Best Of Blog 2007
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Tuesday 31st January 2007
Nice work above a cash point in Moseley recently:
It reminded me of the great track Lost Souls in the Supermarket by McSleazy - unfortunately, I can't find it online at the moment.
Thursday 25th January 2007
After my talk at the Natural Computation Applications Forum , I wandered round the British Museum for an hour or so, before they closed. I concentrated particularly on the ancient Mesopotamian artefacts and cuneiform tablets.
Here's some pics:
- Door Guardian:
- Chariot Plaque:
- Cuneiform Sales Tablet:
- Eagle Headed Guardian:
- Ishtar, Queen of the Night, Godess of Love:
- Land Purchase Tablet:
- Land Purchase Tablet Caption:
From my limited knowledge of Cuneiform I can tell you that the additional payments start in the 2nd row of the right hand side column (read downwards)
Give Me Back My Hat
No explanation needed...
Friday 19th January 2007
Derek Acorah is a self proclaimed "Clairvoyant Psychic" famed for channeling the spirits of "Kreed Kafer" and "Rik Eedles", anagrams of "Derek Faker" and "Derek Lies" respectively, on the TV program Most Haunted. I decided to go see him at The Alexander Theatre in Birmingham.
He's very popular, I only just managed to get tickets and I booked three weeks in advance. First, a brief comment on the audience - they were overwhelmingly women, and (though I'm not trying to be offensive here...) there was an amazing proportion of overweight and frankly obese people. Strange. I'm not sure why that was.
He started with a ten minute intro with a few jokes and in which he told us we were "children of the infinite", and that the people of Birmingham were famed for their "pizazz and bottle", plus a little bit about his TV programs. Next, an audience member, "Rebecca", presented him with a bunch of yellow flowers. Then he started the main show. He has a spirit guide, Sam, who is a kind of broker for the spirits which appear. "Sam" get the spirits to line up on stage (really!), although we can't see them, and Derek gets the odd word or gesture from them. Often the spirits come up with a name. It could be their name, or the name of somebody in the audience, or of someone that someone in the audience knows, or someone that the "spirit" knew, or even the name of someone who will come into the life of someone that someone in the audience knows. The spirits are often a little unclear on this point to start with, but with help from the audience Derek's "voyance" becomes clearer.
His first one went like this:"A lovely spirit lady... got to about 72, 73,74,75... not of big build...This lovely spirit lady has mentally showed me something. It's like she was whisked away... at speed. Oxygen. Something was placed on her mouth here, and next minute she's...medical people.... she's given her name as Margaret. Who's lost a Margaret here? A grandmother Margaret (pause) or a motherly love.OK a bit further back (something to Sam). There's a spirit man coming after her. Talk to him Sam." An audience member at the back responds, and a microphone is passed back. A camera on stage focuses on her and she's projected on the big screen at the back. "I need your voice vibrations. This lovely spirit lady, she's given her name Margaret. A family member connected to you please.(short pause) You'll know whether she's yours or not. Was a family member whisked away to hopsital conditions when the family were not aware of it. In other words, they weren't around... There were certainly breathing problems with this lady, and I feel something of a seizure, she went into a coma, like a sleep state and blood pressure is very low (erm) and the age is important because she showed herself... she wouldn't be afraid to pull your leg. She had a bit of personality about her. She wasn't like a little quiet shrew."
Audience member: "Definitely not. No".
Derek: "So it's not you then... can we.. yes.. go find the person... because the lovely spirit lady is looking in this direction." (towards 2nd audience member who's been given a mike). "Hello love. Can I take it please then that you would understand Margaret who is in the world of spirit?"
Audience member: "Yes"
DA: "and also the description of the lovely lady that's come into this atmosphere."
"Yes. She was my Grandma and her middle name was Margaret and she died of an asthma attack at home. (erm) and she didn't die"
DA: "She was rushed away?"
AM: "Rushed away, yes"
Derek goes on to talk about a battle with solicitors, her daughter's back problems, identify her husbands brother Paul, and predict that her fridge will go wonky tonight. Or so it seems. The more detailed transcript shows that it's not quite so straight forward. There's a lot of visual feedback from the audience member. Coming out from the show, I wondered if this was maybe this was "hot reading", gained from eavesdropping on pre-show chat, rather than Cold Reading. Having reviewed the conversation, it doesn't seem as miraculous as I remembered.
