April 8, 2014

Well, I might have posted a bit sooner, but it’s taken me 2 months to complete the four Mars books by Kim Stanley Robinson – the trilogy and then Martians, the short story collection. But it’s done now!

An epic read, spanning almost 200 hundred years and finishing a hundred years before his recent 2312, although it’s not a sequel and there may well be differences in the background and history of the two settings. But, just as some of the short stories don’t fit exactly with the trilogy, they are broadly compatible. One item they shared (Terminus City) was, according to an interview with him I read recently, apparently first described in The Memory of Whiteness back in 1985! But I doubt I’ll be re-reading that one for a bit yet!

We’ve done a fair amount of other stuff, indoors and out, with more Science Festival events imminent, although we don’t seem to be finding much we want to see at the cinema. Her was very good, as was The Grand Budapest Hotel but the only other film we’ve seen is 47 Ronin. It had it’s faults, but it was very watchable and I suspect the mass suicide at the end coloured some people’s views of it a bit… A very downbeat ending, especially if you don’t know the story. And the other night we also watched The Monitors, a weird 1969 film based on the Keith Laumer novel. I used to own it, and quite liked it but the film seemed to be quite different, although maybe it’s just my memory. Ever zanier action as attempts are made to free Earth from it’s officious but very helpful overlords! But unlike the novel, they weren’t run Davros-style by little alien octopoids in their heads!

Musically, all we’ve been to was The Panic Room, playing at the Voodoo Rooms. Good stuff, with a powerful female lead singer. The cd I bought didn’t really reflect the energy of the show, but some of the songs are growing on me…
Next concert is probably The Michael Nyman Band in a couple of weeks…


2014: Winter

February 15, 2014

No more Sealions anymore!

Originally uploaded by miketransreal

Frankly, it’s been a really mild winter with almost no below zero temperatures and hardly any snow. Some vicious winds but that’s about all, and most of them were back in December.
We’ve been trying to get out and about a bit more this year on our Sundays so it took until last week to get round to our first visit to the zoo this year.
Big change as you go in!
The 1930s sealion pool has been filled in! For decades, since the aquarium was done away with, this pool has been the first thing visitors saw entering the zoo – almost always with sealions in it! But now it’ll be a big Meerkat habitat. Bit of a comedown for the space in my opinion. But at least they seem to be keeping the life-size statue of Sofus, their big male Patagonian Sealion.
Our January concert, as mentioned in my end of the year post, was at the Fruitmarket in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago as part of Celtic Connections. We went through a bit early and had a meal at one of the restaurants in the old Fruitmarket next door to the venue (which has been considerably done up sine we saw Faust there a while back).
Then it was time for the gig – we wanted to see the support band as well and they were really good – Debademba, from West Africa. Happy to go see them again if they play here. But then it was time for my Christmas present – Manu Dibango! I’ve been a fan for years, ever since his collaborations with Sly & Robbie in the early 1980s – Happy Feelings, Goro City, etc. Still in the house somewhere on 12″ vinyl. I had given up hope of seeing him perform and hadn’t known he was coming to Glasgow until I opened my christmas presents! :-) Excellent gig.

Another gig we went to was a little bit lower key -a friend was playing at Henry’s Cellar Bar, which we’ve been thinking we should check out for years. It’s small but we really enjoyed the three bands that were on – even the punk-a-billy version of Gary Numan‘s Cars! I expect we’ll go back…

Reading has been a bit varied, a re-read of a Jack Vance trilogy (Cadwal Chronicles) the excellent A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias, a so-so Joe Haldeman thriller and now I’m finally getting to grips with Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I’ve owned the UK 1st edition since it came out in 1992 but never got beyond the first 80 pages until now! And it’s very good so far! (Half-way through, and I’m thinking of keeping on going and reading Green and Blue as well. I’ve owned them all for 20+ years so it’s about time! And then I’ll be up-to-date with him at last!

And next weekend, providing the weather doesn’t conspire too much against us, we get to see Peter Hammill‘s new project, a collaboration with Gary Lucas (ex-Magic Band guitarist) at the Union Chapel in London. Last time we were there was the pre-VDGG reforming gig in 1996 they all played at. Hope this is as good!


It’s been a Good Year for the Music…

December 27, 2013

Don’s Kit

Originally uploaded by miketransreal

Without trying to figure out just how many live music acts we saw during the Festival and Fringe, (the Dead Man’s Waltz, for instance) I think we went to 9 proper gigs during the rest of the year. Doesn’t sound a huge amount, but they were all pretty damn good! But I had seen most of the performers before, and some I saw twice this year as well so the actual number of groups was even les than nine…

Anyway, I don’t really want to rank them but seeing the Van der Graaf Generator trio performing both Lighthousekeepers and Flight was definitely a highlight!
Seeing David Thomas with Pere Ubu doing radically different sets in Spring and Autumn was great as well, although the Edinburgh venue was, ah, not very good.
Seeing Mark Eitzel twice was also worthwhile, especially as he was upset during the earlier gig in Glasgow and cut it short a little, despite the audience thinking he was on top form…

The Zombies came back, and I saw them for a third time since seeing their Oracle & Odessey tour in Glasgow in 2009. This time Madeleine also managed along; she enjoyed them a lot too, fortunately! ;-)
Most recently we saw Don McGlashan of the Muttonbirds again performing with another New Zealander we didn’t know called Dave Dobbyn (with bass and drums also). It was an extra gig after a sell-out first gig, which was just as well because I hadn’t heard he was playing until after the first gig sold out. Being an extra show, it was a bit under-attended, but great fun despite every 2nd song being one of Dave Dobbyn’s – but his were good too!

