Monday, December 31, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I watched a DVD called "the lost room". This was a box set for a TV series. The lost room refers to a motel room that no longer exists. There were a series of objects in the room that have special powers, such as a key that could open any door, or a pair of scissors that could rotate things. There were groups of people, known as collectors, trying to get the objects. Some people thing the room and objects were part of God. Now that I look at the synopsis above it all looks a bit nerdy, ok it looks very nerdy. But I think I would enjoy life a lot more if I was searching for every day objects that had magical powers. If you see me wistfully clicking a new pen, then I am actually testing its magical properties, so I suggest you step back. There were very few episode (approx 6), so I was disappointed when it ended. I was talking to some people about DVDs in the pub. I noted that box sets were worse than cocaine, because they soak up so much time. (I would like to point out that I have never taken cocaine, just in case some nasty human resource person is reading this).
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I have just finished reading a book called "Can't stop. Won't stop" by Jeff Chang. This book is a history of hip-hop, mostly before 2000. It is one of the best music books I have ever read, because it also deals with racism and being creative in a corporate world. I now know who Afrika Bambaataa is and the importance of Grand master Flash. The book contains a lot of interesting material on political organization and compromises. When I read about the million man march in Washington, I kept thinking that I lived in the US then. My recollection of that event was through the prism of the media.
I can't say I am A great fan of Christianity. The links my family have had with the church have never been a positive thing. I have always regarded Christmas as a holiday from the cold of winter. I usually send blank Christmas cards, where I write "happy holidays". (Ok sometimes I forget to write peoples names as well, because I am always in a rush). Thanks to Dawkins I now know that I should wish people "a happy Newton's day". Bah humbug!
It is nearly the new year, so it is time to make some new years resolutions. I pulled myself from my lethargy on the couch, limped to the bathroom, and looked at myself in the mirror. My blood shot eyes, and beer destroyed body, shimmered with stress, and told me in the no uncertain terms that my dreams of a modelling career were finally over. But I thought what new years resolution could improve my elagantly wasted appearance. Last year my new years resolution was "going more mainstream". Instead of snorting when someone mentions that they like the killers or snow patrol, I was going to try smile and fake some interest in that person, even though they didn't deserve my attention. Anyway somehow hating the killers is hardwired into my brain, so that resolution lasted about 5 seconds. Also after reading Cope's last book on underground Japanese bands, I had to buy the CD Satori by the flower travellin band. When I heard the first track, I was disappointed because I thought it would make my head explode. After the second listen I think it is incredible. Even better, the CD cover for Satori claim that only 1000 copies were made. I have copy number 188. Fu*k mainstream music!
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Someone told me that there was a brand of vodka from Liverpool. Seemed unlikely, but it may have been true. I tried to order it in a Russian restaurant in Liverpool, much to the disgust of the waiter. Even the mighty google let me down, because I couldn't track vodka from Liverpool down. I found a bottle of Imperial Vodka, distilled in Liverpool, in an off license in Glasgow. The evidence is above. Now I need to search for something else. It passes the time.
Friday, December 28, 2007
I have spent the last 5 days at my mum's house relaxing and doing the Christmas holiday thing. I was talking to my mum and brother about various technological things about TV. In particular the merits of digital TV recorders. I learnt how to use the joost internet TV while I was at home. Nice, but the interface needs more work. One of my other questions is what the f*ck is smileTV. It is one of the freeview channels, but is only on from 3am to 7am. As I get older I can't stay awake until 3am, but I am taunted by the TV page when I switch channels. Umm now I know.
Although this is not a science blog, I feel moved to comment on the attack by the funding agency (STFC) on fundamental research into particle physics in the UK. Apart from the cuts in funding, what is also particularly annoying is that STFC have a number of "big questions" that are meant to focus research on important areas. The older funding agency called PPARC had questions such as "what are the basic properties of the fundamental particles and forces?", that can be potentially answered. With a new funding agency comes new big questions, the only one that is potentially relevant to particle physics is "why is there a Universe?" What sort of question is that? If you are nine years old then this is perhaps a reasonable question, but it is hard to even know how to start answering such a question. Who wrote that crappy STFC delivery document? If you put "why is there a Universe" into google scholar (that searches books and journals), then you only find that phrase in books on theology, philosophy of science, and one entry in "Nursing Administration Quarterly, 2000". If you search for the phrase "why is there a Universe" using google you find hits from Hawking and string theory people. So this question has nothing to do with physics, reality or experiment. Things would be much simpler in the US, where I would sue STFC because they broke the separation between church and state. In the UK I can only complain to that nice Richard Dawkins bloke, and let him spew some polemic at STFC. Things don't seem and better in the US, where the accelerator I have been focussing most of my phenomenological studies on has just been cancelled. However the funding for a new machine has almost been approved.
I know I keep promising to read at least one book by Doris Lessing (from the two I already own). As a warm up, I read "blood music" by Greg Bear. This is a great science fiction novel about a scientist creating intelligent cells. He injected the cells into himself, which frankly was a bit stupid. The novel works on many levels and is full of ideas. If you are wondering why reading "blood music" is a warm up to reading Doris Lessing, I would like to point out that Lessing is quoted on the wikipedia page about her as mentioning "blood music" as evidence that science fiction is an important literary form.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I watched a fairly strange DVD called "six the mark unleashed". I thought that this was an action movie. There was a resistance movement who were fighting a supreme leader (by stealing cars). Normally action movies such as this one, end with the leader being overthrown, and everyone going off into the sunset. This film was different. It seemed to involve a lot of Christians, who were rebelling against the system by happily geting their heads chopped off. Looking at the reviews I think I would have got more out of the film, if I knew more about the bible, than that Jesus turned water into wine. Anyway this is what happens when you rent DVDs from the local library at Hillhead. There was an offer on, that if you checked out 6 books, you could rent a DVD for free. Given that I hardly read at the moment, this didn't seem like a good idea. (The cute librarian didn't look pleased).
Monday, December 10, 2007
When I lived in Lexington Kentucky during the early part of the 90s, I used to buy a lot of tapes from the Shrimper Record label. The tapes were mostly by lo fi folk bands. One of the bands I really liked were called the Mountain Goats. Tonight, I am going to see the Mountain Goats play at he Oran Mor venue that is just down the road from me! I am so excited. Emmy the great is playing support as well, so that will be cool. When I was in Lexington I think I was hoping that I could put one over John Peel by listening to stuff he had never heard of. When I came back to the UK, I heard that he played the mountain goats and Simon Joyner, so there was really no way to beat the man. Of the bands signed to Shrimper, I really liked "paste". Paste were some intense singer and complaining guitar. I was happy to see that the Shrimper Record label lives on (in a sense).
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I keep meaning to read something by Doris Lessing, mostly because I bought some of her books, so I should make an attempt to read them now that she is a Nobel prize winner. However instead I spent part of the weekend reading Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. The book was part of the Dresden files series. The story is about wizard versus werewolves in modern Chicago. The book is not great literature, but is well written with a lot of hooks that occur at the end of chapters. It is good to be reading fiction again. I will get around to reading some books by Lessing soon.
A couple of nights ago I had a dream where Janis Joplin was not dead. In the dream I was reading a WIKIPEDIA article about Joplin. She made some records with Led Zeppelin during the 70s. I used to listen to a tape by Janis when I was 17 or 18. We also taped a documentary about Janis and used to watch that in rotation with a documentary about Phil Ochs. Anyway I was pretty sure that Janis Joplin overdosed, but I used to be fairly drunk when I watchd the film about Joplin, so perhaps I missed something. The last time I thought about Janis Joplin was when I heard Cohen say that his Chelsea hotel song was about Janis Joplin. In fact, it looks like all my information about Janis Joplin comes from the TV. This is what used to happen in the days before the internet. I can feel a quest coming on to find Janis Joplin.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Are you ready for the LHC? Hey, forget about tuning your Monte Carlo, what you should be reading is the book "keeping it real" by Justina Robson. In 2015 the quantum bomb opened up the world to the realm of Elves, demons and some other things. The quantum bomb was caused by the explosion of the superconducting supercollider in Texas. Umm, yes, perhaps if she had done a little more web surfing she would have found that that accelerator had been cancelled in the early 90s. I don't see any acknowledgements, but perhaps Brian Cox was involved as a consultant, and he was able to help with his legendary grasp of particle physics. The book was a mixture of fantasy and cyberpunk. The heroine is a cyborg. Science fiction is very different to fantasy (please don't get the two confused). This cross-genre was good, because it mixed scifi with fantasy elements such as magic and elves.
