Saturday, October 29, 2011

Photos from the West of Scotland Youth Band's visit to Strathaven

251011_ Strathaven 18

Posted some photos from the West of Scotland Youth Band's visit to Strathaven on Wednesday past... to see the full set go here :: Flickr

It was a great evening... really looking forward to their concert with the Kirkintiloch Brass Band on the 12th November.


251011_ Strathaven 12

251011_ Strathaven 13

251011_ Strathaven 22

Friday, October 28, 2011

Olly's new idea: stamped cahiers

Olly is doing something new... something to complement her handcrafted cards: she's stamping Moleskine Cahiers with interesting patterns and uplifting messages.

Pictured is the first one off the 'line'... a wee pocket cahier that's now in my pocket. It combines a celtic symbol with some love imagery.

She's still playing with the idea... but if it is something you'd be interested in... jump onto her facebook page and leave her a message.

Thanks honey!


believe handmade

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's your number?

Here's an interesting interactive data visualisation... find out your 'ranking' in the world's population.

I am the 4, 007,773,415th person in this world... and I have a life expectancy of 77.4 years (i.e. I have 40 years left).

Find out your ranking on the BBC website.


Malcolm Gladwell tells the strange tale of the Norden bombsight

It's always nice to hear something new from Malcolm Gladwell... I really appreciate his insight.


I received this compliment a few days back...

I received this compliment a few days back that has really bouyed me up...

'...just wanted to say thanks for all your music recommendations, photography, and interesting spiritual retweets. Over the last year or 2 Ive found myself reading/listening/viewing a lot of interesting things thanks to you!'

I won't embarrass the person who wrote it... but just wanted to say thanks!


Loving... 'Introspection' by Earlyguard

Introspection is the act of looking within oneself... the act of self-examination. It is also the fitting title for the ever-productive Earlyguard's latest longform ambient soundscape.

I was delighted when 'introspection' arrived in my Dropbox ... I have become very fond of the soundscapes Earlyguard produces and am extremely grateful for an early preview of his latest work.

I find his latest piece deeply moving... it has an almost tangible other-worldly quality to it as if he has recorded the sound of being in a "thin place"... a place where Heaven and Earth meet and touch.

The majority of the soundscape is a low drone... a kind of reverential hum with rays of light shining into the space at times (such as around the 20 minute mark)... to make an immersive sacred thrum that engages me, the listener, in thought... in consideration... like time spent in the grandest of cathedrals... both man-made and in nature.

'Introspection' provides time out... almost 45 minutes in another place... a dream-like space where there is the freedom and the inspiration for deeper thought and measured consideration.

I welcome this and would actively recommend this release to you.


'Introspection' is released on Tuesday, 1st November on bandcamp

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Loving the artwork... "the past is a foreign country" by Venona Pers

I received today a physical copy of Venona Pers lovely folktronic ambient album "the past is a foreign country" ... and wanted to post about the artwork.

The front cover is wonderfully subtle... so subtle in fact that my Nikon struggled to capture it. It's too white / light for the auto focus... so here it is from the album download:

The cover artwork is reproduced with kind permission from Yanming, Guangdong, China (unfortunately the website appears to be suspended at the moment). I love it.

The inside artwork is by illustrator Jim Robertson. It is also subtle... this time, however, it is an impressionistic painting of a woman... muted with warm oranges contrasting greens and blues.

It is a fitting cover for a beautiful album... and one I would heartily recommend. I've been really fortunate with the physical CDs I've obtained through Bandcamp... all unique and intentionally beautiful... and this one is a fine addition to my collection.

My thanks go to Jonathan C Hill for sending it through to me... he didn't have to... I had bought the album as a download... but he was kind enough to give me the CD. I am grateful.

Please support independent whenever and wherever you can.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Loving this... "My favourite animal" by Lara Lee

My Favourite Animal (5 min. version) from Lara Lee on Vimeo.

