Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Martian Chronicled

So is there a word for that feeling you get when you get to the end of the big film, the titles are rolling, the music is swelling up around you and slowly everybody leaves their seats, kind of stumbles along to the steps and with coats and bags and stuff and heads down the stairs in the flickering film light to the flat front of house and then out into through the two sets of double doors to the main corridor that gets you back to the foyer and daylight? Your head is in in odd place and it's tough to strike up conversation. Things like "wow" or "that sucked" might be going through your head but how you really are feeling can be difficult to express. It must be a common experience and situation but I don't quite have a good, appropriate word for it. I bet the Germans do.

This random thought was sparked by an unusual early Sunday afternoon visit to the cinema to watch "the Martian" in wonderful 3D. It was fine really, I'd mark it at an 80% as a good piece of  Sci-fi entertainment, there's some minor plot holes and a bit of miscasting here and there but well worth the watch.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Vinyl black hole

Still on this erratic voyage of rediscovery. This week's chosen item of pleasure / torture being "Then Play On". A suicidal and enigmatic offering that sees the doomed guitar stars, Danny Kirwan and Peter Green burn themselves out as they question existence and meaning via the neck of a Les Paul. The therapy didn't work and the band collapsed shortly thereafter as M Fleetwood, J McVie and the mischievous J Spencer, all clearly sidelined from the beginning of this project looked on aghast and sought out their own kinds of personal salvation. That led to a mixture of tragedy and multi-million dollar sales and earnings. None of that seemed likely in 1972 to this puzzled listener.

So after 40+ years what are we left with? As an album it's not aged well, Kirwan's songs are trite and annoying, Green's troubled work masquerades as deep and spiritual but is saved by that guitar tone and finger light technique. His mental health is certainly stretched out in the lyrics but back then who knew anything of the dark side of the mind? It's a bizarre and mixed album. Maybe best forgotten but, if like me you first heard it as a vinyl scraping and head booming experience when a teenager then the angst and the questioning probably disturbed you. It scarred you just enough for you to remember it with fondness and if nothing else respect for the unpolluted, undistorted studio sound of a real band. Best track? Rattlesnake Shake, it has everything; mad drums, big guitar sound, humour and ritualistic and comical masturbation. Next!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

VW reboot

I'm intrigued by the VW car doctoring scandal. A squillion vehicles need to be recalled or at least rewired all across the world because they've been fitted with cheating software. What is the problem and what is the best solution? Firstly, changing the software on the car's engine management system will not alter how it runs, it won't be any more or less green,  so I doubt that it's in anyone's interest, innocent VW owners and innocent VW dealers to try to cowboy these cars back into compliant shape; way too much effort and trouble there. The answer, as far as this low grade ex-coder is concerned is simple. You don't fix the cars, you already know that they are designed to lie and you know the parameters of the lie, you (well VW) know what they coded in to fix the figures so you have a baseline.

The solution is really to do nothing, leave the cars alone and let them run till they need a check or MoT or whatever. What needs to change is the equipment that tests the emissions. It needs a patch that counteracts and adjusts the actual readings to take into account the false figures. Once that is recalculated you will have numbers that are meaningful. The software is still lying but the reader knows the extent of the lie and adjusts for the lie to provide the true result. Of course that needs to be rolled out to all the test equipment but that's a lot less work that bringing the cars in prematurely and screwing with them, in my humble opinion. There you go, just saved VW £££s and their unfortunate owners and garages a whole lot of time.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Apparently it happens from time to time, the experts know these things. I hadn't noticed until it started trending on Twitter. So time to print out those photographs, superglue the thermometer, tidy up a bit, remove superglue from the fingers, look at pictures of various super moons, super skies, super sizes, superannuation and Martian salty water. Then there's the freezing of the surplus mince, the cat checking and the odd sock sorting and maybe even picking up and playing some random musical instrument, gentle tooth picking sessions and mulling over the poor answer quotient achieved in tonight's University Challenge. Then a cup of tea and just for a laugh switch the router off and on again. You never know.

