Friday, March 31, 2017
Failure to have an epiphany: It seems I've managed to avoid any experience of clear, bright guiding light, probably for a number of months. One of those moments when, out of the blue or the golden glow, clarity of thought and a new understanding emerge. I thought I'd maybe hit one a few moments ago when I was trying to reduce the pixels size of a photograph, indeed I did do it but on reflection there was no great buzz of achievement nor satisfaction, I'd just followed some simple instructions. It was the same yesterday as I toasted cheese and anchovies for lunch, for a brief moment I thought I understood the complexity of the selector knob that operates the grill, it was a sham experience it turns out. Also when my phone touch screen froze and I was unable to operate it, I switched it off and on, sure enough it worked but I felt empty and cheated. There has to be more. But then what about the NHS? They've offered me a plumbing repair operation on May 4th (Star Wars Day!), surely this is an omen, a word from the Jedi Lords, a touch of divine mercy and comfort in troubled times, I'm going to be fine ... or just an accident of the calendar. So what about resetting all the clocks for British Summer, including the hard to fathom central heating system and the cooker. Nah! All it seems to be is emptiness and chasing the wind, to quote my one time mentor, the depressed and confused writer known as King Solomon.
Some feelings are just way too abstract, way too tantalizingly special, they come along but then they let you down with a thump. That moment when you know you meant to look up something on Wikipedia but can't remember what and then it never actually dawns on you. That decision you make to cancel fucking overpriced Sky subscription but only once Game of Thrones finally concludes, so it goes on. That YouTube clip you fancied watching that now you just can't find anywhere. The chord sequence you discovered that's good but the timing isn't right and it won't fit anywhere else and you write it down on a yellow sticky and lose it. That funny retort you had but failed to post on Facebook because it just might be misconstrued or might be the post that actually kills the whole stream of communication, nobody actually likes it or adds a comment. Not buying the reduced price chunk of salmon in the Tesco "out of date" section and then having fishcakes for tea. Getting a perfect hold on a tuggy bit of fur on the cat but not having pair of scissors handy. Forgetting all the smart-arse things you'd like to list in a blog post but...
Thursday, March 30, 2017
What really goes on in the world's dark and soft underbelly? There beneath our low profile tyres, flat screens and coffee makers, goings on that are always a bit of a mystery for the modern kind of person. We're happily disconnected from most kinds of routine, household filth, so for Townies sewage goes via some tortuous, invisible route or other, through pipes and channels built by the Romans and Victorians until it hits an industrial plant that converts into it nice, sweet smelling waste paste that we pass onto Norway in used potato sacks.
Those of us living way off the beaten track however only have a) the septic tank or b) some Commando based woodland solution to rely upon. So when it comes to septic tanks, those with no outlet, they must be emptied from time to time, or a sanitation disaster is likely to occur on a grand scale. A man with wellingtons, gloves, a big tanker and a long hose is therefore required.
Our tank was emptied yesterday, probably just in the nick of time as the photo above shows, though you could describe our actions as being an example of careful, timely planning correctly executed. Actually it's likely that the bacteria in the tank, a vital component in the process, was really working well, had it not been we'd have had to chuck in a dead rabbit or some other piece of roadkill just to kick start the dead system via resurrection. It proves the need for little, useful bugs in things, don't ever be too clean, just be ready to light the blue/brown touch paper and stand well back.
So what's it like to peer into your recent past via the domestic and personal time capsule that is a septic tank? Not as bad as you'd think, strangely it wasn't particularly smelly though the contents were obviously pure shit as was the consistency. The colour speaks for itself (?) becoming darker, more granular and muddier as the tank emptied. Thankfully no dead bodies, dinosaurs or alien space craft were uncovered this time. As an operator once said to me, "after a while you just see it as mince and tatties", fair enough, I've been to a few pop festivals myself. So now it's all hoovered up, removed, pumped into a road tanker and no doubt on it's way to...Norway I suppose.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
...have a new album out, something about a hippopotamus thereby joining the long line of rock albums named after animals, none of which I can recall right now...err except Animals by Pink Floyd?
