only 20 minutes left of my birthday…

31 today. A good age to be. 30 was a slightly daunting birthday, but now I’m affirmed in being a grumpy old git by watching the tv series ‘grumpy old men’. The basic idea is that lots of famous not so old guys like Will Self, Rick Wakeman, Tony Hawkes and Arthur Smith complain about everything that’s crap in the world, from speed bumps to tossers who talk too loudly on their mobile phones. And I find myself agreeing with them 9 times out of 10. So being 31 is fine by me – bring on middle age!

Presents, you ask? Lots of books, very fine books like ‘Mastering Music’ by Barry Greene and Thinking In Jazz by whoever it was who wrote it (it’s next door and I can’t be bothered to go and get it). Also got the new Peter Gabriel double best-of ‘Hits’, which is just brilliant. As I’ve said before, I’m in awe of people who produce awesome best ofs, as a testemony to a fantastic career – Paul Simon, The Cure, The Smiths, Prefab Sprout, Bruce Cockburn – all got best ofs that reveal a remarkable hit-rate when it comes to writing near-perfect music.

And what have I spent the last two days doing? Sorting out my bleedin’ tax for ’02-’03, that’s what! It’s a huge task, given that I’ve got boxes of receipts that need logging and have to get all my teaching info from my diary into an excel spreadsheet. A fine way to spend one’s birthday… :o)

Much finer than that was the curry we just went out for, but I shan’t bore you with that…

Soundtrack – Peter Gabriel, ‘Hits’; Steve Lawson, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline, Pt 1’ (this is REALLY good, even though it’s me, so I’m not really meant to say stuff like that…), Mogwai, ‘Ten Rapid’.

Happy Birthday…

…Jesus (oh, and Dido)

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

Christmas by John Betjamen.

It’s christmas day – happy christmas. Hope yours is a merry, fun, peaceful and debt-free one.

Seems weird to be celebrating the birth of the Prince Of Peace after a year of war, but it was a year when more people actively protested in favour of peace than at any time since Vietnam…

Maybe we’ll get some peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women after all.

one more christmas poem, this one by Steve Turner –

‘The Cast Of Christmas Reassembles for Easter’

Take the wise men to the Emperor’s palace.
Wash their hands in water.
Get them to say something about truth.
Does anyone know any good Jewish jokes?
The one about a carpenter
who thought he was a King?
The one about the Saviour
who couldn’t save himself?
The shepherds should stand with the chorus.
They have a big production number –
‘Barabbas, We Love You Baby’.
Mary? She can move to the front.
We have a special section reserved
for family and close friends.
Tell her that we had to cut the manger up.
We needed the wood for something else.
The star I’m afraid I can’t use.
There are no stars in this show.
The sky turns black with sorrow.
The earth shakes with terror.
Hold on to the frankincense.
We’ll need that for the garden scene.
Angels? He could do with some angels.
Avenging angels.
Merciful angels.
He could really do with some angels.
Baby Jesus.
Step this way please.
My! How you’ve grown!
Steve Turner

Soundtrack – Jools Holland’s christmas special on TV.

Found It!

OK, forget about that amphetadesk thing, the News Aggregator/RSS reader du jour for Windows users is SharpReader – a very cool bit of software methinks. Easy to use, very quick to see what’s been updated – will certainly save me time… yeah, riiight…

Soundtrack – Rain Tree Crow, ‘Rain Tree Crow’; and some of me.

Drop your Debt

So, a few days ago I blogged about the increasing burden of debt facing so many brits, and then today on the bbc news page, I see ‘Archbishop Warns On Debt Dangers’. So clearly, the AB of C reads my blog, and forms his opinions based on it. Wise ole’ Bish that he is.

What’s also of interest is that I found this story via my new aggregator… see, it works!

Check out The AB of C Rowan Williams’ website to see more great ideas that he no-doubt stole from me.

Syndication – the future of the net???

So, I’m a long way behind most techies, but it seems to me that Syndication/New Aggregation/RSS feed readers etc. are going to be future of how people gather info from the net…

In case, like I was until last week, you’re in the dark about this stuff, there’s a process called RSS that uses a language called XML, which is basically a way of tagging your web pages to make then easily interpretable by various bits of software, and that some of those bits of software are news aggregators, which allow to to subscribe to XML-written pages so that on one page, you get all the info from all your subscribed pages – so each morning, instead of surfing round loads of different sites to check if a) they’ve been updated and b) there’s anything of interest to you, you can use your news aggregator to collate the headlines from all of them together, so at a glace you can see what’s new on that day. At the moment, the main services seem to be news sites like the bbc, and blogs, like this one – you’ll see in the panel on the left, if you scan down, there’s a ‘syndicate this site (XML)’ link, or something like that, and if you copy the shortcut there and put it into your news aggregator page, it’ll add this to your collated page.

