2020 weeknote 8 – Radio recaps, selling singles, and work woes

A radio recap, first.

Desert Oracle – first the little magazine and now (only?) the radio show and podcast – isn’t something I listen to every time. But occasionally it’ll catch me in a receptive mood and I’ll think an episode was just a downright classic. The recent episode number 79 – These Enchanted Lands – was one such smash. Pretty much just a solid monologue of fascinating and spooky goings-on which is when Desert Oracle is at its best.

Repeats of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again are just what I need some mornings before work, leaving me chuckling away to things that were funny in the 1960s, and the silly songs that still tickle me today. Hearing John Cleese do a sketch where he complains about his wife spending all his money was particularly amusing in how prophetic it was.

It’s nice to be reminded of how excellent and eclectic Radiophrenia was – it was a block of broadcasts of experimental radio and sound art last May, but Resonance Extra continues to replay it at various times, and it’s always a delight to hear a few random snippets of it. I’m not sure if it will be running again this year / in future.

I was also reminded recently that it’s nearly time for Audiograft in Oxford. I went to the event in 2018 (mentioned in this weeknote) and enjoyed some of what I saw, and generally found it all quite interesting and inspiring.

Looking at the programme this year, I see less that grabs my attention, but I can’t decide if that’s because of the way so many of these installation descriptions and synopses are written. Sometimes I just kind of want to know what it is the installation will look or sound like, and sometimes there just aren’t enough words to properly explain that.

Something something dancing about architecture.

Obviously I should just go with an open mind and support a cool festival. I might find something completely unexpected. Will look at trains and suchlike.


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Some daffs – we’ve been on a daffs kick lately, it seems


Work continues to be just a lot at the moment.

I realise that many people work much harder than I do, but circumstances have conspired recently to mean I am currently either directly or indirectly involved with a large amount of stuff and am being called upon to make suggestions and recommendations on things I don’t feel I have the confidence to answer.

There is an end in sight, but it’s currently quite draining. I did have one nice comment from a colleague which came out of the blue and surprised me, which was nice.

This shift in responsibilities also led to me attending an afternoon session on recent updates in charity law which… well. I suppose some of it was vaguely interesting – particularly the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)’s approach to breaches of GDPR and so on. But other elements were at best just not relevant and at worst confusing.

One speaker criticised the Charity Commission on a number of levels before explaining that she felt a fraud case involving approximately £25,000 for a charity with a turnover of c.£10 million probably ought not to be seen as ‘significant’ and so shouldn’t be reported to the Charity Commission as a serious incident.

Which is alarming.

Possibly she just meant what the Charity Commission deemed significant or serious, and she did clarify by saying any incident should be reported, and the Commission can decide whether it’s serious or not.


Sometime last year – I think it was from watching the Glastonbury coverage on the TV – I realised I had a bunch of 7″ singles just sat on shelves which I never play. I saw The Killers performing and remembered I had one of their first singles on vinyl, and quickly wondered how much such an item might fetch, fifteen years on*. And then I wondered what a load of my other records might fetch.

* In fact, it sold for more than £30, which wasn’t a bad start.

About half of the singles I’ve accumulated are things I would consider objects I have collected and feel attached to, whereas the other half I just don’t particularly have a connection to, and I may as well get rid. Some were duplicates of releases I do care about. But overall, they just never get played. I listen to 12″ albums now and again, but singles with one track on each side I just never really listen to.

I set about listing some of these on discogs.com and ever since then I have been selling one or two a month with *touches all the wood* no real issues. I had purchased from Discogs in the past with no issues, so it’s pleasing to find that the other side of the process is just as painless. Discogs also helpfully gives you an indication of the asking price for most releases, based on previous sales.

It’s also been the perfect combination of things for me: I have some niche, weird stuff that I no longer really care about, and Discogs has connected me with buyers who do care about it and would like to pick some of it up. Most are not that valuable. But Discogs has made it easy for me to find a buyer and to transfer it from one home to another where hopefully it might get a bit more love.

It’s nice selling stuff to fans and collectors. In fact, one of my first sales was to someone who hosts an overnight radio show in Estonia, which is just great. They’re exactly who I want buying my old 7″ singles.

I wonder if listing things on ebay might be better for certain items, particularly as, by default, Discogs doesn’t show photos of the item in question, just the metadata associated with it and the grade the seller gives it in their opinion. Ebay would at least allow me to add more photographs and details about my particular copy. But when I remember selling stuff on ebay, it just feels like such an effort. Discogs lets me just upload a bunch of stuff and leave it on sale until someone wants to buy it. Easy peasy.


Not much else to report this week.

I spent a bit of time in the Wayback Machine museum of ye olde interwebs the other day, poring over one particular website that I followed back when I started following websites. It was a personal website slash blog, and the owner seemed to have had it online for only a few years. I have no idea what happened to them after the website went offline, and I often wonder where they are now.

Part of me wants to do some digging and try and find out. Part of me just likes the neat open-and-shut case of it and is happy to leave it as a time capsule I occasionally peer inside. I think I’ll write more about this subject another time when I’ve formulated my thoughts a little better.

