Week from Monday 2nd September 2013

Sitting on a train, it gradually dawned on me that the loud voices that were echoing around the carriage were all talking Portuguese, in strong Brazilian accents, clearly convinced that no one would possibly be listening in. Surely the fact that I was wearing a 'TOTONHO E OS CABRAS' t-shirt would be a giveaway!? I can't claim to be fluent (it's thirty-odd years since I NEEDED to understand Portuguese and I've forgotten more than I ever retained), but even I could follow the 'domestic' that was going on...

PORTSMOUTH MULTICULTURAL FESTIVAL... Welcome to Southsea's very own little global village, complete with its own pyramid and lighthouse... This year, there were FAR too many BAGPIPES. By that, I mean that there was ONE bloke playing bagpipes and that IS too many, in my opinion. During my two-hour visit, I opted to spend a lot of my time over by the other 'community' stage, as far away from the SCOTTISH PLUMBING OF DEATH as is logistically possible, where I could be sure that the local sound system (mainly pumping out a steady diet of rather good reggae, as it happens) would drown out anything drifting across from the bigger stage... A FAT LASS BELLYDANCES. Yes, I suppose it IS 'multicultural' when you combine it with baton twirling, isn't it? I didn't pay much attention to her gyrations (surely no one could call this display sensual OR sensuous?), but the accompanying rai soundtrack was a treat... You'd think at a 'multicultural' event, there'd be some decent COFFEE on offer, rather than the overpriced, undersized cup of watered-down slop, laughably calling itself 'espresso', that was grudgingly handed to me by a bored vendor... Now the lone bagpiper has been joined by the local drumming circle and they attempt a sort of low-budget AFRO-CELT fusion. Marginally more palatable than solo bagpipes, but only just... Over here, there was a demonstration of 'salsa' dancing. Always nice to watch some expert hips snaking like billyo to choice Cuban 'son', but you'd think they'd have made an effort and dressed the part as well... Okay, one more walk around the 'shops', snapping a few pics of the local colour... and I've had MY fill! The Multicultural Festival is definitely a day for enthusiastic local amateurs. Good fun for an hour or two whilst wandering about in the sunshine, but not enough going on to keep you entertained for a WHOLE day. Don't go expecting WOMAD!

Having enjoyed a rather good documentary about him on BBC4 over the weekend, I'm having a bit of a 'craze' for YOUSSOU N'DOUR. But certainly nothing he may have done in the last twenty years or so! Cast your mind back to those pre-Peter Gabriel days, those sparkling Paris sessions that yielded "IMMIGRÉS" and "INÉDITS 84-85" and, even further back, all those wonderful Senegalese cassette recordings. NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MBALAX!

After all the switchover kerfuffle, I finally got meet my new DENTIST yesterday evening. Very nice she is too!

If you haven't realised by now, I don't buy much "NEW" music these days. 'Modern music is rubbish', as someone once nearly said. I'm old. Nearly everything I buy these days is what the rackjobbers call "BACK CATALOGUE". I still have fifty-something years to catch up with, stuff that I might have missed the first time around or I'm buying AGAIN, often for the umpteenth time. That's quite enough to be going on with, thank you very much, so you can stop making any MORE new music now...

But I HAVE bought three 'new' albums released this year and, tellingly, all of them SOUND as if they could have been made in 1974 or earlier: STEVEN WILSON's "The Raven...", "THE VICAR SONGBOOK Number 1" and the gloriously eclectic new thing from MATT BERRY, "Kill The Wolf".

Week from Monday 9th September 2013
Ten years ago this week ("Week from Monday 8th September 2003", to be precise), I kicked off this online version of the famous Mint Diaries with this introductory entry... "This page appears courtesy of The Free Association. Some of you might remember the diaries I kept during my most Obsessive/Compulsive period - meticulously annotated, micron-high handwritten lists of every conversation, every joke, every happenstance and, sadly, every TV programme I encountered in my day-to-day existence. This will not, I hope, be one of those..." and then went on to rave about the "LED ZEPPELIN DVD", finding a copy of "AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SUPER TRAMP" in a charity shop and... Hey! Why am I telling you all this AGAIN!?! If you want to know what I was doing TEN YEARS AGO, then it's all still there within these very pages!

But clearly my day-to-day concerns haven't changed THAT much since then...

DREAM DIARY... Sitting in the gutter, outside the railway station, emptying out the contents of my pockets, looking for a tiny missing screw to fix my glasses... I am waiting for the next STEAM train to Brighton. Although I've only just asked for a day-return ticket, I have with me a large DUFFEL BAG such as a sailor might carry on shore leave...

