Monday, July 28, 2003

Much Ado About The Weekend

The CCA came through for me again this weekend as they screened Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s latest film, Dark Water, which I caught this past Saturday night. Nakata is the fabulous director of Ringu, a film which was remade for English audiences as The Ring. He has the gift of being able to create truly frightening movies that never resort to shock tactics or gore. I liken it to a well-told campfire-side ghost story that raises the hair on the back of your neck. When the story is over, you think “Ha! What a great story!” but then find yourself especially aware of strange noises coming from aroung you. If you haven’t seen the original ‘Ring’, seek it out, and keep your eyes open for ‘Dark Water’ as well. Strongly recommended both.

For a change of pace, I also caught a performance of Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the Glasgow Repertory Company in the Botanic Gardens of Glasgow's West End. The acting and performance was fantastic, but I was especially impressed with the stage direction. It was held alongside the River Kelvin on a nature walk path which, during a performance, is limited to the performers and the audience only. This alone added a great touch of charm as actors would hide behind trees and would ride bikes down the path. After a major scene, the stage director would have the audience walk down the path towards the next "scene". A great touch to a great performance. Plus – there is just something about the British accent that brings an added touch of credibility to a Shakespeare performance.

This weekend also marked the end of Big Brother 4 – and thank god for that too. I can now get my life back between 10 and 10:30 on weekday evenings, and hopefully can salvage some personal credibility after allowing myself to get hooked on reality TV rubbish. My favourite housemate did win though – Cameron, the 32-year teetotal virgin from Orkney, Scotland. “Jings, I didnae think I could win!”, said he.

Could it be that some of my favourite bands (who always seem to break up on me) are starting to get back together? First the Super Friendz release a new album, and now rumours that the mighty Pixies might make a comeback. Cocteau Twins, are you listening?

Is it just me, or did July go by really fast? Remember when you were in grade school, and the summer was amazing and never seemed to end? Now it’s amazing and ends before you even realise it started. Quite sad, that.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

As I mentioned last time, my friends Steve and Rachel made it up to Glasgow to pay Fiona and myself a wee visit. After having lived here for almost 6 months (!!!) I now get the same excitement showing off Scotland to my Canadian visitors that I did showing off Canada for Scottish visitors.

One of the great Glasgow daytrips is to take a 45 minute train up north to the town of Stirling. Now Stirling may be a relatively small place, but much like the rest of Scotland contains an amazing amount of history. Stirling was the site of many a battle between the feisty Scots and their auld enemies the English. Our old friend William Wallace – yes, Braveheart – led an army which defeated the English in 1297 at Stirling Bridge. In 1314, Robert the Bruce sent England’s Edward II packing after the Battle of Bannockburn. This was a key battle towards maintaining an independent Scotland, and is still referenced in the unofficial Scottish national anthem, ‘Flower of Scotland’ (“And stood against him/Proud Edward’s army/And sent him homeward/Tae think again”). On a side note, I think the Braveheart movie made Robert the Bruce look like a real wuss. In reality I think HIS story should be made into a movie. But I digress.

Anyway, we were in Stirling and had a chance to walk about town and see the castle which has an amazing view of the surrounding countryside. Our next destination was the Wallace Monument, which according to my guide book was only about 2 miles away from the train station. Unfortunately the guidebook meant 2 miles as the crow flies because it ended up to be quite the hike. The weather had been rainy off and on, so we really should have known better then to tempt nature by walking down country roads without any shelter. Sure enough, about half way to the monument, the skies opened up into one of those downpours that have no mercy for even the most prepared. Of which we were not.

Fiona and I had umbrellas, but this was not a rain that fell downwards. If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn the rain was shooting out from the ground and the trees because I was soaked in minutes. Steve and Rachel, despite being good tourists and having bought bright yellow rain jackets, got equally as soaked as those clever Scottish raindrops seemed to find every possible opening into the clothes. Just as quickly the rain stopped, and we couldn’t help but laugh at the ferocity of the soaking. Welcome to Scotland!

The Wallace Monument was great, with a good account of the history of young William, and the coolest gimmick ever - the talking head (not to be confused with the Talking Heads). A hologram face is beamed onto a mannequin dressed as Wallace shackled to a chair, and it is rather spooky how realistic it looks.

Fiona also introduced us all to some swanky restaurants in the West End of Glasgow (University of Glasgow territory), including one selling £2.50 cocktails. Nice.

The MacMillans are now off to France, no doubt enjoying the pleasures of that most wonderful of countries (despite the pathetic American propaganda which claims otherwise). Fi and I tried to join them but not even the cheap airlines were able to cough up tickets that we can afford this time of year. I wish them well on their travels, and can’t wait to hear the stories!

