twentyfivevember

I spent a bit of time pruning/nuking my Flickr account. I let my pro subscription lapse again after a brief period of paying again. Flickr was one of the first web services I ever paid for, and I’ve had an account for my of the time I’ve been online. (See also last.fm, which just turned twenty, and my own account is about nineteen and a half years old!)

Since the end of my subscription I’d had a few rather clumsily worded reminders that my account, having been previously pruned, was still in breach of their regulations for the number of hidden photos they’ll host for free. I get it, online storage isn’t free, and a website like Flickr can be completely ruined by the sheer weight of its historical user base and their users’ uploads. But it’s still so hard for me to simply walk away. So I pruned the images to less than a thousand again – quite an enjoyable process in itself, picking which should stay and which should go.

I’ve just realised that a good mechanism for Flickr would be a Tinder-esque ‘swipe left/swipe right’ – when you approach a thousand uploads and your account is due to be limited, you’re shown ten or twenty of your photos and you’re asked which you want to keep and which you could happily get rid of. I dunno. I suspect their current practice of just sending sternly worded emails and not gamifying image curation is probably working out better for them in the long run.

But anyway. I’ve cleared the log jam and started uploading a few best-ofs from the year that I’ve missed since unsubscribing. I still browse Flickr once every few days to keep up with a number of people, particularly those for whom I feel their work needs the breathing space Flickr provides over Instagram’s claustrophobic, only-relevant-shortly-after-being-posted vibes. It is so much more enjoyable paging through someone’s photographic archive on Flickr versus Instagram. But anyway, these are all arguments that have been done to death. I suspect I’ll go through yet another cycle of re-subscribing to Flickr again in the next six months or so.

Phil Gyford talked briefly about the Guardian app getting worse, and his own Today’s Guardian website which after all these years is still a fantastic experience. He remains modestly proud of it and as well he should.

(He also recently launched a new blog directory which looks extremely promising although I need more time to have a nose around. It has quickly become, as he describes it, another once-in-a-decade hit for him – I can’t wait to see what Phil comes up with in 2034!)

On the subject of the Guardian reading experience, I had been using the Libby app to read books and magazine made available for free by various local libraries of which I am a member. But Libby has become quite clunky on the devices I tend to use – admittedly my own fault for obstinately using older devices, though as Phil points out, how they can make an app which is just displaying block of text and images slow is just insane.

Recently I tried out Press Reader again. Press Reader is a service I’ve been aware of for probably fifteen years or so and it simply provides full scans of newspapers and magazines from around the world. Being able to browse the NZ Herald and The Listener and all kinds of magazines over the years has never not been a massive novelty to me. I would occasionally grab a free trial and dig in.

But Press Reader is now also available via my library account, linked to via the Libby app – which doesn’t make much sense to me, as Libby already provides access to magazines which you ‘check out’ digitally within that app.

Libby now lets you start a one month account with Press Reader, linked to your library account, which in turn allows you to view and download unlimited newspapers and magazines from around the world – including a large number that are also available through Libby.

It’s a very confusing landscape and it always makes me wonder how much XYZ Local Authority is paying for these services, or whether it’s based on the number of users. I’m sort of glad I don’t know.

The bottom line though is that where Libby has become a bit clunky and cumbersome (again, only via my own use of a c.2016 phone and a c.2013 iPad), the Press Reader app is acceptably snappy. The app navigation can be a tiny bit slow, but crucially once you’re in a publication, sliding between pages and double-tapping to zoom in feels about 95% as good as it should do. So that’s good.

I’d recommend Press Reader, although the barrier to entry seems to be: get a library account, log in via their e-library services, download Libby, sync up your library account with a Libby account, tap a link in Libby which sends you to Press Reader, create an account in there and pray to god it syncs with the Libby account, and then download the Press Reader app, logging in and once again praying the account syncs up correctly. It’s a bit much and I do wonder how many people bother.

But once you’re in, the service and range of publications available is great.


