Fuck me, a talking sausage!

Know it? I fucking wrote it!

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Water | deathbybunnies

Dustfly tunes

This was another of our later tunes.

I always loved the feel of the song (kind of darkly sentimental), and was really pleased with how suggestive the lyrics turned out to be.

I had in mind the Blakewater when I wrote them — we used to walk over a bridge over the Blakewater on our way to town, just after it had meandered through Blackburn’s red light district. You can imagine how it smelt & what sorts of things would be floating in it by the time we crossed it. Happily the olfactory assault didn’t make it into the song, although knowing where it had just been perhaps gives an unsettling insight into the lyric “company of the drowned”.

There was another Rises connection, here, as we sent them this version of the track, and they sent us back a fantastic remix, but sadly I haven’t a copy of that remix, so I can’t post that, too.

This version was mixed at our bassist Marcus’ studio, and was most likely recorded there and/or at our practice rooms above Bar Zooka, too. It’s another of my favourite recordings of ours.

PS — Me & Pete (our guitarist) still play this acoustically quite often. In fact, we nicked the outro from Brighter Place (a previous posting) and play it on the end of this song, now, so it’s all rousing & everything.

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Dark Day | deathbybunnies

Okay, this one’s not a Dustfly tune. The editorial for the next one of those I want to put up needs some thinking about.

So this is a piece I wrote with Stan Lee (aka Chewy Benson, aka some other names, too), and Leroy, a chap I lived with.

The original beats and strange loops were assembled by Stan, and were one of his early efforts. I knew I wanted to do something with them, but I couldn’t think of anything for a long while. Then I woke up in the country one winter’s day, and the sky was a threatening, lowering yellow, as if an ammonia storm was brewing, and everything was frozen and oppressive, and even the trees on the bleak skyline looked sick and broken. Which made an impression, and gave me some fairly abstract words for the piece. Which was nice.

I wanted to just repeat the words, chant-like, and build them up in harmony over the beats and the loops, so enlisted the assistance of my housemate Leroy, who had a 16 track & is a rather gifted musician & producer.

We recorded a rough version, pulled it into the desired shape, then re-recorded all the looped vocals as long takes, so that it wouldn’t all sound canned.

That sounded rather ace, we thought, but then Leroy went into obsessive mode, tweaking everything, putting new keyboards over the track, additional guitar and bass guitar tracks, reversing sections, putting in samples I was digging up from various places, and generally going to town on it.

And the results sounded tremendous, if I do say so myself, on everyone’s behalf.

Originally there were three tracks. One was a shorter radio edit, and would probably be the one I listed here, only we had a multiple harddrive failures, and lost it. Which is a shame, as this take does rather go on more than it should.

The result of the collaboration was very encouraging, but whilst we did try some other pieces, I don’t think any of them came to a recording. There’s maybe one called ‘Fisty’ hidden away somewhere that I may drag out, and there are a couple of Stan’s other tunes that I’ve been threatening to do something with for a long time, but for now, this is the body of work of that particular collective: I give to you the possibly over-long ‘Dark Day’.

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High | deathbybunnies

Well, whilst I’m writing sentimental reminiscences of gigs past, I’ll post one last song for today. This was called ‘High’, and is largely a response to experiences like the one I described in my last post (Brighter Place).

Basically, I loved all my friends, so wrote a love song for them. Ahh!

I say I wrote it — by that I’m referring to the lyrics, of course. As with all of our material, the whole band actually wrote the whole song. I’ve worked with other musicians who get great results by keeping control of the whole creative process, but I’ve never really liked that approach. For me, in the music I’m involved with, that which is done best is done communally.

So this was to the band, and our friends at Selborne Street (hi Selborne Street crew!). Selborne Street was where we lived, and damn’ near died — I’m still not sure how (or whether) we survived it!

I think I always hoped that this would be the chick-tune that would get me girls after gigs, but then I was always too wasted after gigs for that ever to happen. Ah, well.

This was recorded by Marcus (our bassist) at (I think) his home studio.

