Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Slide Away

As seen on another blog that I would link to if it wasn't "members only".

Monday, December 28, 2009

The 2009 Jock Awards

I'm sprawled on the couch at Dungroanin', enjoying the post-festive lull, so it seems the ideal time to host the awards ceremony no-one is waiting for, the 2009 Jock Awards.

The Stone Roses award for Album of The Year: (Nominees: The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love; Manic Street Preachers - Journal For Plague Lovers, Doves - Kingdom of Rust; The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die; Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum)
A few weeks back, I was discussing the year's best albums with a couple of friends. At that time, I was fairly certain it had been a pretty poor year for records. But looking back through the Magic Tune Box, it seems I'd simply forgotten that a number of pretty darn good albums were released this year. Of the five best, I'm torn between The Decemberists' folk concept album, Doves' grandiose indie guitar and The Prodigy's startling return to form. Pushed for a decision, I'd have to go with The Decemberists and their woodlands-based tale of a lady called Margaret.

The Strawberry Fields Forever award for Single of The Year: (Nominees: The Prodigy - Warrior's Dance; Kasabian - Underdog; Gossip - Heavy Cross; Lily Allen - The Fear; Florence and The Machine - You've Got The Love)
Just as The Verve's Love Is Noise soundtracked my summer in 2008, Kasabian's Underdog was my tune of choice for most of this year. Chiming guitars, heavy beats and a sound taking the Madchester sound forward again, no other track inspired me the way that the first glimpse of Kasabian's latest lunacy did.

The Rolling Stones award for Live Act of The Year: (Nominees: Take That, Neil Young, AC/DC, Them Crooked Vultures, Jane's Addiction)
If this was a bumper year for albums, it was a phenomenal year for live music. This was the year I saw Neil Young and AC/DC for the first time, as well as the disappointment of Dylan. Take That's show was head and shoulders the most complex I've ever seen, eclipsing even The Rolling Stones and U2, while AC/DC pulled off stadium rock with the ease of grizzled veterans. But the single greatest performance was Neil Young's at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. A "best of" set that found Mr Young in sparkling form, he was phenomenal from start to finish, climaxing with a howling take on The Beatles' A Day In The Life.

The Goodfellas Award for Movie of the Year: (Nominees: Paranormal Activity; Watchmen; Star Trek; The Boat That Rocked)
Mrs Wife and I haven't been to the cinema as often as normal this year, and we wasted two cinema trips on the disappointing Transformers 2 and Terminator: Salvation. And we still haven't seen Avatar or Sherlock Holmes. My choice for movie of the year would be Paranormal Activity, proving that you don't need a multi-million dollar budget to keep your audience on the edge of their seats.

The Knight Rider award for TV Programme of The Year: (Nominees: Fringe; True Blood; Spooks; Generation Kill; FlashForward)
Another good year for television and justification for owning a Sky+ box. Most of the really good stuff continues to come from across the Atlantic, and it was True Blood, the televised adaptation of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, that led the way. I've always been a sucker for a vampire story set in the modern age, from The Littlest Vampire through The Lost Boys and onwards. True Blood just continued the trend.

The Marilyn Monroe award for Babe of The Year: (Nominees: Salma Hayek; Nadine Coyle; Cheryle Cole; Beyonce Knowles; Michelle Keegan)
Assuming, as always, that Mrs Wife is the genuine winner of this category from now until the end of the Blogosphere, I'd happily take any of the above nominees as runner-up (or all five together with whipped cream and chocolate sauce). But for the sake of handing out the gong, it's Salma Hayek who walks away as the "winner".

The Jet Set Willy Award for Computer Game of The Year: (Nominees: Football Manager 2010; Rock Band)
The only guaranteed shoo-in of all the awards, Football Manager continues to go from strength to strength, this year with an overhaul of its match engine and the ability to create competitions - the Scottish League pyramid system created by one gifted fan is simply amazing.

The Godfather III award for Biggest Disappointment of The Year: (Nominees: The death of Michael Jackson; Bob Dylan live; Transformers 2; Arctic Monkeys' third album)
Bob Dylan was horrendous live. Of all the concerts I saw this year, that was by far the worst. But the biggest disappointment of the year was undoubtedly the passing of the King of Pop, barely weeks before Mrs Wife and I were due to see him perform in London. We still had a great holiday in the Big Smoke, but his demise left a huge gap in our year and in the music world.

The Screamadelica award for Scottish Album of The Year: (Nominee: Miyagi - Scalextro South Americana)
I'm struggling to think of any notable contributions from north of the border, so this year's award goes to Miyagi, even if a four-track EP scarcely counts as an album. An odd mix of instruments harnessed together for a fantastic ensemble sound.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vultures Circling

Mrs Wife and I made the long, dark journey to Edinburgh last night to bask in the glow that only true legends can truly provide.
This was no mere journey to a gig - this was a chance to get up close and personal with genuine living, breathing rock behemoths the likes of which venture only rarely to these frozen Arctic wastelands.
The term supergroup has been used to describe Them Crooked Vultures since the moment they formed. Bring together Nirvana's drummer, Queens of the Stone Age's singer/guitarist and - the crowning achievement (in the eyes of many) - Led Zeppelin's bass player, and it becomes almost inevitable.
In truth, regarding Josh Homme as being in the same league as Messrs Grohl and Jones is a tad unrealistic, but the three certainly seem to be the best of friends.
I'd forgotten just how powerful a drummer Dave Grohl is. Only once before had I seen him behind a kit in the flesh, and it was for only five minutes during a Foo Fighters festival set.
But last night, in the comparatively small Corn Exchange, there was a chance to see him thump the tubs for the duration of a full concert.
A lot of the time, he's like Animal from the Muppets, wildly flailing arms, head bobbing furiously and a huge grin covering half his face. If there can be such a thing as controlled ferocity, Dave Grohl personifies it. His drumming literally sounded like artillery fire at times, yet there was never a dropped beat. On the sleazy flamenco of Interlude With Ludes, his rhythm became even more complex, seeming to involve wooden blocks and rim shots (behave) as well as cymbals.
Although Homme and live guitarist Alain Johannes contributed most to the vocals and guitars, the more obvious attention-grabber was John Paul Jones. These days, worryingly, he looks more like my mum's 50-something partner than half of the rhythm section from the most legendary groupie-shagging, devil-worshipping, drug-imbibing rock band this planet has ever seen.
But he can still play. There were nimble-fingered jazz-flecked bass solos, tender piano instrumentals, a whole track where he played only keytar and a general air of mild bemusement at the sheer awe with which the assembled fans greeted him.
The music? It sounded like Queens of the Stone Age with the fat stripped off - lean, heavy and loud. The band has far more character and gravitas on stage than was evident on its album.
Watch out for them coming to a festival near you next year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Season 2009/2010: Match 6: Montrose v Annan Athletic

Some 0-0 draws feel like 0-0 draws from start to finish - few chances, aimless football lacking passion, skill and commitment from both sides and a feeling that 90 minutes is slowly turning into 90 turgid weeks.