When I made my new years resolutions this year, I decided to try and move my interests more into the main stream of culture. For example when I am talking with an attractive woman and she happens to mention that she likes James Blunt, I was hoping to move way from snorting "you like the bland music that fu*king w*nker makes"? I thought that kind of outburst would hurt any potential relationship. Somehow the Satan tempted me to buy the book "Japrockersampler" by Julian Cope. Julian's book is about the Japanese underground music scene, in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Julian claimed that the Japanese music scene was less influenced by drugs, than what happened in the US/UK. It was interesting to read how the Japanese bands were influenced by the music coming from the US. Anyway, rather helpfully Cope provided a list of the top 50 albums by Japanese bands. Top of the list is a CD called Satori by Flower Travelling' Band. Well I have saved money by not buying CDs by Blunt so I deserve a treat,
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I have decided I am an atonal type of guy. On the freakzone radio show last week, the featured album was Metal Machine by Zeitkratzer. This was an orchestral version of Lou Reed's Metal Machine, that he released in the mid 70s. Many people view the original metal machine as unlistenable, including me (although I didn't try). However the orchestral version sounded so fantastic that I have just bought a copy. However, the new version of metal machine will still clear rooms.
I went out to see "Emmy the great" play at King Tuts in Glasgow last Friday. I don't go out to gigs that much these days, so I couldn't decide whether to go or not. I did decide that an evening of mucic and beer would do me good. The other times I have been to King Tuts it has been packed out, but it was fairly empty when I got there. (Most people were in the bar downstairs and slowly drifted up as the support acts played). One of the support acts was ballboy. I bought one of their CDs, maybe about 5 years ago, because it was championed a lot by John Peel. Also the CD had a song about a big fat stupid Manchester United fan, so the Gods of Liverpool forced me to buy it. I had thought that Ballboy was a band, but last Friday, it was just one guy strumming his guitar. I really enjoyed his set thought, because is was full of word filled songs. Emmy the great were great. I had heard them play a session on Marc Riley's Rocket Science. She sings controlled, sweet, and intense songs. She is Chinese, but the music is not Chinese traditional (I had to explain that too a number of people this week). There is a review of the same gig by someone at the Guardian. A bit wordy and pretentious for my taste. You can listen to Emmy the Great and decide for your self. Interestingly enough Emmy the great are playing a venue close to my flat tonight. More importantly she is playing Glasgow with the "mountain goats" on 10th December. I used to buy low-fi tapes by the mountain goats.
I kept hearing about a new folk singer called Fionn Regan. I think he got nominated for a music award. I saw he was playing in Glasgow, but I didn't go and see him, because frankly he looked too pretty. I don't really think of "pretty" boys playing folk music. One of the radio 6 presenters played a track of his CD. The song was about him ringing someone up (ex-girlfriend ?) to apologize for stealing some books and things from their house. It was such a great song, that I regretted not going to see him play. Of course Dylan was pretty when he toured the UK in the last 60s. He was so feminine that a woman plays him in an up and coming film biography.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
I watched Die Hard 4.0 on DVD on Thursday night. It was entertaining enough. They do all this fancy stunt work, but then there was a scene in the car that was clearly done with a blue screen. Other scenes were done in a real car. I payed 2.50 to rent that DVD, I don't expect to see blatant blue screen filming.
Last week I read a book called Storm Front by Jim Butcher. The book was about the adventures of Harry Dresden, a wizard in the Chicago area who solves occult murder mysteries. This is not high art, but the book was well written in an addictive way. (I don't think the book was a Harry Potter rip off, because I am too cool to read such stuff). Trouble is there is a whole series of these books. I am reading so few books at the moment to get involved in reading a series of books for mere enjoyment. I should really make a start on one of the Doris Lessing books I own. Perhaps I will just order one more book by Dresden.
I have just finished reading Rashomon by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. This was a collection of short stories by a famous Japanese writer. There is a great film called Rashomon, that starts with a man walking in some trees. The book makes an appearance in the film "ghost dog" as well. A good piece of writing can warm my soul for a long time. I could feel the influence of a story called "hell screen" for a couple of days. There was a lot of ambiguity about the story, which describes a terrible but fascinating event. Ryunosuke changed writing styles later on his life. He started by writing historical stories, but later the stories were more autobiographical (set in the early part of the twentieth century). The last story was called "spinning gears". It involved him just jotting down things he felt and saw, some of which may have been real. He was so sensitive and depressed. I feel the same way when I have not talked to anyone for a couple of days.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I speak out on World music. There was a record fare in Hillhead library. This was an execuse for some people to sell second hand CDs and records in an upstairs room. I just happened to be browsing. I ddn't see anything I really needed, but I did buy a CD called "Cafe Instanbul". This a sampler of the music of Istanbul and I like it a lot. I remember listening to a radio program about music called "arabesque". The music was about doomed love and terrible sadness. Taxi drivers would listen to it while they drove around and they thought what heros they were. There is a popular dance like band called Beirut, who made a really fantastic CD called "Gulag Orkestar". The CD is described as Balkan folk music, which is a bit strange because it was made by a teenager in the US. A track was played on the freakzone radio show, but Stuart worried about integrity because it was not made in the Balkans. The Cafe Istanbul CD sounds like Beirut, but is more authentic. I feel I must speak out about integrity in world music, but I am not sure what to say. So I have thought up an action plan: 1) demonstrate for authenticity in world music by buying the latest CD by Beirut called The Flying Club Cup, because God told me it was OK. 2) visit Istanbul to hang out. This is a bit expensive though. 3) Buy more arabesque CDs from the record fair in the Glasgow library. Let my voice be heard! Some people think that listening to CDs is easy, but it can be stressful.
I managed to do some reading while I was on my travels. I read double vision by Tricia Sullivan. I didn't realize when I bought it, but I had also read one of her other books called Maul (yeah well this happens when you buy books based on liking the cover). This was a strange book. A woman had a job that involved watching a battle on far away planet that may not be happening. The company she worked for used her information to market products in some unspecified away. At some stage she stopped eating. After work she was also going to karate classes. She gave one of the best descriptions about being in the lower levels of a martial arts club. She was sparring some senior student who was "injured", so she didn't allow the weaker student to hit many targets. I know how to have fun when I am on holiday, because I also finished "concepts of mass" by Max Jammer. This was a historical and philosophical to the concept of mass in physics. I enjoyed the historical parts more than the parts on the concept of mass after relativity had been introduced. Some of the contemporary stuff Jammer thought was interesting is now viewed as crap (by me at least). I also read "Rim" by Alexander Besher while I was on my Polish trip. This was about virtual reality with a bit of Tibetan mysticism thrown in. Neo-Tokyo disappeared every night after some big earthquake. A big virtual reality system crashed and put a lot of people in a coma. Yep, lots of good geeky stuff.
I was on a vodka quest. I wanted to try some Polish vodka. There was none in Tesco. I deaded going to oddbins and asking for Polish Vodka. Then they would ask "what brand?", and I would ask for the cheapest bottle. Anyway I found that the Somerfields supermarket sells Polish vodka I am so classy sometimes, I surprise myself.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
So to conclude my tale of my trip to Warsaw. Have I learnt anything? Am I a better person for seeing a small section of Poland? Of course I have not changed one little bit. I am now more interested in vodka. I am not sure I will be able to drink Smirnoff (not that I did that much anyway). I like the idea of becoming a vodka snob in the land of whisky. I did buy a bottle of absolute citrus vodka in Tesco. Tesco don't sell any Polish vodka. I will have to try odbins for vodka from Eastern Europe. In the past, I have had some bad experiences drinking spirits at home. Now I have some small shot glasses, things may go better this time. I like the idea of drinking a shot of icy Polish vodka with a sausage. Some people may not regard my trip to Poland as a success.
On Saturday I didn't feel like doing the tourist thing. It wasn't raining. There are some nice parks and palaces in Warsaw, but I didn't feel like seeing some green trees and sh*t. I wandered around where the hotel was. I found a big shopping mall. There were a surprising large number of bike paths around. In the evening I had a traditional Polish meal of sushi and sake at a restaurant in the Mall. I watched a dubbed kung fu movie at night. The film had an American comedian who inserted himself an old style kung fu movie from China. This was then dubbed into Polish, so it was a bit weird. When I waiting for the Taxi at 5:00 in the morning, I watched a Samurai movie. At the end of the film a Samurai cut a tree with blossom with his sword. A perfect (if somewhat strange) way to end a holiday.
