The Best of 2020

Well, that was a mad old year, wasn’t it? 2020 was more like a bizarre disaster movie than the regular fun ride that we’re used to. A pandemic made hermits of us all; working from home became the new normal for many and travel and events ceased to exist. A year from hell for most of us, though it’s far from over yet.

Here at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub, we’ve aimed to soldier on and bring you the very best in blogging entertainment. Be it music, skateboards, toys or tat, whatever nonsense I could investigate was delivered with all the expected wit and style.

As is customary at this time, let’s take a look back at the top ten most popular blog posts of last year. Calling it “The Best of 2020” seems somewhat incongruous, but let’s roll with it for traditions sake.

10. Haiku – Autumn

An encouraging response to my creative writing, I was very surprised to see that this poetry piece in the Japanese Haiku style was my tenth most-read post of the year. Encore?

9. Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon Album Review

There was a distinct lack of live music in 2020 (Obviously), but quite a few album reviews for my old pals at Ever Metal. This review of Swedish doom metal band Firebreather’s album was the most read at the Virtual Hot Tub.

8. Halloween Horror Fest 2020

The first of my annual horror movie reviews of 2020, this one featured the Hammer version of Dracula.

7. The Best of 2019

I’m not sure if last years top 10 blogs appearing here is a good thing or not? Either way, 2019’s round up of the most popular blogs was a winner.

6. STYLE: Safari Jacket

2020 saw the materialisation of the long-promised STYLE section at the Virtual Hot Tub. This first blog, concerning the wonderful Safari jacket, got us off to a great start.

5. Skate Art: Liane Plant/Death Skateboards

A feature about some of my favourite skate art, as created by the super talented Liane Plant for Death skateboards. Awesome stuff.

4. SK88: Old School Skateboard Playlist

More skateboard based action, with a playlist of songs from my skating youth in the late 80’s. Full of stone-cold classics, these songs still inspire my sessions today.

3. Death Star Playset

I love my vintage Death Star playset. Setting it up with original Star Wars figures for some blog photos was a lot of fun, it’s great to see it was popular!

2. 1980s Skateboard Style

More skateboarding, and another successful entry for the STYLE section! It’s me, dressed in old skate clothes from the late 80s that still fit (or did, before lockdown).

…And what will be the most popular, widely read blog of 2020? Drum roll, please:

  1. Kantouni Village Sausage and Tzatziki

Yes, the most popular was this food blog, which benefitted from a genuine traditional recipe, and an idea to recreate a Greek holiday vibe with ingredients from the local supermarket.

As travel wasn’t happening this year for most of us, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Greek recipe blog came out on top. It was written as an ode to holidays and Mediterranean sunshine, something that wasn’t a possibility for many last year. I hope you found some nostalgic comfort from this post.

Usually my annual Top 10 has featured a load of comic con events – or similar – at the top of the list. Those events didn’t happen this year, so the Top 10 has a very different flavour. Who knows what 2021 will bring us?

Whatever the strange pan-dimensional cross flux of crazy brings us next, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog. Please remember to pop by Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub as soon as you can!

Skate Art: Liane Plant/Death Skateboards

Rather than just write a post about my latest set up – as I have done in the past – I decided it was time to shake things up a bit. You see, I’ve inadvertently become a collector of skate art. I don’t have a lot, but I have a few pieces. Though I’m destroying this art on a regular basis, so who knows how my collection will develop – if at all.

Regular readers will already know that I’ve been partial to equipment from Death Skateboards for a long time. UK based company, great ethos, cool and durable products. You may have also seen my previous blog about my Richie Jackson pro-model. That was where the addiction started.

The art for the Richie Jackson deck was drawn by an artist called Liane Plant. I loved it’s detailed, clear and defined lines – a realistic portrait of Richie the master, done in an art nouveau* style. Very clever and quite beautiful. At least it was, till I skated it and shined the graphics off.

Liane has also produced other graphics for Death (along with other skate companies, bands etc). Last year when I needed a new deck, I picked up the Patrick Melcher model, which has a fantastic mermaid graphic. I was all set to stick the trucks and wheels on, then shred it – when I decided not to. This amazing creation will go on the wall instead.

