Week from Monday 4th September 2006

I've been reading [again] Jonathan Coe's fantastic "THE ROTTERS' CLUB". It is the coolest novel ever written because (A) it accurately conveys what it was like to grow up in the 1970s, (B) it is named after a HATFIELD & THE NORTH album and (C) it mentions lefty prog-boffins HENRY COW a lot. 

"Imagine The Yardbirds getting into bed with Ligeti in the smoking rubble of divided Berlin..." Naturally, passages such as this prompted me to want to LISTEN to 'The Cow' myself. Who WOULDN'T, after reading that?! Subliminally or otherwise, their special brand of atonal jazz-rock composition has been a major influence on my own musical dabblings. I noticed several little snippets of 'The Cow' that made me think, "Hey! That's sounds a lot like something I've just recorded!". I've also compiled a 'road tape' of favourite 'Cow tunes, just for the heck of it, although I very much doubt it's 'SUITABLE FOR DRIVING' (or even 'SAILING', for that matter).

I watched a very strange Italian film, given away free with this Saturday's Independent, and I STARTED to watch "APOCALYPSE NOW" [again]. But about twenty minutes in, the tape got chewed up. Never mind, it'll be on Film Four again soon. Or I might even treat myself to a DVD copy.

There was a superb performance of MAHLER's SECOND RACKET at the Proms last night. Veteran Mahler pioneer BERNARD HAITINK, who was the first conductor to record a complete symphonic cycle after Gustav was 'rediscovered' post-World War II, is so well versed in the great man's work that he was even able to coax a dynamic, emotive rendition out of a bunch of jobbing BBC musos!

...Which, of course, has now set off ONE OF ME CRAZES. I checked out a couple of MAHLER recordings from Gosport's Quasi-Library for CONTINUAL OFFICE-LISTENING PLEASURE (as if I haven't got enough Mahler on tape at home!). I also happened to take a gander at the [laughably sparse] fiction section of said establishment, to see if there is anything else by JONATHAN COE that I might read. And lo! There was a copy of "THE CLOSED CIRCLE", the 'twenty-odd years later' sequel to "The Rotters' Club"...

Week from Monday 11th September 2006

...spookily, in the week when I learnt that the drummer from HATFIELD & THE NORTH (as well as Gong and numerous other 'Canterbury Scene' groups), PIP PYLE has died. On Sunday, "The Freak Zone" played a lengthy NATIONAL HEALTH track ("A Legend In His Own Lunchtime") by way of a tribute.

On Saturday, I had to go over to Portsmouth to deliver some newly drawn maps. Afterwards, I decided to peruse every(?) charity shop between Cosham High Street and Fratton Station. BECAUSE IT WAS THERE. I had little accidents in a couple of the shops. While removing a book to look at (on Microsoft Front Page) from one of the shelves, I managed to send the whole pile cascading onto the floor. Nothing was damaged and I helped the man put them back. As it happens, the Front Page book turned out to be too old an edition anyway. In another shop, I brushed against a display of [rather horrible looking, it must be said] china ornaments, sending one of them floorwards. I offered to pay for the damage, but the lady settled for a contribution to the collection box. I don't think she liked the ornaments very much either. At various points along the way, I bought cassettes of SIBELIUS' finest Fifth Symphony,  MAHLATHINI & THE MAHOTELLA QUEENS and early BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, all at sub-pound prices. My journey took me past the legendary record emporium once founded by a certain Mr Ross. I naturally found myself spending an hour or more browsing the randomly arranged second-hand racks. One or two items NEARLY tempted me, but I eventually plumped for [at last, my very own CD copy of] GOTAN PROJECT's first album, sold at a knockdown price because the sleeve was damaged.

TOPIC FOR DISCUSSION:  Don't you just hate those flimsy cardboard gatefold 'mini-sleeves' that some seedydisks come in these days? The corners and spines get torn and scuffed just like old vinyl record sleeves used to. Many of them don't fit in regular CD racks. And what is more, they sometimes charge MORE for these 'special editions' than they do for the ordinary jewel-case versions!

I decided that, after a couple of listens, the HENRY COW 'Road Tape' would most definitely NOT be 'suitable for driving'. So I used the tape to put together a CANTERBURY SCENE compilation instead - everything from the SUBLIME (Hatfield's, Caravan) to the RIDICULOUS (Daevid Allen and some of Kevin Ayers' more knockabout stuff). Meanwhile, the MAHLER CRAZE continues. I've now EmPeeThree'd some choice Mahlerchunes for in-office listening.

