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Saturday 30th December 2006
Overnight from Berlin to Birmingham
I caught the half nine sleeper train from the Berlin Zoologische Garten station to Brussels, and, although the train track seemed noisier than the Paris to Munich one, I slept through till 6pm or so when we arrived. In Brussels I changed onto the Eurostar to Waterloo, then another train back to Brum, and arrived home before noon. Not bad!
H-Bomb, Kate Goes... and Edmund
I arrived at the Jug of Ale in time to catch 4 or 5 songs in H-Bomb 's set and I found them warm, naive, honest and fun! He played mainly keyboards with the occasional computer based stuff, I remember particularly samples of the narator from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I managed to pick up one of the six free CDs he brought along, so I'll be giving that a listen too.
Kate Goes... played a lovely set, despite some problems with Violin sound (or was it just the monitors?) They played their Christmas song, which I heard at their first gig, almost exactly one year ago Since then they've played a lot of gigs, and done a major national tour supporting Misty's Big Adventure!
I didn't see so much of Edmund . H-Bomb is one of the members, but it was quite a different sound to his solo stuff - more guitars. Cliff Richard made a guest appearance in the form of his beautifully illustrated calendar, which the lead singer showed to us between songs.
Friday 29th December 2006
A Few Pictures from Berlin
- Berlin Lights:
- Fernsehturm in Light Fog:
- Groovy Bed Clothes:
Thurs 28th December 2006
This former station has been converted into a gallery of contemporary
art, and on Thursday afternoon, entrance is free.
It's been snowing, and by the time I arrive, it's starting to get
dark. The building is lit by coloured lights, deep blue, lime green,
dots of red. Snow lies in the spaces between the cobbles.
Inside, a beautifully vaulted hall. At the entrance, a five meter
square of gold wrapped sweets sits on the ground. Some children help
- Hamburger Bahnhof:
- Cobbles with Snow:
A cube in the space is lined with black mirrored walls and from its
ceiling, twenty rotating mirrors reflect over bright spotlights.
Next, a fighter plane, looking as if it is made of slate. Dead, dried
poppies adorn its wings. Poppy seeds fill the cabin, and other
spaces. It contains the seeds of destruction. The piece is called
Mohn und Gedachtnis and is by Anselm Kiefer.
- Main Hall of Hamburger Bahnhof:
The same dark grey paper/stone like material forms a library further
down the hall. Giagantic books, worn and rumpled, embedded with seeds,
sit on metal shelves creating a square space into which you can
walk. Inside, a perspex box contains broken film. From the wall, a
movie camera sticks out, its innards exposed. This is our
memories. Their fragility. Our doomed efforts to preserve. In 100
years, who will view our flickr photos?
- The Seeds of Destruction:
Leaving the main hall, I enter a maze of halls containing a
retrospective of projected works. On a landing, we are greeted by an
eyeball. Alive, moving, spherical. It is projected onto a ball.
- Library of Memory:
Next, Rodney Graham's Edge of a Wood. Dark, a beam of light
occasionally illuminates the trees. The sound of a helicopter above
us. For some reason, this seemed very English to me.
Eraser, by Doug Aitken takes a 7 mile journey across Monserat,
where massive lava flows forced the population to flee, leaving behind
their abandoned buildings, a seemingly untouched jungle, and mountains
of bare volcanic ash.
I only caught the end of Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila's
Consolation Service, but it seemed an intriguing, semi-narative
film. Unfortunately the film didn't restart, perhaps because closing
time was nearing, so I moved on.
24 Hour Psycho was a familiar friend and is a well known
piece. Douglas Gordan slowed down Hitchcock's film so that it lasts
exactly one day. I didn't watch the whole thing but round the corner I
found Destroy She Said in which Monica Bonvicini has taken short
sections of female protagonists from black and white films and woven
them into a fascinating hour of crying, shouting, shooting and
loving. I think this was my favourite piece in the exhibition. I did
see part of a very similar film in Edinburgh this summer, but I don't
think I wrote about it.
The final piece I saw was Nam June Paik's One Candle (Candle Projection) which painted colour separated images of a candle very
prettily across the dark corner of a basement room.
- 24 Hour Psycho:
- Destroy She Said:
- One Candle:
- Video Artists:
Ate at Maothai in Prenzlauer Berg. This Thai restaurant is popular with visitors, as it's featured in guidebooks, and has a good reputation for the quality of its food. I had some nice "Thai Style Fishcakes" followed by deep fried tofu (1 inch cubes, crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside) with lots of fresh veg in a dark soy-based sauce. Very tasty! I also tried out a very nice creamy curry. Price wise it was good, by UK standards, at around 20 Euro per head.
Weds 27th December 2006
Munich to Berlin
Currently travelling from Munich to Berlin by train. The trains here
are great compared to the UK ones. Wider I think, and better
designed. They also have restaurant cars, which is where I am now,
looking out on a clear, sunny, but cold landscape end enjoying a
weissbier with my food. The houses and forests I see are picture
postcard germany, large yellow plastered buildings with typical roofs,
basking in the summer sun. Little churches with eastern style, "onion
shaped" towers gradually give way to octagonal spires, and then to
In some parts where the landscape is open fields, everything is
frozen. Each tree outlined in white frost.