So, onto people I hadn’t seen live before… in November we went to see They Might be Giants, who were great fun and the closest to a big mainstream gig we made it to this year – but at the Queen’s Hall, so it was still fairly minor league as big gigs go!
We also went along to see Soutthern Royal Brotherhood, a great hard-rocking Southern Rock five piece, with dueling lead guitars and Cyril Neville on lead vocals! Great little gig in the Caves at Niddrie Street with, sadly, only a great little audience. Should have been packed out! Did mean we got to be centre front, though!

Not one gig we regretted going to, with some fine support acts (also the odd dud) but overall, a good year for our live music. :)
And we already have tickets for gigs in January and February, so 2014 looks to be good as well…
pictures of various empty stages of all these gigs (I think) start here. Click back through the gigs or click on the Empty Stage Set link there.


October Passing…

October 26, 2013

So our next concert was the Mark Eitzel gig at the Voodoo Rooms on Thursday.
I wanted to see the support band but half of what I caught was a bit leaden and plodding although their last two songs were a bit better. Home-brewed Americana that never quite came alive.

Mark Eitzel and band were good; very intense vocals as ever, with a 4-song encore of older AMC songs – Jenny & Safe Harbor by Mark solo, and Western Sky & Blue and Grey Shirt with the band joining him. They never actually left the stage before encoring, that was too difficult as the route to the dressing room was through the audience! This was something like the 14th time I’ve seen him, either with AMC, solo, or with some other band. Also seem to have acquired 3 more cds by him!

empty stage from right

Voodoo Rooms Stage

The next gig is an unexpected treat – Pere Ubu are at the Liquid Rooms; David Thomas’ first time in Edinburgh since his Mirrorman show at the Queens Hall 10 years ago, I think. But we did catch a different tour with, I expect, much of the same material back in spring at Mono in Glasgow! That’s on the 8th November.

A week ago we went to the zoo for the first time in months. I knew a few days before the official announcement that there was no baby panda but, sadly, there were no Cassowary chicks either. That was a long shot, but I was hopeful! There was a new baby koala hiding away in it’s mother’s pouch though, and just a couple of days ago they had a hunting dog puppy born… It was a nice day; the anteaters were up and about, as were the pelicans, meerkats, binturong, otters and more! Good but not spectacular visit.

random stranger looking at a jaguar

Behind Glass

Favourite book read waqs probably Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, a fairly quick read about a strange bookshop and attempts to decipher ancient volumes of possibly mystical lore. Also a clash between cultures and technologies, with the characters knowlingly conducting a ‘fantasy epic’ style quest for knowledge in the present day!
Also involving, but much slower was the large new Dan Simmons book, Abominable. It was set in the mid-1920s and was mainly set in the Himalayas and especially on Mount Everes as a clandestine expedition try to recover bodies lost on an earlier expedition
I see why the end is structured as it is, but a thirteen year gap for the other shoe to drop, as it were, is too long in these particular circumstances so I still found it somewhat disappointing, with some extra happy ending stuff tacked on (the postcard) that wasn’t required.



October 5, 2013

September was the new Kim Stanley Robinson book, Shaman. Only a year since his previous novel, 2312, which is quick for him these days.

It’s very good, and a big change from his previous settings, being a pre-history story about a small group of people who are responsible for some famous cave paintings recently found in southern France. Much of it is based on current research and also hos own experiences in survival techniques and off-trail hiking, etc. in the Rockies in all sorts of weather.
More here on my Flickr site, also in the ‘this year’s ‘covers & comments’ set there.

Other books read included the 4th (of 5) Stephen Lawhead book in his ‘Bright Empires’ sequence about using ley-lines to traqvel across space and time. The Shadow Lamp. Good fun, however flakey the premise!
And now I’m almost 1/2 way through the latest Stephen Baxter sf novel, Proxima, about colonising (or not) an exo-planet. Good but I can’t halp comparing the exo-planet sections with D. G. Compton‘s Farewell, Earth’s Bliss, with which it have some similarities. There’s also another plot strand set back in the Solar System (mainly Mercury and Earth) which just got strange!

We only went to one film, and it was in October, thus making this post’s title a lie! It was the ducumentary about restoring, and then the actual film, of Georges MélièsA Trip to the Moon (1902). The documentary was fascinating (I think it was the same one shown on tv not too long ago) and the actual film, although quite short), was great! Real treat to see on on the big(gish) screen in glorious colour!

