Week from Monday 1st November 2010

MONDAY: up bright and early to go to the DOCTOR, for a check-up 'n' stock-up... then back to the questionably-wonderful world of PowerPointing, pausing only to clean CAT SHIT off one of my boots... TUESDAY: more PowerPointing, stopping only to listen to "LE SHOW"... up till the early hours, changing everything again to a different aspect ratio... WEDNESDAY: checking my work on someone else's version of PowerPoint, just to make sure... THURSDAY: with Uncle Willy and the team packed off to Dzat Loondin at last, I'd promised myself a day out. But following a phone call last night from Florida, before I'm free to do that, I've got some 'roughs' to do... THE RAIN IN BASINGSTOKE FALLS MAINLY ON THE CRAZY BLOKE... FRIDAY: some more roughs, pausing only to pop up the road to the HOLE IN'TH'WALL to get some cash for Shelfy, because he's on his way with my new Xara Webstyle! SATURDAY & SUNDAY: catching up with [over] a week's TV, including, epically, the ROBERT PLANT special and two whole episodes of "TRUE BLOOD". Reading "Dawn Of The Dumb", an anthology of CHARLIE BROOKER's venomously hilarious TV critiques, picked up in a charity shop.

DREAM DIARY... I sent for some CDs from "A Well-Known World Music Label" (...alright, Globestyle). Instead, I received a large boxfile containing some spare disc inserts, several press clippings and a couple of bags of petty cash in the form of assorted loose change... I arranged to meet "The Artist In Question" (...alright, Ben Mandelson) at a gig in Basingstoke, so that I could return the goods in person... Later, the inevitable "Journey Home" dream: this time involving a three-wheeler van (yellow, naturally), which had to be manoeuvred down some narrow lanes and then pushed across a sports field (which was suspiciously active at three in the morning)...

Week from Monday 8th November 2010

Back on the ROUGHS, although the words "blood from stone" spring to mind. I can't come up with an idea to please myself, let alone the client. I don't think I can find much that is inspiring about private medical insurance. But the weather is yukky, so I can't escape. 

On yesterday's "FREAK ZONE", there was an interview with Papa Minimalism himself, TERRY RILEY. By way of a musical introduction, the title track to "CHURCH OF ANTHRAX", Mr Riley's 1970 collaborative effort with JOHN CALE, was played. I'd forgotten just how great it was. I remember when I heard it the first time, "round at Gold Lamé's gaff" and being struck by its proto-krautrock cyclical rock stylings. Hearing it all these years later, unannounced on the radio, it took me a while to recall what it was and where I'd heard it before. The bass guitar riff reminded me of GONG, but then the organ "diddly-diddlies" started and it all came flooding back. This morning, I've dug out ye anciente tape for a bit of OFFICE AMBIENCE. It doesn't appear to be available to buy on iTunes or 7Digital, unfortunately.

The sudden change in the weather means that the newly arrived BRENT GEESE have started their grazing on the sports fields of Ol' Gosport Town. A sure sign that "Winter drawers on". Yesterday, I was forced to do my finest Marcel Marceau "Walking Against The Wind" routines up and down the High Street (I might have a go at "Being Shut In A Glass Box" next). This morning, I shall stay in and do "THIS SORT OF THING". Office Ambience at the moment is provided by THE DARKENING SCALE's latest work "Hydrogen Kaleidoscope", and a fine work it is too. Fellow 'spacechums JOXFIELD PROJEX have also got another huge sprawling free download (3 CD's-worth!) being added to my iTunes as we speak...

Although currently, ROBERT PLANT's "Band of Joy" album is never TOO far from the diskplatter. Not to mention Percy's set from the so-called BBC RADIO 2 ELECTRIC PROMS (catchy title, Bob!) at the Roundhouse. Ah, but it's horrible out and we don't get anything like real daylight, and the only rays of sunshine or little fluffy clouds are on my screensaver, so the appropriately-named BAND OF JOY's brand of psychedelic-country-gospel-folk-rock is just the ticket at the moment. And I DO prefer my 'folk' music to have an American accent, even if it does come via Stourbridge.

