Friday, April 21, 2006

Tutelars of the Concealed Agnostics,

Scotland has 5 "new towns"; Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Irvine, Glenrothes and Livingston. None of them have an outstanding national reputation; Cumbernauld is often criticised for having the most hideous and depressing architecture in the country, Irvine features in that song, Livingston's local economy has suffered in recent times with relocation of electronics firms to other countries, but as with all towns, they each have positive and negative aspects. Glenrothes is only a short journey from where I live, I had to visit this morning to complete a few chores. In the "new town" layout, the shopping mall is in the town centre with local government headquarters and other office blocks, this is enclosed by a ring-road. Outside the centre, the town is divided into small communities each with their own amenities. Beyond the residential areas, there is another ring-road before a series of industrial estates. The planning seems to make sense, but in practice it makes for 3 roundabouts per person. I think the council takes this new town tag too seriously and likes to think of Glenrothes as revolutionary centre of culture, thus there are all sorts of weird statues and sculptures around the town. There are massive tulips on one of these roundabouts. There is an ugly sculpture of two old people on a bench in the shopping centre, fortunately there is room on this bench for one other person to sit - it's an excellent photo opportunity, with Farmfoods in the background. There are also silly totem poles, there's a huge jagged monstrosity that looks like a flock of terns. There are statues or sculptures everywhere and I haven't seen them all, I probably never will. If I'm going to Glenrothes, I'm usually going to the shopping centre but today, I had to go to a small business park that I rarely have to go near and I passed one of these landmarks which was a group of schoolgirls dancing, it is called "The Dream".
This statue reminded me of ghosts. Many years ago, I was staying at an outdoor activity centre for the weekend, and we were told the old derelict house on the same estate was haunted by the ghosts of children. During my stay, I awoke during the night and I thought I heard noises of a school playground and being gullable I imagined children outside dancing as in the statue, although I don't think I was too bothered about it, I was two storeys higher than the "ghosts" in their playground. I have quite an interest in the paranormal but whilst I retain an open mind, of all the strange phenomena reported over the years; the one I'm most doubtful of is the existence of ghosts. I can believe in monsters, but that term perhaps is a quite vague, it's impossible to define what is normal within evolution and I can believe Earth has been visited by beings from other planets because both these phenomena must consist of physical matter for people to have reported them. Of course, I can still be scared of ghosts, even if I'm not sure I can believe in them, similar to my fear of causing a car accident by sneezing is my fear of moving into a house that has a ghost, this is quite irrational.
The other inhabitants of this house think it is haunted, I have my doubts, I need evidence of the involvement of physical matter or scientific ideas that can explain the forces that have caused the weird events that they have reported. Apparently, items have been going missing only to reappear in places where people have definitely already searched, I think this can probably be explained rationally, however, I am missing my hat. I don't wear hats normally but I did want to wear it yesterday and it was not to be found on the shelf with the rest of my winter insulation.
The one incident that leads me to believe they are right about the existence of a ghost happened in the early hours of the 17th of December 2004. I should have been sleeping but I was reading, I had heard my brother switch off his television and lights about 10 minutes earlier, then he screamed, darted noisily for the lights and ran to wake mother and father. They calmed him down but the rest of the night he kept his lights and television on. I think he must have stayed awake too because he slept during most of the following daytime. I have never asked him directly what happened that night, I didn't really want to know, it would have just been something else to fear, but through time I've unfortunately learned from the people who were told what happened. By all accounts, he switched off the lights and saw something, he got into bed but began to feel a cold sensation, of course, he decided to text someone from under the covers to tell them what was happening, as everyone but the most resolute Luddite would, and while he did this, the covers were pulled from him and this was when he screamed. I would be more sceptical of the ghost encounter had it happened to me, but brother is the one who is less interested in the paranormal and his encounter seems more credible to me than the same incident would if it happened to me, this doesn't make a great deal of sense, but in essence, I find it harder to doubt him than I would myself. The other piece of evidence which might lend verisimiltude to the event was the strange behaviour I witnessed in our pet dog that evening, however, he may have been startled by my brother's reaction.
In summary, I have an open mind towards ghosts, there must have been a reason to invent a term to describe them, but I'd like to hear some plausible science - I can invent my own to explain the visitation of aliens (imagine an incredibly advanced society nurturing a self-sufficient crew aboard a supercraft that could travel through space for many years on a sight-seeing trip) and I'm sure zoologists could explain monsters somehow. Whatever happened in the aforementioned incident, I don't want it to happen again and I want my hat back.
Today's photograph features an electricity pylon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Denizens of the Thearchic Tundra,

