Week from Monday 1st July 2013

Le Tour de France a commencé... so that's MY afternoons sorted for the next few weeks! Already much cause for celebration as JAN BAKELANTS of 'my' team RADIO SHACK LEOPARD TREK is in the yellow jersey after the second stage (albeit by only one second!). It's a shame the commentators got his name wrong as he crossed the line... but it's always a giggle when the so-called 'experts' are confounded, as an 'unknown' appears from nowhere to take the plaudits. Indeed, it is those very moments when the race is NOT going as the know-it-alls 'predicted', that makes it all still worth watching (that and the scenery which, currently, is that of sunny Corsica). If I were to make an ill-informed prediction of my own, it's that this year will be a good one for the Australians...

I'm still learning exciting new things about my LINUX MINT laptop on an almost daily basis, especially where it comes to tweakage via the COMMAND LINE INTERFACE (or 'TERMINAL' as it is known in Linuxland). I knew all those years playing with a Commodore Amiga would come in handy one day!

Thank goodness too for all those online forums (fora? fori?). If you hit a snag, the chances are that someone somewhere, with a lot more knowledge and experience, has been there before you!

I've now learnt how to install additional fonts in this way - I particularly 'needed' to install the M****soft 'core' fonts and some of the lesser variants like Arial Narrow, to allow for CROSS-PLATFORM COMPATIBILITY. I suddenly found myself linuxed without a proper ARIAL or VERDANA or TREBUCHET - alright, I can live without COMIC SANS! - but not even a TIMES NEW ROMAN??? The Linux/Ubuntu-resident fonts are beautifully designed (especially the standard DejaVu family) and are easy-on-the-eye FOR ALL MY ONSCREEN NEEDS. I should be more than satisfied with the essentials provided. But then it's handy if your INTERNET BROWSER has all the standard Windoze fonts available as well...

...and unfortunately, I also have to deal on a daily basis with less enlightened folks who still consider M****SOFT effing OFFICE to be the be-all and end-all of productivity software!

Every day is an opportunity for CONTINUOUS EDUCATION... and, if it doesn't immediately 'stick', any new tricks I pick up are scribbled in a ringbound notebook for future recall.

Week from Monday 8th July 2013

Phew! It's HOT and MUGGY! I've had the fan going at full-pelt all night, but it doesn't COOL the room at all, it just moves the HOT air around!

I'm still chipping away at all those abandoned pages full of music left on N*W M*SP***. Today, I emptied (then closed down) the KEN DEAD & THE DODGY MEN site. But not to worry, all you KENHEADS - I created a new KENSECTION on the 'official' JOHNSON'S GRIDLING BAND site instead. See if you can guess what tracks are on there?
"It really doesn't get any better than this (I'm so sorry)..."
I had cause to go to Gosport on 'business' today, so naturally I made a WALKIES of it, taking the 'green' route across the fields to the airfield, then through Gozzy's own 'nature reserve' the Wild Grounds. It was scorchingly hot - every little bit of 'shade' came as a lifesaver and I got through two bottles of water (which were themselves luke-warm by the end). I'm suffering for it now, I can tell you! (Indeed, I fell asleep through a huge chunk of the TOUR DE FRANCE stage this afternoon. I don't think I missed that much though - it was one of those long, flat stages with a sprint at the end).

...and today is Le Tour's INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL. Hopefully that will shake things up a little, but past experience tells me that whoever is in the MAILLOT JAUNE after today will complacently 'play it safe' in the peleton for the next fortnight and it all gets rather dull. All you can do from now on is enjoy all the lovely scenery. In recent years, the Tour de France yellow jersey competition has been increasingly rendered meaningless, completely unrepresentative of any ACTIVE participation in the race. There. I said it. Bring on the VUELTA A ESPAÑA!

I thought I'd worn myself out for the rest of the week yesterday, but it's surprising how much the prospect of paying a nice fat cheque into the bank will drive me back into YOMPING mode! Off I go again! (ooh! A Poem!)
I had to go to Smith's to buy some staples.
I suppose I could have gone to Staples.
On the sea shore?
The CONTINUOUS EDUCATION continues... I find when dabbling with this HTML lark, that little tricks that I might pick up on one website lend themselves neatly to another.

For example, that coloured bar that you see below this, with the 'last updated' bit? For months, it's used a rather long-winded HTML 'linear-gradient' script to give it that nice shiny 'metallic' look that we all adore. But the 'old' script necessitates you having to repeat it several times with different prefixes to suit all those different flavours of web browser out there. And even then it rarely works with the notoriously non-compliant M****SOFT INTERNET EXPLODER.

Then, while playing around with the CSS over on Our Old Space, I stumbled upon a more 'universal' syntax for doing exactly the same thing in a lot fewer keystrokes! It probably won't effect how YOU see it from where YOU'RE sitting, but back here amongst the tags and pointy brackets, it keeps things looking a lot tidier!