Monday, October 22, 2007
On Friday I went into Warsaw to do some sightseeing. The hotel was about 5 km from the center of Warsaw. I asked at reception and they told me some information about a good bus to get me to the action. It rained fairly steadily on Friday, so that is not optimal weather to wonder around a city. I got on the bus OK, and payed by the traditional way, when you can't speak any of the local language, of offering the driver some coins and letting him give me a ticket. I looked at the rainy city out of the bus window. At some stage, the view looked centerish, so I decided to get off. I wondered around for a couple of hours. I was aiming to go the old town, but somehow I kept getting my left and right mixed up. Warsaw is a big city. The main part is not ugly, but it is not particularly interesting. There were obviously "MacDondalds", but I didn't see the standard Boots, Waterstones, and Tesco stores, that stain every single British town. At lunch I had a kebab. The old town is meant to be the more interesting part of the city. The map I was given at the tourist information site started playing mind games with me and I just couldn't find the old time. The rain was getting on my nerves as well. Normally I would have gone to a mesuem or something, but when I went to what looked like a museum, it was actually an IMAX cinema. (Damm that map of Warsaw). Eventually, I had to seek inspration from a glas of Polish beer in a local bar Just I was about to go and find a taxi, I suddenly found that I was moving into an older area. Warsaw was largely destroyed during the second world war, so the old section of the city is largely rebuild in the style of the old city. It has lots of cobbled streets where no nasty cars are allowed. This is the area where the British stag nights happen I believe. I had a meat and potato type meal in a bar. Apparently, flavored Vodka is a Polish specialty. I tried a shot of Cherry vodka. It tasted like cough medicine. (I had a sudden vision of the man throwing up what looked like cough medicine onto the streets of Glasgow at the start of this trip). I banged my hand onto the table to keep the flow of time forward and flash back free. I got a taxi back to the hotel. I went to the garage over the road from the hotel to get beer. Many Poles were doing the same. Later on I did hear, what sounded like wolves howling outside, but I never let a minor thing like that get in way of buying beer. The next day I saw black crows circulating the garage. I am considered a hero by many people.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
My flight was scheduled to land in Warsaw at 18:00. When I booked my hotel from Expedia, I found that they had an option to get driven to the hotel from the Airport. It seemed a bit expensive, but as I was only going to be in Warsaw for 3 nights, I didn't want the stress of trying to figure how to get to my hotel, and the self loathing from getting ripped off by the taxi ride.. When I got into departures, there was a guy with my name on it. I almost stood up and shouted, "that mcneile is such a hot shot" to the hot Polish babes. In the car, I missed the feeling of quiet despair as you wait in an unfamilar taxi, hoping that you will be taken to the hotel, rather to some dark alley for a good kicking. At least if I got murdered in a car ride purchased from Expedia, I could at least sue. I booked to stay at the Atos hotel in Warsaw. This seemed like a good idea when I was saw the price was 24 pounds a night, but it is really a hotel at the edge of the city. There is no wireless Internet access. The information claimed that there was a bistro and a bar. I couldn't find the bar or bistro. I had not eaten all day, so I needed food. Being a skilled traveller I had noticed a steady stream of people walking over to the garage over the road. So I followed them and found beer, chocolate, and hot dogs, so I will not starve during my visit here. I did find the bar eventually that was in a separate building There were 3 people in the bar. I ordered beer, but I wanted vodka. Baring in mind that this hotel complex has 3 buildings each of which has 10 floors with 20 rooms, then just having 3 people in the bar, says something about the Polish pub culture. There is nothing much around here. If I wanted to buy a car, I would be OK. I think I saw a Macdonalds 1 km away. So ended my first day in Warsaw.
After almost hitting a number of deadlines at work, my body decided to hit the exhaustion button. So I needed a break outside Glasgow. Whizz air fly from Prestwick airport to Warsaw, so since I have never been to Poland, here I am. I had to do some chores in Glasgow before I left. I walking behind some guy who was casually throwing up all over the street. This was at 10:00 in the morning. What worried me the most was that his puke looked green and purple, like some cough or methadone medicine. He was not bothering anyone, but was walking in the same direction as me. Anyway he got on a bus going to the city center. I didn't view this as a good omen for the start of a holiday, where the temptation of Polish vodka will be ever present. I the went for a hair cut. The woman who was cutting my hair was complaining a little bit about her boyfriend who had fallen off his motor bike for the fifth time. As I am the kind of person who can fall over in the street and hurt themselves just walking about, I doubted that I would be much of an improvement (apart from not having to pay for the bike repairs). I am not good around happy people. She was telling me about a holiday in Paris. I have been to Paris for a conference, but I was depressed on my day off, because of what had happened at the conference. I decided that this wasn't going to help the faltering conversation along. Anyway I got to the airport with no problems, and I ended up in Warsaw.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I rented two DVDs directed by Miike Takashi from the library. Takashi is famous for films such as "audition" and "ichi the killer", that are the most violent thing I have ever seen. The first film I watched was Ley Lines. This was a film about three Chinese youths who move to Tokoyo and get involved with gangs. These are clealy Takashi films, but everything is more grimy and real. But you can the beginnings of the weirdness and violence. I liked the start, where one of the youths is trying to get a work permir or something, he gets rejected, so he throws a big potted plant over the counter. The second DVD was called "Rainy Dog". THis was about a hitman, who has a son dropped off with him. The action was set in Taiwan, where it rains a lot. This was probably one of the best action films I have ever seen, even though it was very bleak and cheap. It also contains a scene where a father is shot in front of his child. The killer then says, "if you want you can come after me, when you get older.". Umm, that is strange that is very similar to a scene in Kill Bill volume I. I am sure that Tarrintino meant it as a homage and not a rip off in any way.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I finished a book called "sleepfaring" by Jim Horne. This was a book about the science of sleep. The book loops over the research about sleep. I learnt that you don't need to pay back much sleep debt. I probably need an extra 15 to 30 minutes a night to fine tune my sleep habits. At the moment I am dead tired that is more exhaustion that additional hours of sleep will not help. I am going on holiday to Warsaw next weekend, so that should help freshen me up. He doesn't have a lot of time for people who have insomnia. The scary stuff was about people who fall asleep at the wheel and problems with having a fat neck.
I took the day off today to do normal stuff. For example I joined Hillhead libary. I have always loved libraries. I used to use the library in Knutsford a lot, although I was never a superhuge reader. Part of the problem that that books were not really part of my family experience. My evil father did like books by Wilbur Smith, but the less said about that the better. You need a reading guide sometimes. I found a book by Kafka in Knutsford library, and that warped and mutated by synapses. I can still see the bookshelf where my hand pulled "America" down. The huge University libraries tend to depress me, because there are usually just too many books and I get overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge. Of course, the University libraries still don't always have the books I need so I end up buying my own copy. The contradiction here is removed because some technical books are crap and not useful to me. Anyway Hillhead library is a small library. They have a good selection of fiction books. I have joined and this is what I checked out: Ley Lines (DVD), Rainy Dog (DVD), Rashomon (book). Anyway Hillhead library is a small library. They have a good selection of fiction books. I have joined and this is what I checked out: Ley Lines (DVD), Rainy Dog (DVD), Rashomon (book). OK, so I got two DVD as well, but look the films were directed by Miike Takashi. The book Rashomon I believe was the basis of the Akira Kurosawa film of the same name. The book also featured in the film Ghost dog, although the main book that influences Ghost dog is "book of the Samuri". I was going to buy the Rashomon book from Amazon, so I saved five pounds. Well I would have saved five pounds, but for the 6 pounds I spent on checking out the DVDs. I can also rent a DVD about making cocktails from the library. "Sex on the beach" anyone?. I can see my mind improving, once the bottles of vodka, rum, and gin are in my cupboards.
This week I finished the book "Capital Ideas and Market Realities" by Bruce Jacobs. This was a set of essays about modern finance. Bruce was complaining about "Portfolio Insurance". This is a strategy to move from stocks into safer cash or bonds, when the stock market starts to go into decline. This is meant to help stop loses. This is theoretical idea behind automated selling that was a cause of the stock market crash in 1986. I am still learning the financial jargon, but the book was a good introduction to the ideas of financial mathematics
Hey ring the church bells for I have finished reading a book! While I was away somewhere I read Air by Geoff Ryman. This is a book about the effect of a new type of wireless network that plugs into people's brains. The story is about the effect of this new Internet on the lives of a remote village close to China. There was a small amount of science fiction in it, but it was mostly about the effect of the Internet on a small rural village. Although this Internet was easier to use than the one we have. I enjoyed this clever book. The copyright for the book is 2004, so it is post the first dotcom bubble.
