Week from Monday 3rd December 2012

BBC4 had a BEACH BOYS theme night... Theirs is always an interesting story to hear told and it's most welcome to swim in their [nearly always] beautiful music once in a while. Of course, I lived through "THE SIXTIES", but didn't realise that they were happening at the time. Most of that period of musical history went right over my head, as I had more important childish pursuits to... um, pursue. But even as a mere sprog, musically disinterested as I was, it was clear to me that The Beach Boys were MUCH better than The Beatles (and for that matter, that just about EVERYONE ELSE was better than The Rolling Stones). I mean to say, it's OBVIOUS, isn't it? Can't anyone ELSE see it? (I would probably still stand by that conviction to this day, by the way.)

So, long story short, I've had a bit of a Beach Boys "CRAZE" this weekend, following that televisual feast. I dragged out "SURFS UP" and "SMILEY SMILE" for an early evening airing and I listened to some of Dennis Wilson's "PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE" via that internet they have now (My new "discovery"... must get CD). The trouble that I ALWAYS have with The Beach Boys is that they cause "EAR WORMS". If I listen to them too closely for any length of time, a repeatedly-looped snippet of gloriously harmonious music will get lodged in my head for weeks! I am currently listening to the last few bars of "Don't Go Near The Water" without the aid of a Hi-Fi.
2012/12/06, 08:45 - This morning I received my invite to join New Myspace. I've decided that if I AM going to try it out, I will create a completely NEW account, in the name of JOHNSON'S GRIDLING BAND, using a different email address and everything. That way, my "classic" my[_____] account will stay intact. I went through the process of setting up the new sign-in details, clicked on the "JOIN" button... and I immediately got a "Sorry Something Went Wrong We'll Be Back Later" message. Does not bode well...

09:30 - I now have log-in capability... the first words that spring to mind are "UGLY", "CLINICAL" and "UNINSPIRING". It certainly does NOT make you want to GET UP AND GET CREATIVE (unless you consider having to learn a whole new 'way of doing things' to be a creative act in itself). I immediately noticed that the interface screens don't fit on my browser without clicking Firefox over to 'full screen' view, so 'getting creative' has hit a hurdle already. So then... GOOD NEWS: there is now a New Myspace page in the name of JOHNSON'S GRIDLING BAND. BAD NEWS: it is empty of all content and is likely to stay that way until I can discover ways to make it our own. Don't hold your breath.

10:35 - A major handicap for a 'music' site is that I can't actually upload any of our OWN music yet. The button to do so is not yet functioning. All you can do is 'share' other people's 'music', every last item of which is currently CORPORATE X-FACTOR PLEBFODDER. I am not interested in 'sharing' playlists full of Hollywood-approved popkiddies who I don't know from Adam, so I can't personally see a way in which this format would help spread our OWN content. But I am aware that this is a PRE-LAUNCH version that I'm trying out.

11:00 - As for anything involving WRITING:- One's "biog" is limited to a twitifully small number of characters, so there's no scope for 'unknowns' like us to tell the world what we're about, or to be expansively florid in our descriptions. The whole New Myspace site is determinedly ANTI-LITERATE, as far as I can see. I did wonder what you'd get if you signed on as a 'writer', which is one of the profile options available. Making folks put themselves into limiting categories like this goes against MY idea of what a 'multimedia' platform should be about. I want to be able to 'share' our music AND pictures AND videos AND write funny articles...

11:15 - I did succeed in uploading some photos (it crashed when doing so on more than one occasion). But WHY OH WHY the huge font size on the captions? (and everything else for that matter. I'm guessing "mobiles"... but if I have trouble fitting everything on the screen via MY monitor, then what hope if you squint at the interweb via one of those WRETCHED THINGS? Especially in that particular shade of warm grey?)