Week from Monday 15th November 2010

IMPULSE PURCHASE! I went into our local branch of 'Cash Converters', having spotted the GRAPHICS TABLET they had in the window - I've promised myself one of those for Christmas! But then something else caught my eye and screamed "BUY ME!" instead. It was a rather nice "nearly new" example of a MARANTZ CD player, for the laughable price of just under £70. It's the black model rather than the 'gold' one, but... well, I had to to, didn't I? It's also missing its remote control, but who needs one of those in a room this small? My TECHNICS machine, the one that I bought for a pound at the carboot sale, is a very nice sounding piece of kit, but it is prone to tripping over the tiniest speck of dust or scratch. With my FUNNY EARS currently set to MONO, I'm not yet sure what the sound quality of the Marantz is REALLY like. In fact, I'm having trouble judging how loud I'm playing it - but it doesn't skip, so that already makes it a more COMFORTABLE listen in my book.

However, at the moment, I have such a backlog of unheard 'new' music stored on the peecee, that I really must give some of that a go. This morning, the new JOXFIELD PROJEX download album is filling the room with its strangeness and charm. But there's so much of it, I shall have to listen in instalments or I'll never get anything done! There is also that DARKENING SCALE newby and the latest opus from SQUAREPUSHER waiting on the iTunes. Not to mention another free download from GEOFF LEIGH's Bandcamp site... Some Hutch Moo Sick Sole It'll Thyme...

____________________

TUESDAY - So I woke up this morning... and threw up my arms in disgust! The new-look MYSPACE (or my[______] as I believe it's now called) is here... and it's a mess! Having spent an age-and-a-day completely redesigning my public profile, so that it looks nice AND complies to the latest HTML5 and Java watchamacallits, the SPACEMONKEYS have come along and UN-tidied it again. First impressions:-

- Certain content boxes are the wrong colour all of a sudden...
  ...so that now HYPERLINKED TEXT doesn't show up against the background
  (grey text on a grey field, anybody?); 
- The 'COMMENTS' boxes look awful - a completely different style to the rest of the page; 
- There's linked text running over the top of images in the 'STREAM' module; 
- The MUSIC PLAYER appears to be in "now-it-works-now-it-doesn't" mode again; 
- All those extra COMMENT ENTRY BOXES in the 'stream' module have upset the balance of the page...
  ...and they stick out like a sore thumb;
- The font has been changed to 'bold' for hyperlinked text within the HTML boxes...
  ...and there is no MOUSE-OVER HIGHLIGHTING for hyperlinks.  

I can't even START to list what's wrong with the HOME PAGE now - because I don't know where to find anything anymore! It took me ten minutes to work out how to check my mail and reply to it. The 'stream' listings are, to all intents and purposes, RANDOMISED again, so it's impossible to see at a glance what my friends are up to. Using my own pre-customised friend 'categories' doesn't help much there either. As far as any kind of INTERACTIVITY is concerned, it's completely useless. Good luck finding anything new that I'VE posted in the last few days (bulletins, stream updates, some new music and a blog about it...).What is more, I've just had to send our Bunny an email the old-fashioned way! Oh, and this just in from SHELFY:-

"...according to MySpace, 2 people have listened to my music today. 
There's nothing on my bloody site."

It's as if they WANT people to jump ship and go to FeySpook. But there is an UPSIDE: If you want to listen online to the hot new album by some identikit bunch of tattooed ruffians, or keep up to date with all the latest GAMES news, then my[______]  is definitely the place to be... sigh...

DAY TWO - My public profile now looks a LITTLE less tiresome. I decided that the best (only) way to accommodate all those ugly new grey boxes on the page, was to completely redesign my colour scheme to something a bit lighter. Now they don't "stick out like a sore thumb" QUITE so much. The hyperlinks are still 'blind', but at least the colours are tasteful. The music player is still a tad "NOW YOU SEE IT NOW YOU DON'T", but I did notice, when it IS there, that the 'lyrics' function is working again now. However, there is an annoying pop-up advert that sometimes... er, pops up whenever you hover the mouse pointer over the player. On my browser it is, of course, an EMPTY box, but for anyone else looking at my page, well, lordy knows what they're being sold! On the other hand, the BLOG screen looks a bit tidier and is easier to read now, albeit with fewer features. [As if  my[______] is for people that can READ! Pah! You poor deluded fool!] By the way, if you revert your profile to one of the ready-made design templates (which is probably what my[______] would LIKE you do), there are far fewer instabilities and the hyperlinks are no longer 'blind'. Hmmm... funny that...