I’m not a deck collector – they’re too expensive – and to be frank, in a house already cluttered with vinyl, toys and other collections, I just don’t have room. The only deck I have on the wall is a reissue of the classic Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp face, drawn by Jim Phillips. If I had the space and the cash, I’d have loads of skateboards on my walls. But for now the Melcher mermaid remains something of an anomaly.

Then this year, I bought another Liane Plant graphic – Eddie Belvedere‘s iron maiden model. Again, another intricately detailed work. It’s bold and grim, a very heavy metal deck graphic melding hot chicks and medieval torture. Totally in your face. But like the other graphics, I love it because of the realism that Liane has created in the characters.

I set up the Eddie Belvedere deck with my Indy trucks and Death wheels, and I’ve been skating it for a while. Great deck, lots of pop, now with a messed up graphic. Never mind, that’s what skateboards are for.

I am slightly regretting shining the graphics on this one though. Let’s see what my next deck will be. I’ll need something to skate, but will I be vulgar and unrefined enough to defile another work of art like this??!

You can see more of Liane Plants work here and on Instagram.

The Death Skateboards website is here.

I bought these decks from Native Skate Store, who are pretty bloody good.

Bonus! Here’s a link to a little article from Sidewalk about Eddie Belvedere’s set up (old but gold).

Now go and Google some footage of Death and the above mentioned skaters. Thank you.

*I think it’s art nouveau, not sure if I’m honest. Should probably educate myself.

1980s Skateboard Style

We’re going back in time in this week’s edition of STYLE.  My never ending odyssey to explore the secrets of STYLE journeys to a fabled corner of my wardrobe.  We may not reach Narnia, but we do arrive somewhere very special indeed…

Gateway supermarket car park, 1989.  Yes, you wanted it – nay, DEMANDED it – and so have I provideth: Skateboard STYLE, circa late 80s.

Amazingly, some late 80’s skate merch still resides in my possession.  The pinnacle of awesomeness in this collection are my original Powell Peralta sweatpants.  Originally purchased from Split Skates in Manchester, by some miracle I can still (just about) get in them.

You see here the Rat Bones design, with rodent skeletons crawling up the side of each leg.  Oh, how I coveted these pants for months before I owned a pair: they cost a bloody fortune, but eventually Mum relented and I got a pair for my birthday.  They got some heavy use back in the day; amazingly they still exist (but in a pretty tatty state up close).

Another relic from the past is my Santa Cruz hooded top, again a purchase from Split Skates (on a different trip).  This dates from the days when hoodies were a fresh sight on UK streets and were yet to be adopted by chav scrotes.  Hoodies are an essential part of any gentleman’s wardrobe, regardless of unsavoury stereotypes.  I love this SC dark blue number.

In these photos, I’m wearing a Santa Cruz Road Rider wheels t-shirt.  In the late 80’s, I actually only owned two skate t-shirts: a bright yellow Thrasher Pus-zone T and a red Vision Street Wear one with a manhole graphic.  Both are long gone now.

On my feet are a pair of hi-top Vans, which despite being stylistically accurate are actually a more recent acquisition.  I could never afford Vans when I was a kid, I had one pair of red Converse and then had cheap Chuck knock-offs for years (‘cos I’d shred ’em in a month).

But God bless Vans, a deeper look into their wonder will no doubt grace a future edition of STYLE.

The look is completed by a Vans trucker cap (again, a newer rehash of 80’s style); a Casio digital watch and a Quiksilver hip-bag.  The hip-bag was absolutely necessary as the sweatpants had no pockets (probably would’ve pushed the price up even more).  I had a Hot Tuna one back in the day.

As I recall, skaters in the late 80’s pioneered a few fashion items ahead of them becoming part of the mainstream.  As well as hooded sweatshirts and hi-top trainers we wore knee length shorts (thus dragging the human race away from budgie-smuggler short shorts).  Hip bags became “bum bags” and were fashionable for 5 minutes with everyone, before everyone decided to dump ’em (bring them back!).

