I'm Stupid and I Can't Sing

The day started quite well. The multitracker arrived. It's about the size of a bulky laptop, so it'll fit in a suitcase or mailbag. Turns out it does have an internal metronome.
As I was working on John M's computer last night, I had the persistant feeling that I was missing something astoundingly obvious. After a few calls to John and PC World, it turns out I was. The discs marked 'Recovery' actually are what they claim. Not just the bundle of drivers and software they seemed.

This evening there's a meeting, after which I'll go back with John and try to put the machine back to factory state. But take a load of other installation disc along just in case.
I tried to record 'Rattle' this afternoon, and although I'm more or less in tune, my singing voice sounds incredibly breathless and weedy. It come out as though I've been living on KFC for ten years and smoking 40 high tar cigarettes a day.

It's now past the deadline for songfight submission anyway. I'll try again later, but right now it's just frustrating and depressing me.

Computers are Efficient and Improve Life Quality

I have spent the last two days trying to get John M's net access back. His XP installation had a virus that progressively slowed everything down till it took half an hour to boot, and ten minutes to load Word.

I've tried several times over the last six months to remove the virus, but couldn't. So, yesterday was spent backing up all important documents - a rather slow process, not least because I tried uploading them to my FTP site, emailing them to myself, and emailing them to John's work account, all without success.

Today I simply installed Easy-CD (slowly) and burned them to disc. And formatted the hard drive, installing Windows 2000 - invalidating the warrantee, of course.

Then the problems really began. I have spent ten hours trying to connect through a modem that has absolutely no reason for not working. I now know every aspect of that modem's driver and software configuration - except why the modem gets occasionally recognised, but never connected.

If I did this professionally, I'd either get a commendation for persistance or notice for complete and utter failure.

Tomorrow I want to record my song and take a few hours off from fixing people's bloody computers. I'm usually quite good at it, but this one is cursed.

Rattle, Shake, Roll

I have lyrics, more or less, for 'Rattle'. They're not exactly meaningful, but hopefully they sound like they should be. In any case, it's just to get me back in practice. Compare and contrast with the first draft of a few days back.

Something to do
Nothing to see
Ask a question
Tell me why
Say you want me
And fake a smile

Take my advice and go now
Turn back and walk away
Before i lose my language
But there's no words to say

There are no pictures on the wall
Take one step forward, start to fall

See the future
Lose the past
Mind out of time
First of the last
See it clearly
Stop and stare
You fake a laugh
Try not to care

Books of a dead religion
There's no one left can read
Chains rattle in a stone room
Long after all are freed

The Tascam DR01FX was the first digital 8-track that I thought would fit my needs for portable multitrack recording. After making out fairly extensive tables comparing competitors in the under-£500 price range, I still think it's the best.

It's got a 40GB internal hard drive - sadly not user upgradable. I did consider using compact flash systems, but they had their own deficiencies. It can't generate it's own guide drum tracks, but it's easy to make them in Reason on the laptop and transfer the files across USB.

Features I would like to have - upgradable hard drive, compact flash option, metronome capabilities, dynamic range over 85dB, and the ability to record to all tracks simultainiously - just don't exist in combination under £500 - or indeed under £1000.

And as for recording at qualities higher than 16 bit 44.1MHz - like 24 bit 96MHz - forget it.

Sex and Drunks and Rock and Roll

I've been a bit busy. I've also been extremely drunk. Here's what I remember:

Friday 26th August 2005
Mid-morning: Try to fix Max's computer again. It needs a complete OS reinstall, but he doesn't want to go through the rigmarole right now.

Mid-afternoon: Send a txt to Mark S, arranging to meet for tonight's gig. He doesn't reply, but his message of last night said he liked the idea.

1700: Cycle over to Band HQ (aka Paul's House), for tea and demo CD packaging with the band, followed by lugging great big amps, guitars and a drumkit into two taxis. I'm providing the microphones, some cables, and the highly specialised technical know-how of plugging everything in.

1830: Arrive at the pub, lug everything inside, set up, and move the equipment around until all the cables reach and none of the band members are likely to bang their head or trip up.

1900: Go to meet Mark. Wait for 45 minutes alone in the cold. Walk back, sending him a very slightly sarcastic text message.

2000: The band are supposed to start playing, but as is traditional spend a while tuning up again while waiting for enough customers to arrive to make a decent crowd. I spend the time chatting about music recording to a vaguely familliar young man who is friendly, intelligent, and just happens to be absolutely gorgeous.

