Tuesday, December 03, 2013

sometimes it's nice to meet your heroes - End of an Era 2, the final ATP holiday camp festival and Mike Watt

The ATP festival concept was brilliant but sadly it has now run it's course.  This weekend I attended the ATP chalet festival at Camber Sands in Rye.  For work and financial reasons I never made it to the early festivals but I always looked at the line-ups with awe.  A good friend of mine plays in Mogwai and actually curated the first ATP festival but the first one I made it to was curated by Jeff Mangum in 2012.  I loved that experience and went back to the Deerhunter event this summer.

I was sad to hear that the festivals were ending.  I am not privy to the reasons for this but running a big festival has to be difficult in harsh financial climates.  Pontins certainly did not roll out the red carpet for guests this time, requiring us to bring our own linen.

The line-up for this festival was brilliant and contained many personal favourites. Slint, Shellac, Loop, Girls Against Boys, Michael Rother, Mike Watt and of course Mogwai.  Attendance was required despite my fears about the notoriously unpredictable late November weather.  In the end I made it to Camber Sands without any snow having made a stop at the British Museum on the way.

Pontins is not scenic and reminds me of my home town of East Kilbride.  I guess it provides an appropriate back drop for alternative rock but I wouldn't want to spend an actual holiday here.

On the first night I saw Thought Forms, a band I was unfamiliar with.  They made some cool Sonic Youth-y noises and jumped about.  I liked what I heard so I bought up their back catalogue.  I'll look out for them in the future.
Thought Forms

After Thought Forms I caught Om and the Fuck Buttons set.  Om were intense with a great Sabbath/stoner rock sound.  I have a few records by Sleep, the band that Om developed from and they were just as good.  After that the Fuck Buttons hit the stage.  They made some great noises.  I don't have any of their records but I enjoyed seeing them.  Finishing off Friday night was a one-two whammy of Shellac and Slint. 

I saw Shellac in Glasgow last weekend and this was the 5th time that I have seen them since 1994.  I bought the first Shellac singles as they came out back in 1993 and they have always been one of my favourite bands.  They played a great set although they were oddly quiet (dodgy PA).  They even played 'wingwalker'.

Shellac wearing their evening suits

Slint too had a quiet PA but it was great to see them again.  They played most of Spiderland as well as a track from Tweez and a track from their EP.  I had hoped that we might have seen more of the mythical Slint documentary film but there was no joy.  After the concert I ended up in the Mogwai party chalet and in a drunken haze I met David Pajo.  He seems like a nice guy, even when confronted with an intoxicated Scottish Danzig fan.

The next morning was a bit of a red wine haze.  I woke up early and went to Camber Sands beach to contemplate infinity.  Camber is probably fairly nice in the summer but it's a really small town.  I wouldn't want to live there.  The locals were nice but the holiday camp is certainly grim.  This time we brought food with us so we didn't have to buy overpriced rubbish in the Nisa store or toxic waste from the onsite food outlets.

The beach itself is beautiful.  I took a few photos before my hangover really kicked in.  I was able to watch the Dismemberment Plan play a set that drew heavily from 'emergency & I' but after that I had to lie down for a bit to prepare myself for the evenings festivities.  After my much needed beauty sleep I caught a bit of 23 Skidoo and the Pop Group.  Neither band really set my world on fire but it was nice to see 'we are all prostitutes' played live.

Comets on Fire were a different thing altogether.  They took to the smaller downstairs stage and tore the place apart.  I've been listening to a couple of their albums which are enjoyable enough.  The recordings did not prepare me for the rock fury of the band on stage.  Blending Mudhoney, the Stooges and Sabbath they sent an electric shock through the crowd.  Rocktastic.
Comets on Fire
I had been listening to Loop stuff in an attempt to prepare myself for this concert.  I sort of missed Loop as a teenager spending more time listening to Spacemen 3.  In recent months I have taken a bit of a crash course in their stuff but it didn't really click until I saw them live.  They managed to make an immense noise with the hitherto 'polite' upstairs PA system.  Their repetitive drones drove the crowd mad and a plague of crowd surfing spread though the room.  To ice the cake they encored with 'mother sky' by Can.  I was grinning from ear to ear.  Once more I retired to the Mogwai party chalet where I had a close encounter with some rather nice 15 year old Glenlivet.  I stumbled back to my chalet at around 3am with a smile on my face.

My hangover was a bit worse on Sunday.  I managed to reconstitute myself in time for the Michael Rother set at 3:30pm.  It was pretty good but I preferred the Neu heavy set that I caught in Primavera a few years before.  My recovery was complete in time for the Mike Watt set.  He was playing ll Sogno Del Marinaio, a sort of opera about sailors.  It was nice, instrumental passages with intermittent vocal flourishes. He finished his set with a cover of Funhouse by the Stooges (i think).  Watt is a great hero of mine but I'll return to this topic in due course.

Mike Watt
After Watt came Girls Against Boys.  I've been listening to Girls against Boys for many, many years. I saw them 2 or 3 times in the mid nineties but I haven't seen them for a long long time.  I was rather excited to see them again and I wasn't disappointed.  The sound was slightly ropey during the first song but they managed to shine anyway.  They kicked off with 'tucked in' before playing an action packed set.  The strength of the Girls Against Boys back catalogue was highlighted by the fact that they managed to play a great show despite missing out classics like 'I don't got a place' and 'sexy sam'.  The new songs that they played held their own against the old material.  It's a shame that GVSB never had the success they deserved.

