In my slimmer days…


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I am inedbted to Doug Cook for spotting and sending me this. It’s a recruitment ad for the very early days Leith Agency. I was an account man there at the time. The shot was taken from an award winning press campaign (I was the account handler) for The Edinburgh Club.  The original ad that the photo derived from featured an exaggerated ‘before and after’ comparison. Naturally, I was the ‘before’.

Anyway the Leith recruitment ad was essentially saying we want account handlers who are prepared to get their tits out.

It worked.

I left six months later to set up 1576 with Adrian and David.

That’ll teach ’em to give me a public profile!

Here it is at a more browser friendly size.

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For Will…


This blurb is from a youtube descriptor of Can’s Monster Movie which Will tells me is their masterpiece…

“On first hearing Monster Movie’s relentless grooves (especially Yoo Doo Right & this, the album’s opening epic) I was smitten with ‘The Can’ – convinced I was listening to some eternal music that the Greek Gods used in keep fit classes. The interplay between drums, bass and vocals is astonishing here and all due respect to Malcolm, Holger & Jaki…… Footage taken from an early 1970s LWT anthology horror / thriller series called ‘The Frighteners’. In this Mike Hodges episode, a father appears to kill his baby, then wife…. But not all is as it seems. Cruel, madness-inducing drama is inherent in the imagery as well as Mooney’s singing – one of my favourite vocal performances of all time.”

Judge for yourselves.

This is from Monster music too…

“Can was a musical group formed in West Germany in 1968. One of the most important “krautrock” groups, Can had a style grounded in the art rock of bands such as The Velvet Underground, with strong experimental and world music influences. Can formed in Köln in 1968, comprising bass guitarist Holger Czukay, keyboard player Irmin Schmidt, guitarist Michael Karoli, and drummer Jaki Liebezeit. In the autumn of 1968, the band enlisted the creative, highly rhythmic, but unstable and often confrontational American Malcolm Mooney, a New York based painter (who in fact had never sung before), with whom they recorded the material for an album, Prepared to Meet Thy Pnoom. This first album was rejected by their record company, and was not released until 1981, under the name Delay 1968. The band decided to record another album of original material from scratch, which later became Monster Movie, released in 1969. Mooney’s bizarre ranting vocals stood in contrast to the stark minimalism of the music, which was influenced particularly by garage rock, funk and psychedelic rock. Repetition was stressed on bass and drums, particularly on the epic “Yoo Doo Right” which had been edited down from a six-hour improvisation to take up a mere single side of vinyl.
Mooney returned to America soon afterwards on the advice of a psychiatrist, having been told that getting away from the chaotic music of Can would be better for his mental health
.”

If you’ve got this far you will acknowledge that ingestion of forbidden fruits were commonly associated with the appreciation of Can’s music.

Contrasting recent reading choices


I have recently rattled through this…

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But I am ploughing through this at quite a slow pace…

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Interestingly, both of them are, in different ways critical takes on the merits of extreme socialism.

Balzac and the Little Chinese seamstress is a delight. A wee gem recommended to me by my sister Jane. It’s a slight thing. More a Novella than a full blown novel and tells the story of a pair of Chinese teenagers sent from their middle class and educated family homes in Chengdu to be ‘re-educated’ in the mountains of Mao’s culturally revolutionised coomunist state in 1971. This could be a heavy political vision and in under the surface it is, because the story centres around forbidden fruit. The forbidden fruit of love but more importantly of knowledge, and in particular of reading western novels, chief among them the works of Balzac.

But it never gets bogged down in politics and instead turns into a genuinely delightful tale of love and learning.

Highly recommended.

As is David Peace’s GB 84. The more I read Peace’s work (1974 and The Damned Utd so far with 1977, 1980, and Tokyo Year zero on my shelves for future consumption) the more I believe that he is among our greatest British living writers.

This one focusses on the miners strike of 1984 from many different perspectives with a plot that is extraordinarily dense; that’s why I’m ploughing a bit. (In truth he might slightly have overdone it on the dense stakes.)

It’s a big book in every sense but it shares the narrative approach that he used so brilliantly in The Damned United. (Incidentally the movie is now in post -production with the extraordinary Michael Sheen – the Queen, Frost/Nixon – in the title role and Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor.)