And, of course, so completely straight that he's not bothered by the man in a dress sitting opposite. He has brought two skimpily dressed rock chicks for Anna and her boyfriend to lust over. One of them buys a copy of the band's CD.

2015: Sion R arrives with his wife, Michelle. He buys me a drink - my third barcardi and coke (with house doubles). I am already more than a little tipsy and from this point my recollection of the evening becomes more and more vague. I should emphasise, I have no tolerance for alchohol.

2030: Strict Machines start playing, and rock everyone's socks off from the first chord. They really are very good.

2110: The final chord rings out, and the 50 or so people crammed into the Old Vic give a cheering ovation. Paul directed the crowd to the band producer and roadie, who was selling cheap CDs of the band.

As I recall, I shouted out that price of each CD was "£1:50...or £1 and a snog". This would have been after my fourth barcardi. A stubbled stranger took me up on my discount offer, and after three kisses, he assured me he was completely straight and gave me a pound coin for the disc.

2115: The next band set up. They are a three piece of men in late middle age, and I don't think I ever knew their name. They play 70s rock standards in a way that is highly competent, well rehearsed, and dull as a long weekend in a mineshaft.

I got another drink and navigated around the crowd. I bumped into Tim, who ran the gym I used to go to. Everyone loves Tim. He's a happily married bodybuilding cross-dresser who's become a communal shoulder to cry on and dispenser of sensible advice.

Anna arrived and I proudly told her all about him. Just before she told me he was her next door neighbour and she didn't know any of it.

Possibly around 2130: I found my way into the pub garden, and found Fabio B (Strict Machines drummer and phlegmatic Italian) sitting with two Polish girls. He invited me over, and we spent many happy minutes comparing the phonologies of our respective languages.

I mentioned I knew Esperanto, and Fabio said he'd like to learn it. So I gave an improvised introduction to the grammar and vocabulary of nia bela lingvo internacia.

The next thing I remember is doing the same thing to another Italian fellow - a middle aged complete stranger.

Maybe around 2200: At some point, I found the stubbled fellow again. He was somewhat drunker than before, and we became quite intimate - he protesting all the time that he wasn't gay. Though he protested less when I stroked his hair, and not at all while his tongue was in my mouth.

By now, the third band was playing. They're a three piece, with a Japanese girl drummer, and a repotoire of covers, and that's all I know about them.

Jan (Anna's mother) appeared. She and Stubbles (whose name might have been Kevin) were old friends, and she was feeling lonely and unsteady on her feet. There was much three-way hugging.

Sometime between 2300 and Midnight: Having drunk somewhere between six and eight barcardi and cokes (with house doubles), I helped with reloading the band gear into taxis and rode back to Band HQ. There may have been someone riding on a stairlift, and I remember being sprawled on a rug and being greeted with the words "You utter cock!"

Saturday 27th August 2005
0100: I was beginning to sober up enough to realise I'd left my bag - containing my phone - in the pub. Anna had taken her mother home, and Fabio said we should arrange a time for me to teach him some more Esperanto. Paul and I sat talking about hypocritical middle-class attitudes to intergenerational friendships, and I left after 0200.

02:45: I sat in a park eating fried chicken and chips, which sat on my stomach like a concrete bowling ball. I cycled home and watched DivXes of Blake's 7 and Doctor Who, befoe going to bed shortly before 0600.

0830: Woke up for no good reason, and thought about the conversation Sion R and I had had the night before. He's got a £450 8-track digital recording device, which is smaller than my computer's keyboard. When I want to do music recording somewhere other than my bedroom, I have to hump a PC tower, CRT monitor, and assorted peripherals around.

With Strict Machines thinking about recording again soon, and my idea about producing albums for other bands, a portable studio seems a good idea. I could record on site, and take the recordings home to work on them at my leisure. I spent the morning researching semi-professional multitrack recorders for under £500.

1200: After phoning, I revisited the Old Vic to pick up my bag. The caretaker/co-owner said I'd been "properly ratarsed" the previous night, but decided I was okay when he saw me talking to Tim. Any friend of Tim is a decent bloke.

There was a text message on the phone from Mark S. Saying he was sorry he couldn't come but he'd had "one of those days" and looked forward to meeting soon. He seems to say that quite a lot.

1300: Sleep.

1500: Woken by a call from Simon M asking me to help him set up a PayPal account. I said I'd be round at 1630.

1630: Woken by a call from Simon M, saying could we make it 1700.

1700: I set up Simon's paypal account. He's bidding on Ebay for all sorts of stuff, but hasn't got around to deciding when he wants to sell - which was the whole point of getting him onto Ebay, so he could simultainiously (a) clear out five decades-worth of junk and (b) stop being broke all the time. And he calls me a ditzy old queen.

