Archive for the ‘ JUST AN OBSERVATION ’ Category

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Well less than a week to go until the Fringe kicks off officially and already the streets are busying up.However to add to the chaos of all the road works, especially around the Leith Street area where the demolition of the St. James Centre has been causing problems before this busy season, there is the added prospect of the new security barriers/gates stationed in the Royal Mile and its surrounding areas to add to the confusion and frustration.
Whilst I think it is admirable that the council are at least implementing safety measures and can now be seen to be doing something, I do question whether this is the wisest decision. Apparently they are in place to prevent terror attacks such as the one on London Bridge where a vehicle ram-raided several victims injuring many and killing eight. However as the congested traffic of the Fringe rarely moves at little more than two miles per hour- a slight exaggeration maybe- if at all then the likelihood of anyone gaining enough speed in their vehicle to cause any serious harm is highly unlikely. My attentions run more to the Manchester Arena attack wherein a suicide bomber had his targets inside a venue and struck there. These security gates may slow down entry to the busiest area of the town at its peak time of the year but they will also slow down any escape if something tragic was to occur in this designated area. I am sure the council have considered this and have safety measures in place but if not these gates pose more of a risk than anything else.
As for the Fringe itself, as said before the streets are hotting up and yesterday the Royal Mile was in full flow. I can only imagine it is a matter of time before I am shouting at dithering tourists to get out my way; a matter only made worse if it is raining and judging by summer 2017 so far I think this is already an inevitability. Then again we may have used up our rain supplies for this year already. I certainly hope so.
Elsewhere the BBC and Channel 4 have been celebrating 50 years of gay rights and the repeal of anti-homosexual laws in 1967. Watching some of these documentaries, films etc. has brought it hom to me how far we have come in the last fifty years and how much society has changed its attitudes with each successive generation. It is quite bewildering to think of the fear the gay community lived in before these changes in the law were made. Now being gay has been subsumed by mainstream media and culture not that the work is ever done as there is always someone trying to inflict their bigoted and harmful views and opinions on any impressionable minds willing to listen. In the main though the last fifty years are definitely something to celebrate and reflect upon.
In complete contrast over in the Trumpton States of America Trump has announced that transgendered people can no longer serve in the military. Whether this is legal or not has still to be confirmed but it does beg the question who is actually pulling his strings behind the scenes. Certainly his tweets reveal am impetuous, irresponsible and irrational egotist but the systematic removal of the heads of significant departments in a manner of months shows a calculated mind I honestly don’t think he possesses. His outbursts and tantrums are merely a front to distract from the evil going on behind the scenes.
Out today is the long-awaited new Arcade Fire album and on first listens mighty impressive it is too. Less sprawling than their last offering and its lead off single- and title track- Everything Now would have been the perfect summer anthem if we had had any kind of summer at all.
Oh well, at least we have the Fringe to look forward to!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

So it transpires the British Biased Corporation are a little bit sexist in the way they decide what rate of pay to pay their ‘stars’. It would seem that if you are of the male persuasion then it is highly likely that you will be paid considerably-quite considerably- more than if you are female. It makes me wonder whether the recent appointment of Jodie Whittaker as the long overdue first female Dr. Who is simply a money-saving exercise disguised as a step into the more gender fluid and equality based 21st Century, but we will come back to that later.
It wasn’t just the gender based pay gap which was shocking however but the actual levels of pay themselves were quite astounding: Chris Evans on over 2 million basic, Gary Lineker on 1.5 million, Graham Norton on 850, 000 and trailing behind the highest paid female Claudia Winkleman on 500, 000.
It would seem that the more irritating you are the higher you get paid- Gary Lineker is probably the least irritating out of this bunch although his Twitter response was regarded as smug but was really just a misjudged attempt at irony- and why anyone would want to pay Vanessa Feltz £350,000 for anything other than to just go away permanently is beyond me.
There has been talk since the pay gap was revealed that perhaps by lowering the male salaries to bring them onto line with those of the females is a solution but somehow I can’t really see that happening. Can you?