Today's match at Links Park may have been a 0-0 draw, but it was entertaining from start until finish, both sides pressing forwards in the hunt for goals.

Montrose hit the crossbar, Annan twice hit the post, Daryl Nicol sent a shot over the crossbar from six yards out - in short, there was no shortage of chances.

Annan started the match with three former Montrose players in their side, but Greg Kelly, David Cox and Scott Anson went back to the borders with only a point. There were also three ex-Hibs players on show, in the forms of Montrose goalkeeper Andrew McNeil, who was outstanding, pulling off a series of acrobatic saves; Montrose player-manager Steven Tweed, who has looked increasingly confident over the past few weeks; and Derek Townsley, acting as player and assistant manager to Brechin City legend Harry Cairney.

Missing out on a first league win was a disappointment, but a point is still a welcome step forward. Montrose are definitely going to finish bottom of the bottom division this season, so now should be the time for getting a solid and experienced team set up for next season. Positive signs are beginning to show themselves, with a defence that is becoming harder to break down and a midfield with a good blend of grit and class. The attack still needs work, but I'm optimistic that the second half of the season can't possibly be as bad as the first....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Suddenly Feel Very Old

It came as a shock today when I found out that I'm older than Chelsea captain John Terry.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Season 2009/2010: Match 5: Montrose v East Fife

You wait more than three months for a home win, and when it arrives it's in a cup tie against a team from a higher division boasting a player/manager who's a former Scotland international.

Stevie Crawford has been manager of East Fife since the start of the season, but I'm sure losing a Scottish Cup tie against lowly Montrose won't be terribly high on his list of achievements.

Montrose were the better team throughout and could have had half a dozen goals by half time. Steven Tweed had his best game in a Montrose shirt (or the best I've seen anyway), and the youngsters swarming around him were excellent.

Oddly, the victory arrived in a match in which Marek Tomana was confined to the bench. Maybe Tweed should drop his best player every week....

Bring on Rangers at Links Park.

To The Faraway Towns

I spent two days this week in London.

In my late teens, when it became apparent that I was going to be studying journalism at university, I always assumed that I'd end up working in London.

Life didn't play out that way, and I've been to London less than a dozen times since my first visit in 1999.

I always look forward to heading down to the big smoke - especially when my employer is paying, as was the case this week.

But it's a place that delights and infuriates in equal measure.

The sheer size of the city is something that a life spent mostly in Scotland can't prepare you for. London isn't a single entity, it's a whole series of towns linked by what, in my experience, is the world's greatest underground network.

But the tube, while generally working like clockwork, can be a source of great frustration. It seems that Londoners are adept at avoiding eye contact, instead stampeding impatiently from platform to platform, barrier to exit. One second's hesitance and you're immediately in someone's way, and they're not slow in telling you.

The sheer volume of people takes some getting used to as well, especially for those of us who split their time between Montrose and Aberdeen. But London seems overcrowded even when compared to New York and Shanghai, although perhaps memory serves me incorrectly.

Even with the overcrowding and the sullen faces surrounding me on every side, London is incredible. There are amazing buildings on almost every street. Huge ornate buildings that would be royal residences in any other country are train stations or offices in London.

But it's a tiring place, especially when you're at a conference for the entire time you're there, and even more so when your flight is delayed. I did at least get a meal at Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food restaurant, and it was one of the best meals I've ever had.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Berwick Raingers

Today, as is my usual practice every second Saturday, I set off around 2pm bound for Links Park.

The focus of today's attention was to be Montrose v Berwick, but when I arrived at the ground at 2.20pm it was apparent all was not well. Groups of people huddled in the shelter of the ground's front entrance, and the turnstiles weren't open.

Angus has been bombarded by torrential rain over the past few days, and I assumed that even Montrose's plastic pitch had proven too soggy for football today.

But the club employees inside the stadium informed us that one of the teams was stuck en route due to a road closure between Perth and Dundee.

Now, I would have assumed that the team unable to make it Links Park today would have been Berwick, seeing as how they were coming from England. But the Berwick team bus was parked in front of the ground, and small groups of their fans were wandering around nearby.

No, the team unable to make it to today's fixture was the home side.

It's a funny old game Saint....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Pakistani and The Automatic Door

I'm not sure if the gentleman in the video below actually is Pakistani or not, my Arabic isn't quite up to scratch. If anyone wants to enlighten me, I'd be grateful.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Just As Well They Really Did

A few days ago I pointed you strange people in the direction of The Beatles Never Broke Up.

If you've not been yet, I wouldn't bother. I recommended the site on the basis of a couple of brief instrumental excerpts.

But having listened to the first two tracks (I couldn't bear any more) it's apparent that the "album" is just a poorly-executed mash-up of various post-Beatles solo works.

At least the story was vaguely entertaining.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Season 2009/2010: Match 4: Montrose v Stranraer

Today, despite hammering rain at the time I left the house, the fact that it was freezing cold and that Wales v Scotland was on the telly, I went to Links Park, handed over my hard-earned (OK, let's just pretend it's hard-earned) cash and watched Montrose come away with a point.

They deserved all three. Stranraer are dire, but Montrose have regressed so far over the past few months that even a home match against a team as shite as this can't be regarded as a shoo-in.

It was end-to-end stuff, but neither side created much in the way of genuine chances. Saying that, if Stranraer captain Danny Mitchell could hit the target with his shots, Stranraer could have had half a dozen goals.

The first goal came in the 54th minute, Sean Anderson flicking a Paul Watson free kick in off the far post. The lead only lasted ten minutes though, Michael Moore beating the offside trap (or Montrose's backline standing roughly in a straight line anyway), avoiding a late Tweed lunge and sending a low shot into the bottom corner.

But Montrose should have finished the match, Tweed somehow managing to volley OVER the crossbar from three yards and both Maitland and Nicol missing late chances from inside the box.

Montrose looked much better today than they have of late, with more width and drive in evidence. They need to cut out silly mistakes, with Fraser Milligan in particular guilty of carelessness on a number of occasions. The side is crying out for a goalscorer as well, but I've been saying that all season. I've seen Montrose play four times this season, but only seen them score twice.

Optimism says that the potential is there for the team to start winning - perhaps a first league win will lead to an avalanche. But pragmatism says that the season is going to be a long, long grind.

Today could have been worse though. I could have watched the Scotland match.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Of Its Time

I despair. Truly I do. Within the first sentence, which ever illiterate monkey from National Express East Coast wrote this has completely lost any hope of me partaking of their super-duper special offer.

The Beatles Never Broke Up

Barking mad, marketing his own band or genuinely in possession of an unreleased Beatles album?
Or just barking mad?

Anyway, it's a good story and the music is half decent - is this really unreleased Beatles music from an alternative dimension?

