Sunday, 31 October 2010

Scary but true

Happy Halloween everybody! Thankfully there's been no pesky kids in rubbish costumes, chapping on our front door, annoying us for sweets, enabling Ka and myself to slouch before the tv, recovering after Gillian and Craig's Wedding yesterday.
It's been a busy week off with plenty to keep us occupied. Stage shows, cinema, hotels, dinners out and plenty of catching up with friends has taken up the majority of the past week. It all started with a Wedding and ended with a Wedding.
Last Saturday Colin McG, Jillian, Ka and myself went to the capital for the day to see Spamalot in the Playhouse, Monty Python's musical stage production, 'lovingly ripped off' from The Holy Grail. Marcus Brigstocke, comedian and tv presenter, played Arthur, King of the Britons, aided by his humble servant Patsy, Mark Fowler from Eastenders. Sexy dancers, fish slapping Finnish peasants, killer rabbits, black Knights, French soldiers and, of course, the cow. The show had all the killer ingredients for a great Pythonesque tale with some very funny moments, brilliant songs and enjoyable performances from all involved, all being what looked like around twelve people or so, many of the supporting cast doubling, tripling or quadrupling up roles. After finally retrieving the Holy Grail from under seat D2 in the stalls (unfortunately neither of us were sitting on D2 so missed our chance to get up on stage, some wee embarrassed woman in a cardy being dragged up on stage instead) the show ended differently from the unorthodox way the Holy Grail movie ended.
Disgruntled at her lack of a part in the second half, the Lady of the Lake had elbowed her way into the story again by coming up with the excuse of marrying King Arthur which is how the stage play wrapped up, the Lady in question played by Amy Nuttall, and not the scary Jodie Prenger as we'd all thought was going to be the case.
However, we hadn't got off lightly. Jodie Prenger popped up later in the week, when Colin McG, Jillian, Ka and myself went along to the Clyde Auditorium to see John Barrowman. Yes, it had been a while coming but the night was finally here, when Ka and Jillian got to drag Colin and myself along to the SECC to see the tooth sparkling american, scottish born, singer himself. Beforehand, of course, we met in the pub and all had a couple of pints in The Goose, Ka drinking ginger beer as her alcohol substitute while Jillian shrieked in excitement with anticipation for the coming show. Colin and myself drank down some pints, needing some kind of dutch courage for the night which, I hesitantly admit, actually turned out to be good fun and surprisingly entertaining. Yes, the guy is cheesy and crazily camp but it was just simple fun, light entertainment. Scary but true. As was Jodie Prenger who strutted on stage half way through the set, just to make matters a little worse, to help celebrate Barrowman's 20 years in showbiz.
The second Wedding of the week did not involve Jodie Prenger, thankfully. Gillian and Craig tied the knot in Glenskirlie, Stirlingshire yesterday and we all had a great day at the ceremony, the reception and the following party, highlights including the usual speeches, the brilliant food, Craig kicking his boxers off from underneath his kilt in the middle of the dancefloor and them ending up wrapped around Cheryl's head and my rather drunken but fantastic rendition of the Time Warp back in the hotel room, Roslyn, Claire, Martin, Iain and Ka my entertained audience.
After all the scary incidents this week, however, there's nothing more scary, unsettling or uncomfortable as that of the thought of going back to work tomorrow morning...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Waterstones and the wishlist

On Sunday I pulled up in the rain, parking the car under the drooping trees in one corner of Blythswood Square. Before you think it, no, I was not kerb crawling, Blythswood Square being one of Glasgow's old hooker haunts(I don't think they hang around there anymore). Ka had been out shopping all day with her Mum, so I was heading into the city centre to meet her for the cinema. Escaping the rain in the streets, I dived into Sauchiehall Street's Waterstones and headed for the design books. The best way to escape the bad weather - Waterstones. Not only is there shelf upon shelf of wonderful, colourful, story and picture filled books aplenty to browse, but there are even comfy chairs, toilets and, if it's a big branch and you've done your homework, a coffee shop. Not sure if the one in Sauchiehall Street has a coffee shop though, I wasn't there quite as long as I'd usually hang about bookshops what with having to meet the wife with her shopping bags.
