Goodbye 4, Hello 5

Not quite the new year yet, but when the clock reaches one second past midnight, I will probably be too drunk to write anything. Plus, I won't be near a computer.

I've submitted 'Run Faster' to SongFight, and with luck Nick will finish 'The Pawnbroker's Daughter' in time for the midnight deadline. So, fingers crossed, we'll see in the new year with a song. Even though his song is about losing love, and mine is about having too much.

I tried out a number of production tricks suggested at Specifically, each track is softknee compressed, as opposed to the entire song, and each track has either the left or right side delayed by 0.5 - 8 milliseconds. The result is fatter synths and drums, clearer seperation, a louder overall sound, and a lot of hours spent messing around in Audition making it happen.

Ironically, I think the weakest part of the song is the song itself - the lyrics and singing.

CW postponed our meeting last night, claiming 'lethargy and sociaphobia'. Plausible in his case. H is returning on the third.

Tomorrow I'll have to hail the new year by doing what I seem to spend too much time doing - reinstalling Windows 2000, on two computers. And after that it's back to politics, protest, and the party - the named and counted dead of Iraq, and the unnamed and uncounded dead of Asia.

Odd that I'm spending tonight with the very people I know from political activity. Who turn out to be the same people I know from the art world. Jon Snape called me a few days ago. He's setting up a forum for artists who want to know about art theory, and as I'm an art theorist - well, I've got a masters degree in the subject, apparantly - he thought of me.

So, I should have some lectures to give in the coming months. Eventually, paid ones.

Well. No flowery sendoffs to the old, or overoptimistic welcomes to the new. No way to bridge the gulf between the personal and the political. No sense of panacea or certain doom. I'll see you tomorrow.

Crass Distraction

I can't deal with global issues. They won't fit into my brain. 100,000 dead people is just an unimaginable abstraction - 100,000 anything is unimaginable. The idea of a small country owing billions of dollars to a big country that owes trillions. Destroying a civilisation to build a dozen oil wells. Embarking on a project of industrialised genocide when it becomes clear the war is lost. Two sides building ever more weapons to dissade each other from using them.

Music, friendship, computers. Sex, food, people. These things I understand and can deal with. These things that make life worth living. But the concept of literally half the population of an African country having AIDS, or locking up hundreds of thousands for possessing a harmless drug.

I understand the cause. But the motive is incomprehensible.


The Pope has said of the earthquake and tsunami, "This will be a sad christmas". Yes, your holiness. President Bush says he will 'consider' any applications for aid made by the affected countries. British television screens are now filled with celebrities asking the public to donate their cash.

So, the head of one of the largest multnationals in the world - the catholic church - offers his sympathy. The president of the only superpower will graciously think about helping. And the worst humanitarian disaster in living memory will be solved by your and my pocket money.

Dreaming of a Shite Christmas (Song)

How can a pop song about tragedy or politics be anything but trite? Today there was a giant earthquake near Indonesia - 8.9 on the richter scale, and 9000 confirmed dead already. For the last year, iraqi civillians and american soldiers have been killing each other. The allies in WW2 knew about the concentration camps, and did nothing. How could I possibly mould these events into a structure with verses, choruses, rhymes and scansion?

20 years after the original Band Aid single, the song has been rerecorded again. The lyrics are simplistic and full of sugar - "At christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade"..."in our world of plenty...throw your arms around the world". I'm not saying Band Aid and Live Aid were worthless - of course they weren't. I'm just saying that "Feed the world" and "We are the world" aren't much good considered as songs as opposed to fundraising events.

Two Tribes, by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, was credited at the time with summing up the cold war mentality. But what is being sung? "When two tribes go to war, one is all that you can score"..."Are we living in a land, where sex and horror are the new gods?". And as for John Denver getting mawkish over a schoolteacher dying in a spaceship, that's just embarassing.

On the other hand, there is a difference between capturing the situation in a soundbite, and wrapping doggeral around it. Faithless make a simple but valid point when they say "Wicked mind is a weapon of mass destruction". Bob Dylan cut through a lot of verbiage with "New boss, same as the old boss".

Songs (especially three minute pop songs) can't present complex political arguments - they can only present the simplest conclusions of those arguments.

"Give peace a chance" says nothing about the causes of war, the arms economy, or the human and economical costs of having your country bombed. It presents the conclusion reached after a lot of thought, not the premises or the reasoning itself.

So here it is...

So what have I done this year? Started singing, and writing songs. Worked for a university, and become self employed. Fallen insanely in love, and recovered. Recorded a lot of TV shows in DivX, and radio shows in MP3. Watched wars in eastern europe, and watched the media fill with peurille propaganda. Met another man I used to think I loved, and one I want to live with.

This time last year, I was 15 stone, and decided I'd join a gym in the new year. I did, and lost a stone, which I've gained back. I was 31, and involved in the antiwar movement. Now I'm 32, and still involved, still calling myself a marxist. I spent last christmas with my parents, just like every christmas. In half an hour, we will exchange gifts, clink glasses, and watch a film.

I don't know why, but somehow, I can't help feeling a sense of hope.

Not Christmas Music

H is on a train to his family and CW is fully occupied with job and christmas, so I've got the peace and time to write a song about them. "Run Faster" is for the final songfight of the year, after which I will get down to studying maths. Promise. This time.

I'm shamelessly ripping off What's On Your Mind by Information Society, while experimenting with Frequency Modulation Synthesis. It seems to be good for crunchy bass, smooth vocal strings, and pseudo rock guitar.

This is the first draft of the lyrics:

A lonely room, a crowded mind
And caught between two friends
One to hold, one to betray
Decision to be made
One has been around the world
One seems still a child
We all know what I have to do
Close my eyes and chose

To stay the same
I run faster
A man cannot serve two masters
I flip a coin
But don't call
Just sit and stare at the wall

Are they using me? Am I using them?
Where did I go wrong?
Take a chance or be alone
Before you turn to stone
One is sleeping on a train
One is just a call away
Is it wrong for just a while?
Pick up the phone and dial

This Christmas I Gave You My Heart

Time with H gave me space to think about CW. All reason is against reviving an old relationship. Firstly, relationships need to be based on current needs, not a desire to make up for past mistakes. Second, CW has his own boyfriend, who he says is emotionally very fragile and would be devastated. Third, CW is an exhausting, insecure, unpredictable person and I don't have the strength (or time) to cope with him.

I would like to have CW as a friend - and although what he needs is a friend, what he wants is a lover.

This situation might resolve itself. I've left messages on CW's phone, and he hasn't got back to me. When we were drunk and holding hands, he said he could imagine only two scenarios - either we have a full relationship, or we never see each other again. Nothing in between. Maybe he's chosen the latter.

H and I saw 'The Incredibles' at the cinema. We were both dubious, but it's a very fun and funny film. It was recommeded to him by his last boyfriend, who he still cares about deeply. Yes, there is a cirtain symmetry.

Apart from all this, I spent the day fixing various computers of comrades. It's nice to know the local left rely on my small technical knowledge, and therefore I play a small part in aiding the fight againt racism and corporatisaton. But...I'm supposed to be intensively studying maths and physics so I can have a career eventually, and I don't have the energy to do that and fight capitalism and fall in love all at the same time.

I'm looking backwards for christmas

CW was my boyfriend at college twelve years ago. Two days ago he left a message on my telephone. Last night we met, and aften ten minutes were holding hands and cuddling. We were both drunk, and said a lot of unconsidered things.

I don't know what to do. Tonight I'm meeting H for the last time this year, before he goes to spend christmas with his family - maybe telling him about what happened will clarify my own feelings.

Thinking about sex

Regarding Nurture/Nature debate over the causes of human sexual orientation...

If people are programmed genetically to have an orientation, this raises two questions. First, if orientation is set to an initial condition, why is it so changable thereafter? And second, what purpose - if any - might be served by genetic sexuality?

Sexuality is extremely susceptible to change, but the mechanisms and causes of this change are highly mysterious. We know that people develop new tastes and change old ones, but strangely, it seems impossible to deliberately create such a change. Contrast gay men who unexpectedly fall in love with a woman and start a family with the complete failure of the ex-gay movement.

If sexuality is preprogrammed, what is the point of it being randomly reprogrammable later? Conversely, if sexuality is fluid and constantly changing, what purpose is served by having several different initial position?

There may indeed be no panglossian purpose to genetic sexuality. Perhaps there was a purpose once, which is now out of date, but the structure remains. Or it may be some kind of by-product.

One possible solution is that sexuality is indeed preprogrammed, and it does serve a species-level purpose to have multiple sexual orientations in a society, including those which do not result in propagation. However, the 'glue' that binds a person to their programmed sexuality is weaker than would be ideal. This some people become detached, and float into a new orientation.

