Monday, December 15, 2014

Get out me car!

This is the funniest thing ever. I don't know why; I can't explain it. Maybe it's that she has the same accent as me. Maybe it's because she says, "Nooo!" in the same accent and tone of voice I pretend my geckos have when I ask them questions. ("Would you like a beer?" "Nooo, coz I'm a gecko.")

Whatever, it has me in stitches. Unfortunately I couldn't find the original vine, so this only plays once. You have to hit replay at least four or five times to get the right effect.

It's remarkable how inventive people are at making art when given new tools. Only 140 characters allowed on Twitter? In a couple of months people were writing novels and haiku on it. And Vine, which gives you only five seconds of video gives rise to this - two perfectly ordinary people coming up with a play of transcendent multiple meanings in a natural rhythm, in one tiny snippet.

"I'm in ma Mum's car. Broom! Broom!"*
"Get out me car!"

I'm not kidding, it's like a little slice of the Odyssey there.

*I would have spelled those engine revs as "Brum! Brum!" like I did as a kid, but the internet has spoken.

Monday, December 08, 2014

San Juan Capistrano - the Road Worrier

My town is undergoing a major upheaval for reasons I haven't quite fathomed yet - it's demolishing the freeway access (to the I5) and the bridge over the freeway, in order to build about 67 more lanes of freeway access and about twice as much bridge.

A crow is watching from the world famous Twin Streetlights 
of McDonalds.

The redevelopment has ripped out the buildings and trees that were center of the town - luckily the major business in the area, a motel and restaurant, fled years ago - and replaced it with acres and acres of asphalt, as far as the eye can see. It's not finished yet - we're currently in the era of major road closures and the consequent traffic issues - but we walked through the area yesterday to see how it was going. I don't have my own pictures as you can't really get a good idea of what's going on from ground level, so here are OCTA's own pictures from this site.

Old interchanges

Proposed (rendering)

The dead area of asphalt that makes up the traffic interchange is just huge on the west (bottom of each picture) side, and it looks like the one on the east (top) is going to be just as large. There's also now a weird clawhammer-shaped thingy to the right of the west interchange. That is a gigantic plain of asphalt surrounding a Del Taco. The fast-food joint now has the highest elevation in the district as well as about 94 lanes of traffic heading straight for it. It's quite amazing up close. (In the top photo, you can see another fast food restaurant used to be at the top of the hill near the road - this was closed down and demolished to make way.)

The building that you can see next to the clawhammer of the Del Taco is a McDonald's. They've been planning to modernize it for years, the city finally granted them permission to do so, and it's just being rebuilt right now. According to the workers, it's McDonald's job to do the flood abatement from being downhill - they said they're putting in a giant storage tank for runoff water. McDonalds also had to make room for a "loop", which is apparently city-speak for if you get lost in the drive-in and have to go back around, you have to be given room to do it on McDonalds' property, to discourage lost and angry people driving on to Del Obispo Street and back into the Micky D's.

Yes, there are a lot of fast food restaurants on Del Obispo. There's also a Carl's Junior and a Marie Callenders.  One - Arby's I think - disappeared above Del Taco, there was another one - I think a Jack in the Box - that was off to the right of the pictures above. There was a Burger King as well. The Taco Bell is still there, one of those all-you-can-stuff-down-your-neck places that I liked, Sizzler's, disappeared years ago and is now an auto parts store, and on the other side of the freeway, my fave rave Denny's was wiped out. RIP Denny's :(

We locals used to call it Cholesterol Alley, but now it's more Asphalt Parkway.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Had Me A Real Good Time - The Faces (Ian McLagan and Bobby Keys)

Goodbye Bobby Keys and Ian McLagan, gone within 24 hours of each other.

Thanks for all the music I guess, but so sad you had to leave it behind.

Children of the Revolution - T. Rex

Here's a lovely T. Rex video of Children of the Revolution in 1973.

The uploader, Dylan White, doesn't have information on how or when it was made, but he uses the occasion to say we should check out the DVD The Final Word, which I certainly shall. I had not heard of it before now. Love the greens in this video - Marc's green blouse, Bill Legend's green fronted whatever-you-call-that, and of course Mickey Finn's green hat. Mickey has also mixed his seventies' green and orange in the correct proportions, whereas Marc's orange trousers are a bit much.  I used to think that these great colors were from using natural dyes like what people did back in the day, but thinking about it, 1972 was probably a hotbed of the most artificial dyes ever, so these were probably made from organophosphate and mustard gas. Still, lovely colors.

The uploader isn't keen on Marc's makeup, but I have to say he appears to have invented contouring. Look at those imitation Toby Tyler-era cheekbones!

While we're here, here's Get It On (Bang A Gong). Look at his little girls' shoes! And my mum made me a jacket exactly like that one except it was in pollen yellow, not pink. And Tony Visconti, if the adults of the time had realized what that guitar sound did to little girls, you would have been arrested. :p

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

White Bicycles by Joe Boyd (book, 2006) review

After jumping out of John Lennon's car, I walked down to Abbey Road studios on my way to record The Pretty Things and who should pass by but Margaret Trudeau, the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister.  She offered me a lift in her private plane as she was flying off to see Mick and Keith. Who should be on the back of the plane but The Byrds who said they were between managers. I said that was lucky, I was between bands to manage, so I managed the Byrds starting that Saturday. One day a month later I was offered the job as the head of Biggo-Vastola Records and I said to the Byrds, I said, I have to take this lads. They were all sad about it as they'd just recorded Eight Miles High and thought it would be a hit. It went platinum five minutes after I left in Ringo Starr's biplane piloted by Hilly Kristal but that's the breaks. We had only just landed when Bob Dylan and Albert Grossman came round and asked if they could join Fairport Convention. "Sorry, I had to stop producing Fairport records three minutes ago," I said and they were all dejected. Luckily Nick Drake and John Martyn were outside, waving through the window for me to go for a drink with them, so I did...

