Week from Monday 4th December 2017

This morning I have 'meetings' with the DWP and the NHS. Ironically, the very sort of thing that will send my anxiety levels skyrocketing and my blood pressure right along with it.

A very nice way to "CAAALM DZOWN! CAAALM DZOWN!" at this time is the new 'album' by STEVEN WILSON. I say 'album' while waving my fingers over each ear, because it's only available in nebulous form on those newfangled STREAMING SITES at the moment. But it does make for a cohesive (vinyl-friendly, just-under-forty-minutes) listening experience, so you can see where he's going with this. He's reworked certain music from his previous solo albums (most of it still recognisible) to produce the soundtrack to a computer game, "LAST DAY OF JUNE". Now, I know nothing (or particularly care) about computer games whatsoever, but I do know a decent SOUNDTRACK album when I hear one. You might recall how PETER GABRIEL reimagined his own back-catalogue for the "BIRDY" soundtrack? Well, I would certainly put this in the same bag. It's a bit special...

YO, HO and, indeed, HO! 'Tis the season once again to be declaring my "PICK-O-THE-YEAR"! The stack of SHINY NEW THINGS purchased has been a little thinner this year, but those that remain shine particularly brightly...
New Releases 2017

1) Richard Barbieri - "planets+persona" (KScope)
2) Dinosaur - "Together, As One" (Edition)
3) Brand X - "But Wait... There's More!" (Brand X)
Also (in no particular order):
Steven Wilson - "To The Bone" (Caroline)
Wingfield/Reuter/Stavi/Sirkis - "The Stone House" (Moonjune/Bandcamp)
faUSt - "Fresh Air" (Bureau B)
King Crimson - "Live In Chicago" (DGM)
Tim Bowness - "Lost In The Ghost Light" (Inside-Out)
Reissues, Archive & Back-Catalogue

1) Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo Vice-Versa - "Viajando Com O Som" (Far-Out)
2) Matata - "Wanna Do My Thing: The Complete President Recordings" (Cherry Red)
3) Can - "The Singles" (Spoon/Mute)
Also:
King Crimson - "Sailors' Tales 1970-72" (DGM)
King Crimson - "Tour Box 2017" (DGM)
Frank Zappa - "Halloween 77" (Zappa)
Frank Zappa - "The Rare Tapes Broadcast" (Hobo)
I place no limitations on my choice of chunes, other that the words "released 2017" have to appear somewhere on the sleevenotes. The brief is surely "What have been your favourite albums of this very twelvemonth?". One twitterchum argued that his list would only include NEW STUDIO ALBUMS released in 2017, thus discounting any compilations, live albums or archive box sets. As LIVE recordings tend to be the very MEAT'n'TATERS of my own listening habits, it seems daft not to include THOSE on a technicality. I did decide at the last minute NOT to include the KCrim's "HEROES EP", as that doesn't really count as 'an album'. And the thing that has brought me the MOST listening pleasure in recent days, STEVEN WILSON's "Last Day Of June", hasn't been given an actual physical release yet, so that doesn't count either (maybe next year?)

Week from Monday 11th December 2017

Just a thought, but is there a 'CORRECT' response to that old interview chestnut "Where do you see yourself in five years' time?". One that would be acceptably received by the unimaginative middle-management types who might well ask it? Only I really can't think of a single POSITIVE answer to this conundrum, at this point in time...

