Thursday, 21 December 2017

November 2017 Diary

Next month’s diary will explain why this one took so long. November was 80’s music month. Instead of Radio Three, I had Heart 80’s on first thing in the morning, and played a bunch of 80’s stuff on Tidal as well. And my considered opinion is that 80’s music was The Best. 60’s music was the most groundbreaking; 70’s music when good was transcendent, but so little of it was; by the 90’s the music scene was fracturing into a zillion genres, so that by the 00’s I could be following one genre and know nothing about what was in the charts, and care not a damn what the youth were listening to.

I watched my way through S5 of Elementary like eating candy: it Lucy Liu and is well written, has silly plot lines, Lucy Liu, Johnny Millar portraying an addict rather well, and I may have forgotten to mention Lucy Liu. Because it has her, in case you wanted to know.

I read Michael Lewis’ The Undoing Project, and Tversky and Kahnemann; The Bell Curve, by Herrnstein and Murray; Richard Blandford’s London In The Company of Painters; made a start on Richard Yates’ Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, which I finished in December; and set myself the first volume of Hegel’s Aesthetics as bedtime reading, knocks me out in ten minutes but not before I feel I’ve read something profound.

Tidal added the entire ECM catalogue. If you don't know what that means, keep quiet until you find out, or people may never talk to you again. I spent a day or so going through John Surman's back catalogue just because I could.

I watched Suicide Squad on DVD. No movies. Sis and I had supper at Demartino on Great Portland Street, because it’s run by a guy who goes to my gym, and good hearty Italian food it is too. I caught up with a couple of former colleagues at Encant on Maiden Lane - he was out of ice cream, but the lamb chops were terrific.

I was trying to get to sleep earlier, and I am watching a fair amount of You Tube junk to pass the time, as you can gather from some of the posts, and I don’t mean that the content is junk, but that I “ought” to be watching or reading more sustained content. But then at the end of some days I'm just brain-dead, and listening to Paul Elam having a good rant is just about my level.

Monday, 18 December 2017

I May Never Feel Well Again

Sunday evening. Three days of spasmodic coughing and retching, a slight temperature, waking up at two in the morning, and unable to leave the house for sixty hours. And no sign of it easing. I can only drink hot water and eat potatoes and some cheese. The bits of fish I bought on Friday when, like an idiot, I thought I was going to be feeling healthy, those are now expired. I have to go to the supermarket tomorrow as I'm about to run out of Lemsip and paracetamol. There's a small window between about half past ten and midday when I can do that, and then it all goes away. This happens to me twice a year at least, sometime three. I don't know if my immune system is under-performing because I train and wake up at silly hours, but I take vitamins and eat right, so I doubt it. It's because I travel on trains with people who have military-grade viruses from Poland or Russia or Romania. But if I traveled on the other trains I'd be jammed between people with children who bring back viruses from school that are unknown to medical science. I could blame the awful air conditioning at the office, or the really cold weather we've been having, but I've been through cold weather before and not got these four-five day cough+cold+fever. I try to go to sleep in the evening and can't drop off because I haven't been active enough during the day. Nobody else gets colds like these at work, but Sis does, so maybe the vulnerability is genetic, but the rest of the world strides through other people's viruses and cold weather and rain and exercise and doesn't so much as sneeze. Don't even try to comfort me. I may never feel well again.

One of the most beautiful pieces of television is the first thirty or so minutes of Kenneth Clarke's Civilisation where he visits the remote islands of Celtic Christianity. That's how bad it is: I watched the first three episodes, which are amongst my favourite pieces of television ever. Now I'm going to let about half and hour pass and try to sleep. I'll be working from home tomorrow but really I'll be sleeping or dozing or coughing.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Upgrading Hi-Fi Interconnects

In this video

Hans Beekhuysen describes how he gets rid of excess sibilance (that “sssss” sound) that can appear even on audiophile records such as Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat. Since his systems are already hi-end, he chooses to upgrade the interconnects, by spending over £1,000 on cables from Audio Quest and a LAN Adapter from Pink. He says these make a difference to the sound, and he does this for a living, so I’m going to take his word for it.

There’s a lot of scepticism about the improvement an interconnect can make. Cable isn’t passive. Like any electrical component, it has resistance, capacitance and inductance, however small, and the effect of last two vary with the frequency of the signal. Resistance causes loss of power by turning the current to heat, while inductance and capacitance cause a phase shift that changes with frequency, distorting the waveform that makes the ‘digital' signal. This might be enough to cause a change in the content of the signal at some points, turning a 0 into a 1, which will be converted by the DAC to an analogue waveform that gets passed to the amplifier and passed to the loudspeakers. The interconnects cannot make the signal better, only leave it the same, or make it worse.

So if a change of interconnect seems to improve the signal, it means a two things: a) the digital signal from the source must be of a very high quality, and b) the amplifier, speaker cables and speakers must also be high quality. What does ‘high quality’ mean? That they must be able to respond faithfully to the tiny changes in signal that changing the interconnects produces. They must have a great deal of precision and low intrinsic noise from thermal effects, power voltage variations and so on. Using a £500 interconnect between an iPhone headphone jack and a low-end amplifier from Sainsburys is silly: all it will do is more faithfully transmit the distortions of the low-quality iPhone DAC. Using expensive interconnects between high-end kit might make a noticeable difference, as it more faithfully transmits a high-quality signal.

£1,000 is slightly more than I spent on my Marantz / B&W kit. It makes no sense for me to buy expensive interconnects, because, though the Marantz CD6005 blew away the Marantz CD5005 it replaced, and that blew away the Cambridge Audio player, which blew the Denon I had before that, I doubt the CD6005 has the industry’s best DAC. It might help to get some better interconnects, rather than the usual grey cable ones provided, just as one should set aside the Apple ear buds as reserves and buy some decent ear phones from Bose, Sennheiser or other manufacturers who know what they are doing.

I suspect that audio equipment is a lot like cars: there’s low-price stuff that doesn’t drive or perform well and is uncomfortable, and there are Rolls-Royces and Ferraris, but mostly there are solid, mid-range cars that keep getting better and better, but will never be a Bugatti. On the other hand, a modern Fiat Punto will leave most 1960’s sports cars in the rear-view mirror, will brake harder and corner faster, and only E-type Jaguars and AC Cobras will leave it behind. (Don’t believe me? An early 1960’s E-type with a 3.8 litre engine did 0-60 in 7.1 seconds. A 2010 Fiato Punto 1.4 Evo does 0-60 in 8.5 seconds. As for the aerodynamics of those 1960’s cars? Awful.) Streaming 320kps MP3 through my iPad and a Dragonfly DAC gives me a better signal than my 1970’s Goldring Lenco turntable with its Shure cartridge and diamond stylus.

With modern manufacturing techniques, I’m fairly sure there’s no significant additional overhead to making a high-end cable out of some superior materials - the difference will be the cost of the materials, and that will be far less than the difference in price the market will pay for a high-end interconnect. Supplying the small audiophile market with a £500 interconnect can still be profitable, and it also serves to re-position the price of the mid-range stuff - suddenly £100 doesn’t look so bad. I think this is the real reason expensive interconnects are produced: it’s a great marketing device, and makes a unit profit. It may even actually make a difference.

Monday, 11 December 2017

How to Get Home From The West End

Two hours to do what should be a one-hour journey. I think the problems I can see on the Train App are due to cascading earlier problems caused by the snow. Oh, the innocence of the uninformed.

19:10 Leave Bill’s on Old Compton Street (Don’t judge me.)

19:20 Bakerloo line from Piccadilly Circus to Waterloo.

19:26 Arriving at Waterloo, we’re told to get to the platforms via the Jubilee Line, which is about an eight-minute walk. Ask the young man making the announcement, is this because of crowding on the main concourse? Yes, he says. I hear something about ninety minute delays. Nope.

