Thursday, December 31, 2020
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Some modern/recent history:
Allegedly scientists from NASA gave spiders drugs and recorded and measured the outcome of the exercise by comparing the webs they had spun. I'll leave you to your own conclusions.
A similar study was carried out on a selection of fifth year pupils at Dunfermline High School in 1971, the full results were never published but I understand that Skol lager and water chestnuts did quite well.
The "Spiders on Drugs" came very close to being David Bowie's backing band about the same time. Not sure what became of them.
Monday, December 28, 2020
It's that Covid time of year again here in Tier 4 country: To be honest there's a kind of chilly, winter grubbiness hanging about the village, curtains twitch, dustbins overflow and in the distance hounds howl. The street Christmas lights and decorations have an ironic, tired out ring about them, then some bulbs flicker and slowly fade and pop. The shutters are down and the cobbles have the icy blue sheen of slippery wet dolphin backs. Here in the still and baffled never-land between Christmas and New Year, all non-essential shops and businesses are closed, there are ragged queues at take-away cafes and bored visiting city dwellers shuffle by, eyes half open and shielded from the cold by grim, seasonal determination and well planned layers of sports clothing.
Sunday, December 27, 2020
Saturday, December 26, 2020
Back in the day when we shopped, visited cafes and walked freely across the earth, as some might say god intended (also carrying the weight of our own sin on our backs): The still small Dickensian voice of Christmas Present (well yesterday's voice) leads me to an enticing free gift guide. The guide is free but the gifts are expensive and are slowly destroying the planet. Best to stay home making plans for using up your "prepper" stash of tins of chopped tomatoes in the most creative ways possible. The destruction of the planet was previously being carried out by cats but they're currently on a break and the humans have taken over for the time being. I suspect it will not end well for any particular species apart from the cockroaches. Having a pleasantly bemused Boxing Day so far.
Friday, December 25, 2020
Happy Christmas 2020. Whether you're a good person or you're a Russian Bot, a Republican Bot, and Tory Bot or a Bot who's just plain conflicted about things. Frankly right now I don't care, it's Christmas Day and I'm making the best of it. Take it easy but remember, you don't actually have to take it.
P.S. This is a popular card around these parts, for reasons obvious to us.
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Tis' the season to go a bit mental and nobody would blame you or your poor punctuation. A few things in the street nearby; the traditional Christmas Shark is now decorating household windows and bestowing good fortune on observers below, as is the custom. Meanwhile the "Dog Bakery" (an interesting and surreal addition to the selection of local shops), should be opening soon, sadly it wont be in business until that fateful new year known as number 2021 arrives with all it's pratfalls, complications and inevitable disappointments. Right now I'm unsure about how I feel with regard to most things. Life's a gas, possibly an inert one.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Jupiter meets Saturn and everybody has seen this: However until my dear wife mentioned that this was happening I didn't know anything about it. Straight over my head. Now it's all over the media as the word spreads. Heavenly bodies behaving like heavenly bodies for once in a lifetime, anyway Google think it's worth a mention. So I borrowed their Gif. Oops.
Monday, December 21, 2020
Old, familiar words on a new wall. None of this will happen any time soon but it's nice to just imagine sometimes. The fourth line doesn't really make any sense either other than to shift blame or push a little poetic power into the statement. Mentioning the Devil in any song always adds a touch of glamour and danger. So any chance of getting back to the garden? Things have always been in some kind of a mess and wistfully and wishfully thinking of somehow going back and starting with a clean sheet is very appealing, just ask any old hippie.
Sunday, December 20, 2020
v18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) v19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.
v20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. v21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. v22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. v23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
v24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, v25 he said,
Saturday, December 19, 2020
"Came from the land of the ice and snow etc." Marvelous pic of some unpronounceable, remote Icelandic spot, complete with Northern Lights, shooting stars, fractured ice and wispy snow. Scotland is a pretty decent looker of a place but Iceland is just ... far out.
Friday, December 18, 2020
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
It could have been Noggin the Nog in the form of sweeties but it was not: Always a pleasure, never a chore, the ceremonial demolition of the Christmas chocolate boxes began earlier than usual this year. Blame Covid and a lack of social life and decent TV I suppose. The bar was set unnaturally high with this massive single tier offering from some Hotel chain somewhere that is apparently constructed mainly from chocolate. Quite a claim but one I would not dispute. Taking a measured approach to this challenge we worked steadily through it and deliberately did not scoff the lot in one binge watch or rainy evening sitting. It took a little longer (which was worth the mild frustration) but now it has been picked clean. The happy vultures were agreed that this is possibly the highest scoring selection already and we don't even know what is yet to come. Hail the Jolly Penguin and his brown and white entourage, as Alan Partridge might say.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Monday, December 14, 2020
Essential Sunday evening viewing:
Children running about looking angry and confused, one has a knife but no idea what to do with it. The heroic girl is baffled. You know they're just going to run around aimlessly in a repetitive film set for most of this episode. The boy with the knife isn't feeling too good.