Meanwhile whilst this debacle was raging its way through the headlines and stealing the limelight the government very sneakily brought in an earlier start to new legislation raising the retirement age to 68. Funny there was no mention of this in their manifesto before the election. It is almost like they thought it might lose them votes and therefore best not to position it alongside such sure-fire election winners such as Fox Hunting and the Dementia Tax. I mean Really!
Back to the other BBC scandal this week which was the appointment of the first female Dr. Who, Jodie Whittaker. Personally I can’t see what the fuss is about as the idea of a time travelling alien with two hearts who can regenerate almost at will whilst flying around in a blue 1960’s style police box is hardly grounded in reality itself. It could certainly introduce a new slant on the ‘it’s bigger on the inside’ line frequently used in the programme.
I feel similar to how I felt when John Barrowman played Captain Jack Harkness –in both Dr. Who and its anagram spin-off Torchwood- that it was a huge and positive step forward for gay role models on television. I mean a gay man who is not only immortal with special powers but also on the right side of good-looking was a new thing on television.
The fact that Barrowman went onto blow it by going all musical theatre on us is irrelevant; it was the fact that gay men could be shown in a positive light that was new. What was important was the belief that he was virtually indestructible which meant that he didn’t have to die or suffer too much for his perceived sins which was both innovative and refreshing. Somewhere out there teenage boys struggling with their sexuality had a positive role model that could make them feel better about themselves as opposed to troubled gay men on TV who came beset with a whole set of issues merely to make them appear interesting and give them a raison d’etre. The other TV stereotype was the mincing queen which was generally stripped of any sexuality at all. Barrowman ushered in a new breed of desirable gay men.
I am hoping Whittaker has the same impact on young girls and helps to break down the socially constructed binary gender rules which have been stifling western growth for generations. Hopefully this is a step forward in smashing those restrictive walls. On a personal level she is lovely as I met her during last year’s film festival when she was promoting her film Adult Life Skills and we even danced at a cailidh –Kim Cattrall also joined us- so I can now say I have actually danced with Dr. Who. And she was a FEMALE! Bonus!
Now let’s hope she is paid accordingly and at the same rate as previous Doctors.
Still struggling with the upcoming Fringe and have ‘narrowed down’ my possible shows to a slightly impossible sixty-six so a bit more streamlining is needed. It doesn’t help that it still all seems so far away-even though it is only two weeks- as the weather still feels like it is late winter/early spring. I wish it would hurry up and catch up before the summer is over and it hasn’t even started!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Rain, rain and yet even more rain!
The end of June and it would seem that in Scotland-and other parts of the country- it feels more like winter with wellies, winter jumpers and even the central heating back on. Hurry up summer!
The sun certainly hasn’t shone on our public services such as nurses, fire-fighters and the police this week when an amendment to allow them a much-needed and well deserved pay-rise was denied them. This is despite them having been stretched to their limits recently with terror attacks, the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy and being generally short-staffed and grossly underpaid for the work they do.
And just who was it who denied them this long overdue pay-rise?
Step forward the new Tory/DUP alliance that have possibly made their first fatal error in their guise as our hastily assembled new government.
Let us not forget also that the DUP received 1.5 billion pounds as a ‘bribe’ only days before from the Tories as a means of propping up their minority government and backing them in decisions such as these.
Let us also not forget that it was announced that the Queen is also to receive a pay rise from the government in the near future alongside the 365 million pounds to do up her Buckingham Palace residence.
And let us certainly remember that when it was announced in the House Of Commons that Labour had lost their battle to lift the pay cap on these much-needed and sadly depleted public services that the Tory side of the house cheered. They actually cheered.
Theresa May may have claimed when talking to a nurse during her disastrous election campaign that there was ‘no magic money tree’ to shake for anyone who asked but somehow seems to have found said money tree when it is needed to buy her votes in parliament or when one of the richest people in the world needs one of their houses done up. Maybe the magic money tree has its roots somewhere in the North Sea, in the oil we keep being told is virtually worthless!
