Month: August 2017

Band of Skulls

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Band of Skulls, innit @bandofskulls

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First things first, don’t let the name put you off, this is not a death metal (or any other kind of metal) band. Think bluesy rock, think White Stripes, think Slade, think Led Zeppelin if the songs were more melodic? … ohh I’m going to hell for that comment!

I’ve seen them a few times now, from their first album tour where me and another 60 odd souls realised that ‘hey, these guys are good’ to an audience of several hundred a few years later. I am still waiting on their “big breakthrough” but, like Eagles of Death Metal (also NOT a metal band), I’m quite happy that they remain reasonably under the radar; although to be fair Band of Skulls have supported Muse so I’m still not sure why mentioning their name to people I know enjoy rock music still illicits blank stares.

This time around saw them performing at The Bungalow in Paisley – one of four smaller gigs they are doing to support Independent Venue Week – and I joined maybe 100 other souls at this sold out gig. Not a venue I’d been in before, but I’d say it would be at capacity at about 150 so it was a bit odd to see so much room for a sold out gig, maybe Monday night syndrome?

I feel sorry for those who had tickets and didn’t show up because they missed a belter of a gig. It was pretty much a showcase for all of their best known tracks, a few they admitted they hadn’t played all that often, and a chance to bed in a new drummer (which is why these smaller gigs probably appealed ahead of a new album and bigger tour next year no doubt).

There is something wonderful about a venue so small that you are feet away from the band, and their ‘stage’ is raised all of 10 inches off the ground. Even standing at the back I could see the band members smiling, laughing, chatting to the audience away from the mics. The type of gig where you feel as involved as the band and the energy flows back and forth.

Band of Skulls are my type of rock band. Heavy at times, but with good tunes and a sense that they don’t take themselves all that seriously, after all it’s only rock and roll (and I like it). There are no 5 minute guitar wank solos either, just tune after pounding tune, and then a sudden calm for a quieter song that hushes the entire venue. Captivating.

Worth a mention were the support act, Vanilla Sky Mistress. A little too snare drum heavy for my liking, it was only towards the end of their set that I realised they had more than two drums on stage… that said with a lead singer who knows how to use her voice (and what a voice!) they could be a name to look out for or, you know, change?

Not a bad way to spend a Monday evening, and a great reminder of the power of connection that you get in a small venue.

Fixing Me

I used to run, for a few years it was my thing and I loved it. I did a few 5Ks and one 10K, but eventually I had to stop as the pain in my left knee was too much. I went to a physio who diagnosed me, gave me exercises, and after doing them for a while (not long enough) I fell away from exercise, life took over (divorce etc) and whilst I managed to run another 5K a few years later, it was slow and ultimately painful. Disheartened I stopped running altogether.

I’m 8 years older than when I wrote this and now that I’m again committed to regular exercise the two aforementioned syndromes which affect my knees – Osgood Schlatters and Sinding–Larsen–Johansson – need dealing with. Both manifest themselves just below the kneecap, and the pain ranges from a dull ache to a sharp needle like spasm. Neither of which are pleasant.

I’m enjoying Bootcamp but I’m recognising the same ‘slipping’ away that the pain in my knees is bringing that could ultimately end in disheartenment and a myriad of excuses that I will convince myself are valid, then I’ll just stop going.

One reason I am still going to Bootcamp – and I’m not gonna lie, it’s brutally hard work at times – is that I made a commitment, both in time and finance. I’ve also been talking about it on social media and using that as a driver as well. know I don’t like to ‘let people down’ or be seen to be failing at things (the benefits of counselling) and I’m using that knowledge to my advantage.

But once again my knees have started to complain and I realised that I needed to take a similar approach. I asked the trainers at the gym for their recommendations and so it came to pass yesterday when I finally had a consultation with a physio and he sent me a short summary of the first stages of my treatment.

“Don’t hate me too much, wall sit 10 secs on 10 secs off x 4 mins, foam roll/quad release as much as possible. DO NOT RUN OR JUMP OR HOP!!”

He also confirmed that rest is NOT what is needed so I can continue doing Bootcamp (with some alterations, and the trainers at AG Fitness have already been ace in helping work around this with me).

The thing is I now have to do these exercise every day for two weeks. Every day. EVERY DAY (I’m talking to myself here, obviously).

