Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tiptoe through the snowdrops

Not everything is about doom, gloom, constant criticism and the death of civilisation, even for us. Sometimes you can exceed your Fitbit's expectations and score well, take a puppy for a long walk, see snowdrops, check out the countryside. Take some time and switch off, slowly stir fry the bowl of life, relax, withdraw, stop and stare and savour the cheesecake.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Smarter travel

The long and winding road to Aberdeen is made a bit easier when you don't have to drive it. It's even easier when it only costs you 50p in a big, comfy bus. That's part of the privileged world of the over 60 folks, those dull grey, shuffling, cheery but disgusted UKIP and Tory voters who get lots of free shit and medicine thanks to the SNP or whatever colour of talking heads runs the Scottish thingy.  Anyway as I'm part of that unfair little pensioner's world now I take my chances like the rest and hoover it up. I can stand in a line, I can flash my bus pass and I can travel for buttons. 

To be honest I don't really get it, there must be more worthwhile things that need the funding or maybe it could be balanced out across a wider range of old farts services by a series of small targeted charges. Subsidised cocaine, chocolate and coffee shops, discounted firewood and stocking up libraries, army surplus stores and community vegetable gardens. But why be nice anyway to fickle voters who might turn on you at any moment? People are not reliable. Then again you could just humanely cull all the borderline oldies like me at some convenient trigger point by taking their drugs away and replacing them with... that moment may not be so far in the future.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Almost everything that's wrong...

...with fancy food in a single picture. This is rhubarb and custard, plain fare if ever there was such a thing. No doubt it tastes nice but it's so pretentious, so sparse, overpriced and so cold looking that it almost makes me angry. The only plus points here are that at least it's been served up on a reasonably ordinary, functional kind of dish and that as a composition it kind of works...but it's ultimate fate is to be eaten by somebody who is hopefully, actually hungry. As a kind of low brow but praiseworthy alternative here's what you get when you order that Scottish classic scrambled egg on toast in a reputable Dundee greasy spoon cafe.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

With us always

Walking around in a cemetery, reading the information on the grave stones. Dates and lists, Bible verses and little rhymes, occupations listed with family details, wise words, wish words and heartfelt tributes. I pause at each marker, each slab of granite or white stone cross. Moss and weather, stains from birds and sunlight masking once clear detail and slowly crumbling away the carved inscriptions, the angels, the open books, the skulls, the wreaths and the scroll work. Some of them were great, some maybe even good, most just ordinary people with their lives now summed up with a few chisel marks and pots where flowers should be placed. Some were too poor for any memorial other than a grassy bank, a space under a tree, an unmarked resting place. And I look at the names, I read the names, carefully I speak them out loud. Nobody has said that name out loud and into the living air, maybe not for a hundred years or more, maybe never properly, certainly never with my voice, up until now. The living, they are (we are) all here for a while. The dead are with us always. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Zen and the art of motorcycle photography

Making no progress in the cosmos: Another post in another series, set in another universe that only ever makes a limited amount of sense to anyone. It's all about adventures and design and the art of taking good photographs of motorcycle engines when in a clean and sentient state. Then you turn therm into prospective album covers using the first font you come across that looks better than Arial but isn't. You can also do this with trees but then it kind of looks like it should read "making our way through the woods" etc. ...

...switching from colour to black and white, making a mess in the cosmos.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Honda v Norton

OK, so it's a motorcycle engine beauty contest with only two contenders. Which one wins? The Honda, sorry Norton.

Monday, February 13, 2017

On Golden Pond

I spent a cold, blustery afternoon watch the fishing activities out on the old piers of Limekilns. The wind was of the typical Scottish winter type that takes the face and ears off you. The fish, considering the conditions decided that it was best to remain in their own relatively safe environment and refused to play with us. I fully understand their position and can't blame them. It was all some kind of seasonal fun though, men and boys very much pitted against the elements. The elements won but we had the better roast dinner afterwards.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The cold, hard world of stats

Numbers add up, some add down (that's subtraction), some get you no traction. Lack of numbers may well force you into taking action. They are compelling, mechanised squiggles. Measures of things that may not merit measuring. Whatever the thinking, someone is out there watching, clicking and twitching in the black darkness of the unknown, but your self generated patterns give away your position.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Biology at an ordinary standard