Sometimes I walk away from a situation and doubt whether my behaviour was appropriate. I did so today after an exchange with the cashier in the petrol station, although on review, I think it was fine. I think I disgruntled the cashier when I laughed at the offer of a free Real Radio sticker for my car while I said, "No, thanks". In my defence, I was gobsmacked, she ought to have made a preemptive judgement- the hair that lacks the slightest hint of intention, the hole in the trainer, the jumper that missed its appointment with the iron - obviously, just the Nectar points with the fuel from pump 2 would have sufficed but Real Radio? Now, I'm beginning to doubt my ability to pull off the "indier-than-thou" look.
I'm still trapped in my room studying, with 6music helping to amuse me. I did go to the football on Sunday, I often feel these trophy presentations turn out to be anti-climaxes and this was no different. The game before was disappointing. The trophy presentation was made by HBOS' Howard and Billy Connolly; that's an odd couple, Billy Connolly gave a speech that was funny if completely irrelevant and self-indulgent. The highlights of the ceremony were seeing Tommy Burns at the game after his illness and Gordon Strachan paying respect to members of the catering staff, marketing departments, groundskeepers, receptionists and all the unseen servants at the club - he invited a member of each background department onto the pitch for the ceremony, which was a noble and unprecedented gesture in the SPL.
That evening, I ate a Terry's Chocolate Orange easter egg and large bar of Lindt chocolate. In general, I can eat as much as I want without ever putting on weight, which might be seen as an advantage until I bounce off someone else during collisions at football. I am partial to sweets, however, I do mainly just eat chocolate. I read some dubious evidence that chocolate is good for the body's health because it contains antioxidants and it's good for the teeth because it leaves a coating on the teeth that can protect them - this seems unlikely, nevertheless, I'm sure consuming a bar of chocolate is more healthy than eating some of the other sugary, brightly-coloured things. I also hate Cadbury's "chocolate" so that slightly limits the amounts I can buy, I like Lindt or Black & Green chocolate or, at worst, Galaxy. To counter-balance the intake of chocolate I did try to achieve the standards for the fitness tests that I passed on my way to the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award (perhaps, the pinacle of all my achievements) of 100 sit-ups and 40 press-ups, I accomplished the former easily but I decided against the latter as my wrist kept clicking during the 13 I managed.
In order to attain the award, we also had to partake in an expedition: walk a specified distance to a campsite, stay the night and return to the drop-off point. We walked from Lawers along the banks of Loch Tay, and over Ben Lawers to Bridge of Balgie. We did not go over the summit of Ben Lawers (it's the 10th highest munro) but round its lower slopes. I'm not sure we legitimately completed the challenge, because overnight, there was a torrential storm and our campsite was flooded, conditions were intolerable, hence we were bundled into a minibus and taken home, instead of walking back to the drop-off point at Lawers. I trust that no one has told the Duke as I still have my award, furthermore, in our game of one-up-manship, the Duke deserves it for because he called once our town "a dump", maybe it is, but I'll apply the motto "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" to this situation.
Apparently, it's not 6Duke of Embra, it's 6music. 6music is a fantastic station, it has some faults, the playlist on the whole has many great songs but sometimes it can be a bit limited, as discussed in this blog. My favourite daytime DJ is Vic McGlynn, I think Vic understands more than the other DJs how narrow the playlist can be at times and she brings in something different with her "freeplays", usually some electronic sounds, instrumental tracks or foreign artists, I think she's already provided me with my record of the year; "Radio Protector" by 65daysofstatic. I usually stick with 6music all through the day until Steve Pac-a-mac, who in principle, is a great DJ, but in practice, he's a 90s anachronism, whose "new favourite bands" all sound the same. I'll tune back in for Dr Tom Robinson. Yesterday, I stuck with 6music yesterday until I had to run an errand when Pac-a-mac came on, when I came back I lishened to the end of MINT and the Blue Room via Lishen Again. My highlight of MINT was a track by Data Panik, I think I will grow to love this band as soon as they release more records.
Last night, I got bogged down buying CDs, it's an unfortunate addiction. I tried to buy Picaresque by Decemberists and the Semifinalists recent debut album on evilBay but only won the latter, such was my disappointment, I then decided to buy the former properly. I looked at the Rough Trade website and they were advertising a new Voxtrot EP, of course, I had to buy that and when I found that it did not contain the single, "Start of Something", I decided to import their debut EP. I'm already waiting on a replacement copy of Nada Surf's "Let Go", the first became worn out. I must calm down but I am due a tax rebate, so I may as well spend.
Finally, whilst discussing musicology, Simon and Miquita hosted their final Popworld on Saturday. They were brilliant, they understood the superficial and unjust nature of the music business and were quite smart in the way they used humour to highlight many of the idiosyncracies of the industry. Perhaps that is too polite a summation, they mocked ruthlessly as they should have, but they were also able to respect proper artists. Simon was joking with the Zutons and then both presenters had Snow Patrol creasing with laughter. Of course, the mockery was present again for Big Brovaz and some new dross dance act, Infernal, who coincidentally, were Callum and Eldred's record of the week, I despair.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Deterrents of Filibustering Oenophiles,

