Thursday, December 31, 2009

The end of a decade

It's difficult to believe that 1999 was 10 years ago. Back then I had finished uni and I was doing a bunch of crappy jobs. I was working in Our Price records (now long gone) and on a switchboard. I was playing bass in a shitty local band. I hadn't even got a place at medical school.

In the past 10 years I've been to medical school, passed a lot of difficult post-graduate medical exams and started doing clinical research. I'm working in the medical speciality that I always wanted to work in. I've moved around the country a fair bit and I've done a lot of stuff that I'd never imagined I would do.

I've bought a posh flat in a good city. I have a decent job.

All in all it's been good and I wouldn't have done anything different. I'm looking forward to the next ten years. I hope it's just as good.

Happy new decade.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

how the internet has changed alternative music

When I say alternative music I mean stuff you don't see on MTV. I mean underground punk and stuff you might not find in HMV. When I was young you could probably find Fugazi records or Dead Kennedys records easily enough. Big Black and Shellac were harder to find. When it came to more obscure bands you could order them direct from the record label in America or from some small distro advertised in maximum rock n roll magazine. You could wait for months until a record arrived and then you could hate it.

All that has changed in the past few years.

Music fans are spoilt nowadays. Within 15 minutes it is possible to obtain music that I only dreamed may even exist. Alternative music was a bit of a secret handshake club populated with inadequate wankers who needed something to make themselves cooler-than-thou. I can say that because I was one of the most inadequate wankers out there. I wasn't the worst though.

Now if you want to hear the Steve Albini produced demos for the classic 'in on the killtaker' fugazi album you can (that album is just begging for a deluxe reissue by the way). If you want to hear the entire back catalogue of Amphetamine Reptile or the Melvins you can. If you want to check out uber-cool new indie band, Girls, just pop to youtube and listen.

The internet has given us pins to pop the balloons that cool people have instead of brains.

The internet has put the power in the hands of the consumer. You can find out if a record is shit without paying for it. You can give your money to the artists that make music you like.

The smarter bands will be able to find an audience internationally and get their music out there without a big record company. Bands will have to figure out how to make money from music but at least they won't be ripped off by some faceless corporation.

Alternative music has changed.

And fuck the arseholes who think you're not cool enough to buy a record from them

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Johnny Cash - I see a darkness. A graphic novel by Reinhard Kleist

I came across this graphic novel in a strange place. It was listed as one of the best graphic novels of the year in the free Metro newspaper that you pick up on public transport. Metro is not normally a place where I look for cultural highlights.

The book is a comic strip biography of Johnny Cash. It's slightly less saccharine than the recent biopic that was in the cinema a couple of years ago. I've read several books about Cash and I own about 20 of his albums. While this comic didn't capture every depth of his personality I did get think it was pretty good.

I bought the book for my dad (another big Johnny Cash fan) and he loved it. It's a decent enough comic book and a good present for a Johnny Cash fan.

Friday, December 25, 2009

And while we are on the subject of Steve Albini....

I found some Shellac material that I don't have. Shellac should be rich and famous even though they probably don't want to be.

Use any means necessary to hear their first couple of singles - uranus and the rude gesture:a pictorial history. I need to buy a record player so I can listen to them again.

And see them live if you can.

For more info

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shellac_(band)

Classic Steve Albini Article

Been looking for this for ages

http://www.mercenary.com/probwitmusby.html

The benefits of Spotify

I'm home at my parents house on a snowy christmas day. I've not been here very much over the past year. The snow outside is fairly deep so I'm not crossing the doorstep.

I don't have much stuff here. I do have my laptop and broadband wifi internet (which I don't have at home) so I'm enjoying listening to Spotify.

I was very happy to learn that Flipper, the American sludgecore band of the early eighties, now have their entire back catalogue on Spotify. The pesonal highlight for me in their 1991 album American Grafishy which was recorded with Rick Rubin. It kicks ass. I'm looking into options for obtaining a physical copy.

Spotify is brilliant. I was able to listen to most of Public Image Limiteds back catalogue before the gig last week. I was able to track down a lot of obscure punk today, including bands like Dr Know. I've also been able to check out Vic Chesnutt (a decision sadly influenced by the news that he is in a coma).

I also managed to find a black flag b-side I hadn't heard. Happy christmas to me!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Public Image Limited live at the Academy, Glasgow




John Lydon is a culturally important figure. You may hate him but he is important. I like him. The Sex Pistols were important for music and for society. It's true. You may wish that it wasn't true but it is.

This was the second time that I have see Lydon live. I last saw him with the Sex Pistols during their 1996 reunion tour at the SECC in Glasgow. That was a great show. I'm lucky that I was there.

Public Image Limited was eagerly anticipated. I managed to listen to most of their back catalogue on spotify at work before the gig. I was psyched. PIL are musically better than the Pistols. It is unlikely that bands like Massive Attack, Orbital, Nine Inch Nails, LCD Soundsystem or the Rapture would exist without PIL. They made rock music and punk different.

Growing up in East Kilbride was good for music. I was able to hear most of PILs' albums when I was about 12 by borrowing them from the public library. There was a good second hand record stall in the Village where I bought a 3 inch CD single of 'this is not a love song' and a cassette single of 'world destruction'. Music was available and beautiful.

I loved the PIL logo. I used to draw it on my bag, desks, school books and clothing beside the Black Flag bars, the Minor Threat sheep and the Dead Kennedys DK logo.

The gig wasn't sold out. It slowly filled up with balding 50 year old men who probably hadn't been to a gig in years. I bought a PIL logo tour t-shirt and we found a decent vantage point. The support band, Fangs, were fairly good.

Standing beside me was a 50 year old Polish man who told me that he had waited 30 years to see Johnny Rotten. The Polish man now lives in Crieff and he was at the gig with his daughter and her drunken boyfriend. He told me that he started to listen to the Pistols on smuggled bootleg tapes as a young man. The music of the Pistols changed his world. He learnt English so he could understand the lyrics and then the lyrics made him understand that there was hope that there might be a life outside the Communist state. Johnny Rotten meant a lot to him.

We talked about my recent visit to Poland and my intentions to go back there some time. He hadn't heard much Pil music and I assured him that while Sex Pistols songs were unlikely the show would be excellent. He would go home a happy man.

My predictions were correct.

Public Image was the opening number. The sound was slightly dodgy initially but it was quickly fixed. We got a set that lasted for more than two hours and included Careering, Poptones, Death Disco, This is not a Love Song, Rise, Warrior and Religion. We even got Open Up.

The band was tight and for most of the show the sound was perfect. A lot of people were surprised at the good quality of Lydons singing. Lydon was of course the centre of the show and one of the best frontmen that you will ever see. He was funny and charming and honest.

The Polish guy was happy at the end of the show now that his 30 year wait was over. I was fairly chuffed myself. This was a great show and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I hope they play again. I hope the music of Pil gets the recognition it deserves.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Depeche Mode live at SECC, Glasgow

When I was younger I used to think Depeche Mode were a bit of a joke. As a child, songs like Master&Servant just made me laugh. More recently I've come to appreciate some of their later work. One of my mates was keen to see them so we bought tickets when they came out.