Apart from some lengthy conversations most of today (which is by now yesterday) was made up of research into engine warning lights, lambda sensors, the prices of them, refitting them and then resetting the ECU of a car. All a bit tedious and ultimately leading back to the inevitable practical solution being that maybe my local garage were best placed to carry out a fix. So that was the research done, thankfully (having done research via YouTube) I also now know the correct way to peel a banana and make it taste better, ten dreadful secrets about the Vatican City, ten movie endings that are deliberately confusing, which Australian built SUV I should best avoid, how to correctly apply moisturiser to the skin, what John Lydon said to Piers Morgan recently on some couch, why Richie Blackmore and Ian Gillian split up Deep Purple, why you should never skateboard, ski-do, ski, cycle or generally move on a steep snow covered slope near fir trees and of course the fact that there was a nuclear explosion in what is present day Pakistan some 12000 years ago. Job done.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Some days coherent, sensible behaviour seems almost impossible, even when there are important things to do and that need doing. Distractions come along, little time bandits that steal away the moments, pleasantly but suitably wastefully. Some say that's what the internet is all about, not news, gossip or discoveries, not photos of cats, music, movies or recipes, just playing around, pointlessly. I suppose I may have had some better thoughts than if I was engaged in meaningful labour but that's unlikely right now. Here's the questionable distractions from a few moments ago. In the bottom one I quite like the way I've just morphed into the middle of the picture along with everything else.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Who wouldn't get excited about finding out which ancient Greek statue you might resemble? Well a museum in Montreal has solved that for us all; simply upload and unsmiling likeness and they'll pair you with your Greek (Geek?) doppelganger forebear. I didn't fare as well as I'd have liked, I scored with an anonymous male philosopher then turned up as Aphrodite and then Ahata. I suspect there's a random aspect to this that pulls up and matches anybody with a nose, two eyes and a mouth to any statue or bust that has the same. There may be quite a few of them out there in the museum archives. Secretly I am of course chuffed, there's something of a ego boost that I'm taking from my obvious resemblance to a Greek goddess?
Sage/Age/Gauge/Veg Against the Machine: Reflections on the BBC6 Music festival, old (indie) folks day out as it turns out, did it live up to the hype? I've no idea, but I do like the idea:
1. Very good coverage, sound and length of set. Just what iPlayer was built for because I obviously wisnae there but enjoyed it as a radio/TV experience for a Sunday's background music. I had other stuff to do.
2. Sleaford Mods: Your drunk uncles ranting at a party. Clever and all that but it's just beats, brawn and pub banter really and I struggle to make out the (obviously meaningful, socially scathing) lyrics.
3. Ride: Hmmm, another band load of Fender Jaguars and Jazz Masters resulting in a fairly tuneless noodle fests.
4. Jesus and Mary Chain: I had hoped they'd aged a little better, turns out they haven't. Now looking like a bunch of grumpy social workers leaving Wotherspoons having enjoyed a £5 pint and burger combo. Now they're not so sure what to do with the rest of the evening, game of darts maybe or hit the slots? Not much threat or menace there then, not much of anything.
5. Sparks: Marvellous stuff from a 69 and 71 year old. Ron and Russ are a pair of troopers. Energy and weird enthusiasm as well as a pretty decent celebrity pickup band behind them. Top stuff.
6. Future Islands: One word, dross.
7. Goldfrapp: Well she can really sing and the combination of synths and bass and drums works well and comes to life with her soaring vocals. That and a real depth and variation in material all the way from the back catalogue to the new album. Her red booted caped outfit wasn't the best choice however.
8. Shins: OK: Never was into them apart from the song featured in "Garden State", that all seems like long time ago.
9. Warpaint: Another Fender love in but I quite liked them, have heard of them but haven't really heard them. Different for girls you might say.
10. Around about Grandaddy the interweb stalled to the point where it slowed down to the annoying revolving buffering symbol and a fish supper tea arrived - events not connected. The viewing pattern effectively broke. I may catch up again later in the week or at some new point in my life.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
We took the one of the cats (Missy to be precise) to the vet today for a routine check, he kindly shaved under her chin and on her tummy where her long winter coat matts and tangles. We do what we can by way of first aid trimming but you can't beat a professional, it was funny to see her quietly accepting the trim whist being held up with her from paws dangling as the electric clipper did it's work. I did ask about my eyebrows but they're not covered by any Pet Plan. Unfortunately as phones are barred in the vet's consultation room I couldn't get a record of it. Here's two banana dolphins that were spotted in the Forth earlier in the week. Some say it's a sign of the end times, some say it's just a little more fake news.
A lady in the surgery was very upset, her old lady cat had a few serious health issues. She'd not been a cat or pet person before but when this cat arrived in her life in 2004 everything changed. Now she's facing the prospect of the cat not making it through treatment or how much actual care is appropriate and affordable for an older cat. Tough call. I saw her leaving the surgery later without the cat and clearly upset. Oh dear. Maybe it was just an overnighter or an X-ray. Pet people can really suffer sometimes.
Is it OK for the lady receptionist at the vets to proudly show off her massive tiger tattoos on her arms? Answers on a postcard please.
As it turned out the afternoon was warm and calm, so I did a little outdoors painting, nothing artistic, just touching up garden furniture and spray painting a small set of bathroom steps. All done outdoors and surprisingly without any mishaps, spillages or over spray. I then trudged through the woods, hunting and killing the parasitical ivy that is hell bent on strangling our trees; that is snipping it back near the tree roots so it can't climb the trunk and kill the tree by going for the throat. This really happens!
