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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:

  • Liliput for Guinea Pigs:
    Liliput for Guinea Pigs

  • A fish!:
    A fish!

Weds 21st February 2007

Kihlberg and Henry at Vivid

Vivid %EXT%'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 %EXT%, 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 %EXT% - 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 %EXT%, 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 %EXT% 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 %EXT% which give a flavour of the film. The clips on The Christs Before Christ %EXT% and Did Jesus Begin as a Myth? %EXT% suggest that the film explores the Jesus as Myth %EXT% thesis as discussed in the book The Jesus Mysteries. If you have a look though the Wikipedia entry for Jesus as Myth %EXT%, 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 %EXT% smile

Saturday 10th February 2007


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 %EXT% 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


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

  • Snow-Clocktower:

Sunday 4th February 2007

Harbourne Blogger

Another Birmingham Blogger La Dulce Vida, based in Harbourne - 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 %EXT%.

  • 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 %EXT% event of the year, as Island Bar. I've never visited Island Bar 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 Island Bar 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 Winning Balloon Fish:
    The Winning Balloon Fish

  • Harry the Happy Octopus:
    Harry the Happy Octopus

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Topic revision: r10 - 26 Dec 2007, andyp
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