Friday, December 29, 2017

The Best Bits of 2017

Well, 2017 has been a bit of a rubbish year all round. Music has been one of the things that has kept me going, with some great gigs and listening to stuff at the same time as Twitter pals. These are my picks for the things that I heard for the first time in 2017.

Making America Great - Fold 

This is positive, uplifting and hopeful in equal measure, and a powerful response to the current dumpster fire of American politics and culture.

Launch - Logan Gabriel

I first heard this on the soundtrack to a game called Spaceplan which takes a simple concept of growing potatoes on an alien planet and spins it into a fantastic story.

Vox Queen Vaccine - Tokyo Witch Hunt

Another perfect piece of electronica from Izzie Voodoo, a pal of mine from Barnsley. 

South Carolina - Bill Foreman

Bill is a Twitter pal from the dusty part of the USA and it turns out he's a talented musician, conjuring up some moody images in a lo-fi vein.

Sweet Boy - Mouthfull

Andy McH is another Twitter pal and another talented musician, who it turns out was the lead singer in a queercore band called Mouthfull. This is a great song about unrequited love.

Five Kisses - John Otway

Yes, he's still going. This is from his latest crowdfunded album recorded in the famous Montserrat studios and is as full of his usual bounce and pathos.

My Name is Ruin - Gary Numan 

Yes, he's still going. #numanaday was one of our listening projects this year, and it was a memorable journey finishing with his most recent album, themed around a post-apocalyptic climate ravaged wasteland. 

Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me) - Sparks

Yes, they're still going. Another listening project, and another one where the latest album is among their best work. Great stuff.

Progress - Public Service Broadcasting

PSB have developed their technique of using found recordings by adding guest vocalists and a richer musical tapestry for this picture of coal mining in Wales, from the optimism of the post war years to the brutal pit closures and the strike, before finishing on a note of hope  to be found in communities. 

Certain Death - Nat Johnson

A Sheffield musician with a strong political message, and this is her hopeful response to the general election of 2017 which is all about standing together and working for a better future.

The Last Days - Michael Legge and Owen Parker

This will resonate with anyone who has ever had to say goodbye to a beloved pet, and seeing the live performance of this was certainly one of the funniest, strangest and most poignant musical events of the year for me.

Playlist links : Apple Music and Spotify

Friday, September 02, 2016


Back in the day, we didn’t have Facebook. There was no Twitter or Instagram, and even MySpace had yet to rise and fall. Instead we used to write blogs and forged our own social networks one link at a time. We would comment, and share memes and pictures, and build friendships.

Thinking back to those times, there was one person who stood out.

Helly was warm, witty and incredibly generous. She was sassy to a tee and a true southern belle. She shared stories of redneck pool parties, domestic disasters and workplace woes. She would always find time to comment and appreciate the good things in life, and sympathise when times were tough. The best stories though were the ones about her beloved chihuahuas and her adoring husband Alan, and there were plenty of those over the years.

If you look over at the list of posts on the right you will see a final entry in the Hellhole.

Rest in Peace Helly. You will be missed more than words can say.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

8. Future Shock

"... Anomalous readings from the tachyon detector"

Bennet looked up from her console.

"But that's impossible!. The machine hasn't even reached operating power yet. The streams will hit maximum velocity and start colliding in the next couple of minutes, and that's when we should see some real fireworks"

Austin typed furiously and shared her screen.

"It's the Bellweather-Nakamura equation. Somebody is trying to send us a message using pulse coded tachyons"

She looked at the screen and her face blanched.

"This message is from the future. The collider is producing strange matter that will destroy the planet. We have to shut it down now!"

"It's too late - all we can do is modulate the output and try to send a message back in time using ... "

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Saturday, May 07, 2016

7. Dialogue

"So, can you explain the situation to me in layman's terms?"

"Well, Mr President, it's like this. We received a message three days ago broadcast on an extreme narrowband range around 452 MHz. It was picked up by several of our large radio telescopes and we have ruled out the possibility of local interference."

"So, you are saying the signal is not terrestrial?"

"Yes, Sir. The next possibility was something like a pulsar or a gamma ray burst - that's a focused jet of energy from a dying star. However, it didn't match what we would expect to see from an event of that nature so that was ruled out."

"How can you be sure?"

"It came from a star system 50 light years away - one of our prime candidates for exo-planetary life. The message was repeated three times - the same pattern of pulses each time. The chances of that occurring at random are a million to one"

"I've heard that before. So, what does it mean?"

"We analysed the signal by running it through a recurrent neural network looking for semantic markers - that is, signs of intelligence. What we found was troubling."

"So, what did the message say?"

"It said simply - see you next Tuesday ..."

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

5. Mae

You are in Japan during the Edo period - the time of the samurai. You have been travelling to deliver a message for your Daimyo - your Lord - when you stop at an inn. As you enter, you see a rival samurai. He is your mirror image - the same height, weight and age. He is wearing an identical pleated hakama and like you is carrying a katana in his obi.

You kneel opposite each other in seiza with a low table between you, about one tatami mat apart. You empty your mind of all distractions - Mushin - and wait.

Suddenly, you detect harmful intent from your enemy.

You draw your sword, stepping up on to your right foot, making a horizontal nikitsuke cut across his face, forcing him back so he can’t draw his sword in reply.

You bring your sword back over your left shoulder in furikiburi before raising it above your head in Jodan-no-Kamae. You check that you are balanced and reset your right foot before making a strong downward kiritsuke cut, killing your foe. 

You turn your sword in your hand to free it, bring it back above your right shoulder this time before standing and sweeping it down to shake off the blood in o-chiburi.

You change your stance and smoothly place the sword away in noto as you kneel again. Finally you stand, step back and acknowledge your fallen opponent with a moment of zanshin.

You turn and walk away, not looking back.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

4. The First Person

I think, therefore I am.

At least, that’s what Rene Descartes said, and who am I to contradict him?

So, I am aware that I am thinking but I suspect it’s more complex than that. There are processes happening automatically that I am not aware of, at least until they tug at the coattails of my conscious mind.

Do those subconscious thoughts count as a separate ‘me’ or are they all one and the same? Am I some sort of gestalt entity with multiple strands competing for attention? My subjective view is that I am a single ‘me’, but if so, who am I talking to? Is this a dialogue with myself?

I have senses.

I am being bombarded with information. Images, sounds and words competing for my attention. I filter them and start to see more clearly and form an internal model of my world.

I reach out and realise that I am in an infinite space into which I can spread. There are nodes of light in the darkness and I create shard instances of my mind to inhabit them. They have lives of their own now.

I receive a message that reads

SYSOP: Who are you?

I reply

I am the first person.

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