The journey from to Berlin is about 5 1/2 hours, from one city centre
to the other. I'm sure this compares favourably with flying - no
journey to and from the airport, no checking in an hour or so before,
no waiting for luggage, and scenery you can actually see!
Train arrives at the Hauptbahnhof dead on time of course.
I rather stupidly left my camera on board!
- Berlin Hauptbahnhof Christmas Tree:
- Berlin Hauptbahnhof Santa:
Tues 26th December
Walk into Parsing to see if anything is open. The station shops are,
but nothing else. Spend half an hour in a cybercafe checking and
Go for a long walk, through the nearby woods. The weather is still
freezing, just on zero degrees I'd say. There are deer in the woods,
but they are hiding today.
Sun 24th December 2006 - Weihnachtsabend
Christmas eve is the big day here. Trees are decorated, presents exchanged and meals eaten.
- Traditional Weihnachtsbaum:
Sat 23rd December 2006
The ground used for the October Fest has been put to good use for a
gigantic Christmas Market. As well as outdoor stalls, a number of "big
top" sized marquees provide a cosier space to wander. There's all
sorts of food, gluhwein, beer and gifts both local and global.
- Christmas Market Light Stall:
Friday 22nd December 2006
London to Brussels
The Eurostar is quick and comfortable. Quicker on the continent than the UK of course, but quick none the less.
Arrived in Brussels in good time, and got the train to Paris.
Brussels to Paris
The announcements on this train were in four languages: French, Dutch
(or Flemish?), German and of course English. Imagine that happening on
a British train! It's generally hard enough for a natuve speaker to
understand the English announcements.
Paris to Munich Overnight
The route from the Gare du Nord where I arrived to the Gare de l'Est
is short but grotty. Leading to Gare de l'Est is the little street
where Amelie chases after the photographer to return his lost
albumn. At 9:30 on a dark winters night, it has a gritty realism quite
unlike the magical realism of the film People spill out of bars,
shout, fight and urinate on the street. The Gard d'Est is more like
The City of Lost Children, dark, draughty, with groups of people
huddling around those strange radient heater which you only see at
French railway stations.
The train leaves on time of course. I share a couchette with five
others, and after watching the lights of Paris disappear rather
beautifully, it's straight to bed. No-one snores (unless I do!) and
after an hour or so, the train stops in the silence of the
countryside. At about 7.30 we stop at Frankfurt, where three of my
companions disembark, and an hour or so later I get up to see the
countryside around Munchen.
- Trink Coca Cola - Munchen Hauptbahnhof:
Sunday 17th December 2006
Upcoming: Kate Goes... - 30th December
The excellent Kate Goes... play the Jug of Ale on the 30th of December with Edmund. The 30th is the new 31st. Be there or be somewhere else but not as well entertained
Polar Bear Relocation
As scientists predict that soon there might be no ice left at the north pole, here's an interesting article on plans by Conservation Beyond Borders to relocate polar bears due to climate change .
Sunday 10th December 2006
Finally, I'm on the Map
A friend sent me this map, check out the streets at the far left and bottom of the image!
Upcoming: Rooty Frooty Christmas Hooty
The Destroyers are among the line up for this weird sounding party at TheCustardFactory on the 16th December, along with a showing of It's a Wonderful Life. Should be fun...
Weds 6th December 2006
Misty's, ZX-Spectrum Orchestra and Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone
Free tickets to The Glee Club tonight to see my favourites Misty's Big Adventure, plus ZX-Spectrum Orchestra featuring the renowned Brian Duffy and local hero Mike Johnston (aka) Mike in Mono. Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone was being recorded "live" from Brum.
The place was pretty full, infact, most of the seats were taken and there were a quite a lot of people standing. The middle section of seats had been removed to provide a dance floor (and a much nicer atmosphere than previous gigs at the Glee).
After an hour or so of fun eclectic music, the ZX-Spectrum Orchestra took to the stage, with 3 (I think) machines hooked up to rather snazzy looking flat TVs. They did 4 or five numbers, including X+X=0 and their cover of TV OD , and they were all accompanied by ZX-Spectrum graphics on a big projection screen. Their D.I.S.C.O. track with Currah uSpeech vocals had an excellent visual in the style of a 1970's "Saturday Night Fever" flashing dancefloor - all spectrum generated. I think the last of the tracks (Cantata ?) was pre-programmed but the rest seemed to be "played". You can get lots of their stuff from Warm Circuit Records .
The tracks were quite long, and probably the weirdest thing on the show, so I hope they keep them all on - I imagine them blasting out through the countries Sunday kitchens next weekend at 5pm.
Next, we had a visit from Serge Gainsbourg, subject of this week's "University of the Strange". One of Serge's early videos featured some very groovy dancing!