To ‘Heist’ in St Leonards for dinner and drinks, which is a lovely little place. A sort of food hall, home to a number of small food and drink producers, with various areas of seating and a kind of open policy for sitting wherever you like and ordering whatever you like from whichever provider you want. It means you can combine various orders, and do as we did, having a weissbier and a sour beer from one area, something from the Japanese section, and the these delicious tofu puffs from the Korean place, served with some magical blend of seasoning, crushed up corn flakes and popping candy.  We had a second serving of what was meant to just be a starter of these – another nice thing you can do at a food hall like this.

It all adds up to a calmly bustling space that welcomed everyone from families with small children, couples on date nights, and even a salty merchant navy type who propped up the bar. (We did visit on a day when England were playing a World Cup match, so maybe it was quieter than normal…?)

twentyfourvember

The floor man came to measure up and give quotes.

The floor man cares deeply about flooring, and he is the best man for floors. The floor man hates plumbers. He hates electricians. He hates any contractors that have ever had to lift, cut, re-seat, or replace any part of a floor.

They are butchers, he says, and he expresses this with a sadness that I feel instantly, and am deeply touched by. It is this depth of feeling that reassures me that, yes, he is the right man to do our floors. Well, that and the fact he has already done the floors of one of our rooms, and the finish was gorgeous.

Outside, the wind is getting up, and I visit the beach to stand right in the brunt of the gusts*. Not quite a strong enough wind to lean into, but certainly capable of small gusts which almost knock you off your feet.

I see a young couple with a pushchair steadying themselves on a nearby bin, and it reminds me of the story my mum tells of how when she was a baby in a pram in the mid-1950s, London was one day struck by strong winds, and she was lifted, pram and all, into the air all the way across the street. When I first heard this tale I was sceptical, but in more recent years when I see winds like this, I know it must be true.

* “the brunt of the gusts”…? What a weirdly ugly turn of phrase. I recently described a gooey, delicious pasta dish I had made for M and I as “unctuous”.  I kept using this word because it felt good in the mouth – it felt like the food I was eating – gooey and delicious and sort of naughty. M did not approve of my use of this word, and I can see her point. It is not a pretty word. But my god that pasta dish was unctuous.

Passing through the park I hear a distinct birdsong and I stop to see what is singing. It’s a fir tree of some sort, and I know they are often home to goldcrests – and lo and behold, there is one here, singing its tiny head off, bouncing around from branch to branch, no larger than a ping pong ball, and not much heavier. I can just barely make out its surprisingly furious face, and I just stand, watching and listening, for several minutes. I love these birds.

Here’s a snippet:

twentythreevember

As mentioned the other day, I decided to dig out the old MiniDiscs and I’m so glad I did.

My morning and part of my evening commutes were soundtracked by this excellent deep dive into the songs of Neil and Tim Finn. Solo work, Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn Brothers, big singles, album cuts, all sorts.

It’s a joy to listen to, especially as I say, knowing the time it would have taken to put this mix together. And thanks to the unique features of the MiniDisc, this is an LP4 disc – lower audio quality, and for times the length. There are 74 tracks on this one disc – not minutes, tracks – and the selection it spans about three decades.

I watched another two episodes of Tokyo Vice, and it kept me pretty gripped. There were two delightful touches that caused me to grin from ear to ear, while the rest of it is just as intriguing and cynical and dark as I am enjoying it being. I am especially impressed that, unless I am completely mistaken, the main (non-Japanese) actors all seem to be fluent in Japanese, which is a step up from what you might expect. One of the most shocking things (and maybe it shouldn’t be) is that they seem to smoke and drink as much in 1999 Tokyo as they do in 1960s Mad Men.

As I walk home from the train, I hear the distinct sounds of that song “….And I…. Don’t want to fall in love…” and I glance around the dark street looking for the source. It could be live, but there are no venues on this street. I soon realise it’s coming from a parked car, and as I walk past, and as my eyes adjust to the dark streetlight, I see the driver of the car is a man in his fifties and he is smoking a pipe. An actual Sherlock Holmes type pipe. What a scene.

