Backwards Music

I wrote this little article inspired by the catalogue of free VSTs I'm building up - 350 so far, at least 1000 available on the net.

At least it shows my brain is starting to function again, though it's not the light and humorous writing some of my readers prefer.

I can't help noticing the amount of retro-chic in music software right now. It's there in commercial stuff, and to a lesser extent in the free stuff. In the design of graphical interfaces, the language of the sales pitch, and the basic assumptions about what sounds good and what will sell.

The talk is all of "analog warmth" and "the transparency and sparkle you only get from vintage equipment". There's some wonderful sounds from the past, but since when was a better sound by definition an older one?

I've found VSTs to recreate every inadequacy and quirk I can think of in tape machines, tube amplifiers and vinyl. Not just nice effects like saturation, mild overdrive and softknee compression, but ones that used to make you scream in frustration when your old and clunky (sorry, "vintage") equipment used to produce them. There's wow and flutter, flat batteries, various kinds of surface noise and hum. The only things I haven't seen yet are amplitude needles that stick and valves that explode.

The GUIs are all brushed metal with highlights, slightly smudged LEDs, tactile-looking knobs and sliders that cast fake shadows, even screws and carrying handles.

Even those few that don't look like a piece of inordinately heavy but delicate engineering, look like something out of Firefox or Terminator. They opt for the kind of 80s retro-techno-chic that harked back to the green screens of the 70s. Yes that's right, 2006 recreating 1986 recreating 1976.

It might be nice to see an virtual room-sized ENIAC or Colossus, with half ping-pong balls over flashing lightbulbs. Unless the 1940s is too far back.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the GUIs look great, I love the sounds, and I'm especially excited about the burgeoning ability to create an authentic sounding string quartet, or roomful of tablas, or the strange instruments of Artaud or Russolo.

One of the factors that made the Moog sound distinctive was the randomly varying slope of it's basic waveforms - an imperfection of the technology that turned out to be serendipitously musical. Although one of the other moog idiosyncrasies was it's tendency to go out of tune, especially in hot weather, and I haven't seen any attempts to recreate that in software.

I like the distorted tape echo of dub reggae, and the softclipping in 70s rock guitar. The booming low frequencies of Motown and the absurdly crunchy amps of Black Sabbath are "wrong" but creatively wrong.

No, the thing that worries me is the attitude that things were better in the past. That the way out of the dead end most western music finds itself in, is to jettison the last 30 years.

Use the past, learn from it, be inspired by it, rediscover it's aborted experiments and try them again, yes. Go back there to stay, no.

Paul Morley once wrote (I quote from memory), "The past is an immense heap of materials to use as we will". Just so - the quirks of old technology give us some options to use from our sonic palette, but there are many times more other possible quirks, from other technologies that by chance never existed.

Digital computers can create and process sound in an effectively infinite number of ways. Currently only a small number are being explored, and the exploration looks backwards.


Oh happy day, I've lost another 7 lbs. Though as a fast-track diet, gastroenteritis wouldn't be my first choice.

Oh yes, it seems I'm a textbook case of viral gastroenteritis. And...I've given it to my parents too. Mother is following the same trajectory as me (which typically lasts up to 10 days), but two days behind. Father, who at 70 is strong as an ox just like the rest of his side of the family, shook the worst of it off in 12 hours.

We're all dizzy and tired all the time, and none of us are eating solid food, aside from occasional digestive biscuits and (when the mood for adventure strikes) a small bowl of Special K. We're past the worst of it, now there's just the long process of coasting back to normal.

CW is fine, and I don't seem to have infected anyone else. I'm sure dogs can get gastroenteritis, but seemingly not from humans. All they know is, they get to spend a lot more time curled up on the ends of our beds, which is just fine by them.

Jon S got in contact by email. Donna and Dunkan had been old friends but they'd lost contact. I gave him their number. It's possible the next time I see Jon will be Dunkan's funeral.

I'm probably as bored with my limited life right now as you are with reading about it. I can't walk out the front door because I'm too weak and can't talk to anyone outside because I might infect them. I can't make music because I'm too fuzzy headed, and there's only so many recordings of Waking the Dead my addled brain will sit through.

An Ill Wind

It's midday on the third day, and I'm still shitting water every two hours or so.

At 0530 I was feeling pretty good - no stomach cramps or nausea - so I decided to try a small breakfast, seeing as I hadn't eaten for two days. In retrospect, porridge might have been a better idea than poached egg on toast - I managed to eat half of it, and 4 hours later my stomach was still gurgling and bubbling like a mad scientist's laboratory.

I wasn't actually hungry at the time, and I still have no appetite at all. I can enjoy the taste of mints, and the smell of food cooking is pleasant, and my stomach grumbles a little from emptiness, but I have no urge to swallow anything.

My stomach has presumably shrunk from being empty (I've a vague feeling this is normal), because a quarter of a pint of tea now makes me feel overstuffed. Previously I could happily down a pint mug without problem.

I have to rest and sometimes sleep every 3 - 4 hours, which may be because of the illness itself, or low-level malnutrition.

I'm using the hours in bed to listen to radio dramas and documentaries that I recorded years ago, in case I was ever...laid up ill in bed, half awake and bored. Isn't forward planning wonderful?

It might mean something, or nothing, but my father was sick when he woke up this morning, and still feels weak. Any strong smell, especially food, makes him queasy.

And Mother has been getting dizzy spells, but feels otherwise alright.

If we have the strength, on Saturday Dino is "going to see his ladyfriend". Yes, that means we're breeding our showdog, probably recieving a bouncing baby puppy in 8 months (I think) time.

Provided Dino doesn't turn out to be gay, of course. Given the flourishingly flamboyant way he does everything, it's not completely cirtain.

Thanks to everyone for the messages of support.

Ric: I regard life as a tragi-comedy. It's both horrible and humerous at the same time. I'm told this is a very English way of looking at things, but I'm also told it's a very Jewish way, and a very Slavic way.

Ecstasy and Agony

So, how did it go? Well, in summary:

I could have danced all night!
I could have danced all night!
And still have begged for more.
I could have spread my wings
And done a thousand things
I've never done before.

Recently I said in a comment that Tony Blair's policy of holding onto power for as long as possible is to do with ensuring a Labour victory in the next election. But another view has been suggested to me:

Blair is committed to a project of neo-liberalism, involving privatisation, occupation of the middle east, and social control in the UK. This project isn't the property of one party - Conservative policy essentially follows it, and LibDem policy is a watered down version.

What matters to Blair is not which party implements the project, but that the project gets implemented.

Now, if Brown becomes Prime Minister, he might veer back to his left roots, away from the project. The Tories though are very unlikely to do that - they are still Thatcherites, and Thatcherism is essentially neo-liberalism. So it makes sense for Blair to keep the untrustworthy Brown out of power as long as possible, and not worry that Blairite policies are making Labour so unpopular the Tories might get in at the next election, because the project will continue under a Conservative flag.

I wrote the above in the early hours of Sunday morning, after a wonderful evening out with CW and a grabbing a slightly odd-tasting hamburger from Ken's Fried Chicken on the way home. I was increasingly woosy, and too ill to write more or post.

I'm writing this at 2200 on Monday (36 hours later), monged out on 2 - 4 times the prescribed doses of various painkillers (I'm no longer sure how much), with a black eye, a bowel full of churning water and a dozen articles of clothing in the bin because they'll never be wearable again.

Between those two points in time...

I somehow managed to get to sleep around 0400 on Sunday, feeling queasy but hoping it'd be gone by morning. I woke about 0700, with the same nausea plus stomach pains, and a certain "loose" feeling in the bowls. I felt very weak, so getting up was slow and difficult, but I managed to get to the toilet and try to use it. But I couldn't "do" anything, so walked slowly and delicately back to bed, feeling rather sorry for myself.

