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I'd normally draw a picture for the month's compilation, but I didn't this month as the image that occurred when I was listening to it was a selfie. It's a fantastically self-absorbed selection, from John Grant's me/not me of He's got his mother's hips (good video - watch the video) to the the performative angst of Kate Tempest to the adolescent poutings and writhings and screechings of Chai, the Overload, Robbie Williams..... The inclusion of a lot of the tracks (Robbie included) come down to personal history - from the lost seafront of teenaged boredom (hello Kim Wilde, Suzanne Vega) to dirty grungey parties (Transglobal Underground, Chemical Brothers) to walking in circles in muddy festivals big and small (from openers like Day of Grace and Shady Bard to headliners like Chemical Brothers and of course, Robbie). So I knocked out a five-minute spoof of a famous cover, why not:



The glasses look bigger than they are through tricks. This playlist managed to pull in everything (including some crazy obscure local bands so well done them (or possibly Youtube for their attempts to make anything you look for three times appear, like some form of data-fountaining genie) bar the play-out track where you have the rather more polished Gate Away instead of the slightly uncertain but absolutely ravishing Neighbor from Joy/Disaster. It's still a good track. Video-wise you should make time for John Grant, Chai, Circles (Kate Tempest) and probably Janelle Monae too. You might fancy revisiting the Chemical Brothers video too - I remembered it from the first time round. The rest of it can play in the background.



As ever, leave a comment if you want any details. I've had interest from a few people in the other places wanting to do comp-swapping, so we've restarted the #tenovertwelve comp-swap so anyone fancies doing their own compilation, this month's theme was "All is calm, all is bright" (as you can see, I adapted the theme a bit) and all entries welcome - post with the hashtag and tag in myself ( @cleanskies @mrsjeremyday ) or @oxfordhacker. We'll be announcing a new theme soon.

January with the Longbridges Crows

I'm worried about Gil. Gil is the youngest of the tow-path crows, a sqab from last year, with flight feathers still pale and sparse. When I glance back to see their slightly crooked imitation of the parents' expert solicitation flights, bits of wings turn translucent, the bitter white light of winter mornings shining through. Gil is Dave and Sal's first squab, and he (or she - it's hard to tell with crows) is small. I've seen them feeding Gil, wings a-flurry with frantic begging. But is that happening enough? I worry that they might be making rookie errors like "he's small, he doesn't need much food" or "not feeding her will motivate her better to find food". Dave and Sal, the Horse Paddock pair, were the only couple to breed last year. Harry and Em (the original Longbridges crows, an established couple and parents to Dave) didn't breed last year. I don't know why. 2018 is the first year they've not had at least one squab, in the years since I started feeding them.

Solicitation Flight: A curved flight made around a food source (in this case, me and my box of nuts) a bit above head height. They'll normally follow up by sitting on a prominent branch and cawing loudly. Once in a blue moon they'll shuffle their wings a bit, too, but that's really a squab move, and adults crows like to keep food transactions on the level.

When I first started feeding Harry, I had a feeling that I wasn't the first. This January I'm definitely not the crow's one and only. Someone is feeding them chopped nuts, millet, and what looks like mixed seed for larger cage birds. I wonder if my co-feeder is a bereaved parrot owner. A wandering parrot turned up on Nextdoor about a month ago, but the story went silent, as it often does when things don't end well. Crows are smart, sociable, garrulous and happy to interact with humans. They're the closest things we have to a parrot in this country, and while the Longbridges Crows aren't tame, they're comprehensively habituated. You could come to them to remember what it was like, having a bird of your own.

Habituated: Accustomed to human presence, will not flee when humans approach. Crows are discriminating enough that they can be habituated for some humans, or decide how habituated they are depending on what the human is carrying. One day I walked along the tow-path carrying a pull-up banner slung over my shoulder in a black carry tube. The crows would not approach and hid from me, presumably because Harry or Em knew what a gun looked like.