The ‘cast’ is huge and the drama brutal (it feels like a dense movie unfolding before you with every character shrouded in film noirish shadow) but it is gripping, electric, brutal, uncompromising and deviant.

Who are the good guys (not the police, that’s for sure) and the bad guys (everyone)? What’s the point? (Pride). What drives mankind? (Lies corruption and power. And beer and fags.)

It’s as hateful as it is admirable and it shows that David Peace is untouchable in his portrayal of grim, working class life.

Magic.

the new Forth Crossing


The latest twist in the new Forth Crossing saga is that the light railway link is to be dropped, thereby saving £2.25bn in construction costs, and it has been proposed that the structure will be a triple tower cable stay design rather like this, the Florida Sunshine Skyway bridge. Only without the sunshine.

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debut greatness?


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The debut album from Glasgow Krautrock/folkie combo, The Phantom Band, has been receiving universal 4 star reviews all week in everything from The NME to The Guardian. My mate Kenneth has been proclaiming their majesty for some time now and I have to say this unofficial pre-release video shows considerable potential.

I for one shall be tootling down to Fopp to stock up.

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This is even better, a tribute to German art rockers, Can, from whom they are said to derive many of their influences.

Myself?  I was a bigger fan of Faust and this masterpiece may demonstrate why.

On the other hand you may, like 99% of the population find them ear bleed inducing noiseniks with not a musical quality to their name.  (But you’d be wrong.)

Slumdog Millionaire


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Well, the critics are getting awfully excited about this film, so I’d like to join the debate with a strong note of caution.

This is a pretty good movie but I think the imperfection that lies at its heart is what stops it being a great movie. namely, the acting. Of it’s 10 Oscar nominations not a single one is for the performances of its leading players and that is, in my view, totally appropriate.

This movie is too much of a pick n mix affair to truly satisfy. The central cinematic device at its core, telling a life story (in three sub-generations; infant, child and teen) means that its too stop-start to really fully engage. What you find is that the two younger sections of the film are both more believable and more engaging than the latter stage which starts to unravel in credibility the more it develops.

The performances of the two younger Jamals are light of touch, frequently hilarious – particularly in the movie’s highlight where the youngest Jamal exits the latrines in true Trainspotting style – and quite moving. Poor old, rather wooden and not especially engaging, Dev Patel has to deal with a plot that is becoming more ridiculous by the moment as his pursuit of the beautiful Latika verges, at times, on the preposterous. How Jamal can continually cross paths with the object of his affection so often in a city with a population twice that of the whole of the UK was beyond me.

OK, that’s all the bad stuff out of the way, now let’s turn to the positives. The cinematography (an Oscar nod for Anthony Dod Mantle) and sound design in this movie combine to stunning effect at times. It’s like a Discover documentary at its best and you simply cannot get enough of Mumbai, which is given added oomph by the music of A.R. Rahman who picks up no less than three Oscar nominations. Nice use of MIA’s music in places too.

It’s actually all the technical disciplines that this movie excels in and has been recognised for (sound, sound editing, music, cinematography and editing). so that neatly brings us to its direction.

Danny Boyle.

What to make of him?

Well, a director’s job is to realise all aspects of a production from performance to technical. I think the script blew his chances of the former but he has excelled at the latter and to many it is seen as the highlight of his career. I beg to differ. His track record is patchy to say the least. Trainspotting is by far the most overrated film of its generation (not a patch on his brilliant Shallow Grave), The Beach and A Life Less Ordinary are best glossed over. But 28 Days Later is as good a horror movie as has been made since The Shining, and Sunshine is as good as it gets in Sci fi. Both are, in my humble opinion at least, better movies than Slumdog.

But you lot don’t seem to agree. A quick look at Boyle’s IMDB ratings shows that the public consider Slumdog his masterpiece with a rating of 8.7 (astonishingly, that places it 34th in IMDB’s all time list). How is this possible in a seemingly foolproof ratings mechanism?

Early enthusiasm?

Maybe as the ratings mature he will come back to the field. I’d think that will indeed be the case as old moaners like me get our way.

