Friday, September 22, 2017

Podcasts

Over the past few years I've started listening to a lot of Podcasts.  I always liked listening to the radio although I didn't always find the broadcast shows to be very exciting.  Podcasts are homemade radio shows that you can download and listen to at a time that suits you.  They also often cover more offbeat or esoteric subjects that appeal to me.

Mostly I listen to real life mystery podcasts, American political podcasts (mainly ones about Trump), Twin Peaks related podcasts and comic book podcasts.  And the Private Eye podcasts.

One of the first mystery style I started to listen to was Thinking Sideways - in this podcast three presenters take turns to present a mystery every week and discuss various theories on what went on.  The first episode that I listened to was on the 'Glasgow effect'.

Another slightly more fantastical podcast that I enjoy is Astonishing Legends - this podcast goes into strange tales in a great degree of detail.  They exude an X-Files type vibe and they are often rather credulous but the production values are good and I enjoy the shows.

From a comic book point of view Fatman on Batman produced by Clerks director Kevin Smith as part of his Smodcast empire is a good starting point (if you like Batman).  The early episodes in the archive are great, often focusing on individual comic book writers or artists and Batman related stuff. More recently the podcast has developed into a general forum for discussion of sic-fi, superheroes and anything Smith wants to talk about.

The Stuff You Should Know network has several good podcasts including Stuff They Don't Want You To Know and Stuff to Blow Your Mind (both of which have a sort of counterculture vibe) as well as the more mainstream, flagship Stuff You Should Know series.  All of these are fairly interesting.

In terms of Trump bashing Trumpcast is fairly funny and a good place to start.  The Pod Save America team have more White House connections and often have serious guests on to interview although they are often pretty funny too.

No Such Thing As A Fish  was one of the first podcasts I listened to, a spin off from the BBC QI series, where strange facts are discussed in an amusing manner every week.  It's good for a smile every now and again.

There are many more podcasts to check out - a few more are below
Page 94 - The Private Eye Podcast
The 2000AD Progcast - some great 2000AD chat
The Politico Nerdcast
A Twin Peaks Podcast

Enjoy

Frank Quitely at Glasgow Kelvingrove

I visited the Frank Quitely exhibition at the Glasgow Kelvingrove Museum for the second time today.  I'd been lucky enough to be invited to the opening night a few months ago and I wanted to have a slower walk around the show when it was a bit quieter.  The show finishes on the 1st of October so a bonus Friday off work gave me the perfect opportunity to visit the show.

Quitely is the pen name for Scottish artist Vincent Deighan, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art who has ended up being one of the most admired comic book artists in the world.  He seems to have fallen into comic book art after trying to find work as a commercial artist in Glasgow in the late 1980s.  His first published work was in the first issue of Scottish underground comic/Viz rip off Electric Soup.  I actually bought that comic when it came out and I really liked his strip The Greens although the actual comic was quickly confiscated and disposed of by my dad.

The Greens was a parody of the Broons, a perennial Scottish comic strip favourite initially drawn by Dudley D Watkins for DC Thompson in Dundee.  Watkins also created Oor Wullie and Desperate Dan amongst others.  The exhibition showcases some of Quitely's early Green's art as well as original Watkins art from the 30's, 40's and 50's.  I was particularly impressed by the painted cover art from one of the first Broons annuals.

On this visit I made full use of the audiovisual parts of the exhibition.  There were interviews with Quitely as well as his most famous (and fellow Glaswegian) collaborators Grant Morrison and Mark Millar.  It was interesting to hear them talk about developing story lines, character design and art techniques.  Quitely also highlights his own artistic development, highlighting art from a rejected Lobo comic as well as the rejection letter from the DC editor that helped him to re-evaluate his artistic approach to comic book storytelling.

The exhibition highlights the working methods of a comic book artist, often starting with doodles and thumbnail sketches on a comic script then developing through progressively more polished drafts until the final coloured and polished art appears in the printed book.

Morrison and several of the other talking heads in the films talk about how good he is.  At one point, after starting to work on the X-Men comic at the start of the century, a lot of comic book fans were expressing their dislike for Quietly's art.  A concerned editor asked him if it was hurting his feelings.  Quitely, was impressive self knowledge as well as self confidence, said that he knew more about art than these fanboys and he knew he was good so he didn't care.  He was right.

I've met Quitely a few times over the years.  He's a nice bloke.  He's drawn sketches for me and he has signed my books.  He has produced many pages of beautiful comic book art and he has worked with some great writers.  He deserved this show at one of Glasgow's finest buildings as he is one of Glasgow's finest modern artists.

