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Wednesday 30th April 2008

R.I.P. Humph

Humphrey Littleton died last Saturday. I knew him best from his role as chair of improv comedy show _I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue_ on radio 4. On the BBC, I ran across this video of him talking about Samantha who was a scorer on the show (and off it, by all accounts !)

Our regular scorer, Samantha, can't be with us today as she's away helping an elderly neighbour clear out for a house move. This morning she sorted his box room and later she's going to join him in the attic to have a good rummage in his trunks.
More Samantha quotes

Sunday 27th April 2008

Things to do on the internet when you're bored.

I started a page on Things to do on the internet when you're bored - not because I'm bored, but because I found some interesting things! There's not much there yet, but hopefully I will add to it....

I for India

Seven Inch Cinema's theme tonight was the "home movie", and included the film I for India (which at 1hr 15min is more of a 12" than a 7", but I digress...). When a young Indian doctor moved to England in the 1960's, he decided to keep in touch with his family back home by film rather than letters. Accordingly, he bought two cine camera, two tape recorders and two film projectors, and sent one of each to India. What we see is a series of "letters" from one side to the other, documenting English and Indian life from then up to the present day.

Homesickness plays a large part, and many of his family are desperate for him to move back home. I won't spoil the plot, but will tell you that there are a lot of moves involved, and a very poignant ending.

Well worth seeing if you get the chance.

Saturday 26th April 2008

Birmingham Markets

I've been down to the fruit and veg market in Birmingham city centre on the last few Saturdays. It's amazing what bargains you can get. This week I didn't get too much - a carrier bag half full of sweet potatoes (£1), lots of pick-your-own cherry tomatoes (40p), a pound of mushrooms (60p) and best of the lot, nearly 30 small, sweet and tasty orange peppers for £1. A couple of weeks ago I got 7 avocados for £1.

Little Orange Peppers

Lots of Sweet Potatoes

Gail Troth - Epoch Makers

Gail Troth has an exhibition at the Three White Walls Gallery (downstairs at The Mailbox) for the next few weeks. I went along today to see Gail speak and demonstrate the way that she works.

Gail's paintings are made by very carefully dripping paint onto a horizontal canvas, where the individual "cells" of paint push against each other to form the final image. It's painstaking work, in unbroken sessions of up to 12 hours - you can't let it dry and start again tomorrow!

Here's some pictures:

Gail Troth working on a demo canvas
Gail Troth working on a demo canvas

Participant Lauren
Participant Lauren

Detail of Participant Lauren - note the
Detail of Participant Lauren - note the "cells"

More Pictures

Thursday 24th April 2008


I attended the launch of the Endurance festival at Vivid tonight - seeing artist William Hunt suspend himself from ropes and dunk himself upside down in a large bin of paint. He the re-emerged and looped a kind a sea-shanty whilst hanging upside down dripping. I think you had to be there to appreciate it fully!

Endurance Performance

Also on show was a film reel of early video/film endurance performances - Gilbert and George's Singing Statue was probably the most accessible of these, though I found the video of Geoffrey Hendricks shaving his whole body unintentionally humorous as his indistinct hippy drawl told us how the experience was similar to when he "took mescaline last summer".

On monitors we had other endurance works, one of the most striking being Tehching Hsien's One Year Performance in which he took a photo of himself every hour, on the hour for a year. That's dedication. He also shaved his head at the start of the year, so you could see the time progressing as his hair grew longer and longer like cress growing out of an egg-shell with a face painted on!

Hourly Picture

Hourly Picture

Wednesday 23rd April 2008


Fortuitous connections brought me free tickets for Persepolis through Love film . (Persepolis is a multi-award winning animated film about the life of a girl growing up in Iran, living through the revolution against the Shah and her in exile in Vienna. Humorous and frightening at the same time, it shows how people's everyday lives are affected by first the Shah, then the revolution, then Islamic fundamentalism. It certainly made me glad to live in a county where I'm not required to wear a headscarf (though of course quite free to wear one if I wish - Jack Straw not withstanding).

It is also timely to be reminded that real people do live in Iran, not just "Evil doers" and Hillary Clinton's comments yesterday that she would "totally obliterate" Iran serve only to make the US Presidential Democratic race even more important.

Verdict: See it.

