Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Pleasant Surprise

Over the last year, I have stated a few times that modern dance music is suffering from a lack of decent songs, and singers too. So it is very nice to hear something like "Anthem" by Filo and Peri, with singer Eric Lumiere. The only problem I have with this song is that the vocals have been treated too heavily by the producers, which is a common problem in electronic music. It would be better to let the singer's voice stand without too much interference from electronics. Apart from that, I really like the lyrics and music of this song.

See the video and hear the remixes at this link: http://www.positivarecords.com/filoandperi/

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Imitation

I mentioned a mash-up of two songs in yesterday's entry. This phenomenon, increasingly popular in the last seven years, is often criticised for not actually bringing anything new to the songs in question. This is entirely true, but usually no-one makes any claims that they are being highly original when they make something like that. I think that some mash-ups can be very interesting, and sometimes even fun, if the two tracks are chosen correctly and mixed well. It is really an extension of the role of the disc jockey, not an attempt to usurp the original artist.

However, blatant copying of other artists is not so fun, and in fact is extremely frustrating. One song in particular has suffered from extensive borrowing since its release; "Blue Monday", by one of my favourite bands, New Order. I'm quite happy with Orgy's cover version, but the poorly-disguised rip-offs by Rihanna ("Shut up and drive") and M.I.A. ("20 dollar") do no justice to the original. Even worse, there appears to be no acknowledgement of the influence of the New Order song on the creators of those two songs, which shows no respect for such an important milestone in electronic music.

I have to get back to my work now; I just felt like a little diversion as soon as I heard the song by the so-called artist M.I.A.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Supplement

I think that this weblog is in serious need of some attention, and would benefit from actual enthusiasm being put into the posts here. I shall be making a serious attempt to do this, and you can believe me this time, because I have a lot that I want to write down now. Also, the name will be changed soon. I do still like the song, but apart from the fact that it attracts people looking for lyrics here, it just does not seem right to have those words at the head of what is quite a solitary weblog.

I am preparing to write a little bit more about Chicane, who I mentioned in my last entry as I had just bought all three of his albums. In the meantime, I will leave a link to a video "mash-up" of the music video to the Chicane song "Saltwater" (itself a remake of a piece by Clannad) and the video for Natasha Bedingfield's song "I Bruise Easily". I had never heard the latter song until I saw this video, and I am quite surprised at how much I like it, as Bedingfield's previous singles were quite annoying and seemed to be fairly unimaginative by comparison. That is in my opinion, of course: the British chart performance of "I Bruise Easily" was worse than that of her dull "Single" and excruciating "These Words". Nevertheless, I really like this song now, and the song could almost have been written with the music for "Saltwater" in mind, as unlike many mash-ups, the mood of the two pieces match perfectly. Follow this to see it on YouTube: "Natasha Bedingfield Vs Chicane - Bruised Water".

Friday, 7 December 2007

Re-acquisition

I have now started to replace my collection of music CDs, starting with some of my favourite electronic albums from when I first got into dance music. This begins with two compilations, one of which I have been told by friends is one of the most consistently good collections of trance they have listened to, and I have mentioned previously (here is a link): it is 2000's Ibiza Euphoria compilation. I'm glad to have this back again, as I cannot imagine that my listening tastes would have developed in the same way without it. It is also my preferred collection for playing while doing a fairly intense piece of revision or coursework, and I would not want to do any serious studying without some trance in the background, so I had to get it back. I have also re-purchased the sequel from 2001; this was mixed by Dave Pearce and is not as good, but is still far more impressive than the other electronic compilations I've heard since.

As for proper albums, I have replaced Chicane's first two CDs, Far from the Maddening Crowds and Behind the Sun, while also buying his latest, Somersault. The former two were the first artist albums based entirely around dance and electronic music I owned, and I could not do without them either. I have once again had to search carefully for the various versions of BT's first three albums: I prefer the American version of Ima, British of Escm, and a rare special edition of Movement in Still Life and needed to use eBay and Amazon's US sites the first time round. These are equally important, and are particularly good at taking me back into my memories of the summers I enjoyed between 2001 and 2004.

