BAiT’s Return to the Stage

Last Friday night, after five years away from the stage, BAiT made its return to public performance, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

We had been offered a slot at Ditch The TV – a monthly, predominantly acoustic evening, run by local musician, Malc Evans, for whom I’ve played session drums in the past, both with his band Beneva, and with Malc in his solo work.

Having got back together again at the close of 2010, we (BAiT) have been working on an acoustic set for some months now. Eventually, we settled on a collection of songs predominantly from the band’s back catalogue, with a couple of extra songs penned by Andy which hadn’t ever been played in BAiT and a new song for which I wrote the music and Andy wrote the lyrics.

Ditch The TV normally runs from the Maudsley pub on the Allesley Old Road, but due to a double-booking, it was unavailable last night. Fortunately, Malc had managed to obtain use of the function room at the nearby Four Province’s pub.

We had the headline slot, which basically meant we were on last. This is not always the blessing it would appear to be, as people can start to shuffle off at various points in an evening, but as it goes, we were lucky last night and people stayed for all three acts.

First on was a sixteen year old, Kane Collins, who entertained us with a couple of original compositions and then a range of covers. It was just him and his guitar and he had a good tone to his voice – would expect he’s got a good musical future ahead of him.

Second on the Bill was a fellow Nuneatoner (and flat-cap wearer), Chris Tye, who performed a selection of his own material on acoustic and electric guitar, and accompanied by a guy on double bass. The sound out front was great. Chris had a nice tone to his voice and the material really suited the atmosphere.

Finally, we took to the stage. Having a minimum set-up, this was a relatively new experience to me (or at least one I hadn’t been through in recent years). In the first instance, it’s odd for me, since I ordinarily play drums, to be seated at the front of the stage, but I can’t begin to express how nice it is to not have to set up and break down a drum kit – a task which I utterly loathe nowadays.

We worked our way through the set we had worked out. All went relatively smoothly from our point of view, although following the gig, we did all admit to being nervous at the start. I also had some tuning issues in one song – the E string on my mandolin was a little out of tune and it kept making me wince. At one point Andy leaned over and whispered that it sounded like an old piano, almost causing me to lose it completely, because he had hit the nail on the head.

This and the odd bit of feedback aside, we soon settled into things and really started to enjoy it. As the gig went on, I thought the vocals were working together nicely from what I could hear. For my part, it was nice to switch between cajon and mandolin.

When we had finished our set, Malc asked if we had any more we could play, which gave us the chance to play the one cover we had worked on – Songs Of Love by The Divine Comedy, which many will not know in its song format, but will be more familiar with as the theme tune from Father Ted.

The gig over, we caught up with various people who had come from near and far to see us, and all of whom gave us the ‘thumbs-up’. Mark from Ministry of Beaver was very complementary, which meant a lot. Sometimes, people can be protective or reluctant for band mates to be involved in other projects – whether it be through fear of them ‘quitting their main job’ or just a sense of protection, I couldn’t say, but fortunately Mark is not that sort of person.

Paddy (my former Beaver rhythm section colleague) and his ‘Mrs Lady’ as he calls her also came along, and again, he was very supportive. He’s heard the band’s CDs before and has always spoken highly of us, which again means a lot, as he is a talented bass player.

A few other friends had come along to offer support too, and it was nice of them all to make the effort to come to see us.

The final ‘seal of approval’ of the evening came from the landlord at the Four Provinces who was extremely complementary and asked us on the spot whether we’d be prepared to play a gig there in our own right, so that is something we’ll certainly have to take him up on.

So, it was a really enjoyable first gig back. BAiT is most definitely back. It is different again from its last iteration, but we have a nice rehearsal routine worked out now, and our meet-ups are productive, yet informal enough to have the enjoyable general chat we used to have too much of in the old days of BAiT, when we met up three times a week.

We just need to keep the set polished, look out for some more gigs, and look at adding some more material over time.

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Some general advice about photo prints and scanning

I hate photo albums! There. I’ve said it.

Photo albums ruin photos and prevent one from being able to scan the photos. If you have any photo prints, for the benefit of your descendents, please don’t put them in damned photo albums of any kind! If they’re in them at the moment, remove them this instant!

The ones with adhesive are the worst, but the small flip-book ones are almost as bad. Photo envelopes are just fine – and they take up much less room.

Oh, and for feck’s sake write lightly in pencil on the back of each one who’s in the photo and when they were taken or your future generations won’t have a clue.

I’ve been scanning photos and slides for weeks. Trust me – your descendents will thank you.

