Sunday, 27 July 2014

Recent Gigs Part One: The Sunshine Underground and The Xcerts

I haven't been to too many gigs this year for one reason or another ( mostly financial ) but here's part one of a quick roundup of some recent rock 'n' roll rebels and ragamuffins...
Last Saturday was supposed to see the third annual Summer Sound Festival in Gloucester Park. Last year's event was a lot of fun with Kids In Glass Houses and Chloe Howl tearing up the stage with mainstream metal and quirky pop. Unfortunately this year's festival was cancelled at short notice after a massive thunderstorm and torrential rain had hit the Shire the night before and then rumbled on well into Saturday morning. The council were worried about the stage being hit by lightning and so literally pulled the plug on the event. ( This may sound like overkill but a house about a mile from me had been struck by lightning the night before, so they weren't taking any chances. ) Luckily the gig was moved to the good ol' Guildhall so the more dedicated gig-goers could still see some bands, albeit in a totally different setting. I dragged Sarah along and we met up with our friends Glenn and Sam just in time to catch a couple of bands.

First up were The Xcerts, a frighteningly young Scottish indie band, somewhat reminiscent of The Kooks, but with the Caledonian burr of Biffy Clyro. Their heartfelt songs of love and loss went down a storm ( no pun intended ) with the mainly teenage audience... and with us, so much so that I bought their album In The Cold Wind We Smile. It's actually five years old and they have a new album on the way. One to listen out for.

Next on were The Sunshine Underground ( frontman Craig pictured above ), another band new to me but who have actually been around for a few years and were touring their third, self-titled album.A very groovy, very danceable sound: guitar-based but bursting with Technicolor synths and effects. Similar to Foals or Everything Everything but also in the tradition of the Happy Mondays or EMF  -  indie music you can move to. Oh, and they're named after a Chemical Brothers song. Cool. Definitely one of the best bands I've seen in ages  -  I'll have to catch them again, possibly at the Fleece in the Autumn.
We didn't stay for headliners Little Comets because Sarah had to be up early for work the next day
( Sunday! ) and the gig was already running late due to meteorological shenanigans. Even so, it had been a fun ( and free! ) night out in our favourite venue. Can't be bad.

Soundtrack: Don't Stop, Finally We Arrive by The Sunshine Underground
                   Aberdeen 1987 by The Xcerts

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Rampaging Return Of The Berserk Blogger

Yep, I'm back. Did you notice I'd been away? ( I'm sure I've said this before. ) After various PC and internet service provider problems I've finally managed to regain control of this 'ere blog ( no thanks to Virgin Media ) and should hopefully resume posting shortly. It's been a long time and  -  you know what?  -  I've missed The Glass Walking-Stick... probably more than I would have expected. Anyway, onwards and upwards...
( Oh, and despite what Megaton Man says above I've no intention of quitting... )

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Rik Mayall

It's been a day since the news broke of comic genius Rik Mayall's untimely death and I still can't really believe it. He always seemed so full of life and energy, having already cheated death once before, following a horrific quad-bike crash, so surely he deserved a long and outrageous dotage.... but obviously that was not to be. I was at work yesterday afternoon when I received the following text from Sarah: "OMG Rick Mayall died today. We are so upset. James just saw it online." I thought it might have been yet another of those ridiculous internet hoaxes but sadly it wasn't. Only the previous night we had all been sitting in the kitchen, laughing like drains, as Sophie played You Tube clips of Mayall's greatest Young Ones moments on her phone...

The Young Ones was the TV show that made Mayall's name. I had already seen him play "investigative journalist" Kevin Turvey as well as one half of the Dangerous Brothers with long-standing comedy partner Ade Edmondson but it was his portrayal of Rick ( with a silent "P" )  -  the Cliff Richard-loving, would-be anarchist and People's Poet  -  that really kicked off his career. Vain, insecure, pretentious and acne-ridden, Rick was a brilliant comedy creation in a sitcom that was truly ground-breaking in an era of such bland, anodyne fare as Terry & June and Sorry. The Young Ones was, appropriately for the fag-end of the Cold War, a comedic nuclear blast, unlike anything else. Surreal, anarchic, political, scatological and deeply, deeply funny, it was Punk TV by any other name. And for a generation of teenagers it was uniquely ours  -  everybody watched it, everybody had an opinion on it, and everybody would be quoting lines from each episode in the playground the next morning. And the best thing was that nobody over thirty liked it. Result...