Having lived with occasional pain in my knees for a long time, I know it will take a while to get them ‘fixed’ but given how confident Ryan (the physio at OST) was as soon as he diagnosed me, I’m actually starting to believe it myself. Maybe one day, just maybe, I might get back to running again.

OST – http://www.oneillssportstherapy.co.uk/
AG Fitness – https://www.agfitnesstraining.co.uk/

Weekend Reading

  • Why we fell for clean eating

    In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. “Not cool” was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets.
    It’s nice to have been ahead of a curve for once. I’ve always viewed ‘diets’ as wrong, and that sensible controlled eating, not following fads but science, is preferable. (I don’t adhere to this mind you…)

  • How TV Addles Kids’ Brains: A Short Film Directed by Godfrey Reggio (Maker of Koyaanisqatsi) & Scored by Philip Glass

    On October 4, 1982, “more than 5,000 people filled the Radio City Music Hall to experience a remarkable event. That event was the world premiere of Koyaanisqatsi.
    Well worth putting everything down and watching. It’s disturbingly engrossingly disturbing.

  • Want to be happier? Live in a small house.

    American houses have grown far too big. Chances are, your house is too big, and it may be doing you more damage than you realize.
    Not to the same scale but this mirrors my own experiences after I moved to a smaller place

  • Vonny Leclerc: Confronting the dirty truth about clean eating fads

    One plus of surviving eating disorders is a finely-tuned BS detector when it comes to food fads and messages about health. Which brings me neatly to my current bête noire. Clean eating: a food philosophy centered on woolly concepts like “wellness” that no-one feels they have to define.
    The backlash continues…

  • Don’t think too positive

    Do you believe that positive thinking can help you achieve your goals? Many people today do. Pop psychology and the $12 billion self-help industry reinforce a widespread belief that positive thinking can improve our moods and lead to beneficial life changes.
    So glad I have maintained a healthy dose of cynicism and pessimism. BALANCE, innit.

  • Growing Up with Alexa

    When it comes to digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, my four-year-old niece Hannah Metz is an early adopter. Her family has four puck-like Amazon Echo Dot devices plugged in around her house—including one in her bedroom—that she can use to call on Alexa at any moment.
    *adds to ideas for future dystopian novel*

  • ‘They could destroy the album’: how Spotify’s playlists have changed music for ever

    Custom playlists on the streaming site can bring unknown artists to millions. But are they altering how songs get written? Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean was languishing in obscurity when he released Me Rehúso independently in September – and then Spotify changed his life.
    Mostly agree, although some artists still produce albums designed to be albums, but outside of those, playlists and tracks all the way.

  • Pound coin gag scoops best Edinburgh Fringe joke award

    A joke about the new pound coin has been named the funniest of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.Ken Cheng won the 10th annual Dave’s Funniest Joke Of The Fringe with: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.
    The bar seems to be dropping lower and lower?

  • A Lesson For Men About The Women They Don’t Own

    Men don’t always see women as property—but it’s there, implied, and needs to be purged from our culture. A guy walks up to a girl in a bar. She’s laughing with her friends, engrossed in conversation. He slides in next to her to introduce himself. Offers her a drink.
    Article #342 in the on-going series of ‘ALL MEN SHOULD READ THIS’.

  • A cyclone hit Madagascar and made vanilla four times more expensive

    As a huge tropical storm drifted westward across the Indian Ocean in March, it set itself on a collision course with the world’s sweet tooth.
    My unabated vanilla latte consumption probably isn’t helping either…

  • My 2017 total solar eclipse trip

    I was not prepared for how incredible the total eclipse was. It was, literally, awesome. Almost a spiritual experience. I also did not anticipate the crazy-ass, reverse storm-chasing car ride we’d need to undertake in order to see it.
    One of a few articles from those in America who caught the totality, many saying the same kinda thing.

  • Here’s every total solar eclipse happening in your lifetime. Is this year your best chance?

