Monday, August 27, 2007

Today's great totally non-surprising discovery: I chanced upon this site tonight. It's a site dedicated to Electronic Ambient Music. Always open to the delights of new music - especially if it is free, as this lot is, I had a listen.

'Electronic Ambient' turns out to be the sort of pointless, tuneless, invisible stuff that plays in the background of games like Myst. It's all vague and dribbley electronic ooooooooooaaaaaah and gentle gongs and bucketfuls of echo. Pointless pseudo Spiritually-uplifting musical Prozac that makes the inane Celtic drivel I ranted about a while ago sound like Satan Ate My Puppy Thrash Metal. It's the sort of stuff you don't notice until it stops.
After a few minutes of increasing boredom I tried playing several of the tracks simultaneously - and found it made no difference whatsoever. It was amazing. It sounded exactly the same! Okay, maybe it was slightly louder, but it was certainly no more interesting. Normally when you play two pieces of music simultaneously it either sounds dreadful or, if you are very lucky, weirdly mashed up funny. I added a few more tracks and it started to get a bit more interesting but hardly anything worth bothering to repeat. (I suspect the only interest I was finding in it was wondering just how many tracks Firefox could play simultaneously without crashing.)

How can you play seven pieces of music at the same time and still not get any discords?

I think I may have just invented the world's most pointless art form, and, as its only current practitioner*, I can tell you that 'Electronic Ambient Mashup' is the only kind of music yet discovered that is improved by the interruption of Windows error alert sounds.

* 'Electronic Ambient Mashup' gets zero hits on Google so I claim this art form as my own. It's mine! I am the Godfather of EAM! and if I could be bothered I'd write a manifesto - then stand up and mumble it gently to myself.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lack of bloggerising round here at the moment is down to trying to get the Panto into some sort of presentable shape. Or at least the fifty percent of it that Mike and I had already written.

I'll rephrase that.

Or at least the fifty percent of it that Mike and I though we had already written.

For one reason and another we haven't really been working on this a lot recently and stopped at the end of Act one. When, the other night, I finally got round to thinking about giving it a quick read through before printing it - I found I couldn't find it. I found various earlier versions but not the finished finished first act I remembered having last worked on. One everso cold-sweaty, slight panic later I found it on a laptop I had forgotten I own - only to realise, as I re-read it, I was supposed to have written an entire new scene to get some plot points in, and complete the final scene which sort of just dwindled away to a

So, for the past few nights I have been up till stupid times of the early hours of tomorrow trying to be funny. Some jokes came - when the kids are asleep and there are no distractions I can hear what's going on in my head they will come - "Type them, and they will come..." but I gave up trying to get the plot points in and just ended up having one character say to another:
"Hand me the piece of paper with all the exposition on it."
Which he then proceeds to read out.

As it was this turned out to have been a good idea because
a. people laughed on the read through, and
b. all the exposition he reads out has to be changed.
The scene as written has to be moved nearer the front of the show, and yet another scene added in its place to get the love interest in much earlier and make the baddy badder. I would have been spitting feathers if I had spent all those hours seamlessly weaving that exposition into the dialogue only to have to start all over again.

A night off, then back to the funny mines tomorrow night. Let's see what's happening over on the BarbieCam...


I personally believe... it is dead scary that people applauded at the end of that, and that she will have the vote soon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Merriol is away for a couple of days. Some NHS wallah has just discovered a rich new seam of previously undiscovered paperwork and has called together doctors and practice managers from all over the country to dump it on them. So my poor missus is far from home tonight, languishing in a "not very good" room - somewhere in here:

Dunblane Hydro

I'm sure I've seen this place in a bejillion movies doubling for castles all over the world (OK, Europe*) and in every genre of movie (bar Westerns - I don't remember any Westerns with castles in them). This place has four stars and the 'Free' facilities include Indoor Pool, Jacuzzi, Sauna, Solarium, Gym, and 24 hour room service! How come when I go on the road I end up in windowless converted garages with mad landladies who decorate each room of their houses with three different, clashing, wallpapers and the sort of insanely ugly ornaments you only ever see in Bed and Breakfast places in this country? I work for the wrong people I guess.

