Friday, 28 April 2017

Exploring Dubai via Google Street View

Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a part of the world I’ve never been to, but find interesting. I hope to go there one day. In this post I’m embedding areas from Google Street View of Dubai. I’ll give a description above each embedded view. The user can explore these embedded views in the blog post as well as make the embed full screen via the icon on the right hand side or open it in a larger sized new window by clicking the “View on Google Maps” button. If any of the embedded areas do not load in this blog post, you’ll be able to see them through the “View on Google Maps” button.

Here’s an area by the Dubai Mall. It has short palm trees, a wide calm highway and buildings.

Here’s a nice combination of green grass and buildings in Burj Park.

Fountains, Palm Trees and Buildings.

A nice set of buildings.

A road in Dubai.

A view from the Al Garhoud Bridge.

Festival Boulevard.

Buildings and Palm Trees.

The Emirates Towers.

Buildings, Palm Trees, a Lake and Parklands.

Inside Dubai International Airport.

First Al Khail Street.

Looking up at the buildings.

Buildings on a sunny day.

A view from the bridge on Al A’mal Street

The edge of Creek Park.

Buildings, Cars and Green Scenery.

Buildings, an Overpass, Palm Trees, a Lake and Fountains.

On the D73 Road.

Palm tree paintings.

Inside Dubai Creek Golf.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to comment. I’m interested in hearing from those who live in Dubai, have lived in Dubai or are a native Dubaian.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Unplugged

This post deals with an imaginary Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band unplugged concert. An unplugged concert consists of no electronic instruments so I envision piano, acoustic guitars, acoustic bass, drums, organ (non-electric) and possibly other non-electronic keyboard instruments used for this concert. This concert would use a non-electric organ that produces a sound as close as possible to that of an electric organ (if one exists). I will now describe how some Bob Seger songs could be done in an unplugged format for this concert.

Hollywood Nights
The intro would be extended played on the piano sticking the melody with some improvisation from Craig Frost (Silver Bullet Band keyboardist) who’d be joined in soon by the other instruments.

This version would start off with the piano, be joined a few seconds later by the organ and few seconds after that by the other instruments. The piano would be more prominent in this version and there’d be an organ solo instead of the guitar solo.

Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man
This version would have the strong organ presence as before, but it’d be a bit slower and have the addition of a piano. After the first chorus there’d be a saxophone solo by Alto Reed (Silver Bullet Band saxophonist). After the second chorus there’d be a rocking piano solo followed by the chorus one more time and the singing part at the end of the “Live Bullet” version. This would probably be the longest version of ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’.

Old Time Rock & Roll
This would be a piano solo version where Bob plays piano (as I’d like to see Bob play more rock music on the piano) featuring piano solos in place of the guitar & sax solos and Bob would ask the audience to clap in the section of the song where it’s just the drums and singing in the original version.

Her Strut
The original version had only electric guitars and I would have liked it if it had keyboards as well so I imagine this version starting off on acoustic guitars followed by Craig Frost’s piano a few seconds later that becomes the main instrument. This version would be a bit slower than the original and feature organ as well. I would love hearing a piano-driven unplugged version of ‘Her Strut’. Bob would play his guitar solo on acoustic guitar which would be followed by a piano solo. In the section just before the singing part at the end it would be piano only with subtle improvisation from Craig and then the other instruments would join in.

Sunspot Baby
This version would have the addition of an organ. The guitar solo in the middle of the song would be re-done as a piano solo and the solo at the end would be re-done as an organ solo.

Till It Shines
In this version the piano would recreate the special electric guitar notes from the studio version with the guitar solo two minutes into the song re-done as a piano solo and the end section would be going back and forth between the piano and the acoustic guitar.

Feel Like a Number
This version would start off with guitars and organ like the original and would have an organ solo instead of the guitar solo.

Miami & The Fire Inside
These songs should be included as due to them featuring acoustic guitar, it would be played with the same set of instruments (aside from the synthesizers on ‘Miami’), but allowing the usual room for changes in a live version. Bob would play piano on ‘Miami’ as he played piano on the studio version of that song.

Even Now
The main difference in the arrangement would be the replacement of the electric guitar with the acoustic guitar.

The Famous Final Scene
This version would be a bit slower with the main difference being no electric guitars and strings.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I didn’t include the number of songs that would be featured in a normal concert as it would go on too long. I might write another post at some stage giving more songs that could be performed at a Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Unplugged show. I would enjoy hearing readers give their thoughts on the unplugged songs I chose as well as ideas on how other Bob Seger songs could be performed unplugged.   