Climate change and global warming was subject of the news bulletins yesterday. The government's chief scientist chose yesterday to warned of a 3C temperature rise over the next 100 years. These warnings are becoming standard and I don't believe anyone really takes much notice. In fact, the chief scientist should have issued a really outrageous statement to scare everyone. Scientists probably cannot predict exactly what may happen or estimate the timescales on which these events will occur. There are many contrasting theories; when people talk of global warming, I always dread being cold because of what I've read or watched and deemed the most credible result. With the rising temperature, the ice at the poles would melt, aside from the rising water levels and flooding of low-lying lands, the other major result of this is the freshening of the oceans - the input of meltwater reduces the overall salinity of the oceans. Ocean currents control the climate of the planet, they are responsible for redistributing warmth supplied to the equatorial regions from the Sun to the higher latitudes. These ocean currents are driven by differences in density, which is dependent on salinity - with a decline in salinity of the oceans, these currents would cease and higher latitudes would become much colder. I'm not ready for an Ice Age.
Climate change is an interesting subject, thankfully, aspects of the topic have been covered in many of the courses I've studied. My preparation for exams continues, yesterday, I could not tolerate the boredom of my bedroom any longer, also events around the house are distracting; the War of Information seems to be being fought on other fronts, thus my side can relax for a while. As a result, I decided to take my books out with me in the car and find somewhere to read in peace, I was recommended to go to the top of the Dangerfield Road, where there is a small carpark. The Dangerfield Road is a steep road that leads north from Leven, and joins onto roads that go towards Cupar and eventually Dundee. It was a wonderful spot, with an epic panorama of the Firth of Forth, Largo Law and the surrounding farmland, which was enhanced by the fine day.
I managed a couple of hours worth of good reading before the groans and grunts of lorries struggling with the gradient grew bothersome. I drove to a place called Birnie Loch, near Ladybank, it is a place I used to visit frequently many years ago with my parents. Essentially, Birnie Loch is a disused quarry that has been allowed to fill with water and donated to the people of Fife as a nature reserve. Having not been to the place for many years, I found it quite desolate, there were no other people. It appeared that the reserve was less well-maintained; footpaths had fallen into disrepair and access to the site was difficult. I was scared of wandering into the territory of swans because footpaths seemed to disappear for stretches. Maybe it was the time of year, with leaves still to grow and summer wildlife visitors still to arrive but the place felt gloomy. I had a quick walk around the loch; there were a few ducks and swans on the water and buzzards circled overhead. I returned home for more stude-ing in my room before football in the evening. I probably played the best game of football since I started playing again after my ankle injury, which was many months ago. I've often struggled to keep up with the pace of the games or failed to get into the habit of playing sensibly, notably, I had a bottle of lucozade and many cups of coffee and tea that day before playing.
Today has consisted mainly of more revision. I curtailed the reading in order to lishen to Rocket Science. The marvellous Jeffrey and Jack Lewis played live in the studio today, they played my favourite song "Moving" and also included an excellent interpretation of Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne" in their 4 song set. I'd love to see them play live in Scotland, they are due to play in Glasgow this week in support slot for Adam Green, however, I cannot justify trekking across to the other side of the country for a 30-minute support slot of an artist I have mixed feelings about. Adam Green has some wonderful songs but some of his work is crude and sickening. I have one of his albums but it is 6th from bottom on a very tall pile.
East Fife achieved a 1-1 draw against Berwick Rangers, this will be considered a good result but it is meaningless. I have not yet decided whether to go to the Celtic match tomorrow, they will be presented with the SPL trophy after the game but that is of little significance to me now. I feel they should present a team with the trophy as soon as they win the league, waiting a few weeks and then having a ceremony on an arbitrary day perhaps demeans its existance slightly. Whilst I checked the East Fife result online, I was guided to this link, it's quite funny but I didn't think it was something for the townsfolk to be proud of, we're already blacklisted by that Proclaimers song, however, I soon realised it was part of a larger Scottish Wikipedia, thus my shame is national and not local, all the blank pages take this form, I doubt the Methil page will stay blank for long, a "Down With Brown" protester will likely write something scathing soon. I don't think I can pass comment on Scottish Wikipedia as a whole, I appreciate that someone has lovingly taken the time to construct this, but I don't think I'm grateful for its existence.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Admonishers of Daydreaming Ragamuffins,

