book: Stuart MacBride “Dying Light”

January 24, 2010

Stuart MacBride is a new author to me, but I was recommended this book at my friendly local second hand book shop and coffee shop – Biblocafe. after a conversation about types of crime fiction so always worth a go.

Set in Aberdeen, the story follows DS Logan McRae having a series of bad days.  It turns out this is the second book with this character and that does come across at several points when people refer to things that had happened recently but this doesn’t spoil the main plots – and there are a few.  There’s an arsonist burning down buildings after boarding people inside, prostitutes are being beaten and murdered and a dog is cut up and dumped in a suitcase.  Meanwhile, DS Logan is assigned to ID Steel’s ‘fuck up squad’ where not only do they get the worst cases, but DI Steel seems happy to take all the credit not giving anyone else a chance to move up.

What I most enjoyed about this book is the dry humor at the Police and their general relaxed working procedures, especially when hanging around waiting for something interesting to happen.

The descriptions of Aberdeen and details of the case are fascinating although I would warn that the violence is more than I needed.  As a who-done-it mystery it is structured very well, just giving you enough clues to keep interested but with twists in the right places to keep you guessing.   Stuart MacBride “Dying Light”

Gig: Celtic Connections Festival Club

January 23, 2010

Celtic Connections is on at the moment and for the first time I went along to the Celtic Connections Festival Club.  The idea of the festival club is that it starts at 10:30 and bands who have been playing at other venues might drop by and join in.  “With inspired line-ups that are never divulged before the night – the Festival Club draws musicians and fans alike for a late-night jam session to end all jam sessions.”

This is fair enough since I don’t know many of the bands, so I thought that this might be a good place to get to know some bands that you can then look out for at other times.  The festival club takes place at the Art School, which was cold, and the whole thing doesn’t flow very well because of the set changes, but there is a good atmosphere with lots of folk out for a good time and willing to listen to whoever simply turns up.

The evening started of with some traditional Scots Singing from the “well known Scots singer Doris Rougviie” OK, so I hadn’t heard of her and Scots isn’t my really my thing but it was OK.  Then there was a couple of Irish blokes who sung and played some really slow (and boring) sad, depressing, songs – they were musically talented and all but not really a mood enhancer for knocking on midnight.

However, after that things really stepped up a notch firstly with the Brian Finnegan Quartet who were fantastic, playing a lively set.  The quartet is made up of Brian himself playing many different types of flute and whistles, a drummer, fiddler, guitarist and sometimes double bass.

Really tight, well constructed fun celtic music.

They are playing this Saturday at the Classic Grand, if you are free this looks like a good gig.

After the inevitable stage re-setting and odd sound check noises which seems to take forever the next group on stage was Guidewires, who had played earlier in the evening at the Strathclyde Suite of the Concert Hall.  Guidewires are a traditional Irish band with some influences from Balkan and Middle Eastern music.

It was a great night and I left as Guidewires came off stage and there was going to be at least one more band coming on.  The Festival Club cost £8 and starts at 10:30 on most nights of the festival.  It is a bit pot-luck, but a very good night.


OK Go vs ‘the lable’

January 21, 2010

Here is OK Go‘s latest video…

It is really important that you watch it, and you may be interested in reading this open letter from OK Go about why no one is allowed to embed the video on their web sites (so by the time you read this it may be taken down, in which case -What video?).  It is an interesting snap shot on some of the many changes going on in the record business.

If you aren’t sure who OK Go are it may be because (as far as I’ve been aware) most of their success has been built online and has a lot to do with their fantastic, quirky, innovative, artistic, frequently ‘single shot’ and homemade feel videos.  for example them dancing in the back yard for “A Million Ways

and the fantastic “Here it Goes Again” using 8 treadmills:

If you like the music – buy the music

book: Stuart Woods “Dirty Work”

January 16, 2010

Dirty Work by Stuart Woods is another in the Stone Barrington series of novels. This time Stone is back in New York but the UK Secret Service ‘friends’ he made in London (in “The Short Forever“) turn up in pursuit of (and on the run from) an assassin – La Biche.

As well as the usual fast pace, twisting plot centering around Stone and his friends this has the back story of what turned La Biche into a killer for hire and intent on tracking down and killing a secret service group.  The interesting twist here is that Stone takes a unique stand point from everyone else by trying to communicate with the assassin that everyone else is trying to kill.  Will this help the situation or get him in more trouble.

Again, this is a very well structured, well written, simple novel, quick to read and very enjoyable!  More Stone Barrington!

book: Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

January 14, 2010

Don’t Panic is sort of not a biography of Douglas Adams, and it isn’t really a companion to the radio series/book/record/theatrical release/TV Series/computer game/sequels/movie/web site “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  It is in fact slightly difficult to classify. Until that is, you read the back cover which sums it up well “Don’t Panic celebrates the life and work of an ape-descended human named Douglas Adams…”

The book was first released in 1987 and has since had several updates to include Douglas Adams death in 2001, the film release in 2005 and this version went to press just before the release of the ‘new’ Hitchhikers book in 2009 And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer.  I really liked this book almost because of the way it has grown over the years.

