Archive for General Confusion

Come the revolution

prince1Prince’s new album, Planet earth, was given away with a rag of a Sunday paper today, causing quite a furore in the “music industry.” The Mail on Sunday may be a horrible paper, but I made up for it by buying a couple of fairtrade dubble bars at the same time. That’s one of the best excuses for buying a dubble bar I’ve had all week.

Here’s what’s left worth keeping from the shopping trip. Just the CD and the dubble bars.Prince 2

The furore was caused by a new album being given away free. Shock, horror cried the “industry”, the sky is falling. Cover mounts are destroying the “industry”, Prince is betraying record stores who stock his cd’s etc etc. This is the same “industry” who used to declare in huge letters on record sleeves in the eighties that “Home taping is killing music – and its illegal.” The same industry who continues to make a huge profit, more than in the eighties. Oh how we’re shedding tears for them as they continue to spread their FUD.

Prince is supposed to have made £250,000 from the giveaway. The paper covered the cost in the hope of recouping it in increased circulation and advertising revenue, which is why they’ve been trailing it for a month. Money is still being made, the problem of the complainers is that their music sales profit monopoly is being threatened. Like a record store like HMV really cares, the last Prince release sold only 80,000 in the UK in total. They’re concerned about the precedent.

In the meantime, Prince makes a new chunk of money without the record company making any (still finding it hard to care about that, anyone who has ever seen a cross-collatoralisation deal would probably agree) and gets lots of publicity for his 21 live shows in London. Artist makes money, record company gets none, fans get new album legit and cheap. I’m betting this won’t be the last time we see this done. Meanwhile, the “music business” (who are everything about business, music is just the way they try and make their money) has a new worry they can’t even threaten their customers with, a la file sharing. This is the same “music business” who, as their power has grown and grown, has turned music from something we participate in, something that we play and enjoy together, socially and creatively, into something that others do, where we are entertained by “professionals” and encouraged to consume, not create. In return for believing that “we couldn’t do that” we’re fed a stream of sub-standard, here today, gone tomorrow pap by the “professionals.” Who can forget the musical inspiration that was “The fast food song.” Music business, we shed such tears for you. To paraphrase one of the new songs on Prince’s CD, “I love you baby, but not like I love my guitar.”


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My sticky shoes

I’m a naturally scruffy person, there’s no use in me denying it. Its not that I don’t have my smart moments, I simply gravitate towards the relaxed and comfortable and there’s something about me that makes me look scruffy. I’m not complaining, merely stating fact.

It may be my choice of wardrobe of course. I have only one pair of “smart” shoes, classic English brogues in black leather. I reflected today, as I was taking them off after one of their very rare appearances, that I’ve had this same pair for 13 years now. 13 years for one pair of shoes should give you an idea of how seldom they come out, or so I thought.

They’re not very worn because I only wear them with a suit, but despite that these long standing (couldn’t resist) shoes have had their share of adventures. They’ve seen 6 weddings, been to the head offices of multi-national companies, travelled the length and breadth of the country, borne 3 coffins, walked into a handful of restaurants, kept me standing when delivering lectures and training to FTSE 100 companies, been scuffed when fixing computers, danced, tapped along when playing in a jazz band and even made a dream come true.

Somehow, these shoes I never wear seem to have seen more of life than I have, which is worrying considering its always been me that’s been wearing them. Perhaps I’d be better letting my shoes blog for me.

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The meaning of life

Not a wren. Today.In a world where we struggle with the big questions, I have at last discovered the meaning of life. For wrens.

As a colour blind and self avowed bad birdwatcher, wrens have always held a special interest for me. As a tiny, tree coloured bird that lives in trees around lots of other trees, they have their own particular difficulties for me to spot. They may be one of the most populous birds in the country, but to me they may as well be invisible, seen but not heard.

After extensive research on this topic I have discovered the meaning of life for the wren. It exists and finds its fulfillment in the following step by step.