11:31 - New Myspace also seems determined to tell people that I live in COWES on the Isle of Wight, even though I put a more accurate Google location on the saved profile. I have to correct it every time I post something. It could be argued that Cowes is ONE OF the closest 'large' towns to where I'm located, but since there's a bloody great chunk of water between me and it, that's not very helpful... That's enough of that for today...
After more failed attempts than I care to number, I finally did something with CC's "IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN". I'd scrapped some earlier attempts, using the best bits for the 'companion' piece "ENDLESS UNIVERSES OF STARS AND MOUNTAINS". Now she has posted a much better recitation of the poem on her SOUNDCLOUD, along with a delightfully spooky acapella version of "SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW". Being the perverse collagist that I am, I began to wonder what would happen if I combined the two...
2012/12/07, 08:25 - I strive to have 'a little tinker' with New Myspace each morning, just to see if it inspires me to do anything...

08:40 - I have to say, thus far, I have concluded that IT IS NOT FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME. I can no more find anything about it 'entertaining' than I could watching MTV or listening to Radio 1Xtra or 'reading' a copy of Heat magazine or following the X-Factor. I concede that all those kinds of activity are (bafflingly to me) VERY POPULAR, to the point where the industry considers that to be the mainstream 'norm'. But I don't have any interest whatsoever in any of those things. It's an entirely different culture, one of which I am not a part, either in terms of age, location, demographic or just TASTE.

Where are the classical or jazz musicians, the avant-garde experimentalists, the outright weirdos, the ARTISTS? Not on New Myspace, that's for sure. At least not yet. Maybe with time, THEY WILL COME. But currently, if you press that "DISCOVER" link in order to find people to "CONNECT" with (they are no longer "FRIENDS", you will notice), there is NOBODY there who I would even give the time of day. Again I WILL give New Myspace the benefit of the doubt - maybe it WILL develop into a more diverse community eventually.

08:55 - I've found little actually WRONG with New Myspace. It is reasonably stable (I'd had grave doubts on that score before I started). Most of the 'quirks' I've encountered could be put down to teething troubles or the fact that this IS an incomplete pre-launch version... but today's keyword would have to be "BORING".
Anyway, I DID have fun going through the old PICTURES OF GRIDLERS and trying to place them. It helped that we already had one abandoned Gridling Band MySpace (it's still there, but Shelfy lost the 'keys' to that one!) as well as an ill-conceived REVERBNATION site (I decided that was not for the likes of us either) from which to draw 'material'. But that's not going to be very interesting without some music to go with it, especially as there's nowhere within New MySpace to put any FUNNY WRITING (or, as far as I can see, a way to link to existing stuff elsewhere). And what of video embeds? If this doesn't work out, I'd seriously consider giving the Profile 1.0-clone site FRIENDBURST a go. Yep! that one IS still going, I was reliably informed...
13:00 - Having uploaded a few photos earlier today, I noticed that I no longer 'live' on the Isle of Wight according to New Myspace. Today's postings are tagged with just "United Kingdom". I'm not sure if that had been a 'quirk' with New Myspace or with Google.

