2009. That was my year that was.

And so the noughties come to a close…

2009 was a funny old year in many ways.

Work wise I’ve never been busier and gained some fascinating new clients along the way not least STV, Ampersand, Corporation Pop and LA Media.  But for some it has been a hell of a struggle and I hope things improve in 2010.  My own prospects for 2010 look a bit less silly than 2009.  Might even get some golf in.  Only played three medals in 2009 but following my FIRST EVER golf lesson in November I went on to finish second.  Yes, you heard that right, second in a winter medal and now sit proudly in 5th place overall in the winter league order of merit.  Just shows you that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

It was a mare of a year music wise.  I’ve already posted my tracks of the year elsewhere but I really struggled to pull together my top ten albums, so much so that I had to go into rereleases to make up the ten. Nevertheless, those that made it are great records in this or any year, there just weren’t many of them.

These are they;

The Phantom Band.  Checkmate Savage.

The year started brightly with this oddball Krautrock-influenced Rock and Roll album from what sounds like a bunch of stoners from Glasgow.  It’s great.  And I notice that this video from the album is directed by Martin Wedderburn (who I’ve worked with on commercials and Bronagh Keegan!  Who used to work for me at 1576.  Not to mention Ray Allan as a Barman and some Tetrahedron masks.)

Melody Gardot.  My One and Only Thrill.

Her first album showed promise, but her second is solid gold jazz and my personal achievement of the year was plucking up the courage to sing My One And Only Thrill from the record at the FAT concert on December 19th.

Doves.  Kingdom of Rust.

This year’s Elbow?  I suppose so, but this is to underestimate the quality of this beautiful, haunting and melodic rock record with real soul.

EG.  Adventure Man.

Why does this man (Eg White – silly name I know) not have a higher profile?  He writes many of Britain’s best pop songs (Chasing Pavements, Warwick Avenue, songs for Pink, James Morrison, Take That, Beverley Knight, Kylie Minogue, Will Young etc) .  He’s current songwriter of the year and nobody has heard of him. This is only his third album in two decades and it is astounding.  Pure wondrous pop.  Check him out please.

Bill Callahan. Sometimes I wish we were an eagle.

He was in Smog.  He WAS Smog.  (So what.  Nobody knows Smog either. Ed.)  This album came from nowhere from my point of view so thanks to Ian Dommett for introducing it to me.  It’s a wee bit like Lambchop from a vocal perspective but the music is way, way different.  Trust me on this one.

The XX.  The XX.

A quite extraordinary debut.  Sounding like a cross between Young Marble Giants and The Cocteau twins, but nothing like either, this was surely the debut of the year.  Electrifying and beautiful.  Self produced too.  Not bad for a bunch of teenagers. Interesting to see what happens next time round.  This video has already had 1.7m hits on youtube so clearly they are hitting a few people’s buttons.

Andrew Bird.  Noble Beast.

A multi instrumentalist from the states.  This is his 5th album and I’d missed them all before.  I will be catching up next year.

The Mummers. Tale to tell.

I saw March of The Dawn on Jools and was immediately blown away (that’s also where I discovered the XX).  The rest of the album hangs together well but this is the stand out track for sure.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  It’s Blitz.

Truth to tell I’ve not played this album that much, but it’s a great slice of arthouse rock and roll.  The critics loved it.  It only got into my top ten by the skin of its teeth though.

Kraftwerk.  Radioactivity, Computer Love and Trans Europe Express.

The re-release of Kraftwerk’s entire back catalogue fully remastered was the music event of the year.  This band’s influence never wanes.  But it’s clear they had a golden period with the three albums above taking my personal plaudits.  All of them pure 5 star and all quite different.  I think Radioactivity is my favourite.

Although all of the following met with critical acclaim I’m cool on them; Noah and The Whale, Paulo Nuttini (Although this would probably win the family’s album of the year overall on default – Ria and Jeana loved it and Tom and I were OK with it), Pete Doherty, (back to being a wanker again I see – is that ‘cos nobody bought his so so album) even Graham Coxon’s latest wasn’t that brilliant.

Martha Wainwright’s Edith Piaf record is good but not great, the God Help the Girl album was not good at all (I think Stuart Murdoch is missing the influence of his muse).

Time may show that I have overlooked the Animal Collective’s interesting album but I’m not so sure – a bit like TV on the Radio, the critics love it bus is it actually any good.

