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Bowling For Soup (acoustic performance)

Bowling For Soup Acoustic
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

I first Saw Bowling For Soup at Download some years ago and thought they were rather good fun. When I saw they were playing Glasgow last year I rushed to get a ticket and wasn’t at all disappointed (Anni had told me they were great when she saw them in Cardiff back in 2007, I think). It turns out that Jaret and Erik do an acoustic show, and this is what I went to see this week at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh.

I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, but it turned out to be excellent. Certainly a departure from what I’m used to, but one of the best gigs I’ve been to in some time precisely because of it.

Jaret and Ryan Hamilton (from Smile Smile) kicked things off as a duo called “People on Vacation”. They did a handful of nice songs then tootled off to be replaced by “Linus of Hollywood” who did a solo set, which was very well received.

With a very short set change, and in between having their photos take at the side of the stage with umpteen fans, half of Bowling For Soup grabbed their guitars and ploughed through a set lasting nigh on two hours. This was partly due to a very accommodating venue. The gig was, apparently, meant to end at 10pm, but they ran on until just after half past. Thanks to Liquid Rooms for that! I guess they were still coining it in over the bar…

I don’t think a hit was left untouched, and the acoustic versions were suitably different in places to warrant a separate album, in my opinion. The crowd were singing along from the start and the banter was as good as you’d expect from BfS. Any shout was responded to in good humour, the between-song dialogue genuinely funny and it was obvious you were watching two long-standing friends doing what they dreamed of doing when they were kids.

They even managed to squeeze in a version of “Dance Song” from the current album (soon to be outdated by a new release in three weeks). So we have an acoustic version of a rock song parodying a dance song. Cool.

The icing on the cake was the two guys in front of me trying to pull the two girls next to them… who ended up getting off with each other.

A great night with a great band in a great venue with a great crowd. Roll on October and the full band coming back for another tour!


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Help a friend

Pictograms of Olympic sports - Swimming
Come on in - the water's lovely

I’m not normally one to plug things like this, but this is on behalf of a very good friend of mine who’s doing something utterly cool.

Later this year Sharon is taking part in the Great North Swim, by far the biggest physical challenge she’s ever undertaken. She will be raising money, hopefully a lot of it, for Help For Heroes – a UK charity which helps the members of the armed forces and their families who are killed or injured in the line of duty… and then not taken care of properly by the government which sent them wherever they were when it happened.

It is a fantastic cause and the swimming will be done by a fantastic woman.

Please, if you have a spare few bob, head over to Sharon’s JustGiving page and make a donation.

Thanks, folks. Normal service will be resumed once I think of something disgusting or ranty to write about.

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May I just say…

There are a few things I know about my grandpa’s military career. Not a lot as he refused to talk about a lot of it. I know he was on the beaches at Normandy. I know he was in the Commandos in one form or another.

But over the years it gradually takes shape. Little bits come from the family. Some info here, some info there.

And every time I have more respect for him and for the people he served with. I learn that bit more. In my lifetime he’s gone from “being in the army” to “being in the Commandos” to “being on the beaches at Normandy”.

Today I found out he was in the military wing that created the first branch, wing or group – whatever – of what was to become the SAS. As I type this I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. My grandfather helped form what is one of the best-known and best-respected subsection of any armed force worldwide.

The SAS has a reputation second to none. I’m not being big-headed, but you ask anyone. From the US Marines to the Taliban – the SAS is the ultimate fighting regiment. Anywhere. Any country. They are, simply, the best.

And my grandfather was one of the originals. The men who formed it. The first to join it. And – at the time – for the best reasons.

All these years later, he would never talk about what he did in the war. Now, whether that’s because of orders or because he realised it wasn’t for the eyes and ears of people who weren’t there I don’t know… I don’t know.

I think it was more for the latter. War’s bad. Spilling blood it bad. Killing men who are fighting for their own cause is bad.

But to hold all that in, and remember it and not show off about it… that is good. Very good.

And here I am celebrating Christmas. With some wonderful people. Which I may not have been able to do without the efforts of people such as my grandad.

And I have just got to say:

Thank you

To all of you.

To my grandad, and to everyone who served with him, alongside him. To the British and Americans, the French, the Russians (eventually), the Spanish, the Canadians, the Aussies, the Kiwis, the Belgians… everyone. And I include the Germans in this. We all know how the war went – I personally don’t blame the German people for anything that happened.

From myself and everyone downstairs from me enjoying a great Christmas party. We couldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for you.

Words fail me to explain and thank you for what you did for me and for everyone I know.

To all of you. Every one of you.

To their relatives.

To their descendents.

To their wives, husbands, children, partners.