As a result, my adoption of skate STYLE did little to reduce the ridicule received from my peers that I had suffered previously.  But I didn’t care ‘cos I was a skater and outside of their world by choice.  Plus, I always had the last laugh when six months later, they were all wearing Converse, knee length shorts and surf wear.

Sometimes we stumble upon STYLE.  Sometimes STYLE just happens along when we least expect it, enraptured by something else.  We just need to roll with it and remember that fortune favours the brave.

NOTE: Yes, I look a bit chubby in these pics – but how many clothes from 30 years ago can you still fit in?!

You can read about the Santa Cruz Street Creep shown here on this blog.

Clothes model’s own.

SK88: Old School Skateboard Playlist

Best years of my life? 15/16 years old, skateboarding all day and hanging around with my friends.  It was the late 1980s, and the days of the 180 Boneless, No Comply and learning to Ollie.  Back when kickflips were the raddest trick in the car park – except we called them “Ollie kickflips” back then.

This was also the time when I started to really veer off the obvious track as far as music was concerned.  Skate videos and Thrasher magazine began to open up a whole new world of music.  Sometimes these bands would enter the mainstream a couple of years later; sometimes they never did.

I remember hearing a great song on a Vision video.  I had no idea what the song was called, but worked out from the credits that it was most likely performed by the Descendents.  I recorded the song onto cassette off the TV as there was no other way to hear it.  A few months later, on a skate buying trip to Manchester, I stumbled across a record shop that stocked a few records by the band.  I had to buy one: taking a gamble on “All” as it featured a song called “Coolidge”, which fitted the lyrics of the track I loved.  I was so stoked when I got home, played the vinyl and heard the song I was hoping for!  Great album, all in all.

This practice of researching and hunting became a big feature of my relationship with music ever since.

Skating all day, then listening to music in the evening was a big part of my teenage years.  This playlist is designed to reflect those days: music I enjoyed back then and became the soundtrack to that time.

Some songs featured in skate videos (McRad, Odd Man Out).  Some were checked out after I saw them advertised or reviewed in Thrasher (The Cult, Misfits).  Others were just part of the current soundscape, and are forever linked with those halcyon days.

Here’s the playlist I made, split into a two CD format:

Part 1

  1. McRad – “Weakness”
  2. Odd Man Out – “Four Thirty One”
  3. Descendents – “Coolidge”
  4. Sex Pistols – “Holidays in the Sun”
  5. Devo – “That’s Good”
  6. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”
  7. Motorhead – “Killed by Death”
  8. Faith No More – “We Care a Lot”
  9. Misfits – “Astro Zombies”
  10. Hard-Ons – “Don’t Wanna See You Cry”
  11. The Stupids – “Skid Row”
  12. Beastie Boys – “She’s On It”
  13. Circle Jerks – “Wild in the Streets”
  14. Spermbirds – “Something to Prove”
  15. Dead Kennedys – “California Uber Alles”
  16. Suicidal Tendencies – “Possessed to Skate”
  17. Generation X – “One Hundred Punks”

Part 2

  1. The Cult – “Wildflower”
  2. The Damned – “Love Song”
  3. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Higher Ground”
  4. Fishbone – “Freddie’s Dead”
  5. Iggy Pop – “Cold Metal”
  6. GBH – “Too Much”
  7. Mudhoney – “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More”
  8. Ramones – “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do”
  9. The Stranglers – “Peaches”
  10. Bad Brains – “Soul Craft”
  11. Gang Green – “Church of Fun”
  12. Metallica – “The Thing That Should Not Be”
  13. Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Purple Haze”
  14. Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  15. Jesus Jones – “Never Enough”
  16. The Skids – “Into the Valley”
  17. Fugazi – “Blueprint”

Some of the above tracks I owned on vinyl or cassette back in the day; some I found in later years.  There are still plenty of other bands from skate videos that I either still haven’t tracked down, or as I didn’t own them at the time I’ve omitted for now.

Instead, this is a basic playlist to represent my late 80s skateboarding days, boiled down to the bare essentials.  I hope you enjoy and these bring back some memories.

And this sin’t an exhaustive list: how Anthrax and Run DMC didn’t get included is baffling.  Maybe I can expand with some more for a Part 2…

The Best of 2019

Happy New Year, readers!  And welcome back to Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub – the web’s number one virtual location for soaking in warm, relaxing waters and enjoying my virtual adventures.

