Call me Russ L

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: November 2014

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Food, Linklog, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage by Russ L on 29 October, 2014

And with this post, I prove to myself that I am still capable of writing one of these posts. The James Brown Rule appears to be writ large this month – if you really want to see them and they’re particularly old, then make sure that you definitely do go to see them when they come to your area. Because they die. They all die.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works.

(Throughout the month, I think) (EDIT: Nope, it actually finishes on the 1st. Prior to me editing this, then) – Erica Nockalls exhibition @ Havill & Travis Gallery, Harborne, Birmingham – Yer lady who is now affiliated with The Wonderstuff and whatnot. This is a combined-arms operation, where you can bring a pair of headphones (standard mini-jack connection, I’m assuming, but I don’t know about these things nowadays) to examine her paintings and hear her new album at the same time.

Up until the 15th – George Saxon & John D. Briscoe’s “A Record Of Undying” @ Vivid Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – An exhibition showing the ways in which Mr Saxon (consensually) documented Mr Briscoe’s dying and then death. I’m sure there’s a higher-minded way of saying this, but it sounds morbidly fascinating.

Saturday the 1st and Sunday the 2nd – Dawn French @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – Weird sidewards thought provoked by this – I can’t think of any other comedians with the same name as a nationality. There must surely be loads, though.

Saturday the 1st – “The Hundred Years War” (B2 Stage) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – 40 war poems written between 1914 and 2013. With music and images. This sort of thing is probably very important, given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Saturday the 1st – “Clamber Up The Crucifix” (not sure about a theatre company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A telegraph operator in the trenches. Possibly giving another meaning to the latter part of the old lineman’s adage of “Up poles and down holes”. Again, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Sunday the 2nd – Holst’s “The Planets Suite” (CBSO Youth Ochestra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Just play “Mars” so we can all go home. (Disclaimer: I don’t really mean that).

Tuesday the 4th till Saturday the 8th – “My Perfect Mind” (Told By An Idiot, Young Vic & Theatre Royal Plymouth) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – Lear, as learned by an actor who had a stroke halfway through. Decay portrayed through decay? Form and content, you see.

Wednesday the 5th till Sunday the 9th – Wagner’s “Ring” cycle (Mariinsky Opera) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – A full Ring cycle by the Mariinsky opera in Birmingham! Alas, it costs like you’d expect it to (although there is a thing for cheaper tickets here).

Wednesday the 5th – Pam Ayres @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Her teeth are actually fine, you know.

Wednesday the 5th – Billy Idol @ The Academy, Birmingham – After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I must have some sort of semi-conscious fetish for popular music artistes named “Billy”.

Wednesday the 5th – John Mayall @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The man who gave Eric Clapton his first big break. That was a long time ago, though, so don’t hold it against him.

Wednesday the 5th – Lacuna Coil @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Spiralling nothingness is an excellent synonym for a goth-metal band name. I’m still looking for a drummer for my Lacuna Coil/Black Sabbath/Carina Round tribute band, who will be called “Lacuna Sunrise”.

Thursday the 6th – Bo Ningen @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Utterly utterly nutterly Japanese pysch-rock loonies. On the bill with Band Of Skulls, who are a quite-good 70s-influenced hard rock band and might be worth seeing too.

Thursday the 6th – Motorhead @ The NIA, Birmingham – What are Motorhead doing playing at the National Indoor Arena, I mean really now. This is going to be uncannily like the “four people and a dog” scene from “Bad News”.

Friday the 7th and Saturday the 8th – “This Was The World And I Was King” (Hook Hitch Theatre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Children use folk music and Robert Louis Stevenson to cope with their father being away at the front. As is becoming my mantra, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Friday the 7th – “Collector Of Tears” (Gobscure) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Tears are collected from various people over the span of four hundred years. That is genuinely a very striking thought.

Friday the 7th – British Sea Power @ Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre Space), near Coventry – With a brass band in tow. I really can see that working well.

Saturday the 8th till Sunday the 16th – The Grand Slam Of Darts @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Obvious YouTube Link is obvious. Is Barry Hearn still alive? His son deals with the boxing now.

Saturday the 8th till Saturday the 15th – “King Lear” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre Company – Cordelia? I barely know ‘er.

Saturday the 8th – The Wailers @ The Academy, Birmingham – Doing “Legend”. On the one hand, this nostalgia-do-an-album-tour bit has gone a bit far when they’re even doing ‘em for best-of albums. On the other hand, it’s The Wailers doing “Legend”. Choices to be made.

