Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stan Lee is 88

Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman, the X-men and the Fantastic Four just turned 88 and he's still on the go.

Random fact for anyone who might be interested.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The iTunes store

I'm not too enthused by the iTunes store or their Ping social networking site. I get the impression that iTunes is mainly used by X-factor fans and people who just buy individual pop songs. It seems to have a limited catalogue and the user interface is a bit shit. I also don't like the fact that they sell limited use music downloads instead of more open access mp3s. I think I will continue to buy CDs and burn them onto my computer instead of pissing about with this horrible download shop.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

20th Century Boys - DVD review

20th Century Boys is a trilogy of Japanese films based on a manga by Naoki Urasawa. The films and the original comic books are ambitious in scope.

The story revolves around a group of friends who make up stories about a disaster in the future where they will become heroes and save the world. Twentty-five years later, a mysterious cult leader called friend appears and begins to bring their childhood fantasies to life.

The plot involves many aspects of Japanese youth culture and social history including giant robots, suicide cults, biological weapons, manga and rock music. The T-Rex song 20th Century Boy features prominently in the film. It reminded me of a lot of Steven King fiction. The original Manga has been described as Japan's answer to Watchmen and if the complexity of the films allegedly simplified plot is a marker this may be true.

The 3 films are long and you have to concentrate to follow the story. The plot is full fo red-herrings and some minor holes. I enjoyed the trilogy but it may not be for everyone. Interesting for nerds with patience.

Strange internet traffic.

Randomly I posted a list of top rated tracks from my new iPod last night and the page has now been viewed by 27 people from all over the world. Odd. Probaly people trying to download stuff.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

christmas iTunes

All Along The Watchtower [2010 mono version] 2:29 Bob Dylan The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings Country & Folk 100 1Bhang, Bhang, I'm A Burnout 2:34 Dum Dum Girls I Will Be Rock 100 1Carousels 4:23 Beirut The Lon Gisland EP Indie Rock 100 1A Century Of Fakers 4:30 Belle & Sebastian Push Barman To Open Old Wounds [Disc 1] Indie Rock 100 3Cherub Rock 4:58 Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream Alternative 100 1Corona 2:26 Minutemen Double Nickels On The Dime Punk 100 2Disarm 3:17 Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream Alternative 100 1Elephant Gun 5:45 Beirut The Lon Gisland EP Indie Rock 100 1Everybody Knows (Except You) 3:48 The Divine Comedy A Secret History - The Best Of The Divine Comedy Indie Rock 100 1Fuck And Run 3:08 Liz Phair Exile In Guyville Alternative 100 1Girls! Girls! Girls! 2:20 Liz Phair Exile In Guyville Alternative 100 1Goodbye Girl 2:56 The Shins Levi's Pioneer Sessions 2010 Revival Recordings Pop 100 2Happy Valentine's Day 5:23 Andre 3000 The Love Below Rap 100 1He's A Whore 2:39 Big Black Songs About Fucking Alternative 100 2Hey Ya! 3:55 Andre 3000 The Love Below Rap 100 1History Lesson - Part II 2:12 Minutemen Double Nickels On The Dime Punk 100 2I Against I 2:51 Bad Brains I Against I Punk 100 1I See A Darkness 4:50 Bonnie "Prince" Billy I See A Darkness Rock 100 1If I Think 3:37 Mudhoney March To Fuzz [Disc 2] Alternative 100 1If You Want Me To Stay 3:01 Sly & The Family Stone The Essential Sly & The Family Stone [Disc 2] R&B 100 1Immigrant Song (2007 Remastered) 2:26 Led Zeppelin Mothership Rock 100 2Instrument 3:44 Fugazi In On The Kill Taker Punk 100 1Into My Arms 4:14 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds The Best Of [Disc 1] Indie Rock 100 1Is It Wicked Not To Care? 3:22 Belle & Sebastian The Boy With The Arab Strap Indie Rock 100 1It Ain't Me Babe [2010 mono version] 3:35 Bob Dylan The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings Country & Folk 100 1Jimmy James 3:15 Beastie Boys Check Your Head Rap 100 1Just Like Honey 3:03 The Jesus & Mary Chain Psychocandy Indie Rock 100 1L Dopa 1:40 Big Black Songs About Fucking Alternative 100 2Lake Of Fire 1:57 Meat Puppets Meat Puppets II [Bonus Tracks] Indie Rock 100 1Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie 3:11 Belle & Sebastian Push Barman To Open Old Wounds [Disc 1] Indie Rock 100 1Like A Rolling Stone [2010 mono version] 5:59 Bob Dylan The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings Country & Folk 100 1London Calling 3:20 The Clash London Calling Punk 100 1Lost 3:26 Meat Puppets Meat Puppets II [Bonus Tracks] Indie Rock 100 1Lust For Life 2:25 Girls Album Indie Rock 100 1Me And The Major 3:52 Belle & Sebastian If You're Feeling Sinister Indie Rock 100 1The Mercy Seat 5:09 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds The Best Of [Disc 1] Indie Rock 100 The Model 2:35 Big Black Songs About Fucking Alternative 100 1Modern Girl 3:01 Sleater-Kinney The Woods Punk 100 The Money Will Roll Right In 2:33 Mudhoney March To Fuzz: Rarities [Disc 2] Alternative 100 Monkey Gone To Heaven 2:57 Pixies Doolittle Indie Rock 100 1Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) 4:48 Arcade Fire Funeral Indie Rock 100 Neighborhood #2 (Laika) 3:32 Arcade Fire Funeral Indie Rock 100 Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) 5:13 Arcade Fire Funeral Indie Rock 100 Nervous Breakdown 1:59 Ryan Adams Rise Above 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three Alternative 100 Never Understand 2:58 The Jesus & Mary Chain Psychocandy Indie Rock 100 No One Knows 4:39 Queens Of The Stone Age Songs For The Deaf [UK] Rock 100 Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth 3:12 The Dandy Warhols Come Down Alternative 100 Pink Maggit 7:33 Deftones White Pony Alternative 100 Ramble On (2007 Remastered) 4:22 Led Zeppelin Mothership Rock 100 2Rebellion (Lies) 5:11 Arcade Fire Funeral Indie Rock 100 Red Right Hand 4:49 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds The Best Of [Disc 1] Indie Rock 100 Reverence 3:41 The Jesus & Mary Chain Honey's Dead Indie Rock 100 Rocket 4:07 Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream Alternative 100 Roses 6:10 Andre 3000 The Love Below Rap 100 Round And Round 5:09 Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Before Today Indie Rock 100 Sacred Love 3:40 Bad Brains I Against I Punk 100 See It In A Boy's Eyes 3:41 Jamelia Thank You R&B 100 Seeing Other People 3:48 Belle & Sebastian If You're Feeling Sinister Indie Rock 100 1So What'cha Want 3:37 Beastie Boys Check Your Head Rap 100 Something For The Weekend 4:20 The Divine Comedy A Secret History - The Best Of The Divine Comedy Indie Rock 100 The State I Am In 4:59 Belle & Sebastian Push Barman To Open Old Wounds [Disc 1] Indie Rock 100 1Sweet Child O' Mine 5:03 Taken By Trees Sweet Child o' Mine Alternative Rock 100 2That's When I Reach For My Revolver 3:53 Mission Of Burma Signals, Calls, And Marches [EP] [Bonus Tracks] Indie Rock 100 1There Is A Light That Never Goes Out 4:03 The Smiths The Queen Is Dead Indie Rock 100 1This Ain't No Picnic 1:58 Minutemen Double Nickels On The Dime Punk 100 1Today 3:20 Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream Alternative 100 Underdog 3:59 Sly & The Family Stone The Essential Sly & The Family Stone R&B 100 Wake Up 5:35 Arcade Fire Funeral Indie Rock 100 Wave Of Mutilation 2:05 Pixies Doolittle Indie Rock 100 1Whole Lotta Love (2007 Remastered) 5:33 Led Zeppelin Mothership Rock 100 1You Stupid Asshole 2:18 Mudhoney March To Fuzz: Rarities [Disc 2] Alternative 100 6'1" 3:07 Liz Phair Exile In Guyville Alternative 100

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Entering the modern era of music consumption

I've had an iPod since 2005. I've acutally had two. Unfortunately I've never had a decent internet connection for iTunes so I always had to type in all the titles myself. As you may imagine my iTunes library was a wee bit patchy. Eventually album titles was about all I could manage.

My old laptop is about to die after 5 years of hard use. I've picked up a new machine and I intend to spend the festive period adding songs to my iTunes library. It all works so smoothly now - I love it.

In 3 hours I have uploaded 280 songs, a total of 1.78GB of music that would take me 16.7 hours to listen to. My work commute is going to get a lot less boring.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Belle and Sebastian christmas show available online

I'm not sure how long it will be available but you can see the whole Belle and Sebastian show I was at online.

Once it disappears from there I'm sure it will be available illegally somewhere. Check out the legal version while you can - it was a great gig. And give some money to charity. They like that stuff.

Belle and Sebastian live at the Glasgow Barrowlands

Tonights gig was a festive occasion, the last show on the Belle and Sebastian world tour and the last of three nights in the Glasgow Barrowlands. It was theatrical.

I managed to miss most of the support band due to the difficult logistics of meeting up with folk from work in the Irish pub next to the venue. They sounded OK.

B&S kicked off at 9PM. The gig was being broadcast live on the internet (and hopefully will be available to download somewhere in the future). They opened with a christmas song that I couldn't name before giving us a fairly rounded set that drew on most of their back catalogue.