Sadly we missed most of Soulsavers. We just caught the end of the last song that sounded like it might have been a Spacemen 3 cover. I would have liked to see more.

The crowd was fairly old. I think the average age was over 40. It's nice to feel young again. There were a few younger goth types as well as one bloke who was dressed up as a cast member from Lord of the Rings with those freaky leather wrist guard things that archers wear. Comedy.

Depeche Mode were fairly solid. The sound was good and the light show was brilliant. The set really took off later on with 'I feel you' and 'Enjoy the Silence'. We also got a few Martin Gore solo songs that were better than I would have expected. The encore included 'stripped' and finished with 'Personal Jesus'. All-in-all it was a good show.

I'm not a massive fan of Depeche Mode but i would say that they were much better than U2 at Hampden. The lights were amazing, the sound was good and the bad transvestite dress sense of Martin Gore is a winner every time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The decline of Borders

I had a walk around the Borders book shop on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. The chain of bookstores has gone bust and they are closing down. It was a sad experience. Borders’ was too expensive and it didn’t have as good a range as amazon or Waterstone’s but it was an aesthetically pleasing building. It was a good place to meet people and have a coffee.

The shop was rather desolate today. I couldn’t find any books that I would want. The shop was busy but I think the good stock was long gone. There was a homeless guy asleep on a chair in the music department. It was very cold in Glasgow last night so I guess it’s good that he has somewhere warm to sleep. In most shops he would have been kicked out within minutes,

I’ll miss Borders. It was a good place even if it wasn’t a great bookshop. Society needs bookshops and I hope that Waterstone’s survives.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs live at Glasgow O2


I’ve been listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for a few years but this was the first time that I’ve had a chance to see them live. The show was sold-out and the venue was packed.

I wasn’t too impressed by the support band who were just a bit too eclectic. I like Minor Threat and Daft Punk but I don’t think they work well combined in one song.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were titanic. The stage show was fairly impressive with a giant balloon eyeball floating ten feet above the stage. Glitter bombs and confetti exploded at regular intervals while Karen O wore a fairly spectacular range of outfits. She had almost as many costume changes as Axl Rose.

Musically the YYYs were explosive. A cover version of Human Fly by The Cramps was an early welcome surprise. Most of the big songs appeared and at the end of the night the academy was full of wide grins and happy sweaty people.

I hope to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Racism in Glasgow

I was chatting to a guy I used to work with the other day. He was born on Glasgow and grew up in Glasgow. He is very Scottish. He is also a Sikh. He thinks that Glasgow has become more racist in recent years.

My friend used to be a loyal Rangers supporter and go to Ibrox the other week. He stopped going when he heard other fans calling opposition players 'black bastards'. As he is a Sikh, he wears a turban all the time and he has a full beard. Since 2001 he says that things have become much worse. He tells me that two weeks ago he and his wife were walking through Glasgow City Centre when a ned called him a 'paki bastard'.

All of this makes me sad and angry. My friend is a Scottish as I am but he is picked on because of the colour of his skin. I want Scotland and Glasgow to be the best place in the world. We are failing when we ignore racism.

Everyone should stand up against that sort of shit.

Dodgem logic

Alan Moore is a weird guy and sort-of my hero. Dodgem Logic is his new alternative magazine/underground comic. It costs £2.50 and you should be able to buy it in Forbidden Planet or through Knockabout Comix on the internet.

The magazine is eclectic and Northampton-centric. A lot of ideas from a lot of different people are showcased. Feature writers include Graham Linehan (creator of Father Ted and The IT crowd) and Melinda Gebbe (artist on The Lost Girls). Different writers will feature in each issue. The first issue also includes a CD of Northampton music.

Support this magazine. The world needs more Alan Moore. The website is class too.


http://knockabout.com/
http://www.dodgemlogic.com/

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Algebraist by Iain M Banks

I read the Algebraist a couple of weeks ago. It's a great space opera style science fiction book. It's full of interesting concepts I really enjoyed it. Well worth a read if you are a geek.

NHS history website

This is a website about the history of the NHS - http://www.nhshistory.net/

I think it's interesting. You might not.

I hope some Americans take a page out of our 'socialist' book.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Film - Up in 3D

I can't remember the last time I saw a 3D film at the cinema. I may have watched a 3D superman film as a kid but I can't remember. I wasn't sure what to expect of Up in 3D but I wore contact lens so that I could comfortably wear the 3D glasses.

The cinema tickets were slightly more expensive than usual to cover the price of the fairly solid glasses. There was a short feature about a stork before the main film. The 3D technology was well showcased in the short.

Lots of people have told me that Up is a great film. The first 10 minutes or so pack a solid emotional punch. It's nice to see adult emotion in a cartoon. It shows people what the medium is capable of. The film is about dealing with loss and getting on with life. It's also about talking dogs and multi-coloured birds. Generally it's good, although maybe not as good as The Incredibles.

The 3D was really prominent at the start of the film although it seemed to blend into the background a bit later on. This either means that the 3D was so good that I didn't notice it or that it stopped being there/stopped working.

Anyway, I'm glad that I saw this on a big screen. It was a good experience.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nick Griffin and the BNP are very unpleasant and of limited intelligence

I watched Question Time on BBC 1 last night. The programme was showcasing the unpleasant racist politician Nick Griffin in his capacity as the leader of the BNP. He came across as a shifty, unusual man.

Griffin has tried to improve the public image of the BNP and unfortunately he has been elected as an MEP. This accidental election has occured because of public apathy. The only people that were keen to vote (in the face of the MP expences row and the recession) were bigots with chips on their shoulders. Small minded idiots.

Griffin has unpleasant views on homosexuality. He said that he was 'creeped out' to watch men kissing. I am sure that they would be 'creeped out' if they knew Nick Griffin was watching them. He has unpleasnt views on Islam. He maintains international links with the Klu Klux Klan. His understanding of the history of the British Isles is bizzare and tainted by racism. Winston Churchill would have put him in prison. He is a bad person.

Question Time may have given the BNP some publicity but hopefully the British public is intelligent enough to realise that the BNP are evil. Some misguided souls may feel sorry for Griffin but most of us are just hoping he will fuck off for good.

For sensible opinion see

http://www.rockagainstracism.info/

For mainstream politics - please vote for anyone who is not a racist

http://www.libdems.org.uk/
http://www.labour.org.uk/
http://www.conservatives.com/
http://www.snp.org/

For other stuff
http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Longcut live at King Tuts, Glasgow.

Just before my boss went on holiday he sent me an email advising me to go and see the Longcut playing at King Tuts. I went to their website and downloaded one of their eps. It was fairly good, inventive and fresh sounding. The tickets for the gig were only 6 quid so I thought fuck it and went along to see them.

