Archive for the ‘ JUST AN OBSERVATION ’ Category

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

And so begins the never ending cycle of elections.
The big one though has to be the General Election in June which has has seen our glorious leader turn into what I always suspected she was, a Dalek in drag. With the phrase ‘Strong and Stable Leadership’ now her mantra repeated at every available opportunity and which offers as much clarity as her previous ‘Brexit means Brexit’ statement also trundled out when she had nothing clear to offer, which was often and still is it would seem.
I suppose we have until June 8th now to listen to the lies and mantras on repeat and try and sift through them all for a grain of truth and hope. Good luck with that one. Certainly in Scotland there seems to be some form of hope of an escape from a very Dis-United Kingdom although the right wing bias in the national mainstream media seems to indicate we too are set for a Tory takeover.
Hmmm, we’ll see!
The local elections in May will hopefully see that one-off with its tail between its legs.
Elsewhere away from the world of politics- politics are never far away though these days- I have been shocked and saddened to hear of gay concentration camps in Chechnya where gay men are entrapped then held in camps where they are tortured merely because of their sexual orientation. The fact that this is going on in the 21st century is almost beyond belief.
That is until you consider the way the world has tilted over the last few years with the rise of the far right in most of Europe and the still very unfathomable rise of Donald Trump in the US. Surely these factors and what is going on in Russia should be a lesson for us to put the brakes on now.
In times of crisis there is always music to turn to and whilst the live circuit has been a bit drab recently it looks as if things are on the up over the next short while with the likes of Chrysta Belle and Kraftwerk visiting the capital over the next couple of months. Not to mention both PJ Harvey and Jarvis Cocker both making an appearance during the Festival.
However much as I look forward to seeing these acts unfortunately they do little to help the local music scene which is once again floundering and the worrying news that even the Leith Depot which has done a lot to galvanise its local area is under threat of demolition. What with the closure of the legendary Port O’ Leith and The Parlour- both last weekend- things are looking desperate where they were once looking hopeful.
The state of the roads in the town centre are also ridiculous and although the newly introduced speed limits of 20mph-why exactly?- haven’t helped anything at times it feels as if that stupidly low restriction is actually speeding compared to the remaining stationary for an interminable age whilst travelling I have experienced recently.
Never mind at least there is always ‘Line Of Duty’ to keep our minds active whilst we seem to be at a standstill. No-one could ever accuse this drama of moving at a pedestrian pace and there is absolutely no second guessing what is going to happen next with this one. The latest series finale on Sunday looks like being an explosive one and even I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to its outcome.
Until then I am going to content myself with the new albums by The Gorillaz, assisted by the likes of Grace Jones and Mavis Staples, and Mark Lanegan albums-both out today- which on first listening sound impressive to these judgmental ears. At the cinema I aim to catch Park Chan-wook’s erotic thriller The Handmaiden. Now all we need is for the weather to improve and it could be a great weekend ahead.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

It feels this morning as if spring has truly arrived after winter made a late comeback earlier in the week with icy winds, sleet, snow and general misery. It is Scotland however so make the most of it whilst it lasts as who knows what lies around the corner in April. At least with the clocks going forward one thing that is guaranteed is lighter nights and longer days.
This week the news has been focussed on the terrible situation in London and the attacks in Westminster. Horrific times and the loss of four lives is such a tragic waste however what has shocked me most in the aftermath is the reaction on Social Media with many using this tragedy to spout bile, hatred and misconceptions not only about the attacks but also about the political ramifications.
This is not the time for such debates and cheap mudslinging never solves anything and although many of us are on completely different political sides and have different beliefs it is most certainly not the right time to be turning the unnecessary loss of life into some slanging match while trying to prove a point. Ultimately the only point that needs made is that there has been an unnecessary loss of life and how can we help in preventing it from happening again.
Elsewhere the Indy2 debate rages on with a groundswell of support in Scotland where hopefully the inevitable and sadly predictable appearance of Gordon Brown-why does he even bother after his failure to deliver on his ‘promises’ the last time?- can’t stop it. Certainly Theresa May is doing her damnedest to block it but this may be a miscalculation on her part; one of several it would seem.
Again however it is social media and the constant barrage of posts about the referendum- before it has even been officially announced- which is irritating me somewhat. Yes, I am aware it is important but the constant didactic tone of so many people eating up my timelines becomes tiresome to say the least. Does anyone actually believe they are changing anyone else’s opinion with their constant posts on Facebook? If so they are delusional.