A flurry of different tasks for Uncle Willy (webbin' and P'pointin' and flyerin' for a new course), including a trip over to Willy Central to finish it... and I've been trying to do a fake MYSPACE PROFILE v1.0 layout for Our Old Space in answer to a request (or is it a 'challenge'?) from our chum DRUDE, who still seems obsessed with the ruddy thing after all these years! Once again though, there are no easy 'readymade' solutions. There were a couple of things that CAN'T be done at all and, if anyone does use the style, they will still have to tinker with the code themselves to get it to suit their own profile content, which will intimidate and frustrate many. We're trying to do stuff at a relatively advanced level of CSS (it's certainly pushed me outside MY comfort zone... which is a good thing, probably...). THE ADMINISTRATOR could not have foreseen the likes of us trying to do such INSANE things with it when he designed the site!

FRIDAY... and with all THAT out of the way, I 'treated' myself to one of ME DAZE OUT... I hopped on a convenient train to CHI[chester] and went in search of HELTER SKELTER RECORDS, a legendary second-hand emporium hidden behind an antiquery and a kebab shop! I'd been there once before, but last time I was in town, I couldn't remember where the flip it was! Hours of fun to be had JUST LOOKIN' AROUND... He has a fine jazz section which always seems to have some nice obscurities tucked away. I did manage to tick some items off my WANTED LIST - some CD 'upgrades' for items originally bought the first time 'round in the popular MUSICASSETTE format, namely two much-loved earlyish VANGELIS albums (originally gotten from seedy little booths on a Greek island somewhere) and the third album in BOWIE's essential ENO period ("LODGER") at a nice price of three pounds a-piece, thank you very much... plus YET ANOTHER 1970s 'spooky-electric-afro-space-voodoo'-period MILES DAVIS double album. You can never have too many of those (discuss!)

Semana del Lunes 16 de Septiembre de 2013

La Vuelta a EspaƱa ha terminado... RESULT!!! The team of Trekking Leopards says goodbye to its Radio Shack sponsors with a cracking win by CHRISTOPHER HORNER who, at 42, is the oldest man to win a Grand Tour. The last few days of the telly coverage were made extra enjoyable as they had fellow Lay-o-parrrrrrrrrduh JENS VOIGT in the commentary box. Once again, the VUELTA DE ESPAÑA beat the TOUR DE FRANCE hands-down for sheer edge-of-yer-seat INVOLVEMENT right up to the very end. Mere seconds separated the top four contenders (Horner, Nibeli, Valverde, Rodriguez) and there was actual RACING going on and everything! Will I be watching the TOUR OF BRITAIN now? Ummm... no. As I explained to Shelfy...
Here's what I think of the Tour of Britain...

It is generally considered a minor-league event in the pro-cycling calender - it's at the wrong end of the season and, consequently, doesn't attract the big names. It clashes with the Vuelta and the World Championships, as well as some other pro-races in PLACES WITH NICER CLIMATES.

This year, in their post-Olympic fervour, the Sports Council have ideas above their station and are trying to 'big-up' all kinds of UK sporting events on the international stage. They would like the TOUR OF BRITAIN to be seen as a world class 'Grand Tour', alongside 'Il Giro' and 'La Vuelta', if not 'Le Tour'. Fat chance of that, but that's what they think. While it's an event which is popular with staunch club cycling enthusiasts, it doesn't yet have a big profile amongst the GENERAL PUBLIC (or bring in lots of lovely INTERNATIONAL money).

So they've said to BRADLEY WIGGINS, 'Look, you've got all those gongs and a knighthood and that. Now it's YOUR JOB to be "AN AMBASSADOR FOR BRITISH SPORT".'

They stick him in the Tour of Britain and make it all a big old PUBLICITY BANDWAGON. Plenty of nationalistic jingo, with all the [real and metaphorical] flagwaving guff, goodly lashings of "It's Good For British Sport In General", plus the added free bonus of Rupert Murdoch's logos in every shot. Big whoop. Land of Hope and f***ing Glory. The only thing that could make it even more cringeworthy would be if they had BRIAN sodding MAY standing over the finishing line playing the buggers home.

Even if it were possible to ignore all that baloney (and TV presentational style being what it is, I'm pretty sure they will cram it down your throat whether you like it or not), THE RACE ITSELF holds no appeal for me. It will consist of Bradley Wiggins and a load of blokes I've never heard of. It'll be all about HIM HIM HIM. Just watching the TV trailers leaves a nasty taste in my mouth ("A Great British Tour Needs A Great British Hero! Wiggo's Back!"). Frankly, I don't relish having that beamed to me over my morning muesli, thank you very much.
I HATE SPORTS, ME. The fact that I can derive ANY entertainment value AT ALL from watching La Vuelta, let alone ENJOY IT, is some sort of freaky anomaly that even I can't explain. I don't actually possess whatever genetic marker or neurochemical it is that makes folks CARE about sport. I cannot fathom what it is that drives people to behave TRIBALLY, dressed (or painted) in team colours, punching the air and grunting, reaching the extremes of the emotional spectrum whenever 'their' team wins or loses. I JUST DON'T GET IT. I'll leave that for the anthropologists to explain.