1900: Cycle to see Sion and his multitrack. He knows nothing about the physics of sound, so his grasp of sampling, encoding and DSP is minimal to nonexistant. At his request, I improvised a lecture giving the bare bones of the subject, relavent to him producing a demo CD for his heavy metal band - Infra Rouge.
It's now 0200, on Sunday. I still have to write some lyrics of 'Rattle', and I'm rather enthusiastic about getting a multitrack device that doesn't a taxi to transport.

I keep bumping into people who were at the pub, and they've all said they hope I'm feeling better, and that I was obviously having fun. When I ask them exactly what they mean, they come over all vague and refuse to make eye contact. Did I do something of which I have absolutely no recollection?

Secrets of the Songwriting Amateurs

I've got a backing track for 'Rattle'. It's no great departure for me - grungy synthpop, probably comparable to Depeche Mode.

I'm trying a technique of lyrics writing that involves letting phrases fall out of my head, using whatever rhymes I first think of, and constructing a 'first draft' from the result. Afterwards, I go back and, retaining the structure, rhythm, and sometimes 'tone' of the draft, change the words.

I seem to be more of a rewriter than a writer - which fits being more of a remixer than a producer.

Here are the lines that fell out of my head. They look almost like a proper song about angst and failing relationships, which may or may not mean anything:

Verse 1:
Give a metre
Take a mile
Say you want it
And fake a smile
See the future
Forget the past
Time on your hands
Rain on the glass

Take my advice and go now
Just go and walk away
Take my regret and go now
There's nothing more to say

There are no pictures on the wall
Put one foot out and start to fall

All a bit cliche. We'll see how much remains in the final version. We'll also see how on earth I work in a reference to rattles.

Wet Wet Wet

Sometimes Britain is hot, and sometimes Britain is cold. But always Britain is wet. We have three types of weather: Hot and humid, cold and humid, and raining. Today was British Weather Type 3, and I spent most of the day cycling through it.
There's an embryonic project on the boards of Outpost Gallifrey for a musical collaboration. I've offered my services as producer.
I'm trying to come up with a song for this week's songfight - with the title 'Rattle'. It's uphill work. I've got plenty of musical ideas, but nothing innovative.

The optional challenge is 'Moog it up' - a tribute to Robert Moog, who died this week. Synths at least I can do - even though Reason's Subtractor is far more Prophecy than Moog. Lyrics are without doubt the most difficult bit for me - even harder that staying in tune while singing them.
Strict Machines are playing the Old Vic pub on Friday, and I've invited Mark S along. The music is a little harder than his usual Neil Young/Crash Tesh Dummies/REM taste, but the chances are he'll fancy Anna something rotten.

The Vic is a gay pub with a 'friendly' atmosphere. I think Fridays are usually theme nights, but I can't remember if the next one is Bears or Trannies. Should be interesting eiher way ;-). Someone may even want to pay £1 for the CD - that's Compact Disc, not Cross Dresser.

Bike Renew and Book Review

Quite a good day. My bike was fixed for a reasonable £18 - £9 for the tyre, £2 for the tube and £7 for an expert to fit them while I was doing something else.

The 'something else' was lending the laptop to Simon M, setting it up for his ISP, and getting him an ebay account. As expected, he wanted the account to sell his own junk, but now wants to buy a load of other people's junk.

He and his brother are trying to get rid of most of the contents of their house. In keeping with their unique approach to reducing clutter, they've picked up four chairs and a fake marble fireplace(!) from a carboot sale.

This was followed by tea and berlinners (chocolate filled and covered donuts, as opposed to men in lederhosen) with the band, who are a lot more relaxed now the recording and mixing is over. Interrupted by a call from a new music club wanting bands to play! It seems word has spread about Strict Machines.

Anna has a stinking headcold, so she left early to overdose on Lemsip and spend as many hours as possible in a warm bed before playing a gig on Friday.

Oh, one not so good thing. I've managed to lose my keys. They'll turn up somewhere staggeringly obvious (unless I lost them in the taxi getting the computer home? Bugger!). But tomorrow will be largely spent trying to find a keycutter to replace them.
I did something this week I haven't done for 8 or 9 years. I read a novel. The last one was Our Man in Panama by John Le Carre in 1997, and this one was Winter Frost by R.D.Springfield.

It struck me that almost all the reading I've done since ploughing through most of Le Carre's back catalogue has been technical. Some political, some about music production or computing, some about linguistics or philosophy.

