Saturday, December 30, 2017

The year in review

2017 has been a difficult year in a lot of ways.  Between the death of my father and various other challenges it has been stuff.  To balance this out, in other ways, on a personal level it has been a brilliant year.  Good and bad, light and dark.  You can only really appreciate the good bits in life if you experience the bad.

I've worked hard this year, I've learned stuff, I've travelled the world (a bit), I've spend quality time with my significant other.  I've done a lot but there is a lot more that I want to do in 2018.

I don't do New Years resolutions.  I don't really believe in them.  I prefer to just have ongoing targets that I'm always aiming for.  I look forward to seeing what I achieve next year.

I started writing this blog in 2005 and I still find it useful.  Some people read it every now and then.  I hope people will continue to read it in the future.  It is a public, rather bland, diary.

Good luck for the new year everyone.  Hopefully 2018 will be better than expected.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Day

We spent Christmas Day as a family, eating our Christmas meal at my partners family home.  We ate plenty of food and drank some wine and enjoyed the company.  We played a board game based on a TV quiz show about general knowledge.  We remembered the people that were not there and talked about them.  It was a nice day.

Next year I hope we will have bought our own house and that we will be able to have our mothers round to spend the day with us.  It's good to have family at Christmas time.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas everyone!

It's a great time for family and friends.  It can also be a sad time.  Some people are homeless, some people are sick, some people are working and some people aren't here anymore.  This is our first christmas without my dad.  He was really sick last christmas and we miss him now.  I'm lucky I had him for 39 years and many people are not as lucky as me.

We're having a family Christmas today and I'm looking forward to the meal this afternoon.  Life goes on and we are very lucky.

Hope everyone has a nice day today

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A collection of Mogwai posts

For ease and in celebration of the recent, massive, Glasgow Hydro show, here is a collection of links to my Mogwai related posts over the years.

Mogwai headlining ATP in 2013

Mogwai playing in Stereo in 2010

Hardcore will never die - a biased review

Mogwai at the Picture House in Edinburgh, 2011

Mogwai at the Grand Old Opry, Glasgow

Mogwai at the Concert Hall, Glasgow

The Hydro Show

I could probably write more stuff about the band and I haven't written about many of the great shows I've seen them do in the last 20 years but this is a collection of what I have written.

Now buy some of their records

Mogwai at the Glasgow Hydro

In many ways this concert was a validation for Mogwai.  In the last 21 or 22 years, they have come a long way from concerts in the old 13th Note or the Key Youth Centre in East Kilbride to now playing on the largest indoor stage in Glasgow which has hosted artists like Prince, Depeche Mode and U2.

Beyond this, Mogwai have popularised unconventional music. Instrumental, guitar led, loud, distorted but catchy songs without words.  They have worked with some of their heroes and made soundtracks to films and TV shows.  They have never had a 'hit' song but they have had albums top the UK charts.

Tonight, they had local indie-poppers Sacred Paws open up.  I was able to catch the end of their set of bouncy polyrhythmic pop punk which reminded me of the Talking Heads or the Slits.  I own one of their early EPs but I will certainly pick up more of their stuff.

Ride were a really big band when I started at secondary school in 1989 at the tail end of the shoegaze phenomenon.  I loved 'leave them all behind' and bought a few of their CDs but I never got a chance to see the,  Live, they were much heavier than I expected and certainly good to see.

It was a real shame that Martin couldn't play tonight.  I can recognise his drumming with my eyes shut and it is slightly disconcerting to hear someone else play for Mogwai, with just slightly different timing and slightly different control over the beats.  The stand-in drummer did a great job for such a big show but I do wish that Martin had been able to play.  Hopefully, he'll be back to his drum stool in the near future.