 

twentytwovember

Bright winter sunlight. Down to 0.2c last night. My left hip and knee feel as though I had done a long run the day before, as if to mock me because I had not.

Ran to the hills for radio signals. It turns out that my morning aches did not prevent me from running, and it was especially satisfying to get up onto the East Hill. With the Channel in full view I tuned around looking for the DAB multiplex broadcasting on channel 9B from Caen in France. Nothing. It’s these vagaries that keep me coming back, damnit. Radio as weather.

In the evening I caught the first episode of Tokyo Vice, a slick new series following an American journalist who gets hired by a Japanese newspaper to report on crime in the city.

What captured me was the production value – the cinematography is great, and several parts made me feel like the attention to detail was pretty good. It’s also a period piece, set in 1999. Just far enough back to provide neat touches of intrigue and, basically, nostalgia.

What took me out of it a little was a scene in a nightclub which had Aly, Walk With Me by The Raveonettes playing in the background – a great song, but not from 1999. 2007, actually. Curiously it was also cut up in quite a mangled way – I couldn’t tell if it was a deliberate edit to keep the beat playing in a certain way, or if the dialogue (and therefore the background music in the scene) was deliberately cut up to imply fast cuts. Either way, a little jarring.

But not enough to detract from the rest of it. I’ll keep watching. (The credits went by hilariously quickly – I hung on to see who it was a co-production with, but I genuinely couldn’t see.)

 

twentyonevember

Interconnected writes about sound being trapped in physical objects and surfaces (amongst other things), and it reminds me that I’ve often felt like rooms must be able to capture sound in some way, though inevitably it would be rendered into white noise by all the possible wavelengths it might record.

But still there’s this idea in my head that, say, the walls of a recording studio may still somehow hold the physical effects of the sound recorded within – the vibrations of the sounds have left microscopic impacts on the physical fabric of the walls.

It’s probably at least partly why it is so tempting to visit recording studios where important things were recorded, to somehow soak up this ethereal connection – an echo still receding.

I also love when records state not just the venue a recording was made, nor just the range of dates, but the specific date. This is more likely with live recordings (whether performances or those tracked ‘live’ rather than being multitracked). But I love knowing that a recording was of a specific date and time and location. Something very groovy about that. An audio snapshot of a specific time and place.

And on a final related tangent, and calling back to my reference to the radio (not) silence during the two minute’s silence for Armistice Day, I love recordings that capture (by accident or design) the ambience underneath the intended subject of the recording itself. Studio chatter, street noise, audience participation, room sound. I recently bought a gramophone 78 with a recording of Big Ben from I-can’t-remember-when and you can bet I didn’t buy it for the sounds of the bells.

(Note to self, I should make a high res rip of that disc and try and remove the bells as much as I can. And the decades of scratchy gramophone hiss.)*

*do I record it at 78rpm, or 33 and then use maths to speed it up, and will this make the surface noise better or worse?

After dark I tune my shortwave radio to 5140kHz and hear, just faintly, the 1920s tunes being played by Charleston Radio International, a pirate station on the continent somewhere. It is barely audible but I’m so glad it’s there.

I discovered its existence from a painstakingly-assembled directory of shortwave music stations and the information is extremely detailed and accurate. Not quite as satisfying as stumbling on such a station completely by accident, but a different approach, and still so very cool.

It’s such a weak signal that I probably wouldn’t have stumbled on it by accident anyway to be honest. And it certainly wouldn’t have been picked up by my Tecsun’s auto tuning function. I had to check the radio’s manual again to remind myself of a specific tuning feature, despite having owned this radio for years.

For a translated manual, it is fairly well-written and clear, but my favourite insight into the language of the original author is the parts that describe the ‘BEEP’ noises the radio can emit at certain points if required – they are written in the manual simply as ‘B’ and ‘BB’ and it is a delightfully eloquent way of rendering that tone in text.