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5/5/06 07:53 pm - Bread and Circuses

...or "Quick! Take their minds off the election!"

An animatronic 40-foot wooden elephant has arrived in Westminster. It will be stamping around the area for the next couple of days. It's really quite impressive.

It walks: , it trumpets: , it squirts water: , and it is piloted by a small army of Frenchmen: [EDIT: It arrived with a "little" girl: in a wooden rocket: . And there's some sort of time-travel plot as well. But I was too busy taking pictures of the elephant to pay much attention to the rest...]

Click for bigger pictures, and there's a schedule here.

5/4/06 09:32 am - Galfridus Chauceres Lynes of Picke-Vppe

Art thou a disastrous poll tax? Bycause I feele a risynge comynge on.

Woldstow haue me shyfte thyne voweles?

Howe abovte a blancmange and the acte of Venus? Whatte, blancmange pleseth thee nat?

...and many more, here.

(It's making the rounds; I forget where I got it from.)

4/30/06 11:58 pm - Overawed silence

Flatlander points out that John Crowley is on LiveJournal (crowleycrow). Crowley himself mentions that Tom Disch is, too (tomsdisch). Blimey. Excuse me while I become even less articulate than usual...

4/11/06 12:39 am - Poetry for Beginners

The four subjects of poetry, from William Matthews via Language Log:

1. I went out into the woods today, and it made me feel, you know, sort of religious.
2. We're not getting any younger.
3. It sure is cold and lonely (a) without you, honey, or (b) with you, honey.
4. Sadness seems but the other side of the coin of happiness, and vice versa, and in any case the coin is too soon spent, and on what we know not.

4/5/06 11:46 pm - The World Encompassed/Ignored (*delete as applicable)

Two very different plays at the National: Southwark Fair and The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Seen on successive nights, they give you two very different views of humanity.

Southwark FairCollapse )

The Royal Hunt of the SunCollapse )

3/31/06 12:45 am - An Der Schönen Blauen Donau

OK. Anybody fancy a Belgian experimental compilation album, consisting entirely of appalling versions of the Blue Danube Waltz? No, I thought not.

If you change your mind, it's at WFMU's Beware of the Blog. I particularly like the Disrythmic Etude, if only for the mental image of what happens when a ballroom-full of people try to dance to it. Runner-up is the Michael Nyman version, which lasts for twelve sodding minutes, and in which the pianist sounds as though he's trying to save his fingers by playing the piano with his elbows.

3/29/06 11:28 pm - Meet Clint Flicker

Comics fans may have already met him, but I hadn't. Gacked from Language Log.

(Well, tinyjo did tell me I should post more...)

3/29/06 10:49 pm - Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

I have no business reviewing ballet. Not even comic ballet where all the ballerinas are men. So I just have six things to say:

  1. Who'd have thought it was possible to make ballet even gayer?
  2. I'm glad I was seated in a box; that way there were only three neighbours to look alarmed and mildly annoyed when I couldn't stop laughing during the Bach/Balanchine "Go for Barocco".
  3. The moulting dying swan is just as funny as the reviews have said.
  4. I'm glad I caught the alternate program, with Les Sylphides instead of Swan Lake Act 2, because it suddenly occurred to me that I've seen Swan Lake several times, but always with male swans. After the third time, I think it'd start to look as if I have some kind of bizarre fetish.
  5. It might be hilarious, but these are still Proper Ballet Dancers, and they can still wow you when they want to.
  6. No, but really, how much gayer can ballet possibly get?

3/29/06 12:24 pm - Bizarro Desert Island Discs

If somebody else were marooned on a desert island, what songs would you give them?

I'm loading my brother's iPod (see previous friends-locked post), and the_magician suggested I poll you for ideas of "fun/weird/indispensible track[s]" to add to it. Preferably ones where an mp3 is available.

So, any suggestions?