    On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the contiguous United States. It’ll be the first to traverse coast to coast in nearly a century.
    Cool tool! No total eclipses anywhere near where I live though…

  • Paperback Thrills: 16 Best Thrillers of the Last 100 Years

    The perfect thriller is a difficult beast – a complex mix of pacing, plotting, and tension all doing a high-wire act to keep readers on the edge of their seats and glued to the page.
    I’ve read a few of these and will read more (the Agatha Christie choices are excellent, btw)

  • You can learn how not to be a LGBT ally by looking at what happened at Glasgow Pride

    If you want to know how not to be a good ally to a minority community, look no further than Glasgow last Saturday, where a toxic combo of ego and intransigence – by police and the Pride organisers –  may just have set police-LGBT relations back by years.
    My conflicted view of Pride continues. I love where it came from and what it should stand for, but recent developments always seem to be a little cack-handed and establishment focused.

  • Defending Indiana Jones, Archaeologist

    Indiana Jones isn’t that bad of an archaeologist. I mean, okay, the low relative quality of his archaeological expeditions is so notorious it’s become a bit of a truism. There’s a great McSweeney’s list of the reasons Herr Doktor Jones was denied tenure.
    Isn’t ‘named after the dog’ enough? Great film geek article.

  • Wading Through AccuWeather’s Bullshit Response

    AccuWeather issued a statement regarding the controversy over their app sending location-identifying information to a monetization firm. It’s a veritable mountain of horseshit:
    TL;DR – Uninstall AccuWeather now and never let it darken your homescreen again.

  • All Your Questions About Gender-Neutral Pronouns Answered

    When I tell someone that my preferred pronouns are they/them/their, I never know what to expect. Sometimes people say okay and move on, but other times, they’ll start to ask a whole bunch of questions that I don’t really feel like answering.
    Some nice examples to help you remember are included.

  • Climate change is coming for your cava and champagne

    First it wreaked havoc on our tea, then coffee. Now sparkling wine—both cava and champagne—is under threat from climate change. A new study in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology looked at grape varieties in northeastern part of Spain, which is famous for producing cava.
    Sparkly drink lovers, STOCKPILE!!

  • Want to Find the REAL Story? Ignore Your Instincts

    Guys. I’ve fallen in love with this essay by Emily Ruskovich. It so beautifully captures the author’s process of how stories evolve, how they morph from a single image, feeling, or idea into a full-fledged story—if we just let it lead us to where it wants to go.
    One for those of us who dabble with ‘writing’.

  • Maybe We All Need a Little Less Balance

    Ever since I can remember, I’ve been told to strive for balance. Yet I’ve noticed something interesting: The times in my life during which I’ve felt happiest and most alive are also the times that I’ve been the most unbalanced. Falling in love. Writing a book. Trekking in the Himalayas.
    I talk A LOT about finding Balance but a lot of this struck home. Yet in the past I always viewed change as a good positive thing. Time to disrupt myself?

  • John Steinbeck Knew the Homeless Are Human: Do We?

    Displaced. Migrants. These are words used to describe the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s depiction of Dust Bowl-era hardship in The Grapes of Wrath, but they were most definitely also homeless.
    Feels. The number of homeless in Glasgow seems to have risen over the past few years.

  • Germany’s self-driving car ethicicists: All lives matter

    The German federal government will adopt new guidelines for self-driving cars inside the country, which will prioritize the value and equality of human life over damage to property or animals.
    How does an AI ‘pass’ the Trolley test?

Game of Thrones sucks

MILD SPOILERS: I’ve not gone into detail but there are a couple of notes on the most recent episode. Nothing that reveals any major storyplots though, but proceed with caution.

It’s official (I use the term very loosely of course), but Game of Thrones now sucks. Despite how popular it remains, it’s fast becoming a bore.

I get why it’s very watchable, the scale of it is impressive, the CGI is good (but these days, so what) , the myriad of converging stories and the hints of the mythology, coupled with some very modern language to keep it familiar, and it’s ticking all the pop culture boxes. I don’t think it’s particularly shocking even though I know some people do – OH: “he keeps using that awful word”, “who?”, “the Hound, keeps saying the c word” – the gratutious violence and gore almost seem, deliberately, OTT, ohhh and you get to see naked people.

There isn’t all that much depth to it either, the ‘good vs evil’ nature of most storylines has the ongoing and not very subtle message that even the good (humans) are also cunts… ohh sorry, I used the c word.

But what gets me the most is how predictable it is has gotten in the latter episodes. It’s almost like they’ve gotten scared to kill off their big stars. Remember those early episodes? Peppered with ‘ohhh they won’t kill … ohh holy crap they did’ moments that kept you on your toes. But now, not so much.

