31 August 2008

Late Summer Fun

13 Shahrivar - Year 1387

Where did August go? It certainly seemed to go by quite quickly. As I explained in a previous post, Pixie and I decided not to attend a music festival this year. We did decide on a camping trip and got her family in on the plan. Her brother found a campsite in Dorset called Burnbake - he recommended it and from the photos on the website, it looked O.K.

It transpired that he and his family wouldn't be able to make it--so her parents and ourselves packed up and trucked down there last weekend (Bank Holiday weekend). The site itself is near Corfe Castle, only it's about two miles down a side road--quite a ways away from the village. We nearly were lost a couple of times, but eventually found it. After scouting some of the pitching areas (the site was already quite full when we arrived on Friday morning)--we found a pitch suitable for our small-ish tent and Pixie's parents' camper-van. A family was packing up their tent, so we asked if we could have their spot--then set up the tent once they had gone. It took Pixie's parents a bit of time to locate a level enough area for the van, but once they had settled, we then headed off to Studland Beach for the day.

We were blessed with decent weather and the beach was quite crowded. I had never been there before and found it a lovely beach--with fine sand and very little seaweed, aside from one stretch that was covered with dried clumps of it. the group split up and Pixie and I had a nice stroll down the length of the seafront, while her parents walked along the road leading to the beach and the area where the ferry departs for Poole (only about a ten-minute journey). Studland does have a 'naturist' (i.e. nudist) section, which is marked off by signs. I did feel a bit out of place, walking through there fully-clothed, but the naturists didn't seem to notice anyway. There were others traversing that stretch, wearing bathing suits--so I didn't feel that awkward. After stopping in Wareham for fish and chips (except Pixie, who's vegetarian), we returned to the campsite to find that our tent had been virtually surrounded by a few families that discovered the pitch and crammed in all of their gear in a relatively small space. They were quite noisy and had several children along, which added to the din. Pixie got to calling them "The Clampetts" after a while.

After a night near "The Clampetts", we decided the best option was to move our tent--so the next morning, we (rather efficiently) half-packed it and moved it over to the other side of the pitch, near the van. It was on a slight slope, but that didn't bother me--at least not as much as "Johnny - The Devil Child"s caterwauling in the night and early morning. Pixie's brother and our neices were able to travel down for the day - so we all trooped back to Studland Beach, this time with swimming gear and frisbee and camp chairs. The neices busied themselves by burying their Barbies and Dr. Who figurines in the sand, then by digging a hole in the beach and discovering water underneath. The rest of us went paddling in the water, which was cooooooooold (it appears the Gulf Stream doesn't quite reach that part of Britain)--followed by a game of frisbee. I was drafted in to help with the beach hole project...and after building a wall with the dug-up sand, decided to craft it into a sea dragon. It looked pretty good, with spikes on it's back and small black stones for eyes. I'd post a picture of it, but I haven't down-loaded the photos off of the camera yet. The time for leaving came around and we packed up our stuff and left our sculpture behind (surrounded by one of the neices' "Do Not Touch" signs scrawled into the sand). We stopped in Swanage for a pub-food dinner and then said goodbye to our visitors. Us campers trekked back to the campsite to see the night in and then crash out.

Saturday night was filled with a rainstorm, which continued into Sunday morning..making it a pretty miserable waking-up moment. We even considered packing up and returning home, but the rain cleared a couple of hours later and we set off for Lulworth Cove. The cove itself is quite spectacular, but it's a bit difficult to walk around, as the beach is covered with shingle. We wanted to see the Durdle Door, since we didn't trek there the last time we visited Lulworth. Up the huge hill and over to the Door we went. It's an impressive sight, viewing it sort-of up-close...after looking at photos and TV documentaries for so long. I started to feel a bit light-headed and had to sit down for a little while, so Pixie was on camera duty and snapped a lovely photo of it (another one to d/l from the camera). We had planned to walk down to the beach by the Door, but I didn't think I'd have the stamina to walk down the steep steps leading to the beach and then all the way back to the car park--so we left it for another time. I'm sure we'll be visiting Lulworth again. Returning to the campsite, we shared some dinner with Pixie's parents, then played a couple rounds of Scrabble and then it was time for sleep again.

