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Echoes of Flavio's Ghost Dreaming
flavius_m
A good morning so far. R (the human rights lawyer) had his lesson, then went to the Italian deli for olive oil, then stopped at Bean about Town for coffee and a cuddle with Charlie the Dog, a black labrador, whose owner P. the Brazilian was playing backgammon with L the South African who works at BaT. Mild, 14º so took out the guitar on that grey grey morning and played the suitable sombre Sarabande from Bach’s ‘cello suite No. 5 that Yo Yo Ma was playing last Saturday at the 100th anniversary of the end of the war in Paris (with mention of Trump’s bored dozing face while YYM was playing) while Charlie was looking at me trying to figure out what I was doing with that box and making sounds… a good morning, so far. Now at home waiting for a new pupil to arrive.

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flavius_m
On a Met Line train to Watford at some unconscionable time.

Dreams: they are now beginning to fade, but I was trying to find my way back to my hotel, where I was due to meet my cousin. The problem was, I'd gone out for a walk on my arrival there after leaving my things in my room and promptly got lost, wandered in ever increasing circles around this dilapidated city looking for my way back -and realising I hadn't taken a note of the name of the hotel or its location so it was going to be very difficult to find it in a city I didn't know. Spent what felt like half the night trying to find it, asking people about this hotel with a lobby that looked like this.. nothing firm that could help me find it. Half-waking up, drifting again into sleep to a continuation of pretty much the same dream. Had my phone with me, was going to phone my cousin but the phone was playing up and couldn't find my cousin's number. I was realising I perhaps didn't have it and all our contact had been through internet messaging. But the phone refused to connect to internet. Mercifully woke up at that point, fell asleep again to another dream of frustrating quests -but different ones at least.

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flavius_m
Two interesting, if long (and alarming) articles posted by friends on FB, on the nature of the developments we’re seeing in the world stage:

Umberto Eco makes a list of the common 14 features of fascism:
http://www.openculture.com/2016/11/umberto-eco-makes-a-list-of-the-14-common-features-of-fascism.html

Nihilist Nation: the empty core of Trump’s mystique:
https://newrepublic.com/article/151603/nihilist-nation-empty-core-trump-mystique?fbclid=IwAR1yqpP2aH9pMzkw8UeVa6uZWoPtvElWvBYcn9prkRyqGcBEPFXyWhNH-_c

Original article by Eco:
https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/06/22/ur-fascism/

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flavius_m
ProximaProxima by Stephen Baxter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Re-reading this one. Loved the story and the characters but the end was so... disconcerting. Felt like left hanging on with few possibilities ahead.



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flavius_m
Went to Sacrosanct in Reading over the week-end. Wasn't enormously impressed with Reading as a town but the little goth festival was a good gathering with a few good bands and many lovely people. The highlight may have been Kadeadkas, who I had already seen once before. A couple of the bands had their flights cancelled in the wake of the current RyanAir strike and one of them, Dividing Lines, drove sixteen hours in order to play at the fest.

Took the car (and some friends) but had booked a hotel at the wrong end of town and found myself walking miles and miles on both days. The little festival was lovely but if I go back next year (and I do intend to) Im most certainly not talking the car and will be doing more homework before booking hotels, etc.

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flavius_m
Mille Regretz, by (or attributed to) Josquin de Prez (c.1450-1521),
Ruth Dingle (voice)
Flavio Matani (guitar)
live at the KTCF on 21-06-18

The guitar accompaniment is the vihuela version by Luys de Narváez (1538)


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flavius_m
I haven't got a lot of faith in petitions in general or in particular in ones that are asking these politicians trapped in a web of their own making to backtrack in a way that most likely seems impossible and undesirable to them, but nonetheless, one has to try:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/223729

"Rescind Art.50 if Vote Leave has broken Electoral Laws regarding 2016 referendum"



Article 50.1 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out that a member can leave by " Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements."

Also, Article 10.3 of the Lisbon Treaty, "Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen."