Winter Frost is a detective novel in that it presents a mystery with clues, but the mystery is a thin excuse for the storytelling. There are several unrelated crimes solved in interweaving simultainious storylines in the course of the book. But of the two major crimes, one is solved entirely by a single clue (which I got :-)), and the other involves no deduction at all.

This book is not a puzzle. There's no scattering of clues which narrows the suspect list by elimination to one. It's the story of a series of ever more desperate attempts to halt the spread of evil (crime).

The formula is familliar and simple - the corrupt methods of an unorthodox cop are eventually vidicated when, after many failures, he suceeds and brings justice to the community under his protection.

The sterotypical cast of dogged antihero (Frost), shallow beaurocrat (Mullett), fiesty underdog (Maud), pratfalling sidekick (Morgan), slimy paedophille (Weaver) and the duo of lesbian psychokillers are infantile on their own.

No one has a clear motive or much psychology - killers kill because they're evil, detectives hunt them because they're good, others impair their progress because they're stupid.

For a story like this to work, the central quest has to be engaging. The reader has to care that the killer is caught, not because it solves the puzzle, but because it defeats the devil. We have to aspire to the unbending principles of the kinght, care that he gets his prize, share in the injustice of his temporary defeat, and in his eventual victory made sweeter by long deferment.

I enjoyed the novel, but I dislike the assumptions which underlie it.


The demo is finished! Yay! I've got my computer back! Yay! I don't have to spend any more days getting backache sitting on the floor remixing songs again and again because the guitarist wants it his way and no other. I don't have to listen to band members prattling for hours about whatever's just crossed their minds. I can work in comfort on my own music. I'm exhausted.
Dino is settled in nicely. He must think I'm the pack leader or something, because he follows me around like a little lost puppy...erm, yes.

He's a lovely little dog - but then, all little dogs are lovely, and I'm especially fond of dogs. Even when they wake you up at five in the morning wanting to play, and may not be perfectly housetrained.
Someone has dumped a load of computer hardware in a skip. Obsolete but usable stuff - a dozen wireless network cards, a laptop, mouses and keyboards, a motherboard, plus miscelanious cables and mysterious box peripherals.

Most of it will doubtless not work, and will go back in the skip. But there's always useful stuff thrown away by people upgrading. Or downsizing.
Tomorrow will be spent...sitting in front of computers. Setting up an ebay account for Simon M and his brother, and probably lending them this here laptop to access it on. Testing out stuff from the skip. And reinatalling my own dear PC in it's rightful place - and hopefully comming up with some music on it.

It's been months since I entered the SongFight competition - there should be a new one starting tomorrow.
Oh yes, there is one non-computer-related (and non-dog-related) thing to do. My bicycle has aquired a dozen punctures in one wheel. So I'll have to find time to take it around the repair shop that sold it to me.


I have spent the last two months recording a band who pride themselves on getting everything right.

I have carefully worked out appropriate levels and types of amplitude compression and excitation for all tracks, plus reverb for the vocals. At each stage, I have submitted the results to the band to check it sounds as they want it, and done minute editing on guitar and voice parts to correct trivial but annoying errors in performance.

I played back the final master mixdowns to general approval two days ago, agreeing to burn around 50 copies today.

Today, I got paid back £15 for £20 worth of CDs and cases, and started work. The test CD sounded okay, so I went ahead and burned more. After 40, Paul T took a listen and decided the whole sound was too muddy and not 'live' enough.

So I played him rough mixes with no sound processing at all, and after weeks of saying how much he liked the cleaned up, beefed up sound, says he wants the finished CD to sound like the rough mixes.

To quote an old John Le Carre novel, "I am possessed of an extremely forviging temprement. I positively seethe with goodwill."

We would have done final 'unpolished' mixes and started burning them, but his teenage female muse payed a visit, so we deferred till tomorrow. I think their relationship is based upon each having a massive crush on the other, but being unable to do anything about it.

Oh yes, and the CD cover designs were wrongly sized. My fault for believing what I was told instead of checking actual CD sleevenotes.

So, in summery: GaaaaaH!

Black Music

I often collect mp3s on the basis that, if I don't like them now, I may find them interesting later. It proves true often enough that I continue to do it.

I'm rediscovering the songs of 'Black', tucked away for the last five years on disc number 38, together with Placebo, Gary Neuman and 'The Best Rock Album in the World...Ever!'. It's mellow synth-and-guitar pop with melancholy lyrics - a bit like Kamakura when they're a 5-piece.
The early hours of this morning will be spent listening to other mp3s, unwrapping 60 blank CDRs. The following early evening hours will be spent burning far too many copies of the Strict Machines' EP onto them - probably while listening to some of Paul T's vast and ecclectic vinyl collection.