The HOME PAGE is where the real trouble lies. Every trivium of online activity, undertaken by thousands of "friends", is monitored - and it's flashing across the screen in "REAL TIME" now! There no longer appears to be a [working] filter system, so you get EVERYTHING in quick succession. Every damn comment, on a comment, on a posting, on a profile. At the busiest times of day, there's far too much of it for you to stop and read what you WANT, before another item appears on the screen and shoves it aside. USELESS! As far as I can tell, it is nigh on impossible to remove items from the 'notifications' list once you've dealt with them. There is also a nigglesome pop-up that keeps alerting me to the fact that someone I don't know is using the Instant Messenger, even though I don't subscribe to it myself. There is no way, that I can see, for me to turn it off. 

Overall, there is a disturbing emphasis on items to appeal to GAMES enthusiasts. But the recent market research survey gave me an inkling that THAT would be the case. We Were Warned. Yes, if you haven't guessed it by now, the swanky new changes are all so that my[______] can become more smartphone-friendly and appeal to the SAS generation (Short Attention Span). Ah, but there's more...

"Thanks myspace for fucking up my page with your new beta! Top banana!" - GV
"Yes they have fucked up. Pissed off? You betcha!" - RSR
"You're not the only one, matey!" - PP
"Myspace have totally fucked up! Stop fucking with my page. It is a mess now! I am getting really angry. We don't want it like fucking facebook. We want to pimp our page our way. Wankers!" - RHS
"Why did they do that to mYsPace? It's unattractive. It's nasty. And it's non-functioning. What was the deal?" - EDB
"I am going to form a new group, down with the new MySpace - any takers? Check out Reverbnation guys. That's how to do it." - GV
"This thing's becoming more and more difficult to use! Now I can't see ANY streaming stuff at all: just a big splurge of gray!! RUBBISH!!" - MOM

And those are just the people I know personally... There are, however, some AMUSING postings on the [s]wanky new look my[______], if you can find them. Someone has already designed a "THE NEW MYSPACE SUCKS" logo which is spreading like wildfire. It looks like all us old-time 'SpaceFolks woke up in a state of shock, wondering what the hell THIS was and would the world ever be the same again? Like the beginning of "The Day Of The Triffids" or "V" or something. Even the great French synthesiser wizard JEAN-PHILIPPE RYKIEL tweeted to express his disgust at the "merde", and he has been blind since birth! I've learnt a lot of new curse words, in several different languages, over the last couple of days.

"Oh, I have MANY theories about 'wots the deal' with MySpace. Many many many. Boy have I ranted on the subject in the last few days. I generally arrive at the following conclusion:- They are haemorrhaging customers to FeySpook! FeySpook has had more success integrating with 'new' technology like smartphones and iPads and wotnot. So they are trying to target the kind of people who use these devices (thus alienating those of us on 'old-fashioned' peecees in the process). They are doing this by using the allegedly more universally compatible HTML5 and new versions of JavaScript, so that everything works in the same way on every device (in theory). Facebook is able to do this already because all the pages look the same - there are no customised/personalised themes. YOUR gubbins goes on THEIR page layout. On MySpace, everybody's page has been designed differently, with their own style sheets and what-have-you. Having the ability to make YOUR page YOUR own was the reason most people chose MySpace over FeySpook in the first place. One of the first things they did with the new Profile-3.0-Beta (catchy title, Bob!) was to take the control of the CSS elements (Cascading Style Sheets) out of YOUR hands and gently encourage you to work from ready-made templates instead. It is very difficult to make pages 'dynamic' with HTML5 (no matter what they say). Good old HTML4 is more flexible from a 'design' point of view (in my experience) - but it won't work very well on an iPhone or Blackberry! I have found ways (trial & error, HTML trickery, compromise) of getting my public profile page to behave in a way that feels like it is still MINE up to a point (Anything else that doesn't work yet is out of my hands). My main problem now is with the HOME PAGE, which is no longer constructed with THE LIKES OF US in mind. They are making the content of MySpace more likely to appeal to young folks who spend their time playing games* and only communicate in a limited number of characters and emoticons on mobile devices. A [poorly-executed] market research survey has told them that these are the kind of people that use MySpace. They are wrong. Those kind of people use Facebook and Twitter... Gosh, sorry about that. This email suddenly imploded and turned into a media studies essay!"

