Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Obligatory photos

Obligatory photos showing the predictable effects of some snow that happened to fall pretty much when the forecasters said it would. Hysteria levels have remained normal thankfully and stocks of bread, milk and green tea are all at a reasonable level. The birds have also been fed and are maintaining a low profile while the blizzards rage on. Cat status: puzzled.

The reality was a soulless shed

I used to imagine a world without petrol stations and phone boxes, that would be how the future would look. Whilst that's all pretty likely (along with driverless cars), a world without shops is looking possible. I saw this in a snooze-paper (they'll be gone soon too), sadly the term "soulless shed" sums up the modern shopping experience. Suddenly soulless is becoming my favorite word, it just about applies to ... well it certainly applies to zombies.

Retail experts said Toys R Us’s problems were down to a lack of investment in its stores and website. “It would be easy to blame Amazon, but the reality is that Toys R Us has been a victim of complacency,” said Natalie Berg, an analyst at NBK Retail . “As a specialist retailer, the Toys R Us experience should have been a magical one with in-store events, dedicated play areas and product demonstrations. The reality was a soulless shed.”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Listening for snow

Sit still. 

Adopt the cross legged "Cowdenbeath" Lotus position wearing only a towel. (Close any open brackets).

In one hand a pint of full fat milk, in the other a warm soldering iron. 


Turn on your ears and open up your soul to the final farewell cries of the winter spirits.

Breathe. There is a softness in this air. 

Today your mantra shall be ...

"shall be, shall be, shall be" 

And so on. Somewhere.

Check your punctuation.

The universe is still in the same place.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Time passes

So it's now 43 since Physical Graffiti came out. Now I am officially old (or a bit older). In other news here Page and Beck appearing to have fun together, who knew?

Weather warning

It looks like once again the end of the world is nigh via a snowy and beastly apocalypse and now would be a good time to take an extended holiday in the People's Papal Republic of Ireland, judging by this map. Otherwise it's case of toughing out the end of days, watching as the stocks slowly diminish and generally gnawing on lumps of wood and sandstone. We may indulge in community singing, witch burning and small scale but harmless cannibalism if we run out of rodents.  Travel has been banned as has getting up in the morning, not to mention the deadly practice of sticking your nose out of the front door. Stay safe and stay cold and don't drink any warming but (now proven to be) deadly alcohol. In a few months our shared dramatic experiences and eventual downfall will be turned into a grimly shot, "atmospheric", monochrome toned box set that will amuse the rest of the world for a few hours on Netflix.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Old Grey Wistful Test

Old, grey and gone, just like most of the participants and audience. So it's been 30 years since the last OGWT and about 40 years since I last watched it. BBC4 dug up the carcass last night in a mixed evening of bad conversation and good performances as they set about framing their version of history. Strangely it was Gary Numan who fared the best with a convincing if bizarre set, something I didn't expect to like but did. The past remains a strange place, best left in a box or a box set and displayed for only reference and not to be pored over and dissected. Most interviews fell flat too, turns out that all drunk musicians want to do is ramble on a bit about their careers and their latest low-key project, never saw that coming.

Twitter resounded with live complaints and praise, who and what was excluded, who and what was included. Where was ... ? Nobody could be happy with everything and the poor editors must've had a tough time shoveling in what they could and cutting what they did. Not enough women, punk, fusion, jazz, new wave, historic moments and genres displayed; all  excluded or overlooked they moaned via smart phones, "feckin' hippies" being the whipping boys. They're all close to correct but it was at best just a magazine style show and subject to BBC culture and journalistic taste and preferences so there's a limit. Sadly the bitter truth is that live music (rock, pop and the rest) struggles to convince on TV. You can't put artists in boxes, play big tunes through tiny speakers and get all the best camera shots in 40 minutes of rounded 21" screen action. Except for Alice Cooper maybe.

