Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Condition: OMG!

I've not been avoiding monitoring my M.S. Its just that nothing really significant has happened since earlier this year while I was managing the college contract.

Looking back it very nearly killed me.

I first assumed I was having a relapse, but I was wrong. It was my first real introduction to the world of fatigue.

I've written about the effects of fatigue before, but now realise the 'mild' episodes I'd experienced weren't even a '101' for what was to come.

I hope don't have to write that again in another 6 or 7 months!

A few weeks ago we experienced a strange phenomenon here in Blighty, the sun came out, stayed out, and bestowed it's radiance in abundance on our perpetually damp island.

I now know that when the temperature rises above 20C (sorry, can't find the degree symbol on my iPad) my body goes into shut down. I'd have an uneducated guess at Uhutoff's Phenomenon. It doesn't effect some with M.S., but that's M.S. for you... individually tailored, bespoke.

I can't actually begin to describe what it feels like. Some over on the M.S. forum have tried, but analogies are just that, analogies.

The lack of energy ain't the half of it. There's the background nausea that's suppressed my appetite. My mental functions are greatly impaired, which leads to lack of motivation, which leads to frustration, which leads to depression, and I'm back in the cycle.

I still dose myself nightly with 15mg of Mirtazapine, which was prescribed to help my sleeping. It's also an anti-depressant.

I'm somewhat underwhelmed by the varity of anti-depressants I've been exposed to over the years and now believe, much as it grieves me to admit, I probably do have some kind of cognitive problem.

I've always found it easy to think myself into a ditch, It's thinking my way out that's the tricky bit.

I don't really need the Mirtazapine as sleeping aid now, I could sleep for England at a needle match between Man U. and Liverpool FC., but, considering the levels of depression I've experienced recently I worry about what new gates of hell would open up if I chose to stop taking it.

6 weeks ago I began trying to get a grip on what was happening to me.

Using a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being 'normal' and 10 being 'OMG. Kill me now!'). Most days were in the 5 - 6 range (with one anomaly of a 2 on a cooler day). The last two weeks have been in the 7 - 8 range.

The amount of sleep I get seems to have no baring on the level of fatigue I experience. I can sleep for 8 - 10 hours and wake feeling like I haven't slept for a month... or two.

My hope is this will be a temporary situation and it will improve as the cooler weather arrives, but I'm not holding my breath.

There is another, rather more worrying aspect of this current situation..

In my head, when ever I find my mind drifting, when ever I close my eyes to sleep, a huge red neon sign lights up in my consciousness. It reads...

"IT'S THE JOB!"

Do you think I could be trying to send myself some kind of message?

Republic Concert Resonator Ukulele Strip Down/Re-Build/Re-String.

There comes a time when every stringed instrument player 'knows' it's time for new strings. Some change strings on a regular basis, others choose to ignore the necessity and solider on.

I tend to be in the later category.

When I played the guitar I ended up on the expensive new string treadmill round about every six weeks. I favoured Elixir strings with Nanoweb coating at £10 a pop. Boy, am I glad those days are over.

The stings on my resonator uke are the same ones it came with when I took possession of it... I'm tempted to change that line to 'when it took possession of me'.

The stings on this uke are anchored in slots on the body and, on close inspection, to my horror were beginning to stretch-out to thin strands. Considering how hard I thrash this instrument it's a wonder I've managed to get away no broken strings.

N.B. string breakages happen at the most inconvenient moment, usually mid-performance, usually in public, usually when you don't have spares, and will usually have a detrimental effect on the tuning of the remaining strings.

It's time for change.

On removing the old stings it proved to much of a temptation not to open the uke up...

12 small screws later... Inside we see the aluminium cone c/w 'biscuit' bridge assembly. I found the 'biscuit' was bolted to the cone. I'd assumed this would be a 'floating' assembly which would allow some intonation adjustment. On further inspection I discovered the cone has a good bit of 'elbow room' in it's housing, so I suppose that's the intonation adjustment...

On removing the cone...

A disappointing stick self-tapped in place with two struts linking it to plywood discs placed against the back of the chamber. Crude, but effective?

Then there's all the dust a fluff. I found a spherical 'pill' of fluff had formed inside the body..

Cleaned up, reassembled, and re-strung..

Now the annoying bit starts...

