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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

August 31, 2004

Whack the Pack

Just installed my MS Office 2004 upgrade. I'm passing no comment on that (I'll live with with all the usual daily annoyances Office has to offer, as ever), but I have to make mention of the outrageous amount of packaging.

The product essentially ships in a standard DVD case - with the product key on the back of the DVD case and a little brochure inside. But it comes inside an easter-egg-style double sided plastic case which also comes inside another plastic case, with a paper/card insert, and two plastic ends to keep everything in place.

What a waste. Reminds me of the outrageous additional carboard cases American CDs had (still have?) at one time.


Update. Actually, I uninstalled it this morning. When you consider the hoo-hah they made about it, it seemed to be the most pointless upgrade ever. If anything, slightly slower (on my work dual processor G4 800MHz) but basically the same. The new notepad view in Word struck me as useless when I read about it, and so it proved to be. I couldn't imagine ever needing to use it. And it bloody went and installed all the fonts I hate and uninstalled the last time all over again.

Sheesh. Someone else in the office needed it, so I let them have it. Between the eyes. There's only so far you can go with a word processor isn't there? Once you've got beyond the words and the paragraphs, the page numbering and the footnotes, anything else you add ends up getting in the way. This strikes me as being a bit like the fabled move from Word 5 to Word 6, from useful software to useless (and slow) bloatware. I bet there are still loads of Mac users happily using Word 5. I'd use MacWrite if you could still get it.

On that subject, I should point out that -- a lot of the time -- I use the (free) TextEdit you get with Mac OS X. You can open Word docs with it, save things as Rich Text Format, and do 100% of the things that you need to do 90% of the time.


I'm prepared to be underwhelmed by the new Apple iMac, which will be announced in a minute... I don't like the current design jag they're on, all this brushed aluminium crap. It just looks like it was knocked together in someone's home workshop. I suspicion the new iMac will be of the same ilk.

Well, at least it's not entirely brushed aluminium. They've gone for the consumer white goods look. But I've got those quotes from Jobs and Ive ringing in my ears, about how each element has to be true to itself, and glomming the works onto the back of a flat screen defeats the object. Sure, it's "only" 2 american inches thick, but it still feels as if they've fulfilled the expectations of everybody who imagined the original flat screen imac would look like that.

That said, I'll prolly end up getting one, when I feel the need to go G5.

They've also pandered to the "iLamp" brigade, the critics who didn't like the "Sunflower" design iMac, with its fantastic industrial design and useful tilt/swivel arm - an absolute godsend when you're recording. I've always felt the "iLamp" people deserved an iPunchinthemouth.

Everyone's a Critic Dept

So I finally got around to watching the first episode of NY-LON last night. I'm usually very reluctant to invest time in new British dramas, because I have a deep and abiding loathing of the kind of thing it invariably turns out to be. Either you see the same old act-ors or it's the same old writ-ers.

I risked NY-LON because it seemed like a very good idea for a series - and one guaranteed, surely, to garner international success.

To summarise, an American girl, New Yorker, is on a flying visit to London and she meets a bloke. She's quite nice, sort of like a brown skinned Natalie Wood; he's a bit of a twat, having spent too much time on his sideburns, and clearly having attended all the Handsome Lessons except the last one (the one in which they point out that everything you've learned so far is a waste of time because, in reality, everyone just gets lashed and climbs into bed with each other regardless of appearance).

Anyway, Sideburns turns out to be a bit of a nutter - first of all he gives Natalie W all his money (after having known her for, ooh, 5 minutes); then he gets into a fight in a bar and ends up in nick. She happens to see him there, because she's reporting the theft of all her money etc (first thing that happens) and instead of thinking, "Oooh, this bloke is clearly a bit of a nutter," she goes out with him and ends up back at his place.

As they wake up fully clothed, I think we're supposed to think it was a chaste evening of endless conversation and then crashing out. You know, like that scene with Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky, except, unlike in Vanilla Sky we aren't privy to any of the conversation. Instead, we just get to see them waking up the next day, hear a snatched conversation with vague references to the night before and the fact that they told each other stuff about themselves, and she's off to catch her plane.

Only she leaves her earring behind, and Sideburns Nutter decides, instead of posting it to her, to take it to her personally. Riiiiiiighert. Because he sneaked a look into her PO to get her address while she was asleep.

Meanwhile she arrives back in NY to find her flat-sitter (who needs a flat sitter for a couple of days? We don't know), her ex-boyfriend's brother, lying dead from smack or something.

Sideburns Nutter Stalker arrives in NY and leaves her earring on her steps (insetad of in her mailbox). She freaks out, as you would, but still ends up going round to his hotel later for a shag.

