Filed under: cycling, life, Scotland, sports, stories | Tags: bike riding, Bikes, cycling, Cycling Scotland, Kinross Sportive, Tour de france
Yesterday I took part in the Kinross Sportiv Black run. 88 miles (my clock read 91) and 6561 feet of climbing (1.5 x the height of Ben Nevis).
See those red boxes? They’re the hills and they are very cleverly spaced out so as to just about allow you to recover from one before you hit the next.
Of course some are worse than others. Just like waterboarding is worse than the rack or having fingernails extracted.
But you think the ascents are bad? Well, on three of them, having reached the peak you see this.
And those signs are there for a reason.
I had ho’d and hummed a lot the night before about whether to put the new brake blocks I’d just bought onto my (not very) trusty Willier and eventually decided, after removing them and scraping them, that they’d suffice.
Well, they did. Just. But that was after recording my top speed, so far, on a bike (38mph) on a not dangerous descent.
Going down those bad ones was a test of nerve – and one that I abjectly failed because my arms ached at the bottom of each of them with the sheer effort of clamping those 2cm blocks of rubber to the rims of my wheels. At times I simply had no idea if the brakes would last out. Feathering them was rarely an option as the descents were so brutal, the second you let go the bike would just leap forward at horrendous speed. Clamping was the key. So, the next time you watch a descent on the Tour de France consider the risks these guys are taking.
Towards the end of my six and a bit hours in the saddle (we had three stops for punctures and two for food on top of that) I was in a state of complete exhaustion.
Maybe it was the half pint of Guinness that we had in Dunning that did me in. As the barmaid said “Oh, you’re the first cyclists we’ve had in three years that had a drink!” But it certainly helped us up the 900ft climb, that is Dunning Common, that we faced the second we got back on the bike.
As I sit at my computer at 9.30 the next day I feel fine. Had I done an equivalent feat by running I’d have been in agony for at least three days.
So, vive le cycling.
Filed under: creativity, cycling, life, politics, Rants, science, Scotland, stories | Tags: drug cheats in sport, In pursuit of Lance Armstrong, lance armstrong drug cheat, Lyceum Edinburgh David Walsh, The Lyceum
David Walsh is nothing like the pompous, arrogant Sunday Times sportswriter that you might imagine sportswriters for aggressive newspaper groups in search of the scalp of the world’s greatest sports cheat, Lance Armstrong, might be.
David Walsh is a man whose son died in a cycling accident, coincidentally, aged 12 yet went on to be a great lover of cycling, and sport in general.
Tonight, in Britain’s most beautiful theatre (The Lyceum in Edinburgh) Walsh, acknowledging its humbling beauty, told the story of how he went out to get the lying cheat that is Lance Armstrong. And won.
It was an epic tale presented without a single note and narrated for over an hour.
And it pressed every one of my “Why Lance Armstrong is unforgivable buttons.”
Walsh eloquently argued why Armstrong not only used his cancer as both “a shield and a sword” but that his use of Growth Hormones before his diagnosis probably accelerated its invasiveness.
He made reference to the many, many people that Armstrong inhumanely took out, completely ruthlessly, in pursuit of the self preservation of his entirely false achievements.
He defended Sky and Wiggins as doggedly as he vilified US Postal and Armstrong.
And he did it all calmly, reflectively, convincingly, powerfully.
Please God. Tell me Walshy’s not on EPO.
Filed under: life, sports, stories | Tags: Garrett McNamara, surfing Nazare, surfing portugal, Surfing world record
…this looks impressive.
Garrett McNamara in Nazare, Portugal breaks world record for surfing a 100ft wave. Yikes.
Filed under: Arts, creativity, football, humour, life, Scotland, sports, stories, Uncategorized | Tags: arthur seat, celtic fc, Chips'n'cheese, easter Road stadium, Edinburgh, Edinburgh View, Edinburgh's Greatest Football Team, Hibees, Hibernian FC, Ian McAteer, Leith, Sunshine on Leith, The Bhouys, the hoops, the union
Advertising supremo, Iain McAteer, of The Union was climbing Arthur Seat on a chill but not Arctic New Year’s day.
The hike was an attempt to wash the bitter taste of the defeat (and too much red wine) of his beloved Chips’n'cheese-eating, potato picking, football team to the (ex) purveyors of the beautiful game, the mighty Hibernian FC from his mouth.
He turned to take in the glorious view and was rewarded with this stunning vision.
Filed under: Arts, creativity, movies, stories | Tags: American Hostage crisis, Argo, Ben Affleck, Brian Cranston
Before today I honestly can’t think of anything I would have had to say about Ben Affleck, good or particularly bad. He’s one of those Hollywood A-Listers that just doesn’t feature on my radar. Dunno why, he’s been (starred) in enough half decent movies to make an impression. And a lot of turkeys. A journeyman pro I guess would be my description.
Not any more.
Because Ben Affleck can direct. Boy can he direct.
Argo is tight as a drum from start to finish, features one of the most suspenseful scenes (more of a reel than a scene) that I’ve ever seen and he commands the screen as the movie’s star in such a low key way that he’s almost not there. And yet he is. Resoundingly.
Argo is almost immaculately conceived, scripted, edited, sound-tracked and acted. There are laugh out loud moments and moments of such supreme tension you just can’t bear to watch. The resolution is extraordinarily moving for two reasons. It’s majestically underplayed and the music is perfectly pitched.
The ensemble cast of six hostages, Affleck, John Goodman (back on form with some right good lines), Brian Cranston (making a bid to be America’s oldest acting superstar), Alan Arkin (really? really is that Alan Arkin?) and a bunch of smaller parts play their parts universally well.
But this is all about Ben Affleck at the end of the day. His third director’s role proper has nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for best Movie, director, supporting actor (Arkin), and screenplay; of these surely Director is within range and maybe best movie.
Anyway, my advise is, go see it and make your own mind up because IMHO this is an outstanding movie only equaled by The Master and End of Watch in 2012 (that I’ve seen).
Everything that The Master lacks in plot terms Argo delivers in spades. Argo doesn’t have the impact of a Seymour Hoffman or Joaquin Pheonix performance but it is none the worse for it.
