Watching Stuff 2018 (Andrew)

As move stars become telly stars, and telly stars become movie stars, and films become 20 part series culminating in Avengers: Infinity Series Finale War, I feel justified in combining favourite telly and favourite films into one this year.

Also, I watch them on the same sofa, so I’m including them in the same category! 🙂

Best Programme About Digging a Hole

Better Call Saul spent most of the year rock blasting an underground meth lab in Albuquerque but The Americans had almost an entire episode dedicate to digging up a coffin in tedious, tedious minutes until… well… watch it. Also, if you ever need to pack a dead spy into a suitcase then The Americans shows you how to meet your Ryanair baggage allowance with a foot to spare.

Best Film

Mandy, which is both unwatchable and something I never want to sit through again but also the one film this year that made me think: “I’ve not seen that before!”. Nic Cage. Heavy metal. A bag of cocaine? Demons! A DIY axe! Ken Barlow’s son’s penis?! The apocalypse???

Best B-Movie

Shout out to the old school action of Braven but the best b-movies have a rock solid plot and a brilliant bad guy and Better Watch Out had both. A film so good, if you google the reviews you’ll find many call it sick, awful and one of the worst films of last year. Which is all you need to know because the best b-movies get the worst reviews. (Also see Aquaman).

Favourite film

Your best film is never your favourite film. Your favourite film is the one you watch again and again. This year, there was only one film I watched twice (to go with the once I watched it last year as well). Superstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Brilliant. Unless, like Lesley, you hate Andy Samberg then this film will be called Superstar: Please Stop!

Best Thing I Haven’t Finished Watching Yet

The Haunting of Hill House.

Best Thing I Saw All Year

No contest. The Leftovers. The first series has good moments but the second and third take everything from six series of Lost and said what if we remade Lost with all the single episode stories about different characters, with a whole dollop of religion, fantasy, conspiracy, an island (Australia) and a random kangaroo instead of a polar bear – but actually had an ending? Best thing all year (except for Andy Samburg singing The Bin Laden song so I’ve got a clip of that instead).

 

 

 

 

 

Music 2019 (Andrew)

Someone told me that you lose interest in music when you get to 40. Can’t remember who it was, can’t remember why we were talking about it, but, it stayed with me. I love music. And when I heard it I thought: “Not me, grandad, I’ll still be buying CD’s and tapes when I’m 100!”

I was wrong. I haven’t bought music in 10 years – thank you, Mr Internet! And, apologies to all those struggling bands not getting paid any more, I promise I’ll buy a ticket for your live show!

But, as I’m now 41, and officially older than 40, I do try and listen to as much new music as I can to prove that comment wrong.  I do sometime wonder why this comment stuck with me and not a useful one like “you’ll lose interest in cases and statutes when you get to 40!” and I would now be working furiously to be a top notch lawyer to prove them wrong. But, hey ho, I got music.

So, in a challenge similar to Iain’s – see his post – I  also tried this year to listen to different types of music. I tried jazz, opera, classic, techno and Abba. All the ones I would normally avoid (except country because no one should listen to country, not even for a Christmas timed music blog).  And this is what I learned:

I hate jazz.

I hate opera.

I hate any form of metal. Death. Thrash. Doom or -icca.

But… I did discover a love of modern classical, obscure German techno that goes BOOM, BOOM, BOOM and Kylie. (Who doesn’t love Kylie!)

Most of all I learned that music doesn’t have to end at a specific age because hearing new music is easier than it’s ever been. There’s millions of songs just a click away and the challenge now is not just to remain interested but to actually listen to music more than once. As soon I listen to an album, I listen to another then another and then it’s the next week and there’s more albums out and more tracks and I never get back to the songs I liked just seven days ago.

So, this year, when I was thinking of what music I loved, my favourites are those I returned to again and again such as:

Daithi – Have To Go

Calvin Harris should sue for plagiarism.

Sarah Blasko – Heaven Sent

Richard Marx should sue for ‘Hazard’.

Pictures of You – HMLTD

Lady Gaga should sue.

(I’m noticing a theme)

Confide In Me – Kylie (from the Abbey Road Session)

An original. Well, a live version of an original.

Teleman – Cactus

Finally, an actual original. Pity the rest of the album didn’t equal this.

Brockhampton – BOOGIE

And neither did this. But this is P A R T Y with a capital [expletive deleted – parental advisory warning]

The Joubert Singers – Stand On The Word – Larry Levan Mix 

Praise the lord, this list is nearly over because we have the two best songs of the year.