Saturday the 8th – The Neville Staple Band @ The Oobleck, Digbeth, Birmingham – This’ll be probably be good, but The Specials themselves are playing later in the month…

Saturday the 8th – Mark Steel @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre Space), near Coventry – So this is a “Back In Town” tour one rather than an “In Town” one, which I think means one with comedic observations about towns in general (such as I saw at The Mac the other year), rather than comedic observations about the specific town you’re in (such as you’d hear on the radio). I think.

Saturday the 8th – Louis Robinson’s Damba La Bamba @ The Symphony Hall foyer in the ICC, Birmingham – I didn’t know about this, but apparently there are a series of musical picnics for 0-7 year-olds, and this is one from your erstwhile Destroyers fella. Damba La Mamba (soy capitan?).

Sunday the 9th – Bellowhead @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Spiers And Boden aren’t together as a duo anymore (which is a shame – I saw them in May and they were ace) but you can still see them as part of Bellowhead, with a cast of thousands of other band members too.

Monday the 10th and Tuesday the 11th – “Not About Heroes” (Blackeyed Theatre Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Yet again, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Monday the 10th – “The Trial” (Music Theatre Wales/The Royal Opera/Theater Magdeburg/The Scottish Opera) @ The Rep Theatre (The House), Birmingham – Philip Glass’ opera, built out of Kafka’s “The Trial”. There’s nothing in that sentence that I don’t like.

Wednesday the 12th till Sunday the 16th – Slava’s Snowshow @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – This really is visually astonishing. Worth borrowing a child for an excuse to go and see it, if you don’t have one. And I hate children.

Wednesday the 12th till Saturday the 15th – “Miracle On 34th Street – The Musical” (Coventry Youth Operetta)@ The Albany Theatre, Coventry – I dunno if this is your post office version or your bank note version.

Wednesday the 12th till Saturday the 15th – “Othello” (Frantic Assembly/Theatre Royal Plymouth) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – Here sold under the name of “Shakespeare’s Othello”, just in case you were confusing it with… Verdi, I suppose.

Wednesday the 12th – Hannah Silva’s “Schlock!” @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – The female body reconstructed by means of ripping up and then combining “50 Shades Of Grey” and Kathy Ackers’ “Memoriam To Identity”.

Wednesday the 12th – Ben Frost @ Eastside Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – Yer man who did the opera version of “The Wasp Factory”, doing an improvised (I think?) bit in collaboration with one Greg Fox of Liturgy, who I know nothing about.

Thursday the 13th – Lady Gaga @ The NIA, Birmingham – Per-per-puh-puh-poker face, Granville.

Thursday the 13th – Cockney Rejects @ The Robin 2, Bilston – I always get them mixed up with Cock Sparrer. With semi-hilarious consequences.

Thursday the 13th – Street Eaters @ Talk Bar, Birmingham – Ferocious punk/post-punky stuff from Californ-I-A. Apparently many of their gigs have been “dense basement shows in the Midwest that turned into swamps; shows in haunted German schools-turned-squats, medieval French catacombs, smoke filled Japanese practice rooms, and abandoned Hungarian aluminum (sic) factories”. I expect this may seem a bit boring to them in comparison.

Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th – Mark Thomas @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – The “Cuckooed” tour, in which he relates the story of BAE Systems employing people to spy on him.

Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th – “Dorothy Towers” / “Only On Sundays” @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – A double-bill with the LGBT residents of a tower block, and the most laddish laddest lad falling in love.

Sunday the 16th – Focus @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Yodeedodleay yodelaey yodelaey etc. etc. etc.

Sunday the 16th – Dr John @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – I am really really looking forward to this one. They call him Doctor John, the… night triiippuh…

Tuesday the 18th till Saturday the 22nd – “Oh What A Lovely War” (The Arcadians theatre group) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham) – This sort of thing is probably very important given that etc etc etc. Alright, you’ve heard it already. It disgusts me, though. I really, really hate that stuff. Shame on them. Also, here’s a play.

Tuesday the 18th – The Roy Wood Rock’n’Roll Band @ The Robin 2, Bilston – It is nearly Christmas.

Tuesday the 18th – Charlie 2na @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – You can tune a hip-hop, but you can’t tune a fish.
Wednesday the 19th till Tuesday the 2nd of December – “The Pool” @ outside Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – Big concentric circles that you can jump on to make it light up with different colours. This sounds amazing.