Freedom Graffiti

Syrian artist Tammam Azzam and his personal version of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” on a war-torn building in Syria. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pleasant Blood Moon Sunday

All seems fine but death walks behind you.
It has been a pleasant day here and I've nothing to moan about for a change. We've been here and there, we ate Moroccan soup, sipped wine, overtook tractors, found plants, talked the talk, sat in the sun, took photographs and caught up and reminisced. Then we made plans for waking up early and a dancing in the garden in the dim and strange light cast by a blood moon while an imagined ring of fire blazed around the world. We will make vivid and elaborate wishes. We shall see...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The End

 A great photograph captures the end of the the big  chimneys at Cockenzie Power Station near Edinburgh earlier today. Gone. A coal fired power station as obsolete as...well you tell me. We live in a post industrial Scotland, we don't make things anymore and worse than that we've forgotten how to. We are impotent. It's  called skills fade, nobody talks about it but it's a bigger blight than cancer. Cheap labour in far away and unstable economies do all the manufacturing for us as we sit back drinking shit coffee with all our blank faced service providers and our facilities management people silently importing container loads of things we can't afford to make anymore. We are powered by wind, a legacy of fear and false promises and one fine day it will all collapse around us.

The daily fridge photo

Fridges: Lucky enough to have a full fridge in a hungry world. Don't take that for granted, ever. By the way the apple crumble from yesterday  turned out well apart from the completely carbonised raisins. They were sitting innocently atop the crumble and duly burned to a blackened crisp during the high temperature baking. A cruel fate, so we live and learn. 

Airport body scanners: These things are of course set to beep randomly and so push you into the search zone just for the hell of it and the amusement of the staff industriously processing you to be ready for the flight. My most recent frisking showed me as having something odd on my shoulder. On the screen there were two yellow rectangles on my left side. Of course the body tapping search revealed nothing and I was duly moved on, no explanation. I'm just left with the knowledge that there's some kind of shape drawing WordArt thing going on in my body that can only be seen by these scanners and nothing else. There they are, sitting like geometric tumours, invisible and painless but real enough to be picked up by the machinery which I presume was designed and programmed by the Volkswagen school of configuration and engineering. Blah, next time take the train.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dull in Bristol

It was dull in Bristol the other day.

Fruit on Friday

Most days we eat fairly healthy stuff; above is today's stockpile of fruit and an apple (from the garden) and nut and dried fruit ensemble topped with crumble. Before that gets dished up it'll be a warm and greasy chicken Korma with nan and pakora. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Forever Autumn

Perfect: Carole King's demo of Pleasant Valley Sunday is about as musically and lyrically perfect as any pop song could ever be. As a dry, observant and slightly caustic piece of social commentary and with (just a little bit of) hope it ticks all the right boxes. The Monkee's version is fine also but this has a powerful haunting, empty quality about it.

Autumnal Equinox: Today is the first day of autumn here in the UK. The day and the night are the same length making some kind of nox type of day. I quite like the sense of balance and spreading out of time that that implies. The whole day sliced squarely down the middle with equal amounts of light and dark. In a differently proportioned universe that might be the case all the time and if it was we'd probably be riding around on a geometrically correct but unseasonal and dead planet. Four seasons in one year is about right.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


If you've not really broken through and written any decent songs for a while...this is how it feels.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Favourite Painting

Today's favourite painting may well not be tomorrow's. Way too long and big for the blog page to do justice to it but I thought I'd put this up rather than anything else today (Cordelia's farewell from King Lear). I'm staying away from commenting on politics, scandal, lies and pigs. I'm avoiding mentioning the BBC, Trump or the Liberal Democrats. Music, diet, Volkswagen and rugby, they can all fly away. SNP v labour, oil and gas prices and Chinese atomic scientists, fast food, bad food and over indulgence leading to diabetes. I'm opting out and in to myself for a quiet life here inside my own head where I can make my own healthy space. Soup and apple juice, gallons of it. That's my plan.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My latest novel

