tech


Lots going on at work. So, I am spending Thursday evening refocusing and enjoying this article on video game music on the BBC.

Related: the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast, which has episodes on 8-bit sounds and the Xbox startup sound.

(electronic closing down FX)

 

Among the benefits of having a clear head in the evening is the freeing up of synapses that would otherwise be closed down. Engagement circuits, the ones governing (self)care, the bits that get irate, unhappy, the ones that get over-excited. It is also, longer term, the bits that cover amusement and enjoyment as well; all blissfully fuzzed over and turned down, ‘dark’ setting, less brightness.

With the absence of the dampener of alcohol, all of those come back on, which can be both boon and bane. I find myself spending hours trying to get the same kind of levelling off from reading… content, input, til I find the click.

Current status: a modest 10 tabs open, one of which is WordPress, where I’m typing this. I follow a lot of newsletters, all of which link to stuff I find interesting for different reasons.

So, keeping the head busy, but there’s always more content. Input…

Probably room to improve the filtration here too!

Friday last was pure week-before-end-of-half-term misery. Skool sags beneath an accumulation of assessment marking feeding into immediate report writing, and it’s all compounded by interminable lessons with grumpy kids not listening to shattered staff. And – AND!! – it’s scorchio out, so literally no one cares.

Added in to that febrile melange, Friday also brought the realisation that a trio of e-cigarette vendors stand within 100m of each other on Knareborough High Street.

Across the road.

With empty shops sat between! The heat, the insanity, the Vapours… It all looked set to see an end to the equilibrium of sobriety that had ruled for so long.

Well, maybe in old money. Waking up Saturday morning the wallowing was truncated directly, blues batted hence in a blur of house sprucing, which made everyone feel better. I also made a loaf, which has become a pleasant habit of a weekend morning.

Here’s a little recipe tribute to Warren Ellis.

Bread

  • 500g flour (one of these ones, usually)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300ml water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Yeast tends to be either 1 tsp quick yeast in with the flour, or 1tbsp of the reactivated sort you need to mix with warm water first. Given that I’ve been doing this with partially closed eyes around 5am the last few weeks, it’s been the considerably less fiddly quick yeast.

Everything dry gets mixed with a spoon, then I tip in the water and mix that, then add the oil, at which point it miraculously switches from “craggy” and dry to something more moist and resembling dough.

10 minutes kneading. Don’t stint. It will give in at some point to become smooth, elastic and pliable. Make a ball shape.

Leave it covered in a bowl somewhere warm for 40 minutes. The books all say “until doubled in size”, but it must be a factor of my eyes being only partially open that it never looks that different.

Read stories and give bananas to youngest, who’s got up demanding bananas and stories.

“Knock it back.” Give the now risen dough a thwack to remove air. Sometimes I like to grunt “Yer name’s not down, yer not coming in,” at the point of impact. That’s not actually true, but I might start. Re-knead, make a loaf shape and leave it to rise for about 80 minutes.

Play 4000 games of Top Trumps with eldest who’s also now up.

Our electric oven goes on at 180°, and the loaf cooks for about 45-50 mins, depending on how long the oven was on prior to opening.

Slice, slap on approx. 3cm layers of Isigny Sainte-Mère butter (the ponce factor here is low, in fact: it’s in Sainsbury’s and the same price as Lurpak) and gronff with coffee.

That was fun, anyway.

What else? Oh yes, the Ukrainian dolphins. (Hums Sylvanian Families jingle, substituting words in head) Pop “Ukraine dolphins” in your search engine.

The Guardian offered a moderated tone to their report, with a nod to the idea that there is “a lot of disinformation floating around” (one of the more understated aquatic puns related to this news item). However, many outlets went long on “diabolical Russkies” even when filtering out the more outlandish claims of cetacean patriotism.

Meanwhile, my five-year old was engrossed in our reading of this tale, where ninja-skilled princesses work to find buried treasure and save a wounded dolphin from ill-treatment by a greedy prince.

No prizes for guessing which was the more realistic story.

From “The Filth”, by Morrison/Weston/Erskine, 2002

This morning we went for a bit of sunshine and tat browsing at Pannal at boot. Got a nice tape-and-cd player for a fiver – spent the afternoon doing reports while listening to a T. Rex best of and 4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

See if you can follow the riffs and work out which song prompted the title for this week’s Bath chunterings.