You are also sometimes lucky enough to meet famous people in these quiet, calm surroundings, usually after waiting in horrendous queues, undoubtedly behind a smelly person. Being a geek, (but an unsmelly geek I should point out), I've waited in more than one queue in the past decade or so. Michael Palin, Tom Baker and Terry Pratchett are among the luminaries I've queued to meet, hanging around bookshops.
There's also been a few failed attempts. A year or so ago I almost met The Mighty Boosh, but had to escape, running out into the rain soaked street, grimacing in pain. After fifteen minutes of waiting in their queue my eardrums exploded from the noise of the screaming girls surrounding me. Screaming girls surrounding me is not something I'm entirely used to (violins please!).
More than a few years ago my Mum sent me into John Menzies to get Paul Young's autograph. Unfortunately she was most disappointed when I cam back informing her that it wasn't the young, quiffed eighties singer, signing autographs, but the Scottish fisherman with the cap and tash who usually sat on a boat, in a Loch somewhere, talking to a camera.
Simon Pegg's going to be in Sauchiehall Street tomorrow. Unfortunately I'm working. I would have hung around Waterstones to meet him, though I suspect there'd be more ear drum risk.
These large bookshops are great for hanging about in. Loads of people do it. Picking up large books they'd love to read, but have absolutely no intention of buying, probably because it's way too big and expensive to actually take home. Too big even for their coffee table. I'm sure some of the books people look at in these stores come in the form of coffee tables. Anyway, the 'customers' will then settle down on a large comfy, leather chair and enjoy a good, quiet read, probably a far quieter read than they'd get sitting at home. After a while, the time depending on the person and their objectives for the day, they'll set the giant book back on it's perch and then move on their way, back out into the rain and miserable shop strewn streets.
While I was browsing the tomes of the design section I searched for anything that was on my amazon wish list. My new tool that I'd just discovered a few weeks ago. Your amazon wish list, a tool I'm probably ridiculously late in using and one that's actually fairly fun to use, for a while at least. You can click away at products online to your hearts content, pretending your spending money, when in fact your not. Your account is just taking a note of all the products you'd like to buy but for one reason or another, you can't.
It's quite cruel really, doing that to yourself. Like the end of Bullseye when Jim Bowen shows you what you could have won. Even if it was a speedboat, it was still horrendously cruel. I wonder how many people actually wanted to punch him when they rolled out that speedboat? Even if they had lived in a one bedroom flat in the middle of EK, they hadn't realised how much they'd wanted that speedboat until that moment. Jim Bowen, you sick b****rd!
Anyway, torturing yourself for not being able to afford things is the big minus of the wish list. Spending hours wistfully staring at it's contents with that Scottish Power bill waving at you from the hall. "Yoohoo! Over here!"
Whilst browsing, in the actual shop, I came across a new hardcover by the name of 'Just My type', a book by author, Simon Garfield, about fonts.
Ahh, fonts. Those were the days. The days when I spent hours looking over books about fonts and actually caring about what fonts I used. Working on newspaper adverts you spend as little time as possible doing that kind of thing.
Helvetica? That'll do.
Something bold? Helvetica Black. It even sounds bold.
Something fancy? Times.
Something fancier? Time New Roman.
Something even fancier. Bloody hell. Palatino then.
No, let's really roll out the barrel.
Roll out the font barrel, are you nuts? Okay then, Zapf Chancery.
Nah, that's just too fancy. How about this one? I like this one?
But that's Courier..?