Highlights for me included 'the boy with the arab strap', 'me and the major', 'fox in the snow' and 'Lazy line painter jane'. They could alway play more songs that I love but it was a great night.

After 2 hours they left the Barrowlands wanting more.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cold weather in Glasgow

We have freezing fog today. Visibility it probably limited to a couple of hundred metres and everything looks white. Very Victorian. The city is quieter than usual for this time of year. Sensible people are staying inside and keeping warm.

I have to go to work most days. I'm lucky at the moment that I can be a bit late when the weather is bad. I don't have fixed clinical commitments just now as I'm working in a research unit. It's nice not having early clinics or ward rounds. I don't stress myself rushing to work in the ice. I nearly broke my wrist and my arse a couple of weeks back on the sheet ice outside an underground station.

I'm going to see Belle & Sebastian at the barrowlands tomorrow night. I hope they have the heating on. It's difficult to appreciate twee indie bop when your bollocks are about to drop off in the snow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

RIP Captain Beefheart

Sad to hear that Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet, has died from complications related to multiple sclerosis.

He made some good music.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Old memories

I just found the younger brother of an old friend on facebook. The friend died in a tragic accident 12 years ago. He was only 21 when he died. His brother must have been about 6 years younger.

My friend who died was an art student. He studied fine art photography at a famous art school. He was also a musician. He sang in a band. The thing I remember most about him was his energy. He was always doing things, planning things and he would get things done, often through sheer force of will power. He was really alive.

I knew him for about 5 years. I met him through other friends and we hung about in a group. We had common interests in in loud music, alternative culture, comic books and films. We didn't always get on. He sometimes thought that I was an arrogant bastard and that I thought I was smarter than everyone else. I was always a smart arse but I did always value my friends.

He always stood up for his friends. He had a short fuse but he was very loyal and I can remember at least one fist fight he had when he was standing up for friends. He was a good bloke.

When he died in a stupid, stupid accident it really altered my world. I came to realise that life is short, that you only get one shot and that you shouldn't waste it. To see someone with so much energy and so much life just ending after a stupid accident was terrible. The impact on his friends and family was immense.

When I finally got over the shock I got my life together. I decided to stop bumming about and do the best that I could with my life. I decided that I wanted to help other people and do something worthwhile. I worked hard and I went to medical school and I've been a doctor for six years now. I don't know if I would have taken this path without that horrible shock. I sort of thought that if I was ever in that situation again I might be able to do something useful and save a life. Now I don't know that anything could be done in those circumstances.

His younger brother has put a lot of my friends photographs on facebook. Old pictures from art school. I have a few more in an album somewhere that I'll try and copy and give to him.

Life sucks sometimes.


Geeky stats stuff

I've been playing with the blogger stats stuff. Sad, ego-masturbation but intereting for me. Since June 1808 people have visited this page. The most visited posts are a book review and gig reviews for Jerry Sadowitz, Mogwai, Beirut and Mudhoney. A lot of people have been looking at the Arcade Fire review from last night (21 in 15 hours) and various bits of pseudo-political nonsense.

I guess a lot of the hits on this page will be looking for music to download. Not really my bag because I don't want sued by a multi-national company. Hopefully some folk will enjoy the opinionated bullshit.

Enough egotism.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Arcade Fire live in the Glasgow SECC

The SECC isn't the best venue in Glasgow but it works for some bands. Arcade Fire are one of those bands. I caught them at the SECC on the 'neon bible' tour a few years back and I loved it. Their latest album 'the suburbs' is great so I was very keen on seeing again this time.

Support was from Devendra Banhart who I am only vaguely familiar with. I have one of his CDs from a few years back but I have to admit that I don't listen to it regularly. He was playing some late sixties/early seventies style stuff. He reminded me at different times of the Doors, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Santana. It was pleasant but not enough to make me buy another CD.

Arcade Fire are now a very successful stadium rock band. Their music is big and their stage show is big. They still manage to retain the intimate and individual parts of their music in front of a large audience. It's great to be in a large crowd singing along with Month of May, Wake Up and Neighbourhood #1. I guess they are the alternative rock Springsteen or U2. Professional and intelligent.

A great show. I want to see them again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

500 posts

I've just realised that this is the 500th post on this blog. I started writing here in July 2005. It's still fun. 500 posts sounds like a good number.

World's Greatest Dad - DVD review

World's Greatest Dad is an American film starring Robin Williams that wasn't very successful when it was originally released in 2009. I heard about the film in a recent magazine list of under-rated films. I managed to pick up a cheap second-hand copy of the American DVD on Amazon.

Robin Williams is a high school teacher who lives with his son. His son is rather obnoxious and treats Williams like shit. Williams has written several novels, none of which have been published. Everything changes when the son dies in an unfortunate wanking accident (think Michael Hutchence or David Carradine).

Williams decides to conceal the terminal onanism of his son and writes a fake suicide note. The suicide note is beautiful and his son becomes an idol for tortured teens (kinda like Nicky Wire or Kurt Cobain). Much hilarity ensues.

It's a good film. Track it down.

David Cameron and The Smiths

I don't really believe that David Cameron was a fan of The Smiths. I think, as a former marketing twat, he declared his love for them just to hit a target demographic amongst professionals who did not normally vote Tory.

Now Morrissey and Johnny Marr have both come out to say that David Cameron is not allowed to listen to the Smiths. Now, I'm sure that this will not bother him, because I'm sure that he is not really a Smiths fan. However, I would like to think that he is going to bed, trying to sleep, knowing that his musical heroes think he is a wank.

I've also stolen and attached a photograph of a student, wearing a Smiths t-shirt while protesting against the rise in university tuition fees. I don't know who took it but it's a nice photo.

Edit - there was cool photo but it seems to be gone now. Bummer
Second edit - stole it again - please get in touch if you are copyright holder and you want it taken down but it is a fucking great picture and I think lots of people should see it

Political Guilt

I've always voted for the Liberal Democrats because I'm a wooly liberal. I believe in social health care, education, the welfare state and all that warm and fuzzy hippy stuff. All the stuff we aim at.

I always voted for the Liberals because I hate the Tories with a passion. I grew up in Lanarkshire in the '80s and it was nice enough but I remember when we stopped getting our free milk thanks to Thatcher the milk snatcher. Some of my friends used to play a game called 'miner's strike' where they they would fight with each other like the miners and the police. I remember the tories strip-mining our infrastructure and selling off British Gas and British Telecom making the middle class, at least those with money to invest, richer than ever. I remember the adverts for shares in our national resources and the greed is good philosophy of the Conservative government.

I never trusted Labour. I think some of the stuff that they tried to do was good but they were ineffectual in the '80s. Briefly, when the late John Smith was in charge, they may have been a worthwhile party but I never trusted Tony Blair with his New Labour bulllshit. He always seemed to be a bit greasy. As soon as I could vote, I voted for the liberals. After the mess of Iraq and Afghanistan I felt that I'd done the right thing. New Labour also let the bankers get away with murder.

I liked Charlie Kennedy, a Scot who liked a drink. A Glasgow Uni graduate. I could understand him. I also liked Menzies Campbell. Nick Clegg was a bit of an unknown but he seemed to have his heart in the right place. He was a nice, warm, fuzzy liberal who wanted to do the right thing. My vote was safe with the liberals.

Then everything got fucked up. We end up in an economic disaster and a lot of people realise that Labour and the Tories are useless fuckers. In fact, all politicians are useless fuckers. And Nick Clegg is the kingmaker. And he makes a pact with the greater of two evils. He puts his party in Government with the Tories.

In under 7 months we have been hit with a torrent of tory 'I'm all right jack'/'fuck the poor' ideology disguised as 'necessary cuts' to pay off our defecit. Despite the fact that our deficit has often been higher. Despite the fact that large companies like Vodafone get tax-breaks allowing them to keep money that could have helped our society.

So, the Liberal Party has sold me out. I don't know who I'll vote for in the future. A lot of Liberals have decent ideas and a good moral compass. Sadly Nick Clegg is a Tory glove puppet with David Cameron doing the fisting. I hope this coalition splits soon.

Some folk have actually looked at this page

Blogger now lets you know a bit more about people that look at your blog. It's interesting. I seem to have had a few people from America and Europe looking at the page which is nice. It also lets you know which pages have been looked at most. Apparently my most viewed page was a review I wrote about the book 'kill yr friends' by John Niven. I'll have to go back and see if that page is particularly well written.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Godspeed You Black Emperor live at the Glasgow Barrlowlands

I forgot how good Godspeed! you Black Emperor are. I saw them, over 10 years ago, supported by Sigur Ros at the Glasgow Garage and they blew me away. They mine an instrumental rock vein similar to Mogwai. Mogwai with added anarchy and less commercial potential.

I nearly didn't go to this gig. I'd circled the date in my diary but due to current financial constraints I hadn't bought a ticket in advance. Someone very kindly offered me a spare ticket so I braved the frozen tundra of central Glasgow to make my way to the Barrowlands. I'd already nearly broken my arse and my wrist on the sheet ice outside Bridge Street Underground and the painkillers were helping with the cold.

Support was supplied by RM Hubbert, a local guitar bloke. His music was nice enough.

Godspeed were intense, building and swooping, holding my attention and the attention of the freezing room. I could see my breath in the main hall of the Barrowlands despite being surrounded by around 1800 hipster rock fans. I think the visuals projected behind the band were the same ones they used a decade ago but my memory is fuzzy.