19:28 Bakerloo line north to Embankment

19:35 Arrive on Westbound District Line platform, next Richmond train in 10 minutes

19:45 District Line to Richmond

20:10 Due to late running, this train will be terminating at Gunnersbury

20:18 Everybody off at Gunnersbury. You have never been to Gunnersbury. That’s because there is no reason to go there. I don’t know where the people who live there work, but if it’s central London, they get off at Turnham Green and walk, to avoid the shame of getting off at Gunnersbury.

20:22: London Overground to Richmond - but not after it’s vanished from the display board after being announced as “Approaching”. 20:30 Richmond. The Train app is lying about everything, but I’m sure I saw a badly delayed Windsor and Eton train on its way down. Look again three minutes later, it’s vanished. Talk with a man who’s been waiting half an hour, when an Ascot train appears on the board, arriving at 20:47. That will do.

20:40 A badly-delayed Windsor and Eton train arrives. The nice lady on the platform tells me this is all caused by a fire at Waterloo, but the service should be okay tomorrow morning.

20:45 My Bedtime App tells me to go to bed in fifteen minutes to get a good night's sleep.

20:53 Arrive at Feltham.

21:01 Unlock car.

21:05 Park car.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Sharing MGTOWs and Silent Bachelors

Yep. I’ve been listening to Sandman. I think that means I will be banned from reading The Rational Male by its cookie. Sandman asks at one point, what is the difference between a MGTOW and a confirmed bachelor, and suggests that a bachelor will keep quiet about how he lives as a single man and why he chooses to do so, and if he does will mention how great a life he leads, whereas the MGTOW will talk about the reality and risks of domestic relationships. The bachelor gets left alone by the SJW’s and cat ladies, but the MGTOW gets a ton of shaming dumped on him.

That got me thinking, since I’m a bachelor rather than a MGTOW. A bachelor isn’t getting married or entering into domestic relationships. The same way you aren’t going to cut off your left hand. Instinctive, basic, physical. I didn’t make that decision for a reason, because I never made that decision, anymore than I decided to have brown eyes or mild lordosis. Born with it. It has nothing to do with how women behave: they could be, to the last one, faithful, loving, strong, sexy and loyal through all the good and bad parts of their partner’s life, and I still wouldn’t get married - though I might look with a little more wistfulness on married couples than I do now.

MGTOWs may have started life wanting to be part of a domestic relationship, but what they saw changed their minds. They may also have been forced to develop high-content pastimes and projects when younger (an idea tol be discussed in a later post) and are effectively lost to ordinary socialising and relationships. MGTOW’s are single for a reason, and that reason is about avoiding the downsides and risks they see as inherent in domestic relationships.

A bachelor can’t share his why any more than he can his brown eyes. A MGTOW’s why can be shared. Bachelors don’t have a common how in the way that MGTOWs do because the MGTOW’s how is the way he maintains his apartness. A bachelor doesn’t have to maintain his apartness: it’s part of his physical make-up.

A popular bachelor tactic is the “I’m so busy I’m a terrible boyfriend” exemplified by The Great Henry Rollins here:

This line needs a lot of self-confidence to pull off without it turning into self-deprecation or self-pity. External proof of the value of your busyness - recognised accomplishments, money, public success - also helps. Being busy at a job that doesn’t pay in a career going nowhere is not convincing.

This tactic is a conversation-stopper. Generally, bachelors don’t want to talk about why they live as they do, mostly because they are surrounded by married people and want to be polite to the unfortunate don’t want to upset the marrieds don’t want to get into shaming discussions about what a ‘real man’ does oh heck, because it’s just easier that way.

The married men have made their mistake decision and are stuck in it except at great cost. If they’ve been it for more than five years or have two children, they know the realities, and they don’t need some snippy MGTOW telling them. At most they need another married man to say that, yep, that shit happens to all of us, and here’s what we do to get by.

The single men who want to get married are either delusional and so won’t understand any help a MGTOW tries to give; or desperately want to believe in NAWALTs and so will refuse to hear that help; or have their suspicions that all is not as advertised. That last group, and they alone, are the audience. There’s a small proportion of them, and the most anyone can do is put a body of work out there - as Sandman, Rollo and others have - and hope those who need them can find it.

The mainstream media makes content for the audience advertisers want to reach, and shrewdly guess that people who work hard, exercise, eat fresh food, buy only what they need with money they already have, don’t drink too much and don’t care about impressing people they don’t like, those people are not going to be prime targets for consumer junk. It’s not easy making content about fit, employed, sensible people, as they don’t have soap-opera lives. The only stories the mainstream wants about bachelors end with us a) getting married, b) being seen to be sad and lonely, c) like Hugh Grant...

(It’s impossible to follow that scene, so I won’t try.)

Sandman’s comment hit a nerve. We bachelors don’t do a lot of communicating about how we live our lives, the feelings and problems we have to deal with and how we dealt with them. Perhaps we should. It’s just not going to be about women, except in the same way it might be about cars. Or broadband connections.

Monday, 4 December 2017

13 Suggestions for Handling #MeToo

#MeToo. The USA is a little behind the curve on this, as the UK went over the reputations of its beloved old entertainers a couple of years ago.

Very little of this is actually relevant to daily life. Most of us spend most of our days on a sleep-commute-work-gym-commute cycle during which we see exactly zero attractive women or like-minded men, and meet even fewer. The streets of London or any other large town may as well be thronged with ghosts. However, if you’re worried, here is a 13-point guide to avoiding becoming a hashtag victim.

1. These #MeToo allegations come and go. Some of it is because the guys were pretty much pigs. Over-reacting to this stuff is un-manly and unseemly. However, that said, it’s time to invoke the Pence Rule for a while, so…

2. No closed-door meetings with women. ‘Closed-door’ here includes suppers- or lunches-for-two, interviews, taxi rides, chats in a side room at a party - anywhere where there are no witnesses or the witnesses could plausibly have missed the alleged incident. ‘Closed-doors’ includes private telephone calls. Records and witnesses at all times.

Most of these complaints are coming from women who gave in to advances from a man in a position to influence their careers. We’ll not ask why those women didn’t simply step away and go back to being supply teachers, and acknowledge that it is kinda low-class to swap sex for a promotion, so...

3. No relationships with women in any profession where any eminence you may posses might be construed as ‘power’ or ‘advantage’. So if you’re a producer, actresses are off-limits.

4. Should you have any eminence, accomplishment, position of power or authority, never mention it to make you seem more attractive. Your aura should come from you, not an organisation chart.

And while we’re talking about work…

5. Do not work in the public sector or any private sector department that employs a lot of women. Aside from anything else, this means your career is way off the right track.

The next two are fundamental. Like it or not...

6. Most men are not supposed to have casual sex and/or flirtations with women. They are supposed to wait until spoken to and summoned. No this is not a joke. Women are very particular about who can flirt with them, and most men don’t make the cut. But see Suggestion 10.

The other side of this is that you won’t have many opportunities for behaving inappropriately, since...

7. Most women are not suitable subjects for flirtation or casual sex. This is because, for a multitude of reasons that don’t matter, most women aren’t really attractive, nor are they playful or pleasant. If you think otherwise, you’re confusing ‘I met one last week’ with ‘most’.

The following are also true:

8. You will know if you’re attractive to women. If you don’t, you aren’t.

9. You will know if she is attracted to you. If you don’t, she isn’t.

Does this mean that men should not approach women? No. It means that socially clueless men, men who are neither Pretty Boys not Bad Boys, or who are out of shape, lack humour or have no charm, or are otherwise bereft of Game, should not approach women. Which sounds harsh, until you recall that men do not want to be approached by women who lack social graces and a decent figure. Sauce for geese is sauce for ganders. So it’s time to get on The Programme...

10. Work hard. Lift weights. Eat right and get five sleep cycles a night. Don't drink too much and leave the drugs alone. Only buy things you need with money you have. Learn some Game, travel, and read non-fiction. Turn off the TV, dump the junk culture, and screw political correctness.

Okay. Now you don’t look like a gunny sack of doorknobs and have cleaned the crap out of your head...

11. You have about thirty seconds in an opening to generate interest. If you can’t, and persist, you are becoming creepy.

