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Friday 28th December 2007

Best of Blog 2007

It's that time of year again, and I've looked back over all my blog entries for 2007 to pick out some of my favourite things. You can find them in my Best of Blog 2007 smile

Friday 21st December 2007

Birmingham's Water Supply - Elan Valley Dams and Aqueduct

I ran across this interesting site on the Elan Valley Dams and Aqueduct which supply my drinking water (and very fine water it is too).

The water travels all the way from Wales (73 miles) under gravity, without any pumping and takes a day and a half to get here.

You can see a scale model of the Elan Valley in Cannon Hill Park - I always thought they should construct a scale model of Brum at the other end to give an idea of the distance.

Thurs 20th December 2007

Kate Goes... and Betty and the ID

I came in half way through the first support they sounded good but I didn't catch their name. They were considerably younger than the members of Betty and the ID (MySpace ) though - who have many years of playing and performance behind their multi-guitar based sound.

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Betty and the ID

Where did Kate go? This time it was Kate Goes... to a family function with Joe and Beth as grandparents, Bird as dad, and Suzzie as little sister aged 4. Kate herself was nine. The gig was accompanied by a intriguing slide show of family photos. One of the things I like about Kate Goes... is that they seem to have lots of fun on stage, and that was certainly true at this gig. You can check them out on MySpace -my favourite song is Heartbeat.

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Kate Goes... to a Family Function

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Kate Goes... and Opens Some Bucks-Fizz

Art Stalking Ana has also written about this gig

Weds 19th December 2007

Bleach & Orange Range

I recently watched the first two episodes of the anime Bleach, on YouTube. A friend told me you can see the whole 150+ episodes on there (in 7 minute segments). It's got quite a cool theme tune by Orange Range which seems somehow familiar. You can get the episodes with English subtitles (preferred) or dubbed (pretty good voices).

I'm currently half way through watching Witch Hunter Robin which I'm really enjoying - it also has an excellent theme tune, which you'll find about 1/3rd of the way through the link above.

Saturday 15th December 2007

Mingling and Mistletoe

Plenty of mingling here, but I didn't spot the Mistletoe, this was Crowd 6 Gallery's seasonal gathering bringing together artists (and hangers on like myself) for an exhibition of Christmas cards (or other work of small dimension) and performance.

AAS Presented what I will call "Christmas is Humming..." a neo-pagan performance in which four strangely dressed figures circle a fir tree whilst chanting, and begin decorating it with tinsel which emerged from their robes. As they pulled out more and more, it began to drip with sickly sweet scented blood, oozing off the tree and onto the ground and filling the space with its smell. Art Stalking Ana, who is part of AAS also wrote about this . You can also see video on YouTube.


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Christmas is humming...

We also had a communication from time traveller Philip (forgot his surname) who could not be "with us in place" as his is still perfecting his "fleshy time machine". Next some Christmas story telling from a pirate and a mermaid, juxtaposing their strange stories:


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Pirate and Mermaid

Wednesday 12th December

M.R. James and The Divine Edgar

This was my first visit to Highbury Hall, I'd seen it from inside Highbury Park, but never quite worked out where the entrance was. It's not a particularly imposing building from the outside, but inside it rocks! (note: I don't usually use the phrase "it rocks" but what the hell). Tonight I made sure I found the entrance, so I could go see a 7 Inch Cinema special featuring Christmas Ghost Stories.

The two main films (and I think the two audio stories I heard) were by M.R.James - an author whose name rings a bell but I couldn't really tell you anything about (except I've just read his Wikipedia Entry and am now what the modern world refers to as an "expert"). Whistle and I'll Come to You featured Michael Hordern as an absent minded professor was genius! He really portrayed the character well, and it strongly reminded me of people I've met smile

The Divide Edgar made a welcome re-appearance. I'd tried to see it at the Ikon's Halloween Party but unfortunately a police raid put paid to it! Now it was back, with the offending wet leaves removed (apparently they were a safety risk!) As well as writing some quite scary stories, Edgar Allan Poe had a fear of being buried alive, and this performance/installation allowed a single audience member to spend 5 minutes in his world, confronting his terrors. This time there was a signing in book which eliminated the need to queue, and seemed to work well. I enjoyed it and I hope it will re-emerge at other times and places - perhaps a goth night? smile


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Highbury Hall's Ceiling!


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The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Room


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Divine Edgar (with ghosts visible at the edge)

Thursday 6th December 2007

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

I saw these guys back at the Big Chill in August 2006

Tonight, they're at the Town Hall in Birmingham, or Frankfurt as they initially mistake it for (due to the adjacent German market). When I heard they were playing here, I was so please I booked tickets for 15 other people to come too!

A stunning show, and even my friend's who'd never heard them before loved it. The music is good, and the humour fantastic! Highlights for me were a great version of Shaft, with some lovely word play; Wuthering Heights ; Teenage Dirtbag (A Christmas themed song we were reminded, just before the first line... "Her name is Noel" smile groan!); and of course their world famous Smells Like Teen Spirit , a song also covered by popular beat combo Nirvana. So much good stuff!

Verdict: If you get the chance, go see them, otherwise have a gander on YouTube then buy MP3s and DVDs on their website.

Happy Feet, The Video

Happy Feet by Kermit the Frog - probably one of the most talented frogs of our generation.

Makes me happy anyway!

Yet more Incredible Music...

I ran across this MP3 blog with lots of old and unusual recordings . You'll find something worth a listen for sure!

Tuesday 4th December 2007

A Trip I'd Like to Make

Paul Willis writes about his trip to Japan by train. It's a 13 day journey, but I'd be tempted to stop off on the way a little more than he did. Another one for my list of things I'd like to do. The question is: what is the CO2 output compared to flying? It's got to be less surely.

Last December I did the journeys from Birmingham to Munich to Berlin and back by train - shorter but still fun. The food on the train from Munchen to Berlin was fantastic!

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Contact me: Website (at) AndyPryke.com, try use a subject which will get through my Spam Filter! I've been having spam filter problems, so if you haven't had a response, I'm really sorry, please try again!

See Also: WebChanges for other recent updates, AllBlogPages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other BirminghamBloggers

This is my blogchalk: United Kingdom, West Midlands, Birmingham, Moseley

Prev: BlogOctober2007 1 Year Ago: BlogNovember2006 Next: BlogDecember2007

Tuesday 27th November 2007

Ikon Opening

Visited the Ikon Gallery for the opening of their latest exhibition. Julian Opie has curated woodcut pictures by 19th Century Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige. They're in that classic Japanese style, lots of beautiful landscapes, rocks and sea but incredibly diverse. I found some of the city scenes fascinating.

Alice Cattaneo is an Italian artist based in Milano, her "stabiles" (think "mobiles" that don't move) seem simple but tense, and she's also got some interesting and amusing video work.

Saturday 24th November 2007

Buy Nothing Day

Santas gathered for the 6th Annual Birmingham Buy Nothing Day Santa Parade. Great fun!

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Four Santas

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Santas at Selfridges

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Happy Christmas Birmingham!

Friday 23rd November 2007

Asobi Seksu and Scanners

Popped into the BarFly to see Asobi Seksu a New York band with a Japanese name, and discovered Scanners who were supporting. Scanners have got a great stage presence, dominated by their female lead singers/guitarist and were to my mind the better of the two bands.

Asobi Seksu seemed a little tired, as if they'd been touring too long and this was just another gig for them. Maybe that's a little unfair, but the spark did seem to be lacking for most of the set, and I had the impression that this wasn't their best gig. Having said that, the vocals were great (there's something about singing in Japanese) and the finale where they swapped instruments and the drummer roamed the stage carrying part of the drum kit was great.

Anyway, check both bands out in recorded form, they sound great!

Wednesday 21st November 2007

Mount Fuji Bento

There's a new Japanese cafe opened in the Bull Ring, just up from the Costa(or is it Starbucks) "seashell" near St Martin's church. It appears to be an offshoot from the Mount Fuji mailorder food company who I've bought pickles, odd snacks and sencha tea from in the past and highly recommend.

The food wasn't quite as interesting as I'd hoped, my Agedashi Tofu bento was quite good, but lacked a little sparkle. One of the dishes contained lotus root, and various other things in a light brown sauce but I had the impression that it was pre-prepared, or at least that they had been sitting together there for long enough to lose their individuality. However, I'm certainly going back, and had to restrain myself from popping back the very next day! The plan is for the menu to expand, to include noodles and sushi and it's great to see more Japanese food in Brum. Let's just hope it doesn't get too busy for me to pop in regularly. smile

Oh! Almost forgot - they also have some take away Japanese snacks, sweets and soft drinks (including Pocari Sweat) and they sell very good Sencha tea.

Friday 9th November 2007

Fiery Furnaces

Headed down to Barfly to see the Fiery Furnaces with Ben and Kenny , who can doubtless fill you in on the musical complexities, though I have to correct Kenny's reporting of my conversation with Eleanor - I recall telling her she could have a copy of the photo if she'd like - it's obviously me who's famous smile My verdict: "jolly good" - strong, musical and exciting.

Browsing for FF videos, I ran across this great fan video for My Dog Was Lost but Now He's Found , which made me smile smile

The Furnaces are from New York, and this set me thinking: Why is it that so many New York bands choose to visit Brum? Is it just that there's a lot of bands in New York? But surely the rest of the world has bands too. We get the odd Icelandic or Japanese band but where are the French or the Germans? What about the Polish? When do we get to hear their impact on the local music scene? Hmmm...

Thursday 8th November 2007

Photos of Birmingham Old and New

Ran across these photos of Birmingham then and now by Leonard Stace. Interesting to see how the city has changed. There's a whole load more by D J Norton too.

Saturday 3rd November 2007

Misty's Big Adventure and Shady Bard

Nice to see Misty's and Shady Bard at the Sanctuary as part of Gigbeth. They seemed to be running a little early, so I missed the very beginning of Shady Bard's set. They were excellent - they've got a great dynamic range, going from very quiet, soft guitar to wild, loud and crazy (but still tuneful) exuberance. One to watch for definite!

Misty's started off with a very nice instrumental track, then launched into a set including: Serious Thing, She Fills the Spaces and Fashion Parade. Gareth (lead singer / "band leader") seemed not to like the acoustic in the room but it sounded fine from out in the audience. Erotic Volvo did his crazy dancing on stage, and launched off into the audience, going round and dancing right in front of some people and then crawling through the audience like a blue-glove covered dog! It was great to see the audience reaction from our vantage point up in the circle, though I couldn't resist going down to dance myself for the last few songs. Go Misty's!

Project X

The culmination of about a year's worth of planning, Project X presented their multi-faceted box of delights tonight. I caught some of the dress rehearsal yesterday, so some of the photos are from then.

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Chillout Zone

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Performance and Dance

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Brazilian Dance

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Richard Batsford

Other artist and performers included: Kindle Theatre , meeting, greeting and performing in the crowd; Top stand-up comedian and lovely man Reginald D Hunter ; a great qawwali group, Aashiq al-Rasul (soon to be seen at the Town Hall ); Einstellung doing both an acoustic and electric set; and Marc Reck DJing.

Prev: BlogOctober2007 1 Year Ago: BlogNovember2006 Next: BlogDecember2007


Contact me: Website (at) AndyPryke.com, try use a subject which will get through my Spam Filter! I've been having spam filter problems, so if you haven't had a response, I'm really sorry, please try again!

See Also: WebChanges for other recent updates, AllBlogPages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other BirminghamBloggers

This is my blogchalk: United Kingdom, West Midlands, Birmingham, Moseley

Prev: BlogSeptember2007 1 Year Ago: BlogOctober2006 Next: BlogNovember2007

Wednesday 31st October 2007

Ikon Eastide Halloween Party

After um-ing and err-ing about what I could wear as a costume, I finally grabbed something and headed down to Ikon Eastside. The venue is closing for the winter, being a big cold I guess seeing as it's basically a big empty warehouse. However, tonight was a halloween themed party, with 7" cinema, a ghastly Edgar Allan Poe themed performance and of course, apple bobbing!

The performance was for a single person at a time, and took around 5 minutes. I spent a long time queueing, but very pleasantly as there were lots of lovely people around to chat to. Normally I play the butterfly, but it was nice to be a flower for once (if I'm not stretching that metaphor too far!) Unfortunately, as I'd got to about 8th from the front (it was a very long queue), the licensing people turned up and decided that it couldn't go on. Scott Johnston who'd derived the installation did give me a sneaky look at what could have been, and it looked excellent. I won't say too much as they are planning to repeat it, but suffice to say that Mr Poe had a longstanding horror of being buried alive....

Overall an excellent night, though I never did get round to bobbing for apples.

Pete Ashton and Joanna Geary were also about so look out for reports from them.

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Apple Bobbing

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Divine Edgar

Tuesday 30th October 2007

Better Browsing with Firefox

The LifeHacker website threw up an article on getting more screenspace in Firefox. I like to see the webpage taking up most of the screen when browsing, and although fullscreen mode (try function key F11 to toggle) is good, I want to be able to see some menus too.

  1. I followed a few of the tips in the article - namely Combine the menu and navigation bar which gave me an extra line of space at the top.
  2. I removed the search bar, as I realised I can type "g giant screaming bats" in the URL bar to google for "giant screaming bats". To do this, right click on it, choose "customise" and drag it on to the pallet of tools which appears.
  3. I added a similar facility to search Wikipedia by going to the main page, right clicking on the search box and choosing add a keyword for this search with "w" as my keyword. I can now press ctrl-l to jump to the location bar, then "w fish" and I'm searching Wikipedia for fish. This is a lot quicker than how I used to do it.
  4. I installed the Stop or Reload Extension which combines the stop and reload buttons - you can only use stop when a page is loading and you generally have to stop loading a page before you reload it, so this give a bit more space on the top menu.

