Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Guitar

Tweaking and modifying mostly completed I think I can declare this guitar worthy of mention. Yes, I know it's an encore. Yes, I'm aware that the polepieces don't really match up with the strings properly and yes, I have noticed that it only has five strings. But it's still good, it has a nice sound and low action and...

This switch, which gives the guitar magical powers with the aid of some cunning rewiring and additional gubbins.

Also, did I mention it was free? ooh yes, no money down.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Two Chunks of Nerdery

Today was a very nice day, all sunny and shiny. I was up early in the morning to help my little sister carry her amplifier and electric guitar to school for a rehearsal with her band and after that wandered off into the woods with my new copy of The Master and Margarita to read it in some nice shady spot under the trees.

The reason why I have a new copy of one of my favourite books isn't for the usual reason - I've not read it until it fell apart, no, it is instead because I was curious to read the other - more critically praised - translation of the original russian text. I've found this reading of the book to be much more enlightening about the political and social commentary of the book which is rather subtle and below my radar when I'm not in proper academic mode but I'm not sure whether this is because the language of the book makes these points clearer or because the footnotes flag up the examples of it and make you aware of the ways in which bulgakov presented politics.

Overall I have decided - shock horror - that I prefer the earlier, Michael Glenny translation. The language is more natural, more clear and well, english. You see, with the Peevar translation you are never able to forget that the book is a translation - there are too many strained attempts to accurately follow the phrasing of Bulgakov's language. There are numerous occasions where the language has obviously had to be oddly warped and battered to include some sort of thematic motif which the earlier translation - unable to fit it comfortably into english speech patterns - omitted.

I think that the high opinion of the later translation is based on a rather flawed understanding of what a translation should do - The standard reason given for preferring the Peevar translation is that people who can, and have, read the novel in both languages prefer the langauge of Peevar, finding it more representative of Bulgakov's original. I, however, think that this is precisely the reason why the Peevar translation is weaker - I'm sure that if you know the Russian phrases which Peevar is straining the phraseology to express in English then it seems fine, but if you are unfamiliar with the original language (and, let's face it, most of the readers of the book are - that's why they are reading the translation) then it just seems like clumsy dialogue. The Glenny translation seems to try and find phrases that are equivalent in usage and implication, rather than translating russian turns of phrase which don't really transfer well. This means that it often misses some subtle reference to something or other which makes it less suitable for critical study, but I think as a book to sit down and read, the Glenny is better.

Mind you, having not read it in the original language, any attempt at a scholarly argument along these lines would be rubbished by people who have, and who therefore win in the game of intellectual one-upmanship. There is also the fact that I've not read the glenny translation in a good few months - it might not be as good as I remember.


Having used my brain for the first time in a while I decided to finally get off my arse and do something constructive as well - so I sat down and wrote an intelligent and attractive CV....


only joking - I got my tools out and dismantled the electric guitar that Ed and Lucy gave me in exchange for my old bass.

This guitar was in the worst state I've ever attempted to resuscitate a guitar from. On first examination early indications weren't good - the neck was bowed back and there wasn't any visible sign of a truss rod adjuster, the action was very high and the tremolo was stuck in the foward position.

After finding the truss rod, and using this... interesting setup I managed to get the neck to bend foward until it was straight and level

All the containers are filled with water to push the ends of the neck down whilst the batteries hold the middle up. I left it like that for a few hours, until it learned its lesson and stopped sassing me.

and after some fairly drastic lowering of saddles and tightening of springs i got the thing to the point were it was actually really nice to play - and to my shock I found that it actually has a really nice sound - very erm. bitey and sharp, kinda dark red and crunchy...

So now I have a decent electric guitar and if ed and lucy sent me that guitar as some sort of bet I think I've won.


In other news the wireless network stopped talking to my computer within about 10 hours of it starting and I can't seem to persuade it to resume diplomatic negotiations.


Monday, June 18, 2007


I’ve spent a lot of time today trying to make my bedroom habitable as, due to the rates of rent round here, it looks like I’ll be living with my parents for a while, or at least until I get some sort of inspiration about what to do with my life. I have no idea when that might be, could be a few hours, could be a few years – I hope it’s soon because I’m getting bored already.

The reason why I’ve not really posted anything in a while is because I couldn’t get my computer –in an attic bedroom*- to recognise the existence of the house wireless network. I managed to solve this problem with my usual method – that is, treat the router like a huffy child and just leave the thing alone until it decides to arbitrarily change its mind. Which worked.

But anyway, back to the making bedroom habitable thing. The obstacle to my bedroom being habitable is the fact that it was my brother’s room. I’m not saying that he has a lingering, powerful stench or anything, just that he has a lot of stuff. Due to the fact that this room is much bigger than my old room he never had to do the purging for storage space that I did – there are boxes of stuff in his cupboards that I was astonished to find are still sealed with removal company tape from when we moved here from Plumstead 9 years ago.