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flavius_m
NP: 'Gaeta's Lament - Bear McCreary - Battlestar Galactica
NR: 'Caliban's War' - The Expanse bk 2 - James A Corey

The main takeaway from this book seems to be 'fear the wrath of the little old lady'. Liking Avasarala even more in the book than the series.

I’m not really here-I hate gyms. Instead, I’m hurtling down towards a moon of Jupiter on a stolen Martian frigate. Escapism, moi? 😀

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flavius_m


I'll be playing a concert at the garden of the Rustique Café on Thursday 26 July. Do come along if you can. Details on the Facebook event here.

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flavius_m
It's been a bit more quiet of late, less hectic. I have finished for the school year at one of my schools, at the other one I still have a week to go but no music lessons this week so I can sleep till 10!

Finished reading 'Northanger Abbey' by Jane Austen, we discussed it yesterday at the Bibliogoth meeting. I ended up liking it a lot more than I anticipated when I started. Now I'm immersed in the world of The Expanse, both watching Series 3 and reading the books, currently half way through the second,'Caliban's War'. Liking Avasarala even more in the book. 

Also this last week-end was the British Summertime Festival in Hyde Park. I'd bought tickets for Roger Waters on Friday and missed out on The Cure for Saturday. This may have been a good thing: I enjoyed Waters' concert enormously (not least by his fierce lampooning of  D Trump, variously depicted in the visuals as a pig, a screaming child and a number of other things, having in the visuals a selection of quotes of his, some self-contradictory, all offensive to minorities and decent people) but I wouldn't have survived two days of six or seven hours in the open with 34º heat and no cover or shelter and fifty thousand or so people around me. I don't think I'll want to do that sort of thing again. Young Flavio would have been disconcerted, at least, that I had no particular interest in watching Eric Clapton play on Sunday.

Playing another little local concert at one of my usual venues on Thursday the 26th so this week will be spent, hopefully, practising the programme I will be playing...
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flavius_m
The book for next month's Bibliogoth is Jane Austin's 'Northanger Castle'. It starts ok although rather slowly, was taking me a while to get into its world. But then ... I finished watching S2 of 'The Expanse' and bought the first of the books in the series, 'The Leviathan Wakes' and got sucked into that world again. I'm afraid I won't have much to say about the Jane Austin book in time for the Bibliogoth meeting..! although I will finish it ok, things were only beginning to happen at the point I left it to dive into the rabbit hole of The Expanse.

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flavius_m
A bit puzzled that with some people I follow both here and in Dreamwidth, I can see their friends-locked entries here but not in DW. I may well miss and not see those posts as I hardly ever use LJ and my posts here are cross-posts from DW. Not sure what the point could be in giving me access here but not on DW, although it can get a bit confusing with the fact that it is a two-step process over there.

Tried out Vero and didn't like it. Then I saw reports about it and liked it even less. Tried Mastodon and.. nothing happening there, seemingly nobody I know is using it. And it is rather quiet here these days.

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flavius_m
This month's book for @bibliogoth is 'News from Nowhere' by William Morris.

I should have liked it. Instead, I'm finding it tedious, preachy and twee and will probably never finish... sorry about that, those of you who do like it.

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flavius_m
General elections in Venezuela today. Really dodgy ones, where the authoritarian streak of the current lot in office begins to approach a real dictatorship (although polls give Maduro 37% against 32 of his main rival but this may not reflect in vote and the main opposition are calling for abstention). Maduro blames the US and big corporations for the current crisis -and it is not entirely untrue but it is only a minor contributing factor where the main one is the incompetence, corruption and hubris of this lot who call themselves 'socialist' and perhaps believe to an extent that what they're doing but the results have gone from bad to catastrophic, which I don't put down to their being socialist but to their being incompetent, corrupt and arrogant. Most people I know that are able to leave the country have done so or are in the process of doing it.

Maduro will win and in a way it may be a legitimate win (the poorest people are still somewhat better off than they were historically, even as the rest of the population is in desperate crisis) but a disaster for my original country nonetheless. A situation that seems to hit bottom all the time and yet it gets ever worse when you think it wouldn't be possible.

