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Friday June 3 2005

For those who might be wondering

why I have yet again ranted recently about changing over to some other method of publishing this blog and then gone all quiet again and kept on with Blog, I offer my explanation. I was enraged by getting weird effects in my posts. Principally, an entry would simply disappear from a certain point on when published. Coupled with this, all previous entries on the same page would then appear in a comedy small font. This drove me to distraction, but being a fairly unstructured individual I had not nailed the common denominator which caused these problems. In my defence, the problems would appear when I actually sent the entry to the web and not as I wrote them in the editor part of Blog. So unless I went straight off and viewed my site I wouldn't immediately know that the errors had occurred. And anyway, I require my software to give good, consistent results; my brain doesn't necessarily do the same.

Despite the odds, I realized what was going wrong. It was an issue which arose when I copied and pasted text from the web, quoting. Not something I do that much, which also helped to cause the lengthy delay in nailing the problem. When I pasted the text into Blog's editor, the software would add a little HTML code to that start of it, but not to the end. Massive irony here, but I cannot tell you what code in this blog because quoting the HTML in question causes the bug to appear!! This is not the only bug in the HTML editing component used in Blog, but it's the most annoying. The sooner the component gets changed the better, but while the other coding Fahim has done on Blog is clearly sound I'm staying with his software. I really like everything else about the way it works, and I hope that Fahim finds time to sort out the rough patched soon - busy though I know he is.


Posted at 9:25 pm by Jim Woods

It's not just me then.

There's a rave, and rather more studied, review of Porpoise Corpus on this blog too. Read down a bit.

Oh, yeah - and there's a mention here for key (a terrible pun I know) brethren Dave O'Brian. I've got a Julian Siegel album, coincidentally.



Posted at 9:20 pm by Jim Woods

Right then,

duly fortified by my small but perfectly formed dinner, a gig review.

I was persuaded to make one of my disgracefully infrequent visits to the Oxford University Jazz Society. These intrepids are found on term-time - and no, I'm afraid I don't really know when that is off the top of my head but I'm sure that the omniscient web does - in the City Tavern on Market Street. Thursday evenings. Usually it's a jam, and no less worth a look for that, but there are also end of term gigs. These are always especially worth attending, and last night's ranked right up there with the best. Porpoise Corpus are an outfit I hadn't seen before, but they were excellent. Not only really good players, but really interesting ones. Therefore my experience rapidly turned from marvelling at the skill to thinking "this is really interesting". They describe themselves as "from jazz to funk to metal and back again", but I'm not sure that this does them justice. Talking about music is, of course, like dancing about architecture. Fortunately there's a demo track here you can listen to. Again, this does some justice to the band's live show but is far from a total reflection. There is an awful lot to this music, constantly shifting as it does, and the themes float on a massively propulsive rhythm section. I've never thought that the lack of a massively propulsive rhythm section did much for anything myself. I was occasionally reminded of mid-period Miles Davis, but that tends to happen with me whenver I hear anything remotely out there that I like and should not be taken as a particularly accurate image.

I really urge anyone with a broad appreciation of music to catch this lot where you can. Although it's rather short notice, I see that they're doing the Jazz Cafe in Camden next Sunday. And if I come across any more details of when and where that might be I'll post them here.


Posted at 8:49 pm by Jim Woods

Filled yesterday

very nicely with a lot of visual arts and a gig. We (as in denizens of Oxfordshire) have this superb local event, spread over a few weeks, where all sorts of artists put on shows in a wide variety of venues. Venues such as shops and galleries, but also in many cases at home or in their studios. The end result is that one can troll around and see all sorts of stuff for free. And the standard in general is very high. There were/are 360-odd exhibitions this year. I did not visit them all :> The great pleasure of this event for me is to prepare myself in appropriate and easily-imagined ways, and then get some decent music on the personal stereo and walk around the locality taking in selected stuff. If it's a nice day then so much the better. Yesterday was pleasant, although muggy, and I thoroughly enjoyed my outing. These are some (extremely) brief notes on what I saw:

First I went to the amazing little hamlet of Bartlemas, just off the busy Cowley Road. You'd never know this was here, but it's survived since medieval times. Cottages and a chapel, the remains of a leper hospital. Recommended for a visit even when it's not hosting an art exhibition. I really appreciated Kate Morris's pinhole photography there, much of which was of the chapel itself. Atmospheric, for a one-word assessment.