Pretty boys and Bad Boys know the next one, so believe us when we say...

12. If she is attracted to you, she will make it easy to have sex with her. If she makes it easy to take her on dates and difficult to take her to bed, apply the three-date rule.


13. You will know if you can trust a woman enough to set aside Suggestion 2 and 3. If you don’t, you can’t.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Pete Atkin and Clive James - the 1970's Work

No musical couple are more 1970’s than Clive James and Pete Atkin. James wrote the lyrics, which are therefore preposterously literate, and Atkin found the music. It was an odd pairing liked by odd people. Like me. The first album, Beware of the Beautiful Stranger, was my favourite, and there isn’t a duff track on it. This the essence of 1970’s Daydreaming Teenage Boy-ness

The later albums had attempts at being rock-y and jazzy, and really Atkin couldn’t carry it off. Occasionally it worked when it shouldn’t, such as this wonderfully silly track

Secret Drinker is my second favourite of his albums, and this is my favourite track from that album

None of his 1970’s catalogue seems to be on Tidal. I say an enquiry is called for.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Alderman's Walk, City of London

Alderman's Walk is a passage between Bishopsgate and Old Broad Street and is a way of avoiding Liverpool Street itself as a way of getting to or from Old Broad Street. In the middle of the passage is the square. It was very windy the day I took these, hence the utterly clear air - click on the bottom photograph and you can see the details of the exposed floors of the building on the right. The City never stops building. It's almost as if somebody knows something the rest of us don't. It could also be that there's a lot of office space in the rest of London that's getting old, tired and towards the end of its lease. On the right day, against a pure blue sky, it all looks bleeding magnificent, even half-finished.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Autumn Leaves, Plate Glass

My current lunchtime walk - wearing a Fitbit does this to me - takes me down Bishopsgate and back round the other side of Liverpool Street station. I glanced right down the alley after the re-branded RBS, excuse me, NatWest building at 135 Bishopsgate and saw the tree in the square, it up in gold and red.

Get closer and there's this, which is all kinds of more pleasantly abstract. 

Monday, 20 November 2017

Who's Going To Ride Your Wild Horses?

I bought Achtung Baby on cassette when cassette was a thing, and then my tastes changed and I cleared out a lot of stuff (I do that about every ten or so years) and U2 was one of them. Recently I wanted some new train music, remembered how much I had liked this album, and downloaded it from Amazon. Here's what happened on the train the first time: yep, Zoo Station is as good as I remember, so are the other tracks, and then I lost track of time, and could not help silently singing

Don't turn around / don't turn around again / don't turn around your gypsy heart
Don't turn around / don't turn around again / don't turn around your gypsy heart
And don't look back

Check the lyrics, which are about an affair with a wild girl (You stole it, 'cause I needed the cash / and you killed him, 'cause I wanted revenge) who he has to leave. And it might not be a girl, but a part of himself.

It's possibly Bono's finest vocal performance, which is saying a lot, The Edge's unique guitar style provides an hypnotic background, and the song doesn't so much drip emotion as drench you in it.

I think it took me a couple of hearings before I understood what was there: you have to surrender yourself to this song, and when you do it rewards you every time.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Autumn Sunset Over The Air Park

You are, of course, also subscribed to Sis' blog and you will notice that she has a line in photographs that consist of a lot of very dark bits contrasted with patches of intense light. I was out for an afternoon constitutional in the Air Park the other day, with a cold and clear autumn sunset and the strong yellow light which is quite unusual. So I tried a few of Sis' hi-contrast specials. Double-click for more details because these are all about the sky. What I really do, is take pictures of blue skies.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Student Debt Isn't - In The UK

Recently I had to look at Student Loans. The UK version. I went to university when students got grants, so I don’t really grok Student Loans the way my younger colleagues do. I had read phrases like ‘burdened by student debt’ and stories about rising fees increasing student debt and assumed that, well, students had to pay these loans off. In the USA they sure do, and in ten years. So I read up at the Student Loan Company’s website, and was astonished by what I learned, and then puzzled that anyone who one might think would know this stuff by virtue of being a journalist, banker or politician would be concerned by how many people had Student Loans to what degree.

My first surprise was that the credit rating agencies do not count Student Loans as part of anyone’s indebtedness. I suspect this is built into the legislation. It follows that no British bank or other lender can take account of a graduate’s “student debt” when making lending decisions.

My next surprise was how student debt is repaid. Over a threshold amount, which varies by the year the course started, a student pays 9% of their salary to the Student Loan Company, and continues to do so until the account is cleared, until the debt is thirty years old, when the outstanding account balance is written off. It follows that the only thing that the ‘debt’ affects is the length of time the graduate pays this 9%-over-threshold amount. At top decile incomes it amounts to around 6% of pre-tax salary, and under 1% at the third decile. It’s a progressive Graduate Tax by another name and method.

A regular loan, such as a mortgage, has a monthly repayment that, if made throughout the term of the loan, will settle the original advance and the accrued interest. If you miss payments, a real lender makes helpful-but-firm noises about how you might carry on repaying. If it’s an unsecured loan, they will hand you off to a debt collection agency after three months or so. If it’s a secured loan, they might throw you out of your house, repossess the car and otherwise send in bailiffs to seize assets and sell them to settle the debt. You have not lived until you’ve had the bailiffs knock on the door.

A Student Loan has no such conditions and consequences. HMRC garnish the 9%-over-the-threshold payment at source, so you can’t miss payments, and if you aren’t earning for some reason, no-one is going to seize and sell your laptop. After thirty years, the SLC writes off the loan. (I mentioned that before, but it bears repetition.) It has none of the characteristics of real debt.

The SLC is not a commercial company: it is owned by the UK Government. It’s not a real company that does anything, it’s the site of an accounting fiction, like a Cayman Islands company but without the bronze plaque. The Government pays the universities, just like it always did. But it does so via some double-entry book-keeping that assigns amounts to individual students. The debt is not intended to be repaid, but serves as the basis of a calculation that determines how long the student will pay the Graduate Tax.

Do the calculations in real terms (I have) and it is clear that for graduates starting in 2018 all but the top earners will reach the 30-year limit with some outstanding debt, which will be written off. Add in some mild salary inflation, and because the threshold is not adjusted for inflation, all but the lower earners will repay their ‘debt’ at some point over the thirty years. If there is not enough wage inflation, the SLC will be writing off at least £2bn a year and everyone will have to go through the farce of pretending it is real money that the taxpayer must provide. (Whereas it isn’t. It’s fiat money invented by the Band of England and hidden by specious double-entry book-keeping.)

The smart student takes all the money they can get, and pays the Graduate Tax. In their early-50’s the balance, whatever it is, will be written off. Only a fool would use real money repay their Student Loan any earlier. The smart investor would no more provide or buy UK student debt than they would a lottery ticket.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

How To Have A Safer, Happier Online Life

Stop looking at or talking on your god-damn phone when you are walking in public places. It makes you weave from side-to-side like a drunk, you lose your sense of what's going on around you and it reduces you to the level of a five-year-old. Plus it makes you look like a klutz who can't memorise a simple route.

The Golden Rule is that you should never put anything in writing or appear in any photograph that you don't want to see on the front page of the Daily Mail tomorrow.

The Internet is “in writing”. It’s not a conversation that vanishes with the air used to say it. The privacy of personal conversations and phone calls are legally protected: someone else might record you, but if the recording is leaked, you can sue the leaker and the media organisation they leaked it to. Letters sent through the Royal Mail are also protected, but What’s App isn’t the Royal Mail. Neither is text messaging service.

What you do and say in your home is private. Maybe a hotel room as well. Anywhere else is public: cafe, restaurant, workplace, street, and, oh yes, online. The Internet is not a private place. So...

Stay off Facebook - looking at other people's fake lives depresses you

Don't Tweet - Twitter seems to make people mean

Instagram is for self-promotion or advertising your services - don't post holiday pictures, unless, of course, wandering around in a bikini is your service

Tumblr. No. Just no.

