Sunday, February 25, 2007

Regina Spektor

Well, last Monday night Sonia and I tripped off to Glasgow to check out the wonderful Regina Spektor at the Queen Margaret Union. See the post that shows up below this one when you search for previous discussion re this fantastically original and quirky artist. After queueing and being frisked on entry (!), we safely stood in this rather good venue at our favoured 'just-in-front-of-the-mixing-desk' spot awaiting our heroin.

Support came from fellow New Yorker Only Son, a solo man-with-guitar effort, which didn't fill us with joy as he stepped out, but who in fact proved to be an extremely talented and likeable young chap, with a gift for melodies that shone through his less than original 'I'm sad and lonely, I miss my girlfriend' type lyrics!

But, after a refreshingly short wait, we were cheering to the appearance of Regina herself, clad amusingly in a bright red Borat T-shirt. The girl walked straight up to the central microphone and, with all attention fixed on her, started what to me was a brand new song, a bare voice and microphone-tapping ode to her lover in a far away place, sung in her trademark powerful wail. Hell of a way to kick things off. Next, she moved over to the grand piano and began 'Summer in the City'. It's hard to think of situations when the opening lyrics of 'Summer in the City, means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage...' would seem more inappropriate than a wet February night in Glasgow, but somehow Regina made it work.

The set continued with a fantastic 'Poor Little Rich Boy', played with a drumstick against a chair accompanying the piano. Excellent. After a good number of solo pieces, including another new song commenting that 'the non-believers will eat dirt and the believers get to spit in their graves', nice, her band joined her on stage for a heavier segment, including rousing versions of 'Better', 'Hotel Song', 'On The Radio' and 'Your Honor', sounding even better than they do on record, which really is saying something. By this time even the usual 'Twats-Still-Talking-At-The-Bar' were shocked into silence.

But time moved on and somehow an hour had passed and Regina and her cohorts were leaving the stage. Of course the crowd were not going to take that and put forward one of the most convincing 'they'd better be an encore' cheering demonstrations I'd seen in a good while. And so Regina alone came back to join us, playing for another half hour of piano, guitar, and just voice solos, clearly enjoying herself. The particular encore highlight was the expected wonderful 'Us' and also the closer, a new song in a Country style, showing that Regina remains as playful as ever.

Noted absentees were the favourites of Sonia and myself, 'Pavlov's Daughter' and 'The Consequence of Sound' respectively. But with a performance as enjoyable as this, there was no reason for complaining with respect to Regina herself. The gig was as good as we could have hoped for, with the crowd captivated throughout, and we look forward to all future actions from this girl. I did however, find myself wanting to grab the photo/video phones off about four or five individuals placed between us and the stage, and plunk them all into a pint of warm Tennent's lager. Is this a sign of me becoming officially old? I don't know, but why don't these people just enjoy the gig and experience it themselves. In this age of YouTube, I guess we'll just have to get used to it, but don't expect video posts of music at this url!!

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Crianlarich Hills: Beinn Chabhair (244)

Walk date: 17/02/07
My Munro #'s: 99

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Byn chav-aar - hill of the hawk - 933m

Duration - 11:00 - 17:45
Distance - 13km
Weather - dry with cloud at start, some clear sky. Moderately heavy snowfall near summit turning to broken cloud with fantastic sunlight on descent.
Team - with Sonia