Friday, 10 March 2017

Api Kawruda by Senaka Batagoda

In this post I am sharing a song I love called ‘Api Kawruda’. This song comes from Sri Lanka and was a Sri Lankan hit by the band Wayo in 2012. However, it was written by a songwriter named Senaka Batagoda whose version remained unreleased until December 2015. While this song is in Sinhalese, it has a Classic Rock feel where I see similarities with the music of my two favourite singers Elton John & Bob Seger. It sounds like Elton John’s song ‘England & America’ from the Deluxe edition of his 2016 album “Wonderful Crazy Night”, with the biggest similarities being the melody and the piano. I also find it to sound like a Bob Seger song (more on that later). I am embedding the song from Senaka Batagoda’s YouTube Channel here, and the YouTube video is a slideshow so the readers can listen to the song as they read this post where I describe it and point out what makes this song special.

It opens with acoustic guitars and is then followed by piano played by Janath Kulathilake. The first verse starts off softly using a mix of acoustic guitar and piano. In the second half of the first verse, the song becomes faster. In the chorus, the piano gets louder and throughout the song it is melodic and gives energy. In the first instance of the chorus, the song is able to be both gentle and rocking at the same time with the piano giving a rock feel. Janath plays a great piano riff throughout the chorus that’s a big part of this song.

The second verse starts off similar to the first verse. About two minutes into the song in the middle of the second verse, we noticeably hear the organ (also played by Janath Kulathilake) which gives the song a real Bob Seger feel being reminiscent of the usage of the piano/organ combination in some Bob Seger songs. After this verse is concluded, electric guitars come in the chorus making the song rock more. Once the electric guitars come, we can see that this song has the Bob Seger sound of piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and organ that he has used in some of his songs. The electric guitars give a new dimension to the song and it’s good to hear the chorus done differently. When the chorus ends there is a great rocking guitar solo which is accompanied well by the piano. The final section of the song is the chorus once again followed by some good electric guitar parts that concludes the song.

I’m writing this post to give exposure to what I see as a great Sri Lankan song to the world. The song has energy, a catchy melody and rocks in a good way. I think Senaka’s voice sounds a bit similar to the Sri Lankan songwriter and performer Clarence Wijewardena. He sings the song with passion that’s part of its strength. I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on the song. I hope this song will grow in its reach connecting with people in all corners of the world. Thank you Senaka for writing a very special song.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The S Blog One Year On

It was one year ago in mid January 2016 that I launched my blog with the post ‘My fears and hopes for Star Trek Beyond’. My most recent post was ‘Opportunities for Sri Lanka After Recent Disappointments’ at the end of last year. This post is a reflection of my blog in the year that is passed as well as sharing some plans for the future of it. The title ‘The S Blog One Year On’ is a reference to my article ‘Impact of the 19th Amendment One Year On’ where I evaluated the impact of the 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution a year after it occurred.

The header of my blog is “The S Blog deals with the interests of a Sri Lankan abroad and is called The S Blog due to the many S topics covered. They include Star Trek, Science Fiction, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Sri Lanka, Songs and even other non S topics.” I have written about every S topic on the list, although I haven’t yet written about Science Fiction that isn’t Star Trek. I intend to write a non Star Trek Science Fiction post at some stage.

I will now show an image of words I’ve used in my 12 blog posts of 2016 created using the site

As of this writing, the post with the lowest views (60) is my review of Star Trek Beyond and the post with the highest views (357) is ‘News of Bob Seger’s Upcoming Album I Knew You When’ where I was discussing Bob Seger’s upcoming album. It pleases me that many Bob Seger fans interested in the topic have discovered that article by searching it on the internet. In fact, when searching ‘Bob Seger I Knew You When’ in Google, my article on the subject is the first result.

My favourite singers are Bob Seger and Elton John, and I do like Piano in Rock music in the the Classic Rock style. One article I wrote ‘Toto Tribute Album’ was an imaginary tribute album to Rock band Toto by big names in Classic Rock and I included Bob Seger and Elton John together as imagining them doing a duet of Rosanna.

I have a great interest in my country Sri Lanka, and hope to see it really improve. On Sri Lankan topics I write about in this blog, I will be writing about Sri Lankan matters I’m into, give my thoughts & analysis on political affairs and share ideas that I feel will benefit & improve Sri Lanka. As I have a planned trip to Sri Lanka in May, this trip will give me lots of information on Sri Lanka to write about. I’m waiting for this trip as it’s been three years since I was last in Sri Lanka.

