1. Serial Reader: This app takes books that are out of copyright and chops them up into bite-sized chunks called “issues” (10-15 minutes reading time). It delivers one issue of your selected work to you every 24 hours. It’s been a great help to me in getting me to sit down and read full-length novels again. H/t to [personal profile] fred_mouse for bringing it to my attention. Since installing the app a few months ago, I have re-read most of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries (3-5 issues each), Northanger Abbey (30 issues), The Secret Garden (37 issues), The Importance of Being Earnest (9 issues) and Anne of the Island (32 issues). I’m in the middle of Moonfleet (32 issues), which is new to me, and also Anne’s House of Dreams (33 issues), which is a childhood favourite. I do most of my reading on the train or in the bath, and keeping up with 2-3 serials at once is perfect for those activities.

  2. Fitbit: The bloke got me a Fitbit Charge for UK Mother’s Day (back in March). Just to be clear that this was not foisted upon me, let me assure you all that I asked for it in advance. Exercise and weight stuff )

  3. Spotify: The bloke upgraded his Spotify account to the Family version so I could use and we could put it on the tablet for the kids. I don’t think I’m overstating matters when I say that this, combined with dropping a little cash on a decent pair of earbuds, has improved in my mental health. Over the past few years, I’d gotten out of the habit of listening to new music. Much as I love joking about being an aging rivethead with musical tastes stuck in 1994-2003 (which is still true of my preferences in EBM), I have missed the kick of finding a new song I really liked and listening it to death, seat-dancing to it on the train and memorising the lyrics. Amongst the things I’m currently obsessing over are the latest Goldfrapp album, MØ and the Suicide Squad soundtrack.

    Also, it was wonderful to be able to (almost) immediately download Ukrainian electro-folk band ONUKA’s entire oeuvre on the app in the middle of watching Eurovision. Learning to love Eurovision after moving to the UK is a whole entry in itself, but suffice to say it is now an annual ritual, involving cooking the food of the host country (Ukrainian flatbread and beetroot salad, thank you, the bloke!), drinking silly cocktails and shouting a lot in disagreement at the judging (Azerbaijan was robbed).

    In conclusion: Spotify! Brilliant! Yeah, yeah, I know I’m a decade late to the party. Whatevs. I still love my MP3 library, even if most of it is pre-2004.
Here are two things that have provided pinpoints of light in these dark times.

The first is the release of roya’s EP, “trax”. Roya & I went to high school together. She now lives in Sweden. We see each other every few years when she passes through London, usually on her way to someplace more exciting. Roya introduced me to the internet (back in the days of dialup and BBSs) and the Simpsons (you know, when it started). She was the first programmer I ever knew. She was, in short, much cooler than I am, and she continues to be in these haunting electro tracks.

Roya - trax
[The cover of the trax CD EP, two stickers, and Roya’s note to me. Click here to access her Bandcamp site, where you can listen to tracks and/or purchase her work.]

The second is a Dutch artist who was having a small exhibition at ESTEC the last time I was in the Netherlands. I was immediately attracted to her abstract, heavily textured paintings. I noted an area of one piece that had been done with a palette knife and we then had a long chat about her intricate, labour-intensive construction process. I was secretly delighted at some similarities to my own, and inspired to try some of her more sophisticated elements. It is my ambition to own one of her Lyrical Incandescent or Geological Series pieces.

[“Through the Heavens,” Nicole Cijs, from the Geological Series. Click the image to view her web site.]
Poll #15150 Moooosic
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 31

The bloke & I got tickets see Kate Bush live at the Hammersmith Apollo this August.

View Answers

21 (67.7%)

She's playing live shows?!
8 (25.8%)

4 (12.9%)

This makes you officially old.
3 (9.7%)

I'm so, so thrilled about this. I never thought I'd be able to see her play live.

nanila: (old-skool: science!)
( Jun. 12th, 2012 09:22 pm)
  • The following exchange took place in our household recently.

    Him, born & raised British: "It's chilly in here. Shall I put the heating on?"
    Me, born & raised in Hawai'i: "No, it's June. Put another jumper on."

    I still can't quite believe that this actually happened.

  • I finally posted out letters to all the people who won at the Geography Pub Quiz in April (DW/LJ). I think this sets a record for the longest it's taken me to fulfill a promise for post. My apologies.

  • All the extra Dreamwidth points I purchased have been distributed to nominated recipients (and a couple of others). Thank you to those who participated in the nominations.

  • Passenger and I recently passed the twenty-week mark together so we are now more than halfway through the pregnancy. I honoured this landmark by listening to this on repeat for a day or so. "Ohhhh we're halfway there/WHAAHOOH livin' on a prayer/Take my hand, we'll make it I swear/WHAAHOOH livin' on a prayer." THE HAIR. \m/ \m/

    [YouTube video of Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer", 04:09]

  • I ran a small, last-minute, poorly organised outreach event at a school in Woodford (east London) today. There were only ten* students in attendance. I was told there were going to be thirty.

    Normally this would make me rather angry, as it was pretty far out of my way and took up half a day of work. Not today.

    As soon as I walked in the room, I saw the girl sitting in the front row turn expectantly toward the door. She fastened her eyes to my face and they strayed for scarcely a moment for the hour and ten minutes I was there. Nearly every question I posed was answered by her. Correctly. No sooner did I ask it than all the other students in the room - boys and girls alike - turned toward her to see if she would speak. I tried to share my attention equally out among the students, but it was quite clear she was the star of the set. And I could see this written on her face throughout: I am going to be her when I grow up. I desperately wanted to tell her, You already are, and you will surpass me.