They were on top of a 4 band bill, supported by three local bands. The local bands were rather boring so I sat downstairs drinking until the Longcut came on. The Longcut are a three piece who mix loud guitars with interesting electronics. The singer also plays keyboards and drums, moving quickly between instruments within the course of a song. The guitarist makes a lot of Sonic Youth moves with drumsticks, etc.

During the set they sounded like Daft Punk, The Rapture, Joy Division, Sonic Youth and Air. They has a bass station keyboard that I fell in love with. The vocals were a bit muffled by King Tuts PA system but the show was generally exciting.

Worth investigating.

http://www.thelongcut.com/

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dead Snow - DVD review

When I learned of Dead Snow, a Norwegian Zombie Nazis film, I had to see it. I wasn't disappointed. Dead Snow is funny and at times it seemed like a remake of Evil Dead. Everything that you would expect in a film about Nazi Zombies is there. If this was an English language film, I probably wouldn't like it as much, but the Norwegian soundtrack and the snow makes it a bit different.

Dead Snow - putting new life in the Zombie genre.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kevin Smith Spoken Word Show at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Kevin Smith did his Q&A spoken word show at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow last night. He initially seemed a bit upset because the show was not sold out.

The first question that I would have like to ask him would be along the lines of 'Do you know that £45, the cost of one of the better seats tonight, is a bit more than $70? Also, at £35 the cheapest seats cost more than $55 and we're in the middle of a fucking recession so nobody has any money?' I'm a doctor and I had to think long and hard about a cheap seat at the show. What about the poor fuckers out there who aren't overpaid in the same way that I am?

Anyway the show was not sold out and there were a few empty seats. The advertising before the show was of a secretive fashion. In the face of such adversity, it was still an interesting night.

The Q&A format lets Smith loose and triggers interesting talk in a way that other stand-up comedians don't achieve. I guess Smith is more of a spoken word performer and an interesting person in his own right like Henry Rollins. He has a bit more to say than Frankie Boyle (although I do love Frankie Boyle).

So in 3 hours of chat from Kevin Smith we learned exactly how he takes a shit. He described it in great detail, twice. We also learned that he smokes cannabis more now than he used to. We also learned a fair bit about the greatest hockey player who ever lived, Wayne Gretsky, and how this hockey player can teach us all to be better people.

We learned a bit about working with Bruce Willis and we learned that Smith has decided to cast childish things aside and make new movies. I love Kevin Smith films and I but them all on DVD but if he decides to go for some new themes, that's cool. I hope he makes his horror film sometime.

He did well with impenetrable accents last night. One guy, apparently from Peterhead, had such a thick accent that I could barely understand any of it. There were a couple of odd questions. The most unsettling question of the night was the final one, where some idiot asked if Roman Polanski should escape charges for child molestation because he's a great movie director. Thankfully, Smith said that Polanski should be punished because his crime is unforgivable. It's nice to see that Smith has some fairly strong morals.

The show was long but lots of people didn't get a chance to ask a question. I would probably have liked to ask Smith two questions. The first would be, who, other than Prince, is the strangest famous person you have met? The second would be a nerdy question about the comic book that Smith would most want to write next if he could write anything? Maybe I'll get a chance again.

I hope Kevin Smith enjoyed his visit to Glasgow. I hope he comes back sometime. I hope the tickets are a bit cheaper next time. We'll see what happens.

To find out more about Kevin Smith, Clerks, Dogma, Chasing Amy and his other movies go to
http://www.viewaskew.com/
To read his stuff on twitter go to
http://twitter.com/ThatKevinSmith

Snoochies

Monday, October 05, 2009

Pixies live at Glasgow SECC

The SECC was the site of a notorious Pixies gig in 1991 when the stage collapsed after 3 songs. This was their first show at the venue since then. I saw the Pixies at their reunion show during the 2004 T in the Park festival. I also had tickets to see them in Edinburgh in 2005 but I was unable to swap my on-call shift at work so I had to give the tickets away.

On this tour the Pixies are playing all of Doolittle and appropriate B-sides. The support band was Sons & Daughters who have put out a couple of good albums. I missed a bit of their set although I liked what I heard.

The Pixies came on to some old cinema footage. I think it was part of Un chien andalou, an old French surrealist film that Salvador Dali contributed to (confirmed by checking wikipedia and recognising the images). They started with Manta Ray and Weird at my school before playing other B-sides that I didn't recognise.

In the 5 years since the T in the Park show the live force of the Pixies has improved. They were much tighter and the sound was great (unusual for the SECC). They played Doolittle in order (I think) before giving us an encore of the UK surf version of Wave of Mutilation and Into the White.

It might have ended there but Glasgow has enthusiastic crowds. They came back and played another 7 songs with the hall lights up. This second encore was loud and energetic and included Nimrods son, Broken Face and Where is my mind? It was very good and it made me very happy.

The full setlist is below


Dancing The Manta Ray
Bailey's Walk
Weird At My School
Manta Ray
Debaser
Tame
Wave Of Mutilation
I Bleed
Here Comes Your Man
Dead
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Mr Greives
Crackity Jones
La La Love You
No. 13 Baby
There Goes My Gun
Hey
Silver
Gouge Away
Encore:
Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf)
Into The White
Encore 2:
The Holiday Song
Nimrod's Son
Caribou
Broken Face
Something Against You
Vamos
Isla De Encanta
Where Is My Mind?

I found the setlist at
http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/pixies/2009/secc-glasgow-scotland-3d7f95b.html#


Addendum

After a comment I did a search to find out who supported the Pixies in 1991 when the stage collapsed and it seems to have been Teenage Fanclub and Cud

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

I didn't want to say this was a bad book but it is. It's not as good as The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons. The plot doesn't really go anywhere and seems to end a bit too early. Avoid.

I guess the film will be worse.

Dan Brown likes Masons though.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Transition by Iain Banks

I've been going through a bit of an Iain Banks phase at the moment, reading all his science fiction books written with the 'M' middle initial, that I had previously ignored. I've always kept fairly up-to-date with his more mainstream 'literary' novels.

Transition (published without the middle initial) falls somewhere between his mainstream and science-fiction works. Transition is structurally ambitious with a self-confesed unreliable narrator and numerous different story strands that appear in different chronological orders. The story is told from several points of view and I found myself having to flip back a few pages to check what was going on once or twice.

The main characters in the book can move between different realities or universes. To do this they take a drug that lets them control the mind of a person in an alternate reality. There are communist realities and nazi realities. It's all a bit complicated and could be easier to understand with a diagram. A good plan is to stop trying to understand it and just enjoy the book.

The story deals with an organisation called the Concern that tries to improve realities by selected interventions. Something seems to have gone wrong in the Concern and one man tries to find out what the problem is.