I love this... three different children are heard describing their favourite animal, and then Lara Lee draws the animal according to what they say, so that the creature "grows itself" in a completely unexpected way.

Lee's execution is marvellous... and very entertaining.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Loving... Justice League on my iPad

My friend Steven (aka "@myopicaardvark") is a huge comicbook fan... he gets all animated about them in the same way I do about music. When DC Comics took their decision to reboot 52 comics... I took the opportunity to start following a storyline.

The storyline I decided to follow was Justice League... I have followed their stories previously in graphic novels borrowed from Library or in the animated TV series... and kind of like the whole "team dynamic" thing... that and I love Wonder Woman but feel a bit odd buying her storyline. Oh and by buying into the JLA I get Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash AND Wonder Woman.

In essence, I love a good story and the work Geoff Johns and Jim Lee have undertaken impresses me... albeit I don't think everyone is as enamoured as I am... but then I am new to this. The artwork is vivid and the storyline intriguing.

What has enabled me to start this journey, apart from the DC reboot, is my iPad.

I'm buying the comics for my iPad... I am not buying physical media. This is another way the iPad comes into its own... the comic looks fab and is designed to be read either page by page or frame by frame... which I like. I also like that I can download the comic... once I've bought it... to my iPhone, iPad AND Dayna's iPhone too. She's coming along with me on this journey.

Whilst I am not convinced that the iPad is future of magazine publishing... well not yet, anyway... I do see a very healthy future for comicbooks. The iPad is wonderfully visual and comics are wonderfully visual too... this is a part of publishing that the Kindle can't touch yet... especially the grayscale e-Ink versions.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Loving this... Sentiment Analysis of the Bible

Thanks to notcot #43,852 for the heads-up to this fantastic infographic :: A Sentiment Analysis of the Bible :: arranged chronologically (top) and by book (above).

According to the post on "Sentiment Analysis" involves algorithmically determining if a piece of text is positive (“I like cheese”) or negative (“I hate cheese”)... in essence black symbolises positive sentiment and red symbolises negative sentiment.

I don't get the math behind it... the graphic "arranged by book" uses a moving average of 5 verses on either side whereas "the chronological visualisation" uses a moving average of 150 verses on either side... but I like the way it looks... I have a real soft spot for fab infographics and hope to create my own in due course... for work and the like.

What's more... I love the fact is giving away full size versions of the graphics for free. I really fancy the chronological visualisation on my wall in my wee computer room... and am grateful for their generousity.

Anyway... check out the article and download the full size versions.


Loving this mix by Tom Honey aka Good Weather for an Airstrike for Futuresequence

Another quality mix for Futuresequence from one of my fave ambient post-rock artists of late... Tom Honey aka Good Weather for an Airstrike.

This mix is something special indeed... with firm favourites Lowercase Noises, Umber, GWFAA himself and The Echelon Effect represented along with some new (to me) sounds and artists.

Take time out and listen... just wish I could get an offline copy?!?



01. Inachus - Escape
02. Devin Townsend Project - Fly
03. Lowercase Noises - Migratory Patterns
04. Animal Hospital - A Safe Place
05. Jesu - Farewell
06. Ben Woods - No Word From Above
07. Moshimoss - Slow Days It Was Super
08. Good Weather For An Airstrike - Aurora
09. Chihei Hatakeyama - Morning Arrive On The Island
10. Puffin On My Side - Faded Distance
11. Sufjan Stevens - Alanson, Crooked River
12. The Echelon Effect - Your First Light My Eventide
13. Caspian - Epochs In Dmaj
14. Umber - Tomorrow We'll Throw Out Some Old Shoes
15. Roncatto Braathen - May Grace Be With You...
16. Mazzy Star - Into Dust
17.The Ivoryton Piano Factory - Whispering Spirits

Wilderthorn is taking requests for songs

I really like this... musician Jon Bilbrough aka Wilderthorn is taking requests for songs... he'll film the best requests (he's aiming to do ten over a period of twenty weeks) and put them out via and his youtube channel.

