Arrival: Movie Review


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If you are looking for Star Wars levels of excitement stop right here.  This is the wrong movie.

If you love Terence Malick step this way.

OK, so we have hopefully established that this is thinking man and women’s sci-fi.  By that I mean it’s quite slow.

But it’s beautiful and crafted and emotionally engaging.  The Aliens that arrive on earth in 12 seemingly unrelated locations do not appear to be warmongers, but are they?  What is their motive?  To find that out humankind will need to collaborate globally in finding a common language or means to communicate.

That’s gonna be tricky when three of the countries involved (Russia, China and Pakistan) are not commonly associated with collaborative political  working (a bit too much Cold War/Axis of Evil rhetoric here for my liking) and indeed these are the three countries that prove most troublesome and potentially trigger-happy in the plot.

Throughout, I was wondering what would happen here if this was real and Donald Trump was in office.  It doesn’t bear thinking about frankly.

Anyway, thankfully for humankind it’s Amy Adams as a polylinguistic professor called Fiona that’s in charge of negotiations with the Montana located spaceship full of Heptapods (7 legged floating Octopi).  Beautifully and sympathetically rendered.

Her accession to the post is a direct result of her in depth understanding of the Sanskrit word for war and its meaning (A desire for more cattle) unlike her potential competitor.

(Blink and you’ll miss that.)

Forest Whitaker recruits Adams, playing a passable General in charge of alien negotiation, and Adams is joined in her quest by mathematician Ian played in a nicely understated fashion by the always excellent Jeremy Renner.

But this is Adams’ movie (she’s a n increasingly class act) and it’s obvious why she is receiving Oscar nods (I doubt this is a winning role though).

Like everything about this understated movie the cinematography and special effects are designed to seduce rather than excite, but for me Bradford Young’s Dickensian lighting underwhelmed rather than understated.

Johan Johannson’s music is a big plus.  It underscores beautifully and clearly takes some cues from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Indeed this is the movie that it most resonates with; that and 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The back story of Adams’ life has a brilliant twist that uncoils slowly but surely and makes the whole a deliciously complex tale to unravel.

It’s worth it in my  opinion; but not my companion’s, who opined that it was “two hours of my life I won’t get back, even if Jeremy Renner is nice to look at”.

Way above average, thoughtful, slow moving but grown up sic-fi.

Just don’t expect Jedi forces.

Jock’s Jocks by Gary West: Review


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For those of you not in the know, Gary West is a Professor of Scottish Ethnology and presenter of Pipeline on Radio Scotland.

What Gary West doesn’t know about the bagpipe in its multifarious manifestations ain’t worth a skirl.  So it’s no surprise that this absorbing evening of drama, humour and music opens with Professor West playing small pipes to the accompaniment of the ten stringed, renaissance dated, cittern.  I have to say this was my first ever exposure to such a delightful beast.

The scene is a Scottish kitchen where three men and a youngster (played by Gary West’s son Charlie) have gathered for an evening of chat and music.  It seems a tradition.

Arriving late, Charlie brandishes an envelope full of ‘stuff’ that excites the men.  They want to know its contents but West junior only wants a dram.  For that he has to play the fiddle for the group’s entertainment.

Duly obliging we then watch, over the course of the next 40 minutes, a bottle and a half of fine malt disappear at breakneck speed.

A bit like the play really, which gathers no dust – unlike, until now, the contents of the envelope.  For these are the transcripts of interviews with Scots (mainly Highland) soldiers recounting their memories of WWI.

It’s fitting, then, that these stories are recounted in the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Remembrance Day.

In one particularly moving section of the play, which effortlessly slips from seemingly ad libbed pure storytelling and reminiscence into full blown theatre, the four men, in turn, reel off the names of men engaged in Gallipoli (a battle that has, over time, been appropriated almost exclusively to the Australian army).

Not so.

4th, 5th and 7th Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1st Battalion Kings Own Borderers, 7th and 8th Scottish Rifles, 5th, 6th and 7th Highland Light Infantry, 5th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and more, many more.  Each take their place on stage as their involvement in this terrible bloody battle are recalled in personal memories.

The toll taken on the horses who battled through extreme conditions, only to be slaughtered on arrival, exhausted, on the beaches draws gasps from the audience.

Indeed horse stories feature prominently in the evening’s entertainment along with the human reminiscenses.

All four actors deserve praise for they inhabit the lives, however briefly, of the collection of memoirs some funny, some poignant that have been painstaking collected, at first on paper and then on tape, by Jock Duncan (hence the name): the ensemble is completed by Scott Gardiner and Chris Wright.

They interact with ease, chuckling, heckling (there;s a few university gags thrown in, singing, playing their tunes and reading, often in deep Doric dialect the tales that underpin 20th Century Scots culture so sadly and so profoundly.

These are survivors tales, but it’s noted that in one bloody field there were but three graves and now there are six acres.  And that’s just one site.

