Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Sunday, 21 December 2008
Following someone pointing out that the original Homecoming Scotland poster was a bit, you know, white breid, the organisers thoughtfully photoshopped in the image of an Asian bloke.
Saturday, 20 December 2008
A dog lover from a village in Moray has left millions of pounds to animal charities in her will.
Grace Smith, from Alves, left a £7m fortune when she died in January at the age of 85.
Nearly all of that is going to animal charities, including the Dogs Trust, the PDSA, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Scottish SPCA.
The retired pathologist is reported to have left £3.5m to the Dogs Trust alone. The charity cares for strays.
It is also thought thousands of pounds have been left to care for Mrs Smith's own dogs.
All her life she loved dogs and I would not have expected anything else from her than what she chose to do
Mrs Smith died almost three years after her husband John, a retired surgeon and fellow dog-lover.
The chief executive officer of the Dogs Trust, Clarissa Baldwin, said they had been overwhelmed by the "wonderfully kind gift."
John Hogg, an independent councillor who knew Mrs Smith for a number of years, said he had "no idea whatsoever" about the size of her fortune, but was not surprised by what she decided to do with it.
Mr Hogg, councillor for Heldon and Laich, said: "She had a comfortable life with a nice house, but nothing extensive."
After giving The BBC a nice, thoughtful quote, Mr Hogg then didn't tell The JT what he really thought: "Fuckin' hell, 7 million quid! Jesus, who'd have thought it? If I'd known about that I would've been a lot nicer to the daft old bat, let me tell you."
Friday, 19 December 2008
A mate, who, for what will become obvious reasons, must remain nameless, recounted to me how he'd once spent a very uncomfortable half hour with a sponsor in AA and a flip chart. On the left side of the sheet the sponsor wrote down every "scrape", "bit of bother", "failed relationship", "career stalled" incident my mate had ever been involved in. It was a longish list. On the right-hand side the sponsor recorded any common themes, recurring motifs, that popped up repeatedly. "Drink" featured heavily. The sponsor underlined this recurring variable, turned to my mate and said: "Hmm, do you see a pattern emerging here?"
I was reminded of this watching "Scott Harrison - on the ropes" a painful thirty-odd minutes tracing, over some months, the boxer's slide into Barlinnie earlier this summer. I don't know if the writer/director was being a bit coy, but he set the programme up by introducing it as a diary of sorts, wondering if Harrison would succeed in having his licence to box reinstated.
Ooh, let's watch and see how that turns out.
Of course, anyone who hasn't lived on Planet Zog for the last two years knows exactly how it turns out. There's no triumphal story arc, no tidy, Rocky-lite ending with Scott Harrison triumphantly licenced to box. Nope. Over the piece, Scott opens far too many cupboard doors with skeletons waiting to fall out. There's the odd breach of the peace charge, banjoing a polis, breaking up with his wife, and then the big one where a previous trip to Spain with his uncle looked like it was going to result in serious Spanish jailtime, because drink, a car and liberties with a local polisman's jaw had been taken.
Earlier this year, Scott, mindful of his continuing attempt to get his boxing licence back, returned to Spain to face the music. His uncle declined the opportunity. Scott's trial was delayed 'til 2009, and then his uncle killed himself.
Cue another spectacular fall from grace by Scott, leading this time to jailtime in The Bar-L.
Is it all down to drink? I don't know. It would appear, putting it as tactfully as I can, that Scott has mental health problems that are exacerbated when he drinks. QED, stoap drinking Scott. And give up all thoughts of boxing again. It seems that the training for a fight focuses Scott, gives him security and purpose. But after the fight? Crashing deep into depression, if his own accounts here are to be believed.
I should own up to having previous here. Back in late 2006 I wrote a feature tactlessly suggesting that the last thing Scott should be doing was fighting for a living. I got an email from one of Scott's "mates" saying I didn't know what I was talking about; boxing was good for Scott. I emailed back asking the guy if he made money out of his "mate" Scott fighting.