As a result of this general lack of order in Ed’s room the process of moving my stuff in is rather slow – for every box of my stuff I unpack there is an equal amount of Ed’s stuff that needs to be sorted through and either packed or thrown away. Most of it is, as it has been left behind, fairly obviously rubbish – just the detritus of someone living in the same place for many a year - I am, however, not very well equipped to be the judge of what, if anything, is worth keeping amongst the heaps.

There are, for example, things that I keep that don’t appear to have any particular value, train tickets, for example, whose only reason for preservation is a date on them, a date which only I know the significance of. Without Ed to tell me otherwise me I’m spending a lot of my time imagining the significance of many of the items I chuck and feeling bad for throwing them away.

Mind you, Ed isn’t nearly as weird as I am, he probably doesn’t attach such significance to pointless inanimate objects. I should finish this unpacking tomorrow and then I’ll actually feel like I’ve settled in and can start doing more constructive things – like getting off my arse and getting a job.


*ugh. That line has reminded me of a line from Hugh Selwyn Mauberley – damn, the one thing I would most like to forget about my uni experience would be Ezra Pound’s god-awful poetry.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Today my dad came down to canterbury, we picked up my amp from Bal's, then jammed all my worldly possessions into a battered looking rental van and chugged off home. It's the first time that I've ever actually packed all of my stuff in one place - other than my room - I've been accumulating this stuff for the last two years and I've never actually taken it all home before, I have quite a lot of stuff. I think I'm going to have to get my own place soon, just so that I can stuck all these boxes somewhere.

I'm going to have to draw out some plans of the floor space in my room, and just jiggle the stuff I need around on paper until I find some sort of tessalating pattern in which all my stuff fits inside my room without the need to clamber over heaps and use my bed as a guitar stand.

It's odd being back in london and it being niether a brief 'see as many friends and relatives as you can' stay nor the familiar summer routine of settling in and preparing for death by boredom. I'm currently in a sort of uni/not-uni wasteland between leaving uni town graduating - i'm home, but I don't feel like I'm 100% finished with uni yet.

Mind you, that's probably because I don't want to have to face up to the unsexiness of work which is the inevitable consequence of not-uni.

Oh well. At least the shock value that me getting a first holds should keep my family distracted from the issue of me being a directionless, jobless slacker for a while.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

My Degree

I'm waay too drunk to write anything sensible on here right now, too much beer pong, but I feel I should mention that I got my results today and I am now the proud possessor of a first class degree in english and american literature from the university of kent. Better still, I'm one of about 6 people in my whole department who got one, and one of 3 doing my course who got one. Which makes me very smug.

I rock.

That is all.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Silly Musical Instruments 2

This one isn't nearly as strange as the Tromboon, and to be honest is probably quite boring, I just love the name of the instrument.

oboe d'amore

Seriously, the oboe of love? I'm pretty sure that there is no known incidence of an oboeist luring a member of the opposite sex with the seductive nasal whine of their instrument of choice. The Lasso D'amore, on the other hand, is a veritable sex-on-legs of an instrument.

For an idea of the beautiful sound of a Lasso D'amore, being played by a master, I refer you to the last 10-20 seconds or so of I'm the Urban Spaceman By the Bonzo Dog Band.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Silly Musical instruments

The Tromboon

I want one (listen to the sound file, it is rather lovely)

losing things

I love it when you read through accounts of hauntings and poltergeists in which the afflicted party mentions 'things just disappearing' as evidence of nasty creatures from the scary beyond messing with their head. In the process of cleaning out everything in my room and generally stripping it down to the state it was in when I moved in I've already found a couple of things that I thought I'd lost long ago. Some of them are perfectly standard cases of misplaced objects - I found a young persons railcard at the bottom of a desk drawer that I could have sworn I left on a train to manchester in 2004, but there is nothing particularly interesting about that - I do things like that all the time.

The interesting one, well, interesting to me and seeing I'm the only one who reads this that's all that seems to matter, is the popshield for an old microphone of mine that I found among the books on my shelf. I dropped it when sitting on the end of my bed about 6 months ago and the grille and popshield flew off on landing. I remember that it was relatively soon after an inspection by our landlord and so my room was quite tidy. I bent over and picked up the popshield - which is a small, black, piece of foam - and, thinking of how easily misplaced it would be, put it on the shelf next to me, or so I thought, whilst I rummaged around and found the grille. When I turned back to the shelf, however, it was gone.

I looked everywhere in the one or two metre radius around the bookshelf that it could have possibly been put on or been blown to but found nothing - my mind boggled (which is painless, luckily); my eyes had been off it for about 10 seconds in which it had vanished.

If I was more into that sort of thing, or perhaps if I was in a place that could possibly support the idea of a haunting (you really can't have a haunted 1960's ex-council house built on former farmland) I would have put this down to some sort of invisible beastie snatching away my precious popshield and gone to church more, being the heathen that I am, however, I just assumed I was going more crazy and made a new popshield out of cut up old socks. Which probably didn't suceed in doing anything other than making me look more crazy.

