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Wed 31 May 2006

Fierce: Live Results of Fist

Here's the live results from the Fierce arm wrestling contest. The winner was Simon from Shard End, silver medal went to Irena Barker of Edgbaston. The prize was a bottle of chateau mouton 1974 and a table dance from the whore of babylon (pictured). Posted on the move at 22:18





Wed 31st May 2006

Fierce: Upcoming Events...

The Fierce Festival finishes this Saturday (3rd June). Here's a few things to look out for in the Fierce Program:

  • Tonight, 9pm: Fist by Jiva Parthipan - artist led arm-wrestling at The Rainbow. Free, with Prizes! More details
  • Friday, 6.30pm: A Descent into Glamour - Giovanna Maria Casetta (see Darling this is How... below) parades down the Birmingham Council House steps in a opulent dress! Free. More details
  • Friday, 7.45pm: Undo - Mem Morrison goes on a journey to confront the bullies of his youth. The Rep, 10, book on 0121 236 4455 or see more details
  • Saturday, 2pm: Civic Life Desperate Optimists present seven short films at the AMC Cinema, Broadway Plaza, including Town Hall shot in West Brom last year and starring over 200 local residents! Free. More Details
  • Saturday 7pm and 9pm: Nymphaeum Whoopee club present synchronised swimming, burlesque style! Should be a stunning finale smile Coaches leave The Rep at 6.15 and 8.15. Tickets are 10 including coach transport (or 5 for children or local residents with ID). Book on 0121 236 4455, or see more Details

Sun 27th May 2006

Birmingham Bloggers

Added Fictions, Richard Bruton's blog to my list of BirminghamBloggers.

If you've asked me to add you and I haven't, it's not that I hate you or anything, it's that I forgot! So please let me know again smile

Sat 26th May 2006

A day of out of town Fierce-ing...

Fierce: Line Dancing Cowboys!

The line dancing cowboys hit wolves. You can see them in the square next to the civic centre till 12 midnight.

  • Linedancing Cowboys:
    Cowboys
    Linedancing Cowboys

As you can see from the photos, the local grebos / emo kids came down and joined in with the dancing, and skateboarded round them etc. I also got interviewed for Fierce TV, so that should appear on the website sometime soon. I'm pretty sure they have no footage of me dancing....

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Fierce: Darling, this is how...

After a couple of wrong turns, and a trip on Wolverhampton's free city centre bus, we found The Wheatsheaf pub and asked at the bar to see "Giovanna Maria Casetta". Here's a glimpse "through the keyhole..."

  • Wheat Sheaf Pub:
    Wheat Sheaf Pub

  • Through the keyhole...:
    Through the keyhole...

  • Through the keyhole...:
    Through the keyhole...

Of course, taking pictures through a peephole is no simple matter, so you should get a better view of this short film than this!

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Fierce: Red Ladies

Visited Warwick Arts Centre to see the Red Ladies. Arriving early and sitting downstairs in the bar, we saw the occasional Red Lady wandering past. We then moved upstairs to as that's where the action seemed to be, and received secret instructions from one of the Red Ladies. Then off one of the ladies went and we followed her outside.

Warwick Arts Centre is part of a complex of white buildings, with broken up levels, passageways and tiered roofs. As we walked through, there seemed to be Red Ladies everywhere. On the rooftops, inside offices, sitting in secret gardens, surveying us with binoculars, sending secret signals with their sunglasses etc. Our walk led us to the back entrace to the theatre and we rushed down a series of passageways eventually collecting in a space behind the stage. The doors opened and we were told to seat ourselves.

Often I just describe the performances I see, and don't spend so much time on the message behind them. With the Red Ladies, what really came across to me were the concepts. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I'd say "People are all the same, and people are all individuals", and in two sentences, I'd add "We are very small and the world is very big". Other themes were those of interuption, social isolation, war and of the roles of women.

On stage, some of the things one could see were the Ladies acting in concert, all together, identically dressed; at one stage, changing into different dresses, reading different books; being interupted by disjoint voices from a loudspeaker, sometimes fragments of news reports, sometimes numbers or random words. Ah! it's hard to describe, but well worth seeing!