The revision beat is proving quite lonely, today nearly passed without incident, tensions on both sides of the War of Information seem to have subsided notwithstanding, the inquisition over the mail that has now become routine. Crisis occurred when mother decided to paint the newly-constructed fence, and inadvertently speckled the length of my car with creosote. Creosote will always be my surface-coating of choice, but I've so far refrained from supplementing the metallic green body of my vehicle with it's delights. I immediately employed the spit-wetted finger removal technique, however, it soon became apparent this would not only be poisonous but somewhat arduous. Given the time of evening, I had to go to a self-service carwash; I've never liked using these, the next customer waiting to use the carwash after me is invariably an impatient ruffian with irritating dance music bursting from his vehicle of enhanced specification. The creosote problem was solved but overall, the job I carried out was patchy.
I am desperate for the revision period and the exams to be over, while I have enjoyed studying the course, this final run-in is strenuous. I am looking forward to whatever the summer may hold, I hope it is a holiday and not a period of unemployment. I don't think I have any plans apart from one day at T in the Park and I don't think I'm entitled to say that is a definite appointment. I am really the organiser of most of the big events amongst my massive, last year, I organised for a 4-strong group to attend T in the Park, this year, I was trying to muster a group of 6. Only 2 tickets were allowed to be purchased per person, thus I had to drill 3 people for this operation. We had decided only to go on Saturday, it's always hard to choose the day to go on when only the basic schedule is advertised when tickets go on sale - I opted for Saturday owing to Sigur Ros' involvement and the World Cup Final being on Sunday. Out of the 3 people trying to buy tickets, only one person, not me, succeeded. I believe I am the frontrunner for the other ticket out of the 2 bought, but I certainly could not disagree if it was allocated to someone else. My own attempts to buy tickets were thwarted by a computer glitch that occurred for people trying to only buy Day Tickets, I disputed this with Ticketmaster and DF Concerts but I only received patronising replies.
I cannot sum up my previous experience of T in the Park easily, in one respect it was one of the greatest days ever, in another, the worst. At the start of the day, I was feeling quite poorly, but I packed my rucksack with many bottles of lucozade, juice and food and we set off eagerly. One of the group was meeting the other three on site and this proved to be the first major drama, meeting up was somewhat stressful. Once tempers cooled from this episode, it was decided that rather than join the queue to enter the arena, we would wait until it subsided and then enter, thus I missed the Little Flames. We waited outside for a couple of hours, we did arrive early so we did not miss too much - only one band that only one member of the group really wanted to see. It was the warmest day of the year so everyone was supposedly content to bask outside apart from me, who was ill and felt alternately hot and really cold. I had trousers, jumpers and a jacket when I should have been wearing a shorts and t-shirt.
Once inside, we decided to stay as a group and I was very diplomatic all day long about who we went to see, in hindsight, this was a mistake. The group of 4 was clearly divided, 2 members seemed more interested in activities they could have participated in at home, I think for every great act I saw, they have a tale of buying a hotdog or an ice cream or visiting the toilets. We started off by seeing Maximo Park who were fantastic, although the mischievous two took little notice, there were clear problems with the acoustics on the Radio 1/NME stage all day but they managed to be loud enough to rock through this. Ordinary Boys got the vote for the next band, they were heralded onto the stage by Eldred Bowman, they were okay but they did not manage to battle through the sound problems with that stage so well and we soon left their set.
We wandered around aimlessly for a while, two of us stumbled into a small tent where the Longcut were playing to about 30 folk and it was probably the highlight of my day, they were very talented. The drummer was the lead singer and he drummed a while then he would leave the drum kit behind, switch on the drum machine and come to the microphone and sing for a while, and then he'd go back, all in the middle of the same song.
The next band after the reunion of the group was Aberfeldy, who were fantastic. The best bit was during "Heliopolis by Night", when the backing vocalist pinches her nose and sings "interflight co-ordinates for Heliopolis by night".
Afterwards, my trademark diplomacy guided us to Embarass on the Main Stage, the crowd loved them, I was very, very bored. It was obscene MOR wallowing and cringeworthy chat with the crowd. Once the ordeal was over, I caught the end of Magic Number set from the entrance to the X-Tent, it was absolutely packed and rightly so. After another reunion, they decided we would see bed-wetters Keane, yet again the Main Stage crowd fawned over them, I was growning a bit weary by this stage, seeing dreadful performances was not helping my fight, however, the Lucozade helped me last a bit longer.
There was a bit of a gap before the group's appointment with the Killers. I was being terribly polite up until now, I had no inclination to see the Killers, their songs were so overplayed on the radio at the time, I was tired of them. Ahead of this, I wandered into a tent where El Presidente were finishing a lively and fun set. We reunited again at the Main Stage, I felt the Killers added nothing more live to the tracks I was bored of on the radio, the Main Stage was also surrounded by idiots so I tolerated this no more and demanded the group left to see the Coral on the doomed Radio 1/NME stage. They were just beginning as we arrived, they were playing to hardly anyone. I'm sure the band were playing brilliantly however, such was the nature of the acoustics on that stage, the spectators were being pounded by bass and the Coral sounded more like Guns n' Roses than the band we were used to. After leaving slightly disappointed, there was long period before the headline slot that we had decided upon - Doves.
Going to see Doves was to be another a bit of a disappointment, out of respect to James Brown, they had decided to go on early and let James headline the King Tuts Wah Wah Tent, lots of people were similarly frustrated, we arrived as Doves were doing their penultimate song. They finished with "There Goes the Fear" which was amazing. The schedule change wasn't so galling after that and it meant we could see other worthy headliners Super Furry Animals in the X-Tent.
With more time to spare, two of us arrived at the X-Tent early enough to see some of Brendan Benson's brilliant set. There was to be no reunion for the headliners although there were long delays in setting up Super Furry Animals' laser show. Unfortunately, by the time of this set, I was exhausted and very lightheaded and I resembled a hamster. Being in a stupefied state, near the front of the stage, was probably quite dangerous, in my dazed state. Super Furry Animals were fantastic, they ran through all their greatest hits and they had the crowd jumping and a dazed me being rattled about. Additionally, two people either side of me, started fighting each other over a flag, I then, was amidst the fracas between them and the stewards. The band were brilliant but I was desperate to retire. Somehow, I managed to drive us all home, even with the added police diversion which I felt must've taken us halfway to Glasgow.
Pulling up the driveway, I just made it to the front door from the car, before collapsing in. I spent the next few hours drinking cups of tea and lucozade in front of the fire, before being sick, I feel this part is perhaps the fulcrum of this cat story. It was clear that I had the mumps, I have never felt so ill. The next morning I was perfectly well. My T in the Park experience was rather erratic and indefinable; I had great experiences with many bands (Maximo Park, Aberfeldy, Longcut, Doves, Brendan Benson, The Coral and Super Furry Animals), bad experiences at the Main Stage (Keane, Embarass, Killers and simpletons), the unnecessary tensions within our group and the onset of the worst illness I have ever encountered. I feel I can't say T in the Park is a good or bad festival based on my experience, I might have imagined some of it, I was in a mumps and Lucozade-fuelled stupor towards the end of the day, I only hope I can go this year and have a normal fun festival-going experience.
The photograph depicts a sunny day at Methil docks.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dependents of Acephalous Navigators,

The bird flu crisis is over, apparently the dead bird was a whooper swan and not a mute swan, and therefore the public can relax. I find this latest news on the bird flu case absurd, I cannot understand what they can deduce from this. The majority of whooper swans are not native to Britain, they usually breed in Arctic regions of North America, Russia and Greenland but crucially, some remain in Scotland all year round, so unless this specific bird has been tagged and its movements have been tracked, I feel it is inaccurate to say the H5N1 virus came from abroad, this is a clever example of government spin – they’re trying to start bird racism, that’s what this is, I anticipate Nick Griffin making a speech in the next few hours. Additionally, I’m shocked that someone could not say whether the bird was a mute swan or a whooper swan when it was found last week; a whooper swan has a yellow beak and a mute swan has an orange beak. BBCi have published a list of “The 10 Species Most Likely to Bring Bird Flu to Britain” – they have not, however, advised a shoot-on-sight policy yet, this may be introduced in the Channel 4 TV adaptation to be hosted by Jimmy Carr.

The other bird to avoid is the eagle owl that has escaped from its owner in Linlithgow, near Edinburgh. This species is quite magnificent; they stand 3ft tall and have a 5ft wingspan. They are capable of taking foxes and small deer as prey thus the police have advised that the bird is not approached by members of the public. This species is normally resident to mainland Europe but as shown in a brilliant BBC2 Natural World documentary, there are a number of eagle owls actually breeding in Yorkshire, so perhaps in the future, they may become as abundant as buzzards on these shores. It’s almost impossible to go anywhere outside the towns in Fifecestershire without seeing at least one buzzard, this would not have been the case 10 years ago. Eagle owls are known to prey on buzzards so their population may be affected should eagle owl spread.

