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Sakamoto: Art is long, life is short (BBC Sunday Feature)

He was a prince.

Alejandro Innaruto’s description of Ryuichi Sakamoto puts it perfectly.

This BBC Sunday feature offers a fascinating insight into an amazing man. I loved it!

It starts with how 1952, the year of Sakamoto’s birth, was an important year in Japan’s post-war transition. It explores his influences including Debussy, his exceptional talent for melody combined with a taste for experimentalism, and how with YMO he satirised anti-Japanese prejudice. It covers his anti-nuclear stance, and how he is a huge icon in Japan where they see him holistically for everything he represented.

Most of all I just marvel at his music – it perfectly captures my taste (and I realise after this documentary that I still have so much of his to explore, which is a happy thought). I loved the parts where the commentators gush at the beauty of his Last Emperor soundtrack (“every note is like paradise”) and when Alejandro Innaruto relates his experience of first hearing the opening two notes of his soundtrack for The Revenant.

Roast dinner before disaster for Scotland

I had a brilliant time hanging out with old friends this evening. We went for a Sunday roast dinner at Maison Glaschu. I tried french onion soup for the first time (but not the last) before enjoying the roast beef and yorkshire pudding with veg.

Laurence and friends at dinner at Maison Glaschu
Me and friends at dinner at Maison Glaschu

It was sunny so we stopped for a quick alfresco beer at The Bier Halle before heading down to the Admiral Woods to watch Scotland in the hope of a historic first-time qualification from the group stage.

Sadly Scotland couldn’t manage it (too cautious with the substitutes for me) but that didn’t stop us having a good time.

Cheers to Craig, Debbie, Alan, Karen and Mark for all their good vibes.

Volunteering at Edinburgh Western General Hospital

Today was a nice break from the old routine. Rather than working at a computer, I and some teammates went to Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital to do some gardening.

My employer supports the charity FACE (Fighting Against Cancer Edinburgh), part of NHS Lothian Charity.

FACE provides the ‘little things’ which can make a real difference for patients undergoing treatment for cancer. These things help make the time spent in hospital as comfortable as possible; the environment and experience as positive as it can be.

Our job today was to tidy the area surrounding the FACE garden. The garden serves as a quiet outdoor space where patients, visitors and staff can find solace away from the hospital wards.

Supervised by the conservation charity TCV, we tooled up and set about weeding the garden and paved areas. It was a sunny day, we chatted while we worked to colleagues we hadn’t met, and by the end you could see we had made a significant dent.

I hope we made a useful contribution and I certainly enjoyed doing it and would do so again. Thanks to my employer for the opportunity.

Richard King discussing his book on Arthur Russell

A nice (if brief) catch-up with Gav as we take in David Barbarossa in conversation with Richard King about his new book Travels Over Feeling on the life of enigmatic New York musician Arthur Russell.

I love me some Dinosaur L and Loose Joints, but I can’t claim to be as much of an Arthur aficionado as most of tonight’s crowd. However I’ve learned a lot and am now off to listen to World of Echo.

Talking to kids about being a software engineer

I’m not the most confident public speaker these days. So I had mixed emotions when my neighbour asked me to talk about my career at Pollokshields Primary School where he teaches.

However, I liked the theme of helping the kids to expand their horizons. And I’m keen to be involved in the local community, so this was a good opportunity.

I also had my fears dispelled somewhat when I heard that although there’d be lots of kids they were all around 11 years old. I’m working on my presenting and workshop facilitation skills at the moment so again, a good opportunity with – hopefully - a captive and gentle crowd!

I’m pleased to say it went well and generally gave me a warm glow. On reflection I think I prepared well, my nerves were manageable, and I communicated clearly. The kids were lovely and asked lots of questions! What characteristics do you need to be a good software engineer? Did my parents support my career choices? And so on.

They also gave me a lovely certificate and a large Dairy Milk bar (something that’s always welcome in our house).

My message of thanks from the kids and teachers at Pollokshields Primary School
My message of thanks from the kids and teachers at Pollokshields Primary School

Visit to Crawick Multiverse

Having a lovely Sunday morning stroll with Clair and Rudy through Crawick Multiverse, a land art installation. Here’s a bit about this interesting place:

Nestled within the rolling hills of Upper Nithsdale in Dumfries and Galloway, this major land restoration project has transformed a former open cast coal mine into a spectacular artland and public amenity.

A renowned cultural theorist, land artist, architectural historian and co-founder of the Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres, Charles Jencks was commissioned by the Duke of Buccleuch in 2015 to design an inspiring landscape on the former open-cast coal mine near Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway.

We made our way through the Amphitheatre and between “landforms” with names such as Andromeda, Supercluster of Galaxies and Omphalos. And we stopped to enjoye a lovely wee picnic atop The Milky Way. Most definitely something different, and Rudy seemed to enjoy his first spacewalk too.

This week I used an accordion (by Adam Silver)

I loved this insight into Adam Silver’s thought process. And it came at a timely moment since at work I’m currently trying to promote evidence-based, considered choices regarding user interface patterns.

Memories of a night at Tresor, 2005

I was recently sorting through some old stuff when I found a tatty old poster I used to love and that brought back good memories. It shows the gated basement vault of the original Tresor nightclub at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. Smoke is billowing out of the room dramatically and it includes the text The Extremist. I bought or otherwise acquired this poster on a night in 2005 when me and friends Davie and Tom visited the famous club during a trip to Berlin.

Boys weekend with Rudy

With Clair off having fun in Skye, the boys (me and Rudy) have been spending some quality time together. On Friday night we watched Dune 11. Rudy wasn’t too bothered but I really enjoyed it. It looks absolutely stunning, especially the all-white gladiator scene. And I thought the heavy, growling soundtrack marked a return to form for Hans Zimmer. While watching I munched on a paneer palak from local heroes Kebabish which, let’s be honest, is inifinitely better than popcorn.

On Saturday with the sun shining and some post-curry guilt, we set off early and walked up Drumgoyne Hill. It was steep but really good fun.

Laurence and Rudy the border terrier take a break while climbing Drumgoyne Hill
Laurence and Rudy on Drumgoyne Hill

First time at Homebrew Website Club, Edinburgh

Recently my work colleague Francesco told me about a new Edinburgh branch of Homebrew Website Club. Exciting! I unfortunately couldn’t make their first event but just attended their second event. Here’s how it was billed:

Join us in Edinburgh for demos of personal sites, recent breakthroughs, discussions about the independent web, and to meet IndieWeb community members!

It was good fun! Great to chat about and personal websites and writing with fellow tinkerers. I’m sure I’ll be back.

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