A breath of fresh air.


The impact of the global recession has hit VisitScotland’s Framework for Change ambitions hard.  Even with the injection of energy from Homecoming Scotland our tourism economy has failed to grow at the rate demanded in this economic vision.  So, the additional £5m that Mike Cantlay announced for ‘guerilla marketing’ this summer and autumn has to be welcomed. It looks like a clear demonstration of logic, and we don’t always say that when we are critiquing public sector initiatives.

The logic is blindingly obvious.  The pound is weak, making the UK a cheap destination; so let’s increase our marketing in Europe.  What’s more, there’s a ruddy great cloud of volcanic ash hanging over us that’s making most people terrified to book flights to Europe (me included); so tempt people to stay at home – Cantlay claims 40% of us have never holidayed in Scotland.

I’m impressed with Cantlay’s decisiveness and ambition. Really impressed. He’s acting like an entrepreneur and spotting opportunity – not prevaricating about the bush as the opportunity drifts away like ash on the wind.  (Obviously though, Malcolm Roughhead and his team will be the real architects of the plan.).

He claims the £5m additional spend is but a pebble, but pebbles create ripples.  And his willingness to take a risk and very publicly throw that pebble into the pool surely has to be applauded.

Sure, you can debate whether the money is being spent in the right way, but that’s a question of tactics that I do not have the right to interrogate.  What I admire is the boldness of strategy and a willingness to put VisitScotland into the firing line, although I suspect it wiil turn out to be the line to receive plaudits some time hence.

He points to Obama’s effective investment in tourism marketing in the US believing that this will have a similar effect.  Will it?  Only time will tell, but for sure this is a very public and welcome act of aggressive marketing at a time when “cut” is the loudest word in most public sector boardrooms.  I hope it cleans up at the awards this time next year.

John Grant. The Queen of Denmark. (supported by Midlake)


Midlake are greedy bastards.  Not satisfied with making perhaps the album of the year (The Comfort of others) they have colluded with bandless stablemate John Grant to make eh, perhaps, the album of the year.  So expect to see Midlake feature heavily in the year end lists.

This is a very Midlake album.  It has their arrangements, touches and noodles for a start.  It strays back into Van Occupanther territory in that it explores 70’s soft rock influence (Barry Manilow, Elton John) as opposed to 70’s folk which caught their ear in The Comfort of Others.

But this is not a Midlake album.  It is most assuredly John Grant’s.  Stridently gay in its copy and occasionally whimsical, it packs a meaty punch.

I was blown away on first listening and then it got better.  The gayness of it is very evident.  But it’s what makes the album, because it gives him lyrical richness.  He combines a mix of ‘fuck you’ attitude and humour.  I have to say the only downsides of the album is when he overindulges in the humour and when Midlake over-noodle on the keyboards.

It’s a thing of very great beauty.  If you like Anthony and the Johnsons but hated his voice this might be more to your liking, Because it’s outrageously mellow.

For fans of Midlake this is required listening. (In fact I will hazard a guess that some of you who saw Comfort of Others as a retrograde step will find this re-engaging you.)

This is a great record in anyone’s language.  If it sells 5,000 copies in the UK I’ll be amazed.  Please be one of them?

Should have gone to Optical Express


Jeez.  Do I like a rant?

Bad service is top of my list of ranting (see recent O2 pishereama).  So it’s nice to be able to report a company having a good customer attitude and great service.

I’ve bought my last two pairs of specs from Optical Express and paid richly for the privelege (£700 a go including the “free” second pair).

Anyway, the new pair I just got a fortnight ago don’t work.  Or not for my eyes.  Top of the range varifocals they are.  But they don’t work.  What’s worse is that after only one week I dropped and scratched them.

So, I went to see the lovely ladies in The Gyle Centre Store and told them my concerns.

The result?

New lenses.  No charge. (mainly because they realised that the change of lens style that I had ordered just doesn’t work for some people.)

Brilliant service.  With a big smile.

I love that shop and anyone that wants new specs would be recommended to go there.

So.  I’m not just a moaning old git.  Am I?

An education


Carey kicks Nick Hornby's ass.

What a charming, lovable but vacuous film this is.

Carey Mulligan lights up the screen from start to finish and won the best supporting actress nomination that her outstanding performance may have deserved.

Likewise, Peter Sarsgaard is brilliant as the creeping ‘peado’ with a charm to bowl over Carey’s dad (Alfred Molina) and Mum (whoever she was – doesn’t really matter because she was crap).

To give this movie credit you have to look at the magic between Mulligan and Sarsgaard because apart from that it’s mostly awful.

Nick Hornby’s script cracks along at a right good pace for 70 minutes until it hits the white cliffs of Dover and then falls horribly to its death.  It looked like he couldn’t find a suitable ending and just gave up.  It reeked of pish and ham at the end.

The Continuity Dept was obviously on a holiday season because it’s rank (openng scene in the rain is on and off like an Icelandic volcano threat) and Alfred Molina is pathetically cast for two reasons.  Firstly he hams up his part and secondly he has a “jew ” problem about Sarsgaard despite being one of the UK’s most prominent Jewish actors.

It’s a mess.  It really is.  And yet; for 70 minutes I loved it.

7/10

She even blew the BAFTA’s away with the best dress of the night.  (And haircut. Ed.)

"that" dress.

Rachel Getting Married


Anne Hathaway in a career defining role.

I caught up with this 2008 gem on Sky last night.  How on earth could I have missed a cracker like this so completely at time of release?

Maybe I thought it was a chick-flick given its overwhelmingly female dominated cast.

It stars Anne Hathaway and RoseMarie DeWitt (plus that bloke from TV on The Radio). The movie engages from the opening frame in a deliberately low budget looking arthouse style from director Jonathon Demme (Silence of the Lambs).  OK, some of you won’t like the hand held camera work, contrived as it can be.  But on this occassion it creates the feeling of a home movie and that is precisely the point of it and the film because it’s a film about home and what home means.

Hathaway was a bit of a scene stealer in Alice in Wonderland as a cookie White Witch.  In this she is by turns vulnerable, beautiful and tortured.  Really it’s a barnstorming appearance.

The premise is simple Kym (Hathaway) is released from a long term rehab institution to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel.  The family reveals itself as increasingly dysfunctional and Hathaway’s drug dependency is at the core of the problem.  The reason why is unfolded in subtle layers until it becomes the fulcrum for the events that unfold at the wedding.  I won’t spoil it by telling you what happens but believe me when I say this is a stunningly acted and observed family drama that is really quite moving.  As a big music fan (including TV on The Radio) the phalanx of indie musos that make an appearance was the icing on the cake for me. (Robyn Hitchcock, Tunde Adebimpe, Fab 5 Freddy)

Oh, and did I mention Debra Winger as the mother?  No?  Outstandingly bitchy.

9/10.

Schmaltz? Not a bit of it!


This ad has come in for a lot of “talk” of late.

On three levels I love it.

1.  I am a big fan of Fyfe Dangerfield and he caresses this song by Billy Joel, so much so that it might go number one and bring his massive talent to a wider audience.

2. Once in a while an ad just nails it.  It is soooo John Lewis.  Sooo on brand.  Soooo middle Class.  But Soooo good.  I really do understand why people are breaking down watching it because it does “the seven stages of life” like nobody I can remember.

3.  The director is Scots born and bred and used to work at The Leith Agency (Dougal Wilson)

Absolute hats off to Adam and Eve.  And of course, to Craig Inglis, the client who had the balls to buy it.  Much respect.

But…

This does spoil it a little.

Coincidence?  Yes.  Unfortunate? Oh yes.