I'd love to visit it again but it's finishing pretty soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Jackie Leven should have been more famous

Ian Rankin regularly references Jackie Leven in his books.  I never really know his music.  Rankin eventually recorded a CD with him and curated (I think) a free CD that came with a music magazine a while back.  That CD was my first exposure to the music of Jackie Leven, and it was pretty good.

More recently, a Leven shaped light bulb went off above my head.  I'm not entirely sure why but I decided to listen to some more of his stuff on youtube and some of it really clicked.  Tracks like 'My Spanish Dad' and 'The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ' really say something to me. 'My Spanish Dad', in particular, pulls my heart strings and often brings a tear to my eye for personal reasons.

Leven was a great talent but he never became famous.  In the late 60s he started to make music, initially releasing an album under the name John St Field, on a Spanish record label in 1975.  He then fronted the new wave band Doll by Doll.  Sadly their music is not easily available in physical formats not.  He was badly assaulted in 1984, losing his voice and he was subsequently addicted to heroin for a while.  He collaborated with Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols in the band CBI in around 1988 before   leaving the public eye for a while.

He returned to music making publicly in 1994 and released more than 20 records before his death from cancer in 2011. He played folk with a contemporary feel, employing samples with his acoustic guitar.

There is a lot of music and I have certainly not heard much of it.  It is worth dipping a toe in.  The Rankin curated CD was called 'Heroes can come in any size' and came with The Word magazine.  It's also available in MP3 format from Amazon.

He should have been a household name.

Updates and maintenance of the blog

I've been doing a bit of updating of the blog, I was considering a new theme but I'm going to keep this one for now.

I did update the Cool Stuff section a bit click here to read the updated cool stuff page

Life is busy and I always have a lot going on but I do enjoy playing about with this blog at times.

RIP Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton had a good innings.  He has died at the age of 91 after recently appearing in Twin Peaks: The Return.  I remember him best from great films like Repo Man and Alien.

Listening to the tributes on BBC Radio 4 this morning I realise that he has appeared in many more great films.  Pretty in Pink is a great film but I don't remember Stanton in it.  I don't remember him in Godfather Part II but he was there.

By all accounts he was a great actor.

RIP.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Twin Peaks - The Return

The revival of Twin Peaks has been rather exciting for me.  I've gone to fairly extreme lengths to try and see it on a weekly basis and overall it has been pretty satisfying.  As a teenager I watched the original Twin Peaks as it was broadcast on BBC2.  It fascinated me back then.  I think I'd already seen a couple of Lynch films by then and I did my best to see a lot of his other work after that.

The original Twin Peaks finished on a cliff hanger, with Agent Cooper trapped in another detention while his evil doppelgänger, possessed by the evil BOB entity, smashing his head into a mirror.

The show finished and was followed by the Fire Walk With Me film that was a bit of a box office flop.  Last year Mark Frost released a great book called 'The Secret History of Twin Peaks' that added a lot of colour and richness to the Twin Peaks universe without giving away much about the new series.  The book served to whet my appetite for new Twin Peaks.  I was not disappointed.

Lynch is a pretty unique film maker.  His work, from Eraserhead on, is different.  He views the world in a different ways and he expresses himself differently.  In Twin Peak - The Return (TPTR from now on) he has been able to run riot with his creative urges.  The initial 2 hours of the series had little relevance to what had happened before although TPTR is a direct continuation of the original storyline.  Lynch will let scenes run for longer than many film makers would tolerate, creating new and different rhythms in his work.  His use of sound is creative and his solutions for replacing actors who are no longer available (for a variety of reasons) are novel to say the least.  One actor he has fallen out with has been replaced with a talking silver christmas tree and the character of Philip Jeffries, played in the Fire Walk With Me (FWWM) film by David Bowie, was portrayed by a giant talking kettle (with the approval of Bowie before he died).

Kyle Maclachlan, Agent Dale Cooper and alumnus of many Lynch works plays 3 characters in TPTR.  Agent Cooper appears only sparingly although the malevolent doppelgänger, Mr C is a more regular oppressive presence throughout the series.  Maclachlan also supplies comedy relief in the form of a third Cooper variant, Dougie E, thought the series.

Many of the original cast return and the cult status of Twin Peaks has ensured the presence of many talented actors as well as an excellent soundtrack with performances from Nine Inch Nails and Eddie Vedder amongst others.  Lynch himself appears as FBI director Gordon Cole supplying additional comedy.

TPTR made me laugh and cry.  It contains genuinely disturbing scenes as well as amazingly heartwarming moments.  Lynch does not take prisoners and he does not explain his work.  A lot is left open to interpretation and many questions are left unanswered.  Overall I was satisfied but greedily I want more.  The are endings, one good heroic ending and another bleak, potentially apocalyptic ending.  We may have seen the end of the Agent Cooper/Laura Palmer story but there is room for more tales from the Twin Peaks universe.  We would all like to know what has happened to Audrey.