Five more years of this?
I sincerely hope not!
And still it rained…
Talking of rain it would seem that rainy season aka the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival are on the horizon. Not had much time to check out the programme as yet but will get onto it in the next week. I certainly hope it is more exciting than last year’s offerings which I felt were treading water. So much has happened over the tumultuous last two years- perhaps last year we were too much in the most of it all happening for it to be captured- that there is a wealth of scenarios that can be adapted and turned into effective dramas.
Mind you how you turn the events of recent times into something for the stage when the actuality is pretty fantastical and unbelievable itself is a tall order for any writer. Certainly it is something that is hard to top.
What I would say I already recognise as unmissable are live shows by PJ Harvey, Jarvis Cocker, a David Bowie based play ‘ Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads’, a Jock Scot memorial with John Cooper Clarke and a certain Neu Reekie event which set my social media off all day yesterday.
The latter looks like being one of those nights that everyone who is anyone simply has to be at. Ostensibly a celebration of Irvine Welsh and 21 years of Trainspotting it certainly has a very impressive line up: the much-loved and legendary Fire Engines are regrouping for the event, the influential Arthur Baker is appearing and of course there will be Welsh himself.
It is a night that captures what is best about Edinburgh but to me personally it also captures what is worst about it; a willingness to celebrate our city’s great past and importance but at the same time a sense that there is an unwillingness to move on from it and instead content to wallow in past glories thus rendering the current scene dull and uninspired in comparison.
Being out and about on the scene in Edinburgh I see how its inhabitants are set in their ways and only move in their own comfort zones almost fearful of embracing anything new. Its live music scene is quite stagnant at the present time and its club scene is stuck somewhere in a mid-nineties hinterland; unable and unwilling to move on. I personally am always looking for new things to try out but it is hard in a city where the main mindset seems to be living in the past and frantically trying to relive lost youth.
And then there’s the rain…
Seriously though I do feel the dreich weather is in some way responsible for the lack of inspiration in our great cities nightlife as it is for the most part quite uninspiring. Often it doesn’t even inspire or encourage you to leave the house.
The prices in bars, clubs and music venues are extortionate when you get there anyway so it is little wonder that people hark back to the times when a fiver could get you a night out and even a kebab on the way home if you were lucky. The days of going for a night out with no money in your pockets have long gone. Nowadays you need to have plenty money and a certain amount in reserve…just in case.
It never rained in those days either!
Mind you things could always be worse; just imagine that Geri Halliwell had written and recorded a tribute record in your memory as she has done with George Michael. Now that is bad!
Worse than all this rain I’d say!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Another week and another disaster unfolds and once again it is ordinary people going about their everyday business who have suffered either with the loss of their homes or more tragically their lives.
Whilst it is still unclear how many people actually died in the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington earlier this week it is clear that the number seventeen being trotted out by the media at this stage is a gross under-exaggeration which borders on an outright lie. Certainly the unofficial figure being leaked by the fire fighters and police places the death toll around 150 which seems more of a realistic figure and, although I hope I am wrong, this could also be a conservative estimate.
It almost feels as if parts of the mainstream media are part of some conspiracy to cover up and shift the blame- imagine such a thing! – as not only are they willing to underestimate the death toll when usually exaggeration in the other direction is their norm but also they have named and shamed the person they claim responsible for the beginnings of the blaze due to a faulty fridge.
For me personally this is shameful behaviour when there had been many concerns from the residents regarding electrical power surges along with numerous requests for more stringent safety measures. Unfortunately the latter were met with a ten million pound refurbishment which involved plastic cladding outside the building to improve the building’s outer appearance to appease the views of the rich neighbours, no money set aside for sprinkler systems or smoke alarms or anything else which might actually, you know, save lives however. People were actually advised and therefore encouraged to stay in their homes in the event of fire so this is negligence on a huge scale.
The cladding seems to have actually acted as some kind of accelerant in the fire so serious questions need to be asked whole families have been wiped out in this ultimately avoidable tragedy.