Wednesday theFs 19th till Saturday the 22nd – Welsh National opera @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – I’m not sure what the theme of this season is, but you have Carmen on the 19th and 20th, Mosè in Egitto on the 21st, and Guillaume Tell on the 22nd.

Wednesday the 19th and Thursday the 20th – “Islands” (Caroline Horton & Co/China Plate/Bush Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Studio Space), near Coventry – About offshore tax havens. I don’t approve of them.

Wednesday the 19th – John Shuttleworth @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Oof!

Wednesday the 19th – The CBSO’s “Spirit Of ‘45” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Not as war-celebratory as the title might suggest. This is a programme of music including Shostakovich’s 9th and the sea interludes from Britten’s “Peter Grimes” (AKA the best opera that they’ve yet come up with).

Thursday the 20th – The Specials @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – It’s not quite as exciting as it was a few years ago, when they came back and we were all thrilled that we’d get finally to see The Specials (maybe ‘again’, for those older than I), but still – The Specials~!

Friday the 21st – Robert Plant @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Robert Plant walked past me once. He looked confused. This is a true story.

Saturday the 22nd till Sunday the 29th – “The Judas Kiss” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – David Hare’s play about Oscar Wilde’s life and thoughts after dear old Bosie knifed him in the back.

Caturday the 22nd – The Supreme Cat Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Catcatcatcatcatcatcat.

Saturday the 22nd – Jim Moray @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – It took until the third time that I’d seen Jim Moray before I could remember anything at all about him. I loved his folksy business from thereonwards, though. So I suppose we all win in the end.

Sunday the 23rd – The Gaslight Anthem / Deer Tick @ The Academy, Birmingham – Two very different visions of Americana.

Sunday the 23rd- “Madama Butterfly” (Ellen Kent International) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – The Ellen Kent production of “La Bohème” that I saw about a year ago was an absolute shambles, but let’s assume that they’re not like that every night.

Tuesday the 25th till Saturday the 29th – “To Kill A Mockingbird” (specific touring cmpany?) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Embarrassing admission #381: I spent a long time assuming that Harper Lee was male, for no reason whatsoever.

Wednesday the 26th – Delain @ The Academy, Birmingham – Noun, Dutch symphonic (sic) metal band. Very definitely not the gerund verb, slowing something down.

Wednesday the 26th – Sharon Van Etten @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – Wonderful singer-songwriter type with a name that always seems really verbally dissonant to me, although I can never understand why. Biblical Dutch forests or somesuch?

Wednesday the 26th – “The BFG” (Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – The Big Fu… no, sorry, The Big Friendly Giant.

Thursday the 27th till Sunday the 30th – The BBC Good Food Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I’m really looking forward to the BBC Bad Food Show, which will presumably follow.

Thursday the 27th till Sunday the 30th – Birmingham Tradfest @ various venues in Birmingham, mostly in Digbeth – Loads of Irish folk gigs. Includes Frankie Gavin, but not the one you’re thinking of. Although he might be knocking around, who knows.

Thursday the 27th – Dreadzone @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – This’ll probably be good, but Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry himself is playing about twenty miles over…

Thursday the 27th – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry @ Warwick Arts Centre (Student Union Copper Rooms), near Coventry – Nothing that I could possibly type here would be adequate.

Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th – “Choose Your Own Documentary” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – As the name might suggest, a documentary in which you get to pick between options about what happens next. YOU are the narrative etc. etc.

Friday the 28th – Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – It is still hard to imagine that the fella from The Housemartins is the fella from The Beautiful South, but I do like both.

Friday the 28th – Chas & Dave @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – So, a few years ago they announced their last ever tour.

Friday the 28th – Eliza Shaddad @ Ort Café, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – Folk-blues type in “Doing a gig whilst not being on the same bill as Michael Chapman” shocker.

Satuday the 29th – Revolt @ The Coal Vaults, Coventry – Amazing feminist/LGBTQ gig-come-club-night that everyone should go to. Your line-up for this time is over here.

Saturday the 29th – Goodnight Lenin @ The Institute (Library Room). Digbeth, Birmingham – The launch gig for their long, long-awaited album.

Sunday the 30th – Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s “The Movie Doctors” @ Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – Hello to Jason Isaacs etc etc. I don’t actually like films, y’know.