Next I will have to start on the albums by Queen, Faithless and Kosheen, which are my favourite 'proper' bands, if there is such a thing. Then I'll have to go to the earliest music I liked; Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Erasure. Without all these my collection has none of its best songs, so all are essential.

I think that I probably indulge my nostalgia too much for a young man, but I do not care. I was highly annoyed at having these foci for my memories taken away, and will remain displeased until they're all mine again. I will probably mention all of the above artists again soon, to reveal why I like them all so much in more detail. Otherwise, this weblog may remain fairly barren for now.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

The Invisible Voices: Trance music vocalists

In the past few months, as I've started looking for music again and have acquired a lot of dance music, I've noticed that some of the Trance/Progressive House/Electronica (delete as appropriate) bands and artists keep using the same guest singers for their songs. Actually, noticed is a bad word, as I knew about this a long time ago. For example, while I was listening to a lot of BT it was apparent that he liked to make songs with vocals by a singer called Jan Johnston, and she appeared on a few other artists' songs as well, notably including the already featured Tiësto, Paul Oakenfold and Paul van Dyk. However I had not realised that it was common for many more singers, most of them female and British, such as Kirsty Hawkshaw (Hybrid, BT and Tiësto again) and Tiff Lacey (Tiësto several times, and a few other tracks I have) to keep turning up all over the place. They're all quite good (as always, as far as I can say with my limited knowledge of how music works), and they're not so ubiquitous that they start to make all the songs sound the same. Quite a lot of the composers are perfectly capable of doing that without any help!

Now that I've found Kirsty Hawkshaw's myspace page (here) and have found out more about her, know what she looks like and found even more songs that she's featured on, this has made me change the image that I had in my mind quite a lot. I had imagined a singer who only did the occasional dance song of impeccable quality (like "Running Down the Way Up" with BT, "Blackout" with Hybrid, or the slightly contrived but very hypnotic "Halcyon and On and On" with Orbital), whereas she has actually made far more than I knew of previously, and even featured in some of the associated videos. They're all good tracks, but somehow she seemed more special when I thought she was on just a few choice ones. Also, she does look very much like the image I had formed in my head of her, but I almost preferred not to actually know that. I suppose it's very difficult to remain oblivious of anyone with the ease of communication the Internet allows, especially now that people advertise themselves through Myspace more than anyone could have thought possible a few years ago. But I quite liked finding a song and then appreciating it in isolation of any external considerations, or even without knowing who made it. It made the songs I collected seem far more special than those I heard on Radio One or saw on Top of the Pops. Maybe this just means I like the company of my own illusions far too much, and now that I'm out of adolescence, I can't really hang on to them.

All that aside, if you ever find any songs with Kirsty Hawkshaw or Jan Johnston singing on, make sure you give them at least one listen. They provide a large share of the singing talent that electronic music desperately needs to prevent stagnation. I certainly am far from being anti-instrumental, but it needs to be emphasised that dance music is not too far removed from pop music, and you need a song every now and then.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

New acquisitions: albums by New Order, John B and Jenna G

I now have some new albums to add to my collection, with some being 80's pop (New Order) which I already have a lot of, and the other two artists in the Drum and Bass style, which I do not have very much of aside from Kosheen's first album, which didn't in fact include very much of the style. Admittedly, neither of the two artists (who appear to be reluctant to use their entire surnames, for some reason) are particularly typical of the genre. John B is known for adding a dash of Trance and more recently Electroclash to his tracks, both of which I am obviously in favour of, although that said I haven't heard his newer music, so I hope he manages to pull the latter off (trying to imitate the sounds of the 80s is hard when many of the original musicians were so good).

Jenna G on the other hand is actually a drum and bass singer. Now it's very rare for this sort of thing to reach my attention, so I assume that it's rare across the board. Much of the d'n'b that I have heard has been instrumental and very minimal (this often means it's going to be boring), so I was very intrigued by her. Judging from initial listens to her album, it's quite good, and in most cases avoids becoming repetitive, always a challenge for dance music, and I like her voice. It doesn't quite remind me of the vocal drum and bass Kosheen used to make, such as "Slip and Slide (Suicide)" which I have memories of hearing on my clock radio way back in 2000 (and which got me into that band) but it's just as infectious, I believe. Now if Britain could produce more music like this, then we would certainly be competing with the stale American "urban" music which seems to be rather popular, as I have previously lamented with reference to UK Garage. However, the small amount of British "urban" music that I have approved of (with my little knowledge of how music works) never proved to be too popular with the masses, and the artists in question have lost most of the shine they once had in order to try and actually sell some music, so I hope this doesn't happen to her. I don't want me and my flatmate to be doing our young fogey act again in a few years time if she appears on a music programme on the television. (We're both known to occasionally act like old men when discussing certain things. Top of the Pops was the best programme for bringing this out of us).