I've submitted a few songs that came to mind... such as "You still believe in me" by the Beach Boys (from Pet Sounds) and "Fix you" by Coldplay (from X&Y)... and you should too.

Simply send in your song request to ... Jon will choose the best and record his version for your delectation. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Carlsberg Bikers ad made me think

I am grateful to my friend Trucker Frank (that's his real name... on his birth certificate... he's like Prince but taller) for sending through this video.

It made me think of all the times we expect people to join us... in whatever it is we want them to join us in... e.g. a church gathering or some other established setting. Think about it... look how daunted the folks are when they are expected to join the group. This is based on their assessment of the situation and their pre-judgement of the group they are expected to join.

Yes... I know its an advert and one for a beer... but it made me think and I welcome that!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Longboarding: DREAM by Benjamin Dowie

I love this video that my friend Jonathan gave me the heads-up to. Its just so well shot.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Robert's response to my open letter of apology to my prog loving friend


My friend Robert (pictured) sent me this email in response to my "open letter of apology to my prog loving friend". Enjoy.



Hi Thomas

Read your "Open letter" on your blog and I'd just like to say welcome to the church of Prog :-). You are of course, right that there are only two types of music, that which you like and that which you don't. And even then it changes. I love Marillion's Brave or Pink Floyd's the Wall (two albums you much check out) but it isn't every day that I can sustain the concentration to listen to them properly. And as concept albums, they demand attention to the detail that goes in (when recording Brave, instead of just having electronic silence by pulling the faders down between songs, they went out and recorded the dawn breaking and things like that).

But anyway, on to stuff to check out. If you're having a King Crimson moment, then listen to the albums leading up to "Red", "Larks Tongues in Aspic" and "Starless and Bible Black". The Fripp/Bruford/Wetton/Muir line up was fantastic. And the modern Tool stuff is very good, I think I gave you "Lateralus". The rest of their output is worth a listen.

In the Yes/Genesis style, there's the up to date bands like Spock Beard who are worth a listen to and Dream Theater which is a bit heavier. And the people who followed them in the 80s like Marillion, IQ and Pallas.

But most of all, check out Prog radio.

Anyway, hope you're well and having fun. I'm currently listening to "Ten to Eleven" which you linked on your blog. It's pretty good. I like specific parts of ambient music and this is appealing. I'll give you a call at some point.

Take care, Robert

p.s. Entertainingly, I've actually seen Fugazi in concert. In France in 1995 or there about.

Loving... "mnk" by eomac

I got a lovely surprise on Friday night... Invisible Agent sent through their latest release for a wee preview and I was mightily impressed with the quality of it. I still am after a number of relistens.

My listening habits are quite cyclical - lately i have been listening to passionate progressive rock... powerful post rock... deliciously droning ambient electronic soundscapes... and some fresh folky acoustic sounds. Oh and Björk.

I'm a fan of upbeat enthusiastic techno-inspired breakbeats... but wasn't really listening at the moment with any intention. I love Orbital, for example, but need to search them out... they are not on my iPhone for immediate listen while commuting.

This has changed, however, with the inclusion of "mnk" by eomac. It is truly a wonderful EP that brings together a number of ideas to create a vivid and powerful artistic expression and subsequent impression on me as the listener.

The EP opens with the title track "mnk" which features a wonderfully dark off-tuned synth intro/backing, skittery beats that dance through the mind, a deep and dub-steppy bassline, disjointed vocal samples and an off-kilter synth melody. All these parts come together really nicely to form a lovely audio collage that is almost jaunty, dare I say it.

"bashy" is proudly dub-steppy in feel... with a skippy beat, a deep bassline, quirky sounds that remind me of Herbie Hancock's fusion explorations and repetitive vocal samples that bring a celebratory joyful feeling to this track.

Track three of four is "texx" is another upbeat and joyful number... beats are skippy and the bass is, once more, deep but more prominent. Disparate sounds come together to create the melody... especially one refrain that can only be described as "sci-fi" in nature.