When I saw this the other day it reminded me of my awful, doomed attempt to achieve an O Grade in Biology back in 1971, and I laughed. Four years of not bothering to pay any attention suddenly came home to roost and to my surprise I realized that were people in my class who could actually give bones and flesh and bloody organs proper technical names when not cutting up frogs. I presume these people went on to become doctors, captains of industry or senior economists in the European Parliament. I humbly but spectacularly failed and not a word was ever spoken by way of correction or retribution. This was a time in Scottish education where, if you were rubbish you were either ignored or belted. Luckily I was ignored on this occasion and so allowed myself the slow and excruciating pleasure of slipping into academic obscurity for about fifteen years or so. I wasn't so much thick as ill informed, I had failed to grasp what education was about and where it might lead. Having caught up a little via college, movies and pub quizzes I presume it's all for the best but I'm still not sure about that either.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Small print

The small print on this guitar bridge says it's Fender, even before it gets cleaned up and set back into a solid body. There's no way of knowing if it's Mexican, Chinese or Korean. I suspect it's not American as I know the guitar that it was sprung from but with globalisation and volatile markets you can never tell. Someday soon it'll sit at the heart of the oddly named (and probably odd looking) Bayou Ghost, a badly titled and lettered piece of road-worn mystery, mistakes and a small amount of money. That golden triangle of MMM returns once again to haunt and to entertain. Please form an orderly queue and check out my Etsy shop. Bayou Ghost has yet to make an appearance there however, the paint's still wet.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The power of soup

An unfortunate behavioural trend currently taking place here and there; thinking and reading less ultimately leading to doing stupid things.

Also required are great, steaming pots of home made soup, created with traditional and seasonal vegetables, nothing from south of North Berwick or north of South Shields or west of East Anglia. That's the earthy and potent stuff to provide peace of mind and backbone for the back and sustenance for the soul. Let's make Britain's unseemly bits great at cooking and eating soup again, never mind all the other stuff. Then, once we've done that, we can go our own separate and tragically conflicted ways.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Early sky, no visible owls

First two pics; skies from round about here, mostly over my head or over my shoulder, interesting streaks. Meanwhile, staring right back down some seasonally adjusted snowdrops sneak through the cold earth and shake there heads at what's around. Mostly no snow, just plain dirt.

Last night, somewhere out in the woods an owl called out "too-wit too-woo-woooo!" twice, as if participating in some children's story book. Not sure I've ever heard that before other than in a Disney film or some piece of fantasy but it does happen it seems. Perhaps it's some kind of omen or an indicator of some great natural disaster about to take place, or it's just owls having a wee chat together.

Monday, February 06, 2017


Random gunge picked up on the interweb: Haven't actually seen it in use yet and maybe never will but I do like this circular keyboard used by a Lady GaGa band member at the Superbowl. Turns out it's called Piano Arc, read more here or even here and of course it 's been around for a while but never quite crept onto my radar. I wonder what Keith Emerson, Jon Lord or the (still alive and kicking) Rick Wakeman might have made of this.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Where the magic happens

I've spent a couple of days fault finding and eventually completely rebuilding this Strat set up. Some hair may have been pulled out in the process. Finally it's working, no hissing or cracking and now sounding good installed into it's host guitar body. I've also added a treble bleed resistor on the volume pot which, unless I'm mistaken makes a bit of a difference, even somehow managing to add (and subtract) elements to the five way selector switch. I'm going with it all anyway, the lofty peak of soldering and fiddling endurance has been reached. Understanding is for the wise and not for the likes of me.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Almost based on actual facts

I can understand why some people might like being in hospital. Despite the negative Daily Mail/BBC type of hype and propaganda banded around about the NHS I find the staff and the service (?) good, that is once you get yourself in there. (Reminder, this is Scotland not everywhere and I've little actual experience of hospital managers). 

Lonely people must like the element of fussing (it actually happens, staff care), human attention, dialogue, gallows humour and camaraderie between patients and staff. I'm just out again, free and antibiotic'd up after a brief encounter with badly behaved bodily fluids. I walked out feeling listened to, respected and a bit better but still on a journey.

This was my final view, an empty bed, ready for the next lost, troubled and worried injured soul to find comfort in and use as a base for endless mobile phone texting and games playing. That's what everybody does, sitting on beds wearing muppet pyjamas, supping juice and waiting on the green coated experts deciding on their fate and then changing their minds. Outside the sun beams down on endless car parks and guerrilla smokers as we, safe and warm behind the glass reflect on what we have - temporarily. Free and functioning at the point of need, mostly, but an easy target for greedy bastards and contract lawyers to tear apart and transform (fucking Tories love that word) into some unfair and unworkable model of profit and inefficiency. 