Tuesday 22nd April 2008


Tom Stoppard's Hapgood is playing at the Rep, and having seen his Arcadia a couple of years back, I was keen to catch it. It's a spy story, which appeals to me, having been involved in KR-36 and it's also about quantum physics. One review I read said he'd re-written it several times to make it more intelligible, as people were confused by the latter. Infact, there's very little quantum physics in it, some analogies, and some short monologues by one of the characters, but a deeper and more explicit link between the two threads (an "entaglement" perhaps) could have been made.

It stars Josie Laurence, which I think initially made me skip over it in the programme - I remember her most clearly as "Florence from Cradley" on Friday Night Live when I was a kid, and hadn't realised she was now an actor! One of the perils of not having a TV I guess. However, once I got an email from the Rep saying there was a Tom Stoppard play on, I realised my mistake.

It's well paced, with about the right level of complexity (both spy plots and quantum physics can get slightly too complex), and well presented.

Verdict: Catch it if you can...

Monday 21st April 2008

One Third of Six Degrees

Mark Lynus , the author of the book "Six Degrees" gave a great talk in Birmingham last year . Now there's a film out expanding on his book and showing the impacts of how the climate might change with different amounts of global warming. I only had chance to watch the first two degrees, but I'll be back for more. A another must see....

Six Degrees Film
Six Degrees Film

Upcoming: Endurance at Vivid

Endurance is a three day festival of live and video art on the theme of Endurance, including work by Ron Athey (as seen at the Fierce Festival) and Joost Nieuwenburg doing an "intense, durational performance within an enclosed installation" - sounds fun! It's happening at Vivid on Heath Mill Lane (the road the Custard Factory and the Old Crown are on), and offsite at the Custard Factory and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Should be good!

Sunday 20th April 2008

Why People Believe Strange Things

Great funny video from Michael Shermer on Why People Believe Strange Things - I'm reading his book at the moment and just came across this video by accident. If you're daunted by the length (14 mins), fast forward to about 9:20 for an amazing auditory illusion. You will however miss the classic "nun-bun"!

How a Neuroscientist Handled Her Stroke

I read an interview with Jill Bolte Taylor in New Scientist (registration reg) this week, and was very impressed by the way she spoke about her recovery from a stroke. She now seems "perfectly normal" but after her stroke was "an infant in a woman's body". Her knowledge of neuroscience helped her re-train her brain, by controlling the way she thought.

You can see her talk about her stroke and recovery An amazing story, a great insight into what the mind is.

Thursday 17th April 2008

The Right to Photograph

This BBC News article discusses a worrying trend of photographers being illegally stopped by the police and told to delete photographs. I know of people who this has happened to, so I've signed this petition to prevent harassment of photographers . Why don't you too?

Wednesday 16th April 2008

Upcoming: Robot Vs Dinosaur - this Friday

The next Robot vs Dinosaur takes place this Friday April 18th at Island Bar, with live laptop performances from Domestication of the Dog and Ickis .

It's only £1 in if you're dressed as a robot or dinosaur - what better opportunity to dust off your old robot costume? smile

Tuesday 15th April 2008


I've just watched Pompeii: The Last Day on the BBC iPlayer (available for a few more days ). I don't have a TV (or a licence for that matter), so I don't get to see much television. It's kind of hard to work out where I would find the time for one thing! However, I had some spare time tonight and had a look and found this amazing programme. I've visited Pompeii (and Herculaneum) and it was great to see it brought to life. The program recreates some of the most well known buildings, and I recognised some of these from my visit. The (relatively light) dramatisation used to illustrate the lives of people in the city worked well, and it's fascinating to see the buildings as they (probably) were.

Given that I don't have a TV licence I'd be quite happy to pay to watch good quality stuff like this, but how much? Maybe 50p? Is that too cheapskate of me? I think a TV licence is around £140(?) so that would be the equivalent of 280 hours at my rate, or about 45 mins of TV a day.

Thursday 10th April 2008

Eating at Simpsons

Simpsons is one of only two Michelin starred restaurants in Birmingham, and is therefore a rather special (and pricey) eatery. You do get excellent food and service though. For reference, the other Michelin Star belongs to Jessica’s (there's also Pascal's which has a Michelin Bib Gourmand).

