Paranormal activity

OK.  A lot has been said about how terrifying this movie is.  In truth it is a little slow and does have a number of really scary bits.  But it is blown out of proportion.  I would tell you more but don’t want to spoil it.  I took Amy and Ria and they were both pretty freaked out and hanging onto me for dear life but it’s not half as scary as Drag Me to Hell.

The lack of ANY credits whatsoever is brilliant though.  And very unnerving.

Despite the lack of truly scariness I thought it was a very interesting and original movie and brilliantly acted and cast.  These were, like, real people (gasp).

I’d recommend it despite those reservation.  7/10.

I’m not really a rugby fan but…


I just watched the Scotland v Australia rugby match in a state of suspended animation.  It was as one-sided a sports event as I have ever seen and yet the team doing all the work lost.

Scotland rode their luck like Mick Kinane on Sea The Stars.  But the effort, commitment and resolution was unforgettable and unbelieveable.  The stats were hilariously in Australia’s favour but Matt Giteau’s kicking was lamentable.  Two tries written off also helped our cause.  But really, it was great TV and a great David v Goliath happening.

Huge credit has to be given to our new English Coach, Andy Robinson.  And, of course, Scotland’s backs.


the feel bad movie of the year? I simply cannot wait.

Cheer up son. It's not the bloody end of the world. Is it?

I am a massive fan of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (and while you’re at it “No Country for Old Men” is a beast too).

Anyway the movie of the book opens on Jan 8 here in the UK.

Here’s an early (fairly mean)review from NYC. It currently 8.4’s on IMDB.

Doomsday sagas have never been far from our collective American imagination, but they’ve rarely been closer. The end-of-the-world cult of 2012 (Mayan calendar, solar neutrinos, bad vibes from the planet “Nibiru,” etc.) will only fatten its membership in the wake of the idiotic movie of the same name. Throw in (likely) environmental catastrophe, worldwide economic collapse, peak oil, Al Qaeda with Pakistani nukes, Obama the Antichrist, a zombie-cannibal plague, and apocalypse is in the air, la-la. Now comes the starkest doomsday movie yet, The Road, from a novel by Cormac McCarthy, our priest of high-toned despair. McCarthy will never get over the end of the Age of Good Men (which never existed, but don’t tell him that). He has staked his career on the idea that we’re entering a time of humanity in extremis, one in which chaos is ascendant and cannibalism, literal and metaphorical, is the rule, not the exception. The road of The Road is paved with literal cannibals. But it’s also a metaphor for the blind imperative of a father, “The Man” (Viggo Mortensen), to keep his son, “The Boy” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), both eating and uneaten.

What brought about the blinding flash that ends civilization? McCarthy isn’t telling, and neither are director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall. Project on this disaster what you will. (See the list above.) The dying world through which father and son trudge is monochromatic—faded browns, grays from sooty to milky, an occasional splash of dark blood. Green is history. Bare trees tumble. Fires spring up. Human bones dot the landscape. There was once a mother, “The Woman” (Charlize Theron), whom we see in The Man’s dreams, but her maternal instincts fell (strangely) by the wayside. Only The Man persists. “The child is my warrant,” he narrates. “If he is not the word of God, then God never spoke.” It might have been Darwin who spoke—but let’s not go there.

On its own grueling terms, The Road works. It brings you down, down, down, and its characters’ famishment is contagious: Your heart leaps at the sight of a can of peaches. Mortensen, bearded, smudged, greasy-haired, has a primal, haggard beauty. He lectures his son on the need for “the fire inside,” and that’s what we see in his unblinking eyes as his body wastes away. He clutches a gun with two bullets and teaches The Boy to put the barrel in one’s mouth and pull the trigger—the thinking being that a quick death is better than slow starvation or being eaten. But that’s a last resort. Mostly he uses that gun to threaten and/or blow away anything that imperils his son. What’s odd is that although The Boy never knew the brotherhood-of-man era, he pleads—in a voice that hasn’t broken—to share their food and trembles with grief when his single-minded father remains unswayed by his humanism. Yet the father doesn’t mock his son: Part of him must want to keep The Boy a boy. “Are we the good guys?” his son asks again and again, as if chanting in prayer. “Yes,” says The Man.