The whole thing just breaks my heart.

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flavius_m
Ah, a sunny morning at last. Funny how my mood changes up or down with the weather. In the beginning when I first came to the UK I used to laugh at the 10 min long (as I saw them) weather forecasts on TV. Coming from a part on the north of South America on the Caribbean (but away from Hurricane Alley) our weather forecasts told you it was going to be sunny or it was going to rain... and that was pretty much it.

Here the weather is more variable and there is a winter (although my friends from Russia or Canada might dispute this), with long periods of short days with grey skies and not seeing the sun for weeks on end. This affects me far more than the cold. After our little mini-summer of a week or two ago, yesterday's 4 º C, battleship grey skies and ice-cold rain seemed to make a difficult teaching day so much worse. Today just looking out the window made me feel much better about the day to come.

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flavius_m
Our nearest star is manifesting itself today. Liking it so far, although any warmer than this I will find unpleasant.

Some of my plans for today have gone to pot. A couple of lessons later, then Tufguitar at the Rustique café (the monthly meeting of some of my guitar pupils to play together). That's it, I think. Too hot to go to the gym, too hot (as for now; I'd quickly get used to it if it lasts) to take a guitar and practise in the park.

Doing a little local recital (at the Kentish Town City Farm) on the 21st of June. No other gigs planned. Need to find a few more little local venues where I can do that sort of thing, a local guitar concert that is not too big but where I can play a decent programme.

Ooh, it's sunny and warm. Liking it. So far.

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flavius_m
The flu, or whatever it was, lasted only four days. Or rather, the shaking, fever and constant coughing plus extreme tiredness did. I'm still coughing and I'm still tired all the time, two weeks on. Not looking forward to the beginning of term next week.

Things that've happened in these two weeks: the short answer is 'not a lot'. I did go to Oxford to meet a friend there last Saturday, tramped around town, ate street food at a street market (there was a Venezuelan food stand but I only realised after we'd ordered at some other place so missed on that but did make contact with them). Went to the Ashmolean Museum and went upstairs and downstairs many many times to have a close look at pretty much every single exhibit... I'm making it sound bad and it wasn't, it was a lovely day but I was still in the aftermath of that flu (or whatever it was) and it drained me completely.

Having finished the book for this month's Bibliogoth ('Wanderers' by Meg Howrey, which I enjoyed but didn't take me as much as I anticipated it would) and in spite of having another three books on the go, I decided to re-read 'Anathem' by Neal Stephenson. And straight away I found myself submerged in that world and its people. I'm in a tiny minority on that one (check the scathing Amazon reviews) but I love that book and it is perhaps the one that has made the biggest impression of the books I've read for a long long time.

Not much energy for proper guitar practice so I've been reading some music that I'd played many years ago and some new music (if you can call 'new' something written in 1588 or thereabouts).

On the whole, then, flavioworld is quiet this week and it is good that it is so, I need to gather and recover my energy for the many things awaiting ahead. The world outside sounds more and more alarming by the minute, one almost feels the screaming, swivel-eyed hordes with torches ramming the gates of the castle. But the world was always like that, perhaps and we just didn't know. Of course you didn't have a megalomanic narcissistic fascist at the helm of the most powerful nation on earth and the country I've lived in for the last 30 years wasn't questioning my right to be here before. And my original country wasn't yet being ravaged by a combination of astronomical incompetence, all encompassing corruption and a blinkered view of the world that admits no mistakes and no wrong on the part of the people leading it.

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flavius_m
FWIW as I don't know absolutely anybody in there -and it is one more in a long list of things that want to send me notifications, that you have to keep an eye on just in case, etc. Nonetheless, I seem to be in Mastodon:

https://mastodon.social/@fflavio

One of these days one of those things might catch on and slowly replace Twitter or FB. Not holding my breath, mind -how many of those have there been, already?