Girls Against Boys

The next big discovery of the weekend was Goat.  Goat are a Swedish band that wear masks and play intoxicating rhythms.  They make you want to dance.  I suspect them to be the Knife in disguise but I am told that this is not the case.
Goat going bongo crazy

Finally the last ever ATP festival was closed by one of the best bands on earth. Mogwai.  I cannot write an objective word about mogwai, especially when they got me drunk all weekend and gave me a stage access pass for their set.  However, I will honestly say that they played a brilliant set.  The new material is amazing (especially 'remurdered' and 'blues hour').  I remember first hearing them play Helicon 1 about 18 years ago in a very small room and seeing them playing it again in a very big room in front of some very excited fans was great.  Mogwai curated the first ATP festival and it was fitting that they closed the last one.
Mogwai playing mexican grand prix

After they finished the DJ played 'Teenage Riot' by Sonic Youth and it was all over.  The crowd went mad.  I was able to nip on stage and take some photos of the departing crowd.  Somehow I had found the 'make everything look drunk' button on my camera.  I ended up in the surprise party for Barry Hogan at 2:30am.  I shouldn't really have been there (although I was again abducted by the 'gwai) but it was nice to hear his words on a series of events that have meant a lot to people with good taste.  I don't know what he'll do next but I'm sure it'll be good.

As a coda to an amazing festival I had an amazing experience on the train from Rye to Ashford.  I met Mike Watt on the platform and I spent about 30 minutes talking to him.  SST punk was a big thing for me and I remember first hearing the Minutemen after buying the Post-Mersh volume 3 CD from Tower Records one boxing day (maybe 1991?).  Watt is one of the nicest men alive and when he heard my accent he asked me if I knew Dep from Monorail Records.  When I told him that Dep had advised me on Minutemen records over the years he smiled.  I think he regards Dep as a sort of missionary.

Watt spoke about his need to constantly tour.  He sees life on the road as being like that of a sailor, like his father who was in the navy and served in Vietnam.  Watt told me that he saw little of his father growing up and that he feels he only got to know him in his thirties by which point he was dying of cancer.  Watt himself said that he had decided not to have children as he felt family life was incompatible with life on the road.

He suffers from arthritis and needs to have a knee operation next year.  He'll need to to take 6 months off from touring to do that.  He says that this will be difficult as he doesn't know what to do when he isn't touring.

He told me a bit about how he recorded some of his records, how they got free studio time to record one song but managed to record all of the first side of 'buzz or howl under the influence of heat' by pretending it was one song.  He told me that he originally wanted to use images from the magazine Scientific American for the cover (indeed the title came from Scientific American) but the photo cost too much so Joe Baiza drew a sketch of him and D Boon instead.

Watt is an inspirational musician and his life and words have meant a lot to me over the years.  After I finished talking to him, changing trains at Ashford International I listened to all 175 minutemen tracks on my iPod back to back.  They took me most of the way back to Glasgow.  I thought about the life of Mike Watt and how he has given so much to me.  I don't think he's a rich man but he is a good man.  Like most American musicians he won't have free health care and nobody buys records now so musicians have to tour to make money.  If anyone reads this think about buying a mike watt record (fIREHOSE/minutemen/anything) or go to a mike watt gig.  He's a good bloke.

With the ATP concept, Barry Hogan did a good thing and has given me some amazing experiences.  I hope he does something new, similar and brilliant again.  Maybe even in Scotland?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A thought...

Bloody hell, I've been writing and publishing this blog now for more than 8 years.

My activity has been intermittent but it is a sustained body of work.  I accept that most of it is shite and that few people read it but I've stuck with it for a long time.  I've now published 664 posts.  Wow.

Fantagraphics Kickstarter Project

Fantagraphics are one of the best comic book publishers in the world.  They publish intelligent books by intelligent people.  They make comic books that are art.  Their books are often beautiful.

The first Fantagraphics comic that I remember buying was Hate number 1 by Pete Bagge.  I actually bought it from Bagge himself at the Glasgow Comic Convention in 1989 (or around then).  He signed it for me.  I was really too young for the comic at the time.  I must have been 12 or 13 but I became a massive fan.

Fantagraphics also publish Robert Crumb, Love & Rockets, Castle Waiting, The Comics Journal, beautiful reprint collections of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, English language translations of the works of Tardi, collections of Pogo by Walt Kelly.  All amazing comic art that fights for space on my cramped book shelves.  They don't really publish potboiler superhero rubbish.  I am glad that they exist and I hope they continue to exist.

So, I've pledged for a couple of things on their Kickstarter and I hope that some other people do the same.  They have had a bad year in 2013 with the death of Kim Thompson, Fantagraphics co-founder, and the subsequent disruption of their publishing schedule.  They are raising money to stay independent and stay afloat.  I'm happy to give them cash directly instead of buying from Amazon.  I see it as a donation to an art gallery or a museum. It's just that I get to have this art at home with me.

Anyway, check it out.