The Longbridges territory has four crows in residence at the moment; Harry, the patriarch and/or matriarch (it's hard to tell with crows) and their mate, Em, who regards me with suspicion. Max, their squab from two years ago, now a handsome, healthy, glossy sub-adult, and one of the twin squabs from the year before that make up the four. Arbritrarily I'll decide it's Leia and that Luke's the one that's turned up at the Cricket Field territory down the tow-path, but it could be the other way round. There was a fifth, who turned up late last summer when Harry was having a hard moult and disappeared for a fortnight, but they weren't popular with me or the family (I called him/her "bad smell" because of they way they kept hanging around) and they finally flew off in early January. The remaining four are harmonious and healthy enough that I have high hopes for this breeding season, though it's too early for them yet to be sprucing up the nest site (a tree in the nature reserve opposite Long Bridges).

Moult: All birds shed their feathers and replace them, usually annually, in late summer or early autumn. This is a pretty hard time for a bird; there are periods of being unable to fly, poor insulation and waterproofing, it's absolutely knackering, and they're very vulnerable to predators. When Harry disappeared for so long I worried that the moult had done them in, one way or another. Harry's no spring chicken, after all. When Harry came back I cheered and punched the air.

The Horse Paddock pair, Dave and Sal (again, I'm making assumptions - I first met one of them as Harry and Em's subadult helpers, Dave and Sue, and I'm assuming that it's Dave I'm still seeing, and that Sue has moved on) also nest in the Nature reserve, in another tree on the riverbank, but they're still having to give a lot of care to Max. I'm almost hoping they don't decide to breed this year, to give Max the best chance, but given that they managed a squab last year, with such terrible weather, maybe I'm underestimating them.

Subadult: Crows, like many intelligent animals, take several years to reach breeding age. During these years they will hang out with older relatives, helping with foraging, nest-building, cacheing food, mobbing predators and feeding any squabs. Subadults are little more slender than full adults, as well as being substantially dafter.

Down at the modernist boat-house, Luke (or possibly Leia, or possibly even Sue or Dave) has re-surfaced with a new partner. An adolescent crow gang hangs out in the cricket field beyond the boat house, and initially I saw them as a gang, but as January went on it became a couple, albeit not a very secure one, yet. I'm spotting a third bird, sneaking around the trees, curious about me, interested in the couple. I wonder if unrelated adolescents might join couples sometimes to become a helper/additional mate. You can easily see where the value might be for a young couple uncertain that they're successfully pair bonded.

Pair Bonded: Crows mate for life, with the usual provisos - some pair bonded couples will split up, if one dies they will (sometimes, not always) seek another mate, there will sometimes be swaps, changes, break-ups.

The Cricket Field Crow Gang has a mirror crow gang across the river, in university parks. One of them knows me, and drifts across the river for a chat and some nuts from time to time. That's probably the last of my original habituates - Luke? Sue? I'm not great at telling them apart.

Crows. They're handsome birds, but look very similar. A few of them have behavioural tics that help - Dave, for example, likes to rock on dead branches, and ocassionally breaks them off, and seems to find this funny. Harry is very big and has a human-pleasing strut, which I suspect he cultivates. Max does an odd little hop-dance when I glance back to look at them feeding, a little nervousness perhaps going back to their squab year, when they were kept strictly away from me, bar a single introductory visit.

I do wonder sometimes what they make of me. A food source, semi-reliable, garrulous and chatty? Walks, talks, throws nuts? A little too tolerant of the magpies? If they have a name for me (and why not, I have names for them) it's probably something like Bright-headed messy eater. Or maybe just nuts.

hourly comics day : meet snow day

So, hourly comics day came, and so did the snow. I started off trying to go a bit more up-class than last year, with a stylish chiaroscuro image of myself being woken up with by an alarm clock, drawn in smart Sharpie shadows. But it wasn't right for the stuck-at-home, still-at-work, nothing-working, everything snowed-in nature of the day. I ended up screwing it up and chucking it away. And then retrieving it from the bin to look at it (all the while picking up my emails, running the checks on the websites, getting ready for Safer Internet Day, etc.) I went upstairs and pulled out all my half-used notepads. I found an AVG "Be Yourself" notepad I'd got free at a tech conference and a black bic biro. Ready to work the day. And what a day it was. Here, in a highlight scene, I am riding a giant grasshopper as part of a Brexit metaphor:

