Week from Monday 4th April 2016

I didn't notice too many APRIL FOOLS pranks in the media this year (Possibly they WERE there, but I just didn't notice them). There was an article in LINUX NEWS that M!¢r0$ØfT are launching a Linux version of Internet Exploder as a free download, which seems highly unlikely, given that (a) they don't even ship IE with Windoze anymore, (b) M!¢r0$ØfT NEVER gave anything away as a 'free' download, unless it is something they are trying to force on their users, and (c) I can't believe anyone using Linux would touch IE with the proverbial bargepole anyway!

I uploaded the 'RESPONSIVE' website for the HAIR EMPORIUM to a 'test' site, and it has proved to be a big hit with the client. They are dead keen for it to go 'live' (even though I don't think it's finished yet, merely 'BARE BONES'!) So I'm adding a few 'personal' touches to it this morning, things like product logos and quotes from their printed leaflet...

I went for a relaxing bus ride to Southampton before the weekend and had a poke around the CHARITY SHOPS. As yer do. I found a seedydisk of PETER HAMMILL's superb 2004 album "INCOHERENCE" for less than three quid. It is one of those "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?" albums: Music so sublime and RIGHT FOR THE MOMENT, that you wonder how on earth you didn't know about it previously. I've no doubt this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are dozens of similar Hammill albums just waiting for me to discover them.

On the other hand, I also just found out about an album released under the SOFT MACHINE name, which proved to be a major disappointment. It turns out that, after "ALIVE & WELL RECORDED IN PARIS" (a fine record, which I'd always assumed was their swansong), there was one MORE studio album called "THE LAND OF COCKAYNE". I stumbled over it on That YouTube They Have Now, when I was digging around for nuggets, after seeing the Softs in Southampton. But "Cockayne" is really just a (very patchy) KARL JENKINS solo album, which probably came out under the name 'Soft Machine' to fulfill an outstanding CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION with EMI. It does have its moments, but I'm grateful for the opportunity of "TRY BEFORE YOU BUY" that YouTube and other streaming sites offer (whatever their questionable moral and legal standing). I shudder to think that I MIGHT have paid good money for this album, without actually HEARING it first. There are some brief moments of tasteful, semi-ambient electronica and some little orchestral interludes which I rather enjoyed, but nearly all of the 'jazz-fusion' content sounds like it wouldn't be out of place on a BOB JAMES record or something by SHAKATAK. It is THAT kind of BMW-lifestyle, cheesy-listening, SMOOTH faux-jazz - In NO way deserving of the SOFT MACHINE brand!

Week from Monday 11th April 2016

Blimey! it's Wednesday already! I've been having quite a lot of my own special brand of obsessive compulsive FUN, working on the 'RESPONSIVE' website for the EMPORIUM O'HAIR... Now that they've seen HOW it works, the ideas for content are starting to flow...

It's also time to do THE TAX RETURN THING. It comes as a shock to find that, now they've combined the Tax and National Insurance into one 'easy' Self-Assessment transaction, I owe a hefty one-hundred-and-forty-five quid, which used to be taken in painless installments, but is now specified as an annual total. OUCH! The payments used to come straight out of the bank as a direct debit, but now that they've gone and changed everything, I'm not sure how I pay. I'm sure everything will be "EXPLAINED" to me in the forthcoming days. One wag on That Twitter wondered aloud whether, in light of THE PANAMA PAPERS debacle, we could get away with writing "IT'S A PRIVATE MATTER" on our Tax forms. I somehow doubt it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... THE WINDOZE UPDATES SERVICE SUCKS! Seems I'm not the only one to think so, as That Interweb They Have Now is FULL of helpful advice about how to keep things working for YOU (and NOT just for M!¢r0$ØfT's benefit). I think we are all agreed that it is best NOT to allow the Update Manager to do its thing AUTOMATICALLY. Not if you want to avoid M!¢r0$ØfT forcing its newest operating system onto your computer without asking first. Seems like every week they come up with yet another way of nagging their (ahem!) customers. It's best that you stay ahead of it. When the monthly Oh-Gawd-It's-THAT-Tuesday comes around, you should set aside some time to review every one of those slippery little suckers, assessing each one for purpose, suitability and relevance, BEFORE you download and install them. If you read the 'small print', you will find that, if you are NOT running an industrial-sized database server of your own (or if you just don't use Internet Exploder or M!¢r0$ØfT Office), then a lot of it doesn't apply to you. True, Windoze is still full of security holes that need patching, but most of these 'vulnerabilities' exploit the fact that YOU have done something STUPID, like open foreign files that you haven't scanned first. Or use Internet Exploder. Third-party malware scanners are MUCH better at reporting and dealing with this stuff than anything 'built-in' by M!¢r0$ØfT.