FierceTV were there again, interviewing people so you can hear more about it on the Fierce website.

  • Red Lady (Stairs):
    Red Lady (Stairs)

  • Red Lady (Secret Briefing):
    Red Lady (Secret Briefing)

  • Red Lady (Roof):
    Red Lady (Roof)

  • Red Lady (Secret Garden):
    Red Lady (Secret Garden)

  • Red Lady (Warwick Arts Centre Clocks):
    Red Lady (Warwick Arts Centre Clocks)

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Fri 26th May 2006

Fierce: 25/7

First... The last night of 25/7 is this Sat 27th May, 4pm and 7.30pm in central Coventry. If you want to catch it you'd better hurry! You can book on 024 7652 4524 or Read more on the Fierce website.

25/7 is the funniest, warmest, in the round, start of war drama I've seen for a long while. Seated in a revolving restaurant, with a view of approaching tanks, we watch the countdown to an olymic launch and the start of war. Our characters include: an "over enthusiastic" journalist, slightly prone to exageration; a fiesty waitress; a sniper with a grudge; and a restaurant owner desperate to make a successful impression. I must admit to having a big grin on my face for about half of the time - mainly due to the excellent dialogue. Oh! and there's a band too...

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Thurs 25th May 2006

Fierce TV

Fierce TV is back - video footage of some of this years events, including the Puppini Sisters, Vegetable Orchestra and Evidence for the Existance of Borrowers can now be seen at: http://www.fiercetv.co.uk/

Fierce: Intervalo

The first piece at the Patrick Centre, started with a seemingly random set of movements, with the performer (Frederico Paredes) standing at one point, waving his arms, and moving on to another place. I must admit, I wasn't sure quite what was going on! Then music was added, including the sounds of birds, and commentary from a guided tour and some of the bird like moves began to make more sense. Next, we were told a tale of the major of a Brazilian city who, wishing to make it more like Paris, imported and released crates of sparrows, who then chased away the brightly coloured and diverse native birds.

Later in the piece, he invited 6 members of the audience on stage, and after briefing them, the action resumed. They each took a place on the stage and performed a repetitive action. Frederico moved across the stage, arms out, forcing the other "players" into a smaller and smaller space, where their movements clashed and were restricted.

As a piece, it worked very well - a clear metaphor for colonialism, well presented, enjoyable. Frederico himself came across as warm, friendly and intelligent.

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Fierce: O Samba do Crioulo Doid

The second performance was O Samba do Crioulo Doid (The Samba Of The Crazy Nigger). Here, Luiz de Abreu explores a wide range of stereotypes, through dance. We begin with a very dark stage, a backdrop of Brazilian flags gently lit from behind, an a single figure, silhouetted, in the back corner. The figure starts to move, swaying slowly as soft music plays. Gradually, the lights brighten, the music speeds up, the dance becomes more lively, and the figure moves closer and closer. It becomes clear that our dancer is naked. Very naked. If you can be very naked. The calf length silver boots only serve to set off the nakedness. Our dancer begins to sway his hips, slowly, with predictable results (which, like some of the other actions, I won't describe for modesty's sake smile ) One person in the audience leaves. As the moves continue, the lighting clear now, Luiz begins a show of muscle control, shaping and re-shaping his body. A couple of times, he does a wonderful transformation back and forth from a smiling, waving happy figure (perhaps on a carnival float or TV) to his normal "plain face".

A Brazilian flag, with holes to make it wearable as a cloak appears. Luiz wears it as a catwalk model, strutting up and down on his silver heels, as a sheet through which he shows various parts of his body, and in a myriad different ways.

A wonderfully multi-layered piece, so many references to stereotypes and popular cultural images, and something you could discuss and dissect for a very long time.

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Wed 24th May 2006

Fierce: Here While We Walk

About a dozen of us gathered outside the Ikon where we were enclosed in a large white band. Told we would walk for an hour in silence, and off we went.