You decide....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black and White and Read All Over

Thanks to my daily commute, I get through a fair few books over the course of a year. Here's the tomes that have been keeping me entertained over the past wee while - the list is somewhat shorter than I would have expected, but that's because The Great and Secret Show, The Creation Records Story and the Michael Jackson biography were all huge books.
Yes We Have No - Nik Cohn: Disappointing travelogue of a tour around "alternative" England, including travellers' camps, National Front members, witches and an Indian boxer. Promised much more than it delivered.
Trussed - Shiromi Pinto: Entertaining, fast-paced novel about three intertwined lives - Sri Lankan dominatrix Vinda; her cousin and Elvis impersonator Angel; and bail bondsman Regis. Read in a week and thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end.
The Final Whistle? - Harry Reid: Interesting, well-argued look at the problems facing Scottish football and the possible solutions to those problems. A few years old, so some things have changed - Gretna's demise being the most notable. A few strange idiosyncracies in Reid's style, surprising in a former editor of The Herald, were infuriating, but all in all, a worthwhile read for fans of Scottish football.
Gangster - Lorenzo Carcaterra: Fantastic novel about New York crime boss Angelo Vestieri's rise from sickly immigrant to the most powerful man in America. Written by the same author who wrote Sleepers, the book followed the standard Godfather/Goodfellas route, but was all the better for it.
The Great and Secret Show - Clive Barker: Sprawling fantasy novel recommended by a colleague, who said it's her favourite book. Strong start and finish, but a lull in the middle of a very lengthy novel meant it was a struggle at times. Worth a read, but never going to feature in my favourite books list.
Marley & Me - John Grogan - Surprisingly entertaining tale of One Man and His Dog. I read it after seeing the Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston movie, but the book was much better. A worthwhile read, although it's hardly War and Peace.
Michael Jackson: The Magic and The Madness - J Randy Taraborelli: The definitive Jackson biography from one of the few journalists ever taken into the King of Pop's confidence. I started reading this a month before I was due to go and see Jackson in concert; by the time I finished it, he was dead.
The Creation Records Story: My Magpie Eyes are Hungry For The Prize - David Cavanagh: Thorough history of the record label that dominated the Britpop years. A tale of junkies, geniuses, nutters, coke, lots of money, Primal Scream and Oasis. Noel Gallagher left Oasis while I was reading the book.
A Death In Tuscany - Michele Giuttari - Fast-paced novel following the exploits of Florence police chief Michele Ferrara. Complex plots involving paedophiles, drug dealers and mafia dons tie well together for an enjoyable read.
Bravo Two Zero - Andy McNab - Exciting tale of the SAS behind enemy lines. McNab's unadorned style was a bit grating to begin with, but once the story picked up speed, so too did the writing. Not as harrowing as I expected it might be, but a glimpse into a world I'm glad never to have been a part of.
The Resurrectionist - James Bradley - Rather odd tale of anatomists and grave robbers in Victorian London. Bradley's writing style captured the era well, but there was little to keep the reader desperately turning the pages.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Season 2009/2010: Match 3: Montrose v Livingston

And still the search for that elusive first league win of the season goes on.

A comfortable win over Banks O' Dee in the monsoon a week earlier seemed to spark Montrose into life on Saturday, and they played their full time opponents off the park for long spells.

Livingston have few friends in Scottish football and Saturday's match did little to win new buddies in Montrose. Jonathan Brown was sent off for a high, late and dangerous tackle in the 22nd minute, and striker Andrew Halliday appeared to feign injury to get Montrose's Sean Anderson dismissed 13 minutes later.

Despite the hinderances, Montrose played as well as I've seen them this season (albeit that is only three games). Tomana, Nicol, Hegarty and even Tweed looked good, but Montrose still can't score goals. There's a desperate need for someone who can put the ball in the net by any means possible.

(As an aside, I'm reminded of the West Ham fan who sat behind the dugout in a pre-season friendly. He spent the whole first half lambasting whichever lump of meat Harry Redknapp was playing up front at the time. Eventually 'Arry turned round to the fan, told him to put on a Hammers shirt and get on the pitch. He did, he played up front and he scored. I might take my boots to Links Park for the Stranraer game on November 14 and see what happens.)

Did Livi deserve to win 3-0? Did they hell. They were lucky even to win, but the margin exaggerated the result. Sure enough, Halliday scored the second, which effectively decided the match, and was subbed off near the end to a chorus of boos from the home fans.

Sitting amongst said fans was Jamie Buchan, until recently one of the best players at the club. He's still unattached, and it would be a great piece of business if Mo could bring him back to add a bit of experience, cool passing and solid tackling either at the back or behind Tomana in midfield. Here's hoping....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Ten - My Ten All-Time Favourite Computer/Console Games

1. Championship Manager/Football Manager (all incarnations since Championship Manager 2) - PC - Not so much a computer game as a way of life.
2. Magicland Dizzy - Spectrum 128k (+3 in our household)  - The fourth(?) instalment of the wonderful Dizzy series kept Baby Brother and I occupied for hours on end, working as a team to solve puzzles in a world populated by boxing glove-wearing anthropomorphic eggs. We didn't need drugs in the 1990s. We had Codemasters to create outlandish fantasies for us.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - Gameboy - The First Legend of Zelda game on the Game Boy, the first I played and the one I've enjoyed the most.
4. Goldeneye - N64 - Quite possibly the world's best multiplayer game. Four players rampaging around hydro electric dam as Oddjob, Bond, Jaws and russian soldiers shooting each other has never yet been surpassed.
5. Mario Kart - N64 - The best driving game ever. Beaten only by Goldeneye in the multiplayer stakes. There has never, to my knowledge, been a bad version of Mario Kart.
6. Grand Theft Auto III - PlayStation 2 - Not the original, but definitely the best in my opinion. I never really enjoyed the first two games on the original PlayStation, but GTA3 was, and still is, awesome.
7. Pro Evolution Soccer - PlayStation 2 - As any fool knows, Pro Evolution Soccer kicks FIFA's ass every time.
8. Chucky Egg - Spectrum 48k - Falling into the "simple but effective" category, this Donkey Kong predecessor saw the player manipulate Henhouse Harry through level after level of platforms, collecting eggs and avoiding killer chickens. They don't make them like this any more.
9. Sim City 2000 - PC - My second favourite PC game after the untouchable CM/FM series. I've devoted countless hours to building a whole series of Jockvilles over the years.
10. Sensible Soccer - Gameboy - Only on the Playstation did Sensible Soccer suck, but on the original Gameboy it was the greatest football game by a considerable margin.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Square Root Of All Evil

As my office backs onto what, until recently was a massive Aberdeen building site, today myself and two colleagues ventured out at lunchtime for the opening of the city's new shopping/cinema/dining complex, Union Square.

And it was utter bedlam. I've just heard on the news that 10,000 people were through the doors in the first hour.

TEN THOUSAND people. 30,000 in the first three hours. To see shops and restaurants that largely already exist in the city.

The big draw though was the shiny new Apple store. They were giving away t-shirts to the first 1,000 people into the shop, and rumour has it that 100 of the boxes also had iPod Nanos in them. But we took one look at the queue and decided to leave instead.

