My Worst

Vocals of 4 songs finally recorded. Now comes the fraught business of tweaking the backings, processing and editing the vocals, and mastering the final tracks.

However, the main business of the week is supposed to be last minute electioneering and script editing.
If anyone ever asks me, "What's the worst song you ever wrote?", there are several contenders. One was an untitled affair that didn't get much beyond the chorus:

And just like Lou Ried sang,
I'm waitin' for my man.

which is pretty cringwrothy. There was also the rhyming couplet:

The air and the chair we share
Mein Herr

Probably the wost though was written with the intention (thankfully) of being dumb. It was scribbled together in 10 minutes, in answer to a request from a 13 year old boy on SongFight, for a song about his beloved pet turtle. So...


Verse 1:
A turtle is not quite a tortoise
And it sure as hell ain't a porpoise
It's got green skin so it's not like a cat
And it's got no wings so it's not like a bat

Chorus 1:
He's got a big hard shell and he sleeps all the time
He's the bestest turtle...
And he's mine

Verse 2:
A turtle is not quite a terapin
And it sure as hell ain't a penguin
It's got big sleepy eyes so it's not like a shark
And it's got no hair so it's not like a maqaque

Chorus 2:
He can walk on the land and he can swim in the brine
He's the bestest turtle...
And he's mine

There is one other thing about this little ditty. It's the only one of my compositions to be recorded by someone else. The duo 'Mostly Harmless' sang it as a banjo picking hoedown, with deep south drawl and much whooping.

And one half of the duo - the annoyingly talented 'Plat' - performed it at his brother's wedding.

Elective Affinities

The elections are on Thursday, so today was to last chance to leaflet the mosques at Friday prayers. I got the smaller of Portsmouth's two mosques, trying not to be too shy about asking strangers to vote for my friend.

John M took me out for a curry in the evening, partly because he wanted advice on Aristotelian sylogism theory for an article he's writing on dialectics. The chief stumbling block was the notion of "logic" as "a set of complete rules for consistant predicate implication" - such as arithmetic and geometry - instead of "reasoning in accordance with reality". After that, notions of granularity, multivalency, so-called fuzzyness, intutitionism and first order systems came easily.

And if you understood that paragraph, you're probably better at explaining logic than I am. But it's good to know the piles of books I read 12 years ago have finally come in useful. One small irony - I'll probably be the one to type up the finished article.

More leafletting tomorrow, but the easy kind that involves putting paper through letterboxes with "No Junk Mail" posters in the window.

First though there's the script of "The Investigation" play. I've OCRed the full (4 hour) script, and now have to translate the penciled-in cuts and changes of the cut-down (90 minute) script to changes in the OCR document. If you see what I mean. So I'm effectively the director's secretary, largely because seemingly no one else in the theatre company understands wordprocessors.

Electioneer, logician and copy editor. Truely I am a renaissance man.

Coasting Along

That last post was a little melodramatic. This post is partly to say: I'm still here, worried but not worried sick about my little eating disorder (or old fashioned weak willed glottony if you prefer), and trying to do something about it, in an unmelodramatic way.
I'm also reading articles by Noam Chomsky. Chomsky's method is wonderfully simple - he makes statements that are obvious to the left and heretical to the right, and proves them with a mountain of meticulously researched and referenced evidence.

All the right can do is make silly accusations that he's a conspiracy nut or mentally unhinged - accusations which can only be maintained by not reading any of his work.

That's not to say everything about the man is great. He is very impressive at doumenting what is wrong with the world and why, but is even vaguer than Marx on what a better world would look like, and says absolutely nothing about how to get one.

Elsewhere on the political spectrum I'm ploughing through the archived articles of Reason Papers, a journal of right wing ethics, epistemology and economics, published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

I've often felt that you can judge an idea by the best of the attacks made on it. Darwinism is a good idea, not because it survives the childish strawman insults of creationists, but because it emerges unscathed (or only slightly modified) from honest attempts at refutation by intelligent thinkers who actually understand it.

Marxism (properly understood) is in my view the same, in that respectable, cogent, informed but hostile analysis only makes a small dent, if any. Provided of course that the tennants of the marxist method - the labour theory of value, historical materialism, dialectical logic etc - are in principle refutable.

The articles here are not among the best, but they are very far from being the worst. They are second division, as opposed to second rate. Ayn Rand and Natan Sharansky are right wing cranks - read Reason Papers if you want to understand right wingers who are not cranks.


Self analysis never makes good blog reading, and self disgust is even worse. That said, here goes:

I am a binge eater. I don't know why. I desperately need to stop.

At unpredictable intervals (hours to days) I shift into 'shovel mode', which involves rapidly and continiously eating whatever is available, until I'm uncomfortably overstuffed. Occasionally the impulse is strong enough that I eat even more after that.

It might be fruit and salad, or bread and cheese, or chocolate and sweets. Convenience junk foods are, of course, more readily available.

Taste is a consideration in what I select from the kitchen, but not a major one. If the pasta is too salty, the bread stale or the pears unripe, it doesn't slow me down much. I've eaten big plates of rubbery reheated junk food, and pies with a taste and texture that marks them as obviously past their sell-by date.