When I tried to follow literature in some way I decided to try and read something by the person who won the Nobel Prize in literature for that year. The first year I tried this I read "A Personal Matter" by Kenzaburo Oe. I thought the book was fantastic, but the review of the book on Amazon makes me feel like a crude guy. The next year a poet won the Nobel prize in literature, so I easily gave up on my quest for self improvement. This year Doris Lessing has won the Nobel prize in Literature. I already own two Lessing books: The good terrorist and the golden notebook. Needless to say I had not read either of them. Now that my half shattered brain is rested enough, I think I can blast through some new books. We shall see. I am pleased that Lessing has won the prize, because she has a streak of science fiction in her. Anyway I just glad that nasty Salmon Rushdie didn't win. He is too loved by the literary establishment, and I didn't get "Midnight's Children"
Sunday, October 07, 2007
PJ Harvey has a new CD out. The CD is called "white chalk". There is no guitar or drums on this new record, she mostly just plays the piano. It is very different from her normal guitar based man hating output. I was frankly stunned by the new sound, although that might have been due to the cans of the 8% Tesco lager. There are some really haunting tunes on this record. PJ looks like some Victorian governess on the photo for the CD. She doesn't look like the cool governess, who reads French novels, but more like a governess in a Henry James novel. I was going to say that secretly that I loved PJ Harvey, but I doubt that it much of a secret. Most men of my age love PJ. Somehow she is beyond style and cool. If I did go up and try and talk to her, I would end up rambling about extra DVD features and pyramids as I do around pretty women. Then the air would get hazy and I would lose sight of PJ as semi-transparent pictures of Picasso would dismiss me from her presence in a cool and educational way.
When I was growing up I listend a lot to public enemy. They just had such a fantastic sound, that was both positive and gun related. I don't tend to buy a lot of hiphop or rap, but that is because I never know who to buy. The closest to hiphop I have been recently is Mike Skinner's the streets (that I really love). I don't know why I don't listen to too much hiphop: the guns, drugs, loose women, and guns are so relevant to my life. Anyway I heard a public enemy track on the radio, so I went out and got the new album: How You Sell Soul To A Souless People Who Sold Their Soul I still love their sound. I got PJ Harveys latest CD at the same time, but I put public enemy on first.
Now that I am slowly finishing off various deadlines, I have been trying to take it a bit easy. Behind me there is a big park. I would not have noticed it, until I looked for my flat on google maps.
View Larger Map The name of the park is Ruchill park. I went for a walk there today (and last Sunday too). It is a big park, but it is almost deserted. There are way less people in Ruchill park than there are in Kelvingrove park, or the Botanic gardens. I walked up a hill on my own and looked at unkempt bushes. The first person I met last week, was carrying a bottle of Tennants, but wasn't a tramp. Its a good place to die I thought, there are so few people that muggers can get your cash and slit your veins before anyone notices your screams. There was a good climing frame, that was 4 or 5 m high. There is a good view at the top of the hill. Through the high rise buildings you can see the hills. Also the University of Glasgow looks grand.
View Larger Map The name of the park is Ruchill park. I went for a walk there today (and last Sunday too). It is a big park, but it is almost deserted. There are way less people in Ruchill park than there are in Kelvingrove park, or the Botanic gardens. I walked up a hill on my own and looked at unkempt bushes. The first person I met last week, was carrying a bottle of Tennants, but wasn't a tramp. Its a good place to die I thought, there are so few people that muggers can get your cash and slit your veins before anyone notices your screams. There was a good climing frame, that was 4 or 5 m high. There is a good view at the top of the hill. Through the high rise buildings you can see the hills. Also the University of Glasgow looks grand.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
I went out see the film called "Day Watch" last night. This was a Russian film mostly set in Moscow. What was it about? Good question, I wasn't so clear what was going on. There were forces of good versus the forces of darkness. There was a truce of some kind. Moscow got destroyed, but they turned time back with the 'chalk of destiny'. Anyway it was a reasonable action fantasy film set in Russia. The film is the second part of a trilogy. The first film was called Night watch.
Monday, October 01, 2007
When I was a graduate student at Edinburgh during a seminar by someone in the maths department. He mentioned that he had an 8th order polynomial to solve, so he said "so by an elementary application of Galois theory I factored the polynomial in two quartic equations." Woow. We were all deeply impressed by this. (Of course I would have just used maple to solve the equations numerically). I have always felt that I should be able to solve equations by Galois theory. I have just read the book "The equation that couldn't be solved" by Livio. This is a popular mathematics book about Galois's theory. There was a lot of generic stuff about symmetry in the book. As usual strings make an unwelcome appearance. Galois died young in a duel, so he is a romantic figure as well. There wasn't enough detail for me to understand why there is no closed solution to polynomials with order higher than 4. I should have read the 79 pages of Galois theory by Emil Artin instead. This is a more hard core book on sums.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I have been listening a lot to the latest Kevin Ayers CD called "the unfairground". Kevin Ayers has an interesting career history, he was in the same scene as Syd Barret. He had not made an album for over ten years. The new CD is so catch and fresh. I can still feel the songs when I walk into work.
I watched the DVD "Scott Walker 30 century man". This is a documentary about the singer/artist Scott Walker. He started out in a boy band, but ended up as an experimental artist. I love Scott's rich voice and the way he always used to wear sun glasses. Julian Cope released a compilation record of his work during the 80s. So he invited on the film, but Julian doesn't appear in font of the camera, so they showed his email instead. Julian is always so cool. Perhaps I will check out some of Walker's later experimental work.
Friday, September 28, 2007
I have been feeling realy burnt out recently. One of the ways I like to relax is to go and watch some a film. There is a new Tarantino film out called Death proof. This is a film about a stunt man who kills women, and then maybe gets killed by women in some way. I am not a high brow kind of person. Trash is my middle name. I felt better after watching "shoot em up" last week, but I really couldn't face going to see this film. Somehow I get annoyed that a big hollywood company would make an exploitation film. Instead I went home and watched a DVD called "Blade house of Chthon". This was a straight to DVD film about the blade vampire killer. It was actually better than blade III. THis looked like a TV series film, because it ended in a strange way. Thanks to google I found it was a pilot for a TV show that got cancelled. Never let it be said that I am not a man of principle.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I thought I was being so cool when I used a picture of William Burroughs sitting on a porch holding a rifle as the desktop background on my linux machine. I don't use linux for presentations, so I thought I would be safe. However, it didn't seem such a good idea when I was going through security at an airport and security asked me to turn the laptop on. As I watched the screen come up at the airport, I suddenly thought this could all end in tears (or me missing the flight). Anyway the security guard was not watching the screen. I have a picture of a bluegene computer on the windows partition.
I have been keeping this BLOG for over 3 years now, so I am entitled to give some advice for new bloggers. One thing that is very IMPORTANT is that you don't write anything that might stop you getting a job. The human resources departments usually have nothing better to do than than surf the web and send people word documents. So I humbly suggest that blogging that smoking a garden of blow is your main hobby is probably not a good idea, if your goal in life is to be corporate. (This shouldn't be a problem if you want to sell fast food and stay up late watching DVDs). Also I would stay clear of talking about controversial subjects. For example I would never consider writing a blog post about necrophilia. This is not really a problem because I don't really know anything about necrophilia. Of course there was that Soutpark program about the kids stealing the corpse of somebody's grandmother for some zany reason. When the police are telling the family about the lost of the corpse, the police make some very tasteless remarks about necrophilia. In the UK, this had people ringing in to complain. This must be one of the reasons that we can't see southpark on terrestrial. I did watch the DVD "visitor Q", directed by Takashi Miike, that had a long segment about necrophilia in a green house. Given the type of films that Miike directs, this was pretty tame, by his standards. I could of course research necrophilia by reading a wikepedia article, but you can't believe everything you read on the Internet. Some things need to be experienced. I did have a dream about having sex with someone who was tied up. I was pretty shocked by this and woke up immediately. The only part of my action film script has two hit men killing a woman. So this is part of the script (I own the copyright) Bang, bang the woman dies, Hitman 1, says "she's dead." Hitman 2, says "oh well waste not, want not", and starts to pull down his trousers. Hitman 1, says "what are doing man." Hitman 2, says "but she is still warm. I don't like it whan I have to talk about Eastenders, and they wriggle around when we are doing it". Hitman 1, says "put your trousers back on or I will kill you". Hitman 2, says "ok, ok, man your so weird". The two hit men exist stage left. I am a bit stuck on the next 87 minutes of the film, but there is clearly enough to hook Tarantino in to direct it. Anyway if you follow my advice you will be able to keep bloggng and hold a job.