This reasoning requires that genetic adaptation (however imperfect) takes place in progeny with a view towards survival of the species, as opposed to the progeny of an individual. In other words, a simple 'selfish gene' model cannot be used. It may also require a notion of teleology to be reintroduced to evolution studies, which would be pseudoscientific.

Assuming variation in sexual orientation is not unique to humans, and assuming the purpose (whatever it is) of this variation is the same in humans as in nonhumans, they we have to ask: what is the point of a bisexual fruit fly? Let alone a gay banana?

Time for bed

I haven't slept for something like 30 hours, so now might be a good time to start.

I've got a cold and a sore throat, so couldn't record 'Phantom' in time for the songfight deadline. However, I've checked it with Andy Balham, and he's fine with using the backing for the next fight. I'll have to either create a new song for the new title, or tweak the existing lyrics. I think it'll be the latter - I'm far too lazy to write two songs in as many weeks.

Hopefully I'll be chatting with Nick on IRC around 2200 today (wednesday). It's been a while, and I'm looking forward to it.

I just had a very pleasant evening out with H. He says he rather liked the CD of my music I put together for him, especially the remix of Aaron Loveland's 'Think About It'. We don't know when we'll both be free again, but we'll arrange something soon. If a lover is someone you can't function for long without, a friend is someone you function better with. We are friends who don't have the energy to be lovers.

Slow beginning

Okay, it seems I can't sing at all tonight. I've got a day and a half to record the vocals, mix them and the music tracks, and submit the song. But there's other things to do as well.

I'm doing the Open University short course 'Maths for Science', in preparation for a full length level 1 science course in the new year. I've always had a blind spot for mathematics, and it's proving more difficult that I expected to grasp such notions as "1/(5^-3)". There's no magic to confidence and competence with numbers, and there's nothing mysterious about having or removing a blind spot there. Even so, I didn't expect the concept of "dividing negative exponants" to be such an obstacle.

Begin again

This week in songfight I'm in collaboration with Andy Balham of Masters of Grip. He's put together a backing track of overdriven guitars, and I've thrown together some lyrics. Here they are:

I don't have a razor, I can't use a gun
Counting down the painkillers hundered to one
Note left on the tabletop for when you get back
Watch the minute hand, fade to black

Ashes to acid, dust to rust
Zero to phantom, love to lust
Run to mother now, ape to man
Time to go now, if I can

There's no point in holding on, nothing will change
Where am I? Please tell me now. I'm feeling strange
Could that be your voice? I don't understand
Is that you holding my hand?

Ashes to acid, dust to rust
alpha to omega, love to mistrust
Run to daddy now, boy to man
Time to go now, if I can

Just don't ask me why
There is no reply
Look me in the eye
And tell me how to say goodbye

Ashes to acid, dust to rust
Zero to phantom, love to lust
Run to mother now, ape to man
Time to go now, if I can

It's 20:30, and I'm trying to record the vocal, without much success. Modulating my voice to sound like a teen skatepunk singer and cut through the guitars isn't so difficult, though I do keep slipping into a hybrid american drawl. The problem is keeping in tune - only odd syllables here and there slip out, but that's enough to ruin a take. And with my habit of tripple-tracking, that's a lot of takes.

I'm taking a break, letting my vocal cords recover, and pumping U96 into my ears.

Tomorrow I should be seeing H - going for a drink, a movie, and comparing complex lovelives. Last week I gave him a half-hour CD of my music - we'll see how diplomatic he is in his comments.

Philosophy 101

The question "Where does a person go when they die?" is analogous to "Where
does your fist go when you open your hand?"

Drink up

What effect does alchohol have? It's a muscle relaxant, breakdown products inhibit higher cognitive functions including the formation of new memories, and it depletes glucose. That's more or less it.

What are it's alleged other effects? Turning shy people into gregarious people, making people lose control of all emotional control, creating violent impulses while removing the ability to resist them.

Did you punch someone last night? Don't worry, it wasn't you, it was the alchohol. Did a friend spend the entire night insulting you? Just forget it, he doesn't believe anything he said, it was the drink talking. Did your libido override all conditioning? Were you deluded that all your jokes were hilarious? Did you metamorphose into a shameless exhibitionist? Drink has all these effects. Apparantly.

Alchohol, it seems, can completely change your personality. It can make you do things, like an evil spirit possessing you. It is both a highly psychoactive drug with a neverending list of effects, and a malevalent force with a conciousness of it's own.

No. Alchohol is the great excuse. People who become violent under the influence are those raised with violence, those who cry into their beer are depressed before they drink it, and the stupid, hurtful, hateful things your best friend said to you, he genuinely believes.

Happy? Oh I remember that.

Right. SFUK was a great success, H is happy going out with me, I've signed up for an Open University science course, I have a new bicycle, I think I'm finally over D, the band I'm (sort of) in have a gig lined up, my muscles are growing slowly in the gym, and I'm happy.

Now I just need to write some music, stop worrying about H, do the dratted OU course, avoid crashing the bike, not fall hopelessly in love again, learn to play guitar, do the cardio exercise properly, and somehow not get depressed again.


H likes to go out and do interesting things on dates. Concerts, theatre, movies. I am a man without an interesting life, in a town that offers little excitement.

I like him very much. I want him to stay with me, but I'm afraid that he'll get bored - with me, and my home town. What can I do? Except scrape around local theatres and music venues, hoping to find a steady stream of things he'll want to do and see with me.

I've been looking for a job, so I can pay for these things. Money would mean I could take him out like he needs, and even find a place of my own, where we could go afterwards.

It doesn't seem like much to ask.

Songfight UK Live 2004

I'm back from the gig. 20 musicians comprising 5 bands and a few friends, playing for 20 minutes each.

I met up with Nick beforehand - It was great to see each other again. I'd forgotten how much I missed his company. We met the other bands at the studio - Johnny Cashpoint (who was also the compare), Masters of Grip, and Pompeii (incorporating Mother Funker). Nick and I were the one man bands - Kamakura and, of course, Kapitano.

Johnny Cashpoint played first, a kind of camp electric folk.

Then Kamakura, who was especially nervous but played piano and guitar with skill under his singing.

I was number three, requiring the least onstage preparation with just a CD of backing tracks that I'd put together to sing over. I overacted a bit, was occasionally off key, and had to improvise some lyrics when I forgot them.

The Masters of Grip were straight ahead well performed rock.

The set list was alphabetical, but the order worked with Pompeii rocking out at the end. Doggeral lyrics, excellent unpretentious musicianship, and a lot of energy.

We'd each written a song specially for the event, and voted for the one we liked best - JC won.

Then, after the obligatory jam where we all improvised together for half an hour, most went home. JC, his boyfriend Des, two members of Masters of Grip, Nick and myself went to JC's flat for tea, pizza and a long chat about music.

Nick couldn't stay overnight, which made me feel sad. I slept over in JC's spare bedroom, and in the morning taked with JC and Steve from MoG about epistemology and genetic determinism.

Three of us filmed the gig, and there's a loose agreement to edit together a video from the footage. I've played back my own footage, and I look hideous on stage. Just fat and lumpy. I didn't realise it was that bad.

Oh Mr Darcy!

Four days since the last entry. And I was promising myself to update more often.

I went out with H on Wednesday. I wasn't feeling on top form intellectually, so wasn't able to make the conversation very meaningful or original, but being with him was pleasant. We saw a film - 'Pride and Prejudice'. It's a British-Indian film, based loosely on Jane Austin's book, telling of the loves and marriages of three Indian sisters. The central sister is at first incensed by, then falls for, the handsome but undiplomatic American Mr Darcy.

It was all good fun, with pseudo-bollywood musical numbers and some right-on satire, and H enjoyed it immensely. Walking back, he suggested I follow him into teaching as a profession, which would probably entail getting some more A-Level's this year, and teacher training next year. It's a possibility.

We weren't able to go to his room, but it felt good to hug him goodbye outside the place where he's staying. It's odd how I've had so much so much meaningless sex in the last 15 years, but when I'm in a relationship - with D or H - it's just satisfying to be together, hold hands, talk and hug.

One odd coincidence. I knew Gareth was doing teacher training, but I didn't realise he'd be in the same class as H. H says he hasn't made any friends here apart from me yet, and while in a way I'd quite like to keep him for myself, I hope he finds good company, including Gareth.

We'll meet again on Tuesday, for another film, and more of everything else.

PS. I need a place to be private and comfortable with H, which means a place of my own, which means moving out (again) from my parents, which means (somehow) getting a decent job. Or, failing, that, a half-decent job.