Then an hour later my anus spat a cupful of brown liquid into my shorts. Mingling disgust with annoyance (and vowing never to eat take-away food again), I staggered downstairs, put my soiled clothes in the washing machine, and emptied the rest of my colon into the appropriate receptacle. Feeling a bit better and wearing new shorts and teeshirt, I again lay down on my bed, figuring I'd just have to wait a few more hours for the thing to pass.

Probably about 1300, on the toilet for the third time. The pattern was that there was almost no fecal matter, just a surprisingly strong jet of brown stinky water. I'd expel it, feel somewhat less nauseas, crampy and weak, then wait for an hour for the pain and water to seep back up, before I expelled it again.

On this and the previous occasion, I'd also thrown up a full pint of semi-liquefied potato mash and burger fragment. I'd found a plastic pint jug, and had been carrying it around, just in case I threw up unexpectedly.

I finished evacuating both ends, but didn't get up immediately because I felt dizzy.

The next thing I knew, I was lying on the hard bathroom floor, trousers around my knees, covered in shit and puke. There was a sharp pain in my left eye and temple, and I had no recollection of how I got there. My parents had heard a crash, and were standing over me, saying something.

Obviously I'd passed out and fallen to the floor, spilling the jug and banging my face. I tried to move but was too weak. I could talk and just about concentrate. After at least 10 minutes, I could unsteadily stand and clean myself with a towel. I really, really felt like taking a shower, but we all agreed I couldn't manage it.

I felt oddly good - by comparison - after that. The diarrhea seemed to have gone, and it seemed there was no more fast food to bring up. Mother found some specially coated aspirin designed to dissolve in the intestines so they wouldn't upset the stomach.

Unfortunately, the lack of diarrhea was simple dehydration, so it returned after a few cups of tea. And there was, somehow, even more junk food sitting uneasily in my stomach, plus the aspirin only relieved the pain for an hour at a time. I think by this time most of the abdominal pain was the result of being violently sick, rather than of having anything obnoxious to sick up. I was at least slowly gaining strength.

We have a large collection of DivX recordings from TV, and I watched a random collection of them, before sleep eventually came, halfway through the night's second episode of New Tricks

I woke this morning, not feeling very different, and immidiately heaved into the jug - but only managed to bring up a few dribbles of brown bile. I read somewhere that it's reckoned to take 24 - 72 hours for toxins to be flushed through the human digestive system. But I heard somewhere else that food poisoning can take a week to fade.

If an observational comedian decided to tackle food poisoning as a subject, they'd note that it means you dare not fart. Instead of unthinkingly letting go of a discreet waft, you have to constantly remind yourself to keep it in. The reason, of course, is that your excrement is liquid enough to be sprayed right out with the gas.

The irony (there's always an irony) is that digestive problems produce lots of gas. And that, gentle reader, is the shameful reason of how another pair of football shorts got put in the dustbin. I...forgot. Just once.

The same comedian might make play of how illness has a way of making other suffering less easy to bear. The pain in my back and shoulders from convulsively hacking up hamburger isn't that bad, in spite of it's monotonous constancy. No, the nausea and cramp and humiliation don't make the muscular pain worse, but they make it much more bothersome.

By some act of precognition, I'd bought some Ibuprofen on Sunday morning. And I had to take three of them, on top of the last three coated aspirins 90 minutes before, just to get me my pain level down enough - and me monged enough - for 90 minute's sleep.

It's approaching 2300, my black eye is several shades of purple, the water in my colon needs emptying again, and the various aches and pains are starting to come back. I've eaten nothing since the hamburger except 2 or 3 digestive biscuits, but although I feel empty and my stomach rumbles, I don't feel hungry.

CW is supportive over text messaging, and everyone who's telephoned recognizes instantly that the best thing they can do is leave me to recover in my own time. My parents - who are retired and not in perfect health themselves - have been unfussily helpful.

We'll see what tomorrow brings - most likely more of the same but slightly better.
Food poisoning. Horrible. Update when recovered.

Crazy Daisy

So far, the best thing about slimming from a 42'' waist to a 40'' waist isn't that people say how slim I'm getting. Because they don't. Possibly because I'm not. Yet.

No. The best thing is that the supercheap jeans in the "Must Haves" range on the George label are UKP6 for a 42'' waist, and UKP3 for a 40. And that's how I saved 3 whole pounds sterling yesterday.

The cashier who took my money was dressed as a schoolboy, to advertise the new George range of school uniforms. And yes, it looked really pervy.

yesterday evening was spent with Donna and daughter Daisy, entertaining the latter while the former caught up with housework. It doesn't sound like much - babysitting for a few hours so the mother can do laundry and stuff - but it seemed to lighten the load.

Daisy, being 2, is endlessly inquisitive. Once she decided she trusted me, we happily explored the mysteries of kitchen cabinet, wet washing line and bathroom sink.

She was rather pleased with herself for finding a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush, and figuring out how to apply the one to the other, and the result to her teeth - all without guidance, just mimicking what she's obviously seen her parents do. I've still got toothpaste stains on this shirt.

She also likes to dive from stairs and chairs, just for the pleasure of having someone catch her. And to try climbing out of top floor windows, but only when someone is making sure she can't do it.

Then a night spent with John M and his new printer.

What should be a simple 5 minute procedure became a confusing 45 minutes of frustration, thanks to Hewlett-Packard's bloatware. And thanks to ambigious installation instructions, I had to deinstall seven HP applications, then reinstall only the necessary ones to make it work.

So much for plug-and-play. Exactly how inexperienced users - i.e. most users - are supposed to cope with this I don't know.

Anyway, all this followed by discussion of art and philosophy over tea and buscuits till 5 in the morning.

On the way home, I found an abandoned bicycle. The brakes didn't work at all and there were no tyres, it was a little rusty, painted bright orange with horrible cream plastic pedals. About as cool as James Last, and safely rideable as a luge on a glacier.

I thought I might be able to have it cheaply repaired as a spare bike, so started to wheel it home. A boy cycled up and said it was his, and I was welcome to it because it was "a piece of shit". So I trundled it all the way home, clanking and clanging like something from Heath Robinson.

Tonight, a date with CW. Update on the Kapitano lovelife coming soon.


Yesterday Dunkan went into hospital for a biopsy. First they took away all his painkillers, and refused to give them back. Then they kept him waiting for the morning and afternoon, in a lot of pain. Before telling him they wouldn't be doing the biopsy till the next day (today), and in the meantime they'd keep him there for observation.

Today, they kept him waiting all day - I don't know whether they eventually gave him something for the pain - before saying they wouldn't be doing the biopsy today either. But probably tomorrow, and they'd like to keep him in overnight.

He decided he'd had enough, and went home. The hospital will get in contact to arrange the biopsy.

It seems this is not an unusual story, for Portsmouth's Queen Alexanda Hospital. The site makes good ironic reading.

I once knew a terminally ill woman who was in great pain. When she had days to live, the doctors refused to prescribe her morphine, in case she became addicted.

Donna (Dunkan's partner) is starting to feel the strain of caring for a sick man and a 2 year old on her own. I'll be taking over baby duty for a few hours, tomorrow and/or Monday.

They have at least now recieved the allowance I helped them apply for.

The rest of life continues...

I'm downloading and cataloguing all the free VSTs I can find on the net - about 100 so far.

Kamakura has a new-look blog. Like most new looks, it's recreated an old look. Makes me think of computer displays circa 1990.

Dino will be at Crufts next year. So if you read about a small brown and white blur upsetting the poodles and rousing the retrievers to revolution, that'll be him.

John M's getting the cheap new printer I recommended, because the old one took up a new career as paper shredder. So if the new UKP50 one is just as crap as the old UKP30 one, it's my fault.