This is a play that deserves a wider audience.  Although it was sold out it had only the one performance and yet it is a new and massively worthwhile piece of cultural history that would entertain and engage universally. (Many of the songs elicited audience participation, although I’m ashamed to say my only contribution was to Waltzing Matilda, which bookended the Gallipoli section on ‘moothie’ and in song.)

The University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies Archive is to be praised for supporting this and I, for one, hope it reaches a far wider audience in the years to come.

 

 

 

Life on Mars: Revisited by Mick Rock.


This is one of the classic pop videos.  It wasn’t seen much in the 1970’s when Mick Rock recorded it but earlier this year Rock was given access to the master tape as well as 3 other recordings he’d made of it.  The result a new treatment that plays lots of games.  Which do you prefer?

The original

The new mix/edit.

For me the new take is interesting, but feels over fussy.  I vote for the original and best.

The End of an era at Ripping Records. Simply the best.


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Every great music city has a Mecca.

In London it was Rough Trade, in New York it’s Bleeker Street Records.

In Edinburgh it was Ripping Records.

But on Saturday 26th November that Mecca closes for the final time.  John Richardson is retiring.

I was particularly privileged to have an ‘insiders’ relationship with Ripping, because my mate, then sister’s boyfriend and not long after, Brother in Law, was the second Lieutenant, Nik Sutherland.

It was a privilege indeed because it gave me access to quite a few guest list tickets.  Had I have been greedy enough I suppose I could have been out in Edinburgh’s music scene every night of the week but that would have been wrong.  You can only ask for so many favours. (Don’t get my wrong I bought plenty too.)

Every time I popped in, Nik or John would bung me a promo disc saying “you might like this” and back in the record rep days w hen there were thousands of T shirts on the go, I’d often be the recipient of Nik’s cast offs.

I have a few to this day.

It all started for me as a student in the late 1970’s.  In those days John took care of proceedings downstairs and Nik ran the record exchange upstairs.  It was, in a way, the predecessor to e-Bay.  Hundreds of (mainly) punk singles put on display by their owners at their stated “buy now” price for which Ripping took a commission.  I was an avid collector of Stranglers singles and purchased most of them at Ripping and then, when I was at my poorest, ironically when I’d started my first real job, I sold them there at a significant premium.

It was good business.

Ripping was cool, if a little scary.  John and Nik (and Davey) took no shit from anyone (including me) and there were plenty of wee bampots that used to hang around there, so there was always the chance of something kicking off, but it was cool as fuck and I was anything but cool, so it gave me a bit of swagger and second hand street cred, to be associated by marriage.

As my kids grew up they were able to pretty much guarantee themselves T in the Park Tickets and that was great too.

But mostly what I loved about Ripping was that it was just a cultural hang out where you could talk music for hours with John and Nik.  I was always made welcome and could chat round and about the busy comings and goings of the place.

It was, of course, part of its own micro-economy of The Bridges where local traders helped each other out.

One story I loved was when the girl from the shoe shop told Nik and John that she’s had a customer in that morning.  Let’s just say she wasn’t the most sophisticated Fifer in Fife.

She’d come in looking for long lace up boots that had a certain role.

“Huv yae goat any ae thae shaggin’ bits?” was her query.

Of course it was tough.  Always tough.  The other Record Shop in Cockburn Street was cheaper.  HMV muscled in on the ticket scene.  TicketScotland threatened to become a monopoly.  Ripping never had the buying clout to compete and it seemed to me from about 1990 they hardly sold any music.

It was tickets that became its game and slowly but surely an idiosyncratic website emerged that was an Aladdin’s Cave of musical treasure.  I’m sure John will join me in thanking the venues that resolutely refused to cut Ripping out of the musical ecosystem of Edinburgh and allowed them to continue to make a living and be THE place in Scotland to buy your tickets.

The buses to Glasgow (predominatly to Barrowlands in my experience, but most likely that hell hole that was the SECC too) were the stuff of legend.  One night Nik would be on his way to a death metal gig, the next a boy band and sometimes to bands he actually wanted to see.

Thanks John and Nik and Davy.

It was fucking brilliant.

Fore!

Arsehole alert!


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This morning I took a call from a “withheld number”.

After a few seconds delay a foreign sounding chap announced himself be saying “Good morning I am calling from Microsoft organisation and I’m calling you about your computer.”

Now at this point with these unsolicited callers I usually wait for them to ask for Mr Gorman and say “I’ll just get him for you.” then put the phone down and wait for them to hang up.

But he didn’t say that.

He said “are you the main computer user?” to which I replied “no, my husband is.”

He sounded shocked and asked “are you a man or a woman?” to which I replied somewhat indignantly “I’m a man?”.

Quick as a flash he astoundedly asked “Are you a gay?” in quite a high pitched voice.

I responded “are you an arsehole?”

“Fuck off” he replied.

“Fuck you” was my admittedly unsubtle retort.

I don’t remember exactly how he finished the call but included further cursing and general homophobia, at which point he hung up.