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 .  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.