Monthly Archives: March 2008

‘Tokyo Cowboys’ LA Premiere

My friends Daneeta and Patrick’s documentary film Tokyo Cowboys has it’s premiere at the Japan Film Festival in Los Angeles on April 14th 2008. I really wish I was in LA then to see it. Apart from anything else it’s Cassie’s birthday on the previous day. There’s a new teaser trailer up on the site – I recommend you view it.

Basic Rail Rant – First Group Must Go

Here’s a nice simple rant about the train services in and around London. I get the train from Tooting, which used to be run adequately by Thameslink, and is now run by the sick joke of the industry, First Group. Several stations on the line are still called ______ Thameslink, highlighting the stupidity of the entire Infraco/TOC system, as forced into place by the Tories. Every time you change the TOC, you should change the station names. It’s like a sports stadium that changes it’s name each time it gets a new sponsor – one day it’s the Lockheed Martin Velodrome, the next it’s the Imperial Tobacco Velodrome, and all the maps and street signs have to be changed. It reminds me of a Southern Water telemetry station I worked on in Hampshire that was referred to in the database as “Tesco Car Park”. The problem was it didn’t say which town in Hampshire it was in, and it also didn’t say that it was no longer a Tesco – Asda had taken the site over, in line with the general decay of the area.

Anyway, I went to the station today to find 3 queues where there is usually only one. One for the ticket window, one for the ticket machine, and one for the guy with the portable ticket selling machine they had parachuted in. I chose the machine queue, waited, and bought a return ticket for Victoria. I normally get a travelcard, but I’m only working one day this week, because I’m off to LA again tomorrow.

I got on the train, zoned out for half an hour, then got off at Blackfriars. Going through the barriers, the machine swallowed my ticket, leaving me unable to get on the District Line to get to Victoria. I asked the First Group plc Revenue Protection Officer why it had done this. I showed him my return ticket and he said it was becasue the ticket was from Tooting to London Terminals. Blackfriars is a London Terminal, therefore my journey was at an end. I said I had bought a ticket to Victoria. He said I would have to buy an extra ticket for the tube, then claim it back from Tooting Station.

So the problem is that First Group’s ticket machine is programmed wrong. In total, then, rather annoying. Not as bad by any means as some horror stories you hear and read, especially on my old route out to Godalming on the dread South West Trains. But my mind is clear. All the TOCs should lose their franchises, and ideally suffer some form of public corporal punishment. The bosses should also be tagged and branded, and banned from ever owning any kind of property again.

Another thing. The new style of ticket barriers are badly designed. They open after a slight delay, and slowly, so you think they aren’t going to open. They beep when you place your easily hacked Citizen Movement Tracking Card, sorry, Oyster Card on the reader, to let you know that the barrier has read it. But you can’t tell which barrier has beeped, because the whole row of barriers is beeping as the morning rush comes through. The old display of a black background with large bold words and numbers that light up clearly has been replaced with an LCD which shows small plae grey characters against a bright green background. Impossible to read at a glance in passing, because of the viewing angle when standing by the barrier, the colours and the text size. So all the feedback from the barriers is gone. Didn’t they test them? What moron could have approved the design? The Factory Acceptance Test? The Site Acceptance Test?

Here endeth the rant. Cheers.

Head In A Burrow, August 2007 – The Third Day

Saturday

the caledonian riviera I needed to buy some shoes, so K and I braved the rain and crowds to sample the retail. No luck. Then we ‘caught’ as I believe the term goes, we ‘caught’ some proper theatre…

The Bacchae

This wasn’t on the Fringe, but was rather a proper play from the Festival at the Kings Theatre, with red velvet and staircases and the like. Very swish. K got the last two tickets, seated at opposite ends of the theatre. K got one almost within knicker-throwing distance of the stage, whereas I was content to skulk around at the back.

Curtain. The first thing that we saw was Alan Cumming’s arse. He was lowered onto the stage by his ankles, with his backside to us, wearing a gold number with a short skirt and no knickers. The lowering mechanism wasn’t used for the rest of the production, so it was obviously included because they wanted to start with a bang, or at least with a bum, to get the audience giggling and goggling. It reminds me of a production of Romeo and Juliet I went to see on a school trip. It was set in the 1950’s or 60’s or something and so the party sequence had lots of rock’n’roll dancing (but not ceroc thank feck – I cannot stand that shit. “Try it Matthew! You’d enjoy it!”. No, I won’t.) and it ended with a splash as the star-crossed lovers jumped into a little pool that had been created at the side of the stage. The pool had no purpose. It was used once, just for spectacle. Then the poor dears had a bitch of a costume change before they were on again. I suppose what I’m saying is if you’re going to have spectacular effects, don’t make them look so obviously tacked on.

The rest of the play was fine – very stylish, lots of bloody murder and bacchic excess. One Scotsman got another Scotsman to dress up as a women, who was then decapitated, that sort of thing. But as a whole the production annoyed me.