The last track "medieval massive" starts with skittering beats and a disjointed synth refrain before it is complemented by further synths and beats to create a wonderfully immersive soundscape... a soundscape that slows to a halt as the track ends.

There is no way to avoid the infectious upbeatness of this EP. This is goodtime music... unashamedly jiggy and jaunty with a depth of sound and all the hallmarks of technical proficiency.

I would recommend this EP to folks wanting an injection of up and would suggest playing it over good headphones or on a big hifi... there is so much that could be missed if you listen to it on the "standard" headphones that you received with your player of choice.

I have embedded a player below to let you have a wee listen.

Recommended. $2.99 on Bandcamp.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Photos from a wee trip to Peebles

151011_ coming from Peebles

We took a wee trip to Peebles today... a nice wee leisurely drive down from Motherwell. The weather was glorious for this time of year and remarkably it stayed dry all day.

As always... I took my camera and have included some of my fave shots. The rest can be found here.


151011_ number 8

151011_ bokeh from the river

151011_ bonny Peebles #8

151011_ inside the cenotaph

151011_ bonny Peebles #10

Friday, October 14, 2011

Loving... the latest Twinings advert

I love the interwebs... I saw this advert on the TV and went to check it out. Twinings have really done something special with this ad... the animation... by Psyop... is so spot on and the soundtrack... Charlene Soraia's cover of The Calling's "Wherever you will go"... is just perfect.

Well done to all involved.


Here's the cover in full:

...and here's the original:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Loving this mix from Jara Tarnovski (Gurun Gurun) for Futuresequence

A truly beautiful and fascinating mix compiled and mixed by Jara Tarnovski from "Gurun Gurun" (a Czech-based experimental ambient quartet) for the inspirational music blog Futuresequence.

Grab some headphones... sit back and enjoy. I am... as I type.


Tracklisting is as follows

01 Part Timer & Heidi Elva – The Runner (Orla Wren Mix) 

02 F.S.Blumm & Nils Frahm – Licht-Teil

03 Origamibiro – Quad Time and the Genius of the Crowd
04 Radiosonde – Up To the Sky / Altum
05 David Sylvian – Small Metal Gods
06 Marcus Fischer – Wave Atlas
07 Moskitoo – Live In Tokyo (April 10, 2010) (excerpt)
08 Miyauchi Yûri – sievi_
09 Oval – Homesick
10 Murralin Lane – She Was Climbing
11 Louisville – Forest (For Maria Kotalska)
12 Machinefabriek & Gareth Davis – Drape Part I
13 Cyclo. – C3
14 Birds Of Passage – Pray For A Sunny Day
15 Tokyo Bloodworm – Vesica Piscis
16 Kinder Scout – First Half
17 Michael Santos – Alphaville
18 Littlebow – Thjis Drift (Plinth remix)
19 Oldrich Janota – Kde svetla a brizy

Futurerecordings netlabel

One of my greatest joys is stumbling upon something truly special. It seems these days that I'm doing this more and more... especially in the field of leftfield music.

Futurerecordings is a netlabel that specialises in high quality instrumental post-rock and post-classical soundscapes. I have written about a couple of their releases last year and keep going back to them for more. Their roster is tight and tonight I downloaded albums by Twincities and Years of Rice & Salt ... I am, needless to say, looking forward to soaking up their music.

I would heartily recommend checking out Futurerecordings and give their music a chance to get under your skin. You will be glad you did... imho.

I have embedded three albums to give you a taster... the two mentioned above and the awesome "Pacific.Atlantic" by The End of the Ocean... enjoy.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

an open letter of apology to my prog loving friend

I am a prog convert. There... I said it. I love prog and am now not afraid to admit it.

Unfortunately this admission comes twenty years too late for my prog loving friend Robert who turned me on to Tangerine Dream and movie soundtracks but failed to get me interested in prog... apart from "tarkus" by Emerson Lake & Palmer.

