Monday, May 30, 2011

The Amateurs by John Niven

This book slipped under my radar. I really liked Kill Your Friends but I only discovered The Amateurs when I was looking for The Second Coming on amazon.

The Amateurs is a comic novel set in Ayrshire. It tells the story of a man who is obsessed by golf despite being very bad at it. The comedy is in broad strokes. It's possibly not as good as his other two novels but I enjoyed it. I grew up in Lanarkshire and I worked in Ayrshire for a while so the setting and characters were real enough for me.

This is a good book to read on a plane (which is where I read it). It's not too demanding.

Monday, May 23, 2011

First impressions of Hamburg

I'm in Hamburg for a medical conference this week. I'm giving a talk about some research that I did in my last job. I wasn't really looking forward to it as much as previous conferences in more prominent cities (Vienna, Stockholm, Barcelona) as I had only every heard bad stuff about Hamburg.

I was most aware of Hamburg in the context of the Beatles. The Beatles were based in Hamburg for several months before they became famous. They honed their musical skills playing epic sets in the strip-clubs of the red light district.

Hamburg also has an international reputation for sleeze. The Reeperbahn is meant to be one of the most depraved red light areas in the world. When I planned my trip here I wanted to make sure that I stayed in a decent hotel and not some sort of jazzed up knocking shop.

I've actually done pretty well on the hotel front although it is costing me a fair bit. I'm stayiing in the 5 star SIDE hotel in the centre of town. I'm in one of the executive rooms which is rather nice. My room is bigger than several student flats I stayed in. Needless to say, the room is also much more comfortable. Very, very nice.

I was also fairly suprised by the centre of Hamburg. It is full of trendy, upmarket designer shops with all the major labels in attendance. Everything is very clean. The people all look fairly healthy. It is very different from my native Glasgow.

I've also been able to eat good food without breaking the bank. We found a nice wee italian place for dinner tonight and I had lunch in a soup place. All very satisfying.

I had a walk down the Reeperbahn with a colleague. It is full of titty-bars and grime. It contrasts sharply with the new town. Lots of skanky old punks and people sleeping in the streets. We didn't linger.

The conference starts properly tomorrow but I hope to see a bit more of the city. Nicer than I expected anyway. A pleasant surprise

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Alistair McGowan at the Perth Concert Hall

Alistair McGowan is not someone I would normally go and see perform. I went along tonight because there is little to do in Dundee and I fancied a bit of a change. I wasn't really sure what to expect from his live shows. I've seen a few of his TV shows which are OK but nothing amazing.

The Perth Concert Hall is a nice venue. It's been built recently and it is well designed with good views of the stage. The audience were all very posh and well dressed. I was wearing dirty jeans, dirty converse and a Descendents t-shirt. I felt slightly out of place.

I wasn't sure what to expect from McGowan. He is famous for his impressions but he is actually a fairly competent stand-up comedian. His stand-up does revolve around accurate impressions of others but it is also well observed and very slick. He can change persona seemlessly without missing a beat.

He was pretty funny but I think he tries to keep his politics/environmental beliefs out of his comedy. He is one of the most professional comedians I have seen live. He is very popular and he seems to appeal to a more mainstream audience. It would be interesting to see him really kick-back and let out some more cutting stuff. I think he would be really good doing stuff that is closer to the bone.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Upside Down - the Creation Records Story - DVD review

I grew up in East Kilbride and the Jesus and Mary Chain always seemed to be massive to me. I must have been about 7 or 8 when they started to release records. I remember seeing piles of Mary Chain records in the local shops.

It was only later on that I got into Creation in a bigger way. I fell in love with Screamadelica initially. Then I heard Loveless which is another brilliant record. I was also lucky enough to see Oasis play in the old Cathouse on John Street in Glasgow just as they released their first single. I also love records by Ride, Teenage Fanclube and Sugar.

Some of the more obscure stuff that came out on Creation was great too. The Loft single 'up the hill and down the slope' was brilliant. They also put out great stuff by Felt, The Pastels, House of Love and the Super Furry Animals.

The documentary is great. Lots of thick Glasweigan accents as Alan McGee and Bobby Gillespie tell their tale supported by Jim Reid and Noel Gallagher among other. Much of the success of the label appears to have been driven by the personality and drug related insanity of McGee. It does look like they had great fun for a fair bit of time and they nurtured some brilliant music.

