Week from Monday 1st December 2014

Okay, so it's December already... I suppose I ought to start compiling my "PICK O'THE YEAR" list for 2014...?

I had a relatively restful weekend, now I'm waiting for it all to KICK OFF again this week... Catching up with Harry Shearer's "LE SHOW" and watching DAVID LYNCH cook quinoa and tell tall tales about train journeys through Yugoslavia...

I'm spending Tuesday over at UNCLE WILLY's, putting the "finishing" touches to the Powerpoint presentation for the training course (you know? the one that happens on Thursday and Friday?). But today I also have time to trawl the charity shops once we've done, and I picked up another CD storage case for less than two of your Earth Pounds. This one will probably provide a home for all those seedydisks that fall under the dubious banner of "KRAUTROCK", leaving a smaller one free for the "TOP ROOTS NAMES" category. I did consider using the new case for all the KING CRIMSON COLLECTORS CLUB releases - but there's just too damn many of them!!

Wednesday then... I can have something approaching a LIE-IN! Hoorah!! It's a winding-down sort of day, tying up a few loose ends, like installing the 'new' version of LIBRE-OFFICE on the laptop (it's been nagging me to do that for ages). I keep procrastinating on the "PICK O'THE YEAR" blog... I find if I write a few lines at a time, here and there when I feel like it, it GRADUALLY starts to build into an ACTUAL PIECE OF WRITING. I have undying admiration for ANYONE who can sit down and write an article all in one go! At the moment, I'd rather put my feet up and listen to TANGERINE DREAM...

...then on Thursday, I'll do the trip around Gosport that I USUALLY do on a Tuesday. Wot larks, eh?

DREAM DIARY... Sitting on a passenger plane, wearing a deerstalker, writing palindromes (Of course, I couldn't remember any of them once I awoke. Typical!)... The stewardess has a labrador 'guide dog' and is serving pub-type seafood by the punnet...

It's getting rather cold, rather quickly... Uh oh! the FUNNY EARS are back!

LINUX MINT 17.1 (affectionately know as "REBECCA") has arrived. I downloaded the ISO file and made an installation disk, JUST IN CASE anything went horribly wrong with the "dist-upgrade" method. But in the event, it proved to be relatively painless. The new version of the Update Manager did the trick. The only snag appears to be with my 'EYE CANDY'. Because LM 17.1 comes with the multicoloured Mint-X icons as part of the package, it took exception to the fact that I'd already installed 'em courtesy of the NOOBSLAB concern. It also tried to re-establish the basic Gnome-style screensavers (which I'd previously removed in favour of the much nicer Xscreensaver package). In the end I turned off all my 'themes' and Linux Mint has reverted back to its default appearance for a while. I can have fun over the next few days creating some brand new 'eye candy'. I'll also be upgrading the Linux Kernel to the recommended version, as well as checking things over to make doubly sure I haven't "BROKEN" anything this time around!

Week from Monday 8th December 2014

DREAM DIARY... A Sunday afternoon 'round at "CLASHING 2"... a jam session ensues, just two guitars (Mervyn and Rabbithole) and a click track, fairly banal stuff for the most part... I suggest that we each take away the 'tapes' and we have a week to come up with our own mixes... "thirty solid minutes of something interesting..."

I've been playing around with my Linux laptop's 'EYE CANDY' over the weekend, but I've achieved no staggering results so far... For now, I've settled on the 'comfort' of having the same 'sky' background as I have on my Windoze peecee, with the Mint-X blue icon set on the standard 'silver' theme. Smart, simple and effective. The old ZONCOLOR themes pack (based on GTK) does not sit so pretty with the fancy new Linux Mint (with its built-in Compiz bells'n'whistles and all). I've tried fiddling about with its settings, but the results are ugly - I think it has had its day! I've now disabled it as far as is possible (only the button in the Control Centre reveals its partial presence).

Today, I'm experimenting with different ways to PASSWORD-PROTECT the course materials to go on Uncle Willy's website (Only those who attended the course should be able to open the files). Good old SERIF PAGEPLUS seems to offer the best solution.

I'm watching the last episode of the classic (1981) BBC version of "THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS". It strikes me that there WAS once a time when science fiction films were made by (and for) people who have actually READ A BOOK once in a while... nowadays, they all appear to be thrown together by fourteen year old boys who've only ever played video games!