I became convinced last time I was on tour that there was , circulated only with the closed and closely guarded ranks of B&B owners, a catalogue from which they could order the ghastly crinoline lady toilet roll covers, ugly gold-rimmed lampshades, strange ceramic and crystal sculptures of dolphins, bad paintings of Scotty dogs, and all manner of things decorated with frogs! By god there are a lot of froggy things in Bed and Breakfasts in Scotland. Some of this stuff was so ugly it makes Argos crap look tasteful.

My other fantasy about this was that Bed and Breakfast owners regularly sneaked (snuck?) into each other's houses at night and planted these ugly things to make the competition look bad, but because they had all been at it for so long they had totally lost any grasp of whatever critical faculties they had in the first place and didn't notice any more that all their own houses looked like the Land That Taste Forgot.

* and I was so tempted to Photoshop in a lightning bolt into that sky...

...and drape a few of those long red Nazi flags down the front for good measure like some bad 60s war movie with Lee Marvin in it.

A weird half-tank half-armoured car thing zooms up the gravel drive to the front door where it stops with a screech of well-maintained brakes. A uniformed officer of the Third Waffen Ubergrupenngschaftenmeinenzeit, steps down from the running board and slaps one leather gloves onto his crisp black jodhpurs. A uniformed flunky runs towards him from the house.
"I am Reichvicemarschallgesentinbumsfassenfuher Schmitt of the Third Waffen Ubergrupenngschaftenmeinenzeit," roars the new arrival, "I wish to speak to your Commanding officer."
"Yes, Reichvicemarschallgesentinbumsfassenfuher Schmitt!" The flunky salutes and hurries off.
Cut to interior. The office of Reichsmarschallinsebensschtummer Hans Faltermeister. The Flunky enters:
"Reichsmarschallinsebensschtummer, there's a Reichvicemarschallgesentinbumsfassenfuher Schmitt of the Third Waffen Ubergrupenngschaftenmeinenzeit to see you sir."
"What! Reichvicemarschallgesentinbumsfassenfuher Schmitt? Here?"
"Yes, Reichsmarschallinsebensschtummer."
"Well, Untermarschallinsebensschtummer, you had better show him in..."

Meanwhile across the channel, Somewhere in England, the same conversation was taking place in a different language.
"Captain! there's Lieutenant Dick Smith to see you, sir."
"What! Dick Smith? Here?"
"Yes Captain."
"Well sergeant, you had better show him in..."

You see where this is going don't you? The Allies won the Second World War not because of any spectacularly wonderful planning, or because the American had more money, or even because we were right and Nazidom was an evil monstrosity that had to be destroyed (still does), no, the Allies won the war because a great chunk of it spoke English. It took half the time to say stuff in English. The grammar was a great help too. Putting verbs at the end of the sentence is not a good idea in emergency situations

English: Shoot that tank, over there!
German: Over there, that tank shoot!

The English shells were half way to their target before the German guys had been told what to do. "Ah! You want us to shoot them!" Obviously that is a silly simple example but anything more complex - possibly involving clauses and the English speaker is at a natural advantage. Indeed the average native English speaker doesn't normally listen to the second half of any sentence at all, all the good stuff is in the opening.

By the time Reichvicemarschallgesentinbumsfassenfuher Schmitt had, later in the movie, finally finished saying: "For you,Tommy, the war is over!" It was over.

I've no idea what all that was about but I think I'm glad to have got it out of blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blah blah blah.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Did You Just Put A Magnet Up Your Bum!?

