Jul

13

Beautiful Ghost

How famous men were the death of the world’s greatest sex symbol: After poet Edith Sitwell met Marilyn Monroe she described the star as a ‘beautiful ghost’. It’s an image we’ve all grown up with. Sensual and innocent, tough and fragile, the icon is out of all proportion to her talent. But the image also […]

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Jun

04

Are ye dancing?

“Are ye dancing?” “Are ye asking?” When I was a schoolboy, I saw Francie and Josie deliver this routine at Perth Theatre. Dressed in vivid Teddy-boy suits, the Scots comedy duo – aka Rikki Fulton and Jack Milroy – lampooned the Scottish dancehall mating ritual. Fresh from the searing humiliation of Scottish country dancing classes […]

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Apr

29

Jazzed up

I don’t like jazz. I don’t like it in the way that The Boomtown Rats didn’t like Mondays and that I, in turn, didn’t like the Boomtown Rats. It’s a personal, visceral thing. Of course, everybody likes Ella and Louis. (That’s Fitzgerald and Armstrong for anyone under 40.) And I love Billie Holiday, mostly because […]

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Apr

13

Scotch Missed

How come the great brands of Scotch are not particularly Scottish? That’s one of the great ironies of international marketing. Certainly, it’s true that all brands aim to build on what makes them different. Since all ‘Scotch’ is equally ‘Scottish’, nationality in itself brings no competitive distinction to any individual brand. So, perhaps it’s not […]

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Mar

23

Scottish Cinema

Hugh MacLeod is a Scots-born cartoonist and former adman. He became famous for drawing sarcastic pictures on the backs of business cards during boring meetings on Madison Avenue. One of his drawings shows two students bickering. “No, I’m more annoying,” says the art student. “No, I’m more annoying,” says the film student. To students of […]

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Mar

10

How easy is it to get banned from the BBC?

The BBC is a hotbed of radicalism, isn’t it? The licence-fee funded broadcaster is full of lefties, anarchists and unbelievers, all committed to the downfall of civilisation and right-thinking religiosity. Or so you might think, if you listened to the persistent propaganda from this country’s right-wing politicians and press. Yet, a simple glance at the […]

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Feb

05

Sellebrity

When he first appeared on TV in the mid-70s, he was a skinny, spotty, sneery youth with spiky ginger hair. He was a last-minute stand-in on the bland topical tea-time show, presented by Bill Grundy. Asked his opinion of Mozart and Beethoven, the young man mumbled ‘a rude word’. Goaded by Grundy, he repeated the […]

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Apr

15

Are you what you wear?

I’ve been watching too much Sherlock Holmes lately. In the BBC’s faithful modern makeover, Benedict Cumberbatch plays the latest denizen of 221B Baker Street. He can reel off your entire biography and what you had for breakfast just by glancing at the egg-stain on your old Etonian tie. My own efforts at deduction have been […]

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Sep
06

Vanishing Scotland

Vanishing Scotland It’s a big question. Is Scotland becoming less Scottish? Answer, yes. Bigger question – does it matter? Nationalistically, no. Economically, yes. (I think.) The above illustration depicts the demise of (perhaps superficial) ‘Scottishness’ in Scotland’s culture: from the deep seriousness of Burns and the global caricature that Harry Lauder helped to coin… to […]

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Jan
21

Arrogance Gave Him Up

“Is it time for an outbreak of humility in Scotland?” asks Pete Martin.

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