On mine at the moment, I get UK news and Entertainment news from the BBC, a web innovations feed that was already part of the package when I subbed, as well as updates on a lot of friends blogs.

The software I’m using is called Amphetadesk, and seems OK, though I’ll keep looking and see if I can find one with a groovier interface…

Anyway, I reckon this is going to be one of the next big waves of interest in the net, so I’m going to syndicate the news page on my website soon, and probably the gigs page too… Til then, you’ll just have to stick with my mailing list, or this ‘ere blog for your fascinating glimpse into a life less extraordinary… :o)

Soundtrack – right now, Matthew Garrison, ‘Matthew Garrison’ – Matt’s one of the most vital, interesting and innovative voices in the bass world right now – 2004 will hopefully be the year that he gets the huge success he deserves. Get this album now, and pretend you knew about him all along…

end of year roundup top 5s

So we’re rapidly approaching the exit of 2003 and the entrance of 2004, to take up the batton of time for it’s year in the spotlight. It can’t really be much worse than its younger sibling on a world scale (well, I guess it could, if the bush/blair axis of evil decide to invade more countries, and don’t realise that they really have no place being in Iraq… but I digress…)

Anyway, there have been some cool things this year, so here’s a series of top 5s to sum up my year (each of them is in no particular order…) –

top 5 albums from this year –

Athlete – Vehicles and Animals
Bill Frisell – The Interncontinentals
John Lester – Big Dreams And The Bottom Line
Bruce Cockburn – You’ve Never Seen Everything
Kelly Joe Phelps – Slingshot Professionals

Top 5 albums I got this year but were released ages ago –

Theo Travis – Heart Of The Sun
Rob Jackson – Wire, Wood and Magnets
Denison Witmer – Philadelphia Songs
David Torn – Tripping Over God
Medeski Martin And Wood – The Dropper

Top 5 musical collaborators this year –

Theo Travis
Orphy Robinson
Patrick Wood
Luca Formentini
BJ Cole

Top 5 fave gigs I went to –

Athlete – The Astoria
Bill Frisell – The Barbican
King’s X – The Mean Fiddler
Kelly Joe Phelps – The Stables
Bruce Cockburn – The Stables

Top 5 fave gigs played –

National Theatre Foyer (with Theo Travis)
Greenbelt (with Patrick Wood)
Derby Dance Centre (with Orphy Robinson and Corey Mwamba)
Constable Jacks (California – with Michael Manring)
Anaheim Bass Bash (with Michael Manring)

Top 5 International Destinations –

California (USA)
Garda Lake (Italy)
Le Monstastier (France)
Amsterdam (Holland)
Copenhagen (Denmark)

Heroes –

Tony Benn
John Pilger
Michael Moore
Michael Franti
Scott Peck

Villains –

Richard Desmond
Max Clifford

would’ve done top books and top films, but haven’t seen enough of either to
come up with a convincing list of good ones.

I’ll add more as I think of them, but that’s it for now…

Soundtrack – yesterday I downloaded the new version of WinAmp – WinAmp 5, and have been listening to various Shoutcast radio stations ever since!

Christmas arrives early

in my house, with the arrival of my new bass.

here she is –

The spec – Modulus fretted 6 string, carved top (the first bass like this that Modulus have ever made!) semi-hollow, Chechen fingerbaord and top, Mahogany body, Bartolini pickups and (I think) Aguilar circuit. I’ve already strung it up with a set of Elites Flatwounds, which sound amazing on it, and will get a U-Retro preamp put in it ASAP (same as the one in my fretless 6 string).

Suffice to say, it’s an unbelievably beautiful bass, sounds incredible, is a dream to play and I’m really excited about the musical possibilities it offers me!

Sadly my pictures don’t do the beauty of the craftsmanship proper justice – I’ll get some better pix taken ASAP…

Soundtrack – still Rob Jackson

A window on my week…

…albeit an overpriced double glaze one.