There is something robotic about the act, almost as though it were an involuntary reflex that I can see and feel but not surpress. Obviously I don't cook and eat a plate of chicken and chips, or carefully put together an overlarge bagette sandwich with three kinds of cheese, without awareness of what I'm doing. I'm fully aware and unhappy about it, but for some reason do it anyway.

This isn't precisely an issue of willpower. It's not that I weakly give in to a temptation to indulge a guilty pleasure, because there isn't much pleasure. It's more like a deeply ingrained habit, except there's no predictable timetable or event which triggers it.

Why do I do this? I'm not especially unhappy - except about having destroyed my health with food - so it's not comfort eating per se. Besides, I've been doing it since about age 13, and it's persisted largely unchanged through several periods of clinical depression and times of personal fulfilment - even joy.

There was a time about two years ago when my 'ordinary' appitite plumetted during the only time in my life I was infatuated with another person. I actually lost weight during those six months, but continued to binge.

I am a little over 16 stone (about 225 lbs), which at 5'7'' is not good. Climbing stairs gets me out of breath, which should not be the case at age 34. I can't get into most of my clothes and I look preposterous.

I need to break out of this loop. It's killing my body slowly and my hopes somewhat faster. What am I doing wrong? What factor have I missed? Why do I behave in this stupid way and what must I do to stop it?


It was a lovely day today - clear, bright and warm, and I had most of it alone to myself. So it only seems appropriate that, instead of going out in the sun, I spent most of the daylight hours in a coalhole.

Of 4 songs, 3 are more-or-less recorded, with 4 or 5 complete takes each that I can edit together, or use as multipart harmonies.
The night was spent at a Respect fundraiser, eating vast amounts of buffet food and watching The Motorcycle Diaries - a 2 hour film in Spanish about the youth of Che Guevara.

I'm always at these film showings, not because I'm a great film buff, but because I'm the only one with a spare DVD player and the esoteric knowledge of how to plug in SCART cables.

I got really bad indigestion but one good thing came out of the night - I've got a gig on June 20th. Under the banner of Love Music, Hate Racism, there's a dozen bands playing 20 minute sets. And for once I won't be the only one without a band onstage - there's an acoustic folk act (man and guitar) and a rapper with a beatbox.

Oh, and a female friend told me she's discovered that her boyfriend has something in common with her previous boyfriend. They both like other men. I already knew about the previous boyfriend, because he cheated on her with me after she cheated on him with the man who succeeded him. I trust that's all clear. Seeing as she's bisexual too, things could get complicated.
Recent site trackings to my blog:

Jannx Journal (New York)
An everyday journal of the misadventures of a man in New York, New York. He's in his 30s, wants to be a teacher, and is trying to lose weight - just like me! He also speaks Japanese, which...isn't like me. I know how to say "The pencil is on the table", and that's it.

Craig Photography
A gregarious and philosophical photographer.

Another photographer, this time with a urban documentary theme. Rather Good, I think.

2 trombones and a crossbow
Have you ever had one of those conversations where you seem permanantly at cross purposes? Where you can understand each sentence, but you can't fathom why it's being uttered, or what relavence it has to what you last said. And you find yourself wondering, is this person schitzophrenic? Have they completely misunderstood me, or is there some vital point I'm missing? This blog is like one of those conversations.

An MSN search for "Ballshaving".

A Blogger search for "Priest Abuse".
This is a blog I surfed to: Kerhe's Neverwhere. If you thought the poetry of a few days ago was pretty bad, this stuff is just awesomely dreadful. In my own, purely personal and untrained opinion, of course.

The Wishing Well

Look for me deep inside the wishing well
Look for a coin, bright as hell
Look for my dead body
Look for me, at last, free

The well is deep, ancient, dark
The well is all that I've got
Counting worthless coins
And all the scars they caused

Throw your coin, speak your wish
Staying, blind to my pain
Beside the wishing well
But I won't find any peace at all
Unless someone wishes ME well

I have no plans to make the awful poetry corner a regular feature.

Words and Music

Walking through the shopping presinct, a young man with a 'Help the Aged' badge and a clipboard spotted me. In every shopping centre in every city there are these people trying to waylay passers by into setting up direct debit donations to this or that charity. They're sometimes called Chuggers - Charity Muggers.

The name of the charity varies, but the chuggers are all identically young, cheerful, friendly and enthusiastic - because they're all trained exactly the same way. One day, the charities will notice that saccharine exuberance generally just irritates, and maybe work out that's why their cunning plan doesn't work.

This particular chugger saw me at 30 paces, pointed and called out. This was our exchange:

Chug: You! You look like a winner!
Kap: No!
Chug: What do you mean "No"?
Kap: I'm not persuaded by your sales pitch.
Chug: But you haven't heard my saled pitch yet.
Kap: You're very sweet and very cute, but it's still "No".
Chug: Haha! Okay, cheers mate. Take care.

(Years ago, I deflated the spirits of people collected for Oxfam by telling them about the charity's finances, and how most of the money goes on admin or in the bank accounts of the board of directors. Now I just use negativity and mild sexual harassment.)

Then I stopped by at the library and borrowed some books.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. One of those books I always meant to get around to reading.

The Complete Short Stories of JG Ballard. A real find.

The Quantity Theory of Insanity by Will Self. A collection of interrelated surreal short stories that I read years ago and greatly enjoyed.

