Saturday, 31 March 2012

Partick Thistle 2-3 Livingston

How many Saturday afternoons have I come home saying "Why do I bother putting myself through that?" well, today was another of those days.  Partick Thistle are fighting to get themselves into the relegation battle with another listless performance, a display of exemplary defensive ineptitude and impotent attacking. Fabulous. Can't wait for the next match.....hmmm.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Snow DropsSnow Drops by A.D. Miller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This isn't the book that I thought it was going to be. Big play is made on the blurb of the "snowdrops" of the title, the bodies that come to light in the Russian Spring thaw, but as a metaphor for the plot it is a bit strained. It's a phrase I've come across before in Kurkov's Death and the Penguin, which likewise looks at the corrupt society created in the post-Soviet cash free-for-all, but with a wittier manner. So this book isn't the crime thriller it is dressed up to look like.

The atmosphere of Moscow is authentically created, and I recognised the city and the hotel I've stayed in very well, when I visited it at about the time that the book is set, though I maybe saw it through less cynical eyes than the main character. However it is hard to feel for the English lawyer at the centre of it all, as he is eternally telling you how the story will end, he just comes across as a fool, and the symmetery of the two storylines I found a bit too clunky.

I was a bit disappointed by it.

View all my reviews

Monday, 26 March 2012

Minimal Extreme, Kids Comedy and Hunger

Another Friday night and another concert I can't persuade anyone that they'll enjoy. So off I trudge alone to the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow to see the latest instalment in the current "Minimal Extreme" programme. Minimalism in music seems to be quite a broad church going by the line up tonight, and although they put on three consecutive concerts tonight I could only make it to the middle one. It was hearing Steve Reich's Eight Lines performed live that drew me. I'm not really qualified to judge the abilities of classical musicians, but the performance of it by the London Sinfonietta was full of energy, pace and I listened to it with a smile on my face. Before that was Bang On A Can doing Louis Andriesen's Life, played as accompaniment to four short films made as part of the piece. The gentle music and films were quietly disquieting and enjoyable. The part which dragged for me was Bang On A Can doing Reich's 2x5, a piece for two quintets of two electric guitars, piano, electric bass guitar and drum kit played on this occasion live and on tape simultaneously. It had all the dull, relentless features of prog rock's self-indulgence, not helped by Mark Stewart on guitar looking like Tim Robbins's wanky character from High Fidelity.

The last piece was from the excellent London Sinfonietta again, doing Gavin Bryar's Jesus Blood Never Failed Me - gentle, simple and the quiet singing of the tramp left me fumbling for some Tom Waits on my iPhone to listen to on the way home. I'm looking forward to the next round of these concerts with Philip Glass performing in Glasgow.

Partick Thistle 0-1 Ross County
I shall now just pass over Saturday as I spent a very long 90 minutes of my life watching Ross County grind out another result, this time winning 1-0 at Firhill. I try to get my three kids interested in coming to see Partick Thistle more often, usually with blatant bribes of chocolate, but if they'd come to watch this performance it may have been a while before they came again. Such a contrast to the fight shown in recent weeks.

Hunger Games and Kids Comedy Club
Sunday morning it was easier to persuade people to come along with me, as me and my 12 year old headed to see The Hunger Games. This blockbuster has only been out for two days but the hottest March day in Scottish records and yet another Old Firm game on at another part of town meant that we had the whole cinema to ourselves. Very weird. The film itself has a good solid story, individual style and works well, although the schoolkids murdering each other sits oddly as a teen film storyline. I can see where it's heading though and I'm sure good will out, and I was helped by my son constantly telling me "In the book, what actually happens is..." which was one advantage of having our own private viewing. It has fairly accurately been described on twitter as "Battle Royale with Cheese", but I'd add in a bit of The Running Man and some Twilight romance too to give you the full picture.

The Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow is always a great night out, though it does take me a while to relax in there, trying to work out whether the comedians are going to be big on picking on the audience as I try to avoid eye contact with them. Monthly on a Sunday afternoon, and more often at present during the Comedy Festival, they do a kids comedy club, when some of their usual acts try to entertain largely 8-12 year olds. It is a good laugh for adults too and fascinating to watch the varying degrees of success or failure they have in adapting their stuff for an audience where you can't get laughs out of putting the punters down and swearing and 80's references has to be replaced by fart gags and more physical comedy. Once the kids get their confidence up, a talent for crowd control also comes in handy, which the compere today, Billy Kirkwood managed to pull off. Headline act today, Patrick Monahan, has also I guess spent enough time in the company of kids that he managed to pull off the balancing act. (If you are free on Wednesday can I urge you to go see Tony Law at The Stand, I've seen him before and he'll have you quite literally pishing yourself.)

Emerging from their basement into the late afternoon sun to see what carnage the Rangers and Celtic fans were wreaking on the city, things seemed remarkably calm. Perfect night for eating out in the back where last year at this time we were making snowmen.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Varied weekend entertainments, Glasgow

My head is spinning after a very random selection of outings this weekend. The problem I have is that I see something that seems interesting, then order tickets whilst forgetting what other stuff I've already booked. This leads to weekends like the one just past where I have a very incongruous selection of nights out.

Friday Night is Poetry Night
The Aye Write festival in the Mitchell Library had a sell out show by the laureate poets of Britain, Wales and Scotland; Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke and Liz Lochhead. I was familiar with some of the work from  Carol Ann Duffy and Liz Lochead but it is always given new vigour when a poet explains the process and thinking that went into making a poem. Liz Lochead discussed some of the pressures of being a poet who has to write on demand, but from the examples she read, she clearly does it with aplomb.

Saturday Night is Comedy Night
Saturday was obviously a day for celebrating, what with Partick Thistle winning 5-0 down in Dumfries I was not surprised at all to see Sauchiehall Street littered with drunken bodies from early evening. THen it clicked, when I realised I was the only one who didn't have a Guiness hat on, green and white balloons tied to my wrist and a shamrock painted on my face. It was St Patricks Day and as Mark Millar accurately described it recently Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night at the best of times now resembles Arkham Asylum. We were off to see Rich Hall at the Garage, up for the Glasgow Comedy Festival. He had noted the carnage outside too and did a great show rambling on about that and other stuff, singing with his guitarist and drummer accompanying at times and showing an old hand's knack at improv. He seemed like a man you could pleasantly spend an evening sharing a beer with. We passed a couple of bars on the way home and I had to dress like the locals so as not to stand out.
Obligatory dress-code in town Saturday night
Sunday Night is Music Night
What with my fellow admirer of eclectic music not currently in the country I had to go to the gig at the Art School on my own as nobody else could be persuaded that Blanck Mass supported by Konx-om-pax was a good idea. So I went alone, sat in a bar reading poetry about a skinhead desecrating graves first to get me in the mood, then went downstairs to get into the chin-stroking groove. First up was Konx-om-pax. It was dark down there so don't be surprised if you can't see anything in the video below, and the only action onstage was a man playing Angry Birds or something on his iMac whilst we nodded appreciatively to his drone, distortion and electronic beeps. (I actually rather liked it.)


Next up was Blanck Mass, a side project of Bristol's Benjamin John Power, half of the experimental/noise duo Fuck Buttons. I enjoy the energy of the Fuck Buttons stuff and had it on today when I was out running and though I enjoy the ambient, wafting feel of the Blanck Mass stuff it can become quite introspective. Certainly he had more lights, buttons and wires on his table than the support act, but at times it was like watching Scotty concentrating on doing a particularly fiddly teleportation over 15 minutes, (except Scotty had swapped his red jersey for a green and white T-shirt that said Jamaica on it, but you know what I mean). It was a gig where several people ended up sitting or lying on the floor to help them stroke their chins, but I prefer to have a bit more head-nodding and toe tapping.

Blanck Mass

Anyway that ended the weekend on a relaxing note, a weekend on which Partick Thistle won 5-0, Rangers got beaten by Dundee Utd and just about lost the League, and Celtic got beaten by Kilmarnock in the League Cup Final. An all round good weekend.

