Friday, November 30, 2007


Celebrated every 30th of November, St Andrew's Day is the "official" national day for Scotland. Reflecting the spirit and pride of the national day, it was recently announced that Scotland's slogan at airports will change from, "The Best Small Country in the World" to the boring "Welcome to Scotland". I mean, talk about fucking uncreative shit! Personally, I would have suggested: "Scotland: GET IT UP YAE!"

In The Guardian today is a fantastic article called Scotland Awakes, and is definitely worth a read but because it's rather long and because most blog readers suffer from borderline ADD, here are some highlights:

"Consider some numbers. Thirty years ago, 65% of people in Scotland identified themselves as 'Scottish', but by 2005, the figure was 76%. In England, 41% of people currently claim to be 'very proud of being British', whereas the Scottish number is a mere 23%. Even if most Scots remain sceptical about breaking away from the UK, around 55% now agree that their parliament should have much greater powers.

The next day, having made the 50-minute train journey from Edinburgh to Glasgow, I make my way to Cranhill, an enclave of the west-coast city's East End that sits at the blunt end of a lot of what Alexander is talking about. A clump of new terraced houses, and modernised tenement blocks and high-rise towers, its social statistics speak volumes about a side of Scotland that can easily make the notion of a new national mood seem crassly misplaced. More than 50% of Cranhill's children live in workless households, and it is apparently not uncommon to meet families in which three generations have little or no experience of paid employment. Forty per cent of local people claim income support; 70% do not own a car. The area's numbers for heart disease are 94% above the Scottish average; figures for drug-related deaths widen the gap to 158%. The average house sells for just under £23,000.

In an upscale cafe down the road, I meet Elaine C Smith, the comedian, actor, columnist in the Scottish Sunday Mail, and celebrity politico. She left the Labour party at the time of the miners' strike, embraced the cause of independence, and actively campaigned for the SNP at this year's elections and has just been appointed to the new Scottish Broadcasting Commission. Some people will still know her best as Mary Doll, the wife of the legendary Rab C Nesbitt, Gregor Fisher's equally comic and heart-wrenching portrait of a man caught in Scotland's long post-industrial decline. It was perhaps some token of Scotland's old insecurity, she tells me, that when word got back to Glasgow of the show's popularity south of the border, things suddenly changed. "The Scots loved it until they realised the English were laughing at it too," she recalls. "Now, I don't think they'd care as much.
"There's a thing about Scotland - we were always stuck in a permanent adolescence, constantly blaming the parents for what was going wrong," she says. "It was so easy: 'Och, blame everything on the English', which is an argument I've never had any truck with. There was something the songwriter Dick Gaughan said: 'Until we stop looking at ourselves through the eyes of another nation, we will never properly grow up.'

Two hours later, I am sitting in a plush corporate meeting room with Stuart Cosgrove, Channel 4's director of nations and regions, and the co-host of the weekly football-related phone-in Off the Ball, BBC Scotland's most listened-to radio show. As evidenced by its love of national in-jokes and - on the programme I catch, anyway - Cosgrove's periodic shouts of "Hoots mon!", at least part of its stock-in trade is an endlessly irreverent take on the cliched stuff of Scottish nationhood. Though he winces when he says it, Cosgrove says that Off the Ball is bound up with "that postmodern thing of trying to mix up different cultural reference points", "celebrating specificity", and catering to an audience partly split between people who buy into its emphasis on kitsch, and others - like the expats who listen online - who are "in awe of all those references to the world they imagine they've left behind".

When I mention the argument over independence, Cosgrove affects a happy kind of indifference, once again suggesting something that my time in Scotland has brought up time and again. When it comes to the country's current collective mindset, focusing on frenetic debates about secession from the union, shrill voices in the Edinburgh parliament and the endless tussling between the SNP and Labour perhaps misses a crucial point: that if independence is at least partly a state of mind, a large number of Scots have got there already.
"A lot of that debate feels so arcane," he says. "The truth of the matter is, apart from some key institutions, maybe it's already happened. That's the thing: Scotland already is independent, isn't it?"

And what's a national day without some inward gazing, debating nationality, and offending locals? Even more worthy of your attention is this morning's programme of BBC Scotland's "Good Morning Scotland" - wherein English journalists condescend and mock Scottish people (all in good nature though...I think).

Personally, I'm going to celebrate with a whiskey sour and gaze at a picture of Gerard Butler in a kilt:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bob - a.k.a Jabba the Slut


Monday, November 26, 2007


Kelvingrove Museum at night

Royal Exchange Square

George Square

I desperately wanted to go skating but Paul said that it would be a bad idea since it seemed to be neds on ice. I guess nowhere is safe from the bored delinquents of Glasgow. FYI - they don't have an ice resurfacer/ Zamboni like they do on the public rink in Toronto. How do I know this? Because I am such a Canadian nerd, I asked. Apparently they resurface/ clean the ice as in ye olden times (hey, this is Europe) - with a hose and blades.

