Roll Over George Smiley


In the late afternoon, I sit down to work on the Big Yankee Fan track for SongFight. Half an hour later I get a call from Simon M, saying he's trying to put a pack of DVDs on ebay but is getting confused.

So I say I'll come over within the hour. And then I get a call from John M, who needs a decent wordprocessor installing on his computer, which is mostly working since I last fixed it. I say I'll call round when I'm finished with Simon.

So, I drink four cups of tea with Simon, taking him through the submission process and knocking up an advertising blurb between us. And then cycle off to see John, stopping off at Paul T's house to drop off some CDs I copied for him.

Only to find he's feeling down and in need of a distraction, because his grandmother - who he cared for until a few months ago - had died the night before in a nursing home. So I functioned as distraction, got fed, and talked about music and philosophy for 90 minutes, over another three cups of tea.

He now needs a lodger, I could use a place to live that isn't my parent's house, and he's my friend. Unfortunately, I'd go stark staring mad if I had to see him every day.

Arriving at John's house, I let myself in through the back door, to find him fast asleep on the sofa in front of the television. I'm seeing that quite a lot lately - he's not getting nearly enough sleep, so when he does get some, it happens suddenly, and rarely in bed.

I let him snooze while I install MS Word. Max comes downstairs and tells me "I'm extremely stoned, because I've got a lot of work to do. The printer isn't working at all. Can you sort that out?"

The work of which he speaks is for a performance of the play The Investigation, which he's directing. Max is a very laid back director. As in horizontal.

It takes two hours to find, download and install the printer drivers, but it works perfectly afterwards. Meanwhile John wakes up and we talk about politics until three in the morning. And drink tea.

I cycle home, watch another four episodes of House (one cup per episode), and go to bed.


I've finished Big Yankee Fan - with two days to spare. This is unprecedented for me, as I usually work on a track to within hours of the submission deadline.

Probably because I didn't have to write lyrics this time - I came up with a dub reggae backing, and cut up five minutes from the Johnathan Neale seminar as vocals.

I expect a hostile response from certain songfighters, on the grounds that (a) it's not a proper song because there's no singing (b) the musical style is weird and beyond their comprehension and (c) the politics doesn't cast the American response to hurricane Katrina in a glorious light.
MI6 now has a website. Beginning with the ever so slightly ironic words "Welcome to the official website of the Secret Intelligence Service".

There's a rather nice glossary. Agent - "A covert human intelligence source". Humint - "Human intelligence or intelligence derived from human sources". Source - "Any source of information or intelligence. An agent may be a source but a source is not automatically an agent". The FAQ assures us that they're not really like James Bond.

The site also tells you how to apply for a job with them, warning that you shouldn't tell anyone you've done it, unless they're a "close partner". SO you can tell your wife you're a spy, but not your mother.

There's a search engine too. Here's the number of hits I got for carefully selected keywords:

Burgess: 0
Blunt: 0
Bond: 1
Love: 0
Mansfield: 7
Homosexual: 0
Russia: 0
Communist: 1
Terrorism: 4
According to The Times, Al-Qaida has stopped being a 'franchise', 'tendency' or 'banner' and gone back to being a real global organisation run by Osama bin Laden. But only long enough for the second in command (Ayman al-Zawahiri) to warn the head of Iraq division (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) to stop killing shias, because it's bad for publicity.

David Blunkett has had sex, again. And the women has told the press, again.

Robert Fisk has published a book (titled The Great War for Civilisation) about the current situation in Iraq. He says in 30 years of war reporting, he's never seen such a level of destruction, but that most of the country - including most of Baghdad - is controlled by the resistance. The occupying armies don't patrol the streets - they sit in their barracks for days or weeks, occasionally speeding out in tanks and jeeps, guns firing constantly to scare off anyone who might attack them, completing the assigned operation as quickly as possible, before rushing back to the safety of the barracks.

The Independent gave it's version of the book's contents: "Most of Iraq is in a state of anarchy, with insurgents controlling parts of Baghdad" and "Fisk...painted a picture of deepening chaos and misery in Iraq"

Pakistan is no longer in the headlines, but reports are divided between stories of hopeless suffering caused by lack of food and medical supplies, and stories about greedy looters with no respect for private property.

Oh, and Tony Blair has criticised Iran for interfering in the affairs of a foreign country, namely Iraq. Duh.


My network connection has been down for most of the last three days. So I'm saving up blog entries.
I've been trying to copy some old VHS recordings (mine and Simon M's) to digital format, but the sound on the captures keeps shifting or drifting out of sync with the video. I get the same effect digitising to DivX and MJPEG - probably a matter of so much information being lost through compression to VHS and then tape decay.

Audio and video are separate streams, and different bits of the two streams are dropped in different places. Result: bad sound and bad video badly sychronised. And of course it's worse with Long Play recordings.

Capturing to MPEG2 might help, but editing out adverts and unwanted stuff would be an absolute pig.
Okay. tried MPEG2. Didn't work. Can't think of anything else to try so give up.