My blog has hit 296,000 views in the year which is 40,000 down on 2008 and perhaps reflects fewer posts (only 385 in total).  Or maybe it’s just shit now.  Still I think it’s a respectable total and thanks for your comments but I’d still like more contributions telling me when I’m being a tosser.  Especially you Iain as you regularly tell me offline.

The Hibees came back with a vengeance under the coaching of Yogi Hughes but the defeat to Rangers last week suggests a glass ceiling has been well and truly hit.  But there is some hope AGAIN for the cup.

Our clubs in Europe were pitiful and my lowlight in that respect was Falkirk (population 34,000) going out to a team from the mighty Lichtenstein – population 35,000 – that’s the country, not the town the team comes from.  Liechtenstein is so small it doesn’t even have a league.

Theatre played a big part in my year.  Apart from as an audience member.

I enjoyed Confined Human Condition by Cryptic and The Last Witch during the festival (although it was a bit overrated).  My role as a director of The Lyceum developed and I thought the production of Memoirs of a Justified Sinner was the highlight of the year.  Truly awesome.  But nothing was to match the impact of Ragtime during the festival in which Ria joined the ranks brilliantly and Ya Beauty which was an experience I will never forget.  My dad would have had “the tingles” for months.

Amy did brilliantly at school and finally nailed her English which gives her a great bunch of results to pursue her further education later this year.  In the meantime she’s doing great working full time at Dakota and having passed her driving test has her own transport (a rather beaten up Fiat Punto but it works, mostly).  Sadly Stuart moved away to Port Knockie so we ain’t seen so much of him.

Tom’s golf continued to improve and his handicap went from 15 to 11. He won two medals and The Greenkeepers Trophy and competed regularly for the team which is an achievement as it’s probably Ratho’s best ever junior team.   We went to watch but that ended in tears. A lot of the older guys leave for next year so interesting times. He also got into the Dunfermline Masters for the second year running.

He and Ria both have their Standard Grades this year and both got credits (in Tom’s case on appeal) in their English this year.

That particular subject has caused some grief as it is clear that Tom and Ria take rather different views on the importance of studying.  But I’ll not go into that here.

Ria substituted gymnastics for drama and I think she enjoys it much more as she has made a great new bunch of pals at FCT and is in her second show this Easter (Just So based on The Rudyard Kipling stories.  Watch this space.).  Ria is working like a trooper and had brilliant results in her prelims.  And she’s got a fella!  He’s not had the Gorman grilling yet.  But there is time for that.

Jeana’s work at Suntrap has blossomed (pun intended) and she loves it.  She managed two open days this year to great success.  Aided and abetted by her blog which you can find here .  It has steadily grown and is now pulling in 10,000 views a month.  She provided Tom and I with our comedy moment of the year when she slipped in Alvor during the summer holidays and cut her knee.  The slip was a true Laurel and Hardy moment as she careered down a cobbled street on her knees.  Tom and I wet ourselves but that was THE WRONG THING TO DO,  and we were punished accordingly.  Needless to say Ria was a tower of strength to Jeana in this moment of humiliation.  Tom and I still laugh about it.

We apologise.  Sorry Jeana.

However Alvor did give us our funniest collective moment of the year as you will see from this video which we shot in the town square in Alvor.  It was the local orchestra playing and this wee bloke at the back had only one job which he executed with lack of enthusiasm but not a great deal of ability as will be revealed.  We enjoyed it immensely as you will hear.

I also discovered the old 1576 promo videos that we created many years ago.  Not a good idea.

In books only one really stands out in a disappointing year.  I just didn’t have time.  This is astounding.

But I enjoyed this too…

And my movie of the year? I got to see a lot of great movies this year and the ones that really stood out were; the Hurt Locker, Harry Brown, The White Ribbon, Sherlock Holmes, Looking For Eric and Drag Me to Hell but the best for me was a TV documentary/movie of epic proportions made by the History Channel.

TV show of the year? No Question.  True Blood.

Digital gizmo of the year?  Again. no question.  Spotify.  But Facebook make a major ressurgence.  So much so that Jeana complained at one point that I was neglecting the blog.  Yeah, right enough.  Only 380 posts!.  Twitter continues to not flick my switch but I persevere.

My man of 2008, was Yogi Hughes.

Idiot of the Year?  Kenny Macaskill for doing a Tony Bliar [sic] on us about Magrahi.

Best party was the Yah Beauty wrap, followed closely by the Ragtime wrap.

Wife of the year? Jeana Gorman. 20th year running.