I already have the All-in-One Gestures extension (see slightly bizzare but well communicated demo here ) which speeds things up as I can go forward, back, close a window etc all by moving the mouse and holding down the right button.

What else. Oh yeah for reading text I tend to sit back, and make the text bigger by pressing ctrl-+. You can always shrink it again with ctrl-- (control-minus) or reset it to standard size with ctrl-0 (control-zero).

Sunday 27th October 2007

Seven Inch Cinema

Nice Seven Inch Cinema at the Hare and Hounds. I missed the first section, but arrived in time for a live set by Broadcast to a couple of the Vertical Features Remake films, which show lots of, erm... well, vertical features. Thing's like rugby posts and fences and young street trees tied to stakes. Broadcast don't seem to perform live very often, so it was great to hear them in action with these specially composed works.

After this, we had a series of 1930's jazz / cartoon films, with a lot of Cab Calloway, including this Betty Boop classic (best bit from about 3 1/2 mins in) which I wrote about back in August 2005. Some of the animation was created by tracing round Mr Calloway, which gives his character some very elegant moves. Also included in this section was a great short showing black Americans (dressed as "house boys" and maids) doing some amazing dance moves, the kind of thing I associate with early rock and roll dance, you know the sort of thing; people swinging each other round, over their heads, through their legs. Interestingly, the passive part wasn't always taken by the woman, which is how I recall the R'N'R version.

Learning Japanese

I'm not learning Japanese, I just wish I had learnt a bit before I went to Japan. I was wondering if I could pick up anything from watching Anime. I'm watching Witch Hunter Robin at the moment, an anime series a little like Buffy. The theme tune has the Japanese text in Karaoke style, along with English subtitles. The only word I've remembered so far is Oshiete which was translated as "tell me". Maybe this site on Learning Japanese using Anime will help...

Another BirminghamBlogger

Added local journalist Joanna Geary's Blog to the list of BirminghamBloggers.

If you'd like to be added, just let me know - it's kind of "West Midlands Conurbation Bloggers" but that doesn't sound so snappy smile

Saturday 27th October 2007

StrangeTime Halloween Party

StrangeTime hosted an (optional) fancy dress party at the Actress and Bishop near St Paul's Sq. with Sub-Rosa and cellardoor. Great music, great costumes, and I'm hoping that Dead Kenny will describe it in a bit more detail!

More BirminghamBloggers

Added walker, environmentalist and commentator Tim Weller's Blog and the musical The Autumn Store Blog to the list of BirminghamBloggers.

Friday 26th October 2007

Cut-up RSS feed

Hmm. Using Page2RSS is great, but as it works by sampling the page at an undetermined time, it can catch me half way through an edit. Also, I've a tendency to re-edit entries to add details and links, so I'm not sure what it will make of this. Time will tell...

Thursday 25th October 2007

Birmingham Opera - La Traviata

Birmingham Opera put on just one performance a year, generally in an unusual venue. This year, it's the National Indoor Arena, last year it was at a beautiful 1930's bank on Broad St.

After a lot of messing about with tickets, having first one too few, then one too many, then just right, then two spare then just right, then, about 20mins before the performance, two spare again, I took my seat in the lower tier, relatively close to the front. A couple of friends who occupied some of the further away, upstairs seats complained of the noise of people talking, eating pop-corn and coughing, but it was relatively quiet where we were! Others in similar seats said it was fine, so maybe they just had a bad spot.

The set was big, which is what you need for that sort of space, and as (part of) the performance had transferred from Verona (where I saw Carmen from just behind the emperor's box!) At the start, a very large foot could be seen protruding from the back of the stage, part of a gigantic doll - think something which godzilla would fight as it attempted to squash Tokyo whilst plaintively repeating "mama". She later appeared on stage in her full glory, forming the basis of a staircase from which our leads descended, and during the second act her piercing blue eyes stared right at our seats from behind the main set.

As we're on set and staging, we also had a giant fan of cards for the nightclub/brothel/ in the 3rd, and the stage floor opened up to form an enormous heart as part of the 1st act. I think I liked the act 2 set for the house in the countryside best - played on a relatively bare floor decorated as a dollar bill, with dolls house which the performers could hug to represent their love of the country, and a bed on which they could show their love for each other smile

Sound-wise, it was a little hard to hear some of the vocals at some points, but mostly it was pretty clear though you did have to pay attention. I'm not sure how those further away would have fared.

Oh! and of course, there was the cast of thousands. Well, not thousands, but, according to the posters, 240 local singers. The majority of these arrived quite spectacularly, right at the beginning, rushing down through the audience wearing tails and frantically waving tickets in a wonderful bit of organised confusion. At one stage they donned strange yellowy-green stocking masks with short mohicans, and still managed to sing through them. No idea what this mean at all, but they looked a bit like a Fungus the Bogeyman convention!

A great event, and I'd recommend looking out for the next Birmingham Opera performance.

Wednesday 24rd October 2007

Christy Moore

Down to the Symphony Hall for the first time in a while to catch long-serving Irish singer-songwriter Christy Moore. He's got a wonderful voice, for both speaking and singing, and some nice between song banter. He mentioned that he first played in Birmingham back in 1967, when he was 22, at The Old Contemptibles - still there on Ludgate Hill off Colmore Row.

The place was packed, with many an Irish accent to be heard, and quite a bit of clapping and singing along (mainly when encouraged by the man himself). I was surprised how many of the songs I recognised, my faves included Black is the Colour (of my true love's eyes), Lisdoonvarna and the fantastic Ride On (YouTube ) which made the hair on my arms stand on end. He came back twice for encores of one or two songs, and the crowd loved it.

Sound quality was fantastic - clear as a bell, and volume just right. In fact, I got the first decent recording ever on my mobile phone - normally they're full of distortion and noise, and good only for working out the playlist.

Incidently, Christy has a blog of sorts, updated at fairly spare intervals but with one for today.

My resolution: to see more people who've been playing for 20 or 30 or 40 years, before I've missed them for good. If that's yours too, he's playing Warwick Arts Centre on Sunday the 18th of November.

International Mask Festival

I'd no idea that there was an International Mask Festival in Stourbridge until someone pointed it out to me. It runs till this Sat, and looks to have some interesting performances too.

Upcoming at the Town Hall / Symphony Hall - Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - once you've heard their covers of Teenage Kicks and Smells Like Teen Spirit , you'll realise you've got to see them. They played at the Big Chill the year before last and the crowd just wouldn't stop shouting for more - even when the next band came on!

(Bonus Track: Lou Reed's Satellite of Love )

Tuesday 23nd October 2007

YouTube - It's still there (or "great comedy clips")

Adam Bloom is playing the Old Joint Stock tomorrow, and this clip on YouTube made me wonder what other comedians I could find on there.

I saw Adam at Edinburgh in August, along with Glen Wool (here doing a great set on Religion) , Jim Jefferies (here being punched by a random audience member and here actually doing his, actually quite offensive, set ), and Jamie Kilstein ( talking about the war on drugs).

Saturday 20th October 2007

Jeffrey Lewis and The Jitters

I've seen Jeff Lewis several times, and it was great to see him again at the Hare and Hounds. This time, he was supported by Professor Louie who's a great poet/rapper type.

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Professor Louie

This was a particularly excellent gig, with Jeff, his brother Jack, and a keyboardist and drummer I didn't recognise. The music mixed electric and acoustic guitar, with lots of insightful lyrics - I'd vote Jeff for president, if (i) he stood and (ii) I had a vote in these things!

There were quite a lot of projections, a mix of Jeff's own comic stuff and short snippets of film sent in by fans. One of the songs I like the theme of is I Met a Hippy Girl on 8th Avenue, in which Jeff realises that although he's still a hippy, he doesn't wear hippy clothes any more, in fact he doesn't really look much like a hippy. He also changed the lyrics to mention Kate Goes... fans - Pete was wearing a Kate Goes... t-shirt and I must admit that was my plan too - except I couldn't find it...

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Jeffrey Lewis - I Saw a Hippy Girl on 8th Ave

Richard Batsford and Pete Ashton were both there and I suspect they will also write about the gig.

Rich mentioned that Jeff reminded him of Jamie Kilstein , a standup we both saw at Spank during the Edinburgh Festival - I thought the same when I wrote about Jamie.

I left clutching yet another Jeff Lewis t-shirt, a CD of City and Eastern Songs, a single and a comic! I like buying stuff right off the band, because I know the money is going to a good cause and that it's what enables them to stay on tour. I also remember chatting to Jeff at another gig once where he gave me a can of beer from his rider! smile

I also got a free Dufus sampler CD from someone who's promoting their gig on the 9th of November at the Actress and Bishop - they're not a paid promoter, just someone who thinks Dufus are great!

At last... RSS Feed for this blog!

After various requests, I've finally added an RSS Feed for this blog. I've used the Page2RSS service, as I found that the feed generated from TWiki wasn't really right for the Job.

Stop Junk Mail in 1 Minute 36 Seconds

The mailing preference service blocks junk mail in the UK. It really works as companies are legally required to stop bothering you if you're on the list.

Registration took me 1 minute 36 seconds and lasts for 5 years. Just go to: http://www.mpsonline.org.uk/mpsr/mps_choosetype.html

Click "next", enter your postcode, choose your house number and type in your email - all done, no junk mail for 5 years.

Wasn't that easy! smile

Post this to your blog and help stop the tidal wave of junk mail!

Friday 19th October 2007

Blink Magazine Launch and Plus Design Festival

A who's who of Birmingham's free drinks/party fans design and arts scene people descended on the Plus Design Festival site (93 Floodgate St, Digbeth) last night for free drinks and music from Poppy and the Jezebels amongst others. Unfortunately, the sound quality for the bands wasn't good frown , however the festival itself looks greats with lots of nice work on display, and a live pacman game which wasn't running on the night, but hopefully will be over the weekend. Check it out, it's fun and free.

Blink Magazine is the new mag from the people behind the excellent Fused, focussing more exclusively on lifestyle, fashion etc. and aimed at the city living crowd. I had a flick at the launch and it's got the same quality as Fused, but without so much graphic design. Good luck to them, that's what I say!

Tuesday 16th October 2007

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Tribute

Down to the Town Hall again, this time for a Tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, featuring his original band (troupe?) and led by his nephew Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. A torrential downpour led and ensuing traffic chaos led to many of the audience arriving late, but this and the wide mix of ages (from about 2 years old to 90's) gave it a quite a family/festival feel. Quite a few of the songs were from films, and well known to the audience, and some I recognised from Nusrat's recordings.

And the probability is...

Searching Google for "brief encounter rep" to find out when this excellent play finished (Saturday by the way), GoogleAds popped up the following "Right size bra? Are you wearing the wrong size bra? Probability is YES! www.correctbrasize.info". Now I do work in statistics to a degree, I've a PhD in data mining, but I don't think you need one of these to work out that the probability is actually "NO!".

Say the search is done 50:50 by men and women; that not all women are wearing the wrong size of bra; and that very few men are wearing a bra at all, we can approximate the probability of wearing the wrong size bra: Pwsb = 0.5 * ( proportion of women wearing the wrong size bra )

Let's face it, it's going to be less than 50%. The only question left is whether I should contact the Advertising Standards Authority. Hmmm....

Monday 15th October 2007

Pram, Modified Toy Orchestra and Shady Bard

My first time in the main hall of the newly re-opened Town Hall . As you might expect, the venue has allocated seating, and mine was right at the end of the very front row - not ideal as you couldn't see the band well and we were sat right next to what I think was a bass speaker. However, Shady Bard were great - multi instrumentalists, with three different members having a go on the piano, an array of different guitars and a violinist who also played the tuba (at least I think that's what it was).

After the interval, from which we arrived back a little late, not noticing the signal as we were chatting away in the bar, we grabbed seats a bit further back, which were fine. Modified Toy Orchestra did a stonking set, my favourite being Dark Star which plays with repeating sounds which become the almost silence-like background against which music is played out. Doh! You can't really describe the music, but it was great and in places funny - which is always a bonus to me, clever music is often funny as it sets up an expectation which is then broken. Visuals were great, with almost all of the tracks having a synchronised video, with music from the toys and toy-keyboards/fake guitars laid down on top.

Back from the second interval in good time for Pram, it was really good to see them again. They did seem to have some problems with sound balance (in fact this occurred for all of the bands to an extend), but really came together for the louder and more complex parts of the set. More excellent videos, almost like miniature films - quite spooky some of them, particularly with the masked faces which seem to be a Pram theme. Their new album is out now (or very very soon) so I'm looking forward to getting hold of it!

Sunday 14th October 2007

Upcoming: Modified Toy Orchestra and Pram at The New Town Hall

Modified Toy Orchestra (see Guardian Article ) and Pram plus Shady Bard are playing this Monday (15th) at the newly re-opened Town Hall. It's an excellent chance to see the new building and catch local hero's Pram in a rare live performance. Visuals are by filmficciones and should be stunning!

Book here!

Tuesday 8th October 2007

I finally did it...

... I paid for something on the internet. Not for goods - I've done that for years, bought CDs, camera batteries, memory cards, mugs, t-shirts and more. No, what I paid for today, for the very first time, was a website based service. I've paid for a flickr account!

So what tipped me over the edge? Hmmm... Well, it's relatively cheap (£1/month); I wanted to put up my pictures from Japan (and ran out of space half way through); I realised that flickr is very well supported by other websites (e.g. facebook application); I figured that if I decide not to pay, I've still got the photos on my machine.

My Blog about Japan covers most of my trip, but I've still got a couple of days to add if/when I get time. Similarly, I'm only half way through selecting and uploading photos to flickr.

Saturday 6th October 2007

Infusion

My first visit to the new Town Hall to see a short, free set in the basement bar. Infusion are a Birmingham based band made up of people from all over the globe. They played a mixture of musical styles, blending music from Albania, Kurdistan, Congo and beyond. The band leader was great at interacting with the audience and the whole thing was great fun

I couldn't find a website for the band, but they're connected with Sound It Out and there's some more info about some of the musicians on Home from Home Blog.