Furthermore, I always had issues with the way that DATES and TIMES are rendered by standard 'document.write' javascripts (i.e. in AMERICAN!!), but my grasp of javascript was never sufficient to do anything about it. The script that I'd used here for the last few months was also rather long-winded and difficult [for me] to understand, but it did at least let me show the dates in ENGLISH. Now I found a new one, which is friendlier and less formal.

Let's face it - all YOU really want to know when (if?) you read this twaddle is... "Was it posted TODAY?"... Or yesterday?... Or has he been getting slack again this week and it's even older than that? I'm now in a weird situation where, in order to see if the 'ticker' works, I must NOT change or add anything...

Well, that seems to work... at least, when I opened it up 'TODAY' it now reads 'YESTERDAY', so I must have done SOMETHING right. I'll still have to go a few days WITHOUT interacting with the page, so that I can see if it registers the "XX DAYS AGO", but I think I've learnt some new tricks! Note to self: I must keep an eye out for an old JAVASCRIPT tutorial book while I'm out and about DOING THE CHARITY SHOPS... which might be today, all being well. I'll feel a "DAZE OUT" coming...

I'm systematically working my way through the "LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC" box set, starting with the really 'bootleg' stuff and progressing UP to the 'hi-fi' material. Some of the bootleg recordings are TRULY RANCID in their sound quality, especially the ones that have previously evaded release even as COLLECTORS' CLUB CDs or downloads. The recording from PORTSMOUTH GUILDHALL is a vast improvement on the 'naughty' releases that I'd heard (kudos to Mr Stormy!), but it's still pretty horrid. The RAINBOW show was deemed too rough by the DGM lads even to include as a CD - you have to download that one yourself! Yet somehow, the music shines through the murkiness. These are still 'must-haves' for those all-important IMPROVS. Even the worst of the bootlegs will have those sparkling moments when you feel fulfilled for having heard them, because those moments can never happen ever again. Today, I've promised myself a listen to the "KEEP THAT ONE, NICK!" session reels disc...

Week from Monday 15th July 2013

About that "DAZE OUT"... I went for a long bus ride to WINCHESTER and back, gazing down on a sweltering Meon Valley from the top of a double-decker, while wallowing in another diskful of vintage forty-year-old CRIMSON. "DID THE CHARITY SHOPS" while I was there, of course, and enjoyed listening to a few street performers dotted about the town (even though the "Hat Fair" was LAST week).

My JAVASCRIPT PROJECT worked then! Hoorah! This morning, the bar at the foot of this page correctly read "This page last updated: 3 days ago" (but it's no good looking for it now! By posting this, I've just reset the clock to zero!)

This morning, I'm off down to Goz on delivery business and I've been promised a long-overdue HAIRCUT while I'm about it.

My deeply held principles forbid me from cheering him along... but I have to admit to a grudging respect for CHRIS FROOME in the Tour De France. Unlike many of his predecessors, he is at least putting in an effort this year to make the YELLOW JERSEY competition represent some ACTUAL PARTICIPATION in the race.

The OTHER sign that Summer's here is... the BBC PROMS are back with us! Once again the organizers have come up with some controversial choices in their programming (Remember this time LAST year, when rooms full of BEETHOVEN fans were forced to sit through huge chunks of PIERRE BOULEZ' music before they got their big tunes? Which is exactly how it should be!). Last night, GUSTAV MAHLER's glorious Fifth Symphony was preceded by some EXTREMELY abstract tinklybonk music from the pen of HELMUT LACHENMANN, who was a student of LUIGI NONO and who describes his works as 'metamusik' or 'musique concrète instrumentale'. It's ALL about the texture. There are long passages where absolutely nothing happens at all, disrupted by tiny scratchy pointillistic gestures, building up to jagged metallic shards of noise before dwindling away to silence again (It's very hard to describe music like this WITHOUT resorting to abstract/visual art references!). I don't know what the other Mahler fans made of it, but it's on the telly later in the week, so I might see for myself!

WHAT ELSE CAN I LOOK FORWARD TO? As usual, there's a few world premieres dotted amongst the 'popular' works; there's a late evening of KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN on Friday; at the end of the month, the Aurora Orchestra[?] will be playing FRANK ZAPPA's "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" and some CONLON NANCARROW and PHILIP GLASS; DJANGO BATES and his trio will be leading a CHARLIE PARKER-themed night; there's DOCTOR WHO for the kiddywinkies and SHOW TUNES for... ah! loads of stuff...