Just a quick word about "Survivors", the Beeb re-working of the 1970s post-apocalypse sci-fi series. For some reason this series has been enduring absolute pelters off the critics and I've no idea why. Compared to the ludricrously over-praised campery that is Doctor Who, Survivors is a well-executed take on the central question in sci-fi: "What if?"
And a special JT sweetie goes to Julie Graham, who acts her socks off holding our merry surviving band together. Fans of Julie's previous work might recall that she had a youthful tendency to divest herself of her bra rather too easily, which was fine if the role was raunchy but did tend to confuse matters a bit when she tried to make the role of Maria in the Sound of Music her own. Joke, just a joke.
Thankfully, in Survivors, the kit, in the main, stays on and Julie makes the most of her dual role, as the tough but kind de-facto leader of the band and as the mum sure that her kid is still alive, somewhere. No post-apocalyptic drama these days can make it without some stylistic nod to 28 days later, but Survivors handles the inevitable comparisons well. I'm sure there must have been the temptation to stick in a few rabid monsters, but Survivors soberly presents a believable world where we collide and collude with people much like us.
My only gripe is with the looting scenes. The Survivors are seen helping their sensible selves to boring stuff like food and fizzy water while any self-respecting looter would have the steel door at McCormicks in Bath Street aff in jigtime, the better to facilitate the transfer of ownership of a Fender Jazzmaster I've seen in there but presently can't afford.
Or maybe that's just me...
Monday, 15 December 2008
Thursday, 11 December 2008
And this wonderful news has come just in time for Xmas, as the JT's resident fat, greedy bastard now explains:
"Over the years I have explained away my weight by using the classic 'it's my glands' argument, leading to the acidic riposte 'Aye, the greedy gland'. Alternatively, I might deploy the 'Me? I eat like a bird' defence only to have that parried away with 'Aye, a vulture'. Thankfully, now as I go back to the Xmas buffet for a fourth re-up I shall be able to artfully deploy the genetic argument, to which there is no smart-arsed come-back."
The report concludes that a genetic predisposition to obesity can actually be controlled by attention to diet, but academic opinion agrees that few Scots are likely to take that bit in, as Professor Beaker now elucidates:
"We Scots are masters at employing selective perception, thus to the news that one out of three Scots will develop a diet-related cancer at some point, our response is "One in three? Those odds are OK." Or on hearing the news that we should restrict our intake of alcohol to a maximum of three units a day we subconsciously employ the following equation: whatever quantity we actually drink= three units."
In any case, any over-indulgence on the calorific front will be cancelled out after the festive season by ritual recourse to making New Year "resolutions". Yes, that definitely works.
Inside: I'm sorry but I couldn't resist pinching this cruel, disgracefully sexist definition from Viz's Profanisaurus: "Why is a fat lass called a commodore? Because she's once, twice, three times a lady."
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Sighthill Stories, BBC2 Scotland, Tuesday, 9th December 2008
Those readers who remember the good old days will recall that some years ago I wrote a feature concerning the rough treatment being meted out to asylum seekers in Sighthill. It wasn't a particularly good gag, but I tied off the story by suggesting that the "indigenous" residents wanted to move out with the asylum seekers since Sighthill was basically a collection of filing cabinets wi' windaes. Well, a few years down the road and now everyone's getting moved out.
Sighthill Stories charts the three month period leading up to the demolition of two of the last remaining tower blocks in the area. On one side of the blocks, a cemetery that has probably seen a lot of coming and going over the centuries, and to the other side of the blocks, the unprepossessing Sighthill Primary School. While nothing to look at, the school forms the safe haven for kids, dealing with various forms of dislocation and loss.
There's Jason. Jason is 12, he has Asperger's and he takes refuge against a threatening world by interpolating himself into Power Ranger stories, where a braver, more confident Jason can hold his own. Jason is due to move to the big school next year, and Jason is crapping himself.
There's Sasha. Sasha comes from a single parented family of 11 and we're led to believe that Sasha's Mum takes a drink. Sasha's best friend is Rahma, but we'll get back to her.
Dawood, recently arrived to join his Dad and brother, is from Kurdistan, this big lump of a laddie is at the primary school to improve his English.
