Week from Monday 6th November 2006

This weekend, I finally summoned up the stamina and inclination to sit through the first part of Peter Jackson's "LORD OF THE RINGS" trilogy, something which I've put off for several years. For a start, I was PUT OFF by the fact that Tolkien's books are a load of twaddle - I am of that generation for whom "The Hobbit", "The Silmarillion" and "Lord Of The Rings" were almost compulsory teenage reading. They all left me cold, I'm afraid. When the movies came out, I was PUT OFF by the HYPE, first with the theatre release, then with the resulting awards overkill and - again already! - with the video releases. I have not bothered to watch any of the films when they have been shown on the telly, because I have been PUT OFF by the huge amount of time one needs to dedicate to the task. BASICALLY, I JUST DIDN'T CARE ENOUGH. Having said that, last night, I sat back and watched the first three-and-a-half of what will be ten-or-more hours of this stuff. I found myself being swept along by it all and I even LOOK FORWARD to next week's second bit! Actually, it's been quite a weekend for EPIC CINEMA, what with this and a Saturday morning lie-in enjoying another four-hour Bollywood extravaganza ("Dil To Pagal Hai").

I took home the MP3 master disc containing the "Winged Eyeball" 'WORKS IN PROGRESS' and, though I do say so myself, some of the new things sound awesome on a 'proper' hi-fi. Having spent some time editing together - nay! CONCATENATING some of the accumulated LITTLE BITS OF MUSIC into BIG BITS OF MUSIC, I've got to the stage where I want to hear what they will sound like with TALKING over them. Of course, I've yet to receive any proper voiceover material from the Shelf, so I've made do with a "Test Vocal" sampled from a Radio 4 short story. If you can ignore the fact that it's a bit repetitive and just listen to the SOUND of the voice, rather than what's actually being said, then it's beginning to sound quite promising. I also read aloud some of Shelfy's "BLUE WAILS ON BLIT STREET" onto my ODD-POD, so that I could hear what THAT would sound like over some of the jazzier pieces of music.

Meanwhile, BRIAN ENO's Friday evening lecture, at Radio 3's "Free Thinking" event in Liverpool, left me with much to think about regarding my/our approach to ART in general and music in particular.

Week from Monday 13th November 2006

Last week's ENO LECTURE prompted me to investigate FRIPP & ENO's "The Equatorial Stars" from Gosport's Quasi-Library. Unfortunately, a previous borrower appears to have tried playing the compact disc on a lathe - a misguided C.L.T. perhaps? It was rendered virtually UNPLAYABLE by concentric, laser-bothering scratches. Only one track out of seven was untroubled by hiccups and skips (recalling the days when one would trawl the RECORD LIBRARY for challenging music on vinyl, only to have to listen through a layer of chipshop-like crackle 'n' pop). I took it back and was given a 'credit note' for a free rental. I'm now enjoying JOHN McLAUGHLIN's 2003 album "THIEVES AND POETS" as a consequence. Mmmm, nice... Meanwhile, the anthology of DOUGLAS ADAMS' final works, "THE SALMON OF DOUBT" is this week's book of choice.

I am in desperate need of replacing my trusty, everyday-use Nike RUCKSACK, which is starting to look a bit tatty... but do you think I could find a new one that has a similar specification? COULD I HECK AS LIKE! None of the ones in the shops are big enough, or have enough pockets, or have separate 'wet' and 'dry' compartments. What is more, they are usually covered in ugly logo graphics to appeal to the average impressionable teenager.

I'm with the "GRUMPY OLD MEN" on this one; I think that if you are going to walk around prominently displaying sports manufacturers' logos, they should pay YOU the money (and, yes, I HAVE just realised that I've given NIKE a free 'product placement' or two in these paragraphs)... oh! and while we're at it, don't you get QUITE MIFFED when someone serving you in a real life, physical, non-virtual, walk-in SHOP puts forward the suggestion that you could "LOOK ON THE INTERNET" for something that THEY should be able to sell you?

I hate the onset of English Winter. It just doesn't suit me. One puff of cold wind and already I can feel the 'FUNNY EARS' coming on. Make with the vapour-rubs and inhalants! Then there's all the layers of ugly clothes you're forced to wear: weatherproofed jackets and leggings, fleece-lined jerkins and REALLY STUPID woolly hats - It's not NATURAL! My DEFAULT SETTING is the one marked 'SHORTS & T-SHIRT'...

As I've got SO MUCH material recorded for The Shelf's "TALES FROM THE WINGED EYEBALL" project - and who KNOWS when that'll ever get finished!?! - I've decided to do a spin-off project of my own, under the nom-de-loon of  SKY LARKIN. It's an all-instrumental disc (of course!) called "NO WINGS, NO EYES, NO BALLS...". Some of these pieces will still be used on the spoken word album. Some won't. Some sound better with talking over them. Some don't. Some have been edited differently. The tracks will almost certainly be in a completely different order and none of the [almost-commercial] 'dance-orientated' tunes are on this disc, those being more Shelfy's 'thing' than mine.