Added: Oh, yeah. This still gets played by me & Pete fairly often, once we’ve subdued people with covers. :)

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Brighter Place | deathbybunnies

The happiest moment of my life.

The happiest moment of my life was the outro of the last song at the end of a gig at the Happisburgh Solstice Beer Festival. The beer festival is a yearly event in a tiny village, and I’ve played there in one band or another every year it’s run. If you’ve ever watched the (original) Wicker Man & really wanted to live on that island, then you’d love it. A huge tent filled with obscurely named ales, ciders & perries that take your face off, morris dancers, live music all day every day, in the countryside, right by the sea. It kicks ass.

We headlined the Saturday night. There was a whole huge contingent down from Blackburn, and the Rises lot were over from London. (Another highlight of that weekend was Drew from Rises performing Stairway To Heaven as Kermit the Frog. I laughed so hard I nearly did permanent damage.)

The set went fantastically. You couldn’t ask for a better crowd than the one at Happisburgh — they were jumping all over the place, and we were giving it eleven. The line up was me singing, Pete playing guitar, Tony on drums (his first gig as our ‘official’ drummer), Marcus on bass, Si was on the decks, and Drew had joined us on the bongos & congas. We’d split the set into two, and by the time we were coming up to the big close, we were really coming up.

At the time, we always played “Brighter Place” as our encore, because it had a huge outro, and man did we love an outro! As I started to sing “Some may find sweeter life”, and Pete and Marcus came in under that with “I caught it, I love it”, I was really peaking. The sky was huge & full of stars, the crowd was a howling, dancing vortex, the drums and bass were driving harder & harder, I was totally channeled into the music, singing, dancing in weird, disjointed spasms, and I had that beautiful sense of connectedness I’ve only ever known from being tight with a band — out through my mouth, my voice mixed in harmonies with all of theirs’, and spiraled out to the universe — beautiful. We drove the song harder & higher to the crescendo, my head just filling up & up with the sheer noise … And then, I took a step back from the mic, and as I was dancing, I spun around, and I can still see, perfectly clearly, what I saw there: A snapshot, in deep, ecstasy-enriched colours, of Pete, and Tony, and Marcus, all of us, high & totally into it, and we were bonded in that moment as only musicians ever can be, and I loved them totally, my brothers.

So this is that song, and that outro. It, too, was recorded in London with Rises. It’s not as good as the version we played that night (what could be?), and the mixing of it was perhaps a little undermined by certain excesses, but that’s just how we rolled, motherfuckers! ;)

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Hidden Wonder | deathbybunnies

So I thought I might upload some old stuff that we recorded, and then I thought that I’d write about each one, seeing as I’m not really making full use of this blog right now!

We were a band called Dustfly, based in Blackburn, and maybe the story will unfold as I upload stuff.

This song was written towards the end of the band’s life, and is one of my favourites. It was written to a loop of recorded conversation from a William Burroughs CD, and evolved from a kind of trip-hop electronica style of thing to the rock masterpiece you have before you (figuratively speaking). I have some of the old files that document its evolution & I might put them up one day, if I’m ever bored enough that that seems diverting.

We recorded this with a band called Rises in London (Homerton). We were the guinea pigs for their startup label, and we recorded three tunes there on their 32 track reel to reel. The studio was a room in their rented terrace house. We recorded in there, and slept in there on inflated mattresses, for about 4 days or so.

This was easily the best recording of the three. I’ll put the others up sometime, as they are an excellent demonstration of what funghi can contribute to the recording process, but I thought I’d start with one of our more listenable efforts! ;)

So this was us, in London, before the psychosis kicked in, more years ago than I care to remember!

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Installing latest clang before I go to bed

Hi. I will (honest) write the last month or so’s experiences down before long.

In the meantime, I’m sort-of admitting defeat. I’m installing the latest clang.

It doesn’t have the latest features I *really* want from C++0x (or C++11, or whatever), but it has a lot of the stdlib changes, and should have the rest soon(ish).

I feel bad, as I’m using Apple tech in place of the Gnu compilers that I really wanted to be using, and I’m compromising. But after everything, I still can’t get the latest GCC to compile C++ code properly on the Mac, even using mac ports.