What a year 2019 has been.  I’ve been to Comic Cons; written album reviews for Ever Metal; indulged in another traditional Halloween Horror Fest – and finally managed to get to a few gigs.  Food and drinks reviews, as well as toy and tat blogs, have also made a comeback.

But what have been the most popular and widely read blogs in the last year?  Let’s rewind the clocks and take a look, with a good ol’ countdown from ten to the number one spot…

10. Little Shop of Halloween Horror Fests

At last!  Some Halloween Horror Fest love, with my final set of reviews breaking into the Top 10.  A first for my horror movie reviews, as far as I remember.  A triple bill of The Wolf Man, Little Shop of Horrors and Lust for a Vampire.

9. New Deck 2019 – Death Skateboards Richie Jackson

All about my latest skate set-up, including sexy pictures of a very fine skateboard.

8. Ewok Village Playset

My vintage Star Wars Ewok Village playset made a welcome appearance.  I must feature some more of my collection in the future.

7. That Beer Place

Very happy to see such a cool local beer emporium prove so popular.  Well done, That Beer Place!

6. Liverpool Comic Con 2019 – Part 1

A great day out, and the blog didn’t fare too badly at all.  No sign of Part 2 in the countdown, though…

5. Death by Tacos, Chester

The number one food place in Chester makes a justified appearance in the Top 5 most popular blogs.  Awesome food and service.

4. Tat Trek Update #8: Jo Guest Strip Pen

Miracle of miracles – an item from my Tat collection rockets into the most popular blogs for the first time ever!  Perhaps the saucy nature of the Jo Guest strip pen is to blame…

3. Wales Comic Con 2019

Always a great Comic Con, with fantastic guests and most importantly – as evidenced by this blog – amazing cosplay.

2. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 1

The first part of my visit to the NEC for Comic Con made it to the number two spot.  Few words but plenty of brilliant cosplay.

And now – announcing the Most Read Blog of 2019 at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  What could it be?  Why it’s…

1. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 2

Only a couple of views more than Part 1, but Part 2 takes the crown for the most popular blog this year!

It’s great to see a variety of different topics be successful this year.  Comic conventions, food and skateboards always fare well, but I’m very happy to see Star Wars toys and a bit of tat break through for the first time.I’ll endeavour to deliver more in 2020 – who knows what we’ll see?

My thanks to all my readers over the last year – I appreciate every single view, like and comment.  I wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2020.

New Deck 2019 – Death Skateboards Richie Jackson

A few weeks back, I got a new deck and (eventually) set it up to ride.  I took some photos to commemorate the beautiful graphic and general awesomeness of the full, set up skateboard.  Here it is, for our mutual enjoyment.

Again, I opted for a Death deck – and again a Richie Jackson model.  Great company, inspirational skater.  This is an 8.25″ wide model.

According to the graphic, it’s a Richie Jackson “Collectors Shred Sled” – but this particular baby ain’t going on the wall.  Oh no, it’s for shredding, not collecting.

The deck was ordered from Native Skate Store.  The merchandise arrived with no problem at all, everything was perfect.

I also ordered a set of 53mm Death wheels from Native.  Together with a new set of ABEC 5 bearings, and my previous set of Independent trucks, I was able to piece together the work of art you see here.

It’s a great set up and I’ve really enjoyed riding it so far.  No complaints whatsoever.  The deck width is perfect for me for me these days, so I’ll stick with that for now.  The wheels are rolling well too, I’d forgotten how nice a feeling it is to ride a new set.

These photos were taken a few weeks ago, and this skateboard doesn’t look as fresh as it used to.  There are quite a few scrapes from concrete and the number of those marks is growing.  But hey, that’s the way it goes.  It’s great to skate and that’s all that matters.

Still, it’s nice to be reminded of that brand new, virgin set up in these photos.  There’s just something incredibly rad about getting – and skating – a new skateboard.  I never get tired of it.

The Death skateboards website is here.

Check out Native Skate Store here.

And don’t forget to check out Richie Jackson on social media!