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flavius_m
The Sudden Appearance of HopeThe Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was the set book for Bibliogoth a couple of months ago. It took me some effort to get past the first chapter or so (maybe because I was expecting a sci-fi story which this definitely is not) but eventually got into the world of the story and ended up liking it quite a bit. I finished it some time (and quite a few books) ago so my memory of it is fading somewhat, can't remember that much about the main character.. oh, wait. The premise of the book is interesting, the woman who people quickly forget -out of sight, out of memory- and the inevitable lifestyle choices this brings. I liked it although many of the characters were rather cardboard plot devices and some of the plot itself stretched my suspension of disbelief rather thin. I enjoyed reading it, nonetheless.



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flavius_m
Once upon the time in Venezuela...
(playing for Venezuelan TV at some point in the '80s..)


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flavius_m
.. the snow, that is. That was a somewhat expensive week for a self-employed music teacher, with lots of lessons cancelled -but at least I managed to do my three days of teaching in schools without major mishap -or at least without any caused by the weather.

Apart from that, not a lot to report. Went to see a friend's band at the Black Heart of Camden -perhaps appropriately, a black metal band. Have to report confirming once again that, although they were quite good and proficient, black metal isn't quite my thing. That was almost my only outing of the week. Tripped on the ice and slush a few times; at least I didn't break anything -can't afford the eight weeks in a cast! And almost at the end of the cold snap I found about those snow walking over-shoe things (amazon link here ). They're ridiculous but they seem to work,

Lastly, have yet another snow photo, of my little corner of Kentish Town at sunrise:




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flavius_m
A lot of my FB friends seem to be 'moving' to Vero, the social media app, so I joined it yesterday. First impressions? I hate it. Like Whatsapp, it is tied to your phone, you cannot even use it on a tablet, def. not on a computer. This already is a no-no for me. Instagram and WA are also tied to your phone (which I hate, did I mention?) but at least there are work-arounds so you can use them on other devices and your computer. It is supposed to be ad-free and prioritising privacy -we'll see about that, the first thing it asks you to do is to allow it to load your contacts onto its servers. No, no, sorry no. I know what the rationale for this is but still won't do that. Also when you go to update it gives you the options of putting a picture, reviewing a book or a movie and put an internet link. They seem to be taking after Instagram with this, but again this limited range of options does not appeal to me that much. We'll see how it goes but so far I'm not that impressed. And the paths of the internet are littered with the corpses of FB and twitter killers, like App.net, Ello and Diaspora (which seemed like quite good a proposition but didn't get anywhere much), we'll see how this one fares. I'm on Dreamwidth at http://flaviomatani.dreamwidth.org/ -do follow me there if you can.

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flavius_m
Ah, one little thing that I wouldn't post on Facebook as I would get the Apple haters on my case straight away and I can't be bothered with that... (and please don't tell me how much better off I'd be with a Samsung Gear or, come to that, a grandfather clock. I don't care).

My trusty (?) Apple Watch is currently held with sticky tape. It works ok (and the screen responds to touch even through the sticky tape) but the screen just fell off. Went to the local computer place and they said it would be too complicated and expensive to fix it so they don't. iFixit sell the adhesive for $14 and give you instructions on how to reattach the screen. In the meantime, it is held with sello-tape. Wonders of modern technology.

Do I need a smart-watch? Hm, no, probably not. Do I use mine, is it worth fixing? Oh hell, yes. I use it all the time for all sorts of things. Of course I could do all of them with my phone but it is much more convenient to use the watch, even to pay for things, monitor my sleep and most of all the kitchen timer which is very useful for me in the schools as well as in the kitchen. Would I miss it if I'd never bought it? Hm, no, I don't think so. I will not be rushing to buy a replacement (mine is the original one, three years old now) but if it works with sticky tape and can get fixed at a non-exorbitant, non Apple-store fee, I will be doing that.

