Friday, December 28, 2007
Which means that attentions must now turn towards New Year, which for Mrs Wife and myself means a night in a Prestwick hotel before we fly to Brussels and our week with the party-hard Belgians.
Mrs Wife has already been on the case finding suitable entertainment in Europe's Capital, and it seems that we'll spend the final hour of 2007 watching fireworks in one of Brussels' parks, and will spend New Year's Day at a vast Xmas market.
As far as I'm concerned, as long as the holiday involves copious amounts of Belgian beer and chocolate, and perhaps a trip out to Waterloo, I'll be happy.
Because I'll be in Brussels and unwilling, unable or too inebriated to blog, I'll take this opporchanceity to wish one and all a Happy New Year.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Without any further ado (or any ado at all), let's get down to the awards.
The Stone Roses award for Album of The Year: (Nominees: The Enemy - We'll Live and Die In These Towns; The Pigeon Detectives - Wait For Me; Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare; Kings of Leon - Because Of The Times; The Cooper Temple Clause - Make This Your Own)
Scooping the prestigious (in no-one's eyes) Album of The Year award for the second consecutive time, the Arctic Monkeys proved they are no flash in the pan. Moving on from their classic debut, Favourite Worst Nightmare was louder, harder and grittier - Matt Helders' drumming alone is ferocious. Another faultless record from the Sheffield lads - now it's "difficult third record" time.
The Strawberry Fields Forever award for Single of The Year: (Nominees: Arctic Monkeys - Fluorescent Adolescent; The White Stripes - Icky Thump; Soulja Boy - Crank Dat (Soulja Boy); The Enemy - We'll Live and Die In These Towns; The Pigeon Detectives - I'm Not Sorry; Kings Of Leon - On Call)
A tough category to call, given that singles aren't really singles any more - they're just a means to promote an album. But for making me sit up and take notice, it would probably have to be The White Stripes' Icky Thump - one of Jack White's most finger-blistering guitar riffs shoe-horned into an odd-sounding track containing Meg White's standard mono-beat and what sound like untuned bagpipes. Sadly, the album from which the track is taken failed to live up to expectations.
The Rolling Stones award for Live Act of The Year: (Nominees: The Cooper Temple Clause; Kings of Leon; Miyagi; Go! Team; Primal Scream)
This category is also a tough one in which to select a winner, given the high standard of live performances which I've seen this year. Kings of Leon were magnificent at the start of December, whilst Go! Team and Primal Scream were both superb at this year's inaugural Connect festival. But the award must go to The Cooper Temple Clause, whose final tour I witnessed at Aberdeen's Lemon Tree, a venue which may now follow the band into the history books. It would be unthinkable to lose both in a single year. As always, the Clause gave a throat-shredding, instrument-swapping tour de force at The Lemon Tree, even without the sadly departed Didz Hammond, now a Dirty Pretty Thing.
The Goodfellas Award for Movie of the Year: (Nominees: Pirates of The Caribbean III; Transformers; The Simpsons Movie; American Gangster)
Twenty years on, and the Transformers have lost none of their magic. To see Optimus Prime, Starscream and Bumblebee in a real-life action movie was awesome. Roll on the sequels.
The Knight Rider award for TV Programme of The Year: (Nominees: Lost; Dragons' Den; Heroes)
At the end of the second series, I was starting to think that I was losing interest. But by the end of the third series of Lost, I was completely hooked all over again. They're going to get off the island - we know that much. But what happens? A special mention must also be made for Heroes, which would have been a clear winner if not pitted against Lost. Many a workplace debate has been had over the relative merits of Hiro Nakamura and Peter Petrelli.
The Marilyn Monroe award for Babe of The Year: (Nominees: Keira Knightley; Amanda Bynes; Hayden Panettiere)
Assuming that Mrs Wife has won this award from now until the end of time, we'll instead look for a runner-up. Keira's too skinny, so instead the winner is Amanda Bynes, whom I'd never heard of until I saw her in Hairspray. Yes, she plays a schoolgirl in the film (as does fellow nominee Hayden Panettiere in Heroes), but she's 21 in real life. And she's hot.
