Week from Monday 5th January 2009

It's been "PROG WEEK" on the BBC's fourth channel, so... No complaints from me, then! As well as an excuse to root about in the archives, to roll out lots of juicy old "Old Grey Whistle Test" footage of all yer faves, there was the first outing for their specially-commissioned rockumentary "PROG BRITANNIA". Much of the press and blog discussion leading up to its airing has been on the names who REFUSED to be interviewed for the programme. Those who DID take part, however, were most eloquently amusing (notably Mr BILL BRUFORD... which bodes well for his forthcoming memoirs!). There were numerous music clips never before seen (by me, anyway) and cross-references to Jonathan Coe's seminal work "The Rotter's Club". 

The only "Huh?!?" moments for me were with the curious selections of background music the producers chose to use at certain points in the programme:- Terry Riley's "Poppy Nogood..."? Miles Davis' "In A Silent Way"? Where do THEY fit into the British Progressive music scene? Did they think that we of the GREATCOATED GENERATION wouldn't have noticed the anomaly? 

Much of the 'spectacle' is, of course, in 'Tap'-coloured hindsight, HUGELY RIDICULOUS, along with most of the lyrics. But that's all part of the fun. The music STILL sounds wonderful. As unashamedly BONKERS as most of it is, I just love it!

Bunny has been introducing me to the 'Southern Gothic' school of fiction, notably FLANNERY O'CONNOR. But, of course, Hampshire Libraries being what they are, though I've been able to read about Ms O'Connor in various reference tomes, attempts to find ACTUAL examples of her work have been mostly fruitless. I found one short story in an anthology of American writers and another lurking illicitly on someone's website. Several other names that have been recommended have proved to be COMPLETELY elusive on this side of the pond... then I stumbled over a copy of JOHN KENNEDY TOOLE's "A Confederacy Of Dunces" and was immediately smitten. "...The grotesque that we can still recognize..."

Week from Monday 12th January 2009

So now we've got ourselves quite a little transatlantic book circle going! The central character of "A Confederacy Of Dunces", IGNATIUS J REILLY has been commemorated by a statue in N'Orlins. Blow me if he/it doesn't bear an uncanny physical resemblance to THE HUMAN NAIL! There was also 'discussion' about what exactly Ignatius would SOUND like. Reading him on the page, I can hear "Family Guy"'s STEWIE GRIFFIN in my head. This led to an e-mail to JOHN 'SPUD' McCONNELL, the actor who once played Ignatius on stage, who has a weekday talk show on WWL-FM. Just for us, he recited a passage from the book, in character, on his Friday afternoon show!

This afternoon, I'm enjoying the latest episode from Bill Reiflin's SLOW MUSIC PROJECT tour of 2006, newly purchased as a DGM download. This is the show from San Juan Capistrano in Cali-forn-eye-ay. The second set is particularly strong - almost (whisper it!) JAZZ in places!

Week from Monday 19th January 2009

I've been "OFF SICK" for a while (hence the lack of diary entries)... tummy trubs, a chill in the waterworks and general systemic malaise. On Friday, I HAD to get up to keep a dentist's appointment, but apart from that, I've stayed in my crib, sleeping away the hours till COUNTDOWN (a long-running daytime game show, involving mental arithmetic and word puzzles, which exists merely so that us old folks can gauge whether we're still alive or not)...

This week's DGM download is a ROBERT FRIPP 'SOUNDSCAPE' recorded during the "G3" tour at Manchester Apollo in 2004. I've listened to and absorbed enough 'soundscaping' now, I think, to be able to tell the difference between a 'GOOD' performance and an 'INDIFFERENT' one. This outing probably falls into the latter category. Mr Fripp has said (and I paraphrase) that 'soundscaping' is about a response to the environment in which the performance happens (MUSIC WITH A SENSE OF PLACE). I would wager that a Manchester concert hall, packed with punters who are baying for some fast heavy metal guitar shredding from the likes of STEVE VAI, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and JOE SATRIANI, would NOT exactly be a receptive, 'sacred' atmosphere for the SPIRIT OF MUSIC to flow through the MASTER CRAFTSMAN (again, I'm paraphrasing here!). There are a couple of occasions during this performance where things - gulp! - actually seem to get out of control, where the sense of  'flow' is interrupted suddenly by a digital delay not behaving itself. Quibble, quibble... just about ANY Fripp 'soundscape' is going to be, by its very nature, startlingly beautiful music. [I've just learned that there's going to be a TRAVIS & FRIPP performance in Coventry Cathedral in May.]