Autobiography - Morrissey

I made myself finish the Morrissey Autobiography today.  I think much of it is an elaborate practical joke.  It's written in a stream of consciousness splurge that does not appear to have been edited in any way.  He has a very breathless voice and he seems to recount every negative encounter that he has ever had.  He has a special amount of anger reserved for an ex-band member and a Judge who labelled him as 'devious, truculent and unreliable'.

He also spends a lot of time with dying birds.  I suspect that the dying birds sections are elaborate parodies.

I would have liked some chapters.  It is nice to hear that Morrissey has had sex with a few people.

I like the records more than the book.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Scotland in November

On holiday in the west coast of Scotland. It's raining a fair bit but still some decent views.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed - A loss

Lou Reed meant something to me.  He was a big musical touchstone.  I think I own about 5000 albums, I've seen more gigs than I remember, I've played in crappy bands and I've written hundreds of shitty teenage songs.  Most of the shitty teenage songs I wrote were Lou Reed knock offs.

I can't remember exactly how I got into Lou.  For me, Walk on the Wildside was a big childhood song.  I didn't get the the murky subculture lyrics but I loved the sliding baseline and the 'doo da doo' backing vocals.  I can't remember if I heard the banana album first or the cassette of the Jane's Addiction live album with 'rock n roll' on it or if it was a knock off live CD of a New York concert on Christmas day in 1972.  It was one of those things and all of those things and I connected with every fucking one of them.

I wanted to be Lou Reed.  I didn't want to be a bisexual transvestite junkie but I did want to sing intelligent songs with great words in my own fucking voice.  I did try that a bit but I wasn't very good at it so I went into medicine as my fall back plan.

Lou and the Velvet Underground influenced most of the music that ever mattered to me.  Spacemen 3, David Bowie, Jane's Addiction, the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, the Happy Mondays, Nirvana, Nick Cave, Fugazi. The list goes on and on and on.  He brought grit to the modern rock song.  He let a pop song become a documentary on the fucking grime of life.  He sang about shit things in a matter of fact way that didn't really glamorise them.  I realise that he was a bit of a dick at times but he made some great great music.

I was lucky enough to see Reed play at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in September 2000 just before I went to medical school.  He played a 3 hour set.  It was pretty special.

He was 71, he had a liver transplant earlier this year, he took lots of drugs in a crazy way.  He should have been dead some time ago. He hung out with Andy Warhol and he was one of the direct roots of punk.  He was listened to by political dissidents in Poland and by the Mary Chain in East Kilbride.  He made grim music for grim people in grim places but some of it was brilliant and some of it was life affirming.  I would argue that he made popular music into art.

I'm sorry he's gone but I'm glad he was here.


Saturday, September 28, 2013


I've finally fully entered the internet era.  I've set up broad band internet in my flat and I've got a fancy new TV that lets me stream Netflix.  Netflix is a great service.

I was sucked in by Breaking Bad.  I'd caught the first series on the UK channel 5 a few years back and more recently got up to date on DVD.  I was desperate to see how the series would end so I decided to go for Netflix.  Now I think I'm addicted.

Netflix has thousands of hours of TV shows and films instantly available.  Breaking Bad is the crown jewels but it also has South Park, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, Portlandia, It's always sunny in Philadelphia.  The list goes on.  Netflix also has a big pile of films that I want to see, the sort of things that I would pick up in Asda for £3.  Usually I would watch these films once and then put them in a pile.  Now I will hopefully save money and space.

I've found some good documentaries too.  I'd been wanting to see the Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet documentary for some time and I was pleasantly surprised to find it here.

I strongly urge anyone who likes good cinema to check this service out.

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yat

I must admit that I'd never heard of Jason Becker but I must have bought some guitar magazines with his face in them at some point in the early nineties.  Becker played a style of guitar that I am not really a fan of but he was a talented young guitarist.  He had signed up with David Lee Roth when disaster struck.  At the age of 20 Jason Becker was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.  Somehow he is still alive.

I'm a neurologist.  I've met a lot of people with motor neurone disease.  It's a terrible disease, one of the worst diseases I know of.  Very few people live for a long period of time.  Through luck, excellent family support and good resources Jason Becker is still alive and still making music.

Through a mixture of family photographs, super 8 cinefilms, concert footage and interviews we hear Jason's life story.  He should have been Stevie Vai or Van Halen but his body betrayed him and now he communicates with his eyes. Based on the film he has shown amazing resilience and focus.  Most people couldn't do that.  The only other person that I can think of who has survived so long with a motor neurone disease is Steven Hawking.

This film is worth seeing.  It interests me as a doctor and as a music fan. I'm not a fan of 'shred' guitar but it's great to see one man keeping on despite the odds.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

another year older

I'm 36 now, closer to 40 than 30.  It sneaks up on you, age.  In the past year I have completed a doctoral degree which is a big step.  I'm continuing my clinical career which is as interesting and challenging (and at times soul destroying) as ever.  It's all good.

I have a week off just now.  I've used it to try and sort out my life a bit.  I've just restructured my finances in a more sensible way and I've bought myself a fancy new TV and a fancy new computer (a MacBook Pro).  I lead a privileged life.

I'm not doing anything exciting with my holiday.  I'm reading some books and trying to sort out bits and pieces in my flat.  All first world problems.  I have no major concerns just now. I realise that I'm writing this on the 12th anniversary of something bad and 15 years after a friend died in a stupid accident.  I'm luckier than most of the planet.