After starting with grandmothers, Derek went on to give some less convincing messages from other, younger "spirits", which somehow seemed much more exploitative. I guess it's that you expect old people to die, it's not such a shock, or such a "life wasted", but when he went on to relay messages from recently dead husbands and dead children, it really did seem he was overstepping the mark.
The spirits often weren't very helpful, looking at the wrong section of the audience, causing Derek to try find their relative in the right hand side of the stalls, but eventually turning them up in the left hand side of the grand circle. They were also generally imprecise and slightly repetitious (predicting a lot of back problems). They did make predictions though, for example that an obese woman might have had problems walking (correct). Derek's or that the mother of a 5 3/4 foot rather stout man was about 5"6 with "some meat on her bones" (incorrect - the spirit wasn't looking at the right part of the audience. ).
Bob was a spirit who's had a history of heart problems (no audience response), then blood problems(no audience response), then a seizure (still no response). Derek persevered with him and found out his surname was Williams, "Bob Williams". Derek repeated his name several time (no response) and he had a link with a Tricia or Patricia (no response). After quite a while, we did get an audience member who "connected very strongly with them", the woman who had brought the flowers. Apparently it was her brother. Except his surname wasn't Williams, but she did have a dead uncle called "Pat". Derek asked if there was a lot of disappointment connected with his death! Later Derek saw the spirit make the letter "S" appear in front of the woman's face. She said this would indicate the first letter of her surname. Derek also stated that the woman was the "visionary in her family", which she confirmed. Next Derek asked "did you had a dog like a bulldog, no, not a bulldog but a bulldog face". She stated "erm my husband had had a boxer dog", Derek checked that the dog was "now passed", and then informed us that Bob (who's surname isn't Williams) had brought the dog along from the "animal kingdom". Derek next fished for something connected with "Nursing", or "nursery nursing" or "state registered" or "any kind of nursing". Definate "no" from Rebecca. Derek then said that she would hear about something in the family to do with "caring for children or pre-school, that sort of thing" and to look out for it.
He's a brave performer, prepared to take the risks, accept failure (or pretend that failures to divine something from the past is now a prediction of the future) and move on. When you see him do it, with the very vague signs he gets from the spirits (they don't even know their own surnames), the way he uses common ailments as predictions or causes of death, and his high failure rate, then if you know about Cold Reading then you'll see right through him. If you don't, then I guess you'd be taken in.
Overall, he's raking it in, exploiting gullible people. People whose friends and relatives have died. Should I really have handed over my money to him to see the show??
(You can read a review of the Saturday Show at badpsychics.com . )
Thursday 11th January 2007
I haven't been to see a panto for years, and the Hippodrome always have the biggest in Brum. This year, it starred Brian Conley, who, a friend informed me in the interval, "used to be a comedian". Overall, it was a very enjoyable performance, but it seemed to me that both the script and the direction could have been tighter. For instance, we were never told to boo the ugly sisters, so their reception on stage was always very flat. They had amazing costumes, but seemed to appear, parade dressed as an ice-cream or whatever(!) and then disappear. There was also no "Oh no he didn't"/ "Oh yes he did" banter. Maybe there's some unwritten theatrical diktat that Cinderella never features those lines, but for my money I'd have preferred more call and response. We did get "Wake up Willy!" (directed at the Ventriloquist's sleepy turtle), and "Hello Buttons" each time he came on stage, but the audience needed more leading as to where and when to shout.
Some of the best moments were provided by an audience member who seemed to have a kind of "pantomime tourette's" shouting out at some of the quietest moments, and causing a lot of corpsing on stage. One of the songs had to be (half) cut because, despite a re-start of the music, Buttons was unable to start without laughing. This was quite a relief, as Buttons had a tendency to break into song at any opportunity!
Shobna Gulati (apparently from Coronation St) played the fairy godmother, which was quite a weak role. Mostly it consisted of being flown in across the front of the stage, sitting on a glittering moon or star or something, reciting a little rhyme as narrator and being flown off again.
Like I said, overall very enjoyable, but I was left feeling that it could have been done better.