Let’s Eat Grandma – Donnie Darko

Ten minutes. Doesn’t get going for two of them but, when it does, does it beat…

Sufjan Stevens – Visions of Gideon

And it does. While Visions of Gideon is pure heart breaking Sufjan Stevens it has the in-built advantage of me loving everything Sufjan has does for the last 10 years. So, in the spirit of new music, this year’s best song is….

Donnie Darko and here’s a video of it live with an awkward Dutch man in the front row wishing that he was anywhere else.

Getting Started On Zwift (Andrew)

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A few weeks ago I bought a smart trainer. Until then I had a dumb trainer, it would only do what I told it, and I told it to “woah – take it easy, there’s no need to go too fast!”

What I needed was a trainer with a PHD. That’s a trainer with a Pedal Harder Damnit attitude – and a smart trainer seemed the answer. A smart trainer is one that links to a laptop or tablet and adjusts your workout as you ride. And not just to make it easier, as I would adjust it, but it also makes it harder (damnit!).

With the trainer sorted, I knew I needed a training programme that would help me ride smarter too. I had a look at a few but Training Peaks seemed to require a spreadsheet and Sufferfest had the word Suffer in it’s title and who wants to suffer? Harderfest maybe? PushYouALittleBitMoreFest? But not Sufferbest? You might as well call it Quitfest. ‘Cause that’s what I’d be doing…

Instead, I tried Zwift on an iPad linked to my trainer because it promised I wouldn’t suffer as I’d be using it like a computer game. And, instead of spreadsheets like Training Peaks, I’d see a wee rider cycle round New York’s Central Park and the centre of London. It would be like Mario Kart!

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The first time I used it, I didn’t know what I was doing. My wee man on screen was surrounded by other riders. I tried to ride round New York’s Central Park and keep my speed around 20mph. And I didn’t get it. It was slow. The trainer would increase resistance as I rode up hills and I didn’t understand why because I’d just drop the gears to make it easier and then –

– someone shot past me and I thought “follow them!” and then

– a group formed around me and I was in a peloton and we’re all doing 25mph and I’m thinking “I can’t be dropped”.

– then I’m climbing a hill and a message is telling me that if I keep this pace I’ll be in the top 50.

And I think “Now, I get it!”. Zwift is for folk who need a bit of competition to motivate themselves. It’s a game of jealousy and better my neighbour. Even though you don’t know the people around you, you suddenly want to be better than them just because they’re real people too. You’re no longer training on your own. You’re not just Mario – you’re also racing Luigi!

Since then, I’ve spent around 10 hours on Zwift trying various routes and features. But, despite the ability to customise my wee man on screen, I’ve point blank refused to do so. I know I can change the colour of his socks but why would you?! This is Zwift not Barbiefest.

In a few weeks I’ll report again and see how a month of Zwift compares to a month of trying to cycle in Scotland in December.

Game of Tat (Andrew)

“Christmas is coming, the runners are getting fat, look at the rain out the window, we ain’t going out in that!”

It’s December, it’s Christmas, and this year, Iain’s not getting anything sporty for his Christmas present…

Woman, A Warning! (Andrew)

A couple of weeks ago I was watching Sky News when they cut to a report of a man, Ross Edgely, who had just swum round the whole of the UK. 

“Wow,” said the reporter, as he reached the shore.

“Wow,” said the crowd, as he raised his arms in triumph. 

“What a dick,” I thought, as I watched him explain how swimming in salt water for months and months had gradually destroyed his tongue. Or, as he said it: “Swumming ‘n sawt wather ‘as detroyth ma tong!”.

While I admire all athletes who take on and achieve an epic challenge. I couldn’t help think this time that there’s a danger in automatically admiring them.  They’re creating a dangerous trend. They’re creating the idea that longer is better, when it’s not. Long races are boring. Long races are hard. Instead give me a medium length race. A half-marathon. A half-ironman. Just the thought of entering a race with the word half in it, gives me a boost. “It can’t be that bad,” I think, “it’s only a half!”.

The word “ultra” on the other hand makes me we want to avoid it like a colleague from work on a train station when you know you’ve got an hour’s journey ahead of you and don’t want to sit beside them because you know you’ll run out things to say in five minutes. 

Yet, despite the difficulty, there are longer and longer races all the time. Board of IronMan? Why not run a double, triple or even ten times IronMan? Want to go for a swim, why not avoid the pool and head towards Norway instead? It’ll only take three weeks, a yacht and a willingness to lose your tongue within sight of Bergin.

I blame guys. Guys are daft and macho. We want to take on harder and harder challenges. Which is okay, but I think we should call them what they are. IronIdiots. And, when they complete a race. When they swim 3 miles, cycle 112 miles and run a marathon they should be greeted at the finish line with a cry of “YOU ARE AN IRONIDIOT!”