At the moment I hope we avoid another crazy war in the middle east and I hope that everyone is happy.    Starry eyed optimism, hippy sentiments.  Thanks again for reading.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Argument by Grant Hart

I've written about Grant Hart before on this blog.  I regard him as a great lost talent, a wayward genius, who should have been rich and famous but life got in the way.  Husker Du were a great band and Hart wrote many of their best songs.

The Argument is a concept album based on William S Burroughs unpublished treatment of Milton's Paradise Lost.  The music is as creative and insane as that sounds. The album is about satan and his war with God set to music that mixes alternative rock with songs reminiscent of the comedy tracks on Beatles albums. It's mad but fun.

I've listened to this CD a few times now and I'm liking it.  As I've written before, I think Hart has been unlucky in life and I don't think he's a rich man. Buy this CD or pay for a download. It's worth hearing.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Glasgow comic convention 2013

It was a warm weekend for the Glasgow comic convention now in a new venue at the CCA on sauchiehall street. The venue was an improvement on last year with more space and nicer surroundings.

I really enjoyed most of the weekend apart from Simon Bisley who I have to say is one of the most disappointing individuals I have ever had the misfortune to meet. I don't think I'll ever buy anything with his name on it again. By the time I met him late on the Saturday afternoon he had reached a confrontational stage of maudlin drunkeness and he was being abusive to everyone he encountered. Many people were saying that he is a total arsehole although I couldn't possible comment.

Anyway, enough toxic ranting. On to good stuff, and there was a lot of good stuff The first thing I did was stand in line to meet John Wagner (the man who came up with the name Judge Dredd) and Carlos Ezquerra (the man who designed Judge Dredd). I was lucky enough to get a sketch of Dredd and their autographs on a copy of 2000ad number 2 (the first Dredd comic strip).

Wagner and Ezquerra were very, very nice and indulgent. True gentlemen.

After that I met John Higgins, an all round great artist and famously the colourist on Watchmen. He's a great artist and a bought a small book illustration from him. He also drew a quick Judge Dredd sketch for me.

I then had a look at some of the local Glasweigan indie comics. I picked up the new comic by Jim Devlin, an up and coming writer/artist who won the awards for best writer and best artist. I also bought the new books by John Lees and Neil Slorance, all of which are very nice and well worth investigating.

Finally I sat in on a panel of artists including Alan Davis, Cam Kennedy and Yishan Li talking about working as comic artists. They all had rather different career paths and interesting tales to tell. Kennedy, a native Glasweigan has some great chat and was given free reign to talk for nearly an hour about his long and varied career on the Sumday. In the panel we heard about the differences in the industry in the UK, America, Europe and Asia. I am not familiar with the work of Yishan Li but I am told that she is a successful manga artist. The art that I saw her produce looks good anyway.

On Sunday my main objective was to meet Alan Davis, my favourite comic book artist. I had to wait in line for about 90 minutes to meet him but it was worth it. He's a really modest, normal, down to earth bloke who still lives in Corby. I spent some time in Kettering and Corby about 10 or 11 years back and I think he was interested to hear that I knew the place. It is always nice to be treated well by a childhood hero and he drew me a great sketch of Captain Britain.

I had lunch with one of the guys from the book group I attend after getting my sketches. I bought a couple of books and some old comics and then I spent most of the rest of the afternoon listening to talks.

I did make one interesting comic book discovery (well, a discovery for me anyway). I met Glasweigan comic book artist Lorna Miller and picked up some of her Witch comics, published about a decade ago by Slave Labour Comix. I had never heard of her but she has collaborated with Peter Bagge. She has a style similar to Bagge with a geography that I can relate to personally. One strip is based in a carry out shop on Great Western Road. I need to get more of her work and I hope she continues to publish.

To close the Sunday I sat and listened to a series of talks. I have already mentioned the quality chat of Cam Kennedy and his solo session was very interesting. He had trained in commercial art in Glasgow doing early work on Commando comics for DC Thompson before heading off round Europe. You often hear criticism of DC Thompson but Kennedy told us the other side of the story detailing the various perks of working for the Dundee publishers. Cam has a healthy indifference to his career and sounds like he enjoyed himself without becoming big headed. He worked hard in his time and produced some great stuff. His tales of interactions with American publishers and Lucasfilm were brilliant and I would gladly have listened to him for a day. Sadly problems with his eyes mean that he can no longer work but he certainly can talk.

After that there was a panel chaired by John McShane discussing the differences between working in the American industry and the UK industry. Alan Grant, Mike Ploog and Alan Davis have all been successful internationally and raised some interesting points. Grant made enough money from writing Batman in the late '80s to buy a house that his friends call Wayne Manor. Davis continues to do high selling books for Marvel comics. A common theme was issues with editors. A good editor can make a job great whilst a bad editor can make your life hell. Ploog has a great story about why he never worked for DC after unintentionally insulting a famous editor.

The weekend ended with Alan Davis discussing his career. As I have already mentioned he is a modest man who feels lucky to have had a career as a comic artist. He no longer reads modern comics as he has become disillusioned with the violence that is often present in stories. He chooses not to write because he feels that his stories would not sell. This is a shame because he has written some good stuff over the years. Davis stands as an example of professionalism and decent blokeness. Most of the people I met over the weekend were the same, with one sadly obvious exception.