OK, so I should have known never to invite round a double glazing salesman from a cold-call; it’s a hideous way to do business (I usually just try and sell them CDs… ;o) but the guy caught me at a bad time, and I agreed to getting a quote…

So, Wednesday night, we spent FOUR HOURS (oh yes, four long tedious hours) being spield by a double-glazing salesman, being told that normal double-glazed windows could be dismantled in seconds, that his company was great – the main reason being that they don’t beat up their customers… ????? Your guess is as good as mine…

Anyway, talking to a couple of journos, one of whom is a sociology grad (that’ll be not me then) was clearly a bad idea for a salesman using all the classic sales techniques, culminating in making us feel very guilty for him losing his commission. However, any company who are willing to drop from an initial (insane) quote of

Apparently I'm a 9W8… ??

Following a bizarre series of links (looking for a website for a coffee shop in Redlands CA, would you believe) I ended up at an Enneagram test! According to the site, ‘The Enneagram is a system which divides all human behavior into nine personality divisions’, so there you go! It’s sort of old-school Myers Briggs, and it’s always fascinating to do these things – largely because the results are based on what you’ve actually typed in, rather than some slightly less reliable method like looking at the entrails of a sheep, or attempting to interpret light beams emitted a couple of million years ago…

anyway, here’s my Enneagram thingies –

Conscious self
Overall self

Take Free Enneagram Personality Test

Advanced Enneagram Test Results

Type 1 Perfectionism |||||| 30%
Type 2 Helpfulness |||||||||||||| 57%
Type 3 Ambition |||||||||||| 50%
Type 4 Sensitivity |||| 18%
Type 5 Detachment |||||||||| 38%
Type 6 Anxiety |||||||||| 31%
Type 7 Adventurousness |||||||||||||||| 61%
Type 8 Hostility |||||||||||| 42%
Type 9 Calmness |||||||||||||||| 70%

Your Conscious-Surface type is 9w8
Your Unconscious-Overall type is 9w8

Take Free Advanced Enneagram Personality Test

no idea if this means I’m a completely rubbish human being, or quite a good one, and it’s all dependent on my not being utterly deluded about the answers to the questions. While I obviously tried to answer what I would actually do rather than what I think a groovy person would do, there’s always the chance that I’m blissfully unselfaware… all interesting stuff though! do the test yourself at

Soundtrack – nowt

A week in the life of…

me. what a surprise.

When did I last blog (quick check…), Ah yes, Sunday – right since then? I’ve done some teaching, we’ve scrapped the small person’s car, and on Monday night I went to a ‘Bob Harris presents’ gig at The Stables in Wavendon. The lineup was great – Heather Myles (Mary Chapin Carpenter sings Buddy Holly sort of vibe), Nick Harper and Thea Gilmore.

Nick Harper was the main attraction for me – having seen him play at Greenbelt, after having been introduced to his music by Catherine Streetteam (thanks!), I’ve been looking for a chance to see him play again, and as the marvellous JJ aka mini-harv is promoting the series of shows.

Nick’s live shows have to see seen to be believed. He sings and plays acoustic guitar, but the twist is that he takes two processors with him, one for voice and one for guitar, distorts his guitar to sound like an electric on occasion, puts big delays on his voice, and tunes his guitar down a fourth from usual so gets an insane amount of low end out of it anyway. A genuine one man band, with more on stage energy than most four piece bands and zero gimmick factor – just an amazing show with some great songs. His new album, blood songs, is excellent.

Thea’s set was good, though a bit of the guitar and nearly all the bass parts were on backing tracks, which – call me old fashioned – just doesn’t work for a ‘rootsy’ show – at some points there were three guitars and keyboards going – surely one of them could have actually played a bass line??? Her songs were fine, and he voice is lovely, but the canned part of the show really didn’t do it for me. When she dropped it back to a more acoustic sound, she was really really good, and if she was doing a solo tour, I’d go and see her again in a heartbeat. But the tracks have to go.

The other bizarre highlight of the evening was being recognised by some people who had seen me play at the Stables with the Schizoid Band, and came up to say hi – which I was doing the merch table for Nick… not often that one gets spotted doing merch, but it made for an interesting diversion from selling CDs!

Other than that, it’s been a week of buying christmas cards, writing a christmas newsletter and then today finding out that my new bass will be shipped over from the states this week!!!! HOW EXCITING IS THAT????? I can’t wait. Anderson, the artist relations guy at Modulus, reckons it’s incredible – and despite working in artist relations, he’s not usually given to hyperbole, so I’m even more excited than I would have been!!!

Soundtrack – Nick Harper, ‘Blood Songs’; Martyn Joseph, ‘Whoever It Was Who Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home’ (more magic for the welsh cockburn); Mabulu, ‘Marimbo’ (Mozambique african hip-hop crossover stuff. Marvellous); Stevie Wonder, ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ (certainly in the key of my life).