This may not be Banks most accessible book but it is still good fun. Start with The Crow Road or Complicity if you've not read any of his work before. The Wasp Factory is also a classic (I did my higher dissertation on it about 16 years ago). Transition is also notable for the new interpretation of the term 'multiple orgasm' amongst the members of the Concern.

http://www.iain-banks.net/

Monday, September 14, 2009

District 9 - film review

This film was made on a low(ish) budget but it's great. It's about an alien race who have landed in South Africa during the 1980s and now live in slums outside Johannesburg. It's shot in a grim videolike manner and it looks like a documentary. The casual racism of the humans who make derogatory comments about the 'prawns' feels real. Watching the humans kill a bunch of alien eggs while laughing about abortions is fairly unsettling.

The story is good and it's a fast-moving film with a few unexpected twists. I loved it and I hope to see it again. I also hope they make a sequel.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Nick and Noras infinite playlist

I picked up this DVD yesterday and I liked it. It's a bit of a chick flick but it was good fun. I liked the alternative music based storyline and I enjoyed the soundtrack.

Worth seeing.

Cool dead guy

A good friend of mine died 11 years ago today. He fell out a window at a party.

He bought me a ticket to the last Glasgow Ramones gig and went to see Sonic Youth with me. He was a good guy.

RIP

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Big A, Little A by Crass

Seeing Jeffrey Lewis during the week made me dig out my Crass records and inspired me to write about my favourite Crass track.

I first heard Big A, Little A on a compilation tape when I was 12. I was immediately drawn to the bouncy music and the intelligent lyrics. Big A, Little A was originally a 7" single in 1981 with Nagasaki Nightmare on the other side. For anti-capitalist anarchists Crass were fairly commercially successful and the single was an indie chart number 1 in the UK. The song also appeared on the Best Before compilation.

Big A, Little A is about being an individual and living your life the way you want to live. The song deals with the idea that religion is a means of social control and showcases a dislike of the monarchy and the British government personified by the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Some of the lyrics to the song are beautiful. My favourite couplet is below -

Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do
I am he and she is she but you're the only you
No one else has got your eyes, can see the things you see
It's up to you to change your life and my life's up to me

The 'no one else has got your eyes' line gets me every time. People are beautiful because they are unique and have their own views and opinions on things. This song is about having the freedom to live your life in your own way.

The next few lines are great too:

The problems that you suffer from are problems that you make
The shit we have to climb through is the shit we choose to take
If you don't like the life you live, change it now it's yours
Nothing has effects if you don't recognise the cause
If the programme's not the one you want, get up, turn off the set
It's only you that can decide what life you're gonna get
If you don't like religion you can be the antichrist
If your tired of politics you can be an anarchist

This song may be unlistenable noise rock but it is inspirational. I love it. I suggest that you track it down and give it a listen. If noisy punk is not your thing look out for the Jeffrey Lewis folk version on '12 Crass songs'.

drphunk

http://www.southern.com/southern/label/CRC/

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Jeffrey Lewis lecture on Watchmen at the GFT, Glasgow

Jeffrey Lewis is an alternative folk (or 'antifolk') musician from New York. He plays folk music with a punk twist. I own one of his CDs, '12 Crass songs', which is a collection of his cover versions of songs by the old British anarchist punk band. It's pretty funny and I like it a lot.

Lewis is also a comic book artist and an arts graduate who wrote his thesis on the Watchmen graphic novel. He was playing a gig in Glasgow last night. Before the gig he was delivering a lecture on Watchmen at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT). Sadly I couldn't persuade anyone to go to his gig but I did manage to round up 3 other nerds to attend the Watchmen lecture with me.

I'm a big Watchmen fan. I first read the book when I was 11 or 12, over 20 years ago. I must have read the book 50 or sixty times. I own 3 copies (paperback, 1980s hardback, slipcase absolute edition) as well as several issues of the original series. I also own as many of the other works of Alan Moore as I have been able to locate. I am a major geek. I even liked the film although I realise that some fanboys would disagree with me

This lecture was comic book nirvana for me. Lewis apparently wrote his undergraduate thesis on Watchmen and he knows the book well. He spoke for about 90 minutes and he had interesting opinions on the underlying themes of the comic.

Initially Lewis described his idea that Watchmen is about the conflict between innocence and experience embodied by the Characters of the Comedian and Molok. He also discussed the recurrent images of a covered right eye in the book which Lewis feels represent a character being blind to a hidden truth. Finally he discussed the conflict between 'circles' (Dr Manhattan/nature) and 'triangles' (Veidt/man/industry). All reasonably convincing and interesting although Lewis appeared to be unaware of Alan Moores personal history of visual problems.

Totally geeky but good fun and thought provoking. A once in a lifetime opportunity. Wish I'd made it to the gig.

http://www.thejeffreylewissite.com/

Monday, August 24, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

I'd heard mixed opinions about the new Tarantino film. A few critics don't like it. It tells the story of a team of Jewish-American soldiers who fight behind German lines during the second world war. Their mission is to kill as many Nazis as possible and strike fear into the hears of the German army. This story becomes entwined with the story of a young Jewish woman who owns a cinema in Paris.

It's slow at times with much of the dialogue in French or German. There are several Tarantino style talking heads sequences which are well done. There is a bit of bloody violence but it is all in context.

I enjoyed the film. It's like an old b-movie. Artistic liberties are taken but I can live with that. This may be the best Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction.

Anvil - The story of Anvil

Anvil are a great, lost metal band from the early eighties. They were an influence on bands like Metallica and Anthrax but they never really managed to make lots of money.

This documentary was made by a former roadie of the band who is now successful in the film industry (he wrote the Steven Speilberg film The Terminal). The film follows the core members of Anivil Steven 'Lips' Kudrow (singer/guitarist) and Robb Reiner (drums) on a European tour and during the subsequent recording of their thirteenth album.

The European tour is disastrous although the album recording goes well. Unfortunately no record label wants to release a CD by a bunch of 50 year olds.

The film recalls Spinal Tap at times but the band seem like nice, unlucky guys. It is a feel good movie and it made me want to go out and buy Anvil stuff. Watch the DVD and then check out their website.


http://my.tbaytel.net/~tgallo@tbaytel.net/anvil/
http://www.anvilmovie.com/

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dark Entries by Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'Edera

Dark Entries is a new comic book written by Ian Rankin. I believe Dark Entries was originally a single by Bauhaus, continuing Rankin's use of musical references as titles for his books. The book features John Constantine, occult investigator and star of the Hellblazer comic book series.

The premise of the book is that Constantine has been hired to investigate spooky events on the set of a Big Brother meets Most Haunted style supernatural TV show. In recent years this scenario has become a bit of a cliche'. Demonstrating reality TV stars to be fuckwits is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. A very small barrel. However Rankin is a great writer and defused some of my preconceptions. His characterisations were strong and believable. I liked some of his supporting characters.

Rankin seemed to understand the complex character of Constantine as well. Apparently he found writing Dark Entries to be hard work but I hope he produces some more comic books. I have heard that he recently turned down an opportunity to write Superman.