Friday, 15 June 2007

Opinion of: DJ Tiësto

I'm going to occasionally discuss outright some of the people who make the music that I listen to a lot, the games I play and maybe even beyond, to the books I read. I'm starting with DJ Tiësto because he was probably one of the first Trance musicians to attract my attention. This was because of his remix of "Silence" by Delerium and Sarah McLachlan about seven years ago (in fact, nearly exactly seven years ago, I was definitely still at secondary school). That remix was very good, although I do think that the rather less critically-acclaimed remix by Airscape has aged a little better. After that I tried to find other music by or remixed by him. His first artist album, In My Memory, was an affair of mixed quality, with the attempts at bringing some classical aspects into trance on one song ("Majik Journey") being interesting but imperfect, two of the three vocal songs being quite good ("Battleship Grey" and "In My Memory") and with one of the straight melodic trance tracks, "Suburban Train" (which is what I really want from Tiësto really) being brilliant. Quite a lot of the rest was fairly uninteresting. One cannot make an album out of tracks that might work in a club if they don't feel like songs, and too many of his others just don't go anywhere and are too long. His second album, Just Be, is more consistent. Again, it's no masterpiece, but it's definitely better. This time he's got the classical that becomes trance track bang on ("Forever Today") I quite like the vocal tracks on this one, and he's made the instrumental ones shorter and now they actually have a structure. I'm not sure if his take on "Adagio for Strings" beats his fellow Dutchman Ferry Corsten's, as it's a bit too dark and could do with bringing the melody to the fore (actually that's a fairly common problem I have with the Tiësto tracks that I don't like so much) as that piece was never written to fade into the background. I haven't got Tiësto's third album. I have one song from it, entitled "Dance 4 Life" which features Maxi Jazz, the rapper from Faithless (who is my favourite rapper by a huge margin, and Faithless are my favourite band). It is however a very poor song. Neither of these two men are living up to my expectations of them, and this has put me off buying the new album.

It is Tiësto's remixes which really make his name. There are far too many to mention. The ones I can think of at the moment which I have enjoyed are the aforementioned "Silence", Faithless' "Tarantula", Lost Witness' "Song to the Siren", Airscape's "L'esperanza" and this new one I've just found, "Mer noire" which appears to be by Cirque du soleil's musicians. I don't know what the original of that sounds like, but the remix is great.

I hope he becomes more consistent with time. Admittedly he's not so young anymore, but that's true of most of the artists I will mention, to be honest...

Friday, 25 May 2007

Ok, looks like it does exist...

Well, I actually have found a website where I can buy club music tracks individually as MP3's and listen to fairly long samples beforehand, at djdownload.com. So maybe I spoke too soon. I do feel like a bit of a geek for buying songs from there, mind you. I used to be a huge electronic music geek. Perhaps my usage of the past tense is slightly incorrect, but I used to be much worse. Whereas these days I spend far too much time looking at the Internet, reading Wikipedia and reading about politics (of all things), when I first started using the Internet I used to spend hours downloading songs, particularly dance tracks. This is one of the reasons I look back on the music of the early 2000's with such nostalgia. It's also one of the reasons I never fit in musically with my Emo and Pop-Punk loving friends, but that's not much of a problem really, it just means you have to ignore the music playing at parties (or go insane).

