Week from Monday 3rd July 2017

LE TOUR DE FRANCE a commencé... ITV4 can now carry EVERY second of EVERY race LIVE (and has announced that they have renewed their contract to do so for at least another five years). THIS IS A MIXED BLESSING. This year's Tour has quite a few long and mainly flat stages. NOTHING HAPPENS for the first few hours of the day's race anyway. Ever. So they can have a lot of commercial breaks. You can go away and make a cup of tea (or even watch "COUNTDOWN"!) and nothing will have changed. "There is nothing to see here, move along!" Instead, we are treated to rather a lot of 'TIME-FILL TV', with dubious punditry and uninformative offscreen interviews with (mainly) Sky riders past and present. ITV just can't seem to get the balance right with Grand Tour cycling coverage. Either they don't carry an important race at all (GIRO D'ITALIA et al), give a race far more coverage than its importance in the calendar deserves (TOUR OF BRITAIN), carry the more exciting races, but only give us an hour of 'highlights' each evening (LA VUELTA, CRITERIUM), or put all of their eggs in one basket with some E--X--T--E--N--D--E--D Le Tour coverage. Hours and hours of screen time devoted to PEOPLE NOT RACING YET... But still I watch. Now I know how it must feel to be a cricket fan. Or tennis.

Hooray! The free download tracks from the KING CRIMSON American tour have started to trickle out. With these first three ("Cirkus", "Starless" and "Red" from the shows in Seattle), I have just completed VOLUME NINETY FOUR of my long-ongoing "HOT TICKLES" series of personal compilation CD-Rs. Me doing my DJ bit! The three tracks have been interspersed with the two 'unreleased' versions from the free STICK MEN comp, a MARKUS REUTER soundscape, ANDREW KEELING's arrangement of "Trio", the TRAVIS & FRIPP soundcheck version of "Moonchild" and a 'medley' of SOFT MACHINE-related tracks from the MoonJune jazz sampler.

The final release version of LINUX MINT 18.2 (called SONYA) has hit the streets. The upgrade process was completely painless this time around, just one or two of my custom icons needed putting back as they were. I was already using a more up-to-date Kernel than the one recommended for this version, so I didn't have to do anything with that this time around. The Display Manager MDM has been replaced by the new LightDM, complete with a new log-in screen, which looks rather cool. Again, I haven't tinkered with it, I'm just leaving it as it is. Overall, it's not exactly whizzy-whizzy fast on my oldish laptop - things still take rather too long to launch, especially Firefox - but it's not got any WORSE than it was before, so I'm satisfied. I suppose a completely clean install might speed things up no end, but I can't be bothered with that right now!
"Okay, remind me again... Which are the things they ARE going to do, which are the things they said they WEREN'T going to do, which are the things they DIDN'T say they were going to do, but are going to do anyway, and which are the things they originally SAID they were going to do, but then quickly decided they WOULDN'T do once they'd said it?"
Week from Monday 10th July 2017

MONDAY... After an extremely hectic weekend of TOUR DE FRANCEing (and exciting too for a'that!), the chaps are having one of their so-called rest days (which are actually nothing of the sort). On Sunday, I'd found myself cheering on ROMAIN BARDET riding on the "PLEASE! ANYBODY BUT SKY!" ticket. With no racing today, I decided to move Tuesday's regular Gosport visit back to Monday, so that I wouldn't miss anything! The most important reason for this morning's trip is to BANK SOME EARNINGS at long last!

TUESDAY... Some early morning e-flurrying... A brief but brisk WALKIES around the block... Selecting and processing some 'ART' for today's #ViewFromTheWalkies... Listening to this morning's #ZappaTheDay choice, as 'randomly' suggested by a Twitter posting (natch!), the 1982 disk from "YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE Vol. 5"... Then it's back to FRANCE! It's another of those long, flattish stages, with all of the action expected at the end. Our lad JOHN DEGENKOLB managed to contest the bunch sprint with only the omnipresent and unbeatable MARCEL KITTEL in front of him.

