Best Of Blog 2007
Best Of Blog 2005
How to be Happy,
Misty's Big Adventure,
Street Furniture Stickers,
Weird Internet Animations
Other People's Blogs
Danger! High Postage,
Silent Words Speak Loudest
Please don't ask for a sidebar link as a refusal often offends.
Photo of the Year
Music of the Year
I saw Misty's Big Adventure live several times, and they keep on getting tighter and more fun! The space at the gigs is getting tighter too - they're getting well known and have done over 100 gigs this year!
Freezepop (Freezepop website) have a great poppy/electro sound with vocodered voices try "Here Comes a Special Boy" (mp3), and "Duct Tape my Heart" (mp3) for starters.
There's also a flash video to Stakeout. It's a really catch song, bouncy, happy and the video is fun and funny. Check it out and you'll find something which makes you happy
Event of the Year
... and the winners of this year's prestigious "Event of the Year" award are, in reverse order... [sound of envelope ripping open]...
The Courtesan Tales at Warwick Arts Centre. An assistant takes you into in a dimly lit Morrocan style space, with black canvas walls, candles, sweets and candied fruits on the table and offered tea, talking only in hushed voices. A menu shows a choice of 10 or so stories, "Gift", "Vision", "Dinner", "Forest", "Bath" etc. I chose to go for a random one, letting the Courtesan choose. The performance is for one person at a time. When my time came, I followed the trail of rose petals, to find a wooden chair, draped in black cloth, in the centre of the room. I sat, and put on the blindfold, as the assistant had told me. I could hear the Morrocan music as you sat there, now in darkness, the chair was comfortable, it was very relaxing, almost hypnotic. Suddenly, there was a breath in my ear, then in my other ear, then a voice. A hand gently lifted each of my arms onto the arms of the chair, and tied them there. The story began...
Somehow I felt was the right story due to it's early and repeated references to Shiitake Mushrooms, on which I am particularly keen. This made the Courtesan's choice seem somehow inspired. During the story, feathers brushed against my face, neck. Sometimes fingers ran through my hair. The voice moved all around me, sometimes very close, sometimes further. Sometimes I could feel sweet hot breath on my face. It was a completely engaging piece of performance, relying on your senses of hearing, touch, smell and taste. Requiring you to trust a stranger.
At the end, I was asked not to spoil the story for others by revealing it, my wrists were freed and the Courtesan left, silently. After a moment, I removed the blindfold and followed the trail of petals back to the waiting area.
In short: Bedtime stories for grown ups
Best Thing: The whole atmosphere of calm
I performed in the 1st Complaint Choir of Birmingham, the first time I've been on stage since I was in Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat as a kid! We actually performed twice, the first time in the SpringhillInstitute, then again in the Red Lion pub in Hockley. Both times it went well, though we had one slight glitch in the first performance. In the pub, our audience included regulars who just happened to be there, and they seemed to really enjoy it too. Afterwards, we just wanted to carry on to the next pub and perform there! There will be a DVD produced, not sure how watchable it will be - probably the take we did without the audience was best, but maybe we'll see it at Seven Inch Cinema...
Meal of the Year
No overall winner I'm afraid, but eating at Cafe Soya quite a few times was good. I also checked out Simpsons and Bank. Maybe the award should go to
The Warehouse Cafe for raising it's game significantly - I got side salads which even I found interesting, and I'm not big on salads
Best of the Blog
Took part in the annual Birmingham Santa Parade to celebrate Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day (BND) aims to counteract some of the billions of pounds spent each year on persuading us to buy more (~£500 per person per year in the UK). It encourages us to think: "Do I really need it?", "How was it made?", "Were the people who made it treated fairly?", "Can it be repaired or recycled, or will I just end up throwing it away?" etc...
As always we got a very good response on the day, with loads of people coming up to say "well done" or "I completely agree with you" etc...
I found out there were three seperate groups doing stuff for BND in Brum - a record I think!
The Rep was full for this fantastic and innovative play, blending myth and legend with circus and even pantomime! Tristan and Yseult is a rocky love story, played out with an audience of the unloved - (mostly) men in balaclavas watching through binoculars and reminiscent of the images in "Girl, Watching" which I saw at the Rep Door back in 2003 (but for some reason didn't write about...)
Great installation of pumpkins at the CustardFactory gallery. Last day today I'm afraid. http://www.pumpkins.ik.com
Posted on the move at 15:38:33
- Birmingham Buy Nothing Day Santa Parade:
An escaped Panda is on the loose near me. If you spot it you get free admission to the nature centre for life!
