Mum’s BBQ

Tom, Ria, Amy and Emma

Late Oclock

most of us...


My Mum turns 75 on Tuesday and she had a party last night to celebrate.  Absolutely great night and a little late.  I stayed over with her and had to help clear up the carnage this morning before rapidly driving home and taking Ria to a 4 hour rehearsal for the Chess Game.

I’m on my knees now…


And so the festival lies before us…

We saw the Wheel at the Traverse to kick off our festival and next we have the show that FCT is doing; The Chess Game.  I chair this youth theatre and we have 40 excited youngsters treading the boards for the 33rd year in a row at the Festival.

Next, I have Wondrous Flitting, which The Lyceum is staging at The Traverse;  The Lyceum Theatre Company’s first Fringe outing in many years.

Then there’s the shows I’ve booked so far.  I’m seeing Steven Berkoff in action in Oedipus next Friday.  That should be utterly sensational.

But also one of the hot tickets which I have is to see Marc Almond  In Ten Plagues.

But my aching hollow in my chest is for Dance Marathon.  Who will go with me to this experiential play in which the audience dance for four hours in a real life “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’

There is more…all at the Traverse at the moment, a site specific piece in Edinburgh’s Medical Hospital which is about death and the afterlife called “What Remains” and David Greig’s reputedly wonderful “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” with its promising Kylie Minogue finale.

You’ll notice I am not doing the Fringe Cancer; Comedy.

I may do Dave Gorman, and I’ve been invited to The Stand opening night pre-fest jolly with CBS, but I don’t do comedy because I’m a miserable Quantas flyer.

Oh, and a snob.

More Mercury Prize purchasing

I saw Metronomy at Glastonbury and really liked them.  I’ve been aware of them as background noise but notably hyped to the max by Mark Radcliffe on 6 Music.  So I took the plunge and bought this yesterday.  On first listening it is very good indeed and deserves its spot on the list.


I have just purchased this rather good album…

It’s a dubbified ‘take on Steve Mason’s critically lauded Boys Outside.

By pure coincidence I met my pals Will and Jim yesterday and they pointed me in the direction of African Head Charge which is also a dub band.

So I listened to this on Spotify this morning.  Excellent.


Time for a new bike.

I’ve had this thing for 11 years.  It was a gift from the IPA when I left 1576 to “never return” to the industry.

I think I managed a week (and even then I was on holiday).

Anyway it weighs more than Saturn and although it’s served me well the time has come to buy something a little more dextrous.

The early favourite was this little peach.  But it’s only available at Halfords and my bikey pals are warning me off Halfords.  I’ll probably use Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative or Alpine Bikes.

Any thoughts?

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s finally dies

I was kidding.

He seems no nearer death than the day he was released on farcical terms from prison nearly two years ago after killing 270 innocent people in the skies over Lockerbie.

Indeed yesterday the bastard was wheeled out at a pro Gaddafi rally in Tripoli, albeit in a wheelchair.

Kenny Macaskill, and for that matter Alex Salmond have a lot to answer for.

Megrahi in Tripoli. Lording it.

I’m all agog at agogo signing

Having thought about Calderwood’s signing of 31 year old “Junior” Agogo (he’s not THAT Junior at 31) for the Hibees I am wondering if it is worth a trip to Easter Road; if only to hear the Einstien Agogo riff when he scores.

I don’t think anything has put as much of a smile on my face , as a Hibby, for many a month.  (Sorry; year.)

But you didn’t have to be an Einstien to work that out.

Charlie Brooker can be one of the most articulate men I know of…

Here, in full, is what he wrote with utter clarity on Sunday.  It deserves an award or something…

I went to bed in a terrible world and awoke inside a worse one. At the time of writing, details of the Norwegian atrocity are still emerging, although the identity of the perpetrator has now been confirmed and his motivation seems increasingly clear: a far-right anti-Muslim extremist who despised the ruling party.

