Archive for February 2008

I came, I ska, I conquered

February 25, 2008

This past Saturday I went to a ska concert. What is ska you ask? Wikipedia, or as I call it ‘old reliable’ (yes this is sarcasm), defines ska as music “characterized by a walking bass line, accented guitar or piano rhythms on the offbeat, and in some cases, jazz-like horn riffs”. I personally consider ska ‘preppy punk’ (those in the band often wear collared shirts, vests, and ties) but you get a great mix of people at these concerts. I did find out something from my visit to wiki-land. Apparently, the form of ska that I know it as, with bands such as ‘Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ ‘Sublime’ ‘No Doubt’ ‘Reel Big Fish’ and ‘Streetlight Manifesto’, is a bastardized version of Caribbean music. White culture taking, and commercially profiting, from black culture, I am so stunned that I am speechless.
This concert was not my first ska experience. Given that I now attended ska concerts on two continents, I feel comfortable enough to explain the experience. Note: the following description applies only to those who are crazy enough to try to get up close thereby entering the easily indefinable, and therefore avoidable, ‘pit’.
Imagine yourself being on an airplane with no seats and set up loud speakers everywhere. Add a metal fence around the only exit and pack this airplane with hundreds of people, successfully turning this plane into what a person suffering from claustrophobia would call hell. Hire a drunken, novice pilot and have them fly through bowel-shaking turbulence. Everyone is standing, near deaf, tightly packed, hot, sweaty and clawing for position to get out (well actually they just want to get a better view/bragging rights).
Turbulence hits and the pilot over-corrects which gives you the feeling you are caught in a human wave which tears you in one direction, then the opposite. Within a few minutes in you position yourself in the airline safety ‘crash position’, arms out and bracing for certain death, however you are standing and your head is locked upright as if you have an inhuman desire to see the ending of the in-flight movie.
At the back of the plane, someone gets the brilliant idea to utilize this dense crowd to carry them across the fence. Surf’s up dude, here comes the crowd surfers. They ride the mass and approach the gate, it seems their brilliant plan is working and freedom is in sight. That is when the bouncers strike.
These creatures, known as bouncers or concert security, have the determination of obsessive-compulsive voluntary border guards with many of the characteristics of ground hogs. You barely notice them until they poke their heads above the crowd. They take a quick scan with their wee looking-balls and then they either return to the underground or grab a crowd surfer to whisk them off to oblivion. No one likes the security people, if fact I’m sure they hate themselves, but they do serve a purpose. That purpose is to act like weather vein/barometer for trouble. If you see one of them going into ‘pointer’ mode, like the hunting dog, directly in front of you then you know there is trouble. Generally, this only means that a crowd surfer is coming your way and you should brace yourself accordingly. No matter what the security points out to you, it is an invaluable service, remember punks often wear studs, spikes, heavy boots or all of the above.
Now while I may place the emphasis on seemingly negative characteristics I must state that had a blast. I also noticed that if someone where to fall down those around the injured would form a human barrier thereby effectively curbing further pain to the wounded. Great camaraderie and an overwhelming sense that ‘this is nuts but we love it’ abounds at this event. After a quick taxi ride home it hits me, to me ska is a hell of a good night. This night will leave its mark in my mind and temporarily leave its mark on my body in the form of random bruises.


To live and bike in Glasgow

February 21, 2008

To be cyclist in Glasgow you have to be partially insane. That being said, I’m certifiably nuts because I love biking in Scotland. I have always loved biking and I always will. Yet to own and continually use a bike in Scotland makes you a rare breed indeed. Last week hosted an incredible stretch of great weather. I mean like ‘Am I still in Glasgow?’ great. During this week, it seems that bikes had multiplied like rabbits and we regular users were forced to lock our bikes up in very un-regular places. Pushed away from bike racks and bike sheds, our metal steeds were hitched to trees, fences and even benches. Yet environmental selection would rear its ugly head and today, in the pissing rain, there were approximately 4 bikes at my regular spot and if my bike could talk I’m sure it would know them all by name.

Now to bike in Scotland I suggest the following things.
1.    A helmet-this device turns someone opening a car door in your path into a joke about winning the ‘door prize’, and hey you may meet your soul mate while they are picking glass out of your face.
2.    Lights-atleast two one if the front and
3.    Two jackets-one should be light and water resistant (I roll with gortex) and one should be waterproof. Yes there is a BIG difference.
4.    A balaclava or ski mask-buy one from an outdoors store, they keep the wind and rain out of your face. It also keeps you cycling in the winter. Be sure to take this off when going into a bank though, you don’t want to be known as the first eco-friendly bank robber.
5.    Gloves-a set of biking gloves, that cover all of your hand. are worth their weight in gold when you hands are freezing cold and you have to stop quickly, say, to avoid someone opening their car door in your face. Many also have padding and added grip, which really help when it is raining, which is almost always around here.
6.    Water proof trousers (pants = underwear, lead to some funny misunderstandings)- saved me from getting hypothermia numerous times. I suggest light trousers, a Velcro strap around the bottom allows you to tighten them so your gears don’t eat them which is likely to cause accidents.
7.    Mudguards- you NEED these to reduce your jacket-washing from daily to monthly. Also if you don’t get the front mudguard you learn how to identify city streets by taste.

There are many additional items which are nice to have but not necessary for your biking experience. A set of clear sports goggles keeps the wind out of your eyes, which allows you to stop squinting (likely my next purchase). A backpack with the water-bladder feature keeps you hydrated and feeling like you should be in an advert.

So, what makes us cyclist crazy apart from weathering the weather? How about continually using nutty road system (ops, I’m now flying down a one way street, which may or may not lead to the afterlife). Maybe it is continually being sandwiched between pedestrians (who love to hand talk and cut out in front of you like a mentally handicapped deer) and drivers who consider you an annoyance and no more than a speed bump.
God I can’t wait to go out for a bike tomorrow!

York and back again

February 8, 2008

My trip to York was interesting to say the least. To start it off my wallet was nicked on the train and I had only a reservation at a hostel, which I had not yet paid for, and the number of a friends’ friend. I called this new friend and the connection cut out. I near smashed the phone right there and then however, my new friend called from another phone and stated his battery had died.

Cutting to the present I had just taken last collection of the items I need to get through the remainder of the year. Lost to the sands of time are my driving license, my emergency credit card and a black leather wallet. Rounding up and collecting these items has been my mission for the past week.

Back to York my new friend was a extremely helpful and friendly guide. The guy even set me up with a bunk, food, and lent me 50 quid. I am so thankful for his help and I hope I will have a chance to repay my new friend and show him an equally fun time when he comes to Glasgow.

The conference itself was such a mixed bag. Many of the items discussed were fascinating however like most conferences much depended on the quality of the speaker. I don’t want to speak of some of the ideas due to possible copyright infringements but here are some interesting new finds.

Augmented reality- a type of virtual reality; it shows 3D replicas of objects and buildings. Imagine seeing a 3D model of a castle etc using your cell phone camera.

The “Dig!” – museum in York imagine watching adult archaeologists becoming children again and digging in a neo-sandbox peppered with artifacts. The only difference between children and adults was the glasses of wine in many hands. a fantastic site for interesting ways in which we humans display the world around us. Don’t attempt this site with dial up.

York- an amazing city in general. I sadly did not bring my camera; apart from being windy as hell, it was picture perfect environment with visibly inspiring heritage and great beers.