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

The God Fuse

This is the name of an article I've just read, headlined: "Ten things Christians and atheists can - and must - agree on." I like Pointless Waste of Time. For a website largely concerned with comedy, the author has written a few articles which seem quite insightful, and I like this one because I agree with so much of what he's saying. I'm not too surprised that he felt the need to write this article, because the internet is one place where everyone says exactly what they think, gets defensive, and goes over the top without restraint, and this leads to incredibly polarised flaming competitions on debates like this one on forums, blogs, even news websites. I notice it particularly on sites from the United States, which is why I tend to avoid American sites that discuss politics or religion, but in Britain we do the same, as you will find out if you look through the blogosphere for long enough. Which is why I usually avoid doing that, too. This however, is definitely worth a read. Check out the other stories on there too, particularly "The Monkeysphere" and "Why the 21st century is making you miserable".



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Friday, 18 May 2007

Surprising!

Relativistic Quantum Mechanics was something of a surprise in the end. One of the questions began in a way I couldn't have expected, with two problems I'm not familiar with, but luckily they were not that hard! I was able to do nearly all of my two chosen questions, and it seems that most of my friends have done the same. Our fears of not being able to answer anything have been proven to be unfounded. Always a nice thing to discover, I think. Now, two more modules are my priority, for a lovely 3-hour Monday afternoon exam slot in three days time!

I now plan on spending some time cooling down, listening to some trance (not a contradiction for me!) and reading Brave New World before I get back to revision. It's such a nice day outside that I might even go for a walk. I like enjoying scenery on a nice day with added electronic music.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

69%

My final project mark: 69%

I'm pretty pleased with that! This means I was only one percent shy of a first, and that means that I'm nearly at PhD student standard. Just as well, seeing as I'll be doing a PhD next year. This takes a bit of the sting out of the third term, I must admit.

I have another old compilation album in my possession, the Paul Oakenfold-mixed Perfecto Fluoro, which I bought last week and have been listening to extensively during revision. The album consists of two kinds of song - film soundtracks, and Goa Trance. I thought this idea was a little over-ambitious, but on listening to the album a few times, I've realised that it actually works very well. I had wondered why Oakenfold achieved "superstar" DJ status, and it appears to be due to his work during the late 90's (this album is from 1996), as he certainly wasn't anything particularly special when I got into dance music a few years later, and when he made his only album as an actual musician. So I do have a new respect for him, but only as a decent mixer, and he'll still have to do far better than that for me not to resent the kind of money he used to demand for a single set (I think it's in the order of one or two millions of pounds.) I wonder what Dantares would think about that....

Also on the subject of music, I'm very glad that the main reason that me and some friends congregated on Saturday night was for a birthday party and not the Eurovision Song Contest 2007. As I rather enjoyed 2006's show, due to the presence of an unusual number of decent songs (actually, about three) and the fact that for once the winning song was actually the best entry, this sorry collection of Euroturd was a massive let down. People have complained even more about regional bloc voting this year, but that's been emphasised due to the lack of anything that actually stood out as good, in my opinion. Either Britain should do something and force a shake-up of the way the contest is run, or we should just follow Italy and leave, and perhaps force Germany, France and Spain to pull the plug too. Let's have our own contest. I may not be a huge fan of the music from the aforementioned countries, but I'm sure that we can all do better than what I saw on Saturday.

Goodbye, project!

Now the project is all over, nothing remains. I've had my oral exam with the aid of my poster (much earlier than originally planned, after a last-minute reschedule by my supervisor) and all that remains now is to get my "feedback" on how well I've performed over the last two terms! I wish I had the time to feel satisfied before my impending exam.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

I want my glossy poster!

I've been working (for far too long) on a poster for my almost-over Final Year Project. I finally get it done yesterday, and take it to the printer today, to find that they've run out of glossy paper. Why have an A0 poster printed on normal matte paper? I want it shiny! It then turned out that there wasn't actually enough paper left at all to print my poster, so I've now got half of one rolled up in a container next to me. I have to go and do it again! How irritating!

Looks like the exams are rapidly approaching again, with my next exam on Friday the 18th. Aside from the poster presentation day, there's not much in the way over the next week, so there will be many library hours for me over the next 9 days. These will be the last exams ever, and there's less than a month to go. I'm sure the experience will be fun if I work hard enough. Good luck to anyone else in the same situation, and enjoy the time after, especially if you're a finalist and about to face the prospect of entering the real world!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

I missed that asterisk

I missed the asterisk I placed in the last entry. I was intending to define Progressive House there, but I couldn't be bothered because in dance music, trying to define genres this specific is usually pointless. So I'll let Wikipedia do it for me, see here. That was easy!

