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JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

In a week that the news has seen Donald Trump rip families apart and imprison children in cages it is hard to imagine that there is anything good in the world as this personification of evil grabs the headlines. The fact that he backtracked in the face of such adverse publicity shows not a concern for these distraught children or their heartbroken parents but merely an eye on his poll ratings which let’s face it is the only thing Donald Trump actually cares about.
Even his wife Melania spoke out at the inhumane treatment of these families then blew any notion that she may actually be human by wearing a jacket emblazoned with ‘I Really Don’t Care’ emblazoned on the back, whilst visiting said immigrant children at their detention centre, then insisting it was not a message but merely a jacket. Seriously, are these people for real?
It would seem that any form of outrage or sadness at these situations in the US- although we are playing catch up and not far behind them here- is fruitless as there seems little way to get through to these people and their bigotry, hatred and outright contempt for human beings except themselves and their appointed sycophants,
Trying to stay positive there has been a huge support for Scottish independence in the last week and even small sections of the media are opening up to the possibility that it may be more likely even though-excepting the National- they stop short of any real support. Hopefully the smug arrogance of The Tories, ably assisted by Labour, which precipitated last week’s SNP walkout at Westminster will be a lesson they deservedly live to regret.
Out and about in the capital this weekend there is more than plenty to see and do to distract from the abstract reality we seem to inhabit these days- ironically going out seems to provide a reality more real than the supposed real one we live in on a daily basis. How and when did that actually happen?
First up is the Refugee benefit at Leith Depot this evening which has a great line up including The Primevals, Johnny and The Deadbeats and The Normans all for the great price of £7.50. Doors open at 7.30 so get there early as all the acts are worth catching.
Also on at the National Museum of Scotland in Chamber Street is ‘Rip It Up’ a look back at Scotland’s contribution to pop and rock music over the last sixty years. Included are memorabilia, rarities and artefacts by artists such as Lulu, The Rezillos, Midge Ure, Simple Minds, The Skids, Big Country, Garbage, Franz Ferdinand and Young Fathers.
However the big one this weekend is The Rezillos at Summerhall on Sunday at 7pm which is the grand closing gig from a series at the venue over the last week which included The Skids and Big Country on a double bill. The Rezillos however will be a mighty show and with The Trama Dolls opening for them it is bound to be a night to remember.
Oh and if anyone is still interested the Edinburgh International Film Festival is also on, although I must admit I have found my appetite for this waning over the last few years but this year must admit I have lost interest completely.
There is also the matter of some football tournament that is called, I do believe, The World Cup. I must admit that I have found myself quite taken with it much against my natural instincts. Admittedly I am unable to distinguish which team is which as their strips confuse me; however that doesn’t matter as it is quite aesthetically pleasing to watch!

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JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

It has been a while since politics has been a benign area where things run smoothly and in some relative order but this last week has been particularly inventive especially with the midweek SNP walkout during Prime Minister’s Question Time when they made it clear enough was enough.
Of course Donald Trump’s highly publicized visit to North Korea and his ‘summit’ with Kim Jong-un also made headlines with the assertion that North Korea was now a safer place but how much faith I place in that is highly disputable.
Back to the SNP walkout though and it certainly was interesting to see a party actually stand up not just for their constituents but for their country in general. The power-grab that Westminster instigated with less than twenty minutes debating time and not one member from Scotland being allowed to speak due to Tory filibustering- an antiquated method of blocking any serious debate that is a methodology they consistently return to but needs to be seriously reconsidered- was a shocking display of arrogance and contempt. It totally undermined the devolution process which has served Scotland and Wales well for nigh in twenty years.
Well done Ian Blackford and the rest of the SNP representatives for having the balls to stand up to this bullying and hateful attitude –when asked what the SNP could do about the situation a Tory response, to much jeering and laughter was ‘commit suicide’. I’ll just leave that remark there for a second and let it sink in!