But even that was hard work, fighting against the flow of 10,000 folk milling around, ramraiding others with buggies, stopping dead with no notice and generally infuriating those of us who are perfectly normal.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Everywhere You Go

The weather at the moment is rather strange. Last week, it rained non-stop for three days, causing flooding and landslides in and around Aberdeen.
But now the sun is shining and it is unseasonably warm. Which is causing me some problems.
It's too cold, and the risk of rain is too high, to go without a warm and waterproof jacket. But when walking around wearing said jacket, I quickly become too hot and end up sweating like Gary Glitter in a Phuket playgroup.
But if I then take my jacket off, I quickly become too cold, and it's really too big to be carrying round.
I have neither the funds nor the inclination to invest in a new winter jacket (even though the one I'm currently wearing has been around for a few years now and has the remains of a pen lodged in the lining, the pen having slipped through a hole in one of the myriad pockets).
I hate autumn. Cold without being properly cold, warm without being warm enough to stay out for too long. Far too wet. Dark mornings and darker evenings. It's at this time of year that a permanent return to Australia (or a transfer to my employer's Houston or Singapore office) seems ever more inviting.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

21st Century Boy

I think the musical pool I've been dipping into over the past few years has shrunk somewhat.
Spurred on by a text from a friend, I attempted to draw up my list of my 10 favourite albums since 2000.
And off the top of my head, the list consisted of:
The Cooper Temple Clause - See This Through and Leave
The Cooper Temple Clause - Kick Up The Fire and Let The Flames Break Loose
The Cooper Temple Clause - Make This Your Own
Elbow - Asleep In The Back
Elbow - Leaders Of The Free World
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
The Coral - The Coral
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell
The Libertines - Up The Bracket
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
So, six albums contributed by two artists. No Oasis albums. No Doves. No Coldplay. No AC/DC, Queens of the Stone Age, Primal Scream, Manic Street Preachers, Verve, Bob Dylan or Ian Brown.
I'm wary of becoming one of those middle-aged guys who claims to have their finger on the pulse of modern music, but who can only tell you when the next Rush or David Bowie album is coming out.
I do think that most of the music covered by NME nowadays is pish - but I've probably thought that every year since 1998. They certainly lost me for a while around the turn of the century when they shamefully lauded The Strokes as some kind of defining band, when they were nothing of the kind.
But maybe I am in danger of losing my knowledge of what's new. Mrs Wife is the one who bought Florence and The Machine's debut album Lungs, while I've instead been spending my money on Beatles remasters and Ian Brown albums. While she can identify the new singles by The Enemy or The Big Pink from their exposure on Radio 1, I spend my morning commute listening to Miles Davis or Abbey Road.
I'll be 30 next year - is it time to give up the NME subscription and devote my time and money to Classic Rock instead?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Separated At Birth

Shamelessly stolen from another blog, which I would link to if it wasn't open to invited readers only.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hey Jude

This reminds me of Baby Brother's A Capella renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody when he was around the same age.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hidden Gems

The last time I looked, my Magic Tune Box had just under 21,000 songs on it. Most of these tracks are those I've ripped from my CDs, but some are from CDs borrowed from friends and family or from downloads both legal and illicit.

This much music means that to listen to it all would take solid weeks. And it also means that there are lots of tracks on the Magic Tune Box that I've never heard. Not even once.

So, a while back I decided that one way to remedy this would be to listen to all the albums on the Magic Tune Box in alphabetical order. As well as allowing me to hear some of the music for the first time, this also enabled me to keep my borderline OCD in check.

At the moment, I've gotten as far as "E". And today, I heard the Rory Gallagher compilation Etched In Blue for the first time.

I was blown away.

Thanks to my odd desire to listen to everything in some pre-defined order, and to the alphabet, I've discovered some new (30-year-old) tunes.

Take your happiness where you can find it folks....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Season 2009/2010: Match 2: Montrose v Queen's Park

It's now official - I support the worst "professional" football team in Scotland.

A measly two points from the first quarter of the season tells as much of the story as should be necessary - no wins from the opening nine matches.

As is the case with fans of most shite teams, I'm adamant that Montrose are better than this.

Except they're not.

The defence is largely anonymous. Paul Quinn could have stopped and made a cup of tea before scoring Queen's Park's first last night, with the centre backs - Sean Crighton and player/manager/captain/obergrupenfuhrer/king of the world Steven Tweed - nowhere to be seen.

Andrew McNeil was an erratic keeper when he was at Hibs, and presumably that's why he now finds himself slumming it at the foot of Division Three.

And Montrose have no-one who can score goals. All of their attacks were based around long shots from outside or near the edge of the box, or aimlessly lumping the ball into the box and hoping that Tweed or Crighton could connect with their noggins.

It seems a long time since the heady days of Jim Weir, when promotion looked a serious possibility - but it's only been a season and half. Montrose's slide to below mediocrity has been rapid, thanks in no small part to a whole host of managers and a club-wide budget cut.

It's going to be a grim winter.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten

My granny died early this morning after a long series of illnesses.

If I'm honest, it's a blessing of sorts, as age and illness had slowly and cumulatively stripped her of everything that made her my granny - her memories, her personality, her mobility and, in the end, everything bar her body's refusal to finally surrender.

At the moment, it's hard to put those memories to the side, but I'd much rather remember her for the wonderful woman she was.

She was a woman who loved unconditionally, who was singularly devoted to her husband, children and grandchildren and a woman to whom there was no greater pleasure than spending time surrounded by her loved ones.

I may be biased, but I have never met a better cook, and I would give almost anything to taste her steak pie and roast tatties again.

My memories are all over the place at the moment, but all of them are happy. Images of the whole family clustered around the kitchen table playing Monopoly, my granny always insisting on being the iron; her singing along to Radio 2, always out of tune and always a bar behind the recorded version; roaring with laughter at Some Like It Hot despite having seen it hundreds of times.

I could go on like this forever, but I won't. I'll just sit here with my memories of a wonderful woman.

Monday, September 28, 2009


A while ago (well, two years ago if we're being accurate) I posted an old account of the time Mrs Wife and I were travelling around Vietnam.

Because I'm lazy and I was a better writer when I was a 23-year-old layabout than I am now that I'm a 29-year-old layabout, here's an account of when Mrs Wife and I first arrived in Australia in late 2003.

Happy New Year from Perth! Hope everybody had a good Hogmanay despite what I hear were hurricane-like weather conditions on the East of Scotland.

For the record, both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day were scorching here. As this is the start of the Ozzie summer, temperature is steadily rising, so although Xmas Day's 32 degrees seemed pretty darn hot, the temperature is now nudging 40 degrees almost every day, so it can almost seem unbearable - at least until I remember that the alternative is driving home from Aberdeen in the dark during a blizzard - then the ice lollies and sunbathing don't seem as bad....