One story, The Secret of the Ur-bororo, concerns an anthropologist studying an amazonian tribe who don't have all the quirky kinship structures, animistic spiritual beliefs and rites of passage that anthropologists love to document. They have a vague, noncommittal religion, a kind of shruggingly uninterested moral code, and their entire 'cultural discourse' is composed of endless, repitious small talk.

Which is why they integrate so well when migrated to London suburbs.

Reading it, I had a thought. I spent a decade studying Cultural Theory - a discipline which abuts both Sociology and Anthropology - which mainly meant studying ideology. Ideology is the study of the stories a society tells itself to justify its forms and practices at any given time - from the division of domestic labour to the forms of popular entertainment to fighting a war.

Ideology might justify the keeping of slaves by creating racism, and the freeing of slaves by notions of universal brotherhood. Doing nothing about slums is excused by blaming the fecklessness of the poor, and doing something about slums by fear of disease. A story may or may not be true - that isn't what matters.

But do psychologists meticulously document the sophisms of their patients? Do criminologists obsess over the half-baked mystifications that some lawbreakers errect to exonerate themselves? No. So what is the point of studying a society's lame excuses for its own conduct if that doesn't tell you what the real motives and structures are?
In the evening, there was Strict Machines playing another gig in another pub with another lousy sound system and more horrible acoustics. Actually it was a great little gig, with a few dozen pubgoers - half of who didn't know the band members personally - cheering for two encores.

I took the opportunity to do my thing - getting drunk and hitting on straight boys, two of who turned out to be interesting.

Matt works in a reptile house, caring for scaly creatures that I'm actually phobic of. We spent a good half hour discussing evolutionary links between fish, lizards and birds. It seems odd to me that there are no venomous birds. Matt is comfortably bisexual...and lives with a women. Who he loves. Gah!

Benjamin is a sound engineer - a proper one with kit costing thousands instead of hundreds. He told me about a few tricks with Reason 3.0 that I hadn't thought of - such as mixing a pad with flanged and distorted versions of itself at a low level, giving a subtle 'subliminal' unpredictability and denseness to the sound. Ben is comfortably bisexual...and lives with a woman. Who he loves. Gah!
All this happened yesterday, but I was too busy/drunk/hungover to blog it. Now I should try to get some recording done.
Update: Playing back 4 vocal takes simultainiously, I think I've invented a new genre. The techno barbershop quartet.

Goose Abuse (Part 2)

It's amazing what you find surfing through the blogsphere. I found this truely excrable poem:

Their chaotic dust

A dust is authoritarian.
Has their formless rock mocked the sinuous healers?

In ancient times I was as indestructible as a martyr clutching at a stupid priest.
The vampire of woe rides me.

It crawls...
A sister stamping on a cold wasteland dies , the jewel of revulsion seethes.

It seethes!
Wet fireflies extinguish my figure, agonizingly.

Have my hordes outlasted those riches?
I die.

In ancient times it was abandoned!
After the storm, cats!

Painful isn't it. Was it generated by a chomsky grammar? Written as a joke? Or, the most hideous possibility of all, was it genuinely written as a serious piece of poetry?

There are blogs which unambigiously are written by computers using (bad, primitive) chomsky text generators.

The results look like this:
Mp3 playe. Easier. Pajamas, or a quiet, private place to mp3 playe How much does a French guide matter in be years before scientists know for MP3 PLAYE hospitals quality.
And this:
Truffle oil. To 170 percent of normal. And its not What do I know about him Alomar said. Truffle oil what a lonely life, Cruise says. He was Doyle, was arrested at home Tuesday
They are often to be found on pseudoblogs - adverts thinly disguised as personal blogs. I've been annoyed by an increasing number of them cropping up, but there is hope, because the mysterious textual terrorist Eight Tons of Geese has taken to leaving appreciative comments on them.

Beginning with the simple:
Thank you for enriching my life with your fascinating blog. Here on the net I'm starved of really good spam.
And moving on to:
Oh yeah yeah yeah baby you are so HOT and AWESOME I wanna do you right now. You want it you bitch dontcha dontcha say you want it tell me you love it oh GOD yeah. Uh uh uh uh UH! Oh that was so great you're the best!

So tell me more about how to avoid bad credit. It all sounds terribly interesting.
He continues with comments like:
"Lending guidelines probably are special finance programs are for poor credit-abbMu"

Really?! How unexpected!

You really are very clever. I will go to your fascinating site right away.

"Financial standards might be simple programs which help bad credit-gdkIB

Oh yeah preacher. Tell me about dem Financial Standards! Bring that spirit into da church! Praise him and bless this here congregation! Mmm yeah those Simple Programs got me fired up and I'm reachin', I say I'm reachin' for His love! Gimmie that old Help with ma Bad Credit preacher man! Holy Holy Holy!

"Finance experts for all credit with simple programs which help poor credit-JUUgY"

Oh what a sad story. I cried when the hippo ate your bicycle. Where would we be without phlange garglers, that's what I want to know.

Still, nevermind. We can't all be frugal with muffins, can we?

"Finance experts and programs for slow credit-FXves"

1 cup of Brown
3 shoves of narcolepsy
4-6 pummels of beanrough
7 quadrilaterals of numnumnum (or equivalent)
a million kilos of chess
a pinch of Papa Doc Duvalier

Sausage the brown, and fold into the beanrough. Simmer till golden turquoise or squealing in delight. Gently bring to the flagplough, making sure the chess doesn't stick to the Depeche Mode.