Mine is a life spent in music ;-).
Anna's collegues at work (a newspaper) said they could design and print the CD covers. Turns out they couldn't, so I rather hastily did it myself. It's been a decade since I was a professional graphic designer, and I don't have all the right software. But it should be adaquate.

Anna is getting stressed out - the result of being a perfectionist with too many committments and not enough appreciation. She promised to take time out from overtime, family, martial arts, the band, and being the strong reliable friend of everyone else who's feeling stressed out.
I have discovered the archives of the defunct Goodbye! Magazine. Much more fun and more truthful than Hello!, it's just a collection of honest - and honestly undiplomatic - obituaries of recently dead celebrities, notables, and famous oddballs "on the margins of respectability".
Dino and Spock are getting to know each other. Dino is much as Spock was ten years ago - excitable, yappy and affectionate. Absolutely fascinated by whatever grabs his attention, until in an eyeblink he gets distracted and is absorbed in something else. And with a strange compulsion to rip up tissue paper.

One thing. It now proves impossible to sneak downstairs for a snack at three in the morning, because Dino is instantly wide awake, barking, full of joy and demanding to play. It call this the 'Puppydog Diet'.

Pet Sounds

So, we have a second dog.

Dino is small, fluffy, foxlike, extremely inquisitive and highly excitable. Any noise sends him into frenzies of yapping and running around. Just like a normal puppy, really.

He seems to have identified us as his owners already, and is inordinately pleased to see us when we've been out of the room for more than five minutes.

Mr Spock isn't used to having other dogs around, and is rather fascinated - or perplexed - by the sudden extra presence. Dino just doesn't like the competition. He's quite agressive, and I think it'll be a few weeks before they fully accept each other.
All tracks are now mixed, mastered, and arranged for CD burning. Which means all I have to do now is burn 50 copies of the EP. Oh, and buy some more CDRs to burn them onto, and some CD cases to put them into.

And all the band have to do is produce and insert the front and back covers.

I think we've all done a pretty good job on this demo. It did take so many weeks I'm not sure how long it's been, and the band have quarelled (by which I mean, the guitarist has thrown a few strops). But the playing and singing are both strong, and I think my production will get them a few gigs.


Two and a half more tracks mixed and mastered. Final track to be finished tomorrow, plus burning a few finished CDs.

After which the band can start seeing marginally less of each other, we can have lives again, and I get to have a proper computer at home again.

The band have finally decided on a title for this, their second EP. It will have...no title!
I've written another half song, based on an obscure piece of 80s synthpop called "Until December". It seems that most of the songs I complete, I do so in one session. Which means a lot of unfinished songs, some of which would be better than the ones I do complete.

I probably need to develop a more relaxed attitude to lyric writing - not spend so much time agonizing over lines that are never going to say exactly what I want and still scan and rhyme.
My parents are getting a new dog tomorrow. A six month old brown-eared white papillion called 'Dino'. Tomorrow will therefore mostly be spent introducing him to our existing papillion (Mr Spock, 10 years, white with black ears, can't figure out the dog-flap), and being the soft dog-lovers we are.

Band News

I've recieved a comment on my last post. It's an advert. Deep joy.
Two of the five Strict Machines tracks are now mastered. Two more (hopefully) later today. By the end of the week, I get my recording studio back.

There are three extremely irritating things about Paul T (guitarist). The first is that he's a self-obsessed arsehole who doesn't care about other people, except as recipients of his wisdom and musical genius. The second is that he explains every idea that passes through his head at great length, fully expecting every bad joke, obvious revelation or irrlevent aside to be gratefully accepted as life changing.

The third is that he's maybe half as good as he thinks he is, which makes him a great guitarist and interesting person to listen to. There is something worse than an arsehole, and that's an arsehole who's often right.

If only you can get over the self pity, mood swings, ego, and infantile humour.
Oh yes, the band got a miniature review of their last gig in the local rag. Here it is:

Strict Machines are a trio oozing raw primal rock'n'roll laced through with dark pop. With just guitar and drums, the music is earthy swamp beats with a plethora of influences running through it's veins and fronted by a baby doll goth vamp with a siren's call. Compelling.

If they can stay together - there's been arguments at every practice and recording session so far - the following will just grow and grow.
I just want to get back to writing and recording my own music. Though I've been completely unable to come up with more that half complete envelope scribblings lately.

Au Revoir, Le Enfant

So, last night I said goodbye to H, at least for a few months. The day we met he took me out for an indian meal, so yesterday I returned the favour. We drank in the same pub too. But this time he didn't get drunk and ravish me in my parent's own back yard.

