Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An ancient experiment

The other day I discovered the secret meaning (or maybe a secret meaning) of "2001 A Space Odyssey",  probably the most perplexing and strangest of all modern (?) films, not sure about modern, it's nearly fifty years old. But now I have the knowledge, now I am initiated, I am one of the chosen, a Star Child grown up and able to understand the vast mystery of it all, I can see what it was (is) all about. As ever it's all about the meaning of the Sentinel, the large black object that appears at key moments in the film (and at other moments largely unseen but suggested, there  in the distance). The great Internet gods sent some of their wayward sons to me via YouTube and they shared their holy wisdom. It may have been infected by a passing virus, you can never tell. Should I share it with you? Probably not, well not it all, it's not that I'm awkward, it's just that somethings are best left to your own interpretation or even imagination if you're lucky enough to have practiced the art. 

As you might imagine the key to the movie (and it was a movie first, never really a book, the book was written in parallel with the movie's making but Arthur C Clarke was handed a different brief by Kubrick than that to which he scripted the film, so they don't actually match) is the monolith or as it's come to be known, the Sentinel. For years I thought that the Sentinel was no more that a metaphorical punctuation mark, a reference point in man's evolution and development. A bold, black marker showing the way etc. Well I suppose it still is but really it's not all that Kubrick intended to say.  So there's a lot going on in this film and there area loads of deliberate mistakes in continuity and lighting and there are numerous references to his various films and (strangely) footage from his previous films appears here and there. So what is the Sentinel and what does it really mean? It's a cinema screen, it's a 1970s CinemaScope screen to be precise, the same size as the screen the movie was shot to fit. It hides and appears and turns through 180 degrees on and off throughout the film.  But what movie is it really showing? So 2001 is all, not some cinematic propaganda for NASA or the partial explanation of an ancient experiment that is still running, surely not.

P.S. Just as I was calming down on the whole 2001 thing, supping coffee, walking away whistling and watching the weather etc. I opened up today's Dangerous Minds and found a whole piece on a Marvel Jack Kirby strip from 1971 that I'd never seen before (by '71 I had sadly passed by mainstream comic art) and apart from possibly missing the point it takes everything out into a completely new direction (there are not enough pages here to make it at all comprehensible but just the amount of apparent dialogue set in each page and the very fact that it's converted to comic strip's peculiar visual language tells you that it's a long way away from Kubrick's concept and vision where you're really supposed to either make your own mind up or just remain stunned as you walk away from the theatre and resume your shattered life) . It's a whole separate strand but there's no doubt that Jack Kirby could knock it out of the park any time he liked, fabulous artwork, of course the exact same could be said for Stanley Kubrick.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Something else matters

Just reaching that point in Knausgaard's latest tome where he kind of skips the usual, everyday detail and summaries larger periods of time, like a song coda, and hurries you along to the end. I wonder if I'm picking over the skeleton of some other book yet to be fleshed out and one day all the details, coffee grinding, rainstorms and pub encounters will be revealed. That's how looking back on life is, huge chunks of lifetime events jostle for position in the mind as if in some memory driven Grand Prix. 

You never know what trivial matter will come speeding out and overtake something profound and important, or that's the point, everything is equally important just because it actually happened. However short or long or deep or shallow, that death, that sandwich, that job interview, that encounter, that daydream, that one too many, that holiday, that moment before fully waking up, that TV show, that song, that book, that best friend, that stranger, those people at the bus stop, the vegetables you bought, the weather last week, the ragged fingernail, the illness and the fitness, this family, this love, all mean something. You can never really sift it all and sort it out, the vital from the travelogue because it's all you, all your experience, all your ghostly photos, imprinted and impaired but real enough for it all to matter.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The end of reality

These days I find myself locked up in writing ear-worms, a situation that I didn't previously imagine would be one I'd define myself with. I'm not obsessed or anything but I'm finding it important, an internal nag of a situation. It's something I want to pursue, understand and infect myself and others with. Then at some point make money from my ear-worm farm. Like those plastic ant and worm farms advertised on faded grainy print in old American comics. They looked both dirty and wonderful and no one considered the possibly serious consequences of farming ants in your Scottish bedroom. 