My attempts to dual-boot the latest Ubuntu with my MBP (to have access to the whole GNU toolset) also ran into problem after problem, and had to be abandoned. I’d try again with Ubuntu 10.04, but I’ve honestly had the fight knocked out of me with firmware corruptions, etc. I’ve lost over a month of personal C++ development and artificial life experiments to this shit.

And I’m not happy about coding in a VM. This may be stupid, but I’m having to sacrifice nearly half my processor power to do it. Which means that I would be losing power exactly when I need it — when compiling and linking code. Which is stupid. VMs are for testing, I think.

So, whether by design or no, my attempts to take control of my own toolchain on an Apple computer have been completely subverted by OSX. So I guess they win. For now.

The next computer I buy, however, will no more be a Mac than it will run Windows. It’s clear that Apple’s greatest loyalty is to complete control of their brand and environment. And maybe that’s fair enough, as the end user they are aiming at has changed from a geek like me to an everyday computer user. It means they’re doing well, and good luck to them.

I’ve learned a lesson, too, and as long as I don’t repeat the mistake next time I invest in hardware, that has it’s own value.

An apple mac is not for a programmer who would like to take control of her/his *whole* tool chain.

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Avaaz being depressingly stupid about alt med

So Avaaz, a left-leaning organisation that helps aggregate causes and rally people to them, has come out against the EU directive designed to strengthen restrictions against peddling alternative medicines. How depressing. I complained, and I guess plenty of others did, because Avaaz put out this release: http://www.avaaz.org/en/eu_herbal_response_to_concerns

I’m not buying it.

To illustrate just how I’m not buying it, I thought I’d respond below. Avaaz are in italic, and I’m not.


Thanks for raising your concerns about the EU herbals campaign. We had a long discussion of this issue on our team, considering many possible objections. But we spoke with key officials, politicians and professionals involved

Great, who?

and feel confident that we’ve taken the right position.

That must be a nice feeling.

For clarification purposes, at no stage of this campaign, has Avaaz implied that it is against regulations for herbal products, or that these products are all effective.

So if your argument isn’t based on the efficacy of alternative & herbal ‘medicines’, then …?

Certainly, there have been a few cases of scams involving herbal medicines, and instances where misapplication of herbal medicines have harmed people.

Voluminous examples of those ‘few cases’ here: http://whatstheharm.net/

The Directive creates a situation in which producers of herbal and other traditional remedies have to bear enormous costs, years of effort and a lengthy review process to get their products on the market. The costs of tests and submission have been estimated at €100,000 per product, and many manufacturers have hundreds of products.

Yes! They’re selling what are supposed to be medicines! Y’know, pharmacologically active substances that actual human beings are supposed to be taking! That should be tested exhaustively, and expensively, before they go anywhere near human beings! (Unless you’re suggesting that ‘alternative’ medicine should be exempted from such considerations because they’re usually not pharmacologically active …?)

Large firms may have the resources to jump through these hoops, but the small scale producers that account for much of the herbal medicine industry do not.

So they get a free pass to put out untested, unvalidated drugs for humans to take? Are you suggesting a “poor-man’s defence” for medical malpractice suits?

And are you really suggesting that all these homely herbal remedies you’re buying haven’t got huge corporations behind them? Really? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31188920/ns/health-alternative_medicine/

In addition, the rules dictate that traditional herbal medicines cannot be licensed unless they have been in use for 30 years, 15 of which in the EU. But many traditional medicines sold in the EU market were registered as “dietary supplements” rather than drugs so companies cannot provide valid evidence to prove the safety and efficacy of their medicinal products in the EU market.

They have been sold as supplements precisely because if they claimed to be drugs (that is, medically effective), their manufacturers and marketers would be taken to court, because they’d be making specific claims that could be proven false. Or, more likely, they would never get to market, because they’d never pass a round of blinded, rigorous scientific studies. To get around spending the sort of money that is required to pass a drug for human consumption, they go with nice, non-specific claims like “this supplements a healthy diet”, or “this supports a healthy immune system”. And now they complain when their own weasel words are held against them? You really want to trust these shysters with your bio-chemistry?