Presumably he wanted to make a name for himself, which is why I won’t identify him. His name deserves to be forgotten. Discarded. Deleted. Labels like “madman”, “monster”, or “maniac” won’t do, either. There’s a perverse glorification in terms like that. If the media’s going to call him anything, it should call him pathetic; a nothing.

On Friday night’s news, they were calling him something else. He was a suspected terror cell with probable links to al-Qaida. Countless security experts queued up to tell me so. This has all the hallmarks of an al-Qaida attack, they said. Watching at home, my gut feeling was that that didn’t add up. Why Norway? And why was it aimed so specifically at one political party? But hey, they’re the experts. They’re sitting there behind a caption with the word “EXPERT” on it. Every few minutes the anchor would ask, “What kind of picture is emerging?” or “What sense are you getting of who might be responsible?” and every few minutes they explained this was “almost certainly” the work of a highly-organised Islamist cell.

In the aftermath of the initial bombing, they proceeded to wrestle with the one key question: why do Muslims hate Norway? Luckily, the experts were on hand to expertly share their expert solutions to plug this apparent plot hole in the ongoing news narrative.

Why do Muslims hate Norway? There had to be a reason.

Norway was targeted because of its role in Afghanistan. Norway was targeted because Norwegian authorities had recently charged an extremist Muslim cleric. Norway was targeted because one of its newspapers had reprinted the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Norway was targeted because, compared to the US and UK, it is a “soft target” – in other words, they targeted it because no one expected them to.

When it became apparent that a shooting was under way on Utoya island, the security experts upgraded their appraisal. This was no longer a Bali-style al-Qaida bombing, but a Mumbai-style al-Qaida massacre. On and on went the conjecture, on television, and in online newspapers, including this one. Meanwhile, on Twitter, word was quickly spreading that, according to eyewitnesses, the shooter on the island was a blond man who spoke Norwegian. At this point I decided my initial gut reservations about al-Qaida had probably been well founded. But who was I to contradict the security experts? A blond Norwegian gunman doesn’t fit the traditional profile, they said, so maybe we’ll need to reassess . . . but let’s not forget that al-Qaida have been making efforts to actively recruit “native” extremists: white folk who don’t arouse suspicion. So it’s probably still the Muslims.

Soon, the front page of Saturday’s Sun was rolling off the presses. “Al-Qaeda” Massacre: NORWAY’S 9/11 – the weasel quotes around the phrase “Al Qaeda” deemed sufficient to protect the paper from charges of jumping to conclusions.

By the time I went to bed, it had become clear to anyone within glancing distance of the internet that this had more in common with the 1995 Oklahoma bombing or the 1999 London nail-bombing campaign than the more recent horrors of al-Qaida.

While I slept, the bodycount continued to rise, reaching catastrophic proportions by the morning. The next morning I switched on the news and the al-Qaida talk had been largely dispensed with, and the pundits were now experts on far-right extremism, as though they’d been on a course and qualified for a diploma overnight.

Some remained scarily defiant in the face of the new unfolding reality. On Saturday morning I saw a Fox News anchor tell former US diplomat John Bolton that Norwegian police were saying this appeared to be an Oklahoma-style attack, then ask him how that squared with his earlier assessment that al-Qaida were involved. He was sceptical. It was still too early to leap to conclusions, he said. We should wait for all the facts before rushing to judgment. In other words: assume it’s the Muslims until it starts to look like it isn’t – at which point, continue to assume it’s them anyway.

If anyone reading this runs a news channel, please, don’t clog the airwaves with fact-free conjecture unless you’re going to replace the word “expert” with “guesser” and the word “speculate” with “guess”, so it’ll be absolutely clear that when the anchor asks the expert to speculate, they’re actually just asking a guesser to guess. Also, choose better guessers. Your guessers were terrible, like toddlers hypothesising how a helicopter works. I don’t know anything about international terrorism, but even I outguessed them.