I'm not sure either why ear-worm pursuit would make me think of Third by Soft Machine. There are no hooks or pretty tunes here. Back in 1971 it was regarded as cool and sophisticated to listen to them, for me it was struggle. It was bleak. I didn't really get it, no ear-worms (though the term had not been coined) just a kind of smart noodling (though that term hadn't been coined). It was a time when few if any of today's recognizable terms had been coined. Soft Machine were not groovy either, nothing was because it was a manufactured term that belonged to the establishment. I first saw them on some BBC2 film where they were playing at the Albert Hall. During their set up I saw one of their hairy, groaning roadies wearing a T shirt stating "stamp out reality", it was a pivotal moment. I wanted that T shirt, I also wanted to stamp out reality because that somehow meant something. Eventually I bought their LPs.

I told my art teacher Miss Wishart about it all, she just smiled and returned to the back room for a fag and a Nescafe fix. Now I was at sea, I didn't like Soft Machine with their thick glasses, fringes and intellectual personas, also no catchy tunes or ear-worms. No songs. They were if anything too progressive for my tastes. I understood why Kevin Ayers had fucked off and why now they were featured on BBC2 in black and white (only in my house). They were in the Sunday Times colour supplement bracket, they had been absorbed. Little if any reality would be stamped out here, they'd just play on, long jazzy improvisations and eventually the audience would become one of (smarter, well dressed) elite students and middle class, chattering seekers of aural wallpaper. Too progressive for a reactionary like me, but I could never admit to that. I didn't much like wind instruments either at this point or Jazz festivals, white shirts and cigarette smoke and arty poems typed up on type-writers. 

The question became: would I like their music if it was played by a power trio, all guitars, fuzz, feedback and wah wah? I probably would so I was prejudiced against what I saw as archaic instrumentation and jazzy snobbery.  I was a hypocrite and not confident enough to be clear about what I didn't like to my friends or myself. It didn't occur to me that I was perhaps being an inverted snob, it still hasn't. As for stamping out reality. Well that never happened, that is unless you count disappearing up your own arse as seriously stamping it out. Eventually I did return to this world and slowly I forgot about  Soft Machine but I still have some fractured but  lucid memories to share. This isn't one of them.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Shouting into the abyss

We're  all caught up in numbers, bank balances, age, collections, possessions, average speed, elapsed time, credit card records, relationships and the days to the day of reckoning. The audience numbers in the graphs below mean something but it remains hard to equate them to some tangible piece of ordinary life. There are big numbers working away but a lack of detail and everyday experience to make them appear sensible. Where are all these downloads going? Who is streaming and listening or ignoring? Where are the real people?  Why are we shouting into the abyss? Well, maybe better to be shouting something  than saying nothing.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Music, recorded and otherwise.

How to remember things when fiddling around with music. The sixty four refers to the project number and the fader positions are roughly where they ought to be for a reasonable sounding mix. Yes there are two duffer/blooper tracks here, that's generally the normal state of things. Four out of six isn't bad.

I had to laugh when I saw this. Actually I didn't really laugh I just kind of allowed myself a tiny smile which sort of passed across my face and was unnoticed by anybody, mainly because I was on my own sitting at a laptop screen congratulating myself on today's haircut and bird feeding exploits. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Can you dance?

At home, slaving over a lukewarm mixing desk and various brightly lit devices. It's like making gunpowder, a lot of stirring, fiddling, listening for dangerous noises, trust and accidental events and effects. It's not precise, not really planned. It belongs in a place where of course there's a level of skill but also a high degree of happy chance and surprise occurrence.  There's no clear end game, no actual direction, just a slow moving trajectory towards a decent result. In the end; is it listenable, is it interesting and of course can you dance to it?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Working on my ads

If you stumbled upon this then feel free to also stumble upon my slow moving, Etsy hosted guitar shop by clicking here, if that doesn't interest you then that's fine. You could just buy me a coffee by clicking the button up there on the right. Thanks.

Collage and squirrel

Main pic: A collage by Mr C Storrie.

So the BT man came and renewed the phone cable parts the squirrels had eaten. In fairness it could have been some other climbing, chewing rodent, or a crow or perhaps a hungry owl. We'll never know. Round here infrastructure is subject to abuse from wind, weather and woodland creatures (not to mention human fuckwits who dump their broken fridges and washing machines in fields). In fact just as the repair man brought the blue light of the router back on, an almost religiously significant moment, the postman delivered the squirrel-proof bird feeder (now £3.95 cheaper on eBay but only while stocks last). The feeder isn't too impressive. It's a stainless steel dildo in a spring loaded sheath. As the squirrel climbs down to pinch the food, it's own weight closes the sheath on the feeding holes denying access. In theory it should work, in reality it looks a bit cheap (?) and flimsy. Extensive tests are planned. Here's a simple illustration.

