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20071001

iPod Statistics September 2007

Entry 341 posted in: 9. I, Pod


Again a bunch of useless iPod stats on my MySpace page.

For the top 10 list of the songs I've been listening to since January go to http://www.myspace.com/atagong.

For the top 10 list of the songs I've been listening to in the month of September, go to the MySpace blog section.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: iPod Statistics August 2007

Astral Pipers Forum Back Online

Entry 342 posted in: 5. The Pink Thing


In the beginning of May the Astral Pipers forum, a place for Syd Barrett fans to meet, was closed down. The reasons why are a bit redundant now, suffice to say that some internal quibbling between members was the source of it all and that at the end Astralpiper1, as we used to know him, pulled the plug. It's a known story that has happened to a lot of fora before.

The homeless members soon started a new forum, Late Night, and this was a nice new haven for all of them, friends and foes, believers and non-believers, who had buried the hatchet. Until a long-time member, who we all know from the old days, decided to resuscitate the original.

Turmoil! Chaos! Mayhem!

Before anyone could say Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict old wounds were opened again. One member, well I guess it was me actually, said it was like sleeping with your ex-wife again, thus paraphrasing David Gilmour when he was asked to do a reunion gig with Pink Floyd. But sleeping with your ex-wife can be jolly good fun, especially when her new husband doesn't know it.

Two days are gone since the reopening of Astral Pipers and there are already a few brand-new members who don't know shit about the past problems. All they are interested in is Syd. And that was the original reason to begin with.

Astral Pipers


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Astral Pipers Forum 

20071003

Easter Eggs Lost On An Island

Entry 343 posted in: 5. The Pink Thing


I really haven't found the time yet to listen to the 40 years anniversary cd of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, why should I, I know it by heart anyway, and there is already a new DVD of David Gilmour, the guitar and voice of Pink Floyd (as opposed to Roger Waters who auto-defines himself as the creative genius of that same band). This leaves me speculating about the two other band members, what could one say about Richard Wright? Or about Nick Mason? Perhaps playboy drummer would be a good epitheton ornans for him. Syd? Syd was and will always be hors cat├ęgorie.

For us madcap fans Remember That Night offers some fine treats. Arnold Layne, Pink Floyd's first single, is on it, sung by David Bowie. Bowie has been a Syd Barrett fan since the band's UFO days and, I know everybody has read this already a zillion times, covered the Floyd's seconds single See Emily Play on his Pin Ups album. And that makes us all wonder if we will ever see a Bowie cover of the Floyd's third single Apples And Oranges.

For those that are not too happy with the Bowie rendition of Arnold Layne, and there are quite a few fans like that, there is also a version of the same track sung by Rick Turkish Delight Wright. Actually Rick was already in the band before Barrett joined and he is the only one who had one of his songs covered by Barrett. (For the anoraks: Two Of A Kind was performed by Syd Barrett on the John Peel show of the 24th of February 1970, it can be found on the Barrett compilation Wouldn't You Miss Me.)

And of course David Gilmour sings some Syd Barrett tunes as well. Before anyone dares to utter that David Gilmour is not a founding member of Pink Floyd, I would like to state the fact that Grace Slick was not in the Jefferson Airplane to begin with either. But who the hell remembers who was there before her? Gilmour covers Astronomy Domine (with a little help from Rick), Dominoes (also present on his previous DVD) and Dark Globe.

That last track, Dark Globe, hides an Easter egg on the DVD. If you choose Dark Globe from the individual tracks menu, it will be followed by an acoustic (and fucking brilliant) version of Echoes. Playing the DVD in its entirety will keep this track hidden.

Two other Easter eggs are easier to find. Some of the song title menus on disk 2 have a small firework display about 20 or 30 seconds after the menu starts. Clicking the firework will start a hidden track. On the main menu you will be able to see a home movie of David playing Then I Close My Eyes (about 20 seconds). On the Royal Albert Hall menu a 50 seconds dance version of On An Island will appear. I hope you will not recognise yourself on the video as it is quite distressing in a hilarious way.

