Week from Monday 7th November 2011

It is, of course, BONFIRE WEEK here. Yes, I know we're SUPPOSED to "Remember Remember The FIFTH of November", but folks seem to string it out throughout the Autumn these days, so there is artillery going off disturbing your sleep EVERY night... I'm not entirely sure why we still "celebrate" the twit Guy Fawkes in this country. We are presumably "celebrating" the fact that said twit FAILED to bump off the King and all the other idiots in charge... hmmm. He wasn't even the chief conspirator in the plot, he was just the one who got caught in the act and hanged as an example (and they didn't even get THAT right first time!)

It's been another long and active week, so I dragged myself out on Saturday afternoon and hopped on a train to Commercial Road. I have £5 store credit to spend in HMV (ignoring the fact that it cost me that amount to get to Portsmouth in the first place). I treated myself to the DVD set of JETHRO TULL's 1978 Madison Square Garden concert. I also paid a visit to the best charity shop in the area for AVANT-GARDE ROCK and FREE-FORM JAZZ CDs. There must be someone in Portsmouth who buys everything that "THE WIRE" magazine tells him to, and then gives most of it to the charity shop (either that or he actually gets FREE copies to review and then gives them away, which, come to think of it, is the more likely situation). There is, of course, the usual DES O'CONNOR, MARIO LANZA and JAMES LAST fodder of your regular charity shop. But there is a rack in this particular shop liberally laced with the likes of DEREK BAILEY, TONY OXLEY, MARK STEWART, MANUEL GÖTTSCHING and KEIJI HAINO! On this occasion, I availed myself of the THIS HEAT Peel Sessions CD and some Swedish radio recordings of HENRY COW. It was this same charity shop that sold me the lavish "URI CAINE plays GUSTAV MAHLER" set recently. I think I will be paying that shop regular visits! But I'm not going to tell you which one it is.

On the train back, I placed myself in the "QUIET ZONE" carriage for a little light reading. But everyone's peace was disturbed by THE SCUMMIEST FAMILY IN THE SOUTH boarding the train at Fratton. First to arrive was a weasel-faced, shaven headed gent, clad in nylon "sports"-wear from his tattooed neck (tattoos which looked like they had be rendered with a biro by a seven-year-old) down to his scuffed trainers, clutching a can of Special Brew and struggling with a unruly and brutish dog on a length of string. Then, following a kerfuffle with an oversized baby carriage (which was left to block an aisle), he was joined by his overbearing, hatchet-faced and inebriated other half who, having berated her spouse for some transgression or other, proceeded to lob out a grotesque tattooed udder so that her mewling brat could gorge itself, all the while paying close attention to her mobile phone rather than to the job in hand. The dog was yapping, the weasel was whining, the wife was nagging, the baby was wailing... but of course, no one was complaining. We don't do that sort of thing here. We're British.

Feeling awfully smug this afternoon - I managed to write a JScript slideshow more-or-less from scratch AND get it to work! M'client wanted one with captions that would link to other pages. I'd never done that before! Needless to say, there was a lot of the old T&E (Trial & Error!) involved, and I managed to 'break' the website at least a couple of times before I nailed it... But that seems to be how ALL the big-bucks "professionals" do it, eh MySpace?

What a week for MAJOR COMEBACKS... first EVIL DEMENTED BUNNY sends me e-mail for the first time in ages (in which we wonder aloud where SHELFY has got to)... then THE LAD HIMSELF turns up on m'doorstep for the first time since June! He wanted some of the "EARLIEST EVER GRIDLING" from the archives - sessions that were originally on reel-to-reel tapes, of which only I have cassette copies; the joyous 'hitting-a-chair-and-yelling-"Ave Maria"' session, the "Marines"' sax solo, such Spot rarities as "I Didn't Care" and "Funny Face Blues"... Apart a noticeable background hum, as is in the nature of those old Co-Op reel-to-reel recordings, they all sound remarkably loud and clear.

Week from Monday 14th November 2011

Far too busy for diarising... normal service will be resumed at a less stressful time!  :-\ 

Week from Monday 21st November 2011

Whizzy whizzy bizzy bizzy... I had a fight with a faulty ticket machine on Portchester railway station the other night. It refused to accept the pin number of my debit card (and that of the gentleman before me, and the cash of the gentlemen after me...), the upshot of which is that my card  is now banned by ALL the machines on ALL the stations! I have to pay a visit to my bank branch to see about unblocking it. 