And then there's Rahma. Rahma's family were originally from Somalia. Arriving in Glasgow, they were originally housed in Castlemilk, but as Rahma tells us in faultless Glaswegian "the flats were getting knocked doon, so they moved us tae Sighthill."
With Rahma's existing flat next on the chopping block it's left uncertain where Rahma and her family are going to end up. Somewhere in Glasgow, but will her friendship with Sasha survive the possible distances, the interminable bus-rides that are the only way poor people can get around?
The final scene of the programme shows the tower blocks coming down, the dust temporarily blanking out the headstones and statuary of the cemetery. Of course, long after fate and circumstance have dealt out the hands these kids will play in life, the cemetery will still be there. Permanence amongst the flux and change that is our lot as human beings.
My betting on the kids?
Jason and Sasha, I hope the best for, but I've a horrible feeling that life for them isn't going to be easy.
Rahma is tough, she might only be twelve but she's got an adult's head on her shoulders; I think she will endure because that's what she knows.
Dawood, unlike his Mum who talks daily of returning to Kurdistan, is going to stay in Glasgow whatever happens, "I like it here" he tells the camera, "Glasgow has been good to me."
And he has another reason for remaining, a few weeks after being reunited with his Dad, (here since 1999), his Dad died of a heart attack.
He will stay because his Dad is here.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Several, including Professor Allan Macinnes and the leading historian Tom Devine, questioned why Mr Oliver, a broadcaster and journalist but not a professional historian, was presenting the programme." The Scotsman, 9th December, 2008
And now read on...
(Ext day, Academic buildings.)
Neil Oliver: And it was here, at one of Scotland's foremost universities that the battle for the future of doing Scottish History on the telly would be decided. On one side, me, gorgeous, pouting Neil Oliver, er, fanny magnet with all lovely hair. And on the other, hackit bastards Macinnes and Devine.
But what were the reasons for the conflict?
(Cut to Ext day, BBC Scotland HQ)
Neil Oliver: It was here, six months earlier that the seeds of the conflict were sown. What happened in that building that resulted in academic toys being thrown out of scholarly prams?
Let's find out.
Neil Oliver: I'm here to interview Neil Oliver.
Neil, just what was the source of the conflict that threatened the very future of doing Scottish history on the telly?
Neil Oliver (again): Well Neil, jealousy pure and simple. At the initial planning stages for the show, that I think you present quite magnificently by the way..
Neil Oliver: Thank you.
Neil Oliver (again): No problem. Macinnes and Devine thought that they'd be getting TV work out of it.
Neil Oliver: And instead?
Neil Oliver: You, I mean me, I mean us, we got to do everything.
Neil Oliver: Including me interviewing you, I mean me, I mean us.
Neil Oliver: Exactly.
(Ext day, Academic buildings.)
Neil Oliver: And so, today, I'm meeting with these self-same academics in this historic, historical looking building to decide the future of Scottish History on the telly. Will we be able to reach a compromise or will Scottish History etc. enter a new dark ages or something? Let's find out.
(Wide Angle shot of Neil opening big oak door to reveal only darkness within.)
Neil Oliver: Hello, hackit historians, MacInnes and Devine are you there? Honestly, it's so dark in here, I can't see a thing!
(Door swings melodramatically shut. Sounds of shouting, stabbing noises ensue. Door eventually reopens to reveal blood-stained figures of Professors Macinnes and Devine.)
Together: What happened inside this building? No one, least of all the police, will ever really know. The only thing that's certain is that in the dark Neil Oliver became confused and stumbled tragically against the knives that we were holding. Impaling himself again and again until he died, eventually.
Devine: What was clear however, was that with Neil Oliver dead, the BBC would have to get proper historians to front their Scottish stuff. Historians like me, Tom Devine.
Macinnes: And me, Allan Macinnes.
Devine: Well, obviously, I meant you as well.
Macinnes:Just making sure we're clear on that point, that's all.
Inside: "And so, a new era in Scottish History on the telly dawned. With proper, albeit ugly, historians, presenting proper, grown up history programmes, content to share their academic knowledge for an up-front fee, book deal and 15% gross of the repeat fees."