And that’s before you get to some of the battle scenes, where any sense of suspense has been lost thanks to the Battle of the Bastards (Jon Snow should’ve died at that one but no, they need the star in the show now…).

The larger and more popular this show gets, the weaker and more predictable the writing becomes. Take the last episode as an example.

The Hound, lobbing a rock across a frozen lake. The Hound lobbing a second one that falls short… gosh what on earth will happen?? And that final shot with the dragon, was ANYONE surprised by that?

To be fair, I’ve never been fully dragged into GoT like I have with other TV series, and I think this is why. Since it started it’s been predictable. If there is a battle scene, it will be the bloodiest one (until the next one), if a main character gets killed off, it will be a big surprise (until the next one).

It’s that progression that has kept it to being no more than an intriguing hour or so of TV with some pretty good scenery. The fact that it seems to be constantly striving to out-do itself with every episode, the very thing that built its popularity, is now the crutch on which it leans.

I’m sure the producers and TV execs are more than happy with this state of affairs but, for an audience that is being sold a mystical tale of dark forces, removing the ability to surprise and delight us means you are relying on our goodwill and sense of completion to see this through to the end.

Hacking creativity

It’s been a few months since I moved to my new abode and as I’ve been focussing more on me (physical and mental health wise) I’ve ended up falling into some habits which are due to the change of living space and adapting to a new layout of room.

When I moved I decided to leave a few things where I first placed them to see if the layout worked for me, and on the whole it does. Almost. But it’s been a deliberate decision to live in the space for a while and let myself adjust to it. In a similar vein, I deliberately avoided any further decluttering, better to let myself live in the space for a while and see if any of the things in boxes or in cupboards are really needed all that much.

Equally, just as a tidy home is better for my mental health (YMMV) I also know I need to make some other changes and challenge my recently formed habits. The prime example of this, as I no longer have a desk, is that I end up most evenings just sitting on the sofa with the TV on, iPad in my lap, and… well let’s just say any notion of creative writing has fallen by the wayside these past few months.

So it’s time to change things around a little and, essentially, ‘hack’ my living habits. Ah yes, you can take the geek out of the … something … but you can’t… finish an analogy apparently. Good grief, my brain is atrophying! This is more urgent than I realised.

One advantage of being in a smaller living space is that my options are limited, which means it is much easier to switch things up and have a substantial impact on how I use, live in, and interact with that space and so, with that in mind, I’ve come up with a simple two step plan.

Step 1 – remove the multi-block extension cord that is plugged in behind the sofa
That removes easy access to the sockets and adds an annoying step if I want to plug in the iPad because the two sockets behind there are already in use.

Step 2 – get rid of the small bookcase that is hardly used
At the other end of the living room from the sofa is a small table, it’s mostly used as a dumping area and next to it is a small bookcase which is even worse. It’s gone from being a temporary place to put things when I moved to a permanent place for said items.. no no no! Begone you clutter collector, you!

Two steps which will move my focus when I’m using my iPad from sofa to table which should help me get back into my writing groove.

Sidenote: I bumped into an acquaintance a couple of weeks ago. Hadn’t seen him for several months and he asked how my novel was coming along. I’m hoping the next time I see him I’ll be able to offer something more positive than “uhhh yeah the first draft is done and I’m… ehhh… starting to rewrite bits… ummmm … and you know, edit it a bit… “.

Knowing me, Step 2 will lead to further decluttering as I have a set of drawers that is mostly empty and a few small boxes in a cupboard that should really go… and now that I think about it, the other small bookcase next to the sofa isn’t really used either so that can go too (gah, stop already!).

Ultimately I guess a change is as good as a … whatever it is… (what is WITH my brain and analogies right now?) and whilst the prime goal is to get me back into a more creative place I know it’ll also have knock-on benefits .

Whether that means finishing the second draft of what I’m now calling “Novel 1” or pushing on with the ideas that are simmering for “Novel 2” I’m not sure, but I know I am missing the process, missing that feeling of getting lost in the zone for a couple of hours.

Weekend Reading

Another shitty week of news. A racist President, Nazis, terror attack in Barcelona. It’s not always easy steering the line through knowledge and despair. As ever, I’m staying away from such news here. Not because I don’t care, but because I need an outlet where it isn’t always front and centre, all the damn time.