Anyway, life in Perth is good. It's a lot smaller than I expected, especially after arriving from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, but it's a lot more manageable than those three cities, and a lot more chilled out. We've been here since the 20th of December, and in that short space of time I have already had three different employers.

Finding work hasn't been that easy, our visas restrict us to three months in a single job, so employers tend to shy away from travellers. My first crack at employment was in a small cafe in the middle of Perth run by a psychotic Chinese woman called Nancy (that was what first set the alarm bells ringing, Chinese people aren't called Nancy, they're called Ng and Chan and things). The place was staffed almost exclusively by illegal immigrants, from places as diverse as Yugoslavia (the mysterious and suspicious Dragan - potentially evading war crimes charges I think), Ben from Taiwan (has now overstayed his visa by three years) and assorted other Orientals with all the warmth and endearing qualities of frozen vomit.

After a four-hour trial spent avoiding Nancy's death stare as much as possible, I was offered the job for $12 an hour, which Nancy assured me was a great wage. Which it is in British terms (almost five GBP an hour) but the minimum wage for waiters in Oz is $15ph. I also knew that if I had to work there for two months, there would either be a raid by the Department of Immigration, or I would end up knocking Nancy's head in with a coffee pot, so I politely declined her offer.

My second stab at earning some cash was scrubbing campervans near the airport. Although it sounds like a pretty crappy job, it paid $14ph (about six pounds), was outdoors in the sun, and the people were pretty sound. But there wasn't enough work to last all the employees, so it was a case of last in, first out, but I at least got three days out of this one.

And now we're both working for a telemarketing company, trying to sell mobile phones. There's a base rate to ensure we don't starve, but most of the money is made through commission, so we'll see how it goes. We're both looking for better jobs though. Personally, I'm just waiting for the job advert seeking an immediate vacancy for a roving music journalist on $100,000 a year....

Aside from the jobhunting, we haven't really done very much since we arrived, partly due to having nae cash, and partly because our time here has been interrupted by Xmas and New Year. We spent Xmas in the hostel, with a champagne brekky by the pool and then a full Xmas dinner and Xmas supper.

It was good to spend the day lazing round in the sun, and generally mucking round in the pool. We were out in Perth on Hogmanay, our hostel is in the 'trendy' area of Northbridge (imagine Camden in London or The Grassmarket in Edinburgh, but with more pissed British people and no rain and you're getting close), so we spent the night at the street party there, walking between the stages and through the huge crowds until the fireworks.

So now we've moved into a flat with a couple of Ozzies, business student Tim and Journalism graduate Leah, and we're trying to save a bit of cash to buy a car and keep on moving. Hope everybody is fully recovered from the festivities and glad to be back at work.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Panda-ring To The Masses

Should we let the giant panda die out? An interesting debate here between two conservationists.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Season 2009/2010: Match 1: Montrose v East Stirlingshire

We may be almost midway through September, but today was my first live football game of the season. A combination of weddings and work trips meant that I missed Montrose's first three home games - which may not have been a bad thing, given that they were two draws and a defeat.
But today I was back in Montrose in time to get myself down to Links Park for the first time this season. And within 10 minutes of kick-off, I almost wished I wasn't.
Shire were awarded a soft penalty after just five minutes, former Montrose man Andy Rodgers sending Andy McNeil the wrong way from the spot. Then three minutes later the home side was another goal behind, the impossible-to-spell-correctly-without-checking-first-every-time Michael Bolochoweckyj rising unchallenged to head home a corner at the back post.
Montrose were dire throughout the first half, and there was a real danger that the Falkirk-based visitors would put them to the sword.
They were marginally better in the second half, but created little of note. In all honesty, they were pretty dire.
Steven Tweed continues to select himself at centre back, but lasted only 26 minutes today before succumbing to injury. New goalkeeper Andrew McNeil looked erratic, but he made some good saved and looks like he could be a decent signing. Marek Tomana, who reminds me of Georgi Kinkladze in the way he runs and passes the ball, but he looked short of match fitness and drifted out of today's match. Fraser Milligan was another who got pass marks today, but needs to have points deducted for wearing pink boots.
There weren't many positives out there today, and Montrose are now firmly planted at the bottm of the bottom league. I think it's going to be a long season.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When Driving Lessons Go Wrong

This is what happens when a learner driver takes a corner too wide in Springbank Terrace, Aberdeen....

....when the driving instructor grabs the wheel to stop a collision with an oncoming car....

....and when the learner panics and accidentally hits the accelerator instead of the brake....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Running Man

A colleague and friend of mine has done what I consider to be a very brave, and very foolish, thing - he's signed up for next year's Edinburgh marathon.

I know for a fact that I couldn't run a marathon - my knees are agony after an hour of football, never mind four or more hours of running on concrete.

And there's no way I could be bothered to train for a marathon - I'm just too damned lazy.

Please head across to Kevin's blog and show your support for his madness....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Are You All Sitting Comfortbold Two Square On Your Botties?

Then I'll begin....

So starts the second half of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, one of the greatest albums ever made.

As well as having the Small Faces at their peak, mixing mod, musichall and rock stompers together, the second half of the album is a concept piece narrated by one of my stranger heroes, Stanley Unwin.

Unwin famously jabbered in his own language, Unwinese, and his utterances on the second half of Ogden's are wonderful.

I can't accurately annotate his contributions, but this comes from Wikipedia:

Unwinese, also known as "Basic Engly Twentyfido" - probably a reference to Charles Kay Ogden's 1930 work "Basic English", which strips the language down to 8509 words, was a special, ornamented and mangled form of English in which many of the words were corrupted in a playful and humorous way. Unwin’s performances could be hilarious yet disorienting although the meaning and context were always conveyed in a disguised and picturesque style.

Unwinese was very poetic in the way it alluded to its subject – e.g. Elvis Presley and his contemporaries are described as having ‘wasp-waist and swivel-hippy’ – and it was often punctuated with moments of clarity and directness to accentuate the ‘nonsense’ – e.g. ‘Deep joy!’ ‘Oh yes’.

Unwin claimed his gift came from his mother, who once told him that on the way home she had "falolloped over and grazed her kneeclabbers". This phrase eventually turned up in one of Unwin's monologues, Goldiloppers and the Three Bearloders.

I've just purchased Unwin's first album, Rotatey Diskers With Unwin, and it's fabulous. And available from Amazon for less than £3. At that price, it's a steal.

Unwin's website can be seen here.

And my favourite piece of Unwin trivia: He is buried in the churchyard at Long Buckby, with wife Frances, who pre-deceased him. Their gravestone has the epitaph, "Reunitey in the heavenly-bode – Deep Joy".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Ten - My Ten Favourite Beatles Songs (At This Precise Moment In Time)

1 - Strawberry Fields Forever
2 - A Day In The Life
3 - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
4 - I Am The Walrus
5 - All You Need Is Love
6 - Dear Prudence
7 - Come Together
8 - Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
9 - Twist and Shout
10 - Please Please Me

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Sixteenth Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge

It's been a VERY long time (eight months to be exact) since the last instalment of the Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge.