Here are all his cinematic releases and how IMDB rate them; and my own views. Please feel free to scoff or agree as you see fit.

Slumdog IMDB 8.7 Me 7

Sunshine IMDB 7.3 Me 9

28 Days later IMDB 7.5 Me 9

Shallow Grave IMDB 7.4 Me 9

Trainspotting IMDB 8.2 Me 5 (this is ranked 182 of all time on IMDB – Holy cow!)

The Beach IMDB 6.2 Me 5

For the record A Life Less Ordinary picks up 6.4 and Millions gets a 7.2 on IMDB. I haven’t seen either, but the bit of ALLO that I saw looked poor.

I like Slumdog a lot I have to say, but its imperfections were too significant to overlook. Much as I hoped it would indeed be the ‘feelgood movie of all time’ (or whatever the marketing blurb claims) it wasn’t, but it was a great visual and aural spectacle that merits a trip to your local cinema.

7 out of 10.

Now then, now then…


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I was out with my mate Mike, my sister Sara and her man, One Week John, last night at The Carriers Quarters in Leith.  What a great pub, full of characters and Peroni at only £3.10 a pint.   “Only”, that’s a laugh.

Sara introduced me to a young friend of hers, a 31 year old hairdresser and we got chatting.  Anyway it came to my round and so at the bar I shouted across to the table to see who wanted what.

“Guiness.” said Mike

“A peroni doll” said Sara

“Pint of Tennents lad.” cried One Week John.

“Nah, you’re all right pops.” said the hairdresser.

Pops?

POPS?

Me?  Pops?

Crushed I was.

More Cadbury indulgence


Another ‘event’ commercial from Cadbury’s and Fallon.

Funny?  Yes.

On brand?  Well… she’s wearing a purple dress.

Judge for yourself.

I am not a fan of this campaign, if you could call it that.  OK it’s great entertainment but the purist in me bemoans its lack of brand relevance.

Sorry.

Obama’s inauguration speech


Come the time.  Come the man.

Cometh the time. Cometh the man.

I didn’t see him deliver it but I’ve just read it and it is a thing of beauty. Balanced, potent, humble but strong, honest in that he positions America’s future from a point in time where the nation is in crisis. He speaks simply but uncompromisingly. (Essentially he is saying you are with us or against us. The subtext is ‘God help you if you are the latter.”)

Al Gore will be proud. He puts the climate centre stage.

He talks brilliantly about policy in a hugely Democratic way without actually uttering a word of rhetoric or specifying any particular bill. His critics might say this is vague. I see it as vision-setting and principled.

He talks about the ‘truth’ of America. America the brand. As an adman I buy into that full square. His vision is not of warmongering arrogance and doled out retribution for wrongdoings against the Bald Eagle. It’s about work – hard work – community, opportunity, reward and democracy.

In short this was a wonderful, humble, dignified moment in time, setting out his stall as a strong man of reason and very great intelligence.

Not one single word was difficult to understand, contrived, showy or jargony.

That is no mean feat.

So I say, Obama…Yes you can. (And he didn’t say that.)

I sincerely, truly hope and pray that I will not be eating these words a year from now, but I sincerely believe that I will not.

And why? Because Obama does not politicise, he engages and reasons.

Not a single word of overpromise was in his speech but its intent was crystal clear.

Suntrap Garden Workshops and Night Classes


If you’re interested in learning something new this year why not take a look at the classes run at Suntrap. There are 2 hour workshops or you can take part in a longer block of night classes.

Workshops

Saturday 10.00am – 12.00 Noon

£6 plus the cost of materials

All classes take place at Suntrap Garden, Gogarbun, EXCEPT for the Apple Pruning on the 7th February (return mid afternoon).

Saturday 7th February Willie Duncan’s Apple Pruning Work Shop”

Meet at Suntrap Garden car park 9.15am. Mini bus transport to Willie’s garden at Drumeldrie in Fife. There will be a £2 cost per person for transport. Bring packed lunch, hot drink, warm clothes, strong footwear and secateurs. (Limited places available)


Saturdays 14th 21th 28th February “Flower Arranging”

For beginners or for people who just want to improve their flower arranging skills and at the end of the three Saturdays students will feel more confident in arranging flowers. (N.B. £18 for course and cost of flowers & materials extra)

Saturday March 14th “Turf Wars” Caring for your lawn, what to do and what not to do?