New strings need stretching till they stay in tune. I use the ubiquitous Aquila Nylgut strings. I stopped experimenting with uke strings the moment I first threaded a set of Aquilas on to my baritone uke. They have the astonishing capacity of improving the sound of any ukulele they're fitted to. Most new Ukes seem to come fitted with them as standard nowadays.

The initial tuning I make is 3 semitones above the normal tuning of G C E A. So, that's Bb Eb G C. I 'hammer' away at a few chords, adjusting the tuning as necessary until the strings stablise and hold tune, then tune to the G key.

3hours on from the change over things seem to have settled down nicely.

To be honest this instrument's intonation isn't entirely correct, just that little bit 'off' that makes it sound interesting. (it's not a good idea to drift above the 5th fret BTW) All my favourite instruments have an endearing 'quirk' like this, the slightly 'broken' sound appeals to me.... that and it's 'BARK!'

So now I don't have to worry about changing strings for another 5 years, or so.

Unless...

What would this ukulele sound like with steel strings?

It certainly seems built to take 'em.

Hmmm...

 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

'We go to the gallery' Dung Beetle reading scheme 1a.

Pages of Miriam Elia's Ladybird reader spoof have been floating around the interwebs for a few months. I first saw them on Tumblr, where I seem to see lots of things that Linda draws my attention to 6 months later when the same thing turns up on FaceCloth.
I was more interested than is usually the case with things I see on Tumblr because, in it's original print run, the book was a complete mock-up of a Ladybird reader right down to the logo. Humour + Nostalgia opens wallets. (I'm working myself up into posting a rant about how nostalgia is probably a bad thing for society in general and another about my unrestrained loathing of stand-up comedians.)
The saga of Miriam Elia's 'journey' (I've come to loathe that word) in producing this wonderful book is chronicled here:
Artist's spoof Ladybird book provokes wrath of Penguin
My post-wallet opening journey begins here:
I've never really struggled with 'conceptual' art since a person, now long gone, told me 'Airfix kits are what you make them'. I realised this concept could be applied to most aspects of my daily life and have applied it ruthlessly ever since. I now disregard the artist's intention or interpretation and construct my own, however misguided that may be.
Anyway, basically (I loathe that word as well) the plot is Mummy takes Susan and John to a gallery and attempts to explain the concepts behind the works.
Buy the book because it's a hoot.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

'Dancing in the Dark' (Springsteen) slight return...

So, on acquiring a Bass Harmonica the first thing one asks oneself is 'why doesn't it sound like the noise I had in my head?'

I'm far from disappointed though.

It was great fun making 'spooky' noises in the dark when I first got my hands on it, but it has a job to do, and that means I have to make some attempt at learning to play it.

Easier said than done...

One of the reasons I purchased this instrument was wanting that 'sound' on The Flying Aspidistras'  version of 'The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God'.

I tried playing along with the second demo version.

It wasn't a great success.

I kept noodling away... errr,  alright, I imitated farting noises and laughed like a drain for about 2 days.

I eventually found I could very-nearly-almost accompany the demo version of 'Dancing in the Dark' I'd recorded.
I hadn't planed to re-record DitD, as - always happens - I'd become... well, sick of it.
It might come out to play if I can't think of anything else to twang, but it's definatly on the back-boiler.

So, back to work then.
Garageband reloaded into the iPad.
The DAW app doesn't really work of me, I find GarageBand much easier to edit on.
The problems with GarageBand are all the 'bells & whistles'.
It's always a temptation to add 'automatic' backing instruments to fatten the track out.

The only non-human instrument I recorded was the drum track and, initially, only to provide a metronome, but in the end it sounded better in than out so it stayed.

Instruments (in order of recording)
  • Track 01: Metronome Drum Track
  • Track 02: Resonator Ukulele c/w guide vox
  • Track 03: Baritone Ukulele.
  • Track 04: Resonator Ukulele.
  • Track 05: Pocket Bass Hamonica.
  • Tracks 06/07/08/09 Vocals
I made a slight mistake in the recording procedure.
When recording the guide uke/vox track I turned the drums off and used the annoying clave metronome.
My timing drifted in a couple of parts.
This had the knock on effect of throwing the subsequent recordings ever-so-slightly 'out'.

It's an odd sensation, listening back to the guide-track whilst recording another part.
You know your timing is dead-on against the drums - which I'd turned back on - then the backing-track 'wobbles'.
You only have a split second, once you realise something's wrong, to readjust.