Filed under: cycling, life, Rants, sports, stories | Tags: DR Pedro Celaya, Lance Armstrong, lance armstrong foundation, livestrong, US postal, USADA
Nimes 2003. Mid July. 35 degrees in the shade.
As I stood in the baking sun for more than five hours at the finishing line of a mid-race stage of the Tour de France waiting to catch a glimpse of my all time hero, Lance Armstrong, I’m blown away when an attractive young lady approaches me selling , for one Euro, the single most desirable, and certainly the coolest, thing I’ve ever seen.
A yellow rubber wristband bearing the Nike branded name of Lance’s new charitable venture – Livestrong.
I buy 10. And I wear a succession of these bands for a number of years.
I’ve already devoured “It’s not about the bike” (sublime) and ‘Every second counts” (something of a shabby follow up) but who cares, the proceeds are going to the Lance Armstrong Foundation (trustees of LIvestrong).
I buy Livestrong T Shirts. I am Lance Armstrong’s greatest evangelist.
Then news comes of the USADA’s alleged”victimisation” of Armstrong. They suspect wrongdoing and they go after him like a dog after a bone. What’s the point I wonder. After all I’ve read the books in which, page after page, he denies wrongdoing; “Why would I take drugs and risk ruining my body having just survived life threatening cancer. I would be the biggest fool on the planet.” I paraphrase, but that’s the sentiment and it runs through the books like a stick of rock.
Why would anyone lie, and lie again and again, this publicly, so convincingly? It’s not possible that it’s a lie.
Yesterday, the USADA issued a 1,000 page report using sworn testimony from 26 people including 15 members of Armstrong’s team at the time of his superhuman successes, US postal.
In it they say; “Together these different categories of eyewitness, documentary, first-hand, scientific, direct and circumstantial evidence reveal conclusive and undeniable proof that brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professionalized team-run doping conspiracy.”
Team Doctor, Pedro Celaya, was the mastermind of the hideous cheat but he contests the claims as does Armstrong, but the evidence is no longer refutable.
One question. Why?
Why would a team, comprising of dozens of people no doubt, conspire to cheat so willfully and cover their tracks so assiduously for so many years? what is actually the point of that? In the words of the Horlicks advertising team “How do they sleep at night?”
So, I am the fool. A naive dreamer that like a child simply believed what St Lance said. saint by night, sinner by day that is. You can’t take away what Armstrong did for many suffering people,, you can’t ignore the benefits of the LAF and Livestrong. But now it’s a legacy shrouded in guilt, bad taste and conscience salving.
Oh Lance. You make me so sad now.
Filed under: cycling, humour, Scotland, sports, stories, Uncategorized | Tags: 801 Dalment cycle club, Cleish Hill, Scottish Cycling
It would seem I have failed to understand, pretty much fundamentally, the fashion code for serious cyclists as this excerpt from the very amusing 801 Dalmeny blog suggests
“Newbie Mark G compounded multiple violations of the rules (mountain bike, trainers, camelbak, raybans, mudguards, panniers, pants showing through lycra shorts…) with a milky coffee choice and boiled eggs with soldiers.”
Filed under: cycling, Scotland, sports, stories | Tags: 9th september, Beecraigs Park, Cycling Scotland, freshnlo, freshnlo pedal for scotland ride, glasgow to edinburgh bike ride, Linlithgoww, Livingston, scotland glasgow, thigh muscles, Torphicen, track roads
On Saturday I cycled this route (initially in the rain as dawn broke – well 7am) with a couple of pals. It took me to a lovely little, one pub, village called Torphichen in the hills between Livingston and Linlithgow and through the Beecraigs Park.
Quite hilly, it proved almost too much for one of our group and it was a leisurely 4 and a half hours before we set foot back on Queensferry soil. But the route was fantastic, much of it on car free single track roads so I thought, what the hell, I’ll go out again this afternoon and see what time I can do it in. Two hours on the dot and with 63 miles in my legs idea preparation for the freshnlo Pedal for Scotland Glasgow to Edinburgh bike race on 9th September. You can register here.
By the end of the second run though my thigh muscles were starting to groan and a long bath was called for.
Monday was a work from home day with meetings in Edinburgh both in the morning and in the evening. Consequently I put another 52 miles on the clock. So a good few days all in all.
Filed under: creativity, cycling, Scotland, sports, stories | Tags: arthurs seat], cycling, Edinburgh, glasgow to edinburgh cycle race, old bike, pedal for scotland, south queensferry, vacation
I had an afternoon off and I had some stuff to pick up in Edinburgh so, between rain showers (well, when I say SHOWERS…), I jumped on the old bike to do a training run for the Pedal For Scotland ride that’s now only 8 weeks away. You can register here… http://ow.ly/c1Ssg
So, I cycled into Edinburgh (11 miles ) and then did two circuits of Arthur’s Seat (my second volcanic circumnavigation in a week given that I’d done Vesuvius last week).
The trip round Arthur’s Seat is 3.3 miles and I clocked 14 minutes or so both times. My memories of the ascent (just under a mile) to Dunsapie Loch were far more onerous than the reality.
After that a cycle back to South Queensferry and all 32 miles done and dusted in about 2hrs 15 minutes.
Cream crackered now like.
Filed under: cycling, life, sports, stories | Tags: andy murray, fct, glasgow to edinburgh bike ride, pedal for scotland, south queensferry, travel
So, as I may have mentioned already I’ve been asked to blog on behalf of http://ow.ly/c1Ssg the Pedal For Scotland bike ride which runs from Edinburgh to Glasgow on the morning of September 9th.
To be honest six months ago the very thought of it would have filled me with dread but being four and a bit stone lighter, partly thanks to my beautiful bike I am actually relishing the challenge. Nevertheless, I need to build the mileage up and get the “miles in my legs” if I’m going to make a decent fist of it.
It’s 47 miles which should be achievable in just over three hours at my rate of riding (I average 16 miles an hour typically).
