bookmark_borderBand of Skulls

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.

bookmark_borderFixing 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.

AG Fitness –

bookmark_borderWeekend 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?

bookmark_borderGame 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.

bookmark_borderHacking 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.

bookmark_borderWeekend 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.