It's been a good day. I wish I could work faster though, I'm behind schedule. I'll be writing more in here soon, but not now. It's five past midnight, for crying out loud!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Old music again

I've been listening to two compilation albums that I purchased back in 2000, when I was only just sixteen, possibly even earlier. The contrast between the two is quite large. One of them is Ibiza Euphoria (2000), which is an album full of Trance and Progressive House*, mixed by Alex Gold and Robbie Nelson, two DJs that I can assure you that you are unlikely to have heard of unless you're obsessed with dance music like me. (Being British would definitely help too). The other is Kiss Garage presented by DJ Luck and MC Neat. This one is, rather obviously an album full of UK Garage, predominantly of the "2-step" variety which was so briefly popular in Britain back then. If you're British and the right age, you will have heard of those two so-called "musicians".

Euphoria is probably the best compilation I've ever bought. I don't think any album could get close, certainly not within its genre. That was a great year for Trance, and Prog. House was soon to take off, albeit for a very brief period, so the track content is very good indeed. Gold's CD, the faster of the two, mixes a lot of very good melodic trance (I have a particular weakness for this) together. Furthermore the mixing is good, and the order in which the tracks are placed is excellent. The Nelson CD has a slightly lower BPM and contains more of the Prog. House and yet still sounds just as exciting, which I have to put down, once again, to an excellent track selection and good mixing. Judging from subsequent compilations in the same series that I purchased, this album probably sucked up all of the best tracks of that summer, and it certainly casts a huge shadow over all of the others even now. My dance-loving friends are still impressed with this album, and they can easily believe its age, because we just don't get Trance this good any more.

Kiss Garage on the other hand does not stand up well as an album. This has a lot to do with Luck and Neat. DJ Luck only became a DJ by accident, and you can tell from this that it's not really his talent. His mixing is poor, and you can't get away with that in 2-step, as its full of breakbeats which clash horribly if you mess them up. The real problem however is Neat. Put simply, he should never open his mouth in front of a microphone. I don't appreciate MC's most of the time, because a lot of them do not have the spontaneity or the vocabulary required for what it is they do, but he is appallingly bad. I can't say any more, it's beyond description. Moving to the track selection, it's clear that most of these songs are still as good as they were then. For some, this is a very good thing. For others, a very bad one. I always thought UK Garage was a great idea. The good tracks are those based around songs, like Why by Mis-Teeq and Sorry by Monsta Boy. UK Garage should have been a great way of producing a distinctively British form of pop R'n'B distinct from its rapidly stagnating United States counterpart. However I realised in 2001 that lots of it was made badly and yet received plenty of attention in spite of this, a situation akin to British and American R'n'B and Hip-Hop. The same did happen with other dance music and still does, but UK Garage produced tons of absolute steaming turd and yet it still sold well. (I'm looking at you, So Solid Crew). There a quite a lot of stinkers on this compilation, which I was fully aware of at the time. The good ones are still great though. I don't know if anyone's tried to resurrect 2-step, but if a decent band could create a good pop song with a hummable tune and then bolt it to a Garage bassline and lots of breakbeats, I think it would work again. I'd buy it, anyway!

Trance doesn't really appeal to the part of me that likes pop in the same way that Garage did, so I don't know if more pop-trance would be a good thing. However, that raises all sorts of painful memories of dodgy Euro-pop, so I think that would have to be treated carefully. Trance has always appealed to the part of me that likes tunes that make your hairs stand on end, which is why I like very melodic trance, very common in 2000 but now out of fashion. I want some more of this too!

If anyone actually is reading this and sympathises with the sad man who likes obscure music, and who knows what I'm actually referring to, perhaps you could make some recommendations?