13:06 - I've probably already exhausted the possibilities of New Myspace after only a few hours 'playing'! Having uploaded a bunch of pictures and had a look around, there's nothing else I can do with it for now. It's as foreign to me as are F***book and Tw*tter. Only more BORING. I can't upload any of our own music. I can't write about it. I'm not AT ALL interested in any of the 'music' that is on the site. I'm not AT ALL interested in any of the PEOPLE that are on the site. I suppose I could have a tinker with STYLISH sometime and see if there might be a way to make it LOOK nicer - that'd be "A PROJECT" - but I can't be bothered at the moment...
I'd enjoyed all the snippets I'd heard since last week's TV documentary, so I went for a trip into town and got myself a proper CD of DENNIS WILSON's "Pacific Ocean Blue". It's definitely one of those late-discovered "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?" albums. Music that is both richly harmonious yet fragile, evoking lost times and places...
2012/12/08, 08:05 - As the ONLY thing I can do on New Myspace is upload pictures, I thought that this morning I'd see what you can and can't do with the PHOTOS section of the site. The 'new' way of working is that you no longer organise your photos into 'albums'. The buzzword for New Myspace is MIXES. Anything you upload via your stream is by default stored in a folder called 'STREAM MIX'. This will be mainly photos at the moment, but potentially it could be music as well. So if you are currently used to storing your pictures in separate ALBUMS, some public, some private - this is still possible, but the terminology has changed. HOWEVER... as far as I can see, once something is uploaded to one of your 'mixes', it is near impossible to CHANGE YOUR MIND. I don't see a way to move pictures from one folder to another. I also don't see a way to go back and edit your photo descriptions (captions) once they are posted. If you make a mistake or change your mind, or if you decide that you want your photo to belong to a different "mix", YOU HAVE TO UPLOAD THEM AGAIN FROM SCRATCH! This is definitely aimed at those FaceTwits with short attention spans who might post a picture via their cellphone and then forget about it almost immediately. A one-touch easy solution. It is not such a good system if, like me, you want to organize an "ARCHIVE". As for viewing your photos: the interface looks EXACTLY like the dark grey 'lightbox' that Google/Blogger use. You click on the (enormous, often strangely-cropped and rather pixillated) thumbnail to see the picture 'properly' in its own window.

08:22 - Returning to the subject of "WRITING" on New Myspace: The universal limit for your verbiage is 150 characters. Unless you are seriously into Haiku, you probably couldn't even cram a short poem into that space. This limit applies to the biographical description on your "cover", any verbal posts on your stream, the photo captions and possibly other things I haven't discovered yet. The only exception to this is COMMENTS on postings. You CAN be fairly wordy with these, but they no longer appear under the postings on the stream itself. To read any comments you click on the item and its details pop out in a new slidy window thing. As I said, I don't see a way to edit anything once it's set in stone. You CAN'T correct mistakes, you can only delete and start again. You CAN include hyperlinks within your postings, you CAN use European accent characters (if you know the keyboard shortcuts). You CAN'T do anything with the formatting, everything is displayed in that rather large, light grey, sans-serif font they use now...
The 'doom and gloom merchants' still seem worried and agitated that this New MySpace is something that they are going to "FORCE ON US LIKE THEY ALWAYS HAVE BEFORE". It's not technically possible for them to 'force it on us' this time around. The previous changes to MySpace all involved modifications to the EXISTING site. This is something rather different, an entirely new and separate application. You don't 'convert' from the old to the new, or import your existing content and settings to the new site. You start an entirely new account from scratch. Your "classic" MySpace is not affected IN ANY WAY by anything you do on NEW MySpace. Have a nice weekend!
2012/12/09, 13:30 - I had another little explore this morning, while my computer was otherwise engaged doing its weekly security routine. I had a look at New Myspace's "HELP" pages, which do rather look like a good old fashioned "FAQ" FORUM. There were messages about "Why can't I upload music?" and "Why doesn't my playlist do such and such...?", but they all look made up by staffers who clearly have access to a more complete version of the site than the one I have here. I can't upload music, because I don't actually have a "MUSIC" button and the 'songs' part of the "POST" section is greeked out and non-functioning.

Given then that I DO have only a VERY limited version of New Myspace at the moment, I'm not sure if there's anything else I can usefully do for the time being. It will remain on the back-boiler until I can explore a more complete version. I won't close the account JUST yet, but I still have grave doubts about New Myspace's SUITABILITY. This site is clearly aimed at teenagers who think that the likes of Beyoncé and various people called Justin are the be-all and end-all of 'music'. At a stretch, stroppy rappers and gloomy guitar bands are considered the cutting edge. Just who amongst THAT demographic would be interested in a bunch of aging scruffs looking back on their shambolic 'comedy' music of yesteryear?
Week from Monday 10th December 2012

