Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Brian Wilson would be proud

Shoes in no particular order on a rock on a beach.
Cows v a tank, not as simple a situation as you might think.

Lay around recovering from the weekend last night eating fish pie and watching " Michael Clayton", not a relaxing film at all but worth the watch. So tensed up and tired it was an almost early night until the heavens opened at 6am and the rain battering on the roof overcame my natural desire to sleep.

I sat down at the PC thinking I had a lot to say but in a moment all my valued and random thoughts escaped like butterflies from a jar so alas I have little to write (as usual) unless some moment of clear thinking and illumination occurs.

Today at work was less than straight forward and I wondered where on earth July 2008 had gone and if we'd ever see it's like again. I thought about aeroplanes and the pavements of New York, taxi cabs and handing over foreign money and being unsure of the change to come. I pictured more rain and then hot, sunny periods and the light reflecting on the pages of a book I had read in part and had now become bored with. Then I realised that all around was a fog and that the traffic's lights were on, though some drivers refused to bend to the pressure of their peers and stayed switched off.

I chose not to listen to music but to drift away and avoid contact with anything apart from things I could eat and drink and so it was Tuesday all along, as I suspected. It was then that I remembered about Brian Wilson's sandpit and began to think if such an artistic device could ever help the likes of me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A tiger in your tank

Nice weekend spent in overlooked and under populated Galloway, just outside Scotland. Superb weather, empty beaches and huge ex-army tanks and related heavy metal toys to play with. My photos are not quite here yet thanks to my terminal laziness and not eating properly today, tomorrow all will be normal again and the fog will lift.

Average speed, speed cameras are not my favourite thing. The drive down to Galloway was somewhat thwarted by these inhuman beasts which deserve only two fates: 1) Flattened by a tank (as per above) or b) Run down by Jeremy Clarkson in a souped up Mini.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Man of constant sorrow - the chords if you will.
The Soggy Bottom Boys share a mike but not this time.
Percy Plant and Ali Kraus and a small guitar.

The music we make is not necessarily the music we'd want to make. It's what comes out as the result of an informal and illogical process that we can't quite define. The connections that are made are somehow greater than the sum of the parts and the end result is always a surprise, sometimes a disappointment and seldom what we intended. It can be strange and strangely beautiful, we are on the cusp of opportunity thanks to the development of sympathetic and affordable technology and wah wah pedals. I like these happy accidents.

Perhaps I now believe in God, but then like Annie Hall I also think that there are little people inside the radio making it work.

I have an ambivalent relationship with music, much of the time it bores me, then I need to listen to Abba or King Crimson or Miles Davis or Johnny Cash and I can't really tell why. Like the need for a food or a drink my tastes change as I veer from needing the familiar and seeking out the unfamiliar and unexpected. At other times it simply passes the time and covers the drone of the tyres on the motorway, it's more than love/hate or love/tolerate, it is unrequited and unreasonable and odd. Music styles and forms are not my special lovers and I enjoy being unfaithful with other foreign forms for no particular reason. The discovery of the quick chill on the soul of a glass of rose wine has had no effect on this situation either as the notes run across the gap between the headphones, the one that I fill so well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A rare outpouring of energy

Came home from work and once I'd removed a mouse's tummy (the bit cat's never eat as it is sacred to them) from the carpet I set out on a car wash mission. This involves hoses and buckets and getting myself, the car and the outside of everything that is outside wet. I also got sweaty and hungry but purged a serious lump of guilt that was eating at me for not having cleaned the car for a couple of months. So involved did I become in this exercise that when Ali came home I washed her car also. Now I am tired, outside is muddy but I am at peace with a small part of the world.

Next a quick practice of a musical nature, the ironing time (spent watching the end of "Logans Run" on TCM) and a few twiddles on the mixing and mucking up desk.

Drink of the day - pink lemonade.
T shirt of the day - Top Gun.
Song of the day - Ah Ah Song.
Overtaking manoeuvre of the day - none to speak of but came close.
Yogurt of the day - Muller Light, strawberry.
Website of the day - Wikipedia "Francis Farmer".
Dustbin of the day - grey and empty at last.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chews day

Peace has broken out after a busy weekend and the laundry is piled high as domestic bliss falls like a silent curtain and the week creeps away into next weekend. I'm mostly eating sausage rolls, brown sauce and large slabs of Tiramasu that choke blood vessels and conscience in a not completely unpleasant way, the antidote I guess would be red wine and relaxing background music. The relentless throb of a distant tumble drier to left and a creaking washing machine to the right serve to remind that indeed it is Tuesday and that we have standards to keep.