A date and a gig

I haven't updated in the last few days because everything is in transition.

H and I spent the day together on Saturday, and it was great. The spark between us is still there. I still find him stimulating, attractive, and pleasant to be with. And miraculously he feels the same about me.

I'm happy to sit, talk, watch a video and cuddle indoors, but H likes to go out. He likes to visit venues, eat in resteraunts, and see new things on a date - which is a problem in this town. Portsmouth is supposed to be a tourist attraction; It just doesn't have much attraction or many tourists. However, we managed.

This won't be an easy relationship. We're both short of money, he's a busy man, his health is quite precarious, and there's emotional baggage to deal with on both sides. It won't be easy, but it's worth it. We're trying to take it slow and careful.

One thing. H is getting over a relationship with someone he can't have, but cares for very deeply. I still care for D, though I no longer think about him all the time. I can understand what H is thinking and feeling. Neither of us will ever be completely out of love with these people.

At the end of the day, we just a sat and hugged for maybe half an hour. No groping, few words, and a few tears at the end. It felt magical.

We're meeting in the next few days, but it's not certain when.

Elsewhere in my life, my first 'proper' gig is less than a week away. Travel and accommodation arrangements are - of course - being made at the last moment. Anna doesn't want to come up to London to see me perform (I didn't think she would), so I'll ask Gareth.

I would have asked H, but he's got a ticket for the fabulous Scissor Sisters on that day! I'm pleased he's a fan too, and a little envious.

The Book of Job, Chapter 2

The university need someone to teach four lessons in basic photoshop use - one hour per week. Usually this wouldn't be a problem, but as of this month, three new dictates come into force:

(1) There are to be no part time workers. All existing part timers have been sacked.
(2) There can be no new employees. Any new tasks or jobs are to be farmed out to existing employees.
(3) Support must not do any teaching at all.

One of the smaller upshots of this is that no one can teach the introductory photoshop course, because none of the existing staff have both the time and the right to do so.

Mark S is persuading the course leader to bend the rules and employ me for four hours over a month. Mark is quite good at making managerial types understand the blindingly obvious. I'm grateful that he's trying on my behalf, because I could use the work, and because I'm not nearly so patient with idiots.

Joy and worry

I seem to have a boyfriend. He's not completely out, so I'll call him H.

H is highly intelligent and well read - we spent hours talking philosophy, science and culture. He's also gentle, attractive, traveled, personable and all the other things I didn't dare hope for.

One half of me can't quite believe a man like H would be interested in me, and the other half is afraid he won't stay interested. We've both had experience of relationships that built too high or too fast, leading to obsession or burnout. So, we're taking it slow and cautious.

I could very easily just fall for him head over heels, if I let myself.

A small saga

How I got my soundcard to work:
(1) Notice a rapid clicking sound during playback
(2) Reinstall the drivers, to no effect
(3) Switch to the onboard soundcard
(4) Find the clicks are still there, but with more background noise, and a lower recording level
(5) Attempt to buy a new soundcard over the net, to find the vendor's website is down
(6) Buy a new soundcard from a shop
(7) After installing it, find the same problems as the onboard card
(8) Put the old card back in, to find the clicks gone. And then back again.
(9) Reinstall the drivers again.
(10) Realise the problem is a noisy video capture card.
(11) Take out the video card, and try to remember what you wanted to do with the soundcard.

(11a) In the meantime, write a song, meet six men online, fail completely to get off with any of them, meet a seventh by accident and arrange a date with him at the weekend.

H...Y *3

There are times when I seem to be permanantly ravenous. There are other times when I'm just desperate for sex all the time. Right now, it's both. I'm hungry and horny.

My mind is capable of other things. Four out of the five backing tracks for my upcoming stage debut are now complete. I've fixed the soundcard problems on both my computers. And I've resumed copying music cassettes to CD. Oh, and the gym I'm building in the basement is almost ready to use.

The songfight board is moving to I still don't plan to re-enter than community till (say) the start of November. I'm missing regular contact with Nick, but I promised myself I wouldn't contact him for a week. He's enormously busy, and doesn't need the destractions I can bring - music and friendship.

I kept my doctor's appointment yesterday, just in case the current respite from depression ends. I've got a prescription for something called Citalopram - I'll know in a few days whether I'll need it. At the moment though, I'm happy, hungry and horny.


I don't know about anyone else, but when I feel an emotion, I understand superficially that I feel other emotions at different times, but I don't 'grok' it.

When I'm happy, the sadness of an hour before seems faintly baffling. When I miss a friend, it seems unconvincing when I tell myself that I won't always feel this way.

The transition from hurt to comfort that often comes after an hour of crying always takes me by surprise, as does the sudden sadness when a familliar object reminds me that good times are gone forever.


I'm actually quite happy today.

Two days ago I found myself opening up to four seperate friends - Christine A, Gareth E, Lee S and Mark S2 - in series in one evening. Then yesterday with John M. It was all amazingly tearful, and exhausting, but at the end it felt like some blockage had been released.

Then last night a special email from D. That's twice he's let me down gently from my own rollercoastering emotions about him. This little personal recovery process isn't over yet, but after being stalled for months, it's finally moving.

So now I can actually concentrate on things, somewhat. Getting a decent soundcard for the portable, writing songs, jumping through cretinous hoops for the job centre, resuming work on the basement gym, political events...and maybe even finding someone who can care about me as I care about him.

Less down

Less ill and less depressed today.

After two days of messing around with maths, I've got five working softknee compressor settings on Audition. If you don't know what that means, it means I can take music I've composed and make the quiet bits louder, the buried instruments clearer, and the whole sound richer.

There's a Marxist Forum tonight, which I nominally organised, and will probably end up chairing. I'll try to record it.

Tomorrow I should go into the university, to try to discreetly find out what the hell is happening about my old job.


I'm ill, depressed and worried about Nick, who is ill and depressed.

I'm trying to create a decent softknee amplitude compression algorithm, to use in Audition. I've got some that sound reasonable, but none that sound great.

I've started to keep an audio diary, using the dictaphone. The idea is to record thoughts, feelings and ideas as they happen, instead of summerising them afterwards in the blog. These recordings are more raw and less considered than the blog entries - I've cried on more than one of them.

There's plenty to do - transfer my cassettes to CD, work on the backing tapes for UKSF, resume work on the gym - but it's difficult to get motivated. It might help if I got into a sleeping patten that didn't involve sleeping at 5 and waking at 12.

One More Song

Well, I managed to throw together some lyrics and a backing track. The result is called 'One More'. I couldn't sing it terribly well for the recording, possibly because I was recovering from some mild food poisoning. These are the lyrics, though I expect to change them for the eventual final version:

One more morning
After the night before
One more nameless face
That leaves without a trace
I never want to go
Each time I say it's the last, but
I always go anyway, and I
Always find a reason to stay

Look into the eyes of the
Man in the mirror
Try to read his mind but the
Eyes are blind
Look into the face of the
Man in the picture
Try to see his soul but the
Eyes are cold

One more time, and
This time I hope it's for real
Do you like girls or boys?
Do you like lots of noise?
If I could only sleepI might dream of love
One more night, one more day
Can't go on this way


Oh great. I've eaten something that seriously doesn't like me, Nick is depressed and angry, and I've got some meaningless beaurocratic hoops to jump through for the job centre. Lots of little things to do, but all I want to do is get some rhyming couplets written and recorded.

Up, down, and left of centre

This morning I dragged myself out of bed to go to a 'solidarity event' in Southampton with the Fire Brigades Union. All four of us in the car had a different version of what we were going to - it turned out that a single member of the FBU is a member of the BNP, and is standing for a position of power within the union.

Most of the FBU are against this, and we three carloads of people from Portsmouth were there to add numbers to the picketing of the Southampton headquarters, demanding that the fascist be excluded. Of course, the leaders of the FBU did not exclude him, and neither did they endorse him.

As I sat drinking tea with Gareth E and Donna S, Gareth said he thought going was a complete waste of time. I think it's better to build solidarity by turning up to pointless events than to risk alienating potential allies by staying away.

God politics is boring, national and local.

I missed an important political meeting tonight, simply because I forgot. People have been reminding me about it for a week, but I got engrossed in work on the 'rhyme' project. The Portsmouth branch of RESPECT was holding a seminar, open to the public, to put forward it's views on asylum and immigration.

More politics. I wish I could escape from it. I sometimes wish I didn't have the decency to get involved. No, not really.

There another mouse in the room - it looks larger than the other one. I've plugged in the ultrasound pest repellant.

Something else has happened which makes me feel guilty, but I can't talk about it here until I've discussed it with the person it concerns.