There is another distressing fact as well. Nowhere on the DVD I can find a trace of Publius. I hope the fellow isn't sick or something...


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Solidarnosc 

20071005

Thingamablog Add-On Of The Year

Entry 344 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash


You may know or not know this and probably you don't care but this blog is entirely made up with Thingamablog (or TAMB).

Thingamablog is a cross-platform, standalone blogging application that makes authoring and publishing your weblogs almost effortless. Unlike most blogging solutions, Thingamablog does NOT require a third-party blogging host, a cgi/php enabled web host, or a MySQL database. In fact, all you need to setup, and manage, a blog with Thingamablog is FTP, SFTP, or network access to a web server.

The last upgrade from TAMB already dates from the 21st of December 2006 and that was only a small bug fix release. Now I am not one of these guys that want to have an upgrade just for the sake of having an upgrade. I have been tempted in the past trying every latest grand cri but after a rather nasty computer crash while testing a new personal firewall I decided to stick to those old trustworthy programs I know of they will work.

An example: my spam software is K9, a program that hasn't been changed since the 18th of April 2004 and despite the fact that it is, measured in software life cycles, hopelessly geriatric it is, in my opinion, still the best spam fighter around, currently running at a success rate of 99,64%. I admit that I have tried some other spam solutions in the past, the ones that promise you a lot of bells and whistles, but they always lead to a lot of cursing and swearing and a somewhat ashamed return to good old K9.

The same applies for TAMB. It is reliable, pretty stable and even fun to work with. There are, however, a few points that could be ameliorated. My future release wish list for TAMB can be found on their forum.

One of the more frustrating points of TAMB is that is rather difficult to make an internal link to a previous post. A TAMB blog quickly grows into a maze of folders and subfolders and it gets quite frustrating if you need to link back to an old message.

Take this blog, for instance, I have written about TAMB before and the build in search function tells me that post 72 was one of those dealing with the matter. To create a link to the actual page that contains this post you don’t only need to know its ID, but also the year and month of the publication. Thus the previous entry about TAMB on this blog can be found at the following location: root - subfolder archives - subfolder 2007 - subfolder 01 (for January) - entry 72. It always takes a bit of puzzling to find this out.

But Fabian Voith from FaVorithSoft may have found a solution to this problem. He pimped up the Java code of TAMB to have an extra, and very neat, function called Wikilink.

«Wikilink» is an extension for the Thingamablog 1.0.6 blogging software.
Since you don't know the URL a blog entry will have after being uploaded, it's quite complicated to interlink your blog entries. The FaVorithSoft Wikilink Extension integrates well in the Thingamablog GUI and enables you to create cross connections as easy as a «normal» hyperlink.

If all goes well the following lines should all link to previous posts (links repaired July 2008):

Thingamablog 2.0 Announced 
Thingamablog 2.0 on its way 
Thingamablog Update 1.0.6 

The above internal links took me about 45 seconds to create. And guess what: it actually works! This is easily the best Thingamablog add-on of the year (well, actually it is the only TAMB add-on of the year) and it will soon prove to be indispensable for Thingamabloggers all over the globe. So it is with joy in our hearts that we sing: congratz to Fabian!


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Some updates... 

20071007

Dirk Gently's Holistic Radio Appearances

Entry 345 posted in: b. Dirk Gently


BBC radio with Above The Title productions have made a six-episode radio play called Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency based on the Douglas Adams novel.

As the plot involves a desperately confusing time-travelling solution I am eager to find out how the time paradoxes will get dealed with on the audio play. As the BBC also adapted the ending of the Hitchhiker series on the radio they may be toying with this book as well. (As a matter of fact a rather particular hint in the beginning of the book has already been altered and is now the subject of a discussion an alt.fan.douglas-adams.)

The actual episode of Dirk Gently will stay a week on the Beeb's website for online listeners.

And if you are confused about the time paradoxes in the novel you may have a look at my previous entries where I tried to assemble the different theories about what does really happen in the book. Please do not read this before you attack the book or the radio play, as it will take out all the fun.