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Read on for snowpeople, amazing cold weather fashion choices, the most amazing Eggs Benedict in Oxford right now, fancy tea, mysterious raptors, e-learning, experimental cocktails, macaroni cheese, and a child feeding a deer in a housing estate. Also, a lot of pictures of Scribble. to the comicsCollapse )
I find it strange how the songs that become truly attached to the grieving process aren't necessarily the ones which describe anything about what you're missing. Thus somehow Sleeper's Statuesque has become indissolubly attached to losing Harley, for all that it's basically a song about proposing a dirty hook-up in a hotel with someone you probably shouldn't. It's also a great song, and I won't lose it as something to enjoy, it's just become more weirdly complex, and maybe that is what the song is about, after all, how sometimes straightforward things like lust and loss are actually weirdly complex, and just get stranger the closer you look at them.

It was a sad end to the year, and herself is prominent of course, but I wouldn't call it a sad mix, to be honest. Toyah's bonker's space opera The Vow, the jittery dirty art-pop of Marie Davidson and B.E.D., Art Brut in an exuberant mood and the Willem Breuker Kollektief doing something unmentionable to Haydn. That said, I'd have a cup of tea handy, because there are sad songs. Some pretty good videos this time too - vintage footage of Toyah and the Smiths, some inexplicable videos (the one from Mirrors is especially eh....) - so you might want to window it and watch full-screen here and there.



There's a cover, which was hard to do. It's based on a dream I had. I used my beautiful new Neon ink set, with logwood black for the background. The front pieces are just sharpie on old photocopies, a comfort combination, because having sketched it once, I didn't want to draw it over again, so just went over and over the original rough.

November was a hard month for me, even before my cat suddenly died. I was tearing into a series of complications and difficulties I had been carrying for years, from insomnia to childhood trauma to dental issues, and was busy, busy, busy at home and work. But no matter how rough the terrain, the soundtrack was spectacular. We went to some good gigs - Metric, Idles, Brix and the Extricated, Heaven 17. We were practising hard for our next gig, which suddenly turned into another gig in December after we played the November spot in the Cellar - the night the Cellar was saved in a crowdfunded frenzy which simmered through the day then exploded in the evening, as we played - I nipped upstairs to check the crowdfunder and it was done. Music was suddenly everywhere, consolation and commiseration, discovery and exploration.

November's compilation, The Light is Fading Fast, is a hard mix of peak and bleak:



Most of these tracks don't have videos or have videos of no great interest, so you can play it in another tab - your substitutions are Shit & Shine, who seem to be stuck in the "only full albums" phase of putting their stuff on Youtube, so I've put in something else that remixes some of their rhythms (or possibly another band with the same name as there seem to have been several) and The Victorian English Gentleman's Club where you have Impossible instead of Atchoo which is not the same but never mind sorted thanks timscience. Metric bookends the mix to soften the heartbreak. Oh, there was one video worth watching:



Hot Chip's One Pure Thought which, for a track that came out over ten years ago, really managed to capture the flavour of the moment, for me, at least.

ETA, I did a cover, too.

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October's compilation opens with William Burroughs, just to avoid any shocks when you press play. I couldn't find the clip I wanted (William's welcome from Dead City Radio) so I went with an abridged version of Love Your Enemies, William's vision of weaponized love. I fear that things did go quite weird and creepy in places in this compilation - the inclusion of absolutely nobody's favourite David Bowie song, Little Bombardier, for example, or of Oxford's worst-named band (this is a stiff competition area, I do acknowledge) The Cellar Family. You may need to grit your teeth through bits of this. But bear with me. Autumn is always an endurance sport, with no prize in sight, only winter, coming. Sink Ya Teeth are back again of course, with Sextile and Teleman keeping it contemporary, but there's also a lot of history dredged up from my current run through the CD shelves with classic tracks from Chemical Brothers, Black Star Liner, Bomb the Bass etc. plus a couple of obscure house tracks from Young Marco and Andruss. Plus us, of course; Track 13, The Depths. Ruby Rain, the closer, I accidentally found on an album of classic love songs from Italian films. I was checking out the album because Grace Jones was on it (and on the cover, dressed improbably as an Italian gamine). Turned out I had the Grace Jones track already. But Laura Evan's Ruby Rain is a heartbreaker.