We are currently burning joss-sticks to cover up the smell of SOGGY CARPET, following another of Gozzy's overnight FLASH-FLOODS. Thankfully, it's nowhere near as bad as it was several winters ago when much of the Stoke Road area was calf-deep in brackish overflow.

Week from Monday 18th September 2006

Suddenly, I find that I don't have an e-mail facility. The 'POP3' and 'SMTP' servers at Stupornet seem to have stopped working sometime on Friday. It may be just a temporary hiatus but, of course, without e-mail, there's no way for them to tell us what the hell is going on! IF YOU CAN READ THIS, it's obvious that everything else is still working webwise, it's just the 'mailbox' that isn't! I first noticed the problem when I tried several times to send a business-related e-mail ('trying several times' to send something is normal procedure when you've only got a dial-up connection). But the fact that it STILL doesn't work after the weekend suggests that something is afoot. I've considered setting up an alternative e-mail account for biz purposes (and most of the 'pay-as-you-go' connections are for so-called 'home' use only), but then we'd face the tedious problem of having to tell everyone about it! I've also tried accessing the servers with three different e-mail programmes with the same negative result. We'll just have to wait and see.

Then, just as suddenly, on Tuesday afternoon, without so much as a "By Your Leave", the service came back - but not before several hours of hair-tearing-out and the peecee up on the virtual ramps having a software rebuild and hardware check, while I tried to determine whether it was MY fault or not. Then, after all that, WINDOZE XP decided that I had 'significantly changed' my hardware, so I had to 'reactivate' it YET AGAIN! B*****ds! At this point, a return to the halcyon days of interference-free, carefree, stand-alone WINDOZE 98 seemed most appealing. And I came THIS close to shutting down my Stupornet account altogether - that would have meant no more GRIDLER SECRET SPACEWEB THINGY!

Who's this trudging towards me through the lowly jimson weed? Why, it's none other than OL' SHELFY, here on gardening business, if I'm not mistaken. I force him to sit down and listen to some of the stuff I've already recorded for "Tales From The Winged Eyeball", hopefully prompting him to get it together to record some of his 'voice-over' recitations. He tells me he hasn't been able to connect to our website lately, which is worrying. Sadly, he also informs me that 'LOCAL CHARACTER', Artist, Panto Star and Affiliated Anti-Clown, DUNX THE CLOT has passed away.

Week from Monday 25th September 2006

I had a sudden urge to do a piece of "classical" music for my/our own current project. Of course, Mahler would be out of my league, but I thought that one of ERIK SATIE's "Gymnopédies" would be a good exercise in step-time MIDI programming an' the like. Of course, I didn't want it to sound TOO much like a STEVE HACKETT track, or what would be the point? I put my own quirky spin on it by including some of my patented "FRANCOPHONE VOCODER", making it a suitable companion piece to something of my own that I had already recorded earlier. If it doesn't get used for THIS project, then it'll get saved for the time when Shelfy is suddenly taken by the LUDOVIC SIMPKIN VAN NOONAN bug again, because it just whiffs of  FRENCH ARTIST!

PROG ARCHIVE ALERT!! This Sunday, 6Music's "LIVE AT MIDNIGHT" featured the yodelsome Flying Dutchpersons FOCUS, recorded at the Beeb's Paris Theatre in 1973, complete with 'Whispering' Bob Harris introductions. Of course, I had to stay up for THAT one, poised over the pause button, as yer do!

Blimey, I've had an e-mail from young SNILTWEASEL (DIRECTOR), who's just replied to a message sent to him in January 2005!

On Wednesday, I had to go for my biennial trip to the Specsavers concern, to have my eyes tested and to choose a pair of fashionable "ANY SHAPE YOU LIKE AS LONG AS THEY'RE THE SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE'S" spectacles. Shelfy dicovered recently that opticians will no longer supply his trademark Lennon-esque round ones, he had to have the bezier-curved car headlamp shape that is the 'design' standard for modern eyeware.

Having finished another TOM HOLT "historical" novel, I've started reading one of WILL SELF's volumes of short stories. This week's rented MAHLER is the Eighth, his "Symphony Of A Thousand", which I believe I once described as "a HUGE GREAT DOLLOP OF SHERRY TRIFLE WITH EXTRA CUSTARD of a symphony", or words to that effect... "Symphony Of Hundreds 'N' Thousands"?