I've been neglecting CW over the last week - just perpetually distracted. But with any luck, there'll be a romantic walk in the park on Saturday, followed by a romantic drinking too much in a pub that tries desperately not to be seedy, and a romantic staggering back to his place and wondering why we split up 15 years ago.

I've been getting to know SynthEdit. It's a remarkable program, even just using the basic set of modules. There's a lot of slightly eccentric musical ideas I want to implement, like a device for slightly randomising the pitch, amplitude and timing of sequenced drumbeats to give a more "human" feel, or an LFO controlled variable speed delay for echo effects a la Joy Division's "She's Lost Control".

Of course, if I want to make professional quality, low CPU, stand-out plugins, that means getting much better in C++, which isn't impossible. The best plugins though involve assembly language coding, which I haven't done in 12 years and was never much good at anyway.

Other People's Lives

Two blogs of gay men in America - Jay and Brian.

Jay has been trying desperately to pull together enough confidence to come out - and yesterday gave up. He's deleted most of his blog, leaving just the farewell message that he's decided to retreat deep into the closet and give up all thoughts of being open.

Presumably he thinks he'll learn to be happy like that, even though it was the immense frustration of living in secrecy which made him want to come out in the first place. Not that coming out makes you happy on it's own, but it helps.

Openness and honesty won't automatically make other people happy with you - sometimes just the opposite - but it does seem to be a prerequisite for being happy with yourself.

And what gives you the confidence to be open with others? Obviously it's being in a community that doesn't react with horror when you try. Not everyone you meet, but at the least a small circle of friends.

And that's what Jay lacks, seemingly. He has family, but they're just as useless as most families in this department. He has acquaintances, but no one closer. He does have blog and email, and internet presence can give you a virtual support network, but online friends aren't really a substitute for the flesh-and-blood kind.

I don't want to be too simplistic and deterministic about this. There's always mavericks who buck the trend. I'm one of those strange people who, in spite of a shame-filled protestant upbringing (or because of it?), have always had zero patience with the idiotic positions people take on sexual morality. Stuff like:

* "Wait for love to happen, get married, and fight to stay together". I see, so you can't force love, but you should force it after it's gone, but only if you're married.

* "If you're happily monogamous, you're repressed and in denial.". Or you might just be in love. It's possible to do the coventional thing for good reasons.

* "I don't mind gay people, as long as they don't act gay". I do mind you being a hypocrite. And don't expect me to be grateful for your benevolent tolerance of my supposed imperfection.

* "Being gay is cool". An inverted prejudice is still a prejudice.

* "Free love is liberating". It can be. Being pressured to have lots of sex to prove how liberated you are from pressure, isn't.

* "True love is spiritual, beyond sex". Yes yes, you can love someone without genital friction being involved - this is trivially true. What you mean is, the less lovers think about friction, the deeper and higher their love. But put like that without obfuscation, it's evidently untrue.

* "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". God's a fairytale, you fuckwit. Besides, what you really mean is:

* "Sex is for reproduction only, any other use is wrong". The first clause is patently false, and the second wouldn't follow anyway.

Brian, who left a comment on my last post, is the opposite of Jay. Out and confident, he lives with partner L and their adopted baby son E - the kind of goofy adorable handful children are supposed to be. Oh, and an equally adorable big floppy rottweiler mix, name of Nemo.

Politically aware but not active, nonreligious but not militant about it, settled but not inactive.

It all sounds like the kind of life that was mapped out for me a decade ago - domestic future with monogamous partner and adopted baby plus dog. In my case it fortunately went wrong - I'd make a lousy father.

Stuff in the post today:
* An oil lamp for father. He collects them, for reasons I've never understood. Last month mother went through a phase of collecting Rubik puzzles - we now have the complete set, arranged along the fireplace.
* My new switch/solo card. The card numbering system can't handle this being the 10th issue, so it's issue number zero. First purchase - a wallet to put it in.
* A bundle of clothes for me. You may remember I said something about white lycra shorts a few days ago, well....
* And a collar for Dino. They've sent the wrong one - it's too small's got a bowtie. Yes, a dogcollar with a miniature red bowtie attatched. Very...sweet.

Phone call from Craig and Roxanne last night, offering to buy me a drink. This is code for "need someone to talk something over with, and you're good at that sort of thing, so could you meet us in the One Eyed Dog please". And it's also an offer to buy me a drink.

So, over two bottles of extremely bad red house wine, we spoke of love and loss, self-esteem and self-emancipation, relationships and rotten luck. And then I got introduced to a drink called "Ouzo" - Turkish, aniseed, strong and in my humble opinion absolutely revolting.

On my gravestone will be the words: Here lies Kapitano. He sang at our parties, gave good advice and got drunk very easily.

Oh yes - good news for those who use my skills as agony uncle and wise old dispenser of sage advice: I can't possibly afford to do teacher training at the moment. Not without getting into debt - I've been there once, and I'm determined not to go there again.

So, I'm stuck in bloody Portsmouth, for another year at least. But I am stuck with people who value me.

I am 2!

Today, Kapitano is two years old. That's Kapitano the blog, not Kapitano the person, who's 34 and has a different colour scheme. I'm spending my alter-ego's birthday...waiting.

The GTTR should be processing my details, and I'm waiting for them to get back to me so I can start applying for courses.

I bought some amazingly cheap clothes on Ebay, and I'm waiting for them to arrive.

CW is, for slightly mysterious reasons, in Belgium. And I'm waiting for him to come back.

My debit card is cancelled, and I'm waiting for the replacement to come in the post. When it does, I can pay academic entrance fees, get more stuff on Ebay, and take CW out for a drink when he gets back.

While waiting, I've been programming a new analog drumkit to use with song demos, trawling through VSTs for much the same purpose, and sorting through DVDRs of half completed demos from the past. Though it's all really to avoid tidying up the bedroom.

There's a fair amount of software out there for anyone - with or without competence in programming - who wants to make VST and VSTi plugins for their music.

There was "Plug-In Constructor", but that seems to have been abandoned - even the website is owned by another company. Probably there was just too much competition.

SonicBirth is Mac only, and I'm a PC man.

Max is less a VST designer than a collection of modules for creating sequencers, synthesisers, DSP units, hard-disk recorders etc. It's for those who want to create a whole studio from the ground up, including VSTs.

VAZ Modular is good for analog synths, but not other types. Nothing wrong with it, just too narrow.

Music Workshop (formerly Delta SP) is an all-in-one MIDI sequencer, recorder, synth rack and VST builder.

It looks like a poor man's Reason, except Reason can't record samples (much to many people's annoyance) or make new modules - though it can come close with the Combinator unit.

Reaktor is incredibly versitile, equally complex, and horribly the same. I've played around with demo versions of both, and the sounds are amazing - some of them are so 'physical' or just so strange you'd never guess they came out of a synthsiser. But the programs are just out of my present price range.

Then there's SynthMaker, SynthEdit and Buzz. These are all actual dedicated VST and VSTi creators, they allow the user to work at the "componant" level and the C++ code level, and all are in late Beta testing.

SynthMaker looks great, is reputedly easy to use, and is surprisingly little used. Perhaps that's partly because you get to use it free for 30 days, before having to buy it for a slightly steep USD110.

SynthEdit looks a bit naffer, is reputedly harder to use, and is far and away the most popular VST creator. The basic package is free in perpetuity, and the advanced version, with loads of extra componants and some extra features goes for a reasonable USD50.

Continuing the theme, Buzz looks extremely naff and when I tried it I found it impossible to use. Then it crashed. However, it is free, and probably has the largest base of users, followed closely by SynthEdit.

This week I are be mostly listening to...Kate Bush! The "Whole Story" compilation. That strange music that seemed so soppy and girly in my pre-teen years, now sounds inventive and intelligent. So either I'm now old enough to appreciate it, or I've gone all soppy and girly.