Pinterest. Is for girls.

LinkedIn is for professional self-promotion.

You Tube / Blogging / Medium etc: see the Golden Rule

Remember the other person can take screen shots of your text / What's App and other messaging conversations.

If you have anything to say, say it by voice:

Beware the Wayback Machine. It has a long memory.

Contribute to herd immunity by password-protecting your mobile devices. But remember that if the NSA or Mossad really want to know what's on your phone, you've got bigger problems than any password can protect you from.

No. This isn't being a spoil-sport. Your parents never had to worry about this stuff. Private was private, unless you were at the top. For CEOs, Princes and Ministers there never was any privacy, there always was a Private Secretary recording everything, at least outside the family and very close friends. Sensible people assumed that someone might be eavesdropping in those castles - there was no underlying noise as there is today to blanket quiet conversations.

The Internet, says the man writing a blog post, is best treated as a publishing medium. If you wouldn’t want to put it in a book, magazine or newspaper that will be seen by the general public, and are not prepared for the possible publicity and controversy, then don’t put it on the Internet.

Monday, 6 November 2017

September / October 2017 Diary

The outside of my house is shiny and spotless. It’s a mid-terrace, so we’re talking front and back. It took Primrose Decoration nine calendar days, with I suspect two men each day, to do the job. I had left that paint and the woodwork underneath, way too long. That was mid-October, and the Monday they started, I was recovering from food poisoning, so I spent the day over at my Mother’s house, and walked in and out of Kingston through the suburban fairy-land that is Teddington-by-the-Thames. After the decorators had finished, I took a Friday off to vacuum and clean the place from top to bottom.

The food poisoning knocked me for six for about three weeks. Sis had something similar, and the low point was both of us ordering the Suet Pudding at our annual visit to Rules. Usually we have game and relish it, but not this time. Comfort food. I was having a six-day weekend, and it wasn’t the best time off I’ve had. As always this year, the weather was dull and colder than the surrounding days. When I went back to work, the sun shone.

I'm hesitating now because I can't think of how to phrase what I keep thinking I need to say, or for that matter, if what I think I want to say is actually really about the issue.

My life is running in a nice little rut: sleep, commute, work, gym, home. I am less and less inclined to break out of it, not even to see the Alma-Tadema exhibition at the Leighton House, and I feel no great urge to see all the rest of the art shows in London, which is silly, because some of them would have had me queueing at the door five years ago. Now I’m like… meh. I don’t feel like I’m missing out, but I feel that I should feel like I’m missing out. Pretty meta, huh? Having put it like that, it’s obviously a silly feeling and I should let it go.

One nice thing I did in September was to get to the gym on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, then the NFL decided to block the A316 at Twickenham for two consecutive Sundays, I had the food poisoning, and now it’s cold and dark. So I’m doing Saturday morning, Monday and Wednesday afternoons.

Sis couldn’t make our September supper, so I had supper for one at Eneko, tried Jamon Jamon after a Sunday afternoon at the gym, and then Sis and I went to Rules. Not doing Caravan in Exmouth Market again: when it’s good it’s good, but when it’s merely okay, it’s over-priced. Something that can be said for a lot of mid-market places now.

I saw Logan Lucky and Blade Runner 2049 at the local Cineworld, and Daphne at the Curzon Bloomsbury. The autumn dance card was Hofesh Schecter and the Lyon Opera Ballet at Sadler’s Wells.

On DVD I saw The Night Of, Californication S6, Stand Lee’s Lucky Man S1, London and Robinson in Space, Vivre Sa Vie and Julietta, and Vinyl. Vinyl was watchable but given the talent, could have been so much better.

I finished reading Vaihinger's The Philosophy of As If, though I did flip the pages on a lot of the reviews of how other people's thinking did or didn't recognise the idea of fictions; also. Mackenzie Wark's Beneath the Pavement, The Beach (a title by the way that happens to make literal sense in the Netherlands); Antonio Garcia Martinez's Chaos Monkeys; Benjamin Lytal’s A Map of Tulsa; Dan Lyon’s Disrupted; Rob Brotherton’s Suspicious Minds; Hugh Aldersey-Williams’ Periodic Tales; Helen Czerski’s Storm In A Tea-Cup; Hans Fallada’s Tales From The Underworld; Dominique Loreau’s The Art of Simplicity; John Kuprenas’ 101 Things I Learned in Engineering School.

Of these Periodic Tales and Storm in a Tea-Cup are excellent popular science - you will learn new stuff from both. Tales From The Underworld may be the best single collection of short stories I’ve read. (Not the most arty and stylistic remarkable - that’s Hemingway or Ballard - but as stories.) Chaos Monkeys is an eye-opening look at Facebook, while Disrupted will make you even more sure that the current fad for Internet start-ups is an insider's game played by sharks.

The fake outrage over Harvey Weinstein and the roll-on to the House of Commons is the last straw for me and the Good-Think media. Frack them all, hypocrites with full-time jobs on three month’s notice who don’t tip their Uber driver, order in sushi from a piece-worker for Deliveroo, and then ask who is going to look after the children now the Eastern European nannies won’t come over to be paid a pittance? So I may be going on a media-exclusion diet for a while. (“The Guardian? (sniffs) I can ‘andle it”.) Time to start looking at my art books at breakfast again.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Really? This Is News?

I’ve missed both my regular blogging days. This is because I’m working on a couple of things that take up much of my write-the-blogs-on-the-train time.

The biggest story out there is “Middle Age Men Occasionally Make Passes At Girls Who Wear Glasses”. The men, who have committed the cardinal sin of Not Being Hot, are required to resign and emasculate themselves in the town square. For making clumsy and crude passes at women.

I’m expected to take newspapers who even print this nonsense seriously? The editors who put it on the front pages, and the op-ed writers who churn out misandrist garbage, are expecting me to treat them as serious adults?

This is attention-seeking, virtue-signalling revenge and internal politics.

While the world should not have persons of any gender seeking sexual favours in return for career advancement, it does, and while it does, the correct response to requests for such favours is "I'm sorry Mr Farnsbarns, but if that's what it takes, I'll carry on as a supply teacher."

Kevin Spacey was dropped on allegations, not a confession or a verdict of guilty. When people get dropped on allegations, it's because the other side have been waiting for an excuse to do it. Same remark about MP's. The brave women coming forward with tales about MPs are being used to facilitate some internal re-arrangements and sackings.

The commentators are a bunch of hooting monkeys, double-plus goodthinking hypocrites who know they are so far from even the margins of anything important, they have invented a parallel universe of specious issues (*) that gets its justification from click counts and readership figures. Even Private Eye are Remoaners, while Guido Fawkes has been White Knighting. And people wonder why I read Zero Hedge.

The goodthinkers feel have lost control of what they thought was their world, and most of all they have been revealed as as entitled, arrogant, smug and patronising. Of course they are making the most of any little scandal they can. It's a distraction.

At first I thought it was a moral panic.
In the 1980’s the Left lost it after Thatcher-Reagan. There was a moral panic then as well: Satanic Child Abuse and what’s now called False Memory Syndrome.

The first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

(*) Real issues? Aside from anything to do with Brexit? Zero hours contracts; piece-workers (aka 'the gig economy'); house prices and rents; the lack of NHS preparation for replacing foreign nurses and doctors; the lack of jobs for school-leavers and even graduates; the ticking time-bomb of low wage inflation; the continuing polarisation of skills and knowledge; removing illegal immigrants and failed asylum-seekers; policing the UK's borders; the poor academic performance of young white males...

(This post was edited and improved 5/11/17.)

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Most of my Box Sets

These I still have. I dumped a lot of others which I now can’t remember at all.