So, yesterday amidst the rain and before the Andy Murray defeat I got on my bike and thrashed out 17 miles in about an hour. For a change I wore my heart rate monitor to see how I coped. From a start where my heart rate was about 60 I quickly settled into a rate in the mid 130′s (good solid exercise) but at the end I had to tackle the dreaded Hawes Brae in South Queensferry. A real beast of a hill about half a mile long and really steep. It climbed and climbed as I forced my way to the top, peaking at 168. For those of you who know for a 50 year old that ‘s 220 – 50 (170) only 2bpm short of it.
My objective is to get 100 miles a week into my legs but that’s a big ask. Also I’ve got two holidays planned so that isn’t going to help either plus FCT has a show on in the Festival called Once on This Island which will also preoccupy me for the best part of a fortnight.
But anyway. Here goes.
Filed under: family, food, life, science, Scotland, stories | Tags: 50 for 50, campbells meat, complex carbohydrates, Cube Hyde, food combining, food combining diet, low carb diet, mark gorman, mark gorman think hard, nike, Nike Plus, Pete and mark.wordpress.com, pete the meat, peter Flockhart, rachel Apppolinari Fund, steve appolinari, think hard
My friends on facebook will be aware of the challenge my next door neighbour, Pete Flockhart (aka Pete the Meat) and myself set ourselves in the depressing dog days of 2011. Both of us had piled on the weight in the last couple of years as a result of lack of exercise, overeating (or eating the wrong stuff to be more precise) and over drinking.
We’re both 50 in May, ten days apart in fact and the prospect of our local GP carrying out rectal examinations whilst lecturing us about our obesity was too much to contemplate.
So we decided to set ourselves a challenge.
We’d both lose 50 lbs by our 50th birthdays.
Our good pal Doug Cook offered to design us a campaign logo. This is it…
And we set up a blog to follow the journey.
We’ve dramatically reduced our alcohol intake (bar a few binges).
We’ve put ourselves on really good diets. Pete’s a bit heavy on the rabbit food but I’ve been following a food combining approach which consists of Muesli and fresh fruit for breakfast, salad with lots of protein for lunch and a good mix of protein and complex carbs for dinner.
No pies, no crisps, no sweets, very few, virtually none in fact, simple carbs (white rice, white bread, white pasta, potatoes – in fact none of any of them in a month), no butter, reduced fat (the one cal spray you can buy is excellent), no chocolate, no biscuits, no visits to Greggs AT ALL.
And of course, the exercise. I have a Nike Plus wristband which acts as a GPS device, pedometer and calorie burn measurer which is calibrated (extremely accurately I have to say) for stride length and distance walked plus weight.
Our regime has been walking 2 out of every three days across the Forth Road Bridge and back. That’s about 5.7miles (9km) and we have a slightly longer route that’s 7 miles (11km). In January I walked 190km ( 118 miles) and Pete was about the same. However I’ve also recently bought an amazing, really really amazing, new bike – a Cube Hyde Pro – that’s carried me 200 miles in and out of town this month.
We’re taking the opportunity to raise funds for two very deserving charities as we go and you can pledge your support here if you’d like to help us. They are the Rachel Appolinari Fund which has been set up on behalf of a young girl, a friend of my family, who died, aged 19, of a brain tumour at Edinburgh neuro-oncology unit at the Western General Hospital. Her Dad and sisters have already raised £50,000 for the hospital in Rachel’s name. The other (Pete’s choice) is the Chest, Heart and Stroke Foundation in Scotland for obvious reasons. I hope you will support us.
The results are encouraging.
In the first month, which ended today, I lost 22lbs and Pete lost 30lbs. That’s 9% of our combined body weight. Our BMI’s have tumbled but there’s a long, long way to go and to be honest 50lbs may have set the bar a little too low.
We realise the easiest bit is over and we really do need to dig in now, but we’ve been saying that since the end of week one in which Pete lost a staggering 16.5 lbs, so maybe we’re striking the right balance.
A big thing about this, to my mind, is the value of attempting a challenge like that with others. Doing it solo is very difficult indeed. So, to Pete the Meat, Slainte! Onwards and upwards. Together we shall prevail!
Anyway, follow our exploits here. You can sign up for updates on the left hand side of the blog and please support us as best you can.
Filed under: books, business, creativity, humour, jokes, life, Rants, stories, swearing, work, writing | Tags: apostrophes, death of the apostrophe, lynne truss, proper syntax, waterstones
Some fucking dick in the Waterstone’s marketing department thinks the apostrophe is an inconvenience in the digital age.
Yeah sure it is in a url, but we all know that urls don’t need punctuation and everyone, even Lynne Truss, will live with that.
However, to use that as an excuse to rebrand Waterstone’s as Waterstones is absurd.
It’s a fucking bookshop.
It should be the last bastion of proper syntax for fuck sake.
It is utterly unforgiveable.
It’s like the Driving Standards Agency hiring blind people to take driving tests.
Before you know it we’ll have section’s for biographys, comic’s, childrens book’s, and busine’ss section’s.
Or is that bastards’ or bastards or bastard’s or bas’tards or bas’tard’s or bas’tard’s’
I give up. In apoplexy.
Filed under: creativity, family, humour, jokes, life, Scotland, stories | Tags: Cluness, elton john, pissed singing, seducing girlfriend, The Circle of life
Especially if you are the only one that’s been drinking, quite a lot, and the rest of the family are at home. (Her family that is.)
Filed under: advertising, Arts, books, business, creativity, family, gigs, golf, humour, life, movies, photography, Scotland, stories, theatre, tv, videos, work | Tags: 2011, 2011 in hindsight, best of 2011, gibberish, mark gorman, review iof 2011
2011 was rather less fraught than 2010. I didn’t work to such ridiculous extremes, and the year end saw my portfolio change quite considerably compared to 12 months ago. Three big new clients at year end were Maidsafe, Vets2 and Front Page Design, all autumnal starters and all brilliant to work with. My STV contract finally came to an end after three years but its been great and I am very grateful to them for all the work.
Some old troopers still stand by me; 60 Watt, Paligap, The Usability Lab, Corporation Pop, Ampersand and LA Media, with occassional work from a small number of others.
To you all; slainte and have a great 2012.
