Tag Archives: bookstores

Friday Photo Blogging (the MidPhase Sucks edition): British Sea Power

Are British Sea Power the most eccentric band in the country?

British Sea Power

Quite possibly; I think you could certainly make an argument to that effect. They certainly make a compelling racket on stage and on record, as well.

I took about three hundred shots during the three songs I was allowed to shoot in. I got about eight pictures that were of even the vaguest use. There’s a homily about life in that, I’m sure.

Another homily about life in general that I’ll interject briefly before the usual “what I’ve been doing” entries is the old one about best laid plans.

This week was going to be my marathon catch-up-on-stuff and clear-the-decks week, making good use of my time off from the day-job … suffice to say that events conspired to prevent me from getting anywhere near as ahead as I had planned.

Writing about music

What I have done a great deal of this week is writing about music. Mostly record reviews, clawing ahead on my schedule for The Dreaded Press. It’s inevitably a game of attrition, though – just when you think you’re sorted, an album turns up on your doorstep that needs to be reviewed by Monday, as happened this morning.

But even so, it’s been a crazy week; I’ve been to two shows as a reviewer (British Sea Power, as above, and Explosions In The Sky, who were absolutely fantastic) and done one interview (with Scott from British Sea Power).

On Sunday I’m off to The Wedgewood Rooms again to interview and review Stone Gods, who are basically (and literally) The Darkness minus the pint-sized falsetto-ing egotist frontman.

Writing about books

For reasons already hinted at above, I’ve done little or no concerted writing about matters literary. I hope (but don’t promise) to redeem this state of affairs over the weekend.

Other busy-work

I don’t feel too bad about not having cleared as much writing work as I’d hoped, as I have managed to transplant my rather precarious “stuff it in a pile/box/cupboard” archiving system to a fully organised GTD-style filing cabinet. Go me!

Filing cabinet

It took about twelve hours in total, but it’s a huge weight off my mind, and should enable greater productivity in future.

Other miscellaneous trickiness, aka – MidPhase Hosting sucks

[Readers uninterested in rants designed as revenge for poor customer service may wish to scroll down approximately one screen-length straight away.]

The main source of my problems this week has been Futurismic, which regular readers may have noticed has not only been running sluggishly of late but also suffering intermittent down-times.

The hosting company where Futurismic was located, MidPhase, had been repeatedly telling us that our WordPress installation was using CPU resources in spikes of 40-50%, and they had suspended our service a few times as a result. This is fair enough – on a shared server, one site caning the CPU isn’t fair on the others.

However, MidPhase’s tech support people were unable (or, as I suspect is more likely, unwilling) to share the reasons for these CPU spikes, instead supplying us with advice on how to enable a site to survive “the Digg effect” – which, given Futurismic’s rather gentle traffic levels (500 visits a day, 1200 RSS subscribers handled by FeedBurner) and lack of Slashdottings or similar, seemed a little pointless.

But we complied; we activated caching plugins and SQL query caches, and deactivated a number of perfectly normal plugins that thousands of WordPress users employ on a daily basis with no trouble at all.

And yesterday the CPU use spiked again, so MidPhase killed our account.

So yesterday I upped sticks (or files, rather) and moved Futurismic to the server where VCTB and TDP live. It’s already running faster and smoother than before.

I suspect MidPhase were either trying to up-sell us to a bigger package, or had overstrained the server which Futurismic was parked on (either by overstraining cheap hardware or not realising there had been some sort of compromise or attack elsewhere). Whatever they were doing, or thought they were doing, customer service it was not.

So, please tell everyone you know: if you’re thinking of changing your hosting provider, and you want one that will actually work with you to resolve problems rather than simply cut and paste passages from a set of standard responses, do not host your website with MidPhase.

MidPhase hosting sucks. ANHosting (the same company) also sucks. Both MidPhase and ANHosting suck. And, for SEO purposes, I will repeat it once more:


We now return you to your scheduled programming*.

Books and magazines seen

Interzone #214 has arrived, yay**!

My seemingly-never-ending F&SF subscription rolls on relentlessly, with the March 2008 edition arriving a mere week behind the February. [shrug]

The Orbit people sent out a fantasy doorstop***, a Tom Holt (who I’ve never really gotten onto, though he’s not bad), the obligatory vampiresexdetectiveOMG novel, and:

Elizabeth Moon's The Serrano Succession

The Serrano Succession by Elizabeth Moon

Elizabeth Moon is one of those names I hear quite often, but whose writing I’ve never actually experienced. Anyone care to suggest whether I’ll like her work?