End of episode one. So we've established that she's poor (works in a record store and teaches night classes to poor people) but righteous; whereas he is a stockbroker (therefore highly paid with no job security - his best friend, the geezer from Teachers, gets the sack for no apparent reason early on). She has an ex boyfriend who looks like Ryan Adams and is, hey!, in a band and everything; and a flatmate who looks like she doesn't wash her hair.

Good things about it:

  • Great premise

  • Filming partly on the Lower East Side with the idea that all New Yorkers aren't impossibly living in lovely loft apartments
  • ...er...

Bad things about it:

  • Forgetting that not all Londoners are impossibly rich, and living in half-decorated loft apartments

  • They introduced all the complications of ex boyfriends/ pregnant ex-girlfriends, child-care for feckless relative issues etc., without really showing us any of the inner life of the characters

  • One of the best things about meeting someone new and falling in love is that first night where you stay up or walk about talking about stuff - that's what we want to see in a drama like this. But they just glossed over it. We don't get the Tom/Penelope scene - which is the only reason to see Vanilla Sky, because Cameron Crowe nailed it - we get nothing. They give us nothing. In other words, the script is dire, lazy, sketchy, half-written.

Instead they try to let the cities do the talking, with lots of skyline shots and gimmicky time-line tricks, and people walking around like they're in music videos on MTV, which is yawn-a-liscious, and lazy, and crap.

To summarise again: great idea, lousy script.

And the nutter with the sideburns, I don't know. People like him make me want to puke. They're 10-a-penny wannabee Colin Firths, and desperately dull to watch. Why the geezer from Teachers wasn't the main protagonist, I don't know.

August 27, 2004

This is Fun

Nice tickle in the Guardian Unlimitedabout Mark Thatcher.

To which I'd add: remember how soft Mrs Thatch always was on Apartheid? It was her most human aspect, that she had a complete blind spot concerning her son. A bit like Dot Cotton in EastEnders x10. Funny how Mark ended up living in South Africa.

Will someone one day write a history book that spells it all out in large print, all the sickness and corruptionand mother love?


Older readers will remember that I consider Paula Radcliffe to be the David Bedford of women. Now she's announced that she is to run 10,000m after all, I eagerly await the proof of my wrongness, or wrongniosity.

To expand upon my thoughts, I think, essentially, that the kind of race that Radcliffe runs, while it works in smaller events and venues, is tactically naive in the Olympic setting. I just think her opposition are more savvy in the Olympics, and feel there's more at stake.

Radcliffe wins, basically, by breaking her opponents on the wheel of her early race pace. She leads from the front, and sets a fast pace, which destroys her pursuers if they try to keep up with her.

But as whatsername, Kelly Holmes, proved in the 800m, if you have a good idea what the eventual winning time is, and you pace yourself, you'll catch up with the front runner, who will have no strength left for a sprint finish.

The other way to beat Radcliffe is to stay with her when she picks up the pace, forcing her to pick up the pace even more. Eventually you'll force her to run so fast that her own race place and lap pacing will be out of the window. This is what really happened in the marathon. She didn't leave them behind as expected, and had to push herself harder. The moment that broke her was when she pushed herself to catch up to the runner in 3rd, only to see another competitor go past the both of them, leaving her in 5th.

It's big fish in a small pond syndrome. She, like Bedford before her, doesn't seem to know any other way of runnng, and the key people in the Olympics know how to counter what she does too easily.

Bank Holiday Weekend

I was thinking of doing nothing this weekend. What are you doing?

August 26, 2004

Back to Mono

As anyone who knows me will affirm, I'm sceptical about the need for stereo and surround sound in recordings. Mono was good enough for most of the great records of the past, and it's good enough for me. When I released an EP in 1985, the world was dismayed that it was in mono, but I'd still be doing tracks in mono today if it wasn't for my weak will in the face of peer pressure.

There's an interesting article in Sound on Sound magazine this month about a band who were recorded in one room with one microphone (though they cheated and DI'd the bass). Here's an interesting quote:
...some drummers can play pretty well to a click track, but mostly you end up with these weird, rigid, careful performances. But when a drummer's just playing along with the rest of the band, and he plays a fill, he does speed up a little bit. In fact, the whole band will speed up and slow down going in and out of a chorus. There is some come and go in the tempo of natural playing."