The Jet Set Willy Award for Computer Game of The Year: (Nominees: Football Manager 2008; Final Fantasy X2; Guitar Hero)
It may not be as addictive as previous versions, but Football Manager 2008 is still the single biggest drain on my free time, sleep and marriage. I WILL win the Champions League with Rangers....
The Godfather III award for Biggest Disappointment of The Year: (Nominees: The White Stripes - Icky Thump; Ian Brown live; The Cooper Temple Clause splitting; the closure of The Lemon Tree)
The White Stripes album may have been a turkey (I've decided - Jack White is a phenomenal guitar player, but a patchy songwriter at best), Ian Brown may have been in a differet time zone to the tune at his Dundee gig, and The Lemon Tree closing is a kick in nuts to all music fans in the northeast, but the biggest disappointment from my point of view was the demise of The Cooper Temple Clause. No more of their howling, roaring, electro-rock - a huge loss to the live music scene.
The Screamadelica award for Scottish Album of The Year: (Nominee: Miyagi - Lucky Face)It's been a pretty quiet year for albums of note north of the border, but the best of the lot is Miyagi's Lucky Face, released just last week at a gig in Edinburgh. They're also the only band ever to have had Groanin' Jock make a special guest appearance on guiro. Buy the record now.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Welcome to the Christmas edition of “Getting to Know Your Friends.”
1. Wrapping or gift bags? Presents definitely look better wrapped - plus there's the mystery factor associated with a parcel that you don't get with a gift bag. Unfortunately, like Robbie Williams, my (w)rapping is atrocious.
2. Real or artificial tree? Artificial. The same tree every year. No worrying about whether the tree you've just bought will fit in the car or the house. No pine needles to hoover. Although it might be better if we had a real tree this year, as Pepper, Mrs Wife's pet rabbit, insists on chewing it regardless.
3. When do you put up the tree? Sometime in December. Xmas decorations going up before December really bugs me. At the moment, I'm too lazy to set a date and stick to it, so it usually goes up when Mrs Wife says so.
4. When do you take the tree down? The first week in January.
5. Do you like egg nog? I don't think I've ever tried it. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing I'd like, but you never know.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? My parents were always really good at getting me what I wanted. Some of the presents I can remember are a CD player, a snooker table, He-Man's Castle Greyskull and Gameboy games. But the longest lasting and most used was probably my ZX Spectrum +3, which was my first ever computer.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? No. It may be the wrong season to say this, but I'm not religious. I like Xmas because it's a great family holiday season and the ideal way to break up the long, dark winter months.
8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? There are bound to have been some horrific clothes over the years, but the trauma has forced my memory to blank them out.
9. Mail or email Christmas cards? I'd prefer not to bother, but if i have to, I'll send out real Xmas cards by mail.
10. Favorite Christmas Movie? Home Alone. I watched it last year and it made me laugh out loud, even at the age of 26. But I'm a sucker for all Xmas movies.
11. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually immediately after my November wages have been credited to my bank account.
12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Everything. I love mince pies, trifle, turkey and all the trimmings, chocolate, Xmas pudding, Yule log, that German dessert that has cream in the middle but the name of which I can't remember - as I said, everything. Prepare for several post-New Year groans about my ever-increasing waist line and weight.
13. Clear lights or coloured on the tree? Coloured
14. Favorite Christmas song(s)? All of them. Again, I love Xmas music. I have a 300-song Xmas playlist on the Magic Tunebox. Favourites include Slade, Wizzard, John and Yoko, Mariah Carey, Paul McCartney, Shakin' Stevens and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.
15. Travel at Christmas or stay home? I prefer to stay home. Xmas isn't the same if you can't lounge around in front of the TV with the brand new Broons or Oor Wullie book.
16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? I don't know - Rudolph, Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Blitzen - how many are there?
17. Angel on the tree top or a star? It was always a fairy in my house when I was growing up, but now Mrs Wife and I have a Santa Claus.
18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning? Christmas morning. How can you open your presents before Santa's delivered them?
19. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The sheer number of slow-moving people in every shop, street and post office. And the sheer lack of cash to cover all the presents, all the partying and all the normal day-to-day stuff.
20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or colour? Nope. Our collection of decorations is a rag-tag assortment of stuff gathered separately by myself and Mrs Wife over the years.