We got 7 songs over 2 hours. The band didn't speak to the room, they focused on each other. The music spoke for the band. Godspeed were used in the soundtrack of the film 28 days later and on a cold Glasgow you can see why. Godspeed would feature on the soundtrack of my zombie holocaust.

Need to catch up with some of their records again.....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The National live at the Glasgow Academy

I was really lucky to see this gig. It sold out in about 5 seconds. Yesterday a friend at work had a spare ticket so he let me have it for free. I was well chuffed.

I own all of the albums that The National have released. I started to listen to them when I was at medical school down south. I think the first thing I bought was 'the cherry tree' ep. They have been a fairly constant fixture on my iPod in recent years. The National have some tunes.

I've always managed to miss seeing them live. I'd heard that they were amazing but I just never made it. After tonight I really wish I'd got my finger out of my arse before this. They are a great live act and very interactive with the crowd.

Most of the expected big songs made an appearence although I don't think they played 'murder me rachel'. The Obama boosting 'fake empire' sounded great. Songs from the new album sound better live than on CD.

The singer jumped into the crowd and sang 'mr november' (I think) from somewhere in the middle of the room. Despite the crowd surfing the vocals were audible and in tune. The gig ended with an unamplified acoustic singalong that was special. Few bands could control a large Glasgow crowd that well.

I was very lucky to see this show

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Les Savy Fav - live in Glasgow Oran Mor

I got into Les Savy Fav pretty late, a few months after 'let's stay friends' was released. I caught up with their back catalogue quickly and I listen to them regularly. They write good songs.

I first saw Les Savy Fav at the Primavera festival in Barcelona. Their stage show at the festival was larger than life and perfectly suited to the arena venue. I was keen to see them in a more intimate venue in Glasgow. Oran Mor was the chosen place.

I have mixed feelings about Oran Mor. I lived in a room that overlooked the old church that became Oran Mor for a year in the mid nineties. The concert venue is the converted basement/crypt of the church. The sound isn't great and you can't easily see the stage from some parts of the room.

Les Savy Fav have an energetic live show. Singer Tim Harrington wore two comedy outfits and spent most of the gig in the crowd. He swung from the lights and spat beer over the crowd. Visually this was great and the rest of the band supplied musical muscle. Unfotunately you just don't hear much of the vocals and I like their songs.

So this was entertaining. I'd have loved it when I was 18 but I probably enjoy the CDs more.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Red - film review

RED is based on a Warren Ellis comic book that I haven't read. I have read many of Ellis' other books so I was interested in this film. My interest was heigthtened by the presence of Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren. Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Brian Cox. All of them are on top form.

This is an entertaining film with some great action sequences and some comedy moments. The concept of retired special ops killers dealing with a world that wants to forget them is good.

Worth seeing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CRYSTAL CASTLES and health, live at ABC Glasgow

My boss gave me a ticket for this gig because he couldn't make it himself. I'm not a massive fan of Crystal Castles. I have the first CD and I enjoy a couple of tracks but I don't listen to them a lot. I'm not the sort of person who turn down a free gig though.

I caught the last few songs by support band Health. I liked what I heard and I'll try to hear more.

The crowd was really young. I guess the average age was probably about 16 or 17, probably because Crystal Castles appeared on Skins (UK teen drama TV show) a couple of years back. I can't otherwise explain the popularity of a band with such a punishing sound.

Crystal Castles were fucking loud. They reminded me of dance clubs in the early90s with a hardcore punk front person. Singer Alice Glass spent a lot of time jumping into the crowd. The volume was immense and the strobe lighting was sickening. The whole experience reminded me of 'short video EEG', a technique used to help diagnosis epilepsy. Fairly mental.

I don't think I'll put the album on my ipod but the show was good. worth seeing

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mudhoney - live at the Arches, Glasgow

I've probably been listening to Mudhoney for about 20 years. They helped define the sound of grunge. They are clearly music fans and they like the sort of music that I like. The have had a second wind since Matt Lukin left in 1999 and they continue to release decent albums.

I last saw Mudhoney in the Arches in 1996. I was blind drunk at that show and I don't remember much of it.

There were two support acts tonight. I don't remember the name of the first guy but he was good - a singer/songwriter type from Seattle. When I remember his name I'll check out some of his stuff. Unnatural Helpers (another sub pop band) were the second support - they were entertaining.

Mudhoney are a stronger live machine now than they were 15 years ago. Mark Arm looks as young as ever, a Dorian Gray of grunge, frozen in smack. He has apparently kicked the habit in recent years and he is now usefully employed at Sub Pop records when Mudhoney are not on tour.

The set drew from most of Mudhoney's 20 year career. We heard most of Superfuzz Bigmuff as well as key tracks from the rest of their catalogue. Touch me I'm sick made an appearance in the middle of the set. Towards the end of the show Mark put down his guitar and delivered his best Iggy impression, jumping into the crowd and singing his lungs out. They finally finished with covers of the Dick's 'hate the police' (which Mudhoney must have played many more times than the Dicks) and an accidently prolonged version of 'Fix me' by Black Flag. Excellent.

It was difficult to decide on seeing Mudhoney last night. Another of my favourite bands, No Age, were playing a street away. I'm happy that I made the right choice. Mudhoney were great. I hope I get to see them again.

22 years old and still going strong.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Hole (in 3D) - film review

I went to see this because there was nothing else interesting on at the cinema. In my opinion Gremlins is one of the best films ever so I'm always going to give anything by Joe Dante a look. Even if it's only as good as Eerie, Indiana it's still good.

The Hole tells the story of a single mother and her two son as they move into a new town. The boys and the girl next door find a padlocked door concealing a deep hole in the basement. Surprisingly enough, something bad is in the hole.

The 3D effects felt a bit tacked on but the film was generally entertaining. It was funny in places with a few good frights and it would probably be OK to let your kids see it. Joe Dante does not let you down!

The only annoying thing was the Glasweigan tweenagers in the cinema who kept lighting matches and making jokes about getting their 'hole' until the cinema usher threatened to kifk them out

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wilson By Daniel Clowes

I was in London for work on Friday so I popped into Gosh comics and picked up some nice limited edition books. One of my purchases was Wilson by Daniel Clowes.

Wilson is the first 'original' graphic novel by Clowes, 'original' in that it was not initially published in a serialised form like 'ghost world' or 'david boring'. It's well drawn and it presents the central character, Wilson, well. Wilson is a bit of a loser, opinionated but well meaning. The book follows his life over several years.

Wilson is a character sketch. It's well realised but it doesn't really change the world. You can read it in less than an hour.

The Alteration by Kingsley Amis

The Alteration is an alternative reality novel set in a world very different from our own. The story opens in 1976 in an England that is ruled by the catholic church. In this reality the Reformation never happened and the world has not developed scientificallly.

Hubert, a 10 year old boy with an excellent singing voice, is the central character. Agents of the church wish to castrate him so that his voice will not change and he will become a brilliant singer. Hubert tries to escape.

Kingsley Amis is regarded as a great author but this is the first of his books that I have read. The alternative reality of 'The Alteration' is well thought out and the plot is interesting. This book would make a great film. Worth a read. It reminded me of 'the man in high castle' by Philip K. Dick'.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Death of an unsigned band by Tim Thornton

This is the second novel by Tim Thornton and again it deals with the less glamorous side of the music industry. Most rock bands that exist are crap and fail to thrive. I know. I've been in a couple.

Thornton captures the personalities and lifestyles of musicians in unsigned bands perfectly. I cringed as I read the book and I recognised several characters.

'Death of an unsigned band' is about growing up, leaving adolescence behind and deciding to do something worthwhile with your life. That's kinda what I did when I was 21 and I decided to stop fucking about in bands and go to medical school. I liked this book.

How I escaped my certain fate by Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee is probably my favourite comedian at the moment. He thinks about what he does. He is intelligent and he doesn't treat his audience as milestone delayed children.

'How I escaped my certain fate' is his second book. It's probably about his approach to the art of comedy. He describes the development of 3 of his comedy routines that are available on DVD. He also writes about his life as he developed these routines to help put his work in context. This is not a celebratory autobiography of the type shat out regularly by Russell Brand et al. I can imagine people being interested in this book in 20 years. Smart people, not wanks.

Worth a read.

Dum Dum Girls and MGMT live at the Glasgow Barrowlands

I was probably more interested in Dum Dum Girls when I bought the tickets to this show a few months ago. A very sensible lady suggested that I should listen to their album and it has found a place in my heart. Dum Dum Girls play a sort of fuzzy punk pop with hints of the Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Their record is very good indeed.

Live they managed to pull it off although they don't have the dreamy-fuzz polish of the album. The vocal harmonies were great and the band were tight. The lead singers voice held for most of the set but she did sound like she had a sore throat towards the end of it. My misogynist mate Chris said that they looked good too.

The average age of the crowd was about 15 or 16 meaning that I could probably be everyones dad. There was also a bunch of spectacularly drunk women dancing energetically in front of us. One of them fell into me and tried to grab my junk to steady herself on the way down. Thankfully my junk was not injured but it was a close call. As a doctor I would like to advise the general public of Glasgow to use alcohol responsibly because grabbing the junk of a stranger may cause offence in the wrong social situation.

MGMT? The big hits sounded great. Some of the quieter psychedelic stuff was nice and there was a good krautrock bit. The band looked like they were floating around Mars. The keyboard player (who looked a bit like Jesus) seemed to be trapped in a k-hole.