Friday 5th October 2007

Diwans

I went for a balti for the first time in ages - I've been kind of avoiding them, having been served some pretty awful stuff, swimming in ghee and lacking in flavour. However, I actually quite liked the food at Diwans. I went for sag paneer with mushrooms and a coriander nan and it was good and tasty and totally lacking the film of oil I'd come to dread. Plus, it was exceedingly cheap! smile

Thursday 4th October 2007

Written on the Body

My second visit to the planetarium at Millennium Point, this time to see a film by Leon Trimble and Lisa Wetton. Projected on to the dome of the planetarium (or "surround cinema") it completely fills your view. The film mixes a number of techniques, footage Leon's home-grown multi-directional camera made using 5 cctv cameras with 180degree lenses, morphed stills, footage intercut in a ying/yang shape and more. The film features three dancers who intertwine, leap the multi-cam and sway in synchrony. It was funded by the Arts Council, under the Fracture Programme, which united dance and screen. There are still a number of Fracture events / exhibitions running in the midlands.

There's a BBC News article where you can view a clip of the film , though I must admit it didn't work for me.

Tuesday 2nd October 2007

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Being in Wolverhampton for a meeting, I popped into Wolverhampton Art Gallery. In addition to Richard Billingham's Zoo, videos of repetitive behaviour in captive animals there's work by Vanley Burke on slavery and the sugar trade, Veil work about Northern Ireland by Rita Duffy, made from prison doors and glass tears, and of course the permanent and pop-art collections.

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Slave bracelets made of sugar


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Veil - Rita Duffy


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The Sheepfold, Morning in Autum - James Thomas Linnell

Fun with Graphs (Revisited)

One of the advantages of having a blog is the ability to look back and see what you did in previous years. I was having a look at my blog from one year ago and I wondered how the trends I plotted at the time had progressed.

The rise of internet empires
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(live version)

Does Netfame Last?
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(live version)

Monday 1st October 2007

Brief Encounter - Kneehigh Theatre

At the beginning of Kneehigh Theatre's Brief Encounter, there's a sign which says "approved for exhibition to an incurably romantic audience", so maybe that's why it appealed to me.

However it wasn't just the plot, the scenery and stage was excellent, and once again Kneehigh blended drama, romance and humour into a cocktail of fantabulous theatre smile

Lighting (check out the shadow scene), inventive staging (the three or is it four different representations of trains) and some cute (but slightly bizarre) music and balloon acts set off the deeply emotive, calm and clear acting of our two leads.

I've not seen the film, though I thought about getting hold of a copy last week, but I'm glad to have seen the theatre production first - I always like coming to a plot fresh. However, I plan to see it soon and compare.

Kneehigh are one of my favourite theatre companies, and I saw their Cymbeline twice last year, and Tristan and Yseult the year before.

If you'd like to see them in action, and you really should, Brief Encounter is at the Birmingham Rep until the 20th October and then at the West Yorkshire playhouse from the 24th Oct till 10th November.

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Sunday 30th September 2007

Comedy and Improv Night at Atticus

Atticus is a venue I've never visited before, it's in Bearwood, just round the corner from The Bear and on the number 11 bus route, so relatively easy to get to from Moseley. Tonight's line up featured James Cook, Gary Delaney, Mrs Barbara Nice and Okse trying out some new material and playing improv games. If I had to make a pick of the bunch, I'd go for Gary Delaney's new material - he had some great one-liners (and some which weren't so great but which he loved so much he could hardly tell them for laughing).

More Birmingham Bloggers

Added Peter Miller's Blog to the list of Birmingham Bloggers. Peter has just moved to blogspot, and you can find links to his archives in his first post.

Saturday 29th September 2007

Blue Man Group on Global Warming

I went to see the Blue Man Group back in March 2006, and I've just come across this video of them on the topic of global warming. Quite nice.

Thursday 27th September 2007

Beautiful,Touching and Wise

Rich Batsford's Gig at the Old Joint Stock was billed as his first, although he has previously performed in various other bands, and solo at the local Buddhist centre and Church!

The music was a mixture of Rich's haunting piano instrumentals, touching songs about friends and relationships and some Beach Boys covers. You can download his first album (of instrumentals) for free!

Great gig, I just hope he records some of his other work soon, as I'd love to hear it all again.

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Rich Batsford at the Old Joint Stock

Wednesday 26th September 2007

Binary Oppositions

Vivid and The Rainbow in the thriving musical and arts quarter of Digbeth provided the venues to launch Binary Oppositions. Matt Price has worked (with many others) to produce a snapshot of some of the most exciting and innovative work coming out of Brum, including a CD featuring 20 artists and an exhibition scheduled to travel to Italy. Music featured on the CD includes some of my favourites: Misty's Big Adventure, Kate Goes, Pram, and many other excellent musicians. It really is a "must have" (or "must listen"?). There are only 500 copies in a limited "gallery edition", so act quickly! It's available on Static Caravan Recordings , though currently listed as "unavailable" - I'm guessing that's because the web-page is still pre-launch.

For those of you in the North of Italy, you can visit the exhibition at the Citric Gallery in Brescia

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Micronormous at The Rainbow

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Mike in Mono at The Rainbow

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Mike in Mono at The Rainbow (Swirled)

Tuesday 25th September 2008

Cornelia Parker and Marjolijn Dijkman

Two great exhibitions at the Ikon Gallery. Majolijn Dijkman's hypnotic video installation Wandering through the Future shows clips from 70 films set in the future and drew quite a crowd. It's an hour long so I'll be heading to the Tower Room at the Ikon to chill out in front of it at some stage.

Cornelia Parker's work has been suspended. Or rather, Cornelia Parker's work is suspended. Pieces which really caught my eye included chunks of earth excavated from under the Leaning Tower of Pisa, suspended in layers and completely occupying a large part of the 1st floor gallery. Another on the 2nd floor is a kind of cross section of a forest fire, with charred wood and pine cones floating silently in the centre of the room. The pic doesn't really do this one justice, but the work is interesting and worth seeing.

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Cornelia Parker - Suspended Earth and Wood

Sunday 23rd September 2007

Pantigelli near Abergavenny

Spent the weekend at a bunk barn in Pantigelli, near Abergavenny. Pantigelli (how do you pronounce that?) isn't too far from Pertholey. Hmmmm...


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Pertholey


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We had a great fire - is it the infra-red that made it look purple?


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Someone brought some fire poi.


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This tardis like building is The Mission Hall with a "Meeting every Lords Day". There is actually a building behind it but it's so overgrown that this is the only part you can see.


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Angel, Cake.

The market hall in Abergavenny had several flying chefs, a left over from the food festival the previous week.


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Butcher closed (due to being locked up).

The butcher's shop in the market hall had this sign up. I'm not sure they wrote it all themselves smile


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An oak apple wedded to an acorn

I liked this. Somehow it seemed like a metaphor for humanity - two separate but interacting things (mind and body) welded together. (That makes me sound like a dualist. hmm. my philosophical position on "what the mind is" and "what a human is" is a bit more complex than that. Should get round to writing it up sometime).

Sunday 16th September 2007

City Hall

City Hall was open today as part of the Thames Festival. It has some amazing stairs!

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Singing in "The Scoop"


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The Heart of London

With the right reflection, The Scoop next to City Hall takes on a special shape. The colours you can see are the school uniforms of children forming a giant choir.

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These are some of the 800 people singing together to raise money for Water Aid. The tales of Guinnea Worm and other problems certainly got me to donate.

Tower Bridge


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Plighting one's troth on Tower Bridge


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Sticker on Tower Bridge


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Tower Bridge open for shipping

Millenium Flame


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Millenium Flame - lit in 1999 and burning continuously since! This flame resides in City Hall.

No to ID. Buy your ID card here.


 No to ID. Buy your ID card here.
Nice display in the window of a newsagent. a "No to ID" sticker rubs shoulders with a notice about 24hr CCTV and advert for "Age Check" cards.

Thu 13th September 2007

A Victory(i)

On the bus today, I noticed an advert for "British Gas Electricity". They were claiming that their electricity has the lowest CO2 emissions of any supplier. If they think this is the criteria that people use to make their choices, then maybe, slowly, we're getting somewhere! smile

british_gas_co2.jpg

A Victory (ii)

I heard today that the application by Moseley Golf Club to build a practice area on Billesley Lane Allotments had been turned down - because of a clause I got inserted into the Birmingham Unitary Development plan. It was a lot of work for all of us, scrutinising and commenting on a document the size of a telephone directory (3 times), attending the public enquiry and arguing the case, but it shows that the less glamorous side of work at Friends of the Earth does pay off! smile

I'm not claiming the credit - lots of people have done much more work than me to fight to keep these allotments, but it's so nice to have a payoff from all that work!

On the downside, there's still lots to fight for to ensure this isn't overturned, but let's skip the downside for today smile

Thu 6th September 2007

Damian Ortega - Ikon Eastside

A fun and well attended opening at Ikon Eastside, Damian Ortega's sculptures transform rolls of sheet copper into waves, mazes and cones, with a great brilliance and colour. It runs till 21st October, though the flyer says "open Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th October" - so might be work checking the opening times/days with Ikon.

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Copper Waves - "Being" by Damian Ortega

Weds 5th September 2007

xkcd Comics

Randomly websurfing and I came across xkcd , a comic strip which mixes geekdom and romance, and is both funny and loveable.

Here's a romantic / geeky one smile

and a couple of geeky ones:

and

A couple of other favourites: "Dream Girl", "Candy Buttons", "Choices(1 of 5)" or you can just go for a Random Cartoon.

Mon 2nd September 2007

Is it art?

I saw this strange "canvas" at the bus stop opposite the Birmingham Coach Station, on the little road where TheAnchor pub is. I liked the look of it.

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No. It's a burnt poster.

Sat 1st September 2007

Moseley Folk Festival

Although the cloud's didn't break until sunset, it was still a nice day to sit in the park, having a picnic and listening to music.

When Fairport Convention started, I was quite near the back, and not so impressed, even though I've seen and enjoyed them on previous occasions. Before I left I though I'd wander down to the front, where I'd watched Tungg, and they were so much better close up. You could see the band rivalries and acting up which you get when people have played together for many many years. Great musicians, I'm glad I stayed to catch all their set.

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Moseley Folk Festival Sign

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Crowd at Moseley Folk

Passwords to 100 Embassies

Swedish hacker DEranged has published login details for 100 embassy email accounts around the world. Apparently they are running software with well known flaws and haven't fixed them. He implies that they have been vulnerable to a simple hack for several years. Who knows how many other people have exploited this flaw to spy on embassy email traffic. His aim in publishing them is to get them and the thousands of other businesses and organisations to sort out their email security.

Classic passwords include Password (The UK Visa Application Centre in Nepal, Hong Kong Democratic Party, Indian Defence Research & Development Organisation), 1234 (Indian Embassies in China and the USA) and kenya (Iranian Embassy in Kenya). There are going to be some mightly p'd off people...

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Contact me: Website (at) AndyPryke.com, try use a subject which will get through my Spam Filter! I've been having spam filter problems, so if you haven't had a response, I'm really sorry, please try again!

See Also: WebChanges for other recent updates, AllBlogPages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other BirminghamBloggers

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Prev: BlogJuly2007 1 Year Ago: BlogAugust2006 Next: BlogSeptember2007

Friday 31st Aug 2007

Vandalism...

I don't really approve of this, but you can't deny it's kind of funny. Someone has "decorated" one of the heads on the outside of St Martin's in the Bullring.

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Head on St Martins Church (with Lipstick)

M.A. Show at Margaret St

The M.A. show at Margaret St School of Art is well worth a visit - nearly 20 artists displaying their work in a beautiful purpose built art school in the heart of Birmingham.

Pieces which stood out to me included:

Lisa Metherell's work using glow sticks and distorting mirrors. She also created these Polari signs dotted about the corridors:

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No Smoking in Polari

Jennifer Hankin's distorted body images made from tights and clothing, displayed in a maze of mirrors.

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Distorted Body Image

Keir William's video showing glowing dot as he follows flies in his garden with his fingers, and also his videos showing interactions between analog and digital musicians.

There was also an "insectoid" performance in a insect nest made out of paper (which visitors could crawl into), although unfortunately this was interrupted half way through by a loud recording of Rod Stewart from an adjoining piece.

Friday 24th Aug 2007

The Best Festival?

I was having a look at Jeffery Lewis's List of Upcoming gigs , and I saw he was playing the End of the Road Festival . And guess who else is playing? Misty's Big Adventure, Herman Dune, Architecture in Helsinki and Robyn Hitchcock! And they have a cider bus. Pretty good line up in my book!

They have a surprisingly well designed flash website, which played me music from Port O'Brian while I browsed.

MySpace

Is it just me? Or is MySpace virtually unusable now-a-days? Sometimes the pages take minutes to load - I'm not sure if this is due to the quantity of images (sourced from all over the web) which have to load or what. But I find it very irritating! Grrrr.

I Like Monkeys

Little Howard proudly states I Like Monkeys in this short video. I saw him and Big Howard at SummerSundae last year. I reckon he should go it along and ditch Big Howard smile (only joking Mr Read!)

Thurs 23rd Aug 2007

Women of Birmingham

Having a look for live music this weekend, I came across Richard Burke and his song Women of Birmingham, a heartfelt plea for said ladies "to give me a chance". Somehow funny but poignant - "I'm asking you please, I've been lonely all these years". Nice bit of guitar work too. Anyway, he's playing at the Sunflower Sessions Sunday afternoon /evening freebie at the Yardbird with a number of other local singer songwriters.

Thurs 16 Aug 2007

Jason Cook

Jason Cook's show My Confessions at The Stand take you through 10 of the worst things he's done in his life, often prompted by that nagging voice which encourages him to play inappropriate practical jokes. However, it's not all comedy, the self-admissions and the stunning finale left me with a tear in my eye. See him - if you can get tickets.

