Sunday, 13 May 2018

Feynman at 100.

This weekend marks what would be the 100th birthday of legendary American physicist Richard P. Feynman. In a world in which many people think of the socially awkward Sheldon Cooper in the television show The Big Bang Theory as being a typical scientist, Feynman was the quite the opposite. And he should be remembered as one of the most brilliant and impactful physicists of the 20th century.
The public met him in his 1985 book Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, in which he regaled the reader with anecdotes of a colorful and well-enjoyed life. Feynman was a bon vivant, with an affinity for samba music, art, strip clubs and playing the bongos. He was also a successful ladies' man.
There are those who have claimed that he was sexist, but the truth is subtler. He encouraged his sister to study physics, he advocated for both male and female students, and in the 1970s he supported a fellow female faculty member who he felt had been discriminated against due to gender. (She won her lawsuit in part due to his backing.) He certainly was a product of his time, but his attitudes towards women were not unusual for the era.
Feynman was certainly one of the most brilliant scientific minds of the 20th century, with an impact eclipsed perhaps only by Einstein. He was born in Queens, New York, to immigrant parents. His advanced academic life began when he attended college at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by graduate study at Princeton University, where he achieved a perfect score on the physics entrance exams. The bulk of his career was spent at Cornell University and California Institute of Technology.
His incredibly fertile mind generated many innovative ideas in physics, but his most renowned work was in helping to craft the theory of Quantum Electro Dynamics, or QED. QED is an advanced theory of electromagnetism and it incorporates quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of special relativity. This esoteric theory explains the behavior of subatomic particles under extreme conditions and is the fundamental underpinning of all modern physics theories. It was originally formulated in 1948 by a coterie of theoretical physicists.
Feynman made many important technical additions to the theory, but probably his most impactful contribution was what are now called Feynman diagrams. Feynman diagrams are just little cartoons that show how subatomic particles interact. Basically, they are little stick figures, the simplest of which show two particles approaching one another, then one of them shoots a third particle at the other, and then both particles recoil and move off in a different direction.
The brilliance behind Feynman diagrams is that each line in the stick figure comes with an associated mathematical equation. And now that means that anybody can draw a series of these cartoons for any imagined subatomic interaction and then a sufficiently trained scientist could convert the diagrams to equations and then solve them. Certainly, Feynman diagrams made it much easier to learn this very advanced physics for me and others of my generation.
Feynman's contribution to the development of QED led to the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics, shared with Julian Schwinger and Shinichiro Tomonaga.
Feynman's ability to simplify and clarify ideas are exemplified in what are now called the Feynman Lectures. These lectures were given in 1961 -- 1963 at Caltech and are perhaps the most famous set of pedagogical physics presentations ever given. The intended audience is physics students and not casual scholars, but they are fascinating reading and well worth your time if you want to learn physics from the master.
He also served on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. The Challenger exploded shortly after it launched on a cold January day. Although seriously ill with cancer, Feynman wanted to get to the bottom of the tragedy. It was suggested to him by people with technical knowledge of the engineering of the space shuttle that O-ring gaskets used to seal joints between shuttle components were not tested at low temperatures. During a televised hearing, Feynman -- who always had a flair for the dramatic -- dipped a sample O-ring in ice water and then showed that it lost its ability to seal cracks. It was eventually concluded that O-ring failure was the root cause of the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger, along with the entire crew.
Reading of Feynman's free-wheeling life can be fun, but that's not what he was really about. Instead, his true legacy can be found in his writings, both technical and those aimed at the community of non-scientists. It might be said that his guiding principle was to seek the truth, whatever it might be, and to be open to the idea that you might be wrong. Perhaps he said it most succinctly in his essay, Cargo Cult Science. He wrote that "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." It's a good, timely reminder for all of us.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark X

Friday, 13 April 2018

We hate it when our friends become successful. (And if they're Northern, that makes it even worse!)

