Month: October 2017

Trainspotting at the Citizens Theatre

We all know Trainspotting, the movie. Based on an angry novel that rails against, well, pretty much everything it can, it hit a stylistic note that resonated, exposing the gritty side of life we all know lies beneath the social media glimmer.

This stage adaptation of the novel is a different beast, sticking closer to the novel and revealing two scenes which punch a darker, more twisted view on an already dark tale. However, for all the horror and despair, there are genuine moments of hilarity to balance them out. I definitely didn’t think I’d spend quite as much time laughing as I did.

Testament to the performances for helping move us from laughter to tears in short measure (the ‘baby death’ scene remains a harrowing, visceral moment), and it’s worth noting that most of the actors pull double, triple, and quadruple in one case, shift to keep the story moving as bit part characters drop in and out.

The staging echoes the overarching mood, harsh realities picked out in fluorescent, and some of the more powerful scenes are all the more striking for it. There is no hiding place for the audience here, nothing is shied away from, be it the desperate struggle to recover lost suppositories from ‘that’ toilet, to the moment Renton has sex with his dead brothers wife, right on his coffin.

Comparisons with the movie are easy to make (and lord knows a lot of the audience clearly had that frame of reference in mind as they whispered and giggled their way through the entire performance) but the latter mentioned scene was among the more powerful. I’d include the monologue from ‘Alison’ as she recovers from the death of her baby and a new life stretching ahead of her, all the while dealing with the type of asshole men that are writ large in the news at present.

As the closing scenes played out, I was left with a sense of a revitalised story, a raw view of how friendships can change and how ultimately we are all surviving as best we can, no matter what choices we have to make.

Weekend Reading

  • Single, Unemployed and Suddenly Myself
    I was 37, single, unemployed and depressed because in a couple of months I was going to be moving out of my studio apartment on East 23rd Street in Manhattan and in with my mother in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
    Reading more and more articles about this kinda thing. Resonating.

  • Dogs have pet facial expressions to use on humans, study finds
    Showing tongues and puppy eyes, and facial movement in general, was more likely when scientists faced the animals, suggesting conscious communication.
    But LOOKIT SOOOO CUTE WIF DEM EYES!!!

  • Kids? Just say no
    In 2006, I published a book called Better Never to Have Been. I argued that coming into existence is always a serious harm. People should never, under any circumstance, procreate – a position called ‘anti-natalism’.
    This doesn’t entirely match why we (my ex-wife and I) chose not to have kids, but some of it rings true.

  • For Guys Reading #MeToo Testimonies
    First, read the #metoo stories on your Facebook or Twitter feed. Read about the bosses and teachers and neighbors and friends who have sexually harassed and assaulted the people you know and maybe even love. Pay special attention to the stories. You will see patterns.
    I’m still reeling from last week. This week is no better. But that’s the point.

  • Sarah Solemani: ‘The TV and film industries are toxic – and it starts in the audition room’
    The Harvey Weinstein scandal puts us at a crossroads. Can we remake the industry? My first experience of sexism in showbusiness came early, when I was 19. I was invited to the director’s house for dinner, just the two of us. He cooked. It was delicious.
    More strong voices on this.

  • Woe is Man
    It seems then that the average heterosexual British man, be he a journalist or not, is in considerable peril. Giles Coren and Brendan O’Neill have observed the Kriss and Myers cases and decided they constitute a threat.
    Wonderful takedown of those proposing that ‘men’ are under threat. I am a ‘man’ and we SHOULD be under threat for all the horrific behaviours we perpetrate.

  • Why You Shouldn’t Buy a “New” Book on Amazon
    Amazon, a company Jeff Bezos invented to piss off everyone in the book industry simultaneously, likes to make books as cheap as possible. To that end, this spring they moved third-party options up to the top of the page, sometimes even listing third-party sellers as the default buying option.
    I REALLY need to get off the Amazon wagon.

  • Bento Stack for Apple Accessories
    Function 101 is a team within the Apple industry that shares one common thread –  a passion for Apple products. We are the guys and gals that stay up until midnight to order the new iPhone or Apple Watch…and always looking for the trendiest accessories to go with them.
    More a bookmark for myself but thought others might appreciate this (I really need to get off the Apple wagon… nah!)

  • The Gift of Death
    Pathological consumption has become so normalised that we scarcely notice it. There’s nothing they need, nothing they don’t own already, nothing they even want.
    I am still down-sizing my possessions. It’s not always easy, but focussing on WHY I want to buy something (do I need it, or just want it) helps.

  • Scenes I expect to see now a female Doctor has an older, white, male companion
    The Doctor comes up with a brilliant plan, which everyone ignores until Graham repeats it word for word. Graham explains time travel to the Doctor.
    Hahahaa…. oh god this isn’t funny at all.

  • In a Distracted World, Solitude Is a Competitive Advantage
    Technology has undoubtedly ushered in progress in a myriad of ways. But this same force has also led to work environments that inundate people with a relentless stream of emails, meetings, and distractions.
    Less is more. Definitely feels like a ‘life path’ for me at the moment.

  • Like to sing in your car? Montreal man says he was ticketed for Everybody Dance Now sing-along
    Taoufik Moalla may have just been letting the rhythm move him. But that didn’t stop Montreal police from giving the 38-year-old father of two a ticket after pulling him over near his home in Saint-Laurent.
    Man, I’d have been banned YEARS ago if they did this over here!!

  • Making Progress
    Ohhhh how I laugh/cried at this! (read the tooltip too).

  • Inner Peace
    “Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.”
    A simple quote. A powerful message. (more on this soon)

  • Men photographed in crocodile trap dubbed ‘idiots of the century’
    Photos of the men swimming around and even climbing into the trap at the Port Douglas Marina have surfaced online, leaving the mayor of Douglas Shire, Julia Leu, stunned. “I was absolutely gobsmacked, this is incredibly stupid and dangerous behaviour.”
    Alas no Darwin awards were handed out. Yet.