21. What do you leave for Santa? As a wee boy, it was always a biscuit and a glass of milk for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer (one carrot between all those reindeer - Mither must have been hard up after shopping for my presents).
22. Least favorite holiday song? Hmmmm, I like most of them. Although The Darkness' effort a few years back wasn't the best. And I'm not keen on As Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night.
23. Favorite ornament? Mrs Wife has a snowman snow globe she bought in New York that is nice.
24. Family tradition? I don't think there were any traditions as such - opening our presents in our pyjamas then spending all day at home was about it.
25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services? I do have hazy recollections of attending an evening service at the Episcopal Church at Tarfside when I was at primary school. Which I presume was in some way school-related.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I've actually done this one before, but what's another eight facts between friends? So here are facts nine to 16:
1: The first football match I ever attended was a friendly between Brechin City and Rangers in 1990 or 1991 for Dougie Scott's testimonial. I think the score was 6-4 to Brechin. Ian Durrant scored a penalty and Mark Walters, Terry Hurlock and Colin Scott all played for Rangers.
2: I have eight Standard Grades, seven Highers, two Certificates of Sixth Year Studies and a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. Oh, and National Certificates in Art, Music and Keyboard Skills.
3: I've scored two goals in the Aberdeen Oil League this season. Our team hasn't won a match yet.
4: I collect Hurricane cocktail glasses from Hard Rock Cafes around the world. So far, my collection covers Rome, Sydney, Edinburgh, Madrid, Melbourne, Singapore, New York, Cancun, Paris, Kuala Sumper, Surfer's Paradise and Hollywood.
5: Wales is the only country in the British Isles that I've never been to. For some reason, it just doesn't appeal.
6: The first dance at my wedding was Here, There and Everywhere by The Beatles.
7: This year, I'm spending Xmas with Mrs Wife's parents for the first time before jetting off to Brussels for New Year.
8: I attended four different Primary Schools and one High School as a boy. My first school had several hundred pupils, my second had nine when I started and seven when I left, my third had three when I started and five when I left, and my fourth had 13 when I started and 11 when I left.
So, weren't those facts just scintillatingly exciting? I'm meant to tag eight more bloggers to play along, but I think everyone should play if they want to and ignore it if they don't.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Yesterday, in my tortured role as a Montrose FC season ticket holder, I watched this monumentally pish side beat Montrose 1-0.
It would be a falsehood to describe the match as the worst I've ever seen - I've been watching Scottish football at all levels from boys to international for the best part of two decades, so I've seen some abominations.
But at yesterday's Angus 'derby', there was little class on show. The ineptitude of Forfar's players was matched only by that of their opponents, and exceeded only by a shameful refeering performance.
Barely a few seconds would pass without the hapless whistler halting play for some minor offence, and as a result, the match was a scrappy, stop/start affair.
In failing to send off two players who engaged in a shoving match, the official indicated early on that his grasp of both the match and the rules of the sport was limited, and everyone in the small crowd was forced to suffer as a result.
It seems to be a current malaise at all levels of the game - inexplainable, illogical, inconsistent refereeing.
Maybe, as I've grown older, I'm less in awe of the whole footballing spectacle, and far more aware of the hapless individuals who officiate matches, and the difference they can make. But nowadays we don't seem to have strong, assured personalities in charge of our matches.
All I can say is that I don't envy the referees whatsoever. If the ref has a good game, no-one notices. If he doesn't, everyone does.
That was most certainly the case yesterday.
For a long time, I thought it might never happen again.
But on Friday night, I made my first appearance onstage with a band since 1998.
Much to my surprise, and that of three quarters of the band members, I was invited onstage to play percussion with Miyagi on the track Dirty Little Monkey at their album launch party at The Ark, Edinburgh, on Friday.
Despite dropping the beat on a couple of occasions, not to mention being flumoxed by the sudden changes in pace when the song hit the chorus, I don't think I did too badly. Although perhaps the band might disagree.
I'd urge you all to check out Miyagi's website, buy a copy of the debut album Lucky Face and do your best to catch them on their upcoming tour.
Photos and/or videos of my impromptu special guest appearance may appear here if and when I find out that some exist.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I remember as a boy thinking that The Magician's Nephew, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian were all brilliant, but becoming progressively more bored as the series progressed.
