Monday, March 31, 2008

The Beauty Of Potato

Potato is a handsome creature
A tasty skin is his best feature
And when invited to your feast
You will agree he's quite a beast

He'll kiss you with his crusty lips
He'll lay across your stomach, hips
Lumpy, fluffy, straight or wavy
Mashed he'll soak up all your gravy

Potato is a lovely lad
As a foodstuff not half bad
Baked, boiled, chipped and fried
He feels great when he's inside.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Celebrating The Bendy Nature Of Cheese

Cheese is bendy
Cheese is my friendy
If you have a need
I can lendy

Cheese is bendy
Do not be offendy
There is only cheese
Others are pretendy

Cheese is bendy
On that you may dependy
Put a stamp upon it
In the post sendy

Cheese is bendy
Cheese is trendy
If you have a hungry belly
Cheese is plendy

Cheese is bendy
Cheese club attendy
Meet other bendy people
That is the endy.

(Blog of Funk Post #777)

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Insufficient Profanity

It's Easter Sunday, the day the Christians stole from the Pagan Goddess of the Dawn, Ostara, and latterly, Oestre, to replace our Spring Equinox festival. Like a loaf of bread, he is risen, like an egg, he is consumed.

Taking a few days off from my intense (but welcome) songwriting project, has thrown me into a state of quiet reflection and I have been hearing the resonance of various truths emanating from the depths like a sunken ship's bell sounded by the Spring tide swell. I recognise this metallic calling as a sound of clarity heard previously from time to time, and just now ringing all the louder in the relative silence.

I am not doing the work I need to do. I am condemning my best to the books of forgetting. It is not enough to have the ideas - they must be realised. Like Charles Ives, I know totally and without question that I would rather do a job which left me completely free to operate culturally in my "spare" time in the manner of my own choosing than compromise the work I must do.

The fact that I posit this as an imperative shows the urgency that I am experiencing. I know that I must move forward with some speed and determination this year and from that will emerge the real and still somewhat hidden purpose of my work to date.

I feel like the last kid in the sweetshop as it's about to close, still clutching my fiver and with my eyes fastened on the top shelf where all the big chocolates live. I can't yet tell which one I'm going to get but I sure as dammmit know I'm not leaving without at least one of them.

In the middle of this lies the knowledge that I've been far too polite recently - I'm in danger of losing my rude and healthy punk; I've been far too serious about all the wrong things - I'm in danger of losing my sense of hummous. I'm going to have to move things around, including my arse. I need to go out and dance my celebration. I need to swear a lot until the words mean nothing and can't stop smiling.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Dead Rabbi On A Stick Day

It's Good Friday, and what's good about it is that I slept for nine and a half hours last night. Went to bed with a classic stress headache, woke up with the end of one, but felt good about being on strike.

Yes, I'm on strike. At the end of yesterday's Rise and Shine we walked out in sympathy with our ASLEF brothers and sisters. I think it was the realisation of a militant tendency in myself which I have been encouraging over the past few months, knowing that it is the path to my own particular brand of enlightenment.

I'm sure that once the management meet our demands we'll be back to finish off the final week of the show - it's been a blast. But it is nice to have a three day weekend in praise of the dead rabbi, Jesus, and his unfortunate death by torture 2,000 years ago.

Now listen to the song we wrote yesterday, co-written and sung by the indomitable Danny "Peruvian Socialist Chocolate Hat" Brittain and his left wing army of reds.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Funkpod Thirty Two

Managed to squeeze out a podcast. Wonders will never cease.

Credit to justpedalhard for the photo of Range Road 32, Calgary, Alberta.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rise and Shine: Breakfast with Perspiration

After fourteen days, over three weeks and forty two hours of early morning songwriting, producing the Rise and Shine breakfast show, my fingertips are guitar-hardened and my daily routine is established. At this point I feel the need to distill my thoughts like a fine London gin.

    How To Rise and Shine

  1. Begin the day before. I have to get to bed before midnight, 11pm better, 10:30pm even better. Some days, starting the show, there has been just me and my audio-visual shadow, but most days, there is an expectant waiting audience of real people, and it doesn't matter whether there is one person, ten, fifteen or fifty. These kind, interested people have turned up for the show, and they matter A LOT. In fact, I like them, which helps - it feels very much like having friends over every morning. I'm making their breakfast - I don't want to burn the toast. If I'm sleep deprived and carry too much tiredness into the day, I will struggle, make mistakes, and underperform - and when people are witnessing my blunders first thing, I care far more about them, and determined not to be making them. I have not found a more effective pressure to lie down and sleep at a reasonable hour in many years.

  2. Awake at least one and a half hours before starting the broadcast. That way, all the computers will be set up, I will have had breakfast, I will be well dressed, and I will have meditated. A couple of times I have found myself meditating at 6:45 which does not work quite so well for the meditation, but actually does very well for the show as I feel very centred and grounded at the outset.

  3. Collaborating is crucial, as I suspected it would be and intended it to be, both for reasons of writing and show production. Songs really spring from the imagination and flights of fancy which spark from the news and it's often easier doing this with other people around. Finishing up is another matter - sometimes the brutality of the edit feels harsh! But we are grown ups, and we can handle it by now... Our viewers and listeners have written some of the best lines, and provided audio, speech and music, as well as suggesting great news items.