  • A theory of jerks

    Picture the world through the eyes of the jerk. The line of people in the post office is a mass of unimportant fools; it’s a felt injustice that you must wait while they bumble with their requests.
    No YOU didn’t have any problem ‘picturing the world’ like that… JERK!

  • Going Up

    Is mindfulness meditation a capitalist tool or a path to enlightenment? Yes It’s hard to put your finger on the point when the Western stereotype of Buddhist meditation flipped.
    As a regular meditator my attitude to this is simple, I don’t really care. My mindfulness meditation works for me.

  • Men, Listen Up: Women Like The Smell Of Guys Who Eat A Certain Diet

    What we eat can influence more than our waistlines. It turns out, our diets also help determine what we smell like. A recent study found that women preferred the body odor of men who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables.
    Bullshit? Yeah I call bull shit. Or maybe I just prefer women who like the smell of pizza and doughnuts…

  • Inside the Lab That’s Quantifying Happiness

    In Mississippi, people tweet about cake and cookies an awful lot; in Colorado, it’s noodles. In Mississippi, the most-tweeted activity is eating; in Colorado, it’s running, skiing, hiking, snowboarding, and biking, in that order.
    BIG DATA EVERYTHING!! Is this stuff going to far? Or not far enough…

  • How Andrew O’Hagan, one of Scotland’s leading writers, went from No to Yes

    ‘A lie?’ I said. ‘On Radio 4? I don’t think so.’ ‘You did so,’ he said. ‘You told them we had no books in our house when you were growing up. That isnae true. There was one; it was green; it sat on top the fridge for ages.’ ‘That was the Kilmarnock Telephone Directory,’ I said.
    Want to understand the Scottish Independence argument (from both sides), read this.

  • The World Is Running Out of Sand

    The final event of last year’s beach-volleyball world tour was held in Toronto, in September, in a parking lot at the edge of Lake Ontario.
    Is it because every time I go to a beach, half of it ends up in my damn shoes?

  • Wax on, wax ouch: pubic grooming has a high injury rate, survey reveals

    A quarter of those who groom their pubic hair have suffered mishaps from cuts to burns and rashes – some requiring medical help – researchers have found. Whether it’s shaving, waxing or laser hair removal, pubic grooming has become commonplace.
    MEDICAL HELP? What the hell are you people doing?!

  • Can Dogs Smell Their ‘Reflections’?

    For decades, scientists have tested animal intelligence by seeing if they can recognize themselves in mirrors. But how do you revamp that test for a species that relies more on smell than sight?
    I dunno, sometimes that drunk guy on the bus can probably smell his reflection too …

  • Why Scientists Can’t Agree on Whether It’s Unhealthy to Be Overweight

    Some studies show being overweight leads to a greater risk of death; others show it doesn’t. Here’s what’s really going on. Is being a little bit overweight bad for you? Could it lead to an untimely death?
    Article 4562 in the ongoing series of ‘Will scientists every make up their damn minds?’

  • The Docx games: three days at the Microsoft Office World Championship

    On a Sunday night two weeks back, in the Rose Court Garden of the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California, 150 antsy competitors between the ages of 13 and 22 milled around eating miniature whoopie pies by the light of the Moon, sizing up their global rivals in the efficient use of Excel…
    There is a lot of horribleness in the USA at the moment, which makes me applaud this kinda thing all the more.

  • In the future, your body won’t be buried… you’ll dissolve

    The Resomator stands monolithic in the corner of a room in the bowels of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It’s as sterile as a hospital here, but every patient is already dead.
    SOYLENT GREEN!!!

Sloshed

I joined Hospital Radio Lennox when I was 16, primarily to complete the community service section of my Boys Brigade Queens badge, but I’ll admit the idea of being a ‘DJ’ tapped into my love of music. That plus the fact that a friend was already doing the same thing which brought a level of comfort knowing that there would be a familiar face there.

A few years later, long after I left the Boys Brigade behind me, I was still going along to do the request show on a Thursday, occasionally covering other timeslots and, even better I was starting to help out on Friday and Saturday nights doing discos! As Hospital Radio was a charity we were a reasonably cheap alternative to the usual local DJs (the ones who yak over every damn record at the party!) and I have to admit, I loved doing them.