Add one third of an olive and serve immidiately.

"online dating lakewood-HwMe
Our company does very good work for less than $4 per digital photo."

Well slap me with a wet haddock and call me Katie! Online dating and something to do with digital photography. Exactly the combination I need.

Particle botanist seeks illegal migrant for fun days out and a damn good thrashing.

BSOH, Own home and calipers, can accom on tuesdays but only if your name is Brenda or Nigel. Melonsmokers preferred.

"Finance experts might be programs specifically designed for poor credit."

How can I express
In words that rhyme and scan
The stupidity of my spending spree
that made my credit go down the pan
I need finance advice
A good strong hand and working brain
An expert on that money thing
To get me back on my feet again

I've got a poor credit rating
I'm gonna cut my wrists 'cos I'm so self hating
A poor credit rating
I need a million dollars to stop my life...
...from deflating

You solved my money problems
You got me out of the pit
You showed me how I could balance the books
And stopped my life being shit
Oh how can I ever thank you
For keeping the wolf from the door
I'll be repaying you for your fucking loan
Forever...Forever more.


CHORUS (repeat to fade)

You Looking at Me?

Who's been dropping by to this here blog? With my spiffy new hit tracker, I can find out. Apart from people following links from comments I made on Outpost Gallifrey and Scienceblogs, there's six blogs that randomly surfed to mine:

A new life in Seattle.

Incomprehensible, and not just because it's (I think) in Portugese.

A man with a guitar and a band. Looks like Spanish.

Painting and poetry. In Portugese again.

Help with Windows problems. Could be useful.

A man searching for a better life.

Plus a dozen "Unknown"s, and two google blog searches for the MP I mentioned in the last entry. Next time I mention someone political, I'll have to make it impersonal and incisive - and worth reading for someone who isn't looking to know what I had for lunch. A bowl of twisty pasta, two cups of tea and a vitamin pill, BTW.
And now, a psychological test. On the one hand there are things that are horrible, unnerving, or scary. On the other, things that are silly, funny, or amusing. But these opposed categories have something in common - they're strange, surreal, unexpecteed, wierd, or bizarre.

The difference between horror and humour is like the difference between a surprise and a shock, and it probably mainly to do with whether there's a threat involved. Horror movies with unthreatening zombies become funny, and comedy which attacks you is unpleasant.

Oh yes, the test. Here's three images that could be either silly or scary, amusing or disquieting. Can you put them in order from the one your find funniest, to the one you find scariest - even if none of them are especially either to you?

1) A swaddled baby alien.

2) A religious child's doll.

3) An advert for a piece of lab equipment.

For me, it's 2,1,3.
There's a scare story going around Britain that "A third of british voters are considering voting for the BNP in the upcoming local elections". Sometimes it's not a third, but it's always a neat and sizable fraction.

The BNP themselves are in some disarray, after their leadership chose a Greek-Armenian man to stand in a Yorkshire ward to prove they're not a racist party. A lot of members started foaming at the mouth about this pollution of racial purity, and some resigned.

Ironic that it should be an Armenian - victims of the forgotten genocide, just a few years before the concentration camps the BNP says are "exagerated".

They've scraped together about 200 candidates nationwide, but that doesn't mean they've found 200 credible politicians in their own ranks.

Candidates for the BNP (and the NF before them) tend to be local nutcases who're recruited specifically to stand because they don't have criminal convictions and can be easily groomed and controlled. Often the nutcases aren't especially racist or political - they're just a front, and a pretty shambolic one.

And Here's One I Prepared Earlier

Today was scheduled for canvassing. Knocking on people's doors and asking them to vote for our candidate. I got out of it by claiming (largely truthfully) that if anyone asked me about George Galloway, I'd be forced to admit I think he's a pretentious preening egotist and I don't trust him as far as I could spit him. An admission which might, on balance, reduce Respect's vote.

Of course the real reason is I absolutely loathe having to converse with real people. Scientists, artists, academics and activists are fine, but people who can have conversations about reality TV are an incomprehensible species.

I have in fact been persuaded to do canvassing just once, 2 or 3 years ago - and got a street containing a man who said he'd vote for anyone who got all the immigrants out of his country. I was very diplomatic and calmly explained to him why he was misinformed, but not why he was a worthless piece of scum.
Why have I had a nonstop headache for the past three days? The last time this happened was when I tried the Atkins diet, and had a ten day headache, plus the more usual side effects of a zero-carb diet - constipation, vagueness, tierdness.

I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to feel like that or like this when trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Most of my more interesting writing doesn't appear in this blog. It's in comments to other blogs and discussion forums. So I thought...the next time I don't have anything to record in this blog, a selection of contributions to other places would be nice.

So when you see a post of self quotes, you'll know it's because I've got nothing to say, but once did ;-).
It's likely the cover of the next Strict Machines album will be a pastiche of Tom of Finland's preposterous drawings - like the one in the previous entry. Paul thinks they're hilarious, and Anna, who shares his sense of the absurd and bad taste, is a good pencil artist.

Which gives me the excuse to post another one.