1. Wait for me to arriving hopefully, clutching my binoculars.
2. Make a noise, or better still fly tantalisingly close enough for me to know that a wren is about.
3. Stay completely still as I bring my binoculars up, release I’ve got them in the wrong spot, lower them, check, realise I had them in the right place all along but the bird is so damn small and tree coloured that I didn’t spot it in the binoculars first time, bring the binoculars up again and settle them on the fuzzy dot.
4. Make little movements while I frantically try to track the wren and focus at the same time.
5. Stop, just as I get it perfectly in focus.
6. Wait a nanosecond and fly away.

Once is a pain. Twice is frustrating. 6 times in half an hour is vindication for my theory. The meaning of life for wrens is to wind me up. As proof of this problem I present my latest photo of a wren not there, taken this morning. It makes me grateful for blue tits.

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Power of the mind

IBM are happy with their latest achievement. They’ve discovered it takes a supercomputer with 4096 processors to think ten times slower than a mouse with half a brain and for only 10 seconds.

Sooooooo, we’ll not be expecting the Matrix to become reality anytime soon then.

I can’t help thinking they could have got the same effect for a lot cheaper with the application of copious amounts of alcohol.

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New music

I’ve been downloading a lot of new music this week and I’ve been determined to get it all for free. Not a single penny of mine has crossed the Internet as I’m getting my megabytes of music. Bit Torrent? Nah. Limewire? Are you kidding me? I’m going for creative commons music. Songs I can download completely legally.

Of course this means that I’m getting a load of very new music from people I’ve never heard of, but since when has an artist being signed to a label been an indicator of quality? Most people haven’t even heard of creative commons music and they’re missing out because of it. Sure the edges might not be polished completely smooth, but to me that’s a positive. What I’m hearing is real. Its authentic. Its like that band you loved when they brought their first album out, when they were still hungry, but the rest were never quite as good.

I’ve been a fan of Scott Andrew for a couple of years and I found him because of his creative commons music releases. Today I found another artist whose fun and intelligent approach to describing life in a pop song have instantly endeared him to me. I highly recommend you visit the website of Jonathan Coulton and listen to some of his songs. I’m particularly fond of this one, for the aforementioned fun and intelligence –


Long ago in days of yore
It all began with a god named Thor
There were Vikings and boats
And some plans for a furniture store
It’s not a bodega, it’s not a mall
And they sell things for apartments smaller than mine
As if there were apartments smaller than mine

Ikea: just some oak and some pine and a handful of Norsemen
Ikea: selling furniture for college kids and divorced men
Everyone has a home
But if you don’t have a home you can buy one there

So rent a car or take the bus
Lay your cash down and put your trust
In the land where the furniture folds to a much smaller size
Billy the bookcase says hello
And so does a table whose name is Ingo
And the chair is a ladder-back birch but his friends call him Karl

Ikea: just some oak and some pine and a handful of Norsemen
Ikea: selling furniture for college kids and divorced men
Everyone has a home
But if you don’t have a home you can buy one there

Ikea: plywood, brushed steel
Ikea: meatballs, tasty
Ikea: Allen wrenches
All of them for free
All of them for me

I’m sorry I said Ikea sucks
I just bought a table for 60 bucks
And a chair and a lamp
And a shelf and some candles for you
I was a doubter just like you
Till I saw the American dream come true
In New Jersey, they got a goddamned Swedish parade

Ikea: just some oak and some pine and a handful of Norsemen
Ikea: selling furniture for college kids and divorced men
Everyone has a home
But if you don’t have a home you can buy one there

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Nostalgia, its not what it used to be.

Geek nostalgia usually means emulation, but  sometimes old hardware has its attractions too, which is why this article on the BBC website about the Sinclair ZX Spectrum brings a smile. Ah, those young and innocent days of breaking the keyboard playing Daley Thompson’s Decathlon. Whose idea was it to make you run by repeatedly pressing buttons anyway?

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The first definition of branded – 1.marked with a branding iron to show ownership: branded cattle.

We, who are so addicted to brands, using them as parts of our identity, to define ourselves, to give ourselves a sense of value, are apparently branded cattle. Willing to pay well over the actual value of items to obtain a particular brand, you are apparently marked with a branding iron to show ownership.

Ah ha! You are owned by your items, marked by them to show ownership! Look how I scoff at you, as I sit here writing this post, safe from the insidious effects of brand obsession, wearing my Tilley hat, my Scott eVest, my Birkenstock sandals, my……



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