And so, like all good queens, Kapitano has two birthdays. This is the one that doesn't involve a parade of men in uniform. Or indeed bareskins.

So, until next year, god bless you, and all who pale next to you.

Pingu, Tux, and Vic

HSBC may have customer service that sucks like Linda Lovelace. but Sentinel (owned by Lloyds, hah!) can at least get me a new debit card.

On one hand, that's a fringe benefit of living with your parents, who pay for insurance on small important things like cards and keys that often get lost. One another hand, it means we're now expected to pay one bank for cover that's supposedly basic service by another.

One difference between the real world of human relationships and the bizarro world of business is: in one you try to get strangers to slowly fuck you till you can't take it anymore. In the other you try to make them stop. Unless that's just Linda Lovelace.

This blog surfed into mine recently. I don't suppose they found much of interest here, but I find them very interesting.

"Who Links to Me?" is something to put in your blogroll. Seemingly it keeps track of who's put you in their blogroll.

There's also Blogrolling, for those who'd like to manage their blogrolls without editing any actual HTML.

I'm a fan of minimal HTML - or XML or SGML or TeX or whatever incomprehensible and possibly pointless variation they've come up with this week. Which means I'm also a fan of editing and optimising the stuff by hand. Not that I can understand half the style sheets of this here blog well enough to prune.

A pleasant stroll along the beach with Paul T, who just happens to have a Hungarian girlfriend and to be learning the language. This is helpful because both can check my pronounciation of Gloomy Sunday lyrics, before I make a twit of myself trying to sing it in the original language.

I know one word of Hungarian - Pingvinok. "Penguins".


John M's computer is deloused, with spam filters added. And there's no problem with him being my academic referee.

Apart from the slightly convoluted process the GTTR puts him through after the one it's put me through. And that he thinks teaching is a Really Bad Idea(TM) for me. And that if I move away there'd be no one so available to delouse him computer. And the socialists in this town would have to find another technician, confidant, drinking partner, clown, lovable perv and birthday party singer. And I may not be able to afford training anyway.

Apart from that, no problem.

I have another gig pencilled in. It' So, no great rush to make new material.

The global terrorist threat continues to grow. As UK airport security continues to put luggage (and shoes) through x-ray machines that can't actually detect explosives, German police have uncovered a plot to blow up a train with two bottles of propane.

"The explosives ignited but failed to explode" - unsurprising when you consider how much sustained fire you need to make your camping equipment blow up. Even then what you get is a brief bright flash, dangerous if you're standing next to it, but not the way to turn a train into a fireball, or even derail it. Even if it is found with a highly suspicious food shopping list in Arabic, clearly indicating Hezbollah sympathies.

Modern technology makes it so easy to replace my lost switch card. All I have to do is dial the automated helpline, go through some misnamed menus, type my sort code in to the handset, then my account number, and then my date of birth. Which gets rejected because the new security system has got my birthday wrong.

So I get through to an operator - in India - who tells me my security check has failed so they can't help me, and what I need to do is take a passport or some other photo ID to the nearest highstreet branch, politely persuade them they've messed up my details, and, because they can't just hand me a new card, have it posted to my home.

Now, where in hades did I put my passport?


Well, the online forms to apply for teacher training are all filled out, with a "Personal Statement" that describes my small teaching experience in such glowing terms that I'd blush to post it here.

But in summary: "I'm a friggin' genius mate and you should be honoured, I say honoured to have me on your poxy little course."

There's the small holdup that my referee has to confirm my existence/worthiness/non-paedophillia/sanity before the GTTR can issue me with a personal code without which I can't phone up the universities and apply to them, personally and individually.

Yes, that's really how it works. The branch of the civil service that, prior to July 31st, applies for courses on my behalf when I fill out an application form...after July 31st requires that I apply in person, but prevents me from doing so until I've gone through the procedure which formerly instructed them to do it - a procedure which now has no function because I do the applying not them! I hope that's all perfectly clear.

The referee should be a okay about it, seeing as I periodically delouse his computer.

Although he did roar with unbelieving laughter when I said I wanted to be a teacher. Come to think of it, so have quite a lot of other people. Absolutely no one thinks I'd make a good teacher. Apparantly I'm too nice.

Tom A and Roxanne C have split up. It's all very sensible and amicable (apart from the tears and the lonliness) - just a case of two fundamentally good people who on the one hand love each other, but on the other have become bored and annoyed by each other's company. And don't tell me that's an impossible combination - I've seen it too many times to doubt.

I don't know where he is, but she phoned me for some support and company, and we spent far too many hours getting far too drunk in the usual scrote-hole of a pub, both almost but not quite getting off with other customers.

There was a smooth talking wideboy called Lee who's charm didn't extend to having a place to take Rocks back to, and for me a cute black guy who was happy to flirt and "kiss" through a window (what?), and was up for more, but couldn't quite work up the nerve to snog windowless in front of his mates. Very nearly though.

And I managed to lose my wallet. Again. That's now three (empty) wallets I've managed to lose in that place.

Comfort junk food and comforting cuddles with Rocks back at her flat. Part of her wished I was Tom...and part of me wished she was him. Yep, Tom was never bothered by me cuddling his girlfriend because he knew I was really thinking of him. I'm not mixed up, just complicated.

Spock is fading slowly - no dramatic changes, just a continued general decrease in energy and appetite. How do you measure "quality of life" for a housepet that's in no physical pain but must in some way be miserable? At what point can you say "he no longer has a life worth living" when his horizons have always been the walls of a house and a feeding bowl?

I haven't heard anything about or from Dunkan. He seems to spend most of each day exhausted in bed, not communicating with anyone except theough Donna, his partner. It's like he's the unseen but omnipresent "thing in the attic" from so many bad horror movies.

I catch myself wondering which one will die first, and who I will miss more.


It's amazing what you can do when (a) you can't sleep and (b) your internet connection isn't working. Instead of wasting hours faffing around on silly websites, I've got the instrumentation of three songs half finished. Actually two of them are acoustic and techno versions of the same song - which leaves me a bit puzzled as to which is the original and which the remix.

In recognition of those readers who want me to get my organ out (see comments on last post), one finished version will definitely contain a large organ. With lots of hot drawbar action.

And hard strumming.

Today is the first day of "clearing" - when students who didn't get a place at any of the universities they applied for (or whose applications got lost, or who forgot to apply) compete for places at universites that have unfilled courses.

I forget what happened to my application for science teacher training, but there just might be a place going at some obsure university somewhere, so I'll apply.

The Art of Noise boxset arrived. Four CDs, booklet of band member comments, extra promotional CD and some very nice packaging. Odd that an assemblage of early work, sketches and unfinished songs should get such lavish presentation - more worked on than the albums of material considered releasable at the time.

The gig was okay - good but not great. The Nell Gwynne is one of those large family pubs, friendly to animals and children, which is somehow still a small seedy workingmen's pub scaled up in size. All three band members played/sang well, even though as usual Paul had his guitar up too loud.

I got thoroughly pissed on the amazingly strong house doubles, and completely failed to get off with two turkish men. Not together, you understand - sequentially.

With drunkenness comes the munchies, and now, having consumed half a block of hallumi cheese, some bread, some dates, a chocolate bar and three cups of tea (with an episosde of my favourite medical drama) I feel rather ill. And mysteriously sober.

Music, Mathematics and Madness

I did write a somewhat pretentious article about expertise in musicianship. But it was I decided not to post it.

The gist is that a bedroom composer like me has the choice to either become expert in a few highly configurable synthesisers (Subtractor, Slayer 2, Rapture), or adaquately aquainted with a large number of specialist synths (Crazy Diamonds, Organ One, Cello Fan).

And that there are some parallels with mastering one complex instrument (piano, acoustic and electric guitar) versus being a multi-instrumentalist on several simpler ones (picolo, double bass, glockenspiel).