As of Monday this week both Holly and Daisy go to school. (Pictures over on Merriol's Blog). I have been looking forward to this for ages. Much as I love my daughters to bits it is sometimes hard to know how children so small can occupy so much time and space. I've been looking forward to this week for ages because it meant that I would now have some time in which to do something above and beyond the basic "Keeping Everything Under Control and Cooking" which is all that I seem to be able to do at the moment. Currently a good day is when the place doesn't look quite as shambolical in the evening as it did in the morning. Real gold medal time is when I actually get to finish the things I list in my head I have to do during they day.
With Holly in school all day and Daisy away for the afternoon I would be able to think about larger projects like painting the bare plasterboard walls that didn't get finished when we built the upstairs four years ago, like getting to grips with the tottering piles of books and magazines in the office, like finishing the script I should have completed three months ago. Stuff like that.

The trouble is that for the first 4 weeks of the term Holly isn't at school all day. I found this out to my crushing disappointment only last week so had to immediately shelve any idea I had of actually achieving anything this month. Holly goes to school in the morning. Daisy goes to school in the afternoon. This means that I have to get Daisy her lunch, and get her up the hill by 12.30 to meet Holly coming out of school. We then kick about in the playground for fifteen minutes till Nursery opens then I take Holly home and feed her her lunch. If you add in dawdle on the way home time, unavoidable chuntering to Mums at the gates time, chitchat with teachers time, lost shoes searching time etc. etc. lunch, which used to take an hour, now takes two. By Holly going to school I actually have less time during the day than I did before. And, because when Holly is at school she can't play with Daisy, and vice versa in the afternoon, they both demand even more of my time because they haven't got each other to distract them.

Three weeks to go...

I hope I make it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

So, back to the trip to Glasgow we did a few days ago...

We arrived back in the village at the same time as our latest load of Couchsurfers phoned They too had just arrived in the village -all six of them. Mother, Father and four kids. (They have five but they left one at the airport, or at home with the grandparents, or something.) We got them to our place, offered them a cup of coffee - they don't drink coffee - or tea..

Okay, calm slow breaths, I've got six Mormons in my kitchen - and I invited them in...

I make them Roobush tea (it's caffine free), we chit chat for a bit and then, suddenly with no warning, they all go to bed. In my living room. This is about ten o'clock, about three or four hours before I usually even think about sleep - even as an abstract concept. If you know the layout of my house you are thinking "Oh no!", or "Oh dear!", or something similar. If you don't know the layout of my house, let me explain:

Our house is a converted old single room school. You walk in through the front door into the kitchen in the centre of the building with stairs up to the bedrooms. A door in the Kitchen leads to the Living Room which occupies the end third of the building. In the far corner of the Living Room is another door which leads to the Bathroom containing - and here's the crunch - the only toilet in the house.

There are six people wearing strange underwear between me and the bog.

I send Mike a text, ' I have Mormons in my living room, I may need to pee at your place.'

I don't know what time Mormons get up when they aren't on holiday but he wasn't too horrified when I burst into his house the next morning yelling, "Hi Mike, I've come round for a crap!"

I have never been one for great toilet anxieties. I don't remember as a child being scared that some great poo monster was going to bite my bum and drag me into the sewers but the thought of sitting having my morning dump with the Waltons sitting the other side of the door was just too much. I just can't shit in front of an audience.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The annual nominees for this month's weekly No Shit! Sherlock Award for pointless, weird or misleading guff in any category are in.

First up is Yahoo for this bit of their sign-up for a new username routine:

Gender: (Select One) ?

It just got weirder and weirder the more I thought about it. 'Select One' Why not just 'Select'? it's a pull down menu, you can only select one - and the list to select from is disappointingly short.

The second is a washing label, which I have lovingly recreated in Illustrator because I couldn't be bothered to scan it:

Apart from not understanding half of it (I have never knowingly triangled any of my washing but am now worried that I might have been unwittingly doing it for years) the instructions also warn me not to iron this item. Not that I need any prompting in that direction. I hate ironing and just don't do any, but it did make me wonder who in their right minds would need to be told not to iron a cushion?