*GAMES are where it's at in today's marketplace. They are the main consumer item for the LUKE-ER-TIVE YOUNG FOLKS' MARKET.

Hundreds of people a minute have been visiting various "I HATE THE NEW MYSPACE" 'event' pages. That's got to account for something, hasn't it? Judging by the hit rate, I would not be surprised if one of the pages garners half-a-million 'signatures' by the end of next week. It passed the 100,000 mark on Sunday afternoon, after being up for three days. It is a pity that the level of literacy displayed by the endorsees does not help the campaigns' credibility. Far too few of the commentators can construct a coherent sentence, or have adjectival vocabularies beyond "sucky", "fckn gay", "wack" and "shyt". Many of the messages look like they were typed wearing boxing gloves, probably the result of TXTing via a touchscreen. "WTF DiZ Is SUM FkN STuPID SHTTTTTTTTTTTTT" indeed. Spelling the word "campaigne" (sic) in the name of one of the campaigns doesn't bode well either. Rant over. Normal service will be resumed on Monday's diary. Or Will It?

Week from Monday 22nd November 2010

This week's diary will be a my[______]-free zone. Apart from that one, of course. Promise.

Anyway... while all THAT was going on, I put in some work on the STEREOGRAPHER'S WIZARD website, did some more roughs for the 'private health insurance' logo and found some time for a little tonsorial TLC at Gosport's premier EMPORIUM OF HAIR, in exchange for a couple of wee oddjobs. Over this weekend, as is my wont, I've been catching on the previous week's TV. Treats included a Paul Morley documentary on BRIAN ENO, the story of the DEEPWATER HORIZON disaster (told from the engineers' point of view), as well as all the usual US dramas I love so well. I haven't yet been able to appraise or appreciate my new CD player, because my ears are still pretty "FUNNY". I have been systematically going through the downloads of the1971 KING CRIMSON's four-night run at the Zoom Club in Frankfurt.

DREAM DIARY... This week's EARWORM is that cheesy song by BLUR that goes "...something something coffee and TV...". I hate it. It reminds me of being forced to listen to a commercial radio station (which played the same half-a-dozen songs on the hour EVERY hour), whilst temping nightshifts in a plastics factory in the britpop '90s. The Horror.

Down to Gozzy today to take care of some things for THE EMPORIUM OF HAIR. I've been reading "A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES" again, to while away the bus journeys. While I was in town, I treated myself to a new USB HUB, because this here peecee is running out of holes. But the cheapo lead that came with it is useless and even has rusty spots on the plugs! So I haven't yet got the device to work properly. Even though it does.

A few more bloggin's and postin's have been poured out on the subject of THE TOPIC THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME THIS WEEK.

THURSDAY... Having taken care of a couple of tasks in Gozzy, I hopped on a Number Seventy-Two for a wee shopping spree. For a start, I bought out half of  MAPLIN's - the USB lead I needed to make my 'new' hub go properly, some new CD cleaning kit and one of their substantial parts catalogues (aka "The Nerd's Book Of Nice Shiny Bits"). [Note for our American cousins: MAPLIN is a lot like RADIO SHACK]... Traipsing around Britain's Last Remaining Record Chain Store ensued - I've now, with the acquisition of "ITWoP", CAUGHT UP with the KING CRIMSON "40th Anniversary Series". I also, finally, agreed to sign up for one of their store cards. I did my round of the charity shops, where I found some dusty old items by LAURIE ANDERSON, ORNETTE COLEMAN and the BALENESCU STRING QUARTET and was NEARLY tempted by some more bad taste t-shirts. 

"IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON" is not one of my favourite KCrimdiscs, I must confess. I always saw it as a good HALF-AN-ALBUM, hastily padded out with filler material following the departure of their best tunesmith Ian McDonald. [Re: the over-long, recycled "Mars" that is "The Devil's Triangle" - I always skip to 'Part 3' myself!] Having said that though, I've still bought it four times over the years! Needless to say, it does sound magnificent in its new incarnation, and there are more additional cadences and cascades and GROONings than you can shake a stick at. Forty years on, IT'S A GROWER!