As more information regarding the identity of the terrorist responsible for the massacre comes to light, articles attempting to explain his motives are starting to appear online. And beneath them are comments from readers, largely expressing outrage and horror. But there are a disturbing number that start, “What this lunatic did was awful, but . . .”

These “but” commenters then go on to discuss immigration, often with reference to a shaky Muslim-baiting story they’ve half-remembered from the press. So despite this being a story about an anti-Muslim extremist killing Norwegians who weren’t Muslim, they’ve managed to find a way to keep the finger of blame pointing at the Muslims, thereby following a narrative lead they’ve been fed for years, from the overall depiction of terrorism as an almost exclusively Islamic pursuit, outlined by “security experts” quick to see al-Qaida tentacles everywhere, to the fabricated tabloid fairytales about “Muslim-only loos” or local councils “banning Christmas”.

We’re in a frightening place. Guesswork won’t lead us to safety.

Off to see Tom play in the semi finals of the Edinburgh boys interclub Tournament versus Dalmahoy

Big game for the wee man.  Two year’s ago Ratho won this tournament for the first time in their history.  There’s still a lot to do but we have a good team in Tom, Gregor, Drew and Josh so fingers crossed for a good result.  Final is this afternoon.  Playing at The Burgess so I’ll have to act like a fucking toff.  No chance there then!  Expect an eviction at some point.


mercury prize

I love the Mercury Prize.

It’s the only music awards with utter credibility.  The only one where PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi can be ranked joint favourites ahead of Adele and all three have equal creative status and regard.

But the best record, for me, this year has been the beautiful King Creosote and Jon Hopkins record.  I’ve said this before and I shared moments from it with you.  Here’s another.  Please enjoy it.

It’s an ambient piece – the intro to the album – it has a really beautiful soul to it.  It’s a field recording from a tea shop in Anstruther or Pittenweem.

Meanwhile I have invested in these Chuckle Brothers to the tune of Five English pounds at 14 to 1.

Because a principle is not a principle unless it might cost you money.

Lyceum Youth Theatre. Summer on Stage

Summer on stage. Love it.

Oh how I love this concept and this theatre group.

OK.  As you know, I have a vested interest but Summer on Stage is a wonderful initiative that must create lifetime memories for the young people involved.

And once again two diametrically different shows spellbound its audience tonight.


The older group (14 to 18 ish) performed Lorca’s Blood Wedding.

Now; this is no light undertaking.  It is not for the fainthearted.

This is a mammoth theatrical event and for a cast of youth to take it on relies on production and direction of utter commitment so John Glancy should take a bow for having the chutzpah to go for it.

It’s epic.

It’s supremely challenging and the cast pulled it off to great effect thanks in large part to the astonishing direction by Steve Mann.  Really his input cannot be underestimated.  Visually, it’s stunning, the movement enthralling and the chorus work electrifying.

The principal parts, and there are several, were all carried off with great skill.

Hanni Shinton (as the grieving mother) in particular has a stage presence beyond her years; but so too Isla Cowan as the Bride.

This really is a show that is dominated by the woman as they grieve, plot and react to situations running out of control as the menfolk brutalise one another for their shared love of the same women.

A special note of praise has to go to Rebecca McCoach as the Beggar Woman as her disturbingly dressed “thing” creeped us all out.  Hanging around the stage like a bad smell and representing death her presence was foreboding and distasteful.  Perfect.

Of course, taking three weeks to stage an epic does not come without its faults.  For me the end became pretty intense and I’d like the volume to have dropped a little but that’s a pretty churlish point about a show that must make each and every contributor immensely proud.


Part two introduced us to the younger members of LYT (10 – 13) in a show called ‘It Snows’ which was redolent, to me, of Let The Right One In, the Swedish vampire movie that is essentially about young, and innocent, love.