His science-teacher sideburnless beard has mutated into a ginger Jason King moustache. He agrees with Simon M that I have the face and frame of an enormous baby. So perhaps I can say I'm 'cherubic' on gaydar.

Back in his room, all his stuff was in boxes - as is traditional, twice as many boxes as he arrived with. A room that I won't see again, above a shop that I cycled past for years barely noticing. We spoke of early childhood memories, emotions evoked by colours, and hopes for the future. And we had one of our good natured arguments that I've become so fond of - this time about what makes a war film a war film.

I hold that a war film must have a war or a battle as an essential part of it's plot, instead of just a backdrop. Therefore Black Hawk Down and Apocalypse Now are unambigiously war films, but The Great Escape isn't. The Great Esacpe is a prison breakout drama that happens to be set in a World War II camp, but could be set in a boys boarding school (with boys and masters instead of Allies and Nazis) or the planet Zog (with abuctees and aliens).

He maintains that war films are those set in situations generated by a war, even though similar situations could generated by other circumstances. Saving Private Ryan could have been about a basketball team saving a kidnapped heiress from evil tibetan monks, in which case it would not have been a war film. But the fact that it was set, not just during or a war, but within one, makes it a war film. So there.

We hugged, promised to keep in touch, hugged again, said goodbye, and hugged some more. And he watched me as I cycled off.
Today I completely failed to fix Simon M's computer. When I arrived, it would only boot in safe mode. After running the recovery console, it refused to boot at all.

I was rewarded for my time by being introduced to eggs benedict (very nice) and the 70s adventures of amateur detective and insanely camp sexist pig, Jason King. Which apart from being wonderfully entertaining provided you watch it as a parody of itself, gave me a description for H's moustache.

I would let Simon borrow my laptop for a few weeks till he can get a new computer. But I'm still using the laptop because Paul T seems determined to keep it in his bedroom forever as he endlessly drags out the album recording process.

This evening was an extra impromptu session to practice and listen through what's been recorded so far. Seeing as everyone's sick of the project, we decided: no more recordings after sunday. After which I get to mix and master the damn thing. And take home my recording studio, probably in two taxis.

You will Take Back the Life that Once was Yours

Vocals now recorded. Anna F and Paul T are two different kinds of perfectionist.

Anna does the best she can at the time, and is self critical. Paul wants everything to be perfect and wants to do or control it all himself, just to make sure it is. Anna just gets on with it. Paul needs everyone to know what an effort he's making. Anna likes to be appreciated. Paul needs to be admired.

Paul recorded his guitar parts in six weeks. Anna recorded her vocals in two days. Fabio B, our drummer, recorded his tracks in three hours.

I get the chance to be my kind of perfectionist on Sunday, when it's time for mixing and effects processing.
Should be saying 'goodbye for now' to H this evening (Thursday). The plan is to be friendly, argue only gently, not get upset, have a good time, and not embarrass either of us.
Mark S managed to cancel as I was on my way to see him. The number of times he's texted me with "really sorry mate somethings come up cant make it tonite ill txt u later in the week." So I sat in the park, munching fish and chips, watching the sun go down behind clouds stained a dozen shades of red and orange, as boys in tracksuits kicked around a football and middle aged couples took slow strolls.
I'm doing 900 steps a night. Ten lots of ten three times, then rest for a few minutes, three times. This is my 'preliminary' stepper workout, just to get my muscles and lungs used to being used again.
Paul B is getting seriously into psychological theories to explain to himself why he is the way he is. And trying to get hold of reports written by psychologists about the 12 year old boy he was. I imagine he's in for either a mindblowing revelation gleaned from a paranthetical remark, or a crushing disappointment.

I had the same tests for deafness and spatial reasoning when I was four or five. I saw fragments of the results in When I was 27. Apparantly I was "Intelligent but withdrawn".

If that means "bored in the classroom and bullied in the playground", it's trivially true. One odd thing though - one psychologist noted a "hobbling gait". I hadn't realised my difficulty in walking went back that far.
Two of my earliest memories are of my mother teaching me algebra, and of my father failing to teach me trigonometry - hitting me when I got a wrong answer. Both taught me to be mistrustful of other people.

When I was (I think) 17, they found out I was gay. Mother spent a few hours screeching at me, trying to make me say it wasn't true. I refused to lie. Father was just worried he'd lose business if anyone knew he son was homosexual. Actually this continued intermittantly for six years.