It's a bit like being seasick.

I could not get the vocal right, one of the reasons it's fallen off my top 20 songs to sing and play.
The result is a combination of several takes.
I like the way I attempted to extend the word 'and' in the stanza  'I get up in the morning, and I have nothing to say'.
It was an attempt at a tension building 'annnnnnnd here's Dickie' talk show host way.

I like the way I sung 'tired and bored with myself' in my impersonation of a narky teenage way.

These observations may not actually be apparent to normal people, but I can hear them.

Here it is then:


It's growing on me, but it's done now.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tombo Pocket Bass Harmonica (in a green eye).

During recording the demos for 'The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God' I became somewhat facsinated, if not obsessed, by the sound the tin-box-&-broom-pole bass was making.

It's a difficult instrument to record. It has a built-in piezo microphone, but plug it into an amp and you've got feedback only people with names like 'Jimi Hendrix' could control. It's not a subtle or, in fact, particulaly loud instrument either which makes using an external mic tricky. It ends up being a trade off between volume or horrible string scrapie noise.

'EQ to the rescue then?'

Errr, no, not until the track is recorded. I just try to get as close to the sound I want in the finished product.

That's all well and good, in theory. In practice, well... it didn't happen. The string buzz won the day.

Now EQ?

Yes. Now EQ.

I haven't the faintest idea what I set the various parametric EQ controls to, but I ended up with something that fit the overall sound of the track.

I wrote in the original post about how I'd managed to make the bass sound like a crumhorn: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crumhorn

It was the only thing I could think of comparing it to and yet I knew that wasn't 'it'.

To avoid rambling on like this... I eventually, through subsequent recordings and re-recordings, boiled it down to the harmonica family.

I can not play the bloody harmonica!

I've tried, I can't, and don't have time in this life to sit around learning how to be a medioca player.

and... while I'm on the subject of the 'tin sandwich' and the players thereof...

The bane of the open-mic events I used to visit in my old home town were bad 'blues harp' players who would leap in with 'wotkeyzzitinmate?' whilst juggling pockets full of slobber encrusted 'organs' before I'd had chance to plug my guitar in let alone decide what I was going to play or what key it might be in when I played it and then the endless metal calculations of 5th above, or 5th below, 'E' would be great, 'ang on I'll try this one...

My God, the bollocks were endless.

To be honest I'm not really into Blues Harmonica playing. Enjoyed it when I was about 16, but now the thrill is gone.

There are however, Harmonica players I really like. They have names like 'Larry Adler' & 'Max Geldray'.

So, I typed 'bass Hamonica' into the interwebs and eventually found "The Tombo Pocket Bass Harmonica' which, after studying various YouTube videos and establishing even I could play it, I bought.

Since banging the button on 'pay-now' I've bored anyone who came within 10ft of me to death about it.

It arrived today.

The manual has the mandatory 'Engrish' hilarity:

"Many thanks for purchasing Pocket Ensemble Series. We, Tombo musical instrument Co.,Ltd., are a serious manufacturer specialized in producing harmonicas consistently since1917

Pocket Ensemble Series are epoch-making Ensemble Harmonicas innovated with new concept for players to enjoy the harmonica ensemble with much ease..

Both Bass Harmonica and Chord Harmonica consist of C-key and the other keys which are used frequently for the pieces in Am-key. For the pieces in the other keys, you can enjoy playing a wide variety of the pieces by transposing to these two keys.

Small, lightweight and easy to carry, so, these do not pick the place. Why don't you take them along freely and enjoy the harmonica ensemble anywhere and with anybody?"

(The manual covers the Tombo Pocket Chord as well.)

Spec:

  • Blow only, 10 holes/10 tones (2 tones duplicated)
  • Tonal range E~f (E/F#/G/A/B/C/D/F)
  • Plastic body
  • W145 x H59 x D49mm
  • 395g
  • Complete with carrying case

Cut to the chase...

Oh, I'm going to have some fun with this.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Bamboo Band at the Military/Industrial Complex Event in Worthing.

This gig, featuring 'Up & Coming YOUNG (!) Bands', had been put together by the organisers in just 6 days!

We were asked to play a couple of days beforehand.
Lord James and I sat on deck chairs watching the bands, waiting for our turn.
He turned to me and said 'I have a feeling this is going to be a train wreck'.
'Let's hit the buffers full belt then' I replied.