Week from Monday 20th November 2006

Now Fareham doesn't have a proper PUBLIC LIBRARY either... It is closed for "refurbishment" until January, when, no doubt, it will re-open as a combined INTERNET CAFÉ and PLAYSCHOOL, just like Gosport's so-called DISCOVERY CENTRE ("A Library For Today's Gosport - Reaching Out To People Who Can't Be Bothered With Books"). Last week, the Disc-O-Centre asked its visitors to fill in a market research-type questionnaire, in an effort to gauge public opinion after a year-or-so of opening. I certainly told them what I think! I concede that, as a community facility, the building COULD be considered a roaring success. Lots of folks queue up daily to use the free internet access. People can always be seen lolling around in the coffee shop which now takes up so much of the ground floor. Parties of schoolchildren doubtless enjoy the amusing nautical exhibits. I'm sure that the rental of Playstation games and DVDs is a booming market. Hampshire County Council must be very proud of itself. But it can no longer claim to be running a fully functional PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICE. Such things unfortunately face extinction in today's STATE OF PHILISTINE ("The New Democracy - Dragging Britain Down To Your Level").

Ooh! a little bit of politics there... a bit of politics, a bit of string... Hey! I've just realised that you can sing the words "MARMOSET MONKEYS, NAKED!" to the tune of Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters". Try it. It's a larf.

The LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL has come and gone, at least in 'real life'. Of course, Radio 3 will be broadcasting the best bits for months to come. Highlights for me, so far, have been whole or partial sets by MIKE WESTBROOK's Village Band, EVAN PARKER's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble (Most-High Gurus of Skronk, Squeak, Fzzzzt and, furthermore, Plinky-Plonk), OREGON (their set has been on the 'repeated listening' list ever since) and TOKYO-CHUTEI-IKI, an eleven-strong band of [nought but] baritone saxophones, who appeared on ANDY "But I Hate Bloody Jazz, Me!" KERSHAW's programme.

As well as bringing the Brent Geese, Autumn inevitably also brings the COLD WEATHER. Thus the Common Cold and Influenza-type symptoms naturally thrive ('INFLUENZA' is the Italian word for "The Influence". What a poetic language that is! - "I've just spent a fortnight in bed because I've been influenced."). I've been having my sinus-related HEADTHROB during the day (Folks, I recommend LEM-SIP MAX - SINUS STRENGTH WITH ADDED MENTHOL - as well as applying copious amounts of VICKS VAPO-RUB to the temples at bathtime). This has become a regular occurrence, is something I am accustomed to and is, I tell myself, All Part Of Growing Up And Being Me.

I finally got the e-mail I'd been waiting for since early October: One of my BIKE SHOP clients contacted me, because they'd been having trouble getting their 'new' web pages to behave properly. I spotted STRRRRAIGHT away where they were going wrong, so I typed out a full 'instruction leaflet' and mailed it to them. Without wanting to sound patronising, it was the kind of silly little mistake [admittedly one which involved some tedious mucking about with directory trees and filenames and so forth] that was obvious to me, but which would have made someone with less experience get in a right ol' kerfuffle. Anyway, I think I helped out 'remotely' from here, but I expect another trip to "SEE THE PONIES" might be in the offing...

Week from Monday 27th November 2006

DREAM DIARY: "Night Of The Fire-Budgie"... There I am, petting a very friendly little budgerigar, when suddenly the beast flies off into the fireplace and catches fire. So then I am faced with trying to catch this smouldering skeleton of a bird, somehow still capable of flight... Hmm. I've been trying to think of titles for some of my new 'pieces' and I think I could be onto something with "NIGHT OF THE FIRE-BUDGIE".

Having last week read one of CHARLES HIGSON's (aka "The Fast Show"'s Charlie Higson, he of  Norfolk funksters The Higsons) black comedies, set amidst England's revolting criminal underclass, I thought I'd go for something a bit lighter and less 'real' this week. So I'm reading all the P.G. WODEHOUSE I can find. I also stumbled over a copy of RETURN TO FOREVER's 1973 opus "Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy" in the 'record' library. I am already familiar with SOME of this album, as selected tracks appeared on a VERY comprehensive two-seedy RTF anthology. But it's very nice to hear what the album sounds like in its entirety, after all these years... TOP TWIDDLEY!

DREAM DIARY: Leaving some OPEN AIR EVENT or other, I had to pass through a gate, above which sat some largish PUFF ADDERS. They would spit at those passing beneath, or occasionally drop on their rucksacks. As you can imagine, I hesitated at said exit, for fear of inadvertently taking home a LETHAL SNAKE or two. So I missed my bus... ALSO DREAMT: "They Are Employed By The Egg Marketing Board, I Claim To Be A Tusked Aquatic Mammal Similar To A Sea Lion, Googoo Gajoob..."

This week, I finished watching the "LORD OF THE RINGS" trilogy, safe in the knowledge that, having 'been there, done that', I'll never have to sit through it all ever again! I STILL think it's complete doodoos, but I will concede that, as a cinematic achievement, it is IMPRESSIVE doodoos.

An early Xmas prezzy to myself, in the shape of a 'new' FRANK ZAPPA disc, arrived from the G&S Music concern. It's a sort of "FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE RETURN OF THE SON OF SHUT UP 'N' PLAY YOUR GUITAR"-type album called "Trance-Fusion" and a rather splendid listen it is too. And how sweet, after all these years, to hear the guitar solo from the Brighton'88 version of "City Of Tiny Lights" without any additional 'Enthusiastic Noises Off', courtesy of Mervyn Purviss!  I soon noticed that this seedydisk has been mastered at a very LOUD 'N' CLEAR level (well it IS a Frank Zappa production!) and so has been my BUS LISTENING item of choice this week.

Hello! SHELFY has just turned up with a couple of disks containing his VOICE-OVERs for the "Winged Eyeball" project, so I shall have a fun couple of days listening through those and CUTTING THE CLOTH to fit the backing tracks...