3/21/06 04:10 pm - Ellsworth Kelly

At the weekend, I went down to the new Ellsworth Kelly exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. I'm a sucker for big minimalist expanses of colour -- see also Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and even Dan Flavin (at the Hayward, fun for all the family) -- so you won't be surprised to hear that I enjoyed it.

There are two big groups of paintings that make up the bulk of the exhibition. One group is formed by laying two canvases on top of one another: a vertical white rectangle on top of a horizontal black rectangle, for instance. For me, the most successful of these were the two by the entrance, which are sail-shaped and appear to have a line of light running down the point where the canvases meet. Shades of Dan Flavin's fluorescent lights out of corners, here, though in fact it was just a trick of the light. I also liked the little white rectangle on a big white rectangle, in the main room; it reminded me of Jasper Johns' Flags, but without the actual flags, if that makes any sense at all.

The other big group is the Rothko-ish paintings. These are large rectangles divided into three horizontal stripes (actually each stripe is a separate canvas, when you look more closely), each of a different colour, hence the "Rothko-ish" feeling. My inner four-year-old was yelling "Oooo! Bright colours! Pretty!", but I think the rest of me prefers Rothko.

As you'd expect from a show of "recent work", it was less varied than the Tate retrospective a few years ago. But it's a relaxing way to spend half an hour, a bit like stumbling into the alternate-universe optimistic happy sparkly version of the Tate's Rothko Room.

3/21/06 01:30 pm - A Night at the Chinese Opera

Judith Weir's A Night at the Chinese Opera is currently on at the Royal Academy of Music. And by "currently", I mean "four performances, this week only". Apparently this is the first production in Britain since 1988, and I have no idea why it's been so long, since the work is a real crowd-pleaser. It's a contemporary opera based on a medieval Chinese tale, "The Chao Family Orphan", which has been adapted by westerners many times before. The title pretty much suggests the plot -- orphaned son avenges his parents -- but there's a play-within-a-play structure that makes the evening a bit less predictable than that would suggest.

Memorable tunes, understandable plot, sung well, with humour that is actually funny, in English you can understand without need for surtitles, and you don't need a second mortgage to buy a ticket -- what more could you want? Put another way: I may not know much about opera, but I know when I'm having fun.

3/20/06 01:31 pm - Lesson 1: Use of Gestures

The world just became marginally drabber. The Italian Driving School, for many years a source of mild amusement for passers-by in the Clerkenwell Road, has renamed itself the Holborn School of Motoring. Bah.

3/16/06 11:50 pm - V for Vendetta

So I went to the preview at the ICA. Both jinty and damiancugley posted about the film already (here and here), and I haven't much to add to what they said.

It had been a loooong while since I last read V -- it's taken me so long to post this review because I wanted to re-read the original story again. Score one for the movie: it made me want to reread the original. Score two: I think the movie is better than the original (not that you're supposed to make judgements like that, but even so). It has cleaner lines, and not nearly so much cod-Scottish dialect to wade through. As damiancugley pointed out, the film is set in our future rather than 1983's, so that instead of nuclear winter we're watching the aftermath of a terrorist attack, which makes it all feel much fresher somehow.

It's like watching a fictionalised version of The Power of Nightmares, with strong overtones of 1984 (cue John Hurt ranting on a giant telescreen, which is much scarier than the rather odd dictator in the original book). The look of the film is directly taken from the book, though, and it looks fantastic. I was also surprised by the sheer Britishness of the film, particularly all the references to the Gunpowder Plot. Whatever will the Americans make of it?

What's not so good? Well, Hugo Weaving does his best, but there's only so much you can achieve by voice and gesture alone. I know V is supposed to be Everyman, but I really did want him to take off the mask and cape at least once. Also, the "V is Everyman" attitude leads to a momentarily confusing scene near the end, which I won't spoil for you. Natalie Portman is OK but no better, so it's left to the supporting cast to carry the film -- which they do. Stephen Rea walks off with every scene he's in, and Stephen Fry and Tim Pigott-Smith do a fine job too.