Radio Three's "COMPOSER OF THE WEEK" lunchtime slot has been featuring the colourful musical stylings of OLIVIER MESSIAEN. There are some fascinating stories that go with the music! Thus far, it hasn't been convenient for me to listen in 'real' time, but I've made good use of the interweb catch-up facility at teatime. Terrific stuff!
ON THIS DAY... 13th JULY 1976 was the day that my teenage pop heroes GRYPHON played in Chichester Cathedral. I saw Gryphon A LOT in the nineteen-seventies, but I think that this occasion was the most magical. They overcame the shortcomings of the steam-driven PA systems of the day and treated us Gryphophiles to an event that we'd never forget (all for the princely ticket price of ONE POUND). I particularly remember an ethereal moment in the show when RICHARD HARVEY disappeared from the stage and played a haunting recorder solo from w-a-a-a-y up in the top of the cathedral...
Someone chipped in on the Twits to remind me that 'Gryphon are still going...'. Of course. Their 2009 Reunion concert on the Southbank was ANOTHER of my most treasured musical memories. But these are the moments I would LIKE to remember. You can't try to relive them. Seeing one's erstwhile musical heroes playing in a PUB, reduced to regurgitating their 'hits' on the nostalgia circuit, only tarnishes those memories and makes for disappointing new ones. The band are reduced in size, as well as status, now that founder member Richard has left the band to work on other projects. Gone back to his day job. AND THEN THERE WERE THREE.
There is talk that Gryphon are bringing out a DVD of one of their Union Chapel gigs. I know I will sound like an ungrateful 'grumpy old man' when I say - TOO LITTLE TOO LATE, they should have seized the opportunity to put out something like that when they did the Reunion. The SENSE OF OCCASION has gorn and vanished now.
No, I really don't give a FLYING V about the second-generation "PROG" (spit! spit!) fans who say "It's great that all the old 'seventies bands are still going because we never got to see them the first time around". You've absolutely no chance of seeing them at their best now. (FAKE NEWS OLDS!)
The weather held off long enough for the SOUTHAMPTON MELA to happen again this year, so I spent a happy hour or two sitting in the middle of a park and watching amateur musicians spend far too long setting up and soundchecking. I did see one or two of the turns do ACTUAL performances. NANDAL ROY played bhangra tunes on a Hawaiian lap steel, with tabla accompaniment from a gentleman simply called MANAB. That was rather delightful, what I caught of it... I watched some of the traditional KATHAK DANCE on the main stage. But it seemed to take longer for the announcer to explain what the dancing was 'about' than was spent actually performing... There was a local "harmonic rock" band called KINESIS4, who took themselves FAR too seriously. And, as you know, the more that rock music takes ITSELF seriously, the FUNNIER I find it! Once the interminable soundcheck was out of the way and they'd SORT OF got their act together (give or take the howlinglyfeedingback PA system), they turned out to be not worth the effort. I got the impression that it was the keyboard player's show (he seemed to think so, anyway) and the rest of the band were all veteran hasn't-beens from OTHER local bands... On the main stage there was some "World Fusion Music Global Rhythms" on offer, hosted by PANJAZZ INTERNATIONAL. What this meant, in actuality, was veteran cross-pollenating flautist KEITH WAITHE back again for the umpteenth year, this time with a ragtag array of percussionists from various cultural origins, and a couple of young students playing keyboards and/or marimbas. They made a pleasant enough sound, ONCE they got going... But hey! I'm in Southampton! I'd better go to HMV and buy stuff...