If my golf was bad in 2010 it beggared belief in 2011. I gave up my membership at Dundas Park and clearly that did not have a galvanising effect on my game. I was shit awful on both trips of the year and even my winter game has been poor.
We didn’t go away as a family in 2011, for a variety of reasons but I had the holiday (maybe an exaggeration to call it that) of a lifetime in June when Ria and I went to Glastonbury. To say it was memorable would be something of an understatement. There is one abiding memory of it, I have to say…the bogs.
But there were other memorable sights and moments, like this…
Which brings me onto my musical highlights of the year.
My best of CD which you can have if you like included these tracks…
In a good year for music my song of the year, without question, was Video Games by Lana Del Rey.
My albums of the year were;
Bad as Me by Tom Waits (overall my favourite record)
Let England Shake by PJ Harvey
You and I by The Pierces
The English Riviera by Metronomy
A creature I don’t know by Laura Marling
50 Words for Snow by Kate Bush
Hotel Shampoo by Gruff Rhyss
Build a Rocket Boys by Elbow who also performed the gig of the year at Glastonbury (closely followed by King Creosote at The Liquid Rooms)
A different Kind of Love by Bombay Bicycle Club
21 by Adele
I did a lot of cinema in 2011…
Here’s what I thought of what I saw in my IMDB profile…
Two ten out of tens and a few nines show that it was also a good year for movies. In retrospect I plump for three as my best of the year
A Separation and
On TV This is England 2008 moved me to tears and was by far the year’s greatest offering. I liked Top Boy too.
I didn’t read a great deal this year but have really enjoyed
The Brothers Sisters by Patrick DeWitt.
The Childrens Hospital by Chris Adrtian.
And Filthy English, The How, Why When and What of Everyday Swearing by Pete Silverton.
But the best read of the year by far was…The Guardian which I grow deeper in love with.
This was a big year of theatre for me. I reckon I saw at least 20 different productions but easily the stand out was Dance Marathon in which Jeana and I and Chris and Liam danced our asses off for five hours before I was told I was relentless by the Producer. We also had amazing nights at The Kings for James Cordon in One Man, Two Guvnors and The Lyceum for both Dunsinane and Age of Arousal.
This year was sadly marked by way too much illness among our friends for me to want to dwell on but Matt, David and Jenny I am thinking of you now.
Also, we lost James King, Joyce Cambell and Fiona Pirie from FCT and Rachel Appolinari at the outrageous age of 19. RIP all of you. xxx
All of the family have blossomed in the past year, thank God, and long may it continue. In particular Amy has shown an almost exponential growth in confidence and skills in many different areas.
2012 is University year for Tom and Ria should they both choose to go down that path.
And so, to 2012. It’s the year I turn 50, Amy 21, Tom and Ria 18 and I aim, with Pete the Meat, to lose at least 50 pounds each before we turn 50 in May. We are raising money to do so and you’ll soon hear of our plans.
Thanks for being my reader once again in 2011. My year end Technorati rating was an all time high closing in on a top 1% of all the blogs in the world rating.
16,000th out of 1.2 million.
Filed under: creativity, family, life, photography, Scotland, stories | Tags: A christmas celebration, chriostmas, Christmas cake, Christmas cards, Christmas dinner, christmas in Scotland, Christmas trifle, How to do Christmas
Filed under: advertising, business, creativity, humour, motors, photography, Scotland, stories | Tags: edinburgh zoo, edinburgh zoo van, hino van, newhaven communications, r, Rufus Wedderburn
Years ago I was responsible for taking a brief from my then client, Edinburgh Zoo.
They wanted their logo put on the side of their new van.
“That’s surely a bit of a missed opportunity is it not?” I asked.
“Why?” was the response “It’s just a van.”
“No it’s not” was my firm retort. “It’s a poster. And what’s more the media cost of it is free.”
I asked them to leave it with me and not long after I presented them with the idea (created by Rufus Wedderburn, now at Newhaven Communications) of creating a visual gag which made it look as if a Rhino was being transported across Edinburgh and that its horn had burst through the van’s roof.
They bought it. And here she is in all her glory.
It won every ad award going and the citizens (and visitors) of Edinburgh delighted in seeing it every time it passed through the street.
Filed under: Rants, Scotland, stories | Tags: dangerous drivers, drving in fog, idiuot drivers, M5 crash lessons
OK, so to all of the arseholes that drove alongside me; mostly rammed up my tailpipe from Kilmarnock to South Queensferry today in a very thick fog from 4pm – 6pm I can only assume you were ALL unaware of the news story on Friday night where 51 people were seriously injured and 7 died as a result of thick fog mixed with smoke on the M5 near Taunton.
Here’s a picture of it just in case you think I’m making it up…
Because if you were aware of it you all make me sick to the pit of my stomach. Particularly professional drivers of lorries and vans who are happy to overtake on crowded rush hour roads at 70mph when anything over 50 mph was already risky driving.
Thankfully I survived but you lot can fuck right off.
Filed under: advertising, Arts, creativity, stories | Tags: child poverty, child poverty in sCotland, fct, forth childrens theatre, stv, stv creative, TV commercials
I introduced one of the FCT cast to the production team at STV when they wre casting for their recent STV Appeal commercials and wee Emma Simpson got the job…
So far the appeal has raised over £1.2m.
Filed under: creativity, gardening, science, Scotland, stories | Tags: Amorphophallus titanium, botany, Corpse flower, Royal botanic Gardens Edinburgh, scottish botany, titus arum
Have you been following the progress of this beauty?
You can keep up to date with it here.
I’ve had my eye on it all summer.
It’s called Amorphophallus titanium which roughly translated means absolutely ginormous penis. And it’s growing right here in Edinburgh in the Royal Botanic Gardens’ greenhouse. Currently it is progressing by 10cm a day and when and if it flowers it will have been the first to do so in Scotland and is a very rare happening when cultivated.
Have a freaking look at this. (A specimen cultivated in Stuttgart)
It has the largest “unbranched” inflorescance of any plant in the world which roughly translated means it has humungous flowers.
