Week from Monday 7th July 2014

Ah... so it WAS my fault (or, at least, it was the fault of whoever I 'borrowed' the code snippet from in the first place!). A rogue CURLY BRACKET meant that, as soon as the battery got down to FLASHING RED, all of the subsequent code started blinking as well. Thus the 'randomizing fonts' phenomenon. Serves me right for not 'testing' it properly in the first place (Hooray for OTHER people, then!). Just to be on the safe side, I've now removed the ${blink} script altogether (the bar still turns RED... we'll leave it at that!)

...so I decided I needed a text editor that would 'SYNTAX HIGHLIGHT' conky files. Someone recommended an old program called CONKY GUI... but it didn't sit pretty with yer 'modern' versions of Linux and the Java implementation thereof. It APPEARS I did everything 'right' in installing it. Everything LOOKS LIKE it's where it should be. But it goes through the motions of starting up, only to report that all sorts of Java files aren't (just AREN'T). I should have realised that I might be in for trouble when I saw the rather sparse documentation, the lack of screenshots to show you what it SHOULD look like, and the fact that their website looks as if it was created using a version of FrontPageExpress from around 1998... Further googlin' revealed that a French gentleman has created an XML add-on that will include conky syntax highlighting in the standard PLUMA/GEDIT editor... that was all I really needed all along! Yaroo!

Sod all this nonsense... I'd rather be watching the TOUR DE FRANCE! Today's the last day in Angleterre and the last chance (for me) to watch it in glorious high-definition. Tomorrow we're back in France, it's 'business as usual' and the telly coverage is tucked away at the back end of ITV4.

This year is the hundredth birthday of spacejazz legend SUN RA... and it's also twenty years since he left this planet to go back to Saturn. The (Centennial) ARKESTRA are still treading the boards and playing his music, directed by original member MARSHALL ALLEN, who is himself NINETY years young this year. They played a cracking afternoon set at GLASTONBURY and recorded a studio session for "JAZZ ON 3" - both performances are there in their entirety on the BBC website, if you're quick!

Week from Monday 14th July 2014

HAPPY BASTILLE DAY! You'll forgive me for being a bit lax with this diary lately... SOD DIARIES! There's FAR too much thrilling stuff going on to sit down and actually WRITE about it... what with there being a gripping, anarchic, unpredictable TOUR DE FRANCE occupying nearly every waking hour and a dirty great big KING CRIMSON box set to immerse oneself in...

Hot 'n' sticky, night 'n' day...

I've moved a few things around, so I reinstalled/updated my TalkTalk router firmware. Is it just me, or has my 'reception' of THE DAILY SHOW improved as a result? Ah! but I shouldn't talk of such things... for 'tis usually in the manner of these very things that I "speak too soon". Streaming of Jon Stewart and The Best F*%^ing News Team will probably be just as erratic again by this time tomorrow. It's never been the same since Comedy Central - ahem! - "upgraded" their website with a 'new' touchy-swishy-slidey HTML5 look, featuring a media-player that doesn't perform as well as the old one did, at least not on a 'proper' PC it doesn't. The broadband I have now (not cosmicly fast by today's standards, but STABLE where it matters) means that I'm getting smoothly-buffered, glitch-free streaming on any OTHER media site. It's just that one player that gives me gyp (it's NOT down to the 'Modify Headers' plug-in I use to allow me to watch it here. Folks WITHIN the US borders have also complained that it's got worse). All part of the 'comedy' I suppose?

I've been reading the reviews for the new YES album "Heaven & Earth", none of them good. A listen to the 'album preview' on SoundCloud demonstrated WHY the reviewers were disappointed. Utter snoozefest from start to finish! Music For Zimmer Frames! I don't think I'll be rushing out to HMV to buy THIS one at the weekend! (nah... I think I'll save my money for the new TRAVIS & FRIPP one or even the long-awaited CD release for FRIPP & ENO's Paris concert... no wait, then there's a new ROBERT PLANT album due... and TIM BOWNESS' new solo record... D'OH!)

Week from Monday 21st July 2014

(...and another volume of the "NASHVILLE" soundtracks... and all those MAN albums I haven't got yet... and... and...)

The BBC PROMS season kicked off, with one of EDWARD ELGAR's big old God-bothering works. I'm not a big fan of this sort of thing, but it provided a suitable room-ambience for a catnap... Much more 'UP MY STREET' was MAHLER's SIXTH SYMPHONY conducted by VALERY GERGIEV. I only heard it via the radio (it'll be on telly later), but I could just picture Gergiev's funny little finger-wiggling conducting style as he coaxed a wonderfully detailed and colourful performance from the 'all-star' World Orchestra For Peace. Received wisdom says that the Sixth is all doom and gloom ("Tragic", indeed), but that wasn't what I heard here (Eeee! Aah loov Mahler me...)