Corbusier Stencil. Apparently if I were a font I'd be Corbusier Stencil. According to Pantagram's website anyway... Balanced, geometrical, imposing but with good reason and impeccable judgement... hmmm. Not sure about the 'impeccable'. Looks a bit boring to me... I'd better go and pay that Scottish Power bill.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Facebook and flip flops

Just back from seeing The Social Network, David Fincher's latest flick about the founding of facebook by Mark Zuckerberg, among others. You always come out of these biographical movies wondering how much of what you've just watched is actually true and what is fiction. That aside, The Social Network is a pretty good movie with great performances from the main players, especially Jesse Eisenberg who steals the show with his weird, obtuse, ignorantly arrogant portrayal of Zuckerberg. A fairly unlikable character but one you find yourself strangely sympathetic towards. Probably because he couldn't afford a decent pair of shoes. He spends the whole movie in flip flops. Whether wandering into parties, walking about the office or running through the snow, he is always in flip flop sandles. Let's hope he's grown out of all that now that he is worth billions of dollars.
Footwear aside, the movie is also a perfect lesson in how you should trust no one. Not even your supposed best friend.
Alongside Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin helped build the original facebook, coming up with the funding for what was needed to kick start the whole project. However he was swiftly elbowed out, his name taken off the facebook founder credits, as soon as Zuckerberg became ensnared in the whole identity, corporation building. Saverin takes Zuckerberg to court over this, which, along with the second court case involving the hard done by the Winklevoss twins keeps Zuckerberg busy, defending his rights over the facebook franchise.
The script and acting successfully keep the movie interesting, humorous and engrossing masterfully overcoming any potential problems the movie could have had with plodding political scenes interwined with scenes involving computer geeks staring at screens, jumping about excitedly whenever they solve another programming problem.
The scene with the chicken is also pretty funny.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Mysterious parcels and murdering

Whilst the Chile miners are being rescued from the depths of the Earth people in the work think I'm buying porn. Parcels have been arriving for me for the past week, various different bodies of the office, collecting it in the mail from the front desk and bringing it up to my desk with a suspicious, high eyebrow, look about their face.
The boss strode up to me halfway through the morning, as I sat working on Slater Hogg, with another parcel and announced, slightly too loudly;
"Michael, here's your porn!"
Julie almost made the wrong move in her latest game of PC solitaire and Margaret nearly choked on her banana loaf. Laughing uncomfortably, I couldn't argue as the real answer was equally embarrassing. An answer I can't go into at the moment as it's all part of some early Chrimbo shopping (yeah, the 'c' word?!).
Barry eventually got the answer out of me, walking away humming to himself about naked pictures. Barry, who, along with Craig, informed me the evening before that I was driving about with a screw embedded in one of my rear tyres. The bu**ers probably planted it in there themselves, perhaps in an effort to interfere with my next murder.
Yeah, you read right. For some inexplicable reason, both Barry and Craig are under the impression I go out at nights, stalking helpless young girls, murdering them and burying them in the nearby forest of Calderglen. They've obviously got nothing better to imaginate.
So I've got one part of the room that calls me 'Doc Brown' and another that think I'm East Kilbride's answer to Dexter. Then there's Gareth, who thinks I lead a very pathetic life.
'Pathetic lives' and 'egocentric', three words included in Gareth's rant during the Tuesday shift about blog and facebook users. Once again he started on yet another 'oh so subtle' tirade against me and that large portion of the population that find some solace and some fun in an online existence. A tirade that was, as he quickly pointed out, in no way aimed at myself, sitting at the luncheon table next to him. Yeah, sure, I thought. In the same way that spinning envelope wasn't aimed at the back of Jeremy Kyle's head.
Jeremy Kyle. Now there's someone that is egocentric and pathetic, hiding behind his bouncers. He's also someone that many people would probably love to murder and bury in a forest.
Not that I'd ever condone murdering anyone, or indeed burying anyone in a forest.
Anyway, I'm off to watch The Apprentice. A programme about egocentric folk that bitch and moan about their work and their colleagues behind their back. Pathetic. You'd never find me doing that.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Back to the Future and the bow and arrows

Back to the Future. Still a brilliant movie, even 25 years after it's original release. We went along to see the 25th anniversary release in a packed cinema on friday night and, although a movie I've seen more than a few times on DVD, TV and the good old VHS, it was still just as entertaining on the big screen. From the opening sequence with the guitar amplifier blasting Marty back into that book shelf, him lifting his big, mirror sunglasses from his nose to the parents first kiss and the Doc's climatic struggle at the top of the clock tower it has all aged pretty well. Unlike Lucas and other fantasy movie makers, Zemeckis has refrained from any jazzy new effects and shoddily pieced together 'extra special' sequences, which says it all really. There's not much you can do to a classic.
