Week from Monday 2nd July 2012

Well the summer's here. How do I know that? Definitely not by the weather. I mean it's "MORNING", kind of, but it's so overcast that it's almost too dark to type... No, I mean the TOUR DE FRANCE has started! And the BBC PROMS start NEXT weekend! THAT's how you know it's summer!

I spent a large chunk of the weekend doing a 'restoration' job on the contents of a couple of treasured (and possibly irreplaceable) VANGELIS tapes. They were almost unlistenable with age, but naturally they had sentimental value, having been purchased 'ON AN ISLAND SOMEWHERE'. I transplanted the tapes into 'new' cassette shells, 'digitized' them (in real time, using AUDACITY) and then - this is the naughty bit, I guess! - I was able to find replacements for all the 'broken' bits (drop-out sections; chewed-up tape) via YouTube. Armed with all the raw 'data', I could then reassemble the albums onto a decent quality CD-R (WAV editing with SOUNDPROBE 2; disc authoring with NERO EXPRESS). It's not strictly adherent to copyright law and is ethically questionable, but how is this any different from those "TURN YOUR OLD VINYL INTO MP3s" turntable/software combos that they sell now? It's not as if it's an EASY quickfire way of 'PIRATING' music JUST to avoid paying for a CD (if such a thing exists). Who but WE NERDLY FEW would undertake a couple of days of digital fiddle-assing about, in order to 'fix' just over an hour's-worth of audible music? Besides, how many times over are you expected to BUY your own record collection?

...SPEAKING OF OLD RECORDS: A nice new "shiny-shiny-precious" edition of the solitary (1974) long-playing record by Italian progsters ALUSA FALLAX has just been handed to me by a neighbour (Those postmen expect you to SIGN for your Italian prog deliveries these days!). "INTORNO ALLA MIA CATTIVA EDUCAZIONE" (as heard on BBC 6Music's "FREAK ZONE") features all the tarantella-tripping time signatures, steam-driven synthesiser textures, flutey-tooty neo-classical flourishes and unlovely gravelsome vocals you expect from Italians of the time. It also comes in a frightfully collectable 'replica' gatefold sleeve and is therefore A MOST WELCOME THING INDEED and well worth all the euros I paid for it.

I need to escape for the day. There's some rather noisy DRILLING going on (the kind involving power tools, not the marching-up-and-down sort) just the other side of my wall, so the entire room is vibrating loudly.

Saturday is the day of SOUTHAMPTON MELA. But the weather has other ideas. At about 10.45am on the day, they have announced that Hoglands Park is too waterlogged for fun and larfs and Bhangra partying...

Week from Monday 9th July 2012

Dear my[_____], How about a music player EMBED CODE that actually EMBEDS the player ON a page, instead of merely acting as a LINK to a page with the media on it (which, in turn, requires that the music plays in yet another separate pop-up window)? When you relaunched this place as a 'SOCIAL-MEDIA' site, you discarded just about every 'SOCIAL' feature that made this place what it was. Couldn't you at least get the 'MEDIA' bit right?

I did another couple of new tunes, well, one-and-a-half really... I completed work on a new CC:PP piece and then decided that the 'saxophone' part could lend itself to other treatments. "MATRICES" and "MATTRESSES" were the results, posted on two different my[_____] pages, with an accompanying "explanatory" blog. But the reason for the above outburst? my[_____] provide what they call "embed codes" on the music player. I "embed" these on the blog. But they don't work in the way that anyone with even a peripheral knowledge of media players would EXPECT. They are merely hyperlinks with fancy buttons, they do not "EMBED" anything!

This is also true if you try to click on media via my[_____]'s own stream. It LOOKS LIKE they made an attempt to make the media players work within the stream itself (like they do on GOOGLE+). In reality, the 'embedded' music player merely sits there looking dull and grey and not making a sound. Would this have anything to do with the ongoing Firefox/Adobe Flash dilemma? Whicheverways, you have to follow the link and listen at the source, so the player itself is useless.

YouTube clips, while they do 'kinda sorta' work from here, are slower to load than they are on YouTube itself, so you're better off just clicking on the link and watching the vids from the source anyway.

I shudder to think what this new "my[_____]TV" of theirs will be like (if indeed it works at all outside of California!). 24-hour rolling Timberlake anyone?

DREAM DIARY... Something to do with submarines...

"The ONLY 'sport' I ever cared about..." Meanwhile, sur-la-con-tee-nong, following a so-called 'rest' day, the TOUR DE FRANCE has headed into the BIG mountains at last. I always believed that too much creedence (and TV coverage) is given to the YELLOW JERSEY competition. Officially, that is the prize for "the rider recording the fastest overall time". The important word there is "recording". You HOLD ON to that prize by consistently 'staying with the peleton' (often several minutes behind the 'actual' stage winner) and keeping out of trouble. Yawn! Surely you are not really the "fastest overall" when everyone in the peleton is "recording" the SAME time? But that's just me being... er, pedantic. I'm really more interested in the TEAM competition. 'My' lads, the RADIOSHACK-NISSAN-formerly-know-as-LEOPARD-TREK-formerly-know-as-something-else SQUAD, are doing sterling stuff so far (together and individually) and are providing hours of nailbiting fun.