I saw one of my favourite birds today, a dipper, when I headed up Kennoway Den before dinner. Kennoway Den is a steep-sided glen, which follows a tributary of the River Leven, it’s actually quite an important place, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust showed a lot of interest in the area last year, because of a rare species of butterfly that was spotted. I really like dippers and the way the zip up and down the rivers, they are quite unique and seem perfectly suited to their habitats. Also, while on this walk, I moved a fallen branch from a pathway to allow an oncoming cyclist to pass freely, the cyclist was quite ungrateful and did not thank me.

Whilst I was being obtuse this morning, I upset a legend so perhaps I was not deserving of courtesy. I may have slightly offset this by riling a pompous idiot during the same burst of awkwardness, but overall, I was disappointed with myself.

I was also disappointed with the filum Taxi Driver which I watched over the weekend, I don’t know why I watched this, it was on after The West Wing on More4 and I obviously was too lazy to look for something else to watch. I haven’t the patience for filums – they’re too long and I often feel they’re just disjointed highlights packages of better books. This was how I felt after Taxi Driver, I looked to see if it was based on a book but did not uncover anything. The filum confused me: he starts of falling in love with a woman, he has enough of that idea, he randomly decided to buy some guns, he decided to assassinate a Senator, he has enough of that idea, he then gets a haircut and decides to save a young prostitute by going on a murderous rampage – at the end, I wanted the protagonist imprisoned, why wasn’t he jailed? Apparently, commandoes get that haircut when they’re going to be doing something special, I’m only going out to play 5-a-side football now, every performance I turn in is special and I’ve never needed a haircut like that.
Today's photo is of the Bawbee Bridge, Leven.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Seekers of Vacillating Phalangers,

These are darker days. Tensions in the divide which has been tagged "The War of Information" are apparently heightened. Everything seems perfect from far away, progress seems unabated; mother and father seem to be living the Good Life having spent all day in the garden, brother added another layer to the parcel after his bath and the hole in my trainer's growth is continual.
The stude-ing continues but a mid-morning break which consisted of some more bogtrotting. The path taken could probably be considered the perimeter of the town. It has been a deceptively cold day; beautifully bright and suggestive of warmth but in reality, brutally chilling. I was disappointed to encounter a huge clearance where trees of many species had recently stood, I felt like those infantile adventurers in the Sigur Ros video, that I described, treading on the foreign landscape. The town has an area called "The Dam" which follows the River Leven to the Firth of Forth, it used to have quite vibrant wildlife but with nearby new housing development and this latest clearance of land, which might be associated with the railway heritage museum, the area is now eerily quiet and devoid of the birds that once were plentiful. The song stuck in my head while I walked was "Looking for Astronauts" by The National which I am grateful for, it might've been "Nature's Law" by Embarass, I can hear them now, "You can never fight The Feeling" - that's a shame, someone ought to. I liked The Feeling's first song as much as the next person, I recorded it off the radio but DJ O'Leary talked over the end of it, I named the file "the feeling + wassock - fill my little world right up.mp3" when I saved it, but "Sewn" is just pathetic, middle-of-the-road wallowing, I think that file is now due for the Recycle Bin.
This evening, ex-security guard and Sheffield's finest singer/songwriter/broadcaster John Shuttleworth is appearing on the Mark Radcliffe show, I have been following his brilliant John Shuttleworth's Open Mind programme on Radio Quadruple One. John and his neighbour, Ken Worthington, have been investigating paranormal occurences; with hilarious consequences. I wonder if this will be the subject of the show this evening. I might have to report the infamous Methilhill Weather Balloon Explosion. The town actually has its own UFO investigator, Sharon Coull, I've never met her, but I wonder how necessary or busy her role is. When the gory time comes and they begin rounding up the local dignitaries for the secret bunker, the list of those saved will probably consist of the piano-slapping school headteacher, the councillor in a cape, the UFO investigator and the bowling club president.
These dignitaries will probably transported to the site of their underground stronghold by hovercraft. The latest proposal to solve the public transport crisis is to introduce hovercraft links between the islands and between Fife and Edinburgh. The project is being run by the Stagecoach group, they are proposing half-hourly crossings between Kirkcaldy and Leith, the hovercrafts can seat 150 passengers and can sail in 6.5feet waves. I hope it the idea is successful, Stagecoach are a major company and with their experience and power, the idea has a strong chance of becoming reality.

Regiments of the Blanked Army,

I will indulge in the kind of white-belt musicology that has become my trademark, maybe by the end of this article; I will have been promoted to the prestigious yellow belt. It’s the kind of promotion I’ve been dreaming of, the kind of promotion that would allow me to pour scorn on others and my dislike of Oasis, Billy Ocean Colour Scene, Stere-off-onics and the Charlatans would be justified by my status alone and not by reasoned argument.

One of the factors in my opening riddle yesterday was the inquisition following the arrival of two large envelopes through the famous green door addressed to me; one was the part of the much discussed Grandaddy prize and the other was the equally well-documented Archie Bronson Outfit Der Dang Der Dang album. Jason Lyttle is one of those people who draw a small picture next to their signature – a cloud with some form of precipitation. I will have to think of something to embellish my signature which is rubbish, I’ve never believed in them so I don’t try. Some football players add their shirt numbers to their signature and some people add religious insignia, maybe I will add something like a flying saucer as some sort of antithesis.