Every significant relationship in my life has been with a mentor of some kind. When I say "I trust you", this is a far greater compliment than "I like you". With people, I am either extremely loyal and self sacrificing, or dismissive.

Here's a hypothesis. The first decade of life sets all the basic patterns of self image, emotional makeup, obsessions, interests, taste, aporias, hopes etc etc. The second decade sets the pattern for the facade presented to other people. The third creates all the minor scratches on the surface of the first two that we call 'adult personality'.

when describe people in casual conversation, we describe these scratches. When get to know people well, we describe the facade.

You are Going Back, Back in Time

Have you ever noticed, when you make a public statement about yourself, if ceases to be true hours after you've made it?

I've actually spent most of this daytime awake, and indeed alert. And may even sleep soundly in the dark tonight.

H says he's "alive but very busy". Thursday I'm taking him out for a "goodbye to this poxy little town" treat, as he's moving away on Saturday. Movie and/or meal, depending on what he feels like at the time. I shall try not to be too clingy on this, the final time it's quick and easy to meet up.
Before that, tonight (Tuesday) Mark S will again be vaguely depressed but evasive as to why, with me on a beach. Will he want sex this time, I wonder? Well, if he does that's easy, and if he doesn't it's even easier.

Wednesday involves continuing to pester the SWP apparatus about getting a speaker for the forum on the 24th. Then producing and delivering leaflets about it. And recording Anna's singing in the evening.

Friday is "set up Ebay account for Simon M and his brother, and get paid in their wonderfully cooked food" day.
Cable TV is especially good for one thing. Reintroducing thirtysomething men like me to their childhoods. From The Magic Roundabout and Dangermouse to The Triffids and Blake's 7. Nostalgia is transient, but appreciation of surprisingly good TV isn't.

UKTV Drama is showing a programme I heard about a lot but never saw - Shoestring, persistantly referred to as Bootlace when I was about 12. A British take on the American gumshoe detective, updated (to the late 70s) with moustaches and deglamourised grime.

I hope someday soon a channel will have the nerve to show Callan.

Your Eyes Are Getting Heavy

I'm getting back into the habit of working out. All cardio stuff at the moment. Though the late night TV sessions with tea and biscuits can't be helping.

I've got about 60 CDRs of mp3s, and I'm starting to back them up to DVDR. Also the DAB recording of radio shows is back up and running.

still nothing from H. I always get worried when there's no contact.

One skill I have never possessed is the ability to sleep when appropriate or useful. I'm either tierd or I'm not, so I am either able to drop off to sleep in minutes, or lie awake waiting. Yesterday I woke at 1400, having gone to bed at 0800, and now at 0630 I really ought to grab a few hours of sleep, so I can avoid stumbling through the day like a zombie.

However, most likely I will spend three hours wide awake with eyes shut in bed, and then spend the morning slowly becoming listless, until I sit down tierd at midday, and wake up at 1800. Which means I will be awake until 0600 again.


Now You See It

Last night was a relatively painless recording session. We've got all the guitar parts and overdubs done - except the 'wierd drony intro' which hasn't actually been composed yet.

With luck, all the vocals - including backing vocals - can be finished on wednesday. I may even get the mixing, processing and mastering done by next monday. After which, I can concentrate on the musical project I actually care about.

If, that is, I can manage to write any songs. I came up with one this week, but it's pretty awful.
I've spend the last two nights reading up on the rudiments of stage magic. The prestidigitation is amazingly skillful, but the rest is patter, psychology, optical illusions and trick props.

If you want to bend a spoon on stage , bend it beforehand, or bend it quickly and surrupticiously on stage, then slowly reveal the bend. Or bend and straighten it several times beforehand so it's weak enough to break from a little pressure.

The trick where an assistant is supported by neck and ankles by two chairs, one of which is removed, leaving them impossibly supported, is obviously done with a thin strut from the remaining chair. The reason the audiance discounts this true explanation is they think the assistant's centre of gravity is too far from the neck support for a weak strut to support them. In fact the human centre of gravity is in the upper abdomen, roughly above the chair seat.

The assistant steps into a box, the door closes, then opens and they're gone. The 'Proteus Cabinet' really is done with mirrors, to make the still occupied box appear empty, from in front. I'm still trying to work out exactly how the mirrors must be arranged though.

Joining the rings depends on convincing the audiance that most of the rings aren't already joined.

The cut and restored rope involves palming an extra piece of rope to give the impression the first has been cut in two.

Escapes use containers with secret hatches and knots which look secure but aren't.

Slight levitations are concerned with persuading the audiance that one foot is still in it's shoe, and 'flying' ones...rely on unreasonably intricate systems of pulleys.