I knew all those years at art school, having NIKOLAUS PEVSNER's "The Sources of Modern Architecture & Design" crammed down my throat, would come in useful one day... I've been designing a page style for Our Old Space inspired by Walther Gropius and the BAUHAUS SCHOOL - all in blocky reds and blacks, with everything set in a lower-case sans-serif. I suspect the reference may be lost on most people, but it keeps ME amused anyway. The only thing it needs for that REALLY authentic Bauhaus touch would be to tilt the WHOLE page through thirty degrees. But there are some things that CSS alone can't fix...

...speaking of the Cascading stuff, I've kinda sorta finished off Uncle Willy's "new" WEBSITE this morning (just need to import a few METATAGS and other <head> stuff from the existing one), so I'm treating myself to a bus ride to WINCHESTER and back.

Week from Monday 23rd September 2013

Up "bright" and early this morning (pre-dawn - it's about 0630). I want to get a couple of hours of E-FLURRYING in before the house is disrupted by visiting LABOURERS at the ungodly hour of 0830 (the folks are having some carpetting done, not to mention the continuous banging and powertooling through the walls from next door at all hours. What the f*** are they doing, digging an escape tunnel!?!).

This morning, at the earliest sensible opportunity, I will drag myself out into the wide blue yonder (well, a sort of murky grey, anyway)... maybe do a bit of work later in the public library, if I can find a spot that is both quiet AND has a reasonable wi-fi reception. I know, I know, it's a tall order...

I should be able to add those all-important METATAGS to the 'new' website today. I don't need a connection to do THAT, just the ability to cut'n'paste bunches of text...

Having found a quiet corner of the library to work in (a floor or two up from the kiddies creche and far from the madding crowd), I was able to finish my tasks in no time at all and post the finished "BETA" site online for appraisal and, hopefully, approval. Which means I have the rest of the day to make myself scarce, so I'm having my 'DAZE OUT' rather earlier in the week... I hopped on a train to BRIGHTON!

I noticed that SOUTHERN TRAINS don't offer an onboard WI-FI service like other operators (even the buses have got THAT now!), but I had a game of Mahjongg instead (it's still too early and grey and dreary to appreciate the scenery). I detrained at HOVEACTUALLY and went for a wander around the charity shops of that area, also visiting the rather good (albeit pricier than I would prefer) CLASSICAL MUSIC SHOP. I still wasn't able to get the JOHN ADAMS I'd been looking for, but I DID get that very recording of AARON COPLAND's "Organ Symphony" that I'd heard on the radio way back at the beginning of May (it's on a disc with some of his film music, which is a nice bonus)... Today I'm mainly looking in the second-hand emporia for cheap copies of STEELY DAN albums, of which I was able to acquire several. I also handed £13.99 to the magnificent RESIDENT RECORDS concern for the Esoteric reissue of the first MATCHING MOLE album from 1972 (Mellotrontastic! That's another one to tick off the 'wanted' list). But it's mainly a day of JUSTLOOKINGREALLY, which is fun in itself... and once the sun comes out around lunchtime, it's a glorious day for it.

As I was handing over my pennies for a copy of "GAUCHO", the proprietor of one of the record emporia asked me if I'd ever seen NEARLY DAN, who are a SD tribute band 'as good as the real thing', or so he claims. I checked 'em out on that YouTube they have now. They're not bad... they don't LOOK the part particularly... the guitarist handles most of the lead vocals instead of the keyboarderer and he sounds more like Mervyn Purviss than Donald Fagen! In fact, come to think of it, the Skunk Funk could do JUST as good a job of being Dan-impersonators, if they put their minds to it.

The Bedhampton Water Works is a good place to see TEATIME BUNNY RABBITS. There were dozens of the little buggers coming out to play in the late afternoon sun.

This week brought the news that a new KING CRIMSON (Mark VIII) is still a possibility. The Frippdiaries have announced that a SEVEN-man line-up, featuring THREE drummers (Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison and Bill Rieflin), Jakko Jakszyk, Mel Collins, Tony Levin and The Fripp Himself are entering the rehearsal phase in the next twelvemonth. Needless to say, there is much speculatory excitement going on within the DGMLive portals, so much so that the site crashed last night! Also needless to say, Fripp has put forward a number of 'IFS & BUTS' before it even starts. And given his previous views on gigging on this side of the pond, I shan't hold my breath waiting. But I have to admit that a kCRIMSON that DOESN'T have Adrian Belew in it, after all these years, is an intriguing prospect.

