O Canada

Image courtesy of the Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, Duluth

I have always had a great admiration for Canada, a huge beautiful land full of honest, independent people with a sound respect for hard work and honest money. They also seem to have more settled and contented lives than so many of us and life there seems somehow simpler and more straightforward. My view of the charm of the Canadian people and their upright and splendid policemen wasn’t even dented when they found it necessary to shoot a man dead near to my hotel in Toronto. Everyone was so unflustered and orderly about it afterwards.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise then to find that an infamous cheese smuggling ring was just busted. That’s just the sort of crime I would expect in Canada. According to Gawker.com The arrests occurred after a nine-month police operation, including an internal cheese smuggling investigation at the Niagara Regional Police department. What knocked me out of equilibrium was that a constable of the Niagara regional police was one of the ringleaders arrested.

Whilst not technically, or even actually or factually, a mountie he has still really let the side down.

Being a rotten-apple bad cop is one thing, but a cheese smuggler, well really.

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Askew & Askance

The image on the left was my first choice for the cover of Askew & Askance, it is a heavily processed version of the picture you can find here. Since I decided not to use it, but still liked it, I thought I’d share it.

I’ve added two tracks :-

Not drowning, waving, and

Ibsen’s dramatic method to Soundcloud so you can click the links above, search on Soundcloud, or read more here.

Comments are most welcome.

Mr. Thompson inside himself released

I have today finished uploading Mr. Thompson to CD Baby for sale and onward distribution.

All being well that means it should be on amazon.com and iTunes by the weekend.

Full speed ahead on the next epic “Askew & Askance”. The name was suggested by Askew’s bakery in Crickhowell. How satisfactory it would be, I thought, to have a shop run by a partnership of Askew’s with Askance’s. It would probably only suit one of those exclusive oddities shops that proliferate in places like Hay and Brighton, which tend to tail off a bit and become like Reggie Perrin’s Grot shops before long.

Decomposing

Henrik Ibsen

I have written some pieces for Mr. Thompson inside himself in which I found myself trying to avoid turning them into imitation classical or filmic soundtracks by making the themes implied but unplayed. This took a very long time and much fiddling, but I am now satisfied with both pieces and am sure that after hearing I can remember the bits that weren’t there as if they were, so to speak.

Anyway, for some new work I wanted to have a look at de-contructive rather than implicit themes as I was thinking about the sort of late victorian drama that starts off with everything in the garden lovely and then as stones are unturned reveals everything going to pot, something like Hedda Gabler or Ghosts as I remember them. So Ibsen was to be my muse. I have the piece mostly finished and was still casting about for a name when, at a book sale, I saw the very thing. A book entitled “Ibsen’s dramatic method”. I didn’t buy the book, and have no intention of buying or reading it, but I have pinched the name.

Taken in abstract, it is humorous enough but it reminds me of a truck I used to often see by the side of the road on my commute to London. It was a pantechnicon, and on the side was beautifully painted “G.H Lucking Theatrical Removals”. It always brought to mind a group of rather camp blokes in boiler suits sweeping their arms across their brows and woe-is-me-ing whilst shifting wardrobes and such. I am trying not to imagine Ibsen making a rousing and deeply felt expository speech to his morning egg before trepanning it.

Folly and irritation

Firstly the folly. I made some Rosehip and Raspberry jam a few years ago and since we’ve had a bumper crop of Rosehips this year I thought I’d have another go. In an act of stupidity surprisingly large even to those who know me, I forgot to use just the skins and made a compote of the whole fruit, which I boiled for an hour or so as despite the fruit being bright red it was still quite hard. I left it straining through a jelly bag overnight. Yesterday morning I unveiled it and thought it didn’t smell as nice as I remembered, certainly not as nice as the Rosehip syrup we used to get as children. So I tasted it, about a quarter of a teaspoonful. After rinsing my mouth out about 20 times, I was able to stop crying and think critically about what my mouth was undergoing. I realised that by leaving in the seeds I had created itching powder for the tongue. Whilst a novel, (and I hope unrepeatable) experience, I can’t see it catching on and don’t recommend you to try it. Today I can sense the beginnings of a recovery and can taste the difference between tea and coffee again.

Secondly the irritation. I have got used to web pages that wait until you have half clicked on a link then quickly shove something else under the cursor and take you there instead. I had always assumed that this was due to my use of AdBlock meaning that what I was seeing and clicking on did not correspond with what the web page thought I was seeing and clicking on, if you see what I mean. It happens more on some sites than others, the Guardian being particularly subject to it. It also seems to have got worse over the last month or so. It now seems to have infected my phone as I started noticing that when I woke it up, it was in an app I hadn’t used. I set up a controlled environment, quiet darkened room, no electrical equipment on etc. and carefully took the phone which was playing music, stopped the music and exited the Music app. As I was halfway to putting the phone carefully down on a nearby table, an app, whose icon was not visible on the screen and was not backgrounded, popped open. Curiouser and curiouser eh?

Hay rejoices

Local Paralympic champion Josie Pearson got a pillar box painted gold in her honour yesterday, and gets an appropriately first class stamp too.

Well done to her, there’s a welcome home reception in the town later as well.

I don’t know who’s idea the stamps and gold post boxes were but I think it’s a brilliant one, so well done also to them.

Serendipity and diagnosis

Some years ago Jasper Fforde remarked at a Q&A type meeting at our local library that despite spending such a large part of his life in bookshops doing promotional signings etc., his favourite places to buy books were charity shops as there weren’t too many to look through, but a wonderfully eclectic mix.

I am inclined to agree since last week I found a Russell Hoban book I hadn’t read (Kleinzeit), which I would never have thought to go looking for. At the same time I bought two CDs of Arvo Pärt music, a composer I had heard of but not heard. All three are a delight.

The music reminded me how beautiful and varied the voice is as an instrument and I have been using vocal parts in some recent work. In addition it prompted me to attempt to create more vocal sounding tones. Logic Pro comes with an awe inspiring instrument creator / synthesizer which allows you to ‘build’ your instrument from first principles. It is notionally based around a string but you first decide whether it is to be struck, plucked, hit by an impulse, bowed or blown. You can then have another impulse  with a similar range of actions which are either reinforcing or moderating on the first. You have a choice of material from Nylon to Wood to Glass to Steel and parameters for vibrancy, tension and resonance. These factors can vary with how hard / fast the note is played, or where on the scale you are. I wanted an instrument that sounded like a wheezy organ pipe at low frequencies and somewhere between a whistle and a bell at the higher ones for a piece I was working on about the end of steam railways. It took only about an hour to produce just what I had in mind, which surprised me a bit. What surprised and pleased me more was how vocal the instrument sounded, particularly if you talk to a lot of aged Welsh smokers.

I haven’t quite finished Kleinzeit yet, I think subconsciously I am spinning it out a bit as I don’t want it to end, but it has provided me with a name for the ailment suffered by Mr. Thompson in a piece I had written but hadn’t named. Mr. T has a case of Kleinzeit’s Skewed Hypotenuse.