Sunday, 29 July 2012

Dead can Dance - a new album!!!

Listening to Gideon Coe's BBC 6 show from the other night, there was a track played that I never thought I would hear - a track from a new Dead Can Dance album

No music has had such a profound effect on my life as that of Dead Can Dance.  I first saw them in concert on February 26th 1984 as support for Cocteau Twins at the Victoria Theatre in London.  I saw them three more times in the next couple of months as they played their first headlining shows at venues like the Loughborough Hotel in Briston.  At that time, I used to record shows I saw on a Sony Walkman Pro and I made some beautiful recordings of DCD.  The really good version of their Fulham Town Hall show of 1984 that occasional appears on music download sites is one of mine!

I have now seen them around 40 times, the last being 2005 on their "surprise" reformation tour.  I remember how exciting those shows were.  Those shows were all issued in a limited set of cds of which I own 8.  Wife and I have seen Lisa Gerrard a couple of times since then, but I had assumed that I would never hear another DCD record or see them live again.

So the new album is their first in 16 years and is out on August 13th.  My pre-order is in, though we are on holiday that day.  I will probably try and buy an MP3 version from Amazon while we are away as well as the CD. 

But at times like this, there is also one sad thing, which is that at this moment of huge excitement for me, there is no one I know who I could share this with.  No one in the family will be the slightest bit interested.  But I suspect that round the world, a huge number of people will share my excitement.

The track I heard tonight was called Anabasis and was one of their arabic-styled songs with Lisa on vocals.  

After much effort, I have acquired tickets for two shows from the forthcoming DCD tour.  One is for the show in London and the other is for Moscow in case I fancy a major trip. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Old TV shows - Inspector Morse and The Fast Show

Sorting through some old DVDs, we came across two shows that we hadn't seen for years.

First up, one of the later Inspector Morse's, The Daughters of Cain.  I was surprised to see the rather excellent Amanda Ryan in this.  Who can ever forget her magnificent performances as the bonkers police officer in series 6 of Shameless

Getting away with murder?

And perhaps her two most extraordinary scenes in Shameless

Then a couple of episodes of the fast show included one of my all-time favourite sketches, the French art house version of "Does anyone fancy a pint?".  This could only have been improved by having the last subtitle read "Does anyone fancy 0.473 of a litre?"

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

This week I have been mostly reading

As part of my reading of Macey's biography of Foucault, I have also dipped into Belsey's Poststructuralism.  I am too much of a realist and a liberal-democrat to be much of a poststructuralist and I do not ascribe as prominent a role to language as many such theorists would.  But I do enjoy such works as a chance to practice critical thinking on views I don't necessarily agree with.

And to practice my new-found poststructuralist skills on, what better than the following classic by Cheryl Smith:

The way I see it - raising goats can be understood as working on three levels: economic, political and ideological.  Each of these levels has a degree of independence, or "relative autonomy", but each is also the condition of existemnce of the others, though they would not all necessarily move at the same rate.  The motor of change is contradiction in or between the three levels.  Ownership defines social relations (the ownership of goats especially so) The ideology that does most to sustain goat-owning capitalism is humanism - the belief in "man" as the free, autonomous origin of history.

As Hegel said - "the goat of minerva flies only at dusk"

Monday, 23 July 2012

Recent trading developments

We have recently completed the latest overhaul of our trading risk management model which has resulted in a significant reduction in worst case losses.  One reason for examining this issue yet again, is that we might have a couple of external investors getting involved and we will want to run their money at significantly lower levels of overall leverage and risk than we currently run for our own trading.

Our aim is that their risk will be no worse than about a -3% month balanced against a possible 20% annual gain.  This is about one-fifth of the current leverage and is considerably better than the largest losses incured by the few hedge funds that trade as we do.  The performance fee aspect of having external money also means that we can reduce our own risk while still making the same overall return (or alternatively, increase our own return). 

The new procedures have been tested in great detail against the market conditions in the period from 2008 to present, which includes a number of difficult periods related to the credit crunch and the various Euro problems.  On this basis, things look good.

A typical testing chart - the current FT 100

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Basinski's The Disintegration Loops - process music at its very best

You are slowly being destroyed. It's imperceptible in the scheme of a day or a
week or even a year, but you are aging, and your body is degrading. As your
cells synthesize the very proteins that allow you to live, they also release
free radicals, oxidants that literally perforate your tissue and cause you to
grow progressively less able to perform as you did at your peak. By the time
you reach 80, you will literally be full of holes, and though you'll never
notice a single one of them, you will inevitably feel their collective effect.
Aging and degradation are forces of nature, functions of living, and
understanding them can be as terrifying as it is gratifying.

It's not the kind of thing you can say often, but I think William Basinski's
Disintegration Loops are a step toward that understanding-- the music itself is
not so much composed as it is this force of nature, this inevitable decay of
all things, from memory to physical matter, made manifest in music. During the
summer of 2001, Basinski set about transferring a series of 20-year-old tape
loops he'd had in storage to a digital file format, and was startled when this
act of preservation began to devour the tapes he was saving. As they played,
flakes of magnetic material were scraped away by the reader head, wiping out
portions of the music and changing the character and sound of the loops as they
progressed, the recording process playing an inadvertent witness to the
destruction of Basinski's old music.