This is probably the most trivial and pointless DW/LJ update you've seen this week... :D

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flavius_m
Children of TimeChildren of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book a lot. The last survivors of humankind, away in the stars fighting for their survival and their possible last home with sentient spiders who are pretty much the creation of that humankind in long decline that has had to abandon Earth. The characters are on the whole (with a couple of notable exceptions, for me, including Guyen and Dr Avrana Kern, who are clearly plot devices rather than people) more believable than is often the case in SF -including some of the spiders. The story is gripping ... but I did find the ending was stretching my suspension of disbelief rather thin, to breaking limits. Still, a very good read.



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flavius_m
The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of ScienceThe Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There are two big mountains in front of Caracas, on the mountain chain that separates it from the Caribbean sea. The tallest one is Pico Humboldt, the slightly shorter one is Pico Bonpland: Humboldt’s shadow looms large in South America. His travels and writings are still read and quoted and may have helped set in motion conservationist movements, the beginning of the ecology movement and perhaps progressive political thought. This book is a good reflection of all this, taking us through Humboldt’s life and his impact in an entertaining way -even if it meanders a bit with long detours into the lives of Bolívar, Jefferson and other contemporaries and followers. Recommended. [this was the set reading at Bibliogoth in December 2017).



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flavius_m
Wake up in the night and see through the curtains this big round yellow moon beaming from above. Magical! * . Pity it was 4:15 am and I had to get up at 5:20 am so no chance of going back to sleep. Here's to a new year with better sleep patterns.. :D



* (E&OE) ;)

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flavius_m
Merry Christmas, all!

Currently with fellow Venezuelan friends of many years, having done Christmas dinner late on the eve as is our custom. I expect we'll have a second Christmas dinner at lunch-time today....part of our traditional Xmas dinner includes Hallaca (pictured), ensalada de gallina (or, in modern times, veggie equivalent), pan de jamón, various kinds of sweets and cakes and, often, quite a bit of alcohol....

!Hallacas
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flavius_m
Teaching a young French pupil to play guitar arrangements of 'Away in a Manger' and 'Hark, the Herald Angels' wasn't a complete success. He had never heard either of these. Curious thing as, at least 'Manger' is something I'd always heard even though I grew up in another culture with different Christmas music. I don't think I'd heard 'Hark' before setting foot in these islands.

Christmas is a peculiar affair for me. I don't have family here and it was always a family affair. For a number of years I opted for visiting my Italian family which was always lovely (but always came back with four kilos more to me...) but as their circumstances changed it wasn't possible to do that anymore. These days I say with Venezuelan friends in Kent, near Tunbridge Wells -so I do get the family xmas but not with my family. That's not necessarily a bad thing, although the opening of the presents around the tree does make me feel like I'm gatecrashing.

Peculiar thing, also that I'm not a believer but I still feel the need to 'do' things like Christmas. I suppose that's what Dawkins was calling (referring to himself) as being 'culturally Christian'.

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flavius_m
Pisador's 'Pavana muy llana', 'very easy Pavane' https://youtu.be/hcn9gwNVnJ4 via @YouTube -I may play this at this event on the 30th: https://www.facebook.com/events/1341626609281999/ come along if you can #guitar #classicalguitar #kentishtown #northlondon #camden #kentishtowncityfarm



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The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death, #0.1)The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book a lot. A different take on several science fiction standard themes -altered or augmented humans, totalitarianism and technology, etc, from the point of view of a genetically modified (if that's the correct term to use -in some ways it reminded me of PKD's androids or replicants in Electric Sheep/Blade Runner) woman of African origin. This is a prequel of an earlier book, 'Who Fears Death', which I look forward to reading.



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flavius_m
I do get big bouts of Impostor Syndrome. I'm never quite sure I know what I'm doing well enough and am painfully aware of where I fall short.

Until, that is, the moment inevitable when someone contacts me wanting me to play for them for free ('you'll get lots of exposure', they say; 'you can die of exposure', says I) or, as just happened, somebody from a tutors' agency (must be, by their wording) sends me a message with offer of teaching work with lots of conditions and paying me half what I normally charge. Go find somebody else -there' s plenty of those, alas.