The Smile Off Your Face

An amazing, moving, piece of one-on-one performance which starts with you being blindfolded and being placed in a wheelchair with your hands bound. In this vulnerable position of sensory deprivation, you disappear off into a secret world hidden behind a curtain. Sounds, smells and spoken word combine to generate a series of emotions and revelations which leave you with a depth of insight into yourself and your life. Totally recommended.

The theatre company is called Ontroerend Goed but I'd strongly suggest you don't read any more before you've been to see the performance).

Reginald D Hunter

Reginald D Hunter's show F*ck You in the Age of Consequence plays the largest venue I attended at Edinburgh, and it was sold out. This says something about the practised ease with which he works. You can see some short video clips of previous shows, but you really need to get immersed in his show to appreciate his warm, revelatory style.

Weds 15th August 2007

In My Father's House

Kindle Theatre have already collected a Must See rating from The Stage for this complex, deep, humorous and moving piece. I saw one of the Birmingham performances last month and loved it. Drawing on the interactions between ritual and individuality, questioning who we can put our faith into, it delves deep into the psyche of the four characters and packs an astounding amount of content into it's short hour.

Even having seen the piece before, I was left with my heart in my mouth at certain points, and I'll never hear "The Hokey Cokey" in the same way again.

Don't be fooled by the poster featuring an image of Christ - this is no wishy-washy Christian theatre group. Their previous shows at Edinburgh have also attracted rave reviews. See it.

Adam Bloom

Adam Bloom is an angry man. Or so he tells us. His story revolves around his attempts to deal with his tendency to get angry: when his girlfriend is insulted; when some one slights him in a supermarket; and when his attempts to get anger management don't pan out. Hilarious and engaging, apparently it only puts him in slight danger of a lawsuit for defamation of character.

Glen Wool

Glen likes a drink. Drunk Glen has given him some of the best nights of his life, and days, and 3 day benders. Warm, funny but slightly scary, you wonder just how far he might go, and the answer is pretty far. He's got beautiful stage craft, varying the pace and style of his performance and leaving the audience with face-ache due to laughter.

Tues 14 Aug 2007

More Edinburgh Comedy

Firstly to see Nicole Korkolis's show I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours at Laughing Horse@Berlin, a new venue to me at the far end of Princess St. Bawdy, audience interactive and fun. Oh, and free.

Then Jim Jeffries at the Cow Barn, featuring some of his hit YouTube video of being punched in the face during a previous show. Worth checking out online, but the full version with his commentary added an extra dimension.

Chilled out at the Green Room for a while then on to Spank where we were treated to some excellent work from hairy Australian comic Steve Hughes, Carey Marx and LLoyd Langford, plus a 4 person miming drag act Sound of Music and Jamie Kilstein again doing his humourous rant against religion with hardy a pause for breath.

See also Richard Batsford's account of the day

Mon 13 Aug 2007

Spank at the Underbelly

At Spank ("We love it!") to see Patrick Monaghan (warm and lovable irish comic), Jamie Kilstein (excellent New York comedian who reminded me quite a lot of Jeffrey Lewis) , Sista She (bizare Australian comedy rappers) . On the way down the Royal Mile we caught the start of Mark Watson's 24 long hour show, attracting quite a big crowd. Posted on the move at 14:02

See also Richard Batsford's more detailed account of the evening

Sun 12 Aug 2007

Pacific Ocean Fire

Pacific Ocean Fire were (unintentionally) the best comedy band at the festival, beating The Divine Comedy due to their relentlessly depressing lyrics. I felt like shouting "play a happy one" as we digested a stream of over the top sadness featuring people trapped under trains, sufferin terminal diseases or contemplating their next move whilst staring at their own reflection with a gun in their hand. Hillarious for it's unrelenting misery. Posted on the move at 20:36

Sun 12 Aug 2007

Other Highlights

Sophie Ellis- Bextor clearly not singing much of her own songs, evidenced by her holding up the mike to the audience but her voice continueing just the same. When she covered Let's Dance she did sing, but her voice was pretty ropey.

!!! were great, in a new rave stylee.

Maps were fun, and Martha Wainwright can sing, play guitar and banter well with the audience. Kitty, Daisy and Lewis are about 12 but really got the main stage going.

Think I missed the best bits of The Whip but everyone else seemed to think they were good. Fujiya and Miyagi hale from Brighton not Japan, but made some very musical electronic sounds.

Posted on the move at 20:33

Sun 12 Aug 2007

Milton Jones

One of the festival highlights for me, I'd tried to see Milton Jones a couple of weeks ago in Brum but I was delayed and he was sold out. He's had a couple of excellent radio series, and his persona of a man puzzled by the ordinary world appeals to me. His delivery is good, with a lot of "groan jokes" which I love. It's hard to remember his material as there are a lot of one-liners and sureal twists, but he's well work seeing. Posted on the move at 20:07

Sun 12 Aug 2007

The Lea Shores - Summer Sundae

Best band of the festival were the Lea Shores - swirling guitars and sounds which you can easily lose yourself in. Good VJing too with lots of stop motion films of journeys. Looked like they'd been taken from a bike mounted camera. Posted on the move at 19:52

Sat 11 Aug 2007

Acoustic Vibronics

A showcase of local artists from the scoopes record label, with live but light dub and vocals. Brother Parves was the best me the bunch for me, with more complex and interesting lyrics. Posted on the move at 17:58



Sat 11 Aug 2007

Modified Toy Orchestra

15 minutes before they started on the Rising Stage at SummerSundae, the place was empty. It soon filled up very rapidly. MTO are very professional and quite accessible, with plenty of great tunes and some excellent visuals. I've seen them play several times before, and they're always fun! The audience loved then and I was struck by Dark Star and a track about interspecies love (elephant and duck) with a great video. Posted on the move at 16:34





Fri 10 Aug 2007

Osama's Blue Balloon

Spotted this one at The Big Chill Posted on the move at 14:12



Fri 10 Aug 2007

Any Answers

Spotted this stencil in King's Heath. Nice. Posted on the move at 14:06



Tues 7th August 2007

More BirminghamBloggers

I've added new folder blog (ex-Liverpool, now in Smethwick) and Danny Bernardi's From Under the Rotunda blog to the list of BirminghamBloggers.

Sun 5 Aug 2007

Sky Lantern

Launching your six quid "sky lantern" isn't as straight forward as it might seem, even with help from the grand wizard. Posted on the move at 20:11



Sun 5 Aug 2007

John Hegley and The Popticians

Coming on to slightly too much dry ice, once it cleared we were treated to some classic Hegley. Posted on the move at 20:05





Sun 5 Aug 2007

Shaun Hughes

(Sat) Saw quite a bit of stuff up in the Big Chill Nights tent tonight. Kicked off with Shaun Hughes standup show which I've caught some of before. Lots of "adult themed" material as he kept refering to it, and it all went down well with the audience. There was a bit of wierdness with security, drunk women and a man in a dress, but it was all fun. Posted on the move at 19:48

Sat 4 Aug 2007

Zebra People

Random scene from Big Chill. Posted on the move at 17:02



Sat 4 Aug 2007

Grass Portraits

Part of the Art Trail at The Big Chill, these photographs are "printed" on to grass, presumably by using a mask. Posted on the move at 16:23



Thu 2 Aug 2007

Big Chill Radio

This is Big Chill radio's sequin covered disco boat, broadcasting from a lake just the far side of the malvern hills, and glittering in the sunshine smile Posted on the move at 20:18



Wed 1 Aug 2007

Test Mobile Blog

Just testing, but here's a cameraphone picture of Misty's in Blue. Posted on the move at 22:05



Weds 1st August 2007

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Contact me: Website (at) AndyPryke.com, try use a subject which will get through my Spam Filter! I've been having spam filter problems, so if you haven't had a response, I'm really sorry, please try again!

See Also: WebChanges for other recent updates, AllBlogPages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other BirminghamBloggers

This is my blogchalk: United Kingdom, West Midlands, Birmingham, Moseley

Prev: BlogJune2007 1 Year Ago: BlogJuly2006 Next: BlogAugust2007

Sunday 29th July 2007

The Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Mill

I just watched this episode of Bagpuss, in which the mice have a mill, which makes chocolate biscuits out of breadcrumbs and butterbeans. However, and I'm spoiling the plot, so look away now... it turns out that they just put the breadcrumbs and butterbeans down chutes and collect them at the bottom in sacks again, ready to take round the front and haul up to the hoppers. Similarly, there is only one chocolate biscuit which they keep re-using. A factory which produces chocolate biscuits is implausible. As Prof. Yaffle says: "No, no, no, no, no. Ridiculous! Ridiculous! You can't make chocolate biscuits out of breadcrumbs and butterbeans." and he's quite right.

I'm sure there's some analogy here with an economic system which claims to make happiness out of Big Macs and consumer goods.

Wednesday 26th July 2007

Facebook

I've succumbed. I've joined Facebook , and I must say I prefer it to MySpace, at least for the moment. I've been thinking about social network visualisation (and doing some work in this area) for a while, and I'd thought about writing an application which visualised Facebook (or MySpace) networks. I found a couple already. This one from Touchgraph is quite nice, though it seems to run quite slow to me. It took an age load finish loading stuff when I started it the first time, but works quite nicely. Though not of course as nicely as a version I would have written smile

  • Facebook social network (too small for you to see who's in it smile ):
    Facebook social network (too small for you to see who's in it)

  • Network without pictures (intentionally blurred):
    Network without pictures (intentionally blurred)

Tuesday 25th July 2007

CheatNeutral

Those guys at CheatNeutal.com are at it again in this funny YouTube video documenting some of their media appearances and attempts to persude the public to pay other people to offset their infidelity.

Sunday 23rd July 2007

Seven Inch Cinema

First time for Seven Inch Cinema at the Hare and Hounds in King's Heath. I missed the first half of the programme which was short films, but arrived in time to see Juneau Project performing on their home made instruments and a strange French guy eating a microphone to a backing of loops and feedback! I also got to see Powers of Ten which is one of my favourite films.

Saturday 22nd July 2007

Misty's and Kate Goes...

The Moseley Rd Baths fundraiser down at the Medicine Bar today featured two of my favourite bands, Misty's Big Adventure and Kate Goes.... If that can't save the baths, I don't know what will. There is a dire need for baths amongst some of the Moseley community, although some would benefit from a simple shower instead. smile

Friday 20th July 2007

Cafe Soya

Went to Cafe Soya with a group of friends. Had my old favourite - Deep Fried Fish and Tofu in Sweet Chilli Sauce mmmmmh, nice.

Tuesday 17th July 2007

Birmingham Artists

Sign the petition to save Birmingham Artists . Apparently their funding has been cancelled at short notice.

I'm on Facebook

I'm now on Facebook. See my Facebook profile .

Thursday 12th July 2007

Kindle Theatre - In My Father's House

Kindle Theatre are a Birmingham based theatre group, so the MAC is home turf for them. Rather bizarrely, the audience included a large group of maths summer school students, but they seemed to enjoy the performance.

Like the previous work I've seen by Kindle, at "Party Like There's No Tomorrow" and the launch event for the Festival of Xtreme Building, In My Father's House involves some audience participation, though not so much as to put off anyone of a nervous disposition smile Upon entry, we were greeted and seated by the performers, asked to sign a guestbook and given both a plum and a plastic knife!

Our slightly highly strung characters showed us how to make a plum cake, informed us of the meaning of life and revealed some veiled but quite traumatic events in their own lives. Along with this there was group hymn singing, and a performance of the Hockey Cokey.

It's hard to describe the performance as a whole, this isn't a simple narrative work, but it's highly engaging and had the audience on the edge of their seats. I believe it's going to the Edinburgh Festival, so you've a chance to catch it there.

Kraftwerk - Hockey Cokey

Odd but strangely catchy tribute to Kraftwerk's version of the Hockey Cockey .

Tuesday 10th July 2007

Moroccan Food at La Fibule

Amazingly enough I hadn't eaten at the local Moroccan restaurant, La Fibule until today. The place was very busy, especially for a Tuesday night, with virtually all of the tables occupied. Surely this is a sign they're doing something right. Our waiting staff were polite and friendly without being overbearing. There's no drinks license, but Drinksville a couple of doors down supplied some nice organic wine. The food was interesting, well presented and tasty but not over spiced, and we did ask for some harissa to add a bit of heat.

Food at La Fibule

Sun 8th July 2007

Anthony Gormley at the Hayward Gallery

Anthony Gormley's work at the Hayward Gallery has been well publicised, including a specially written Radio 4 play. The most interesting piece for me was a large glass box full of fog, so large that you can get 20 people in it and still get lost. From the outside, you see many people following the glass walls, just their outlines and their hands touching the glass visible. I had to queue for about 10 minutes to get in, and when I did I headed out for the centre of the space. Visibility is around an arms length, and the overall effect is very disorientating. All you can see is an even white light. Staring at this is very strange, looking round and seeing no change, turning my head and the world doesn't move. Soon the capillaries in my eye are visible to me, overlaid on the grey.

View from inside the fog box
View from inside the fog box

Anthony Gormley - Containing Boxes
Containing Boxes

Anthony Gormley - Rooftop Statues

Rooftop Statues

Rinky Dink

Rinky Dink on the South Bank
Rinky Dink on the South Bank

South Bank Sheds

Behind the Hayward Gallery there are a number of sheds, each of which has been modified by an artist. One contained a digital coconut shy, another a book swap at which I picked up a copy of The Rotters Club which is set in south Birmingham. A third contained the secret world shown below, but my favourite contained cubicals each with a chair, headphones and a little window overlooking the pavement cafe. The audio told a looped story of the people sitting there.