My feelings are so sensitive. Last nignt's IRC chat with Nick bouyed me up, now a mouse and a small mistake make me want to cry. Talking with Gareth was great, but a complication in the rhyme algorithm makes me despair.

Singe rhymes with Orange!

I think I've come up with an simpler algorithm for the rhyming dictionary. Without going into details, it looks like this:

(1) Accept a word to be rhymed from the user.

(2) Identify the final vowel of the word, and any consonants that come after it. That this segment matches the final segment of a word under comparison is the minimum criterion for rhyming.

Two - /t o/
Say - /s ei/
Give - /g i v/
Point - /p oi n t/

(3) Create a list of words that share the same final segment, taking into account any differences which have been set to ignore. So, assume word strees is being ignored:

So these words rhyme:
Pain /p ei n/
Gain /g ei n/
Slain /s l ei n/
Pentane /p e n t ei n/
Insane /i n s ei n/

But if the destinction between /m/ and /n/ is ignored, these words are allowed:
Same /s ei m/
Game /g ei m/
Aim /ei m/
Nickname /n i k n ei m/

(4) Sort the resulting list into order of how many phonemes match for each word.

/p l ei n/ has the minimum 2 matches with /p ei n/, as has /f o n t ei n, but /b l ei n/ has three. If the difference between /l/ and /r/ is being ignored, then /g r ei n/ also has 3.

The main problem with this algorithm is that sometimes a phoneme is skipped over when rhyming two words, and this algorithm can't cope with that. Porridge (/p o r i dZ/) almost rhymes with Orange (/o r i n dZ/). Similarly, Review (/r i v iu/) with Renfrew (/r e n f r iu/). I don't know whether this is important.

Not a good day

The £60 has been stolen. I know where it happened, and how, but by the time I realised, it was half an hour later and I was on the other side of town.

I realised when I tried to pay cash for a dictaphone - an olympus VN240 - which I was led to believe could upload what it recorded to a PC. It can't. That ability belongs to the VN240PC which, of course, is not available in the local stores.

So, I'm down £110, and not terribly happy.

Tomorrow I've been roped in to show solidarity with firefighters who are picketing a collegue who is standing in an election for the BNP. And in the evening is a major meeting for RESPECT on asylum and immigration.

I just want to lie down and forget about all this for a while.

What rhymes with 'Orange'?

I really should write about my first day of paid work in months, but it was on the one hand so complex, and on the other so tedious, that I don't have the will.

However, I've been working on an algorithm for a rhyming dictionary. One that works the way songwriters work - allowing for loosening or tightening of the rules for what constitutes a rhyme.
Take the word 'Game'. There's plenty of strict rhymes for it: Blame, Came, Dame, Fame, Flame, Frame, Insane, Maim, Lame, Same etc. But there's also some 'half-rhymes' - Bane, Again, Drain. What happens if the rules are relaxed still further? Queen, Say, Aging etc.

The rules for a strict rhyme looks something like this: Take a word, let's say 'Gridlock', and convert to phonemic transcription - /grIdlok/. Now break the word into segments - /g rId l ok/.
This is not exactly breaking the word into syllables. Starting from the end, ask whether the final sound is a vowel, or semi-vowel+vowel pair. If it is, that is the final segment. Hence:

Frappe - /f rap ei:/
Greywacke - /g rei: wak i:/
Mondo - /m on d o/

In the case of 'Gridlock', there is no terminal vowel. So, identify the final vowel sound and the final consonant, treat them as a unit, and work backwards in the same way.

Gridlock - /g rid l ok/
Telephone - /t el ef @u:n/
Cassette - /k @s et/

The phoemic stream is devided into vowel-consonant pairs, with some isolated consonants, especially at the beginning. 'r' is treated as a semivowel that only occurs before other vowels. 'h', although it is strictly speaking vocalic, is treated as a consonant. This system of segmentation is eccentric, but (I hope) optimised for finding rhymes.

A strict rhyme should occur on the stressed syllable of a word, so stress is indicated thus:

Frappe - /f ~rap ei:/
Greywacke - /g ~rei: wak i:/
Mondo - /m ~on d o/
Gridlock - /g ~rid l ok/
Telephone - /t ~el ef @un/
Cassette - /k ~@s et/

So, we now know that a strict rhyme for 'Mondo' must end in /~on d@u: /, so 'Condo' /k on d@u:/ is acceptable, though 'Condor' /k on dO:/ is not. A rhyme for 'Salient' must end in /~ei:l i: @n t/, if such a word exists.

What about looser rhymes? Well, we can relax the rule about stressed segments by ignoring stress marking, so rhymes for 'Peregrination' (/p e reg rIn rin ei:S @n/) need only end in /@n/ or /rin ei:S @n/, for instance.

More usefully, some destinctions between consonants can be ignored. In particular, destinctions between nasals. If the three-way destinction between /m/, /n/ and /N/ is relaxed, the following words rhyme:
Pan /p An/
Sam /s Am/
Sang /s AN/

Destinctions between long and short vowels can be ignored, or between vowels preceeded by a glide and those not etc etc.

This is what I worked out during a quiet half hour at work. Implementation is the hard part. I'll need to brush up on my ASCII phonemics (most likely the SAMPA system), and refamilarise myself with a programming language (BASIC is probably adaquate, though not elegant).

Troll Theory

Hans Van Meegren was a Dutch painter of the early 20th century, ignored partly because he tried to paint in a style of 200 years previous, but mainly because he just wasn't a good painter.

He wanted to be accepted by the art establishment, to be appreciated and celebrated. But he also wanted to humiliate and perhaps destroy that establishment, in revenge for not appreciating his work.

This combination of contradictory impulses I call the Van Meegren syndrome.

He painted a fake Vermeer, intending to put it on the market as a lost masterpiece of the great painter, let the critics fawn over it, then expose the fraud after the sale. In this way he hoped to humiliate the art world. It took him 3 years to create the painting and artificially age it - a painstaking process.

Of course, when the painting was indeed sold, and landed him with a small fortune, he decided to forstall the exposure, and make some more. However, it is the psychological impulses behind the first painting which interests me here.

I suggest that the same syndrome is responsible for the prankster - one who disguises cruelty as humour, one who manipulates others from a position of power, but demands that his victims forgive him and appreciate his cleverness.

Similarly for the hacker. He tries to destroy or disrupt a computer system, but can never resist bragging about it, in the hope that his specialness will be seen and applauded, even by those who suffer from the disruption.

And finally, the internet troll. Here is someone who wants to be accepted as a powerful, respected, loved member of a community, but believes he would always be regarded as an inferior. So, he combines the desire to be at the top of the heap, with the desire to kick the heap from beneath him, in vengence for being at the bottom of the heap.

He becomes one who gains power within the group, by causing tension, by starting arguments, by irritating the group members. He may justify his childish games as 'making the discussion more interesting' or 'toying with lesser beings', but these are transparantly false.

One with Van Meegren syndrome can never win. Either the group ousts him - or ignores him, which comes to the same thing - or he destroys it. Either way he loses the game, or makes it impossible for him to win.

There is the question of why there are so many pranksters, hackers, and trolls around. Even though they all believe they are highly special and guifted. It's obviously true that intelligent or talented individuals are crushed and become resentful - this is a commonplace of modern western culture. However, only a handful of these troublemakers actually are intelligent or talented.

Also, people who actually are in some way special, and who are crushed down, do not in general become Van Meegren syndrome sufferers.

Why sleep if you do not wish to dream?

It's 01:00. I should have been asleep 2 hours ago. I have to be awake at 05:00 this morning, and it's a long working day tomorrow. Of course, I'm not remotely tierd, I'm fired up with musical ideas, and actually happy for the first time in 24 hours.

Jeff hasn't got back to me, and I don't know what the situation is with him. I've invited Anna to the SFUK event, and she's checking her availability. Simon M has got a new old computer, and I'll have to canibalise the CD drive and hard disk from his old old computer to make it work. I've put together an algorithm for a new analog drum kit, the SP400 - now there's just the tedious process of putting it into practice. I now have to transfer several gigabytes of mp3s from the portable computer to the main one - can't do it tomorrow because I need the portable cleared just in case it's needed for the job tomorrow.

The job involves me getting to a local shopfront by 06:15, being driven to Brighton, setting up 5 or 6 projectors for Powerpoint presentations, hanging around for six hours in case one of them stops working, being driven back, and eventually paid £60.

It's for some dreary arts management conference. Speaking as one who used to manage an art gallery, and who possesses a higher degree in art theory, I don't give a flying rat about exactly what the conference is about, who's speaking, or what they're saying. And no one has thought it worth telling me.