Dum Dum Girls - A

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Papal visit to UK

I am not a religious person. I have no religious beliefs. I'm a scientist. I don't really mind what other people believe as long as their beliefs do not hurt other people.

I have found much of what the Pope has said on his recent visit to the UK to be offensive. His preaching against the use of condoms in the devloping world is morally indefensible and a great cause of human misery. His tacit protection of paedophile priests is unpleasant and possibly criminal. His opinion that 'aggessive' atheism and secularism equates to nazism is misguided and silly. The statement made by his cardinal which suggested that Britain was a 'third world country' because of 'multiculturalism' had racist undertones.

The pope is a stupid, blinkered old man and I hope that multi-cultural, secular Britain continues to ignore him.

Cyrus - film review

A magazine described Cyrus as a 'mumblecore' film and that is an apt description. Cyrus had been advertised as a knock-about comedy instead of as an art-house influenced film. The Glaswiegan Friday night cinema audience were clearly disappointed by what they got for their 8 pounds and 7 young Asian guys walked out in a bad mood in the middle of the film.

Cyrus is OK but some of it is uncomfortable viewing. The plot revolves around a man who meets a woman at a party and starts a relationship with her. Problems develop when he meets her 22 year old Cyrus. At times Cyrus seems to have an almost incestual relationship with his mother and most of the film is played very straight. The characters and relationships are plausible.

Good film but not a feel-good film.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The expendables - film review

I ended up watching the expendables last week because the a-team was sold out. I have been told that the a-team isn't worth seeing. I was pleasantly suprised by the expendables as it is probably one of the funniest films I have seen in years. I'm not sure that it is meant to be a comedy.

The expendables doesn't really have a story. The film collects every stupid action movie hero you can think of, locks them in a room the does not obey the laws of physics, and lets them do whatever they want to do. Shit explodes, punks get beat down, death is dealt.

I pissed myself for 90 minutes. See it!

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World - film review

I've read about half of the Scott Pilgrim comic book series. The comics are quirky and fun but they don't always manage to completely hold my interest. The film was a more appealing concept with director Edgar Wright of 'Shaun of the dead' fame and a soundtrack featuring Beck and Broken Social Scene among others. A starring role for rent-a-nerd actor Michael Cera helped too.

The film is visually stunning, filled with comic book caption boxes and video game references. The music scenes work well. The opening 15 minutes felt a bit stilted but I really got into the story once I habituated myself to the narrative style.

Arty, funny and interesting.

Mogwai live at Stereo, Glasgow

I find it difficult to relate to Mogwai in an objective manner as one of my friends is in the band. They do not have the mystique of Slint, Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine. They are good guys who have done well for themselves. They deserve to do well for a million reasons.

The secret show that I saw on Sunday night in Stereo underlined how well they have done. They had decided to play a charity show as a break from studio sessions for their next album. The money will be split between a cancer charity and Pakistan disaster relief.

Mogwai are now as good a live band as any of my favourites. I last saw them as they headlined the Glasgow Barrowlands approximately 10 years ago and the difference is amazing. Mogwai are the best live band that I have seen in Stereo. They played a fairly diverse setlist including Helicon part 1, Mogwai Fear Satan and My Father, My King. The sound was crystal clear. The energy from the stage was electric.

For me to admit that Mogwai are any good at all means that they are probably 4 or 5 times better than anyone else. See them if you can.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beirut live at the Picture House, Edinburgh

Somehow I've always managed to be on a night shift when Beirut have played in Glasgow. I jumped on tickets for the Edinburgh show as soon as they went on sale. I normally wouldn't make the effort to go through to Edinburgh for just any gig but I really like Beirut.

The Picture House looks like an old converted cinema. It's very clean with seating above the main standing area. There is a maze of complex stairways and possibly an excess of toilets. The building may even have been a theatre at some point.

The support act was a guy called Richard Youngs, an experimental artist who shouted a lot. I didn't enjoy his work.

Beirut were majestic. Sublime horns. A glorious noise. They played most of the first two albums and the EP. Some of my friends thought that they sounded better live than on record. It was a brilliant show. I very much hope I get the chance to see them again.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

British doctor killed in Afghanistan

Sad news over the past few days. A young British doctor was killed while doing humanitarian medical work in Afghanistan along with several other doctors of various nationalities. The doctor involved, Dr Karen Woo, used to write a blog. It's fairly well written.


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton

This book represents the best 30p (plus postage) that I've spent in some time. I ordered a second-hand copy of 'The alternative hero' by Tim Thornton from amazon after reading a positive review of his second novel 'The death of an unsigned band' in the word magazine.

Thornton has played in several indie bands over the years allowing him to create realistic sketches of the music scene. 'The alternative hero' is similar to Nick Hornby's 'High fidelity'. Both books shine a cruel spotlight on obsessive music fans; men who are basically losers. While I can happily say that I'm not a loser I am obviously a bit of a geek and I own way too many obscure records.

The main character in 'the alternative hero' is Clive, a failed music writer with a dead end job and no girlfriend. One day Clive bumps into Lance, his musical hero. From that point on the story develops into some sort of twisted fucked up love story. It's actually funny, recognisable and entertaining. Well worth 30p. I'm gonna check out Thorntons new book.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

Planetary was a 27 issue comic book series by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday. It tells the story of Elijah Snow, a superhuman recruited to the mysterious Planetary organisation. The Planetary organisation are 'archaeologists of the unknown'. The 3 person Planetary team travel around the world to investigate unusual happenings.

Planetary is a great comic book. Warren Ellis is an excellent writer and John Cassaday produces wonderful cinematic art. Ellis has the Planetary team investigate various fantastical and supernatural incidents often involving literary characters like Sherlock Holmes or disguised versions of characters that are still under copyright. Ellis tops this off with scientific sounding jargon and strange theories about time travel. This is brilliant science fiction.

The entire series is available in two hardback Absolute volumes and four paperback volumes. Read it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception - film review

Just been to see this. Really not sure what happened in it.

Inception is the newest film by Christopher Nolan of Batman and Memento film. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as an expert on stealing information from dreams. He is given a new job and then things get strange.

The film looks great but I'm still trying to work out what happened.

Feel free to leave a comment and explain it if you can.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

I picked up The Passage after reading a positive review in SFX magazine. I wanted to read something light while I was on holiday. While this is a rather thick book it is an easy read and it's fairly entertaining.

The Passage reminds me of the Stephen King books that I used to read when I was kid. I guess that the book is structurally and thematically very similar to The Stand as it combines supernatural elements with a post-apocalyptic setting. This is not some work of high literature but it is adequate as a holiday read.

The story revolves around an army experiment to create 'super soldiers' using a virus that promotes rapid healing. As you would expect this virus has the unfortunate side effect of creating a race of vampires who promptly kill 90% of the population of America. However a small girl who is also a victim of the experiments may be able to save mankind.

This book is the first part of a trilogy and film rights have already beem sold. I intend to read the next book in due course.

Monday, July 12, 2010

James Le Fanu - how the mighty have fallen

So, after being disappointed by 'why us?', a book that I took to be essentially hocus-pocus I learn that James Le Fanu has been supporting homeopathy.

I really loved 'the rise and fall of modern medicine' but I guess I just have to accept that he got lucky and generally he's a bit 'mystical'.


Why us? by James Le Fanu

I was very disappointed by this book having enjoyed 'The rise and fall of modern medicine', the last book by James Le Fanu. In this book Le Fanu examines evolution, the human genome and consciousness. Sadly, he seems to bring an unwritten agenda to the book. In most scientific journals writers are expected to declare conflicts of interest that should be taken into account when reading an article. Le Fanu does not do this and I think that he should have.

Initially Le Fanu describes some of the things that we do not know. He highlights flaws in the theory of evolution, weaknesses in our understanding of the human genome and how little we know about the processes of the brain. He also describes the unpleasant uses of evolutionary theory to justify eugenics and racism.

Le Fanu comes across as a rather arrogant figure. In his eyes man is perfect and should be on a pedestal above the rest of the world. Le Fanu does not seem to believe that a scientific explanation for humanity will ever be found and so a mystical explanation is more likely. I disagree with his conclusions.

Borrow this book from a library if you want but try not to pay for it. I am unconvinced. I think science will eventually explain most things although I accept that this may not happen in my lifetime. I do not think that man should be back on a pedestal and I do not need the crutch of a ghost in the machine to cover up the gaps in our understanding of the world.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Behold the man by Michael Moorcock

Behold the man is a 1969 novella by Michael Moorcock. It's only about 130 pages long and you can read it in a couple of hours. It won a science fiction award once. I bought it for 2 quid from amazon.

I picked the book up because it got a good review in a recent issue of SFX magazine. The plot is about a British time-traveller who journeys back in time to meet Jesus in 29AD. I pretty much guessed exactly what would happen as soon as I read a summary of the plot.

It's an easy read although the book is clearly a product of the 1960's . None of the twists in the book are exactly mindblowing but it's worth a read. If Christians were in any way irritable this book would have provoked a Salman Rushdie style fatwah on Moorcock. Thankfully most Christians don't really care.

Worth a read.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Funny people - DVD

I watched Funny People this afternoon with a massive post-stag night hangover so I was barely qualifying as a sentient life form. I decided to watch Funny People in the hope that it would elevate my alcohol impaired mood.

It didn't quite work. While some of the cast are Funny People (Seth Rogan and Adam Sandler both make me laugh) there are some serious elements to the film. The plot revolves around a famous comedian who is diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a severe form of blood cancer. He has no real friends or personal relationships so he employs a younger comedian as a personal assistant. Basically he's a bit of an arse.