My mate Chaz introduced me to this movie back in, what was probably, 1986 one day after school. He was always the car maniac and kept harping on about this movie with the DeLorean.
Before dinner, after getting back to his house from school, we had been firing arrows inadvertantly on to his roof and over into his neighbours garden with my new bow, the same bow Kenny, my brother, later 'borrowed' for a halloween party. Kenny was going as Robin Hood. A feather cap and green tights, and all he needed to complete the outfit was my much loved bow and arrow set. I had told him no, he wasn't borrowing it, as he would break it. But no. Mum said 'just lend your wee brother it for the day and he'll bring it back'.
Did he bring it back? No. Or maybe he did but it was in pieces, I can't remember the exact details of the remains. So I lost most of my arrows to Chaz's neighbours, and his roof in Tasman Drive, and my bow to a shoddy Robin Hood in green tights and glasses. I was gutted about that.
Anyway, on the same visit to Tasman Drive, I was also introduced to Chaz's German Sheperd, Max. Chaz swears to this day that I spent the visit cowering from his dog. Chaz will occasionally bring it up to this day, how I was so terrified of his beast of a dog. How I yelped with fear when I seen it lumbering towards me. The truth of the matter was that I perhaps was cowering to some extent, but only because, upon meeting Max, I discovered his liking for the crotch and it spent most of the first hour of Back to the Future trying to eat my groin. Very off-putting.
It never put me off the Back to the Future movies though as I became hooked as a kid and beyond. Rather disconcertingly, some of the guys in the work call me 'Doc Brown' and have been for some time, for some, strange reason. Not sure why. Gareth and DVD Andy asked if, after watching the movie on friday night, I stood outside and signed autographs? Ka frowned on hearing this and, remembering Marty's Dads dancing at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, said that I had more similarities with George McFly rather than the Doc.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Briggait and Buried

It had been years since I was last in the Briggait. What was the old fish market in Glasgow's Merchant City on the banks of the Clyde, just up the street from where Paddy's Market used to be every Saturday morning, is now a bright, airy new space for visual artists, companies and organisations.
Ka and myself walked in through the new front doors, escaping the rain and were both immediately lit up by the large entrance hallway's high glass, iron vaulted ceiling.
A couple of girls hung from silks and ropes, circling and maneuvering under a large, rectangular frame at the opposite end of the hallway. The frame was surrounded by a large group of people, watching and learning, listening to a tutor going through the basics of aerial acrobatics, his voice echoing through the Briggait's giant central hallway as we were welcomed by a couple of receptionists.
The last time I'd been in the Briggait's central hallway was during my Art School years, for a lecture by the design group Tomato. Tomato was a design collective formed back in 1991 by Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, among others, who, when not producing weird and wonderful graphics for the entertainment and print industries, went under the title of 'Underworld'. These techno, electronic musicians hit it big when they were featured heavily on the soundtrack for 'Trainspotting' with that brain numbing, hand banging 'Born Slippy' track that everyone screamed to in clubs at one point or another. Unfortunately the track just reminds me of Ewan McGregor sliding down into a heavily used toilet bowl.
Anyway, Ka and myself had went along to the Briggait, on Saturday, for the WASPS open day, WASPS standing for Workshop and Artists Studio Provisions, Scotland's biggest Arts organisation for providing studio spaces for local artists. This organisation is mostly behind the building's recent redevelopment which has not only mended all the cracks in the old walls but created over 5,500 square meters of studio, office and public space, including the artists' studios which were the main reason for our visit last Saturday.
On our wonder throughout the building's innards we investigated most of the artists studios, which varied in size and space, colour and creation. From paintings to sculpture, and photography to embroidery, it was all there and the artists all seemed very welcoming, open to the questioning visitors. One of the artists, a guy called James Murphy, stood and talked about his work and his inspiration for a good fifteen minutes, talking about his fantastic, colourful, visuals.