I don’t have a problem with Alan Cumming – in fact he was excellent in The High Life, which was like Father Ted but Scottish and on a plane. That Cabaret he did was by all accounts awesome, and I’m sure his perfume smells nice. No, my problem is with people’s reaction to him. In this case, it was the fact that the majority of the crowd were hero-worshipping middle-aged women who couldn’t resist squawking at his every utterance. Mainstream naughtiness to cause cheap blushes.

I’m not mad keen on gospel music either.

Lunch – David Banns

Dee-licious, and pricey with it. But K did her sommelier bit and picked out a lovely bottle, which turned into 3 bottles in the end. Can’t remember if it was red or white, or much else about the meal.

Guide to German Humour

I liked this a lot, with the two hosts and their different styles, one grinning wildly as his performing garden gnomes performed, and the other (with an accent like Stavros, strangely enough) deconstructing what is and isn’t funny to a German. Failure is not funny, for one thing. Also, an excellent use of the phrase, “Prince William and his half-brother Harry”.

Fuerzabruta

This was rather spectacular, and I enjoyed it very much. Google it. See if Youtube has any videos. Big black tent in the rain, bottles of beer in my pockets, amazing sounds, lights, and sets, framing some wonderful dance and physical theatre. Huge choreography. Even the fact that it was a promenade performance didn’t detract.

Best Of The Fest

Then a rush through, and standing in, the rain to catch the Best of the Fest, which was debatable, but fun. A large auditorium, lots of late-night drunk people, various comedy and cabaret acts. I enjoyed the Japanese double-act – can’t remember what they were called.

Sunday

We tried to get home on Sunday. We did make it, but after GNER kindly left off one of their carriages, and threw out all the reservations, we were lucky to get seats. Bloody morons. I played Lego Star Wars or whatever its called on the way back, on K’s PSP. Good fun. Tired, hung over, but we had leg room and seats, so snoozing was also possible.

Found Garage Bill

One of the sites I look at regularly by subscribing to the feed in Google Reader is Found Magazine, which asks people to send in shopping lists, photos and other bits and pieces that they found on the street, in second-hand books, and stuck at the back of drawers in dusty old furniture.

I found what I thought would be a good item out on Tooting Bec Common – what appeared to be a list of work to be done on someones car, written by someone with a poor grasp of written English. I scanned it, sent it in, and waited. I thought they’d ignored it, but I guess they just have a lot of submissions, because suddenly here it is!

Lots of dim comments from people who don’t know about, and couldn’t be bothered to google Tooting Bec.

How Dare You See Yourself As Different

A teenage boy has pleaded guilty to the murder of Sophie Lancaster and inflicting GBH on her boyfriend. The attack happened in August 2007, in a park in Bacup in Lanacashire. Police believe that there may have been up to 15 people present when the attack took place. It seems the attack was aimed at them because they were wearing “gothic” style clothes. Certainly the photos in the papers and on the net show Ms Lancaster with piercings, black and red dreadlocks and so on. This is very sad, and there have been lots of tribute concerts and funds set up and so on.

A nasty little story. I’m afraid I can’t help but jump to conclusions about the people that were hanging around in the park that night, and how they started to pick on a couple walking past. The couple looked different to them, were older, more intelligent, and apparently with bright futures. Perhaps some shouting. The couple maybe shouted back, or just tried to ignore them.

All this reminded me of a pub I used to go to in Bedford, The Bear. Back then it was pretty much the only place where the “alternative” types could go without fear of harassment. It was mainly an old rockers pub, with the landlady definitely an old rocker. I wasn’t really an alternative type, but a lot of my friends were, and I definitely felt safer in there than in the other places to go in Bedford. (A pretty pass things have come to when your choice of drinking venue is driven by whether you feel safe there or not). Since I left the town to see (a very small selection of other parts of) the world, the High Street has become pretty terrifying, full of the classic Daily Mail-style binge drinking culture. Of course, it may be that I am older and less understanding, and this view is based on very limited experience: I haven’t been there for years.

The view of The Bear as an oasis of calm (despite the KMFDM on the jukebox) is one shared by several of the commenters on the pub’s Beer In The Evening page. But one of the commenters, and this is a view I know was shared by many people in Bedford, says that if you visit, you should take a knife to defend yourself and to fit in. That says a lot about the ignorance that is the main problem here.

The Metro (also known as “Yesterday’s Evening Standard In Colour With A Week-Old Viral Pic On Page Three”), and it’s illustrious companions ‘thelondonpaper’ and ‘London Lite’, often have little debates on their “letters” pages about a particular item of fashion wear. In the past Ugg Boots, Croc shoes and cardigans have been discussed, always with the same result. Some email from some vapid girl says, “Sorry guys, cardigans just aren’t sexy”. Another responds, “I think they are, my boyf wears one”, and on it goes. The opinions voiced sometimes border on the violent, with suggestions as to what should be done to people who wear Croc shoes. This is all pathetic and pointless, and it undermines the idea that London is a cosmpolitan and varied place. I for one pride myself on ignoring people with crazy clothes on the Tube or elsewhere. Anything goes – I thought that was the point?