Initially it was hard, and a little frustrating, trying to walk in this enclosed space without stepping on other people. We quickly learnt to walk well as a group, as we went through a series of turns, narrowings to single file and other manoeuvres.

The first public reaction i saw was that of a security guard directing traffic, who just stared at us in wonder, totally distracted from his task. Next, a Brindley place security camera followed up with its little glass eye (see Peteo's great photo on the Fierce website). As we waited at a pedestrian crossing, a group of lads on the other side shouted "is it a protest?". I also overheard someone explaining: "it's a tour for foreigners" and met a guy who was going "is it a flashmob? It's a flashmob isn't it." but of course, our vow of silence prevented up replying.

We also stopped in various places, in Chamberlain Square where one of our guides followed the outline of our band with bread crumbs, and slowly, pigeons joined us within our space. Later we had a game of cats cradle, tying ourselves up in knots with elastic until "ping, ping, ping..." it was released.

I actually saw lots of bits of Brum I hadn't visited before, and it was fun watching the reactions of passers-by - those who didn't see us, those who stopped and stared and those who tried to rationalise us away.

Once we were released from our band, and our silence, our kind artist guides gave us kites to fly with the words "Here","While", "We" "Walk" on them smile

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Fierce: Imagem - Marcela Levi

Fierce wouldn't be Fierce without the occasional nude performance, and this was the first one this year. The venue was the Ikon Gallery, and we arranged ourselves in rows on the floor of the 2nd floor gallery. Marcela Levi walked out in slightly loose blue shorts and top, and proceeded to act out a number of scenes in which she moved and removed her clothes, re-modelling the clothing - shorts becoming a top, top becoming shorts.

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Fierce: PORTA DAS MAOS Porta Das Maos - Michel Groisman

Michel Groisman's smooth, hypnotic hand movements, always joined, ever changing were projected live in a darkened room. The writing forms looking like a ballet for octupi. Sometimes shapes like faces appeared, sometime it seemed abstract, sometimes reminiscent of shadow play. Michel even tried to teach the audience how to reproduce some of his moves - I think I got them....

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Tue 23rd May 2006

Fierce: Upcoming: Red Ladies

Tomorrow is the first day of the Red Ladies take over of Coventry city centre. Previously spotted in Tragalgar Square, these mysterious red head-scarfed women are on a mission... but no one knows quite what that mission is. They'll be out and about on Weds to Sat early afternoons this week, and you can visit their headquarters at Warwick Arts Centre each of those nights at 7.45 (*)

More details on the Fierce Website, or ring Warwick Arts Centre on 024 7652 4524 to book.

If you manage to spot them, you can report sightings here!

(*) A misprint in the Fierce brochure says the performances are only Weds and Sat, but I've checked and they're doing Thurs and Fri too.

Mon 22nd May 2006

Fierce: Evidence for the Existance of Borrowers

I didn't know what to expect from this performance at The Hippodrome, a couple of friends had been on Sat and Sun and told me it was very good - but not given anything much away about what happened. As it's finished it's run in Brum, I'll spill (some) of the beans, so beware: there are "spoilers" below.

On the top floor of the Hippodrome, we were met by a lab-coated assistants who led the audience (limited to about 15) through to a luxurious theatre sponsors room where the founder of the Borrowers International Network (BIN) explained to us the purpose of the organisation and a little about the history of Borrowers. We then set off on a tour through the complex and winding corridors and stairs of the theatre back stage, looking for evidence of Borrower activity. As Borrowers are very small, about 1/10th the size of a "Human Bean", there were small arrows at ankle height to guide us, or visiting Borrowers, on our way. We found various Borrower items, all lovingly reconstructed by BIN. These included tiny ladders to allow them to climb around the human world, a "artists box" of "Bobjects" each of which triggered the telling of Borrower Legends and a collection of borrower sports and games. The finale was a musical performance on Borrower instruments, by BIN members! The objects were quirky and cute, and the whole feeling was very nice. Judging from the laughter and smiles, the other audience members really enjoyed it too.