Surely a more effective means of having a positive effect- whatever way you intend on voting- is to actually communicate with people face to face and preferably with those who don’t already share the same views already. That might make more of a difference.
Out at the cinema Personal Shopper starring Kristen Stewart is worth catching if only for her stand out performance showcasing her immense talents as an actress. A full review can be found here.
Today also sees the release of the first Jesus and Mary Chain album ‘Damage and Joy’ in quite a few years and although I was quite a fan back in the day I must admit to being slightly underwhelmed by this latest offering with its lame, predictable lyrics and lack of musical inventiveness. Much more impressed by the new Gorillaz single Saturnz Barz also out today and the series of tracks from their upcoming album streaming on Youtube.
I must confess I am genuinely excited by the return of Line of Duty for its 4th series on BBC1 this Sunday at 9pm. Seriously one of the best British dramas in years I am hoping that its shift from BBC2 to BBC1 and from a weekday night to a family friendly ratings winner Sunday 9pm slot will not dilute what has always been a programme of detailed intensity and integrity. The loss of two of its most compelling characters –Lindsay Denton and Matthew ‘The Caddy’ Cotton- will hopefully not have an adverse effect either although in its favour Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar are still on board so I think we are guaranteed another full on intense ride with enough distractions and plot twists to keep us enthralled. Definitely one to watch!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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Well after a benign first three weeks- discounting the ongoing mystery which still surrounds the death of George Michael- 2017 has really stepped up a notch since Donald Trump’s inauguration last Friday. With women, the LGBT community, the environmentalists, Mexicans and so many others -I could continue on and on- already aggrieved by his actions in the first week of this controversial and much maligned Presidency it looks as of there are stormy and uncharted waters ahead. Petulant Trump would be a more fitting moniker for the man who behaves like a three year old toddler any time he doesn’t get his way.
It would seem unless you are white, male and born of privilege there is not much room for you in Trump’s vision of what will make America great again.
Certainly I can’t see how inciting racial hatred, gender divides and generally pissing off the American public alongside the rest of the world is going to result in a stable term in office but after the strange turn of events of 2016 who can really predict what lies ahead in the future?
One thing that has become clear, outright lying is now acceptable only it is now referred to as ‘alternative facts’.
Keep up people!
Not that things are much better this side of the Atlantic with Brexit still top of the agenda and no-one still sure what it actually means or even what it will mean.
Theresa May is meeting with Trump this weekend and early indications are that she is likely to engage with him in some form of trade deal: after much kowtowing, grovelling and being generally obsequious of course. Not because it is good for the country but because it is one of the few options she has left.
The fact that the British Prime Minister is even willing to engage in any deal with someone who mocks the disabled, has no respect for women and is openly racist simple fills me with dread and indicates how far removed from myself and my circle of friends this government is. It puts me in mind of the Spitting Image scenes lampooning the ‘special relationship’ between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan; only a hundred times worse and actually for real!
Here in Scotland the talk is of another Independence Referendum and whilst I am bored witless with the never-ending cycle of referendums and elections- I feel I have voted more in the last three years than in the previous ten- it would appear that with Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will then it is the only option to protect our own interests and beliefs.
Talking of La La Land- which it feels we are living in with every unfolding news item- can somebody actually explain to me the appeal of that film as I must admit to being so disappointed with it? I find it impossible to fathom why it has been so heavily nominated at the Oscars, not that I put my trust in award ceremonies anyway.
Even though I am quite a fan of Ryan Gosling I actually found his performance rather lacklustre and neither he nor Emma Stone could dance or sing. Certainly not to the standard required to lift such a mundane and boring storyline out of the quagmire of almost average. No No Land was my first post screening impression!
Much more looking forward to the T2 Trainspotting sequel out this weekend and it will be interesting to see how Danny Boyle approaches Irvine Welsh’s characters twenty years on from when we last encountered them. It will also be interesting to see the efforts of several people I know from Edinburgh who were involved in the production thus lending it some local colour and talent rather than simply an outsider perspective as often happens in these situations.
There are some good gigs coming up in the next few weeks, including The Nightingales return at Leith Depot(Feb 16th) and The Pet Shop Boys(22nd) at The Usher Hall. The former was one of my highlights of 2016 and if you haven’t got a ticket yet then I suggest you do as they are selling fast and the venue is not the biggest; hot sweaty and intimate. In fact think very, very hot!
Mind you it may be an idea not to make too many long-term plans with Petulant Trump and Theresa May (or may not) at the helm. Who knows where we will actually be this time next month.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation
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So that was 2016 (almost) then!