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Digitally Imported

I never properly appreciated the internet radio stations provided by Digitally Imported (www.di.fm) until very recently. I recall that I once used them for a while, several years ago. They're good if you like listening to trance, like me, and aren't going to find any from normal radio. Which, incidentally, I never listen to, given that I don't have any FM or DAB receiving equipment. So, I am slightly disturbed that licensing fees for internet radio will be decided as a function of the product of both the number of songs played and the number of listeners to the station! This is nothing like the way songs are licensed to normal radio stations, as far as I'm aware. I don't know if internet radio could continue this way. I also wonder how this affects stations based outside the United States, I'll have to look into that. When I'm not revising, that is.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Kosheen - Damage (Germany, 2007) Review

I received the new Kosheen album, Damage, in the post from Deutschland last week, and I'm very impressed with it. If they were my favourite band, if I was their greatest fan, and if I had been raving about how great they were continuously for the last four years since their previous release, I probably would have been disappointed, because it's not going to change anyone's world. The album is simply a great piece of work by a band doing what they do best, which is make good pop songs with lots of electronics added. The electronic element is very strong on this album, and I think that this is wise. The previous album did suffer from the band's relative lack of originality when faced with writing for the guitar, as opposed to using the guitar as rhythm for songs. When I saw them live, I did notice that the guitarist's ability with the electric guitar was not excessive, at least by comparison to other guitarists I know of within my limited knowledge of the instrument and its practitioners. They do not have this problem when it comes to synthesisers and keyboards, apparently, as the tunes are more varied, sounds a bit more unusual and the song structures more exciting than before. This allows the lyrics and vocals to stand out to a greater extent than was possible with the several songs on their last album which sounded too similar musically. Not that I'm going to criticise the second album, Kokopelli, too harshly, as it has one of their best songs on it (and a heavily guitar based one at that) from which the title of this blog is taken.

The only fault I really have is that the album is a few tracks too long to really be at the top of my list for great albums, as opposed to great collections of songs. They ones at the end aren't quite good enough to make you want to listen intently for a full CD, which is not a problem you would have with the first Faithless album, Reverence, with its fewer tracks of longer duration, or with an album like A Night at the Opera, by Queen, which has a sensible number of songs of a reasonable length and are of the right quality to keep you going all the way through the album and which stands out even more as a whole than as several pieces. Not many bands are going to beat Queen's 1970's period for producing great albums, I'm sorry to say. Aside from Faithless's first two, and perhaps one or two of Depeche Mode's, no album has really come close out of the bands I've really got into.

As a pop album, I think it would stand very well against other albums that have received greater commercial success, but this is actually true of most of the pop I like. Pop seems to end up being driven by the listeners, or perhaps marketing men, rather than the artists if it receives any attention and actually makes some money. So I'm quite glad that this band is perhaps free from that burden. I'm going to enjoy having this one as part of my collection, and I wish I could see them live.

However, as they're on tour during revision time, I believe my chances of getting this wish granted are slim.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

The 12 Awesomest Games of 2010 - I hope someone takes notice!

Someone should really take a look at these ideas, because they are brilliant. While they're at it, hire the guys who thought them up over on the forums at "Pointless Waste of Time" as writers and concept artists!



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It's about time

Looks like my spell of disinterest in new music (see here) is about to end, due to the (hopefully) imminent release of Kosheen's new album, Damage, which I've managed to find a preview of on a German website, here. It seems that the new album is being pushed in Germany, Austria and Switzerland without any attention in Britain at all, with it being released on the Friday the 23rd of March in Germany and no release date for Britain yet announced, so I'll have to order it from there. Thankfully this will be relatively painless thanks to the modest value of the Euro compared to the stupidly valuable pound. It's about time they released something. It's now been nearly four years! The last album was released prior to the start of my four-year degree! This makes me feel a little sad, I can remember feeling young and invincible after the A-levels.... but enough of that, I'm just looking forward to getting it now. I hope it's good. I'll be one of the few in Britain who cares, it would appear. Maybe I should check out the Teutonic music scene to see why it is they like Kosheen more...

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Nobuo Uematsu is great

Has anyone ever noticed how brilliant the Final Fantasy soundtracks are? Anyone who can compose great tunes and keep them sounding awesome through a 16-bit MIDI synth is really a genius. I particularly like the way that "One Winged Angel" from FF7 not only appeals to my liking for massively epic fight backgrounds, but also my weak spot for gothic chanting in a stagnant classical language. It doesn't get much better than this! Until you see that Uematsu is also in a rock band and plays these tracks live as well!

On a more serious note, it's been a good day for work. Tomorrow will also be a good day for work, I hope! Lots of writing to be done, lots of images to be drawn....