"Evidence for the Existence of Borrowers" has finished it's run now, but you can find out more about the next Fierce events at their website - http://www.fiercetv.co.uk/

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

  • Borrower Carnival Costume:
    Borrower Carnival Costume

Fri 19th May 2006

Fierce: Launch Party

The Fierce Festival got off to a flying start with its spectacular launch party. All the traditional "free loading arts folks" seemed to find their way to the new location OK - funny how word gets around when there's free booze!

Entertainment wise, we had the Puppini Sisters doing great 40's style versions of songs by artists like The Smiths and Kate Bush. Their dress sense reminded me of great Sugarfoot Stomp DJs. What about a Stomp / Puppini crossover?

  • Puppini Sisters:
    Puppini Sisters

  • Puppini Sisters:
    Puppini Sisters

We also had speeches from the Fierce organisers and from Lynne Jones M.P., patron of the arts, who, as Barbara Nice said, looked lovely in pistachio.

  • Lynne Jones M.P., Patron of the arts :-):
    Lynne Jones M.P., Patron of the arts :-)

Barbara Nice, King Heath housewife superstar compared, having travelled down to the venue on Europe's most frequent bus service - the classic number 50 ! She finished her set with a wonderful stage dive with the audience passing her over their heads to the bar.

  • Barbara Nice goes to the bar!:
    Barbara Nice goes to the bar!

Find out more about the next Fierce events at their website - http://www.fiercetv.co.uk/

Add comments or write about your own Fierce experience

Thu 18th May 2006

Fierce: Launch Party Moved!

Due to overwhelming demand, the Fierce Festival launch party has been moved to Chic Bar, 28 Horsefair Birmingham B1 1DD. It's on the corner of Bristol Street & Essex Street, just out of town from the pagoda in the middle of the Bristol St roundabout.

It's free, but you should probably ring 0121 244 8084 to be put on the entry list.

The Fierce Festival Website lets you comment on the Fierce Festival - check it out.

The Waiting Room, Walsall New Art Gallery

Went to the opening of The Waiting Room at Walsall New Art Gallery, a series of videos made with members of the public and set in a waiting room. I went along back in February, and took part. Nice to see all the films, with various people I recognise or who were present in the room appearing on screen.

There was also some great painting by Kerry James Marshall, paintings featuring black people, often in scenes where most people would "expect" to see a white face. His "Love" series in black, white and shades of grey (plus the odd pink heart) is fantastic.

Unfortunately, I missed Richard Billingham's long exposure photos of Cradley Heath at night. Must go back...

Sun 14th May 2006

Sideshow / British Art Show in Nottingham

Bad things: The sideshow infomation place was closed, and so was the building where they were selling small "multiple" pieces of art. Which was a bit disappointing, as the program clearly says they're open on a Sunday. Also, 3 of the 5 BAT venues were also closed, though I did know this in advance.

Good things: Great giant faces of Queen Victoria in the Castle Museum/Art Gallery. From a distance you just see the face, closer, you see it is made of flowers and brightly coloured objects. Closer still and you see the "dark side" of empire - one of the day glow lizards carries a skulls in its mouth, the black background consists of guns. Very nice metaphor.

Another fantastic piece was a cut-up film of news broadcasts on the theme of terrorism, iraq etc. Consisting of juxtapositions of so many people saying "terrorism", "terrorist", "weapons of mass destruction", "nuclear, chemical and biological weapons", and "dirty bomb" etc. it forms a history of how we are terrorised into supporting the attacks on both Afghanistan and Iraq, and those on freedom and democracy. It reminded me a lot of the alphabetical cut up film Qaeda Quality Question Quickly Quickly Quiet which I saw back in 2004. You can hear a sound clip of QQQQQQ from this page - but the pictures actually make it much better.

Nottingham has lots of different buildings - different styles, different ages. Unlike Birmingham which generally seeks to destroy any building which might be different or interesting (or at least facade it and build naff 1990's style appartments sticking out the top). Quite a lot of nice arts and crafts building too. There's also independent shops, in addition to every chain under the sun. Well worth a visit for this alone.

Will add more later, including some photos.