This dig into the Wayback Machine also uncovered a version of one of my first websites that I didn’t realise had been mirrored, which was a nice discovery.

I was pleasantly surprised to find I had thought to include a little extra colophonic metadata in the footer, which is something I love to see, and which I must get back into:

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Reader, I still occasionally listen to ‘incubus’ and ‘the living end’.

2018 Weeknote 10

I’ve done ten of these now, so I guess it’s A Thing? Admittedly I’ll need to do another 42 to make it official, and that seems like a bewildering number, but it feels like A Thing, so long may that continue.

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After the previous week’s snow, it was back to business as usual at work, for the most part. There’s a lot of seasonal admin going on at the moment – some big mailouts. My office has a very cyclical nature to it, which I enjoy, as you can usually tell what’s happening, or predict busy periods and lulls, and organise your work accordingly. It also provides semi-artificial deadline, and lord knows I need a good deadline. Amongst very estate-y tasks was spray-painting potholes on one of our private roads, which was rather satisfying.

I also made some more progress on the two websites I’m working on in my own time. They’re close to being ready now, which I’m pleased about. Both clients are very helpful in their feedback and vision for how they want things to look and feel. It’s been a very positive experience so far.


I can’t resist a good thinkpiece about daily routines or media consumption, so it’s no surprise that that NY Times one about news consumption and that Atlantic one about retweets caught my eye.

After the NY Times piece I found myself nodding along with most of it, and was pleased to find that Phil Gyford‘s ace Guardian Daily is still working well. It strips out the content of each day’s paper into just clean text and some images, and makes the whole thing swipeable in a browser. Crucially it allows the reader to focus only on the story (not easy on the full Guardian website), and it provides the sense of a finite, finishable object that the likes of Craig Mod and others so often hail. It also had me reaching for stockists of the Guardian’s excellent Weekly edition, but I can’t seem to find any; it only seems to be available by post in the UK. I might try a trial. It made more sense when keeping up with news while in, say, New Zealand. But actually the weekly round-up nature of it – the slow news aspect – seems more appealing than ever in this current age of breaking news.

And the Atlantic piece about retweets made some sense. I quite like some retweets. They’re a nice way to diversify your feed (only a little, mind you – the echo chamber is a persistent issue), and they often bring items of interest. But they also provide items of little interest – and worse, they often come without comment. My friend retweeted this thing, but what do they feel about it? It’s not as simple as just assuming they agree 100%. It might be promotion of a serious issue, or just a quick meme that made them chuckle. Context is important.

As the piece mentions, there’s no easy way to turn off retweets globally, although my third party app of choice Flamingo has such a feature. And even better, it allows quoted tweets to show – and these are the ones I want to see. They provide the all-important context.

My plan is to go retweet-free for the rest of the week, and then turn them back on globally, turning RTs off on a per-account basis until I reach a happy medium.


M and I watched series one of Spaced this weekend, and it’s the kind of show I can virtually quote word-for-word. It’s been some years since we both watched it, and although elements still cut deep as they’re so well written or edited, other stick out like a bizarre anachronism: ringing someone’s landline from a payphone in the pub? Smoking in a nightclub?! But it’s reassuring how much of this 1999 TV series remains hilarious and ‘cutting edge’, nearly twenty years on. Series two next.

I made more progress in Banished, you’ll be pleased to hear. I’ve got my community up to 150 or so adults, with plenty more children and students on their way. The game still occasionally feels like a grind, but the realism of the mechanics of the town’s expansion – oh no, the cemetery is full, I’d better build a new one – are engaging. I’m concerned that the game is a bit too open-ended. There’s no narrative or end-game (that I know of). So at some stage I will just have a steadily increasing town. There’s also no development of eras like some games have – where you’ll transition through styles of architecture or technology, say. Still, I’m still some hours away from the first perceived achievement level of 300 citizens, although I did get some cute awards for having a very happy town, and a very healthy town.

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I was bored on a train platform this week, so I was tuning round on my handheld DAB radio and stumbled on Forces Radio BFBS at a time when they were playing classic rock and indie. It provided a nice distraction, and I was a little stunned to see that the DAB+ station was streaming at a paltry 24kbps! I’ve seen other stations just scraping by on 32kbps, and they tend to be predominantly spoken word. But here was a music show sounding pretty decent on very little bandwidth.

In fact, the only audio glitch I could discern was the intro of the Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go which has some stereo separation which wasn’t being properly played out.

A brief scan of Wohnort tells me that this is the lowest bitrate of any DAB station, certainly nationally (apart from data services), and it’s very promising to hear such efficient compression sounding so reasonable.


On Thursday I went back to Oxford for the second time in recent weeks. This time I had tickets to see the wonderful Youthmovies play their first gig in eight years, and I was thrilled to see the Audiograft festival was taking place while I would be visiting, so I made some plans to enjoy some of the installations and performances from the audio/noise festival.