A man in a balloon reacts slowly to having a practicing Shaman on board and assumes the laws of conventional physics still apply to his trip.
Priests talk very slowly and deliberately then frown and use the word heretic like it was some kind of unexploded bomb buried in the crotch of their cassocks. They are in a state of perpetual outrage.
Grumpy woman arrives in a strange world wearing unusually practical clothes, encounters ghostly CGI monsters and scares them away, purely by using the strength of her mind and her determination. Her pet monkey does not seem to be fully aware of her intentions and is surprised at her show of force.
A roving Irish woman hands out drugs to innocent kids.
Meanwhile in the mountains, wooden witches act as if they were in some early Dr Who episode where every badly written line requires an excruciating level of over acting in order for it to be delivered. They perform a healing ritual before being attacked by some more CGI monsters.
The grumpy woman casually downs two bottles of wine, crushes a snake and kills the man who insulted her.
The evil grey airships attack the balloon but the Shaman summons up thunderstorms and crows to down them. They plummet down in flames. Hundreds may be dead in the disaster, nobody is sure. The balloon may well crash land.
The end titles run. Well that was actually quite good.
Sunday, December 13, 2020
The alternative history of the world in 101 household objects. Today it's the stereo owned by Jimi Hendrix which is "recreated" in his London flat. Presumably along with a set of his records and albums and other groovy stuff. I suppose this is actual recent history but it does seem like a lifetime ago (because it is!) when these crazy, daring types were barnstorming across the musical landscape, leaving incredible tracks and then self destructing either quite quickly or in some slow and terrible way over the decades to come. We all watched their collective pain, noted their suffering and wrinkles but didn't really learn anything. Not sure what's worse,old hippies, old punks, old Goths or just old people in general. Hmm.
Saturday, December 12, 2020
One hedonistic moment after another: Obviously inspired by the scene depicted above I decided to create my own less well composed version of the classic Nativity grouping (below for the avoidance of doubt). Imitation is a reasonable and justifiable kind of flattery I suppose. Basically it's just stealing someone else's idea and then not executing it quite so well but still trying to claw some creative credit together for yourself. Then, if you wish to go deeper, there may be coded theological references hidden in the names and types of products used (?). One for Bible scholars there. Thankfully no cleaning products were harmed in the creation of these slightly disturbing images.
Friday, December 11, 2020
As everyone knows, traditional Christmas telly is in fact traditional Christmas shite with few if any redeeming qualities, all seasonal special programs are best avoided. This year we have endeavored to redress the cultural imbalance and now simply watch one of the many YouTube seasonal offerings i.e. "log fire c/w soft seasonal jazz background and crackling log sound effects", 10hrs of relaxed viewing well spent. A highly suitable and soporific background for home working, cat antics observations or constructing elaborate fish finger sandwiches. It also saves on logs, reduces greenhouse gases and gives off a reasonable amount of sustainable heat (that is completely imaginary).
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Tuesday, December 08, 2020
In about 1974 or 75, I returned home from the ashes of a failed musical venture in Jersey and fell down a black hole that did not look like a black hole at the time. Some might say that is exactly the problem with black holes, being able to identify them and avoid them in good time. Mine had a few silver linings, it's just that they were not obvious to me. Anyway I failed to correct things and was engulfed in the black hole for a while. I was also unaware at the time that any of this was happening being a black hole denier. Turns out that you only learn about your life by looking backwards at the various ruins and piles of rubble peppered with odd spots of colour along the way, I'm now a master at this grim but amusing art.
So the circumstances leading up to me discovering Hejira were nearly really normal but not really normal. When the album was released in 1976 I wasn't listening to music, I was a ghost. I did see a mirror depicting the cover on display in a market in Cockburn Street Edinburgh. That was my only experience of it but the image stayed. Joni Mitchell was OK but nothing special. Life moved on. Occasionally I listened.