Purchased for only £7, with 50p postage and packaging, directly from Domino Records, the album arrived with the kind of gubbins that are basically worthless to Domino but are likely to amuse the white belt musicologist – a mini promo poster, some badges, promo postcards featuring delightful artwork, an Arctic Monkeys sticker and some badges. I’ll try to buy direct from Domino more often if they’re going to give away badges. The badges will be added to the Sheep of Badges, which now has 5 badges.

The album itself is perfectly named Der Dang Der Dang, firstly, it’s a great name and secondly, that’s how it sounds. Archie Bronson Outfit have a raw, hard, rocky edge. They sound similar to other new bands like Sons and Daughters and My Latest Novel, this is a compliment. In essence, the Archie Bronson Outfit sound like a band who’ve been told not to make a noise, they don’t care, they play on regardless in the most attention-grabbing way they can.

I also have been lishening to Ten Silver Drops by Secret Machines. The pigeon-holers have called this “prog rock”; I don’t know what that means. The first question involves the fact that there are only eight songs, have I been given a bogus copy? I am not really bothered; this album is a perfect continuation of the magnificent second album Now Here is Nowhere. The band have defined their music as “space rock”, I can’t argue with that, their music has an beautiful cosmic strength and versatility, I believe it can suit all moods simply by adjusting the volume of the CD player, Ten Silver Drops can be easy going and chilled but an increase in volume enhances the “space rock” grooves and melodies. I have one gripe with this album and it’s the vocals on Track 2 “All at Once”, they are either by a different singer or in a completely different style, they’re jagged and not as relaxed as usual and they don't fit the album or this track is certainly are not well placed in the opening 3 track segueway. The usual vocals on the Secret Machines songs aren’t really sung; certainly one of the main vocalists really just speaks in a voice that I’d have to visit the doctors to acquire. I end up more ill and phlegmy when I come back from the doctors than when I go, it’s from sitting in a waiting room with a cast of invalids who are all inevitably named Agnes or Jock

Finally, from a favourite music blog, I encountered a recommendation for a song called “Start of Something” by Voxtrot. As forewarned, the equipment used to record this song is poor but the song itself is magnificent, there’s something of “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” in it. I wonder if this was polished by hi-tech equipment whether it would it lose its charm. It’s an amazing song and I’m unlikely to hear a better song for a while. I have posted a link to the band’s site. I’m not sure if I agree with MySpace; I first encountered the phenomenon much later than everyone else when it was listed as the site for an artist called Cherry Ghost, an excellent session guest on 6music’s Rocket Science. I assumed MySpace was for smaller artists who perhaps did not have the capital to have their own flashy website, but it turns out everyone has a plot of land over there from Morrissey and Simon and Garfunkel to Joe Public who gets to a write a blog. Some artists surely don’t need MySpace and Joe Public can go elsewhere. It’s great to use it for its finer features but I’m not won over by it yet.
Today's picture is of a lovely texture created by a close-up photo of some bare jaggy bushes.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Engineers of the Invigorating Unconciousness,

Local tensions are running high, they are caused by a personality clash. One person seeks every iota of information possible in order to gain excuse to form anger and cause conflict, the other person, by nature, is a laid-back information gatherer who has a skill for being philosophical, diplomatic and thinks speech, other than general politeness, is only necessary when the information they dispense is of interest or use.
I happened to run a search for "bellyaches" amongst the blogs. I can't believe there is another Bellyaches that takes preference over this site in their foolish rankings system. I believe this other fellow's motives might be somewhat misguided. I would question why he came to call his site by this random moniker, because that's what it appears to be. I called this blog "The Bellyaches" because they wouldn't let me call our 5-a-side team "The Bellyaches" in the annual town Civic Week competition. They wouldn't even allow me to call the team "General George's 5-a-side Team", but I wouldn't bestow that name upon this blog as it does not import the attitudes I share with my valued readers as successfully on a global scale as the current name. Evidently, my credentials to lay claim to this banner are far superior to those of Mr. Inge.
The "Down With Brown" campaign rolled into Falkirk today for the match between East Stirlingshire and East Fife. Chairman Brown surprisingly chose not to attend. The large bus full of police officers that had appeared at the ground to offer protection to chairman Brown was driving off as we approached the ground after news had reached them that they were not requireed. East Fife were defeated 1-2 by the worst team in Scottish professional football.
In keeping with their status as the worst club, Firs Park is very grim, no segregation of fans exists, it needn't - there are so few. The ground consists of a rusty steel shelter along one length of the pitch over concrete terracing. A dated stand that seats around 100 people occupies the other length of the pitch, alongside a portakabin from which a kiosk is run. One goalmouth end is simply a grass embankment in which wooden terracing once existed, this however is now overgrown and off limits to spectators. The remainder of the perimeter of the ground is surrounded by a very high stone wall that gives the feeling that the match is being played indoors, on a sunny day, like today, it felt like being inside the local sports hall. Despite their team's lowly position, the supporters of "the Shiree" are brilliant, they seem to accept their position and are only ever supportive of their players. There was one fan next to us who knew every player's name and shouted messages of encouragement to each of them individually in turn for the entire 90 minutes, I've never witnessed this kind of fanaticism before, however as great as he was for his cause, we had to move away from him, he was highly irritating.
For East Fife, it was a poor result, but it was still an enjoyable day for me. Although I have a season ticket for Celtic, I like going to East Fife games. With Celtic, seeing my team winning is the quintessential reason for attending matches, any result other than a comfortable win by the most attractive style of football is deemed failure, but this stinks of professionalism. The shenanigans associated with East Fife and the unpredictable results make for exciting if sometimes disappointing viewings. I enjoyed going to a ground I'd never been to before today, even if it was the most bleak I've ever visited, I must note, however, the staff in the kiosk offered the best service at a football match I have ever experienced, not for the range of food and drinks served, but their general politeness and helpfulness is possibly unparalleled. The "Down with Brown" campaign struck a blow at the despised East Fife board when some supporters made club directors accept a copy of today's Scotsman newspaper which carries a damning article of the club's dire state. These supporters were then forcibly ejected from the ground.
I'm not really a protester, I stand alongside them, I share their views but I'm certainly not as confrontational and vocal as the majority but I don't agree with the apathy shown by other supporters towards the miserable state the club finds itself in, at least the protesters are showing some form of compassion.
I took my camera along to the match; after the power station picture of last week, of which everyone is raving over, I'm going to carry my camera more often. I hope to be as good as Dave Gorman one day, but most of my photos today were poor, however, I managed to salvage some action shots and one of some zany protesters.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Outlaws of Immaterial Spheres,