JUNKLIGHT is a longtime cyberchum and a fellow explorer of expansive meandering spacemusic of an electronic bent. He has been recording a series of short pieces (usually around the four-five minute mark - quite succinct in our world!) and releasing them F'FREE D'LOAD on his SOUNDCLOUD page, for anyone who wants to use them for video soundtracking, etc etc and etc. "CREATIVE COMMONS", if you will... But YOURS MINTILLY also saw this as an opportunity for a little REMIX exercise. I've so far had a crack at three of his pieces. The first tune "CROW PIANO" did indeed get 'expanded' somewhat, ending up at over twelve minutes by the time I'd gotten done with it. But I think it goes the distance. I attempted to concatenate two other tracks into one long piece, but I ended up 'ACCIDENTALLY SOUNDING LIKE TANGERINE DREAM' yet again. This often happens when I try to 'GET EPIC'! After a couple of days of DISTANCING time, I approached the material again. The piece based on his track "CITY WAVES" worked MUCH better as a shorter self-contained piece. "WHERE THEY BURIED THE SERVANTS" lent itself to some RILL MAAAHDERRRRN glitchy electronic treatments, far removed from my usual neo-seventies comfort zone in terms of instrumentation, but still having a bit of a KRAUTROCK vibe about it. For some reason, my favourite HYDROGEN drum machine stopped working, so I resorted to using a freeware 'TRACKER' programme (a bit like the ones we used to use on the AMIGA) to create some off-kilter beats instead. The 'different' way of working produced some interesting results. I may try exploring that further.

Someone at the dee-doubleyou-pee suggested I check out the CREATIVE PEOPLE's 'social' network HIIVE, run by SKILLSET. I did so and was reminded how much I'd hated it when we used it a couple of years ago, to promote one of Uncle Willy's training courses. It is horribly METROCENTRIC and MILLENNIAL - totally shallow and full of the sort of vapid mediababble to be found in any episode of "W1A". It is also completely lacking in any useful online help for how anything works. I fondly remember the 'trial and error' involved in simply sizing some logo graphics so that they would look neat on the training course pages. They don't tell you, you have to work it out for yourself...

So how does it work if you join up as 'TALENT' (which is what they call individual members of the site)? It seems you can't follow a 'COMPANY' (which, in any case, is merely a sub-set of the profile of the individual who posted it). You can follow OTHER individual 'talents' who are hoping to get noticed, but I can think of any good reason for doing so. You can also 'HIIFIVE' them (Arrgggh! Run away!!!). Maybe companies are supposed to follow YOU? You can apparently be called a 'MEMBER' of a company, but I don't see how. You can create 'portfolios' and 'showreels' of your work, but it turns out these are usually just links to stuff you've posted on OTHER sites, mainly YouTube. I did spend a hopeful couple of hours browsing through reams and reams of 'SWARMS' (don't ask!), bookmarking what looked like useful podcasts and articles for later perusal, clicking on the 'follow' buttons thereupon. None of this information appears to have been saved f'later anywhere on my profile. You can be considered a 'MEMBER' of a 'swarm', but I don't see any obvious way of becoming that either. There ARE 'Q&A' pages, but these take the form of a moderated forum, so you don't get an immediate answer to your query. It all looks bloody useless from where I'm sitting. Once I'd got a reasonable profile page built, I logged in again under another identity (using the password we'd set up for the training courses. Oh! you know? the standard one!) and wrote myself a 'testimonial'. But I don't think that appears anywhere either! Oh well! It's just a game... I tried it, I didn't like it. End of.

{{{Of course, that WASN'T the 'end of'. Satisfied that I'd given it a fair go, I deleted all the [visible] personal data from my pages... but in a move that would make F***book proud, it seems you can't CLOSE your account once you've started it, except by writing them AN ACTUAL SNAILMAIL LETTER! Thus I stumbled across several pages that had been muted/purged by their owners and renamed as "DELETE MY ACCOUNT". I continue to get 'job offers' in the email, but not a single one of them is outside the London bubble. Did I mention it was horribly metrocentric?}}}

Week from Monday 18th December 2017

There's been a sudden flurry of FREE DOWNLOADS arriving from the latest KING CRIMSON tour, which means I've just added the finishing touches to another volume of "HOT TICKLES". Momentous occasion! I've reached VOLUME 100! I've interspersed several of the new KCuts with a couple of early-80s FRIPPERTRONICS snippets, some recent Bandcamp acquisitions from CROSS/KEELING and WINGFIELD/REUTER/SIRKIS, a bass'n'drums reveal of "OYSTER SOUP" from Mr Stormy, as well as a [wonder]fully orchestrated version of "STARLESS" from a recent BBC Radio 2 concert by THE UNTHANKS. But definitely no Taylor Swift.