But then comes a new snag. When you have whittled the list down to ESSENTIALS and you start the update process in motion, you hit that "DOWNLOADS STUCK AT ZERO PERCENT" wall. It's another one of WINDOZE's exciting little 'ADDED BONUS FEATURES'. Everyone who ever switched off the M!¢r0$ØfT-recommended "DOWNLOAD UPDATES AUTOMATICALLY" option comes across this eventually. There have been some radical solutions for the problem, like emptying your "Software Distribution" folders and starting Updates all over again from scratch. The one that seems to work for me is... LEAVE THE HOUSE! I go about my business or just go out for a walk, and when I return, the downloads have mysteriously finished and the peecee is demanding that I reboot it. But should I have chosen to sit in front of the computer WAITING for them to finish, then nothing EVER happens ('watching paint dry' and all that!). In that scenario, I find myself considering those other 'radical solutions'. SO I JUST WALK AWAY! I do realise that this is a completely irrational and logically unsound theory. But if I've learnt one thing over the years, it's that M!¢r0$ØfT WINDOZE doesn't do things logically.

Friday morning's WALKIES takes me to the DENTIST for my six-monthly poke'n'scrape... No problems to report this time around, just the customary infomercials about dental floss and electric toothbrushes.

Meanwhile, UNCLE WILLY has paid me what he owes... but then I've had to hand it all over to Her Madge's Gubnint for payment towards a 'pension' that I'll probably never see.

Week from Monday 18th April 2016

I made the purpose of this morning's WALKIES a visit to Wilko to buy yet another storage box, this one to tidy the MILES DAVIS collection into one handy container, thus freeing up a bit more shelf space for DVDs. Then it's back to R&D MONDAY again... I need to find a way to add captions to the RESPONSIVE SLIDESHOW that's (eventually) going on the hairdressers' website.

Tuesday is m'BIRTHDAY, but it's probably business as usual as far as I'm concerned. I have money to bank and hairdressers to visit and legs to walk. But I was greeted at L'EMPORIUM DES HAIRS with banners, questionable singing, cake and bubbly (Which was nice at eleven o'clock in the morning!).

I've offered to kickstart their neglected TWITTER page into some semblance of action. Facebookers all, nobody there has a clue how Twitter 'works' and can't get on with it. The Twitter feed on their website therefore sits dormant. And now that I've tried interacting with Twitter on an iPAD, I can sort of see why! I could be considered to be a 'veteran' tweeter by now, but, faced with suddenly doing it on an Applebeast, even I didn't know which buttons to press!
DAYS GONE BY... On this (birth)day in 1979, we spent an evening at Warsash's trad jazz enclave The Great Harry... quaffing ale, no doubt, to the sound of the GATEWAY JAZZ BAND. In 1981, I was at one of those Jazz-Funk Weekenders at the Nodes Point Holiday Camp on the Isle of Wight. (*Note for younger readers: Before you went and invented 'rave' culture, we too occasionally used to gather in sweaty overcrowded halls and dance manicly through till dawn. The difference was, we did it to syncopated music created by REAL musicians playing REAL instruments!). Before they stopped being a top-notch jazz-fusion outfit and decided instead to become famous, boring pop stars, we thus heard LEVEL 42 for the first time, as well as the good-but-never-quite-made-it funkateers UK PLAYERS. Still on a funkyish vibe, on this day in 2000, our chums SKUNK FUNK played at Oliver's Bar in Gosport. I don't remember how well they went down, but I can't imagine it was their sort of crowd...
I just finished putting together the latest volume (#81!) of "HOT TICKLES", my ongoing personal series of KCrim-related compilation CD-Rs. All those downloads (free or otherwise) have to go SOMEWHERE, y'know, and I tend to accumulate quite a folderful over time! So, every time I have another seventy-odd minutes worth of single tracks, I do my 'DJ' bit and segue them together in a tasteful running order. Highlights for this batch include "Heavy Skirmish", a real life 'KcOLLISION' from Stormy, a drumtastic version of "Indiscipline" from an ADRIAN BELEW POWER TRIO show in Germany, and a rather lovely piano and violin arrangement of "Drive Home", gleaned via the STEVEN WILSON mailing list. Meanwhile, the L--O--N--G awaited KING CRIMSON COLLECTORS CLUB release #42, "Rehearsals & Blows 1983" has just landed on the doorstep, but I shall give that the attention it deserves when I return from my WALKIES...

Thursday... Up bright and early, for an appointment with my lovely DOCTOR...