  • The Power of Inclusion at Astral AR
    Recently, we featured the co-founders of Backstage Capital portfolio company Astral AR on Mission & Values, one of our podcasts. Astral AR is a remarkable startup — they make drones designed to save human lives.
    We need more articles about companies like this.

  • Boko Haram strapped suicide bombs to them. Somehow these teenage girls survived.
    The girls didn’t want to kill anyone. They walked in silence for a while, the weight of the explosives around their waists pulling down on them as they fingered the detonators and tried to think of a way out. It was all happening so fast.
    Warning: this is horrific.

  • The Future of Online Dating Is Unsexy and Brutally Effective
    When I give the dating app LoveFlutter my Twitter handle, it rewards me with a 28-axis breakdown of my personality: I’m an analytic Type A who’s unsettlingly sex-focused and neurotic (99th percentile).
    Can machines find me love? Given they still sometimes struggle to turn my lights on, I’m a little wary…

  • Spend More Time Alone
    I recently read three books on the topic of solitude. Two were actually titled Solitude, while the third, and most recently published, was titled Lead Yourself First — which is pitched as a leadership guide, but is actually a meditation on the value of being alone with your thoughts.
    I enjoy being alone. Not all the time, but I’m becoming much more comfortable just being with ‘me’.

  • Building Googletown
    Last month, at an event in San Francisco, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff discussed how his company—a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet—was pursuing one of the tech industry’s recurring fantasies: building its own city.
    Hello future dystopian nightmare cityscape!

  • Scientists made robotic bees to one day study the ocean
    What’s better than a robot inspired by bees? A robot inspired by bees that can swim.
    Awww cute lil… ohhh wait, nope, they are not cute at all. BOOOOOO

Weezer

As a packed out Academy sang along with the final refrain of the evening, myself included in my usual slightly off-key baritone, Weezer acknowledged the crowd with well deserved smiles I stood and let the memories of twenty plus years wash over me.


From the minute they stepped on the stage, ripping their way through the first few tracks without pause, it was clear this band were exactly as you expected them, only louder. Sometimes this doesn’t work if the band can’t bring an extra dimension to their songs, but sometimes it does and a lot of that is down to the strength of the songs themselves.

Weezer sit in my record library in the category best defined as ‘not played all that often but when I remember about them I love every track’. Their riff heavy pop songs play to a sweet spot in my musical psyche and the slightly offsetting visual of the short, geek spectacled, slight lead sing and songwriter thrashing out some stupidly catchy chord sequences, only made the energy coming from the stage all the more obvious.

Watching a live band settle into a gig is always fascinating, and after those first quick fire tracks despite Weezer showed now sign of abating, cramming 21 songs into a 90 minute set, you could see their energy levels rise to meet where the bouncing fans were from the outset.

But it’s not just noisy guitars, oh no, that River guy knows how to write a catchy rephrase and almost every song was sung back at the band word for perfect word. The setlist also had a good rhythm to it, letting both band and audience breathe when needed, before heading straight back into massive riffs.

Lacking a flamboyant front man, Weezer stick to what they know best, good simple rock songs and sometimes that’s all you need to send a hot, sweaty, happy crowd out into the Glasgow rain to cool off.


Addendum: Rivers Cuomo features in an episode of Song Exploder discussing his song writing approach in general, and how ‘Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori’ was created.

Six by Nico: Forest

The sixth menu at Six by Nico would surely have to be an affair to remember, right? Well I’ll admit I was a little underwhelmed by the menu this time around but, having been pleasantly delighted in the past, I still had a little tremor of excitement as we sat in Kelvingrove Cafe prior to the meal.

The menu for our sixth visit (from the website):

  1. CELERIAC PANNACOTTA – Forager Salad / Red Cabbage Gazpacho
  2. SMOKED PHEASANT TERRINE – Rainbow Carrot / Chestnut Crumb / Wild Berry Gel
  3. FORAGED WILD MUSHROOM – Parisienne Gnocchi / Parmesan & Truffle Royale
  4. RAINBOW TROUT – Wild Sorrel / Toasted Hazelnut / Swiss Chard
  5. GROUSE (£5 SUP) OR VENISON HAUNCH – Beetroot Sauerkraut / Burnt Onion Jus / Blackberries
  6. TRIO OF APPLE – Pan Perdu / Cinnamon Chantilly / Brioche Parfait

But first, as always, Snacks!

These weren’t listed when we booked so it was only when we arrived and got to see the menu that we had an idea of what was in store. It turned out to be two perfectly boiled quail eggs which were deep fried in a crumb (parmesan I think), a tiny beetroot meringue with wonderfully sharp goats cheese filling, and the smoothest, richest, earthiest wild mushroom veloute I’ve ever had. Ohh and some sourdough bread and truffle butter.

Some big flavours to get our palettes tingling before the first course arrived.

I’m not a big celeriac fan so was quite glad that the little cube was sitting in a delicious rich red cabbage gazpacho. However, despite having eaten here five times already so I should’ve known better, the pannacotta was wonderfully subtle and gave a rich creaminess to the gazpacho, with a few drops of truffle oil floating on the top making all the difference.

Swiftly after, a point I’ll come back to later, was the smoked pheasant terrine. Telling this was the least favourite dish of the evening for me and my companions. That’s not to say that it was bad, it was well cooked and presented but just seemed to lack any real flavour punch, it was almost as if the lifting of the cloche, released more than just the smoke it was containing.

Having not had gnocchi for a long time I was excited to try the next dish, but obviously the star of the show was the foraged wild mushrooms. Coupled with some parmesan shavings, a parmesan crisp, and a return of the wonder that is the humble truffle, this was an absolute belter of a dish. A mixture of textures and flavours from the different types of mushroom, including a few pickled ones just to give a quick sweet vinegar hit to the tastebuds, coupled with the parisienne gnochi and the parmesan and I’d have happily have eaten this dish twice over.