In other sad news this week the original rock chick and carefree adventurous free spirit Anita Pallenberg passed away at 73. Although her actual musical contribution to rock and roll is a mere footnote her influence, impact and legacy is huge. Let us not forget that before she, alongside Marianne Faithfull, first hooked up with the Rolling Stones there was no such thing as a rock star girlfriend and in fact such a thing was actively discouraged by management and bands themselves.
Anita Pallenberg changed all this by entering the misogynistic and very male world of the Stones and lending them so much of her exotic appeal enabling them to escape the confines of their rivals, taking them to new and previously unimagined places with an added touch of exotic glamour bestowed on them by their association with Pallenberg.
Unfortunately she paid a high price for this relationship as she never escaped the limitations of her role as Rolling Stones girlfriend- she had affairs with three of their members- at least not in the eyes of the public.
In reality however she was so much more: a muse, confidante, artistic director, sounding board, wardrobe advisor and a huge influence whose input can’t ever be over-estimated. She created the rock chick look-long before even Marianne Faithfull- and she wore it magnificently into her latter years, never allowing age or the loss of her looks to humble her or extinguish that incandescent spirit.
Went to an amazing gig by Chrysta Bell at the Voodoo Rooms the other night and was blown away not just by the music but also the stage craft and the simple but hugely effective visuals. It was a stupendous gig and although it was busy enough it still should have been busier. It brough home to me how stagnant and insular the music scene is in Edinburgh and that its residents who always seem to be complaining about the lack of good artists and venues rarely venture out of anything not in their comfort zone.
I had mentioned this gig beforehand to several people who I knew would love it but was not surprised that not one of them bothered to show up. It seems that in Edinburgh people mainly go and see bands if they know the people in them and are reluctant to step outside of this mindset. I too am guilty of this but recently more and more I am finding that I want more nights out where I am not going out simply to support someone or something or even just to merely show face but because it is actually some thing I want to do: fun rather than duty in other words. It is the way forward!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

And all change again!
It would appear that the saying a week is a long time in politics has never held truer than it has over the last eight weeks since Theresa May inflicted the most self-inflicted political wound in recent history by arrogantly calling a snap election to further her already reasonably strong hand into an even stronger one.
Certainly no-one back in April could have predicted the rise in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party which seemed not even likely as a contender and in all probability would be struggling onto the seats they already held.
However when May decided the best way to run a campaign was by not engaging with the public or other leaders or even any contact with anyone that was not hand-picked by her own team she was in trouble. Not that anyone suspected at the beginning just exactly how much trouble but as the weeks rolled on it became clear that she must be regretting her decision to hold this election at all.
The irony of the whole thing is that Scotland by electing more Tory MP’s have in some way strengthened their position in Westminster. How this has happened is beyond belief but although the SNP have held onto 35 seats the question of how they lost so many to their main adversaries is not only staggering but bewildering.
Some level of fault in this must lie in the SNP not having a particularly strong campaign this time around and I think they may have been caught on the hop by the surprise calling of this election when their interests were more set on an Indyref 2 which May had just refused them.
I certainly don’t think they managed to convert as many new voters as in 2015 when they gained all but three of the total seats and complacency may have set in a little riding on that past glory. If May’s intention was to damage the SNP-although they are still the main party in Scotland by a very large margin- then she has to some degree succeeded but ultimately she has damaged herself more.
Thatcher may have left us with the legacy of Thatcherism but May has merely created Mayhem.
At the moment nothing is clear as there is no winner and the country is now more divided than ever. These are indeed unsettling times and no doubt much will have changed again by the time I finish writing this.