You should probably see this film. It's not wonderful, but it's worth a couple of hours of your time. The overall message: how a society can be pushed into supporting fascism, and that it's your job to prevent this from happening, could hardly be more relevant.

3/13/06 05:06 pm - Explore Other Planets!

It's not quite as cool as Google Earth, but here's Google Mars. With altitude shading, infrared and visible maps.

(Shamelessly pilfered from The Register...)

Edit: I knew it rang a bell... last year there was Google Moon, but that only covers the area around the Apollo landings, and is mostly notable for what happens when you zoom in too far.

3/11/06 01:00 am - Future Culture: Sublime to Ridiculous

Three events I'm planning on going to. Anyone else interested?

London Beer Festival, 22nd-24th March at Camden Centre in Bidborough Street. Website.

Teddy Thompson in concert at ULU, April 27th (and a tip of the hat to juggzy for pointing out that he was on tour; I've been hooked on Separate Ways for a couple of weeks now). Website.

Nixon in China at the Coliseum. The greatest opera of the 20th century. Website.

3/11/06 12:45 am - Star Power: Three Examples

Three things we saw last weekend, in reverse order:

Resurrection BluesCollapse )
36 Quai des OrfèvresCollapse )
LemmingCollapse )

So that was our star-studded weekend. Obscurity won hands-down over fame, rodents took centre stage, and I'm still waiting for Kevin Spacey to stage something worth seeing at the Old Vic.

3/11/06 12:26 am - Brazilians vs. Poles, Hungarians vs. Germans

It's been a while, hasn't it? I was in the mood to post and tell you about this week's Time Out - the front cover has a line about solar-powered sex toys, which I thought lends a whole new meaning to sticking it where the sun doesn't shine, but it turns out they already did a very similar gag in the body of the article. So I was going to aim for something even filthier about Fanny by Gaslight, but couldn't be bothered to make it work.

Let's make a quick move to the cultural high ground instead, and talk about some exhibitions.
TropicáliaCollapse )Albers & Moholy-NagyCollapse )

2/21/06 10:15 pm - Walk the Line

After all the good notices in the papers, not to mention a BAFTA for Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line seemed like required viewing for me. After all, I grew up listening to my parents' Johnny Cash records, so the music alone would make it worth the price of entry. (I also grew up with their albums of Lonnie Donegan, Russ Conway, the Spinners and other such. Honestly, it's a wonder I have any musical taste at all. No, don't say it, I know.)

It's a good film, in that "just-five-percent-better-than-I-expected" way that some films manage. Unlikely to set the world alight, but it's an compelling enough story if you're in the mood for a heartwarming tale of love conquering all. Witherspoon acts up a storm, and Joaquin Phoenix makes a convincing Cash: handsome and sweaty and drunk and druggy and overwhelmingly charismatic. (Compare Val Kilmer in The Doors: halfway through I was willing Jim Morrison to just shut up and die already, dammit.)

You can have too much of a good thing, though. The soundtrack album really is the soundtrack of the film - Johnny Cash as sung by Joaquin Phoenix. Why?

2/21/06 06:38 pm - Vote Early, Vote Often

Just a reminder that Hugo nominations (for those who went to Interaction) are still open. You can even vote online at LA Con IV.

Why am I reminding you? Here's a hint...

2/21/06 12:10 am - It's dictionaraoke time (again)!

Back in the 80s, I used to own a borderline-unlistenable recording of Rock Around the Clock, painstakingly voice-synthesised with a Vocoder by some short-lived group or other (Telex, I think).

Twenty years later, most online dictionaries could read words to you, and apparently "dictionaraoke" was a passing fad a couple of years ago (don't know about you, but I missed it at the time). Here's my favourite: I Got You Babe, rendered as a touching duet between Encarta and the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

But now we have Tom Baker reading our SMSes, and dictionaraoke is back. Here's the man himself, singing Video Killed The Radio Star...

