Hinterland by NVA review


stairwell.jpg

Tonight I was privileged to be in attendance at the opening event in Scotland’s Festival of Architecture.

Hinterland is a site-specific piece to end all site-specific pieces in that the site is essentially the star of the show.

It’s a 50 year old modernist Catholic seminary (St Peter’s) in the Kilmahew Estate in Cardross near Helenburgh – not the most accessible of venues and a 7 hour round trip to gain access to the totally sold out proceedings.

But it was worth every minute of the journey because this is a spectacular ruin despite its youth.

IMG_5150.jpg

It’s widely regarded as a modernist building of global significance and yet only had a life span of 13 years before being abandoned in the wake of the falling off of seminarian numbers and possibly the fact that it was an intolerable living place in the winter.

In the following 37 years the elements (and a succession of extremely talented graffiti artists) have both ravaged and enhanced its brutal concrete beauty.

What remains is an almost wholly concrete bunker with a rain filled chapel filling the centre of the space with all four sides open totally exposed to Scotland’s weather.

We were treated to NVA’s conceptual piece that was built around a massive thurible swinging majestically in the rain sodden chapel spewing out incense, whilst a trumpet player and The St Salvators Chapel Choir from the University of St Andrews emoted a beautiful, sacred music inspired, tonal piece by composer Rory Boyle. This was complemented by a spectacular, but nonetheless subtle, interior and exterior lighting show.

The combination of canvas, sound and light was a unique and deeply compelling performance that I’ll never see the likes of again.

NVA are famous for these pieces having previously lit the Old Man of Storr and for their spectacular Speed of Light show on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh in a recent Edinburgh Festival, plus other locations.

Bravo. Five stars.

tree.jpg

2011. In hindsight.


2011. That was the year that was.

2011 was rather less fraught than 2010.  I didn’t work to such ridiculous extremes, and the year end saw my portfolio change quite considerably compared to 12 months ago.  Three big new clients at year end were Maidsafe, Vets2 and Front Page Design, all autumnal starters and all brilliant to work with.  My STV contract finally came to an end after three years but its been great and I am very grateful to them for all the work.

Some old troopers still stand by me; 60 Watt, Paligap, The Usability Lab, Corporation Pop, Ampersand and LA Media, with occassional work from a small number of others.

To you all; slainte and have a great 2012.

If my golf was bad in 2010 it beggared belief in 2011.  I gave up my membership at Dundas Park and clearly that did not have a galvanising effect on my game.  I was shit awful on both trips of the year and even my winter game has been poor.

We didn’t go away as a family in 2011, for a variety of reasons but I had the holiday (maybe an exaggeration to call it that) of a lifetime in June when Ria and I went to Glastonbury.  To say it was memorable would be something of an understatement.  There is one abiding memory of it, I have to say…the bogs.

Not good. And this was on day 1

But there were other memorable sights and moments, like this…

Not good. Day 4.

And this…

All good. Day 4.

Which brings me onto my musical highlights of the year.

My best of CD which you can have if you like included these tracks…

In a good year for music my song of the year, without question, was Video Games by Lana Del Rey.

My albums of the year were;

Bad as Me by Tom Waits (overall my favourite record)

Let England Shake by PJ Harvey

You and I by The Pierces

The English Riviera by Metronomy

A creature I don’t know by Laura Marling

50 Words for Snow by Kate Bush

Hotel Shampoo by Gruff Rhyss

Build a Rocket Boys by Elbow who also performed the gig of the year at Glastonbury (closely followed by King Creosote at The Liquid Rooms)

A different Kind of Love by Bombay Bicycle Club

21 by Adele

I did a lot of cinema in 2011…

Here’s what I thought of what I saw in my IMDB profile…

Two ten out of tens and a few nines show that it was also a good year for movies.  In retrospect I plump for three as my best of the year

Senna

A Separation and

Drive.

On TV This is England 2008 moved me to tears and was by far the year’s greatest offering.  I liked Top Boy too.