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flavius_m
I'm not a morning person. At this point, 6:30 am, have been up for an hour and a quarter and awake for over two. Will have slept four hours, have a long teaching day ahead of me.

Week end was good. On Saturday it was [profile] kajia's (link will prob. not work, it's an LJ account) Hallowe'en/birthday party. I played a short guitar recital -a few short pieces by the Cuban composer Leo Brouwer, about a third of Bach's Chaconne up to the first cadence before the major section and, perhaps a little more appropriate for the time of year, Nikita Koshkin's 'Usher Waltz', after the horror story by Edgar Allan Poe, 'The Fall of the House of Usher' (link to me playing a small excerpt of it , here</lj>).

Will be playing at the Kentish Town City Farm on the 30th of November.... still haven't finished deciding on the programme -will certainly play the Koshkin.

Right, now to go out and face that long day. Good morning!

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flavius_m
Saturday morning. A good lie-in, although sleep was disturbed by waking up with a horrendous leg cramp that took forever to go away.

Now it's sunny, had breakfast at leisure and am half way through my first lesson with my pupil, preparing his guitar Grade 7, playing 'A Foggy Day' by Gershwin. Not a bad morning, overall. Good morning, world!

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flavius_m
How I hate getting up early.

On Tuesdays, it is 5:20 am. Not that early by the standards of many people I know who have to do this every day -but it is quite uphill for me. Always was and that hasn't changed as I get older. Not an early bird, this one here. Been teaching at this school for twenty years and it only seems to get more difficult.

One of the peculiar things that happen in relation to this is that I stress about sleeping too little or not hearing the alarm, etc. Which keeps me awake and results in too little sleep....

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Little girl, one of my pupils at a school where I teach guitar, starting to learn to read music: 'This music has lots of rests! I like that a lot. I could do with a rest...'

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flavius_m
Oh, boo. A gig I was expecting confirmation of (and the money from which I actually could have done with) has been cancelled. Or rather, this was a corporate thing and the corporate bods decided that they didn't need live music and least of all a classical guitarist (they didn't actually say the latter).

I wonder how best to promote, again, the idea of the house recital. It has worked in the past but it goes while it goes -I can do the playing but I'm clearly hopeless at promoting my own stuff. The idea was to sit twenty (more or less) people in chairs in a living room (yes, it is possible without them getting to know each other too well, I've done it lots of times), give them a guitar recital and a glass of wine in the interval, charge them twenty quid and give half to a local charity. Helps me pay the rent and helps a local charity. But I never know how to 'sell' the 'product'.

One of those things. Some people are really good at selling, my dad was one -but I didn't inherit an ounce of that. Maybe they swapped me in the natal clinic.

I'm crossposting this to Livejournal. If you can see it there but not in DW it's because you forgot to add me back there (remember it's a two step thing) :P

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LockstepLockstep by Karl Schroeder




Here is another interesting take on the old 'How can we have a space faring civilisation without Faster than Light travel?'. The author's solution is to make all the people populating those orphan planets he assumes there to be in the space between the sun and Proxima Centauri have a synchronised hibernation. They all go to sleep at the same time and sleep for 360 months for each one they're awake, while in the meantime their robots exploit and grow their resources and their ships take them while asleep on those journeys that take years in real time but only weeks to them. It's a good plot idea and although there are possible flaws it mostly works. The story, however, is a little weak and seems to be very much aimed at a teenage audience, complete with cute sentient pets and daring rescues. The characters also follow this trend and are a bit difficult to believe, in particular Toby's 'younger' (now much older) siblings. It is still a good read, however and I enjoyed it.

This was the set book for the Bibliogoth meeting for September 2017.



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flavius_m
I'm absolutely hopeless for any DIY kind of thing -the only thing I can do with my hands is play the guitar -and that only when I practise _a_lot_. When I was a child it was my sister, no me, who used to help my granddad with all the household repairs, little bits of carpentry and even bricklaying. He gave up on me pretty quickly. My dad used to observe all this with an ominous, baleful expression in his face. All his fears seemed to be confirmed when I took up music and started growing my hair long. Mind, he was wrong on many of those fears but that doesn't matter. In any case, when I've put shelves up they've quickly come down -together with half the wall's plaster.