I paid another visit to my "secret" CHARITY SHOP OF WONDERS while I was in Portsmouth, but it would seem that the best of the avant-garde stash has been picked clean now for a while... The first of head-Porcupine STEVEN WILSON's solo projects "INSURGENTES" has now been re-released in a deluxe edition (aren't all K-Scope releases 'deluxe', what with the Lasse Hoile artworks and all that?) along with its accompanying "NSRGNTS RMXS" album, so I treated myself to that in one of the HMVs in town. It is, of course, very beautiful indeed. This year's SW album "GRACE FOR DROWNING" is never far from the 'jukebox' either.

What little downtime I have had has been spent listening to the likes of those and some TODD RUNDGREN re-releases, and reading an English translation of WAGNER's "THE RING". I also found a digital replacement for my chewed-up cassette of MR BUNGLE's mad first album, so I spent a couple of fun hours turning that into quality MP3s. 

I've also been enjoying the BBC's "SYMPHONY" series, where I've learnt far more than I really NEED to know about the likes of Brahms, Bruckner and Berlioz, as well as some choice stuff about THE SYMPHONIST THAT MATTERS Gustav Mahler. The whole thing spills over on to Radio 3, where you can hear the discussed works in full, and onto the WWW, where there are links to all sorts of Open University educational materials.

The good folks at the SERIF concern are still bombarding me with special offers on an almost daily basis. I think I now have all of their flagship products in some form or other. The most up-to-date versions of WEB PLUS and PAGE PLUS (X5s both) get used on a daily basis, with PHOTO PLUS not far behind. DRAW PLUS hardly gets used at all, as I'm still a COREL DRAW man by default! I don't have any use for MOVIE PLUS, but if I did, I would probably try the free version first... Now they've sent me a £25 OFF voucher for being in "the top 1% of  our most loyal customers" this year, so I shall probably treat myself to an upgrade to the latest PHOTO PLUS X5 before Christmas... Christmas already? But we were enjoying another Spring only last month, weren't we?! I suppose it'll soon be time to start compiling my "PICK O' THE YEAR" list... Ah well, back to the geekery and nerdliness for another week...

Week from Monday 29th November 2011

...well, Advent Sunday has passed, so the "XMAS SONG" is on the my[_____] player once again... the weather has taken a turn for the worse, with heavy "squalls" (the Met Office's word not mine) and a temperature more in keeping with tradition. Long trousers! Woolly hat! An actual coat!

Having tricked the unwilling into switching to the "new" homepage (via the simple method of disabling the "Turn It Back" button), it has now become clear that the new POWERS-THAT-BE at my[_____] are determined to continue the tradition of the old. That is to say, whatever their aims might be for a spiffing new "SOCIAL MEDIA" site, any intentions are quickly scuppered by their employing programmers who don't have a clue how to go about achieving those aims. It is truly astonishing at times the levels of incompetence they can reach. While we mortals merely seek software that WORKS, they have found ways of making it not only NOT WORK, but fail in new and unusual ways that break the laws of cybernetics. This week, we all simultaneously had our visitor counts reset to zero. Once restored, a couple of days later, they were completely wrong and, in at least one reported case, had started to count backwards! The stream is now firmly locked into "highlights" mode, whereby your latest status update will appear momentarily on the screen before disappearing, at which point the one before last will magically reappear, sometimes days after it was posted. The second most recent one will then vanish. And so on. It is now only possible to see the two most recent comments on any status or posting and there are no 'reply' buttons on the comments themselves (you have to actually leave the homepage and go to the postee's own profile to be able to read the entire conversation or meaningfully interact with it). So what exactly is the HOMEPAGE for now? Comments on blogs similarly come and go, thus making two-(or-more-)way interaction near impossible. It's as if there is a team of 'experts' somewhere in Timberlake Towers, who sit there scanning the entire my[_____] site for any USEFUL FEATURES THAT ACTUALLY WORK and come up with ingenious ways in which to make them dysfunctional and, therefore, NO LONGER BE USEFUL TO ANYONE. It takes a special kind of genius to do THAT. But "WHY?" is the big question...