I was staring at the vortex of the toilet, trying to get my head in the mood for another day. I am so stressed that I have been unable to think of anything to blog about. The toilet bowl mouthed back "you have got Bloggers block", but your pooh is still runny, frequent and smelly. Ten minutes later I had an idea for a posting. I can still do this, I thought. I am not just a broken shell with all the creative juices lost in a pub toilet somewhere. Then I went to work. I got back home an hour ago. I looked at the keyboard, and I had this vague feeling that I had something to type. I remember reading about some young genius, who wrote poetry, but he didn't have enough life experience to write about the world, so was reduced to writing poems called "poem in search of a theme". Anyway I have remembered what I was going to talk about. In the online guardian there was an article about broadband from the grave. Essentially you get a web site when you are dead, so you can record content and email, and send it tour family and friends when you are dead. It reminded me about a conversation I had with someone over 10 years ago. We were asking what happens to a persons web site when they are dead? There should be a graveyard of web sites. Effectively this already happens with myspace, because many of the people on my friends list are actually dead. They still manage to post video and pictures, and that makes me very proud.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I started this post sitting in a hotel room in a town called Venray in the Netherlands. Why was I there you may ask? Good question. I took a plane to Dusseldorf airport to go to a conference. I used ryanair, and the Dusseldorf/Weeze airport turns out to be 70 km from Dusseldorf. I stayed in Venray because it was closer to the airport. When I got off the plane last Sunday I noticed that there were many people actually sleeping in the airport. Venray is a nice town. I arrived there in the afternoon and went for a walk in the city center. There were lots of nice cafes with seats outside. Cafe culture, so sweet. Later in the evening I went for a walk. Many of the street cafes were closed, so I walked into the outer edges of the town's centre. There I found a kebab shop where I feasted on another Donner kebab. Although I like to think of myself as an outlaw, I am not so wild. At the edge of the town there were some cafes where you smoke dope. I just stared in at the window and watched the cool young things get mellow. I did go to a bar. No one there spoke English, but I did hear a conversation, that involved the words Stella and Heineken. Yes, isn't it wonderfull how travelling broadens the mind. There was some kind of rave/dance party at the edge of the town center. The drive to the airport was mostly through the country. Even the countryside seems ordered and designed in the Netherlands. The forests in Germany always strike me as very ancient and full of wild fury. The German forests have not been designed, but seem to have been there since the birth of mankind. Of course in the Netherlands, everytime I passed a big greenhouse. I winked to myself and wondered what they could be growing.
I went out to see the film "Shoot em up" on Friday night. I felt a bit guilty, because Mark Kermode gave it a bad review. The film is just a lot of mindless violence, however it was done with style and was actually quite funny. Anyway I felt better for watching it, though it was not the kind of film I would take my mum too. Somehow I feel a lot better after a bit of a laugh. I just watched a south park episode that involved Cartman taking off all his clothes to do a Ninja invisibility trick. He did this in front of an audience. I have to admit I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to die.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I have finished reading "the historian" by Elizabeth Kostova. I am not sure that reading a book about Dracula at a nuclear physics conference is a good idea. It was a very clever book, involving scholarship, and some good forward-backwards narrative. I am ashamed to say that it was on Richard and Judy's summer read.
I have just got back from a conference in Germany. While I was there I read "slaves of sleep" by L. Ron Hubbard. This was a kind of cheesy fantasy novel, with a nerd living a different life when he slept. It was a fun read, but not very deep. I have read some great science fiction books that are based on some philosophical idea. The strange thing is that Hubbard was the writer who founded Scientology. He just writes a standard by the numbers fantasy book.
When Apple announced that you could buy TV shows from ITunes, obviously my first thought was to try to get a science documentary. Somehow I ended up downloading a Southpark episode. I like to think of my self as unique in some kind of pompous way. However, I noted that the top download of TV shows from Itunes was Southpark. People in the UK clearly miss Southpark since it was pulled from terrestrial TV. I watched the episode "make love not warcraft". I used my old laptop. Trouble is the scenes slowed down and sometimes stopped. The animation on Southpark can be pretty weak, but it doesn't usually stop for 2 minutes. I was more successful watching "brother" downloaded from Channel4 on demand service. I originally wanted to watch a film, but couldn't be bothered to walk to Blockbusters. Unfortunately it took 2 hours to download, so I ended watched it a week later. Of course the software from Channel4 interfered with the BBC iplayer software. Of course if I was really cool I would download free stuff from peer to peer sites. I just get nervous having to deal with viruses and things. Anyway Blockbusters on Byers Rd have now got a much bigger collection of box sets. So I rented "family guy volume 3". Who needs the internet? One of my friends asked "what are you reading", I replied "that I was much too busy and stressed to do any reading". Umm.
I am behind on this blogging thing. I went to see the Bourne Ultimatum maybe two weeks ago. I was really excited to see it. I am not really sure I enjoyed it so much. Part of the reason was that half way through the film, I really needed to go to the toilet. OK. perhaps if I hadn't drunk the traditional pre-film beer, I would have been OK. I bet Jonathan Ross doesn't have this type of problem. Somehow the film was too much of a mismatch of the earler films. The film made me want to really go to Tangiers. Jason Bourne and the Nicky went over to Tangiers via a ferry from Spain. That is the best way to go, after going to Spain via some cheap airline route. Tangiers looks so sunny and beautiful.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
I have just finished reading a book called "The old new thing" by Raymond Chen. Chen was on the development team that wrote Windows 95/98/XP. It is interesting to hear his side of the story in the be nasty to Microsoft debate. His view was backwards compatibility at all costs. The programming examples were very ugly though.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
While I detox my system a little bit, I am finishing some books I started a long time ago. This week I got to end of the book "The 8:55 to Baghdad" by Andrew Eames. Agatha Christie took a trip to Baghdad in 1928. Andrew follows her trip, as best he can. Andrew's trip is just before the second Gulf war, so there is some tension when he is in Iraq. Agatha made the trip originally after her first marriage broke up. What is depressing s how friendly the Arabs were to Andrew. I doubt that he would get such a warm reception now. I need to plan more adventurous holidays.
What bands did I see on Sunday? Err, well none. It was muddy and I slunk out of the campsite at 10:00. After checking with more experienced festival goerers, I find that walking through mud is part of the festival experience, so I was a bit of a wimp frankly. If I had stayed then I would have wanted to see on the main stage: Devendra Banhart (not sure why), Gruff Rhys, Malcolm Middleton (ex Arab Strap), and Mistys big adventure. In the folkey dokey tent, I would have seen: artic circle, John Renbourn, Herman Dune, and the aliens. I was particularly looking forwardto seeing Herman Dune. Such is life though. Thus ends my coverage of the Green Man festival 2007.
Friday, August 24, 2007
On Saturday it rained. I usually switch between the main stage and the folkey dokey tent. It is nice to new bands. Unfortunately, I have managed to forget most of the people I saw in the Folkey dokey tent. I did see some good music there. I saw part of the set by "north sea radio orchestra". They were some kind of small classical ensemble who make classical music and have people sing William Blake songs. I am over my hatred for classical music, so I enjoyed their set (OK they are freakzone approved). I saw part of James Yorkston's set. On the main stage the first band I enjoyed was "monkey swallows the universe". Next on the main stage was Lisa Knapp. I liked her set, but I can't remember why. Later on clinic played. All the members of clinic wore surgical masks -- they were fairly indie, so made a nice change. At 5:30 a band called "the broken family band" played. They are some kind of alt-country group from Cambridge. I enjoyed their set. The penultimate band on the Saturday was "Vashti Bunyan". Vashti has an interesting history that you can look up else where. Even though she is over 60, she does have a sweet beautiful voice. Unfortunately, she was a bit quiet for a late night festival slot. Still I am glad I was there. The band on Saturday was "Robert Plant and the strange sensation". You can't accuse Robert of being quiet. I have to admit I never really got into Led Zepplin when I was growing up. Robert played a really goo set. He clearly enjoys singing. He played a mix of old and new stuff. The program said that he had gotten interested into middle eastern music. The mud bewitched me, so I didn't hear his full set. Still I had a great time.
So what about the music at the Green Man festival Craig? On the Friday night the headline act was Joanna Newson. She plays the harp in a beautiful way. Unfortunately, she is fairly quiet, so this means that the drunker members of the audience start talking. A 40 year old woman was loudly trying to pull a collegs student. The guy was saying I have no artistic understanding of music -- very true. In my minds eye I can still Newson pluck those harp strings. Before Joanna, her husband Bill Callahan played a set. Callahan used to record under the name "somg" and was a tad gloomy and slow. Now that he is married, he records under his own name and sounds a lot happier. I enjoyed his set -- although he doesn't move around so much. I also enjoyed Rachael Untank and the winterset who played the main stage about 16:30. I own their first album called "creul sister". There were some really good tracks on "creul sister" (one of which involved a hangover). I was amazed to see some tap dancing as part of their set. They were much more traditional than I remembered. The first band on the main stage was Gwildor. I liked them. The next band was Fanfarlo, who I am sure I have heard on the freakzone radio show. I was disappointed with Fanfarlo's set for some reason. I saw some good bands in the Folkey Dokey stage, but I can't remember their names. Sorry...