Forriner is the new handle for Newcastle's very own Lee Forster and Oli Warriner. The pair, perhaps better known for their individual projects, Last Waltz and Traela, have now joined forces and are working under this brand new, box fresh moniker. Lee was responsible for the now infamous 'Dada' parties he ran alongside Geoff “Man Power” Kirkwood and Mick Rolfe (also of Last Waltz) which brought a spectacularly diverse guest DJ’s to the city during its lifetime. The likes of Chida, Kento, Felix Dickinson and I-F to name a handful, all touched down at some point at the raucous, and now legendary parties. The three of them have since gone on to play clubs, festivals and parties far and wide, home and abroad, from Tel Aviv, Berlin, Lithuania, and Croatia. Lee has also held down a longstanding residency at Tokyo in Newcastle for over 15 years and been pivotal to the scene in the north east from way, way back with involvement in pretty much every other club in the area that was worth its salt, with his name attached to the likes of Reverb, Method Lounge, Hipcheck and Hold It Down.
Back in 2014, Oli, finding himself increasingly tired of the run of the mill club nights in the city, began the running and organising of a series of secret parties which would later develop into the record label he owns today. Tunnyl Records is an amalgamation of the many different avenues Oli takes his influence from, not being bound by specific genres or confined to one style. This bold outlook gave him freedom to contact artists and release music brought to his attention through word of mouth and hard work as opposed to those riding current trends and hype.
Which brings us slap bang up to date! After meeting each other through their contributions to the Newcastle music scene and having successfully put out solo material on heavyweights such as ESP Institute, Mule Musiq, Let’s Play House, Tusk Wax and Hhatri, the duo decided to recently combine as Forriner. Their first releases for Futureboogie Recordings and Man Power’s MeMeMe have seen them off to a strong start picking up airplay on BBC Radio 1. Now, the pair have decided to start their own record label - Forriner Music. The ethos of the label being to always move forward, always releasing music that they like, outside of conventional genre boundaries. And that's enough to get us here at TOLAS excited!

The Condor EP is the first release from their brand new imprint, 'Forriner Music' The release features two Forriner originals and collects remixes from underground heavyweights, Perseus Traxx and Frank Butters which you can stream below.

You can follow Forriner on Facebook, here.
You can follow Forriner on Soundcloud, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Man(kind) Power.

Good news, people! As humanity slips further down the universal U-bend it's always thoroughly bloody brilliant when there's even the tiniest speck of hope that not everyone you know is an utter shithouse. My mate, Fat Geoff who has made a career from being a middlingly talented record producer and aggressively average DJ is releasing a compilation album made up of tracks by infinity more talented, and better looking, people than him (I've heard the whole record so I can vouch for that!)
Now that alone is good news for music lovers but to make it double lovely, the whole thing has been a long-gestating project to help refugee charities, so you should DEFINITELY ruch out and buy it as soon as it's out. As a bonus I’m assured that he gets nowt from it as he’s an awful, awful bastard. X

The album will be available from the 4th of May on Man Power's most excellent 'MeMeMe' label

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Thoughts On Love And Smoking Podcast #19: Bernhard Tobola.

Bernhard Tobola is something of a legend in certain circles. He's long been a fixture of the Vienna scene, co-organizing events and parties like Erdbahnkreuzer, Tingel Tangel, Cosmic Serpent, Walden and Parken. His DJ sets surf a hedonistic wave on the edge of Italo Disco, Cosmic Disco and Acid House. Regularly playing on the likes of Amsterdam's Red Light Radio and guesting at Sameheads and the Comp Cosmic festival in Germany. I came across a handful of mixes of his a few years back while trawling through Soundcloud and he's been a firm favourite of mine since.
Now, after much haranguing and persuasion he's kindly taken the time out to put a selection together for the TOLAS podcast series and it certainly doesn't disappoint!

"What can we expect from a Bernhard Tobola set?" The DJ draws us a picture.

"An Italian night at the end of a summer day in the eighties. People arrive at the lake Garda in their Citroen DS's. The trees are decorated with syringes and the DJs playing some weird electronica mix from a booth, shaped like a space ship."

Well, this is it. Tune in and let them take you to a starlit beach where the cocktails are always cold and the Milky Way shines brightly overhead. This ones a killer!

Follow Bernhard on Soundcloud HERE.
Follow Bernhard on Mixcloud HERE.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Thoughts On Love And Smoking Podcast #18: Kirsty P.