Robert was into Yes, King Crimson and ELP... amongst a number of bands that I labelled "prog" and duly ignored.

For, you see, twenty years ago "prog" or "progressive rock" wasn't hip to me. Hip was the post-punk of Fugazi. Hip was the hop of Public Enemy. Hip was the guitar anthems of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Hip wasn't prog... at least in my world.

In those days I believed the media... a media fuelled by the notion that prog was bad and punk was good... that musicianship and keyboard solos weren't as interesting as three chords and a heavy dose of nihilism, appropriated samples and a militant stance, or a baggy drugged-up funk.

I believed a media who thought "progress" was looking forward to the next new thing... the next new hybrid sound or "place". I remember when Seattle became "the place" for music.

I wasn't alone. I had friends who subscribe to these thoughts too. I wasn't alone like my friend Robert who singleminded liked what he liked... and didn't care.

I doubt I will ever stop looking forward to the next new thing... but my tastes have broadened and I will happily look backwards for the next new thing as well... albeit this "new" should be correctly entitled "new-to-me".

I do this because I've changed.

Twenty years ago I was, at best, youthfully naive and, at worst, youthfully arrogant.

Now... after twenty years of growing and evolving and, dare I say, progressing... I've come to realise that there is only two types of music: good and bad... and this isn't even fixed. Just as there a many emotions... there are many expressions that match these moods.

Take "in the court of the crimson king" by King Crimson. Twenty years ago I hated it... now it fascinates me.

It fascinates me because of it's inventive variety... the soundscapes varying from full-on avant garde rock to abstract ambience with some flute thrown in for good measure.

Maybe it's the "Radiohead effect" where music is seen as not just an instantaneous joy but also a journey... something fluid rather than static? I don't know but I do know I love Radiohead for their inventiveness.

Or maybe it's just that I've grown up and as I have evolved I've become more open and liberal... taking chances... seeking to listen and understand... being prepared to be changed and seeking to sometimes avoid stuff that "always works" in favour of taking risks and putting myself "out there"? I don't know but I like the me of now in that regard.

Maybe I just don't have anything to prove anymore... that I don't need to be "seen" to like something and am accordingly free to like whatever it is that I like? I like to think I am defined by my freedom to choose my own path rather than the labels I place on me (or allow to be placed on me)... I just wish others were as gracious.

Or maybe it's the fact I see the world from more of a post-modern perspective... where there is more than one "right way"... that there isn't just one style of music but many?

To be honest, I don't know for sure... but what I do know for sure is that I should have done this twenty years ago. Prog should have been a welcome addition to my listening experience... but it wasn't. I won't let that happen again.

I guess that's what they call experience... and hindsight.

Sorry Robert!


Sunday, October 09, 2011

James, Social Media and 'just doing my job'

281210_ James #2

This morning... in our church gathering at the Salvation Army in Bellshill... my father-in-law James (pictured) collapsed. It turned out afterwards that it was due to having low blood pressure and being too warm. He's home and under the intense scrutiny that is my mother-in-law.

At the time it was awful! Olly and I got such frights and... well... it was a roller-coaster in the emotions department.

That said... today Social Media - predominately Twitter and Facebook - once again proved their mettle. Both Olly and I were inundated with so many messages of support... so much so we were almost constantly looking at our iPhones.

Ping! Ping! Ping! goes the sound of friendship and concern... and it was a welcome sound and pleasant distraction when we were waiting in the ghastly waiting room in Wishaw Hospital.

Social Media is considered a lesser form of friendship by some. Whilst there is nothing like a visit or a phonecall at times of stress... a tweet or a Facebook message is a valued message. Its like an instant 'greetings card' that expresses the sentiment of 'hey... you are not alone in this'. This can not be decried and must not be undervalued.

Yes... not all my 'friends' and connections sent me messages but I was more interested in those who did... and I was surprised who actually did... than those who didn't. Social Media isn't a numbers game. Its about connections and conversation... with Twitter being about 'discovery' too. That aside... I was touched by all the messages we received and I extend my thanks to everyone who took the time to connect.