The only gig we saw was a fairly spontaneous decision to go see The Royal Southern Brotherhood play the Niddrie Street Caves. Madeleine wasn’t too sure; she hadn’t heard a note and I have only just watched a few youtube clips, but we went and were fairly blown away!
The band members had pedigree (almost literally, as one member was Devon Allman, son of Gregg!) The lead singer was Cyril Neville (of The Neville Brothers fame)  It was heavy blues rock, with a lot of solo-ing from all five of the very tight band. Highlight was possibly during a very extended Fire on the Mountain (the Dead classic) when both lead guitarists advanced in step down some little steps at the front of the stage, pausing on each step to exchange riffs, until they were standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF US literally a foot away playing like demons on fire!

Centre Stage

Centre Stage

Great night, sadly not as well attended as it deserved (which meant we got a great view right at the front!!) Afterwards they sold us a couple of cds and were happy to sign them for us.
I’m sure they could fill larger venues if they chose but they seem to want to play small clubs. Cyril Neville was apparently due to play the Albert Hall a couple of weeks later!
Next gig is likely to be Mark Eitzel (again!) in an equally small venue but the vibe will be utterly different…

A couple of Sundays ago we visited Newhailles House grounds for the first time in a couple of years – nice for walking around, and we got good weather.
And last Sunday it was the annual Doors Open Day, when various august, and not so august, buildings let the public in for a nose around. We started with Trinity House down in Leith,

Trinity House

Trinity House

Nautical Art

   Nautical Art

Lapidary Club, Leith

Lapidary Club, Leith

continued on to The Lapidery Club, in it’s new location in Maritime Lane, then some lunch at Porto & Fi on the shore (sorry to hear their city centre location has closed; we went there immediately it opened and have been back several times since) and then up the road a little to Newhaven Station.
This is a narrow little building built on a road bridge across an old branch line (now a pedestrian/cycle way) which is slowly being refurbished. Should look very neat once it’s finished, and it has a great balcony above where the track and platforms would have been.

Newhaven Station balcony

Station Balcony

East From Summerhall

View east from Roof

Then up to Summerhall to see some exhibitions, etc. and a cool beer in the late sun. I also took the opportunity to stray from the usual areas and get out  on the roof! The building isn’t really very high but it’s set back from most other things so you get great views, especially over to Arthur’s Seat.



Sunset Sky

Sunset over Edinburgh


(Not) Fringe 8

September 4, 2013

I should really have bundled this in with the previous post but it slipped my mind what we did on Friday evening…

It was the Adopters’ Night at the zoo but when we got there there the queue was enormous as it turned out to be a joint evening with Members as well. We went as Adopters but I guess we could have gone as Members instead!
Once we were in, we headed up towards the tapirs (of course). We saw various critters, including the Visayan Warty Pigs all snuggled down in a big pile of straw outside their house – must be the warm summer weather. When we got to the tapirs we were pleased to see that they were both up and about, feeding a little and looking quite frisky (for tapirs!)



As we expected, the giant pandas were both off-view and, with luck, a new baby panda will arrive soon. The walkway up by the HUnting Dogs was also closed off for similar reasons, so there may be Hunting Dog puppies to view next time we go!
The other exciting event is that the male cassowary is sitting on some eggs that Sydney the female has laid. The not so good news is that the chances of live cassowary chicks being hatched are slipping away as time goes on as they’re already overdue but hopes are high for the cassowarys being better organised next year! We had a good chat with the Keeper involved and got a quick look at the cctv feed they’re running to keep an eye on the male nesting. (The female lays the eggs but the male does all the sitting – for 7+ weeks!).
And their apparently boney crest is actually quite soft and spongy!

After that, it was chucking out time at the zoo.


Fringe 7

September 3, 2013

Alright, so the Fringe is over, and none of this is about it, but I chose the running title weeks ago before I knew what I’d be seeing and doing that I might want to include!

Only a couple of entertainments to mention; another big silly movie and a dance performance at the Festival Theatre to round things off.
The film was Elysium, from the director of District 9, about an attempt to invade a giant orbiting space station which the 1% have retreated to, leaving Earth to fester in poverty and pollution. The book of the art of the film had spectacular concept art of the station so I was keen to see it on the big screen, however pedestrian the plot and characters. In the end, it wasn’t bad, with some very cyberpunk ideas but ,to me, the station wasn’t shown off to best advantage compared to the concept drawings. Still a fantastic-looking thing though

The live show was Don Quichotte du Trocadero, which was mainly dance, with some physical theatre and mime thrown in, based loosely on Don Quixote. Some very amusing stuff, some video projected on a rear screen for them to interact with, and a lot of dance, especially tap and flamenco. Well done, but excising 10 or 15 minutes of dance wouldn’t have harmed it appreciably!

So, the summer has finished and my wallet can start to recover a bit from a month of multiple shows, snacks and meals out, etc.  But there are some live gigs coming up I want to go to…
Also various books I want to read; I’ve only read two novels in the past month; The Adjacent by Christopher Priest and Satan’s Reach by Eric Brown., which wasn’t exactly a heavy read!


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