Neepheid was the winner on that occasion, correctly identifying two of the tracks. Answers are now on the comments on that post.

So now, here are the five mystery lyrics for you to identify. Simply name the artist and track - answers in the comments, no Googling!

1. Well your railroad gate, you know I just can't jump it.

2. "Look out the left," the captain said, "The lights down there, that's where we'll land."

3. I got the pulsating rhythmical remedy.

4. Temperature's rising, fever is high, can't see no future, can't see no sky.

5. The pack on my back is aching, the straps seem to cut me like a knife.

Desert Island Discs

As seen at Cedric M. Kippers' Magically Bored - The Desert Island Discs challenge.

Rule number 1. You only have room for 25 albums.

Rule number 2. You can only name one album per band.

Rule number 3. They have to be named in order.

Rule number 4. Greatest Hits or compilations are invalid.

So without further ado (or any ado at all) here is the list of 25 records I'd take with me to listen to until the end of my days.

25 - The Cooper Temple Clause - See This Through and Leave

24 - Supergrass - In It For The Money

23 - Gomez - Liquid Skin

22 - Powderfinger - Vulture Street

21 - The Charlatans - The Charlatans

20 - Primal Scream - Exterminator

19 - Michael Jackson - Thriller

18 - The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

17 - The Jam - Sound Affects

16 - Elbow - ASleep In The Back

15 - The Libertines - Up The Bracket

14 - Radiohead - OK Computer

13 - Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

12 - The Doors - The Doors

11 - The Bluetones - Return To The Last Chance Saloon

10 - The Coral - The Coral

9 - Small Faces - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake

8 - John Lennon - Imagine

7 - Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

6 - Stereophonics - Word Gets Around

5 - Oasis - Definitely Maybe

4 - The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour

3 - Super Furry Animals - Radiator

2 - Nirvana - Nevermind

1 - The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses

This isn't the list of my 25 favourite albums - there would be at least another six Beatles albums, and others by Nirvana, Oasis, The Stone Roses and Radiohead if it was. I couldn't elevate a single Rolling Stones album, or any of the records by Pink Floyd, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience or David Bowie to my top 25, and even Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Coldplay and The Verve fail to make the cut.

Now, I throw the challenge open to everyone else - what would be the 25 records you would take with you to a desert island?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Keep On Walking

Fantastic commercial for Johnnie Walker starring Robert Carlyle.

As seen on another blog that I would link to if it wasn't open to invited guests only.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Signed Shearer Shirt

A tad optimistic methinks....

Down and Out?

With Mrs Wife visiting a friend in Inverness this afternoon, I'm home alone to watch the Scotland v Macedonia match.

It's a must-win match - and even a win is no guarantee that we can finish second in a fairly average group.

The team selection hardly fills me with confidence - Stephen McManus hasn't played a game this season, Davie Weir is 39, Graham Alexander isn't international class, Kenny Miller is pish.

There's a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Messrs McFadden and D Fletcher. Whether they can reach the top of their respective games today - wildly exciting attacking play and solid midfield combatism - remains to be seen, but for Scotland to win will require a determined performance from all of the (so far) misfiring team.

Then we just have to beat Holland....

Friday, September 04, 2009

Home Alone

Thanks to rain of Biblical proprtions yesterday - it was raining heavily when I got up at 6.15am, was still chucking down when I got home at 5.30pm, was absolutely belting down when I went to bed at 10pm and continued through the night - I am stuck at home.

Despite the fact that we're in one of the wettest parts of the world, our rail system can't cope with the water, and all trains are cancelled or severely delayed.

Which means that I'm "working from home" today, which means that I'm working in significantly greater comfort than I'm used to.

For a start, I'm in jeans, a jumper and thick woolly socks. NME TV is on in the background. I can eat what I like when I like.

And I'm realising once again that there's no way I could ever work from home permanently - I just don't have the discipline. I need to be in an air-conditioned office wearing proper work clothes to get me in the work frame of mind.

Still, one day isn't going to hurt.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cradle Snatchers

It was a shock this afternoon when news broke that Chelsea have been banned from signing players until January 2011.

To me, and my fellow football-following colleagues, it was an unexpected announcement - none of us could remember hearing about the case before today, and none of us had heard of Gael Kakuta.

(I'd be willing to wager that even most Chelsea "fans" were oblivious to his existence until today.)

It's a brave step by FIFA, banning one of the world's richest (but not necessarily biggest and definitely not most successful) clubs from adding to their already formidable squad for the next 18 months.

It also explains why Chelsea were so quick to secure key players like John Terry and Ashley Cole to new long-term deals in the past week. But it does raise question marks over why they didn't rush out and sign new players ahead of the ban.

None of the players the club was linked with this summer made the move to Stamford Bridge, leaving Carlo Ancelotti with the same squad as that left behind by Guus Hiddink.

That's not necessarily a massive hardship - they're still a formidable force and one of the English game's most powerful clubs.

But all it would take would be a serious injury or loss of form from one or two of the club's key players and they could find themselves on the slide.

Aside from the hardship to Chelsea, I think that FIFA's decision shows that it does at least have some balls. If it won't simply stand by and watch clubs mercilessly plunder others of their homegrown talent, perhaps we'll see gradual shifts in the balance of power.

I'm not expecting Brechin City or Montrose to be up challenging the Old Firm any time soon (even if there have been a few players from the Angus clubs who have made the step up to the Premier League in recent years, including Andy Webster).

But if smaller clubs can nurture their talented players without having to fear that they will be snatched by a bigger club as soon as they show that they're special, maybe we will see those with better youth systems make more progress than they do now.

Amongst the potential beneficiaries are Hibs and Rangers, who have both produced a fair dose of Scottish internationals in recent years.

But no doubt Chelsea will appeal, money will talk and the status quo will remain.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

So The Story Begins....

After 20-odd years of procrastinating, laziness, writer's block and various other excuses, I have attempted to start writing some fiction.

Whether this will take the form of a short story or novel, I haven't decided yet.

It took me around five hours, on and off, to write around 500 words. Which, to someone who writes a 50-page report every week, and who used to fill a whole newspaper single-handedly in three days, seems terribly and painfully slow.

And now that the first 500 words has been committed to paper (or to .doc anyway), I'm pretty much convinced that most of it is utter shit.

I bet Enid Blyton never had it this hard.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Walt Disney Marvel At That

Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics yesterday for USD 4 billion has, unsurprisingly, seen a lot of people get their Spiderman pants in a twist at the prospect of the world's most sugary sweet company taking control of some of the biggest superhero names.

But that's the wrong viewpoint to take. Few companies on Earth have the global marketing reach that Disney does. Fewer still are so well represented across so many media - cartoons, live action shows, movies, comics, toys, computer games, theme parks and every form of merchandising tie-in under the sun.

Marvel can only benefit from having that kind of financial and marketing muscle behind it.