Week from Monday 29th November 2010

This Sunday's afternoon filmic treat was the Tim Burton movie of "SWEENEY TODD". It was visually stunning, as one has come to expect from the maestro's work. What is more, I found myself enjoying the Sondheim music a lot more than I might have reasonably expected! None of the cast embarrassed themselves with their singing. JOHNNY DEPP does a fine Anthony Newley, to go with his previous turns as Keith Richard and Buster Keaton and, er, Tim Burton. HELENA BONHAM-CARTER looked EXACTLY like her animated goth character in "The Corpse Bride". I also watched the last two episodes of "TRUE BLOOD", boo hoo, come back soon!

Today, the last remaining my[______] users who have been clinging on to PROFILE 1.0 are being FORCED to 'upgrade' to the universally-loathed PROFILE 3.0, whether they want to or not. This despite all the PR-driven reassurances to the contrary. We've been fibbed at all along the way, so I've no reason to expect things will change much now. The general consensus is that my[______] has had it and, come this lunchtime, there will be a mass exodus to FeySpook (those who haven't jumped ship already). Sad but true, long-time my[______] users are CUTTING OFF THEIR NOSES TO SPITE THEIR 'SPACE... I will NOT be going to FeySpook anytime soon, as I don't see it as a viable alternative for struggling ARTISTS. There is ZERO scope there for personal artistic expression of any sort. Only my[______] can offer that, broken though it is. If my[______] is doomed, I'm going to go down fighting, spreading mischief as I go.

"Twilight of the media moguls? Not for this guy. With the $580 million purchase of MySpace, NewsCorp chief Rupert Murdoch is betting he can transform a free social network into a colossal marketing machine..." (Quote from "Wired" magazine)

If I was a conspiracy nut, I'd put forward the theory that Rupert Murdoch acquired my[______] with the SPECIFIC INTENTION of driving it out of business. But I'm not, so I couldn't possibly suggest that. However, Murdoch HAS demonstrated, time and Time[s] again, that the one thing he really can't abide is to see anyone getting something for 'free'.

IT'S HEEEEEYERRRRRRRR! The snow that has been troubling the rest of the FURTHERUPCOUNTRY has finally hit the Solent Delta. Naturally, I was out bright and earlyish with the wee Samsung, taking a few first impressions (before it no doubt turns to ice). Luckily, I have no need to venture further afield today.

What with all the kerfuffle, it seems an appropriate time to do another of my surveys in the ongoing series:-.

"WHICH INTERNET BROWSER WORKS BEST WITH MYSPACE?"
   

5) The INTERNET EXPLORER variants came off the worst (again),
   with earlier versions not recognising the new features at
   all and Explorer 8 being slow to load and laggy to scroll.
  [Disclaimer: The newish Version 9, which only works properly
   with Windoze 7, is beyond the scope of this test programme.
   I'm sure it's, um... very nice]. Any of the 'skinning'-type
   browsers like AVANT shared IE's shortfalls, of course.
   Another deal-clincher for me is that, as far as I can see,
   you can't install an Ad-Blocker on M****soft's baby. If, in
   this day and age, you are still using IE as your browser
   du-jour, well then you almost DESERVE any problems you've
   been having with MySpace! "just saying"
4) OPERA
was a bit faster, but some of the fonts and layouts
   look a bit weird (still showing its NETSCAPE NAVIGATOR
  
roots?). It too seems to scroll down the page in a juddery
   fashion. I also couldn't find an Ad-Blocker for this'n.
3)
Similar results for APPLE SAFARI this time 'round, which,
   until recently HAD been my browser of choice (ah, but it's 
   so PRETTY!). It works fine, but I had already noticed a 
   while back that it was getting a little slow to load
   MySpace...

2)
...which is why I had made the switch back to FIREFOX as my
   default browser for a while. This time though, FIREFOX was
   just pipped at the post by...
1) GOOGLE CHROME
, which seems fairly fast to load, remembers
   to keep me logged in if I want to go off and do something
   else, and scrolls down the page quite smoothly. Pages still
   LOOK the way I 'designed' 'em, because it shares the same
   open source 'engine' as FIREFOX. The Google thingy is a
   fairly UNBLOATED browser which is normally quick to use,
   plus it does a good job of importing all your settings and
   shortcuts from whatever browser you were using LAST week. 
   So, I am happy to announce, it is now my...


"DEFAULT BROWSER OF THE WEEEEEEEEEEK!"