The movie has a dogged integrity. An inept thief (Michael Kenneth Williams, the magnetic Omar from The Wire) seems too pathetic for The Man to punish but is cruelly punished anyway. When Robert Duvall totters on as “The Old Man” (a guest-star survivor, akin to the guest-star hillbillies in Cold Mountain), we think they might adopt him as a surrogate Gramps. But The Man sees him only as a drain on their food, and The Old Man gets the drift without being told. What a tough, smart actor Duvall is. The Old Man seems enfeebled, perhaps senile—until Duvall gives you glimmers of his caginess. Affecting frailty is a survival mechanism, too.

Evocative as it is, The Road comes up short, not because it’s bleak but because it’s monotonous, and because McCarthy’s vision is finally as inflexible as his patriarchal hero’s. (Having Mom lurch off is quite an evolutionary statement.) That said, the author-hero of 2012 (John Cusack), who wrote a book in which humans cling to their goodness on the brink of extinction, seems boobishly naïve. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. But unlike these overeager doomsday fanatics, I hope never to find out.

harry brown

Ah. So that's what the bloody state pension pays for.

The movie is set in The Elephant and Castle where I, as a 17 year old, went to a strip joint in a well dodgy pub during a visit to London. If I’d have seen this film beforehand I’d not have gone within a mile of the area, never mind into its seedy interior.

Apparently Michael Caine is from “The Elephant” so this was probably quite a nostalgic road trip for him. In the movie he plays a vigilante gradually becoming more and more determined to avenge the brutal murder of his old mate (fast on the heels of his wife’s death) at the hands of a bunch of local scum who terrorise the neighbourhood.

This is no ordinary vigilante movie and, although I haven’t seen it, it must bear considerable comparison to Grand Torino where another fine actor in his latter years dominates a movie.

The casting is wonderful and the thugs that terrify the local community are entirely believable. But from start to finish this is Caine’s movie. He plays his part with massive pathos. We feel deeply sorry for him as, first, his wife and, then, his only chum pass away leaving him quietly tormented and then incredibly angry as he learns that his mates death was mockingly filmed on a mobile phone to the accompaniment of raucous laughter.

The brutality of this movie is searing and really shocking at times.  The riot scene is entirely believable, which is difficult to achieve on a low budget but certainly hits the spot.  It plays an important central role in undermining the police and showing them off as the useless and uncaring force that director, Daniel Barber is keen to establish .

Two things make this movie a real stand out; Caine and the pacing of the action.

It starts brutally slowly and gradually winds up in pace and tension but never to Hollywood proportions.  Don’t forget that Caine is a pensioner! Amazingly it holds your belief throughout – not an inconsiderable achievement in a genre that tends to become overblown and ridiculous.

I expect Michael Caine will get a BAFTA nomination for this (at the very least). He might even win because his performance is stunning. I certainly hope so.

His best performance? Arguably.

A great film?  Definitely.

tight tussles

Awww. The lovely little deer. Wonder what they taste like?

I’ve played twice on The Queesn Course at Gleneagles so far this week.  Both times against my Glenmor neighbour and friend, David Low.  He’s been for lessons because we’ve had two right good scraps so far.  and he is unbeaten.  Yesterday I took it to the 18th before losing a ball on my drive.  Today though I came back from 3 down to sink a par putt on the 18th to half the match.

He was delighted!

My score improved by ten strokes in much better weather this morning and I shot a nett 69 which I was pretty pleased with.

But the storm clouds are gathering and the rest of the week looks a bit unsettled, certainly for golf.

We saw a Buzzard (I think) yesterday and two deer were right in front of us on a sodden, but still frosty, first fairway at 8.15 this morning.

Cheerio then

I am not, and never have been, a fan of George Burley.  The performance by Scotland against Wales on Saturday defied description in the first half.  At 3-0 down we gave away a stone wall penalty that wasn’t given and Marshall, the goalie, should have been sent off.  So that would have been 4-0 with ten men.  We’d no doubt have shut up shop at that point and sloped off with a four goal defeat.  As it was we lost to a bunch of schoolboys by three.

He had to go.  And go he has.

Our game is a mess.  I mean, let’s face it, Hibs are within a win of topping the league despite a makeshift team in parts and having sold 11 internationalists in five years.  How is that possible?  I’lll tell you how.  Because everyone else is dreadful.  And if you want proof of that look at Rangers’ and Celtic’s positions in their European groups.  Both bottom, neither with a pot washed.