Other than that, it remains only to trail a forthcoming album Visions of Africa, which contains a selection of the hundreds of Toto covers proliferating…

… I seek to cure what’s deep inside.

And so, gentle reader, we draw the curtains on 26 days of alphabet-prompted writing and cosy up once more beneath the duvet of sporadic blogging.

This month has been a good reminder of the pleasures and annoyances of writing to a schedule. I was going to write joys, and I suppose there is a bit of that, but the correct partner then would be pains (sunshine, rain), and that would make for a somewhat overstated representation of the process. Some of the posts cracked a direct line into my favoured seams of inspiration… some seemed rather like I was forcing water into the fissures a little, but not many, though, not really.

That aspect of going through the motions was a prime mover in stopping blogging last time I stopped, and managing to avoid that was positive. Finding suitable subjects was mostly fun. There were some topics I was interested in exploring that I abandoned for a complex of reasons, mainly because I didn’t have an appropriate amount of time to potter about in them to a satisfactory level.

Getting a smattering of chatter from pals has been good too. Sharing views… It – The Process (dramatically sincere and emphatic voice) – has whetted my appetite for producing more regular discursive whimsy in this or similar outlet.

It’ll probably more than likely be a newsletter in some form, although there’s an element of them being a bit five minutes ago. So it goes. Who knows what innovation waits round the corner… personal websites and… blogging?

Imagine. Right now, o thrice-blessed reader, I’ve careered through bedtime and it’s time for lights out on this month’s endeavours.

This month’s A-to-Z blogging challenge has been a bit of a distraction, from one point of view. I have fallen off my reading schedule because of the evening time spent composing these bits.

Then while I was trying to get this one down I was seized with the sudden absolute necessity of trying to set up Google assistant on my phone to see if I could get it to call me “darling”. (It wouldn’t seem to let me…)

There’s usually something to impinge or assist in a prevarication. As I suggested in that first paragraph, it depends on your perspective. It could be argued that my return to regular reading was getting in the way of a more prolific writing schedule.

Tonight I finished Wishful Drinking, the late Carrie Fisher’s brief autobiographical stage show-turned- book. Laughed out loud quite a few times. Found myself nodding in agreement. She is well known as a drug fiend, although she doesn’t glory in it or self-flagellate about it. Maybe a bit of both? There was a pertinent line about wanting things to be good all the time, the unrealistic need of an addict, that struck home particularly.

I found myself turning the endpapers, hoping there’d be more from her.

A propos of which… today is my 67th day without a drink. That figure is courtesy of the Loop habit tracker, by the way, which I recommend for your positive self-intervention needs.

That doesn’t mean I feel I’ve won, or that I’m living moment to moment in fear of the Demon Drink… Somewhere between? It’s maybe something I might write about more, maybe not. Depends what else comes up.

Feels great, though, thanks.

OK Google… How do I UNINSTALL you?

I’m sorry darling… I’m afraid I can’t do that.

This edition of The Mortal Bath is brought to you by Martin’s of Bond Street, whose sale must end this Saturday.

I only started following podcasts a couple of years ago. “only”, indeed – by which mean I am a relative neophyte, not pretending to any deep expertise, also wishing to signal a kind of regret at having missed the original boat, and also as well in addition implying a somewhat evangelical zeal for the form.

So, yes, podcasts! While I remember the advent of podcasts as a medium – sort of a radio show? downloadable formats? opportunities to explore different areas of special interest? audio zine kind of notion? – the apparent fiddliness associated with getting hold of them put me off. I’d been an enthusiastic downloader of mp3s and albums using the Pitchfork/Audiogalaxy axis, then moving to Soulseek when Audiogalaxy fell. This techie context is intended to illustrate that podcasts should have been a natural progression, but me and they just didn’t happen for some reason.

It’s probably an Apple thing. Never been a devotee or even a user of Apple, so the Pod aspect absolutely passed me by. I think that I then had a period of missed-the-boat-ism, wherein I just couldn’t be bothered.

Some time passed.

The writer Warren Ellis does a well-worth-your-bother newsletter, called Orbital Operations. He has a lot of great ideas, and links to stuff, and also exercises himself over matters such as incorrect omelette technique. He’s also an podcast advocate, and from time to time provides a list of his current listens.