Bird flu has arrived to the British Isles. It is slightly bizarre that the deadly strain was first detected in the Kingdom of Fifecestershire. The hysteria around Cellardyke is just silly but Tina Briscoe, reporter of the dead swan, seems to be enjoying the limelight, she's butted into every news bulletin I've seen. There's no need to panic, the virus as it is currently understood is not very contagious, it is thought that the virus affects the deepest part of the lungs and not the upper respiratory tracts thus it is not easily spread by breathing or coughing. Although poultry farmers and those in related industries face an uncertain future, the only hysteria that will be generated in the public domain will be through ignorance.
At any rate, everything that unfolds is controlled by Darwinian Natural Selection - those who are resistant survive and reproduce, those who are not resistant die. Our time has never had a serious global pandemic disease, such an event may be overdue and I would ask why there is any point in the public treating this matter with anything more than the respect they've shown for any of the other current global crises, such as global warming, the outbreak of religion or human conflict. I would recommend adopting "a five fruit a day and don't be so mean" ethic, it gives the bog-standard human who will not be invited into a secret bunker when the gory time arrives the best chance of extending their lifetime.
When I wasn't showing such equianimity today, I was stude-ing. Before this, I had the pleasure of watching a rare Sigur Ros video on MTV2 whilst I ate my breakfast cereal, it was for the song "Untitled#1". The plot seems to involve nursery children who are putting the jackets, hats and mittens on to go out for playtime, but they also begin putting on strange WWII gas mask-like apparatus. They tread out onto an otherworldly landscape and begin smashing up a beaten-up car, once the demolition has been carried out to their satisfaction, celebration breaks out, I thought to myself that this is very much like life. Whilst looking over my books, I chose to Lishen Again to a Sigur Ros live set on the lovely Nemone's Dream Ticket, their music is beautiful, decriers of this sentiment should relax and think of Iceland. I might have the chance to see them at T in the Park in the summer but I am bewildered over the decision to place them halfway down the Main Stage bill, I would have loved to see them headline the biggest tent. From lishening to the Dream Ticket, I must also commend The Pipettes, "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me" is such a fantastic pop record, its omission from any of the major radio station playlists is mysterious, I love the screeching bit; "And you might cry for some time". It's cutting edge music journalism like this that will see me write for the NME one day.
For an afternoon break, I indulged in some bogtrotting. Simon (pictured) and I walked along to East Weymss. This is a reasonably long walk, I saw a huge flock of starlings of which 5 or 6 were albinos. I followed the Fife Coastal Path along to MacDuff's Castle then went down to the shoreline, past the Weymss caves (pictured) and headed back home. I remembered that I have sat on top of the castle in its current state of ruin, having once climbed up the severely eroded and highly dangerous castle stairs, this was an act of youthful stupidity. The castle and the caves were in a recent episode of Time Team, I was informed that the locals stole many pieces of Tony's crew's equipment. It was an interesting episode, the team found many artefacts from the 14th century inhabitants of the castle and the Picts who are thought to have inhabited the caves, there is also belief that the Vikings visited the caves too. I don't really like being around the caves too much, once I went down there and it looked like a family of homeless people were actually living in them, that was quite disturbing to think that people would ever have to resort to becoming troglodytes in our time and in our local towns.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Slappers of the Most Stubborn Trout,

It has been a scorching day in Fifecestershire, therefore I carried out most of my stude-ing outdoors. I am now sporting a golden brown tan, or I would be if I wasn't wearing jeans and my favourite angora woolly jumper (I had to be ready for the clouds). However my face might have received some sun, or it should have if it wasn't for my long hair, red beard and thick glasses.
Some bloke from Virgin records has been on, he says that I am going to receive some extra gubbins along with the new Grandaddy album that I won on the Mark Radcliffe Show. I should receive these extra gubbins this week and then I will receive the new album just prior to its release, I feel somewhat guilty in getting this for free after the band having to split because they aren't making enough money. However, my £10 or so would not keep them together - once the record company takes its share, Jason would only be left with enough money for a cup of coffee.
The "Down With Brown" Campaign has reached an extreme in the hostility levels. Chairman Brown has appointed Dave Baikie as manager; Dave has a good track record in the lower divisions but holds a criminal record after a recent vicious assault. He deserves a chance to manage East Fife but chairman Brown does appear somewhat hypocritical after his statements over Graham Rix. Instead of breaking many months of silence to hail the appointment of the new manager, chairman Brown devoted the major part of his press release to a savage description of the protesting supports. I doubt he will achieve reconciliation via this path.
I noticed a story in the news about Fifecestershire, there are concerns about radioactive contamination on Dalgety Bay shores. According to SEPA, the radioactivity comes from waste dumped on the foreshore after the nearby naval air base at Donibristle closed in 1959. The dials of planes at the base were coated with the luminous radioactive metal radium so they could be read at night. Our physics teacher had one of these old aircraft dials and he used it to show us the working of a Geiger counter during Standard Grade lessons, this was probably highly illegal, I should have got him sacked then rather than wait until sixth year when I had to report him for sitting in his cupboard all day while he chatted on MSN Messenger via his laptop. Anyway, it's not about that.
I like to take an interest in radiation stories in the news, the meedja and the Liberal Democrats love nothing more than to scaremonger over matters involving radioactive contamination and waste or nuclear power; the general public don't have a full understanding of the science so they are left to panic, this is essentially because the journalists don't have an adequate knowledge of the science either. I support the construction of more nuclear power plants; I believe that lessons have been learnt from the early adventures into power generation from nuclear reactors. The output from nuclear power stations is terrific in comparison to other sources. Wind turbines have a certain beauty but from experience I don't think this view is widely shared by the public; a local wind farm at the back of the town, not on particularly scenic land, was refused planning permission after residents' complaints. A few nuclear power plants across the country would eliminate this type of obstacle and provide enough electricity to boil all our kettles.
The accompanying photography features a stile. I bet Jason Lytle could murder a latte.