When we finally 'hit the stage' and plugged in we found the on stage monitor mix some what heavily balanced in favour of my instrument.  So much so, in fact, that it was virtually impossible the hear any other instrument, or voice, over the top of it no matter how 'softly' I attempted to play
I swear our djembe player John's hair was been blown backward in the decibel hurricane.

On the drive home I got the distinct feeling that Sir James was a bit, well, unhappy with our performance.
I certainly wasn't happy about it and the biggest bit of it I wasn't happy with was my performance and the astonishing volume of it.

This video just turned up on YouTube:


I'm truly gobsmacked.

Out front the sound was fine.

I watch myself knowing I was cringing all the way through our set and now I'm wishing I'd enjoyed it a bit more.

(Fortunately the bit where I stood on the edge of the stage and shouted "HELLO GLASTONBURY" has either been edited out, or it was never filmed because the moment the words left my lips the rain started to pelt down.)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

"Authentic"

 

 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Green Eye of The Little Yellow God... (damn your eyes!)

In a previous post I rattled on about my unnatural obsession with this monologue.

Errr,

This will be more of the same...

So, having created what is in effect a 'technical' demo of the song's structure there's very little for the original recording files to do except take up storage space.

Or, perhaps have a bit of a laugh with them.

I have in my mind an Edwardian officer, red tunic, gold braid, probably holding his pith hemet, HUGE moustache, I probably remember the image from a biscuit tin at my Granny's house.
Or the label of a bottle of Camp coffee (a vile syrup made from tarmac), but I think the chaps on the bottle wore kilts...

What are you blathering on about?Fi

Sorry, got a bit wistful.

The initial recording of the vocal/uke track will be used as a 'guide track' to hang the subsequent recordings on.

First new recording: baritone uke hitting the off beats.
Second new recording: Concert uke strummed lightly
Third new recording: Resonator uke chord pattern filled out with passing chords.
Forth new recording: Vocal sung in a very nearly right vocal style.
Fifth new recording:  Chorus backing vocal

Edit of original demo track to B sections of the song thus adding another uke and vocal to this passage.

Mix down/trans to laptop/top and tail edit/process via Vinyl @ 78rpm (no scratches).

I end up with something that's been making me laugh all week:



Wednesday, 2 July 2014

OSM Playing Electric Ukulele to the Sound Mirrors at Denge. Filmed by Independent Film Maker Ned Ouwell.

 

 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Super Vision! : So, How Was Your Day?

Before:

After:
I don't often have to get my hands dirty nowadays, but sometimes y'got t'go the extra mile.
It was 'human' BTW.

On a lighter note..

I've just been told I've got the job and am no longer an Interim Mobile Supervisor, I'm the real deal.

Just when I thought the day couldn't get much better, Her Majesty gave me back £300 tax she didn't need.

I now look like this:

 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Voodoo Doll.

I have no idea what possessed me to make a small stuffed person.

I need a pattern.

'Can't you just draw one?'

Yes, I could draw one, but I want it to look recognisably humanoid.

If you were to type 'small stuffed person' into your interositor viewing screen the consequence may be having your name added to a list.

I found the shape I was looking for under 'Voodoo Doll':

I printed it on to card, picked up the scissors, stuck my tongue through my thined out lips, and cut it out.

On my return from A&E...

I decided that a sort of banket stitch might do the trick... whatever 'blanket stitch' might be.

I have a vague idea that 'blanket stitch' maybe related to blankets and spend sometime examining all the blankets we possess.

My findings were inconclusive.

I consulted the interwebs, studied various confusing diagrams, and decided I had reached the confidence level required to attempt 'blanket stitch', or some variant thereof

I pined the two halves together - actually I did this before I cut my tongue out - and set about 'blanket stitching'.

I've, up till now, sewed and then unpicked it 4 bloody times now.

To be cont. as sone as I get 'blanket stitch' together a little better than is currently the cas.

 

The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God (J. Milton-Hayes) Updated... twice now and now thrice.. and for the forth, and last bloody time...

Sometime ago, while I was stumping the streets for a charity, I thought, 'I must know some poems'.
I jumbled this list together:
  • Jabberwoky
  • Ozymandias
  • The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God
  • This be the Verse
It was a start.

I found the texts, recorded myself reading them out loud, loaded up the pod, and set out walking...