Sat 13th May 2006

Chikinki

Saw Chikinki , and some of All Gods Fail (and missed Man Over Board ) at the Jug of Ale.

Chikinki were a great 5(?) piece, with a bass keyboardist who danced/writhed to the music and had a wonderful "look". The lead singer too, had a very particular style - somewhere between Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison - and I think he knew it. They mixed electronica with more rocky/guitar stuff and came accompanied by a small but loyal group of fans. No idea where they're from, but I'd see them again.

Spamdoku and Spam Filter Overdrive

My GMail spam filter has gone into overdrive, classifying quite a few of my real emails as spam. I get around 3500 spam emails a month, so I'm working through them, trying to sort out what's real from what's not.

To this end, I've invented a new game, soon set to rival Sudoku in popularity. It's called Spamdoku. How it works is this. First, gather around 3000 spam emails, sprinkle in a few real emails from friends, collegues, bands, arts events etc. Your task is to identify keywords which are only found in the spam. You get one point for every spam email identified.

Here's some examples from a corpus of around 3000 emails. The number of spam emails identified is shown after the keyword (or Spamdokey as they are properly called). Numbers in brackets indicate real ham emails identified as spam

desk - 58
lottery - 121
caps - 2
account - 150+ (3)
commercial material - 103 
? (russian character like a B) - 92 
sexy - 11
explicit - 34
drugs - 34
corporate - 80
? (russian character like a backwards N) - 48
pill - 30

Think of trawling through your spam in this way and it's a fun game for all the family (well, given the contents of some of the spam, perhaps not all the family).

More Birmingham Bloggers

  • Richard Batsford has started a nice philosophical blog Check out his music in the Myspace profile too - Richard Batsford's Blog

  • Ana Milgram, an arts scene blog after my own heart - lots of pictures and descriptions of exciting arty things at the British Art Show - Ana Milgram's Blog

If you're a BirminghamBlogger, email me (website (at) andypryke.com)) and I'll add you to the list. If I forget to add you, or the email has ended up in my spam box, please do send me a reminder!

Fri 12th May 2006

Cinemaphonic

Another great Cinemaphonic event at the MAC. Wonderfully crisp silent film of islanders on St Kilda and in Brittany, accompanied by celtic influenced music.

St Kilda is now uninhabited, the residents having requested evacuation in around 1930. The film shows these islanders in their remote habitat, but the interactions with the visiting "swells" in their fur coats and suits are just as interesting.

Finis Terrae (1929) was shot in Britany and is a more narative work, telling the story of 4 islanders (2 men and 2 teenage boys) who are working on a (basically) uninhabited islandgathering seaweed to produce soda ash. The shots of the waves crashing against the cliffs are amazing!

Thu 11th May 2006

Missing Sideshow!

Doh! I knew that Sideshow was happening alongside the British Art Show in Nottingham, but somehow I thought it ran from the 21st May. It doesn't, it started on the 21st April! Doh! Again. Still, it does go on until the 4th June.

Check out the Sideshow Website %EXTERNAL% to work out what's going on.

British Art Show - Appalling Website

Why. Why. Why don't these people learn. Yes, it looks flashy - it's in flash. But is it fit for purpose?

What are the key things wrong with the British Art Show website %EXTERNAL%?

  1. I can't bookmark events so I can return to them again, send the link to friends or link from a blog
  2. If I want to view details again I have to navigate through time consuming animations
  3. I can't even copy the text so that I can send that to other people!
  4. I can't view it from a system which doesn't support flash - for example my mobile phone.
  5. It's lack of accessibility means it is breaking the Disability Discrimination Act.

That's enough for the moment.

Why can't they just tell me: What's on, where and when. Bonus marks for how to get there, and a nice simple graphical design. The intention of this website is to be an information artifact, not a piece of art in itself. Very poor design.