Meanwhile, the Adrian-fronted CRIMSON PROJEkCT double-trio (also featuring Mastelotto and Levin) are playing at the Shepherd's Bush Empire next March. It goes without saying I've bitten the bullet and coughed up for a ticket, even though it is extortionately priced at over fifty quid and, by that time, the train fair to London will be even MORE forbidding than it has been... Perhaps I should start walking now...

Work continues on the WILLY WEBSITE. I've dipped my toe into the murky waters of JAVASCRIPT, in an attempt to design something that doesn't rely on IFRAMES, which I happen to think are a nifty idea, but which are now considered non-conducive to good SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION. They also don't agree with the browsers on those stupid plastic lunchtrays that people use to access the double-you double-you double-you these days. If all works successfully, it may no longer be necessary to have TWO versions of the website (one for mobiles and one for proper computers as used by sensible grown-ups). The site is now LIVE in a cunningly-disguised location so that it can be beta-tested (or is it 'alpha'? I can never remember which is which!). Everything seems to work peachily on Firefox and Chrome, but others (You know who you are!) will have to report back on how it behaves on all those OTHER flavours of browser. I've used some spiffy new CSS3 special effects that I suspect, in the back of my mind, will not work on M****SOFT bloody INTERNET bloody EXPLODER, but we shall see...

Week from Monday 30th September 2013

It feels like AUTUMN, don'tcha know? The weather had gone all autumnal... the mornings are dark and Scandinavian-lookin'... I'm already looking ahead to things due to happen in 2014 (according to the manufacturer of a certain popular antivirus software, it's '2014' already, if their updates are anything to go by). I'm pretty sure that, were I to watch such things, I would see that the TV commercials are starting to mention Christmas... THE HORROR...

Yesterday, I watched the Men's Road Race of the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS make its way around rain-drenched Tuscany. The plucky Portuguese rider RUI ALBERTO FARIA DA COSTA won it, followed by the ever-battling Spanish duo of RODRIGUEZ and VALVERDE. VINCENZO NIBELI, who had narrowly lost out in La Vuelta, had been telling everyone that he would be back to win the World Championships on his home turf. But he had to make do with a non-podium fourth. Disappointingly, CANCELLARA was also nowhere.

But I watched all this with the sound turned off. I can't stand the way the BBC presents sport (any sport in general, but this one in particular). An endless torrent of sickening, condescending, narrow-minded, nationalistic twaddle. If there ARE British riders involved, then the focus will be exclusively on THEIR participation. If, like yesterday, the team decides to THROW ALL THEIR TOYS OUT OF THE PRAM and pull out of the race, then it is 'A Disappointing Day For British Sport' and they choose to waste perfectly good airtime interviewing the non-participating Brit riders instead of concentrating on the actual race going on. The onscreen graphics are uninformative and they cut away to a different sport the moment the race crosses the finishing line, without any sort of results summary or even pictures of the presentations. Mathematically speaking...
    X = 0    /* where X represents the number of British contestants */
My good friends the PRINTERS are the only [otherwise sensible] people I know who still cling to INTERNET EXPLODER as their browser of CHOICE (yes! 'choice'). So while I was down there, I took the opportunity to 'alpha' test the new website via their portals. I was not ENTIRELY surprised to find that some of the 'fancy' CSS I've used is not compatible with the ferociously-non-compliant M****soft beast. Some workarounds are possible, like an extra line of script to stop it putting great big thick unwanted BORDERS around hyperlinked images... but some things won't work on IE whatever I do. I also found that there was a version of Apple Safari lurking on one of the shop's machines, so I was able to test the site with that as well. I will have to use a different version of the 'webkit' LINEAR GRADIANT to suit that particular browser. But all-in-all, everything is working as envisioned.

It's not very often I listen to my own music once it's done with, but I was just looking for some tunes to add to my Our Old Space site - I eventually plumped for the avant-garde chamber work "WAVESTAND OFFMEX" (a tinkly-bonk classic that was once quite popular on MySp***) and a hit from 'Winged Eyeball', "MATHEMATICALLY SPEAKING" (read further up the page and you'll see why that sprang to mind). I found myself listening to the whole of STRUMPFEN's "<6BESTE>" from start to finish. I have to say, it does make for a very convincing 1970s KRAUTROCK album, doesn't it?