We were mostly hired to do birthday or engagement parties – with the notable exception being the local school Christmas disco where we got to play chart music! – and after a few of these you start to get a sense of which records to play and when to play them, and more importantly what tracks to chain together to keep people on the dance floor.

For example, what you play BEFORE the buffet doesn’t really matter all that much but AFTER the buffet is when you break out the disco tracks, the Abbas, the soul classics, and 70s rock standards; I’m still amazed how many people will dance to the Stones (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

My post-buffet track of choice was always Disco Inferno by the Trammps, from which you could head to ABC by the Jacksons, or maybe crank it up for some RESPECT (Aretha or Erasure depending on audience age) and so on until it was THAT TIME OF THE EVENING.

THAT TIME OF THE EVENING was the point towards the latter end of the night, when you’ve got a constant stream of people bopping away and you’ve spotted that the Aunties (it was always the Aunties!) had already had a few dances and had sat back down for a few songs to get a wee rest, THAT was the moment you reached for the dog-eared copy of a Daniel Boone album, and cued up Beautiful Sunday…

Memories of those nights came flooding back to me last weekend at a wedding reception I was attending, as the opening bars of that song belted out I was hauled up to dance along, and within a few seconds I was lock step with everyone else on the dancefloor, doing the Slosh.

After the song ended I returned to my chair to the utterly bemused looks from a friend and her partner. I can’t recall exactly how she phrased it but I’m pretty sure it was something along the lines of “What was THAT?”… it was about then I realised that the Slosh is not a UK wide phenomenon (at least not any more).

Now, if you are from the West of Scotland (or perhaps Central Belt?) then even if you don’t recall it, you’ll no doubt have seen this odd little line-dance style performance to the aforementioned track. If not, you are going to the wrong parties…

After a bit of googling it turns out that the dance originated back in the 70s (which matches the timeline for the Daniel Boone track it’s associated with), and apparently there is a Belfast version as well, called The Slush (I kid you not).

Quite why it has persisted for so long in certain parts of Scotland – but not others as a highlander friend of mine confirmed – is beyond me. It’s not that great a song, nor that interesting a dance, and if I had to hazard a guess I’d suggest there is something to do with social class involved as well – dance as an outlet of joy amidst poverty, the weekly outing to the Barrowlands when it was still used as a Ballroom etc etc – but regardless it remains a staple of wedding receptions and parties across the land.

Still confused? Here it is being performed in its traditional setting.

Edinburgh Fringe

Every year I head through to Edinburgh for a day or two during the madness of the festival season. Ostensibly I’m there to catch up with my friends as one of them works at the Tattoo every year, and it’s a good excuse to enjoy some beers and random fringe shows on his day off.

And so it was that we came to find ourselves heading to Underbelly to watch Knightmare Live. Remember Knightmare? The ITV kids show that followed the young adventurers on their quests.

Where am I? You are in a room.

I wasn’t an ardent fan of Knightmare but I remember the basic premise of it; one adventurer is in the ‘map’ (think Dungeons and Dragons style scenarios) with an opaque helmet on, they are then guided through each impenetrable stage by their team mates who are watching everything unfold thanks to some (back then) state of the art computer graphics.

That’s about all you needed to know to watch the Live show which, as it’s on during the fringe, has a more grown-up attitude. The adventurer is plucked from a list of volunteers in the audience, and the team mates are two comedians drafted in to help. Whilst it has the same basic structure, it pulls on improv and whilst I was skeptical going in I thoroughly enjoyed it in all its silly glory. This is not high-brow entertainment, but that’s part of the fun of the fringe, especially when they craft a costume back stage based on audience suggestions for a fearsome monster… which turned out to be a mushroom picking spider (it was funnier than it sounds!).

After that we partook of some more light beverages then made our way down to the circus stage and – after bumping into some friends because Scotland really is that small a place – we took our (ahem comp’d) seats for Acéléré by Circolombia. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but what was delivered was a writhing, muscular, sensuous display of high flying acrobatics and salsa driven funk. Utterly captivating performances, with some spellbinding artistic moments, it was a corker of a show throughout which the audience, myself included, was frequently heard gasping in astonishment and making ‘ohhhh my god no they aren’t going to do that….’ noises.

