gibberish


Not quite Dear Green(est) Place.

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The literal translation of Glasgow’s name is ‘Dear Green Place’ and the City has traded on this for many years now.

However, an analysis by mapping firm Esri UK ,analysing Landsat 8 satellite images from spring 2016 for the 10 cities with the largest populations in the UK, has found that in fact Edinburgh is far greener and is actually the greenest medium to large sized city in the UK as the image above (from today’s Guardian) reveals.

The top ten was as follows:

10. Liverpool 16.4% green

9. Bradford 18.4% green

8. Manchester 20.4% green

7. Leeds 21.7% green

6. Sheffield 22.1% green

5. Greater London 23% green (good old Royal Parks)

4. Birmingham 24.6% green

3. Bristol 29% green

2. Glasgow 32% green

1. Edinburgh (a whopping) 49.2% green

Sorry Glasgow, but Edinburgh is half again greener than you are.

It’s notable that much of the green in Glasgow is in the East end.

You can read all about it here.

 



T2: Review. So much better than the original.

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On the day that the infamous ‘Banana Flats’ in Leith were accorded ‘A listed’ architectural heritage status I was in the cinema to see the sequel to the movie that contributed to the Brutalist building’s cultural credibility.

Trainspotting left me cold in 1996. Danny Boyle’s casting of Ewan McGregor as Renton sat extremely uncomfortably with his characterisation in Irvine Welsh’s mind-blowing source novel.  The stage adaptation that featured both Ewen Bremner and Susan Vidler was much more mind-blowing and credible than the movie.

A public schoolboy from Creiff simply did not fit my vision of an, albeit relatively educated compared to his peers, junkie from West Granton.

The low budget special effects were largely corny.

The baby on the ceiling?  Come on.

The filthiest toilet in Scotland?  With crystal clear water?  Come on.

But the music was outstanding and it clearly nailed a cultural moment (I hesitate to say zeitgeist).

So, my expectations of a sequal, especially of a cult youth movie, twenty years on, were hardly sky high.

They should have been, because in my view this is everything that Trainspotting was not.

“Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family…. “ Renton’s cynical rant in the original is a sardonic take on the AIDS campaign that fitted so perfectly with the drug addled HIV capital of Europe  moniker that Edinburgh ‘enjoyed’ in the mid 1990’s.  The city’s unique needle-sharing skag culture had contributed to a minor epidemic, and choosing life was  not a decision, merely a potential outcome.

This underclass had zero control.

Zero choice.

Only Renton (who at least had supportive parents) had the wherewithal to escape; not just from the vicious circle, but from the country itself. Set up with £12,000 of his mates’ money, the proceeds of a London drug sale that he had, admittedly, part funded (That gets overlooked and is a slight plot-hole for me.) he escaped to Amsterdam and a new life.

That he chose.

T2 opens on Renton’s return to the Promised Land, an Edinburgh where the airport meeter greeters are Eastern European.  A family without his mother (he didn’t make the funeral).  A Leith that is part-gentrified, although Sick Boy’s Salamader Street flat symbolically overlooks a massive scrap metal yard, the graveyard of dream cars.  A metaphor for life’s finite span.

The movie (very) roughly adapts Welch’s Porno, but with many flashbacks and additional scenes from the Trainspotting novel that could have been in the original (not least the scene in Leith Central Station).

The budget is six times the original and it shows.  In a good way.  The cinematography bristles from start to finish (Anthony Dod Mantle) and the script bristles with comedy and tragedy in almost equal measure.  The scene in the King William Bar (1690) is a classic.

Not all the characters have fared as well as Renton.

SickBoy, although lithe (thanks to the Charlie) owns his Aunty’s boozer (the beautifully named Port Sunshine – Hibees ya bass) it’s a doss house and in need of investment. His Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika is the only new character to join the fray and cleverly plays the tart with, half, a heart.

Spud’s still a, now suicidal, junkie.

Begbie’s still a fucking bampot on the run from the jail.

Spud, Sickboy and Renton join forces to turn the Port Sunshine into a cultural heritage landmark in Leith attracting considerable public investment.  (For cultural heritage read brothel, sorry, sauna.)

It turns into a hilarious revenge thriller with Begbie on the rampage.

In a turnkey scene Renton sits with Veronika in the fancy Harvey Nichols Forth [sic] floor restaurant.  He reminisces on the Choose Life soliloquy but reframes it, every bit as cynically, for 2017.

“Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares … Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero-hours contract, a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse …”

This is the point of the movie.  I don’t think it’s about nostalgia as so many reviews have said.  What was great about the foursome’s life in 1996?  Fuck all.

No, this is about regret and the search for middle aged redemption.  A new opportunity to escape the cycle of shit that the trio (Begbie couldnae give a fuck) have immersed themselves in.