Stuff happens in the film and not all of it is happy. It was OK but probably better to watch without a hangover or a stagnight related guilt complex.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The little stranger by sarah waters

I picked up this book in Fopp at the weekend for £2. I didn't know much about the book although several things about it appealed to me. The story is about a doctor in the Leamington Spa area after world war 2. I actually spent 5 years at medical school/working as a first year doctor in Warwickshire so the setting was familiar to me.

The book is also a bit of a gothic/psychological horror story. The protagonist is Dr Faraday, a man from a poor family who has done well in life. Faraday narrates the book, describing the misfortunes of the Ayres family in their decaying family seat, Hundreds Hall. Strange things happen in the house suggesting that it is haunted.

I really enjoyed the story and there are a few interesting things that happen. I have talked about some of these things below. To avoid SPOILERS I have used a different coloured text.

To READ SPOILERS select the area below.

Faraday appears to be an unreliable narrator in the style of James Hogg's 'The private memoirs and confessions of a justified sinner'. Faraday appears to be a catalyst for the decline of the house, initially damaging it as a 10 year old child.

Initially Faraday appears to be trying to help the family although with time many of his actions appear to be more selfishly motivated. While the narative supplied by Faraday appears to be neutral he may well be denying many of the unpleasant things that he does to the Ayres family. Towards the end of the book his selfish actions appear more obvious (for example he himself carries out the post-mortem on his prospective mother-in-law, an activity which is surely against medical athics. He also seems to emotionally manipulate Caroline Ayres into becoming engaged to him and at one point he may even attempt to rape har).

In the latrer segments of the book Faraday is more visibly unhinged, even in his own narrative. It is certainly possible to interpret the death of Caroline Ayres as murder. There is also a telling section in the epilogue where he returns to the house, thinking he may be able to see the ghost before realising that all he can see is his own reflection.

A good book. Worth a read. Please leave a comment if you have any other thoughts on events in the book.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Last man out turn off lights - Christoph Büchel Exhibition at Glasgow Tramway

Because I live right next to the Tramway Theatre in Glasgow I normally have a wander around the different shows and exhibits. I was fairly impressed with 'Last man out turn off lights' an installation by Christoph Büchel.

In a large space the artist has recreated a number of unsettling environments. The rooms look like prisons and barracks. They smell of men. There is a large wrecked aeroplane in the centre of the main hall.

I thought it was great. It made me think of the Lockerbie bombing and the general unpleasantness of life. At the exit of the show there are two parallel bars. A Rangers pub and a Celtic pub. One is warm and inviting while the other is cold and frightening. You decide which is which.

Worth a visit. Recommended.

Nurse With Wound - live at the Glasgow Tramway

I have to admit that I'm fairly unfamiliar with the works of Nurse With Wound but they were playing a gig about 300 metres from my house so I thought I would investigate. Apparently it was their first Scottish gig in a 32 year career. As I missed Throbbing Gristle last year I decided to make an effort today.

The Tramway had organised a full day event to coincide with the NWW show. The event was entitled 'A midsummer's day dream' and consisted of various ambient musical activities. There was a room full of tuned tools and household appliances. This room held my attention for about 30 seconds. There was also a slightly more satisfying collaboration between Vernon&Burns and Lied Music which produced some nice ambient sounds. Some people had brought their (young) babies to the show. The crying of the babies may have added something to the overall 'ambient-ness' of the show although I personally would have avoided subjecting a young baby to scary noises.

I popped home for a bit only to discover that a horrible virus had killed my 5 year old laptop. I may be able to save it but I suspect that it is really fucked. It has served me well.

I managed to catch most of Dr Who before returning to see Nurse With Wound. NWW were pretty good. They had a very nightmarish film show behind them featuring bleeding walls, burning houses, people living underwater and collapsing building. The music was initially quiet, dreamy and sinister before becoming louder, guitary and forceful. There was also a bit of saxophone. Overall I liked it.

I'm not sure if liking Nurse With Wound means that you are pretentious. It probably does. I should probably get a daft haircut now.

If only I had some fucking hair

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Glasgow Mela, Kelvingrove Park

I went along to the Glasgow Mela in Kelvingrove Park today. I've been meaning to check it out for years but this was the first time when I've not been otherwise engaged. The Mela has been going on for several years (possibly 20) celebrating Indian and South East Asian culture. It's colourful and noisy and generally good fun.

It was a good day for it today. The sun was out and it was warm. The event seemed fairly busy and I think a significant proportion of Glasgows asian population was in attendance. There was music, dancing and scary looking acrobatics.

There was also a satellite street fair on Gibson Street just down from the University. Lots of arty stalls and bands.

All good fun. Will try to attend next year.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Never really got the point but been playing with it today.

This is funny

I am here (but I don't think I'll be there very much)

Uninspired by the world cup

I really don't like football anyway but I'm totally not interested in the current World Cup. Obviously Scotland are, as always, too shite to be in the competition but England appeat to be amazingly lacklustre and pathetic.

I remember when I lived in England how much I hated the world cup. Too many jingoistic idiots. Too many bloody flags.

Anyway, one England are booted out the TV might improve a bit

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

philosophy of science

I'm a medical doctor. I have a science degree, a medical degree and a post-graduate medical diploma. I'm currently working on a research degree (MD). I like science. I like learning stuff. I like to know how things work.

So why is science good? Why is science valid? Why is aspirin better than a homeopathic medication if you have a heart attack? Why do type 1 diabetics prefer insulin to acupuncture? Why is the theory of evolution more credible than creationism?

I've always been interested in these questions and when I was at medical school I did a special study module entitled 'introduction to the philosophy of science'. (in medical school you normally get to do a couple of 'special study modules' to broaden your horizons and help you appreciate life outside medicine). I took this module with 2 of the more intellectually adventurous guys in my medical school. It basically involved us sitting around and having a nice chat with a professional philosopher at Warwick University for 3 hours every week. I loved it.

We were able to convince the philosopher to assess us with an evening 'poster presentation' with cheese and beer. It was great.

One of the big problems with clinical medicine is that you don't get to think much. You solve clinical problems quickly. You sort people out, patching them up and 'fixing' them efficiently so that you can tend to as many patients as possible. You graduate from medical school and all of a sudden it's 6 years later. You're 30 years old and you've barely drawn breath.

I wanted to do clinical research for many reasons. I always wanted to be a scientist and discover stuff. Obviously I realise that the concept of actually 'discovering' something in medicine is a load of bollocks but as a child it really appealed to me. I also wanted to pause for breath and check my pulse after several years of clinical medicine. It's nice to be your own taskmaster for a while and to be able to escape the Stalinist thrust of the NHS. I love the NHS but it wears you down. I wanted to keep the option of a future career in academic medicine open and I wanted some time to teach medical students and learn a bit more about my own medical subspeciality. I feel that I am achieving most of these goals.

I better return to the point of this post. As part of my research degree I recently took a further course on the philosophy of science. The course was good and rejuvenated my interest in the subject.

The course tackled several interesting subjects. The main difference between science and pseudoscience seems to rest in properties of scientific theories. If a theory is scientific it can be tested experimentally and potentially proven wrong. Pseudoscience is often untestable. Many scientific theories are backed by expermental data. Pseudosciences are often slow to produce objective evidence.

The course also tackled the relationship between science and religion. Science and religion are very different things and they probably should be kept as far apart as possible. Religion only devalues itself by trying to interfere with science and scientific attempts to disprove religion are probably futile and seem to be as meanspirited as kicking the crutches away from a man with one leg. Science and religion are non-overlapping majesteria and should probably be kept apart.

As a side issue I would say that clinical medicine is probably more of an art than a science. Patients are not experiments and we should remember that.

The course also looked at the evolution vs. creation science debate. Basically creationists are idiots who do not understand evolutionary theory or its implications. Creationists expose themselves to ridicule and their religion is damaged by attempts to describe fossils as 'a test'. Even in Darwins lifetime evolution was described as 'religions friend disguised as a foe'. The person who made this statement was observing that the process of evolution could be seen as a mechanism of intelligent design that could have been used by some interventionalist creator God. If I was a religious nutter I would be promoting evolution as evidence of devine fingerprints. Creationists are a bit too stupid to pick up on this. I'm happy to settle for Pascal's wager myself.

So, to summarise this rambling post, the philosophy of science is an attempt to explain why science is important and why it can be trusted and why it is more useful that reading a horoscope.

If you want to read a bit more on the topic try
What is this thing called science by A.F.Chalmers
Philosophy of science - a very short introduction by Samir Okasha

Monday, June 14, 2010

Parkinson's disease - patients perspective film

Here's a clip from a film about Parkinson's disease made by a girl I knew when I was younger.

Parkinson's disease is a common neurological illness that we need to learn more about. The treatments currently available for this condition are not perfect and more research is needed.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffitti live at Captain's Rest, Glasgow

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti are a legendary underground band that I first heard of two weeks ago. Weird that.

Ariel Pink have had great write ups for their latest album in the heavyweight music press. Apparently Ariel Pink (the singer) has been making music for the past 15 years and is a big influence on many of the present generation of American alternative bands. Some Ariel Pink material has been released on the Animal Collective Paw Tracks record label.

It's fairly easy to hear Ariel Pink music if you want to. Several songs are available on youtube and you can hear the new album on Spotify. The stuff has an interesting sound so I decided to check them out.

There were two support bands tonight. The first were called 'we were only afraid of NYC' and sounded a bit like snowplay or coldpatrol.