We declined a pre-dinner drink in the sitting room, we were led to our table, overlooking the pretty garden with fairy lights and a large, crystal ball-like fountain. In the summer, this could be a great place to dine outside.

After ordering, we received a number of amuse-bouche: two separate foams - one an artichoke, served in a small Chinese style soup spoon with a little truffle flavoured centre-piece; a square of salmon mouse sandwiched between two crisps of potato, and a little crispy potato Rösti. The Tuna Tatar starter (Tartare of sashimi tuna, avocado purée, soft boiled quail egg, aubergine, marinated mooli, caviar d’Aquitaine!) was formed into a round, topped with all sorts of goodies which made each bite different. For main course I went for the Turbot (Fillet of turbot, potato crust, creamed leeks, red wine fish sauce) and my companion for the Cod (Organic cod cooked in Indian spices, caramelised cauliflower purée, pea shoots & apple, coconut basmati rice, curry oil). The turbot was excellent, with the potato (and almond???) crust formed into fake scales was crispy and light.

After ordering a desert to share (a rhubarb crumble-like dish), we were treated to another surprise course, a heavenly light apple jelly, topped with a vanilla cream and a baked apple kebab. Wow! it was good smile

The wine waiter asked if we'd like desert wine, and picking something at random, she helpfully (and politely) asked me about my choice and suggested something which went much better. The staff were attentive throughout, without giving the impression of hovering. After the Rhubarb, 6 little chocolates/pastries appeared (again a "free" extra) which went very well with coffee.

Overall: Pricey, but well recommended for a special meal

See also: Another recent blog review of Simpsons (with pictures)

Campaign Against Cactus Cruelty

As a founder member of the Campaign Against Cactus Cruelty, I was pleased to see one of my Cacti come into flower today smile

Want to see yours flower too? Just put yours somewhere sunny and water it!
Cactus in Flower

Tuesday 8th April 2008


In the supermarket today I noticed this sign advertising £1 off if I bought two pots of Jam. One pot is £2.43. However, next to it you can see the original price, £2.05. Looks like they just added something to the original price, and then knocked it off again if you buy two! Is this legal - isn't there something about offering items in sales which prevents this?
 Supermarket Price Con

(By the way, BOGOF is short for Buy One Get One Free)

Sunday 6th April 2008


Being English, I think of the weather as news, as well as a fascinating topic of conversation.

Today it snowed.

Thursday 3rd APRIL

Kate Goes... to the Teenage

I arrived at the Hare and Hounds in time to catch the last few songs from one man looping band Voluntary Butler Scheme . Nice lyrics, fun loops and a good sound - worth seeing again I'd say.

Voluntary Butler Scheme

Kate Goes... always have a theme and this time it was Kate Goes... to the Teenage, with Bob-sox, punk and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle making an appearance:

Kate Goes... to the Teenage

Wednesday 2nd April 2008

Red Wine and Canvas

Over to the Greig Hall in Alcester to see a comic play by Mouth Piece Theatre ,whose If Only The Dead Could Listen I saw last month.

I live in a city, and not having a car, don't venture out into the countryside so often. Whizzing through the small towns and villages on the way made me wonder about what it is really like to live there. I mean, we all know the dangers, high murder rate being top amongst them (see: Agatha Christie, Midsummer Murders etc.), but what is it really like to live in such a small place?

The Grieg Hall is a nice 1930's (I think) building with a circular entrance hall, off which is a small bar. Being a little early, we ordered a couple of drinks (an orange juice and a half of stout) and I tendered a £20 note. Cue sucking of teeth and "ooooh. We can't change that. Not on a Wednesday. If you were a regular you'd know that." Slightly taken aback, I double checked - was it a £50 or maybe some Euro's I'd proffered? Nope, just a £20 note. If our bar-man's response is any guide, not a common thing in mid-week Alcester smile

The play was a two-hander set at an exhibition opening, with two large (and empty) picture frames forming the "back wall" behind which the actors changed in full view. Nothing scandalous I should add!

The "front wall" faced onto the audience and (apparently) featured a large, entirely red, canvas which our couples discussed. The eight scence provied a good mixture of humours pieces and relationship studies, though I think I'd have trimmed them to 6 or shortened the run-time of each. Looking forward to seeing what the company does next!

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