Now that I know the layout of Oxford a bit better, and I’ve scoped out a few good pubs and eateries, it’s a nice little city to wander round.

I made sure to visit the Natural History and Pitt Rivers museum(s?) this time, and loved them both. The former is well-lit under a glass roof, and has a classical, elegant display of animal skeletons inside a gorgeous neo-Gothic building. And the latter is a vast collection of antique display cases of various items from around the world. It’s a darker space, and has the air of rooting around a closed museum or even a particularly well-stocked attic space.

Unlike other museums with similar ethnographic collections, the Pitt Rivers lumps items of a kind together in one area. So here you’ll have writing instruments, or there you’ll find timepieces. Or, more specifically, you might find Treatment of Dead Enemies, or Charms and Amulets. It makes for a fascinating selection, particularly seeing such contrasting objects cheek by jowl across cultures.

After the museums and a much-needed pint – outside in the Spring sunshine! – I headed to OVADA, an exhibition space in an old industrial building. Inside I found installations of sound experiments, including vinyl records playing a Morse code version of Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale which was then received by a device that attempted to decode and display the words. It did this through a thin veil of recordings of birdsong and other ‘interruptions’, causing small glitches in the text. I was pleased to find that the artist Kathy Hinde was around to explain a little more about her installation Twittering Machines.

Elsewhere I also found Sally Ann MacIntyre’s Study for a Data Deficient Species (Grey Ghost Transmission). It was a necessarily small (portable!) installation, with an enchanting recording I had also encountered via the recent Radiophrenia broadcasts. I’ve followed Sally Ann’s blog radio cegeste for a number of years, so it was nice to come into contact with her work at OVADA thanks to Audiograft.

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The space at OVADA affords a number of opportunities for installations like this one, but also some compromises. On the one hand it is a large space and allows for a number of installations to co-exist without feeling too crammed in. On the other hand, as some of these works are by their very nature audible, they compete for attention as they reverberate around. This worked quite nicely for the most part: hearing birdsong interrupted by music, impersonated birdsong, and the staccato human-spoken binary of Simon Blackmore’s How We Communicate made for quite a mixture of sounds and audio textures quite in line with the other textures on show, whether part of an installation or the fabric of the building itself.

An example of the aural environment on my visit to OVADA can be heard below:

Later, I made my way to the beautiful Holywell Music Room where I was pleased to catch three of the evening’s four pieces.

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It’s a gorgeous space, I’m sure, for any type of music and performance. But the three pieces I caught were all experimental in their own different ways. First was a wordless exploration of human vocal sounds in response to external stimuli – thought not strictly to my taste, I enjoyed the fact that such a performance found a home in such a space; they suited each other in their own unusual ways.

Next was an interesting cross section of nerdy audio experimentation and sheer noise. A series of four cymbals was placed upon individual speakers, through which sound was passed, causing the cymbals to reverberate. This was then, I believe, fed back into the speakers. It was essentially twenty minutes of feedback, but finely tuned, and the aural equivalent of seeing coloured dye dropped into clear water and watching as it swirled slowly, forming organic or pseudo-random patterns.

The last piece I caught was, I think, an interpretation of a simple narrative of house and the stories it held, told through spoken word, projected video, and overhead transparencies.

It caused me a little amusement that all three pieces suffered from the “It’s not finished!…. It’s finished!” issue as parodied in Spaced. But I was so glad to have caught such a diverse set of performances. And all as a ‘pay what you decide’ format, with anonymous donations upon leaving.

I would’ve been more sad to miss the last act, were I not headed to the Bullingdon for the Youthmovies show.

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It’s hard to summarise the show, really, as the band take up so much emotional space in my head, having soundtracked significant episodes in my life, some wonderful and some less so. But seeing a band play for the first time in eight years – in honour of a departed friend of theirs – was as emotional and uncanny and yet familiar as I had hoped. Fittingly, it wasn’t a perfect performance. They played songs they hadn’t played together in years, and most of them feature quite unusual time signatures. But it felt like a 100% positive and uplifting experience for all present.

As expected, I had forgotten over the years some of the magic of their live performance that made them such a favourite in the first place. Their recorded output will remain a bewilderingly impressive and imaginative selection of tracks. But it’s their immense joy at playing these special songs, and the modesty and passion they display when onstage that makes them a truly special band. It was an honour to have the opportunity to step back into those shoes for one night.


And then this weekend, with nothing much planned, M and I went for a nice walk along the canal on Saturday afternoon. And on Sunday I felt the urge to go for a little run, and ended up covering 22km.

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I had intended to head as far as I could towards the Thames, and to turn back for home whenever I felt like I was flagging. But as Foo Fighters’ My Hero hit its climactic chorus on Whitehall, and Strava announced that I’d hit the 10km mark, I knew I had to continue.

I treat these kind of cross-city runs as something of a sightseeing exercise – people-watching in motion, with some London landmarks thrown in for free.

I’m suffering some aches and pains a day later, but it’s reassuring to know I can still pull that out of the bag every now and then. As Spring comes, I intend to get a little bit of consistency into my running and walking.