No exciting news today either, this is due to me avoiding watching TV and not listening to the radio, I find time crawls along nicely without the random audio punctuations and smug and polished presenters asking opinions and then passing them out as actual news.

I also have that feeling of needing to do something more than the little that I am currently doing. Perhaps I should feed wild birds, hoover the car or iron the bright parade of shirts that hang in the airing cupboard. The other thing I could do is get out a guitar and switch on something electrical.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I am the chef

Following on from yesterday's near death experience only avoided thanks to a working parachute a small celebration was called for. Thankfully the weather held and we had a bbq/berry picking Sunday afternoon. I was on decent bbq form for a change and little if any food was burned and as I was driving later I remained none the worse for the demon drink. Could this be the secret of how to cook? Meanwhile Ali produced a storm of salads and crackers and deserts that seemed never ending and then led the assault on the berry bushes.

Various random children, grandchildren, friends and free loaders also took the opportunity to pick blackberries from our acres of untended garden. They picked berrys in shifts for about three hours and hardly made a dent on the huge crop. Next year we're calling in the boys from Ribena to carry out a harvest after which we will retire to the South of France laden with blue-stained wads of cash.

Food of the day - bbq chicken breast, slightly warmed in the oven first.
Guitar of the day - my renovated dobro fixed by "Fingers" Farrel.
Drink of the day - pink lemonade.
TV prog of the day - a dull episode of Top Gear (the only thing I saw).
Conversation of the day - Skipe call to Emma in Oz.
T Shirt of the day - Sponge Bob.
Vibration of the day - the old petrol lawnmower.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


A wet Saturday spent for the most part near Anstruther watching my daughter and her husband doing a parachute jump. How easy to handle or stressful can it be seeing your child (grown up) jumping from a ramshackle aircraft at 10000ft? It was however a fun day and the sun eventually shone on all the participants and I did have a nice bacon and egg roll and some plum pie ice cream.

Mistake of the day - driving on the runway.
Phrase of the day - "get over it!"
Drink of the day - coffee at the airstrip.
Drive of the day - Aberdeen to Anstruther in the rain.
Weather of the day - sunny eventually.
Sleep of the day - about three hours.
Film of the day - "Thank you for smoking", best film I've seen in ages.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Annoying sun

A fine example of the sun wearing sun glasses in that peculiar and senseless way it does.

Sign of the times

Everyday (well most days) I drive past a sign that declares "Burntisland the best day out in Scotland". Apart from any obvious comment you might make about it, what I most dislike about this sign is the little sunny face (a cartoon sun) wearing sun glasses. Ask yourself, why would the sun wear sunglasses? It's like a cloud carrying an umbrella or a star looking up through a telescope. The sun should never be shown wearing glasses, it has no eyes and where exactly is the bright light coming from that it bothering it anyway.

On the creative side of things I spent most of a wet Wednesday evening mixing and remastering a couple of songs that Ali had vocalised on. The hardest part is listening over and over to various widths, compressions, effects, hard and soft tones screwing around with your tracks and then deciding on one master sound to apply. Meanwhile some thirteen miles away Lenny Cohen poured his heart out to the good folks of Edinburgh in a night many will remember till the next big night. I have to keep asking myself why am I not really bothered about him, or Tom Waits or any other iconic icon from the recent past when for so many others it's all the bees knees. Clearly my grip has been lost and I have sold out to a comfortable chair, a glowing pc screen and a cool drink.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book of splinters

Driving across Glasgow is pretty awful, it's not the place, it's the ground up traffic and the lack of a solution to unsticking this ongoing problem. Nothing moves for long periods of time and for no obvious reason, the laws of mechanics are rendered unworkable by a mass conscience made up of mechanical machines with their soft pilots, so (as a separate matter) thank you darling Alister for deferring the 2p hike for six months. We shall try to dance in the congested streets at some point to celebrate, trip on a pot hole and so begin a lengthy court case for compensation.