At this point we had to ask for a little extra time as the plates had been coming out thick and fast. It’s not the first time it’s happened and is probably where you’d expect the restaurant to make some improvements. The food is very high quality but occasionally the service lets things down a little. Of course they were very accommodating but it was good to have 5 mins or so to appreciate the previous dish before the next one arrived.

I’m not quite sure how they cooked the trout – I’d guess at sous vide – but it was delicious. I’d never have thought to pair trout with hazelnut but the toasted hazelnut crumb was a wonderful compliment to the gentle flavours of the trout. I’m not sure the wild sorrel and chard added much to the dish though, but sometimes simple is best and the trout was quite happy to speak for itself.

Grouse or Venison? We all chose venison! And ohhh my heavens what a wonderful plate of flavours, textures and surprises. The venison fillet was cooked to perfection, with a wonderful sear on the soft tender slices that melted in your mouth, and the accompanying beetroot sauerkraut was rich without being overpowering. The burnt onion jus, blackberry reduction, a few bits of blackberry, and some small cubes of beetroot were dusted with a dark cocoa powder and it all came together in a rolling mesh of flavours.

The venison was by far the stand out dish last night for me, although part of me is regretting not taking the grouse option. I’ve tried grouse in the past but I’m pretty sure it would sit well as a replacement for the venison on this plate. Well worth considering.

As ever, with good company and stellar food, time flies and I was, once again, taken aback that we’d reached the last dish of the evening. Trio of apple doesn’t sound all that inspiring but as the plates were presented it was clear this was a lot more than just ‘apple three ways’, turns out it was ‘apple four ways’, with a sharp green apple gel to one side, a couple of apple flowers drenched in a light syrup, some fresh cut red apple slices, and the entire dish sat on a bed of apple puree. Add in the cinnamon chantilly, the brioche parfait, and a wonderful crumb topping and this dish would’ve sat well in the Childhood menu… a very sophisticated, deconstructed, apple crumble! Plates were soon cleared for this one!

And then it was over. The sixth menu of Six by Nico was definitely a hit, with only one dish that didn’t really dazzle, but I’m being very picky as the level of cooking is consistently high across the board. Even the ‘ok’ dishes are of a standard that many other restaurants don’t achieve, which is why we keep going back.

Is this michelin star level food? Perhaps, but I don’t think the restaurant is set up with that in mind, and whilst I think the food could be (if you collated their best dishes into one menu… hint hint Nico!) but the serving style can be a little off beat which is absolutely not an issue for me, but likely falls short of michelin standard. But then that isn’t the point of Six by Nico, it’s always been a relaxed, informal, fun experience that just happens to have amazing food on offer.

Have I mentioned that the set menu is £25 for six courses (and you can swap courses between the main and vegetarian options). Add in £5 for the ‘Snacks’, and £5 for an apertif, chuck a bottle of wine in and for £45-50 a head you are being treated to high end cuisine in a laid back environment. The food quality remains high, as does the execution of each plate. It really is a fine dining experience on a budget.


Addendum

For the last few visits we’ve taken to trying to rank each menu. We were in the midst of this conversation when the bill turned up and our server asked how our meal was. We mentioned we were ‘ranking’ the menu and it turns out that our pick of ‘best’ menu is what most people have said! The Chippie remains everyones favourite.

Weekend Reading

I don’t often muck about with the order of what follows, I tend to list things in the order I’ve read/bookmarked them. But given there was one topic that dominated and resonated I’ve bumped them all together. I’d urge any men to read the first few links in particular, especially if you’ve missed the horrifying build of the #metoo on social media this week (horrifying in terms of the numbers as they rose and rose through the week).