"REHEARSALS & BLOWS 1983" is an interesting listen and an historically important 'MISSING LINK' document. But it doesn't hold up as a KING CRIMSON 'album', because it sounds, if anything, even LESS focussed than the "CHAMPAIGN-URBANA SESSIONS" of earlier in the same year. Those sessions actually produced some promising musical ideas, which the band then failed to pursue further on these recordings. This really is the sound of a band clueless about where they should go next. This time around, Belew mainly seemed content to stick within a Talking Heads-influenced 'white funk' groove, while Fripp, it has to be said (and he'd probably be the first to admit), didn't have anything NEW to offer at all. Only the rhythm twins of Bruford and Levin sound like they are EXPLORING. They try (but ultimately fail) to steer the group into interesting places. EVERYONE SOUNDS BORED. The "CHAMPAIGN-URBANA SESSIONS" CD holds up better as a continuous listen, because there they were mainly improvising with sounds and textures. Comparing the two 'sides' of "THREE OF A PERFECT PAIR" will show that this would prove to be the more fruitful path musically (Give me "Industry", "Nuages" or "No Warning" over "Sleepless" or "Man With An Open Heart" any day!). It is clear that, on these later sessions, they are desperately trying to write some 'SONGS', but there are none forthcoming.

This week, the GRIM REAPER has added GUY HAMILTON (director of all the GOOD James Bond films), VICTORIA WOOD (comedian/actress/writer), PRINCE ROGERS NELSON (pop/funk/rock/soul/everything-else legend) and PAPA WEMBA (the flamboyant fop of Congolese pop) to his Panini stickers collection...

END-OF-THE-WEEK DAZE OUT... It's peeing with rain, but it's time to go further afield. I thought I'd hop on a train to CHICHESTER for the day. Well, I say "hop on a train", but that sounds like it is an easy spontaneous action. In fact, I find that the Southern service to Victoria has been cancelled, so I get the next train into Portsmouth to change at Fratton instead. Then I find that the next Southern service going east is the STOPPING train to Littlehampton! So THAT allowed me to gaze upon a lot of little stations in the rain and gloom... Places that normally would fly by, exotic places like Hilsea, Bedhampton, Havant, Warblington, Emsworth, Nutbourne, Bosham and Fishbourne... During the course of the afternoon, I hit all the CHARITY SHOPS in Chi' that I came across (there's quite a few!), paid a visit to the ART GALLERY (only to find that the "20th CENTURY ART MOVEMENTS" exhibit they are currently showing is the very same one that visited Gosport a couple of months ago!), stood in awe of the Cathedral (because that's what you do when you go to Chichester) and, of course, trekked up the road to the cunningly hidden-away HELTER SKELTER RECORDS for a goodly hour of browsing bliss. Oh! and I stopped off at HMV to get the new STAR WARS deeveedee. And managed to get a much faster train back home. And it is still raining.

I appear to have rather a nice collection of GROUNDHOGS seedies to listen to all of a sudden (or 'THE GRAIN DOGS', as they call 'em down this end of the country). Not to mention a sparkling silver thing (of apparent French origin) by the 'diamond fingered' West African band BEMBEYA JAZZ, and an orchestral work by JOE ZAWINUL...

Week from Monday 25th April 2016

I've been having some solid nights' SLEEP lately - Makes a nice change! - as I've been taking anti-histamines (or "ANTI-ITCHY-ME") for an outbreak of the HIVES. This could be an allergic reaction to sea food, could be an 'anxiety thing', or it could be a possible side-effect of the OTHER meds I've been taking. We shall see...

It's the end of April, Spring is definitely here, the skies are mostly blue, the daffadowndillies and bluebells are a'bloom, the ickle bunnywunnies are avoiding the attention of circling buzzards... so, naturally, we also get some SNOW, in the form of sudden showers of hailstones, which pummel one when one happens to be wandering about the town in just a t-shirt.

This morning, FIREFOX updated itself to the shiny new version 46.0. "Good oh!" says I... until I noticed that my beloved STYLISH has stopped working! All those important little tweaks that make my regularly visited websites bearable had suddenly been switched off! Waah! Anyway, after a moment's panic, I did FIREFOX's 'check my plugins' routine and found that several of the plugins and extensions needed refreshing (including Java, yet again!). If I then went to the 'Get Extensions' page and clicked on Stylish's 'Add to Firefox' button as if installing it for the first time, then all my added Stylish userstyles reappeared. Phew! Never again must I see DGM LIVE pushed over to the left-hand of the screen, or see that bloody useless 'MOMENTS' lightning bolt on TWITTER, or see WIKIPEDIA pages covered in nagging ads and begging letters, or squint at blog postings on OUR OLD SPACE which have been rendered in an ugly, garishly-coloured font or set with eye-wateringly tight line spacings. (By the way, as far as I can tell from my very occasional visits, there's only one person left on OoS still posting anything at all!)