Yes, still, again

A lot has changed since 2014, but a lot has stayed the same. Today Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that she will ask the Scottsh Parliament next week to back her request for a section 30 order from Westminster, which will allow Scottish Parliament to introduce legislation for new independence referendum.

I’m excited and hopeful. There’s still a long way to go, though. Looking forward to new art from Stewart Bremner. This will make the International March for Scottish Independence in Den Haag on 22 April a lot more interesting, too.

Mixed Media, Sunday 12 March 2017

Musically, I’ve been mostly obsessed with Thundercat’s new album Drunk. It’s full of short, punchy, strange tracks. One of which features Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, and is probably the smoothest thing you’ll hear all year.

Dutch Uncles have a new album out, Big Balloon. Listening to it now.

“TV”:

  • Luther season 4: I find it a bit rich to call a two episode special a season, but at least they were good episodes.
  • Marcella season 1: intense police detective drama. Perpetuates the stereotype that most police detectives are deeply fucked up.
  • Hip-Hop Evolution: great netflix documentary about the history of hip-hop from the seventies to the early nineties. This view of the roots of hip-hop makes me understand lot more about why hip-hop concerts are the way they are. I think I’m making my peace with that. Although I love listening to Mos Def’s recordings, I chose not to get a ticket to see him on his farewell tour.
  • Sneakerheads: entertaining documentary about sneaker collectors and sneaker culture.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine season 3: still enjoying this show a lot, but it has lost a bit of its sharpness and speed as it has got more polished. (I like Andy Samberg, but he’s not everyone’s cup of tea.)
  • Chef’s Table season 3: the show looks at some very different types of chef this season. Jeong Kwan and Ivan Orkin are not trying to break into the list of the world’s top 50 restaurants, but they do have fascinating stories to tell about their lives and their craft.

Films:

  • The Mechanic: I wanted a Jason Statham action movie, and I got a Jason Statham action movie.
  • The LEGO Batman Movie: Good. I thought they tried to cram too much into it. I found some scenes (especially at the beginning) hard to follow because there were too many moving parts, and it was hard to know what to pay attention to.
  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping As I mentioned, I like Andy Samberg, and I liked this film. Some of the songs, which are obviously meant to be terrible, but terrible in a particular way, missed their mark. The final number with Michael Bolton deserved to be better and more memorable.
  • Logan: Wow. Intense. Left the audience kinda stunned and silent when the credits rolled.

Books & comics:

  • Ms Marvel vol6: Civil War II: Marvel’s massive crossover events leave me a bit cold, but Kamala’s story here was relatively self-contained, and focused very much on her personal story rather than the bigger picture.
  • Karnak: The Flaw In All Things: Warren Ellis needs a hug.
  • The Sheriff of Babylon vol2: Pow Pow Pow concludes the story, but don’t expect a happy ending. Harrowing and gripping.
  • The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod. I made a strategic mistake here, because I thought that the third volume in the trilogy was out sooner than it actually is. (It hits the streets in September.) It’s good. Around a distant star, a bunch of exploratory robots accidentally become self-aware, and re-invent warfare from first principles. It’s a fine blend of the themes of clashing economic systems and nature of consciousness that MacLeod deals with so well. However, once I started picturing the small frames that the human fighters inhabit as Sackboys from LittleBigPlanet (with big silly grins on their faces and a lolloping gait), I couldn’t take them quite so seriously any more.

Update 13 March: I completely forgot about Destiny. I picked it up in February (with all the current expansions), loved it, and played it a ton during the school break. But then I hit level 40, and stopped kinda dead. Even without a social group to play with, the single-player experience up to level 40 is fantastic, and I have regrets about the time I did put into it. Great environments, and a fluid first-person combat experience. However, although there are still missions left for me to play, progress from this point onwards feels hollow: what am I doing it for? I enjoy the story missions, I like playing PvE, and I like playing co-op, but I don’t feel like putting in dozens of hours to get good enough not to be an embarrassment to a group of strangers on a raid. If I had a group of friends that also played, it would be a different matter.

Texel Tuesday

Alex and Fiona have both been to Texel for school trips, and Alex at least was completely enchanted with the place, and has been trying to get us to take a visit ever since. When mum & dad were staying with us last week, we took a trip there.