The second band, Paws were much better although they were clearly indebted to Nirvana. They were loud and fairly interesting. I'd happily watch them again or give some of their recordings a listen.

By the time Ariel Pink took the stage the basement at The Captains Rest was stuffed. The heat was causing sweat to drip from the ceiling and people were packed in so tightly that I was almost forced into some unintended frottage. The errant band of misfits that make up the Haunted Graffitti band took the stage and after some careful soundchecking they exploded into some psychadelic '80s infused rock.

They were rather good. They played a lot of the newer songs as well as some less familiar material. The harmonies were tight and Ariel Pink has a great voice (even if he looks like he could do with a shower). We probably got about 60 minutes of music and the crowd was left wanting more. I'd watch them again.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alan Moore on those who cite him as an influence

"....when they read the books and they just don't quite understand it. There was a franker attitude towards sex in it and perhaps a franker attitude towards violence and I didn't understand it. So this is the key - more sex, more violence, make it incomprehensible and then you'll have that Alan Moore feeling"

Alan Moore at the Magus Conference 2010 - via youtube

An academic approach to Alan Moore

I just found out about an event that took place in Northampton last month.

Looks like it was fairly good. Footage on youtube. He talks about his writing, his approach to art and his attitude to the mainstream media

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Primavera Day 3

Day 3 of Primavera started in the Parc Joan Miro in the centre of town. I went there mainly to see Circulatory System who I had missed on Thursday but I also caught A sunny day in Glasgow and Thee Ooh Sees again.

I bought the Olivia Tremor Control album Black Foilage when it came out in 1999 but I only became aware of Circulatory System in 2007. I was very keen to see them and the Parc Joan Miro is a beautiful setting. Again, photos will follow if I can work out how to do it. The Parc stages are surrounded by palm trees. Circulatory System had interesting instrumentation including a flugel horn (I think) and a stringed instrument of some form.

They were plagued by poor sound initially. After a bit of tinkering about they sorted this out and the rest of the set was great. I was amazingly chuffed to be sitting in a park in the centre of Barcelona watching some good music in the shade. Perfect moment time.

I made my way to the main festival site for about six and hooked up with the Greenock blokes. They went to see Real Estate first. I hadn't heard them before but the sound was fairly good. Nice, summery indie rock. A bit teenage fanclub.

I then caught a bit of Nana Grizol, another elephant 6 band. I liked their stuff but I need to hear more of it. Sadly they had sold out of CDs before I could pick one up. They sounded a bit like neutral milk hotel although that shouldn't really be a shock to anyone.

My next band to see was the slits. I love their first album, cut, and I still listen to it regularly. After being impressed by public image limited on their recent tour I had high hopes for the slits and while they were competent they were not amazing. They did play a lot of material from cut but the reggae quotient had been jacked up significantly. I like a lot of reggae but the Slits material that I really love is the early unique sounding mess of songs like typical girls and shoplifting. They were OK but I wasn't blown away.

I went to see Grizzly bear next. Some of my friends have been raving about Grizzly bear for some time but I had not previously 'clicked' with them. The Greenock contingent were

firm fans and had developed some sort of relationship with the band based on an obscene drawing. To further this relationship they had drawn the obscene picture on three frisbees which they then threw at the band. The singer picked up the frisbee, said 'I know that picture' and proceeded to piss himself laughing. The set was good and I plan to give Grizzly bear another chance in the future.

I haven't written about the gastronomic genius of the pizza cone yet. A pizza cone is an ice cream cone type made out of pizza crust and filled with pizza topping. It's easy to eat and very tasty. As an added bonus you don't get pizza all over your fingers. I can see these things having a great future in Scotland.

I went to see No Age on the Pitchfork stage after that. We were standing fairly far back so the sound wasn't great. I've listened to No Age a lot and I've seen them before but I stuggled to recognise some of their songs.

During the No Age set I met a really cool girl called Lorraine from Glasgow but in a massive FAIL I didn't manage to get her number. This girl had seen the Fall 8 times and she likes Flipper. She seemed to be perfect. She had good chat, a sensible job and a sense of humor. I talked to her though the Sunny Day real estate set but I lost her on the way to see Lee 'scratch' perry. I made a heroic attempt to get in touch with her via record shop employees and her best friend on my return to Glasgow but it was a futile effort. Major loss.

Lee 'scratch' Perry was amazing. I love superape and arkology but I never expected Perry to be any good live. I've missed him at several festivals before. That was a massive mistake on my part. He was fucking amazing live. I danced like a fanny for a full hour.

Finally it was 3AM and orbital took the stage with satan


yes son

what does regret mean?

well son, the funny thing about regret is, it's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't done and if you see your mother be sure and tell her SATAN, SATAN, SATAN

I would have regretted not going to Primavera when I was in Barcelona. I'm really glad I went. I had a great time even though I didn't know anyone there. It's always better to regret something you have done....

I'll go again if I can

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Primavera Day 2

My conference finished at 1pm on the Friday of the festival so I was making my way to the Primavera site by 4pm. I heard some Glasweigan accents on the underground and started talking to 3 blokes from Greenock. They were all fairly cool and essentially adopted me for the rest of the festival.

I had one major disappointment on Friday. Low were playing 'the great destroyer' in the indoor rock auditori and I didn't manage to get in to see them. This fucked me off bigstyle especially after I stood in line for nearly an hour in an attempt to get a ticket. It also pissed me off that I had to pay an extra 2 Euros to get into the auditori after I'd already spent 130 quid on a primavera ticket.

After the Low failure I contined to hang out with the Greenock guys. They were making a film about the festival and interviewing random people. They tried to get me to explain how to perform a lobotomy on camera. I politely declined to provide that footage. They were also trying to film a few bands where possible.

The bands on Friday were fairly good. I saw cocorosie perform a couple of stripped down numbers on a small stage although I couldn't really focus on their main set on a larger stage. They were just a bit too out-there. I barely recognised some songs that I really like from their CDs.

I watched a bit of Thee Ooh Sees on the vice stage. They were OK but they didn't blow me away initially. They were much better the following day when they played at the Parc de Joan Miro in town. I also watched a sunny day in glasgow who are not from Glasgow but were agreeable enough. I enjoyed them more in the Parc de Joan Miro the following day.

I watched Wire later on and I liked them. I've got several of their early albums but I didn't recognise much of what was played on stage. I guess that doesn't really matter cos they were great.

One of the best sets came from Michael Rother and friends (including steve shelley of sonic youth) performing the music of neu! I had a great seat in the ATP arena on the stone seats to the right of the stage. I had an unobstructed view of the stage beautifully framed by the sea. I own a couple of neu CDs and this set reminded me to listen to them more. The sound was great and the crowd loved it.

Later on I watched Les Savy Fav. I'm a big fan of them, I own about 5 of their CDs but for various boring reasons I've never managed to see them. They delivered in a spectacular way with singer Tim Harrington taking the stage dressed as a dog. He then spent a lot of the time running around the crowd promoting chaos. Entropy in action. The band was tight and the sound was shit hot.

Shellac came on after Les Savy Fav. This was my third opportunity to see Shellac and they were great as usual. I took some good photos and enjoyed the show. If I get my shit together I'll put up some photos here.

Finally I caught the end of the pixies set. Shellac were obviously my priority so I missed the first 20 minutes but I enjoyed what I saw. The Spanish crowd were loving it. A couple of drunken English girls approached me and tried to make me drink rum. One of them tried to snog me but I resisted.

Generally it was a good day.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Primavera Day one

I'm not normally the sort of person who would go to a music festival alone but the line-up for Primavera was so good I just had to go. I couldn't live with myself if I was in a city where Shellac was playing and I didn't make an effort to see them.

I headed to the festival site on the Thursday after giving my talk at the European Stroke Conference. The Primavera site is the Parc Del Forum on the coast. It was built for a large festival about 6 or 7 years back and it's basically a brilliant music festival venue. There are several amphitheatres that are perfect for open air shows and tarmacked ground that does not turn into a swamp at the first sniff of rain.

I decided to be almost psychotically sociable and tried to talk to anyone who spoke English. My friendly advances were knocked back a few times until I bumped into a bloke wearing a Hearts shirt who was recording the Fall. I hung out with him and his friends for the rest of the evening.

I last saw the Fall in 1994 at the Phoenix festival. They were playing from the infotainment scam back then and I loved it. 'paranoid man masturbates while listening to pearl jam in cheap shit apartment room'. Poetry. This time I didn't recognise much of the material but I enjoyed it just as much. I was pleased when they played their cover of Strychnine by the sonics. Proper garage rock. I look forward to hearing the tape.

Superchunk were OK in a sort of bouncey grunge pop way. I like them but I don't love them. Geraldo, a mexican bloke who knew the hearts fan, was more into them and said it was a good set (PS - Geraldo, if you read this message me in the comments section)

I watched broken social scene next. I own two of their albums but I had never really listened to them. It's a side effect of being a doctor. You have money that you spend on shit that you never manage to enjoy. Their set was OK but the feeling wasn't really there when I listened to the CDs at home in Glasgow. I should probably give them another spin.

Finally I watched pavement. I last saw pavement in 1998 at the Barrowlands in Glasgow just before they split up. They weren't very good back then possibly because of intraband bad vibes. This time they were much better. They seemed to be positively cheery and they bounced about the stage in a good way broadcasting their sunkissed fall-inspired tunes. I sung my heart out and tried to ignore the obese Spainiard who was attempting to initiate violent sexual congress with the rest of the crowd. He was either pogoing or moshing, I couldn't tell. I resisted the urge to twat him.