I went over to Southampton City Art Gallery to see the exhibition entitled "UNPOPULAR CULTURE", a selection of stuff from the Art Council's Hayward collection, curated by GRAYSON PERRY: "...modern British artworks that embody a quiet nostalgia and restraint..." It's a mixed bunch:- a couple of nice pieces by Perry himself, a Barbara Hepworth or two, a [relatively small example of] Henry Moore and some atmospheric wartime photographs by Tony Ray-Jones. But anything by the appalling LS LOWRY is guaranteed to send me screaming from a gallery!

Week from Monday 26th January 2009

However, ART GALLERY visits obviously get my OWN creative juices flowing... because I finished the little "Thirty Second Love Song II" project I'd been working on, another collaboration with EVIL DEMENTED BUNNY. It's based on an old routine from an American TV show "HEE HAW" (best described as a Nashville version of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In"), which I've juxtaposed against [my naive interpretation of] a CHICK COREA piano vamp. With some THRASH-JAZZ thrown in for good measure. As if that wasn't enough to excite the MySpace populace, I bunged together a scratch video for it, mainly using that invaluable resource, old CLIP ART disks. 

It works on several levels. I'm quite chuffed with the whole thing from an "ART" perspective - it's a work of pure MERZ... Shelfy admiringly cheers on such collaborative efforts from the sidelines... and it's good MUSICAL COMEDY. Bunny and family think it's hilarious! I've just sent Bunny the original "Thirty Second Love Song" (that Shelfy and I did back in 1986) by way of a 'thank you' prezzy.

Thought For The Day from ROBERT FRIPP:
"It is a fact that, when we visit people, if we take them cakes, they invite us back. Those who are unsure whether this subsequent & consequent re-invitation has more to do with the quality of our company than the tastiness of the cakes, should ask themselves the question: how tasty were the cakes? I have no doubt as to the answer that immediately presents itself, and pay attention to the quality of the cakes."

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of "CSI" and CSI:NY" and all those other crime/procedural shows with initials for titles*. But I sometimes think they stretch the envelope of credulity with some of the pseudo-science that they use in the shows, especially where it comes to matters of information technology. I concede that the American police departments just MIGHT have super-mega-hyper-computers, that run on a Linux/Unix type operating system (or, in any case, something 'other' than a recognisable Windows or OSX), displaying text using a non-standard font and which perform database comparison tasks at lightning sub-second speeds. I even concede that the said computer MIGHT possibly be able to read fingerprints using an ordinary flatbed scanner and match them IMMEDIATELY with the AFIS database. I might, at a stretch, BELIEVE that these computers can take an image from a 72-or-less-DPI security camera and extrapolate enough data from the pixels to identify a perp crossing the street in the dark by reading his name tag. But this week's episode of "CSI:NY" had me chortling into my tea mug. Picture the scene. Mac Taylor, ace crime scene investigator, is on a flight from New York to Washington. A dead body is found in the lavatory. The aeroplane is, therefore, a flying 'crime scene'. Mac, of course, being off the clock, doesn't have his forensic tools with him. The body has no ID. So what does he do? To fingerprint the guy, he borrows some lipstick from the stewardess and creates an impression on an airline sickbag. He then borrows the pilot's ORDINARY mobile phone and uses it to take a picture of the fingerprints on the sickbag (which the stewardess holds up to the camera) and then instantly sends the results 'back to the lab' for IMMEDIATE comparison. Now what kind of mobile phone has a built-in camera with THAT kind of resolution? Oh well, it's only television!
*Actually I don't like "CSI Miami" much - that ginger bloke gets on my nerves!