Friday 10 May 2024

Three Things

First Thing:

In a sign o' the times, Blog2Print, the business I have been using to make my "Idiotic Hat Annual" for some years now, has announced that it is closing in May. It seems blogs are now definitively yesterday's thing, at least as far as selling services to bloggers is concerned. Unfortunately, Blog2Print were the only people I was aware of who could offer a tailored "book from your blog" service, one which allowed you to specify a range of dates and produce a publication from the selected posts, nicely formatted, and which included all the illustrative material.

The books were not particularly cheap, but in my case I would choose instead the option of a downloadable PDF file at the extremely reasonable price of $9.95 (about £8.00). That way I was able to produce an annual compilation every September – I started the blog in October 2008, back when the academic year was still my default setting – and then write each downloaded PDF to CD, which made the perfect hard-copy backup. Plus, of course, a record of all this profusely illustrated bloviation for the entertainment of posterity. Although it's true that optical drives seem to be yesterday's thing, too...

Cover of the first compilation on CD

Oh, well. So if you happen to know of anyone offering the same or a similar facility, I'd be very pleased to hear about it. I do realise that I can download a complete XML dump of the blog free of charge from Blogger, but I've been too long away from programming now to contemplate extracting and formatting a year's worth of posts and pictures from that tangled briar patch of code. Although, that said, if you know of a suitable XML processor that would simplify the task, please do let me know.

Second Thing:

Here is something I've been meaning to point out to my fellow photography enthusiasts for a while: a guy called Tomasz Trzebiatowski runs a hard-copy photo magazine called FRAMES. It looks interesting, but I already have more subscriptions than I can manage (I'm five six issues behind in my TLS reading alone), but here's the thing: Tomasz sends out a free daily email from his substack called PHOTOSNACK which is worth signing up for, I think. Each "snack" features one photo by one photographer, as recommended by one FRAMES subscriber, usually with a link to their website.

If you're curious about the range of photographic "practices" out there it is a very interesting sample to have dropped into your mailbox every day. If only because it is a demonstration – both humbling and reassuring – of quite how many relatively-unknown photographers there are out there who can be very good indeed but, like the rest of us, rarely work consistently at the very highest standard. True, sometimes a well-known, established name is featured – recently there have been Flor Garduño, Michael Lange, Tish Murtha, Michael Kenna, and Saul Leiter, for example – but more often than not it's someone you (well, OK, I) have never heard of before, someone who is diligently ploughing their particular furrow and turning up the occasional gem from a heap of what is usually (but not always) the same old same old.

The nice thing is that these are people who have been recommended to Tomasz by other photographers and enthusiasts, and the chances are that you'll discover a few practitioners whose work is very much to your liking. Plus, of course, a fair few whose work is very much not, but it's good to get pushed off our familiar trails through the Photo-Phorest from time to time, isn't it? Daily, even.

So who is this Mike Chisholm, and why does he like barrier tape?

Third Thing:

And here's something for the rock and pop people.

When I was a postgraduate student at the University of East Anglia in far-flung Norwich, 1976-77, I had a room in one of the famous "ziggurat" accommodation blocks. It was unsettling to be so quickly cut off from the close friendships I had made in the previous three years at Oxford, and in particular from the woman who would become my life partner – at that stage by no means a certain outcome – who was away backpacking in South America. I would often find myself working at my desk into the early hours, probably a little high and feeling a little lonely, and either playing tapes on a portable cassette recorder or listening to my little transistor radio for company.

For really late-night listening, there were a number of channels you could tune into, depending on the weather and atmospheric conditions, such as Radio Caroline, a "pirate" station broadcasting from a ship anchored in international waters off the East Coast, which was then in its "Loving Awareness" phase (follow the link if you're curious: Caroline had what might be called a "chequered" history). Rock music was in its pomp, then, even as it experienced the first skirmishes with punk and New Wave. In fact, one of the first Sex Pistols gigs to be cancelled after their notorious 1976 TV interview was at the UEA Student Union. But it was hard rock that dominated late-night radio, and one of the new generation of "big hair" rock bands emerging then was Boston: their big hit "More Than a Feeling" could generally be heard several times a night. Despite myself, I grew to love it, and still do.

Now, here's the thing: you may already know all about Rick Beato and his YouTube channel, but I only came across him recently. He is a very personable, incredibly well-informed musician and producer who interviews prominent pop, rock, and jazz artists he admires (check out his hilarious and enlightening session with Stuart Copeland, ex-drummer with the Police) and also analyses individual songs in depth, under the rubric "What Makes This Song So Great?" If you have the slightest interest in what lies behind a great song, especially if you can play a few chords yourself, it's fascinating stuff. So here is his analysis of "More Than a Feeling", which I found truly eye (ear?) opening about a song I thought I knew inside out. Great stuff from an enthusiast with real insight into the complexities of record production.

He doesn't only cover rock and Big Hair music, though: check out this star-struck description of his dinner with Joni Mitchell (yup! three hours!), an invitation which resulted from his appreciation of another of my favourite songs from that UEA year 1976-77, "Amelia", from the album Hejira. Or how about this reaction to a new Adele release? Worth a look, I think.

Complicated harmonies, made in the studio...


Stephen said...

Thanks for those links to Photosnack & Rick Beato, Mike.
Very interesting.

old_bloke said...

When we lived in Michigan in the seventies the local AOR (album oriented rock!) radio station was WILS-FM. On a Sunday evening they'd choose one of the new releases and play the whole record through without any talking or advertising, so that you could record it on whatever kind of tape machine you had. I built up quite an impressive library of seventies rock on C90 cassettes. Even now, as a fat, bald old man, if I have a few beers and put on Boston's eponymous first album, I'm back getting ready to go out on Saturday night with a full head of hair, a 28 inch waist and the feeling that life couldn't get much better . . .

Completely agree with you about Rick Beato too.

Mike C. said...


That's a great feeling, isn't it? As soon as I hear that scratchy intro to Voodoo Child, or the opening cowbell and chords of Honky Tonk Women, I'm 17 again... No beer required.