Anyway when things are hard it is simply time to face the music and dance and tomorrow is book-ended by tow great gigs –one free, the other not quite so much- when Boots For Dancing open Leith Gala Day at Leith Links at 12.45 and Kraftwerk close it at The Usher Hall. Two excellent bands in one day; Edinburgh, what are you thinking? Admittedly I was a little slow so never managed to get a ticket for Kraftwerk but I did see them in 1981- I even played one of the mini synths they handed around the crowd whilst their ‘robots’ played on stage during Pocket Calculator-and it remains one of the most memorable gigs of my life. I guarantee that everyone going along tomorrow night is in store for the treat of a lifetime,
Also this week the David Lynch protégé Chrysta Bell is playing two gigs at The Voodoo Rooms –Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th- which I will definitely not be missing. Her last visit at this very same venue in 2013 was an acclaimed triumph and with a new album We Dissolve out today this latest gig looks even more enticing. Still tickets left for both nights I believe- I myself am going to the second night on Tuesday- so get yourself along to what alongside Kraftwerk looks like being one of THE gigs of the year!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

With less than a week to until the General Election it seems as if the Tory victory is not quite as assured as they believed when Theresa May announced it in all her smug arrogance towards the end of April. Relying on sound-bites, not meeting with the electorate and refusing to debate with any of the other party leaders have exposed her as charmless, unreliable, unable to provide a coherent answer to simple but important questions and most pertinently-considering her robotic claims to the contary- weak and unstable.
Perhaps that Tory majority she assumed was hers for the taking is not such a certainty after all.
Certainly Jeremy Corbyn has made huge strides forward in the polls and even the previously hostile press has mellowed somewhat as they recognise his unforeseen popularity with an electorate sick of being lied to by Tories who can no longer be completely ignored whilst his manifesto benefits those other than his rich chums and billionaire businessmen. Mind you if he had just put forth a manifesto saying he didn’t want to punish the poor and disabled whilst robbing the elderly he could have scored a winner.
I simply don’t understand how someone in Cruella May’s position can have messed it up so catastrophically. I must admit however it is almost a pleasure to watch her personal car crash unfold almost daily. But to go from a position of being in the clear lead with a huge majority to being close to being unable to secure a majority of any kind seemed unthinkable only weeks ago.
Her refusal to engage with the public or debate with other leaders has shown an unwillingness and inability as the right person for Brexit negotiations. Watching her attempt a joke- as she did this week in a lame attack on Jeremy Corbyn- showed her to have all the dexterity and skill of a buffalo with a set of knitting needles so how anyone can even think her capable of securing a favourable deal with twenty-seven other countries is beyond reason.
It will be interesting to see how her party turn on her after the election- even if she wins which is still likely- as her whole campaign has been a disaster from start to finish. The Tories are not known for their sympathetic natures or caring beliefs and anything or anyone who threatens their sense of entitlement is usually disposed of pretty swiftly. Here’s hoping!
Meanwhile over in Trumpton after last week’s embarrassing excursion with the NATO leaders where Petulant Trump seemed to insult everyone he came into contact with-even physically pushing them out his way if he deemed it acceptable- this week he takes America out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in what feels like yet another fit of pique. Really his Presidency feels like one tantrum after another while he stomps his feet and sticks his fingers in his ears unwilling to listen to reason.
My sympathies really do go out to the American people who saw this coming and tried to prevent it but must now feel as if they are living in a hellish nightmare they can’t wake up from.
I am hoping the electorate here are taking note of how badly things can go if a total incompetent is elected. Certainly the polls seem to indicate this to be true but we are all aware just how unreliable polls can actually be.
Staying with a political theme I have been watching the new season of House of Cards this week and must say the script writers have totally nailed it. The current political situation in America- and here to a lesser extent- must feel like less of a nightmare and more of a dream to these people as far as their storyline suggestions go. I can only imagine the storyboard brainstorming sessions where no suggestion can seem more absurd or ridiculous than what is going on out there in the real world. In fact things have become so unrealistic that trying to best the reality is a pretty tough order indeed.
They have risen to the challenge however and both Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright have upped their game in their roles as the Underwoods and brought an even more malignant, Machiavellian and totally unstoppable element to their characters. I haven’t quite finished the series yet and still have no idea how it will end. Just like real life then.