On Monday morning (Bank Holiday Monday), we quickly packed up the tent and stowed the rest of our gear, had a nice breakfast with Pixie's folks--then got on the road. We detoured for a little while in Dorchester, the birthplace of author Thomas Hardy. I had never been there, but it seems like a fine small town. Pixie and I mainly just walked around in the shopping district, stopping in a couple of shops. I found a cool used bookstore, which contained a few boxes of LPs in it's basement section. I didn't see anything I absolutely had to have, so left them there, maybe for a future visit. After buying some lunch for the road at the local Waitrose, we got back on the road. The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful, other than viewing the beautiful countryside around Salisbury and Oxfordshire. We arrived home in the late afternoon, unpacked the car and sorted the clothes and other stuff from the suitcase. The rest of the evening was devoted to chill-out time. Another swell holiday for the record books (and photo albums).

Haven't been doing much the past week - just going back to work, listening to the 2-CD reissue of Anthony Phillips' The Geese And The Ghost and Danielle Dax's Jesus Egg That Wept EP and reading a couple of Jonathan Coe novels. Our own Singing Bear has started up another blog, after the demise of Tiz Yer Tiz. He's continuing his 'guerilla blogging' adventures by raiding the YouTube treasuries and posting musical clips of some of his favourite artists, giving a blurb on the artists' history and prominent recordings. It's called Action-Time-Vision and can be found here. Get over there and savour the man's posts, before he moves on again. I'll be starting on the new podcast episode soon--I'm working over a track list in my mind at the moment. See you there.

20 August 2008

Kaleidophonic 5 Goes Live!

29 Sravana - Year 1930 (Saka era)

Just a quick note to the freeks waiting for their next dose of The Kaleidophonic Stroboscope, I can now announce that the fifth episode has been posted!

I've added a brand-new feature as well..hey now! I won't disclose what it is here, you'll have to go and experience it for yourselves.

Take a listen here and get ready for some re-grooving.

16 August 2008

No Cropredy Capers/Re-master, Re-package, Re-purchase

10 Lucy - Year 41 p.r.S.P.

Pixie and I, after reviewing our holidays and cash-ola situation for the year, decided not to attend the Cropredy Festival, which happened last weekend. The line-up this year didn't really seem like a "must see" event, especially after the 40th anniversary of Fairport Convention last year, which saw the remaining members of the 1969 version of the band perform the Liege & Lief album in it's entirety. This year, aside from Supergrass, Stackridge and The Family Mahone - I wasn't that jazzed about much. The Muffin Men (featuring Jimmy Carl Black) put on an excellent set at Cropredy a couple of years ago and it was nice to see "the Indian of the group" still rocking out, but I wasn't too fussed about missing their 2008 performance. So, no Cropredy report this year...it turned out that the weather was pretty horrible last weekend and we were actually glad we didn't go. I heard that Legend, the Bob Marley tribute band, lifted the crowd's spirits on a very rainy Saturday--but still, definitely glad I wasn't standing out there, trying to get my ticket money's worth. The Green Man Festival is happening this weekend, but again, we couldn't make it. It would've been nice to catch it before it gets really huge and becomes "just another festival". We may go next year...fingers crossed...

I was randomly checking out links on some friend's blogs and saw an article about David Byrne and Brian Eno's new record (their first full collaboration since My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, released in 1981), called Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, on The Quietus. If that wasn't cool enough - I found a review for the re-issued Penguin Cafe Orchestra albums. Wha???? When did that happen? Turns out they were just released last month...but it's times like that, that I miss working in a record store. All of the studio albums and the live one, When In Rome, have been re-released on Virgin. The PCO records haven't had the treatment yet--especially the first three, which have only been released on disc once, in the late 80s--so you don't get a feeling of deja vu with say, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, whose catalogues are now on their fourth series of CD re-masters. I've ordered the first two albums, Music From The Penguin Cafe, first released in 1976 and the follow-up, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, released in 1981. I plan on buying the others in the coming months.

Here's some more re-issues that have grabbed my attention recently:

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (2 CD-set): The indie-rock equivalent of a Beatles reunion (well, since The Pixies' reunion a few years ago) happened earlier this year and now a deluxe edition of their second, and most oft-imitated, album, is being made available. The first disc is a re-master by the band's sonic guru, singer and guitarist, Kevin Shields and the second disc is supposedly a lost mix from 1991 from the original tapes. I've ordered it and can't wait to hear it. I didn't get to see them live this year, so to have a re-issued "Loveless" will be a fine salve for any disappointment. There's a re-master of their first full-length, Isn't Anything, on the way too - though Amazon's showing a 2010 (!) release date at the moment. Typical Kevin Shields...making us wait yet again.

