19 May 2010

music unpacked

This is my second CD carousel. I sold the first when I returned briefly to the UK in 2008. Since then my CDs have been boxed up in storage and the time was now right to open the boxes and get them all out. So, here they are on discreet display. The revolving shelf alone weighs over a hundred pounds and moves slowly but smoothly to give access to all four sides.

It's great to have my entire collection at my fingertips and I'm revisiting a lot of music both from the last few years and from long ago. My CD player and amplifier hide behind glass below the TV from where they also perform DVD duty. The armchair is strategically positioned between the shelf and the electronics so that I can plug in my headphones without stretching the lead uncomfortably.

My DVDs are all out on show now too. There is a nice mixture of Films, TV Drama and classic comedy. As we don't subscribe to cable or satellite, DVD viewing is almost nightly entertainment. I order British TV box sets from Amazon UK who neatly reduce the price for overseas orders to cancel VAT (British sales tax). That way if I get stung for import duty here in Canada at least I am not paying the tax twice!

08 May 2010


I like to hear every last detail in the music I listen to. I certainly want to hear the most sophisticated sound my budget will permit. I don’t think that quite qualifies me as an audiophile but it does mean I research equipment carefully before investing.

I play CDs on a NAD 541i or Cambridge Audio DVD89 player through a NAD C350 amplifier powering Bowers & Wilkins DM601 speakers. The sound is mighty impressive, clear and able to go unbelievably loud. I like to listen loud and immerse myself in the music. That was fine in my house but somewhat inappropriate for a small apartment.

I haven’t listened to music “properly” for over eighteen months. Most of my CD collection is still in storage but that is about to change. I have ordered shelving to house a lifetime's collection of CDs and DVDs and some serious listening will soon ensue. After several days reading reviews and comparing prices I opted for a pair of Beyer DT770 Pro headphones. I scoured the globe for the best prices, yet remarkably found the best deal in a local professional music showroom only five minutes from home.

I’d like to describe the aural pleasure these headphones supply but I can’t do it justice. Suffice to say they breathe new life into music. For the technically minded: the dynamic range is 5Hz to 35,000Hz, meaning they reveal the deepest rumbles and the highest squeaks! Source material CDs sound rich and full while even mp3 files with average compression leap out to be taken notice of. These are “closed-back” headphones which isolate the listener from ambient sounds and prevent leakage of music even to someone sat beside you; excellent for apartment living with two small children.

Six years ago I bought a pair of Sennheiser HD590 headphones. They brought my CD collection to life, in a slightly less private way. They are open-backed which the purists say is far better; more like listening in the real world. The dynamic range of the Sennheisers is 12Hz to 38,000 Hz but the difference from the Beyers is not noticeable. The big difference is that people in the same room get treated to your music and you can hear ambient sounds clearly. Both pairs reproduce music faithfully and with the intricate detail I love. On balance I prefer the isolation of the closed-back Beyers.

01 May 2010

after the slaughter of mary jane kelly

Whitechapel 9th November 1888
It is over.
The empty, broken corpse of an Irish rose lies on grey sheets drenched in its own blood. The radiant beauty of youth hacked away, leaving in its place a carcase devoid of organs and a face stripped of identity. Exhausted and stripped to the waist, he stands tall and stares at the carnage in a detached way. The embers of her open fire still light up the horror but already his fury has waned. He picks his great coat from the floor then rolls his knife in a rag and stows it in the pocket.
As he crouches and stokes the embers he hears the creak of floorboards above. Sweat runs on his face but he pulls on the coat, covering his slick body. He thumbs the door latch off, clicks the door softly shut behind him and slips into the early morning dark.
He takes care, turning up his sticky collar. Even at this hour Londoners are about their business. Pools of dim gaslight illuminate street corners but the narrow lanes are black and safe. Head down, he passes a group of lurching revellers, hats askew and bumping walls in a passage. Moving south from Whitechapel Road he mixes with the first dockers but turns east at Wapping. He runs through dark alleys in shadow, fleeing the devastation his hands have wrought.
After a mile he slows his pace and stops to lean on a wall. Nausea overwhelms him as usual. Soon he will put great distance between himself and the Inspector’s inquiries but first he must sleep. In the corner of a dark yard he curls on the cobbles and shuts his eyes for an hour.
Morning reveals a cold grey mist settled over the hulking iron steamers in St Katherine’s Dock. Already, emigrant passengers are filing nervously over the gangway, shifting heavy cases from one hand to the other. Amid the clangs and shouts a tall man passes onto the upper deck, almost unremarkable save for the streak of blood behind his ear. He sits on deck and looks back at the City.
How easy to have tied a sack of rocks to his ankle and jumped from Westminster Bridge in the night, to have sunk into the icy brown Thames and ended this. But his wretched cowardice had spurned that solution long ago. Bile rises in his throat as he remembers her whimpering pleas for mercy.
A shudder in the ship’s timbers tells him the steamer is moving. As she turns in the basin her deep horn bellows over the East End. The echoes cannon off warehouses and ring across open water, yet even as they subside his keen senses catch the shrill persistence of a Metropolitan police whistle announcing a dread discovery. Too late. In two weeks he will be just one more unknown strolling through New York with a knife in his pocket.