Actually when printing goes wrong this is the kind of thing that happens and you may get anything up to 37 pages. So much for AI taking over the world. They'll look like they are up for domination until the upgrades start to download. Then it's all headed in one direction and unstoppable. Perhaps that's the secret of Dr Who's sonic screwdriver, it just sends out a pulse of the latest upgrades and patches and...boom. Dear fellow humans you have nothing to fear, go and plan your future in peace and serenity (unless it's an Apple operating system within the AI beast).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The secret life of apples

After yesterday's apple picking extravaganza today it was time to process the fruit.  Here are some artistic photos. Processing involves a kind of mechanised, ritualistic peeling ceremony, boiling and gathering, draining and straining and then stuffing them colostomy style into freezer bags for freezing. Thankfully no blood was spilled and the entire operation was approved by SEPA as environmentally sound and generally good for the planet. Don't ask me anything about the whole chemical and biological requirements thing, it's really tricky and frankly is all done to some secret recipe known only in this closeted part of Fife. Tomorrow we'll get fighting drunk on the new wild apple wine and have a crumble and pie festival running on until the early hours with loud music and wanton gluttony and dancing. We might even stick a spare apple into the mouth of a pig to see what happens. Just another ordinary Sunday round here then.

Friday, September 18, 2015


Up and down ladders, stretching, grabbing and catching, throwing away the bad apples and bagging the good ones. Now to find something creative, worthwhile and wholesome to do with them. Of course winter is coming and as we are apprentice doomsday preppers we must fill the freezer and the larder. If only we had a larder and some decent barricades and sandbags. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Naked and Afraid XL

At first I thought that it was about some kind of spreadsheet fetish but no, it's worse. It's a TV show where neurotic, white, middle class Californians who all have some kind of "survival skill" try to survive on what looks like a Colombian waste tip but without the waste or the rest of the population. Everybody preaches to themselves and the persistent camera while keeping the fire going, moaning and revealing their tattoo collection. It's on the Discovery Channel of course. Like Jesus they are trapped for 40 days and 40 nights but there's no revelation, just lizards and electric eel on the menu as they test themselves and their ideals. It's like a grumpy cocktail party where everybody is way too tired to have sex, admire their clothes or talk sense. Nobody ever goes to the toilet and there's always clean water and I imagine some big reality TV director is hiding in the long grass drinking beer and smoking cigars. It's OK to say fuck but nipples are pixelled out. Compelling TV? Bizarrely yes and obviously no but the season finale is on next week so it could go either way.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Palace of Westminster

Here's  a fine piece of comic artwork. We live in an eternally stupid and  perpetual age of renaissance, mind control and civil war with only science fiction and games technology to save us. There is no believable god and no credible government, at least that I can find on the Internet and Google through these very pages is sucking out our consciousness and replacing it with slices of watermelon. If you don't believe me then take a good long look inside your own head. Today's despairing but optimistic rant has been brought to you by more Captain Beefheart (than is good for you), Fast n' Loud, a tin of sardines, instant porridge and various text and Facebook messages. Thank you all.


"Dates from ancient Greek times, where "deus ex machina" ("god from the machine") in a play referred to the act of lowering a god on stage using a cable device (therefore, a god from a machine) to decide in a dilemma and give fate a nudge, so to say. These days, deus ex machina has the negative connotation of an utterly improbable, illogical or baseless plot twist that drastically alters the situation, as if the "deus ex machina" came down to give fate that little push."

Another evening spent anticipating the potential problems of allowing any kind of AI other than a Hoover to enter your life or worse your kitchen where sharp knives may be freely available. Films do sometimes affect me. I thought that the first law of robotics was don't ever point a pointed sharp pointy thing at the soft and fleshy body of a nearby human. I was wrong, that's been missed out in the code. These clever people always make basic mistakes. I guess that's why scientists and doctors can't cook. Strange when so many other things have been coded in, like sexual energy, flirting and having a nice soft voice etc.  So what's the point of being rich if all you do is spend your time building robots and drinking beer? Maybe that's it really. Eventually I fell asleep but my pattern was