Supersister - Present From Nancy/To The Highe$t Bidder/Pudding En Gisteren/Iskander: Supersister were a Dutch progressive rock band with a strong "Canterbury scene", as well as Frank Zappa, influence (amongst other things). They were relatively unknown outside of Holland--but interest in their music has been picking up in recent years, mainly due to their reformation in the late 90s, but also through prog-rock internet forums. I first heard them when I bought the Supernatural Fairy Tales prog box-set (Supersister's track Radio, from the "Pudding En Gisteren" album, is featured) about ten years ago. Their stuff was out-of-print for a long while and tough to find. Esoteric Recordings have changed that with their re-issues of the first four records. I've bought the first three ("Nancy", "Bidder" and "Pudding") and they sound great. The booklets seem well-researched, with lots of rare photos and of course, 'restored artwork'. I would recommend these to any prog-fan, not just the hardcore collectors. Esoteric have also done an excellent job with their series of Man and Egg re-issue discs too.

Hawkwind - Space Ritual (Collector's Edition): One of the best live albums ever (i.m.h.o.) was first released on CD in the early-90s, but that edition (released on One Way Records in the U.S.) sounded a bit flat. EMI then re-issued all of the early Hawkwind albums (up to Hall Of The Mountain Grill) in 2001, with bonus tracks and better-sounding mixes. The '01 "Space Ritual" also restored two tracks that were edited on the original LP set, due to time constraints, Brainstorm and Time We Left (This World Today). Last year, a 3-disc "collector's edition" of "Space Ritual" was released...2 CDs and a DVD with 5.1 surround-sound mix and trippy visuals (sadly, no concert footage of the original shows--none probably exists, as any camera crew at the time would've been as stoned as the band and audience). I bought the '92 One Way re-issue, so I figured it was time for an upgrade and went for the 2007 edition, though you can still buy the 2001 re-master, if you want to save a bit of dosh.

Genesis - The 'Peter Gabriel-era' albums: The Genesis double-disc SACD + DVD series finally gets around to the really good stuff. According to Amazon, all of the albums from Trespass to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, will be released on September 15th. I'll be shelling out for them...for the third time now. The two that I've bought already, Trick Of The Tail and Wind & Wuthering, sound excellent--and the bonus stuff on each DVD is definitely worth owning ("Trick Of.."'s DVD has the complete Genesis In Concert film from 1976). They're a bit pricey, so I'll probably buy a couple at a time...probably start with Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot (my two faves from Genesis' early prog phase). These re-issues will be getting plenty of disc-player time in the next few months. Oh yeah, there's a boxed set with all of the 1970-75 albums in it....but it's £95!! You do get a bonus disc of rare tracks, but most of them have already been released as part of the Genesis Archive 1967-1975 box.

Love - Forever Changes (Collector's Edition): Arthur Lee & Co.'s masterwork also gets it's third re-issue on CD. I thought the 2001 release, with bonus tracks, was the definitive version. I guess some more alternate mixes were located and so Elektra Records (or whomever owns them now) have churned out this 2-disc edition. The first disc is the complete album, re-mastered again and the second disc has all of the extras. I'm guessing the booklet has been expanded as well, with some more anecdotes about the making of the record and the eventual demise of the 1967/'68 line-up of L.A.'s premier psychedelic band (sorry, Doors fans--I like them, too, but Love seemed a lot more creative to me). The collector's edition will probably only appeal to the obsessive Love fans--the rest will probably just keep their 2001 re-issue.

The Orb - The Island albums (Pomme Fritz to Cydonia): The re-issues of The Orb's Island Records output has now finished. Each 2-CD set has the original set on one disc and a bonus disc of unearthed early mixes from studio sessions, plus a few mixes only included on CD single releases. The booklets contain informative essays by Kris Needs, who was a member of the group at the time the albums were recorded and toured. My only (small) complaint is that the artwork seems a bit 'fuzzy'--not as crisp as on the original releases. Maybe that will be addressed in later pressings. After "Cydonia" in 2001, The Orb left Island and their work has appeared on various labels, such as Kompakt. The quality has inevitably dipped a bit as well, but then, it's probably very tough to top a brilliant record like Orbus Terrarum. I recommend the new re-issues, especially "Pomme Fritz", never the easiest album to enjoy--but the bonus disc will provide a more relaxing listen, when compared to the abrasiveness of the original record.