Game of Thrones S1-3
Black Sails S1
Braquo S1- 3
Southland S1+2
Penny Dreadful S1
Fringe S1
The Event
The Shield S1-7
The West Wing S1-7
Blood Ties
Battlestar Galactica S1-5
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles S1+2
Dirt S1
True Detective S1+2
Nurse Jackie S1-3
Sons of Anarchy S1-7
The Closer S1-3
Lie To Me S1-3
Burn Notice S1-7
Nikita S1-4
Justified S1
Mad Men S1-4
Miami Vice S1
Inspector de Luca
Homicide: Life On The Streets S1-6
Boomtown S1
Dark Angel S1+2
The Wire S1-5
Tru Calling
Buffy the Vampire Slayer S1-3
Dollhouse S1+2
Californication S1-6
Life S1+2
Elementary S1-4
The Prisoner
Generation Kill S1
K Street
Murder One S1+2
In Plain Sight S1-3
How to Make It In America S1
The Bureau S1
Follow The Money S1
Young Montalbano S1+2
The Newsroom S1-3
Angel S1-5
Inspector Nardone
Inspector Montalbano
The Returned S1
Fog and Crimes
Billions S1
Arne Dahl
Unit One S1
The Bridge S1+2

Cop shows. I like cop shows. And Joss Wheedon.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Six Weeks With Tidal

I’ve now had about six weeks using Tidal Premium, the 312kps streaming service. Given that the CD-quality hi-fi service needs around 5Mb/s streaming, I would not trust, given my recent experience, Talk-Talk not to throttle me back and then take four weeks to pretend they hadn’t done anything of the sort and re-set the service.

I thought I would use Tidal to listen to new music, and indeed, the very first time on, this was the first track I heard, from a playlist:

What I’d forgotten is that most new music, given how much I’ve heard in my life, is either awful crap not to my taste, or is a lot like music I’ve already heard before.

What I’m really doing is listening again to albums that I grew tired of or just left behind at some point: to my old record collections. One big surprise was how much I liked the Paul Simon album, which is now on my Wish List, along with Laura Nyro’s Smile. I had a Frank Sinatra binge one Saturday, and a Duke Ellington binge another weekend. I’m listening to Van Morrison’s Hard Nose The Highway now, and it’s as good as I remember it. I finally listened to the Eagle’s Hotel California album all the way through. Also some War Against Drugs, Snarky Puppy, Famous Blue Raincoat, some ABC, and Steely Dan. I’d forgotten how downright weird Katy Lied is.

This is a walk down memory lane. It will come to an end, and then I’ll have the whole classical and new music thing to address again.

Tidal's classical music coverage is weak, but now I think about it, classical music lovers will pay for the CD, and I can imagine that the Naxos and others of this world might not want to play. Then there's Classical Archives, at $80 a year.

Now for the serious bit. The lack of the Complete Works of the SOS Band is criminal. I have no idea which record company is screwing around with their catalogue, but they should stop it, and release re-masters of all the albums. The SOS Band were the greatest single contribution that Jam And Lewis made to Western Culture, and that’s saying a lot, given the rest of their catalogue.

I’m not sure I’ve put the effort into getting the best out of the Tidal search engine: from a quick tour round some classical forums, the search engine is rated as rubbish, but they say the music is there if you can find it.

Would I recommend it? Sure. Why not? Is it better than the others? I don’t know. Right now I’m streaming Classical Archives Internet Radio which is making a darn fine job on my Mac Air of a Sonata for Two Pianos by Muzio Clementi - and if you don’t know Clementi’s work, you’re in for a treat. So I may be subscribing there for a while.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Red-Light District

Walk across Waterloo or Hungerford bridges after dark and the London skyline is a riot of red "here is a large building or tall crane you might not want to fly into" lights. It's quite a sight.

Monday, 16 October 2017

De Niro, Pacino, Heat, The Red Pill and the Bachelor Way

A couple of weeks ago, Rollo wrote this, in passing, about Anthony Johnson, the organiser of the 21 Convention Conference.
Primarily it’s been his experience with what any guy with a peripheral Red Pill Lens would’ve seen as a high-functioning BPD woman who was his unofficial wife.
There. That’s it. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for a long while now.

The Red Pill is this huge socio-political-cultural-evolutionary theory explaining to men with poor judgement that there are a whole lot of psychologically-troubled, unstable, and just plain nasty women around. Except it doesn't tell him he has bad judgement and that she is damaged goods. It tells him she is acting out “evolved behaviours”, for which she has as much personal responsibility as she does the colour of her eyes, that those behaviours are universal, will be triggered by weak ‘Beta' behaviour by her partner, and can be mitigated by Game, making himself his Own Mental Point of Origin, and an awareness of the social and evolutionary processes behind the behaviour. In the Red Pill, her damage and moral turpitude is the expression of evolved features, it's never a bug. So it isn’t damage and it isn’t being a lousy person, it’s just being a woman. Getting angry about it is silly, and men need to steer round, or adapt to, the features they don’t like. And there will always be features they won’t like.

There’s a much easier way of doing the same thing. Get a job, pay taxes, lift weights, have interests, eat right, don’t drink too much and don’t buy stuff you don’t need with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like. In what spare time and with what spare energy you may have, run daygame to find attractive and available woman, and take whoever drops into your lap, if that happens to you. Have sex with her, entertain her, let her entertain you. When she starts in with the attitude, or stops being sexual and fun, or starts talking about marriage or moving in, and at some stage she will, make like James Bond in the DB5 and hit the eject button.

(The real Bond would have run over the hefty woman with the sub-machine-gun and got away: but the audiences wouldn’t have stood for it and the plot seemed to require him to be caught.)

Some PUA skills to help the pick-up, and a repertoire of entertaining stuff to do for the dates. There's no need for the theoretical burden of the Red Pill: that’s what the London Daygame Model is about. Nobody these days is going to ask you why you won't commit, unless they are running a guilt-trip or a shame game. Both of which you can shrug off, along with the person doing it.

However, this is not a popular choice. Watch this old familiar scene. Carefully.

McCauly and Hanna are totally different people. Hanna loves drama and conflict so much he’s on his third marriage, McCauley has nothing in his life he cannot walk out on in thirty seconds flat if he feels the heat coming round the corner. Hanna calls that "pretty vacant” and McCauley agrees, it is what it is. It’s the discipline. Most people would rather be on their third marriage, than be able to walk out on a 31-year old Amy Brenneman. For most people, the very stuff of life is involvement with other people, which can mean sharing and kindness, but just as much can include arguments, shouting matches, thrown plates, slammed doors, turned backs in bed, expulsion to the couch, burned or disposed meals, and all the other ways that people show their love for each other. For most people, sour is as life-confirming as sweet, and indeed may be even more so. Good times are hard to find, bad times are easy.

Most people just want to feel anything. Only a small percentage prefer emotional sobriety, solitude, the company of a good book and some music in the background. McCauley is emotionally-sober, but takes no nonsense and can be scary when it’s the effect he needs to make, just as he can be understanding of Shiherlis’ (Val Kilmer) attachment to his wife (“For me, the sun rises and sets with her”). That’s the difference between emotional sobriety and the pseudo-placidity of people who pretend to “rise above it”.

Most people are Hanna guys and gals. They need the Red Pill, because it helps them navigate relationships they are emotionally locked-in to. There is no point in telling them to walk away. They can’t. It would be some kind of spiritual death for them. They would find solitude uncomfortable.

I am, as you will have guessed, a McCauley kind of guy - but without the whole killing people thing. Most bachelors are McCauley’s. We can stand solitude and our own company, and the drama and noise, that the Hanna’s find to be the very stuff of living, is a distraction. The Red Pill is for Vincent Hanna, and the bachelor way is for me and McCauley.

And ne’er the twain shall meet nor understand each other.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A Hard Brexit's A-Gonna Happen

A brief return to Brexit. I was heartened by the Danish Finance Minister telling the EU to get on with it and stop bitching about the divorce payment. A couple of days later I woke up and realised it’s not going to work out like that. A day or so ago, Donald Tusk confirmed as much when he denied that the EU was working on plans for a hard Brexit.

The problem is the EU’s legal imperialism: that for special trading terms, a country must surrender its legal sovereignty to the ECJ and ECHR, and allow the four freedoms. The Swiss gave up when the EU insisted on that. The British will not back down on legal sovereignty either. So that’s that. No agreement on special trade conditions is possible.