It was inspired by my trying to move away from the flexible but closed studio of Reason to the multispecialist open world of VSTs.

Reason is absolutely brilliant for making all kinds of music which sound like they were made using a computer. But I'm getting interested in synthesisers which don't sound like synthesisers - or which do but don't sound like ordinary ones.

All this reintroduced me to the build-it-yourself synth domain of Buzz, Audiomulch, and in particular SynthEdit. And therefore into the Gormenghast-like field of C++ programming.

On the one hand, designing your own custom synthesisers - with the exact controls, filters and look you wish your generic synth had - is obviously tempting. On the other hand, it's so complicated and never-ending that you don't have time to make music.

There's a completely not-synthesised gig by Strict Machines on Thursday. I invited CW to come and see them with me, and he said he'd love to but...he's in Belgium. Now I've got nothing against Belgium. It combines the grandeur of Venice, the sophistication of Zurich and the excitement of a wet Tuesday in Slough. But...why on earth is he in Belgium?

A small item on the TV news about the government giving posthumous pardons to soldiers shot for "cowardice or desertion" in the first world war.

The thinking seems to be that the reason these soldiers refused to fight wasn't that they didn't want to get killed in the war. Rather, they were suffering from shellshock, and so not responsible for their actions, so in effect not guilty by reason of insanity.

An army kills deserters as a warning to the others - "honourable probable death in the trenches or dishonourable certain death by firing squad, your choice" - and nothing in the pardons questions the ethics of doing this.

A few soldiers individually decide they made a mistake joining up and really don't want to die, so they refuse to fight or else run away. Their defence is not that self-preservation is a human instinct, or their likely death is pointless, or even the battle they're fighting is unwinnable. It's that they've gone crazy enough to do what any sane person would do in the circumstances.

Speaking of the barking mad, Jesus is Dog is updating again.

One of my guilty pleasures is leaving messages on the websites of people who are both clinically insane and very, very stupid. TedJesusChristGod is back, and Project Freedom survives in mothballed form. There's the classic TimeCube, and Factum Non Fabula - the site of a man who says he can prove he's the lovechild of Julie Andrews...and Adolf Hitler.

Anyway, excuse me while I go and mock the afflicted in a way that is probably quite shameful and certainly un-PC.

Top Dog

Dino won a first prize at the dog show. He's got a big red rosette, which he might be able to wear, if it wasn't larger then his head. He was best-of-class against 7 other toy dogs, which actually makes him eligible to compete at crufts. All highly surprising.

Still, it means we probably will breed him - or rather, let a professional breeder use him as a stud (ha!), and select one of the offspring as payment. It's a common practice, in the dog-eat-dog world of dogs.

I've recorded 4 vocal takes for Science Fiction, Double Feature, none of which I'm really happy with, but with luck they'll stitch together into something presentable.

The forum was a great success. 30 people - half not usual suspects - crammed into an upstairs pub room, an expert speaker holding forth for 45 minutes on the history of zionism, and the chair (me!) struggling to field another 45 minutes of questions and contibutions from the floor.

I recorded it on my trusty minidisc device, and I think there'll be a few requests for copies to mull over at leisure.

Forums have become expensive for me, because whenever the trio of Tom, Roxanne and Craig come along, I join them afterwards in the One Eyed Dog for drinks followed by curry in the small balti house and extended political debate with the waiter. Who now knows to expect us, and is rapidly getting more educated about world politics than we are.

Then back to Rox's flat for even more politics, plus music listening, and quite a lot of smutty banter. On this occasion, the ever-lovely, sensitive and bafflingly straight Craig let me give him a sweedish massage, before we sang a duet of Que Sera Sera, and he dozed off using me as a pillow. Well I thought it was a very nice evening.

Can You Dig It?

Remember the theme from Shaft, with that funky wahwah guitar? Or the start of Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile, with that choppy metalic strumming? Well I'm trying to get that kind of sound.

The wah effect and grungy distortion aren't so difficult - it's the muted string hammer-ons I can't synthesise. Once again, software easily recreates the various ways you can mangle the vibrations from a guitar's strings, but can't quite manage the guitar.

However, I can still manage a reasonable acoustic guitar, thanks to the birthday present from mother two years ago, so I'm thinking of an "unplugged" version of Does She - which I originally wrote as a PSB-type synthpop thing. I've cobbled together some cello and violin patches, which could either sound gloriously lush or overblown as an inflated haggis. We'll see.

The parents are taking Dino (our smaller, younger, browner, yappier, excitabler dog) to a dog show on Sunday, where he'll walk around in a circle for the judges and possibly jump over some obstacles. But more likely dash around like a mad thing and try to make friends with an alsatian.

I'm chairing a forum in the evening on "Imperialism, Zionism and the Middle East". I'm under strict instructions to maintain decorum for members of the Arab community who're expected to participate in the discussion.


I am now 16 stone. For some people, this would be a disaster, but seeing as I was 16 and a half stone a week ago, I'm rather pleased. Three stone to go till I'm slim and svelte and sexy, and can fit into crisp white lycra shorts without looking too stupid, and can hit on men without expecting immidiate rejection.

The twin secrets of dropping the pounds turn out to be:

(1) Eat slowly and little, and

(2) Be too bankrupt to buy enormous amounts of chocolate to cheer yourself up for being fat and slobby.

The situation wouldn't be complete without irony, so here's three pieces:

(1) I (re)met CW when I was at my heaviest and least confident. Last night there was a flurry of text messages ending with him sending "Love you". I'll wait till he says it in person and sober till I believe it, but things seem to be going pretty well for a couple who often don't see each other for weeks.

(2) He's somewhat underweight, and rather fancied by a lot of people. Roxanne actually thought I'd hired a rent boy when I introduced him (:-S)!. But he's convinced he's fat and unattractive.

(3) If I get one of the jobs I'm applying for, there'll be money for chocolate again.

I'm reading American Psycho. I'm also transcribing an interview on marxist philosophy of art for publication. One is intentionally turgid, surreal and mindbogglingly banal, and the other...isn't.

Here's an excerpt from each. See which one make you want to bang your head against a brick wall first.

...Whitney Houston [the album] (Arista) is one of the warmest, most complex and althogether satisfying rhythm and blues records of the decade and Whitney herself has a voice that defies belief. From the elegant, beautiful photo of her on the cover of the album (in a gown by Giovanni De Maura) and it's fairly sexy counterpart on the back (in a bathing suit by Norma Kamali) one knows this isn't going to be a blandly professional affair; the record is smooth but intense and Whitney's voice leaps across so many boundaries and is so versitile (though she's mainly a jazz singer) that it's hard to take in the album on a first listening. But you won't want to. You'll want to savor it over many.
(American Psycho, by Bret Easton Elis, p243)

I agree of course that art plays no major direct role in revolutionary change, cirtainly not the visual arts. There may be cases where cirtain kind of literature in the broad sense and perhaps theatre do that but I dont think that one can imagine the visual arts, apart maybe for cartooning, as real catalyists of revolutionary change in any significant way. I think the short answer to your question is that marxism is by necessity, by defintion a totalising system. I dont mean that marxism should pretend to be a theory of everything in the way that it sometimes appears to be in its 2nd and 3rd international formations, But I do think that without a skeptical version of the category of totality it isn't really marxism.
(Andrew Hemmingway in interview, July 2006)


Sometimes I just get these impulses. Tonight it was "If I'm covering Dragostea Din Tei, do it in Esperanto". So...

Here is the song in the original Romanian.

