gig: Barenaked Ladies – Academy 24 Sep 2010

September 28, 2010

This was only the second time I’ve see the BNL live and they were great. It is hard to describe a BNL concert because so much of it is about the characters of the band members, the patter between songs and the atmosphere in the crowd – and on top of that there is the music.

There are of course a few iconic songs that lots of people know and many others that you sort of recognize or know the hook but not all the words. Probably the best example of this is the theme tune to The Big Bang Theory: (did you know there was more to the song than the first bit?)

The Barenaked Ladies were of course fantastic, playing the usual mix of upbeat, slow, poignant and funny songs. Between times telling of the connections they have with Glasgow and Scotland, playing Proclamers tracks and generally having fun. A BNL gig is an experience and one that should be repeated as often as you get the chance. There has been some change in line-up recently but they haven’t lost any of the fun, energy or quality. Long live the naked-ladies!

book: “The Separation” by Christipher Priest

September 22, 2010

I didn’t like this book! It was very frustrating and one of those books that you keep thinking must get better but just didn’t.

The plot is complicated and often for no good reason – for example, it starts with a writer who is given some material on a person he has been trying to find out about.  The daughter of one JL Sawyer, gives the author notebooks he wrote about his time before and during the war.  Then the book switches to that story, it turns out there are two JL Sawyers – identical twins with the same initials and we find out about them through these notebooks.  Then half way through it reaches the end of the notebooks and we have this author mentioned again briefly then he never appears again.  Similarly the entire last third of the book turns out to be a hallucination and none of it has actually happened!

In addition to all this nonsense when we are in the present with this writer we hear about things in the world that don’t fit with our own history – i.e. USA isn’t a world power but an isolationist country with a failing economy.  This is fine because the reader can assume that this story that takes place mostly during the second world war the plot will reveal something form which a different history of the world will unfold.  However, at the end of the book (as mentioned) this key change in history turns out to be a hallucination so we don’t know that anything has happened.

Apparantly this is a highly aclaimed award winning SF book (Arthur C. Clarke Award, the BSFA Best Novel Award and the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire).  I can’t see anything in it that I recognize as Science Fiction but rather an alternative-history book, but within either genre a story has to make sense – and this one doesn’t.

movie: The Girl Who Played with Fire

September 13, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second in Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium trilogy and sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I read these books earlier this year (my review of The Girl Who Played with Fire) and watched the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on DVD a few weeks ago.  I managed to get to the wonderful, peaceful and grown-up surroundings of the Glasgow Film Theatre to enjoy this movie.

These films are the original Swedish movies although it looks like the series will be re-shot by Hollywood soon and I am intrigued to see if they loose all connection with the books.  This movie followed the plot of the book very closely picking up the characters one year on from the first story.

Lisbeth Salander returns to Sweden after a year of travel. She checks on her guardian and rapist to remind him of his promise to submit satisfactory reports on her behavior and settles into her luxury apartment not really knowing what to do with her life.  Meanwhile at Millenium magazine, Mikael Blomkvist is still an editor and they are about to break a major story about trafficking in women.

Then Salander’s guardian and the couple who broke the trafficking story are killed in the same night with the same gun which only has Lisbeth’s finger prints on it.

Blomkvist seems to be the only one to believe that she wouldn’t do such a thing and tries to follow his own investigation into a character called Zala while the police hunt hopelessly for Lisbeth.

The movie (and the books) have a strange mix of pace, in that a lot happens while not seeming to rush.  In fact for most of the movie there is a feeling of slow but steady momentum towards some goal even though you are not always aware of what that goal will be.  The story is both a fascinating character study and gripping thriller with a bloody climax which I certainly wont give away.

movie: Memento

September 12, 2010

Memento was released in 2000 and I’ve had the DVD on my shelf for at least two or three years, and known little about it.  I had heard that it was ‘told backwards’ and something about the main character having memory loss and taking Polaroids to remember things.  That is a useful description and gave me enough to go on to know that this wasn’t a movie to have on in the background but one which you need to actively pay attention to.