08 August 2008

The Conservatives Show They're "Nuts"

Day 8, Month 7 - Year 97 (Year Of The Rat)

The latest scapegoat for the "crumbling of civilisation" (after paganism, jazz, rock and roll, drugs, homosexuality in the military & society, pornography, video games and the Internet) "are" those so-called 'lads mags'. You know, ones like Nuts and Zoo and Maxim and FHM and Stuff and Scrotal Jackhammer... They always feature the latest media-saturated 'hot chick', talking in interviews about how much she loves sex--the more the better...blah blah. Then there'll be an article about some guy who sawed his face off accidentally and it was a miracle of surgery that he recovered, but he still gets tension headaches every so often. Next, there'll be a section on men's fashion--clothes & scents to make all those "honeys" in the club want to shag you right there on the dancefloor. Then some very incisive CD and film reviews along the lines of "I really like this band, therefore this CD is good--it sounds like a lot of other CDs I like". There's some ads in the back for sex-chat phone lines and mobile ringtones and other gewgaws you don't really need.

So, Michael Gove, the "cultural propaganda minister" for the Tories - or whatever his job title is, has gone on the rampage, taking on the editors of "Nuts" and "Zoo" and charging them with helping to erode decent society. And you thought the Mary Whitehouse brigades had ceased to exist after their patron saint, Maggie Thatcher, was deposed. Gove really wants you to believe 'the right' cares about your family. I'm surprised he didn't quote that "I believe the children are our future.." song. I strongly suspect he inhabits a 1950s reality-tunnel...stemming the tide against the rising waves of filth and the "broken society" all around him and his political party. Thing is, there were "lads" magazines around in the 50s and women seemed to have a far rawer deal than they have now - at least in the post-industrialized, post-feminist nations. Women in the 50s were expected to be obedient wives and sexual harassment was not only allowed in the workplace, it seemed to be almost encouraged. I'm not sure, but is that what Gove thinks of as a "fixed" society?

I don't even like "Nuts" or "Zoo" or any of the others...they all seem to be aimed at teenagers and men in their early-to-mid 20s (maybe even late 20s) who think they're still back at the frat house, chuggin' & smokin' with their homeys, talking about gettin' laid n' stuff. The writing, such as it is, is peppered with "dude"s and five-year-old hip-hop slang that has finally filtered down to the wannabe hipsters (things like "pimp my __" and Snoop Dogg-speak)--even in the UK mags. Of course, there's plenty of photos of scantily-clad women in provocative poses and stories of 'steamy' real-life encounters, told by "real" attractive women. It all seems so contrived and the pure same-y quality to all of these articles dulls any aspect of titillation. Still, someone's buying them, I suppose. I also suspect (rather optimistically) that sombunall of the readers of lads mags get the joke...that, really, it's just entertainment--you're not supposed to take it seriously--you realise that women aren't as available to you as these publications suggest. For those who would swear by "Nuts" and "Zoo" as gospel...well, I don't think they will be rehabilitated by Michael Gove's fire-and-milquetoast speeches and I rather doubt he wants them in his Tory-led fixed society anyway.

If the objectification of women is Gove's complaint as well, then to me, shows like Sex & The City and magazines like Heat do the same thing, only in a different way. The message with those shows and mags seems to be "if you don't have this pair of shoes or have the same hairstyle as (insert 'celebrity' name here)--then you're not worth looking at". Just as insidious as making women out to be 'pleasure dolls' and also coming from the mostly male-dominated fashion industry. Same with all of those fashion make-over programmes on the toob--making women feel better about themselves by giving them plastic surgery and a new wardrobe to conform to society's standards of what beauty "is". Where's Gove's speech about that? He probably doesn't mind, as long as they're creating future voters...er, I mean families.

I suppose the lesson here might be not to believe what you read about in "Nuts" and "FHM"--but also not to believe what you read in political speeches, especially ones given by egghead Tories with creepy fascinations regarding your family.