The £60 will go on a new soundcard and a digital dictaphone. It's 01:25, and I'm going to connect the two computers together, and lie down.

Where's my muse gone?

Why can't I write lyrics at the moment? Words have never fallen easily onto the page for me, but I can usually force some out.

It may be that when I write lyrics, they are part of a larger project - usually a musical experiment. Goodbye Monster was an experiment with James Brown style funky drumming, and a vocoder. Elvis in Space was just part of teaching myself to sing. Let It Be was me trying to express how I felt about D, and Ring of Steel was an attempt to encapsulate the end of that phase of our friendship. Have You Ever was about my breakup with M, as well as a (failed) attempt to write in the style of Goldfrapp. Does She began as me trying to make something resembling Some Speculation by the Pet Shop Boys. And 12 Monkeys was me trying out some new drum sounds, and figuring out how to make the Reason NN-XT module make acid basslines.

In other words, I can't write songs simply to write songs - I need to be exploring some sonic possibility that has nothing to do with the meaning of the lyrics. Maybe this is the real reason why the music so often comes first.


I've just realised: It's September 11th today.

3 years since it became impossible to satirise televison, have intellgent conversations about politics, or hear the words "I'm not a racist but..." from people who consider themselves tolerant.

3 years since we could open a newspaper without lurid headlines about people who are:
(a) Dark skinned
(b) Arabic or Middle Eastern.
(c) Islamic or Islamicist or Militant Islamicist
(d) Remanants loyal to the old regime
(e) Part of an isolated pocket of resistance
(f) Fanatical
(g) Anti-American
(h) Prominant members of Al-Qa'ida, or having links with that mysterious organisation, or inspired by it.
(i) Invisible
(j) Everywhere
(k) Amazingly well financed
(l) Impossible to reason with
(m) Suicidal
(n) Extremely good at recruiting others
(o) Motivated entirely by an incomprehensible religion
(p) Benefit scroungers
(q) Smelly
(r) Supported by communists and anti-war protesters
(s) Celebate
(t) Stupid
(u) Pro-palastinian
(v) Misogynistic
(w) Speaking funny languages
(x) Better organised than the American military
(y) Very well armed
(z) Planning an attack on your home town. Tomorrow

Odd how we never noticed these people before.

Slave to the rhythm/system

I've got a few pages of notes for a song. Provisionally titled 'Come Down', its an attack on the blind mystical optimism of rave culture. Here's a few notes to illustrate:

last night a dj saved the world
out of your head or out of your mind
buying in and selling out
living in a trance
the future is in your working hands, not your swimming head

The chorus looks like this:

As long as the music's loud enough
As long as the drugs are strong enough
You can stay lost in sound
You might never come down

Obviously a lot of work still to be done, but the core is there.


The last post was a little bit overblown, and the ones before that quite trivial. However, I make a small promise to myself. I won't edit what I have written, except to correct spelling.

A touch of self pity

This blog is for three people:
(1) My old friend Paul B, who reads it sometimes.
(2) Nick
(3) My future self

It seems to me that I've lost more than thirty years of my life. I want to somehow hold onto what remains. The last 20 years, which should have been the best, were largely wasted because I didn't know what to do with them.

So many things I should have done, and so many I should have avoided. I had the chance to see other countries, but didn't because I was afraid. I should have encouraged the good relationships, and ditched the bad ones, but I didn't try because it seemed beyond my control. I should have tried harder at learning languages, reading books, and making music, instead of playing computer games, pretending to study at university, and watching worthless television.

I want my teens and twenties back, because I know now what I should have done with them.

I used to keep philosophical notebooks, so I wouldn't forget my ideas. Now that the flood of new (and usually stupid) ideas that came from my mind has slowed to a trickle, I don't want to forget my life. What remains of it.

Twice in one night

How can I be stood up twice in 12 hours? First Jeff finds he's going out with a female friend who's just got back from holiday. So I ask Steve B online if he'd like to meet up later, for talk, hugs, and sex (followed by more hugs and talk). He says he can get to me sometime after eleven, so I go for a 2 hour bike ride and at 23:30 he texts to say he can't come because the MOT on his car has lapsed.

So I go cruising, and run into Brian. He is the ex-boyfriend of an ex-boyfriend. I was Russell's boyfriend when I was 20, then it was Brian, then Mark (who was abusive), and now finally David. Russell is a serial devoter - he loves one man at a time, absolutely.

I like Brian - he's intelligent, completely non-threatening, and would make a good friend. I got his number, but I think he doesn't want a friendship. Not because he doeen't like me; just because he wants a break from any kind of emotional involvement.

We'll see whether Jeff actually does want to meet. And what Brian wants. And maybe even what I want.

Eastern Promises

With any luck, I'm meeting Jeff at his house this evening. Judging from his revised Out profile, he's amazingly demure. He didn't want to meet in a pub, as that 'wouldn't be comfy'. Nothing wrong with that - I don't like pubs much myself - but it's odd that a karaoke singer dislikes being in pubs.

He makes a big thing of being asian - I wonder if his name really is Jeff?


UPDATE: He's gone and cancelled. Or postponed until some other time. It's all quite plausible - I think he's still interested, as am I.

Bits and Scraps - Update

Blogger has been having trouble publishing new entries today, which is why the last one was late.

I've sent a message to Jeff, asking if we can meet, but he hasn't so far replied. I chatted with Nick for an hour at 19:00 - he's extremely busy with professional work that doesn't interest him at all, which I can certainly understand.

I reinstalled Windows 2000 on my machine - took 3 goes to get it to work. But the popups and spyware have gone. As usual, there were a few files which I forgot to back up, largely because I hadn't stored them sensibly. I'm a great one for classification, but not it seems for filing.

Called Steve B, but only got his answering service. Went out for a healthy bike ride for an hour, but weakened when I saw a KFC and...ate a lot more calories than I burned. I'm putting on the weight I spent the last six months losing. It's true that I lost most of it through having no apatite because of my relationship with D, which I'm now mostly over. But even so, it's not good, and not inevitable.

Regardless of what time Blogger thinks it is, it's 03:55, and I should sleep.

Bits and Scraps

I haven't spoken to Nick on IRC for (i think) 6 days, and I'm missing our chats. Even though we've swapped some emails. He's submitted a minimal but brilliant song to Songfight this week, which I rather gushed over in my last email to him.

Last night I exchanged a few messages on Out ( with an asian fellow who lives near me. He's 33, a nurse, into cycling and karaoke, and is rather unsavvy about computers. Goes by the monkier Jeff R.

I want to meet Jeff, and I also want to chat with Nick. So I tried to phone Nick to ask if he's going to be available tonight, but there was no answer. I really hate not knowing what's going on.

Eddie called me. He's got 40 minutes of raw footage, shot at the last Unite Against Fascism gig, and he want's to know how to edit it into a 15 minute film. Editing is a long and tedious process, which Eddie doesn't realise, and I don't want to get heavily involved. So, I'll transfer his footage to MJPEG on CDRs, give him Premiere, show him how to use it, and leave him to it.

Mark Shaw - he who gave me his exercise equipment - has recommened me for a 1-day technical support job. There's a conference in Brighton next Monday, with lots of PowerPoint presentations, and it's my job to make sure the projectors work properly. It's £60 for the day, and I don't know or care what the conference is about.

I keep meaning to meet up with Steve B. We've met 2 or 3 times, had sex once at 02:00 in a cold field, and chatted on MSN lots of times. Steve is a compassionate man, and a good shoulder to cry on. My feelings are slowly getting more stable, but it's taking months, and I could use some big hugs.

Bring the noise

I want to make new sounds in my music. If physical modelling is to difficult, then I need new ways to create pseudoanalog sound, which probably means new software.

Propellerhead Reason. This is the one I use at the moment. It's very powerful and flexible, and has a correspondingly steep learning curve. There are two major problems - first, it lacks VST support, and second, it lacks audio recording capability.

To be able to use VST plugins would be extremely useful. However, I have to consider the difficulty of trawling through the thousands of available plugins to find good ones. Plus, the existing Reason modules are like the best of the VSTs.

I have a system whereby I compose the backing on Reason, dump the audio to WAV, and dub the vocals (and other sounds) in Audition. It may not be an elegant way of doing things, but it works.

There are features and modules in Reason that I still know little about - Malstrom is intriguing but very strange, and the NN-XT sampler can be used as a wavetable synth. I could just explore Reason more.

Synapse Orion. There's some good features here, and it is VST compatible, but it's more primative than Reason, and is oriented towards the techno musician, whereas I am more in the chillout/triphop/ambient scene.

Arturia Storm. Essentially, the same remarks as for Orion. Though the virtual minimoog is impressive.