Day one was great and it got better

Sunday, June 06, 2010


I'd been to Barcelona once or twice in the past, maybe 17 years ago. I have vague memories of the visit although I remember visiting the Salvador Dali museum. The Dali stuff blew me away back then.

I was in town this time for a mix of work and pleasure. I was giving a brief academic talk at a medical conference in town during the first half of the week and sneakily attending the Primavera music festival at the end of the week.

I arrived in Barcelona at 8:30am. I couldn't check into my hotel on the Passeig De Gracia straight away so I went for a walk around the centre of town. Most of the shops were shut as it was a public holiday. I walked down to the Modern Art Museum and hung out there for an hour or two.

The heat was fairly intense. I've spent a lot of time in Spain in the past but the heat always gets me. I just don't like the dry heat. I find myself eating less solid food and drinking a lot more water in that sort of weather. I guess I'm just more physically adapted to life in a cold, wet country.

There was a lot of anti-capitalist/anarchist graffiti on the shop windows in the streets near Placa de Catalunya. The current financial turmoil affecting Spain probably had something to do with that. The shops that I found in Barcelona were all fairly nice if both upmarket and expensive. I bought myself a new pair of trainers and a cap to protect my balding head from the sun. I also found a copy of a pixies CD 'the purple tape' which is out of print in the UK. It was only 5 euros so I was chuffed with that.

I also picked up a copy of an art book by Raymond Pettibon (of black flag/sonic youth goo fame). It was published to comemorate a Spanish exhibition from a few years back. I paid 50 Euros and it was selling for £120 when I checked the price in Amazon.

The underground system in Barcelona is pretty good. I had my eyes open for pickpockets but I only had one weirdo try it on. I was clearly a bit paler than everyone else on the street which clearly singled me out as a mark. Some bloke came up to me and started to engage me in disjointed conversation. He spun a bit of a sob story and managed to convince me to give him 2 Euros. He then started to ask me weird shit about how old I was so I told him to fuck off. I was slightly more polite in my lexical choice but i used my 'fuck off' Glasweigan tone of voice.

The Gaudi buildings are interesting to look at. My hotel was just a couple of blocks away from Casa Mila which just looks like it's melting. It reminds me of comic book art from the Nemesis the warlock series in 2000ad. I guess Kevin O'Neill was influenced by Gaudi and not vice versa.

Anyhow, enough rambling pish. Liked the city. Will go back. By train if I can.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A bit of a blur by Alex James

I think I picked this book up for 2 quid a couple of years ago. I have to admit that I called the whole Oasis/Blur thing wrong back in the day. I thought that blur were a bit of a comedy act and that oasis had more spirit. Time has revealed Oasis as a one trick pony while blur went from strength to strength.

I always thought Alex James was a bit of a fanny and indeed in many ways he is. He is also, surprisingly, a very readable and warm writer. His autobiography is a light, entertaining read and it made me smile in many places. Rather good for 2 quid. A pleasant companion for the first leg of my journey to Barcelona.

Glasgow to Barcelona by train

I've got a few bits and pieces to put up on this blog over the next few days. I had a great time last week. I was in Barcelona for a work related conference and I also managed to attend the Primavera music festival.

I had initially planned to fly with British Airways but my plane was cancelled due to a strike. I was a bit worried about booking another flight as there were ongoing problems with ash clouds. I decided to go by train.

The train journey basically went Glasgow to London to Paris to Barcelona. On the Saturday I travelled to Bristol because I couldn't get a train down to London early enough on the Sunday morning. I stayed overnight with my best friend from medical school and her family. She has a young son who I met for the first time.

On Sunday I caught an early train to London before jumping on the Eurostar to Paris. The London Eurostar terminal is very modern and clean. Much more comfortable than most airports. The Eurostar train was fairly nice too. It only took about 2 and a half hours to reach Paris. The train only seemed to be in the tunnel for 25 minutes.

In Paris I got a taxi accross town to Austerlitz train station. The sleeper train takes 12 hours from Paris to Barcelona. I was in a 4 berth compartment but luckily there was only one other person sharing. I managed to sleep for a few hours although I was wearing my jeans. When we arrived in Barcelona at 8:30am I smelled like a dog. Fairly unpleasant.

Overall, I enjoyed the journey and I would do it again. Much better than flying.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Adventureland - DVD

I had fancied seeing this film for a time. I was mainly attracted by the soundtrack full of '80s alternative rock and Lou Reed. The story is set in the mid-80s in small town America. A guy is planning to go to graduate school in New York but he has no money. He takes a shitty job in a theme park to save some cash.

He meets a cool girl there. He realises that he likes her but nothing in life is simple. The performances in the film are believable and the plot is lifelike. I was very impressed by Martin Starr as a Robert Crumb style free thinker. I hope to see Starr in a few more films in the future.

I was not disappointed by the soundtrack. Husker Du, The Replacements, the Velvets, The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cure. My ears are happy.

A nice film. Worth seeing

Hot tub time machine - film review

Hot tub time machine is not the best film I've ever seen. Bits of it were funny. I very much like the squirrel element to the film. Some of it wasn't too funny. This would probably have been better if I was still a teenager.

Watch it on TV and you might smile. Don't run to the cinema or pay too much for the DVD

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Contemporary Glasgow Punk Bands

A couple of weeks back (4th of May) I saw some punk bands at the 13th Note.

The first band was called Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair. They are a 2 piece noise outfit and reminded me of Graveyard Rodeo or Dillinger Escape Plan as interpreted by No Age. I also heard a bit of SSD in there. The drummer wasn't too impressed by the Dillinger comparison as Wheelchair x 4 are 'not that technical' but they are noisy and fast.

The other band were called Jackie Onassis and were more traditional hardcore punk. I heard the misfits, black flag and the dead kennedys. I made a mental note to track down one of their CDs.

I went home after the first couple of bands because I had other stuff to do.

American - The Bill Hicks Story

Bill Hicks was 32 when he died of pancreatic cancer in February 1994. He was younger than me although he looked a lot older. I was surprised when he died and a bit sad but I didn't realise he was so young.

The comparative youth of Hicks only struck me when I saw the film American - The Bill Hicks Story yesterday. I'm a fan of Hicks and I know a lot about him. I've seen or heard most of his major routines and I was aware of his slow rise to fame, his years of self-abuse with alcohol and cigarettes (and self-abuse) and I was aware of his death from pancreatic cancer. I just wasn;t aware that he was so goddam young.

Hicks was one of the stars of my youth, a navagational point with Jello Biafra, Ian MacKaye and Hunter S. Thomson. He encouraged me to think for myself and to question the powers that be and to read books. He reminded me that it was OK to be intelligent. He affirmed that it was cool to swear a lot.

American didn't really tell me much about Hicks that I didn't already know. There wasn't a lot of unseen footage. I think that better documentaries have been made about his life. This film didn't really teach me anything although I perhaps miss Hicks more now. What would he have said about George W. Bush, the second invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, September the 11th and Obama? Would he have grown into a cool elder statesman or would he have become a lone nut, tilting against windmills?


'it's just a ride'

Friday, May 07, 2010

UK election result

I'm glad we have a hung Parliament. Neither of the big UK political parties really represent my beliefs and I have been voting Liberal for the past 15 years.

I think Britain has become more stupid in the past 15 years. Reality TV and mobile phones have rotted our brains. The internet has probably fucked us up a bit too. Our politicians now come from a 'political class' and are essentially a group of greasy public relations liaisons who only want to line their pockets with gold. They don't seem to have intellectual depth. Most of them would have loved to appear on Big Brother or the X-factor.

The recent expenses scandal combined with the economic collapse and an ongoing unpopular war in the middle east. None of the main parties offer real hope or change. My own party, the Liberals, are probably nothing new. I only vote to invalidate votes for parties I hate.

So now we have a hung Parliament. The tories have 36.1% of the popular vote (they probably should have 234 seats instead of 306). Labour have 29% (188 imaginary seats but 258 real seats) and the Liberals have 23% and only 57 seats. With proportional representation the Liberals would have 150 seats. 6.8million people voted for the Liberals. The first-past-the-post system fucks all these people over.

So now we have an impotent Westminster, sitting in it's own shit and unable to clean itself up. I like to visualise Westminster with the face of David Cameron at the moment. He looks a wee bit crestfallen. Nothing is going to happen until British politics grow up.

We need a coalition government that forces itself to work. We need a centralist multi-party government where the extremists are pushed to the sidelines. We need balance and if we're lucky we'll get it. I hope we are entering a new political age, baptised with the death of spin-doctoring. I hope we will have a more mature, northern European style of collaborative government. I think we might have a chance and it might just work out. If the Liberals and the Tories balance each other out we might survive. Electoral reform might be good (although we would probably end up with at least one BNP cunt in office)

People are really worried about the financial market collapsing at the moment. I think the markets will improve when we see some political stability.

There's a song by the band Bright Eyes called 'lets not shit ourselves'. It's a great song. Listen to it and watch the party.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Iron Man 2 - Film review

As I have previously written on this blog, I loved the first Iron Man film. It was funny and warm and had a personality that is often missing from superhero films. I've been looking forward to Iron Man 2 since the lights went up in the cinema at the end of the first film. The reviews of Iron Man 2 in the press have been less than favourable so I admit having been slightly nervous when I went to the cinema tonight.