Death by Tacos, Chester

It’s been a long time since I wrote a food blog.  However, I’ve dragged myself out of self imposed food critic retirement, to plug a new local eaterie that I’ve become a huge fan of.  That establishment is Death by Tacos, in Chester market.

Anyone who knows me, or has read previous blogs, will know I’m a big fan of Mexican food.  So it’s no surprise that I love DBT.

On offer is authentic Mexican fare: freshly made, soft corn tortillas filled with a choice of various fillings and mouth watering dressings.  So far I’ve tried the chicken and the chorizo, and I’m working my way through the menu.  Both dishes were fabuloso!

There are also some amazing sounding sides available, like brisket loaded tortilla chips, that I want to try.  Plus with some groovy cocktails and beers, this is Mexican food heaven.

Sitting in Death by Tacos, I was right at home: a couple of skateboards on the walls and classic tunes (Black Sabbath and Smashing Pumpkins were on the playlist on my last visit!).  Plus the staff are friendly and helpful, making the whole experience a real joy.  Oh, I got a sticker and a badge too, wahey!

Chester market has been revamped over recent months, and now features various places to eat and drink that are worth investigating.  On Friday evenings they’re open till 9pm, and there’s a real relaxed and fun vibe that I can recommend.

Death by Tacos is worth your time to experience, trust me.  Great food, cool surroundings, what more could you want?

PS: this review ain’t going on Trip Advisor, ‘cos everyone knows Trip Advisor is for FOOLS.

Death by Tacos, Chester Market, Chester CH1 2HH. 

07791 068464

https://www.facebook.com/DeathByTacos/

www.instagram.com/deathbytacos_ 

The Best of 2018

Happy New Year, everybody!  I’d like to wish all the visitors to Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub the very best of times in 2019.  And thank you for sticking with me, popping along to dip your toes in the warm water and supporting this valiant endeavour.

Last year saw tremendous ups and downs for us all.  But throughout it all, the rock’n’roll world of the Virtual Hot Tub persevered, thanks to you!

Join me now, as I take a look at the Top 10 most read blog posts from 2018:

10. Skateboard Museum: SMA Jim Thiebaud

A classic late 80’s skateboard created a warm nostalgic buzz, becoming one of the most successful posts of the year.

9. Hollywood Vampires – Gig Review

In June I went to see rock’n’roll supergroup Hollywood Vampires in Manchester – the live review proved very popular.

8. Pentre Fest 2018

Another live gig – this time for underground metal bands playing near to home – scored just slightly higher than Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp.  Go figure.

7. MCM Birmingham Comic Con – Part 2

Only published in early December 2018, the second part of my NEC Comic Con write up has performed very well.

6. Sci-Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 3

The sheer volume of pics from this years Sci Fi Weekender demanded a third post, which featured more cosplay antics to finish things off nicely.

5. The Crippens – Gig Review

Another live review, this time several bands headlined by The Crippens at the Tiv, has done really well for views – which is great to see.

4. MCM Birmingham Comic Con – Part 1

The first part of our trip to Birmingham was an unsurprising success, chock full of my mediocre photos as it was.

3. Wales Comic Con 2018

This post from early December’s Comic Con in Wrexham did really well thanks to a loyal WCC fanbase and some great cosplay.

2. Sci-Fi Weekender – Part 2

The second part of my SFW round up did very well, combining an over view of the event with loads of pics.  Of course, it was the cosplay pics people were interested in, though!

1. Sci-Fi Weekender – Part 1

However the first part of my SFW campaign review was the most read blog post at the Hot Tub for 2018 – performing amazingly.

A few surprises there – nice to see the gig reviews being well received.  However the triumph of the Comic Cons was pretty much a no-brainer!

Thanks once again to all of my readers – you make Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub the success it is.  Here’s a toast to more fun and games in 2019!

New deck – Death Skateboards Richie Jackson

Time for another new deck.  I got this Death Skateboards Richie Jackson deck a while ago, thought I’d share some pics of it for posterity.

I bought the deck from Native Skate Store, who provided a really good online service.  I requested that it was gripped (as I’m crap at gripping decks) and it arrived all done and looking pristine.  It was very affordable and delivered quickly, no pain at all.