I just ran off the end of the book where I was drawing the covers. This is drawn on the inside back; you can see where the pen has lifted from the shiny card.



And here is today's picture of Harlequin Cat. Her little paws.

RIP Harlequin Day 2009-2018

Harlequin on the Bed

The artist's cat is dead, alas.

Who will wake me from my nightmares now?
Who will bat my fairy lights and call me down to breakfast?
Who will join me on the sofa?
Who will chase the bubbles I blow?
Who will be my gentle, neutral topic of conversation at work?
Who will doze in the garden?
Who will spread havoc until she is forgotten?

Background and foreground, front and centre, in the main action or just for atomsphere, she was a cat always passing in and out of comics. See you in the funny papers, Harlequin Day.
It's been kind of rainy this week hasn't it? The perfect week for whichever amazon delivery service it was to have a brainfart and just leave a package near to the front door. Hope it's wrapped in plastic! I said, as I hoiked it in out of the dark/wet/cold and definitely still drizzling night. It wasn't. But this is not the true horror. As I tossed the sodden package into the bin and tossed the hopefully ok item (it was) at Tim, I noticed some muck falling from it. On closer inspection, these were small, black slugs. I scooped them up and slung them out of the door. Then I thoouught to check the package. Turns out whatever Amazon cardboard is coated in, it's irresistible to slugs. There entire underside of the package was black, writhing and teeming with slugs. It was like the beginning of a horror film. It was disgusting. It was in the blue bin before rational thought was even engaged. And then the checking for and disposal of the stray slugs. I found one the following morning, dead and flattened on the kitchen floor. I guess I'm the real monster here.

Never mind that though, play this! September's compilation is a little less banging than last month's so should be good for Friday listening. Despite the intriguing still, there aren't really any unmissable videos in this lot, so you can just leave it playing an undertab and get all the fun that matters (although the Sink Ya Teeth song towards the end is quite fun because they're a great band to look at as well as listen to).



You have a few substitutions -- the amazing Mondkopf remix of Pieces of You was not on Youtube (though something pretending to be it was, groan) so you have the Baby Monster remix, which is also good, not as good, but good. Minerals by the Evenings (yes, I'm still working through the Oxfordbands pile) isn't up on Youtube in its original state, so you have the Trademark Peridot remix. Peridot is one of my favourite minerals, and this represents a good trade. It can sometimes be hard to find the right Negativland track and this was one of those occasions. Drink it up is just as good as Announcement though, if not better. Oh, and here's the cover:

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No playlist sorry. Got to run

inktober round-up post

The decision to participate in #inktober this year was made pretty lightly, to be honest. I didn't look at the prompt list or even think about it much. Most pictures were drawn by starting with a line and seeing where it went, though here and there I did an initial splash or used a bleedthrough from the prvious day. As the month went on, the metal spiralbind on my sketch book (which was a cheap item with fibrous paper not well suited to drawing on with ink) started to debind, cat scratches and hair (my cat found the ink endlessly fascinating) began to build up and the whole thing got a bit smeary. But I had this idea that I had about 30 bottles of ink, and I did; every single picture is a different ink, and most are drawn with different brushes and nibs. It was like unwrapping a new present every day, and while I didn't have much time for the unboxing (2-10 mins typically) I did what I could in the space that I had.

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the full month, with high click-through detail, should you wish to see how badly the ink spread and smearedCollapse )

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These may also appear on my twitter @cleanskies or my instagram @mrsjeremyday.