A certain amount of free-styling on the upper slopes:
With daylight now extending to six in the evening and the sun even coming up before noon, it was deemed an appropriate time to take in the first Munro of 2007. I must apologise before we get under way for the lack of pictures, as having got out of the routine I forgot my camera! However, the Sonia remembered her film-camera, so I shall update this post once they're developed.
A 06:45 awakening saw us successfully leave Aberdeen at 08:00 and arrive at Beinglas Farm just before 11:00, although we almost didn't after the sharpest turn off a main road I have ever experienced, which then moved straight onto a rickety wooden bridge accompanied with the unnecessary sign, 'One vehicle at a time'.
Moving past the nice looking camper's facilities, including the West Highland Way wigwam-type accommodation huts, the obvious path moved steeply up the left side of Ben Glas Burn for the first kilometre before flattening out into the wide upper glen, where the path becomes more indistinct and, predictably, boggy.
Rounding the south side of the impressive crags of Ben Glas, the path starts to climb again, albeit at a more gentle pace as no one choice of path takes you along to Lochan Beinn Chabhair. Some climbing is then necessary to get up onto the north-western side of Beinn Chabhair itself. We started at a gentle incline before we realised a more direct approach was needed and climbed up steep grassy slopes freestyle to get to the base of the the northwestern ridge. However, there is a path that starts in a gully between two buttresses of Meall nan Tarmachan that we took on the way down, and so I would recommend finding this for ease of mind.
No matter how you get there, once on the northwestern ridge it all becomes straight forward as an easy-going and distinct path takes you winding towards the summit. On this part, we found ourselves in a wonderful snow storm, with huge flakes falling in abundance all around with a reflective Loch Lomond visible to the south seemingly hung in the middle of a sky of grey. Wonderful stuff.
At the summit, we didn't hang around, but started our descent quickly getting down off the ridge to walk back across the flats in some amazing evening sun that made us so glad to have gone to all the bother of getting up and out. The one downside was the return of Sonia's feet problems, which slowed down our final descent pace considerably. Nevermind, as we'd timed it fine and had plenty of daylight to make it back in. With a huge fish supper at Comrie and then a Black Sheep before bed when we got into Aberdeen at 22:00, this was a full and fantastic day. It was great to be back in the hills. Each to their own, but how can anyone not like this??

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Hot Fuzz

Well, Hot Fuzz is here at last and this reviewer for one can reveal that it was easily worth the wait! The premise is simple enough, that top cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is relocated from London to the sleepy village of Sandford because his high arrest rates have been making the rest of The Met look bad. However, there is more to idyllic Sandford than meets the eye, and soon Angel, along with bumbling local cop PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) are taking on some powerful dark forces that have had a tidy-hedgerow domination over the village for quite some time.

The story certainly is less original than Shaun of the Dead, but then just try and imagine a story more original than a zom-rom-com! And I found that the story takes a while longer to get underway and justify itself than its zombie predecessor, but I'm sticking my neck out and saying that although it will maybe never match the sheer charm of Shaun, Hot Fuzz has done what I thought was impossible, and beat it, albeit maybe only in a photo-finish.

Once Fuzz gets underway and the bond between Angel and Butterman is cemented, then it does all flows freely, and from the return of Angel to the village after an initial ousting, it becomes one fantastic roller-coaster of ludicrous violence and hilarious imagery, providing laughs greatly in excess of Shaun. The film then stamps out its own personality and stands alone, deservedly so. Those involved should prepare themselves for a lot of money being thrown at them. Hopefully, they will be able to handle it. In the week that the US-partners of Wallace & Gromit dumped the plasticine heroes, I can't help but think that Hot Fuzz is very much a British success, relying on the idiosyncrasies of self-deprecating British humour. Having said that, Shaun did rather well over there, so who can say?

A small criticism is the time it takes for the film to end, with a couple of extra scenes, which to me just felt like Pegg and Wright not wanting to stop playing with their toys before it's time for tea, but as the film doesn't feel overlong anyway (we are not talking Return of the King end-sequence here) and the extras are fine and funny, it just makes it less rounded. Maybe that's a good thing too, I'll let you decide...

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Oh yeah! How manly did I feel loading up a full trolley with power tools and wood at B&Q? It was twice its normal length as strips of pine dangled dangerously out of its front, small children were called to their parents as I made my way over to the checkouts! I now own a workmate, a jigsaw, a cordless drill, a planer, a huge set square and many other exciting bits and bobs. What is it with men and DIY, or is this an outdated notion??

Anyway, nevermind that stereotype. I was more worried about the stereotype of men of our family being utterly useless at such malarky. For ideas of my nightmares, refer to the hilarious DIY story in Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe Unplugged. For all of this strutting about was in aid of making myself some shelving for my whisky collection, and two weekends later, my spirit-level tells me that it all seems to have gone to plan! I've even dared put my whisky on it!

I just feel sorry for the Sonia who was naively trying to get some work done while all this was going on!

Oh yeah, plane that wood!

The finished work as modelled by Sonia:

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Bad Edit

Arhk! Any one else pissed off at the seemingly illogical mind-of-it's-own editing of the new version of Blogger?? I mean, I asked for two carriage-returns, why are you giving me ten? I asked for none, why are you giving me half a page of white space?? Grrrr! The problem seems to be made worse if you have the cheek to try and add in photos, see what I mean by the random spacing in my Porto blog, and that's with a lot of time spent trying to sort it out! The Porto blog, by the way, is one of the reasons why I haven't been around, so hello again all!!

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