The Dirk Gently Time Travel Thread on this website combines the following posts (the amount alone shows you how many possible explanations and/or theories are floating around on the web):

Gentle Ghosts 
Tukler's Time Treatment 
2001: A Time Odyssey 
Mrs Sauskind's Cat And Other Relevant Facts 
The Wrath Of Kubla Khan 
Tukler's Revenge 


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: So Long

Wikilink Update

Entry 346 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash


A few days ago I wrote about a state of the art Thingamblog add-on that was developed by Fabian Voith of Favorithsoft. An update, taking into account some of the things I had asked him to add, has been made and can be downloaded at Favorithsoft.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Thingamablog Add-On Of The Year

20071013

Heroes In The Sky (beta release)

Entry 347 posted in: 3. Gamebits


MadCap that's me! I am not really into ultra-realistic simulation games. I love a nice simulation but it needs to combine good old arcade fun with decent realism. One of my colleagues at work was deeply into Microsoft Flight Simulator but this has never been my cup of tea. I mean what is the purpose of flying an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean if you can't shoot down some enemies? But perhaps I am still pissed off because I never managed to land a plane on the tarmac.

One of the first games trying to combine fact and fun was, if my memory is correct, Corncob 3D. It was a DOS shareware game, created in the early Nineties (late Eighties?) by Kevin Stokes from Pie In The Sky. To quote the maker (in 1993):

Corncob 3D is a flight sim I wrote a few years ago. It features 16 colour filled polygon graphics. It is pretty much entirely obsolete now, but I'm still making money off it. I certainly learned a lot about marketing with it!

As is usual in those kind of games the starting point is a bit weird. Aliens seem to have invaded Earth in 1938 so there has never ever been a WWII. About a decade later you happen to be a freedom fighter with a plane that is well equipped with guns, missiles and bombs. The unregistered version of the game came with tree missions, in one of which you had to destroy a flying saucer that was hovering high in the sky.

This was truly an amazing game as it combined a flight sim with first person adventure. Not only could one fly a plane, but one could also jump out of it (preferably with a parachute), walk around with a pistol in your hand inside the flying saucer, use a car on the ground to escape, etc... etc... (I remember that I combined several shareware versions of Corncob 3D on my hard disk, each with different missions, so at a certain moment I had seven playable missions instead of the usual 3.) The parachute trick came in handy, as I never learned how to land the plane in this game either. It is a pity that the MVP website, that distributed the game nearly 20 years ago, no longer dedicates a page to this archaeological piece of software.

The next f(l)ight sim I simply had to try was Red Baron. As someone has written:

One cannot talk about classic combat flight simulations without mentioning Red Baron. This sim was the first in the Dynamix Aces series, which set the bar high for the rest of the collection. Initially released in a 16 colour EGA version, it was soon updated to a 256 colour VGA version.

I only remember that Red Baron always used to crash my PC, but people who have managed to make it run confirm this was a classic. My somewhat negative experience with Red Baron made me lose my appetite for flight and fight sims until I stumbled upon a free magazine copy of Crimson Skies.

That game had it all: a (somewhat dodgy) story, nice graphics and, the most important of it all, an automatic landing mode! In one of the missions you had to follow a train with your plane and pick up a passenger before the train disappeared into a tunnel. Flying under bridges or inside caves resulted in snapshots to fill a personal-stunt-scrapbook. But alas, on my configuration mission 6 always used to crash in mid-air and nothing could be done about it. After a while I deleted the game from my disk and gave the cd to someone who could get away with it...

So that was it. Until a few days ago. I spent some time on the Shot Online Golf simulation site, currently hosted at GamesCampus and found out they had a beta running of a flight sim called Heroes In The Sky.

Hmmm. GameCampus beta releases. Where did I hear that before? Oh yeah, here. A few months ago they tested a fishing championship game. A fucking fishing championship game! Sitting on a chair, waiting for a virtual fish to bite, turned out to be as exciting as the real thing.

But this promised to be something else. As usual the website was very vague with instructions. Basically it read.