Certainly a year to remember from its shock opening with David Bowie’s death in early January right up until its troubled closing days. Shock followed shock as each month progressed and benign concerns became very real and troubling realities on both sides of the Atlantic and at times it seemed as if we had all stepped into some parallel universe.
As already mentioned David Bowie set the tone in the early stages only two days after releasing one of the best albums of his long and illustrious career. When the news arrived early in the morning it was hard to take in and there was a sense we had lost a colour or some other vital element; so ingrained in our culture is he.
His was just the first in a long line of celebrity deaths- which it turns out despite what many feel is no greater than usual- and among other notable losses were Prince, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan, Pete Burns, Caroline Aherne, Victoria Wood, Leonard Cohen and just when it felt as if the Reaper was easing up for the Christmas break the shocking news that George Michael had died came through swiftly followed by that of Carrie Fisher’s death and the very next day that of her mother Debbie Reynolds.
Aside from celebrity deaths there was the small matter of Brexit wherein a referendum about leaving the EU that no-one was really paying attention to or overly concerned about turned in a result which seemed to shock just about everyone. Not least those who had campaigned for it.
What the future holds on this matter is far from clear but it is certain it doesn’t herald a new age that I am overly keen to live in. A new age where xenophobia, bigotry, division and out-and-out racism all have a place is a scary world indeed.
Meanwhile across in America a man with a bad hairpiece and orange colouring who mocked the disabled, insulted women, incited racial and religious hatred and basically lied about everything he talked about was somehow elected President in a campaign which if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes and heard with my own ears I would not have actually believed.
Meanwhile atrocities in Syria and Palestine continued to haunt our consciences and give the right wing media something to rally against fuelling hatred and division.
Post Truth became buzz words and a phrase to bandy about but in reality were just a term for lies!
In fact there is little I can add to the year’s events as they have all been dissected and discussed even if they have not been properly absorbed yet. I would like to think 2017 will be better but more likely we will still be reeling from the repercussions of 2016. Possibly for several years yet.
On a positive note however there has been some great music released this year including brilliant final albums from David Bowie and Leonard Cohen:-Blackstar and You Want It Darker respectively- as well as fine offerings from PJ Harvey, Christine and The Queens, Anonhi, Nick Cave and Iggy Pop who along with Keith Richards is last man standing of one particular rock and roll school. No-one ever saw that coming certainly not back in the seventies when both sailed as close to the wind as is possible.
Can’t say it has been a particularly stunning year for cinema however or television for that matter. However The Fall, Peaky Blinders and Line of Duty all managed to hold an audience in their thrall and were a welcome back to more traditional times, pre-Netflix, where tension is ratcheted up by the week.
So 2016 it’s been an interesting and turbulent year but here’s hoping it has prepared us for whatever 2017 has to throw at us. I hope at least now we will be more ready and aware. A little bit less complacent too!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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As 2016 draws towards its final months it would be unwise to assume that the tumultuous, sad and turbulent happenings of this ever eventful year are quite over. If anything this past year has taught us to expect the unexpected and never underestimate anyone or anything.
A year ago the thought that Donald Trump would be President Elect of the United States would have met with a scornful and disdainful scoff followed by a sarcy ‘As if’ then a dismissive laugh. However as 2017 looms ahead of us and Trump’s entry into the White House a scary eventuality it seems the punch line to what initially felt like a joke has delivered instead a knock out blow.
Mind you things aren’t faring much better this side of the Atlantic with the promise of our most right wing government in living memory and while at least the Americans voted for their absurdist President Elect-therefore having no-one to blame but themselves- us Brits have somehow managed to wangle ourselves a Prime Minister no-one actually voted for. Not even her own party!
It would seem that Theresa May –the name itself reeks of indecision- has earned herself the most important job in the country simply as no-one else was prepared to take it, or at least put up a fight for it.
Let us not even think about the disaster of Brexit and what lies ahead following the shock result in June which saw a rise in blatant xenophobia and discrimination which can only get worse.
How and when did things get this bad?
Meanwhile a whole load of people are getting their tartan bum-flaps in a twist over Joe Corre-the son of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood- burning £5million worth of punk memorabilia as a reaction to punk becoming part of the establishment. I am not entirely sure what his protest is however as the minute The Sex Pistols signed a deal with EMI- and later very briefly A&M- then punk had become part of the establishment.