I'm not sure what has made me decide to start reading the books again. I bought one massive compendium of all seven whilst in Australia four years ago, and carted it around the world back to Scotland, unread in the eight months that journey took.
Maybe it's because the strange workings of my mind associate Narnia (snow, White Witch, fir trees) with Xmas. Whatever the reason, I'm now approaching the end of The Magician's Nephew, and I'm finding the experience of re-reading the Narnia books a bit strange.
Firstly, the language used by CS Lewis is occasionally archaic, as one would expect from a series of books written 50 years ago, a world before the mass arrival of the motor car, before every house in the world had at least one telephone, and before everyone in the world had a television.
And what has also struck me is the blatantly obvious Christian references, which weren't so readily apparent to an eight-year-old devouring these imaginative tales for the first time.
By the time he wrote The Magician's Nephew, Lewis had already penned five of the Narnia novels, and must have had a clear view of how the series would end. The comparisons with the New Testament, as seen through the eyes of a cynical 27-year-old cynical journalist, are inescapable.
But perhaps the strangest thing is that I can't really remember how the story unfolds. Although almost 20 years have passed, I thought I'd remembered the story pretty well. But each chapter so far has been like I've been reading it for the first time. Cinematic and television versions of the Chronicles have kept certain aspects fresh in my mind, but now I'm having doubts about how accurately I've remembered the rest of the books.
Which has set me to wondering - have I forgotten what happens in some of my favourite literature?
There's only one way to find out - by re-reading Treasure Island, the complete works of Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood tales.
I may be quiet for some time.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
You spend hours writing your own name over and over again, then licking so many envelopes that saliva is but a bitter, parched memory.
Then you spend the same amount of time trying to find people's addresses, rummaging through out-of-date address books and sending text messages to which people don't reply.
And for what purpose? So that you can cripple the British postal service by forcing postmen and women to trudge through the coldest weeks of the year weighed down by vast piles of dead trees. Then, when this forest of cardboard is delivered, you look at it once before letting it sit gathering dust on a shelf before it jumps down the back of the sideboard the first time someone opens a door.
Can you tell I just spent a couple of hours writing my Xmas cards?
Monday, December 10, 2007
The aftermath of the office Xmas party, the first I've experienced since joining my current employer, was equal parts entertaining and excruciating. The whole morning in the office passed in a flurry of emails recounting Friday's festivities. The bad behaviour, drunken debates and dubious dancing were all picked over in minute detail, providing almost as much entertainment as the party itself.
No-one has been sacked yet, so I think we may be safe, for a year at least.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
This is especially infuriating when someone has to make it from the South College Street car park to Bon Accord Shopping Centre, find a Xmas gift for a workplace "Secret Santa", and make it back to the car, all inside 20 minutes.
None of this would have been necessary if the fuckwit on Ebay from whom I have already purchased a "Secret Santa" gift had sent it in enough time for it to arrive before today.
During my return journey through Aberdeen's streets, I was accosted on no fewer than four occasions by people wanting my opinions on something, wanting me to donate to charity or asking me to buy a raffle ticket.
Then, having arrived at the store of my choice, the assistant, whose neck was barely visible beneath lurid purple lovebites, asked in a disinterested fashion if she could help me.
To which I managed (but only just) not to reply: "Yes, you can get out of my way so that I can do my shopping."
Good God - December 6 and I'm already fed up with the Xmas stress.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
For any music fans in the north east, that will be devastating news. The venue was the best (only?) middle-sized venue in the area, and regularly hosted three or four gigs in a week.
Driveblind's last Aberdeen gig before they jetted off to LA was at The Lemon Tree, and the last time I saw The Cooper Temple Clause before they split, it was at a fantastic intimate Lemon Tree gig.
Now, Aberdeen's music fans will be left with only the Music Hall and the AECC to choose from - both too big for smaller acts.
Hopefully, some kind of rescue package will come together, otherwise there will be a gaping hole in the Aberdeen gigs calendar.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
The reason for these jibes is that Mrs Wife and I will spend the last few days of 2007 and the opening few of 2008 in Brussels.
Faced with the options of Montrose, Brechin, Oban and Edinburgh, none of which were met with great enthusiasm, we decided to look beyond Scotland's border for suitable alternatives.
