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.