Yesterday was Pi Day (3.14) but I was too busy goofing around here and on Twitter to do maths or make an actual Pi pie. Next year maybe.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Nice grand tour poster

Here's a nice NASA inspired, retro, post modern, Art Deco, Sci-fi, low-fi, deconstructed, recycled, post industrial, pop art, Disney style, full colour graphic design that's celebrating the possibility of a nice day out at various places in the known universe. The full tour is unlikely to be available in my lifetime, along with many other things, 'experience the charm of gravity assists". The poster and the dream are both available however.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Cup holder trials

First proper use of a factory dashboard mounted cup holder. Found to be stiff in places and somewhat reluctant to emerge from the dash but once out it holds the cup firmly. This full cup of Stephen's with coffee (no sugar) survived various potholes, speed bumps, two roundabouts and my usual erratic style of driving. Eventually I stopped and drank the coffee and ate a donut - but no donut holder was available, just a bag. Please note that I would not drive and slurp coffee, that would be as bad as using a mobile phone and we all know the problems with that. Whilst out I also saw these diggers at work, pecking at the soil, all looking very well organized or even orchestrated.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The truth in black and white

This guitar design comes from the sixties, a time when everything (even space travel and mainstream movies) was black and white, apart from drug related experiences. The real one is however in colour (see it on Etsy soon) as is most of reality fifty years or so on. Whilst it's proved a pain to put together, mostly due to my own ineptitude and to some extent doing things in the wrong order it has focused me on a KPI that I wasn't perhaps fully focused on. Action and string height. I'm now setting my aim lower, 1.5 to 1.6 mm to be precise. Thankfully most of my guitars make the cut but there are a couple just north of this figure. Rework, aka non profitable extra time, is required.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Dreaded blue gloves

Back in the day I'd worry that somehow I'd manage to do something criminal and end up in the slammer on porridge (which incidentally I quite like but maybe the prison fare is less than perfect). My main fear however, apart from slopping out and social contact was the prospect of dropping the soap in the shower. That potential scenario and it's consequences terrified me. So as it happens, modern medical science has recently allowed me to at least deal with and almost overcome that particular fear. Yes, there's nothing quite like having a series of regular prostate examinations once you're in your early sixties. Being rooted around with lubricated mobile devices, butt cameras and ultrasound sensors not to mention the dreaded jellied blue gloved finger can now be struck off my bucket list of bad experiences, those that I never want to repeat. 

Yes that's the special list of awkward things you want to avoid at all costs, like throwing up on a bus, losing your wallet, scraping an expensive car, being publicly bawled out by somebody from your past, nearly drowning in a water park and various things involving animals, women, toilets and buckets of tar, etc etc. So whilst I'm not looking at any likely jail term at the moment (I'm pretty much free of any possible misdemeanors that might take me there), at least one particular  fear has diminished just a little. Thank you life. 

Sun sets on ignorance

This is a test message: So we're back out of the black hole of internet failure, reconnected to the vibrant echo chamber and serial self abuse that is our life blood, hurrah! Also available are iPlayer and YouTube so we don't need books anymore, just coffee and biscuits.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Unintended consequences

Unfortunately whilst feeding the smaller garden birds, blue tits, sparrows, finches etc. I've taken on the role of the great benefactor for both pheasants and squirrels. At the last count five squirrels and ten pheasants to be precise. They see me coming. They wait for me and my overflowing buckets of bird seed. They follow me around the garden and ceremoniously shit all over the place. It started when I threw a few seeds their way, casually. Little did I realise that I was starting up an avian and rodent training camp in which they mirrored my every move, learned to tell time and how to stalk humans. It's my own fault of course but the good side is that I am their leader. All this power is intoxicating, who knows where it may take me as the seasons change and the animals increase in size and appetite?

I quite like the composition in this one. Anyway until BT fix our local telephone pole these messages will come, on an occasional basis from a cafe in a nearby town coloured yellow (cafe not town).