Also arriving this week was the production-run version of Stross’ Halting State, reminding me that despite having received an ARC nearly six months before, I’ve failed to write my review of it before it’s publication date. Bah.


So, not much clever or interesting to say here, having burnt out my verbosity in informing the world that MidPhase Hosting sucks****.

There’s still much to be done before kicking off back at the day-job next week, so I shall bid you all a fond farewell and hope you have a good weekend. In the meantime, I’m going to skip out and fetch The Friday Curry – because some traditions never take a holiday.

Hasta luego, people.

[* I always knew that I’d find a use for my reasonable PageRank and a bit of SEO knowledge one of these days. Chew on that, shysters. ]

[** I’ve now had a chance to re-read my Iain M Banks piece as it is on the page, and (unusually for me) can find less things wrong with it than I had thought there would be, which is rather gratifying. ]

[*** I don’t complain or feel guilty about these any more, having discovered that I can send them on to my mother who appreciates them greatly. Thinking about it, perhaps I should encourage her to review them for me – it’d save me time and bring me traffic … 😉 ]

[**** Every iteration counts. ]

[tags]friday, photo, BSP, British Sea Power, music, bookstores, writing, blather, MidPhase, ANHosting, hosting, sucks, poor, customer, service[/tags]

Friday Photo Blogging: the mixing desk

I took this shot at the show I went to review on Monday; thanks to the bizarre lighting set-up at the venue, it came out far better than the shots I took of the band.

Mixing desk

Those of you who haven’t subscribed to the RSS feed yet (ahem!) can read my review of the From Autumn To Ashes set over at The Dreaded Press, of course. 🙂

Writing about music

As seen above, I reviewed From Autumn To Ashes on Monday night, and had a chat with their prodigal bass-player also. It’s nice to get out of town for shows every once in a while, but it’s a pain when the venue is only near to a local-route train station and you have to leave before the end of the night to get the last train home. 🙁

I was supposed to interview Yan from British Sea Power on Tuesday, but their drummer screwed up his back on the eve of their tour, so they were too busy rehearsing with a replacement to do interviews. So I’ll be talking to them before the show on Monday instead (which is much more convenient for me, anyway).

And on Wednesday next week I’m off to Brighton to watch the incredibly awesome Explosions In The Sky play the first date of their tour – which will be a super night out, I’m guessing.

Add to that a growing stack of CDs to review, for TDP and elsewhere, and things are bustling on the music front.

Writing about books

Polished and re-submitted my Debatable Space review.

I’m probably a mere twenty pages from the end of Swiftly, so the note-writing stage will be next.

Still haven’t gotten round to writing a Halting State review (see section above); hope to remedy that situation over this weekend.

Books and magazines seen

No new books this week, though I suspect one (or even both) of today’s “you were out” cards from the Post Office may well be book related. It’s been a busy week for magazines, though.

First of all was February’s F&SF – I honestly think they’ve failed to take my name off the list or something, because I’m sure I received and ignored a renewal note back in the autumn. But still they come. Go figure.

Obsessed With Pipework #41 appeared mid-week, which is my fresh poetry intake sorted for a while.

And then the latest BSFA mail-out arrived yesterday, so that’s one Matrix and one Vector – the latter of which contains my review of Morgan’s Black Man, if you’re interested, as well as more material of a much more erudite nature from a horde of other contributors.

Notable by its absence, naturally, is Interzone #215. Posted last Thursday, and no sign of it here*.


Right, enough ranting. I should be in a mellow place, as today has been the first of a run of days off from the day-job**.

There’s no shortage of non-day-job work to be done, though – the next week will see me attacking a pile of tasks that I’ve been meaning to do for ages.

Included are a reworking of VCTB’s theme, the basic framework of my nameplate/portfolio site, a concerted effort to get ahead of myself on the album reviews … and something else that is still currently a secret project***.


But (as the advert used to go), it’s not all work, work, work. I went for lunch with my mother today, for example. And I bought a new bed – because that, ladies and gents, is just how rock’n’roll I really am.

And hey, guess what – STILL NOT SMOKING.

Indeed, almost everything has been going extraordinarily well so far this year, albeit with one notable exception that throws the rest into sharp contrast. But hey, nobody’s perfect – not even me.

So, time for me to sign off and head out in search of The Friday Curry and leave you all to your weekend pursuits, whatever they may be. Have fun, ladies and gents – hasta luego.