Imageline Fruityloops. Again, it can use VSTs, but it's really a techno looper program, and I don't used loops - I like to have variation in repetition.

Native Instruments Reaktor. The ability to create my own analog synths and effects is seriously tempting, but I don't know enough about Reaktor's other features. Can it record multiple audio streams, is it friendly as a sequencer, and can the modules be wired together as easily as in Reason?

Applied Acoustics Tassman. Same sort of remarks as for Reaktor, except that the synthesis seems less geared towards the analog, which is intriguing.

Emagic Logic. I've used a demo of this - it seemed powerful, but with latency and crashing problems. Also, after version 5 it is only available and supported for the Mac, so there will be no upgrades for PC users like myself.

Cakewalk Sonar. I used earlier versions of this for years, when it was still called Cakewalk. It's more of a sequencer than a studio. There is the steep learning curve, and a reviewer has said it has become more loop oriented. But, it accepts VSTs, and I can easily get a copy.

Steinberg Cubase. Again, a sequencer with studio plugins. I used an early version of this years ago and found it very unfriendly. This though has apparantly improved, and yes, it is VST compatible. And as with Sonar, I can get a copy from the back of a lorry.

Well. It looks like I have the choice of exploring Reason further, or switching to Cubase. I think I'll do both, but stay with Reason for the next two or three months. I need a program I'm familliar with to make demos for K Twins songs, and backing tracks for the SFUK event.

Let the good times roll

A story idea that's been floating around in my head for several months:

The Grandfather Paradox

The military of a superpower develop an experimental time machine. They can send a small team (3 or 4 soldiers) back, and return them. They reason that they can win battles that have already been lost, or send spies back in time to gather information about enemies who were not known then to be dangerous.

There are, of course, objections from scientists. Time travel makes paradoxes possible. Also, minute events in the past could be accidentally changed, leading to unforseen changes in the present. All these objections are overridden.

As an experiement, a team is sent back one week. They keep themselves inconspicuous, doing little more than take up space and breathe air that they didn't do the 'first' time the week happened. They are returned, with no apparant ill effects, no paradoxes, and the only changes to the presents are those defined by the experiment.

Another team is selected, and, feeling more confident and adventurous, they go back a whole century. And promptly cause the death of one of their grandfathers. In shock, they return to the present, to find it unchanged. The soldier who's grandfather was killed, and who's father never existed, still exists.

But anomalies start to turn up in people's memories, and in historical records. There are two timelines, simultainiously existing, but one one track instead of side by side. One has the grandfather, the other doesn't. As time progresses in the present, it is progressing at the same rate one century in the past, and the grandfatherless history is erasing the original one at a rate of one second per second.

The 'new' timeline will never catch up with the 'old' one, but the past is being continually rewritten.

Another team is sent back to try to prevent the death. They botch the job, and a third timeline is introduced, erasing the each moment of the second, soon after the second erased each moment of the first.

A fourth team goes back 20 years, intending to set the past right by introducing a substitute grandfather for the one lost by the soldier. The soldier now finds his memories of 21 years previous show him with one grandfather, but those of 19 years ago show him with another. And each day his memories change.

A fifth team is sent back to sabotage the time experiments, in the hope of 'resetting' the present. They succeed in the sabotage, but those in the present find they are living with the effect of time travel, while remembering the failure of the time travel experiments, and still possessing the technology, which now was never developed.

Panicking, dozens more teams are sent into the past. Some return and some don't. Some are killed by teams sent to undo what they did, others are then unkilled when their killers are retroactively killed. The past becomes a mass of conflicting histories, each being constantly rewritten and restored by each other.

As the story ends, each person's memories, their lives, even their existences are subject to constant and unpredicatable change. And more and more expeditions are being sent out to fix it.

Hit me with your rhythm stick

I love the sounds of analog synthesis, but I want to experiment with other sounds. I'm looking at demos of three programs: Tassman 4, Reaktor 4, and PhyMod 2. The former two allow the user to construct virtual synthesisers from 'componants' like oscillators, filters, resonance, noise generators, and effects. They also claim to perform realtime Physical Modelling synthesis, but it seems to be a limited version.

PhyMod is a genuine PM synthesiser - so it's not realtime and requires some mathematical knowledge and a lot of patience to use. Also, the company that make it may no longer exist, so registering the full version may not be easy.

Systems like Tassman and Reaktor - and freeware like Buzz which does the same thing with less snazzy graphics - do seem a genuine step up from Reason. To create custom analog synthesisers and effects (possibly as VST plugins) is
(a) awesome in it's potential
(b) needful of a grasp of calculus and DSP that I simply don't have, and
(c) still in the pseudoanalog realm

So, systems like these would take a great investment in time to master, and aren't where I especially want to go. Which is unfortuante, tempting as they are. The Cymatic system of PM looks promising, but just isn't on the market yet.

All this started when I wanted to make custom realistic drum sounds. I've been using Stomper to make electro drum sounds for years, and I think I'm pretty good at it. But real drums - especially the more exotic ones - are just more....exciting.

...Just to make it feel right"?

Someone's actually been reading my blog. There's a brief message of appreciation for the Does She lyrics, from Frogspots. I write more for myself than others, but it's nice when an unsolicited bit of appreciation drops into your mailbox.

Frogspots sounds like my friend Anna - a sensitive, intelligent girl, who likes other sensitive intelligent girls. If Anna were a man, I'd marry her ;-).

I got a call today from someone who said 'Hello?' then hung up. I called them back, and got M answering. We talked for half an hour. On the one hand, he's still angry with me for walking out. On the other, he still cares about me and sugested meeting again. He said I should have been honest with him from the start - that I should have told him he wasn't what I was looking for. I thought I did, but maybe he's as bad at taking hints as I am.

M is both a kind, warm man, and a self-rightous twit. He tried so hard to impress me, not realising I wanted a genuine man, not a wonderful man. I tried to be diplomatic with him, not realising he wanted to be told straight out what I felt and wanted. He's also very possessive - I can be guilty of the same crime, but usually find it opressive in others.

One small irony: It wasn't him who called me. I pressed the wrong button when trying to return the mystey call.

By the way:
Are you sleeping with someone special tonight?
Does she drink tall drinks,
Just to make it feel right?
- Lawnchairs, by Our Daughter's Wedding

Where did all the times go?

Transferring my cassetes to mp3 is proceeding. I'm about to copy New Order's Substance 1987 collection. I remember buying it, on the strength of the single True Faith. That was 17 years ago.

17 years is 884 weeks, or 6188 days, or 148,512 hours. These numbers are meaninglessly large. How can anything that happend so long ago still be part of me? How can I have lost six thousand days? I must have been 15 or 16, but I can't imagine being that age.

That's how I feel today. Last night I spent 2 hours on IRC with Nick - which itself seems a long time. I who usually have such difficulty finding things to say to people, and who fade into the background in groups, chatted easily for two whole hours about nothing very profound, and enjoyed it.

He likes Does She a lot, and is going to try to write a song for us in the next few days.

"Does she drink tall drinks...

After spend much of the day trying to write verses for the song, I finally managed 8 lines, written in 10 minutes. These are the lyrics as they stand:

That telephone call
She wouldn't leave her name
Where did you really go
When you went out with your friends, yesterday

Does she
Stand and dim the light
Kissing you goodnight
Does she
Sit with you and listen
When you
Tell her I'm your prison

If the price of love
Is to lose it all some day
If you have to go then go
But I'm asking you to stay

Does she
Let you stroke her hair
When you
Tell her that you care
Does she
Ask for your devotion
When she
Toys with your emotion

Does she
Call you on the phone
To check
That you're still alone
Does she
Hold you as you sleep
While i
Close my eyes and weep

I've come up with a good demo backing, and should be able to record vocals in time for Nick to hear them tonight.

A thin line beween inspiration and plagarism and...collaboration

I've recorded the 'Alternative' double album by the Pet Shop Boys to WAV format. Listening to the tape play, I was surprised that I'd ever listened happily to sound of such poor quality. But there were also some songs that I don't recall.

One of these was the final track 'Some Speculation', which made me sit up and pay attention. It's a precursor to the current chillout music, and it must have been made around the time Neil Tennant was edging his way properly out of the closet - as were so many of us in the early 90s.