To end on a good note though here's a picture by Mike Ploog:-

Monday, July 01, 2013

Paul Bright's confessions of a justified sinner at the Glasgow Tramway

On Saturday I was on Facebook and I noticed that a play based on James Hoggs' Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was on at the Tramway theatre, two ,minutes walk away from my flat.  It was the last night of the run.  I had to see it.

The play wasn't a straight adaption.  The main points of the story were covered but this was about more. This was about a heroic failed attempt to stage the play by a crazy Scots playwright called Paul Bright who has since died and had long before vanished from the Scottish theatre scene.  It was also a one man show by George Anton, a friend of Brights who had worked with him on the failed production.

So far, so mental.

The show also involved an exhibition of the Paul Bright archive of the materials from the original shows.  There was also an extensive presentation of film material from the original production.  My tiny mind was pleased by lots of swearing and references to Sonic Youth and the Mary Chain.

Justified Sinner has often been thought of as an untranslatable work.  It is an important novel and is an early example of an unreliable narrator.  This play/stage show captures the spirit of the book in a modern and brilliant manner.  It's not on any more but hopefully it will be presented again or maybe even adapted into a television show. I'd love to see it again.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


So it has been a big week for me in a way.  I had the viva for my MD thesis on Monday crowning nearly five years of research work.  My examiners liked my thesis (much to my surprise) and it will be accepted by the University.  An achievement.

Does that make me an academic? I have 3 degrees in science, medicine and research.  I do clinical work and I have clinical qualifications.  I work hard and I am probably a bit addicted to it.  Work is almost an end in itself.  Money is a happy side effect.  I have published a few useful scientific papers.  I hope they are useful as other authors have cited them but it is difficult to be sure.  I have made tentative moves to do more academic work.

How do you know when you have achieved enough? When can you sit back and relax? What drives you on?  Sometimes I feel like I have blinked and 15 years have vanished.  At times my life has been a whirlwind.

I like helping people when I can and I like to have an interesting life.  I get bored easily and I like a bit of variety in my life.  Research and teaching give me a bit of variety.  Clinical work is enjoyable too but burnout is always possible and important to avoid.  

I honestly don't know why I work so hard.  I do it because it's easy and it gives me something to do.  Work means that I don't need to think too much about anything else and I can feel like I am doing something worthwhile.  I guess I'm lucky to have a job that lets me do that.  I have a job that sometimes lets me feel like I'm achieving something.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

iPad photography

I've been on holiday near Oban and I've been experimenting with the camera on the iPad.  I've had some decent results

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Record Store Day 2013 and why Monorail records in Glasgow continues tobe brilliant

So yesterday was Record Store Day 2013 and I made my yearly early morning pilgrimage to Monorail records to buy some exclusive vinyl. An important thing to note is that this is not the only day during the year that I visit Monorail, it is just the only day when I get up at 7am and get a taxi there as quickly as possible. Usually I just stroll in, in a relaxed fashion some time after midday.

I got there at about 7:45 and by then the queue was already about 60 strong. I had my iPod so I was fairly self-contained in the queue listening to some Mars Volta as well as ....and you will know us by the Trail of Dead. I had been at a work night out on Friday but I'd restricted myself to one pint and an early departure in readiness for the start of Record Store Day.

The doors opened at 9 and by 10 I made it to the front of the queue. I was able to get most of the stuff I was after but sadly the Velvet Underground LP was sold out. Fortuitously a large number of Velvet Underground LPs are now available on eBay at only moderately inflated prices suggesting that many of the true fans at the front of queues world wide had already listened to the vinyl and decided that it was so brilliant that they had to share it as soon as possible with other fans less able to face an early morning start. Obviously eBay is the easiest way to democratise music in this way.

Anyway, I did manage to pick up the beautiful double 7" reissue of the first Husker Du single Amusement. I had been thinking about this record for some time and it has met my expectations. I also bought the Mogwai & Aidan Moffat split single and the Aidan Moffat/Twilight Sad singles. Possibly a more interesting spur of the moment buy was the Damon and Naomi demo album which is amazingly packaged in a vandalised reproduction of an old Sonny and Cher LP. It truly is a thing of beauty. I picked up the Primal Scream City Slang 12" partly because of my teenage love of the Scream and partly cos the drummer from the Stooges plays on it and partly cos it's a great song.

Finally I bought the new Flaming Lips LP package. It wasn't an exclusive release but it is very nice indeed.

I haven't mentioned my other good buy, a DVD of the film Last Shop Standing which charts the rise and fall and possible re-emergence of independent record stores. It features an all too brief appearance by Monorail and Dep and it is an interesting cultural document. I have spent a lot of time and money in record stores over the past 25 years and I will continue to do so, at least in places like Monorail.

I do enjoy Record Store Day but I find the instant eBay secondary market thing to be frustrating although some of my friends in bands find it even more frustrating. At the end of the day at least the small independent shops have hopefully had a worthwhile infusion of cash that will keep the wolf from the door for another year and hopefully the Internet scampers will be forced to reduce their profit margins. Independent record shops may be our only record shops in a few years time and hopefully they will continue to thrive for years to come.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Digital comics

I never thought that I would enjoy reading digital comics but I do. The app on the iPad makes the experience very enjoyable and convenient. I now feel like I have a portable comic book collection. I love the aesthetic quality of books and old comics but they are not very portable. Now I can read a whole run of a comic book with ease.