[* I suppose I should cut the Post Office some slack – after all, Velcro City is a bit of a provincial backwater, what with us only having one of the major sea gateways to the continent to set us apart from any other remote one-horse hamlet … but seriously, eight days? For a magazine to travel across the birthplace of the penny post and the heart of the industrial revolution, a country that is dwarfed by  most American states? Twenty-First Century, anyone? Sheesh. ]

[** They got tired of gently reminding me that I can’t carry my entire leave allowance into the next tax year, and suggested it was high time I used some of it. The timing was opportune (I have a lot of things I need to sort out), so I took it. No day job for me until Monday 28th! w00t! ]

[*** Yeah, look at me teasing again. I’m such a tart. And it’s actually two something-elses, too. Heh. ]

[tags]friday, photo, mixing desk, audio, live, music, bookstores, magazines, blather[/tags]

Friday Photo Blogging: once more beneath the pier

Well, would you believe it – I actually did some photography over the last seven days!

Of course, deciding what artistic merit it has (if any) must be left as an analytical exercise for you, the reader:

South Parade Pier

I’m a sucker for the underside of South Parade Pier, principally because I like industrial decay as an aesthetic … and nothing says “industrial decay” in quite the same voice as the rusting underbelly of a Victorian-era pier.

Plus there are lots of repeating shapes and surfaces, angles and lines and so on.

So, yeah. Rusty stuff FTW.

South Parade Pier

Writing about music

Not a whole raft-load of actual music-related writing this week, but a crazed flurry of organising for music-writing-related things to happen has taken place.

Which means I’m off to Southampton on Monday night to talk to the guys in From Autumn To Ashes, and on Tuesday I’ll be on the phone to those quirky chaps from British Sea Power.

Plus a clutch of CDs to write about, and other assorted tasks and jobs to do … as I predicted last week, I’m back up to breakneck pace again!

Writing about books

I sent off (and received a commented and edited version of) the first draft of my review of Debatable Space for Strange Horizons, and I’m planning to have that squared away by the end of this week.

I’m currently reading the ARC of Adam Roberts’ Swiftly. It’s a pretty good story so far, but one of the most terrible examples of typesetting I’ve seen in a long time, so I hope some considerable copy-editing has been done on it before it goes to press. I need this read and reviewed by the end of the month.

In the meantime, I need to get my thoughts on Stross’s* Halting State put together for your perusal right here on VCTB.

And there is a copy of Severian Of The Guild (an omnibus edition of Gene Wolfe’s Book Of The New Sun, a title I’ve been meaning to attack for a couple of years now) making its way slowly across the ocean from Canada, so I am informed …

… which I guess I’ll need to finish off before the Great Baroque Cycle Reading Group (or should it be Reading Cabal?) kicks off around March.

Writing about other stuff

There has been some, but I can’t go into details right now. I can say that it’s not freelance work as such, and that I should have a fairly big announcement to make once some things have become confirmed and sorted out.

For now you’ll just have to call me a big nasty tease. Or ignore the issue completely, of course – which I guess is more likely, not to mention sensible.

Books and magazines seen

No fresh materials this week, although my production-run hardback copy of Iain M Banks’ Matter turned up from Orbit. It’ll look lovely next to my signed ARC, I’m sure. :p

Speaking of IMB, you’re all doubtless looking forward to my interview/article in the imminent issue of Interzone, aren’t you? Jolly good, I thought as much. 🙂


There goes another week in the rock’n’roll lifestyle of the scruffiest man in science fiction fandom. Cheerleaders for health and common sense will doubtless be keen to know that I am still off the cigarettes (and still finding it easy so far).

However, they will be less pleased to know that I’m now heading off to obtain The Friday Curry Of Justice, which I’m told (by people who know such things) is probably just as likely as cigarettes to cause heart attacks in my future.

To those people I say: a man needs a vice or two. I’m not ready to become a Buddhist monk quite yet. If you hear a loud noise in the next few hours, it’ll be my arteries clanging shut joyfully. 🙂

That’s me done for the day, folks. I hope you all have a great weekend doing whatever it is you like to do*. Hasta luego, amigos.

[* Why no ‘s’ after the apostrophe for Roberts, but an extra ‘s’ for Stross? Couldn’t say for certain, but I guess it’s aesthetics – they just look right that way. Go figure.]

[** With the exception of arguing about Battlestar Galactica on the Eastercon Mailing List; because, frankly, there aren’t enough hours left before the heat-death of the universe to waste them on talking about television***.]