By the time I was first going out with Sarah ( late '80s / early '90s ) Rik Mayall had moved on to such shows as The New Statesman and two scene-stealing appearances as Flashheart in Blackadder as well as his attempt at "going Hollywood" with Drop Dead Fred, before again teaming up with Ade Edmondson in Bottom. Probably the most appropriately-named sitcom ever, Bottom saw Mayall and Edmondson play Richie and Eddie, the two most pathetic, witless and unpleasant characters imaginable, trapped in a violent hate / hate relationship, living in squalor and misery with only Emmerdale Farm on TV to bring them any comfort. And it was the funniest thing ever. Ludicrous situations, extreme slapstick violence, Mayall sweating like a madman, Edmondson guzzling Scotch, more violence, creative swearing, even more violence... Bottom was sublime. So, of course, the BBC cancelled it after three seasons. Luckily, Mayall and Edmondson revived the show on stage and Sarah and I were lucky enough to see them perform in Hereford around the turn of the Millennium. A hilarious show, featuring all the expected lunacy and slapstick with unparalleled invective, Bottom Live was one of the funniest things I've ever seen... although Richie's underpants were truly terrifying...

And now he's gone, underpants and all. And I still can't believe it.
So let's remember a true comedy icon and raise a glass to Sir Richard (P)Rick Richard, The Bombardier, himself. Hurrah! Bang on!

Friday, 6 June 2014

70 years ago: D-Day

"British soldiers joke as they read a tourist guide about France aboard a landing craft on June 6th 1944 while Allied forces storm Normandy beaches" - The Telegraph

It's sometimes easy to forget at this huge distance from the events that the men who took part in the largest air and sea invasion in history, and so secured our freedom, were just ordinary people caught up in extraordinary  -  and terrifying  -  events. Here's to them for all their sacrifices and bravery. We owe a debt that can never be repaid but must never be forgotten.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Coming soon ( in which the blogger tries to convince people that he will actually get off his arse and do some blogging in the near future )

A mutant movie review

Reading comics the hard way

A box of Beatles

Movies 1973

New comics ( well, relatively new... )

Reading update

Watch this space... and hopefully this space will soon be filled with the levels of irrelevance and self-indulgence you've come to expect ( Dear Reader ) from The Glass Walking-Stick...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Karen Gillan IS Nebula

That's an interesting look for the former Girl Who Waited as Karen Gillan takes on the role of cosmic super villain Nebula in Marvel Studios' forthcoming Guardians Of The Galaxy movie. The more I see of this movie the more I'm looking forward to it. They're not the Guardians that I remember from the 1970s comics but the style and tone of the new trailer makes the film look like a lot of fun. Even Rocket Raccoon seems promising. But I do miss the ginger hair...
Karen's, that is... not Rocket's...

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Recent movies: heroes and hotels

Last night James and I finally got round to seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the latest chapter in Peter Parker's arachnid-augmented movie saga. A strong follow-up to Marc Webb's origin / reboot from 2012, the film is not without its problems but is a good, fun popcorn movie in an age when superheroes on the big screen can be a bit too grim 'n' gritty for my tastes.
 ( Beware! Spidery spoilers ahead! ) The weakest links here are the villains, yet again: Jamie Foxx's Electro has some impressive moments ( which are mostly special effects-based, to be honest ) but is weakly-motivated and Foxx is desperately unconvincing as nerdish alter ego Max Dillon; while Dane DeHaan battles against a terrible haircut to portray a convincingly anguished and unbalanced Harry Osborn but a mediocre Green Goblin. The best villain in a Spidey movie is still Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus. Must try harder, Mister Webb. There is also a definite drag factor about half way through as the story gets bogged down with various colliding plot-lines. But what about the good stuff I hear you ask? ( OK, Dear Reader, it's not really you I can hear... just the voices in my head. ) Well...