(via b3ta.com)

2/11/06 02:56 pm - Nights at the Circus

Angela Carter's book "Nights at the Circus" has been adapted for the stage, and is currently at the Lyric Hammersmith. Ping and I went to see it the other day.

A quick plot summary, without spoilers: it's 1899 and our heroine, Fevvers the winged Cockney Venus, is working the music halls. She is spotted by Welser, a journalist, who doesn't believe her wings are real. And the rest is a love story, starting in a brothel and ending in a circus.

Viewed as an evening of theatre, it's - er - good in parts. Kneehigh Theatre are an improvisational group, and the show still feels like a collection of workshopped scenes from the book, loosely joined. Ping muttered afterwards about focus, and the way that people were on-stage just because they had to move props about, or because they had a line to deliver in a while and no plausible way to get offstage and back on again. Kneehigh might be able to turn a bucket, a saw and a torch into a tiger, but they don't have the skills of, say, Complicite, who can turn four chairs and a TV into an elephant and seem to be weightless while they're doing it.

I was trying to work out why I liked the show so much, when the reviews have been so variable, and eventually I realised: it's not an evening of theatre. It's an evening of music hall. There are songs. There are knob gags. Clowns do their thing with soda siphons. There are men in frocks, and a Greek chorus of sorts. There are moments of powerful emotion, and some startling brutality, but there's an underlying current of humour to it all. Welser starts the evening in the audience; by the end, he's centre-stage and loving it. The actors are visibly actors playing their parts, and we have to learn to suspend disbelief just as Welser does.

So: the curtain goes up on the music hall stage. A woman with wings is sitting on a trapeze and belting out "I'm Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage". She has an accent reminiscent of the late Arthur Mullard. If you like the music hall as much as I do, then the next two and three-quarter hours will be an evening to remember.

2/11/06 02:06 pm - Food Quest

My quest to be the stereotypical jaded-metro-yuppie-Guardianista-Islingtonite continues! So it's off to Borough Market to exercise my hunter-gatherer instincts in search of olive bread and nettle cheese (no, really).

But I go off the rails a bit on the way back, and pop in to the unappealing-looking Lithuanian shop under the arches at London Bridge. It also turns out to be unappealing-smelling, and of course it shakes violently every couple of minutes because of the trains. But it's packed with unidentifiable groceries!

So I am now the proud owner of: a rattan basket of biscuits that look like tiny beige snails and are called "sausainiai riču raču", a bag of glaistyti zefyrai ("coated zephyrs", it says here) which I think are probably chocolate-covered meringues, and an ominous sausage labelled "šaltai rūkyta KRIVIO dešra". Ping is not impressed, so it may all end up as a nutritionally-unsound packed lunch for Picocon. Anybody want a coated zephyr?

2/10/06 09:50 pm - Underground Secrets Revealed

The tube map, anagrammed. I always knew there was something eldritch about Elephant and Castle...

[Edit: TfL lawyer attack has broken the above link! Boo! Try here instead... ]

1/18/06 12:07 am - Two Things

Thing One: Gutenberg: The Musical!, now at the Jermyn Street Theatre, in which two American idiots present the history of the printing press, with songs. There are some laugh-out-loud moments (mostly involving a dead baby and a deranged pencil-chucking monk), and the songs are quite fun if you're the sort of person who enjoys a spot of musical theatre, which I (ahem) do, rather. Alas, if I try to review it I'll have to mention the National Theatre of Brent, who did all the same gags twenty years ago, only much, much better. Oh, well.

Thing Two: Brokeback Mountain. If you needed a review, you'd have read a dozen of them by now, so I won't bother. But really, you must see this. I saw it twice last week, and cried both times. I can't remember the last time I cried at a movie. Did I mention you should see this? (I have other thoughts, mostly because I've read The Celluloid Closet and am not necessarily prepared to take the ending at face value, but for the time being I wish to emote dramatically while thinking of Heath Ledger in chaps. Thank you.)

1/7/06 06:58 pm - Spamusement

Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!