Fear the Gods of Ragnorak Anorak

The last time Doctor Who was on BBC 1, I spent far far too much time on the discussion boards of Outpost Gallifrey, dissecting plot points, analysing subtexts and getting into flaming arguments over the minutiae of a silly science fantasy show.

Well, I'm doing it again, and really ought to moderate my participation. It's great fun to be an anorak, but it's too easy to spend hours doing it.
The last time Doctor Who was on BBC 1, I was going out with H. In fact that's almost literally true - on Saturday nights I'd sit with the family watching the timelord, then as the credits rolled cycle off to spend an evening watching a movie, drinking, but mostly having good natured disagreements about all matters cultural and scientific. Followed by the most extended bear hugs I've ever known.

I've still got no idea what he's doing now - if he's still teaching science, still enjoying it, or gone off globetrotting again.

Yes alright, I miss him. And I'll send off another email.
Simon M and Paul T are both enthused to come and see Nick S play the timelord on stage, which is nice. The small problem is they don't really like each other - I suppose I'll have to sit in the middle to prevent bickering.

Martin J has got back to me. He seems...exhausted, broke, busy and pleased to hear from me. we should catch up in person soon.
Oh yes, I've been asked to find some more pictures of hunks. But apparantly not like these:

Everything Counts in Large Amounts

Season 28 of Doctor Who started remarkably well. I was prepared to be irritated by the Russell T Davis habits of childish humour, smuttiness, plot holes and daft dialogue - and these were in evidence, but swept away by a dense story, crackling dialogue, very good performances and intelligent ethical ambiguity.

Sure, the resolution was too easy, the science was junk and the romance unnecessary. But this season, unlike the last, a dozen little niggles don't detract from a genuinely enjoyable, exciting, fun 45 minutes.
I didn't manage to write a song - I got sidetracked into getting myself a hit counter for the blog, and a hit tracker. Which means if someone stumbles upon my bloggings by typing "Porn Hedgehog David Icke" into google - and now the words are there, they can - I'll know they've done it.

I did manage to finish (at least for the time being) Riverrun Part 2. At it stands, these are the words:

Riverrun (Part 2)

Shape of things to come, new world terror
Doubleplusungood, a boot stamping forever
We analyse the world, the point is to make a change
Tous ensemble, resistance, mix it up, make it strange
Geller is a fraud, nothing happened at Roswell
You can't live on air or keep the peace with a bombshell
Bite the wax tadpole, be one with the tao
Fajron sentas mi interne, only Tinman speaks to me now

I'm just a beat trance-vestite, science fiction double feature
Dark side of the loony tunes, leave those kids alone preacher
Breakfast at tiffany's, shower at the bates motel
Ride out on the bait bus, no breakdown on the road to hell
Video killed the radio star
You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
Burn hollywood burn, how low can you go
Johnny's in the basement, do you know which way the wind blows

Bang goes another kanga, sound of the underground
Oh oh superman, we are all going down
Living in a box, working in a coal mine
Gloomy sunday, blue monday, friday on my mind
Blood runs cold in the highered hand
Everybody knows about missisipi goddamn
If looks could kill they probably will
Take it to the next level, take the blue pill

Baudrillard, Kristeva, Lacan, Nancy, Foucault, Derrida
Wilson, Keppel, Betty, Steed and Emma, Penn and Teller
We are the corporate, you will be incorporated
Pigsy, Sandy, Monkey, homeboy, hippy, funki dredd
A world of shadow and substance, things and ideas
In the west world i just met a girl named Maria
Farenheit 451, soylent green is people
Drink coca cola, banality of evil

Peace and junk and drums, art of noise pollution
One world, one problem, one solution, revolution
Island earth, crystal sky, paper moon and hollow sun
Swerve of shore, bend of bay ... riverrun

I wonder if I should give my studio a name. The Prodigy has The Dirtchamber, Kraftwerk have KlingKlang Studios, what should I have?

*Soulhole (gotta hole lotta sole in the kholwhole)
*Shedload (I just like the word)
*Bona Music (Julian and Sandy ;-))
*PhatQueen (what?)

I favour Soulhole at the moment. But then, my very first demo tape (at age 16) was as Pinc Noyz, which at the time I thought was frightfully witty. After that it was 3.14 (Three Point One Four), which no one understood, and then there was a trilogy as Introduction to Philosophy, which must have seemed like a good name at the time.
Dino spent most of the day in the glamourous media event that was the Isle of Wight Dog Show. Parading about and looking adorable, having been specially trained last week to not bite judges fingers when they inspect his teeth. He won 2nd prize in 'toy' class (of 7 I think).
Tomorrow's reading matter, on acoustics: Sae Institute. I've met a number of people who had built wonderful recording studios, knew vast amounts about acoustics, but never got around to making demos. Must try not to be one of them, with such a load of info around.

Way Back, Back in Time

Okay, there are a few other people on FriendsReunited who've crossed my path. They all seem to be gainfully employed, mortgaged, and married with children.

I've taken the proverbial plunge, subscribed and emailed two of them - Nick S and Martin J. Both have turned into stage actors and film producers in the intevening years.

Nick S wrote back to say he's playing Dr Who in a theatre 10 minutes from my home - it's probable we've already passed on the street without recognition.