On a personal level I enjoyed the old footage of East Kilbride and Glasgow but if you love good music this is a documentary for you.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Second Coming by John Niven

To continue the theme of my post on Richard Herring's show about Jesus I'm now going to write about The Second Coming by John Niven. A blog-post that I wrote about his first book, Kill Your Friends, is one of the most read pages on this site


After being fairly brutal about the music industry in Kill Your Friends, Niven gives organised religion a fairly good kicking in this book. Jesus is portrayed in this book as a good man, the beloved son of God, who is sent down to America in the late twentieth century to save the world from the evils of Christianity. In this story, Jesus loves everyone and his only message is 'Be Nice'.

Lots of bad things happen to Jesus, just as they do in the Bible. Jesus does not conform to the norms of the society he lives in, just as is written in the Bible. However, I can imagine that some Christians will be upset by this book. It is actually a fairly decent story and it's all about being nice to people who are in a bad place and trying to understand other.

I would recommend this book to open-minded readers. In some ways it is a sequel to Kill Your Friends as the character of Steven Stelfox re-occurs. It also continues the tradition of small nods to music that I love (Shellac, Slint, Nirvana).

Niven has been criticised in the past from 'borrowing' dialogue from certain Glasweigan pop groups that are close to my heart but I did enjoy this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Richard Herring - Christ on a bike - the second coming at the Whitehall Theatre in Dundee

I only learned about this show last week via Twitter. I've seen some Richard Herring stuff in the past and I like his BBC radio show whenever I hear it. I'm obviously a big fan of Stewart Lee too.

Apparently some fuckwit in Dundee was protesting about the offensive nature of this show but I didn't manage to see any of this media coverage. I hadn't seen many adverts for the show around Dundee although I don't really spend too much time in the city. Apparently some sort of Christian rock band was playing a show that night and the local Minister had tried to promote that as an alternative to the 'puerile' Herring show. I can think of few things that I would find less entertaining than a night of Christian rock.

Anyway, the Whitehall Theatre was probably about half full. I think that is good for Dundee. The show focuses on Jesus Christ and Herrings thoughts about him. Herring points out some of the obvious contradictions in the Bible and talks about his own atheism. He also make lots of jokes about wanking and blowjobs.

It's a fairly funny show and I'm glad I went. Most of the time I have absolutely nothing to do in Dundee. I intend to pick up some more Richard Herring stuff in the future and I was impressed with the free Programme he gave out. Herring also collects money for SCOPE and I urge anyone that reads this to consider making a donation.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Daybreakers - DVD review

I ordered a copy of Daybreakers because I saw the trailer and I fancied watching something braindead. Daybreakers served my purpose.

It's a science fiction vampire movie where the human race is on the brink of extinction and vampires are starving to death. It's pretty mad with some odd twists. Not a great work of art but entertaining enough.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

search terms that bring you to this blog

There are some really weird people out there. Blogger gives you a list of search terms that bring people to your page. It seems that some weirdo searched the term '3d animal fucking' on google and ended up on my blog.

Seriously fucking odd.

Anyhow, I'll just try and avoid even thinking about that one.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thor - movie review

Thor was always a bit of a B-list superhero. Other than a notable run by Walter Simonson in the mid-1980s the comic book was never amazing. I did enjoy reading about Norse mythology, as well as Greek and roman mythology, when I was a kid. The character of Thor has been made a wee bit more interesting by the Mark Millar Ultimates comics of the past decade and those comics were probably the main source of this film.

I was a bit surprised when I heard that they would make a Thor film. It felt like Marvel were scraping the barrel. I understood the desire for a Thor film to help set up an Avengers franchise but I didn't really think it would do well at the box office. Then I heard that some left field decisions had been made in the production of this film. Kenneth Branagh to direct, the decidedly non-Aryan Irdis Elba as a norse god to piss off the American racists. Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins to take on key roles. It was beginning to sound like a good film.

Now that I've seen it I can say that Thor is an OK film. The special effects are good although it is a bit CGI heavy at time. The 3D looks a bit tacked on. The story is acceptable. Thor comes across as a bit 'empty'. The actor playing him is not as good as Samuel L Jackson or Robert Downey Jr. He will probably be lost in the ensemble cast of The Avengers.

Thor is a mildly diverting bit of chewing gum. OK but not amazing.