  • Two alternatives to #WomenBoycottTwitter that don’t rely on women’s silencing
    After Twitter extending their risible “abuse” policy to a suspension of a celebrity white woman speaking out against sexual violence, the problems in their model have been laid bare, and to my pleasant surprise, people are talking about taking action (I’d been pessimistic about this).
    Quite a week. From a one day boycott…
  • My life has been marked by sexual harassment – just like all women
    ‘It doesn’t happen here,’ one boss told me. He was wrong: from the flasher in the park to the ‘groper’ manager, the abuse has never stopped I didn’t grow up in Hollywood. Far from it. But I did grow up a girl, and I remember. Because who can forget? We are in the park.
    … to stories of harassment and abuse…
  • It’s not just one monster. ‘Me too’ reveals the ubiquity of sexual assault
    Is it too much to hope that the revelations about Harvey Weinstein – and the rage they have unleashed – will bring about a shift in the culture? Me too may be another hashtag. With good intentions. But this time it is showing the ubiquity of sexual assault.
    … to #metoo hashtag which sadly flooded my timelines…
  • The myth of the ‘perfect victim’
    Due to the Weinstein abuse allegations some elements within the media has apparently dredged up the idea of the ‘perfect victim’ so have some thoughts. Please note I am using woman and man/he and she in this as a result of the particular case being discussed at length in the news.
    … to thought provoking articles that help challenge how these things can spin…
  • The Harvey Weinstein allegations are monstrous. But it’s not just monsters who harass women
    How many men have read the news this last week and reassured themselves – come on, I’m not as bad as that guy? It was initially very hard to say anything bad about Harvey Weinstein. He was protected by battalions of lawyers and his formidable status as a Hollywood power-broker.
    … to thought provoking articles that hit home hard…
  • The unexpected, paradigm-shifting power of #MeToo
    I’ve known for nearly 20 years that those born wealthy had a head start compared with me in my chosen career. I’d accepted that—as a mixed-race woman making her way through a conservative and predominantly white male world of work—I’d face microaggressions and systemic bias.
    … to further considerations…
  • Men paralyzed by #MeToo: Here’s why you need to speak up—and how
    Like many women, I’ve been disturbed and enraged by the allegations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been sexually harassing and assaulting women for decades—and by how closely the story resonates with my own experiences, and those of every woman I know.
    … to advice as we are all part of this issue …
  • 20 Things Men Can Do RTFN to Support Women, Beyond Just Literally Ceasing to Sexually Harass Us
    A friend of mine, who is a man, reached out to me privately earlier today to say how paralyzed he felt seeing the flood of “Me too” posts on his Facebook wall, a phrase women are posting to indicate that they have been the victims of sexual harassment and assault.
    … to more specific and actionable things to do, helpful when you feel helpless …
  • Did the internet create a generation of feminists?
    If, 10 years ago, you had asked me if I was a feminist, I would probably have said no. Aside from a few university lectures, feminism just wasn’t a term that was on my radar, or that of my friends.
    And it was timely that this article popped up. My Mum is a (fierce) feminist but it’s definitely a term that is more readily seen these days.
  • Miscarriage – Yes I’m ‘one in four’.
    This is a blog that I’ve been psyching myself up to do for a long time.
    Sticking with women, I hope a lot of men read this. It’s not an easy read but that’s kinda the point here.
  • I have a message for you…
    Klara Prowisor, now 92 and living in Tel Aviv, escaped the gas chamber at Auschwitz by leaving her sick father and jumping from a train in Belgium. Years later, she received a message from him. Just watch this…it might be the best 13 minutes you’ll spend online all week.
    Note: have the hankies ready (it’s not all sad, don’t worry).
  • One person’s history of Twitter, from beginning to end
    At some point in 2006, or possibly late 2005, Noah Glass walked into our office all excited about something. That in itself isn’t news because Noah was always excited about something. Dude had an energy.
    Another timely article? White ‘dude’ writes about why Twitter is white ‘dude’ heaven. Doesn’t leave me with much hope for Twitter.
  • I let Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson run my life for a week
    Because sometimes it’s good to step away. Not that it sounds like The Rock ever does (love him or hate him, you can’t deny him!)
  • Americans are pack rats. Swedes have the solution: ‘Death cleaning.’
    If your family doesn’t want your stuff when you’re alive, they sure won’t want it when you’re dead. That’s the blunt assessment of yet another self-help author from abroad who is trying to get Americans, who have an addiction to collecting and storage units, to clean up their acts.
    And the bestselling book on this topic will be whichever one comes up with a better (more marketable) name…
  • How to Reach Out to Someone Who Is Struggling
    There is a story told and retold in the Middle East about how to help someone who’s drowning. The story goes that a man had fallen into a river. He was not much of a swimmer and was in real danger of drowning. A crowd of concerned people wanted to rescue him.
    I’ve read something similar before, but a timely reminder. We all struggle, but we don’t always know how to ask for help.
  • Elbows in Cider Tumblers
    On a balmy, mid-June evening in the summer of 2017 inside Webster Hall, located in the east village of Manhattan, New York, punk legends Buzzcocks were firmly in the throes of delivering a blistering set.
    If you go to gigs, read this (then book some tickets for a gig in Glasgow!)
  • Hear 1,500+ Genres of Music, All Mapped Out on an Insanely Thorough Interactive Graph
    If you are ready for a time-suck internet experience that will also make you feel slightly old and out of step with the culture, feel free to dive into Every Noise at Once.
    Apparently there was a Monday night this week. I’ve no idea if that is true because I was several levels deep into this for most of it…
  • US vs. Japan: Giant robots are about to face off, fighting for their country
    The United States and Japan will put their reputations on the line on Tuesday, as they prepare for an expensive showdown in technological superiority. What’s the test? Giant battling robots.
    This has now happened, but no spoilers. Ohh and when they say giant, they mean it, these fuckers are huge! (but don’t worry Optimus Prime has our back)
  • Ophelia was the 10th hurricane to form in the Atlantic in the last 10 weeks
    It’s been 10 long weeks of 10 straight hurricanes. The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia tore into southwest Ireland today (Oct. 16), the latest storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season to break records.
    What? Climate change? Pah such #fakenews… hey is that a tree that’s been ripped from the ground flying towards m….
  • Meet the two amazing women running across America — to break the same record
    Think of all the people at home who think that you’re going to fail. In the middle of the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, a steady IV drip pressed into Mimi Anderson’s arm and a dark, barren expanse lying ahead, this was the thought that got her through.
    Amazing. Bonkers. Driven. Powerful. Awesome.
  • Are We Ready for Intimacy With Androids?
    Hiroshi Ishi­guro builds androids. Beautiful, realistic, uncannily convincing human replicas. Academically, he is using them to understand the mechanics of person-to-person interaction. But his true quest is to untangle the ineffable nature of connection itself.
    No. Well. Hmmmm maybe? Technology is moving fast, but can our emotions keep up? Challenging times ahead I think…
  • We’re in a ‘Dream Deprivation’ Epidemic
    My mom keeps odd hours. Around 9:30 p.m. every night, she goes to bed; after that, she goes exploring. Once, in a dream, she ran through dewy grass, jumped into the moonlit sky, and cleared the roof of a barn. Once her dream self walked to a mall just to people-watch.
    I barely remember the last dream I had (at least, the last one I’m gonna repeat here… ahem).
  • Tory power is only sustained by cruel confidence tricks
    The Conservatives exist largely to misinform the public, to convince austerity-crippled voters they have the same interests as billionaires. Many people are shocked that Theresa May having a cough during a speech is considered a sackable offence…
    I love how Frankie Boyle writes, especially when his hackles are up…
  • List of common misconceptions
    This list of common misconceptions corrects erroneous beliefs that are currently widely held about notable topics. Each misconception and the corresponding facts have been discussed in published literature.
    Danger: this list comes with high risk of you becoming ‘that person’ at parties that corrects everyone (I’m sorry!)
  • The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions
    We are surrounded by hysteria about the future of artificial intelligence and robotics—hysteria about how powerful they will become, how quickly, and what they will do to jobs. I recently saw a story in MarketWatch that said robots will take half of today’s jobs in 10 to 20 years.
    Not a topic I’m massively close to but it’s coming to us all (hint: it’s already here you just don’t realise it yet). “Imagining Magic” is the takeaway here for me.
  • Maria Anna Mozart Was a Musical Prodigy Like Her Brother Wolfgang, So Why Did She Get Erased from History?
    When people ask why we have specifically black histories, or queer histories, or women’s histories, it can be hard for many who do historical research to take the question seriously. But in fairness, such questions point to the very reason that alternative or “revisionist” histories exist.
    I’ve never researched him but I didn’t even know Wolfgang had a sister at all. Awful.
  • Tina Roth Eisenberg on Twitter
    What is a book that has changed your life?
    Because books.
  • The Gentle Art of Self-Control
    After somebody threw a flask of acid on the Mona Lisa in 1956, they put her behind bulletproof (and presumably acid-proof) glass. Same with Picasso’s Guernica, after a man spray-painted “Kill all lies” in giant red letters across the canvas.
    Struggling to change some habits, get yourself a velvet rope.
  • The History of the Ampersand
    These days everybody knows about the ampersand. It’s one of typography’s most unique and interesting characters.
    Yeah? Says who? I bet YOU don’t have a tattoo of ampersands!! #ampersandswars
  • The world’s first floating wind farm could be a game changer for renewable power
    Wind turbines are impressive structures, towering higher than some of the world’s tallest buildings. When installed offshore, the extent of the construction beneath the surface is just as impressive (and costly).
    Pssssst… it’s in Scotland!