Regular readers will already know that I’m a big fan of Death Skateboards.  I’ve had several Death decks and I’ve loved ’em all.  A very cool company with a rad, individual approach to skating and a great aesthetic – their products are tough and reliable, always up to the job.

This time around I opted for the Richie Jackson pro model.  Richie is an inspirational skater who constantly evolves and develops new ideas.  His innovative style is just ridiculously creative and constantly forging new ground.  Google him now!

The extraordinarily detailed Art Nouveau graphic is breath-takingly detailed, I probably should’ve just kept the deck to put on the wall.  I’ve skated it and the graphics are shined from rock’n’rolls on curbs.  Should’ve bought two, I guess.  Such is the transient nature of skateboard graphics…

This phenomenal art is by Liane Plant, and I think her work is incredible.  Some of the best art I’ve seen on a skateboard since the eighties classics.  I apologise whole heartedly to Liane for destroying the graphic.  It may well be a crime for a skater as bad as me to defile something so beautiful.

So anyway, the deck is 8.25″ wide and I set it up with my trusted Independent trucks and Death wheels.  So far, it’s been a blast.

Thanks to all the above, long may you roll!

The Death Skateboards website is here.  Go take a look.

Richie Jackson is all over social media, just search – you won’t regret it.  There’s some stuff on the above Death website, too.

The amazing art of Liane Plant can be seen here.  I need some T-shirts and stickers.

You can visit Native Skate Store for all your needs by clicking here.

And finally, here’s a picture of me being a total dork, trying to ape Richie Jackson’s style, rocking an old paisley shirt.  Just thought some of his psychedelic magic might rub off.  I bought that shirt back in 1990, knew it was worth keeping hold of…  And no, I didn’t really wear the shirt to skate in, I chickened out.  As great as Richie is, even I am a little old for hero worship on that level…!

Two Bare Feet Longboard

OK, so I admit: I don’t really need another longboard.  I already have Sector 9 and Mindless longboards.  But I found this Two Bare Feet set up for a crazy price and I couldn’t resist.

I first came across the brand in a surf shop in Rhosneigr, Anglesey.  They looked pretty cool and I looked them up online.  In particluar, I was interested to try out this type of shape, with the drop through trucks too.

This is a 42″ 821 complete longboard, and it’s ridiculously cheap to buy from the Two Bare Feet online store.  In fact, the low price made me cautious and it was a while before I clicked “purchase”.

I had to wait to get some spare cash together anyway, and in the end I figured the risk was minimal.

Glad I decided to buy: for a budget board, I’ve been very impressed so far.

As I stated, I really wanted to try out this “twin tip” shape deck and it’s turned out to be a lot of fun.  Although I had been curious about learning tricks on this shape deck, so far I’m not convinced that’s a good move (though that’s my problem, nothing to do with the board).  It has been good fun for cruising around on though.

I’ve never skated drop through trucks before, and I like the lower ride they provide.  I found these trucks a bit unresponsive at first however; this problem seems to be improving as they wear in a little.

The board comes with great, big, fat wheels that are nice and soft; they roll very comfortably with the ABEC 5 bearings supplied.

Graphics wise, it’s simple and clean with a slight retro 70’s style that I like a lot.  You can select different graphics and colours (including wheel colours) on the online shop.

The board arrived fully gripped (nice job).  Unfortunately the only major downer was that it was shrink wrapped, which takes ages to remove satisfactorily if you’re obsessive like me.  Still, the whole delivery and transaction was totally painless.  Well done, Two Bare Feet.

This has proven a great addition to my longboard collection, we’ll see how it performs longevity wise.  For now, I would say that this is an ideal skateboard for a more experienced rider to own as a back-up or for a different riding experience.  The real beauty of the 821 complete though, is as a budget price entry level board for a beginner who fancies trying out longboard riding.

Technical Specifications:

  • Length: 42″
  • Width: 9.5″
  • Canadian maple deck
  • 70mm x 51mm wheels
  • ABEC 5 bearings
  • Supplied set up and complete

Two Bare Feet are a British company offering lots of different board riding equipment.  You can visit their website here.