1) Log-in first to play the game using your GamesCampus account.
2) Once you log-in, you can fly any plane you choose.
3) Then go get'em.

That is all. The game has a certain simplicity that we would call vintage or classic nowadays. The arrows make you fly up, down, left or right. Shooting is done with A (gun) or S (missile). You see some planes that are trying to shoot you down so you better shoot them down before they do. That's all. It's simple. I like it.

And most important of all: you don't need to land. This could be a hit. I'm pretty sure of it. Now let's kill those bastards.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Penumbra Overture Website

20071016

Pink Floyd Mini-Vinyl Studio Box Set

Entry 348 posted in: 5. The Pink Thing


EMI tries to hijack Christmas shopping with a seventeen Pink Floyd cd-set, containing all studio albums (and one live, actually) from the band.

So everything is included starting from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (that has just been re-re-re-released in a 3 disk deluxe box) till The Division Bell. Perhaps it is better to tell here what is not inside. Not included are the various Pink Floyd compilations (obviously, although they contain enough spare bricks to make it a starting point for a rarities album) and 3 Floyd live albums: Is There Anybody Out There (The Wall), A Delicate Sound Of Thunder and Pulse.

This is what the Brain Damage website has to tell:

Each CD is a faithful reproduction of the original vinyl using original artwork, all the original inserts (posters, stickers, and such like) and LP-style dust jackets. We also understand that there will be a 20" x 30" high quality poster included.

A poster! Wow! I'm so excited I can't hold my piss right now! But wait, there is more:

In addition, there will be a DVD in the box, which looks to feature the individual members of the band discussing the 40th anniversary and landmarks in their career.

A freakin' DVD - with interviews! Wow! I'm gonna shit my pants as well. As usual the Pink Floyd news from E 'we call it riding the gravy train' M I has raised more controversy than Britney Spears's decision not to wear any knickers on her night out.

Because there is a lot of stuff out there. Let's quote Mark Reed from the Echoes community:

There is an enormous amount of stuff lurking undiscovered and the discography needs a damn good tidy up with a full box set of unreleased stuff, demos, alternate versions, the numerous official live recordings in the vaults. I can think of at least 10 full concerts that are currently unreleased that have been officially recorded and mixed and at least 4 concert films rotting in the EMI archives, let alone the aborted "Live at The BBC" Top Gear Sessions album.

Apart from the unreleased material there is some official material as well that never made it on a digital carrier. I would be very happy with a DVD release of A Delicate Sound Of Thunder (only released on video), the soundtrack of La Carrera Panamericana (a video documentary containing 6 unreleased Pink Floyd tracks) or, why not, the (remastered) soundtrack from the Wall movie. The odd Pink Floyd fan would never notice the difference with the original album anyway.

A small Floydian quote to end the day: Wot's Uh The Deal?


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Easter Eggs Lost On An Island 

20071018

Wikilink Update 2 (Thingamablog add-on)

Entry 349 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash


A few days ago I wrote about a state of the art Thingamablog add-on that was developed by Fabian Voith of Favorithsoft. There is now a new, completely bug free, version available at: Wikilink.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Some updates...

20071021

U.F.Orb 2007

Entry 350 posted in: 4. Orb Weavers


Unfinished Business The pile you see at the left side of this screen is my to-do-list. A bunch of cd's, cd-roms, DVD's and books I'm busy with or I pretend to be busy with. Actually the rockpile is a bit higher now as the pic was already taken a few weeks ago. Then I've still got a few hundreds of vinyl records I've never listened to.

In a previous life I was a radio show assembler, meaning that I made up a playlist, wrote the comments in between songs, did the actual mixing behind the studio console, but that someone else got all the credits because that person happened to present the show. I've been nearly waiting 30 years to write this down, so finally vengeance is mine.

The above isn't entirely true in fact. The radio show host was a very good friend of mine, after each show we went to the local pub to get pissed and whenever he got free tickets to go to a concert he would invite me to come along. I was rather happy with that deal.