Dark Entries is a good read which I hope will attract some mainstream Rankin fans.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

U2 live at Hamden, Glasgow

I'm not a big U2 fan but when one of the guys at work offered me a free ticket to see them at Hamden at about 4pm yesterday I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't miss. I live about 2 miles from the stadium so we were able to walk there from my flat.

We could hear Glasvegas play as we walked down Cathcart Road. We made it into the gig in time to catch their last two songs. I was immediately struck by the stage set and the massive video screens. It was like watching a music video.

I've been to well over 200 gigs in the last 15 years. I've been to loads of festivals but this was the first time that I've been to a proper stadium show. The sound wasn't as bad as I expected. Our seats were ok but the members of U2 still looked like ants on stage. The massive video screens really saved the day.

U2 started with about 5 new songs that I didn't recognize. They played some big hits like 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' with some emotive images from Iran on screen. I enjoyed 'Stuck in a moment you can't get out of' and 'one'. They played for about two hours.

A good night but not really how I like my music. I will always prefer small club gigs but I'm glad that I saw U2.

On re-reading this post I realise that I haven't highlighted how impressive the stage show was. It was very fucking big with lots of lights. It looked like a UFO. It was cool.

I do still prefer small club gigs though.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre

Pandaemonium is the new book by Scottish author Brookmyre and he has changed the formula a bit while keeping some things from his standard novel plan.

Like many of his other books the story revolves around Scottish school kids with realistic dialect and a recognisable social setting. However, Brookmyre has left the hard-boiled crime thriller elements in the drawer this time and gone for something a bit different.

It is nice to see Brookmyre evolve and I enjoyed Pandaemonium. It's not his best book but it is a good read and I'm looking forward to the next one already.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Player of Games by Iain M Banks

I used to read a lot of science fiction as a young child. My dad was a big fan and I am a member of the Star Wars generation. I grew out of sci-fi books a bit (although I still like sci-fi films and comic books) so I've missed out on Iain M Banks.

Missing 'Iain M Banks' is a bit stupid because I really like Iain Banks. I wrote about 'The Wasp Factory' for my higher english dissertation in 1993. I've been ignoring half of his work for a long time.

I finally read 'The player of games' this week. It had been sitting around my flat for some time. I enjoyed it. It's warm, funny and well written. I have managed to buy a couple of his other books for 2 quid each and I'm looking forward to reading them.

GI Joe - Rise of the Cobra - not as bad as you expect

I went to see the GI Joe film during the week. I actually enjoyed it. It was mindless fun but much better than Transformers 2.

As a kid I played with Action Force and GI Joe toys (as well as older action man toys). I read the British Action Force comics and the American GI Joe comics and I loved them all. I was fairly well primed for the film although I realise that a lot of British people are not.

The film is stupid and horrifically reminiscent of Team America but it is fun. It was great seeing Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and Scarlett walking and talking the way I imagined them to as a child.

Loved it. Hope they make a follow-up.

Americans slagging off the NHS

As a doctor I'm glad I've never had to worry about someones insurance before giving emergency treatment. At least everyone in Britain gets seen by a doctor and investigated appropriately unlike many in America.

It's annoying to see ignorant American politicians slagging off out NHS because they are getting backhanders from corporate health insurance companies. They should fuck right off.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Poland

I visited Poland for a wedding this week. It was a brief, flying visit and I would like to see more of the country some time.

An old friend was getting married to a Polish girl in Warsaw so I had to go. This was my third wedding in 6 weeks so I was totally skint. I could afford the flight but little more.

Warsaw has a sad history. I read a guide book on the plane over. 225000 people were murdered by the Nazis in one month in 1945 while the Russians sat and watched from the other side of a river. The Nazis tied women and children to the front of tanks to stop the Polish attacking them. The entire city was flattened. People are capable of bad things.

Frederick Chopin airport is very modern. Cleaner than Glasgow or Prestwick. What I saw of Warsaw did not fit my pre-existing mental image. The roads were wide and the buildings were in a good state of repair. It was sunny and warm and I was reminded of America or Spain. I didn't really get the feeling of 'communist oppression' that I expected.

The hotel we were staying in was OK. It was probably a fairly posh hotel for Poland. Drinks at the bar seemed to cost random amounts varying with how drunk the bar staff thought you were. None of the staff spoke much English although I guess my gruff Scottish accent never helps that.

The wedding ceremony was held in the local town hall. It was conducted by a man with a metallic medallion who looked a bit like a supervillain. I assume that he was the mayor. There are a lot of interesting traditions at Polish weddings, many of which involve vodka. The phrase 'one hundred years' was chanted recurrently as a blessing of good luck. The food was interesting. Thye most unusual thing was some egg soup served in hard baked bread. The food was still being served at the wedding well after midnight.

Polish women are amazingly attractive and I spent much of the evening chatting one with intermediate success.

I didn't get enough time in Poland but I might go back at some point. My friend may move there so I will have the chance in the future.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Drag me to hell - film review

Drag me to hell is a new comedy horror film by Sam Raimi of Evil Dead/Spiderman fame. It's the story of a young female banker who upsets an elderly gypsy woman and is then cursed. The young banker has 3 days before a demon called the lamia drags her to hell.

It's a great film. It's funny with a few moments that make you jump. Well worth seeing.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The BNP are racist scum

Sadly the BNP have got two MEPs in the European Parliament. This sorry state of affairs has only occurred because of voter apathy in the face of corrupt politicians fiddling their expenses. These racist idiots have slipped in with very few votes.

Now we are stuck with these backward evil idiots for 5 years. They do not believe in global warming. They want to maintain the 'homogenicity' of British people. I dislike the BNP and everything they stand for. Intensely.

I hope everyone makes an effort to vote sensibly in the future.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Battlestar Galactica - The final episodes

I've just finished watching the DVD of the final episodes of the recent Battlestar Galactica series. I realise that I'm several months behind everyone who has Sky TV on downloads from the internet but unfortunately I am limited by technology.

The modern remake of Battlestar Galactica is one of the best television shows that I have seen. It's easily as emotionally powerful and intelligent as The Sopranos or The Wire. It's a long way from the original cheezy '70s series that I loved as a kid.

I was happy with the end of the series. I didn't think it was a compromise. Battlestar Galactica is good human drama and good science fiction. I recommend it to anyone who can ignore the fantasy elements and enjoy the story.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stockholm and Sweden

I was in Sweden during the work for week. I'd never visited before and I liked it. I flew from Prestwich to Skatsva about 100km south of Stockholm before getting a coach into the city. It was about 1130PM when I arrived at Stockholm Central Station. I jumped into a taxi to get to my hotel.

The bus journey up to Stockhom was great, even though it was getting dark. The roadside trees and buildings were stunning. The scenery reminds me of rural Scotland but the clear sky made everything seem crisper. I kept thinking of 'let the right one in', the Swedish vampire film I saw a few weeks ago. I'm reading the book just now.

My hotel wasn't great. Due to an unforseeable credit card fuck up I had to pay for everything in cash. My room was directly above a rail freight loading terminal and shuddered every time a train went past. Lots of trains went past. I bought ear plugs as soon as I could.