My Sunday afternoon movie treat was the great DAVID LYNCH's "INLAND EMPIRE". After the commercial success of "Mulholland Drive" and the family entertainment of "The Straight Story", this was a return to the surreal experimentalism of his earlier work. Shot in digital, but almost entirely without the use of dollies or steadycam, it is a dreamy exercise in how to use film equipment outside its manufacturers' recommended parameters. Much of it is either underlit or wildly oversaturated. They use wide angle lenses for close ups and long lenses for wider shots. But that is what gives it its hallucinatory quality. That and David Lynch's weird imagination... (I can thoroughly recommend PAUL A WOODS' book called "WEIRDSVILLE USA: The Obsessive Universe Of David Lynch", which I found in a second-hand shop.)
2012/12/11, 11:18 - Okay, hands up! Confession time! I've discovered that the reason that I "couldn't" upload any music ISN'T that I have an "incomplete" version of New Myspace. It's because I was not doing it right! You have to first locate (via the Myspace logo on the bottom player/toolbar thingy) a button called "MANAGE". From there you CAN upload songs. Once you've got some songs on your profile, only THEN does a "MUSIC" button magically appear on your homepage so that folks can see (and presumably 'share') the list of songs. A bit convoluted, but it DOES work... Ignore all that stuff I wrote previously about this being an "INCOMPLETE" version of New Myspace... I'm still learning!

11:30 - It's nice and quick, I'm happy to report! I've uploaded ten shortish songs to the player, but I haven't yet given them images or written "sleeve notes". I should collaborate with Shelfy on doing that, really. I'm not sure I like the functional design of the built-in player, but at least it's an improvement on that AFTERTHOUGHT-IN-A-SEPARATE-WINDOW solution that they have on OLD my[_____]. However, the facility to upload VIDEO to New Myspace is still 'under construction', according to the Help Forum.

12:30 - I'm also discovering how to make "connections" and compile "mixes", now that I've found that there ARE artists here who AREN'T called Beyoncé or Justin. All those classical and jazz musicians and avant-garde weirdos that I lamented before? They ARE there afer all, at least the ones that have connections to major labels are. You just have to dig past the ones that New Myspace shove in your face. Zappa? Tick! Bonzos? Tick! Miles? Tick! Henry Cow? Tick! Stockhausen? Tick again! I also had great fun compiling a DUB playlist (I think we can agree that is something we ALL like!)... Uh oh! don't say I'm actually getting HOOKED IN!!
Meanwhile, back in REAL LIFE... This afternoon, I have to report for duty down at 'THE EMPORIUM OF HAIR', so that the apprentices can have at me with razors. Should be fun...

This week we have said farewell to two genuine musical heroes, DAVE BRUBECK and RAVI SHANKAR.

I'm finally settling nicely into NewMyspace. It's all a frivolous waste of time and none of it really MATTERS in the overall scheme of things and it has no SERIOUS USEFUL PURPOSE whatsoever and it's never going to come close to replacing the OLD MySpace... but I'm actually having FUN with it. Most of last week's complaints about "things not working" turn out to be not the result of an "incomplete" beta version of NewMyspace, but of my own unfamiliarity and/or ineptitude. Spend an hour or two each day 'playing' with it (as well as an occasional message to the help forum), and it all becomes clear! My 'problem' with not being able to edit and move our songs about? I was the victim of HORIZONTAL SCROLLING! The little 'pencil' icon for song info editing WAS OFF THE EDGE OF MY SCREEN where I couldn't see it.

Once again we're seeing mobile-compatibility issues being allowed to turn back the clock on THE ART OF GOOD GRAPHIC DESIGN. I'm coming across a lot of this lately - supposedly "professionally-designed" "modern" websites which involve the visitor having to resort to both vertical AND horizontal scrolling in order to see the extent of the page (This is partly because you can't anchor page elements in place through the use of FRAMES anymore. iPhones and Androids don't like it). THAT IS BAD WEB DESIGN!!! Make your pages FIT!