Thursday, August 23, 2007
While I was on the train I overheard a conversation about the Harry Potter books by people who looked as though they were also going to the green man festival. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against the boy wizard, but somehow spending the weekend with 10000 Harry Potter fans filled me with a Lord Voldemort like dread. Ok I was reading a fantasty novel as well. However my fantasy novel was based on a philosophical idea, so there is no way that it could be considered a nerdy book. In fact all 3 fantasy books that I read while travelling to and from the Green Man festival were all based on some deep idea. So here are the 3 books: Simak, "Why call them back from Heaven". The human race is constructing a business to revive the dead. But do we really want immortality? A.E Van Vogt, "the battle for forever". Pacifism mixes with vengeance. Tim Powers "The Anubis Gates". A man goes back in time to be a tourist guide for a talk by Coleridge. Things go wrong and he finds himself living the life of a person he was writing a biography about. Apart from being a good yarn, this touches on issues of free will and destiny. I think you will all agree that my choice of reading material was not at all nerdy or spotty faced.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
So part of this festival trip I took was about getting back into camping again. Some essential camping gear. I got most of my tent up without any help. I couldn't work out how the inner metal things worked, but someone kindly helped me after watching me looking at the instructions for ten minutes with a look that said I would rather be in the bar. When I bought the tent from Tescos for ten pounds it did seem a good deal. However when I looked around the camp site of 10000 people I did feel a bit cheap having such a basic tent. Some people had huge tents with awnings and almost fully equipped kitchens. The tent was some kind of pastoral blue, so it didn't look like a hard core camping tent. Also the forecast was for heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday and it wasn't clear my little tent could take it (although it was OK in the end). I had gone out and got a better sleeping bag from Blacks, rather than use the sleeping bag I got from Home bargains for 5 pounds. The first thing I noticed about the tent was that it wasn't ensuite. So I had to get up and walk through the mud a couple of times during the night to relieve myself. I had a two man tent, but there wasn't too much space. I got used to it in the end. My mum told me to not to touch the tent walls because that lets the water in. I was very paranoid about this and every time I did touch the walls, I did expect that God would punish me, in the same way he gave me bad eyesight. I think I needed a small ground sheet just outside the door, so I could put my boots on. The tents were pretty close together. So I could hear people talking until late at night. The music starts playing at 12:00pm, so most people seemed to stay up late, then get up late. This is what I would have done if I had been with a group of people. I felt refreshed in the morning, so I can't complain. OK, next time I will be better organized. When I was young, my family used to go on camping trips. Somehow the tent would always get blown down or flooded, or we would get attacked by blood sucking insects. Anyway these disasters would at least stop the arguments and fights for a little while, so we could all relax a bit.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I will post more stuff about the music at the green man festival later. This festival has a different feel to others. It really is a weird folk and psychedelic festival. It is clearly not a traditional folk festival, but when Rachel Unthank and the Winterset played the main stage on Friday at 16:30 they had some clog dancing in their set, that people who looked like indie children seemed to like. On reflection the Welsh like their psychedelic folk. There were a lot of ex-members of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci playing. The only reason I had heard of many of the bands is by regularly listening to the freakzone on radio 6. Normally I live happily in my own musical world where no one has heard of the stuff I like. At the festival, I heard people excited to watch Vashti Bunyan and Bill Callahan (these are not so obscure I might add). I am not alone, but perhaps if I move to the next level of obscurity then I will be.
I am back from the Green Man festival. I had a really good time. My tent didn't fall down. I didn't fall into any ditches dead drunk. I didn't fall head first into the mud bath. I got the train to on Thursday to Abergavenny The ticket cost about 120 pounds which was bout 50 pounds more than I thought it was going to be. Somehow it more expensive to go there than to go to London. The journey from Glasgow took 6 hours, but as I was reading my book time went quickly. There was a coach from the railway station to the festival site. There was a little wait for the buses to turn up, but everyone looked excited by the prospect of a weekend of cider and bands. It was less than a 20 minute drive from the station to the festival site. The festival site is in the country. The green man festival is a small festival compared to the big ones such as Glastonbury.I think that there were fewer than 10000 people - but still a good number of people. The camp site seemed big to me. The festival was in Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons. When you look up you see a huge mountain with its top covered in cloud. If the cloud is at the bottom of the mountain that means it is raining or it is about to start raining. There were a lot of trees around. There were 3 or 4 stages, plus other areas for children, a cinema tent, a green field site. I saw that the Institute of Physics were doing some demos there. Umm, good to see that my annual membership fee is put to good use. If all "outreach" was like that I would be more keen to get involved. There was a lot of space to explore. The main stage was in an amphitheatre. Some of the other venues were up the hill hidden away in an enchanted wood. I believe that children under the age of 12 were free to go in. There were a lot of children about. I am not really a family person, but somehow having children playing makes an occasion more adult. There was a huge choice of food available. There was food from Spain, the middle East, China, plus interesting stuff from the UK. So you could get through the weekend without eating a single burger. OK, so I ate one burger when I was there, but it was gourmet and frankly what did you expect me to do? Cook for myself? I will post about the music and camping later. I have to admit I came home a day earlier than I planned. It rained most of Saturday, so the festival site was essentially covered with 2 inches of mud. I had good boots that I am still scrapping the stuff off. It looked as though it was going to rain on Sunday too. I am the kind of person who will fall flat in a big pool of mud. When I was younger I went on a camping trip with the ATC. I managed to fall in a big pile of mud in a farm yard. When my father, never a person who could restrain exerting his wit on an unfortunate person, picked me up to take me home, he noted that sh*t people attract sh*t. (How I laughed). It was possible to move between the stages at the end of Saturday, but the mud \ slowed me down. It was taking me 20 minutes to get from the main stage (near the bar) to the toilets. I would drink a pint of cider, take 20 minutes to go to the toilets. By the time I came back I was ready to go to the toilet again. I would come back to bar at the main stage, drink a pint of cider, after which I was ready to go to the toilet again. You get the picture. There was an incredible age range of people at this event. Some people were with their children and their parents too.
I went to see Napalm Death play at the Glasgow barfly last Wednesday. When I was around 20 I used to be into Napalm Death, and I wanted to see them play. I never managed it then. I didn't really start going to gigs until I was studying at Edinburgh University. Napalm Death were a famous grind core / death metal band who formed in the early 80s. They played very fast short songs. John Peel was a fan. I had not followed what they were doing since then. The Glasgow barfly is a small venue that mostly plays indie type bands, rather than a metal bar. It was packed when I went there. Everyone was wearing black, as you might expect, but at some stage I was trying to get to the bar, I seemed surrounded by blackness. When they started playing, I was enjoying the band, but the guy I was with turned to me and said, "this is not real grindcore". I spend the next 15 minutes worrying about this until he went off to the mosh pit and voted with his feet that they were genuine death metal. Napalm death played a good set. Somehow they are getting more political. Perhaps death metal is drifting back to its hard core punk roots.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I am looking forward to my trip to the festival later this week. This does involve some camping. I have not been camping for nearly 15 years. I went into town today to get some gear. Trouble is I didn't realize that TJ Hughs don't sell camping stuff. I did find a "Blacks" shop, but just as it was shutting up. I was really looking for an army surplus place where I could get some proper ex-military gear. I don't want some pouncy "middle class camping gear". The point of camping is to suffer a little, rather than to carry around a hotel room in your car. When I did go camping I did use use some military mess tins with a simple stove. This was easier to use than one of those nasty gas stoves. I didn't see any military surplus shops in Glasgow. I did see a lot of ugly pound saver shops. It is too late to order any army surplus from ebay, maybe next time. I have seen the first Rambo movie "first blood". It doesn't look too hard to live off the land. All I need is a large knife. I guess that killing a deer would not go down well with the average hippy festival goer, but grilling a rabbit over a fire may be OK (perhaps???). When I was maybe 16 or 17, I bought a book called "No need to die" by Eddie McGee. This was all about living off the land. Why did I buy the book? At some point some murderer killed someone and then hid in the country. Eddie tracked him down. This sounds like bollocks now that I think about it, but at the time it was on TV and made some kind of sense. One of the tricks in the book was to use a condom to catch a fish. I don't see that walking into camp with a trout in a condom is a good way to pull a festival hippy chick, even though it would show that I was a good "hunter gather sort.". I can see that I am going to end up eating festival burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yummy!