What made me notice all this and got me thinking was the fact that in the photo of the victim in Metro, she is wearing an Achewood Rabbit Ambulance T-Shirt. I love Achewood, as you probably know. Cassie gave me a Rabbit Ambulance Umbrella for Xmas, and a framed, signed strip. I’m sorry this post is a bit aimless and ranty. It just struck a nerve, is all.

Head In A Burrow, August 2007 – The Second Day

The Next Day: Friday

A long breakfast of cereal, then cheese on toast by the tonne, then the tortuous process of deciding what to see – the usual group-think communication nightmare that would benefit from a whiteboard and minutes. Then K, J and moi had lunch at Ecco Vino. I had my usual deli-cafe lunch of cured meats with extra nitrites, antipasto and the European Olive Mountain, all washed down with a very nice bottle of South African Pinotage 2006 selected by K, the resident sommelier.

Edward Aczel – ‘Trust Me There Is No Hope’

This was a free show in the Football Club Social Clubhouse Room Club. We arrived a little bit late, and were admonished by Mr Aczel in his deadpan way. I really enjoyed this. He read his topics off his hand, did a quiz with the audience where he told us the answers in advance, and generally just stood there and sweated. Very funny. “Deconstruction“.

Simon Munnery

I really wanted to see this, as I am a big fan of Mr Munnery, in his previous incarnations as Alan Parker Urban Warrior, and later as The League Against Tedium. I would have loved to have seen Cluub Zarathustra, especially with all the other talent* in there. If I had a bar or venue, that’s the kind of show I’d have on. Oh, but it’s all burlesque at the moment isn’t it, if the Metro is anything to go by.

Anyway, this was much more just straight standup, and pretty funny too for the most part. He asked the audience to write things down, with the intention of discussing them later (always a bit of a cop-out, I feel). Later on he did throw on a white doctors coat and do a great stream of his classic misogynistic one-liners, based on the League Against Tedium’s diktats.

*’talent’ is a word used where you would use ‘resource’ if you were HR director of an engineering firm. ‘People’.

Pool with Simon Munnery

As it turned out, Mr Munnery didn’t have time to discuss the items people had submitted, so he invited us all to accompany him to a local gallery where the second part of the show (‘piece’? ‘act’?) was to be held. Another League Against Tedium concept was the three-part duel, where the combatants fight, play chess and recite poetry at each other. In this case, the fighting was replaced by pool. Munnery and a companion knocked balls and chess pieces around, quoted stuff, and in between moves discussed the audience submissions. It was interesting, but I had to dash off to catch up with the others who had gone ahead to buy tickets for the film…

In The Shadow Of The Moon

This was part of the Edinburgh Film Festival, and the UK premiere of this fantastic documentary about the tiny group of men who have been on the Moon. Great footage, wonderful interviews with nearly all the people who have set foot on the Moon – Neil Armstrong is now a recluse. The filmmaker answered questions from the audience afterwards, including mine and K’s. I asked if it was true that moonshot footage is being lost because of the film decaying. He said it was possible, but there was so much footage in storage that it took ages to find the good bits, so there was little worry about losing stuff.

The theory that the moon landings were faked was covered only as the credits rolled, and was treated with deserved contempt by the astronauts. The basic argument against the theory is that there were so many people involved that it would be impossible to make them all shut up. Oh, but I’m sure there’s a theory about that too.

Greg Fleet

I don’t care what Stewart Lee said, I thought this was rubbish. The film noir-style pun-laden storytelling backed with the double-bass atmospherics was quite good, but when he dropped that and did his regular standup routine, it really wasn’t very good. A couple of quips had the audience actually groaning.

Cheese Sandwich + Milkshake + home in the rain

While drunk and eating cheese, we discussed possible ideas for a show. There seems to be lot of these ___ in 20 minutes shows around, like the Star Wars one we saw, or that tedious Shakespeare one*. Why not try something a little different in this vein? My idea was JG Ballard in 45 minutes. I have no idea how that would work. The last 20 minutes would be easy, you could just repeat the same lines 4 times, just set them first in a towerblock, then the Costa Del Sol or wherever, then Chelsea Marina, you get the picture. You’d need a lot of sand and water for the earlier bits. And an Elizabeth Taylor lookalike.

*hint: never see a show where the poster shows the stars jumping in the air and looking crazy by wearing Converse All-Stars. Similarly, never see a comedy film where the poster shows the stars looking at the camera and looking shocked. John Goodman is particularly guilty of this.

Selected Patience Games Book from 1916

I’ve been doing a lot of clearing out, and scanning interesting things I find to put on Flickr, and this is one of those things. It’s an old book called Selected Patience Games by Angelo Lewis M.A.. After the name is says Professor Hoffmann. It’s the size of a playing card, and I assume it came in box of playing cards many years ago – it dates back to 1916. It was always hanging around in the drawer at my Nana’s, then at my parents, and now I seem to have it. I’m not a big patience player, especially not the more advanced ones described here, but it’s a great little book with some nice little diagrams and adverts at the back for Goodalls Gold Medal Playing Cards and some nice typography throughout. I’ve scanned the whole thing and put it on Flickr. I wonder if there’s a full set of cards illustrated in there?




If anyone has any problem with me putting it in the public domain, under a Creative Commons license, please let me know.