Tag Archives: review

POSITIVITY vs. NEGATIVITY

A number of things have cropped up recently to remind me that I have been meaning to write about my feelings about the effects of positive and negative attitudes to life. A year ago the UK was shocked by a wave of rioting in that erupted in a number of English cities following the shooting, by police, of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. Any death is extremely regrettable and explanations need to be clarified to enable family and friends to gain closure, but that explosion of very negative reactions didn’t seem to be a productive way to work for a better world, except perhaps as a job creation scheme for police, glaziers, builders and decorators. But I believe that being forced to spend scarce resources on restoration of vandalised property simply makes it even less likely that things might actually be improved.

A year on and the UK is experiencing a different wave of emotion. As Team GB members amass Olympic medals at an impressive rate, we are now presented with a number of extremely positive role models to demonstrate what can be achieved by positive attitudes and dedication to self-improvement.

Running alongside the Olympic achievements of all competitors, regardless of nationality, there seems to be a growing number of reports about so-called internet ‘trolls’; those individuals who spend time posting nasty and offensive comments on social media sites. This has caused some people to stop using such sites due to abuse, and others to find the Law attempting to impose sanctions on their activities. Whilst I will never condone such offensive taunting posts, we should be grateful of the general agreement that free speech is tolerated in the UK. If we start seeking to impose legal sanctions on some people, we run the risk of others seeking to direct similar sanctions against ourselves if our views are deemed offensive. Whilst it is easy for somebody not directly affected by such on-line attacks to say so, I believe that the best way to deal with them is for everybody to absolutely ignore them. They should be ignored, not replied to, not commented on and certainly not re-posted. Like all bullies, surely the principal reason for instigating such attacks is to elicit some reaction – if absolutely no reaction at all is generated, there will be no incentive to continue. I hope that this generalised criticism is not seen as hypocritical as I do not think that I am identifying any particular individual. By all means, Social Media site providers may well continue to suspend accounts if their terms and conditions are breached, but I strongly believe that is as far as it should go, with the full weight of the Law being reserved for physical attacks and threats.

To a lesser extent, the ability for people to go on-line and criticise things without fear of consequences, by writing extremely negative reviews of things, either via their own personal blogs, review columns in on-line publications or via sites such as ‘Trip Advisor’, can be very damaging too. Businesses who are subjected to a few negative reports from people who appear to have nothing better to do than deliberately seek faults can face ruin, and artists who have negative comments posted about their output can become disheartened to the extent that they might give up on their ambition.

When I started writing reviews of gigs and albums I made a pledge to myself only to publish positive ones. If a solo artist or band has invested much time, energy and emotion in producing an album or providing a live performance, I do not believe that I have any right to ‘slag them off’ simply because I don’t like what they have done. In virtually every case I have no doubt that they have done something that I wouldn’t have the skill to do. From a purely selfish point of view, I can’t see any reason for me to give up any valuable time and energy to compose negative comments. That is not to say that I will never offer constructive criticism, but only when I feel convinced that there is room for improvement. If I have been impressed by something I will be molre than happy to spend time seeking to be supportive, if I haven’t been impressed, then that’s as far as I will go. Privately, if appropriate, I might offer explanations to those directly concerned if I were ever asked why I hadn’t commented, but I wouldn’t see that as being something for public consumption.

If all those who invest lots of time and energy into compiling and posting negative reviews would direct that effort to something more positive, we might even find that society gradually became a more caring and compassionate place to live.

Although I haven’t spent very much time watching live Olympic events, I remain absolutely convinced that participants offer a very positive example of how progress can be made – only by effort, commitment and determination. For others their potential success might not lie in sporting endeavour but a similar attitude can still go a long way to help. Finally, it has been extremely heartening to note that competitors when interviewed generally appear to be so much more genuine, nice and considerate than many of the excessively paid professional football players that I have seen on TV. I pray that any Olympic medallists are kept well clear of the PR consultants that advise professional footballers, and that all attempts to politicise Olympic performances are strongly resisted.

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A FULL SCHEDULE

So much seems to have happened since my last post here; is it only three weeks since the school meal blog story caused such a widespread media storm? I suppose that preparing for, going on, and returning from a wonderful week by Lake Garda does account for much of the intensity in my life over that period, but that holiday only accounts for some of it.

I had the great pleasure of witnessing some wonderful live music on The Green on Greenlaw Festival Crowning Day; a rare break in the rain meant that the bulk of the activities to celebrate the crowning of this year’s Greenlaw Maid, Shannon Hirst, went ahead relatively unhindered by the weather. I had principally gone along to record the ‘battle of the bands’ and ended up witnessing a wonderful, laid back selection of local artists that culminated with a jam session that included some sublime soprano saxophone playing an a number that ‘became’ ‘The Greenlaw Glide’.