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Bits n' Bobs

A quick update for those who are keeping score.

Just spent a fantastic last few days with my good friends Steve and Rachel. They had been in Manchester visiting family and made the hour flight north to spend some time in Glasgow. It's always tough to do too much travelling in a short period of time, so we decided to keep it relaxed with a few mini trips around Glasgow, and go heavy on the gin and tonics. Works for me!

Glad to see Drew back in blogging business. The poor guy always seems to have trouble getting from Ottawa to Toronto though. Mike also checks in with a fab article on communication and journals. Keep up the good work gentlemen.

My girlfriend Fiona made the valid point that I have yet to make mention of her in this blog.

After attending a great barbeque this past Saturday, I realised I could never be a vegetarian, despite the more than valid moral arguments in favour of it. The house the barbeque was held at backed onto a cow pasture. Somebody couldn't finish their burger and tossed it into the field, using the logic that maybe the cows would like a change from grass. I suppose drunk people forget where burgers come from.

Friday, July 18, 2003

"Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day"

Maybe it's just me, but lately there has been nothing but shite debuting on the big screen. Solution: movie classics at rep cinemas!

I think the idea of seeing a classic movie in its big screen glory is a great idea. You don't pay much more than the cost of a rental and you get to go out and have the cinema experience. Plus, if you're a big fan of the movie to begin with you will be surrounded by fellow fans (a.k.a. fellow obsessives) who will know the in-jokes and quote the best lines with you.

I think my love of the big screen re-issue started when I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail at the sadly deceased Eglinton West cinema in Toronto (not the multiplex, the old school cinema circa 1950 that was shut down because they couldn't afford the mandatory upgrades to make it wheelchair accessable. Political correctness gone too far me, IMHO). This was quickly followed up by The Godfather at Bloor Cinema, a cinema which fortunately is still up-and-running. (I hope? I haven't been in Toronto since early February).

The latest and greatest classic I've seen at the cinema was last night, when I saw Withnail & I again. I won't rave too much, but this quite possibly is the best movie ever made. After the Lord of the Rings trilogy mind you. Glasgow may not be the largest city in the world, but it is well represented by rep cinema in the form of both the CCA and the GFT , and they have both done a great job of screening old school classics.

My faith in cinema is restored.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The Top Five

T in the Park ruled. If I'm still in Scotland this time next year (I can hear my Mom cringing already), I'll definitely be back. I mean - reasonably priced (and cold) pints, beautiful mountain views, and chicks showing off their assets. Oh, and kick-ass music too.
The top five bands I saw, and in no particular order, are:

1. Har Mar Superstar
The Concept: Fat, balding dude with a mullet who strips down to his underwear, sweats like a madman and sings 70's funk. At the end of his set, he humbly told us to "give it up for me, I'm fucking awesome". And we did.

2. The Polyphonic Spree
The Concept: 24 guys in white robes who sing happy music about sunshine and positive thinking, with a Brian Wilson vibe. I went for the hype. I came out a convert. If you have a chance to catch their show, don't deny yourself.

3. Super Furry Animals
Great harmonies, killer hooks. Listen to the brilliance of Juxtaposed With U and you'll love them too. Plus they dress up like yetis.

4. The Thrills
An Irish band who wrote their album on the beaches of California. Sounds a little like Sloan, but with more of a dream-pop vibe. And they're gonna be BIG!

5. Teenage Fanclub
Veteran guitar rock band with killer harmonies who do pop songs that bring tears to the eye. And they are Scottish, so they were honoured (rightly) as gods. Brilliant.

Oh yeah, and Coldplay was good too.
T in the Park

A music festival is a funny thing. When the initial list of bands appears, you begin to make mental schedules of those you plan to see. Then you receive the actual time schedule which ensures you need to make several cuts. Among my cuts (tragically): The Streets, The Music, Turin Brakes, The Roots and The Flaming Lips.

I suppose in theory I could have caught part of these sets. With five stages, I could have legged it away from one stage halfway through a set to catch the second half of another elsewhere. But music festivals are like travelling. Do you want to see a lot of places in a short period of time? Or see less but have more time to appreciate what you are seeing? I took the latter approach.

One choice was made for me. The day before they were scheduled to play, the White Stripes pulled out. Ostensibly this due to a minor car crash where Jack White broke a finger. Apparently nothing to do with weeks of a rumoured split of the band says the Record Company.

Hold on - I thought a seven nation army couldn't hold you back?

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Wet, Wet, Wet

It was bound to happen.