Some bullspit about Moseley Folk will be coming soon

Posted in Linklog, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 3 September, 2013

In the meantime I would recommend that you have a look at The Paradise Circus Official Guide To The Quarters Of Birmingham, because it is very funny.

Alternatively, have a look at this duck singing a song on the subject of being about to whip somebody’s ass.

Linklogging, we’re linklogging, we’re what’s happening

Posted in Books, Films, Linklog, Modern Living, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 28 April, 2013

Okey-dokey my bredrins and sistrins, we did some videos yesterday and as such we’d probably better go about restoring the appropriate text-to-image balance (i.e. a metric blue whale-full more words than pictures, because verbal is cool and visual is… erm… ducking stool? I’m not making my own point very well).

~ 21 British problems (via Ben Swizzle, a while ago).

~ A Venn diagram of almost every Obama conspiracy theory ever (via Skepchick, a while ago).

~ Photos of melting glaciers (via Kottke, a while ago).

~ Occasionally we do have something that looks a bit like democracy, but basically you still have to raise a load of money for it to work.

~ On reading novels and forgetting the plots, which is something I am a blighter for (via Bookslut, forever ago).

~ All about the French New Wave fillums.

~ All about the Spaghetti Western fillums.

~ “Why on earth should finance be the biggest and most highly paid industry when it’s just a utility, like sewage or gas?” (via Kottke, years ago).

~ A map of the world with the size of countries matched to their populations (via Kottke, years ago, again).

~ E.B.White’s other pig story, and I should point out now as I always do that it absolutely blew my mind out of my ears when I realised that E.B. White of “Charlotte’s Web” fame was the pigmentless half of Strunk & White (via Maud Newton, years ago).

Coming to terms with the inevitable

Posted in Blogstuff, Books, Linklog, Modern Living, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 21 December, 2012

Done it again. Supersonic happened (hooray~!), and I actually managed to write most of my post about it. I genuinely did. I just didn’t finish that last little bit, and didn’t get as far as a post about anything I’ve done since either – nine gigs, four operas, a fillum showing with an organ being played behind it, a Christmas question-answerin’ trail, ice skating, a pub quiz, one world fair, a picnic and a rodeo.

We will draw a line here. A line of non-bloggery. I will finish the Supersonic one and there still are going to be digest posts for all of my operations from this year. I know my precise plans are of even less interest than the posts will be, but I do feel like I’ve removed a weight from my shoulders by making a decision to just leave the rest and so I’m going to indulge myself by writing some crap about the crap I didn’t write.

Some links:

~ It seems that there are plans for a Mo Yan theme park, now that he’s Nobel literature laureate. That’s brilliant and a thing that should be done with more of the winners. Can you imagine a Harold Pinter theme park?

“Two day tickets, please.”
*REALLY LONG PAUSE*
“That’ll be £20.”

~ Point! (It doesn’t work in IE. Via SWSL).

~ The mouse that stole a leopard’s food – apologies for the Daily Mail link, but I do love the photographs (via Cute Overload, years ago).

~ Matoi Yamamoto’s salt labyrinths (via Kottke,years ago).

~ Hard Truths From Soft Cats.

~ I know that “I am an introvert” is the currently one of the Infosuperbahn’s most fashionable things, but this thing here really, really is the most perfect guide to talking to/dealing with me that anyone could ever have written (via Skepchick).

(A [B {C} B] A)

Posted in Linklog, Modern Living, Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 9 October, 2012

That half-asleep half-awake in bed state that you get can often be an effective spawning pool for utter nonsense. I’m sure you know what I mean and are more than familiar with those drowsy good-ideas-at-the-time. I would try and sell it as one of the universals of the human experience but, y’know, not everyone has a bed. I bet the “nonsense” parts of this are pretty widespread, though.

In this instance, this morning I was gripped by the thought of how ace it would be to give this post a nested structure, with a thought in the middle of it being surrounded by another, and that surrounded by another still. All up, one might say, on some Russian Doll isht.

In the cold light of day this was clearly very stupid.

I mean really now… ideas? Me having ideas? Pull the other one, sleepysnoozyfoolchild.

I think it’s best to put all of this behind us and never mention it again.

The Rootless Forrest turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. We went to Walsall to see it on the morning of Sunday the 30th, and found a rusty graffitied tub with a few straggly trees on. I wasn’t even initially sure if that was actually it, to start with – I’d thought there were supposed to be audio recordings and whatnot. I went back on the afternoon of Friday the 5th and found that it had moved over to the nearer side of the wharf, but there were still no recordings or anything else.