As for the future of this blog, I intend to feature the same type of posts I’ve done so far as well as different types of posts and on issues I haven’t written on so far. I did write the post ‘Showcasing Sri Lanka from Google Street View’ where I embedded scenes of Sri Lanka from Google Street View and plan to feature Google Street View posts for other parts of the world. I plan to write more posts this year and hope to get more viewers. Another new feature planned in this blog are interviews. 2016 was just the beginning of my blog, with much more to come. I do hope the readers have enjoyed the posts of The S Blog.     

Friday, 30 December 2016

Opportunities for Sri Lanka in 2017 After Recent Disappointments

I’m writing this at the end of 2016 looking at Sri Lankan issues from a political angle. I’ll start by mentioning recent disappointments from my perspective that happened in the last 3 months of 2016. I don’t intend to go into detail discussing or explaining them in this article. These recent disappointments include the President’s controversial speech at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, the recent emergence of racial crimes & hatred, issues regarding the Government & Police’s response to these incidents, the Inspector General of Police being caught on a phone call implying he’s protecting someone under investigation, the possibility of increased fines for traffic violations cancelled due to a strike by private bus companies, a strike at the Hambantota port, the Navy Commander assaulting a journalist at that strike etc.

I think it is important that the Sri Lankan Government resolve the problems arising from these issues. This Government really needs to deliver in 2017 in light of these issues, and as more needs to be done based on what they were voted in for. On the positive side, there are some events set to take place in 2017 that could bring real benefits to Sri Lanka. Firstly, the Cabinet recently approved a yearly event National Integration and Reconciliation Week beginning from the 8th to the 14th of January 2017. This event will be promoting national integration among school children, creating sensitisation and awareness in the media in all three languages, encouraging the private sector to be involved in integration programs, north south dialogue & inter-village exchange programs and a competition to promote national integration.

As expected in January, Sri Lanka will lease Hambantota port to a Chinese firm raising about USD 1.12 billion which should help Sri Lanka pay off the USD 8 billion owed to China for the development projects under the previous regime. I hope that the Chinese firm will be able to make the Hambantota port profitable to bring more benefits than just the money. In June 2016, the Right to Information (RTI) Bill was passed in Parliament. The RTI Act will come into effect on Independence Day, 4th February 2017. It is from that day onward when citizens can file RTI requests, making the Government more open to its citizens.

The Sri Lankan Cabinet passed the Open Government Partnership (OGP) plan in October 2016. The OGP plan gives a 12-commitment national policy plan and sets up a steering committee to monitor its implementation headed by both the President and the Prime Minister. This national policy plan has a schedule until June 2018. Member countries of OGP, in endorsing the OGP Declaration, show a commitment to “foster a global culture of open government that empowers and delivers for citizens, and advances the ideals of open and participatory 21st century government.”

A promise of the 100 day program was a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians, which still hasn’t been made law. There is some hope as the Code of Conduct was mentioned in the Sri Lankan media recently, and it was tabled and presented in Parliament on the 10th of December. This gives an indication that it will get passed in Parliament in the next 6 months, providing it gets enough votes. Sri Lanka is working on a new constitution right now and it’s possible that the new constitution will get completed or at least make real progress next year. The Megapolis project is in its early stages right now, and I hope to see much progress on it next year.  

So these are some of the opportunities for Sri Lanka based on events set to occur in 2017. I don’t have any idea how 2017 will play out for Sri Lanka, but if the Government is mostly successful in the opportunities I mentioned, as well as in other events, 2017 could be a good year for Sri Lanka, compared to 2016.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ten Great Bob Seger Songs by Ten Different Piano Players

I am a Bob Seger fan and I like piano in rock music, so I decided to write a blog post choosing ten Bob Seger songs with great piano in them played by ten different piano players. Most of these songs are rock songs, but I am including some songs that probably wouldn’t be classified as rock here. For each song, I’ll give the name of the piano player and the year in the title, with my thoughts on the piano in the song. I did include three of his most popular songs “Old Time Rock & Roll”, “We’ve Got Tonight” and “Against The Wind”. Most of the songs are credited to Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, with there being one solo song as well as some songs credited with the Silver Bullet Band, but having no Silver Bullet Band members on it. Here’s my ten great Bob Seger songs given in sequential order. Hope you like it.