View into a shed
View into a shed

Sat 7th July 2007

Photographers at the start of the Tour de France

Tour de France - Photographers at the start line
Tour de France - Photographers at the start line

Friday 6th July 2007

Bollard Faces - Near London Bridge

Bollard Face Bollard Face
Bollard Faces

Sunday 1st July 2007

The Lives of Others

Saw The Lives of Others at The MAC. Haven't been to the cinema there for a while - they've refurbished, but unfortunately got caught in the flooding so there's a very slight (but not unpleasant) musty smell to the place.

The Lives of Others deals with life in East Berlin prior to the wall coming down, in particular the interaction between the Staasi (secret service) and those they spy on. How accurate is was I don't know, but it does give an intriguing insight into how these things work(ed).

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Sat 30th June 2007

Tunnel Vision

Visited the Fierce Tunnel Vision event today. The tunnel in question runs from The Mailbox across to New St Station and was previously used to transport letters to and from the mail trains.

I'd booked for the 2pm visit, and it was quite busy, with the party of 20 or so being split into two groups. Nipping quickly through a service door and down in a lift brought us to the basement and into the world which is normally hidden.

Inside the tunnel, installations of lights, projections and found objects where accompanied by a varied soundscape which reflected the visuals and the space. The final section was in darkness, illuminated by blinding white flashes of light from the end of the tunnel, silhouetting the other visitors. Well worth a visit, it's free and open Friday 6th to Sunday 8th July. Book on 0121 244 8084 or if you're passing drop in at the desk outside the BBC in the Mailbox.

  • Light at the end of the tunnel:
    Light at the end of the tunnel

Tue 26th June 2007

Birmingham Surveillance Blog

Red Line Surveillance are watching the people of Birmingham. Unlike the other surveillance going on in the city, they put their findings up on the web for us all to see. They're operating from the Festival of Xtreme Building site and various other locations around town.

Sun 24 Jun 2007

In tents

Quite a wet day but the mud isn't as bad as 2005. Saw Marcus Brigstock, Ed Byrne, Brendan Byrne, and various others. Also heard Go Team play on The Other Stage. Posted on the move at 23:15

Sat 23 Jun 2007

Seize the Day

Seeing Seize the Day is a bit of Glastonbury tradition. They attract a loyal and lively crowd with lots me dancing, especially for the "shackle shuffle". They appeared in the solar powered Croisant Neuf tent. Posted on the move at 22:49



Fri 22 Jun 2007

Pentaphant

Another slightly strange elephant. Can you spot what is wrong with this picture? Posted on the move at 18:29



Fri 22 Jun 2007

Late Shift at the Lock Up

Just finished my night shift on the "lockup", more clearly known as left-luggage. The first band started on the pyramid stage at 10:34 so not sure how much beauty sleep I will get smile Last night it pelted down for a couple or three hours, but mud isn't too bad yet. Wait till 200,000 people have walked through it though! Posted on the move at 10:58



Fri 22 Jun 2007

Use Your Legs

The railway track has been renamed The Green Way and decorated with signs and art, such as this slightly spooky doll leg sculpture. Posted on the move at 7:31



Thu 21 Jun 2007

Dragon Crucified

Weds afternoon: This oddly posed statue of a dragon can be seen in the stone circle field. Posted on the move at 15:40



Wed 20 Jun 2007

Portiso Quartet

My first live post from Glastonbury. The Portiso Quartet are playing up in the stone circle field. Double base, one of those straight saxes plus a strange kettle like steel drum. Check their myspace for some great jazzy fun sounds. They are playing at chai wallah's tent twice a day. Posted on the move at 21:44

Tue 19 Jun 2007

test mobile blogging

Testing..2 This is an Elephant... Posted on the move at 12:07



Monday 18th June 2007

BirminghamBloggers

Another new blogger to add to the list of BirminghamBloggers - Richard Batsford , musician, comedy booker and all round nice guy.

Plans for Project X 2007 are also well underway, and documented on their their blog.

Birmingham Friends of the Earth

Another recent group blog is the Birmingham Friends of the Earth Blog . This is the 30th Anniversary of BFOE moving into their building in Digbeths know as The Warehouse and you can find out more about how they're tackling local, national and international environmental issues on the Birmingham Friends of the Earth Website or by signing up for their newsletter .

Sunday 17th June 2007

Leamington Peace Festival

Leamington Peace Festival is renowned for always being sunny, and this year was no exception. Despite parts of the site being six inches under water on Friday, we were happily free from mud, although some of the ground was incredibly springy - like someone had buried a mattress underneath it!

Birmingham's Notorious Choir played on the bandstand, I haven't seen them for a while and was impressed by the harmonies in Barbara-Anne and the fact that I could hear the words in all the covers perfectly, filling in a lot of gaps in my musical knowledge. Notorious are playing for free at the MAC on the evening of Tuesday 26th June, and I think I'm fairly safe in saying that there will be a BBQ there too, so head down and get some summer relaxation in.

Kate Goes... played on the main stage right after Notorious. This gig's theme was "Kate Goes...Loud" so we had loud clothes (Kate's were particularly impressive) and loud vocals! One of the hallmarks of Kate Goes... songs is the large dynamic, vocal and musical range. From loud and noise to quiet and sweet, instantly, with no mistakes. From porcupine to frog, or from love to sillyness, Kate Goes... were tight. One bonus of the sound setup was that the lyrics were particularly clear this time.

If you missed them, you can catch Kate Goes... on the 13th July at the Jug of Ale with the fantabulous and weird Bom and His Magic Drumstick.

I like a band where you can hear the words.... not like this modern music.... you can't hear the words, and you can't whistle the tune... call that music etc... etc... smile

GreenFinder

GreenFinder is a new directory of green products and services in the UK. I've bumped into them at both the Birmingham City Council Environment Day and the Leamington Peace Festival today. Great idea and best of luck to them!

Friday 7th June 2007

Festival of Xtreme Building Launch

Today I took part in the launch event for the Festival of Xtreme Building . Organised by Kindle Theatre with musical direction from KTB . We were the X-Nation, arriving with our queen to set up home at the festival site. It was a thoroughly enjoyably experience, with dohl drummers, a samba band, bollywood dancers and harmonic singing. I'll leave it up to you to work out where I fitted in!

A mammoth amount of work on behalf of the organisers, which paid off rather well I think!

Saturday 2nd June 2007

A busy day...

Hide and Seek in the Grass

Ikon's Digbeth space has moved to Heath Mill Lane, just down the road from Vivid. I turned up at 1pm on the dot to find the gates opening and a within 10 minutes there were a dozen or so people wandering around - great attendance for a sunny Saturday.

Inside we found a beautiful meadow, complete with wild flowers from the Digbeth area, growing under the half-glazed roof of this ex-factory. The Shakespeare in Taxi taxi, with accompanying cartoon stories stood in the adjacent bay. In the back, a short passage led us to a darkened room in which two projection screens showed performers creeping out of hiding places in a nicely furnished room. My cough on entering sent them scurrying back to their hiding places, as did any loud noise, and I felt quite sorry for them, having to repeat this performance again and again. After a while, I... Well. No. I'm not going to say, but I'm sure you will too if you get the chance to see this excellent piece. Unfortunately this was the last day for this, so you won't see it in Brum for a while.

Indoor Lawn:
Indoor Lawn

Wake Up and Hide:
Empty Room - Wake Up and Hide Unhidden - Wake up and Hide

Shakespeare in Taxi:
Shakespeare in Taxi

Drums, owls, textile computing and a sermon

Just 50 meters down the road, Vivid was hosting it's latest exhibition, which includes: Juneau Projects computer game in which you can control a flying owl using real guitars and a drum kit; Kate Pemberton's cross-stiched multiples such as the "C:/" badge shown below - a must have and available from her website ; Chris Keenan's research on the Plastic People of the Universe; A model of Colin Pearce and Ranbir Lal's building (the real thing is up on the Festival of Extreme Building site; Faye Claridge's rural photos of the Czech republic; and Harminder Singh Judge's Video Sermon using an oral prosthetic that recites the text for him!

Kate Pemberton - Badges:
Kate Pemberton - Badges

Wolverhampton Art Gallery - Day of the Figurines

Day of the Figurines is a game created by Blast Theory - I played their street running game, Uncle Roy is All Around You, back in 2004. To play Day of the Figurines you have to visit Wolverhampton Art Gallery, pick a small plastic figure to represent yourself, and fill in a few details about your character. Mine's called "Boyd". Then you send and receive txt messages which move your character, and let you chat with other people playing the game. Should be fun...

Day of the Figurines
Day of the Figurines

Wolverhampton gallery had lots of other interesting exhibitions, including giant mushrooms and many different types of flowers made out of wire.

Giant Mushroom Wire Flower

Kate Goes... and Dufus

Down to the Actress and Bishop to see Kate Goes... and anti-folk heros Dufus. Kate's theme for this gig was Kate Goes...and gets a Job, so we had a solicitor, a rigger, a pizza hut person and a conductor on stage. Unfortunately, cricket accidents meant they had no drummer this gig.

Dufus played a mammoth set - about 2 hours I think, including, near the end, my favourites Having a party and Wee ma moo.

Friday 1st June 2007

Gob Squad - Kitchen

I've seen Gob Squad's work before - at Fierce 2006 and been very impressed. This Fierce they're playing at the Warwick Arts Centre, with their show Kitchen. Kitchen recreats the film of the same name by Andy Warhol. Before the action starts, we're allowed to wander "backstage" - well, behind the three giant projection screens at the front of the stage, to see the sets. What we see as an audience is live video from this set, on the three screens, but as the play progresses, performers venture out into the audience and the members of the audience move onto the stage.

Gob Squad are, as always, warm, friendly, engaging and human. The play, if that's what it is, really "turned me on" to the work of Warhol and I'll try and see some of the films they referenced. If you get the chance to see Gob Squad, go see them. They also had some DVDs of previous performances (also available online), so I snapped up one of Super Night Shot and another of King Kong Club.

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Contact me: Website (at) AndyPryke.com, try use a subject which will get through my Spam Filter! I've been having spam filter problems, so if you haven't had a response, I'm really sorry, please try again!

See Also: WebChanges for other recent updates, AllBlogPages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other BirminghamBloggers

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Prev: BlogApril2007 1 Year Ago: BlogMay2006 Next: BlogJune2007

Wednesday 30th May 2007

Boating

Today I rowed around the Birmingham canal system in an old fridge. Not my idea, but that of artist Marie Lorenz, who build a very sturdy and professional looking boat from objects fished out of the canal. It was a great mix of industrial architecture, secret places and wildlife - we saw moorhens, geese and ducks nesting and even a heron! However, in many places a thin skin of oil covered the water surface, which can't be good for the birds.

The trip was great fun, and we chatted about the canal and Marie's previous work in New York such as her "Tidal Taxi".

Concrete Building Reflected
Concrete Building Reflected

Oil on the water
Oil on the water

Rent

As part of the Fierce Festival , Jiva Parthipan staged a sideways reconstruction of his early life in Amsterdam in which he worked for six monotonous hours making banana milkshakes and straining them through a condom.

Rent

Tuesday 29th May 2007

Only A Phone Call Away

There's one Fierce event you can access at anytime, from anywhere in the world. Every day, you can eavesdrop on a different conversation on 0121-314-3330. Try it, you'll enjoy it.

Upcoming artists over the next few days include Brum's own Big Bren and New York's Nicole Blackman. You can see details of the programme here.

Magic War - Marisa Carnesky

I saw Marisa Carnesky's stunning Ghost Train at both Fierce 2005 and Glastonbury Festival, so I wasn't about to miss her Fierce performance this year.

In Magic War she plays Athena, Goddess of strategic war ("and sewing and handicrafts"), and mixes classic magic tricks and audience participation with commentary on war. It's a relatively short piece, about 45 minutes, and the end point of the performance left some of the audience waiting to see if the action had actually completed, which robbed Marisa of the depth of final applause she deserved. This minor point could be remedied by changes to lighting, sound or even stewarding. I was intrigued by the tale of Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin's visit to Algeria to "impress the natives" (my quotes) and the link between magic, science and war.

Find out about Fierce Festival events here.

Magical Tales

Searching for information on M.Houdin, led me to this interesting tomb on psychic and other magics by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky who founded the Theosophical Society.

Sunday 27th May 2007

And the winner is...

The "winner" of the Fierce Festival competition to see Your Name in Lights is Una White. You can read her story here .
Your Name in Lights - Una White

Friday 25th May 2007

Tory Island

Tory Island , also known as Toraigh Island and Oilean Thorai, is reached by a small ferry from either Bunbeg or Magheroarty.

Ferry to Tory Island:
Ferry to Tory Island

Map of Tory Island:
Map of Tory Island

Tory Island was a site used by Colm Cille (St Columba) and this strangely shaped cross dates from that time.

Ancient Tau Cross at Harbour:
Ancient Tau Cross at Harbour

This area was used as an altar in the past:
This area was used as an altar in the past

Round Tower:
Round Tower

The island is alive with birds and other wildlife can be spotted if you look carefully

Bay with stones ...
Bay with stones and ...
... and camouflaged seals:
... camouflaged seals
Seal on the rocks

Stone Road:
Stone Road

The shop on Tory Island:
The shop on Tory Island

The tree on Tory Island:
The tree on Tory Island

Thursday 24th May 2007

St Columba / Colm Cille Birthplace

Born in 521, St Columba's mother was fleeing when she paused here to give birth to him. Her blood fell to the earth nearby and turned the ground into "magic" white clay which keeps anyone who posesses some safe. The stone, with cup-marks of an unknown age still attracts tributes in the form of coins. The nearby Colmcille Heritage Centre has a good exhibition with a factual and mythological history of the saint, information on irish history and pre-history, and ancient artifacts including the stone head shown below.