I've always had a problem with click tracks, which are the temporal equivalent of stereo. Nobody naturally plays to the same tempo. Everybody varies a little bit, here and there. I think what the world needs is some kind of midi device which can take the tempo from the bouncing of your knee or the tapping of your foot, and map it to a session, so you can play other parts with more natural ebb and flow. Some genius could make a fortune with such a thing.


originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
Didi, bless her, makes no distinction between pyjamas and normal clothes. Far as she's concerned, all clothes are "'jamas".

We were walking through the park the other day and there were some boys playing football without shirts. She shouted out, "Why aren't those boys wearing 'jamas?"

Good question, Didi. Because they think the world wants to see their spotty backs.

Bob 'n' Jeff

The BBC online time have excelled themselves with the headline, "Dylan's still blowin' in the wind". I bet they stayed up all night to think of that one.

Halfway down the page there's a fantastic photo of Bob Dylan - or is it Jeff Lynne of the ELO?

I'll be quite interested to read his memoirs, though. I wonder if they'll be in the style of Tarantula? I must have read that book 25 times when I was a teenager. I still remember some of the lines. "Aretha, crystal jukebox queen."

August 25, 2004

Beagle's About

I heard one of the Beagle team members interviewed on the radio yesterday. They were grilling him about the mission's failure back at xmas time, demanding to know why the Americans had a success where we didn't.

I really really wanted the presenter to say, "Come on, it's not rocket science, is it?"

August 24, 2004

Big Surprise:

Britain a nation of boozers. When you consider that, while I know a couple of people with what you might call outside interests, many other people I know seem to treat getting pissed up as the only thing you can do outside work. But all that aside, my favourite bit was this:
Macmillan aso found that UK workers are obsessive about their coffee mugs at work, with four in ten refusing to use one belonging to anyone else, while one in ten will email their colleagues if their favourite mug goes missing.

Which puts me in mind of those motorway matrix signs and their office noticeboard mentality. So comedy sketch idea #643: you're driving down the motorway and you see the usual matrix messages: "DON'T DRIVE TIRED," and "SPRAY SLOW DOWN," and "QUEUE AHEAD." And then you see one that says, "HAS ANYONE SEEN MY MUG?"

August 23, 2004

The Bedford Connection

Paula Radcliffe is from Bedford, isn't she? And she is, in fact, the David Bedford of women.

Like Bedford, she holds a world record in an Olympic event, and just like Bedford she never, ever performs in important events.

World record holders are here today, gone tomorrow. World records are always broken eventually - but not winning an Olympic medal is forever.

I found the tv commentary amusing - the absolute total denial of the commentators/pundits, not because they still thought she would win, but because they were so shamefaced about getting it so so wrong. As soon as she lost the lead to the eventual Japanese winner (and what an excellent race she ran), it was all over for Radcliffe. She wins races from the front, because she hasn't got the pace for a big finish - which she proved when she didn't win in Atlanta and proved again when she didn't win in Sydney.

But the commentators were all saying, "It's not over yet," (yes it was) and, "She looks like she's picking up the pace again now," (no, she wasn't), and "There's going to be a lot of changes before the end of the race_ (no, there weren't), and "Has the Japanese runner overstretched herself?" (er... no).

Gotta love it really. They obsess so much on the one British hope that they completely fail to pay attention to the fact that it's the Olympics, that there are other nations competing. They call themselves experts, but they never, ever have any idea of the form of other countries - especially places like Japan and China, which are still treated as the "mysterious, unfathomable, inscrutable orient" by ignorant tv pundits.

August 20, 2004


This article in The Reg today spells out in the baldest possible terms how vulnerable your average home PC is out of the box. The most frightening statistic is that the brand-new machine can be hopelessly compromised in less than the time it would take to download all the updates designed to protect it. And that's if you knew what you were doing.

I've seen a brand new PC laptop connect to the internet for the first time and it is frightening how quickly those pop-up ads start to appear. It's enough to go and lock yourself away from the world. The safest way to connect to the innernet is to not connect to the innernet.

It's rubbish anyway. It'll never catch on.

August 19, 2004


This is a nice dual channel mic pre from Korg. It's not just that they've used valves and put them where you can see them, which is aesthetically pleasing. They've also used traditional VU meters. Why did the world stop using VU? I know it didn't totally, but so much digital gear, from hi fi to pro studio, just gives you flashing LEDs, which is a BFD.

I mean, for about 5 minutes in the late 70s we got excited about LEDs, didn't we, with the early digical watches, but then LCD came along and everyone got excited about that. And then it was sort of crap, and everybody wanted watches with hands again. I love my Bomb Factory Pro Tools plug-ins, for their sounds, and for the way they look, because BF use a virtual VU meter on a lot of them.

I think everything should have a VU. You know, your car rev counter and speedometer should only work through 45 degrees or something.