It’s an echo of the 1996 dream that, for Sickboy and Begbie, was stolen from them in that London hotel room.  But you know, deep down, it’s not going to work out.  Is it?

Danny Boyle and John Hodge have created a monumental movie.  Poignant, funny, beautifully nuanced and reflecting (not nostalgically) their acknowledged masterpiece of 1996.  The weaving together of three generations of the key chartacters’ respective lives is effortless and the music mirrors that extremely subtly.

Ewen Bremner is the real star with his beautifully sad performance as Spud.  Ewan McGregor has grown into Renton’s skin and can finally be forgiven the original miscasting. Robert Carlyle’s Begbie just manages to steer clear of charicature, and delivers moments of high camp scary bastardness.

The whole thing is a fucking blast.

Go see it.

By the way, credit to Harvey Nichols for granting the rights to use, and adapt, their outstanding shoplifting commercial as part of the movie.



Well done The Sunday Herald. You’ve gone global

No doubt you’ve seen yesterday’s superb Sunday Herald TV listing for Trump’s inauguration, but if you haven’t here it is.

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Great so see the paper get high quality recognition in this piece in Time.

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Super Furry Animals at The Usher Hall Edinburgh: Review
December 13, 2016, 12:14 pm
Filed under: Arts, creativity, gigs, music, Rants, Reviews | Tags: , ,

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Usually with bands I prefer their early work before they ‘sell out’.  So this retrospective set of 1996’s Fuzzy Logic and 1997’s Radiator should have got me going.

But, see, I likes their later stuff. 2000’s Myng, 2001’s Rings Around the World and 2003’s Phantom Power.

There was nothing particularly wrong about this rendering of their two debut albums.  Not from the band anyway.

But the sound.  Oh my sweet Lord.

Helen Keller wearing an aqualung could have put on a better performance than this.

Go to your next gig wearing a parka with your hood up, wrap your head in a duvet and then get a dog to piss on it and you’d be getting close to experiencing what went on the Usher Hall last night.

Rubbish. And, consequently, boring.

Another great example of why Edinburgh is crying out for a good mid sized venue (it was only half sold out) because the Usher Hall is putrid for rock and roll.

1 star.

 



2016 wasn’t the best year was it.
November 26, 2016, 10:03 am
Filed under: creativity, language, music, politics, Rants

Apologies for the language in this but Flo and Joan really nail this horrendous year.



I, Daniel Blake: Movie Review.

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Ken Loach does it again.

If you know Ken Loach (and importantly his writing partner Paul Laverty) you’ll know I, Daniel Blake.

It’s a nightmare.

A total nightmare.

Life on poverty line Britain that is.

And Loach hammers this home with gusto.

He chooses Newcastle as his latest political landscape, partly because “it’s grim up North” but also because, in my experience, Geordies are the salt of the earth; kind, lovable folks. And this is the main emotional driver of this nightmare.

Daniel Blake is caught in a trap.

A beaurocratic hell populated by “computer says no” mini Hitlers occupying mainly minor roles in the Jobseeker hell that is Tory Britain.  In  a bid to out ‘scroungers’ the system has eaten itself and is spitting out vulnerable pitiful fodder like Daniel (played deeply sympathetically by comedian Dave Johns.  He’ll never win an Oscar but this part was made for him) and the lovable but deeply vulnerable Katie (played equally well by Hayley Squires – Call the Midwife).

He’s had a heart attack and his doctors say he can’t work but the Benefits Police say he has to go on jobseeker allowance and look for work or lose all entitlement to any money AT ALL.

It’s farcical.

She’s moved from a women’s hostel in London because she can’t afford a flat in London with her two children (one slightly miscast as a rather posh daughter, Daisy).  She’s having the same problems, only hers start from a tinpot Hitler chucking her out of the Job Centre for being late for her appointment.

They bond.  He helps her.  She helps him.  It’s grim but deeply affecting.  We then follow their shared struggle.

In many ways this movie is like a Ken Loach Primer.  It has all his usual trademarks and the ‘working class people are good’ message is laid on way too thickly.

But.

And it’s a big but they are in a profoundly believable real-life drama and I found myself in tears (of collective shame?) three times during it.

It certainly makes the reality of food banks in Britain very, very meaningful.  I won’t pass a collection point again if my conscience holds up.

Everything that is good about Loach is in this film.  In parts it’s laugh out loud funny (but it’s laughs of derision at our State).  In parts it’s deeply moving, even though some of the plot is verging on the ridiculous.

But who cares.  Ken Loach holds a mirror up to our frankly DISGUSTING society and mocks it.

But he mocks it with the most vicious of venom.

It feels real.  Really real.

It’s a must see.