Once in a while Britain does do some good things, things that don't deserve to be mocked, slagged off or sold to the most soulless bidder from the Middle East or god knows where. The NHS is the shining example, the last one, a cracking and bullied reminder of what those cloth capped heroes and corseted heroines fought for when socialism, welfare and emancipation actually meant something. 

I'm not quite well yet but I'm better, if I had to pay for my treatment so far the garage would be empty and my dreams set down a few notches, but then in 45 years of working I've probably paid my share for a few hospital beds and I know, and we should all realise and ponder; this is where we all end up come the day.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Celtic Conventions

(Warning: Awkward and predictable generalisations ahead) In my usual burst of late winter curiosity I sat down to watch some of Celtic Connections via the iPlayer. I'm trying hard to improve my taste and understanding and to gain greater appreciation for that broad church of Celtic sounds that are bundled together there. Of course the musicians are impressive albeit most guitars are assigned the role of silent strumming whilst the fiddles and squeeze boxes create a crashing wall of sound. Yes they can all play and they all dress and behave like reasonable people, it's very civilised for all of it's rough heritage. Rock music in reverse I suppose and goodish things will always find some natural order and an audience. 

The problem is that after a while what I call the "Donald" effect takes place where after a bit I hear Gaelic lyrics and melodies distorted into lines such as "Donald drove the Moomins out", I can't really explain it and I can't unhear it once it begins. Maybe it's the old White Heather club influence when every other song was some kind of Jacobite lament to various kings and moody, feeble chancers somewhere across the water. Very romantic and plaintive but ultimately depressing, designed to keep you in your place, longing for some conveniently distorted past life. It's nothing to do with made up Scandinavian woodland knitted sock creatures either. It makes no sense. I blame Andy Stewart and the Dixie Ingram dancers and TV that was made up of 425 lines of shades of grey, and of course my parents (these good folks below are neither parents or relatives).

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Headstock Shot

Trust me it looks better in real life. Something about the camera never telling lies (unless the light is bad or the photographer is worse). A design mix of pyrography, ink and acrylic paints finished with a clear varnish. So I had a few fun filled days putting this guitar together, they are stubborn things sometimes and generally it's the antique wiring and lining up parts that cause problems. Never the craftsman.

This isn't before and after, it's two separate projects, the Blackie finally coming together and another body getting a mixture of roasted, sanded and filled. Still a long way to go with this plywood marvel already dubbed as "Ghost Guitar". I hope it can survive.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Before the age of digits

The Dirty Dozen.
The Great Escape.
I love these old movie posters, hand done and generally a lot more exciting and dramatic than the film turned out to be, apart from these two anyway. Read and see more here, the artist is Frank McCarthy. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Not much La La left

Every year we try to catch up on popular culture and tune into whatever's hot in the awards and Oscars shortlists. We always fail miserably to a) see them all and b) fully connect, but it's almost fun making some half hearted effort to get there. Films, unlike pop music haven't veered off into another unrecognizable place. Funny that. Maybe it's still to happen. So we saw La La Land, a non-digitally filmed spectacular with dance scenes reminiscent of many a Cliff Richard movie punctuating a bitter-sweet story line. At any moment I expected Una Stubbs to prance across the screen followed by some jokey and clumsy posturing from the Shadows, stranded in Greece without their guitars.

Anyway I liked the colour and the feel, slightly grainy and full of references to some so called golden age that like all the others never really happened. The glossy friendliness and apple pie niceness of the USA seems very far away now, not much La La left. Unfortunately or as you might expect there's nothing in here that gets even close to Fred and Ginger at their best or touches Gene Kelly's almost frightening, madly grinning artistry, despite all the critics comparisons. The tunes were not so hot either, lacking the killer hooks necessary, strangely I did come away happily ear-wormed by A Flock of Seagulls "I Ran". I found Mr Gosling a bit too broody and unlikeable and surprisingly wooden but Emma Stone can move and act, she's the real deal, full of expression and very watchable. What I think hardly matters, I'm sure it'll win a few prizes come the day and the $$$s are in the bank.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Forming an orderly queue

Dissecting guitars for a kind of living is kind of fun, once you clean the dust, fag ash and crap away. Slicing them apart, removing the wiry innards to see what makes them hum or buzz or make no sound at all. To see the various deviant versions of switches and pots and layouts. Some components (Korean and Japanese) are solid and rugged and well made, Chinese variants are relatively cheap and feeble ( a last resort) but all parts are pretty much interchangeable, with a little persuasion and a file. Above is a chopped Korean Squire with and Ibanez neck and, once complete, a nice feel and tone, hopefully.  In the shop any day now.