Week from Monday 17th July 2017

ALBERTO CONTADOR wasn't kidding when he said that GC was out of the question now, and that they should try for stage wins... On the last leg before the rest day, BAUKE MOLLEMA 'did a Tony Martin' and went off on a solo breakaway to victory (after Tony Martin himself had tried to do a Tony Martin earlier in the day!) Yay! "SHOW YOUR STRIPES" and all that! It's getting to that point in the Tour where I will happily cheer for certain French or Italian hopefuls on OTHER teams, on the basis that "At least they're not bloody Sky!"
This morning I've been listening to several tracks from the controversial new STEVEN WILSON album, back-to-back via the SOUNDCLOUD.
"Controversial", you say?
Well yes, it seems he's upset his 'fans' by making a 'POP' album this time around. Steven Wilson is, to me, the very embodiment of the term "PROGRESSIVE", in that he DOESN'T just stay in one place. Every project sounds different to the one before. And more power to his elbow for doing just that.
The thing about some shapeshifting artists is that, unless you share musical tastes as broad and eclectic as theirs, it is statistically unlikely that you will like EVERYTHING they do. That's as true of Steven Wilson as it is of yer Bowies or Gabriels.
But as we know, music 'fans' who bandy around the contradictory word "PROG" don't LIKE change all that much. They would prefer all of his music to sound like PORCUPINE TREE. Only then does it meet their strict criteria of what 'proper prog' should be. For a genre(?) of music that was founded on a sense of its own cleverness, there are an awful lot of stupid people who listen to it!
The new Wilson opus would appear to have more in common with the progressive (no quotes needed here!) pop music of the 'eighties, specifically bands such as TEARS FOR FEARS, TALK TALK or even the poppier GENESIS. There are occasional nods in the direction of solo PETER GABRIEL and/or KATE BUSH. I can even hear some ABBA in there, a group for whom he has never disguised his admiration. It's the programmed 4:4 drumbeats that may have upset the 'prog' 'purists' the most!
From what I've already heard, I'm now rather looking forward to getting the CD in the Autumn. The rest of you will no doubt acquire it as a collectible multi-vinyl artifact, play it once or twice, complain about it on Twitter, then go back to listening to your oldies.
SHELFY popped round, bringing USB drives containing some video footage gleaned from his 'DASHCAM'. These will probably form the basis of the next STRUMPFEN kunstwerk. I also ploughed through my own archives (digital AND tape!) and gave him a handful of interesting OLD THINGS to go on his various SOUNDCLOUDs... Including some that I'd forgotten we'd even done!

The eagerly awaited Japanese live recordings of the STICK MEN FEATURING MEL COLLINS have arrived from the Bandcamp concern, and ruddy good they are too... Also eagerly awaited, but running a bit late, is the new BRAND X live album. The reason for the delay was that the Burning Shed People ran out of the AUTOGRAPHED POSTCARDS that they promised to send out with every order. These will now arrive separately at a later date, when they can once again sit Messrs Goodsall and Jones down with a plentiful supply of sharpies... Also also at the moment, three recently acquired volumes of FRANK ZAPPA's "ROAD TAPES" are bringing much musical delight, particularly the one featuring the short-lived, 'jazz-rock'-oriented combo that included JEAN-LUC PONTY in its ranks. The show by the 1970 FLO & EDDY band is the LEAST satisfying (in terms of musical quantity and recording quality), yet that one costs MORE than the others, for reasons known only to the ZFT or maybe HMV...

Week from Monday 24th July 2017

This morning, I ordered tickets to see SOFT MACHINE (with or without their LEGACY), playing their UNIQUE JAZZ-ROCK STYLINGS in a church hall near Guildford at the beginning of November... By all accounts, ST JOHN'S FARNCOMBE appears to be thriving as a venue for all kinds of music, while still functioning as the local parish church. I sincerely hope they have an efficient box office set-up though, because we're supposed to COLLECT our tickets an hour before the show.
I've decided to try a different LINUX DISTRO on my laptop. After several upgrades, the existing LINUX MINT is getting very bloated and slow. FIREFOX doubly so. A completely fresh reinstall would seem inevitable, but rather than just try to put Linux Mint back the way I'd like it, I thought I'd give the one called LINUX LITE a go. Its XFCE base purports to be extremely slimline and suitable for 'older' PCs... I'll be the judge of that! I wouldn't be surprised if I do eventually go back to MINT, but it's fun to explore...
There are one or two things that are slightly different to what I'm used to, but I'm getting there. I had to google for ways to get the TERMINAL to open up at the size and position I wanted it (i.e. BIGGER and in the MIDDLE of the screen). I also wanted to replace WHISKER MENU with my own favourite menu option and to install the SARDI icon sets. And just for a change, I thought I'd try some DARK THEMES while I'm at it!
To be honest, I can see myself using the COMMAND LINE option a lot LESS with this one, because they've helpfully included GRAPHIC INTERFACES for a lot of the functions that I habitually use the terminal for (making me lazy!)
So that's been THIS week's project then... I otherwise found myself at a bit of a loss now that the cycling has stopped for a bit. Hey! is the WOMAD FESTIVAL late this year, or was the TOUR DE FRANCE earlier than normal? I always remember ("IN MY DAY") that the end of the latter coincided with the former. That probably means there's a 'CHEGFEST' just around the corner as well. There's also another chance to MELA this weekend in Eastleigh, but...