Whilst packing all my books I found it, exactly where I thought I'd put it, sort of - It was lying, sure enough, on top of a book that was lying flat on the front of one of my shelves. The reason why I didn't find it was that the book in question was underneath a pile of other books. I figure what must have happened was that I put it on top of the book, then, when rummaging around for the grille, half unconsciously picked up a book that was on the floor and put it on the shelf on top of the popshield. Not remembering having done this, however, it appeared to me that the popshield vanished - I turned round to see a book lying there with no popshield on it - I didn't pay any attention what either book was so I didn't notice that it was different.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this exactly, probably just giving an example that the weirdness of human behaviour, whether malicious or stupid, probably accounts for the vast majority of ghost experiences and other such woo.


oh yes, and if you were wondering how an object lost since 2004 could be in a drawer in a house that I've only lived in since 2005, which I know you aren't, but I'll answer anyway because I'm bored - it's because I basically tipped the contents of my desk drawers in my first year flat into boxes then, in an absence of the motivation to sort through the heaps, emptied them straight into the desk drawers of my new flat at the beginning of the second year - as a result I've been sorting through heaps of first year essays, handouts and lecture notes - some of which, like a sheaf of notes on Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, aren't even mine.

Packing , continued

Well, that's my books done. It didn't look like I had quite this much when they were sitting on my shelves, nor did I expect them to be this heavy. Although I have just noticed that the shelves appear to be quite seriously bowed from the weight.

leaving canterbury

I was doing the washing up last night and generally cleaning house, so I'm feeling a little hungover today (don't ask) and it has once again occurred to me that I've got to actually start packing and get ready to leave here.

It's a bit of a strange situation as, because the rent is year round on this house, I've never actually bothered to completely pack and clear out in the two years I've lived here - in the summer I generally grab my computer, some books and my clothes and leave everything else here. It raises the interesting quesion of just how much stuff I have, and how much stuff I've forgotten I have. I mean, seriously, at the end of the first year I found a huge pile of nice clothes that I'd not worn in a year because I dropped them on the floor of the wardrobe and then dropped a bag on the in the first week. Under my bed I found my timetable from the first term, that I thought I'd lost at the time, and some underwear that not only wasn't mine but belonged to a girlfriend I'd broken up with some 8 months previously. In the light of this I really wonder what on earth I'm going to find in my room this time, probably nothing that interesting because my life hasn't been that eventful but still, wierd shit. At least I hope so, otherwise this is going to get really really boring.

I figure I've probably got about a car's boot worth of books at least, my amp takes up about half the back of a car, plus the three guitars, and the computer - the stereo, my cds etc, will probably take up a fair amount of room. then there's all the stuff that I don't even think of as things I can pack - the kitchen pots and pans, the bed linen, all the stuff that has been discarded and forgottten but nonetheless must move. It's like when we moved house when I was 12, I ended up with three boxes in my bedroom marked 'ben's misc' which were full of such useless crap that it took me about three years before I went through them and threw it all out.

man, this kinda sucks. But still, I feel like my life needs to start over in some way or other, and it's not possible to start over in a town you'll only be in for a few weeks, with people you'll never see again, so the last few weeks have been more frustrating than enjoyable a lot of the time.

anyway. I'm going to start putting things into plastic boxes labelled 'colouring materials 1', 'large bricks 3' and suchlike (anyone who has at least one teacher parent moves house with these)


Monday, June 04, 2007


Saturday was the day of artsfest which is an excuse to go onto campus and drink beer in the sunshine thinly disguised as a music event. As part of the pretence that we weren't all there to ogle the girls in their summer dresses I was playing in one of the bands. It was a lot of fun, I was playing in a band that I had been in for about 3 days previously and probably am not in anymore, which added an interesting element of difficulty to what would otherwise have been pretty routine stuff musically. The band I was in were pretty good, as far as I could figure from my perspective - I can't really comment on the singer due to the fact that, where I was standing at least, he was totally inaudible over the sound of two big guitar amps, my bass amp and a drumkit - my friends told me that not being able to hear him wasn't a hugely bad thing, however.

I was reminded of just how much fun playing with bands is, when I contemplate the prospect of playing in front of audiences I worry that I'm not good enough, I think about how I'm not that good a musician and don't have the immaculately polished skills of a lot of people. When I'm up on stage, however, I couldn't give a crap - I lost my place completely in the opening song but just grinned and laughed and rejoined on the next bar. I stop being self conscious once I'm in front of an audience, I dance like a prat, talk bollocks and generally showboat.

I also learned that my bass amp, despite the fact that it is big and heavy, is woefully underpowered for any kind of gig situation - I was completely and utterly drowned out from the moment that the second guitarist came in and struggling before that. I need a more powerful amp head at least, possibly some new speakers, if I'm going to be playing any more gigs. oh well, I've been meaning to get a better amp than the one I have since before I even bought it.

I spent the rest of the day doing what I always do at artsfest, that is, drinking too much and getting sunburned. I didn't feel drunk but, looking back, perhaps I should have stopped after eight cans of lager, whether I was swaying or not. i felt fine the next day though. huzzah.

erm, since then I've done a whole lot of bugger all. I should probably start packing soon and get ready to shuffle off this campus soil and get myself a soul destroying office job. yay. I like to end on a high note.