Week from Monday 17th December 2012

This coming Wednesday, I was looking forward to going to see prog-posters ASIA at the City Hall, Salisbury. But over the weekend, I received notification that the tour had been cancelled due to drummer CARL PALMER being struck down with a nasty case of E-Coli. Which is a bummer.

However, that DID determine the destination for the weekend's "DAY OUT" - I spent our few hours of daylight mooching about the charity shops of Salisbury, looking (in vain) for a particular classical record shop I'd read about and visiting the City Hall box office to get a refund on my ticket (never mind that the refund was £25 but I'd spent over £13 getting to Salisbury in the first place - it's a "DAY OUT" is what counts!)

On Sunday afternoon I immersed myself in "WOODSTOCK: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT" to remind myself that, ONCE UPON A TIME (before "Get Rich Or Die Trying", primetime TV ads for "Grand Theft Auto" and "Hitman", bad drugs, cheerful bands with names like Circle Of Dead Children or Dying Fetus, ubiquitous facial tattoos, widespread trolling on "social" networks... and a gun store in every Walmart) there was a nicer, happier, friendlier, more innocent time in which to live. Sure, those kids at Woodstock were all naively deluding themselves that the world would change PERMANENTLY for the better, but when they were sitting around in a field, zonked out of their gourds listening to "Suite Judy Blue Eyes", at least none of them were turning guns on each other.
FROM THE COMMENTS BOARD (Worth Saving Dept.) - "Ah but... No one WANTS 'crazy' 'new' beats. You have to serve up something familiar and not too jarring. Standard operating procedure is... find that bit that everyone remembers of a favourite oldie, sample and loop it, assemble the resulting samples according to a pre-defined, industry-standard, 'verse/chorus/verse/middle-eight/chorus/chorus-ad-[in]finitum' format (allowing just a little flexibility for the extended 12" remix). THEN YOU GET ONE OF YOUR STROPPY MATES TO SHOUT OVER IT. If you want 'melodic' interest (above and beyond the familiar hookline that you already pinched from that oldie), then a wildly melismatic lead voice can be added. Don't worry about pitch, you can always fix that in post. Only then do you bring in the market research and image consultants to assemble a telegenic bunch of lads or lasses to 'perform' the number in public. Someone basically 'nice' that even mums and dads will like (and vote for), but with just a hint of tattooed 'rebelliousness' so that 'the kids' will relate. There... the entire MUSIC INDUSTRY summed up in one paragraph..."
Week from Monday 24th December 2012

Bla bla bla bla Xmas... bla bla bla "holidays"... bla bla bla...

As usual, I look for "PROJECTS" to see me through the Xmas period and to stave off the boredom of seasonal telly. I have an ongoing UNCLE WILLY job; I'm drawing a line under my 'secret' kCOLLISIONS project by creating a single-disc "BEST OF"; I'm itching to try out some new VST-HOST software, so at some stage I shall drag the "PIANO" out of the cupboard and see if I can successfully configure it... then there's the small matter of watching "CELEBRATION DAY" and listening to "LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC" in all their glory on Xmas Day itself.

But a whole week indoors is more than is healthy... I braved the weather and went for one of me DAZE OUT! I hopped on a train to BRIGHTON for a lovely afternoon of rummaging around the abundant REAL GROWN-UP's RECORD EMPORIA, as well as a visit to the art gallery. Because It Was There. The weather actually behaved itself (well, it was still dark and cloudy and windy as usual, but at least the rain held off for the day). I managed to cross two items off my CD "wants" list - the long-sought-after KEVIN AYERS' "BBC Sessions 1970-1976" and THE CAN's "Monster Movie" (I already have a self-burned CD-R of it to 'complete' the collection', but I've always been on the lookout for a PROPER one!). I also took a gamble (to the tune of one of your earth pounds) on a DAVID CROSS BAND album "The Big Picture", which turns out to be a terrific slice of early-nineties prog-nuevo. (Note to my American chums: this is not David Cross the rude comedian and actor, but David Cross the violinist who used to be in King Crimson).