Bloot - again!

Bats Can Smell Them With Their Ears

We did something Summer Holidayish with the kids! They go back to school next week and we finally got our act together. We went down to Glasgow to go to the "Glasgow Science Place" where one of the kids' favourite TV shows Nina and the Neurons is filmed. I love exploratory hands on science places like this, but this trip was hard work. I twatted my back last week and have been hobbling around very slowly, very painfully ever since (some days, getting out of bed has been a major and painful operation) and after two hours sat in the car both of kids had energy to burn, so, as soon as we were in through the doors, both of them were off, like rats up a drainpipe, pushing levers, pulling handles, and twisting knobs all over the place. As soon as Holly had found a brand new, ultra-fascinating, hands-on, vaguely educational thing to play with, (and I had got my head around which Basic Principle of Physics it was trying to demonstrate, but before I had worked out how to convert my high school science lessons - augmented by 30 years of 'real life' - understanding of the Basic Principle into Holly compatible terminology) she was off somewhere else whanging another lever back and forth, making another set of magnets bang into each other, leaving me to creak back onto my feet and stagger after her.
I soon swapped her for Daisy, who was a lot more biddable and a bit slower on her feet. At one point we encountered some of those giant distorting mirrors that used to be big fun at fairgrounds in the days before sophistication set in. Daisy loved them, "Look! I'm fat!" - and I have to admit so did I - not because they made me look fat, I don't need any help in that direction, but because for a second in one of them I saw Daisy stretched tall and thin. She didn't look like the cute little three year old girl at my side at all. I was seeing her as she will look when she she is eight or nine. It was a very strange moment. I was as if I was looking into the future. As she ran off to peer at her self in another weird mirror my back creaked painfully and I farted, both loudly and noisomely, and I thought "...and this is what I will be like when I'm eighty..."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Eva's Day

Yesterday was good.
Eva's ashes were scattered under the small tree in Mike and Morag's back garden. Words were spoken, a poem was read, drinks were drunk, and people were hugged. I got to wear my kilt and get introduced to loads of people I will never meet again. I sat, talked, played with the kids, and gave Mike a hug when he needed one. It was, strange to say, a good day. A sad one but good.
I think it has helped.

Just before the moment when Mike and Morag planted the tree and scattered their daughter's ashes beneath it, a camera was thrust into my hands by Morag's brother-in-law who had to go help them. They both wanted loads of photos of this moment and I had, at a moment's notice, been elected to take them. It was a very odd, unsettling, and unpleasant feeling. I took the photos, with part of my brain in automatic phototaking mode - trying to frame the picture so that no one's heads were sticking out of plant pots and moving to get clear shots without having someone's ear filling half the screen - but another part of my brain was feeling incredibly uncomfortable, as if I was intruding , taking pictures of my friends on what was a very sad, personal moment. Though I knew they wanted the photos taken, it somehow felt very - wrong.
And, even as I was taking the pictures, I realised this is what press photographers do every day. All those photos we see in the papers taken in war zones and disaster areas, the endless streams of images of death, illness, and despair, someone has to take them. I wondered how they do it, how they distance themselves from what they are seeing and take the photos they have to. The very nature of what they do means they have to look at the unpleasant and distressing much more closely than many of us could imagine. I wondered how they cope - I also found it pretty amazing how much thinking about the totally abstract I can do when feeling incredibly uncomfortable with my situation. Don't think about it, just do it - and if you do have to think, think about something else! Maybe that's how they do it.
Having that camera in my hand did remove me from the moment. Having a task, a role, something to do I was, for those few minutes, an observer of the event when I really wanted to be a participant.
I was glad to hand the camera back so I could join everyone again.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Topology for 3 year olds:

Do you want me to cut your
burger into pieces for you, Daisy?

Yes please.

How many pieces do you
want me to cut it into?


Missing CD? Contact vendor

Free CD
Please take care
in removing from cover.

Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

(this copyright notice stolen from

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