I wish this photo was brighter because it is a picture of the most awesome store in Glasgow; it's simply called, "News & Booze". What more do you need in life?

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Paul finally agreed to take me along to a football match - mainly because his usual companion (his Dad) managed to get fancy schmancy seats inside the posh rooms that are actually indoors, heated, and have decent views of the field.

Paul and I, ready for the kick off. The game was Celtic v Aberdeen. Celtic won 3-0!

Hoops huddling.

Not sure what this sign said. Something to the effect of "Sod the Bigots: I know my history". I have no idea what it's in reference to but probably something that happened 500 years ago. Whatever, I can barely remember what happened last week and who pissed me off, let alone 500 years ago.

The game was good and overall, a lot of fun. You know what was not fun? Walking through the muddy paths and puddles in the freezing rain to get to the stadium. It's really strange that Celtic Park (the stadium) is literally in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by fields. I suppose I'm used to the corporate, advert-ridden stadiums of North America. For example, the Skydome (where the Toronto Blue Jay Baseball team are based) is attached to a Hard Rock Cafe (gross, I know but I prefer it to muddy fields). The Air Canada Centre (where my hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs and basketball team, the Toronto Raptors are located) is right in the middle of downtown Toronto, amidst a flurry of tacky tourist shops.

Another major cultural difference between the Scottish and Canadian stadiums? NO BOOZE!

Here's my video of Celtic scoring against Aberdeen:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Season of the Witch

I always felt slightly sad for the Scottish singer/songwriter, Donovan. And no, not because he was born in Maryhill, Glasgow but because he came onto the music scene right around the same time as one of my favourite musicians: Bob Dylan.

In the UK, Donovan was appreciated in his own right while in North America, he was known as the "British Bob Dylan" - which doesn't really lend Donovan any credit. Yes, both Dylan and Donovan were initially folky singer/songwriters and yes, both had anti-war protest songs. However, Donovan had a more jazz-influenced/pop-infused approach to music than Dylan.

While Donovan wrote about the beauty of his sleeping girlfriend, Dylan was more prone to writing about how much he had grown to hate his wife. And that's a fundemental difference between the two.

Here's a clip of when Donovan met Dylan (from Don't Look Back):

Holy awkward!

So, last month came news that Donovan (along with filmmaker, David Lynch?!) plans to open a "university" in either Edinburgh or Glasgow. The university will offer students enlightenment and "create invincibility in national consciousness".

I love Donovan's music and think he is immensley talented, but I'm not too sure how this mumbo jumbo meditation stuff will go over with the punters of Glasgow. Edinburgh, maybe.

Nevertheless, if it leads to less violent hash smokers, than I am all for it! (N.B. That song, Sunny Goodge Street, although about London, really reminds me of Glasgow whenever I hear it).

Monday, November 19, 2007


Random Scots pre-Scotland v Italy game

Kilts galore!Yes, Scotland lost 2-1 to Italy and it looks as though Scotland will not progress to the Euro 2008 games; a shame. Ah well, it was exciting while it lasted and hey, if you're going to lose to someone, it may as well be the current world champions, no? Nevertheless, like 90% of those that watched the game, we sought comfort in the sauce afterwards, replaying that joyous moment when we tied with Italy.

Oh, and an observation: you know you are in Scotland, watching the national football team play when someone screams at the telly, "COME ON, YAE CUNTS!"

Friday, November 16, 2007

In anticipation of the Scotland v Italy Euro 2008 qualifying game tomorrow, apparently every single hotel room in Glasgow - 17,000 in total - are booked!

I am looking forward to watching the game; it will be quite emotional as Scotland must win this match in order guarantee qualification for next year's finals in Austria and Switzerland.