Which is better than IronMan because it’s not sexist, woman can be idiots too.

Except they’re not. The number of woman who take part in longer events is significantly smaller than the number who take part in short events like 10k or half-marathons. 

But it’s starting to grow. I’m seeing more woman take part in longer races. And I have this to say to them: “STOP! DON’T DO IT! DON’T BE AN IRONIDIOT!”

Instead, women, invent your own races. Races that are fun and people actually want to do. Don’t copy the guys. They don’t know what they’re doing. Why would anyone want to run a marathon after cycling 112 miles? It’s stupid and arbitrary and random and proves nothing except guys will follow any instructions provided they get a medal at the end.

If there was a medal for swimming 3 miles then cycling 112 miles then punching yourself in the face until you make your nose bleed then sign me up!

Women, don’t repeat the mistake of men. Men are idiots. Who invented the marathon? A man? And what happened to him? He died running it. Yet other men thought, “Hey, that’s a great idea – let’s do it too!”

Invent your own races. Don’t follow the guys into extreme triathlons. Invent benign triathlons. Races where the water is warm, the courses are downhill and, if you get a puncture, everyone has to stop until you’ve fixed it. That sounds like a nice race.

Just don’t follow the guys, they’re only leading you on an adventure that should be banned on health & safety grounds!

 

Jimmy Irvine Bella 10K (Andrew)

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There are two things I know about the Jimmy Irvine Bella 10k race in Bellahouston Park. One, it will rain. It’s held in November so it would probably be more of a surprise if it was ever dry…

Two, I don’t actually know who the heck is Jimmy Irvine? And, despite running a few times, this was the first year I thought: “Let’s find out!“.

I’m glad to report that the Jimmy Irvine 10k is not a race named in memoriam  – in his memory  – as he’s very much alive. He is quite old though. He was born in 1935 and first raced for Bellahouston Harriers in 1952 at the age of 16. He last raced in 2015, a broken hip finally bringing his running days to an end.

But what a career he had. He raced almost every weekend and turned out in the McAndrew Relays, the District relays, the County relays, the Glasgow University road race, the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay, the Nigel Barge New Year race, the County championship and all the other major championships.  And that was almost every year for several decades. Even as a veteran he was running under three hours for a marathon. No wonder they named a race after him!

So, with that knowledge, I was feeling inspired on the start line. Although the course had changed this year, the start had not. It starts on a hill in the centre of Bellahouston Park with a short climb before running round to the ski slope, then Bellahouston sports centre before circling out towards Mosspark Avenue and back before repeating itself for another loop and a half.

But one thing hadn’t changed. The rain. It started raining 20 minutes before the race start and it didn’t stop. Big heavy rain drops designed to get right down the back of your neck and freeze your spine. Ugh!

However, I was prepared, I had a jacket with a hood and ran the race Batman style – hood up, as far over my eyes as possible and only my chin showing to the rain.

The change of course meant a harder route, with some longish climbs up and through the park. In return, there was a couple of nice descents down the back of the hill, but, with the weather, you needed to be careful where to place your feet to avoid puddles and slippery leaves.

One brave man though, appeared to laugh in the face of the weather by stripping off his top halfway through the race. No one followed him. Glasgow in the rain in November is no time to bear any flesh. It’s Marti Pellow weather – wet, wet, wet.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable race, with a good number of runners but not so many that it causes any bottlenecks at corners. And, at the start, there was none other than Jimmy Irvine. At least this time I knew who he was!

For more on Jimmy Irvine: Biography

 

It’s A Stay- (In The Bag) -Cation (Andrew)

I was on holiday last week. Five days in Lisbon during what I would describe as a pleasant summer’s day – 20 degrees, light breeze, some sunshine but just enough cloud to not make it overbearing – but it was also what the Portuguese would describe as the depths of winter, given the number of locals wearing puffer jackets, hats, scarves and woolly gloves.

It just goes to show how subjectively we view the weather. When you live in Scotland – everywhere else is the tropic; when you live in the Med, everywhere else is Scotland.

Before I go on holiday I always make a list of everything I’ll need to bring. If I don’t, I’ll forget something important. Like my passport, which meant I once travelled to Ireland with my bus pass. It got me in, but, when I tried to leave, the border guard said: “A Strathclyde Passenger Transport card is not a proper form of ID”. I said: “It was when you let me in!”. He couldn’t answer that logic so he let me out.

I always include a spot on my list for my running trainers, shorts and a couple of t-shirts. I always think “Won’t it be great to run around foreign cities and explore bits of them that’ll I’ll never see when walking?”