12/19/05 11:59 pm - Mashups

KraftPlay -- Coldplay's "Talk" vs. Kraftwerk's "Computer Love" (for mr_snips).

Silly: Eminem vs Scott Joplin.

Sillier: Silver Bells -- Paul Simon and Steve Martin, on Saturday Night Live, give you the true meaning of Christmas.

I finished the Christmas shopping today. The last present: a Koran for my brother. Which, now that I think of it, is an unusual Christmas present, but it all makes sense in context. Honest.

12/14/05 03:05 pm - It's Chriiiiiiistmaaaaaas

Having trouble choosing Christmas presents for your loved ones? I recommend Dave Barry's Holiday Gift Guide 2005.

By the way, if any of you are foolhardy enough to pay attention to a music recommendation from me: you'll like Santastic. I'm currently listening to tracks 2, 5, 10 and 17 overandoverandoveragain. Alas, you've probably already missed Kiki and Herb's Jesus Wept: A Christmas Concert, but there might be clips on the website.

Oh, and I've forgotten to send any Christmas cards. Again. I may just have to officially give up sending them, given my batting average in the last few years...

11/16/05 10:21 am - AKICILJ

I'm teaching in our Manchester centre this week, and the training rooms all have names. They were named before we moved in, so nobody knows where the names came from, and it's bugging me.

So, puzzle fans, what's the link between Washington, Bay, Brooklyn, Utah and Tyne?

10/6/05 11:49 am - Matt needs...

Meme passed along by undyingking. Google for "name needs", and tell us what you need...

Matt needs new liver
Matt needs new pants
Matt needs to work on his stand up
Matt needs someone to back him up
Matt needs to be consoled by man in hood
Matt needs to practise his trumpet
Matt needs to contact Dan
Matt needs to show some love to the east coast
Matt needs help washing potatoes
Matt needs to start selling large blue foam "We're Number One!" hands
Matt needs to make some form of sense to the rest of us

10/4/05 02:52 pm - One man's Mede is another man's Persian

Back to the capsule reviews, for a change. The British Museum's Forgotten Empire exhibition has been all over the papers, trailed as a successor to the Royal Academy's exhibitions on Aztecs and Turks.

I found it a bit of a disappointment, but that's mostly my fault; I was set up to compare it to the other two exhibitions. For a start, think of the dates. Aztecs: 1300-1550 (ish). Turks: 600-1600. Persians: 550-330 BC -- between one and two thousand years earlier than the others. Of course it's going to be the smallest and drabbest exhibition of the three. Expecting otherwise is like going to the Colosseum and expecting Alton Towers.

The exhibits are impressive, once you recalibrate your expectations. So we start with a few carvings, then it's straight into a roomful of chunks of Persepolis, and mightily impressive it is too. And then we have a few rooms of smaller bits and bobs -- some of them extremely intricate and beautiful, but still a very British-Museum-esque display of object-filled cabinets, labelled as if for experts. Then a bust of Alexander the Great, a few words of explanation, the Cyrus cylinder and we're out the door.

There's still something wrong here, though. The space is tiny. As in "no room to move, even on a quiet weekday morning". Presumably it must be wheelchair-accessible, but I can't imagine how. The audioguide seems determined to rush you round; it picks out only one or two objects per room, and tells you nothing much beyond what's on the printed captions. There's not much hint of how this empire arose, how it influenced the rest of the world, or what happened after Alexander went away again. Perhaps the curators feel you ought to know that already, and perhaps I should. Or perhaps some of the facts aren't known at all, and they don't want to speculate, but really I'd have been happy to see some speculation.

Anyway, it doesn't match up to the bloodthirsty oddness of the Aztecs, or the thousand-year cross-continental dash of the Turks. But it's astounding that these artefacts exist at all, and it's worth seeing -- just be sure to go on a rainy Tuesday, and don't bother paying for the audioguide.

10/4/05 02:41 pm - Another conviction for the Grammar Police

(linked from partiallyclips.com)

9/19/05 02:41 pm - Arr!