Saturday April 18th “Vegetable and fruit growing in a small space” Container vegetable growing.

Saturday May 16th “Hanging gardens of Babylon “Tom Hardwick’s version” Practical workshop planting up containers and baskets for Summer. Containers, baskets and plants additional cost.

Evening Classes

(7.00 – 9.00 pm)

‘Design Your Own Garden‘ 11 weeks starting 22nd April £105

‘Amateur Gardening‘ 10 weeks beginning 23rd April £ 80


To Book Workshops or Evening Classes or for more information contact Moira at Oatridge College – 01506 864807

(Email mmontgomery@oatridge.ac.uk)


Suntrap also has a blog, why not check it out?

Charlie Brooker’s oddness


What is it with Charlie Brooker?

His Screen Burn programme on C4 last night had this wierd approach to editorial control.

Every time he said f*ck it was bleeped, but when Andy Nyman said ‘fuck’, it w***n’t.

Anyway, his show last night was about children’s programmes.  In particular, the one thing we were both agreed on was that Bagpuss featured an opening so sinister that it was more akin to The Wicker Man.

We were both freaked out about it and shivering in our infantile beds.

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The Man Who had all the luck – The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company.


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Written in 1940, Arthur Miller’s ‘other play’ apparently got the heave after only four Broadway performances and has never reached the heights of his big three; The Crucible, All my Son’s and Death of a Salesman. It disappeared from the theatrical circuit for over 50 years until its Broadway revival in 2000 and is being increasingly performed since then, which is a good thing because it is a very fine play and this production absolutely grabs it by the throat and powers its way through two hours of excellent drama.

It’s in production as I write for a movie release later this year.

The play is written in the style of a morality tale, but it does not preach and is not in fact really about morality at all, even though the pursuit of money is the main subject matter. At its heart lies the increasing guilt, verging on despair, of the central character, David Beeves, played to perfection by Philip Cumbus. His guilt stems not from anything that he has done wrong but because he is blessed with a Midas touch. For every one of his yings a close friend or family member suffers a balancing yang and this increasingly gets to him until it climaxes in his rejection of his newborn child – itself something of a miracle.

The entire cast assume Midwestern American accents throughout (aside from Austrian immigrant JB Feller played by Andrew Vincent) and I didn’t spot a single slip. Act one centres on the repair of a rich farmer’s automobile and when this remarkable beast is wheeled onto centre stage the audience gasped in unison. It really is a great moment.

I liked this a lot. The mood changes steadily from general merriment and optimism to full blown angst and the pacing of this change is crucial to the success of the play.

In these times of rabid consumerism the turmoil that Beeves puts himself through is a refreshing thought provoker.

Do we all take things too much for granted?

Will we see things differently 12 months from now once the crunch has bitten deeper?

Will we all be more aware of our blessings?

I think so.

A play for the times indeed then.

Here’s a sneak preview…

And it would appear the Guardian liked it too.

The Observer’s best new acts of 2009


It’s interesting that The Observer’s tip for the top this year is a female singer songwriter from Blackpool, but it isn’t Little Boots. It’s this girl, Karima Francis.

I can take it or leave it myself.

Now, this is more like it. Lily Allen’s first single from her second album is an absolute killer. A brilliant observation on the cult of celebrity in the noughties.

Try this too if you like the above.

New work


Me and the boys at 60 Watt have been developing a new advertising campaign for themselves that will be running in full page format in The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. It challenges the notion, full on, that advertising in a recession is a bad idea and instead encourages clients to be bold.

The first ad went out on Friday.

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And this one runs soon.

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Look what Bill gates has gone and done.


This is a minor classic. It’s an ‘infomercial’ for a Microsoft product called ‘Songsmith’. It helps you write songs. But how does one bring it to life?

Simple!

You sing the commercial and make it a product demonstration.