Dragostea Din Tei


Verse 1:
Alo, Salut, sunt eu, un haiduc
Si te rog, iubirea mea, primeste fericirea.
Alo, alo, sunt eu Picasso
Ti-am dat beep, si sunt voinic
Dar sa stii nu-ti cer nimic

Vrei sa pleci dar
nu ma, nu ma iei
Nu ma, nu ma iei
nu ma, nu ma, nu ma iei.
Chipul tau si dragostea din tei
Mi-amintesc de ochii tai

Verse 2:
Te sun, sa-ti spun, ce simt acum
Alo, iubirea mea, sunt eu, fericirea
Alo, alo, sunt iarasi eu, Picasso
Ti-am dat beep, si sunt voinic
Dar sa stii nu-ti cer nimic

And here is an English translation from the net.

Love from the Linden Trees


Verse 1:
Hello, greetings, it's me, an outlaw,
I ask you, my love, to accept happiness.
Hello, hello, it's me, Picasso,
I sent you a beep, and I'm brave[2],
But you should know that I'm not asking for anything from you.

You want to leave but you
don't want, don't want to take me
don't want, don't want to take me
don't want, don't want, don't want, to take me
Your face and the love from the linden trees
And I remember your eyes

Verse 2:
I call you, to tell you, what I feel, right now
Hello, my love, it's me, your happiness.
Hello, hello, it's me again, Picasso,
I sent you a beep and I'm brave ,
But you should know that I'm not asking for anything from you.

Now, this is my translation of the English version into Esperanto[3], assisted with my rudimentary cognate-reading of the Romanian. I've tried to keep the pattern of syllabification and inflexion from the original, at the expense of proper sentences and easy scansion.



Verse 1:
Halo, angxelo, mi donas, ribelo
Petanta, amorulo ja, akcepti, felicxeco
Halo, halo, estas mi, Kapitano
Mia mesagxo, de la kuragxo
Mi ne petas avantagxo

Las' amoru
Mi ne placxas vin
Mi ne placxas vin
Mi ne mi ne placxas vin
Via vizagxo, kalkaboroam'
Memoras vin cxiam

Verse 2:
Komenci, resumo, kiu sentas, je nuno
Halo, amorulo ja, mi estas, felicxeco
Halo, halo, denove kapitano
Kaj la mesagxo, donas kuragxon
Sed vivo estas nur romano

And finally, here is my fairly literal English translation of the Esperanto version.

Love from the Linden Trees


Verse 1:
Hello, angel[6], I give, rebellion
Asking you, lover (yes), to accept happiness
Hello, hello, it's me, Kapitano[7]
My message, of courage
I don't ask for an advantage

Let love go
I don't please you
I don't please you
I don't I don't please you
Your face, linden-tree-love
Remember you always

Verse 2:
Begin, to summarise, what (I) feel, right now
Hello, lover (yes), I am, happiness
Hello, hello, Kapitano again
And the message, gives courage
But life is only a story

Mp3 if/when I get around to recording it.

[1] As I understand it, these sounds don't mean anything in Romanian, so it's okay to simply transliterate them.
[2] The Romanian "Voinic" can be "Brave" (esperanto "Kuragxa") or "Strong" (esperanto "forta").
[3] I'm using the common ASCII representation of Esperanto's superscript characters, where an "x" indicates a circimflex over the preceeding letter.
[4] Literally, Lime-tree-love. The Romanian nuance of the title can't be briefly translated into English, and I haven't tried to translate it into Esperanto.
[5] Again, this is a simple transliteration from the Romanian, this time into the closest Esperanto sounds.
[6] Esperanto doesn't use Angxelo (Angel) as a term of endearment between lovers, but I've stretched a point to get a good rhyme.
[7] I couldn't resist replacing the original "Picasso" with my moniker. Sorry.

Tommy Gun

Once again the Home Secretary has made a speech about necessary "temporary curtailments to freedom" (cf "temporary state of emergency"), for the proverbial greater good.

Once again the next day there's a series of police raids and arrests on people's homes, looking for evidence to back up "intelligence" (accusations) of terrorism.

This time, the "intelligence" is of a plot to blow up 9 or 10 planes travelling from Heathrow to the US. Presumably the point of doing this is to scare the British government into withdrawing it's military support for the US. Ironic, as the effect would be the opposite. But terrorism usually does have that same irony - which is why it's so little used as a political tactic.

If events continue to form, those arrested will turn out to be bearded muslims, no evidence will be found despite special pleading that household items could in principle be bomb parts, intensive interrogation will yield contradictory confessions - later retracted - and Tony Blair will reassure us that the price of freedom is a paranoid police state.

It is just possible that there really was a plot, and it's even possible the plotters were capable of carrying out their plans of suicide bombing. Judging from the last few years, if the plot isn't a complete fiction, we're either looking at the kind of ineptitude of the London attacks - bombs too weak and mispositioned to have the intended effect, half of which don't go off anyway - or yet another sect that's big on bloodcurdling rhetoric but short on action. My suspicion is the latter.

I'm writing this to you from a brand new wireless router, with wonderfully high signal strength and bandwidth, and a security system so byzantine none of us can figure out how to turn it on.

Oh yes, the other political story is that Tommy Sheridan is officially not a swinger, user of prostitutes or frequenter of orgies. Or rather, he probably is, but the jury thinks his accusers are a bunch of backstabbing sewer rats and the News of the World is a scummy rag, which is much worse, so they've awarded him lots of money in damages.

If that paragraph meant nothing to you, read on. If on the other hand you're sick of the whole cretinous on anyway because this is my take on the dratted thing.

Tommy Sheridan is the highest profile member of the Scottish Sociaist Party's central committee. He wanted to steer the SSP more into anticapitalist/antiwar politics, while the rest of the committee mostly wanted to continue pushing for strikes and class politics. He had a lot of support from rank-and-file SSP members, including the SWP platform within the SSP, but was pretty isolated at the top.

The conflict became more and more vitriolic and personal, until it was leaked to the News of the World that he'd confessed in a meeting to visiting Cupid's swingers club. And then that he's used a prostitute. Or several. And had 3-in-a-bed sex. Which became 4, and then 5. All of which presumably made his analysis of globablisation untennable.

Sheridan sued the paper.

The party's co-founder went to jail for refusing a court order to release the minutes of the meeting, while someone else released the minutes anyway. Different players say the minutes are unreliable or doctored in various ways.

Exactly why anyone expects the minutes to be reliable is a bit of a mystery. Minutes are never an accurate record, they're usually "tidied up" after they're made, and we've all seen minutes that are complete fabrications. Anyway...

Things got really dumb when Sheridan's comrades testified against him for the paper they nominally hated. What had started as a disagreement over policy in a party with 1500 members, had become a public slanging match between supposed socialists for christ's sake over the completely irrelevant issue of sexual morality.

The feminists in the SSP accused him of oppressing women by sleeping with more than one of them, the presbyterian-influenced members seemed to think monogamy relavent to leadership...and the BBC interviewed his mother.

Well, after all involved had perjured themselves, the jury came to what is known in legal circles as a Perverse Verdict - letting a man probably guilty of a trivial crime go to punish his accusers for being bastards.

So now...the original conflict within the SSP is still unresolved, and Sheridan is standing for leader. Either he wins and purges his rivals, losing their supporters in the process. Or Sheridan loses and is purged, and his supporters leave. Or the party splits in two.

So whatever happens, socialism is Scotland has shot itself royally in the foot.

Meet and Shi'ite

Sometimes there's a good reason for a lot of people to turn up to a meeting, even though the meeting itself serves no purpose.

Two weeks ago, we scheduled an organisational meeting for tonight, expecting to have things to organise, which it turns out we don't. So why not use email and telephone to tell everyone who might come not to bother? Because some people don't answer their phones, some don't read their emails frequently, and there's always a few we'd forget to tell anyway.

So a few people would turn up, have nothing to do, and probably be annoyed, especially if it's inconvenient for them to be there. And they might decide we're a bunch of jerks and decide not to work with us anymore.