I have been feeling really run down and tired this week. I am exhausted. I have a lot of work to do, but I am having problems functioning, both at work and as a human being. I am getting annoyed my people standing in my way as I walk around the fabulous West End of Glasgow. Somehow people move slowly and decide to have a big think in doorways. I cut a sad figure as I walked into a number of off sales places in Glasgow. I was all shaking with tiredness and muttering "sake". (Somehow all the sake in Glasgow has been drunk, so no joy). I am not the only one who is exhausted. The Guardian has an article about the US army in Iraq. They are tired too, but perhaps for better reasons. I could of course try going to bed earlier, or meditating. Perhaps a relaxing stroll through the Botanical gardens would help. Nope, I need time off line and R&R outside Glasgow. Anyway I did try to make some life style changes. I got two cans of Red Bull. I have tried to drink Red Bull in the past. I don't like the taste. Did it wake me up? No not really, I just felt like "sh*t" quicker. Perhaps I will soldier on with this Red Bull thing. This is what the US army use to keep awake and fighting alert. Sure some bullets go astray, but at least the soldiers keep awake.
I have been using the iplayer from the BBC. This internet thing is pretty cool. You can download programs from the last week. You then have 28 days to start watching the program. OK, I should worry about DRM and stuff like that. This is for programs created by the BBC, so you can't get "Family Guy". I will obviously use this new program to improve my mind with cultural and historical TV programs. Until, then I have downloaded shows for "Mock the week", "Dr Who", and "Life on Mars". I am easy to please. This is one of the reasons I am not reading many books at the moment.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I went to see the Simpson's movie last week. I no longer regularly watch the Simpson's on TV. I have moved on to "Family Guy" and "American Dad". I would watch Southpark if it were available on terrestrial TV. I enjoyed the Simpson's film -- it wasn't a really great film, but it was enjoyable. The same evening, I watched "Unknown" on DVD. This is a film about 5 men waking up in a room with their memory lost. It was intense, but ultimately empty. Still it was a lot better than many films I have seen recently.
I am going to the green man festival next week I am really excited. I am also very tired and exhausted after the conference, so I need to get away for a couple of days. I am having problems working. I am not as messed up as Amy Whinehouse, but I am not living a pure and healthy life. I feel so tired at the end of the working day. This festival has a mellow hippy feel to it. To counter balance that I hope to go out and see Napalm Death. They are playing Glasgow on Wednesday. I have wanted to see them play for a long time. I should get all the rage and hate out of me.
It was so humiliating but I really needed the latest CDs by Julian Cope and Kate Nash. Now that fopp has closed I am reduced to buying CDs from Virgin megastore. I slipped into the store trying to look as though I was lost, so the cool people wouldn't waggle their wasted fingers at me. I have seen Kate Nash play and I like the song "foundations" a lot. Perhaps I have a thing for angry chicks who hate men. The first track on the Kate Nash, sounded like a pointless filler track. This didn't put me in a good mood. There are some good tracks on the CD, but I don't like it as much as the first record by Candie Payne. The guardian review is a bit harsh as well. I expect that I don't like listening to her London accent too much. On the other hand Julian Cope's latest CD is fantastic. Now that I have been educating myself about bands such as Can and Neu, I appreciate his sound a lot. I remember listening to an interview with him in the 80s, when he said he had some problems recording because he thought that he was a city center. He is clearly an articulate clever guy. I like obscure music, but when I look at his web site he is clearly finding a higher level of weirdness in hidden sound. Umm, I don't seem to have told you the name of Cope's new album. I am not a professional reviewer. You got a problems with me?
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
A couple of weeks ago, I watched the DVD about John Lennons problems with the US government during the late 60s and early 70s. Let me start out by saying that I hate the Beatles. I particularly hate Paul McCartney. And Paul, it is not cool to put out a record with Starbucks. I am addicted to coffee, but putting one of your CDs near the latte machine is not likely to make me want to buy it, or like you. There was some early footage of the Beatles, and even then Paul looked like a total twat. I am being a bit harsh about the Beatles. I do like George Harrison, because he funded a lot of good films (Monty Python and Withnail And I). Also he was a good hippy singer. John always struck me as a phony, but that is no reason to shoot him of course. As part of the documentary they showed some footage with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Reuben. Both Abbie and Jerry were anti-war protestors and were both very good speakers. Abbie Hoffman wrote "steal this book", that I read when I was in Salt Lake City
While in Germany I read "after the neocons" by Francis Fukuyama. I used to try and read a (usually left wing) political book for every 2 others. Fukuyama is not a left wing author. He is famous for writing a book called "the end of history", that claimed that all societies approach liberal western democracies with time. I have not read "the end of history", but I will do one day (being well read and that). The book I did read was about Iraq. It was an "insiders" view on Iraq and the idea of state building. These people have a very philosophical way of thinking about foreign policy, that is alien to those of us who stopped studying history at the age of 14. As I get older I do find that I am reading more political books by right week people. This might be because, I am getting more conservative as I get older (true), or I am getting more cunning (know your enemy).
Umm, I don't seem to have posted anything for a while on my BLOG. Last week I went to the lattice 2007 conference in Regensburg. Somehow this always involves a huge amount of effort and stress. The day before my talk, I am usually too nervous to say anything. I am hoping to go the Green Man festival in two weeks time. There is a really good set of people playing. However, there is a postal strike on, so I am not sure I am going to get my tickets.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
One thing I really regretted was not seeing Michael Gira play at the Indian summer festival. He used to play in a bad called "the Swans". I don't focus on the detail, like remembering people's names in bands. I thought the tent he was in was only for dance music. I don't have anything against dance music I might add, I just didn't bother to walk the 30 yards to the next tent. I did see the swans play in Edinburgh in maybe 1992 or 1991. The swans sort of had two sounds. They were first very loud. Then they got very low, slow and gloomy. You can guess what stage of their musical evolution I was more interested in. The only reason I know that he played was because I read a review in the Scotsman.The festival was closed by the flaming lips. I am sure I saw them play in Liverpool. I think I saw them play in Lexington Kentucky. I enjoyed seeing them play before, but now they are stunning live. The flaming lips set was just amazing. Wayne Coyne went into the crowd in a plastic bubble. There were huge balloons set lose into the audience. Confetti was fired into the audience. The whole set was a positive vibe.
The Indian Summer festival just started last year. The maximum capacity of the festival is 6000, so it is small. There were three music areas. One big stage, and two tents. The festival area is in enclosed in trees. It only rained for a short while. I had not heard of many of the bands, but I liked the idea of hearing some new sounds. I didn't see a band that I thought sucked. All the guitar sounds were crisp and clean. After last year, I took the running order with me so I had a better idea of who was playing this year. I particularly wanted to see Daniel Johnston play. He was playing the headliner in the radio 6 tent. Before I knew of his history, I used to search out his records. His voice was so full of pain. Now that I have seen the documentary about him, I know that he stopped taking his medication to get those performances. When he was close to getting a record deal, he was in an insane asylum. This was a long time ago, so he was old. Anyway the tent was half full when Daniel played, but the people there were very committed. I have to admit the highlight of his set was "speeding motorcycles". They played a set from Daniel Johnston on the George Lamb radio show. He hadn't heard of Daniel and had been in LA to cover the Beckhams. He didn't get it. As another radio 6 presenter said, Johnston is an an acquired taste.
Monday, July 02, 2007
I went out to see "we are the physics" play at the Glasgow Barfly last Friday. When I saw the band name on the barfly listing, I thought that gig looks a bit nerdy for my cool self. This was of course hypocrisy of a high order since I work in a Physics department. I did listen to a live set they did for Marc Riley on his radio 6 show. It sounded as though furniture was being rearranged when they played and young Marc was blown away. So I had to go and see them play. The first minute of their set was not so promising, but after that the set was awesome. The music is fast and there is fast hand clapping. They complained that they had played to 10 people in the Liverpool barfly the night before. None of the people at Liverpool wanted to dance. Well if I had still been living in Liverpool there would have been 11 people who didn't want to dance. They have a song called "action", which I wanted to chant "Lagrangian", but didn't. "We are the physics" deserve to be big, but life is cruel. I didn't stay for the clubbing night, so I got home before 12:00, so the next day wasn't lost.