And the best thing is…it smells like a rotting animal. Hence its common name “the Corpse Flower”.
Best get your ass down there for a look.
Filed under: family, humour, life, Scotland, sports, stories | Tags: Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award
Tom and Ria are all set for their 45 mile walk from Aviemore to Blair Atholl.
Tom in particular with his white pumps and new hat.
“So as I can talk to farmers.”
Amy’s attempt ended in a wrecked knee half way through so fingers crossed the white pumps cope with the rigours of the Scottish Highlands.
(Apparently the minibus got lost on its way to the start point so not a great omen.)
Filed under: football, life, photography, Scotland, sports, stories | Tags: homeless world cup, scotland win homeless world cup, scotland win in paris, the Scottish dream
Yesterday Scotland won the Homeless World Cup in Paris.
64 nations competed.
We beat Mexico 4 – 3 in the final and it was said that our team may not have been the most skilled in the tournament, but we were the most committed.
It’s not like we lead the world in Homelessness.
We beat a nation many multiple times our population.
I suspect it had something to do with money not being a factor or a motivation.
I suspect it brought out our national pride.
I suspect it was a level playing field regardless of national stature or population.
This is an awesome concept and a creation of Scotland (Mel Young conceived it).
The fact that the story made a pictureless 3 x 3 story at the bottom of page 3 in our national paper is a scandal.
Scotland. Wise up.
Filed under: Arts, creativity, movies, stories | Tags: A separation, asghar farhade, iranian cinema, persian cinema, tehran
I’ve never seen an Iranian move but the country has a rich movie culture that has broken through with A Separation which won the Golden Bear, best actor and best actress awards at Berlin earlier this year. And I can understand why.
Don’t go expecting lavish cinematography, this is shot on hand held cameras, or certainly on fairly shaky tripods throughout, often under the harsh glare of fluorescent lighting that throws a watery blue cast over the action at times. But that is highly appropriate because this movie has a creeping sense of voyeurism throughout as the intensely private happenings of a family, and perhaps country, in turmoil steadily build up into a furious climax.
The plot is complex to say the least, but one can keep up by fully concentrating on each twist and turn of this micro-thriller.
The oppression of the Koran in this staunchly Muslim country carries a heavy burden throughout the film and it’s the most frequently used prop as one of the characters in particular, the victim of a central crime, seeks spiritual guidance throughout. It’s importance and oppression is palpable.
The story concerns the vain attempts of a wife (superbly acted by Leila Hatami) to leave Tehran with her husband to improve the life of their 12 year old daughter. But the husband cannot force himself to leave his Alzheimer’s afflicted father behind and so stalemate ensues and divorce becomes the only alternative, this results in a separation and so the father (played to perfection by Peyman Moaadi) is forced to hire a nurse to look after his desperately sad father during the day.
One thing leads to another and inadvertently the husband pushes the nurse so that she ends up aborting her child.
This sets off a horrendous chain of events that I will not reveal here for fear of spoiling it for you.
Suffice to say the tension mounts throughout the movie and culminates in a heartbreaking decision for the couple’s 12 year old daughter that is resolved in a way that Michael Hanneke would applaud vigorously.
This movie deals with important themes of family loyalty (more than love), duty, the oppression and folly of religion and pride.
Without overbearing pride much of the consequences of this film would not happen. Time and again you silently shout at the screen “just do the right thing and this mess will be resolved.” They never do.
It could almost be played for laughs so farcical are the the situations the main protagonists find themselves in. But this is no comedy, far from it. It’s a tearjerker and feels bitterly real, believable and often futile.
It’s as good as its billing. See it.
Filed under: Arts, creativity, gigs, humour, life, Scotland, stories, theatre, Uncategorized | Tags: Ankur productions, Catherine wheels, CATS AWards, Clare Grogan, Dundee rep, Festival Theatre, Joyce McMillan, knives in hens, Pachamama productions, Roadkill, Royal Lyceum theatre, Scottish Theatre, sweeney Todd, The TRaverse Theatre, White
It was the ninth CATS Awards held at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh yesterday and the event had a real sense of achievement about it. Presented by Joyce McMillan and Clare Grogan we were treated to excellent potted reviews of each of the four shortlisted candidates in 10 categories of Scottish theatre by the great and the good of the Scottish Critics.
I got a real sense of us being in a “golden age” of theatre. So many great shows, my only regret was that I had not seen them all. In particular I wish I had seen White by Catherine Wheels (which won three times), The Three Musketeers and The Princess of Spain (at the Traverse) which sounded simply hilarious and the overall winner (which I tried to see); Roadkill again at The Traverse.
When you stand back and look at the real influence at work here the Traverse really does stand tall in it all, notwithstanding the fact that my own declared interest (The Lyceum ) has had a season to die for and another on the way and the incredible success of Dundee Rep’s Sweeney, many of the nominees were touched by the Trav, performed there or their writers had made their way through its hallowed doorway.
I know too that not everyone always loves the National Theatre of Scotland but with three different productions shortlisted here (not to mention Knives in Hens which is currently playing at, yes, The Trav and Dunsinane (the Lyceum) which was not eligible, its influence is there to be seen.
Highlight of the day? Mary Brennan’s (slightly long but wholly hilarious) “performance” as she extolled the virtue of Scotland’s performance in the Children and Young People category which was won by White.
It’s a very great pity that although Roadkill is back for the Fringe again that hardly anyone can see it; indeed it’s already sold out.
The party afterwards, both in the Festival Theatre, but especially in Brass Monkey (A great wee boozer in Drummond Street) was fantastic.
It was so luvvieish that the lack of Dickie Attenburgh’s presence was about the only thing short of perfection.
Filed under: advertising, Arts, creativity, Rants, Scotland, stories | Tags: Beady Eye, British Art Show, GoMA, Milena Dragicevic, philips
I went to the British Art Show at GoMA last week. Not that brilliant to be totally honest. Mostly pretty pretentious guff.
I saw this painting by Milena Dragicevic.
Two days later I picked up a copy of Shortlist with an ad for Philips.