What I am not looking forward to, however, is trying to find a decent pub (with breathing room) to watch it at. Anyone got any suggestions?
"If feminism is considered incompatible with love, it is likewise seen as a threat to femininity itself."
Hey, good news for us feminists! According to a study by researchers at Rutgers University, Feminists are happier in love and better in bed. From the article:
"What the Rutgers researchers actually found was that, in a survey of college students and older adults, all in heterosexual relationships, men paired with feminist partners reported greater relationship stability and sexual satisfaction. In addition, there was consistent evidence that male feminist partners were healthier for women's relationships, while there was scant evidence that women's feminism created conflict in liaisons. "
The article from the Guardian, by Libby Brooks, is definitely worth a read and if you are a decent human being at all, you will read it!
More from the article:
"Katha Pollitt, the award-winning poet, essayist and Nation columnist, ponders this in her recent memoir, Learning to Drive. 'Perhaps the way women think about love is part of that slave religion Nietzsche talks about, a mystification of the powerless,' she writes. 'What would the world be like if women stopped being women ... gave up the slave religion? Could the world go on without romantic love, all iron fist, no velvet glove?'
Or as Jessica Valenti, founder of and voice of a fresh generation of US feminists, more succinctly puts it: 'If I'd spent half the energy on my career and school stuff as I did on my relationships, I'd probably be the fucking president by now.'"
Too true, sister.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Taken with my mobile: this boat is like the garbage truck of the Clyde. It travels up and down the river, collecting wood, bodies, dead swans, feces, bottles and whatever else resides in the Clyde.
What a beautiful morning!
Yesterday, the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond (leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party) announced plans for Scotland to separate from the United Kingdom by 2017 - making it the first time the SNP have publicly acknowledged a deadline for independence. Although it makes for great press coverage, I'm skeptical of the reality of a separate Scotland.

Despite voting for the SNP (Commonwealth citizens who reside in Scotland can vote), I'm a little weary of independence. Yes, it's true - I voted for them even though I wasn't that keen on Salmond; I think I was drawn in by the SNP's promise to scrap the bloody council tax (they have devised plans to freeze the rate for 3 years) and the (broken) promise to PAY OFF ALL STUDENT DEBTS.

And while the First Minister is right to point out that Scotland is home to 90% of North Sea oil, (which in effect would subsidise Scotland's independence), I'm just not sure that Mr. Salmond and his party will be in office long enough to lead our great small nation to independence. I don't know about you, but this student loan-ridden and council tax paying resident is pissed!

Read more: The Guardian has a funny and quirky take on the UK without Scotland.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This weekend - specifically Saturday - is going to be absolutely mad. And here's why:

It's the Euro 2008 qualifying game against the current champions: Italy. And it's taking place in Glasgow.

My football-watching companion, Tim, offered to try and get us tickets. However, I feel that his efforts are going to be fruitless as the tickets managed to sell out in a matter of minutes. Looks like I will be watching the game with the rest of the punters in a pub - that is, if we manage to find one that isn't completely packed.

And here's the goal that started it all - Football fan or not, you have GOT to watch this to hear the commentator's reaction. Priceless.

Scots Staying Alive to the Menace of Italy

Friday, November 09, 2007

Glasgow's Gold

Glasgow has won the 2014 Commonwealth Games! I guess that CBC documentary, which caused quite a furor, was harmless after all. For the memories, here's the CBC Documentary :

Thursday, November 08, 2007


GOTHS - so fucking funny.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Paul and I went to see The National on Friday at the ABC in Glasgow. Last time i saw them was in Toronto, right before i was meant to move to Glasgow about a year and a half ago; Geekent kindly offered me a ticket to see them at the Horseshoe (thanks again, Graig, for introducing me)! And what a difference a year and a half makes! From the intimate venue of the Horseshoe to this:

Total stadium rock! It was packed!

Since Paul and I were squashed towards the back of the venue, I got to thinking about the band. Don't get me wrong - I like them (which is a lot more than Paul can say) - but it seems to me that the lead singer, Matt Berninger, has "borrowed" some of Gord Downie's infamous dance moves - i.e. contorting his body while shrieking/singing lyrics.

Gord Downie - for those that aren't Canadian - is the lead singer of the quintessential Canadian band, The Tragically Hip. For a long time, and perhaps still, The Hip weren't considered very cool and as such, many hipsters turned up their noses at them. Having grown up in the same area as the members of the band, well, you can't really escape them and sooner or later you're bound to fall under their spell (for me, it was seeing them at the Kingston Blues Festival in 1999 and totally rocking out on top of the Greek Village restaurant building).

Anyway, Matt Berninger from a distance reminded me of a younger (and hipster-approved) version of Gord Downie. Also, their violinist / keyboardist looks like camp councillor Neil from Wet Hot American Summer (a fucking HILARIOUS and brilliant film; don't listen to the mainstream critics):

In other Transatlantic news, apparently Fox Television are re-making one of my favourite British tv shows, Spaced.

Perhaps I'm a bit cynical but I don't think the remake will really translate. The original show was such a labour of love that it was evident in all the pop culture references it made throughout the series. It was hilarious, brilliant, and exact in all details and characters.

Anyway, I'm not sure if the dvds are available in Canada (there are two seasons), but it's totally worth the hunt. Watch it before Fox manages to vivisect it!