When Sgt. Pepper arrived

Earlier this year I listened to the remastered, reissued Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – an album that was released six years before I was born. The first thing that struck me was how similar it was to Nevermind by Nirvana. No, really.

Nirvana had been making some waves but the first time I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit on MTV it made me stop and turn and stare. What was this? It wasn’t heavy metal, it wasn’t indie rock, it was new, and once I managed to get a copy of the album it stayed on my stereo, on repeat, loudly, for several weeks. It was the soundtrack for my first winter at college and to this day still invokes memories of student unions and drunken nights of experimentation, it also opened the door to another band that has never left me, Pearl Jam (who had released their first album a month prior).

I grew up listening to Queen. A band I latched onto in my parents LP collection, nestled alongside my Dads folk albums, and a plethora of singer/songwriter records (Sedaka, Joel, Manilow), ohhh and that copy of a Saxon album. I’ll skip past the bit where I totally ignored my Mum’s Beatles albums because the covers ‘looked like old music’ (don’t worry, I’ll come back to the Beatles soon).

Of all those early Queen albums ‘Jazz’ is the abiding memory; that weird black and white spiral cover, and the range of songs was what grabbed my attention – Fat Bottomed Girls, Dreamer’s Ball, Bicycle Race, Jealousy, Don’t Stop Me Now. This was a rock band play jazzy piano bar numbers? Silly songs about riding bikes? And to this day the drum riff in Fat Bottomed Girls still gives me goosebumps. It was a good grounding for my first forays into the world of popular music.

Queen ‘The Works’ was the second album I ever bought (the first was Adam & the Ants, Friend or Foe) and they remain a firm favourite, the type of band I love to sing a long to because I know all the words. Yet despite the emotional link to my childhood their songs never really spoke to me and as I grew into an adolescent I found their heaviest tracks didn’t rock hard enough and their later tracks all seemed a little too radio friendly (I prefer early Queen, gimme Sheer Heart Attack over The Miracle any day).

I was kind of stuck in my musical habits, but it was Top of the Pops and the Top 40 on the radio that was my gateway for those years. Iron Maiden were next up on the list – I can probably still remember all the words to every song on Piece of Mind – as I explored a heavier sound, gravitating towards big stupid guitar riffs like many a young teenager.

Having a parent who is a secondary school teacher also, occasionally helped. Imagine my 14 year old surprise when I walk into the family kitchen to find my Dad doing the dishes whilst Appetite for Destruction is blasting from the cassette deck because ‘the kids at school were listening to it’. The opening stuttering loops of Welcome to the Jungle is also on the list of goosebump moments.

Heavy Metal had me for a few years, but it wasn’t until 1991 when an 18 year old me first heard Smells Like Teen Spirit. That distorted, fuzzy, broken guitar ripped through the airwaves, and a visceral voice attacked the chorus and OMYGODWHATISTHIS was all I could manage. Over and over, the bass thumping, the drums thudding, volume at 10. We had moved on to CDs now, insert disc, set to repeat, repeat, repeat.

I’d never felt anything like it, never heard anything like it, and it felt new and, as cliched as it now sounds, it felt real. This raw, beautiful, screaming voice, those soft and loud songs, the pop sensibilities that kept getting ripped up and stomped on. Nirvana were the Queen I had longed for and I had only had to wait 10 years for them.

Fast forward to 2017 and whilst it was Nirvana that dragged me to my musical home, it was Pearl Jam that stuck with and grew with me. They fed my desire for meaningful words to sing, for dark songs for darker days, for uplifting anthemic beats and howling guitars. Sonically they were in the same dirty world as Nirvana, a basement growl thrust into the ether, but then THAT VOICE came booming and hollering at me from inside my own head.

I’ve only seen them live once and I will happily, joyously admit that I wept big fat tears and adopted the lyrics of the opening song of the set into my heart once again. Release Me, sings Vedder, howls Vedder, his throat ripping my heart asunder. As I flashed back to those first listens, curled up in my old bedroom, my teenage angst writ large. A matter of timing for sure, a happy coincidence of lyric and emotion, something I’ve rarely felt since, at least not until a little band called Elbow and a man called Guy Garvey reached into my heart and my soul, pulling line after wonderful line for his songs.