And I always return home with the trainers unworn, the shorts unfolded and the t-shirts still smelling of fabric softener. Good intentions last as far as the white cliffs of Dover.

I think I don’t run when I’m away because I always walk everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I am, if the place I want to see is not actually in a different time zone then I’ll walk to it rather than get a bus or a train. Because it’s a new place, everywhere is new and exciting. Walking is just another way to get bearings and to discover where I am. And, by the time I’ve walked everywhere, my legs are tired and I don’t then fancy running a few more miles.

Bizarrely, it’s the exact opposite of home. Want to walk anywhere? Nah, take the car instead!

But I also don’t run because it’s sunny. And warm. And who wants to run in nice weather? What the point of training in good conditions when you live in Scotland?!?!?

It’s the same in July when we get one week of good weather. When I look at a blue sky I think I’ll pass on going out for a run.

But I always bring my trainers with me. I like knowing I have the choice. Even if that choice hasn’t been used in any recent holiday. However, next time, I tell myself I will go out for a run. I will put on my trainers and I will explore the city on foot!

Unless the weather’s better than Scotland in which case, nah, you’re alright, I’ll just walk… 🙂

Antonine Trail Race 2018 (Andrew)

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Two bumblebees get out of the car. One of them adjusts his wings and his trainers and then starts to run.

Death stands beside an angel and both start to stretch.

This is the Antonine Trail Race. A half marathon up, over, around and back over Croy Hill between Kilsyth and Cumbernauld. Every year it’s held on the last of Sunday in October and the organisers encourage runners to take part in Halloween costume. At the start line you see a lot of photos, high fives and people not realising that they’re about to start swearing when they hit the first hill and realise how hot it is to dress like a bee while trying to run a mile up a trail.

It was a fantastic day for the race. It was cold but with an almost cloudless sky it was just the right temperature for running.

It starts with one mile on a narrow path so try and get near the front if you don’t want to be blocked in. After the first mile, the hill climbing starts with a mile and half of trail runs and climbing to the top of Croy Hill. After that it’s undulating before a mile long descent down to the canal and Kilsyth marsh. A few miles of flat trails are broken up by an environmentally friendly water spot – there was no plastic cups.

The organisers had warned in advance that the only cups would be “sharing cups” – and they warned that there might be more than just water in the cups after twenty sweaty runners had swigged from it. So, they recommended bringing your own bottle. I ran with a trail belt with a couple of small water bottles. I didn’t fancy sharing anything!

After the water stop it’s a steady climb through the forest around Barr Hill. A few sharp inclines near the top make it a challenging run before another long drop down to the base of Croy Hill and another lap up it – this time from the opposite side.

The good news at that point is that you finish with a final mile back on the narrow paths and with a gentle descent (apart from one sharp shock) and a cracking photo opportunity at the finish as you beat a red devil to the line.

And if that wasn’t enough to recommend it – the organisers lay on a bumper food stall at the finish with cakes, biscuits, bananas, more cakes and selection of gels and liquids.

Roll on 2019!

More info: https://antoninetrailrace.com

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The Hill (Andrew)

There’s a hill near my house that’s smaller than I thought. Every few weeks I like to run up it to check if I can run it faster than before.

The hill is in Queen’s Park. You start at Balvicar Street then run up a 9% slope until you get to the flagpole at the top of the park. It started as a two minute run and over the last 18 months I’ve been getting closer to one and a half minutes. Until Saturday, when I found out it was smaller than I thought because…

… Stava doesn’t use the top of the hill as it’s finish line. It stops it’s segment just below the flag pole. I’d been running an extra 20 metres and it wasn’t recorded.

And if a runner runs in the woods and doesn’t record it in Strava, do they make a sound?

For 18 months I’ve been running up the hill and leaving my final burst of speed until AFTER the actual finish line. I’d been running to the top when the finish line was still on the slope.

D’oh!

Which just goes to show how much I use Strava i.e. not a lot! I like the app to see gradient, speed and matching run times. So, if I run the same route again, it’ll remember and show you how you compare.

But as for segments, I only look at two. Queen Park hill run and another hill run in Stornoway to run up to the War Memorial overlooking the town.

And, looking at that one, I have that one wrong too…

I start running after the segment starts! I run from a gate when I should be running 10 metres before that. No wonder my time of three minutes was so slow – I wasn’t even trying for part of the run.

So, while I can see the appeal of Strava segments, turning the world into a series of races and challenges, in practice, there’s a reason for a start line and finishing tape. You need to know when to run and when to stop.

However, just as Chris Froome would do better if he turned up for the Tour De France in France instead of starting in Japan, looking on the bright side, I can now see that I can do the same and smash my best time just by running the right route next time I’m out.