Lenny boy Cohen gets my vote for quote of the day: "Since then (when I was 60) I've taken a lot of Prozac and I've also also studied religion and philosophy - but cheerfulness kept breaking through."

I don't quite know what I mean by "Book of Splinters" but I like the title and feel a strange urge to incorporate it into a project at some point. These thoughts come and go like swifts on a telephone wire but that's ok, the swifts seem to know their own business and I do admire their busy little lifestyle.

Thanks to Paul for the sensible perspective on an insane world presented in the comment on the previous post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Laugh? I nearly wrote a song...

I picked up the following quote on the BBC website:

" In doing so, they come up against the guardians of traditional morality -such as the Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) group which condemns "unconstructive" relationships based on "the dominion of one person over another"."

The good people from CARE were giving their view on Max Mosley's S&M lifestyle, I couldn't quite square some aspects of this modern church view with "unconstructive" relationships based on "the dominion of one person over another". I do recall however, a long time ago watching an old, obscure B&W Russian movie on the life of Christ where a particular scene stuck with me. For some reason on the road to Golgotha the Christ character, full of pain and being taunted by the crowds mouths the words, "All power is tyranny!", in a despairing and profound manner. I sometimes think that was the clearest glimpse into the supernatural I ever experienced, but it was gone in the moment.

"Oh them that defend what they cannot see with the killer's pride, security, it blows their mind most bitterly to think that death's own honesty won't fall upon then naturally. Life sometimes must get lonely, and if I though dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine." Bob Dylan: It's alright ma.

The Channel 4 doc on the Qur'an last night didn't help, what a crap, evil and contradictory religion Islam is (if you believe C4's expose). The "old masters" came across as blinkered bigots and the "young guns" as equally deluded and passionately dangerous - the rub being that depending on what translation of the good book you believe martyrs will either get the gift of 72 virgins or a bunch of grapes when they enter paradise. Eh? What kind of bollocks is this and how can seriously clever and powerful people buy in?

On the plus side our recording career has resumed with "Air kisses", "Garden of music" and the strangely ambient "Ah Ah song" making rapid progress on the strength of a two day old curry and a few glasses of white wine. On the negative side Smudge ate a sparrow and spat the feathers out all over the house.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Raspberry Beret

Over the weekend we ate a lot of raspberries, a fruit Ali describes as "Scottish". I suppose that in a certain north of Dundee, DC Thompson and Angus glens way they most certainly are. Once these soft berries are converted to jam they are, in my opinion best avoided. We also watched the film "Atonement", not exactly a laugh a minute affair but very watchable thanks to some fine cinematography and a decent cast, the overall experience was however a little bleak.

Home recordings: Following the Confushion brothers visit I dusted down the mighty MRS-802 to see what gems I'd last recorded (about 18 months ago) and I made up a list. In doing so I had to make up titles as most of the 16 tracks I found were in the key of anonymous. Some of them were actually OK and on the second listen usable perhaps. "Air Kisses", "Pools", "Eagles" and "Sugar" may at some point see the light of day either as ambient pieces or actual songs, you can never tell what will come out of a buried treasure trove (some best left buried perhaps). I also hooked up Dr Drum for an impromptu six track (may go to eight) version of the old Blind Faith (Steve Winwood) track "Can't find my way home". It comes in at an economical 2 minutes 5 seconds and features two guitar, two drum and two vocal tracks. The drum tracks include Dr Drum's fine "John Bonham" super gong sound at least twice, it may not make the final cut. I'm now thinking about a phased guitar for track seven, this amusement never ends.

Road Tax: If ever a government was set on cutting it's own throat it's this one, not content with bolstering a financial and fuel crisis with their inaction they are now set on upsetting 9 million MPV and 2 litre saloon owners by hiking up the tax on the congested potholed and gravel parking lots that used to be known as roads. Great, the only good news being that you'll now be able to buy that Range Rover you always promised yourself for about £500. Then you can stick it in your drive and live in it while renting out your house to homeless Americans on the run from Aunt Fannie-May.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Two weeks since the party

The helium has gone home to ten thousand feet or the centre of the earth, local air traffic is curious but not disturbed and the West wind blows where it will. Two weeks ago the bonfire was lit and it seems to have rained every day since while we held the sculpture of balloons prisoner, now they are free and...in the dustbin.