I veer to playlists more and more these days but sometimes it’s good to go back to an album or two. In ‘Ten’ by Pearl Jam and ‘Nevermind’ by Nirvana, you have two of my Desert Island discs. Sgt.Pepper would have to be another, yet it wasn’t one of those buried in my parents collection (my Mum preferred their early stuff, she was that screaming, hysterical teen). I discovered it years later.

There’s been a lot written about the remastered release that was issued earlier this year and whilst it’s not quite like listening to the album for the first time back in 1969 it is definitely a markedly new sound for a well worn friend.

But stop and try and imagine something.

Imagine you are that child who is starting to explore music. Who has the lay of the land, can pick out reggae from soul from folk from classical. Who has a framework within which to work, a way of discovering related artists and songs.

Now, can you imagine what it must’ve been like to listen to Sgt.Pepper for the first time?

Listening today feels a bit like stepping into a time capsule, but not back to 1969, instead we are transported to an entirely different reality, taken through wonderous vistas, fantastical places and everyday melancholy. Each song is a perfect example of itself and I never tire of listening to it, even more so with this new release as you are able to pick out individual instruments and voices much better than before.

There hadn’t been an album like that before and whilst each song is memorable in it’s own sense, the format and construction was so completely new to the mass audience it was presented to it must’ve been utterly, wonderfully, bemusing. Imagine taking your new Beatles LP home, pouring over that album cover, reading the sleeve notes, before sliding the dark vinyl from its sleeve and dropping the needle and OMYGODWHATISTHIS!

Will we ever get another Sgt.Pepper, another Nevermind moment? As music skews away from the mainstream more and more, and pop music is continually filtered and processed down, I have to wonder if future generations will experience the same kind of bewildered awe that some of us have been lucky enough to experience.

Albums (not tracks) that land with an impact are few – Beyonce’s Lemonade springs to mind – and typically the impact these days is not purely musical, it requires a level of culture resonance and weight for an album to make a big impact on the masses.

But I know that somehow, from somewhere, an album will arrive.

Everyone will stop.

Everyone will listen.

Everyone will react.

And I just hope I’m still around to hear it too.

44

44 is a tribonacci number, an octahedral number and the number of derangements of 5 items. Since the greatest prime factor of 442 + 1 = 1937 is 149 and thus more than 44 twice, 44 is a Størmer number.

44 is the number of candles in a box of Hanukkah candles.

“Forty-Four” or “44 Blues” is a blues standard whose origins have been traced back to early 1920s Louisiana.[1] However, it was Roosevelt Sykes, who provided the lyrics and first recorded it in 1929, that helped popularize the song. “Forty-Four,” through numerous adaptations and recordings, remains in the blues lexicon eighty years later.

Angel Number 44 is thought to be directly related to our passions. It tends to deal with strength and willpower about our work or recreational life.

+44 is the international dialling code of the United Kingdom.

+44 was an American rock supergroup formed in Los Angeles, California in 2005. The group consisted of vocalist and bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker of Blink-182, lead guitarist Shane Gallagher of The Nervous Return and rhythm guitarist Craig Fairbaugh of Mercy Killers.

The master number 44 carries the significance of vibration four and eight with amplification, is known as the “Master Healer” and is very rare in numerology. Though, a person with this master number might take longer to mature, the number proposes that the individuals who have it must seek balance and a strong foundation in order to achieve success. Many famous individuals are associated with this vibration.

44 is a happy number. A happy number is a number defined by the following process: Starting with any positive integer, replace the number by the sum of the squares of its digits in base-ten, and repeat the process until the number either equals 1 (where it will stay), or it loops endlessly in a cycle that does not include 1. Those numbers for which this process ends in 1 are happy numbers, while those that do not end in 1 are unhappy numbers (or sad numbers).

(the above information copied from various internet sources and offered without comment, and yes, the last one is a stretch)

Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

Weekend Reading

  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Fleabag, Star Wars and presenting this year’s Evening Standard Theatre Awards

    When Phoebe Waller-Bridge was writing Fleabag, her show about a chaotic twentysomething woman who, as she winningly puts it, “w**ks down the barrel of the camera”, she had just started dating the man who is now her husband.
    Massive fan of this very talented person. If you haven’t seen Fleabag, find it, watch it now. I’m getting really fed up recommending it to people WHO HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET!!

  • ’Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

    Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough.
    There is a balance that can be found but this does make me question if I’m actually as good at maintaining that as I think

  • McDonalds’ Rick and Morty Szechuan sauce stunt backfires

    A McDonalds’ PR stunt to bring back a rare dipping sauce left thousands of fans disappointed and police called to some restaurants on Saturday.The Szechuan sauce, which was only made in 1998 to promote the film Mulan, has become well known after featuring in the popular cartoon Rick and Morty.
    AKA some people are just fuckin morons.

  • A Pre-History of Slashdot on its 20th Birthday

    Jeff chipped in a few bucks for the fees. Kathleen told me the name was stupid. I thought, “That’s kinda the point!” I originally used the name ‘slashdot’ on my desktop a year earlier when I got my first static IP in the Voorhees Hall dorm room I shared with Dave.
    One of the first tech websites I followed back in the day.

  • The Horizon of Desire

    “Man fucks woman. Man: subject. Woman: object.” The first thing you need to understand about consent is that consent is not, strictly speaking, a thing. Not in the same way that teleportation isn’t a thing. Consent is not a thing because it is not an item, nor a possession.
    A must read. Not easy but uncomfortable truths rarely are.

  • Louise Redknapp Isn’t Following The ‘Perfect Wife’ Script

    We’re used to Strictly stars undergoing transformations. Perhaps a heartwarming tale of a male sportstar getting in touch with his emotions or a female celeb showing off her hot new bod after 10 weeks of shimmying around the dancefloor.
    Not really close to this story but the basic principle appears to be ‘women aren’t allowed to do what they want’? FFS

  • Hacking is inevitable, so it’s time to assume our data will be stolen

    Companies are prone to understating the scale of hacks, which suggests that there needs to be better standards for disclosing breaches. Yahoo recently confessed that its data breach actually impacted 3 billion user accounts, .
    IT reality as predicted 10 years ago? Longer? If you aren’t managing your accounts/passwords smartly by now then you are too late.