So, open on an advertising ‘executive’ struggling to write a jingle for a glow in the dark towel in his kitchen. The guy is a dweeb and wearing a matching maroon shirt and tie. When did you EVER see an advertising jingle writer (which don’t actually exist any more) in a shirt and tie? His daughter meanwhile is playing on a laptop (that looks alarmingly like a Mac airbook – surely not) and sings to him, demonstrating how easy it is to write songs with ‘Songsmith”

Grabbing the machine off her in a Eureka moment he goes to his local Starbucks and cracks the problem, overlooked by stunned bystanders, one of whom has, wait for it – a band! He too is stunned and says “By Microsoft, it must be real easy to use then.” He immediately writes a number one hit in Starbucks (Did the silly basket case not know he had Songsmith already? He could be Stevie  Wonder by now if he’d just used it before instead of being a struggling auteur.)

Anyway, enough of the sub-plot, Dad now goes to his workplace and plays his despicable jingle to two men who look like they are being tortured as they listen. (Hint. They are being tortured) However, this is just a plot twist and on conclusion they both burst into applause for his Herculean efforts and award him the Victoria Cross, a promotion and a year’s supply of Glow in The Dark towels.

He goes home and is ravished by his wife because he is such a ‘man’.

Of course the casting is multi-ethnic as you’d expect. They’re all there. although the heroes are WASPS.

I bet you don’t believe a word of that do you. It’s just too, waaaaaay too, ridiculous.

OK. look here.

This gay parody is outstanding.

My sister


She’s awfully clever you know.

The elder of the three, it’s Jane I’m talking about right now.

She’s in the Holy Cross Pantomime again and we all went to see her last night.  En Famile – except ex Xbox Tom who is currently holed up in a nursing home for the teenagedly infirm.

It was a local take on Aladin, beautifully adapted by Tony Delicata (what a great name, you could just eat a man with that name couldn’t you?)

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Anyway for a panto in a church hall in a suburb with local talent it blew me away.

Sis was fab.

Script hilarious, especially a gag about a really shite zoo.

A bunch of kids freelanced from FCT and looked like they were having an absolute ball – especially Matthew.

But the power and the glory, the uberness went to Leo Mclaughlin as the evil Abanadzer (or whatever you call him).

Hilfuckingarious.

Sign him up right now for a Channel 4 show. (in a double act with Jane.)

There’s two things you never want to see made. Laws and sausages.


It's a marathon, not a sprint.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

I bought Jeana the whole 124,000 episodes of West Wing on DVD in the sales.

At £50 for the lot it represents about 20p an episode and it was worth close on the whole £50 for the above quote in Episode 4, which is where we have gotten.

I managed to miss the fist 124,000 episodes so there is no danger of repetitive TV disorder in following the adventure from start to finish, entirely in our own time.

A rare luxury.

I have to say…it’s off to a good start.

Told you. Now listen up.


You will admit, and if you care to use my blog search engine I will prove it, that I have been bigging up Little Boots for some time now.

It transpires that this morning she won the BBC sound of 2009 poll.

On the one  hand that makes me some sort of visionary.

On the other it’s like…

“Whatever mate, everyone likes her. Stop banging on about your insight, we’ve all been listening to her for ever. That’s why we voted for ‘er you old git.”

Whatever.

Enjoy this early home recording as she puts her album to bed in LA. Because that is exactly what she is doing. She sent me a text to that effect this evening.

I predict a killer single and close to, if not, a number one by the summer.

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A Short Love Story


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I am deeply indebted to my mate Nick Gibsone for this touching love story.

A man and a woman who had never met before, and were both married to other people, found themselves assigned to the same sleeping room on a Trans-continental train.

Though initially embarrassed and uneasy over sharing a room, they were both very tired and fell asleep quickly….. He in the upper bunk and she in the lower.

At one am, the man leaned down and gently woke the woman saying,

“Ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you, but would you mind reaching into the closet to get me another blanket? I’m awfully cold.”

“I have a better idea,”  she replied with a twinkle in her eye.

“Just for tonight, let’s pretend that we’re married.”

His eyebrows went up and he smiled, “That’s a great idea!”

“Good,” she replied. “Get your own bloody blanket.”

After a moment of silence, he loudly farted.