Whether flying through the air in a tumbling mass of limbs, slowly spiralling high above our heads on pieces of rope, or slowly raising and contorting themselves around a large metal frame that was balancing on someone else’s head, each different act held us rapt. It’s a rare fringe show that can make an hour pass so quickly, letting us forget our numb bums and crammed limbs, but I lost all sense of time whilst we watched in awe at these beautiful, strong, and graceful individuals who all seemed to have as much fun in-between the acts as they salsa’d across the stage, as they were serious and focused when it came to performing their own feats.

Their standing ovation was both prompt, heartfelt, and very very well earned. Definitely not your average circus acrobatics show!


A sampling of Circolombia, and a reminder of Knightmare

Weekend Reading

  • In Defense of Rachel and Joey (with tweets)
    A well reasoned argument about why Joey should’ve ended up with Rachel (and why Ross is an asshole). 100 tweets in Storify format.
    Interesting reading this so long after Friends aired. I’m more aware now than then and WOW, Ross is a dick.
  • Sorry, Google memo man: women were in tech long before you
    James Damore’s controversial manifesto says women are genetically unsuited to tech roles. Doesn’t he know they were the original computer programmers? We’ve all met him.
    Men are dicks.
  • Why Are There No New Major Religions?
    The story of one imprisoned prophet illustrates the difficulties of getting a “baby religion” off the ground. Cipinang prison stands like a huge fortress in East Jakarta, its massive walls and guard towers separating the city’s bustling traffic from the criminals held within its gates.
    Isn’t social media the new religion? Nuances abound but this is fascinating (for a non-believer)
  • The Loveliest Living Fossil
    The ocean of ideas, teeming with words and numbers, is underpinned by a vast tectonic plate that’s powerfully transforming the language. It’s the force that gives rise to new continents of meaning, while it inters the remains of countless extinct species.
    This weeks ‘If you only read one post read this’ entry.
  • Letter of Recommendation: Gum
    Chewing gum usually comes in two forms, either small, pillow-shaped pellets or flat, oblong sticks.
    Juicy Fruit though, yay or nay?
  • I’m a Google Manufacturing Robot and I Believe Humans Are Biologically Unfit to Have Jobs in Tech
    I, a manufacturing robot at Google Factory C4.7, value diversity and inclusion. I also do not deny that machines are sometimes given preference to humans in the workplace. All I’m suggesting in this document is that humans’ underrepresentation in tech is not due to discrimination.
    Ha ha ha… except this is an article from the year 2076 and it’s ALL REAL.
  • MIT scientists created “living” jewelry that moves
    Scientists from the MIT Media Lab believe that future jewelry should not be static, but “living objects on the body.” So they developed Kino, a line of jewelry that can move and interact with the environment.
    AKA tiny little robot death ninjas that will kill you in your sleep.
  • How to turn off Facebook Memories
    Sadly, not all the memories Facebook throws up in its On This Day feature are as happy as the one in the publicity photo above. Inspired by this incredibly sad post, we want to show you how to turn off Facebook Memories if you don’t want to see the posts anymore.
    Useful for many reasons.
  • A comprehensive guide to the new science of treating lower back pain
    Cathryn Jakobson Ramin’s back pain started when she was 16, on the day she flew off her horse and landed on her right hip. For the next four decades, Ramin says her back pain was like a small rodent nibbling at the base of her spine.
    I occasionally get back spasms but at least they only last a day or so.. constant pain is a horrible horrible thing.
  • 20 Essential Truths That Women Over 50 Want To Share With Younger Women
    Do you know that there’s something that happens to a woman when she turns 50? Call it an awakening of sorts; or, for so many, a tipping point.
    Lessons for all genders in here.
  • 11 Ways That I, a White Man, Am Not Privileged
    1. I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon. That’s right, I had to work for what I’m given. When I went to college, I worked hard for those grades. I didn’t get in on nothing, I took school seriously! I worked each day to pay my rent and my tuition. 2. I earned my job.
    YEAH! PREACH!! Finally a voice for us white men that … uhh… wait, what? OH SHIT [this is sarcasm people]

  • Notoriously Dapper’s Kelvin Davis is Inspiring Body Confidence in Men
    Kelvin Davis is a body-positive men’s fashion blogger. He is a model for Chubbies, an admin for Eff Your Beauty Standards, a dancer, a modern-day gentleman, a style icon, and a celebrator of body positivity on Instagram.
    As a larger gent I’m looking for more of this. I need some body positivity in my life that reflects me.
  • Uber’s “next chapter” won’t include Travis Kalanick as CEO
    Uber’s “next chapter” won’t include Travis Kalanick as CEO, co-founder Garrett Camp said in an Aug. 7 email to employees. “It’s time for a new chapter, and the right leader for our next phase of growth,” Camp wrote, according to a copy of the memo obtained by Quartz.
    Good.