McLaren had always had his eye on mainstream success anyway seeing the Pistols as some sort of boyband-let us not forget that Midge Ure, at the time singer with boyband Slik, was his original choice for a lead singer- so for his son to complain about the life of privilege his heritage afforded him seems more than a little whiny especially with those people punk originally appealed to, such as the disaffected and impoverished, have probably never felt as disaffected and abandoned as they do by the recent shift to the far right in Britain and America.
Perhaps the money could have been used to help those people and donated to charity or at least a good cause. Then again by Corre’s thinking even charities are part of the establishment and filled with the establishment elites that rankle him so. The establishment elites who are the only ones who can realistically afford his over priced knickers from his underwear brand Agent Provocateur!
It has been a year of sad loss as well. Starting with David Bowie-didn’t everything though- at the year’s beginning, the reaper has since swung his scythe far and wide taking in the likes of Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen, Pete Burns, Caroline Aherne and Victoria Wood to name but a few. With so many important and influential figures passing away in such a short time it really has felt like the passing of an era, the end of one particular golden age.
I suppose at least we still have the music to carry us through and this weekend sees a couple of very worthwhile gigs in the capital.
Friday night sees the wonderful The Trama Dolls support The Valves at the Wee Red Bar at 7pm for an evening unparalleled entertainment which should kick the festive month into gear with a riot of sound and an explosion of glamour.
Saturday sees The Filthy Tongues show at the Liquid Rooms and their album Jacob’s Ladder can hold its head high among the very best of the year- and it has been an exceptionally good year for music if nothing else- supported by the brilliant Boots For Dancing and Birdhead.
As we approach the final month of the year I think that we are all now prepared for whatever is thrown at us. If nothing else that should be the great lesson learnt from 2016!
Photo of The Trama Dolls courtesy of Gavin Fraser.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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So 2016 really is the year that just keeps on taking!
Yet another legendary individual in the ever mutating form of Pete Burns was the latest victim in this the year of the reaper. Although considering Burns was hardly likely to be in the best of health after 300 cosmetic surgery procedures, something borne out by the most recent pictures of him looking bloated and dishevelled, there seemed something defiantly indestructible about him. However a massive cardiac arrest last Sunday resulted in his death at the premature age of 57, the same age as that of other eighties enigma, Prince, a mere six months ago.
Whilst Burns has nothing like the musical legacy nor the huge influence of Prince he was an influential and always interesting character on the musical and cultural landscape which sits at odds with today’s bland on bland pop confections with their carefully scripted and inoffensive sound-bites and stylist created looks.
Burns was a one-off and pioneering influence in the gender fluidity stakes long before Boy George and the other Blitz Kids emerged on the scene. Certainly I preferred his musical direction in Nightmares in Wax- ‘Black Leather’ was a perennial going out favourite in my younger years- to that of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman produced era.
There is however no denying the genius of ‘You Spin Me Right Round (Like a Record) the record which will always define Burns however as it was perfectly positioned in the mid-eighties capturing that era perfectly; it had the attitude of glam, punk and post punk but also the elements of pop blandness and manufacture which were about to engulf the music industry as personalities were replaced by brands.
Burns never matched this success again and descended into an addiction to cosmetic surgery procedures and appearing on reality TV shows as some sort of cartoon, caustic Cruella DeVille character; always watch-able if seldom likeable. Definitely a one-off individual the world is one more pioneering freak down and a less colourful place for it.
Scarier than Pete Burns and Halloween itself is just how Americanized Halloween has become.
Once a favourite of mine, Halloween has become a fancy dress party which has recycled the same punch-line one time too often and become a bore. I have noticed a grumbling about this on my social media sites with many bemoaning the loss of the traditional Scottish turnip lantern- the tumshie- with the more American pumpkin. It also used to be a much more local affair but now every bar, club and venue, not to mention bland TV Show, has its Halloween themed event.
It does prepare us for Christmas however and with the shops already full of lights, trees and ‘suggested’ presents it makes me realise how unprepared I am yet again for something that only happened five minutes ago! I am also assuming The Dome in George Street already have their decorations up outside!
With The American elections only a few weeks away and for anyone, like myself, who is still baffled by the inexorable rise of Trump I suggest- insist is perhaps a little too strong a word- you watch the Adam Curtis documentary HyperNormalisation on BBC iPlayer.
Looking at the fake and corrupt world the politicians and those in power have created for us to live in it becomes clear how someone like Trump can become a likely candidate for the White House as the lies peddled by various governments to fulfil their own agendas is quite frightening. What is even more frightening is how the public have swallowed those lies and gone along with them. The power axis has shifted however and now it is spiralling out of control hence the rise of the likes of Trump.