Thursday, 4 December 2008
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Er, none so far.
At a press conference where senior figures from the commissioning parties attempted and failed to look interested, Lord Calman who, on this evidence could bore on a professional basis, told the waiting world that we were in possession of what was merely the interim report!
Oh sweet God in heaven, you mean there's more?
Yes indeedy, the 140 page whopper, soon to lie unread on desks across the land, is merely the first course, an agenda setting exercise if you will. The main course, a set of conclusions about Scotland within The Union, will follow next year.
As a miasma of ennui descended, we called upon Professor Beaker, our resident polymath, to pass judgement :
"When those parties not in power at Holyrood appointed this Calman bloke to carry out this exercise, the main idea was to be seen to be saying yah boo sucks to the SNP. No one, least of all the politicians who generously funded the exercise on our behalf, using our money, seriously believed that anyone would be interested in an actual report."
And has Professor Beaker actually read the interim report? "Fuck no, life's too short."
It is thought that the SNP's alternative "National Conversation" will report, in time, overwhelming support for independence.
There's a surprise.
Inside: I'm sorry but this two part exercise in empty symbolism brings to mind that story about Mike and Bernie Winters at The Glasgow Empire. One of them bounds on stage to total, Stygian silence, followed, after a beat, by his brother. A development which led to the following comment from the audience : "Oh Christ, there's two of them."
"Page one.... zzzzz."
Monday, 1 December 2008
My heart bleeds, it really does.
Thoughts of home were brought to mind by an email from Peter, who noted with some distress that Lulu has turned up contributing a squawk to that new "Homecoming" ad.
For those in Foreign, a word of explanation. The tourist authorities here are promoting 2009 as year of homecoming, holding the thing (however loosely) together by next year being the 250th anniversary of Burns' birth.
Anyway, to promote the idea, the authorities have paid for a short ad with the great and the good, Chris Hoy, Sean Connery and other luminaries, taking a line in turn from Dougie MacLean's "Caledonia". I'm not sure how that song is especially Burnsian, but I'll get back to that in a minute.
Peter, like all right-thinking Scots, is justifiably horrified at the inclusion of Lulu and I can see his point.
Scots don't like Lulu for two main reasons.
There's her pit-oan English accent for one thing which she oh so hilariously leavens with occasional renditions of her original "Glesca" patios. Oh, desist Lulu, do! I fear my ribs might break such is my merriment.
The other gripe left at Ms Lawrie's door is that she left Scotland to become famous and she only visits Scotland to patronise the locals. Perhaps alone among my compatriots, I've got no problem with Lulu moving to England to further her career.
In fact, I would've preferred it if Lulu had moved away a bit further. There's a very good cabaret circuit within The Crab Nebula I hear.
More seriously, I seem to recall, back when the world was made of wood, Ms Lawrie making some very uncomplimentary comments about striking miners back in the early 1980s. Ancient history I know, for the kids who only see her as some post-modern, post-ironic, post-menopausal, marginally cool icon, but some of us have got very long memories.
Anyway, fuck off Lulu, where was I?
Aye, I 'm not at all clear why the powers that be are using "Caledonia" in the ad. I mean, it's a great tear-jerker and everything but it's not anything to do with Burns is it?
But if it's a free-for-all on the pulling on the heart strings front can I direct your lugs to The Theme for Scotland by Skyedance? I'd like to listen with you but I always get something in my eye when I hear it so I'd better not.
I guarantee for those JT readers in Foreign, that this tune will have you booking a flight home toot sweet.
So, when you're going through duty-free, get me a Toblerone, a big one mind.
Dogs would appear to have that whole "don't worry, enjoy life!" idea pretty well nailed
Since Rod Hull's untimely death, life hadn't been easy for Emu.
Aberdeen beach - in July.
The photographer was about to discover if that story about swan wings and broken arms was just bullshit
After 5 hours Xmas shopping with his wife, Hughie seriously started tripping out
Marvellous example of the genus "Woodie Woodpeckerus"