Debt, The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber

Debt: The First 5,000 YearsDebt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Pretty disappointed with this after reading all of it's rave reviews. I was hoping, I guess, for some more economic insight, and although some of the anthropology was fascinating I find it hard to extrapolate from studies of one Polynesian culture to ideas about the philosophy of debt around the world throughout modern history. Some Marxist analysis seemed to be brushed aside without enough examination. I had also hoped to get some insight into the current economic "debt crisis" or where we should go now as a society, but this wasn't the book for that unfortunately.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Museum moaning - update

My ongoing grumbles about the state that Glasgow city council is letting the museums in the city get into is echoed here by a letter in the Evening Times today (eh....from me I have to admit).

Monday, 12 March 2012

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Liked the 80's references and Highlander quotes, but they are all a bit shoe-horned into a plot that just plods from A to B to C. My 12 year old took it off me when I was halfway through and polished it off in two sittings. I thought I was the target audience, a 40 year old that had a ZX81, but maybe I got it wrong and the story is for 12 year olds to enjoy.

View all my reviews

Monday, 5 March 2012

Museum moaner visits Edinburgh

I've used this blog for an infrequent moan about the lack of maintenance in Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow so it seems only fair to give praise where it is due. Well, on Sunday I had a trip along the M8 to some Edinburgh galleries and museums with my family, to see how the other half lives. The specific reason for this was to take my daughter to the "Fascinating Mummies" exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh because they are "doing Egypt" at school just now.

The first thing that makes the visit easier is the opening times, 10am - 5pm EVERY day. Dead easy, dead straight forward. Kelvingrove Art Gallery is one of Glasgow's few museums still open every day, but even then a clutch of confused tourists can be found there every Friday and Sunday morning as the place doesn't open until 11am as they trim costs. The Fascinating Mummies exhibition is sadly a pay at the door event, which for my family of 5 means it costs over £30 to see which obviously means a lot of people are just flatly excluded, but there you go, that's the way of the world these days, isn't it.

The exhibition itself is excellent, good artefacts, informative displays, no silly audio tours or dumbed down nonsense, the interactive stuff all worked and it was enjoyed by a 5 year old and her parents. A good time was had by all. It is housed in a museum which feels like a National Museum, and you walk about with a smile on your face. I've been here twice now since it was done up and feel the refurbishment is absolutely spot on. We did "exit through the gift shop", which was full of just the right level of tat we were after to be taken into school next week (see pic) and we had a look around their free Egyptian displays too which is of a similar high quality.

Then we went to the recently re-opened Scottish National Portrait Gallery. As has been widely reported the building is the star. We ooh-ed and aah-ed in the main hall (see below)

...we played in the big glass lift and I'd have liked to have enjoyed the cafe, but the children balked at the idea once they'd seen rows of quiche and rocket salad type offerings. I know it has only just opened, but there was loads of staff and all the computers worked, etc. Glasgow just does not seem to have the same level of upkeep. Surely the recent theft of a sculpture at Kelvingrove is a warning that they are just cutting corners too far.

Anyway, next stop a run out to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which is largely given over at present to the Sculpture Show, which I loved. Again, plenty of staff evident in all the rooms.

The kids enjoyed it too and the oldest two (aged 9 and 12) sat for half an hour hypnotised by a video of a kinetic sculpture by Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Then a quick trot across the road to see the FCB Caddell exhibition before it closes in a couple of weeks, which would have cost us a ridiculous £29 to see if we hadn't blagged someone elses free tickets (thanks @grannygrandad ).

Next stop back onto the M8, to get home to Glasgow. We'd had a great day out, the sunset ahead of us all the way was beautiful, Johnny Cash was on the cd player. It makes me sad seeing the way Glasgow City Council are letting their museums crumble, stuff get stolen, roof leaks eg Burrell, people missing out on seeing things because museums are closed to save money. I don't know enough about it to know what causes the difference, but the Edinburgh museums appear to be in rude health compared with their west coast cousins. Does National Gallery status funding make the difference? If so it needs spread about. Glasgow clearly also needs to realise that this is not something it is doing successfully on the cheap.
By @Paul4Jags