Posted on the move at 09:53:58
First the bad news:
Timothy West plays the lead in "The Life of Galileo" at The Rep, and unfortunately, seemed to have a lot of problems remembering his lines. Intially, I thought that the stumbling and the re-starting of sentances was part of the character, then, as the number of errors grew, I wondered if the actor had been drinking, or was ill. It's not like it was every line, or every speech, but my guess is that it occurred maybe 30 or 40 times during the performance. Now maybe I'm wrong, maybe it was intentional, but as a friend said to me: "If there's any doubt then there's a problem with the direction".
Now the good news:
West's occasional problems didn't detract from what is a fantastic play, highly relevent to many of the debates going on in science, academia and society in general. Galileo lived from 1564 to 1642 and finally had his "edict of inquisition" lifted by the Catholic church in 1992. His crime? Denying that the sun went round the earth. As portrayed in the play, Galileo lived a life similar to that of many modern academics: underpayed, lacking time to do research and required to produce inventions of direct commercial benefit ( ), and anyone working at a University should go and see it if only for the scenes in the first half where Galileo is trying to get a pay raise from his chancellor.
However, the main subject matter is Galileo's relationship with the Church. He has the evidence of his own eyes (though the telescope) that the traditional, Ptolemaic, view of the universe, with stars and planets sitting on crystal spheres around the earth, is untrue. Galileo champions the scientific view, that you start by doubting, you test hypothesis and from these tests, construct theories, and that, each of these theories should be testable and capable of falsification. Galileo believes that the world is on the threshold of a new era of rationality, where the scientific technique will lead to discoveries which improve the lives of the people. No longer will we continue to do things in the same way because "that's the way it's always been done".
The Church, however, has other views. (Again, as presented in the play) they argue that:
These same arguments are those which are, in varying levels of explicitness, expounded by those who currently believe in "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design" It's easy to see the play as a metaphor for these current issues.
Now we in Europe generally believe that rationality won. The vast majority believe that the Earth goes round the Sun, and that we share a common descent from apes. However, although I don't have figures to hand, we are often reminded that in the USA and many other parts of the world, many don't believe in evolution, though the figures for belief in the Ptolomaic system are harder to come by. Galileo's battles are still being fought today.
Wikipedia references: Galileo, Ptolomaic model.
Saw StuartLee, author of Jerry Springer the Musical and formally of Lee and Herring (free MP3 downloads), at the MAC. He did a very interesting, and funny set. I say interesting for two reasons: firstly, I seem to be getting into examining the technical side of comedy performance; secondly as he's a man full of ideas and comments about society and particularly about religious beliefs. I can't (and don't want to) run through his whole set here, but I'll make some observations.
It was very personal, with discussion of his recent illness, the hounding he had after it was announced that Jerry Springer was to be shown on TV, what sounded a bit like a drink problem (though was this just "sketch"?).... Hmmm, hard to tell really, as one of his key features is his dry presentation of slightly naive but patently untrue views or occurances.
He performed one of the most audaciously religiously offensive sketches I've heard. He mentioned that he'd had a few walk outs, but I was genuinely supprised that no-one left - the Mac gets quite a mixed audience, not always "hardened" to the ways of modern comedy.
The subjects, and particularly the approach and presentation was very diverse, with "Stu" at one point coming to sit in the audience.
Spoilers follow, so read at your own risk
At one point, in a section about terrorism, he attempted to get the (Birmingham) audience to give the IRA a round of applause, as they were "gentleman terrorists" always giving a warning, unlike the more modern approach. OK, now no-one would believe that this was his real view, or that any sane audience would do this. However, I wonder if this was a good approach in Birmingham, site of the Birmingham pub bombings which were, I believe, done without warning. Now, of course, the audience don't laugh. There's a silence. I'm waiting for someone to point out his faux-par, but no-one does. Stuart Lee is from Solihull near to Birmingham, very intelligent, and he's surely aware of all this, and now I'm expecting him to make a point, to break the tension, but no, he does what we all know no comedian should do... he blames the audience. Well, he doesn't blame the whole audience, he blames about a third of it, labelling it Group F, and the remainder Group A. So now I'm wondering if it's a setup, surely he's making a point about group dynamics, about how when you label people they behave like their stereotype. Phew! I don't know. I do know he's a highly talented and incisive comedian, as well as being technically skilled.
I think this performance has left me with more questions than anything else I've seen this year! Can comedy be art? Yes, I'd say so.
- Galileo's theories disagree with respected authorities (the Bible, Aristotle, Ptolemy etc) and are therefore false.
- The common people give meaning to their life through simple faith and that Galileo's theories (which can be interpreted as dis-proving parts of the bible) will destroy that.
- That the social order is a reflection of God's natural order, and that by removing the earth (and man) from the centre of the Universe, we risk removing popes and kings from their divinely granted thrones.
