Friday, May 22, 2015

Late Night Snack: Boiled Eggs

I can't tell you how to do this because I've never successfully boiled an egg, partly because I don't like them.

Today's Recipe: Beans on Toast

Preparation time: 7.5 minutes

You Will Need

One can of baked beans
Two slices of bread
Some butter

Method

Open the can of baked beans and tip them into a pan.
Put this pan on the cooker and heat thoroughly, stirring from time to time with a spoon.
Meanwhile, put the bread into the toaster if you have one, or under the grill to brown on both sides.
When the toast is ready, place the slices on to a plate and spread butter on them with a knife.
When this task is complete, carefully tip the beans on to the toast.
Your meal is now ready to eat.

Variations

You could try grating some black pepper on top, to taste.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Computer Said No

But only after I'd spent an hour inputting 90 marks. It pretended it have saved them, and then thumbed its nose and said it hadn't. I'd waited two hours for someone to help before a kind chap sat on the other end of the phone with me chanting strings of code; I typed away, but we couldn't make it say 'Yes'.
I fell asleep standing up on the tube on the way home and was woken by the smell of paper from a commuting fellow's brand new paperback book.
It was a rather gorgeous smell actually, but I'm so glad to be home.

Thankful for Large Mercies

I managed all day yesterday not to fret; I managed not to race to work and I managed to control my trembling fingers as I unlocked the office today.
Yesss! The USB drive with all my research on it was still plugged into the back of the computer. Can't remember when I last backed it up, you see.
Praise the Lord, I will not have to excavate the recycling bin full of smelly rocket wrappers (I buy it and don't eat it), and I won't have to try to re-write it all from the last saved version.
What a relief.
Now I just have to work out a way to hide the unavoidably feminist conclusions so that potential readers can see beyond that to a very interesting discourse.
After marking the last fifteen pieces of work and doing one more day's data inputting, of course.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sun/Glasses

I went to meet a friend this afternoon. It was lovely to see her; on the way there I walked through town.
The sun was shining into my eyes so I decided to put my sunglasses on.
It wasn't until five minutes later with the sun still shining in my eyes, and when I became irritated by not being able to see anything further than a metre from my face, that I realised I'd put my normal glasses on instead.
Doh.
That's what Tuesday's day of data inputting did for the brain.
When the marking mountain has disappeared, you will hear me whooping from the rooftops!

Listening to BBC Radio One

To alleviate the tedium of the deadly task of washing the winter jumpers to put into the loft, I tuned into Fearne Cotton on Radio One for an energy boost while I kneaded and scrubbed the knitwear at the kitchen sink.
I rarely listen to the radio, but I have enjoyed today's adventure.
Amongst a tangled skein of processed vocals, Lianne La Havas stood out a mile. I have recently had an overwhelming impression of tracks sung by women being invaded by male rappers, but that doesn't seem so bad at the moment. It used to sound as though we weren't allowed to express anything private without a bloke being there to comment and monitor. Bursting through the doors of the song, the guy boomed out an assertive message that reduced the female singer to decorative hummings and twitterings, her own message superseded by Mister.
I also enjoyed Courtney Barnett's Dead Fox, despite it sounding bit Brit School round the edges.
There are quite a lot of London accents about on the airwaves (Tinie Tempah was there too); but where are the regional accents from other parts of the UK? Urban music must surely strike a chord (sic) in Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Bristol and Cardiff. If I was an A&R person (which thankfully I'm not, if being one is anything like the 'listening to 45 songs on Monday' experience) I would trawl round the regions to find out who young people are listening to. Does LIPA encourage young northern acts to northernise their output? They definitely should.
In amongst the backing track undergrowth, I heard echoes of early Depeche Mode (or 'Depressed Mood' as their publicist Claudine used to call them, when I worked for her in the 1980s), with a strong Vince Clarke influence, and swooping through the vocal mixes I heard the Bee Gees, no less!
Pop music hasn't changed that much, I don't think.
If you look back at old Top of the Pops episodes, you can see and hear just how dire it used to be; some of it is rubbish (and always will be), but there's some great stuff out there too. For every clumsy rapper who can't fit in the bars there's a hilarious wordsmith, and for every over-manipulated (sic, sorry) young female vocalist signed for the looks we can't hear on the radio (meow, sorry again), there's a genuinely beautiful voice that authenticates meaningful lyrics with its loveliness.
It has been a very interesting listening morning.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cutting Vinyl