Next I walked to Restore on Manzil Way, a charity which "offers creative work rehabilitation and training for people experiencing mental health problems in Oxfordshire" and which has a great smallish garden where you can buy plants. There was a lot of stuff here - paintings, drawings and photography as well as the more handcrafty stuff which is always produced. What stood out for me was some amazing colour photographs of a geographical and mineral type. Strange-coloured veins of minerals and so on. I failed to note the name of the photographer, but then I took very sparse notes indeed. I was soaking up the sights, not writing an essay.

East Oxford Weavers had some stone sculpting which would go nicely in my courtyard garden if I had the loot to commission it, as well as a couple of paintings I really liked. Weaving, however, isn't really my bag. Still, all power to those who do it nonetheless.

East Oxford Mosaic workshop was a cornucopia of attractive little mosaic-framed mirrors and other wall-hung stuff. All things which, again, I could easily imagine at home. In fact, in view of how reasonable all the prices were here that may become the case. Some great mosaic fish, at which point I suddenly realized quite how much fish featured in the art I saw all day. I even have a friend who does fish paintings exclusively.

Magdalen Road Studios had a ton of exhibits. I was most struck by the strangely scientific paintings of Martha Lewis. Themed around various principles and diagrams, and next to impossible to describe here in words, I found them fascinating. I was reminded a little of fractal art, where formulae give rise to patterns. Have a look at her site.

Stella Campion was showing her jewellery and other work in metals at her Cowley Road studio tucked away behind a Chinese restaurant. My favourite thing was a great picture of three, you guessed it, fish. Again, difficult - and probably pointless - to describe verbally. But very beautiful, and seeming to have more dimensional depth than one could actually see was there.

Standingford House in Cave Street had a studio exhibition by Tom Kemp, Nina Gustar and Paul Mortimer. This was a particularly rewarding visit as all three of the artists were in attendance, winding one-another up with drawing exercises. I liked everything here, and in particular the acrylic work by Kemp and Nina's flower photographs. She kindly gave me a couple of desktop calendars. Yes, I do like flower photographs.

I crossed St Clements and visited the Christadelphian Hall, where the Oxford Printmakers were doing their thing. A lot of really interesting prints here, on the widest imaginable variety of themes. As the exhibition was held in the workshop, I was reminded of my publishing degree days at Oxford Polytechnic. Nice to know that even in the digital age there's a flourishing scene doing things the analogue way.

In fact, that's one of the main things I took away from my whole day's experience. Because of the work I do, and because I have always been a pretty keen computer user in general, I have become used to thinking that the best way to go about doing most jobs in music and photography is likely to involve a degree of digital technology. But rather in the way that vinyl offers something that digital audio never can, my senses were really stimulated by visiting so many pieces of visual art which had three dimensions, a smell and in most cases uniqueness. All sorts of stuff that's really there, in fact, rather than massaged to a glossy perfection and outputted in endlessly-repeatable forms.

Of course, when the technology which the Printmakers use came along, painters probably railed against it as a new monstrosity too.

The rather fine gig I went to in the evening will have to be the subject of a separate entry, but I'll write it when I get back from Tesco...


Posted at 6:57 pm by Jim Woods

Thursday June 2 2005

So many podcasts,

so little time. It's only just dawning on me that I've fashioned another rod to beat my own back. Podcast.net - home of more stuff than you'll ever have time to listen to. Notes from Spain has the kind of real-life DIY vibe I'd hoped for. A lot of other stuff I cam across seemed either po-faced and dull or just plain crap. After long years of work with musicians I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised that any new medium that makes it easier for people to make their own records / write and publish online / create their own radio throws up a preponderance of rubbish. Harsh but true. It is, as always, down to sorting the wheat from the chaff. But I face the same problems you do with this, since I have more time than many people and a little spare dosh for cultural artifacts - and I can't keep on top of it all.