As for the payment, that will have to be a number based on a bill of goods that can be sold to Parliament. My guess is that Parliament will recognise it has to pay for some of Junker’s wine cellar, but won’t want to think it’s paying for all of it. It’s just possible the EU could be sensible about that, but not likely. This is why the payment is linked in the British negotiation with special trade terms, so that the EU only get any money if they give up the legal imperialism. That’s why the EU want to settle the bill before they talk about trade and therefore their legal imperialism. You gotta think the politicians kinda got that at the start.

Far more important for the EU is that any agreement is not hi-jacked by EU members, many of whom - especially by Ireland and Liechtenstein - have a lot of previous form at that. Barnier thinks it will take six months to achieve ratification, which means he’s expecting a lot of internal horse-trading. There’s even a chance that the horse-trading will - how surprising - require a last-minute and unwelcome change to what was agreed in autumn 2018. The idea being that everyone will be so tired that they will agree to anything to get shot of the thing.

If I can see that coming, I’m fairly sure people who do this for a living have as well.

That’s why, on March 29, 2019, there’s not going to be an all-encompassing agreement that covers trade, immigration, the role of the European Courts, the four freedoms, and Junker’s wine bill. The UK will leave Europe, possibly without paying a cent on the day, and be free at last from the European Courts.

Which is the exact desired outcome both sides want. It allows the EU to maintain its doctrine of legal imperialism, and the UK to achieve legal sovereignty. It prevents the last-minute horse-trading that nobody, in the EU or the UK, wants. It removes the need to have 27 countries agree on everything from cheese import quotas to how many Romanian builders can work in the UK at any given time.

Now you know this is what everyone wants, do their actions make more sense? They aren’t trying to reach an agreement. They are trying not to reach an agreement in a polite and constructive manner. The autumn 2018 deadline will pass, March 2019 will loom closer, everyone will realise that more talking time won’t do it, and March 29th will come and go. Not so much with a bang, but a whimper. The French will impose a bunch of spiteful bans and inconveniences in their national interest; and the EU will impose tactically another bunch of equally irritating bans and inconveniences. (The UK will not impose any spiteful or petty bans, because that’s how they make the EU look like a bunch of petty twats in the eyes of the world.)

It’s then possible for both sides to agree on individual issues without compromising general principles. The UK will agree to pay for pensions, the EU will lift some of its petty bans. The UK will agree to pay slightly inflated prices for participation in Europol and other individual pan-European institutions, and other petty bans will be lifted. Everyone will agree that this is terribly un-European, and just the sort of thing those perfidious Brits do, but after all, business must go on. For cosmetic purposes, the EU and the UK will start trade talks, expected to last at least twenty years, to avoid using WTO terms. (By the way, Canada doesn’t seem to have suffered for the last twenty years without a special deal with the EU, so WTO can’t be all bad.)

2019 will feel a little chaotic. there will be ‘administrative agreements’ and ‘temporary arrangements’ to prevent the paperwork stopping trade, and a switch to WTO tariffs (instead of EU tariffs). The small but irritating number of welfare scroungers and Euro-beggars will return to Europe – but some will stay on to be the subject of populist shock headlines in five years’ time. There will be a short hiccough in the supply of young people from Southern Europe and builders from Eastern Europe, until the word goes round that the UK is still open for business – and who really wants UK citizenship? Some medium-sized companies who thought that Brexit would ‘work’ will have hard times, but the large firms will be fine. It will turn out that all that manufacturing in China means that we were already really trading under WTO rules anyway.

Within five years, everyone in the EU will be fed up of being run by the German Finance Ministry, the Poles will refuse to accept more immigrants, and the EU Army, aka the Deutches Heer, will escort the refugees over the Polish border. Oh yeah. The first time as tragedy, the second as comedy.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Monty Hall - Stick or Switch? It Depends How Often You Can Play

The Monty Hall problem is back in the news, or at least the weekend edition of the Financial Times, again, I think because Monty Hall died recently. Here’s the problem:
You’re on a quiz show with a host, Monty. There are three cabinets A, B and C. In one cabinet is a car, and in the other two a goat. You get to nominate a door, and then Monty will open one of the other doors and ask you if you want to change your choice. What you know is that Monty never opens the door with the car in it. Never. Should you change your choice?
The answer, given by Marylin vos Savant, is that you should, as in two-thirds of the cases, you will win the car. When she gave that answer, the wrath of a zillion statisticians and mathematicians descended on her. Here’s her argument: there are three options (in order A, B, C)

  1. Car Goat Goat
  2. Goat Car Goat
  3. Goat Goat Car 
If you pick A, you lose by switching in option 1 and win in 2 and 3. Otherwise you win by switching in the other two options. Take the odds and switch. At least when you have the opportunity to play the game over and over.

What happens when you can only play once? Choose A and suppose that Monty opens door C to show a goat. Now you know there are only two options:

  1. Car Goat Goat
  2. Goat Car Goat
In this case, the odds are 50-50 for switching. Why? Because you don’t have third option of Goat-Goat-Car which would force Monty to open door B.

Play the game over and over, and switching will win more often. Play once, and it’s a flip of the coin, so you may as well switch, since the odds are the same. There’s a winning strategy for multiple plays, but not for a single play.

Damn that’s clever.

Statistics is not only hard, it also only applies when you can repeat the experiment.

What about all the other arguments, including one quoted on Wikipedia that says this;
By opening his door, Monty is saying to the contestant 'There are two doors you did not choose, and the probability that the prize is behind one of them is 2/3. I'll help you by using my knowledge of where the prize is to open one of those two doors to show you that it does not hide the prize. You can now take advantage of this additional information. Your choice of door A has a chance of 1 in 3 of being the winner. I have not changed that. But by eliminating door C, I have shown you that the probability that door B hides the prize is 2 in 3.’
Here’s the mistake: "the probability that the prize is behind one of them is ⅔” should read “the probability that the prize is behind one or other of them is ⅔”. No argument that tries to establish that switching always gives a 2:1 advantage can be right, because when you can only go once the odds are 50-50.

On a one-shot play, sticking is as good as switching.

And in the TV show, you only got one shot.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

John Martyn's Dusty - When You Have Food Poisoning And A Tune Keeps Running In Your Head

This was the first John Martyn song I heard, on a sampler album from, I think, Island. It had Traffic's Forty Thousand Headmen on it as well. Dusty is the first hint, I think, in his folk-music period, of the sublimity that would come out of nowhere on Bless The Weather. I'm going to write about that in another post. In the meantime, enjoy the first line - "Nico, two-headed Cuban giant / Is looking with all of his eyes" - and the rest of the song.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Retiring the Canon 1100D

Yet another ramble through a kit decision. My current camera stock consists of:

an iPhone SE
a Panasonic DMZ T-100
a Canon 1100D
an Olympus OM-10 film camera

and I have a Canon flatbed scanner and a Canon colour printer. This will matter a little further on in the discussion.

As you will have noticed, I take a lot of townscape photographs, and to look good, a townscape needs a minimum of perspective distortion. Take a snap at an angle with an iPhone or even the T-100 and it looks like you can't square up the lens. Which is one reason I went through the selection of perspective correction programs and chose DxO Perspective. I bought the 1100D a few years ago, and have not used it much. It's light but bulky, and while it does cityscapes well, it's a digital camera....

...and I wear glasses. If I take them off so Ican look through the viewer comfortably, the buttons and camera screen are a blur. If I keep them on, and look through the viewer, I'm darned if I can square up the camera properly. So if I want to adjust the f-stop I have to put the glasses on, then take them off to look through the viewer, then take them off... oh to heck with it. And no, I’m not using the screen: the whole point of a DLSR is the SLR viewer.

Plus the 1100D has a smaller chip. Which introduces perspective problems even if the lens is adjusted for that.