I want to watch this again and see if my understanding changes.  I feel lucky to have seen this and I can't wait for Mark Frost's next Twin Peaks book 'The Final Dossier' which may answer some stuff.

Lynch and Frost have created a masterpiece that people will struggle to understand for years.  Some folk with think it is pretentious bullshit.  I'm not sure what it is but I enjoyed the ride.

For an interesting interpretation of the ending look at https://www.waggish.org/2017/twin-peaks-finale/

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A confederacy of dunces by John Kennedy Toole

I finally got round to reading A confederacy of dunces, finishing it yesterday, on my birthday, on a plane home from Italy.  It's a great book and it's easy to see why it won a posthumous Pulitzer prize for John Kennedy Toole.  It's also easy to see why the book is considered to be unfilmable.  The horror of Ignatius J Reilly would be difficult to capture in the flesh.

I didn't really know what to expect when I picked up the book.  For some reason I thought it was meant to be a story about a newspaperman but the actual story of an arrogant fat slob causing chaos in New Orleans was equally appealing.  Ignatius is a brilliant character, prefiguring both Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons and internet trolls by several decades.

It's a crazy ride with a constant feeling that the piss is being taken.  I'm glad I finally managed to read it and I would recommend glancing at it at some time.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A music course at East Kilbride Art Centre approximately 25 years ago

I was using Twitter this evening and said 'hi' to Davie Scott of the band The  Pearlfishers. He had tweeted a link about Brian Wilson and that brought back memories of a music production course that I attended about 25 years ago (roughly) that Davie taught in the East Kilbride art centre. I loved that course, I learnt a lot and even though I seldom make music nowadays it was a valuable experience.

At that time there was a small digital recording studio in the Art Centre and Davie recorded local bands like Gods Boyfriend. I was a music addict back then and I played in my juvenile punk band with some of my pals. My best friend from school and I signed up to the course to learn more about making music and it was great.

Davie had done some good stuff with the Pearlfishers as well as his earlier group (love and money I think  CORRECTION - hearts and minds!) and he was spreading the gospel of perfect pop to the grunge addled minds of EK. He was not the only person of interesting the course.  There was an older guy, a drummer, a contemporary of the Jesus and Mary Chain, who had apparently played in an early permutation of the Mary Chain and some band with the guy out of the Wildhearts and sadly suffered from mental health problems.  The bloke was a really nice guy with great stories but in retrospect some of his stories may have been delusions.  Back then I didn't know much about mental health problems and in the 25 years since then I've learned more through my various professional studies and personal contacts. I like to think that his story was true and he did play with the Mary Chain and that Never Understand was indeed about him trying to explain his psychotic episodes to William Reid.

Davie Scott himself is a man with a deep love and understanding of music and he was able to clearly explain this to the class. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was his hero and he taught us about various production techniques, arrangements and the rivalry between Wilson and the Beatles. I remember one session when Davie went through God Only Knows from Pet Sounds chord by chord, explaining harmonies, melodies, lyrics and arrangements, presenting to us a great argument that Wilson had created the perfect pop song. He may be right although 'Wouldn't it be nice' is a bit more catchy.

Music has been important in my life. It is not all of my life but it has been a major theme and a source of pleasure. I've played my guitar a few times this week for the first time in ages, just for fun. I always mean to write and record some songs  again but real life and its associated pressures always gets in the way.  I have a lot of passions, my girlfriend, music, comic books, neurology, art. I'm a lucky man.  I'm lucky to have had such a rich life so far.

East Kilbride was special at times. I remember playing concerts in the Arts Centre, seeing the great Alex Chilton of  Big Star play there and seeing my pals play there. My teenage life was at times electric and colourful and it is nice o remembered the good bits.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

things that happened that I would not have expected 20 years ago

The world is a strange place and you can't predict the future.  I've been about for a while now and I realise that a lot of unexpected things have happened.

Some of the oddest things - in no real order
Preacher being made into a TV show
Ant Man being a live action film
Guardians of the Galaxy being a live action film
7 Star Wars films being made in the last 20 years
Twin Peaks returning to TV after 25 years
Mogwai going from playing the Key Youth Centre in East Kilbride to playing the Hydro in Glasgow
Rangers Football Club going into administration
Woolworths and Safeways no longer being on the high street in Scotland
Netflix and youtube
Every song ever being available instantly on the internet
Me doing the job I'm doing and living the life I'm living

The world in a strange and brilliant place at times