It's fascinating to know how bewitched we all are by preconceptions and perceptual limitations. Though faintly disappointing that it's all so simple.


Everything that's been happening recently is still happening. That's how this week - indeed, this month - feels.

Simon M's net connection is now working just fine, and John M is off on holiday. So my two best clients have no need of my techincal abilities, and I'm feeling oddly lost with no broken down computers to fix up.

Simon wants to sell off 50 years worth of accumulated junk on Ebay, and would like some help from yours truely in setting up the account. Appointment for lunch and ebay tutorial on Friday.

Elsewhere on Ebay, Mother has bought a maroon electric mandolin. To go with the red electric violin.

H hasn't got back to me. Most likely because he's run out of phone credits - he does tend to do that. Mark S did get back to me, after arranging to meet, cancelling, arranging to meet again, not answering his phone for two days, and texting to apologise. Both true to form.

I have a forum to arrange on the 24th on the relation between imperialism and terrorism. The relationship is obvious, it needs be stated clearly, and the only people who listen are those who already know it.

Recording with Paul T tomorrow. This demo has come to be a burden, but at least we're reasonably near to finishing it.

Nothing is true

Simon M's computer couldn't connect to the net because: The modem cable is rubbish. And he couldn't move the mouse because the mouse cable was rubbish too. Actually, most of the computer's rubbish, possibly because I made it by canibalising three rubbish computers.

I bought him a new mouse, and later today NTL are sending round a man to plug in a new modem cable for him.

My reward was a cooked chicken bagette, five cups of tea, and the loan of a DVD showing surly men humping against rocks in the desert.

Humping each other, that is - not the rocks. That would be silly.
Paul B thinks he may have Asperger's Syndrome. I'm cirtain there's no such thing.

We used to say people were private, or not sociable, or prefered their own company - now they have Social Anxiety Disorder. Not long ago, school was boring, parents were annoying, and there was nothing on TV - now children have Attention Deficit Disorder.

People aren't socially awkward anymore. They don't have pointless lives, shitty childhoods and no way out. They have Asperger's Syndrome.

Things like dyslexia and autism do exist and can be unambigiously diagnosed. I can't count the number of people I've met who fell behind at school and call their poor reading skills 'dyslexia' - a word they have no trouble spelling. But this doesn't count against the reality of the condition in a (comparatively) few people.

It is possible to say with more-than-reasonable cirtainty that, according to tests, a person is or is not dyslexic.

There are no comparable tests or ADD, AS or SAD. Just a list of impossibly vague questions like "Do you have trouble maintaining eye contact?", "Can you be undiplomatic?" and "Do you dislike change in your routine?". The answer, for everyone, is always "Sometimes".
I'm brushing up on the physics of musical sound. Vibrating strings and columns are easy to understand as graphics, but even the simple maths - Wave Velocity = (SQR(tension/mass per unit length)) - slides off my mind.

Studies of poker are coming along better. Texas Hold'em is really very simple - just mystified by so much jargon.
I'm working around what must be an old and long-solved problem in Marxism, but I can't work it out myself. The relation between the three theoretical pillars of Historicism, Materialism and the Dialectic, and the (in)famous marxian flavour of Revolutionism.

It may be true that global revolution from below is the only way out of the mess of capitalism, and it may even be true that the only possible economic system to result is socialism. But how is this derived from Historical Materialism in conjunction with the Dialectic?

One to write up for the philosophical blog.

Waiting for Der Man

Another evening of recording Paul T's guitar, eating his food, and listening to his endless highbrow stream-of-conciousness lecture. The guitar is brilliantly played, the food is imaginative and well prepared, and the lecture is always informative. It's just the man himself who's a self-obsessed, pompous and overbearing arsehole.

About a year ago I finally realised he doesn't actually care about anyone else. Friends are just an audiance for his music, his wit, and his theorising.
John M is holidaying in north Wales, leaving Max at home to write his plays, plan performances, network with theatrical types and politicos, and take care of the house. Or rather, get massively stoned in his room.

It looks like depression to me, but there's nothing I can do.
This morning (Tuesday), my lateral-exercise thigh-burning fat-trainer device should arrive.

In the afternoon, I'm trying to reconnect Simon M's computer to the internet. Which probably means spending 90 minutes on the phone to NTL.

Then he's feeding me lunch. I seem to spend my life fixing/using computers, and being fed in return.
Probably another two weeks before I get my own computer and net connection back. Trying to write songs and come up with musical ideas in the meantime. Never been any good at waiting. I wanna be a K Twin.