But almost immediately, some sections of the interweb went into overdrive at the prospect of Mickey Mouse joining the X-Men, Spider-Man joining forces with Donald Duck and Goofy facing Hulk.

However, Disney has a history not just with its own core characters, but in branches of popular culture one wouldn't normally associate with Uncle Walt's empire.

Quite aside from Disney's own Pirates of the Carribbean franchise, what a lot of the denizens of the blogosphere appear to have overlooked is that Disney also owns Mirmax Films. A quick scan of the list of films released by Miramax throws up:

Reservoir Dogs (Extended scenes of torture and graphic violence)

Pulp Fiction (Homosexual rape, gimps, violence, drug overdoses and so on)

Trainspotting (Heroin abuse, violence, sex)

Dogma (Alanis Morrissette as God)

The Talented Mr Ripley (Homosexuality, murder)

Bridget Jones's Diary (Sex, and one woman's obsessions with it. Oblique references to anal sex.)

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Non-PC humour of almost every kind)

Gangs of New York (Violence)

Kill Bill (Yet more violence)

Clerks 2 (Bestiality amongst other attractions)

No Country For Old Men (Crazy serial killer cutting a swathe across America)

There Will Be Blood (Probably nothing too objectional, but hardly standard "Disney" fare)

and so on.

Disney hasn't bought Marvel because it wants to publish comics. And it hasn't bought Marvel so it can mess about with comics. If anything, the additional cash behind Marvel may enable it to publish more comics.

Sure, we might see a Pirates of the Caribbean series appear on Marvel in the future. But a Fantastic Four/Minnie Mouse crossover isn't going to be on the cards.

What the deal will enable Marvel to do is keep on doing what it does - publishing the best comics starring the best characters. Batman and The Joker aside, all of the best characters from the two main comic publishing houses are owned by Marvel. And now they have the financial backing to grow further.

But if Disney hasn't bought Marvel for its comics, why do the deal in the first place?

Because it now has access to 70 years of history - from Stan Lee's original Spider-Man and Fantastic Four comics onwards. The movie versions of Spider-Man and X-Men were huge box office smashes, while Fantastic Four and the Hulk have also performed fairly well.

Disney can add its considerable financial and movie muscle to this vast history (once current movie deals for Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk and Fantastic Four expire).

All in all, it seems to be a good deal for both parties.

And if Wolverine does get to make Bambi into venison with those claws?I'd watch that...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Return Of The Mark

It's been a good long while since I actually wrote anything worthwhile on this farflung outpost of the worldwide interweb.

(Some might say I've never written anything worthwhile on this farflung outpost of the worldwide interweb, and they'd probably be right.)

For far too long now, all I've been posting here are links, photographs and videos that amuse or entertain me.

I'm not entirely sure when the rot set in. I've just had no inspiration to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and write anything here for a few months. It's not from lack of potential material - in the last few weeks I've been to London, Bute, Oslo and Inveraray. I've seen a sensational performance of Waiting For Godot starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. I've stood on the roof of St Paul's Cathedral. I've been the to the top of Besseggen. I've sung Elvis songs onstage at a wedding reception and Pulp songs in a Rothesay pub.

But for some reason, none of this has tempted me into adding new posts here. Maybe because I spend a long working week writing, I can't be bothered firing up the laptop and churning out more tripe.

Maybe I'm like Austin Powers and simply missing my mojo. I've long harboured ambitions of writing a novel, but every idea I have seems already to have been done. And if I can't write a couple of hundred words as a blog post, what hope do I have of writing something more substantial?

So I guess that I should start with baby steps - actually writing real posts here instead of simply posting photographs of people taking the piss out of Neil Lennon.

I very much doubt that anyone is still checking in here at all - if I can't be bothered stopping by, I doubt anyone else is. So I may be writing this to myself. But hey, baby steps....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

George Burley's Leaving Do - Exclusive Picture

It was announced last night that George Burley's contract as Scotland football manager had been cancelled with immediate effect by the SFA.
An impromptu leaving party was held, as this exclusive picture shows.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Footballers On Facebook

Rio Ferdinand: going to hit the Amsterdam cafes before the game, who's in?
Gareth Barry likes this

Bobby Zamora rejected Phil Brown's friend request
Fraizer Campbell rejected Phil Brown's friend request
Marc-Antoine Fortune rejected Phil Brown's friend request
Michael Owen rejected Phil Brown's friend request

Arsene Wenger is not worried about his lack of transfers this summer as he has internal solutions 1 hour ago

Alexander Song Billong likes this
Visakri Diaby likes this
Denilson likes this

Joleon Lescott has to go to work tomorrow : ( 13 minutes ago

Craig Bellamy has joined the group Money is ruining football

- Benjani likes this

Alberto Aquilani: Oh no! I've just had my new house robbed!!!
Steven Gerrard, Jerzy Dudek, John-Arne Riise, Lucas Leiva, Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch, Jose Reina and Daniel Agger like this

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------------------------------

Sat'day random drinks n' antics LOLZ

Ledley King has been tagged

Ashley C can't find his fone, can some1 give it a buzz for us?

Jermaine Jenas likes this

Roque Santa Cruz is looking forward to starting on Saturday

Craig Bellamy is looking forward to starting on Saturday

Carlos Tevez is looking forward to starting on Saturday

Emmanuel Adebayor is looking forward to starting on Saturday

Robinho is looking forward to starting on Saturday

Benjani is looking forward to starting on Saturday


Joleon Lescott became a fan of money.

Gareth Barry likes this

Marcus Bent is hoping to start at Old Trafford - 1 hour ago
Sir Alex Ferguson Likes This.

Andy Goram became friends with Andy Goram

Jamie Redknapp is literally on facebook

Frank Lampard is LOLing at Stevie G - 3 hours ago 3 comments

-Steven Gerrard ****** off Lamps

-Rio Ferdinand oi oi epic banter lads

-Steven Gerrard did he dedicate the banter to his Mum

Mike Ashley My evil plan is almost complete.
Niall Quinn & Peter Reid like this.

Glen Johnson is looking at new toilet seats in B&Q

Tomas Rosisky is fit and loving life! can't wait for the new season 1 week ago

Tomas Rosisky is depressed
3 days ago

Samir Nasri is watching Top Gear on Dave. Cheers Abou

David Moyes is skint

Mark Hughes likes this

Didier Drogba poked Jens Lehmann 3 years ago

Jens Lehmann went down holding his face

Rio Ferdinand feels like a prick after his mistake tonight 10 mins ago
Dirk Kuyt likes this
mark hughes sent jolean lescott invitation to join the group 'Mancity'

invite was rejected

Steven Gerrard has created a group, "Court, it's fucking easy!"