I do grudge paying for a PDF file but marvel comics have very generously taken to supplying a digital download code with their best selling titles (but not with second stringers like Young Avengers sadly). I have to say that this is a nice touch from marvel.

I might even consider paying for digital comics if a title is hard to find in the shops. eBay prices are crazy for some newer titles.

Digital comics will never replace the sheer nerd joy of the below however.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

iPad adventure

I bought an iPad mini yesterday and I'm using it to write this post. I'm not sure that I needed it but it is a nice toy. It has a lot of the functionality of a laptop but it's only the size of a paperback. I don't want or need a smartphone so this is a nice substitute.

I did have a bit of a negative encounter with a mobile broadband provider yesterday (3 mobile who have the worst customer service ever) but generally the whole experience is great. Some functionality is missing compared with my laptop but not much.

I've got a few text books on here and some PDFs for work. I also have a couple of comic reading apps which is interesting. I don't want to overfill it with music so I just have a bit of Spacemen 3 and Philip Glass on here just now.

If my 8 year old self saw me now I would have believed that the future was here.

Thatcher is dead

An old lady who suffered from dementia and stroke died last week. She lived in luxury in the Ritz hotel. She did not believe in society and her modern disciples have made things more difficult for the worst off in society. She is lucky she was rich.

Thatcher stamped on our country and the word. She dominated my childhood and gave many of us a target to shout at. We are Thatcher's children but we don't need to like our parents.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Uncle Books by JP Martin

When I was a child my parents had a couple of paperback novels from the Uncle series by JP Martin.  I was also able to borrow one or two of the other books in  the series from the local library.  Uncle is an  imperialist elephant who lives in a massive castle and lives a life of luxury.  He is troubled by the unpleasant inhabitants of Badfort who regularly cause him problems.  Uncle is a flawed hero but the stories are entertaining and beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Sadly, the books are hard to obtain.  They have been out-of-print for several decades and second-hand copies cost several hundred pounds.  Thankfully, someone has started a Kickstarter project to reprint them.

Uncle Kickstarter Project

This project on Kickstarter seems to be going well and the initial target has already been met.  I've backed the project and I'm anticipating the books.  If you like books or have kids that like books (or may like books in the future) I urge you to invest!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

so what do I think of Twitter nowadays?

I've been using Twitter (@drphunkneuro) for a couple of years now.  I think I like it.  At least, I like it the way that I use it.  I'm not sure that I use it properly.

My first big disadvantage is that I don't have a smart phone.  I have a 4 year old crappy Nokia that I'm fond of and I don't want to change.  I can tweet easily from this phone via text message and I can recieve tweets directed @drphunkneuro but I can't see my Twitter feed from my phone.  This probably means that I don't get the full joy of Twitter but it also means that I don't spend my whole fucking day pissing about with it.  I guess that at some point in the future I will be seduced by the evil of the smartphone (although I suspect that I might first be seduced by an iPad mini some time before that) 

Despite not having a perfect constant interface I still get a lot out of Twitter. My feed focuses on my interests - alternative music, comic books, Glasgow, neurology, people I know, news and politics.  It keeps me up to date with musical happenings and comic book events.  Both of these things can be a bit obscure and certainly don't pop up on the BBC website regularly.  I hear about gigs and comic books early, giving me a chance to pick up tickets. 

I also like to get a few different opinions on current affairs.  I follow at least one blogger that I can't stand on Twitter, mainly to know what evil people are thinking.  I also follow BBC and Radio Clyde to get regular, up to date local news that is relevant to me.  I also follow a couple of big medical journals that sometimes flag up important research papers.

Twitter can sometimes give you additional information behind the headlines.  This was fascinating when the Saville story broke although much of what is written is not factual resulting in unfortunate consequences for innocent people.  People often tweet before they think and unguarded tweets can tell you a lot about a person.

I also use  Twitter to communicate with friends.  It's a public forum so it's not great for this but it has some uses.  Overall, I guess I like Twitter.  It's probably less unhealthy than ebay or facebook.

James Herbert - RIP

As a young teenager I loved horror novels.  I went to the library a lot and read a lot of them.  Stephen King was probably my favourite but I was also a big fan of James Herbert.  Books like The Rats and The Fog were creepy and fairly well written.  I think I still have the hardback bookclub copy of Creed that I bought when it came out.  I was 13 then and I loved the book.

As I grew older I read less of his stuff but I still have fond memories of his books.  I was sad to hear that he had died at the relatively young age of 69.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spiral (Engrenages) Series 4

Spiral is one of the best television shows broadcast on UK TV.  The French language series is broadcast on BBC4 and is available on DVD in the UK.  It is unremittingly bleak.  I have just finished watching season 4 and I found it to contain some of the most unsympathetic characters I have ever encountered.