Impossible confushion

Much of today was spent recording and jamming with the good old boys from Confushion, the multi-talented John Farrel and Fraser Drummond. We recorded one song, a new, lighter than air version of "rainbow" all done with relative ease and in the relaxed and professional way that these guys work. John provided some great ideas for extra guitar parts and a more upbeat Latin arrangement, Fraser just comes in as smooth as silk with a mouth harp melody that could run the length of the song comfortably and Ali was in full "right first time mode" with her two vocal tracks. I enjoyed plugging along on bits of rhythm and lead guitar and that all added to what will hopefully be a good final mix. As it's the first bit of recording we've done in ages it marked a welcome break in our silence, we need to build on this and get the bug again.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Recipe: Rain + cake

After a few weeks of my usual procrastination I am now learning a bit more about the use of ubuntu and the operation of linux on a home pc. None of it is quite as strange as I'd thought it would be and having a stable operating system to work with is proving to be a bit of a stress buster. The time spent monkeying around has taken the edge away from my search for a new laptop and has also given me the opportunity to de-clutter the numerous ancient and unnecessary files that have built up over the past few years. A bit of a house renovation job really and at last one that is giving a certain level of satisfaction that is not normally present in my computing life. Certainly I'm finding that every ubuntu based application I open is full of unexpected and useful features and they all have the familiar functionality and simplicity that MS Office has, but all for free. I was also pleased to find the open ubuntu happily deals with existing MS Office files (on this side anyway), I've yet to try to open any ubuntu files in Office.

A family of crows have turned up in the garden, awkward, young and gangly like spotty teenagers exploring a new shopping mall with skateboards under their arms. Inspired by MacArthur Park I decided to place the remaining chunk of Emma's birthday cake out in the rain and at the very top of the bird feeder as a challenge to the scrawny hoodies. By and large and despite being obviously hungry they seen to be unable to recognise two week old iced carrot cake that has been rained on for 48 hours as a food. I'm sure they'll soon learn that all food does not just look like road kill rabbits or the strewn remains of a Burger King meal scattered across a bleak car park or lay-by. The robins and finches know better and have enjoyed the feast, the squirrels are a bit puzzled and seem to lack the range of acrobatic skills to get to the prize (and I don't think I can take it as it took so long to bake it...). They remain content to destroy the top of the fence while the cats observe from a safe distance.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

4 Free, Free 4

Every day life's lessons teach us that nothing is really free. Even when you add up the costs, do the maths, compare the prices and finally think you have the solution or are coming close, up pops the snag or the catch. Buy or rent a phone, get a package, gain a free laptop or a Wii or a PlayStation, free service or insurance or warranty. None of it exists other than as a trap for the hapless consumer who, time after time believes the hype and bites at the outstretched hand greedily.

Thinking however does remain a relatively free pastime, so far successive governments have failed to curb the practice despite a variety of underhand attempts and hidden anti-thought agendas. Perhaps they know that most thoughts if actualised would not amount to much more than Japanese toy monkeys playing accordions or clashing together tin cymbals. The other messages would be a mixture of beer-glass related dreams of easy successful sex and lottery winning fantasies involving bright blue skies, non-UK climates and gleaming but useless cars.

Day dreaming is of course a higher version of thought, not so high up as meditation (a practice that may not actually exist except in some deluded minds) but still superior to plain old fantasizing. Day dreaming is a golden exploration of the mind's capacity to talk drivel but wrap it up in pastel colours and allow a set of familiar and comfortable story lines to unfold before your half closed, flickering eyelids while you lose track of time and location. A pleasant but heavy meal being slowly digested in the dreamer's innards also adds a lazy tank of fuel to the process. The drowsy, fuzzy and numb edge of the experience also provides the advantage of adding a serene stillness that borders on the spiritual but isn't: And it's all possible in a lunch break, in a lay-by or on a flight.