Eric Cantona does not like this
Joey Barton does not like this

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

When I Get To The Bottom I Go Back To The Top

Some men, as they leave their youthful days of drinking and chasing women behind them, develop hobbies - pottering about in the garden, devoting more time to sports, collecting things or building model railways.
Taking the last of those hobbies further, John Ivers decided to build his own fully-functional roller coaster in his back garden.
There's a fine line between genius and madness....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Home, Home On The Range

Mrs Wife and I have just returned from a hectic few days in London. We had originally booked the trip to see Michael Jackson at the O2, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, but as we'd bought and paid for flights and hotel, we decided to have the holiday anyway.

And, in the space of five days in the capital, we:

  • Went to the Comedy Store's improv night, where we were entertained by the hilarious talents of Josie Lawrence, Andy Smart, Lee Simpson, Suki Webster, Richard Vranch and Stephen Frost.
  • Dined at the Hard Rock Cafe with Baby Brother and his girlfriend (who had been due to see Jacko's concert with us).
  • Visited the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the London Tombs, St Paul's Cathedral, Covent Garden and Camden Market.
  • Took a cruise along the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich.
  • Saw Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (or Gandalf and Jean Luc Picard or Magneto and Professor Xavier depending on your own personal geek persuasion) in Waiting For Godot at the Theatre Royal.
  • Attended, at Mrs Wife's request, We Will Rock You, which wasn't as bad as I had thought it might be.
  • Avoided a Biblical downpour by spending £27(!) on cinema tickets for Transformers 2. Which seemed almost identical to the first one, but with more gratuitous shots of Megan Fox's cleavage - ie it was pretty darn good.
  • Met up with Mrs Wife's cousin and a friend of mine from my university days that I haven't seen in more than seven years for a boozy afternoon in Theatreland.

All in all, a pretty productive, if tiring, five days.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time For T

In the next few hours, I'll be setting off, via Falkirk, for T In The Park.

By my own reckoning, this will be my ninth T In The Park, but my first since 2006. While my brain remains free of the imminent alcoholic fug, here are my thoughts on each of the previous eight I've attended.

1997: My first festival, and T In The Park's first at Balado, near Kinross. My two friends and I take scandalously little drink and are generally unprepared for what awaits us. Highlights include Saturday headliners Kula Shaker and The Charlatans, while the weekend ends with a second tent jam-packed for John Squire's post-Roses band The Seahorses.

1998: Saturday's highlights include Audioweb and Super Furry Animals, who are so good that instead of going to see headliners The Prodigy, I instead go to the CD tent, buy a Super Furry Animals bootleg and return to my tent to listen to it. The rain came in the middle of the night and never stopped. My two friends bailed for home mid-afternoon on the Sunday, but I was determined to stick it out, despite the thigh-high mud, just to see Ian Brown. I cadge a lift home from two girls from school and get home around 2am, having been mesmerised by Brown's fantastic performance.

1999: This was my first year attending with folks from uni, one of whom I'll be sharing a tent with this weekend. I can't actually remember too much about what bands I saw, although I do remember Nicky Wire trashing the stage and giving away James Dean Bradfield's white fender guitar after the Manic Street Preachers' headline set.

2000: Mrs Wife (then known as Miss Girlfriend) and one of her friends accompany me to Balado to see Travis, Moby, Ocean Colour Scene and Beth Orton. I have no recollection of rain, but that line-up is hardly the most rock'n'roll, is it? Although I've just looked up the full line-up online and it seems we chose not to see Muse or The Flaming Lips....

2001: The first year in which the three of attending this year went together. Again, my overall recollections are hazy, but I do remember seeing Paul Weller's acoustic set. Having suffered through the whole of Wheatus' horror show, Weller promptly came on stage and started flexing his ego, playing Style Council songs and little-known solo work. Then Noel Gallagher joined in, they played That's Entertainment and everything was right with the world. Stereo MC's were also among the surprisingly fantastic acts.

2002: I left for T In The Park 2002 immediately after graduating, eschewing a night on the piss with my fellow graduands for a night eating cold food in a muddy field. The sound quality at the main stage was woeful, turning Oasis' headline set into a faint swirling noise. It also had the same effect on Primal Scream. Doves and The Cooper Temple Clause were both brilliant though.

By 2003, Mrs Wife and I were saving hard for a trip around the world. And by 2004, we were in Australia.

So by 2005, having returned from foreign climes, I was ready for a return to T In The Park. A huge group of us from Brechin set off together and turned a large part of the campsite into our own compound, cordoned off with yellow and black police tape. One of the most enjoyable Ts in terms of the pre-festival banter, plus the weather held out, which is always a bonus. Yet again, Super Furry Animals and Ian Brown are amongst the bands I see, although Ian Brown throws a strop early on during his set and storms off, having played a few Stone Roses songs. Still a great weekend though.

2006: Mrs Wife (who by this time is the newly-appointed Mrs Wife) again accompanies me, and I'm lucky enough to have a free press pass this time. Sound quality at the main stage again plays an unwelcome part, ruining the Arctic Monkeys and Hard-Fi sets, but The Who more than make up for it.

And, for a variety of reasons (primarily the £200 cost of a ticket and the number of neds) I've not been since.

Who knows what T In The Park 2009 will bring? I'm hoping to see Nick Cave, Jane's Addiction and Blur, but aside from that, the weekend is a blank canvas.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday Soul: Aretha Franklin - Respect

The First Lady of Soul giving a thunderous performance of her signature tune - the faster tempo really makes this version stand out.

Friday, July 03, 2009

An Unwelcome Lift

Today, for the first time in my 29 years roaming the Earth, I found myself stuck in a lift.

Returning from a lunchtime game of five-a-side football, myself and five colleagues decided that, instead of climbing the stairs from the basement of our building, we would take the lift to our second floor office.

Upon entering the lift, just as we were about to begin our ascent, one of my colleagues jumped up and down a few times to shake the lift for a laugh. But in doing so it seemed he tripped a brake.

We had only barely started moving when the lift came to an abrupt halt. Pressing the buttons for any of the building's eight floors had no effect. And so it was with some reluctance that we pressed the alarm button.

The gentleman on the other end assured us that help would be on its way imminently. Which left the six of us crammed in the lift with nothing to do except wait.

Having just returned from a strenuous game of football in a hot sports hall, we were all already sweating before entering the lift. But the enclosed space, which had no air conditioning and little ventilation meant that only a short time elapsed before all six of us were sweating buckets. And shortly after that, condensation started pouring down the elevator's mirrored walls.

The banter flowed freely while we were locked in our tiny metal cell. Although when we began to discuss which of us would be eaten first if we were trapped in the lift overnight, and five of us agreed that we'd start with our small Chinese colleague "because he'd be leanest", I could sense that the colleague in question became just a tad more concerned.

Finally, after what seemed a lifetime, but was only really 25 minutes, the engineer prised the doors opne, allowing us to gulp down some fresh air. And bask in a round of applause from our assembled colleagues.

Leaving the office today, I took the stairs.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Legends Join Forces

Neil Young joined by Paul McCartney during his performance of A Day In The Life at Hyde Park two nights ago.

I was at Neil's Aberdeen concert last week, and it was one of the best I've been at in a long time - even without Macca guesting.