A few years later, I'm married, I have kids and I'm holding down a job and for fun I'm attending college in Bath, England. Though my family are down staying in Bath with me, after a while they move back to Scotland and I travel up and down as work and study times allow and live in a room in a Victorian mansion out on London Road. Everyday at lunchtime my group of students go for a run along the canals. We socialize a bit, have meals together and nights out, mostly we're not local so it helps keep spirits up and passes otherwise dead time. It's 1985 now. I may be losing bits of my hair at the edges of my head.
Finally, before the exams and assessments were carried we meet up one last night for a meal and whatever else. I remember it was the first time I'd encountered Grolsch beer bottles and their revolutionary caps. We ended up in some club but only all got in after we managed to all convince the doorman we had ties (?). This involved some subterfuge whereby in order to arrive at the correct number of ties per person, ties had to be smuggled out and reworn by the person hoping to gain entry. My thin red leather tie was one of the main assets in this venture. It worked and soon we all back on the bottle and bopping to Simple Minds or some other 80s twanging chancers from Glasgow.
Suffice to say I never did see the tie again (not a problem) but the guy who'd last worn it was a good sort and he recompensed me some time later with a HMV voucher for £10s that one day arrived in the post. I was back home by now, the hectic, mid-life student days being a thing of the past.
I'm not too excited about the voucher so it goes in the wallet and I guess I'll spend it one day. For some reason I had to go into Edinburgh so I decided to go in on my motorbike, a small Honda. It was a windy April day and I can recall not enjoying going over the Forth Bridge but eventually I got into town, did what I had to do (can't recall) but also wandered into HMV for a browse.
These were the golden years of the Sony Walkman and the stereo cassette tape. It was to that counter I was headed. Regular journeys down to and up from Bath had made the Walkman essential and I needed new or at least different material. So I idly picked up a copy of Hejira, remembering the mirror in the shop many years ago and I picked up another cassette, I've no idea which. Impulse buying at it's finest. I was in no hurry to listen to them, I headed home and put them aside, as you do.
Somehow Hejira made it's way down to Bath with me where, apart from odd sparks of college social life I was mostly alone, evenings and weekends. I was supposed to be working on some project management kind of thesis, writing it longhand as these were the days before laptops and PCs, strange to think of that now. Eventually it would be typed up and bound by some disinterested typist, and it duly was and again, as is normal, duly forgotten once marked. As fudgey and tortuous a piece of drivel as you'd never wish to read but it gained me a pass.
In the background I had started to listen to Hejira. It was akin to beginning some strange drug taking habit. Silent and dark, growling calmly, mysterious and smokey in some elusive but heavyweight way like an opium paste dripping slowly from a knife blade. It was in the spindly headphones, regularly competing with passing traffic, the landlady's hoover or my own thinly spread out thoughts.
It wasn't a particularly productive period of my life, I was skimping on expenses so we could have a family holiday in Ibiza, I wasn't writing or playing music, it was heads down and study and get myself comatosed by any cheap alcohol and music, Herija was starting to get a grip. Train to Reading, bus to Heathrow, flight to Edinburgh, car back to Fife, the soundtrack was forming up. Then back down again on a Sunday afternoon and into the Huntsman by the Abbey or the Boater by Pultney Bridge for a quick pint and the required stare into the oblivion of bar room mirrors.
"I could say each song is an actual journey but that would be a lie. They do transport the listener, whoever that might be." Quotes courtesy of the bad journalism of the NME. I never did take that paper seriously. What was serious though was the live version on "Amelia" on Shadows and Light. The songs is stretched out by a lengthy coda in the form of a meandering Pat Metheny guitar solo. As he starts he heads up a scale and it just sounds a bit out, there's this one single note that jars. It's weird, I think about that note a lot. That's also weird.
Meanwhile in Bath my life was slowly unraveling to the tunes of Hejira. I could feel the stitches come apart, one by one as I descended into getting to know myself as a fully formed adult. One Saturday I had a strange epiphany, I was walking down Walcott Street and I decided to buy a burger for lunch. Designer/fancy burgers were a new concept to 30 year old me, a man unsure what mayo was and how garlic might taste, I was in a dietary slump. I bit into the garlic mayo burger out on the cobbled street as "Song for Sharon" played in my headphones. Looking back it was the precise moment I lost my religion, I couldn't care less about god or belief, I saw myself alone and confused but rooted in the material world. I didn't look back and I didn't tell anybody. It was all to complicated and I knew I lacked the basic vocabulary to describe what was happening.