We briefly toyed with the idea of a cruise to the Low Countries, but the prospect of spending two days on a boat with some geriatrics didn't overly fill us with excitement.
Consideration was also given to a package holiday, basking in the sun in some Mediterranean resort, with only the all-inclusive bar and a pile of paperbacks for company.
But instead, after a bit of hunting around and a cobbled-together plan of action, we settled on Brussels, for no better reason than it's not in Scotland.
Since then, when I've relayed these plans to friends, several have started laughing, with comments generally taking a form along the lines of: "Oh yes, the party-hard Belgians, renowned worldwide for their Hogmanay celebrations!"
Frankly, I don't care. A strange city, home to more than 400 varieties of strong beer and probably as many exciting strains of the world's best chocolate sounds as good a place as any to see in the New Year.
But now, in keeping with the spirit of my friends' mickey-taking, I challenge you, dear readers, to name ten famous Belgians. Off the top of my head, I can only really think of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Poirot, who doesn't count because he's not real. Professional footballers don't count either, because none of them are truly famous in the real sense of the word (apologies to Messrs Buffel, Valgaeren, Degryse and Albert). Good luck, and no using Google or Wikipedia.
Monday, December 03, 2007
I managed to avoid getting into a fight at Saturday's Kings of Leon concert at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.
Is that a strange way to start a post? Probably. Perhaps some explanation is required.
Having spent the whole day in Aberdeen, Mrs Wife and I decided that, instead of aimlessly roaming the granite city's streets, we'd head up to the venue early and venture inside as soon as the doors opened.
As we were amongst the first in, we pretty much had our pick of places to stand, and chose a spot immediately in front of the mixing desk. This meant that later, when the venue was stowed out, we couldn't be pushed forwards by any surging in the crowd. (That makes me sound really old and boring. The previous two occasions I've been to the AECC for gigs - Oasis in 1997 and Ocean Colour Scene in 1998 - I was right at the front being crushed against the barriers.)
Anyway, we stood in front of the mixing desk throughout opening act Manchester Orchestra's set (anyone from Jawjah want to explain why a rock band from Atlanta is called Manchester Orchestra?) and were happy to stand there for the Kings of Leon's set.
Until an idiot with rubbish faux-indie hair decided that standing right in front of Mrs Wife would be a good idea.
Don't get me wrong - I expect to have people standing in front of me at a gig, especially if I choose to stand at the back of the hall. But this twat wasn't just standing in front of Mrs Wife, he was practically standing on top of her, and kept on leaning into her, pushing her backwards against the railing.
So Mrs Wife and I reached a simple conclusion - we'd swap places. Hairboy then goes from leaning against a slim 5'6" woman to leaning against a broad-shouldered, marginally overweight 6'1" man clad in a heavy leather jacket.
Far be it from me to suggest how other people should behave, but I would suggest that if a couple standing behind you has just adjusted their standing arrangements so that your ass is now touching the tall bloke behind you, you should take that as a hint to take a step forwards and watch the show.
But no, fannybaws continues to lean backwards. So he is given a small shove forwards by means of suggesting a more suitable vantage point. He responds by telling yours truly to fuck off. But he does so from a position where he is no longer touching me. This is fine.
Two more songs go by, and neepheid seems to have forgotten our little exchange. He again leans into me, forcing me against the barrier. He gets a second shove in the back, this time with a little more force.
It is at this point, when I am being told to fuck off for the second time in the space of 10 minutes, that it crosses my mind that this altercation may not end here. And hey, I'm a lover, not a fighter.
But, as these thoughts are crossing my mind, it becomes apparent that fannybaws' mate has realised that it's not just me and Mrs Wife he has to deal with - we're accompanied by another guy in the six-foot-plus bracket and his own Mrs Wife.
And, having taken stock of the situation, they scarper.
So, I managed to avoid getting into a fight on Saturday. Kings of Leon were rather good, although we were treated to Caleb Followill partially spitting the dummy when his guitar refused to work properly during the encore. For a moment, I feared for the roadie's safety, and thought that my peacemaking services might be required onstage.
Maybe I should start my own business as a diffuser of potentially violent indie situations.