  4. Be decisive early on. Only having three hours means that on bad news days, or days where several stories vie for subject-spot, I really need to know what subject is going to frame the song by 7:20am if the song is going to be finished to any good standard.

  5. Give myself a break after the show. If I don't do this, I make less of a good show the next day, and it means my other work decisions are coloured by a background level of mental tiredness - which so far, thankfully, I have not experienced.

  6. Use whatever energy is there on the day. Thankfully the rules of Rise and Shine mean that the writer(s) have the final say in story selection, style, and treatment. I would not have been able to write anything March 7th otherwise, a day I was on my own with the audience, feverish and emotional, and yet, this turned out as one of my personal favourites, something I am proud of having written because it is so unusual and poignant.

  7. Keep the project in the semi-public eye. This stage of the project is quite deliberately restricted listening and viewing. I like that my friends in various social networks are enjoying what I am doing, and that the great general, unwashed and entertainment-hungry public are not. It means I can iron out kinks, play with the form, try things which might bomb (nothing has yet) and maintain the discipline necessary to keep the show on the road technically and organisationally without compromising the future of the show. It also means I can push people to donate to the good cause, Busk Aid, either by direct donation or else by taking part in our sponsorship auction.

  8. Maintain realistic expectations, set achievable goals - without these, nothing can happen. So if in the early part of the song, the dreaming up of the scenario, the summoning of the muses present a hugely attractive but completely time-draining project outside the boundaries of the three alloted hours (see #4), it gets rapidly dumped. Note to self: I could and should apply this philosophy more to my life in general.

  9. Food. Eating ahead of the show, during the show and after the show is crucial - it's demanding work! I have to plan ahead and get stuff in. Thankfully, Danny my regular co-writer often provides milky coffee and croissants to make up for his persistent lateness...

  10. Broadcast by every means possible. I've been using a veritable breakfast table of technologies to make this work. Amazingly, so far, it has completely worked - in fact, it has improved. I now record the final parts of the show on video, using both Mogulus which although takes some getting used to is pretty reliable and has professional tools built in and a handy (though censored) chat room; for live video I also use Qik which is (over WiFi) amazingly good quality - all the more so considering that this is emanating from a Nokia N95. I use Skype (riseandshinetv), Twitter (deekdeekster), email, FTP. I'm using a Mac Mini and Brian Greene's server (thanks Brian!) to deliver a rock-steady Shoutcast audio stream which in some ways brings the listener closer to the musical heart of the show, especially in the second stage when we are arranging the song and trying out verses and choruses. It's also convenient for people who want to hear the outcome at work... there is still a lot to be said for providing audio-only access.

  11. Support is a good thing, and we need more of it! Having only three hours (see #4) on the writing task focuses the mind admirably, but this show also requires a technical structure that needs managing - just like tv and radio - which distracts. The more support I have, the show will be generally of a much higher standard, since I am not continually bearing sole responsibility for everything, including presenting, songwriting, blogging, moving microphones, cameras and computers around, and generally interacting with the audience. It also means, I can answer the call of nature. I would like to achieve more of this before the project ends, just to see how high I can push the standards within the limits.

Ten more writing days to go...


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eleventh Hour Comedy

I keep on thinking about where I really want to live.

In the last six months, I've done more to facilitate moving than I have ever done, and yet, events made it more and more difficult to get out of London. It has its big hairy capitalist paws upon my hide, and as the economic tide starts to turn I found myself heading out at the wrong time, in the wrong boat, heading towards the wrong shore.

Now that I've adjusted to staying longer, I am beginning to recall my original vision for an alternative place to live. Where I was planning to move wasn't where I was destined to live. This makes me wonder why I was prepared to travel a path which didn't take me to where I know I want to be.

Aside from doing the work, there's doing the work... somehow, in the middle of this burst of songwriting, living alone, I found myself returning to normal. Which means, my version of normal - passionate, idiosyncratic, focused and dedicated. So if I can bring all that to bear upon work, then why not work?

Next: comedy.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

On The Marriage of Johann and Anitale

This is the face of a man whose bachelor days are over. Johann and Anitale are getting married RIGHT NOW, as I type. It's possibly the final image of his unmarried status. Girls - you missed out. Anitale is also cute and groovy. Boys - you missed out. By the time you read this, they will be married.

I met these lovely people via Seesmic since Johann is lead developer for the site. When I went to Paris a month ago I got to hang out with them, and really enjoyed their company.

Meanwhile, some explanation of my temporary absence in these parts. I've written or co-written nine songs in the past two weeks by dint of waking at 5.30am and writing for three hours every morning, exposed to public gaze. The first week's tunes are all on sale, and the free podcast is doing just fine.

My favourite two songs of the project so far are Three Feet Off Gabriola and The Other Side, both of which rather selfishly I wrote on my own - except that I got plenty of input from the "audience" during the sessions. I'm going to have to find a replacement for that word, which combines the concept of audience with collaborator. Hmmmm....

I am currently feverish, though sadly not with anticipation - I just have a cold virus. Now I am going to attempt breakfast.


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