Paris, as portrayed in Spiral, is a horrible place.  The police commit crimes regularly and often appear to be differentiated from criminals only by a badge.  The courts are corrupt with lawyers and judges out to make money and nothing else.  The criminals are even worse.  The left-wing terrorists featured in series 4 are some of the most pointless and unpleasant people in existence.  I wanted to throw something at the screen every time that they appeared.

Spiral draws you in and emotionally involves you.  The plot is complex.  It is a French answer to the Wire.  Watch it and overcome your fear of subtitles.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Different experiences

One of my friends came out to me yesterday.  I've known him for about 8 years and I never suspected that he was gay.  He said that he had come to terms with it a couple of years ago and that he was slowly telling his friends.  He's living away from home at the moment so it had actually been a while since I'd seen him.  He seems to be a bit more comfortable with himself now.  He comes from a fairly religious background and his religion sometimes struggles with homosexuality.  He tells me that he still has religious faith but he feels a bit distanced from the church he grew up with.

It's good to know that your friends trust you enough to tell you stuff like that.  He said that he knew I wouldn't be freaked out and when I asked him he reassured me that I had never said anything horribly homophobic to him (not that I am in the habit of saying horribly homophobic things, but being from the West coast of Scotland words such as 'fuck' and 'cunt' are often used as commas and you worry about using the term 'gay' as an adjective). 

I know a few gay folk but most of them had established 'gay' identities when I met them or were very obviously gay.  When I think back to the conversations that my friend and I have had over the years about women and relationships I guess that his perspective must have been very different to mine.  At least he feels he can be totally open now (although I really don't want to know what he does on certain sexuality-orientated websites).

A lot of artists and musicians that I admire are gay.  Bob Mould had perhaps not been the most admirable person at times (when dealing with ex-bandmates) but he writes well about his sexuality in his autobiography and that book is worth reading for the insight that it gives the heterosexual reader.  At the end of the day, people are people, and people can love anyone they want as long as nobody gets hurt. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Adventures in bin-raking

I'm staying at my parents house for a couple of days.  I haven't been out here since Christmase so it's noce to catch up with them a bit.  I've also been tidying out my old room at their house and getting rid of some of the crap that's still cluttering the place.

I went to the local dump with my mother this afternoon.  My mother likes a bargin and keeps her eyes open for useful things whenever she goes to the dump.  We were fairly lucky today.  At the top of the dump was a pile of about 30 CDs and DVDs.  It looked as if somebody had thrown out someone elses possessions.  The collection looked rather female in origin and contained a lot of stuff by the likes of Michael Buble and Jess Stone.  There was also a few Beatles CDs and stuff by Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis and BoB Dylan.  Randomly there was also a copy of 'the last time I did acid I went insane' by Jeffrey Lewis.  I promptly jumped into the dump and salvaged all this booty.  As a family we are not proud.  I even found a copy of Johnny Cash 'American 5' for my Dad (I own this one already but my Dad is a Cash fan too).  We also picked up the first series of the Wire and a couple of books.

At the end of the day we figured out that the collection of stuff was probably worth about £150.  Not bad for stuff that was due to be landfill.  The stuff that we don't want for ourselves will be donated to charity shops with some of the other stuff we were getting rid of.

My parents and I are not poor.  I have a good job and they have decent pensions.  However it does sicken me to see useful stuff condemed to landfill when it could be used by someone else.  My Dad will enjoy watching Finding Nemo and the Wire and my Mum will enjoy listening to Elton John (hopefully when I'm out of earshot).  I'm happy with my free stuff too.

So, if you go to the dump - keep your eyes open.  And if you are going to dump stuff maybe think if someone else could use it.  We suspect that all this stuff was thrown out by an idiot in a fit of anger which is sort of sad but hopefully the charity shop may be able to do something useful with it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Bloody Valentine live at the Glasgow Barrowlands again

2013 has so far been a year of things I never thought would happen.  I submitted my thesis, I've bought Giant Size X-Men number 1 and My Bloody Valentine finally put out a new album.  To celebrate/promote the new record they came back to the Barrowlands and played some new tracks.

MBV are a visceral live band.  I last saw them about 5 years ago and I wrote about that here http://drphunk.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/my-bloody-valentine-live-at-glasgow.html .  I think they were quieter now than they were back then.  The crowd were older but still essentially the same demographic.  Just older and balder (like me).

The light show was amazing.  Computer graphics and close-up pictures of eyes.  The backline for the band was massive but I didn't really need my earplugs until Feed Me With Your Kiss.  The new material seemed to fit in seamlessly.  You Made Me Realise still feels like standing too close to a large bonfire.  The noise cord lasted for 10 minutes this time, 

As an added bonus my hearing is intact.  Makes a change,

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Lifestyle of the idle rich

When I was a kid, at around the age of 8 or 9, I thought many things were unobtainable.  The objects of my desire were generally old comic books.  The one that I desired most, that I never thought I would be able to own, was Giant Size X-Men #1.  This will mean nothing to anyone who is not an absolute nerd but Giant Size X-men #1 was the first X-Men comic to feature Wolverine and the modern X-Men characters like Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus.

This X-Men comic was different because the heroes were international (Russian, German, African, Canadian, Japanese), multi-racial (blue???) and generally a bit more interesting than those seen in older superhero comics.  For an 8 year old boy, this comic represented a water-shed.  And it was unobtainable in sunny Glasgow in the mid-1980's, ten years after it was originially published.