Memento is a psychological drama which opens with a killing.  Leonard, played by Guy Pearce (who really should be in bigger movies by now but still doesn’t seem to get big leads) has no way of forming any short term memories – so while talking to someone he may not remember how the conversation started, where he is or who he is talking to.  He has conditioned himself to look for clues when he wakes up or doesn’t know what he should be doing – the main clues being tattoos all over his body and Polaroids with notes written on them.

The intriguing ‘trick’ that the film maker uses is to show everything in backwards.  So after seeing a killing we see a scene leading up to the killing but we don’t know why that happened, then we see Leonard waking up that morning discovering his notes then meeting Teddy and asking him to drive somewhere – we already know that where they are going Leonard will kill Teddy, and so on until we find out why he is doing this and what led him to this point.

It is a fascinating way to unfold a story and keeps you guessing.  As well as the main narrative being shown in reverse order each one ends with how the previous one started, however between each of these narrative scenes which are in colour there is a portion of another scene in the film which is shown in black and white – we don’t know when this black and white section happens in the main narrative and every time we are shown the black and white section it is shown in the correct order (which is why I’m referring to it as one section rather than a number of scenes).  Really it is easier to watch this movie than explain it :-/

OK, enough already – I enjoyed this movie and will certainly go back to it, and am already watching the documentary extras.  It is extremely well written, filmed and made.

on being engaged…

September 8, 2010

Engagment RingAs many people already know, on 23rd July I asked Danar to marry me and we became engaged.  Time sort of speed up from then on and it seems like we have been doing nothing but making plans – which has been great.

We have booked all the key places and people in order to set the date – 12 February 2011 and perhaps more importantly started a new blog here –

I have to admit this is a totally “smug-couple” blog all about us and at the moment about the wedding but hey you only get married once.  The practical reason for the blog is hopefully to put all the information guests might need in one place that we can update as necessary.  It’s also a useful place for both of us to keep our to-do lists and keep track of things to be done.

What I have never considered before becoming engaged and to be honest has blown both of us away is the wonderful reaction we have received from everyone we know.  Obviously we expected close friends and family to be pleased but the excitement and emotional reaction we saw from people was just fantastic and even now coming up to a month later there are still lots of people saying congratulations to us when they find out, even those who don’t know us so well.

Last week we had an engagement party for a select few (limited by how many people can fit in my flat so sorry if you weren’t invited!!) which was great fun.  None of my photos came out so if anyone has any please let me know.  I think we had around 7 bottles of Champagne (or equivalent fizzy wine) and it was really great to just have friends around to celebrate this commitment we have made to each other.  Thanks to all those who have congratulated us both – it has made a very special time of our lives even more memorable.

book: Wu Cheng En “Monkey”

September 3, 2010

A little diversity from my normal crime thriller or comedy reads Monkey written in the mid-sixteenth century by Wu Ch-eng-en (c. 1505-80).  The broadest description of the story is that it tells of a Buddhist Priest Tripitaka pilgrimage from China to India to get the sacred scriptures from Buddha.  He is accompanied on his way by a Pig monster Pigsy, a river monster Sandy and Monkey – hatched from a stone egg and gains the secrets of heaven and earth to become equal to heaven itself.  Monkey is a trickster who can ride on clouds, change shape, multiply himself and beat dragons, bandits, demons and wizards all of whom try to foil their mission.

Many of my generation will of course remember the 70s TV series Monkey (or Monkey Magic) where the characters looked like this.

I remember being fairly confused by this because the horse is a dragon Pigsy doesn’t look like a big and the monk is obviously played by a girl.  Having now read the book – I am little the wiser in some areas and a little more familiar with some of the historical Chinese mythology.  I’m sure there are lots of hidden Buddhist and Taoist concepts in this story that went over my head but I enjoyed the slapstick nonsense and of course the character of Monkey is fantastic.