This is a charming piece of theatre that was brought to life vigorously, hilariously and touchingly by director Christie O’carroll who was responsible for LYT’s recent production of Bassett which I was fortunate enough to see twice.  Christie is a treasure.  the lightness of touch of her direction of this superb script was a real triumph.

There are moments of laugh out loud comedy (particularly when the chorus play out stereotypical mother and father skats).  But it’s sad and touching too.

The show tackles the trials of growing up with the subplot of a poor, lonely little girl, ostracized from her community, maybe disabled, maybe abused watching on, detached from her upper floor room (it was this plot devise that reminded me so strongly of Let The Right One In), meanwhile Cameron and Caitlin attempt to “get it on” awkwardly, whilst each is the subject of peer abuse (especially Cameron).  Like two peas in a pod they gradually overcome their shyness and this leads to a delightful romance.

Again the chorus adds vibrant colour to the overall piece (a play written ostensibly for 7 parts but which effortlessly carries 30).

My only criticism would be that the dance routines slightly stopped the flow of the play and were slightly too long.

Other than that; Louis Plummer, Beth Moran and your 28 colleagues take a well deserved bow.


One last point.  Technically the shows were a triumph.  The set stunning, great lighting and we could hear every word.  No mean feat.

Watch this…

I’m recording an interview about David Ogilvy and his impact on the world of advertising tomorrow for BBC Radio Scotland with Victor Brierley and Graham Atha.  So I’ve read Ogilvy on Advertising and looked at some of his heritage, such as this “lecture.”

Whilst he is a great copywriter, no doubt and established a very effective global agency neither of the aforementioned facts get in the way of him being a hugely opinionated, arrogant and particularly irritating man.

“I don’t do rules” he says.


Never have I read a book so full of rules as Ogilvy on Advertising.

That said.  He incisively and instinctually notes many, many truisms that hold true 35 years after he wrote what some consider a seminal work.

Me, I can take him or leave him.

Anyone that says creativity is the most dangerous word in the lexicon of advertising is fundamentally wrong.

Sorry.  That’s just wrong.

The British Open

Looking forward to an excellent afternoon of golf.  I’d love to see Darren Clark win and I think he has an outstanding chance.  Mickelson looms large in the background but I don’t think he has a five under par round in him.

Martin Kaymer on the other hand does and I see him as a real threat.  Don’t fancy Dustin Johnson to do it for some reason.

Every year I back Jiminez and every year you get your money’s worth out of him.  He needed a couple of birdies yesterday to have a realistic hope of winning and hasn’t birdied for a round and a half so not looking good enough.

However I’d be delighted to see him pick the Claret Jug up.

My prediction at this point?  Close between Clark and Kaymer.  Maybe just Kaymer in a play off.

Mercury Prize 2011

OK.  Tuesday sees the shortlist of 12 albums by UK and Irish artists revealed.

Here’s my best guess at who will be on it.

I think this year’s list will be dominated  (and won) by female artists.

So Adele will probably be favourite.

Closely followed by PJ Harvey.

With a squeak for Anna Calvi.

Rumer may get an MOR nod.

Rachel and The Unthanks will get the customary folk nomination.

Tiny Tempah gets the dance vote

So too will Freindly Fires who cross the dance/Indie divide.

Big names on the list will include Elbow and possibly Robert Plant again with a possibility of Radiohead’s Hail the thief sneaking in.

Making up the numbers will be indy favourites The Vaccines and Foals.

Two outsiders that I’d like to see there are King Creosote and Jon Hopkins and in the Jazz camp we might see Penguin Cafe.

So here’s my prediction…

Adele                                                  CHECK

PJ Harvey                                         CHECK

Anna Calvi                                        CHECK

Rachel and the Unthanks              FAIL

Tiny Tempah                                    CHECK

Friendly Fires                                  FAIL

Vaccines                                            FAIL

Foals                                                  FAIL

Elbow                                                 CHECK

Robert Plant                                     FAIL

Radiohead                                        FAIL

Penguin Cafe                                   FAIL  (Shoulda had the courage of my convictions and gone for King Creosote)

A separation

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.