St Columba's Birthplace - Cross and Stone:
St Columba's Birthplace - Cross and Stone

Coins on Stone at St Columba's Birthplace:
Coins on Stone at St Columba's Birthplace

Beads, hair bands and icons left at ruined abbey:
Beads, hair bands and icons left at ruined abbey

Coins left at ruined abbey:
Coins left at ruined abbey

Stone head on display at visitor centre:
Stone head on display at visitor centre

Wednesday 23rd May 2007

Maghera Strand

Waterfall on way to Maghera Strand:
Waterfall on way to Maghera Strand

Snails and Flowers:
Snails and Flowers

Mountains in the Sand - Complete with Contour Lines!:
Mountains in the Sand - Complete with Contour Lines!

Basalt(?) taking a right angle route through limestone(?) strata.:
Basalt(?) taking a right angle route through limestone(?) strata.

Tuesday 22nd May 2007

Lough Salt and Around

Stones on back road to Lough Salt:
Stones on back road to Lough Salt

Tumble-down Cottage:
Tumble-down Cottage

Nice view / Nasty View:
Nice view
Nasty View

Stones near Lough Salt with Erigall in background:
Stones near Lough Salt with Erigall in background

The Lough Salt Stones align with the dip on the horizon:
The Lough Salt Stones align with the dip on the horizon

The Great Arch, Fanad Peninsula

The Great Arch - Near Portsalon:
The Great Arch - Near Portsalon

Lichen, Sea Pink(?) and other Shore plants:
Lichen, Sea Pink(?) and other Shore plants

Monday 21st May 2007

Wave Worn Stone - Rathmullan
Wave Worn Stone

Sometimes a small difference in where you stand can make a big difference to your photos:

A better view Modified Sign

Sunday 20th May 2007

Donegal

Gravestones by the sea - Donegal Friary:
Gravestones by the sea - Donegal Friary

Iron Gravestone - Donegal Friary:
Iron Gravestone - Donegal Friary

Rossnowlagh Beach

Sculpted Cliffs - Rossnowlagh Beach:
Sculpted Cliffs - Rossnowlagh Beach

Sky and Sea at Rossnowlagh, Donegal:
Sky and Sea in Donegal

Sky and Sea in Rossnowlagh, Donegal:
Sky and Sea in Donegal

Green Pavement - Rossnowlagh Beach:
Green Pavement - Rossnowlagh Beach

Friday 18th May 2007

Drumtrodden

Visited the standing stones and cup and ring marks at Drumtrodden near Stranrae in Scotland. Just as I was about to leave the stones, an excellent rainbow appeared.

Drumtroddan Spiral:
Drumtroddan Spiral

Drumtroddan Standing Stones:
Drumtroddan Standing Stones
Drumtroddan Standing Stones
Drumtroddan Standing Stones

Monday 7th May 2007

Bank Holiday Walk near Dorstone

Dorstone in over near Hay-on-Wye, quite a long way to go for a walk from Brum but a lovely area. The Pandy Inn in Dorstone provided us with good local food and real beer.

Arthur's Stone:
Arthur's Stone

Carvings on Church Doorway:
Carvings on Church Doorway

Pretty Church in Dorstone:
Pretty Church in Dorstone

Friday 4th May 2007

Drop Beats not Bombs

Excellent night to which I managed to get both free enty and free drinks through helping out on a Friends of the Earth Stall! (Thanks Becca)

It's ages since I'd heard Marc Reck DJ, and tonight he was accompanied by visuals from Leon with live back lit dance!

Drop Beats not Bombs - Marc Reck and Leon

Birmingham Council Elections 2007

The picture below shows the percentage of votes obtained by each party in each ward. A clear clustering of wards is visible, with the lower half of the diagram dominated by wards with a high Tory vote, the centre by Lib-Dem (mainly with Labour in second place) and the top by Labour wins. If you know the geography of Birmingham, you'll notice that some of the wards which vote similarly are close together (as we might expect), for example, note the four "Sutton..." wards listed at the bottom right.

Percentage of Votes at the Local Election

The data was drawn from the Birmingham City Council website, and is believed to be correct, but I have not gone through and hand-checked every result. You can download the election results data file (csv) if you'd like.

Party's Eye View

The diagram below has been adjusted to show more detail on the performance of individual parties. The colours indicate the best and worst performing wards for a party. For example, Harbourne and Bourneville are the wards in which the Green Party got their highest percentage, and are shown as green. However, these wards were actually won by the Conservative Party, where the yellow rectangles indicate they are in the middle of that party's list of wards by votes obtained.

Party's Eye View of Election Results

Reproduction Rights

You're welcome to reproduce this image as long as it remains completely unchanged. This includes reproducing the title and url "www.andypryke.com/envision" at the top of the picture. I'd be grateful if you would provide a like to that URL and email me to let me know if you've reproduced it or found the diagram useful. Thanks, Andy

More work like this.

I'm now freelance doing data mining and data visualisation, so if you'd like help understanding your data, or if you've some suggestions for other data to visualise, contact me at andy(at)andypryke.com

You can see some other examples of my work

Thursday 3rd May 2007

Making Money Because of Open Source

Open Advantage promote the business benefits of Open Source in the region, and today I attended their Making Money Because Of Open Source seminar. Eliot Smith presented an overview of Open Source Software (OSS) covering history, politics, applications and, most importantly given the title of the seminar, business models which use OSS. This was followed by presentation on the legal aspects by Richard Nicholas of Browne Jacobson which attracted quite a number of questions from the audience.

This was the first Open Advantage event I'd attended and I was very impressed by the quality of presentation, and how knowledgeable the presenters were.

Sound, Pictures and Computer Improvised Jazz

Tim Blackwell works on computer improvised music by transforming sounds into pictures and then back again. Today he was speaking about his method based on particle swarm, and gave a live performance and demonstration. Basically, what happens is that the sound the computer hears appears on screen as a textile like pattern, and a swarm of points fly over it and try to pick out the most "interesting" sections. These are then replayed as a kind of echo. Maybe a picture would help:

Tim Blackwell and Computer, Improvising:
Tim Blackwell and Computer, Improvising

Woven sound and particle swarm:
Woven sound and particle swarm

Weds 2nd May 2007

Plane vs Train - CO2 Calculator

Virgin trains now have a handy calculator which tells you the CO2 output for making your journey by train vs by plane or car. For Birmingham to Edinburgh the figures are 35Kg of CO2 for the train, compared to 53Kg for car and 60Kg by plane, and apparently you can get a single fare from 17quid! Plus no faffing about getting to and from the airport, checking in early etc.

Bento Box Frenzy!

Whilst looking for instructions on freezing Onigiri , I ran across this website with lots of bento style lunchbox ideas.

Vivid Opening - Runners, 3D Pictures and Living Landscapes

Vivid's latest interdisciplinary projects are on show. Ian Upton's 3D pictures of Birmingham University taken using a laser scanner designed for mapping archaeological sites. I'm in there somewhere but it's harder to spot yourself than you might imagine! I particularly like the one which looks like a collection of statuary.

Ravi Deepres and Michael Clifford presented a film about runners, viewed from running machines. This was quite fun, and very engaging. Once you'd got onto the machine (and signed a disclaimer), the film really came alive. I particularly liked the sections where "I" was running through a wood, filmed from the runner's perspective.

Anna Rutter's "Living Landscapes" look initially like slide projections of quiet English country scenes, but after a moment subtle movements reveal that they are actually extremely still and slowly changing videos. Bright and peacful, they draw you in.

Tuesday 1st May 2007

A Crude Awakening

This film is all about Peak Oil and the Hubbert Peak, the idea being that we will reach a point where the demand for oil outstrips production, and that oil production continues to fall. The film is worth seeing, although sometimes it seems to jump to new topics rather suddenly, and it is a little one sided.

Afterwards I spoke about the film and it's relationship to climate change and took a few questions. We're stuffed if we rely on running out of oil to prevent climate change, as we'd still end up with too much CO2 in the atmosphere, and higher oil prices encourage the use of more carbon rich fuels such as coal. Nuclear is no solution as there isn't enough fuel for the whole world to have reactors, and to be honest, politically, there's no way many countries will be allowed to have nuclear power. So for a global problem, it isn't a global solution. The main route to reducing carbon emissions seems to be to use less energy, and there is a great deal that can easily be done on this front.

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Contact me: Website (at) AndyPryke.com, try use a subject which will get through my Spam Filter! I've been having spam filter problems, so if you haven't had a response, I'm really sorry, please try again!

See Also: WebChanges for other recent updates, AllBlogPages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other BirminghamBloggers

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Prev: BlogMarch2007 1 Year Ago: BlogApril2006 Next: BlogMay2007

Friday 27th April 2007

Adobe Building Photos

I'd seen the posters on the side of the Museum and Art Gallery, but I hadn't had chance to pop in and see the exhibition until now. The Waterhall at the side of the gallery contains some great large format pictures of adobe buildings, mainly in Mali with a few from other West African countries. My first impression was "they're not straight", in contrast to the vast majority of buildings. Next, I was drawn to the surroundings, the few objects left outside, the piles of sticks on some of the roofs (or constructing some of the roofs?). Then I became intrigued by the construction process - are there "bricks" of some sort inside, or is it a single mass like concrete? And next, what are they like inside?

The buildings reminded me of Gaudi's Casa Mila in Barcelona, and a little of Hundertwasser.

A video documentary at the far end of the gallery brought it all to life with interviews with master builders, tours through the streets, and finally, glimpses inside some of the buildings. Apparently, the builders have secret spells which they cast to keep the buildings standing, but they also have more sinister ones which can, for example, cause a man to fall off a wall and be killed!

Worth a visit.

Friday 20th April 2007

The Birmingham Open

Over a hundred works of the highest standard by contemporary local artists, and I'm not talking watercolour landscapes or pictures of cats! This really does show how vibrant the arts community in Birmingham is. Most of the work is 2D (pictures, paintings, ink and pencil drawings), with some sculpture and video. It really is too much to take in all at once, so worth multiple visits. One piece which I spent a lot of time observing was Gail Troth's painting of fish, constructed using her unique and painstaking technique.

Oh! and they're mostly for sale too, so if you spot something you fancy, you could put money into the local arts economy and walk out with something which is a joy for ever.

Thursday 12th April 2007

Music by Howard Skempton

Visited Acocks Green Library to see this free performance by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) , and it really was excellent. We started with Suite from Delicate featuring six pieces for two cellos and percussion including glockenspiel. These really showed off the versatility of the cello, from deep resonant thrumbings to "follow my leader" type games. Next Clarinet Quintet with three short movements, some humorous, some darker. Finally Ben Somewhen lively pieces inspired by a series of cartoons by Ben Hartley which featured harp and double base in addition to cello, violin and viola. Apparently there's a recording being made of the Ben Somewhen pieces this very weekend!

The non-standard venue was part of Birmingham City Council's Arts Champions scheme, which links individual arts organisations with particular areas of the city. BCMG is linked with Yardley, and we had a big turn out.

Wednesday 11th April 2007

New work at Vivid

Sean O'Keeffe and Steve Bulcock's Draw a Cowboy opened at Vivid , alongside Tobias Sternberg's stop frame films.

Draw a Cowboy creates a kind of animated "join the dots" image derived from real footage from cowboy films. We see small crosses, sometimes labelled "monument valley", "spur", "gun", "hat" etc which trace the movement of the original object's edges. At times, it's cryptic, unclear, and then it leaps into life and it's almost like seeing the original film. A separate monitor shows the process, using software developed to track the movement of crash test dummies!

Tobias Sternberg has been artist in residence at Vivid since early February and been slaving away to create stop motion films. I expected the standard "random office objects moving around like animals" kind of thing, but this was very different. The films are all very much set within the Vivid space in which they are being shown. In one, the camera flies through the rafters of the room, in another, it circles a suspended basketball, looking for all the world as if it is a planet. The stop frame approach makes the films look too perfect, as if they are computer raytraced.

Crowd6 - Simple Pleasures (till 11th May)

Crowd6 is a new, artist-led, gallery in Bearwood. It's open weekends (Sat 10-4, Sun 11-2) and weekdays by appointment. The inaugural exhibition is Simple Pleasures featuring work by Naomi Butler (who, indidently, was in the Birmingham Complaints Choir), Jamie Randall, Elizabeth Short and Steven Varndell.

The works include video of the secret lives of seamonkeys and photos of Angel (think Buffy) being seduced!

Hurray for a new arts space! I think all these artists are graduates of Margaret St, and a fine counterpoint to the rather bizare story in the press a few months back of Birmingham being lacking in the arts!

P.S. They're receiving sponsorship from Belvoir Lettings in Bearwood , so if you're looking for somewhere to live there, tell them Crowd6 sent you smile

Saturday 7th April 2007

Win your name in lights...

I finally got round to checking out this Birmingham based website where you can win your name in Hollywood lights . Have a go. But let me win smile

Friday 6th April 2007

KR-36 continues

Although I can't tell you anything about it, KR-36 continues, is great fun and you can still get involved...

Kiosk - Thornton-Pitt Investigates

The Kiosk's journey around Birmingham reaches the Bull Ring Markets with besuited investigators Thornton and Pitt interviewing members of the public about their experiences.

Tuesday 3rd April 2007

KR-36

The Event is now in full swing and I've got to plug KR-36 by AAS . It's an interactive performance and well worth signing up for. I can't tell you much more as it would spoil the surprise but email npc(at)404corporate.net or use the phone number here for details.

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Saturday 30th March 2007

Kate Goes... To Wonderland

The latest theme for Kate Goes... was Alice in Wonderland. In logo order, Bird was the Caterpillar, Beth played the Seven of Spades, Joe the Mad Hatter, Kate herself was the Cheshire Cat, and Susie the Dormouse. Another excellent gig for Kate Goes..., they just keep getting better and better!

If you haven't heard them before, check out Heartbeat on the Kate Goes... Myspace . There's also a video of the Alice in Wonderland gig!