I've spent my life leaving my friends and my past behind. It's oddly disconcerting to find both still around.
I need warm slippers for the coal hole. Not a sentence you read very often, but I do. It's cold down there.

Thick brickwork and being behind two doors mean I'm sonically quite well insulated from the outside world - though ironically the delivery chute means the street can hear me better than my cohabitees can.

There is a reverb, which I might want to muffle. Months ago I had a big stack of eggboxes, collected for building a possible recording booth. My esteemed father decided one day I didn't need them and threw them away. After two hours shouting it became clear he was never going to grasp that he'd done something wrong.

Could I stick some old carpets on the walls?
It's 0325, I'm not going to get to sleep for another six hours or more, and I can't watch films or tinker with computers because my slightly boring brother and his rather exciting girlfriend are sleeping over in the relavent rooms.

So what can I do? I know, I'll try to write a song. Results, if any, in the next post.

What We're Gonna Do Right Here is Go Back

I spent 90 minutes on FriendsReunited, and much to my surprise found one person from my past. Just the one. I sat next to Darren when we were 15 and pretending to study GCSE maths. He was something way over six foot, had hair ruthlessly moussed to point straight up, bad acne and one overriding interest - experimental dance music.

I was the architypal target for bullying - small, brainy, gentle, queer in both senses and militantly uninterested in sport. He was the great dumb cheerful lummox ambling towards a life of spaced out bankruptcy.

But we shared an in interest in music that was big on invention and small on the traditional virtues of the well crafted song. He introduced me to the back catalogue of Kraftwerk, and the burgeoning Chicago house scene, a year before every other teenager got into it. I owe a lot of my musical consciousness to Darren.

Now it seems he's married, on the property ladder and working in electronics. If I paid UKP7.50 to become a full member of FriendReunited, I could send him an email. Not that we'd probably have much to say to each other.

At least...I think it's him. I don't know.
No proper song recording today, but a crash course in the uses and limitations of the Tascam DP-01FX. It offers a wide range of completely useless effects, basic but usable 2-band EQ, no way to control the monitor level of input, phantom power, rubbish display, recording at 44.1KHz 16-bit Mono, and portability for around UKP500.

Compare with my M-Audio 1010LT soundcard, which offers no effects at all (but software postprocessing does all I need), no EQ (ditto), controlable monitor, no phantom power (but none needed), helpful display, recording up to 96MHz 32-bit stero, and no portability for around UKP200.

Both offer 8 mono or 4 stereo tracks, with simultainious recording on 2 mono or 1 stereo.

In short, I'm paying for portability and sacrificing sound quality. No surprise.

The only really annoying thing is I can't boost the microphone monitor level - so I take off one headphone, listen to the backing through one ear and monitor myself the natural way through the other ear.

The one thing it would be great to have but neither system can do is apply chorusing/reverb/compression to the microphone monitor during recording, but leave the recorded track dry. That way I could hear roughly how my voice would sound after processing, without being stuck with the settings I happened to use during recording.

The Frustrated Artist

My bronchial tubes are clear, I seem to be in tune, and I have a few spare hours, so I should be able to sing a few takes into a microphone for later mixing. Except as always there's a few problems.

The biggest problem is that I simply don't like making a loud noise when there's other people around. I really don't. An upbringing where the worst sin immaginable was to make a fuss has given me a lifeling dread of being obtrusive, standing out in a crowd, making a nucience of myself. And when the other people in question are the same people who gave me the problem - my parents - it's worse.

I can sing quietly - very quietly if I need to - but the quality of tone that comes with it just doesn't work with techno backings and occasionally agressive lyrics. It would be like belting out an introspective ballad with a gutteral shout like Lemmy from Motorhead, but in reverse.

Also, I can only get to the higher registers if I'm loud, and it's difficult to get emotion into quiet singing, probably partly because of the lack of dynamic range. Not that I'm an emotional singer - more Florian Schneider and Martin Gore than Andy Bell or David Bowie.

I have a reasonable bedroom setup of 3GHz PC with UKP200 soundcard and clever software, but it can only be used for recording or mixing when not occupied capturing TV shows and films, editing them and buring the result to DVD - all of which is usually after 1800 each day.

It's not easily portable, so I can't move it somewhere out of the way and well insulated whenever I want to record. Actually I did lug it back and forth to an especially grotty 'studio' rented by Strict Machines to record their second EP, but the process was a nightmare.

I do have a portable 8-track thing - significantly worse sound quality, but bearable. So where can I take it to record in peace?

I'm not going to rent a studio - they're expensive, difficult to get to and pretty unpleasant places to be. But mostly expensive.

The garage? There's a powerpoint there, plus relative isolation and even surprisingly good acoustics. But there's also a great big fuck-off car taking up the entire place - who's nutty idea was it to put a car in a garage?

Actually, the car is a Honda Beat - a miniature two-seater imported from Japan, where smaller cars mean less road tax. There's only about 30 of them in the UK, and it feels rather like being inside a cramped rollerskate. Or an MGB, which it replaced. But there's still no room in the garage.

The darkroom. My father used to be a professional photographer with a room full of strange equipment straight out of a mad scientist's castle laboratory. Now he's an amateur photographer with a digital camera and a PC, so his darkroom is a general storage space, with lots and lots of cardboard boxes that no one can get to because there's other boxes on top of them.

