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Best Of Blog 2005
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Street Furniture Stickers,
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Wed 31 Aug 2005
Burlesque Show at the Spiegel Garden
The Spiegel Tent is a lovely place, bringing a portable kind of class with it's mirrors and columns. The burleque show here was great - very funny, lively and bright, and all you'd expect from Burlesque!
City Art is just across from the Fruitmarket, so made an ideal next visit. The ground floor presented an exhibition of Scottish Colourists. I must admit that, having more of am interest in contemporary work, I had only heard of this school through an Inspector Rebus novel. Although only maybe 20 paintings were shown, it provided insight into a quite a varied and influential group. The second floor contained more modern works, including an interesting "box" work - dark, 3d and sculptural - on the theme of fishing. What really caught my eye, or rather ear, was a video showing a town and landscape planner who designed a Scottish newtown and also a couple who lived on the estate. Initially I thought it was a documentary, then I started to wonder about the ages of the planners. The answer was revealed when I checked the notes and found their names were Hausman and John Barleycorn. The 3rd floor told me about the new library of Alexandria (how come my phone knows how to spell this, but I ha
cotish"?) which I recall has a nice website with 3D models. Finally, the 4th floor had some very interesting work from "the African Diaspora" - mostly paintings including a couple featuring the "hotentot venus", but also a multi-screen video installation, a room tiled with moorish tiles containing pictures of women and text in french. The centre piece was a large table surrounded by very animated figures in old fashioned suits made in African fabrics, representing the Berlin (?) Conference which divided Africa up amongst the colonial powers.
Posted on the move at 19:16:24
Artist Cai Guo-Qiang has created two very different works for the Fruitmarket gallery in Edinburgh. Downstairs, a grove of plantain palms with the texts of Scottish ghost stories written on their leaves dwell in a nighttime light, whilst at night they are illuminated with sun lamps and filmed by CCTV cameras. In the part of China which Cai comes from, plantains are believed to attract ghosts. It's hoped that the CCTV images being shown in the room next door will reveal these ghosts. Upstairs are a series of portraits produced in one of the most bizare methods I've encountered. Cai cuts shapes, places them on very large pieces of thick paper, sprinkles them carefully with gunpowder, and then sets it off! The resulting explosion burns and marks the paper, leaving behind a portrait of someone from the city's ghostly past. This process is shown on video along with the artist's explanation of the work.
Posted on the move at 13:01:35
Tues 30th Aug 2005
Films by Daria Martin
Saw 2 nice short films by Daria Martin at Gallery 1 & 11. First, "Man and Mask" had a great cover of Kraftwerk on acoustic instuments - I've heard some of this before as it was used as a trailer on Radio4. Both films (the other being "Birds") dealt with identity, masks, hopes, dreams, how we perceive people in social situations, the difference between the contents of a person's head and the scene that is visible. That's how I read them anyway.
Real Mary King Close
Also visited "the Real Mary King Close" - I'm not sure if there's a fake one, but this one is a series of pre-1753 buildings and streets buried under the buildings of Edinburgh. The tour has a historical bent, with some ghoulies and ghosties. The most interesting section is probably the old streets themselves, as most of the homes aren't well preserved. There's also a shrine in the form of lots of cuddly toys, started by a japanese psychic!
Mon 29 Aug 2005
Saw Craig Cambell, Canadian Comedian who did a nice set at the Pleasence on his experience in the UK and Scotland as a foreigner.
Went on to caberet at Club Bongo, which had some great performers - I always thought that you just threw a diablo up into the air and caught it. I didn't know you could do such a good act with it! Also some dance, magic, music etc.
During the day I caught some street performers on the High Street.
Sun 28 Aug 2005
Finished off the night at Spank, which had a great selection of comedians and a fine atmosphere as all the Underbelly staff celebrated their final day. A tag team of comedians took the plunge and did short sets till gonged (or booed) off by the audience. My favouright has to be Robin Ince's impression of Stewart Lee.
Sat 27th Aug 2005
Saw Steve Day, a deaf comedian talking about art history. He's got an exceptionally engaging manner and comes across as a really nice guy. Plenty of laughs too with a nice rhythm, switching from discussing the slides of famous pictures to his own experiences. The "deaf" vs "Deaf"(with a capital "D") section was an interesting insight into deaf politics.
Saw the wonderful Natalie Haynes, intelligent, radio 4 listening and fan of parots. She talks at a mile a minute, and will be playing The MAC on the 6th of October (I think).
Fri 26th Aug 2005
Saw Janey Godley ( http://www.JayneyGodley.co.uk ) speak about her experiences in a Glaswegian gangster family.
"Free beer show" in the evening.
Tues 23 Aug 2005
Saw 2 dance pieces and 2 films from the Rosie Kay Dance Company ( http://www.RosieKay.co.uk ). I saw Asylum just before it went to Edinburgh, and this time it seemed much darker, without such a happy ending. It remained an extremely powerful piece. "Honey You're a Pig" was new to me, and featured a scene in which one dancer held a raw egg in their mouth for what seemed like ages - I just couldn't help but think about the jaw-ache! Again, the subject matter seems to be relationships, but with some comic twists. The films: "22" and "Wild Party" are very different in character: I'd seen "22" before, it's a spooky piece, shot (so I'm told) in the childrens ward of an abandoned hospital. The story goes that the security staff are scared to go there due to it's strange atmosphere, which is brought out in long slow smooth shots pulling back from a window, featuring a series of (often silent) figures, including childen. "Wild Party" is based on the 1928 poem by Joseph Moncure March and tells the story of (you guessed it), a wild party. Hosted by Mae and Burns, the party fueled by drink and drugs, goes past flirtation, with dramatic consequences.
