Saturday, August 25, 2007

The 8:55 to Baghdad

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.

Green man festival -- No music on Sunday

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

Green man festival -- music on Saturday

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.

Green man festival -- music on Friday

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

festival reading

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

camping with the green man

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

Green man festival

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.

Green man festival - setting the scene

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.

Napalm Death

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!

more complaining about being tired

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.

byebye TV hello laptop

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

Simpson's movie

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.

a month of bins

I have not been very good at keeping up with my promise to show you my bin every week. I have been taking pictures of the bin, I just have been too tired to post. Below are 4 week's of my bin. Enjoy!

green man

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.

Nash versus Cope

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

The U.S. Vs John Lennon

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

after the neocons

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).

I'm back!

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.