I suppose Green Eye is more likely to be described as a monologue.
Here's what J. Milton-Hayes had to say about it:
"I wrote The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God in five hours, but I had it all planned out. It isn't poetry and it does not pretend to be, but it does what it sets out to do. It appeals to the imagination from the start: those colours, green and yellow, create an atmosphere. Then India, everyone has his own idea of India. Don't tell the public too much. Strike chords. It is no use describing a house; the reader will fix the scene in some spot he knows himself. All you've got to say is 'India' and a man sees something. Then play on his susceptibilities."
"His name was Mad Carew. You've got the whole man there. The public will fill in the picture for you. And then the mystery. Leave enough unsaid to make paterfamilias pat himself on the back. 'I've spotted it, he can't fool me. I'm up to that dodge. I know where he went.' No need to explain. Then that final ending where you began. It carries people back. You've got a compact whole. 'A broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew' They'll weave a whole story round that woman's life. Every man's a novelist at heart. We all tell ourselves stories. That's what you've got to play on."

So, after all these years I thought I'd have a go putting it to music... or the sword, depends on your point of view I suppose.

I robbed the double tone chord sequence from the world Calypso.
I like it.
It fits.

The initial recording was made using my dying iPod Touch.
Transfered to the lap-top for editing.
Transfered to the iPad to add a baritone uke track

(There was quite a lot of this transfering business BTW)

I ended up with this:

(Recording removed because I sodded up the mix and didn't hear how badly I'd got it wrong until I got it up on the monitors.
I'll re-post when I've fixed it.)

I want to add this to The Flying Aspidistras set.
I think it sort of fits.

Update: 01
The Wiki-lazy-pedia entry seems sane enough:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Green_Eye_of_the_Little_Yellow_God


Update: 02


I had to do quite a bit of remedial EQing of the track.
I have a very sibilant voice which can generally be hidden behind a hi-hat or other hi-freqency element.
In this arrangement - lacking any percussive element - there's no hiding place.

The sibilance is compounded by the devices I use to record with.
The iPod mic is about the size of a pinhead, but, I keep reminding myself 'this is just a demonstration of what the framework will be when I eventually get round to recording it properly... with Harriet.'

Another side effect of the EQ setting the seeming transformation of the Broom Pole and Tin Box Bass into, what sounds to me like, a Crumhorn.

So, just me then...

As a final addition, here's the monologue in full:

The Green Eye Of The Little Yellow God

There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu,
There's a little marble cross below the town;
There's a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew,
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.

He was known as "Mad Carew" by the subs at Khatmandu,
He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell;
But for all his foolish pranks, he was worshipped in the ranks,
And the Colonel's daughter smiled on him as well.

He had loved her all along, with a passion of the strong,
The fact that she loved him was plain to all.
She was nearly twenty-one and arrangements had begun
To celebrate her birthday with a ball.

He wrote to ask what present she would like from Mad Carew;
They met next day as he dismissed a squad;
And jestingly she told him then that nothing else would do
But the green eye of the little Yellow God.

On the night before the dance, Mad Carew seemed in a trance,
And they chaffed him as they puffed at their cigars:
But for once he failed to smile, and he sat alone awhile,
Then went out into the night beneath the stars.

He returned before the dawn, with his shirt and tunic torn,
And a gash across his temple dripping red;
He was patched up right away, and he slept through all the day,
And the Colonel's daughter watched beside his bed.

He woke at last and asked if they could send his tunic through;
She brought it, and he thanked her with a nod;
He bade her search the pocket saying "That's from Mad Carew,"
And she found the little green eye of the god.

She upbraided poor Carew in the way that women do,
Though both her eyes were strangely hot and wet;
But she wouldn't take the stone and Mad Carew was left alone
With the jewel that he'd chanced his life to get.

When the ball was at its height, on that still and tropic night,
She thought of him and hurried to his room;
As she crossed the barrack square she could hear the dreamy air
Of a waltz tune softly stealing thro' the gloom.

His door was open wide, with silver moonlight shining through;
The place was wet and slipp'ry where she trod;
An ugly knife lay buried in the heart of Mad Carew,
'Twas the "Vengeance of the Little Yellow God."

There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu,
There's a little marble cross below the town;
There's a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew,
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.
I can't help feeling there's a whiff of - dare I say it? - SteamPunk about this.