  • Dating yourself

    I am single and actually loving it, finally. It has taken a year or so but I am finally feeling whole and happy as a person who is not in a relationship. I do not need someone else to complete me or make me more of a person, or more content in my own skin.
    Right in the feels.

  • The Creator of Bitcoin Comes Clean, Only to Disappear Again

    Ten men raided a house in Gordon, a north shore suburb of Sydney, at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. Some of the federal agents wore shirts that said “Computer Forensics”; one carried a search warrant issued under the Australian Crimes Act 1914.
    I’m a suburb!

  • Logical

    So simple. So true. (read the tooltip!)

  • Glasgow Science Centre send a Tunnock’s Teacake into space

    Glasgow Science Centre have carried out one of the most momentous space launches in Scotland’s history – sending a Tunnock’s Teacake into orbit. Staff at the Clydeside centre have launched the humble teacake, named Terry, from pad in Houston (that’s Houston, Renfrewshire, not Houston, Texas).
    Conflicted: YAY SCIENCE IN SCOTLAND! Booooo, what a waste of a teacake?

  • On living with the feelings in my head

    When I was 10 years old, I learned that my father had a brain tumour. He was treated, our family life continued.
    More feels.

  • How to Care for Your Introvert

    (Not to be confused with Caring for Your Introvert.) I started this video thinking it was a serious thing but ended up laughing embarrassingly hard almost all the way through. A pair of introverts is called an ‘awkward’. A group of introverts is called an ‘angst’.
    LOLs

  • The crazy, true story of the birth of the Warriors’ historic offense

    The sanctuary for the early check-ins, the merely laid-over and the maddeningly delayed is tucked between Gates 25 and 26 in Terminal 2 at Oakland International Airport.
    Bit early (3 years in) to say historic? Actually… no.

  • How Men Like Harvey Weinstein Implicate Their Victims in Their Acts

    If you have ever experienced sexual assault or harassment, you know that one of the cruellest things about these acts is the way that they entangle, and attempt to contaminate, all of the best things about you.
    Utterly vile the way these things play out. Where is the humanity?

  • First Evidence That Online Dating Is Changing the Nature of Society

    Not so long ago, nobody met a partner online. Then, in the 1990s, came the first dating websites. Match.com went live in 1995. A new wave of dating websites, such as OKCupid, emerged in the early 2000s. And the 2012 arrival of Tinder changed dating even further.
    This is both fascinating, and a little bit ‘no shit sherlock’.

  • How Video Games Satisfy Basic Human Needs

    Grand Theft Auto, that most lavish and notorious of all modern videogames, offers countless ways for players to behave. Much of this conduct, if acted out in our reality, would be considered somewhere between impolite and morally reprehensible.
    This is also both fascinating, and a little bit ‘no shit sherlock’.

Oops I inked me again


Tattoos hurt.

Depending on where on your body, and what your pain thresholds are, the sensation of getting a tattoo can range from an almost soothing buzzing feeling, to a mild ‘scratchy’ feeling, through to a sharp cutting pain.

I don’t mind the pain. It’s part of the parcel and becomes an intrinsic element of getting a tattoo, adding a visceral element to the trust you are placing in the artist. After all, you are allowing them to hurt you.

There is also a formulaic/ritualistic element that comes to bear when I am getting a new tattoo. It all helps me get into the right head space I guess, and whilst each artist is different I’ve found they all go through the same basic preparations, so you can use those steps to prepare yourself.

That’s presuming you’ve had a tattoo before, if not, read on…

If you are getting a custom piece of work done then step one is to book a consultation with the artist. You’ll have to have done some research into what style of tattoo you want, then find a tattoo artist who works in that style. If you are like me, you’ll then have some rough idea and try and draw it up… don’t worry if you can’t draw, you aren’t the artist here, and you get to explain your idea to the artist at the consultation. You will need to pay for this, but typically that payment is also the deposit for the tattoo itself.

The consultation is usually a quick chat and a chance to ask questions and then, book your appointment. It’s getting real now!

But don’t get too excited just yet… If you’ve picked a good artist they’ll likely be very busy and you won’t get to see the tattoo design they’ve drawn up until a few days before your appointment (or in some cases the night before!). Before you know it though, the day has arrived… NOW you can get excited!

Presuming you’ve got an agreed design – or as near as, all good tattoo artists should be happy to work with you if there is a last minute adjustment needed – then on the day of the tattoo itself you have your own prep to do. The good news is that means eating tasty food! Do make sure you’ve eaten well before you go, whilst you may just be ‘lying around’ getting tattoo’d, it’s still a traumatic experience for the body and you’ll need good energy reserves to help with the recovery.

As much as pre-tattoo noms are important, the provisions you take in with you can be just as vital. If you are going to be getting tattoo’d for longer than an hour I’d suggest you take some sweets, for me that means Haribo, and a bottle of water but each to their own. And yes, tattoo days are always ‘cheat’ days!

All set? Time to head to your tattoo parlour of choice.

Once you arrive, you’ll sign some forms (disclaimers and medical confirmations), and with a last check on the design you are all set.

Each artist will have their own working area – some places are open plan, some places are separate, all will have the option of screens for discretion – and once there the artist will look to prep the area to be tattooed. It’ll be shaved smooth (even if you’ve already shaved it, they’ll do it again anyway to be sure), and the first cold rub of whatever cleaning/antiseptic liquid they use hits your naked skin.

An important note here on health and hygiene. All reputable tattoo artists make sure their equipment and areas are clean and sterile. The artists will use new (unwrapped in front of you) needles, and will wear latex gloves throughout (changing them when needed). They’ll also wipe down the area getting tattoo’d now and again (cold and a little bit stingy!). If you have any doubts, ask!