Plus, instead of the organisers spending half an hour reminding the necessary people to come, they'd spend three times as long telling everyone who might come not to. Knowing they still wouldn't reach everyone.

However, in this case there's another reason. One of the new members is definitely coming, and two other newbies might be. Which means we need a room full of people and an agenda full of topics, to make it seem worth their while. Otherwise all their enthusiasm and energy will evaporate in a small, dull, quiet meeting.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one reason why so many meetings are completely pointless.

I really hate wireless networking. That is, I love it when it works properly, but hate it when it doesn't - and most of the time, it just doesn't.

I've got three PCMCIA cards, and one USB card, each with their own set of drivers, none of which will work if any of the other drivers are installed. And none of which have worked properly when I tried them over the last week.

For some reason, network drivers seem especially prone to conflict with other, unrelated software - which may be the problem with my system. So what, if anything, is the driver conflicting with? Firefox, Reason, Audition, Sonar, Roxio, Digiguide, Winamp, or what?

In short: Gah!

One of those who might be there is Tom - tall, slim, tanned, muscular, intelligent and completely heterosexual. Though he quite likes being lusted after by a bloke, so that's my excuse for doing it.

We've been working on a song - his music, my lyrics and voice - to his specification of "dark and dirty". The working title is Funky Shi'ite, but it's about...well...dark and dirty sex.

The chorus isn't together yet, and the 2 verses will need some tweaking, but this is what they look like now:

Verse 1:
Breathing in the flavours of a girl or a boy
You can be thinking of another but you can't be coy
You've got to learn to hold back as you learn to enjoy
It's a game of skill but it's not just a toy
Nothing to lose if you forget to refuse, sir
You're the mover, you are homosapien too
Know what you're doing if you don't know who
Let your god kneel before you

Verse 2:
Wanted to stay and you're ready to go
Get high as a kite, down dirty and low
Pulse racing too fast though we're taking it slow
Give it room to flow, give it time to grow
Heavy like a sledgehammer touch of a feather
Fizzy on the tongue like the sizzle of leather
hanging on the hip hop, feels like forever
hitting on the sweet spot, together we endevour

EDIT: I heard one interesting bit of news at the meeting. Reg Keys is the father of a soldier who died in Iraq, and he symbolically stood against Tony Blair as an independant antiwar candidate at the last by-elections. Now he's trying to set up an antiwar electoral party called Spectre, and is talking about putting up candidates in the wards of the 70 most prowar MPs at the next election. This raises several questions.

* What kind of idiotic name is "Spectre" for a political party? If it's meant as a reference to the spectre of war, most people will connect it with the James Bond version of Al Quaida.

* Respect may not be a major force, but it is recognised as the antiwar party. Is Keys trying to split the vote, destroy Respect, subsume it, or what? And why? Oh, and is it coincidence that Spectre is an anagram of Respect?

* Who is funding this fiasco? It takes a lot of cash just to put up 70 candidates, and a lot more to run a party behind them. And as for putting on 70 election campaigns, forget it. If this is another attempt to derail the Respect party by confusing the public about it, like Tony Blair's slough of speeches about the young lacking "respect", it's a lot more expensive, and just as likely to sink without trace.

To me, the whole thing sounds like a hoax.


Yesterday I was asked to help out with Dunkan's application for financial support in care for his final months. The rules turn out to be somewhat...labyrinthine.

Incapacity Benefit would seem the fund to apply for, but it's only avaliable if the Staturary State Pension isn't. One alternative is Attendance Allowance, for people who need constant or frequent care, but the 58 page explanatory PDF eventually mentions as an aside that it's limited to people over 65.

There's the Constant Care Allowance for ex-military personnel (like Dunkan) who have serious or terminal illness or disability, but only if they have it as a direct result of military service. But not Gulf War Syndrome.

However, the Disability Living Allowance - where illness is classified as a disability if it's disabling - seems to fit the bill.

usually you only become elligible if you've been severely disabled (and/or dying) for 3 months, and you're not expected to live 12 from the first diagnosis. However, there's a fasttrack form (called "Special Rules") which you can apply for immidiately - but only if your doctor expects you to die within 6 months.

DLA is really 2 funds - 1 with 2 tiers for help with mobility, and 1 with 3 tiers for help with care. You can apply for either or both.

If you successfully apply for the care allowance, you can then apply for increases in Housing Benefit and Job Seekers Allowance. Provided of course you continue to look for a job while immobile and dying.

However, applying for increases in HB and JSA bars your carer from applying for a Carer's Allowance. Which (I think) you can't apply for before DLA.

Patients and carers need to get forms DS1500 and DS700 respectively from doctors or social workers, and mail them to the local central employment office. Who may then arrange another medical examination.

I helped with the online application form. It took three goes because the website kept timing out.

I've ordered a 4 CD boxset of early works by Art of Noise - the band that first made me want to make music.

UKP30 for 56 "songs" and the strange feeling you get when you hear music you don't know from a band whose other music you know by heart.

By a chain of association, I've got hold of a copy of the 90125 album by Yes - AON began as a side project for the studio engineers working on it.

To set the seal on this post's association of death and music...I'm thinking of recording a cover of Gloomy Sunday. A song whose frivolous tabloid association with suicide paradoxically obscures it's despairing message.

Whenever I sing a set onstage, it's generally half my own songs and half covers of other people's stuff. But it's just struck me that the last three songs I've considered covering are Passe le Temps ("Pass the time", original by Souad Massi), Dragostea Din Tei ("Love from the Linden Trees", original by O-Zone) and Szomorú Vasárnap ("Gloomy Sunday", original by Rezsô Seress).

There's no connection between them - and Dragostea Din Tei isn't even a very good song - except I rather like the originals and they're in languages I don't actually speak - French, Romanian and Hungarian. Fortunately, in a past life (about 15 years ago) I was a fair student of grammar and phonetics, so I can at least grasp the essentials of what I'm singing, and get the pronounciation close.

Walkie Talkie

I spent most of Friday being drunk, most of Saturday protesting in London, and most of Sunday being an agony uncle.

Why is it, when a group of people with no money meet in a pub, none of them can individually afford to drink all day, but collectively they all can?

Have the laws of arithmetic broken down, or do drinkers all just spend every penny they have? And if they do, why can they then afford a curry afterwards, but not proper food the next day? All very mysterious.

Anyway, on Friday four of us (or it might have been up to six at some points) sat around the kind of table you only get in "rustic" pubs and picnic areas in parks, commiserating about Dunkan.

Then I staggered home at four in the afternoon and slept. Before being woken two hours later by an offer to get drunk again. With the same people in the same pub.

And after closing time we found a bottle of vodka behind one of our sofas.

On Saturday morning, there were 50 people on the coach up to the demo in London - including four (or possibly six) bleary eyed comrades who'd had too much alchohol and not enough sleep the previous night.

More interestingly, there were half a dozen middle-aged strangers who'd never been on a demo before but were so angry about the situation in Lebanon they felt they had to, another half dozen muslim women with brightly coloured hijabs (and two drab husbands), and 15+ students new to protesting but fairly clued up politically.

Two things I especially dislike are traveling by coach, and being trapped sitting next to inane chatterboxes. I blocked out both with mp3s of 2 Unlimited (which apparently makes me utterly tasteless and terminally unhip), ZZ Top (which makes me eccentric and possibly a barbarophile), and Talking Heads (which makes me hip again).

The demo was energetic, peaceful and well ordered. We walked from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, but by an oddly circuitous route - probably designed to take us past the American embassy so we could shout rude slogans at it.

The police were out in large numbers, displaying their usual mix of aggression and ineptness. On one occasion they attempted to halt the march, and another apparently to divert it, without any effect. I heard reports of them surrounding groups of muslims, trying to provoke them into violence, but I didn't hear of anyone taking the bait.