This is, to my mind, the first of the Spidey films to truly capture the essence and the look of the web-slinger as I've always known him. The costume itself is practically perfect: far truer to Steve Ditko's original design than the overly-fussily detailed version in the last movie  -  although still no webs under the armpits?? The script accentuates Spidey's wise-cracking and cockiness, contrasting with Peter's angst, and Webb gifts us with some dizzying shots of the joie de vivre of our hero swinging through New York's concrete canyons. The relationship between Andrew Garfield's Peter and the lovely Emma Stone's Gwen Stacey is again at the heart of the story  -  less awkward this time but just as touching, more intense and obviously doomed. ( As we all suspected, this movie could have been called ASM2Gwen Dies At The End... ) Quite how the franchise will survive without Emma Stone remains to be seen but I'm sure the film makers will find a way. This second instalment resolves the mystery of Peter's parents and sets up some of the antagonists for the next movie and for the projected Sinister Six film  - there seems to be no stopping the spidery series. 
I'll give this one Three Out Of Five Web-Shooters. Maybe the real Spidey classic is yet to come?

What was I saying about grim 'n' gritty super types? That tag certainly applies to another recent super sequel, Marvel Studios' Captain America: The Winter Soldier. ( As poster shows. ) However, unlike in the Dark Knight or Man Of Steel movies there is a balance between light and dark here that is more reminiscent of old skool Marvel, particularly the Marvel of the 1970s that I grew up with. And this movie really harks back to that time of Nixon, the Cold War and paranoid, political action movies  -  to the point of even featuring the great Robert Redford, star of 1975's Three Days Of The Condor. Chris Evans' Captain America, a man out of time following his 70-year cryogenic nap, finds himself a renegade as the forces of SHIELD are turned against him, while his old army buddy, Bucky Barnes, is revealed to be still alive but now a brainwashed assassin known as The Winter Soldier.
I've always been a sucker for paranoid thrillers, the concept that the world you know is turned upside down and you don't know who you can trust. Maybe because that's the way the world really is? At this very moment, Dear Reader, they are watching you, tracking your every movement, checking your bank account, logging all your disgusting online reading habits... or is that just me...?
Anyway, Cap 2 ( as nobody calls it ) is a breathless thrill ride as our Sentinel Of Liberty battles overwhelming odds to uncover SHIELD's shady secrets ( cough! Hail Hydra! cough! ) and the true identity of the enigmatic Soldier. Chris Evans is again perfect as Cap, as noble and heroic as ever but with a harder, more pragmatic approach to a more complex world... but still fighting at the last to save his old sidekick from his homicidal programming. With fine support from Scarlett Johansen, Howard Mackie, Sebastian Stan and Mr. Redford himself, along with taut plotting and an intelligent script, this movie again shows why Marvel Studios are currently making the best superhero films out there. ( And next up is unknown quantity The Guardians Of The Galaxy. Should be... interesting. )
Four Out Of Five Battered ( but not broken ) Shields
As a complete contrast, before those two mega-budget multiplex movies, James and I went to the good ol' Gloucester Guildhall to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, the latest offering from indie wunderkind Wes Anderson. The Guildhall has finally, after much debate and fund-raising, bought a digital film projector so modern movies can be shown in their full glory. And what a glorious film TGBP is!
It's a comedy, a heist movie, a prison movie, a romance, a look back at a dying ( if fictional ) age... it's... well, it's a Wes Anderson movie with all that implies. Visually dazzling, controlled yet often erupting into anarchy, laugh-out-loud funny yet achingly melancholic, it's as much a beautifully-made confection as the fancy pastries that feature so much in the story... as seen in the gift-wrapped box above. Many of Anderson's acting troupe make an appearance  -  Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray ( of course )  - and at the heart of the whole fairy tale is a wonderful performance from Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H, the louche, womanising, impeccably-mannered concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel. Who knew old Voldemort could do comedy so well? Fiennes is a revelation in the part, whether having affairs with rich old ladies, micro-managing his hotel or organising a prison break. Anderson's films are an acquired taste for sure  -  mannered, whimsical, designed to the nth degree  -  but it's a taste I love, so I'm giving this one
Four 1/2 Out Of Five Hotel Keys
Soundtrack: Room On Fire by The Strokes

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I'm still alive...