Pale Waves

There's nothing quite like a brief encounter with Alexa to remind me that I should try to listen to new music from at least this century, at least once. This thought, one upon which I mused for some time i.e. 1 cup of coffee, led to a spell of research. Actually I'd already started in some unconscious way because I was listening to Stormzy yesterday but that was due to news stories about his Brits performance. I'm not sure where the "off" switch for new a music appetite is, or how it gets switched off but it does seem to happen. The desire to seek out new stuff just goes, you wake up one day and the future and the present have become blank, all that's possible is looking back. Of course there's a danger that you could turn into some desperate to be cool old git and force things on yourself and others to prove some point. So really it has to be genuine and real. It has occurred to me that my first phase of music loving wasn't just about the music, it was a whole package, one I no longer own. Thing is I looked like those guys in the old Prog bands or Neil Young or whatever hairy, deluded versions there were stumbling around and there was a revolution on, in the air at least. 

The Pale Waves look younger than my kids, by a wide margin. Those Pale Waves folks as  it turns out are a kind of light weight Gothy, Jangle Pop lot that I randomly picked via a BBC link. They have three tunes on YouTube and millions of views/viewers. I listened to each one twice. Overall it was a reasonably good experience, they may well go places before retiring to the country to find themselves and raise families etc.  "Television Romance" is a good wee song but me saying that here just sounds patronizing. The thing is will some tune, some lyric, some melody stick and will I return to listen again? Hard to say, they just don't really look like me and that's a bit of a problem.

P.S. I do actually listen to things more up to date than just 1971 vintage. I'm prone to exaggeration. Why there's a raft of good local stuff swanning around and available in Edinburgh and it's out in the ether about now. Norman Lamont's new album for example...all set up with the Heaven Scent Band and launching soon on a laptop or phone very near to you. Pretty fine song writing and music, seems the young still have bit to learn. Get the full highbrow lowdown here. More videos and links to follow IDC.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Time Out

Back to a week of guitar fiddling, some successful (Strat rewire as above), some less so. It's how I occupy spare time and irreducible capacity. I'm taking a time out over this pussy cat Telecaster (shrinking away in shame below). Currently  on it's fourth switch and no progress in actually getting it working despite everything checking out. There are just buzzes followed by white  noise followed by silence. Well I'm checking out. Time out. Fresh air. Walk away and thinking again. Of course it was fine until I started pulling it to bits.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The fitful impositions of trial and error

There's absolutely nothing wrong with trying to be a better person, no matter how sparse or undeveloped your talents may be. Potential is a great thing (as are various other things). Realizing it is a little complicated however and fraught with obstacles, most of them self generated and imaginary. My mantra remains, "be the most reliable person at the funeral" and "avoid tedious dance moves", actually that's two but I had to get an extra one in. In simpler terms they could be summed up as "be at the funeral" and "avoid moves". This is good advice no matter what you think. A reputable counselor would charge you a lot of money for that kind of gentle direction but would recommend that you move away from social media, blog style half-existence and the random sampling of coffee shops as you wither and die. Back slapping is also on the list, particularly when indulged by  Facebook friends as you share a jump scare  /truama /laundry upset or some other kind of spilled milk situation. 

Life, despite what the song says is not a bowl of cherries, it's more complex, more like a yucky warm fruit salad or some kind of layered vegetable stew that requires thought, laboured preparation time and sticking with the recipe. Then you serve it up to cronies and sycophants who'll pretend to enjoy it anyway and when it comes to pushing the red button of action and criticism ... there's always some ego-manic less well educated and more immature than you who'll dive on it at the earliest God-given opportunity.

Imagine if you will the terrors created by large amounts of melted honey-comb making its way into our drainage systems. No I can't either but should the unthinkable happen it'll be more bad PR for the bees and arguably a few badly needed  bonus points for the wasps (who are really just bees too stupid to make honey). Evolution is the only answer, the wasps need to up their game and we need to better digest honeycomb, warm, runny and straight from the microwave. Then there will be no shortages or price hikes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Posh as feck

This is very tasty, very posh, dark chocolate spread masquerading as hazelnut spread. It's only 26% hazelnut, the rest being chocolate and sugar and stuff. Why are they so coy about the whole chocolate thing?