The bit about the hundreds of vinyl records I've never listened to is true however. As the radio station sound library only contained the latest greatest hits I went record hunting on a weekly basis. Never paying more than 100 Belgian francs (2 and a half Euros or dollars) for a used LP I would come home with 6 - 8 - 10 - a dozen records a week. At home I started digging into the intros of those tracks. I didn't bother to listen to the complete song, a minute, a minute and half would do. Once I found a suitable song to add on next week's playlist I had a go at its outro. Trying to glue two records together in what we called a perfect mix was the aim of the day. I noted how long the intro would take and how long the fade out was. Tracks with an ending (so not a fade out) got a # sign behind their name. It was a game of give and take. Sometimes I played a pretty horrendous record only because I found a perfect mix-match. This was highbrow leftist student radio and showing off was never punished, on the contrary.

But I'm not here to talk about my pimpled reminiscences; on the contrary, I'm here to talk about the re-release of U.F.Orb, a 1992 landmark album by ambient house band The Orb. Here is something I wrote a decade ago for an embryonic unfinihed project of mine (it slowly died in the womb)...


BLUE MOON RISING

In 1992 Kris Weston and Alex Paterson are in the studio with Jah Wobble, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy to produce what will become the longest single in British history. Vinyl version: 37 minutes and 46 seconds. Add an additional two minutes and 12 seconds for the cd.

Blue Room is LX's sweet revenge on Gallup who forced him to release a shortened version of A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld because it was 2 minutes too long. (1)

The track rises to number 8 in the British charts and that means that The Orb can have a playback session at the popular BBC TV show Top Of The Pops. Rather than acting like fools behind some fake synthesizers Alex and Trash decide to play some chess on television. Unfortunately (?) the Blue Room single is shortened to about 3 minutes on television.

Blue Room shows the new direction The Orb is developing into, although it still carries the odd sample (Marilyn Monroe's Happy Birthday). Alex explains that they are: " taking weird noises and making them sound vaguely musical." The high chart position may have had more to do with the novelty effect, not to mention the hype it created in the press as being the longest single ever, than with its hit potential. So it was even more of a surprise that the subsequent album U.F.Orb made it to number 1 shortly after its release on July 7 of 1992. (2)

U.F.Orb is the first album were DR Alex Paterson and Trash fully co-operate as a composing team, all seven tracks carrying their names. (On the previous album that was only the case on Gaia.) Also gone is the weird kaleidoscope of recognisable samples that has left place for a more musical approach of sampling and the prominent use of traditional rock instruments: flute (Tom Green, O.O.B.E.), bas (Guy Pratt, U.F.Orb), guitar (Steve Hillage, Blue Room), harmonica (Marney Pax, Towers Of Dub). (3)

O.O.B.E. (Out Of Body Experience) is the perfect introductory track, starting with a haunting drone and taking us well over the four minutes mark before a faint rhythm starts sliding in. Best described as a new age meditation tape pastiche de luxe it sets the perfect mood for the record. The ending one sixth of the track is left over to experimentation: machine rumbling, pool sounds and some Arabian whining.

The meditation session is abruptly interrupted by the intro from U.F.Orb, referencing to a Radio Moscow bulletin about Yuri A. Gagarin. Driven by Guy Pratt's pounding bass and a frantic dub beat, it is the perfect track to accompany a Lavazza espresso at 11 in the morning (so far for my fantasy!). The Orb's Blue Room, with its waves at the seashore, a faint air-raid siren, Steve Hillage's guitar collage and a wailing background girl, is light-years separated from the Blue Room at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio where US marines define Shania Twain as a - to be avoided - punk suicidegirl.

Towers Of Dub gives exactly what the title predicts and is largely saved by Marney Pax's harmonica solo throughout the somewhat monotonous beat. At the end the pace is slowly put to zero so that the waiting Close Encounters train can be set to full blast.

Close Encounters will not be remembered as the album's standout track but is nevertheless a perfect in-between for Majestic's wake up call. With its kaleidoscopically rhythmic patterns it ends this wonderful album in a, hmmm, rather majestic mode.