[*** IMHO. 😉 ]

[tags]friday, photo, blogging, south, parade, pier, seaside, rust, music, bookstores, writing, blather[/tags]

Friday Photo Blogging: a year in music CDs

As should be apparent already to regular readers, I get sent a lot of CDs these days. Here are just some of them:

A year in music reviewing

That’s about a third of the albums I’ve been sent to review in the last year – the third that I’m actually interested in keeping, naturally. The others will be migrating their way to second hand shops some time in the new year.

I’m quite astonished at myself, really – if you count pieces pending publication, I’ve written well over 200 pieces of music journalism in the last year. Crikey.

As the above isn’t really a very creative photograph, you can have a bonus shot from the gig I went to last Sunday (I know, I’m too good to you):

Not Advised - live at The Alma Arms, Portsmouth

That’s Ash from Southampton pop-punk band Not Advised, who is probably most unimpressed by me not only capturing a great gurning moment, but plastering it on my review of the show at The Dreaded Press.

There’s an interview with the band, too. Not my normal cup of tea, music-wise, but a damn fine live act and a lovely bunch of lads to boot.

I remember being that full of enthusiasm once – perhaps if I hang around young musicians more I’ll rediscover the secret!*

Writing about music

I’ve pre-empted some of my music hack news above, but it’s been a busy week nonetheless.

Work continues to gather for The Dreaded Press, which is great news – I’m immensely chuffed that tomorrow (at very short notice) I’m interviewing the infamous Ginger, frontman of The Wildhearts and pathological side-project creator. Which is going to be awesome.

Hey, my interview with David Yow went live, in case you didn’t notice. I’m rather pleased with it (though Morrissey’s lawyers may be less so) – here’s a teaser quote:

“That’s the thing — I can handle eating nothing but baked potatoes and baked beans for a week, if that means that every night I get to get totally f*cked up and sleep with some slut who I never met before and will never speak to again, y’know?”

There’s no slacking for me next week either – Monday sees me reviewing Minus The Bear, and later in the week I’m interviewing Benedict Hayes of Enochian Theory for The Dreaded Press.

That last one is a bit of a cheat, in that I know Ben of old (local chap, lovely fellow, very tall, Cornish, mad), but his band are doing the brave new “start your own label and go it alone” thing, and I think it’ll be interesting to talk about the hows, whys and wherefores.

Still waiting on the replies from Henry Rollins, and just entered into negotiations (read as “pleading begging emails”) to arrange an interview with Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar) some time early next year.

Writing about books

Haven’t actually done any reviewing of books this week, having been instead concentrating on actually reading books instead, which has been very pleasant – I’d forgotten what it’s like to read a book by choice.

However, it appears the note-taking habit is now thoroughly ingrained … so my ARC of Stross’s Halting State is now festooned with post-it markers, as has become my tradition. I think I’ll probably review it anyway – it’s a strong novel with some good talking points, and it’s not like there’s any shortage of places to publish it.

Writing about other stuff

Also minimal. My excuse here is that I’m still doing the self-tuition thing with XHTML and CSS, which is a slower and more frustrating process than I’d like. But hey, when was learning something worth knowing ever easy, right?

Books and magazines seen

Only one confirmed literary arrival this week, namely my latest assignment for Vector in the form of Swiftly by Adam Roberts**, which I’m pleased about – Roberts is a challenging read, but that’s half the appeal for me. Although this is one of his works that bolts on to a literary classic – in this case, Gulliver’s Travels – which leaves me in a bit of a bind.

Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never actually read Gulliver’s Travels (though I know a fair bit about its content by inference). Methinks a trip to Project Gutenburg is in order if I want to do this one justice.

There may be more titles that should have arrived this week – if the “you were out” red card from the Post Office is anything to go by – but as it’s the (allegedly) festive season, I can’t go and check until tomorrow because they’re busier than usual. Selah.


Another high-velocity week has hurtled by. As much as I loathe [the holiday that shall remain nameless], I’m looking forward to having some downtime just so I can recover from what has felt like twelve months of relentless acceleration. Having discovered that my mother now has wi-fi at her house (w00t!), I should be able to finish up a lot of back-burner stuff in time for the new year.

Of course, we all know the saying about best-laid plans, so I’m not going to make any bets just yet. If I can just get some fiction writing done and develop a pre-emptive stock of Friday Flash I’ll be a happy man. Anything else will just be gravy. Mmmm. Gravy.