As a portly old codger in the early twenty-first century, I am inundated by:

Sky TV, all but the movie and sports channels - hundreds of channels filtered, examined and - let's face it - blagged by me TiVo. 200 radio stations alone. Mother.

Constant deluges of cheap deals on CDs and DVDs in HMV and Virgin and on Amazon.

Books, books everywhere. Reading is king.

The web - ooh the web, with it's massive amounts of stuff to read and listen to. A killer, this one. Cams, web radio, forums...

Other stimuli (the real world, that'll be). Museums. Stuff like that.

And now I have invested in the ability to carry a lot of audio about. I must be mad. Getting out and about was the only rest I was getting from all this culture.

Seriously, we all need better filters. It won't help someone who is as obsessive-compulsive as I am about trying to keep abreast of what's out there, but it ought to make life a bit easier for others. I mean, when keeping up with what's around is seeming like a job then what do we do to relax?

I find the suggestions that Amazon makes to me are about the best advice I get on what I might want to check out. And they only love me for my money. It's true, I don't know why they don't just tell me to my face. I came to terms with it years ago.

Where the hell shall I take my Zen on holiday?


Posted at 3:56 am by Jim Woods

Very beautiful photos

of very beautiful France. Lookit.


Posted at 2:58 am by Jim Woods

Right, then.

Where was I? Oh yes, sleeping and then off on the curry with friends in Thame. Now I'll do my homework, and perform the musical baton thing.

So, first up:

Total volume of music files on my computer? Oh, most embarrassing one first then is it? Let's have a look. Hmm, less than half a gig. Well, that's not where I keep my music. I have a load of CDs, quite a few tapes, and a bit of vinyl. I have one really good hifi, one quite good hifi and a few other little systems dotted around the house. I tend to play CDs on 'em all, or listen to streaming net radio via Winamp. I have ripped a load of stuff to my new MP3 Zen toy thing, but I didn't bother keeping copies on my system. I just ripped straight from the CDs to the jukebox.

In short, I have f-all music files on my computer. Oh, five gig odd of people's album I've recorded and/or produced now and in the past. Good job I remembered them

The last CD I bought was? Easy - the Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Park Avenue South". Nice :) I noticed later that it is from a "live at Starbuck's" series, but it's a good recording of a cool gig. Normally I would sneer and avoid such branded stuff for obvious reasons. Still, given that the forces of darkness inexorably draw closer to victory and that we have probably irrevocably crossed the line into plastic-shit-world, I reckon I might as well lie back and enjoy the music.

Whatever next, though?

Five songs I listen to a lot / that mean a lot to me? Argh, these sorts of list questions do my head in. I can never remember. I know this sounds evasive, I know it sounds brain-damaged. I am both evasive and brain-damaged, I cheerfully admit. This'll take ages.

Er, Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way". I love the whole "Rumours" album. It's about the best rock album ever made - winning tune after winning tune. I listened to it an hour a day driving into London and an hour a day driving back, and that was twenty years ago, and I still want to play it. Gold.

Pink Floyd, "Time" from "Dark Side of the Moon". More classic stuff. All time great album, and I like the song because I'm a morose git of an upper-middle class ex-public school boy. Either you get it or you don't. But this is the record if you do. Grew up on it.

The Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds". Part of the soundtrack to my idle but gratifying days of dividing my sloth between West Hampstead and Oxford. I was renovating houses at the time, which can be broadly translated as buying a house, paying someone else to do the donkey work of making it lovely and selling it on at a large profit - then to be spent on lengthy sojourns in France and Holland. The market did the work at the time, and things were sweet. Then the property market crashed in the late eighties, and my shirt was lost. C'est la vie. Still got my Orb records.

Miles Davis, anything off "Bitches Brew". 'Twas the early nineties, and my life was such that I thought I'd better get a bit more scholarly about the whole music thing. This meant jazz. I mean, it's all-encompasser after all. I'd heard this Davis chap could toot a bit, so I went down to Blackwell's Music Shop and got a cheapo triple CD. It nearly killed me. I couldn't see what the hell was going on. I persevered, though, by candlelight and armed with mild stimulants. I enjoyed it the way one might enjoy watching a very frightening film sitting with one's back to an open window on a breezy summer night. While off one's face. Eventually, I liked it. Eventually I realized that what I had was a load of live out-takes from the mid-period. I then bought other stuff from the same period of Davising, including Bitches Brew and - ooh, about twenty other albums (he put out a hundred or so I believe). What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Rem, "Man in the Moon". I'm a moonie, OK? I like almost all of REM's stuff, because they have a way with a tune and the lyrics punch above their weight. An arbitrary choice from their oeuvre, then, but it's a great song.