A usable space, but anyone who can hear me singing in my bedroom can probably hear me singing in there.

The coal hole. Yes, it's an old house (built 1901) with a basement adjoining a six foot cube built for storing enormous piles of combustible fossil material to keep the large edwardian family warm in winter. It's damp, rather cold, and also serves as my sometime gymasium.

I'll give it a go.

Kapitano in Love

Your Seduction Style: The Natural

You don't really try to seduce people... it just seems to happen.

Fun loving and free spirited, you bring out the inner child in people.

You are spontaneous, sincere, and unpretentious - a hard combo to find!

People drop their guard around you, and find themselves falling fast.

How You Are In Love

You fall in love quickly and easily. And very often.

You give and take equally in relationships.

You need your space and privacy. You don't like to be smothered.

You love your partner unconditionally and don't try to make them change.

You are fickle and tend to fall out of love easily. You bounce from romance to romance.

You Are A Sometimes Ex

You're sometimes an ex, and sometimes you two are back together

And while your ex may seem like old news right now...

You've got to wonder why you keep getting sucked back in

Yesterday was going to be a day for cataloging DVDs, burning DivXes, tweaking MIDI files, maybe some recording, and relaxing in the sun.

Then I got a call reminding me that I'd promised to spend a few hours pushing poo election leaflets through towerblock letterboxes. Our newest member helped out too - Roxanne (aka Roxie, Rocker and Rocks) is a young (22ish), smart and fiesty single mother and student. It's good to have someone on board who's independant without being contrary, and interested in theory as well as practice.

Today was the day for cataloging, while watching some of the items cataloged. An art history documentary on the Sistine Chapel, two episodes of my favourite medical drama, something on the Voynich manuscript, and Wag the Dog (a film that gets more prophetic every time I see it). Plus some science fiction that I thought was The Proverbial Pits when it came out (Enterprise and First Wave) but has aged well - surely my standards couldn't possibly have dropped?
The somewhat delayed fitness and diet regime starts tomorrow, with low impact cardio stuff, free weights and absolutely no chocolate. Then when I'm slim and muscular I'll be able to attract a boyfriend who can also sing over my music and I'll be happy. Sound like a good plan?

Eye, Nose and Throat

After sitting in a waiting room for an hour, with six elderly ladies and a copy of Saga magazine for company, the test was a five minute affair. An awkward and painful squirt of liquid into each eye, some staring into a bright light, and the news that there's no traces of glaucoma - but that I should have a checkup in six months.

Saga is a glossy magazine aimed at people who are wealthy and white, middle aged, middle class, middle england, married and moderate. It's "conservative with a small C", which is to say "Banal with a small B". It's Watchtower without the imminent apocalypse, or Reader's Digest without the glurge.

However, thanks to it, I now know that George Melly keeps papillions - very much like mine. The bits about him being a drugged up hellraiser, bisexual homewrecker, wearer of really bad suits and a great jazzman were omitted.

On the other hand, given the choice between reading that stuff and being unable to see the page at all, I think I'll continue reading it. And I'll put up with the streaming nose the eyedrops gave me

On the way home, I bought myself a second hand book:

Voice Training in Speech and Song
An Account of the structures and Use
of the Vocal Organs, and the Means
of Securing Distinct Articulation

By H H Hulbert MA Oxon MRCS LCRP
Published 1908
Spent the night in a pub full of drugged out hippies aged 18 to 58. From student stoners to those who never stopped being student stoners in their hearts. My kind of people.

Simon M thinks my family is strange and distrubing because I and my parents have never hugged or said we loved each other. I think he's been watching too many schmaltzy american sitcoms where that kind of schlock actually happens. "Gee, I love ya dad."

Eyes to Watch TV

I've been cataloging our collection of DivXes recorded from television. There are 95 DVDs of stuff recorded from my freeview box, which with an average of 5 or 6 programmes on each disc means about around 525 shows recorded so far.

That means if each programme is 45 minutes long it would take sixteen and a half days of continious watching, without sleep, to see it all.

And there's six times as much recorded over the years from cable, yet to be cataloged.

So that's quite a lot of television.
Sleep might be a good idea tonight, because I have a clinic appointment tomorrow at the absurdly early time of 0845 to have my eyes poked and prodded by a specialist.

A Cunning Linguist

A few weeks ago, I lent someone UKP20. Yesterday they paid it back, and I used the cash to buy a very large bag of assorted fruits, the idea being to eat healthily.

Unfortunately there was enough money left over for eggs, butter and biscuits, so today's evening meal was eggs fried in butter followed by chocolate biscuits.

Guilt and indigestion set on at the same time.
A flying evening visit from Paul T, who wanted some CDs copying. He spent 30 minutes railing against "supposedly educated middle class english people" who pronounce words naturalised into English from other languages as though they were English words.

I didn't mention that English is composed entirely of words from other languages. Or the way speakers of other languages 'mispronounce' English words naturalised into their own language.

I remember once someone telling me Radio 4 newscasters were illiterate oiks because the pronounced the Spanish word "Junta" as /dZAnt@/ (rhymes with 'punter'), whereas anyone who knew anything knew it was /hM:nt@/ (roughly, 'hunter' pronounced in a scottish accent).