The weather has been pretty dire. #ViewFromTheWalkies activity has been confined to brisk laps around the block. I had to make one trip to GOZZY to pay some printing bills. There is an enormous American aircraft carrier parked in the murky Solent...

Week from Monday 31st July 2017

I found myself in Winchester the other day, so naturally I thought I'd better get something for "THE PILES" while I was there... Some rather nice 'medieval new-age world music' by AZAM ALI, a poetry recital by LINTON KWESI JOHNSON (no music, just words, but it's AUTOGRAPHED, for goodness sake!), a hitherto unpurchased PORCUPINE TREE item...

...and also something by DREAM THEATER. These are a band oft lauded by certain TwitChums who don't mind using THE 'P' WORD. So at ninety-nine-pee, I thought I'd give them a go. Turns out I don't like them AT ALL. The stentorian "RAAAHHHK'n'ROOOOLLL!!" vocals are a complete turn-off and all of it sounds like they're trying to be 'CLEVER' for the sake of it, while not producing ANYTHING of real substance. Habitues of "Prog" and "Kerrang" might be easily IMPRESSED by this sort of thing, but I'm not. That CD is going straight on the 'RETURN TO CHARITY' pile, along with another recent ninety-nine-pence-worth, a GENESIS deeveedee which bored the pants off me ("THE WAY WE WALK"; Far from being their finest moment musically, some of it is actually quite BAD. Even the band themselves looked tired of it by this stage, they're only in it for the big stadium bucks.)
I'm thinking I might NOT go back to using my namesake distro LINUX MINT on the laptop any time soon! I'm rather getting into the Xfce way of doing things now! It does seem a lot faster than MATE, and the differences are negligible as far as LOOKS are concern. It might be called LINUX LITE, but I've gone for a new DARK theme, which works well with the SARDI icons.
I've managed to do a modified version of my trusty CONKY that works how I like it (now that I've figured out the transparency issues). It now displays the little Xfce MOUSE logo (which has now replaced the MINT 'LM' icon) and a less IN-YER-FACE time and date indicator. I also tweaked it to detect/display my own WI-FI set-up, but it remains to be seen whether it will show OTHER people's. The old one used to have several ${else} ${if_existing}...${endif} options to account for all the different network connections. I might yet have to do that again.
I've imported all of my FIREFOX and FILEZILLA settings from the 'old machine', as well as my favourite games. We also appear to have the latest LIBRE OFFICE running... GOOD TO GO!
After watching last week's episode of the wonderful "FARGO" at the weekend, I've ended up having a bit of a craze for TARAF DE HAÏDOUKS. A piece of their unique brand of fiddly gypsy music turned up as the soundtrack to a particularly bloody murder scene!

You know you're getting old when the MERCURY MUSIC PRIZE nominations are announced and you haven't heard (of) ANY of them! As usual, there is one token "JAZZ" artist on the list, probably to meet some predetermined criteria of 'cultural diversity'. The token "jazz" artist NEVER wins, but I suppose it does make folks listen (out of curiosity?) to some DECENT music for about five minutes, before going back to streaming Ed Sheeran. Filling that slot for this year is the young trumpeter and 'BBC New Generation Artist' LAURA JURD and her band DINOSAUR (Twitterquip: "You know that band Dinosaur Jr? Well, this is their dad!"). I do think they're rather good, if you can get past the hype and just LISTEN. They have a very European, folksy, impressionistic approach to jazz, especially with the trumpet-piano interplay. If they manage to stick together long enough they're bound to end up on ECM, it's the kind of thing they like! I hear shades of TOMASZ STANKO's group with BOBO STENSON. Of course, the cloth-eared mainstream press have missed the point entirely, comparing them to "electric Miles". Phooey! In lazy-journo-speak, "SOUNDS LIKE MILES DAVIS" translates as "IT'S GOT A TRUMPET ON IT".

The 'TWITTER POWER OF SUGGESTION' has provoked a bit of a FOLK-ROCK theme to today's OFFICE AMBIENCE... JUNE TABOR's "Aqaba", SANDY DENNY's "The North Star Grassman & The Ravens", TREES' "On The Shore", FAIRPORT's "Nine", some MARTIN CARTHY... A fun afternoon COULD be spent JUST listening to all the different versions of "POLLY ON THE SHORE" I might find in my collection! But having got that out of my system, I'm now ready for something a little more hectic, so I'm back on the BRAND X!