Performance Series at the Mac - Sept/Oct 2005
The thing I love about performances for small audiences is the uniqueness of the experience. Unlike a film or tv show, or even a traditional theatre play, in which you share your audience experience with many others. In the case of recorded entertainments, the experience becomes mass produced, something which can be called up at the flick of a switch, rather than a hand crafted one off.
More tales of Dr Ganesh, Timmy and his animal friends. Songs included "the cloak of national security" - which will probably be banned once the government's new "thought-crimes bill" is passed.
The initial audience was bit on the small side, but our story continued once it had built up against. Apparently we're on episode 15 of the adventures, as the fish (from episode 14, yesterday) reappeared for a guest spot, followed by a bastardised cover of "floating in the air" (only 30 seconds or so). Great fun, and one of the strangest acts you'll see giging in Brum. Not to be missed!
- Homing Instinct - a performance piece for an audience of 1. We were sent into the space, or rather, up the stairs of the Foyle Gallery, at 6 minute intervals and told to "follow the trail of breadcrumbs, and the instructions on the post-it notes"
- Walk with Me - Like stepping into a film of someoneelse's life. This guided walk through CannonHillPark with music and voices took me through areas I'd never visited before, whilest listening to memories of happiness, loss and longing expectation which gave a new context to the trees, birds and bridges on our route.
- Bookshed and Pride and Prejudice - It's a shed with books in... but the books are strange. Mine was a modified version of Winnie the Pooh, with pictures and text overlayed with semi transparent paper, the pictures being partially re-used.
Nice pictures of a Birmingham street from Birmingham Friends of the Earth (see also Indymedia site)
- Bom and his Magic Drumstick:
- Roadspace hogs...:
Ikon hit the spot again with another great off-site event. This time, we where invited to turn the world upside down by flying kites in the shapes of fish and octopi in the skies of Digbeth. Beautifully sunny day, with just enough wind, it worked perfectly. So well in fact that the gave out all 200 of the handmade kites within the 1st half an hour or so!
Posted on the move at 16:27:00
- Roadspace heros...:
Never seen this before, but I remember being fascinated by it as a kid. It really did seen like a magical place, and a great example of where a natural phenomen generates a supernatural explanation.
Posted on the move at 18:06:31
I took lots of pics of post-festival Edinburgh, including a couple of "blogging my lunch" shots ( 1, 2)
Saw loads of good comedy at Edinburgh, though didn't seem much theatre, performance or dance.
I was lucky enough tonight to see the final dress reheral / open studio of Rosie Kay's dance piece Asylum before it set off for the EdinburghFestival. I'd read the "don't miss" reviews in the national papers, but wasn't expecting such an incredibly visceral performance. It ran through the whole gamut of emotions in relationships, and by turn had my heart beating fast with excitement, me sitting on the edge of my seat, and the hairs on my arms standing on end! An extremely physical piece which left the dancers literally bruised - I imagine they'll be black and blue by the time their run at Edinburgh finishes! Fantastically evocative
Rosie also has a blog at www.RosieKay.co.uk which I've added to my list of Birmingham Bloggers.
I was lucky enough to visit Munich at the same time as the Am Wasser contemporary art exhibition was on, here's a few pictures (more photos and write-up here).
- Water drop containers:
2005 is also the year that the city hosted the national garden festival. You can see more of my pictures of Buga 2005.
- Naive Water:
- Nils-Udo egg:
- A perfect rose:
Exceptional sets from Barbara Morgenstern and Robert Lippok and Modified Toy Orchestra amongst others. MTO's set was unfortunately cut short by a bomb scare, which evacuated the whole of Birmingham city centre. More pictures and reviews here...
- Wind energy vision:
There was just so much happening at Glastonbury, and with my "mobile blogging" from my phone I managed to get some great pictures! (I'm so modest )
- Modified Toy Orchestra:
- Barbara Morgenstern + Robert Lippok:
The University of Birmingham's botanical gardens at Winterbourne were the site of a number of explosions yesterday, but don't worry, the were all in the cause of art. Coloured smoke grenades were set off in the trees and bushes, glades and ponds of one of Birmingham's best kept secrets. The university botanical gardens are a hidden oasis of calm and beauty, not too far from the city centre, and well worth a visit, particularly on such a wonderful sunny day. What you won't see on a normal visit is the crowd of 40 or so people staring upward as green, red, purple and yellow smoke transforms the backdrop of natural greens and browns, bringing a wonderful contrast and vividness. Well done Ikon and Winterbourne for making this happen!
- Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain
- The floods!
- Falling flat on my face in the mud, having to wash it off under a freezing tap, having my bag and glasses knocked off the tap-stand into a patch of nettles behind barbed wire and having to climb over, in the dark, to try and retrieve them, getting stung in the process and eventually finding the glasses were broken
- Getting struck by lightning. Unfortunately, this didn't give me super-powers.