Meanwhile it was a sunny day in South Queensferry, here's the boatyard complete with boats and the new bridge looking pretty dapper in the rare February daylight.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ghost Roses

If you think of this normally fun packed, spam attacked page as some kind of tiny on-line art gallery then the placement of odd photographs here makes a sort of sense. Thorny, once rose-red statements in pale tones if you will. I'll be round with the wine selection and a tray of canapes any minute. Be patient and look amused. Correct your posture and don't stare at your shoes. My service may appear unprofessional and uneasy but I'll be doing my best with limited resources that are customarily  stretched to breaking point. There may be a few vague, nuanced and nervous conversations here and there, that's all normal for matrix based art. The secret is to nod and whisper whilst exhibiting positive body language.  Wear interesting spectacles if you can.

The odd louder voice will pipe up with some observation that sounds knowledgeable and profound. Intellectual snakes acting as if waiting for innocent victims whilst a quick mist sits across a still lake, now they are darting and biting. To maintain some balance I'll definitely try to ask some kind of safe question that I hope won't expose my chronic ignorance. Outside on the virtual street imaginary friends will bring their swirling wine glasses as they smoke guiltily and play a game of "catch up since the last similar event". Phones will be studied, tapped and random Tweets will surface and then fall into the laps of their single figure followers. #imagination. Eventually, once the alcohol has taken effect I'll welcome everybody and encourage them all to get real lives and to stop staring at screens. It'll all be done very gently, so don't take any offence (just yet). As for some business sense prevailing I'm at a loss, nobody pays for anything anymore so there's no danger of making money, I'll settle for breaking even in kudos and the extra hit counts from my fickle Russian fan base.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Voices from NYC

Art: Currently listening to this, it's not actually an album cover, just a photo of a swoosh. The swoosh is inaudible to normal human ears however and as it occurred a while ago is only available to time traveler types (you know who you are). In other news a kindly Indie site in New York gave us a brief and not wholly unpleasant review:

From Sometime in NYC. Impossible Songs: 4 songs recorded in Southern Germany back in October by this Edinburgh band. That’s what their Bandcamp EP “In Another World: is about. The band formed is by Ali Graham on vocals and John Barclay on guitar/vocals. They got help from Martin Freitag on bass, drums and synths and Siggi Richter on keyboards. I have a good listen and I must say the first song, “No Law Against Love”, is all right but then when “Another Day” starts, well, everything changes! Now I’m enjoying it. Then again a song I’m not a big fan of, “Analog Mann”, and the last one I like again, which is titled “Look Up the Stars”. So two songs out of four for me, 50%. What about for you? 

Well I guess 2 out of 4 isn't too bad...

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Spent a few nice days just seeing almost everyone in the family. Dundee, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Fife and the Lothians.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Viking death clean

Typical clear out fodder.

As an actual pseudo  Scandinavian with DNA generated and confirmed by the TV series "Vikings" I've been slowly adopting some of their better practices. That doesn't include the usual rape, pillage and the shouting of "skol!" at every opportunity, nor listening to death metal in a broken down SAAB. Death is involved though but only as a kind of abstract and far away target to aim for, I'm mulling over my death cleaning routine. A better term might be to declutter, it's more accurate but lacks the resonance and finality of a good old death clean. The rules are simple, you're going to die and nothing is sacred so slim down. Whilst the dustbins and the local recycling centre are obvious ports of call I'm also hawking odds and sods on eBay. Not my favourite web space but it works albeit postal costs, packing materials and eBay and PayPal fees knock the returns down significantly. Whatever ever way I'll likely die a poor but reasonably decluttered man who'll enter Valhalla with broad grin and little or no baggage.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Argus again