Fast forward, life's wonky cassette player is running too quickly. I'm in Scotland on the A811, a road as straight as a crooked arrow. The same songs are playing. Everyday I drive 75 miles there, 75 miles back. I'm in a state of hypnosis for the full 90 minutes. News, music, news, tapes, Hejira. This is the journey. The strange thing is it gets me nowhere. I'm a tiny spec moving across a landscape, that's all it every is, moving. One morning, about 6.45am a huge white owl hit my windscreen. It bounced off and way into the darkness, the windscreen remained intact. The car was a battered Rover, tougher than I'd imagined it would be. Owl proof. A great white portent had marked me now, sought me out and awoken me. The tapes kept on rolling as I mulled things over and began to wake up. Heaven was trying to get my wandering attention, as were the twists on the A811.
Now I'm older and wiser. I tell myself that I understand myself much better now. I understand many things I might have misunderstood, an advantage of the aging process and the ongoing delusion of progress. I tune in on a occasional basis, just to keep grounded, mostly while driving, that's their natural setting. Back and forwards across the Queensferry Crossing, slowing down then speeding up, searching for a break in the traffic, taking the exit lane, respecting other road users, watching others speed off into the distance and wondering where they might be going. Then, quite by chance seeing yourself in another car, headed in the opposite direction.
These are not songs for funerals, old men or the bewildered. They're not for background noise or filler. Nor are they fit for some kind of careful eulogy or signing off, there's no apology to be had for listening and no easy explanation as to what they might mean. They are about something that's more than something. I just can't quite put my finger on it at the moment though, but on my next long journey I'll be there, alone, listening.
Monday, December 07, 2020
Sunday, December 06, 2020
"The drones that flew over were equipped with a special lens. It was developed by NASA, so somebody said. The world is hungry so we need to survey the food industry, the great bread baskets, the green spaces where migrant workers toil as they bury their dreams in the soil. We'll learn something valuable. So we used the special lens. The project leader often spoke about unintended consequences, they get them a lot of the time. When you start to watch things, even from afar the watched thing behaves, well differently. That's what physics tells us and who can argue, I have a degree in arguing and where did that ever get me? There's a pile of evidence. Anyway when it all began it was just a huge cabbage patch sown into the Korean landscape. As we observed we began to see beyond that, there were other levels, other lives and quirks and then came the knowledge that even the light was playing tricks on us. Whatever you think you're seeing, you're not. That's just the thin skin, the superfluous surfaces, the mirror that stares back. Now you need your own lens."
Saturday, December 05, 2020
In Bizarro World a four in-line cylinder auto engine is compared with a two cylinder boxer engine. The two cylinder boxer wins out as it has magical properties and runs on some sophisticated fairy dust kind of fuel. Turns out it's soother and more reliable and everybody wants one #BizarroPhysics. I believe that this is the direction that Tesla is now headed with it's latest research.To the tune of "What if God appeared and said 'by the way it's pronounced Jod' and then disappeared forever". (He may have also whispered under his breath, "a curse on your churches and your cruel and overbearing colonial attitudes towards cultures you don't understand").
Friday, December 04, 2020
Thursday, December 03, 2020
If badgers were reptiles and not err...badgers, (maybe repto-badgers), Wind in the Willows might have been an all together different kind of story. In another parallel universe far far away, badgers are also enamel badges (with hidden pins) but still manage to go about their business in a fairly workmanlike badger way. Well done you various kinds of non-existent imaginary badgers.
Wednesday, December 02, 2020
So to give this painting it's full title and to prevent you from wondering here we have: "It's not everyday I feel superior, just most days". This almost original artwork and inspirational piece is now available for exclusive distribution. In pastel and acrylic this contemporary work depicts the internal conflict that often prevails between our own physical and spiritual selves. A key element in gaining understanding of these somewhat elusive truths is shown in the mountain top scene where the subject is wearing a scarf but critically no actual socks. In certain circles this outward gesture (the clear depiction of naked socklessness) is viewed as a telling comment on the inner spiritual vacuum that might prevail during a sustained period of metaphorical mountaintop isolation when the subject is experiencing a "bliss crisis". In all things you must speak with the hidden voice and and listen with the silent ear to view with the crystal eye and so come to your own conclusions.
Please contact us via out usual lofty mountain peak bivouac address for further information on prospective purchases and career advice*.
*Address only known by those within the inner circle of the inner circle.