It is really quite shocking that such a hateful response can be allowed to pass with no reprimand from the House Speaker whatsoever. Imagine if this took place in a school playground, or on social media, or a workplace or just anywhere else you would like to consider. Would it be considered acceptable? I very much doubt it so why then is it acceptable in the House of Commons by elected MPs? I am seriously baffled by this and am left in no doubt that the Tory party have no respect for Scotland whatsoever and possibly never have done.
The whole situation has obviously galvanized the Scottish electorate however as the SNP increased their membership by 5085 in the 24 hours following this incident which has been rather derogatorily referred to as a stunt and amateur dramatics by the jeering, boorish Tory party who would know more about such things than anyone else I suppose.
Meanwhile Donald Trump continued in his role as world saviour and advocate of peace and harmony- when he’s not tweeting about bombing people that is- when he visited North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un this week in an apparent bid to persuade the dictator to give up his nuclear arms programme. There are many theories surrounding this and let’s face it when Trump is involved anything is possible. My own personal theory is that he misread his diary and was probably convinced he had a follow-up meeting with another Kim-of the Kardashian variety- and merely wanted to continue their conversation regarding who is versus who has the biggest arse in the world right at this moment.
Sometimes when it all gets too much- most of the time these days- there is very little else to do other than embrace hedonism and this is exactly what I intend on doing today. Or rather I am going to see a film which documents Studio 24 where hedonism was the byword for entry into an exclusive nightclub and world which is still legendary today. Really looking forward to this one and a review will be up as soon as I have seen it.
Also there are a few very worthwhile gigs coming up over the next month in the capital-before The Fringe returns and disrupts our lives for the whole of August- kicking off with The Rezillos at Summerhall on Sunday June 24th, then there is former Cramps bassist Fur Dixon at Opium on Saturday July 14th and last but very much not least there is legendary Sylvain Sylvain of The New York Dolls alongside The Filthy Tongues at the Voodoo Rooms on Friday the 27th.
All in all plenty to be getting on with!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Well 2018 has got off to quite an unassuming start so far although that is no gauge as to things remaining that way. Across the Atlantic we still have Trump boasting about the size of his nuclear button via Twitter rants and telling blatant lies on a daily basis but this no longer surprises nor shocks us –it does still infuriate however. Over on this side of the water we still have Theresa May providing us with her daily set of lies-apparently the NHS is in crisis because of a particularly virulent strain of flu- and her vision of a strong and stable government consists of her Cabinet Ministers refusing to allow her to dismiss or demote them and announcing the wrong party chairman proving yet gain just how much she is in control, i.e. not at all.
How such bullshit being peddled to us on almost daily basis has become an accepted part of our lives is probably the most worrying aspect of all this as it in some way normalizes it all and reduces it to an almost humorous status, even though it is far from funny on any level.
Are we seriously expected to believe that flu is the major cause of the problems the NHS is suffering and not the cuts and attempts at privatisation the government is imposing. Surely the seasonal habit of excessive drinking must carry some of the burden that the NHS is suffering as by all accounts A&E departments on weekend nights are full of people with alcohol related ‘illnessses’ and accidents, This must put a strain on services and as people drink far more excessively over the Christmas and New Year period then this also must have a knock on effect. In the past I have had nothing but amazing treatment by the NHS and I do remember being rushed to A&E twice in the same week and the difference between being there during the week and then at the weekend was staggering and it was totally down to the ‘altered’ states of the patients which put not only the resources and staff under pressure but also the other patients.
Admittedly things seem much worse down south than they are in Scotland but it is only a matter of time before things start to slide here as well if things don’t change soon.
As an aside I find it hard to take anything seriously that Theresa May says when the woman seems to have a set of anal love-beads permanently draped around her neck. I know where I would love to shove them then watch how long it would take the overstretched NHS to remove them. She’d probably just call it flu anyway!
As usual this time of year goes on a little too long for my liking; was Christmas really only two and a half weeks ago?
Time to stock up on reading books, binge watch Netflix shows and discover new and old music to listen to; far too cold and miserable to go out of an evening. If going out is on the cards then January is always good for new cinema releases.
This year is no exception and top picks are Ridley Scott’s ‘All the Money on the World’ about Paul Getty’s kidnapping in the early seventies which resulted in the brutal removal of his ear after his Grandfather-the then richest man in the history of the world- refused to pay the ransom. Outstanding performances especially by Christopher Plummer who was a very last-minute replacement for Kevin Spacey after the recent Hollywood sex scandals and taut drama make this film a worthwhile viewing experience. Also Three Billboards Outside Hebbing Missouri starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson looks excellent. Apparently a black comedy of the highest and most twisted calibre only increases this film’s appeal to me. Hope to catch it today so a review will follow shortly.
Anyway it’s almost the middle of the month already so only February to get out the way and we can start thinking of Spring again. Here’s hoping!

LETTERS TO MORRISSEY

Letters to Morrissey

Although Morrissey is featured prominently in the title of this show by Gary McNair he doesn’t actually feature too strongly throughout which will be a relief to those who view the erstwhile rock icon as a flagrant narcissist who should learn to keep his mouth shut on topics he is ill-advised to comment on.
Of course there is the other train of thought which views him as a spokesman for generations of maladjusted misfits and remembers that he came only second to David Attenborough amongst a poll of the British public when the BBC set out to find the greatest cultural icon roughly ten years ago.
I lie somewhere between the two camps finding Morrissey an extremely talented and observational lyricist and one of our greatest musical heroes but have no inclination to ever meet the man. What is ironic about this however is that I did actually send letters to and receive them from Morrissey many years ago pre-Smiths fame via a correspondence about his –and mine also- beloved New York Dolls.
However I digress, and Gary McNair’s show is less about Morrissey and more about the importance of having something to believe in. Set around the time of the Queen is Dead-1986- and that thundering opening with its pounding drums opens the show proper although I must confess it was cut too short and a slightly less edited version may have had more dynamic impact. Instead McNair has a tale to tell which involves several amusing and touching anecdotes about being an awkward adolescent and finding a place for himself in the world via the music of The Smiths and more importantly in Morrissey’s lyrics which were defiantly about embracing difference and stepping away from the norms.
The show harks back to a time when music was an important ingredient in shaping most young individuals lives and indeed what type of music you listened to was almost tribal. For Mc Nair he found The Smiths music spoke as much to the school racist and thug, close friend Jan ‘The Lesbian’ and even the school counsellor as much as it did to him.
It is an entertaining show though at times it felt as if it were not quite attaining its full potential. As said before it harks back to a time when figures such as Morrissey and before him the likes of Bowie, Dylan and Lennon wielded great power over the youth of their times which musicians nowadays no longer possess and while the show plays on this it never really captures what exactly was so special about these people that allowed them to be elevated so highly. McNair does give a convincingly understated performance however and it is certainly a very pleasant and enjoyable show.
***
Letters to Morrissey is on at Traverse 2 until August 27th. Times vary daily.

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

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 ©

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!

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