Thusly… At a point when my model of (Android) phone had advanced enough to allow the ease of access thing, one weekend, I thought I’d give them a go.

The Android app I use for organising and downloading them is Pocket Casts.

It’s nice and straightforward, allows a range of play list options, customisability… Although, I tend to just pile everything in one of two playlists: Digest (mostly talking) and Music (er, music), pretty much.

Mainly I listen to them in the car going to & from work, which takes 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. I tend to get through a 1 hour podcast over a day or so. There are a few podcasts that I’ve enjoyed initially then fallen out with, or not warmed to initially but come to enjoy, and some that I touch base with from time to time but infrequently because they require a bit more than commute attention. There’s the time element, and a phone in the cup holder next to the gearbox is not really optimal sound quality.

I had a spell of listening to music mix podcasts while running, another great time to zone into something, but I stopped wearing earphones (noise distraction), then running (ouchy knees), so it’s pretty much the gearbox radio show all the way now. Ooh, now there’s a nice title.

There’re all sorts of little things about podcasts that I love, including the show sponsor adverts, but that’s quite enough from me. What am I listening to?

According to the app there are 36 podcasts I follow… but the 10 I tend not to miss are listed below, alphabetically, ish. All the links are generated through the Pocket Cast app, but you should be able to find them on Your Provider of Choice.

99% Invisible

One of the first things I downloaded was a 99PI episode called Reefer Madness, about refrigerated shipping containers. Hooked! Facts, unusual stories, and witty style.

A Duck In A Tree

One hour of genre-refusing music, sound and background noise.

Against Everyone With Conner Habib

Occult, politics and sex positive left-leaning countercultural ideas discussion prog. Conner likes swearing, and makes gay poem ogre pvt, which is apparently such a naughty word that my auto correct just dropped its monocle. 😀

The Allusionist

Helen Zaltzman lowers a net into the pool of language to identify that thing floating in the deep end.

Babbage

The Economist does a weekly show about science & technology…

Beyond Yacht Rock

This makes me laugh a lot. Music top tens countdowns, adventures in arbitrary genres (e.g. Dance Boss, songs that command you to boogie). Also has a huge amount of swearing. Their deconstruction of the show sponsor section is actually one of my favourite bits.

Deep House Amsterdam

Excellent for your workout/running mixes, or just blasting some tunes, this delivers mostly 120bpm+ dance tracks, lots of premières, as well as longer DJ sets from a wide range of producers. Boom-tiss, boom-tiss, boom-tiss brrackatacka…

Song Exploder

Another show from Radiotopia, the stable bringing you The Allusionist and 99% Invisible, this one explores the stories behind the recording of songs, from a diverse selection of artists. MGMT explaining the interpolation of Dancing Queen by Abba into Time To Pretend nearly made me crash my car, such, such was my joy.

Twenty Thousand Hertz

Another sound exploration concept, this goes into areas like sound design for cars (getting the exact right level of solidity in a closing door, for example), skeuomorphic effects on phones (e.g. the camera shutter noise), drum machines…

WTF with Marc Maron

Talk/interview show with some really ace guests, from Kim Deal, Ezra Furman and They Might Be Giants to Willem Dafoe, Sharon Stone and Neil Patrick Harris.

…there we have it. If you have any podcasts you think might be of interest, do please say hello and share in the comments!

And before I go, I’ve just got time to mention the Martin’s of Bond Street sale, which ends this Saturday.

As part of the Great Clear Out, boxes full of things are being dislodged from their dust foundations and unlidded.

It would be great to announce the uncovering of some neglected but promising manuscript of a novel, an unfinished play, pretty fragments of verse, all ripe for renovation… there are many shards, but a well-decorated commode was still a commode.

I am quite taken by some of the clippings I’ve acquired, including this, from Vox magazine:

May 1994. I think it’s the slightly distrustful tone combined with wide-eyed wonder at the strange promise of the future.

You’ll soon be able to buy standard sized, five-inch discs that will play music and VHS-quality pictures (with the right system from Amiga, Macintosh and so on, of course).

Amiga, Macintosh and so on, of course. Never mind the march of technology – 24 years later, the very notion of wanting to keep something you’ve paid for seems quite retrograde.

So, yeah, it’s mostly going in the recycling.

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