You said yourself, at the beginning of the article, that you wanted to distance yourself from any claim that “that these products are all effective”! So … you don’t want to hold them to *any* standard of proof? Hmm? People’s champion? Hmm?

The application of this directive varies across the EU, but in several countries fewer than 5 herbal products have been registered during the 7 year period allowed by the EC. This means that hundreds of herbal products can be taken off the shelves any day now.

Excellent — another blow against charlatanism is struck!

(Having a strange moment of realisation — one of my favourite left-wing organisations is arguing in favour of … Deregulation! Are these the end times?)

Such products aren’t for everyone, but surveys show that 25% of EU citizens have used herbal products.

So what, apparently half of Britons don’t believe in evolution: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/feb/01/evolution-darwin-survey-creationism

Mass ignorance is no support of any argument, and certainly not something to be revelled in.

This means that alternative, Chinese, and other Asian medicine with hundreds of years of use, now cannot be sold as medicines.

Because they’re not! They have zip efficacy! Study after study after study shows them doing nothing! No statistical difference from placebo effects! That means they’re nonsense! They are a con!

Many Europeans will still want to get hold of herbal remedies for themselves and their families, and may have to buy them as food supplements, or from the internet, if they can’t find them in pharmacies.

But they won’t be getting them with the implicit approval of the government and scientific bodies that are supposed to be protecting them from charlatans and scam artists. Which means that those agencies will be doing their jobs better. Which is better for those citizens, as they’re not being misinformed.

That will be less safe, as they won’t be able to get advice on dosage and possible side effects when mixed with other medicines.

I’m not less safe for putting a toad on my head to cure the flu without my Doctor’s advice on how long I should do it for. However long I do it for, it is ineffective, so I am less safe because I should be spending my time and resources seeking real medical treatment. And in the few cases where maybe a herb actually has a pharmacologically active agent, I have no way of knowing how much I’m getting (it’s not refined & measured like real medicine), and the chances are its interactions with my body and any other medicines I may be taking having been properly studied are slim. And my doctor can’t offer any real advice under those conditions, either, other than “don’t take the stuff”.

These regulations reduce consumer choice, while failing to bring in a comprehensive and effective safety regime, so we’ve called on the EU to amend the directive.

Like the laws against pyramid schemes reduce the consumer’s choice to be ripped off. In this case, the consumer’s choice is between medicine that science has proven effective, or a mass of placebos with a vanishingly sparse scattering of half-understood, thus potentially dangerous, agents. What choice is this? Do you really suggest that a government would be anything but remiss to outlaw the marketing of un- and dis-proven remedies? This IS the (increasingly) effective safety regime!

Our team considered all sides of this argument and spoke to the relevant officials and activists.

Who? And not good enough. You haven’t demonstrated any real consideration.

When polled, the Avaaz community gave an overwhelmingly positive response.

So what? If they gave an overwhelmingly positive response to flat earthism, or immigrant detention camps would you then mindlessly change your position in support of those? No, you’d take a principled stand on what you believed was right, and fight that corner. Well, in this instance, you’ve taken a misguided stance *against* what is right, and the rightness of the argument against you is proven in hundreds upon hundreds of rigorous, scientific studies!

You may not agree with this particular campaign, but we hope this response alleviates some of your concerns, and that you’ll continue to support Avaaz in future.

I most certainly don’t, it most certainly doesn’t, and as for the last — for now, I still trust your intentions, but my respect for your intelligence and due diligence has taken a nosedive. You are an important and influential voice to us on the left, and you have a massive responsibility to be properly informed of the issues you address. You have just failed that responsibility. Big time.

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Is it time to go back to Ubuntu?

It’s when I try to do something like install the latest GCC (so I can
play with all the new C++ goodness like lambda expressions) that I
remember why I went over to an Ubuntu box for a long while.

It is *not* easy to take control of your toolchain & dev env on a Mac!