It's Talk Like A Pirate Day again, so time for one more picture (courtesy of Language Log) :

9/19/05 11:39 am - Arf!

9/5/05 11:53 pm - What Will The Corporation Do?

How to describe the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players? Well, Ping described them as "they sound like exactly your sort of thing", in a tone of voice that suggested this might not be intended as unqualified praise, but I'll try to provide a more concrete description.

They go around buying up the vintage slide collections of total strangers, and then write songs to accompany the slides. Dad sings and plays keyboard and guitar, Mom sings and works the projector, and the teenage daughter plays the drums. The songs are extremely odd, and very funny; the highlight of the show was the six-song mini rock opera based on a McDonalds Corporation slide presentation from 1977. One reviewer described them as "the White Stripes crossed with the Krankies", if that helps at all.

Anyway, they're currently at the Soho Theatre, and will be touring with "Adventures in Middle America Volume II" until the end of October.

The bad news is that the acoustics in the Soho Theatre are horrible, meaning you're better off buying the CD if you want to hear the words. Also, the show on Saturday didn't quite seem to gel properly, but that may just have been the odd stage setup and random technical problems they seemed to be having. I'm considering going again when they move on to the Pleasance, later in September.

And, on the general theme of unusual musical experiences, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will be at the Riverside Studios from 15-26 November...

8/29/05 11:05 pm - Pffft

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!
Could You Pass the US Citizenship Test?

Well, there was a time when I thought I might end up becoming an American...

The questions from the real naturalisation test are also online if you want them, and they're a bit trickier (googles... aha! here!).

8/26/05 12:36 am - AN EMAIL from AA MILNE

Here's some new bathroom reading: Francis Heaney's book Holy Tango of Literature. It's terribly high-concept for loo-side entertainment, and works like this -- pick an author, make an anagram of their name, and then use that as a title for something written in their style.

An example: William Blake becomes "Likable Wilma", a poem which begins "Wilma, Wilma, in thy blouse / Red-haired prehistoric spouse". Made me laugh, anyway. Emily Dickinson's "Skinny Domicile" you can read here.

If you want SF, you get Harold Pinter rewriting the opening scenes of Star Wars ("Horrid Planet"), and David Mamet doing the airlock scene from 2001 ("Dammit, Dave").

I'm still giggling -- though I can't quite work out why -- over the closing lines of William Carlos Williams' hitherto unknown "I Will Alarm Islamic Owls"

Forgive me
they see so well in the dark
so feathery
and so dedicated to Allah

8/24/05 09:44 pm - Down the Rabbit Hole

Worldcon got me interested in SF again. I mean, I never stopped being interested in SF, but I had pretty much stopped trying out new SF authors. The only one of the Hugo nominees I'd read was The Algebraist. Suddenly I'm back into it again, partly thanks to having read several volumes of Dave Langford's reviews that I bought at the con, partly through being back in fandom and hearing people enthuse about things again. A half-dozen paperbacks arrived today from Amazon, and for a change I'm going to read something other than computer books.

While I'm setting about fixing my reading habits, I thought I'd also try to learn something about Literary Theory. Up to now, I've worked on the assumption that the whole field is mostly obfuscatory nonsense -- I read Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont's book Intellectual Impostures, and Sokal's ludicrous and hilarious Social Text hoax, which would certainly give you that impression. Anyway, there was a panel at Worldcon -- "Knit Your Own John Clute", or some such -- where the panellists were mostly academics with backgrounds in Theory, and the question was raised: is there a Magic Decoder Ring? How can a layman begin to make sense of this stuff? The panel unanimously recommended Peter Barry's Beginning Theory.