What I was also touched by was the attitude of both Stephen (Gemma's partner and Doctor) and Adrian (our Minister).

Stephen was the first to James and took charge. He was a reassuring presence among a number of reassuring presences - we are blessed with a considerable number of folks from the medical profession in our church. Stephen isn't a regular attender but chose to come today of all days... coincidence? I don't think so.

Anyway... Stephen downplayed his efforts when we got a chance to speak with him after James was admitted. To him this was what he did as a Doctor... what he was trained for... his 'bread and butter'. For us... for the family... it was far, far more.

Similarly... Adrian visited the family in the ghastly waiting room and spent time with us. Time he needed for travel to Paisley for an event that our kids' choir was participating in. He spoke to us and showed his concern in such a practical manner... again, to him this was what he did as a Minister... what he was trained for... his 'bread and butter'. For us... for the family... it was far, far more.

I guess the point here is to never underestimate what you do... brief messages mean a great deal... and doing what you do... expressing your concern in practical ways... showing up, so to speak, and doing your job when it counts... may be your normal response but for those who receive this compassion in action... its far from normal and it is greatly appreciated.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thank you Steve...

230910_ my Apple kit (266/365)

These are my current companions...

a tale of two iBooks

and here are Olly and my sister with theirs in 2005.

Dayna watching video podcasts

Here's Dayna watching Podcasts on my iPod in 2005...

010310_ Dayna & her MacBook (060/365)

and again in 2010... this time on her own MacBook.

Queuing in Glasgow

I've queued in the rain...

Been there... got the tee-shirt

and have proudly worn the t-shirt.

The we'ans playing on 'tinterweb

My daughters only know Apple...

211209_ Hipstamatic_ Miriam with Olly's iPhone & my headphones (355/365)

and their first phones were iPhones.

120111_ I love music

I can carry my whole record collection in my bag...

Keeping sane! (22/365)

and Apple products have accompanied me to hospital.

150911_Apple Store_003

I have spoken in my local Apple Store about my involvement in a new school of photography...

130910_ my daily "stack" unstacked

and I even used to have an Apple sticker on my work's Thinkpad before it blue-screened and died.

So when you ask me why I am sad today... maybe you'll understand.

This isn't a consumption thing... or a materialism thing... its a design thing... its a quality thing... its about wanting the best and being able to have the best.

Thank you Steve... your drive for the very best... your ability to think differently and make 'things' that mattered to me and to my family... 'things' that, I'm not ashamed to say, have changed my life... 'things' that have helped me... my wife... my we'ans... communicate, consume and create.

I never knew you but I have felt your influence... the tangibility of your pursuit of excellence in the 'things' you put your name on... ever since I got my Bondi Blue iMac back in the late nineties.

Thank you!


Steve Jobs' Stanford speech...

Think Different!

Steve Jobs thought different


Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Latest poster... West of Scotland Divisional Youth Band and the Kirkintilloch Band in concert

I'm delighted to show you my latest poster... one for a joint concert between the West of Scotland Divisional Youth Band and the Kirkintilloch Band... which is based around this picture of my friend Cameron Laird.

If you are free on the 12th of November and fancy something a bit different (that is unless brass *is* you thing 24/7) then please come and hear the band. I love their enthusiasm and their renditions of "Concierto de Aranjuez" (Suzanne Dow is brilliant on flugel horn) and Morten Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium" melt this non-bando's heart.

I'll be there... taking photos and also partaking in a wee bit of A/V - I've been asked to take on their visuals and I've accepted. Looking forward to it albeit I need a doohickey for my MacBook Pro to connect with a projector.


Saturday, October 01, 2011

Portal 2 Soundtrack... available for free

The soundtrack to Portal 2... along with some ringtones... is available for free ((here))

The three volumes make for interesting listening... and are well recommended.



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