Tuesday, December 01, 2020
Another hack I happened upon came up on YouTube a few minutes after top wrap concerns keeping unwound strings in tune on a Gibson 3 x 3 style neck. To solve the numerous tuning issues (and all other non-straight pull string configurations guitars have), wind the string from middle to top (not middle to bottom) when tightening and tuning. This will cure all those ongoing issues you probably have with unwound Gs, notoriously the most awkward bastards of the string community. Does it work? Sounding OK so far, and excuse the illustrated untidy string winds.
Final tip (and one I've known for ages) a small shot of lead pencil graphite on the nut and bridge rollers (or pieces) can help lubricate and steady the strings and also preserve tuning and create a little less wear and tear (ping!).
Monday, November 30, 2020
Cat, with various supernatural qualities and inhuman physical skills, catching up on BBC's patchy but entertaining Dark Materials from a relatively safe distance*.
This of course brings me onto the rather awkward subject of names we give to animals (particularly pets) and the names they give themselves. This does assume a certain level of animal awareness and human ignorance. I'm happy to go with that. We tell ourselves stories to explain the world all the time. I suspect that for many animals their self given names are nothing we could recognise. I'm almost sure that the language of "animal smell", pretty much unknown to humans, is the basis of what might be loosely described as an animal name or at least a means of recognition. Smell as a label and marker and way of telling time works very well it seems. Just watch how cats and dogs behave towards each other (assuming that they don't begin the social encounter with an all out attack), the scent of another is key to communicating and understanding time and distance. I'll just remain silent and happily odourless to other humans as you mull over these deep truths and revelations.
*Photo by LB
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Saturday, November 28, 2020
Slightly over ten years ago my feet landed in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. There they are stood firmly on the bottom, toes slightly splayed for extra grip. They were at the time very much attached to my legs and I'm happy to say that's the way they are today. This photo popped up as part of my laptop's randomized daily screen show yesterday and in a brief burst of nostalgia I thought it was worth sharing. I don't believe I still have those trousers however, they're long gone.
Friday, November 27, 2020
Ancient South Queensferry proverb:
Thursday, November 26, 2020
*Undiscovered art: Discovered on the cave walls, deep in a cave in a deep valley in a deep district of deepest France by an explorer named Jean-Paul in 1887. Early evidence of NP or Neanderthal Porn: as it is commonly known by excited paleontologist and anthropologists who aren't just in it for the bones and fossils. This rare example is offered for sale at a price that truly reflects the corruption and good taste in today's art world. Viewings are via Google Earth and the lucky highest bidder will need reliable access to heavy tunneling equipment and the significant amount of used Euros required to bribe stubborn local officials. The bidding starts ... NOW!
Here's a modern artist's "artists impression" of the subject sitting for the work back in the day.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
The Bell Catalogue reflections caused me to further reflect on my other early 70s guitar equipment. I suppose the meanest and most useful bit of bedroom kit I owned was a WEM PA40, not purchased from Bell. It was second hand, retailing at about £20 from Live Music on Edinburgh's Leith Walk. It was an incredible and almost indestructible valve amp bargain that could do PA but worked well with guitars. It saw a lot of service in it's few years with me before being sold off in some regrettable gear purge that I foolishly decided upon. I wish I still had it. I still remember lugging it home on the bus, proud as punch.
I also wish I had the 1974 sunburst Telecaster that was purchased for me using "band funds" (following the plot of Easy Rider) a little later. I only had it for about six months and to be honest never got the best from it as my playing at the time was way behind the potential of such an instrument. It was lost to me somewhere on the Channel Island of Jersey where a crazy "summer covers band" idea totally collapsed and broke up in a fashionable fog of sex, drugs and eastern promise. I hope that it found a home with a better and more responsible player, I doubt I'll ever know it's fate. For some unknown reason we were pitching ourselves as a sort of version of Poco meets Pilot meets Pink Floyd affair that was never destined to succeed. Too many Ps. Also having incompetence as our most common attribute didn't help.
As cameras were seldom present in my exclusive circle of catastrophes these are I'm afraid stock images that don't quite tell the full story. What little personal memorabilia I had was lost in a house fire, aka a long running divorce.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
The page above shows my second ever guitar (but first "electric" one), The completely dull and pedestrian "Egmond Lucky Seven", an embarrassing and feeble instrument if there ever was one, but in my head it was akin to Neil Young's White Falcon in firepower and stature. It was of course powered through by the WEM Dominator (as below), complete with an ear piercing treble boost circuit carefully designed to rattle all the nearby council house windows exposed to it's 15w powerhouse and so incur the wrath of peace loving parents. Glory days, drenched in feedback and tuneless wonderment and all connected by curly leads.