With the SOLSTICE upon us, I've been gathering media to help that WEEK-LONG DARK TEATIME OF THE SOUL that we call 'the holidays' pass more satisfactorily. With the promise of only the cringiest of Christmas fodder on the telly for the next few days, I've already taken the precaution of saving a few choice movies over the last couple of weeks to serve as 'ALT' viewing. Plus there is always plenty of 'GREAT RADIO' if I get bored of listening to the new KING CRIMSON box-set... and sleep, ahh! sweet oblivion! I eagerly anticipate hearing once again the words "Précédemment dans 'ENGRENAGES'..." this weekend.

Week from Monday 25th December 2017

Oh! it turns out "ENGRENAGES" doesn't start until NEXT weekend... It's a strange sensation, this 'BEING OFFLINE FOR SEVERAL DAYS' lark. Not that I'm entirely 'AFK' though, because I have to switch on m'pooter to chart my BLOOD PRESSURE three times a day, in preparation for my appointment with another mystery GP next week. It IS a bit high at the moment, but not nearly as high as I THOUGHT it would be, given the amount of 'anxious' I'm experiencing... all this jumping through hoops for the dee-doubleyou-pee, just to get a couple of months' Universal Credit! I can only imagine what those people who have actual long-term disabilities or debilitating diseases have to go through! I can't wait to crawl back inside my happy bubble... Still, BLUE PASSPORTS, eh?

Of course, when you (literally) SWITCH OFF for four days, there's all the more stuff waiting to shout at you when you finally connect again... WHAT'S HAPPENING, WORLD?

"I SPEND MOST OF MY FREE TIME IN THESE PLACES, SO I MIGHT AS WELL MAKE MYSELF USEFUL WHILE I'M HERE..." (cont.) On Friday, I went to Winchester, where I was inducted into the wonderful world of being an OXFAM VOLUNTEER. To start with, I'll mostly be manning a computer for one day a week, valuing old books and listing them on a couple of e-shop sites...

I've set aside the New Year bit of the 'LONG DARK TEATIME' to stay offline (again) and bingewatch all of the HARRY POTTER movies, seeing as they've all been broadcastified over the Xmas hols... and as I watched "MAN ON THE MOON" again the other day, I've been re-reading the ANDY KAUFMAN biography.
"QUEEN NIGHT" on BBC4, including an entire hour on "BOHEMIAN bloody RHAPSODY"?!? If anyone wants to hammer six-inch nails into my various orifices, that would be the preferred option.
Week from Monday 1st January 2018

Finally, an ordinary Tuesday, so I shall endeavour to get back to some sort of a 'NORMAL' routine. Whatever 'NORMAL' is these days... First thing is to deal with all the e-mail and phone messages that accumulate when one opts to STAY OFFLINE for any length of time. Then I have to familiarise myself with a couple of online book shops for my Oxfam work. I have that appointment with the DAKTARI (and another one NEXT week). I have to negotiate prices on some pavement 'a-board' signs, so that means TWO visits to Old Gozzy this week instead of my regular ONE. On top of which, the optical drive (CD/DVD burner) on my desktop computer has developed a mechanical fault, so I'm shopping around for a new one of those. My planned ONLINE TRAINING COURSE in Javascript will have to wait until I can set aside a WHOLE day in the week to give it my fullest attention. Back to Winchester on Friday...

All of this equals 'BUSY BUSY BUSY' in my book and it has been a most PRODUCTIVE few days, but I then have to convince the lady at the dee-doubleyou-pee that what I'm doing falls within the government's definition of 'LOOKING FOR WORK' (which almost certainly boils down to an all-encompassing policy of "Either you apply for this job pushing trolleys around Asda's carpark, or we stop your 'benefits'!"). Still, BLUE PASSPORTS, eh?