I was expecting more, somehow.

Ah well. Nevermind all of that, ‘cos on Wednesday the 3rd it was time for ‘Rina Round at the Hare-a Hound(s). Let us be real: once upon a time Carina Round was my absolute favourite popular musical artist in the world ever. Nowadays I’m not as fussed as I used to be. I still like her a lot, but her music has got a fair bit blander to me as she’s gone along. Not bland, I hasten to add, but bland-er. This less fuss-ed-ness has got to the point where I haven’t even got/heard the new album yet (“Tigermending” – I like that name, it makes me think of someone fondly sewing up a beloved soft toy animal. I think I’d like “Tigerminding” even more, though – that makes me think of looking after a tiger whilst its parents go out for the night. Possibly for a candlelit meal, to rekindle the romance in their marriage. The tiger should be in bed by nine, and you must make sure that she brushes her teeth).

The gig, then: I missed Dan Whitehouse, but he always plays with Carina and so I daresay I’ll see him plenty nuff times in the future. Venkman played that type of thing with those staccato runs of off-kilter guitar and bass that sometimes add up to groove and sometimes don’t. I swear there was a genre name for that sort of thing a few years ago, when loads of bands did it.

In the changeover between turns I noticed a bloke in the crowd who looked almost exactly like George Dawes. That was something.

Carina played nearly all new stuff, most of which I’d only heard at the last Brum gig last year. It seems a lot rocky-heavier, as I thought back then – that’s what comes from spending time knocking around with a bloke from Tool, I suppose. None of the new ones stood out as amazing on second listen, but it’s still early days. The highlight was definitely a version of “Elegy” that was re-aranged to build up to a massive crescendo. That was scorching. We also had the (by now) customary beautiful singalong during “Backseat”, and a very sexy “Down Slow”. The more rocky-graaargh style of “Into My Blood” seemed well at home with the new stuff, funnily enough. That was all of the older stuff, as far as I recall – nothing from “The First Blood Mystery” outside of a tease of “Ribbons” when someone called out for it. That was probably verging on cruel.

Really, for me it seems a lot less about “Carina’s songs” than it does about “Carina herself” nowadays – she might well have lost the top several buttons off her dress (poor flower), but she’s still such an engaging performer and endearing character. She even still occasionally does that thing with her voice that does things to my mind that I can’t describe, but if I had to try to transcribe would be sort of “… … … guh … … …” (nesting!) (Edit: I should also note that this was an attempted transcription of what it does to my mind, not the thing that she does with her voice itself. Although it would actually be fun to hear her try to sing that) and her between-song blarney was as fun as ever (as well as the amusement of her accent changing mid-sentence).

I was also more than happy to see the talking-over-the-quiet-ones wankers castigated from every side. They didn’t seem to realize what the problem was, but there we go. It was still fun to see them get called names.

I went on the against austerity/boo to the Tory party conference march on Sunday the 7th, for whatever it’s worth – I do really get the feeling that it’s a bit like your Romney 47% thing, and that they assume that anyone on an anti-austerity march would never even possibly have voted Tory in the first place and thus can be safely ignored (true in many cases including mine, of course, but – aside from that not being the point – it really does seem to be far from exclusively true…). Still, you’ve got to try. I liked the PCS pooch I saw with the little sash wrapped around her doggy coat. I was also tickled by the way that the coppers stood behind the rank of conference event security staff on Broad Street, where it would have looked unseemly to put the metal walls up.

Links? Goo on then:

~ Average Cats Are Average.

~ Douglas Adams wrote this about the internet in 1999. It still appears to apply to the way a lot of people talk about a fair few specific bits/uses of the internet. Astonishing.

~ I frequently (and sadly/reluctantly) feel like I haven’t had the training to understand K-Punk, but I did always like this post regarding the way that positive thinking is some sort of weird standard. While we’re there (and more recently), Olympics.

~ Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber duckies (via Cute Overload, years ago).

Reluctantly abandoning the animal title theme

Posted in Combat Sports, Linklog, Stage by Russ L on 8 October, 2012

Question of the day: has anyone ever had both synaesthesia and colour blindness?