Turns out the lost Beatle memorabilia was a not even very good fake. Hardly the Hitler Diaries or Piltdown Man.

August 18, 2004

Dog Bites Man

I have this mental picture of a flash flood. It crashes into town, gold medallion round its neck, driving a very fast car, and waving wads of cash around. Everyone is very intimidated and jumps into the sea.

We live in an age of hyped reality, don't we? There are frankly too many people working in the medja, too many radio stations, television channels, magazines, newspapers. All the idle employees are sitting twiddling their thumbs waiting for something, anything, to happen. 21 year old near-children fuck off to Iraq to try to find some news, to try to make a name for themselves, like Evelyn Waugh characters. Only there are hundreds of the bloody things, hanging around waiting to get mortar bombed or kidnapped. The only story is they are the story.

Flash my arse. There have always been flash floods: it's a thing that happens, a thing that happens in the opening credits of an episode of CSI. But it's not the end of the fucking world, is it? Can you smell the desperation?

And, Jesus, it happened in Cornwall for Christ's sake. Couldn't happen to nicer people, could it? Unless it was the Welsh or Scottish.


When I have anxiety dreams, which is not too often, they are always on the theme of going back to school. This is because first day of term, September, after the long summer break was always very scary for me - till I was about 13/14 when something happened to change that.

This syndrome started on my very first day of school, when I begged my mother not to send me and spent the whole day in terrified tears. I suffered extreme pangs of anxiety every first day of term until the day I started at the Big School, when Paul H, whom I thought of as one of the cool, sorted, kids, clung to me in his own anxiety, saying he wanted to stay close to me because I was obviously sorted.

This was the first example of a 3rd party assuming, based on outward appearance, that I was calm and confident. Evidence that my own attempts to be cool were, surprisingly, paying off (see below). So after that I wasn't so anxious on the first day of term. School was my natural environment, after all, I was academically inclined, and nothing school could throw at me held any fears.

But then there came the day when I was to start work, my first proper full-time j-for-job. Having already fucked up the most important relationship of my life, partly because of my anxiety at starting work, I had my first anxiety dream about going back to school.

And it was funny, because it happened after I'd already started, and the dream involved going back to school, starting in the sixth form, and being asked to sort through boxes of cards, which is more or less what I was doing in the real world.

I had a similar dream when I was starting University. Felt no real nerves during daylight hours, but at night I dreamed about going back to school and looking for someone, Jenny H, who had been an early friend at the Big School, helping me to settle in.

Last night was slightly different, more mixed up, but still obviously on the same theme. I happen to be on a deadline to write something - quite a short deadline - and in order to hit the deadline, first I have to do a considerable amount of research, and then I have to write. This is something that is relatively easy for me to do. I can write quickly and I can write to length, and researching and writing is what I do best.

Still, I had the dream. I was going back to school, not for my own purpose, but to pick up my younger brother. Only I was driving/riding an unfamiliar vehicle, some kind of scooter, that I'd never ridden before. I didn't know how to operate it. Then I couldn't remember the way to school. Then I didn't know where to park, or which side of the school to go to. I knew they were holding my brother because they wanted him to do something he didn't want to do, and I was to go to "The Office" and sort it out. Only I didn't know where the office was. And I kept meeting people who knew me and wanted to stop to talk, none of whom could help me find my brother.

I woke up feeling like I'd been awake worrying about the stuff in my dream all night long.

August 17, 2004

o to be cool

It's painful, sometimes, to see young men walking around. There is no creature in creation more self-conscious than a teenage male. You go through a phase where it's just impossible to go anywhere or do anything without worrying about every aspect. It's as if, age 14, you're given prosthetic limbs and have to learn to use them all over again. Couple this with concerns about hair and skin, the words you use, and the clothes you walk around in, and you get a mess of insecurities, which manifests itself in a need to project coolness.

Like a novice actor, you worry about what to with your hands. Pockets? Around waist height? At front or at sides? You worry about your stride, your steps, your style of walking. You become concerned with buttons on jackets, if you wear a jacket, the width and height-above-ground of your trouser bottoms, and so on.

Of course, a massive industry grows up around all this insecurity, and you can opt to become a fashion vict, or go your own way and become the other kind, the kind that adopts 1969 bombed out rock-star chic, or 1977 bondage trousers. Tattoos, piercings, headbands, bandanas, caps... anything to give the impression that you know what you're doing. But they're all just ways, aren't they, of being a fashion victim all over again?

