smashing myself over the head with a brick. So i didn't want to look at a passport application ever again. I still wanted to go to St Louis, though!

December arrived before i found the nous to download another application (and pay for it online) and ... it was completely different to any of the other applications i'd seen! So once again, i said WTF?!

Even though i knew that a time factor was involved, Christmas was fast approaching and i was just too damned busy with the festive madness to look very closely at the paperwork, although i did manage to have a second photograph taken ($20 + tax). It wasn't until early January that i completed the form and took my picture to Peter for re-authentication, and finally sent the packet off (registered mail again, of course!).

A couple of weeks later i received an email from the heart of bureaucracy, Durham. (There are six passport offices in the U.K.,apparently and it seems i was dealing with the one in Durham. No idea which ones i was dealing with in round one.) OK, i'd made a few minor errors on my application. These were easily fixable. But, here's a new one: as Peter's passport is Canadian, they needed a colour photocopy of the page upon which his photograph appears. This had never come up in my initial application! Just another WTF moment, i suppose, but, really.

I really was reluctant to put further demands on Peter's time, but i asked him and he agreed readily – he thinks it will be good for me to go to St Louis, broaden my horizons and whatnot. He did add that i should guard his colour photograph closely, as passport fraud is rampant these days. (Understandably so.)

So it was registered mail yet again.

About two weeks later, i came home from work to find a “sorry we missed you” note from a courier service, DHL Express. They'd tried to deliver something, but i'd been at work, and would i please contact them to arrange for a new delivery. Oh, well, i figured, it's just my old passport being returned with the news that this application too had failed. Contact them i did, however, and asked them to deliver it to me at work the next day. No, they wouldn't do that. They suggested that i go to Kitchener and pick it up at their depot. Right, and lose a day's pay – but i couldn't have done it anyway, as literally all of my ID was in the package (passport and birth certificate). So i said ok, re-deliver tomorrow, but i'm not usually home much before four o'clock. Again they suggested that the better option would be for me to go to Kitchener and collect it in person, to which i replied “Aaaargh!!!”

The next day, i'd been home for maybe half an hour, there was a knock 'pon my door. Oooh, the courier service, maybe! But no, it was the manager of my apartment building. But yes, he had a package for me. From DHL Express. And it contained this:

Oh, my word: nine months and probably $600 later. There was relief and celebration here at Spriggs Towers that evening i can tell you!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Spriggsblog Vs Her Majesty's Passport Office, Part 1

Quotation du jour ~ Pye Dubois: on the road / confirms something about yourself /confirms something about your mold--some say it's freedom / freedom some say / is when you get back home.

It all began a little over three years ago. My frend Dave, from St Clair, Missouri, told me about a St Louis radio station called KSHE ( and i listened. Online, of course. Listened, and liked the music and started listening regularly. And a strange thing happened. Hearing the on-air personalities talking about St Louis, and hearing what goes on there, fascinated me. I did some independent investigating (a.k.a. Googling) and the more i learned about the place, the more interested i became. It looks a beautiful city and i definitely began to feel an affinity.

Maybe two years ago, i determined to go there.

It took me a while to save the money. I don't make a lot, which is fine: normally i don't need a lot. I have no debts and my monthly expenses are easily manageable. I don't need things at all – buy the occasional new CD or DVD, and i generally only buy new clothes when the old ones wear out. It took a while. But i did it.

There was another stumbling block, too: my old passport expired in 1990. (I haven't been outside Southern Ontario since the eighties!) No problem, though (i said to myself, hopefully) – i was easily able to download an application for a U.K. passport in January of 2015 and ....

Lordy mama, have i ever said how much i hate government forms? I looked at it once and decided to hibernate for the winter rather than try to deal with the bureaucratese. It was June before i girded my loins and finally tackled it, and i was in trouble right from question #1! But i struggled through it, answered what i could, and then went back to the U.K. Government website to see what to do next. Oh, i found, i could also fill out an online application and pay for it online, which i did, and which would presumably begin the process in advance of the paperwork.

Next step: passport photograph. I had one taken. The things is, though, that the last time i applied for a passport, the photograph had to be authenticated by a professional person – doctor, lawyer, priest, someone like that. I supposed, without looking into the matter, that it was still the same. I don't have a doctor at the moment – thank you, Canada's famous health care system! -- but i have a dentist (no lawyer or priest) and so i went to his office and ... the receptionist told me that he was on holidays for two weeks.

Now the time factor enters the picture. The application process is supposed to take six weeks or more. I was planning my trip for mid-September, it's now late June or early July (i forget which) and there i was, stuck spinning my wheels for two weeks. A fortnight later, back i went to see my dentist and a different receptionist told me that he wouldn't do it – he refused to share his own personal passport info, but that the rules had changed and the authenticator no longer had to be a professional person: anyone who had known me for a substantial length of time could do it. Well fuck me blind (i said to myself), two weeks wasted! I took it to the owner of my restaurant, with whom i've been friends for well over twenty years and he verified that i am, in fact, me. I sent it off, along with my old passport, by registered mail ($22.00 to the U.K!) immediately, of course.

About a week later, the fiasco began. I received an email from some functionary explaining several things i had done wrong. For instance, i had applied to renew an old passport. Wrong! My old one was so old i should have applied for a new one. Er, nowhere on the application form had i noticed anything about that. Further, i as i wasn't in their computer database, they needed a lot more information. They needed my parents' dates and places of birth, for instance, which i didn't know, and they also needed my birth certificate (which took me a few days to find). Also, they said, i hadn't enclosed my payment.

?!?! Well, of course i hadn't enclosed a payment – i'd paid online several weeks earlier (and had the statement to prove it). Unfortunately, this was one of those “noreply” emails so i couldn't reply to the geezer with this info; instead i went to the bank and said, these people say that they didn't receive this (pointing to the item on my statement), what do i do now? They said they'd look into it for me and give me a call. They didn't.

It's now August. I filled out the new form they sent me as well as i could and sent it off by registered mail ($22, as you may recall) and hoped for the best. I've decided on Sept. 22 as my departure date and i know i'm cutting it rather fine here, but that's over six weeks away and i remained hopeful.

During, i think, the second week in September, i received an email from a different functionary, informing me that the ninety days required for me to complete my application (which i hadn't known about) had elapsed, therefore they were withdrawing it (the application) and retaining my payment to cover administrative costs. Wait, what? Last i heard, they hadn't received a payment at all. WTF?

I was pretty distraught, i don't mind admitting. I had been looking forward to going to the Mississippi Valley so much. A few days later i received, by courier, my old passport back. They kept my photograph, though. Nice touch!

Distraught, discouraged, disheartened. I didn't want to think about passports at all for a while.

To be continued. Here, have a playlist.

Led Zeppelin -- Physical Graffiti
Kim Mitchell -- Rockland
Max Webster -- High Class In Borrowed Shoes
The Allman Brothers Band -- Brothers And Sisters
Oysterband -- Here I Stand
Mike Oldfield -- Music Of The Spheres
Arkells -- High Noon
Rory Gallagher -- Cradle Rock
David Gilmour -- Rattle That Lock
Led Zeppelin -- Boxed Set 2
Bruce Springsteen -- The Essential Bruce Springsteen
Joan Osborne -- Relish (20th Anniversary Edition)
Elvis Costello -- Spike
The Beatles -- With The Beatles
Siouxsie & The Banshees -- The Rapture
Billy Joel -- Turnstiles
Marillion -- Anoraknophobia
Bluehorses -- Ten Leagues Beyond The Wild World's End
Carole King -- Tapestry