Tuesday 9th January 2007
Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3
Doors open 7pm. Hmmm. I didn't really think there'd be anything happening that early, but The Academy does sometimes time gigs early so that they can put on club nights afterwards, so I turned up at 7.30 to grab a ticket. The helpful doorstaff told me that the support would be on at 8.15, and the main act around 9.30. Worth remembering for next time I guess. So I opted for a swift drink in Scruffy Murphy's at the end of the road, whose patrons were looking a lot less gothy/rocky than normal.
When we arrived, a surprisingly small crowd, maybe 50 people, lined the stage front in the small room at the Academy. I was slightly shocked, this is Robyn Hitchcock after all! But the numbers rapidly swelled until the room was full.
Viarosa were on first, and reminded me quite a lot of Mr Hitchcock's earlier work, with between song banter, humour and great musicianship. The lead singers voice was quite like Julian Cope's on a few tracks, a fact which a review quoted on their flyer also mentioned. Their MySpace features a female vocalist too, but she wasn't present for this gig.
Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 did a good long set, with a mixture of older (Softboys / Egyptians) stuff and newer work. My favourite was Television which Robyn introduced by telling us how he was flow in (in an ice bucket!) to a beach in California to play a gig for some extremely rich people. He said "This is about the most powerful drug known to man, and an eight year old girl stood up and said 'Love'... wish it was". You can see the lyrics here.
Sunday 7th January 2007
Moseley Tagging on YouTube
Local Councillor Martin Mullaney has produced this video on tagging in Moseley . Have a look yourself. What I find interesting is his commentary on the kids doing the tagging.
I'm not keen on tagging myself, it's pretty much lacking in artistry. I am a big fan of Street Furniture Stickers though, and I do think there is an argument that the privatisation of public space allows companies to put up ugly grey boxes everywhere, but stops the public from "decorating" them. There's few bits of street furniture which can't be improved with a well placed sticker!
My Legendary Girlfriend
Well, not mine exactly, but that's the title of this short film / music video set in Birmingham . Strange what random things you can run across on there!
In My Space...
Again, not "My" space, but MySpace. Nice, funny, music vid about MySpace . Kee1000 has also done another video with plenty of Bullring Footage, from Christmas 2006 - "her". His voice reminds me of Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys!
Thursday 4th January 2007
Episode 2 of The Danger Signs is out! Brum's own wry comedy sketch show, that of the groovy title music, is back - well worth 13 minutes 57 seconds of anybody's time. And on a technical note, it seems to be the best quality video I've seen on YouTube...just how do that???
Wednesday 3rd January 2007
Upcoming: Fionn Regan
Ran across Fionn Regan today on MySpace and he sounds good. He's playing the GleeClub here in Birmingham on Feb the 7th.
I've seen posters for this, and she doesn't look that ugly to me. How could they put an ugly person on TV? I had a look on the net, and the actress isn't ugly, she's Honduran. This explains why she doesn't look like Ally McBeal. Insert your own deconstruction of American TV here.
On a tangent, have you noticed how wide screen TV makes everyone look, well, wide? It's a little know fact that Calista Flockhart, who plays Ally McBeal, is one of the first actors genetically engineered to look normal on these screens.
I love the video to Cloudbusting by Kate Bush (You Tube, low quality version here - use P2P for high quality). It's the sense of mystery, the story, blending sci-fi and McCarthy-esque figures, but with no words to explain. You can read everything you ever wanted to know about Cloudbusting . It's inspired by The Book of Dreams by Peter Reich, son of Wilhelm Reich of "Orgone Energy" fame. In one of the interviews about the video, Kate enthusiastically endorses the film Don't Look Now which starred Donald Sutherland (also in the Vid). That's another one to add to my "films to watch" list.
Monday 1st January 2007
It's a Wonderful Life
I watched Franz Capra's It's a Wonderful Life today, great (Christmas) film that it is. I also ran across The Greatest Gift , the original short story on which it is based.
A walk on New Year's Day is traditional, but the weather today wasn't really that conducive. Still, I ventured down to Edgbaston Reservoir with some friends for a quick stroll in the rain!
Here's some pictures:
We encountered this rather out of place looking "Golden Temple" just outside the reservoir fence
These gates were erected in memory of the battle of Trafalgar!
I know there's various plaques for A Place for an End by AdamChodzko dotted around Brum but the only one which I've actually seen before is near the Old Moseley Arms pub in Balsall Heath
The (ex) Palace Ballroom:
I also added a lot of new stuff to my December Blog today.
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