Discouragers of the Estuarine Waders,

It's only the 3rd of April and southern England has a hosepipe ban, I have not paid too much attention to the news today or even watched the Wright Stuff so I don't know whether any of the bulletins ran with interviews with the public, they probably did. When this issue first hit the news I did see a few video montages of Joe Public interviews, amongst them is always the mandatory "we're an island and surrounded with water, what's the problem?" comment. I am irked by the people making flippant comments on situations where they don't understand all the facts, especially on scientific issues. Desalination plants are costly to build and run. I also bet there would be complaints from NIMBYs about the construction of plants. There are also environmental issues over the disposal of the hypersaline brine that is generated from such plants.
I quote this comment, made in the form of a poem, from a member of the public, posted on the BBC website on the controversial issue;
Bath with a close friend on a cold Friday evening.
Picture this, a day in December
Warm water, freezing cold weather
Saving the nation, from its own irrigation
Plugging the leaks, with this Friday temptation.
Rubbish, no offence like.
In the muso spot, I ordered the Be Your Own Pet and Secret Machines albums last week, I await their arrival although I'm disappointed that the former does not include the single "Damn Damn Leash". After hearing Marc Riley play some of the tracks from "City and Eastern Songs" by Jeffrey and Jack Lewis, I've been turned into a huge fan of their work, that album, itself, is fantastic. Long, rambling, quiet monologues sit beside really fast, upbeat numbers where they scream "Have you seen, have you seen my time machine?", it shouldn't work but it does. The track called "Moving" is a favourite of mine, it sums up the emotions of moving house, it perfectly captures the sadness of the empty house and seeing a whole life in cardboard box form, the song has its humourous touches, of course, but I thought the song was so much like life. Jeff Lewis is going to be appearing on Marc's Rocket Science show, I look forward to it. I recently purchased an older album by Jeff, "It's the Ones Who've Cracked That the Light Shines Through", which contains the same successful formula and it has a truly wonderful title. I tried to buy another of his back catalogue on eBay but I must not be such a big Jeff Lewis fan as I lost - I was riled by the selling scampeteer charging £3.50 for postage and did not bid too high. In fact, I was the winning bidder with 8 seconds left but such was my annoyance at the great postage rip-off, I eventually hoped that I would lose, so everyone was a winner. I actually ordered the new Archie Bronson Outfit album tonight too, I had completely forgotten about my intention to buy it (after my quest last month) until I was remembered by the good musicologists of the Fence Records forum - postage was only 50p.
Finally, the national treasure that is King Creosote played a live session on the Vic Galloway programme for Radio Scotland, he was amazing. I was lucky enough that KC supported Belle & Sebastian when I went to their gig at the ABC Glasgow in February, I really should have seen much more of KC due to the Fifecestershire connection but I suppose I'll see him again, one day.
The photograph accompanying this cat story is of Seafield Tower, Kirkcaldy.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Debunkers of the Quotable Pessimists,

It has been a long time coming, but yesterday I was able to buy some satsuma oranges from Sainsbury's. Eating five pieces of fruit or vegetables is much easier when satsumas are available to the posses and massives. Additionally, through my purchase of satsumas and other grocery items, I earned several more Nectar points to put towards the tank driving course in preparation for the final motions of the "Down With Brown" campaign should they require someone with that kind of expertise.
I went along the East Fife versus Elgin match today and in accordance with the current protests against the tenure of the incapable club chairman, Derrick Brown, I took my place on the mound overlooking the ground. Most of the action can be seen but it's difficult to view any of the action in one of the goalmouths. East Fife were defeated 0-2, this represents another lowpoint for the current regime, to be beaten at home by a team only one position higher in the table is disasppointing. In a season, where the club aimed for promotion to currently lie in 7th position - only 3 teams are worse in the Scottish league - most of the fans have been forced to stay at home, a hardcore following attend the games but take their position upon the mound. Although the spirit amongst the protesting fans on the mound is fantastic, I cannot see them effecting change without a successful business plan, an ambitious but achievable business plan might persuade those who can bring about Brown's removal to back the protesters. I hope they can bring about the demise of Brown because he has certainly committed some hideous crimes as a chairman; it's time to install a new leader who can rouse the local community into a successful relationship that can benefit the club on and off field but also help many of the local businesses, schools and charities.
I wish the circumstances were such that I could enter the ground because Elgin are one of the better teams to watch in the league, they play attractive football, however, it isn't necessarily the type of football required to be successful in the Third Division, which is why they are positioned only 6th. On my way to the match today, I took this picture of the derelict Methil power station. It has not been in use for many years and there are often calls for its demolition, I would be against this; the power station may be ugly, but it is an emblem of the town and I think people would miss its ungiving magnificence on our shoreline.
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