We've been a little remiss here at TOLAS for the last couple of months as far as our podcasts have been concerned, but now that Christmas, and January,,,, and a good chunk of February is out of the way we've given ourselves a good old boot up the rump and the gears are once again beginning to turn at the HQ. As such we thought we'd lay something extra special out for you this time round and we're pretty sure this mix fits the bill perfectly. 75 minutes of immaculately curated sonic goodness from a lady who's rapidly becoming one of our very favourite selectors, Kirsty P.
Kirsty has been making all the right noises of late with a handful of excellent podcasts for the likes of Something Spaceial, Serial Experiments, Esters as well as a stellar take for the NSA mix series which featured in our best of 2017 list. As a result Kirsty has been collecting an increasingly busy gig schedule as a result playing around the country as well as further afield. You can catch Kirsty on the 28th of April up in Edinburgh for Finitribe Presents, then at the mighty Alfresco Festival at the end of May.
But first things first! Dig into this beauty and lose yourself to the world of wild rhythms. X

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Saturday, 30 December 2017

It's the end of the year as we know it...

Well, unless you've spent 2017 full of mogadon and lager, you may well have noticed that the previous 12 months have been a quite wretched time. It's safe to say that its been about as much fun as being booted into a pit of broken glass covered in dog shit. With this in mind I'm going to wisely leave the geopolitical deconstruction to the broadsheets, Charlie Brooker, Frankie Boyle et al. Here at TOLAS we'll stick to what was actually a rather glorious year for music.
Songs and albums only tell part of the story of a given calendar year, but the best DJs can lend an additional context and depth. I find that mixes can help you understand unseen connections between disparate sounds and scenes — the way that only the best DJ's can. Whether it's cutting-edge electronica, nostalgic Balearia, old school techno and EBM or new wave weirdness. These are, in no particular order, our favourites of 2017.
Hope you enjoy some or all of them, and here's to a wonderous 2018. X

1: Young Marco. RA 571.

2: Vladimir Ivkovic. Live at Dekmantel 2017.

3: Solar: 10 Years of Huntleys & Palmers.

4: Lena Willikens. Live at Dekmantel 2017.

5: Manfredas: Renate Podcast 39.

6: Joe Gill & Alex Gryzbowski. Outlaws Yacht Club on KMAH, 11.07.17.

7: Kirsty P. NSA Guest Mix 29.

8: Andrew Thomson. Nasty Age Of Loving mixtape.

9: Nosedrip. Dekmantel Podcast 87.

10: Black Merlin at Strange Sounds From Beyond 2017.

11: Standeasy. Mind Garden #1.

Happy new year. Big love.
Mark. X

Thursday, 16 November 2017

10 things which made you look NAILS at school!

Tough guys in the 70's and 80's: for whatever reason it was important that we all looked and acted like Darth Vader, Mr. T, Chuck Norris, Peter Sutcliffe and the criminals of the day, despite being ten years old and the owner of a Transformers/Zoids lunchbox.
At our school, it was imperative that we gave the impression of A) not giving a fuck what anyone thought of us (especially teachers) and B) being able to roundhouse kick anyone in the school into the middle of next week. It also helped if we could project the aura of someone who carried guns, and who had the Hell’s Angels on speed-dial (assuming our mums let us use the phone).
Because we were all idiots, we used to take our cues from the popular TV shows and movies of the day, thinking that if we just copied whatever punk, tough guy or shit gang member (I’m looking at you cast of Beat Street!) was on the screen at the time, then their street cred would rub off on us. If we acted like them and did the following things, then our enemies would run and hide in a bin when they saw us coming.
It never worked. All that happened was that we either got lamped, laughed at or told off by grown ups.

1. Wearing a leather jacket:
Wearing a leather jacket instantly made you invincible. This was because of a special chemical injected into the leather that made people cross the road when they saw you coming.
Not that any of us had leather jackets. We had kagouls and coats with velcro fasteners.
Also, biker gangs all wore leather jackets and had names like ‘Groin’ and ‘Pissface’. I think the plan in the back of our minds was to somehow acquire a leather jacket/hat/socks/anything, and then people would mistake our Choppers and Grifters for actual motorbikes. This would mean we’d officially be ‘hard’, and no one would bully us and call us a shit for brains while nipping us.