Thank you.

Grandad – I love you.

Thank you.

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Eoin Colfer – new HHGTTG author

For those who didn’t know, there is a new Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy novel coming out in 2009. Bearing in mind that Douglas Adams is dead, this would ordinarily be tricky but the publishers have followed in recent footsteps and chosen a replacement author to continue the franchise. Along with JM Barrie‘s memory being trodden on for a new Peter Pan book (admittedly for charity) and a string of new Bond books being released, children’s author Eoin Colfer has been chosen to pen the ongoing adventures of Arthur Dent.

The book will be called And Another Thing and will be published on 12 October 2009 – 30 years after the publication of the original HHGTTG novel.

OK, this isn’t really “news” having been announced three months or so ago. The reason for the post is that ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the official Douglas Adams fan club, kindly sent me two Eoin Colfer books to read to see what they were like. In exchange for which I review them for the society magazine. Fair swaps.

The first one I read was The Legend of Spud Murphy (US readers, check this link). This one’s definitely for younger readers and has the large text and pictures to prove it. However, I like the quote from C.S.Lewis (even if he was a God-botherer) that if a book can only be enjoyed by children then it’s not a good book. Legend… was enjoyed by this big kid.

I could imagine sitting and reading this in front of a class of schoolchildren. In fact, Leah is pinching it off me to do just that for the new school term. It’s a simple, well-written little tale about two brothers who are forced by their parents to visit a local library three days a week over the holidays as punishment for misbehaviour.

The librarian is the villain of the piece. A scary, witch-like old Irish lady (well, she would be – Colfer’s Irish and his books are all set there) who rules her bookish domain with a road of iron. Actually, not so much a rod as a gas-powered spud gun that fires whole spuds. At least, that’s according to local legend.

Colfer’s written the book from the point of view of one of the boys, and everything reads as you’d expect it to from the viewpoint of a 10 year-old. Adults are scary. Rules are there to be broken. Punishment is unfair.

Yet everything, without spoiling it, comes good for our hero at the end. What I absolutely love about this book is the message. It might as well have tinsel and a brass band and a firework display at the end declaring “READING IS GOOD”. It’s a book that, if children enjoy it, should encourage them to use libraries and realise they’re not scary, boring places.

From a ZZ9 point of view, not the best one to review to gauge Colfer as a prospective HHG author, though. The age of the potential readership is perhaps a little low and the writing appropriately simplistic.

However, I then moved on to Half Moon Investigations (US readers go to this link), the first in one of Colfer’s two main series (the other is the rather highly-acclaimed Artemis Fowl sequence). This is a larger book and definitely aimed at a slightly older audience. Not that I read a lot of so-called children’s books *cough*, but I’d gear it agewise as equivalent to the first Harry Potter or Alex Rider novels. Both of those series grew in maturity with their audiences, so perhaps this one does as well.

The plot, in brief: Fletcher Moon is a 12 year-old with a detective badge. He passed some exams via the internet (using his father’s ID) and now acts as a private detective in his home town of Lock. Of course, adults aren’t too impressed with this – he’s obviously just playing games to them – so he tries to remain low key.

As must be the case for a novel to take place, strange things start to happen. Something is up in the town of Lock and Moon finds himself dragged right into it. Accused of being part of it. And on the run.

In the great tradition of the likes of the Red Hand Gang, this is a story of children getting out of their depths, but it never really reaches the bounds of being completely unbelievable.

The first thing I noticed is Colfer’s good use of English. Thing is, this is something Douglas was famous for. To the point where he’d spend a week with blood coming out of his forehead and only add an extra three lines to a page. And remove four other ones. Frankly, it’s amazing Adams wrote anything as he seemed to edit more out of his text than he added in.

One of the things that appealed to me about the Hitchhiker’s novels was how simply they were written. Anyone could read them (subject matter and language in later volumes notwithstanding) and it’s now that I look at it from an outside point of view that I realise why – Adams’ writing was childishly simple. Clever, subtle, deep… but simple.

And this is where Colfer’s background as a children’s author could really work in his favour. The level of humour he has running underneath the text constantly bubbles things along. Occasionally some comparison or choice of words will raise a smile. The plot never stopped moving onwards.

Can he make this work using more grown-up environments and having to engage his imagination more? That I can’t answer. As far as I’m aware, all of his books to date are set in the “real” world. No aliens, or monsters or Joo Janta 500 Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses. I can see him handling the now-experienced Arthur Dent (in some ways aloof in a similar way to Moon), but will he be able to offer anything new as far as the environment surrounding the character is concerned?

Having read these two books, I’m more prepared to give him a chance than I was previously. Much more.

Roll on, October.

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