I knew a guy once, so concered with being cool, he took to walking everywhere solipsistically enclosed in his Walkperson headphones, hands in pockets, eyes to the ground. He was mugged by two other guys, one of whom just took his legs from under him, and he went down like the proverbial sack of spuds, hands still in pockets, face to the ground. How cool is that?

Then, I don't know at what age, you wake up one day and you don't care anymore. Maybe it's because you're in a relationship, or because you now have kids of your own and more important things to worry about. But the anorak you refused to wear as a teenager, because you thought you would rather die, you now slip it on to pop round to the local shop. You stop looking into the mirror quite as often; or, if you are me, you stop looking into mirrors at all. You stop spending a fortune on hair products, and, like Homer Simpson, you stick toilet paper on your face when you cut yourself shaving. And forget it's there.

I still suffer pangs of whatever it was came over me as a teenager. Between the ages of 18 and around 21, I wore nothing but Green Flash tennis shoes. Not because I liked them, but because I just didn't like any of the shoes in any of the shoe shops. And I still feel the same way. There are two kinds of shoes I buy, and if they don't have them, I don't buy them at all. So I have to wait for whatever cycles the shoe industry goes through before I can get new shoes. Because, obviously, I still care for some reason. It's not about fashion or coolness, though; it's about comfort, and the knowledge that comes with experience, the knowledge that all the other shoes are going to hurt my feet.

I have to admit, in fact, that I've probably gone to the opposite extreme. I don't like much of anything in the shops. I utterly refuse to wear anything with a name or logo on it. Plain colours only, please, and I endeavour at all times to dress generically. When I go shopping with my wife, there are whole swathes of shops I refuse to enter. I just won't wear it, like Mr Knox says, I can't say it, I won't do it. I'm a High Street Refusenik. I just took a shirt to the charity shop I got last xmas: still in its plastic wrapping. It had a pattern on it, you see. It's an almost-Amish approach, mine. Plain fabrics (and almost exclusively plain cotton) that nobody will notice.

August 16, 2004

Week's End

What's Down There?
What's Down There?,
originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
My first full and proper weekend as a Buckingham resident went quite well after a sticky start. It was nice to leave the car mostly at home and walk into town. I joined the library, then took one look at the SF and Crime sections and knew I'd never use it. Still, I can use the big Milton Keynes library when we're over there.

I even managed to find two hours on Sunday afternoon to do some recording, realising later that it was the 2 hours I would have been watching the Grand Prix if I'd remembered about it, only it was another procession and I didn't miss anything. So a productive 2 hours rather than a falling-asleep-in-front-of-the-TV 2 hours.

August 13, 2004

Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 20 - The Descent of Calm

Just published. Now we're beyond rewrite territory I'm having to come up with each episode from scratch, so we've moved from second draft quality back to first draft.

August 12, 2004

Hypochondriac Olympics

Someone on the radio the other day said that the Olympics is a thing you get excited about when you are 10 years old, but as you get older you get more cynical about the cheating and the rampant greed on display. It tells you all you need to know when you read that so-called athletes are being warned about what they should and should not ingest.

Athletes! Fitness! They are the sickest bunch of self-obsessed weirdos, aren't they? "I was feeling pretty good. A little bit of a twinge in my hamstring, but not bad considering..."

Not bad considering I've just about crippled myself with my training regime. Speak to me in ten years time about how much fun it is getting out of bed in the morning. The shattered joints, the damaged musculature.

And of course they carry a fucking pharmacy around with them: vitamins, supplements, painkillers, cold remedies. The poor sick little bastards have always got something wrong with them. A sniffle, a sore, a twinge, an injury, a toothache, a headache, a back spasm, a dislocation, a stomach upset, a paper cut.

The Olympic games stopped being fun when they allowed sponsorship and professionalism to take hold. People go on too long now, their careers drag on way past the point where anyone cares, and the sight of athletes wearing the likes of gold Nike running shoes is sickening.

As Roy always says, either they should compete naked, or at least barefoot, no logos, no sponsorship, no wages. And for crying out loud, stop glomping down the pharmaceuticals and energy foods and eat like normal people.

August 11, 2004

Butter Me Up

There's someone in the office, she has the worst diet. Lives on chips and cheese, crisps, and chocolate, in the main. Of course, she's off sick a lot. She just got a baked potato from the shop down the road. The bag had a pool of grease in the bottom. She said, "Look at all that butter."

Only it's not butter, of course, which is why I always specify "no butter" on anything I order down there. Not only is it not butter, it's not even halfway decent margarine. It's from a 160 litre vat of catering fat. They call it butter, but then Americans call apple juice cider, don't they?

Those people wouldn't know butter if Marlon Brando came up and smothered it all over their arses.