The Fierce Festival - May / June 2005
Fierce always shines, and this year was no exception with:
- Avid Bed Projection:
- Avit Self Projection:
Seven Inch Cinema at the Custard Factory as part of the Avit festival ( http://www.avit.org.uk ). Modulate ( http://www.a-v-a.co.uk ) did a two part live laptop spot - the second part with very closely synched visuals, flashes of blue light bursting across the screen. I wasn't sure if the sound was generating the video or vice-versa or what.
- Avit live laptop set:
Flat-E's work ( http://www.flat-e.com ) was sinister, with semi-silhouttes of insect-like mechanism clacking away to the beats. Next we had "Equation: X+X = 0" (1936) with a score by the ZX-Spectrum Orchestra, a fascinating piece I'd seen before, with a rhythmical, mathematical edge.
"I Woz Ere" by Richard Coldicott was sticker and grafitti influenced, with a pair of stickers attempting to escape from a smoothly stop-frame animated graffiti explosion. (Trying to find a copy online, I ran across http://www.ektopia.co.uk/ektopia/archives/category/animation/ which has links to lots of animations.)
PirareHairWaves' two films remixed Sammy Davis Junior and various Jazz clips, making me want to see more of both.
An outstanding film for Turn Off TV week ( http://www.adbusters.org/metas/psycho/tvturnoff/ ) was Electronic Behaviour Control System by Emergency Broadcast Network, cutting up TV presenters and politicians on the theme of lies, manipulation and the new opium of the masses.
Filmficciones presented his own mix of videos and wierdness, including the Plone remix of Pram's Bewitched, a song I've been playing a lot recently. You can hear a sample here - http://www.karmadownload.com/album/?Somniloquy - to be honest, I did rig it up as my mobile phone ringtone for a bit! But currently I've got Plone's "Be Rude To Your School".
- Modulate :
Looks like Avit is going to be great, and of course Seven Inch Cinema retains it's title as one of the best events in Brum!
- GPO Film:
Got lots of hits for my collection of modified Tory "Are you thinking what we're thinking?" pictures. My fave's were
- Beat13 Video Installation at Avid(detail):
( http://www.flickr.com/photos/billyniblick/6654694/in/photostream/ )
Sensational Cinemaphonic at the MAC, the 1926 silent version of Faust ( or "forced" as the PA announcer called it) with live music on Dulcimers and flute from Geoff Smith (and some else whose name I didn't get). The music was great, with a number of catchy recurring themes. The film itself was engaging, occasionally funny and quite dark. Mephisto provided some comic relief, but the action centers on Faust himself (aged scholar granted youth and power through a deal with the devil) and Grechen (virginal, church going innocent, likes flowers, bit wary of charming young men accompanied by the devil).
The first musical bits which stuck out to me was when Faust summons Mephisto (who, for some reason, reminded me of Terry from Terry and June), where the dulcimer really reflected the tensions, and the sudden realisation of evil.
The special effects were wonderful (did something bad happen to SE's between about 1939 and 2000?) with "our hero" flying though the sky, views of villages from the air, and the appearance of the giant devil indicating the comming of plague. One scene depicted the wedding of a rich and beautiful wedding and featured quite realistic faux-elephants . I've no idea if these were something deployed for celebrations, but it's a great idea.
In summary, Cinemaphonic: you can't miss it!
More on Faust Legends at: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/faust.html
- The Plague comes...:
- Faust and Mephisto:
- Mephisto (Terry Scott):
"About Space" at the MAC, a collaboration between MAC and Vivid, showing 15 short films and one feature on the theme of "Space". I was inspired to go by the chance to see "Powers of Ten", which starts with a view of a picnicer asleep in a park, filmed from a distance of one meter, with one meter of scene visible. In the next 10 seconds, the film zooms out to 10 meters, in the next to 100, until after 230 seconds (I looked it up - http://powersof10.com/images/vce3.jpg ), our galaxy has disappeared into a speck. We then zoom back in, all the way to our friend on the picnic blanket, and then further in, to the skin, to a cell, to the chromosome, to the DNA, and finally to the centre of an atom. All this is accompanied by a fantastically deadpan narration of the sort made famous by school science films. You can see some of the images, and re-create the journey at http://powersof10.com/powers/power_detail.php?id_power=0
Saw "An Inspector Calls" at the rep. Fantastic production, the set has a house/dining room raised above the stage where our almost Victorian mill-owning protagonists are safe, secure and happy, isolated from the dirt and pain of the wider world below. But, an inspector calls, and they are forced to engage, literally muddying themselves, and figuratively washing their dirty laundry in public.
Very enjoyable performance, even though it has a bit of a heavy moral.
- Terry Scott (or is it Mephisto):
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