Put it this way. I couldn’t live with me. Still.

And so to 2010.

My hopes?

Hibees win the Scottish Cup.  (You say that every year.  Ed.)

Tom gets down to a 7 handicap.

I win something, anything, at Dundas Park

Amy gets into Uni.

I am healthy throughout.

Both Cath and Jean stay healthy too.

Tom and Ria do well in their exams.

The credit crunch doesn’t get worse again.

The Hurt Locker directed by Kathryn Bigelow

noun. A figurative place where someone is said to be or will be, if they are getting or expect to be getting hurt or beaten.

You may not agree with the politics behind the invasion of Iraq (I certainly didn’t support its invasion and will, forever, despise Tony Bliar [sic] for his misleading of the parliament) but whatever your stance one must surely support the troops that operate there.

This film takes a rather too pro-American stance in that it positions most Iraquis as “the enemy” in a fairy broadbrush way.  But that is about its only flaw, and if you can overlook that we are talking epic war movies here.

The film draws you in from the get go as we follow the episodic adventures of a team of bomb disposal experts filmed (documentary style) on the streets of an unnamed Iraqui city.

The insurgents will go to any extremes (hence why they’re known as extremists I guess) to ply their dirty trade, most gut-wrenchingly by creating a human bomb out of a murdered 10 year old boy (maybe it should have been called a cadaver bomb).

It’s pretty much a three man performance but the acting plaudits go principally to Jeremy Renner, a died in the wool adrenalin freak, and his more considered  colleague, played by Anthony Mackie.  I am not familiar with either of their work previously but both deliver measured and moving performances.

The central axis of the film is around Renner’s character SSgt William James who has defused over 800 bombs and approaches the task with a bravado that terrifies his more conservative collegues.  (In fact the movie’s opening line essentially captures his ethos; “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” )But he always gets the job done in the most difficult situations.  He’s positioned as a cold and callous redneck but, as often in these movies, the cracks begin to show and an entirely more human soldier emerges which revolves around his relationshp with a cheeky young Iraqui market trader (perhaps the only sympathetic Iraqui character in the movie).  This ends with a delicious twist that I’ll not spoil here.

There is no question that Bigelow deserves her place at the top table come Oscar time and might even win.  It would be amusing to see her put one over on ex-husband James Cameron who is propbably also in the running for Avatar.

This is a grown up movie with a really powerful hit.  It powerfully captures the emotion of war and sense of place that few war movies do (Thin Red Line by Terence Malik being an exception as well as the excellent made for TV movie, Occupation, made earlier this year with James Nesbitt; and also set in Iraq).

A big fat 9 out of 10 from me.

So. Who is South Queensferry’s greatest male dancer? Yes that’s right…

…Me.  (And Pete the Meat).

We tied in a prestigious dancing competition last night.  Our duet to ‘I’ve got a feelin’ by The Peas clearly sent the judges into a paroxysm of orgiastic delight.

Knickers were actually wet.  I tell you.

Pete and I were like the Fonteyn and Nuryev of the Noughties.

Michael Jackson would have immediately signed us up as backing dancers.

In a word we were… STRICTLY.

(Quite honestly folks, you missed yourselves)

Sherlock Holmes

The new incarnation of Holmes by Robert Downie Jr is fascinating.  His relationship with Watson (played by Jude Law) continues that enduring Holmesian ‘is he, isn’t he’ gay frisson which is suitably mashed up with the introduction of female love interests on both sides (Law’s played demurely – dully actually – by  Kelly Reilly and Holmes’ rather better by Rachel McAdams).

Central to the film’s success is Law and Downie Jr who really make you believe there is life in this as a new franchise.  Both (yes even Law) are excellent.  And especially when they are onscreen together they are great; carrying off the dialogue knowingly and often laugh out loud funnily.

It’s a great smorgasbrod of action, humour and special effects with enough Holmsian explanation of who did what and why to keep the interest up.

The set needs special mention as a London in which Tower Bridge is under construction plays a character role.  It’s really quite beguiling, and although much CAD is used it works.

The effect of a ship (also under construction) being set loose down a slipway is eye boggling and the use of lots of flying objects heading for the camera genuinely makes you duck (so who needs 3D then?)

Now for the bad news.  It’s long, way too long.  And the story is pretty silly really.  I won’t bore you with the details here.  The oft used metaphor of a raven of death marking character obliteration is naff (first year film school).