I had a final compare-and-contrast on the 1100D, OM-10 and T-100 the other evening, looking through viewfinders, screens, trying to adjust stuff and generally letting my short attention span hands make the decision. Which was...

...I want my full-frame back. The difference between looking through the 1100D viewer and the OM10 is, I swear the OM10 view has twice the area. The 50mm Zuiko lens has ZERO distortion, and my 28mm Zuiko lens has exactly the wide-angle distortion you need when you need it. (28mm is wide-angle, 15mm is fish-eye.) I can adjust the OM-10’s f-stop without taking the camera from my eye, or even as I'm lifting it up. I do need to wear glasses to see the view, but it feels easier to square up the lens. And yes, my thumb still has an effective wind-on-after-the-click reflex.

I could buy a full-frame digital. A reasonable consumer one only costs £1,800 with lens. Yep. Stop right there. Financial justifications needed. I could get every room in the house repainted for less. By people who know what they are doing.

A roll of 36 frames of Kodak ASA 200 colour film is around £3.50 if bought in bulk. Snappy Snaps will charge me £10 to develop and print on 4x6. (I'm not sure those prices have changed in about ten years or even more). That's around 130 reels of film to break even using a digital camera. I don't take 36 photographs a month at the moment - though I might if I loaded film. Film has a whole different psychology. That's 10 years to break even. In the meantime, I get to be old-school analogue cool and use a cameraI I like rather than one I need to re-read the manual when I want to adjust anything.

If I want to digitise stuff, I can scan the 6x4's. Or I could buy a film scanner, if I could find some reliable reviews, and just have the film developed.

Whatever I do, I’m retiring the 1100D. Not my best purchasing decision. I will go forth and buy some 35mm film and take the OM-10 for a walk and see how that works out.

The iPhone SE camera stays, as does the T-100. Each has its uses. Just not for cityscapes.

Monday, 25 September 2017

A Couple of Tunes

This is my favourite U2 song, simply because, well, pretty much everything

and I listened to the Paul Simon album on Tidal recently, and was surprised to find it was as good as I remembered, and sounded just as good the second time. This track has some of the best guitar playing Simon has done, and as for the electric guitar chording...

Oh, and you should use the Brave Browser. It's what browsing is supposed to be.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Richmond Old Deer Park / A316

Taken, so the metadata reminds me, on the 31st of August at 06:29. I like the ghostly white crane. Richmond is one of the most expensive places to live in the whole town, and it's right on the main flightpath. After a while, everyone just stops noticing.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Evaporating Arguments

More than a few times recently, I've started a piece set off by something, fired up by someone's claims and a need to explain why they are wrong, misguided or could look at it another way. I get about three hundrd words in, and the momentum dissipates. The latest was set off by the idea of "bullshit jobs" put about by a pasty-faced, soft-shellled shitlib Professor of Anthropology at the LSE, who turns out to know very little about the real world and even less about the interplay of his own ideals, government and jobs created by the need to prove conformity to government legislation which however imperfectly captures social policies the likes of soft-shell Professor Graebner would like to see implemented.

It's surprisingly hard work to discover and then explain the the false assumptions and ignorance under someone else's lousy ideas. And I'm not being paid to do this. So what happens is that I get to the point where I realise that the ideas I'm arguing against are based on assumptions that are so wrong I would actually need to explain them, and at that point, I give up.

Rollo over at The Rational Male does valuable work. But his feminine-primary society, while a useful heuristic for men starting off on their Red Pill journey, is not useful to those of us who started at the finishing point, and who are capitalists in practice and Marxists in theory. (Best combination by far.) I can't argue with his ideas anymore: he's using them to do something different to the things I want to do. There's no point in criticising a chisel because it's not a Phillips-head screwdriver.

By contrast, my long screed on Modes was as much an excuse to set out ideas that have been rattling around my head for a while. I'm not going to repeat it. And neither for that matter would I ever bother explaining to someone why contemporary music played by graduates of jazz schools has a small audience: if their ears can't tell them why, my words surely won't.

I don't discuss the finer points of the Big Book or the Ten Steps. It's not that there's no point, but that each recovering alcoholic must find an understanding that works for them. I can talk about how I did a particular Step, or how I deal with something in daily life, but the other person has to find something that works for them. What I say may or may not be useful.

The point of discussing an idea is not to convince the other person, nor to convince any bystanders. It's to test out one's own ideas on the subject by comparison and contrast. When the other ideas are just plain dumb, as Graebner's are, or are intended to instil a mindset, as many of Rollo's are, then there's nothing to test against.

As for the EU-bought-and-paid-for mainstream media, and politics divided into those on the right side of history and those without a clue, move along, there's as little to see as an Apple product announcement.

I need to find a new playground.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Monday, 11 September 2017

Why Do People Hate Jazz?

I was prompted to discuss this by a rambling but interesting post by Rick Beato. Prima facie he’s wrong. Lots of people like jazz, and everyone likes Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. Google “North Sea Jazz Festival” and see how big the crowds are. That’s not what he’s talking about: he’s wondering why the contemporary audience for music made by graduates of jazz schools is so small.

To get this discussion started, I'm going to suggest that we take

Miles Davis
John Coltrane
Charles Mingus
Charlie Parker
Duke Ellington
Count Basie
Cannonball Adderly
Cecil Taylor
Thelonius Monk
Keith Jarrett

and remove them from the discussion. History has established that these are musicians to match the great virtuoso-composers of musical history. Expecting a graduate of jazz college to do what John Coltrane did, or to show the musical judgement of Miles Davis, is like expecting a graduate of a music academy to play with the originality and taste of Liszt or Bach. It’s just silly to expect that.

So, here’s Sonny Stitt.

Here’s some more that’s so hip, the world’s going to turn black and white, and you’re going to be transported to Manhattan..

Sonny Clarke. And if you want something a little more funky, try this…

Moanin’ by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and the two Sonny’s, are from the Golden Age of Chamber Jazz, when it was the chosen music of white men who wanted to show they were hip, unconventional, tolerant, out-there and generally not square. Chamber Jazz was, for just under twenty years, the music of private white cultural dissent. Teenagers irritated their parents with it the way they've been using rap to do for the last forty years. Golden Age chamber jazz had been music for cities, cellar nightclubs, and two a.m. walks back to the third-floor cold-water walk-up. It was the soundtrack, often, to the life its listeners wanted to live.

Then stuff like this started to happen…


…and it got a little harder to follow all the new young players. And just in time, along came the Beatles, Bob Dylan, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. Jazz suddenly sounded bland, or it sounded horribly dissonant and self-consciously weird. The hot white girls definitely went for rock and pop. Aside from anything else, they could dance to it. The world changed as well: the lives that many white people wanted to live changed, being more West Coast than East Coast, and the lives that other people actually lived got worse. They needed something simpler, less polished and more direct, and after a few years of Funkaparlidelicment, rap and hip-hop came along to provide the soundtrack to those lives, and parent-baiting music for white boys.

The West Coast sensibility began to attract the men who had previously played Golden Age jazz. The West Cost sensibility is slick, smooth, emphasising technical accomplishment rather than feeling, less bluesy (who could really have the blues in California?) and there was a steady demand for soundtrack music for movies and TV series. Out of this came "smooth jazz", "jazz-funk" and other "hyphen-jazz" genres. Some of the old guard carried on, especially once they started to receive grants and teaching positions, but their audiences were getting older. And smaller.

Hyphen-jazz is dangerously close to elevator music. It took a Joe Zawinul, or Becker and Fagin, to keep the music sharp. Jazz had ceased to be a mood, a style and an attitude, and had become a C maj sus 7 dim 4 chord, musical “sophistication” for the sake of being clever. Becker and Fagin were in fact ultimately nostalgic for the Golden Age, a nostalgia Fagin's Nightfly project expressed so well.

Very little hyphen-jazz has anything to do with the Blues. It's my contention that all great music shares in the Blues, from Bach chorales and Byrd Masses to the best-selling jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue. The only great composer who is blues-free is Mozart. The Blues is there in Mahler, Wagner and even some Stockhausen. I don't mean you will hear runs that could have come from B B King, or repeated opening lines complaining about how the singer's magic ring has been stolen. I mean listen to the sensibility. There's a sadness built right into the best music, however joyful and triumphant it might be in the finale.