August 10, 2004


originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
I don't know who took this photograph, but it seems to be the very definition of evocative, calling something forth from the past.

On the left, B's grandmother, and the right, her great aunt. The two guys in between, I don't know who they are. But I love the crazy handlebars on the 3rd bike.

As to who took the shot, that's the real mystery of a photo like this. Who else was there, did he/she have a bike, or is the camera supported on a tripod or post, set to fire automatically, or by remote control? I hardly think so in this era, but who could it be?

I remember my sister had a friend once showed her a lot of family photos, which were hilarious because they showed him and his mum positioned in front of world-famous scenes and objects. But the overall effect was that he went on holiday with his mum, that there was no dad, an absentee or dead father. Of course, the dad was taking every single photo, never once appearing. Which, now I think about it, is a lot like me.

57... er ...4 channels and nothin' on.

When I was growing up, we had 2, then 3 channels, reception wasn't good because of the hills, till they built a new transmitter. We never watched anything on ITV. And it was black and white telly till the early 70s. But that was too much entertainment compared to my wife, who didn't have a telly till she was 12. Even now her parents only get 3 French channels, the rest of them are Swiss. Because of the hills, natch.

Recently, of course, we've had Freeview digital, and have grown used to the 5 standard channels, plus BBCs 3 and 4 - I've even watched the occasional rock-or-country-umentary on BBC4. And then there's the godsend of CBeebies: advert free fodder for the kids, for that half hour of peace and quiet that you need.

I still don't watch anything on ITV. I rarely watch anything on BBC1. The occasional dose of BBC2. Channel 4 I used to watch a lot of, pre-Big Brother, but mostly it's wall-to-wall reality TV, house buying programmes and documentaries about fat people with mental illness; so I don't watch much on Channel 4 now, give or take The O.C.

Channel 5, of course, is the new Channel 4, and CSI in various flavours is good stuff.

So it was with some dismay that I discovered, on plugging the TV into the wall in Buckingham, that we not only can't get Freeview digital, but we only get Channels 1,2, and 3 - with pretty poor reception. No Channel 4 (no Kelly Rowan! Help!); no Channel 5 (no Marg! Domage!). And, of course, no CBeebies (Noooooooooooooooooooo!).

I plugged in a signal booster and got Channel 4 - but I'd swap 1, 2, and 3 to get 5.

So it looks like the only choice is Sky Digital, which is objectionable for all kinds of reasons. Rupert Murdoch, for example, was at least indirectly responsible for the closure of the major printing works in my home town of Dumpstable. Which meant redundancy and early retirement for both my mum and dad. Plus, any profits made by News Corporation go directly towards influencing politicians to adopt policies which go against my moral beliefs.

I'm a snob (still don't watch ITV, remember), so having a satellite dish outside the house is the equivalent to me of reading the Sun, or worse, The Times. But let's not be precious: a hell of a lot of my favourite shows are from the Fox network, so it's all a big wash, and I'm compromised before I begin to hold principles.

Fact is, I'd install a dish in an instant in order not to miss my favourite shows, but we can't afford it right now - what with moving house before we've sold our house, and all the other additional expenditures. But the really annoying thing about Sky is that it's so full of crap. I have to say, the multitude of frankly pointless television channels frightens me, and I resent the idea that even one penny of a monthly subscription would go to support any of them. I'm talking about the lifestyle channels, the repeat channels, the documentary repeat channels, the lifestyle repeat channels, the repeat repeat channels, the comedy repeat channels, the bad sci fi repeat channels, the music channels... oh god.

See, in my heart, and this is my point, it's still 1972. It's Olympic Games time, and you get Dr Who on a Saturday Tea time, a choice of 3 channels, with not much on worth watching. The world hasn't changed much, there's still the same amount of stuff that's worth watching, only now it's spread over around 10 channels, which themselves are surrounded by another 300 or so channels of stuff that is never and has never been worth watching. And I mean poking your eyes out and slowly bleeding to death is preferable.

August 09, 2004

You what?

According to Louis Barfe,
"The Beatles back catalogue on EMI currently represents appalling value for money - each full-price CD contains one LP where two would fit."

Which is a never-mind-the-quality-feel-the-width argument, if ever I heard one.

While I think it's tremendous fun that 50+ year old recordings are going out of copyright, I think it's utterly ridiculous to criticise CDs for not being long enough. It's almost torture to listen to Shania Twain's "Up," for example. Not because it's actually bad, it's okay, really, but it goes on for-ever.

The beauty of the Beatles' early stuff is that the records had 14 tracks and yet still only lasted just over the half hour. Fantastic, I say. I've said it before: any record over 40 minutes is overstaying its welcome.