Here's the lyrics, which now don't seem so much ambigious as intelligently open:
There's been some speculation about a recent invitation
There's been some speculation about a recent invitation
What's your game?
What's his name?
Is it your inclination to accept this invitation?
Is it your inclination to accept this invitation?
What's your game?
Going away with someone new
Yesterday I went there too
Going away with someone new
Yesterday I went there too

The track has given me the spark of inspiration I've been chasing all day, for the song I promised to write. It isn't complete yet, but I'm pretty settled on the choruses:

Does she stand and dim the light
Before kissing you goodnight
Does she sit with you and listen

When you tell her I'm your prison

Does she let you stroke her hair
When you tell her that you care
Does she hold you as you sleep

While I close my eyes and weep

The song is from the point of view of an older gay man in a relationship with a younger one. But the younger one is being seduced away by a woman. The older man loves the younger very much, but is somewhat possessive, and the relationship may be doomed.

Out and down

Looks like I got out of SongFight at the right time. It's descending into new levels of bickering, backbiting and bullshit. It won't implode, but it will shrink as newbies are shouted out and those not in the inner coterie get pissed off.

I'm still up for the SF-UK meeting/gig in October, and I may return to SF in a few months. It depends on whether the atmosphere improves. In the meantime, there's some songs to write for The K Twins. My mind is empty of lyrical ideas at the moment. but I always try to keep my promises.

Paul B, an old friend, has started keeping a new weblog.

I've started copying my cassettes to mp3. The first was the 'Das Boot' album of U96. After getting frustrated trying several different cassette machines, and finding they all wowed or chewed up the tape, I lost my temper and pounded one of them with my fist. This was the Aiwa, which had severe tracking problems.

My fist broke the perspex cover of the top-loading deck. So that the cracked perspex wouldn't press down on the cassette, I played it with the cover up. And the tape played perfectly.

I have mixed feelings about this little incident. On the one hand, I have got what I wanted by serendipity. On the other, the casual and pointless violence - even directed towards an inanimate object - is troubling.

I have only ever used my fists in anger on one person, and the circumstances were extreme, but it worries me that I might unthinkingly do the same to a person who frustrates me at that moment what I did to a tape machine.

Greetings from a dead man

Kam listened to the demo of 'Have You Ever'. He says the lyrics are good, but the vocal melody is weak, and it should be possible to knock it into good shape. In short, he has the same thoughts as me, which is always nice ;).

I've made another rash promise to write a song by Friday.

I wrote a long post about how the old cassette 4-track technology I grew up with is now beyond repair, and how that makes me feel. But Blogger managed to lose the post. I may rewrite it sometime if I have the energy.

I'm trying to record my old commercial music cassettes to mp3 before they degrade beyond usability, but the playback equipment is now hopelessly unreliable. I can't find any shops that sell cheap cassette playback systems with output sockets.

Tomorrow is an idiotic 45 minute interview at the jobcentre. I should get some sleep to be ready for it, but that requires more respect for beaurocratic procedure than I can muster.

MS knocked on my door today. One day he will realise the reason he enjoys sex with me is that he enjoys sex with men. And women too, of course. We compared our respective relationship troubles and frustrations about home life - surprisingly similar.

I read some more of Lenin's 'Materialism and Empireo-Criticism'. Whereas Marx is overdense, allusive, and poetic, Lenin is overrepetative, clear, and polemical. It seems strange that Lenin thought the revolution could be threatened by such incohearant philosophical ideas. As strange, that intelligent committed bolsheviks could adhere to such ideas.

Sometimes it seems I'm trying to explain my life to a stranger. Sometimes that stranger is my own future self. Sometimes I wonder how much he will care.

The Book of Job

Never explain through malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.

In my last job I was a video archivist. I was told it would be on a series of rolling 13 week contracts, eventually - maybe - becoming permanant. I was not told that these 'rolling' contracts might not be contigous. Thus I have been unemployed for 3 months, with the 'possibility' of employment recommencing. This, presumably, is not a way to ensure staff loyalty.

When I signed on at the jobcentre, I was immidiately classified as 'disabled' - on account of my less-than-perfect distance vision - and thus sent to the head of the queue for a course. I've never been 'disabled' before, but it seems to be easier to pay to send me on a course, than to pay to get me spectacles.

The company that runs the course are waiting for the jobcentre to send them some paperwork to confirm that I am ready to start the course. Meanwhile, the jobcentre is waiting for the company to tell them 'officially' that I am on their waiting list to begin. While waiting, I have completed the major parts of the course.

Even though the paperwork for my enrollments on parts 1 and 2 of the course are held up, the paperwork for my enrollment on part 3 is not. I am due to begin part three on Thursday, but I cannot do so, because I first need to attend an interview at the jobcentre to confirm that I have completed parts 1 and 2 (even though I haven't officially started them yet). I did have a previous date for that appointment, but did not attend because the jobcentre neglected to inform me of the fact.

The course is on 'how to become self employed'. It may yet prove useful, as my previous employer have, after 3 months, sent me a P45. They have yet to decide whether or not my old job still exists.

The twin's first song

It's 03:30, and I have a song. More or less. It will undoubtedly go through some more changes, and some lines are really filler, but these are the lyrics as they stand:


On a train
In the night
Travel to
To the one
One who says
Says they need
Need a friend
But really want to say they love

Have you ever said goodbye
And found that your eyes couldn't cry?
Have you ever knocked on the door
Of someone you don't
You don't love anymore?

On a train
Going home
Want to sleep
To forget
When I tried
To explain
All he said
I never want to see you

Have you ever said goodbye
And found that your eyes couldn't cry?
Have you ever put down in song
After the feeling
After the feeling has gone?

Standing still
In the cold
Feeling calm
Feeling strange
Thinking back
Didn't fight
Didn't shout
Feel like finding a lover for the


This song grew out of the one which was 'too personal'. It's obviously inspired by M, and still based on notes I made at the time. Tomorrow, I'll (hopefully) come up with a basic backing, and record a demo version.

Provided that is, that I'm awake. Right now, I don't feel like sleeping, though I ought to. I'm going to get a drink, watch a DivX, and probably come back upstairs to bed within 45 minutes.


I promised to write a song by Tuesday for the 'twins' project. I now have two half finished songs. The first is inspired (perhaps too much) by 'Later Tonight' by the Pet Shop Boys. The second comes from the song notes I made on the train when going to see M for the last time, and coming back. It's not bad, but it's too personal.

I've spent most of the day (a) messing around synthesising drum sounds and (b) trying to research physical modelling technology to make real-sounding drums. The latter is just too advanced - it's PHd level, and my knowledge of DSP and mathematics is rusty to say the least. However, I've come up with some promising synthetic drum sounds, to sit behind this song, if I manage to write it.


I am a hair trigger. Something happens to make me happy, and I can be happy for hours. Something happens that is frustrating or annyoing, and I'll be down in the dumps for hours, until something happens to reverse the mood.

Having jettisoned M, I felt cheerful for the almost whole day afterwards. Realising that I'll probably be delayed to chat with Kam on IRC tomorrow night, I'm depressed. There seems to be no middle ground.

Occupying most of my thoughts is the 'K Twins' musical project, which is still in it's infancy. This is the one thing I really care about at the moment.

Things to see, people to do

There's so many things I need to do. Right now, I need to take shower, and resume painting the cellar walls. In the next few days, I need to get some new clothes, and a new bicycle. I need to write some new music, and rewrite some of my old music. I need to clear up the bedroom, housekeep this computer, and burn some backup CDs.

Tomorrow is a band practice, followed by a band viewing of a chinese film - probably Farewell, My Concubine - accompanied by chinese food. Next week there's an interview about how I'm supposedly setting up as a sole trader, and there may be news about whether I'll get my old job back, assuming it still exists.

I need to find a boyfriend. Or just some more friends. I need to set up the gym and lose some more weight.

There is no passion in any of these. It's the like the one thing I really need is something to make all these things meaningful.

Music from the Fool of Love

I finished the backing for the live performance of '12 Monkeys' on October 16th. On impulse, I recorded a vocal track over it - singing the lyrics instead of speaking them as in the original. Kam likes the effect, but isn't sure he can sing like that live with me at the event.

Added to the new backing for 'Under the Wagon' and the old backings I have found for 'Texas' and 'Let It Be', this means the only track I need to recreate from scratch is 'The Puppet's Dream'. Though I'd like to recreate/improve the old backings anyway.

For some reason, I'm feeling happy today. Elevated. Maybe M was hanging over my mind more than I thought.

I dropped by the DooleyDrums site ( to find the free samples are no longer free, but there are a lot more of them. As the price was 3.99USD and I had 14UKP sitting doing nothing in my paypal account, I actually paid for access. Another impulse.

For some months now, I've been toying with the idea of putting together a sample collection of more exotic drum hits than are found in Dooley or NS. Jembi's, Congas, chinese drums, and the like. I know some people who have these drums - it's a matter of ingratiating myself with them enough so they'll let me record the sounds.