Despite, or maybe because of, the misty twilight, there was lots of NATURE on display during the train journey: a few DEER in the fields between Emsworth and Chichester; flocks of SWANS landing on the Chichester fishing lakes; a BUZZARD sitting on a fence post watching the trains go by; a number of WADING THINGS taking advantage of the [very flooded] floodplains around Arundel; the customary amusing HERRING GULL waddling around on Hove station...

DREAM DIARY... first I'm some sort of forensic scientist, collecting examples of dead wasps from the various rooms of a big house... then I found myself working in a record shop in Brighton (that bit's easy enough to explain!), where a colleague speaks in tedious detail about gardening (a subject which is guaranteed to make me slip into a coma in 'real life')

Week from Monday 31st December 2012

Spent much of the weekend working my way through another twisty-plotted Scandinavian glumfest (in this case, the original [and the best] Swedish production of STIEG LARSSON's "Millennium" trilogy). I'm hooked. As I'm paying a visit to Gozzy this morning, I'm going to hit the charity shops for secondhand copies of the actual BOOKS!

Today, I'm posting the final 'chapter' of "ANARCHAEOLOGY" on my SpaceBlog. Reading this stuff again now for the first time in a decade, I'm of the opinion that the STRONGEST material - that which has stood the test of time - is definitely the most 'freeform' and spontaneous (I particularly liked all the "HOONS" stuff and some of the "PATHETIC ENTRIES" poetry made me laugh out loud)... while the WEAKEST material mainly dates from that period during the mid-eighties when we were attempting a bit TOO hard to be 'commercial' - we tried our hand at 'satirical' sketches and parodies, influenced rather too heavily by the likes of "NOT THE NINE O'CLOCK NEWS". It was this aspect of our ouevre that was doomed to fail by its own over-ambitiousness. A lot of it hasn't dated at all well, is slightly embarrassing to read now, and deserves to be pushed to the back of the cupboard along with recordings like "CLT RAP"...

My VST adventures over the holidays found me modally noodling for hours over a rather wonderful simulated SITAR plug-in which, when combined with that fabulously realistic saxophone patch I'd previously warmed to, made for some lovely fake-PHAROAH SANDERS-alike 'meditations'. A five-minute chunk of it stands alone on SOUNDCLOUD, while another variant was used to accompany the latest of CC's erotic fantasies (with slightly mixed results, I must admit. I'm not quite happy with it, I might come back to it later. This one's definitely a 'demo'!)

...a few days later, I've revis[it]ed it. It's now twice as long as it was, but that's to allow both the music AND the words room to breathe. Crikey! You can actually HEAR everything! CC has added it to one of her playlists, which is a healthy sign that I've done SOMETHING right...

I've had a bit of a blogging frenzy... I finished posting the first half of "ARCHAEOLOGY" on m'space, now I've started reformatting-for-web the "PLAY FOR SMOOBS" section. I also completed my "IT WAS FORTY YEARS AGO TODAY" article on the music of 1973 (I subsequently got into a discussion with chum EXISTENTIAL PATHOS about the merits of THE OSMONDS "The Plan", a curious Mormon concept album with prog-rock aspirations).

Pulled an all-dayer over at UNCLE WILLY's, helping him set up the PayPal site and other payment options for his latest training course. Now you know me, I fond of CATS and they seem to like me... but after spending all day in the INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF PUSSYCATS, I find my eyes have puffed up like a couple of extra pairs of lips. He showed me his latest acquisitions, a vintage HAMMOND home organ, complete with the famous drum machine and some rather beefy bass pedals... plus a ROLAND D-10 synthesiser, which had been left in a shed and was thoroughly waterlogged (hairdryer job required on its internal circuits; the decals, including the button labels and parameter map, have nearly all peeled off). Yet somehow it is still working. I downloaded the SOUNDCLOUD edition of Magix SAMPLITUDE to one of his laptops, so that he can try out the MIDI functions.