I succeeded at replacing the disk drive in my peecee without too much angst. It reads (tick!) and writes (tick!) and the tray doesn't get stuck (tick! tick!) and it still works with the NERO software that came with the old drive (tick!), so I'm happy with it. Of course, one look at the internet forums will tell you that, although M!©r0$ofT WINDOZZZZZZ is perfectly CAPABLE of playing Blu-Ray discs, it doesn't have any native software for it, due to SONY having a proprietary stranglehold on various video codices and what-have-yous. You have to buy the full version of CYBERLINK POWER-DVD or some such. I stumbled over some online instructions to get VLC PLAYER to play Blu-Ray, but they didn't work for me. Another option is to extract the disc's content in a format that VLC DOES understand and then play that from your hard-drive. (I used something called 'MakeMKV' which, sadly, is only free for a thirty-day trial period.) It was thus that I was able to get my hands and ears on the various 'rarities' that live on the KCRIM's "SAILORS TALES" Blu-Rays (i.e. those few bits that aren't ALSO on the CDs or DVDs. Don'tcha just love these multiple-format pick'n'mix boxset thingies?). From these I've compiled a handy single-CD volume I've called "THE MYSTERY DISC: BEST OF THE BLU-RAYS". There's already more versions of "GROON" than any sane person really needs, but...

Week from Monday 8th January 2018

Of course, I just KNEW that, if I persisted in my search, there would be a FREEWARE alternative out there SOMEWHERE! In this case, the 'somewhere' appears to be CHINA... a free BLU-RAY PLAYER from the LEAWO concern, plus a BLU-RAY RIPPER (which even extracts straight to WAV!?! Yay!) from 'THE BLU-RAY MASTER'. Both have been declared "100% CLEAN & SAFE" by the leading review sites and both WORK! That's good enough for me...

Several visits to OLDE GOZZ this week. I helped the EMPORIUM O'HAIR set up their inkjet printer, ordered some new pavement signs for them and got a NEW BARNET for my trouble. Then on Wednesday I had a pre-breakfast, pre-dawn appointment at the Health Centre to leave a pipette of BLOOD for the testin' of. I tried out their new public-access BLOOD PRESSURE machine in the waiting room. Much better results than I was getting on my own SPHYGMO' this time last week!

I haven't really re-established any sort of ROUTINE yet for the New Year. Still settling in. F'rinstance, we're already in the middle of the week and I haven't even done my usual Monday morning PODCAST listening! The daily #Walkies have tended to be purely functional. This here BLOGGYDIARYWOTSIT has also tended to fall by the wayside.

I've also tried to help CC with a problem she is having with her POETRY MAGAZINE blog. The comments have been loading on some pages and not others. Say it with me, "IT'S A GOOGLE THING!". I found myself digging about at the business end of one of my own BLOGSPOTS, something I haven't done for a couple of years, so that I could reacquaint myself with HOW THINGS WORK...

On Friday, I'll be happily going along to my new 'job' at the Winchester OXFAM SHOP, which I've been finding really fulfilling and a lovely way to end the week. Except that, on this particular Friday, there is a RAIL STRIKE threatened, so I will find myself doing that __L__O__N__G__ 'scenic route' on the SIXTY-NINE BUS instead. That's all well and good in the summer - it's a THING that I regularly do just for 'FUN'! - but it probably offers less in the way of 'SWEEPING VISTAS' on a bleak midwinter morning. At least it's CHEAPER than the train.