A bigger ending

Meeting M was even more painful than anticipated.

He let me use his shower and shaving facilities, and I took the opportunity to try to reshave my head, as he likes the shaven look. It was not a success because my week's growth of stubble was too long for the razors to cut properly, so the result was uneven with some bleeding.

He served mushroom soup, cumberland pie, boiled vegetables and potatoes fried in goose fat. His cooking was as excellent as before, and I washed it down with too much white wine, making me somewhat drunk.

Sitting on his sofa, he said he wanted me as a friend, on whatever occasions - rare or frequent - I was available. Lying in bed together, he finally said what I'd suspected from the beginning - he wanted me as a lover.

His previous kindness made it very difficult to explain again why I thought that was a bad idea. It had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with me. I couldn't cope with a relationship, because I was still recovering from the end of a very intense recent relationship, and because my life in general was uncertain.

This was broadly true. I didn't tell him I also found him rather dull - kind, helpful, generous, but not a terribly interesting person to be around. In any case, everything I said seemed to make no impression on him. Or conversely, everything he said solidified my conviction that the whole relationship was wrong.

I really didn't want to hurt M. If I'd thought the relationship could be made to work, or could be wound down painlessly in stages, I'd have stayed. In the end, I just said "I can't do it", and he took his arms from around me, and stared into space.

I tried to soften the blow for maybe another ten minutes, talking to him as I got dressed about how he was a good man and it was my messed-up mind that was to blame, but it made no impact on him. He just lay there, as though impatient for me to leave.

At the bedroom door, I asked if there was anything he wanted to say. He said, "Just go".

On the train home I made notes for a possible song about our relationship that never was. At 23:15 I recieved a text message from M: I never want to see or hear from you again. Perhaps this was M wanting to have the dramatic last word. If so, he's welcome to it.

Back in Portsmouth, I walked to my usual cruising area, more because I felt like a walk than sex. I had some brief sex with the one man who was there - he liked to kiss, but his mouth tasted strongly of tabacco.

Back home, I drank 4 large cups of tea, and watched the first half of the Dr Who adventure The Sun Makers on DivX.

I feel two emotions. Guilt that I have hurt M, and relief that it is over.

A small reprise

I thought M would forget about me, but this morning he sent me some text messages. I phoned him, and foolishly agreed to visit him to discuss our situation face to face.

M likes me. He cares about me. He wants my friendship, though I don't understand why. How do I tell him that I quite enjoy being with him, but don't regard him with great warmth. He's a comfortable man to be around, not an exciting one. He offers kindness, companionship, and good sex. Wheras what I want is solitude.

M was meant to be a stopgap - a brief affair that would help me get over D. But M wants it to be longer and deeper than a brief affair, and I still cry sometimes when I remember my time with D. I'm not very good at endings.

Synopsis of 'Terminal'

An idea for a short story:

In a country called Terminal, the government rules with a brutal police force, and relentless propaganda. The propaganda concerns it's neverending war with Alia, a country to the north. The media is full of stories of Terminalian military victories, and the danger of Ailan spies.

Every day, spies are found and convicted. The population are constantly reminded to be watchful of 'deviancy', 'skepticism', 'strange beliefs', 'unpatriotism' and signs that anyone - a stranger or a friend - might be an Alian spy.

One man comes to see the absurdity of this paranoia. He doubts the media, the government, and the purpose of the war. He see police brutality, corruption, the rewriting of history, lies everywhere, and the constant fear that everyone lives in. Not the fear of Alia, but the fear that they will be accused of being spies.

Having decided that everything he has been taught about Terminal and Alia is false, he begins to see Alia as everything Terminal is not - free and democratic, with good unfrightened people reading unbiased newspapers, secure in their jobs, and secure they won't be sent for interrogation or re-education.

He makes contact with an underground reistance group, and buys his way out of Terminal, bound for Alia. When he arives in the other country, he sees how different the scenery is. But then, he picks up a newspaper.

The headlines tell of military victories made by the country he is now in - Terminal - against the hated enemy - Alia. Posters on the wall warn of Alian spies. The people are terrified more of their own government than attack from Terminal.

Two countries, whose war is so symetrical, they even share a common name, and refer to the other in the same way.

Strangelove, Strangelife

Only got about 45 minutes with Kam in IRC tonight. Time enough. He's feeling a bit more motivated (and even optimistic). He may come over to see me and my home town this weekend, or the one after.

I am a member of the SWP. The Socialist Workers Party. An organisation of a few thousand revolutionary marxists, in the tradition of Trotsky, as continued by Tony Cliff. The two hours prior to talking with Kam were spent in a room (and later a pub) with 12 others in the same organisation.

We made plans to leaflet an upcomming mulicultural event for 'Unite Against Fascism', which campaigns against the BNP, and is (unfortunately) dominated and largely run by the SWP. We also discussed the upcoming fortnightly local 'Marxist Forum', which is an event for internal education and debate. My assigned task within the local SWP branch is to organise these forums.

I care more for the theory of marxism than the practice, more for music than either, and more for my friend than any of these. I didn't discover my mind till I was 10. It took me another two decades to discover my heart.

Kam The Apathetic

I've thrown together a submission for the coverfight. In my head it began as a funky piece with cutup/scratch beats, but it mutated into a noisefest with deranged shouting. The original was by 'His Name Is Dan The Apathetic'.

I'm still worried about Kamakura. He seeme to be getting more and more paralysed with background problems. I'm a lot more motivated to help him than to solve my own problems, which is unfortunate, because the only help I can offer him is companionship.

The song's lyrics are too appropriate. All about sitting and staring at the wall, unable to find motivation.

We are the sum of our departures

The first draft of the 'official' list of influences for The K Twins (I think that's the name I prefer) is:

Pink Floyd
Art of Noise
Pet Shop Boys (Please, Actually, Introspective, Behavior)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer
The Beatles (Sargent Pepper)
David Bowie (Alladin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Heroes, Low)

Others possibilities are:
Talking Heads
The Human League

A small beginning

Kamakura and I are, more or less, now a band. Most likely called 'The K Brothers' (or maybe 'The K Twins'). We spent last night on IRC coming up with a list of influences on our sound, with Goldfrapp at the top of the list.

I don't know if Kam realises how good it feels to talk with him over IRC. Probably he does. He and I are both going through bad patches, professionally and emotionally. We help each other out somewhat on an emotional level, but I wish I could help him in more concrete ways.

A small ending

I've broken up with M by email. I asked him not to call me, which was unfair of me. I just can't cope with a relationship like that at the moment. The choice was between him feeling hurt and me feeling guilty now, and us both being hurt more later. Somehow knowing this doesn't make it feel alright, what I did.

He's just sent me a text message. "Angry and insulted at the email that u have sent". I tried to call him but he seems to have blocked me on his phone. Perhaps he just wanted to have the last word. Fair enough.

This is the email I sent him:
I can't go through with this, Martin. With any of it.

You're a nice man, and I like you. But the turmoil inmy head is too much.

Please don't try to call me. Move on.

I'm really sorry Martin. Never meant to hurt you. But if I stayed, we would both get hurt. You probably don'tunderstand this now, but you will.

22nd August 2004

I spent most of this afternoon with members of the band I'm involved with, practicing. The band are called 'The Strict Machines', and my involvement is as recording engineer, producer, and occasionally vocalist and keyboardist.

As I was there as audiance and advisor, not performer, I took the opportunity to rip a dozen CDs belonging to Paul, the rhythm guitarist and band founder. Paul is the one who introduced me to the music of Goldfrapp, whose second album 'Black Cherry' I have ripped and put up on my FTP site for Kamakura ( Kam is a musician I met on 'SongFight!' (, which is a loose community of songwriters and musicians in nominal friendly competition. Although I'm leaving SongFight! for a few months because the attitude of some other members upsets me, Kam and I plan to record an EP together, inspired by Goldfrapp's work.

In the evening, I chaired the fortnightly marxist forum, which was on 'Pride and Prejudice: Whatever Happened to Gay Liberation?'.


I never know how to begin a story. Every story seems to begin partway through itself, and partway through a lot of other stories.

I'm seeing a man called M. The reason I'm seeing him is I thought some dates and sex with men might help me get over D. D is a man I loved desperately, but could not have. He is also the best friend I could wish for. M is a kind man, but dull. He is helping me set up as a self-employed computer consultant.

That paragraph is true, but each clause needs several paragraphs of backstory to set it in context.

Aphorism: If your life is simple enough to explain, you don't have one.

EDIT: This blog started life as a series of philosophical ramblings, but after four posts mutated into a diary recording my day-to-day life and thoughts. I have deleted the early philosophical posts. (25/07/2006)