A week last Friday I went out to see "the Elvis suicide" play at the Glasgow barfly. I had the choice I could have seen "hell is for heroes", but the magic of myspace, helped me chose the local Glasgow band. I enjoyed their set. The first band on, I thought were called "capacitors", but looking at the ticket, they may have been named "Kino Box". The sound was Eastern European and it reminded me of "Beirut". Somehow the Elvis suicide were not the last band to play. (If you want proper gig reviews I suggest you buy the NME). On Friday the bands stop playing at 11:00, so they can have a clubbing night. As I got out of the venue at 2:30, I decided that it is probably not a good idea for me to stay for the club night. I did try and chat someone up, but the person told me that they were born in Florence which frankly was more information than I needed to know at 1:00 in the morning with a brain addled by Carling. There is a reason that the Glasgow underground stops at 11:20.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Given the disturbing events happening in Glasgow, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am safe and I have managed it through the day. On Saturday I heard the very sad news that the fopp chain of CD shops has closed. One of the fopp shops on Byers Rd was the main place I bought CDs from. What am I going to do now on a Saturday afternoon? I still like CDs. Ok, I can just go around the corner to the shop called "Lost in Sound" This is actually a much more independent record shop than fopp. I could also go and get CDs from the avalanche shop near Queens railway station. There is also Amazon and Itunes. Ok, so I will survive. Now that my supply of music is secure I can now start to worry about the threat of terrorism.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I have already managed to forget how I heard about Wesley Willis. I think his name was mentioned in an online article about some doomed semi-obscure singer. I am listening to his CD "greatest hits volume 2". Needless to say he never had a hit, but was famous enough to have fans. When he met them he used to head butt them in a slow way. His CD, "greatest hits volume 1" is selling for twenty quid on Amazon. He talks and rants in a semi-crazed way on the CD I now own.
I have been trying to cut down on drinking a couple of beers before I goto bed. In principle this should mean that I feel a lot fresher in the morning. However I find that I have very vivid dreams when I sleep sober. I think that the alcohol is suppressing my imagination. For example on Sunday I dreamt that I was wondering around town trying to find a place to mastibate in the street. Then there was a big hole in my penis, where blood gushed out. So I felt like sh*t on Monday, even though I didn't go out and party on the booze the night before. I am sure there could be some kind of Freudian interpretation of this dream, but it is particularly mean to use sexual desire in a nightmare. Normally sexual fantasy in dreams is a good way to hide from the killers in the nightmares. On Tuesday I drank some beer before I went to bed. I had a dream about a puppy and the dog I owned when I was a child. Ummm. Of course if I told this story in the real world, people would start to mutter about "pink elephants" and flying pigs. The Floyd are touring again, so the flying animal may in fact be real this time.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I was planning to go and see some French film on Friday night (Tell No One), but a last minute computer problem forced me to stay slightly late. So instead I went to see the latest "fantastic four film" at the local Grosvner theatre. It was an OK film, but it didn't do too much for me. Frankly I don't go to watch super hero films, to see them have angst about getting married. More explosions! It was all too cute and bright, even though one of the characters get tortured for a short while. In his review of the fantastic 4 film Mark Kermode mentioned that you don't get to learn a lot about the mythology of the "silver surfer" from the film. The history of the silver surfer comic is interesting, if the Wikepedia entry can be believed. The comic got killed because of too much angst.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I have been living a fairly reclusive life the last few years, so I don't have too many close friends. I do read that people with a happy family and social life live longer. But trying to make friends by grasping people by the collar and shouting "be my friend. I don't want to die," has frankly not improved my circle of friends. The real reason for this post is that I wanted to sign up for Jost (Internet TV), but I need a friend to refer me. I don't know anyone who has Jost. I am not moving in hard core nerd circles. Anyway, let us see if the power of the google blog search will help me find a friend who will refer me to a beta Jost account. I so deserve to be an early adopter. Friends help their friends spend more time online.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
On the train to my mum's house, I read "Fischer Black and the revolutionary idea of Finance" by Perry Mehrling. Fischer Black was a theorist who invented ways to study the stock market and money. I am starting to understand this derivative (in the finance sense) business a bit better. He was a loner recluse, but still managed to be married 3 times. He had a very clever filing system that allowed him to work very efficiently. I didn't know that they didn't understand the stockmarket in the late 60s, and early 70s.
I went to a stag do last weekend. While I was out in Edinburgh one time, I saw a lot of people wearing fancy dress. I was a bit worried that a stag night in Glasgow would also mean having to wear a some kind of fancy dress, or perhaps even worse a shirt. Luckily though a stag night in Glasgow is a more classy affair than in Edinburgh. The plan was to drink a couple of beers and then take a trip to a strip joint. I have to admit I bailed on the strip joint part. Obviously, a trip to a strip joint might have livened up the stories I tell, but frankly it all seemed very expensive. So I sat in a pub instead till closing time, choosing booze over naked flesh. The next day it was the West End festival. The West End was full of people. I didn't see any of the parade, but spent all my time dodging people. Somehow there seemed more drinks on the street this year, then last year. Clearly the best place to see the parade is to sit in a pub in Ashton lane, and munch on a burger. I am only happy when I am not happy.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I sent to see Kate Nash play at King Tuts on Sunday. I got there just as the support act were finishing up. The venue was packed, but the support act were not very loud. The audience seemed to like them, so what do I know? Every time I have been to King Tuts, the venue has been packed. This could be because I only go out to see people half way up the escalator of fame and fortune. Kate Nash played a very intense set. She swears a lot -- a good sign.
Hippies shouldn't be allowed to make films I went to see the film "El Topo" at the Glasgow film theatre (GFT) on Friday. The GFT is the main art house cinema in Glasgow. El Topo was apparently a famous film in the early 70s. F*ck knows why. It starts with a gun fighter looking for a gang who murdered a village. He finds the gang and some hippie chick. Then he goes in search of four gun men in the desert. Then he dies and wakes up in a cave with a bunch of people who are deformed. The plot goes on, but I guess that you are having problems following. I am glad I saw it, and it was not as pretentious as my crappy plot synopsis makes out. I am probably just bitter, because I cou\ld have gone to see "the battle of Algiers" instead.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Another week, another bin full of rubbish. It is the futility of it all that gets me the most. The week starts with the bin pristine and clean. After a week of harsh living the bin is full of decomposing food and polluting packaging. This pattern will repeat for the rest of my life. There must be a way of breaking out of this cycle of existence. Buddha, wot do ya say?
Monday, June 04, 2007
When I was around 16 to 18, I used to listen to Marc Boland's T-Rex a lot. As time passed I didn't play Trex so much -- partly because I am trying to keep up with the new sounds from new bands. Also Marc Boland was viewed by some people (such as John Peel) as a bit of a twat. Also I found out that Boland was one of the first "boy bands". Ok, maybe the monkeys were first... I was pointed in the direction of Boland's first band called "John's children". This is before Boland got into glam, but the sound of "John's children" is really exciting. Boland was writing the songs, but somehow he wasn't totally in charge. Since we are talking about groups who are perhaps not so famous, I also got a copy of the CD "Y" by the pop group. This group recorded during the late 70s. I am not an expert on musicology, but this doesn't sound like they are playing pop music. In fact it is not clear that all band members are playing the same song. This is not to say that they were one of those punk bands who couldn't play- but somehow it is a wonderful mess. Since we are talking "post punk", the fopp store in Glasgow tried to tempt me with a CD by magazine. For some reason, I remember that I need to own a magazine CD. Also, if you see me out in a CD shop you will sometime see me say "fu*k" near the section that starts with "b". I will get a CD by "the blue orchids" one day.
Friday, June 01, 2007
I went out to see the band "from autumn to ashes" play at King Tuts last Sunday. They are a new metal band. Frankly, I just wanted a night out. They were pretty intense though, so I enjoyed their set. I also bought a ticket to see Kate Nash play. The gig is 8 days away. I can't wait.
I have to admit I do spend a lot of time looking at myspace profiles. Some may call this stalking, others may simply suggest that I get a life. Some profiles have a picture of people pointing a gun at at the camera. I don't worry that these people have real guns. They don't look so hard to me. When I was at school I took a course in theatre arts (that I failed). One thing I did learn is that the audience in a theater suspends their belief for the show. They accept that people don't really die on stage. This seems similar to me not being worried by gun carying myspacers. Somehow I can accept that the gun is not real. Does the contract of disbelief transfer to other weapons? I think I would be more worried by pictures of people holding a knife. There is nothing fake about cold steel. Anyway here is a picture of my machete. You can judge whether you are worried or not. I don't view it as a combat blade.
I was walking by the off licence at the end of Byers Rd in the fabulous West End of Glasgow. An old man with a long white beard beckoned me in. Dostoyevsky, I thought, and I walked into the shop to shake his hand. But poof he disappeared, as I entered the shop. The only thing that remained was a bottle of Bajithka 3. Wow, Russian beer imported to Glasgow. Yes, I can get beer from all round the world in Glasgow. Apart from common places such as Germany and Poland, the picture shows a beer from Argentina. I once had a wicked plan to seduce someone by claiming to be able to take them on a world tour. My cunning scheme was then to take them to bar that sells beers from around the world. Then I could innocently say, "what I actually said was that we were going to drink ourselves around the world". I am not sure it would have worked, somehow I guess that most women would think that that world tour means actually going to the country. My theories that drinking a beer from a country allows you to teleport there, wouldn't go down well on your average date. What have I learnt from drinking beer from many different places around the world? Well, beer makes you ill, fat and stupid, whatever country it is brewed in.