The morning journey was quite pleasant and leisurely... but, after a fruitful day of PONDERING POOH, BROWSING BRONTË and MMMMMM-ing MORONI, the trip home again is less than thrilling, especially in the dark. I had a nap.
THE HUNGER GAMES? Two months ago I was effectively unemployed. Freelance work had dried up completely and I found myself at a loose end. That was when I decided that I would 'make myself useful' in the voluntary sector. Then someone explained to me that I might be entitled to UNIVERSAL CREDIT. I had a look at the ugly government website and thought I'd give it a go. I rather wish I hadn't. Let me make it clear from the get-go, UC is not a 'FREE HAND-OUT' by any stretch of the imagination. By streamlining all social security benefits into one Universal system, it is another way for this disgusting government to tar 'EVERYBODY ELSE', those outside of their well-to-do metrobubble, with the same sorry brush. Whether you are merely short-term unemployed (in need of some temporary assistance, as I was) or you have a chronic debilitating disease or lifelong disability, you're going to JUMP THROUGH HOOPS for your money, YOU SCUM! You must wait a full six weeks before you receive your first payment. You have to declare that you are available for work forty-eight hours a week (work that "pays £7.50 an hour or more" and is "within 90 minutes travel from home") and you must devote thirty-six of those hours every week looking for it. You will apply for vacancies that you are TOLD to apply for by you advisor and attend "and take part fully in" interviews. You WILL be available to do things IMMEDIATELY and ON TIME, even though those people running the show seem to do everything at sloth-like speed. Your payments will be cut if you don't comply with ALL of the above (by £10.40 a day, which is pretty much all of it). All of your 'jobseeking' activities have to be recorded in writing on a broken government website that is clearly unfinished and full of holes. We've all seen how the government gets out of its depth in matters of information technology. They set up a website, in a half-assed attempt to look all MODERN and paperless, but they haven't thought it through, so they still have to send you stuff by snailmail and expect you to use the telephone if you want to ask or tell them something (a telephone service which doesn't work at the weekends and which, until VERY recently, they CHARGED YOU FOR!). It is, in short, a FULL TIME JOB being unemployed. I find that I am unable and unwilling to COMMIT to all this, so having finally received my first and only payment, I am going to SIGN OFF (Do they still call it that?). For me it was a failed experiment. It involved a great deal of ANXIETY which I don't wish to repeat. I can only imagine what folks would have to go through if it really was a matter of life or death. You hear urban legends about blind people with no legs being declared 'FIT FOR WORK', so their benefits were cut because they were unwilling to crawl though the snow to the Job Centre once a week. In the days of the UB-40 and the Giro, the long-term unemployed made the best of their lot, used their time CREATIVELY. They came together and formed bands, started arts labs and community theatre projects, painted posters and poured their plight into poetry. But we can't have that sort of thing going on nowadays. KEEP THOSE OIKS IN THEIR PLACE, I SAY!
Week from Monday 15th January 2018

I am on the 'SPECTRUM' and I suffer from ANXIETY. Communication by telephone, interviews with rooms full of probing inquisitors, having to repeatedly explain myself, the very idea of 'team' work with people I don't know... These things are all FRIGHTENING and OVERWHELMING to me. This morning, with one more phone call, the Great Universal Credit Experiment will, hopefully, be done with. Not too stressful a phone call either; only five minutes and no distorted Vivaldi 'call waiting' music! But I cannot deny, it feels like a massive load has been laid aside at last...

But first, another doctor's appointment with another doctor... I got the 'all clear' on my blood tests, with just an 'advisory' on my cholesterol ratio. But I got absolutely drenched during the course of the #Walkies there and back. Oh dear! THIS WEATHER! Our internet connection really can't cope with all the WET'N'WINDY that's buffeting the telegraph pole this morning - RED LIGHTS ON THE D-LINK! I suppose I might as well manufacture a 2CD set of that "MILES AT THE RAINBOW" b***leg while I'm waiting.

This morning, I'm running a few ROUTINES on my Linux laptop, as I hear there are dodgy dealings afoot in the shape of some malware called 'SPECTRE' and 'MELTDOWN'. There have been several LINUX KERNEL updates in the last week or so, so it's likely they've already nipped those in the bud, but it doesn't do any harm to double-check. Meanwhile, while the pooter is busy doing that, I am using a hairdryer to dry out my waterlogged walking shoes!