Right then so then, I was going to go to the boxing (for the first time in a couple of years) at Walsall Town Hall on Friday the 21st, but found out at a very late stage (very late. The ability to check things on the day they’re supposed to happen is one of the big advantages of these here internets) that the fight between Carl Johanneson and Wassul’s own Martin Gethin had been moved onto a Frizzank Wizzank bill in London. For some reason. That was the end of that plan, then – I wasn’t really in the mood to pay a fortune for the usual 40-36/60-54 stuff.

Martin Gethin did win in the end, though, so there’s some sort of happy ending.

I made one of my (nowadays) scandalously rare trips to the theatre on the afternoon of Saturday the 29th, for Out Of Joint‘s (in association with the Octagon Theatre Bolton and Birmingham Rep and no doubt all sorts of other groovy folks) production of “Our Country’s Good” at The Old Rep. I was familiar with the play but The Old Rep was actually new to me – surprisingly, I’d never been there before this. Once you get in there, it looks uncannily like a theatre that would be called “The Old Rep”. Which must be handy, in its own way.

So, it seems that Thomas Keneally wrote a vaguely-based-in-reality-but-not-quite book called “The Playmakers”. Timberlake Wertenbaker then adapted this book “The Playmakers” into a play. In this book “The Playmakers”, and this play adapted from the book “The Playmakers”, there is a play around which the plot of the book (or play) orbits. With me? Good.

The idea is that the humane commandant of a late 18th century Australian colony wants to see his transported convicts act out a play, to remind everyone around that everyone around is human. Some of his officers are opposed to any such thing happening. This leads us into a meditation on the redemptive power ( a trite phrase but a useful one. Or perhaps I’m just very unimaginative. Well, I’m definitely very unimaginative, that’s beyond dispute. I digress…) of theatre specifically and by extension creative acts in general. One of the officers cack-handedly suggests that the convicts will be improved by repeating lines of elegant language containing noble sentiments, and while that thought is clearly very silly in itself there it may be dimly and distantly related to something helpful if you can manage to both strip away the condescension and look at it obliquely – one thing that theatre (and whatnot else) can do for us is to remind us/make us aware that there are perspectives other than our own, and that our own interior sets of thoughts and feelings are not necessarily the default pattern for all of humanity. That which is different is not necessarily bad. This, as I’m fond of pompously telling people, is a lesson we should continually remind ourselves of.

It would seem to be underlined in this production by the fact that the actors are all playing multiple roles – the solipsism of any given character is completely undercut when you see the actor playing someone completely different two minutes later. Although maybe in practice it was just a pragmatic casting decision. I do not know (or mind).

Our star of the cast, anyway, was Ciaran Owens – his Major Robbie Ross exuded spite from every pore, and gave a thoroughly convincing blarney as the reluctant hangman Ketch Freeman.

I also thought that it was quite nifty that this one was directed by Max Stafford-Clark, who directed the play’s first ever production twenty-five years ago. Wonderfully cyclical.

My one minor complaint (and this is the play, not the production) would regard a missed opportunity – we have, periodically, an Aboriginal character flitting around the edge of things, and we later find that he and his fellows find themselves afflicted by diseases brought over by the westerners. I suspect that there may be a point I’m missing (there usually is at least one), but it doesn’t really go anywhere and seems to be a bit of a waste – somewhere could be gone with this. I did like his “a dream that has lost its way” imagery, though.

I suppose that it would seem appropriate after this play in particular to say that I should get out to the theatre more frequently, but I really should. I end up saying that every time I do actually go, though. I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it, as the lady said.

There have been More Things since I went to that, but I think this’ll do for the time being. Have a few links before I go:

~ The Doctor Who Role Playing Game (a video, not really a game. It tickled me though).

~ The pubs and breweries of the Midlands (via B:INS, years ago).

~ A caricature map of Europe in 1914, based on that 1870 one (via Kottke, years ago).

Hounds (with Hare), swans (vicious), butterflies (farm-based)

Posted in Food, Linklog, Modern Living, Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 18 September, 2012

Wha’blow, my little chickadees. I went to that Cheek Mountain Thief gig at the Rabbit’n’Rovers on Thursday night (I was, in fact, one of only a small number of people who went to it. I’m sure they could have had more if they’d pushed it a bit. Lots of people usually turn out for Tunng), and it met with my approval. They sounded exactly as I’d expected them to sound and didn’t really bring any surprises, but that’s no trouble when you’re as much fun as this. The combination of both the cold-snowdrift and bubbly-hot-spring aspects of what I imagine Iceland to be like with fun latterday-Tunngian folk-pop is an enormously endearing one.