The Mogwai set was a 'greatest hits' affair with tracks from throughout their career opening with Hunted by a Freak and taking in thumpers like Rano Pano, New Paths to Helicon Pt 1, Friend of the Night as well as a few new tracks.  There was great 1,2 punch of Mogwai Fear Satan (with an impressive burst of noise and light after the quiet bit) and personal favourite Remurdered.  It was nice to hear Stuart dedicate the last song of the main set to Martin.

A three song encore finished the night and the massive hometown night spilled out to a freezing Clydeside.  As always, I struggle to be objective about Mogwai but they have done well here.  They have done Lanarkshire and Glasgow and Scotland proud and pushed music forward, opening doors for other bands that make different music.

I hope to see them do this for the next 20 years.

(I almost forgot to mention the Aidan Moffat star turn as Santa to introduce the band.  Quality)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

We went to watch The Last Jedi at the IMAX on a frosty Glasgow night.  As we waited to get in, I did my best not to hear anything about the film from the departing crowd.  I was on spoiler lockdown and as I'm going to talk a bit about the film, don't read too much further before you see it.

The Last Jedi was great but I'm not sure that it was exactly what I was expecting.  This is good because films can often become boring if they are too predictable.  It picks up the story almost minutes after the end of The Force Awakens with the remnants of the Resistance, led by Princess Leia, being hunted down and exterminated by the First Order.  This film very much had a vibe like the successful Battlestar Galactica TV series reboot that was made about a decade or so ago.

In the other major thread of the story Rey tracked down Luke on an island on an isolated planet.  This is a very different Luke compared with my childhood hero.  This is a Luke who in many ways is Yoda-like but also burnt out and cynical.  This is a Luke who has made mistakes, got things wrong and now has to live with the consequences of his actions.  The maturing of the Luke Skywalker character was a bit disorientating but was probably a good decision.

The other big storyline is the interaction between Ben Solo/Kylo Ren and Rey and the evil Snoke.  This was fairly well done and I really didn't know what to expect.  The choices they made worked and there is still a lot of potential for new stories to come.

I liked the use of Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro in the film, both of whom had interesting characters and roles to play.  This is probably the most female led Star Wars film yet, which is a good thing and the film series has now really escaped the 'white people in space' reputation it was in danger of attracting.

This film is funny.  It's funnier than most of the other Star Wars films, especially Rogue One, which was fairly dark.  It's a slapstick, Marvel type humour at times but there is still the occasional emotional punch.

I need to watch this film again, probably a few times.  I may even go back to the cinema to see it.  Again, I'm a bit sad that my dad died before this film came out as I'm sure he would have enjoyed it.

I'm looking forward to Episode 9 now.  After the film ended I was sad that we won't see Carrie Fisher as Leia again, as she was clearly destined to play a big part in Episode 9.  I hope that an appropriate tribute to her will be made in that film.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Will the NHS still exist in 10 year time?

The NHS is a great British achievement, possibly one of our greatest ever.  It's a noble attempt to help everyone in the country, a socialist dream, treating each as they need and through tax/national insurance, taking from each of us what we can give.  The ideals of the NHS are what life should be about.

Sadly, I think it's fucked.  And I think it's being fucked on purpose.

International health care providers having been eyeing up the NHS and the UK as a potential place to make a profit for a long time.  The UK is a rich country with a fairly low spend on healthcare per head of population.  We, the UK, as a nation, could afford to spend more on healthcare.  We just choose not to.  We spend money on shiny things like Brexit and nuclear weapons instead, as our elected representatives choose to fulfil the masturbatory fantasies of our right wing lunatic fringe instead of looking after the health of the nation properly.

New and better treatments for previously untreatable diseases are becoming available.  The BBC news today carried a story about a potential good treatment for Huntington's Disease, one of the most horrific neurodegenerative conditions in existence.  This will not be cheap.  We now have several good treatments for melanoma and multiple sclerosis.  We exist in a health utopia but it is an expensive health utopia.  Rightly or wrongly, the pharmaceutical companies who help develop these drugs want to make a profit and the NHS has to pay.  But the NHS does not have enough money.