2. Putting your hand through a bunsen burner dead quick.
What could be more dangerous and hard than putting your hand in a fire? All the hard kids at school would regularly spend entire chemistry lessons waving their hands around in the bunsen burner flame instead of doing any work. This was massively impressive to onlookers until they actually tried it themselves.
Since I wrote that bit, it has come to my attention that my brother is also suitably impressed by this, having never done it himself at his posh knob school.
I don’t remember exactly how you did it, but there was a certain part of the flame you could wave your hand through, and it didn’t hurt or burn you. Obviously, once everyone got wise to the trick, we would just crowd round the bunsen burners waiting for our turn to do this. Thus, the awesomeness of the trick was relegated to being about as clever as doing that thing where you wave your pen and it goes bendy.

3. Saying 'Bloody Mary' into a mirror three times.
the bogs at my school, you could shut the door and turn the lights off, and then the only light would be through the small panel of glass in the door. This was handy because the mirror in the toilets was haunted, but only when it was dark enough.
Once you and your mates were successfully alone in the toilets, one of you was nominated to summon the evil spirit in the mirror. This was done by staring into the mirror (usually with your face pressed up against it, for some reason), and saying ‘Bloody Mary’ three times. No one knows exactly what happened on the third go because no one ever got that far. However, we did have some scary paranormal encounters even before completing the ritual. These included:

– “That mirror DEFINITELY moved!”
– All running out of the toilets screaming
– One of the teachers barging in, thus breaking the sacred atmosphere of the toilets
– “FUCK! I saw something in the mirror!”
– All starting to cry and shitting our pants

4. Tattoos.
When I was a kid tattoos did not enjoy the mainstream popularity they do now; you hardly ever saw technicolour butterflies, fairies and out of context Chinese words. Back then, people generally had things like ‘TWOC’ and 'ACAB' stabbed into their forehead using a compass.
Therefore, having a tattoo meant instant bad points. Unfortunately, we never had much luck with convincing tattoo parlours that we were eighteen when we were ten, so we had to resort to other means.
Step forward temporary tattoos. For a few pence, we could buy all kinds of shit designs to plaster on our arms and faces. These were better than our other option, which was to scribble on ourselves with a biro. Temporary tattoos also lasted a bit longer than biro – sometimes up to a whole day before bits started falling off into your cereal.
However, temporary tattoos had one flaw – these were the kinds of designs you could get, which were less badass than 'THUG LIFE' or 'FUCK THE POLICE".

5. Listening to heavy metal.
Along with dying your hair, listening to loud, 'headbanger' music was something only degenerates did. According to my Mum and Dad.
When you consider the alternatives I had as a kid – Showaddywaddy, Darts, and my ‘Importance Of Being Ernest’ play on tape, it’s easy to see why rock music was the answer to my tough guy problem.
The best way to listen to rock music was obviously to carry it round in a huge ghetto blaster, so everyone around you knew how hard you were. If, like me, you didn’t have a ghetto blaster and stood no chance in hell of ever getting one, then your other option was to listen to it on full volume using your MASSIVE yellow plastic walkman and some really shitty headphones. This meant everyone around you could still enjoy the benefit of your music.
Obviously, it was hard to get your parents to buy you albums with names like ‘Fucked in the skull’ and ‘Bloodletting Cuntz’, so you might have had to rely on your older siblings’ taste in music. Thank you, sister 1 for liking Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper. Sister 2 not so much, with your Cliff Richard tapes. Going through a phase of liking one Twister Sister song does not excuse that.

6. Chewing gum.
Favoured by punks, yobbos and general disturbers of the peace the world over, chewing gum was, in our tiny minds, the ultimate symbol of disobedience. In order to successfully utilise your packet of Hubba Bubba or Juicy Fruit, you had to do the following –
– Chew at all times, even while sleeping and eating
– Chew while talking
– Blow huge bubbles while teachers were talking to you
– Adopt a strange 'Nu Yoik' accent when you talk while chewing the gum
– When (inevitably) ordered to get rid of your chewing gum, swallow your gum in one final act of defiance.
The downside to swallowing your chewing gum, of course, is that it will stay in your stomach for seven years. We all know someone who knows someone who died because their stomach got filled up with chewing gum, and their poo ended up coming back up out of their mouth.