FLOYD ON FISH

The Orb's first album was titled Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and that was exactly what it was, an expedition into a roomful of tunes, some green some blue, some orange. U.F.Orb is a fine, well thought-over, studio concept, although lacking in the wacky department. This also shows in the track listing, ambient and dance pieces follow each other up quite nicely, and are not separated as on Ultraworld. This makes the album more accessible to the general public. U.F.Orb made Alex and trash instantaneous superstars, playing gigs in the four corners of the world. Alex: "I was given the money for a helicopter ride to JFK airport once, so I pocketed the money and got the bus instead." (4)

Some journalists (and a few narrow-minded Floyd fans, although a narrow-minded Pink Floyd fan must be something of a contradiction in terms) used Blue Room as a scapegoat to fully illustrate The Orb's floyd-a-rama. The track meddles a lot with the psychedelic brain centre, the piece is filled with wind and water samples, even more effective are the industrial noises: air-raid sirens in the beginning and a tantalising g-o-o-d-b-y-e train whistle. "Taking natural sounds and setting them to a rhythmic idea", LX Paterson calls it.

And then starts Steve Hillage's guitar solo: genuine Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd creator) or early David Gilmour (Pink Floyd curator) so are we made to believe, but those who think only Pink Floyd play like Pink Floyd should maybe first have a go at Daevid Allen's Fohat Digs Hole In Space from Gong's Camembert Electrique album (1971).

In 1989 Steve Hillage, a forgotten musician from times past by, paid a visit to the chill out room of the Land Of Oz club where he discovered to his amazement that one of his own records Rainbow Dome Musick was being played. Wanting to meet the DJ, a certain Alex Paterson, their meeting resulted into a musical collaboration that would surface on several Orb records and on a new Steve Hillage project called System 7. (5)

CONCLUSION

U.F.Orb is a concept: U.F.Orb, Close Encounters and Blue Room point to the presence of extraterrestrials on our planet. In the top secret blue room, situated at hangar 18 of the American Wright(!)-Patterson(!!) Air Force base, some bodies (of dead) alien astronauts are kept in hiding, so the story goes...

U.F.Orb is fun: Towers Of Dub starts with a telephone prank by Victor Lewis-Smith asking the reception of London Weekend Television if Haile Selassie has arrived at the lobby. Sticky End is entirely made of noises from a defecating resident of the Gaya Park in Nepal.

U.F.Orb is ambient: O.O.B.E., Blue Room, Close Encounters.

U.F.Orb is dub: Towers Of Dub.

U.F.Orb is: Majestic.

U.F.Orb is The Orb's Dark Side Of The Moon.

(This (previously unpublished) review was written about a decade ago. No illegal chemical products were taken while writing it, as far as I can recall.)


2007. For its fifteenth anniversary U.F.Orb has been remastered and re-released in a deluxe edition. An extra disk has been added with some remixes and unreleased material. But it still hurts my brain trying to find a valid reason why the full 40 minutes version of Blue Room has not been added to the extras.


Footnotes
(1) The dance scene made Gallup redefine their rules. The maximum length for a single was doubled from 20 to 40 minutes. Blue Room is 2 seconds shorter than that. Back to text.
(2) U.F.Orb was first released as a limited triple vinyl set, the normal issue was a double vinyl album. The cd version only has one disk, although in America a limited double cd version could be found containing the full 39'58" version of Blue Room and a new track called Assassin. A video release Beyond The Ultraworld Patterns And Textures was made containing a live performance of the music on the limited third vinyl record. An even more limited version of this tape exists, it has the music of the live performance on a separate cd. Back to text.
(3) Samples that have been musically altered are, for instance, the barking of a dog (Towers of Dub), telephone ringing (Majestic) and, last but not least, the Sticky End noised of an effervescing elephant. Back to text.
(4) Lester, Paul, Brothers From Another Planet, Melody Maker, 01.08.1992. Back to text.
(5) Due to copyright problems System 7 had to be called System 777 in some countries. Back to text.


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