Today, I went for a visit to the OPTICIAN... Spent a happy half-hour reading four-letter words and having pictures taken of PLANET RETINA (I love those scans. I want one for framing!). He found nothing wrong with my eyes and said I can keep the ones I have...

Speaking of things that require glasses... I have a 'friend' on Our Old Space who writes these amazing little pieces in a FREEFORM/GONZO/BEAT/STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS sort of anti-style (almost like ALL YOUR FAVOURITE 'SIXTIES AMERICANS rolled into one!). He churns out several of these things a week and I can hardly keep up! The only thing that lets it down is the BAD TYPOGRAPHY - the pages are set in an extra-bold font (normally in RGB 100% blue), closely line-spaced and with no paragraph breaks. I don't know if this was the 'style' he intended or whether it can be blamed on the shortcomings of the Our Old Space blog editor, but it IS a little tiring on these poor old eyes... Ah! but... Our old friend STYLISH to the rescue! I wrote a script that displays other people's Our Old Space blogs (cos it's been quite a while since I wrote one myself!) in a nice clear "E-READER" style layout, featuring a restful, not-too-contrasty-coloured, monospace font with lots of easy-on-the-eye white space surrounding it. End Hard-To-Read Blog Misery Today!

The difficult third CC:PP album "again." is now live'n'streamin' on the BANDCAMP site. It's not downloadable yet, but you can listen to it in its entirety if you haven't already (and who has?), along with the previous two CC:PP albums, which ARE still available as free downloads. On the other hand, I've now taken three albums OFF Bandcamp and posted them on YouTube instead, where, to be honest, they'll probably be more likely to get listened to! (They are the two "PPvXT" albums, "CHTHONIC BOOM" and "BYTE SIGHS", and the STRUMPFEN 'anthology' «6beste»... probably the strongest and/or strangest artistic statements of our collective 'career', but they've languished unheard on Bandcamp.)

I've got FUNNY EARS.

Week from Monday 28th July 2014

The TOUR DE FRANCE is over for another year. With all those teams left 'headless' at various points over the three weeks, the race proved all the MORE EXCITING because of it. Teams that put all their eggs in one basket and are organised around the follysome principle of 'serving a leader' (Nibali's Astana team excluded, of course) were left flailing about as the anarchy ensued all around. I'm happy to say that one such team was Sky... I was slightly disappointed to find this was also true of the Trek team this year. The organisers of this Tour found cruel and unusual ways of turning the race upside down... then, on top of that, there was the WEATHER, which was consistently 'not what was expected'. But any race where the pundits are wildly inaccurate with their 'predictions', time and time again, is a most satifying entertainment.

This afternoon, having finished another shift of ILLUSTRATING THINGS for Our Uncle Willy, I wallowed in the soupy mire of NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE's two-hour set in Hyde Park earlier in the month (via a naughty recording streamed on That Internet They Have Now). Oh my giddy aunt! the mad old bugger's still got it! Fifteen-plus minutes of over-amped, kerchaaaannnnggg-drenched "Love And Only Love", anyone? And that's just the first number... just wait till you hear the twenty-minute "Down By The River" they do for an encore! Nice to know that, in this crazy world wot we live in, some things still stay the same by being stubbornly different.

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE... The famous cooling towers of DIDCOT "CASTLE" were finally demolished last weekend (Back in the day, during road[ie] trips to the Thames Valley, Oxford and all points north, the familiar sight of Didcot Towers was often a sign that we were 'NEARLY THERE')... and Eastbourne Pier has caught fire (an occasional haunt during my formative 'BRIGHTON DAZE').

I DON'T KNOW WHY I PUT MYSELF THROUGH THIS... Following last week's sublime PROMS version of MAHLER's SIXTH performed by Valery Gergiev and the boys, I tuned in again last night, eager to hear the FIFTH... only this one was played by a BBC orchestra and it sounded decidedly ropey at best! Maybe it's because of my 'FUNNY EARS', maybe it's the quality of my radio reception, but I seriously doubt it. IT WAS NOT VERY GOOD. Surely I'm not the only one who heard it? I had to compare it with my favourite recording just to make sure - The trumpets at the opening of the 'funeral march' movement were definitely out of tune and some of the oomphy brass parts elsewhere in the first two movements sounded pretty lacklustre to me. I gave up and switched off before we got to the gorgeous 'Adagietto' - that would have been TOO painful. Seems I never learn from experience! Time and time again, I've tuned in to the Proms to hear a piece of music with which I am reasonably familiar, only to hear it murdered by a scratchband of jobbing BBC session players. When heard against a major international concert orchestra under the baton of a top-notch conductor (let's say the Berlin Phil' conducted by Sir Simon Rattle), the typical BBC orchestra makes a piece of Mahler sound like it's being performed by a village school band. I really should read the small print in my "Radio Times".