OK, now you are ready to get the tattoo. The first step is to make sure design/placement is correct. The artist will use a stencil of the design to make sure the placement is right. They gentle smooth it into place, then carefully peel it off and you get the first impression of what your new ink will look like. This can take a couple of attempts to get right, depending on the size/location/design. For example, my last one was on my back but as my spine isn’t perfectly straight (whose is?!) it took a couple of placings to get it looking right.

Presuming you are happy, and this is your last chance to say so, you get comfortable and the sharp buzzing needles begin. A few minutes in the artist will pause, and ask if you are ok. Regardless of how many tattoos I’ve had, it’s always the same and I take as a good sign given that some people, when experiencing a new type of pain, shut down completely so you can’t rely on them saying to stop.

After that, depending on the location of the tattoo, time ebbs and flows. Once you are past the first ten minutes or so, and are used to the sensation, the pain is usually tolerable, and sometimes hardly noticeable. I’ve run the gamut from almost falling asleep to tapping out after four hours because I was starting to shake, everyone reacts differently and there is no shame in asking for a break. Again, good tattoo artists will stop now and then and check in with you, handy when you do actually doze off…

I know some people take in a book, or headphones, to distract themselves but whilst I’ve tried that in the past I actually prefer to just lie and zone out as best I can. My most recent tattoo was the first one I’ve gotten since I started meditating regularly and I found at times I was a similar experience, it’s wonderfully relaxing although the slightly ouchy bits (on my spine) did have a tendency to bring me back to reality.

Once your new tattoo is finished, it’ll be wiped clean (again that cold antiseptic fluid that always makes me gasp) and a barrier cream will be applied (something like Bepanthen) and the tattoo will be wrapped in clingfilm. Remember, as horrible as it sounds a tattoo is essentially an open wound, so this is all to protect you from infection.

It’s worth pointing out that, whilst the tattoo itself is clean the surrounding area will be covered in ink. It washes off easily enough though, don’t panic.

Your tattoo artist will give you after care advice which will cover how long to keep it under clingfilm, how to keep it clean and protected. For me I tend to clean it – a very VERY gentle process that does NOT involve soaking the tattoo just a gentle rub down with hot soapy water and the palm of your hand – then cover it in a thin film of bepanthen and re-clingfilm for the first couple of days. It can be a little awkward but it seems (for me, YMMV) to help the healing process.

After that, as long as it’s healed/scabbed over, you can switch to a good thick moisturiser. Again not too much, you are not just keeping the ‘wound’ supple and moist enough that the thin inky ‘scabs’ don’t pull off. This should keep your tattoo looking good, just be careful not to scratch at it, or bump it too hard. Not only will it hurt but it’ll lift some of the ink and leave your tattoo looking less than pristine.

However if that does happen, just let your tattoo artist know, all will happily touch-up the tattoo if needed.

And then you just have the itchy itchy phase to get through (mostly as the hair regrows) – remember, no scratching!! – and you are done!

I got my first tattoo as an act of quiet rebellion. These days I get them for a variety of reasons, but mostly because there are so many amazing artists doing custom pieces in a huge variety of styles. And yes, also because I enjoy the entire process, from the excitement of the first consultation to the first reveal of the finished job.

Now I just need to decide what the next one will be… and yes, I’ve got a few ideas in mind.

Blade Runner

There is nothing new.

When I heard there was going to be a second Blade Runner movie I ran the gamut of emotions that is likely familiar to sci-fi fans of my generation, a mixture of excitement, hope, and fear, all of which could be best summarised by the following statement:

Please don’t be Jar Jar.

I admit, this is a little harsh given the history and background of each of these sci-fi worlds, but given that Blade Runner was released just ahead of Return of the Jedi it’s worth nothing that we’ve waited a LONG TIME for these movies and that time has only further served to cement the ‘original’ movies deeper in our hearts.

With all of this in mind, and well aware I may be setting myself up for a fall, I re-watched Blade Runner last night, as I am planning on seeing the new movie later tonight.

I’ll happily confess that I’ve only ever seen Blade Runner 2 or 3 times – Blade Runner exists more in popular culture references than in my recent viewing history – and I’d chosen to watch (for the first time I think) the Final Cut version. Whilst I’d be hard pushed to pull out differences between that and the Directors Cut, and putting pacing issues aside, it felt much more taut and bleak than I’d previously remembered.

Equally with a more mature eye, the performances really stood out and whilst that dystopian world gets a lot of the plaudits there are some subtleties I hadn’t previously appreciated. The long tracking shots as you approach the Tyrell building, and the scene where Roy and Pris convince J.F. Sebastian to take them to see Tyrell stands out. Those lingering closeups could suggest the two replicants are communicating telepathically? Or are those little muscle twitches, half smiles and eye movements, just them processing new emotions and memories?

Of course this movie has had a LONG time for people to pour over it, and all the different versions, to pull it apart and bed in their own world views, their own dreams, their own emotions and experiences. Far longer than any of the replicants had. Watching the movie now pulls a lot of those points into the light, even if it is a dark, sodden, dirty light that is cast. Perhaps that is why this movie is so loved, precisely because it remains an emotional blank canvas and pushes us to see the world through different eyes.

Whilst watching I realised at one point that I was viewing the movie through the lens of Sicario and Arrival, both movies I rate highly and which are directed by the man at the helm of Blade Runner 2049. The jarring pace changes in Sicario, and the gorgeous slow build of Arrival would not be lost in this original movie (and may actually have improved it). Dare I suggest that the return of the genre-defining sci-fi movie could be a success?

So regardless of previous disappointments, and after hearing good things from people I know who have already seen it, I will be entering the cinema with a new hope and a sincere desire to embrace whatever this new movie offers up, and I look forward to what it will bring us 35 years from now.