And talking of gravy, my tongue pines for the taste of cumin and other Eastern spices, which means I should be making tracks toward the Temple Of Culinary Delights and make my obeisance at the altar of The Friday Curry.

So have a good weekend yourselves, ladies and gents, and stay warm. Hasta luego!

[* Or get arrested on suspicion of more dubious motives, maybe.]

[** For which the rather fetching jacket art is seemingly unavailable online as yet. Sorry.]

[tags]photo, albums, CDs, music, reviews, interviews, writing, bookstores, blather[/tags]

Friday Photo Blogging: Electric Eel Shock live

What a rotten week for weather, eh? It’s turned quite clear today, but there’s been little opportunity for taking pictures outdoors in the last seven days.

So, it’s lucky I got some half-way decent shots at the Electric Eel Shock show last weekend, isn’t it?

Electric Eel Shock, live at The Wedgewood Rooms 2nd December 2007

Yes, they’re as endearingly crazy as they look. If you like your rock and metal music – but don’t take it so seriously that you can’t stand to see it spoofed – you really must see Electric Eel Shock play live.

A friend who I took with me described it as “the most hilariously enjoyable gig I’ve seen this year”. It’s a fair description. More shots available if you’re interested.

Writing about music

As the above should make plain, I have a review of the last show of Electric Eel Shock’s European tour for you to read over at The Dreaded Press … but of course, as you’ve all subscribed already, you’ll already know about that, and the handful of other stuff that’s appeared over there in the last week or so.

The really good news is that there’s much more to come. I’m very pleased to have gotten myself onto the mailing lists of five PR outfits already. That’s small beer for the big players, but not bad going for a one-man-band site that’s two months into operations, as far as I’m concerned.

So, I’ve got a stack of material with forthcoming release dates that I need to get reviewed, which means I’ll have to start incrementally pulling back on the writing I do for other sites. Which is kind of a shame, as I’ve become rather fond of the discipline of doing it .. but onwards and upwards is the way.

I’m off out again this Sunday to a local show by a young band called Not Advised, and I’ll be interviewing them also. That’ll be my first face-to-face interview off my own back for my own site! Yay!

In the pipeline (sometime after the New Year passes) will be a chin-wag with Justin Broadrick, formerly of Napalm Death and Godflesh, currently of depleted-uranium-shoegaze-metal band Jesu – I’m looking forward to that one, I can tell you.

Other interview news – I’ve sent off a batch of questions to Sir Hank of Rollins, and am eagerly awaiting the responses. The PR sent the first draft back, because I included about three times as many questions as he’d have the time spare to answer …

Writing about books

I’ve been shown the preliminary typeset PDFs of my Iain Banks article, and I have to say I’m fairly pleased with it. You lot will have to wait for the next issue of Interzone before you can give me any feedback, of course … 🙂

Otherwise, no reviewing to report this week, as I’ve been busy wrangling with music deadlines. But for the first time in ages I have no outstanding or pressing deadlines of a literary nature, which has given me the chance to (gasp!) read a book just because I wanted to.

I’m not complaining, because I love my reviewing work, but it’s strangely liberating to walk up to your shelf and think “hmm, what do I fancy?” The [holiday which shall remain unnamed] break (which I will be spending in the tranquillity of the Yorkshire countryside) promises to be a catch-up reading binge of truly satisfying proportions. wh00t!

Of course, in the meantime I need to figure out how to deal with the Interzone reviews section in light of the seasonal postal delays

Books and magazines received

No hay libros o revistas esta semana. Apesadumbrado, amigos.


Well, if (comparative) brevity is a virtue, this is one of the more virtuous FPBs of recent times. It always feels odd to have little to report, and somehow a little disappointing … what that says about my personal psychology, I have no wish to know in detail.

I’m working on this “content to be myself” thing right now, and at the times it fully clicks into gear I can see why people who are good at it make a point of recommending it. Practice will (hopefully) make perfect – or as near to perfect as is possible in an imperfect universe, eh? 🙂

Enough blather – I have things to do, and I expect those of you who are still reading this far down the page probably have things to do as well (no matter how well you may have convinced yourself otherwise).

So, before setting off on the traditional jaunt to collect The Friday Curry Of Intestinal Righteousness And Olfactory Justice, I will bid you all a good weekend – have fun, ladies and gents.

[tags]Friday, photo, Electric Eel Shock, livestock, rock, metal, gig, reviews, music, bookstores, writing, blather[/tags]