Filed under: creativity, family, humour, jokes, life, Rants, Scotland, stories | Tags: fight at wedding, poo, skidmark on wedding dress, skins, wedding, wedding disasters, wedding nightmares, wedding stories
Filed under: Arts, creativity, motors, sports, stories | Tags: Bernie Ecclestone, damon hill, F1, F1 Movies, Formula 1, imola, jackie stewart, Jean Marie Balestre, lotus, mansell, Prost, Senna, williams
One would have thought that the best movie ever made about F1 (this one) would be full, wall to wall, of filmic pyrotechnics shot in the same way that FIFA commission world cup movies with super saturated, super slo-mo, super hi-def film set to a super hi-fi sound track.
But it isn’t.
And there are two potential reasons for this. The first; artistic in that director, Asif Kapadia and Editor Chris King want it to eschew the flotsam of F1 and capture the essence of the man on a more personal level; the second for storytelling reasons.
I think it’s a bit of both because what makes this documentary so successful is it sets out to essentially tell us a right ripping yarn that’s not distracted by special effects.
I’m not an F1 buff. I’m about average in terms of my on-off interest in the sport. At the moment Bernie Ecclestone has successfully moved my button firmly to the off position.
So I don’t write this through rose tinted spectacles. I comment only as a film lover.
This documentary is set in a golden era where the baddy was not Ecclestone (he barely appears) but the then F1 director. Jean Marie-Balestre, who’s almost xenophobic and certainly nepotistic support of fellow Frenchman Alain Prost is a key plot device.
Much of the film follows the central battle for supremacy between “the Professor” Prost and Senna and it’s fascinating.
Not once, but twice, were world championships decided on extremely dogy collisions between the two men.
This is discussed in an interview between Jackie Stewart and Senna in which Stewart (possibly the most arrogant Scotsman ever to have set foot on planet earth) challenges the fact that Senna has had more accidents than all of the previous World Champions put together. Perhaps deliberately Senna responds modestly and calls him Stewart (in what looks like a put down that would have stuck in old big heads craw).
But the reason for the question is fundamental to the nature of Senna himself. His sense of invincibility comes from his deep set belief in God, and this core motif is an important insight into the man and his motivation.
God should probably have been credited as a supporting actor role in the film.
What’s interesting is that virtually nothing of his private life is discussed in the movie. Not even his brief relationship with, and engagement to, a 15 year old girl. Because this is a film single-mindedly about man, machine and God.
The third reel which deals largely with his death and his legacy is heart rending. The footage leading up to the ill fated moment at Imola in 1994 when God deserts him is so nerve-shredding that you cannot bear to see what is coming. But when you do it is so brief and so brutal that it’s gone before you know it. There are no reruns, no slo-mo, no gratuity.
He just dies. And we move on. (Fighting back tears).
Ironically to the sight of Prost as pall bearer as a nation grieves and then, in the credits, we see that Prost is a Trustee of the Senna Foundation.
Ironic or poetic? It’s hard to say.
No big budget pomp and circumstance, no overblown hero worshiping, just a right good story, well told and gripping from first frame to last.
So, fork out your hard earned cash and visit one of the limited number of cinemas where you can catch this wonderful film in what will almost certainly be a very brief run.
Oh, and not once do you hear either Damon Hill or Nigel Mansell utter a single word.
Another good reason to go.
Filed under: advertising, Arts, business, creativity, life, stories | Tags: B2B blogs, blog writer, Blog writing services, blog wrting, blogs, professional blogging, Writing B2B blogs, writing blog services
It would be unseemly of me to reveal who for but I have just been asked to write a B2B blog for a business. It will be a three day a month job and I’m totally delighted. Some people have questoned why on earth I put so much time and effort into my blog. And although this was not the objective it is now starting to pay off in professional terms as I have now also written (and been paid for) at least four websites as well.
It’s funny how life changes.
What’s even more amazing is that I used this blog (yes, this shouty, sweary, ranty, maniacal blog) as a reference for the client.
Good on them.
Filed under: business, creativity, family, itv, jokes, life, music, Rants, stories | Tags: amanda holden, BGT, britain's got talent, Louis Walsh, Ronan Parke, Simon Cowell, SYCO
For reasons which will become obvious, I can’t reveal my full identity. But let me just say that, I am an executive with Sony Music UK with many years experience in music mangement. My work involves close liasion with Simon Cowell’s SYCO company (specifically SYCO Music and SYCO TV) and, as a result, I have seen what goes on from the inside and this has left me increasingly uncomfortable about the integrity of Britain’s Got Talent and particularly the workings of SYCO.
It’s long been known that there is a quite a degree of “fixing” in BGT. ( Daily Mail http://bit.ly/fxkWne ) But press reports on “fixing” are only the tip pf the iceberg when it comes to SYCO’s manipulation of, not only the show and the contestants, but also the viewing public and hopefully, in this email, I can shine some light on the smoke and mirrors trickery of SYCO.
Take BGT 2011 for example. Scouts working for SYCO first saw Ronan Parke (the 12 year old singer) some two years ago when he was just 10 and was singing at a birthday party for former Norwich City goal-keeper, Bryan Gunn. Following that, Ronan was privately auditioned by SYCO scouts on two more occasions and, as is usual practice on BGT, he was “invited” to audition for the show as a “preferred” contestant. At the same time, Ronan and his parents were “required” to enter into a contract with SYCO. Like all SYCO contracts, it is heavily weighted in favour of the label and are notoriously bad, even in the cut-throat world of the music industry. Simon effectively signed Ronan for life and he’s got little or no chance of ever getting out of it…unless Simon decides to terminate. Recording contracts are legally extremely complex and usually require input and advice from very expensive, specialist contract lawyers. SYCO knows that such legal advice goes well beyond the means of most contestants. As one senior SYCO executive said to me recently. “These people are mugs. They’ll sign away their own mother just to get on tv. It’s a fucking turkey-shoot and then we own their arses!”
As is common for “invited” contestants that SYCO likes and have already signed, Ronan and his parents were provided with a car to drive them to the audition in London. These “invited” contestants don’t have to queue up with everyone else, they don’t go through the preliminary auditions with producers, but perform straight to Simon and the judging panel at a pre- arranged time-slot. And so it was for Ronan back in 2009 when he was just 10.