Tuesday things:

I've never run my engine at +4000 rpm.
Backing up "useful" files is a complete crock.
Baby crows are unlike any kind of proper baby.
In the weeks to come I must eat a mountain of cheese.
I am starting to believe that reading Wikipedia will make me clever.
I'm also worried that I'm looking up things on Wikipedia that I already know about simply to gain some kind of affirmation for myself.
Road tax the car on line, now that works really well.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

W**rd Ph*s*cs

Sometimes it's very hard to see the way things are going, particularly when you realise that impossible things aren't really impossible at all, they are just bound by today's actual perceptions rather than the unrevealed laws of physics being worked out before our eyes.

Class 1 impossibilities are technologies impossible today that do not defy the current laws of physics: teleportation and psychokinesis are examples.

Class 2 impossibilities are those at the edge of our present understanding: time travel and hyperspace transportation and the like(?).

Class 3 impossibilities are a bit further out still (but seem closer than you might think in an odd, circular way): perpetual motion and precognition (seeing into the future).

There may of course be a Class 4 series, as yet unmapped and even more scary: Cracking an egg without breaking the yolk , getting itunes to work properly, a cure for snoring and making the perfect cup of coffee. All in theory possible with today's technology but as remote as plasma engines, nano-ships and space elevators.

The weekend's most interesting and best things:

The indiscriminate use of curling tongs.

Meet the Fockers for the third time.

Main meals, with wine(s) and puddings and all relatively civilised.

Ubuntu user trials are carried out in the "IS" proving grounds.

Podgy swift fledglings perch of the roof looking cute and hungry.

Dr Who comes to an almost satisfactory conclusion despite some wild speculation on my part.

The rain beats down upon a grey Fife coast as we travel across it's wide expanses and buy bird seed, magazines and jars of curry paste.

The Felice Brothers bang a hollow drum in a lengthy introduction.

Ten shirts ironed as the Tour de France runs across North West Brittany narrowly missing our front door.

Strumming chords and whispering songs by Steve Winwood.

Speeding up and slowing down and stopping, as happens during many experiments to do with improving our understanding of physics.

Friday, July 04, 2008

What lies beneath

Pork and mango curry I'd say, with a little lime pickle, rice, onions and the correct amount of seasoning.

It bothers me that the bulk (?) of our religions were formed in the middle east, share common folklore and imagery, common characters and events and all believe themselves to correct and beyond criticism. So why did bunch of pagan, Celtic toe-rags like us Northern Europeans buy into their imported ideas and worse why do we continue to do so? Why did we fight pointless wars, burn heretics, build unpleasant and ugly churches and form ourselves into football teams and communities that fervently oppose one another with a passion, all in god's name? The answer? "We tend to believe what we're told and were easily led then and we still are now".

A cheese and ham toasty eaten in the garden. Olives.

Fresh strawberries with cream and a tiny pinch of sugar and a tiny squirt of honey.

A wasps nest hidden under the slates awaiting my cunning plan of wasp destruction.

I'm not keen on Far-Eastern religions either, perhaps I'm just not on the right wave-length.

One of these weekends it'll be T in the Park and the heavens will open.

Last week I bought ten bags of ice and have nothing to show for it.

Despite the somewhat alluring appeal of having people fawning before me and agreeing with me in a sycophantic way I still refuse to form my own religion.

Fixing a model helicopter with bathroom silica filler and it still flies.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I don't know either

Ok I don't get it either but if Dr Who is dead and must regenerate is it not possible that he may return as the Alex Kingston character from the Library or am I missing some plot twist or other obvious distraction? Everything must lead somewhere I suppose.

Four days of eating party leftovers and we are still going strong although even I am not quite so keen on the garlic filled olives now (two jars to go), the tiramisu (almost aged nicely) and the various selections of cold meats and cheeses from around the world. The French "soft" red wine still holds a fine fascination however and I'd like a little more creme fraiche please.

Tennis is boring and I'm sorry to say nothing can make me root for the dour, petulant and un-pretty Andy Murray, boy genius and son of Dunblane in Central Scotland. If he grunts enough and wins something fine but my life will not change. I love Scotland but the Scots themselves can be a pretty annoying bunch sometimes. Now if a tennis champion came from Kelty or Buckhaven or Valleyfield, I'd be amazed and supportive in a complex and contradictory way.