I continue to be amazed by the way my life has developed since retiring from my teaching career. What started as occasional gig reviews for my Tumblr blog has grown to include album reviews, with many also being published each month by on-line rock magazine ‘The Rocktologist’. Although I enjoyed preparing for and presenting my occasional shows on Generate Radio, I certainly didn’t expect to be getting so involved in interviewing, gig reviews and photography and album reviews for publication. I had a magical evening interviewing Jill Jackson ahead of her mesmerising gig in Melrose and I have recently liaised with a young Glasgow singer/songwriter (Toni Etherson) to help try to get suggestions for her forthcoming EP, and look set to be helping with training for a new community radio station that is being established in the north east of Scotland, and my initial two hours a month on air has expanded to five hours every week. I also look forward to extending my reviewing to include theatre, when I attend a press night for ‘Black Roses’, a play based on the tragic circumstances surrounding the murder of Sophie Lancaster, a young lady who was attacked along with her boyfriend simply because of the way they chose to dress, as ‘goths’.

One thing I definitely didn’t expect was to discover that I had been nominated in the ‘Media Person Of The Year’ category of this year’s ‘Scottish New Music Awards’. Last year was the inaugural event and I seem to remember that every single nominee was included in the voting procedure; this year they appear to have restricted that phase to include only the top five nominees in each category, so my inclusion means so much more to me as a result. I am certainly very appreciative of those who felt strongly enough to nominate me and look forward to attending the ceremony as I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience last September. I’m not normally given to much in the way of blatant self-promotion but will include the voting link, mainly because I believe that the nomination is as much one for the whole team at Generate Radio as it might be for me and for their sake I would like as many people as possible to know about the possibility of voting.  This year it is also possible to vote in only one, or as many categories as desired – rather than last year’s requirement to vote in every category.

http://www.scotmusicawards.co.uk/


SHORTS, SNOW AND A GIANT QUESTION MARK

When I first started this particular blog I wasn’t quite sure how it would develop, it now appears to be turning out to be a record of observations on my daily life. It is now just over a week since my last post; so what have I been up to?

Last week we were basking in record March temperatures of around 23oC and I was enjoying working in the garden in sunscreen, shorts and sleeveless tops. I salvaged another trailer load of timber odds and ends from my friend’s old house and Colleen came over a couple of times to help complete the stage prop that we were making as a surprise for Where’s George’s CD/single launch night. The Sunday before the gig she had asked me if I could make a giant ‘question mark’ with tiny holes in it. It didn’t take me long to turn a previously salvaged panel from her old wardrobe into a six foot tall item before drilling one hundred holes and painting it white. By the time Colleen had waved her ‘magic wand’ over it, we had a wonderfully decorative stage prop decorated with fairy lights, sunflowers, coloured mesh, butterflies, coloured flower patterns and glitter. As we had sat on the grass in the sunshine completing this I remarked on how odd it was to be enjoying such sunny weather whilst the trees were still bare.

On the Friday afternoon we got to the venue ahead of the band and were able to set up the question mark along with some coloured spots and the drum plinth that I had made. The girls appeared to be thrilled. In the evening the gig got under way fairly promptly with a solo acoustic set by Paul Sinclair from local band The Warehouse Announcement. The Where’s George? set was excellent (a more detailed review can be found on my Tumblr page http://dstrachan.tumblr.com/post/20221707084/wheres-george-single-cd-launch-night-once ); the one thing that slightly took the edge off was one group of youngsters in the audience who hadn’t quite worked out how to behave when under the influence of their drink. Whilst not appearing to be deliberately out to cause a serious disturbance they certainly exhibited territory claiming behaviour, pushing their chairs out from the table, making loud noises and flicking beer mats about. As I attempted to film and photograph I did find myself being distracted, regularly glancing across to check that they weren’t seriously interfering with anybody else’s enjoyment of the performance. As many in the hall were ex-students, I suppose that I still felt quite protective of them!

Winnie had set up a jewellery display in the house and invited people to drop in over the weekend; apart from a quick trip to shops on Saturday morning we didn’t stray far on Saturday and Sunday, but only a few people actually did call by.

Monday saw us travelling to Stirling for visits with relatives. After a lovely lunch and a few cups of coffee we were heading back to the Borders, trying to get back home before the threatened deteriorating weather. Getting up on Tuesday morning it was cold and damp but still no sign of the forecast snow. Breakfast news was, however, bringing stories of substantial snow falls further north. Before long snow was falling, a short while later the snow was blowing almost horizontally while the wind whistle noise sounded like the soundtrack from an emergency drama set in the Arctic. With a few inches of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering around 0oC it was hard to believe that we had been experiencing temperatures around 22oC higher less than a week previously.

I have been engaged as a judge again for the next running of Cuillin FM’s ‘Highland Uproar’ music competition, the closing date for that has just passed. Since then I have now listened to around forty entries twice and hope to be able to post my final decisions by the weekend after a third listen. I have also been able to make use of Skype to record an interview with somebody in the USA. Oh and we’ve booked flights and seen initial details of the accommodation that we will be staying in when we go to Lake Garda in July. I’ve also broadcast the first of a series of four recordings that I made with a local Chiropractor, completed the garage clearance for my friend, written a review of the new Tiger lilly album that I had been eagerly anticipating; and am working with a neighbour to try to make arrangements for a fund-raising band evening later in the summer. As I remarked this morning when I met an old friend who asked if I had stopped working, “I’ve just stopped getting paid for working, I seem to be as busy as I ever was when teaching!”

It’s Good Friday today but, one week on, I wouldn’t dream of sitting out on the grass to enjoy putting the finishing touches to any stage props today!