I acknowledge that EMI has been milking the cash cow of the Beatles for long enough, but I'm happier to see a premium charged for Beatles music rather than the price-trashing that goes on over at Sony/Columbia with their crown jewels (e.g. Bob Dylan back catalogue, £4.99, or free if you buy a bag of jelly beans).

Navel Gazing

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
I love Flickr, I'm hopelessly addicted, and there's a nice vibe and community feel to it all. But it can be a little like the photo equivalent of blogging, by which I mean that people are taking photos of things they wouldn't normally take photos of... just so they can put them onto flickr.

And some of these photos are superb, don't misunderstand me. It's just that you start to see a lot of the same/similar subject. The macro shot of junk you have lying around on your desk/table etc. The blurred self portrait showing mostly your eyes.

I like to see the photo-magazine definition of what constitutes fine photography being challenged. After all, there are whole websites dedicated to the blurred/vignetted photos you can take with cheap Russian cameras - and the cumulative effect of those can be stunning.

I saw a similar effect when I saw an iPhoto library full of pictures taken by my nephew with his cheap, miniature digicam. The joy of taking photos coupled with the sensation of 8mm or 16mm filmmaking: frame after similar frame moving across your vision.

But rather than walk around with my camera looking for subjects right now, I'm tempted to delve back into the past and scan a few old photos. On the other hand, I should carry my camera everywhere and gather shots while I can. For example, on a whim this morning, I drove up the A5 from the A43 to Junction 18 of the M1, instead of getting on at 15A as I'd planned. And of course you see things (with fresh eyes) on the A5 that you'd have no idea even existed if you stay permanently on the blue roads. I saw some huge circular brick structure would have made a great photo. Still, it was pissing with rain.

August 08, 2004

Coked up

Coke is it? Sheesh
Originally uploaded by swerve.
Nice coke can from James...

Whoops, must create some space, because this fucked the layout up...


August 05, 2004

in the bowels

This was taken by James... underground in our back car park. They're about to start construction of a new warehouse, and drilled some test holes in the concrete in the car park... er, hello? A HUGE empty basement/boiler room appeared, all part of the original victorian lace mill... there are even windows down there.
As Neil said, like something out of Futurama.
And it turns out, we've all been parking our cars on 12-inch thick concrete... and not a lot else.

Underground Lace Mill
Originally uploaded by swerve.

Don't Touch That Dial!

There are two sides to The Bomb Factory - the recording studios (follow link), and the plug-ins, which are now owned by Digidesign.

But the two used to be inseparable, and it's by looking at the philosophy, vibe, and equipment list of the studios that you understand where the plug-ins are coming from.

Because the plug-ins are great. Much of the resistance Pro Tools users had to switching from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X was down to the existence of a variety of cracked BF plugs. Which is why Digidesign acquired the plug-ins and why they have started using them creatively to attract people to Pro Tools products.

At the moment, if you buy a Pro Tools control surface, you get one of a variety of Bomb Factory bundles. At the lowest level, you get the Pultec EQ bundle. I'm lucky enough to have access to a not-for-resale collection of BF plugs, and they really sound incredible. Put a Pultec EQ unit across a track, for example, and it already sounds better -- before you've even touched that dial. And I've recorded (virtual) drums (virtually) through the (virtual) JOEMEEK SC2 Compressor - and they sound simply perfect to my ears: the drum sound I've been chasing for the past three years.

I've put a harpmonica part through the SansAmp PSA-1 (sounded great), and used its speaker emulation on a B4 organ part (sounds better) and just Pultec-ed everything I could (everything sounds better, meshes better).

So, quite apart from being the easiest package to use, the most rock-and-roll music sequencer, the most professional and powerful audio recording system you can buy, the main reason for using Pro Tools is to use Bomb Factory. Because even if you don't know what you're doing most of the time (hello, have we met?), they can make your stuff sound miles better. Yay, and all you need to really make the most of them is a small fortune and a much faster Mac.

August 04, 2004


I hear you say, they still can't use the stairs. Except by means of cheap special effect levitation, you mean. But if they can levitate, then they would just bounce around squashing people rather than threatening them with a sink plunger.

Christopher Ecclestone. Let's say it again: he's a twat. Which is hardly a disqualification for an ac-tor to play Dr Whom, but let's face it, there's no twat quite so depressingly twattish as a serious and earnest twat who thinks he is Jesus or something just because he played a messiah on the telly once.