Sunday, March 05, 2017


Today has turned out to be a glowing kind of peaceful spring day, a day when the sun seems to seep into everything and just spreads a little light magic here, there and all the way down into the winter shadow lands. The birds and animals are suddenly more active, bulbs are sprouting, dogs puff, people are sitting outside pubs on wooden chairs supping craft ale, walking along the beach, strolling along seafronts slowly because all of a sudden the weather poses no obvious threat. This looks like some kind of normal, something we could all get used to, something lasting; Sunday afternoon. Strangely the weather appears to have fixed the ropey internet connection that blights our business and social lives or has it? 

As it's still working here's tonight's golden sunset as seen from the shores of the river Forth.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Then the coconut hit the roof

More work in more progress.
IT Matters(?): Well the internet connection here is pretty much goosed, every ten minutes in an hour it makes the hop and crackles back, the rest of the time it sinks into some abyss. Never mind, BT are running tests and after a number of contradictory messages have decided that our fault is not indeed local but covers a wide area so it's a big fault. That bombshell took a week to reveal itself, I wonder if they check calls against postcodes in order to identify fault hot spots that just might be big faults. If they do they are pretty slow in reacting but then they've given themselves until midnight Saturday to sort out everybody in Central Scotland's wifi it seems. Easy KPI to hit I'd say. If it's not sorted by then all we need to do is send a text message, presumably to wake up the night shift in Dublin (on a Saturday night?). In the mean time life goes on.

In the garden a small war broke out over a tasty coconut snack I'd devised for the birds, mostly seeds and fat stuffed into a dead coconut's body. Innocently  I hung it out for some birdie breakfasts and went about my usual business only to be shocked back to life as a flying coconut shell crashed into the glass conservatory roof shattering into many tiny coconut pieces and splattering fatty seeds across the roof. Seems that the crows and magpies had a bit of a dispute going on, coconut ownership I'd say. One stole the coconut and flew away with it only for the string to break and crash, bang, wallop, the meal ended too soon. The wee birds scored however, they tidied up the mess while big boys flew away in a huff. Tough.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Oh, Dundee

The strangely dirty, narrow splendour of Dundee intrigues me. Lanes and closes and alleys and ironmongery. Desperate Dan and the Broons never did walk this way but the pens and paper that gifted them a kind of life did, now they are immortal. Scribes and visionaries rolling out of some pub and jumping a tram or cuddling a fish supper set in real vinegar soaked newspaper. Far and away Dundee has a lot of sunny open spaces and telescopes beyond the cooncil mansions and the graffiti schemes; meanwhile the dark side hides out, what's left of it that is. 

Many a new broom is sweeping this curious little city a modernistic kind of clean with the Victoria and Albert, station projects and ongoing waterfront developments sprucing up the remains of the old dead docks. Whaling and Polar exploration memorials. Still here and there the old stones prevail, the alleys and tenements and the great halls and churches, built for the rusting and rotten empires of jute and jam and journalism, two of which still survive in diluted forms elsewhere. A city centre with no clear middle and mostly bypassed by ring roads, fast food and the big sheds of consumer consumption. 

We stopped for coffee and a sandwich, the Empire State Cafe, about ?as American as me really. Chromed, jumped up and trying hard. Cakes and pizza and hand cut (?) sandwiches. The food travels in an elevator, that seemed like the only NYC connection, that and sitting up on a mezzanine looking down at busy Dundonians picking up their donuts, dreaming city space sized dreams in a pocket sized Scotland. The Polish waitress smiled, there's a future here, same as everywhere but mobile and the shape is as yet unformed and unclear.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Night sky

Here's a very bright Venus and a very thin moon showboating in the sky on the last night of February. At first sight Venus looked more like some hovering UFO, sensing and spying on our dull activities as we plod here and there for no obvious reason. Then it became clear that it was just another planet demonstrating how much light it could reflect in our evening sky before falling away somewhere in the west. As for the moon, it's seems to be hiding, possibly hoping to avoid the influx of Space-Ex tourists planned for 2018.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Larger than original

The contrast setting is the greatest tool, it throws the shadows into the forefront, pulls the black into the limelight, squeezes the grey into a great dark void, traps light and sucks the very life from it, sharpens lines and boundaries, redefines edges and lines, cloaks and masks and pulls what was once of no significance onto centre stage, kicking and screaming. There.