Let us not forget bill-mate Katherine Priddy, either. I missed her at Moseley Folk (where her set seems to have been very well regarded), but here her NickDrake-esque (some songs trad, some songs new) hippy folk was very nice. She’s due to play in the very same public house (although I don’t know if it’ll be in the same room) with no less than Michael Chapman on the 15th of next month, so there’s something for you to think about.

Saturday saw a trip to Stratford that ended up being a lot more animal-ish than I expected. We did the bus tour with the five houses (sounds quite Mafia, that), but I hadn’t known beforehand that Mary Arden’s House is still run as an actual farm. We therefore got to see/fuss the beasties there as well as feeding the ducks/geese/vicious vicious swans at the river and visiting the happiest place on Earth, Stratford Butterfly Farm. A lovely day out, it was.

Do you know what’s puzzling me lately? The fact that (from overhearing various conversations I have established that) the currently fashionable thing for dieting plans appears to be to talk about the number of ‘sins’ you are allowed to eat in a day. I find the thought of bringing the terms of religious morality into it fascinating, but bizarre. A diet is not an eschatological process. If nothing else, reaching your target weight won’t be getting to heaven – you’ll have to actually keep yourself there. So why ‘sins’?

Also: sin eaters were a real thing (or, as I believe the young’ins say nowadays, “totally a thing”). So that could get confusing, too.

Baffling.

Links:

~ On the graphics of heavy metal (via, ages ago, Pete Ashton’s more recently abnegated Twitter).

~ “In Search Of A Black Country Legend” – On Bathams Best Bitter.

~ “The Cat And The Coup” – a computer game about the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup in Iran. Prettier and more interesting than it is actually fun to play, I thought, but worth messing about with for reasons of prettiness and interest. (Typically, I forget the “via”).

And finally: Bejaysus, get a load of this dancing/sport-disrupting priest (via Shit London).

Frogs (tree), Ocelots (absent), Capybaras (lovely)

Posted in Linklog, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 10 September, 2012

Now I’m normally an ardent defender of Birmingham Artsfest*, but it ain’t what it once was. Never mind the fact that the main stage is smaller**, a more serious problem is that the programme really does seem significantly less varied than it used to be***. This year there seemed to be more organisational difficulties, too – I’ve never really known “having the turns start and finish on time” to be a problem at Artsfest before.

Still, it can still make for a very nice day out, and I had just such a thing with me mom on Saturday the 8th. Highlights included one-and-a-half comic plays from the Treefrog Theatre Company (we missed most of “For Poorer, For Worse” due to the thing over the way over-running, as per above. It really is a shame that Treefrog only appear to exist for one day a year, I’d happily pay to see them more often), a really fun selection of hits from the students of the Aston Performing Arts Academy, the usual few disconnected arias from the Birmingham Opera Company, and of course the firework display (alas with taped backing music rather than the CBSO this year, but it was a fantastic display). We went to Edgbaston nature centre too, which was nice although quite a lot of the animals were hiding/not there (where do they put the ocelots when their enclosure is being renovated? I’d be more than happy to look after an ocelot for a while. I want a capybara too. They’re so lovely).

Elsewhere: astonishingly, there are two things on the telly that I want to watch at the moment****. There’s new “The Thick Of It”! The predictable backlash appears to at last have started*****, but I thought it was hilarious. I also enjoyed the endearingly loopy episode of “Doctor Who” this week. It was certainly more fun than the Steven Moffat drinking game from the week before******.

Tip o’the week: Cheek Mountain Thief at the H&H on Thursday the 13th. It seems that Mick Lindsay from Tunng fell in love whilst on holiday in Iceland, moved there, and made an album that was influenced by his new environs. Such as I’ve heard so far sounds like a 50/50 split between Tunng and Efterklang*******. This is clearly A Good Thing.

Links for fun and enlightenment:

~ A map of gender-diverse cultures (forgotten the ‘via’, sorry, but there was one).

~ The Americanisation of Mental Illness (via Bookslut, years ago).

~ An elegy for the pub carpet.

* If they didn’t call it ‘art’sfest then fewer people would complain etc etc etc.
** Some people seem to have fixated upon the stage size. I don’t think it was really all that important apart from when it came to the ballet, and since their spokesbloke did more than enough tedious carping on about it during his introductions there’s no real need to go into that here.
*** Yes, I know it’s a budgetary thing.
**** Rather than the more usual “no things on the telly that I want to watch”.
***** Irritatingly, said backlash uses/feeds into that most tedious of tropes: “The fact that many people are sick and tired of our body politic is a sign of their own venality and cynicism, and not in fact a response to the venality and cynicism of our body politic”.
****** Or Moffat Bingo, if you prefer.
******* Since I mentioned them, check this. It’ll be amazing.