Investment in Scottish football’s youth (outside of Easter Road) is lamentable and that’s why that old saying “There’s no easy games in international football” is true once again.  Scotland is an easy game.  Falkirk went out of Europe to a team from Leichtenstien.


In the past, had a Scottish team drawn a team from Lichstentsien we’d have needed a calculator to work out the aggregate score.

So back to Burley.  Cheerio and good riddance I say.  We’ve had two clowns in charge (Burley and Vogts).  It seems remarkable that the rose between those two thorns was dour old Walter Smith who got the team playing again, reaching unheard of heights.

He leaves?  Splash, right back in the poo.
Smith is sitting in the Ibrox ejector seat so I suspect the SFA will make the predictable decision to send him a parachute.  Indeed this may all be part of a “plan”.

By the way.  Check out 60 Watt’s topical ad in  The Scotsman.

the white ribbon


This is the new film by Michael Haneke; enfant terrible of the art cinema world and not to everyone’s taste.  He doesn’t exactly make action movies.

But the movie did win the Palme d’or at Cannes this year so certainly the critics liked it.

It’s long and it moves at a slow but steady pace.  It’s black and white (often dimly lit) but beautifully realised. In fact at times the cinematography is so beautiful that it’s like a moving Ansell Adams.  It is variously graded throughout with the merest hint of a cream or a brown creeping in from time to time that creates some variety.  It’s mesmerising.


This is the classic still from the movie. The kids all walking in a row like a phalanx of Nazi warlords approaching a concentration camp inspection. Creepy.

And it’s weird.  Really weird.

Apparently, and this is not blindingly obvious it is an allegorical take on the birth of fascism.

It’s yet another movie where the heavy hand of religion gets the blame for most evil.  The pastor of the remote German village that it is set in, in the lead up to the First World War, is a central character and is the sort we’ve seen many times before (The Magdalene Sisters being a good example).  Outwardly pious; inwardly, and to his family, a callous and viscious bastard.  Quick to blame, shame and moralise.  His presence throughout is powerful and visceral.


The dawning of fascism is  subtly portrayed because no politics enter the film overtly at any point.  Class wars and sexual poilitics do though in what is clearly a male dominated culture and one where sexual transgression is rife (child abuse, domestic abuse, illicit masturbation and secret affairs are all featured).


But it’s the children (spookily played by one and all in a sort of village of the damned way) that steal the film.  They appear to be forces of evil and if not (the plot is never explained and the strange occurrences left to hang – it is Haneke after all) they are certainly victims of it.

Haneke seems to be saying that the rise of fascism came out of this age of suppression and a sense of revenge – after all the destruction of the Jews is often taken as a form of revenge for their post WWI success.

Haneke makes films like only Haneke makes films.  Some people find them slow and boring.  I think he follows in the style of that French New Wave of the 60’s but with a better grip on audience manipulation.  He makes thought provoking masterpieces and this is another one.

Simply wonderful.

My best ever medal score

It’s been a long time coming.  But I finally posted a sub par score.  Six under par in fact and when I left the course I was lying second overall by one point, having missed a birdie putt from five feet on the 17th.

The fact is, I had a lesson three weeks ago and it corrected my grip which meant I drove better than ever before in my life.

But all credit to Chris Rough – one of my playing partners.  I was six ahead of him after four holes but he then shot nine (net) birdies in the remaining 14 holes to lead by one on 43 points.


The Drum Power 100

I am nominated for the Drum Power 100 and if you’d like to vote for me feel free.  (But I think the link is fecked actually.)  And anyway no clients are on the list so who cares.

But this is where the real battle lies.  Two creative Goliaths are out to slay one another.

Gareth Howells (Newhaven) versus Don Smith (Realise – ex Union.  He has retired from advertising).

Because they are creatives they can raise the bar.

I love this.  Fucking love it.


The best of 2009 – music


I’m getting ready to prepare this year’s opus and after a slow start to the year I think it’s gathered pace.  For those of you who don’t have any of my previous compilations the idea is that I choose my favourite songs and burn them onto a CD.  If you want the CD just ask.  In fact ask by commenting on this post.

Just don’t tell the MCPS (Even though this encourages the wider listeningto, and purchase of, music)

In fact. YIPPEE, I can do a best of the Noughties this year too!


I am a published food writer

At last.