Looking forward to the PJ Harvey gig in Glasgow this coming week and although I was initially pretty unimpressed by her latest album ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ it has over time revealed itself to be a strong work which ranks alongside Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ and Anohni’s ‘Hopelessness’ and ‘Ash and Ice’ by The Kills as one of 2016’s finest. Really, really looking forward to this one!
Tonight however sees the final explosive episode of the excellent ‘The Fall’ where the final outcome of the chilling dance between Paul Spector and Stella Gibson is still unclear as both have some pretty nifty and calculate footwork at their disposal. Forget Halloween nothing beats Jamie Dornan’s icy performance in the chills factor for out-and-out scariness!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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Having had a few weeks off writing this column and watching as the world slips further and further into chaos, hatred and meaningless mayhem without comment it is now time to step into the breech once more and ponder as to how we have arrived at such a tortuous and desperate state.
Personally my theory that the fabric of the universe was torn with David Bowie’s passing in January- it still feels as if we have lost some crucial element, almost like there is a colour missing-makes as much sense as anything that has happened since: Brexit, an unelected Prime Minister, not even voted for by her own party, a rise in hate crimes and the horrifying rise of Donald Trump across the Atlantic.
Meanwhile the pound is at its lowest level in living memory- I purchased something online recently and the cost was almost the same in pounds as it was in dollars and was aware there was a time this would have been unimaginable- and the cost of basic living about to rise inexorably. Somehow the government insists nothing major has changed while the media focus on Tesco unable to stock Marmite due to a fall out with Unilever and the arrival of fourteen children from Calais and whether they are actually children at all whips up more frenzied xenophobia
However it turns out that racism was not the main cause for the Brexit vote after all but the austerity measures the Tories –along with the Lib-Dems it must be said- imposed on the nation for five gruelling years harbouring resentment deep in the under-classes whose only means of protest was voting against the establishment imposing them. Well done David Cameron if anyone ever made a pig’s ear-why do pigs always come into it when discussing Cameron- out of being a Prime Minister then it was you.
Meanwhile Theresa May shakes her head and says no more money for the NHS and meets with little opposition or argument.
However what is happening here is nothing compared to the rise of The Trump in America. Unfortunately like Boris Johnson and Brexit before him I have a sincerely bad feeling about this one. The only thing I can say about this Presidential campaign is that it resembles a hate campaign more than a political one. Hillary Clinton would normally not be anyone’s choice as President- in many ways she is as loathsome as Trump- but in this election she is definitely the preferred winner. The whole thing has descended into cheap mudslinging barely worthy of the playground while common courtesies and good manners have been abandoned wholesale.
How did things get this bad?
Meanwhile the dark nights continue to get darker as does BBC2’s excellent crime thriller The Fall with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan.
Constantly understated and underplayed the tension builds weekly until as viewers we become absorbed in the chilling two-step the lead characters are dancing around each other. Often it feels as if little has happened at the end of an episode until the complexities hit home and you realise how sinuous and compelling the writing and acting both are. Last night Dornan’s character, Paul Spector, basically handed his defence team his get out of jail card whilst still not revealing whether he is faking the amnesia at the core of his defence. By far and away the best thing on TV at the moment- not particularly hard to be honest- The Fall is a lesson in how it should be done.
Certainly the lack of any decent TV has necessitated mpre nights out and tonight is no exception as The Fini Tribe unveil new material at the Neu Reekie Sullivan’s Ascent show in Leith St. Andrew’s Church tonight. This is a fine way to kick off any weekend.
There are also the upcoming PJ Harvey and Primal Scream gigs which promise to give a usually barren and dark filled November some much needed colour and light.
Something else which certainly needs some light shed on it is the reason Inverleith House, deep in the heart of the Botanic Gardens, is being forced to close as an art gallery.
I have been going here for decades and seen many impressive exhibitions including a recent retrospective pop art guru Richard Hamilton. As much a feature of any visit as looking at foliage, plants or flowers to lose this would be a major blow for both the gardens and the art community. I am unclear what will arise in its stead but the last thing needed is yet another café or bric a brac shop. I am doing something I normally never do but adding a link to a petition against its closure that I would kindly ask you to peruse and sign if you agree.
https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/prevent-the-closure-of-inverleith-house-edinburgh-as-a-public-art-space
Thank you!