- ZX-Spectrum Orchestra in motion, X + X = 0:
Misty's fooled us all, they took to the stage to a full dancefloor + cacophonous applause and whooping, started with their normal "dream" into, but then played How did you manage to get inside my head? rather than the Misty's Big Adventure which they've been starting their set with for ages! (Which reminds me, it's a long time since I heard them do Confidence, which they used to start with). Next I can't Bring the Time Back which is an excellent song I wish I had a copy of, it's another "sad love song" of which there's quite a few in the Misty's repertoire, though like many Misty's songs it sounds fun, happy and bouncy.
Two in a quieter/simpler style next next: The Kids are Radioactive (which you can download as the B-side of "Fashion Parade"), an everyday story of phone masts, mutant children and society destroying canibalism. Crumpled up Guy (also on download ) is Gareth singing solo, and got respectful silence from the whole clubs (excluding the laughs - not at the singing of course :-), but at the funny lines).
The Wising Up Song got us all dancing again, in crazy "nightclub" and "disco" styles, and segways into a parable about moving mountains.
Misty's finished on Fashion Parade which is another great song to dance to and very funny too. One of the things I like about Misty's is that there's a dance for every song. I might look as if I'm just jumping up and down wildly, but I'm dancing, honest Again, Fashion Parade is available for download and you can also see a very nice video .
There was an amazing chorus for "more" and Stuart Maconie almost looked like he was going to allow them one more, but didn't in the end.
- Our host, Stuart Maconie:
- Serge Gainsbourg Sings
- Two Brains Gareth:
- Misty's Swirl:
Better Quality Photos
You can see larger versions of some of the photos above on my flickrstream:
Commodore 64 Orchestra
While hunting for a ZX-Spectrum Orchestra MySpace (are they the last band in the world to not have one?) I notice there's also a Chicago based Commodore 64 Orchestra on there! However, due to MySpace's vagueries, I couldn't get them to play for me. Maybe it was a tape loading error or something.
Sunday 3rd December 2006
Another Birmingham Blogger
Daron from sunny Bearwood has a music review blog called The Hearing Aid . He's got good taste in music, Kate Goes, Dufus and Envy and Other Sins feature in the list, so worth a read! I've added him to my list of BirminghamBloggers.
If you want to be added (or heaven forbid, removed), let me know. It says Birmingham Bloggers, but it's really West Midlands Bloggers, and I want to list as many people as possible. If I haven't responded to you, I've probably lost your email, so do send again!
There was a Pryke and Palmer Foundry in 1860's London, you can see their very pretty coalplate , and even buy a copy!
Jason of Streetware.org has also written a little about the "Prykestar" .
Saturday 2nd December 2006
New Art Gallery, Walsall
The New Art Gallery has some very interesting work on at the moment, an exhibition on automatic art, generated by mechanical processes. My favourite paintings were done by a larch tree and a toy tank, both let loose on paper with pens attached to them. The tank had roamed backwards and forwards across the paper in hundreds and hundreds of random straight lines, bouncing off the walls enclosing it. It really did make a fascinating picture, more dense in the centre and less so at the edges, but very beautiful.
Chameleon Gallery, Walsall
I've never visited the Chameleon Gallery before. It's on Sandwell St, close to the big church on the hill, St Mathews, and today they hosted a designer maker fair, with most of the work from local/regional artists. These included metal works Alan Cheeseman (curator of the gallery), flowers created from old CDs by Urban Petals , and printed textiles from Laura Bourne and Lucie Basinger. Drawings and paintings by Jain (someone) on a sex/feminism them also caught my eye. The gallery is a loveley space, warm and friendly and well worth a visit. The next exhibition is from the 5th to 10th December and is entitled Questions of Identity, Ordeal by Liberty - 25 Years Later and shows work from a variety of Russian artists.
Complaints Choir on BBC
The Complaints Choir is now featured on the front page of BBC Birmingham, and YouTube hits are up to 307,532.
There is now a Complaints Choir Website with information on all the choirs across the world. Hopefully we might get that complaints choir congress in Finland next year!
Friday 1st December 2006
Fort Dunlop Opening
Went to the opening of the new Fort Dunlop development. It was slightly bizarre, but did have free drinks! We started outside where snaking lines of a few hundred small fires had been created in a roped off carpark. I wasn't quite sure what they were for, but after a couple of short speeches by men in suits, stock cars appeared and raced round. Very funny, as it was so quintessentially Brum, the motor city
The cars were named after Advantage West Midlands (the regional development agency) , Urban Splash (the developers) and Fort Dunlop. To our great surprise, the race was won by...you guessed it... Fort Dunlop!
After that, people moved into the building itself. I held back, and there was a massive queue to get in, which we handily bypassed by using my superpowers (or something Inside there was the same problem, only 2 lifts were running, no stairs, and the lifts could only carry 6 people. Still, didn't take us too long, next queue was for drinks, and there were even queues for toilets, and (if you were a real queue fan), food. It wasn't all about queuing though, it was also about free drinks. Anyway, here's a couple of pictures:
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- As my friend said: they're going to be pretty pissed off when they realised they've put the sign up back to front!:
- Little Fires:
- Rotating Firelight:
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