DREAM DIARY... Rehearsing in a church hall with an orchestra made up of some of the 'top names' in British jazz and free improvisation, including Evan Parker, Geoff Leigh, Chris Cutler, Annie Whitehead and several Loose Tubes alumni. We are working on a 'new composition' by Harry Beckett. It appears that I am now seen as something of a MELODICA VIRTUOSO in these circles...

Today (Friday) I have to yomp DOWN the hill to Titchfield, to collect a long-overdue payment cheque, and then yomp back UP the hill to Fareham, to pay it into the bank. I hope the weather stays reasonably clement.

Week from Monday 16th July 2012

Over the weekend, I learned that LOL COXHILL had died. Those of a more metaphysical bent would probably suggest THAT is why, out of nowhere, I had a dream about playing free-form jazz. My memories of LOL (which, in his case, could stand for "Laugh Out Loud"):- I heard him play a solo soprano set at the Sallis Benney Hall at Brighton Art College in 1979 (on a bill with Louis Moholo's Spirits Rejoice octet featuring Keith Tippett). It opened my ears to all sorts of musical possibilities that I hadn't previously known existed. My companion, who fancied himself as something of a "jazz sophisticate" (he had a number of David Sanborn and Bob James albums in his collection. Nuff said.) said something along the lines of "the saxophone is not supposed to be a solo instrument"... Around the same time, I saw Lol performing on Brighton sea front with what would probably have been his occasional band The Recedents. On that day, he left his 'proper' saxophone behind and instead played one of his homemade junk horns, while pushing a child's toy along the pavement (you know? one of those things on a long handle with wheels that make the bells tinkle when you push it along?)... Flash forward to February of 2002 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the anarchic 'happening' that was MERZ NITE, a freeform free-for-all celebration of the spirit of DaDa... Mr Coxhill did HIS best work that night playing solo under the stairs that led from the Museum's heaving entrance hall down to the gents' toilets. Good acoustics! He also traded some admirable honks with trombonist Gail Brand later in the evening, but, by then, you had to be standing right over them to appreciate what was being played. I later managed to have a short chat with him. We talked about busking in general and 'gridling' in particular, a tradition of which he was well aware...

Will this biblical rain NEVER stop? Joke's over God, surely we've had our allotted forty days-stroke-nights by now?

A quick flurry of work on behalf of the JEWELLERY CONCERN, which I turned into a leisure activity... down to Gosport to collect bizcards... bought a bus "hopper" ticket and made my way to Portchester to deliver them... Went for a windswept walk along the Harbour wall by the Castle while I was over there... Did my rounds of the CHARITY SHOPS in the area...

I did a few tweaks to said CONCERN's website. That bloody awful INTERNET EXPLODER is giving me grief again. I get things looking REAL CLASSY when looked at with proper grown-up internet browsers, only to find that it all looks COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and a pale imitation of its true glory when viewed via M****soft's non-compliant turkey. Cheezum Crackers, they can't even get the font formatting to look the same... You Get The Internet Browser You Deserve.

...and I deserve the latest version of FIREFOX, number fourteen with a bullet! I'm happy to report that it's fast and stable and reports none of my beloved plug-ins as 'incompatible'. There appear to be some new changes to the 'developer tools' (I think some of those came in with v13, but I hadn't noticed them yet!)

I'm not sure they've got that new "NEW TAB" screen right, or what it's really supposed to do. It seems, at the moment, a half-finished imitation of Safari's (or Opera's) 'pinned' websites thingy... no thumbnails though - or maybe I'm not using it correctly!? But you CAN turn it off, if you don't think it of any use whatsoever.

It remains to be seen whether they have fixed the anomaly involving Adobe Flash. Admittedly, this hasn't affected me THAT much on Windoze 7-64bit, only when using XP (a problem I quickly solved by switching to Google Chrome as my default browser on that platform).

I also have discovered another of those "HOW DID I EVER LIVE WITHOUT IT?" add-ons. This one displays a full-sized image in a pop-up 'lightbox' whenever you float the mouse over picture 'thumbnails'. It works particularly well with my[_____] avatars and, I am told, Facebook ones. But you have to fiddle with the settings a bit, so that it doesn't do it to EVERY image on the screen, just the useful ones.

A LITTLE TOO LATE... Now that I've abandoned the project in a huff, due to Google 'moving the goalposts' on me once too often, I'm suddenly getting PLUS ONEs and comments on the pictures of my STYLISH G+ pages. Maybe I'm not the only one who believes that a decent SOCIAL NETWORK ought to allow a LITTLE BIT OF COZY about the place, instead of having the cold, clinical, SHINY-WHITE-WITH-SHADES-OF-GREY of a particularly intimidating kitchen appliance.

I shall now take my leave, as I don't want to miss a second of the TOUR DE FRANCE. I have to say, I think that this year, far too much was won and lost on the INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIALS, rather than on the ACTUAL racing, but that's just me. Next year is the Centennial, so they'll probably change it all over again!