Dark clouds appear to be gathering outside my windows sos this can only mean one thing; the Meadows Festival is due. On this Saturday and Sunday this perennial favourite is on with its usual diverse collection of stalls and live music. I do hope the weather stays dry as it did last year because when it does this is a highly enjoyable day out. Next week sees the Leith Festival and its Gala Day last year was like something from the Ice Age as I remember shivering my way through some great music sets. This year I am asking-whoever might be in charge of such a thing- for slightly warmer temperatures and possibly some sunshine for both events.
PLEASE!
Thank You!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

It has been hard to escape the awful events in Manchester this week and certainly my thoughts have never been far from the victims or their distraught families. For myself it has even had a personal slant as it is the sort of gig close family members of mine living in the area would be likely attend and very probably at the very same venue; they were actually going to a Take That gig there scheduled for this very evening.
My personal upset however dissipates with what the people of Manchester must be feeling at the moment and it would appear the city is remaining strong and pulling together in the spirit of the northerners they are, even if things will never be the same again for so many of them.
It certainly has raised so many questions as to what sort of world we are living in where a family event such as this becomes the target of a terror attack. Of course the media and social media have been ablaze with accusations, conspiracy theories and theorising all of which offers reasons-or lack of them- but nothing is really any clearer other than the fact that the world at the moment is in total freefall.
Naming the individual offender offers some form of clarity as to who is behind it but it also affords them their place in history, and this is probably made clear to the perpetrators during their radicalisation, but it is the instilled hatred and anger which really motivates them.
However this works both ways and I caught Piers Morgan-he of the noble hacking of a dead girl’s phone and arbiter of taste on ‘talent’ shows- trying to instil some of those feelings as a reaction mere hours after the news broke and emotions were still of a raw, confused and sensitive nature. This does not help at all.
I sometimes think I am going to wake up one morning soon and find the tumultuous events of the last couple of years have all been a bad dream. Certainly things have gone so far off track that the twenty first century is already beginning to shape up very differently to the twentieth which in turn took a very different perspective to the three centuries before it where there was little change in social norms.
However I don’t see progress, only regression and a step back. Sure technology is moving forward at a pace it is hard to keep up with but as humans we are struggling to move forward at a comparable pace.
Watching Donald Trump this week meet the Pope and later at a Nato meeting literally and unabashedly push his way past the Montenegro President to position himself stage front and centre indicates a total lack of respect and basic courtesy which just indicates how unsuitable he is for such a role. He doesn’t even try to hide his arrogance and disdain for anyone else and unfortunately with each passing day he remains in office it normalises this atrocious behaviour as others see it as a gateway to success.
Here we have Theresa May-Tresemme- who doesn’t even feel she has to explain herself to the public or anyone other than a few handpicked journalists in an election campaign to re-instate her as Prime Minister; a role she schemed her way into in the first place.
Mind you it would appear that her strategy is failing somewhat and what little she does reveal shows her as a complete incompetent. Strong and Stable U-Turns really don’t cut it. I also find her claiming Monday’s tragedy by declaring a ‘critical’ security risk and placing armed soldiers at train stations around the country a little suspect. Considering in her role as Home Secretary it was her who made such drastic cuts to the police force in the guise of austerity it feels a little like a strategy rather than a concern. She does have form after all.
I also keep being told the Tories are on the rise in Scotland which is definitely an interesting concept. Led by the ebullient bulldog chewing a wasp Ruth Davidson, who resembles nothing more than a one woman rugby-scrum who seems to be a distant relation to President Trumpton in the pushy stakes, claiming a victory even though her support even if it does increase as much as she claims is a mere drop in the ocean compared to support for the SNP. It is this kind of delusional arrogance which is so dangerous.
Anyway it looks as if summer has actually arrived here and one thing we deserve and need at the moment is a little sunshine. Tonight also sees the Countess of Fife- Fay Fife’s insurgent country based side-project- return to the Leith Depot at benefit gig for refugees along with a stellar supporting cast so this should be well worth checking out. Enjoy the sunshine!
Top photo of Fay Fife by Liz Tainsh ©