It was at this initial audition that I first met Ronan and he looked very different back then. He was a skinny, 10 year old lad who, even at that time, was a bit effeminate. His voice needed a bit of working on, but that wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, nerves got the better of Ronan and he was unable to perform. Simon however, had already seen the audition tapes from the scouts and took Ronan into an unused dressing room and got him to sing in there with his mum for support. Clearly Ronan was not going to be part of BGT in 2009 and nothing from this was ever televised.
Ordinarily, you would think that would be the end of things, but with Ronan already signed to SYCO, far from it. This was just the start of a two year grooming and manipulation process to prepare Ronan for stardom.
It’s no big secret that Simon has been looking for an artist who could crack the very lucrative pre-teen market for some time, particularly in the US. If you like, he wanted his own rival to Bieber and, taking a leaf out of how professional football academies develop youngersters to feed their main team, Simon wanted his own singing academy and Ronan was just one of a number of identified youngsters, with whom SYCO intensively works with.
A development package, which included professional singing, dancing and stage-craft tuition was arranged for Ronan and the SYCO machine kicked into gear with the view of Ronan entering BGT 2010. Lots of work had been done with Ronan and his voice was much improved, unfortunately nerves were still a major issue for him and it was decided by SYCO not to enter him into the 2010 series.
At a following senior exec meeting at SYCO it was suggested that Ronan be dropped, but with Simon confident that he could be the kid he had been looking for, it was agreed that Ronan would receive “intensive support and input” to ready him for the 2011 series. Although Ronan’s voice was now stunning, there were other major problems to be dealt with in order to sell him to the public. With respect to Ronan, he was nothing more than a cooky-looking, skinny runt of a kid and this was identified as a major handicap to sales.
It was agreed at a high-level, secret SYCO meeting, that if they were to do anything with Ronan, he needed totally restyling from the toes up. And so with time running out to develop Ronan into the star Simon wanted, SYCO went into overdrive. Ronan was even given speech and elocution training to rid him of his rural Norfolk accent, again in preparation for the potential US market. As for his effeminate and girlishness, this posed a bigger problem and resulted in many highly confidential meetings. At one of these meetings, the unthinkable was raised as a way forward….
Until now Ronan had been encouraged to “boy-up” and it was planned to present Ronan as an everyday skater-boy. But with his girliness still showing through, the image just wasn’t believable. So a decision was taken to encourage and allow Ronan to “release” and enhance his campness . Disgustingly, SYCO planned to sexualise him. They were well aware of course, that if they sexualised a young girl to look sexually older than she is, all hell would let loose. But with Ronan, as one executive put it, “no one has ever seen a ‘gay’ kid before, it’ll be a novelty.” As for the pre-teen market, it was accepted they wouldn’t care if Ronan appeared gay or not…most probably don’t know what gay is anyway. And so, with a total gay- sexualisation of Ronan secretly planned, SYCO got to work. I should stress, Ronan’s parents were not aware of any of this and were never consulted about Ronan’s development or management. When I first met Ronan he was a bit effeminate in his ways, but nothing like the camp, girlie-giggling kid you see now on BGT and this is a direct result of SYCO’s styling. Even his clothing worn at the audition and live semi-final were chosen for him by SYCO to match his new image.
SYCO took over everything to do with Ronan. His hairstyle, his clothes, his poise, giving tv interviews, you name it, Ronan was styled within an inch of his life and all on the promise of stardom, just as long as he worked hard and listened to his mentors. As for Ronan’s parents they were constantly reassured that Simon was personally looking after Ronan and “it’s all good”.
And so to BGT 2011. With Ronan ready to be unveiled, SYCO bosses, under instructions from Simon did something not done in previous series of BGT; the winner of BGT 2011 was decided long before the first auditions took place and that winner HAD to be Ronan Parke. With Ronan now 12, he looked and sounded just as SYCO had planned, but time was running out. Soon Ronan would be going into puberty and his voice would eventually break, so BGT 2011 had to be the vehicle to launch Ronan’s career; another year and as a singer he would probably be beyond any meaningful career and the opportunity will have been missed. With all this investment in Ronan, the production managers at SYCO TV are ready to deliver Ronan as ordered. Again, I need to stress, Ronan and his parents know nothing of this and have no idea Ronan will win BGT this weekend.
So far in the history of BGT and X-Factor, for that matter, no one has ever won who has not been an “invited or preferred” contestant, and it does sadden me that, all those thousands of people, lining up outside, often in the rain and cold, are basically wasting their time. The producers of BGT are not looking for the talented people, they aready have those. The reality is that the producers are hunting out oddities, freaks and, I’m ashamed to say, mentally ill people, to act as amusing fillers in the audition shows. They are nothing more than unpaid extras and they don’t even qualify for traveling expenses! It’s quite disgusting and shameful really, how the production team on BGT operate. People come from all over the country, often at great personal expense, because they think BGT is a talent competition and they stand a chance of realising their dreams. I can tell you from the inside that BGT is no more a “competition”, than I am an astronaut. Nothing is left to chance on BGT, everything is micro-managed, choreographed, manipulated and planned down to the last detail including, the telephone voting.
The ability to manipulate viewers opinion is vital if you are to control telephone voting and indeed get the required result. SYCO see this as essential to the success of the show and are very open about fact; planning and delivering live shows of quality is impossible if it was purely left to the public vote. As Simon said in a meeting once. “The public NEED to be told who to vote for.” Everything on BGT is geared towards telling you who you should for, particularly on the production side. It’s an art really, which Simon has honed to perfection and SYCO are now world leaders at.
The micro-management of Ronan’s audition performance was incredible. I was really quite shocked at his new image. From a starting point of wanting Ronan to look cute for the pre-teen market, SYCO had totally gayed him up in the process. Ronan’s not a 16 year old expressing his sexualty for the first time, he’s a 12 year old boy. It was horrible and I was very uncomfortable as to where this was going to end. Ronan, still suffering from nerves, performed his song and received a standing ovation from all three judges…why? Because it was in the script to give Ronan a standing ovation. As for Louis comment. “Ronan Parke. Remember that name. This kid’s gonna be a star!!” – that was actually fed to him from the production gallery and I know the guy who wrote the line. And when it comes to Ronan’s tears…well, check it out on YouTube or something. You see Ronan crying and wiping away tears. Only you don’t see any actual tears, not even on close-up and on an HD tv. Yep you guessed it, even that was choreographed, right down to the lip-biting!