Took some time out today to do a rare thing (or a thing I probably only do when driving)...listen to a whole album all the way through. In this case it was one I hadn't listened to (all the way through) for more than 40 years. That seems like a pretty strange thing, it was played to death between 1972 and 1974 and then faded out of my life with only the odd track popping up as a diversion or by accident in all that time. Of course it's dated now, unsophisticated and just a bit wearing but nice enough to revisit for one hearing and I can't quite fathom how I've overlooked it for so long. In it's day the guitar playing and the mock-fantasy theme were all very attractive. The noble savage or soldier or warrior or whatever the theme, it was all vague enough to mean anything and obvious enough for a dumb teenager to catch some kind of restless meaning. They were also one of the few bands I followed that I never did see live and frankly I've no desire to see whatever mock-up, tribute, aging versions there are trotting about on the B-Grade circuit now. It's all in the past, a decent place to peer into but not a safe place to reside in (well not for the love of this band anyway). Did I ever say that I hate the term "Classic Rock"?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Glasgow: Daily Snapshot

We spent some time yesterday wandering around Glasgow in the bitter cold (Brrr) and refused to leave the the well beaten track. I always encourage companions to look up in cities, the best stuff is always above your head in building details and design, of course it's harder to photo because ... it is. After a while warm coffee shops (also know as cafes) and bland malls become very attractive in February no matter how many layers of clothing you have on. 

So above we have the spiral staircase in the "Lighthouse" gallery. A stairway that takes you to a tiny platform where you can see right across the city and get blasted by the chilly winds. Many levels below are art gallery spaces that never quite seem to be fully utilized but form an interesting diversion. Below is one of the cleanest, coolest VW vans I've seen in a while. I know this hardly sums up modern Glasgow but you're never going to get proper artistic or architectural opinion on these pages, just trivia, whimsy and fluff. I was also  too cold to bother with taking a chain of photos.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Life's too shortish

People say that's life's too short for distractions and diversions and stepping a little out of line. Most times I'd agree with that. Life is short so why bother...etc. But maybe it's good, once in a while to:

Watch a TV show/film you'd never consider watching.
Try food that you normally don't enjoy/avoid.
Listen to music that belongs to a genre you can't quite understand.
Go out in the cold when you'd normally huddle up in the warm.
Visit a place that you've avoided or just seems unattractive.
Strike up a conversation with a stranger (in a safe space!).
Ride on public transport (if that's not something you normally do).
Get to bed early.
Read a book that's just not your type, preferably one with bad cover art.
Follow some "off the wall" folks on Twitter for a while...what are they saying?
Go to the exhibits in art galleries and museums that you'd normally miss out.
Look around charity shops and markets.

And so on...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Not anytime soon

Today is eBay day, in this household anyway. Rumour has it that the bottom is falling out of the on-line, virtual and otherwise abstract custom guitar business. There may be some truth in it. I wouldn't really know. I'm just flooding the market with genuine fakes and recycled cardboard packaging.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Keeping it all empty

I was loitering without any intent in a doorway in Dundee when I came upon this worn out piece of signage. Apart from the long gone businesses there's the print of Edwin W Smith, now removed to 83 Victoria Road and the whole world knows it but none of us know why. Was it forced, was it an opportunity, was it a step up or a step towards oblivion? I could research this but I'm not that type, I prefer just hanging on and allowing myself the idle fantasy of what might have happened next but probably didn't. God bless you Edwin, you are not forgotten it seems but your soul and story has shifted into the vacuum of emptiness that is graffiti history.

Friday, February 09, 2018


I miss that boy / I missed the point?  Maybe it's only a long lost song, maybe nobody cares. But then again what does Spotify tell us? Often stranger things as we view listeners pickings. This song for example seldom gets just one play when streaming, it gets a few at a time. Sometimes six or seven. Then there's silence for a while and then along comes another batch of similar plays forming a tiny, emotional spike. In Italy or Holland perhaps, where there's somebody or some folks who puts this on repeat and pace the room, or slow dance or just stare out of the window as it plays and the rain pours down the misty glass, as they reflect, I guess. They could also be doing the ironing.