Today I replaced the rubber gasket in my Gaggia Classic coffee machine. The coffee it had been producing of late was less and less good and finally a couple of days ago the coffee started to come out from the edges of the headgroup (it says here it's called) and definitely not good coffee. So I bought the gasket online and today I set about replacing it. It should be a simple job, the web page I found with the instructions said about ten minutes. It took me 45. Ok, did I mention I'm not good with this sort of thing? Every step of the way there was something that made me think 'I've ruined the machine -back to yuk Aeropress or something like that'. But I got there. As triumphs go this is a very small, tiny one and I'm never going to put together a car from assorted parts (or an AK-47, as someone years ago showed me a video of a Russian girl of about 14 doing in less than two minutes, maybe just to make me feel inadequate), but I have a working coffee machine again.

Now back to what I do know how to do and practise my guitar scales...

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flavius_m
Life continues, the summer comes to an end, Infest came and went (and was a fantastic gathering, as always), the schools I teach at send me the usual letter welcoming the staff for the new school year, I have a mostly pleasant week-end with the usual -a goth club, a friend's birthday at a local rock bar, my rather challenging Sunday morning lesson away... not all of it fantastic but mostly good, like life in general.

It's when you zoom out that things begin to get scary. The Brxt runaway train continues its march, seemingly towards the abyss, with those onboard claiming it's all good while it gathers speed towards the edge of the precipice. Zoom a bit further out and the most powerful person, effectively the king of the world, is an impulsive egomaniac with zero introspection, zero negotiation skills, a loud mouth and a very short fuse. There seems a possibility of a major war that would affect us all in the near to mid-term future. Zoom a bit further out and there is the climate change issue threatening us all and those that will come after. There also would seem to be a rise in non-rational views of the world, fundamentalist religion, superstition, simple explanations to complex problems...

Well.... zoom a bit further out and there is the asteroid....

In the meantime, a couple of lessons, some guitar practice and maybe gym. Life continues its flow, its steady meandering currents as yet unaffected by the storm clouds gathering on the horizon.

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That was a good party. That was a really good party. Tinged with a bit of melancholy, missing the people who weren't there and the one in particular who never will be there again but never left.

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flavius_m
Re-watching Season 3 of Babylon 5 because, well, outlandish and improbable Sci-Fi where the President is a crook and a nutjob and is in alliance with dark evil forces, could never happen... oh, wait...

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flavius_m
WalkawayWalkaway by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


It took me a little bit to get into the world of the book, but once it grabbed me I couldn’t let go until I finished it. The high-tech near-future world of the book is in the hands of a few mega-rich and the rest struggle to survive. Four young people decide to join the ‘walk-aways’, people who leave mainstream society and set out on their own. The strife that follows, as well as the main cause of that strife (which you only find out half-way through the book) defines the plot of the book. Some of it really stretches your suspension of disbelief to almost breaking point but it all is quite well done and holds together. The main characters are well drawn, believable for the most part. I enjoyed this book a lot.



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flavius_m
A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


When reading my first ever Sherlock Holmes story I wasn't expecting a Western, complete with horses, desert, Mormons and six-shooters, to jump out of the book and take over one third of the story. I felt it was a bit meandering and also that the only character that was credible and felt like a human being rather than a plot device in the book was Watson. The resolution of the drama is, alas, predictable once you know where it's going. Holmes comes across (at least to me) as a rather unpleasant, arrogant character but done in somewhat thick brushstrokes. I enjoyed the book to a fair extent but cannot say it was my favourite or that it entices me to read more Sherlock Holmes stories.



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flavius_m
I saw this first in [personal profile] emmelinemay's FB timeline. As current now (or even more so, when the violence and hatred of the few is blamed on 'many sides, many sides' instead of those who profit and thrive in hatred and violence) as when it was made in the '40s.