It was also interesting to see that even before the final credits rolled on Ronan’s audition show, SYCO TV had uploaded the offical video of Ronan onto YouTube. Today, that particular video has been viewed over 2.5 million times and growing. SYCO don’t do that for other contestants, so why Ronan? The gaying-up Ronan plan slightly backfired on SYCO when lots of negative comments were being posted on YouTube and Twitter about Ronan’s image and the supposed sexuality that represents. Things got so bad on YouTube that the posting of comments had to be suspended. But SYCO learned from this and dressed Ronan more appropriately for his semi-final show; preferring a much more Bieber inspired look to the ‘gay- kid’ image presented in the audition.
In another unusal move for BGT contestants, SYCO created Ronan’s Official Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account. Both these services are managed from within SYCO and they post messages and pictures, not Ronan. This is because they don’t want Ronan posting anything controversial and is standard practice for currrent artists signed to SYCO.
And so this weekend will see Ronan crowned as winner of BGT 2011. Oh and let’s not forget the £100k prize money. It’s unlikely Ronan will see much or any of that. He’s been signed to SYCO for two years now and under the terms of his contract, while SYCO stump-up for costs in advance, this is paid back from future earnings. So he will need to pay for all those lessons, coaches, cars, clothes, styling and management… I wouldn’t be surprised even after winning BGT, if he is not still in debt to SYCO.
As a recording artist Ronan has a relatively short shelf-life. Simon knows he is going to have to hit the ground running to maximise Ronan’s earning potential, particularly if they go ahead with a planned break into the States and the pace is going to be frantic for Ronan. If you think the music industry is bad in the UK, you haven’t seen anything until you experience it Stateside. With an “anything goes” attitude all morals have long since gone out of the window. There will be no allowance for Ronan’s age and he will be expected to perform on late- night shows and dinners etc. And if he get exhausted, there’s always some sleaze-bag on hand ready to put a line of coke under his nose. I’ve seen it a million times.
I know for a fact, that the songs have already been chosen for Ronan’s debut single and album, and that the backing and drum tracks have already been laid down.
Of course, once Ronan’s voice breaks, it’s game-over and he will be commercially redundant for a few years. By the time he gets through that, the world will have moved on and his fan-base will have grown-up a bit. Will he make a comeback? In my experience I’d say probably not.
I’ve met Ronan a few times over the past couple of years. He’s a really nice kid with a generous, warm personality and the most wonderfully cute, girlie-giggle. There’s nothing to not like about Ronan. He’s a really sensitive soul and this comes across as him being a bit effeminate. But in a world of thuggish chavs, Ronan’s a real breath of fresh air really and a real delight to chat to. Do I think Ronan’s gay? No, is the short answer to that. SYCO have got a lot to answer for in their initial styling and image for Ronan. Like many 12 year old boys, Ronan may have issues in coming to terms with his sexuality in a couple of years. But right now, he’s just a great kid…a bit different, I admit…but a great kid just the same.
I hope Ronan is not damaged by this experience, unforunately, history warns otherwise…but whatever, the genie is already out of the bottle and come this weekend, Ronan’s life will change forever. Whether it’s a good or bad experience being a 12 year old star in today’s music industry, only time will tell. But as an industry insider I have serious reservations about what is about to happen to Ronan Parke and I doubt he or his family are ready for what’s coming.
Filed under: books, creativity, Scotland, stories | Tags: Aberdeen, Alan Spence, entrepreneurialism, Industrialisation of Japan, Japan, Japanese Emperor, Kirin Beer, Nagasaki, scottish engineering, Shogun, Sri Chimnoy, the Pure land, Thomas Blake Glover, Thomas Glover
Alan Spence writes interestingly on aspects of Scottish Life that few others have explored. His 1998 novel, Way to Go is a hilarious comedy set in a funeral parlour in Glasgow in which the owner ha reluctantly inherited the business from his father and decides to make a go of it by being “alternative”. It’s a great read.
This 2006 novel is a far bigger book in its scope and theme.
It charts the industrialisation of Japan from the eyes of an Aberdonian entrepreneur, Thomas Glover, who inspired both Madame Butterfly and Miss Saigon; and whilst focusing on his rags to riches to rags to riches story brings in three further generations of the family briefly.
It is set principally in Nagasaki opening, as it does, in the aftermath of the second nuclear explosion in the home of a rich man that sits on a hillside shielded from the worst effects of the explosion but not of the after effects.
It then takes us back to 1850′s Aberdeen where a gallous and up for it freshman is dispatched by his engineering company to “The Pure Land” to help run its fledgling office.
Away from the prying eyes of his bosses and officialdom Glover gradually build an illicit business in trading first cotton and silk, then tea before moving gradually through munitions, ships, mining and heavy engineering.
Along the way he regularly enjoys the pleasures of the Japanese womenfolk, Whisky and Saki and inadvertently starts a revolution (which is wonderful for business.)
The man is a hustler, a rogue, a mercenary and all round troublemaker but Spence focuses on the human side of his character and at very few points in this grand novel do we ever lose our like of his fundamentally caring and genial humanity.
Whilst the novel feels a little heavy handed at the start we gradually find ourselves being drawn into the huge scale of its storytelling and ultimately it becomes an intriguing historical reference point and a great story of empire building and its implications on the people around the Trump’s, Murdoch’s and Hughes’ of this world.
According to his website Spence has long been passionate about the spiritual culture of Japan. He has recently been exploring the work of the Zen Master Hakuin, (1685 – 1786), who was one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism.
Overall, very likeable and another good shout from Spence. Nice man too. I met him a few years ago and enjoyed his take on things. For those of you that know it he runs the Sri Chimnoy Centre in Edinburgh.