  • An Algorithm Trained on Emoji Knows When You’re Being Sarcastic on Twitter
    Scroll through Twitter and you’ll find plenty of sarcastic comments—not to mention lots of cases where sarcasm apparently went straight over someone’s head.
    Yeah right, as if! [this is not sarcasm, I just watched Clueless recently]

  • How to win every sexist argument: an 11-point guide
    This. This this this this this. I might even print each one out a few times so I can hand them out accordingly. “Ahhh point 5.. here you go”.
  • I work in a tech company and started talking about feminism — this is what happened
    It all started with our HR manager suggesting a new knowledge sharing format on our intranet. The aim was not to talk about our daily work or our products but to discuss non-work-related topics we know and care about.
    Talk is good. Always. ALWAYS. (Except in cinemas, and at the theatre, and … ok GOOD TALK at APPROPRIATE TIMES is good… whatever).

  • The Left’s Supporting Role in American Hate Theater
    On the second Saturday in July, more than 1,000 people showed up in a small Southern city to shout down the Ku Klux Klan. That very same afternoon, up North, left-wing counter-protesters chased a band of alt-right Proud Boys out of a public park where they’d tried to rally.
    The battle continues in joyless, horrible, self-perpetuity

Let the gigs begin

I mentioned the upcoming run of gigs I have and last Friday was the next on the list. I’d been off work a few days beforehand and if I’m honest I probably should’ve stayed at home and rested, but sometimes you just have to push through. YOLO!

And so me and a couple of friends found ourselves enviously eyeing up the clever people who had brought cushions whilst we sat on cold hard concrete and waited for the ever entertaining KT Tunstall to appear on stage at the Kelvingrove Bandstand.

I love this venue (but must remember a cushion next time!). It’s a wonderful little outdoor amphitheatre in the middle of Kelvingrove park, and even though that usually means you have to be prepared for a shower or two, it feels small enough to be intimate but that wide open space to the sky above you that makes everything a little more magical.

We got there in time for the last few songs from the support act – Pictish Trail – who, whilst having plenty of energy, seemed to have forgotten about some slightly more important things like melody…

It was as the sun started to head to the horizon that our tiny hero of the evening strode on stage and after a quick hello launched into Saving My Face. I mention this only as part apology to my friends, on whom I’d foisted a Spotify playlist of tracks in preparation for the gig, as I entirely missed this one!

The full setlist is here but I think she hit the mark with each choice and remains one of the better artists at mixing old songs with new, ohhh and check out that cover version which had everyone screeching their way to those top notes (and my sincerest apologies to Andy Bell for utterly butchering that song in my attempt to mimic his falsetto).

I’ve seen KT a few times, although mostly solo, and it was nice to hear more of the back story of her breakthrough appearance on Jools Holland where she hilariously explained her ‘costume choices’ that day…

And it’s here where she shines. The in-between moments, the casual banter, the bringing together of a disparate group of people – as she points out, never before and never again will that exact group of people be in the same space at the same time – into one big shared experience. Her gigs are all the richer for it and, similar to Guy Garvey, you get the sense that she would be just a cool person to hang with over a pint or three and ohhh boy would there be a lot of laughter!

Personal highlight for me was watching the realisation on the faces of my friends when they figured out what was going on when KT brought out her kazoo during Black Horse and the Cherry Tree (no spoilers but if you’ve seen her live you’ll know!), and I have to admit that during a couple of her slower songs as dusk set in and the spotlit trees behind the stage slowly cycled through a rainbow of colours I felt a real sense of pride and happiness. There I was, watching a talented Scottish artist performing in my dear green place all in the company of my closest friends.

Not a bad way to start off gig season, not a bad way at all.