I know I don't have the greatest taste in the world and that I enjoy a lot of low-brow entertainment but I have to admit that I really enjoyed this film. Robert Downey Jr was excellent as Tony Stark (again) and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) was prominently featured in the plot. We were also introduced to the Black Widow and War Machine and we were teased with Captain America's shield.

It was a big, loud, funny comic book film. It's a stepping stone to the film version of the Avengers. Good fun.

THEM: adventures with extremists by Jon Ronson

I picked up THEM after enjoying another Ronson book, The men who stare at goats. THEM deals with different groups of extremists scattered around the world. Ronson met them between 1995 and 2001 while working on different journalist projects.

The various extremists sketched in the book are all very human and faintly ridiculous. Muslim extremists, racists and other militants all seem equally bizarre. A lot of these people seem to be a bit dim.

Sadly, dim people have strong beliefs and they end up killing other people. The book is entertaining but the universal paranoia and hate that it showcases provokes a sense of unease. Human nature is fairly unpleasant at times.

A good read.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dark Side of the moon by The Flaming Lips (and friends)

I hate pink floyd. I've tried to like them and I just can't. Several years ago (maybe 10) I bought 'Dark side of the moon' but I jst don't like it for some ill-defined reason.

I like the Flaming Lips. I own most of their CDs and I've seen them live several times.

So, does the greatness of the Flaming Lips outweigh the shitness of Pink Floyd? Yes, thankfully. The Lips win out by bringing along Henry Rollins, Peaches and 'baby brother' band Stardeath and the White Dwarves for their version of 'dark side of the moon' which rocks. Freak out guitar, angry Rollins speak and distorted vocals mush together to eradicate the memory of a million 'hi-fideltiy' CD demonstrations using the Pink Floyd version. It's rather good, more than just a curiosity. I've been listening to it on spotify all week and I've listened to it twice since I picked it up in Monorail this morning.

The copy I picked up in Monorail is rather nice. It's on clear 'seafoam green' vinyl with a beautiful sleeve and comes with a free CD copy. An amazing artefact and sadly one of only 500 copies. A more available comercial release is coming out next month.

International record shop day

Sadly, record shops are in trouble. This is explained by several factors. The value that people place on music has changed. Almost any song that you would want to hear can be found and downloaded via the internet within 15 minutes. For someone who just likes a tune and isn’t interested in the physical artefact of a CD or vinyl LP a digital download is perfect and ‘free’. Record companies hate this as music is essentially worthless in this format and very easy to ‘steal’. Record shops lose out because they are removed from the equation completely.

If you actually want to own a physical artefact it is often less expensive and more convenient to purchase music on-line from Amazon. Amazon is generally well stocked and economically priced. Today, I was in a record shop trying to pick up some limited edition LPs that were available as part of record shop day. I saw a Galaxie 500 CD that I want to buy. In the record shop (Avalanche) it cost £8.99 while on Amazon it costs £7. It is economically impossible for a small independent record shop to compete.

So, we may not need record shops but should we have them? I like the record shop experience but I think they will only succeed when they offer a personalized experience. My favourite record shop is currently Monorail records located beside King Street car park in Glasgow (just opposite the thirteenth note). Monorail is run by Stephen Pastel and another really nice bloke who used to work in Missing records. The Mono complex also includes a coffee shop/vegetarian café and is a great place to hang out. I think it is also partially owned by members of Teenage Fanclub and Belle & Sebastian.

The great thing about Monorail is the staff who are friendly and helpful and music fans. When I have money, I sometimes buy something just to help pay for the privilege of being able to go to Monorail. It is such a nice experience.

Today I was able to but a copy of ‘Dark side of the moon’ by the Flaming Lips and ‘Hits are for squares’ by Sonic Youth, both on limited edition vinyl. I was lucky to get these records and I spent a long time standing in a queue to get them. I’m delighted that I now own these amazing musical artefacts although I don’t think one day promotions like this are the answer. I think friendly, bespoke service is probably the future and I hope shops like Monorail continue to thrive.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Malcolm McLaren - RIP

Malcolm McLaren was an important man in many ways. He helped to shape my childhood and my awareness of the early 1980s. Even though he treated the Sex Pistols badly he pushed them into the limelight. I can't really imagine lfe without the Sex Pistols and punk rock.

McLaren cast himself as Fagin and very much saw himself as the star of his own movie. He pretty much was the star of 'the great rock 'n' roll swindle'.

His own music was interesting. He nearly made a film with Alan Moore. He also managed the New York Dolls. He was married to Vivienne Westwood. His son is Joseph Corre who brought sexy knickers to millions with Agent Provocateur.

RIP Malcolm McLaren

I hope John Lydon writes an obituary

Simon Singh wins libel case

'I'm gonna sue you! I'll sue you in England!' - 'Tom Cruise' in South Park - The closet episode

British libel laws are draconian. British people don't really have freedom of speech or a free press. If you want to say something that a rich person disagrees with (even if it's just daft stuff about famous people) it is very easy for them to bankrupt you in an English court.

Laughing at famous people is one thing but these libel laws become very problematic when they are used to suppress scientific discourse. Simon Singh, a respected popular science writer, wrote about several non-evidence-based claims that some chiropractors had made. The British Chiropractic Association then sued him for libel. They could have bankrupted them.

Thankfully the nefarious ploy of the BCA backfired. Anti-libel campaigners systematically reported British chiropractors to advertising watchdogs resulting in numerous fines for BCA members (who became slightly dischuffed with the BCA). On the 1st of April a sensible judge kicked the BCA libel case out of court and Singh walked free. A victory for common sense, science and freedom of speech.

I was fairly happy.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Kick-ass the Movie

I collected all the individual Kick-Ass comics as they came out and I’ve been waiting to see this film for some time. It was worth the wait. The film is a massive ‘Fuck Off, You Cunts’ to the Daily Mail. It’s also highly entertaining.

Kick-Ass is a comic book film but it’s not for kids. It’s funny with some great character moments. It’s the story of an average school-kid who decides to become a superhero and gets beaten up a lot. He then becomes involved in a conflict between a couple of lunatics (Big Daddy and Hit Girl) and a gang of murderous drug-dealers.

The film is full of comedy violence and inappropriate swearing. It does jump the shark a few times, straying from creator Mark Millar’s vision of a ‘realistic’ superhero story but overall it’s great. Funnier than Watchmen. Worth seeing. The soundtrack was very good, making great use of remixed music from the the film Sunshine.

If you have seen the film, read the comic. It’s even better.

Glasgow Hinterland Festival 2010

This was my first visit to the Hinterland festival which I believe started up last year. The tickets were only £16 each which was great value. The bands were staged at several live venues around the city centre of Glasgow with the big acts playing in The Arches.

To be honest the only person that I was very interested in seeing was Jeffrey Lewis but I am always willing to experience new music. The first band that I saw in Ivory Blacks (the former Strawberry Fields) was Little Yellow Ukuleles, an extremely young looking group, who were competent if not exciting. I was wearing a Chumbawumba T-Shirt/Black Flag T-shirt that I’ve had since I was at school and I think my clothes were older than any member of the band. Scary thought.

The next band I watched was British Sea Power. I’m not in any way familiar with their stuff although I do know that they have something of a fan base. They just didn’t move me. They play competent, energetic indie rock but they said nothing new and their sound was fairly off-the-shelf. I didn’t hate them but I wouldn’t go to see them again or listen to their stuff through choice. Why listen to British Sea Power when you can listen to Philip Glass, Sonic Youth or Refused? Twenty thousand British Sea Power fans are shaking their heads in disgust…..

French Wives were much more exciting in every way. They are a funny looking (sorry) Glasgow indie band who seem to be mining a bit of a Nick Cave/Handsome Family vein. They have some bursts of brass instrumentation and they were showcasing a guest violinist who I hope stays with the band. Their last song sounded very like the Talking Heads and when I have time and money I will buy as many of their records as I can. A band to watch.

The final set that I watched was Jeffrey Lewis and it was definitely my personal highlight. I’ve been listening to his ’12 Crass songs’ record a lot for the past couple of years and I really enjoyed his Watchmen lecture thing at the GFT last year. This was the first time that I’ve been able to see him play music live and it was great. His songs are funny and philosophical. He’s fairly creative and he did a great audio-visual thing about the life of Sitting Bull and the plight of the Native Americans in the 19th century. It was much cooler than it sounds. He also performed an anti-mosquito gangsta rap thing and some other great folky numbers.

It was a good evening and well worth sixteen quid. If I can I’ll do it again next year.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The girl with the dragon tattoo and The girl who played with fire by Stieg Larsson - book review

Stieg Larsson, the Swedish writer of these books, died shortly after he delivered them to his publisher in 2004. He had been a well-known political journalist. He had apparently been working on these books for several years and had eventually planned to write a series of 10 books.

The books deal with an investigative journalist named Mikael Blomkvist and a young researcher named Lisbeth Salander. In the first book Blomkvist is hired to investigate a family mystery and Salander is employed to help him. Salander is an unusual person with some strange skills and various problems in interacting with other people.

The books are very fast paced and plot driven, filled with lots of unexpected twists and turns. Bad things happen to a lot of characters in the books and are described in unflinching detail. My mother gave me these books to read and told me that they were 'dark' although I never really believed her initially. I soon came to agree with her.

While these books are enjoyable they would probably have benefited from some gentle editing. I guess this may not have been possible after the death of the author. Some of the plot twists are so unexpected that they lack credibility. If Larsson had lived I'm sure that this would have been fixed.

Overall, these books are a good entertaining read if you are not an overly sensitive soul.