I've just started reading Beginning Theory, and I think I'm going to like Prof. Barry. By page 7, he's already reassuring us that "the whole body of work known collectively as 'theory' is based upon some dozen or so ideas, none of which are in themselves difficult ... we must not assume that the difficulty of theoretical writing is always the dress of profound ideas, only that it might sometimes be ... challenges are fine, but they have to amount to something in the end." Heh. He then proceeds to reduce these dozen ideas to a bulleted list, before setting off on a tour of the field, one chapter per -ism.

So: cover me, I'm going in. Oh, and if I start bibbling on at parties about jouissance and différance, please slap me until I return to sanity. Ta.

8/24/05 08:49 pm - Ignore Me While I Talk About the Weather

All day, it's been pouring with rain, reducing the view to fuzzy shapes and grey outlines. Suddenly, at sunset, the rain stopped, the view returned and there was the weirdest lighting effect. Every single building somehow ultra-real, in pin-sharp focus. Overhead, heavy unbroken slate-grey clouds. On the horizon, a long line of puffy, billowing clouds, starting out small on the right in Westminster, growing bigger towards the left as they moved behind St Paul's, and all of them lit sodium-lamp yellow by the setting sun (out of sight, over my right shoulder). It looked, I swear to god, exactly as though Parliament was on fire. And, for the finishing touch, there was even a vertical chunk of rainbow rising out of the Barbican on the left.

I don't know why I'm telling you this. Probably because I felt I should record it somehow, but failed miserably to get it on film (auto-exposure and auto-white-balance are not good for this sort of thing, and there's only so much horizon will fit in the frame).

8/23/05 08:54 pm - Hitting the Bottle

Georgina, Ping and I have hatched a plan to go on a wine tasting course, since we're both embarrassed by how little we know about the subject. There's no reason to keep this to ourselves, so: does anybody here fancy coming along?

After some searching, we've lighted on this one here. It's a full day, including lunch, and it's held in a pub in London near West Brompton tube, roughly every week or two. We were thinking of going on Sunday November 6th. The downside is that it costs a fairly eye-watering £99 per person, although that seems to be on the low end for these things. (Of the ones I found, only Vinopolis are cheaper, but they sound revolting -- for £20 they'll give you 10 wines, 4 "premium wines", 2 shots of absinthe and a gin cocktail. Bleargh.)

Anyway, if you're interested, drop me a line or leave a comment here.

[Edit: Changed Saturday to Sunday (doh!)]

8/22/05 07:24 am - Primer, Crash, Bostonians

So, I saw Primer at the weekend. Mainstream reviews have been generally baffled (though the Guardian liked it), because although it's clearly science fiction, it was shot on a budget of about 50p and involves no special effects at all. Also no bug-eyed monsters, rockets, rayguns, etc, etc. Visually, and also for sheer geekiness, it reminded me of Pi; it isn't actually in black and white, but feels as though it is, if that makes any sense. Plot-wise, it's a time-travel movie, and I'm going to tell you nothing else for fear of spoiling it.

My personal scale of movie reviews runs from "I want my 90 minutes back" to "As the credits rolled I went outside, bought a new ticket and went in again". This is the first film since Memento that I've wanted to watch again immediately. You must see this film, and probably more than once (it gets a bit tricky to follow towards the end).

Other stuff: Crash. Somehow I'd formed the impression that this was going to be a mediocre film (there are racial tensions in LA; who would have guessed?), but I saw it anyway, and it's a good deal better and more subtle than that. Mind you, I'm a sucker for huge ensemble million-stories-in-the-big-city pieces -- I liked Magnolia and Short Cuts, too. The plot has to be made to jump through hoops to get all those characters into the right places at the right times, but there is Actual Proper Acting on display (as opposed to, say, Fantastic Four, about which the less said the better), and this film rates at least as high as "will gladly watch again when it's on TV".

And lastly, the Boston-and-Impressionism show at the Royal Academy. I liked it, but have nothing useful or interesting to say about it (what else is new, you mutter). To steal a much older review: those who like this sort of thing will find that this is the sort of thing which they like. Also, those who have been to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston will find that this is the sort of thing which they have already seen, since that's where all the paintings came from.

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