The nights were short. Stockholm was only dark between 11pm and 3am messing up my sleep even more. One night I stayed out drinking in the city centre with some Irish people and it was dawn as I left the pub at 3am.

I had a lot of early starts for work so I was a bit sleep deprived by the end of the week. The hotel curtains couldn't keep the light out. The TV stations were filled with imported American comedy shows.

Everyone I met spoke English. It reminds me how crap I am. I wish I could speak another language. I could almost believe that I was in a British city. A beautiful, clean British city. No British city could ever be as beautiful or as clean as Stockholm.

Stockholm is on a series of islands connected by bridges and tunnels. Water flows around the old buildings that have not been bombed unlike other European cities. It's a m,ajestic, fairytale sort of place.

I didn't have much time to walk around the city because of work. I didn't get to any museums or art galleries. I did spend a day walking around the old town of Gamla Stan. I could have spent a few days there. I hope I get a chance to go back.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Deerhunter live at Glasgow Stereo

This gig had been rescheduled so I was rather excited to finally see Deerhunter. I really like their Microcastle album. I think there may have been two support bands but I only saw one of them, a female fronted band with an attractive singer who sounded a bit gothy. They were ok but I didn't really get into their music.

Stereo is an industrial venue. I like the expensive bar upstairs but the sound in the basement isn't great. Deerhunter had to contend with a bass heavy sound which seemed to interfere with the vocals. Despite the shitty sound the band put on an entertaining show combining material from Microcastle and the new Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP with older stuff.

The My Bloody Valentine 'wall-of-sound'/dreampop elements of Deerhunter were defeated a bit by the technical limitations of the venue. The krautrock/Neu beats survived well. Brandon Cox is a good frontman and he interacted well with the crowd. He kept trying to play 'smells like teen spirit' to comic effect.

Some interesting merchandise was available to buy. I bought an audio-cassette for the first time in several years. It was a limited edition copy of the Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP and it looks kinda cool. I actually still have a working cassette machine in my flat so I was able to listen to it last night.

I did enjoy the show but I want to see Deerhunter again in a better venue.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Handsome Family and Otis Gibbs live at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow

I'm pretty lucky. I like to think that I'm unlucky but in reality my life is filled with good luck. I have a good job, I own a nice flat and I live in a cool city. Life is fair to me. On top of all of that, I won tickets from The List magazine to see the Handsome Family and Otis Gibbs live.

I had some vague awareness of the Handsome Family before the show. I managed to hear some tracks on Spotify a few hours early. They were good. I was reminded of Nick Cave and Johnny Cash.

Otis Gibbs was more of a revelation. One man, one guitar, one beard. He had a strong stage presence and stronger songs. His between song banter was quality. He trades in acoustic protest songs with a punky edge. He was worth the price of the (free) ticket alone.

http://otisgibbs.com/

The Handsome Family have a more gothic quality. Their songs all sound like the aural equivalent of Sandman comics or missing tracks the Nick Caves' Murder Ballads album. The husband and wife team at the core of the band have a good grasp of slightly spooky humour. I enjoyed the show but I think I would have got more out of it if I had listened to a few of their albums beforehand. I'll probably check them out in the future.

http://www.handsomefamily.com/

So, thanks again to the List magazine. I'm a lucky guy.

http://www.list.co.uk/

Wolverine - film review

I expected this film to be rubbish. It wasn't the worst film I've ever seen but it was bad.

The story was full of holes and internal inconsistencies. There is just a bit too much casual violence. Some of the emotional validity of the story is destroyed by the writers' inability to let a character stay dead.

It's not the worst film I've seen. It's not as bad as The Spirit but it's not very good.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pivot - live at the Captain's Rest, Glasgow

I'd never been to the Captain's Rest before. It used to be an old mans pub but in recent years it has been taken over by new management and it now seems to be aiming at more of an alternative market. Items on the menu are named after Big Black songs. It's at the St. Georges Cross end of Great Western Road which has become a wee bit more upmarket in the past 15 years.

My friend bought me a ticket to see Pivot. I saw them about 6 months ago and I enjoyed the show. Last night they were troubled by bad sound. Despite such technical problems they put on an energetic show.

This venue would probably suit smaller punky or folky bands more. I may go back in the future for a pint.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Morrissey live at the Glasgow Barrowlands

It was interesting.

I got into the Smiths at a late age. I was probably about 20 when I first started to like them. I had a dim awareness of them as a child as a friends elder sibling was a fan. I was never keen on Morrissey. I had some doubts about his politics. The music of the Smiths is great.

I bought the tickets for this in December. I was very curious to see the show. Last night I was glad to be one of the younger members of the audience (unusual these days). The t-shirt stand was a bit disturbing. I didn't like the t-shirt of naked Morrissey and band. I didn't like the Union Jack t-shirts. It was all very expensive.

The support band 'Doll & the Kicks' were ok. The singer was nice to look at. The tunes were a bit like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Morrissey opened with a punked up version of 'this charming man' which was workmanlike. I did recognise a few of his solo songs but I only own 'viva hate' and a greatest hits CD. 'How soon is now' sounded better than 'this charming man' but some of the more intricate guitar parts were missing. We also got 'girlfriend in a coma' and 'some girls are bigger than others'. It was OK but I wasn't blown away.

Glad I went. Not sure I'd go again.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Let the right one in - film review

Let the right one in is a Swedish vampire film. It's about Oskar, a 12 year old boy from a broken home who is bullied at school. He lives a solitary life and dreams of retaliating against the kids at school. He meets Eli, a girl who moves in next door, who is a bit different. She's a 200 year old vampire.

The film is in Swedish with subtitles. It's visually interesting and well made. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who likes foreign films and horror films.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

J.G.Ballard RIP

I was sorry to hear that J.G. Ballard had passed away. He had written some great books over the years and I enjoyed his work. He will be sadly missed.

PopCO by Scarlett Thomas

I picked this up because I enjoyed another book by Scarlett Thomas, The end of Mr Y. I am glad I did because PopCo is a good read.

The book tells the story of Alice Butler, a young woman who works as a designer for a toy company. She has had an unconventional childhood. She was brought up by her grandparents, a mathematician and a code breaker. Before working as a toy designer she had written crosswords.

She is sent to a work related conference in a remote location and someone starts to send her secret coded messages.

The book involves a lot of mathematical and cryptographic information. Despite this material it's a good read and it makes you think. It discusses issues of animal welfare and globalisation.

Worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Stewart Lee Comedy Vehicle

I have vague memories of Lee and Herring during the early '90s but I was never a fan. However I have really enjoyed watching Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle on BBC2 for the past six weeks. Lee has an intelligent and angry style and he managed to throw in a reference to the Jesus Lizard last night. Brilliant.

I'll try and see him live or pick up his DVDs.