A few weeks ago, Martin went off to cut a track the old-fashioned way, on a lathe while playing live.
I wish I could have been there to see it; they made a little film.
Over there stand Martin, Jim and Frankie (who is playing double bass). In the foreground, Lorna bends over the machine, rapidly brushing the debris off the black lacquer as it revolves, with a tiny white long-haired brush. You can see the grooves being cut, and under the machine is an ever-growing pile of shredded lacquer that has tumbled off the disc.
We were talking about this at work today: about the sculpture cut into lacquer by amplified sound waves directed on to it by a microphone, from a band of musicians playing live. They have to get it right; they only have one chance, and the song has to be roughly three minutes long or it won't fit on to the disc.
Musing on the train on the way home from work, I wondered what would happen if you reconstructed the spiral of lacquer that fell to the floor and tried to play that. Would you get a negative image of the music on the disc? What would that sound like, I wonder?
How very Georges Perec! Pretentious, moi?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Marking

I'm so tired that I can't even move. I've marked and given feedback on something like 36 songs today, and my ears are ringing. Last week I marked 49 websites, 20 one thousand word essays and 20 three thousand word essays, and there is more of the same to do this week. Then there is the data inputting, for three lots of 40, and two lots of 55 students. Then I have to re-write an academic article, apply for funding for a research project, write an academic paper for a conference in June and if I'm lucky, start recording an album. One day at a time, I think.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Killer Whale

Have you noticed that George Osborne dresses as a Killer Whale?
That dark, dark suit and that white, white shirt.
That dark, dark hair and that white, white skin.
Read The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson and draw some conclusions of your own; it gives a new meaning to 'Eat Your Greens'.

Recording Again

It's been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely lonely, lonely time.
Hello Logic, hello interface, how are you? Both looking fine!
As usual, I myself am the hurdle that I have to get over.
First of all, when I use the tuner on my Spanish guitar, no signal comes out of the jack socket.
That was the first sound of silence; I finally realised when I'd switched everything on, off, re-booted the computer, had a tea break and sat staring into space for ten minutes.
Then the interface didn't seem to work, so I tried a different one, then a different guitar lead, then a direct line in (am I boring you?), tried mono, tried stereo, before consulting the internet forums and raising that I'd selected the wrong input and I should have been using Input 2 and not Input 1.
I played the song again and again and got fret buzz, distortion, this that and the other.
By the time I'd stopped recording I could play it perfectly in time with the click. Two hours after, I have a recording but as everyone knows, you can't listen to it directly after recording it because your ears are f*cked and you need a little time to be an objective listener.
So there was only one thing to do: go out and buy chocolate.
And that is what I did.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Disability Rocks in Matlock

After the shock of realising the scheduled time for my bit was actually 12.20 and not 3.30 and a pressurised dash up the M1, the sound of the DMU Gospel Choir was a welcome relief from the dire political news of Friday morning. Swaying in their red robes, they tagged each other for lead voice or conductor roles, singing beautiful harmonies with a signer at the side. I had a quick tune up and then followed them after an intro by Paul Cookson whose witty and perceptive poetry introduced the different artists. I've got used to playing with cold fingers and it was a joy to play another gig for Disability Rocks, an amazing organisation that welcomes all people to their events, regardless of ability, race, age, sexuality or anything else you can think of. Later, we watched Brooks Williams' crafted guitar playing; I particularly enjoyed the blues he played on the resonator guitar; Sam Hill Jnr player a set of strongly emotional songs dedicated to his family that struck a pensive chord with the audience. Then Martin got everyone dancing with a set of fingerpicking' tunes, slipping The Lilac Tree in there alongside Charlie Poole. A chap in a white t-shirt became entranced and leapt to his feet in excitement, throwing poses; even I got up and danced to Leonard Cohen's Suzanne which somehow didn't seem out of place: somehow even that one had a dance groove on Saturday. A little face-painted pirate swung her feet on a hay bale while a couple of green tigers looked on. It was a fab day out for everyone, performers and audience alike: roll on the next one!

Friday, May 08, 2015

The Precipice

I have been at Gina's this morning; we are planning to make a documentary together,  and there is a lot to talk about. For artists, musicians, writers and so on, the future is always built on a bridge made of cards balanced by tricksters; it fades into an uncertain distance with no promise not to collapse at any moment. So no change there; what feels disturbing is the idea of a permanent underclass being the norm, and approved by three quarters of the people you walk past in the street.
Yes, that is disturbing.
We were talking about protest songs, and how perhaps they work better delivered via dance music rather than what I call 'E moaners' who drone on with their guitars at people who aren't listening.
The other day I learned that the 'inclusion' part of teacher training has shrunk to three hours over their entire course. I do feel that I work in the right place; there are so many negative conversations about Universities that say that they-we- are a waste of time and money. We work so hard with our students to be 'worth it', to make them employable (I run the Employability module), encourage them to be conscientious with their (usually excellent) skills and tolerant of each others differences.
That being said, we too are teetering on a frail precipice.
Who cares about music when there are banks to be schmoozed?