I didn’t read a great deal this year but have really enjoyed

The Brothers Sisters by Patrick DeWitt.

The Childrens Hospital by Chris Adrtian.

And Filthy English, The How, Why When and What of Everyday Swearing by Pete Silverton.

But the best read of the year by far was…The Guardian which I grow deeper in love with.

This was a big year of theatre for me.  I reckon I saw at least 20 different productions but easily the stand out was Dance Marathon in which Jeana and I and Chris and Liam danced our asses off for five hours before I was told I was relentless by the Producer.  We also had amazing nights at The Kings for James Cordon in One Man, Two Guvnors and The Lyceum for both Dunsinane and Age of Arousal.

This year was sadly marked by way too much illness among our friends for me to want to dwell on but Matt, David and Jenny I am thinking of you now.

Also, we lost James King, Joyce Cambell and Fiona Pirie from FCT and Rachel Appolinari at the outrageous age of 19.  RIP all of you. xxx

All of the family have blossomed in the past year, thank God, and long may it continue.  In particular Amy has shown an almost exponential growth in confidence and skills in many different areas.

2012 is University year for Tom and Ria should they both choose to go down that path.

And so, to 2012.  It’s the year I turn 50, Amy 21, Tom and Ria 18 and I aim, with Pete the Meat, to lose at least 50 pounds each before we turn 50 in May. We are raising money to do so and you’ll soon hear of our plans.

Thanks for being my reader once again in 2011.  My year end Technorati rating was an all time high closing in on a top 1% of all the blogs in the world rating.

16,000th out of 1.2 million.

Penguin Cafe. A matter of Life


The reviews for this album have mostly been a little patronising and mildly dismissive as if it is some form of PCO lite offering.

I beg to differ.

I am, almost literally, a lifelong PCO fan and have every track they ever recorded, from the experimental Zopf days on the Obscure record label right through their “heydays’ of the 1980’s when their unique musical sound appeared on every second commercial or BBC/C4 soundtrack (most notably I have to say in the Independent’s launch advertising campaign).  So Simon Jeffes’ death in 1987 hit me like a hammer blow.  Ten years later his son, Arthur, began the slow but steady cryogenic rebirth, or perhaps more accurately the creation of a clone with ideas of its own.  This has culminated in the release of this instant classic album, a matter of life, which is, to all intent and purpose, PCO’s 5th studio album.

It has more piano than PCO but other than that it’s broadly the same thing, and certainly cut from the same cloth.

Track 2 (Landau) feature Jeffes and Kathry Tickell on her trademark Northumbrian pipes and its delicious.  Harry Piers, another piano only track was played at Jeffes Sr’s memorial concert and it bears every trademark PCO motif you could ever imagine which is what makes it both a great epitaph for Simon Jeffes but perhaps also a catharsis for Arthur.

The Fox and the Leopard is a carbon copy of a previous PCO song but for me the absolute standout is the minor key classic, From a Blue Temple.

In Penguin Cafe’s second album I’d expect the music to be slightly less of a tribute and to explore more of their own ideas, maybe more of a development from From a Blue Temple; and given that members of Suede and Gorillaz make up the 10 strong ensemble I’m pretty sure there will be new areas aplenty to explore.

For now though, this is a welcome and delightful discovery that I will treasure and hopefully wear out the grooves as much as its four forebears.

I’m a sucker for gadgets


I love my ipod, my ipad, my Bose sound system, the garden speakers, my camera thumbpiece add on, apps, spotify…you name it.

But nothing has impressed me as much as this little pearl from The Pampered Chef. It was a gift from my brother and sister in law at Christmas but it’s a game changer.

I could mash potatoes for a living with this.

But look at it.

It’s just a one-piece bit of pre-moulded black plastic and yet, and yet…

It is seductive.

It is 100% ergonomic.

It scythes through vegetables as if they did not exist.

Imagine a Swedish Masseuse spending  a quality five minutes with you…

That. Would. Be. Like. The. Pampered. Chef. Potato. Masher. In. Action.

Ecstacy.