I think that all Willy's course materials are finished and ready to send out, so I treated myself to an hour or two in Southampton. The ESOTERIC RECORDS concern have just released the first couple of albums by DAVID SANCIOUS & TONE. His "True Stories" album of 1978 has long been a personal favourite - I originally bought it on cassette in a London branch of Smith's, having heard a track or two on some late-night Capital Radio show or other. But I'd never been aware of his earlier efforts, which are all instrumental, with some distinctly MAHAVISHNOID touches along the way. Indeed, the first album "Forest of Feelings" was produced by BILLY COBHAM himself! The second album "Transformation (The Speed of Love)" - OH! THOSE 1970s TITLES!! - is a little more 'noodly', but I'm sure I'll grow to love it just as much as the others.
On THIS day (11th December) in 1976, Kiwi imports SPLIT ENZ arrived fresh off the boat in all their gaudy painted finery and played at the Portsmouth Polytechnic Students Union. We all immediately rushed out to buy the Phil Manzanera-produced "Mental Notes" album and were introduced to a whole new world of antipodean quirk...
This weekend I found some new 'EYE CANDY' for the Linux laptop; a set of icons (from the NOOBSLAB concern, natch!) called MALYS BLUE which go very nicely with my 'sky and silver' theme, giving it a modern twist without departing entirely from the MATE 'tradition... It's coming along very tastefully, though I do say so myself... Meanwhile, my headspace is full of that NOODLY MAHAVISHNOID 'seventies jazz-rock... a little SANTANA goes down well too...

DREAM DIARY... In the BBC studio with CHINATOWN... except that, strangely, the songs are all from the TV BY TEARS repertoire... Even with all the high-tech studio facilities at our disposal, I was unable to get a DRUM SOUND that was as good as the one we'd achieved in the backroom of a pub using two mattresses, some upturned trestle tables, lots of gaffer tape and some ambiently-placed cheap mikes...

Week from Monday 15th December 2014

'OLD & OUT OF TOUCH' DEPARTMENT... I thought everyone in the world would INSTINCTIVELY know how to download a ZIP archive and then open the contents onto their own peecee... but it seems you have to explain it first! Once a process which would have been routine on older versions of Windoze, M!¢r0$oFt don't consider it to be an 'ESSENTIAL' anymore - I find that they don't even put an Archive Manager on the newer Windoze. You have to acquire a third-party one. I didn't know this, because I use 7-Zip on my peecee anyway. I also had explained to me that there are, in fact, DIFFERENT KINDS of zip, and that even expert MAC OS X users can't necessarily open ones that have been 'zipped' on a WINDOZE peecee. That too requires some extra software. "You Live And Learn, Apparently!" as Django would say.
'TWAS ON THE SIXTEENTH OF DECEMBER (Okay, so I'm just picking these at random now!)... in 1978, the recently formed JOE JACKSON BAND played at the legendary John Peel pub in Gosport... in 1980, the recently formed (or should I say 'recently renamed'?) NEW ORDER played a legendary 'secret' gig in an unlit basement beneath Brighton Poly (Crikey! and the day after that, we saw the legendary BURNING SPEAR as well!)... in 1981, LIONHEART supported SAXON at the legendary Rainbow... in 1995, SKUNK FUNK and the short-lived GRIM ROOFER played at the Avenue Hotel in Portsmouth (I think we recorded that one, didn't we? Legendary!)...
There is a definite correlation between my internet service and the weather... If I have big files to upload to the server (eg: e-mailing MP3s to CC; sending half-page press ads to Uncle Willy; posting these all-important diary entries!), I have to pray that it's not raining too hard. Today, the weather is crappy and so is the connection.

DREAM DIARY... I was getting really excited about the purchase of a new mobile phone... which kinda PROVES that "it was all a dream" - In 'real life', I don't give a hoot about such things, as my ancient and barely-used Nokia will attest. But in the dream it seemed to actually MATTER and I was obsessed with all its minutiae, just like 'normal' people... scary!

Week from Monday 22nd December 2104

HOLIDAYS, then... and I'm bored with 'em already. Seasonal television is strictly (ha!) THE KIND THAT YOU DESERVE, lots of bright colours and pretty lights to appease the masses. No joy there then. I couldn't even find a record fair or car boot sale to go to this weekend (not one that was nearer than Andover, anyway!). I went for a stroll into town to stretch the old legs and happened to stumble over a rather good RAVI SHANKAR seedy in a charity shop. Which was nice. I also had a narrow escape - I ONLY JUST missed the morris dancers! But nothing much to be done after the sun goes down (which here is about teatime!). I tend to lay in the dark listening to music, maybe have a catnap for a few hours and then wake up to watch one of the better late films. Sigh... Boy! Do I need A PROJECT?!?!