But overall I give it a healthy 7.5 out of 10. (The scene in the boxing booth justifies entry alone.)

Good honest entertainment.

John Hughes

And so, we approach Christmas.

Hibs sit within touching distance of the top of the league.  Of course all will be nought should tRangers take the spoils on the 27th – but the fact remains that John Hughes has made a transformation at Easter Road.  The big difference is not losing to the likes of Hamilton (apart from Hamilton) having raised our game the week before against the Old Firm and Hearts (we lost to Celtic and only drew with Rangers and Hearts).

Hibs aren’t even playing that well.  But what we are witnessing is a remarkable manager in his element.

Why is he remarkable?  Because he has done what others couldn’t; strung results together, brought the changing room together, got great performances out of mercurial talent (Zemmama specifically) and made good signings (Stack, Millar and Stokes).

He has a good team, which is astonishing in itself given the transfer activity at the slope, but needs must and Petrie has done a great job in steadying the ship and now, hopefully, the club will continue to invest sensibly on the pitch (see Stokes for evidence).

I am, once again, proud to be a Hibby (I always was actually) and look forward to the second part of the season with anticipation.

OK, the league and cup double may only be a dream, but it is NOT an impossibility.

Thank you John Hughes.  You are a magician and everyone who follows Hibs owes you a great deal.

Teens and tiaras

Actually. She was Ok.

Jeana and I watched this absurd celebration of Britain’s upper classes wherein two toff bitches taught a bunch of mostly toff, but some merely bewildered snobs, how to get married to rich, landed wanks.

It was pure magic.

The toff bitches (Jennie and Patricia) were the best double act since Morecombe and Wise.  Trouble is, they were deadly serious.

Someone was actually called Araminta.  Araminta?  Arabloodyminta!  What sort of a name is that?

There were more double barrels than the Olympic shooting qualifiers.

Twat after twat moment cascaded from our screens; arsehole after arsehole.  But mainly Pat and Jen. (They must be quietly seething that Mater and pater didn’t name them Arabella and Helena, so they could hold their heads higher amongst their so distinguished prodigies.)

It was a potpourri of upper class absurdity.

Sweetly, one of them was shy.  Shy?  She was totally overwhelmed by the pressure of having to be an international symbol of toffness and didn’t want to do it.

We met the Queen of Macedonia.  An ugly English ex-debutante.  The king sensibly declined.

We might as well have met the queen of fucking la la land.

Not only did the programme position the upper classes as tossers (in extremis) but the poor wee lassies who were being set up as debutante toff whores were actually aware of it and somewhat defensive.

I almost felt sorry for the poor rich bitches.

John Hegarty – a proper legend

In my business development role at STV I have had the pleasure this year of putting on events with Trevor Beattie of BMB, Mark Waites of Mother and now Sir John Hegarty, founder and creative director of BBH and the nearest you can come to a living legend in our industry.

He was spellbinding and bewitching.

So, so relevant.  And a perfect gentleman.  Not for him a trawl through the old BBH ads (of which there are dozens of gems to showcase); no,  he talked a lot about the digital world (and how it fits so well with TV which remains at the heart of any really succesful brand campaign) and the opportunities it held in the midst of a deep recession where the guard could easily change fundamentally.

He waxed lyrical about X factor and the renewed vigour of ITV (and STV) as a vibrant and exciting audience builder.

It reminded us that this is not a bad time to be in advertising and that we just need to remain in touch with the media landscape and prepared to harness new technologies not be afraid of them.

After all when Guttenberg reinvented bookmaking in the 15th century what was the first book he printed?

The bible!

The Best of the noughties

I struggled to do this I have to confess. It was a real killer to get it down to size.  So much to leave out.  My long list was 71 songs.  Anyway, here it is (if you can read it)…

But I persevered and ended up with this.  My absolute favourite songs of the noughties.  Again, I will send you a copy if you want it.

What surprised me when I finally got it down to size was how few female singer songwriters made it to the final list.

The best of 2009

OK.  It’s good to go.

Anyone wanting a copy of my best of 2009 CD let me know.  Here’s how it shapes up.

Eagle eyed observers will immediately spot that there is a very high presence from the hip hop and R and B world which, I have to say, has somewhat taken me by surprise.  But, hey, they’re all there on merit.  In fact, by my standards it’s almost mainstream.

The two stand outs for me are Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys which blew me away when I first heard it and Melody Gardot’s sublime My One and Only Thrill which I will, in fact, be performing on December the 19th.