Then I made chilli, we ate some but there was way too much so the beef mince I removed from the freezer to free up space has been replaced by two cartons of a rice and chilli mix on the same shelf. The freezer just groans now, in some low, mechanical way. Eating chilli and the great outdoors tired me out so I retired upstairs to check the web and do other pointless things. I got stuck in David Hepworth's music blog for a while, 1971 and all that, and then got stuck some more in his Platterday pages. Browsing carelessly I let out a series of internal groans from some far away place in my neurons. Clearly nostalgia is an uncredited killer, like a slow acting drug that creeps up on your lazy systems, it smothers the old, every one of them and they expire, drooling and clicking on the next image. So here's a few faded snaps from those rose tinted and dog eared pages.
And some proof that it was a sunny day, even in our garden...
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Owning up to a lifetime of weakness on the distorted creative processes and the unwritten law of thirds and of fourths:
Much of yesterday was spent putting together a couple of song demos. First a drum and rhythm guitar part as an anchor, then a vocal track, then either a bass or a second guitar and so on. Laying down the drum and rhythm track is easily the most problematical. Using a drum machine there are multiple choices for type, pattern, sound and tempo, then breaks and intros and endings have to be added. I do this using a double switch stomp box on the drum machine whilst playing and recording the guitar part accurately and in time.
My coordination in these tasks is suspect. Too many things going on and not helped by my general rule of getting it right on the fourth pass if not the third. Well that wasn't to be, I spent four hours rattling out the basic tracks for one song, recording and deleting it as the mistakes and confusion flourished. My error was that I had not fully planned out the arrangement or the song construction so I kept making stupid mistakes, falling into holes I'd dug myself. I should of course learn valuable lessons here, and I just might. Still the third/fourth rule grips me and the need to be quick, spontaneous and super creative shouts down the sensible advice from the whispers of common sense i.e. plan, take your time, practice. In the end I got there but it was painful and wasteful. Learn up or die.
Friday, March 24, 2017
Some people bow before statues, some before piles of money, some to royalty, some to jackbooted authority, some to the barrel of a gun, some to a bag of rice, some to a holy book written by idiots, some bow before an image of themselves, some bow to their own ideas and dreams, some bow to their torturer, some to an evil temptress or a cruel master, some to ideas and the hope that things will change, some bow to the faint spirits and demons that their own imagination has created, some to animal gods and wooden totems, many to potions, drugs and phoney stimulants, some before the great vacuum of the unknown space above their hanging heads. Once you bow to anything your are forever it's slave and you can be sure it doesn't care a single fig, a tinkers 'cuss or anything else for you. Unless you ...
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Sampling another kind of BBC down at this cafe on the waterfront near Crammond on the fringes of Edinburgh's battered road network yesterday afternoon. Cold and blustery but defiant of the west winds and freezing gales slapping the faces of the Lothian coast. It aspires to be in St Tropez or Hawaii with a load of jokey, plastic beach themed tat and basket chairs but that's OK, and at this time of year only the faithful multiple dog walkers and intrepid cyclists make it here anyway. Everyone else is sensibly tucked up in the far away city missing the delights of it's slightly ramshackle fare, Buddha themed artworks, coded unisex toilets and decent if slightly expensive coffee.
Is it me or are the cups containing simple flat whites getting smaller by the day? Anyway the hot dog, slightly shorter than the brioche bun it was bedded into was good and the minestrone soup looked colourfully tasty and the staff were smiley/friendly happy at waking up today and then serving up snacks in a cafe. For some reason the hot dog, when it appeared came from somewhere outside but that didn't affect the flavour. Apparently it's very busy at weekends and on those odd days when the sun actually comes out. I will return but I'll choose the timing of my next visit carefully to avoid the crowds. A eclectic 8 out of 10.
I lifted the photo above from a BBC doc about UK country stars "The Shires". They are the hottest act on the short circuit that is C&W, at least until the next one comes along. They don't sing about cold beer or pickup trucks or wrangling cattle or the great plagues of tumbleweed, no need for that in the Home Counties. Now they've gone to Nashville or Cashville because the big time is calling aka the Big Machine, an outfit that maps and guides the lives and careers of all the big-time players. It was both sad and wonderful to see their wide-eyed progress. Their manager overwhelmed by the experience, we're a long way from Camden and Kansas now. Songwriting sessions led by the firm's experts, vocal critiques, dress and image counselling and a (no doubt a behind closed doors) session on how to handle fame, wealth and never returning to your old life. Oh, and an even more secretive one where you go to some lonely crossroads out in Mississippi at midnight, sign your name in blood and you know the rest.
Of course if I was in either one of their positions I'd be the same, google eyed and reelin', riding that gravy train and letting them tamper with my precious songs, hell yeah! Somebody said early on in this "you only get one shot so you don't want screw it up." I hope they don't, they're a likeable couple and though the music is corny, it's well written and warmly performed and they look the part. They have the tunes and the glossy, quirky image that fits. Right now they are bankable, pretty and alluring, competent and in the right place at the right time with a strong batch of songs ("some of which we'll have to remix for the American market"). You know that you need to be careful what you sign up for but you're going sign it anyway. I would.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
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 symbol of evolution), 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 apart from punctuation? 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 about...no, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Sunday, March 12, 2017
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
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.