  • Joe as Mad Hatter:
    Joe as Mad Hatter

  • Beth, Bird and Kate as Seven of Spades, Caterpillar and Cheshire Cat:
    Beth, Bird and Kate as Seven of Spades, Caterpillar and Cheshire Cat

  • Kate and Susie as Cheshire Cat and Dormouse:
    Kate and Susie as Cheshire Cat and Dormouse

The Event

The Event is a two week arts festival running in Birmingham until the 15th of April.

Today I visited The Springhill Institute to see some excellent videos of work from their visiting artists over the past few years. These included the Birmingham Complaints Choir, an investigation of local UFO stories and beliefs, the Bergman Horror Show and a dual screen piece in which zoo animals seemed to copy the facial expressions of an actor.

Next, The Kiosk, commissioned by Capital Arts Project, where members of the public were invited to draw two artists. The Kiosk will feature a number of different performances over the festival. Today it was in Chamberline Square but check out the website for future locations and events . The "Bureau of Investigations" at the Bullring Markets next Friday sounds very interesting!

I managed to bump into the The Plastique Fantastique crowd down by the Bullring and followed their bizarre medieval procession to the Iron Man. They attracted a lot of bemused looks from shopper and the attention of various street urchins who tried to pull their masks or steal their props. They also gained a number of passers by who processed down to Curzon St Station where the launch party was held.

Thursday 29th March 2007

Wolverhampton Art Openings

I've always liked Wolverhampton, the city centre hasn't been converted into the kind of chain-store clone town which you get in Brum. Now there's more reasons to visit: Wolverhampton Art Gallery has a new wing containing a very nice selection of pop art; Passage showed a lot of work from contemporary local artists, including a balloon launch and a procession to the Sheila Cooke Foundation rolling car types and racing remote control cars - a strange sight indeed!

Tuesday 27th March 2007

Misty's Big Adventure and Poppy and the Jezebeles

This was the first time I've seen Poppy and the Jezebeles though I'd heard a lot about them and even seen them on the front of a magazine in WHSmiths - fame indeed! They came on to a great, and quite funny, build-up voiceover, one of the points being "straight from the largest girl's school in Europe", which gives you an ideas of the band's age group!

The first few songs I wasn't too keen on, I found them a little slow, and the sound balance wasn't good. However, the songs Jezebell and an almost acoustic one called Girelle???? or something similar was great. There was a lot of instrument changes and they've obviously got a lot of talent.

I have seen Misty's several times. In fact, more than several times, but this was a particularly excellent gig. Good sound, extremely tight musicianship and lots of space to dance. The set list had been selected from fans writing in and I noticed again that despite their upbeat sound, many of the lyrics deal with slightly darker things, such as war or relationship breakup. Any of course, to complement this darker side, Erotic Volvo wore his black suit for Serious Thing.

Oh! There's also a Sing-A-Long-A-Misty's Karaoke albumn, Karaeoke Time with Misty's Big Adventure, which features seven songs to tickle your tonsils! smile

Friday 23rd March 2007

Coriolanus at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

I don't think I've seen Coriolanus before, but it's by a guy called William Shakespeare. Maybe I was a bit tired, but I found the first hour really dragged, the speeches were overlong, and could have been shorter without losing any content. Also the lead actor, playing Coriolanus, seemed to be putting on a funny voice for quite large parts smile All very well to express the characteristics of the (erm) character, but you still need to be understandable. Despite these problems, the second half has much greater pace, and all in all it worked out well.

Tuesday 13th March 2007

Exploring Kyoto...

The full entry for today entry is here.

Monday 12th March 2007

From Tokyo to Kyoto via Mt Fugi...

The full entry for today entry is here.

Sunday 11th March 2007

Yoyogi Park, Monorails and German Beer

A relatively lazy day today, walking in the park, visiting the famous "Yoyogi-Koen bridge" where the weirdo's (allegedly) hang out, travelling on a monorail across the sea, and viewing Tokyo from a giant big wheel.

The full entry for today entry is here.

Saturday 10th March 2007

Ameyayokocho Market

The full entry for today entry is here and features the wonders of Ameyayokocho market, the bizarre photo booths known as Purikura and octopus balls. Oh, and a dog in a dress smile

  • Giant ducks:
    Giant ducks

  • Dog in a Dress:
    Dog in a Dress

Friday 9th March 2007

Ryokan Breakfast

The breakfast at the Ryokan didn't disappoint, with more yuba and also a bowl of tiny little white fish.

  • Ryokan Breakfast:
    Ryokan Breakfast

  • Little White Fish:
    Little White Fish

Nikko Temple Complex and Arriving in Tokyo

This page is getting so big that I've started to do subpages for the individual days.

The full entry for today entry is at BlogMarch9th2007, and features temples, high-tech toilets and representations of elephants!

Thursday 8th March 2007

Conference Presentation and Lunch

Today I gave my presentation on "Heatmap Visualisation of Multi-Objective Population Based Algorithms". It's basically a way for people in the field to see much more information about the computer systems they use. If you're interested, you can download the paper here.

  • Heatmap Visualisation of Multi Objective Population Based Algorithms:
    Heatmap Visualisation of Multi Objective Population Based Algorithms

For lunch we had a bento box smile :
Bento Box :-)

Staying in a Ryokan

After the conference I set off for Nikko, to stay in a traditional Japanese hotel known as a "Ryokan". From the train there's a beautiful sunset, and also quite a few Cartoon Signs. I leave my shoes in entrance hall to tatami matted room with paper walls (and some real walls too smile ). Here I change into a Yukata, a kind of light dressing gown. In this, rather cold, weather, it comes with a little jacket which you wear over the top.

Nikko is famous for its Buddhist temples and, presumably due to a vegetarian influence and being inland, the food features a lot of Yuba - the tofu skin formed on boiling soya milk. The meal you see below features it in four guises; all wrapped round itself in the little bowl at the front; in a kind of kebab; gently folded against itself with a light sauce in the blue flower dish; and most excitingly (!) in DIY form in the boiling tray of soya milk on the left. As it boils, a skin forms which you lift off and dip in soy sauce. Once fire goes out you add a clear liquid which curdles it (enzyme?) to make a quite liquidy tofu (though it didn't seem so good to me).

  • Nice Sunset!:
    Nice Sunset!

  • Meal at Ryokan - lots of Yuba:
    Meal at Ryokan - lots of Yuba

  • Beautifully presented food:
    Beautifully presented food

  • DIY Yuba:
    DIY Yuba

Japanese Baths

After eating I check out the Japanese bath. This is communal, naked, and single sex. The bathhouse is a seperate building, and I need to walk for a small distance across covered bridge to reach it. At the entrance I leave my sandels, and inside there are some sinks, hair dryers etc plus baskets to leave your Yukata in. You are required to wash/shower very thoroughly before entering, and the next room has the washing facilities. First you sit on (or hover above) a tiny stool, pouring water over yourself with a small bucket. Next you soap up, and rinse off using a shower head, scrubbing yourself with a thin white towel. I think it's good form to do this a couple of times to prove how clean you are. After this, you can enter the baths.

  • The Bathing Code:
    The Bathing Code

Luckily, as this was my first time, there was no-one else around to witness any violations of bathing etiquette, and I was able to bath in peace with a view over the trees and garden. The Ryokan also had an outdoor bath, which I also tried. It's very relaxing!

Wednesday 7th March 2007

Lunch

I'm really starting to like Japanese food. Today's lunch was no exception. We ate at a restaurant next to the big temple in Matsushima, sat on tatami mats, but with a great concession - a pit under the table let me eat in comfort, without having to sit cross-legged.

The meal had miso soup (of course), seaweed, the local fish cakes, rice, soba noodles and then the more out of the ordinary stuff. Squid in squid liver sauce - hmmm, chewy and quite bitter tasting, not one of my favourites. Some eel in a sweetish sauce is hiding in the "wooden" boxes. There was also shell fish: whelks (I think), scallops, prawn and just what is that very chewy white stuff? I've had it before as sushi, and I'm not so keen... It's either squid or octopus.

  • A modest meal:
    A modest meal

After a guided tour around Matsushima's biggest temple (which we visited on Sunday), we go for a trip on a dragon prowed boat around the Bay. Incidently, the literal translation of Matsushima is Pine Island(s), and it's they that are the key feature in it's legendary views.

  • The many handed godess of mercy (of is it a Buddha?) - Photo courtesy Josh Knowles:
    The many handed godess of mercy (Photo courtesy Josh Knowles)

  • Dragon Boat:
    Dragon Boat

  • The boat served Matsushima Brewery dunkel beer:
    Dunkel Beer

  • Matsushima = Pine Island:
    Matsushima = Pine Island

  • Seagull in Flight:
    Seagull in Flight

Back on dry land again, we visited one of the islands linked to the mainland by footbridge.

  • Temple on Island:
    Temple on Island

Then in the evening it was the conference dinner, with more good quality sashimi and sushi than I've seen before!

  • Sashimi :-):
    Sashimi :-)

  • Lots of Nigiri Sushi!:
    Lots of Nigiri Sushi!

Finally, I noticed this strange sign near the cigarette machine in the hotel.

  • Smokers Education:
    Smokers Education

Tuesday 6th March 2007

Bento Box!

The conference is in full swing, so fairly much confined to the hotel. However, we did get this very tasty bento box for lunch. Bottom right is tofu and prawns, top right some unidentified meat, middle is pickles I think, and top left is five different bits and pieces + salad, including a fried crab claw.

  • Tasty Lunchbox:
    Tasty Lunchbox

Monday 5th March 2007

Japanese Style Breakfast

The conference hotel has a buffet style breakfast with both western and Japanese food. Today I went for seaweed, tofu and minced beef, Japanese mushrooms, boiled soya beans, salted salmon, giant radish, pickles and the local speciality of fishcake. Makes a change from cornflakes.

Japanese Style Breakfast

Ice Cream with a Twist

Can you have a "Twist" of beans? Either way, Haagen Dazs cater to their regional markets by producing an azuki bean ice cream, handily available from a machine in the hotel at a bargain price of around 1 pound 20p.

  • Azuki Bean Ice Cream:
    Azuki Bean Ice Cream

Another popular ice cream flavour you get in Japan but not the UK is green tea. Check out this site if you really want to see the variety of ice creams sold in Japan

Sunday 4th March 2007

Exploring Matsushima

The conference doesn't start until tomorrow, so after registration I explore Matsushima a little more. First stop is for drinks and ice cream from the ubiquitous machines:

Drinks Machine

Ice Cream Machine

I wander round the bay and explore an island with small shrines and rock carvings of buddhas. The island is joined to the mainland by a very traditional looking red bridge.

  • Red Bridge:
    Red Bridge

  • Buddha Niche:
    Buddha Niche

  • View of Pine Tree Islands:
    View of Pine Tree Islands

  • Tree Roots:
    Tree Roots

  • Breaking Wave Rock:
    Breaking Wave Rock

After this, I look round the town a little. For lunch I buy my first �rice triangle� with seaweed sheets, known as onigiri, at "familymart" a small supermarket. For less than a pound I�m introduced to this delicious Japanese equivalent of the sandwich. In the centre of the rice is a little surprise � some salmon, or seaweed or pickled plum (ume). Very moreish!

Next I find myself at a religious site, with statues of what seem to be Buddha's in Bibs
Buddha's in Bibs

Stop in gift shop café for coffee and macha style green tea (powdered tea whisked up into a lather) with a sesame seed bun. A coffee costs around 500 yen which is relatively expensive for Japan, but cheaper than a UK Starbucks. I take some photos of the menu to help in my decoding of Katakana.

Saturday 3rd March 2007

Arrive in Japan

I arrived at Narita airport, near(ish) to Tokyo today.

My first impression of Japan is "it's dry". The vegetation I see from the plane is brown, not green and it looks initially like a hot dry summer rather than the cold late winter it really is.

  • Mountains from Plane:
    Mountains from Plane

  • Japan looks dry:
    Japan looks dry

The train to Tokyo from Narita airport takes about an hour. I get my first Japanese food in the station, some soba noodles with egg and tempura , chosen by pointing at the plastic display model outside the café. The egg turns out to be raw, but it's all very tasty and good value.

  • Plastic Noodles with (raw!) egg:
    Plastic Noodles with (raw!) egg

After getting to Tokyo, I realise that a JR-East (Japan Rail East) rail pass costing 20,000 Yen will save me quite a bit of money on my journey. Unfortunately I didn't get it together to purchase a JR pass which works for the whole country, and costs the same amount, but can only be pre-purchased outside Japan. This means I'll need to pay for the train to Kyoto later - about 27,000 Yen return or approx 120 pounds.

The train is clean and efficient. I book my place about 15 mins before boarding, the train arrives exactly on time, with the positions where each carriage will stop marked in the platform floor. There are also blue marks laying out a place to queue and yellow textured tiles which led a path to the exits. People here tend to walk on the left, like in the uk, as Japan is a left hand side driving country too. This is worth knowing as some of the platforms are quite narrow at points.

In Sendai, I take the local train to Matsushima, and spot some nice Cartoon Signs. In the one below, the woman with pigs trotters for feet has fallen off the platform because she was wearing inappropriate footware. Men, sensibly, should presses the emergency button, while women should scream.

  • The Pigfooted Woman Falls...:
    The Pigfooted Woman Falls...

  • Ow! My finger!:
    Ow! My finger!

There are some nice views of the sea from the train, and it doesn't take too long. There's a bus, synchronised with the train timetable, which drops off at the hotel for only 100 yen (40p ish) and I'm soon exploring my hotel room.

I have the "forest view" (i.e. No view of Matsushima bay), and looking at the fire map on th door, it seems like I've the smallest room on the floor. Never mind, it's a good room, obviously not brand new but clean, well kept and equipped with several things you don't find in a typical Western hotel.