Tree of Life. Terence Malick’s ultimate movie.

One of Lubezki's stunning visual captures.

Tree of Life is a sensational 90 minute movie wrapped up, to my mind, in a highly flawed 150 minute art installation.

It’s the film Malick clearly wants to become his legacy and I so wish he’d really pulled it off.  Apparently the critics at Cannes were booing and laughing at its finale and to a point I can understand why.  I’ll bet they were enraptured through the middle section.

Malick’s idea is to create a movie about a man in his 50’s looking back on the inconsequence (but to him monumental importance)  of his tiny, but in many ways typical, life set against the greatness of the universe, its creation and God’s role in all this.

So we open with an hour or so of Kubrick’s classic 2001; a space Odyssey mashed up with the Best of David Attenburgh and a tiny little bit of Jurassic Park thrown in.  It’s about the birth of the universe and the creation of man.

For some this has been the most stunning (and it is stunning visually) opening to a film ever made.  To others it’s pretentious twaddle.  I have to say I fell into the latter camp.  It’s way too long and self indulgent.  Malick describes it as a companion piece to the main movie.  If you’ve read the Life of Pi it’s structurally very reminiscent of the first 100 pages which is essentially an essay on the role of religion in life today before the boy and the Tiger set to sea in an unbelievably good yarn.

Incidentally, the Tree of Life ends with a coda recalling the opening hour.  Mercifully shorter; it doesn’t grate as much.

And so, we have a movie embedded in and drawn from, thematically at least, this “meaning of life” wrapper.

And it’s quite, quite beautiful; it very roughly follows the lives of a family in 1950’s Texas.  Middle class I suppose and pretty much the typical Western family.  Dad’s frustrated because he is not an overachiever and at times this has consequences.  But really it’s not that important because it’s not a story as such.

The man in his 50’s who we meet in the “creation sequence”, Sean Penn, is reminiscing on this time, at first dewy eyed but later more critically as he follows his childhood and adolescance that culminates in the death of one of his brothers (not a spoiler as it is revealed in the first frames).

This is Malick’s genius because in this he essentially wraps a universal childhood into 90 minutes of relatively sequential vignettes that absolutely draw the breath at times.  As a baby plays with bubbles, as a group of kids are ecstatically sprayed (innocently ) with a cloud of DDT from a passing lorry, as brothers bicker, as Mum and dad stroke their childrens’ hair and read them bedtime stories.

It’s wonderful.

And then the plot, I say plot but that’s a very loose term because this is not a plotted narrative, develops as we see that the father is actually a pretty heavy handed patriarch.  This section reveals the excellence of Brad Pitt who plays the father movingly and with sufficient restraint to avoid the part lapsing into caricature.

The mother though (a spellbinding performance by Jessica Chastain) is the real heart and soul of the movie because it is her that recites what amounts to a love poem for its first 10 minutes or so; espousing her love of her beautiful sons and her love of god.  The scene is set when she says “there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace”  she implores her boys to follow the path of grace (of God) and she maintains an air of grace throughout.

Her eldest son, Jack, later to appear as Penn is the main protagonist and also performs bewitchingly; a first movie for Hunter McCracken – it will most certainly not be his last.

What makes this film so wonderful is the way that Malick (and his cinematographer Emannuel Lubezki – phenomenal) capture the universal truths of family life without it at any time feeling like cliche.  I felt myself strongly empathising with young Jack, most powerfully as his adolescent rage boils up towards his father and the unfairness of adulthood.  “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.”  It’s visceral.

The Tree of Life is a central and recurring visual metaphor but is handled with subtlety and conviction.

So, with a far shorter art indulgence section this film would have been a 9/10.  With it, it’s a 7.