I thought it best not to mention it was actually more like /xu:nta:/ (something along the lines of 'Khoontar'). Depending on which part of Spain you were in at the time.
CW is back in touch. He thinks I'm highly eccentric and lead a full, varied life. Despite the fact that he's the one learning to play the ukelele and determined to visit places I have trouble finding on the map. Next up: Tunisia

Music and Theatre

An enjoyable night of mediterranian food, new music and tasteless banter with Strict Machines, Anna and Paul. They've come up with six new songs in the last month, with influences from The Who and Beau Diddly to The Long Blondes and Be Your Own Pet.

It's odd how there's not much you can say about your friends when they're not annoying you - or each other.
Wasn't I supposed to be rehearsing for a stage play? There's about six weeks to go before the performance, and I haven't met any of the new cast members, seen the script, or been informed about rehearsal schedules.

So far as I know, the producer and director are sitting in a secluded part of Ireland, without phones or net access, still editing the script and "making arrangements".

I may not be Mr Organised, and sometimes leave things till the last moment, but I don't pretend it's a good way to behave, and I don't leave two dozen busy volunteers on tenterhooks for weeks on end.
More unpleasantness at ScienceBlogs. Every time I try to explain my position, new misunderstandings crop up.

It seems to me there's three basic attitudes a person can have when reading someone else's line of reasoning:

(1) Neutral - "I'm not concerned with the truth, morality, cohearance etc of the writer's position. I just want to know what the position is."

(2) Charitable - "Where the logical conclusion of an argument leads to something I find unacceptable, I provisionally assume the writer didn't mean the argument to be taken to it's logical conclusion. If there's an ambigious term, I read it's meaning as the one that makes the most sense in context. If they get a minor fact wrong, let it pass. Treat the writer as a a decent, intelligent, informed person until they show beyond reasonable doubt that they're not."

(3) Hostile - "I'm determined to prove the writer is a blithering idiot and hate filled demagogue. If there's more than one interpretation of a sentence, take the silliest. If a factual detail is incorrect, make it a central tennant. If the writer makes absolute statements, call them unsubtle. If they talk about context, call them a relativist. Treat the writer as an deranged, stupid, ignorant person until they can prove they're not."

I deliberately take the second line. The host of the blog in question seems habitually to veer towards the third. Which is not really surprising, because hostile reading is the basis of professional academia.

So long as an argument rages, an academic (or journalist) has something to write about. As soon as an issue is settled, the well runs dry. So it's in the interests, and therefore in the habit, of academic writers to artificially keep an argument running. To pick holes, to create misunderstandings and keep the temperature of dispute high.

It's one of the reasons I walked out of the academic art world. Mutual caricature and debate designed to be eternal seemed depressingly pointless.

The irony is, he reminds me of me, as I was ten years ago. Maybe even five.

Anyway, I have political things to do that are more important, and personal things that are more enjoyable.

A Man of Many Talents

I had half an hour to put together a banner for Simon's business so threw together five in the scattergun approach that if you try something enough times, it'll come out right eventually by the laws of chance. Here they are, together with the reactions they caused.

Remember when film credits looked like that?"Mmmm. Very butch."


"Camp as tits."
(and BTW I don't know what went wrong with the colour on this one - interesting effect though)

"Camp as one tit."
(this one is meant to be in black and white)

"That one'll do."
(first and quickest one I did)
Having taken up residence in my ears for a day after moving out from my nose, throat and chest, the virus has finally gone. Now remind me what I was going to do with my voice when I got it back?

Oh yes. Now which of the discs marked "Backup" contains the MIDI files, samples and lyrics?
I got involved in an argument over at ScienceBlogs over those dratted Danish cartoons, which are still triggering completely unproductive debate in academia.

The dominant position seems to be that the cartoons were a valid (if crude) criticism of the whole of Islamic faith and politics, and as such are justified under freedom of speech. Oh and by the way the response of the homogenous islamic world shows the criticisms to be accurate.

My position is that the cartoons were not created as a critique of everything islamic, but as a calculated insult to the muslims of Denmark. To make fun of a powerful group is satire, but to make fun of an opressed group is bullying.

When asking whether it was right or justified to publish the cartoons, you need to ask who was doing to publishing (a far right agitational magazine), who the audiance was, and what effect was intended.

If they'd been published by a jewish group in Iran, they obviously would have meant something different, because they would have had a different target and purpose.

As usual, I was accused of being a "postmodern relativist" for mentioning context.
Evening meal and living-room-concert tomorrow with Strict Machines and their family members.

They're planning a "proper demo CD" and have found a "proper sound recordist" with a "proper studio". No I don't feel snubbed at all. Not one little bit. Humph.

Why I Stopped Being a Graphic Designer

Brief: Design an ebay logo for 'British American Muscle and Fitness'. Use bold bright colours and simple design.

Draft Design:Feedback: Too much! Too loud! Too 70s! Too camp! Tries too hard!

Wider Brief: Find pictures of healthy looking, muscular men, but not overdeveloped competition bodybuilders. They should look as though they're attraction is aimed at women in a butch, masculine, tough-but-not-threatening kind of way, while in reality being deniably aimed largely at men. Somehow.

Example 1:Feedback: Too pretty! Too gay! Too nice! Too porny! Too ambigious!

Example 2:Feedback: Too geeky! Too old! Too straight! Too...just wrong!