My personal fears for The UK if we leave the European Union.
June 15, 2016, 6:01 pm
Filed under: business, politics, Rants, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

The European Union was inspired by the vision of bringing peace, unity and prosperity to Europe in the wake of The first and second world wars.  We have these 11 men to thank for that. Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 17.01.40.pngThe first tangible manifestation of that vision was the European Coal and Steel Community with Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands leading the way.  Note that two are former fascist regimes.  This was followed by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 that established the EEC this abolished customs duties between member states and resulted in economic growth: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom saw the benefits of this and joined the Common market in 1973 shortly after decimalisation in the UK.  A curious imperial notion that had 240 pence as the makeup of a pound.  Perhaps the Brexiteers fancy a return to that quaint notion (maybe they’ll lobby to bring back farthings, shillings, threepence and florins while they’re renegotiating every single trade deal in Europe post exit.)

In 1986 the economic vision is further strengthened with the creation of the Single European Act. and Spain and Portugal sign up.   This provides the basis for a vast six-year programme aimed at sorting out the problems with the free flow of trade across EU borders and thus creates the ‘Single Market’.

So far, so positive.

Austria, Finland and Sweden join us in 1995. The Shengen agreement allows us to travel freely across Europe to exploit opportunity and share cultures.

Ten new countries join the EU in 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and Croatia in 2013..

In 56 years Europe has seen war between nations shrivel and die.  Sure terrorism is rife and internal conflicts remain but the Union has become a peace zone.

To my knowledge not one single country has even thought about leaving.

28 countries are joined in free trade, a bid to reduce pollution, economic development, fairness of law.

These are the rules for membership which cannot be met by Turkey. (One of the crazy fear mongering cards being played by Brexiteers)

  • stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
  • a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU;
  • the ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

And here’s where Turkey stands in terms of negotiations to meet the 35 ‘chapters” that will allow member states to consider entry to the Union.  (Not looking promising, is it? )

Note that the Chapter entitled “Freedom of movement of workers” hasn’t even been opened yet and financial control has been on the table since 2007.
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Please then, can we move on from the Turkey question?

So, we have peace, we have prosperity, albeit in a climate where the richer nations help the poorer ones – and we’re rich, and we have free trade with no real barriers.

Sounds kind of positive doesn’t it?

What’s more, everything the EU does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by its member countries.  Not, and I repeat not, crazy rules imposed on us from Brussels that Brexiteers so love to imply

We help agree/ratify these rules for the common good.

Some help us greatly, some are more challenging, but if the whole represents more than the sum of its parts, which is a fundamental rationale for the EU’s existence, then this is a price we simply have to accept and pay.  We don’t all agree with every Scottish or UK law do we?

So.  Brexit?

Nine out ten economists think Brexit is preposterous.

The Americans think it is preposterous.

Member states think it is preposterous.

The stock market, down over 5% in the last few days, as the realisation that Brexit is no longer a silly extremist Tory fantasy, begin to realise that it’s a distinct possibility starts, frankly, to shit itself.

Here’s a headline from this week.

The Bank of England has allocated almost £2.5bn of cash to City firms to help them handle any Brexit-related panic.

Here’s another…

London’s stock market is plumbing new lows as traders continue to quake in the shadow of the EU vote.

And the copy that went with it?

The Footsie has now shed 378 points since the start of trading on Thursday, when Brexit fears began to mount. 

That means a staggering £98bn has been wiped off the value of Britain’s biggest companies in four trading days.

Now, the Brexit vote is most commonly supported by pensioners.

What does a falling stock market do to pensions?

It’s like turkeys (but not Turkey) voting for Christmas.

It’s actually insane.

And Obama tells us openly and categorically that Brexit would put the UK “at the back of the queue ” for a trade deal with the US.

Mark Carney says “leaving the EU ids the biggest domestic risk to financial stability”.

Forget the numbers.  Leave quotes “facts” that are every bit as misleading as Remain’s are.

The debate has been a shambles.

Just look at the fundamentals here and the direction of traffic since 1951.

Peace, prosperity and proliferation of membership.  No need to be ‘forced’ into the Euro.

Leaving this would be a national disgrace.

The Scottish question

Now the eagle-eyed amongst you will note that I was a solid advocate of a “Scexit” in 2014. None of the arguments above applied.

We would have remained in Europe or would have negotiated our readmittance.

Our economy, based on the evidence at the time, and I accept the fall in the oil price hasn’t helped that p[articular argument, would, I believe, have benefitted.

And peace would have been guaranteed.

Should a Brexit vote manifest itself you bet Independence would rear its head again and the appeal of renegotiating re-entry to the EU would be the biggest single factor influencing the Scots.

But let’s not go there.

Come on Britain.  It’s time to smell the coffee.