Digitized music allows us this look into the world and listening habits of anonymous, faraway consumers (?), an invisible audience with whom there's no real connection other than the sharing of the song. I doubt if any listeners are interested in us or how the song came about. No Tweets, posts, comments or feedback to reflect that. I can say this because I'm a bit like that myself, there's no need to understand the artist these days to appreciate the song. Not much point in interacting over a single, far away song, and you may be mistaken for a stalker or an oddball super-fan. Of course it wasn't always that way, there were times when an album was like a private diary or log or extensive personal back story that, in all it's creative forms (look, words and sounds) was opened up so as to mean something to the listener. I believe we refer to these creaky, monochrome tinged times as some kind of golden age of music, or even humanity. 

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Austin Brexit

Are cars as boring as politics? Nobody knows but secretly I like both as guilty and stupid pleasures. Word has it that the US car building industry is about to collapse, not enough proper buyers, too many leases and stagnation, 60% of the car loans/leases are regarded as sub-prime. You know what that means...a deep shit filled hole may be ahead, one that the UK and European markets will follow American markets into. Add to that the prolonged chaos of Brexit and the reliance we've placed on non UK manufacturers for the industry here and we're headed for a fine mess. 

I think I've only ever owned three British built cars; a Wolseley 16/60 a Rover 100 and a Mini Cooper (but the Mini was built by BMW and had a Brazilian engine so not sure it really counts). Yeah, British built cars, so near and yet so far, no major players survived the 80s really. They just couldn't compete with Japanese, Germany, French and Italian imports and when the Koreans got involved that was it. We in the UK just suck at building and marketing but strangely we design and develop well...but it's all history now. So much for loyalty, customers couldn't stay with the home grown rusty and unreliable motors and chose the (foreign isn't a good word anymore) more attractive rusty and unreliable options from elsewhere. 

Once Brexit happens none of this shit will matter, we'll all be back to bikes and powered skateboards from China because no one will have the cash to buy a BMW or a Honda or fuel it up to run it. We'll be on our royal arses. So petrol or electricity? Makes no difference when you're down.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The universe has big ears

Ready for an audition for Black Metal Cats

By that I don't mean that it's because Noddy wont pay the ransom either. It's the way things knit together, those happenings, unintended consequences, collisions and coincidences. They happen all the time via the power of speech, actions and sometimes just thinking, (maybe thinking out loud). Our fate is not completely in our own hands, it's being manipulated by the others, the weathers, the spirits and the ether, just as the Ancients always said in their ancient language. So we have these moments, those experiences where we've lost control but the universe has our backs, or, more likely kicks us up the arse.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Burden of Dreams

Pretend snow day: Watched "Burden of Dreams" a documentary about Werner Herzog's filming saga on "Fitzcaraldo", disturbing and mesmerizing in equal measure. Doing things the hard way for art's sake and the pursuit of a dream (not my dream though). A watery, steaming, jungle, mudbath of a nightmare where persistence gets you everywhere and creates and perpetuates  myth upon myth in the chaos of the Amazon. I'm not made of the right stuff to be a film maker or actor in these circumstances, not enough chunky Kit-Kats or decent super/after market coffee on offer. The sprinkling of snow and the chilly temperatures here are hardly that much of a bother after all, so a healthier perspective is easily maintained but the output isn't the same.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Knee Jerk

My latest composition - for sale on eBay, there and available for art lovers everywhere for a small but reasonable fee. Or you can just browse for sweet nothing. Your choice.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Mirror images

Back in the 70s veiled references to parallel universes were all the rage using cleverly reversed images. That and vaguely pornographic shadows and tiny hidden meanings. What a time to have been alive.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Woke up...

..this morning and lo and behold there was the Usher Hall sitting right across the road. A bastion of art and performance and a reminder of a once famous brewing family that fueled the thirsty hearts of Scottish industry. It must be Edinburgh somewhere. Fortunately I wasn't just sitting on a bench or in the gutter having having had a long session in Brewdog. No, I was in a swish hotel room checking the weather and noticing the rain. There's also some kind of castle up there in the background.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

More shameless self promotion