I wrote a story that was accepted for this book that arived in the ‘post’ today.


So, if you want to know how not to cook, give me a ring… I’ll pass you on to Jeana.

(Actually, the book is a lot of fun and you can buy it here…)

Here’s what the Collective Gallery, that supported the idea had to say about the concept…

While the typical cookbook format gives you a recipe for obvious success it does not take into account the many ways in which its execution can fail due to the cook’s lack of experience. Based on Aleksandra’s personal history of cooking disasters, the project invites 1000 people from all around the world to give their advice of how NOT to cook. With this volume, any reader will be more than well equipped to avoid making the same mistakes in their kitchen.

Aleksandra is interested in how we are taught or teach ourselves through trial and error. By making our guilty failures public we may even be creating an original and subversive form of art, rather than simply be aspiring to obvious and repetitive results.

choices on radio 4 with Michael Buerk and Miranda Ponsonby


I drove through to Glasgow on Tuesday morning and got caught in heavy traffic.  As a result I heard all of a BBC Radio 4 programme called choices in which Michael Buerk interviews people who have made life-altering decisions and talks them through the whole process, from the original dilemma to living with the consequences.

This particular programme focussed on an elderly ‘lady’ (Miranda Ponsonby) who had changed sex in ‘her’ late 50’s; releasing her from the inner torment ‘she’ had experienced all her life as a man.

On a number of levels it was extremely interesting, not least because the chap in question had been a member of a cavalry divison and had fought with honour in Aden amongst other places and had raised a family before divorcing his wife when ‘the children’ were out of the way.

He was, of course, extraordinarily posh.  In fact a member of the ‘king making’ Ponsonby family and so had endured a life of extreme privelege.

My views on this sort of stuff are well documented on this blog so I won’t bore you any further on this matter.  There was much to distance and dislike oneself about this chap…and yet I felt sorry for him.

He had endured bouts of loneliness and persecution (although, frankly, there was plenty of upside too).

What I loved about it though was the little story he told towards the end about his sex change operation.

It was hideously painfull and upon resuming normal life (in his dress) on the farm that he (now she) owned, she could not bear to sit down in the tractor because the pain was excrutiating.  After a while he/she went back to the surgeon that performed the procedure (privately and in a dodgy backhander sort of way) only to find out that “the bugger realised he’d left one of my testicles inside!”

“Bugger me.  I only had two of the little blighters, how could he have missed one of them?”  he/she said (or words to that effect.

It made me laugh and now…I am a fan of this uber posh woman/man called Miranda.

true Blood


Watching this?

It’s cool.

HBO is really pushing the limits of taste.

Again. (See Eastbound and down.)

On two occasions in the last two episodes – the first watching Jason Stackhouse, the main protagonist’s brother masturbating so hard that the blisters on his palms are bigger than the hands they grew on AND his poor member is engorged to the point of elephantiasis, requiring a blood withdrawal of epic proportions; and the second when the aforementioned star Sookie Stackhouse indulges in a spot of self indulgence as she dreams of her desired vampire lover “taking her” – my youngest daughter had to politely remove herself from the room.

But, the fact remains, it’s a great piece of TV, wonderfully shot (the outside scenes of houses at night have an otherworldliness about them that is unique) and the script crackles and fizzes throughout.

It’s purty sexy too y’all.

The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman


Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone is one of Radio’s treasures and tonight he played this unbelievable Radio Musical by Sparks.

Words cannot describe how extraordinary an event this was.  Sparks are weirder than weird.  Perfect for the Freakzone.  But their music is utterly beguiling and this ‘opera’ is a new creative high for them.

Transfixing.  Check it out on BBC iplayer.

Arise Sir Stuart.

I’m tired

I was part of a three man team that cooked dinner for 70 (Dougie and Angelo made up the three) on Saturday.

It was late.

But, then I had to be part of  a 50 ‘man’ team that was tasked with planting 1,500 plants in SQ on Sunday morning,


Except it pouredwith rain.

So…mainly most of the 50 expected turn outs didn’t turn up.

So we just got our fingers out and got wet.

Not a laugh.

my recent trip to Ibrox

The only Hibby stuff I  saw was this…


And I was at that match at Parkhead where Coisty came off the bench and beat us singlehanded in a league cup final with an overhead kick.

It was a killer,    By a legend.

Will.  Before you start.  You were with me.