Weds 10th May 2006

Mobile Phone Applications

I'm already a fan of Opera Mini %EXTERNAL% which allows you to browse the web very effectively from a mobile phone, and I was casting around for other Java (J2ME) applications which would run on my phone. Here's a couple I found:

  • MobiDict %EXTERNAL% - English / German Dictionary with optional link to Google Translate service
  • J2meMap %EXTERNAL% - View Google maps / satellite photos / directions from your phone. Although the interface is bit clunky, and it uses a lot of bandwidth to transfer the images(300k for ~5 views for me), it's pretty amazing!
  • Google Maps for Mobile %EXTERNAL% - Didn't try this but looks similar to J2meMap
  • MyGirls %EXTERNAL% - I haven't downloaded this menstrual cycle / fertility / PMS prediction program, but the comments by users are pretty funny smile E.g. A Mexican user writes: "The program failed to do some calculations and now I have three childs with different women frown "

Fri 5th May 2006

Persil and Zea at the Electric

This low key gig at the Electric only attracted around 30 people, including the bands and staff. And that's a pity, as both two-piece bands were excellent! I felt a bit sorry for them, driving across from Amsterdam, for such a small audience, but they seemed to have a wonderful time never-the-less.

In brief, Zea %EXTERNAL% consisted of one guy with a (wired up, accoustic?) guitar and another with two "ironing boards" full of electronic boxes, sliders, knobs to twiddly and of course, lots and lots of wires! Just seeing the set up made me thing we could be in for something good. If you've seen Zea, you'll remember one thing about their stage presence - the incredible dancing from the electro-whizz - it's like he's got rubber bones, and he just doesn't stop. At one point, a guitar string needed replacing, and we were treated to a remix of someone saying "push the button". Overall, fun, funny and nice music.

Persil %EXTERNAL% brought their own visuals, purpose made films which made sense of the cinema venue! Again, 2 pieces, with a set up and lead singer who reminded me of Barbara Morgenstern and Robert Lippok (who I saw back in July. She did quite a lot of live sampling and remixing of her own voice, and got people up and dancing.

Great gig. Deserved a bigger audience. I hope the organisers put on more, and get some wider publicity.

Weds 3rd May 2006

Upcoming... gigs

Kate Goes... (to the farm) play at the Jug of Ale this Friday, Dufus play the Actress and Bishop, Zea and Persil play the Electric - busy night!

Checking out Dufus' schedule, I found this website: http://www.antifolk.co.uk/ I don't know how to define antifolk apart from I know that people like Dufus, Jeff Lewis and Herman Dune are on the NY Antifolk scene so would be interesting to see more of what the UK people are like. I noticed that local boy Ben Calvert is listed on the front (due to his name begining with "B"), so I should check him out again when he's gigging in Brum.

Upcoming... Fierce Festival 2006

The start of the Fierce Festival 2006 is fast approaching. Fierce is a great Birmingham institution and well worth checking out. It consists of the kind of arts events which, even if you don't like them, give you a fantastic tale to tell your friends "You'll never guess what I saw last night..." I tend to like them all, and you can see some photos and comments from last year's Fierce in my blogs from May 2005 and early June 2005.

Check out the programme at http://www.fiercetv.co.uk

Tue 2nd May 2006

What Do People Do All Day?

An exhibition / competition of 20 artists at The Mailbox. Organised by Birmingham Artists, and very well attended, this competition drew way more than 20 entries and even some of those which didn't make the 20 exhibited were of high standard (I'm not clear what the exact selection criteria were). The two winners, splitting the 1000 prize, were a video work by Angie Stride (see http://www.artscentral.co.uk/openevent.asp?eventid=19168 )for a good description) and paintings Carrie (whose surname I don't know).

Another piece which really stood out to me was the Tramps Monopoly, executed in torn corrugated cardboard with stuck on fag ends etc. and beer cans for counters, it was funny and poignent at the same time. I'd like to go back and play it for real.

Stu's photographs (previously seen at The MAC) remain ghostly but somehow calm, showing spaces empty of people, with the nighttime long exposure giving an almost supernatural quality of light.

Another canvas which grabbed my eye was a simple red on green text affair, reminding me of the "paint / int / pink" stickers you see around Brum - though (i) obviously not the same artist and (ii) I didn't get a close enough look at it.

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