For a start, there's a very high tech toilet which will squirt water at you given half a chance. Luckily, the page of instructions on the wall include both diagrams and English.

sign_hotel_toilet.jpg

A tea pot and green tea is provided, and there's also some snacks, replenished each morning. These are "spiders" (as one of my companions names them), actually a mixture of small dried fish and nuts in a caramel sauce - a bit like popcorn I guess, and thin sheets of seaweed with a wasabi coating - very tasty!

Sometimes these are supplemented by something special such as a black pearl bun, made with black sesame seeds, or a sweet made from rice flour and red bean paste.

In the evening I wander down to Matsushima, seeing a little of the coast and eating in a Japanese restaurant where we sit on tatami matting with low tables and eat grilled fish, rice, pickles and miso soup for 1400yen (just over 6 pounds). The English menu also features "cow phlegm" which I hope is a mistranslation. Still, I'm grateful for the English menu. You won't find many Japanese menus in British seaside towns.

  • Cow Phlegm Grilling:
    Cow Phlegm Grilling

Afterwards, I walk back to the hotel, and take pictures of the nicely lit rocks and bizarre signs:

  • Mary Poppins Area:
    Mary Poppins Area

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Sunday 24th February 2007

Elephants at the City Museum

On Sunday I visited the City Museum and Art Gallery, something which I don't do often enough given that it's free and packed full of all sorts of objects and paintings. This picture of an elephant from a 17th century map caught my eye. I like these old drawings done by someone who never actually saw the animal in question.

Elephant as drawn by someone who has never seen one

See also: my page on representations of elephants!

Nature Centre

The Nature Centre at Canon Hill Park is pitched squarely at the family market. Good value at less than 2 quid for an adult, there's a cafe, quite a lot of indoor displays to shelter from the rain in, and of course the animals. The highlight (of bizarity) is the landscape of little houses built for guinea pigs smile

  • Tortoise:
    Tortoise

  • Liliput for Guinea Pigs:
    Liliput for Guinea Pigs

  • A fish!:
    A fish!

Weds 21st February 2007

Kihlberg and Henry at Vivid

Vivid 's new season kicked off with work by Reuben Henry and Karin Kihlberg of the Springhill Institute. Lately they've been travelling and making film pieces, including the The Waiting Room, a series of pieces featuring members of the (art-gallery-going) public which they made at Walsall New Art Gallery and which I wrote about last May. Also on show is The Poets in which Chinese actors act out various scenes, with subtitles in English. Apparently, the Chinese language sound track is actually them reciting the stage directions, though my Chinese language skills weren't quite up to deciphering it. Elizabeth Telfer (ex-Glasgow Uni) addressed the linguistic philosophy and moral associations of food - identifying temperance and hospitableness as key "food virtues". The final speaker, Richard Gough (University of Wales) showed slides and film of his many, many performances involving food, feeding, eating and the "sociality of food" - they all looked like events I'd have loved to have seen!

Later we adjourned to Rooty Fruity at The Custard Factory for food, fine wine and films. In Mutton, a lonely woman finds satisfaction in the meat from her evening course in cookery. Ice Cream Dream, featuring Kulvinder Ghir, tells the story of a little girl, Luna, whose dad runs an ice cream van. She dreams of being famous and popular for "Luna's Ice Cream" and prefers to help her dad rather than play with the other children. It's a very upbeat film, with a happy ending. Loved it!

Eccentric City

Eccentric City claims to be "The World's First Dedicated Eccentric Newspaper", and sales staff can often be spotted at arts events in Birmingham. Articles include: an interview with Birmingham Legend Big Bren , a biography of "Flint Jack" the forger who amazed the Victorian members of the Geological Society, Lunar Walks, and my personal favourite Electroplating the Dead. Pickup a copy at The Anchor pub next to Digbeth coach station, or see The Eccentric City Website - you won't regret it!

  • Eccentric City Seller:
    Eccentric City Seller
  • Eccentric City:
    Eccentric City

Shopping, Shopping, Shopping...

The Eccentric City newspaper gave me the address for Big Bren's Myspace , which features his great "rant" - Shopping. I've seen Big Bren on a number of occasions, sometime sole and sometimes with his Combo, and he's got wonderful stage presence.

Tues 20th February 2007

Consuming Passions

Consuming Passions was an afternoon of talks on the theme of food in art practice, complete with actual food in the form of home made pate, baba ghanoush and onion marmalade. Martin Caraher (City University) spoke first on the social and environmental aspects, giving some fascinating examples of just how messed up the food trade is at both an international and local level.

Sun 18th February 2007

Victoria and Albert Museum

Some animal themed exhibits. Note the P.G.Wodehouse reference of the final one!

  • Noble Lion:
    Noble Lion
  • Silver Leopard:
    Silver Leopard
  • Tippoo's Tiger:
    Tippoo's Tiger
  • Silver Cow Creamer:
    Silver Cow Creamer

I also spotted this lovely Church very close to the V&A.

  • Church of Latter Day Saints:
    Church of Latter Day Saints

Sat 17th February 2007

Blue Deepio

For some reason, I really like this sign in my local laundrette:

  • Blue Deepio:
    Blue Deepio

Absent Without Leave

I visited the Victoria Miro Gallery in London for the opening of Absent Without Leave which brought together 13 artists, mainly German I think, in a classic white gallery space. Pieces which stood out to me were Zeit is Keine Autobahn by Michael Sailstorfer in which a car type rubbing against the wall filled the whole space with the smell of burning rubber and Andreas Zybach's Self-reproducing pedestal where visitors clambered across a thing floor suspended on balloons (and thereby blew up another balloon).

  • Self-reproducing pedestal:
    Self-reproducing pedestal
  • Zeit ist Keine Autobahn:
    Zeit ist Keine Autobahn

Wenlock Arms

After the show we ran across the Wenlock Arms, a traditional pub packed with beer tickers and with a live jazz band. The beer festival has a Scottish theme, and the clientele were friendly.

  • Jazz at The Wenlock Arms:
    Jazz at The Wenlock Arms

Friday 16th February 2007

Food at Penny Black and Comedy at The Glee

I think I got this the right way round - food at the glee was very heavy on the fried goods, while the arabiata pasta I had at Penny Black in the Mailbox was excellent. Spicy with fresh chilli, lots of vegetables which weren't over cooked, and the tomato sauce was flavoured with fresh coriander - Lovely!

The comedy at The Glee was OK. I always find it a bit of an odd layout. You have to sit in very tight rows, and there's not a lot in the way of breaks (well, there were only 2 acts + the compere), so there's quite a restriction on interaction with the people you're with. Because of the seating (I guess?) the bar closes during the acts, so if you're unlucky you can spend the whole interval queueing! I make it sound worse than it was, it wasn't bad at all, but I prefer the "nightclub" style of layout you get at clubs like the Comedy Kav.

Thursday 15th February 2007

The God Who Wasn't There

I ran across the film The God Who Wasn't There via a Google Ad, and was intrigued by the title. The website has a number of clips which give a flavour of the film. The clips on The Christs Before Christ and Did Jesus Begin as a Myth? suggest that the film explores the Jesus as Myth thesis as discussed in the book The Jesus Mysteries. If you have a look though the Wikipedia entry for Jesus as Myth , it seems quite a convincing argument, particularly the lack of historical references in what was (to me) a surprisingly well documented period.

A Finnish View of Birmingham Snows

La Dulce Vida has a nice piece on a Finn's view of the snows in Brum last week smile

Saturday 10th February 2007

Cymbeline

I almost missed Cymbeline's stint at the Rep. I'd seen it back in Sept 2006 at The Swan in Stratford, and vowed to see it when it came to Brum, but I hadn't been keeping an eye on the programme at the Rep. Luckily I realised on Friday, and decided to book in for today's matinee performance, and was so glad I had.

Kneehigh Theatre are really a superb company. Their Tristan and Isolte in 2005 was great, and Cymbeline even better. I think the band made it for me, plus the mixed treatment as tragedy and comedy, which gave it a great depth through contrast.

Natalie Haynes

Strangely enough, I've also seen Natalie Haynes before, most recently in October 2005, though I hadn't seen her "Watching the Detectives" show before. The premise is that if we had the right TV detective, we could get them to solve all the world's problems, and this leads us on an exploration of the habits and characters of misc TV 'tecs. I must admit to being a little left behind by some of the references, as I'm not a regular TV viewer, and certainly can't put in the daytime dedication required by Natalie's extensive research.

I did really like the bits about Columbo, he's always learning something new in order to solve the crime. I remember one episode where the crucial clue was to do with the time it would take cake icing to dry. Erm, somehow that story always seemed better before I tried writing it down! Anyway Natalie was great, well worth seeing smile

Thursday 8th February 2007

Snow

It snowed today. Someone at Birmingham University build this Snow-Clocktower! Pretty cool smile

  • Snow-Clocktower:
    Snow-Clocktower

Sunday 4th February 2007

Harbourne Blogger

Another Birmingham Blogger La Dulce Vida, based in Harbourne - http://lavidaadulcita.livejournal.com/ giving a personal Finish-Cuban perspective on life in Brum!

Flatpack Festival: The Science of Sleep

A beautifully shot magical realist film which mixes dreams and reality, I really liked this one. There are also some great craft creations, such as a whole world made from cardboard tubes, and a cloth landscape complete with knitted skiers. I believe it's coming out for a more general release, so well worth catching it if you can. Destined to be a re-watchable classic.

Flatpack Festival: Blood Tea and Red String

Sinister mice in frock-coats, stop-frame animated over thirteen years, that certainly drew me to this, the last film of the Flatpack Festival. Although I found it perfectly clear on a surface level, I was left a bit floundering by the symbolism. Did the blue bird or the human headed spider represent something, or was it all a dada-ist koan? Very pretty, very strange, but what did it all mean!

Saturday 3rd February 2007

Birmingham Sights

"Mick the Meat" is a long time fixture of Birmingham markets. His van always makes me grin

Mick the Meat

In the window of Richer Sounds, I spotted the following, very exciting TV:

Lion TV

What I liked best was that in the little list of features, number one was "looks like a lion" smile - like you couldn't guess that bit!

Flatpack Festival: Parkour and Machinima

Parkour is that kind of street furniture / urban environment jumping and running, which I'm sure results in many a broken head. In fact, one of the films featured someone who'd split their stomach open - you didn't see the incident, just the bandaged part. In some of the French films, people jumped from roof to roof across fantastics drops. It's a bit like the chase scenes from crime films, but with real people in real streets. Coventry city centre featured heavily. The films were curated by Zen Parkour TV .

  • Parkour Films:
    Parkour Films

The second set of films, only three I'm afraid, were Machinima, that is, films made inside computer games. One was the funny story of an artist getting his fantasy revenge on his critics, another a vampire featuring video for a gothy band. The third was an audio documentary of interviews with D-Day survivors accompanied with violent footage from a computer game.

  • Goth Machinima:
    Goth Machinima

We also had a lot of other shorts, including a film entitled something like "The art of DE" about moving smoothly and accurately in everyday life - I thought it was by William Burroughs, but maybe I got that wrong.

  • Some Random Dogs!:
    Some Random Dogs!

Friday 2nd February 2007

Flatpack Festival

My first Flatpack Festival event of the year, as IslandBar. I've never visited IslandBar before, and none of the other people I've asked had either, but it seems nice venue. The Flatpack stuff all happens upstairs, where there are some comfy seats and sofas plus a little corner bar. I reckon that IslandBar will gain a lot of custom from hosting Flatpack films.

  • Flatpack Festival:
    Flatpack Festival

Today I saw the Films of Jean Painleve, underwater films of shrimps and octopi (or octopuses if you prefer - I use both), cilli and cells. Very pretty! There was also a "Balloon Fish" competition where the audience was invited to create their own fish by drawing on balloons. A very high standard of entries was received!

  • Films of Jean Painleve:
    Films of Jean Painleve

  • A Microscopic View:
    A Microscopic View

  • The "Balloon Fish" Competition:
    The

  • The Winning Balloon Fish:
    The Winning Balloon Fish

  • Harry the Happy Octopus:
    Harry the Happy Octopus

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Contact me: Website (at) AndyPryke.com, try use a subject which will get through my Spam Filter! I've been having spam filter problems, so if you haven't had a response, I'm really sorry, please try again!

See Also: WebChanges for other recent updates, AllBlogPages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other BirminghamBloggers

This is my blogchalk: United Kingdom, West Midlands, Birmingham, Moseley

Prev: BlogDecember2006 1 Year Ago: BlogJanuary2006 Next: BlogFebruary2007

Tuesday 31st January 2007

Lost Souls

Nice work above a cash point in Moseley recently:

Insert your soul here

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

British Museum

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:

  • Easter Island Figure:
    Easter Island Figure (1) Easter Island Figure (3) Easter Island Figure (2)

  • Door Guardian:
    Door Guardian

  • Chariot Plaque:
    Chariot Plaque

  • Cuneiform Sales Tablet:
    Cuneiform Sales Tablet

  • Eagle Headed Guardian:
    Eagle Headed Guardian

  • Ishtar, Queen of the Night, Godess of Love:
    Ishtar, Queen of the Night, Godess of Love Ishtar, Queen of the Night, Godess of Love

  • Land Purchase Tablet:
    Land Purchase Tablet

  • Land Purchase Tablet Caption:
    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) smile

Give Me Back My Hat

No explanation needed...

Give me back my hat

Friday 19th January 2007

Derek Acorah

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. smile

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

Cinderella

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

It's here...

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.

Ugly Betty

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.

  • Ugly?:
    Ugly?

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.

Cloudbusting

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.

Edgbaston Reservoir

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
The Golden Temple of Birmingham!

These gates were erected in memory of the battle of Trafalgar!
Trafalgar Memorial Gates
Trafalgar Memorial Plaque

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
A Place for an End - Adam Chodzko
A Place for an End - Adam Chodzko

The (ex) Palace Ballroom:
The (ex) Palace Ballroom

Updating...

I also added a lot of new stuff to my December Blog today.

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