Each latest compiler fail sends you on a hunt for clues, which lead to
something like “Apple decided to change how null strings are handled
on their platform for no good reason & without any easily accessible
(or any, that I could find) documentation”, so you work out what flag
to set for that, and that cascades into a new error.

On Ubuntu, a quick “sudo apt-get install gcc” would have done it, and
I wouldn’t have to be dealing with all this crap until I was advanced
enough with GCC compilation to *want* to know it.

It feels like trying to use a non-apple toolchain is not quite … supported.
(Certainly I’ve seen lots of replies on forums taking the line “Don’t
mess with your compilers on OSX” — wtf? Did Richard Stallman steal
fire from the gods in vain?)

Of course, remembering why I moved back to OSX is embarrassing — it
was a shiny new machine.

But, if I’d been on Ubuntu already, the last 5 evenings I spent trying
to install the tools I want to play with would have been spent
actually playing with the tools.

The pretty shiny is hurting the productivity.

I’ll miss my magic mouse & multitouch (although they may be
supported), and I’ll definitely miss having iTunes open whilst I geek
out, but I’m getting seriously close to dual booting my Mac with
Ubuntu again — maybe the official release of Natty Narwhal. And last
time that happened, it got to being weeks and months between times I
even opened the OSX partition.

Which should maybe be telling me something …

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My GCC is better than yours, nyah, nyah.

Update: There are issues with the install! I’ll post once I’ve fixed them, but in the meantime, I’ve a new rant-post after this one that’ll explain things!

I want to learn C++ properly, and so wanted to be using the latest, best compiler to do it with, with the most of the C++11 features (like lambda expressions) in it, so …

So I installed GCC 4.6.0 on my MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) the other night, and it was very, very easy.

Whilst I would recommend anyone wanting to do the same read all of the instructions here (like it advises you to), I thought a brief account of how I did it might be encouraging to anyone else looking at doing it.

So first up I downloaded and unpacked the tarball in a directory called, originally enough, ‘gcc’. Then, I created a directory called objdir, to do the actual install into, and ran the configure script, specifying a custom suffix for the program of 4.6.0, like so:

$ mkdir objdir

$ cd objdir

$ ../gcc-4.6.0/configure —program-suffix=4.6.0

I could have changed the installation directory to /usr/bin, rather than using the default /usr/local/bin, as that seems to be where OSX puts GCC, but I decided to take the path of least resistance to GNU, and also minimise my risk of screwing up the GCC installs in there already. 

At some point in the install, but where I’m not sure, I was told that I had some system libraries missing (namely gmp, mpfr, and mpc). Happily, homebrew came to my rescue, like so:

$ brew install gmp

$ brew install mpfr

$ brew install mpc

$ brew install libmpc

So now I was good to go again, so I compiled everything like so:

$ make

Easy enough! Next, I wanted to run the tests, and didn’t have one of the requirements to do so (DejaGnu), so homebrew came to the rescue again:

$ brew install deja-gnu

That in place, I ran the tests:

$ make -k check

They ran happily enough, so I ran the install (as root user, this time):

$ sudo make install

Like I said, OSX has a couple of GCC installs in /usr/bin, and which one you are using seems to be controlled by the symlinks cc, gcc, and g++ (and probably others for other languages, but I’m not interested in those). That being the case, I just redirected these symlinks to my new install, like so:

$ cd /usr/local

$ sudo rm cc

$ sudo ln -s ../local/bin/gcc4.6.0 cc

$ sudo rm gcc

$ sudo ln -s ../local/bin/gcc4.6.0 gcc

$ sudo rm g++

$ sudo ln -s ../local/bin/g++4.6.0 g++

Then, running “gcc -v” and “g++ -v” in the terminal told me I was on 4.6.0, which was all rather lovely.

I’ve compiled a simple C++ hello world successfully, so I know it’s working. I’m currently having an issue with Boost Serialization with 4.6.0, which is a worry, but not necessarily because I did anything wrong. I’ll post about that, here, if and when I work out what the problem is and how to fix it.

Oh yeah — this all takes *time*! The compile and tests took place over a good few hours, so have a book to read or film to watch, or something.