There are loads more I'm sure. But that's five, and it's been a lengthy process thinking of those. Duty is discharged, and the baton must be passed.

You know, the only people I even very minutely know who have blogs have already done this. All the people I know who'd relish the chance don't write stuff online. Luddites all. So I've no idea who to pass the baton to at all. I'll give it some thought.



Posted at 1:44 am by Jim Woods

Wednesday June 1 2005

Er, I'm guessing here what

this baton thing means...

I think I have to list some musicky things to do with me, so I will. But not at this hour, despite my nocturnal tendencies. It's bath time!

Tomorrow I list.


Posted at 4:12 am by Jim Woods

Monday May 30 2005

A nifty little piece of software, this iPodder.

And really quite simple too. You tell it what podcasts you want to subscribe to, and it forages them for you when they are available. Simple as that. It's like subscribing to an email newsletter or whatever - you state your interest, and they send you the updates. So you get a load of audio entertainment delivered as and when, and there's an awful lot of interesting stuff out there. Now, I realize that this is not in of itself revolutionary stuff but simply a way of automating a task which you can perform with a fair amount of browser-bashing; you can visit the appropriate sites and manually download 'casts all you like, of course. But this costs nothing and saves you quite a lot of time and effort. I look at it as a kind of audio TiVo. A way of ensuring that one has a stock of good entertainment available when you actually need it rather than when there happens to be something on. Loading this stuff up on my Zen is going to ensure that I have good things to listen to at all times. You don't need a portable jukebox device, though. You can just listen to the podcasts on your computer just as easily. So it's worth a spin.

And yes, I know the name's a bit cheesy. It's nothing to do with Apple or the iPod per se, just a slightly corny name. I have nothing against iPods by the way - they just didn't have a model that fitted the bill for me.


Posted at 4:35 pm by Jim Woods

Sunday May 29 2005

So far so good

with the Creative Zen Micro sonic weapon. I can't report on the sound quality with the supplied in-ear phones because I have a pathological loathing of such things, being the proud owner of very small ears. Bit like a hippopotamus or something really. What I have got, having checked out the subject with a smattering of diligence, is a pair of Panasonic neckband 'phones which clip onto the tiny ears and are as comfortable as any. They also sound good. They sound good on the Zen also. The Zen sounds good. Things are, you'll have gathered, sounding good.

Obviously I've been loading the thing up with indispensable sounds. Loads of 'em, from Miles Davis to Banco de Gaia and who knows what else. Well, I do, but at the moment a list is beyond me. I've also been scouring the net for legit audio to put on the Zen.

Freaky thing - just as I typed Banco de Gaia in above as a fairly arbitrary outfit representative of what I'm ripping, Winamp comes up with a B de G track playing on the web radio station I'm currently listening to in the background. Coincidence? You decide. Experience 2 FM, should you want a chilled dubby vibe to point your software at, pop pickers.

Have a look at all the fine podcasts at podcast.net if you're of a mind. The basic idea is that you download whole shows, programs or whatever you like to term them and put them on your pod-u-like for perusal at your leisure. This is seen to be the cool new thing, and I must say that I can really see the appeal.

Yes, despite initial misgiving about battery life and durability and social isolation and all that sort of stuff I have to report that these little jukebox jobbos are great fun. With my crafty ASDA shove-things-through-your-car-cassette-player thingy I can now listen to masses of great stuff while motoring, and obviously the device is most often used as a walkthing. Also, having audio setups all over the house (one beast, others more modest) it is possible in most cases to just plug into a line input and enjoy anything I have on the Zen. Handy as the proverbial f*ck.

File under worthwhile things.


Posted at 5:49 pm by Jim Woods

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