7. Doing graffiti.
All the rad/bad kids on tv had cans of spray paint about their persons. People like err, the shite gang members in Breakdance 1 & 2, Death Wish, and well… that’s it. When you cared nothing for the world or authority, it was a good idea to express yourself by doing  wee bit of angsty art on a wall. Not on your desk though, because your teacher would walk past and see you doing it, then you’d have to spend your breaktime cleaning it off while Mr Rhodes the caretaker looked on and tutted.
For ultimate bad points, the thing to do was spray some swears on a wall while chewing gum and listening to your ghetto blaster. However, the chances of us acquiring any spray paint were slim to none, given that they only sold it at B & Q, and you had to pay money for it. So we used the next best thing – our trusty felt tips.
Unfortunately, it takes a lot of skill to do anything resembling a passable bit of graffiti. The general difference between the graffiti in our heads vs the graffiti we ended up with was quite dipserate. So we’d usually just fall back on writing rude words on the cubicles in the netties, or on one brick round the back of a petrol station where no one ever goes. That’ll show them.

8. Wearing sunglasses indoors.
Some people were actually so hard that they didn’t even need to see where they were going, they could just walk wherever they wanted, and people and buildings would get out of their way.
You had to be sure to wear the right kind of sunglasses though. Red Mickey Mouse ones generally didn’t count, and neither did cardboard 3D glasses. You also had to memorise the layout of a room before putting your sunglasses on, otherwise you were likely to walk straight into the wall. Only someone with the effortless cool of Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones had the ability to make walls get out of his way.

9. Watching Horror Films (Pretending to watch horror films).
Given that most kids at our school had never seen any horror movies ever (apart from maybe 'Critters'), we had carte blanche to wow our friends with tales of having watched our 20th horror movie of the week, because our parents got it out of the video shop for us, AND they let us stay up until 3am on a school night.
This was not what really happened. But the other kids didn’t know that. Therefore, major cool points were to be had by claiming to have watched Friday The 13th, Halloween, and some films you’d made up, such as ‘Horses With Drills’, and ‘Killed In The Head’. The more elaborate and gory your made up movies were, the better. For example:
“Last night I watched ‘Eyeball Piss Murder’. There was one scene in it where a man cut another man’s head off with scissors, but the head stayed alive and bit the guy’s knob off, and then blood spurted everywhere and a portal to hell opened.”

10. Swearing.
This was good because you didn’t need any specialist training, clothing or equipment to do swearing. You also didn’t have to risk opening a portal to hell, which was handy. All you needed was a decent enough arsenal (lol ‘arse’) of swears, and you too could look like Dirty Harry, Rambo or similar.
Obviously, some of the more advanced and sophisticated language was unknown to us as kids. Words like ‘fuck’ and ‘twat’ were alien to us, but we knew enough. Our words of choice were:

Piss, Hell, Damn, Bum, Willy, Boobies (especially when spelt out on a calculator), Fanny.

Obviously, ‘piss’ was right at the top of this hierarchy, reigning supreme as king of the swears. Telling someone to ‘piss off’ was extremely hard and clever, as was putting your hand up in class and yelling “Miss, miss, I need a piss”. Obviously, this was for advanced badassery only. Little did we know that all we had to do in the end to look hard was kick a person in the shins.

Now we wouldn't put you through all that boring reading stuff without just enough sweet to outweigh the sour would we? In this case, the sugar that's helping the medicine down is this little mix I found down the back of an old hard-drive. Many years ago, myself and a geezer from the posh bit of Wallsend called Geoff, (he may have been fat then, I can't remember) probably better known these days as 'Man Power', used to run a half arsed blog/party called 'Tourist'. We were lazy and wildly unsuccessful but one good thing we did, after much coercing and not a few threats of physical violence, was to persuade Sean Johnson and Andrew Weatherall to bring their 'A Love From Outer Space' party up the road to Newcastle and play in our mates bar one cold Thursday night in December 2011. I believe it was the first time they'd done ALFOS outside of Stoke Newington and because of this I'm going to take full responsibility for any success they had after that!
Seriously though, it was a great night and we were lucky enough to capture most of it on the above recording. As an extra bonus, I think you might even get 9  minutes of my AMAZING warm up set at the beginning, but don't let that put you off. Dig in and enjoy a little bit of history.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X