If you have any photo prints of your own and don’t have any digital versions of them, scan them in yourself at the highest lossless resolution you can and keep copies of them in that format (ideally without changing colour etc. – photo enhancement techniques and your own skills in using them will probably just improve further as time goes on).

Then, and only then do some image manipulation on them.

Make two copies of the high-resolution and unaltered scans and give two members of your family or friends a copy. Ideally, back them up ‘in the cloud’ too. Personally, I find Picasa does a brilliant job of managing synching photos with Google’s storage at a cost of $5 per year for 20GB of space. It also allows you to share photos easily with others.

I’m having to rescan photos I scanned a few years ago, because I didn’t heed this advice and I now know how to get much better results myself through image manipulation tools, but didn’t keep the original scans -cue expletive!

And right now, I can’t begin to tell you how much more difficult photo albums are making my life… again!

A politicised Wikipedia? What happened to neutrality?

So, let me get this right, Jimmy Wales…

I should start out by stating that I have read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more and I am aware that you have left access to Wikipedia open on mobile devices or by disabling javascript (fine for those of us who know how to do that – and to switch it back on again for the many sites on which it’s needed or useful), but…

In order to register your protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act – potential legislation being proposed in the United States, you’re going to punish the English-speaking world (not even just users in the United States) by depriving them of access to a service which they have built up for you.

This is legislation which is opposed by President Obama and already appears to be a non-starter, based on what I have read in the media. But, even if that is not the case…

I live in the United Kingdom. You may want to look on a map of the world to see where that is. I have no sway or influence over the politics of your sovereign nation, even if I wanted to. You do not appear to have a UK English version of your site, despite the fact that we are ‘two nations divided by a common language’, nor have you implemented your ‘protest’ in a way which uses visitors’ IP addresses to identify their country of origin, so you are not in the position to act in a way which only affects users who may, and I mean ‘may’, be able to have the tiniest impact on this legislation.

Wikipedia represents an open source of knowledge. It may not always be perfect, but the beauty of its open nature is that people in a position of knowledge do indeed have the option to correct errors instantly, and have their work reviewed by peers; something it does have over printed encyclopedias. Indeed, although the perception that Wikipedia is full of inaccuracies (hardly surprising given the vast subject areas covered), I have heard experts in various fields complement the site for its accuracy. The site presents sources clearly and I have found it to be an extremely useful reference in the past. I defend the concept of Wikipedia.

What I can’t get past is the logic behind this action. You may have consulted core members of the Wikipedia team (Wikipedians), but couldn’t you have offered a vote to your readers before you made your futile gesture? It is they ultimately and not just the hardcore Wikipedians who have built up your power and influence – all with their own time and effort, and in some cases money. And now here you are acting in a way which affects the very people who support you! It is fundamentally against the spirit of openness. Yes, I know that’s your point, but you are targeting the wrong people.

Support you? You’ve just alienated me and politicised a site which supposedly celebrates its ‘neutrality’. I don’t want to see your face at the top of the page asking for my financial support again after this fiasco. No wonder the head of Twitter called your gesture ‘silly’. Your visitors deserve better. And if you don’t think so, would you mind confining your actions to those who can have any influence over your politics. Google have behaved far more responsibly and fairly in their protest, by symbolically blacking out the Google logo on the US version of the website. Likewise WordPress, whose home page is very striking as I write this. In both cases, they make their protest in a powerful, but unintrusive way.

As one of countless similar comments (by a Wikipedian) on your own site has stated…

“I am saddened and aggrieved that some people want to use Wikipedia as a political tool. If people have objections to legislations they should make their protests known by acting as individuals, not by utilising the work that I and thousands of others have done. I am not contributing to Wikipedia to provide anyone with a means to add weight to their opposition to legislation. If you’re not happy, write to Congress – you can use OpenCongress, or some other means. A handful of vocal editors should not be able to force the closure of a website used by millions.”

Temporal Relativism

Just been explaining cultural (and temporal) relativism to our eldest daughter. She’s (rightly) been learning about naughty imperial practices in Britain’s past.

I just wanted her to know that history can always be viewed from several perspectives. Judging past behaviour by today’s values is dangerous and fails to consider the values of the time.

Also, while Britain did some terrible things in India, it left the country with the largest democracy in the world and a rail network which has been instrumental in the country’s development.

A mere 70 years ago we were intentionally targeting civilian targets by blanket-bombing whole German cities; something which would be inconceivable now.

Values change, and it’s important that history is also considered in the context of the time it was made.