Cows (celestial), Birds (sea), Rabbits (anthropomorphised)

Posted in Blogstuff, Films, Linklog, Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 5 September, 2012

I must face up to the fact that I pretty much never get around to writing about anything nowadays. A change of approach is needed. I think that I’m going to shift sideways slightly and try writing rambly diary style posts, rather than posts that are ‘about’ something specific. There may in practice appear to be no difference, with the only distinction drawn being in my own mind. We’ll see.

The last few weeks have been good for ‘big’ stuff, anyway. There was the Flyover Show and the Helicoptera, both of which were ace. In spite of the above paragraph I do still intend, one of these never-never days, to write a big opera digest post (or series of posts). I’ll talk about “Mittwoch” when I do that. If. When.

I spent the weekend just gone at the Moseley Folk Festival, which is always lovely fun. It wasn’t quite as good as Mostly Jazz, Funk And Soul two months ago (that was probably the best multi-day-music-festival-type-thing that I’ve ever been to, even better than that one previous Supersonic and that one previous Moseley Folk, but I’m going to be sensible and acknowledge the fact that I’m never going to manage to write a post about it), but it was still fab.

Two minor teensy complaints:

1) There were sound problems. Never mind the fact that Guillemots suffered from the feedback mooing of The Celestial Cow and the fact that both Roy Harper and Ian McCulloch ended up repeatedly complaining to the monitor man, the bigger trouble is that (both at this and at Mostly Jazz two months ago) the second stage just wasn’t projecting. If you weren’t up the front, the Lunar stage simply didn’t have the appropriate volume. Quite a few bands palpably suffered from this, at both festivals.

2) Janice Long as compere, again. Although in the name of fairness I should point out that she didn’t seem anywhere near as drunk as last year, and even managed to get the names of the acts correct.

Carping aside, there were a whole metric bucketful of enjoyable turns. Listing band names tells you as close to nothing as makes no odds, but since it’s the most that I’m realistically likely to manage I’ll proceed:

1) The Destroyers were the best. Obviously. As I’ve said before now, having them on is unfair to the other bands.

2) Other particular highlight sets came from Guillemots (plus their aforementioned Celestial Cow of feedback), Echo & The Bunnymen (altogether fiercer sounding than when I saw them a few years ago), Devon Sproule (at least partly because of how personally personable she seemed), Goodnight Lenin (albumalbumhurryupandreleasethebloodyalbum), and Julian Cope (it was a small victory for him to actually bother to turn up [cf: Supersonic a few years ago]. That he also turned out to be a huge amount of fun was a happy bonus).

3) Direct hits were also scored by Abigail Washburn & Kai Welch, KateGoes, Beth Jeans Houghton, Laura J. Martin, Dark Dark Dark, Revere, Little Sister, Treetop Flyers, The Magnetic North,Lanterns On The Lake, Roy Harper, The Long Notes (both their first set and their ceilidh/hayfight), Spiro, Rapunzel & Sedayne, Paul Murphy, The Jasmine Moon Ensemble, Hassan Salir Nour & Joelle Barker, Cara Dillon, Village Well, and Steeleye Span.

The use of a camping chair proved good for avoiding The Aches. I think I might see about getting one of those leg-less ones you place straight on the ground for the future though.

The park is still lovely, of course. I find myself worried about it, though, even more than I was last year – not only are the two annual festivals taking their toll, the silly rain over this summer has turned some of the turf more-or-less inside out. There are now stretches of mud/dirt where there should be grass. What is to be done?

Ah well. I will finish on a song some links:

~ Since we were talking about their pop namesake, guillemots lay eggs that won’t roll off cliffs. They’re a bit Weeble-ish.

~ The stories behind 20 Muppet favourites (via Skepchick).

~ Interesting thoughts about numeric ratings by Tom Ewing (I’m no fan of marks-out-of-x, meself. I far prefer words to tell me what you think of something).

~ “Airbushed For Change” – Tory/Cameron poster parodies circa the last election

Linklogification – 5/6/12

Posted in Books, Linklog, Modern Living, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 5 June, 2012
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