US War Dept film fr 1943 - reissued 1947
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flavius_m
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Stephenson goes back to the many worlds theory with a rather different take on it. The world is now devoid of magic because... ah, wait, that might be a spoiler. Quite short by Stephenson's standards at 'only' 700 pages, which might be the influence of the co-author, Nicole Galland. Who I had not heard about but looks interesting and whose work I will be checking out. The usual Stephenson slow build up -but not as slow as in some of his other books. Again, maybe Galland rather than Stephenson. Quite believable characters, for the most part, as well as plot (once you accept the basic premise of the book); the account of the ballooning bureaucracy surrounding the project and the way it operates is quite funny and rings, alas, very true.

I read the whole of this in six days or so, in one go, pretty much. 'Anathem' is still my Stephenson favourite (as is its world), in which I know I am alone but I enjoyed this a lot and will probably read it again at some point.



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flavius_m
A short (1 min) excerpt of me playing Dyens' 'Tango en Skye'.



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flavius_m
Breakfast -an arepa with cheese, coffee, orange juice. It's the summer holiday so got up quite late and taking my time. Put the TV on to watch the news. Scan BBC (can they possibly still be building up br*x*t?), CNN (annoying but for their amusing ongoing feud with Trump), Al-Jazeera and finally Euronews (where their 'No Comment' feature has street riots in familiar places, the streets of my home-town, police shooting tear gas at demonstrators, people being arrested in the night, tyre bonfires on the street).

The overwhelming feeling, as the news from the world (particularly my original part of the world, Venezuela) scroll past, that I've woken up in a wrong strand of the multiverse, one where everything went wrong and not at all how it was supposed to happen.

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That was a good week-end, but increasingly I notice that I cannot do all-nighters and go to several clubs on the same night as I ... oh, ok, it always took me several days to recover from that sort of thing, but it doesn't get better as you get older. Still, it was all good.

On Friday I went to an exhibition of art of a Venezuelan friend -'Clay. Wallpaper. Venezuelan Scenarios' by Andrea Moreno at Craving Coffee in Tottenham Hale. The pieces had a lot of subtext related to the current Venezuelan political situation and to V'zlan popular culture. I enjoyed that. It was strange to be in a place where about 30% of the people present spoke in Spanish with Venezuelan accents -and addressed me in sort of cautious English. Surely I look and sound Venezuelan? My ex-girlfriend used to say I wrote with a Venezuelan accent....



Mondlicht was a blast, it is more or less the new incarnation of Invocation in a smaller, more central venue (the basement of the Albany in Gt Portland St). As I traditionally had a little birthday celebration at Reptile, I left at midnight and headed for Archway. Now, I like Reptile even though the choice of music is not always my cup; had a good bit of a dance, chatted with friends, but by 3:00 am I'd decided I'd had enough so headed home. Could have walked but didn't; the 134 takes me right to my doorstep from there. Had some good conversations but also discovered that somebody I quite like (beautiful, interesting woman in many respects and from every other interaction I'd had with her, intelligent and mature) turns out to be a climate change denier. As I backed off slowly, the other friend who was present was asking her about some other conspiracy theory trope 'sure you also believe then that...' and she replies 'actually, since you mention...' at which point I disappeared back into the dance floor. 

On Sunday I met with friends at the Abbey Tavern in Kentish Town for Sunday Roast -which was very good, as was the gathering. At the bar I ran into a former guitar pupil who was on his first shift as a bartender at the place. That was a little bit strange. 

* the links are to Facebook events. One or several of them may not be public.


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flavius_m
A week already since the last Hampstead Alternative Picnic. I must finally be getting old (finally? that happened long long ago..) but I think I prefer this sort of gathering -friends sharing food, drink and conversation * in a quiet setting where one can talk, rather than noisy clubs and pubs that are nearly always as noisy as the clubs.

There should be another one on August 12th (FB event here but I suspect it is restricted view)


* for extended values of the word 'conversation...'


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flavius_m
One for my students: a lovely little study by Fernando Sor.


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