For more see
http://www.stewartlee.co.uk/

In the Loop - film review

I went to see In the loop on Sunday night. I'd been looking forward to it for a while. I've been a fan of The thick of it for a couple of years. I had just watched the DVD of the two specials from 2007 the day before. The thick of it is a UK political comedy starring Glaswegian Peter Capaldi as spin-doctor Malcom Tucker. Tucker is allegedly modelled on Alistair Campbell.

I think In the loop is very entertaining although I am not sure that Malcom Tucker has made a perfect jump onto the cinema screen. The swearing displayed by Peter Capaldi in character as Tucker is amazing. 'Fuckity-bye' is a personal favourite. I did feel sorry for the two old ladies in the cinema who left after 10 minutes. I feel that whoever sold them tickets should be swiftly re-educated.

It was also nice to see James Gandolfini square off against Malcom Tucker. Gandolfini, in his Tony Soprano character is anothe Olympian swearer although he never really seems to let loose in this film.

In the loop was fun but it did feel like a TV special. I await the return of The thick of it to the small screen.

Fuckity-bye

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spotify

One of my co-workers came into my office and installed spotify on my laptop a couple of days ago. I fear my research career is now doomed. Spotify is amazing.

I've been able to find loads of obscure indie-punk tracks by band like The Weirdos, The Seeds, fIREHOSE and the Flaming groovies. It's also good for B-sides and rare tracks by more mainstream blands. Hopefully it will save me cash by stopping me buying crap records at random.

try www.spotify.com

50 dead men walking - film review

I went to see this film last week, not really knowing very much about it. It's the story of a young Irish Catholic man in Belfast in the 1980s. He's a petty criminal although both the IRA and the security forces see some potential in him. He becomes a double agent giving information on IRA operations to the police.

The lead character spends a lot of time being beaten up by the British forces and the IRA. Lots of people die and are horribly mistreated. The film was OK but it just highlights how nasty the situation in Ireland was at the time.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fucking hell

Kurt Cobain died 15 years ago.

I am very old. I'm actually 5 years older than he was when he died.

Suicide is stupid. Life gets better

Too many CDs

I rescued 4 more crates of CDs from my parents house yesterday. It's good to have all my music in one place but I have too much of it. I think I have about 4000 CDs.

It was great to listen to my Cramps CDs yesterday but I have serious storage problems now. I need more shelves. I'm also a bit frightened by the multiple copies that I have of several albums. I have 3 copies of one Goldfrapp CD which is not good.

The Damned United - film review

I'm not a football fan. I've not been to a football game for over 20 years and I normally avoid football on the telly. I have a vague interest in the Scottish national team and a passing opinion on the Old Firm but I am not a football fan.

I went to see The Damned United because a friend wanted to see it and most media coverage suggested that it was good. I have a memory of the name Brian Clough but little else.

The film is a good character study. Clough is portrayed as a driven man capable of great things but with a tendency to self destructive film. There is very little football in the film.

I probably would not have watched this on TV or DVD but I'm glad I saw it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Polar Bear and Dirty Projectors - Live at Glasgow ABC2

This was a great double bill for £10.

I have seen Polar Bear and their various other incarnations several times in the past. They generally put on a good show and they did not disappoint tonight. They played a few new songs as well as a couple of older numbers that I recognised. I've got a couple of their CDs but I couldn't tell you any song titles. The drummer continues to have the most impressive hair in jazz. Google it.

Dirty Projectors are weird. I have their 'rise above' album which is a reinterpretation of 'damaged' by black flag in a female vocal/jazz manner. It's cool. Apparently the main guy did this from memory and had not listened to 'damaged' for several years when he did this. Sounds a bit Asperger's......

They did not disappoint live. The music was jerky and angular. The 3 female vocalists were present and supplied some interesting vocal harmonies. The band seemed very young. I was reminded of the Talking Heads. The singer looks a bit like Rich Hall, the american comedian. His jerky dancing made me think he had a movement disorder. Interesting chap. Their songs were great and they finished with a version of 'gimmie gimmie gimmie' infused with Black Flag anger. The only bad thing about the show was some heckling from two wankes standing in front of the mixing desk. They didn't realise that you can just fuck off home if you dislike the last band of the night. You don't need to stay and piss everyone else off.

I'm keen to see both bands again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Charlie Brooker

I've just finished reading 'Dawn of the Dumb' by Charlie Brooker. It's a collection of his journalism from the Guardian and it's rather entertaining. Brooker writes about modern society and television and he seems to share several of my opinions and attitudes.

He also wrote 'Dead Set' which was fucking brilliant and he presents 'Screen wipe' which is great. There is a new BBC4 show called 'News wipe' coming soon and I am looking forward to it.

To read some of his writing check out http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/charliebrooker

Saturday, March 07, 2009

WATCHMEN - the movie

I know I'm a sad bastard but I'd been desperate to see this film as soon as I heard that it was being made. I first read the book when I was far too young (10) in 1987 or 1988. I've probably read it again 50 or 60 times over the past 20 years. I own 3 copies. I admit to being a Watchmen nerd.

Having disclosed the above information I'll try and be unbiased in my review of the film. I liked it. It wasn't perfect but it was a good effort. The film stays true to the spirit and most of the plot of the comic. The characters are no more likeable than they should be. Rorschach continues to be a horrible little monster and Dr Manhattan is still inhuman. The Comedian is still an asshole and Nite Owl is still impotent.

The film looks good. It is apparent that the graphic novel was used to storyboard the film. At times it does look like a computer game but that is OK. The soundtrack is unsubtle and too high in the mix but otherwise inoffensive. The choice of songs is good if obvious.

The ending is slightly different but makes sense in the context of the film. A few minor sub-plots are missing but I hope these will resurface in the DVD.

This could have been very bad. Zack Snyder directed 300 which I hated. I do think it is good although my intimate knowledge of the book helped. I don't think this is a summer blockbuster and I think it is too slow and wordy for mainstream audiences. The people who saw the film without reading the book didn't really get it.

I'd give this 9 out of 10. See it if you are a Watchmen nerd.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Franz Ferdinand live at the Glasgow Barrowlands

I was trying to work out how many times I've seen Franz Ferdinand on my way home from last nights concert. I saw them at T in the Park, I saw them in Leicester, I saw them at the SECC and I saw them at the Grand Old Opry. I might have seen them in the ABC but I'm not sure. I know I saw the Blisters at least once.

I do like Franz Ferdinand. I thought their first two records were very good although the new album has not yet found a place in my heart. On a good night they are are an excellent live band.

Last night they seemed a bit stale. The big hits sounded good and energetic but for the rest of the gig the band seemed a bit tired. They seemed a bit bored. This was most apparent in a version of Walk Away that sounded out of tune.

I still like them but it wasn't their best night.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Fight like Apes - live at King Tuts, Glasgow

I'd heard a couple of songs by this Irish band on the internet. I thought they were OK but not amazing. I'm on holiday this week and a friend noticed that they were playing at King Tuts and tickets were cheap. We decided to go.