After the Briggait, we headed up town to the cinema to see Ryan Reyonolds in 'Buried'. Only Ryan Reynolds, it turned out, as he is the sole actor seen in the movie, about a guy that wakes up in a coffin, somewhere underground in Iraq,after being ambushed by insurgents. He wakes with only a semi charged mobile phone, a small knife and a lighter for comfort. That's basically it. The claustrophobic film is entriely based in this coffin and around this character, Paul Conroy's, efforts to escape with the aid of his trusty mobile whilst piecing together his memories of how he got there, leaving lots of messages on answering machines. Which is always the case when you're in dire need of help. Answering machines. Although Paul Conroy, doesn't have the same problem of not knowing what to say on the answering machine as I always seem to.
Depressing, dark, intense and uncomfortable to watch, it ain't a movie I'd rush to see again, but worth the watch if you're interested... Interested in being depressed and uncomfortable in an intense, dark place with Van Wilder...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Manic meandering

On my day off yesterday, I relaxed. I was sitting around the house doing nothing in particular. Eating soup, listening to The Black Keys, surfing and watching tv was the majority of my daytime.
Among my tv highlights was David Cameron sitting on the couch, on 'This Morning', harping on about the economy, the coalition and what a great family man he is, standing by his decision to let his newborn baby sleep in a cardboard box. Tearing myself away from 'This Morning', I flicked the channel over to the BBC news where I ended up gawping at the half car, half jet, Jaguar C-X75 supercar, the surprise star of the Paris Motor Show, capable of reaching speeds of 205mph. So Jaguar claims anyway. Cars moving at 200mph is all well and good but personally I'd rather wait till 2015 when they'll be flying.
The news then went on to mourn the death of Tony Curtis, who died yesterday at the age of 85. This was to be expected really. After a life of alcohol, sex, drugs, and movie making you can't expect to live forever.
A noise from the hallway disturbed my televisual viewing as a small package dropped through the letterbox.
It turned out Ka had been browsing amazon on Monday and bought me a surprise present. Monday had been another one of those pesky bank holidays which everyone in the country seems to get, except from us in S&UN. There should be some kind of press holidays in the year for those unfortunate souls that work in the newspaper industry. Something to make up for the needless Bank Holidays that everyone else seems to get and end up giving everyone else that does work, more work for the rest of the week.
Anyway, the small package had dropped through the letterbox among a flutter of the usual promotional leaflets and bank statements.
"What's she been ordering now?", were my immediate thoughts, as I left the small package in the hall for Ka coming home. It turned out to be the Manic Street Preachers latest disc 'Postcards From a Young Man' especially for me. When I asked a reason for this surprise purchase, Ka simply said it was 'for being you'.
I'm not sure what that means. People don't usually give me presents for being me. In fact, this may be the first present I've ever received simply for being me, I usually need a better excuse like a birthday or the birth of Christ. It's certainly not often your wife buys you random, unexpected presents so you've got to lap those moments up when you can, no matter how bewildering they are.
My eyes narrowed after the inital surprise. I couldn't help wonder what she was up to? Why is she buttering me up? What's she after? Don't tell me she's wanting to go shopping, in search of a dress for Gillian's Wedding at the weekend? Does she want another foot massage? Better not tell her I'm referring to her as 'she' either...
The new Manics album is great. I missed out on last years 'Journal for Plague Lovers' so approached this album with some enthusiasm and was not disappointed. It's probably leaning towards the more rock/pop side of the Manic's repertoire rather than the downbeat melodic or screaming frustration sides. More 'This is My Truth...' than 'Holy Bible'. Saying that, it's by no means a sign of regression for them as a band and that's saying something considering this is their tenth studio album. Brilliant riffs, hummable tunes and some cracking lyrics, and I've only just started listening to it. Great for a drive in a supercar... or maybe just sitting in the house doing nothing in particular. As long as I'm not shopping for dresses, I'm happy.