I'm fiddling about with a widget on the laptop which tells me the WEATHER according to the nearest Met' Centre (in our case, Southampton). It's just an excuse for a bit of frivolous, pointless, "Who really NEEDS one?", "I did it because I CAN!" TWEAKIN'FUN - Did I mention I was bored? Let's face it, I could just as easily LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW to get the same information.

"I NEED A PROJECT"... so I've been trying to do some new music for the difficult fourth CC:PP album. However, I really can't find any inspiration at the moment. I've reached a wall which I THOUGHT I'd hit about six months ago, in that I'M STARTING TO REPEAT MYSELF. Same tired old shit, no new ideas and nothing that I'd want ANYONE ELSE hearing at this stage. No point in forcing it. In particular, the piece "DIDN'T'CHA KNOW?" had got to the 'demo' stage (just voice and percussion), but nothing I try to do with it "GOES". There's that age old bugbear with which I always have to contend. It's supposed to be "SPOKEN WORD WITH MUSIC", but in order for the "SPOKEN WORD" element to shine through ('Nah! You Can't Hear The Words!') the "MUSIC" ends up being watered down and none-too interesting (for me, anyway). When this has happened previously, I always make myself LEAVE IT ALONE for a wee while and then come back to it with (what I hope are) fresh ears. More often than not, though, I find that this approach confirms that it is indeed crap after all! If nothing else, I end up with a folder full of outtakes which get cannibalised for the all-important "SECRET BONUS TRACK" montage.

PATRICK (National Theatre of Brent) BARLOW has adapted the beloved NIGEL MOLESWORTH books [which wuz dun by Messrs Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Willans back in the 50s, as enny fule kno. Mr Barlow assisted by George Poles hav dun 5 priceless little plays in his own utterly initiminiminible stile hurrah wot fun wizz wizz] and they're being aired on Radio 4 over the holidays. Despite growing up in the 'Secondary Modern' seventies, I use to adore those books in my own misspelt childhood. Plus, of course, I've always been a big fan of the radio treasure that is the National Theatre of Brent, so it's a daily treat worth bookmarking on the iPlayer.

But all in all, I'M NOT A HAPPY BUNNY this Xmas, as if Xmas wasn't bad enough already. The one thing that's kept me going for the last six months was the fact that I had the "STARLESS" boxed set to look forward to. When those awfully nice ParcelForce chaps brought it to me in October, I promptly opened it up, checked its contents and then gave it to my mother for 'safekeeping'. I thought I would give it some sort of 'sense of occasion' come Xmas. Now she swears blind that she hasn't got it! It's lost in the heaving heap somewhere. Faced with the task of going DUMPSTER-DIVING in the back parlour, she'd rather buy me another one. Luckily, Burning Shed have the last few copies left, but I'll have to wait until the new year now...

Week from Monday 29th December 2014

While I was doing my crossword yesterday, looking to fill the gaps in my own knowledge with THAT INTERNET THEY HAVE NOW, I couldn't help notice how pushy WIKIPEDIA has got lately. Every single page you land on comes complete with a pop-up NAG SCREEN 'suggesting' that, because they make do without any advertising revenue to pay for the site's upkeep, could one possibly make a 'contribution'? In other words, they've succeeded in adding an annoying feature to the site which is EVEN MORE tiresome than the adverts they wish to avoid. AdBlockPlus' Element Hiding Wizard will stop this occurrence simply and effectively... but I thought that instead I'd make 'A PROJECT' of it. Hurrah! It's been a while since I wrote any new scripts for dear old STYLISH, so I'm creating a CSS-fix for WIKI that removes all the unnecessary branding and menus (and begging letters) and presents me with ONLY the main body of any article to which Google directs me... "JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM!"

DREAM DIARY... 'round at Willy's... He suddenly decides that he's going to change into a small bird. I remind him that it might be a very unwise career move for someone who lives in a house full of cats...

FINALLY DRAGGED KICKING AND SCREAMING INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY... Let it be a matter of public record that, on this day the thirtieth of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand and fourteen, I did go out and purchase a new MOBILE TELEPHONE... a cheapish Android device that was in the Argos sale, thus retiring my ancient and trusty Nokia of a previous decade. And that's about as much excitement you'll get from me on THAT subject!