The venue wasn't sold out but it was pretty busy for a miserable Tuesday night in Glasgow. Most of the crowd were pretty young so I felt like a pensioner. The support bands were unremarkable based on the little that I heard of them.

Fight Like Apes had a good stage presence. They are interesting to watch and the girl that sings for them is nice to look at. The songs are OK but not memorable. They seem to work best as a stand-up comedy troupe'. After each episode of obstage banter I was filled with a wave of Father Ted like deja vu. I was worried that this might be a bit racist but I discussed it with my Irish mate who went to the gig with me and he confirmed my sentiments.

I don't think I'll buy any of their CDs. I wouldn't listen to them at home. Their music isn't really serious enough for my too-cool-for-school tastes but the stage show was great and I'd probably enjoy seeing them live again.

see
http://www.fightlikeapesmusic.com/
and
http://www.myspace.com/fightlikeapesmusic

Monday, March 02, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I went to see this film yesterday expecting g ood things. I expect a film that wins 8 Oscars to be great. It was OK but not great.

The acting was generally good and the film looked good but it wasn't as good as it should have been. I don't know what would have made it better but it needed something else.

It's a love story. The hero is searching for his lost love. He meets a lot of bad people along the way. It's grim and gritty in places. It's just not world changing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Role Models - Film Review

I went to see this on Wednesday evening. I'd tried to see it last month but it was sold out. Role Models is a gross-out comedy like Knocked up and other similar films. It's mildly entertaining and it features some quality swearing. It's not going to win any Oscars but it will make you smile. Especially if you are 'gay for robots'

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good television shows about creative people with degenerative neurological disorders

February is cold and I have no money so I've been watching a lot of TV. Given my interest in neurology and comic books I have enjoyed a couple of interesting documentaries.

Last night I watched 'Here's Johnny', a 2008 film about John Hickleton, a comic book artist who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In case you don't know, MS is an autoimmune problem where parts of the the nervous system are attacked by the immune system. It's relatively common in the UK and has a range of clinical presentations. It can be mild in some people and very severe in other people. In the past it was untreatable although there are now some more promising therapeutic options.

John Hickleton used to draw Nemesis the Warlock and Judge Dredd (among others) for 2000AD when I was a kid. His art is pretty mental but good. Some of his images, especially those from Nemesis, really stuck in my mind. I missed the first 5 minutes of the film but I think Hickleton was diagnosed with MS in 2001. Much of his disease affects his spinal cord and he has had great difficulties in walking. The documentary covers his life from 2001 to 2007.

Hickleton initially took the diagnosis very badly and threw himself into drink and drugs. He admits that he was very angry and depressed at the time. He starts to experiment with various 'alternative' medications and there are some hilarious moments in the film where he takes a horse laxative (I might be wrong here). Eventually he accepts his diagnosis and he appears to be more comfortable with his life.

Hickleton comes across as energetic and likable. The visual design of the film uses a lot of his comic art and looks great. I strongly advise you to watch this film.

Over the last two weeks I've been watching a documentary about Terry Pratchett who has been diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy, a variant of Alzheimer's disease, another neurodegenerative disorder. Alzheimer's is less treatable than MS and is a progressive form of dementia. The variant that Pratchett has initially attacks the visual system.

Prachett, who is a highly successful and entertaining writer, has much more money than Hickleton. He has donated lots of money to medical research and has done a great deal to publicise the plight of people with dementia. The documentary follows him as he tours the world looking for a cure. He meets a lot of people who have unusual ideas about how to treat the disease and he seems to assess them in a fairly intelligent manner. Again, I enjoyed this film and I hope a lot of people see it.

For more info

http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/headroom?gclid=COywkdry5ZgCFQ9SQgodTCvUdw
http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/
http://www.mssociety.org.uk/
http://www.mssociety.org.uk/news_events/news/press_releases/johnny.html

I couldn't find a link for a John Hickleton page but if anyone finds something please let me know.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

snow

Doing some extra work to help with my own personal economic crisis. I need shoes cos the pair that I am wearing appear to leak. I'm also having problems meeting my music buying needs.

It has started to snow outside. I hope it stops soon because I don't want to be trapped in the hospital tonight. If I'm lucky the snow will make people forget that they are sick and keep them away from hospital. I guess that's wishful thinking.

Now that I work in research it's nice to do clinical shifts every so often. It improves my sense of self worth. It makes me feel like a proper doctor. It's good fun too.

Enough pish for now.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The West Wing

Being a sad bastard I spent 50 quid and bought the box set of every episode of the West Wing just after christmas. I then sat and watched it all. That was about six days of my life devoted to a TV series about American politics.

Was it worth it?

Yes, I think it was. I did enjoy the series and some of the characters are great. I think I learned a bit about the American political system and American history. The series is good even if the quality drops a bit at times. The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica and The Wire are all much, much better but The West Wing is OK.

Would I do it again?

I won't watch all of the West Wing back-to-back again but I might have a Battlestar Galactica marathon at some point. It helped me not spend money for a month which was good and it helped me avoid crap January TV which was a bonus.

Should people watch the West Wing?

Yes, but watch The Sopranos and The Wire first.

Lux Interior - RIP

Lux Interior was the singer in the American garage-punk band the Cramps. The Cramps were never international pop megastars but I liked them. I loved their 'Off the bone' album when I was a teenager.

Lux died aged 62 of a heart condition.

RIP

Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Martyn RIP

I was very sorry to hear that John Martyn has passed away. He wrote some great songs. He was only 60 years old. Solid Air was a brilliant album.

RIP

www.johnmartyn.com

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I hate Ikea

A couple of weeks ago I had the misfortune of visiting Ikea. I need furniture for my flat and Ikea is a place that sells furniture.

It was a horrible experience. Wandering around the monstrosity of a store with hundreds of other zombies. Having to lift crates of flatpack furniture from poorly labelled shelving with rude, unhelpful staff.

The worst thing is that they charge extra for delivery and you have to queue again to arrange delivery. When I looked at the length of the two queues I abbandoned my trolley and left the shop, vowing to never enter again. That was the best part of my day.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Spirit - Film Review

Avoid this film if you possibly can. The Spirit is one of the worst films I've ever seen.

It could have been good. The Spirit comic by Will Eisner is a classic. The Spirit was initially published in 1940. The strip was influential in terms of graphic design and story telling technique. The early strips are entertaining and look great.

Frank Miller, the director of The Spirit, is a highly regarded comic book creator in his own right. He wrote Batman: The Dark Knight Returns which is considered to be one of the best graphic novels of the '80s. He also wrote 300 and Sin City which were adapted into successful films.

Sadly, The Spirit just sucks. The story is nonsense. The acting is wooden. The visual style is annoying although it is rather unique. The visual style probably owes more to the work of Frank Miller that it does to Eisner.

I hope I never have to sit through this film again. At least 10 people walked out of the half-full cinema in Glasgow before the film ended. Do not waste your money.

A missed opportunity.