See if this is familiar to you. You bring a packed lunch to work. It gets to half past ten and you're already hungry. You hold out until eleven fifteen and then dive into your lunch and start to eat. By now you're so ravenous that you eat too fast, don't chew your food properly, and then your gut goes into spasm, and you have an uncontrollable attack of hiccups and gastric reflux.

After several minutes of that you're left spent, exhausted, still hungry but feeling fainly sick, and you no longer like the taste of chicken/turkey/ham etc.


Just me, then.


I dug out an old Kodak photo CD - amazed to see it hadn't corrupted, as I wasn't taking much care with it. I took this photo in Illinois, 1992. I think we were on the outskirts of Chicago at the time. It was an obviously a very grainy, fast film. I miss that. It's not the same when you add the noise in Photoshop
Originally uploaded by mcmrbt.

August 03, 2004

Clarification Nation

A lot of you have written to ask, why is the blog called "Hoses of the Holy"? Did I perhaps make a mistake, and mean to call it "Houses..."

Well... no. I called it that as a tribute to the internet's uncanny ability to mix good information with bad, to rank a trustworthy source alongside an untrustworthy one. To get things glaringly wrong, in other words, and yet preserve the wrongness for ever more, until it stands a very good chance of being seen as write. So, "hoses" because it's so easy to leave the "u" out of "houses". Or indeed, the "e" out of "holey" - not that "holey" is in any way a proper word. How often do you spellcheck a document and print/send it, only to realise that you misspelled a word, but in doing so, correctly spelled the wrong word?

So that's that. Our hoses are full of holes, or what the terminally pretentious and over-prepared undergraduate class like to call aporia (which my spellchecker hilariously thinks should be "opera"). Water, which in this case is metaphorical information, is leaking out all over the place, spilling everywhere, and yet so much of it is just plain wrong, or very misguided. Still, it's funny isn't it, when people get things wrong. Hoses is just funnier than Houses.

*Sigh* How I wish, as an undergrad, I'd had the wherewithal to ask, "Why are we talking about opera all of a sudden?" Then there was that word, extradiegetic was it? A word used by one of the Profs in one of his books - and yet a word that didn't even appear in the fattest, bloatedest, most multi-voluminous dictionary I could find. This is where your clear understanding, as a reader, just gives up and sits down to have a quiet weep. Everything from then on is only vaguely making it into the knowledge centres of your brain. I sort of think I know what you're talking about, only I sort of think I might not, too.

The innernet is like this all of the time.


It's funny how clothes sizes go: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, Extra Extra Large... Seems to me we should have an "Extra Medium" size (for the truly average). There's no rhyme or reason to the sizes either. Marks and Spencer Large really is very large indeed, whereas in France I tend to have to buy Extra Large, because their Large is really rather Medium. Here is my proposal for correct sizing:


August 02, 2004


Do you ever know what altitude you are at? The bit that impressed me most about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is when he adjusts his carburettor to take account of the altitude in the mountains. Nice. I always wanted to do something like that.

Plancher Bas is at 424 metres (1,391 feet), not all that high. It runs down a river valley, so to go anywhere other than down river, you have to go up hill. Auxelles Bas is only 4-5 km distant, but is around 100 metres higher, at just over 1,700 feet. So I set myself the challenge of cycling up that hill this holiday. I didn't take my own bike with me, but borrowed my brother-in-law's mountain bike, which turned out not to be as good as mine. The tyres are too fat for road riding, and its gears were a bit fucked (the odd slippage when you tried to apply some pressure), and it was a trifle small for me, with no toeclips on the pedals. All in all, I estimate it was costing me 25-30% of the energy I was putting into it.

But I got up that hill. There was a speedometer on the bike. I was in the bottom granny gear, and I was doing 8km per hour for the last couple of kilometers. After an hour's rest in the garden at Auxelles Bas, I went back down, topping out at 48 km per hour before I slowed it for a bend. Again, those fat tyres were costing speed. I'd have hit 60 kph on my own bike, I'm sure.

I did a couple more rides, up to the waterfalls beyond Plancher Les Mines. Further to ride, with a gentler climb, just 10 kilometers each way. But then when I went out on my 10 mile home circuit yesterday, it felt so easy. The hills that had seemed like mountains to me before, I breezed up them, with an Armstrong-like pedalling cadence. I killed that ride. Possibly my last time, because we move next weekend, so I'm glad to have killed it at last.


Update: I worked out at lunchtime that I live at around 40 metres above sea level (131 feet), and my weekend bike rides take me no more than 10 metres above that, so my feeling on the Plancher-Auxelles ride that I couldn't get enough air into my lungs was probably real. A bit.

And we're back

Summer fun is over. Winter, for me, begins in August.
Originally uploaded by mcmrbt.