The public expects more from the NHS and healthcare than it did in the past.  The NHS is a monopoly provider in the UK.  For 99% of the population there is no good alternative to an NHS hospital in the UK if you have a medical emergency.  Out population is living longer, partly because of the NHS, and our older people are more frail with advanced age.  Frailty results in more hospital admissions and more costs.  The NHS is challenged by it's own success.  Without more money it is doomed.

Brexit has fucked the pound so European doctors and nurses who work here now earn less money.  The jingoistic shite involved with Brexit is deterring European doctors and nurses from coming to work here.  The UK does not train enough doctors or nurses to properly staff the NHS and Jeremy Hunt has done a lot (in terms of Junior Doctor contracts and removing bursaries from nursing students) to deter people from wanting to work in healthcare.  At the end of the day, who wants to do a 12 hour nightshift in A&E where drunk people swear at you and try and punch you if you are being paid fuck all for it.

The NHS is being defunded into the ground by a bunch of right wing money heads.  Artificial targets are being used to punish hospitals and cost more money.  There are multiple layers of useless managers, almost like onion skins in their ability to make you cry.  And yet we can waste money on Brexit and nuclear weapons we can never use.

For the NHS to survive it needs more money or rationing.  We will probably end up with a co-payment system or some sort of multi-tier service that will divide the rich and poor.  Out ancestors, who fought world war 2 will be spinning in their graves.

If you voted Tory or Brexit, pat yourself on your back.

Alien: Covenant DVD review

As a wee kid, I was obsessed by Aliens and Alien.  Back then, the only way to see the film was on VHS tape.  As an '18' certificate film this was a bit of a challenge for 10 year old me.  I had to make do with the Alan Dean Foster novel for a while before I actually managed to see Alien but I was obsessed by the films.  I loved Ripley (who also appeared in Ghostbusters, another childhood favourite).

In the fullness of time they made some Aliens comic books (which I loved) and some further films (that I have mixed feelings about).  More recently they started on the prequels with Prometheus and now they are onto the second of the prequel trilogy with Covenant.  And I actually rather enjoyed it.

I didn't make it to the cinema to see it but the DVD is good enough.  It neatly follows the story told in Prometheus with some nods to both Alien and Aliens. I don't want to give too much away but I did smile at a few bits and I'm looking forward to the next film.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets - DVD review

I finally managed to catch this film on DVD, having missed it in the cinema.  I've been aware of the Valerian comics for a few years and I've read a few of the recent hardback reissues.  The comics were exceptionally influential and their presence was felt in Star Wars and many other science fiction blockbusters over the past 40 years.  I've loved some Luc Besson stuff over the years, especially The Fifth Element so this film was a bit of a no brainer for me.

Having now watched the film on DVD I do wish that I had seen it in the cinema.  It's visually stunning, as one would expect from Besson.  It has cute aliens, humour and a decent plot as well as some big names.  It hasn't been universally loved by reviewers but I certainly enjoyed it.

Worth a couple of hours of your time.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

South Park - The Fractured But Whole

I've never been too big on computer games but I love South Park.  A few years ago I bought a PS3 to play The Stick Of Truth and more recently I've purchased a PS4 for the Fractured But Whole.  I didn't realise that the name was a pun until someone pointed it out to me.

The new game is a South Park take on superhero franchise movies with two opposing teams of costumed vigilantes led by Cartman (the Coon) and Timmy (Doctor Timothy).  There is a main story to play with a funny story as well as a lot of easter eggs and side quests. I'm really crap at computer games and I managed to complete the main storyline after about 27 hours of game play.

The game is like an extended South Park film with you as the star.  As the New Kid you come to town, try to make friends and solve problems.  The special moves are great, the fighting is fairly easy and at one point you take on Morgan Freeman.

There will be a season pass with additional game content that I'm looking out for.  Hope they make another in due course