Old Time Rock & Roll - Randy McCormick (1978)
This song was given to Bob as a demo that was written by George Jackson and Thomas Jones. Bob Seger rewrote most of the lyrics, but didn’t ask for credit. He tried recording it both with his Silver Bullet Band and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (a group of session musicians in Alabama that he recorded with in the 70s and 80s), but it wasn’t working. Thus, he decided to record his voice over the original demo that featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and removed the voice of the original singer. The piano is played by Randy McCormick. The song opens with the legendary piano intro that’s instantly recognisable. I use the piano intro as my phone ringtone. Silver Bullet Band member Alto Reed plays saxophone on the song that was recorded as an overdub. While the piano may not be the loudest instrument in the song, it’s played very well.

We’ve Got Tonight - Barry Beckett (1978)
This song is a ballad credited with the Silver Bullet Band, but was recorded with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and has Barry Beckett playing the piano & organ. It opens with the great piano intro that’s played over and over during most of the song. In the bridge, the piano playing changes where it is played faster. The song has a good section where the chorus is played three times at the end, first as usual with the band, then a slow version just with piano & Bob’s voice that’s joined by the other instruments at the end which is followed by the last chorus with the band again that works very well.

Brave Strangers - Doug Riley (1978)
This song recorded with the Silver Bullet Band opens with the great melodic piano riff played by Canadian session musician Doug Riley and the song is then joined by the organ, acoustic guitar, bass and drums. Just before the bridge, Doug does good movements on the piano. Then the bridge takes the melody in a different direction featuring great piano work by Doug before going back to the piano riff and previous melodies. I consider this to be a rock song with a soul influence which goes on for an epic six minutes and twenty seconds.

Against The Wind - Paul Harris (1980)
This song is slower as it’s a ballad and has a country influence. It’s a Silver Bullet Band song with the piano and organ played by Paul Harris. Paul delivers a good country sounding piano solo which goes back and forth with him and original Silver Bullet Band guitarist Drew Abbott. The piano provides most of the song’s melody. This is also a long song that goes on for five minutes and thirty four seconds.

Love’s The Last To Know - Bill Payne (1982)
This song is again a ballad recorded with the Silver Bullet Band featuring Bill Payne on piano. It starts with just piano, which is joined by the organ about fifty seconds in and then the remaining instruments at about the one and a half minute mark, but with the drums playing softly until about two and a half minutes into the song where the drums are played hard which results in the piano played more stronger. This song holds a special significance to me as the acoustic guitar is played by Davey Johnstone (Elton John’s guitarist) with Bob Seger and Elton John being my two favourite singers.

The Ring - Craig Frost (1986)
This Silver Bullet Band song features the piano played by Silver Bullet Band keyboardist Craig Frost. I consider it a pop rock song featuring the signature Bob Seger piano sound. The piano seems to go up and down throughout the slow and fast sections of the song. There is this great melody on the piano that’s played throughout the song. The piano has a lot a room as the guitars here are acoustic ones. This epic long song goes on for five minutes and thirty five seconds.

The Fire Inside - Roy Bittan (1991)
This is another of Bob’s epic long songs which rocks really well being led by the incredible inspired piano playing by Roy Bittan. It’s credited with the Silver Bullet Band, but recorded entirely with session musicians. The guitar featured is an acoustic guitar played by session guitarist Steve Lukather of Toto fame giving the piano more room to rock. There are two amazing piano solos, one in the middle and the other at the end of the song. I consider the piano playing to be of the signature Bob Seger piano sound that’s also in the previous song, but with more energy and rocks better. Near the end of the song there is a brief moment where the piano notes go back and forth between high and low ones. The song goes on for five minutes and fifty six seconds.

She Can’t Do Anything Wrong - Walt Richmond (1991)
This song recorded with the Silver Bullet Band was written by Bill Davis & Walt Richmond and it is Walt who is playing the piano. Like the previous song, there are two piano solos, one in the middle of the song and one in the end, but this song seems to have a southern rock or rock & roll feel unlike the previous one with another difference being this song’s use of electric guitars. Bob sings throughout the piano solo at the end.

I Can’t Save You Angelene - Bob Seger (1995)
In this song, it’s interesting as Bob Seger himself is playing the piano. I wish Bob Seger would play piano more, especially on rock songs. This is probably the best piano playing he’s ever done, delivering a great performance. This song isn’t rock, as it’s an upbeat blues song. His playing is melodic and opens with the great piano riff that goes up the scale to the high notes that is played throughout the song. He even solos in the last minute of the song, where he also does a bit of singing.