There's no Blues in Dave Grusin's Mountain Dance

, which is a

a very pretty tune I like a lot. But it's not jazz.

So where did the jazz audience go? Did the music abandon the audience? Did the audience give up trying to follow the musicians?

People want to dance. When a form of music becomes un-danceable - and you can dance to Snarky Puppy as much as you can to Ascension, that is, not at all - it’s going to lose its main audience and leave behind a bunch of aficionados, for whom it will be a soundtrack for their lives, if not everyday, then for a few intense moments of private emotion. And when the music won’t do that, or when the nature and setting of the emotions no longer fits the music, then even the True Faithful will leave it behind.

And sure as heck the replacement, the dry, Blues-free, swing-free, chord-scale dominated Euro-jazz and big band whatever-it-is music, is the soundtrack to nobody’s life. To what life is this Wayne Shorter track a soundtrack?

It’s from his Rachel Z collaboration High Life. What emotions are there in this pleasant but bland piece by Rachel Z...

...which is riddled with Bruce Hornsby stylings, at least to my ear.

Though this Snarky Puppy piece

would, if I was seventeen, be great get-my-day-started music to play on the way to college.

I’m not claiming that nobody identifies with any of the music produced by people who went to jazz school. The Snarky's have a large and enthusiastic following. Personally I wish their guitarist had never heard John Scofield, but they all play like that now.

I’m explaining why those jazz school graduates don’t have many people at their concerts, and their CD’s don’t sell.

It’s way past time we should abandon the idea that “jazz” still exists. Calling what is played now under the name of “jazz” is as lazy as calling Wagner “classical” music. Wagner was a Romantic. Mozart was a classical, and Bach was a Baroque, composer. I don’t know what to call what gets played now, but I do know it has nothing to do with Cal Tjader.

And it sure as heck has nothing to do with this…


Monday, 4 September 2017

June - August 2017 Review

Remember those pull-ups I was crowing about? June started with a visit to my osteopath. I had problems with my right shoulder and arm from doing pull-ups while being heavy. I had one visit to my sports masseur and another to the osteo before June was out. Those pull-ups did more damage than I thought.

Actually, while that visit was Friday, June really started when I fainted at the gym the next morning. Doing pulley-rows. half-way through the second set, I got that light-headed feeling that says “head between knees now”, which I started to do, and the next thing I remember I was sound asleep wondering how I got home. Then I woke up, and saw that I was in the gym, thought that was part of the dream, and then realised that it wasn’t, and that I must have passed out. I had not hurt anything - it’s a short trip from the pulley-row seat to the industrial carpet floor - but the gym had called an ambulance. The paramedics took ECGs, pulses, blood sugar and asked all the right questions. Fainting is taken very seriously, because while it probably means “not enough to eat”, it might mean all sorts of serious conditions. They took me off to University College Hospital, where I was whisked straight into a room, someone took some blood for testing, and then I was ignored for a couple of hours. Only by telling a nurse I was going to leave, did I get a young lady doctor, who asked even more sensible questions, made sure everything moved, prodded my abs and declared them “nice and soft” (!!!! my abs are like rock, but I think she meant, “not tight like a drum”), and sent me on my way. Following that I had lunch at Carluccio’s in Bloomsbury Square and went to the movies.

I took the next day off, because after you faint, you will have a few days where you’re not sure you might not do it again. It takes a little while to regain confidence in yourself.

I found a decorator for the flaking paint in my kitchen, he diagnosed a leaking cistern, and the plumber he suggested confirmed it. So towards the end of June, Pat the Plumber came in, hammered away and did things with pipes, to remove my old free-standing toilet and hidden cistern, and temporarily install the floor-stander I bought to replace it. July started with me taking all the old crud from my bathroom to the re-built tip at Spacewaye. Ah, what life is made of! The pipe into the cistern had been leaking slightly every time I flushed. Leaking stopped, the walls and floor could dry out, and everyone re-convened at the end of July to tile in the bathroom, and scrape away bad plaster, make good and paint the kitchen. Then Pat the Plumber came back and put the cistern on. Did I mention I was flushing with water from a bowl for a month? Always something new in my life.

Remember that week in July when the weather was crap? Yep. That was the week I took off.

July ended with the death of my nephew’s father. It turned out I was the sole remaining executor of his Will. So there were back-and-forths with the solicitor who held the will, while I assembled and had certified various documents to send so they could send me the Will. I handed that over to my nephew’s solicitor, who has acted for our family for a long time, and renounced my Executorship. This leaves my nephew in charge, which is how everyone wants it.

At some point in mid-July, I got a summer cold and had a day off to recover. I spent the next three weeks with a lingering cough, that culminated in a Thursday when I had really bad coughing and felt feverish and weak, and rarely for me, bailed at work. I saw my GP that Monday, who prescribed a week’ worth of amoxycillin. I took those, the cough went and I felt a little more perky than I had for a while. Some things do just work.

I saw War Machine, at the Curzon Bloomsbury, Baby Driver at the Curzon Soho, and Dunkirk at the local Cineworld. On DVD, I went through S1 of The Returned, Fog and Crimes and Billions S1.

Paco Pena passed through Sadlers Wells, and I saw him on the Saturday matinee, after lunch at Caravan in Exmouth Market.

I started my free month subscription to Tidal Premium. Not complaining yet. The difference in quality between the BBC Radio 3 digital broadcast of Respighi’s Pines of Rome and Tidal stream of the Academy of St Martin's version was night and day. The classical music seems thin on the ground, but I don’t see Naxos licensing its catalogue to Jay-Z when they have a site of their own.

I had to replace the fridge, since mine was making high-pitched hums every time it switched on. Replacing under-counter fridges 50cm wide is dead simple, because there’s practically no choice. Go into Curries, buy The Fridge, and pray it gets delivered without drama.

As for reading, in June, I got seriously bogged down in Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning, which is currently on hold. Releasing myself from that, I read Milo Yiannoplous’ Dangerous; Peter Plagen’s book about Bruce Nauman,The True Artist; Fumio Saski’s Goodbye Things; Ben Ratliff’s Every Song Ever; Fernanda Torres’ The End; Brian Christian and Tom Griffith’s Algorithms to Live By; John Kenneday Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces; Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The History of A Town; Warren Ellis’ Trees 1 and 2; the second book of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman; Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex 1; and also re-read Taleb’s Anti-Fragile.

(Don’t bother with A Confederacy of Dunces, do bother with The History of A Town. Trees is imaginative but sadly marred by SJW ideology - you would not think this is the man who wrote Transmetropolitan. Torres’ novel is a good read, but the exact opposite of what the blurb says: it’s a bunch of female-centered fantasies about men with options who nevertheless commit to flawed women. The Algorithms book actually proves that you can’t live by algorithms, but saying so would spoil the fun. The point of developing simplified algorithms is to highlight the complexities of the real world. Anti-Fragile was better the second time around, but yes, it is rambling and self-indulgent. Despentes’ novel could only be published in France and only written by a French woman. No Anglo would have the nerve.)

Sis and I had supper at the Providores on Marylebone High Street in June, and at The Shed in Notting HIll in July, and our annual trip up the Kingsland Road to Tay Do. I had a post-gym Saturday breakfast at the Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden, and at the Hoxton Hotel in Holborn another weekend, and lunch at The Test Kitchen in Soho during one rainy week off.

At the end of June I started going to the gym on Saturday morning and Sunday late afternoon. I’m liking doing that, and it makes a pleasant start and end to the weekend.

I have not described the endless silliness with Talk-Talk I had throughout July. Suffice to say that I have new copper into my house, have dumped their modem and use mine, even though I made them send me a replacement just because they should do. I’ll leave that for another rant.

Now I put it all together, it doesn’t seem so bad. But I kept feeling I wasn’t doing anything.