There's a HECK of a lot of RICHARD WAGNER this year, as it's Dodgy Dick's 200th Birthday. But personally, I still believe that Wagner opera requires the full THEATRICAL experience - all moving stages and giant trees, lights and lasers and dry-ice, inflatable dragons and buxom Rhinemaidens, the works! 'Concert' performances don't cut it for me without the visuals. It ain't supposed to be JUST about the music. Opera (all opera in general, but Wagner in particular) is good DVD but dull radio!

Week from Monday 22nd July 2013

It's still extremely HOT & STICKY. I can't remember the last time I actually slept IN my bed. I generally lie on the top of the duvet in a puddle of my own froth. I've been leaving the bath water in situ to go cold, so that there's a nice paddling pool there when I need it!

I've been having fun over the last few days creating some CUSTOM PROFILE SKINS for the Our Old Space populace, to form basic templates for their own projects, or just to use 'as is'...

DREAM DIARY... Mervyn Purviss introduced a spoof 'rap' into his act... I can't remember the exact content of it, but it offended AN AWFUL LOT OF PEOPLE, to the extent that it made the local papers... For some reason, everyone in the 'gang' decided that the offence was all down to me ("Don't blame me, I don't even LIKE rap!") and they turned against me in a particularly unpleasant way... I sit in a bar, drinking some Guinness that is very very black, but curiously without any sort of 'head'... Eventually I somehow find myself in a no-win situation with a gun pointed at me (that'll teach me not to watch "Phone Booth" before bedtime!)...

Week from Monday 29th July 2013

Working on one of the custom CSS 'skins' for Our Old Space, I pretty soon realised that this one would NOT make for a very good 'readymade' to offer forth for public consumption. The size and position of the boxes is entirely "CONTENT DEPENDENT". Every time you add something to your page, you would have to make slight adjustments to the code to accommodate it. Not really suitable for some of the TECHNOPHOBIC TENDENCY amongst us. But I rather liked it anyway and was determined at least to make it WORK FOR ME.

So, long story short, I've used it on my OWN profile instead! It's a sort of "LITTLE FLUFFY CLOUDS" theme, with a sky 'wallpaper' background and the various elements made 'nebulous' by some canny abuse of the 'box-shadow' attribute, giving them a fluffy white feathered border. I'm pretty pleased with the results, but I continue to OBSESS OVER THE DETAILS. There are still one or two ugly elements that stubbornly defy styling, but I can deal with them later. Meanwhile, m'chum EXISTENTIAL PATHOS is plunging headlong into some highly advanced procedures on HIS own 'test page'.

By now, I should have reported that I've had my six-monthly CHECK-UP 'N' SCRAPE at the DENTIST. But they keep cancelling and rescheduling the appointment on me. The 'new' dentist, who started work there just this year, finds himself a victim of NHS cutbacks and has decided that he can't make a go of it, so he's moving on already. My check-up is NOW penned in for the beginning of SEPTEMBER, but we shall see... Meanwhile, I've got some forms to fill in...

There's been a nice break in the weather - we had some much welcome rain during the night, not to mention a spectacular LIGHT[ning] SHOW in the distance beyond the Isle of Wight... but they say it's going back into 'SCORCHING' mode by the end of the week (just in time for "DAZE OUT").

I haven't yet listened back to it in HI-FI rather than "transistor radio" quality... but last night's LATE PROM was fabulous! The AURORA ORCHESTRA, whose work was unknown to me until now, played an invigorating programme of American Contemporary Music, kicking off with one of CONLON NANCARROW's Mikhashoff-orchestrated piano rolls (the ever-popular and colourful "No.7"), then FRANK ZAPPA's Jig From Hell "G-SPOT TORNADO" (a pretty accurate rendition as far as I could tell).

This was followed by the premiere of PHILIP GLASS' latest, the Symphony No.10. I have to admit I sort of drifted off during that one (well, it WAS quite late at night!). Even Glass' NON-film-soundtrack work now sounds to me as if it SHOULD come with Godfrey Reggio visuals! This one has more than a few "POWAQQATSI"-style 'world music' flavours, to wit, the massed tamtams, the use of 'middle eastern' scales... Let's face it, old Phil does what only he does best, which is to make PHILIP GLASS MUSIC.

The 'main event' was, of course, the performance of Frank's "THE ADVENTURES OF GREGGERY PECCARY". I had my doubts when I saw that they'd hired a baritone to do all the singing parts, but it somehow worked! The Narrator was none other than "The Now Show"'s MITCH BENN who, it turns out, is a pretty good Zappa interpreter. He can "Put The Eyebrows On It" with the best of 'em! In some ways I preferred his performance over that of DAVID MOSS, who was on the Ensemble Modern version. The live sound balance on the radio wasn't all it could be, but it WAS a thrilling ride nevertheless, real typewriters and all... VOODN VOODN!

And to think Frank was once banned from the Royal Albert Hall for saying "brassiere" on stage...