The ferry across to the island is impressive, modern, and comfortable. Also very short — just long enough to get a coffee at the cafe. We drove to the Hoge Berg (an impressive vista), and stopped in Oudeschild to have a wander round the harbour. (This is where Alex and his classmates took a trip on a shrimp boat, and Alex tried fresh shrimp for the first time.) Then we crossed west to De Koog, and had lunch at Strandhotel Noordzee. On crossing back to the mainland, we passed a submarine on maneuvers from the naval base at Den Helder — the first time any of us had seen an active submarine in its native habitat.

At the harbour in Oudeschild
Oudeschild harbour
Oudeschild harbour
Beach at De Koog
Beach at De Koog

In terms of landscape, Texel is very much like Noord-Holland. Judging by the places we visited, it’s very much geared towards tourism. The population is just under 14,000, which surprised me — I had thought it would be more. (That’s only 50% more than our village, Oostzaan.)

The Naked And Famous at Tivoli Vredenburg, Friday 10 February 2017

They’re not a particularly dynamic or interactive band on stage, but it was nice to hear them play their songs. I particularly liked them playing “The Source” and “The Sun”, because I hadn’t expected them to break out downbeat tracks like that in a concert. Their rendition of “No Way” was a surprise. On the recording the slow and quiet verses are punctuated by interludes of heavy drums and guitars. On stage, they held the drums and guitars at bay for the first of those waves, leaving only a modest piano dropping individual notes. When the drums and guitars did come in on the next pass, they crashed down like waves in a storm.

Another thing I hadn’t expected was the extent to which Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith share centre stage. Whenever I think of The Naked And Famous, it’s Alisa’s voice I hear. But Thom sings on a lot more of their songs than I had given him credit for.

Set list:

  1. The Water Beneath You
  2. Higher
  3. All Of This
  4. Punching In A Dream
  5. Golden Girl/Roilling Waves
  6. The Source/The Sun
  7. I Kill Giants
  8. Losing Our Control
  9. A Stillness
  10. Hearts Like Ours
  11. No Way
  12. Laid Low
  13. Girls Like You
  14. Young Blood

Encore:

  1. Last Forever
  2. Rotten

Sabaton at AFAS Live, Sunday 29 January 2017

Just as I don’t go to many hip-hop gigs, I don’t go to many metal gigs, either. In fact…I can’t think of any. The closest I’ve got to metal is Rush, and which is hard rock, but not metal. So I wasn’t really sure what to expect at a Sabaton gig, other than some very loud music about war and heroic violence. Fiona is into them, and had played me some of their songs, but my response is kinda “meh”.

Since we were last there to see The Lumineers in November, the Heineken Music Hall has rebranded itself as AFAS Live (sponsored by AFAS software). The vibe around the venue was excellent, and the merch stand had more T-shirts than you could shake a stick at. I wonder if this is a cultural thing for metal concerts? I’d say that about half of the people in the audience were wearing Sabaton gear of some kind — a far greater percentage of people than I normally see wearing a band’s merch. I suggested that Fiona should have been wearing her black lipstick, and she rolled her eyes at me.

I’ve taken Fiona to a few concerts over the last couple of years, but this was the first time I felt felt like a stereotypical Concert Dad. The mood in the crowd was happy, but I felt cautious about being too close to the front and centre in case we got caught in a mosh. I tensed up whenever a half-empty plastic beer cup would fly overhead and shower us with malty rain. I don’t think Fiona felt entirely at ease, either.

The first opening act, Twilight Force was an over-the-top power-metal excursion into epic fantasy, and we both loved them. The second opener was Accept, who played for a whole hour. We left the hall after a few songs, though, because they were really loud and also kinda boring. By the time Sabaton finally came on at 21:30, we had already been standing around for about two and a half hours, and we were starting to feel tired. (Again, is this a metal thing, having multiple warm-up acts that play really long sets?) We listened for an hour, but left before the end. Fiona was exhausted, as was I. This was one of the loudest gigs I have ever been to. Even without standing directly in front of a speaker stack, and even though we were both wearing ear plugs, my ears were gummy and ringing as we left the venue.

One advantage of leaving early is that we had no delay in exiting the car park under the Arena, which is usually a massive bottleneck.

Overall: I think they put on a great show. The set dressing was amazing, and the band were having tons of fun romping around on stage and feeding off the energy of the adoring crowd. I don’t think I would go again, because their actual music still leaves me cold. But if you enjoy Sabaton, I’m sure you would love seeing them live.