In Trafalgar Square, I heard one reporting into his radio that "the protestors have been isolated and contained", speaking of a few dozen thousand people cheering George Galloway.

Is it me, or does George sound more like an Arab Nationalist every time I hear him? He's a great thunderous speaker, but seems to speak over his immediate audience to the Al-Jazira viewership.

Which I suppose makes sense - we got 10 seconds of BBC coverage about token arrests of "troublemakers", but the independent arab networks would have covered the event extensively.

One conspicuous new group were the BMI - British Muslim Initiative - which turns out to be a coalition of the MAB, MCB and smaller islamic groups.

There weren't many non-mass-produced banners, though I noticed one declaring "Blair Drinks Blood" and one rather forlorn banner for one of the groups calling itself the "Communist Party", being carried by a single octogenarian.

I had been dubious about STWC calling a second demo so soon after the first, but with reliable estimates of 150,000 people (the police estimate of 20,000 is just a joke), the antiwar movement showed itself to be confident and growing.

Plus I got to meet several new people. One was an expert in jewish history and culture who spent an hour describing to me the many jewish responses to types of zionism - fascinating but endlessly complex. And another was a 19 year old boy with no shirt and a pierced nipple - almost as fascinating and much nicer to look at.

Oh don't be like that - his girlfriend didn't mind.

The journey home was delayed by the coach driver being "caught in traffic" and unable to get to the rondez-vous point - i.e being in the pub.

And then by more police involvement after the coach totalled a BMW at traffic lights. The car driver was unhurt, though unimpressed about his car being a write-off.

And then by the coach almost doing the same thing to another car.

Which made a good excuse to spend more money we didn't have in the pub afterwards.

As for Sunday, I am officially the confidant, shoulder to cry on, and offerer of advice to comrades and fellow travelers who just need someone to talk to.

Largely on account of being "a nice guy", "intelligent" and most importantly "a big fat old poof" who's easy to be with.

So, this is Kapitano, heavy homosexual, antiwar activist and boozy blogger, signing off.

Man and Dog

Dunkan T is an artist who's worked for the local branch of Stop The War Coalition since it's beginnings with the invasion of Afganistan. Professionally a street sweeper and a navel veteran who fought in the Falklands conflict, he made protest art, 3D banners and enormous papier mache caricatures of politicians, as well as being the chair and an organiser of STWC.

Yes, an interesting fellow - something of an anarchist and a clown, with occasionally multicoloured goatee and twirly moustache. He's married with a daughter approaching 2 years, and turned out to be a good actor in our production of The Investigation.

He's just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It's in his pancreas, spread to the liver, and probably elsewhere. He's in constant physical pain, and probably won't survive the next 12 months. We're already talking about him in the past tense, though we've made offers to ferry him to and from hospital, and help out with the home care of himself and his daughter.

He and I were never close - and I've upset some people by saying his pain will make him a short-tempered bastard to care for.

Mr Spock is the older of our two dogs. I clearly remember my parents bringing him home from the breeder, 11 years ago. He was a timid white puppy small enough to sit in my hand, and I chose the name because of his papillion's large triangular ears, which perked up and seemed to swivel like radar dishes at any noise.

He never quite worked out how to use the dog-flap, patiently scratching at the back door until someone let him in or out. He always made friends with people instantly, and tried to get them to play tug-of-war - either that or gaze at them with adoring brown eyes until they gave him some food, which he'd run off with and jealously guard but forget to eat when something - anything - grabbed his attention.

He's been spending most of each day asleep for the past few months, and we've found a growth on his neck. The vet says he doesn't seem to be in pain, and we could spend a few hundred pounds finding out whether he has cancer, but it would be untreatable.

So the dog who sleeps on the end of my bed, and the political socialist who never liked either label - I'm waiting for both to die.

Lost and Found

During the drunkenness of last night (or was it the night before? I forget) I managed to lose my keys. This has two effects. First, my father changes all the locks because he's sure someone will find the keys in the street, use ESP to discover which doors they fit, and break in to steal our video recorder. Or murder us in our beds. Second, I get a load of new keys cut to fit the new locks. Which are actually the previous set of locks, which father changed over last time I lost my keys.

Last Saturday was a protest called by Stop The War Coalition, which I didn't get to go to. It was a moderate success in terms of attendance and media coverage - i.e. the BBC actually mentioned it.

STWC called another protest this for Saturday, and a lot of us groaned inwardly - the prospect wasn't especially enticing of spending another week persuading non-regulars to go, booking another coach, arranging small subsidies for the genuinely broke etc, and all for an event which felt like overegging the proverbial yoke.

However, 25+ complete strangers have got in contact, eager to protest, some for the first time in their lives. And some have promised to bring their friends. When that number of ordinary people, who aren't usually political at all, take the trouble to mobilise themselves, it means there's hundreds more in the town who feel something similar but don't act on it. Which means the national mood is probably actually on our side.

I have encountered exactly one person who didn't have at least reservations about Israel's actions - and they seemed to be under the impression that "Middle East" was one country. Even though they were an ex-soldier who'd fought out there.

So, I suppose I'll have to go on the demo too.

CW is back in contact - with the two most romantic text messages I've ever recieved. Awww!

[Kapitano goes all squishy and instantly forgives the man in his life for disappearing for three weeks]

Political Weekend (Part 2)

I am quite astoundingly drunk. Pumpkinheadedly paralytic and stupidly sozzled. I'm pissed up on booze and dumkopfed with the demon drink. That made clear, I shall attempt a summery of recent events.

We saw the Loach film - bloody brilliant. Typical Locach formula of shaggable young idealist who joins the glorious resistance (in this case the IRA in the 1920s), only to find it descending into faction fighting, selling out to the very forces it was created to oppose, and splintering over issues that seem abstruse and small now, but which were at the time immidiate and vital.

More that that, Loach is smart enough not to heroise the protagonists or demonise the bad guys. The British occupiers or Ireland aren't monsters, and their Irish henchmen aren't simplistic traitors. The IRA are neither implacable saints of virtue, not psychotic killers.

Loach presents several sides of the argument unflinchingly, letting us the audiance decide on the rights and wrongs and grey areas of the situation. Of course, people who have already made up their mind in confortable ignorance will find the film biased, whichever way they lean.

See this movie. It's important as a historical document, and it reflects intellegently on the morality and paradoxes of occupation and resistance everywhere - including, of course, Iraq right now.

Then us loyal comrades of the glorious revolution went for the double whammy, and trundled from movie to marxist forum on Trotsky. The expected small turnout of 10 or so regulars was swelled by six newcommers. Including a duo of animal rights activists who were drawn by curiosity, the coy Adam who is actually amazingly switched on and informed, and the utterly airheaded Pippa, who has finally got it into her eternally distracted head that politics matters, but has yet to grasp that she has no grasp - whatsoever - of any of the issues. Interesting forum, but no new ground broken, as you would expect.

Then alchohol and curry with Tom and Roxanne...and bloody Pippa. We actually had a very useful discussion in the curryhouse, with the waiter, who was really keyed up by our discussion of class. Bloody Pippa does have one use - she comes out with such cretinious arguments - capitalism is human nature and people are born stupid, class no longer exists because people have electric blenders now, blah blah - that the rest of us can cobble together a lecture on the principles of marxism simply by replying to her.

Gareth was too shattered to go for the planned tripple whammey of me discussing the ramifications of these issues with him, but we'll do it soon.

Then a night spent snoozing on the sofa of Tom and Roxanne, followed by a day snoozing on the sofa, then some musical collaboration with Tom and making friends with Roxanne's willful 4-year-old daughter Tessa. She decided she liked me instantly, sat on my knee, called me uncle and demanded I read her a Paddington Bear story. Before attempting to bite my finger off.

Many drinks with Simon M at night, hence my current moderate incohearancy. So it's all his fault. Goodnight.