I currently live in a tenement flat in the south end of Glasgow. I couldn't tell you the exact age of it, but I reckon it's close to 100 years old, complete with old school furniture built into the walls, squeeky floors and a ceiling that has to be about 15ft. high (great change after the 6ft. ceiling of my last flat). I love it. I could never do modern again.

However, with an old flat comes problems. Some inept floor tiler was working in the flat upstairs and punctured a water pipe. Lovely! Water from the roof, through the walls - I especially loved the water bubbles that formed behind the wallpaper. I think things may have been different if the place was a little newer. Still, this is nothing but a slight inconvenience. Nothing beats the atmosphere of an old flat!

And hopefully the trend of "wet" doesn't continue this weekend in Balado for T in the Park. But this is Scotland. As Mike can attest, the weather can change rather dramatically around here, so I expect to experience all four seasons over the next few days. Bring it on says I.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

But last night the plans of a future war/Was all I saw on Channel Four

I've never considered myself to be much of a TV watcher, more so now that cable is well beyond my budget. But there are times when an hour or two in front of the idiot box (four channels or no) becomes the perfect way to pass the time.

When I first arrived here, I was less than impressed with the British offerings available. But as time has gone by, I've found myself enjoying my BBC and Channel 4 more than I thought I would. I suppose if you are exposed to something long enough...

Anyway - here are five things that I love about British TV:

1. BBC Documentaries
What is it about the British accent that can bring credibility to even the most ridiculous subject matters? Ditto for the BBC production values that make the driest of history seem exciting.

2. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles
I do love retro cartoons on Saturday morning. And coz over here, they're more than ninjas - they're HEROES!

3. BBC is Commerical Free
This is mostly a good thing. But have you ever tried to watch a movie on TV with no commercials? There are no pauses, so prepare yourself for a two-hour sit. If nature calls, tough decisions must be made!

4. Big Brother
Confession time. I have become hooked on Big Brother UK. And for all the wrong reasons. Apparently this year's edition is the "worst ever" because all the housemates are so boring. But I think this is the reason I love it so much. I feel like I'm watching average blokes on TV doing a whole lot of nothing rather than characters of a "reality television programme". And how does this make it better? It doesn't. On a positive note though, I can now identify Liverpool, Newcastle and Orkney accents with little trouble.

5. Graham Norton
The concept: A talk-show where the host is flamboyant and spouts double-entendres, gets A-level celebrity guests and ignores them in order to play games with the crowd. Works for me!

Sunday, July 06, 2003

So here goes. I never thought the blog concept was going to work for me, but as time goes by I'm finding personal emails to be harder to pump out as internet access becomes that much more of a precious comodity. After seeing what can be done through my good buddy Drew's site, I figure I'd give it a go. Not that I expect this to be quite as comprehensive as Drew's, but if anybody is interested in reading about the odd update from a lone Canadian making his way as an honourary Glaswegian in Bonnie Scotland, you need look no further.

Life in Scotland has been a blast so far. No need to do a full update since day one, as anybody who'd be reading this will undoubtably already know most of it. I'll start with July as it should be a busy a month. First off will be the mother of all concerts in the form of T in the Park which will be featuring, among many others: Coldplay, White Stripes, Teenage Fanclub, Supergrass, and Super Furry Animals. The only slight disappointment I might have is the fact that Zwan was scheduled to play but had to pull out this week due to a family emergency. Fair enough. The original plan was to catch only Sunday's show, but as the single day tickets have sold out, we're going to do the full weekend show - scorching sun or pouring rain be damned (or, as this is Scotland, l expect a heathly combination of the two). This is my first outdoor festival show since Summersault back in August 2000 in Barrie (featuring Our Lady Peace and the dearly missed Pumpkins) so I'm pretty psyched.

July will also see my next set of visitors in the form of Steve and Rachel. They'll unfortunately only be here for three days, but we'll be doing a lot and can't wait to see them. Have already had the privilege of my buddies Mike and the two Ryan's paying me a visit. Mike has already done a great job of providing a synopsis so I won't bother with my own. But needless to say it was an absolute blast - thanks for the laughs boys, it was great to see you!

July will also be a great time to be in Glasgow as there is a lot going on such as outdoor Shakespeare festivals, mini music festivals and the like. I'm pumped - the weather doesn't often get above 20 degrees in these parts, and July is the best chance for it to happen. Though I can't say I miss the 30+ degree smog filled days of July that Toronto experiences.

Anyway - better cut off here for now. Being a blog virgin, I wouldn't be surprised for this whole thing to crap out on me, so no point in wasting half an hour of Internet time just in case. It ain't cheap folks!

If this does work, I'll see if I can stick to some sort of regular update pattern. Awaiting with baited breath I'm sure, huh kids?