Week from Monday 23rd July 2012

...actually, I'm wrong to call it the "Centennial"... Although it will be the 100th Tour de France, it really started in 1903. Obviously, during that 110 year period there were a couple of little interruptions when Europe was busy having wars instead of cycle races!

Anyway, that's MY 'sporting calendar' done for another year. You can stuff the rest.

This week we have been promised NICE WEATHER for more an hour at a time. Actual SUNSHINE and RAINLESSNESS and everything! If you're not sure what "SUNSHINE" is, English people, then ask an older relative to explain it to you.

Now that I've finally been paid, I went over to Southampton to buy that MIDI-to-USB INTERFACE that I've been promising myself for ages. Now I can hopefully get my trusty old Yamaha to communicate with all those cute little VIRTUAL INSTRUMENTS that now live inside my 'pooter. I've acquired some rather convincing replicas of "VINTAGE" synthesisers that I always dreamed of owning as a boy - Moogs and ARPs and Mellotrons and all! I don't think I'm wired up to play the VST instruments directly from the keyboard - there's all that ASIO stuff to set up, which I don't want to mess with for the moment, for fear of accidentally silencing everything else in my virtual 'studio'! But I CAN play the sounds on the soundcard's built-in Roland chip set (so that it is at least possible to hear what I'm doing as I do it!) and then route the recorded MIDI data to the 'proper' instruments afterwards. With me, it has ALWAYS been the experimental 'mucking-about' afterwards that produces results, rather than any actual PLAYING ability, which I don't have... Besides, it's a long while since I played full-sized piano keys, so I'm a bit creaky to say the least. But it's coming back to me.

BUT... before I start churning out any more NEW music, I've decided to set myself A PROJECT, a little something to occupy my time productively, while the rest of the world is ogling at freaks doing pointless and expensive things in the name of 'sport'.

I'M GOING TO FINISH THE SECOND "CC:PP" ALBUM!

I did a bit of a 'stock-take' and it occurred to me that I now have more than enough material to compile a CD's-worth. A lot more, in fact. The first thing to do this weekend is work on a tentative running order and maybe trim some of the fat... I'm going to alternate between the (mainly instrumental) "HORRIPILATION" tracks and the best of the CC:PP tracks recorded since the first BandCamp 'album'. I hadn't heard some of this stuff for a while. Some of it sounds astonishing, confirming my 'working theory' that once you've recorded a track, you shouldn't listen to it again for months. When you come back to it with fresh ears, it's almost like listening to someone else entirely! I don't believe that some of this music came out of LITTLE OLD ME. In fact, I don't know WHERE it came from.

Week from Monday 30th July 2012

Well, that didn't take as long as I expected... A weekend was spent burning copies of the 'album' onto CD, then making wee adjustments until I was happy with something that sounded good on a PROPER GROWN-UP's HI-FI rather than trickling out of my (albeit powerful) computer speakers. The last day of the month was spent uploading all 700 megabytes of the ruddy thing to BANDCAMP.COM, a long laborious waiting process.

But now, first day of August, IT'S OUT THERE. It's yours for the asking. Please Take One. It's does sound pretty good, though I do say so myself. I now have to do various things to 'promote' it, of course, like posting updates on my[_____] and GOOGLEPLUS, and writing a blogspot post complete with all the appropriate links and that, and 'Liking' it and Plus-One-ing it...

I recently received an email from a friend who lives not too far from here. She signed off with "Hope you are making the most of the break in the rain...". So that is now how we measure "summer" in this country now, is it? That's what we're left with - "Hope you are making the most of the break in the rain..." rather than "Hope you are enjoying the sunshine..."!?!

DREAM DIARY... In the studio with Camel (or was it Caravan? Richard Sinclair on vocals, anyway...) re-recording a version of an old song for a charity album... Couldn't get the vocals exactly as I wanted them, so lots of takes and lots of 'cutting and pasting' going on, except it involved arranging bits of actual sticky tape on an actual board... Apropos of nothing, I was asked to give some loose change to put in the collection box. All of my copper coinage was stained an interesting shade of bluey-black when I took it from my jeans pocket (I should point out, in real life I NEVER keep my money in my jeans and I NEVER wear jeans anyway!)

Early days yet, but I'm getting some positive feedback about the 'new' album. I shall gather together all the my[_____] comments and post them at the foot of the BlogSpot article.

DREAM DIARY... At a "Gosport Festival" event in an elegantly run-down, brown-painted, enormous old music hall... I met Allen Toussaint, who showed me a special effect with a high-powered water hose that can be heard on many old New Orleans hits of the sixties and seventies... That's right, if you listen to "Hey Pockie Way" by The Meters, you can hear a 'talking' effect that is produced by squirting a metal plate with a water hose. I've seen it and heard it done by the man himself... He lent me his special spraying device, so that I could show Shelfy, Binky, Rockette and the others, how it is done... I found the lads walking zombie-like, in single file, around the auditorium... Having demonstrated my new trick, I was then desperate that the valuable hose should find its way back to the great man before he leaves, so I went off in search of him, encountering a group of idiotic roadies along the way...