Mostly it consists of a loosely chronological introduction to Douglas Adams and how he came to the point of writing Hitchhiker’s and then follows through each reinvention of the story for different media, as well as his other ventures with The Meaning of Liff, Last Chance to See and the Dirk Gently novels.  However, as this book was written with Douglas Adams participation and while some of these things were going on the interviews seem fresh and relevant to what was going on, not reflected memories tainted by subsequent knowledge.   There are lots of little insights into the characters, plots and of course the author who created them and some wonderful snippets of unused script and fan letters.

Just over 6 months ago I borrowed the full set of radio programmes to listen to while decorating so I thought my memory of these stories was fairly fresh, but this little book added a certain level of depth that I would recommend to any fan of Adams work.  The thing that surprised me most in reading this was just how small the world of British comedy is (or at least was), the same names keep coming up for producing, directing, writing, re-writing or editing such things as Hitchhikers, Not the Nine OClock News, Blackadder, Monty Python, Dr Who (the last of the old versions at least, if you follow), Spitting Image, even QI … it seems that a great deal of the BBCs best drama and comedy comes from a very small group of people.

movies: Sweet Smell of Success

January 13, 2010

Sweet Smell of Success (1957), starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and directed by Alexander Mackendrick is the first in a short season at the GFT “Heroes and Villains: Journalism on Screen”.

I have to admit I didn’t know much about this film but it looked like an interesting prospect and on doing a little research on imdb I found a few things to make it worth a punt.   For example, I wasn’t familiar with the name Alexander Mackendrick, but it turned out he had directed some of my favourite Ealing Comedies!  He was born in the US (to Scottish parents), but grew up in Scotland, where he studied at the Glasgow School of Art, his FIRST movie was the fantastic Whisky Galore! 1945, followed by The Man in the White Suit 1951, The Maggie 1954 (a very little known but lovely wee film about a steamer on the Clyde and Western Isles) and The Ladykillers 1955.  The Sweet Smell of Success was his first Hollywood movie.  Also, Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis are giants of Hollywood of that period and only a year prior to this stared together in Trapeze.

OK, so what about Sweet Smell of Success?  Well it is an utterly fantastic movie!  The basic plot involves four people, J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is a gossip columnist and career breaker – if a celebrity isn’t mentioned in his column they are nothing. Sid Falco (Tony Curtis) is a ‘press man’ or PR agent who needs to get his clients into JJs column.  Lastly we have Susan Hunsecker, JJ’s manipulated and put down 19 year old sister and Steve Dallas a Jazz player who is in love with Susan.  Put simply JJ Hunsecker forces Sid to break up the relationship between Steve Dallas and his sister.  Sid has to do this in order to survive in his business since that relies on being in JJs column.

Although Lancaster has top billing in this movie, and indeed puts in an outstanding performance, Tony Curtis is simply outstanding and really shows the breadth of his skills moving seamlessly from desperate and beaten to pretending to be in control then wining and things working out – all in a single scene. He even steals the scenes where he is simply in the background, it is almost a hypnotic performance.

So, the plot is interesting, characters well drawn and performances utterly outstanding!  What about film making…  again, simply outstanding!  Direction was great, and James Wong Howe (Oscar winning Cinematographer) pulls some fantastic shots with lots of location shooting in the clubs and on the streets of 50s New York city.  The only thing to let down this movie was the print used at the GFT which had several distracting glitches, jumps and miss-matched ‘colorization’ (if that is the correct term for a monochrome movie).  But that aside well worth watching!


I tend to only blog movie review of movies that I’ve gone to see at “the movies”.. rather than movies I watch on DVD or TV or on-demand TV… because there lies madness!  However, this means that I tend to cover new movies, but now that I am trying to go to the GFT more often and will be seeing more old/classics films – what to do.  I decided to solve this enormous problem by blogging whatever the hell I like, cause it’s my blog and I’ll do what I like and that sort of cleared up the whole problem for me.

book: Terry Pratchett “Monstrous Regiment”

January 11, 2010

Monstrous Regiment” is a bit a departure for me in Terry Pratchett books.  I started by reading through all the books about The Watch (I thought) and Industrial Revolution themes and the main Death books.  So I did some online research to decide which series to go for next only to find that “Monstrous Regiment” is classified by some people as a Guard story.

This is certainly a great little story of a small Discworld country of Borogravia which is perpetually at war with it’s neighbors.  The god of Borogravia, Nuggan, seems to have gone a little crazy continually adding amendments to scripture which make more and more things an Abomination unto Nuggan ( “the last three abominations were against rocks, ears and accordion players”).  Among these, it is an abomination for a woman to dress as a man.  Which makes it very dangerous for Polly who disguises herself as a boy to signing up to the army in what appears to be the last recruits to join up.  It seems after a while that she may not be alone.

The story follows the recruits under the leadership of Sergeant Jackrum as they come to learn that they are not on the winning side of this war and that their god Nuggan has abandoned them.  I have to say The Guard aren’t in the book much but Sam Vimes is a Special Envoy from Ankh-Morpork “which is kind of like an ambassador but without the little gold chocolates.” and has a few fellow guards on call.

I really enjoyed this one, it doesn’t slow at all and the whole gender equality and blind faith debate is interesting and well woven through the story.