    It was worth being there just for her sake.

    (Did I mention that she was stunningly pretty? I bet all the boys are terrified of her.)

    Only two of the ten students were white. And half of them were girls. This also helped make it worth while.
I think I may have to give up on finding new music to post about every three out of four weeks, because what I really want to do is share the strong memory associations I have with music.

This instrumental piece, Thaïs (2), from This Mortal Coil's Filigree & Shadow spent a good deal of time on repeat during my second year at Very Expensive University located in a not-very-nice part of Los Angeles. The first half of that year was both tumultuous and miserable, and ambient music calmed my mind. The distant helicopter sound on the track echoed the actual helicopters that frequently circled overhead. The synergy of my environment with the record negated reality's menace.

The rest of the album is haunting, melancholy, jarring and wistful by turns, with sparse vocals. I find it comforting.

[This Mortal Coil's "Thaïs (2)", YouTube video, 03:14]

ETA: I simply must mention Ivy and Neet from the same album. It's a slow, simple piece dominated by a few piano chords that I kept on repeat after my grandfather died.

[PJ Harvey "The Words That Maketh Murder", YouTube video, 04:25]

I vividly remember the first time I really heard PJ Harvey. She played a show with Tricky at the Mayan in Los Angeles in 1996. My then-boyfriend bought the tickets. My primary motivation for going was to see Tricky as the opener, I must admit. This was back when you could still smoke inside venues, so my memory of seeing him is wrapped in a strong-smelling haze. (I have no idea how the bouncers managed to do their jobs. I suspect everyone in there was at least a little stoned from it.) And it has faded far more with time than my first sight of Polly Jean Harvey on stage.

Somehow I'd gotten pushed right up to the front. I found myself staring up at this tiny woman holding a big microphone, swinging heavy loops of black hair past bright red lips, body wrapped in an electric blue minidress and feet shod in sparkling red heels. She shut her eyes and opened her mouth and this enormous, captivating voice enveloped us. I couldn't take my eyes off her. I have no idea how long she sang, or what she said between songs. All I know is that I was entranced.

Her music has mellowed a little over the years, but her words certainly haven't. The song I've linked is from her newest album Let England Shake (2011).

Lyrics to The Words That Maketh Murder )
Ah, it's time for another trip down Memory Lane. Before I left high school, I had heard of exactly four bands that could be considered industrial (and I still hadn't heard of industrial music): Coil, Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails. The first was my favourite at the time. I remember hearing the eponymous track from the album Love's Secret Domain, taped onto cassette by my friend Colin. I froze to the spot when I heard the words of William Blake's poem The Sick Rose, interlaced with something unrecognisable - Roy Orbison, I was to learn much later - spoken over insidious rhythms and an uneasy euphony that tingled in my mind for hours. It became one of the first albums I ever bought on CD.

[YouTube video (audio only) of Coil's "Love's Secret Domain", 03:53]

Lyrics. )

It's still Monday - just. I feel the need to share another Festival of the Spoken Nerd product here. Helen Arney sings charming science songs accompanied by her ukelele. In this one, the Sun lets us know it doesn't enjoy being taken for granted.

Lyrics )

You can download this song for free and listen to other equally thoughtful nerdy tributes at her site.
As regularly as possible*, I catch the Festival of the Spoken Nerd along with fellow nerd/appreciators [livejournal.com profile] dizzykj, [livejournal.com profile] imyril and [livejournal.com profile] helpful_mammal. This lovely comedy night is normally held in a pub and attended by under a hundred people. It features maths, experiments and beautiful science songs accompanied by fine ukelele strumming. It is a joyful occasion.

Last week, the three organisers decided to up their game and held a sold-out show at the Bloomsbury Theatre at University College London. The atmosphere was less intimate but it meant that the hijinks could be more dangerous. If you read this as, "They set a lot of stuff on fire", you would be correct. One of their blazing hijinks consisted of a tube about a metre long filled with a butane-air mixture. One end of the tube was sealed with a flexible membrane. There was a row of evenly spaced pinholes along the length of the tube through which the butane could escape and be set on fire (because what else do you do with butane?). When a speaker is placed on the end with the membrane and the noise is tuned to a resonant frequency of the tube, you get a standing flame-wave.

Like so.

[Image of a Rubens flame tube in a standing wave configuration.]

Now, a flame-tube on its own is impressive, but FotSN decided this wasn't good enough. So they brought on Vid Warren, aka The Human Beatbox, to play it. And Vid Warren, even without flame-tube accompaniment, is pretty awesome, what with managing to sound like an entire percussion section using only his mouth. Hence, he's the star of the week's Music Monday.

Vid Warren from BANM Music on Vimeo.

[Vimeo video, 02:36, Vid Warren beatboxing whilst playing a pipe]

* I say this because there have been no less than three separate occasions on which my spacecraft has demanded that I stay at work to care for it rather than attend FotSN. IT KNOWS.
The bloke discovered Touch Radio a while back (somewhere around recording #36; they're now up to #73). Each recording is by a different artist, taken in a different setting. They're nearly all non-vocal, minimalist and haunting. New material is posted irregularly - about every 3-6 weeks. Some are composed of "found sounds" and serve no particular purpose. Others have been created as soundtracks for other artworks, like this latest one from Fennesz, which is "part of Skånes Dansteater's performance HAZE, November 4th 2011 in Malmö's Skånesdansteater".

Fennesz - On Invisible Pause - 48:13 - 192kbps MP3

If you like this sort of composition, I advise a perusal of the archives. They're gorgeous.