The process may be the hook for this sprawling four-disc set, but the loops
themselves are stunning, ethereal studies in sound so fluid that the listener
scarcely registers the fact that it's nothing but many hundreds of repetitions
of a brief, simple loop that they're hearing. I imagine that life within the
womb might sound something akin to these slowly swelling, beauteous snatches of
orchestral majesty and memory-haze synthesizer. The pieces are uniformly
consonant, embellished with distant whalesong arpeggios and echoing percussion.

In essence, Basinski is improvising using nothing so much as the passage of
time as his instrument, and the result is the most amazing piece of process
music I've ever heard, an encompassing soundworld as lulling as it is
apocalyptic. A piece may begin bold, a striking, slow-motion slur of ecstatic
drone, and in the first minute, you will notice no change. But as the tape
winds on over the capstans, fragments are lost or dulled, and the music becomes
a ghost of itself, tiny gasps of full-bodied chords groaning to life amid pits
of near-silence. Some decay more quickly and violently than others, surviving
barely 15 minutes before being subsumed by silence and warping, while the
longest endures for well over an hour, fading into a far-off, barely
perceptible glow.

There is another, eerier chapter to the story of the Disintegration Loops--
that Basinski was listening to the playbacks of his transfers as the attacks of
September 11th unfolded, and that they became a sort of soundtrack to the
horror that he and his friends witnessed from his rooftop in New York that day,
a poignant theme for the cataclysmic editing of one of the world's most
recognizable skylines. Removed from the context of that disaster and transposed
into the mundane world we live in every day, The Disintegration Loops still
wield an uncanny, affirming power. It's the kind of music that makes you

believe there is a Heaven, and that this is what it must sound like.

Review from

Friday, 13 July 2012

This week I have been mostly listening to . . .

This week I have been mostly listening to:

Alexander Tucker's Portal, especially the track Poltergeists grazing, which I recently downloaded from

Loads of tracks by Alio Die, especially the tracks Password for Entheogenic Experience and Sine Tempore Part II, and the Live in Prague 2009 album.

Carbon Based Lifeforms' Interloper

Several cds by Thomas Koner, all from, especially Nunatak and Teimo

William Basinki's The Disintegration Loops and The Garden of Brokeness

This week I have been mostly reading . . .

This week I have been mostly reading

Junger's The Perfect Storm, which I started last Saturday in the Lake District and have very nearly finished.  We watched the movie on Wednesday evening - for some reason I had thought it had Brad Pitt in it rather than Mark Warlburg.  I thought the dialogue in the film was much more cliched and sentimentalised than I remembered, but enjoyable all the same

Cobb's The Resistance.  I forget why I bought this book, but it has been sitting on a pile in the study for some while and I suspect I only picked it up so I'd have something to read in the bath.  But already, loads of stuff I didn't know about the Nazi occupation of France and I do expect to plough through it all eventually.  I have reached page 50 this week

Patterson's Dark Pools.  His The Quants was one of the books that reintroduced me to trading a few years ago.  His new book is not as good, being focued on the rise of high frequency trading.  Still it is better than Arnuk and Saluzzi's Broken Markets, which I had found somewhat hysterical in tone. 

I have also started doing a little work on my biography project.  Part of this work involves a deep examination of some recent biographies that have some of the characteristics of my proposed one.  I started re-reading Safranski's Martin Heidegger when we were holiday and have just started taking some detailed notes on various structural points

By contrast, Macey's The Lives of Michel Foucault is a biography I read some years ago and which I am just starting to re-read.  I am comparing and contrasting it with Safranski as I go.  This is a big job - I expect it to take several weeks to read the two together.

Monday, 9 July 2012

A weekend in the Lake District

Daughter and I had talked for some while about having a weekend away together in the Lake District, but only booked the hotel and Daughter's train last weekend.  This is despite a really bad weather forecast that suggested that 10 inches of rain might fall over the weekend.

So I drove up on Friday afternoon and Daughter travelled up on the train, meeting at Lancaster station at 7:30.  We arrived at the hotel just after 8:00, and were still in time for a hearty three course supper in the restaurant. 

But around 10:30 that first night, I started to feel a bit unwell.  Stomach ache and nausea were the main symptoms.  The next morning this hadn't cleared up, indeed it got worse after breakfast and as we made our way to Coniston for our proposed walk.  I was really unwell before we got there and the walk was quickly cancelled.  We trundled into Ambleside, where Daughter got me some medicine and then had to have lunch on her own while I slept in the car.

Back to the hotel early afternoon and I slept the rest of the afternoon while daughter went for a walk on the beach and had ice cream.  I couldn't face dinner either so she dined alone, but we did watch a movie together later on - the rather odd Black Death about villagers avoiding the plague.

I did feel better on Sunday morning and could manage some food.  But the weather was worse for walking and I still felt pretty weak.  The morning gradually deteriorated as Daughter got cross about how the weekend had panned out, but improved a little as we had lunch in Ambleside.  I dropped her back at Lancaster around 1:30 and took a long time over the journey home.

So not a good trip - indeed a big disappointment.

Friday, 6 July 2012

More nice photos from the river

Another poor fishing trip is lifted slightly by some rather nice photos of a spider that was close by me as I fished.  A chance to test the "macro" settings on my new camera

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Photos at the river

So much rain that fishing remains something that will have to wait for the moment.  Instead I have been taking photos by the river.

Duxford Ford in flood - a brief bit of sunshine through the rain clouds.  One of my nicer photos I think.

Damsel flies - surprisingly hard to photo as they tend to fly off when you get close.  But they have a short memory so if you sit quietly and wait, they will come back for a picture