That's not actually an excerpt from Joe Boyd's White Bicycles, but it's pretty damn close.

I bought the book because it was subtitled 'making music in the 1960's' and all I knew of Joe Boyd was that he'd managed the UFO club in Swinging London. Alas, suckered again, because like Rob Young's Electric Eden it's actually about the Great Folk Scare. It's another chance to read about what Pete Seeger said or didn't say to Albert Grossman about Bob Dylan's electric set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where all of that happened. (For the record, Joe Boyd does not agree with the chopping-the-cable-with-the-axe story.) It's a lot shorter, though, and Joe Boyd really did know absolutely everybody who was everybody, from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee to Pete Townshend and literally everybody in between. There is more about the Incredible String Band and Danny Thompson, than about Pink Floyd and the Sex Pistols, though, but there must be no one else in the world who has worked with so many people - from Dudu Pukwana to Reverend Gary Davis - nor anyone who was in the thick of it for so long. It's fascinating stuff.

He's not Boswell, so I found there was quite a lot of starting an incredible anecdote about someone - Hendrix, or Devon Wilson - and then going into the next anecdote. After a while you realize the first anecdote isn't going to peak. Maybe he'll get back to it, but maybe he won't. The only one I remember actually coming to a punchline was the story about the Incredible String Band, who get left behind talking to a waiter in California, and later get picked up again having learned something from the waiter Our Gracious Host was not happy they had learned.

I needed to know some deeper things about the Summer of Love for my NaNoWriMo novel, and I wanted to check a few opinions about folk music for it, which this book amply supplied. It mentions Mick Farren, who mentioned Joe Boyd a couple of times, a couple of times. They're not very complimentary, but Swinging London was a complicated time. Boyd dates the Sixties as stretching from the Summer of 1956, peaking on 1st July 1967 and ending in October of 1973. And I'd agree with him, before and after reading the book.

NaNo's over, but the book isn't

I did "win" NaNoWriMo for 2014 - finishing with just over 50,000 words in 30 days. It's not actually that much in terms of output - typing at 30 words per minute (i.e. how fast I can type if I'm thinking rather than copy typing) your daily ration of 1,670 words should take less than an hour. In practice, it never took less than two hours because "thinking", having yet another cup of coffee or crossing out a paragraph and writing it again with different characters or the same characters in a different mood always tended to happen on a regular basis.

The majority of the writing was simple enough. I took the first two days to write a 2,000 word synopsis that expanded to a 3,000 word synopsis by the end of the month, and did one major reorganization in the middle when I realized that the division into 9 sections (flashbacks alternating with the present day) had shorter sections at the beginning than at the end, a sort of reverse speeding-up-like-Stairway-To-Heaven that would drag everything down at the end. (Or, of course immerse every reader more fully towards the end and make them think the whole experience had been that deep - but you can't second guess everything.) Making it into 11 sections solved that problem, meant that I could add 1976 (one of my favorite years) to the mix and delay the denouement for a little while which may (or may not, but  see above) create a bit of tension about how it is all going to turn out.

Fifty thousand words actually only comes to section 8, so three are still to be written. A fair amount of the beginning sections are of the type, "and then he got really lucky and so this happened and then that happened", which obviously need to be expanded - so there's probably thirty thousand words yet to go. Then of course, comes the editing and polishing, which can take between one read-through and the rest of your life, depending on what sort of writer you are.

One part of a middle section is completely unwritten, with just a placeholder under the chapter heading, because I honestly don't know what happened to that character at that time. Hopefully it will become clearer before I have to write the rest.

One great thing about taking a run at it, as you're forced to do given the time limit, is that you can probably remember what you were thinking and why you were thinking for the majority of the writing. I had a synopsis, but they aren't much use for details - obviously if they were detailed, they'd take as long to write as the actual text. For example, if you last saw your main characters in a bar, wrote a different scene and then went back to the bar, you have to remember some important details - what the bar was called, the time of day, who was there, how many drinks they'd had, what mood they were in, whether you'd mentioned the brass kettles on the walls already or not. A couple of times I had that continuity problem you occasionally see in movies where one character's drink moves from one hand to another between shots, and also the type you get in books alone, where somebody becomes dismarried all of a sudden or his wife's name changes from Rita to Consuela and back over the course of a few chapters.

There are special word processors designed to get over this type of issue. I own one, and can't remember what it's called because I don't use it very often. As with making a synopsis that is complete, filling up a database of characters, names, ages, likes, dislikes, times of day, amount of action in the scene, amount of emotion in the scene, whether the emotion is getting higher or ebbing away in that scene and so on takes longer than writing the book, though it's perfectly possible that if you do it correctly, the software then just writes the book for you. I've never got it to that stage to find out if it does.

Ah! It's called Power Structure - I went to look at its box. It's very very powerful but as I say, filling it up seems to be the hard part. A number of writers, including professional writers, swear by Scrivener, which doesn't cost a lot and seems to do most of the things Power Structure does. Once again, though, is the learning curve harder than actually writing the novel? (I'm sure the first person to not bother to learn Excel is very happy with his calculator to this day, and has only lost a few hundred hours by not putting in the time to learn the program.)


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