...but still having computer problems. Hopefully normal service ( whatever that is ) will resume shortly. Until then hang loose, keep the faith, don't give up hope, be kind to each other, be kind to yourself, don't eat yellow snow etc. etc.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

OK Computer?

Well... no, not really. There's likely to be a distinct lack of blogular activity around these parts in the near future ( "What's new?" I hear you ask ) as our PC has gone bang in the most literal sense of the word. To be fair, the thing is about nine years old and certainly gets a hammering, being the family computer, so it may have come to the end of its life. I'm typing this on Sophie's laptop but, as my access to this machine is limited and it may be some time until our main PC is fixed / replaced, please don't expect much in the way of blogging here for a while. I'll try and update you when I can but I'm sure t'internet will do just fine without me...

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A quarter of a million...?

Yes, it's true... this 'ere blog has recently hit 250,000 page views and I thought I'd just thank all you wonderful people out there in the Blogosphere for all your support. I know 250,000 page views over 5 years doesn't seem so much when compared with the output and following of more, er, prolific bloggers  -  but I'm pleased with it. And so is Hero who popped his head out of the basket above to add his thanks. Strange cat :-)
And, in the time-honoured tradition of TGWS,  here's some more random stuff...

( Above is the lovely Momo / "Jazz"  -  a very talented blogger who has sadly given up blogging for more important matters in the "real" world. If you're still reading this, Momo, I hope you and your family are well. Best wishes from the UK... )

And here are Sarah and I, raising a glass to all you Followers and bloggers out there.
( Well, yes, it's really a photo from last Christmas but we can pretend, can't we? )

Soundtrack: Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Lost in the Time Vortex: an impossibly late Doctor Who review

Time can only be experienced subjectively by any observer and, at a quantum level, time as a concept probably doesn't actually exist... which is why my Doctor Who reviews are always so late. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it...
Coming as it did only a month after the historic 50th anniversary celebration, 2013's Doctor Who Christmas special had a lot to live up to. The Time Of The Doctor was, of course, Matt Smith's final bow as the "hipster boffin" Eleventh Doctor.
The episode veered from the typical Moffatt silliness ( nudity! cooking turkey in the time vortex! ) to the equally typical Moffatt time-twisting plotlines. The Doctor finally found himself trapped on the fields of Trenzalore, facing Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels and a whole galaxy-full of evil aliens, all trying to reignite the Time War. In a breathless style that must have been baffling to the casual, mince pie-stuffed viewer, Moffatt managed to tie up dangling plotlines ( the Silence are confessional priests! ), introduce and then kill off new characters ( the flirty Mother Superious, Tasha Lem ) and address the fan-pleasing concept of the Time Lord regeneration limit. Phew! But was it any good...?
Even though this episode didn't have the scope and scale of The Day Of The Doctor
( which would have been a hard act for anyone to follow ) it seemed a fitting send-off for Chinny. In keeping with the original, twisted fairy tale vibe of Smith's first season, this episode was heavy on the myth-making, with a real sense of the weight of time as the Doctor spent decades defending the town called Christmas from seemingly overwhelming odds. ( This theme of waiting and enduring runs all through Eleven's era, from little Amelia waiting for the blue box to return, to the Last Centurion's vigil, to Amy growing old in an alternate time-stream. )
And Matt Smith pulled out all the stops for his final appearance. Even labouring under layers of latex as an aged version of the Doctor he was as subtle, playful and soulful as ever  -  flirting with Tasha Lem, dancing with the children of Christmas, castigating the Daleks and, finally, giving that wonderful speech: "I will always remember when the Doctor was me." So will we, Matt. Oh, and it was a lovely surprise to see The Girl Who Waited one last time...
 And just when it was all getting too soppy, up popped the brand new Doctor in the shape of the awesome Peter Capaldi  -  all mad, staring eyes and complaining about the colour of his kidneys. The old order changeth yet again. How long is it until Autumn? It's a good job time's only subjective...

Soundtrack: loads of old school Hip Hop from Public Enemy, De La Soul, Wu Tang Clan, Dr. Dre etc.


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