What I love about this song is that it sounds so much like Elton John, being a fan of both singers. One Elton John song it sounds like is his hit “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”. The Elton similarities are the fact that Bob is also playing the piano, the melody sounds Elton like, the piano playing sounds like Elton and lastly Bob’s singing resembles Elton. I love Elton John’s voice post late 80s as I find that voice has a lot of depth. Bob’s vocals are great here, where he sings with depth similar to Elton, and in the last minute of the song sings a “yeah, yeah” that Elton has sung. I would love it if Elton John and Bob Seger would do a duet, and then Elton would become another musician that’s played great piano on a Bob Seger song.

Satisfied - Steve Nathan (2003)
This is another upbeat blues song so it sounds similar to the previous one. It’s a solo song featuring piano and organ by Steve Nathan. There is a great piano solo in the middle of the song, as well as another great piano solo at the end where Bob sings along which of course resembles the end of the previous song.

So this was my list of ten great Bob Seger songs by ten different piano players. I think these songs would make a great album with the time totalling forty six minutes. I hope you enjoyed this list and would like to hear your thoughts on it.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Showcasing Sri Lanka from Google Street View

In March this year, Google released coverage of Sri Lanka in their Google Street View service. I’m so glad that it finally arrived as I’ve been wanting there to be Google Street View coverage of Sri Lanka ever since I first heard of the service. I heard that the images of Sri Lankan roads were recorded from December 2014 to March 2016, with those in Colombo being mainly recorded in November and December 2015. I’ll be embedding the areas from Google Street View that I refer to which the user can explore in this blog as well as make it full screen with the icon on the right hand side or open it in a new window in a larger size via the “View on Google Maps” button and explore the roads from that point. If any of the embedded areas do not load, you’ll be able to see them through the “View on Google Maps” button. As I’m from Colombo, it is the region given the most coverage, but I’ll be featuring many areas all over Sri Lanka. I will give some thoughts on Sri Lanka as seen here and making some comparisons to when I was last in Sri Lanka, which was in January 2014.

A good thing I’ve noticed is that Sri Lanka looks cleaner, especially Galle Road. When I was last there it was difficult to walk across Galle Road due to the road rebuilding that was taking place. The road rebuilding that was taking place appears to be complete and the centre of parts of the road has plants which makes it look nicer as well as reducing the number of people crossing the road. With regard to people crossing the road, I see on Galle Road as well as other areas in Sri Lanka, yellow crossings have been built. Going back to the earlier plant issue, that would reduce the number of people crossing the road, which would speed up traffic. Here’s Galle Road in the Colombo suburb I’m from (Wellawatte).

The roundabout near Liberty Plaza looks updated as I don’t remember seeing it like that and this part of the road looks so clean. I like it how the roundabout has fountains.

It’s good to see that construction is continuing just like when I was last in Sri Lanka.

This new building that I haven’t yet seen in Sri Lanka looks good.

Here’s an image of the centre of Colombo. The pavement looks nice and clean and I don’t think that the ledge was there when I was last in Sri Lanka.

I’m now going to be focussing on areas outside Colombo. I’ll give a sentence describing it with the place being below it.

Here are some of the roads in Galle.

Here’s Kandy by the lake.

This is Kalladi Bridge in Batticaloa.

Here’s Point Pedro by the sea.

This is near Wasgamuwa National Park.

The first two are from Mullaitivu and the following three and from Mannar Island. I’m grouping them together as I think they look similar to California.

This is in the Sabaragamuwa Province near the Sinharaja Rainforest.

This is in the Southern Province not too far from the previous image.

A Sri Lankan mountain by the Victoria Randenigala Rantembe Sanctuary.

On the Thanamalvila Road with the first scene being by the Uda Walawe Reservoir.

Here’s a road on the Uva Province.

The next scene is in Ja-Ela with the following two being near Ja-Ela.

A road in Negombo.

As seen in the above Negombo image, that is another of those Yellow crossings. It looks as if these Yellow crossings have been appearing all over Sri Lanka in the last few years. Regarding the cleaner appearance, it’s possible that Google captured many images from the same location and chose the best ones. I wonder if in some places, they edited the image to make it look cleaner. Irrespective of the differences in this and the real thing, Sri Lanka being cleaner is a good sign. There are still a small number of roads in Sri Lanka not covered in Google Street View and I hope that all of Sri Lankan roads will get covered before the end of the decade. This is one of the amazing features of modern technology, allowing those outside Sri Lanka to see what Sri Lankan roads are like. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I shared of Sri Lanka. Feel free to comment giving your thoughts.