Sun 21 Aug 2005
I spotted this "sundog" from the train coming into Sheffield. It was visible for at least 25 minutes from 6pm. Sometimes it formed a brightly coloured spot with rainbow colours. Other times it spread out to form a short rainbow arc with the red on the inside of the curve. A corresponding spot also appeared on the left of the sun. The distance between the sun and the spot is about 1.5 hand widths at arms length, though it's hard to measure on a crowded train!
Posted on the move at 18:29:10
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Wed 17 Aug 2005
Listening to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Quandry Phase) I heard this interesting and quotable statement by Arthur Dent - "better to go in search of the truth than pretend it isn't there". I thought perhaps it might be a quote from somewhere, but I didn't find it online. I think I'll add it to my quotes pages.
Thought it was time I went through my list of Birmingham Bloggers and identified those that have fallen along the wayside. Reading through, I came across some interesting blogs:
Well, at the conclusion of that exercise, I can say that of the roughly 40 blogs I had listed, 10 have fallen by the wayside. Those who are about to blog salute you.
I didn't check the "probably in Brum or nearby" blogs as I've had enough blog reading for one day!
I also added the following blogs to BirminghamBloggers...
Sat 13 Aug 2005
The Editors "Secret" Gig
Rapidly rising Brumie band The Editors play a gig in am underpass near the mailbox. Not such a well kept secret as several hundred people turn up! I was tipped off by Dead Kenney and Phil Huxley.
Posted on the move at 19:48:51
Sat 13th Aug
Misty's on Wikipedia
Birmingham Blogger Pete Ashton (www.PeteAshton.com told me that Misty's Big Adventure now have a page on Wikipedia.
Thu 11th Aug
Looking back through my blog (narcisistic I know, but who else is going to ), I came across the notes I made in January on a New Scientist article on how to be happy and thought it was worth making a page just on how to be happy.
Wed 10th Aug
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Birmingham Botanical Gardens was the outdoor setting for this Shakespeare play, which I'm pretty sure I haven't seen before. Open air theatre always has a certain magic. A festival atmosphere engendered by both the novelty and the opportunity to picnic and enjoy the fresh air. Our cast played multiple parts very well and clearly, so that (as always) I lost sight of the actors and saw only the characters.
Fri 5th Aug
I was lucky enough tonight to see the final dress reheral / open studio of Rosie Kay's dance piece Asylum before it set off for the EdinburghFestival. I'd read the "don't miss" reviews in the national papers, but wasn't expecting such an incredibly visceral performance. It ran through the whole gamut of emotions in relationships, and by turn had my heart beating fast with excitement, me sitting on the edge of my seat, and the hairs on my arms standing on end! An extremely physical piece which left the dancers literally bruised - I imagine they'll be black and blue by the time their run at Edinburgh finishes! Fantastically evocative
Rosie also has a blog at www.RosieKay.co.uk which I've added to my list of Birmingham Bloggers.
Photographic Opening, The Mailbox
Popped along to the opening of an exhibition of local (art) photographers at the Mailbox, with some very interesting work on show. Unfortunately, the opening downstairs closed about 15 mins after I got there so that people could attend the opening in the shop unit above! It was due to re-open, but I headed off to get some food instead. Well worth taking a diversion from your saturday shopping routine to have a look though!
Thu 4th Aug
Sejanus: His Fall
An excellent performance of Ben Jonson's "Sejanus: His Fall" at The Swan in Stratford upon Avon. It seemed to me very relevent to contemporary politics, with the tyrant Emperor Tiberius manipulated by the control of the information he's fed, and Sejanus surrounded by fawning acolytes. Jonson's writing is both strong and amusing, and beautiful to modern ears. With a cast of around 20, at least half dressed in similar white/grey togas, I was a little worried that I'd have problems distinguishing the characters, but strong acting and distinctive voices, plus (I think) hints in the hair cuts as to political leanings, kept me perfectly on track. The end of the play was extremely tense and had me on the edge of my seat - not bad for a 400 year old play about events 2000 years ago
You can read more about Sejanus at Wikipedia.org, and get the text of the play from Project Gutenberg.
Wed 3rd Aug
Strange how one thing leads to another, in this Small World of 6 steps. I was listening (well, ripping and listening to) a Jeeves and Wooster CD I'd got at Oxfam here in Moseley a couple of weeks ago. It's got a cover (2 infact) of Cab Calloway's Minnie the Moocher, and it got me wondering: Just what is a "Moocher" or, for that matter, a "Hoocie Coocher". Now, while "World Wide Words" (randomhouse.com gave me a good answer for "Mooch" (amongst others UK: Hang about, US: Freeloader), I'm was still stuck on "hoocie coocher" until I tried just "hoocie" which seems to have a life still in the US, under various guises. I eventually found the definition of hootchy-kootchy as "a sinuous, sexually suggestive dance resembling a belly dance, performed by a woman" ( www.randomhouse.com ), so I guess I now know. Minnie was a freeloader with some mean dance moves!
Now, back to the Small World of web links, I noticed some references to an 1930 Betty Boop cartoon featuring Cab Calloway (and a walrus who follows his dance steps), and I wondered if the wonderful archive.org had a copy, and of course they did. So now I can watch this animated film from more than 70 years ago in the comfort of my own home - Betty Boop: Minnie The Moocher.
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