In the intervening decades the world has changed and I have changed.  I am now fortunate enough to be a well paid doctor.  The X-Men are now much more famous after several cartoon series and blockbuster movies.  And you can still find copies of Giant Size X-men via the magic of ebay.

Having recently reached a personal goal (submitting my MD thesis) after 4 and a half years of hard work I decided to treat myself.  I don't own a car (or hold a driving licence) and I never even wanted a sports car.  I'm not too bothered about going away on a foreign holiday.  However, I am now able to easily grant my childhood wish and pick up a cheap copy of Giant Size X-Men on ebay.  I am a lucky bloke.  A total nerd, but a lucky bloke.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Death of the Record Shop

Society has changed.  People have changed.  A lot of the stuff that I loved as a kid has gone.  Sadly, record shops are dying out.

HMV, a mighty giant, has been fatally wounded.  HMV used to be dominant in the field.  It was the alpha-shop.  It wiped out all opposition.  HMV was the same everywhere; East Kilbride, Argyle Street, Coventry, Birmingham, Leicester.  The HMV brand was everywhere.  In the early '90s it was modern and cool (in a corporate way).  The good stuff was often overpriced but they punted a lot of landfill CDs in their sales.  I spent a lot of money there.

Over the past 5 years or so HMV hadn't been looking so good.  They had lost their way.  They wanted to sell iPods and stereo systems.  They had less music (or at least they seemed to have less).  I would walk into HMV and realise I didn't have a reason to be there.  I could buy my disposible media from Amazon and I didn't need to wander around HMV to do it.  If I wanted anything cool I could go to Monorail or Fopp (although Fopp has been an indie stalking horse for HMV for years now).

When I  was a teenager I loved trudging about record shops to buy  second  hand Husker Du  lps and Butthole Surfers tapes.  I would bump into people I know.  It gave you something to do.  Life goes on and now I have plenty to do but I feel that teenagers of the  future will miss out on something.  I guess elderly trainspotters feel that the teenagers today are missing out on the steam trains of the '40s and '50s.

HMV is fucked.  I will try and spend some money in Monorail this month.  I bought some stuff in Fopp last month.  I'm probably pissing in the wind.

Thesis submitted

So, after 4 years and 7 months I've finally submitted my MD thesis.  It was a massive amout of work but I've finished it.  The feeling of relief associated with this is immense.  I now have my evenings and weekends back and I no longer have a constant feeling of guilt.  It's not totally over because I still have a viva examination but this will take a few months to organise.

So,  I'm free.

For a bit.  Since August I've spent an average of 8 hours working on this thing.  Eight hours of solid unpaid work every weekend.  A big chunk of my life.  At times I wasn't sure that I  would get there but I did.  It cost about £180 to get 4 copies of the 300 page document printed.  They weighed a tonne.  But it was a good weight.

That's enough egotism for tonight.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The end of the Dandy

One of the saddest things to happen in 2012 was the demise of the print version of the Dandy comic.  Sales had dropped from a peak of over 2 million copies sold every week to about 5000 sales per issue.  The end of the comic was probably inevitable.  It will live  on as a ghost of it's former self as an online comic.  It remains to be seen if the online version will be a hit but I am sceptical.

After a LOT of effort I managed to obtain a copy of the final print issue from an online scalper for six quid.  When I obtained my hard earned comic (that was in a slightly dog eared condition) I could see signs of illness within.  The reprinted strips from older issues retained the high quality of art and writing that I remembered.  The newer material was less strong in places.  I guess I'm probably seeing the older stuff through rose-tinted glasses but it did look a lot better.

I was a bigger fan of the Beano than the Dandy but I think these childrens comics were important.  I think they helped kids learn how to read and take pleasure in reading.  These comics were for kids and were affordable for kids.  Kids could rip them up, draw on them and swap them.  These comics had a physicality that was fun.  A child could create a comic themselves with pencil and paper.  Much of the experience of these comics is lost in the modern age.  Computers are great but not perfect for a boisterous 6 year old.

BBC Scotland screened a great documentary on the Dandy  on Hogmanay.  Dundee, Scotland, and the world have lost a great comic with an anarchic spirit.  I hope the Beano continues for the forseeable future.

RIP The Dandy - 1937 to 2012

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

welcome to 2013

I've been fairly crap with this blog recently.  I've not had time to update it due to being fairly busy at my full time clinical job while still finishing off my MD thesis. I'm also a bit older and possibly a bit more boring.

I am now based in Glasgow full-time again which  is good for me on a personal level.  I was working on the other side of the country for 18 months while still living in Glasgow and that was hell.  This was compounded by my flat having a leaking roof and some flooding for several months last christmas.

I have been to some decent gigs that I've not fully written up in the past few months.  I saw Grizzly Bear at the Barrowlands (interesting, some great songs but not totally mindblowing), Animal Collective at the  ABC (ok not amazing) and Mission of Burma at MONO (great band hampered by poor sound).  I have tickets for a few good things next year including My Bloody Valentine, Sigur Ros, and Desperadicos (Bright Eyes).  I'm also going to ATP again.

Anyway, I hope to write here more this year.  I might even have some interesting stuff to say (although I wouldn't bet on it).

I hope that anyone reading this has a great year in 2013